Wednesday, July 29, 2009

beach books and getting conference ready

I'm back from the beach.

I read the main chunk of The Forrest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan while sitting on a beach chair by the ocean. Which is super cool, because a major thru-line is this book is the main characters desire to see the ocean. It's a driving motivational force for Mary and it makes it extra cool to read about Mary's burning desire to see the ocean. It makes you feel like you're really waiting for her on the other side, pulling her along in her quest. Because of this I nominate this book as the #1 best beach read of the year.

The other book I read was Red Riders Hood by Neal Shusterman. Yes. Another Shusterman book. I'm determined to read all his books. He's a brilliant story teller. Red Riders Hood is a dark Urban twist on the Little Red Riding Hood tale. As usual, Shusterman is clever, creative and pulls off a story that not every author could. It's a fun read!

I've been home for a few days, but I haven't blogged because, in addition to house and family stuff, I've been getting my critiques prepared to send out for the SCBWI Carolina's Fall Conference in Sept. I'm sending out two critiques this year. The deadline to get them in is the 31st, so I had to finish them up and send them out today so I could meet the deadline.

I miss the beach, but it's good to be back too. Now I have to go catch up on everyone elses blogs and see what ya'll have been up to.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beach Reading

I'm leaving for the beach on Sunday, so I was hoping to find a book that I could read that would suck me in. I wasn't sure what to get.

I've been wanting to read The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, but my Library didn't have it yet. I had asked if they had it a couple of months ago and they didn't. So, when I saw this sitting out on the display shelf yesterday, I audibly ~gasped~ and did a head dive for the shelf, (the kind like tennis or volley ball players will do to make a good save) and snatched up the book before anyone else could. (not that there was anyone w/i 10 feet of me, but a girl can not be too careful you know.)

So, now I have a good beach read for my vacation. The only problem is that I'll be gone for a week and I'll probably finish this in one day (2 days tops.) Anyone have any page-turners to recommend for additional beach reading? My book list is on the side bar of this blog if you want to see what I've recently read.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dimly Enlightened.

Today's blog is brought to you by The Training Institute for Flying Squirels

Between the research I'm doing for my current WIP and my wonderful antique Children's Literature Text book, I've been thinking a lot about the past, the present and how generations change, how thinking and idea's morph over time.

Each generation thinks they have an enlightened view of the world. Each era has it's own sense of superiority.

It makes me wonder what we hold or reject in society today. What do we believe to be true, or how do we see ourselves as "enlightened" only generations from now we will be proven wrong?

For example: In my research of Medical History past, I've found that doctors were skeptical of the use of antiseptic. Here's a blurb from the Book "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's" by Marc McCutcheon. (a google search will also provide similar info)

This section of the book comes from a glossary of terms re: Health, Medicine and Hygiene in the 1800's:

carbolic spray: an antiseptic spray strongly recommended by Lister to disinfect operating rooms of germs but used only by a handful of surgeons even as late as the 1870's. Pysicians were ignorant of the importance of cleanliness for most of the century. Antiseptic practices were not widely adopted until the 1880's and consequently cases of septicemia were common.

Her's a bit from Samuel Gross, Professor of Surgery, Philadelphia, in a medical review:
"Little if any faith is placed by any enlightened surgeon on this side of the Atlantic in the so-called carbolic acid treatment of Professor Lister."

Does that hit you like it hits me? Kind of makes you wonder. . . . huh?
What thoughts or people are though of in a negative way that will one day be praised? What of these do we see as good, that will go on to be thought of as "bad?" What is absurd now that will be commonplace in the future? what is common now that will be absurd in the future? hmmmmm . . . . Dang. My thinker is set in overdrive.

Will Diet Coke one day be found to be as destructive to our health as smoking (I hope not.)?

Will the key to good health be found in chocolate?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A fly on the wall in the slush pile: Thoughts from agent, Elana Roth

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall as a editor or agent goes through their query stash? Just to get a glimpse into what they are thinking . . . now that would be good info to possess. If only I had enough of this inside info I could be like . . . like a writing Jedi; enlightened, wise, and my likeness could be cloned into a pointy-eared action figure.

One nice thing about twitter is that you can "follow" agents and editors without looking like cRaZeD stalker. Sometimes you get a glimpse into what they are looking for or other nuggets of info that might make you a better writer or query-ster or you can get a better idea of what is going on in the world of publishing.

Yesterday Elana Roth, Agent at Caren Johnson Literary Agency, tweeted some of her "realizations" about her thoughts as she went through her query stash. I found them interesting, so I thought you might too. I've quoted a few of them, but you can head on over to the agency blog where she compiled her entire list. Click-ity, click right here to swoosh on over to Elana's post.

A few of Elana's Query Realization "Tweets"
  • Slush Realization #1: I guess I'm just not a fan of non-human characters and narrators.
  • Slush Realization #2: I really hate e-stationery.
  • Slush Realization #3: If you hire someone to query on your behalf (don't), wouldn't you want them to have read my submission guidelines?
  • Slush Realization #4: Sometimes people make up things so strange that classifying them as "fantasy" still doesn't help me understand them.
  • Slush Realization #5: Apparently just saying "no thanks" can equal feeding the trolls. A rejection letter does not a dialogue opener make.
  • Slush Realization #9: If an email doesn't LOOK cleanly formatted, I tend to think words-on-a-page might not be your thing.
A big thanks to Elana for allowing me to quote and link her tweets!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Congratulations to Jacqui Robbins for the release of her new Picture Book. Available in stores and online today!

YaY Jacqui! *\o/*

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thoughts on Children's Literature from 1927

I recently found this gem of a book in an antique shop. It's a Handbook of Children's Literature text book by Gardner and Ramsey, copyrighted in 1927.

I thought it would be interesting to see how opinions have changed over the years. When I read the opening sentence I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

It begins:

"Whether or not literature can be taught has been a long-debated question, but it has finally yielded its place to the more significant topic "What literature shall be taught?"

That got me right off the bat. Really? There was a debate on whether or not literature COULD be taught. I find it interesting that the wording wasn't "should be taught" I'm baffled that there was a question about the "can" literature be taught. I can't wrap my mind around that.

It makes my head hurt.

I've already come across some interesting things and I'll share some things over time, for instance, there is no section for fantasy literature in this text book. It talks about Folk Literature, Poetry and rhymes (which they spell it "Rimes"), Subject Matter books and Illustrated books.

And then, after noticing the lack of Fantasy literature, I came across this passage on Page 13. My comments are in red.

"Literature for children should be not only basically true (I guess that throws Fantasy Lit out the window.) but of such a nature that it appeals to the emotions. . . . . .. .It is the emotional appeal which leads a child to ask again and again for certain selections. The pleasure they give him may be the gentle melancholy (Isn't "melancholy" another word for "I'm bored out of my friggen skull!") which is the instinctive reaction to a "thing of beauty," as in the case of "The Snow Queen," by Hans Christian Anderson. Again the feeling aroused may be mirthful, like that excited by the "Jabberwocky," of Lewis Carroll; or it may be a thrill of excitement or fear, such as comes from tales of daring like those of Robert Louis Stevenson. Literature that excites disgust, (I wonder what these authors and their students would think of Dave Pilkey and Captain Underpants?) contempt, and despair with reference to people, conditions, and life itself should have no place in children's lives. If realistic literature is chosen it should be the kind of realism which is fair to life, not that wich makes it a sorry, hopeless business to be borne as best it may. Adolescents frequently find a kind of morbid pleasure in poring over stories which represnt all effort as futile struggle. (Yes. by all means, lets not give children subject matters that acutally appeals to them and captures their interest. That would just be silliness.) As a substituted they may be led to read some good historical novels, books of travel and adventure, bracing biographies, and beautiful poetry."

I'm interested to know. What are your thoughts and reactions to this passage?

What do you think was positive about this way of thinking? and/or Why do you think that there has been a huge shift in this philosophy?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Monster Luv! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I've been rereading Everlost by Neal Shusterman. There are so many great things about this book, but one thing that really struck me is how much I LUV the monster in this story, The McGill. He's not a good monster. The McGill is nasty and mean and he likes it that way. He works hard to be a terror. Don't worry. Those arent' the things I love.

What I love is that even though he's so repulsive, Shusterman still finds a way to make him likable in a way that you hate to love a villan. I've been trying to pinpoint the aspects of this great monster and what makes him so great. Here's what I've come up with so far.

1) He's written w/ humor, in a way that made me think of this monster as more of a young boy trying to be a bully.

2) The McGill develops a respect for the female protagonist even though he isn't prone to giveing repect to anyone.

3) This is probably my most favoritest part and PARTIAL SPOILERS BELOW:
In Everlost, there are 2 thru-lines that are weaved together nicely. They are shown early in the story and follow through til the end and are tied together by showing the reader how the McGill came into existence.
A. In Everlost, people will sink into the ground if they stand still for too long and will sink to the core of the earth. No one is able to get out of the core of the earth. The souls just sit and wait until the end of time.
B. In Everlost, if you forget what you look like, your appearance will change accordingly. ie: someone who prized their smile might start to develop too many teeth. A bully that used his fists might grow oversized hands etc.

Now, this is the good part:
Toward the end we find out that before the McGill became the McGill, he was just a regular little boy who sank to the middle of the earth. But . . . as he sat there with all the other sunken souls, he imagined himself strong and powerful. Little by little as his body changed accordingly, he grew strong enough to claw his way out. Something that no one else had done before. However, the very thing that gave him the ability to climb out of the depths is the same thing that turned him into something mean, horrible and heartless.

As the McGill grows in fondness for the female protagonist, his features start to change again; only this time he starts to become less horrific.

Isn't that brilliant!!!! So many threads come together and the monster isn't just a monster for monsters sake. He has a past. He has endearing qualities.

I can't think of any other literary monster that has struck a cord in my quite like this one.

How about you? Do you have any monsters/villans that you love to hate or hate to love?