Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So Much to Tell (Starring Sock Puppets, Revision Deadline, Changes in the Air)


If you’ve been trolling all the many blog posts about the Kidlit Blogger Conference, you’ve likely seen the posted sock puppet video. If you haven’t, you must, especially if you are a lover of books or a fan (or even non-fan) of the Twilight Series. OR...if you must know what the NEXT big thing is…whew!

Jaime at Chompoblog conducted her Part 2 Interview with Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird through the not-often-enough-seen art form of Sock Puppetry. Yes, I know. The extra exciting part for me? I got to play along (notice my name rolling through in the credits as Zombie #6 and #7).

You can find the masterpiece HERE. Go watch. Go on…then come back for a look at these behind-the-scenes photos. (told ya I’d use ‘em!)

The unveiling of the cast.

Quiet on the set!

Exhausted zombies.

The creative genius posing with her pets.

At the after party, it seemed everyone wanted a picture with the zombies. Even the adorable Jim and Laini.


Was today! Yes it was. And, I did it! Am I just good like that? Or…did I get lucky by reaching “the end” and it just happened to be today? I did do it with 40 minutes of my office hours to spare. How ‘bout that?

Okay, so technically, I’m not done. I know this. I knew I would still have a lot to do once I hit the end, but I’m on track. Really!

More on this and my process in a future post. But first, thanks to all of you who have been supporting me and cheering me on.


I would have liked to have been in my office today for my last day of Office Hours before my deadline hit, but look…


Ah, the pain. Yes, they did tell me they would be closed today…this, the last day of my deadline. They are working on lots of great changes which, I’m certain, will make my working experience even more wonderful. Or it will make me need to work out lots, lots more because I’ll be eating all of the new and delicious yummies.

More than anything, I missed all the LLOV's (The lovely ladies of The Vault) supportive nature today. And, I didn't get to shout out to them, “Yay! I did it. Let’s celebrate with caffeine and cookies."

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Many Dangers of Conference Attendance--Especially at the Kidlit Blogger Conference--Part 3

There are some serious dangers when attending a conference.

No! Not tight rope walking in heels. (Not that it wasn't suggested!)

But, I'm seriously serious, especially when it comes to being at the Kidlit Blogger Conference.

I will admit, the majority of my SIX dangers are post conference-time dangers, which makes them somewhat avoidable. But, it's all so worth the risk.

1. Air Fresheners and Air Conditioning

All hotel/conference venues have this problem. First, the air-fresheners...even when one unplugs the automated-fragrance-pumping machines, they end up plugged back in. Second, the air conditioning. I think hotels believe conference attendees will fall asleep but not at THIS conference--too much fun. What I didn't note about the below picture in my Part 2 post was that it was taken just prior to all six lovely ladies putting on mittens and ear muffs.

A special mention: I missed mentioning Kim Baker's name (Wagging Tales) in this photo in my previous post. How could I miss Kim? She's hilarious, smart, and a complete Flirt!

2. The Bloggerazzi

If that's not a word already...it should be! Throughout the entire weekend, the cameras were clicking. And flashing. And recording. I couldn't help looking around thinking, "One of these cameras could capture just about anything. Anything!"

We were even taking pictures of each other taking pictures.

3. Pyramid Schemes

You never know who's scouting out conference attendees in the lobbies and bar areas of the hotel. One minute you're standing there unsuspecting, having a drink with friends. The next, someone's trying to squirt sprays at you and lure you into the business.

4. Sitting at the "Woo Hoo" Table

It may have been the high quantity of tickets purchased by our winning table, but after we WooHooed a few times too many for the other tables' likings, we started to get some looks--they were no longer smiles...they even stopped clapping for us. Some even showed some aggressive behavior. (I wonder if any of the bloggerazzi caught that on camera?)

5. Zombies

Yes! You read right. Zombies! If you've been reading posts from others at the Kidlit Blogger Conference, there's a good chance you've heard something about zombie sock puppets and likley viewed some pictures. Well, I have some, too! But, I will not be sharing until the genius behind the puppets (Jaime at Chompoblog) posts her video...the one I'm dying to see. Oh, I have behind-the-scene pictures, and I will use them!

6. Bartenders with Bobbleheads...Happy Pills...Good Company

Hanging out after-hours at a conference is part of the fun. But be careful when your company includes Kim Baker (mentioned above) and Suzanne Young. You'll end up at the bar chatting with Rocky...a bartender so famous, he has his own bobblehead. Then Kim will make you order his specialty--the Happy Pill. Then you'll stay up 'til the wee hours of the morning.
Then...oh, man! I don't remember.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kidlit Blogger Conference--Part 2

I posted the night before the Second Annual Kidlit Blogger Conference, wondering if I would ever post again after spending an ENTIRE day with a whole lot of people who’ve been doing this thing a whole lot longer than I have. But, when you’re welcomed by these two lovely conference organizers…

Laini Taylor and Jone MacCulloch

…the day could only be great, right?

Well, after a day of travel home and thinking on it, I'm here to tell you...it was! How could it not be? It was informative and there were tons of great people, the perfect conference combination.

Here are some photos, highlights, and take-aways from the day.

Alice Pope chats with a front row of talent from the Seattle area. (I wish I would have captured Alice's too cute shoes in this pic.)

Here they are, many of the wonderful ladies from Washington in attendance. From left to right: Laurie Thompson, Dana Arnim (followed by 3 of the Readergirlz divas) Holly Cupala, Lorie Ann Grover, and Dia Calhoun.

The first panel had me creating an account on Twitter right then and there, thanks to Mark Belvis of Just One More Book. However, if you too twitter, you will probably find cuppajolie still looking for kidlit08.

Pam Coughlan (aka Mother Reader) told us how to Kick Our Blogs Up a Notch. Just like a great mother does, she explained with authority and tenderness, ways in which we could make our blogs better and bigger (but only if we wanted them to be). With her suggestions in mind, Cuppa Jolie may go from a single shot blog to a quadruple shot. Whoa! That makes my heart race.

Sarah Stevenson (Finding Wonderland), Jackie Parker (Interactive Reader), and Jen Robinson spoke about the CYBILS (The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards). Be sure to check out the past two years' winners.

And, mark your calendars! The nomination period is quickly approaching and has been shortened this year. Be sure to make your nominations between October 1-15, 2008.

Greg Pincus (aka Gregory K) of Gottabook, spoke about promotion using social networking tools. I have to say, Greg is an incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. If you ever want to know about blogging or any other ways to reach a world-wide audience, search for Greg and soak up every bit from him you can. And, if you blog, twitter, Facebook, etc. you MUST read this poem written by Greg.

Ah, then there was Sara Zarr of The Stories of a Girl (author of two amazing books, Story of Girl and Sweethearts)! Sara gave us all balance (so very needed) and told us how to juggle the professional and the personal while existing in the blog world. A strong piece of advice from Sara? Don't get too personal. This coming at me while I was thinking, OMG, I'm listening to Sara Zarr. How can I ingest, inhale, consume some of her talent while I'm in the same room with her?

Ooh, was that too personal?

So, so much happen in this one day of conferencing! I plan to post MORE. But, if you can't wait, go here to link to others posts about the conference.

But don't miss Part 3 which will likely be titled: The Many Dangers of Conference Attendance--Especially at the Kidlit Blogger Conference!

Until then, here's a pic of the happy crew!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kidlitosphere - Part 1

I hopped on a ferry boat this a.m. and headed into a foggy Seattle.

There's something so cool about the Pacific Northwest when it's quiet with fog and the water is still. You might think, hmmm...well...I always knew Seattle was gray...more proof. But, when it's like this, it doesn't feel gray. It's actually feels very peaceful, not heavy.

I suppose you could choose some other options, depending on your mental state. Maybe eery. Or mysterious. Or maybe it just feels like a great day to hit the road (which was my game plan and the reason I was on the ferry in the first place).

Kidlit Blogger Conference here I come!

First, Jaime bought me a latte from her favorite coffee spot. Lucky MEEEEEE! I will have to go back to this place, The Bohemian, and do a Books and Baristas post, because it had great coffee and a super cool atmosphere. Plus their little sugar and milk area was unlike I've ever seen. It even included a jar of chocolate covered coffee beans, free for the taking. Love it!

But, there was no time to stay for a chat. It was time to hit the road. A car full of writers and illustrators and bloggers and soon-to-be bloggers were off. (That would be, Laurie, Deb, Jaime, Kim, Dana, and moi.)

It's not a long trip from Seattle to Portland, but long enough that we decided a pit stop for sweet potato, sweet potato, sweet potato fries AND milkshakes at Burgerville was necessary.

The pit-stop fueled us the rest of the way to P-Town where we were able to mix and mingle over dinner with some of the others arriving for the conference.

Here's proof that four of the six of us in the car actually made it! (4 out of 6 six ain't bad, right?)
Maybe in a future post, I'll show you the ways in which Jaime transformed into a restaurant-vibrating-flashy-thing-that-tells-you-your-tables-ready klepto (road trips tend to bring out a bit-o-naughty).
Now, as I anticipate the conference tomorrow, I'm hoping I don't end up hanging out with a whole lotta people who've been doing this blogging thing for a long time and figure out I'm doing it all WRONG.

I'll let you in Part 2.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tag...You're It

I had a SUPER day of revisions, even though my seat at The Vault was occupied during my Office Hours. It was funny though, when my spot finally free, two people mentioned my spot had opened up. See! They know...that's my writerly spot. It's all wrong when another body is in it. Hah!

So, what's one to do after a great and hopeful day of revisions? Well actually I did a lot...but once the girlies were in bed, I caught up on favorite blogs and found out...whoa! I've been tagged. I've always been easily caught!

Bring on the questions!

1. What are your nicknames?

I was thinking, I don't really have nicknames, but I guess I've had a few through the years; Squirt, J.D., Jolly (that's what my HS drama teacher called me for six months thinking/pretending it was my name), Maniac (my break dancing name back in the days of parachute pants).

2. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD?
My best guess...clueless. No, not the movie. Me! Maybe it was Grease?...You're the one that I want...ooo..ooo...ooo

I do, however, remember my first cassette tape. It was Pat Benatar. Rockin'!

3. What is your favorite scent?
It's seriously cruel to be asked to pick a favorite, but top of the list is coffee, for sure, coffee. Then there's freshly baked bread (or anything involving dough)...ah, my grandmas pies. Plus the air after a fresh rain in Montana, Daphne Adora, and waffle cones.

4. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to?
The whole fam went to Disneyland this past June and I've been dying to go back ever since.

It's just pure fun.

But...I always, always, always want to go back to Yellowstone. It's like being on another planet.

It's full of beauty and oddities.

5. Do you trust easily?

If you're trustworthy.

6. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
The first, for sure, I'm boring like that.

7. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
That so many products like cereal, cracker boxes, and ICE CREAM containers are all shrinking! Don't touch my ice cream, people!

8. Do you have a good body image?
Far better than it was a year ago, but I could still list 133 things I'd like to fix or change. Must be a girl thing.

9. What is your favorite fruit?
I love fruit, all kinds. But I'm particularly fond of pomegranates and I'm just dying for them to be back in season. So, so close.

Ah, cruel to make me think about them again. I want some NOW.

10. What websites do you visit daily?

Whichever ones the day takes me to. Okay, yes, I do visit Facebook daily. Sheesh.

11. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?

Other than coffee? Hmmm, well, more coffee. Oh, yah. And, I have a little thing for sugar and reality tv (but not at the same time).

12. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

I think she is a dedicated writer, book lover, and British-Boy Horndog.

Listen for it... listen...

Did you hear the squeal? That was Stephanie after seeing the above photo.

13. What's the last song that got stuck in your head?
It has to be one of the ten songs on my Bodypump tracklist, most likely "Paralyzer".

14. What's your favorite item of clothing?
My Christain Louboutin shoes.

Love them! Okay, so I don't own them YET, but someday...someday...I will have those red-soled lovlies.

15. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?

As long as they're mixed with butter and extra marshmallow and pressed into a pan. Delish!

17. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?

Since it wouldn't buy my Christain Louboutin shoes, if I found it today, it would be fun money for my journey to the Kidlit Bloggers Conference in Portland.

18. What items could you not go without during the day?

Coffee, food, and family (but in the opposite order).

19. What should you be doing right now?

Tucking myself in for a decent night's sleep, but I'll probably watch ANTM instead. Sick, I know.

But before I do, I need to tag a few others, just six since I don't feel like following the rule of eight. How 'bout: Jaime, Kim, Laurie, Kjersten, Holly, and Dahti. But only if you are in the mood.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Scary Day of Revising

Can I share a bit of revision angst?

No objections? Okay, here it goes.

Isn't this a beautiful, peaceful tree?

I think so, too!

Except when I've chased a character up it! Not so peaceful now.

Okay, I’ve chased my main character up the literary tree and I'm throwing rocks at her. It’s painful, oh so painful, but too, too good at the same time. Plus, I know that a couple bigger rocks are coming—poor kid. Watch out! It’s going to hurt. (But remember I love you!)

Does it hurt less if the rocks are heart shaped?

It’s the getting her down part that’s going to be hard, at least for me. I’m not sure how to get her down yet. Oh, man! Does this mean I’ve got some personal learning to do myself?

This last bit of revising, I think, is probably the most challenging. (Stephanie, how is it for you?) I don’t know about the other writers reading this out there somewhere, but in order to get through the rough draft, I had to plow forward and just finish...even though that meant tidying things up in neat and easy ways that came off contrived. Hey! It worked and I finished the rough draft, right? But now, the real stuff has to happen. You know? Some truth. A new ending must be written, and even though I know how it has to end, I still have to figure out how to get to that very last word. Not easy! Not easy, Friends!

Ah! Thanks. I feel better.

I think.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Artists, Birthday, Sweater Dog…OH MY

I crawled out of my sickly hole this weekend. Finally!

Friday night, after a nice dinner out with the fam, I headed to Northwinds Art Center to see “The Artists Illustrator” coffee talk, gallery event featuring local artists Barbara Berger, Michael Felber, Max Grover, Pierr Morgan, Jesse Joshua Watson, and Richard Jesse Watson. They explored both sides of their lives as fine artists and illustrators. Although, many great things were said, I thought Richard Watson painted a great picture (excuse my choice of words). He described it as two people trying to drive one car, sharing the steering wheel. Richard acted out a great scene with the two-driver scenario that I can' t recreate here, but...well, you can imagine.

(From left to right: Pierr Morgan, Richard Watson, Barbara Berger, Max Grover, Michael Felber, and Jesse Watson. Some serious talent!)

I have to say, I live in such a cool place…this Victorian seaside town…this artists’ haven. How great to be able to attend an event with so much local talent?

But, a highlight of my night was that my girlies sat through an hour and a half of talk, making me look like the best mother EVER, because they were so well behaved. Thank you, girlies.

Listening to artists speak about their paths, their process, their passion never gets old. And, whenever I hear artists speak about their childhoods, I always think, Hey, that’s my kid! Pencil in hand…drawing non-stop, compulsively… incorporating narrative…existing in a sort-of dreamlike state. Yup, that’s her. I know that kid.

On Saturday the fam celebrated my brother’s birthday. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to celebrate with him, we figured about 10 years. So what’s an Italian mama to do when she hasn’t celebrated with her baby boy for so long? Cook…cook…cook, oh and bake.

Take a looksey!

The culinary creation was lasagna—not done the typical way—but with homemade meatballs. YES, I know!

And, not only meatballs, but fresh pasta.

That's my six-year-old girlie mixing the pasta dough with my mama. (These skills must be handed down through the generations!)

And my eight-year-old girlie rolling out the lasagna noodles.

Time to layer it all and get it ready for the oven.

And before I could get a picture of the finished product, it’s been consumed.

Of course there was cake!

Chocolate cupcakes with two frosting choices: brown sugar frosting (have you ever had it?) or seven-minute, fluffy yumminess!

The rest of the weekend found me in clean up, catch up, and organize mode. Whew.

As I sorted and filed, purged and shredded, my beagle-dog got himself into this situation:

Sweater Dog! Yes, that’s him! Somehow stuck in the sleeve of a huge sweater. Go figure.

I did finish with the tidying! Not an easy feat. Take a look at my little, desk nook. It’s times like these I vow to file, toss, and organize each and every day so that it always looks so neat. Until a week later when the piles return. You know how it goes.

Maybe I'll post a picture in one week and we'll see how the desk is doing.

SEVEN. Count ‘em! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 more days of Office Hours until the self-imposed deadline hits. Can she do it?

Yes. Yes, I can. Or at least I can give it all I've got.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Straight from, happy, happy, joy, joy...

To this!

Wah! Not happy at all. I suppose one's body can only go for so long, be pushed only so far before...


Yup. That's what I hit. Or that's what it felt like.

So, my day? Slow...propped up in bed...computer on my lap...a little daytime TV...trying to rally and pull out some office hours away from the office. Now I'm blogging, hoping it will transition me to the revisions. Please!

But, when you get a chance to (achoo!) watch some daytime talk shows, you get to hear and see some things you wouldn't have otherwise...makeovers, talk show chat, the chance to see some great food prepared, wish someone could cook it for you, get some recipes.

Yum! How appetizing is this...

No? Not so much?

Did you know they are finding plastic in the stomachs of fish? The fish we eat because it's supposed to be good for us! That was my sick-day learning. I know I'll think about it each time I grab a bottle water before heading to the gym.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So Good, I Think My Latte Smiled at Me

Yes, yes. I know. It is my office hours and I am blogging instead of revising. But, I have a good reason. Really! I have extended hours today AND I had a great revising day yesterday. I MUST share.

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

After three days off, without one thought about the novel (it truly wasn’t possible), I wasn’t sure where my head would be when getting back to the revising. Well, let me tell you where it was…

WHAP! Right where it need to be. The writing felt good, natural. And unknown pieces of the puzzle were snapping right into place. It’s such a treat when that happens, like someone presenting you a perfect cupcake, just because. LAINI TAYLOR termed this fitting of the writerly puzzle piece, THE SNICK.



(You must read about The Snick on Laini’s Not for Robots, plus so much more.)

But that’s how office hours went for me yesterday. Yummy!

I don’t know about all of you, but as I revise (and write the rough draft) I ask myself a lot of questions. I guess I don’t ask myself, I ask the characters and the story, especially when I get stuck. I literally ask by putting the questions on the page. I type out the stuff I wonder or want to know, and almost always what ends up happening, is I get an answer and it’s not usually one I expect.

Yesterday when I did the asking I got answers that made me say, Of course. Of course that’s what happened. But I also got, OMG, that’s what happened!?!

Plus I got to write a new scene, the kind that’s so good and so bad all at once. You know, the kind that makes you want to be your character but then you ache, deeply ache for them.

Ooh! It’s just too delicious when that happens.

Here’s to a day of snicking for all of us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Day After...

I was so excited about my three day weekend experience that I had to post about it right away (last night)...even though I was exhausted and not so clear in the head. I THINK I'm a bit better today, but you'll have to ignore that the previous post says, Thursday, September 11. No, it was Sunday, September 14...and that it has some off words...you know what I was trying to say.

I'm back at The Vault this afternoon for office hours and I can't wait to see my LLOVs and get back to the revisions!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Yang to my Writng Yin

I love a challenge. Hello, novel writing...that's a biggie. But as a mentioned back in my Farewell Olympics post, unfortunately butt-in-chair doesn't not achieve firm results (in the backside region, that is).

So, one year ago I joined a great gym, a birthday present to myself. I was addicted!

Cue the music:

Happy birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me...exactly one year later (this past weekend) I took it a step further. I just finished (TODAY!) my training module to become a BODYPUMP instructor. It was the most physically challenging thing (other than child birth) I have ever experienced. I love it! And frankly, I'm feeling pretty damn proud of myself!

Les Mills produces amazing fitness programs (BODYPUMP is only one of eight) with classes in over 11,000 clubs all over the world. After this weekend, I could sing its praises from a mountain top, as long as I didn't have to climb up it, because my thighs are SCREAMING! I'm pretty sure I did 17, 493 squats in three days WITH 40 pounds (or MORE) on my back. I know!!! I can't believe it either. Okay, that first fact is probably an exaggeration (that's what it felt like) but the second is not.

Don't think I'm some burley girley, 'cause I'm not. That's just not how the female body works. But man, does it feel good to be strong. If you want to, take a peek at what BODYPUMP looks like:

Here's a cool fact: BODYPUMP is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the fastest way to get in shape. Cool, huh? If one of your local clubs/gyms has these programs, then I say run to them, don't walk.

Birthday note: It's not my birthday--yet! They gym membership was an early birthday present to myself. I'm an October baby. Go Libras!

I'm back to my regular office hours tomorrow (YAY!) but I had to share this major experience...the yang to my writing yin!

Ferries, Writer's Block, & Cupcakes

Thanks for allowing me the previous panicked post (ooh, way too much alliteration). Why it came out in the way it did, I have no idea. Except that I had very little time and wanted to post before leaving for two days in Seattle. I started typing and it just sort of SPLAT right onto the page like that.

I’m so not a poet
And I know it

That just reminded me of an all-time favorite movie—The Princess Bride. Really, how great is that movie? “Stop rhyming. I mean it. Would anyone like a peanut?” Ahhh, love it!

What haven’t I done these last couple of days!?! Hmmm? What’s that you ask? Have I done any writing…oh, yah! Well, that would be a NO. BUT, that doesn’t mean I haven't been thinking about my revisions, and I did jot down some notes that made me want to clap enthusiastically (I did stop myself, as clapping to one’s self, could look rather strange in a public situation).

It’s no quick trip for me to head into Seattle, but look at my ride.

And check out my view! I can’t complain.

I didn’t go to the city to play, although a great deal of my work feels like play. I happen to wear an important hat for the Western Washington chapter of SCBWI. Fall is our time to kick-off a brand new year, and we did it BIG this year. Our little, intimidate gathering of writers and illustrators turned out to be 230 plus people. Crazy! I loved it. And the many events over the last two days kept me busy, busy, busy…

…BUT that doesn't mean I didn’t get to play, too.
I snuggled with a new baby (the best),

had a little wine (a Syrah called Writer's Block)...

....ate great food, noshed on cupcakes (aren't they pretty?)...

...hung out with great people, had good conversation, and did I mention ate cupcakes plus I drank of bunch of coffee?
Oh, I did.
Well, there’s a reason I mentioned it twice.


I'll have to tell you about these yummy stops in another post.