Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Question of the Day #673

Yesterday, Bish Denham posted a great story about finding a land crab inside the mosquito netting while visiting the islands. Her creepy crab reminded me of a story my mom told me.

When my mom was a little girl, she and her sister were tucked in a bed surrounded by mosquito netting while visiting their grandparents in the Dominican Republic.

In the dark, over and over they heard, "Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh."

Finally one of them turned on the light. A bug with wings as big as a bat flapped on the mosquito netting. They screamed.

Their parents came running and my grandmother, an island native, seeing the culprit, said, "Aye aye aye. Es solo una mariposa!" (It's only a butterfly.)

"Kill it," she said to my grandfather, a native Hungarian whose eyes bulged at the sight of the birdlike creature. She went back to bed as the rest of the family was paralized in fear.

Now, anytime we see a giant bug, my mother and I scream, "Mariposa! Mariposa!" and go into giggle fits. It never gets old.

What wacky critter stories do you have?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Question of the Day #672

Every year, my father and his wife have a barbeque at their home in Sonoma. We taste wines from the area and eat way too much cheese and grilled meats.

This weekend, I saw a friend of my father's I'd met when I was 12, when they used to work together in Chicago. To my surprise, that friend now lives in northern California.

As neighbors gathered around the grill, a comparison of a Napa Pinot Noir versus one of Sonoma's ensued among a couple more people my father has worked with over the years. My father's wife's bookclub members and I talked must reads as friends who are now like family members made new friends.

It was interesting to connect the dots of friendship.

How do you know your friends? From work? Play? Neighbors? Clubs?


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Question of the Day #671

Today, I'm returning home after a short trip to see family. As great as it is to enjoy time together, I find that coming home is always a pleasure. I get to pull clothing out of my drawers instead of a suitcase, eat food out of my fridge and of course, sleep in my own bed.

What do you like best about going home?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Question of the Day #670

While brainstorming and plotting my newest novel idea, my friend, Nancy Lamb handed me a copy of The Art and Craft of Storytelling.

"Thank you so much. Mine is in storage," I said.

Her friend D, who had joined us in recalling historic events of the early 60's, said, "Isn't it strange how there's always some part of your life in storage?"

Patio furniture, the table I used to serve Sunday night dinners on at Mansfield, artwork, tableware and cookware clutter my storage unit, but what I miss most are my books.

An entire wall in Nancy's living room is cozied by books. More books walk you down the hall to her bedroom where more books line shelves.

Oh, how I miss my books.

What part of your life is in storage?


Friday, August 27, 2010

Question of the Day #659

Rena, children's book author and blogging buddy, asks "Was there ever a movie you bought on DVD, but hated it so much that you gave it away?"

I'm not a big DVD purchaser or movie watcher for that matter. (Weird for a storyteller - I know.) So this has never happened to me.

What about you?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Question of the Day #658

Beck asked the question, "What did the man say when two houses fell on him?"

I know I've heard the answer to this joke. Because I remember that she told it years ago and I giggled over it for days. Maybe even weeks. But of course, I can't remember the punchline.

I've been known to giggle ridiculously over dumb jokes. Like when my roommate texted me, "Did you hear about the guy they found covered in corn flakes?"

Me: "Huh?"

Him: "Yeah, they think he might be a cereal killer."

Believe it or not, that still makes me laugh. What dumb joke makes you giggle?


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Question of the Day #657

I'm guest blogging at kt literary today. While our agent is on vacation, kt literary clients, Kater Cheek and Carrie Harris blogged Monday and Tuesday. We also look forward to hearing from Amy Spaulding later this week!

Woud you like to check it out?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Question of the Day #656

Today's question is brough to you by YA writer, Jim Danielson:

Are there any books that have at some point in your life had a great impact?

I'm going to back up to childhood and go with the Little House series. I was kookoo for those books. Sneaking off to my room, begging to read just a few more pages at bed time, hermiting up in my treehouse, devouring every word Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote. That series made me fall in love with reading.



Monday, August 23, 2010

Question of the Day #655

Kristen asks, "What do you like best about the changing seasons?"

Well, my seasons are bit different than yours. Summer just came a few days ago. We'll quickly head toward Fire Season. Then Rainy Season. Then back to May Gray and June Gloom. And hopefully, we'll have an actual Summer next year.

But, I have lovely memories of Summer turning to Fall on the east coast, of waking up to crisp September mornings and leaves turning to gold. (Clearly, I should spend more time in Vermont in the Fall.)

What do you like best about the changing seasons?


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Question of the Day #654

The lovely Simply V. provided us with this fabulous Question of the Day:

It is often said that laughter is the best medicine and that love cures all. What is the best medicine for you when you are feeling unwell?

What great timing for this question. My stomach bug has bothering me all week. And last night, as I wrote in an earlier post, I was supposed to sing with my friend, Bernie. Grumbling and queasy, I took all sorts of belly meds, waddled to the stage and sang my guts out.

My voice was clear, strong and on, even if my belly was way beyond off.

That was good medicine.

What works for you?


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Question of the Day #653

Brought to you from Evelyn, perched high in the Green Mountains of Vermont:

"We have been looking up to the sky a lot this month, so clear and bright and twinkling. What do those stars hold for you?"

Well, if I could look into my crystal ball, or in Evelyn's case, her crystal sky, and predict what's next for me, I'd say a book deal.



Friday, August 20, 2010

Question of the Day #652

Today's excellent Question of the Day is brought to you by Lisa D:

If, in your next life, you are able to choose 3 characteristics, talents and/or traits that you will own, what would they be?

1. I would choose to be a great dancer.
2. I'd like to be athletic, as in not feel the urge to duck when a ball comes flying at me.
3. I'd like to have patience.

What about you guys?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Question of the Day #651

Thank you all for the good wishes. I'm feeling much better today. Especially since so many of you wrote in with great questions. Blogger Thomas provided a quote and a question:

"There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them." -André Gide

What monster do you fear the most?

Good question. As I get older, I agree with André Gide more and more. I'm not afraid of a lot. Definitely not afraid of the biggies, you know, like death or being alone. A lot of writers are afraid of never being published, but I'm not afraid of that. That's not even a possibility.

In fact, people who act out of fear are a bit of a turn off to me. I think fear nourishes fear. And people who operate with a "But if I do that, this bad thing could happen," attitude seldom achieve anything.

But I'll get off my soapbox and answer Thomas' question. The scariest monster for me would be grave illness. Something long, drawn out and awful for everyone around me.

What about you?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Question of the Day #650

I'm sick and don't have it in me today. What question do you have for me? When I'm better tomorrow, I'll start answering them.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Question of the Day #649

Last night, I went out for pasta with friends. We drank red wine and slurped up linguine, penne, papardelle and fusilli. Some indulged in heavenly cream sauces and others in tomato sauce. I went to bed full and happy.

H commented on what a huge treat pasta is. I agreed. Generally, I try not to eat it. Semolina has no nutritional value and the carbs are scarier to me than a sausage mcmuffin. But I love it. It's comfort food. Probably because throughout my life, pasta has always played a huge role.

When we were little, my father used to make me and my brother "Special Spaghetti." Special because it didn't have sauce, just butter, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Recently, while on he phone with my brother, I told him I was grumpy and having a bad day. He said, "Have some Special Spaghetti."

I did. And I felt better.

My Granny called pasta "macaroni" and her Sunday sauce full of meatballs, sausage and braciole was called "gravy" not "sauce." Dinner at her house was better than any Italian restaurant I've ever been too. And I'd trade anything for one more.

In the late 80's, when my mother and new stepfather instituted "Be There or Die" Sunday night dinners, my mother went into a pasta craze. She tossed fresh veggies and anything else she could find in the fridge with spaghetti and over those meals, a new family formed.

So before I go dig into my leftovers, how has pasta played a role in your life?


Monday, August 16, 2010

Question of the Day #648

This Saturday, my friend Bernie, an amazing showman and acoustic guitarist and singer has a gig. When he plays, he calls the gigs "Bernith Fair." That name should explain a lot about Bernie.

He asked me to sing with him. Of course I'd love to. I usually belt out "Come to My Window" at a Bernith Fair, which will be fun. But we need another song.

Any ideas about great songs we perform acoustically?


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Question of the Day #647

So I'm at H's. She's fixated on "Rob and Big," a reality show on MTV featuring Rob Dyrdek, a pro skateboarder and as H says, "an entrepreneur" and his big friend.

Now, I'm not judging. After all, I watch "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." My TiVo is so crammed with bad shows that my roommate thinks there's something wrong with me.

So I said it. Admitted my guilty pleasure television show (and H's) to the blogosphere. What's yours?


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Question of the Day #646

Check us out-we're revolving around favorites lately. Favorite article of clothing, favorite rock movies, etc. So on that note, what's your favorite electronic device?

(Mine, clearly, is my laptop.)


Friday, August 13, 2010

Question of the Day #645

Last night, H and I watched The Last Waltz, a documentary about The Band. We swooned over "It Makes No Difference," marveled at a young Eric Clapton, sang along to Neil Diamond and talked about how much we loved simple alt country rock.

What movies about music made you think?


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Question of the Day #644

What's your favorite article of clothing? Why?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Question of the Day #643

At WriteOnCon, Molly O’Neill, an associate editor with Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, wrote a post on Giving Yourself Permission. This is not her whole list - just some things she suggested writers give themselves permission for that really resonate with me. She wrote, “Give yourself:
  • Permission to collect sparks of inspiration from even the unlikeliest of encounters.
  • Permission to start writing something new—totally, gloriously new—even if the thought terrifies you. Especially if the thought terrifies you.
  • Permission to keep writing, even if it feels like you may never “get there.”
  • Permission to let a character become someone totally different than you originally expected him/her to be.
  • Permission to kill a character. (And to cry a little when you do so.)
  • Permission to hire a babysitter, or to blow off some homework, or to order dinner in, or whatever it takes, to give yourself a little more space in your life for writing.
  • Permission to write a scene or story that might make certain people who love you shocked and surprised.
  • Permission to fail, maybe more than once. (Because you can’t fail unless you’ve tried.)
  • Permission to feel things deeply as a writer—disappointment, grief, doubt, jealousy. But then to balance those negative emotions with more positive ones: ambition, determination, persistence, hope.
  • Permission to be where you are in your path as a writer. Right now. Even if you think you should be farther along.
  • Permission to write in the oddest of places—on the back of kleenex boxes and receipts; at ballet lessons or soccer practice or with a car full of groceries going warm; on napkins in restaurants; in the bathroom of a friend or relative’s house when you’ve gone to visit—in order to capture an idea, or images, or words that flash into your mind, already strung perfectly together.
  • Permission to ignore all the conflicting pieces of advice, and simply to write the story within you that wants to be told.
  • Permission to do what you need to protect yourself as a writer—to turn off the internet, or to stop reading blogs for awhile, or to avoid Twitter—and enable yourself to do that thing which writers must do—TO WRITE.
  • Permission to think of your characters as real people (and to perhaps actually like them better than some real-life people you know).”

What do you need to give yourself permission for?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Question of the Day #642

The writing blogosphere is all a twitter about WriteOnCon, a free online writing conference taking place over the next three days. Some determined authors came up with the genius idea of providing all the awesomeness of a writing conference without the expense. All sorts of authors, illustrators, agents and editors (including my superagent Kate Schafer Testerman) are taking part in live panels, vlogs and blogs.

So if you're looking to soak up some writing mojo or just interested in how the online free conference works, check it out.

What supercool free tool have you been thrilled to find?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Question of the Day #641

YA writer and excellent idea guy, Jim Danielson, suggested I repost yesterday's spooning bananas and ask, "What do you think the frowning banana is thinking?"

For you writers, this could be a great writing prompt. Anyone feel like creating inner dialogue for the bananas above? Or sharing any possible banana thoughts?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Question of the Day #640

This is a FB buddy's profile picture. Ohhh...it makes me giggle. I just ate a banana and was going to ask what your favorite fruit is and then I remembered this picture.

So what's your favorite fruit?


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Question of the Day #639

I've been searching cemetery records, driving rural roads via Google Earth, peeking down Main Street in a tiny Wisconsin village. Next I will contact the local high school, message a few classmates from the 60's on Facebook and call the newspaper, hoping that anyone I reach doesn't think I'm bonkers.

I am completely sucked in. What's got you sucked in?


Friday, August 6, 2010

Question of the Day #638

Last night, TY told me about his surfer friend, H, who was recently circled by two great white sharks at Sunset Beach. On a short board, he raised his arms and legs out of the water and waited for a rideable wave.

The lifeguards' whistles shrilled as they frantically waved swimmers and surfers out of the water. People ran out of the ocean screaming. But H, far out in the water, calmly scanned the horizon for swells while the fins circled him.

Finally, a wave rolled up and H surfed to shore.

"Holy crap. That's crazy! I'd never go surfing again," I said.

"Are you kidding me? He's probably out there right now. A shark scare wouldn't stop him," TY said.

I began scribbling on a piece of paper.

"What's the question?" TY asked.

"What will you continue to do that someone else thinks is crazy?" I responded.



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Question of the Day #637

During a breakout session at the SCBWI conference, as a characterization exercise, Carolyn Mackler asked us to imagine what our main character hides in their underwear drawer.

Tally hides vodka, Jane hides condoms and Savanna hides a picture of her abusive ex.

When I was sixteen, I hid cigarettes in my underwear drawer. What did you hide in your yours?


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Question of the Day #636

Now that my conference brain is back to normal and I can think clearly again, I need to start my new project. For the last week or so, two characters have been invading every thought I have, giving me clues, poking me with story ideas.

The problem is that their story takes place in a tiny midwest town during the 1960's. Since I wasn't alive or in the midwest then, I have no idea how to create that setting.

I'm off to the library today, but beyond that, does anyone have any setting suggestions?


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Question of the Day #635

At the conference this weekend, there was much discussion about books in the digital age. How would publishing change? Would readers purchase ebooks and forgo the touch of actual pages and bound books? Would picture books become animated iphone apps? Would writers and illustrators become Content Creators?

The discussions made me think of the of music industry and all the changes it struggled through over the last decade. A lot of my friends are musicians, songwriters and music managers. And over the years, we've spent many nights discussing the demise of CD sales, the impact music piraters like Napster had on the music industry and how to adapt to the electronic age.

Unfortunately, clumsy choices and resistance from huge record labels made those changes scary for music people while they were happening. Contrarily, as long as publishers embrace the fact that change is coming, I see the electronic age for writers as really exciting. I love the idea of positioning myself as a Content Creator and instead of being confined to what fits on a page, having the opportunity to cross many platforms and create multimedia for my stories.

For example, Justin Chanda, Grand Poobah at Simon and Schuster, talked about an online serial novel in which readers get to vote on the choices the main character makes. Loser/Queen, written by bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson, is scheduled for new segment blasts every Monday through September 13, after fan voting is tallied and the author whips up new chapters accordingly.

How cool is that? I would LOVE to connect with my audience like that.

And that's just one example of how the publishing industry is embracing technology. But some other writers, at least according to what I gathered this weekend, didn't seem too psyched about the idea of change. And that's sort of sad because I think that if you aren't adaptable, you could get left behind.

How adaptable are you? What "snooze and lose" situation have you learned from?


Monday, August 2, 2010

Question of the Day #634

Yesterday, while speaking at the SCBWI Summer Conference, Gennifer Choldenko, author of Al Capone Does My Shirts and other award winning novels asked the audience, "What does your writer-self need?"

She went on to say that her writer-self needs time to read, time to write and distance from toxic people.

I couldn't agree more.

What do you need to be your best self?


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Question of the Day #633

SCBWI Saturday opened with a keynote presentation by Gordon Korman. After writing his first novel when he was 12 (what?!) and having it published during his freshman year in high school (huh?!), he went on to write over 70 books.

He talked about how when we're in grade school, we're assigned depressing books. Old Yeller. Sounder. Where the Red Fern Grows.

All stories in which dogs die. Not very uplifting. He asked, "Why weren't we assigned funny books?"

Then he asked, "Why don't we teach humor? Seriously? What do we use more often - a sense of humor or the ability to sense foreshadowing?"

Which of course, inspired today's question. How would you fill in the blank below?

Instead of teaching of us __________ they should have taught us _____________.

For example, "Instead of teaching us trigonometry (and you're crazy if you think I even know what trigonometry is) they should have taught us how many years it would take to pay off a bcbg dress when you charge it on a credit card that magically appears in your dorm mailbox."

Just sayin'.