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.

Not writing?

“Some people don’t really bother much with remembering; it seems like such a useless activity. But most writers are addicted to it.” –Alice Munro

My grandparents gave my cousin Stacy and I electric typewriters one Christmas. We were young-elementary age–but I don’t remember exactly how young. I can remember sitting in the floor of their spare bedroom, tapping away all afternoon. I don’t have that little electric typewriter anymore, but I do have my grandfather’s heavy manual sitting on the wine cart in the downstairs back hall beneath a small gold-framed mirror and two antiqued pictures of Paris.

(If anyone’s interested in learning more about my childhood on dad’s side of the family, one of my short stories, “The Naked Truth,” from IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE: AWARD-WINNING AUTHORS TELL STORIES ABOUT THEIR GRANDMOTHERS (Harper, 2003) is a story about me and my grandmother and a painting of a nude in my grandparents’ basement).

In sixth grade, I was “Dear Gabby” for Mr. Rideout’s class newspaper. Mr. Rideout had a mustache and called me “Olive Oil,” and that made me feel special–the nickname, not the mustache. Back then I read a lot of Judy Blume and all of the Newbery winners. I especially loved THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare.

In junior high, I was practically mute, but I did work on the newspaper. I don’t remember actually writing anything for it, though, and I can’t seem to bring up a picture of it in my mind. By then, I was reading Stephen King and a handful of YAs. Lots of sci fi, fantasy, and horror from then on and still today…

In high school, I didn’t read much except my dad’s serials (Westerns, Tarzan, and James Bond) and my mom’s mass market romances–all while laying out bikini-clad and soaked in baby oil on the back deck. The theory, believe it or not, was that I was too busy for anything more substantial. I’d also mostly (temporarily) abandoned superhero comics (which are now considered infinitely hip and in bound collections called “graphic novels”). However, I did edit my high school newspaper, a task made infinitely more fun by the fact that two of my best friends were managing and sports editors respectively.

In college, I majored in journalism (as did my abovementioned cousin), which was really pretty much a gimme by that point, and took a concentration in English (three courses in fiction writing–all the short story). I would’ve been astonished if anyone had told me that someday I’d actually be well published in the short story. Or, for that matter, fiction generally.

Journalism school probably saved my life, gave me a place to fit in without pretentions. I also loved my “Children and Television” class, which was taught by a husband-wife team who’d been affiliated with Children’s Television Workshop AKA “Sesame Street.” I did too many related internships in news reporting (small town and big city) and PR (private greeting card company, public oil company, non-profit association), all of which combined served to let me know that I would be better off self-employed–my current status.

Law school was a different, though still verbal, field of study. Being an overly academic workaholic simply made me redundant–a nice change. The first summer study abroad in Paris showed me how big and little the world could be. I took my second summer to do a feature writing internship at a major metro daily. After graduation, I lasted about six months in a federal law office on La Salle Street before quitting to write full time.

It amazes me every day that I get to do what I love most.

Not that I’m doing it today. I’m not writing today. I haven’t been writing much for the past few weeks, trying to sort of mentally regroup for the next big wave. I tend to do that, to fall completely into a manuscript. But every now and then, for a while, I have to break and go live a little in the real world. I don’t like it as much as the worlds of my own making, but there are a lot of people here I love. So, I’m not writing. Unless writing about writing or not writing in this blog counts. Maybe it does. Sure it does.

Everything counts.

Hill Country Expedition

Hill country road trip today out to Fredericksburg. German Texan with shopping and food stuffs and bier gartens. Random musings: Who eats enough jerky to fuel an industry? Why do people find signs that say things like “A fool and his money make a great date” so amusing? (Of course, this said, with you-know-what in mind, I almost bought a burgundy T-shirt spouting “Got Wine?”) When did small Texas towns start selling Ouija boards on Main Street? Should’ve bought that Texas cemeteries book.

Basically a lot of hot and a lot of humanity, but quaint in a touristy way. Has definite potential as a partial setting for a future novel, though I’d have to sink in. Maybe hole up at a B&B for a while and play ghost.

Other Red Things Include Lobster

Indulged in lunch at the Red Lobster, which was this psuedo-suburban flashback experience.

Adolescence in the suburbs is… Well, worthy of a novel in itself. And not worthy at all. If you’re there, or have been there, you understand what I’m saying.