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I wrote my first novel, Smudge's Mark, in a closet. No joke.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ginger is My New Best Friend

So what's a temporarily unemployed author who's experiencing major writer's block to do with all those hours in her day so she feels like she's actually accomplishing something?

Clean the house? - No way!

Do laundry? - Are you kidding me? Psh!

No, a temporarily unemployed author who's experiencing major writer's block does not clean the house nor does she do laundry so she can have a sense of accomplishment at the end of her day, much to the disappointment of those who share her living space.

Rather, she cooks!

Now, I'm not talking about KD, microwaved frozen veggies, and frozen pizzas - those are delicacies reserved for an employed author whose writing is flowing freely. No, I'm talking about the kind of cooking that exists within the magical realms of creative art. I'm talking about fresh ingredients and savory flavors that reawaken and revive your soul. Think I'm exaggerating? Have you ever experienced fresh grated ginger root? If you have, you'll know what I mean.

Yesterday it was a curried chickpea dish with fresh ground cumin, ginger root, turmeric, coriander seed, and garam masala. Today it's baked lemon pepper tofu that's being marinated in fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, and ground black pepper as we speak. I can smell the lemon and garlic on my fingers as I type. Mmmmm...

Talk about cultivating my relationship with my Creativity. I've realized today that I'm totally reviving my senses in ways that I've not done before. I've painted, sketched, read, listened to music, gone on nature walks, even knitted entire sweaters to replenish my creativity during past creative droughts. This is a new path for me, I've discovered. One that's always been available but one that I've never stepped into. Let's hope it eventually leads to some kick-butt words on a page!

Yay for epiphanies brought on by fresh grated ginger!
Monday, January 25, 2010

What's a Sentence?!

Today I'm kind of feeling like my daughter did when she was about 5 years old.

We were having dinner one night and said this word: "aweedz". I guess she liked the sound of it because she kept repeating it over and over. Finally I asked her, "What's aweedz?"

"Aweedz," she said matter-of-factly. And then kept saying it.

"But, Abby, I don't know what 'aweedz' is," I said. "Is it something you learned at school? What does it mean?"

"A-weedz," she said, emphasizing the syllables as if it would help me understand.

"Yes, 'aweedz'," I said, "But I don't know what it means."

"A-WEEDZ," she replied, getting a little impatient with me.

"Yes, but what does it mean?" I asked again. "Use it in a sentence." I figured she probably wasn't pronouncing the word properly and if she used it in a sentence it would clear things up.

"I don't know!" she exclaimed, "Just A-WEEDZ! A-WEEDZ! A-WEEDZ!" She was more than a little frustrated now. "It's just AWEEDZ!"

"But use it in a sentence," I said, again, "so I can understand what you're saying. Use it in a sentence."

She stopped for a split second before shouting, "What's a sentence??!"

Imagine her frustration. There she was, just saying a word that was in her head because she liked the sound of it; because it was meaningful to her. And there I was making it all complicated and frustrating for her because I wanted to know what that word meant. I wanted to know what this "aweedz" was. I wanted to hear the word in a sentence so I could make sense of it. I wanted her to articulate the word better so I could understand what her fascination with it was, so she could share it with me. But in doing so, I just made her frustrated. She couldn't express her new favorite word in a way that I could understand what it meant. Not only that, I was asking her to use it in a sentence and she didn't even know what that was! So she stopped saying "aweedz."

Today I kind of feel like Abby; frustrated, overwhelmed, feeling like trying to express what's in my head is just too. much. work. Sometimes it's just too hard to get out what I've got inside. When in my head everything makes perfect sense, but the minute I try to give it a voice it becomes a frustrating example of communication breakdown - with myself!

I can't even tell you how many times, lately, I've sat down at the computer to write and I just stare. But at the very same time the story is pounding at the walls of my brain saying, "Let me out! Let me out!" There's a shortage somewhere between my head and my fingers. And I'm shouting, "What's a sentence?!" How can I put into words what I'm seeing, what I'm feeling, what I'm experiencing in my creative mind? I feel like my head is so full, but for some reason I just can't get it out. I feel like all I'm doing is repeating, "aweedz, aweedz, aweedz!"

I guess this is what some call "writer's block". I don't like it. So, I think it's time to take Eric Fortune's advice and cultivate the relationship with my Creativity in hopes of repairing my fractured relationship with the art of sentence making.

P.S. I eventually came to realize "aweedz" was the name of a new friend Abby had made at school: Arrij. And Abby has since learned what a sentence is which has made her life much easier.
Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Great American ALA Tour Recap

I'm not pooped anymore. So there will be many words.

Timeline and highlights, bullet-style:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

* leave home @ approx. 9am

* arrive, suffering from no traveling stress whatsoever, in Albany @ approx. 6ish pm (give or take an hour - can't quite remember. does it really matter?)

* realize phone's been roaming for last 5 hours - GASP!

* try to get wifi without roaming. No luck! Grrr.... Turn off phone.

* eat, drink, sleep

Friday, January 15, 2010

* leave Albany @ approx. 11am

* nerves kick in around noon - skip lunch

* get lost in Boston tunnel (twice) and confused re: u-turns (twice) @ approx. 1:30pm

* arrive, suffering from mondo traveling stress, at Boston hotel @ approx. 2pm

* connect to hotel internet service as soon as room door is opened due to withdrawal

* pull self away from computer to shower

* meet editor Kallie (for the first time, ever) in hotel lobby @ 4:30pm. Think she's just as sweet as she sounds on the phone.

* catch shuttle to exhibition centre

* arrive @ exhibition centre @ approx. 5:15pm

* find boxes of books and set up signing table

* try to get conference centre wifi without roaming so I can tweet. No luck. Double grrr..... Turn off phone.

* sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign (etc...) for next two hours

* smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile (etc...) for same two hours

*got to talk to awesome people including Publishers Group West folk, librarians, authors

* catch shuttle back to hotel @ approx. 7:45pm

* enjoy an AMAZING sushi dinner with Kallie and David

* return to room @ approx. 11:30pm

* write quick blog post

* crash

Saturday, January 16, 2010.

* a 7:45am bleary-eyed meeting at Starbucks with Kallie to discuss "top-secret-business" :)

* catch 8:30am shuttle to exhibition centre

* crowds begin @ 9am

* sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign sign (etc...) for the next hour and a half til all books are GONE

* smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile smile (etc...) for the same hour and a half til all books are GONE

* wander exhibit hall and collect FREE books like they're the last books that will ever be printed (so, so much awesome talent!)

* drag bags full of books onto shuttle and head back to hotel

* chill for a bit

* go for lunch

* shop a bit for the loved ones I left @ home so they won't mind if I do this again another time

* freshen up and head back to exhibition hall so I can find my way to the ALA Tweetup!

* attend Tweetup - awesome, awesome, awesome!

* try again to get wifi without roaming to I can tweet the Tweetup. No luck. Triple grrrr.... Turn off phone. (See, part of the deal with the Tweetup was that you were to tweet about the people you meet AS YOU'RE MEETING THEM)

* meet amazing people

* talk to amazing people

* pick up a book at the book swap (I got 8TH GRADE SUPERZERO)

* say goodbye to amazing people

* make my way back to exhibition hall only to see that it's empty, it's dark, it's closed. And for some strange reason, I'm all alone. Find security guard and he tells me all shuttles back to my hotel STOPPED AN HOUR AGO!!!

* ask a random guy with "transportation authority" on the back of his shirt why the heck there aren't any shuttles and if he can please get me one since he's got the authority of transportation. He says it's a no-go but I can take the subway. "It's easy," he says. "Just hop on the silver line, then on the red line, then on the green line--" "Uh, I get lost in my own city," I say. "Then you might want to get a cab," he says. "Thanks a lot," I say. I go outside where I see two cops. I ask them if there's an easy way to get to Copley Square. They say, "Oh yeah, take the subway. It's easy. Just hop on the silver line, then the red line, then the green--" I decide to just get a cab. I spot a group of people waiting for taxis at a hotel entrance across the street. I approach and boldly ask if anyone's going to Copley Square who would want to share a taxi with me. Everyone within earshot either ignores me or says no. I go to the back of the line. One older gentleman leaves his place in line and comes to me and whispers, "I think those two ladies over there are going where you're going. I overheard them talking before." I go to the two ladies, ask, and yes they are going to Copley Square. And they'd be happy to share a taxi with me. Whew! I turn and mouth "thank you" to the kind old gentleman who left his place in line to help me.

* (that last one was a long bullet-style bullet, wasn't it?) Obviously a highlight of my weekend.

* arrive safe and sound back at the hotel after a lovely taxi ride

* write quick blog post and tweet the names of the tweeps I met at the Tweetup - the names I had to write on PAPER with INK b/c I couldn't get my blasted phone to pick up the wifi without roaming during the Tweetup.

* crash

Sunday, January 17, 2010

* sleep in (yeah!)

* have coffee and then leave hotel around 11:30am

* as mentioned in previous blog post: get lost coming OUT of Boston (although my navigational skills land me in wrong places all the time - with or without GPS - I must say that had I not had the GPS I may be in Key West right about now. Which, depending on how you look at it, may not be such a bad thing)

* once out of Boston, drive homeward bound

* make it to Syracuse to spend the night

* get lost in the city before using GPS to find a hotel outside of the city

* eat, drink, sleep

Monday, January 18, 2010

* leave hotel - drive a couple hours

* spot outlet mall from the highway - but too late. Take next exit and turn around

* shop a bit more

* get back on road for couple hours

* spot mall - shop a bit more

* finally cross border (THIS guy was decent)

* am once again able to use my phone!

* arrive home @ approx. 7pm where I'm greeted at the door with sloppy kisses (from the dogs) and warm hugs (from the rest of the mammals I live with)

So, there you have it. My Great American ALA Tour all wrapped up. What a great experience. Thanks Simply Read Books for the opportunity. And thanks to you for following along via blog.

Hey, anyone wanna do the road trip with me next time??

**if interested, see previous posts for a bit more detail and pics**

The Great American ALA Tour Part 4

After getting lost coming OUT of Boston, thanks again to the blasted tunnel and GPS combo, I'm now sitting in a hotel room in Syracuse waiting to hook up with my daughter via Facebook chat.

I'm still turning the events of the last few days over in my head. So much done in such a short time. It feels like the whirlwind that picked me up on Thursday morning has just dropped me on the other side of the weekend. Whew.

I'll do an ALA recap once I'm back home and thinking straight. Right now, someone very important is waiting for me over in Facebook land.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Great American ALA Tour Part 3

I'm pooped! So there will be few words.

About one eighth of the exhibition hall. Our booth was somewhere in the top left side of the pic. Actually, it was probably just left of the first "S" in Scholastic.

My editor Kallie, me, and my mommy.

Me and a new wonderful friend, Deborah Sloan. We met on Twitter a while back and finally met in real life tonight at the ALA Tweetup that she and Mitali Perkins organized. At the tweetup, there were about 200 people - all Twitter tweeps - who were chatting it up face to face. So cool to meet people who you only know by Twitter name and a small avatar photo. Very awesome.

The books I got for free. Yes, for free.

Me signing copy number 183 of 300. (no, actually I have no idea what number that one was.) It was quite a rush signing and talking to passersby. The time flew and I had a great time. I could have gone on for longer!
I'll post a wrap-up when I can think straight. There's so much to process.
Like I said, few words.
You're welcome. :)
Friday, January 15, 2010

The Great American ALA Tour Part 2

I'm now back in my room at the Boston Marriott after having an amazing sushi dinner with my editor and a couple of wonderful people who work at Publisher's Group West, the company that distributes my publisher's books in the U.S. Wow. What a day.

It all started with a problem-free drive from Albany til Boston. Well, it was problem-free until I hit the city. If you know anything about my navigational skills, you'll know that I have none. I've gotten lost coming home from Square One, a mall in my own city. My nav skills are so bad, I get lost following a GPS. And I did. Like three times. And it doesn't help when there's a tunnel in the middle of the city that you have to go through and you've missed hearing the GPS's directions before you went in. And then even the second time, when you pay attention to the directions and get it right, you can't get a satellite feed inside the tunnel and it's not just a straight through tunnel. It's like a maze. Well, to a first timer it's like a maze. So you come out in the wrong spot yet again. And then your GPS has you do, like, three u-turns (all of which you miss doing because you're not allowed to do u-turns in Canada and don't realize this is what you're being told to do)

Anyway, we somehow, miraculously, made it to the hotel in one piece and with a few nerves left intact. Luckily, the next 7.5 hours went from awesome to awesomer: I met my editor for the first time ever, we went to the exhibition hall where I signed and gave away about 150 books, and then - as I said at the beginning of this post - I had an amazing sushi dinner with three fabulous people. I also met a few fellow Twitterers in real life.

Tomorrow I hope to have some pics to add to Part 3 of the Great American ALA Tour. My camera battery died just as I got to the exhibition hall and was about to take my first picture of the Simply Read booth. Harumph!

So now it's off to bed I go. It's midnight and I've got a 7:45 am meeting with my editor. (who, by the way, is even more awesome in person. she's an absolute doll) And then at 9 am it's back to the exhibition hall to sign and give away more books! Yay! I'm loving it!

I'm one of the lucky people in Boston tonight.

Good night all.

The Great American ALA Tour

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Albany N.Y. about to leave for Boston when I got the idea of blogging about my little adventure. So that's what I'm doing. :)

I left home yesterday morning, picked up my mom who's being both my navigator and faithful companion, and headed out on the road. Now, you must understand, I really don't enjoy driving. Ask my husband. Usually when we drive to Florida I'll drive oh, say, for about 2 hours. If he's lucky.

So, here I am in Albany. And I drove the whole way. And I'll drive the rest of the way, too - in total it'll be 800-and-something km and however many hours we've spent driving and taking pit stops. (And anyone who's travelled with me knows I need to take a lot of pit stops)

Anyway, We made it safely into the U.S. (why are border officers always so nasty? I've never done anything to them) and there wasn't any traffic the whole way to Albany. Awesome!

I love bridges so I took a few pics of a really great one we crossed. (But, um... I forget where it was. So let's say... it's the beautiful bridge at the border crossing that made up for the nasty man in the booth)
And then, of course, we got the munchies last night and decided to order a pizza. Yeah, well...
I put my phone beside it just to remember exactly how monstrous it was. And this was for TWO of us. Did we finish it? Um, let's just say it was really, really good and we did some substantial damage to it.
Anyway, mom's hungry again (??How is that possible??) and wants to go for breakfast. I'll check back in tonight after I do my first signing at the ALA conference. Eeep! I'm both excited and nervous.
Monday, January 11, 2010

A Smudge Giveaway

Am I doing anything special for Smudge's U.S. release, you ask? I've got a few things up my sleeve; one of them being this new giveaway on Goodreads. (open to U.S. and Canada only) I did both a Goodreads and Twitter giveaway for Smudge's Canadian release and the books were all won by Americans! Yay for early support from south of the border! :) Who knows? Maybe a Canadian will be one of the winners this time?

Stay tuned for more giveaways as the release date gets closer. I'll be posting one here on my blog, and one on Twitter as my publisher is generously giving me more books to have fun with!

In the meantime, good luck over at Goodreads!
Friday, January 8, 2010

And So She Begins A New Adventure

It's amazing how friends just know what you need even when you don't tell them. A good friend of mine gave me two perfect new writing tools yesterday:

I'm beginning a new project and I have the idea of writing the entire first draft ON PAPER. I don't usually do this, what with the convenience of my handy netbook, but for this project I feel that writing the first draft by hand is very appropriate. And necessary. For a few reasons:

1. The mood and tone of the story is quite fairy tale-ish, not unlike the German fairy tales my mother used to read to me when I was a child that scared the bejeebies out of me. Ink and paper will give me that "long ago" feel in keeping with the mood. (You know, kind of like the feeling you get when you write snail mail instead of email :))
2. The practice of writing an entire first draft with pen and paper will (hopefully) propel me forward thus thwarting my incessant need to go back and edit every single line as I go. The computer feeds my editing addiction and I generally have a really hard time moving forward as I write.
3. I want to try writing a story that has been somewhat planned out. I'm a "write by the seat of your pants" writer and want to experiment with the concept of planning out a story before diving into it. This writing excercise won't be a flow chart of events or anything like that, but it will be the bare skeleton of a complete story from beginning to end. Emphasis on "bare" skeleton. Thus the THIN notebook.
4. I need to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

So there you have it. And it seems as though I'm not the only one interested in this new-for-me concept:

So, armed with a pen, hourglass, and beautiful new notebook I begin my new personal fantasy adventure.

Oh, and here's what my new notebook says on the back:

Appropriate, yes?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Non-Readers Only

This is a great cartoon created by my friend Debbie Ohi in light of the new new banned books on flights deal:

Click on the picture to get to Debbie's site. She's fabulous!!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Big Oopsie. But Worth It.

Wow. So, as you can probably tell, I just destroyed my blog layout. That was totally unintentional (especially since I just had a really nice comment about it this morning!)

But the reason I've unintentionally destroyed it is because I wanted to post my BRAND NEW BOOK TRAILER! So, really, it was worth it.

Check it out. And let me know what you think.

(For those of you reading a feed of this blog, come to the original posting to see the trailer)
Monday, January 4, 2010

500 Words a Day Challenge

You're on, Inkygirl! I must admit, the thought of committing to write 1000 words every single day makes me hyperventilate. But the thought of committing to 500 words a day just gives me slight palpitations and sweaty palms.

So game on!

Thanks for the challenge.
Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Best Gift of 2009 - A Pile-driver to the Head

You know, I spent most of 2009 waiting.

I won't bore you with the long list of things I had to wait for (and, if truth be known, some things I'm STILL waiting for) but as I look back on these things I can see some of the different emotions I've had in response to them: anger, fear, resentment, anxiety. Even self-doubt and at times apathy.

And all these feelings have resulted in some major fits of frustration. I mean, when you feel stuck, when you feel trapped, when you feel like you're dependent on someone else to be able to move forward, that's frustrating. That's really frustrating. Especially when it's freakishly happening in different areas of your life, on many levels, and all at the same time.

But the operative word here is "feel". Feelings aren't concrete, are they? They are subjective. They change. They are easily influenced by our surroundings, our situations. But for some reason we base so much of our lives around them. Hmmm...

Now, as much as I'm tempted to do it, I don't want to kick 2009 in the arse and tell it good riddance, which would be the typical response. That would only make 2009 another notch on my 'things that have disappointed me' belt. And I don't know about you, but I want to see my belts get smaller, not bigger.

Instead, I'm choosing to make 2009 my friend. I want to take all the stuff that happened this past year and use it. I'm seeing 2009 as the trusted friend who lets me know when there's something in my life that needs improvement. The friend who speaks truth into my life even though it may sometimes hurt. The friend who accepts me for who I am yet at the same time doesn't gloss over my ugly stuff. Yes, even the friend who tells me when my writing is off. Believe it or not, we all need friends like that. (And here, the operative word is 'friend'. If you have a true one who does these things for you, you'll know what I'm talking about. My advice is don't ever let that person go. They are worth more than your weight, combined, in every precious metal known to man.)

2009 has been that kind of friend for me. Oh, believe me, at times it felt like she was giving me a pile-driver to the head. But what she has taught me - what she is still teaching me - is invaluable.

She has taught me to be more independent. She has taught me to be more assertive. She has taught me to get my head around what I truly want in life. She has taught me that no one can make me feel a certain way unless I let them make me feel that way. She has taught me to take control of my feelings, not to let my feelings take control of me. She has taught me that even though I may have to wait, I am in command of what I do with that time. And that the time I have in every year that's yet to come is best spent wisely.

That's why I'm choosing to make her my friend instead of my enemy.

I hope 2009 was a good friend to you, too.