Friday, September 4, 2015

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: The School Appreciation Video

My Internet Buddy, Josh Funk, has had his first (of many) picture books, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, published this month.  He's already had a fantastic response from schools including the Richland County Elementary School in Olney, IL.

After a Skype conversation with Josh, the school celebrated and put together a video they shared on The You Tubes.

To me, this is one of the most amazing things an author can receive by way of thanks and celebration for writing a great book.

Wiping some errant dust from the corner of my eye, I send out Major Congrats to Josh.  Well Earned and Well Deserved, sir.

-- Tom

Friday, August 14, 2015

Felicia Day and How the Writing Journey is Worth It

"You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)"by Felicia Day
I'm currently reading Felicia Day's memoir, "You're Never Weird on the Internet."  Despite being a generation or two older than Day, I greatly appreciate how her unique and quirky upbringing led her to be both the very talented and very unsure-of-herself (i.e. human) person she is.

Here's a great section from her book that I read this afternoon on the busride home that I felt was more than worth passing along:

“The next morning, I sat down at my computer and took a deep breath. “I will write a TV pilot before January 1. It may be the worst script ever written, but I will finish it, or . . . there isn’t any ‘or,’ stupid girl. It will happen. This pilot will happen.” And I started typing. 
I would love to say that given my resolve, the muses flowed through my fingertips to produce a script of utter perfection. That once I put pressure on myself, I rose to the occasion and found joy in every bit of dialogue I gave my characters.
That is NOT the case. 
Every second of writing that script felt like walking barefoot over shards of glass. I would write a bit and then I would sob, wanting desperately to erase what I’d just written. Oh God, that’s not a scene, no one acts like that. I have no idea what to make happen, who should talk next? I hate myself. Then I would force my fingers to type more, every word feeling like I was bleeding from every orifice. I was engulfed with fear of making mistakes, of writing something stupid, of encountering story problems “I couldn’t think my way out of. I was, in short, terrified of the process. It was not fun.
What drove me to continue? Sheer obstinate grit... 
“If ideas flow out of you easily like a chocolate fountain, bless you, and skip to the next chapter. But if you’re someone like me, who longs to create but finds the process agonizing, here’s my advice: 
  • Find a group to support you, to encourage you, to guilt you into DOING. If you can’t find one, start one yourself. Random people enjoy having pancakes.

  • Make a goal. Then strike down things that are distracting you from that goal, especially video games. (Unless it’s this book; finish reading it and THEN start.) 

  • Put the fear of God into yourself. Okay, I’m not religious. Whatever spiritual ideas float your boat. Read some obituaries, watch the first fifteen minutes of Up, I don’t care. Just scare yourself good. You have a finite number of toothpaste tubes you will ever consume while on this planet. Make the most of that clean tooth time. For yourself.
The creative process isn’t easy, even for chocolate-fountain people. It’s more like a wobbly, drunken journey down a very steep and scary hill, not knowing if there’s a sheer cliff at the end of it all. But it’s worth the journey, I promise."

Felicia Day is exactly the type of woman/gamer/person we need telling kids (and adults) of today that being different is not only okay, but important and valued.  She's also the kind of writer other writers need to hear speak the truth about how difficult and downright soul-shatteringly painful the writing process can be.

And, of course, that the writing journey is totally worth it.

-- Tom

Friday, July 24, 2015

Susan Jane Gilman: There Is No Lightning Bolt

I've been a fan of Susan Jane Gilman's writing since I read her memoirs Hypocrite In a Pouffy White Dress and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven -- books I read based on a single quote from her former high school writing teacher Frank McCourt who said, “Thank you, O Lord, for sending us Susan Gilman’s tales.”

I have to say I agree.

Gilman gave a Ted X Talk in Zurich earlier this year and the talk has just been posted to The YouTubes.  It is well worth watching for artist and/or anyone who contemplates making art.

Seriously, you should watch it.

-- Tom

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Unquestionable Love for Black Cats

In some ways Max reminds me of my Ani -- although even as a kitten my Ani would have known better than to not believe a mouse.  She was bound and determined to go adventuring even before her eyes had opened, relying on her sense of smell to see her through.

Still, I'm very likely to be picking up a copy of Max all the same.

-- Tom

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Magic of Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4
King's Cross Station
London, 2006

Back in 2006 I went to England and Scotland for the first time.  I got a chance to see the homelands of my ancestors as well as meet some LiveJournal friends in real life.  I spent two weeks alternately trying to not look too much like a tourist and spending far too much time with a camera in front of my face.

One evening we were in King's Cross station.  As we walked into the platform area where we were to catch our train, I had one of those not-quite-deja-vu experiences where I knew I had seen this place before, but not exactly the way I was seeing it. 

Looking up, I saw a huge clock above the platform.  "That clock!" I called out to Bonn. "I know that clock!  This is where part of the first Harry Potter film was shot!"

I felt a tap at my shoulder.  Turning around, a woman wearing a King's Cross Station uniform gave me a bemused smile and pointed off to our left. 

I had walked right past half-a-cart in the brick wall with the sign "Platform 9 3/4" above it.

It takes a lot for me to become the squeeling fanboy, but (much to Bonn's embarrasment) that was one of those moments.

Almost ten years later, the most lasting part of that moment is the sense of amazement that came with a piece of visceral, important fiction coming to life.  Even if only for a moment, that platform and the disappearing cart was real.  And as one of the millions who read the Harry Potter series and longed for it to be real, there is something truly magical about that.

-- Tom

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jenny Lawson is Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson (perhaps better known online as The Bloggess) wrote one of the funniest books I have read this decade Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir.  

At best, a book will get a few smiles out of me.  Maybe a chuckle here and there.  Lawson managed to get me to laugh out loud on more occasions than I bothered to try and count.  She is that freakin' funny.

Hers is a strange world, one that might have weirded-out most mere mortals.  Perhaps it did so to Lawson as well, but it also gave her a wicked sense of humor and a bizarre outlook on life in general.  Even better, she's able to write about it all in a way that both honors the insanity around here while making her reactions seem normal.

Well, almost normal.

And that's part of the fun of her writing.  Somewhere you know Lawson must know that what's going on around her is more than just a little odd (if nothing else, her husband is quick to point this out) but that doesn't stop her from treating her subjects with an understanding that most of us would shake our heads at and slowly back away from.

The only problem with Let's Pretend This Never Happened is that it ended.  Now, with Furiously Happy, the fun might just begin all over again.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Book: Now Appearing in a Publishing House Editor's Inbox Near You.

Rhymes With Orange
March 09, 2015
© Hilary Price

Two weeks ago my agent (the wonderful Caryn Wiseman) wrote to me saying how much she liked the most recent revision of The Book.  She said she wanted to give it one more read-through, but she thought it was ready.

Ready.  As in, "No more revisions (for the time being)."  As in, "I'll start submitting it to Editors at Publishing Houses any day now."

Despite being a cynical person under these circumstances, I did allow myself a brief, tentative sigh of relief.  I called my wife.  I emailed a few friends who had helped me through the last round of revisions.  Still, I didn't relax.  I've been tossed back into the Deep End of the Revision Pool too many times to even consider celebrating.

Then, today, came the news that Caryn was giving The Book the go-ahead.

Now I know it's likely that any publishing house editor is likely to want to see some revisions as well.  But, for now, I'll take a moment to revel in the notion that the many years of revising The Book are at an end.

* whew! *

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Book Birthday to Anna Staniszewski!

Happy Book Birthday to Anna Staniszewski for her picture book, "Power Down, Little Robot"!  It's an I-Don't-Want-to-Go-to-Bed book that the Wall Street Journal described as, "…a fresh take on an old topic."

Anna is a prolific MG author.  Now that's she's a mama-to-be, it's no surprise she's adding Picture Book Author to her list of credits as well.

If I was a nice guy I'd recommend you go to her blog entry about the book to enter a Goodreads contest to win an autographed copy, but if you do you'll lower my chances of winning.  So, nevermind.

-- Tom

Monday, February 23, 2015

While Waiting

This Infinity Scarf is actually a dark green.

Thanks to several very helpful ├četa readers (especially SteveHeather and Anna) I was able to get Rev 2.0 of The Book out to my agent in early February.

Now, if I was a disciplined writer I would be jumping right into The Next Book.  After all, that's how people like Anna write and get so many books published.  However, if I was a disciplined writer I wouldn't have taken close to a year to get Rev 2.0 back to my agent.

Or maybe that first 'disciplined' should be 'less cynical.'  The last time I submitted The Book I jumped back into the sequel that I had written a while ago.  I was in the midst of expanding the story and making other revisions when it was suggested that I hold off on any sequel writing until we had an idea of sales figures from the first book.  Oh, and there was a list of revisions needed on The Book, too.

If my agent wants a Rev 3, I don't want to stop work on The Other Book and jump back into The Book.  So, instead, I've decided to do something else with my time.

Handmade Chainmail shirt (front)
Back during our Craft Show Days I was making a lot of wire-wrapped bangles and handmade chains.  At some point I decided to make myself a chainmail shirt.  I referred to it as 'knitting with metal' which, I knew, wasn't exactly true.  Knitting is a series of interconnected slip knots, while chainmail is a series of interconnected closed metal loops.  Still, people understood the idea of repeating pattern work.

Besides, I had wanted to learn how to knit for a long time.  My body doesn't hold in heat well, so working with a warm material (wool yarn) to make warm clothing (scarves, hats, sweaters) sounded like a good idea.  My wife, however, made me promise to finish the chainmail shirt before I learned how to knit.

Which was a wise thing, because finishing that shirt was a bear of a job.

After that project was completed I still had Rev 2.0 looming over me.  I imposed the "Finish Rev 2.0 before learning how to knit" dictate upon myself, knowing that watching Doctor Who episodes was distraction enough from writing.

So, with Rev 2.0 out to My Trusted ├četa Readers, I was finally free to take up knitting.  First up, a scarf for my wife.  Second up, a better scarf for my wife (above).  Third up, a scarf for myself.

I'll hang up the needles when it's time to work on The Next Revision.  Or The Next Book.  It all depends on what news I get from my agent.

-- Tom