Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remembering the goosebumps

Does anyone else still get excited about book fairs? Not those big, tempting grown-up events that I've never had the luck to attend (and if I did, you'd never hear from me again) but those Scholastic book fairs we had when we were kids. I was reminded of that during a blog visit to Ally at Writing on the Wall: A Bit of Inspiration,
and remembered how much I loved those book fairs, but, being poor, it was like going to a fancy restaurant: I wanted to wolf it all down, but my budget only allowed for breadsticks.

Now, as an adult, I have more money, but I feel a little weird about strolling into a book fair and slapping some hard-earned currency down for an armload of posters, books and other brightly colored items, especially since I don't have any children of my own to use as cover. I guess I could employ a frontboy ('Hey, kid, here's a twenty, bring me back all the Scooby Doo they've got') but in today's security-conscious world, even that seems risky. ('Hey, why are all those kids running toward that middle-aged woman in the parking lot with a stack of Choose Your Own Adventure books? Seize her!')

When I covered book fairs for the local paper's school beat, things became a little easier, but by the time I got there, camera in hand, the little brats had scooped up all the good stuff, and there wasn't a Scooby Doo poster to be had. Sure, years of collecting toys and books made the purchases go easier ('Why, yes, of course, all this is for my...nephew), it still felt a bit odd, even for me.

I still get those wonderful, book-inspired goosebumps when I see a book fair sign. But these days, I don't stop. I keep going, like a mature adult, and head home.

Thank God for eBay.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Procrastination, Part Duh

Just days after I wrote about my lifelong habit of putting things off, I made a pilgrimage to Barnes and Noble to offer up my debit card on their altar of books. I have several weaknesses, but two of the strongest are tote bags and calendars, so it seemed like kismet when I stumbled across Do It Later!-A 2008 Planner (or Non-Planner) for the Creative Procrastinator by Mark Asher. It's a great little desk planner that comes complete with designated doodle space on nearly every page, tidbits of comforting procrastinator wisdom ("Research shows that there's a 50 percent chance an undesirable task will disappear if left undone for thirty days") and activities ("Write a lengthy, thoughtful journal entry about your troubles in getting motivated to work.") Egad, this man can see into my soul!

My favorite pages, though, are the lists, both fill-in-the-blank and helpful hints, like Ten Things to Say to Annoy an Uptight Perfectionist, or my personal favorite, How to Make Killer Art out of Office Supplies. In fact, I'm already clearing out my drawer organizer in preparation for that Zen Garden. Basically, it's a fun calendar with lots of reasons to write in it other than to mark how many days it's been since I've sent in a query or an invoice.

The only quibble is when the calendar starts; the first page jumps right in there on Dec. 31, 2007. If it were really for procrastinators, it would start around March 2, 2008. I don't think I've ever written in a calendar before March, so this will be a new, exciting experience.

Now, if he'd only come out with a matching tote bag.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey and typing

No offense to my folks, but the one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had was just me and my husband. At the time (we were both much younger) he worked at a retail shop in downtown, and volunteered to keep it open for his boss, and get a little extra pay. I went with that day, and we enjoyed the quiet of the morning; very few people were on the street. We ordered Chinese food, had a wonderful lunch, and then the post-Thanksgiving dinner crowds emerged. They bought tons of stuff, since we were the only shop open for blocks. At the end of the day, the cash register was full, the shop was nearly empty, and we were together, full of egg drop soup and tofu stir-fry. It was a Thanksgiving done our way, at our pace, and we loved it.

We both have a habit of working holidays. This habit started involuntarily, as we held multiple jobs in tourism and customer service. Now, we both set our own hours; his job as an IT guru for a local string of businesses, and and mine as freelancer usually fit well into our schedule. But we often work on Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas, just because we can, because we enjoy the quiet. So after the required family dinner with my family, we'll head back home and likely work on a few projects, then spend the evening together. Hey, it works for us.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I saw a shirt on that summed it up pretty well: 'Procrastination is crack for writers.' It's spot on, because putting work off is something we can't help, and can't stop without a 12-step program. I may be the worst offender of all time, because I have a list of ideas and writing to-dos that literally stretches back weeks, months and years.

For example: I've been meaning to mention Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog for a long time. He's the editor of the annual print edition, and has the latest on new agents, closing agencies, who's reading what, and where new writers should send their work. Chuck keeps the blog updated, and should be an essential resource for every fiction writer. He's also a nice guy and a great speaker, so if he comes to a conference near you, definitely drop by to hear his session.

There. One thing off the list. Now, I just have to fill out the list some more to avoid working on my next article. Then, I'll work on the article to avoid blogging. After that, I'll blog to avoid my to-do list. See, it all works out in the end.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Information Junkie: Hit me, baby

I laugh at writers who declare, 'Oh, I never watch television,' especially when they act like they're so above the medium. When I responded to one that yes, indeed, I watch television every single day and I love it, she said, 'Oh, you're such an information hound.'

Dogged in my pursuit of facts, trivia, and cool things to know? Absolutely. I'm an information junkie. I listen to BBC World News, watch CNN, read papers online, and soak up pop culture. You simply can't be a writer and stick your head in a hole, determined to write your opus without that annoying outside world nibbling at your brain.

Stuff happens, really cool stuff, funny stuff, sad stuff, life stuff: hundreds of thousands of tiny ideas marching past, just waiting to be grabbed. The media feeds off itself, so if you see two articles on the same subject in the newspapers, you'll likely see a televised news piece on it within a couple of weeks. Then it becomes a trend, and more articles are written. I swear, CNN staffers must have Digg in their bookmarks, because those stories pop up on TV regularly.

Admittedly, I don't watch everything. Never seen 'Survivor,' 'American Idol,' or 'Dancing with the Stars.' But I usually know what's happening on those shows, because CNN reports it. I do love my sitcoms, plus my sci-fi, and all the lowdown on History/Discovery/A&E/Science/E! (oops, how did that last one get in there?) But it's all about being connected.

Give me my 'Daily Show,' 'Colbert Report,' my late-night menu of Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson, plus some Nick at Nite thrown in for good measure. Fork over 'Mythbusters,' 'Dirty Jobs,' 'Heroes,' 'Chuck,' 'Eureka,' and isn't it time for 'Deadliest Catch' again? I know which trendy actress has a CDL, who has a man-sized safe in his office, and what the Britney-joke-of-the-day is. Because it's fun, and it's part of the culture in this moment. It also gets me work, because I can see trends starting up.

That said, the lack of fresh television is in the news, and I support the striking writers completely: I'll watch the reruns, speed up the Netflix rotation, and root for those guys to get their deal, because part of their complaint is the lack of respect for what they do. That's a complaint all writers have, from the local reporter to the Hollywood script writer. The other complaint is one we should all understand: getting paid what we're worth. So while the guild writers do what they have to, I'll be chilling out, waiting with giggly glee, and wagging my big hound tail to see their work back on the screen.