Late dinner, alone

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I’m at Patsy’s right now, and it’s after 11. If that don’t beat all.

I miss this city. That’s never been something I’d hide. But I miss this city so bad. Thirty minutes ago I put a friend in a cab to hit the LES. I was this close to joining her, but I really can’t do the post-11 partying anymore, and I had the sense to withdraw for the night. So rather than head down to—let’s face it—my favorite Manhattan neighborhood to continue the schmoozing and boozing, I walked north, up 3rd Avenue, back toward the apartment that was so graciously handed over to me for two nights this weekend. On the way, somewhere within the first couple of blocks, I’m sure, I decided that at the first decent-looking pizza joint, I’d stop in and grab a quick slice—“not too hot!”—to eat as I walked. But I didn’t pass anyplace serving slices and open, other than Ray-Bari, and come on; I ain’t buying a slice from any Ray-Bari. So I had given up hope, and was all set to cross over to the west side of 3rd Avenue as I approached 60th Street, when the neon sign of Patsy’s hit me, just in the corner of my eye, and I went inside. How could I resist?

Of course, one of the few true VPN joints in the Midwest, possibly in the whole US, is one of my favorite pizza places in Saint Paul. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before, and if not, I sure should have. But still; there’s something about a pie from Patsy’s—and, let’s face it, after a couple of highballs (we each must remember J. D. Salinger in our own way), and a long night of meeting not only ENIV and uber-successful Tenner Suzanne Young, but a number of other SCBWI members in various stages of publication and pre-publication—that to me at this moment felt well deserved.

The conference will continue tomorrow. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I plan to show up in my brown Jack Purcells and a comfortable pair of khakis, knowing full well that this trip to NY has paid off beautifully already.

Did I mention I miss it? Dear Brooklyn, I’m sorry I’m not going to get out there this trip. In May, we’ll hook up in a big way.

Anyway, I'll have more to say on the conference when I get home. I miss my wife and son so much. I'm sure everyone I've met has been thrilled to look at the lo-res photos on my phone.

*This post written at Patsy's, but uploaded in the morning from the main conference room at the Hyatt, Grand Central Terminal.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

I recently mentioned this: Exile in Goyville has been up for a little over a year now. In that year-plus, I've written briefly about two influences of mine at the time of their deaths. First was John Updike, then John Hughes. Neither of them has influenced me as much JD Salinger. Salinger's writing not only influenced my writing--my voice and choice of protagonist, for example, and the way I occasionally lean heavily on sarcasm and on the word "goddamn"--but also my real voice, my actual voice that I use to, ya know, talk.

I don't have anything rich to add to everything else people are writing all over the goddamn place right now. I'll just link to the AE's post on the subject, and over to the New Yorker, where you can find links to 12 of the 13 stories Salinger published in that phony magazine.

Now, won't you join me in sitting cross-legged under a table, waiting for the news to drop like an A-bomb that the film rights to Catcher have been optioned?

Big, cold week

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's super cold out again. We had a mini-March of sort for the last seven days or so, but as of yesterday, and certainly as of today if my cold toes are to be trusted, January is back, 110%. Let's all put our heads down against the wind and get through it.

That is, as soon as I get back from New York. I'll grant you, New York isn't much of a respite from winter blues, but it's a little one, if your winter blues are Minnesotan -- especially if while in New York you get to go to the SCBWI Annual Conference! Which of course I do. I'm extra excited (and nervous) this year because I get to meet my inimitable agent, ENIV, and hopefully a handful of Tenners, of which I've met exactly none, at least in person. Online we are not counting for these purposes. Or porpoises. I have a cold and feel very foggy in the head, but I'm sure I mean "purposes" or "porpoises."

I like dolphins.

Yesterday morning, I finally decided to send a finished draft of YA MS the Third to ENIV. I know it's not perfect, so yesterday's decision was about letting it not be perfect, after lying awake night and night and anguishing over every paragraph and plot decision for the past several months. I think it's good. I think it still could use some work, but let's remember that agents and editors (if this book ends up seeing any) are very helpful people when it comes to creating a book. Now, I will look forward to hearing from ENIV and his thoughts on what I've written.

Is it okay to say I know a lot of it is really good?

Now, back to life. Everyone here is sick with a cold; Sam probably picked it up at the Rosedale Mall play area late last week, and has been good enough to share it with myself and my wife since then, by all manner of coughing and sneezing on our faces.

Resolutions, but not the kind you expect

Monday, January 18, 2010

You'll notice I haven't posted any resolutions this January. I suppose I could--like finishing both my YA WIPs; like cutting my cholesterol and getting back on my bike this spring--but I don't feel like it. So let's just say it's those three things and move on.

Here's a rare Sam update: We got him this little blue chair, still a little big for his modest frame. Still, he uses it well. He pushes it all over the house, then uses it to climb up to places he ought not, like toy chest tops and kitchen counters and dining room tables. So that's fun.

Beth has taken to bakin'. There is fresh bread all the time. It's fantastic.

Today was red-carpet day in children's books, as most of you probably know, and I have a lot of reading to do, for sure. You may recall a mention of one winner here at the Exile some time ago. I loved it then and am happy with the choice, for sure.

But awards day is something else to me too. It's a day I get particularly fired up to do the hard work it takes to write a really good book. Last year, I had just submitted a complete MS to the AE for the first time, and was taking a little break before shooting off to SCBWI in NYC. This year, I haven't submitted anything to anyone in far too long, and I have a week and a half and a couple of write days and nights before SCBWI in NYC. So I plan to take advantage of the ALA-inspired fire in my gut. With that in mind, I'm making not New Year's resolutions, as I mentioned above, but instead, ALA Awards Resolutions:

1. YA MS the Third: this thing has been sitting about twenty feet from the goal line for months, no exaggeration. Plenty of excuses, but no exaggeration. There are a few scenes I know I need to write, but that will also mean lots of revisions to existent scenes that I love and don't want to revisit. That idiocy ends now. The work will get done on Wednesday and Saturday.

2. YA MS the Second: this needs a synopsis. This time last year, I thought I was about to finish it. I had written about 40k in about a month, and was loving every minute of it. Then plot holes and wrong turns reared their ugly heads (as did another book by a brilliant writer also about a girl and her werewolf man), so I put it on the back burner and have only tweaked it slightly over the last year. That idiocy ends now. I will synopsize this beast by the middle of February.

And that's it. Beyond February 15 (happy seventh birthday, Harry!), I'm not making any promises. Sure, there's that middle grade series that I want to rewrite YA, and there's the story of a couple of background characters in |-1| I want to revisit, but I'll probably make a nice set of post-BEA resolutions.

Oh, and I promise to blog more. Natch.

SAHD blues

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This has never been a blog about being a stay-at-home dad. There are plenty of such blogs out there, many worth a read. Still, I recently was made aware of this song from A Prairie Home Companion, and feel compelled to share the lyrics. They're really spot-on as to how it feels out there some days.

I bundle up Moira and Kate
And take them to ballet which is great
And I sit and read a book in the hall
And mothers do not talk to me at all.

They sit down at their end and I at mine
And they glance my way from time to time
And those little glances really hurt:
I can see that they are thinking: per-vert.

Read the whole thing and listen to the song here.

THE SECRET YEAR, and a chance to win

Monday, January 11, 2010

I've been away too, too long. But I'm back with a bang, because today is your second chance to enter the big Tenners giveaway, launched weeks ago with this post. As a reminder, the prize to one lucky winner is an ARC of THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 signed by myself, Dia Reeves, Heidi R. Kling, Jennifer Hubbard, and Phoebe Kitanidis, and hopefully others. Also, because Dia Reeves is hell of cool, we've added a final copy of her debut BLEEDING VIOLET, signed by Dia, to the booty! And who knows--maybe the prize will continue to grow.

Meanwhile, back to our scheduled programming. Following is a guest post written by the amazing and talented Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR, which I got to read an ARC of and can comfortably say it's great: beautiful writing, and truly does evoke this Outsiders meets Romeo & Juliet thing we keep hearing. It's out now; here's a link to buy it! And here's Jenn:

The topic of “fish out of water” is interesting because there are so many characters in The Secret Year who use labels on themselves and each other, who say that certain people only “belong” in one part of town. And yet, individual characters keep breaking out of those boxes as people do in real life. The fish keep flying out of the water.

In The Secret Year, the dividing line is based on socioeconomic classes, but in other places it could play out along racial, ethnic, or religious differences. The main characters—Colt and Julia—actually use their respective labels to enhance their own secret relationship. Defying expectations, stomping all over the boundary that is supposed to divide them, excites them. They even play up that dividing line, joking about it, needling each other over it, exaggerating its importance. And yet it affects them more deeply in ways they don’t understand and don’t fully acknowledge. Several times, they find the ground slipping from beneath them when they’re suddenly confronted with what they believe about themselves and each other. Colt has to face a lot of his own self-deceptions: about his emotional involvement with Julia, about how secrecy affects relationships, and about the ways he is and isn’t a fish out of water.

Thanks, Jenn!

To enter to win (see above for the prize description), please comment here and for extra entries let me know that you've linked this contest, or Twittered it, or bought a local billboard along the freeway, or whatever. (If you did that last one, you get a hundred million entries, wow.) If you comment here and at the first post, that's two entries, remember. So comment here too!

And only enter if you're 13 or older and in Canada or the US, please. Also, I should probably mention there's some naughty words in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1, so if that kind of thing is likely to upset you, please don't enter. Thanks!