Explains So MUCH!

Can’t figure out why Sarah Palin can’t say NEW-CLEAR?

Have questions about how a party spokesperson can come up with clunkers like “Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have shook up the establishment and delivered real reforms.” — ? Well, let the OED help. Introducing the concept of Parasitic linguistics

 4. Linguistics. Designating a letter, sound, or element which was not originally present in a word, etc., but has been added or developed from an existing phonetic element.
  The addition may be a vowel or a consonant, as the d in thunder, the e in flower, or the second element in the diphthongs /e{shti}/; /{ope}{schwa}/; /{schwa}{shtu}/; /{revc}{schwa}/. Cf. PARASITE n. 4, SVARABHAKTI n.

…and the word “Folksy,” which apparently covers a multitude of sins.

Stanford University Professor Seth Lerer, scholar of the English language: “I have come to believe that in fact, that is a regional or class dialect pronunciation, and that while educated people may believe that it’s wrong, I believe that pronunciation – along with certain other regional or class-based pronunciations – is considered to be relatively standard in certain parts of the country. … Because it has been used by somebody like (President) Bush and other people of prominence, it has become accepted as a standard.”

A Democratic version: “When John F. Kennedy said things like ‘Cuber’ instead of ‘Cuba,’ I vividly remember hearing people accepting that pronunciation. Because ‘Cuba’ was a hot-button word, people affected that pronunciation. … The umbrella question is this: What happens when people in power pronounce words in a particular way? … People adopt that pronunciation, believing it to be maybe not correct, but influential, powerful. They want to affiliate themselves with people doing the speaking. … I do believe strongly that this is a feature of the nature of political power.”

You want to blame “nucular” on someone? Blame it on Dwight David Eisenhower, who as president was first to hurl the pronunciation at American ears.

But who can we blame for “Lady Dianer” and “HAIR-assment” vs. har-ASSment? *sigh*.

Whither Jericho?: So, last night, a post-dissertation celebration. We sit down to watch a much hailed SF Channel show, two seasons set aside for a big gulp of viewing. We know nothing about it, except people like it, which is enough, when all we want is to be entertained… And, after the first episode, we sit, shaken, and look at each other.

“I can’t do this,” one of us finally admits. “Nope,” says the other, and so we toss aside two seasons worth of carefully hoarded entertainment, leave behind the mushrooming clouds on the horizon, the generator-lit darkness, the confusion, the loss, the acres of blackbirds lying dead on the ground.

We go upstairs and read trifling, silly things, quickly lose ourselves in other places that don’t exist… because it is abhorrent too see the familiar golden states, too hard to hear the names and see the clouds of oblivioun, to watch the country blow up, even fictionally, when we are fare from home.

Sort of pathetic, really.

Fuller Is Not A Word

Dear World,

We need to talk.

Oh, yes, I’ve been guilty of hyperbole, of overweening enthusiasm for stupid things. And yes, I’ve fluffed my bit of purple prose; it’s the lot of a linguist. However. I’ve noticed, World, that lately you’re ever so full of the superlatives. You gush in the media — in scholarly papers, on lip serum ads — about “fuller explanations,” fuller lips, and being prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law.”

Let me explain this again to you: you cannot get more full than full. The word that can be used as an adjective, noun and a verb is full. There is no such thing as “full, fuller, fullest.” I’m sorry, but that usage is dumb, dumber, and dumbest. Can you be more wrong than wrong? Wrong… wronger, wrongest? No. So, stop being so lame.

A Fuller is …a brush company. A theological university on the West Coast. The last name of some dude named Buckminster. Or, what you do to make pleats in fabric. But it is not a superlative.

World. Stop pouting, now. It’s an easy mistake to make. Just… don’t do it again, okay?

The Next Chapter, Indeed.

Jools Oliver makes me puke.

First of all: yes, we know “Jools” is a nickname. We’re not bloody stupid, your eternally annoying spouse has only been braying that silly word into the camera for nigh on hoary years. Second: if you couldn’t find book for your little girls, you should have asked a librarian. Just because you’re too big of a gidget to find decent books for five-and-six-year-olds doesn’t mean they don’t exist, you brainless boob.

And what was with the fashion spread, and all the more-than-we-wanted-to-know about the “loads of women” with which your husband works? We’re all mean to believe you’re just this fresh-faced example of the “simple British mum,” um, yeah. Right. Like everyone has the nanny and the time to dash off trite little children’s books while someone else cooks up the wholemeal bread and makes sure Daisy’s new dress is freshly pressed. Oh, yeah, we knew Madonna was a plank or two short of a bridge when she announced her bimbette ambition to write. But insanity, Jools-darling, just looks so much worse on you. The Adventures of DOTTY AND BLUEBELL!?! Seriously!?!? Oh, God save us.

About what SHE said about what HE said about what she said.

Oh, all right. This really isn’t about what SHE said about what HE said. It’s my own twisted brain going on about something else.

Okay, here’s the thing: I don’t generally read things where the female characters are always going on about men. Or babies. Or eyeshadow. I’m not good with “traditional” romances, I generally have to fling books around, and librarians DO tend to get testy about those bent spines. But I tend to read a lot of YA and fantasy lit. because I want to write it, and much of it is making a VALIANT attempt to be multicultural. A friend’s general observations on those “attempts” to include people outside the dominant culture has got me thinking — namely that “valiant” isn’t cutting it, and the attempts aren’t going well. Like Alison Bechdel asks a few pertinent questions before seeing a film, p’raps we also shall query a few points the books we’ll read as well:

  • Are the minority characters in this novel or series ever allowed any other dimension? Are they all uniformly evil, or good, wise and kind? Do you notice myriad sagacious Asians appearing in this role?
  • Are external clues such as ethnicity used to signal characterization? (Hello, raven-haired temptresses and evil icy cool blondes, I’m looking at you.) Are all female blondes desirable, and all male blonds evil? (And Germanic? Think Indiana Jones.) Are all redheads quirky and perky, and all Latinas zesty and mouthy, and complaining about their butts? (You must be reading that dreadful SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS tripe, then. Put it down at once.)
  • On the cover of the book, do the minorities look more-ethnic-than-thou? Tribal paint/tatts? Kenté cloth? Trail of Lion Dancers snaking around behind them? Is this designed to help the book sell?
  • Is a character from the dominant culture messianic, and, like Mighty Mouse, there to save the day? Or, is there a magical/mystical brown person to arrive as a stranger, have nothing better to do than to help the character from the dominant culture, be older/wiser/poorer/and therefore more closely tied with Gaia/Mother Earth/mystical earth magic, and then, after offering up some great sacrifice, conveniently vanish or die? (A WIZARED OF EARTHSEA, whitewash edition, I’m looking at YOU.)

Oh, just wait. There are more…

Please See Fact #2…

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming now for a teensy, tiny, microscopic rant.

I would have thought that people would know that just because I have a book out, it doesn’t mean my life is suddenly stunningly different, but apparently people don’t know that, so you, my reading public, are now eligible, no, gifted to become privy to facts about my life and writing that few people apparently possess.

Fact #1: Writing doesn’t make you rich.

(Maybe this should be Fact #2 as well.)
Writing doesn’t make you rich. It’s a lot of work for a very little money, unless you tickle the public’s imagination and catapult to success. And even then, it takes years for you to be able to rely solely on books for your income. Yes, it’s true. Years. Really.

Fact #2: I am not rich. If you’re eleven and my little sister, or at a career day type of thing or a kid under, say, twenty-one, you can get away with asking me how much money I make. There’s generally a free pass for kids, but anyone else, ask this, and know that you have earned my undying enmity. It’s not right and it’s not polite, but it’s true. I’m just saying.

Fact #3: If you owe me money, you should pay me. See Fact #2.

Fact #4: Fact #3 is mostly a joke – I know you’ll never pay me. (You Know Who You Are!) The truth is, it’s important for we writers and would-be writers to understand that we may really need to keep the day job for awhile. Here’s why:

Most authors receive only between 10 – 16% of their total sales. If a publishing house prints 50,000 copies of your book, but only sells 10,000, then you only get 10,000 X $15 (cover price) X .16 (author percentage) = $24,000. If you have an agent — and mine is worth his weight in platinum — their fee comes directly off the top.

Take out the taxes, next.

Do you see where this is going? People make more than this working full-time at Starbucks with a whole lot less effort (Not to diss the barrista effort, by any means. Long live barristas. And, okay, maybe you’d only really make bank in a Starbucks in downtown Seattle or something where people really tip, but you get my drift.).

Additionally — and perhaps most importantly — from that first year’s sales comes your advance – because you’ve already been paid part of what you earn that first year. The long-play name of the “advance” is “an advance against royalties.” Don’t forget that! If you make it to Publisher’s Lunch with one of their euphonious turns of phrase that means you got a six figure sum for your advance, don’t forget that you’ve just gotten a chunk of your paycheck a little early.

Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s not a huge money-maker, at least not without a lot of sweat and consistency, and you really could, with no one checking your grammar or rejecting your turns of phrase or questioning your character’s motivation or arguing about the verbosity of your dialogue — you really could make more money as an office assistant in a really nice law firm with much less aggravation.

People who choose to write do so because they feel a drive to hold something intangible. Though they may never truly catch the fullness of what they long to express, they continue the attempt. It makes, sometimes, for some amazing books.

Don’t get me wrong: I love what I do. And if you want to, may you find the courage to write, too. Just understand that it may not be blindingly lucrative, and please be nice to the writers you know, who are sometimes taken for granted as the one in the group who should treat everyone to dinner or coffee because they’re “rich.”

Please see Fact #2.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Controversy in the Blogosphere…Or, Blogoversy in the Kidlitosphere. Or–never mind.

There ain’t room in this town fer the both of us. So I challenges ye–dueling blog posts at forty paces. Ready…aim…

Well, I didn’t really want to post about the discussion going on about a site called Kidzbookbuzz.com, and the ensuing hubbub about whether it’s right or wrong to offer a pay-to-play blog tour service, whether it’s right or wrong to compensate bloggers, what it means for the overall perception of blog tours and the kidlitosphere, etc. etc. I don’t want to get up on my soap box. Some feel that the blogosphere thrives on controversy, but I’m strictly conflict-avoidant over here.

But. Having said that, I wanted to say a few things anyway. I think there’s room in the kidlitosphere for different types of blog tours, pay-to-play or not, as long as all parties–especially authors and their publicists–are clear on who is offering exactly what. The kidlitosphere continues to grow and change, and it can be difficult to keep up with the netiquette associated with reviews, interviews, and ARCs, but hopefully we can all continue to behave professionally without losing that informal sense of community and fun that we know and love.

It was mentioned on one blog that the SBBT/WBBT have an exclusivity about them, and I wanted to say that I haven’t felt that–I feel like the event is special, but I don’t feel like I’m part of a special group. Finding Wonderland sort of got involved in it by being in the right place at the right time. The small size of the group, to me, doesn’t connote exclusivity. In fact, I find the size to be comfortable and unintimidating. I feel like there’s more room for everyone’s individuality as bloggers to really blossom and be appreciated. I might feel differently if there were fifteen, or twenty, or fifty interviews a day.

But truly, there has to be room out there for a variety of individual visions about this type of project. Just like there needs to be (and is) room out there for individual authors’ visions as realized in their stories. It’s not a bad metaphor–sometimes the world of published authors can seem, to a non-published author, like an exclusive club, a clique that we (and by “we” I mean “me) are longing to break into but are waiting for…well, the right place at the right time.

I want to conclude on a positive note about the SBBT/WBBT, an inspirational moment from this past week that really made us very glad that we’ve been participating, and makes me feel like we’re all doing the right thing in our own unique ways (okay, sorry, that was sort of barf-inducing, but you know what I mean). Last week TadMack and I were contacted by someone putting together a scholarly book of interviews with Sherman Alexie, and asked if we’d be willing to include our WBBT interview. How cool is that? And how lame am I for saying “how cool is that”? Please don’t answer the second question.

{EDIT} – Tad here, putting in my two centavos. I’m really chuffed about the Alexie book inclusion, too. What an honor!! We’re really excited that our little corner of the blogosphere was able to honor someone of Mr. Alexie’s status, and for someone else to feel that our interaction with him is something to be shared. From this, we can only hope more people pick up his books!

And that’s what it’s about — the books.

I wanted to really respond to some of the book buddies I’ve met through participation in Poetry Friday and others who aren’t part of the group — Guys, this isn’t meant to shut you out! I promise we’re not thinking you’re “unclean,” and this isn’t some hideous trip back to high school — we’re not working to exclude. Blog tours are huge unwieldy beasts — if you could only see how much darned WORK it is to just organize the people who ARE in SBBT/WBBT… it’s a massive effort, a drain of time and resources. It seems sad to distance from the group because that activity is full. PLEASE join in the One Shot World Tours and Under Radar Reads promotions that take place the first Monday of the month. All of the crazy stuff we do and Chasing Ray organizes are about BOOKS and spreading the love — not about exclusivity or stats. Please come and join in — there’s never enough voices and hands connecting kids and young adults with great books.

Thanks, A.F., for posting about this.

Another Teensy Rant, Or, Why I Hate Leaving The House

Confidential to the mover guy, code name Sinbad, for the really huge gold hoop earring in your right lobe (and dude: what was up with THAT?): I COULD HAVE really given you what for. I wasn’t afraid of you. If you bother me again, I’m going to knock you upside the head with my OED. Just so you know.

I am not a mouse. I’m just sayin’, in case anyone needed to know. I’ve got a lousy, though quiet, temper. I don’t yell anymore, but I have a reader’s vocabulary and a sharp eye for people’s soft bits. I have a rotten, conniving heart, and if I tell you off, it will be in words in excess of three syllables, delivered in a straight-faced monotone that will flay your flesh from your bone. I’ve been known to blister paint. And, I’ve got a mean sucker punch and shin kick that I haven’t gotten the use of in years.

People who remember some of the towering rages of my childhood have made it their dubious business to take me aside from time to time, and Tell Me How To Treat My Man. “Don’t speak to him like that,” my older sister hissed. “Did you just call him stupid?” “Oh, be nice or he might dump you for me,” my eldest sister says snidely. My mother sends me websites on anger management and writes me long letters about what makes a happy home. (Okay, full disclosure, I haven’t gotten one of those in, what, three years now? But I got another website a month ago) What they don’t comprehend is that THIS IS ME BEING NICE. Sheesh.

Which is why Scotland has been a bit of a challenge for me. It’s not the country, so much. I can do rain and endless darkness all right. It’s …some of the people.

There’s a ridiculous stereotype of the merry Englishman and the dour Scotsman. I’ve rarely found the truth in that, most Scots aren’t dour at all. Dour indicates a certain silence, and the OED lists gloom, dullness, obstinacy and stupidity as definitions, none of which apply (except for stupidity, which applies equally to all nations). It’s what people here in Glasgow say that gives Scots their reputation. It’s not so much dour as sour. Acidic, even. Worse than me.

“‘t’s fookin ridiculous, is what it is,” the mover said as he hefted the box.

I frowned and looked away. When he’d first come and started slinging boxes over his shoulder, I’d asked him why he hadn’t brought a dolly to cart them down to the truck. Sure, we had a lift to carry him down the four flights of stairs, but to come with no gloves, no back belt, and no dolly seemed beyond foolhardy to me. However, I’d noticed that some Glaswegian guys — secure in their disbelief in the overcoat and the umbrella — are also great disbelievers in eye protection and gloves – and a back belt? Please. Real men get hernias.

The mover hefted another box and exploded in blasphemous rage. “Jesus Christ, this is a fookin’ nightmare!”

“I told the scheduler that it was boxes of books,” I said to the room at large. No one was actually acknowledging that I was in the vicinity, but I felt the lame need to defend myself. “I am sorry, but I did — “

“‘t’s a fookin disgrace!” the man snarled. He glared at me. “Don’t you know anythin’? You put books in wee small boxes, small so I could pick up two under my arms, and run with them. That’s how you do it.” He put his hands on his hips and stared at me pugnaciously. “How the fookin hell do you expect me to pick this up?”

“You could leave it,” I said, feeling perspiration prickling down my back. I hoped my voice was calm. I was alone in a house with three red-faced, meaty-fisted choleric looking men, one of whom had been pissing and moaning since they’d arrived. “If it’s too heavy to lift safely, you could just leave it.”

He did that little you’ll-blink-first stare-down-for-supremacy thing, then muttered something else and turned away to test the weight of another box. “Jesus fookin Christ,” he roared, ” you’re a fookin disgrace!” He stalked out, hands empty of anything.

Can I tell you that this went on for forty-five minutes?

The mover felt he was within his right to tell me just how badly I’d done – and okay, I’m direct, and if you really annoy me, I’ll do my best to let you know. But I won’t swear at you, and I’m not used to people swearing at me. Seems odd, now that I think of it. My father would call me stupid, scream at me to hurry up and wash/cook/clean something, smack me and rant about what a slob and lackwitted worthless human being I was, but he never swore. Ever. Mind you, it might have made him feel better, but he felt that it was against the Christian Father’s Code. Apparently there’s nothing in there about all the other stuff.

I made a point of not living under the same roof as my father ever again three months after I turned sixteen. I think what I hate the most about moving — and traveling — and all ’round leaving the house — is that I am at the mercy of petty, evil, vicious men with bad haircuts and big stupid hoop earrings.

I really hope I don’t have to move again for awhile. And trust me, if I do? I’ll pack my books in small boxes just so I don’t have to go upside some hung over ignoramus’ head.

A Smallish Rant

The TSA website states that you can carry on:

  • Beverages brought from home or purchased before reaching the security checkpoint in a 3 oz. or smaller container and in your quart-size, zip-top plastic bag.
  • Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies – 3 oz. or smaller
  • Cheese in pressurized containers, Jell-O’s, pudding, whipping cream, yogurt or gel like food substances – 3 oz. or smaller

THREE OUNCES. Exactly WHO are they kidding?

…and furthermore…furthermore…and on top of that…

This WAS supposed to just be a response to Melissa and Bottle-of-Shine in the comments section of this blog, but, well, it got long. So I’m just gonna say it:

Shenanigans. Though my OED says the etymology of the word is unknown, according to Wikipedia, that bastion of factoids, ‘shenanigan’ possibly originates from the Irish sionnachuighim, meaning “I play the fox.” Can you see that? Mr. Horn Book, setting himself as a cat among pigeons, as a fox among …hens? Because he can? I can see it. I do believe sometimes the man simply says things to wind people up.

Even so, I felt pretty …stung by his statements earlier today. Because I simply can’t seem to find the time to read adult books, and so, I really… don’t. (Of course, this begs the definition of ‘adult book’ and who defines ‘adult’ but that’s a whole ‘nother post. Suffice it to say that I waited my whole childhood to read what books I wanted)

I’ve always felt that as a YA writer, I was making a choice, to sort of …immerse myself in the culture, to write the best YA books I could by reading them and participating in the culture of childhood and adolescence. This doesn’t mean I reject adulthood – major purchases, permanent relationships, occasional housecleaning, yep, sort of adultish. I read plenty of adultish books to get my various degrees (and gave away an armload of “how to write” books when I realized they can’t help you if you can’t…) but if I read YA/children’s books for my recreational reading, who is to say what “recreates” me?

Comments like,

“but to say that children’s literature will give a grownup all he or she needs from books suggests there is no reason to grow up in the first place.”


“My problem is … with the belief that children’s literature encompasses in itself the range of human experience, that it has and can give expression to pretty much anything worth expressing. Or worth reading about”

suggest to me a fundamental — and unsubtle — contempt not only for the literature of children and young adults, but for… childhood. As in, Oh, it’s just puppy love, you can’t possibly feel anything as deeply as I do.

It seems the fundamental assumption here is that the “A” in YA has something that is of greater value than the “Y.”

And I’m not thinkin’ I buy that.