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Showing posts from September, 2010

Some FAQs about Writing, Plus Upcoming Appearance Info

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1. My goal is to write a New York Times best seller someday. Do you have any advice?
Well, yes, but I'm guessing it's not the advice you were looking for. My advice is to change your goal. Here's the thing: becoming a NYT best-seller is an achievement that's almost completely outside your control. It depends a lot more on unknowable factors (like the future demands of the market) and on uncontrollable factors (like how many other "big" books are out at the same time as yours or how aggressively your publisher decides to promote your book) than it depends on your ability to write a good book. Many, many good books never become NYT best sellers.

Your question makes me want to ask you a question: Do you actually want to write? Or do you just want to be rich and famous? Being a best-selling author is super nice -- but it does NOT necessarily make you rich and famous. The book biz is NOT the movie biz. Shannon Hale, who is an award-winning and NYT best-selling au…

Checking in with Some Monday Randutiae

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Last week, while stuck in traffic on I-95 in preparation for being extremely late to my trapeze conditioning class, I noticed that the leaves are starting to change. Hooray!

I'm reading a mystery by Ellis Peters called The House of Green Turf. I've been enjoying it from the first sentence: But for a five minute shower of rain, and a spattering of pennystone clay dropped from the tailboard of a lorry, Maggie Tressider would have driven on safely to her destination, that day in August, and there would never have been anything to cause her to look back over her shoulder and out of her ivory tower, nothing to make the mirror crack from side to side, nothing to bring any unforeseen and incomprehensible curse down upon her.

I wouldn't generally recommend a 78-word opening sentence to a book, so why do I like this one? Because somehow, by the end of that first sentence, the setting, the protagonist, and the plot are all intriguing and real to me. The five-minute shower, the spatt…

In Which the Author Regales Her Readers with Tales of a Maritime Journey (And One Small Rant)

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Just for the record, if I were standing on a mountain counting my money and some guy came along, first produced a pistol, then produced a rapier, and said, "Stand and deliver, for you are a bold deceiver! Musha ring dum-a do dum-a da, whack fol the daddy-o, whack fol the daddy-o, there's whiskey in the jar!".... I really would have no idea what he wanted.

So, in case you didn't believe me on Monday when I said I'd been to Prince Edward Island, well, that would be weird of you, but anyway, I just got the pictures from my Mom, and you'll find you can't argue with this photograph.


Now do you believe me?

(It's my toes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.)

(Click any of the pictures to enbiggen.)

At the dunes in Greenwich, no dogs were allowed.


Thank goodness, polar bears were. (Presumably. There were no signs indicating otherwise.)


I crossed the walkway over the dunes.


Then I gestured to the right.


Then my Dad and I took off our shoes.


Isn't this the best photo journa…

The Story of My Vacation (In Books and Music)

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Here's the story of my vacation: I went to Prince Edward Island. Now I'm back.

la la la la la

Hey, listen, I am not a travel writer, okay?

Actually, I do expect to have some things to say about the trip, but I'm waiting for the pictures from my photographer, also known as my mom. In the meantime -- I read lots of books, listened to lots of music, went to a ceilidh, and *bought* lots of music (all of which tend to happen when I'm in PEI) -- so here's the report.

I Read and Recommend:
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, by Karen Cushman. MG historical fiction, takes place in California during the Gold Rush (mid-1800s).The Fire-Eaters, by David Almond. YA realism, takes place in 1962 (the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis) in the north of England (in and near Newcastle).How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn. Literary fiction, takes place in southern Wales in the 1800s, around the time coal miners unionized, whenever that was. This is a classic you may have read in high sc…

Forever Incomplete

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I'm still away, but I set this up to post while I was gone. A friend gave it to me just at the moment when I needed it most. Thanks, Sandra, for sharing these lyrics with me:

I have been running so sweaty my whole life
urgent for a finish line --
and I have been missing the rapture this whole time
of being forever incomplete.

Ever unfolding, ever expanding --
ever adventurous and torturous --
but never done.
They're from the song "Incomplete" by Alanis Morissette. Here she is singing it:

Off I Go in Search of Zing and Pep

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A Dunder Mifflin staff meeting, called because Michael Scott, Regional Manager, wants to change things up in the office, create some new excitement:

MICHAEL: So, what we need to do is we need to get things going. We need to get percolating a little bit. Anybody have any ideas of what we could do? Any suggestions? Yes -- Andy?

ANDY: What if we changed our outgoing answering machine message so it just had a little more ZING and a little more PEP?

MICHAEL: Zing and pep! See, those are the kinds of words we're looking for! Who else? Yes -- Jim?

JIM: What if we did an even newer voicemail message that had even more zing and pep?

MICHAEL: Now we're cooking! I like this!

I enjoy the spirit in which Jim enters into the idiocy of his office even though he himself is not an idiot. Maybe, surrounded by all those... unique... people, he would go mad if he didn't.

So, I'm going away to cooler climes for the week, in search of zing and pep -- the zing and pep that come from good food, goo…

The Men, the Guns, and the Stupidity

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I've recently been compelled -- not against my will, exactly, because I did say, "Yes, okay," but let's just say that there are other things I would rather be doing -- I've recently been compelled to watch a lot of Westerns in succession.

I reckon Westerns just ain't my thing. I reckon in most cases -- note, there are exceptions -- I was pleasantly surprised by High Noon and True Grit -- whereas even Morgan Freeman wasn't enough incentive ever to watch Unforgiven again -- where was I? I reckon that in most cases, I would rather eat a tumbleweed.

But -- BUT -- I don't hate everything about every one of them, and if you have five minutes today, I strongly recommend that you listen to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's take on Ennio Morricone's famous music from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.



(That's some mighty fine whistling!)

Oh! Before I sign off: Happy new year to all those celebrating!

Clarity plzzzzzz

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So, here's a small tip for writers out there: you know those moments when you get a great idea and jot it down on the nearest ink-accepting object? Your hand; the pizza box; if it's a good day, a post-it note? Well: WRITE THE IDEA OUT IN COMPLETE WORDS, NOT SHORTHAND. You think you'll remember later what you meant. But you won't, really. YOU WON'T.

I was going through some post-it notes the other day, looking for ideas, and I came across one that said this: an experience that doesn't fit into real life (FW by CV; 12 Monkeys).

The "12 Monkeys" part, I got. Terry Gilliam's (awesome) movie Twelve Monkeys is definitely about an experience that doesn't fit into real life. But... "FW by CV?" What the hell does that mean? And the problem is, it matters. The reason I thought "an experience that doesn't fit into real life" was worth writing down was because of the way it intersected with how Twelve Monkeys and "FW b…

Pieces of Memory. Plus, the World's Longest Version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"

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It's moving season here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today I watched neighbors lower furniture through the window of a third story apartment using a rope and pulley. This reminded me of seeing all the pulley hooks at the top of houses in Amsterdam when I was on tour last spring. Apparently, Amsterdam stairways are narrow!

Of course, it also reminded me of the babies and levers.

And it reminded me of high school physics, which was one of many bad experiences during a difficult stretch of time that I'm happy to have lived through, but that you couldn't pay me enough to live through again. Have I mentioned lately how much I despise adults who think that life is easy for the young?

I just watched (and enjoyed) Almost Famous, which brought me back to high school, too, and a music decision I had to make at one point: should I buy Tommy, performed by The Who, or Tommy, the Broadway cast recording? For those of you who love classic rock, I'm sure it's an obvious decision; …