Thursday, February 25, 2010

Literary Adventures At The Laundromat

I have a sad Laundromat story to tell. I made my usual Thursday afternoon excursion to my local Laundromat where I have been a regular, off and on, for years and am on a first-name basis with Linda, the day manager. We're on a Laundromat routine right now because we've had some water issues here at Chez Gauthier that we're too exhausted to deal with. It's far, far easier to just go to the Laundromat, especially if I can get my favorite parking space by the front door.

Okay, well, whenever I go to the Laundromat, I get maybe twenty minutes to read. I always bring a book. I got my washers loaded (I only needed three this week), and I can't find my book. I was ninety percent certain I'd placed it on one of the baskets of laundry. I went out to the car twice to see if it had fallen out... lifted up my coat that I'd left on one of the machines...Nothing.

Gail, I said to myself, you didn't put it in one of the washers, did you? Because if you did, you're toast. Once these things are loaded and locked, it's like liftoff time at the Cape. There's no going back.

I was hopeful that I'd just left the book at home, because I couldn't hear any thumping the way you do when you, say, put a cell phone through the wash. I know that sound all too well.

I spent my twenty minutes of reading time with a four-year-old copy of Bon Appetit (I subscribed to Bon Appetit many years ago--a lot more recipes back then) and a back issue of Vanity Fair that included a fashion layout in which all the models had their mouths open and were staring at something off to one side and up. It's hard to believe anyone thought that was attractive.

I unload my two dark loads, which was pretty uneventful. Then it comes time for the megawasher of whites. First off, I find the two knee supports I thought I'd lost because I couldn't find them in my gear bag this morning when I was in the locker room before my taekwondo class. They must have become tangled up in the dobak I wore Tuesday. Huzzah! But then I find this doughy rectangle that was, indeed, my book. Or, we should say, the remains of my book. Except it wasn't my book. It was a book a family member had loaned my a few years back that I was just getting around to reading.

I was worried the book might be out of print, and I'd be unable to replace it. But you will all be relieved to know that that's already taken care of.

The really interesting part of this story--in the event that you haven't been fascinated enough thus far--is that the cover of the book had totally disappeared. It appears to have dissolved.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Dreadful Am I?

Yesterday, I managed to foist off Easter dinner on another family member. Easter dinner is traditionally my meal. Why was I so happy, even eager, to see the thing go off to Massachusetts?

Because I don't want to take time off from work to get ready for it!!!

The shopping, the cooking, the cleaning...I most definitely would have had to take Good Friday off to get it all done. It can take me two or three days to get ready for a holiday gathering, easily.

I kind of hate myself, but not all that much.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm Close To Snapping

So the ninth draft of the never-ending story has almost been perfected--two chapters need to have the changes moved from the hard copy draft back to the computer--and I'm at this point where I'm feeling that this book is so predictable. Will anyone be surprised by anything? Do they need to be surprised?

And what is this thing, anyway? Is it a problem book with a thriller twist even though the problem is one that no one will ever, ever have? Is it a family drama? Is it funny enough? Does the little device I use to give the third person narrative a voice work, or is it just plain annoying? Will people get that all the jeezum crows define a particular character and bind him to his mother, that they define the setting of the story, or will they go, "Huh?"

And what about the ending? A few years ago I read a blog or livejournal post about one of my books in which the blogger/journalist said my ending activated his gag reflex. That kind of thing doesn't bother me, except that I could see what he meant. I like a...hmmm...maybe...transcendent?...ending. Something a little bit intense, that shows a character's evolution.

That's not another way for saying sappy, is it? Jeezum crow! I'm not sappy, am I? I hate sap!

I'm hoping that the predictability I'm feeling is due to the fact that I've written parts of this thing nine times. It's predictable to me because I've written it nine times. I think I've read it before because I have.

And as far as the ending goes, I'm still working on it. I'm thinking about maybe having zombies land in a space ship in the last paragraph. That wouldn't be sappy.

Yeah. That could be the way to go.

I'm going to go lift some weights. That will make me feel better.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pick Up A Book And Start Reading Again, Gail

Down on yourself about work? Feeling inept? Incompetent? Maybe a little humiliated?

I've got two words for you--endorphin rush.

I've been moping around for a couple of days, boring my family to death, because it appears that I misread a book that I then blogged about. At length. You can read about this situation in the comments section of this post. Spoiler alert! That's why I'm not writing about it here (the risk of spoilage). Besides, I'm actually writing about something else here.

Anyway, I was feeling very distressed about this because I am supposed to be able to comprehend a mystery novel, for crying out loud. (Unless it's something like this. I will admit, I have only the vaguest idea what was going on with that one.) I was feeling inadequate. Stupid.

Yeah, that's right. I don't have anything bigger to worry about.

So, today was taekwondo day, and I'm at my class this morning. The instructor asked me to work with another student on joong bong defense. I've been working on joong bong defense for, maybe, five years. It takes a while, but I find it doable because it's orderly and involves memorizing an attack and a defense. Ten of them, so far. It's not like sparring, which I am terrible at, because you have to respond to random attacks--you have to process what your opponent is doing and come up with a response, within seconds, and then keep moving.

However, when you are trying to teach a skill to someone, especially someone who is having trouble with it (and these things aren't easy), randomness comes into play again. The student makes mistakes. The student gets confused. I get confused. I make mistakes.

We didn't get very far, and I had to let the instructor know that I was...ah, how was I putting it earlier? Oh, yes. Inept, incompetent, and inadequate. He's a lovely young man and said he'd take over. I should go put my gear on because we were sparring this week.

In case you don't recall, I mentioned earlier that I am terrible at sparring. So I'm walking across the dojang to my gear bag thinking, I can't read. I can't do joong bong defense. Now I've got to spar. I'm going to be crawling home on my stomach.

Au contraire!

Sparring went fantastically! I had a great training partner who doesn't usually train in the morning class, though I'd seen her around before. We were perfectly matched! Which is awful to say because she was six ranks below me. In my defense, though, she was taller than I am. But it was as if we were both at a level where we could each challenge the other without overwhelming her.

I came out of there with a buzz on like I haven't had after class in years.

And on the way home I said, You're going to the library, Gail! And you're getting books. You're getting hard books. And you know what else? You read that father/child storyline into that book, right? Okay, do something with it! This spring, after you finish your big project and are working on small ones, you're going to write that weird father story you've been thinking about for eight years! And then you're going to write that message-from-my-forefathers essay. And it's going to be brilliant! And you're going to submit it somewhere!

Yeah! Yeah!

I'm telling you, just remembering it is bringing the rush back.

Think of this post as your Shaker and curling post. Without the Shakers or the curling.

Today's Training Report: I revised about four pages of the last chapter of the never-ending story. I'm within paragraphs of being done. This denouement is very different from the last one. I'm focusing very much on theme. I never used to think about theme much at all when I was writing. This is new for me.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Sixth Anniversary For O.C.

I'm having quite a stimulating week here at Chez Gauthier. I've done school presentations, I've started getting ready for next month's on-line chat with a library in Maine, and I've been fielding inquiries for more author visits. And then today I celebrate (well, let's say I notice) the sixth anniversary of Original Content.

This blog is one of the few techie things that I grasped before my computer guy did. When I asked him to take a look at Blogger to see how I'd go about starting a blog, he didn't know why I wanted to bother when he had already made me a website. Blogs weren't anywhere near as common as they are now. In fact, before I started mine, I googled "children's literature" and "weblog" and found somewhere between four and six sites. TodayJacketFlap's main page says it includes more than 650 children's book-related blogs. I guess a lot can happen in six years. Still, I find that number staggering.

This blog has changed over time. I didn't post every day for several years, but had a goal of generating new material two or three times a week. (I didn't always meet it.) I didn't have a method for readers to comment for many years. I didn't have my covers up here for a long time. I didn't know what a blog roll was until I started noticing them on other kidlit blogs.

I cannot recall at what point I started noticing that there were other kidlit blogs. Maybe in 2005? Though I have found a link to Kids Lit from back in 2004. Also, I was obsessed with Jane Yolen's On-line Journal (like a blog but different) from the end of July, 2004 until the beginning of April, 2007.

In spite of the changes, I remain amazingly consistent. Or, perhaps, I am not capable of evolving and changing. My purpose for blogging remains the same as it was the day of my first post--to bring original content to my website on a frequent basis. I am still intrigued by the line between YA and A literature, just as I was in my third post. And I was writing about Beowulf back in March, 2002 just as I was last fall.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

This Kind Of Thing Makes Me Anxious

This fall I gave up reading a book after page twenty-five. There was nothing wrong with the author's writing technically. No dangling modifiers. No overuse of adverbs. No run-on sentences. No sentence fragments. There were no paragraphs that went on for pages. The author had all that down.

So what's your problem, Gail? My problem was the book was loaded with stereotypical kid characters and situations. You had the middle grade girl whose best friend wants to run with the cool crowd. You had the brother who calls his sister all kinds of names. You had mother/daughter tension. It was all stuff I'd read before, written in ways I'd seen before.

What distresses me about this situation? What is it about this book that makes me, myself, feel anxious?

Well, as I said, there was nothing wrong with the sentence by sentence writiing. This author knew how to do that. What's more, I'm sure the author felt her work had something unique about it, something valuable. All of us writers think that.

If she could be wrong (as I think she was, though, of course, that's just me), isn't it possible that the rest of us are wrong, too? Or at least some of us are wrong? Me, for instance?

How can we be sure that what we've done is as good as we think it is?

I hope that I'm just being self-centered, that whatever I read I have to make about me. Yeah. That's it. This has nothing to do with realizing around 4:30 this afternoon that the chapter I was working on was just talk, talk, talk and nowhere near as good as I'd thought it was. I'm just self-involved. Whew.

It's good to be the queen!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tragically Slow

On Friday A Fuse #8 Production included a post about three books that were about to be published in paperback with different covers and titles than they had when they were originally published in hardcover. I, of course, offered my two cents, which was, essentially, "Blah, blah, blah, blah-blah."

Well, I was telling one of my family members about this whole thing at dinner (Yes, Fuse, we talk about you at the dinner table) two days later, when I realized I'd had something similar happen with my second book, A Year with Butch and Spike. The title remained the same, but the cover changed. I have no idea why this happened. I believe I asked once, but if I got an answer I've forgotten it. I'm not very good about details.

Bringing up A Year with Butch and Spike in this context would be shameless, shameless self-promotion on my part except...the book is out of print! In hardcover, in soft cover, in any cover at all! You can't buy the thing anywhere!

But the covers were nice, weren't they?

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