Thursday, December 24, 2009

Recipe for Holiday Cheer

1) Nail computer screen to ceiling
2) Grab someone kissable
3) Stand under screen
4) Hope nails hold
5) (optional) call ER/casualty/Notfall, depending on where you live

Have a great break, fellow bloglodytes. I hope to find you all refreshed and rarin' to write in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In the Deep Midwinter

Hope everyone's keeping well. My online writing class is nearly over, the drawing class too, and frankly, I'm glad. I've enjoyed them both, but the time for me and paper without third parties involved is coming. I can feel myself shrinking in like a snail. I am not a winter person, but when I go into hibernation like this, good things often come out of it in the spring. I'll still be around, still be checking all of your blogs, and hoping hoping hoping that 2010 will finally bring that post I've been wanting to make since I started to blog; the one where I tell everybody I've been published. In the meantime, have some winter cheer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

All Blogs Were Quiet

I've noticed lots of my fellow bloglodytes going quiet lately, including myself. There is the usual year-end hullaballoo, ill children (Middlekid is home ill now), ill selves and general lethargy brought on by winter cold and grey. On top of that, someone rang my doorbell about half an hour ago to let me know their shutting the water off because of a pipe break.
Here's a cybercookie from me and the wee ones for all of you, no matter where you are or what your faith. Extra cookies for anyone who is kind enough to pray to who/whatever they believe in that Middlekid doesn't start to barf before the water's back on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Keep Putting Words on the Page...

...but lately, they refuse to speak to me. I am not alarmed yet, though. I don't believe in writers' block. I think it's just the distraction- birthdays (check out the bat cake!) and the new cat (who tries to sit on my desk when I write, but since it's sloped, slides off into my lap. Either she's a slow learner, or she likes it :) or the wind-up to the annual mid-winter rush. Or ennui. How do you tell writers' block from ennui? Stab yourself in the thigh with a fork. If you feel compelled to write about it, it was ennui.

Anyway, here are cats, cakes, and the last of the leaves. Time to enjoy the grey, northern hemisphereites.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Satisfying Kit's Curiosity

My fellow bloglodyte, Kit Courteney, has asked me to unveil five obsessions that I have. Five. Only five. I will now draw lots:

1) Donuts. I fantasise about them more than is normal, I'm sure. I don't even need to eat them (though I enjoy that, too). I just love them there on the shelf when there are at least 30 different kinds, and they are all fresh, it makes me happy. Even if I'm not eatting any of them.

2) Patterns. I hate it if something is almost a pattern. But not quite. Things either need to be totally random, or exact. Nothing in between. This tells you more than you ever wanted to know about my housekeeping, believe me.

3) Grammar. I love it. Verb systems make me go all soppy and wet (no kids reading this, I hope?) I'm not pedantic, and I won't shoot you for using "incorrect" grammar (at least not when anyone is watching) but I want people to know what they are using and why. I have no problem with y'all. Its use is rule governed! People who don't know an adjective from an adverb and DON'T CARE are criminal, though.

4) Stationary. Don't ask. And don't look in my closet. And don't ask me if you can borrow one of my pens, because the answer is NO. I will buy you one, I will GIVE you one, but you can't borrow one. Because then I have to worry about whether or not you will give it back. And if you don't, it will leave a little hole which doesn't close up, which brings us to number five...

5) People who borrow things and don't give them back. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!
Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! Just.... Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

As for tea, that doesn't count as an obsession. No one calls you obsessed if you breathe constantly. Why should they call you obsessed if you drink tea? Same thing...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beautiful Human Pretzel

Well, my run of not-great drawings continues, but I just had to post this one anyway. I did this sketch in about 60 seconds during the break- thus the model has her clothes on. The class is an advanced one and the models hold poses for up to half an hour, so Darinka took the opportunity to do some yoga to get the kinks out. I hope you can tell what you're looking at- her hands ran into the binding. Her shoulder blades and her knees are on the same plane. Wow. If you could see her face, you would be able to see just how much she's not struggling to hold the possition.
I've had this model in portrait drawing too, and she's always fun. Just wish I could do her justice.

Monday, October 19, 2009


It's funny. Feedback hurts so much, sometimes, especially when you are first starting out. but really, it does get better.
At the beginning, it's like you're driving. And you're lost. Your companion wants to stop and ask this guy on the corner but you think, who's driving this car, me or him? So you drive on, facing stubbornly forward.

But you're still lost. So you pass a lady with a buggy and kids and your companion finally convinces you to stop, and he asks for direction. The lady gives them. They're pretty simple, she's pretty sure, she's only been living here for two weeks, but yes, she's quite sure.
So you follow her directions for a couple of blocks but the neighbourhood doesn't look quite right, even though she clearly said go down Maple till you get to Elm, so you turn off on Spruce. And you're lost again. You defend your actions saying, hey, the lady was out walking; she probably doesn't even have a license. What does she know?

The thing about all this is, after you spend a sufficient amount of time refusing directions, or ignoring the ones you get, you learn that they are not insults to your intelligence. They are not attacks on your personal worth, or your skill as a driver. Yes, you can probably find your own way without it eventually and thump your chest and I say I did it all by myself, but is it worth spending the whole day driving around in circles?

This seems totally obvious in a way, but haven't we all been in a car with someone, lost, who refused to stop for directions? And we're sitting in the passenger seat thinking, why? Why won't you stop and ask, you big lummox?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, What Fun!

Another writing exercise from EE. The brief was to use the first 20 words of seven letters or more from a randomly chosen opening and then write a scene. Really, in a way I failed, because with this many French-rooted millitary words, I gave up trying to get away from the subject of the original text. But it was fun:

Mina SCREAMED as a bean burrito on a paper-napkin PARACHUTE DROPPED into her COCKPIT. Her COPILOT'S self-confidence was SHATTERED, and he BUCKLED as Mina let-fly a barrage of ANTI-ARTILLARY mashed potatoes, which was the best weapon the school cafeteria could PROVIDE. The ESCARPMENT her class had built out of lunchroom tables was already FALLING as tater-tots RICOCHETED like BULLETS against the makeshift SHELTER. BRACING herself, Mina launched a square of non-dairy cheese pizza. The AIRSPEED dwindled when the slice caught an UPDRAFT from one of the cafeteria ceiling fans. Still CLIMBING, it overshot the intended target. To uphold the honor of Mrs. Jenkins class, Mina selflessly THROTTLED Alec Fitzhugh, Mr. Walters' class president, into surrender. Merciful of his AGONIES, she declared victory by squirting him with catsup and took him prisoner. Mrs. Jenkins was pleased.

(from New Beginning 228)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One More Post About The View...

... and then I'll shut up. I did this watercolour one morning when everyone else was still in bed. It's not a masterpiece, but I really like the way drawing or painting something forces one to *really* look at things. I find they stick in my memory better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


No excuse. I always think that if I can find a peaceful place, where there are no "you suck" messages seeping out of the walls or the internet or the phone, then I will be able to scrape myself together long enough to write something publishable. I know I am repeating myself here, but it is really frustrating when all the writing teachers say "it's great! don't know what you could change!" and all the publishers say "form rejection." (ok, a couple said "it's highly creative/original/had fun with it BUT," which is better than "fr," i admit.)
*Anyway,* (I seem to have a severe case of the post holiday babbles, here) above is the view from my office window, as of this morning. Note the violas, the nasturtiums, the cool welded chain sculpture in the neighbour's garden (big wooden thing is neighbour's house). And check out the picture below that, the view from our holiday cottage. There were grapes growing inside the winter garden there. Grapes!
I ought to be writing fucking masterpieces. I mean, any normal writer would have written a Pulitzer prize winner or a Nobel candidate by now! (I would just like to record that the temptation to go off on another HHGTTG babble here is almost overwhelming. Instead, you can see what I would have babbled about the idea of "normal" here, at about 1:30.) Just look at those views! You should see the view from my office when the roses are blooming!

Still. There is something amazing about windows. I love their symbolism. Not the "normal" exit. A hole built into a structure to let in light, or air, or chase a stray bee out of. But not for people. The temptation to climb out the window and not the door just to see if it changes anything, to see if I wind up in a different place, is very strong.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Big Whine

Maybe I should just cross out 'writer.' It would take some of the pressure off. Or 'Artist.' Nevermind that these are things I have always wanted to do, and have always enjoyed doing. But my attempts to get published (and actually, my attempts to even get an education as a writer) have been frustrating. I know it takes a long time. I know it takes a Teflon-coated solid steel heart. I find it so difficult, though, when I'm never even sure I'm on the right track.

At the moment, it's more like a hollow heart. Like the next person who manages to hit it, it's going to go "BONG." (and echo a lot.)

Pout. I need a hug.
Then I need a writing teacher who actually knows what he/she is doing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

For the moment, a picture will simply have to be worth a thousand words. I'd just like to say, though, that I never enjoyed hanging out the wash so much.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Holiday Quiz

Brownie points to anyone who can guess the exact location of this place. It's where we are going next thursday. Yay!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not Feeling Like an Adult Today

Creepy creepy creepy.

We have had a wide variety of excellent models in my life drawing class. In all my life drawing classes, actually. Today for the first time, we had one I just plain didn't like, and it's making me feel really juvenile, like I'm 13 again.

He told us all about how he'd been fired as a secondary school teacher (I think this is what he said, but he was speaking german with a strong french accent, so I'm not sure) because he had been very vocal about the overly harsh punishments for students caught smoking, so now he is working as a model. He kept shifting his feet as he said this. We've had some models that are a bit nervous or shy, but this was something else.
Then he told us about some artsy photographs he had posed for taken by Big Famous French-Speaking Artist (of whom I've never heard, but that doesn't mean much.) He offered to show us these pictures on his laptop (which he just happened to have with him) and my Excellent Art Teacher said ok (perhaps EAT has heard of BFF-SA.) So the pictures are dragging on and on and scary model keeps saying "oh, this is the last one" and EAT is starting to itch, I can tell, and making 'we should get drawing' noises and so on.

So when the guy has finally finished looking at a dozen plus naked picture of himself and taking us along for the ride, he takes the towel off to pose, and voila, his penis is purple and standing out parallel to the floor. Hey, I guess it can happen.

He assumed one difficult pose after another and always told us what he was doing. Javelin. 100 meter dash. Bow and arrow. I wouldn't have minded his playing olympic athelete if it made him happy, but he couldn't hold the positions.

In the middle of class we always have a 20 minute break (it's a 3.5 hour class), but he decided not to put any clothes back on. Because I am such a stinky drawer (love that word) and need the practice (and focus) I usually stay in the room. Not this time. There was one last person fetching her purse to nip down to the cafe, and he was sidling up to me. I'm sure it meant nothing. I'm sure it was totally innocent. I'm sure the fact that he has no eyebrows, that his face looks like it's been pealed, that he has no lips and that his elbow does this weird sort of moon crater-dimple-inverted nipple thing when he straightens his arm had nothing to do with it. But I left anyway.

So now my skin is still crawling *and* I'm feeling guilty about it. Honestly. I really don't know if it was me or him.

Blech. Anyway, the only thing that held still long enough for me to draw it was his right foot (above).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is There Such a Thing as Distechnia?

On the off chance that anyone actually clicked on the two sketches that I posted a couple of days ago and noticed the incredibly bad quality, I have re-posted a couple of new images of the same which are... less bad.

also, i've been rejected again. didn't want to write for their stinky ol' mag anyway...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some Drawings, At Last.

We had an excellent model a few weeks ago- about 100 years old, very interesting to draw, but alas I was doing really poor work that day and didn't do him justice at all.

This week I did a little better; still not great, but here it is. Again, the model was good, beautiful, Ruebensesque, and tough as old shoes. Really, I don't know how they hold those positions.

Here are two drawings from the same pose, one in pencil, one in charcoal.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

But Where are All the Books? Kibuk 2009

The Book Conveyer (above)

On Saturday we went to the Kibuk in Köniz. The theme this year was "Reading Without Borders," and it featured separate stations for different foreign countries. Italy, Serbia, Ireland, France and Turkey, to be exact. There was a roll conveyer that the kids were allowed to ride on to see what it was like to be a book. Serbian snacks to try, Turkish tea, cooking workshops for the kids, and my favourite, a bookbinder to show you how to *properly* repair books instead of throwing then away. (Heidi Ernst, above, working absolute miracles on Curious George, Munschworks, and a copy of Emily the Strange that we had written off) There was a woman telling the folk tales of each station- she was great. But she wasn't reading a book.

In fact, in the Irish station (which even had a calligrapher copying pages out of the Book of Kells and making bookmarks for the kids with their names in half-uncial) there was only one irish children's book; Gulliver's Travels. And when I say 'Irish,' that's by the broad definition- written or illustrated by an Irish person, or having something to do with Ireland. The books on the table were merely in English (and not even books that I've heard of), and since they speak English in Ireland, that qualifies them. Right?

It's almost as if they organised the whole fair and then realised a week before showtime that they forgot to get some books. The offerings in the other country stations weren't very impressive. I'm particulary disappointed about the Irish books, as I am such a fan. *pout*


Five stars to whoever was responsible for organising the fun bits, no stars to whoever was supposed to organise the books.
What happened? Anybody know?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

May Have Found the Source

of the problem. This is my WIP. There's a ton more where this came from. I know first novels (and probably all the rest of them as well) are a learning process, but do other people use this many post-it notes? Is this normal?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Comfort Food

Comfort food doesn't really have that much to do with eating. Not for me, anyway. It's about someone taking the time, about a human touch, some love going into it. I think I could sit and look at cupcakes all day.
On another note, I planted my violas and pansies out today to ensure a new batch of cupcakes next spring/ summer. I'm already looking forward to them. I don't even need to eat them; just have a cup of tea and admire them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Because I Can.

Sally was not allowed to go out at night.
"It's dark. You'll step in dog poo," said Dad.
"The meanies will get you!" said Momma.
"Shhhh," said Grandma. "Wait till later."
When it was dark, and Sally was supposed to be in bed, Grandma took her walking stick from the umbrella stand. She took her old woolly cardigan with the patched elbows that had belonged to Grandpa Gene.
"You put on your jacket and lace up your shoes now, and we'll go."
And they did.
"Hello," they said to a young man with a spray can. He took off running.
They peeked in the window at the baker. He wasn't up yet. He was at home writing a novel almost as bad as this story. "Don't give up your night job." his friends would say.
"Oh look, a flying sofa!" said Gramma, and there it was, with a spotted chicken on it.

Monday, August 17, 2009



Into the red soup
Chunks of spicy miso make
a great landing strip


Chewing sweet clover
Again and again she farts
From seven stomachs


I am out of words
And all of you are relieved
To see my backside

Friday, August 14, 2009

At It Again

Well, as I indicated last post, I'm taking another drawing class. The first day back was hard. The class is three and a half hours, and just physically grueling. The model held positions for 20-30 minutes at a time, and even then had to twitch and flex periodically to keep from going completely numb. Anyone who thinks modeling for a drawing class is easy has probably never tried it.

Anyway, my drawings were not very satisfactory. No real surprise, as I'm very out of practice. I'll post some later if I do some worth posting.

Still waiting to hear from various publishers. Not really expecting anything other than a rejection. *sigh.* What's a girl gotta do around here to get a decent education in writing around here? Keep writing, I guess...

In the mean time, since I have nothing else to post, I'll post these, from a walk in the alps, just for the general betterment of moods all around:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lost For Words

I don't have much to say at the moment. I am grumpy and trying to figure out what I need to do. Now that I'd decided once and for all to write and *only* write this autumn, my favourite and extremely excellent former teacher and sent me a letter, asking for a few more students to fill up his life drawing class which is in danger of being cancelled. So now that I've said I will only write, I have this to post:

I think it's the first time Middlekid has held still long enough for me to do a scribble.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Boomerang Sub

Perhaps I should just crawl back under my rock. Consider the facts:

1. My local SCBWI president has made it a personal goal that nothing will EVER be accomplished in our chapter. Since I joined in 2006, we have had one meeting. When we tried to create an agenda for that meeting, we were met with cries of "No, no! This is just to get aquainted!" Presumably, we will discuss the possibly of an agenda at the next meeting, in another 3 years...
2. My GWW Kidlit class is a waste of time, with a flakey instructor who gives vague, ungrammatical, misspelled, mispunctuated, useless comments. Late.
3. My critique group has started subbing fragments. Literally. "I just wrote this down and it doesn't really go anywhere or have an ending and it's only one and a half pages long and I haven't really developed the characters at all and I haven't bothered to proofread it yet but what do you guys think?"
4. I've been rejected again.

Really, I should be happy. It was personal, no feedback, but an invitation to submit again, which isn't bad considering it's only the third submission I've made in my entire life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

(Another one to skip if you're squemish) Happy happy happy!

The "shtrange shtuff" the doctor pulled out of my uterus was not what he thought it was. I could tell yesterday, as he stood at the foot of the bed, that he was worried. I will still have to go for regular check-ups every six months, but I am probably not going to die in the near future, and that is a big, big relief.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Skip This Post if Gynocology Makes you Squeamish

Well, it was an interesting day in the hospital. I'll skip the boring details and get to the part where my trusted Gynocologist stopped in to see me. I asked him (in bernese), "so, did you find anything?" He says "yes." (He is not too much of a blitherer. Unlike me.) And I said (still in bernese: "What did you find?"

And he said, in English:

Shtrange Shtuff.

I asked him if he'd never seen anything like it before, and he indicated that he had, but I never got around to asking him what it had turned out to be on that occaision, because I also asked him *what* it was. Lot's of polyps and some squishy stuff, he said. I can call friday afternoon for the breakdown from the lab of just what the squishy stuff is.

In the meantime, I am also waiting to hear from some places where I have subbed. And I'm waiting for my nearly worthless teacher of my online children's book writing class at Gotham to comment on my homework from last week, never mind this week.

I hate waiting. It makes me grumpy. Can you tell? I'm going to try to do something productive now. Hang up the wash or something. Man, I'm a mental mess....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lying *Will* Haunt You. (eventually...)

One of the things I love about momming is what your kids teach you. They start out with one and only one communication skill- crying. You watch them develop, and watch their body language develop. This is fun, because at some point, they will attempt to lie. They will get better at lying. You will get better at telling if they are lying, they will get better at hiding it, and like virus and anti-virus, both working frantically to develop and mutate faster than the other guy, you do battle.

When my kids were quite little, I would just say, "I know you are lying." Because they were, and we both knew it. They would ask "How do you know?" I was not about to tell them; sometimes I wasn't even sure which bit of body language had given them away, but in any case, I wasn't about to hand over my secret decoder ring to the other side, so I told them, "when you lie, your nose turns purple. Only moms who have been to momschool can see it. Kids can't." (Momschool is something else I tell them about; perhaps I'll blog on that later.) Prima daughter then made my life even easier by casually sticking anything she could find in front of her face when she lied. It was really hard not to laugh. I'd be thinking: it's time to be stern now, don't laugh! And she'd be carrying on a conversation with a stuffed fish in the middle of her face, hoping I wouldn't cotton.

Now. Prima grew out of this, and I'm happy to say we have a good relationship, with very little lying. Middlekid and Thirdling got in a fight yesterday. Both came to me yelling "she did it, she hit me first!" and so on. After the obligatory lecture about 'it doesn't matter who hit who first, no one should have hit second either,' I told them they would have to sort it out because I wasn't there and I would never know the truth. Now the problem; Middlekid said "but mommy, you said our noses turn purple when we lie."
Middlekid is 10. I did not realise she still believed it. I should have; I remember being totally crushed around that age when my mom told me there was no such thing as Santa Clause. And then the Duh-Award drops out of the sky onto my obviously very soft head: This is so totally what I deserve for using a lie to control their lying. Oh, the maternal guilt! You have no idea...


So. I'm off to the hospital for another d&c tomorrow. Wish me luck, blogland. (place cool, animated frowny face icon here)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Joys of Bloodlessness

I'm not sure there are any. I meant that ironically.

Well, after all my posting, complaining about my reproductive system, I am about to do it again, so if you don't want to read about it, skip this post.

I have been bleeding since the first of May. I figured this is not right so I went to the doctor. My hemoglobin is so low, they actually laughed from the shock. My doctor kept searching my face, looking for something- what? Checking to see if I was about to faint? My hemoglobin was 51mg per litre. Normal would be 120-160. He said "I admire you that you can even stand at this point."

Anyway, I'm off to the hospital for another D&C (oh, joy) and in the mean time, I keep taking those iron pills. At least this explains my lack of concentration, and so if I'm posting nonsense, just ignore it. Can't concentrate very well...

Rules, rules, rules.

I'm thinking about two things today: one is, the derth of SWISS children's literature.
I was looking for a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. This was written by a Bernese man, Johann David Wyss, in German, so the logical thing would be to read the original. A quick look on Amazon revealed that though there are countless editions of The Swiss Family Robinson available, both in and out of print, Der schweizerische Robinson is out of print, and expensive to get second hand.
I guess this is no real surprise. America and the English speaking world in general are just so huge. They do things on massive scales simply out of Switzerland's league. But all the same it makes me sad. Swiss publishers just can't keep such a huge back-catalogue, I guess, and keep all those books in print. But even the current stuff. How big of a children's book industry is there really, in Switzerland? Does the Nord-Süd Verlag have as much of a monopoly on picture books in German-speaking Switzerland as it seems? Does one have to play by there rules to get a picture book published in Switzerland? And write something as trite and didactic as Marcus Pfister's Regenbogenfisch? If the only hope of German-speaking Swiss authors is to either do that or submit in Germany or learn another language and submit in another market, this is sad...

Now, the other thing that bugs me is the current moratorium against anthropomorphism. There is a magazine, not just of children's stories, but of children's stories, written by kids no older than 13. Stone Soup has sample issues available online, so of course, I was curious. The first two stories both feature animals- in the first story, Flynn by Hugh Cole, the animal, a dog, can talk. Now most of these stories are by children around age 10-13. And I just can't help but wonder; is it really the kids who don't like anthropomorphised characters? Or is this just another rule imposed by some powerful cynics in the big leather chairs at the top of the kidlit pyramid? Diary of a Worm, Click Clack Moo, and the Olivia series along with a gazillion others prove that kids do like these stories. If I thought that anyone was actually reading this blog I would get you a list of kidlit houses and imprints that specifically say "no animal characters, please" and look up references in all my books saying "publishers hate anthropomorphic characters." Complain in the comments if you care. Otherwise, I'll just ignore yet another arbitrary rule and write what I need to write. Man am I grumpy today... Sorry.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Like a Cat Flap, also, a Not No...

Ok. well, the critique group is just gearing up for it's second round of submissions and everyone just seems to be ignoring all my comments about ideas and stuff. That's ok. I think the only way for any of us to find out if this group is going to be productive is to try each other out; we could waste ages trying to gauge the 'fit' over the net.

The local chapter meeting. Hmmm... Well, I wasn't expecting much. When one of my esteemed colleagues commented on the lack of agenda, the Pres kept reitterating that he 'just thought it would be good to meet each other finally.' In fact, I really had the impression that his goal for the meeting was to not accomplish anything. My Esteemed Colleague (who has a lot to offer) tried to find out if there was interest in a critique group, which ended in a promise from another member to start a closed blog to which we would all have access. It hasn't happened yet. When I tried to raise the subject of logo, he refused to look at mine and said "we can post them on the website." So I took my sketch home again. We'll see.

Now, about the 'not no;' I have subbed to a certain online publication (not kidlit) and they have notified me that I have made the first round, so wish me luck.

I am finding kidlit depressing all of the sudden; there are too many rules, the competition is so negative, the community not so supportive as I had hoped. But the thought of going back to my vacuum isn't very appealing either....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Doors? Also, a bit of a yes....

So, what's new.
I think I'm getting spoiled. I keep reading books and sometimes afterwards I sit up and say, 'well, that was fun.' Or 'that was disappointing.' 'Cute.' 'Not quite there, should have done another rewrite,' is another common one.
I am thinking about how long it's been since I read a book and sat up and said, 'Yes. Yes yes yes!' And I'm wondering if I've just been reading all the wrong books, or if there really is a dearth at the moment.
I just read Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and then The Graveyard. I think that's as close as I've come in a long time. I like it that Gaiman's not afraid to be creepy- the button eyes in Coraline certainly qualify. And I like his characters. They had of course much more chance to develop in The Graveyard, and there were many more of them. I thought the owner of the pawn shop where Bod tried to sell the brooch was really creepy. I liked Scarlet- and yes, I spotted Mr. Frost, but I loved him anyway, well, as a character. Wouldn't want to eat dinner with him.
I don't think Gaiman made it clear enough what the Jacks were up to; I can't see that what they were defending was worth all the effort- actually, I'm having trouble figuring out what they were defending at all. Or some how even what they were. I don't mean we need an explanation for everything, but these holy wars are apparently being fought on a large scale, and over thousands of years, if there are that many Jacks around (or were.)
Is it just the five (now four) 'good guys' that are fighting? Silas, Miss Lupescue (probably spelled that wrong) the Mummy and whatsit? Did there used to be more? Against how many Jacks? How did the Jacks get started? Perhaps it will click when I re-read. In the meantime, I give Coraline and The Graveyard both a slightly qualified 'yes.'

And the rest of the world? I am attempting to join a new critique group. I know that a good critique group can be helpful. I know this because in my last group, there were some people who really had insights and made my work better (and beat me over the head with sticks until I stopped resisting :o)
I'm a little bit concerned now, because even though I told the woman who set up the group that I would like to exchange manuscripts *and* critiques before we started, we only sort of did that half way, and I think it may have been a mistake. There is a person in the group who critiques by telling other people how to write their stuff. I tried to point this out (in my usual extremely tactful fashion, ha ha.) and she got pretty angry. She says otherwise the critiques are wishy washy, vague, useless... I explained how "I think you should have your character pour a bucket of paint on the cat" is not the same as "Your character needs to do something much naughtier in order for the parents to punish her like that, otherwise the parents seem cruel and draconian." And why I thought the latter would be much more productive, and also how wrong I would feel about using an idea that isn't mine anyway, but I didn't get a lot of response from anyone.
We'll see how this group continues. The other two women seem cool. I just have the feeling that the critter from hell, let's call her, has some other agenda, and keeps trying to pull the group in a direction that suits her (like subbing every week, or this arbitrary 4 day turn around time.. don't remember discussing that. must have been in the fine print...) but don't necessarily suit anyone else in the group.

So. Now, after three years in my local scbwi chapter we are actually about to have our first meeting. Another person in the group has expressed interest in forming a critique group. I'm not sure how many writers there are- I have the impression that most are illustrators, but we'll see what comes of it. If there are enough writers to form a critique group in theory, it will still be a question of whether or not we are suited as to level of experience and development, level of, well, dare I say it, intelligence, style, and not least, temperament.

Wish me luck, Bloglanders.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sucking Eggs

I asked my teacher an unfair question. I asked her where I am in the continuum of writers. Ok, this was not a fair question, I know. They don't really know us, so they aren't going to be too blunt. Worst case scenario, they don't want all their prospective students commiting suicide. In reality, they don't see our faces, can't tell how hard we are taking criticism, and don't want to make us feel like shit. So I accept it that she sidestepped the question. But still. How do I get feedback? If you are a visual artist, you can publish a blog with pictures of your work and people will comment, and once you've deleted the trolls, you might even have some useful feedback. But for writers, once you published it on the internet, it's published. The houses may or may not refuse to touch it with a ten foot pole after that. I have read mixed opinions of whether or not publishing in a closed forum counts as publishing, but who wants to take chances? On the other hand, where does one go for an honest evaluation of their weaknesses, abilities, and progression (or lack thereof)?

So, maybe I suck eggs, maybe not, and what I want to know is, why can't I tell?

Anyway, this annoys me at the moment, but on the whole, life is good. Happy Pagan Reproduction Day, Bloglanders.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gender and Race in Kidlit

I've been thinking about gender and race in kidlit. I was reading another blog about the lack of diverse race in some genres (notably sci fi, apparently) and thinking about my own writing. Another blogger posted about race in writing, and about having the courage, if you are "white," to write about other races and possibly screw it up, but do it anyway.
I was thinking about my own writing and how I may be (inadvertantly) contributing to the problem. What I'm saying is that none of my major human characters is anything but white. This does not stem from a desire to have a "white" world, at all. This stems from my deep fear that if I tried to put minority characters in my stories, that they would wind up "white" with dark skin. And that I will be blamed for getting it wrong. Is this enough excuse? Should I do it anyway? I am not interested in writing books about race. But even if the book is about pffffffff..... say, eggbeaters, why can't some of the characters be other races besides white? Well, they are, but only minor characters. I'm still thinking about this.

To be honest, part of the problem that the majority of characters being "white" seems to be the distribution of authors. No one complains that Toni Morrison and Alice Walker write almost entirely using African American characters. And duh, why should they? It seem to me, the world needs more writers that aren't white. Yes, yes, the rest of us should also try to reflect the races of the world more accurately, but some of us are chicken. I feel like the pressure to do that perfectly if I do it at all is more than I can cope with.

But what about gender in picture books? Is male still the 'unmarked' gender? I realise that my default setting for anthropomorphic characters is male. So male equals neuter? Something like that. But this won't change unless we allow some of our characters to be marked for a while, until there is enough of a mix for long enough that it becomes normal.

Hmmmm... This post has come out a bit jumbled. I am going to have to think about this a bit more...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


My follow through is very poor. I have had this epiphany, you see. I get praise from my teachers for the bits and scenes I hand in as the answers to writing exercises, and if I do say so myself, they are pretty good. But it all seems to fall apart when I try to make something longer. Like, say, a plot. I can make characters. Description that blends in naturally and logically- what I mean is, there isn't really any; I just tell people what they need to know, and nothing they don't need to know. Dialogue? No problem.
But then something needs to happen. The characters need to change somehow. Grow. Fight. Why can't I do that? It makes me feel so short sighted and makes me wonder if I have some fundamental character flaw that stops me being able to imagine these complex interactions and their outcomes. Or I can think of just enough action to sustain a scene, but I can't hook them up together. Is my brain as tiny as it's beginning to feel?
Am I the only one with this problem?
Am I the only one reading this blog?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plugging Along.

Ha! Fooled you. No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have survived a whole year since we lost our boy.
The writing class. Well, my first impression is that the teacher is drinking heavily, or not getting enough sleep, or something. She doesn't proofread, that's for certain. The missing words and punctuation and the fact that she tends to wander off and not finish her sentences make her entries hard to follow.
All the same, her comments on the first week's assignment were useful. The ending was cheap. She was right. But the comments on the second assignment ranged from 'it was great' to 'this is why it was great.' A good start, but it doesn't give me anything to work with.
I feel so stuck! As if all my writing reaches exactly the same level of development and sophistication and then stops. All of the students and teachers and critique groups don't seem to be able to help me. The inexperienced among them give strange or even contradictory advice (one says 'cut this bit; it's irrelevent,' and another says 'this bit's important; expand on it!') or worse yet just say 'it's perfect, I don't see anything wrong with it.' The more experienced also see where the weak spots are, but can't seem to offer any advice on how to fix it. At first I was excited that we were finally going to have a SCBWI meeting (after nearly THREE YEARS as a member) but I'm not sure how good the turnout will be. Still, I will make the most of it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Long, long winter.

There has been snow and ice around since October. This is pretty rare. I think the birds are suffering. I think I'm suffering too. I am putting a lot of energy into struggling with the schools. the Evil Boy still hits my daughter. Today he poked her with a pencil in the thigh and it looks like the tip broke off. The teacher has decided that on Friday we will have another "talk."

I hate this. I hate the implication that my daughter in any way shares the responsibility for what is happening. She avoids him, tries not to look at him, and has trained herself not to react when he pokes and hits her. And still "let's talk about it." No, let's get this boy some real parents!

Ok, end of rant.

So, in order to combat stress and spring boredom, I have signed up for a class in children's writing with Gotham for this spring. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A lack of punctation.

Will I ever get my period again, I wonder? We complain so much about them when they are here, but we miss them when they are gone. Periods help us punctuate, divide up and file bits of time. My temporal memory was always bizarre and cloudy, but now it's worse. No system to it at all. And since I don't seem to be ovulating, that means no baby, and then what? I have this mass of time stretching out ahead of me with no periods, commas or exclamation points.

And absolutely no belief in myself that I will ever accomplish anything. I'm floundering, as you see...