Happy MLK Day everyone. Unfortunately, because of the weather here in Austin, most of the local MLK day activities have been cancelled. So although I can’t actively celebrate on today, I can reflect on the impact that Dr. King had on America. I encourage others to do likewise.

A few links:

Cynsations has a good post on the Eighteenth National African-America Read In, sponsored by the Black Caucus of NTCE and NTCE.

Fuse Number 8 asks the question: Why is no one discussing the Coretta Scott King Awards?

The King Center honors the legcay of Dr. King.

Build the Dream discusses the efforts to build the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at the National Mall in Washington, DC. (Note – I am a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, one of the major contributors of the memorial project. Dr. King was initiated into the fraternity while a graduate student at Brown University in 1952).

Check out more info on MLK Day at Yahoo news.

The Printz Dream

I had the Printz Dream again. The dream where I get a call in January, informing me of my selection as the Printz Award winner. My dream self is confused, because even in my dreams I know that I shouldn’t be winning the award. But my dream self isn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and therefore accepts the award anyway.

In the Printz dream, I give an awe-inspiring speech the ALA summer conference. I thank my parents, who are seating at a table directly in front of me. I thank SCBWI and my critique group. I thank every librarian I have ever known. I even thank Judy Blume and Walter Dean Myers for setting me on the path to reading and writing. And of course, I thank Mrs. V for all of her support.

I know it’s a dream. Even my dream self knows it’s a dream. But when that alarm clock goes off at 5:00 in the morning, sometimes a dream is all I have to get me out of bed.

Here’s to a Happy New Year. I hope all of your dreams, even the impossible ones, come true.

Poems That Suck – Part 2

Last year, I posted a poem that I wrote back in 1991. For those of you that remember, it sucked. Well, after reading a recent post by Sara Zarr (who’s book, Story of a Girl, comes out next month), I am inspired yet again to post bad poetry. Here’s another gem from 1991.

I get migraine headaches when I see:

1) grizzly bears
2) flash floods
3) killer sharks
4) science teachers

I seem to get a headache everyday.

Feel free to throw as many imaginary rotten tomatoes as you’d like.

Who’s Mr. V?

Super Cool Editor Guy has me working on a bio for My Life A As Rhombus. I won’t reveal the bio just yet, but I will reveal what didn’t make the cut:

1) Varian Johnson was not a ladies’ man in high school, but he will lie and tell you that he was.

2) Varian Johnson uses his powers for good, while other authors use their powers for evil.

3) Varian Johnson loves gummi bears almost as much as Republicans love money.

4) Varian Johnson used to drive a car nicknamed “Jenny, the Mighty Topaz.”

5) Varian Johnson likes to cruise the web for “artistic” photographs.

6) Varian Johnson is very jealous of John Green and Markus Zusak.

7) Varian Johnson lives in Austin, TX with his beautiful wife and two dogs that like to lick on stuff, like each other’s…stuff.

8) Varian Johnson couldn’t do a pull-up if his life depended on it.

Lastly, I’ve finally become a member of the cults known as Live Journal and MySpace. Feel free to check me out there, if you’re more partial to one of those formats. I’ll be cross-posting my ass off for the next few weeks, until I figure out how to best synidate posts.

Where’s Mr. V?

Currently, I’m hanging out in the great metropolis of Waco, TX. Mrs. V and I were stuck in traffic (there was a horrible accident on IH-35). While making a bathroom break, the car decided to stop on us. Of course, no auto shops are open at 5:00 PM on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so Mrs. V, the two dogs, and I had to bed down here in Waco. I’m currently at the Ford Dealership. So far, I’m amassed at least $235 in auto costs…and they’re still not done.

I haven’t posted in quite a while, mainly because I’ve been slaving away at the edits on Rhombus. I’m done…almost. I had to do a total rewrite of one chapter; I’m curious what Super Cool Editor Guy will think of it. I’ve still got to tweak the ending (as I said in my last post) but that’s easy compared to the trickle effect caused by the changes to Chapter 19.

I’ve also updated the blog to Blogger Beta. It looks like I still have all of my previous posts, but I’ve lost my old comments.

FYI – If anyone gets stuck at IH-35W exit 337, the only hotel in the area that accepts pets is the Knights Inn. It’s not the most upscale motel in the world, but it’s better than sleeping in a car.

Happily Ever After

Most YA authors will say that while a YA novel doesn’t have to have a happy ending, it must give the reader a sense of hope. And I almost always agree with that…except in the case of Rhombus.

I got the edits on Rhombus last week, but I knew I had to change the ending before I received them. And I agree with my editor and everyone else that’s read the novel – I tried to tie up too many loose strings at the end of the novel. It isn’t realistic.

I think the reason I want things to end up happily is less about Rhonda (my MC) and more about the person that I want her to forgive. As much as I relate to Rhonda in the novel, there’s someone else I relate to a lot more. And if I were that person, I would give anything to be forgiven in the way that Rhonda currently forgives him in the novel.

I really, really want things to end happily for Rhonda and for everyone else in the novel. And the characters will end up being happy…just not by the time the novel ends.

Super Cyn

Save for some useless facts about my agent, I didn’t write much about the Austin SCBWI Conference. However, The Wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith has listed a bunch of reports on her blogger site. See the listings here.

And while you’re there, take a look at her entire site. It’s a wealth of information for those interested in children’s literature. I recently picked up a copy of her and Greg‘s new picture book, Santa Knows, for my niece. I also I picked up The Hidden Feast, illustrated by Austin’s own Don Tate (I love the promotional movie on the August House website).

I’m especially excited about Cynthia’s new YA book, Tantalize. Read what some other authors and booksellers are saying about the book here.

Damn Yankees

My uber-agent, Sara Crowe, was in town for our annual SCBWI conference this year. Here’s what I found out about her:

1) She’s tall. Really tall. And when she wears boots, she’s really, really, really tall.

2) When she laughs, she reminds me of Alyson Hannigan (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and American Pie fame).

3) She strongly suggests stainless-steel cookware over non-stick.

4) She has freckles on her arms.

5) She prefers margaritas over wine.

6) She likes Coke (This coke, not that coke.)

7) She’s a NY Mets fan.

8) A car once drove into her apartment, while she was in the apartment.

9) She has a bad habit of mistaking non-pregnant woman as actually being pregnant.

10) She loves all types of chocolate, although bribing her with chocolate when sending her a query letter won’t increase your chances of her taking you on as a client. (She would still probably eat the chocolate, however.)

Sara is a great agent, but more importantly, she’s the right agent for me. I think the whole “author-agent vibe” sometimes gets overlooked when authors start looking for representation, but it’s a really important part of the whole relationship. I would imagine, just as I wouldn’t be comfortable working with a lot of other agents, a lot of other agents wouldn’t be comfortable working with me. You have to get your agent, and she has to get you.

Sara gets me. She gets my work. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she also did a good job of selling my work, but that’s beside the point.) I’m glad that I got the chance to meet her face-to-face this weekend. I would say that Brian Yansky could give a more in-depth version of the weekend events, but HE DOESN’T HAVE A WEBSITE YET. (Is that a subtle enough hint?)

Pump Up the Volume

A number of people have come up to me and said, “I’ve been meaning to read your book, but I just can’t seem to find the time.” Well, thanks to the good folks at Recorded Books, you can now listen to the novel on the way to work.

I’m pleased to announce that A Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid is now available on CD and cassette. And if you’re looking at the price, don’t have a heat attack – the audiobook is slated to be marketed to libraries, not end consumers. I’ll be sure to announce if and when the novel will be available to end consumers for purchase or for rental (1). Or better yet, go to your local library and see if they’ll order the audiobook. Of course, you can also purchase the audiobook yourself. But being that my own mother won’t shell out the bones for the audiobook, it’s probably a little much to ask you guys to do the same.

And as always, thanks to all the readers, writers, friends, family, and fans for all of the support. I wouldn’t have gotten half as far as I have without you guys.

1: Update on 10-11-06 – It looks like you can rent the audiobook from Recorded Books.