Monday, July 31, 2006

Getting a jump on the week.

If I had one word to use to describe the Summer SCBWI Conference, and explain why I keep going back, that word would be "inspiring." Or maybe it would be fun. Or friends. Or informative. Or exhausting. Or... well, the point is, I don't have to use just one word.

Anyway, yesterday I got some of that same mix when I attended a Harry Potter podcast here in LA. There were over 300 people there, and I can safely say that about 95% of the conversation was totally over my limited-Potter-head. But the thing is, to see that many people talking about something that a writer created -- a writer, like I'm a writer -- and to see them really analyzing literary conventions, subtext, imagery, you name it... it's simply fantastic. I think one question came from a seven year old, and there were certainly people far older than yours truly.

PLUS, I got to yak with, among others, Disco Mermaid Eve, Lisa Yee, AND Cheryl Klein. That alone encompasses most of the word choices I batted around up above. Excellent times indeed, and really has whet my appetite for the upcoming four days o' kid-book insanity.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Moving right along...

With only 6 days left before the SCBWI Summer Conference, I wanted to encourage any GottaBook readers who are attending to make sure you find me and say "hi." Or say something different than "hi." There's no requirements here....

On this end, the question remains how much I can get done before next Friday, both in terms of work AND, of course, cleaning of my desk. The heat has broken (some) thus taking away my last great excuse for procrastination. Yes, we do move the library this week, but the packing is all done, and unpacking will be a longer process. Mind you, I'm not saying I'll write all 14 of the Fabulous Fibs between now and then... but being somewhat Fibbish would let me have far more fun at the Conference.

Hey... I wonder if the hotel has wireless? How many bloggers are gonna be there? And how many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Too many questions. Clearly time to clean the desk....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A volt to the system...

Yup, at 2:30 this morning, power was restored in GottaLand. A very tired but hard working crew climbed a power pole, did some... stuff... and voila! I'm pleased to say only two lights came on and no appliances started up, though there was a raft of blinking clocks (whose re-setting was left til later in the morning).

Also today, there was more library packing, though some VERY hardworking and efficient fellow volunteers had already done the bulk of it. We're finding boxes hidden in crannies and nooks that have required attention (and some headscratching). We rediscovered my favorite book that ended up accidentally on our shelves: The Same Phrase Describes My Marriage and My Breasts : Before the Kids, They Used to Be Such a Cute Couple.... Yes, we found it before a first grader (or worse, a parent!) did. I think it's the cute font that let it sneak on the shelves.

The library was so hot that I didn't read a single book, and that's good, I suppose, in terms of time management. But the heat also made me less inclined to weed books I really probably shoulda. I think, having spent a year gathering 10,000 books, we're having real parting issues. Seriously, I think I'd get over it with central air, but as it stands, I couldn't get rid of a copy of The Search for Delicious Icy Coldness no matter how hard I tried....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Swiss Army Kitchen

As we continue our quirky adventures in power disruption, I've managed to cobble together a series of surge suppressors and extention cords, thus giving GottaHome some semblence of a working kitchen. That's not something that impacts y'all much, I know, EXCEPT that it gave me access to coffee and thus the caffeinated afternoon energy needed to come blog.

Oh, yeah. And to write. Sure, that, too.

I admit that the return to regular GottaLife hasn't been as smooth as anticipated, and I've lost precious writing time to things like ice, sweat, and a really fantastic collection of bugs living in harmony with some electrical wiring, but I've been able to keep calm. How? It's easy!

Admit it... you feel better.

You GOTTA love the Net!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The DWP must know me...

Once again, there's darkness in GottaBookland... except this time, it's not total. One whole room has power as does one circuit in my office -- the one which powers my UPS (thus my computer, modem, network, printer, etc) and a single light. The other office lights (and my best friend, Mr. Oscillating Fan) are kaput. Elsewhere, the fridge is down. The microwave is dark. Yet the clock on the stove still works, thus implying there's an outlet somewhere in the kitchen that's still working. The bedrooms are dark, but really there's no harm in that in the nighttime. Flipping breakers is no use -- this is an outage beyond my skills. But again, thanks to the powers that be power powerful for letting me work tonight.

Plus, thanks to the blessed outlet, I'm able to sign on and note that my latest Book Talk column is up over at momready (where there's always goooood reading). If you've got power, I recommend you check it all out. And if you don't, thanks a lot for finding a refuge and checking me out. Good choice!

What's new in the land of Fibs?

What a great question. Thanks for asking.

I have to say that I'm continually surprised to see Fibs popping up on the web (and elsewhere). Examples, I hear you (and by you I mean someone who reallllllly cares) cry. Well, then, sometimes it's Fibs in an online magazine. Perhaps you'd prefer Fibs factoring in as a clue in The Schoenberg Code, a now-complete 12 part classical music parody of the DaVinci Code? And then there's a completed contest at Kenyon College. Fine Fibbery all around.

There's more Fibs to be found, but for those who enjoy writing them (or haiku, etc.), what about a syllable counter? A handy online tool indeed, though it clearly doesn't account for accents and personally quirky pronunciations.

And finally in Fibville... why not click here and e-mail me to join the Fib mailing list? Sure, you get MOST of the news here, but as the 14 Fabulous Fibs moves from a notion to an idea to a manuscript to a book, there'll likely be bits of tid that'll be email only. So feel free to sign up now, as it's never too early to get started. (Editor's note: that "too early" comment does NOT refer to mornings but was deeper and more philosophical. Any time before, say, 9 AM, is too early. For anything, really. Even with coffee.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Power. I need more power!

I was in the middle of a fine old post... about 5 hours ago when the power went off. I'm not really complaining, as there are folks out there with far bigger power problems than what happened here. I merely mention it now cuz it's too late for me to finish up the earlier post. Not "too late, chance missed" but literally too close to a reasonable bedtime.

I am reminded, however, of one of the greatest writing lessons of my life. And what's that, you all ask in unison? Well, one day I lost a HUGE amount of a complex screenplay rewrite because the power went out (only for five minutes, to add insult to injury). I had no universal power supply that woulda given me time to save. I didn't save on a regular basis (and this was before OS X or Word's auto-backup function or any such). Power strip? Yup. So there was no damage, other than psychological. Now I set auto-saves, and I have a great UPS... and I was able to save my post in progress today but it'll be just as good tomorrow when I don't have to deal with coolers full of ice and food.

In fact, the kitchen awaits, so I gotta book.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Links galore in a Carnival o' fun....

Kelly over at Big A little a has put together the Fifth Carnival of Children's Literature (while abroad, it appears. Gotta love the Net).

There are wonderful links to fantastic bloggers AND a witches theme, to boot. So go on and get your fill of reviews, ideas, lists, interviews, and ramblings. You'll be glad you did.

Time (pt. 2)

I am pleased to report that flying cross-country (including a layover and change of planes) took less time than the last flying experience on the GottaVacation. A relief, indeed... though returning home to record temperatures wasn't exactly the plan. Still, the last few days brought more lessons in "time" and how it is a sliding scale, no matter what science and clocks have to say about it.

Today is the post-vacation maintenence day around here which will prove that time ticks slowly as there will be nothing particularly fun or pleasant going on (other than iced coffee a little later!). And tomorrow returns me to full-on work on two fronts: 14 Fabulous Fibs writing and library packing. Guess which one I'd rather do. This will also be a lesson in time-speeds, believe me.

Other things in the near future? A Carnival of Children's literature due later today, time to read all my favorite blogs (and discover new ones), and a desk that honestly, genuinely needs to be cleaned. No, really. I mean that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Flying time....

Vacation time has zipped past faster than I'd ever expected, and one day soon you'll find me back at my desk and you'll see me take on a more serious font again and.... Oh, forget that. I'm never more serious.

I did not discover the time it takes to drive this battery to zero (though I came close), and I did not become the golden tan boy of my youth. Apparently I'm the lucky type for whom sunblock works as an impenetrable shield that woulda made life on the Enterprise much easier for Kirk and the gang. Endless books have been read, too many giant meals digested, boats, planes, and fountains admired, work accomplished, and family and friends seen. Oh, yeah, and did I mention I had lunch with my editor? I'll have to check back posts to see if that came up.

Remarkably, I see that the annual SCBWI Conference starts in TWO WEEKS, and I have a school library to move before then as well as 14 Fabulous Fibs to write. It promises to be an intensely busy month or so, and I'm looking forward to it greatly. Thanks to you all for coming on vacation with me, but there's a bit more beach time available so I gotta book. Catch ya on the other coast....

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Beach Fib

Greg Pincus

Tide pools
Minnow schools
Bright, sun-kissed faces
Sand in the most awkward places

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Why Bother to Blog?

The talented, funny, Mento-obsessed Lisa Yee will be teaching/hostessing/leading a workshop called Why Bother to Blog at this year’s annual SCBWI conference. She’s asked yours truly AND the Disco Mermaids to speak as guest bloggers, each with our own experiences and points of view.

Now, I’m obviously a huuuuge lover of blogging, as GottaBook is clearly the reason I got a book deal how and when I did. And while I always planned to do “stunts” like Fibs once I had myself up and going, I’d be lying if I said that I started blogging so I could get a book deal in two months. Nope. Not true.

So why bother to blog? Well, for me it started out as a desire to be part of the wonderful, fascinating, ever-growing kid-lit-blogging community (dubbed the kidlitosphere by Melissa Wiley, I believe). Writing is a lonely thing, so organizations like SCBWI are wonderful in helping find folks who can support, commiserate, and cheer for you. But cyberspace is 24 hours a day... and distance is way less of an obstacle online. Also, the kidlitosphere is full of book lovers, librarians, reviewers, and teachers, as well as writers and illustrators – and this diverse group is one I truly enjoy being connected to and from whom I’ve learned a ton, making me a better writer, more informed reader, and definitely a cooler, more useful volunteer librarian.

From an aspiring/still-unpublished writer’s point of view, I had numerous other raisons-de-blog. To keep this post from becoming an epic, I’m gonna skip to my big one beyond community: Cyberspace is an odd, connected place, and you just never know who’s gonna stop by and read you or what can happen in the net-ether. From the start, I viewed my blog as a promotional tool, though not in an aggressive way as that’s just not my style (nor do I think the spirit of the blogging community I like). But yeah, having a presence in cyberspace can lead to who-knows-what (like, say, an invite from Lisa Yee to talk at the SCBWI Annual!). And frankly, the net is simply “the future,” so learning how to have a useful presence here seemed like a worthwhile endeavor to me… and I figured the time to learn about it was before I “needed” to use it (if ever). I think I’ve learned a lot already, and by the time I have a book to promote, I think my experiences will prove invaluable. As I said, this wasn’t the primary reason to blog, but it was definitely a factor.

Interestingly, I can see that the reasons for blogging once one is a published writer might be very different. I do NOT view this blog as a way to connect with my books’ kid audience (he says as he imagines that there ultimately is one!), though I’ve certainly had entire classes descend and post Fibs. Still, I don’t think this blog will change to try and connect with that very different community. That might happen via another blog, a web-site or something else entirely. But I do know that I’ll still want to be connected to the kidlitosphere... which is why I bothered to blog in the first place, and why you find me here on vacation typing away.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Egrets. I've seen a few...

... but then again, too few to mention. Or at leat too few to make the body of a blog post, as clearly I mentioned them....

So far, the laptop battery has not powered down, but that's more to do with the exhaustion created by a full day on the beach than it is by tremendous advances in battery technology. Today, braving thunder and lightning, your intredpid gottabooker moseyed over to the one place in town with a high speed wireless network so I could try and catch up on some of the e-mail that's piled up and try to read the folks on my blogroll. I'm having withdrawal! However, vacation efficiency levels being what they are, I got through about half of what I'd intended before realizing I needed to post this and hurry off to join others for a Southern Fried Fish Fiesta (TM pending). By the way, yesterday, to continue the food theme, I had a cheeseburger at a place dubbed by Emeril as having the best cheeseburger in America. How can you beat that?

I admit I have been inspired to pull out the yellow pad a few times at odd moments, jotting notes for the 14 Fabulous Fibs, scribbling the bones of a couple poems, and even outlining a still-vague idea for a new picturebook. And heck, by the time I return home and get to the SCBWI Annual, I should have a tan that'll make me rival Adonis. You know, if Adonis was kinda pale, needed a shave, could exercise more, and wasn't quite as tall as he is usually pictured.

Fresh fried fish awaits, so I gotta book.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Now, I know full well that time measurements are not variables: a second is a second, a minute is a minute, and an hour is an hour. I get it. But let me state unequivocably that time bends when one is stuck waiting at an airport. I'm not talking the first hour delay. That's not so bad. The second hour? Dealable. By the third hour, there's little question that time is beginning to move at a new pace. When your flight is then cancelled, time stands still for a moment... then when you ultimately get rebooked hours later, there's kinda a weird time-standing-still effect. Then, after 8 hours as you wait for "the pilot and flight crew to land" from points unknown, thus delaying your rebooked flight... well, there's NO question that a second is lengthy, a minute is endless, and an hour is simply longer than an hour spent undergoing root canal.

On the plus side... well, actually, there was no real plus side there.

But a night of sleep and a beach nearby and all is forgotten. I hope to spend time this coming week overlooking the ocean and writing. Yes, there's chocolate around, no high-speed access (so apologies for unanswered email, if any), and sunsets, so if that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is. Time will return to its normal pace, perhaps passing slower in a good way, and if nothing else, I'll find out how long this laptop battery will last with screen open and operator staring at the water. As I said, it's all about research (except for time in airports).

Thursday, July 13, 2006


One of the great things about being a writer is that you can convince yourself that everything you do is 'research' for some yet unthought of project. So, while it's likely true that I'm not going to write a book all about flourless chocolate cake, there's nothing wrong with testing the density of a few just in case I ever come up with a character who is obsessed with that delicious dessert. Likewise, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't compare said treat with, say, cheesecake to see which one creates stronger cravings and/or higher levels of satisfaction.

Sadly, my research is incomplete. I didn't realize it would be so hard to reach conclusions, and I'm thinking I'll have to add pecan pie, at least, into the mix in order to really understand this imagined character.

On other fronts, I realize that in my brief synopsis of my Scholastic visit, I failed to mention something that I think will be of interest to all my fellow writers: OH MY WORD that pile of manuscripts is really huge. I mean, I know we always hear editors talk about the big pile of manuscripts (whether they call it slush or whether it's solicited) they have to read, but when you actually see it up close and personal, you suddenly understand why it can take months and months to hear back. If they had no other work to do, it'd probably STILL take longer than we writers would like, but egad, it was quite something.

Actually, I would like to propose to all my editor-readers (or to any here who have editors' ears), that you think of installing a web-based "Slush Cam" so we can all see the giant pile in real time. Pick among yourselves who has the most absurd pile, and go from there. It'd be eye-opening... plus we writers could probably turn it into a drinking game as we anticipate when the next manuscript will be pulled from the pile. I know I'd watch, but I am a professional crastinator, after all.

Time to fly (literally), so I gotta book. See y'all in another state soooooon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crossing out of the blogosphere. And lunch!

Yesterday was quite a day in blog related action, as I met -- yes, MET -- two fellow bloggers who had only been cyber acquantainces before. Oh, yeah... I also had lunch with my editor. Ahhhh, I've wanted to say "my editor" for some time, so forgive me for not just saying "I had lunch with Arthur" or something less ME-based.

Lunch was nice, of course, and not business-y. I may even have had dessert, and if I did, it might've been warm berry crumble with mint-vanilla ice cream. But I won't say for sure. I also got to see the Scholastic offices, chat with the stupendous Rachel Griffiths again and meet editor and blogger extraordinaire Cheryl Klein. I also managed not to go broke in the Scholastic store. I view all of this as goooooood.

As if this wasn't enough, earlier in the morning, I'd met the funny and charming Fuse #8! It is true, as she oft states, that she works with the original Winnie the Pooh watching her. But what she's failed to mention is that Eeyore and Piglet are watching, too. That's a lot of pressure, though she clearly handles it with aplomb. Fuse becomes the first person I've met who I've only known from the blogosphere, so I view this as a day where somehow things moved to a different level. Don't know what that means, exactly, but it's another phrase I love saying since I think it leads to confusion and open-ended interpretation. Cool.

More later, but there's a big city out there and much to do. So I gotta book.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Sporadic Season

You may or may not see a dropoff in blog posts over the next short spell. It's vacation time in the land of GottaBook, though it's not as if I'm going to be where the Net don't shine. Whether I avail myself of the Net daily or not remains to be seen... though it's already well known that I do face a certain level of blogaddiction.

We can also view this as a test, since I'm bringing some 14 Fabulous Fibs work with me. Will I work or blog? Will I find ways to procrastinate on vacation? Is that an oxymoron? Tune in tomorrow (or in a day or two) and maybe I'll try and answer. But now it's time to pack, so I gotta book.

Friday, July 07, 2006

GOAL! -- A Soccer Poem

In honor of the World Cup final this weekend (and for Poetry Friday)...

Gregory K.

I scored a goal.
Oh, what a perfect day.
I kicked the ball so hard and true.
Oh, what a perfect play.

Why would you boo?
This always was my dream:
I shot it past the goalie and...
Oh, he’s on my team.

(for your procrastinatory pleasure, links to this and other poems here on GottaBook are collected to the right under the headline "The Poems".)

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

a single-phrase Search Fib

I have to give this one a title, as this is the longest search term that's brought anyone here and thus more than 20 syllables. When I first saw this phrase/sentence, I couldn't figure out how it would bring anyone to GottaBook... but this blog is where you'd end up if you clicked "I feel lucky" after typing it on Google. Go figure. Still, in truth, I find this plaintive/emotional and far more like a poem than many of the random collections I've called a Search Fib before. So, with no further ado:

Get Me a Site...

Will stand
A chance of
With people who are studious

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thousands of books!

Yes, it's school library time here again, even though I'm a volunteer librarian and even though it's summer. Weeding the collection is a big summer task for me but there's a sense of urgency: that which I can weed doesn't need to be packed up, as we're taking our wonderfully created elementary school library on the road to a new location. Ugh. And yay.

But here's my problem... I've started in the picture books, taking out multiples (either for classrooms or other schools). That's easy. But then there's just soooooo many books I still haven't read that I flip past looking for multiples. That's hard. I swear I'm the slowest weeder around, as I sit on the floor in an incredibly hot room and read book after book after book. I oooooh at art. I laugh at puns. I cringe at bad rhyme and nod at great imagery. Sometimes I find titles that, serviceable as they might be, we simply aren't going to have room for on our new shelves (and there's a good reason for that space problem, as I'll talk about at some point in the future). Those get weeded, too.

And slowly, with each pass through, I'm thinning out what's gotta be packed. Plus I've found a whole bunch o' books for next year's read-alouds. Today I should get to the end of the picture books... but I can't even imagine how long middle grade and young adult will take me. Ah well, at least I'm doing my summer reading....

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hard Work

You can tell the weather is turning to summer when even outlining on a yellow pad causes you to break into a sweat. And I'm not talking about a nervous "will I ever break the story???" sweat. It's just hot enough that it feels like manual labor.

I have been silent hereabouts cuz I'm in heavy work mode, and that's all good, but I truly do have withdrawal symptoms. I can't even imagine what'll happen when I take a vacation!

Hope those who get a long weekend enjoy it....