Dec. 18th, 2013
08:09 pm - *sigh*
Dec. 17th, 2013
Someone has taken up a sifter and sprinkled just enough powder over the neighborhood to add some white, but not enough to blot out what's underneath. It is quite cold for here (in the 20s), but I see from my Weatherbug app that it is -1 in Amherst, Massachusetts, where Maggie goes to school. My sweetheart joked that Maggie (now home for break) must think we're having a heat wave. I suspect, however, that it is at least that cold for many of my New England and upper Midwest friends, and I hope you are all staying warm.
This morning, I will not be meeting my writing partner for a joint writing session because she is hosting author day at her local elementary school, where she is having Michael Dooling visit. Instead, I plan on spending a couple solid hours here at home. I will turn up the heat a smidge and see about getting some solid writing time in. Or revision time, actually. Because revision is SO much fun, as everyone knows. Am I right?
Revision is fun, of course, in some ways. It is highly satisfying to get rid of unnecessary words and to find better words here, better wording there, more immediacy here, better rhyme or alliteration there. It can also be a real challenge, as when you worry that you will never accomplish in real life the book you see in your head. You know, the perfect one where every single element is exactly as it ought to be and there's not a punctuation point amiss or a phrase that doesn't sparkle.
The thing is, even though I am revising picture books, and relatively small ones at that - the "long" one is just over 500 words, the shorter one is well under 200 - the task nevertheless feels HUGE. And I worry that I won't be able to fix the manuscripts, and that they will wither and die, like some of the others in my files. I try not to worry that I am, in fact, an incapable hack who has no business attempting to write these particular books, but those thoughts sneak in now and again.
I have decided to put the kibosh on the them.
Interesting (or maybe not) note about the word kibosh: its etymology is rather uncertain. It seems like it ought to be Yiddish, but it isn't, and there are claims that it might be Irish or Turkish or even French. I was raised pronouncing it KI-bosh, with a long I sound in there, but my sweetheart and many other folks I know pronounced it something more like ka-BOSH. And when it comes to negative thinking, I believe I will put the ka-BOSH on those negative thoughts, because it sounds significantly more violent. KaBOSH kaBOSH kaBOSH!
Tell me about your work, and your weather, and what you think (or don't) about the word kibosh.
02:00 am - We Are Pieces of a Whole
Yesterday I overheard two women talking in the locker room at the gym. They were chatting about holiday preparations. One would tell the other something they were doing to get ready for the holidays and then the other would reciprocate. The thing I found the most interesting during my sweaty, eaves-dropping was that both women were telling the other how they wish they could do what the other one was doing. (On a side note–I was pretty in awe of both of their ambitious holiday plans.) There were sighs of longing involved–mine and theirs.
But it got me thinking. They both were proficient, talented in completely different areas. And my first thought was that they should both be proud of what they can do. Gosh–both of them were better prepared for the holidays than I am. But the truth is, there are people out there who think I have my holiday preparation shit together. They envy me! (FYI–I love those people) So, still pumped up on my running high I decided I should be proud. We all should be proud. Too often we focus on what we can’t do. We fixate on our weaknesses. We lack appreciation for the things we excel at. Life is hard enough some days. Why do we do that to ourselves?
And because my mind works like snow in the wind–drifting into ever changing patterns–I came to another realization as I watched the ladies chatter.
We are pieces of a whole.
Our strength is that we are the sum of our differences, not the accumulation of our sameness.
We can’t all be good at the same things, but we can all be good at something. And hell, if we work together, we can probably get ALL THE STUFF DONE.
And then, because I left my water bottle in the car (I’m a forgetful creature) and was dying of thirst, I decided further enlightenment would have to wait. But that’s okay, because today I decided I might not be half bad at disseminating random nuggets of wildly caught wisdom. And I make killer chocolate chip cookies for the holiday–when I get around to doing it. Whatever. I rock!
What piece of awesome are you bringing to the whole? Don’t tell me what you can’t do. I want to hear what you’ve got to offer the world today.
Dec. 16th, 2013
Took Younger Nephew climbing yesterday. It was a hoot. He did some bouldering for a bit while I spotted him, and then did some top rope climbing with me belaying. He had a bit of fear of heights, but he dealt with it very well - he climbed partway up the wall, and had me lower him a bit, and then climbed up a bit higher and had me lower him a bit...repeat until he got to the top. (He also asked me at one point if I could climb with him so he could hold my hand and not be scared. Sadly, that is just not possible.) He also spent a lot of time just running around Planet Granite looking at everything - I think the idea of a place full of nothing but surfaces to climb on was very near a personal vision of heaven for him.
Younger Nephew also treated me to an extensive description of how to play Angry Birds Go! Seriously, I think it was the first time I've ever heard Younger Nephew speak in paragraphs.
12:00 pm - On a chilly December morning
My house is full again, now that both girls are home for the holiday break. Maggie arrived here on Saturday, and we picked Sara up at the airport last night. The girls won't stay here all the time, of course, but just now, they are here, and I find myself with a mix of thoughts that don't all fit comfortably together. For instance, I am enjoying the morning quiet, and dreading the noise when they start bouncing around the house, just as I am looking forward to it. Even now, the first rustlings have given way to showers and conversation upstairs, reinforcing the knowledge that other people are in the house. I find I have settled well into my empty nest, and now that it is full again, I find that I resent and welcome the regained fullness, in nearly equal parts.
I know that's not a fashionable position to disclose, as I read news and Facebook posts from other empty nesters who uniformly rejoice in having their children return home, and become dismayed at the mere thought that it's only for a few weeks or a month. (In my case, it's one of each - Sara goes back to Charleston in just under two weeks, whereas Maggie stays home until mid-January.) But it is my reality, and so I share it with you. If you feel something similar, whether you say so publicly or not, know that you're not alone. If nobody else feels this way, then I suppose it's just me. But at the moment, the rustlings and conversation upstairs have given way to raucous comments and loud music that I would not choose to listen to given my own preferences, pushing its way throughout the house, making it much more difficult to string together sentences than it should be, and it remains my reality.
At the same time, I realize that this holiday is bittersweet--a "last" holiday, of sorts. I plan to list the house for sale sometime early in 2014, so there will not be a next Christmas here for the kids (who celebrate Christmas, even though I am a Chanukah girl). Already, there is less furniture in the house than they remembered, and two more pieces are likely to leave while they are here. There is a sort of underlying sense of loss that is so far not being actively discussed, the elephant shuffling foot to foot in every room.
But while they are home, they will have to make some decisions. Which of their books to keep, and which to donate. Do they want to keep those tropies? These toys? That ceramic piece they painted when they were five? And do they want any of the artwork I'm getting rid of, to put in their own homes some day? And if there is a particular piece of furniture they want that I am not planning on moving, can they convince their dad or someone else to store it for them?
These are not decisions that they are planning on having to make, I'll warrant. The actual mechanics of moving are lost on them, since they have moved only once that they remember, from a condo to this house, when Sara was in kindergarten and Maggie was in preschool. So long ago that their memories are a bit hazy. They don't really recall much about what came before this house, although they both seem to be fine with the idea of me selling it. Then, too, they've shown little interest in where I am moving to, but I can tell they aren't planning to consider it their home. I am finding ways to be at peace with that.
Conflicting thoughts, as I said. But at the moment, the song blaring from upstairs, though unfamiliar, is something I like, and the girls are planning their day together, and I find I am happy that they are here after all. There will be silence again soon enough.
Dec. 14th, 2013
08:05 am - Cynsations Holiday Hiatus
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Many blessings over the winter holidays! I'll see you again early in the New Year! Happy (Almost) 2014!
In the meantime, follow me at my facebook author page and/or twitter @CynLeitichSmith, where I'll be highlighting the same kind of children's-YA writing and publishing news you expect from my weekly roundup.
|In Seussville at Universal's Islands of Adventure|
|With Greg Leitich Smith at Gingerbread Who-ville at the Four Seasons Austin|
|Gingerbread Who-ville at the Four Seasons Austin|
|LEGO Store at Downtown Disney Marketplace|
Dec. 13th, 2013
How many are the scenes he limned,
With artist strokes, clear-cut and free -
Our Dickens; time shall not efface
Their charm, and they will ever grace
The halls of memory.
Oft and again we turn to them,
To contemplate in pleased review;
And like some picture on the screen
Comes now to mind a favorite scene
His master-pencil drew...
Read the poem in its entirety: Unfading Pictures by Louella C. Poole.
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
Learn more about Poetry Friday.
08:19 am - Cynsational News & Giveaways
Esther Hershenhorn Recommends Snowflakes Fall by Patricia Maclachlan, illustrated Steven Kellogg (Random House, 2013) from Teaching Authors. Peek: "In a Feb. 25 Publishers Weekly interview, Patricia MacLachlan shared that the snowflake motif used to underscore each individual’s uniqueness and the power of nature and time to help heal was inspired by the Connecticut Parent Teachers Association’s efforts to encourage people to create paper snowflakes to decorate the new school Sandy Hook students would be attending." See also Diverse & Impressive Picture Books of 2013 from the International Reading Association.
Online Author Visits' Holiday Offer from readergirlz. Peek: "We are a group of children’s authors that do Skype and Google visits with classrooms and book clubs across the country (we donate 25% percent of our fee to a chosen charity). To celebrate such a successful year, we are hosting a contest where two winners will get to each choose two books from among our talented author pool...winners will also get to choose a school library of their choice to receive a collection of five books valued at over $150!"
Creating an Ironic Tone in Your Fiction by Jack Smith from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "To create the right tone, you need to think about character actions, dialogue, and setting. All of these will affect the tone of your story or novel. But you also need to attend to matters of style. Being something of an iconoclast, I tend to go for irony. An ironic tone is, of course, the right tone for satire—which is my usual medium."
The winner of SCBWI's 2013 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award is Eve Feldman, author of such works as Billy and Milly Short and Silly (Putnam) and Dog Crazy (Tambourine). Eve has been a children’s book author and SCBWI member for over twenty years. Honor grants also were awarded to authors Verla Kay and Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Verla Kay is the author of Civil War Drummer Boy (Putnam) and Hornbooks and Inkwells (Putnam) among others. Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of the young adult novels Choices (Roaring Brook Press) and Powers (Square Fish). See also Gifts by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer.
BookPeople, Random House Partner on Pen-Pal Literacy Initiative by Paige Crutcher from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Inspired by Shana Burg’s middle grade novel Laugh with the Moon, BookPeople and Random House Children’s Books have teamed up with the Austin Independent School District to launch Words Across the World, a pen-pal program connecting Austin, Tex., students with students from Malawi, Africa." See also Words Across the World from BookPeople.
Middle Grade Novels and Relationships by Dianne K. Salerni from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Chances are they will never tame a gryphon, battle a Cyclops, or find a lost treasure, but they will experience broken promises, unexpected friendships, betrayal, and random acts of kindness." See also Things Left Unspoken by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed.
Where's the Diversity? The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List &Interview with Author Charles Yu from Lee and Low. Peek: "Only three out of the 124 authors who appeared on the list during 2012 are people of color." See Audrey's Top Eight Multicultural Titles for 2013 from Rich in Color.
Character Descriptions: Learn from the Pros by Jodie Renner from Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...my clients often tend to over-describe characters, with too much emphasis on specific visual details. Readers...enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of piecing things together and drawing their own conclusions about characters."
Lasso A Daydream by Nikki Grimes from Teaching Books. Peek: "By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind."
Multicultural Holiday Books: a bibliography by Nicole Lee Martin from ALSC Blog. Peek: "The Public Awareness Committee makes a special effort to promote programs and books that celebrate multiculturalism through promotion of El día de los niños/ El día de los libros, commonly known as Día, and...you will find some of my favorite multicultural holiday picture books."
- PDF copy of The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes (craft)(international)
- signed copy Penguin Cha-Cha by Kristi Valiant (Random House), bookmark, sticker, and magnet (PB)(U.S. only)
- the Watersmeet trilogy--Watersmeet, The Centaur's Daughter and The Keeper by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Skyscape, 2009-2013) and a Kindle Paperwhite (YA)(U.S. only)
See also a giveaway of a paperback copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray and tie-in tote from Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books and a five-book giveaway of World After by Susan Ee from Adventures in YA Publishing.
This Week at Cynsations
- Kathi Appelt & N. Griffin on The Whole Stupid Way We Are
- Sam Bond on Operation Golden Llama (Cousins in Action) & Self-Publishing
- Carla Killough McClafferty on Revealing Your Heart in Nonfiction
- e.E. Charlton-Trujillo on Your Book, Your (Marketing) Niche from the Trench
- Greg Pincus on Writing & Marketing with Serious Lead Time
- Becca Puglisi on Where Do Character Strengths Come From?
|Seussville at Universal's Islands of Adventure|
It's almost time for Cynsations holiday hiatus. I'm still writing, still on deadline, but the great news is that I think I've figured out a more exciting, satisfying and costly ending to my work in progress.
Congratulations to Cory Putnam Oaks on the sale of "Dinosaur Boy" to Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks, in a two-book deal!
Congratulations to the Spirit of Texas Reading Program 2014 Middle School Authors, including Cynthia Levinson, Katherine Catmull and Kelly Milner Halls!
- Can We Talk about Susan's Fabulous Adventures After Narnia?
- If Disney Princesses Invaded "Star Wars"
- Writing Over the Holidays
- Spread Some Holiday Good Cheer With Ballou High School & Pledge To Read 5 Books With the Students (via Gwenda Bond)
- Parody Video: What's the Spleen Do?
- Uma Krishnaswami: A Broken Pavement, an Election, a Pile of Books & Me
- Joy Preble: Captain Kirk Liked My Wings & Other Austin Comic Con Tales
Writing for Children & Young Adults at 10 a.m. PST Dec. 18 from WritersWebTV. Peek: "...if you want to write for children, you need more than just a good story – what age group are you writing for, what are the demands of that market? How long should your book be? We’ll answer all these questions and give you essential tips and techniques to capture a young reader." Featuring picture book creators Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Michael Emberley; Norton Virgien, Emmy award winning director of ‘Henry Hugglemonster’ and ‘Doc McStuffins’; literary agent Polly Nolan, (previously editorial director of Macmillan Children’s Books); and award-winning novelist Meg Rosoff. Note: Enroll to watch live for free or purchase for €49.
Dec. 12th, 2013
08:40 pm - Setting up my writing room
One of the really exciting things about my upcoming move is that the small bedroom at my beloved sweetheart's house is going to be my writing room. After all these years, I finally have a room of my own. I am beyond happy about it.
So far, it has been painted a lovely, pale blue called Blue Opal, my desk has moved in to an alcove that is perfect for it, and a small bookcase has moved in to hold my author copies and some other choice books. There is, of course, a bed in the room as well, since the room has to do double duty as a guest room, but we will soon replace the single bed with a daybed, which will look much more couch-like (I think) in the usual course of things. I will share pictures of it when I get it done.
In the meantime, here is what moved into my writing room today:
2014 Calendar with art by Pamela Zagarenski and texts from Rumi and Hafiz, available online
Isn't it pretty?
I'm not dead! It's just been a slightly hectic past few weeks.
Something I learned about time management: I thought that I was being tremendously clever in scheduling most of my physical therapy appointments in the early morning, so I could get them over with and get on with my day. I forgot that with the increasingly close collaboration I have with colleagues in different time zones, early morning is also practically the only time we have to hold important work meetings. This has turned my work schedule for the past few weeks into something akin to a slightly stressful game of temporal Tetris. I've learned my lesson - my last two physical therapy appointments are scheduled for early afternoon. It will mean a bit more driving back and forth, but I think I'll be saner.
Physical therapy is going pretty well. I'm not all better yet, but I've got a pretty functional range of movement in everything except the "reaching up between my shoulder blades" movement, which remains sticky.
And then I got a horrible cold and lay around at home for a few days. Daniel, who knows how to look after a sick Wendy very well, brought me a few liters of diet ginger ale, and the DVDs of the BBC's recent production of The Hollow Crown - Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2), and Henry V. I watched Richard II and thought it was an excellent production. The cast is basically a who's who of British actors, but Ben Whishaw is particularly good as Richard II. Richard II is a difficult role to play, because he's basically someone who is making a great outward show of being king without having the decisiveness or the political savvy to back it up. I think my initial reaction to reading the play was basically, "For god's sake, kid, hand over the crown to Bolingbroke and put us all out of our misery." But when you see the role played by an actor with real charisma, it really changes the play, because you half buy into Richard's image of himself. My only quibble with this version is that they cut down the farewell scene between Richard and his queen, which I remember being really heartbreaking in the Arkangel Shakespeare audio version of the play, and in this version was merely mildly heartstring-tugging.
Also, I think maybe they over-egged the visual coding of Richard as effeminate and Bolingbroke as manly. Because there's really no connection between having fabulous hair and wearing pink and being ineffectual at governance. (Ben Whishaw does have fabulous hair in this, though. If the BAFTA awards had a category for best performance by a ringlet, this would have been a shoe-in.)
Looking forward to watching the rest of the set. Which has Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V. Niiice.
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