rhcrayon: The Blog!
Sep. 10th, 2012
We interrupt our regularly promised post to say, Listen to this TED talk:
Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
Amazing. Freakin' amazing. We know these things to be true, but when you hear it, you can use it in a new way. Especially if it ties into your book. But your book comes from your life, too. So we really have to
know what we're doing. embrace not knowing what we're doing? Something like that.
In order to do it.
Kind of like what M.T. Anderson once said at a past SCBWI Summer Conference: "The experiment is the piece of literature, not the preparation for the piece of literature."
So with life!
P.P.S. With thanks to Irvin Lin at Eat the Love for leading me to this talk, after an amazing weekend of Irvin and AJ hosting me in SF. Love you guys so much.
Mar. 2nd, 2012
06:00 am - Photos: Book Launch for HARBINGER, by Sara Wilson Etienne—w/ details for Harbinger Launch Party 2.0!
Sara Wilson Etienne mingling at the book launch for Harbinger
at Children's Book World in Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 4th, 2012
Click here to view all 53 photos on Flickr.
(Photos are by my husband and me, because I had fractured my foot and needed help. Thank you, D!)
I've included some favorite photos here, and they should speak for themselves (especially because I wrote captions for them). This book launch was phenomenal. Children's Book World was packed to silliness, and Sara delivered a silky smooth, perfect talk, and then friends and family and fans from all over the country lined up to get their copies signed.
Sara's proud writing group—me (Rita Crayon Huang) and Lee Wind—at the book launch for Harbinger
Sara receives a warm welcome. "Author! Author!"
Sara shows off Harbinger's beautiful endpapers, illustrated by artist husband Tony Etienne
Author Kristen Kittscher listens appreciatively to Sara's talk
Let the autographing begin! Sara Wilson Etienne signs copies of Harbinger for fans
Sara's book brings new customers to Children's Book World
But, but, but!! That was so one month ago! Everyone should know that Sara's next major signing event is happening this Saturday, March 3rd, at the Hive Gallery and Studios in downtown Los Angeles. She's throwing "Launch Party 2.0: HARBINGER Art Gallery Opening and Signing!" where she is going to showcase all of the artwork contributed by 25 incredible illustrators and artists in one glorious, Harbinger-inspired, gallery gala! It's going to be so fun all over again, in an entirely new way!
From the "Launch Party 2.0" Facebook event page:
Twenty-five incredible illustrators and artists have picked their favorite scenes and characters from HARBINGER to give you a taste of Faye’s life at Holbrook Academy. . . .
6pm-8pm: Book selling and signing; pre-gallery opening hang-outs; and FREE ENTRY
Starting at 8pm: COVER CHARGE of $8, music, bar, partytime!
Featuring art by: Jason Puliti, Joan Charles, Amy Kim Kibuishi, Andrew Mitchell, Marilyn Scott Waters, Aileen Holmes, Brian Ormiston, Ken Min, Katie McDee, Drew Etienne, Wilson Swain, Jane Smith, Dave Fass, Israel Sanchez, J.H. Everett, Karyn Raz, Mary Peterson, Patricia Cantor, Angela Matteson, Mary Etienne, Su Moon, Andrea Offermann, Tony Etienne, Ken Wong, Kelice Penney . . .
If you want a little taste of what these amazing artists have been up to, check out the Holbrook Academy website.
What a line-up of incredible talent—and how awesome to have a gallery opening for your debut novel! I hear there's going to be tasty refreshments, and the company and conversation are guaranteed to be brilliant, soul-scintillating, and maybe even downright scandalous.
So come one, come all! Check out the Facebook Event Page for "Launch Party 2.0: HARBINGER Art Gallery Opening and Signing!" for more details. I hope to see you there!
Congratulations again, Sara. You deserve every bit of the accolades coming to you, and so much more.
Me and Sara, just after she signed my copy. Congratulations, Sara!!
Apr. 24th, 2009
So this is hilarious and a half.
Remember when I blogged “7 Random/Weird Things About My Significant Other” a while back, wherein I changed the rules of a meme to focus on Damon instead of me? Well, that post turned out to be a favorite among friends, including all kinds of people I had no idea were reading. Everyone liked how D loves elevator conversation.
Our friend Emmie Hsu, of fomato cards, asked “permission” to use the idea for a birthday greeting card. Then, out of the blue, she sent us the card last week.
I love it!! Both Damon and I love how it turned out so much!
I now present to you . . .
by fomato cards
Click here to see “elevator conversations” on the fomato cards Web site
Click here for the main fomato site, where you can find all her masterpieces!
She tried to work in D's favored “Days of the Week,” but it didn't fit—at least not in this card. She got more input from our friend Calvin and used Frankie's “Living the dream.”
I love all fomato cards so much, you guys. I use nothing else. They are hilarious, gorgeously illustrated, high quality, relevant, totally indie, and smack of Asian American pop culture flava.
(Yes, I said flava. You have no idea how much I resist yo.)
So get thee to fomato.com for a hi-larious reading experience! Each card is short, punchy, and perfect for someone you know. Before you know it, you’ll have read them all. You’ll wind up ordering, too, because her cards totally inspire that “I-have-to-get-this-for-So-and-so!” reaction.
So much greatness,
A few more of my favorites:
ramen noodle festival
school o dissatisfaction (This one's perfect for pessimists, optimists, and people who love mangoes)
Here is Damon’s favorite:
Which ones are yours?
Photos from Writer’s Day are still coming! This is one of the rules of writing: Never deliver what you promised. That keeps readers coming back.
Thanks for all the congrats, though—here, on Facebook, and everywhere!
Now get to fomato.com!
Damon’s favorite is apparently fomato’s current bestseller. I am mortified.
Jan. 26th, 2009
Just in time for
the first Westside Schmooze of the year the first weekend after the Schmooze the Inauguration
Chinese New Year
comes this post on New Beginnings!
So, you know how E.B. White's Charlotte's Web contains what is probably the most famous first line in children's book history?
"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
—Charlotte's Web, E.B. White (Middle Grade, Newbery Honor). HarperCollins, 1952
Did you know that other versions of this opening exist, that are totally different?? Earlier drafts?? And that they are totally available to the public?!?!
Well, they're "totally available" if you contact the super nice librarians at Cornell University's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and ask them to look them up for you—and those librarians are so nice as to type them up and email them back. That's what Westside Schmoozer Eric Drachman did—and what the librarians did!!—in preparation for our first Westside Schmooze of 2009.
WHAT A CONTRIBUTION!!
I love this opening to Charlotte's Web beyond all reason and can't imagine the whole world doesn't want to hear what the earlier drafts sounded like. I think it's okay to post them . . .
Here is the email from the librarian:
I have been able to locate three very different starts to "Charlotte's Web.
1. Chapter I. The Barn (in White's hand)
A barn can have a horse in it, and a barn can have a cow in it, and a barn can have hens scratching in the chaff and swallows flying in and out through the door -- but if a barn hasn't got a pig in it, it is hardly worth talking about. I am very Glad to say that Mr. Zuckerman's barn had a pig in it, and therefore I feel free to talk about it as much as I want to. The pig's name was Wilbur.
2. Chapter I. Escape (in White's hand)
I shall speak first of Wilbur.
Wilbur was a small beautiful, nicely behaved symmetrical pig living in a manure pile in the cellar of a barn. He was what farmers call a spring pig -- which simply means that he was born in springtime. But there is no use talking about Wilbur until we have looked into the matter of the barn itself. The barn was very large. It was very old.
3. Chapter I (typed and corrected in White's hand)
At midnight, John Arable pulled his boots on, lit a lantern, and walked out to the hog house. The sky was clear, the earth smelled of springtime. Inside the hog house, the sow lay on her side; her eyes were closed. Huddled in a corner stood the newborn pigs, eleven of them. They had their heads together, in a circle, like football players before a play
There is no mention in any of them of the axe at the beginning.
I hope this meets with your request. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to email again.
[super nice librarian's name redacted, though I'm not sure this is necessary]
They actually sound pretty good, don't they? (Some Schmoozers wished they sounded worse.) If you read the beginning to Chapter 3 in the book, you can see how E.B. White recycled and used many of the lines from his opening about the barn, so that work wasn't wasted. My own copy has that part underlined with smiley faces—by a younger me—so I am happy for the writer about that.
The final version of the opening definitely communicates all of the elements we mentioned at the Schmooze that a great opening might: intended genre/age group, tone, theme ("MURDER!!"/death ;) ), setting, and (optional) who the main characters will be. I personally have always also loved the opening to Charlotte's Web for another reason: It doesn't feel like an opening at all. You practically fall face-first into the kitchen and are off and running, without realizing you're only one line in.
Our Westside Schmooze topic this month was Beginnings--as in, what kinds of first lines will grab readers' and editors' attention, and do the openings to today's successful children's books all possess this special something? This was the first Westside Schmooze after the holidays and the first to be led by Lee Wind and me as its new Co-Coordinators. Our big idea was to invite everyone to bring in their own opening lines, and, after some initial discussion of the topic, to mix them in with beginnings from already published books. We read them out loud, and everyone discussed what they got out of each and whether (by a show of hands) they'd read on. The writers didn't have to reveal themselves, though some did. The quality of work brought in was outstanding.
You can read how the whole night went at Lee's fantastic recap at the official SCBWI Tri-Regions of Southern California Schmooze Blog. He got all our notes onlines, plus links to more resources!
For my part, I just want to say:
1) As much as I've spoken up at the Schmooze before, I've never had the experience of opening my mouth and suddenly seeing all heads in the room go down, every person silent and writing. It was a little disconcerting. But I'm a big note-taker, too, so I tried to be cool.
2) Lee and I totally overprepared. Just choosing which published books to read from grew into a task. After narrowing our favorites to those recently published and bestselling—ideally to indicate what publishers and readers are buying now—and after defining our categories—Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grades, Young Adults, graphic novels; fiction, non-fiction; historical, fantasy, realistic, funny, and edgy—to make sure we had a balanced representation; and after making allowances for a few older books that were either really, really successful (or that I really, really loved), by the time I'd added my picks to Lee's, we had 63 selections, all typed up.
At the Schmooze, we read a total of 26 Beginnings: 20 brought in by Schmoozers, and 6 brought in by us.
So, here are a few more we didn't read. You tell me: Which ones are your favorites? What kinds of books do these first lines promise, and which ones make you want to read more? (You can read the 6 we did share, at the Schmooze recap linked above.)
I did not choose any books based on whether I loved their first lines. I didn't want to bias the topic ("What makes a great opening?") according to my tastes. Lee and I were more interested in whether first lines pulled from books that were loved overall held up under the group's scrutiny. )
We didn't show any book covers at the Schmooze, so you have a different advantage. It's just more fun to post pictures. But maybe this is more true to how readers choose their books, anyway.)
The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.
I had told Mama she would find out sooner or later, seeing as how she’s so nosy and all. But Mama had rolled her eyes and said, “Just get on up there to the bus stop, Georgina, and quit your whining.”
—How to Steal a Dog, Barbara O’Connor (Middle Grade). Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
It’s hard work being a kid.
First of all, there’s school. Then there’s soccer practice, violin class, voice lessons, walking Sparky, babysitting your little sister, not to mention having to eat your vegetables!
So, one day, Brian decided to retire.
—The Retired Kid, Jon Agee (Picture Book, NY Times Pick of the Year). Hyperion Books for Children/Disney, 2008
Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
—Percy Jackson & The Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan (Middle Grade fantasy). Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children, 2005
When Bird woke up, he was grumpy.
He was too grumpy to eat. He was too grumpy to play. In fact, he was too grumpy to fly.
“Looks like I’m walking today,” said Bird.
—Grumpy Bird, Jeremy Tankard (Picture Book). Scholastic Press, 2007
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.
Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.
—Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, J.K. Rowling. Illustrations by Mary Grandpré (Middle Grade fantasy). Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press, 1997
Bat is waking, upside down as usual, hanging by her toenails. Her beady eyes open. Her pixie ears twitch. She shakes her thistledown fur.
—Bat Loves the Night, Nicola Davies, ill. By Sarah Fox-Davies (non-fiction Picture Book). Candlewick Press, 2004
The Stein family lived in the pretty pink house with lovely purple shutters down at the end of Daffodil Street. Everything about the house was bright and cheery. Everything, that is, except the upstairs bedroom with the tiny round window.
That room belonged to Franny K. Stein, and she liked to keep it dark, and spooky, and creepy.
—Franny K. Stein Mad Scientist #1: Lunch Walks Among Us, Jim Benton (younger Middle Grade? Chapter Book?). Simon & Schuster, 2003
I am running.
That’s the first thing I remember. Running.
I carry something, my arm curled around it, hugging it to my chest. Bread, of course. Someone is chasing me. “Stop! Thief!” I run. People. Shoulders. Shoes. “Stop! Thief!”
—Milkweed, Jerry Spinelli (Middle Grade/Young Adult? historical fiction about a boy in the Holocaust). Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that's why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
—From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg (Middle Grade, Newbery Medal winner). Simon & Schuster, 1967
On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation.
Up until then life hadn’t been very interesting for Lily. There had not been very many mad scientists.
—Whales on Stilts, M.T. Anderson (Middle Grade awesome). Harcourt, Inc., 2005
Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story, because nobody has ever heard my side of the story.
I’m the wolf. Alexander T. Wolf.
You can call me Al.
—The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka. Ill. by Lane Smith. (Picture Book awesome) Viking/Penguin, 1989
I’m a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform staring at the tracks. I’m seventeen years old, weigh 296 pounds, and I’m six-foot-one. I have a crew cut, yes a crew cut, sallow skin, and the kind of mouth that puckers when I breathe. I’m wearing a shirt that reads MIAMI BEACH—SPRING BREAK 1997, and huge, bland tan pants—the only kind of pants I own. Eight pairs, all tan.
—Fat Kid Rules the World, K.L. Going (Young Adult awesome). G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2003
“Happy Year of the Rat!” Dad said as he toasted us with his glass. The clinking noises filled the air as the adults knocked glasses of wine against the kids’ cups of juice.
It was the eve of Chinese New Year and my best friend, Melody, and her family had come for the celebration dinner just as they had for the last two years.
—The Year of the Rat, Grace Lin (Middle Grade, and a book I once blogged about here). Little, Brown and Company, 2007
Happy Chinese New Year, Everyone!! Happy Year of the Ox!
Seeing these different openings to Charlotte's Web reminded me of this great article by Orson Scott Card on writing Beginnings, that Stephanie Ruble once posted on her blog. In this article, Orson Scott Card reveals four completely different first chapters he wrote for his first sequel to Ender's Game (the series of sequels about Bean, not the series of sequels that were harder sci-fi). I had just read (and loved) Ender's Game, but hadn't ready any sequels yet. This article knocked my socks off. Talk about someone who knows what he's doing.
Someone asked a very interesting question at the Schmooze. When people commented that certain beginnings sounded "older" in style than what might get published today—particularly those written from an omniscient point of view—the question was whether we could talk about this supposed difference between children's books published a couple decades ago vs. now.
I have a couple ideas on this; nothing I'd go out on a limb for (yet). Maybe, for my next post, I'll type up a few beginnings from beloved, older books, and we can search for any differences together.
Of the children's books referenced in this post, #9 above and, of course, Charlotte's Web (1952) are the oldest!
Jan. 15th, 2009
03:02 pm - The Saggy Pants Issue
Well, it finally happened. I saw a boy on the bus today who was still in high school, and I wanted to pull his pants up.
But seriously. His back was to me, and he wasn't just "sagging" or "riding low." His jeans were under his butt. His underwear was blue (in the tighty whitey style), and while they seemed clean and . . . not full of holes . . . they weren't what you'd call fashion. I kept thinking he'd realize and freak out—right in the middle of all these other high school kids. At one point he bent over and picked something up—his whole, underwear-covered butt sticking out—and I thought for sure then.
Does this make me old??
(Also, how is it possible for jeans to stay up in front yet hang that far down behind?? I didn't know clothes were designed this way.)
This reminds me of a quote my friend Julie forwarded me a while back, from an MTV interview with (then-not-yet) President Elect Barack Obama:
Obama on the saggy pants issue
Sway: Our next question comes from Eric out of Huntington Beach, California: “There are numerous cultures and subcultures in the United States today. Powers-that-be set statutes with monetary penalty on how people wear their clothes. Do you find it intrusive on civil liberties to create such ordinances?” And you know I got ‘locks.
Obama: I wasn’t going to pass a law, man. You look tight.
Sway: I know people have piercings, tattoos. Eric, in particular, is talking about a ban on sagging pants. Do feel like people should be penalized?
Obama: Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq, and anybody, any public official, that is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants.
(If you go to the MTV link, you can actually hear him say this. And watch. It's a video with transcription.)
This high school kid on the bus wasn't a "brother," except insofar as he was my fellow, Asian "brother."
Pull up your pants, man!!
Dec. 23rd, 2008
Seasons Greetings, Everyone! Our paperless, "animated" Holiday Greeting Card is up!
Click on the image above to view Rita and Damon's Holiday Bright Idea
There's music on the page. Give it a few seconds to start.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2009,
Jan. 18th, 2008
12:31 pm - "Why We Write"
Short post this week. This is cool:
Why We Write: A Series of Essays
Prominent writers from TV shows and movies you love have undertaken, during the Writers' Strike, to post a series of essays on why they write. Little pieces by a different writer every day!
By some seriously cool writers, like Jane Espenson (Buffy! Gilmore Girls!) and Danny Rubin (Groundhog Day!!).
Check it out.
With thanks to Jill for the link!
Jun. 5th, 2006
05:05 am - Vegas Roach Traps
The Vegas roach trap or Las Vegas roach trap refers to the serendipitous discovery, in Las Vegas, of a cockroach trap consisting of a jar, coffee grounds, and water, placed against a wall. Reported as extremely successful in eliminating cockroaches by Las Vegas local news and the KVBC bugcam , the homemade trap is made from any jar containing coffee grounds and water. Placing the mouth of the jar next to the wall, the roaches are able to crawl up the wall and into the jar, to drown, or at least never escape. Apparently, only cockroaches are attracted to it. The Vegas roach trap is so called by the popular name of the city of its discovery.
That's just gross. Yet handy.
There are huge cockroaches in my neighborhood, and whenever we see one outside, I get terrified I will next see one inside.
The question now becomes:
Do I set Vegas roach traps around my apartment building?? Or will this only attract the roaches to us, rather than drawing them away??
May. 20th, 2006
12:45 pm - barnburners and potboilers
The number one question on my mind when I woke up today was,
"What's a 'potboiler?'"
Last night over late-night Korean, Benji was telling us how Charles Barkley and/or Kenny Someone mispronounced the word barnburner ("barnbarner") and how funny the other guy's reaction was, and I had to ask,
"What's a 'barnburner?'"
Benji explained that this was a high-scoring game, "when all your guys are on fire."
This imagery made me laugh. I could see all these basketball players running up and down the court, scoring with their heads and hands on fire, the whole barn burning down.
Then Damon said, "What's a 'potboiler?'"
I rolled my eyes back and did my inner zen word search. Then I said, "They describe novels that way."
Damon said, "Yeah. Everyone's been calling Da Vinci Code a 'potboiler.' They always say it about mysteries and thrillers."
In my head I pictured a reviewer tossing an airport-worthy, NY Times bestseller into a pot and boiling it back into the pulp it was written on, but I rejected this.
"Maybe it's what you call novels you read while you're standing by the stove, waiting for food to cook. I read that way. Like, a thriller is so suspenseful, you can't put it down." For better or for worse.
Damon didn't like that so much. We resolved to look it up.
Much later that night, as we were falling asleep, Damon said, "What were we supposed to look up again?"
This morning, I present to you (from Wikipedia):
A potboiler is an artistic work (usually written) created for the sole purpose of making money quickly or to maintain a steady income for the artist, thus implying that artistic values were subordinate to saleability.
The word was derived from "to boil the pot": in other words, the author wrote the book to keep a pot of food boiling. (See pot boiler.)
One of the most famous potboilers is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, demonstrating that works written primarily for money are not always of subpar quality. Even Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", now so famous, was written as a potboiler. Television host Mike Wallace used the term while interviewing writer Rod Serling about his upcoming show, The Twilight Zone. At that time, science fiction writing was considered amateurish and juvenile, and Wallace questioned whether or not Serling was moving away from "serious" writing.
This sounds just like Irvin talking, doesn't it? When I start our Web site with its "Ask Our Experts" feature (for which you will all be drafted), I won't have to look up anything anymore! Cuz guess who'll be asking all the questions!
I clicked on pot boiler, above, by the way, and further read this (excerpt):
Potboiler is applied depreciatively to a work of literature or art executed for the purpose of ‘boiling the pot’, i.e. of gaining a livelihood. A writing, picture, or other work, made to sell. Also applied to musical compositions, plays, and films.
The Wikipedia definition for barnburner, alas, was not nearly so satisfying. No mention of basketball and stupid sports analogies. (At least, not yet. Both of these are "stubs" so presumably someone will come work on them.)
I just read this over, by the way, and feel compelled to explain
(in case you didn't get this the first time)
that my image of the "barnburner" game, in which basketball players maniacally continue scoring in spite of the fact the barn is burning down and their bodies have caught fire, has everything to do with my watching too much Buffy.
See, if you didn't picture it right the first time, now you are!! :D
Mar. 15th, 2006
09:54 am - New Math
Today's question is a lot of fun.
Have fun with me!
Today's question (that I just started wondering ten minutes ago) is,
Whatever the heck was "New Math?"
I have heard it mocked, oh-so-derisively, by such luminaries (I think) as my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Welch . . . or my 8th grade teacher . . . and my 11th grade teacher . . . . And I have heard my dear pal AJ rail on recently about how long division is no longer taught in schools (at all?? AJ? D'you mean everywhere, or just as growing trend?), and I have no idea whether "New Math" is to blame for this phenomenon, too.
In any case,
here are the first two Googled sites I hit, to answer this question, and they have entertained me.
First you read the above site, and it is well and good. (I might like that whole site, in fact. I will investigate more, later.)
Then you read this one, which happens to contain the very song lyrics the above link referenced.
I am laughing my @$$ off,
but I learned a lot.
by the time I got halfway down the song lyrics, I was laughing out loud, all rumbly and face-getting-sore (from grinning), and reaching for a new browser, to post.