Monday, February 28, 2011

Post-Oscar Recap in Text Messages

Since Daughter One was not home for our annual Oscar love in we had to make do with texting back and forth as we watched the Oscars. I'd been planning on doing a post-Oscar blog post and after all was texted and done, I thought our little exchange kinda summed up the whole show for me. So for those of you who are Oscarholics like I am here's my/daughter One's take on the 2011 Oscar show.

Me: I kinda hope Toy Story 3 would win Best Picture too (after it had won best animated)

Daughter One: How awesome would that be? I don't think we're at that point though. It'll be Kings' Speech or Social Network. Maybe Inception for a long shot.

Daughter One: That was this years "I love you more than Rainbows" (speech). Sasha Gordon you're my dream come true. So precious.

Me: What? What happened? I just got my Oscar feed back! (after my computer lost it)

Daughter One: The guy who won Best Original Short.

Me: Hope his acceptance speech is on YouTube soon.

Daughter One: Yep. It was just the end. Really cute. Love Billy Crystal though.

Me: I love Billy! He should always host!

Daughter One: I agree. I don't like the hosting too much this year. James Franco is being underused.

Me: Or RDJ! (Note from me: Robert Downey Junior for those of you who don't shorten their text messages)

Daughter One: Ooooh. RDJ would be amazing!

Me: Wouldn't he be though? Start a Facebook campaign. I wish u were here to do the Oscars with me. You're the only one who appreciates how awful and wonderful they are.

Daughter One: He'd be awesome. And maybe I'll come next year when we actually have a TV.

Me: Okay. It's a date. 55 Inch TV baby!

Daughter One: Deal!

Me: I have eaten nothing but various types of cheese tonight. With a smattering of Crunch n Munch.

Daughter One: Oh my goodness. Explain what Munch n Crunch is please...

Me: Toffee coated popcorn and peanuts.

Daughter One: Also I'm not too big on the dresses this year.

Me: Strangely the only one I liked was Marisa Tomei's. And worst hair goes to Scarlett Johanssen.

Daughter One: I didn't like it actually. I feel like they all look real fat. Is that bad to say?

Me: Not Jennifer Hudson. She lost 80 lbs!

Daughter One: Yeah. I could tell! But her boobs looked weird.

Me: Cleavage malfunction.

Daughter One: I'm really upset about Gloria Stuart. I hate this part.

Me: She was like a 100. We should all be so lucky.

Me: Love the Lena Horne quote! (Note from me: for those of you who missed it it said: "It's not the load that breaks you down. It's how you carry it." Second favourite quote, Colin Firth: "I have a feeling my career just peaked.")

Daughter One: Yeah. Really nice. Celine Dion is so good.

Daughter One: Hilary Swank has best dress so far.

Me: OMG! I just thought the same thing.

Me: Who won Best Supporting Actress?

Daughter One: Apparently whoever was in The Fighter. Maybe Marisa Tomei? (Note from me: it was Melissa Leo, by the way)

Me: "Listen to your mother!"

Daughter One: Listen to my mother?

Me: That was what the Best Director said who won for The King's Speech.

Daughter One: Oh! Yeah I really liked his speech. Didn't know that was best director.


Me: She's my girl crush!


Daughter One: Love him!

Me: I love him more!

Me: British actors are so eloquent and funny!

Daughter One: You can have Colin if I can have … um think of someone for me.

Me: There is no one else. Ahh, Mr. Darcy!

Daughter One: Oh. Mister Darcy! Called that.

Me: It was Colin's film. But Toy Story 3 was the perfect film.

Daughter One: That's true but you knew it wouldn't win. I decided that I want James Franco. Even though he didn't do anything. :(

Me: Good night my Oscar buddy. I think my blog post tomorrow will be a recap of our text messages back and forth. Seriously. It's a perfect recap.

Daughter One: Haha. It was a good discussion.

And a few random thoughts that didn't get texted:
Worst Dress: Cate Blanchette - it looked like she had warts growing over a breast plate.
Now I really want to see Winter's Bone and Blue Valentine from the clips they showed.
I think Javier Bardem has the most interesting face ever. Just so filled with emotion.
How many changes of dress did Anne Hathaway go through?
Loved The King's Speech audio over the Best Picture video montage.

Did you watch the Oscars? What did you think?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Guest Blog Post - from Daughter One

I know I said that I won't mention my family too much in this blog but a proud mama can't help but want to share with as many people as possible when one of their kids is doing something good.

Daughter One is taking part in the University of Western Ontario's Alternative Spring Break where students take their reading week and, instead of partying in Florida, they go help in shelters, build homes or whatever a particular area needs somewhere in the world. It's a hands-on learning experience designed not only to teach young people how to give back but to expand their world in ways you can only do by entering into experiences so foreign to your own. My daughter is currently spending the week in Winnipeg helping out at the Siloam Mission and Winnipeg Harvest. She blogged about the experience here

I know I'm a bit biased but I think Daughter One has a real flair for writing, dontcha think? :)

Sometimes parents can only sit back and be thankful their kids have turned out so well. Way to go, baby.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I've Finally Succumbed. I'm On Facebook

Well, I thought I could hold out. I put up a pretty long fight. I think I might be one of the last writers who joined Facebook. But after missing some messages from my Torkidlit group who communicate primarily via Facebook I thought I'm missing out on pretty important things because of some philosophical objection about 'conforming to a mass societal lemming-like onslaught of social media frenzy'. Uh, well. Maybe I've been too harsh on the thing. So, on the weekend, with Daughter Two guiding me, I became a Facebook friend. Yes, I went over to the Dark Side.

I don't know why I resisted for so long. I mean, I'm blogging, I twitter, what's the big deal with the Facebook thing? Maybe it's because I've seen how addictive it is - with my daughters practically having an umbilical cord connected to this social media monster. I'm not really worried about my own addiction - Lord, I hardly have enough time as it is to blog twice a week much less be a constant presence on Facebook. Maybe it's a feeling that I need to be more, I don't know, personal on that site, sharing pictures and things and feeling just more accessible that makes me nervous. I know not everyone is going to follow this blog or is that into Twitter, but it seems like the entire universe is on Facebook. What's the count up to these days? Over 500 million and still growing or something like that? Honestly, I think Facebook will become a sentient being soon and take over the Internet just like that computer did in the Terminator movies.

Well, despite all my misgivings, I have joined now and it has been cool to connect with a few old friends. And it is cool to connect with all my writer friends. Still, I must say that I think I prefer Twitter for my brief connections and 'status statements' updates. Wow. I never thought I'd ever say that either. I actually like Twitter. Huh.

How about you? What's your favourite social media platform and why?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Handwriting Good for Your Brain?

I've just read this fascinating article about how handwriting boosts your brainpower. I'm not trying to convince anyone that writing an entire first draft of a novel by hand is the way to go (even if that's my preferred method)but it does offer some interesting thoughts and research that seems to reinforce the benefits that handwriting gives to your brain function. Don't believe me? Here's some quotes from the article.

"handwriting helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development."

"Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key."

"Pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information."

Pretty cool, huh? Who knew my hanging on to an ancient practice was actually good for my brain and might even help me in 'composing thoughts and ideas"? Kind of important when one is writing a novel, dontcha think?

What do you think? Is this another flakey bit of research or do you think there's still a place in this techno age for scratching out words?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going Back to An Old Love

I should have posted this on Valentine's Day. No, I'm not leaving the husband (the house reno hasn't done us in yet!). The old love I'm talking about is the unfinished wip that I dumped last summer to work on the current wip. Now, before you go assuming I'm a fickle writer, hear me out. Sometimes, going back to an old love is the right thing to do - especially when the current one is fighting you day after day.

When I left the old love, I was really struggling. I wanted to stay but I had concerns about the wip's beginning. Basically, I knew it started off in the wrong place but I wasn't sure how I could re-start it the right way. And we all know that if a love affair starts off on the wrong foot it's never going to settle down into a real groove, is it? There's always going to be a sense that something is wrong, that something needs to be fixed and until it's fixed the love affair will go nowhere. So I left it. Maybe I should have stayed, worked it out with my old love but when the current wip beckoned with its perfect beginning that just spilled out so easy and uncomplicated, I have to admit it, my head was turned. And it's not to say that my time with the new wip has been wasted. I still love it too. But right now, I need some space. I have unfinished business with my old love.

And you know what? When I went back, we fixed the problem. We're now starting off on the right foot and I remember why I loved that wip so much at the time. Why I loved those characters and that story. All that love was being overshadowed by a beginning that had too much old baggage. My old wip needed to shed its history and "get to the point" right away. And no more getting caught up in other people's stories. My old love has figured out who he is and what he wants to say. Now I'm working with it instead of trying to pull the story out of him. We're communicating so well right now!

So, don't judge. Sometimes an old love can be a true love. You just have to be patient enough to give it a second chance.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things That Make the Crankies Go Away

I should have posted this blog post yesterday but I was in an epically cranky mood. No particular reason - a combination of delays and frustrations on the reno, The Boy not being ready when I got home to take him to Tae Kwon Do when I'd asked him to (this is a recurring theme with him), my hair needing a major re-do and a few other things that, by themselves aren't anything epic but accumulate them over a day or a week and suddenly I find myself in a major Blue Funk or becoming "The World's Crankiest Mom and Wife".

Besides having a glass of wine to deal with these episodes (and that wasn't possible in yesterday's busyness) there is one other thing that never fails to help me to feel better when I've got a case of crankies: I search where my book is in various public libraries across the country and see if it's been checked out. I know, I know. A bit self-obsessive, isn't it? But the idea that someone is reading Illegally Blonde always cheers me up. And the other day I checked the Toronto Public Library and found they'd ordered 14 copies of it! This was a major pick me up because Toronto's my home library and the city with the biggest Portuguese-Canadian population in Canada. Since IB features a Portuguese-Canadian teen I was a little bummed the TPL hadn't stocked it yet. Well, as always, librarians come through and make somebody's day (mine this time) a little sunshinier. Thank you, TPL!

How about you guys? What cheers you up when you've got the crankies?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

So, I walk into my local Chapters store a little while ago, one I hadn't been inside for in a while, and discover they've done a major reno. The small, tucked into a corner teen section that used to be there had blown up, moved and placed in a prominent location (taking over the entire back wall that had formerly housed the adult bestsellers). Whoa. How cool was that, I thought? So much more space, so much more prominence. Such an obvious example of how teen fiction has exploded in the last few years. It was both exhilerating and depression-inducing because in that split second I realized how lucky I was to be writing in such a hot medium right now and how brutally hard it is to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

I've also been reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's an incredibly fascinating analysis about what makes 'outliers' - those who stand out from the pack or break out because of some amazing talent - so successful. And one of the things that I never thought about is the time in which you are living being so critical in making whatever you work on a success. Sure, I knew about the 10,000 hours of practice (and for writers - writing over a million words) being a large part of your success, but what got me was that sometimes (heck, a lot of times) its not so much how much work you do but just the time in which you are born or when you're living that makes a difference. For example, hockey players born between January and March are more likely to make it to the NHL than those born in later months because they get picked for minor hockey teams more often because they're just physically bigger so they get more practice, people who grew up during the Depression and then started working in the 50's and 60's had much more chance of making it simply because there were fewer of their age group in the population and the economy was booming at the right time.

So it makes me wonder are we in the best of times or worst of times for YA writing? Everyone is writing for the YA market right now because it is booming, but publishers are downsizing because people are supposedly reading less. More people writing YA makes for more competition, which makes for better books (the best of times - for readers anyway), but the economic climate makes it harder to break in or stand out because there are less publishers and less retail space to house those books and the competition is fierce (the worst of times).

Sigh. It's enough to make a poor YA writer nuts. But, like when I was born, I can't control the climate within which I happen to be writing. Maybe I might have had an easier time if I'd sold my first book in the 1990's instead of 2010. But, then again, would I want to be published when not many people were noticing YA and would I have been published because there weren't that many teen books out there then? Isn't competition a good thing, anyway? Upping your game is always worthwhile, right?

So then why did the sight of all those teen books make me wilt a little bit? Ah, well. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, right folks? :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

200th Blog Post! And What I've Learned About the Fine Art of Blogging

I can't believe it but I've hit a milestone with today's post - number 200. Wow. I started this blog two years ago in February. I wasn't sure what I was doing then (am still not) but with a book coming out the following year it seemed like everyone was saying "Get a web presence!" "Start a blog!" "Get on Twitter!" "You're not on Facebook??? What are you, a hermit?" Well, they didn't say that last one exactly (althought I'm pretty sure that's what they're still thinking :) but, hey, at least I'm doing 3 out of 4 things now. And while blogging seems to be on the wane in light of 140 character posts and quick Facebook wall posts I've decided I like it. I may not be the best blogger in the world and I may have entered into this world late and reluctantly, I can appreciate the positive about this art form.

So, what have I learned in my two short years doing two blog posts a week? Here are some thoughts about what I think works (and the things I know I should do but still need to work on to improve) FWIW.

1. Keep Things Short and Simple
I'm still working on keeping posts to just 3 or four paragraphs (today's post is a bit longish)but it's essential. People are busy, they might visit several blogs a day and if they see a long post at most they'll skim, at worst they won't even bother to read it.

2. Have a Snappy Blog Title
Sometimes that title alone is what draws people in. It's like the back cover blurb of the book - the blog title is a short synopsis about what your post is about or an intriguing question that leads someone to read more.

3. Make Your Blog Template Reflect a Little of Your Personality
A blog is a little insight to who you are as a person so why not spend some time and think about how it looks? Put up some pictures, think about the colours and fonts. You know a house doesn't look like a home until you decorate it, right?

4. Share Your Blog Posts on Twitter and Other Social Networking Sites
What's the point of blogging if no one knows you've written anything?

5. Visit Other Blogs and Follow the Ones You're Interested In
There's a whole world outside your own home with tons of interesting characters. You'll be amazed at the number of people you'll meet and the kinds of interesting discussions you'll get a chance to be part of.

6. Comment on Blogs and respond to Comments on Your Own Blog
I'm starting to improve on this but I could get better. I don't comment on others blogs just for the sake of commenting. When I think I have something to say I'll say it. But it is like visiting your neighbours - if you don't say hi to them, they won't say hi to you.

7. Be Personable But Don't Get Too Personal
This is a hard one - I'm all for sharing info about your personal life that you are comfortable sharing - it's how people get to know you. But I'm also worried about too much info getting out there that should be kept to yourself. Some people's blogs are all about their family and names, dates, photos are shared. That's not for me. You won't see many pictures of my family here nor will you hear their names. I signed on to be a writer in the public domain but they didn't. Same goes for info about my day job. It has nothing to do with writing so I'm not going to comment about it.

8. Make Your Blog Be About Something (Focus!)
I'm still working on having a real focus here - yes, I blog about writing and the publishing journey but there are sooo many blogs out there that do it better than I that I'm realistic about what I can contribute to the dialogue. So this blog is about what I'm learning through the writing journey - with occasional side trips to the lands of TV, movies, life lessons and hockey mom craziness. Not really a focus but I'm trying to just get comfortable in the land of public discussion.

9. Be a Regular Poster
I don't care if it's once a week, twice a week or daily but if you're going to do it, commit. And a blog is a living document - it needs nourishment. So I recommend at least a once a week posting. Like a plant needs water, posting regularly will keep the blog thriving.

10. Make Lists
People like lists. They're easy to read and help you to organize your thoughts - as you can see by this ten item list I've just posted!

So, there you have it, my totally unscientific list of what I think works for blog posting. What other things have I missed? (ooh, I just remembered. #11: Ask Questions! It helps build dialogue! :)