Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hot Lemonade

Aurelia: (to me) You look awful.

Me (croaking): I feel worse.

Aurelia: Your lips are cracked; your hair isn’t brushed, and you’re voice sounds like someone is grading the road behind your house.

Me (still croaking): You needn’t elaborate.

Aurelia: Would you like some peppermint ice cream?

Me: Yes, but I had two bowls already today.

Aurelia: Three bowls are allowed when you’re sick.

Me: I have the chills too.

Ni pops in. (Note to readers: you haven’t met Ni yet. She is Beth’s best friend in Salvation).

Ni: How about some hot lemonade?

Me: Mmm. I don’t know . . .

The characters consult one another, then Aurelia turns back to me.

Aurelia: You were a very good teacher this week.

I know I look bad when I start earning sympathy praise from Aurelia.

Me: Maybe I’ll just sleep.

Ni disappears into the kitchen. Aurelia follows her. I hear the fridge open, a cupboard closing, and the running of the water from the faucet. Someone pushes the button on the microwave, but the water keeps running. The characters’ voices carry over the running water.

Ni: You know this is your fault, Aurelia. If she wasn’t all anxious about Exile coming out, she would have postponed her magazine interview tomorrow and slept today. Instead of cleaning house.

The microwave beeps.

Aurelia: I think she’s much more worried about your book coming back from the editor. It’s causing stress.

Ni: Are you sure it’s not all those ARCs of Exile waiting to be packaged and her school visit in two weeks, and preparations for the Portland Writing Festival?

Aurelia emerges from the kitchen, a steaming mug in her hands. Ni follows. They both look at me skeptically.

Aurelia: (to me) You can’t do everything you know.

Me: (sigh) I don’t think either of you are to blame for a sore throat & fever.

Aurelia hands me the hot lemonade.

Aurelia: The next time you’re sick, you have my permission not to blog.

I close my eyes, take a sip, and say, “Thank you.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Subtitle: A Brief Foray into the Realm of Copyediting

In the life of an author, the most magical phrase in time is “Congratulations! We would like to publish your book!” This phrase, of course, leads to jumping up and down, the scooping of cats and/or young children, and giddy spinning.

Lesser known, but also worthy of giddy spinning, is the following phrase:

“Dear author, I sent your manuscript on to the copyeditor.”


Spinning. Blurry backgrounds. And the ecstasy of knowing one is done making hard decisions about why your character insisted upon throwing him or herself off a cliff. Life is good.

Unless, of course, one happens to be doing the copyediting.

As I was last weekend.

This year I am mentoring a former student on her senior writing project.

She is very like me. As is her writing. Wings and magical realms and special descriptive phrases that abound in the world of young adult fantasy. You know, fun stuff! I’m good with that.

Apparently what I am not good at is highlighting.

Click on the yellow color. Highlight the excessive use of “was.” Click on the red color. Explain why “was” is highlighted.

Click on the yellow color. Highlight the two contradictory terms. Click on the red. Explain that people don’t “pound on things silently.”

Click on the yellow color. Highlight the use of an unclear pronoun. Click on the red. Explain that “they”—rather than referring to the two characters in the paragraph—is technically referring to the purple socks which were mentioned in the same line.



Click. Reclick. And on and on and on.

I am not a fan of highlighting.

As a teacher, I can sit down one-on-one with students and explain two or three details about conventions during the dissection of one paper.

A copy-editor doesn’t have this privilege. They have to mark everything.

Don’t get me wrong.

I have always valued copyeditors.

After this weekend, though, I must give them a shout-out! And impart to them the imaginary scepter of ultimate appreciation.

For their mind-blowing knowledge of the English language.

Their incredible attention to detail.

And their extraordinary patience with highlighters.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who the heck is Ryan Bradley and what is a Shibutani?

Are you aware that Ryan Bradley won the U.S. Championships?

Who? You are thinking. Is Ryan Bradley?

And that the Shibutanis scored 4s on their elements?

What the heck is a Shibutani? You are also thinking. (If this is the case, BTW, you are really missing something and should look up Maia and Alex Shibutani on YouTube).

And that Sarah Meyer just defeated Kiira Corpi and Carolina Kostner at Europeans?

No, of course, you aren’t. Because this is an author blog. And none of these people have anything to do with books.

But honestly, I’m quite sick of talking books today, so we’re going to have to talk about figure skating. I LOVE figure skating. Watching it that is. From home. On TV. Or IceNetwork. Or, when I’m very, very lucky, in an actual arena.

No, I don’t skate.

But I love the stories.

You don’t have to read books to find stories. Stories are in movies, plays, songs, television, dance, life . . .

And figure skating.

Ryan Bradley won the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships last weekend. It was a mess. He botched two jumps (basically fell, though not technically), the most important jumps in his program. This was not a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination.

But it was a story.

Because Ryan has been skating FOREVER.

Since he was junior champion way back in . . . it was more than 11 years ago.

And he ALWAYS falls down in every competition.

And he’s tried retiring twice, but he just can’t stand it.

And he has lousy speed and lousy spins and lousy technique on his triple axle.

But he’s HILARIOUS. He’s an amazing performer. He’s about the best modern skater on the planet at connecting with his audience, and totally deserves to be opening Stars on Ice (which would benefit from more performers and fewer medal winning Americans who don’t connect).

So it’s PHENOMENAL that Ryan Bradley won the U.S. Championships.

It’s just the best story! And apparently I needed to blog about it.