The Thin & The Fat Of It

So, I’m watching my “Bridget Jones’ Diary” DVD, and I notice for the first time that the weight issue that is so socially/emotionally exasperating to the protagonist is that she’s 131 pounds.

Let’s think about this.

At 131 pounds, she’s probably a women’s size small.

So, the catastrophie is…that she’s not an extra small?

Why do I even own this DVD? Because it was otherwise cute, the story of a plucky underdog… Forget it. That’s pretty much a fatal flaw.

And really, though I’m finger-pointing at Hollywood, this is culture-wide problem and it has been for a loooooooong time.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t eat on Fridays. At all. Because they were game days, and I had to…. I don’t know. Look good for the football team?

Three of my close friends had eating disorders. Two were anorexic. One was bulimic and diabetic. All three were intelligent and staggeringly gorgeous. It’s a wonder they all survived to adulthood.

Two good related reads are: the Printz honor book FAT KID RULES THE WORLD by K.L. Going and ALT ED by Catherine Atkins. Of course these are both about heroes on the overweight end of the spectrum.

(Have you ever noticed, by the way, that there is almost never an overweight figure depicted on the cover of a children’s or teen novel–even when it’s an issue in the book? Sometimes, the protagonist is even portrayed inconsistently with the way he or she is described by the author. Would it be that bad for sales? I wonder. Maybe.).

There is probably some excellent book related to eating disorders that I don’t know about. Write and tell me about it.

Yes, yes, I know. Time to stop overexaming everything and get back to work. Well, almost. I have just a few things to take care of first.

Author’s Life

“As I write, I create myself again and again.” –Joy Harjo

Author Angela Shelf Medearis (DAISY AND THE DOLL (Vermont Folklife Center, 2000) is working on a children’s books program for PBS, and despite effort, there just wasn’t a day Greg and I could go interview for it that fit her schedule. I can’t believe how hectic my life is sometimes.

I first began working with my Harper editor, Rosemary Brosnan, when I was in my late 20s, which is young for a children’s/young adult author. Okay, it’s not young compared to Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, but generally speaking.

I attribute this to my mentors, Jane and Kathi, the support of my husband, Greg, my amazing agent, and the fact that I had a lot of first-rate writing training in college.

It does substantially change-up your life, though, when you move from being a writer to a writer-author.

No one is complaining because it’s certainly a blessing to be published. But being an author brings with it a number of extra responsibilities. Certainly, production is a process unto itself, and authors are involved to varying degrees. Promotion is a burden and opportunity, one of those things where you can always do more. At some point, you must learn to say no or there will be no time for writing future books. But if you say no too often, you fret those already on the line will die.

All of this is to say, looking back…

Before I was published, I used to feel that would be so important for validating what I did. Maybe it was because I’d quit a (more lucrative and responsible-sounding) law job to do it. Maybe it’s because many people don’t believe in you until they hold that first bound copy in their hands. Maybe it’s just plain old fashioned self-doubt.

But in any case, the apprentice phase should be a glorious one. All you have edging against your writing is your supposed “real” life, whatever that may hold. Embrace it, rejoice in it. You can never go back to that place again.

Later, much will be good–even great–and some, well, will not.

I was really frustrated a couple of years ago by the direction of the publishing business. (Actually, I still am at times).

But Franny Billingsley told me to just shove it all aside and focus on craft.

In a dive-in-head-first-like-air-doesn’t-matter kind of way.

It helped.

Of course competing responsibilities and temptations do still permeate, but I’m more selective about which to accept. And, for that matter, initiate.

Craft is good.

If you’re stuck, exhausted, or otherwise can’t go there, read instead. You’ll be doing the same thing, only more subconsciously.

By the way, Joy Harjo is a Creek poet, songbird, children’s author. Her books include: THE GOOD LUCK CAT, illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000). Aunt Shelly says that Woogie is a good luck cat. As he survives one scrape after another, her analysis seems to be right on target. But one day when he doesn’t come home, we wonder if this good luck cat’s ninth life has run out. This is a delightful look at the friendship between a cat and a young girl. And it’s — yahoo! — a children’s picture book with Indian characters wherein Native culture isn’t the main focus. Of course, it’s wonderful to have children read accurate, respectful books that touch on Indian themes; however, they should be balanced with charming stories like this one that depict daily life. Ages 4-up.

People on my mind today: Joseph Bruchac, Laura Ruby, and Jenni Holm. Jenni’s site has this really cool online game in conjunction with her 2003 Harper suspense novel, THE CREEK (which is not a reference to mine and Joy Harjo’s Indian tribe). In any case, turn up your volume and check it out–spooky!

Lance, Goats, $, Blah

Lance won the Tour de France. Its funny, I remember in ’91 when I was studying EC Law and the French Law system in Paris, my friend Monique was obsessed with the race. I could not for the life of me figure out what was so exciting. Now, I know. It’s that local tie that makes all the difference.

I just talked to my quasi-lil-sis of childhood and forever. She adopted two goats, went to bed one night, and woke up to three goats. All goats, baby included, are doing just fine.

Am currently surfing funds for writers….

Just read a very blah 1980esque children’s book (this is not to say there weren’t amazing ’80s books; I’m not talking about those). Safe. No arc. No stakes. Or at least no rising stakes. We need to watch out for that. If it feels out-of-touch to this GenXer, I can’t imagine the PlayStation generation embracing. And no, a Grateful Dead reference wouldn’t help. And this is coming from me, dead-friendly. Or at least undead friendly.

Trips: Road and Virtual

Just back from Denton–stayed at a nifty B&B, Italian for dinner, spoke at Texas Woman’s University. I-35 travel pretty much mandates going up the day before. Hit several traffic jams, but well worth the trip.

Loved speaking at the U, which is one of my hands-down fave venues. It’s all in the preparation. All of the students had either read Greg‘s NINJAS or any one of my three. The professor had also arranged for a bookseller. For anyone looking for related tips, I strongly recommend:

TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS WITH AUTHORS, ILLUSTRATORS AND STORYTELLERS: REAL SPACE AND VIRTUAL LINKS by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz (Libraries Unlimited, 1999). Unlike other author visit guides, this book goes beyond nuts-and-bolts planning to illustrate how to create the best accessible encounters between students and authors. Choosing the guest, guidelines for successful visits, making curriculum connections, using e-mail to connect with bookpeople, having live chats in virtual space, taking advantage of ITB and satellite technology, and using such props as realia and curriculum guides are covered. Grades K-12. To order call: 1.800.237.6124.

Greg just got TOFU AND T.REX edits from Amy–final edits. Woo woo!

In other news Pooja Makhijani has a new author Web site. I was particularly interested in reading her story behind the inspiration for MAMA’S SARIS (Little Brown, 2006). Awk! 2006 is such a long time to wait. In the meantime, check out South Asian Voices With North American Accents by Uma Krishnaswami at

Writing Tip: Avoid eavesdropping to advance the plot. Try something more imaginative instead!

Spidey, Ruth, Dale/Adam

Inspired by having seen “Spiderman 2” yesterday, I’m reading MARY JANE by Judith O’Brien, which is actually a hardcover, pretty entertaining YA (and I’m only at the end of the prologue). The book itself is supposedly inspired by “Ultimate Spiderman,” which is a really fantastic comic. (“Robin” and “Teen Titans” are also worth reading, especially for Stephanie/Spoiler and Cassie/Wonder Girl and Raven in general. Tim/Robin, too.)

If you’re interested in such things, be sure to check out: GETTING GRAPHIC! USING GRAPHIC NOVELS TO PROMOTE LITERACY WITH PRETEENS AND TEENS by Michele Gorman (Linworth, 2003). An information guide for librarians, teachers, and anyone who works with young people who want to learn more about graphic novels. For librarians and school library media specialists, this is a tool to help you develop, manage, and promote a collection of graphic novels in addition to the developing corresponding programs and special events. This book is designed to meet the needs of both school and public librarians who have little or no knowledge about graphic novels. Topics addressed in the book include a brief history of comic books and graphic novels, the value of graphic novels for developing readers, the role of graphic novels in public libraries, school libraries, and classrooms, issues and information relevantto collection development and bibliographic control of graphic novels,programming and promotion ideas, and core collections for middle school libraries, high school libraries, and public libraries serving youth populations. NOTE: Greg and I have eaten BBQ with the author and talked Green Lantern (and more!); she knows her stuff. See also Comic Books for Young Adults from Michael R. Lavin.

Lunch today with Ruth Pennebaker (CONDITIONS OF LOVE, Holt, 1999). Took poor Bashi to the vet for his allergy shot. I swear I’m qualified to be a vet tech at this point.

Just watched the Dale “the whale” episode of “Monk.” Episode 3, I think. Anyway, Dale is played by the same actor as Adam from “Northern Exposure” (my cousin Stacy owns a lamp from that show). Brilliant.

Note: Burt’s Bees Evening Primrose Overnight Creme seems highly effective at enlivening skin. Voice of Dr. Frankenstein: “She’s a-liiiiiiive.” Eh, ya know.

Mentors, Millbrook, “Monk,” and “Xanadu”

Pal Tanya Stone (P IS FOR PASSOVER: A HOLIDAY ALPHABET BOOK (Price Sloan, 2003)) wrote to ask if Kathi Appelt is my mentor because she was looking forward to hearing her speak at Vermont College, which by the way has an excellent program in children’s and YA writing. She is!

So is Jane Kurtz (THE FEVERBIRD’S CLAW (Greenwillow, 2004)), who is currently living in my previous home state of Kansas. And speaking of Kansas, I also should mention that Dian Curtis Regan (CHANCE (Philomel, 2003)) has recently revamped her site and it now includes the two first chapters of her long-awaited PRINCESS NEVERMORE sequel.

It was reported today in “Byline” that when suffering from writer’s block, I’m known to dance in the dark to Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu” album. This is in fact gospel truth.

And finally, Lerner bought Millbrook at auction for $3.4 million dollars. I’m thrilled for the authors. Limbo is not a happy thing in publishing.

Off to watch “Monk” season one on DVD.

On The Big Screen

Just back from my second viewing of “Spiderman 2,” this time with Anne Bustard (BUDDY (Simon & Schuster, spring 2005)). All around fantastic film. Great writing!

Saw “Van Helsing,” earlier this summer–not so great. And sigh. What I could’ve done with a vampire movie, that kind of budget, and Hugh Jackman. It pains the heart.

Listen to the Duck

WriteFest T-shirts and mugs (one to go in a China cabinet we’ve yet to acquire) arrived!

Speaking of WF, taking Page to the spa today for a much-deserved massage. What a Wonder Woman!

Rereading IMMEDIATE FICTION by Jerry Cleaver (helpful for plot structure) and THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PALMISTRY by Robin Gile and Lisa Lenard (probably research, too soon to say). Other recent reads include ALT ED by Catherine Atkins (Putnam, 2003) and NOTHING TO LOSE by Alex Flinn (Harper, 2004), which like her BREATHING UNDERWATER, touches on domestic abuse, and DOUBLE HELIX by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2004). Have decided that Nancy is my new career role model; also she is a very brainy cutie.

Am deciding to give up recreational reading of romance for a while because of one too many references like “woman doctor.” Don’t get me wrong. I think fiction (largely) by women (largely) for women about love should be considered as valid as fiction (largely) by men (largely) for men about war. And a lot of it is well written. (More so than my previously snobby self used to think). But my inner GenX feminist just can’t take it anymore. An exception, though, will be made for any book by my darling Neecola (Nicole Burnham), who writes YA chick lit as Niki Burnham and knows a thing or several about strong women.

In other news, online wedding photos came in from Staci (formerly of BookPeople, Austin’s uber indie), and I’m not techno savvy enough to open the files. Sigh.

Already dressed for the day and having trouble keeping Blizzard Bently (named for SNOWFLAKE BENTLY by Jacqueline Briggs Martin off my black tropical pants. FYI: I have three other cats: Mercury Boo, Sebastian “Bashi” Doe, and Galileo “Leo,” named for the Starry Messenger who inspired Greg‘s debut novel. But unlike the three tabbies, all white Blizzy is my most reliable lap cat. Virtually all writers have an affection for cats. Exhibit Hemmingway.

People on my mind this morning: Esme Raji Codell and Katie Davis.

About Town

Fueled by recent surge of self-confidence (and improved physique) purchased not only ensemble for my friend Tracy’s baby shower tea party but also black sheath dress.

Just back from Magnolia South on South Congress. Scrambled eggs amid the pierced, dyed, tattooed children of the night. Leslie spotting–in thong and high heels at the intersection. He was kind enough to wave. Keep Austin Weird. I love this town.

Reading nothing. A rare occasion.