Saturday, January 31, 2009

Crazy lady in New York

So I made it into New York without any transportation troubles, and have made it through a fun day of free time and a full day of conference events. So far it's been fun. Some highlights of my days:

Friday: I get in on time (yay!) and walk 30 blocks to this specialty paper store I love. I'd asked the concierge about how long that distance was (hoping for an answer in miles) and she told me 30 minutes. Great, I said, I like to walk and can use the exercise. "But you might find it a little cold," she warned. I just laughed. After almost three straight weeks of Michigan temps below freezing, including a few days below zero, I laughed. It's in the 30s here, and by the time I reached my goal I was almost sweating.

Later that afternoon I head over to the "world's biggest store," the NYC branch of Macy's. I have a gift card, and some time to squander, so I wander the two floors of shoes. I find some on sale, to replace the nasty worn out clogs I use for bad weather. Yay! I defy any woman not to have her mood lifted by shoes on sale. On my way out, I see that the store has a special guest promoting a perfume. It's Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, whom I remember from the BBC series "Gormenghast" in 2000, but who's better known now for Showtime's "The Tudors." There's a big crowd, but I decide to swing by to see if he's as good-looking in person as he is on TV. I don't get more than 20 feet away, but it's close enough: the answer is yes. (I later meet a guy at the conference who saw Renee Zellweger entering the stage door at Letterman this week. He said yes, she looked good in person, too.) I've been in New York less than six hours and I have a celebrity spotting! I meet my roommate for dinner and have really good Indian food to celebrate.

Saturday: The conference starts. It's a lot bigger than I remember, and that's because there are about 50% more attendees (over 1000) than the last one I came to, in 2006. I have trouble locating my friends, so I sit wherever for the first session. It's an excellent speech by writer/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who shows a video at the end that has the whole audience screaming with laughter. Next it's editor sessions, where individual editors tell you about the kinds of things they're looking for (or not). You get to choose which editors' sessions to attend, and I usually look for someone from a house that publishes what I tend to write, which is fantasy. Luckily, this year I didn't end up with any editors who said, "Oh, I've done so much fantasy lately I'm kind of sick of it, so I'd rather not see any."

We have a decent lunch (chicken, of course, but not too dry), and the lunch speaker is entertaining, regaling us with tales of how it took him 12 years to develop from wannabe writer into a writer with a book sold. The afternoon speaker is a legendary editor, Richard Jackson, who gives us an inspiring talk filled with literary references and encouragements to make art. We end up with a wine-and-cheese social, which is nice; although the wine was $12 a glass, I made up for it by eating so much cheese and fruit that I didn't have to go out for dinner.

Although these conferences are so big that there really isn't a chance to meet editors or agents, we get an announcement around 3 pm that there is an agent here who's willing to listen to people's pitches. I don't skip my next session to get in line, and by the time I get out at 4 pm, I see the line is 25 people deep. I go to the next talk, and when I come at at 5 pm, the line is still 25 people deep. I have wine and cheese, and by 7 pm the line is still a good 20 people deep. I didn't even try to get in line—I figured if you're the 100th pitch, how is that any different from sending an e-mail? Why spend all that time in line? I'd just feel silly by the time I got up there. (A similar reasoning as why I didn't bother to get perfume autographed by an actor—I don't like feeling silly.)

So all in all, it's been a good conference. I have some good leads for submissions, and some inspiration to keep trying. (Oh, and I got a lot of compliments on my blouse, which I made.) Hopefully, tomorrow's speakers will be just as interesting, but I'll report more on that later.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New York, New York, a wonderful town...

.... assuming I can get myself ready for it, that is. I'm very exciting about attending the SCBWI's winter conference in New York City this weekend. I've been twice before (in 2003 and 2006), and it's a wonderful event. Interesting speakers, hundreds of attendees, all excited about producing children's literature. There's nothing like attending a conference to recharge your creative batteries and motivate to keep working. Big names like Newbery-winner Richard Peck will be there, so you can see why I'm excited about going.

It's just getting ready to leave for the weekend that's driving me crazy. This is my list of things "to-do" today:
  1. Do a load of laundry so that Boy doesn't run out of pants before I get back. I've tried to convince him we should buy him some more jeans, but trying to get him to go shopping is like trying to milk a cat.
  2. Do some updates for the SCBWI-MI website (I am webmistress)
  3. Send out some e-mails to get ready for the upcoming PCMB Craft Fair (I am sign goddess)
  4. Make some bake sale treats for both the PCMB show fundraiser and Olympian's testing—oh, and deliver them (I am crazy)
  5. Pick up boy from marching band rehearsal
  6. Pick up scrip for marching band fundraiser (unfortunately, this can't be done at the same time, so it's two trips to school)
  7. Go to band practice
  8. Pack (it's so hard to decide what shoes to bring!)
  9. Figure out parking at airport, transport from airport to NY hotel, where to spend free time in NYC tomorrow afternoon*
  10. Try not to pull out hair or brains.
What the heck am I doing here blathering on? I'll see youse guys later, maybe with same-day reports from NY!

*assuming my flight doesn't get cancelled and I arrive at night, like last time. Thank goodness there's no snow in the forecast.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I have black pants!

Those of you who have me friended on Facebook already saw the weird status update I posted last week: I have black pants! And that's different how? you may have wondered. Is there any woman out there who doesn't own a pair of trousers in black, that most basic of neutrals, that most slimming of colors?

Of course my wardrobe wasn't lacking before last week; it's just that this pair of black pants is special. They're taekwondo pants, and they're symbolic: only official, certified instructors are allowed to wear black pants. That's right: the certified childhood klutz is now a nationally certified instructor of taekwondo. I have a plaque and everything. I have a patch on my arm that says "Instructor." And I have black pants!

Maybe I sound a bit obsessive about the black pants. But hey, look at the uniform. A taekwondo uniform (called a toe-balk) is not designed for the female form. The top is like a big square box with two rectangles attached for sleeves. The pants don't have any curves, either; they're straight up-and-down, with heavy-duty elastic at the waist. So by the time you wrap a belt around your waist, there's a ton of extra fabric underneath. No wonder when people from the studio see me outside of class, they have trouble recognizing me.

So I'm happy to have my black tkd pants. They're a bit more flattering, plus they look cool, almost ninja-like. They hide the dirt when I'm doing take-downs and end up rolling on the ground. And they represent a real achievement: I'm a documented, official, certified instructor. And who would have predicted that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Link: The best blog post title, ever!

Not only does this blog post have the best title ever (if you're a Jane Austen fan), it shows how things haven't changed that much when it comes to getting your book published:

Editorial Ass: It Is a Truth Universally Acknowledged That an Individual in Possession of a Word Processor Must Be in Want of a Book Deal (or, What Would Jane Do?)

On a related note, a new feature coming next month from me: Janespotting, or I read/watch/listen to (almost) everything ever written by/about/adapted from Jane Austen.

Photo of the Week--1/19/09

Yeah, I know I'm a sucker for blue skies and bright churches. But this one was in Helsinki, Finland! In the summer of 2001, after a slight delay because of engine trouble, we took a cruise around the Baltic. We spent a lovely day in Helsinki, visiting the forest home of composer Jean Sibelius, and also walked by the lovely Tuomiokirkko, which you see in this photo. This is definitely the upside of northern latitudes: they may be dreary in winter, but the skies can be glorious on those long summer days. I could use some of that summer sky right about now.