Monday, May 28, 2012

Why baking beats writing

I have a 90% success rate with baking, and only a 40% (and reducing) success rate in selling my writing.

People rave about my baked goods; one friend even suggested that I open a seasonal bakery. Nobody's raved about my writing. Editors who've bought my writing and those who've rejected my writing have said that my writing is "good," but they've never raved about it (that I can remember...but I never make bets on my memory).

When people say my baking is good, I can tell from the look on their faces that they really mean "gooooood". When people tell me my writing is good, I think they're just being polite or kind or are outright lying.

There are concrete and tasty results from my hard work in the kitchen. My sweating blood at the keyboard yield only words, which are neither concrete nor tasty.

I can pull off delectable feats with minimal effort when I bake. I mostly just get a bitter taste in my mouth from showing my writing to others.

And that is why I will always put off writing in favor of baking. The pleasure center in my brain lights up a lot more when I bake.

What would you rather do than write?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inspirational things

Beauty inspires us. But so do not-so-beauteous things sometimes. Or kind of creepy things.

I think I'd place this dew-laced cobweb in the creepy but gorgeous category and it does inspire me to write poetry. If you know how much poetry makes me itch, you'd appreciate the depth of the inspiration even more.
What's inspired you lately?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 14, 2012

A font by any other name

**We've been put on bandwidth curfew again (cursed Wildblue) so if I've not been visiting your blog, this is why.**

A complete mystery to me is why my older son is so obsessed with fonts. And his obsession centers on one particular font: Papyrus.

Whenever he sees it, he yells ARRRRGHHHH! like it's some sort of calamity.

"It's vastly over-used," he says. Uh, and that's a concern to him, how?

Here's a sample of it (from the excellent Intellego Unit Studies curriculum DVD) -
Does that bother you? I rather like it myself.

Do you notice fonts? Do you have a favorite or one that you detest?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Amazing Alina!

As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator, I get to hobnob with some very interesting writers.

One of the most interesting ones I've met has to be the super talented Alina Klein. Not only is Alina an author - she wrote a fun picture book called Martimus At Midnight, and her first young adult novel, Rape Girl, comes out in August! - but she also is a mother of two young boys, volunteers her time helping with Regional Assistant duties for SCBWI, AND gardens and raise a menagerie of animals in her little homestead. 

Naturally, she and I feel a kinship due to our both having sons, and interests in writing and homesteading. But, believe me when I tell you that her energy puts me to shame.

So how does Alina do it all? Has she always wanted to be a writer? Was she born a red-head? Is her favorite ice cream flavor really “durian chestnut”? Is doing research for her novels her favorite hobby? Am I making all this up?

To get to the truth, I interviewed the lovely and talented…have I mentioned that she’s talented?...Alina. 
Q. Is it true that you have some infamous guinea fowl?
Oh my, yes. And they are as nosy as they are noisy. I'll often be hard at work on my computer and hear a tapping at my window. When I turn I will find this sort of thing staring back at me: 

Hellooooo, Alina! It's us, your faithful guineas!
It's quite ridiculous and makes me laugh every time. They are also great guard-birds. They like to spread their wings and charge, head down, toward any cars that drive up our driveway. Often people park about a mile from the front door for fear of running them over.  They also eat their weight in ticks and yet will still follow you around the garden, looking hungry.

In short, everyone should have guineas.

Q. Was it preparation for zombie invasion that got you started with homesteading?

Yes. yes it was. (cues eerie music, shines flashlight under chin)

Actually, no. No it wasn't.  It was books that got me started.  Books like "Hatchet", "Island of the Blue Dolphins", "Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran", and "Golden Urchin" are the first to leap to mind.  These are all books I've read dozens of times, and all of them are about kids who survived on only what they could find, make or hunt from the land. Their stories captured my imagination, and still do!  Plus, it's just so darned practical to know what's what out there. You know, just in case... (pulls out flashlight and eerie music, again) So I'm teaching myself to forage for wild edibles, in addition to growing my own garden. My husband and I even built a little greenhouse so I could grow a "4 Seasons Garden" a la Elliott Coleman! So, yes, as you can see it was all because of the books.

Q. What is your background like - education, where you grew up? Did that lead you down the path to be a writer or homesteader or zombie fighter?

I come from a family of ten. My mom used to do a lot of canning and preserving of foods and creative cooking with dirt-cheap ingredients. Gluten-based fake meat, anyone?  My dad was in medical school when the first half of us were born, and they were dead broke. She had to make big bushels, of this n' that, last and feed us all. That definitely contributed to the homesteading part of my life. I have both a massive dehydrator and a pressure cooker in my pantry which would make my mom very proud.

As for the writer-part, that came from being a reader. My whole family read quite a bit, actually, but I was more obsessive than most of my siblings. I could spend a whole summer holed up in my room reading stacks of library books or raiding my dad's shelves for science fiction. It was funny, when I worked at a library a few years ago, the librarians would sometimes turn to me, if a kid asked whether a book was good, because chances were pretty high I'd read it.  I'm sort of addicted to books.  (As an aside, have you heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill?  I think reading counts toward writing hours. And yes, I learned that from a book as well: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.)

As for my education, I studied biology and some of my first paid writing gigs were science articles for kids, so I guess my education did contribute to my writing.  And my science background features heavily in the novel I'm currently at work on, as does homesteading. It's a really fun book to write! No zombies, though. (puts away flashlight)

Q. Do you have a favorite veggie to eat or grow? 

I'm fascinated by zucchini. I love it when it's tiny and sweet to pick and eat right off the plant. I love that when it gets the length of your forearm, you can slice it lengthwise to use like noodles for veggie lasagna, and I love that when it grows to the size of a baseball bat (as one or two inevitably do) they'll keep almost as well as winter squash in a cool, dry place. It's fun to pull those out and shred them (peeled or scraped, and seeded) for mid-winter zucchini bread!  As for wild edibles I have been known to transplant woodsorrel and lambsquarter (wild spinach) into more convenient places, such as my garden-beds, for stronger growth and easier snacking.

Q. What was the best advice you received for pursuing the writing life?

Oh boy, there is so much writing advice out there it can be deafening! I used to scour it all at great length, searching for "the key" to everything. I finally realized that there wasn't one. My hardest-won lesson, and one I had to figure out on my own, was that every writer's way of writing is the right way. Don't let anyone convince you that their way is the only way to write a book. Experiment to find what works for you, be diligent about finishing, and then open yourself up to feedback from critique partners.  Don't spend another moment searching for the magic bullet.  Writing a book is the only way to succeed at writing a book--or having a chance to publish it.

Q. Can you share a gardening or homesteading tip?

Let's see, the first to come to mind is to grow common horsetail near the pump or hose you use to fill animal-waterers. A strand or two of horsetail, crumpled, makes an ideal (compostable!) brillo pad for scrubbing waterer's because Horsetail is loaded with silica. Grow a clump in a large pot if the location is ideal for the plant (sunny, damp) as it can be invasive. Otherwise just plop it into a hole in the middle of the grass, next to your pump, and use at will. 

Q. Because you are a brave soul, you also raise bees. What’s it like to raise something that many people seem to have an irrational fear of?

Bees get a bad rap. More often it's a wasp or yellow-jacket that stung someone when they blame a bee. Sure honeybees sting, but rarely without great provocation. As bad as it is for you, it's worse for them--they die! 

I like bees. They're friendly and hardworking little creatures. Sure you shouldn't be stupid and collect a swarm without wearing a bee suit, or at least a veil (like somebody did their first time out, not naming any names *cough* me.) but if you're gentle with them they will usually return the favor.  For example, if you find a bee getting a drink somewhere or collecting pollen from a dandelion, try reaching down and softly petting their backs with one finger. My boys always ask me to do this, so they can watch.

I raise bees for pollination and because I worry about their threatened status. I'm not in it for the honey...or the glory. (Haha)
Alina all suited up to go to Mars...uh, I mean, catch a swarm of bees
Q. And speaking of being a brave soul, the topic of your soon-to-be-released novel is a serious one that is, unfortunately, still all too relevant: that of rape.  It’s a topic that has personal meaning to you. Can you tell us more about that?

Well, I'm a rape survivor and I knew there wasn't a book out there that told the story of a survivor like me. One who spoke up, pressed charges, and was stigmatized for it.  Why don't girls speak out? Here's why! Let's change it.
Q. Can you recommend some resources for victims of rape?

My favorite is Pandora's Aquarium, a message board associated with Pandora's Project. It's a safe place for survivors to post and find support. Much of it is private and cannot be accessed by anyone but members. Some areas can't even be accessed by members unless they've met a minimum post requirement first. It's a carefully managed and wonderful place that I highly recommend.

RAINN is another great resource which provides many outreach programs, and both phone-in, and online, hotlines for survivors.

I'll be donating a portion of proceeds from "Rape Girl" to both organizations.
Thank you, Alina, for sharing with us today! Your new book will help raise awareness for the horrible crime of rape and also provide aid to victims who will know they’re not alone and that they, too, can survive and rise above.

Thanks for interviewing me, Teresa! This was really fun!

Alina is the author of Rape Girl
Hey, look. It’s that girl. That rape girl, right? 

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl..

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it..

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers..

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same..

Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

Rape Girl's official release date is August 15, 2012. Be sure to put it into your GoodRead's list! And if you don't have a GoodReads account, you need! And friend me there, please. :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott