Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I'm Thankful For

1. Family
2. Pilgrims
3. Marshmallows flambé
4. Books and art by not so famous people
5. Rain
6. Pumpkin muffins
7. Dishwashers
8. Time to enjoy it all

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Based on the Book

"Twilight" captured the box office last week and it got me thinking about the connection between books and Hollywood.

I can remember in high school claiming that I was going to write the Great American Novel and then pen the screenplay based on the book. Ah, the ignorance of youth.

I'm still plugging away on my great novels, but the allure of a film version has waned. I love books and pretty much any movie made from a book I've read will guarantee my presence in the theater. But sometimes when I hear that one of my favorite books is being made into a film, I cringe. (Can anyone say "Eragon?") Most bookworms would probably agree that the movie is never as good as the book, but sometimes film makers do manage to get it right.

I'm a purist. I hate when they change a great story for a movie. There are only two films that have thrilled me as much on the screen as they did on the page. "Presumed Innocent," by Scott Turow had spot on casting with Harrison Ford and the script stuck closely to the book. And when the Disney/Walden film "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" came out in 2005, my son and I stood in line on opening day. It took our breath away. Seamless animation, stunning cinematography and fabulous casting combined to make this my favorite adaptation of all time.

Sometimes small screen versions of books do well, especially when they become a mini-series. "Roots," "Brideshead Revisited," and "The Thornbirds" all attracted large audiences. And while the television show "Little House on the Prarie" had little to do with the actual books, it had me hooked for years.

So what about you? What books did you enjoy on the silver screen? Which ones should Hollywood have left alone?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friends and Faces

One of the things I love about living in a small town like Solvang is that no matter where or when I go out, I'm always bound to run into someone I know. It's like living among friends. Of course, my husband probably has a completely different opinion on this.

Last night we went to my son's favorite restaurant to celebrate his birthday. We ran into Emily, a student who helped on my yearbook staff last year. Sweet, funny and extremely talented, I enjoyed catching up with her (she graduated in June so I don't see her at school anymore).

As soon as we sat down, a teacher from my children's preschool came up to say 'hi' and commented on how much they had grown. Once she was out of earshot, my son turned to me and said, "Who was that?"

I stared at him, shocked. He used to like this teacher. "That was Veronica."

My daughter chimed in with her two cents. "She taught at preschool! Don't you remember, Drew?"

My husband shrugged and smiled at my son. "That's okay, Drew. I had no idea who that was either!"

And so, to quote Carrie Bradshaw here, I just had to wonder. Do women make better connections with people? Is my family unique or is this a male/female thing?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Memorable Books

Sometimes when you hear a song, it takes you back to a pleasant memory, forever connected to those notes.

Books do the same thing for me. In fifth grade I started a new school and discovered Judy Blume. "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" and "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself" were my best friends until I met Tammy, a girl almost as bookish as I was.

Seventh grade was all about V.C. Andrews. "Flowers in the Attic" didn't make it onto our junior high book list, but I read and reread that series for months. In ninth grade I was home sick for two weeks so I started in on my mother's books. "Lincoln" by Gore Vidal and "Shogun" by James Clavell were the most amazing, wonderful books I'd ever laid eyes on. History was suddenly incredibly interesting. I would have stayed home sick for longer, just to read everything they wrote!

My sophomore year of college, Carrie Fisher spent the summer with me in Spain. I read my Steinbeck and my Fitzgerald, too. But "Postcards from the Edge" was so different from anything I'd ever read before. I gave my dog-eared copy to a Japanese friend I met that summer and bought a new one when I got home!

So many books, so little time. What books are connected to memorable moments of your life?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Win a Free Book

Last year when Jasmine was in kindergarten, she studied giraffes. She made a huge paper mache giraffe that now lives in our music room and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about giraffes. Now I know why. It was preparation for this moment. All that useless trivia rattling around in my brain can finally be put to use!

Catherine Ipcizade is giving away a copy of her book, "'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day," in honor of BUY A BOOK FOR THE HOLIDAYS. The thing is, you have to know a certain giraffe fact in order to enter. Go to her website and see if you know the answer.

Book Dads are also giving away a book, "The Magician's Book," by Laura Miller, the story of one reader’s long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. If you'd like to enter for a chance to win this one, visit Book Dads.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Civics in the City

The first time I saw San Francisco in person, I rolled into town on a big yellow school bus. High school choir tour. I know. This really solidifies me as a big time geek.

Now keep in mind that I was born in rural Ohio and lived in a small town where everybody knew my name until I was ten. San Francisco blew my mind!

San Francisco still amazes me. The buildings, the crowds, the energy is so unlike any other city. It’s an exciting place to visit. And my children, growing up in little Solvang, where half the town knows their names, are thrilled by it. They love riding a streetcar or even just seeing more people on the sidewalk in an hour than we have pass through town in a month!

We sat down for lunch today on Embarcadero Street when a drum started beating and voices began chanting. At least three thousand people marched down the street waving flags and posters, making their voices heard for equality. Talk about a real-life civics lesson. I’m glad we were here to see it first hand.

In case you can't read the sign on the right, it says, "Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, 55 hours. Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman, 9 days. Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas, 19 days. Eric and Walter, six years. And we threaten marriage?"

Something to think about.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Books, Brakes and Christmas Presents

So here we are just over six weeks from Christmas and I had to spend close to $1,800 dollars tuning up my Volvo. The commonly repeated phrase, “At least it’s paid for,” is offering very little comfort today. Especially since the dealer was only willing to offer $1,000 for it as a trade-in. I spent more money tuning it up than the damn thing is worth!

Okay. Deep breathing. It has been a very good car to me. I’ve put more than 93,000 miles on it so I’m going to assume that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from it. And it still works. I got it new 8 years ago. My husband changes vehicles almost as often as his underwear. Okay, so not quite that often. But truly, he has had 6 vehicles in the time that I started driving my V70!

The kids weren’t too happy to hear that they got a brake job for their Christmas presents (which isn’t true anyway because I’ve already bought them a ton of stuff—now if I could just remember where I hid it all…)

But did that stop me from casually entering the Barnes & Noble and plunking down the plastic to cover my addiction to all things bound by ink, paper and glue?

Being a middle grade writer, I can’t seem to pull myself out of the children’s section. I just finished reading “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan. Brilliant book. So of course I had to buy the sequel. “Inkdeath” found it’s way into my bag. I haven’t started it because of my NaNo preoccupation. One obsession at a time (although I am dying to know what happens to Dustfinger – don’t tell me!!)

So what are you reading? Any good recommendations?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Watcher and the Watched

San Luis Obispo has such a great vibe, probably because it's a college town. I can indulge in the fantasy that someone might mistake me for a postgraduate student instead of an aging soccer mom. *Sigh*

I love all the little coffee houses and the used book store on Monterrey, but when I need an internet connection, I head for the Starbucks tucked into the plaza between Higuera and Marsh. With it's floor to ceiling windows and conveniently place plugs, it's also a great place to recharge the laptop and people watch.

The kids were amused by the woman with the huge, white fluffy poodle; the man walking a fat Chihuahua wrapped in a red sweater like a slobbering Christmas present. We loved the man in the oversized fuzzy pink baseball cap sipping coffee near our window while his wife shopped; the tween tottering around on heels she'll be paying for later with a broken hip or back surgery.

Then I looked up an noticed the cafe at the Barnes & Noble across the plaza. There were people sitting at the window...watching us!

All the more reason to bury my head back into the computer and write some more. I'm happy with the stories I'm working on, just not finding as much time to focus on them as I thought I would. FOCUS being the operative word here!

Current NaNo word count: 3430. Nineteen days to go.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

In Your Eyes

I'm really shy.

I know it's hard to tell from a blog, but if we were meeting in person, I might not look directly into your eyes. And if more than three people were in the group, I probably wouldn't talk at all.

That's how I've been as I surf the internet, too. I guess I'd be called a lurker. I love to read people's posts, but I don't have much to say in response. Too scary. What if they think I'm a total dork?

Yesterday I stumbled onto a site by MotherReader encouraging bloggers to engage with each other by posting to five blogs every day for three weeks. I have to say, a month ago, I would not have been up to the challenge. But the longer I'm at this, the easier it gets. No one has mocked me yet (that I know of!) and I've actually "met" some incredible people online. 

Earlier this year, Mary Hershey gave me some advice that I've taken to heart. Surround yourself with what you want to become. Get to know the community, learn from other writers. What I've found is that writers are a very supportive group. I've been overwhelmed and beautifully surprised.

I still get nervous posting to a new person's blog, but I've also "talked" to some great people. People I would enjoy spending time with in real life. 

I might even look into their eyes!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Creative Deadlines

Here's what I love about NaNoWriMo, and I know it's weird, but pressure totally gets my creative juices flowing. And make no mistake: NaNo creates pressure. With only a month to create a novel, the pressure of a deadline, especially when a lot of people KNOW about your deadline, can be paralyzing.

I had no idea what I was going to write about. I thought about it all through October. November 1 rolled around and I still couldn't come up with a good concept. But I went to bed that night thinking, no, stressing, about it, and woke up with not one, but three great ideas, all begging me to write about them!

Now one idea will probably work best as a picture book, but the other two are full-blown middle-grade novels. So if I write both this month, I'll have my 5o,ooo words.

The pressure is mounting...and I'm thrilled!
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