Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Gotta Getty!

Last weekend, my wife and I and our friend Sergio went to the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. As a California native I'm embarrassed to say it was my first trip to the Getty. Soon after we began checking the place out I slapped my forehead over the many exhibits I know I missed over the years. The place is truly amazing. The building itself is a work of art.

The way its designed even makes Los Angeles look like a work of art.

It wasn't until the past year that I really began to appreciate art museums. I've always loved the idea of art. In fact, one of my two favorite classes in college was Art Appreciation. But I never had the patience to stand and contemplate one piece for long. I just tore through museums like one of those funny looking Olympic speedwalkers. Now, even the clay models artists design before they start hacking away at huge slabs of marble fascinate me. (That's Sergio taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. Aren't we clever?)

I have never had a stunned reaction to a piece of art before. Never. I've appreciated certain pieces more than others, but never had a heightened emotional reaction. But then I rounded a corner and came face to painted-face with The Penitent Magdalene by Titian. I honestly felt like a I'd interrupted a private and heartbreaking appeal to God. And I swear I saw her breathing!

Of course, I can only walk around a museum for so long without getting antsy. And when you're trying to be silly in an art museum sometimes you have to take the pics before you have time to focus the camera.

After I took these two pics, several people took similar shots. And you know the artists would've approved!

I'll definitely be going back to the Getty in the next few months. Hey, maybe we should make a field trip out of it!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wow! That's a really long time

I have no idea how to get published in under twelve years. Now, plenty of authors do sell their first books in a much shorter time than that. In fact, every published author I know did it in less than twelve. But that’s how long it took me…and I’m glad it happened just as it did.

No, I’m serious!!!

Next weekend, I’m giving a speech to my biggest audience yet at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York. The title of my speech? How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…or Less! I admit, the title is misleading because of what follows the ellipses. But I can’t imagine anyone trying to sell their first book attending a speech called How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…But No Less!

To organize my speech, I created a timeline of the twists and turns I’ve taken on my journey. And lucky for me, over those dozen years, I hardly threw anything out. Not only did that packrat quality help me remember what went on in each of those twelve years, but it gave me some cool stuff to show in my Powerpoint presentation.

For example, I recently dug up my very first non-rejection from an editor. It was by no means as exciting as a full-on acceptance would’ve been, but it was not a rejection and that’s all that mattered. An editor at Houghton Mifflin had simply returned the postcard I submitted with my picturebook manuscript, replying that she needed some more time to think about it. Maybe it’s hard to imagine why that was so exciting, but I remember very well the avalanche of hope that non-rejection gave me after a string of nothing but hardcore rejections.

I ended up revising The Chalkboard Drawings three times for that editor. In time, she rejected it. But with each round of revisions, the manuscript got better and I became a better writer. So I assumed, if not that particular manuscript, something else would get picked up in no time at all!

That was 1998.

I had seven more years to go.

But each year that passed, if you want to put a silver lining on it (and I do), gave me more and more fodder for next weekend’s speech!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

“That’s the true genius of America — that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

Barack Obama
November 4, 2008

“Barack and Sasha Obama”
by Lea Lyon

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bigfoot saved my butt

About five years ago, during the interview for my first book-related job (as an assistant children’s librarian), the head children’s librarian asked me what I was currently reading. Thankfully, I had picked up a new book just the other day.

Sasquatch,” I said.

Without even a slight pause to search the catalogue in her head, she asked, “Oh, by Roland Smith?”

I was definitely impressed.

And she could tell I was impressed. “It’s just a part of the job. You’ll get there.”

There are a few subjects I became fascinated with as a child which I still, from time to time, find myself drawn to. Bigfoot is probably the hairiest of these recurring fascinations. Every few months I check out, the online home of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, to read up on the latest reported sightings. I’ve wanted one of their cool (well, they're cool to me) t-shirts for a long time. So I finally added it to my Christmas list this year. When I got everything on that list except the shirt, I splurged and bought it for myself. And on Thursday, it arrived in the mail. Woo-hoo!

The other Woo-hoo! this week arrived via e-mail from my publisher. It was a copy of the latest New York Times bestsellers list. In its eleventh week of popping on and off the list, Thirteen Reasons Why had its best showing ever, landing at number four!

It’s quite an honor to have placed right behind Gordon Korman and his installment of The 39 Clues (Mr. Korman gave 13RW a wonderful blurb). And I guess there’s no use in ever hoping to beat that wimpy kid. He's been on the list for 90 weeks!