Thursday, January 20, 2011

What the eff is your problem? When not to swear...

So, I may or may not have a swearing problem.  It all depends on if you think cursing like a sailor is a problem.  Personally, I don' least not in most situations.  Certainly, there are times you just shouldn't swear. church?  Even if you aren't religious, I don't think any of the religious people in the church with you would care very much for your eff-bombs.

Today, my swearing (non)problem came to a head, I think.  See, as a speech pathologist, I cart around a lot of toys.  Some are nice and quiet and, well, some like to talk to me in my travels.  While driving down the highway, I think nothing of hearing a MOOOOOOO from the backseat.  While entering an elevator, I have been known to get odd looks as my bag starts vibrating and laughing (tickle me elmo anyone?) :)

Now, I have this new toy, Countalong Cookie Jar.  Could someone please tell me why toys like this don't have off switches?  This morning, I put little Countalong in my trunk and headed to my appointment.  The whole way there, she kept asking me to play in that automated toy, adult-sounding-like-deranged-child voice.  "Hi!  I'm Countalong Cookie Jar!  Let's play!  Please put in a cookie! .... Please put in a cookie!  .... Please put in a cookie!"  After, like...some insanely long amount of time without getting her damned cookie, she finally had mercy.  "Let's play again REAL soon.  Byebye!"  BUT, after the next sharp turn, she was at it again.

I know I know.  "Get to the swearing part!" you're all yelling at me.  I hear you I hear you.  And, here it comes.  So, after my 40 minute trek to my appointment, I finally park and go to my trunk to get the toys I need.  As soon as I open the trunk, there's little creepy sounding Countalong: "Please put in a cookie!  Let's play again REAL soon!  Byebye!"  To which I reply, "FUDGE YOUR FUDGING COOKIES AND GO TO HELM!"

...sort of.  What I actually said had much less to do with sailing and chocolate than this blog-safe version.

Not a big deal.  I mean, swearing at inanimate objects is no biggie, right?  Everyone does that.  Right?  RIGHT?

But, it was a big deal.  Well, maybe a little big deal.  After my ode to fudge, I heard a voice behind me.  "Everything alright?"  I turn to see my client's parent peeking out their front door.  Evidently, they'd seen me pull up and had opened the door for me.  And they'd heard the whole thing!  I turned bright red and chuckled, "haha...You know those V-tech toys...hahaha"  Yes, yes, chuckle away your profanity, Amanda, chuckle it away!

Fortunately, Parent didn't say anything else about it and seemed remarkably willing to treat me like a normal person, rather than a lunatic who goes on swearing tirades at her toys.

This experience made me think about all the places we may or may not swear.  I swear in front of my parents, do you?  I didn't used to.  I think I started at some point in high school and no one ever really made any mention of it.  I don't swear at work (usually!  Except for toy induced tantrums in my clients' driveways.  haha).  I don't swear at the gym...though I'm not really sure why.

I do swear in my book a bit.  Not a lot, and certainly no eff-bombs.  So, what do you guys think of swearing in young adult literature?  (...or, swearing at toys? hehe)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top 5 Ways to Land an Agent/Editor at a Conference

So, like some of you, I will be going to the SCBWI New York conference in...less than two weeks!!!!!!!

*Ahem* excuse the squealing. Very excited.

To prepare, I've been researching good ways to meet and "bag" an agent in the short 2.5 days I'll have at the conference.  You may be thinking, "Why, ducky, that's impossible!"  Oh contraire, my little followers (and please, pardon the French.  My second language is Spanish...).  For, with my handy dandy list of the Top 5 Ways to Land an Agent/Editor at a Conference, you cannot fail.  And if you do, it's not my fault.  There must be something hideously and inalterably wrong with you and perhaps you should consider a career in serving fries instead of writing.

So, without further ado, I present to you, Top 5 Ways to Land an Agent/Editor at a Conference:

  1. Editors and Agents like to clear the stage quickly after panels and presentations, sneaking out through the back door, so it's always important to approach them DURING the panel or presentation.  Don't worry, they won't mind being interrupted at all!  Especially once you tell them what a BESTSELLER you've got on your hands.  And, if the audience behind you yells for you to clear off, that's just because they're jealous.  Flip them the bird and carry on with your pitch.  After all, you were the only one smart and brave enough to earn it!
  2. Before you even begin speaking to said editor or agent, remember to hand them your business card.  Sometimes they like to play coy and won't take it, claiming they just lose it.  Feel free to stick it in their pocket/briefcase/cleavage while they're not looking.  They're sure to notice it there.
  3. While conversing with your agent or editor of choice, be sure to remind them REPEATEDLY that you are better than their other clients.  Say something like, "Oh yeah.  I picked up your client X's new book.  Psh.  I didn't even make it past page 10.  That stuff was such crap!  I can't believe you signed her.  You can be sure that MY book will sell twice as many copies because it's TWICE as good!"  Now knowing their own clients' work pales in comparison to yours, they'll have no choice but to sign you, if for nothing other than to save face.
  4. When pitching your book to agents, be sure to highlight how short a time you've been writing.  Everyone loves a prodigy, am I wrong?  Even if it's taken you a year to get your manuscript written, it's okay to fudge a little bit!  Why not try, "So, I had been working at the bowling alley since high school, but after I saw the movie Twilight, I was like, 'hey!  I can write a book too!'  So, I started like last week, and wrote on ALL my breaks since then.  What you see before you today is a masterpiece unlike any other.  And it only took me a week to write!  Feel free to put that on the cover, by the way.  I think it'll sell more copies for you."
  5. Last but not least, I cannot stress enough how important a personal touch is.  Rather than just having flowers sent up to their room after the first day of workshops (c'mon, everyone does that!), why not hand deliver the flowers and champagne YOURSELF?  That way, the agent or editor can put a face to your name, and he'll forever associate you with the pleasant tipsy feeling brought on by too much champagne!  Also, if you're lucky, you'll get him drunk enough that he'll sign you without even seeing your book!
So, I hope these tips help you at your next conference!  And, don't forget to thank me in your acknowledgements.  After all, would you have ever landed that book deal without my sage advice!?  I think not!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'm not a writer; I was just born this way

Now it’s time for a LONG overdue blog entry!  Yay! 

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about my past forays into writing.  Even though this is the first time I’ve REALLY truly thought about publishing and what that would entail, I think I’ve been on this train for a long while.  Please, join me, in a short (ok, not that short) jaunt down memory lane, where I recount some of my finer literary moments!

A couple years ago, my mum invited me to her house to clean out the bazillions of boxes she has carted around through all of her moves.  Most of these boxes were filled with things related to me (I’m an only child so...yeah.)  There were home made cards of all sorts and occasions, old school projects that we couldn’t bear to part with, random scribblings, and, of course, many many “stories.”  The earliest of these consisted of my pre-literacy attempts, mere scribbles and some random words arranged haphazardly on the page.  I’m certain there was a method behind my madness (most lunatics are!) though.  Unfortunately, I can’t recall any exact examples now, but suffice to say, it was things like 

rAIn  boW           FLowERbECAUSE she Loved!

  and the like.  I’m sure I was asking my mum for each letter as I went.

Flash forward a year or two, and I’m in Kindergarten.  I was the only child in my kindergarten who could read (not bragging, it was just true.)  The teachers actually called my mum in for a conference after one particular disciplinary “incident.”  Apparently, I’d written a story (I still remember it - something about a black unicorn named Wildfire scrawled all over one side of a looseleaf paper in my exceptionally messy handwriting) that I wished to read for my show and tell.  The teachers refused me that privilege - because it would be bad for the morale of the children, I later found out - and I threw a fit.  So, they had to call my mum in and say she had to get me under control and tell me I was absolutely not allowed to read in Kindergarten.  Yeah, yay public schools!

Flash WAY forward and I’m in grade 8 with the best, most amazing English teacher I’d ever had.  (She even bought me a journal when I moved away to encourage me to keep writing.)  One of the poems I’d written in her class was published in a local paper, thanks to her.  I wrote so many short stories in her class and used to dream up covers for the novel I’d someday write.  She assured me she’d keep her eye out for my book in the coming years.  I aim not to disappoint!

Now, we come to grade 10, when I finally buckled down and decided to write my first book.  Sort of.  I’m not sure whatever happened to that gem.  I’d made it to about 60 pgs on WordPerfect (hey, it was the 90s!).  It was a very original plot - 16 year old boy falls in love with his homely neighbor who may or may not have been abused.  She moves away and he drops into the deepest of deep depressions, which is only turned around when he goes on a massive class trip to the beach.  Loads of debauchery ensue, he gets alcohol poisoning, and one of the girls there (the blonde popular one, of course) nurses him back to health.  I only remember one choice line, in the scene where he’s about to puke.  “Somehow she knew to get me the bowl right at that moment.  She knew a lot about what I needed.”  Oh yes, I am sorry I lost that masterpiece! :)

The following year, a friend and I decided to write a play called Waiting for Gryphon.  I remember bits about the plot - nothing nearly as entertaining as the alcohol-soaked novel of the year before.  But, the prep and research that went into Waiting for Gryphon was better than actually writing the thing anyway.  :)  We wanted to ensure that the dialogue was as authentic as possible, so we spent most of our time carrying around an oldschool tape recorder, like this one  and hanging out at local teen squats.  Later, we’d listen to the tapes and transcribe the best parts to possibly use in the play.  I’m sure all sorts of privacy laws were violated, but it was worth it.  We caught some real choice words.  

Walking through McDonalds one day, we recorded one woman’s whole rant about her boyfriend, to which her friend responded, “All men are dogs.”  A statement that was later corroborated when we got some snippets of a fight that broke out in our high school parking lot.  The girl yelled out, “You ain’t got nothin’ but a two inch dick!”  Her charming partner hollered back, “And you be chokin’ on it!”  You might be wondering how we picked that one up - well, it was no simple task.  During the fight, I laid the recorder on the roof of the car while I pretended to dig through the back seat.  After the fight was over, my friend held the recorder in her lap under a sweater while we drove past and “interviewed” the girl on what had happened.  ...all under the guise of concern.  I do have a slight tinge of guilt about that, but hey, it’s not like we posted any of this anywhere public.  This was pre-youtube.  Otherwise, we might have been tempted! :)

After Waiting for Gryphon ended before it even got started, I moved away from the whole writing thing for most of college and all of grad school.  3 inch text books and 60 page reports can do that to a person.

Anyway, fellow writers, how did you all get started?