Friday, August 31, 2007

Poetry Friday: On turning a T-shirt


On turning a T-shirt
right side out

How many times
has this shirt been pulled
over your head, reversed
by the thrust
of your arms, thrown
into the hamper, washed,
dried, presented inside-
out to me for
folding?

Should I? Turn it,
I mean, or should it go
neatly squared
seams out
into your
drawer for you
to right
in the morning
dark?

Do you mark
my turning?

–or does
absolution
unfold
against your skin
and dress
you
unawares?

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds, and More


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pre-Poetry Friday: My (not so) Secret Source for Poetry News

The Washington Post is a mecca for poetry lovers. Go ahead, do the free registration, if you have to. You'll thank me the next time you're desperate for a Poetry Friday idea. (Or you can read it at your local library, but it's hard to link to that online.)

Not only do they have a weekly column called Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky, which publishes outstanding poems along with a brief commentary, but they also publish articles on the local Poetry Slam scene and they note the death of soldier/poets. (Here he is, slamming.)

They also publish reviews of children's poetry books, and even a blow-by-blow recounting of a date between a pre-published children's book author and an actor. (Just guessing her children's book rhymes. No evidence.) Not to mention this story of a runner who sings the Mister Roger's theme song to pit bulls and yes, there's a poetry connection there. You just have to read all the way to the end to discover it.

But what I truly enjoy is their regular Sunday feature, "Life is Short: Autobiography as Haiku." Okay, it's not really haiku, but participants have to use 100 words or less to describe their own lives. Week after week, I laugh and I cry. (That last one is written by Suzie Celentano, my yoga teacher.)

And of course, there's always the time honored technique of cutting words out of the newspaper and flinging them into the air to make your own Dada poetry. Here's what happened when I pasted this particular post into that last link:

You'll an connection (That honored
publish (Here of song to
that have to mention less
read only outstanding brief Poetry
ahead, by the publish have
me it at a words


Hey, that's almost a poem. And it's almost Poetry Friday. See you soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to school shopping

J. Crew, you've gone literary on us! (Will She Who Will Get Me My Book be pleased?)


The new "library print" fabric

as a skirt...






as a scarf...





as a dress...
(wouldn't this be great
for those celebrity visits to your library?)




and finally,
as a demure cardigan...





Why are there NO SHOES????

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Artist of the Week: Jacquelynn Buck

Artists need images of their finished works in order to promote them, and they often need at least one decent picture of themselves, to put with a bio or on a website. But most artists (and writers) I know would sooner drink paint than go to GlamourShots.

That's why I think Jacquelynn Buck has a huge career ahead of her. She's the photographer who took my picture, there to the right. She also took this black and white one at my website, and this one for my book jacket. Sorry for all the linkage to me, me, me, because I don't really want to talk about that. I want to tell you that the afternoon she came to my house was pure play. It helped that she was my friend, of course, but it was more than that. She thinks like an artist; she is an artist. We laughed as she worked, and I felt comfortable revealing who I was, which is no easy feat. And so, to those of you who think I'm "genic" as Robin put it, not so. I have many, many pictures of me that I hate. (Ninth grade yearbook photo being prime among them.) The reason the pictures turned out well is because of Jackie.

So, it's no wonder that other artists have hired her to do their visuals too. Here's the "Artists and Musicians" section of her website. There's a sculptor at work, a painter, a guitar player, a duo of singers, and a flutist. (I also love her creative portraits in "Outside the Box." And look at these wedding photos!)

And now I see that she has done coffee table books documenting several artists' work, and that she does all the scheduling for a community art space called Art in Motion, with the coolest sounding workshops. (Painting Poetry, anyone?) And that's not all. She sent me an email saying that she and painter Mike Elsass are opening a gallery in Dayton, Ohio, with the plan for it to "adjoin a very trendy restaurant in the downtown district and maybe really start the arts district here."

Jackie, I had so much fun getting my picture taken by you that day. You told me while you worked that you wanted to explore what you could do with your new digital camera. Girl, you've taken it way, way outside the frame.

Monday, August 27, 2007

P.S. Let me expand on that...

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the curiosita section of How to Think Like Leonardo daVinci. Here's more on the "100 questions exercise" from that chapter, in case you feel like playing around today.

Here's what to do:

Make a list of 100 questions. They can be about anything, large or small, personal or universal. Do this as if you were free-writing. (Or pretend you're a two-year old, riffing as only they can, on the themes of WHY? and HOW COME?)

Set the list aside; then, come back to it and choose ten of the questions for further thought.

Set the list of ten aside; then, come back again, and choose one of them---whichever one is poking you in the arm, or yanking at your shorts. (I once saw a poor mom whose arms were busy holding an infant get her shorts tugged down in a grocery store by her toddler.)

Now here's the tricky part: Once you have the one question you're going to deal with, don't answer it! Don't even try. Instead, re-frame the question. See how many different ways you can ask it.

Here's an example:

ORIGINAL QUESTION: Why is the universe so immense?

QUESTION RE-FRAMED: Is the universe as immense as I think it is? Why is the universe so much larger than I am? Are there others for whom the universe is not so immense? When will the universe stop being so immense? Why can't it be small? Does it have something to do with time? Does everyone who figures out the secret linking the immenseness of the universe to time die at that moment? (Ooooh, I sense a plot in that last one...)

I offer this exercise to you because I think that at the heart of every great story is a great question. What would it be like if...? Who would help me if... Where did he find...? Why is she so...? When did they start...? How come you never see...?

So, 100 questions! Surely that's not too much to ask.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why is a Bicycle?

"Why is a bicycle?" my father used to ask me. I know the answer now: "Because a vest has no sleeves." You disagree? Fine. Please write your own answer. I'm really more interested in the question, anyway. I like to collect questions. Here are a few of my favorites:


For more fun with questions, see: Curiosita, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael Gelb

And if you feel like answering any of the questions above, or adding your own favorite questions in the comments, well...I say again: Why not?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poetry Friday: and you know this


-and you know this-


Have you ever eaten a cob of corn

cold, wrapped up the day before

because you couldn’t bear to throw away

such goodness, even though–and you know this–

corn is never the same

the day after.


You unwrap it anyway,

don’t heat it, don’t salt it, don’t butter it, don’t even

sit before you bite. Not much taste–you knew that–but oh!–

how crisp!–like raw snow–and you remember


your mother, lecturing produce

clerks on why the thinnest ears were the sweetest,

and how she shucked each ear

at the store, just to be

sure, and


rubbing–this was your job–the stubborn silk

from those ears before they were plunged

into boiling water laced

with a tablespoon of sugar and


sticking little wooden skewers

like shark’s teeth into the ends

of the cob, so as not to burn

your fingers and


rolling the corn over a whole

stick of butter, melting

corn tracks into its back–

bad manners–but your mother

allowed it, and


eating the corn in pre-counted rows, or messy

patchwork fashion, or round and round

like a buzz saw, or in races

with your brothers, and


fishing the trash

later for the one lost

skewer and (much later)


growing your own corn in a miniature

matrix of a garden in New Mexico

and your daughter baptizing

herself in the dirt as you stroked the emerging

tassels of finger-thin cobs and


marveling that night at her breath,

which as she slept, was the exact scent of new

corn, and how you were high on it, inhaling

in the dark, and finally, you remember


that you are eating this

cold ear of corn,

not heated, not buttered, not salted,

but straight, like vodka,

and it feels like a dangerous act


as if it were forbidden–

and you know this–

to eat corn this way. You resist

kissing it before

you begin.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Poetry Friday is hosted this week by The Book Mine Set

"It is in the empty spaces between the dots that the illusion of character arises"

Learning how to draw changed my life.

I'm not saying that I became a great artist. And I'm not saying that after reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and signing up for "Drawing I" with David Barnes at the Newport Art Museum, that I had any true intention of changing anything. The entry from my journal that day says this:

November 21, 00
I'm curious to see if drawing brings me ideas and characters, if drawing will prompt me to write. Or gives me new insights into actual stories, not just the general theory of writing. I would think the emphasis on seeing in drawing would serve me well as a writer, help me with detail, as well as proportion and relationships. And the idea that we often do not see because we label and generalize is very applicable to writing–that’s how bad poetry is written, clich├ęs, stale characters. If nothing else, I think drawing could be a great method of turning off my left brain before each writing session, of relaxing, of being receptive.


Then came this:

February 2, 01
Drawing class was rewarding yesterday. We worked some more on proportion and perspective and I think I finally have gotten the idea of it. My last drawing of the day turned out pretty well. I've been working only in charcoal, but today I brought drawing paper so I can move off of newsprint and use a pencil also. I also bought a drawing board to secure my paper. I peeked at my drawings from yesterday and they give me great joy. I'm so pleased with them, as raw as they are, because they seem so alive.


This:

March 13, 01
“A painting–like writing–is a problem with too many solutions and not nearly enough rules.” W. J. Innis

“Readers naturally try to connect the dots you’ve drawn; it is in the empty spaces between the dots that the illusion of character arises. Those voids between points are taken to be the mysteries, the vagaries, the tinctured nuances that lie at the heart of human personality” M.T. Anderson


This:

May 02, 01
After drawing class. Feel like I’ve been beat with a stick. Struggled so hard and I'm so far behind. I keep hoping for that magic moment when it will all click and I’ll be great, but it isn’t going to happen. I’ll never be fabulous, never even scratch the surface. I hate being unable to do something I love. It’s like I have a brain disorder, and what my eye and brain see, my hands won’t draw.

Except sometimes, they do. Sometimes, I lose track of time and I'm just drawing. But how to get there? Practice, practice, practice–I know the answer. Practice, so that when the fear comes, I'll recognize its ugly face and the feel of its hands on my neck. I know you Fear, I'll say. I know you can’t kill me, and I know I can’t get rid of you either. I can only walk on despite you. I don’t even think it helps to spit in your eye, to challenge your hold. I must embrace you, Fear, know you intimately–all your tricks.

This:

May 30, 01
The only thing I have to do is convince myself it's worth holding on, and that it doesn’t matter how stupid I look. I'm willing to look stupid in order to learn how to draw, to learn how to write a novel. Was this all it took? A willingness to be humiliated? No, but that’s a big chunk of it. What will I do one day in class if I never break through? It hasn’t happened yet. I always manage to relax, to see, to make something happen.

Because it isn’t about me, and my skill. It’s about being open to the world, to its beauty, which is always there, no matter if I'm personally blind or not. Some days, I see a small portion of it, other days, the light is dim; on rare days, it's brightly, brilliantly lit, but it's always there. To serve.


And finally this:

July 18, 01
Now I look back at my drawings, flipping through the pages, surprised each time by the intensity of the faces, how much I remember of their making. How many times I re-drew that man’s hand. What a delightful shade of green he wore. How I captured his white hair just right. My drawings aren’t just drawings. If they were, they would be judged awkward, adolescent, thin. They are, instead, a record of their making. A record of battles engaged, skirmishes won, whole armies of selves lost.

See–I'll be able to say to my grandchildren–see–this is who I was and how I lived. They might say, “Grandma. It’s just yellowed newsprint and look–you made the nose all wrong.” But maybe not. Maybe they will take out a pencil and lie beside me and draw, and I'll know they know how to live.



How I saw the world before:





And after:





Drawing Power: Everyone needs it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hold it right there...

I've got a little work to do, so if you would kindly bookmark your place, I'll be back shortly.

Some fun bookmarks:

If'n Books + Marks (Love the one that says: "My life is much more complex than this character's.")

Mirage Bookmark ( Who knew there was an Exhibition of Bookmarks? I'm fond of this one and this one.)

And if you've ever wished to be Amy March, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austin, or Anne Shirley...or leave a calling card just like them...pay a visit to Small Meadow Press. They have just the perfect thing for you. (And you must give me one if we ever meet!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Taking It All Off: Part Two

(continued from yesterday's post)



“My heart is raw from revelation,

keening to be covered,

yet I am pressed on by the elation,

of the you I have discovered

when I tiptoed to the edge, the edge of you,

only to flee from your intimacy,

then crawl to the edge anew..."



I am in awe of the teenager who had the courage to write these daring words to a twenty-three year old man she hardly knew. In a made-for-TV movie, the script would have called for the man to callously rip up the poem, rejecting me along with my rash lyrics. I would have spent the next two and a half hours descending into alcoholism, prostitution, and petty crime, hitting bottom in a murder-suicide moments before the last commercial break.

Why didn't these tragic consequences occur to me as I wrote? I think it was because I was so high on "elation" that I ignored the risk. I had the courage to write. I had the courage to reveal myself.

And that’s when I knew, sitting there with that letter from long ago in my hand, that I was finally hearing Revelation speak. It wasn't a command to write young adult thrillers. It wasn't the title of my middle grade novel that would capture the Newbery Medal. It was simply that I had been looking for answers in the wrong places. I had been searching the sky for a booming voice when I should have been searching myself. I had been awaiting a revelation, when I was the one who was supposed to be doing the revealing.

If I wanted to see “What I Was Here For,” I was going to have to take off some clothes and look. At myself. More than that, if I wanted to write convincing fiction, I was going to have let other people look at me in my (emotional) underwear. Or in even less. For it is only the revelation of my soul will draw readers to my words. Readers who hope to watch me dancing naked there, and learn something from my awkward steps about the dance they were created to perform.

Can I do this? Can I do it for my intended audience of young readers? Children are not ashamed of their nakedness. More than that, they snub any book in which they sense the author is a coward. If I want to earn them as readers, I will have to write about my ugliest mistakes and my most humiliating moments. I will have to write about laughing so hard on the third-grade playground that I peed in my pants. I will have to write about dreading school bus conversations, when I had to fake knowledge of the Fonz to conceal my family's embarrassing lack of a television set. I will have to write about crying in sixth grade when my best friend hid my glasses, and ridiculed me for my near blindness–in front of those she expected to be her new best friends.

How will I be able to do this? My hope is that elation will shove me on, that the promise of its heady joy will push me off cliffs and into snakepits. That its glow will not allow my work to hide in the recesses of my desk drawers. Without elation, I would cringe at Revelation's voice. For it really did say, "I have created thee to dance naked on the tabletops of Knoxville, Tennessee." And everywhere else I want my words to be read.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Taking It All Off: Part One

This is an essay I wrote several years ago, before I published (or even wrote) my first book. It chronicles a turning point in my life as a writer, and I dug it out recently because it talks about being seventeen and unsure of your role in life, things that were on my mind as I drove my daughter to college a few days ago. Also, because some of you have asked about the letters I'm lying on in the picture to the right. Here's part one:


Taking It All Off in Knoxville,Tennessee

When I was seventeen, I longed for the day when the clouds would part, the thunder roll, and the voice of Revelation boom: "Hear ye, hear ye! This is thy purpose in life: I have created thee to be a doctor. Go forth and cheat death.” Or: “I have created thee to be a scientist. Go forth and seek truth.” Or even: “I have created thee to be an exotic dancer. Go forth and dance naked on the tabletops of Knoxville, Tennessee."

It didn't matter what the voice commanded. I was desperate to know what I was meant to do in life. The choices were endless and staggering, from Stanford mathematician to Broadway ticket seller. From French pastry chef to Graceland grave guard. I could waste years finding my destined path. Or waste no time at all veering down the road to career hell. At seventeen, every path was a confusing gamble, and only Revelation's booming voice would do as a guide.

Years later, I find myself still awaiting a revelation. No, not a voice announcing what I am to do with my life–somehow I stumbled down the path of a writer and it seems too late to turn back–but I long for a revelation of what I am meant to write. I think I am here to write for children. But am I meant to write easy-to-read primers or lyrical picture books? Fantasy tales of dandies and dragons or biting real life stories of drugs and despair? A novel of teenage sex or a counting book called Ten Aged Socks?

It would be so much easier if Revelation would speak up. A simple "Go forth and ease aching teenage hearts" would be welcome. "Go forth and make fifth-graders giggle" might be fun. I could even tolerate "Go forth scare the pants off pre-teens with hackneyed plots and free-flowing gore" if Revelation were adamant enough.

Until that moment, though, I am in the dark. I do what I used to do in the dark as a kid: read under the covers. I study books about dialogue, books about character development, books about marketing technique. I read in search of answers. Of revelations.

Recently, the book under the covers was The Courage to Write, by Ralph Keyes. What I learned there first shocked, and then shamed me. The shock came on page twenty-eight when I read that some writers hide finished manuscripts in desk drawers. They are terrified of sending them to an editor. Are these writers mad? What use is slaving over the perfect mix of words without a reader to savor the final result? Get it to the starving customers, already!

Yet, the stories of these fearful writers spawned an annoying idea. “Why aren't you afraid to drop an envelope in the mailbox?” it buzzed. "Why don't your stories try to wriggle from your hands and burrow deep into a desk drawer?” Maybe it was because my work was shallow and easily fashioned, instead of deep and fearfully wrought. Maybe I lacked courage. I felt shamed that the only words I’d written that I trembled to send were personal letters.

There was the letter I wrote my first boyfriend, telling him it was over. In it, I swore I loved him (as a friend, of course), but we weren't meant to be. It caused his mother and sister, to whom he showed it, to hate me. We didn't speak again.

There was the letter I sent my parents from college, trumpeting my determination to get married, and detailing the injustice of their opposition. It was about six pages long, passionate, and full of as much confusion as truth. It was written in pain, and induced more pain when it was read.

There were the letters I wrote my husband during our four years of long-distance courtship before we married. Hundreds of letters on such gut-wrenching topics as whether I loved him or not, what I feared most about marriage, and what attracted me to other men. Many of these letters caused major earthquakes when they arrived, and I shook in my shoes as I wrote them and cried after I'd mailed them. At least he didn't show them to his mother. She's a creative seamstress, a generous woman, who might have sewn me into a pillow and donated me to a homeless shelter.

I compared these letters to my more recent work: short stories for children, an occasional nonfiction article, a stab at science fiction for adults, a few word puzzles written out of boredom. My most ambitious project was a one-act play I had begun that month. Of course, I worried about this work: that an embarrassing spelling error would creep in. Or that a story would not meet the needs of the magazine's audience. Or that an article would feature obvious misinformation. But had I trembled to send my words out to editors? No. I was ashamed to admit I had not.

The Courage to Write implied that fear was a natural outcome of writing, like sweat pouring out of skin during ditch digging. Where was my sweat of fear? Maybe I could find it in those early letters. Digging furiously, I unearthed the first letter I had written to my husband and studied it. Lovestruck after just two weeks of dating, and just seventeen, I had composed the following: (continued tomorrow)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

When I knew enough to know nothing at all

I drove my daughter to college yesterday, and moved her into the same dorm that I moved into 26 years ago. I hope she eventually goes to a party like this one. (Oh, and studies hard! Yes, lots of studying!)


Guess which one is me.


(And if you want a history of the Chimera SF Fan Club, click on the picture. There may be a few more compromising photos over there, too.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday: Drive-by Truckers

When you marry someone, you don't always understand the things they love. My husband doesn't really fathom why I love beets or fried baloney. And I fail to see the beauty of the battered tin cup that holds his loose change or the appeal of the coat he's owned since 1982. But, I did get him to love yoga and The Prydain Chronicles, and he introduced me to Neko Case and loud, fast jets.

We are celebrating 23 years of marriage tomorrow. So, for Poetry Friday, here are the lyrics to a song he loves. I think it's growing on me, too.

The songwriter, Jason Isbell says this: This (song) focuses on the advice I got growing up, mostly from my father. We recorded the song just before Father's Day and I gave Dad a copy as a present:



Don’t call what you're wearing an outfit. Don’t ever say your car is broke.
Don’t worry about losing your accent, a Southern Man tells better jokes.
Have fun but stay clear of the needle. Call home on your sister’s birthday.
Don’t tell them you’re bigger than Jesus, don’t give it away....
Full lyrics here
-----Outfit, by the Drive-by Truckers, from their album, Decoration Day

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peace Through Puppets

I clipped this article from The Washington Post about Peace Through Puppets a few weeks ago, and knew right away that I would blog about it. Why?

First, because moms come through when you need them, even when they're 80 and you're 57 and 6-foot-5.

Second, I have a mini-collection of puppets, including a three-headed dragon marionette from Prague, a momma/baby elephant pair from Thailand, some vintage finger puppet sets like Little Red Riding Hood and assorted animal figures with wooden heads, and a cloth box from which three adorable mice poke up that my daughter used to take on babysitting jobs. I also had a plush donkey puppet growing up that I would make real by licking its nose to make it wet and then goosing my sister with it.

Finally, I love knowing that many of the puppets stay with the Iraqi children who need them.

Peace to you and them.

NEW: More about the power of puppets from BookMoot

NEW: String Theory: A fantastic post about the marionettes of Prague from the blog, Curious Expeditions

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You are now connected

Blogging from the road has been better and worse than I expected. I blogged when I didn't think I'd be able to, and didn't blog even when I had access. Right now, I'm sitting in a car outside a public library, using their wireless network. Yeah, libraries!

Anyhow, this spottiness will continue all week, while I travel. In the meantime, in honor of the library that is supporting me right now, I want to call your attention to this eloquent plea from Anne Marie Pace for the library at Chincoteague. (Yes, it's the same town where MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE began. ) As Anne Marie says: "I have more children's books in my house than they have in their library." Go and see if there's one tiny thing you can do to join Anne Marie in offering more books to the kids who live there. UPDATE: Now you can buy music by Chincoteague musicians to support the library!

I'll sign off here shortly, but the wireless network inside the library will continue to broadcast. I think that's a mini-miracle, a great and wonderful invention, but it's nothing compared to the intimate, quiet pulse of a library book that finds me, alone and in need of sustenance, and steadily breathes life back into my pale form:


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Poetry Friday: 39 Reasons to Write

I was tagged to write 39 Reasons to Be Happy by jules. But instead I have:


39 reasons to write

You can't speak. No one listens.
You don't know. You do know.
Talk is cheap. Therapy costs.
Courage is sexy.

A circle is forming.
You can't hold your breath forever.
Everyone thinks they know you.
Candy dissolves.

There is already, without you, a moon.
There is never, without you, a revolution.
Laughing alone is not recommended.
The melody is strong.

You are dressed for it.
The pen fits, exactly.
Can you breathe otherwise?
Nothing satisfies like removing your gloves.

Why not? Brazen made the dictionary.
So did brine, bombast and brioche
Denouement is really a word.
Disobedience can be looked up.

Thousands of sparrows are counting on you.
Space can fold in on itself.
Reasons line the roads back, but not the way out.
Staring is required.

Besides, do you really think Truth hangs out in a bar?
Or that she would talk to you without her bodyguard?
Check out what marks her shoes make on the floor.
Wait for her at the sink.

Don't double-check my math.
There are no warriors without wounds.
Thirty-nine is as thirty-nine does.
Do you?

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Poetry Friday
is hosted this week at Big A, little a

Monday, August 6, 2007

SCBWI L.A. Conference: John Green

Me and John Green
Nerdfighters!

John gave a honest and funny speech to the entire conference, and then held a breakout session on Writing the Contemporary YA Novel, which I attended. My questions for him:

ME: Your vblog is a lot of fun. (HIM: Thank you ma'am. ME: Ma'am? Ma'am? God, I hope he meant that as humor...) ME, continuing on: But how has it affected you as a writer?

HIM: (mad paraphrasing) It's given me less time to write! But it's confirmed for me that the written word is important, that you can do things with text that video will never be able to do. (He, of course, said this all much more eloquently.)

ME: (after other people asked questions about the sexual tension and male POV in Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines) Do you find it's harder to write about spiritual questioning than sex?

HIM: God, what a great question! (or something lovely like that) YES. It's much harder. It's hard not to be cheesy. So I used an academic setting (the religion professor) to talk about it in a structured way. I wrote the scene (famous toothpaste tube scene) in ten minutes. The spiritual stuff took much longer. (Again, heavily paraphrased. I do him no justice at all.)

So, I walked away with even more admiration. Not only is he honest on the page, he's honest in person and great fun to listen to.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

SCBWI L.A. Conference: Parade of Jokes

At the conference, we can win gift certificates to the book store by submitting jokes! Here's the setup if you want to play along:

Name a line of underwear for children's writers and illustrators

Some of the winners:

Holes

Judy Bloomers

Oh, the Places You Can't Go

Rough Drafties

Here's my suggestion: Looking for AA-laska. (hee, hee)

SCBWI L.A. Conference: Give me More!

If you're looking for detailed reports on the conference, try Alice's CWIM blog. She's been posting incredible writeups like this one on the session "Two Agents, Two Views."

Meanwhile, I'll keep posting random thoughts and pictures until I get to a calmer place and can digest all that I've heard and seen.

P.S. I did sit at the same lunch table as Arthur Levine, and got to meet Kirby Larson when she sat down in the lobby with me. (So nice, both of them.) Also, I chatted poolside with Nikki Grimes over coconut cake.

SCBWI L.A. Conference: By the Light of the Silvery Moon

By the light of the silvery moon
The Disco Mermaids kick off the dance party

Friday, August 3, 2007

SCBWI L.A. Conference: Adding to my Very Big Good Deed List

Current Mission: I'm asking everyone I meet here in L.A. what good causes they support (literacy/book or child/family related) for my Very Big Good Deed List. Watch the list grow over the next few days!

And please, if you have a cause you support, email me the link or post a comment here or at the VBGD List itself. Thanks!

SCBWI L.A. Conference: Cynthia Leitich Smith Tells All

Cynthia Leitich Smith

This was an amazingly information-packed session. Cynthia promised to eventually post a list of links at her site, so keep checking back there. (And I'll go back and link from here when it's up.)

SCBWI L.A. Conference: Parade of Words

As Lin Oliver said, if we (SCBWI) do something for ten minutes, we call it a tradition. But there are a few conference traditions that have been going on for several years that I love. One is the parade of authors, where the conference kicks off with all the presenters marching in, and coming to the microphone one by one, and speaking just a single word. A word that sums up what they are thinking, feeling, or hoping about the conference, or their writing lives at that moment.

Some word choices were practically mandatory. Susan Patron said "Scrotum." (We all cheered.) Lee Bennett Hopkins said "Poetry." John Green said "Nerd-fighters."

We also heard:

Doggedness
Sparkle
Leap (Laurent Linn)
Truth
Peri-menopausal (Lisa Yee)
Courage
Ready

So what's your word today?

Mine is: Flow

Poetry Friday: An Ode


Coffee
with my name
on it


After staying up past midnight (3:00 AM East Coast time) this was poetry to me.

For something more lyrical, check out Poetry Friday, hosted this week by The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

SCBWI: Blogging from the Road


Look who I met (and had dinner with, and talked to for a very long, good time): Kelly Herold (on the right) from Big A, Little A! A fellow conference goer took our picture with my cell phone. I don't think he believed me when I said I was sending it straight to my blog.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Am I Living My Life For an Audience?

Did you ever find yourself knowing the Right Answer to a Big Question, and then flat out refusing to write that answer in the space provided?

The question is: Am I living my life for an audience? (Sounds like something Oprah would think up, except of course, she lives in front of an audience, so I'd have to give her a bemused glance if she ever asks me this. You know, when I'm on her show. With Ralph Fiennes. And Stacy London. He asks me for a date. She gives me free shoes.)

I know what the answer to this one is supposed to be. Everyone has internalized someone--- mom, dad, college professor, religious guru, ex- boyfriend/girlfriend, super-critical driver's license examiner with badge that reads Officer Law---who WATCHES you. ALL THE TIME. And if you are ever to be rid of this scrutiny, you must name this watcher, and banish them, and live the rest of your life, free, oh so, free.

Except....I don't want to give up my audiences. I love them. When I was a kid, I had a floor-length mirror in my room. I think this was because it matched the furniture, which was way too nice for a kid and...holy crap! I'm just now realizing...was actually guest room furniture. Anyhow, I also had a long, purple, nylon nightgown, which could be stretched and twisted into a variety of costumes. In front of that mirror, I practiced being a belly dancer, a wicked witch, a nun, a beggar, a rock star, and countless other characters who could be conjured out of thin air. That mirror was my first audience. I have it still. Last week, I did an awesome interpretive dance to Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes in front of it.

Later, I did some theater in high school, and for my church, but now, my performing is limited to reading out loud. Lots of times, I read out loud to myself. My favorite thing is the Cold Read. Attempting something I've never seen before, letting the words themselves cue me and carry me along, and I'm telling you, if the writing is good, very good, this works every time and gives me a solid buzz.

But, Sara, you're saying, a mirror? Reading out loud to yourself? There are no audiences there! But we're talking about the audiences in our heads, remember? I'm sure my parents are in there, and the grammar police, too, but there's also an excited crowd of fabulous art-loving, word-hugging, purple nightgown-admiring people in there too. And if they weren't there, writing or reading out loud or singing in the shower wouldn't be half as much fun.

So, do you have an audience for your life? Are you trying to get them to leave or to stay?