Monday, December 21, 2009

Grab-A-Line Monday

This is what Grab-A-Line Monday is.

Last week, not only did I get some excellent quotes, I also received a most appreciated validation from fellow writers. What would I do without my author-community?

Tricia grabbed some lines from THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle:

Then the Lady Amalthea smiled at him for the first time since she had come to stay in King Haggard's castle. It was a small smile, like the new moon, a slender bend of brightness on the edge of the unseen, but Prince Lir leaned toward it to be warm. He would have cupped his hands around her smile and breathed it brighter, if he had dared.

And MG Higgins grabbed her lines from the YA novel WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Blundell:

Why did the air here smell like a pocketful of promises? It was the flowers and the ocean and the sky all mixed in together.

This week I was taken by this passage, which describes in such vivid details the noise in a city I almost felt I was there. It is from the 2009 National Book Award winner LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Colum McCann

The thrum of the subway. The M22 bus pulled up against the sidewalk, braked, sighed down into a pot hole. A flying chocolate wrapper touched against a fire hydrant. Taxi doors slammed. Bits of trash sparred in the dankest reaches of the alleyways. Sneakers found their sweet spots. The leather of briefcases rubbed against trouserlegs. A few umbrella tips clunked against the pavement. Revolving doors pushed quarters of conversation out in to the street.

What caught you this week?

Grab-A-Line Monday

Grab-A-Line Monday will be on tomorrow. Hope you'll come back!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Here comes the next strain: W26T3*

MG Higgins tagged me just when I was tired but hyper and couldn't sleep. Not responsible for the randomness of the answers.

1) What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
A new chapter in my current WIP, a YA novel. First thing I wrote I still have? Uh...

2) Write poetry?
Too intimidated.

3) Angsty poetry?
Angsty other things but not poetry.

4) Favorite genre of writing?
Contemporary; middle grade, YA, short story. Okay I don't know.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?
A whiny violinist boy who has no problems taking the best for himself and then complained about it.

6) Best plot you've ever created?

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?
The one where the tall guy who has the bag is not the tall guy with the bag.

8) How often do you get writer's block?
What's that? Darn, what just happened to my perfect idea? Why can't I think of words that are meaningful; no, appropriate; no, profound. Everything I've just written is terrible. What should I write now? Doodle, doodle, noodle, poodle...wonder what's in the pantry.

9) Write fan fiction?

10) Do you type or write by hand?

11) Do you save everything you write?

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
Yes. Because who knows what lies just under all the possibilities that I've tried to squeeze out of them but didn't succeed? Who is to say the next one won't reveal gold? Who dares call me a pessimist?

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
How about asking which of my children you want me to sell to the slave traders?

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?
Maybe the one with the pot. The cooking kind, you! What were you thinking?

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
My current WIP is teen. Has drama. And angst. Will it be an angsty teen drama? Who knows?

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?
The kitchen. Or cafeteria. Hmm, does that reveal my fascination with food?

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Writing new scenes for a YA novel; tweaking a MG novel, and three short stories. Ooh I just got a new idea: chimps in space! Must start research for that. Or, I know, a, I guess not. But chimps are good. They're fun and smart, right? They can be rocket scientists, who also know kung-fu.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?
A couple of second places for the MG novel, and a 1st place for a short story.

19) What are your five favorite words?

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?
The goofy 12-year old percussionist who falls down a lot? Or maybe the secret culinary chef who is suffocating in her current good-girl role?

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
People I know and characteristics I see in random people

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?
No. I don't know why though, because they always made perfect sense when I am dreaming.

23) Do you favor happy endings?
Depends. When I am grumpy, every one in my story suffers. (Did you think I was joking?)

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes. It's a great procrastination tool.

25) Does music help you write?
No. My ears wander over and I can't think in words.

26) Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head.

I am tagging

*MG compared this tagging thing to the spreading of the H1N1 virus, so I've named this one the Write 26 things and Tag 3 people strain.

Sozzled by sanguineous suppurations

The following are words from a book I read recently. I'd never come across these words and jotted them down. Any guess as to which book these words populate? It's a book I've referred to a couple of times.



*by this time I am wondering if the author is just making words up"


*this last one has
got to be a made up word!*

How many of these words do you know? And how many do you plan to use three times in a sentence today?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


[Ring of life by forgetfulio]

Another ring on the bark,
another year of living out "I do",
another year of receiving and giving grace.

It's my wedding anniversary today. Here is a poem that I've posted on Poetry Friday before, but it is so perfect, I'll post it again:

Superbly Situated

by Robert Hershon

you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to
right from the beginning—a relationship based on
good sense and thoughtfulness in little things

i would like to be loved for such simple attainments
as breathing regularly and not falling down too often
or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed

and to be on the safe side i wouldn’t mind if somehow
i became entangled in your perception of admirable objects
so you might say to yourself: i have recently noticed

how superbly situated the empire state building is

The rest of the poem is here.

Do you have a favorite poem or passage about love and marriage and commitment? Would love to read it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No author is an island

[Mackworth Island by InAweofGod'sCreation at Flikr Creative Commons]

And this one is so very grateful for the encouragement and support she receives from her author-friends. (So grateful that she has to resort to using the third person to refer to herself.)


[Thank You by Iain Farrell at Flikr Creative Commons]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Grab-A-Line Monday

Last week brought Nims' Island, Grinch, and a passage from The Changling Sea:

from Wendy Orr's Nim's Island:

"A whistle shrilled--and there was the strangest, most wonderful thing she'd ever seen: a wild-haired girl blowing a shell and riding a sea lion across the waves."

from Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch stole Christmas:

"Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing, without any presents at all. He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming, it came. Somehow or other, it came, just the same."

Intriguing and complex sentences from Patricia McKillip's The Changling Sea:

The dark horseman from the sea gazed up at her, mounted at the foot of the cliff. She caught her breath, chilled, as if the sea itself had crept noiselessly across the beach to spill into her circle. Then she blinked, recognizing him. It was only the young prince out for a ride in the bright afternoon. The dark horseman was Kir. Kir was the dark horseman. The phrases turned backward and forward in her mind as she stared at him. A wave boomed and broke behind him, flowing across half the beach, seeking, seeking, then dragged back slowly, powerfully, and, caught in the dark gaze of the rider, his eyes all the twilight colors of the sea, Peri felt as if the undertow had caught her.

Thanks, Tricia, Nandini, and Shelley!

Mine this week is the opening line to Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville, and I don't know any middle-schooler can resist reading more: (okay, I couldn't.)

If Jennifer Murdley hadn't been forced to wear her brother's underpants to schooo, the whole thing might never have happened.

What caught you this week?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wait up, bandwagon!

Have you managed not to get caught up with the gift-buying frenzy so far? I hope this process is a meaningful one for you, one that reminds you of your connection with the recipient of your gifts.

Like all the other book-lover bloggers, I am going to put in a plug for buying books as gifts.

For suggestions, you can go to lists such as the Publisher Weekly's list of Best Children's Books in 2009, or the New York Times list of the 100 Notable Books of 2009, and the one-stop List of Lists.

You can also get ideas from the comments section at Nathan Bransford's blog asking for his readers' top book in 2009, or find out how Davin at The Literary Lab chooses books as gifts, or read through the many wonderful reviews of YA novels at Finding Wonderland.

Here are my suggestions of books that feature a boy as the protagonist. (I hesitate to use the term "boy books" because I wouldn't be able to defend how I know if a book will appeal to a boy and not a girl, or a teacher, or a librarian, or a mom, or a dad.)

The Alvin Ho books by Lenore Look
I love these early middle grade books because of their breezy style, humor, and the underlying--completely unpreachy and unnoticeable--message of acceptance for every child.

Here is a review I wrote of the first Alvin Ho book.

Another wonderful early middle grade (this level is so very difficult to pull off) novel about a young boy not quite sure where he stands in the world, but finds people (and in his case, a Dodo Bird) he can trust and ends up having to do something that proves his own courage to himself. I am so glad this is a series.

Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
This book is aimed at the older end of the middle grade reader spectrum. Mike Lupica is obviously writing for the basketball fan and although I am not one, I enjoyed the book tremendously. He writes friendship so convincingly that I can handle passages of play-by-play without glazing over because I wanted to follow the boys' stories. Lupica has written books on other sports so if the kid you're buying this book for loves baseball or football instead, you're in luck.

If you're not buying for a sports-lover, here is a book about a boy and his beetle, Masterpiece by Elise Broach. James has to deal with a distracted mother, a talking beetle, a love of drawing, and solving a mystery involving a masterpiece.

For the older reader, I offer the three following books. Each writer has a different style, yet each one gets to the heart of things. None of these authors shy away from dealing with difficult issues, each deals with it honestly.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Grab-A-Line Monday

Grab-a-line Monday is a weekly occurrence here at my blog, where I post a line--or two or however many it takes to capture a thought--that I've read that has stayed with me. I invite my readers to do the same. There are so many books that we'll never get to read everything that interests us. Such a shame. This is my small attempt to find writing that we shouldn't, but may otherwise, miss.

These quotes don't have to all be profound. Simple and light-hearted are great as well. I hope you find some passages that made you think and feel, or intrigue you enough that you'd want to read the book from which the passages originate.

My selection this week is rather long, and sad. It's taken from Stephanie Kallos's BROKEN FOR YOU:

Loved ones, whose presence once filled us move into the distance; our eyes follow them as long as possible as they recede from view. Maybe we chase them...Maybe we stay put, left behind, and look for them in our dreams. But we never stop looking, not even after those we love become part of the unreachable horizon. We can never stop carrying the heavy weight of love on this pilgrimage; we can only transfigure what we carry. We can only shatter it and send it whirling into the world so that it can take shape in some new way.

Last week, Tricia and Nandini--thanks for supporting my little venture week after week, guys!--came over with their passages:

From Patricia Wrede's DEALING WITH DRAGONS:

"Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable."

From Kristin Cashore's FIRE:

The Queen's House--for Fire reminded herself that this was Roen's house, not Brigan's--seemed a good place to soothe an unhappy soul. The rooms were small and cozy, painted soft greens and blues and full of soft furniture, the fireplaces huge, the January fires in them roaring. It was obvious a child lived here, for her school papers and balls and mittens and playthings, and Blotchy's nondescript chewed-up belongings, had found their way into every corner.
What caught you this week?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A heartening sign

Amidst the continued hand-wringing by many on the state of publishing today, I see a sign that says things are looking up. What is this sign? A number of agents are publicizing their needs:

Several agents from the Dystel and Goderich Agency are putting their wish lists on their blog, joining agents
Sarah Davies and Julia Churchill from the Greenhouse Literary Agency, Jill Corcoran, and Elana Roth, who have done the same. You may have come across some others.

I find this trend (I am going to call this a trend, indulge me) heartening. For a long time, rightly or wrongly, I had the impression that agents were getting so many queries they were this close *index finger and thumb almost touching each other, eye squinting* to changing their status on AgentQuery to "This agent is no longer accepting unsolicited queries" and before we knew it, there would be no more agents left to query, and we, the unagented, would have to rely on our hairdresser's boyfriend's dry-cleaner who knew the doorman to the building where an editor lived.

When agents, independently from one another, put their wishes out there where they know hungry authors are sure to pounce on, I mean pay heed, and risking their in-boxes--or maybe just the in-boxes of their assistants--overflowing with queries, it tells me they think the market is viable, editors are acquiring, and publishers are, well, publishing. That calls for a jubilant woo-hoo. Care to join me?

Woo-hoo from Flikr Creative Commons by Jeremy 白杰瑞

One other reason this trend brings such warmth to my heart is that it presupposes that this manner of dispensing information works. It speaks to a certain trust between the agents and the authors; it says that we're all in it together. That makes me glad.

It is a business about communications after all.