Friday, April 30, 2010

Reverse Schadenfreude?

It's no secret among my friends that I like messed-up memoirs. In fact, most of the non-fiction books I choose to read depict a world or situation I'm vaguely horrified by.

Recent reads include "Among the Thugs," about soccer hooligans in Europe; "Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams"; "Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China"; "Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea"; and "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective." Last night I started "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick.

Why do I read such downer books? Probably for the same reason I watch Intervention and Extreme Hoarders: not to delight in others' misfortunate, but to celebrate their hard-won victories, remind myself how lucky I am, and learn what life's like for people who A) grew up in other countries B) grew up in other time periods. Also, real life is definitely stranger than fiction, and can inspire me in different ways than fiction does.

If you read non-fiction, what topics pique your interest?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A note to inspire

"Who wants to become a writer? And why?... It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower of life, even if it's a cactus."

-- Enid Bagnold, British novelist and playwright

My mom sent me this quote in the mail a few years ago and it's had a home on my bulletin board ever since. Whenever I feel down about my writing or wonder what I'm doing, it perks me up.

Today's my birthday (my Facebook wall doesn't know what hit it) and I may be getting the most wonderful present later: a niece!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Quick Primer on E-Publishing

I have to admit I've been conspicuously avoiding most talk about e-books. When the words "e-publishing," "Kindle," "iPad," "Sony Reader," and "agency model" appear, my eyes kind of glaze over. I know I should be following this stuff. I know I should be informed.

Part of my hesitancy to delve into the topic is pure denial. (Always smart.) I'd like to think that someday I'll have a physical book on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar bookstore (another term that earns the Eye Glaze. "Brick and mortar"? Did anyone even use this phrase until recently?).

Because really, who dreams of one day having a downloadable file?

But last night I read a fantastic article, "Publish or Perish," in the New Yorker, about Kindle vs iPad, publishers' attempts to set prices with e-distributors, the hope that Apple may "save" the publishing business, and various insights from staffers at the six largest publishing houses.

And click ye here for Kristin Nelson's excellent posts on the Amazon / Macmillan war as it unfolded.

Friday, April 23, 2010

L.A. Times Book Festival and Another Idaho Pic

It's been quite a week! I returned from Idaho on Monday, got lotsa notes on my YA WIP (okay, a "yawip"  sounds like an exotic breed of dog, the bark the dog makes, or both) and tonight I've got a college friend visiting from out of town.

I also read two excellent books ("The Girl Who Fell From the Sky" by Heidi Durrow and "Albatross" by Josie Bloss).

If you live in L.A., be sure to check out the Festival of Books this weekend at UCLA. The line-up is amazing; guests include Meg Cabot and Dave Cullen.

And now, a random photo of Boise, taken by my husband. :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Trip to Idaho

I just returned from a lovely trip to Idaho, where my husband Joe is performing magic at Mystique restaurant in Boise for the month of April.

My agent-mate Natalie Bahm and her husband were kind enough to join me for a meal and show, and we got to chat reading and writing, which was really cool.

Fun fact: the Idaho state lotto features "Cheers" scratch-offs. It's almost like I designed it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Recommended Read: "The Tyranny of Email"

In "The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox", John Freeman explains how globalization, the concept of "now," and the synchronization of time have robbed us of a sense of leisure, personal and private life, the importance of local events, and even identity.

Disclaimer: Yes, I realize the irony of writing about the perils of the Internet while on the Internet. Also: I love Skyping with friends and family across the world, and I know email's an invaluable (and addictive) tool... I just like to occasionally assess my use of it, and I found Freeman's history of mail fascinating.

Here are some eye-opening tidbits from the book:

* Long before instant messages, texts, and Tweets, the postcard was blamed as the reason for the end of elegant composition; the "reason our daughters write like housemaids and express themselves like schoolboys." (Ha!)

* Oscar Wilde's telegram to his publisher, regarding book sales: "?"
The response: "!"

* 65% of North Americans spend far more time with their computer than their spouse.

* Because emails tend to look the same (and are read on a screen) there's no tactile sensation in the communication. In the past, different paper was used (formal letters used to be printed on heavy stock; telegrams with dire news were rimmed with black around the edges as a warning).

Want more? Check out Freeman's Manifesto for Slow Communication in the Wall Street Journal, from which I culled this: "The speed at which we do something -- anything -- changes our experience of it...not all judgments benefit from a short frame of reference... We need time in order to properly consider the effect of what we say upon others. We need time to shape and design and filter our words..."

(Good thing Google added that "unsend" button ;)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Typo City, Population: Me

Per Amy's suggestion, I've been reading my latest manuscript out loud to myself, and DANG there are a lot of typos. I also abuse certain words. Without plopping the whole text into, I predict that my most common offenders are:


How embarrassing! I'm purging my text of unnecessary qualifiers. I definitely recommend reading your work out loud because you really don't catch the same problems when skimming or reading silently. It's a bit tough and awkward at first, but worth it.

On the plus side, by the time I send it along to my agent it'll be in cleaner shape.

My voice will also be hoarse.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Commuter Mind-set

I've been commuting for a month now, and what have I learned?

If I leave at 10, I get to work at 11.

If I leave at 10:05, I get to work at 11.

If I leave at 10:15, I get to work at 11.

If I leave at 10:20, I get to work at 11.

For some reason, convincing myself of this basic fact has proven challenging.

Here's what usually happens. At 10, I think, "I should probably get going...but no, it's okay, wait just a bit longer for traffic to clear out."

At 10:05 I think, "Getting closer... but DON'T LEAVE yet, it'll just be bumper-to-bumper at at the 101."

10:10: "Don't do it... just WAIT... STEADY, STEADY..."

10:20: "OMG, GO! GO!"

Clearly, 10:15 is the golden moment. My best time heading in is 37 minutes, which is only about 10 minutes longer than my old commute. Woohoo.

Other things I've learned since moving: Santa Clarita doesn't have a police station. They have a Sheriff's Department! I feel so Veronica Mars.

P.S. I also have a commuter tan now, i.e. my right arm up to my shirtsleeve is tan, and the rest of me is pale.