Sunday, July 31, 2005

Taking Stock

Okay, okay, I'm in. I do believe in taking stock every once in a while, and besides, I can't talk right now. So, let's see...

10 years ago— I lived in a postage-stamp-sized apartment in a high rise in downtown Chicago where I'd just quit my day job working for the Office of the General Counsel of HHS/SSA after a heart-to-heart discussion with some ducks in Lake Michigan. (I have never since eaten duck; I have a treaty with the ducks). G and I were somewhere on course to move to Austin the first time (we moved back to Chicago a year and a half later, then back down to Austin again). At that point, I didn't even have a manuscript to send anyone. I did have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. And I believe for sometime it took more money than we made each month just to squeak by. As a strategy, I can't recommend it. But I don't regret it either. And I'll always be grateful to G for his faith.

5 years ago—My first book, Jingle Dancer, had just been released after some angst. I'd first sold it to Lodestar, which was downsized in the Penguin-Putnam merger, then resold it to Morrow, just prior to the HarperCollins buyout. It stands as one of those rare books that first sold to one publishing company, was produced by another, and released by a third. Talk about a nail-biter!

1 year ago—I'd just wrapped up WriteFest I in June, sold T to CP, and was packing to visit my family in Kansas City.

Yesterday—I was still recovering from a bad cold (sore throat, laryngitis, and now pink eye) I contracted while in Vermont, but neverthless still smiling over great memories from the residency. Hugging my cats, catching up on my reading and email, eating chicken noodle soup.

Tomorrow—Plan to stay in bed and read. I absolutely must get well immediately!

5 snacks I enjoy—dark chocolate covered strawberries; turbo hummus and sliced cucumbers; pecans; SunChips; chicken legs (no treaty with the chickens).

5 bands/artists that I know the lyrics to most of their songs: Meatloaf; Eartha Kitt; Walela; ABBA; Cher. Note: I also have an almost absurd love for the "Footloose;" "Xanadu;" and "Buffy: The Musical (Once More With Feeling)" albums.

5 things I'd do with $100,000,000—pay off my debts.

5 locations I'd like to run away to—Paris; Round Top; Chicago; Lawrence; Kona.

5 bad habits I have—anything related to my mild O-C (checking burners, door locks, etc. multiple times before leaving); borrowing G's razor; writing on my skin; writing on my skin while driving; leaving the CDs out of their cases.

5 things I like doing—dining out; touring old houses; touring old cemeteries; walking to tunes; blogging.

5 things I will never wear—no promises.

5 TV shows I like(d)—"Monk;" "My So-Called Life;" "Six Feet Under;" "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer;" "Northern Exposure."

5 people I'd like to meet—Julius Lester; Santa Claus; Lance Armstrong; Dick Jackson; Aretha.

5 biggest joys at the moment— G, kitties, friends, Daya, comics.

5 favorite toys: tiara; bat sunglasses; devil duckie; multi-colorful nail polish; sparkly stickers.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Call Me "Catwoman"

Incoming mail yesterday brought a surprise thank-you gift from the fair FB in honor of WF. She sent a kitty sachet, letter set, and rhinestone earrings (which she said G and I could fight over but of course he only wears clip-ons).

Thanks to KD and DMF for your laryngitis insights. You'll be pleased to know I'm off to bed for the rest of the day with Funny Little Monkey by AA (Harcourt, 2005), which I notice is blurbed by my VC workshop partner RK.

Spooky Links

More VC blogging can be read at Dear Diary (kelcrocker); thanks for the cyber hot tea with lemon and honey!

Scientists Determine Why Cats Are Finicky Eaters: Genetics Leave Felines Without Sweet Tooth by the AP from MSNBC.

"Monster Mice" Are Eating Island's Sea Birds: Rodents Evolved To Triple Normal Size; Attack Much Larger Chicks by Reuters from MSNBC. Can anyone say "ROUSes"?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski

Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski (Candlewick, 2005). A first-rate spooky (but not too scary) pop-up book. As young readers approach the door, a note beckons, "let yourself in." A voice calls out to the entering doctor in the foyer, and a disembodied listing of symptoms and observations follow. Appetite is down. Not many visitors. Not sleeping well. And the patient is... Yikes! A remake of the classic 1979 book. Ages 4-up. Highly recommended, especially for Halloween, with the caveat that some care should be taken with handling the book; perhaps best kept in adult hands while younger fans see and listen.

Spooky News & Links

Yesterday, my doc informed me that my laryngitis and sore throat will go away if I can only manage to be quiet for the next few days. (This, for me, is roughly akin to torture.) He also gave me something to soothe my post-flight cranky eardrum. I'm going to take refuge in bed and read.

Thanks to LHA for commenting on spookycyn's LJ syndication.

TLS writes about the VC MFA special weekend on short stories and SA writes about the residency more globally (note her reference to me as "goddess;" I must say, it takes one to know one).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Erupting Eardrums

Had big fun with KA, staying overnight at the Doubletree Hotel in Burlington (highly recommended; the restaurant is even good) before flying out yesterday morning.

Found out the hard way during descent from Cincinnati to Austin that flying with fluid in the ear results in the kind of pain one might associate with being stabbed in said ear with a roasting skewer. The flight attendant gave me a Styrofoam cup filled with hot, wet paper towels. I'm not sure that helped, but it gave me something to do and made me feel less helpless.

On the other hand, the attendant also said, "Don't worry. If it just really started hurting, I'm sure your eardrum won't erupt."

As if I'd previously considered the possibility my ear could go volcanic!

Thing is, I do remember thinking that maybe I should take a decongestant, but discounted it on the theory that it was more important to take Dramamine. I'm doing to ask my doc today if both can be taken together.

Yes, I feel wimpy of late. I absolutely detest being sick.

I got in about 3:30 p.m. G picked me up at the airport, tucked me into bed until 9 p.m. or so, and then fed me homemade chicken soup. By then, I could hear normally again, though the air was still popping in my left ear. After 10 days in the dorm, my house seems huge, opulent, the kitties fascinating (not that they aren't always), and MVCH ("my very cute husband") divine.

Spooky Links

Tips to avoid ear pain in the air from

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Homeward Bound

"Write what haunts you."
--Jane Resh Thomas

Bagpipes at College Hall.

10 wonderful days.

Congratulations, graduates!

Last Day at VC

Last night's reading of my short story from Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Boy (Roaring Brook, TBA) went well, I thought, especially given that I was editing on the sly to fit into the time slot. I poured sheer force of will into my voice (not to mention a couple of cups of hot, herbal tea), and it worked.

It occured to me afterward that only a few of the faculty members read works in progress. Most read already published work. No big, but a different psychology to be sure.

Today is my last for this residency at VC. Last workshop. Last lecture. Graduation.

Overall, it's been a tremendous experience. I've enjoyed getting to know the faculty and students, seen aspects of children's/YA lit anew--laughed, cried, grew (you know the drill).

I'll spend tonight in Burlington with KA and maybe RWG. Then Wednesday a.m., I'm Texas bound.

Spooky News and Links

How out of touch am I? Just heard that our man Lance had wrapped up his 7th Tour de France win. Wahoo from Vermont! Filled here with Austinite pride (and, okay, a little homesicknesses).

Vampires stalk Taylor, courtesy of 'The Insatiable' by Julien Devereux from the Taylor (TX) Daily Press. Thanks to TC for this link!

Monday, July 25, 2005

I Am Sharon Darrow (Well, not really. But I'd like to be)

Really excellent convos with MA (among others) have been a highlight of the residency. Another great one last night at dinner with RWG.

Mistaking me (seated, from the back, hair up) for SD, MTA greeted me for the first time in a strange and vaguely disconcerting way. So far, I like him. Has Elvis-like effect on the students, too, which is most amusing. Was, btw, the second person this a.m. to think I was SD.

Reading is tonight. Voice is better but nowhere near 100%.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Memorable Firsts at VC (So Far)

Considering writing non-fiction;
Considering writing poetry;
Eating salad for lunch for five straight days;
Joking with an American Indian and an Indian American about Indian time;
Being away from G for more than four straight days;
Meeting a living legend in her bra and undies;
Hiding cheese in the waist line of my panties (long story).

Readings last night had a kismet-ish connection, especially EW's and RK's. In other news, I had a nice visit with EW afterward. Witty and whip smart. We've known each other for years online, and I've interviewed her for CLSCLR. But it was our first chance to really sit and talk.

Chatted at breakfast about the decline in multiculture pb in particular. Conclusions were that it was a combo of: (1) budget cuts in school/library market (traditional supporter); (2) decline in indie bookstores (ditto); (3) distrust/lack of awareness of related children's books by historically underrep'd communities; (4) impatience on the part of publishers; (5) larger market forces affecting all pbs. Hope is that at least some of these are cyclical.

Btw, did I mention how charming MC is?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Jeremiah Wasn't The Only Bullfrog

Good news: students for fall semester! Thrilled about all five of them.

Bad news: sore throat. Sound like something inhuman--possibly rodent, possibly amphibian.

Am in the midst of short story weekend.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bright and Beautiful

The crows were silent this morning. They know I'm onto them. With a full tummy and in cooler weather, I got excellent sleep last night. I'm looking forward to my workshop, the lectures, and finding out who my students will be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thai Fueled

Fading Cyn-ness was resolved by leaving campus for Thai dinner and great convo with a few fellow faculty. Lesson learned. I need to be a lot more attentive to my need for, say, calories. I'd had oddly low energy, a stomach ache, and mild tremors in my fingers for the past couple of days when it dawned on me that I was taking in about 1/5 of the energy that I do normally, and that probably wasn't a good thing. I need to remember that just because I'm busy doesn't mean that I'm a machine.

The real show of the day, though, was the speed-dating-esque faculty advisor/student interviews. I was excited and intrigued by all of the students who stopped by to visit and eager to see who's assigned to me! Just finished figuring out final deadlines for their various incoming packets.

I've sounded like a baby O late--what with reference the heat, the crows (nevermore!), and the need for nourishment, so I want to emphasize that I'm having a really fantastic time. Learning, growing, changing. I can feel it buzz, buzz, buzzing in my toenails.

Spooky Definition

ramose: having many branches (write KA and tell her you know what it means).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Poe Me

Since arriving at VC, I have been rudely awakened earlier and earlier each morning in a "My Cousin Vinnie" manner by what I could only deduce (especially after yesterday's snake story) was a 60 foot goose lurking in the woods behind Noble Hall.

This morning I had had enough! I dressed quite fetchingly but still tough in an all-black ensemble (which is also supposed to make me look like a writerly intellectual for today's scheduled speed-dating ritual) with my treasured MVP (multiple viewpoint) baseball cap and shades. I stalked out onto the campus, tracking the nepharious goose-honking noises with full intent to butcher whatever creature had been plaguing me.

And then I spotted them. Three of them! These gorgeous Poe-esque birds of probably, oh, a mere 15 pounds but nevertheless impressive. We are not friends, these birds and I. But I will let them honk on today so long as they let me sleep in tomorrow.

Spooky News

Congrats to G on the brisk sales of his audio book of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Recorded Books, 2004)! (Miss you!).

The Computer Lab Is Air Conditioned

Did I mention that I got to see AN last night? She is the cutest, funniest person. I just adore her. She's a VC alumnae and showed up at the end-of-day informal faculty gathering in the lounge.

MA spoke on non-fiction today (did you know he has a Ph.D. in history?) and RWG on social consciousness and voice. I need to make more of an effort to read YA lit trade non-fic. Appreciated R's reading from No Laughter Here (HarperCollins, 2003). RB's name keeps coming up because so many of us here are edited by her.

I also sat in on DE's graduating student lecture on writing from outside your culture. It was informative and enjoyable, especially the grandbaby picture. It got me thinking about folks who've talked to me over the years about writing crossculturally. Many seemed to be looking for information, permission, protection, or absolution. Hm.

More personally, rumor has it that T is sitting at the foot of my CW editor's chair. I hope this means that she loves it so much that she wants it close and handy to delight in.

Spooky Links

Is Giant Rattler in W. Va. Real or Rumor? by Vicki Smith from Netscape News.

Mexican Myth or Texas Terror? by Holly Fenner from Netscape Fun & Games.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Speaker Cyn

I gave my speech today! I'm done! I'm done! I was first, which made me a tad nervous because I wasn't entirely sure what was expected and I didn't want to disappoint anyone. However, everyone seemed pleased and informed. The handouts were a good idea.

I enjoyed NW's informal Q&A this morning. Had a stimulating conversation with MA at lunch about non-fiction. Co-led my first workshop with RK. And discovered that TWJ used to write for FR. KA's reading made me cry, and I had a fascinating adventure in town with RWG. All in all, a very full day.

Today, I'm thinking about books that work more for the mind versus the heart, whether all of them skew one way or the other, and whether that's maybe okay because all readers tend to skew one way or the other, too.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

My Hair Has Doubled In Volume

Apparently, summer in the northeast means big humidity. I have curls! It's remarkable.

Great day so far, mostly spent in orientation-related meetings and activities. I also got to see KB (live from Indonesia), DD, SM, AM, and DE--among others.

Must run to hose myself down before NW's talk. We're neighbors tonight in the dorm. She's looking amazing these days. I can't wait to hear what she'll say tonight.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

New England

I'm here in Vermont! At the computer lab to be precise, and it's blessedly air conditioned (though really it's not hot here. People in these parts seem to think that 88 degrees is hot).

My flights from Austin to Cincinnati and Cincinnati to Burlington both were fairly interesting.

On the first flight I sat beside this young couple in their 20s who'd met in the terminal right before the flight. She was a college student in business and he was in some branch of the armed service (didn't catch which one), and I pretended to read a paperback romance while eavesdropping on them flirting. (Hey! I'm a writer. It's part of my job to eavesdrop).

Then on the next flight, I sat beside a returning Army soldier (Hi, George!), who was bringing a stuffed bear dressed in Army fatiques home for his seven year old son. George had been flying from the Middle East for about the last 24 hours straight, so he was pretty dazed but also really excited to see his girlfriend and family.

The lovely TLS picked me up from airport and introduced me to all the sights, sounds, and celebrities (I was wowed!) of Burlington. It's a charming city with a first-rate Thai restaurant.

I'm now on campus. I've unpacked, made my bed, and had a KA custom tour with helpful and informative commentary. Faculty dinner tonight!

P.S. Events on my mind include KW.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I have packed my favorite book from childhood, my flash drive, vitamin C, my crits, my speech, my own books, a pillow case, Tevas sandles, two rolls of quarters (for water and laundry machines respectively), Dramamine (don't ask), my cell phone and charger, a travel alarm clock (that G still needs to show me how to set), my hot pink toiletries bag, a small umbrella, my employment forms, something with sleeves (my alumnae sweatshirt), and clothes.

I have also packed my rather worn, much beloved copy of Supergirl by Norma Fox Mazer (Sphere Books, 1984)(novelization of the movie starring Helen Slater), which I bought at Shakespeare and Company in Paris in 2001. As I have mentioned before, it is one of my most prized possessions. I'm very hopeful she'll autograph it for me and only slightly worried that she'll think I'm a dork for bringing it with.

Random Thought: I will miss Justice SDO, and it vexes me that people were talking about her replacement in the same breath as her retirement. When did we become such a "next!" nation?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Target and Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"The Dread Pirate Roberts Wants You"
-a' la Uncle Sam, spotted on T-shirt
at Dragon's Lair

After dinner at Katz's, I went to Target to get a new makeup bag for my trip, and of course this mandated that I buy at least one thing that was not on my shopping list. Today, it was an umbrella. I was seduced by its small cuteness.

I'd be interested to know what subliminal shopping messages are laced throughout Target that affect me so profoundly. I'm not a shopaholic, but it's a miracle when I manage to get out of there for under $100.

Fortune that I stuck in my purse since the last time I've cleaned it:

"A friend is a present you give to yourself."

You bet! I'm very excited to see TLS at the airport on Friday.

Will be back in town the 27th! Please forgive any temporary falloff in posting regularity. I'm not sure how often I'll be able to log in between now and then.

Comic of the Week: JLA #116

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Go Lance!

I've never been what you'd call a big bicycling fan, and I honestly think it's about the most boring sport to watch on TV next to, say, golf. But I am an Austinite, and therefore, I am rooting for Lance! Just in case anyone was worried.

I've finished reading my mss for the workshop at VC that I'm leading with RK, and I've typed up talking points. At this point, it's just a matter of filling out the employment forms and packing. I may run a couple of errands today, just to get them off the checklist.

Spooky Link

On the off chance that I'm not the last person on earth on dial-up...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

San Marcos Outlet Shopping

Apparently, I am bonded with I-35 this weekend. Roadtripped to the outlet mall in San Marcos today for cotton T-shirts ($9) and shorts ($12) from The Gap to wear at VC. By the way, if you're headed that way, the mega lot is empty at 10 a.m. and absolutely full at 11 a.m. Seriously.

Then later this afternoon, upon dropping off borrowed fruit bowls, BY told me I might need a bit of cold weather wear too. This seems impossible. How can I possibly wrap my mind around such a thing when it is 100 degrees every day? At least in...Texas?

Just read on Lara M. Zeises' LJ (girl uninterrupted) that she mentioned spookycyn and cynsations at her SCBWI conference this weekend. Thanks, Lara, and welcome to any conference-going blog surfers!

Gruene (That's Pronounced "Green" for Y'all Non-Germans)

Yesterday, G took me to Gruene, Texas, which is a historically German, honkytonk-and-antiques town about an hour south on I-35. We had lunch and shopped without really buying anything though I was tempted by some 1930s jewelry and a Japanese punch bowl with matching cups.

I did, however, pick up a book Texas Cemeteries by Bill Harvey (U of Texas Press, 2003) from Texectera, a small regional indie bookstore that's going under in a couple of months.

Tried to watch "Napolean Dynamite" on the recommendation of several people and couldn't get past the part where the farmer shoots the cow. It just wasn't funny to me. Maybe if you watch the whole thing, there are some long-building jokes, but I just didn't care enough to find out.

I ended up watching "Back To School" instead. I don't really find Rodney Dangerfield's humor funny (more groaners), but something about him was charming.

Spooky Links

Once Upon A Time (She Said) (NESFA Press, 2005): What am I? The font of all information? See Jane Yolen's site for details (painting by Ruth Sanderson, one of my former houseguests, by the way).

AB sent me a newspaper article about The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Little Brown, 2005), which offers new blood for all us Drac fans.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Yummy Food, Cool Air, Good Friends, Good Books

I had a divine lunch at Z Tejas yesterday with a writer who's well published for adults and shifting to upper YA. Charming. We met when he took my class at the LTW.

Plus, the air conditioner is fixed! And it ended up costing $67, not $700--woo woo!

In other news, G and I received lovely thank-you cards for WF from FH, BY, LB, and SC. What sweeties! Speaking of which, Libba Bray has posted her WriteFest report to her LJ.

And as if all of that weren't enough, I'm reading the entirely fascinating Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises (Delacorte, 2005)(more on that soon). What can I say? Life is good.

Spooky Link

New Light on Medicine: Pigments that turn caustic on exposure to light can fight cancer, blindness and heart disease. Their light-induced toxicity may also help explain the origin of vampire tales. By Nick Lane from

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Beyond Feathers & Fangs

I just finished writing a speech, "Beyond Feathers & Fangs: a discussion of conveying cultural context in stories, be they multicultural or magical realism," for VC, keyed up a handout, and selected what I'm going to read at the podium. I'm going to show it all to G tonight and see if he has any suggestions.

We also have a title for our holiday picture book with Dutton. (I'll tell you what it is closer to pub date). But the great news is that MM loves it. And the winner was not "Santa and the Secular Humanist" (G's idea of course). We had asked for suggestions at WF, and WF royal AB came through with the perfect idea last week. AB rules! Thanks, AB! We love you!

Congrats also to G! Today is the official release date of his new novel, Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, 2005) as well as the paperback edition of his debut novel, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2005).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" and "Lost Boys"

I watched Miss Congeniality 2 on DVD yesterday, having found the first one (especially Candice Bergen's Texas/gun line) entertaining. I adore Sandra Bullock movies.

Anyway, it was cute, occasionally funny, a buddy story, and did a good job of circling around to the beginning of the first movie. Basically a reverse Pygmalion. OTOH, the pacing was all over the place, and the falling action dragged on forever.

We also re-watched "Lost Boys," which is a 1980s vampire retelling of Peter Pan (hence, the title). Worth watching for the male hairstyles alone. But that said, this time it reminded me more of "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer." Edward Herrman's head vampire Max has a vibe similar to the mayor from Buffy's senior year, and the lost boys' lair (created by a California earthquake) was somewhat reminiscient of the Hellmouth. Actually, "Lost Boys" predated the Buffy series, but I'd seen the latter more recently and (given that it lasted from 19970-2003) more extensively.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day

Having spent last weekend at ALA and the weekend before that hosting WF, G and I are taking it easy this holiday. Yesterday, we did highly American things like shop at Target and eat sushi.

The air conditioner went out on the second floor ($700 repair incoming on Tuesday, delay due to the holiday weekend). So, we've put the futon and the daybed mattresses in the middle of the downstairs parlor and are "camping out" AKA "having a slumber party."

Last night, I had to explain what I meant by "light as a feather, stiff as a board" because apparently boys don't do that in sixth grade. Not that we had enough people to play anyway.

Spooky Link

10 Things Your Teen Won't Tell You...But She Did Me: The editor of a teen magazine tells what's on the adolescent mind. Note: On the writer of this piece, I don't see who or from what magazine, but I'm willing to take it with a grain O salt.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Teen Titans:" Raven

The Cartoon Network has a pretty great line-up of superhero shows on Saturday nights. I'm fond of "Teen Titans," especially Raven.

In "The End," her father, Trigon, who is basically evil incarnate, is urging her to "fulfill her destiny" and unleash him (and, therefore, doomsday) on earth. It's sort of "Return of the Jedi" meets the DCU. But I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing.

Not long ago, I was talking about what's "derivative" versus "original."

The obvious point is that nothing in storytelling is completely original (ever notice how many awards go to stylistic deviations--some of which work and some of which couldn't be less kid-friendly?).

But the counterpoint is that it's okay, even desirable, to build so long as you brilliantly execute the twist(s). Mixed metaphor, but you know what I mean. Offer something familiar enough that the audience has a context for it, but new enough that they're eager to see how it plays out.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

HWA Stoker Awards

Author Anastasia Suen blogs about the winners of the Bram Stoker Work for Young Readers Award, sponsored by the Horror Writers Association.

Spooky Link

Do Great Books Make Great Movies?: a quiz from MSN Encarta.