Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas and a break

Merry Christmas everybody. And happy holidays to those of you who are celebrating anything else.

My apologies for not having been here for a bit. Somehow I thought I would actually make time to be online while I'm home in the sunshine-y Caribbean. Please excuse me while I cackle at my folly.

Also, I'm declaring 2011 The Year of Living Write. I'm going to be spending next year doing as much as I can for my writing process and my writing community. The number one way this will affect you will be in book giveaways. A giveaway every week.



Stay tuned for an interview with Beth Revis, author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and the first contest on January 6th.

And since I'm only deceiving myself by pretending I will post, I think I'll take a break until then.

Please enjoy yourselves as you ring in the New Year. And don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Better yet, if you find something you think I wouldn't do, mail me and let me know about it.

Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year from us (=me) here at Points of Claire-ification.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some things will never change

Born December 16
Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England
Flo Rida

Born December 17
Jacqueline Wilson
Sean Patrick Thomas
Betty Grable
Ray Liotta
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Alejandro Sanz!!!
Rah Digga

Sorry for disappearing, guys. My internet here (Barbados) went on the fritz. Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I'm 29. It's not a secret. I'm proud of every one of my years. :)

This past weekend was my 10 year secondary school reunion. Yes, I'm a member of the Millennium Class. And we had a lime. Let me pause here to explain the word 'lime'. I'm sure for most of you, lime is a fruit that is used in seasoning foods and drinks. For Barbadians (or Bajans, as we call ourselves) lime also means to hang out. It can be a verb or a noun. So you can say 'when we liming?' meaning when are we going to hang out, or 'leh we go to the lime' which is like, let's go to the place everybody's hanging out. LIME is also the name of the big telecoms company: Landline, Internet, Mobile, Entertainment. I think they were trying to promote the concept of being friendly, instead since the service is so poor, they end up being thought of as just hanging out and not doing no work.

So anyhow, we had a lime. And we were all sitting around talking. And it struck me how much like before we all were. I mean, we're all doctors and lawyers and insurance portfolio managers. And we still talk exactly like we did ten years ago. The subjects had matured, but the tone was the same. And even though some of us had not seen one another in 2, 5 or even 10 years, it was like we'd never left.

And this is how authors should be. Their books change. The topics change. The protagonists change. The settings change. And yet, I could tell an Eric Jerome Dickey or Lesley Pearce or Meg Cabot whether or not their names were on the spine. There's a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that keeps us coming back. I hope that some day my books will have that. No matter how long it's been, I hope my readers can come right back and fall into step.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Creative Exchange

Born December 14
Michael Owen
Vanessa Hudgens

Born December 15
Gustave Eiffel
J. Paul Getty
Brendan Fletcher


Well, I'm home. In Barbados. Just got here. It is SO HOT! I've got to go run around like a headless chicken soon, so this is just a quickie.

I went to my first creative exchange on Saturday. You know I've been 'in a critiquing relationship' with ElbieNY25, but this was my first time taking my poor lamb to the group slaughter.

It went pretty well.

A little wordy
Too many things introduced at once
Need to explain certain things if it's for the US market (which right now it isn't)

Great chapter endings
Natural dialog
Great voice

OMG! The FIRST thing said about my work was that it has great voice. Excuse me while I go have a heart attack. Or melt, considering that I left -4 degree (Celsius) weather yesterday and it's like 24 here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Drafts in music- TTT

Time Travel Tuesday is going to be a little different this week :)

Everything in writing is subjective, including the process. Here's what first drafts are like for me. With musical accompaniment for your listening pleasure.

Stage 1. Shiny New Idea.

OMG! This is brilliant. How have I not thought of this before? I want to write this right now. No, I want to write this yesterday. Last week even. Because this story is PERFECT. Too good to be true. (Can't take my eyes off of you, 1998, Lauryn Hill.)

Stage 2. Development.

After starting a few novels that fizzled into nothingness around 14,000 words, I got a little pickier about which ideas I moved forward with and even when I moved forward with them. The next stage of the process is to think. Will I stay interested in this book? If it ultimately sells will I be able to keep at it? Or will I want to eat my manuscript until my stomach explodes?

If you're a 'plotter', you'll spend this stage filling out lists, character sheets, flow charts, etc. But even if you're not a plotter, you should take a while to think about your story, characters and setting, so that you won't get washed too far out to sea on the first draft. (Thik it over, 1958, Buddy Holly.)

3. Pure Pants

(I just saw this on a British writers forum, and remembered that Brits refer to crap as 'pants'. For example, a guy said his first novel was pure pants.)

I'm a pretty hardcore pantser. That's not just a writing thing. I'm a pantser in life :) When I start to write, I'm armed with an idea of my characters, the premise, the setting, and 2 out of 3 for beginning, middle and end. The rest is pure adventure. Where will this go? And how will I get there?

Even if you're not a pantser, there are times the story just takes over. And things come out that shock even you, the writer. (I love this road, Emerson Drive, 2009)

4. The Swamp.

Eventually the honeymoon wears off. And I start to get bogged down. It gets difficult to push forward. I start to doubt whether the story is worth it. It's not different enough from everything out there. Noone will be interested. Suddenly, it's twice as much effort to get in the same amount of work. (Energy, 2008, Keri Hilson)

5. Hate Mail

Unholy walrus fins, Batman! This sucks! What was I thinking? I hate this story. Must I finish it? Please, Mommy, no. I want to hit it with a brick. And kill it. Til it's dead. And then I want to bring it back to life. And kill it again.

Generally, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Noone can say how long, but you come out of the other end and you start to feel a bit more 'maybe' and a little less 'WHERE ARE ALL THE ZOMBIES WHEN YOU NEED THEM???'(7 things, 2008, Miley Cyrus)

6. Wrap up

The end is in sight. The middle kind of sucked, but from here own out, I'm running full steam ahead. The story is kind of carrying me along for the ride. And even if it still feels kind of crappy, I'm far enough along to think. This is editable. (Up! 2002, Shania Twain.)

7. Owari! (Japanese for finished)

I type 'THE END'. And even though I'm exhausted- all my finished novels are nanowrimo products- I'm happy. Manzoku- a feeling of happiness and satisfaction so great that it feels your every fiber and you feel like you might just float away. (Celebration, 1980, Kool and the Gang- who, in case you didn't know, are still touring. They were in Japan last year.)

8. The Big Picture

Whether I'm blazing along the opening pages or slugging through the middle and crusing towards the end, a first draft has this way of being all-encompassing. Logically, you know there's so much more to go, but you still are tempted to try for perfection on the first go-round. After you finish the book and you get a little distance, you start to realise where the strengths lie. And what you can build on for your next draft. And you realise that Part 1 might be over, but really, this is just the beginning. (At the Beginning, 1997, Donna Lewis and Richard Marx.)

That's my first draft journey. What's yours like?

PS, I'm probably on a plane to New York by now. The coolest thing about flying from Tokyo to New York? I leave at 7.20 pm and get in at 6.20 pm. On the same day. I arrive an hour BEFORE I leave! International Date Line ROCKS!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hash tag edits

Born December 12
Gustave Flaubert
Sammy Davis Sr.
Frank Sinatra
Bob Barker
Bill Nighy
Shelia E.
Maiyim Bialik!!!! (I am so freaking over this!!!)

Born December 13
Christopher Plummer
Tamora Pierce
Steve Buscemi
Jamie Foxx
Taylor Swift

Go Check out Beth Revis' Epic Contest of Epic. It's, well, epic!

I know they say you should let your MS simmer for like a month and all. I will. At some point :)

I've been poking around in the first 5 pages, since I had the Creative Exchange with SCBWI Tokyo on Saturday night. I'll let you know how that went. Probably not 'til after I'm home though.

And next are the hashtag edits.

One of the articles recommended by YA Highway on one of the Field Trip Friday's was an article about using hashtags (#) in your writing. If you're in the middle of a creative run, where the words are coming so fast that you can't think, and you come across something that stumps you, don't stop. Instead put a hashtag and note.

It helped a lot during nano. Like when I needed to know about the mating rituals of peacocks, but I was trying to knock off 1,000 words in half hour on Write or Die.

After you finish your spurt or your draft, or when you're suffering from writer's block, you can search your document for hashtags, and look up all you need then.

So, really hashtag edits don't even count as an edit. It's still technically the first draft. I'm not breaking the rules :)

I made up an edit list since nano, too.

1. Hashtag edits

2. Plot edits
My MC drives at 15, despite the fact that you can't get a permit 'til 16 in Barbados. Plot hole the size of Rhode Island- which might be an itty-bitty state, but is a freaking huge plot hole!

3. Setting edits
I am not a fan of description. It slows the plot down. But what's the point of setting your book somewhere exotic, like my home island, if you're not going to use it. So I'm dedicating a whole edit to working my setting into the action.

4. Character edits
Would MC really do this? Or that? Would LI respond like this? Or like that? Why are BFF1 and BFF2 so similar? These are problems I'll tackle on this edit.

5. Line-by-line
La recherche éternelle pour le mot juste - the eternal search for the right word. This is probably going to be the longest of my edits. And the one that will send me chasing my own tail.

And then a re-read. And the book will be ready! For something. Not sure yet what :)

And, yes, I'm aware you can tackle more than one thing in an edit pass, but I'd rather not. I'm old-fashioned like that. I use my camera for pictures, and my calculator for multiplying. My phone can do both, but not as well or as easily. When I multi-task, life stays exciting, but I'm not as good as I could be.

And my Baby deserves the best!

Oh, also I figured out a name for my WIP.


It implies that there's an issue that needs dealing with AND
It's a common idiom, so it has a lighter, funner tone AND
By using 'wid' instead of 'with' it implies a dialect, and my book is set in Barbados.

I think it's perfect!

For now at least :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Land of no punishment

Born on December 10
King James I of Scotland
Michael Clark Duncan
Raven Symone

December 11
Fiorella LaGuardia
John Kerry
Mos Def

Japan is one of the most exoticised and misunderstood countries in the world. A large portion of this is due to Japan's insularity: physically, being a set of islands, and mentally, shutting themselves off from the rest of the world for so long- even now they're not fully 'open.'

People think that Japanese people are:

Amazingly hardworking
All skinny
All obedient
All into hi-tech gadgets

etc. (Can you think of any more stereotypes?)

Some of these are true in varying degrees. But none are as true as you think they are.

Take the obedience thing. Lots of people think Japanese people never step of out line. Ha!

Ha ha ha.
Ha ha ha ha ha.

Now that's out of my system- no, hold on-

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

K. Think I'm done.

Right, so obedience in Japan.

Two days ago, I was walking to class with the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE- In Junior High and many Senior Highs we team-teach with a Japanese teacher), when somethin came flying out of the classroom. When we got there, one of the kids was totally flipping out, kicking over desks and chairs and throwing stuff.

The entire class was in there. AND 2 teachers! Not including the JTE and the assistant JTE (yes there are 3 teachers in the classroom every time I teach at JHS.) And no one made any attempt to stop this kid. (I'm not allowed to 'discipline' which is usually great because I'm not a fan of telling people what to do, but even I would not have tolerated that.)

Eventually one of the teachers CONVINCED the kid to go next door. She talked to him for a few minutes and then came back to the classroom and started packing his things. Meanwhile, he was still kicking over everything in sight.

Then he left. Like went home, left. Without like going to the Principal or anything. From what I gather, HE decided to go home.

There is no way that situation would have flown at home, and I theorise it wouldn't fly in your countries either. When he started kicking, either a teacher or a student would have:

a. held him down
b. called for someone to help
c. smacked him with something
d. sent him to the Principal

You think Japanese people never step out of line, but the thing is if you want to there's really nothing to stop you. We Westerners know the rules, and know the consequences of breaking them. At school, we didn't break rules to avoid detention or lines or trips to the Principal. Or we broke the rules in secret. Or if we happened to be really, really angry and flip out, it was at the stage where we no longer cared what they did to us.

In Japan, they 'guilt' you into following the rules. Everyone is thinking what a bad Japanese you are for breaking the rules. But no one will say it. Eventually, you get to a point where you realise that no one will stop you, whatever you do. And if you don't care what people think, you can do whatever you want.

It's not just in the case of 'being bad', it's why lots of things happen. Like the nurse room kids- the kids who gave up on being in the mainstream classroom and spend every day in the nurse room. It's perfectly normal. And all the teachers act like they're not supposed to be somewhere else. Even at schoolwide events, they'll be with the School Nurse setting up mikes or something and not singing with 'their' class choir or running in the races. They've given up on being 'real students' and no one is going to stop them.

There isn't a deeper meaning to today's post.

I'm not sure if you wanted the real Japan, but sometimes you're gonna get it.

PS, headed to Tokyo tomorrow for meetings and SCBWI Tokyo Creative Exchange.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Living the fairy tale aka blog stats

Born on December 9
Red Foxx
Dame Judi Dench
John Malkovich
Tre Cool (German drummer in Green Day)
my nextdoor neighbour :)

This week YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday was 6 words to describe you. I don't do the Road Trip Wednesdays because my Wednesday starts 13 hours before yours, and I've usually written my Wednesday post before I read theirs.

But here's my 6 words anyhow:

So much world, so little time.

Because so much of what drives me is the discovery of new things, places, languages, imaginary people (what? we're writers, aren't we?), etc.

Okay. On to blog stats.

Firstly, if you are not hype to Google Analytics, you need to get with the program. Before Google Analytics, I depended on comments to tell me how many people were reading and what the readers liked. Since I've joined the Analytics crew, I realise that there are 5,6, even 10 times as many readers as commenters.
(You can also get some stats on the STATS tab in your Blogger dashboard.)

Leading referals:

5. Google (organic)** = 8%
4. Twitter = 12% (and to think I didn't want to get on Twitter!)
3. Google (referal)* = 14%
2. Direct = 20%
1. Blogger = 26%

And thank you to follower, KO, who all on her lonesome has managed to generate 1% of my blog references!

*Referal means clicking on a link.
*Organic means it was a random search in a search engine.

Most popular posts:

6. What King of the World? 3 % of page views
5. Stephanie Perkins on Talk Back Thursday 3.5% of page views
4. All Over The World 4.1% of page views
3. Kathleen Ortiz 12% of page views
(This post got 150 views in a single day. It was the most active day my blog has EVER seen. Thank you, Kathleen!)
2. Points of Clarification homepage
(Not an actual post but blogger counts it. )
1. Prince Charming

Actually, lets come back to that.

Top searches
In 3rd place there's a 4-way tie among:

Elise Allen Populazzi, Crime in the 80's, Feegles and Punky Brewster. What a combo!

2. Iwate Swan. (Joanna asked who he is. For the newer followers he was a JET teacher here in my prefecture who vlogged about his life in Japan. He died suddenly in January of Pancreatitis.)

1. Prince Charming. More than half of the people who find me in search engines, find me through a variation of that concept!

So, as you can see from the search terms and page views, my visitors have been driven by non-writing related things: anime, fairy tales, the 80's, etc. I guess it pays to mix it up. I'm sure 99% of those people were disappointed when they didn't find what they expected. But a few have stayed and I'm glad to have them.

Oh, and in case you wonder, what's the strangest search term that's led someone to my blog, that would be 'breast shapes'


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Story Siren Challenge

Born December 8
Mary, Queen of Scots
Teri Hatcher
Sammy Davis Jr
David Carradine
Kim Basinger
Sinead O'Connor

This year I'm participating in The Story Siren's Debut Author Contest.

The objective is to read 12 novels from authors debuting in Young Adult or Middle Grade between January 1, 2011 and December 31 of the same year.

Here's a list of books I intend to read from the US list on the website, in order of release. I think.

Julia Karr XVI
Beth Revis Across the Universe
Lorraine Zago Rosenthal Other Words for Love
Paige Harbison Here Lies Bridget
Any Holder Lipstick Laws
Chris Beam I am J.
Kirsten Hubbard Like Mandarin
Lisa & Laura Roecker Liar Society
Jesse Karp Those That Wake
Myra McEntire Hourglass
Vernica Roth Divergent
Elana Johnson Posession
Carrie Harris Bad Taste in Boys
Karsten Knight Wildefire
Medeia Sharif Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
Elise Allen Populazzi
Victoria Schwab The Near Witch
Anna Staniszewski My un-fairytale life
Michelle Hodkin The Un-becoming of Mara Dyer

I was actually going ot read 13 of these anyhow. lol.

Oh, also, I spent the day sifting through ALL teen books being released in January and February on Amazon. There are only a few categories you can search on, so I had to wade through the non-fiction as well. (Although doesn't include non-fic. Get with it, US Amazon!) Plus Amazon doesn't differentiate between new book and new edition. Shakespeare, Bronte, and Judy Blume are definitely NOT new.

But I know have like 6 pages of books to go check up on. :)

Oh, and in case you wondered, there are a little over 500 new editions being released for teens in January and February. Ah, the tortures I put myself through for love.

PS. There are lots of vampires. And titles like 'something, something and something-something' ( for example: Me, Myself and the Girl in the Mirror. No, that's not an actual title. ) I only read two months worth and I was already sick of the vamps and the comma titles. Editors and agents are superheroes!

(PS. December rocks. Ignore Joanna. :P lol. )

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two for Tuesday: Ted Authors

Born December 5
Walt Disney
Little Richard
Keri Hilson
Frankie Muniz

Born December 6
apparently noone mega-famous--- even the great December needs to take a break :)

Born December 7
Richard Sears (Founded Sears)
Sara Bareilles

Hey hey!

Today, I'm doing Two for Tuesday again.

Here are two TED lectures.

By amazing authors.

Both of whom are crazy famous.

Both of whom I've never read. :(

The awesomesauce Maggie Stiefvater

La encantadora Isabel Allende

Feeling inspired yet?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Product Description (Amazon): Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

My feelings:

I feel like every cliche possible.

Like the story is so beautiful that I should never write another word because I can't compete.

Like any words I use to describe it won't be enough.

Because there's such amazing romantic tension. So many times where you're like 'just kiss!!!' and then other times when you're screaming, 'no, tell him the truth,' or 'Ack, you two are meant for each other. Why are you so blindddddddd!?'

And then there's all these cutesie little things that made me smile: a Canadian flag, the Americans in the bowling alley, what Matt said, Thanksgiving...

And the things that made me cry: The New Year's phonecall, and the concept of home. Oh, the concept of home.

And setting: OMG! Paris! Stephanie Perkins does such a fab job with Paris. I've been to France, but not continental France. Still, the food brought back memories and made my mouth water. And the scenes were so richly painted I felt like I was at Notre-Dame, and the Pantheon.

This setting is exactly how I like them. Intricately interwoven with the story, but not bigger than it. Beautiful.

And Étienne: Best flawed love interest. He's got imperfect teeth and bites his nails and is too short. Finally a YA Love Interest that isn't so perfect that you feel like your boyfriend needs to be rock-hard and sparkly. Or have a bazillion ab muscles.

Also, Stephanie Perkins has the strange and dubious distinction of being the first author to ever make me cry in the acknowledgements.

To her husband, Jarrod: "Thank you for being you, because you are my favorite."

If that's not a person meant to write teen romance, I don't know who is.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Iwate Swan 16 and 17

As my brain is still fried from conferences/nano/work, but I don't want to not post, I ggive you Iwate Swan.

First, today's birthdays:
Jean-Luc Godard (French Filmmaker)
Ozzy Osbourne
Brendan Fraser

And December 4:
Marisa Tomei
Tyra Banks

Giant icecream!

French Kissing and region coding

Apologies to my followees and commenters for the last week. Between nanowrimo, work and sheer exhaustion, I've fallen behind on reading your blogs. I'm only up to Monday's blogs right now. Gomen ne. (Japanese for sorry. It's in the original Sailor Moon theme song. :) )

Born today:
Monica Seles
Britney Spears
Charles Ringling
Gianni Versace
Lucy Liu
Nelly Furtado

Stephanie Perkin's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS comes out today. Like now! Yay! I'm so psyched! Thanks again for hanging out with us last month, Steph.

It got me started thinking about region coding and other regional restrictions (ANNA is not available on Kindle in the US).

Let me just say, I HATE REGION CODING!!!

Let's think DVD's. Supposedly, the reason for region coding is to protect the movie studio. For example, Twilight was released in November in the US. It was released in April in Japan. So theoretically, the DVD might have been out in the US before the theatrical release here. And a region code is supposed to prevent Person A in America from sending a copy to Person B in Japan, or anywhere in the rest of the world.

This argument might make sense if DVD's didn't take a million years to come out.

And if the release dates for pretty much all of Europe and the English speaking Americas weren't generally within a month of one another.

And if 90% of the people in Japan who care about American movies weren't American ex-pats anyhow.

And if non-English speakin countries didn't need their versions to be subtitled.

I am super anti-piracy. I mean I am an artist. I haven't always wanted to be an artist; as a kid I wanted to be a scientist. (I know, right? Me, a scientist? How badly would that end? I probably would find the cure to cancer, and not be able to make it again because I winged it, and didn't record a thing.) But even so, my mother was a singer, and went on to manage a calypso tent (where artists came together to sing their calypsoes once a year) so I've always been surrounded by artists. And piracy is probably the issue I grew up feeling strongest about.

I wouldn't even touch pirated material. When all my friends had home-made mixed-tapes and DVD's, I was buying the real thing.

But, living in Japan, I find myself having to wait half a year for a release. Or, there not being a release at all. If there was a way to buy it here, I would. But as there's not, that movie company just lost out on my $9.99.

Region coding, like other restrictive procedures, only gets in the way of legit people. Because the people who never intended to go to the theatrical release aren't going to go anyway. They'll either find a bootleg online, or get a universal DVD player or a computer program to watch any region.

(PS, I will never understand why Japan is in one region, South Korea is in another, and China is in a third. It's not like they're next to one another or anything.)

Region coding has been around since the VHS/PAL days. You'd think they would have nixed it by now. Yet they incorporate it in every new incarnation of entertainment.

Like the Kindle.

Some Kindle editions are released only in the US. Some in the US and Caribbean regions. Some not in the US, but pretty much every where else.

It's a nuisance. Especially in a time where you have so many online companies, which will mail me the book anyway.

I understand the legal implications. But why is it we can manage 'free trade' and all sorts of other universal things, and not get away from region codes?

Once upon a time, people were born in a country and died in that country. Or immigrated once, at most.

But look at me. I've lived in 3 countries. And I'm 28. I'm not done yet.

Once upon a time I used to think that was abnormal. But there are 5,000 on my program in a similar position. And thousands others on other programs or in different jobs. In Japan alone.

Somebody needs to figure this out and get it together. Because movie companies, book companies/writers, etc may think that they're making money with these restrictions. But there are lots of cases where they lose. And that just might be happening more often than not.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December RULEZ! (And Resolutions)

It's here! The month that brings you Christmas, me and Brad Pitt!

Born Today:
Richard Pryor
Woody Allen
Marie Tussaud (Madame Tussaud)
Pablo Escobar
Aiko, Princess Toshi

The Rejectionist invited her minions to post on their resolutions for the upcoming year. I don't normally do resolutions- you know me and commitment- but I is has plans for next year. (Please note: The Receptionist expects a dry-run of resoulutions in December. Sorry, but that's not happening. I'm exhausted from nano, will be travelling, will be organising a school reunion, etc. Maybe that's perfect though, because I'm always too busy. lol.)

So anyhow, here's what to expect in the new year.

1. Save 1万円 per month.

That's 10,000 yen, and right now is worth about $110 US. Not much, you say. Let's consider how much I saved last month. Zero. And the month before that. Zero. And the one before. Zero. Detect a pattern?

2. Compile MFA application.

I may not even end up doing an MFA, but if I do, I should get to cracking on the application. Competition is tight and MFA's require a writing sample. I don't want them to reject me based on something I wrote the night before deadline, when I might have gotten in.

3. Submit short stories.

I want to try my hand at short stories. And publishing credits couldn't hurt.

4. Advance my WIP every month.

Coming up with a writing goal was difficult. I can't write every day. Not for lack of time. I just can't do anything every day. I also didn't want to say 'do something for my craft every week,' because reading helps my craft. And if I used that to fulfill my writing quals, then I'd never need to write.

So, every month, I will be writing, re-reading, editing, etc. something. And a month might sound like a long time, but I know it's what I can work with, because straight off the bat I know there are weeks I won't be able to do anything for my writing. Like the last week of July, the first week of August and the last two of October.

5. Take a novel through the full pre-query process.

When you make goals, you should make them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Originally my goal was to have a publishable-quality novel. But how do you measure that? So my new goal is to move from WIP to the best possible book.

I've never done anything more than a first edit. I've never given an entire book over to a beta reader. (Super-awesome crit-partner Elbie and I were doing weekly exchanges.) So I'll be taking a WIP- maybe this nano's, maybe nano 2008 (nano 2009 should be buried deep. Very, very, very deep.)- and revising, and revising, and beta-ing and lather, rinse, repeat.

6. Read one book a week.

But Claire, you already a gazillion books. Yes. Too many. I don't do anything else. This year, I'm going to try to get myself down to 52. Well, at least between 52 and 100. :)

7. Vary my reading

Once a month I will read one book which is not YA/Hilarious women's fiction/paranormal/written in English. Theoretically, this is supposed to get me into reading adult fiction. What will probably actually happen is that I will read 12 French/Spanish/Italian/Japanese books. Oh well, at least that counts as studying :)

(I got LA DIVINA COMMEDIA by Dante for Kindle last night. So psyched! Reading it right after ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.)

8. Review every book I read.

This may be the hardest of my resolutions to keep, but I want to spread the love. So I will be starring/reviewing/recommending every single book I read EITHER on Goodreads, Amazon, or my book review blog. Yes, I have a book review blog. It's just been hidden for like a year.

9. Give away a book every week.

I could not forget you guys. Because you ROCK! Stop by every Thursday in 2011 for a giveaway.

I know that sounds kind of crazy, but I gave away about 50 books this year. In about 5 giveaways, and I only started in June. Once a week will be toning it down.

But because contests are actually energy-sucking lifeforms (I can't wait til I can be rich- or important- or famous enough to have an assistant who takes care of all the mundania), there's a minimum entry of 5. If less than 5 people enter, the prize won't be drawn and will go forward to the next week. If it happens 3 weeks in a row, the contests will be discontinued. I don't care if the same 5 people enter all year and win 10 books a piece. So long as there's 5.

How's about you guys? Do you do resolutions? Do you have any for k11?

Independence and Nano

God Bless Bim on Independence Day!

Hey guys. Today, we're going to switch it up and do Two for Tuesday. Because there are 2 big things on my calendar, every year on November 30th.

It's the Independence Day of my beautiful country, Barbados, nicknamed Bim, or Little England.

Who would imagine 166 square miles would go that far? Yes, 166 suqare miles. Probably smaller than your town.

Still, we've got an incredible list of accomplishments for an itty-bitty rock with no natural resources. (Okay, we have 2 ounces of oil. But just 2 ounces.)

We grafted the grapefruit. Say thank you.

We invented rum. Alcoholics the world over praise our existence.

We've produced a slew of international singers: Jaicko (Oh yeah), Livvi Franc (I'm That B*tch), Shontelle (The Americans among us might know her song, Battle Cry, which features clips of Obama speeches) and of course, Rihanna.
(Remember how I said it was small? I went to school with Shontelle and my brother went to school with Rihanna. Yeah, that kind of small.)

We're the '5th most literate' country in the world. (Although it's hard to judge because they automatically assign a rate of 99.0 to some countries which have good rates for a long time.)

We are a developed country, according to the World Bank. Even though there are lots of countries with outrank us for size, we are the most developed island in the Caribbean region.

Oh, and we're the 2009 World Champions of Segway Polo. (I wouldn't know it was a sport if we didn't win it.)

Recently the BBC did a feature on the only sport invented in Barbados, road tennis. It was hilarious. A tourist was learning how to play, and the teacher kept saying gems like:

"You're embarassing me as a teacher."
And when she asks advice, "Hit de ball!"

Watch the clip, hear the accent and see the Bajan charm, here. :)

I'll leave the topic before I really get into swing. Barbadians (Bajans) are rumoured to be arrogant by the rest of the Caribbean. But it's not really arrogance, it's just that BARBADOS ROCKS!

Of course, that's not the only fab on November 30th.

It's the last day of Nano, too.

I was way, way behind on Nano. I told myself on Thursday that I'd be good if I could squeeze out 5,000 words, because I know Fridays are pretty near impossible to do anything but exist on, and I was scheduled to travel on the weekend. I actually wrote about 2,000 words on Thursday, and maybe 1,000 all weekend.

Leaving me with almost 14,000 words to write on Monday and Tuesday.

Still doable.

If I wrote a single word on Monday. Which I didn't.

And I gave up. Around Week 3 of Nano you hear things like, 'it's great that you got this far,' and 'that's 20,000 words you didn't have before.' I believe it and agree.

But not for me. Not winning = fail.

Yet, when I was staring down the double barrel of the failure yesterday morning, and realising that Nano had slipped beyond my grasp, it occured to me that sometimes you fail, in order to win. Have you ever given up something now to have something better later? It's just like that. And I had a whole post planned.

And then I came to work. And it was test day. 8 hours of sitting at my desk, while the kids do tests in their classrooms. And I hadn't brought a book. And all the other teachers were using their internet cables. (I don't have dedicated internet at this school. I have to highjack one.)

8 hours of not being required to do anything but sit at my desk, with nothing but a computer with no internet.

If that's not a hint that I should be writing, I don't know what is.

So I wrote.

I knocked off a little over 8,000 words.

Then I went home, exhausted. Still contemplating giving up. And I found out I was a Critterpalooza winner. And you can't win a prize on a writers' site and then not write. So I knocked off 2.5 K. And then I went by my neighbour's house and watched an episode of Beverley Hillbillies and had a glass of red.

Came back at 10. 2 hours. 3,000 words.

I did it. Even though my story ran out at 48,988 words- the last 1000 words aren't pretty.

I finished. With 8 minutes to spare. 13,800 words in one day. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm capable of coherent thought. Or maybe I'm not. :)

Congratulations to all the other Wrimos out there.

And thank you to everyone here for believing in me. You are so fabulicious. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Unless you have athritis. Then you can pat the front. Or something.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All over the world

It's Monday (vaguely) and so, time to treat you guys to a piece of my mind. Consider yourselves warned.

Before I'd been in Japan for a year, I wondered past this house. Even without anybody telling me, I knew they were in mourning.

When someone dies in Japan, they post a sign like this outside the house. Remember, you read traditional Japanese from the upper right hand corner. You go down the column and then you move left to the next column.

The first and biggest column says 'mourning' along with the name of the person. The next column announces when and where the Cremation Ceremony will be. The next column, I think, means, Bhuddist wake. And the final column is the funeral.

I was walking past a funeral house one day, just as they were coming out to go to one of the ceremonies. There was an older lady and she was bawling. I mean, screaming for all the world. And a younger lady was supporting her, because she looked like without support her face might be tempted to make an urgent visit to the floor.

It really touched me. I felt like crying. And I don't know the woman. I don't even know who died.

And it occured to me that, living on the other side of the world, I often notice the differences.

Japanese are so skinny.
People take so long to become your friends.
Kanji is hell to learn.
What's with this food?

But there are so many similarities.

Because that woman? She was Japanese. But I guarantee that the pain she felt was, in essence, the same as the pain my cousin felt when her grandmother died and she shrieked the same way and they had to hold her back from jumping into the grave.

It's the same in writing.

When I first got serious about novelling, I badgered myself about setting. Setting stories in Barbados, I thought, would automatically lose those not interested in multiculturalism. And setting stories in the US, wouldn't feel authentic, because I write YA, and while I lived there for 2 years, I didn't got to middle or high school there.

I struggled with this for a long time.

In fact, I think I've only finally resolved (most of) my setting issues this month.

But in the end, I realise that's not what's important. Millions have read Harry Potter. Many of them I'm sure have no interest in leaving their country, or in living in England or London. But they love the story.

And look at Stephanie Perkins, author of the upcoming ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. She doesn't live in France. As far as I know, she never did. But everyone who's been lucky enough to get their hands on an advance copy of the book seems to love it.

When we write and when we read, we get all caught up in the differences.

This one's about a sparkly vampire. (TWILIGHT)
This one is about children fighting to the death. (THE HUNGER GAMES)
This is about a high school girl who takes down her best friend because of a rumour. (SOME GIRLS ARE)
This is about a girl who thinks she's fat and ugly. (THE DUFF)
This is about a girl who's determined to spend her last days alive trying new things. (BEFORE I DIE)

Those are big differences. We can't ignore them.

But we shouldn't ignore the similarities either. Because many books have, at their hearts, the same big concepts. Especially in Young Adult, which I write, and other children's literature.

These books are about love. And friendship. And testing boundaries. And standing up to evil. And appreciating yourself.

When I saw that lady bawling, shrieking in Japanese, I could not understand her language. I didn't even know enough Japanese to offer her my condolences back then. But I understood her. Because that essence is universal.

When you write, flesh out your characters, delineate your plot, paint your settings, but don't forget the essence. That thing inside the story that someone else will feel, miles away on the other side of the world. That thing that will make them want to bawl even though they don't know the character. That will make them laugh with them and cheer when they overcome an obstacle. That will make them imagine themselves in every plot twist.

Write the differences, but don't forget the similarities.

Because people can not live without a heart.

And neither can your book.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Medical Exam

No, this is not the same as last week's doctor post. But, I suppose it's my fault for talking about the doctor.

Every year, every public worker in Japan MUST get a medical exam. I probably shouldn't complain because there are millions of people in the world who would like to see a doctor, and I go every year for free.

Here's a pic of a part of the English translation of the Medical Exam form. Please note, this is my 3rd year. Never before has anyone given me an English translation. Imagine trying to mime/pictionary something like cancer. Yes, I have done that.


First you register, and they put your medical form in a plastic folder, and give you a sticker with your name, and a little card. And then they give you a cup to pee in. But, this being Japan, it's not just any cup. In my town, the cup is always green, and I assume, it's green everywhere. And it has measurements. And the guy actually says to pee to the 25 mm line.

I always pee too much.

Then you have to bring your cup to another desk, where you put it on a circle they've printed on a laminated paper. I kind of wonder what would happen if you didn't put the cup in the circle. :)

Dude puts your pee in a little tube- 25 mls of it, and throws the rest in a bucket. Another temptation- kicking the bucket. Wait, did I just say that?

Right next to him, you do an eye test. There's a bunch of C's, oriented in different directions and you have to say if the space in the C is on the right, left, up or down. Then that same dude weighs you (Yes, I've noticed I'm overweight, Japan. But thanks.) and measures your height.

Then it's off for blood pressure and blood tests. The dude next to me was frightened of needles. I don't have that luxury. See, I have no veins. This is not the obesity speaking. Even as a baby I didn't have veins. (I've had blood taken from the back of my hand, and from the space inside my thumb and forefinger. I don't recommend either, unless you don't mind not being able to use your hand for a couple days.) Every time I get to this station, I remember that Japan doesn't know that much about the outside world. And I know that they probably all think that Black people just don't have veins. Sorry, Race.

Then you go to the heart doctor, who listens to your lungs. ??? Medicine is so confusing. And then you do an ear test. They give you a pair of headphones and you press the button when your hear the beep.

And then it's off to the buses.

For the operations which require equipment, they've renovated these buses. At the front, it's a regular bus, but in back, they've put in a door, and you go through the back and have your exam done. The perk of this is that hospitals outside big cities don't need expensive equipment. It just drives around in a bus.

This is a picture of the breast cancer/gynaecologist bus, which they sent me too without warning. Seriously, supervisor gives me paper I can't read and tells me I have an exam. I turn up and everyone starts taking their undies off. Weird, to say the least.

Yesterday there were two buses. In one you get a chest x-ray, and in bus 2, they do two things, neither of which I'm fully sure of. In the back, they take a picture of your eye. In the front, the put a bunch of metal clips on your arms, legs and chest, and shoot you full of electricity. I don't know what the machine did, but it shook the whole bus.

And then you're done!

Thanks for enduring two weeks of medical posts. Here's a reward, from today's school lunch: Almond Fish. I wish I was making this up.

Sadly, it tastes pretty good.

I've been here too long.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This post is not about Harry Potter. :)

As, you know, I'm a little over halfway through my Nano novel. (Only 3000 words today. So far.) What you don't know is that it doesn't have a name.

Well, actually it has a name.


But that name came from a very, very different story.

The first voice that came to me, was my current MC. See, I didn't actually plan to write this novel, but I was walking home one day- one of the perks of living in my town, and going everywhere on foot- and it came to me. The first sentence. And the novel I originally intended to write went out the window. I can't even remember which one it was now.

In this novel, there's this girl. Whose mother is dead. But then she has to write about her relationship with her Mom.

And then I had this idea to change it up, and give each of 3 other characters a POV. So back when I named it that, the story was a lot lighter. More whimsical.

Now, it focusses on just the one character, and for once I'm having extreme difficulty with a name. Weird for me, because I normally stumble upon a name at the same time as an MC.

I've come up with several things:

A COAT OF VARNISH (yes, there's a reason for this, but not enough to justify it, I don't think.)

And nothing seems to work. They all lean too far to one side. Because this story? This story is not about one thing.

It's about death, but it's about life too. It's sad, but it's fun. It's about being more mature than you are, and acting exactly your age. It's about family, and it's about friends. It's about being independent, and getting a helping hand.

And I just can't find the words to say that yet.

What about you? Where do your titles come from? When do they come to you? First, during first draft, right before querying?

PS. While typing this post, a name hit me. I'll get back to you guys, and let you know if it sticks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's your brand?

I don't look at people as brands.

But products are.

And recently, I've been thinking about the brand of products I want to produce. Remember a little while back, I grumbled about a bestselling author whose MCs are pretty much the same person? I have no problem with an MC who is actually the same person. You know like in a series, with the same character. But don't give your character a different name, and then make the character the same gender, the same religion, in the same profession, with the same hobbies, and the same issues, and etc.

At least, that doesn't float my boat. But this biz is subjective and maybe other people like to read all the MC's the same.

Either way, that is not the point of today's post.

Today I'm thinking, some things need to be the same. I mean when you watch a Johnny Depp movie, you're virtually guaranteed the character is going to be a little dark, and a lot crazy. That's what you're used to and that's what you want.

And I go to thinking, as an aspiring author, what's my niche?

I mean it's hard enough to sell one book. Who wants to start over in a different vibe, even if not in a different genre? Wouldn't it be easier to just find my niche and build a brand around it, until I'm as identifiable as Johnny Depp? (A rabbit can dream can't he?)

Then I read something Elizabeth Jote said over on YA Highway.

She identified Steven Spielberg's brand as 'finding the impossible in the possible'.

And I started to brainstorm some more brands.

Steven King: Even in the most mundane, there is an element of dark terror
Lesley Pearce: All through history, woman have gone through the toughest of times and still triumphed
Taylor Swift: Love is hard, but beautiful
Tyler Perry: No matter how much crap you go through, if you keep your head up and put God first, you will find a sexy dark chocolate man.

lol, you get the idea :)

And now, I think I want my brand to be this:

Even when you think life is too hard, and you can't even imagine it, happiness still exists.

What about you? What do you want your brand to be? Can you think of any more writer's/director's/singer's/etc's brands?

PS, In case you're wondering, I wrote 7300 words for my nano today. I'm now (only) 10,000 words behind. 6 days left. lol. I bribed myself today. For every hour of class I taught, I spent a half hour on Write Or Die. 4 classses gave me 2 hours of writing. Then I watched an episode of Gossip Girl, and put in another half hour, then an episode of Dawson's Creek, and put in a half hour, followed by another episode and another half hour. 7 half hours at a little 1K a piece. Not bad. Although, Brain = Mush.

Disney 30's and 40's TTT

Going back 70 years in today's Time Travel Tuesday.

Disney movies- the ultimate bubbling cauldron of hope.


WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK, 1937. I'm not a big fan of Snow White's voice, but maybe a little whistle will help with my nano.

Seems whistling was super-popular back in the day. GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE, Pinocchio, 1940.

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR, Pinocchio, 1940


PINK ELEPHANTS ON PARADE, Dumbo, 1941. Er, yeah, he's drunk. Disney was interesting back in the day. I don't think there's ever been a better anti-drinking campaign!

WHEN I SEE A ELEPHANT FLY caused some controversy. It's supposedly racist. I'm black, and whatever. Great song.

THE THREE CABALLEROS, 1945. Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles. This film was actually released in Mexico before the US.

ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, Soung of the South, 1946. Another controversial joint.

LAVENDER BLUE, So Dear to My heart, 1948.

And, yes, I've seen all of these.

PS. Random fact. Clarence Nash plays Donald Duck in 1945's Three Caballeros. In English, Spanish and Portuguese. If that ain't the ultimate proof that noone can understand Donald Duck, I don't know what is :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Major issues

Yeah I went. All I can say is this: Manzoku! (Japanese for 'Happiness all the way to the roof'. )

Also, as expected, not much writing this weekend. Today is a holiday, so we'll see...

I just got back from an education conference in Nagoya. I expected to be bored out of my wits. But I actually enjoyed myself. However there were colleges there. And that's a bad, bad thing. Whenever I meet with college reps, I get pulled in a million different directions. See, I don't know what I want.

Or rather, I know exactly what I want. I want to be a writer. But we all know that writing probably won't support me until around my 5th book or so, if ever, and therefore writing is a second job. My problem is that I don't really want to do anything else. How can I pick a day job?

I know I'd love to study. Not entirely because I want to further any particular part of my knowledge. I happen to like school: the culture, the people, the buildings, the library, the clubs, the studying. Yeah, I'm that sort of nerd. And I know I want to be on campus, and not online, after all, see where studying falls on the list.

But I don't know what to study.

The contenders:

MFA/MA Creative Writing/Writing for Children

-Well, duh. I definitely want to be a writer. MFA can't hurt, especially if I manage to stay out of debt :)

-1, 2, even 3 years dedicated to writing. Just saying it feels like I died and went to heaven.

-Migrating to London or New York, where the 2 residential programs I'm most considering, are.

-And work where? My mother would give me mounds and mountains of grief for a masters that didn't guarantee me a job. Thankfully she hasn't figured out that the MFA is just that. Yet.

-I'm not really that into any part of publishing other than writing. I hate selling, so agenting isn't for me, and I hate politick-ing so I'll say no to editing as well.

-You don't need a degree to be a writer.

MA Translation/Interpreting
- I'm well equipped for the task, and the only thing that really stops me from being a translator is that shoe in the door.

-Once again London (and England in general) ROCKS for this degree.

-Don't need a degree to work in this field

-I only want to translate literary works. I have no desire to spend the rest of my life up to my ears in technical manuals and scientific journals.

MA TEFL/TESOL/Second Language Acuqisition
-I'm actually really interested in this subject, having gone through the process in various ways myself.

-With an MA qualification in TEFL/TESOL, I'd be welcome at universities in pretty much every non-English country in the world. You know that makes me swoon even more than the thought of meeting Orlando Bloom.

-I actually prefer teaching my foreign languages to teaching English. There's no challenge in teaching English.

MA French/Spanish/Italian

Did you notice I'm considering Italian? Which I don't have a first degree in, mind you, but which I love, love, love.

-I love foreign languages and would love to have an opporunity to use them again, besides Japanese of course, which I use more often than English. Apart from blogging.

-Opens the door to teaching French, Spanish or Italian at university. And since pretty much every university in the West teaches on of those, doors will open pretty much every where in the West.

-I'll probably end up in an English speaking country (yes, I know. That should be a pro, right?)

-I'll have to choose a language. I chose between French and Spanish 15 years ago, and I never want to choose again. My relationship with language is so different: my grasp on French is the best, but I have not desire to live in a French country; I love Spanish culture, but my Spanish is not the best grammatically; I have the strongest desire to be in Italy, but since I've only done a year of conversational Italian, I have like no vocab.

Not much to do with writing, but it was Monday (when I thought this up) and that's what's on my mind.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The doctor in Japan

Hey guys,

This is me exhausted in Nagoya. Here's a little mappy to show you where Nagoya is.

The purple dot is where I live. It's exactly 600 km to Tokyo and I guesstimate another 400 to Nagoya. 1000 km in 5 hours. Shinkansen rock! (Bullet train! Bullet train! Bullet train!) The trip only takes that long because I have to switch shinks in Tokyo and because you can't take the train through Tokyo like a bat out of hell. In my neck of the woods it can get up to 275 km/h. Please note that's only because that's the fastest they let it go. It's the fastest train in the world. (World record is 581 km/h or 361 mph). But let me not start fangirling the trains. I'm going to have to dedicate a whole post to them someday :)

Also, I'm way behind on nano. 19,200 words right now, and about 10 days left to get 30,000 words. Did I mention that I'm at a conference for the next 3 days? Or that I've got to go to Miyagi next weekend? At least Wednesday is a holiday and I'm hoping that I'm only required to sit at a desk at the conference and can write while people are in their sessions. We'll see.

Anyhoos, I was sick this week. Sick enough to warrant going to the doctor. Only you don't go to the doctor in Japan. You go to the hospital.

The word for hospital is simply 'sick place' and you might be tempted to think that it's just that they don't have a translation for doctor's office. Nope. They really don't have an equivalent. The little doctor's office you go to 5 minutes away, with either one nurse or a receptionist/nurse, that simply doesn't exist.

Hospitals are all specialised. Remember when I had that horrific neck pain in August? I had to find a orthopedic hospital. Big prefectural hospitals have several departments, but don't expect to just walk into the little private ones. Chances are you'll be in a opthamology hospital with your broken hip.

Another thing that's strange here is opening hours. When I hurt my neck in TOKYO, me and my roomie for the conference hopped in a cab and went to a MAJOR hospital 2 minutes away.

'Oh sorry, the orthopedic department closed an hour ago. Can you come back tomorrow?'

I had to resist the temptation to tell them I might not have a head by tomorrow. (Also ALL hospitals shut in the middle of the day. Like the siesta in Spain. Only in hospitals. Who thought this was a good idea?) So the receptionist told us we could try another hospital. Of course, she doesn't have any suggestions.

By virtue of us actual being representatives of the equivalent of a union for people on this program, we managed to dig up an English hotline, which was at lunch, and directed us to the Japanese hotline. Well thank God we actually speak Japanese. So I called, and they were shut for lunch, (Of course) but I can come in 2 hours.

Well I didn't have a choice, did I?

Did I mention this happened in TOKYO??? Imagine if I'd been in the back-bush inaka! (Inaka is Japanese for Alabama. lol, couldn't resist.)

Another thing is that you have to register at each hospital. You probably have a health insurance card, or if your country is social health like mine, you use your id. The doctor himself keeps a file, but that's about it. Not here. I have a registration card for the internal medicine hospital in my town. And a card for the orthpedist in Tokyo. As if I'll ever need an orthopedist in Tokyo again. Knock on wood.

When they treat something in Japan, they treat it. At the orthopedist's no matter what part of you is sore, they put you on these cool elctro-massage machines. I seriously need one of those for home. And you get a medicine for everything. I have never left the doctor with less than 4 medications. Also they don't really do capsules here.

Meet the packet, my arch-nemesis.

The receptionist ladies make these. It's all they do, besides checking you in. There's a whole 'nother batch of ladies that are the nurses and they were a different uniform.

If you've ever opened a capsule, for whatever reason, you know the stuff inside is bitter as hell. Ditto on the packet. Only you don't have the protection of a capsule.

The first time I got sick, no one was there to tell me how to take it. (Let me say at this point that taking medicine should require only a dosage, not a strategy.) First I tried disolving it- totally insoluble, and then it got stuck on everything, the cup, the dishrag, the sink. Yeah, that's medicine.

Next I tried dumping the contents in my mouth and washing it down. NEVER do this. You will have the bitter taste in your mouth until Justin Bieber finds his masculinity, which might not be forever, but it will be a blinking LONG time.

Later, I learned the strategy from P, my neighbour and colleague, who had learned it from his host family. You pour some liquid in your mouth, dump the contents on top of the liquid and swallow. You still get a little bitter, but not all the way to your SOUL.

Oh, and all public workers here are on National Health, which pays 70% of medical bills. Route canal for 100 bucks? Hellz yeah!

PS, I'm sure you take forgranted the ability to communicate and read. It's always fun going to the doctor, and not quite understanding but saying yes anyhow, and knowing that it's only a matter of time before you wake up from a surgery minus a kidney.

Just sayin'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kathleen Ortiz

Welcome to another edition of Talk Back Thursdays. Today PoC welcomes Kathleen Ortiz to the series. Kathleen works as the Foreign Rights Manager and Assoicate Agent over at Lowenstein Associates Inc. (Yay! Our first agent!)

Hello Kathleen, Sit down, pull up a chair. Welcome to Points of Clarification. Thank you for joining us and thank you for taking up the noble mantle of being an agent. Speaking of which, when did you decide that you wanted to be an agent, and how did you get to where you are now?

I was the one who knew exactly what she would do with her life since age four. I was going to be a veterinarian and work with marine mammals. ::strikes superman pose:: I worked at a veterinary clinic for six years (through college), moved up from secretary to assistant nurse to surgery nurse, attended a special high school magnet program for pre-veterinary students, took pre-veterinary courses at the local college while I was a senior in high school and skipped off to college to work toward my pre-veterinary B.S. I even volunteered regularly for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida in their food prep, sea turtle show (I was the girl who stood in the tank giving facts to the audience) and even got to work with an adorable dolphin named Nicholas.

I was convinced that was my track (did I mention since age four?) and did everything to gain experience. Then I had the most amazing composition teacher freshman year of college who flat out told me, “If you don’t go into some field of publishing, it’ll be a waste of talent.” I had always loved reading (I was the kid who always had a book in my purse) and editing (friends put up with a lot of my spelling corrections senior year), so I took some English electives, hated them (that whole poetry/classics thing? Not really for me) and thought she was crazy. She sent me to the journalism building to prove me wrong. I talked to the dean, signed up for some magazine/newspaper publishing electives and poof! I was in love.

Just like with veterinary medicine, I wanted to gain experience in publishing. In four years I worked (simultaneously, for the most part) as an online editor for’s arts/entertainment section (claim to fame: I interviewed Joss Whedon ::first pump::), an editorial assistant in charge of the teen section of Ballinger Publishing, a tutor (and co-creator of the online portion) for our university’s writing lab, a writer for Get ‘Em Magazine, a resume/cover letter critiquer, and a writer for our university’s paper.

After that I moved back to my hometown, got my own place and started teaching. I knew I wanted to work in publishing, but I really wanted to take a few more classes on interactive media design before I broke into the book publishing industry. I had the most amazing mentors in college who told me flat out “in five years you’re going to be grateful you did this. You won’t have the time if you work now in the business so take a year or two, brush up on your interactive and online skills and then go for it.”

Best. Advice. Ever.

I taught high school for a couple of years (English, Web Design, Yearbook, TV Production, list goes on), LOVED my students, but had to keep true to my goal.

Applied for grad school and 30-some internships. I landed two internships with the amazing Caren Johnson Literary Agency and Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation. Moved to NYC, worked my butt off at the internships and prepared for the new semester. Applied for a lot of jobs and was called in for three interviews. Got the job with Lowenstein Associates and am now Foreign Rights Manager and Associate Agent.

I think the most fascinating part, to me at least, is that every single job I had since high school has helped lead me to where I am today. Even working at a veterinary clinic helped, because I used to be an incredibly shy person and it forced me to interact with a variety of people on a daily basis. Agenting is a lot easier when you’re not shy :)

My parents always told me that if you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life. While veterinary medicine was something I’d wanted to do since I was four, and even though I loved working with animals (and still do – friends and family still call for medical advice), I just couldn’t see myself doing it forever. It was more of a chore, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Working in publishing is just amazing for me. I love what I do, and while it has its up’s and down’s like every other job, I can honestly say I can’t see myself working outside of this industry.

You’re a relatively new agent. What do you think are the benefits of being signed by a newer agent?

There are ups and downs to everything. I’m not going to say you should sign with a new agents just because they’re new. I definitely think you need to consider their experience – have they had sufficient time as an intern / assistant to get a feel for the industry and how it works? Have they dealt with contracts? Have they sold other permissions / subrights?

As Foreign Rights/Audio manager here at Lowenstein Associates, I have that experience with allows me to work with my own clients. I have more than 60 foreign sales, a handful of audio sales and close to a hundred permission sales for our clients here at LA. I know what it’s like to negotiate contracts, pitch projects and work with other publishing professionals. Add that with the fact I’m just starting to build my own list and I think it’s a great combination – experience that will help my clients and time available for me to devote to their work. Clients always come first – they should for every agent.

What do you provide for your clients? All agent sell books, but do you prefer a book as close to perfect as possible or are you willing to edit it to within an inch of its life?

I’m definitely an editorial agent. I’ve never seen something cross my inbox that was perfect as is. It doesn’t mean I’m going to work with someone to rewrite the entire manuscript, either.

Are you cool with your clients calling you at 3 am to tell you about a picture of Oprah Winfrey standing in a bookstore and the book by her elbow is so their debut novel?

I have an open communication policy with my clients – while I would obviously prefer they lump their questions together to send to me on a sporadic basis (rather than my phone ringing off the hook every day when they think of something new), I’m here to answer questions / help out if they need it. I prefer email communication, because it’s easiest, but I’ll definitely have a phone call if the situation deems necessary. They know that I’ll always reply within 24-48 hours though my response time is usually much quicker.

However – if their book is in the bookstore next to Oprah Winfrey’s cutout because she loves it, they better not wait until 3 a.m. to call me. They better take a pic with their phone and MMS that to me asap! :)

What kind of query in your inbox would make you so happy that you’d do the Thriller Dance right in the office? What kind of books are you looking for generally?
Genre-wish? A great YA thriller – something that keeps me up late at night or a YA romance from a male POV – something raw, edgy and real. Authentic teen guy voice.

Finish this sentence. “Writers, before you query me, please …”
…include cupcakes.
I’m kidding – seriously if you send me cupcakes, I’ll throw them out. That’s just creepy. But please PLEASE check submission guidelines. PLEASE.

Lastly, Star Trek or Star Wars?
For the win, is Star Wars.

Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us here. (You are so on my list, even if you're a Star Wars fan. I’ll be querying in 7.5 years when my MS is ready. It’s the next Harry Potter! )

Looking forward to it! :)

Also, since I sent this interview, Kathleen sold Jaime Reed's SOUL IMPULSE sold in a 3-book deal. Congrats, Jaime and Kathleen.

RTW: Washokey Winds

I never do Road Trip Wednesday (sponsored by YA highway-linky in the sidebar) because I get Wednesdays 13 hours ahead of you guys. And usually, by the time it rolls around, I've already posted.

But today's RTW is about something crazy you've done. And you know I'm always involved where there's crazy.

Because I often have to ask myself what I do that ISN'T crazy.

I moved to another hemisphere to a country whose language I didn't speak on a whim.
I joined the Coast Guard mostly because the opportunity was there.
I routinely dance, duckwalk or speedwalk across crosswalks.
I am a complete clown at least 2 days of the week, at elementary school.

But mostly:
I write.

I agree with Emilia Plater who said that's about the craziest thing you can do.

Sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that people might laugh or misunderstand or shoot you down?

What could be crazier than that?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing and Selling the YA novel (review)

Have I told you lately how I love you? :) I know I'm a sap, but thank you for all the well-wishes. I'm going to work tomorrow, because I'm at that point where I'd be missing work more due to wanting to veg under the kotatsu (heated table) than actual illness. Although my ear is still in a diving contest. Hope it wins.

Anyhoosy, I read 2 YA craft books recently. The first wasn't a good fit for me. ( I hope I don't freak when agents tell me that, because I get it. Totally.) The second was WRITING & SELLING THE YA NOVEL by K.L. Going, author of FAT KID RULES THE WORLD.

1. The Layout

I'm a total sucker for quirks- once they aren't overdone. Going set the novel out as a school day, with the reader moving from class to class. Some of the links worked a littler better (YA History in History class) than others, but I liked it overall. And of course, there was homework at the end of each class. You know how teachers would tell you that even ungraded homework was for your betterment or some BS like that- yes, I'm a teacher and I've said that- it actually felt like these things would be helpful.

Also I have the attention span of a gnat. Or a teen :) So, I was happy with the physical layout, which involved sections in different typesets and wasn't just a straight read. I have trouble reading non-fiction in just straight text.

2. The possibilities

I'm not a fan of people who insist their way is the only way, unless it irrefutably is.And absolutes in writing don't exist for me. This was one of the things that rubbed me wrong in the first YA craft book. It's not a problem Going has. She points out several possibilities, but she doesn't ignore the repercussions. For example, yes, you can include sex in your MS, but there will be people who aren't happy about it.

3. Teen feedback

One of the biggest problems for older writers of YA who don't have kids or teach, is that they are out of contact with teens. And watching Gossip Girl is not going to help. I mean, I've been out of my teens for 8 years, I can't say that that's not how teens are in NYC today, but I spent the whole weekend watching Dawson's Creek. The characters and I are the same age. I was 16 in '98 and I didn't use the dialog they did. Maybe that's how they talked in Massachussets but I doubt it.

It's hard to figure out what's authentic without access to teens. But Going sent out a survey to teens across the US and Canada asking things like:

Who was a memorable character and why?
Do you prefer fantasy of contemporary worlds?
What makes a teen voice sound fake?
What is your biggest pet peeve in teen novels?

The results were sometimes expected, sometimes a complete shock, but always interesting.

4. Idea- character- plot

This is a personal preference and Going did not say you have to do it this way. It's just the way she organised her book, and, I gather, the method she uses. Some of the craft books I've read insist on Plot, then Character, which I've never done. It was good to see someone else who did it the same way.

5. Examples

She used lots of examples to highlight what she meant. I felt like there were too many from her own books, but that's a personal preference, because I'd never teach using my own book. Other people she cited however included Orson Scott Card, Virginia Euwer Wolff, E.R Frank, An Na, etc.

And she also wrote examples specifically to show her point. In the chapter on POV for example, she rewrote the same concept in 5 versions.

6. Resources

Some of us have been out of the YA realm for quite a while. I'm 28, and it feels like a million years for me. And there are those who are older. We're not sure what's good YA, other than the ones at the box office. And while I like Twilight, I have no desire to base my entire YA career on it.

Going cites acclaimed and bestsellin YA throughout the book, and she also gives a list of YA "through the ages" so you can read what was YA in earlier times.

7. Da bizz

There are very extensive sections dealing with the business: queries, blogging, critique groups, approaching libraries. And while she advises against it, there's even a section on contracts and terms and things to watch out for, for those who think they want to navigate those [Query]shark-infested waters without an agent.

8. Overall

I feel like I learned a lot from this book. I definitely intend to read some of the books she cites in the history section and in general. And the business and plotting sections will serve as reference material.

Oh, and I suppose it's about time I chose a winner-type person for ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. So off to and


that's er

Natalie Aguirre!!!

Natalie email me at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com with a name and mailing address. Congrats!


Don't forget to swing by tomorrow for our first agent interview! The lovely Kathleen Ortiz will be gracing our presence tomorrow!

PS, Blogger likes me again, so I can pre-schedule posts. This can only end well :)

Celine Dion - Time Travel Tuesday

Last week's Whitney made me think of all my fave "Olympic Songs," which, of course, made me think of Celine. So we're off to French Canada today. Oh, and yeah, I'm totally impressed by anyone who's this fantab in a second language- the linguist in me. :)

Back in '91 she teamed up with Peabo Bryson (amazing voice, huge forehead) for the theme to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I Love This Song!

In '93, she taught us THE POWER OF LOVE.

96 was a great year for Celine, with 3 Canadian and US number 1's. Here's IT'S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW. (The other two number ones that year were BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME and her remake of ALL BY MYSELF.) (Also, look I found you Polish subtitles. Aren't I sweet?)

In '96, she also sang THE POWER OF THE DREAM, an amazing Olympic song. Lots of people remember the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, as the ones that got bombed. I remember the 600 children singing at the end. Seriously, 600 children doing just about anything is a tearjerker. This right here is why I need to go to an Olympics.

I didn't want to post two versions of this song. But I just love Celine's version. This is from the Atlanta 1996 Olympics Opening Ceremony. It made me want to go win a medal myself. Oh, written and produced by David Foster and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds; I'm sorry, but that automatically means awesome!

In '97, there was the Titanic theme, MY HEART WILL GO ON. You could not leave your house without hearing this song somewhere. Number 1 in every country wikipedia cares about. :)

The she told us THAT's THE WAY IT IS in 1999. Live version, because Sony is all over the music video and after 15 "embedding disabled" linkies I gave up. Makes me wonder why this song was so much more important than all the others... Wait, is she singing with 'N Sync? Hmmm.

Finally in 2002, she let us know A NEW DAY HAS COME!