Tuesday, August 30, 2011

infinita frumenta! infinita frumenta!

Let's see. I seem to have lost something.

Well, as it relates to time, I guess since it does not require finding and is impossible to make, I guess some of us probably sleep and watch television less than others.

Yesterday, someone asked me if I'd seen the VMAs.

I didn't know what the fuck they were talking about.

And then I thought, why would you watch hours of television about giving awards to shit that is on television? They should give televised awards to people who watch televised awards shows about television.

I'd watch that shit.

Here's something I got a few days ago:

That is a novel I wrote called Winger. It is coming out at the beginning of 2013 from Simon and Schuster.

Let me tell you how much I love and appreciate editors who use paper. Seriously.

On the top of my novel is the editorial letter which contains a few big-picture questions. As editorial letters go, it is very short (about 4 pages) and totally easy to deal with. A lot of it's just copy edit stuff, which, in writerspeak means change a word here or cut this sentence into two sentences. Shit like that.

See all those Post-It notes on the pages? I don't know what those are. They could have saved those in case they needed to cover their windows during Hurricane Irene.

Actually, they just mark pages where there's something I need to look at, like commas and shit like that.

This is what work looks like.

It looks like a chunk of time that I found on my doorstep.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

having time for this nonsense

This is a true story. This is also breakout session three, which answers a question that writers ask me frequently, and, as evidenced by today's attendance, are actually willing to pay to hear an answer to.

This is the question:

Here are some of the things I have actually found in my life:
  1. When I was a kid, I once found a poster for a theatrical production called "The Country Boy" in an abandoned house. The play was a comedy, and it was from around 1915. I still have that poster somewhere.
  2. My brothers and I once found a rolled-up scroll with Hebrew writing on it. We took it to someone to have it translated. It was some bizarre kind of threat or curse. I am not making this shit up. It was scary. I do not still have that scroll.
  3. I found a hobo inside an industrial trash compacter. He had been compacted. I called paramedics. I think the hobo survived. I do not still have him, either.
  4. Once, when I was shopping for groceries shortly after the birth of my son (he was just a few weeks old, I think), I found a banana had ended up beneath his car seat, which attached to the top of the shopping basket. We were very poor in those days, so buying individual bananas was a regular extravagance. I got all the way out to my car and loaded up before I found the banana. I had to reload my son into the shopping cart and go back into the store and wait in line to pay for one banana. I did not want my pre-lingual-mass-of-semi-conscious-goo infant son to start out life as a dishonest thief. Somebody ended up eating the banana. Probably me.
And that's about it as far as finding shit, I think.

I'm having trouble finding the flash drive I had that has about four unpublished books of mine on it.

Good thing whenever I start a new WIP, I always write By James Patterson on it.

I don't know why I pick on James Patterson so much.

Wait. Yes, I do.

But it's kind of like the Republic of San Marino picking on China. Nobody would care if San Marino got its ass kicked.

Nobody would even know about it if it was raining hard in New York.

Anyway, I'll have to tell you more about FINDING time tomorrow.

I have shit to do.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

move-in day

Okay. So, here's a little video blog for you.

This is a film I shot of move-in day at UC Berkeley last Sunday.

It was the day my son moved into his dorm there to begin his freshman year at Cal.

This was filmed entirely on an iPad.

Friday, August 26, 2011

the stick tour

I have quite a few events coming up which coincide with the release of Stick (October 11, 2011). I will be posting details about the Orange County Festival of Books, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Awards Ceremony, and the Miami Book Festival International in the coming days and weeks. I recently found out my schedule for the upcoming NCTE/ALAN conference in Chicago, which is such an incredible city. I am really looking forward to going back there with Stick (and Sex Wax T-Shirts). I'll be flying in to Chicago from Miami, directly from the Book Festival there (details to come), but here are the events and panels I will be participating in at NCTE/ALAN in Chicago:

Saturday, Nov 19th 

Macmillan Authors' Dinner
Sunday, Nov 20th

8:30 – 9:45 am: Program with fellow Macmillan authors Julie Halpern, Tara Kelly, Donna Freitas.  No Vampires, No Witches, No Dystopias 

10:30 – 11:30 am: Signing in Macmillan Children’s booth with fellow Macmillan authors Julie Halpern, Tara Kelly, Donna Freitas

5:30 – 7:30 pm:  ALAN Workshop cocktail party (rough assignment)
Monday, Nov 21st

2:05 – 2:50 pm: ALAN Workshop program. Titles that Challenge and Are Challenged

I really hope to see you in the great city of Chicago this fall.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

breakout session two: mental illness

If you are a writer, you have a significant chance of having some form of mental illness.

If you have a mental illness, you should probably think about being a writer, as opposed to some other occupation like airline pilot, child care provider, or surgeon.

When insane people fly jet aircraft or obtain jobs as au pairs, it makes people uncomfortable.

When insane people write books, it makes people feel like they've gotten what they paid for.

Be careful: Writers often tend to be very jealous of one another.

Writers covet other writers' asses.

Not me. I never mess with insane peoples' asses.

Writing is also just about the only profession where paid authors of books also get paid to write reviews of other paid authors' books.

I don't get that. No other profession does shit like that.

It sounds a little too much like closeted ass-coveting, if you ask me, which I also don't do.

That is just crazy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the virgin saint and his ward

I am back. And I am ready to revisit the Andrew Smith How To Be A Writer conference, with some all-new breakout sessions. I flew home last night, alone. You know how whenever you come back from a trip you always kind of expect to see your house burned down to a heaping pile of charred debris? Well, that didn't happen. I did get an editorial letter from David Gale, my editor at Simon & Schuster, for my first book coming out with them. That will be a topic for a breakout session, I'm sure. Because I don't know if anyone else handles revision and editorial comments the way I do, which is the best way to handle them, even if it does mean waking up with a hangover, naked, in a gutter. There was also a flat from FedEx on my doorstep. It was from somebody at Macmillan. I wasn't expecting anything from them. It was very nice. A great way to make me feel better after saying goodbye to my son and getting on an airplane. Here's what it was:
It was a torn-out page from last week's Publishers Weekly with a starred review for Stick, my new novel that is coming out on October 11. Plus, there was a very nice note attached from Jean Feiwel, my publisher at Feiwel & Friends, and she stuck a gold star through the page, too (which I am wearing as a tie tack today). It was a sad weekend, but it was really a nice thing to come home to.

Thank you, Jean.

Friday, August 19, 2011

soup from paint cans

I admit these have been quiet days.

But the Andrew Smith How To Be A Writer Conference is far from over. I still have to do those breakout sessions on how easy it is to write a book for children and how to handle critics.

Believe me, they are worth every cent of the cost of admission.

Tonight is the last night my son will be a resident of my home. I am not throwing him out. Tomorrow, he is driving up to Berkeley with his mother and sister to move into the dorms at Cal. Move-in day for freshmen is Sunday. I am flying up there tomorrow to see him off and have dinner with him, and then flying back down because I can't be away for too long right now.

So, the next couple days I'll be checking on the blog with stories from from Berkeley, and I hope to get back to the conference early next week.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

amazing review in booklist


So, yesterday I took a day off. It was like the end of the world.

This Saturday, I am flying up to San Francisco to help my son move into his dorm at UC Berkeley.

My son is leaving home.

Today, my daughter started her first day at high school.

But, yesterday, Booklist reviewed Stick. I think the Booklist review is probably the BEST review I have ever gotten for any book I have ever written. It is missing one thing, but we'll talk about it later.

I especially LOVE the part about how I take a baseball bat to my sentences.

Here's what Booklist had to say about Stick:

Smith, Andrew (Author)
Oct 2011. 304 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $17.99. (9780312613419).

Following up a masterwork like The Marbury Lens (2010) can’t be easy. Smith throws readers a curveball with this deceptively quiet yet fascinatingly terse offering about a tall, skinny 13-year-old nicknamed Stick. Born with just one ear, he is used to harassment, though few of his bullies suspect the shocking abuse doled out by his troubled parents. His rock is his older brother, Bosten, a bold soul hiding the fact that he is gay—a powder keg should their father find out. Sentences are nontraditionally arranged—some pages look as if Smith took a baseball bat to them—to reflect how sounds bounce inside Stick’s head: “But some [here, a very long space] sounds don’t get killed easily.” Despite this touch of experimentalism and a final-act road trip dark enough to rival any of Adam Rapp’s, this is a novel saturated with joy, especially when the brothers take a sojourn to a kindly aunt’s beach house and find themselves “playing California.” A smaller work from Smith, but one that sustains his growing rep as one of the sharpest blades in YA.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

starred review in publishers weekly

There are 55 days until the release of Stick.

Plan on it.

Yesterday, there came a most gratifying announcement from Publishers Weekly: A STARRED review for Stick. Here's what they said:

Description: Description: http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/star.gifStick
Andrew Smith. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-61341-9
In Smith’s intense third novel, 13-year-old Stark McClellan—“Stick” to his friends—has been dealt a very rough hand, having been born without an ear and suffering horrific abuse at the hands of his parents, on top of everyday middle-school hell. Lacking confidence, Stick and his older brother, Bosten, don’t realize that other kids live lives free from constant beatings and crazy house rules. Stick is a good kid, but he’s at an age when sexual arousal is embarrassingly frequent, girls are mysterious, and nothing in his life makes sense. Then he discovers in rapid succession that his brother is gay, his parents are divorcing, and his brutal father has custody. When Bosten disappears after a violent confrontation with their father, Stick steals the family car in an attempt to find him. Smith (The Marbury Lens) revs up the emotions and the violence in this realistic and powerful tale, bringing in sexual abuse, hard drugs, and homelessness, while including enough positive characters to give Stick the support he desperately needs, providing for an imperfect but believable happy ending. Age 14–up. (Oct.) 

Monday, August 15, 2011

breakout session one: i just finished my novel, now what do i do?


You honestly signed up for this and paid to have me answer that question?

It strikes me that you don't really know what the word finished means.

Just saying.

When I get on a plane and fly somewhere, finished means I survive and get to disembark - on the ground - at exactly the place I started off intending to go to.

Finishing like that is a wonderful thing.

Here is a true story:

One time I got onto a plane that had no intention of finishing. About 10 minutes or so after taking off from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, one of the engines caught fire and the cabin began filling with smoke. A lot of people, even one of the flight attendants, thought we were all finished.

Nobody asked, Now that we're finished, what do we do?

They were mostly all too busy screaming and gnashing their teeth and shit like that.

I, personally, was quietly bummed out. This was not what I had in mind when I thought about finishing my flight.

Obviously, we made it down safely. The airline gave us vouchers to have fancy meals and get drunk, and they put us up in a nice hotel.

I had to share a room with a guy from Hungary who ate so much hash brownies that he did not wake up the next day when we had to get in the limo to go back to the airport.

I appreciated the fact that, after the screaming and flailing and running around the hallways completely naked, my Hungarian roommate slept very soundly.

He may or may not have been breathing. I did not check.

I wonder why people say may or may not have... Pretty much everything may or may not have been anything you can think of.

I may or may not have a live peacock in my bedroom at the moment.

(I do, by the way).

The moral of today's breakout session is this:

Know what finished looks like when you start.

Then you will not have to ask what you're supposed to do next. The only people who ask that are either still up in the air, about to crash and die, or running around naked, flailing and screaming because they've ingested too much hashish.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

the great possess scavenger hunt

Here is my contribution to my friend Gretchen McNeil's scavenger hunt for her soon to be released debut novel, Possess.

I wasn't really sure if I was supposed to make this more difficult to find, or what, but I did try to make a creepy image in honor of the sweet lady's book.

So, here you go.

And don't think I've purposefully forgotten that I owe you a couple Andrew Smith's How To Be A Writer Conference 2011 breakout sessions.

You paid for them, after all, and I just may post one later today. It is certainly coming up.

Just remember, if you're a late registrant to the Andrew Smith's How To Be A Writer Conference 2011, you may drop your registration fee (plus late charge penalty), into the slot below:

I should probably add an additional breakout session on how to deal with criticism and nasty email, too.

Remember our motto:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

give a man a fish

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted the following:

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Give an idiot a thesaurus and he'll entertain me for a lifetime.

I wrote that thought after reading a review in Kirkus, one of the leading (God only knows why) review publications in the industry. Kirkus prides itself on being the toughest reviewer around, or shit like that, and that may likely be the case. But as far as the writing of Kirkus's statements is concerned, the publication frequently comes off as rushed sophomores poring through a thesaurus to hurriedly scribble down a paragraph of self-impressed, blathering nonsense on the morning their English essay is due.

I saw the Kirkus review for Stick yesterday.

It is a very nice review, by the way, and says some really flattering and complimentary things about me and my novel.

Thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

But, just like the Kirkus review of The Marbury Lens, I will not re-post their paragraph on Stick in its entirety here on my blog. Here's why:

Stick is my fourth novel. Every one of my books has been reviewed in Kirkus, and they've all been positive and flattering reviews.

Thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

Every one of them has also been extremely embarrassing, too.

Every single Kirkus review I have ever had has either misspelled a major character's name, made gross errors in identifying the setting, or just absolutely made up plot elements that were not part of the book at all.

Every one of them.

Four out of four.


You haven't gotten one right yet.

In my entire life.

Look, forgive me for being harsh, but if you don't have time to get the major details correct, then don't fucking write reviews.

Again, don't make the mistake of thinking this post is in any way calling Kirkus out for the cast of their opinion and their right to express it. I am criticizing Kirkus on how they write, and I can clearly present credentials for doing this.

As a classroom teacher with twenty years of experience, were I to hold a Kirkus review up to even a liberal and soft-hearted rubric, I would have to give it a very low grade. In fact, with all the errors (those listed above), and the pattern of repetition of these kinds of errors, I would probably call Kirkus's parents in for a conference about academic integrity and how their sweet child is probably cheating and not actually reading the books little Kirk has been assigned to read.

Grade on accuracy of content: D

You simply cannot pass an assignment that requires reading a book if you misspell major character names,  misidentify the setting (when it is painfully obvious), or "invent" plot elements that were absent in the narrative.

Then there's the style aspect. This is going to be subjective, but teachers have to be a little subjective when judging voice in an essay.

In any event, there are ways of simplifying your task. For example, if, in a short passage (a paragraph), the prose has an unnecessary frequency of archaic or unused words (this is the telltale characteristic of an idiot with a thesaurus), then the author obviously has difficulty in expressing himself with a clear voice and a uniform purpose.

But I think "word of the day" essays are hilarious.

I do get a chuckle.

So, thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

Grade on style: C (this is very generous, because C is supposed to mean "average," and average people don't do shit like that).

In any event, Kirkus, if you EVER hand that shit in to me, I'm calling you and your parents in.

But thank you very much for the nice things you said about me and all my books.

Whoever you are.

Try harder next time.

Reading is actually fun.

But I am still calling your mom and dad.

Friday, August 12, 2011

back to normal


Back to normal.

Have you ever gone Back to Normal?

Do you notice that your dog seems a little different after you've been gone for a few days?

Normal must get really fucked up when you're gone.

And then when you get back, Normal is all resentful and shit because you've been away, and Normal has been left to manage things. To keep them all normal and shit.

That's exactly what you get for trying to sneak back quietly.

Normal gives you the cold shoulder.

Your dog might shit in unusual places when you're away, but Normal?

Normal likes to leave surprises that can't be washed off with a garden hose.

Have you ever gone back to the town where you lived when you were a kid?

Did it creep you out?

Did you feel like everyone still recognized you as the nine-year-old kid who accidentally killed his aunt on Thanksgiving?

You need to stop blaming yourself.

You need to move on.

I'm okay with that.

With you being a murderer.

I care about you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


October 11, 2011 is only two months away.

That is the day that Stick will be out. Finally.

So, every month on the eleventh day, I've been posting some random stuff about Stick.

Today, in honor of the two months to go, I am posting two random bits.

Here goes:

1. This is a photo of me. It was taken yesterday when my first order of Mr. Zogs Sex Wax T-Shirts came in. Ah, the nostalgia. I haven't even seen one of these in a very long time. Makes me feel like a kid again, surfing at C Street or the Strand, which is where quite a bit of Stick takes place.

And the daring choice to wear Sex Wax T-Shirts do figure in the story as well.

These shirts will be coming along with me on tour this fall. I also got some long sleeve ones, since I'll be in Chicago in November.

2. There's this thing that people do on book blogs and on Facebook, where somebody is trying to promote the claim that it is National Book Week. I've tried to find out if there is such a thing. It seems like National Book Weeks are held about once per week, which is probably the way it should be.

Anyway, I have never done this before, but here's what they do: They go to page 56 of the book that is nearest to where they are sitting, and copy in the sixth sentence and post it on their blog or Twitter or Facebook.

Hmm... let's see...  I happen to have this book sitting right here. Okay. Page 56, the sixth complete sentence:

She watched me the whole time I undressed, and after that, too, when I just stood there like a dummy, wondering what to do.

It's not as racy as you probably think, but there are a whole lot of sentences before and after that one that may clear up any confusion.

Finally, as always, if you have not seen the book trailer (which was done completely by kids, even the musical scoring), here it is:

Stick  will see you in two months.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the keynote (part two)

I am a recorder of all things regular.

At another conference recently [one that has a high-capacity slot, I might add, which reminds me: you need to pay up]:

a very talented and brilliant, inspirational author quoted a snappy line from T.S. Eliot about daring to disturb the universe. First, before getting on with my duty, which is to disturb, let me say that I am a real stuck-up snob when it comes to poetry. Does that disturb you?

Anyway, all the people with all these great ideas bubbling around in their heads are all, like, oh, that's me! I have a profound duty to disturb the universe. I just hope nobody ever disturbs ME whilst I am involved in disturbing UNIVERSE MINUS ONE. I do so despise being disturbed, after all. Being disturbed is something one should only do to stuck-up people with conservative perspectives, which excludes me. THAT'S what they were talking about, right? Disturbing the BAD GUYS, which equals


I have come to realize this is a very mathematical keynote.

So, in our math, we saw the following, based on my experience at a recent party that was attended by exactly 1,000 people:

1,000 attendees, of which 950 had positively corking ideas for a book, story, movie or some shit like that, from which 50 of those would go home and actually begin to write some words down on paper.

Which brings us to the next level of filtration:

Of those 50 regular people who actually sat down and put some words about their ideas onto paper, 45 of them would quit after one attempt at writing. For most of those people who quit, the time spent on their pages worked out to be shorter than an average television commercial break.

Still, there are 5 of our original 1,000 left.

5 disturbers of the universe.

That works out, at least so far, to be 1/2 of 1%.

But there's more.

4 of those 5 will quit disturbing the universe before they actually finish their book, story, movie, or some shit like that.

One will succeed in finishing something.

One-tenth of one percent.

Now, if you go to a lot of parties, let's say you are the sole disturber of the universe who likes to hang out being all acerbic and witty and inebriated and shit, and you meet and talk to, oh, let's say, a party that is attended by THE ENTIRE CITY OF WATERLOO, IOWA (population 64,000), you would end up inspiring the end product of, let's say, about 64 books.


Of those 64 books that came from your soiree with 64,000 people, we would observe the following trends:

  • 27 of them would be written in crayon, and in a language that no human being has ever spoken
  • 19 of them would be exact copies of Harry Potter or Twilight, but with different character names, and perhaps characters you do not want to punch in the face
  • 3 of them would be manifestos for the dismantling of America's constitutional republic (this is Iowa, after all)
  • 10 of them would be so godawfully bad that reading them causes the unfortunate side-effect of suicidal thoughts or actions.

That leaves us with 5.

4 of them will be published.

Of those 4, 3 of them will be total crap because they are unoriginal imitations of other crap that is published by other crappy writers but people spend money on.

Why do people do that?

Next time you drive through the city, count the Golden Arches.

This is America. We're good at that kind of shit.

[Are you feeling disturbed? Are you a good guy, or a bad guy? I'm just doing my duty.]

That leaves us with two.

Two out of 64,000.

One will be published, and it will be brilliant, fresh, original, and sing in ways that no music has ever sounded before. It will send ripples of disturbance outward in infinite directions.

The remaining one will also be brilliant, fresh, original, and sing in ways that no music has ever sounded before.

But it only may or may not be published.

And the reason it may not be published is that the writer only wrote it because he needed to write.

He did not need to BE a writer.

He needed to write.

There is a difference. It's not my job to tell you what the difference is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the keynote (part one)

One of those French writer guys who kept getting invited to fancy parties and alternately exiled or thrown in jails said, My job is to say what I think.

Today, a lot of writers spend more time on the job saying, but do very little thinking in preparation for their blatherfests.

This is the job of the writer:

It is to be self-destructive and isolate yourself from people who love you, if there are any.

If there are no people who love you, then you probably have been saying too much and thinking too little.

I was at a party one time.

There were exactly 1,000 people there, and none of them were writers except for me.

Imagine the orgy of self-indulgence: everyone is envious of writers, wants to talk to them, wants to test their wits, corner them, get them drunk and undress them, be them.

I talked to every one of the 1,000 guests at the party. It was exactly like being at one of the Salons in France during the Enlightenment, except there were Tea Party people from Minnesota there.

I don't know how they got in.

Those Tea Party people have like remote sensors for free weed or shit like that, I think.

Anyway, of those 1,000 guests at the Salon,  exactly 950 of them said this to me:

I have this really great idea for a story or a book or a movie or some kind of shit like that.

This was my Enlightenment.

How can "regular" people (some of whom were Tea Party people from Minnesota looking for free weed) have "ideas" for stories?

You have got to be kidding me.

You "regular" people can't possibly have any "ideas."

But that's what they said. Here's the math:

950/1000 people have really great ideas for stories.

The other 50, I think, may have been from Arizona, or some shit like that.

After the party wraps up, we all go home. I did my duty: I was witty, acerbic, and offensively drunk. I even threw up on someone's shoes. They were big shoes.

That's also part of the "job" of being a writer.

Just ask Voltaire.

At home, those 950 regular people still had their great ideas bubbling around in their regular heads.

50 of those people were so drunk and so impressed by the vomiting disgrace of a "writer" they hobnobbed with that they actually, spastically, attempted to "write" some words on actual "paper."

I know.

Are you kidding me?

Now, let's look at the math:

50/1000 random people will "write" some of their "great" ideas onto paper.

Want to know more about those "regular" people?

Keynote (part two) is coming...

Monday, August 8, 2011

a writer's conference in continuous session

For those of you who did not read agent and editor tips and tricks (part one), let me catch you up:

I wanted to live, live, live.

A dog was chewing on my arm.

I think he mostly wanted to eat, eat, eat.

The crazy doctor's significantly more insane wife was telling me to let go of her dog.

(She died a few days after this, by the way, in a tragic and horrible way that I won't detail).

This is true.

And, after the pepper spray fully incapacitated me, the police officer asked me this:

"Hey... aren't you that writer guy who lives up there with those horses?"

I told him I was.

And he said to me this:

"You know, I have this great idea for a book, or a movie, or maybe both!"

Which now brings me to the topic of my Keynote Address, which I will deliver tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

all my stuff

Well, if nobody reads blogs on Saturdays, then Sundays are dead in the water.

The Andrew Smith How to Be a Writer Conference will continue tomorrow, with the conclusion of the Suicide Prevention Pit Bull story.

I recently changed computers. I only use Macs, and have only used them for probably 20 years now.

I also have their new operating system, Lion. I am not reviewing tech stuff here, but I did have to change a lot of stuff that I do and how I do it. Writing has been a challenge for the past few days because I've had to actually use two computers at once to get anything done.

Things are finally clicking into place now. Where else would they click, anyway?

I do all the art on my blog. I draw the pictures and do the comics, too, when I have them. Unfortunately, my old Adobe Photoshop CS won't work on my new quad-core Mac. Sad. Oh well, I'll find some other way of getting stuff done. I always do.

In any event, we had a great multi-nation chat yesterday about The Marbury Lens on Evil Editor's blog. I don't know what I was expecting, but what happened there far surpassed the best I could hope for. Evil Editor edits and digests the chat and posts it so people who were not there live-time can give it a read.

You might enjoy looking at it, especially if you're a fan of the book.

Here's the link to yesterday's chat discussion.

See you at the conference tomorrow.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

the vice president's balls


Nobody reads blogs on Saturdays, which is too bad.

I think there are a lot of hungover people in Los Angeles this morning. That's what happens at writers' conferences. But not here. Not at this conference, where you get all the good shit you need.

Anyway, I haven't forgotten that I need to conclude my Suicide Prevention Pit Bull story, which is a true story with a real crackerjack ending with twists, and I need to give some more Agent and Editor Tips and Tricks, and then there are the Breakout Sessions and even a Keynote Address.


I think I'm going to need a bigger slot.

But since nobody is reading blogs because they are hungover and also just starting brand new WIPs inside their four-to-a-room doubles with strangers who fart, because they just learned last night through a private encounter with an influential agent who was peeing at the urinal next to them what is the new HOT trend in YA, I thought I'd mention a couple things about my book, The Marbury Lens, just because I hate to be all egotistical and shit and nobody's reading this, anyway, for the reasons listed above.

By the way, the next HOT trend in Middle Grade?

Just remember, you heard it here first bitch:

The next HOT trend in Middle Grade will be anti-bullying books about monthly testicular self exams. The target audience is frail boys who can't keep their hands off their balls. It should probably be an audio book.


Anyway, I will be on Evil Editor's Blog this morning, at noon Eastern time, discussing with non-hungover people The Marbury Lens, at the invitation of the Evil Editor himself or herself. I don't even know who Evil Editor is, but he or she has a pretty cool blog. The link is at the bottom.

Also, I am quite honored that The Marbury Lens is a finalist (among four books) for the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association 2011 Book Award. This is really a tremendous award, and to have my book there in the final four is quite amazingly nice.

I will have to draw some pictures if I give a speech and shit.

Anyway, the awards dinner is going to be held on October 22 at the Hilton in Long Beach, which is a very very nice place. I once got beaten up and pantsed in a dumpster behind the Hilton in Long Beach, so I know. It also has really nice urinals.

I'll be signing copies of the just-will-have-been-released Stick there, too, so people in attendance who choose NOT to beat me up and pants me can get an autographed copy of a real crackerjack book.


Evil Editor's Blog is here.

The SCIBA 2011 Book Awards List is here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

agent and editor tips and tricks (part two)

Let's see.

Where was I?

Oh yeah... a dog that had been genetically modified by crossbreeding among wasps and grizzly bears was chewing on my favorite left wrist.

By the way, these posts are for your benefit, for those of you not attending SCBWI-LA. Where are you ever going to hear this shit for free?

It doesn't have to be free. Apparently, some of you are not contributing to the slot:

You want to be invited back next year, don't you? Pay up.

Besides, you've already heard all that tired shit before: Breakout Session 1A: Now That I've Written A Book, What Do I Do Now?

Breakout Session 2A: I'm A Famous Singer. I Was Once A Child. So Now I'll Write A Children's Book And Get A Seven-Figure Advance!!! Squee!!! Writing Is Neat-O!!! Anyone Can Do It!!!

Hang in there. I'm still talking agent and editor advice. We'll do breakout sessions tomorrow or shit like that.

So, yeah... I was thinking about how much I wanted to live. I was also losing blood.

You know what else makes you want to live? Being alone in a room with a wasp.

If God got things right, He would have made wasps the size of grizzly bears and bears the size of wasps. Think how cute that would be.

Awwww.... I want one. If I saw a grizzly bear that was, like, two inches long, I'd catch it and put it in a mayonnaise jar or shit like that.

But a wasp? Fuck that.

I went to a private religious school. In the boys' restroom, they had this urinal that was an entire wall, like fifteen feet across, so boys could just stand there, like twelve of us at a time, and piss on the wall.

The urinal was made by a company in Michigan that was founded by a German immigrant. There is something innately American in that concept: starting your own urinal factory, making a giant urinal so boys could stand shoulder to shoulder and piss on everything in front of them.

Pissing like that is what made America great.

The urinal company went out of business. I put a urinal like that in my garage-conversion man cave, so when my friends come over if anyone needs to pee, we can all piss on something together.

My friends stopped coming over.

Anyway, at my school, they had these pictures, right at eye-level above the urinal, so we could see them while we were peeing. By the way, girls should really try to face a wall sometime when they pee. There's cool shit on walls.

Anyway, the picture looked like this:

That picture scared us about lots of things.

It also caused some boys to piss on their neighbor's leg.

In it, there was also a quiet hint that if you got caught doing something bad with your hands, they'd end up on the wall above some urinal like a fucking deer head or shit like that.

Tip One [you thought I forgot, didn't you?]: Sure, go ahead... follow an agent or an editor into a urinal. That kind of shit is what makes America great. By the way, you have a tremendous advantage at a writer's conference getting that valuable face-time if you are a guy and are targeting a male agent or editor. We never have to wait in lines. And we get to piss on walls together.

What could be better than that?

I hear James Patterson sold an entire MG series by pissing next to guys.

Which brings me back to this idea: [by the way, I'm not purposely trying to drag out the dog story. Everyone loves dog stories. And it does have a really cool twist at the end, but I might not get to it today. Still, this is worth your time. Trust me. Mine, I'm not so sure about. Did I mention the slot?]

I would WAYYYY rather be standing at a wall-length urinal beside a 6-foot grizzly bear than a 6-foot praying mantis.

Think about it.

Who ever thought making something that looked and operated like a praying mantis wouldn't be a cruel joke to play on everyone?

You know what good praying mantises do with their hands? If they're 6-feet tall, they rip your fucking head off with them.

Anyway, I'll have to tell you what happened with the dog, my favorite left hand, and the breakout sessions tomorrow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

agent and editor tips and tricks (part one)

In regards to my Suicide Prevention Pit Bull, I received some messages from readers who mistakenly assumed the mechanism of effect is contingent upon the establishment of companionship.


That is not how a Suicide Prevention Pit Bull works. When you're suicidal, companionship often is the thing that pushes you over the edge. Where's the prevention in that?


A few weeks ago now, I experienced suicidal thoughts. I was sitting in a movie theater and watching a trailer for an upcoming Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy film. Zany. I wanted to shoot myself in the eyes.

And I thought to myself, You know what would make you want to LIVE, LIVE, LIVE? If you were suddenly being mauled by a pit bull.

Think about it: Have you ever seen video footage of someone being bitten by a relentless pit bull? One thing that strikes me is how much they want to LIVE, LIVE, LIVE. No matter what. If you could somehow harness that love of life sentiment and keep it forever -- Poof! Problem solved.

That's how it works.

A few years ago, I was running along the lake on a very nice day. There was a crazy doctor (this is true) who had a house down there. He painted the house purple. He was crazy, but I won't get into that. He has since moved away.

Anyway, while I was running past, the crazy doctor let his ferocious dogs out. They were not pit bulls. They were crazy and red, had been crossbred with wasps and grizzly bears, and had teeth that looked like this:

Don't laugh.

This is a true story.

By the way, this is Session 2 of my How to Be a Writer Conference. And today's topic, indeed, is "Agent and Editor Tips and Tricks" or some shit like that. This will all make perfect sense eventually.

Don't forget to pay me:

Okay. So, the crazy doctor let his dogs out and they came after me, yapping and salivating. One of them flew at me with its teeth gnashing. It was going right for my balls. This is true. Instinct takes over at times like those. I put my arm out and the dog bit my wrist and began shaking its head.

And you know what I was thinking while the dog was chewing on my wrist?

It was this:


Okay. This is a true story. And it does have a LOT to do with how to handle agents and editors.

Trust me.

I'll be back with more tomorrow.

Providing you pay me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the solution den

In honor of SCBWI LA this week, I am going to offer a special conference session on writing today. I may have another one about something else all SCBWI-ey tomorrow.

You can put your money in the slot:

Yeah, okay... so it kind of looks like the back of yesterday's "special" name tag.

Anyway, here's our conference: How to be a Writer

This is what I do. I set my coffee to brew every morning starting at exactly 4:12 a.m. [By the way, this is totally true.] That way, the coffee is all dark and hot by the time I actually pour my first cup, which is usually around 5:20 or so. Since it's summer, I've been getting up later than usual. I'm usually out of bed by 5.

You have to do push-ups and situps. This gets blood in your writer's brain. I turn on the computer and pour coffee. I do not get dressed. Getting dressed is stupid. Then I write and drink coffee. I don't care how much I write at first, but I'll usually get a good amount of words done in the morning.

Last night I had a dream about a Suicide Prevention Pit Bull named Alien. It was a brindle female. That is the truth. I am going to put her in the book I am currently writing. That is also the truth.

Everyone should have a Suicide Prevention Pit Bull, in my opinion. Once you work out the kinks with the mauling and shit like that, your problems seem suddenly insignificant.

Then, at 8:00 I go for a run. Yesterday I was slow and draggy. I ran about 7 miles. Today, I feel like running. I'll probably go about 10. I just need to finish this blogging shit.

I read a blog where the writer said that blogging was a waste of time. No shit. What a dumb fucking thing to say.

Where was I?

I prefer to run alone because I think up great shit when I run. No iPods or shit like that. There's never people out here where I run, too, which is especially nice.

You know what else I do when I need to think of cool shit (besides dream and run distance)?

I sit in my sauna.

This is it:

I built it myself.

I've actually written a lot of shit in there. You can think up really cool shit when you're naked and sweating. You should try that.

Have you put the money in the slot yet?

I hadn't used my sauna in over a year, but I fired it up yesterday. Afterwards, I was like, holy shit! I thought up some cool shit just now.

So, that's how you Be a Writer.

The thing is [and this is where people are going to get really pissed off at me... eh... what can I say?] that if you do what I do, you will NEVER be a writer. Never, never, never. You also will never be a writer if you do what anyone else who tells you how they be writers... um... be... does... I don't know, some shit like that.

Look at the time! I don't just waste my time for free, you know. I have shit to do. Dogs to dream about, miles to run, and sitting around naked and sweating to accomplish today.

I'm leaving.

Tomorrow, maybe I'll do a conference on agent tips and tricks.

Or the care and preening of Suicide Prevention Pit Bulls.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

on meeting famous people like sara zarr, greg neri, and a guy who walked on the moon

So, yesterday I got to meet and talk with somebody I've been wanting to meet and talk with for a very long time. It was the best conversation, the coolest thing ever. And I didn't spill anything on myself which was a definite plus.

I guess it was a couple years back now that I was invited out to be a speaker and do a book signing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. I was scheduled to be on a two-person panel talking about writing for boys (I think... it was a long time ago).

Anyway, I was doing this panel with Greg Neri, an amazingly talented, award-winning author. [Side note: the kids I coach in writing absolutely love Greg's novel, Surf Mules.] I had never met Greg before, but we were staying at the same hotel (right in downtown Nashville), so we arranged to meet for dinner and talk about what we were going to talk about.

Well, it was a blast. I think this was on a Friday or a Saturday night. I can't remember. It was a long time ago. I tried to get Greg to drink alcoholic beverages with me, but he would have none of it. Also, Nashville is a place where everything closes and you can't get a drink after like 9 on a Friday or Saturday.

So, anyway, the next morning came around and I was supposed to show up and sign in to the festival at the Authors' Green Room. When I went to sign in, there were all kinds of super famous people hanging out in the Green Room.

The lady who was signing in the authors found my name on the list, but they did not have a nice pre-printed ID badge on a lanyard for me. So she had to make a "special" name badge for me. I think it was on an index card and she scotch-taped it to my shirt.

It looked like this:

They had very nice goodie bags for the authors there. In them, they put bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey and Moon Pies, which together constitute the entire food pyramid for people in Nashville, I am told.

The nice part was that I tried (as I usually do at these things) to sit far away from everyone else in the Green Room. Famous people are scary. They get all creeped out when you stare at them and rock back and forth.

So, anyway, Sara Zarr came over and sat at THE SAME TABLE where I was sitting. And she was talking to someone else who was super famous. I think it was Sarah Dessen. I can't remember. It was a long time ago.

That was the first time I ever met Sara Zarr. That might have been the first time I ever met Sarah Dessen, too. I'm not sure. But I have spoken with Sarah Dessen about breastfeeding. That is the truth.

Anyway, I found out a lot of things. Sara Zarr is really nice and smart. She's also a hell of a writer. I found out that she lived in Utah. So I figured she'd be willing to trade her bottle of Jack Daniel's for my extra Moon Pie. Everyone in Utah is Mormon, right? And I was thinking a little jolt before my panel with Greg Neri would be just the thing to lube the old vocal cords, even though it was, like 9 in the morning.

Yeah, that's how writers roll.

Anyway, turns out I was wrong about the assumed advantage in Moon Pie exchanges at the authors' table.

So. Okay. Greg and I go to our assigned room to do our talk. It's even being broadcast on the radio. Unfortunately for us, we're speaking at exactly the same time as Sara Zarr, who is speaking next door, I think. I can't really remember. Also, at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, Buzz Aldrin, a guy who actually walked on the moon, is talking.

Are you kidding me? He walked on the fucking moon. I have a fucking Moon Pie in my bag. Who would you rather see?

So, Greg and I had like six people in our room.

One of them just wanted a place to knit.

One of them thought that Greg or I walked on the fucking moon. They left when they found out that we were, indeed, not astronauts. Somebody raised their hand to ask a question. Their question was this:

"What room is Sara Zarr speaking in?"

And that's my story about how great it is to meet famous people you always wanted to meet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

bugs do two things

I am writing a book about history.

Here's what I've found:

All roads seem to intersect across the pages on my desk.

Speaking of my desk -- to all the people I've promised bookplates, signed books, and other goodies, they are being mailed out today. That means Michigan, Alabama, and Virginia have some dark materials on the way.

Also on the subject of my desk, I bought a new computer a couple days ago, and there still isn't enough room available on my desk to set it up and swap all the data across from the one I am using to produce today's post.

I will work on it sometime this week.

And that was my day. You know what I mean.