Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the Stacks with Barbara Moon

To kick off BANNED BOOKS WEEK, I'm starting my latest and greatest Blog Section: IN THE STACKS (name stolen from Barbara Moon, and since I'm stealing the cool name, I'm going to start off with her.)

I have never met Barbara but I feel so grateful to her because she was the VERY FIRST NON-RELATED PERSON to write to me about FREEZE FRAME, even reviewing it after just reading the ARC (advanced reader's copy) Since then, we have been in contact (thank you Twitter) and she has become a great "virtual" friend. I hope we can meet someday!!

(AND, if you're a librarian and want your library IN THE STACKS, you can become absolutely famous with my five or six blog readers. Let me know if you want to be here, and I'll send my super questionnaire your way!) :-) Who can resist that kind of an instant-fame deal?

What's your library's name and where is it located?

[Barbara Moon] Suffolk Cooperative Library System (a consortium of 56 independent libraries and their branches located on Long Island )

Why are you a librarian?

[Barbara Moon]
I love books. I love people. I love connecting books & people. I love finding creative solutions to interesting problems. I like marketing new books and services.

Have you ever "shushed"

[Barbara Moon]
I have never “shushed” but I have gone up to a couple of teens and mentioned that someone near them was trying to study. If no one is around, I don’t care if there is some noise.

Most people generally think of librarians as schoolmarms. What are three unexpected "non-librarian"
things about you (short of being a hired assassin if, in case, you are)?

[Barbara Moon]
I’ve hiked in “the bush” in
New Zealand ( similar to a rainforest), visited a castle in Spain named for me (Santa Barbara. well, at least it has my first name. The named for me part is doubtful.) I ADORE Tex-Mex food – like it spicy!!!

Freeze Frame, Mr. Cordoba spends an inordinate amount of time reading the newspaper. I have been told (ahem, oops) that this is pretty unrealistic, however nice it might be. So can you name four things you do in the library that most people wouldn't know about?

[Barbara Moon] hand out candy, play music, use strings of lights to highlight book displays, and an impromptu juggling contest (this is when I was a school librarian)

As for Mr. Cordoba, I know plenty of librarians who spend an extraordinary amount of time with crossword puzzles, facebook, etc. I’m pleased that Mr. Cordoba read the paper. I thought that was great! The one misconception that most people have about librarians is that you spend a great deal of “work” time reading. Not so, all my reading is done in my off hours.

What is your most-requested book? (Or one of the top requested)

[Barbara Moon]
Twilight &
Fruits Basket

What is your favorite book, one you read over and over again?

[Barbara Moon] This is impossible now. As a child I reread a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales until I wore out the binding. I literally loved it to death.

If you could have any author visit your library, who would it be? Why?

[Barbara Moon] Too many to count. I have listened to and met some very interesting authors. Recently I heard
Tracy Kidder – what a truly human human being. I like his books. I also think that M. T. Anderson and John Green gave some of the most thoughtful speeches at last year’s ALAN workshop. Very thought-provoking. Joan Bauer and Libba Bray are so warm and personable and approachable. The list goes on and on….

The Proust Questionnaire for Librarians:
1. What is your favorite word? yes
2. What is your least favorite word? no
3. What turns you on? trying something new and exciting
4. What turns you off? people who say “we’ve never done it that way”
5. What sound or noise you love? laughter
6. What sound or noise you hate? fingernails on the chalkboard? I don’t know. I have never thought about this.
7. What is your favorite curse word? (Yes, I know librarians curse!! You have whole dictionaries and thesauruses of curse words, I imagine!) I really don’t curse. But I can give you a look that will cause you to stop dead in your tracks.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? something creative with color, paint, or fiber
9. What profession would you not like to do?anything with numbers, illness, or operating a motor vehicle is out.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “welcome home”

a. The Pet Club at Riverhead Library (They collect pet food, blankets and towels for the animal shelter as well as make their own homemade pet biscuits etc.)
b. The wall at Babylon (designed by a local artist)
c. The Port Jefferson craft club (girls knitting)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why I Love Juanes ...

Juanes brought music to Cuba yesterday. To 1.2 million Cubans gathered at Revolution Square to be, more or less, exact. He brought a message of peace. He brought a message of love. He brought the message that no matter where we come from, what our ethnic, religious and cultural differences are, we're all people. And we all have the same basic fundamental rights -- one of which is music. He brought a message of hope to all the Colombians and their families who have been kidnapped and are being held prisoners in a never-ending war. His latest song asks us to reflect and do the same. "It's time to change."

es tiempo de saber
pedir perdón
es tiempo de cambiar
en la mente de todos
el odio por amor.

It’s time to change…

Si te pones a pensar
la libertad no tiene propiedad
quiero estar contigo amor,
quiero estar contigo amor,
quiero estar contigo amor…

Juanes embodies one of my favorite poems which, by writing it here, I'm probably infringing on God-knows-how-many copyright laws. (Sorry Mr. Dalton) But I have to share it with you because you can replace the word "poetry" in the poem with words like: music, education, health care (yes THAT debate again), dignity, housing, and, just to appease the IRS, taxes.

Like you, I

love love, life, the sweet smell

of things, the sky blue

landscape of January days

And my blood boils up

and I laugh through eyes

that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful

and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don't end in me

but in the unanimous blood

of those who struggle for life,


little things,

landscape and bread,

the poetry of everyone. (Roque Dalton)

Thank you, Juanes, for your vision, your humanity, your music and your words. You ARE poetry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Colombia from the Hip

Interesting encounters with an overpacked backpacker ...

Oftentimes the people we meet stop and give me pause. This was one. Probably because he had 79 kilos of "stuff" on his back on his trek from Tierra del Fuego up. (My back ached just looking at him).
Do I BELIEVE he had walked from Tierra del Fuego to Pereira with two tents, a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos proud and lots of pots, flags, and who-knows-what-else?
I could've. Except for the fact that he said he did the bit from Tierra del Fuego to Arequipa, Peru with a penguin he adopted.
Nevertheless, who's to say what he dreams isn't as real as what we "live."
So, cheers to our overpacked backpacker and another chance encounter with a truly fascinating person in Colombia.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Two Words (And oh-so-much fun!)

Joe Wilson’s Internal Dialog after “Outburst”

“You lie!”

Ah giblits. Did I think that or say that? [Looks around] Yep. Looks like I said that. [Clears throat].
I’m sure nobody heard me. Just the guys around me. It’s not like I said it that loud.
Nothing to get my knickers in a twist about.
Oh, Lord Almighty. Yep. Big O heard it. I’m getting that stink-eye from him. Dude. I hate the stink-eye. Looks like the prez could pretty much raise hell and put a chunk under it.
He’s scanning the area. I’ll just look around. C’mon guys. Oh, Lord. Creek's rising and I'm up to my ass in alligators. Big time. Help me out here. Jesus, it’s not like I’m Trent Lott or anything.
God it would be good to have some kind of distraction here. Something even worse than what I did.
Where’s Sarah Palin when you need her?
Hey. Do you think I’ll become a Saturday Night Live star, too?
Jesus Christ, Lord Almighty, he’s STILL staring over here. C’mon, man. Okay, Barack. Barack, Barack bo Barack, Bananafana Fo Farack, Mi my mo Marack … Barack.
Did I say that out loud, too? [Looks around] Doesn’t look like it. Filter. Filter. Filter thoughts. Maybe that’s what my life coach Sylvia is always talking about. Filter, Big Joe. Just filter.
This will totally blow over. I mean who’s really gonna care about this in the next ten minutes?
Gotta catch his eye. Catch his eye. C’mon McCain look my way and give me one of those thumbs up you like to give with that twitchy wink of yours. C’mon, help me out here. Did he just glare? Like Debate #2 condescending daggers glare? Oh, Geez, John. Not you, too.
Right now I could chew nails and fart tacks. Bad night to not take my Beano. I mean this kind of stress is murder on the digestive system. And tonight of all nights I double-dosed on the chitlins.
Dude, he’s still staring at me. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I reckon my party and constituents got my back. Did Mitch McConnel l just blow me off? Well you can just kiss my royal American. I’ve got your back, too.
This has to blow over. It just has to. Think. Think. Think. Think. Think.
Tourette’s. Okay. I can do that. Tourette’s. If I say a whole slew of other vulgarities, I can win the disabled vote. I’m a Congressman. I have Tourette’s. Oh yeah. Shoe-in for next term.
Wait. Shit. Is that a pre-existing condition? Lordy, Lordy.
[reading small print of insurance stub].

Monday, September 7, 2009

Incredibly LONG Post on how FREEZE FRAME got Published

From A to Z … The path to publishing.

I love these stories – hearing about how people get their first novel published. Simply because every story is different – some are Homer epicesque (like Jay Asher waiting twelve years to get Thirteen Reasons Why out there), some are Dorthy Parker short-storyesque (like Stephenie Meyer and her famous dream, synopsis, and mega-dollar deal within six months). (Personally, the “shorter” ones depress the hell out of me because it’s way to Fairy Tale Land for my taste. And, quite honestly, one in a million.)

But considering Freeze Frame was one in 195,000 in 2008 (yep, 19 books are published each HOUR in the states, 70% of which sell fewer than five-hundred copies), I wanted to share with you my ABCs of “How I Got Published.” (This does not count the years 2000 – 2004 when I first started writing “seriously”, for magazines, short story pieces, 'how-to books' etc.)

And before beginning, I’m going to tell you the three elements I think have to do with getting a book on the shelves: Determination (ie hard work hard work hard work), vocation (some people call this talent but talent tends to throw people off these kinds of careers. Like ANY career, you've gotta have an interest that goes deeper than so-so), and Luck. (Yep, that’s the kicker. I don’t really think anybody gets to this point without the third (some call it timing – same diff).

A. June 2004: I got an idea for a novel (after having written drivel for many years and two horrific novels).

B. June 2004 – October 2005: I wrote that third novel (hoping for better results than the previous two not fully knowing HOW bad the previous two really were). This took me a little over a year.

C. October 2005 –I live in Colombia so doing ANY kind or form of snail mail is extremely expensive, not to mention totally unreliable. And the business is very traditional/snail-mail. So I decided I needed an agent.

D. I researched agents. Thanks to the Verla Kay Blueboards I didn’t have to start from scratch. I researched every agent named on the Blueboards (what they represented, how their sales went, what they were looking for etc.)

E. Then I wrote a stellar query letter. This may sound like I’m bragging, but I’m not. If my query had not been stellar – flawless – with a good hook– I would never have landed an amazing agent. Period. (That said – digression here – I’ve been reading that lately there are lots of query clinics and agents are kind of glossing over the letter and going straight to the pages of the novel.)

F. November 2005: I came up with a list and started from the top, sending out query letters for my first really really bad novel.

G. January 2006: After revising Freeze Frame, I decided I should query agents for it because I wasn’t having much luck with The Chosen (A historical fiction novel about how the Incas sacrificed children to the Gods). I got a lot of requests to read pages of The Chosen, but nobody was biting. (I could go on and on about why not. Bottom line: It’s really quite bad. Good concept. Bad writing.)

H. February 2006: After researching a whole new slew of agents – two different genres (The Chosen was historical fiction; Freeze Frame is contemporary), I came up with a new list.

I. April 2006: I got the call. Stephen Barbara, after reading my query, asked me to send off the manuscript. I withdrew my queries from the other agents I had approached and sent my manuscript off. I signed with Stephen that very same week. (Many people ask how many agents I queried before Stephen with Freeze Frame. I had a LOT of luck on this one. He was in my first chunk of agents – so there were perhaps four or five other queries out there. I don’t remember. That’s NOT the norm. I know people who have gone through one hundred before getting their agent.)

J. April 2006: Stephen sent off Freeze Frame to a first round of editors. And we got lots of the same comments back, over and again. “Kyle is not likable. The writing isn’t strong enough.” Etc. One was interested in a revision, so I worked on a revision for a particular editorial assistant (thank you for your thoughts, even though you don’t know who you are, because that was a KEY step to getting here!) Based on these comments, Stephen sent my novel to Jill Santopolo (then at Laura Geringer Books, HarperCollins Children).

K. September 2006: Jill wrote Stephen with just some ideas about how she’d like to see the novel changed before taking it to Laura and acquisitions. Stephen sent me the letter, I LOVED her ideas. (As you might have gathered, I’ve been so so privileged and fortunate to work with Jill). And though my novel was under consideration somewhere else, I wanted to go ahead and make those changes because I knew it would make it better.

L. September 2006: Sent novel changes to Jill. The other house passed (uh-oh). Jill liked what I had done to follow her editorial ideas. (This is REALLY important. Great if you can write. WAY BETTER if you can revise and work with an editor. That’s KEY.)

M. October 2006: Met Jill and Stephen (Which was a treat!) Jill and Laura Geringer are on board to get this novel to acquisitions. Jill comes up with a profit/loss packet about me, the novel, other novels with similar themes etc. to present to acquisitions and sets a date to go to acquisitions. November 1st.

N. November 1, 2006: HarperCollins makes an offer, things were negotiated, and I got my first book deal.

O. – Y. (Revisions, revisions, revisions, revisions, copy editing, ARCs out, more revisions – THANK YOU, JILL FOR YOUR PATIENCE – cover – THANK YOU CARLA WEIS FOR THE BEAUTIFUL COVER – first reviews, sales reps, publicity, marketing, and a whole slew of things that go on behind the scenes for which I’m incredibly grateful as well as ignorant, I’m sure …)

Z. October 7, 2008 – Freeze Frame hits the shelves.

So that’s how it happened with me. Share your stories. And for those of you who don’t have a story yet, I hope you will one day. So hang on because it’s a great ride!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Testosterone + Silicone + Horse Poop =

Pereira's cabalgata!

And what a show. Pereira's parties -- which last a month, though it somehow seems a whole lot longer -- end with the infamous cabalgata -- the horse ride up and down the streets of town in which the only thing you'll see jiggling are the spectators' eyes. BOING -- cartoon style.
Nope. Those boobs don't move.
The cabalgata, in itself, is a bit, well, tacky. Exquisite horses, that really should be the center of the show, are shadowed by triple-d cups shoved into double-a corsettes, drunk horsemen, Burro-tecas (donkeys strapped with blaring music) and the general chaos that goes with any massive event where alcohol is present in Colombia.
And we're talking about exquisite, Paso Finos, purebreds (NO. Not the silicone-enhanced women .. the horses!), the finest horses costing tens-of-thousands of dollars and up. But all that is lost to a strange homage to a world whose values have kind of gotten mixed up over the years in which plastic surgery is an appropriate gift for high school graduates, and women become ornaments, investing more in their bodies than brains.
At one time, the cabalgata was a way for ranchers to show off their horses and skills on a horse -- a spectacle people looked forward to year-round honoring the hard-working ranchers, arrieros and horses.
Now, the basic idea is still there. There's just a lot of leather and plastic in the way of the horses. I think it should be a non-alcohol event at eleven o'clock in the morning so we could really appreciate the beauty of the horses. And wearing clothes that actually fit might not be such a bad idea. (Or would that be too radical?)
Normally, I avoid it, but this year I wanted to bring Amelia -- a huge fan of ponies. She loved watching the balloon and popcorn man and vendors selling hats and ponchos and spent the afternoon shouting, "Ponies! Boobies!"
You gotta love the candid way children see the world. Indeed, Amelia, there were lots of ponies and boobies. (A bit more of the latter, I'm afraid).