Thursday, January 28, 2010

unexpected domestic success!

I created a rhubarb pie from scratch! (If scratch includes two frozen pie shells.)

congrats, Bernita!

Our own Bernita Harris has a short story out in the Weirdly: Volume 3 anthology! Drop by her blog and congratulate her!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Write Your @ss Off Day

There was great enthusiasm to the Write Your @ss Off Day proposal. Awesome!

Some people who don't like to use the word @ss are calling it a Write-a-Thon, but I'm sticking with @ss because I enjoy the @sign.

Remember, this is a day (8 hours) devoted to your writing--that can constitute a number of activities, but should be about celebrating your creation. JES calls it an unbirthday for your writing.

With so many people playing, we're going to have some flexibility. So really, this next weekend, February 5-8 (to include Friday and Monday) will be Write Your @ss Off Weekend, and each participant can choose the day that works best with their sched (Friday 2/5, Saturday 2/6, Sunday 2/7, or Monday 2/8).

JES, our fearless inspiration in this endeavor, has created an interactive map of Write Your @ss Off-ers! You can log in and leave your pin. In theory, we might even find meet-up groups on the map if that's what we're into. Or it's also just cool to make a little pin for yourself.

I think I'm going to shoot for Saturday 2/6, personally. Thanks for the incentive, all!


Book Ninja linked to this ironically amusing NYTBR article about why we're so afraid to admit that sometimes books are boring.

True for reviewers, true for editors! I hate admitting to an agent that a manuscript bores me. So... I don't! I (like reviewers, apparently) suggest there is unevenness, a pacing issue, or lack of character development (all of which may be true leading up to the boredom).

Anyway. Fascinating.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Year's Resolutions etc

Hi there. So how many people said they'd like to do a Write Your @ss Off Day? Because my fingers are getting kind of itchy over here.

JES, you fearlessly led us to a Write Your @ss Off Day last year. You reminded us that the point was not to write for a day but to devote a day to your writing--in whatever form that took. What do you have to say about this? Are you happy if we continue your tradition?

Anyone else on board? Should we set a date?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday morning Japanese rock moment

Haven't had any Saturday music moments for awhile. Mostly because of my woeful lack of exposure to music of any kind.

But this morning, I'm listening to my favorite song in the world, Owari naki tabi, by Mr. Children.

This song always puts me in the mood to go out and conquer the world, whatever my daily task is--finishing a manuscript, going running, cleaning the bathroom.

I was looking for an English translation online but none of them make sense. Sigh. You're going to have to trust me; it's awesome. In a way, it's about writing a novel. This is the second chorus:
If you think about things difficultly (Muzukashiku kangaedasu to)
Everything's going to end up turning yucky to you (Kekkyoku subete ga iya ni natte)
and you're going to want to thorw it all away (Sotto sotto nigedashitaku naru kedo)
But the higher the cliff face, the better it feels (Takakereba takai kabe no hou ga )
when you climb to the top (nobotta toki kimochi ii)

You think I'm cheesy? Come on, you knew that before. You think I'm cheesy and you have a problem with that? Wait, have you been ever read this blog before?! You love Mr. Children? Ok, we can be friends.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dear Spammers

I do not require a Russian bride at present. Thank you to those of you who have so politely asked/offered.

Thank you for your kind interest, but despite whatever correspondence you seem to think you have received, I did not place a large order for Viagra this week. Or last week, or the week before. Etc.

I'm sure your imitation Rolex is, in fact, "breathtaking," but I simply don't wear watches, although thank you for asking. 642 times.

Mr. "Abrahan," I'm not sure what "real anti-fungal charity organ" is, but no, I don't think I "need" it, after all.

Mr. Boitemulo, Mr. Bolanie, and Ms. Brandy, I am curious that all three of you are so concerned that I "boost my lust." Since you all seem to have this interest in common, perhaps you can form some sort of internet support group to talk about it?

Mr. or Ms. Ayotunde, I am so relieved to hear you have the "best price," but your email was unfortunately unclear on what specifically the best price merchandise is, so I think I will be passing.

Toyota Promotions coordinator, I thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart for your numerous gifts of 500,000 British pounds. I only wish I could cash those checks in dollars, or in fact that I could drive your lovely little cars. But since I can't, I suppose your generosity is of little help to me. Alas.

Sincerely yours, 847 times a day,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

just finished reading

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. My review here. Anyone else read? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Club reminder

Hey everybody! Just a friendly reminder that we'll be discussing Isabel Allende's THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS here on February 1.

Anyone who wants to join is welcome.

For those who are in the process of reading but not sure they'll be done in time, don't worry, discussion always stays live.

For those who aren't up for this month's discussion, you have another chance in March (Porochista Khakpour's SONS AND OTHER FLAMMABLE OBJECTS) and again in April (E.L. Doctorow's RAGTIME).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Tuesday. You're bored. Take a long quiz and poll.

So earlier, we were talking about personality types and my theory (based on purely anecdotal evidence) that different personality types have different styles of writing and receiving criticism.

So you're bored and want to contribute to my highly scientific research? Tell me your Myers-Briggs personality type!

Here's an explanation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (thanks, Wikipedia!). Here's an internet-safe (spybot-free) place to take a short version of the test online. Or, if you already know, proceed directly to the poll!

[Poll had to be removed because the server died. Sad. The results were awesome and very interesting.]

Sunday, January 17, 2010

things I like

1) Martin Luther King, Jr. He changed America for the infinite better and stands as a representation for millions of others who worked toward the same. Thinking about him makes me tearful.

I will admit, though, that I also pruriently like him for his gift to us of this three-day weekend. I hope that's ok, Dr. King. I promise I'm remembering your Dream.

2) The Rally Monkey. It is our 8 millionth anniversary. He has somehow foiled all my best-laid plans to scare him away.

3) When the Rally Monkey sleeps in on Sunday mornings (c.f. visual representation below). This means I get HOURS to read quietly.

4) My tiny new glass teapot. It's the cutest thing in the world. Here it is:

And here it is next to my cell phone, for size comparison:

So even though this means I have to run to the kitchen to refill it every 3 minutes, it means that tea-drinking is a lot more aerobic than usual.

Friday, January 15, 2010

just finished reading

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid. My review here. Anyone else read it? Good discussion book, I think. Any thoughts?

I know I've been on a reading tear lately and you're probably REALLY sick about hearing what I've read, but it's my blog and I'll talk about what I want to!! And what I really want to talk about at present is books I've read with people who might also have read them or would be interested to. So there. No more apologism.

guest blogging over at What Women Write

The classy ladies over at What Women Write invited me to guest blog for them today. My post "Authoring in the New Decade" went up this morning.

do you like Jane Austen for the wrong reasons?

Fran Lebowitz offers a video commentary on why Jane Austen is popular these days because people don't understand her (thanks for the link, Maud!). Lebowitz says that Americans, who are generally unironic, think of Austen as a romance writer and an archetypal Victorian; they don't realize she wasn't a Victorian writer and furthermore was a moralist, not a romance writer. She wasn't telling fairytales; she was showing us how to behave.

I respectfully disagree, Fran, on two fronts.

1: Give us a little credit! Austen may appeal to our romantic side, but she makes us work for our joy. A reader is forced to think about right and wrong, human shortcomings, fiscal and practical realities, and the moral and emotional scopes of human nature. Like I said, a lot of work. And, honestly, a lot more work than most romance novels ask of their readers. If we just wanted romance novels, wouldn't we just read romance novels?

I won't get into how actual Victorian novelists make you work even harder ::cough:: George Eliot ::cough::.

2: Austen DID write fairytales--you know for a fact going into an Austen novel that you'll have a meaty, satisfying, happy ending, even if it will be nuanced by hardship and obstacles. And you know what? I think Jane gave them happy endings on purpose. I think she wanted them, well, to be popular.

Just my humble little opinion.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

has anyone seen my shotgun?

[Phone rings. It is one of my authors, whose book is publishing shortly--long ago catalogued etc.]

Author: I've been thinking, the title of my book shouldn't be [TITLE HERE]. It would be much more powerful if it were [HERE TITLE]. More poetic and timeless, definitely.

YT: ...Yes. I saw the email you wrote to Robert the Publisher about that.

Author: Well, you said the title was out of your hands, so I thought I should explain my reasons to him.

YT: ...Yes, and now you have. [Much good may it do you.]

Author: Well, when do you think we'll hear back from him?

YT: So here's the issue. Your book was catalogued under the title [TITLE HERE] six months ago. I told you Robert would 90% not be willing to retitle after that point. The book has already been sold into the accounts under the title [TITLE HERE]. That means if we change the title now, all the accounts will be confused. You came in and met with Robert two weeks ago and he told you to your face it's too late to retitle. You can wait for his email, but I'm pretty sure you're going to be disappointed.

Author: But this is really important. Think about the long run! Ten years from now, no one will be interested in a book called [TITLE HERE]. [HERE TITLE], now, will still be pulling readers in! It's worth whatever cost is incurred, for the sake of posterity.

YT: Well, either way, this needs to be resolved right now. I need to have galleys ordered this week with the final title, and it absolutely cannot change after that. All the reviewers will be covering it with the title on the galley. So I'm just saying; we're really at the end of the road of this conversation.

Author: Well, can't you just use my title on the galleys and not tell Robert?

YT: ...

Author: Can't you?

YT: No. No, I absolutely cannot.

Author: Why not?

YT: Because he's my boss and publisher, and because it would hurt your book. Among other reasons.

Author: But he wouldn't even have to know until afterward, and then he would have to go along with it.

YT: I'm sorry to cut you off here, but I'm afraid I'm unwilling to continue this conversation with you.

Author: Well, call me tomorrow morning.

YT: To be honest, I probably won't.

Author: I understand.

[Excuse me now while I recover from a mini bout of apoplexy.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

just finished reading

Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang, a nonfiction narrative about the migration of teenage girls from the countryside to the cities of Southern China. It was a NYT book of the year, so I thought I'd check it out. My review here. Anyone else read? Any thoughts?

the editorial bat cave

is beginning to wreak [sic] of guano. Having nothing better to add, I give you baby pandas.

Monday, January 11, 2010

things I do not like

1. Tights. They make my butt itch.

2. Overwriters. Argh! Someone may actually have to be killed today.

3. Meeting that are supposed to start at 1, and which you only remember about at 12:30, so it is too late to go get lunch before the meeting, but then they are postponed to 1:15, then 1:30, then 1:45, then when they finally start at five of 2 they go on for TWO AND A HALF HOURS suring the entirety of which your STOMACH is growling furiously.

Is it weekend yet?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

just finished reading

Ash, by Melinda Lo. My review here. I'm usually not into YA but found Lo's fairy-world totally spellbinding. Anyone else read? Any thoughts?

Friday, January 08, 2010

editor kitty

I saw this, and it reminded me of me. I've been "proofreading columns" all week.

book club announcement!

Woops, I was supposed to announce this on Wednesday. Sorry!

So Isabel Allende's HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS ran away with our poll vote, and will be our 2/1 book club title!

Meanwhile, E.L. Doctorow's RAGTIME was a (rather distant) second, and since that's the one I was voting for and since this is my blog and not a cheerocracy, I am unilaterally declaring it the runner-up, so anyone who wants to read RAGTIME with me is welcome back for 4/1 book club meeting.

In other meanwhiles, The Undomestic and I have decided to co-host a book club meeting on 3/1 for Porochista Khakpour's SONS AND OTHER FLAMMABLE OBJECTS, which I've been dying to read for like six months now but keep leaving in inconvenient places like my parents' house (woops), so this is going to kick my butt into gear. How will we co-host, you ask? I don't know yet, but it's gonna be awesome. Here's PW's description of SONS AND OTHER FLAMMABLE OBJECTS, if this whets your gullet:
Khakpour builds her luminously intelligent debut around the travails of an Iranian-American family caught in the feverish and paranoid currents immediately after 9/11. Darius Adam and his wife, Laleh (who, much to Darius's disgust, Americanizes her name to Lala), flee revolutionary Iran for the alien territory of Southern California, settling in an apartment complex with the allegorically enticing name of Eden Gardens. Son Xerxes grows up with psychological dual citizenship: regular American outside of Eden Gardens, but the son of bitter Darius and clueless Lala inside. Xerxes finds true paradise in watching Barbara Eden, the star of I Dream of Jeannie. For the brilliantly rendered Lala, America is not so bad—it's a good place to ''lose your mind, which is how Lala translates into English her forgetting her unhappy Tehran childhood. Against this background of a parody paradise, Khakpour plays out the events following 9/11, which will, grotesquely, unite the Adam family. By then Xerxes, 26, is an unemployed college grad in a New York airshaft-view apartment, as far from Eden Gardens as possible. Khakpour is an elegant writer, and she imparts a perfect sense of the ironies of being Persian in America, where the blurry collective image of the Middle East alternates between blonde genies in bottles and furrow-browed terrorists in cockpits.

So, to sum up:

2/1: Book Club "Meeting" for HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS, by Isabel Allende

3/1: Book Club "Meeting" for SONS AND OTHER FLAMMABLE OBJECTS, by Porochista Khakpour

4/1: Book Club "Meeting" for RAGTIME, by E.L. Doctorow

Please come to any or all as you choose!

Thursday, January 07, 2010


My favorite button on the keyboard by far!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

just finished reading

A new book by Dolen Perkins-Valdez called Wench, about a resort in free Ohio where plantation owners take their slave mistresses the summer of 1853. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reader copy and am glad I took a crack at it. My review is here.


is the longest day in the world.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

ethnic writing--what's ok to say?

In November, I attended the Asian American Writers Workshop's first "book festival," for which lots of A-list writers showed up to speak on various panels. In one such star-studded panel I attended, the author Ed Lin read a number of short ghost stories and humorous vignettes inspired by his childhood. I enjoyed them, including the last piece he read, which poked fun at his Korean mother's response to the horror movie The Ring, and which he theatrically read in an imitation of her accent.

In the Q&A portion that followed the reading, an audience member asked Ed whether he would have read the same piece in front of a white audience (most of the audience members were Asian or Asian American). Did he not feel like he was exploiting both his mother and racial stereotypes about Asians, all for a quick laugh? The question gave me pause--I'm pretty soft-minded and can be won over (however temporarily by most arguments)--but it also made me sad. I had laughed at the piece and found it entertaining. Was I perpetuating racism? (Interestingly, Ed blogs about this episode from his perspective here--I found his piece just now in searching for links).

In thinking about the whole thing since, I have come around to a couple decisions about where I stand on "ethnic" writing and what it is best to say. This conversation is a minefield, of course, and sadly the publishing industry selects books on "ethnic" topics with the top priority of making money and only a secondary priority (which often doesn't exist) of disseminating ideas or breaking down walls.

But I value ethnic stories very highly, and can't support the idea that it's better not to tell stories than to tell them. Perspective, nuance, and a range and variety of topics would help establish wider-spread racial/ethnic knowledge, but I don't understand why Ed's suppressing a funny true story just because it cleaves to an ethnic stereotype would benefit humanity.

I personally enjoy reading ethnic writing, and if you've read this blog for a long time, you know that I like to write them, too. I love writing about the ridiculous things that happen in my English-as-a-second-language Italian family, particularly the antics of some of the older members (ie The Aunda). No one has accused me (out loud, at least) of being disrespectful or perpetuating stereotypes. Of course, as a white woman of European extraction, I will never have to deal with any level of physical or racial prejudices, and I don't consider myself to suffer the same kind of conundrum as writer friends who identify with other racial as well as ethnic groups. But can't I be, at least, part of the argument? If I can make fun of my aunt, then Ed Lin should be able to make fun of his mom. The difference between what we're allowed to write should not be our respective races.

I'm not sure if this is because I am American, and so many Americans are so crassly interested in "where we came from" (although I didn't come from anywhere at all; I've had few to no epic journeys or hardships or prejudices to suffer in my rather charmed life). Or maybe it's not universally American, but because I'm only one generation removed from family members who did emigrate. Or maybe it's that I think it's sad that in our incredulous modern age we're so secure in our science and technology that we are embarrassed by our forerunners who weren't as "sophisticated" as we are, and so we feel we need to cover up their stories and characters so we don't disrespect their memories.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you interested in ethnic narrative for personal reasons? Or do you find it boring, exploitative, or redundant? Would you dare to write about the ethnic background from which you descent, or would you be afraid to? Conversely, are you afraid to write about any other? There are no right or wrong answers in this conversation (I've given you my opinions, but I hope they won't discourage your different thoughts). I also think the answers are more difficult for writers of color, since they often experience pressure from media assumptions about what they "should be" writing, whereas white writers, who generally escape ethnic tagging, have a little more leeway. But I'm very interested to hear what other people think.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

golly how I love milestones

Dear Everybody,

Happy New Year to you! As you know, I am generally a sap, but furthermore I love milestones like New Year etc because they allow me to sappily reminisce on a previous period and make sappy goals for a coming period.

In terms of reminiscing, I was tempted to self-aggrandizingly post a list of the 66 books I read this year (my record of my entire life!! 66 books in a single year!!) but the Rally Monkey said that was boring and everyone would hate me. Also, upon considering the list I would have made, I was made aware of the fact that an embarrassing percentage of it was made up of Harry Potter and Wheel of Time titles. Also, I've talked about a lot of them here already, so it would be doubly boring. So I'll skip it. But if you want to leave your favorite read of 2009 in the comments, I'll read with interest.

In terms of making sappy goals for 2010, may I recommend the Fill-in-the-Gaps project to anyone looking to make reading resolutions. For anyone looking to make writing goals, I'm open to suggestion here. In May of 2009, fellow blogger JES led us in a Write Your @$$ Off Day. This is something I would look forward to doing again, for example. For those looking to make publishing goals for 2010, that's what this whole blog community is here to help with.

I admit that I am uncreatively among the majority of Americans who found 2009 very difficult. One of the few outlets to stress and worry was my blog--a free (economically sound!) place to hang out with a bunch of friends with similar interests. So in a sappy culmination to this New Year's message, I wanted to say thank you (again) for being here, being nice, and being engaged in the conversation, disorganized and various though it generally is. Hope we have even more fun together in 2010.

Much love,