Monday, August 31, 2009


Well, for all kinds of reasons last week I was exceedingly disappointed in myself. And I rarely look forward to Mondays, but I think I can give this one a go.

I've written before how that usually when I finish writing a book, I'll wait a few months at least before starting something new. But I didn't let that normal down-time happen after writing The Marbury Lens. And I've been having a hell of a difficult time, too, because I've written the first chapters of what I'm currently "making up" over and over so many times.

I tried playing around with the narrator's voice, the POV (making it from an entirely different perspective), and I actually started the story at three completely different places of departure. But, finally, I got settled with one starting point in particular and now it's all working out fine.

Again, the whole multiple-drafts issue is kind of pointless when you write on a computer, because all those other starting points are still parts in the book -- they just get spliced in deeper into the narrative.

So for now, Monday morning writing time at about 3:00 AM, things finally seem to be working out.

Nine more days.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

a couple more ideas about kids and reading...

Okay. I'll admit I stopped the boys' brains blog short, and that I had intended to list a few more of the characteristics of boy-friendly reading programs.

And the other night, we had our dear friend, Christie, from the uberliberal enclave of Sacramento, over, and she said to me, "You know, I don't read your blogs when they're about reading and brains and stuff. I like them when they're funny."

Eh. Here's something funny for you, Christie:

Two literary agents go into a bar. They order a round and drink them. The bartender slides up and says, "Would you like another round?"


He repeats, "Would you like another round?"

Still nothing.

Exasperated, he shouts, "WOULD YOU LIKE ANOTHER ROUND?"

Finally, one of the agents lets out a dismissive sigh and explains, "We're literary agents. If we don't answer, it means 'no.'"

I know, you're cracking up, aren't you, Christie? Damn... no one can tell a literary agent joke like the Drewster. Wait till you get a load of my "Managing Editor" routine.

But I decided that I at least needed to finish my list of recommendations for what can be done to encourage boys to read more at school. So here are the last few recommendations for what boys need from the controversial blog I pulled:

4. Competition and failure.

5. Teams and tribes.

6. Physical movement.

7. A "Guys Read" program.

If you'd like any details on these, just comment, and I'll be happy to set myself up for another cyberflogging. Along with the first three I originally listed on the August 18 blog:

1. Gender-segregated classes as an option.

2. Boy-friendly books.

3. Choice.

The reason I felt compelled to restate these prescriptions is that my favorite newspaper, The New York Times, ran a terrific article yesterday about The Future of Reading, and guess what? It's all about choice.

Now, I think even the Times doesn't suggest (and certainly I don't, either) that choice in reading equals the lack of guidance and oversight. In fact, the article quotes Diane Ravitch (often a source in the Gurian books):

“What child is going to pick up ‘Moby-Dick’?” said Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University who was assistant education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. “Kids will pick things that are trendy and popular. But that’s what you should do in your free time.”

That implies this ultra-hands-off, dare I say STUPID, assumption by Ravitch that teachers fail to perceive themselves as coaches who will ultimately cultivate the nascent literacy abilities we can see in ALL our kids. We can get them to Moby-Dick, if that's what you want... but they shouldn't be forced to walk the plank and plunge into Melville if they haven't first developed some comfort with the written word.

Oh... and, anyway, Diane, you could probably get a few kids -- and parents, too -- to get into Moby-Dick if you booktalk the part about how -- when they're cutting up the whale -- one lucky guy gets to cut the foreskin off of a gigantic whale penis and wear it like a body stocking.

Sorry if I get you banned for that, Herman, but I have a feeling that the Book Nazis rarely read the books they uphold as "classics," much less the ones they think are "porn."

Anyway, it's a great article, that -- duh! -- says what I've been saying all a-freaking-long. From The Times:

Literacy specialists say that giving children a say in what they read can help motivate them. “If your goal is simply to get them to read more, choice is the way to go,” said Elizabeth Birr Moje, a literacy professor at the University of Michigan. Ms. Moje added that choices should be limited and that teachers should guide students toward high-quality literature.

Now, bring it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

first words

One of the things I like to do when I'm reading a book that I enjoy is to keep going back to the very first words on the opening page. Re-reading them, listening to their cadence and tone like they're the opening movement of a piece of music. Like the first track on an album.

So I'm going to share some here. I'm not saying these are necessarily the most awesome, incredible, books ever written (but they may be). I just like the sound and taste of these words. So, here's a list of a few books I've read and enjoyed (or written), and their opening few words...

A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.
--From Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

This is the tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
--From Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Breakfast of Champions.

This one is particularly delicious:

Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of the watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abandoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these sootblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you.
--From Cormac McCarthy's Suttree.

People wouldn't take what Martin Pemberton said as literal truth, he was much too melodramatic or too tormented to speak plainly.
--From E.L. Doctorow's The Waterworks.

And, finally, some from people I know:

Sundi Knutt had a blue-ribbon-winning sow, a deer hunting license, and a mound of cleavage.
--From Jill S. Alexander's The Sweetheart of Prosper County.

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.
--From Michael Grant's Gone.

I sense him in my midst. The air seems to thin when he's near me.
--From Yvonne Prinz's The Vinyl Princess.

With two from the blogmaster:

I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows.
--From The Marbury Lens.

And, a mere twelve days from birth:

The only shade there is blackens a rectangle in the dirt beneath the overhang of the seller's open stall.
--From in the path of falling objects.

I just love first words from an enjoyable read.

Friday, August 28, 2009

that nagging, omnipresent, dark past

I haven't been to Nashville since I was about 12, so I am really looking forward to participating in the Southern Festival of Books this coming October 10.

And I just found out what my "tentative" schedule will be there, so I thought I'd share the news (with the caveat that things may change).

On Saturday, October 10, I will be speaking with author G. Neri from 11:00 - 12 noon in Room 30. The topic is set to be Blood Brothers and Drug Smugglers. First off, I'd like to apologize to Mr. Neri, who is undoubtedly thinking what the fuck has this guy done? Well, all I can say is that I never thought arrest records from overseas would be made public, and I could have sworn the National Geographic folks put that shadow thing over my face on the episode of Locked Up Abroad.

Oh well. And since we haven't met yet, Mr. Neri... just so you'll know... that thing on my foot is an ankle monitor.

Right after the talk, I'll be signing copies of in the path of falling objects and Ghost Medicine in the Author Signing Colonnade. And... just so you know... the person standing behind me will be my probation officer, not my publicist... so don't ask him for any refrigerator magnets because that really pisses him off.

But I will have really cool in the path of falling objects magnets and shirts and bookmarks and other stuff to give out. And I'll even roll those over to the following weekend, when I'll be down in San Diego for San Diego Public Library's Celebration of the Written Word, speaking with a panel of authors on Written 4U: Teens, at the Poway Branch Library on Saturday, October 17, at 2:00 PM.

And signing books afterward, too.

Oh... and the weekend after that, October 24, I'll be participating in the coolest, hippest, indiest party ever... the SCIBA Authors' Feast in Los Angeles. I can't wait... so many people I want to say hello to there, including some who have tried to erase memories of me from their minds.

And twelve more days.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

myths and stuff

Just thirteen more days until in the path of falling objects is out.

If it seems as though I am obsessively counting down, I'm really not. There are just so many things going on right now.

I read an interesting article on the Writer's Digest website about the Biggest Myths of Publishing, and it made me think of a couple things the author states that I don't really agree with.

While publishing contracts can be fairly straightforward and simple enough to understand, the writer seems to imply that having an agent is not necessary. If you're capable of doing what a great agent does on your own, maybe that's true... but I'd always prefer to have a great agent steering negotiations for me, so I can concentrate on what I do -- the writing part.

The author also says something like the publishing team wouldn't know you if they fell over you in the street, but my experience has been vastly different from that, too. It seems like I know just about everyone at my publisher's house.

Anyway, it's still a pretty good article as far as dispelling misconceptions (obvious ones) that a lot of aspiring authors have.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

writing for kids, reading with kids

Earlier this week, author Brian James wrote a couple blogs about why he writes for kids, one of which I responded to.

And, as a matter of fact, later on today I am being interviewed by a kid writer who wants to talk about -- you guessed it -- writing. I really hope she asks me some questions I haven't been asked before... assuming they're not too hard.

Probably one of the most frequently-asked questions I get, though, has to do with writing for kids, and why I do it. Here's what I usually say:

I honestly never thought of myself as being a "kids' writer," and I never considered my work to be targeted to that particular audience. I just write.

In fact, I cringe every time I'm asked to participate in a "Childrens' Authors" group or anything that involves "Writing for Children," because my stuff is definitely NOT for what I would call "children."

I think that a generalization that I've found to be fairly true -- at least in my own experience -- is that we learn our most important lessons, and often face the most agonizing decisions when we are young, and for that reason I like to write stories with young adult characters. In my own case, it took a lot of time and maturing to be able to step a sufficient distance away from some of these lessons and experiences to be able to write them down as stories and say this is what happened to me, and this is what I realize I learned from it.

Because all of my books have things from my own life in them. I don't know any writer who's ever been able to not include personal elements in their work. And I'm still processing those lessons, anyway, and am sure I'll have a lot more to tell as they find their way onto pages.

That said, earlier, a librarian posted a comment about in the path of falling objects being recommended for ages 13+. I'll be honest... I told her that I'd be very careful putting it into the hands of a 13-year-old kid because it does contain some difficult (at least in my life) truths. On the other hand, I do have friends who've had their kids even younger than 13 read the book... but moms and dads read it first, as all parents should, and were the best ones to make a decision about the appropriateness of the content for their particular sons and daughters.

I make this point because I recently read a bookseller's blog about the ways that families interact in bookstores -- and was struck by the description of the negative parent who kept telling their kid that every book she chose was "inappropriate." I wonder if parents really take the time to read the books that interest their kids, or if they pass such judgments simply by looking at the cover.

If you want your kids to read, let them choose what to read. If you want them to become brilliant readers, read the same things that they choose, and let them lead the dinner table conversation with you about it.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the reading

Okay. Another thing I learned in the last year is that it's a lot easier to read my own stuff aloud than I thought it would be; and I don't mind doing it, either.

And this is coming from a guy who never belonged to a writer's group (for more than a couple days) or a critique group.

But when I do readings, I like to skip around a lot, read very short passages, and talk quite a bit between them.

I mention this because during my ultra-super-busy month of October (just look at the schedule on the website ... and this doesn't include our planned Halloween trip to Disneyland with my friend Lewis Buzbee), I'll be participating with a group of Young Adult authors in Teen Read Week, doing a reading or two from in the path of falling objects for the Los Angeles Public Library.

I'll post more about that when I learn times and locations of the reading.

Monday, August 24, 2009

a couple friends

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the release of Ghost Medicine, it's kind of like the birthday of my becoming an author. And I've been thinking a lot about all the things that have happened to me, and the people I've met, in what now seems like a pretty long year.

One of the really cool things that happened was that maybe a month or so before my book came out, I got an email from another author who was also having a debut novel released in the fall of 2008. So, just like that and out of the blue, Bill Konigsberg, author of Out of the Pocket, introduced himself to me.

Being friends with Bill over the past year has really helped me a lot. We've kind of had an online debut-authors-group-therapy exchange going on, because we had so many similar experiences (like each of us showing up for a scheduled book signing at places that asked us to be there, but didn't even have our books). Anyway, I really loved Bill's book. I've never belonged to any writer's group that I'd voluntarily stay a member of, but if I could pick a guy to be in a crit group with me, Bill would be one of them.

I've been fortunate enough to read some of Bill's new stuff, too, and I really like it. I mean... better and more resonating than his debut novel, and I just hope he gets it out quickly -- his fans are going to love it.

A while ago, I sent Bill a copy of my novel Winger, set to come out in 2011, and I'm very pleased he had this to say about it:

I loved, loved, loved this book! I mean, Ryan Dean is a fantastic character, and the book just grabs hold of you and refuses to let go. A few times, I was interrupted while reading and was nearly angry that I had to put the book down.

Thanks, Bill.

And last winter, I got to meet an author whose last book completely blew me away: Katherine Applegate (Home of the Brave). This was truly a remarkable and powerful book... always on my list of recommendations. I didn't know it at the time, but Katherine is married to Michael Grant, whose book Gone I recently finished reading (definitely to be followed by Hunger).

Okay. A little side-note about Gone: Holy Shit! (and yes, I'm using an exclamation point). What a great ride. And I'm not just saying that, either. I think a big part of the reason I was so fired up by Gone was that I recently read a brand-new book that has VERY MANY of the same elements and issues... but was absolutely horrible. No... horrible is too nice a word for this stinker. I had to force myself to get through it. But Michael's characters are so real and believable in what they do, and the things that happen in the book are beyond super-cool.

Who knew?

No wonder the guy has groupies all over the freaking planet.

Anyway, so Michael got an ARC of my in the path of falling objects, and he very graciously offered to "blurb" the book. Of course, I was thrilled at the prospect of having a New York Times Bestselling author like Michael do that, but I asked him if he'd be willing to read The Marbury Lens and tell me what he thought -- since that one is a little more along the creepy-sci-fi line, like Gone.

Long story short: Michael read it, and had this to say:

Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens will own you, mind, body and soul. You can't put it down, but you'll want to. You'll want to put it down and walk away but that is not happening. The Marbury Lens crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful and awesome. What a cool book!

And thank you for that, Michael.

Cheers to a couple friends I made this year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

work update

Well... there's not too much actual work right now, as we wait for the release of in the path of falling objects. We're supposed to begin working through the editing of The Marbury Lens by the end of the month, and I think it's going to be a quick process that will keep me busy through all the things I have coming up from September to November (including that much-anticipated trip to London and Dublin -- Happy Birthday, Mr. Guinness -- next month).

Later on today, there will be some updated material on the website , so you may want to check that out. And I'll find out my exact schedule for The Southern Festival of Books in a couple of weeks, so that will be updated as well.

Great news of the week: Aside from the Kirkus review, the news that Ghost Medicine will be coming out in paperback in 2010. Attention booksellers and librarians: Keep clearing shelf space, I have lots more stuff coming.

Yesterday, though, I got a terrific email from a librarian in Wisconsin. I met her in Chicago at ALA, but we had run (very quickly) out of Advance Copies of in the path of falling objects, and she wanted one. So I took her address and gave it over to the very ultra-terrific Ksenia Winnicki at Feiwel and Friends, and Ksenia made sure a copy was sent to her.

So, these are the best possible prizes a writer can get: awesome emails from readers. Here's a part of what my librarian friend said:

I picked up the book and read the back cover that it was intended for an audience of age 13+. I thought to myself... well this will be a big snooze of a young adult novel... Let me just say that after I began to read the world stopped around me. I began to read it on Thursday afternoon, picked it back up on Friday and finished it around three in the afternoon. What a read. What a thriller. What a wonderful book to share with the students this fall. I had already ordered you first book after speaking with you. Now I will order several copies of In the Path. I know some boys who are just really going to love it. Thank you for sharing your work. Thank you for writing books that young people will really relate to. Good luck with the sales...I can hardly wait until my copy of Ghost Medicine arrives!

I also wanted to say that I got a letter from a fan in Florida who asked if I'd be willing to send him an autographed bookplate for his copy of Ghost Medicine. Well, it took me a while to track down the right "stuff," but, dude, I sent you a few things you might like.

My friend Kelly Milner Halls has a great perspective on such requests. She says that when readers go out of their way to contact you for something like that, it's even better than signing a giveaway book at an expo, because it shows they really have a personal investment in your book.

Seventeen days.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

eighteen days

In eighteen days, in the path of falling objects will go on sale. That's September 9 (9/9/9 ... which is an awesome birthday for a creepy book -- "riveting," according to Kirkus).

This one's been a particularly long journey, too, so I thought I'd post a couple entries this weekend about the process thing, and what I've learned in the past year... since Ghost Medicine is going to be a year-old big brother to my newest addition.

A couple years ago, after accepting an offer for Ghost Medicine, I got to go back to New York City to meet the incredible people who work for Jean Feiwel at Feiwel and Friends. Oh... of course I got to meet Jean, too, and anyone who's ever met her will tell you about the energy that woman exudes.

Anyway -- sidenote -- so, the "ruse" in bringing me to New York was to give me the opportunity to meet the team at Feiwel, but, in reality, it was they who were checking me out -- seeing whether or not I was a colossally unmarketable boob. This was admitted to me by one of the Feiwel guards this past July at ALA in Chicago after the guard was plied with sufficient quantities of wine.

The first day there, my editor, the incredibly gifted Liz Szabla -- who cringes any time her name is publicly mentioned [sorry, Liz] -- escorted me into Jean Feiwel's office in the Flatiron Building.

I was pretty nervous.

So, I'm, like, "Uh... it is very nice to meet you, Ms. Feiwel."

I think I even curtsied.

Yeah... I'm an idiot.

And Jean practically slapped me with her eyes and laughed and said, "Oh, please! I've been trying to get these people around here to call me Ms. Feiwel for years! Don't think you can come in here and get it going on your own."

So, anyway... I was pretty much convinced that I had succeeded in coming off as a complete dork.

Later... over dinner: I began blathering away about "what I'm working on now," which happened to be in the path of falling objects, and I was, like, completely boring everyone at the table, because they already had two completed novels of mine, anyway, and I was sure that everyone present was thinking, Does this boob write a novel every time he poops, or what?

Okay. So that's all the background to why this particular novel seems like such a horrendously long journey to me (and it's a novel about a journey, too). First of all, the main characters in the book, Jonah and his brother, Simon, have an older brother who's serving a tour of duty in Vietnam -- just like me and my brother when we were kids. But we were MUCH younger than Jonah and Simon in the 1970s.

I always knew that I wanted to write about that time, because my older brother and I grew up so close, and because I think it shaped the heart and world outlook of all the little kids who stayed home and had to deal with how this waste of an event tore their families apart.

So then, when I was in college, I desperately wanted to become a writer. But it was like I was afraid to admit that to myself. Still, I took all these narrative, expository, and creative writing courses and I loved the learning. I had incredible professors, who always seemed to try to encourage the sullen kid who never said a word in class, sat in the extreme back of the room, and wrote really weird stuff.

One of the things I wrote in college was a short story called in the path of falling objects. It was quite a bit different than the novel. The main character was the Jonah character (named something else) and he didn't have a younger brother. And he lived near an airport, too, and one day a plane crashed and some of the debris ended up in his yard... and he took off from home and ended up on a road trip with a psycho (the Mitch character, who was also named something else).

I still have that story. I wrote it on a typewriter. If you don't know what those are, try Google.

Anyway, my professor kept bugging me to try to get the story published in a literary magazine. I never thought about that kind of stuff, though. I didn't ever think about being published, even when I wrote Ghost Medicine... and it still trips me out -- the idea of people reading my stories.

So in the path of falling objects stayed folded away inside an old roll-top desk that has been accumulating spider webs in the garage for decades. But, for some reason, I came back to it and started writing the novel just around the time when I went back to New York City to meet the amazing people I've been working with for the past few years.

Then, last summer, before Ghost Medicine came out, I hauled off and sent the manuscript for in the path of falling objects to my editor. Of course I realized that she was far too busy to read it, but she did. And when she finished it, she contacted me with her enthusiastic demand that this would have to be my second novel.

So we worked on it for a few months. Of course, Liz guided me into shaping it into something far greater than the original submission, and now, here we are.

And in eighteen more days, it will be out.

What a trip.

Friday, August 21, 2009

what we played

When I was a kid, my friends and I would stand in a circle and play Hacky Sack, sometimes using things like taped wads of paper or even pine cones as the sack. And we'd play with "socks," which meant that guys who broke the rules or messed up would get punched in the arm, or, if someone could get the sack before the first punch was landed, he could throw it at the rulebreaker's balls. None of this was light stuff, either. Sometimes, guys who had "bad days" would have massive bruises to show for their poor performance.

And we used to play "Butts-Up," too, a game involving a wall, a tennis ball (or handball), and lots of getting hit as a consequence of making mistakes. And, of course, we'd play "Smear the Queer," a highly politically incorrect name (that had nothing to do with slurring any sexual orientation) for a game that is nothing more than a joyous celebration of bravery and beating each other up.

Oh yeah, and more than a few times I'd played Mumblety Peg, where you could actually get stabbed if you weren't good.

I don't know why boys like to play those games, but they do. And I'm sure there are girls out there who've participated in such things, but I never in my life saw the first one attempt to get into any of these contests. Ever. Girls just don't do those kinds of things, but boys, unquestioning, seem to need the thrill of the consequence, the possibility of getting physically hurt, even if it's by our closest buddies.

The reason I mention these games (and I'm sitting here getting more than a bit nostalgic) is that I think these naturally-driven behaviors in boys in some ways account for the modern phenomenon of the growing numbers of unmotivated and reluctant readers among boys -- there just aren't serious consequences any more for fucking up.

And boys don't like that, whether they admit it or not.

Nobody flunks anymore. Especially not from grades 7 and up, the important years when boys go through all these changes and are driven to act out on their maleness. In fact, in middle and secondary schools, especially, the message is clearly given to teachers that -- no matter what -- they are not allowed to fail students. And students who get "Fs" move on to the next grade, or are allowed to exit high school, anyway.

In classrooms, we've programmed boys over the past 20 years that there are no consequences for failure, so there's a slackened male buy-in when it comes to valuing the objectives of the course. When you combine this with the lowest-common-denominator distillation of rigor and challenge by ridiculous federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind, bright boys -- who could otherwise be reached -- often can become unmotivated, reluctant slugs.

But you'll still see them out on the grounds during breaks playing games like those I described in the first paragraphs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the last thing(s) i need

Yeah... those are pretty much the last things I need.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

why there were never any girl ninjas

I'm not going to talk today. I'm scrapping the rest of the brains blog.

But here's some good news: I found out yesterday that Ghost Medicine will be coming out in paperback in 2010 (the year of The Marbury Lens), and that my next book, in the path of falling objects, which will be out on September 9, received an outstanding review from Kirkus, coming up in their September 1 issue. Thank you, Kirkus! (sighs with relief) Here's the review:

Smith, Andrew

Abandoned by their mother, out of food and even water, 16-year-old Jonah and his brother, Simon, two years younger, embark on a brutal but mesmerizing road trip that steers an unswerving course toward tragedy. Traveling from their Southwest desert home toward the Arizona prison their father will soon be leaving, they’re picked up by Mitch, a murderous psychopath, and Lilly, 16, pregnant and following the path of least resistance. Mitch’s car, a swank classic Lincoln, becomes the scene for much of the action, as Jonah and Simon both fall for Lilly, their poorly concealed interest enraging their unstable traveling companion. Mitch’s plan to kill the brothers evolves at a leisurely pace, and horror mounts as Simon falls under his spell. Jonah safeguards letters from eldest brother Matthew, serving in Vietnam, that graphically document a different horror, with multiple killings officially sanctioned but no less brutal. His parallel story, drug- and violence-laced, is slowly revealed. The cold-blooded murders Mitch commits on whim and Matthew’s war experiences steer this thriller toward the upper end of the range; older teens will be riveted. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Kirkus Reviews 9/1/09

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

boys, brains, books (part 2)

Once again, the comments generated from yesterday's blog were all thoughtful and articulate, and I'm glad to be having this discussion here.

First, a brief response to Karen's comment from yesterday: I think that the evolution of girls' brains progressed differently because, unlike boys, they learned in a lower-stress, cooperative, and relaxed environment that allowed them to talk and multitask while learning. This can account for the greater hemisphere-to-hemisphere interaction in girls' brains, their capacity for internalized conversation, and their greater ease at multitasking in comparison to boys.

Most importantly, though, I'd like to stress that it is definitely NOT my contention that NO boys can learn effectively in the sit-down-and-be-cooperative, contemplative, introspective, and collaborative environment; nor that NO girls can learn effectively in a kinesthetic, physical, competitive, risk-taking environment in which failure is associated with consequences. I'm just making some data-supported generalizations about genders and learning, but the most important idea for any educator/teacher/parent to adhere to is the principle of the value and importance of the individual.

Furthermore, Michael's account of his own son's experience fits perfectly with what I proposed on yesterday's blog about the way boys want to -- need to -- learn.

That said, I'd now like to list a few of the features of boy-friendly education, and, where appropriate, tie those features into reading and writing programs for boys. I'll begin with three strategies today, and expand the list on tomorrow's post:

1. Gender-segregated classes as an option. When Ghost Medicine came out, I had the privilege of visiting a couple boy-only reading classes being taught at the high school-level. As Michael Gurian points out in The Minds of Boys, single-gender classrooms are both controversial and catching on like wildfire across the country. Evidence shows that gender segregation as an option uniformly reduces discipline problems and vastly improves boys' achievements in language arts. In boy-only classes, boys are less likely to feel embarrassed about reading aloud or speaking up about what they read.

In co-ed classes, Gurian points out, boys overexaggerate their masculinity in the presence of girls; they shun participation in fear of being labeled "gay" or a "sissy" (Gurian). In single-gender environments, these behaviors are nonexistent.

It is important to note that when boys and girls enter high school, girls' language abilities are 18 months ahead of boys. That is to say, an entering 9th-grade girl has roughly the same reading/writing/expression abilities as a second-semester sophomore boy. Segregating genders allows boys to close that gap quickly.

Boy-only classes also allow for the inclusion of most of the features I will list below and on tomorrow's blog.

2. Boy-friendly books. Gurian point out that, "Our educational culture is, in general, quite judgmental about what kids read. To some extent, this is a good thing. We want children to be well rounded in their reading. But to some extent such an attitude is also a hindrance to a child's success in language arts, especially a boy's."

So, what do boy-friendly books look like? Gurian lists a few general features that seem attractive to most boys: Spatial-kinesthetic action; Technical and mechanical content; Graphic and visual. And these qualities are not confined to any particular genre or format, I might add.

It kind of makes me think of the twelfth-grade boy I met last year who, very dejectedly, told me his teacher had assigned him The Joy Luck Club for his semester's reading project. I kid you not, this was a mandatory assignment for a teenage boy in an English class in high school. Which brings me to...

3. Choice. There is a concrete link between achievement in reading arts and the readers' right to choose material, again, especially for boys. Researchers have found that regardless of the specific type of content, boys will naturally choose what fits their current hormonal and neurological architecture and reject anything else as meaningless or boring.

In the video that was posted on comments last week, the boy ranting about freedom and libraries used a clever term, "indentured readers." When boys feel trapped or coerced into reading something they don't want to read -- no matter how "good" it is -- they will not read it. Classrooms, especially boy-only classrooms, need to develop and approve substitute, free-choice, boy-friendly reading lists.

This requires a big step away from rigidity in our public schools, because it will mean that they'll either have to expand the width of their bookshelves, or remove entirely books that boys simply won't read. Daring, I know. Oh... and it might just require teachers or reading coaches (I'll talk more about coaches later on) to actually read something new. *Gasp*

You can't make a boy read and enjoy The Diary of Anne Frank, for example, but is there anything necessarily wrong or invalid in allowing a boy to substitute a free choice like Art Spiegelman's Maus if he is more attracted to the graphic format? Or even Watchmen, for that matter?

More to follow...

Monday, August 17, 2009

boys, brains, books

Well, last week's post about boys and reading/literacy strategies brought some terrific comments from all over the place. The first thing I think I need to do, though, is write a bit of an explanation about boys' brains and how they work.

To begin, a couple quotes from comments made by mothers of sons:

"I've certainly seen the effect language arts methods and choices (or lack thereof) have had on boys... Some of the great male classic literature (i.e. Hemingway, Steinbeck) had much lower point values than much of the other modern fluff."

"...My son's most vociferous complaint about schooling... He wanted a more hands-on, experiential, independent journey through education. That doesn't mean craft projects..."

What these moms (and their boys) expressed has been the object of quite a bit of study about boys, learning, and the ways their brains work. Too bad we've come to a point where we understand the important characteristics of what it means to be a boy and be subjected to modern teaching practice, because there's not too much being done with this information.

A fundamental truth underlying the frustration that many boys (and, therefore, their parents) experience in modern educational practices has to do with the way the male brain has evolved over the course of human history to hard-wire a particular course for learning and thought processing.

So, first, the science "stuff:"

The way boys learned until the advent of sit-in-rows-and-behave-yourselves 20th-century "schooling" was by going out with their tribesmen, or journeymen in their trades, or fathers -- and doing the things, building structures, hunting for sustenance, and solving problems that were key to their societies' survival. This was how knowledge was imparted to young male learners, and it was the method of conveying the most important truths a boy's brain could absorb. It was a kinetic, hands-on, risk-taking, competitive, physical method of education in which failure had terrific consequences and the bases of self-esteem and self-knowledge found origins in passing the test successfully, as opposed to, say, an everyone-gets-an-award-and-nobody-will-fail reality. And the human male brain adapted to this pattern of learning over time. Male brains evolved differently than female brains. We know this through physiological evidence (the size of the Corpus Callosum relative to gender, for example), as well as scanning images that show us how boys and girls use different parts of the brain when experiencing the same stimuli.

So, boys' brains, in general, want to -- need to -- learn differently, but modern schools disregard this simple truth. And this becomes the basis for the frustration and agony that many boys feel. It's why boys in school are 8 times more likely than girls to be discipline problems, or to be diagnosed with our favorite disease of the past century: ADHD.

So... if you're with me so far, and what I've written above here makes even the slightest bit of sense to you (especially if, as I am, you are the parent of a boy), then we can begin to take a reasonable look at the kinds of things schools and learning communities can do to begin to address the different (NOT "special") needs of boys when it comes to learning, and enjoying, reading and literacy skills development -- WITHOUT having any negative impact on girls.

And that's exactly what I'll write about tomorrow.

Unless my ADHD carries me off into some blathering rant about something else.

The National League West comes to mind.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

on studying to become a ninja

Maybe my post yesterday made it sound as though I kind of take it for granted that I have an agent, and that I have a great relationship with my editor.

I don't know.

But, what I do know is that both of them -- agent and editor -- do things for me that I don't think I'm smart enough to do for myself. I look at the whole thing as being a part of a team and playing my part; and counting on my teammates to know their game as well.

And there are going to be plenty of writers out there who will disagree with me on this, but I truly believe -- and always counsel aspiring authors along this line -- that you need an agent if you expect to have any hopes of succeeding as a novelist.

So, here are my very simple recommendations to aspiring authors about how to go about obtaining representation from a great literary agent. You only need to do TWO THINGS. It's as simple as that. Ready? Here you go:

1. Write a good book. You'll know it when you do it. And it won't be because your mom, best friend, husband, or wife told you it was good. In fact -- my advice -- NEVER let those people read your book until it's out in galley form. That's what I do, at least. Crap, I don't even tell them my title until the galleys are out, for that matter. And whenever someone asks me what's my book about, I say, "It's about 400 pages or so."

2. Don't be a jerk. Jerks don't research the agents they're contacting; they just throw as much shit as they can out there and hope some of it sticks to something good. Jerks send YA Fantasy queries and vampire books to textbook agents.


That's all you need to do.

Oh... and don't put too much effort into your query letter, either. You'll know if it's good enough, too... after all, you got through step 1 above, right?

The reason I say this is that, honestly, I think I see a LOT of aspiring writers putting more time, stress, and energy into crafting a really smart and hooky query letter, only to end up having it paint a colorful facade for a crappy book that they didn't put much time, stress, or energy into.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I bet that REALLY pisses off literary agents.

So, yeah... my original query letter that brought me and my agent together? I can't say it exactly followed the formula that so many writers' groups preach as the gospel... I'm pretty sure it was more than one page long (and I'd use an exclamation point on that... but, you know...).

And I haven't written one since, so I'm usually very hesitant when a friend or acquaintance trying to get into the business asks to run one by me for criticism.

But, I have (I think) written a few good books since then.

And I probably am a jerk, but never to my teammates.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

the blank page

Okay. First, let me say that the messages and comments I received (email, Facebook, here) from yesterday's post about boys and reading were really great, and I particularly want to get to the anonymous question about suggestions for schools and what about girls, so you can look for that topic to be addressed on Monday's blog.

But, it's Saturday, so I thought I'd have a little fun.

I think about this quote frequently:

From Sidney Sheldon, "A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God."

Well, I don't write on paper -- my hand is completely spaz, and even when I try to take the time to hand-write a special note inside a book to one of my (very few) friends, I have to write in all caps, and I just can't make the letters look like letters.

But I understand Mr. Sheldon's point, because a writer does have to play God -- create things from seeming nothingness, make them complete, and destroy, even if he doesn't want to.

So, it's a natural consequence, as I've written a few times here, for a writer to feel a desperate emptiness when he actually completes work on a novel and gets ready to send it off, usually to New York.

A couple days ago, a very good friend of mine, who also happens to be a brilliantly talented writer, finished his latest novel and sent me a very short email that said -- in about four words or so -- ugh... now what do I do?

Yeah. Been there, too. But if I had to give a particular routine to what I, personally, do as soon as I finish a novel (and just before I "let it go"), here's what I told him I'd do:

1. Have a drink.

2. Print the sucker out. I need to do this so I can actually hold my work and feel the weight of it. If you have a slow printer, you can have another drink while this is going on.

3. Then I look at the pages... just to see what they "look" like, in terms of white space and stuff (I know... hard-core ADD).

4. I randomly read a few pages to see if I still think they're good.

Then... I usually send it to my editor and agent. The reason for this is that the way I write, by the time I get to steps 1 - 4, I've usually rewritten the thing along the way at least a half-dozen times, so the end is the end of the road and I have to send the kid off to camp.

With my last one, I was fortunate in that my editor read it right away and contacted me within a couple of days. The editor knows how insane I can get when I finish something.

Usually, I try to NOT write after that... so I'll start reading some books. Not so with the last one, The Marbury Lens (which is actually going to be the next book out after in the path of falling objects, even though I have already completed the fourth book, Winger, for 2011). I almost immediately went back into writing mode and am currently working on another book.

Couldn't stop myself.

Friday, August 14, 2009

bringing back the boys

Okay, I'm going to talk a little bit about boys and reading today, and how we've neglected boys in our schools in the past 30 years, which accounts for a couple sad truths: First, that for the first time EVER, males make up only about 40% of university enrollment in the US; and second, boys' scores on standardized literacy and writing exams have been falling, underscoring the idea that we are somehow -- through education -- delivering a message to boys that reading and writing are not important, valuable, masculine skills.

We know that boys have different learning styles than girls, and that they traditionally, historically, and evolutionarily learned in ways that are completely nonexistent in current educational practices. Part of this is a result of changes in educational models that began occurring in the 1970s in order to lessen the educational achievement gap between boys and girls (who were lagging behind).

In other blogs, I've talked about some of the things that can be done to address the particular needs of boys; and I'm going to revisit that topic, too. But today, I just wanted to talk a bit about boys' brains and the kinds of things we have an obligation to make available to them when it comes to what it is boys want to read.

Since boys have more stuff like dopamine and testosterone flowing through their systems, they like to take risks and will attach value to reading something that elicits physical and dangerous sensations. This is not to say that girls can't handle -- or don't enjoy -- such books, but girls will also do equally as well (and better than boys by a long shot) when reading books that involve sitting still, thinking, and lots of internal, personal cross-talk.

The problem is that schools, for whatever reasons, are characteristically institutions that have no accommodation for choice. Required reading is required reading, and, in the absence of choice, bright boys with higher-than-average potential are frequently turned into non-readers because their brains and their systems simply cannot handle processing certain kinds of books.

I'd name some of the titles, but I think it would piss people off too much.

When given a choice, though, boys do naturally discover that reading is pleasurable and rewarding. That's why I posted my "Boys' Summer Reading List" a while back, and, working with the hundreds of kids I see on a day-to-day basis, I can tell you with absolute confidence that boys will and do choose to read books like Gone, The Compound, in the path of falling objects, The Black Book of Secrets, and many other titles I've mentioned in the past. Boys that have only suffered through the tedium of required reading -- no choice, anti-boy content -- as a requirement to success, won't make the decision to read, though, because all they've learned at school is how much it hurts them (physically and mentally) to read. And then they don't succeed.

And then we see male college enrollment plummet.

And all the rest of the negative consequences that go with it.

The bottom line is that schools CAN provide choice -- and do it within the context of "required" or "state-approved" curriculum, even "the classics," which schools are alarmingly abandoning -- but they generally choose not to because the provision of choice takes extra work and flexibility on the part of the institution and its faculty. This will only very rarely be initiated by the school itself (and I won't say never), without a powerful and confident advocate (like YOU, Mom and Dad) acting on behalf of our boys.

More to come.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

more peeves

Okay. My son starts high school today. He's going into eleventh grade, but he's only just turned fifteen. Same thing happened to me when I was a kid -- skipping grades because the school didn't know what to do with us. (By the way, my son just scored a perfect "5" on the AP Physics Exam. No way I could ever even get the bubble-in-your-name section right on that one.) In any event, I hated being younger than all my classmates. In fact, I even wrote a book about that problem -- Winger, which is set to come out in 2011.

But my son is remarkably well-adjusted about it. Being 6'2" probably helps.

Anyway, I promise that coming up this week I'm going to blog about how schools are hurting boys when it comes to Literacy/Language Arts/Reading, in honor of this being the first day back. But yesterday's post, in which I didn't properly clarify myself that the first book of a series should be able to stand on its own -- an invitation to the reader to stick with it, as opposed to a denial of closure -- if that makes sense, made me think of something else that is a pet peeve of mine: exclamation points.

Is it just me? I cringe every time I see someone using an exclamation point in writing. I mean, they are offensive enough when contained in quotation marks, but -- Holy Shit!!! -- when I see them at the ending of a sentence of author prose, they make me want to stab my eyes with knitting needles.

Look, for example, at the following sentences:

A) I thought it would be nice to get acquainted with you.

B) I thought it would be nice to get acquainted with you!

No doubt about it, sentence A is nice, but sentence B has me immediately considering murder-suicide.

Just another of the many things that set me off.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

world series

A few posts back, Erika made a comment I'll be talking about some more, but in it, she said:

A fan's only power is the power to consume...

And I've been thinking quite a bit about the consumer side of the market lately; in particular, how that side can be quietly manipulated through the publication of series books.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against series as a rule. I do see a LOT of aspiring writers, though, who will go on and on about this monumental and epic series that they're writing, as though that's exactly what publishers are looking for. And why is it that we tend to immediately equate fantasy or speculative fiction with multiple sequels?

Just tell the goddamned story.

When I was in the airport in LA last week, I overheard a kid telling his parents that he was going to look at the newsstand for the last book in this series he started reading a couple years ago. The kid was apologetic, almost embarrassed, and he said something like, "I know it's stupid, but now I have to see what happens at the end."

The bottom line is this: Every book I have ever written could be a "Book 1" to a series, because all I'd have to do is start a book 2 with the same characters moving along. That's it. But guess what? All my books have freaking ENDINGS to them, too. And a good series should be like that.

I could think of a great one here: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain, by Cormac McCarthy. You could read all of them, one of them... whatever. And you don't even have to read them in order.

They stand up alone.

They are books, and books have beginnings and endings, fronts and backs.

So... no big surprise here... one of my intensely-burning pet peeves? You invest the time to read a lengthy work of fiction, and just when you think your pilot is getting ready to wrap things up in the last thirty pages, something completely out of left field happens and the final pages merely introduce you to a new and bigger set of complications that won't be solved (if at all) until next year's installment in the series.

Give me a break.

I'll be honest. I'd like to see my 2010 book, The Marbury Lens, have a sequel or two. It's the kind of book that sets up a view of reality that gives the characters a lot of possibilities for future adventures. But, guess what?

The book has a freaking ending. And I like that. It gives you a chance to breathe, to sleep, and to put something down and move on if that's what you choose to do.

What do you think about series? Have you read any where the installments stand complete on their own -- or do you find most of them to be nothing more than piecemeal sections of one gigantic book?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

coming home

Okay. Well, now that I'm heading back home to the States, I've decided that tomorrow's post will bring me back to my traditional blog-stomping grounds -- so I fully intend to piss people off again.

I'm going to do a couple posts on boys, reading, and books for boys.

While jetlagged.

Do not try this at home.

But, before taking off today, I want to very quickly make a mention of some books that I will talk about a bit more. First, a couple months ago I posted a blog about summer reading for boys, and I listed books that I thought boys would get into for summer reads. I realize I left one out: The Compound, by S. A. Bodeen. So I need to say a bit about that one, and Bodeen's new book that is going to be coming out next spring: The Gardener.

So... the topic will certainly hover around dark stuff for boys, and I'll be saying a few words about my next couple of books, as well as another book I read as an Advance Reader Copy that's due out in October.

So... check back tomorrow, and I'll be back in the LA groove.

Monday, August 10, 2009

the trip

Well the dad-and-kids-off-by-themselves-for-a-week bonding experience has been a surprising treat for all of us and we'll be back in California tomorrow.

In a few weeks, though, we'll be packed again and heading to Dublin, Ireland and London, England. I guess that being the son of an immigrant to America (and the first kid in my family to be born in the US) gave me an appreciation for the rest of the world, and a sense that its people matter. So, if there's nothing else in my life I can give my kids, at least I can take them out there and explore it -- and even get to some of the places I've never been, too.

A couple thoughts on the past week in Canada: People drive slow here, and I like that. Kind of the anti-California, where cars seem to be hitched to one another at 90 miles per hour. And the entire time I've been here, I haven't seen ONE cop -- unless they're disguised as trees or something. Not that I'm paranoid, but everything seems to just get by here. Oh... the bad news... too many people smoke here. People smoke everywhere. Maybe I don't notice it so much in California, because everyone is bubbled-up inside cars, but... damn... cigarettes are everywhere here. And I'd have to say, too, that Americans are in the minority among groups of tourists, too... so, I don't know who's doing all that lighting up.

Oh well... off for the morning run.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

oh canada

Well, the comments from readers show that most people, as I suspect, are smarter than I am. So, since it's Saturday (I think), I decided to post some pictures from Canada that my kids and I took over the last couple of days.

We've been staying in Banff. When we got here, it was gray and rainy, but quickly cleared up and every day has been like a postcard.

We've been hiking quite a bit. On our first outing, we ran into this woodland creature. It was bigger than a car.

My friend, Yvonne, says that the scenery here is like "Heidi on steroids." Pretty much sums it up.

Yesterday, we went up through Johnston Canyon. Here is just one of the waterfalls there.

We hiked about four miles in to some strangely-colored and bubbling pools called The Inkpots. Very secluded and quiet. One of the most unique things I've ever seen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

the whale section

Yeah, so I'm up in Canada for a while with my kids. Later (meaning maybe never), I'll post some of the other pictures from our little excursions.

But I was thinking yesterday, and this really got spurred on by a message I received from an author friend, Lewis Buzbee, who's been working on a book about Mark Twain, about marketing and shelf space.

You know how nowadays, you can go into a bookstore and say something like, "Point me to your vampire section." Or you can substitute in any number of other trendy and yawn-filled non-ideas for "vampire" there (kids who are dead but don't know it; dead people who are boring but don't know it; teen girls who fall in love with sexy and cursed monsters whose parents don't know it... you get the idea). The thing is that fiction has become so sectionalized and constrained that buyers and sellers expect the trendy topics to keep getting sprayed out from every possible direction.

God... I can't wait until this crap ends. So literary agents are posting bits online saying things like "I'm looking for a new zombie book," and authors are quietly making conscious decisions like "I think I'll sit down and write a new vampire book... but it's not going to be anything like Twilight, I swear."

And then people go into the local bookstore and ask for directions to the vampire section.

And cash registers ring.

Is that a bad thing? Hell yes it is, but turning it around requires a collective alarm clock to go off somewhere... and I just don't think we're going to ever wake up.


I wonder if, back in the Gilded Age, people would swarm into bookstores saying things like, "Where's your boy-on-a-raft section?" Or, maybe, a few years before that, "Could you please point me in the direction of your Whale novels?"

You know the answer. We were better than that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

connection anxiety (from canada)

So, yesterday's post about audience made me think about another phenomenon that is increasingly evident in writing... and it's something that I kind of worry about.

I've read an awful lot of (awful) blogs from book "reviewer/fans" (who want to become published authors themselves) where they insist that authors staying in touch with readers via social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter allows for a greater connection and responsibility between authors and their audience.

I worry about this for a couple of reasons. First off, though, let me say that I think it is a very good thing for authors to acknowledge their readers; and I certainly always make it a practice to answer all reader letters and emails. That's one thing... but an emerging idea underlying some of the recent blogs I've read is that the interaction of audience and author will begin to collaboratively determine the flavor of the finished product. That's something to be scared of, at least as far as I'm concerned, and I guess that's why I think of an audience of one when I write.

Brian James said it very well when he commented on yesterday's post: My philosophy for writing and being a writer is this: "This is what appeals to me, I hope it appeals to you too."

...And beyond that, leave me alone with my own ideas about what should be written.

Again, I think that the excessive entanglement of artist, audience, and market is largely responsible for the Vesuvius of CRAP fountaining down on our literary world. Enough with the vampires, already... the stories about girls who fall in love with handsome, sexy, and unattainable studs who also happen to be some manifestation of 50s-era movie monsters. Jeez! Writers -- for the love of God, you could come up with something new, fresh, and innovative if once in a while you'd get off your asses and actually touch, and maybe fall down in, the real world.

Just my two Canadian cents.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the audience in mind

The other day I participated in a brief discussion with two other writers, and one of them was kind of being a little pigheaded and proclaimed something to the effect that when you write, you must always first consider your audience.

The point pighead was trying to make was that a writer should always initiate his work with a kind of preconceived market analysis and target group to pitch to.

Well, if that's the case, then I suppose my intended audience for everything I write is...


Honestly... I do not think about tweens, babyboomers, disillusioned Gen-Xers, Yuppies, or any other audience "groups" when I write. I only think about writing something that I want to read.

Is that conceited? I wonder if other authors have that same attitude.

And I suppose, too, that the number of authors who adhere to the theology of pighead in mandating a predetermined buying population accounts for the vast quantity of books out there that are all about the same crap.

I don't know. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

road trip

I forgot to include a mention yesterday that our road trip to San Francisco (which actually began as a road trip to the airport, followed by a plane ride, which, in turn, was succeeded by a lost limo ride and a very bizarre cab experience), naturally included a stop-off at Books Inc. on Van Ness.

Oh yeah, we took a cable car up to Van Ness and walked down from there. Anyway, it's a great store, and the location where I'll be signing copies of in the path of falling objects and making a joint appearance with Barry Lyga and Sara Zarr. Don't worry. it will be easy to tell who I am... I'll be the one everyone is saying Who the fuck is that guy? about.

Kind of like when Prince opened for the Stones, I think. Yeah... if you haven't been alive that long -- look it up.

And so, in a couple days, me -- alone -- and the kids are going to take our first-ever dad-and-kids-bonding-time-road-trip-from-hell. Well, again, it will begin in a car to the airport. Then we are going to fly up to Banff in Alberta, Canada. Why? Because we've never been there. Then we will rent a car and drive around in Canada.

Let me just forewarn the Canadian Mounties. Smith has an international driving record that includes extrajudicial detention and blackmail. I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

the date

So, last night we take a cab ride to an oyster bar at the ferry docks and the driver wants to engage us in a deep conversation about sex and world religions. I kid you not.

Somewhat disturbing.

Then we went to an Irish pub and drank Guinness (practicing up for our trip to Ireland in September), and ended up having dinner in an outdoor cafe on Belden Lane, a trendy little spot with crowded French restaurants and wait staffs with serious accents.

The only glitch in the day was the limo driver, who talked on his very-non-hands-free BlackBerry while trying to drive through the city, unable to pay attention to his GPS and getting lost twice between the airport and our hotel.

Other than that, quite a perfect day in San Francisco.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

golden gate

I love San Francisco.

I am heading up there today for the weekend. I realized that my planned out-of-the-country, dad-bonding-with-kids trip coming up this week made their mom feel a little left out, so we are going on a date.

Now, it was her idea for me and the kids to take this trip, and it's also true that when mom and kids have gone away together in the past, I've never minded at all. But you know how women are... and I could just tell, so I planned this "date" thing.

We go on dates from time to time. With two teenagers, I guess it's important for us, and it sets a good example for the kids, too. I mean, when guys act clueless about missing signals from their partner, it's really just a dumb act to get ourselves off the hook for taking care of an obligation we know we have.

Sorry for outing us, guys. You'd think I'd be the last one to do something like that.

So... we're flying up there first-class, and there's a limo waiting for us at the airport. Wife knows absolutely none of this, but, heck, if I'm going to go on a date, it's going to be a good one.

More on the out-of-the-country, dad-bonding-with-kids trip coming up later this week. I should be blogging from San Francisco tomorrow.