Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blurbs I Can't Wait to Write for You

Shockingly enough, as a writer, I have many writer friends. All of us are at different stages of —OK, I will not use the term “writing journey” because I simply refuse. The very word “journey” has been co-opted by reality-TV and then, of course, when I hear the word “journey,” I can’t help but think of these guys.  

How about we say we’re at different stages of our writing disease? Some of us are terminal and some of us still have a chance to find meaningful paid employ before the alcoholism takes its toll and we have the shakes so bad, "surgical resident" ceases to be a career option.

Point is, I will be thrilled when my friends’ books are published, and I’m already preparing for that day by practicing my blurbs for them.  I have a folder of generic blurbs suitable for just about any genre so, you guys, you come to me when you need a blurb for your book jacket or a book review. You can pick from the bulleted list below:
  • "All I can say is that I read this book and immediately wished the English language had those upside-down exclamation points like they have in Spanish. I’m telling you, I need some special punctuation to denote a higher level of intensification because even dozens upon dozens of exclamation points at the end of the statement, “This is awesome!” could not begin to communicate my enthusiasm for this book. Aaaaand... now I’m sad that I don’t speak Spanish. Or Swedish. Don’t the Swedes have o’s with slashes through them? I’ll bet they have special blurb punctuation that we don’t have. The Swedes are clever like that."
  •  "As soon as I finished reading this book, paramedics rushed me to the hospital because they thought I was having a seizure, but it turns out it was simply a paroxysm of joy. I guess those two things can look a lot alike. Apparently they had to cut this book out of my hands when I got to the hospital. Oh, and they also put this thing in my mouth to keep me from biting off my own tongue. If I stay on my meds, I should be OK. So I guess I would say, definitely read this book but maybe have a, you know, phone nearby in case, like me, you need to call EMS."
  • "If you like stuff that’s good, read this book. If you don’t like stuff that’s good then why are you even in this book store at all? What’s that? You’re here to get a mocha latte and an iced pomegranate scone? Well, you just get your scone and be on your way then. This book is not for you. Sheesh. Some people."
  • "If this book were a chili pepper, it would be, like, um... *Googles the phrase "world's hottest pepper"* ... a Ghost Pepper, OK? It's THAT HOT. Like, for serious, its hotness might just give you third-degree burns to your large intestine. So I guess what I’m saying is, definitely READ THIS BOOK but do not attempt to eat it." 
  • "WHY WOULD YOU NOT READ THIS BOOK? Honest to God, are you deranged or something? Somebody check this guy for one of those ID bracelet thingies and see if he’s escaped from somewhere. If he hasn’t, then he ought to be taken to some maximum security facility for crimes against good sense because I’ll tell you, the only person who didn’t like this book was my great-aunt Shirley and you know what she’s like. She complains about sunshine and puppies and, of course, when her Hoveround runs out of juice and she gets stranded in the produce aisle at the wholesale club. Is that the kind of company you keep? My great-aunt Shirley and the criminally insane? No? OK, then, you’ll definitely love this book."
You can Photoshop your cover in place of the One Ring.
  •  "I came out of my cave to write this blurb, but as soon as I’m done, I’m taking this book back into the bowels of the earth and stroking it for a good century or two or until I am reduced to being a sub-human clad only in rags, my teeth and eyes yellow, my blackened toenails curled in on themselves. THAT’S the level of ferocious, possessive LOVE I feel for this novel."
  • "This book and I will be married on the second of June. You are all invited to attend the ceremony just as long as you don’t make snarky comments about my decision to wear white."

Please leave me some of your own blurbs in the comments section!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mr. Rogers & The Beastie Boys

Mr. Rogers gave us so much. A kind, gentle spirit for one thing.  A guiding life philosophy, for another. 

I’m not sure if he’s the one who came up with this idea, but he’s the one I heard it from first: “Live your life so that you have no fear of the truth.”

That’s good stuff, that is. Mr. Rogers was awesome. And so was his neighborhood.

Creepy Lady puppet. *shivers*
OK, sure, there was the bad puppetry. That Lady Elaine Fairchilde always creeped me out. And maybe his unusually cordial relationship with his delivery man skewed my impressions of how grown-ups acted toward one another. I mean, has anyone ever talked to a delivery man? Delivery men I know pretty much chuck stuff at my door and drive off.

Lately though, it's become clear that Mr. Rogers influenced me more than I ever realized because of his sweater and sneakers thing. When Mr. Rogers changed into his zip-up sweater and sneakers, it signaled the transition from the big grown up world to the slowed-down world of home and make believe. And that’s exactly what I do when I get down to work. I will often put on my comfiest hoodie as I suit up for battle with the Muse

Here's what I generally put on while I write. 

This is my Upstate New York sweatshirt. It's one of a kind and also a bit of a joke between my husband and me. See, my husband’s from Brooklyn and there’s this line of Brooklyn themed clothing that all the cool kids wear. But I won’t wear it because I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, and I feel it would wrong.

RIP Adam Yauch. Word.
My husband special-ordered this Upstate hoodie for me so I could represent my lame-o, economically depressed, constantly cloudy ‘hood. 

And if you're inclined to take issue with that characterization, let me just point out that ain't nobody's writing rap songs about wanting to get back to Upstate New York. And therein lies the difference between cool and not cool. 

And there it is, right there. Mr. Rogers' wisdom at work: I'm not trying to be something I'm not. I'm living my truth ... about being lame. And I'm doing it in a comfy hoodie.

Do you have a uniform you wear when you're writing? A sweater? A pair of slippers? Sweat pants? Favorite vintage Beastie Boys t-shirt?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some May Day Encouragement

There’s an old-fashioned custom on May Day—May 1—of leaving a bundle of flowers on someone’s door step anonymously.  You know, to welcome spring and give someone a little boost with a pleasant surprise.

As a kid, some friends and I did this. Once. Where we got this idea, I don’t know because May Day probably hasn't been celebrated since before the Titanic sank. I’m sure somebody’s mom or grandmother suggested it as a way of channeling our energy toward better ends. It may surprise you to learn that as a kid I was far more likely to have left a flaming bag of poo on someone’s porch rather than bunches of flowers.

In retrospect, it troubles me to think about where we got the flowers for our May Day flower delivery because it's possible--nay, likely--that we plucked the flowers from the gardens of the recipients themselves. So instead of being pleasantly surprised by a basket of flowers, we were laying the dead blooms of someone’s prize flower garden on their door step: (“My beautiful tulips! Who would do such a cruel thing to an old woman?”)


If it’s true that it’s the thought that counts, then we did no lasting damage and maybe even accomplished our goal: we gave someone a nice treat in celebration of spring.

And so, in the spirit of May Day, I’m going to give you a bundle of flowers now. You know, to give you some encouragement as you work. Writers need encouragement to keep going just like the sun needs a constant, unending, neurotic supply of hydrogen to keep shining. 

A few weeks back, my kiddos were changing the channel on the TV, and they came across an old episode of a show called Oswald. It’s not in production anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. As is the case with most kids’ shows, unless they become mega-hits, like SpongeBob, they run their course after about two or three seasons and then that’s it. So a show your kids watched when they were 3 or 4 vanishes from the airwaves about the time they’re ready to stop watching it anyway. Actually, I think by the time my kids watched it, it was already off the air and they were seeing re-runs even then.

But, of course, now that there are a dozen Nickelodeon channels, I guess they need something to fill up their programming schedules and so Oswald got pulled out of the vault and lives to air another day.

My kids, in a fit of nostalgia, shouted, “Oswald! I remember that show!” and wanted to watch an episode. As the credits were rolling, I happened to notice who was listed as that particular episode’s writer. Who was it, folks?

Suzanne Collins.  

Yes, THAT Suzanne Collins. She used to write for a variety of kids TV shows, and while writing for Nickelodeon is hardly an ignominious job, writing Oswald episodes was not exactly the Big Time, either. I mean, the plot line for most Oswald episodes is something like, “Oswald goes to the park for a picnic. Complications arise.”

Point is, back in 2001, when she was writing about Oswald’s trip to the corner store to buy a pack of smokes, or whatever he was doing, Ms. Collins probably didn't even dream about the success she was going to have one day with The Hunger Games 

So that’s my bundle of flowers for you today, writer friends.

No matter who you are or what stage you’re at in your writing career, always remember that a great story is nothing more than a lot of hard work away.

Happy May Day, everybody! Now get cracking on that manuscript.