Monday, February 14, 2011

Running Around the Internet Like One of Those Leash Kids

At the beginning of the month I received my edit letter for the Book That Comes Out Next Year (and by "edit letter" I mean "the full manuscript with a bunch of writing in the margins and sticky notes throughout.") I've looked at the first few pages, but I'll get the bends if I dive into it too quickly, so for now it's sitting on my desk until we get used to one another. Plus, I need to wrap up the revisions for Book I Want To Submit To Agent Soon. Once I've sent that in, I can give my full attention to Book One.

Naturally, with two books to revise, I've been playing around on the Internet a lot. Besides the posts I've done here, I've been showing up in a few other places around the web lately.

When I read about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival last month, I knew I wanted to send in a video, and right away I thought of the comic potential of a conversation based on the 2007 winner, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. See the post on James Kennedy's blog to find out more about the controversy behind the book, if you're not familiar with it. The video even has a mention of Snooki, in keeping with my unintentional Snookipalooza this month.

And over on the Will Write For Cake blog, I wrote a long Twitter tutorial post that should help if you're wanting to get started on Twitter or if you've already been using it but feel like you're still flailing and lost.

And I have a shiny new website! I meant just to reserve the domain name for now, but I started clicking on templates and couldn't stop myself. 

I'd better go for now. The edit letter is doing that Fatal Attraction "I'm not going to be ignored" bit. It thinks it's so funny.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Few Minutes In The Life Of A Sign Language Interpreter: In Class With Snooki

I may be at risk for looking like I have an "All Snooki, all the time" blog because of this post and now this video, but really, almost all the posts will be Snooki-free.

When I noticed that the Xtranormal site, where I make the interpreting videos, had new Jersey Shore characters, I couldn't help myself. So here's sort of a Snooki book/day job mashup: what would happen if I got to work and heard the dreaded words, "Guest speaker Snooki"?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Mayflower Landed On Ellis Island And Other Things I Learned From Snooki

Okay, I admit it. I read the Snooki book. I couldn't help myself, all right? The few priceless quotes I heard let me know this was too good to pass up.

Yes, A Shore Thing is no literary gem, but that doesn't mean it's without merit. I actually learned a few things.

I'll start with examples pertaining to the craft of writing:

"I'm not a slut, I'm a whore. There's a difference." 
Of course. Wasn't it Mark Twain who stressed the importance of using the right word instead of the almost-right word? The advice is timeless.

"But now, like a chronic STD, Gia was back." 
Advice every writer has heard--write what you know.

"'Don't be fooled, Isabella. Even tough guys like Downy softness. One cupful of this'--he held up his bottle--'can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Life is tough enough. Might as well do the easy stuff to make your life better.'
Isabella nodded, frankly amazed. She'd never heard Tony speak more than a sentence or two at a time at the gym, but here he was rhapsodizing about philosophy." 

Don't be embarrassed if you can't remember if it was Plato or Aristotle who discussed fabric softener. Focus on the writing lesson here--this is a complex character. 

"Yum. Johnny Hulk tasted like fresh gorilla." 
Sensory details can have a big impact on your reader. Most of us don't have a problem describing what characters see and hear, but it's harder to show what they feel, smell, and taste. The descriptive language here brings to mind the taste of gorilla, a fresh one...wait a minute, what the hell?

Moving on. Let's take a look at some other examples that illustrate the importance of figurative language. No tired old cliches here--you won't find these anywhere else. Ever.

"From the outside, the two-story, two-bedroom bungalow looked like an aging Atlantic City hooker. For a month, this hooker would be home." 
That sounds cozy. Can you sublet a hooker?

The main character, Gia, after her spray-tanning session: 
"She left little orange footprints all over the floor of the bathroom, as if a melting Oompa-Loompa had padded through."
I hate it when that happens. Once an Oompa-Loompa melts on your tile, the floor will never look the same again, no matter how much you scrub.

"His chest muscles strained the fabric of his tank top. It fit across a tummy that was hard and flat enough to slice salami on." 
That's quite an image! Sure, it's an image of a guy getting his abs repeatedly sliced with a kitchen knife, bleeding all over your lunch meat, but still.

"When we kissed, I felt like a stick of butter on a subway rail. I melted."
I know, I know, you've never seen a stick of butter on a subway rail, never even thought about it before, but you're thinking about it now, aren't you? Never mind why it's there, it's melting, right? I mean, unless it's winter. Then the rail would be cold. Until a train comes. Then it will be squishy.

"The Seaside Heights drunk tank--on a weekday afternoon--was as clean and quiet as a church."
A church that reeks of vomit and urine.

And the book isn't without its life lessons. (I know, you thought the Downy softness lesson was enough).

"She could pour a shot of tequila down his belly and slurp it out of his navel without splashing any on her face." 
Find your strengths, kids.

"As soon as her boss left, Gia did a victory lap dance on the arm of the sofa....If only her mom could see her now." 
Dance like no one's watching, or like your mom wouldn't be disturbed if she were watching you simulate a lap dance.

And the novel was educational, too. I learned things about the legal system, for example.

Police and firemen show up at Gia's workplace after the landlord noticed smoke pouring from the windows. When they discover the smoke was caused by marijuana, here's what a policeman tells Gia and her co-workers:
"On behalf of the Seaside Heights police and fire departments, we expect some compensation for our efforts. Your choice. You can either pay a fine for creating a public disturbance, of you can volunteer to do community service." 
That's right, there's no DA, no court system, no tickets even. It's the police who decide on the charges and punishment, right there on the spot. 

And later, when Gia and Bella are arrested, Gia's love interest Fireman Frankie springs them from jail. No, not by paying their bond to bail them out, silly. That's not how it works:

"Slow down," she said, laughing. "How did you get us out?"
"I asked the chief of police to drop the charges.
Again, it's all up to the police. Well, police and a hot fireman. I can't believe how little I knew about criminal justice.

My favorite quote of all offers a history lesson. Here's where Gia describes a group of hippies sitting together on the beach:

"They were huddled together like a family of Ellis Island immigrants just off the Mayflower."
I still don't know if Plymouth Rock is on Ellis Island or if the Mayflower made multiple voyages from Europe to the colonies, but I maybe we'll find out in the next book.

As important as it is to know the rules of writing, it's just as important to know when to bend those rules. Or break them. Or completely shatter them to pieces so they're unrecognizable.
Sentence structure, for example. Trust your reader to figure out what you mean, no matter how you arrange your sentences.

"Gia stood up and started dancing on the spot to music that, like dolphins and small dogs, only she could hear." 
Yes, only she can hear dolphins and small dogs.

"They took a break from dancing on the red couch." You thought they'd been dancing on the couch, right? And now they're taking a break from that? Wrong! They were dancing--on the floor, like everyone else--and now they're sitting on the couch to take a break from that. Clearly.

And don't worry about sticking with one point of view. This book is told from six points of view by chapter 14, and yet another shows up in chapter 28. Usually the POV changed with a new chapter, but sometimes you're treated to more than one in a paragraph. In one chapter that's told mostly from Gia's point of view, we switch to the hotel manager for a few sentences before hopping back into Gia's hungover head.

You've probably heard too that to be a good writer, you have to read. Well, Snooki admits she's read only two books in her life. And look how that worked out. So there, sluts.