Friday, August 31, 2007

Meet Happy German Penguin!

I just got word that Penguin has sold the German rights for Blackbringer and Silksinger too. Wheeee!!! That is my first foreign rights sale and I hope there will be many more to come. I love buying children's books when I travel to other countries -- I especially love picture books that are not only in other languages but in other alphabets. Some day I hope to see MY books in exotic, beautiful alphabets, too. The jumping-for-joy German penguin above is by Jim, who is answering to the term "art monkey" today after he did another important drawing for me yesterday, which I will show very soon. We hope there will eventually be a whole tribe of "international happy penguins" to join the one above. Each foreign rights sale, we (my art monkey and I) will add another penguin drawing. When the audio rights are sold (in the works), I envision a Penguin wearing headphones. Ha ha!

Good day to all!

P.S. Today also marks the 9-year anniversary of the day Jim and I met! It was the first day of art school in San Francisco, and early this morning nine years ago, we parked next to each other in the parking lot and then ended up in the same illustration class. . . where we were assigned to draw each other! And here we are now, married, with me begging him to draw me penguins and robots!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cupcakes & Mountain Lions, or: the bride had a snake tattoo. . .

Woo hoo! There's my baby sister Emily losing her garter to her new husband Marty on Saturday, August 25, 2007, in Paso Robles, California. Love that snake tattoo! In the past I have called Emily a "snake doctor" -- but in reality what she is is a PhD in biology who did her dissertation on rattlesnakes, and who happens to love the beasties. Fortunately, Marty loves them too -- a match made in Heaven (or at least, a match made in the Arizona desert!). Their living room and study are both dominated by custom cabinets filled with snakey after rattling snakey. At the wedding, the only snakes around were the ones on the wine glasses -- here is the art Jim did for them:

Funnily, when the glasses arrived, there were a few stuck in there from "Kate and Dean's Wedding" or some normal thing, and we were laughing to imagine Kate and Dean pulling rattlesnake glasses out of their own order!

So, there were no real snakes at the wedding, but there was a mountain lion skulking nearby. When we gals drove back in to the ranch Friday night after our "bachelorette party" we saw very plainly a very large mountain lion in the brush, only a few yards from where our husbands were gathered around the campfire. Yeeks! We could see its tail swishing as it prowled away. After that, the younger children were kept close. I was thrilled by the glimpse, though, and this makes it extra cool: at the wedding of Emily's best friends, Dawn & Rob, a few years ago in the Sonoran Desert, a bobcat prowled right past in a dry creekbed, just minutes before the ceremony began, in full view of all the guests. So, Emily and Dawn both have some kind of big cat karma, I guess.

And besides the mountain lion, there was a pig very much in attendance. Her name is Polly By Golly and she lives on site and wanders happily around, grunting.

Here's the spot, The Dancing Horse Ranch, in the middle of Central California wine country:

And here's the wedding:

Don't they look great? This was surely the first time many of the guests had seen Emily in makeup and a dress -- she's a very outdoorsy biologist-type girl, and she looked so beautiful! She got that stunning dress here in Portland from a designer on NW 23rd St. It's hand-painted silk from India. Lovely! And her hair was done by my Aunt Joyce, who was also my bridal fairy godmother.

Here's my extended family, my parents and siblings and niece and husband and honorary family members, Dawn and Rob:

It was an informal, non-religious ceremony, without a minister. Dawn was the "rev" as we called her, just as Emily was for her wedding. It makes things personal and very lovely. (I want to say thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions for readings! There were some terrific suggestions, and I ended up reading from Poetry & Marriage by Wendell Berry, as suggested by blue poppy, and Dawn incorporated the final two stanzas from Marge Piercy's The Implications of One + One** into the ceremony. I love that poem -- thanks, Tinker, for pointing me to it! And thanks to everyone else too. Marty's sister read the fabulous passage from The Velveteen Rabbit about becoming "real" -- if you haven't read it in a while, check it out.)

The bride and groom with their parents:

And lots more pictures:
Me and Jim and my freshly empinked hair:

Me with my brother and sister (Alex looking thrilled to be with us):

He looks a lot happier here, with his daughter, Isabella:

Something you see a lot of at weddings, nieces in pretty dresses:

And here's Marty, who has "a way with the ladies":


And more and more:

(Acting out the song "Kung Fu Fighting" -- )

Oh, and did I mention there were cupcakes?

**from "The Implications of One + One" by Marge Piercy:
Ten years of fitting our bodies together
and still they sing wild songs in new keys.
It is more and less than love: timing,
chemistry, magic and will and luck.

One plus one equal one, unknowable except
in the moment, not convertible into words,
not explicable or philosophically interesting.
But it is. And it is. And it is. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



We've been away five weeks. Summer is almost over. We've been gone a long time! Yesterday we drove 800 miles back from Central California to Portland, and you know what?

Oregon is BEAUTIFUL!! Oregon is HOME. It's so green, so wild. I love it! And our house! Our little yellow house was just sitting here waiting for us! My writing room, where I am right now, the room I decided I deserved after writing my first book -- we converted it from an ugly old spare bedroom into something wonderful (with the help of an awesome carpenter and some very bright paint and green furniture and polka dots.)

I am SO ready to be back to work!!! And look, my writing room has a new resident:

She's a decal; we got her at Comic-Con. Isn't she wonderful? My own little devil muse.

So, today we have to pick up the mail and scour through it for bills that might be overdue, and we have to get groceries and do laundry, but other than that. . . we're HOME and back to WORK. Yipppeeeeeeee!!!

I will post photos of my sister's wedding tomorrow, I think. It was fabulous in every way, and now she and her new husband are off in Belize on a teeny tiny island where they will not be able to hunt for reptiles for a whole week! (And then next week they will be inland, probably with a snake in one hand and a lizard in the other!)

I will show these photos now, though:

Our first night in San Luis Obispo, Jim and I had dinner with local residents the Disco Mermaids: Eve, Robin, and Jay. I've been reading their blog for a while now, since I first began discovering the treasure trove of kidlit & writing blogs out there. Jay Asher (the mermale) is my "Penguin '07 brother" -- I mentioned his terrific book Thirteen Reasons Why a few weeks ago (it's out in October). Well, we got to meet them in L.A., and I'm very glad we saw them again in San Luis, away from the madness of the conference. Fabulous dinner, local wine, wicked ice cream, Robin's adorable son Luke, and lots of great talk about writing and life. They are so lucky to have such a tight-knit writing group/friendship. I am envious. I have always been a hermit-variety writer, and the few attempts I've made at being part of a writer's group have not fared terribly well. But I read and hear about other writers' groups and fun retreats and I get jealous. Maybe some day! Maybe my best friend will even one day let me read her writing. (hint hint)

Okay, that's my quick catch-up post. Some of my 350 wedding photos tomorrow (not all, I swear!)


P.S. I have a new item to add to my list of "reasons to become a famous writer" -- apparently, they get to hold panda bears on their laps!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Big Trees

Yep, these trees are big. Looky:

This one is the biggest tree in the world, the General Sherman Sequoia:

When you're standing by it -- or rather, by the fence that prevents you from getting too close to it -- it's hard to believe it could be not merely the largest tree, but the biggest living thing in the entire world. How crazy is that? Looking at it, standing by it, somehow, it doesn't seem that big. It's not the tallest tree (it's "only" 275 ft), and it doesn't have the biggest circumference ("only" 102 feet), but all in all it manages to have the highest volume of wood in cubic feet: 52,508. And it's not that it's not impressive, it's just that somehow my brain couldn't really compute that it was that big. I had the same feeling at the Grand Canyon, but for a different reason. I mean, the Grand Canyon does look that big. So big, in fact, that its depth kind of flattens itself out, like the human eye can't quite. . . I don't know, triangulate something of that scope. But the Sherman tree wasn't quite as impressive as I expected.

But what was impressive was just walking through the Giant Forest. The trees in the Giant Forest don't have fences around them like the General Sherman do, and you can get close, and also, they're all around you, making you feel the size of a bug. The overall effect is incredible.

This is all at Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevadas. Sequoia is adjacent to King's Canyon National Park, which is vast and does not appear to be crossed by a single road. I could be wrong, but on the map it doesn't look like it. Being up in the mountains on a day trip, hitting only high-volume tourist sites, really made me want to go on a backcountry trip, which I've done only a couple of times in my life. I always want to start camping again, but we just haven't gotten around to it, and dang it, that must change.

Some basic Sequioa facts: they are not the same thing as redwood trees. A lot of people think they are; they're related but distinct. Redwoods grow only at the coast. Sequoias grow nowhere else on Earth but here in the Sierras, at around 6500 feet. Unlike redwoods. they are brittle and make crap lumber. In fact, when they topple, they tend to bust into a bunch of pieces. (Idiots logged the hell out of them anyway.) They are virtually indestructible. They're highly fire-resistant, they self-heal from forest fires (which are an essential part of their ecology and the main way their seeds are released from their cones) and are totally pest-resistant. The only natural cause of death of a Sequoia is toppling, which is not unusual, since they are really big and have really shallow roots, like redwoods, which are likened to a pin standing on its head.

Here are the roots of a toppled giant (and me and my brother-in-law Perry):

In the 19th century, folks back on the East Coast flat didn't believe reports that trees grew in California with a diameter of 20-30 feet. They didn't even believe the photos. So what do you think people did? They cut down trees and hauled cross-sections all the way across the continent in ox carts. But the cross sections were too dang big for ox carts, so the people had to cut them up and reassemble them. And of course, since they were in pieces, people didn't even believe they were from one single tree! Many of these tree chunks still remain in museums. (Feh.)

Since Sequoia wood doesn't decay, it's impossible to tell the age of a toppled giant. Many such trees are strewn around the Giant Forest, and no one knows how long they've lain there. Many are hollow and they're huge inside:

One was used as a stable and could hold over 20 horses! Twenty horses inside one hollow tree!

I love trees. I read a book recently I keep meaning to blog about -- I keep meaning to write an "Earth's Greatest Hits" about trees, but I haven't gotten around to it -- the books is The Wild Trees, and it's about the botanists who pioneered redwood canopy ecology in the 1990s. Until then, no one had climbed a redwood to see what was up there!!! On a mature redwood tree, the first branches that can bear a person's weight occur at the equivalent of the 20th floor of a building (geez!) so they're, um, not easy to climb. This book goes into the way this group of botanists gradually figured out how to climb them with relative safety (it's still crazy-unsafe. don't try it.) and it's a very exciting book. Read it! There's lots of obsession in it, as well as really cool trees, and it's a love story too. Cool!

Here are Jim and Perry eating ice cream at Lodgepole Visitor Center -- Jim's wearing my sunglasses.

And the very polite trash cans in the park:

Go hug a tree! Ooh, that reminds me of a very lame bumper sticker I saw on a teenager's car here in Flat City. It said, "Tree-huggers suck." What? In what possible vision of the Universe do tree-huggers suck? Tree-hugger-haters suck! Hug a tree-hugger!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Joy & Stuff

So, what do you do for a wedding reading at the wedding of people who aren't "gushy"? The wedding of a couple of snake-wrangling science types who would probably snort if you started to say, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. . ." or anything like that. Yes, I'm talking about my snakey sister, whose wedding invitations (drawn by Jim and I) had a lizard on them, and whose wedding wine glasses bear a design of intertwined rattlesnakes (drawn by Jim) -- I'd post those images, but I'm still on the alien computer! "Wedding poetry" is gushy, old-fashioned stuff, mostly. Not their thing. So I've been looking for something a little more appropriate, and I'm not sure exactly what I'll read yet, but today at the bookstore I got lost in poetry.

Been a while since that happened. I'm pro-poetry, but I just haven't had the time for it in a while, I guess. Or made the time. When you feel like you don't have time and you crack open a poetry book, you can't really read it, you sort of look at it, but that's different. When you do really read it, settle into it, it can kind of tackle you with the fresh realization of how magnificent, how limber, how glittering, is language. I browsed through a lot of books and culled bits from here and there, but there was one anthology called Dancing With Joy, that has so many brilliant joyful poems in it. I just have to pass on some lines found in this and other books:

"Jump into experience while you are alive!
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?"
- Kabir

". . .We must risk delight.
We can do without pleasure, but not delight.
We must have the stubborness to accept our gladness
in the ruthless furnace of this world. . ."
- Jack Gilbert, from A Brief for the Defense

"Suddenly I realized that if I stepped out of my body I would break into blossom."
- James Wright, from A Blessing

"The body does not wear out with
use, nor does love, so let us
use each other in the best of ways
as the hours jump off the cliff."
- Marge Piercy, from The Real Hearth

from Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for--
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world--
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy. . .

from Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

These are days we live
as if death was nowhere,
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

And man, if I haven't lost you yet, check out this depiction of a blissful girl:

by Tony Hoagland
Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she's a conjugated verb.
She's been doing the direct object
with a second person pronoun named Phil,
and when she walks into the room,
everybody turns:

some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious,
and the bees, if they were here, would buzz
suspiciously around her hair,looking
for the door in her corona.
We're all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy.

we've all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets,
and clap.

Cripes. Dude can write!

Any ideas for a great non-gushy wedding reading will be appreciated!

I treated myself to a dress from Anthropologie to wear to the wedding; it's blue-violet and so cute, and today I found some great, unexpected shoes to go with. I think I've found a stylist to pinken up my hair on monday, and tomorrow, Jim and I are going to Sequoia National Park to see the world's largest tree, amid many of the world's almost-largest trees! I can't WAIT! Hope you have a great weekend too!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer places

I feel like we're in limbo, these weeks we are passing in "Flat City" -- it's strange. The reason we're here is because it seemed silly to drive all the way back to Oregon for a week or two then turn around and drive all the way back for my sister's wedding out in San Luis Obispo. It seemed reasonable to stay here -- we mostly have Jim's mom's house to ourselves, it's spacious and cool, and we can work. And it's fine.

But I was just thinking about "summer" and what that meant when I was a kid. Clicking around to various blogs, I see vacation pics of kids at lakes and beaches, smiling, fishing, playing with their cousins, doing summery stuff, and I am launched back to childhood summers and how GREAT they were. How golden. I want that again. For all the years since college came to its unceremonious end, plunking me into the working world, I've been missing that golden stretch of months. I want to recreate those summers as an adult. If/when we have kids, I definitely want them, but I also want them NOW.

For the past few years, summer has been nothing special -- we go on some fun "work" trips like SCBWI and Comic-Con, and maybe to the Oregon Coast for a weekend, and that's about it; we always ending up working a lot, like the deadlines pile up in the summer. What I am itching for is that drained, contented feeling I used to get as a kid, walking the two blocks home from the beach late in the afternoon, my hair crunchy with dried salt, sand between my toes. I'd stop home for a shower and dinner and then head back out for the "passegiata" with friends -- that's when Italians go strolling in the evenings to have a gelato and greet everyone they know. I want a real summer. A vacation house somewhere with a world to lazily explore. A dock with a kayak on it, quiet water, a long trail through a forest, a country store, a cool bottle of wine on a deck. A stack of fat books, a frisbee, a happy, tired dog or two. A hammock.

Weeks of it. Yeah. That's summer. I want to vow to do that next year, somewhere, to rent a house for, say, three weeks, somewhere warm but not too hot, with a body of water -- could be lake, river, or ocean. It has to be beautiful and just the right mix of laziness and activity. Where should we go? Any ideas?

Where are some of your favorite "summer places"?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Psychic conditioner

Greetings from Flat City. There’s not much to say about this place. It has plenty of stores and plenty of subdivisions and plenty of air-conditioning. We’ve been staying indoors mostly, me writing, Jim redesigning his website. Going over to his sister’s house to play with our niece Grace, who’s two and a half, and avoiding holding our new niece, Abigail, who’s a month old. Newborns are amazing and all, but they scare me, and they’re not all that fun to play with -- have you ever noticed that? I remember my disappointment when my sister was born. I was five and I thought I was getting a little sister to play with. Not so much! Of course, she got more interesting later on.

(Hi Em!)

Speaking of my sister -- she's the snake doctor -- she’s getting married in a few weeks, which explains us being still in California. Thought we might as well stay. Weird to be away from home so long. I really can’t wait to get back to our little house and my polka dot ceiling. Sure, you can write anywhere, but you know, I’m a creature of habit and I want my habits back, my huge morning coffee, my green bench, all of it. I’m doing what I can here, but I kind of just want to loll around and read books by all the writers I’ve been meeting. I love reading books by people I've met!

I just read the advance copy of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Whoa. It’s a great, original premise for a book, extremely sensitive and insightful and quietly, unsparingly tragic. And there’s no melodrama -- it just tells this very real story. If I were to try to tell someone what happened to Hannah Baker, I wouldn’t be able to make you understand. The story has to unfold, and Jay does unfold it, and he makes you feel it, the intensity of being a teenager when even little things seem so enormous and inescapable. Reading it, I kept getting swept up in anger. Anger at the snowballing circumstances, at how things can go slightly wrong, and then wronger and wronger, and I was angry at Jay for telling this story -- but I mean that in a good way. I’m sure he wants his readers to feel anger, and it works. If you don’t know, the book is about teen suicide. I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that. And how can you not feel anger and helplessness when confronted with that subject? Well done, Jay! Thanks for the ARC -- I owe you a book.

I’m also rereading Valiant by Holly Black and enjoying the heck out of it. What a smooth storyteller she is, and what a strange world she creates. I’m so in it now, I won’t be able to get any writing done. You know what that means: it's time to cut myself off. After I finish it I won’t be allowed to start any more books for a while. I have to crack down on myself. Reading is just so much easier than writing that if I let myself I would do only that. Sigh.

Update on the pink hair. Sigh. Hair grows fast. Who knew? I don’t want roots! I just want Tonks-pink hair and no maintainence. But it doesn’t work that way. Do I re-pink? Yes, I think I shall re-pink. For now anyway. As for the future, we shall see. Speaking of hair, after Jim showered today, he called out from the bathroom:

"Hey sweetie? You know how sometimes couples have a kind of psychic bond or intuition and they can tell when the other one is hurt or in trouble or something?"

Me: "Um. Yeah?"

Jim: "Well, are you getting any intuition about whether I conditioned my hair, because I was spacing out in the shower and I can't remember if I did or not."

ha ha. I did not have any psychic flashes about Jim's conditioner. Sorry I couldn't help, sweetie.

[Oh, and a few minutes later he called out, "You're totally going to blog that, aren't you?" -- and I was just thinking exactly that. There's intuition for you!]

Oh, and my new desktop on my laptop is totally Boba Fett holding my book. Awesome.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thumbs up from Boba Fett!

This is going to be a long post with lots of photos, in many of which I am smiling like an absolute maniac. I need to learn to smile a little more elegantly, perhaps cultivate a bit of “cool.” But whatever -- I have had a lot to smile about! Before I launch into my many photos and exclamation points about Comic-Con and SCBWI, I can FINALLY share my exciting news! I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months, bursting to blog about it, gnashing my teeth and wringing my hands, and now I finally can tell you:

[And no, I am not pregnant, which several different people have guessed was my news.]

I sold a book to Arthur Levine!!!
I sold a book to Arthur Levine!!!

It’s unrelated to my Dreamdark series, which remains happily esconced at Putnam, with Silksinger on the way. This other book is called Goblin Fruit, and it’s for teens, and it’s creepy and supernatural and sexy and romantic, and it’s going to be fully illustrated by Jim! How AWESOME is that? Not illustrated like a graphic novel, but more like a lush old fairy tale book from the turn of the century with lots of beautiful black and white drawings and fancy borders and stuff like that. And this weekend we got to hang out with the awesome Arthur Levine and the also-awesome Rachel Griffiths, who came up in publishing as Arthur’s editorial assistant and whose eyeballs were the first ones at Scholastic to read my manuscript -- thank you for liking it, Rachel!!!

I’ll get into all that later down in this long, long post. For a moment, just let me do the Snoopy Dance about Goblin Fruit. Wheeee!!! Jim and I have wanted to collaborate on illustrated fiction for a long time. Years. But no one was really doing illustrated novels, not the way we imagined them. And then along came a little book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Actually, it’s enormous.) And then another (coming soon) called The Arrival. Gorgeous books that take risks with new formats to make really exciting ART -- and both are published by Scholastic, so it really seems like our book has found the perfect home! I can’t WAIT to see how it comes together.
(Arthur A. Levine Books is an imprint of Scholastic, and it’s most famous for publishing the Harry Potter books.)
But now, on to Comic-Con!


So fun! Imagine over 100,000 people in one place worshipping comic books and fantasy novels and Japanese toys, sci-fi movies and TV shows, art, T-shirts, art, toys, art, video games, art. Artists, writers, movie stars, nerds. The humanity! See:

Jim making friends with robots:

Me with the magnificent Iorek Byrnison (God, I can’t WAIT for that movie!):

Jim getting throttled by Darth Vader:

The cutest little Princess Leia ever -- and that’s saying a lot because I was Princess Leia when I was her age too:

Honesty in marketing:

And some Buffy folks were just strolling around. Here’s Tara (Amber Benson), with the guy who killed her and was later flayed alive by a very angry Willow:

The weird thing is, Tara always seemed tall compared to Buffy and Willow, but Amber Benson is a small girl. I guess Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alison Hannigan must be TINY LITTLE ELVEN girls!

And here’s the werewolf from Underworld with the crazy deep voice. He really talks like that:

So we walked around, spent too much money on things like wall decals and jewelry and art books from European publishers, and we bought a page of original art from our very talented friend Jason Shawn Alexander:

We met him at our very first Comic-Con, I think six years ago, and his career has really blossomed since then. One of the best things about Comic-Con and SCBWI both is seeing other writers and artists this one time a year and getting caught up on all their new success. It’s wonderful to see talented people succeeding in creative careers!

On Friday, I got to be on a panel -- my first Comic-Con panel -- and I want to show you the line of people who showed up just to see ME ahem, Holly Black, Frank Beddor, etc:

And here is HALF the assembled crowd. Neat, huh?

(I’m such a nerd to show you that.) And HERE is the panel:

The topic was VILLAINS and we got to talk about why villains are so great and why they’re so important -- if you haven’t really thought about it before, in a fantasy or adventure story, it’s really the villain’s desire that drives the plot, so it’s got to be good. A good bad desire. I love writing villains; it comes with [relative] ease, it’s FUN. As I said on the panel, there’s this line in Wim Wenders’ movie Wings of Desire in which two angels are lamenting all the things they don’t get to do because they’re angels, and one of them says, with deep yearning, “Just once, to enthuse for evil!” I LOVE that line, and I feel like that’s what we do when we write villains. We enthuse for evil.

I read aloud this passage describing a secondary villain in Blackbringer. This is the grossest thing I had ever written and it was such fun:

“Its mottled brown skin had the texture of dried gut stretched over a skull, and so crude were its features it seemed to have been sculpted in the dark, and with one obvious omission: it had no mouth. Or rather, its mouth was a mass of scar tissue with no opening. It was pulled so tight it was clear there were teeth beneath, many teeth, and that they were well sharp enough to eat through its own puckered flesh and make an opening there, as it had clearly done many times in the past. Abominably, the creature’s mouth was a wound that healed shut when it went too long between feedings.”

Eeek! Okay -- that’s really the stand-out gross part of the book, so don’t let it discourage you from reading it if you’re anti-gross!

The panel itself was fun, and meeting the other writers was awesome. Holly Black! She happens to be hidden behind that walking boy in the photo above, so here’s a picture of us from the next day:

She’s so cool, and her books are awesome, dark, edgy urban fantasy -- it was a big geek-out moment for me to meet her! Also, I love her eyeliner. But the BEST part is that her first words to me were, “I just read your book.” Eh what? Really? Sweet! And she liked it!

Also on the panel and couldn’t-be-nicer, Jon Lewis, half of the duo that writes the Grey Griffins books (the other half is Derek Benz who was up there too -- they’ve been best friends since they were little kids and look: they grew up to write books together and travel around to schools talking about writing. What a great inspiration they are to kids!)

After the panel, Jim and I had dinner with our agent Jane, who’d come down from LA, and my editor Tim and the other Penguin Young Readers folks who’d come out from New York. Here are Tim, Lisa, Donna, and Erin. Lisa and Erin are both powerful marketing forces at Penguin, as well as nice and silly and just nerdy enough to really enjoy Comic-Con. After dinner, Tim taught us all how to tie a bow tie, which is his signature wardrobe item.

Dessert looked like an alien had landed:

Saturday was my signing in the Penguin booth. I think we were all a little uncertain going in whether I would sell many books. I had visions of sitting at my little table with the pen gripped in my fist and a desperate, pleading smile plastered across my face while Stormtroopers and elf maidens sashayed by, heedless. But that’s not what happened! As you saw at the beginning of this post, even Boba Fett loves my book! Ha ha ha! The signing went GREAT. We sold LOTS of books and I felt like a star. Look at this photo of excited girls buying my book:

And as you see here, Tim seems to have matched his bow tie to my hair for the occasion:

Tim and I got away from the mob for a while afterward to talk about the progress of Silksinger, and you know, I’m still new enough to this whole thing that I think it’s very neat to be sitting in a beer garden with my editor talking about my next book. My next book!!! What beautiful words. Most of the time this writing life is very different -- a lot of sitting in my writing room moving forward with the story and emerging every once in a while for coffee or a sandwich. That’s why the past few weeks have been so wonderful -- being surrounded by readers and writers and editors, talking shop, before I slide back into my cocoon of story. I love and value this time of year GREATLY.

I have to admit, though, how eager I am now that it’s over, to slide back into that cocoon. I know a lot of writers write every day of the year no matter what -- I am not so virtuous. I may do that for weeks and even a few months at a time, but not all year round. For me, I find a break of a few weeks, then going back and reading my current project “fresh” can be just the thing to get me re-energized and back to work with enthusiasm. So that begins the moment this insanely long blog post is up!

Funny thing about blogs -- writing about things seems to make them more real. If a tree falls in the forest and no one blogs about it, did it really happen? ha ha. I have to relate a funny story from the eve of SCBWI when we eager writers were having our first drinks in the swanky hotel lounge. Jay Asher, aka Disco Mermaid, told how in the bathroom after dinner he had. . . [bodily function alert here] peed in the urinal next to John Green (I’m sure John Green doesn’t mind me passing along the rumor that he pees) -- and that the thought that went through Jay’s mind was, “Man, I’m peeing next to John Green. I am so blogging about this!” HA HA! What blogger cannot relate to that?

But before I get on to SCBWI there are three idyllic days in the Valley. Three Days in the Valley. Isn’t that a movie? The “Valley” is that vast suburban sprawl outside LA where “valley girls” were spawned, and it’s where Alexandra’s wonderful parents live, and where I spent three days lolling poolside (in the thick shade of a terrace AND an umbrella, I should add -- I don’t tan. No. Three days by an LA pool and I’m as Oregonian-looking as ever. I used to tan, but those days are over for me. Tan = bad. Tan = wrinkles and possibly surgery and possibly even death.)
So, in my continuing pallor, I read books! I read the second Temeraire book, and I read Girl At Sea by Maureen Johnson, whose blog is great (and her books too, or course!) I also bought a huge polka-dotted notebook and wrote extravagant, detailed notes for a story idea that I will get to some time in the future (that I’m really really really really excited about!!) Alexandra is studying for her licensing exams to become a psychotherapist, so this summer is study study study for her, and this pool terrace is such a great study spot. Pool, two hot tubs, lots of chairs, shade, the sound of a waterfall. Beautiful! And it felt like real vacation to me. We also went for long walks each morning and got the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had. And sushi. And we did purifying face masks and had a photo shoot:

Yes, we’re both 35. No, we don’t feel obliged to act like it.
Alexandra also had a little swim. . . in her clothes and shoes. . . because Jim dared her to on the phone. I didn’t realize she was so susceptible to dares. What can I dare her to do next. . . ?

And we went on safari to find my book in bookstores, and to buy a cake pan my mother had told us about -- a mythical, wonderful cake pan that, if rumors were true, would make a cake that looked like. . . are you ready for this? A single giant cupcake!!! And the rumors were true! We found it!

We also had dinner with some family friends of Alexandra’s in some little cool neighborhoody part of LA -- I can’t remember what it was called. At the next table was the guy who sang “Solid as a Rock” -- Ashford & Simpson? When someone said that, I thought they said “Ashley Simpson” -- or is spelled Ashlee or something? Anyway, the dude from Ashford & Simpson looks nothing like Ashlee Simpson.

That evening, eight-year-old Olivia entertained me with her eyebrows and her dramatic reactions to my book:

Okay, phew. SCBWI

This was, I think, my fifth time going to this conference, and I’ve written about past ones in more detail, and I’ve said that it’s meant everything to me as a writer, and to my career. I met my agent Jane there, and heard my editor Tim speak and thought, “Hm, he might like my book!” and even before that, I attended workshops that really got my book on track. Every year it’s been inspiration and solid advice, and networking. This year it was all of that too, but I admit, the emphasis was a little more on the FUN, and hanging out with writers and having a glass of wine, of getting to know new people, and catching up with people I’ve met before or know from blogs, and talking and gossiping about writing and publishing and books books books! That’s not to say I didn’t love the workshops and talks done by writers and artists like John Green, Kadir Nelson, Peter Brown, Kirby Larson, Tamora Pierce, and more -- that was great too!

Jim and I also got to meet. . . in the lobby of our hotel. . . none other than John Edwards! The next president of the United States! Well, if it was up to us, he would be. We [heart] him. And there he was, right in front of us! We shook hands with him! Later, we got to have some drinks with his campaign staffers and they told me that when he came back into the hotel he said, “There’s that girl with the pink hair.” HA HA! I knew this pink hair was a good idea!!
The best best best part for me was meeting Rachel Griffiths and Arthur Levine, and talking with great excitement about Goblin Fruit -- and with Elizabeth Parisi also, who is the Executive Art Director at Scholastic. Here are Jim and me with Arthur and Elizabeth. We seem to be a study in green (also, see what I mean about my maniacally and exuberantly uncool smile? No "cool" person ever looked this absurdly happy!):

And with Rachel:

As I mentioned before, Rachel was the first one to read my manuscript at Scholastic, and she has been a cheerleader for it -- handing it off to Arthur when he just stepped off the plane home from Bologna. She told me she was fanning herself while reading it (as I said, it’s sexy, but it’s “clean sexy,” that is, it’s steamy without being in any way explicit. It’s about desire and kissing and souls and love and it has goblins in it and demons and shapeshifters and shadows reeled out on kite strings!) Rachel was still at the Levine imprint when Goblin Fruit came to her, but she has since been promoted to full editor at Scholastic Press. Go, Rachel! She tells me, though, that she still sits in the same place and she’ll still be a part of the editorial process for Goblin Fruit.
Can I just say here what awesome people work in children’s publishing? The whole Putnam gang is wonderful, and I had such fun with them in San Diego, and the Scholastic bunch too. Fun-loving, book-loving smart funny people. What a blessing.
And more and more pictures:

And I got to meet bloggers in person! Here is Amber:

And Rilla in her Saturday night costume:

And the fabulous Disco Mermaids!

They are the life of the party and I’d seen them in past years always livening things up like they do, with their costumes and boogie. I’m very excited to say I finagled an ARC of Jay Asher’s forthcoming book Thirteen Reasons Why from him and it’s next on my to-read list. I’m so excited about it! He, like me, is another SCBWI success story -- this conference has been an integral part of his own road to publication, and he was far more generous than me in passing on the goood karma -- he actually held a contest and paid the winner’s not-inconsiderable conference fees! (Hi Stephanie!) I didn’t even think of doing that. Way to go, mermaids!

And here are the incomparable “Washington girls” as Jim and I call them, the regional advisors for the Western Washington chapter of the SCBWI:

Left to right, not including me, that’s: Jim, Sara, Jaime, Jolie, and Kirby Larson. Sara and Jolie are the RAs, Jaime the Illustrator’s Coordinator, and Kirby is the Newbery-Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky which I JUST finished reading last night, after a fevered 24-hour reading period. It’s a MARVELOUS book about a 16-year-old girl homesteading in Montana alone in 1918. It’s so full of heart, narrative quirkiness, period detail that makes you feel what it was like to live then. And Kirby was a fabulous speaker, not to mention quite a cloak-and-dagger spy late Saturday night when interesting things were afoot in the hotel. . . enough said!
Aside from writing and illustrating together, Sara and Jaime are also. . . water ballerinas! This too, is late Saturday night, in clear defiance of the posted pool usage times:

They were EXTREMELY graceful, let me just say.
Oh yes, and here is me in a fancy mustache made of chocolate. Mere moments later, I ate my own mustache.

The conference always ends too soon. It started on friday morning, and friday was so long and packed with workshops and speakers and meet-n-greet and even a Mongolian throat singer, that it seemed each day would stretch on forever like that, but then. . . suddenly, it was monday afternoon and the authors were all gathered round signing their books and we were eating cupcakes and saying goodbye to each other.


One last thing. We drove from the general Beverly Hills-ish area of the hotel over to Koreatown to visit our friend Jason in his art studio. In the week since we’d last seen him at Comic-Con he’d shaved off his mohawk! We looked at his amazing paintings, and then went down the hall to see some amazing scuptures by the too-cute-to-be-real Ver Mar, who as you see in the photo below, has mastered the art of not smiling like a big eager dork in pictures.

She always looks perfect and cool, and I dig her eyeliner as much as Holly Black’s. Do I need to start experimenting with eyeliner? No no. Just kidding. What a mess I would make. But aside from the cuteness, Ver really is an amazing sculptor. I hope some day to own a piece. Meanwhile, the page of comic art we bought from Jason will be prominently hung when we get home.

If we get home.

This isn’t the end of our journey. Still on the road. But my goodness, it is such a fine thing to have my computer back! It has been a kind of misery trying to putz about on various PCs in the past few weeks. Alien computers! I love my Mac! LOVE it. MWAH!

This brings to a close the longest post I have ever posted. I hope you enjoyed it!