Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's the Holiday Season. Whoop-De-F***ing-Do.

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA. On Thanksgiving I like to reminisce about the Thanksgiving some 10 years ago when my vegetarian sister, secret code name: Cordelia, came to Thanksgiving dinner dressed up as a turkey. (In protest.) (As I recall, her gobbler kept getting in the way of her dinner.)

I do not love Thanksgiving. Really, I don't love the holiday season in general (in case my title didn't get that across). Something about it always makes me sad. What about you? Do you celebrate any holidays? Do you like this time of year?

Let's see. It's not all doom and gloom around here... Grup 62 has picked up the Catalan rights for Graceling. Also, Graceling is newly in bookstores in Australia and New Zealand and -- yay -- I've started to get mail from readers who live in the Land Down Under. I spent one of the best years of my life in Australia (studying at Sydney Uni). Australia rocks my socks (which at the moment are purple-blue-pink-yellow-orange striped toe socks). I hope to find time to post soon about why I love Australia. :o)

Coming on Monday: A few more FAQs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Letter to My Readers on the Topic: How the Writing Is Going Lately

Dear Faithful Readers,

How are you?

I am fine.


Did you know that I write my books longhand?


Did you know that sometimes when people say they are fine, what they mean is that they feel like they're being beaten with a baseball bat?


Fondly yours,
Grumpy McGrumpypants

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?"

(...said Westley to Inigo Montoya at a critical moment in The Princess Bride...)

Today's post is all about you. I would love to know who's out there on the other side of this screen, and that's why today, I'm extending a special invitation to any and all of my readers to comment -- especially if you've never commented before! Who are you? No pressure, of course, but really, I'd love to know. You don't need to tell me your real name, or whether you've read my book, or any of that garbage, unless you care to. Just tell me whatever you want -- maybe who you are, where you are, and, if you feel like it, an extra tidbit about you. Perhaps you, too, have a favorite favorite you'd like to share. Perhaps you have a question about cupcakes to pose to the world, or a suggestion for dinner. Hm. I'm hungry.

I'll go first. I'm Kristin. I'm a writer. I live in North Florida. I love brass quintets. And Johnny Depp notwithstanding, my favorite pirate is the Dread Pirate Roberts.

:o)

EDIT at 6:20pm EST: A friendly reminder to anyone reading this post on LiveJournal that I will not see your comments unless you leave them on my actual blogspot blog. :o)

Monday, November 17, 2008

"I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming, saying something about a queen"

Three quick pieces of news: (1) I have a Chinese language publisher for Graceling and Fire in Taiwan, Gaea Books. yAt! (2) Graceling is #2 on the Winter 2009 Indie Next Kid's List. Please support independent bookstores! (3) Graceling is one of Booklist's 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, along with my friend Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief. Double and triple yAt!

My title is the opening line of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush," which, if you're curious, you can listen to here.

The other day I woke up raring to go, full of writing ambition. Then I made the mistake of turning on Neil Young's Decade while I was eating my breakfast.

An hour and a half later, I was still lying on my bed, holding my dirty spoon, listening to Decade. I'd forgotten that Neil Young requires -- demands -- patient attention. And I'd forgotten how squeaky and strange he is and how much I love him.

It's okay, though, because I expect that once I did pull myself away and get to work, I was in a better writing place from listening to all that Neil. Of course, a couple hours in, I decided to take a break and listen to one more song while I was toasting my bagel for my second breakfast (I eat like a hobbit). And I did listen to one more song. "Sugar Mountain," "Ohio," "Old Man," "I Believe in You," "A Man Needs a Maid," "The Needle and the Damage Done": Each one of those is one more song. Right? ^_^ (Click on the songs to go to youtube and hear them...)

Is there music in your life that commands you to listen?

I'll leave you with a little Neil wisdom, from the song "Love Is a Rose," which you can listen to here:

Love is a rose, but you better not pick it
It only grows when it's on the vine
A handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it
You lose your love when you say the word "mine"

:o)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Well, we're not getting a girl," said Marilla: A Poll

The other night, feeling overwhelmed by life, I crawled into bed early with Anne of Green Gables and a beer. And let me tell you, what I had there was a winning combination.

I own the best edition of Anne ever. It's the 1997 Oxford University Press Annotated Anne of Green Gables and every page has sidebars crammed with definitions (What is a gimlet?); explanations of Anne's references (Who had the first alabaster brow?); photos (What would Matthew's horse and buggy have looked like?); etc., etc. Best of all, none of it is obtrusive. If you don't feel like learning extra stuff and you just want to read the book (which was the case the other night when I curled up with the beer), you can do that. Or, you can take as much time as you want, reading every single annotation. It is a divinely beautiful reading experience.

In fact, it is so divinely beautiful that it has inspired an Anne-related poll. Please vote!

(Btw, if you're reading this post somewhere other than on my actual site and want to vote, just click on my question below, or preferably, click here.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

The NYT Book Review is kind to Graceling. I ♥ Finland. A shout-out to a baby. More things. Plus, the longest post title ever!


News: The New York Times book review of Graceling is here (major spoiler alert!). Thank you, NYTBR, for a lovely piece. I am overwhelmed.

More news: Graceling has managed to finagle a place among Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year and Amazon.com's Best Books of 2008. Again, thanks!

So. My sisters (secret code names: Cordelia and Apocalyptica) and I occasionally play a game called Sufficient Number of Questions. SNoQ is something like 20 Questions, in which Person A thinks of a physical entity and Person B guesses what the entity is by asking no more than 20 yes/no questions. Here's the difference: With SNoQ, there are no limits to what the entity can be. It can be an abstract concept, a nonentity. It can be a made-up invention. It can be an existing thing that you might not in ordinary circumstances consider to be an existing thing.

Here are some actual examples I have been challenged to guess:
[1] The spaces between the medicine in an I.V. drip.
[2] What if Cordelia's neighbor Marcus were one of the Backstreet Boys?
[3, and the hardest one I ever had to guess (yeah, I killed that Backstreet Boys one)] Life before the intercom.

You understand why it might take more than 20 questions. This game can go on for hours and is the sort of game you invent when the only tool available to you is a lot of empty time. Which is what we had when my sister Apocalyptica spent several weeks hospitalized in the beautiful town of Turku, Finland. She was studying abroad; she got very sick; Cordelia and I came (me first, then Cordelia -- we tag-teamed) to help her by torturing her with abstract mental challenges.

Did you know that Finnish words are all accented on the first syllable? HEL-sinki. Also, all vowels are pronounced: Banaani (banana) is more or less pronounced BAH-nah-ah-nee. And Finnish words are beautiful, and utterly recognizable; once you've spent some time reading Finnish names, you know them when you see them. Tarja Halonen (she's the President). Tomi Putaansuu, Sampsa Astala, and Leena Peisa (all members of the heavy metal band Lordi). Ever read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials? Remember the witch Serafina Pekkala? Finnish.

Here are some other things I learned while I was in Finland: Finns tend to be very sweet, welcoming, and sometimes shy; Finnish saunas are awesome; Fazer chocolate is divine; those yummy rice cakes are stupendous; Turku and Tampere are both beautiful historic towns; Finland has a TV soap opera that is so intriguing that by the time I left, I'd developed favorite characters even though I didn't know their names and couldn't understand a word they were saying (unless they said "banana" or "thank you"); and, Finns are utterly delighted whenever you make the slightest attempt to speak their language. (They thank you profusely, then switch into flawless English so that actual communication can commence.)

Here is the best thing of all about Finland: They have stupendous hospitals, stupendous doctors, and stupendous nurses. In the unfortunate event that your little sister is ever to come down with a scary illness while in Turku, Finland: Take heart. At least you can know that she's in the best possible hands. If anyone can cure her, Finland can! Finland's got the moves! Finland's got the plans! Finland's got the strange berry soup and the doctors who wear pajama-like outfits beneath their big brains!

(Please note that a punctured lung due to a misplaced subclavian I.V. can happen in any country. Finland, where I love, I also forgive.)

Ahem. Anyway. Months ago, I promised that if I ever got a Finnish deal, I would blog about why I love Finland. Why do I? Duh. I spent 10 days beside a hospital bed in Finland once, and they were ten of the most worrying, horrible, wonderful, and important days of my life. Finland, it was surreal. Kiitos for taking care of my sister. I saw what you did and I will always love you. 'Nuff said.

****
Okay, longest post ever, but there's one more thing: a very special shout-out to a tiny person named Hugh. Baby Hugh, whose name begins auspiciously with hug: Welcome to the world!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hope

I cannot seem to wipe the smile off my face.

It has been such a stressful few months. It has been a stressful eight years. And the stress is bound to continue, of course, no matter how wonderful our president-elect is. This is the world.

But for today, at least, in honor of a magnificent victory, I give you a post restricted to low-key, no-stress, comforting things.

This post is The Bird Report.

A wonderful thing has just happened here in north Florida: The pelicans who winter on the St. John's River have returned. I saw three pelicans yesterday! Florida is a paradise for bird lovers and pelicans are the birds I love most; no matter what posture Sir Pelican chooses to adopt, he looks like a marvelous genetic mistake -- so wonderfully pointy and lumpy and unbalanced. Welcome back, Sir Pelican!

The winter cormorants and gulls are also back, and the herons are still hanging around; there's one old grizzly HUGE blue heron who hangs out on the pilings at night, croaking stories about the migration of '87 to the other birds. And there are five little herons -- four blue and one white -- who also hang out together, but tend to fly away around sunset. The other day, I learned the most wonderful thing about those five little herons. I used to think they were two kinds: blue and white. But the other day, when they flew away, I was able to see them from below. They are three kinds! One is completely white. Three are completely blue. And one is completely blue on top but completely white underneath!

Is it nuts that that should fill me with glee?

(In other non-stressful news, if you're looking for some light reading this weekend, I recommend Sunday's New York Times Book Review. The "Children's Books" section, in particular. Why, you ask? Oh, no reason. ^_^ [Just watch out for the spoilers!])


Monday, November 3, 2008

Distraction

I am determined not to yammer about the election in today's post.

But I am also extremely nervous about... um... the thing I'm not going to yammer about.

Therefore, the order of the day is: DISTRACTION.

First, my recent interview with the Shelf Elf. The Elf Herself asks some great questions. If you could live inside the world of any book, which one would you choose? Please distract me by telling me in a comment!

Next, a must-see. If you only watch one of the videos in this post, make it this one. Posted in honor of all teachers (especially, you, Mom). (And ganked from Melissa Marr, who had it first!)



And now, ladies and gents: I give you Beethoven.



Finally, an awesome, um, prairie dog moment.
(You can tell things are getting desperate around here...)



Yep. So, doesn't that prairie dog make you feel like going out and voting for BARACK OBAMA? Especially if you live in, oh, say, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Hampshire??! THAT'S SURE HOW IT MAKES ME FEEL!!

Sigh... hang in there, people. It's almost over.

:o)