SFWA, SFWA, SFWA!
Everybody, conga! SFWA, SFWA, SFWA! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, dah! SFWA, SFWA, SFWA! For those of you who don't know but are conga-ing anyway because the rhythm is just that infectious, SFWA stands for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., which is why the acronym is SFFWAI... I mean, SFWA. At any rate, it's an organization of professional SF/F writers (a.k.a. the Cool Kids). I have been crashing their parties for years.*
In my defense, my crashing has been aided and abetted by super-kind souls** who offered to let me mention their names to the fierce dragons and gargoyles guarding the door (and don't forget the robots -- never forget the robots), so technically I was a guest at all those shindigs.
But now I am guest no more. I am a card-carrying SFWA Member! Actually, I'm not so card-carrying. My membership packet is in the mail. And I don't know if there's a card in it or not. I do hope there's a diagram of the secret handshake. And a map to the secret lair.
Anyway, I've wanted to be a member for a long time now. And now I am! Eeeeeeeee!!!!!
Does anyone know if there's a SFWA party at World Fantasy Convention in Austin? If so, I'm looking forward to NOT crashing it!
* Shhhhhhhhhhhhh! Don't tell anyone.
** I won't name names, but they rhyme with Paul Levinson and Rob Sawyer...
This Space is Your Space, This Space is MySpace
I do not understand MySpace. It seems to be a strange world of flashy icons and poorly formatted webpages, best known to the general public as a haven for perverts. But everyone keeps telling me that I should create a MySpace page because "the kids" love it. Since I'd never want to disappoint "the kids", I've finally taken the plunge and setup my very own MySpace page. Check it outhttp://www.myspace.com/sarahbethdurstand let me know what you think. It looks pretty much like every other MySpace page, though I tried (without much success) to make it as un-flashy and not-quite-so-poorly-formatted as possible. Feel free to drop by and learn lots of crucial information about me, like my favorite TV shows and my astrological sign! And if you're a fellow MySpacer, please please PLEASE friend me so I don't look like a sad, lonely, old person!In other news, I now have a shiny new author photo. It's just a picture that my husband took of me standing in front of some trees in our yard -- I'm trying to avoid shelling out the money for a professional headshot -- but I'm rather fond of it. Both of my eyes are actually open and it's a more casual pose and a higher quality image than my old picture. It's now been added to the Bio page of my website as well as my new MySpace page. Let me know what you think!
Books of Wonder
This past Thursday, I headed back to the Big City. Second trip this month. (Still felt like a country mouse, though I'm getting a bit better at navigating Penn Station.) This time, I went for a book signing at Books of Wonder.
Books of Wonder is an independent bookstore in NYC devoted entirely to children's books. And cupcakes. Half the store is the Cupcake Cafe; the other half is filled with books about clever pigs and plucky kids with enchanted swords and snarky teens and emerald cities and magic wardrobes and islands of blue dolphins... Nirvana. Well, I guess that's not right. Nirvana is the state of wanting nothing. I was in a state of wanting everything! So maybe anti-Nirvana works better. Anyway, though it required great self-restraint, I managed to only buy three books (hardcovers! muah-ha-ha-ha), one from each of the authors who were reading/signing:
Tamora Pierce - TERRIER
Laura Anne Gilman - THE CAMELOT SPELL
Tui Sutherland - SO THIS IS HOW IT ENDS
The readings were wonderful and I had many fun conversations with great people. Tammy introduced me to Peter Glassman (the owner of Books of Wonder) and told him all about my book! Tamora Pierce. Talking about my book. In public. Loud enough for lots of people to hear. Muah-ha-ha-ha. So awesome. (Click here to read my previous post about the awesomeness of Tamora Pierce.) Laura Anne and Tui were also very very nice, congratulating me about my book and saying sweet and encouraging things. And I got to chat with Tammy's husband Tim, and her editor too. Lots of fun.
As you can imagine, I had a fabulous time. And then on the train ride home, I read the inscriptions that Tammy and Laura Anne wrote for me in their books:
"Sarah - In 8 months, it's your turn! Whee!" (Tamora Pierce)
"For Sarah, who will be doing this next..." (Laura Anne Gilman)
This country mouse (well, at least, suburban mouse) is a happy mouse...
Just read the always brilliantly hilarious blog of Maureen Johnson and saw her latest post about her worst Halloween costume. So that got me thinking about Halloween... Love, love, love the candy. That's a given. But I think Halloween is hands-down the most stressful holiday out there -- even including Valentine's Day! Every October, I used to obsess over what to be for Halloween. You wanted something clever and cool and, most importantly, not totally humiliating. In my house, this was complicated by the fact that we had a strict no store-bought costumes rule. Whatever we chose to be, the costume had to be homemade. Here are my best and worst choices:
Best Costume: Pink monkey. When I was five, I decided that I wanted to be a pink monkey for Halloween. Not a ghost, not a princess, not a regular monkey, but a PINK monkey. How my little mind conjured this utterly random idea, I do not know. But I insisted, so my mom made me a pastel pink monkey outfit. (Thank you, Mom!) I'm sure I got a few strange looks from the neighbors, but I loved that costume, and I wore it with panache. And you can bet that I was the cutest little pink monkey those people had ever seen!
Worst Costume: Robot. And I'm not talking a cool robot -- I cut head and arm holes out of an enormous cardboard box and decorated it with buttons and squiggles. What was I thinking? This was maybe 4th or 5th grade, and it was the first year that I got to go trick-or-treating with the older kids from down the street rather than my parents. These kids were the ones carrying pillowcases as their trick-or-treat bags. (To explain: if you carried a pillowcase, that meant you were allowed to stay out late enough to visit enough houses to score enough candy to fill a pillowcase. I carried a small plastic pumpkin.) These kids oozed cool. And I show up wearing a giant cardboard box. It gets better. The older kids decided that in order to pick up the candy-acquiring pace, we should walk through the woods from house to house instead of walking on the street. Picture me: giant cardboard box, attempting to walk through the woods at night... I couldn't see my feet to watch for brambles. I was much too wide to fit between the trees. Not a pretty sight. Not a pretty sight at all. But you can bet that I was the cutest little... No, this time I just looked like a big dork...
Best & Worst Costume: Wonder Woman. One year, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, my mom made me an awesome Wonder Woman costume. It even included the gold bullet-proof bracelets. Snazzy. Unfortunately, we lived in Massachusetts. October 31st in Massachusetts is always the coldest day of the year. You might think the coldest day would be in January or February, but no, it's always Halloween. And it's always 70 degrees out on October 30th. In fact, the temperature doesn't actually plunge until precisely 4pm on October 31st. So my Wonder Woman costume may indeed have been my best costume ever, but no one ever saw it. It was completely covered by the enormous full-body parka that my mother insisted I wear. That year, I was girl-in-coat on the outside, but I was a superhero in my heart.
Anyway, those are my Halloween stories. Please tell me about yours. And take a look at Maureen's costume post. After you're done laughing yourself silly, check out Maureen's awesome new book: DEVILISH. I loved this book. It's her best yet. A wonderfully funny story about high school, cupcakes, and selling your soul.
Class of 2k7: The Debut of the Debuts
I've joined up with a group of fellow debut authors of middle grade or young adult fiction. We come from all different places, write all different kinds of MG/YA books, and are getting published by lots of different publishers, but we've come together to help each other promote our upcoming books. We're calling ourselves the Class of 2k7 (because our books are all coming out in 2007). And as of this week, our class of debuts has officially debuted!So, you may ask, what is this little group all about? Go ahead... ask... I'll wait... Thanks so much for asking! Well, whenever I want cold, hard, irrefutable facts, I head straight to Wikipedia. So maybe Wikipedia can help explain. According to Wikipedia, traditional debutante rituals include:- Carrying or wearing feathers, usually ostrich- Performing "the Texas Dip" curtsy, which involves leaning forward over an extended leg until your forehead (almost) whacks the floor - Presenting 18 candles and 18 roses to friends and family- Drinking to each letter of the debutante's nameYeah... that's not at all what we're about... It's closer to this. The debut of the Class of 2k7 involves:- The Class of 2k7 Website- The Class of 2k7 Blog- The Class of 2k7 Message Board- Brochures, fliers, a newsletter, and even a little video (coming soon!)- Joint appearances at conferences and readings- Drinking to each letter of each debut author's name (Well, not so much this last one. But I like this idea. I think I'll bring it up at our next meeting...)OK, what the Class of 2k7 is really all about is a group of really cool people who all happen to be outrageously talented debut MG/YA novelists. There are around forty of us in all, including:- Three of us with books being published by Razorbill: Me plus C.G. Watson (QUAD) and Jay Asher (13 REASONS WHY)- Five of us with books about faeries or fairy tales: Me plus Melissa Marr (WICKED LOVELY), Tiffany Trent (IN THE SERPENT'S COILS), Heather Tomlinson (SWAN MAID), and A.C.E. Bauer (NO CASTLES HERE)Hey, and just a few days ago our group got some love from the very excellent Fuse #8 blog by Betsy Bird, librarian extraordinaire from the Donnell Library Children's Room in NYC. Thanks Betsy!All we need now is a theme song and a class cheer... Any suggestions???
Recent Reads: Friesner, Lynn, and Cohn
Non-Existent Person Asks: Sarah, since you're a writer, I bet you read a lot. Read anything good lately?
Sarah Answers: Thanks for dropping by! You're my very first imaginary blog reader -- congratulations! And yes, like most writers, I'm something of a book-o-holic. The five floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my office reached capacity many months ago. Since then I've been sliding extra books on top of each row and building precariously-balanced book towers all around the room. And if you're ever hanging out with me and you have someplace to be, do not let me near a Barnes & Noble. It will NOT be a quick visit...Anyway, I Just finished a very fun book: TEMPING FATE by Esther Friesner. It's about a girl with a self-professed attitude problem who takes a summer temp job filling in for Greek gods, specifically the Fates. Such a fabulous concept. Plus it's got the best talking spider since Charlotte. Very fun.Also this week, I read SNOW by Tracy Lynn (aka Liz Braswell and Celia Thompson) from the Simon Pulse "Once Upon a Time" series. It's a retelling of Snow White set in Victorian England with lots of fabulous characters, such as a spellbound minstrel boy (as the magic mirror) and a pack of half-human and half-animal thieves from London (as the dwarves). Very inventive re-imagining of the traditional fairy-tale elements.
And lastly, POP PRINCESS by Rachel Cohn. No talking animals in this one. It's realistic contemporary fiction about a teenage girl who becomes the newest pop sensation. If you like American Idol and Behind the Music, you'll like this. Super-fun, plus there's some nice depth as she struggles with family issues and her own personality flaws.
I now have in my grubby little hands, the final, fully-signed, i's-dotted, t's-crossed version of my contract for INTO THE WILD and an untitled second book. Yippee! You want to know the coolest thing about this contract, aside from it being the final, fully-signed, i's-dotted, t's-crossed version? It has a big red stamp at the top of the first page that says: AUTHOR.
Yes, I know this is just to identify which of the four copies is mine. But come on, it says AUTHOR! I almost cried when I first saw it. Maybe next time I go into Penguin, they'll stamp it on my forehead: AUTHOR. That would be cool... if, perhaps, a bit messy.My glorious and adorable husband scanned it in so you could see it:
He then printed it out on photo paper so I could put it next to my writing desk for inspiration as I work on Untitled Second Book. Isn't he the sweetest?
Signing that contract was a Momentous Event for me. [Imagine wavy flashback effect.] I was nervous. It wasn't likely that I'd suddenly freak out and sign my name as Walt Disney or Big Bird or that guy that used to sign the butts of Cabbage Patch Dolls (what was his name???), but you never know. Things happen. So first, I practiced my signature, and then I made my husband stand on the other side of the room and not watch while I signed. When I finished, he took this photo of me:
And then because I am a sentimental (and compulsively organized) pack-rat, I sealed the pen that I'd used in a Zip-lock and labeled it "contract signing pen." I hope it gets a lot more use in the future! :)
Teen Author Drinks Night
Last night was soooooo cool. I went to my first ever Teen Author Drinks Night, a monthly gathering of YA/MG authors from the NYC area. We met at a bar in Manhattan, talked shop, enjoyed some liquid refreshment, and then went out for pizza. It was a blast.
I found out about this gathering from Scott Westerfeld (uber-author of THE LAST DAYS, PEEPS, MIDNIGHTERS, ...) and had been excited about going for the past week. I hopped the train to Manhattan yesterday afternoon and got to Penn Station right at rush hour. Soooo many people... I felt like quite the country mouse stumbling around in the big city. (Yeah, I don't get out much.) But after swimming upstream through the crowds of commuters heading home for the day, I found my way out of the station, got a cab, and made it to the bar. I didn't know anyone when I walked in the door, but everyone was super-nice. And they treated me like a fellow author, which, I guess, I am now! (This was my first shindig as an Author-with-a-capital-A. Such a nice feeling.) I met a whole bunch of fantastic authors who shared a lot of helpful advice, and I even got to hand out a few copies of my spiffy new business card. Plus I left with a great list of books-to-read:
Coe Booth - TYRELL
Mary Hogan - THE SERIOUS KISS
David Levithan - BOY MEETS BOY
Sarah Darer Littman - CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC
Leslie Margolis - FIX
Robyn Schneider - BETTER THAN YESTERDAY
Delia Sherman - CHANGELING
Natalie Standiford - THE DATING GAME
There were also a couple other Sarahs whose last names I didn't catch, plus some whose first names probably weren't Sarah but whose last names I didn't catch either. :( Hopefully I'll get to chat more with them next time. I'll definitely be attending this on a regular basis from now on!
Oh, and I almost forgot... Some of these uber-cool people who I met last night will be doing a reading together -- Teen Author Reading Night -- at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village on November 1st at 6pm. So if you plan to be in NYC that night, be sure to check it out! I don't think I'll be able to go because I'll be en route to the World Fantasy Convention in Austin (my first ever conference as an Author-with-a-capital-A!), but it sounds like it'll be a great reading.
This morning, a pig yelled at me. Ever since, I've been writing like a madwoman. The pig was Piggley-Wink, the star of "Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley-Wink," a PBS kids' show about a bunch of computer-animated farm animals from the 1950s with Irish accents. (Yes, there's really a show like that.) Anyway, in today's episode, Piggley-Wink had to write a story for school, but he wanted to play instead. You can see where this is going... He learns that if you want to excel at writing, you have to work at it.
At the end, to counteract the obvious subtlety of the moral, the narrator (a grown-up Piggley-Wink, who, we learn, is a children's book author) looked straight at me and said, "If you have a talent, you need to work hard to make it into something." Shamed by the truth of his porcine wisdom, I jumped out of bed and began typing. I've done 10 pages so far, and I can't stop until I've earned that pig's respect!
So as an addendum to my previous post about Raisinets, here is the second secret to writing a novel: every once in a while, get a pig to yell at you.
Thank you, Piggley-Wink.
Lots of Purple
My website has a new color scheme! I changed it last night to match the spiffy new cover art. Check it out:
(If you still see a black background, just hit the refresh button so your browser knows to fetch the new version.)
In honor of my new color scheme, I give you one dorky joke: Remember Steel Magnolias when Shelby says, "My colors are blush and bashful"? Well, my colors are 621A4A and F8B9D4. (Those are the HTML codes for the purple and pink in the cover art for INTO THE WILD. See, I told you it was dorky.) Plus one YouTube video celebrating my new color scheme. Enjoy!
INTO THE WILD has a cover!!! Let the Snoopy-dance-of-joy commence! Say hello to Julie and her brother Boots...
Ooooooooooooooh... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah... Preeeeeeeeeeeety...
Obscure Fairy Tale: Tatterhood
Breaking news: Amazon.com now lists my book under its new title INTO THE WILD! Yay!
And now back to your regularly scheduled blog: this week's episode of "Obscure Fairy Tales."
In obscure fairy tales, it isn't always the dashing and charming prince who is the hero. Sometimes it's the princess. And the princess isn't always delicate, lovely, and in designer gowns. Sometimes she's like Tatterhood.
Tatterhood (a Norwegian tale from Asbjornsen and Moe)
A childless queen consults a peasant woman on how to have a baby. The woman tells her that in the morning, she will find two flowers under her bed. She is to eat the fair flower but leave the ugly one. In the morning, the queen finds the flowers and (figuring two magic flowers means twice the magic) eats them both.
Anyone who knows fairy tales can hear the alarm bells: don't disobey the wise woman! But the Thing I Love #1 about this story is: the queen's right.
Nine months later, the queen gives birth to an ugly girl who holds a wooden spoon in one hand and rides a goat.
Thing I Love #2: yes, you read that right. The baby comes out of the womb with a wooden spoon in her hand and riding a goat, which means that the queen also gives birth to a spoon and a goat. Imagine what that must have looked like in the ultrasound.
The queen is shocked, but the baby tells her not to worry, the next one will be much prettier. And then the queen gives birth to a second baby, who is indeed much prettier.
Thing I Love #3: talking baby.
The twin sisters grow up as best friends, even though the firstborn (who they name Tatterhood) insists on wearing tattered clothes, never washing her hair, and always riding her goat. And they are very happy until one day, a pack of trolls attacks the castle.
Yeah, that would ruin my day too. In some versions, the trolls are witches or hobgoblins. Also a downer.
Tatterhood says, "Lock yourselves in the castle. I'll take care of it." And she rides her goat out into the courtyard and whacks all the trolls with her wooden spoon. Her sister, worried about her, sticks her head out the window to see if she's okay. One of the trolls yanks the beautiful princess's head off and replaces it with a calf's head. After Tatterhood finishes chasing away the trolls, she comes back inside to find her sister with a calf's head. She yells at her parents and nurses for not taking better care of her.
Things I Love #4, 5, and 6: Tatterhood kicks troll-butt; losing one's head isn't fatal; and Tatterhood tells off the grown-ups. I love imagining that conversation.
She requests a ship, which her parents give her, and she takes her sister on a voyage to where the trolls live. There, she whacks them all with her spoon again and steals back her sister's proper head. They sail on, having more adventures, for three years.
Thing I Love #7: the princesses get more adventures! Yay!
Eventually, they visit a kingdom with two princes. One falls instantly in love with the pretty princess and begs to marry her. But the pretty princess says, "No. Not unless my sister Tatterhood marries too."
Thing I Love #8: pretty princess shows spunk.
The second prince agrees to marry Tatterhood. He sulks about this for a while, and Tatterhood asks him why he doesn't talk. "What should I talk about?" he asks, still sulking. She tells him that he could ask why she rides an ugly goat. So he dutifully asks, and Tatterhood says, "Is this an ugly goat? Why, it's the grandest horse you've ever seen." Instantly, the goat turns into the finest horse that the prince has ever seen. She then tells him to ask her about the spoon, her tattered outfit, and her ugly face, and she transforms into a beautiful young woman in a fancy dress with a magic wand.
Thing I Hate: do they HAVE to make her pretty at the end? Couldn't she stay herself? (Yes, I hate that the Beast transforms into a human at the end of "Beauty and the Beast" too. He's such a cute beast, especially in the Disney version.) On the plus side, at least Tatterhood does the magical transformation herself, just like Jack My Hedgehog. But what if the poor goat doesn't want to change species? Was he even consulted about this? I think not.
And of course, they all live happily ever after.
Including, I hope, that former goat.