Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

This was my pumpkin! Yes, those are gummi worms dangling from the nostrils. :-)
I found the design here.

I hope everyone's Halloween was awesome! Ours was: we ran out of candy three times and had to send out for reinforcements. We saw lots of green lanterns, one Harry & Ron duo, 4 smurfs (who sang), a lollipop fairy, a M&M bag, a shower, and one Freddy Kreuger who scared my three year old cousin into hiding behind the door.

And now...major sugar crash... :-P

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Note: If you haven't taken a look at my Review policy, you can check it out here and also here.

by Lucy Christopher
Chicken House/Scholastic (October 2011)

Jo gave me a galley of this over the summer, and since I saw it in bookstores this week, I thought I better post my book report.

Btw, you need to check out the hardcover edition.
With all the specs and detail throughout the interior pages,
it's lovely lovely lovely.

Cover copy:

In a heartbeat, in a wingbeat, it happens. Isla's father falls. They're racing across the fields, following the swans flying in to winter at the lake like they do every year, when something goes wrong. And before she can even catch her breath, they're in the back of an ambulance, she's holding his hand.

At the hospital, upset and scared, Isla meets Harry. Unlike the boys at school, he doesn't laugh when she tells him about her love of birds. He listens. But what is he doing there?

As Isla struggles with her father's frailty and the new feelings she has for Harry, she's determined to help the only way she knows how. Outside the hospital windows, Isla watches a lone whooper swan struggling to fly. If only she could save the lost bird, would that somehow heal her dad, and cure Harry, and make everything good again?

By the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, an uplifting story about "the thing with feathers" - hope.

Confession: I didn't recognize right away that "the thing with feathers" was an Emily Dickinson quote. In fact, I didn't realize I should recognize it until I saw the phrase on this:

click through for Etsy source

I present this as proof that cruising Etsy can be productive.


I ADORED this one. I kept thinking about it and smiling for days afterwards.

It's rare that I remember the exact moment I fall in love with a book, but I do for this one.

The book started a touch slow for me - Christopher's portrayal of Isla's family life is so complex and layered that she needed quite a few chapters to set it up.

But then came Chapter 40. (I see you gasp out there in the blogosphere. SHORT chapters, people. Very short.) Isla takes a first, can't-back-out-now step in making a Da Vinci-style flying contraption. To tell you more would spoil the magic, but my heart rushed out to hug Isla in that moment and hasn't let her go since.

Remember Sharon Creech's early novels? The Newbery Medal-winning Walk Two Moons and my personal favorite Chasing Redbird? This novel reminds me of those, with a little Fly Away Home mixed in.

(Did you ever see that movie? With a young, brunette, pre-Sookie Anna Paquin? In middle school, that movie ranked right up there with Mulan, A Little Princess, and the Secret Garden on my list of Best Films of All Time. I watched it over and over.)

the movie in six minutes
Watch this, if only to giggle at the 90's outfits

Flyaway features swans, yes, but the way that Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light features dolphins. It's really about how terrible things can happen to a person and her family, and what you do to emotionally survive when you can't do anything to make the situation better (ie. to make a sick person well). It's about how brave you have to be just to endure a wait at hospital bedside when you might lose someone you love.

*Writer Tip Takeaway:

Lucy Christopher has mastered the hospital scene. Read her if you need to write one.

Because of the book's subject matter, there are many, but you know how almost all hospital scenes tend to feel the same? Namely: So-and-so is near death, and everyone is so sad? These aren't like that. Christopher uses the fact that the characters are in a hospital, surrounded by death, as kind of a dark shadow that throws Isla's regular thirteen-year-old girl dramas into brighter relief.


Cute boy named Harry. 'Nuff said. :-D

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Five - the My-Brain-Is-Sadly-Fried Edition

Hello, my dears!

I am still recovering from a Week of Doom and Stress and Deadlines and Weddings and then Dancing - both in chair and on dance floor (more information below). As a result, my brain is operating only at half capacity.

So, instead of writing a long post full of wisdom and structure, I'm going to cheat and do a Friday Five. I'm 95% sure that I can make a Friday Five make sense. :-P

But noting that 5% that says brain mush will win out - read at your own risk...

1. The Scariness (not related to Halloween):

You know what I don't recommend? Telling your agent that you'll get a new manuscript to her THE SAME WEEKEND you're going to be a bridesmaid in an out-of-town wedding.

I'm not sure what I was thinking. It's clear that these are both BIG, time-consuming activities. Sleep was sacrificed to the powers of Productivity. Since I came down with a sinus infection that same week, and one of my meds kept me up till the wee hours of the morn, I ended up sending Jo an incomplete manuscript at 4AM (ie. 13 hours before the wedding). From the floor of the hotel room closet, because I was concerned that my frantic, last-minute typing skills were bothering the other bridesmaid I was bunking with.

This has lead to Serious Thought on such topics as: Boundaries, the Value of Time, and Work-Life Balance.

Seriously Fuzzy-Brained Thought at the moment, however. Hence, this post is a Friday five rather than a discussion of those topics.

2. Happy Ending #1:

The Burton-Kasprak wedding was beautiful. The bride (now Mrs. Kasprak) is a dear friend I've known and loved since age 13 - the one childhood buddy who loves books as insanely as I do. She was gorgeous and poised and funny (during toast, not ceremony). I didn't embarrass her by tripping during the ceremony, or getting lipstick on my teeth, or fouling up the reading she asked me to do (Shakespeare's "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" sonnet, a.k.a. the poem Kate Winslet recites in Sense & Sensibility).

Poem starts at 0:29, in case you're curious.

But I might have embarrassed her on the dance floor. The reception afterwards was awesome. Especially after I changed out of my heels into another pair of flats. :-P

3. Happy Ending #2:

The ms I sent Jo on Friday night was missing the final chapter. That one, I finished on Sunday night, partially in the airport, partially on the plane, and partially at my dining room table. Yes, my Powers of Extreme Concentration - honed during years of doing my homework on the schoolbus - have not deserted me.

Y'all, it's DONE. It's 150,000 words long, ie. 500 pages, ie. WAY too long, but still DONE. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I have enough clay now to mold it into something BOOK-shaped.

This is a VERY good thing.

4. New Deadline:

The manuscript is back with me. I have until Thanksgiving to make it pretty and book-shaped.

I have cuts and themes and rewrites in mind.

It will be EPIC. It may even be FUN.

5. Florence + the Machine:

Um, is anyone else SOOOOOO spectacularly EXCITED for their new album? (I LOVE Florence Welch. We share a birthday, you know. Month, date, AND year. This totally makes us besties by default, even if she has no idea I exist. We were born on the same day - OF COURSE, we're connected.)

November 1 can't come soon enough for me. I've already downloaded their new song and added it to EVERY SINGLE PLAYLIST I've listed to this week.

Yes, this includes my EA'S writing music. :-P


Okay, peeps - please excuse all typos and lack of picturedom. I'm currently blogging by phone, and I'll fix after I get back to my laptop....

ETA: Videos! Better than pictures! (Perhaps they'll distract from the typos I didn't look for...)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Clay, or Strange Musings from a Sleep-Deprived Mind

Hello, friends!

I am no longer in Asheville. In fact, since I returned from Asheville a week and a half ago, I figured I should tell you about it.

I'll write a better post (with pictures! And other fun stuff!) later, but for now, here are the update-y things:

I have not finished my manuscript. I didn't expect for it to become so long, and I didn't expect to work so slow. A couple weeks ago, I had to contact poor Jo in a panic to work out a new deadline, which is now October 14. (One week away... *gulp*) I am now in Charlotte. The fall weather is nice. I see it through the windows when I type frantically at the library or in the dining room.

But I'm not actually in terrible shape. I do feel under the gun, because instead of just writing, I'm also preparing for a wedding next weekend and also another secret thing. In general, though, my mind is calmer than it was before I left Asheville.

This first draft has taken longer to write than any other draft I can remember, and for a while, I fretted over that. (I love the word fret, btw.) I mean, after all, completing the first draft of Of Giants and Ice didn't take too long. I worried that I was doing something wrong. I thought that by handling this one differently, I was messing it up. (Ooooh, I hope I didn't jinx myself by saying that. Considering that no one has seen it yet but me, I have no idea if I have messed it up or not.)

But one day, I had a very helpful thought:

You need to make the clay before you can shape it.

I don't know how I know this, or if maybe tons of people know it too, but many serious potters make their own clay. (This article has more information, although some people purchase powdered clay rather than just digging it up in their backyard.) You add water to the dry stuff; it looks like dirt soup for a while; and then after it sits for a while, it dries out enough for you to work with it.

But it's the same for a first draft. Here I was thinking that my first draft needed to look like the bowl that it would become - maybe not the prettiest bowl in the world, but you know, recognizable as a bowl. But I was skipping a step. I was asking too much from it. All that a first draft must do is exist. This draft is just the raw material that I can mold into a real novel. Before that happens, I first need enough of it - I need a beginning, a middle, and an end to work with.

And...well, maybe it's not like this for everyone, but for me, most times, it is more difficult to create something out of nothing than it is to shape something you already have.

I need to make the clay before I can shape it. That's the thought that is spurring me to the end of this draft.

Okay, people, I'm signing off. This is the last deep breath before I plunge into the end of the novel. Endings, I've noticed, tend to feel like a gallop to the finish line. But that's a post topic for another time. :-)