Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vote early, vote often

Well, I think you can only vote once per computer. But use other people's computers!

SKY is up for a Minnesota Book Award in the category of Young People's Literature, and folks out in the world can also vote it in as the Readers' Choice Award. If you might be so interested (and so kind), you can click here to vote. Voting closes tomorrow at midnight (only open through March). If you've not read the book, there are reviews here (from the book award judges, plus Kirkus and Publishers Weekly) that can help you decide if you want to.

I'd love your help. Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. Thank you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I have officially lost it

How do I know this? I spent 30 minutes looking at LOLCats.

I realize this doesn't sound like insanity to most. But net surfing isn't one of my pastimes unless I've left the world of rational thought or am using my mad procrastination skills that I keep in a bottom drawer for emergencies. Today it's both.

Here, for your edification, the best LOLCats I found today:

This cat really looks like an ocelot, doesn't it? Maybe it *is* an ocelot--if that's true, what are people doing with an ocelot in their house?

Same question: why is there a lion on your deck?

I am now going to drag myself back to reality. But the LOLCats were fun. Maybe if I look at them more often, I'd be more sane. Hmmm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Drowning in music

Do you do this? I can't be the only one that does this. Though I may be the only one who does it in a Prius, and before you go hating on being fuel-efficient, may I say I drive it like a drag racer, so I'm really not saving much fuel and I'm trying to look cool in a very Mom-ishmobile, and it doesn't work. And it has a crappy sound system. So there. But I digress.

When life looks bleak, my favorite thing to do is really go trash the environment and DRIVE AROUND. It's the Midwesterner in me (I seem to be mentioning this a lot). So I get in my car (favorite car from the past a 79 Monte Carlo Brougham with a huge V-8 and no catalytic converter, birds just fell off the trees, I tell you, and it didn't look as good as this picture, by any means).

Why do I drive around? TO LISTEN TO MUSIC. What other reason would there be?

Nothing makes me feel instantly better than drowning in music. While I drive, I let it wash over me, through me, I let it go inside me. It could be Brother Ali, the Talking Heads, Lyle Lovett, or Lady Gaga, even Bach. The genre almost doesn't matter.

What matters is thorough cleansing. And music sucks out all the impurities, at least for the length of the drive. Best car for music drowning in my lifetime? My 01 Nissan Pathfinder with a Bose sound system. I was really sorry when we sold that vehicle.

I get brief showers on the way to work--it's only a four-minute drive, but it's enough to get me ready for the day, plus it makes me laugh when I pull into school with my Prius vibrating from the bass. It actually scares students, and that's not horrible. Really. : )

Friday, March 19, 2010

GET OVER IT, or girls can wear tuxes, too

WARNING: screechingly liberal post ahead, and yes, this is slightly ancient news because it's more than ten minutes old, but it's still worthy to talk about. And now we have a cool logo.


Maybe you've heard about this. A girl named Constance wanted to take her girlfriend Minerva to the prom at at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. She hoped to wear a tux, too.

And then the school board said no.

Get out of here. It's 2010. Nobody's going to be harmed by two girls dancing together--one of them in a tux--any more than they're going to be harmed by Internet porn, Dr. Laura, or the American Nazi party. Turn away--don't look. Let people live their lives. What about Bisphenol A in our plastics? What about pollution? What about childhood obesity? I realize all these things aren't comparable, but come on people--what the hell is there to worry about? Moral depravity? Let me tell you about moral depravity--how about run-of-the-mill child abusers, let alone priests who molest children? Step off, moral police.

This is relevant to me for two reasons: 1) I care what happens to Constance, and 2) it happens in my book. In SKY, Tessa wears a tux to prom, and she dances with Morgan, AND SHE KISSES HER. OMFG. Tons of fallout, of course--we need the conflict, people, it's fiction!--but it ends up OK. Nobody dies. Nobody even gets a headache.

If you feel so moved, e-mail tmcneese@itawamba.k12.ms.us and let her know what you think. Or donate to your local chapter of the ACLU. Something. Something to tell people that you'll be OK if two girls go to prom, and one wears a tux.

Why is this so hard? I would really, really, really like to know.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A list of things I like & dislike

In no particular order, things I like in my life, excluding things like friends and family, duh (I'm reaching for a blog topic today, can you tell?):

1) a quiet house where no one's coming home for a while--like a looooong while

2) my work in progress (yay for not hating it!)

3) interviewing cool people who teach me something

4) peanut butter fudge

5) scarves (I wore them all the time before they were hip, but now I'm hip! Amazing!)

6) my agent

7) my sisters in ink

8) this SESAME STREET clip--I always post this one, but I also like this one and about six thousand others

9) this blog

10) did I mention peace and quiet where no one's coming home for a loooooong time?

11) music like this--any and all of it

Things I dislike, in no particular order:

1) unprovoked, unnecessary anger

2) big things like world hunger and war

3) floods

4) asshole drivers who don't think about other drivers

5) how dirty everything looks after the snow melts

Given that the likes outweigh the dislikes, I'd say I'm doing just fine.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Potluck people

It's 11:08 right now, so I'll get this one in before it's not Friday anymore. I'm doing better at remembering! And don't you love the P alliteration in this week's entry titles? It also seems to be LOLCats Week on the blog. Sorry.

I don't know about your people, but Midwesterners are potluck people. My mother-in-law, for example, could throw a potluck with a bag of grapes and a pitcher of iced tea. She loved them--still does--the more the merrier, if people just bring desserts, then we eat desserts for supper. And that's actually the key--a potluck should be SPONTANEOUS. Unplanned. No "if your name begins with a Y, bring chips" kind of stuff. Everybody just bring something and come hang out.

Why am I thinking about this? My writing group, my sisters in ink, we had a potluck on Wednesday. What did we eat? Popcorn. And some hummus, veggies, salsa, chips, meat, cheese, and wine. Oh, and mini cupcakes and strawberry shortcake. I think that's all. It was spontaneous, and it was delicious.

Delicious not just because of the food. Delicious because of the relative impromptu-ness of it all (we decided just the day before, and nobody planned), and because Midwesterners like to share food and conversation over weird collections of victuals (or "vittles"). We ate and worked and talked and enjoyed each other.

I'm sure this can't be just Midwesterners who do this--can it? I know Midwesterners are the people who do holiday sweaters (never so well described as by my incredibly writerly cousin Susan), but we can't be the only potluck people. Can we?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Privilege processing

Today I was talking to someone about privilege, and how I am privileged more than I can even acknowledge: I'm white, middle-class, way too educated, and employed, plus I live in a house, drive a car, have clean water . . . the list goes on and on. And anyone who has darker skin than mine, or anyone in the LBGTIQ spectrum, or anybody without education (to list only a few things) doesn't have the power to affect things in the same way I do. That includes publishing books, which is why I'm thinking about it.

I have a huge interest in writing diverse, multicultural characters. But should I speak *through* my characters? Is it OK for me, with all my privilege, to presume to speak in a first-person voice from the head of a person of color? Or a person who's gay? What about a person with a disability?

Lots of people would say (have said), flat out, NO EFFING WAY. OK, but what if I study a lot, read a lot, talk to people, do my research, be respectful? NO EFFING WAY. What if I acknowledge my privilege, add an author's note, and don't presume to speak for an entire culture? DOESN'T MATTER. WE DON'T CARE. NO EFFING WAY.

There are others who'd say (have said) yes, that's OK, we'll share our stories with you and help you. One literary character doesn't represent a whole culture. We know you'll do your best and treat our stories with care.

Neither group is right, neither group is wrong. I see both sides. My work in progress requires me to ask these questions, as does my work that's looking for a home. Both manuscripts could get me in lots of trouble from the NO EFFING WAY peeps. Am I ready to take it? Do I really want to step in potential literary doo-doo?

I love my characters, and I know what I do with my privilege in my day-to-day life, which is try to jam the cogs of the racist, classist, sexist (add any other "-ist" you want) culture I live in (mwah ha ha, I'm a teacher, I indoctrinate people!). Plus I'm not ready to put my characters away yet. So . . . gulp . . . let the shit grace my path. Here I go.

Graphic stolen from here, a blog that's going on my "to-read" list.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A letter to my characters

This may sound entirely strange, but sometimes I write my books, and sometimes they write me. Mostly I'm talking about my characters. Sometimes I think them up, but sometimes they come and find me and pound on my head to be let out.

Really weird, I know.

And even stranger: I feel like writing them a letter. So here goes.

First, with love to Morgan and Elsie (aka Grandma): WOW! You are doing all sorts of cool things and going places I never knew you'd go. Someone called you "contrived and unconvincing," but someone else called you "funny, frank,[and] profane-but-literate," so we'll keep the second comment and throw out the first. You guys rock. And I owe you.

Second, with deep deep belief to Gabe, John, and Paige: hold on. Amy and I love you. Keep listening to music. Hold on to Elvis (well, not you, Paige, you hold on to Gabe).

Third, with happiness to Ray and Callie: stop making me crazy! Your story is going in seventyeleven simultaneous directions, and I can't hold it together. But you two are awesome (even in the face of Evil Keisha). I can't wait to see what's next, even if I can't control you.

Fourth, with great anticipation to Haven and Marty; Ian, Ivy, and Darcy; and Taliesin: I know it sucks to wait, and I'm getting there, I promise. Ray and Callie sort of cut in line. : ( But your time is coming, swear to God.

Fifth: Ed! Martha! I know you're in there--I see you. I need an artist to deal with you, and some idea of how a graphic novel works as well how as a middle grade novel works (or maybe a chapter book). I'm a little stuck in YA right now. Sorry.

OK, my imaginary peeps: I love you. Thanks for sticking with me. Thanks for making my life incredibly fun.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Telling the story v. marketing the story

This weekend I got to see THE LIGHTNING THIEF, which you may know is the adaptation of the first book of the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series. Love the series--the whole family has read it (I'm the last to finish, only on book 3, pathetic). Was the film OK? Mostly. I'm a book girl more so than a film-adaptation-of-the-book girl, so it's a given that I'd like it less.

But here's where I object: the book is middle grade, verging to YA. The film is most definitely older YA--a very clear marketing choice.

Why? If you have YAers, you can go to Vegas and really live it up in the casino. You can have more sexual tension. You can be ironic and cool. That stuff is more off-limits to middle graders. There's still an innocence and a sweetness to them, in my opinion, though that's changing more and more. But those things don't sell as well.

Plus, the original book audience was middle schoolers. The rating is PG, suitable for younger kids (wise move), but wouldn't you like to think they'd like to see the "real" Percy Jackson on screen? He's 12 when the series starts, not sixteen and pouty/crabby/crappily ironic all the time! I really didn't like Percy. My heart was with Grover.

If I was Rick Riordan, after I got over the ecstasy of having my book made into a film and I laughed all the way to the bank, I'd be a little sad, because it wasn't really my story up there. I KNOW--it was a film adaptation. But the marketing decision twists the adaptation into something even less recognizable.