Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last day in New York

Clearly, best blogging intentions have come to naught. Sorry. We're having a fabulous time and will have lots of photos that will probably interest only us! Had cupcakes at midnight in Greenwich Village last night, and now we have a morning to see some city before going to the Coraline musical this afternoon. I think we're going to try to find that skeleton store we passed in a rush in Soho the other day. Can you carry skeletons on the airplane?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Expo!

Leaving in the morning for New York, bright and early. SO EXCITED! I have *good intentions* of blogging a bit from there. We'll see how that goes.


Monday, May 25, 2009

baby name!

We've been back and forth on names for the little wiggler. The list grows and shrinks, then grows again. Jim has taken to throwing out random words, and yesterday while we were walking Leroy, he came up with an excellent one:


Professor. Little Professor Di Bartolo! Can't you just picture an adorable tiny girl sitting in first grade with her hand raised, and in order to call on her the teacher has to say, "Yes, Professor?"

Ha ha ha!!! We love it. The situations for hilarity are endless. While it's unlikely we'll actually name our daughter that, it is highly possible I'll use it for a character one of these days, so: don't steal it :-)

Tee hee hee.

Oh, and by the way, you might not have to experiment with this to know, but I discovered it yesterday: yellow is not the very best choice for toe nail polish, unless you are going for a slightly diseased look. What can I say? When it comes to color, I am impulsive. At least my shoes are mostly closed-toe at this moment in time. (But if you see me in the next few days, ask me to show you my yellow toe nails; I shall oblige.)


Saturday, May 23, 2009

cool news!

Really cool news!

The audio rights for Silksinger have sold to Brilliance Audio, and the German and Italian rights to Lips Touch have sold! Yay!!!!! Italian rights! I'm so excited about that! And my love of German publishers and readers continues to grow :-) This makes me feel both giddy and greedy for more. More languages! More rights! Mwahaha!!!

Brilliance has done something extremely cool, which is: they've made up packets of Rathersting tattoos to promote the audio of Silksinger, and will be giving them away at their booth at BEA! How awesome! I haven't met any of the folks there [yet] but I love them already.

BEA draws near and my excitement mounts. I've learned something incredible: at BEA, all the books are free. Can you believe? How will I stop myself from grabbing armfuls of books, just because I can? I mean, I can't carry them all day, or fit them in my luggage to bring home. I'll have to be very selective. The Catching Fire ARC for example :-) Jim and I are sure to be doing rock-paper-scissors over who gets to read it first. OR we'll be reading it side-by-side on the plane, ha ha.

Oh, and I'm going to be signing ARCs of Lips Touch in the Scholastic booth on Saturday, May 30 from 3:30-4:30, which is directly after the Buzz Authors Panel (Downtown Author's Stage, 2 - 3:15).

Have a lurvely weekend :-) Oh! Wait! I just found this video, which the lovely Kim Baker created for the Western Washington SCBWI conference last weekend. The subject: A world without SCBWI.

SCBWI Tribute from Kimberly C. Baker on Vimeo.

Isn't that great? It's a tribute to the amazing Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, who created the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators in 1971 (the year I was born!). I've said many times before: without SCBWI I don't know that I would be published. Every step of the way, from me figuring out how to finally finish a novel (and how to make it a good one), to getting to hear editors speak about what kinds of books they were looking for, so that I would know who to submit to, SCBWI has been lighting the path of my own journey.

If you want to write for children, you absolutely must attend SCBWI conferences (well, it's not so much you must; I do occasionally hear tell of folks who've gotten published without it :-) but it really does help so much, illuminating a world that might seem mysterious and hard to access when you're just sitting at home typing up queries, etc. Plus, the people are amazing and it's So Much Fun. The first year I went to the LA conference was a real stretch financially, but I now believe it's one of those things you have to make happen, because it is so worth it.

Speaking of the LA conference, I am so sad Jim and I can't go this year because, as always, it's shaping up to be incredible. But we will be otherwise occupied either a) having a baby; b) waiting for a slightly late baby; or c) figuring out what to do with a baby! Ha ha. But you should go. Check out the awesomeness!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Leroy's Road Trip

We've been out of town yet again, this time with Leroy along for the ride. I mean, who could resist this face?
Not us!

Where? To California, northern Marin County coast, to be exact, to meet Jim's family at a beach house near Point Reyes. Not that Leroy cares so much about the destination. He just loves to be in the car. I think it's the most content he ever is, sitting in his backseat nest with both of us nearby, in easy monitoring distance (it's his job, after all, and when he can't keep an eye on both of us at the same time, he's in a quandary), while interesting sights and smells zip by outside the window.

We split the trip in two, rather than driving straight through as we often do. I was having seemingly relentless Braxton Hicks contractions in the car as we got further and further from Portland, which gave me a little anxiety. They've continued, off and on, and Jim and I have joked about naming the baby Braxton Hicks Di Bartolo. But not really, obviously. I called the midwife's office at 11 pm and was connected to the [sleepy] doctor on call, who assured me I was not going into labor, which I didn't really think I was. I bet obstetricians get a lot of annoying Braxton Hicks calls. Anyway, we spent the night in Ashland and my uterus calmed down a little, then the next day it was on to California.

Leroy was pretty tired that night.
The next day dawned perfectly sunny, and we were off to the beach, where Leroy protected us from all the rollicking dogs who, being less inclined to attempt to kill any fellow canines, were off leash.
Leroy is never off leash. He would attempt to reduce the four-legged-creature population of the Earth -- cats, dogs, horses, whatever. He might be 15-1/2, but he's "still dangerous":

That was Dillon Beach, at the mouth of Tamales Bay. After, we drove down along the east edge of the bay to Point Reyes Station and out to Limantour Beach, in Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is a spectacularly gorgeous spot, first discovered (by non-indigenous-people, that is) in the 1570s by Sir Francis Drake and his ship The Golden Hind. Funnily enough, it was another 200 years before the very nearby San Francisco Bay was discovered. Though one of the world's great natural harbors, its mouth is so small (you know it as where the Golden Gate Bridge is) as to be invisible from the sea. So many ships passed it right by, and in the mid-1700s it was finally discovered by an overland expedition. Funny.

Anyway. Leroy didn't really care about the history.

Leroy wasn't the only sleepy one that night.

So, that's Leroy's road trip. You wouldn't know it from that travelogue, but there were other people there too, and really pretty scenery.
the tiny town of Tamales

Tamales Bay

Jim's mom and sister and two nieces


Grace, 4-1/2

(the little wiggler in my belly could have this amazing coloring. Jim did, when he was wee. We've never had red hair in my family. Between us, we have every [caucasian] coloring possibility; so curious was little Braxton Hicks Di Bartolo is going to look like! (ha ha!)

Clam soda, anyone?

Limantour Beach, pre-beach

Limantour beach

My ever-growing belly

nest in the dunes; we took a little nap here, or at least I did.

These were blooming in vast hummocks all over the Limantour headlands

So that's a day at the beach. Lovely, perfect spring day, but still breezy and chilly when one is not tucked into a dune nest amid the sawgrass. The ocean = freezing. I still plot and scheme for the sort of beach days of my youth, in the Mediterranean (I'll take Mexico, too :-) with warm water, hot sand, an umbrella for shade, a bungalow to walk toward lazily. I was recalling how insanely sandy I'd get as a kid, after all day at the beach in Italy (we prided ourselves for never missing a single day, not even when it rained, which was rare; when it rained we'd go down and do gymnastics on the hard-packed sand, then eat gelato in a cafe) -- so sandy that I'd have to scratch the sand out of my scalp with my fingernails in the shower, and the liner of my bathing suit would be heavy with sand. My brother had this trick called bulldozer where, if you were silly enough to lie down in the sand anywhere he might get at you, he'd steamroll the entire length of your body, including grinding your face into the sand. We also played "powdered donuts" which was exactly what it sounds like. Some mornings, my neighbor/best friend Jennifer and I would get up at dawn and go the two blocks to the beach to build entire sand cities before the sun came up and the masses started to arrive. And then, there were the peddleboat expeditions. Those were great summers.

Some day there will be warm sea and hot sand again. With a lot of sunscreen!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Donkeys & Pie

I didn't get a chance to put up these pictures last week, because of the dash to get ready to go to Seattle (we went to Seattle twice in one week, with the class I spoke to last Tuesday and then going back up for the conference; it's only about a 3-1/2-hour drive, but you know, it adds up). In going to the Seattle SCBWI conference, we had to miss the Portland one, and one of my favorite editors was here to speak at it. Luckily, she was able to come in a day early, and we went to meet some donkeys :-)

This is me with Abigail Samoun, of Tricycle Press.

She's in the acknowledgments of Blackbringer because she was so pivotal for me in the writing of my first novel. We met at an SCBWI national conference (in LA) some years ago (4, maybe?) and she followed up with me after, expressing interest in my faerie art. She asked if I'd thought of writing a story to go with the characters (who were Magpie, Poppy, and Whisper) and I answered that, in fact, I'd begun a mid-grade novel. She offered to take a look at it (eek!) and I sent her the first 6 chapters . . . and she liked them! She wanted to see more. So . . . I had to write more.

And that, I think, is why Blackbringer was written. I mean, why I was able to deal with my issues with perfectionism and finish it. Her feedback was always wonderful, and she has this incredible knack for offering editorial feedback that never put me on the defensive, but just made me think, "Yeah, she's so right." Really: amazing. A couple of years passed as I worked on it, and the book was eventually published by another publisher (Putnam), but Abi was a huge part of the process.


Anyway, we went out to Apifera Farms to meet her blog friend Katherine and Katherine's donkeys, who as you see from the first photo above, love pie.

Lucky for the donkeys, Katherine makes a mean pie. This is not a "donkey pie" per se, despite its little decoration, but the donkeys did get to enjoy some, and so did we:


Um, my battery is in red again, so no time for links! Heh, I don't mind an excuse to skip links :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

quick conference post that won't do it justice

My computer battery is down to a smidge and I'm exhausted from a wonderful SCBWI weekend, so this will be very short and without hyperlinks. Sorry about that! We just got home from the Western Washington annual conference, held just outside Seattle, and as always, it was fantastic. The conference faculty included: Jon Scieszka, the actual ambassador of children's literature (really -- he even has a medal!), Adam Rex, and Ellen Hopkins, not to mention the usual wealth of editors, agents, art directors, and others.

Hastily, I shall throw up some pictures:

The incredibly talented author-illustrator Adam Rex:
Did you know he's working on a YA novel now? It won't even be illustrated at all. What a wild talent he is, seriously. And so funny. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, don't miss it! I'm still reading "Smekday" -- haven't had much reading time the past few days. Love it so far. Did you know his first draft of it was a picture book ms? And that it was called "Smegday"? ha ha!

Ellen Hopkins, also a fantastic and inspiring speaker. She revealed the personal and very moving background to her writing her first novel, Crank, which was: her teenage daughter's tragic meth addiction. She went on to say that no matter how high her publishing journey carries her (multiple NYT bestsellers, required school reading lists, 200 emails/day from readers), there is always the sadness of her daughter's life there to anchor her down. She and her husband are currently raising their daughter's son as their own child, and he is a lucky boy to have them.
Well, that's Ellen in the right foreground, with the blonde hair. (This is what conferences look like in the evenings!) I found out from her talk that my first ever SCBWI conference was also hers. I think it was 2002. She's really had crazy success since then, and it's richly deserved.

Jim and I with Justina Chen Headley, whose book North of Beautiful is half cropped out.
Can't wait to read it! I've heard such fantastic things, and I've loved Justina's previous two books.

Ah. With Sara Easterly, showing you what pregnant ladies drink at cocktail parties:

This is really too awesome. On Friday night, there were two ladies in Rathersting tattoos! Isn't this GREAT?? I'll add them to the Rathersting gallery very soon. Thank you so much, Pam!

With the darling Suzanne Young, with whom Jim and I and Emily Whitman carpooled from Portland to Seattle:
Suzanne's first book, The Naughty List, is coming out from Razorbill next February. Emily's first novel, Radiant Darkness, came out a few weeks ago, and is a retelling of the Persephone myth. It's currently at the top of my stack!

Oh yeah. Frankenstein was there too:
And a couple of mad scientists on stage. And I don't have photo documentation, but I also sighted Nancy Pearl, who is the model of the librarian action figure you have probably seen at one time or another.

Eek! My battery just turned red. Must hit Publish. More soon!

[next day] Whew. Computer's plugged in now, but I'm still too lazy to put in all those links above. You can google what interests you :-) I just wanted to add how inspiring SCBWI energy is, and how I always leave conferences so full of ideas and anxious to get to work. Arriving on Friday, seeing all the familiar faces in the hotel lobby, it was just such a joy. And each conference: new faces are added, folks I will be happy to see at future events and hear their good news as they continue on their publishing journeys.

Some words of wisdom from my scant conference notes:

"If you don't make mistakes, you won't make anything." -- a rug company ad (ha ha!)

And Ellen Hopkins said: "People will tell you that you can't sell books right now [in the current economic market] but you can. You can't sell mediocre books now, or maybe even good books. You can sell great books."

There was a fair amount of discussion of the market, and the general vibe from the conference faculty was: publishers are still buying books, because if they didn't, they'd have no product! Do your part: keep buying books!

Here, the irreverent Jon Scieszka incites kids to "salaam" his ambassador medal in a church in Nebraska:
tee hee!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An extremely weird (and beautiful) picture book

My dear friend Alexandra went to Mexico a few weeks ago, in the midst of the initial outlandish swine flu panic-mongering, no less, and she brought us back (in addition to an awesomely wicked devil's head mask made out of a horse's jaw bone), a really weird and beautiful picture book. It's in Spanish, and it's called "El aprendizaje amoroso" (what does that mean? The amorous students? The lovers of learning? What?) but it's originally a French publication, written by Laetitia Bourget and illustrated by Emmanuelle Houdart, and it's a book that we oughtn't expect to see picked up in the US any time soon. Why?

Too weird for Americans. There's stuff like this:

Penises don't go over well in American children's books--not even juvenile penises. Did you know that In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak has been challenged (perhaps actually even banned, does anyone know?) because of this illustration:
Gadzooks! A tiny penis! Children must not learn of the existence of such things! It's so silly. No, it's beyond silly. It's absurd. But anyway.

I don't know what the text of this book says; it's in Spanish, but the art is so strange and beautiful. Look, there's peeing:

And balancing on miniature elephants:

Cool, no?

When I travel, I love to buy children's books in other languages, and if possible, in other alphabets. However, it can be a challenge to find books actually published in those countries. Often you see familiar US or UK books translated into those languages, and that's just not the same.

Awesome new items continue to be added to the Bridget Zinn auction -- including a manuscript critique by Nancy Mercado of Roaring Brook Press, and a radio show interview (for published authors) with Irene Rawlings, on her Clear Channel program. Isn't that cool? I've also gotten word that Bridget's amazing agent, Michael Stearns, formerly editorial director at HarperCollins Children's Books, is also donating a manuscript critique! These opportunities to get your manuscript before some top industry professionals are just golden. Michael's donation is not posted yet, but keep checking.

Monday, May 11, 2009

hodge podge: Star Trek; horror movies where everyone dies; and writing books that readers want to live in

We saw Star Trek last night, and loved it. I have no storytelling peeves, like I had after seeing Wolverine last week. Though I watched the original Star Trek in syndication, it's been a long time and I never watched any of the spin-offs; I don't remember too much about the show, but it was still fun to see the reimagining of the characters. Simon Pegg was great as Scotty, and who'd have guessed that Karl Urban (Eomer the "horse lord," Eowyn's brother from LOTR) would make such a perfect Bones? But the movie really belonged to Kirk and Spock, who were both awesome. And Eric Bana as the creepy Romulan!? I'd never have recognized him.

Jim pointed out that the writers did something brilliant, which was: (this is not a spoiler) by introducing some fancy fantasy-physics (i.e. time warps), they completely rebooted the story. That is, they do not now, in sequels, have to adhere to the timeline as established by the TV show or the other movies. They're free. Isn't that great? Unlike in Wolverine (which, admittedly, could not have resorted to time warps), they don't have to be careful not to ruffle the flow of events. It's been ruffled and reshuffled. They can do whatever they want now. Awesome.

So, no storytelling peeves there, but I do have an unrelated movie peeve, and it's this: what's up with horror movies where everyone dies at the end? Jim and I like horror movies. Not slashery gorefests (things like Saw, we refer to as "torture porn" and do not watch), but scary movies. But we've now counted four recent ones in which no one survives. What is UP with that? It's so unsatisfying! Can you imagine reading a book where everyone is dead at the end? Have you read a book like that? I can't think of any. I feel like that would be a tremendous violation of the "pact" between reader and writer, which is perhaps more sacred than that between movie-maker and movie-watcher. Do you think? Do you think that because the link between a reader and a character is so powerful, you know, the way we consent to "become" that character while we're reading, that to kill the character off in a book would be worse than to do it in a movie? I don't know, but I'd be pissed if that happened in a book. If you can think of any, let me know. I've listed the movies I'm talking about at the bottom of the post (the last two are crazy scary and would be awesome if not for the "everyone dies" factor), but if you haven't seen them and plan to, this will spoil the ending for you, so beware.

So, off the topic of movies. I am giving a talk tomorrow evening to the Writing for Children class at the University of Washington. I'm excited! What I'm going to talk to them about is: writing books that readers want to live in; writing characters readers want to be. I'm not saying I've nailed this in my own writing, but it's what I'm chasing. It's my goal. The kind of book I hope to write is the kind readers want to climb right inside of. When I find a book like that, I spend a little time trying to figure out just how the author did it.

I do believe the essential "secret" of Harry Potter's success is that J.K. Rowling did this so well. I mean, there are a lot of elements that go into it, it's no one easy-to-define thing, but I think that's the fundamental magic it's got: it makes us yearn to really be there, sitting in Professor McGonegal's class learning to transfigure things, or putting on the Sorting Hat and seeing what house we'd end up in, or whatever. You know? Same with Twilight: it taps a basic fantasy in a very direct and deft way: the fantasy of being the ordinary girl who becomes the object of sublime love of an extraordinary boy.

I think it's the secret of Pride and Prejudice's enduring success too. These books make us long to live in them. They're the ones we reread multiple times, write fan fiction of, etc. They distill the quintessence of "escapsism" -- and when I use that word, I do not mean it in a negative way at all (I wrote more about escapism way back HERE, along with pre-pink-hair pictures!). In my opinion, as a lover of fantasy and romance, escapism is just about the highest level of magic in reading -- the ability of the writer to enchant a reader right out of the world they actually live in, to essentially remove them from their own body, their own reality, and entice them into a world of your own creation, and make them wish they could stay there? That's . . . wow. You know? So, viva la escapism. How to do it as perfectly as possible? That's my question.

Anyway, that's what my talk is about, and today I'm refining it, seeing if I can put it into better words, if I can figure out any "secrets" along the way :-)

Oh, and since I've mentioned Pride and Prejudice and of horror movies in one post, it's only right to show you what books I bought last night at Powell's:
tee hee. The middle one? I didn't think I was going to buy this, but . . . I did. What can I say? As for the others, neither are new, but I've been meaning to read both forever. Since Adam Rex is going to be at the SCBWI conference next weekend, it's time to finally read Smekday. Looking forward to it!

Now, horror movies where everyone dies at the end:
The Ruins
The Descent

(Any others? Someone pointed out to me that Dawn of the Dead fits this category, but I don't really remember. Blair Witch, I think, kicked off the trend in the movies above, two of which also use the hand-held camera trick, in which the camera is the only testament to events left at the end because everyone is dead. Phleh.)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

some weekend linkies

This weekend, if you have a few minutes, don't forget to check out the awesome stuff at Bridget Zinn's auction site. Remember: early Christmas shopping, or your own collection of signed children's books. Great time to start! (There's a great web design package on offer for those of you in need of a professional website; a couple of vacation packages -- on Washington's Olympic Peninsula (not far from where Twilight takes place) and in Utah near some national parks -- and I love the silver "Write" bracelet too.)

Also, Bridget just put up a new post yesterday about her second chemo treatment. (And scroll down too: interestingly, in her previous post, she seems to have discovered a strange, unlisted side-effect of chemo, which she has now named for herself :-)

Now, for some weekend cuteness: from one of my favorite blogs, Zooborns, a video of orphaned baby gorilla Hasani meeting his new surrogate mom Bawang for the first time, at the San Francisco zoo:
Awww. Cute!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sometimes you gotta kill (or: Storytelling Peeve)

"Sometimes you kill just one person, and it takes care of everything."

That was my favorite line in Joann Sfar's brilliant graphic novel The Rabbi's Cat, and it sums up my current storytelling peeve: when the good guy refuses to kill the bad guy, although some serious killin' is clearly called for. You know how I mean, the whole "I'm not going to sink to your level; I'm not a killer" thing. Now, this can be well done, and it is a powerful message when it is. Just, sometimes it's plain unbelievable and also STUPID. Sometimes, the bad guy needs to die.

Saw the Wolverine movie last night, and I liked it. And I want to say that I really truly empathize with the job of writing a movie that is essentially a puzzle piece in a vast modern-day mythology. A prequel, no less. I mean, those writers had no freedom at all. The story had to fit neatly within the pre-established X-Men-verse, and still be exciting and new. Ulp. That's not a plotting job to be envied! To be clear (and this doesn't spoil anything if you've seen the other X-Men movies) the good guys couldn't kill [all] the bad guys in this movie, because they're still alive in the other movies, which take place later. So. What to do? I don't know. Some fancy footwork. What not to do? Have about three confrontations when the bad guy is under the good guy's power and the good guy makes an "I'm not an animal" speech and shows mercy.

Stupid mercy.

Let's be clear about this: we're talking about mercy to unrepentant murderers who shoot nice old people and do terrible experiments on children. You don't show mercy to those sorts. It's like letting Josef Mengele walk away with a light scolding.

Let's also be clear: I'd have accepted incarceration in lieu of killing. I'm not unreasonable. But this was of the "letting the bad guy walk away to kill and torture again" sort of mercy. Not my cup of tea.

This issue cropped up repeatedly in a book last year too -- the book with which I have the most complex continuing *relationship*: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. This book was a READ. I mean, I couldn't put it down. It's a story set on a planet that was some time ago settled by humans, the women being wiped out by a virus that left the men alive but able to hear the thoughts of every living creature. It's a terrible din of Noise, as they call it, and the remaining, dying town is a bleak place to live. The main character Todd is the youngest of them, on the brink of manhood, and some mysterious ritual looms in his near future. Then he starts making extremely startling discoveries -- like a strange spot of silence within all the Noise -- and all hell breaks loose. He sets off on a journey, with two interesting companions (one of whom is a very lovable dog named Manchee whose thoughts you can hear), and a homicidal preacher on his heels.

That homicidal preacher clearly needed killin'. If not the first time Todd had the chance, certainly the second or third time! Yeah, if he'd killed the preacher right off, then there'd have been no story. I know that's how it works. But as a reader you feel the story begins to run out of excuses after a while, or else you lose any respect for the character not being able to do what really really needs to be done.

Plotting and motivation snafus do have a way of cropping up, and I know that I as a writer spend a lot of time trying to figure out how things "would really happen" and fitting consequences and actions together, trying to make characters' motivations believable while at the same time wrangling the storyline in the direction I want it to go. It's very tricky. And I get irked when I feel things happening in the story for expediency, because it's what the writer wants (or in the case of Wolverine needs) to have happen, but it's really not what you believe the character would do. You know?

Still, I liked the movie. And I want to say about Knife of Never Letting Go, I did believe, to an extent, that Todd was incapable of killing -- in that remarkable book it read more like a fatal character flaw than a writing flaw. And what I meant when I said I had such a complex relationship to the book is this: it's one of the most memorable books I read last year; it's also hands-down the most excruciating. I thought it was brilliant, and I didn't want to ever recommend it to anyone. Ever. It'd be like coaxing someone down an alley where you know they're going to get beat up. That book is cruel. I've never had a reaction quite like that before, and I can't help but feel (personal opinion only; not trying to tell Patrick Ness what to do) that if it had been less brutal it would have been more successful -- not that it hasn't been successful; I think it has, modestly (no idea of sales; I'm just going on buzz in my own limited sphere). But I feel like if it had been less gut-wrenchingly painful, people might have been talking about it the way they were talking about Hunger Games. I mean, it's really good. But I wouldn't wish the pain of reading it on anyone I like. How weird is that? I know I'm not the only person who was left not wanting to recommend it, in spite of its brilliance and its power. I know a bookseller who's an avid YA reader (and hand-seller) who felt the same (angry enough to email the author), and there must be more of us. Anyway, maybe this will intrigue you and you'll read it. Maybe it will instill fear in you and you won't. I don't know.

Oh, but something I do recommend? The movie Tell No One. It's a French thriller, completely compelling, out on DVD.

And two blog posts:

This one, thanks to Robin Brande for the link, about how writers are "rats with islands" (it's about optimism in pursuing the writing dream; a great read).

And this one, the announcement of author James Kennedy's baby daughter's birth, funny like everything he writes, and complete with an argument about Twilight with the anesthesiologist while he was administering the epidural!

Oh wait. Lastly, I read a bit of very important news yesterday: Disneyland is doing away with its breast police. Yes. What? You weren't aware that Disneyland had breast police? Well, neither was I. Apparently, those automatic cameras that snap pictures of you at the screamy drops on roller coaster? I guess women have a tendency to flash in those pictures. Sure. Perfectly logical. And so Disneyland had special police just for busting the boob-flashers? Huh. But not any more! Flash away, ladies.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

best job in the world

Did you guys hear about this? The best job in the world? The Australian tourism board is paying some lucky shmo $100,000 to live in a villa on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months, explore the region, have lots of fun, make discoveries, and blog about it all. Um. Yeah. They just chose the winner out of some 15,000 applicants. (Only 15,000? I'd have thought there would be a lot more.) Here is the full job description. Hm. I think I need to see some pictures before I decide if I'd do that job . . .

Okay, that's enough. Yeah, I suppose I'd take that job. In a heartbeat!

When I was a young traveler, both post-high school on my big solo Eurrail expedition, and on various trips post-college, I fantasized about being much more adventurous than I was, and more resourceful too. I heard about backpackers who worked at youth hostels that were converted castles, or who hobo'ed about taking seasonal work on farms and at ski resorts, doing whatever, drifting along gathering fascinating life experiences. The closest I came to doing anything daring was staying over in Paris for three months and getting a job babysitting a six-year-old French boy after school. Well, Antoine was sort of an adventure -- he had the worst temper tantrums I'd ever seen! But that wasn't quite the kind of adventure I had in mind.

I wanted to have a fascinating life! In my early 20s I took sailing lessons and read accounts of solo sailing trips like the classic Dove, by Robin Graham who set off on his around-the-world sail in 1965 at the age of 16. And Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi who set out in 1988 at age 18. (I believe her father saw her aimlessness and offered to pay for college OR a sailboat, the catch being, if she chose the boat, she had to sail it around the world alone. Um? Was he trying to kill her?) Both books (entirely TRUE!) are full of adventure and romance and peril, and when I was young, I so longed for that kind of transformative experience. Without the near-death parts, though -- but I think the near-death experiences are part of the package when you're talking about adventure on that scale. I mean, I never in my wildest dreams wanted to solo sail around the world. Maybe just crew a big ritzy boat on which experienced sailors were making the decisions. A big, ritzy boat with satellite navigation, I should add, which neither Robin Graham nor Tania Aebi had. Tania Aebi, if I recall correctly, was doing her celestial navigation wrong and missed her first landfall, only finding her way by chance to an entirely different island -- she could easily have died on the very first leg of her trip! Oy. Yeah. I loved the idea of such adventures, after the fact of them having been lived through, you know?

Anyway, my sailing adventures never made it out of San Francisco Bay; I've still never sailed on the open ocean -- well, I suppose I did that one time off the Turkish Coast, with Jim, but we were just passengers, lolling and swimming and getting the worst sunburns of our lives. Plus, the coast was always in sight. So that doesn't count. Sailing's not a featured dream of mine anymore, really. My National Geographic Adventurer "Tours of a Lifetime" issue was delivered last week, and that always puts me an alternately dreamy and grumpy mood. This year = more dreamy, less grumpy, since adventure travel in the near future is not realistic anyway.

The kind of life-adventure-travel dreams I harbor now are:

--in future, when there are a couple of kids in the picture (hopefully), and they're big enough for some moderate adventure: a year off school to travel around the world. That trip would include things like: a camel trek in Morocco; various festivals in India; tracking tigers through a jungle on elephant-back (if there are tigers left by then -- did you know there are less than 5000 wild tigers in the world?); maybe a horse-trek in Mongolia (yep, that's one of the National Geographic-featured tours. Can you imagine?) For whatever reason, the romance of sailing seems to have been usurped in my mind by these exotic animal treks. Here's another: a reindeer trek up to far-northern Scandinavia to see the Aurora Borealis. And: a cross-country ski expedition somewhere far north on which dog sleds carry the gear and polar bear are sighted. You know, while there are still polar bears, which probably won't be long. And I really want to go to Borneo, while there's still jungle left there, before it's all palm oil plantations and wasteland. Sensing a theme? Hang in there, world, we haven't gotten to see you yet!!! (I know this trip sounds very expensive. Don't worry. My plan is to discover pirate treasure at regular intervals along the way.)

--in the nearer future, and this isn't really an adventure exactly: rent an apartment in Rome for 3 months or 6 months, and just live and work there, falling into the Italian rhythm of life, taking little trips hither and thither. Completely within the realm of the possible, yes?

-- not to neglect my "Mango World Tour"! Tasting every variety of mango in existence, on every land mass on which they grow. tee hee. I think this one can be a lifelong footnote to all exotic travel destinations. Footnote=go during mango season!

And more. And more. Do you think some tourist board will pay me a salary to do these things and blog about them? Is there an Earth tourist board? Trying to attract extraterrestrial tourists to boost the ailing Earth economies? Hey, now there's an idea . . .

What are you adventure dreams? What is your "best job in the world"?

P.S. Silksinger ARC is up for auction at Bridget Zinn's auction site! And lots of other cool stuff too.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Aimless day

I've been pretty restrained about buying baby clothes so far -- I've only bought three little summery newborn-size thingies. And I hadn't at all given in to the urge to buy cute toddler stuff for down the line. You know, you see the most adorable things! I've been tempted in the past even when not remotely expecting a baby! Well, yesterday I broke down:
Matching mama and daughter sundresses. Is that obnoxious? I was getting the one for myself, and when I saw they had this adorable tiny version, I couldn't resist. I don't know kid sizes yet, but it's supposedly a two -- it seems smaller than that to me. Well, I guess I'll figure that stuff out as I go.

And, even with us not buying baby clothes, we're making out all right! My mom is on the job, plus I just got a package of wonderful, colorful little outfits from my dear friend Lori in Amsterdam. Here are just some of them:
They're from Hema, the Dutch department store chain, and I love them. I almost couldn't bring myself to fold them and put them away because they match the color scheme in my writing room so perfectly, I wanted to leave them draped over the back of the sofa! Ha ha. Decor. And the tiny sundress? I almost want to hang that on the wall!

Yesterday Jim returned to the land of the living after weeks of deadline-oriented zombieness. This cool illustration job he'd been working on--
(sneak peek)--was due Monday, and he was up for 42 hours straight at the end of it! I have never ever done such a thing. I am not capable. Even in college when I had the intention (and even the necessity) of pulling an all-nighter, I couldn't manage it. Round about 2 am my brain would start to flick the lights, like a bartender trying to chase out the last lingering patrons. I don't think I've ever stayed up all night in my life. Oy. So, Jim is back to life, somewhat rested and ready for some dedicated relaxation. To celebrate, we had a meandering day out yesterday, of the sort we frequently observe other people having while we're running errands. You know, the cafe-sitting? Window shopping? Nice. We had breakfast for lunch, and it was marvelous. It involved sweet potato french toast; then we stopped into a friend's cafe to visit and she whipped up a batch of chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons just for us, which made us feel very special. We did a little shopping along Alberta and Mississippi, two of our favorite Portland streets.

Portland is very villagey, with cute little streets of shops in the various tree-filled neighborhoods, and these two streets are both recently gentrified (well, semi-gentrified) centers of shops and restaurants amid hundred-year-old homes in various states of renovation. When you need some comic books, a plantain burrito, and a funky embroidered shirt, head to Mississippi Avenue. You can also get your hair dyed pink there. I do. Or you might find: animal skulls, gypsy skirts, vintage '50s table linens, and salvaged building materials off old houses. Gourmet salt, baby chicks, weird light bulbs, records, and waffle sandwiches. Fun!

We brought home some of the plantain (and yam and chicken) burritos from Laughing Planet and watched a zombie prom movie -- Dance of the Dead -- which Suzanne Young had discovered. Love a silly zombie movie. Have you ever seen Fido? That one's set in an alternate 1950s post-zombie-apocalypse, and is very campy.

Today, I am back to writing, or will be shortly. Cheers!