Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Normally I love Halloween. It's one of my favourite events of the year. But this year, Halloween is turning out rotten. First, I had to return home after I'd just gotten to town because a certain someone who shall remain nameless (he knows who he is) forgot his keys and I had to let him in the house. There went my original plan to walk the track and feel self-righteous about exercising two times this week (couldn't do it later because there's only a certain timeframe the rec centre says you can do it).

So I returned to town to go to the coffee shop to use their wireless connection. Couldn't get my laptop to connect no matter what I did. Got a signal just fine but couldn't get either one of my browsers to go to any websites whatsoever. Grumpily, I decided to try the library since I'd pretty much finished my coffee and bagel by the time I gave up.

Went to the library and got the password but NO. No can connect there either. They had just switched to a newer and bigger, better network so apparently my dinosaur of a laptop is no longer able to use it. Couldn't even get the wireless signal to come up. Seriously, I was in there Tuesday using it and it worked just fine!!! Drat, drat, drat.

Signed in to use the last available desktop at same library. It wouldn't recognize my flash drive. No can update this blog then with lovely above pumpkin photo. Tried to do something else. Said I had to install software to download an mp3 file I'd previously purchased, and if you've ever tried to install something onto a library computer you know that's really, really not allowed. Tried to update some of my online stuff and was told the browser wasn't current enough to display things properly. ##$@!#@# Gave up. Did the groceries and came home. I probably forgot something I really needed.

So here I am at a different library using their last available desktop computer but at least it recognizes my flash drive. (Forget uploading photos from home because I'm apparently only eligible for dial up--the desperate search for better continues).

I haven't put up any Halloween decorations yet. We haven't carved our pumpkins yet (yes, there they are above from a couple weeks ago and so they pretty much remain). Am I being plagued by gremlins? ghosts? Feels like it.

Halloween so far stinks! Maybe I should dress up in my witch costume so I can at least look the way I feel. One good thing: the weather is cooperating and we may not have to wear our arctic gear under our costumes tonight.

I know, nothing is really all that bad so I should just quit whining. I will. Soon...maybe I just need some chocolate.

Happy Halloween all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How Can I Quit Reading?

I love to read. I have a pile of books to read that my friends have lent me. I find it hard to leave a school book fair without buying something, and I have real trouble resisting just one little bookstore book purchase. And through all this I keep going to the library to borrow more.

Writers are supposed to be readers, aren't we? But here's the problem:
I'm coming to the conclusion that if I read less I might actually write more. As in, if I put some of that time into my own writing I might have more to market. If I start reading, and if it's a good book, I have real trouble putting it down. I want to finish it right away. So what can I do?

I could quit cold turkey. But what would I do without a book when I wait for one of my kids at skating or jazz or hockey practice? What would I do without a book when I have to take them to some appointment or other? What would I do without a book when I'm waiting for dinner to cook? Oops, maybe that one I can do without. (Yes, I have been known to stir dinner with one hand and read with the other!)

Anyone else have this problem? How do you moderate your reading habit?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Foliage at the 45th Finale (Part 6)

So I was going to say that the only deciduous leaves left are the oaks and some stubborn maples. That's true. But today there was something else on the trees: snow. AAAACCCKKK!!!

Yep, proof. Snow on the brown oak leaves. And since it was a wet dumping it clings to everything. Here it is below attached to the trees.
Say this with me five times with feeling, please: It will melt, it will melt.


I'm so not ready for this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hazard of the Profession

So I’m sitting in the stands in an arena, because I am in arenas a lot between my kids’ figure skating or hockey, and I’m reading a book. But since I write for kids I’m reading a book for kids: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney. After my daughter got it out of the library and gobbled it up, then my son grabbed it and declared it a winner, so it was my turn at last.

Okay, so anyway I’m reading it and chuckling away when another skater’s mother walked by behind me. She checked out my book, and I’m sure it wasn’t just my imagination that “my” book’s graphic presentation, the large typeface, the cartoons, caused a raised eyebrow. She proceeded to sit down in the next seat section and pull out a Norah Roberts paperback.

Guess I’m not up to that standard of reading yet.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Foliage at the 45th (Part 5)

The colours don't get any better than this. I'd say we have reached peak colour. Since this past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving it couldn't have happened at a better time.

Some of the treetops are getting bare. Won't be long now till they're totally bare. Sigh.

See previous Foliage installments starting here.

All Together Now, One, Two, Three:

Another one of those writing things that bugs me (see previous rant on screaming) is when writers have their characters say things all together or altogether or they all answer in unison. It always makes me stop short. It kicks me out of that story world. Yes, if you're old enough to have heard a record scratching then I hear a record scratching. Insert said sound.

Do people act like this in reality? Does more than one kid say the exact same sentence at exactly the same time?

"We want some of your chocolate chip cookies, Mommy," the three kids all said together.*
* [Don't even get me started on the proliferation of chocolate chip cookies in stories]

Come on, no way, right? Are they reading a script? Are those kids robots? So don't write that in your stories.

I get that sometimes people will say sort of the same thing more or less together. Maybe everyone cheers or boos or hollers or something. That's fine. But not in complete sentences.

Maybe it's more like:
"Mom, can I have a cookie?" Carson asked.
"Yeah, me too," said Mark. "Chocolate chip, please."
"And me!" added Stanley. "Don't forget me!"

Wordier, definitely, but definitely more realistic.

So does this "all together thing" ever work? Are you dying to tell me you've seen it in: insert title here? Yes, you know there are always exceptions. But the one I can think of is a lot of years old. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper has reams of characters saying the exact same sentence at the exact same time ("said all the dolls and toys together"). So why does it work?

Simple: It's old.

So it's allowed to sound old, or okay, old-fashioned. Think of the precedent set by all kinds of voices reciting a single sentiment in unison: the chorus in Greek tragedies. Hey, it works too, but like it's a Greek tragedy. Is that the flavour you want to invoke for your writing voice?

So yes, if you want to create an old-fashioned feel or a folk tale or a large tale or even a bunch of robots then by all means give it a try. But don't insert this in the middle of your modern story or you'll hear that record scratching (oh, okay, maybe a CD skipping...or the sudden silence of crickets chirping after someone yanks your iPod ear buds outta your ears).

(Disclaimer: Lizann really does enjoy her work as an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature, where she can help writers not to do this. Unless of course they really want to.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Foliage at the 45th (Part 4)

This past week I was lucky enough to be driving through Algonquin Park. I could have stopped to admire the view at least 18 times. But the view above was one that I couldn't pass by.

If I turned around this was the view behind me. Not so bad either. I particularly like that moose danger sign you can sorta see. But just as I was snapping this photo with my tiny Kodak, about four or five other cars pulled in behind me one after the other. Out jumped people with seriously huge telephoto lenses: Serious photographers. So me and my little pocket model sorta slunk away.

Back at home this week we had a couple sunny days. At this time of year when the sky is sunny it can be so blue it practically hurts your eyes. The fall sky is my favourite sky, absolutely! And when you look down we're starting to get the leaf carpet.

Leaf fights, pile jumping, here we come!!

See the previous installments starting here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

After the Agents' Day

Lucky me, I got to go out and about as an author this weekend as I attended the SCBWI Canada East Agents' Day in Ottawa, Ontario. Okay, so I wasn't merely attending. I was part of the organizing group for this event. But that aside, I always find so much benefit to mingling with others writers and with illustrators. We all work alone, so it's always helpful to connect with others who face the same issues.

We heard from speakers Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary and Rebecca Sherman of Writers House. Both did a fantastic job of explaining what an agent does, why you would want one, and how best to go about acquiring one. The panel session of first pages, where anonymous manuscript first pages were read aloud and the agents had to comment on their reactions to the pieces, was truly educational. If you've never attended a session like that then I highly recommend you find one.

So I returned home tired, inspired, and newly determined to polish my work only to face a mountain of laundry and a birthday cake that needed baking. It's good to remain grounded, no?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Foliage at the 45th (Part 3)

There are so many great spots to see spectular scenery around here. This is in Huntsvile, Ontario. Those are sumac trees that you can see on the lower left.Then a couple days later, as I was going on a grocery run, the view made me stop for a minute to just enjoy the colour.
The trees fairly glow if the sun is out. We have had rain most of this past week but so far it hasn't knocked off too many of the leaves. Fortunately we're not at the raking stage yet.

Colour, colour everywhere! You'd think I'd get tired of looking at leaves.

Not yet!

See earlier editions of this year's foliage starting here.