Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Abundance of Jordans

While brainstorming ideas for stories, I often take things from my own life, mix them with things that happened to friends, then blow things way out of proportion. A lot of YA writers first look to the news for ideas and end up with something ripped straight from the headlines.

Another common source of inspiration is classic literature, which is then reimagined for today's teen audience. For example, even though it isn't a novel, the soon-to-be-released Easy A is basically a YA version of The Scarlet Letter. (And I kick myself daily that I didn't think of it first!)

But most YA writers who use other literary sources for inspiration forget to turn around and look in the opposite direction. Instead of looking toward adult books for inspiration, why not dig through the stacks of the children's library and reimagine one of those books with a cast of teenagers pulling us through the story?

For example...

While I don't think John Green got the idea for his Printz-honor winning novel from a picture book, he could have. And so can you!

Released in 2006:

From the jacketflap:
When it comes to relationships,
Colin Singleton's type is girls name Katherine.
And when it comes to girls named Katherine,
Colin is always getting dumped.
Nineteen times, to be exact.

Released in 2004:

From the jacketflap:
How many names do you think there are in the universe?
Thousands? Millions?

Probably even billions.
So why does there have to be
four boys
named Jordan in Elizabeth's class?
Just to make her crazy, I think.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Four's Family

Each summer, JoanMarie and I watch our niece and nephew for a week. It's a week we all look forward to, and with this year's week-long extravaganza coming to a close, we're already looking forward to next year!

This year began as it usually does, camping for a few days in beautiful Big Sur.

We did much experimenting with the best way to eat a S'mores. Ever try adding a bit of PB&J to your S'mores? Ever try roasting marshmallows with a slab of chocolate between the burning 'mallows? We did!

After a hike to the top of Buzzard's Roost... was time to relax in the river right next to our campsite. Here's Ellory, JoanMarie, and Genevieve chillin' on some tubes.

But you can only relax for so long. Then it's time to rock-jump!

It's fun finding new ways to quickly dry off.

Whenever JoanMarie felt Isaiah move, it was all-hands-on-belly.

The weather could not have been better all week. Avila Beach was amazing.

Somehow, for the first time, no one got sunburned!

Over chocolate fondue, I introduced them to The Monster Squad and Explorers (two of my faves from the mid-80s). The expressions say it all.

Each night, I read to them before bed. I'm getting a bit better at differentiating voices, but I've got a ways to go.

One morning, we went out for donuts at Sunshine Donuts. Back in college, JoanMarie worked their 11pm to 6am shift for a while, and I'd visit around 1am for some free donuts and a little flirting.

For those of you who've ordered JoanMarie's CD (available on the right-hand side of this blog), the song Sunshine is about a few of the customers she met while working at the donut shop.

I know. I know! All I've mentioned so far are S'mores, chocolate fondue, and donuts. But I swear, we ate healthy. There were salads! (No, there were no salads available at the Great American Melodrama. But the chilidogs were great!)

Of course, it's all about noticing the little things which makes hanging out with family so special. For example, Ellory noticed how perfectly my tire stopped after rolling over a couple wads of gum.

And we all noticed the friendly starfish at the aquarium.

On our last night, we took them to their first ever drive-in movie.

It doesn't matter what you see at the drive-in, just being there is worth the admission.

Next year, there'll be a new addition to our week-long extravaganza. I can't wait for Isaiah to spend some quality time with his cousins...and they can't wait to hang out with him!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Get In My Belly

I love this picture!

I love that JoanMarie's finally showing. And she loves it, too. She no longer has to deal with strangers glancing at her belly with "Is she or isn't she?" looks.

At the beach this weekend, I was reading aloud from a book about taking care of newborns, when JoanMarie raised the bottom of her shirt. Isaiah was stirring! I placed my hand on her tummy and, for the very first time, felt the movements of my son. I have no idea what my face looked like, but a squad of teenage girls on towels a few feet away touched their hearts, tilted their heads, and sighed. They looked so cheesy!

(Like I said, I have no idea what I looked like.)

And speaking of bellies...

Now that I don't have to worry about fitting into my Cupid costume anymore, I decided to catch up on some food I've been meaning to try. You've all heard about that KFC Double Down, right?

"This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce."

I was so excited to finally dig into one of those! Unfortunately, the KFCs around here don't carry them.


But since we were there, I enjoyed my first fried chicken in several years, and it was gooooooooood.

And yes, since I don't have any upcoming author visits for a while, I'm also letting my facial hair grow. In a month or so, I'm hoping to look like Zach Galifianakis.

That guy's hilarious!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Coming Attractions

Something borrowed:

Something original:

(Complete with original bloopers!)

Something German:

Hollywood, we're waiting...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


The annual Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators conference took place this past Friday thru Monday, which means I'll be catching up on my sleep until at least next Monday. So how did this year hold up against previous years? You'd think I would be jaded after attending this event for eleven years straight, but the 2010 conference is neck-and-neck with the 2000 conference (which was pretty flippin' amazing) for my favorite conference experience.

The keynote speeches were better this year than any year I can remember. Speakers who inspire, entertain, and get across nuggets o' wisdom are rare...but they were in abundance this year.

The best part of any SCBWI conference is catching-up with old friends while also stepping out and making new friends. This year was a wonderful mix of new and old for me and I'll definitely be keeping in contact with several people I met for the first time this year.

And now for some photos!

Two of the authors I was most looking forward to seeing were M.T. Anderson and Carolyn Mackler (both were keynote speakers).

Mr. Anderson is one of the most down-to-earth smart dudes you'll meet. He also loves doing character voices, though his Grover sounds a tad more Yoda-ish.

Ms. Mackler and I actually did meet briefly years ago when she signed my copy of Vegan Virgin Valentine, which is one of my favorite books. She claims to remember meeting me, and I think it's very sweet that she tells me that.

Of course, the conference ain't complete without a costume and a dance! This year's theme was Heart & Soul, and before I show you a good photo of my costume this year, see if you can spot me:

Several weeks ago, I found a cupid costume online. It was an embarrassing costume, which made it the perfect costume. I sent the link to Ms. Mackler to show her that, yes, people do dress wacky at SCBWI. In her keynote speech, she claimed that I asked her to dress up with me. In truth, she asked me if it'd be cool to dress alike. And of course it was cool! So while our origin stories may differ (I personally think she can't believe it was her idea to dress she dubbed the costume in her speech...Skanky Bo Peep), it was absolutely less embarrassing to dress as S.B.P. with someone else. And when our friend Rachel Vail (an amazing speaker) agreed to dress up with us, it was even less embarrassing and much more fun!

We even tied for first place in the costume contest!

Finally, just before everyone went home, the attendees stood in long lines for autographs. The one autograph I was most looking forward to was from Loren Long.

This will be Baby Isaiah's very first signed picture book: