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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Winner and the Foreign Body

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And the winner of the Red Glass creative letter-writing contest is…

Emily, age 12! Congratulations, Emily!!!! Enjoy your prize… a signed copy of the audiobook of Red Glass!!!

I loved Emily's letter—it was written from Sophie to Pablo, a year after the book ends. She fills him in on what's been going on in her and Angel's and Dika's and Mr. Lorenzo's lives—and let me tell you, there is a BIG surprise. I'll wait to post the letter until I get official permission from Emily to do so. (If you weren't aware of the contest, you can see the fun and travel section of my website for details. I'll be posting a new contest sometime soon.)

So, last Sunday, I was in a bad mood. I'd just gotten Lasik surgery (24 years in contacts was enough for me) and was assured that I would probably have a "foreign body sensation" in my eyes for a few hours after the surgery. Things were going well with my eyes for a few days, until Sunday morning, when I felt a major foreign body sensation in my eye—it felt like a giant piece of fuzz. I doused my eyeball with drops and ointments, but the feeling wouldn't go away. I was told not to touch or rub my eyes at all, and I practically had to sit on my hands to keep from doing so.

I felt too grumpy to do much-- (did I mention I had a whole big long list of owies including bashing my head on a steel jungle gym bar while playing with my son?) -- so I messed around with the Gimp (free version of Photoshop) and Windows movie maker (even though staring at the computer screen for hours is not recommended for people who've just had Lasik, and was probably not helping my foreign body sensation.)

Anyway, here is my extremely amateur book trailer for The Indigo Notebook. Please, please be forgiving! When I showed an earlier version to Ian (hubbie), he said, "Cool," and tried to leave halfway through.

"Wait!" I commanded/whined, and he watched the second minute, sighing and rolling his eyes.

"So, what do you think?" I asked afterward.

Short pause. "Cool." And he headed to the door.

I chased him outside. "Really? Any more specific feedback?"

"Well, actually, I was trying to be diplomatic, but, how shall we say this, your video might have the opposite effect to what you intend."

"You mean it would make people NOT want to read the book?!"

"Um, it's kind of boring."

I swallowed my urge to threaten to omit him from acknowledgments in future books (I've used that threat so many times he knows I'm bluffing), and told him his feedback would promptly get him kicked out of any writing group. Then I explained that he first must find some positive thing to say about my trailer before giving specific constructive feedback.

After thinking very hard, he said, "Well, the pictures are nice. And maybe you could speed it up a little."

So I went back inside and cut it down to a minute and did a few other maneuvers, and here it is. At least it's short.

(And remember, all book trailers are, as a rule, very cheesy… even the professionally produced ones, I've noticed.)

One of the things I like about my book trailer is that it doesn't have depressing and/or ominous music like many of the other YA book trailers I've seen. (I'm sorry if your book trailer has depressing and/or ominous music—I don't mean to offend you— please rest assured that overall, your trailer probably has LOTS more going for it than mine.) The music was performed by my friend Tino, whose extended family is featured in the images (that I oh-so-deftly photo-shopped). Um, anyway, enjoy the trailer, and remember, if you don't like it, join Ian's club. (And Ian really likes the actual book, so be sure not to judge the book by its trailer…)

Okay, here it is!

Giant Piece of Fuzz story continued…

Wouldn't you know it, I woke up on Monday with that same foreign body feeling in my eye. I was about to phone the eye doc and schedule an appointment because I was sure something was terribly wrong. I examined my eyeball in the mirror once more, and this time, the angle of the morning sunlight was just right, and I'll be darned—There WAS a big piece of fuzz in my eye, so big that I could pluck it out without touching my eyeball. Ah, sweet relief…

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Star in the Forest ARCS!

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It's SO much fun to be clickety clacking away in my trailer and hear the UPS truck pull up in front of my house… and to see the driver emerge with a padded manila envelope. Today, when that happened, I slipped on my flip flops over my socks (my feet were cold this morning) and (feeling a little embarrassed at my footwear) ran outside to greet him. I tore open the package (leaving little bits of cardboard padding dust everywhere—I never learn) and I was greeted with two beautiful little ARCS (advanced review copies) of STAR IN THE FOREST! (I say little because they're actually slightly smaller than my other books, in length, width, and height.) And two shiny book jackets to boot! So exciting. This UPS surprise made it impossible to follow my rule of no break-taking until I revised to pg 100 on my next manuscript (The Ruby Notebook).

Um... just turn your head counter-clockwise for this picture. Note the packaging fuzz spilled out everywhere.
The little monster is from Oaxaca, and I just stuck him in the picture on a whim.

This is my first book with B/W illustrations in it—they're kind of old fashioned looking, as is the cover illustration itself… well, maybe classic is more the word I'm looking for. The illustrations remind me of books I loved as a kid, and I feel ridiculously pleased to feel part of this tradition now. I think the dog illustrations really help show his personality.

Here's a summary of Star in the Forest, which is for middle/upper elementary ages and up:

Zitlally feels so alone. Papa isn't there anymore to whisper to her in star language. Mama is always on the phone, worried. And her sisters are just as scared as she is. Everyone is thinking about that day.
The day Papa was pulled over for speeding.
The day the police found out that Papa was an immigrant without papers.
The day her family discovered that Papa would be deported.
Zitlally seeks comfort in the forest of rusty car parts behind her trailer. There, she finds a dirty, skinny dog with a star-shaped mark on his neck. Soon, she realizes that Star is no ordinary dog. He's like the magical animals in the stories Papa told her. His fate is connected to a human's fate.
To Papa's fate.
If Zitlally can keep Star safe, Papa will stay safe, too.
When Star disappears one day, it's up to Zitlally and her new friend, Crystal, to find him… and save him. Only then can Zitlally be sure that Papa, too, will make his way back home—and they'll be a family once again.

So, on a different note, in case you're wondering what I'm up to in my trailer these days… no, I'm not dozing on the comfy futon all day long (as Ian accuses me of doing). I'm revising The Ruby Notebook (formerly known as The Cerise Notebook, Fall 2010 release). I'm not going to reveal the cover yet, but I'll show you this picture of a ruby red vintage circus performer's outfit that I have hanging in my trailer for inspiration.

My master plan is to have the outfit altered into a dress or top or some article of clothing to wear for the book release party (good motivation to actually finish the book)! I found this dazzling garment for cheap at a shop in Boulder, and I fell in love with it (although it definitely needs altering—it must have been designed in the days of corsets when women's torsos had unearthly proportions.)

Oh, and another early review of The Indigo Notebook came in—this one by Sarah Miller (who is both a fabulous book reviewer and YA author)! "... multi-textured characters... a dash of the mystical... unique plot..." You should check out all Sarah's reviews, as a matter of fact-- they're fun to read.

Off to do more revising in my trailer, which I recently adorned with flowers and butterflies and a flamingo I found hanging from the ceiling of our garage!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, June 1, 2009

After the rain and hail...

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Fiona and me

Hello, hello, hello!

I'm in my trailer in the cozy aftermath of a spring storm. I love the sound of the rain and hail pelting the tin roof (it's thrilling and a little scary somehow-- so loud!) I spent the morning and early afternoon listening to wild French music and writing away, trying to get The Ruby Notebook in shape (which, incidentally, is the new name for the book formerly referred to as The Cerise Notebook.)

Thank you to everyone who gave me comments on the title Cerise! I emailed my editor, Stephanie, about it, and we decided that Cerise could be a challenge to locate online or in a bookstore if you have no clue how to spell it. I do like Ruby a lot, though, even more now that we've made this decision. Although it's not a French word, it's nearly the same in French-- Rubis-- which sounds pretty much the same-- you don't pronounce the s. So, you francophiles out there can feel free to murmur it with a throaty, sexy French accent... Another good thing about the new title: I've ended up having fun including some ruby-ish images in the book (there actually already were quite a few...), so I think all's well that ends well. (Plus, ruby's my birthstone, so it's a stone close to my heart.)

Me and Allison-- librarian extraordinaire!

I had a great time at my Red Glass paperback release event at Old Firehouse Books on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It was so much fun talking with everyone afterward-- that's my favorite part of these readings! I was grateful and humbled that a few people drove all the way from Denver and Greeley in the rain to be at the reading. (Thank you, Kim and Allison and Alice!)

So here is the almost-final cover for Star in the Forest, which is my middle grade novel coming out in Spring 2010. I like the soft, magical lighting (remember, I'm really into sunlight through leaves...) and how Star's fluffy white fur melts into the grass.

cute dog, huh?!

More about Star later... I've got lots to say about it, but right now I want to post some pics of my ESL students and me at our recognition ceremony. This is the last ESL class I'll be teaching for a while... *sniff sniff*... I started teaching ESL eleven years ago. Last year, I started to feel overwhelmed after the arrival of Baby, but I stubbornly hung on to my last class, since I love it so much. (Teaching ESL is like traveling around the world-- complete with the music, dancing, food (we LOVE parties...) Many years ago, my students were the ones who first taught me cumbia... and a few years later, salsa... and this past year, Jo from Brazil tried to teach me samba, but I can't seem to move my hips that fast. ;) One of these days...

Me, Jo, and Wendy

Anyway, I finally admitted that it's too stressful for me to teach two nights a week while writing several books under deadlines AND spending time with Toddler (AND catching a cold from him every other week-- I'm currently recovering from yet another one) AND managing to have a conversation with Hubbie here and there AND having time to just sit and stare at sunlight through leaves (which, I must admit, is a priority for me.)

Jose Luis and me

I feel so, so grateful to all the students I've had over the past eleven years. I don't think I could have written any of my books so far without them. Many characters and scenes from Red Glass, What the Moon Saw, and Star in the Forest were inspired by my wonderful, warm, fascinating, enthusiastic, smart, funny students, and I can't thank them enough. And my book coming up in Spring 2011-- The Queen of Water-- was co-written with Maria Virginia Farinango, who I met at the school (the next classroom over)! When I was in Ecuador doing research for our book, I stumbled across stories and people that ended up inspiring The Indigo Notebook... so that's *five* books that grew out of my ESL teaching in one way or another. Thank you, beloved students!!! Gracias, queridos alumnos!!! Obrigado!!!

Me and Fernando

May is officially over, which means that my month of fame and glory with the readergirlz is over... such a great time! I'm hooked, and I'll definitely be dropping into the site to chat and comment and read about the other books they're featuring this year. They've archived all the discussion threads, including the live chat (plus the interview, book club party ideas, etc) so if you have time, check it out! Minnie at Athena's YA Book Review did an awesome job of listing the highlights of the chat in her blog-- thanks, Minnie!
Being involved with readergirlz last month had the added bonus of making me aware of all the amazing author/reader blogs out there... I could spend all day wandering around their words of wisdom (but I don't because I unplug my wireless for a few hours every day so I can get some writing done!) I discovered Laini Taylor's blog, which has fantastic essays about the writing process (plus it's got cool artwork that she did herself.) I love her metaphor for the "exploratory" draft of a novel: you've seen the jungle from above and taken notes on it from a big-picture bird's-eye view, but during the exploratory draft, you're down on the ground with your machete, sweating and chopping a path through the underbrush, feeling lost and scared and just hoping you'll survive. I recently finished that phase of The Ruby Notebook, and having survived that (thankfully!), I am now revising, which feels much less scary...

Okay, thanks for reading!