Ten nails down, one manuscript, to go.

A. Fortis really inspired me to push forward through my rejection letter angst awhile back, and try to get an agent. I’ve pitched three or four different stories now to different people, and finally I got a “bite.” Until I’m sure that one of us is on the proverbial ‘hook,’ (am I hooking him? Is he hooking me?) I won’t speak in specifics, but I’ve been thrilled that my story caught someone’s eye. Better still, it happened on D’s birthday, which, to him, was probably the best gift ever; proof that finally his freeloading partner might actually get paid.

As I said, it was a thrill. Or, rather, I was thrilled. That was before the first slew of emails and rampant postal abuse.


Now, I’m as big a publisher-whore as the next writer, so at first I was twittering at all the communication I was getting. He wrote to me at odd hours in the morning – 5 a.m. on a Sunday, midnight on a Friday night. He’d write that I didn’t need to answer him, but he just had been thinking — and he’d dash off a comment on my characters. Why did so-and-so need to say that to his mother? If her family was so wealthy, why did she have an after school job?

No need to answer, he’d say.

At first, I tried to answer all of the questions — seriously. I pondered them all, and then I started worrying. Did he like my story, as it was, at all? Why did he contact me?

You know how you’re supposed to send a SASE to publishers and agents during the query process? Since my person initially replied via email, the two envelopes I’d sent them I thought would be unused. Oh, no. Never one to waste trees, these envelopes have returned to me, full of my pages (out of order), filled with the scrawl of red pen. On every page.

For a finale? He sent, in one of my postage envelopes, a page of somebody else’s story, to represent to me what a properly formatted page should be.

People don’t waste their time on minutiae without a reason. This I promise myself faithfully, as I sit here with a stomach ache from pounding down two boxes of sugar-free Mentos and all the fingernails from both hands. He’s got to be seriously planning to extend a contract to me. Or else I’ve got to find him and exterminate him in his sleep. I have never been so stressed out — aside from PMS, I don’t think I’ve ever been this ill-tempered for so extended a time in my life.

An hour ago, I finished the manuscript revisions. Tomorrow I’ll print The Beast again, and wrap it lovingly in white paper, and mail it with reverent hands to the east coast. And yes, I’ll add the requisite postage filled envelope so it can be returned. Again.

Cross your fingers.

New Voices in Short Stories

It occured to me, after musing away on short stories the other day, to wonder why there aren’t more anthologies and prizes celebrating the best in emergent YA writers… the answer, I guess, might be because there aren’t loads of schools and literary programs aimed specifically at us, so we’re not as well funded, or as well read. The bottom line is, the only folks interested in YA writing seem to be directly related to the American Library Association. We get the Michael Printz for YA lit, the Newbery Award given out by librarians for all of children’s lit, and The Golden Kite for children’s, picture books and YA lit from SCBWI, and that’s pretty much it. It’s not ‘nothing,’ by any means, but not nearly the number of prizes are awarded for YA shorts. Hmm.

Putting that aside,I was pleased to go out and check out the Best New American Voices, which came out this month, and includes a story by a friend. It’s not YA lit, but maybe someday one of us will get included in there. In the meantime, the party’s at Seren’s! You go girl!

Litquake!


Finding Neverland Lit Crawl Countdown!!!
Count the days, people: 11 left. Start thinking of dinner, books, authors and Ess Eff!

The Joys of Short Stories and Other Musings

Okay, here’s the thing. I wanna be in an anthology. Yeah, I know, cool people like Seren are in anthologies, and it should be enough that my friends are so cool, but nope. It’s not doing it. I couldn’t write a story about fruit and New Jersey for Mei’s anthology either, so I’m kind of stuck – I love reading the things, and short stories are pretty fascinating, when done well, and I want to be the kind of writer who leaves readers dying for more. So, anthologies.

And, here, offered to me in a really cool package – the first SmartWriters.com short story contest ever! And the winner wins — inclusion in that sought after anthology!! And how could I not be jazzed? Oh, wait. There’s that little matter of actually writing a YA short story, huh. Sad, but true – I’m beginning to really resent Raymond Carver. Seriously.

The fact is, there are ten million books of commentary on how to write a really good short story. There’s theory about ‘pyramid structure,’ there’s conjecture about situational writing (i.e., get a man up a tree, throw stones at him, get him down), but the fact is, modern short stories kind of ruined the simple stuff. It’s not good enough to just have a story… that’s…short. Now there’s all this enigma and stuff. I’m not sure I can do that.

Actually, I’m pretty positive I can’t. I’m not enigmatic. Is young adulthood enigmatic? Was mine? I was reading a comment from A.Fortis the other day where she mentioned hearing publishers asking for stuff that was described as “nasty” (as in brutish or dirty, I couldn’t tell ya) when talking with writers at a recent conference. That word lacks, um, subtlety. So, am I completely pursuing a wrong rant, here? Is subtlety not needed in YA shorts?

This is all in the service of actually keeping me from attempting to write said short story. I’ll admit it — I’m struggling to convey something pertinent in 8000 words. It seems like that should be enough words, but I’m going to have to edit, I see. Sharply.

As usual, when in doubt, I try and read something. I’ve heard that Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen is a really good read, and that she’s one of the best short story writers writing for this age group. I’ve been reading short stories for weeks. Something’s got to give, here!

Wish me luck and I wish the same to you. Enter the contest!

Shaking Up YA Writers & Readers Around the Bay


Litquake Rocks!!!
Thanks to the ever fab Tara Weaver, our humble Finding Wonderland writers are getting a primo chance to be involved with Litquake, San Francisco’s fun and flighty literary festival. For the first time since their beginning in 2002, YA writers will be really represented, and a will be featured as a stop on the infamous toddle down Valencia Street, Lit Crawl.

Five fabulous YA writers will be reading selections from some of their latest works October 15th from 5-6:15 pm at Valencia Street Books in San Francisco, as part of the much anticipated Lit Crawl. They are: Mills College professor and mystery writer Kathryn Reiss, reading from SWEET MISS HONEYWELL’S REVENGE, the talented Gennifer Choldenko, reading her newly released AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, the irrepressible Joyce Maynard, reading from THE CLOUD CHAMBER, Katherine Sturtevant reading from the complex and thoughtful novel AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR, and thought-provoking historical novelist Michael Cadnum, reading from STARFALL. (These books have not yet been reviewed on our sister site! Read them? Let’s hear about them!)

Hosted by our own A.Fortis, this event promises to be exciting and inspirational to all of us fledgling and would-be writers. Why not catch more of the Litquake ’05 events if you can? Check out their website now!

Random Booknotes

This month’s Book Page had a great feature on Jane Smiley’s new book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. This book sounds a lot like what we might have read in Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s class at Mills, since she’s all about making lazy readers into better writers by requiring them to really dig into some tough novels they might normally just set aside. Smiley’s book talks a bit about what makes good novels and what makes escapist novels. She overviews 100 novels that more or less span the history of literature — from the obscure to the popular, a sort of Best Novels canon. What did she discover? Serious novels, says Smiley, don’t allow you to escape. Instead they ask you to reconsider what you were thinking about in a new way. Sounds like a book to look into to me.


Wow, what a rush it must be to be Christopher Paolini. Paolini, just 19, wrote Eragon, the first book he’d ever written, as a first novel in a trilogy when he was just 15. Yeah, this, after having read all the books in his local library and graduating from high school that same year… He finished and self published at 17. Of course, it helps if your parents have a publishing company, but what a rush when you skip college to write a book that not only sells, but sells 1.5 million copies in North America alone, and remains on the bestseller list for eighty-five weeks. An even bigger rush might include the film rights being optioned, and Ed Speeler, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich shooting it in Budapest! It’s due to be released in 2006.

But surely – the greatest buzz of all? In its third week on the NY Times bestseller list, Eldest the second volume in the Inheritor trilogy, has passed the latest Potter epic to take its place at number one. Granted, Harry has been on top for nine weeks, but this is quite a feat for someone under 20, who hasn’t yet made it to college, and has only written two books in his life thus far. Go Chris Go! We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, obviously!


Carolyn Keene, the imaginary writer who won’t die: Strangely located on the Style page of the Chronicle is a review of a new book on Carolyn Keene, the composite pseudonym of several writers behind the celebrated Nancy Drew series. Melanie Rehak, whose first book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, became completely intrigued with the pre-feminist history of this literary character when she heard the NPR obituary of Mildred Wirt Benson on the radio one day. She wanted to know who the ‘real’ Nancy Drew really was. Fans of the plucky blonde sleuth will thrill with all the attention being paid to the reborn 40’s teenager. From a new Manga-styled cover art to more modern character sketches, Nancy Drew seems fated, at 75, to be here to stay…

We have more writers wandering through the SF Bay Area than we know what to do with. Here are a few highlights of who’s in town this weekend:

Though this isn’t really a YA book, the protagonist of Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide is thirteen, and growing up in a wonderful autumnal coming-of-age book. There’s a great luncheon planned in Pleasanton with the author at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday (9/22) It’s $10/lunch; $28 lunch and book. Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton. (925) 846-8826.

Wouldn’t it be the coolest to have a dad who worked on Alcatraz Island in 1935? Okay, maybe not. But if the warden’s daughter was cool… how much fun could you get up to? Okay. Fun is another name for t-r-o-u-b-l-e. But that’s the schtick in this well spoken of YA novel of historical fiction called
Al Capone Does My Shirts. Author, Gennifer Choldenko is having a meet-n-greet next Saturday at 2 p.m. Crissy Field Center, Bldg. 603, Mason and Halleck streets, the Presidio, S.F. (415) 561-7752. Also don’t forget that Pratchett’s in town this week, too!

Autumn arrives this week. Celebrate with a new book!

Odds 'n' Ends

I’m going on a little vacation at the end of the month, and I’m not taking my computer. I’m going to try and write some snatches of atmosphere — descriptions of countryside, cityscapes, and more. I’m going to try some old-school writing techniques and take lots of notes to hopefully find some great scenes to stick in books someday.

I feel like I’m going back to grad school and sitting down in coffee shops, writing down conversations I overhear…

REMINDER: The Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant, established by SCBWI and the family of Kimberly Colen, honors the memory of this children’s writer by helping authors and illustrators publish their first book. Two grants will be awarded in 2005, each for $2500, along with transportation, lodging and tuition to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. One grant will be for a picture book and/or an early reader book, but the other will be for a chapter book for middle grade, and or a YA book. Applicants must write a 1-page letter (250 words maximum) about the book they propose to write, and include their an excerpt from the book, and their contact information. The letters must be put in a #10, business-sized envelope, postmarked no earlier than October 1, and no later than November 15 mailed to:

SCBWI Kimberly Colen Grant Letter
Box 20322 Park West Finance Station
New York, NY, 10025-1512

The 24th Annual Delacorte Press Contest is open again for submissions October 1 through December 31! First time writers may submit book entries between 100 to 224 pages in length, suitable for readers aged 12-18, and Delacorte is specifically asking for stories with contemporary settings.

Writers, start your engines!

Odds ‘n’ Ends

I’m going on a little vacation at the end of the month, and I’m not taking my computer. I’m going to try and write some snatches of atmosphere — descriptions of countryside, cityscapes, and more. I’m going to try some old-school writing techniques and take lots of notes to hopefully find some great scenes to stick in books someday.

I feel like I’m going back to grad school and sitting down in coffee shops, writing down conversations I overhear…

REMINDER: The Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant, established by SCBWI and the family of Kimberly Colen, honors the memory of this children’s writer by helping authors and illustrators publish their first book. Two grants will be awarded in 2005, each for $2500, along with transportation, lodging and tuition to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. One grant will be for a picture book and/or an early reader book, but the other will be for a chapter book for middle grade, and or a YA book. Applicants must write a 1-page letter (250 words maximum) about the book they propose to write, and include their an excerpt from the book, and their contact information. The letters must be put in a #10, business-sized envelope, postmarked no earlier than October 1, and no later than November 15 mailed to:

SCBWI Kimberly Colen Grant Letter
Box 20322 Park West Finance Station
New York, NY, 10025-1512

The 24th Annual Delacorte Press Contest is open again for submissions October 1 through December 31! First time writers may submit book entries between 100 to 224 pages in length, suitable for readers aged 12-18, and Delacorte is specifically asking for stories with contemporary settings.

Writers, start your engines!

Terry Pratchett

I’m not one of those people who likes, say, jokes… I’d rather just smirk sardonically at life than go to a comedy club. Surprisingly, I do like funny books, if they’re just funny incidentally, and I do like weird British humor. I find writer Terry Pratchett one of the better writers of surrealist comedy of any kind, and he writes… well… It’s kind of fantasy…only in the sense that the world is actually a disc set on the back of four massive elephants… who are, in turn, are riding atop a giant turtle. (Kind of like ours, right?) The disc is a board game for the various panoply of gods who bet on the stakes of hapless wizards and random citizens.

As for the worlds in that universe, well, they’ve got vampires and trolls. Death makes occasional appearances… with his granddaughter. And his horse. And his lovely black and white house and garden. And his four buddies, apocalyptic horsemen, who’ve stayed in touch all these years. There are kingdoms, and witches, and the odd Handsome Prince with his beloved werewolf girlfriend. There’s an interspecies police force that employs a golem. And dwarves. Mostly, Pratchett’s Discworld books are like a fairy tale gone quite thoroughly mad. And I await each new one with glee.’

They’re impossibly relevant to present day, this-world politics and history. They’re satire. They’re just darned funny. Check them out!

I’m off to get Pratchett’s newest book! He’ll be in the Bay Area soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:30 PM
CODY’S BOOKS
Speaking/Signing autographs
2454 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704

Thursday, September 22, 2005 7:00 PM
THE BOOKSMITH
Speaking/Signing autographs
1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Enjoy!

Wading through my brain

More hurricane stuff:

There’s not much space to avoid reality when it keeps leaking into my brain via all kinds of media outlets. I’m doing my best to single-handedly support the Red Cross ($10,124,762.25 raised as of today and counting!) by shopping where there are donations made tips and change, and sending the cash I can afford to hopefully buy underwear and clean water for those in need. Today I found out where to send packages of necessities to various locations in the Gulf States (and I can give you the 411 if you really want to know), and I’m having fun collecting basic needful things – and stickers! I mean, isn’t this a bad enough disaster without glittery underpants and stickers! — for kids. No books yet, since displaced people have to schlepp their stuff… and they have enough to shoulder at present.

So much political debate is going on — are they ‘refugees?’ or are they survivors? I vote for ‘survivors.’ People in the Gulf states, where they are annually wind-battered, flooded and flattened, have got to be some of the toughest people around. May their spirits be as resilient… I hope that people like Mills alum and former classmate Mahmud Rahman and the Neo-Griot New Orleans Project who will be going around in New Orleans, collecting stories not only of the disaster, but of the lives of the survivors, remembers to record the stories of the children… The stories that kids can tell should be told. Every other kid in America needs to hear what it was like living in New Orleans before this last month. Every child needs to think about how they will act and feel and be during a disaster. The best children’s and YA books give kids a chance to fill another kid’s shoes, if just for awhile.

New Orleans resident and Project leader, Kalama ya Salaam adds,
“Too often when major historic events take place, those who are live at the margins of the mainstream are ignored. We know what the presidents and generals did, we know what the business leaders and major cultural figures thought, but do we know anything about the poor, the disenfranchised, the people of the Dome, the overpass, as well as those who left the city on Sunday and as of Tuesday night had no city to return to?

During the Great Depression the WPA collected the stories of people who had experienced slavery. Today we will collect the stories of people who survived a defining moment in American and World History.”

The project objective is:

1. to put the words and images of the people on the internet via a New Orleans
Project website.

2. to teach the respondents how to access the internet, so that they can
continue sharing their views after the neo-griots leave.

3. to archive the resulting information so that it can be researched and
accessed worldwide.

There are stories yet to be heard, and yet to be written. Like a campfire shining clear in a dark and unfamiliar wood, I hope the smaller stories will shine out and be seen…as hope, as memory, and as the means to rebuild a world.