Monday, April 30, 2012

7 Things: The Company of Writers Edition

This past weekend was my lovely chapter's annual retreat, aka WRW's In the Company of Writers. 
1. We were in a new location, and while I can only imagine the stuff that happened behind the scenes for that, I had an excellent time.
2. My roommate and I hunted down a big box store so she could find (non-hotel priced) snacks and water and I could get tea.  I normally travel with my own stash, but had not this time and quickly regretted that.  Amusingly, I was seated at dinner next to a tea drinker who expressed a wish for Earl Grey, and I pulled my box out of my bag and shared.
3. The first dinner, a fellow writer teased me about my big bag and then needed a pen to fill out her raffle tickets and had forgotten the schedule for the evening.  Guess who had a pen and a copy of the schedule.
4. Had great discussions with folks about knitting. Even met a new to the retreat knitter. And I may or may not know that someone is putting a knitter into one of their future books.  (Can be bribed with yarn.)
5. I am of the belief that time spent listening to Dr. Pam Regis talk about writing is time well spent, but time spent listening to Pam along with Kathleen Gilles Seidel is just amazing. (The other speakers, including last minute replacement Diana Gaston who did out final go out and believe chat, but certainly not forgetting Elizabeth Boyle or Robyn Carr or, you know, everyone else there.)
6. Someday I will retain everyone's name and their face and the correct pronunciation of their name all in the same mental file.  I feel sure of this.  But hi, to everyone I talked to.  And everyone I missed or only managed to wave to in passing.  Or sent warm, fuzzy vibes when I read your book.  I did get to/remember to tell quite a few people how excellent their stuff was.  One author made me stop and repeat my story because she wanted to hear me say I read her book again.  (I really did!)
7. Romance jeopardy remains amazing.  And crazy.  And not fair.  Especially since it was the fourth book, not the third for that one question.  Just saying.  And it is possible that one team that had an excessive number of teammates pressing up against my team leading to one of our member's wrong answers being attributed to them.  I would consider feeling bad about this, except they won.  (And I told them.  You know, after.)
My stuff fit back into my bag remarkably well, considering.  It does not appear that I left anything behind.  Except possibly my energy. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Power of Song

I think everyone knows that songs can be moving, happy making, dance inducing, and, well, annoying.  My siblings and I discovered that "The Song That Never Ends" hit a particular nerve with our mother and might have spent a month or so singing it a lot.  (Sorry, Mom. I still like singing it though.)  I have been known to offer up the advice to folks with songs stuck in their heads that I could sing a different annoying earworm of a song. (In addition to "The Song That Never Ends", there is "It's a Small World" and a teen in youth group taught me "I Know a Song (That Gets on Everybody's Nerves".)  I'm helpful like that. 
And certainly the use of song in protest (by which I mean more official protest, rather than parental or sibling protest) is well known.  But I'm heart-warmed by folks in Norway who have gathered to sing a song outside a courthouse. There is a man on trial for bombing a building and then going on a shooting spree.  He has stated that his killings justified because his victims were being too left-wing and allowing Norway to taken over.  In his comments, he mentioned the song "Children of the Rainbow" as the kind of silly multiculturalism he is against. (It's possible he used stronger wording.)
So, folks have gathered across Norway to sing the song.  They gathered outside the courthouse in the rain to sing while his trial continued, to make the point that he does not represent the vision of Norway they wish to see.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

RT - Last Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday

(Yeah, germs, after this I should be back to normal. Posting wise at least.) I confess the days are a bit of a blur. I know I talked to many lovely people in the lobby. (I wrote notes on all my cards, which will hopefully make sense to me as soon as I unpack those.) I ran into another Cherry friend. (Yay for cherries!) I ran into some new friends enough times that it may have seemed like I was stalking them. (I am a benevolent stalker, I swear.) I ran into one person who I have now run into at enough reader/writer cons that he realized he maybe should recognize me. (I listed one mutual event. I may be a stalker, but I am attempting to be a subtle stalker.)
There were parties. We played spoons at the Entangled party and my table was full of ringers. I may have ripped a spoon out of someone's hand. (She still made it to the final two, and I didn't so, really, I don't feel bad.)
I hung out with lots of cool people in the lobby, the restaurant, the parties, and the lines. Friday I made an escape for lunch because I waited too long, I was already cranky and decided that if I had to wait in line I could go somewhere new. (I found a McDonalds. It was different, and I got my food right away.)
I may have had a giant coughing fit in the presence of a famous author who was very kind about it. (I assured her this was hay fever recovery, in fact all week, folks were treated to my sexy froggy voice.)
One party had a murder mystery skit, that I expect may have been funnier in practice. (One of our youth group teens wrote the murder mystery they put on this year, and I am totally biased, but I think it was much better.) There was dancing. There were chocolate martinis.
Oh, and workshops. And a book fair. (Insanity. There were people lined up when I went down to get my morning tea at 8:30. The book fair opened at 11. A few of us strolled down later and I stopped and chatted with a few authors.) The teen book party was cool too, even if the cool bags were for the teens. (Adults got littler bags. I'll survive. Probably.)
There were great workshops about writing and YA and I even accidentally wandered into one about marketing, where I stayed because it was really good. (It was not go get three million followers and you'll be set for life.) There were some great ones about crossing over from adult to YA, and YA paranormal. One person in the audience mentioned that these days Stephen King's Carrie or Christine would be sold as a YA. There was also mention that YA was kind of wide open, whether due to it's growing popularity, or some open-ness on the part of the readers, but try selling a verse novel about drug use to adult readers. (For example.)
And there was Author Idol. My chapter (and likely many chapters) do a version of this, where folks submit a page or two and editors and agents read and comment. I find it fascinating. (It also continues to prove that sometimes it's a matter of taste.)
So, the readings were done. Comments were made. Votes from the audience were cast. And then there was a special announcement. For this event they had pre-determined a list of finalists they would read, and announced it the day before. Some folks, like me, hadn't submitted at all, were just there out of curiosity. Or maybe, weren't finalists, but just wanted to hear. Well, Jenna Barton had submitted a piece that was not selected for the workshop. But, an editor from Ravenous Romance had read it and offered her a one book contract. She was surprised. She rushed out of the room a little teary so she could call her husband.
And then, they announced the winner, who also got herself an agent offer out of this, Jasmine Walker, who had submitted a great piece about a guy trying to assist in the delivery of an incubus baby. (Another entrant said, well, if I had to lose, it better be to the incubus baby.) So, that turned out to be great fun. As was the whole conference. I arrived home a burbling tired aching person, but that's as it should be.

Monday, April 23, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Tagged

Note: I had this all queued up and then got slammed by some germs, so, oops, here you go. The TBR challenge this month was a new to me author. The challenge on this was finding one that had been lingering a bit in the TBR pile, since, for example I read two last week that had been in the pile barely long enough to attract dust. But there was Mara Purnhagen's Tagged. I bought it back in 2010 and for some reason just had not quite gotten to it yet. And then I read it and had no idea why I had waited. (I love it when that happens.)
Tagged is about Kate, high school teen who one day discovers some strange graffiti of gorillas on the side of the school. Gorillas start appearing other places, even in other cities and Kate finds herself wondering about them. They debate in class about art vs. vandalism and Kate find herself thinking more and more about what it means to make a statement.
It's one of those books that I really liked but find myself having trouble talking about well, because it was just good. It felt real, and I finished it happy and hoping it wasn't this author's last book. (It's not.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RT - Last Tuesday and Wednesday

I went to my first RT, aka the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. While I have heard tales, it was my first one, so I can't properly compare it to others,, but the short version is I had a great time.
I went to the wrong hotel first, which was entirely my fault (and fortunately wasn't very far away, also I was still waking up since my flight required waking up at a time when the biggest number on my clock was six, and that was also the final number, so the minor freak out I should have had while figuring this out wasn't too bad). Anyway, having gotten myself to the correct hotel, I then got settled and headed out to the subway, so I could get into Chicago proper.
The hotel was in Rosemont, across the street from the convention center (even though RT occurred in the hotel itself, along with another convention they had going for shippers which seemed to skew a little more male than RT did). So, if one was looking for a hotel, a convention center, or an office park it was conveniently located. One had to look a little harder to find other things. Or take the subway.
After walking my little toes off, I returned to the hotel for dinner and managed to team up with three other lovely ladies who had arrived early.
The next morning I managed to find the registration line and have a great conversation in line about "The Hunger Games" (she hadn't read the book yet, so I quizzed her a little about some of the relationship dynamics and she quizzed me back). Then there was the opening lunch where, among other things, there was a lovely tribute to Judi McCoy.
There were some great workshops, including one with Mark Coker from Smashwords, that I sadly had to leave early to make an appointment.
Dinner was a little packed. The two conferences created a lot of tired hungry people and the hotel only had two restaurants. One was pretty packed, and the other had a line. Funnily enough peering into the one restaurant to see if the buffet looked good, I spotted two friends who kindly waved me in to their table letting me, ahem, bypass the line. Edited for sentence structure, or lack thereof.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Standardized Testing for Adults

I took the SAT a few times. The first was in seventh grade for some sort of nerd camp thing.  (I don't remember people telling me that was why I was taking it, I have since found out that was the secret reason.  I did score well enough to get an offer from one such camp, however the mail system in my house prevented me from knowing this before the deadline.  I found the letter the day after it was due.)  As a result I knew I had done okay as a seventh grader so was not particularly stressed as a when we did the PSAT or later when I took the SAT.  I retook it to see if I could bump up my math score for one of the colleges I was applying to, and amusingly, got the exact same math score again.  (My verbal went up a smidge.) 
When I took the GRE eons later, I, at the time, had the option to pay extra to do it on computer.  (I think that's the normal way these days.) I never wanted to see another freaking bubble again as long as I lived.  I pulled out a test booklet beforehand and discovered that the math stuff looked familiar but strange.  Kind of like Latin in that I knew I used to know that, but since I had not needed to compute the area of a triangle in quite some time I stared with some panic at the problem thinking, what the hell?  It did come back to me and I did fine on the GRE, but it did reinforce that some of this stuff I had not used in quite some time. Of course, I never would have predicted how commonly I'd be using some of that algebra, so there you go.  Maybe the rest of you calculate areas of triangles a lot.
But reading this story of an adult taking the SAT, made me nod and shudder.  In addition to the ahem, colorfully worded points the author makes (things like when else will you have to sit for several hours in the same chair doing nothing but answering tests, oh right, not since you were in school), there is also the test section.  One of the sections is a test section (so, yes, you are paying to be a guinea pig) leading to the common (at least for me) belief that that one section you totally rocked on must have been the freaking test section.  (In fairness, I get the purpose of the test section, but a zillion bubbles later, knowing that some of those bubble didn't even count just sucks.)
Also, now you get sample formulas?  Are you kidding me?  I mean yay, that is so totally how it should be.  (I knew about the calculators.  And the essay.)

h/t to the several tweeple who posted this link
Edited for spelling.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Best of the Best (At Least According to Some)

So, because I am apparently unable to resist a challenge, I'm going to take a stab at YALSA's Best of the Best Challenge.  Basically, of the 80 best books for 2012 that they selected, you try to read or listen to 25 or more between April 1st and June 30th. 
This may go badly, both because I'm doing a writing challenge in April, doing some conferencing in April, and oh yeah, there's that day job thingie.  So, we shall see.  I have actually read some of these already, so that at least narrows down my remaining possibilities. And some of these are already on my radar or even in my TBR pile, so that helps too. 
Already read: (I am mentioning this not just to brag, but so that I cannot later attempt to count these.)
Libba Bray's Beauty Queens
Maureen Johnson's The Last Little Blue Envelope
Mike Mullin's Ashfall (which I just finished, oh well, totally worth it).
Lauren Myracle's Shine
Lauren Oliver's Delirium
Ransom Rigg's Home for Peculiar Children
Maggie Stiefvater's Scorpio Races
Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life
(Actually, I'm noticing a good number of these are due to recommendations from the nice folks at Forever Young Adult, so go you guys!)
So, that leaves me with about 71 to choose from for the challenge.

Monday, April 02, 2012

7 Things: The Almost Centennial Grandmother Edition

Note: Contains reference to a racist sports team name.

My grandmother's 100th birthday was this week.  She apparently was not quite ready for such longevity and passed away in her sleep just a few days shy.  (Her mother had made it to 101, it's possible she didn't want to knock off that record.)  I had been putting together this list for her in anticipation. 
1.   My grandfather decided he did not want to be known as grandpa.  He wanted, instead to resurrect a childhood nickname Bud.  Not to be outdone, my grandmother went with Mamamia (sometimes shortened to Mia).
2.       Mamamia grew up in Oregon.
3.       Mamamia attended Vassar, and held onto her graduation ring until the 1990's, when she gave it to me.
4.       Mamamia took gorgeous photographs.
5.       I have a few.  She did not believe I really wanted them at first, thought I was just trying to make her feel better.
6.       At one point, Mamamia interned for Life Magazine.
7.       Mamamia is super afraid of snakes.
8.       I discovered this quite by accident one day when six-year-old-me stuck a rubber snake on her shoulder and she literally jumped.  And screamed.
9.       My mother found this story hilarious.  My mother also enjoyed sticking rubber snakes in places on our visits, such as the car glove compartment.
10.   Mamamia has macular degeneration so these visual jokes lost their oomph.
11.   Mamamia is super organized.
12.   Over her life she moved into progressively smaller houses and each time she has put together lists of all the things that need to be dispersed and distributed them. 
13.   Sometimes, a few things changed, and they would go to the new place with a tag naming the relative who had claimed that item so they'd get it at the next move.
14.   Mamamia has always had pets, at least in my lifetime.
15.   There was a lab that had been my uncle's that came to live with them during a move, and never quite left.
16.   There was a Siamese cat named Lucifer.
17.   There was a Siamese cat named Pandora.
18.   When Lucifer had an untimely encounter with a car, it was decided that Pandora needed company and so there was Jason.  (Yes, there was a mythological theme going there.)
19.   In Jason's kittenhood he discovered that if he got a running start on the hall rug, he could spin like a whirling dervish on the hardwood floors.
20.   When Lucifer and Pandora went to the great kitty beyond, Mamamia made it about two weeks before she happened to see an ad about cats in the paper.
21.   So then there were Angela and Gabriel.  Angela is still with her.  Angela has appointed herself guard kitty since Mamamia's had some strokes and, in Angela's world view, cannot properly defend herself. 
22.   I find this hilarious because Angela will let you pet her and then remember she is on guard and you are "new" and hiss at you but then come back because you were the one who was petting her, basically, Angela is conflicted.
23.   As kittens, Angela and Gabriel got into normal kitten antics.  Mamamia would invite her neighbor over to watch.
24.   They declared this better than TV.
25.   Mamamia loved to travel.  Sort of.  She loved being new places, but, as you may suspect, is a bit particular so sometimes found some of the things that happen when you travel annoying.
26.   An example of this occurred in Bermuda.  I arrived later this day, so heard this from the other relatives, but they went on a tour of the hotel where they told them about how in Bermuda they use rainwater harvesting to get fresh water and not too long after that revelation, Mamamia started feeling a little nauseous. (She and my mom did go to a doctor, who pronounced her fit.)
27.   Mamamia was pretty ecumenical about things that can happen while travelling.  In Paris she was surrounded by a flock of adorable children who kept asking her questions.  After they dispersed she noticed her purse was hanging open.  (She was carrying primarily traveller's checks, so all was fine.  But I have met people who quite literally got on the next plane home after such scenarios.)
28.   Mamamia also travelled to Asia, Australia, and South America.
29.   Mamamia always asks me about my creative pursuits, in addition to other news.  She firmly believes that, as she says, people who have such talents should use them.
30.   Mamamia has three boys and one girl.  They all survived to adulthood.
31.   Mamamia has eight grandchildren.  She has been excellent to all of us.
32.   Mamamia has one great grandchild.  She would be thrilled to have more, but so far, her grandchildren are procreation slackers. (Comparatively, my other grandmother had lived to see great-great grandchildren.  In our defense, some of the grandkids are still in college.)
33.   Both my grandmothers were married the same year.  They found this pretty cute.
34.   Mamamia did not go gray, her hair went solid white.  (In fact some of her kids are hard pressed to remember her hair pre-whiteness.)
35.   My other grandmother was also solid white, so she shared that too.
36.   Mamamia had a small cloth handbag with a wooden handle for much of my life.  I'm sure she had others too, but I remember that one getting a lot of use.
37.   Mamamia does not acknowledge my current hair color.  I was not aware this was an issue (so I swear it wasn't intentional, although obviously I have done nothing to address this) until she commissioned an artistic rendering of my family but told the artist that my hair in this picture should be brown.  (The artist, who is a family friend, took me aside to explain this to me, lest I become concerned about the artist's color perception.)
38.   Mamamia has a sister.  She and her sister live in the same retirement community. Once her sight started failing, her sister would read to her.
39.   Not that they are keeping track, but Mamamia (and Bud) once went halfway around the world to help her sister and her sister's kids make their way back home after a tragic accident.
40.   Mamamia and Bud celebrated over fifty years of marriage. (Also, their fiftieth anniversary was the same year as my other grandparents.)
41.   Mamamia is excellent at crossword puzzles.  Often the only thing left would be the one or two pop culture questions (things like star of "Pretty Woman" which were sometimes the only parts of these crosswords I could do.)
42.   Mamamia is an excellent cook and baker.
43.   Mamamia let me help her make meringues once.
44.   There are also some delicious sweet rolls.  I once learned the lesson about food and dogs as I held the last sweet roll poised in front of me only to have the aforementioned lab snap it out of my hands. 
45.   Mamamia comforted me but recommended I be a little more cautious eating food around the dog.
46.   She also told me she was making cauliflower that night, and it should be pretty funny since my mom hated cauliflower.
47.   She also sent me a care package in college of homemade macaroons.  Each macaroon was individually plastic wrapped and the whole batch was encased in bubble wrap.  They were delicious.
48.   Mamamia was an avid tennis watcher.  Pro, country club, she was happy to sit and watch any of it.
49.   Mamamia always had lots of books. She was as happy to see child me reading kid lit as Noel Coward.
50.   Mamamia and Bud had an excellent record collection full of musical soundtracks.
51.   Mamamia happily embraced email and its ability to allow her to send lovely letters more speedily to relatives across the world.
52.   Mamamia (and Bud) loved big family trips.  I have been lucky enough to tag along on trips to Oregon, London, France, and Bermuda.
53.   Mamamia and Bud invited each grandkid for their own sibling and parent free visit scheduled somewhere around the child turning seven so they could spend time with us as an individual person. 
54.   I have to tell you, being viewed as an individual person is heady stuff, especially for a seven year-old.
55.   When Bud became bedridden, after progressive strokes, Mamamia created ongoing entertainment, including playing solitaire up-side down (facing him) and developing a blinking system so he could convey which cards she should move.
56.   As you might suspect, Mamamia can be a little selfless like that.
57.   Mamamia hates medication. 
58.   She recognizes its uses, but had a bad experience with nasal spray and became suspicious of it. 
59.   Her children would joke that if your arm was partially detached, she would offer you half an aspirin.
60.   She's not a big complainer. In one scenario, she battled bronchitis for a month and when she sorta kinda halfway mentioned to the doctor that she didn't feel much better (having taken the full batch of antibiotics) accepted their suggestion that she was getting old, and it was affecting her recovery time.  After she got worse, they discovered a drug interaction was the real culprit, and they switched her antibiotic and she recovered quickly.
61.   Some modern things did flummox her, like car buying. My mother went with her to buy her last car because she thought the whole you-are-not-supposed-to-pay-the-price-as-marked was strange.  (She's not wrong.)
62.   Mamamia gave up driving after the macular degeneration kicked in. 
63.   It did not prevent her from constantly warning the folks who drove her places (her children in particular) about things she could see out of the corner of her eye.  (The macular degeneration affects the peripheral vision last, however for driving, things on the periphery often deserve less immediate attention.)
64.   Mamamia is exceedingly generous. 
65.   She has done things like help fund her grandchildren's college education (mine included) and fund family trips in addition to all the little things (like cookies).
66.   Mamamia also may have sent me a letter after college with some very strong suggestions that I not go off and buy frivolous things but instead work hard to get myself situated so that later I could buy frivolous (or not frivolous) things.
67.   Mamamia lived in Vermont for a while.  There have been several years that I received a package of cheese and cheese adjacent things from Cabot.  (Being a "West Wing" fan, I refer to this as the big block of cheese.  It tickles me.  And is delicious.)
68.   One year we Thanksgiving'd with her. (In fairness, we did this a time or twelve.) But this particular year, I called my mom about a zillion times to make sure that she would explain that I had to watch TV that year.  The Redskins were playing.  Mamamia (and the other guests) were very nice about that.
69.   Mamamia was not anti-TV.  But she also believed that TV should not supplant family time.
70.   Mamamia loves art.  In addition to photos there were paintings and sculptures.
71.   She even assisted in the commission of portraits of I and my siblings. (This was in addition to the aforementioned piece where my hair was changed.)
72.   Mamamia used to send us all unsigned Valentines Day cards.  (Or, signed with a question mark. My mother has picked up this tradition.)
73.   When we were little, our birthday gifts would arrive early, wrapped in brown paper and marked with a note not to open them early.
74.   Mamamia and Bud came down for the last few days of my mother's pregnancy with my brother.  (It is my understanding that this was not the first time.  It's just the first I recall.)
75.   Mamamia made my sister and breakfast since my mom and dad had gone off to the hospital.
76.   We still had to go to school.
77.   Mamamia used to make granola.  I have never tasted granola quite as good.
78.   The time in New England, led Mamamia to make delicious sweet bread.  Amusingly, it was years upon years later that I discovered that other people called this Hawaiian bread.  (Although the roots are the same, it came over from the Portuguese populations in both areas.  I associate malasadas with Hawaii, though I understand parts of New England play with that too.)
79.   Mamamia and Bud taught me the joys of making, and then, of course, eating homemade ice cream, particularly peppermint.
80.   Yes, I have a lot of food memories.
81.   Mamamia diagnosed my hernia. 
82.   It was congenital, and apparently she had had one too as a child, but she saw me racing around in a bathing suit and told my mom to get it checked out.  My mom did, and sure enough they scheduled me for surgery.
83.   Mamamia is a big fan of hats.  Not big hats or church hats, but sun hats and the beret are perennial favorites.
84.   Mamamia also has quite a collection of brooches.
85.   I'm going to protect the identity of the person in question here, but let's just say that I happened to be present one day for a certain male child being taken to task for improper toilet seat etiquette. When said male attempted to argue it might have been someone else, a girl even, she said, "I raised three boys, don't try to tell me what I saw."
86.   Mamamia has got some spunk.
87.   Mamamia and Bud searched around for a retirement community once he began ailing. 
88.   They selected one in Pennsylvania that was run, in part by a group of Quakers.
89.   As wonderful as the unanimous consensus building can be, Mamamia found it a little relentless some days, and got herself a wildlife plate for her car, because she liked animals, and wanted at least her car to be Friend-reference free.
90.   My uncle commented on my toe rings. Mamamia politely complimented them and then asked if they meant something.  (No, just meant that I like to decorate my toes.)
91.   Mamamia had a relative who wrote a book entitled White Nights. 
92.   She was a little peeved when they made a movie that stole the title.
93.   Mamamia got a hearing aid at one point.  This apparently led to a hilarious lunch with several of her retirement community lunch buddies where they discussed the ins and outs of the various choices, and their various costs.
94.   My mother said lunching with a bunch of ladies with new hearing aids is fascinating, in part, because as they lost their hearing they became accustomed to just talking when they felt like it since they couldn't hear anyone else, and they think they are muttering under their breath, but not so much.
95.   Mamamia has high standards for manners.
96.   These standards apply to pets as well.
97.   Except for Angela and Gabriel who were allowed to prance across coffee tables with abandon.
98.   My mother was a little peeved about that.  She has been instructed to treat the coffee table with care.
99.   Mamamia said that, for now, the coffee table was theirs.