This day is totally humped.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It’s Wednesday. The work-a-day, rat-race, Office Space world calls it “hump day.” That’s always sounded vaguely (or not vaguely) vulgar to me. Then again, I’m a tremendous prude. For me, it’s not hump day. In fact, most weeks I think of Wednesday and Thursday as my weekend, as that’s when the boy goes to pre-school, and I can get stuff done around the house and get a fair amount of writing done as well. They’re often excellent days.

Today, though, is a crappy hump day, by most indicators. The boy was anguished at pre-school drop-off this morning, which puts a steaming pile of dung on my whole morning. Weather wise, there’s no sun. It’s gray and raining. This is never good for my soul, though as a teen and twenty-something I think I liked to pretend I was the type to really get my jollies on a day like this. And finally, I just learned my car—which went in a for a simple oil change—needs about a grand worth of work.

So! Here’s what’s going to get me through the afternoon:

1. I wrote my post for Boys Don’t Read. Two days early.

2. Any day now, I will get an email telling my Star Wars: The Old Republic account is active, and I can start playing the new MMO. I was in the beta testing on this one, and I can tell you: it’s excellent. If you’re a Bioware fan, this will not disappoint. (If you haven’t liked Bioware, you won’t like this either, I think.)

3. The weather is by miles preferable to the typical December day around here, which would have a foot of snow already on the ground, bone-chilling cold and wind, and probably another foot of snow falling.

4. The car. This might be the nail in its coffin. And that means I’ll get a new car. Which sounds fun!

Giving thanks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving. If you’re reading this on Turkey Day itself, you’re probably taking a moment away from the festivities . . . and away from your family. Hell, I hope like crazy that you’re also a blogger and writing an entry right now so I have something to read when I take my next break from the family.

But it is Thanksgiving, and down there someplace it is a holiday that’s meant to be about something more than turkey and stuffing, and more than pilgrims and natives, and more than the Lions and the Cowboys. It’s about remembering what we’re thankful for, and that—for most of us—includes family.

For some of us—even if we’re thankful for family—family might not be there for us. That’s why there are groups like YouthLinkMN. And that’s why I’m excited about the Brooklyn, Burning/#FridayReads promotion and fundraising we’re holding through the end of the year.

The details are here, but I want to add this: even if B,B ain’t your Friday Read—even if you’ve read it already, or won't read it till 2015, or never plan to read it—if you’ve got a photo of you holding the book, or holding your e-reader with B,B loaded, you can tweet that with the #FridayReads hashtag, and you’ll (just like that!) earn ten bucks for YouthLinkMN.

It’s an important group, doing important work, especially as we enter the holiday season—and with it, the cold long Minnesota winter. We've raised a little already, but I'd really like to hit our donation maximum of $1000. Please help out. There are a few Fridays left in 2011!

#FridayReads and YouthLink fundraiser

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ETA: Thanks to Bryan Bliss, the donation per #FridayReads tweet is now TEN DOLLARS, which makes the maximum give a full thousand dollars.

I'm dusting off the blog. This is important.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, "more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care" ( Among homeless youth, LGBTQ youths are disproportionately represented. It's not a great stretch to assume that these kids sexuality and their parents' inability to accept and approve is the core of the problem.

That's from the author's note in Brooklyn, Burning.

This is YouthLink. Read their "about" page, and read about their intervention services. They offer a place to hang out, help with education and career, and even a place to live.

And here's the point: beginning this Friday, and continuing on all Fridays right up till December 23, the Friday before Christmas, I'll be keeping a close eye on #FridayReads. For every #FridayReads for Brooklyn, Burning, I'll donate five dollars to YouthLink*. I'll also encourage readers to do the same, either by matching my five bucks, or by donating whatever you can.

Thanks. Please help spread the word.

*Details: Tweet must be on a Friday between 9/23/2011 and 12/23/2011, and must include the hashtag #fridayreads and my Twitter handle @sbrezenoff, and must include a photo of tweeter holding a copy of Brooklyn, Burning. It can totally be a library copy, so no purchase necessary. One donation per tweeter. Also, my limit is $500, because I am not a wealthy man.

Two stars.

Friday, July 29, 2011

In today's high-speed, Twittery world, this is undoubtedly old news, but I wanted a good forum to quote from the two starred reviews Brooklyn, Burning has received in the last couple of weeks.

From Publishers Weekly: "For readers with little use for labels, it's an intimate yet wonderfully open rock ‘n' roll love story."

And from Kirkus: "A lyrical, understated punk-kid love song to Brooklyn and to chosen family" and "Overall, the tone is as raw, down-to-earth and transcendent as the music Scout and Kid ultimately make together."

The full text of the Kirkus review will be on their site in the next few weeks, closer to the official release date.

Wasted youth.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A man whom I hardly know put a photo on the internet that depressed me deeply.

Well, that's a little misleading. The man in question was a member of my high school graduating class (Roslyn High School, 1992; go Hilltoppers! Err, Bulldogs!*), and though we weren't in quite the same social circle in our school daze, we did have some friends in common. We were also unflichingly of the left. I remember fondly one time in particular in Economics class that we bombarded our teacher with leftist arguments while she tried to teach the roots of capitalism in America. Poor lady.

The Dead at their most relevant

Anyway, the point is if there is one realm in which this boy (now gentleman) and I didn't see eye to eye, it was music. That's because I spent the years from 1988 till 1992 (give or take) interested almost exclusively in music recorded between 1967 (say, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, or the Grateful Dead's eponymous debut) and--well, as long as the Dead recorded it, there was really no end date. I wore Pink Floyd shirts throughout middle school. I wore Jethro Tull shirts, Led Zeppelin, and of course tie-dye after tie-dye. There was a never-ending stream of Dead shirts.

The Dead at their least relevant, when I saw them eleven times

This other boy (the one who recently posted a photo; try to keep up) was what I would have called New Wave. I think that's appropriate. NIN leather jacket. Jane's Addicition. Depeche Mode. The Cure. All that sort of thing. It was very of the now (then), without being Top 40. Keep in mind most of the years in question are 1991 or earlier, and as we all know, 1991 is the year punk broke. So in 1992, when I finally began to come around to my own generation's music, the rest of the country was coming around too.

The Blake Babies, my favorite band (and genuinely of my own generation) when I was 19 and 20 or so, by which time they had recently broken up. Sad face

The late '80s and early '90s were something of a renaissance of Classic Rock, perhaps. I think some of us were--in our deluded minds--rebelling against an over-produced sound that seemed to dominate the contemporary music. Turns out, that was a pretty shallow attitude, which is ironic, because we thought we were being deep, I assure you.

So what was the picture he posted? A collage of his collected ticket stubs from circa 1990. They were from some great bands, most of which no longer exist. If I were to create a similar collage from that era, it would be 90% Grateful Dead stubs, and here's where the depression comes in. By obsessing over music from the past--some have called it "our parent's music"; to be fair, not the case, since my parents were jazz and Broadway fans--I ignored (and therefore forever missed) the music of my own generation. I can listen to it now, and I do, but I'll always know I wasn't a part of it, during its heyday, and its era of creation and greatest relevance.

This is probably much ado about nothing. If you haven't noticed, I tend to do that. Now I better connect it to young adult literature. Shouldn't be a problem, because in a lot of YA lit (and teen movies, actually), protagonists focus on nostalgia culture. In King Dork and The House of Tomorrow**, music-obsessed characters hold the progenitors of punk and New Wave up on high, and seem to think nothing of their contemporary music. (You'll often find the same tendency when it comes to film teens.)

Maybe it's a symptom of writing for people twenty years younger, but is it a problem? Does the story lose verisimilitude if the main characters don't adhere to their own generation's art? Of course not. Though most of my friends didn't share my extreme Deadication, we all had our "thing": one of us was big into be-bop and Kerouac; another stuck with Tull; another Led Zep; and another adored Ronald Reagan. Don't ask.

The point is, do teens really look in the way-back machine for cultural icons? Of course, and teen lit doesn't lose any believability by doing the same. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to shake the protagonist who wants to join the Rat Pack (or nowadays, even the Brat Pack), or form the next Ramones, or talk like Clark Gable, or dance like Betty Hutton, and shouting, "Live in the now, dammit! It won't be now very long!" Then I'd walk off grumbling, "Youth is wasted on the young."

I must be getting old.

*Some teams were the Hilltoppers (like track), and some were the Bulldogs (like football). Who knows.

The House of Tomorrow was not marketed as a YA novel, but it is one. If you like realistic YA, go read it. Right now. Go. Why are you still sitting there?

The latest article on YA fiction.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Attacks on YA literature don't generally faze me. I can take it. The recent kerfuffle, for example, about how dark the literature is and presumably how damaging, while slightly irritating, is a normal reaction to teen culture. Similar diatribes have been spewed from similarly puritan mouths for decades. (See "hips, Elvis," "haircuts, Beatles," and "Manson, Marilyn.") The teens think it's hilarious, I assure you, and as the creators and reviewers of YA literature, we should take it in stride. No one of worth is taking such ideas seriously, and it probably helps sell books.

But an article from Slate and making the Twitter rounds right now is pissing me off.

That's because this article doesn't just attack the literature and the authors thereof. (The article's authors are new authors of YA literature themselves, and are probably leaning on the old "Jewish Joke" law: humor that deprecates an entire group is okay as long as the tellers are members of that group.) If it did, I'd roll my eyes, and then roll over and go back to sleep.

But this article implies quite a little bit about the readers of young adult fiction, giving them perhaps even less credit than Cox Gurdon even did. While her article suggested that teens are impressionable (I suppose they are) and should be protected from art (go eat a bag of dicks), this article suggests that teens are something worse than impressionable and weak children: they are vapid.

But readers in Y.A. don't care about rumination. They don't want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973.

Clearly I have been wasting my time, torturing myself over tiny portions of prose. Perhaps I do struggle a little too valiantly when I describe the tone of a guitar, or the grittiness in a singer's voice, or how good the Coke is at a bar in Greenpoint. But I don't think so. And many teen readers hopefully won't think so either.

And here's another hot tip: YA fiction includes literary fiction, despite what the authors might have you believe. YA fiction includes work-for-hire series (like yours, authors of that article), and it includes mysteries and romances and paranormal and novels that have been the blood and soul and very breath of the author for a decade or more, just like real grown-up books.

And you know what else? Adult fiction includes a tremendous amount of crap, the authors of which very definitely did not struggle to create, and did not spend hours on a single paragraph, and did not write draft upon draft of each chapter. They wrote it "fast and loose," to use the article authors' expression, and this reader, for one, can tell.

So please. In the future remember that if you write fast and loose, and if you have no respect for your audience, it doesn't mean everyone writing in your genre, in your demographic, in your coffee shop, is harboring the same nasty ideas about fiction.

Now if, on the other hand, you wrote that article trying to sell your book and knowing that the YA blogosphere and Twittersphere likes to rail against stuff like this, and so will probably link your article all over the place, well . . . kudos. Good thinking. But your series sounds terrible.

Voices wanted.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

There's a certain aspect of Brooklyn, Burning that I don't often talk about--at least not in public circles--because I'd rather readers not know about it when they pick up the book. I'm not going to talk about it now, but I will talk around it a little.

It boils down to this: I have a big box of Brooklyn, Burning finals at my feet right now, and I have an almost-finished trailer on my hard drive. What I'd very much like is to give away some of those finals, and finish the trailer.

The trailer needs voice-overs. Most of you reading this have voices. If you give them to me, I will give you a final. It's as simple as that: I have seven lines, and they need seven voices.

To get a final of Brooklyn, Burning, all you have to do is record one of those lines in your voice (on something like Audacity, which is free), and get the file to me. BAM! Free signed book.

Plus, you know . . . you'll be part of the voice-over for the Brooklyn, Burning trailer.

I'm going to take the first seven people I get, with one caveat: I need at least three boy voices, and at least three girl voices. The seventh . . . that can be a wild card. If it comes down to a tie, I suppose I'll have to make a judgment call based on your acting skills! Pray it doesn't come to that. Oh, and please be thirteen or older.

So, to volunteer, please comment on this post, or @ me on Twitter, or drop a comment on the Brooklyn, Burning Facebook page. Then I'll contact you with the line I'd like you to record.

I hope this works, because I really want to finish this trailer, and I really want to give you a book!

ETA: Only three lines remain, and I'm looking for only BOY voices now, as of 8 pm on June 2.

ETA 2: ALL DONE. We have all seven lines and all seven voices, as of 8:53 on June 2. It worked! Thanks, everyone.

More BEA stuff.

I told you I was a total zombie mess the other day. It stands to reason I would have forgotten some BEA-related things I meant to mention. Here they are, in no particular order.

I got this sweet watch. It's a G train watch, so it represents my time in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but more importantly it represents Brooklyn, Burning, in which Greenpoint is essentially a freaking character. Here's the designer site, and if you like it and want one, you can totally get one too!

Also, I met Jamie, who came in second in the recent Twitter/blog/Facebook three-words hometown contest. She won a signed copy of The Absolute Value of -1, and through hell and highwater (and my own forgetfulness), I eventually managed to get it to her! Here's a photo of us, after she had forgiven me for forgetting the book a couple of times.

Also, I met David, the Largehearted Boy, which was excellent for a couple of reasons. First, heck of a guy, with a great blog--music and books, people. What else is there? Nothing, that's what. Second, he told me an event he planned for September in Brooklyn for myself and another author is confirmed! I'll have the details for you soon. Here's a hint: it's in Greenpoint. Also, since this is a Largehearted Boy event, there will be live music.

Finally, Beth and I had lunch with the inimitable ENIV, and he let me pitch all four of my WIPs at him in rapid succession, and one of them got him all excited, so I know where to direct my energies now! It's a good feeling. Over the next couple of months, I have my work cut out for me, but I know it will be worth it, and that's nice.


BEA wrap-up

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm exhausted. I'm beyond exhausted. Zombies are productive, coherent, and fine company compared to me right now. They also probably smell better. To the right is an actual photo from the Javits Center, taken at 8 this morning. I totally swear.

BEA is over. Some awesomeness that occurred for me:

My (more exhausted than me, I've no doubt, since she was at the expo three days in a row and probably needs new feet) wife scored me an ARC of Sara Zarr's new one, How to Save a Life, and I've already started it and it's excellent, and I wonder if maybe it's her best work! Honestly, Mandy is a character you will not soon forget.

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting (and briefly discussing beer with) Lisa McMann. Bonus: scored an ARC of the The Unwanteds, too.

And finally, right time/right place, I was the first lucky stiff to grab Micol Ostow's autograph on my hardcover of Family. Score.

For me and my book, the crux of it was an hour this morning. That's when I signed the first shipment of Brooklyn, Burning finals. The cover is shiny!

So the signing went well. I was super happy and shocked to see people lining up even a little in advance of the scheduled signing time.

Speaking of shiny finals, my author copies should be arriving soon. When they do, more giveaways are totally in the stars, I think. Don't you?

I have some exciting event news as well, but I'm not telling you yet, because I want it to get its own freaking blog entry. Or else I'll just shout it on Twitter. I don't know.

Winners announced, and BEA.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My trip to New York for BEA and more begins tomorrow, at the crack of holy crap it's early.

I announced the winners of the ARC giveaway. I did so on Twitter, since both winners Twittered their entries. For your enjoyment, here they are:

So anyway. BEA. I'll be at the tail end of the SLJ Day of Dialogue. I'm not sure what I'll be doing there. Signing books? Meeting librarians? Both seem fun! I'll also be at the expo itself, signing copies of Brooklyn, Burning on Thursday at 9:30 in the autographing area. I hope to see some of you there!

In other news, I've started yet another project, with three unfinished WIPs already up to my knees. I hope my agent won't murder me when I see him in New York.

Three great things and a free ARC.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It's almost one now, so the morning is officially over, and it couldn't end soon enough. It sucked. The upshot is that I need a new right-side mirror for my car and I might have a stomach bug.

My wife has a photography blog. Its theme, as the name says, is "one great thing" from the day. It's an exercise, if you like, that forces her to focus on the positive. So this afternoon, I'm taking a cue from her. Here are some things I saw today that I enjoyed:

  • A man of about 70 with a proud Elvis Presley hairstyle. Bonus because he was in a work shirt with a name patch: Steve.
  • A woman, probably 50 or so years old and heavyset, wearing a gleaming white cloak and a leather satchel around her mid-section, hanging from shoulder to hip such that the pockets sat on her belly and chest. A Celtic-looking medallion hung from her neck.
  • "Walk with Prehistoric Beasts" is on Netflix Watch Instantly. I like the bear dogs.

I suppose that'll do for now. In other news, Brooklyn, Burning is now at 100+ adds on Goodreads, so the ARC contest has begun. To enter, comment here, on the Brooklyn, Burning Facebook page, or on Twitter (be sure to @ me: sbrezenoff) with three words that sum up why you love your hometown/city/neighborhood. For example, in Brooklyn, Burning, Kid sums up Brooklyn like this: "blocks and bridges and bottles." Three words! One winner will receive an ARC of Brooklyn, Burning. Second place gets a copy of |-1|.

EDIT: The contest ends at midnight on MONDAY, May 16.


Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm kind of excited! So excited, in fact, that I'm actually posting on my blog.

The Absolute Value of -1 has been awarded the gold medal IPPY award for juvenile/young adult fiction in a tie with Holly Schindler's A Blue So Dark!

An early review.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The first blog review of Brooklyn, Burning is in, and it comes from fellow Minnesota writer Kelly Barnhill, author of The Mostly True Story of Jack (which I called the most naturally magical book I've read since The Dark Is Rising).

Here's a nice bit:

This is a beautiful book--big-hearted, and tough; clear-eyed and brave. The prose reads insistent as a song, breaking the heart again and again and again.

Read the whole thing at Kelly's blog, or at YA-5.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boy, I just don't blog anymore at all, do I?

Today I have to share a few links. Should be fun.

First and foremost, please pop over to Jen's blog for the big Brooklyn, Burning cover reveal, including the three blurbs I teased about a few weeks ago (see if you can guess which blurber is which in that teaser post), and a sneak-peek at the first chapter.

Then, if you're a blogger/reviewer, head over to NetGalley's Brooklyn, Burning page to request a digital ARC.

You can also check out the official Brooklyn, Burning page at my author website, which is for some reason a distinct entity from this blog.

Finally, if you're so inclined, roll on down to Brooklyn, Burning's Facebook page and click the like button. It'll make you feel good.

Good reads.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I don't make friends easily. Never have. I'm the sort of person who has a good friend here, and a good friend there, and they mean the world to me. But most people, I just don't have the will or drive or what have you to befriend closely. I've never understood the sort who seem to make friends everywhere, and have endless plans for brunch.

I think I'm the same way with books and authors. I'm perhaps too often too quick to give up on a book after 50 pages. Or less. I've been known to put a book aside with only 40 or 50 pages left, even. My point isn't that I have magically high standards and everyone else is a chump. It's simply that I'm wired to love very little, and love that little quite a lot.

So when I do finish a book, chances are very good that I'll talk it up a lot and swoon over the author for the rest of my natural life.

This is all a preamble to the blurb announcements I am dying to make, because they come from three people whose books I finished, adored, and will swoon over. Each of the writers in question means something very different to me, when it comes to young adult literature. It can be said, for example, that one is in my opinion a master of language. This author's work with prose itself is exceptional and should be emulated, or at least honored. Another of these authors, to me, is a genius of emotion and voice. A reader aches for that author's characters and gets lost in their heads. The third is a master of writing for young people, and has nearly two decades of brilliant work to prove it.

I've been crazy lucky when it comes to blurbs, which is why I'm chomping at the bit to reveal the three that will adorn BROOKLYN, BURNING. But I have been instructed to wait. For now, though, I want to do something, so I've decided to launch a Goodreads ARC giveaway--as soon as BROOKLYN, BURNING has 100 adds. As I publish this post, it has 14.

Go forth and add!

Summing Up

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm terrible at the so-called elevator pitch. I know it sounds grandiose and obnoxious, but the idea of summing up a novel--something I lived and breathed for months and months, even years and years, such that the characters were like real people I knew, and often spotted in public--just doesn't come naturally for me. The point is, if you ask me what BROOKLYN, BURNING is about, I will talk in circles, say too much about certain aspects, not enough about others, and eventually have to take a break so you can go add change to your parking meter.

So it's quite a nice surprise that the Library of Congress has written what I consider an excellent summary of BROOKLYN, BURNING, and here it is:

Sixteen-year-old Kid, who lives on the streets of Brooklyn, loves Felix, a guitarist and junkie who disappears, leaving Kid the prime suspect in an arson investigation, but a year later Scout arrives, giving Kid a second chance to be in a band and find true love.

Thanks, federal librarians!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

According to a widely accepted authority on the subject, fear is a major hurdle for writers. I tend to agree. I have frequently described some of my favorite writers as brave, so it stands to reason we must have something to fear when we sit down to write, however irrational it might seem when we're not at the keyboard. (I think most writers worth their fingertips have experienced moments of varying lengths during which that fear is gone completely. For myself, I know these times to be when I've written my fastest, best, and most honest work.)

What am I talking about exactly? What do writers have to fear when they're writing? I think many writers might not see these things as fears, really. They might see them as difficulties, constraints, grammatical hangups. Who the heck knows. But maybe the best way to explain what I mean by fear is a list. A list like this one:

Things I fear when I write
  • Slipping into "genre" fiction, and then having no idea what to do once I'm there
  • Using "look" too much, not to mention "shrug," "glance," and "smile"
  • Too much dialogue and not enough narration, so I seem lazy and my readers are confused
  • Too much narration and not enough dialogue, so I seem self-indulgent and my readers are bored
  • Placing my protagonist in a situation with which I am not intimately familiar
  • Placing my protagonist in a situation that will be hard to navigate
  • Creating a scene that doesn't launch the story forward, losing readers to boredom
  • Creating a scene that is so plot-focused that I end up with under-developed characters and barely attended settings

I could probably go on and on, but here's the funny part: All of those fears appear from the moment I start to write. We're talking first-draft stuff, here--stuff no one, and I mean no one, will read. Yet I am reticent to even put the words into a document because . . . well, because of fear. How irrational is that! Very irrational is how.

Let me give you an example of fearful writing. Brooklyn, Burning, my second novel, centers on an actual event that took place in Greenpoint in May of 2006. A warehouse burned for days, and investigators immediately suspected arson. If I was going to have my protagonist involved somehow, the police would have to get involved. Two fears: a real event about which I knew very little (the fire and arson itself), and a character about to get into a situation that might be hard to navigate, for the character and for myself (a run-in with the police that wasn't going to end with a warning, let's say).

I'd already written quite a bit in my Greenpoint story, but I hadn't committed to the central place the fire would play. It took me weeks to accept that this was the story I wanted and needed to write. It took me weeks and months more to actually do the work of writing it. At first it was slogging through mud in heavy boots, until I said, "Aw, screw it," and wrote a scene with detectives in it. Guess what: Dick Wolf didn't come smashing into my dining room, shouting, "You have no idea what you're doing!"

No matter what fears a new scene, paragraph, sentence, or even word might present, I save myself from nothing by backing away from it. If I barrel through and find a difficult spot--a spot I hadn't expected or had expected thoroughly and had known would give me trouble--that's fine. I'll barrel through that too. And if upon re-reading I decide, yeah, that scene needs more stage direction, I can put it in. I can rewrite the scene.

I can do whatever the hell I want, is the upshot, because it's my goddamn story anyway.


Got back from New York City on Monday. I'd been out there ostensibly for the national SCBWI conference. I was also there because I love New York, as I may have mentioned now and then. This post is a wrap-up of sorts. It's also a summary of advice.

A week or so before heading east, I got this gem from local author and friend Kurtis Scaletta. He recommended I work on my brand, and--in direct opposition, I think it was, to the adorable and pure John Green--focus on becoming YA's "bad boy." I believe Kurtis felt I was already halfway there, what with my tendency to wear knit hats indoors and occasionally create characters who smoke and curse. With this advice in mind, I went to this year's SCBWI conference without registering.


Don't freak out. I didn't crash or anything. I didn't attend seminars. Okay, so I watched Sara Zarr's keynote on Sunday morning. Send me a pro-rated bill. Jeez.

But the weekend, and other advice. That was my next point. Friday night I had drinks--several drinks, I suppose--with ENIV and his assistant. I saw some old friends and new. Here's a photo. But my next gem of advice didn't present itself till the next day.

I was sitting in the lobby of the conference hotel, working on a WIP if you can believe that (have I mentioned how productive I've not been lately?), when I spied a certain amazing lady and blurber coming at me. I nearly tripped on my headphones and destroyed my laptop trying to get quickly to my feet. It was time for my second valuable advice: Stop reading the reviews. Sure, I'd heard it before, but probably never to my face, and from three respectabiggles* at once. As soon as our little meeting was over, I applied the advice:

It was Ms. Zarr who, this time from the front of a crowded room the next morning, gave the most filling advice of all: there is no endgame. She wasn't talking about Beckett, either. That was exactly what I needed to hear, and it's what I couldn't have put my finger on before her talk. If you asked me last week why I read reviews, and why I follow awards, and why I so look forward to getting cover concept emails and foreign rights sales and ARCs and finals et cetera, I would not have been able to give an honest and accurate answer. But Zarr hit it: I am always looking for that endgame, that event that will make me feel satisfied, even happy. But here's the irony: the only part of writing that has ever made me feel fully and truly satisfied is the work itself! Why didn't I know that?

One other well of advice came from two unlikely places this weekend: my mother and Stephen King. They're not friends, but my mom happened to get her hands on a copy of On Writing, and she held it for me, and I read it. Wait. I devoured it. I am a wildly slow reader generally, and I've never read any fiction by King outside of The Stand my junior year of high school, but I couldn't stop. Much of it wasn't new to me, but what was (or what I hadn't ever given much thought to before) felt like a revelation. No small part of that was similar to what Zarr told us: the happiness comes from the work, not from the reward. That's why I got into this to begin with! That's why, when I was fifteen, I wrote stories about dwarfs and wizards. It's why when I was seventeen I wrote abstract short fiction about nothing. It's why when I was twenty-one I wrote a short story called "Looking Down on Havoc," and it's why I eventually turned that story into The Absolute Value of -1.

I write because I love to write. The sooner I come back around to that, the better.

*A shout-out to my favorite Marsh-wiggle.


This post is ridiculous. It might make some readers mad, either because it mentions someone they adore, or because they'll see it for it really is: a waste of time. But I was thinking today how much I just don't like David Byrne or any of his projects. Sure, there's the occasional Talking Heads song I've enjoyed, but even their radio hits (or is it hit? "Psycho Killer"? Are there others?) I find at best boring, and at worst positively grating. So why do I respect and even admire Byrne*?

Byrne's bands are not alone. There's Sonic Youth, for example. I enjoyed that one song from the early nineties, the one with Kathleen Hanna in the video, and to be entirely honest, I might have enjoyed it simply because Kathleen Hanna was in the video. Beyond that, though, I can't think of many successful bands I find more irritating. However, I consider every member of that band to be something of a musical, well, genius maybe.

And these acts are not only in the avant-garde, to be sure. There's--let's see--Operation Ivy. Widely hailed, and so. Freaking. Grating. Just the same, I love them in principle. I'd probably even wear a T-shirt with that dancing fedora guy on it. I keep mentioning them in my current WIP. Why?!

There are other bands that are widely hailed, and that I can't stand, and that's the end of the story, such as U2. Loads of serious music heads like and respect those guys. I don't, and I'm okay with it. So why are Op Ivy, Sonic Youth, and David Byrne a different story? Is it simply that I know how critically important those acts are, and so I (subconsciously, I suppose) have decided I respect them? Or is it something more?

I think, and certainly hope, it's something more. I think I have a deep respect for artists that step out from the crowd and lead the way a little bit: even if I don't love the results, the very act of sticking the nose out is worth a load of respect, more than I'd reserve for some artists whose music I actually enjoy but who, when you get right down to it, haven't done anything particularly new or interesting.

So the question is, does this apply to other art, as well? And apropos of my field, does it apply specifically to fiction?

The questions I posed here are rhetorical. I don't have answers. You probably don't either. But hell, I'd be happy to consider any answers that come along.

*This is just to say that I have lately begun to respect Byrne for his pursuits outside of music per se, and that's not what I'm talking about here.

Resolutions for '11

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Okay, these are a little late, but I finally came up with a list of resolutions I think I can keep.

1. Eat at Punch at least once a week, but no more than three times a week.
2. Get back into a good WoW regimen. Six toons won't hit 85 by themselves.
3. Spend at least four hours every week staring at my WIPs' notes.
4. Find time to eat more chicken fingers.
5. Enjoy Taco Bell as often as the law allows.
6. Whenever there is some free time, sit at the computer and refresh Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
7. Remember that an Amazon ranking is more important than a cholesterol level.
8. Watch more Deep Space Nine, and maybe get started on Voyager, too.
9. Lose one sock per dryer load.
10. Sometimes, at four in the morning, lie awake. Stare at the cracked ceiling. Explore the darkest depths of the soul.
11. Continue putting off that trip to the dentist.

"Just like starting over."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year.

We brought it in with dinner at Punch and a Twilight Zone marathon, as traditions dictates. (This is a fairly recent tradition, not my childhood tradition.)

The closest I came to setting some resolutions last New Year's was this post, and I got them both done, though not by the deadline I implied, I don't think. Anyway, the point is that YA MS the Third is now Brooklyn, Burning, and coming out next fall. YA MS the Second has been synopsized, and a draft completed, but . . . well, it wasn't what I wanted it to be. You might have seen this the other day:

Yeah, so. I'm resolving to not think about that for a little while. Still, I feel good about the decision. I've only written about 2000 new words on that project, but I like them, and I like the changes to the main character and her voice thus far.

Now, let's get to the important business: Let's call our new year Twenty Eleven, not Two Thousand Eleven, okay? Discuss.

THIS JUST IN: Congrats to local author Swati Avasthi and to fellow Tenner Tara Kelly on their CYBILS YA final list appearances!