Thursday, December 6, 2012

Obsessive, Enduring Love

So now you know what the e-book I'm working on is about. I'm still not supposed to talk about it, but I think that's vague enough a teaser, I shouldn't get in too much trouble for sharing. Anyway, just wanted to check in real quick to let everyone know where my mind will be for the next couple months as I finish the manuscript, since I may put blogging on hold for a little while.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Whole World of Possibilities

Happy Thanksgiving! In thinking about what I'm thankful for, I've got a lot on my list. My faith, my family, my friends, my health, my writing career--the list goes on. One thing that wasn't on my list last year, however, was my freedom. Hate to put it that way, but it's true. And honestly, if things hadn't taken such a bizarre turn in the last year, I'd probably still be in the same place right now. But they did, so I'm not. Instead, I'm sitting here typing away in a two-bedroom apartment with the cat who hated my ex-husband and the dog whose custody I am loathe to relinquish.

Anyway, I haven't felt this free since my first year of college. The world has changed in between, though, with technology making it a much less lonely place. It doesn't take weeks or months or even years for word to get around when someone sells a book or gets pregnant or finally gives up on their 20-year marriage. Now, information abounds where before there was only a vacuum. Sometimes, the glut of news can be a little overwhelming, but overall, I think I like things better this way, with the world more transparent and honest.

I hate to admit this, since it makes me sound weak (and I was, for putting up with it), but marriage (to my ex) meant denying so much of who I was, who I still am, who I want to be. To keep the peace, I repeatedly let go of friendships he didn't approve of, while being dumped by other friends who couldn't stand the person I'd become with him by my side. It hurts to think that, but deep down, I know the truth--if I were a fictional character, I'd be dismissed by readers as gutless and unsympathetic. It may sound weird, but the more I studied craft, the more I realized how far from the person I wanted to be I had become.

Now, though, life is wide open again. Anything could happen. Any number of possibilities or potential outcomes. In the mean time, I'll do my best to follow my heart while attempting to choose wisely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Loving Villains

Sorry if you're a huge fan of the royal family, but I don't think anyone will dispute the fact that one of the most vilified women in pop culture today is (still) the former Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles. I mean, how dare she? Right? Everyone loved the sweet and beautiful Princess Diana. So why not her husband??? Unquestionably, Prince Charles took quite the beating in the public's eye by ultimately choosing his old, somewhat craggy girlfriend over his young, hot wife. But you know what? He and Camilla both look very, very happy.

Anyway, all that to say, I love writing villains. And when they're in love, so much the better. Which is why I can't help being smitten by Charles and Camilla's story. Horrible as it is, I find it kind of sweet that they couldn't stop sending each other raunchy emails and finding excuses to meet through mutual interests, even after the world found out about it and strung them up in the court of public opinion.

In entertainment, we're all over villainous love subplots. How much fun would True Blood be without Eric? Or The Vampire Diaries, without Damon? But despite all the passion involved, the villain never gets his way in the end, since light seems to trump dark in most endings.

Maybe that's because in real life, things aren't always so neat and tidy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beta Insecurity

Write what scares you.
Write the story only you can write.
Write what you'd want to read.

Okay. All these pieces of advice are well and good while a writer is holed up in his or her cave, coming up with stories that amuse him- or herself. Undeniably, the advice makes for good fiction. But...here's the really scary part: asking colleagues and/or people close to you to read when the time comes to gather feedback. Strangers are easy--if they don't like your work, everyone has different taste, so it's a cinch to say Oh, well and move on. But when it comes to people whose opinions you care about? Not so simple.

Logically, I know I must be a decent writer: I have an awesome agent, I'm writing an ebook for a company I love, and several friends whose writing I admire are still willing to trade reads with me. Despite all that, the insecurity persists. Because what if the new beta-readers hate my stuff? What if they think I'm a sick-minded, horrible person after reading my stories? What if they think my prose is unprofessional and sophomoric? I've never pretended to be a high-brow writer--I only want to tell engaging stories I think people want to hear. But still. There's a nagging dread left over from being rejected so many times along the journey that's near impossible to shake.

That said, the silence while someone reads is the worst. I'm tempted to ask for mid-read opinions, but that would be annoying. Anyone who betas is doing you a huge favor, so it's better to stress for awhile than make yourself a pest. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Just wish I didn't feel so naked.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mixtapes = Love

I'll have to ask my son if kids still do this for each other, albeit in the form of mix-playlists or -CDs or whatever, but from what I've seen of today's teen pop culture, it kind of seems like a lost art. One of my good friends (who shall remain nameless, just in case there are proprietary issues involved--but don't worry, Metallica, your songs have not and will never be included) makes these awesome mix-CDs as party favors. Digging into the ether to seek out up-and-coming indie bands is one of her hobbies, so it makes sense that her compilations would be amazing, but it got me thinking about days of yore and what motivated me and others to gift each other with mixes.

Once in awhile, a gracious friend would record the albums for you she knew you couldn't afford but wanted, smashing them together as economically as possible on a single device. Or sometimes it'd be motivated by a genuine desire to share the music she loved, possibly in hopes of turning you on to a band, too, so you could go to one of their shows together. More often, though, the music-mix vehicle wasn't quite as simple or friendly--it involved wanting to hook up with someone, but not in a superficial, here-today-onto-someone-else-tomorrow sort of way. Because a mixtape/CD/playlist takes time to compile, as well as careful consideration of the songs to be included and their lyrics, it conveyed a deeper message. A message about who the giver was and what kind of part s/he wanted the recipient to play in his/her life. A message that said, You matter to me, and I need you to know how much.

Of course, therein lies the paradox of the custom-made mix: although exhilarating to receive when a relationship is new and fresh, it winds up being devastating to listen to after a breakup.

So what do you think? Do people still make mixes for each other or am I being a relic for even mentioning them?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Musicians Get Laid So Much

Okay--I know that's a terrible title for a blog post, but in enjoying the fruits of an Amazon gift card my Girl Scout moms gave me after our trip to San Francisco, I recently ordered some CDs. Now, I realize my taste in music is somewhat eclectic (read: inconsistent), but something all three of the albums I bought have in common is amazing songwriting (and I'm not talking about cheesy ballads, despite the presence of one or two cheesy guitar riffs).

Anyway, you know the songs I'm talking about: the kind that scream about lost love and late nights, bad breakups and running away. The inability to forget someone, even after so many years; being haunted by breathily uttered words and the hot touch of another's skin on your own. Maybe it all sounds cliche,  but I'm not the only one impressed with The Gaslight Anthem's latest effort, since Nick Hornby wrote them a page-long endorsement of sorts for their inside cover.

Maybe I should be embarrassed about being old enough to remember a time pre-alternative rock, back when guitars ruled and the original KPRI was the premier radio station in San Diego, but I don't care--if the music speaks to me, I'm going to keep listening.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Impossible Crushes

Amid the no-man's land between filing for divorce and having my freedom actually granted, finding myself a quasi-single-girl has gotten me thinking about crushes. The miserable, the thrilling, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I cringe at the idea of going through it again. Because I remember how it felt, remember each unique individual in painstaking detail.

Unfortunately, I can't say many of them remember me (then again, maybe that's a good thing, since not everyone ages with equal grace). But that's the nature of a crush, isn't it? Lonely admiration granted from afar fights for air time with the urge to make contact, to hurry things along, even if you know the outcome is destined to be terminal. So many reasons why it can't happen war with the heart-felt desire to make it so, damn the consequences. Or maybe he's just not that into you, and you should knock it off already and stop obsessing.

So, yeah. Guess that's why I write teen fiction--the angst never truly goes away, no matter how many years it's been. Because it's impossible to forget those feelings. Especially when they come knocking afresh. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Okay. Just typing that title made it feel cliche to me, but it's true, so I'm keeping it.

Anyway...a lot has happened in the past month. I left my husband of twenty years, and I got my first book deal, albeit in the form of an e-book. Divorce sucks--I'm not going to glamorize it. Suffice it to say, there's a reason lawyers have vacation homes. About the e-book, though, I'm really excited! Looking forward to sharing more info on it soon.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Writer Friends = Gold

I think I might have a manuscript going out on submission this week. In fact, I'm pretty sure I do, but, as people say on facebook, it's complicated. Well, not really that complicated, but it's one of those things I probably shouldn't talk about online until things are settled and done.

That said, I'm so grateful I have writer friends who know how it feels to have your work out there being read and evaluated! It's so nice knowing I'm not the only one who checks my email 1000 (10,000?) times per day or gets all crazy-excited if my blog-visitor stats go nuts.

Guess it's a good thing tomorrow's my water polo breakfast shift--cooking breakfast for 60 people is a fine distraction. Only problem is, I haven't decided whether I'll be making burritos or quesadillas. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ah, Summer...

So I think I already mentioned the trip to D.C. at the end of June for my cousin's wedding, during which one of those so-called storms of the century hit? July, my kids had a bunch of day camps and summer school classes to attend, so I spent my weeks putting over 100 miles per day on my car, without leaving the City of San Diego. At the end of July, however, most of the programmed activity was over, so I declared a road trip for myself and the two younger kids. We traveled to Chico, a Northern California town housing a notorious party-school university, a town one of my friends in law enforcement affectionately refers to as "the weed capitol of the world."

Now, you might be asking whether this assessment is true, or perhaps a bit exaggerated. Judging from the mellow evening aroma of my sister's neighborhood, the white-haired grandma who lit up a joint at the creek (while watching her toddler granddaughter splash and make mud-castles with the other little kids present), and the giggling, poncho-clad group of students (mind you, it was 102 outside) devouring food at the next table when my sis and I went out to breakfast, I'm kind of thinking my friend knows what she's talking about. Anyway, that's Chico--also home of the original sports-bar laundromat and a barber-shop pub--the town where my car's factory transmission decided to rest in peace.

With the national SCBWI conference starting around 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles the morning of the day my car was scheduled to be ready around 3:00 p.m. in Chico, and my daughter's pricey, prepaid-for volleyball camp starting back home in Carmel Valley on the following Monday, the choice was clear: I had to rent a car for a week, drive the ten hours home to San Diego, then return to Chico after the conference to pay my ransom and collect my vehicle.

Looking on the bright side of things, I got to spend some bonus time with my sissy, during which we went into town and I got to check out the local independent bookstore, Lyon Books. Cool place! Not to mention the fact that the clerk I chatted with there was a fellow teen fiction writer herself(!!!).

After I got home, water polo started for my oldest kid, so it was straight to driving all over the place again. Then my beater car (a 1994 Toyota Camry) got broken into, so I had to have a window replaced yesterday. I guess that makes three if you count the ticket I got driving home from Chico the first time.

Anyone else ready for some good news?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seriously, one of the best writing books ever

Okay, so I have this friend named Cathy Yardley, and she once wrote a writing book, but it focused on Chick Lit. Despite its being centered around a category I don't write, I still found the book extremely helpful, as Cathy is a total plotmaster/story guru.

Anyway, the most amazing chapter of said book? The one I've highlighted, dog-eared, and go back to every time I want to plot a new story or simply come to terms with where I'm at with the present one I'm writing? She blew it out into an ENTIRE BOOK!!! It's called ROCK YOUR PLOT, and it's nothing short of amazing. So awesome, I have to give it a huge shout-out, but so effective, I almost want to keep it a secret, since by reading it, legions of mediocre writers will no doubt become competition. But alas...the world needs more good books to read, so I'm duty-bound to share (plus, did I mention Cathy's a friend? Her books are always solid, totally fun reads, but I truly think this could be her ultimate breakout title, since it compresses thousands of pages of cumulative writing wisdom into one succinct, easy to read and understand volume).

The only problem with said book is that--to my knowledge--it's only available as an ebook, and I'd *really* like a print version to have, hold, and mark up like crazy. That said, the e-onliness of it has forced me to take copious notes in my journal, which will prove helpful in the long run. And who can complain about a $2.99 price tag? Especially for a quality writing book! When Random House or Penguin or whoever eventually snaps it up and brings it to your local B&N for $16.99, I'll finally get my print copy.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just Think...

Earlier today, I met up with a group of writing friends. We used to call ourselves a critique group, but we don't pretend anymore. I guess you could label us a writer coffee klatch (except when we're drinking wine, which is probably more than 50% of the time we meet, so maybe we're technically just a bunch of writer-lushes), but anyway, this group of savvy ladies is all more experienced in the business than I am, so I always learn lots of great info whenever we meet. That said, one of the girls tossed out the fact that the author of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY is pulling down $150,000.00 per week.

Now, I'm not sure if this is true, but I have to say--as a writer, I SURE HOPE IT IS!!! Because, wouldn't that be cool?!? For those of us who have not come through this slump in the economy unscathed, that kind of money is certainly a dream come true. Of course I'd tithe and donate away a lot of the money if such fortune came my way, but it sure is fun to think about what I'd do with the rest of it.

First off, I'd buy a larger house (with cash, paying off all our debt first so we could be mortgage-free). Probably a one-story, hopefully with more land, definitely with a huge garage and bedrooms enough so my husband and I could both have our own office space. It'd be great to have an official guest room, too, so family wouldn't have to sleep on the inflatable mattress in the living room when they visit.

Second, I'd buy my hubster a new BMW. He loves his old one, but OLD is the operative word here.

Third, I'd buy myself a new car. Actually, I kind of like driving a beater (people are so much nicer to me than when I'm in something flashier!), but I'd love to have a cool car for weekends or whatever. Particularly interesting is that relatively new model four-door Porsche.

Yeah, I'd tuck away college money for all three kids (as well as set up retirement funding and revenue-generating investments to pay the property taxes on my shiny new house) before any of the fun stuff would get purchased, but it's fun to dream about the possibilities.

How about you? Philanthropy and retirement/school planning aside, what would you buy for yourself with all that money?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ALA Anaheim 2012

Yesterday, my awesome trooper of a friend Dana (who broke her heel last week but refused to cancel our plans) and I went up to Anaheim to hang out at ALA. I'd been to the ALA Midwinter Conference back in 2011, when it was in San Diego, but there were so many more people at the summer conference! I guess those of you in the know are like, Yeah, no duh, Ara, but I was surprised how much more festive the atmosphere was this time around. Authors were doing signings with big lines, publishers were throwing parties, and a prominent editor sang a few bars of Over the Rainbow while I was chatting with one of his authors.

Anyway, fun stuff! I hope I get to go as a published author someday, since it was really fun meeting so many librarians, independent booksellers, editors, authors, and publicity and marketing pros. Also fun was catching up with a dear friend I used to work with at Price Stern Sloan, back when we were both fresh out of college, and meeting another dear friend's editor.

The YALSA happy hour at Morton's was a blast, too, as was the YA Highway blogger meet-and-greet over at the Marriott's wine bar. Wish I could have stayed at the conference longer. Can't wait to go again!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Career Day, Part Deux

Tuesday, I manned a Career Day table at one of our local public high schools, Canyon Crest Academy. What a difference between high school and middle school students!!! While I love the insane amount of energy middle-schoolers possess, it was kind of refreshing to have kids come to my table for reasons other than chocolate! That said, here are some other major differences I encountered:

1. High school kids interested in writing are serious about it. I had a great time chatting with several of the students who came by my table, but a few of them came back multiple times to ask more in-depth questions (thanks, Amy K.!). Made me think I should definitely take up the Creative Writing teacher who asked me to speak to her class on her offer.

2. A lot of high school kids are too cool for Career Day. Even if interested in a certain profession, they'll casually glance at your display, taking stealth notes, then practically run if asked if they have any questions.

3. Instead of having to pace giveaways, holding back so no one kid grabs the whole container's worth of swag, high school students need to be informed that it's all right to take a pen (or a chocolate, a water bottle, etc.).

4. Just like at the middle school, everyone had fun looking at the novels I had brought with me, but no one cared about all the writing books I'd read. Next time, I'll print a list of the writing books rather than physically drag them with me.

5. Last but not least, high school students aren't afraid to ask amazingly candid and/or bizarre questions. My favorite: one joker asked me, "So is the book you're writing anything like Fifty Shades of Grey?" When I told him no, explaining how those books are shelved in a different section, he goes, "Too bad. If it was, I'd read it."

All in all, a fun day.  ; )

Monday, May 21, 2012

My First Career Day Gig

I don't know if there are any other writers out there wondering what to do for Career Day at their kids' schools, but I looked, and maybe I didn't look closely enough, but I didn't find much online. Since I wasn't able to pull a cheat-sheet together (did I mention I'm still on deadline?), I went ahead and wrote some lists for my display board. Maybe they're not the greatest, but I think they're honest. With that in mind, here are a few samples (sorry about the all caps--I wanted the signs to be visible from a distance):

TIPS FOR DEVELOPING A FICTION-WRITING CAREER:
1. HAVE AN ALTERNATE MEANS OF INCOME.
2. READ THE TYPES OF BOOKS YOU WANT TO WRITE.
3. KEEP A JOURNAL. WRITE AT LEAST 3 PAGES/DAY.
4. PAY SERIOUS ATTENTION IN ENGLISH CLASS.
5. BEYOND ENGLISH, STUDY STORY STRUCTURE.
6. OUTLINE STORIES BEFORE WRITING THEM.
7. WRITE A STORY, THEN ANOTHER, AND ANOTHER…
8. FORM OR JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP.
9. LEARN ABOUT PUBLISHING & FIND AN AGENT.
10. DON’T GIVE UP! ON AVERAGE, IT TAKES WRITERS 10 YEARS TO ACHIEVE TRADITIONAL PUBLICATION.

WRITING DOs:
*DO WORK WITH A MENTOR (SOMEONE WHO HAS MORE WRITING EXPERIENCE THAN YOU, LIKE A TEACHER OR PUBLISHED WRITER).
*DO JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP OF LIKE-MINDED WRITERS.
*DO ATTEND WRITING CLASSES AND CONFERENCES.
*DO SIGN UP FOR AN EVALUATION BY AN INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL AT A WRITER’S CONFERENCE.
*DO ENTER WRITING CONTESTS.

WRITING DON’Ts:
*DON’T ASK SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T USUALLY READ THE TYPE OF BOOK YOU’VE WRITTEN TO READ YOURS AND TELL YOU WHAT HE OR SHE THINKS.
*DON’T ASK YOUR FRIENDS, PARENTS, OR RELATIVES TO READ YOUR WORK—THEY LOVE YOU; THEY’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU AN UNBIASED OPINION.
*DON’T FORGET THE WORD FOR SOMEONE WHO NEVER GIVES UP: PUBLISHED!


As far as props went, I brought chocolate and Kleenex to represent how much receiving rejections is part of the writer's journey, as well as a huge bin of writing books. Since I'm writing for Alloy, I also brought all the Alloy-produced books I own, along with a handful of giveaway books my editor sent me for the occasion.

Here's how that went:

1. If they even glanced at them, the kids seemed to think I had written the writing books, not read them. 

2. Almost every girl who came by my station was familiar with the Alloy books I brought with me. How to Rock Braces and Glasses was particularly noted by the kids (over long-time bookstore favorites like The Clique, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries!?!), since I guess there's a new TV show on Nick based on it.

3. Even girls who were too cool for Career Day and not at all interested in writing (girls I had a more than sneaking suspicion were "popular") had read multiple Alloy series.

4. Approximately 4 of the 350 boys who came by my station wanted to talk about writing. The other 346 grabbed a handful of chocolate and took off for the security-camera/spyware software guy's station next door to mine.

That said, I really enjoyed meeting the students at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach. Overall, the students interested in my station were a quiet bunch. They came by and just stared at me at first, so I stared back at them, but then I finally realized I needed to be the grown-up in the shyness standoff, so I started asking them, "So, do you have any questions about writing?" which finally got our conversation rolling.

My one regret for the day is that I didn't ask anyone to take a photo of me with the boy who came up to introduce himself NAMED ARA!!! He even pronounces it the same way I do! Apparently, his parents are Slovenian, so perhaps the name isn't so unusual in Slovenia.

I saved most of my giveaway books for tomorrow's Career Day appearance at Canyon Crest Academy (one of our local public high schools), but I did give a very friendly aspiring writer named Maia Z. at EWMS a book of her choice (she chose something from The Secret Circle series).

All right--guess I should get back to those chapters I need to finish writing tonight. Hopefully more soon!

Friday, May 4, 2012

They Know the F Word Isn't Fart

Okay. This month has been nutty, to say the least. May will probably be just as crazy, but for different reasons. For example, I'm heading off to San Francisco this afternoon with 19 people from my Girl Scout troop. When I return, I'll have a new set of revisions to work on and a water polo team/family trip to Hawaii to coordinate.

Anyway, as I was checking my email this morning, I received a message from our local city library informing me that a book my eleven-year-old daughter put on hold has arrived at our local branch. The book? Go the F*** to Sleep!

Maybe I'm guilty of this, as we did have a discussion about said title while perusing a bestseller list a few months back. Still, I'm shocked she had the balls to even search for it in the library catalog, let alone put it on hold for herself!!! Kind of reminds me of the time my oldest son played the F word against me in Scrabble, scoring something like 38 points. I don't think his voice had even changed yet, and that happened back when he was twelve.

All right--I've got to get out of here. I'll try to be better about blogging in the future. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

Okay. I'll probably think better of posting this later, but it's April Fool's Day and I'm suffering through a head cold and probably not thinking clearly, so why not?

That said, using up the last of an Amazon gift card (so I don't feel quite as guilty about shopping), I just ordered three things I can definitely live without but will enjoy owning:

1. The Warriors on DVD. Born after 1980 and think Warriors are all cats? Think again. Or at least watch the trailer. Even completely sober, this movie's a trip. Yeah, I've talked about this one before, but it's worth it.

2. The Hand on DVD. I couldn't believe it, but when I looked it up online (and couldn't find it at either of our local libraries), it turns out that this is one of Oliver Stone's first films. Anyway, why this one now, over thirty years later? Really, I'd kind of forgotten about this movie (except when reminding my middle schooler to keep all parts of him inside the bus), but I just watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules with my kids, and it contains an excellent parody (The Foot) that made me all weepy eyed with nostalgia.

3. Rumors by Fleetwood Mac on CD. Once the shock and awe wears off that someone still actually buys compact discs, allow me to explain how truly excellent this late-disco era album was. My sister and I picked it out for our newly single dad in the 1970s, and I stand by the recommendation. Probably made him seem cool to all those stewardesses he went out with after my mom gave him his walking papers. Anyway, You're welcome, Dad! Too bad tapes didn't stand the test of time, but dental implants are expensive, so I don't feel too bad about chipping into the band's royalties.

How about you? Any guilty pleasures you own or wish you owned?

Happy April 1st!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

too cute not to share

My baby with his baby.  : )

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

once a month???

Okay--I just realized I haven't posted anything here in a month. Yeah, life has been busy, but I'm striving to make it more manageable. In the mean time, however, it's totally out of control.

That said, I know this is silly, but since when did blog captchas (or however you spell it) get so difficult? Every time I type one, I feel like I need to (a) clean my screen and/or (b) put on my new, stronger reading glasses. Reminds me of taking exams in Bio 3: Anatomy & Physiology, a class I was never prepared for or qualified to take then had to repeat in order to up my college GPA. Sad tales of woe aside, maybe it's just me who's having trouble with them, so I shouldn't complain. I'm sure the new captchas must be doing a great job foiling robots or whatever.

All right--enough of that silliness! The thing that's more mind-consuming this week (and will continue to be in the weeks to come) is that I recently got my first set of "real" notes. Not to say previous notes from agents and editors haven't been real, but these are different. I can't talk about what the project I'm working on is about or anything, since that's all top secret, but I do have permission to tell people I'm working for Alloy Entertainment, writing a new book for them. Which is where the notes come in.

Recently, while trolling online academic resources for my oldest child, I came across a lecture by a high school friend of mine. In it, he quotes Yoda, saying that sometimes, "You must unlearn what you have learned." Can I just say how timely that advice was? Anyway, thanks, Mehran/Yoda! So true. Because we (read: I) may think we know so much, but until someone with a higher level of expertise steps in, we have no idea how much we still need to learn.

Hopefully it won't take me another month to get back here, but it might--I've got a lot of work ahead of me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Frivolous Travel Lessons Learned

Notes I need to review next year when traveling to New York for the winter SCBWI conference:

1. If you're going to take the subway to and from the airport (JFK), bring a small enough suitcase (even if you're checking it) that you'll be able to navigate the escalators. Also keep in mind that stairs are the way out of most subway stations, so don't pack too close to the 50-pound limit.

2. If you're staying at a hotel that's not within easy walking distance of the conference, bite the bullet and buy the one-week-unlimited subway pass. You may not think you'll need it, but you will.

3. Seriously, don't pack the exercise clothes and shoes. Even if you've been working out every day and your hotel has an awesome fitness room, don't do it. The tennies take up too much space in that little tiny suitcase and the unused workout attire will just give you a guilt trip. If you want exercise, walk to the conference instead of taking the subway--there'll be plenty of time to hit the gym machines when you get home.

4. Pack fabulous-looking but comfortable shoes. Shoes that can be walked in, for distances longer than anticipated (yeah, I'm talking to you on this one, Dana, although your heels did look amazing).

5. Don't quote me on this, but American Airlines was way more lax about the size of carry-on luggage than I found Delta Airlines to be last year. Tops, though, for flying to NY is JetBlue, who lets passengers check one bag for free.

6. Free breakfast as part of a hotel package is basically useless, since you'll never have time to eat it; free internet, however, is extremely helpful. Also, if the wireless connection isn't good, ask for a blue cord, which leads to a trouble-free connection (important if you're staying in a century-plus-old brick-and-mortar hotel).

7. Nine blocks is a healthy walk; twelve, sort of a nuisance (unless you're trying to get some exercise), completely justifiable in taking the subway.

8.  Paying a cab $45 plus $5 for the bridge toll into the city from the airport is legit (we weren't sure, since I usually cheap out and take the subway).

9. Consider rush hour traffic if planning to take a cab back to the airport--the subway might actually be faster during the late afternoon hours, since it doesn't contend with auto gridlock.

10. Forty-degree weather with rain is enough to wash the ice off the sidewalks, rendering rain boots unnecessary. If snow's still on the ground and puddling up the gutters, however, go ahead and pack 'em for January.

Hope this helps anyone who might be traveling to New York for the first time during the winter! Friends~please leave your tips in the comments. I want to hear your advice!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New York, New York

I'm still here, actually, both excited and a little sad to be going home tomorrow night, but the trip has been great. A friend of mine, Dana Elmendorf, flew from San Diego to New York with me on a Thursday night redeye. Despite our constant need for additional sleep, we had an awesome time hanging out and running all over town (including an amazing dinner at Marc Forgione in TriBeCa, after which we think we saw this guy in the Chambers Street subway station). Dana had to fly home on Sunday afternoon, but I'm hoping she'll plan on staying an extra night or two next year.

The SCBWI conference itself featured incredible keynote speakers (especially Chris Crutcher, who made us cry then followed it up with snort-worthy laughter) and informative breakout workshops. All three I went to, Revision by Cheryl Klein of Scholastic, Young Adult Fiction with Tara Weikum of HarperCollins, and a session on diversity led by Stacy Whitman of Tu Books, were fantastic. I learned all sorts of new stuff from their presentations, and then even more from their candid approach to addressing audience questions. On top of all that great main-conference programming, the marketing-for-writers intensive on Friday introduced me to a wealth of marketing resources I had no idea were at my disposal. Definitely worth the extra money I paid, since I wouldn't have learned that stuff anywhere else.

Post-conference, I had lunch with a friend I met at the 2010 conference, Nora Olsen. Nora's already had her first book published, but our writing careers began the same year, back in 2001, so it's always fun to catch up in person, sharing about our experiences and just generally about how life's unfolded for us in the months previous.

Sunday night, I went to church. Church? Yeah, church! As it turns out, my church has a location in Manhattan. I think they're meeting at the Scholastic Auditorium next week, but they're usually in the Times Center on 41st Street. Anyway, it was fun. C3's a different type of place (as in, I have to wear ear plugs during the worship music, it's so loud, and at 41, I'm pretty much the oldest one in the house, since everyone except maybe the lead pastor is in their 20s).

Today, I've been seeing friends and colleagues. I had a wonderful breakfast this morning with a dear friend I used to work with at Price Stern Sloan. Later in the day, I went out to lunch with Kerry Sparks, my extremely cool, extraordinarily wonderful, can't-say-enough-great-things-about-her agent, and two new friends, Emilia Rhodes and Sara Shandler of Alloy Entertainment.

Okay--is anyone reading between the lines? I don't want to speak prematurely, but I'm pretty sure there's a God-sized miracle going on here, and I'm really excited about it. Hopefully I'll be able to announce something big in the spring. For now, though, I've got a little reading and maybe a bit of self-editing to do before I turn in for the night.

Sweet dreams!  : )

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January

Poor, neglected blog! I thought this month was going to be so focused on preparation for my upcoming trip to New York for the SCBWI conference, but it turned out a little (read: a lot) different than expected.

First off, one of my friends lost her battle with stomach cancer. A fast moving, debilitating, genetically linked cancer, her brother died of it in 2008, at the age of 37. Sandra was one month shy of her 40th birthday when she passed last Friday. Her memorial service was yesterday. A sad event, to be sure, but I'm so glad all the pain she endured is over.

Trivial in comparison though still time-consuming, stomach flu made a trip through our house last week. Not a fun way to spend the days, making Jello and rinsing throw-up bowls.

I'm back to work now, but I'm not sure how much blogging I'll get done between now and after I get home from New York, at the beginning of February. Hope January is going better for everyone out there! So far for us, it's been a cold, sad month, but I'm looking forward to happier times in the weeks ahead.