Wednesday, May 30, 2012

who do you love

Okay folks, summer reading list time. Top five? Shout them out.

Here's mine:
MAINE by J. Courtney Sullivan
THE TEN-YEAR NAP by Meg Wolitzer
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott WhatsHisFace 

runner up:
THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

give me a cigarette. right now.

I'm exhausted. Shouldn't I be cheering? I just finished writing a book called RAISING CHEER! For fuck's sake. The initial draft blasted out of me. And I got immediate feedback from five trusted readers, including my agent, Melissa. I consolidated the notes, burrowed back in, and rewrote the 250ish pages. Then, printed them out and reread, and reworkshopped and, again, rewrote. All in less than two weeks.

Who knew I would fuck up "towards" and "toward" repeatedly? Write numerals instead of spelling out the numbers? Rename minor characters mid-manuscript. I think rereading a zipped out draft can be among the most humbling of all activities. Ugh.

And now all I want to do is sleep.

Funnily enough, I just read a similar blog entry over in Averilville.

And, copycat that I am, I'm gonna ask the same question of you all. How are you after being rode hard and put away wet? Exhilarated? Exhausted? Horny? Sad?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

on rating ya books for mature content

Now that Carson's 13, I can officially claim to be raising my second batch of teenager(s), and, consequently, I'm feeling a little cocky and veteran-like. On the soccer sidelines, when moms going through it the first time wring their hands about homework and curfew and first-person-shooter games, I'm the old hag, er, sage, wistfully gazing off in the middle distance before spouting off my advice.

And now that I seem to be writing for teenagers as well as raising them, my opinions are not merely confined to the sidelines. Especially when it comes to articles like this one, in US News, regarding rating YA books for mature content.

Yep, a rant is coming.

We love numbers in this country. Love them. Scales, rankings, acronyms, all these shortcuts that are supposed to seamlessly quantify our potential experience. Whether it's the level of spice in our salsa or the amount of lycra in our Spandex, we want to have some third party to translate our expectations before we fork over the dough.

But here's the thing. Saucy, juicy edgy young adult books are largely passed from kid to kid via word of mouth. It's always been that way. When I was in 7th grade, Judy Blume's Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret was the cutting edge adult subject matter book that made the underground circuit. And, it was at the center of controversy -- yanked off shelves and banned from schools. But still, all the twelve and thirteen-year-old girls I knew found a way to read it. Putting a number that connotes "mature content" on a young adult book will be like locking a hungry bear in a room with a platter of salmon. So, there's that.

The other thing, the more egregious piece of this cloaked move towards censorship, is that it's one more feather in the cap of the freaked out helicopter parent brigade who believe that the secret to keeping their children pure and sweet is to erect barriers to their curiosity rather than meeting it.

I'm not advocating taking your grade-schooler to a sexy, violent R-rated film, but I am all for encouraging conversation surrounding adult themes when it's clear that your child's radar is tuned to them. If I thought slapping a number on a young adult book would encourage a proactive approach to those parent-child conversations, I would be for it. Clearly, though, this is about categorizing books in terms of the number of "fucks" or "blowjobs" that appear on the page, and will amount to the usual parental avoidance regarding uncomfortable subject matter--and, worse yet, will be one more invitation to publishers to make editorial suggestions based upon abstract marketing decisions.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

cheering by the numbers

RAISING CHEER, draft one. Check.

Here it is, folks. The quantitative breakdown of the past two months.

NUMBER OF WORDS IN THIS DRAFT                     58,022
NUMBER OF PAGES IN THIS DRAFT                           236
POUNDS OF CHOCOLATE CONSUMED                         10
GALLONS OF COFFEE DRUNK                                    20

And, because I'm such a hopeless nerd, I had to "Wordle" my manuscript!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

step it up

Alright you guys. I'm on the home stretch. The plot-board driven YA experiment with the working title RAISING CHEER is about 30 pages from finished. Draft one, anyway. How do I know this? Because of the plot board! It's all mathematical and exact, like a science lab. I have five small scenes and a grand finale to left to write. I can see that yellow tape and I'm gonna throw my hands up and break it with my belly when I barge through.

What's with the exercise metaphor? Well, I'll tell you. As a nice Mother's Day gift, my husband dragged me to an 8:30 aerobics class at the gym today. Something called Sweat Like a Pig Plus Abs. Or maybe it was Simulate Labor and Delivery Plus Abs. Anyway, the Mother's Day correlative was apt--the lunges and the quad stuff in particular resembled that 8-centimeters dilated portion of labor. Transition, I think it's called. When you call your husband a lot of really mean names and he disappears out of the labor room under the pretense of having to go to the bathroom? Girls, you know what I'm talking about, right?

I guess I'm sort of at the transition stage of RAISING CHEER, too. Rising action, shit hitting the fan, and one last BIG EVENT before all is mostly well, and my beloved characters are out of danger. The proverbial infant safely delivered and suckling at the breast.

And speaking of breasts, got any good sports bra recommendations?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

breaking bad(ish)

There's this speed trap nearby. One of those places where, on a four-lane road with the suffix "Highway,"  the posted speed abruptly changes from 40 to 30. Over the past six months the photo radar folk have sporadically set up shop, and issued, what I think of as, "pussy tickets" -- because they arrive by mail a week or so later. An envelope with a low-rez picture of the driver looking very deer-in-the-headlights as the flash of the camera catches them in a sort of Cops rendition of their malfeasance.

How do I know this?

Don't be coy. You know I got one of these fuckers. $168 for going 41 mph in a 30.

I'm no anarchist. Yes, I was traveling at the upper end of the continuum for "appropriate" - Yes, I disobeyed the law. Guilty. And pissed off--more because I was "called out" than for the actual penalty. I scribbled off a "but...but..." sort of letter, shoved my check in an envelope, and, as they are wont to do when a driver pleads for mercy, the ODOT folk reduced my fine and sent half my money back to me.

Where am I going with this? Yep, this is a correlative for the plot board post, and my personal relationship with rules. Particularly rules I set up for myself. So. Update. I'm about two-thirds through the first draft of my excellent new adventure, and the sticky notes, try as they might, are getting dissed left and right. I'm peeling them off like scabs, and slapping new ones down in their place. I'll write up to a plot point, all good intentions (seatbelt fastened, not on my cell phone), and then the character will say something that's not on the map. And, I have to say, my reaction to this is, well, nothing short of joy.

Of course, this makes things complicated.

There's a bit of undo-undo-undo that ensues. And some replotting moving forward. Which leads to further replotting. All because my antagonist decides to give the middle finger to God. And by God, I mean me.

That old saw about the headlights and driving only as far as they illuminate the path ahead, but making the whole trip that way? All my fancy GPS equipment is recalculating. It's terrifying, really, but so much fun. Foot on the pedal and all that.

What rules do you like breaking most?