Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Colour!

Thanks to Steph for this awesome link in her comment to my last post. It was inspired by a combination of Morocco color + me having mentioned that I was revising to the music of Jonsi -- check out THIS:
Oh wow. This is SO my cup of tea! It is GLORIOUS. This project--the Let's Colour Project--paints neighborhoods around the world in vibrant color.


After having seen the island of Burano, the lace-making island in the Venetian lagoon, and how it was COLOR that really made that place come alive (that, you know, plus being in the Venetian lagoon!). But check it out. The architecture itself is very plain. Imagine if these buildings were white or tan or grey, like so many houses in the US:

See what I mean?

So I've always thought it would be a great idea to pep up neighborhoods with rainbows of paint, and lo and behold, some mad geniuses have actually started to DO it. You can even get involved, which I assume would mean helping paint. And HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE???

Anyway, thank you Steph for the link!

And thank you Jonsi for the music :-)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am dreaming a dreamy dream

Photos pillaged from the internet.

Is it possible that one day in the not-too-distant future I might have my OWN dreamy-dream photos to post here?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Winnowing of Post-its

This is the look of my manuscript in revisions.

You may know: I love revisions. This is the part of writing my brain can really cuddle up to. The safe part? In Not For Robots I have this bushwhacking metaphor: writing first drafts with a machete; unexplored jungle! Dangers! Beasties! Excitement! Extending that metaphor, revisions are like building a snug cottage in that jungle and setting out tea saucers of little biscuits for the monkeys. All civilized, like.

Well. You know. No exactly like that. But kinda.

So. Here in a nutshell is my revision process. First thing I did was read and internalize my editor's letter, make notes on the main areas of work she proposed, and then set about reading my (hard copy) manuscript over with those things in mind. I marked it up liberally, and then, once that was done, I took it to the computer and input any "easy" changes, those things that can be fixed right there locally, within a line or two. The bigger things, ideas, themes, I asterisked and post-it'ed for later. Later being now.

The REAL work of revisions. Not the line edits, but the reconstruction, the deepening of significance, tightening of threads, clarifying of characterization, all that. So I've got this fat old book bristling with post-its of how to make it better, and I have to winnow down those post-its, one by one, until they're all gone. Winnow winnow. Once they're all gone, then I'll read the whole thing fresh for flow and to catch anything I might have missed, and to futz happily with language until I run out of time, then I'll send it on in to my lovely editor and see what she thinks.

After that? Another pass. And then? Copy edits. And then?

Whew. On it goes until the very sight of one's own book triggers the gag reflex. It's sad, but by the time the book is in print, the author has read it to death and probably won't be able to enjoy it again for like twenty years. But that does not mean that holding it in its actual bookness is not the hugest thrill ever, because it IS. Just please don't make us read it again! Ha ha.

Anyway. In revisions, you should have a clear picture of what it was you were trying to do with the book (a thing you might not entirely know until you've finished that first draft). And then hopefully you can read your manuscript with some objectivity and get a clear picture of what you have actually accomplished. So. What needs to be done to bring the actual up to the ideal? That's what revisions are about. Perfecting. Realizing the promise of your idea.

Gotta go now. Post-its beckon!

Do you love revisions? Not love? Tell me!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Have you heard about the horrifyingly stupid op-ed piece by a university professor attempting to set in motion a ban Laurie Halse Anderson's book Speak? Lots of bloggers have been writing about this, and since I need to be revising right now, I will refer you to Stephanie's post about it. I hope you will check it out. Book banning is always a horror, and in this case, it is just so . . . so . . . evil, so evil-stupid, and such a perfect encapsulation of the horrors of censorship. I mean, the book is about finding one's voice to speak up about rape, and this idiot masquerading as an educator (shudder shudder) is trying to silence it and keep it out of the hands of the very victims who might be helped by it. AUGGGHHHHH!!!

Shannon Hale also blogged about it here, which is where I first heard about the controversy. There's an excerpt in her post from a reader about a library copy of Speak and its poignant last page that really testifies to the importance of this book.

Also, I saw in Stephanie's post that a school district has banned Sherman Alexi's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I am reeling over that. National Book Award winner! Brilliant! Brilliant! On what grounds was it banned? It's not sexually explicit, and that's the usual culprit? Is it because of the alcoholism? Because oh sure, we shouldn't let young people read about the devastation of alcoholism.

Why, America? WHY?

On a much happier note, Clementine took her first steps yesterday, which was cute beyond cute. I could TELL she was ready, the way she was just standing there all steady. I KNEW if I coaxed her, she would walk, so I actually had to hold her off for a few minutes until Jim could get there, and then . . . she did it! Back and forth between us, four or five steps at a time, and then she would fling herself into our arms. So, she has to work on her landings :-) It's all geared toward the rushing leap right now, which is just fine. What's better than a baby hurling herself laughing into your arms?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What did I forget today?

Each morning when I'm leaving for the cafe to work (I'm currently alternating between two), I do a quick rundown of the stuff I need. Laptop, check. Manuscript (currently using hard copy for revisions, and that sucker is heavy to carry), check. Notebook, check. Phone, wallet, keys, umbrella, power cord. I think that's it. I frequently forget one of these things. Usually it's the wallet or the power cord, which was not a big deal when the cafe was so close to my house -- plus they knew me and would let me pay for my coffee the next day. Now I have to be more organized. I almost left without my wallet this morning, but remembered at the door (it was on the floor where *somebody* had been playing with it, picking at its felt flower), and felt all smug. Ha.

So what's missing, now that I'm here? A tiny thing. Two tiny things: the little rubber covers of my ear buds! *Somebody* has newly started to pick them off while pursuing her favorite hobby of emptying my purse out item by item, so I had to put them out of her reach so she didn't, you know, eat them. And they remain out of reach. Joke's on me.

What I've learned from this is that you can still wear ear buds without the covers, but they don't block out ambient noise anymore. And that's kind of the whole point. So drat and blast.

Anyway. This next part here is probably obnoxious, but I can't help myself. In response to my last post (which was not, I swear, a desperate plea for praise!), young reader Katherine sent me a wonderful email, and I am not going to get in the habit of preening over praise emails here, but I can't help it this time. Here it is:

Hi Laini!!!
I was reading your blog and heard you needed encouragement!!! (Prepare yourself, for I shall be ranting about how much I love your characters..)

I'm 14. I read a LLOOOOOTT of books, on average, 2 books a week. And I can say with complete certainty that your books are my favorite and you are MOST DEFINITELY my favorite author. None of the others even come CLOSE.
I LOOOOOVE YOUR CHARACTERS!!!!! Specially Magpie :D and I was actually telling my friend the other day how cute Hirik and Whisper were as a couple!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D (*fangirl squeal*)
And it's not just your characters I love. The way you write it??? So much beautiful detail, the perfect combination of adventure, love, magic, sadness/heartbreak, anger, fantasy, everything!!! I love it all and you balance it all perfectly.
And also, your ideas are so original. SHEER GENIUS. The tapestry, the Djinns, and the one I thought was the coolest? Silksingers. I never would ever have thought of that and I don't know anyone who could. Spinning magic carpets with their voices!!! I'm a singer, so I probably got more excited about it than most would, but Just wow.

On a completely unrelated note, you're so funny as a person :D not funny as in, laughing at you but as in your jokes are HILARIOUS :D
And I remember reading one of your old short stories about a ghost girl who put beetles in matchboxes with jewels and pretended they were robbing banks...... that made me laugh so hard and I loved it so much!!!

Anyways, I just wanted to say you are my idol and don't feel down. And just know that your characters are pure genius and you should never think otherwise.


Oh man, thanks Kat. That email made my entire head smile. You should have seen it. My big smiling head :-) Thank you. I love getting emails from readers. In the three years since my first book was published, the amazement has not diminished one bit that there are people out there with my books in their hands and what's more they like them. This is the coolest thing ever, and every day I am grateful I went for it, this dream, that has made my life so rich and fun.

Also, I love Kat's note because it affirms for me that my books do what I hope they do (for some readers, at least), and that they are the kind of books I want to write -- the kind *I* want to read, the kind I want to live in.

So, HUGE THANK YOU to Katherine. Yay!!!

*grin grin grin* *whole head still smiling*

Oh. And this is SO COOL. I will be reminding you in the upcoming days and weeks. The awesome divas at Readergirlz are featuring Lips Touch as their October title!!!! I don't know any online book community that can match Readergirlz for awesome, and I am thrilled to be part of it. There will be a live chat on October 20, about which I will remind you, but in the meantime they will post cool stuff, and ... stuff. Stuff is going to happen. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writers Need Cheerleaders

Writers need different things from different people. They need feedback, help, snack-making, coffee-pouring, advice, editing, encouragement, encouragement, encouragement, enthusiasm, encouragement, and encouragement.

Writers need cheerleaders. Before feedback. Before editing. Before almost anything else but snack-making, we need to be convinced and reminded that we are GOOD. Feedback of the critical sort, however constructive and wise, can be deadly if it comes too soon. Possibly the most important person in our community, is our cheerleader. Do you have one? Several? Have at least one.

And no. You can not be your own cheerleader. At least, not your only one.

Here is how it goes:

In the beginning of working on a novel, everything shimmers with your genius. The newness, the never-beforeness, the unmitigated awesome, it cannot be repressed. You do not need a cheerleader yet. Just work. Enjoy this time, because it will not last.

It gets harder. You keep working. It is not as delightful to draw up your chair each day and get started. You think wistfully of the wonderful, uncomplicated dishes that need to be washed. And did you once think that character was so unique? Whatever made you think that? Delusional.

Wow. This theme is so tired. Will anyone care? I barely care anymore. And this scene seemed so cool the first twelve times I rewrote it. Have I killed it? Or is it just in a coma? Or am I in a coma? Huh. What is a coma? I think I'll google it and learn all about comas today . . .

--Paging cheerleader.--

There comes a time when you cannot summon even the phantom of the enthusiasm you once had for your great idea. You have to trust that you had it, and that is was genuine and deserved. I actually recommend making a list, while you are still in the throes of passionate love with your incipient book, of all the things you love about your idea. Be detailed. Later you can look at it and trust that you knew what you were talking about. This helps a little, but there is nothing that I have discovered that can rejuvenate your enthusiasm like wild and heartfelt PRAISE.

I think every writer I know has this wish at some point: that they could temporarily wipe their brain clean of their book and read it fresh, like a reader. We can't, of course, be we can experience that vicariously through our first readers, or as I have heard them called lately, "beta readers." It might work for you to wait until you have a finished draft. I usually need propping up well before then, and will give over chunks of partial book. I am blessed with a few wonderfully gifted praise-givers, without whom I am certain I would never finish anything. My wonderful husband Jim gives great praise, as does my best friend Alexandra, who gives only praise, and no criticism -- and she is not withholding anything, she is just an enthusiastic reader with a very generous heart and open mind, and she has revived my flagging spirits and brain so many times, like injections of writing adrenalin right to my heart, Pulp Fiction style. Stephanie Perkins is also an amazing reader, both for praise-giving and, later, for feedback. Thanks, guys!

If you don't have a cheerleader, get one. You cannot trust yourself to see your book clearly when you have been deep inside it for a long time. You are not to be trusted.

Do you have a cheerleader? And how about this: are YOU somebody's cheerleader? When a friend gives you something to read, consider carefully what they need at that moment. It might be that they need critical feedback, but maybe they aren't ready for it yet. They might know themselves well enough to tell you exactly what they need, and they might not. Do not ever be the one to kill someone's book by giving them critical feedback too soon. Bite your tongue. Nurture. Cheer. Drop off snacks. Rave. And be specific. Writers love to know which parts you liked, what made you laugh or cry or shout, "No!" in nail-biting dread, what parts were really smart or compelling or original. Just the good stuff, mind.

Rah rah!

Oh, and, awesome: Lips Touch made Booklist's Top 10 Romance Fiction for Youth 2010 list! *thrill thrill thrill* !!!!! Here is the fabulous list, with a bunch of mouth-watering books on it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Acceptable Destruction, or: the Calculus of Mess

Wow. I think I've forgotten how to blog. And I miss it! I've been trying to write a catch-up post for the past week. There are several saved versions in my blogger archive that I poked away at but that never coalesced -- in my deadline addled brain -- into any kind of sense. So. No guarantees here, either.

The monumentalness (monumentality, if you want to be strict about it) of having finished the book has given way to a feeling of weightlessness. Floating. The book is not in my head any more. It is not even just in my computer any more. It is on paper, fatly bound at Kinko's into proto-bookness, and it has also zipped through the ether to various large cities -- New York, London, Los Angeles. Weaverville, North Carolina, ha ha. It exists in the world in its unpolished state. Up next: polishing. Which is a job that I relish. I have a polisher's heart. I love to tinker. Bring on the tinkering! And if there are changes and fixes too big to be called tinkering, that's okay too. I love all of revision. (But ask me about it in late October and we'll see how I feel then.)

(To Katie, who enquired if this was yet another book after Daughter of Smoke and Bone: no. This was that book. Next up = the sequel! Actually, next up, today, is polishing a script to an illustrated project for younger readers that Jim and I have in the works. I wrote it last fall with a sleeping newborn in my lap and it has had a fairly interesting life so far, taken a number of journeys, lived temporarily in a number of houses, and now it is home like a college kid with a duffel bag full of laundry, soon to be sent on its way again :-)

So. Today I am auditioning a new writing cafe. Because of this tragedy:
Boo hoo hoo! My cafe closed. Three days after I finished the book! Isn't that eerie? I have this crazy idea that it is a drifting cafe of the mind (like the Treehouse of the Mind in Horns) that is there when you most need it. Right now, it is opening its doors in some little corner of Cincinnati or Boise or Sassafras (come on, there is probably a town in the US called Sassafras) where someone is in need of a quiet place to write.

To that person, I say: Give it back. It's mine.

Boo hoo hoo!

This new cafe is bigger and shinier, and not too busy or noisy, but a) the service wasn't friendly, and b) it's a 17-minute walk from my house, versus three. Which will be exceedingly unpleasant in the coming rains. I actually liked my three-minute umbrella walks to my old cafe, but I think the fun would wear off somewhere around minute five or six. I could (and probably will) get a bike, but then there's the whole glasses-in-the-rain thing. I never wear my contacts for staring at words. Ouchy.

There is another cafe closer to home, maybe ten minutes walk, but it is really busy and noisy and also so full of delicious baked goodness that I would ... increase ... if I went there every day. It's possible that I would prove powerless against coffee cake. Like, yesterday: I woke up from an afternoon nap filled with the pure conviction that if I didn't have cake immediately, I would die. Luckily, there was cake at hand, and so I live on.

Oh sigh. I may have to revert to my writing room for winter, and just barricade the door against cuteness and plug in my earbuds and pretend I'm in a cafe. It'll be cheaper. Plus, my writing room is awesome! I miss it! I am reminded of its awesomeness after having finally, totally belatedly, cleaned it to photograph it for inclusion in an upcoming studios issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (love love love that magazine). Ah, cleaning with a one-year-old is so. Much. Fun. You know it is. Ever since Clementine became mobile, we have been learning what I'm sure all parents everywhere know, and it is this thing I'll call "acceptable destruction." I'll give you an example:

If Clementine is kept occupied for two full minutes by shredding a roll of toilet paper, and I am able in that time to brush my teeth and put my contacts in and maybe even apply mascara, is the resulting destruction acceptable or does it cross the line into being more hassle than those two minutes were worth? It's a careful and constantly evolving calculus of mess. It is amazing what comes to seem "acceptable." Such as: "Hm, it looks like letting Clementine destroy my brand-new crocheted flower paper clips from Anthropologie is going to buy me three minutes. Well. They were only $10." (And yes, I was watching to make sure she did not ingest any paper clips! I admit, though, she finds things. Like the other day, she was innocuously playing with a stuffed animal she had pulled off the shelf, and I looked up to find she had undone the pin it was wearing and had stretched back the needle-sharp pokey part like a ... hideous stabbing instrument ... and was looking at me kind of like, "Dude, you're letting me play with this?" )


(And as for the paper clips, I was going to take the flowers off anyway and sew them onto barrettes because really: who needs crocheted flowers on their paper clips?)

So. I don't have any photos of the real mess-making, but here is Clementine in various ways helping put the finishing touches on the room:
These books are for me, right? I mean, why else would you stack them under the bench? (Doy.)

Hey look, this stuffed animal is wearing a giant stabby pin too! (Hazards abound!)

Did you know there are a ton more books back here? Score!

Oh, I'm sure this post-it isn't marking anything important here. I'll just have this, thanks ...

What? I'm helping.

My work here is done. I'm off to climb the stairs now! Bye!

And of course, I can't neglect to show you this:
First, look at that keyboard! I have worn that thing out, which makes me weirdly proud. But the missing "m" is not my doing. How easily it disengaged, with the littlest "snick" sound. She reached right for it, like she wanted that one.

Okay. The secret truth is: this is all really really fun. Clementine is getting more fun every day -- that's what everyone says, and it's true. At this rate, when does your head just explode from overload? Or do we just have an infinite capacity for cuteness tolerance? I don't know.
Hey, I'm taller than you now, devil girl!

Where can I get some horns like that?

Uh, mommy, why's this door closed ... ?

I'm going to try to be an actual blogger again, because I really miss it! Don't give up on me! I'm still heeeeeeeeeere ...

Monday, September 06, 2010


*dusts off hands*

I have finished my new book. It is done. For at least the next three days, because as you know, a book isn't "done" until someone pries it out of your hands and publishes it.

I am not feeling up to conveying the wonder of finishing a book. Tired. Happy. Tired. Happy. Going to bed.

Mwah. Goodnight.