Monday, July 30, 2007

Potter Review--which parts made you cry? Spoilers abound

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All in all, I loved the last book of the Harry Potter series. I really liked books 1-3, was disappointed in the way books 4 & 6 ended (I am not a big fan of tragic endings or killing off main characters.) and didn’t like book 5 much at all. I thought it had major plot problems. I just saw the movie though and really liked it. The movie captured perfectly what the book was aiming for and failed to produce.

So in my mind Rowling really redeemed herself with the last book. She--as always--did a superb job of world building and characterization. She turned Dumbledore into a rich, multi-dimensional character. Well, I won’t go into a list of all the things she did right. I’ll just say it was a long list. I didn’t even mind that many of my predictions didn’t happen because it was such a good story as it was. I really loved the fact that Rowling turned Harry into a Christ-like figure who had to sacrifice himself for the people he loved, and in doing so gained the power to defeat evil. It was wonderful and made me feel like I did when I read Narnia the first time. You’re reading thinking: No, no, no! And then: Yes, yes, yes!

It also explained and vindicated all of those times in the book (that initially I found very annoying) where Harry turned around and tried to help the people who’d just been trying to hurt and kill him. I mean, I was with Ron when he yelled at Harry while he tried to save Malfoy. Like, would you really give the person who has just been trying to kill you another chance to do it? But when I read the climax and realized what Rowling had symbolically done, I realized that Harry couldn’t have acted any other way. He was a savior not only for the good, but for everyone.

And I thought the whole thing with Snape was so powerfully poignant.

I cried in several places—and it always strikes me that some of the places where I cry in a book, the author probably didn’t intend people to cry. I wonder what it says about you—you know which parts make you cry. For example I cried when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were exhausted and couldn’t make their petronas and their friends came up behind them and did it for them. I was just so glad that Harry wasn’t alone for the final fight (like I thought he would be) but instead was surrounded by all of his friends. That was absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, I’m just wondering where the rest of you cried.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Okay, I read the book (Spoiler Alert, kinda)

Even though I said I wasn't going to read the latest Harry Potter book until I'd finished my short story (I'm about half way through writing it,) I did in fact read and finish the Deathly Hallows. I had to. It was self defense. People kept trying to tell me about it even though I expressly told everyone not to.

Example 1: My 11 year old son came home from school on Monday and asked if I'd finished the book yet. I said, "No."

He said, "Well a kid in my class told me some stuff that happened, but I didn't believe him and I wanted to know if--"

"Stop!" I told him. "Remember, you're not supposed to tell me about the book."

"Well the girls in my class said he was lying. They said--"

"Stop!" I said and had to once again explain my no spoiler in the house policy.

Example 2: I let my 13 year old son read it while I was working on my short story, dinner, etc, but the next day when I went into his bedroom to shake him awake, he rolled over and--still asleep--mumbled, "No, that's not the wand you use for defense."


Example 3: I started reading the book while I waited at doctor's appointments, swimming lessons, etc. I had the book on my bed and last night my 13 year old came into to talk to me and started flipping through the pages near the end. "No way!" he exclaimed. "Does Hermione die?"

"Stop it! Stop it!" I yelled at him.

You'd think he'd know better than to say those sorts of things since I got mad at him for flipping to the last page of number six and yelling, "I was right! Dumbledore dies!"

Dumbledore wasn't the only one who nearly died after that. I was only half way through the book.

So you see, I had to read it before anyone else could say anything more about the story. Right after I finished I went downstairs, found my 13 year old and said, "You're right. Hermione dies."

It serves him right.

I'll review the book next blog. All in all I loved it, but there were parts that bothered me, like how come she never explained who the baby was? Did I miss that somehow?

Monday, July 23, 2007

My baby started kindergarten today.

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I've been looking forward to my new found free time, but still I cried after I dropped her off at her class. Which was especially bad because I had to stop by the grocery store and pick up milk. Oh well, let the customers wonder, I always say.

Then I came home and watched The Nanny while I ate breakfast. My daughter has only been gone for hours and I've already slipped into the masses who watch daytime TV. The commercials they show during this time slot are especially depressing because they are all adds to help you become a message therapist or a medical assistant. Basically they say, "I stopped being a loser who stays home watching daytime TV and made something of my life; you can too!"

I think I need some chocolate.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reason number 7 to write: meet cool people

Okay, it’s probably optimistic on my part to even post a blog when I know the whole world is busy reading the next installment of Harry Potter. (What? You’ve already finished? You overachiever. I haven’t even started the book yet. I’m not going to let myself read about Harry until I’ve finished writing a short story which is due August 6th and which, coincidentally, I also haven’t started.)

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Anyway, I thought I’d tell you about one of the perks of being a writer. Specifically that you get to meet all sorts of neat book people. Seriously, writers, librarians, and teachers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever come across.

I just spoke to Jim Blasingame’s YA novel class at ASU and it was lot of fun. I have said on occasion (generally cynical occasions) that sometimes I feel like I’m working very hard to become good at something that no one cares about anymore. So it’s nice to talk to people who are excited about books. Plus Jim said I looked young enough to be my daughter’s sister, which incidentally is why one day he’ll show up in one of my book dedications. You just don’t forget men who say those kinds of things.

Side note: Jim has the coolest office because it is filled with books. My office is also filled with books so I felt we were kindred spirits until someone pointed out that all of his books were alphabetized. My books—well, not so much.

We then went out to lunch with Don and Alleen Nilson, delightful people, who both teach at ASU and have been involved in the book world for some time. In fact Alleen founded ALAN. How cool is that? I would love to someday be able to say I helped found an organization so I have been thinking about appropriate ones . . . Hmmm. Maybe CCLA: Crazy Cat Lady Anonymous: a group for all of those people out there like me who’ve been accused of hoarding cats. Or maybe something along the lines of LA: Late Again: a group for people who have no concept of time and thus are habitually five minutes late for everything. Or I bet I could start a group for technology challenged people called INRMFTCJDLM: It’s Not Really My Fault—The Computer Just Doesn’t Like Me.

I also got to meet Laura Walsh who was involved in the Mesa Writing Project, which was a class about teaching teachers how to teach writing skills. A very necessary skill for kids to have. You can read more about that at:

Anyway, I consider myself lucky to be able to rub shoulders with so many cool people—people who still care very much about reading and books.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Potter Predictions

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Since everyone is eagerly awaiting the next Potter installment, I thought I’d test out my psychic powers and make some predictions.

First of all, like everybody else, I think that Snape will prove himself to be a good guy after all.

I think Wormtail will do a Darth Vader and switch loyalties in the last book.

I think any and all adults who could help Harry will be killed off so Harry will have no one to fall back on. (It was the reason Dumbledore had to go.) With the exception of Snape and possibly Hagrid—-one of them will most likely become the new headmaster at the end of the book.

And most of all I’m hoping that we’ll find out that it’s actually Neville, instead of Harry that the prophecy is about. I think Harry will horrifyingly fail at killing Voldemort and at the last minute Neville will step in and do the deed himself. (At least that’s how I’d write it.)

I also think that Harry will have a chance to see all of the characters who’ve died before and make peace with them. (Either from this side or the next—although I really hope he isn’t killed off in the book.) I’d love it if they all came back to life but that is probably too cheerful for J.K. Rowling. She seems very fond of funerals lately.

Oh yeah, and of course Ron and Hermione will end up together. I’d like for Ginny to be killed off as I found her extremely annoying in the last book, but I doubt that will happen.

I also predict that my editor will do absolutely no editing on my manuscript until he finishes the novel--in the book world this is sort of a holiday where everything shuts down. I should finish a couple of projects before I read the book, but I probably won't because I don't want anyone to tell me how it ends and what are the chances of avoiding that?

I'll have to stay in my room, unplug the internet, or just hold my hands over my ears and hum loudly.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My New BFFs

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The BYU Symposium for Young Readers was incredible! Every single speaker was amazing: Ann Cannon, Stephen T. Johnson, Suzanne Fisher Staples, and Gary Paulsen (And of course me. I frequently amaze myself.)

The conference planners had been trying for 20 years to get Gary Paulsen (Hatchet, Brian's Winter, Snow Dogs, and like 197 other books) to come and speak. I think he was worth the wait. He told the funniest stories about his dog team. Now I want to go on the iditarod. Well, except for that according to Gary they don't have porta-potties along the race route. And yes, I asked him, and yes he gave me an incredulous stare. But really, women have to think about these things.

My first meeting with Gary was at the book signing. Before they let the crowd in I waved hello at him and he came over to introduce himself. I told him that my kids had enjoyed Hatchet, but that my son had been disappointed that Brian never got to kill anyone with the hatchet. My oldest son really only likes books where someone is stabbed or eaten by a dragon.

Gary laughed and told me maybe he'd put that in the next book. (So see, I am doing my best to improve the quality of literature everywhere.)

It was a lot of fun to meet so many teachers, librarians, and people who loved writing and reading. I met people from Utah, Wyoming and Arizona. I think my favorite thing though was hanging out with the other writers at lunch. They're all so nice, talented, and wise. Stephen and David blew me away with their artwork. Anne has been locked outside her house in her underwear--something which surprisingly I have not done yet. Suzzane has lived in all sorts of exotic places which I'd love to visit--although maybe not right now, since they are currently shooting at each other in Afghanistan. Chris Crowe, Mike Tunnell and Jim Jacobs did a fabulous job of pulling everything together.

I asked each of them to tell me what the most important thing they've learned about the business is. They told me that doing school visits is important, that I need to learn to promote myself, and not to write for awards. As Gary said, "That will kill you." He said he doesn't ever look at his awards because he doesn't want them to change his writing.

Gary also said some very colorful things about publishers, editors, lawyers, and the French. Have I mentioned that I love Gary? Really, if I could figure out a way to hitch up all my stray cats to a sleigh, I'd be there in Alaska with him in a minute.

Technology, My Old Nemesis

As usual, Janette is having technical difficulties. For some reason I don’t even try to figure out, my last blog posted twice. I thought I could delete the post, but no, I couldn’t find that button on New Blogger. I hand deleted the typing, hoping New Blogger was installed with psychic powers and would understand what I was trying to do—but well, you see the result. So now I’m being philosophical about it and have decided this is the computer’s way of saying it wants to hear more from me about the conference.

Okay then, one more point of interest in my last trip:
I did a book signing in the BYU book store where I worked twenty years ago. It was sort of a surreal experience. Even my old boss was still there. I’d like to report that while I worked there all those years ago in my spiffy blue vest, I had some sort of premonition that one day I’d be back as an author. But I wasn’t installed with psychic powers either. Once, when Orson Scott Card was there for a book signing which hardly anyone came too, I did think, “Boy am I glad that’s not me.”

Oh, if only I’d known how many times that would be me.

Luckily though, it wasn’t me at this particular book signing. I sold a lot of books. Hurray!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fashion No-Man Land

I'm speaking at BYU's Symposium For Young Readers on July 12 & 13. It's going to be a great conference with impressive people like Gary Paulsen (who has so many Newbery medals that he probably uses them to decorate the Christmas tree). Anyway, I asked my contact there what I should wear and she told me business casual.


My wardrobe mostly consists of things that could pass as pajamas. Writers are all about comfort. I also have a lot of jeans, which probably is more casual than most businesses allow.

So I went out shopping trying to find something that would make me look like a professional. A lot of women my age are professionals so it shouldn't have been hard, right? If there were sound on this blog you would hear me sighing now.

Note to fashion designers. Women my age don't want to show our bra straps. Yes, I know it's all the rage for the younger generation but I'm afraid women in my generation will never feel comfortable showing our underwear publicly. We can't turn things that mortified us in junior high into fashion statements.

Also those large flowery prints, the ones that were big in the sixties and seventies--I still remember my mother wearing that kind of thing. How can I wear something I saw my mother wear and not feel old?

Isn't that the whole point of having fashion change--so you never have to wear the styles your parents wore?

Anyway, I didn't find much. Today as I packed I just threw a bunch of clothes into a suitcase and I'm hoping they'll look professional when I pull them out. Or maybe I can find something in the airport shops.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hey Mikey, he likes it!

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I just heard from my editor and he actually likes my new story! In fact, he liked it so much he wants me to write nothing but sad stories from now on. I have to keep telling him I can't do that because I am basically a happy person. I only have so much angst I can draw upon, and I think I used most of it up writing the last story.

But then again, you never know. I might get lucky and have tragedy strike me before the next book is due.

(No, I'm just kidding about that, Mr. Guardian Angel, Sir. Please don't leave your post. Knock on wood and all of that.)

Anyway, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief. Now I can be happy--at least until I get the bow-tied-one's revision notes. Despite what he says, I know from experience they will not be light. But hopefully they'll at least be possible.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Another Vegetarian is Born

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I have a scene in my latest manuscript that I’ve worried about. In it, a five-year-old boy realizes that the turkey they’ve eaten at Thanksgiving comes from an actual turkey. This may sound strange to you, but I still remember finding out that the chicken we ate for dinner was the same thing as the chickens in my picture books. Talk about an unpleasant surprise. I blame this childhood trauma on Disney for making all of those talking cartoon animals. Sesame Street also shares the blame. Muppet chickens are unappetizingly cute.

My older kids have all gone through the same thing—that day of recognition, along with the accompanying outrage that meat is actually animals. This was always followed by weeks of them playing guess-which-animal-we’re-eating-tonight. It’s enough to discourage anyone from cooking. And it was nice, really, to tell them I didn’t know where hot dogs came from.

But the problem was, I couldn’t really remember how old the kids were when these events happened. Were they five, four, three perhaps? Five seemed so old to not know that chicken is chicken, fish is indeed fish, and yes Thanksgiving dinner used to say, “gobble gobble” just like in the picture books. And don’t ask me to explain chicken eggs, because I just don’t want to.

My editor, the bow-tied one, doesn’t have children. He probably won’t believe that a five year old doesn’t know what meat is.

I wanted to ask my five year old if she knew, but then again, I didn’t really.

Last night we had a chicken and rice dish. (See, I can cook some things without nearly destroying my kitchen in the process.) As we ate, my middle daughter forked through her food, examining it. She is convinced we are trying to slip something evil into her dinner and so she must be vigilant searching through it.

“What is this black thing?” she asked me.

“That’s a part of a mushroom from the cream of mushroom soup,” I told her.

“Hmmmm,” she said disapprovingly. Only she could even find a mushroom piece in the cream of mushroom soup. It ought to be called essence-of-mushroom soup or perhaps just thinking-about-but-not-really-using-mushrooms soup. I mean really, they must include about a half a stem in each can.

Since middle daughter still seemed unhappy about actually receiving something besides the ‘cream of’ part of the soup, I added, “Mushrooms are in mushroom soup.”

My five-year old held up a piece of chicken on her fork. “Where does this come from?”

“It’s chicken,” I told her.

“But where does it come from?”

“It’s chicken. It comes from a chicken,” I said.

Middle daughter leaned across the table and added, “Don’t worry. It wanted to die.”

Sometimes older sisters don’t really make things better.

“This is a chicken!” my younger daughter proclaimed indignantly. “Gross! I’m not eating it!”

So apparently five is about the right age.

We had pizza tonight, but I dodged the pepperoni question. It’s probably for the best. I’m not actually sure where pepperoni comes from.