Monday, November 24, 2008

The weekend I lost my brain: part two

So continuing on from yesterday's post--I had a great dinner with Ted and company Friday evening, and a fun time networking at the reception (once I actually got to the right party). I returned home late that night just in time for . . .

Brain malfunction #3: I realized around midnight that I had NO IDEA what time the SCBWI conference started in the morning.

I was so wrapped up in finishing my revisions and finding a fabulous outfit to wear to the dinner/reception, I failed to record the actual details of the conferCheck Spellingence in my brain--which I guess wouldn't have mattered since my brain was still sitting in a dressing room next to the indigo boot-cut jeans I'd tried on earlier in the day. I searched the house for my conference brochure (no dice), attempted to look it up on-line (modem still broken--and since the Internet is like my second brain, I was really running on zero thinking-power,) and finally hacked my neighbor's wireless again. Phew, a quick search through my emails confirmed that the conference started at 9:30 am.

I got up early in the morning and was actually ready to go about 45 minutes early--which turned out to be a good thing because Kid A woke up screaming in his crib because his diaper had literally disintegrated during the night. I carried him at arms length to the tub and started him on a bath. Apparently he wasn't too keen on this idea because he promptly screamed and splashed me right in the face--smearing the make-up on the left side of my face, and flattening a chunk of my hair. Just the look I was going for: Two Face from that Batman movie. Thanks Kid A, I love you too. So I set to work on a patch-up job of my appearance while hubby finished bath-time and wrangled the boys, and I ended up running out the door 5 minutes later than I'd planned.

I hate being late. I'm the kind of person who plans out her route the day before she has to be somewhere. Sometimes I get to places/events so early, I end up parking down the street for a few minutes until it's an "acceptably early" time to arrive. After the wrong-party disaster, I was really feeling stressed about not being late to the conference. Which is probably what led to . . .

Brain malfunction #4: After taking two wrong turns, and having to flip a U-ey, I finally pulled into the parking garage at the Discovery Gateway with only a few minutes to spare. By some miracle, there was a parking space open right next to the entrance--actually there were several. Counting myself lucky, I grabbed my coat, notebook, tote, sack lunch, 32 oz bottle of water, and dashed up the 3 flights of stairs just in time to find that the lobby was completely empty . . .

Did I have the wrong time? Did I get trapped in some kind of Mario-brothers-like time warp? I don't remember driving through any large green sewer pipes . . . I dug in my giant bag for my cell phone--I swear it took 5 minutes--dialed my hubby's number as my phone started beeping at me that it was almost out of battery. Argh! Luckily, hubby answered, and luckily strokey (as we lovingly call our modem) had a brief moment of wellness, so he was able to check my email and figure out that in my hazy brainlessness state the night before, I'd managed to confirm the time of the conference, but not the location. My trusty phone gave out just as hubby informed me that the conference was actually at the SLC library, and not the Discovery Gateway . . .

A fact that I had discussed more than once with more than one person.

Friend: Hey, isn't it great that the conf is at the library this year?

Me: Yeah. Those chairs at that Discovery museum place are made for people with much smaller bums.

Friend: You mean children?

Me: Um, yeah . . .or supermodels.

Friend: Right, cause a lot of supermodels frequent Utah's children's museum.

Me: Hey, it could happen. Don't they all go to to Park City for drug rehab anyway?

Friend: O-kay . . .So I'll see you at the LIBRARY next week. . .

Yeah, so anyway, after a frantic drive to 4th south, a wrestling match with my widow trying to reach that parking ticket thingy, and a wild dash through several floors of the library--I arrived just in time to walk into Ted's presentation 15 minutes late. Smooth. I'm all about good impressions.

Anyway, the rest of Ted's talk was fantastic. I kept turning to the people next to me and giddily exclaiming, "That's my agent!" Luckily, I was sitting next to a couple of writing BFFs (Valynne and Emily) so they didn't get annoyed until after the 102nd time I squealed about MY AGENT's awesomeness. Jill Dembowski also gave a great presentation on how to be an editor's favorite author. I wrote down many tidbits of info that I may have enough energy someday to share with you all. Emily Wing Smith participated in a panel for debut authors--she rocked the Q&A session and was the only (I think) author to sell out of her books during the lunch break.

After lunch, Valynne, Emily, and I decided to go on a little adventure . . .so we went across the street to check out the rally/protest/march that had been gathering outside the library during the conference. And no, they were not protesting writing for children . . . Emily collects pictures of unique signs for her blog, so we went on a quest to find the best sign in the bunch.

This guy won hands-down, in my opinion

When none of the shouting turned into fist fights, we decided to head back up to the conference to listen to a panel of book-sellers. Interesting, gloomy, bit depressing. Did you know that a lot of book-buyers for indie stores are kind of jaded? But don't worry, fabulous agent Ted came back to liven things up with his quips and charm. After the conference ended, Brodi, Sydney, and I snapped some picks with Ted since we are his only 3 clients from Utah.

We call this: Ted and his Utah client harem . . .or as Brodi dubbed it: Ted and the sister-authors. Brodi Ashton is on the far left, then Sydney Salter Husseman, Ted Malawer (of course), and me.

After the picture session, we went to dinner at the Red Rock Cafe. I sat at a table with Ted, Brodi, Sydney, and Jill. We had a great time discussing TV shows, books, and awkward Thanksgiving moments. It was a lot of fun, but of course my tired, tired, brain had to fit in one last meltdown . . .

Brain malfunction #5: Did I seriously just tell the story about the time I became infamous in the 9th grade because I "accidentally" beat up the neighborhood hot-shot--to MY AGENT? Yeah, I did. In full-color-blood-spurting-everywhere-from-the-guy's-nose-detail. Way to look normal, Bree, way to look normal. At least I didn't mention the fact that I punched the guy in the face AT CHURCH.

So that's all she wrote. . .for now. Do you have any brain malfunction moments to share? I'd sure love to hear them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The weekend I lost my brain: part one

(Aka the weekend I made a new friend, went to the wrong party, showed up to the wrong location for a conference, and had dinner with my agent--twice!)

Last weekend, the wonderful Ted Malawer (my agent!) came into town for the Utah/Idaho regional SCBWI conference. I was privileged enough to be invited to attend a dinner with Ted, the other conference guests-of-honor, Sydney Salter Husseman (my SCBWI RA and agent sister), and a small number of conference volunteers. Unfortunately, I had just finished a rather intensive stint of revisions, was running on 3 hours of sleep, and had spent the day shopping with two very rambunctious little boys, so I think I left my brain somewhere between Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic long before the weekend began . . .

Brain malfunction #1: While sitting at the dinner table with Ted, he asked me, “So how did you find the latest round of revisions?” And all I could do in response was stare at him blankly and say, "Um. . ."

He laughed and said, "You don't sound very enthusiastic about it." The thing is, I was extremely happy with the work I'd done, but I'd been up all night with a broken modem (the one I told you about in this post) trying to email him the manuscript by my deadline. After a moment, I shook myself and said, "I'm just really tired." Luckily, I recovered quickly and we had a wonderful one-on-one conversation about my revisions, his plan for submissions, and my next project (that Ted was very, very excited about and exclaimed, "That's the book for me!")

Then Brodi Ashton (Ted's other brand new client from Utah) came in about thirty minutes late and sat at the empty seat at our end of the table--ending my personal conversation with Ted. But I have to say that Brodi is one of my new favorite people. She is absolutely hilarious, and even more pessimistically neurotic than I am. (You probably didn't think that was possible, did you?) You must check out her blog.

Anyway, Ted, Brodi, Jill Dembowski (editor from Little, Brown—they publish those Twilight books), and I went on to have a great conversation, and I was a little sad when Sydney announced that it was time to leave for the official SCBWI conference reception. Ted assured us we’d have plenty more time to talk there.

Brain malfunction #2: Brodi and I showed up to the location (a swank art gallery on 700 east) at the same time, checked in our coats, and walked around the corner to find a lavish spread of sushi and crudités, and attendees dressed to the nines (complete with little Yorkshire terriers poking out of their purses). "Wow," I thought, "SCBWI really went all out!"

Brodi said she didn't know anyone in the local writing community, and looking around, I realized that I must not know as many local authors as I thought, so we decided to stick together. We headed over to the OPEN BAR!, snagged a couple of bottled waters, and enjoyed California rolls from the buffet. We were having an entertaining conversation (did I mention Brodi is hilarious?), but I kept having this niggling feeling in the back of the place where my mind should have been that these other women in their stilettos and Gucci couture dresses were much too fashionable to be Utah children's writers. "Wow, these people must be really successful authors," I kept thinking. But after about 30 minutes I fully realized that I didn't know a single person in the room (especially that lady who was wearing a shitzu in a hip-pack) and said to Brodi, "I think we're at the wrong party."

We walked down the hall and discovered a partitioned room filled with people in jeans, sweaters, and loafers. I looked at the spread of Costco cakes on paper plates, and thought, "Now this is more like it!" Not to mention, I knew at least a third of the people in the room. Feeling much more at home, I had a great time talking to friends new and old. But unfortunately, because we were so late, Ted had already been swarmed with groupies and I barely got to say two sentences to him before Syndey ushered him out of the party.

Later, a group of us snuck back into the other party to snag some more bottled water. Brodi took a pic of the fancy spread so you can see the difference in the two parties.

Party #1

(That's me talking to Staci Whitman, former editor for Mirrorstone)


(Now this is my kind of party!-- though I DO like sushi . . .maybe I'll just sneak back over there . . .)

So apparently the lessons I learned on brevity while doing my revisions are not applying to this post . . . so I'll continue the story tomorrow. Because if you think my brain malfunctions stopped Friday night, oh how wrong you'd be . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Confession is . . .I'm a pessimist

Yep, it's true. It drives my friends and family crazy, but I have never been a "glass half full" kind of girl. They call it being negative. I call it always being prepared for the worst. My husband is constantly saying to me, "Would it kill you to be positive for once?" Um . . .no. But apparently NOT being positive might.

Last night, hubby and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Leonardo (thanks Kersten!). The main focus of the exhibit was on the human heart, and one of the placards talked about the effects of pessimism on the heart. Apparently people who constantly see the glass as half empty are much more likely to die from cardiovascular complications than those who don't. So in addition to being an eternal pessimist, now I know it's probably going to kill me. How's that for irony?

So in an effort to give my heart a little jump start in a positive, more optimistic direction, I've decided to post a few tidbits of good news.

1. Kid Z (my 6 year old) made the Principal's honor roll for having perfect behavior every day. How's that for showing I've actually got some good mommy-ing skills? (Never mind the fact that I got a call from his teacher the VERY NEXT DAY because Kid Z got caught teasing someone at his table. Every kid is allowed an off day, right? I'm still a good mom, right?)

2. Kid A finally said the words to me I've been waiting the last 2 years and 7 months to hear: "I love you, Mommy." Never mind the fact that he kicked me in the nose this morning while I was attempting to change his diaper, those 4 little words make it all seem worth it. Most of the time.

3. My fabulous friend Emily Wing Smith got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly for her debut novel, THE WAY HE LIVED. In my opinion, PW is the authority on all things publishing related so getting reviewed by them in the first place is pretty big--but getting a starred review is FREAKING AWESOME. Most book-buyers for libraries and bookstores will only purchase books that get reviewed by one of the big name publications, and some buyers will only look at the starred reviews. Hopefully, this means big things are in store for Emily and her book. I can just hear the National Book Award committee dialing her number . . . Just remember that you heard about Emily from me first.

4. Emily also got this review from a School Library Journal teen reviewer. (So what are you waiting for--go buy Emily's book already :))

5. And last but not least: Ted gave my manuscript the green light this morning! Wish me luck!

P.S. I promise I'll post about my crazy weekend soon. I'm waiting on a few pictures first. Because you all want to know what fabulous agent Ted looks like, right? (Not to mention, prove that he really exists.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top 5 Things I Learned While Revising

5. Perfection isn't reached when there's nothing left to add, it's when there's nothing left to take away.

(I'm not saying my manuscript is "perfect"--but I did succeed in cutting almost 9,000 words. Yay!)

4. You know that scene, the one everyone in your writers group has said, "Hey this is really great--but I think you should cut it because it doesn't add anything to the plot," but for three and a half years you've ignored them over and over again and thought, "I will only cut this scene if an editor/agent tells me too!"? Yeah, well, guess what?--you're going to have to cut it.

Kill those darlings, baby. Kill those darlings.

3. When marking pages to come back to, DO NOT absentmindedly stick Post-it-note tabs to your lips. They may actually STICK!

2. In the words of my high school drama teacher who used to stand in the back of the room shouting, "ST! ST! ST!" while we rehearsed girl+guy scenes: You must, and always can, add more sexual tension to scenes between the story's romantic leads.

(I'm NOT talking about adding sex to the story, I'm talking adding "tension"--lest anyone be confused ;)

1. If anything can go wrong--it will go wrong.

Like the laser printer will run out of ink right when you need to print your entire manuscript, and the ink cartridge you bought a few of months ago to have on hand in just such an emergency turns out to be the WRONG size. Oh and Dell refuses to let you return it for a refund because you bought it so long ago. So not only do you have to pay $120 for a new cartridge plus overnight shipping to get it asap, you also have to eat the $120 you shelled out in an effort to be prepared in the first place.

OR . . .at the very moment you finally finish the revisions for your agent and need to email them off so he can take your manuscript on a trip with him, your modem has a stroke and completely stops working. And no matter how long you are on the phone with tech support, or try to reset the $#@& modem, the thing is dead. But fortunately, on your 1000th try at hacking your neighbor's wireless all night long, it finally connects at 5:00 am and you thankfully get it off just in the nick of time. Woo Hoo! Oh btw, the modem has made a miraculous recovery and is working just fine and dandy now. I love technology.

That's enough for now. I'm anxiously waiting for the "green light" from Ted. We may actually be DONE with revisions and ready for SUBMISSIONS. Stay tuned--I'll let you know. Also, just as a teaser, I've got a great post coming soon. I'm thinking of calling it "The weekend I made a new friend, went to the wrong party, showed up at the wrong place for a conference, and had dinner with my fabulous agent--twice!" I even have pics.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life without chocolate is unthinkable

So approximately 4 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with having a "leaky gut." Which basically means that I'm "allergic" to certain foods that are causing my body to attack itself--resulting in asthma and weekly migraines (one lasted for 35 days) among other problems. In other words, I've been pretty darn sick for the last year and if I want to get better, I can't eat certain foods for at least 6 months. While I'm excited about the prospect of finally getting better (I've official had the first migraine free week in over a year. Yay!) it also means I am forbidden from eating any dairy, eggs, or wheat for 5 more months. Which--gasp--means NO CHOCOLATE!!

Seriously, I can live without pizza, pastries, all baked goods, milk, omelets, ice cream, toast, sandwiches, soups, pretty much any and all prepackaged food etc, etc. . . (basically all I'm allowed to eat are fruits, veggies, meat, corn tortillas, and brown rice) But no chocolate?! That has been sheer torture. My hubby was watching a documentary on the history of chocolate the other day, and I almost had to go running from the room. I wasn't even able to celebrate landing an amazing agent with a big old bowl of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice cream!

(Um, confession: I'm a chocoholic in case you didn't figure that out on your own.)

Seriously, I've been dying. That is until Wednesday . . .

I was at home working on my latest round of revisions for Ted when the doorbell rang. Much to my surprise, there was a UPS truck idling in the street and large box from World Pantry on my doorstep. My first thought was, "Dang, I haven't started ordering stuff off the Internet in my sleep again, have I?" I also thought about the news story I'd seen that afternoon about hoodlums stealing your identification and ordering stuff online and then stealing the deliveries off your doorstep when you're not home. Maybe there was a gang of culinary minded thugs hiding in the bushes just outside my house! Or maybe the unibomber has a cousin who hates blogging YA writers. . .

After about thirty seconds of debating, I opened the package and found this note:

And this is what I found in the box:

Yep, your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed dairy and gluten free chocolate!! After thanking Valynne profusely (you so totally rock!) I ate half a bag in one sitting. And how does it taste, you ask? Glorious. Wonderful. Divine. I can't even taste the difference--and I know chocolate. I'm a big fan of dark chocolate, so perhaps not everyone would love it as much as I do (and not everyone is as desperate as I am) but I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who suffers from chocolate deprivation caused by dairy or gluten allergies.

And don't worry, I'm learning to pace myself: only 2 tablespoons of chocolate a day for me. Have to look good for that author picture that will someday adorn the back of my book ;)

P.S. I'm hoping to find a dairy, egg, wheat free recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Got any ideas? Or would that just be too gross to even attempt?
Any other recipes would be appreciated too. I'm getting tired of corn tortilla tacos with no cheese.