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.

Anyhoos...

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

It-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named

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.

THE MOMICLES OF KING'S FORT

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:

BURIED TEARS
CRY ME A RIVER
KISS ON THE GRAVE
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.

SOME DAY MY PRINCE WILL COME, Sno White, 1937.


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


THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, Fantasia, 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

Pros
-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.

Cons
-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
Pros
- 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.

Cons
-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
Pros
-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.

Cons
-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.

Pros
-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.

Cons
-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 UWirePr.com’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 randomizer.org and

#4

that's er

Natalie Aguirre!!!

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

ALSO:

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!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Deadlines

How appropriate is it that the "Monday on My Mind" on deadlines is late? lol. It's still Monday in California. :)

Anyhow, I'm now physically sick. On Friday, I started sneezing, which I'm used to, because I breathe allergies, but I knew it was a cold immediately. Then Saturday was sore throat. Sunday, sore joints. Monday, went to the doctor, came home with 5 meds, and then promptly sneezed and alienated my left ear, which is currently alternating between pretending it's diving the Mediterranean and being drilled for oil. I fully expect to lose a leg tomorrow. Will make walking to work very difficult.

Speaking of work. Was off yesterday, and off again today. Not scheduled. Took the days for Death Cold's sake.

So, my weekend. I watched:

8 eps of anime (Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail, Naruto Shippuuden)

4 eps of Punky Brewster (Is it bad that I haven't seen these since the original air date in 1985, and yet I remember them? This makes Punky Brewster my earliest memory... There's a psychological study in there somewhere.)


3 eps of Gossip Girl ("We don't need tickets. I'm Chuck Bass!" So, I want to be rich just to say that!)

11 eps of Dawson's Creek (We didn't have it growing up- which sucks because I was the 'same age' as the characters. But, it seems, I still am. lol )

Anyhow, deadlines.

Do you work well with them or not? Deadlines help me under a very specific set of conditions. Let's examine a few cases.

1. No deadline

I suppose there's always a deadline if you really think about it. What you really mean is: "I want to be an author before the end of my life." But end of my life is such a fuzzy way out there concept. It's not just the timeline that's fuzzy either. What do you mean by author? A short story in an online magazine? A book every year for as lon as you live?

Some people are fine working in this framework. They prefer that there's no pressure and are good at motivating themselves to do things towards their goal. These are the type of people who decide that they're going to lose weight and just get up the next morning eating right and working out, and by the next year they've lost 100 pounds.

This is not me.

2. Long-term deadline

Goals that start with "in a year" or "in 5 years" etc. Goals where you can break up your path into manageable chunks. "I'll do X every day, month, week..." and "I'll be at Point Y, by time Z"

I think many people work well in this framework. Say you want a publishable novel by November 15, 2011, you might set yourself the following plan.

First draft complete: December 31 ( which really means December 24, because who are you kidding? You're so not working during the holidays.)
Let it rest until: March 1
Plot revision until: April 1
Line by line until: June 1
Crit partners until: July 1
Crit revision until: August 1
2nd round crit until: Sep 1
2nd crit revision until: October 1
Let it simmer until: November 1
Read through and final changes until: November 15

Having never been through the entire process, I have no idea if this is reasonable. But the plan looks kind of sexy doesn't it?

And breaking it up into mini-goals can help keep you on the straight and narrow.

This also doesn't work for me.

3. The short-term deadline

Like the long-term deadline, only shorter. You've got a month to... For example, college semester-long course are short term deadlines. In 3 months-ish, you have to do X, Y, Z.

Many people also do well with these deadlines. I'm not too bad with these.

But where I really excel is the

4. Seriously, is that even possible? deadline

I work well under a deadline that the whole world thinks is slightly impossible. In fact, all my deadlines eventually turn into this type of deadline as I ignore them until it's nearly impossible to get the work done. University undergraduate thesis in 3 days? Yeah, that's my specialty. (And, yes I actually did. Got a B. Would have gotten an A if I actually had time to revise, but I can never seem to work like that.)

Now, you might wonder what this is leading to. Nanowrimo of course. 50,000 words in 30 days- that's a nearly impossible goal, right? Nopes. Not for me. That's a short term goal. 1,667 words is doable. I doubt there are many of you who couldn't write that much in a day.

"Is that even possible?" is the way I write nano. I always take at least 8 days off. It's not something I aim to do. It's just that after a while, the pressure eases up. Like I said, 1,667 is doable. (I totally haven't written in 8 days- I'd love to blame the cold, but I stopped 4 days before it started. Maybe I felt it coming?)

I get serious when the word count does. Ack, 4,000 words a day? Time to start again.

By the way, I always "win" nano. This madness works for me. (I'm thinking of doing a half-nano in March. 152N, I think I'll call it: 15 days 2 a Novel.)

How about you? What type of deadline works for you? Specific goals in manageable time slots? Big fuzzy concept in uncertain time? Or unholy hell, what was I thinking when I decided to do this?

And on a completely random note:

Leann Hunley, who plays Ms. Jacobs in the first season of Dawson's Creek, but who you might know better as Dana from Dynasty or Anna from Days of Our Lives, grew up with Edward Cullen! Yups, she's a native of Forks, Washington. Before the Twilight franchise, she was the only famous person from Forks.

Also, come out Thursday for our first AGENT interview! Yay!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Japanese language mistakes (and crash!)

I'm crashing.

If you've been here long enough, you know I'm bipolar (manic-depressive).

Quick explainy: depression is an extreme prolonged sadness, often for no reason at all. Mania is the opposite- extreme high. Manic-depressives alternate between depression and mania. Bipolars have different cycles. Rapid cyclers can go from depressed to manic and back a few times a day. Some of us tend more towards depressive, some more towards manic.

I'm more of a manic myself. But I've learned how to 'control' the mania, i.e. not end up dead. I do this all on my own since meds don't work for me. I was on meds for two years, and although they got the depression under wraps, the mania was worse. After nearly getting myself killed in almost every way imaginable, I gave up on medicating, figuring that by the time they found the right combination (medicating is trial and error) I'd probably be dead.

The result of giving up on meds is that I periodically have to deal with depression.

And I can feel it coming on.

What's it like?

It's like life losing its taste. No desire to do any one thing more than any other. It took me an hour and a half to get out of bed this morning. I just lay there awake, unable to find any reason why getting out of bed was more desirable than staying in it.

And I didn't go to my hip hop class today. Instead I went to one of my favourite restaurants, and had one of my fave foods. Might as well have been eating paper.

And I'm not even at the bottom of the pit yet. (I've been doing this a long, long time and I know how much further down you have to go.) It's being coming for a while. Remember how the October INSANITY (giveaway) didn't happen because it was too mentally-taxing? That's how it starts. Stuff just gets too hard.

Anyhow, I'm not trying to depress anybody else :) This is purely for the sake of imformation. I know how to fight this (Think Happy until You Feel Happy) and I'll be fine- in a few months or so.

So in return for suffering through that misery, here's a few interesting mistakes that you can make in Japanese. With the exception of the first one, which I got from an anime, they're all things my friends and I have said.

1.
a. Goshuushousama- My deepest condolences
b. Gochisousama- Thanks for the food. It was delicious

2.
a. Onnaka ga itai - My stomach hurts
b. Onnaka ga hentai - My stomach's a pervert

3.
a. Kutsu wa genkan ni arimasu- My shoes are in the entranceway
b. Kutsu wa gunkan ni arimasu- My shoes are in the battleship

4.
a. Onnaka ga ippai- My stomach is full
b. Onnaka ga oppai- My stomach is a breast

5.
a. Yakuba ni ikimasu- I'm going to Town Hall
b. Yakuza ni ikimasu- I'm going to the Japanese mafia

Until next week, happy thoughts!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stephanie Perkins on Talk Back Thursday

Stephanie Perkins is the author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, slated for release on December 2nd. In her spare time she does exciting things like dye her hair blue and fantasize about HBM’s (Hot British Males)!



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Welcome to Talk Back Thursdays. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Tell us a little bit about it.



Thank you, Claire Dawn! It's an honor to be here. ANNA is about finding true love in the City of Light. (Finding true love with . . . a totally hot boy with a French name and an English accent!) Here's the official description:


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 Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne 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.





And Étienne’s accent? Is there a particular HBM you hear when you think of him?



HA! There is, but the information is top secret. I'd much rather have my reader think of their *own* Étienne.



So, you started this book on nano (wrimo)? I’m always thrilled to discover fellow –er- nanners?-um. Tell us a bit about your writing process.



Yes, I did! That's cool that you do it, too! My daily process varies, depending on what stage of a project I'm in (first draft, revising, editing, etc). But I'm a night owl, so I usually begin work at about 10 or 11 pm and work until sunrise. Unless I get distracted by Twitter. Or email. Or a cool video on YouTube. Then I'm doomed for the rest of the night.


My long-term writing process is, well, long! I start with the 50k NaNo draft in November, let it stew for a few months, and then I rewrite the entire thing slowly over a period of several months. This period involves a LOT of research, and my novel usually bulks up to about twice the size. And then I begin my next draft, which is my favorite part of writing—stripping out the unnecessary parts, building up the better parts, making it prettier. After this one, I begin showing it to my critique partners, and then I do a few more drafts. Then my agent sees it. Then I do another draft. Then my editor sees it. MANY more drafts follow that!


I'm a slow writer. And I'm very nitpicky and rarely satisfied. If I didn't have deadlines, I'd never stop editing.



We’ve heard from the “I randomly met my agent in Starbucks “ to “I’ve been hammering away at this industry for 12 years” stories. What was your road to publication like? What’s your relationship with your agent like? And why is your hair blue?



(A) My road to publication was . . . exhausting. Wonderful! But exhausting. Things began happening much faster for me once I took writing seriously as a FULL-TIME JOB, and accepted that a lot of yucky things come with FULL-TIME JOBS (like responsibility, a huge commitment of time, and a loss of leisure activities). A full, detailed breakdown of my specific journey with ANNA is available in the second half of this blog post.


(B) My agent is Kate Schafer Testerman, aka Daphne Unfeasible. http://ktliterary.com I discovered her as most writers do, through her best friend/client, YA writer Maureen Johnson. Kate was my dream agent for years—the ONLY agent, as far as I was concerned!—and it's a joy to be represented by her. She works hard, and she plays hard. I love that in a person.

(C) I don't really know, to be honest. Blue isn't even my favorite color! I'd just always liked the *idea* of blue hair. I've had it for over two years now, and I'll probably have it for about two more. It's become a part of me. I don't even notice it when I look in the mirror!



So, what’s up next for Stephanie Perkins?


Next fall, my publisher (Dutton) will release LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. It's a companion novel to ANNA which means that it has some character and story overlap, but it's not a direct sequel. It's made to stand alone. It's not set in Paris, but it is another romantic comedy!


Many of us here at Points of Claire-ification dream of some day being where you are. Any advice for aspiring writers?


The first several years of writing are hard for EVERYONE. It takes a long time to be good enough for publication, and the only way you'll get there is by practicing. Write daily. Being published is an achievable goal, but it only comes with hard work. Work isn't easy, and it's not often fun. But the reward? Pretty freaking amazing.


Thank you for visiting with us, Stephanie and good luck with the book.


Thanks again for having me! I always love seeing your name in my blog comments!


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Still swooning from the comment love! But seriously guys, add this to your TBR lists. It looks soooo awesome! I can’t wait. Do the scream of t. Do the scream of t. Also, swing by and help Steph celebrate the recent sale of the third companion novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Oh, and because I loves you so muchy! I'm giving away

A PREORDER OF ANNA!!!!

Just leave a comment to be entered.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

To each his own

I mentioned this in passing on Monday, but I thought it was worth dealing with head on.

The writer/reader community is so immensely supportive 99% of the time, that sometimes I forget that it's not always like that. I don't know what it was like last November, since I'd just started this blog, and had not yet discovered writer, reader and agent bloggers. But this year, it seems like everybody loves or hates nano. And there are quite a few, on either side, who are all but calling the other side idiots.

WHY I WRITE NANOWRIMO

Hi, my name is Claire and I can't commit.

Well, maybe can't is too strong a word. But commitment for me involves feeling like I want to jump off a cliff 19 days out of 20. I do not mean this figuratively.

In the last 10 years, I've lived in 3 countries. In my lifetime, I've visited 17, and 12 US states. It took 2 colleges and 6 years to do my bachelor's degree, and then just barely. I've worked in 9 jobs in 6 different fields in the last 12 years. In my school days, I was the master of the 4 month relationship. In fact, I had 3 relationships that ended at 4 months 20 days. (hmmm...)

Blame it on what you will: being bipolar, being ENFP, being a Sagittarius, etc. At the end of the day the important thing is this: either I do something fast and furious, I let the tide carry me through it, or I don't do it at all.

I want to write books. Having twenty 10,000 word starts is really not an option, and you can't really drift along in writing. So it's nano or nothing. Even if there was no nano, that would be my only choice for writing.

You know I swear by my nano.

But does that mean you should do it, too? Not unless it's for you, for whatever reason.

Writing is subjective. If it wasn't, every book ever published would be a bestseller. There would be a scientific way to determine what was great in a novel, and no publishing company would ever take on anything else. The fact that there are bestsellers and prizewinners that we don't like, proves the subjectivity of this business.

Yet, somehow, some people are missing the subjectivity of the writing process.

I have friends who plot everything down to every single time the character blows his/her nose. There are others who start with nothing more than a name and a premise. And there are a tons of others in between these extremes.

For some people the beauty of each word used is the most important thing. For others, the story matters most.

Some people favour reading and writing great characters, some people lean towards great plots. And some aren't willing to sacrifice one for the other.

Some people will spend 8 years researching and writing a novel. Some others will crank one out in 15 days.

Maybe you write only what you know. Maybe you're writing about a country you've never visited.

What does it matter?

I don't care if your only prewriting process is standing on your head in your Wonderwoman underwear, or if you dance by the light of the moon to kill your writers' block.

Your process is only important to you.

All I care about is the awesomesauce book you'll have at the end.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whitney (TTT)

Time Travel Tuesday!

Today we go back in time with Whitney Houston!

Saving all my love for you! 1985. (Erm, so that was 25 years ago. Does that make anybody else feel old?)


How will I know? Also 1985. I miss 80's hair :)


Greatest love of all. 1986. My fave back in the day, and still an amazing song.


Didn't we almost have it all? 1987.


One Moment in Time. 1988 Olympic Song. Olympic Songs are so inspiring.


Number 1 in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc and etc and etc. Hands down her biggest tune by miles, I will always love you. 1992.


And don't forget: My love is your love, 1999.


Try it on my own. 2003. Boston Public clip.


And just last year on the comeback album, I look to you.


Hope you enjoysies :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to Argue

(Rant warning)


Maybe you’ve picked it up by now, but in case you haven’t,one of my almost universally applicable life rules is this: to each his own.

Going by that rule, it bothers me a little when people try to impose their opinions on others. But I tolerate it, because, well, to each his own. If someone believes that it’s their job to convert everybody in sight, that’s their belief. As long as noone’s physically hurting anyone, not an issue.

BUT
There is something that drives me up a wall. I will pick you to shreds for a bad argument. Even if we’re on the same side. Probably more so, because a bad argument on my side, will actually drive people away.

Last week, there was an article at Salon on why you shouldn’t do nano. I'd like to say thanks to the writer for providing such a fab text for today's lesson :)

Without further ado, let’s learn how to argue.

1. Do not present your opinion as a source of fact.

One of the writer’s arguments is that only one worthwhile book has come out of nanowrimo. Poking around the publishing industry blogosphere, I’ve heard several authors say they started in nano. Stephanie Perkins (check out her interview here on Thursday) wrote Anna and the French Kiss, to be released next month, through nano. And arguably, that book has not yet been released. But what of all the other authors who have release nano books? The writer is saying to them: “Your book is worth nothing. Ignore the agent that signed you. Ignore the publishing house that took that gamble. Ignore your sales figures.”

What an insult!

2. Be careful how you label .

The writer of the article (WOA), who admits that she is a reader but has never been a writer, claims that, “Writing a lot of crap is not fruitful.”

Dear WOA, are you saying that only life’s successes have value? If you make the Olympics, but you don’t get gold, this is not a step in the right direction? This is a failure?

3. Avoid the temptation to include irrelevant facts.

WOA says there are too many novels in the world. I agree. I’ve read 40 books in the second half of the year. And my TBR seems to be growing. Because there are a lot of bad books. But there are also a lot of GOOD books.

Should we give authors a limit as to how many books they can write? I know several people would be knocking on WOA’s door when their fave author’s quota ran out.

Can we universally refuse all new books because there are a lot already written? Could you imagine if, in addition to the rejections she racked up, the publishing industry had just told J.K. Rowling, “I’m sorry. We won’t even look at your synopsis. There are too many books in the world.”

4. Avoid sensationalism.

WOA talks about the “narcissistic commerce of writing,” claiming that there’s more money to be made off wannabe authors than readers.

Maybe wannabe writers spend more per person. But I would have difficulty believing that there’s more money made in writing books than in all the Harry Potters, all the Twilights, all the Stephen Kings, all the Danielle Steeles, all the Nicholas Sparks, etc.

5. If there’s blame to be assigned, please put it in the right place.

WOA admits early on, that the nano site advises you to revise, but then goes on to damn nanowrimo because some people don’t.

6. Don’t ignore important factors

Nowhere does WOA mention the large nano population who do this just for fun. The guys who write 200,000 fan fics every year, that they have no intention of showing to anyone but their friends.

7. Play fair

If you write an article about doing or not doing nano, I assume your audience is writers. So pointing out, in a condescending manner, that hardly anyone will read an author’s book will probably just piss them off.

Also, this gem: “NaNoWriMo is an event geared entirely toward writers, which means it's largely unnecessary.”

Erm?

Woosah. Deep breaths, Claire.

8. Don’t presume you can speak for groups you’re not a part of.

WOA points out that agents grumble about their inflated inboxes in December. I know they do. But obviously, weighing the possibility of finding WATER FOR ELEPHANTS in their inbox, versus, the usual first draft nano, it’s clearly worth it. Because if it wasn’t, agents would just close their inboxes in December and January.

9. Don’t presume to speak about fields you don’t know.

WOA dismisses nano, saying that any book that you write during nano, you could write otherwise. WOA has never written a book. She has no idea how hard 50,000 words are. How around 10,000 you start thinking you’re crazy. How that other idea you have halfway through makes it seem like you should desert this one. How you’ve been starting novels for 11 years, and have never finished one.

10. Think before you complain

WOA complains that authors are persistent, sometimes even in the face of everyone telling them they suck.

She’s right. And she’d better be glad about it.

When Stephen King first wrote Carrie, he threw it in the trash. His wife saved it, and now that last scene is one of the best known scenes in movie history. The list of authors with stacks of rejection slips is endless. If authors weren’t persistent, all your reading material would come from the 19th century and before.

11. Don’t transpose arguments

The original point of the article was not to do nanowrimo. Somewhere along the way it turned into “this is why writers suck.” I don’t know how it happened or why. But this always weakens an argument.

12. Be careful using some to represent all.
Occasionally at dinner parties, someone would say that they’re aiming to be a writer. To which WOA would ask, “what do you read?” and the person would be all, “I don’t have time to read. I’m busy writing.”

First, let me point out, that there are times when you don’t have time for anything but the writing. Like right now, during nano . (Although I am reading a craft book, but I don’t count because I’m so easily distracted.) That does not mean I don’t usually read. I read 10 books in June. 10 more in July. 10 more in August. And 10 more in September. And if it weren’t for my job’s blatant attempts to take my life in October, it would probably be just like that too.

Even if these people that she talks to, never have time to read, they are the few. Check out the Bookanistas- they’re all writers, and they all read and post reviews almost every week.

13. Don’t make a competition where there’s none.
WOA asks that we celebrate readers. She gives two examples who read 10 books from January to October. While I appreciate this is way above the American average of 1 a year, 10 doesn’t thrill me either, probably because I do that in a month. And tons of my friends on the blogosphere have surpassed that too.

But that’s not even the point. How does celebrating writers stop us from celebrating readers?

14. Let your points lead to your conclusions. (logic)

Readers are awesome. Ignore the writers.

Excuse me if I fail to see how readers can be awesome if writers aren’t. Maybe writers are just shovelling the poop. But it’s the readers who like frolicking in it.

Here are just some of the ways you can make your arguments better. Are there any techniques people use in arguments that bother you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Random San Francisco

Hey hey!

Normally Far out Fridays are all about Japan, but my brian is fried from:

(a) nano
(b) teaching every single period today
(c) not having an off day since October 11th
(d) just getting home at 10 pm from hip hop practice
(e) all of the above

(Correct answer = e. all of the above)

So I'm going to share some random things I learned about San Francisco last month. My town and a town 1 North and 1 West of here (I know that sounds complicated- sorry) send students to San Francisco every year. This year, they had me make posters about San Francisco and I learned a whole lot more than someone who has never lived there, doesn't live there now, and has no plans of living there should ever know.

1. San Francisco is the 4th most populous state in California and the 12th most populous in the US.

2. San Francisco has a land area of only 46.7 square miles, and almost 4 times as much water area.

3. The San Francisco 49ers have won the Super Bowl 5 times. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have more wins (6) and the Dallas Cowboys tie them on 5.

4. The San Francisco Giants have the most wins in American professional baseball.

5. The Rainbow Flag (Gay Pride Flag) was designed by a San Francisco man, Gilbert Baker, in 1978. It originally had 8 stripes, but the hot pink stripe was removed because of inavailability of the colour. When the flag was hung vertically, the middle stripe disappeared, so the turquoise stripe was removed to have an even number of stripes, and solve this problem.

6. San Fancisco was almost destroyed in 1906 by a massive earthquake and subsequent fire.

7. The Golden Gate Bridge is 1970m long and was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed.

8. Over 44% of San Francisco residents have a Bachelor's degree or highe, making it the second most educated city in the US. (Seattle is number 1)

9. Alcatraz, which was a lighthouse and a military facility before becoming a prison, is located 2.4 miles of the coast of the mainland. There has never been a succesful escape from Alcatraz. (Unless you watch The Rock:)

10. The city was named for St Francis of Assisi, notorious for his peaceful ways (appropriate, huh?), back in the days when it was a Spanish possession.

And, in case you wondered, I wrote this from memory.

How many of these did you know?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just go outside and...

Morning folksies (or g'night if you're on my side of the world), how are ya'z?

Today's post is made of random because:

1. My brain is fried; my last "off-day" was October 11th, and I haven't spent the entire day in my house since a month before that.

2. It's nano, and what little brainpower I have is being directed towards Jazz, Selina and Kirk (characters in my novel).

So here we go:

Random quote:

Last night after watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, we were telling the new foreigner about how in winter, the snow slides forward on the roof, and you have like this foot long Death Trap hanging over your front door. My solution?

"Sometimes you just have to go outside and beat it off."
(Yes, I said that.)

Random book suggestion:

Meg Cabot's PANTS ON FIRE

Random good news:

Stephanie Perkins sold her 3rd book. Look out for an interview here next Thursday.

Random nano update:

I'm up to 5,600 words. I've got 5 hours to put in another 1,067 words to stay on track.

Random music video:

This Alicia Keys vid is not only hot, but thought-provoking.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dance Battle Writing Lessons

Today was a holiday here, Culture Day. I went to a marching band show, but I got so caught up in the music, I only took two pics. Oh well.

On Saturday night, I went to a dance battle. When I walked in, the doorman was Vegeta from Dragonball Z, the barman was Crillon, and the MC was a breakdancing Pikachu (Pokemon).

As usual, my write brain was in full swing. And as I watched the dancers square off and rock da house, I thought of ways that we, as writers, can learn from them.

1. No matter how good you are, you might go out in the first round

The battle was one on one elimination style, with the audience judging. As with any audience judged contest, it's personal. The fact Dancer 1 does not make it past the first round, doesn't mean that they're a bad dancer. It just means that the audience happened to like Dancer 2's moves better.

Lesson:
When you're sending queries or synopses to agents, and piling up the rejections, it may feel like you're just not good enough. Maybe. Maybe you do need to work on your submission. But maybe, that agent just likes Dancer 2's moves.

Which is why...

2. You need to bring your A-game

In one battle, the better dancer was defeated. I saw this guy move before and after the battle. Guy 2 didn't hold a candle to him. But when Guy 2 got up on stage, he brought the stuff. And Guy 1 didn't.

Lesson:
The competition is tough and the industry is selective. You are not going to advance if you don't play your best cards.

But still...

3. You can't be a one-trick pony

In the first battle, Dancer 1 was a B-boy (breakdancer), and Dancer 2 was not. Now, breakdancing is always impressive (unless you really suck), but you can't expect that you can spend a minute and a half spinning on your back. That's not a dance, that's an overturned turtle.

Lesson:
Your book can't just have one thing going for it. An excellent plot doesn't mean you can completely sacrifice your characters, and your setting, and your dialogue, etc.

And remember...

4. Almost doesn't count

A couple of times, dancers (especially B-boys) went for a move and missed. In a freestyle contest, you really don't have a choice but to go all out. But when you miss, you don't score any points with the audience. In fact you might lose points.

Lesson:
If there's something you're not strong at, you have two choices. First, you can avoid it. If you're not good at creating worlds, then you don't write Science Fiction or Fantasy. But when you're not good at something unavoidable, or it's something you really want to do, you need to work at it. Put in your hours on the practice floor, before you bring it to the stage half-baked.

And no matter what...

5. Be ready for anything

When the dancers went up on stage, they didn't know what track the DJ was going to spin. They'd only hear a few bars before they had to start moving. And if the song was something they weren't really familiar with, they couldn't just throw in the towel.

Lesson:
The publishing industry is pretty unpredictable. Sometimes it's really, really slow. But sometimes it's super fast. Sometimes, you as an author, have X responsibilities, sometimes you have Z responsibilities. You never can tell. All you can do is to be prepared, and be professional.

And above all...

6. It's the 'tude, Dude

The entire reason I was at this dance off is because I recently joined a hip hop dance class that my town hires Y to teach. So Y and T (the other teacher) invited the whole class to the dance off. Y is a pretty good dancer, and he's just the sweetest thing, but he's not one for the battles. See, he's two sweet. I mean, there are certain fields that you're supposed to have "I'm a bada$$" written across your forehead: WWF wrestling, running a gang, singing or dancing reggae or hip hop. And there's absolutely nothing bada$$ about Y.

This kinda translates into confidence, and you can't dance hip hop if you're not "the best." I mean have you ever heard a rapper use a lyric like, "I'm no 2, and I'm cool with that?"

Lesson:
Writing is also all about attitude.You have to know you're a writer, because there are a lot of people around you that won't get it. They won't appreciate how much time you spend with your imaginary friends. Or they may not think you're a writer because they can't find you on a bookshelf. Yet.

To top that off, the writing community is awesome, but a large part of writing is solitary- well, just you and a cast of imaginary people. You have to know that what you're writing is good enough. You have to know that this plot will work, that this character will be loved (or hated), that what you're working on will mean something to someone. At the end of the day (and the beginning) YOU have to believe in you.

Hope you enjoyed these, and take something from them. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In a dancing mood

Been a while since I did a Time Travel Tuesday post. But I couldn't think of a better time. I'm buried under a pile of work, sleep-deprived, and my allergies are acting up. And I just feel like dancing, because dancing is a good mood waiting to happen.

So, here are some of my fave "dancing" vids through the years. Enjoysies :)

Martha and the Vandellas, 1964. Dancing in the Streets.


Leo Sayer, 1976. You make me feel like dancing.


Donna Summer, 1978. Last Dance.


Whitney Houston, 1987. I wanna dance with somebody. Look at that hair!


John Michael Montgomery, 1992. Life's a dance. "Sink or swim, you gotta give it a whirl-" great lesson for writers!



Lee-Ann Womack, 2000. I hope you dance.


Tamyra Gray, 2003. Dance with my Father. She sang this cover of the Luther Vandross hit on Boston Public, a month before the original was realeased. Took me a while to even figure out it wasn't her song, but I still love this version.


Lady Gaga, 2008. Just Dance!


Josh Turner, 2009. Why don't we just dance?


Hope you enjoyed. Keep on dancing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shake it up Baby!

Big welcome to those of you who've wandered in recently. Also thanks to those who congratulated me on my blogversary. I just realised that I haven't said thank you. *insert shame here*

About a year ago I picked my first book by a certain author. Being in Japan, I end up reading what I can get my hands on just as much as I read stuff I'd pick out on purpose. And yes, I know there's Amazon and Book Depository. That does nothing to curb my addiction to buying physical books everytime I pass a bookstore.

So anyways, I read this book. And was surprised to find I liked it since it's not YA, and I'm a YA-aholic. So I bought a few other books by this author. And I read 2 more before it hit me. All the MC's (main characters) are the same person! They all have the same gender and religion- neither of which I mind that much. But they are also all the same physically, have the same views on pretty much everything, the same hobbies, the same type of profession, etc and so forth.

And maybe that's fine for some people. But it's not fine for me. So much so, that I haven't touched the other 2 books I have by said author.

It's possible that you're looking for a specific niche, and you want all your MC's to be the same person. On the off chance that you'd like to shake it up a little, here are some ways to avoid the cookie cutter.

1. DO NEW THINGS

Back in my university days, I was the Student Guild representative for my faculty. The biggest issue I had to deal with was a catch 22 in the Education department. Students would be graduating with a degree in education, but without a specialisation in a subject. So while they knew all these theories, there was nothing they could actually teach.

This is the problem in sequestering yourself in front the computer.

So get out there and do something. Join a cooking class, learn to ski, eat dinner at the new Italian place in town. Your characters (agents, editors, publishers, readers) will thank you for it.

2. TAKE QUIRKS FROM LIFE

Every time you come across something that makes you go, "Whoa! What?" think about inserting it in your novel. Your sister's new boyfriend is an endocrinologist? Great job for a character! The Kiddie Quilting Circle is having an exhibition? That would be a random obscure hobby for a teen! Your co-worker is the President's/Queen's/Prime Minister's 14th cousin twice removed? Aw yeah, now we're talking.

3. MAKE A POLAR OPPOSITE

There are lots of things that aren't your radar. They just aren't your thing. But that doesn't mean your characters have to suffer from it. For example, I pretty much never wear make-up, and that's a part of most women's daily ritual. It's such a non-issue for me, that I don't think I've ever mentioned makeup in a book. And I'm on my 4th WIP!

How can you solve this? First make a list of things you never do, have never done, would never do, places you would never go, people you'd never want to meet... Pretty much [anything] you'd never [anything]. Then consider giving some of those to a character.

I think this should help with keeping your characters distinct. What about you? Do you like your characters to be similar? If not, how do you make sure they aren't?

It's Monday, that's what's on my mind.