Friday, June 29, 2012

Affordable Care Act

Obama - YES.

Obamacare - YES.

Chief Justice Roberts (?????) - OH YES.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Some Opinions Are More Foolish Than Others

Has anyone caught this opinion piece in yesterday's NY Times Sunday Review section, "Some Books Are More Equal Than Others?"  You should.  In it, Claire Needell Hollander, a middle-school English teacher, espouses the view that for their summer reading projects, high school students should be selecting books such as John Hersey's "Hiroshima" and Elie Wiesel's "Night" (both describing epic levels of mass horror and devastation);  "Fast Food Nation" (by Eric Schlosser) and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (by Michael Pollan) (both discussing the impact of our collective food choices on our cultural and agricultural environments);  "Girls Like Us," by Rachel Lloyd, about the exploitation of teenage girls in the sex trade; and "Behind the Beautiful Forevers," by Katherine Boo, about the squalor and degradation endured by slum dwellers in India.  Evidently, it is only by reading such works of nonfiction that students can be "provoke[d]... to desire an expanded world knowledge, to consider the flawed moral decision making of the past and the imperiled morality of the future."
     Fiction, evidently, is incapable of serving this purpose, in Hollander's less-than-humble opinion.  Take, for example, that notorious piece of crap, "To Kill A Mockingbird."  If we parents liked it so much, Hollander advises us to reread it ourselves, rather than attempting to foist it on our children.  The problem with this novel, you see, is that "the real horrors ... happen offstage, to characters who remain peripheral to the narrative."
     Oh. I get it.  Teenagers lack the ability to "consider the flawed moral decision making of the past" unless they are reading cold, hard, documentable facts.  They cannot extrapolate a sense of a time, or a place, or a social injustice endemic to that time and place, or even a universal human failing, from a work of fiction.  Perhaps they might be able to, Hollander seems to grudgingly concede, if the horrors are presented in full frontal view of the reader; otherwise, your kid might as well be reading a comic book.
     I feel tremendous sympathy for those students who attend Ms. Hollander's "public middle school in Manhattan."  Much of what I knew about life through my school years was learned through reading fiction, because the best fiction that I read was true in all but the literal sense of the word.  That, Ms. Hollander, is called "art."  And I would no sooner see my daughter deprived of the art of the written word for a summer than I would see her deprived of all her social contacts.
     Kids should read high-quality nonfiction, if they find it meaningful.  And even if they do, they should read high-quality fiction too.  "Perhaps your children need to confront some hard truths this summer that will make it easier for them to want to learn about the world," concludes Hollander.  Yes, and perhaps if you believe that the only way to accomplish that is to try to force the kinds of facts down their throats that most adults try to desperately avoid knowing, they'll stop reading altogether.
     My son is starting law school this fall.  He wrote his application essay on "To Kill A Mockingbird," and that was when I learned that he'd kept a copy of that book in his desk all through college.  Adults learn in different ways, Ms. Hollander, and so do kids.  I'd advise you to let them.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Few Things To Not Feel Demoralized About

     First, something I do feel demoralized about: a very kind rejection letter from an agent to whom I sent my manuscript two months ago, telling me that there was so much in the book she "admired and enjoyed," but that she was not connecting to the characters enough to be the right agent for me; however, she knew that another agent would feel differently.  To which I wanted to respond: Yeah?  You know that?   Well, how about doing me a favor and giving me that agent's name and contact info, so I can stop playing this torturous game of Blind Man's Buff and just get on with it?
     And here's something else I feel demoralized about.  The Supreme Court, and I use that term loosely, is going to release its decision this week on the universal health care plan, and I have a sickening feeling that decision will be based on the purported fear of some members of the Court that if they do not strike down this law, they may someday be mandated to buy broccoli.  And if it is, it will be terrible for this country on many levels for many years to come.
     But I have a few things, on a personal unpub-writer level, to NOT feel demoralized about, and those are actually the things I was intending to share.  Thing One:  Kami Kinard, whom I met at the NJSCBWI Conference two weeks ago, agreed for me to interview her about her book, The Boy Project.  This makes me happy.  Stay tuned.  Thing Two: Kathy Temean, the awesome, almost-emerita RA of our chapter, has arranged some summer networking dinners for authors, agents and editors, and I'll be attending one of them this coming Tuesday night.  Also attending will be an agent with whom I had a critique at that very same Conference, who told me that one of her two major problems with my Book #3 (the other being the discrepancy between the actual age of the protagonist and her seeming age) was that it would be very difficult to sell it as a YA if it didn't have a central romance.  Well, it suddenly dawned on me yesterday that I can ask her at this dinner whether she'd want to look at my Book #2, also a YA, which is probably not as polished as #3 but, on the other hand, DOES have a central romance.  Brilliant, yes?
     That ends the list for now, but I will report back after the dinner.  Which, by the way, is at a steakhouse.  And I do not eat red meat.  But the online reviews say that it has awesome side dishes.  Check back with me later in the week for a full report.
     That is all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wanna Know What Today Is?

Yes, you're 100% correct, if not more.  It's my 6-month blogiversary!  I know - it's hard to believe that a mere 6 months ago, I was just an unpublished author.  Whereas now, I'm an UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR WITH A BLOG!!!  Seriously.  It hasn't gotten me a book contract, but it's given me a creative outlet that's made a huge difference in my life.  People - maybe just a handful of them, but that's enough for now - are reading what I write, and that changes everything.  And the daily handfuls are slowly adding up: in 6 months, I've had over 1,000 hits, which I find extremely gratifying.  So, I want to thank you for reading my blog, and to tell you how much it means to me.  I hope you're enjoying it, and that you come back often and bring your friends.  I'm excited to see what the next six months will bring!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ballad of Tim and Hannah

Still trying (in vain, no doubt), to make amends to A.S. King, the wonderful YA author whom I stupidly chastised in a comment on her blog, I decided to enter one of her contests.  The theme of this one was: the weird stuff people put in toilets.  So, I wrote a poem and posted it, and I know it won't win (and might not even be considered as an entry) because it exceeds her 100-word limit, but I had fun writing it, so I thought I'd reproduce it here for any sickies like me who might enjoy it.  Here goes:

                                  THE BALLAD OF HANNAH AND TIM

When Tim the fish went belly-up,
Hannah scooped him in a cup
And dumped him in the toilet bowl,
Without a thought for Timmy's soul.

The off she ran to hit the gym,
And never shed a tear for Tim.
But Hannah left in such a rush,
The silly slut forgot to flush!

Then Tim, who'd just been playing possum,
Let his imagination blossom.
Though just a fish, he knew that he
Deserved at least a eulogy.
She should have mourned him in some way,
But she'd done zilch, and now she'd pay.

Skip ahead an hour or three.
Hannah returned, and went to pee.
I'll spare you details - it's too gruesome -
But Tim had teeth, and like to use 'em.

Learn a lesson from poor Hannah:
Never diss your pet piranha.

      She'll have to love it, right?  Violence, revenge, misogyny - What's not to love?  Okay, here's a question:  once I find myself in a hole, why can I not resist the urge to keep digging myself in deeper and deeper?  All comments, diagnoses, and/or prognoses will be welcome.  Have a great day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Best Photo Ever

This photo says more about the mother-child bond than any others I've seen in a while:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Conference Recap

     A lot of good things happened to me at the Conference, but I'm wary of writing about them - what if I jinx everything??  But that's crazy talk, so here goes, in no particular order:
1.  I met agent Stephen Fraser, of the Jennifer DiChiara Literary Agency, when I introduced him for a workshop, and decided that he was the epitome of a class act.  And then he confirmed it by coming up to me in the hall later that day and thanking me for the introduction.  This is a kind, witty, knowledgeable, down-to-earth, lovely man.
2.  I had a one-on-one critique with an agent who really liked my first 15 pages and asked to see the full manuscript.  And - here's a critical piece - the word "besotted" never crossed her lips.  Please send good karma my way!!!
3.  I had two 5-minute pitch sessions with agents, both of whom asked to see the first 50 pages of my manuscript.  More good karma required!!!
4.  My three staunch critique group buddies were there too, so we all got to cheer for each other's good news, commiserate for the bad news, and make each other laugh, all of which hugely eased the stress.  As did seeing other friends whom I only see at conferences, but of whom I've grown very fond (Yvonne, I'm thinking of you in particular!)
5.  I met Sarah Davies, for real this time. We chatted.  It was extraordinary. Remember my disappointing encounter with her at the conference I attended in New York last January?  How I came away with the feeling that she had no idea who I was?  Well.  Would you believe that at the very end of this conference, she walked up to me and said, "So, Sue, how is it going?"  Doubt me all you want, but it's actually true, and it's the best thing that happened to me all weekend.  Because after it happened, I felt a huge weight that I had never realized was there lift from my shoulders.   Once it was gone, I realized that the weight was the oppressive, demoralizing feeling that to literary agents, we unpublished writers are nothing but insects, scurrying futilely around in the sand, and that the best we can hope for from them is that they see us long enough to refrain from stepping on us. 
This weekend, two agents, Sarah Davies and Stephen Fraser, spoke to me as if I were a human being, unpub or no unpub.  And for that reason, whatever else might result from this conference for me, it will forever stand out in my memory.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Conference Countdown

     The big annual New Jersey SCBWI Conference is this coming weekend, and I'm nervous and excited.  Nervous: two agents are going to be critiquing the first 15 pages of the book I'm trying to sell, and two others are going to listen to my 5-minute pitch, so what's not to be nervous about?  Excited: 1. I'll get to spend the weekend with three of my dear critique group buddies.  2.  I'll get to see some really nice people that I only see at conferences.  3.  I'll get to run around completing all my volunteer assignments, including my Top Secret Assignment, all of which will give me great satisfaction.   4. I'll have the rare opportunity to spend two days pretending to be an extrovert, and even a bit of an insider.  And unless, like me, you've spent your life feeling like an outsider, you have no idea how heady an experience that can be.  Oh, I'll be attending a lot of workshops too, and they'll be interesting and informative, but I'm not excited about them.  The only thing I can really focus on, with every nerve and sinew of my body, is getting a book published.  And then another, and another.  Unpub No More. Is that bad?  Selfish?  Greedy?  I've had one career - who says I deserve a second one?  And who says my books really merit publication, anyway?  Yes, my mother's voice is alive and well inside my head, and it's still a struggle to push back and yell: I SAY I deserve a second career!  I SAY my books are good enough to be published!  THAT'S WHO!!!  How ironic that my actual mother has turned into a docile, agreeable 89-year-old woman, while the one inside my head remains a fire-breathing dragon.
     I'll show her.  I am a mighty writer, I have justice on my side, and the dragon must be slain.  Yeah!  Bring on the Conference!