Friday, October 30, 2009

Teens want more books!

Well, this just in: though sales in adult books are projected to fall, juvenile and teen book sales are rising, even in these tough economic times.

 Not only that, but teens seem to feel that the bookstores they shop at don't have a large enough selection and not enough comfy places to sit!

Read more here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing: Addiction, Discipline, or Balance?

Yesterday, wonder agent and master blogger Nathan Bransford asked, "When does writing become unhealthy?"

This is such a great question which can and should be used in many other circumstances (when does social media/email/drinking coffee become unhealthy?). But sticking to the writing, do any of you have a problem with balancing your life because of too much writing? For me it's a constant battle to get enough time to write. His question may apply most to workaholics, sociopaths, and people with addictive behavior issues. I am not one of those people, though I may have had tendencies in all three categories at one time or another.

Part of me still believes that you have to choose between your creative genius attaining success (which somehow ruins your relationships) and the mediocre creative life with modest or no recognition because you strive to balance your personal life. The rational me disagrees, because there are too many factors that go into success, and ruining your relationships doesn't exactly guarantee getting a book deal, unless your book is about how you ruined your relationship so you could get a book deal, THEN you might have some real takers.

Ultimately, logic applies. If you are getting ill from lack of sleep because you are writing: you're writing too much. If your relationships are suffering because of your writing, you need to make some choices (spouses and children are responsibilities, not electives). If the dog isn't getting enough exercise because of your writing: get out of the chair and do some character brainstorming while you take the dog for a walk! If the kids are complaining that you only spend time with keyboard, then turn off the computer for an hour and help them with homework, read them a book, or play a game.

Writing is an amazing part of my life, but it does not rule my life. I'm here for the whole experience, not just the deranged artist bit. Whether I end up a successful author or not is secondary to achieving a happy and satisfying life. What about you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things Aren't? How successful is the movie?

So after major promo all summer long, the movie adaptation of one of everyone's favorite picture books, Where The Wild Things Are, is finally out. And now, let the opinion battles rage. I haven't seen it yet, but the two following reviews are at major odds with each other. Certainly, indicative of humanity's spectrum of taste.

I used to believe that it was absurd to make movie adaptations at all. They never got it right; I was always disappointed, and the book was inevitably better. Really, how can you fit 800 pages of high concept fantasy into two hours of cinema? But I would go to the movie anyway as a means of satisfying my visual lust for the story and let the rest fall by the wayside. The Harry Potter movies and The Golden Compass are great examples of this.

In the case of WTWTA, how can you stretch ten sentences into a movie at all? One might argue this is the more difficult challenge, but I would disagree. WTWTA is a picture book, but don't make the mistake of believing it is superficial cotton candy. It's a picture book that is as bittersweet-salty-sour-spicy and heart-wrenching as life comes. It is exactly that accuracy of Maurice Sendak's seminal work of genius, that I am very excited to see Spike Jonze and David Egger's movie adaptation of WTWA.

It was only recently, that I started viewing movie renditions of books in a new light. I'd been stubbornly holding on to the idea that a movie should portray a book as accurately as possible. I see now that it's a big mistake to do so in a literal sense. Movies and books are simply two completely different forms of media. It's like comparing a photograph of a tree to a painting of one. Movies should be an interpretation of the original story. Obviously, this leaves a lot of room for creative success and disaster.

Though generally a practical realist and prepared to be disappointed, I am at heart an optimist. I believe this movie was done with tender care and love and therefore, I hope for the best. Let the work speak for itself.

What do you think? Have you seen the movie yet? What are some of your favorite movie adaptations? Most awful?

Movie Review - Where the Wild Things Are - Some of His Best Friends Are Beasts -

Movie Review - Where The Wild Things Are - Among Sendak's Fierce Creatures, Dismay Also Lurks : NPR

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creating Language

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love language. Not just English, but any and all language. People like to imagine language (especially their language) is static, unmoving, and dependable. So dependable you can put it down in a book called a dictionary and it WILL NEVER CHANGE. I love it that this is so WRONG.

Language doesn't stop or even slow down; it's constantly evolving. We're closing in on 7000 spoken languages in the world today, and that's just the documented ones. What I really love, though, are the microcosms of language. Dialects are fun, but we really get into the nitty gritty when we reach slang; new words with old meaning and old words with new meaning. Words that make it to slang dictionaries are certainly the ones that had the best publicity (like movies, songs, or books), but there are so many more words created every day that don't make it past their birthplace.

My favorite language-creation situations are: 1) Family speak; which also applies to tight-knit groups of teens, ska (Sometimes Known As) gangs (NOT ska gangs, which could be cool) 2) Cross-cultural language creation; arises from being immersed in another language and struggling your way to understanding and 3) Mis-hearing what was said and either intentionally or unintentionally creating something intelligible though not necessarily understandable; aka acrylogia, Dogberryism (from Much Ado About Nothing), and malapropism (who could forget Mrs. Malaprop from The Rivals?)

I have to admit, in order to maintain a sense of humor with my kids, I intentionally create new word formations and phrases from what they said unintelligibly and say it back to them. The seven year old yells, "He's pulling my hair!" and it becomes, "What? Peas & pudding on the stairs?" It stops me from over-reacting and keeps them laughing.

The author/musician Frank Portman has done something wonderful with his character Andromeda Klein (from the eponymous novel) who mishears what people say all the time. What she first hears is often a stroke of brilliance compared to what she eventually deciphers into the mundane (packing up Sylvester Mouse was really picking up some extra hours). A great device that renders the situation comical and the character endearing.

Language creation (words, expressions, metaphors, analogies, etc) is one of the thrills of writing. Heck, it's one of the thrills of living as far as I can tell. Let's keep our ears open and find some more fun. Oh, by the way, there's a great website dedicated to misheard lyrics and a few other permutations @