Monday, February 28, 2011

I Have a Title!!!

Okay, so I don't normally do two blog posts in one day, and I usually try to be a little wittier with my post titles, but I just got some exciting news that I needed to share immediately. That leaves little time for cleverness.

After many months and many long lists, my book officially has a title! Ready? [long-awaited drumroll]

It will be called: The Mapmaker and the Ghost

[cymbal crash]

This was always one of my favorite prospective titles and I'm so glad my editor and the marketing/sales team at Walker have decided to go with it. I'm supposed to also be getting final cover art soon. Can I just say how much I CANNOT wait to share a cover, with a title, and my name following that most beautiful of two-letter words: BY?

Woot, people. Woot.

Whoaaaa, Looks Like We Made It

I've pretty much maintained that I've always, always wanted to be a writer ever since the phrase "what do you want to be when you grow up" came into my life and consciousness.

I think it's time to confess that is not entirely true. The fact is there was a year in my life, the third grade to be exact, where I desperately wanted to be something else.

I wanted to be...a member of Kids Incorporated.

Unless you grew up during a very specific few years in the 80s and had the Disney Channel, you might not know who Kids Incorporated are. Let me explain.

Kids Incorporated was a TV show, sorta in the vein of Hannah Montana/Glee, about a bunch of regular kids who were in a band. Every night they took over the cafe they hung out in and rocked out. The show starred a very young Jennifer Love Hewitt and Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, then simply known as Stacey Ferguson. Stacey was my favorite. Clearly, I had an eye for talent.

Or I can just show you this:

They are rocking out AND stopping pollution...who doesn't want to be a part of that?!

The funny thing is, I didn't really, really want to be on the show, Kids Incorporated. I really, really wanted to be part of the band, Kids Incorporated. Now, by this time, I already had a vague conceit that this was part of a produced TV show. That these kids had scripts and takes and cameras and that none of what was on my television screen was real.

I didn't care. I just really hoped the universe would find a way to make it happen.

I don't think any of this is terribly original. Most people want to be rock stars, right? In fact, just last week, I read an interview with author/singer/songwriter Wesley Stace which featured this gem of a quote: "Most writers seems to want to be rock stars and most rock stars are desperate to be taken seriously."

Er...yeah, okay. That's true.

I started taking guitar lessons a couple of years ago. Every month, my guitar school has a student showcase at a local bar. Every month, my teacher has asked me if I want to do it and I've always said no. But the truth is, I would really, really like to get up there and - for a second - imagine I got my third grade wish.

So this year, although I have horrible, crippling stage fright, I've kinda promised myself I will. I'll keep you posted as to if that ever happens. And by that I, of course, mean I will tell you after if I ever decide to do it. No one I know can be in the audience for this.

Unless Fergie somehow reads this blog and decides to come cheer me on.

Don't even tell me you don't want to own that headband for I will call you a liar, sir.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Doubt Monster World Tour

As a soon-to-be-published writer, I know I'm supposed to be my own greatest advocate. I should be promoting myself and my work, stirring up excitement for my book, sending out happy good vibes into the digiverse at all times, etc.

As a regular old writer though, it's difficult for me not to still fall under the spell of The Doubt Monster, which - unlike The Fame Monster - is NOT glamorous, universally revered and often pantsless. It is, however, way, way scarier than anything I ever thought lived in the tiny walk-in closet my sister and I shared growing up.

It creeps up on me - usually when I'm reading over my work - and it's been hanging around a lot lately, making me wonder things like what on earth did my editor ever see in this book? Who is actually going to read it and like it? Why can I not make this sentence sound right no matter how many times I rewrite it? And how will I ever finish the new manuscript I'm working on?

I usually let the monster come, let it whisper whatever it's going to say in my ear, sometimes respond back with some sort of sound of frustration/annoyance/impatience/dire distress of my own and then - after a little while - get back to work. Getting lost in a story or a task relating to a story is the only way I know of to stop the monster from crippling me entirely. That or occasionally putting on "Poker Face" and challenging it to a dance-off.

Which means...back to outlining the second act of my latest work-in-progress. And secretly hoping that no one else thinks that pesky sentence is as bad as I do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Paperback Writer

Yesterday, I saw Beatles tribute band Rain on Broadway. Now, normally, I am very, very wary about any sort of Beatles cover band, but I had heard enough amazing things about them to decide to give it a shot. To my great surprise, I very much enjoyed the show and even got goosebumps during a few key numbers. And then I started thinking about how The Beatles came into my life.

This post could be subtitled 'How My Love of Books Led to My Love of The Beatles.'

And it goes something like this: the summer between third and fourth grade, my local public library ran a reading program. If you checked out a certain number of books, read them, and gave a couple of books reports throughout the summer, you got different prizes ranging from stickers to free pizza from Pizza Hut.

Rewarding me for reading was like giving me candy for eating candy. Seriously. I happily plowed through my Roald Dahl, Ann M. Martin and Beverly Cleary books and racked up my prizes.

The ultimate prize, if you read ten books by the end of the summer, was concert tickets to a cover band called Squeaky Clean who performed hits from the 50s and 60s. In between tracks like "It's My Party" and "Splish Splash," they gave a little anecdote about how the next song they were going to play was something called a B-side. A certain DJ had decided to flip a hit record over and then all of a sudden, the B-side was a hit too. Then Squeaky Clean went into a rendition of "We Can Work It Out."

You know that first time you read a book, or watch a movie, or see a piece of art and you immediately know that you will love it forever? That's what happened to me that day. Within the week, I had made my mom buy me a tape of Beatles hits. I listened to that tape incessantly. And then the obsessive part of me took over and I slowly doled out their albums to myself, cherishing every note of every single one. I was pretty good about it, making the rationing last until college when I finally purchased Magical Mystery Tour - the only one I had left to own.

I could go on and on about my love for The Beatles, but this is a blog, not a memoir. I will just say that both The Beatles and books had a profound impact on my adolescence. It's funny when I think about how one led to the other.

Oh, and I'll leave you with this: me dressed as a certain meter maid for a Beatles-themed birthday party I threw myself a couple of years ago.

Filling in a ticket in my little white book.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Author Journeys: Alan Bradley

I recently fell in love with a character in a book: Ms. Flavia de Luce of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia is 11; lives in a rambling mansion in a 1950s English countryside; has an affinity for chemistry, specifically poisons; and gets involved in solving a mystery when a dead man appears in her cucumber patch.

I'm very much of the opinion that Flavia and Goldenrod, the 11-year-old protagonist of my novel, would be very good friends if an ocean, a few decades, and a publishing house didn't separate them.  

Even besides that, though, it's no wonder I love this book as it combines quite a few of my very favorite things:

- smart girl protagonists
- English countrysides
-  mysteries
- unabashed quirkiness

If I love a book, I'm one of those people who wants to find out as much about the author as possible. Here are some truly fascinating facts about Alan Bradley:

- Alan Bradley is not an 11-year-old girl, but rather a man who got his debut fiction novel (this one) published at the age of 70.
- Bradley won the Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger Award based on 15 pages of this novel. Then the book went to auction and was purchased by a publisher. And then, Bradley actually finished writing it.
- Before going to pick up his Dagger Award, Bradley had never before even visited England.

As a writer, you're often told to write what you know. This is absolutely sound advice but one of my favorite parts of fiction writing is very much the opposite - researching and exploring worlds that I never have and probably never will experience. It's been very cool to find out that Alan Bradley has had so much success with doing exactly that.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a series of Flavia de Luce mysteries. I can't wait to pick up the rest!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Apocalypse Is Looking Pretty Good Right About Now

A few weeks ago I joined a group of 2012 debut children's authors called the Apocalypsies. Their motto is 'Read 'Em Like There's No Tomorrow.' They are awesome.

One of the writers who helps run the group is debut YA author Gretchen McNeil. Gretchen was originally supposed to have her novel, Possess, come out in Winter 2012 (same literary season as me). But then her publishers switched things around and, instead, her book will be coming out on August 23, 2011! She has been dubbed the harbinger of the Apocalypsies.

Today Gretchen revealed her cover art and, I gotta tell you, I think it's absolutely stunning. Check it out:

Doesn't that make you want to pick it up and find out exactly what this book is about? Yes? Then I will make you work for it just a little: to learn more about the book and Gretchen, including how to pre-order (!) Possess, check out her blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

King Author

Last week was one of ups and downs. My apartment ceiling started dripping, then raining, and then eventually collapsing. Things at my day job were a bit on the mad side. And to top it all off, I had just gotten back from a gloriously relaxing Florida vacation and wasn't ready to be so unceremoniously dumped into the harsher New Yorkness of New York.

But then some amazing things happened, too. The most amazing was that I got called author multiple times. First my editor sent a mass e-mail to all her "authors" (and that included me!). I got listed on a couple of Twitter lists that involved the word author. And my copyedited manuscript had all sorts of queries for something called an AU. It took me a little while to realize that that did not stand for Australia but rather - you guessed it - author. (Although, now that I think about it, perhaps I would like to hear Australia's views on the merits of scientific kitchen concoctions that use chili beans vs. chili powder).

Ever since the second grade, when we learned all about authors and illustrators, I've always thought that the 'a' word was absolutely beautiful. It just sounded so elegant and regal, especially if I tried it out with my fake British accent (my secret's out - I've been nurturing that accent for a while. Sadly, it hasn't shown much improvement over the years).

I've tried to get used to calling myself a writer over the last couple of years. In college, one of my favorite screenwriting teachers once said, "Don't ever say you want to be a writer. If you write, you're a writer. It's not contingent on whether your work is produced or published or not." It took me a long time to get up the nerve to follow her advice.

But I never even thought about calling myself an author. That, to me, was most certainly reserved for those elusive chosen few who got their work published and on a bookshelf, who had jackets and cover art, acknowledgments and blurbs.

I can't believe that gets to be me now. I'll take a collapsed ceiling in my bathroom any day if it means I can really and truly have people call me an author and mean it.

Because, let's face it, one of the beauties of being one is you don't really have to bathe much.

Look at the pretty colors. Oh, and the 'AU' is me!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Even Twitter Can't Stop the Rambler In Me

A few days ago, I noticed this trending topic on Twitter: #sixwordnovels.

I couldn't refrain from jumping on a literary TT, so I tweeted this:
Girls die out. Boys attempt survival.
I volunteer with an organization called Girls Write Now, where they pair a professional female writer as a mentor to a teen female writer from an under-served NYC school. A few hours after I tweeted the above, I was meeting with my mentee and we were talking about genre-writing. In particular, we were doing an exercise where we both tried writing a scene that could be classified as either horror or suspense.

For some reason, my six word novel was nagging at me, so I decided to go with it and flesh it out a bit. Here's what I wrote:

"They're dead. All of them." Henry spoke in a dull voice, as if he didn't even care. As if this wasn't the end of the human race.

"What should we do now?" I asked. I was sweating and the spear I held kept sliding through my grip.

"Live. I guess." Henry shrugged. "Until we die. And die out." He held his rifle confidently. He didn't look at me as we talked, choosing instead to stare out at the thrashing sea. Unlike us, it wasn't going anywhere.

"Do we tell the others?" I asked. I couldn't help it. I had no answers, and Henry always seemed to. Whether they were the correct responses, the right ones, I couldn't tell. But still, they were better than none.

"Don't see the point in lying," Henry said.

I frowned. He was probably right. But what would the other guys do once they found out that they were all gone? Every single female of the species was either drowned at the bottom of the sea or lay decaying with its sister corpses on the mass of land we had managed to escape from.

Escape. But what was the point? There was nowhere for any of us to go from here. And without the girls, nowhere for any of our kind. We were the last and the way things were going, it seemed likely we wouldn't survive each other anyhow.

I gripped my damp spear tighter.

It's probably a little too reminiscent of Lord of the Flies to ever go anywhere as is, but I had a lot of fun writing this. It's very, very different from anything I usually write and thinking about the elements of horror and suspense was a cool exercise for both of us, I think. Besides, exploring strange and new territory has always been my favorite part of writing anyhow!

P.S. Girls Write Now is a pretty great organization. Please check out their website if you're interested in learning more!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Manuscript Just Called Me a Dingbat, a.k.a. Adventures in Copyediting

On Tuesday, I arrived to a rather thick envelope at my door. It was the copyedited version of my manuscript.

Here are a few things I didn't know. These are literally the pages of the manuscript that both my editor and the copy editor have gone over, probably at least a couple of times each. So it looks a little, shall we say, loved - in the Velveteen Rabbit sense of the word.

Secondly, each of them have used a different colored pencil to make their edits. Now my job is to go through with yet another colored pencil and make sure I accept all their changes. If I disagree with something, I have to underline it with a dotted line and write the word STET directly in the margin.

Copyediting language requires a Merriam-Webster dictionary. Literally. My editor actually sent me a Merriam-Webster link to help decipher all the squiggles and scary acronyms.

And then, about 10 pages into my manuscript, I came across this:

Yup, that says Dingbat. It's kind of halfheartedly crossed out, but not crossed out enough to be in the slightest bit illegible. Kind of like when you mutter something degrading that you, in your heart of hearts, intend for your mom to hear.

Now, my editor ensures me this is some sort of design term that has something to do with chapter breaks. I gotta be honest with you. I'm not quite sure I believe her. What if this is how the copy editor truly feels about my writing? What if this is the most horrendous grammar/sentence structure she's ever seen and at one point she just had to throw her arms up in the air and write out her real feelings on my manuscript? And then, for the sake of professionalism, sorta cross it out afterward. (Stacy, if you're reading this...I'm kidding, of course. I totally believe you. Even though my manservant, Google, can't seem to find any mention of this editing term per se.)

Anyway, copyediting is weird. You know what else is weird? Writing with pencil on paper. It's so...permanent. If I wanted to cut and paste anything, I would literally have to cut and then paste it, like with glue and scissors.

Though, frankly, it's a good way to keep me from rearranging whole chapters. I'm wondering if my editor figured out that I was never very good with scissors.

Huge Caveat: Most of this blog post is meant to be humorous and in no way, shape or form should be taken as disparaging to my editor, who is in fact amazing, or the excellent copy editor, who in fact caught every discrepancy and bit of poor grammar I was silly enough to have in my manuscript.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You Gotta Blog Before You Can Author

My journey to getting an offer on my manuscript was long and, if I'm being completely honest here, a little droning. That's why I've decided to try and chop it up into these (hopefully) vastly entertaining chunk-sized bits of goodness. Otherwise known as blog posts. Fine, I'll take anything from less boring to mildly more fascinating than watching that third layer of floor varnish dry.

Anyhoo, one of these (fingers-crossed) less boring bits involves how I piqued my editor's attention. The set-up: my agent was shopping around another manuscript of mine. A few editors were interested enough to give me some very nice encouragement and some constructive feedback. And one of these editors mentioned that although she didn't love the manuscript, she did really like my blog.

Once upon a time, I had a humor blog. It had nothing to do with children's books or writing, and everything to do with how insane I thought Times Square was. I worked there, you see, and because I was going into the mouth of ludicrousness day in and day out, I just found it an easy topic to riff on. By day, I was writing web copy, by night I was writing novels and, believe it or not, somewhere in between, I felt like I needed a comedy outlet. Mainly, I was hoping to entertain a few of my friends and mostly, I was looking to entertain myself.

When my agent asked me for a bio that she could send out to prospective editors, I stuck the URL of the blog in there. I figured that it was decent writing and that I was updating it pretty frequently so why not. Even though there was some language in there that would, most definitely, have no place in a children's book. I am, of course, talking about the four-letter one-two punch of...Fake Elmo.

Anyway, to make a short part of a long story short (too late!), my now-editor did not love my first manuscript, but she did love (or strongly esteem, as I feel a certain Ms. Jane Austen would say) the voice and humor of my blog. And it just so happened that I had another piece that fit in very, very nicely with that voice. So within a year, and a few other stepping stones, presto-chango, book offer!

I think what I ended up taking away from all this is that things starting happening for me - on the publishing end - when I stopped focusing so hard on it. I'm a Type-A personality, but it was crucial for me to realize that there was very, very little I could control. But the very, very little I could control was how well I could try to write my stories. So I wrote a few of those, rewrote them each several dozen more times and - most importantly - wrote for the sake of writing. That's exactly what that blog was.

Thanks, blog. I owe you one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dedicated and Acknowledged

On Friday, my editor asked me if I have a book dedication or acknowledgments and, if so, to send them over to her. Yesterday, I did.

I'm going to share a secret with you: I wrote a draft of this book's dedication and acknowledgments over two years ago. Mainly because I was procrastinating and thought it'd be fun to pretend that what I was working on was actually getting published. In other words, I was daydreaming.

I know I've said this before, but it really is very strange to be an adult who literally feels like she's having a dream come true. Of course, I mean strange in the Tim Burton-sense of wonderful and odd all at the same time. Emphasis on wonderful.

I really have no idea what will happen when this book comes out. Maybe it'll be out-of-print within a year and that'll be the beginning and end of my publishing career. But the thing is, once it's out, I will forever be a published author and no one - most especially not my mopey, self-deprecating doppelganger - can take that away from me. Now, isn't that something?

Which, of course, means I have many things and many people to be grateful for. I only wish my dedication/acknowledgments could truly do them all justice.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I WIP My Book Back and Forth

Like any other business, publishing comes with its own set of terms. Some of which I know - like querying, that painful process where you have to describe yourself and your project in two perfect, glittering paragraphs to a prospective agent or editor. But there are many terms I'm still learning about. Like a few days ago, I came across WIP.

WIP stands for work-in-progress, and its something (as I mentioned before) I have a lot of. In fact, it's hard for me to consider anything I write NOT a WIP.

I found out about WIPs through another debut writer's blog my editor sent me when I told her I was starting this one. Once I saw the word WIP and starting clicking around, I noticed that a lot of writers use it.

The only problem is, the Internet has yet been unable to tell me how to pronounce it. It's an acronym, so do you pronounce each letter: W-I-P? Or do you pronounce it as one word: wip.

I gotta be honest with you. I don't know if I can go around talking about my wips without conjuring up an image of me running away from a giant boulder and bickering with Sean Connery. Though I suppose there could be worse things. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm now going to be calling it wip no matter how you really pronounce it. Wait for me, Indy!

(Out of curiosity's sake though, does anyone know how to actually pronounce this elusive word? Help me out in the comments section if you do!)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Books: The Theme Park

I love Harry Potter. If you know me in real life - and chances are if you're on this blog, you do - this should come as no great surprise.

Ever since I've known about it, I've been really excited to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That's the theme park in Orlando, Florida where they recreate Hogsmeade and Hogwarts in all their cobblestoney, castley glory, and throw in some thrilling rides for good measure.

The night before two of my best friends - also huge Harry Potter fans - and I were finally to go to the park for the first time, it dawned on me what was about to happen. I was about to live out an extraordinary fantasy: being able to step into one of my favorite books.

And then I started thinking, what if I could step into real-life versions of some of my other very favorite reads? Here's what I imagine some of them would be like:

The Regency World of Pride and Prejudice
Main ride: Elizabeth Bennet's Emotional Roller Coaster of Love
Available snackfoods: Lady Catherine de Burgers
Merchandising tie-in: Perma-wet white button-downs

Lord of the Flies Adventure
Main ride: This Little Piggy Went to HELL
Available snackfoods: Pigs on a stick
Merchandising tie-in: Plastic conch shells, available in 18 power-hungry colors, now including glow-in-the-dark!

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegasland
Main ride: Dr. Gonzo's Mad Motorcycle Racetrack
Available snackfoods: Pixie Sticks rebranded as Psychedelic Desert Sands of Happiness
Merchandising tie-in: Pretty, pretty acid tabs

The Quest of the Secret Garden
Main ride: Master Colin's Tantrum of Terror
Available snackfoods: Fresh garden salads
Merchandising tie-in: Mood-altering vials of fresh air

The Journey of the Baby-Sitter's Club
Main ride: Kristy's Great Idea: A Journey Through the Mind of an American Icon
Available snackfoods: Claudia's Closet Stash
Merchandising tie-in: Kid Kits, 'nuff said

Katie, me and Jenny at Hogwarts. But that could very well be Pemberley behind us. Or Stoneybrook, CT.

P.S. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is 100% excellent. If you're a fan, I can't recommend it enough.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Titleist: Not Just a Golf Ball Anymore

One of the first questions anyone kind enough to listen to me prattle about my book asks is, "What's it called?"

My answer is to smile a little nervously and say something like, "Er...good question. It still doesn't have a title."

The manuscript is done. The book is well on its way to having finalized cover art. There are actual departments somewhere in the Flatiron Building talking about things like marketing and publicity. But seriously. It. Still. Doesn't. Have. A. Title.

Between me, my editor, and my agent we have brainstormed something like 60 titles. None of them have stuck.

My book is about a girl named Goldenrod. She's a mapmaker. She's 11. In my head, the project has always been called Goldenrod (or G-rod if she's feeling particularly gangsta). But this isn't the title. I don't know what the title is.

 That's where you come in, interwebs! Check out that stellar synopsis above and leave me a title suggestion in the comments below. I mean if you can't come up with a title, who can?!

This could be YOU!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jane Eyre Was Kinda Emo

I've been on a rereading kick lately. Instead of picking up something new, I've been taking another shot at some old favorites.

I wouldn't say Jane Eyre was ever really a big favorite, per se. The last time I read it was in high school. Here's what I remember about it:
- the cover, which was one of those weird school-issued hardback in softcover proportions and which had an austere Whistler's Mother-esque portrait on it.
- disliking the first half of the book, but then getting really into it and - ultimately - liking it as a whole.

I wanted to give the book another read to see how I'd feel about it over a decade later.

I'm only about halfway through but, so far, I have to say I still think the first part (when Jane is in school) kinda drags. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that although Jane is supposed to be ten, she's speaking with an adult voice. I understand that she's meant to be reflecting back, sort of in a Kevin Arnold Wonder Years way, but I wonder if I would have felt more into it if it was really told from the perspective of a child.

I have gotten to "the good part" though. Jane is at the dark, grand and moor-surrounded Thornfield and the mysterious and moody Mr. Rochester has entered the scene. I just finished reading a chapter in which both Jane and Rochester pontificate heavily on their own unattractiveness, followed by their morose character flaws. Jane is invariably self-described as small, pale, thin, and drawn. Rochester's got a big old cranium and a unibrow. Or something like that.

If this book had a 2011 soundtrack, it'd totally be all My Chemical Romance and Thirty Seconds to Mars.

But anyway, the point is, it seems Charlotte Bronte went out of her way to make sure we knew that neither her heroine nor her hero were attractive - or, at least, not conventionally so. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the novels that were being produced in her time (or any time really), especially romances, which featured only great beauties and handsome gentlemen. You gotta give her credit for reminding us that "plain people" have stories too.

Of course, throughout the course of the novel, it becomes universally apparent that both Jane and Rochester are anything but plain - no matter how much Jane would like to insist otherwise. Oh, Jane. The She's All That ugly/pretty girl of her time.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finals Make Me Nervous

A month ago to the day, I handed in the "final" draft of my book to my editor.

I've never had anything be "final" before in my life. I have dozens of drafts of dozens of projects hanging around in my hard drive. I tend to skip around a lot from project to project - especially in between drafts - as a good way to keep myself sane. Usually that means I'll open up the latest draft of project X and start tinkering with it, while I give the second draft of project Y a month or two to cool off before I reread it and tinker some more.

Before I handed in my manuscript, I counted how many drafts of it I had on my computer. There were 26. Some drastically different than the one before it, others with only minor phrasing changes. But the fact that there will probably never be a 27th draft of this project, that once it's published I can't tinker with it anymore (well, I can, but only for the benefit of my hard drive and my neuroses) is totally surreal.

I know I'll have a couple more chances to read the book before it's really, really final. Right now it's with a freelance copy editor who is reading it afresh and who will help to catch and fix any remaining typos, grammar and continuity issues. And then I will get a final version to read when it's typeset and looks like a real book. I think I'll be able to change a word here or there if absolutely necessary. But will I be able to completely overhaul major plot points and introduce kooky and lovable secondary characters? My educated guess is that my editor will say something like, um, no.

I'm living in the Twilight Zone, people. What if the 27th draft is THE ONE?!

Actually, that might be a good idea for a Twilight Zone spec script. Maybe I'll go work on that...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

If There Were a Fire, What's The First Thing You Would Grab? (Or How I Learned to Accept My Fears and Purchase a Spare Hard Drive)

I don't have to theorize on the fire question; I got to experience it firsthand when my apartment building was evacuated bright and early one Monday morning a few years ago (and I am very much in the Garfield school of thought when it comes to both mornings and Mondays - the cat, not the president).

I grabbed my great-grandmother's ring and my laptop.

In a way, they are equally important to me. And it has nothing to do with the laptop's worth as a piece of expensive electronic equipment and everything to do with the fact that almost all I've ever written from age 18 and up is somehow contained on that piece of aluminum. Mind you, I realize that most of it is crap. But it's my crap, you know. And what if one day, one of those pages of crap was just waiting to cocoon up and turn into a beautiful, shimmering butterfly that was worthy of being read by someone who wasn't bound to me by friendship or sheer kindness.

If I were to lose that 'what if,' I honestly don't know what I'd do. I'm pretty sure I'd feel something like Pi in Life of Pi. Adrift at sea in a raft. With a tiger. The tiger substituting nicely for the enormity of my grief and bewilderment.

Naturally, I back up. A lot. In fact, I have two hard drives - one which I started keeping at my parents' house in case there was a fire and my first hard drive burned right alongside my laptop. You could say I'm a worrier. But most writers (okay, maybe not Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, but most contemporary writers) have probably lost some pages due to these newfangled computer thingamajigahoys and can understand my paranoia. At least that's what I tell myself when I'm lying awake at night, trembling at the thought of UFOs kidnapping my electronics for purposes of analysis of our primitive culture. Not that I believe in UFOs. But what if I'm wrong?

A couple of weeks ago, my trusty 500 GB hard drive stopped working. It wouldn't show up on my desktop. It wouldn't let me back anything up. As I troubleshooted, I also started frantically e-mailing myself pages of my new project.

I'm happy to report that after a couple of weeks, a spare part, and a very scary few hours where I had to delete everything on my hard drive and reformat it (no, seriously, it was terrifying)... my laptop and my hard drive are together again at last.

See how cozily they're snuggled up? Perhaps I should be slightly comforted that, in case of fire, they will perish romantically by each other's side.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Do You Sound British?

And by "sound" I only mean in writing because, alas, as much as I would actually love to have a proper British accent, I was raised in America. And my fake British accent is pretty terrible (which doesn't mean my boyfriend doesn't sometimes get to hear me reciting new chapters whilst utilizing it. Poor chap).

The title of this post refers to a note my editor had in reference to the first draft of my book. I was using all sorts of unAmerican phrasing like "going on about" and it made her wonder why I would.

She's right, of course. Like my terrible fake British accent, it doesn't really make sense to have an unnatural or affected writing style. But there are two very good reasons I was "sounding British" without realizing it:

1) I write editorial for an international department where I have to use British spelling/language for everything. This means that now I can't write the word 'favourite' without getting a red squiggly line underneath it.

2) I read a lot of British literature. In fact, almost all my favorite (I had to stop myself from adding that 'u') authors happen to be British. Unsurprisingly, this has seeped into a lot of my own writing.

I'm not sure what it is about British literature, but something about the visuals of rain beating on cobblestones, of the land of Elizabeth Bennet and Sherlock Holmes, just draws me in whenever I want to be whisked away by fiction (which is often). Lately, I've been thinking about setting a book in England to help rid me of my itch in the most proper way. And what are the Brits about, really, if not being proper.