Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Colombia from the Hip

Colombia from the Hip

Plaza Bolivar -- the best public space in Colombia (according to Penalosa -- the guru of city planning, former mayor of Bogota). And definitely Pereira's most lively plaza.

1. Bolivar Desnudo -- This is the symbol of the city and probably the most famous statue of Simon Bolivar by artist Rodigo Arenas Betancur. Arenas created it in 1964, and it was one of the most controversial statues because, well, Bolivar is naked (hence the title).
2. The Chess Corner -- There is a very serious chess club that plays in the same spot on the Plaza Bolivar every day, all day long.
3. Shoe shiners -- Hundreds of people are employed in this plaza from shoe shiners, human statues, coffee vendors, musicians, and the dreaded mimes -- all making their living in this plaza surrounded by beautiful mango trees in the center of Pereira.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Waxing Philosophical on the Inevitable Hideousness of ID Photos

It's that time of year again -- time to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to make any Cirque du Soleil acrobat look less-than-limber. Yes. It's time to renew my Colombian VISA, this time getting permanent residency here.
That is, if a decent document photo isn't a requisite.
I'm quite certain that if the authorities were to pick and choose who they wanted to reside within their borders, doing so based on document photos would narrow the field down to, um, one. Or perhaps two lucky people who actually took a decent ID photo.
So two days ago when I had jumped through hoop twelve-hundred and fifteen, sweating buckets while walking up and down the city streets, depositing money in banks, getting photocopies, returning to hand in paperwork only to find they hadn't given me all the information (big surprise), the inevitable happened. "Yeah. We need two 3x3 document photos."
Most, at this stage, would say, "Ahh, hell. I'll do it tomorrow." Because, as I mentioned, I was grimy, sweaty, flushed, and looked like a tomato with spiky hair. However, I feel like I've reached a Zen moment of acceptance of the inevitable hideousness of any kind of photo in which I'm supposed to "smile."
This goes way back to school picture days -- days I will always look back upon with a kind of grim disdain. There was always some overweight lady with coffee breath who would prep us before we sat in front of the big white screen. One year, the lady parted my bangs right down the middle and I ended up looking like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals (Yes. I have cowlick issues -- another thing I've finally come to terms with). And then there was the year the lady overlooked, YES OVERLOOKED, the green booger in my left nostril. I'm sure parents that year were thrilled to have a blown-up class photo with booger girl.
At the time, I was mortified (much like Elaine's nipple photo on Seinfeld). I was sure to be named booger or Alfalfa for the rest of my life. But, over the years, I've grown to accept the fact my hair never looks quite right, and the smile is always too forced and pasty.
So, two days ago, when he wanted the photos, I nodded and walked back another kilometer to the photo place, sweaty, grimy, slapped my money on the counter and said, "I need photos." The man looked me up and down, took the cash and nodded grimly to the back of the photo shop where two women frantically painted their eyes, curled their lashes and even spritzed on perfume for their photos.
"DON'T YOU KNOW?" I wanted to scream. Again, I should reiterate, I was having a bad document-goose-chase day. They looked at me, my sweaty hair and now-purple cheeks and took their photos.
I walked in the booth and this is what I got for my permanent residency card here in Colombia:

No. Not pretty. I kind of look like a felon stuck in the prison system. You know. The one who's there because she got a shitty lawyer and can't seem to get a re-trial.
Oh well. Like I said, I'm Zen about the photos now. Just a shame it's a permanent VISA.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colombia from the Hip

A. Selling bunuelos, avena (liquid oatmeal drink) in the Plaza in Santa Rosa (a small town just a half hour from Pereira)
B. The best snow cones in Pereira -- right at the zoo entrance (made with real fruit juices (berry, lemon, orange, tangerine), and enough condensed milk to make your head spin.

More to come!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

What do editors do??


I'm not an editor. But I've worked with some, so I have an idea about WHAT editors do. But before I began all of this, I had a very warped sense of editors and their jobs. Think red pencil, marked up manuscripts, and a voice like Charlie (in Charlie's Angels but not nearly as nice, just almost as mysterious).
I was wrong. (Even about the red pencil).
(BTW, please feel free to correct me and add onto this never-ending list of things-editors-do).

Things editors do: (I'm especially grateful to Jill Santopolo since she's been my Raider of the Lost Arc in all this. So I have to mention her ... lots!) (And I'm not EVEN going to touch on reading through the slush pile -- that's actually a real pile, sending out rejection letters, letters asking for full manuscripts, reading full manuscripts and editing them pre-contract etc. etc. etc.)

1. BEFORE a manuscript has been acquired, editors have to be amazing salesmen. Once they believe in a project and want to work with a writer, they do everything they can (short of jumping through flaming hoops, as far as I know) to get their publishers on board. Once that's done, they have to do what none of us would ever want to do (da-dum-da-dum): face the acquisitions board. They come up with a huge profit/loss package with information about the writer, the first fifty or so pages of the novel, a synopsis, and a comparative study of novels on the market that are similar to the one they are pitching and WHY the one they are pitching is WAY cooler. And then they start to try to drum up support for the project in-house so acquisitions goes well.

2. Whew. Then they breathe. (They do that, you know. Breathe.)

3. Now here comes the obvious. They "edit" novels. But we're talking WAY more than comma splices and run-on sentences (I've NEVER had either, BTW!) :-) . Editors have this phenomenal global view of HOW the book works. And why it doesn't when it doesn't. And, as I mentioned earlier, they are arc masters, knowing that each and every relationship in the novel has to have its complete storyline. This revision process goes on as long as it needs to until the editor and writer, together, feel the project has come to a good stage and it can be passed on to copy editors (Amazing people I will mention later).

4. And then the work begins ... Yep. I told you the list was long. And this is where things get a little fuzzy for me, so here's where I'd love more input from editors and authors alike. Anyway, as if it weren't enough for editors to help writers become writers, the editors have to start BUZZ. Ahhh, the industry word for books that sell before they're for sale. But how do they do this? Good question.

* Sending your ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) to their favorite librarians and reviewers (For literary imprints, the reviews are really important.)
* Publishing houses have "sellers" just like any other business. These sellers are based regionally and are sent ARCs from houses. Getting sellers on board with a novel is really important for its success in bookstores.
* Get a blurb from a successful author on the novel. (Thank you, Ellen Hopkins!)
* Nominate the novel for some big industry awards (like The Golden Kite)
* And a bazillion other things I'm not really sure here.

5. While this is going on, novels head to copy editors -- expert grammarians, fact checkers, and, in my honest opinion, incredibly brilliant people. They comb through the manuscript looking for every timeline glitch, misspelled word, book quote, movie reference etc. In FREEZE FRAME's case, my novel went through a contract copy-editor, an in-house copy-editor, back to Jill, then to me. Twice. Yep. Lots of work and lots of fact checking. They even printed out a map of my hometown to doublecheck that my character could actually cycle everywhere he did in the novel.

6. Here's something you'd never imagine. Editors are human! I was so intimidated about the whole process only to find that I had the privilege of working with not only an amazing editor (bravo Jill!) but also such a great person. Editors are approachable and great to bounce ideas off. They have each novel in their best interests and their thoughts, ideas, and comments about the novel are meant to push the writer to her limits and make the novel a hundred times the novel she thought it could be.

So, here's an ode to the editors out there; the ones who take risks on new authors and old; the ones who believe in the power of words and that some books, however "non" commercial they are, need to be out there on the shelves.

Thank you!
(Agents, you're up next!!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Read this novel!!!

Read this novel. Read this novel. Read this novel.
It's the handbook on descriptive writing. The images are phenomenal. It's poetic. And on top of that it keeps the reader engaged with a phenomenal plot in a mystical world.
I was captivated from beginning to end with the lives of the two-egg twins and their mother's dimples and a world in which who and how you love is decided by others.

Here are just a couple quotes from the novel:

The slow ceiling fan sliced the thick, frightened air into an unending spiral that spun slowly to the floor like the peeled skin of an endless potato.

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.

Read this novel!