Pie Charts, Footnotes & Doodles – Oh My!

Yours truly has an article in this year’s Writer’s Digest You Can Write for Children Magazine titled “Pie Charts, Footnotes & Doodles — Oh My!” The article is about how to best include supplementary items (such as footnotes) in your fiction without alienating the reader, and includes advice from a number of best-selling and award winning authors, including Ellen Wittlinger, E. Lockhart, and Lisa Yee.

FYI — I’ll be giving a presentation on the same topic at the February Austin SCBWI meeting.

15 Things

15 things that were on my mind this morning:

1) No matter how much people want to deny it, race is still an issue in the United States. Just ask anyone in Jena, Louisiana.

2) I wonder if people will think I wrote a pro-abortion book. I wonder if people will think I wrote an anti-abortion book. I wonder if anyone will really care.

3) Who am I going to put in my fantasy football line-up now that Steven Jackson is hurt?

4) Who am I kidding–I don’t have time for fantasy football. I don’t even have time to mow the yard.

5) Oklahoma lost, but at least not as badly as Texas.

6) I’m really digging this new Jill Scott cd. Not as good as some of her old stuff, but still pretty solid.

7) Why can’t I finish Righteous? It’s been like, two years since I started it.

8) That being said, do you ever get the feeling that something’s going to be really good, once you finish it? That’s the feeling I get every time I work on Righteous. I promise, whenever I’m able to get it out there, it’ll be worth the wait.

9) What the hell am I going to work on next semester?

10) How much sleep will I be able to get this month?

11) If you haven’t read Story of a Girl yet, you should run to your nearest bookstore and buy it today.

12) I got a letter from Freeman’s XO a few weeks ago. It kind of depressed me, but only for a little while. I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing.

13) Is it vain of me to say that I think My Life as a Rhombus is a really good book?

14) I worry a lot about my Vermont College classmates. I hope they’ll all be back next semester.

15) I spend way too much time thinking about things that I can’t control.

So, what’s it about?

As some of you know, I’ve been pretty tight-lipped about My Life as a Rhombus. Most of this has less to do with me being secretive, and is more because I sound like a rambling idiot when I try to describe a book.

And anyway, what does someone really mean when they ask, “What’s it about?” Are they asking about the plot, the theme, or what? But I digress…

The good people at Flux recently released their Winter Catalog, so now you can find out for yourself what the book is about (in addition, you can also scope out soon-to-be released books by Carrie Jones and Stacy DeKeyser, among others).

For those of you too lazy to click to the website, I’ve posted the catalog copy below:

Homework plus strawberry ice cream equals a typical night for high school senior and math whiz Rhonda Lee. Angling for a full scholarship to Georgia Tech, the pressure is on. And dating isn’t part of the equation. Teenage boys are only after one thing, right? She should know considering her last boyfriend left her heartbroken . . . and pregnant.

At the time, an abortion seemed like Rhonda’s only option. If it was the right decision, why is she filled with anger and regret? Will she ever trust another guy? Or forgive her overprotective father? And herself?

The last person Rhonda would ever expect to understand is Sarah Gamble, the richest and most popular girl at their South Carolina prep school. While tutoring Sarah in trigonometry, Rhonda discovers a secret about her that instantly draws them together. As Sarah’s belly swells, a decision must be made. And Rhonda finds herself supporting a friend facing an all-too-familiar dilemma, even as Sarah makes an unexpected choice.

First Packet Blues

The good news: I survived my first month of the MFA program.

The bad news: I have 23 more months to go.

I turned in my first packet a few days ago. And as soon as I hit “send” I was flooded with self-doubt. Would my advisor like it? Did I read enough books? Did my essays make sense? Well, I guess I’ll know soon enough–I should be getting feedback any day now.

At least for now, I’ve chosen to use Righteous as my main creative work for the semester. I really think this will end up being a great manuscript…if I can ever get the damn thing finished.

I think I was most surprised about how much I enjoyed writing my critical essays for my packet. Don’t get me wrong–I think I suck at writing critical essays–but at least I enjoyed it. And, just writing the essays made me think about books in a way that I never had before.

I’ve also found that I really miss my classmates. I live for their daily emails.

And of course, I really miss spending time with Mrs. V. She’s been a real trooper so far, taking care of cleaning the house and washing clothes and basically leaving me alone when I have to work.

Now if I could only get her to mow the yard, I’d be set.

Alternative Covers and Life In General

Found this on the Netlibrary website today:

Yep, that’s the cover for the downloadable version of A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid. Audible.com shows the original cover, but for some reason, Netlibrary is using this one.

I’m not sure if I like this cover better than the old one. However, I do like that there’s an “A” at the beginning of the title. If I ever get a high resolution pic of the cover, I’ll post in on the website.

And speaking of my website, I’ve added a few more things on there (including a placeholder for My Life as a Rhombus). I’ll still fleshing out a few areas, so don’t be surprised if you see a few misspellings (I think I caught all the broken links, however). I’ll let you guys know as soon as I have content up for Rhombus.

School is going well. I was worried about all the reading that I was going to have to do, but it’s amazing how many books you can read when you turn off the television.

After talking with my advisor, we decided that I’d work on Righteous for at least part of the year. I’m still undecided on what I want to focus on later in the semester–I originally thought it’d be middle grade fiction, but after reading Bridge to Terabithia, I’m not so convinced that I’m a MG author.

But hell, some days, I’m not so convinced that I’m an author at all.

Rez Number 1

Life is finally getting back to normal…or, at least as normal as it’s going to be for a while. My first residency at Vermont College was great, but it really tired me out (but in a good way). So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on my first residency:

1) I have an awesome class. Really. There are some people (like me) that are writers because they work really, really, really hard at it. There are others (like my classmates) that are writers because they are extremely talented. I’m honored to be starting my MFA with these guys. Some of them are going to be big-time authors one day–I’m sure of it.

2) I have a new man crush: Tim Wynne-Jones. He’s really smart and really funny, and his laugh is infectious.

3) There are a lot of freaking hills in Vermont.

4) I finally got a chance to meet Ellen Wittlinger face-to-face. I think she’d be a great addition to the faculty (hint, hint).

5) I had a chance to meet fellow Flux author Micol Ostow (and her crew of Gwenda Bond and Kate Angelella). They’re all loads of fun, especially after they’ve been drinking. FYI–check out Micol’s recently redesigned website.

6) Speaking of drinking–I drank a lot of red wine out of plastic cups. I think my class’s name should be “Red Teeth”.

7) Don’t tell Mrs. V, but I had one teeny-tiny cigarette while I was up there.

8) An Na came to the school to hang out one night. Being that she’s a Printz Award Winner and National Book Award Finalist, I thought she’d be…I don’t know…more standoffish. But she’s really down to earth and really easy to talk to.

9) Did I say there were a lot of hills in Vermont?

10) I’ll be working with the wonderful Sharon Darrow this semester. I hope she doesn’t make me cry.

11) I’m excited. And happy. And I know now, more than ever, that writing is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Back and Better Than Ever (Mini-Post)

I’m back from my first residency at Vermont College. Met a lot of cool, smart people. Learned a lot of new things. I’ll post more in detail this weekend–after I’ve had a chance to catch up with the real world.

Things I was supposed to do before Vermont College…

1) Finish revising the first three chapters of Righteous: Well, I’m close (if you consider close being stuck somewhere in Chapter 2). But I’m still hopeful that I can at least stay on my schedule of getting the first half revised by the end of next month.

2) Finish updating my website: For anyone paying attention, I think I originally said that I’d have the revised site up and running by March. Well, March has come and gone, and the website still looks the same. I promise, I plan to get revised content up by September (or sooner, depending on when I get the final cover art for My Life as a Rhombus – hint, hint).

3) See Transformers: Yeah, I know–WTF is Michael Bay thinking, putting red flames on Optimus Prime. But it could be worse–he could have made a movie like Superman Returns.

4) Spend quality time with Mrs. V: Well, it seems that Mrs. V is actually looking forward to me being out of the house for a while…which means that I’ll either be greeted with new furniture, new paint, or a new dog by the time I return.

Okay, so this is probably my last post until I get back from VC. See you guys when I get back. I think I’ll have some amazing things to report on when I return.

Missing In Action

I got a message from Miss P today saying that she hadn’t heard from me in a while. I checked the date on my last post and realized that it has been a while since I’ve dropped in. Things have been really busy and stressful here for the past month, but finally life returned to somewhat normal this week.

So let’s see, what have I forgotten to tell you guys….

1) Remember when I said that Mrs. V liked my face better without the beard? Well, apparently, when Mrs. V said, “I really don’t like the way your beard feels,” what she actually meant was, “I really don’t like the way your beard feels, but I like it a lot better than how you look without the beard, and I really don’t think you should cut it.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize any of this until after I shaved. Which only proves that husbands should not try to please their wives.

2) I saw Ocean’s Thirteen. Not as good as Eleven, but a hell of a lot better than shit on a screen Ocean’s Twelve. And really, George Clooney is pretty damn cool. I think I have a man crush on him, because suddenly I have the urge to walk around in a tuxedo and drink scotch and say cool shit that doesn’t really make sense (but still sounds cool).

3) I found a nice, inexpensive desk for $85 at Eurway (it was a floor model – regular price is $219). It’s constructed of durable melamine laminate (which I think is just a fancy word for plywood). But it’s a lot better than the current $50 desk that I bought from Staples six years (and four moves) ago.

4) I’ve decided that I think I want to write a three book series. Now I just have to figure out what the series will be about.

5) I start my first residency at Vermont College in a week!!