Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Keeping up with the Writing Profession

It’s a drag to keep up with any profession. But writers have it the worst. To stay up-to-date we’re actually expected to read everything out there in our genre—can you believe it? I mean doctors have the pleasure of poring over ground-breaking journal articles on the indications and side effects of new pharmaceuticals. My husband, an electrical contractor, gets to take stimulating seminars on updates in National Electrical Code. Meanwhile, as a writer for young people, I have to force myself to sit down and read The Hunger Games and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, when I’d rather be vacuuming.

I’m supposed to read the children’s best sellers, the award winners, the novels by the agents I’m researching. I’m supposed to read any book mentioned in a blog or by a fellow writer because it’s a good example of voice, or plot, or dialogue. And, as if that’s not unpleasant enough, I encumber myself with the additional requirement to read one adult novel a month too—distasteful, yes, but I wouldn’t want to appear ignorant when someone mentions The Help or The Time Traveler’s Wife, now would I?

Does any other profession have it so hard?

I’m not even getting big bucks as a writer, and I’m still expected to shoulder this burden. Maybe we writers should all unite together and demand of publishers, “Stop selling so many books—the work is killing us.”

Are you with me? If so, send me an e-mail. I’ll get back to you right after (sip of tea) I find out what happens in the next chapter of this book I’m reading.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gardening Dilemma

I spent some time working in my vegetable garden this morning. There is nothing like the calming, productive feeling you get from tending the land with your own hands, especially on a weather-perfect day! I picked some lettuce, planted some edamame, and weeded.

The hardest part was weeding out some of the too-many “volunteer” tomato plants—I hate to pull out healthy, growing plants. I got friends to take some plants, but I still have literally dozens of extras, which by now are pretty big. (Want some?) Today I tried to be ruthless and just pull them. But I couldn’t get myself to weed the ones that already have flowers, even though I know the consequence will be too much crowding in the garden. 

What’s the lesson here? Pull them out when they’re still tiny seedlings, so I don’t feel so bad? Or more “networking”—could I have found a home for every one of them, if I’d tried harder? Or, don’t worry about it so much? In gardening, like other human endeavors, it’s never one hundred percent unambiguous or easy to know what to do, and sometimes your decisions don’t feel quite right.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Book of Everything

I read The Book of Everything (American edition, 2006, Arthur A. Levine Books) twice because I found it so moving. Written by Dutch author Guus Kuijer, it takes place in Amsterdam of 1951, when the Netherlands are still reeling from the effects of the Nazi occupation of their country. The story of nine-year-old Thomas revolves around his anguish over his father hitting his mother (and himself.) After one such episode we feel Thomas’s distress. “God was silent in every language. The angels tried to dry their tears, but their handkerchiefs were so soaked through that it started raining even in the deserts.”

But what can a young boy do to stop the abuse of his controlling, rigidly religious father? Fortunately some intriguing characters help him along the way, including his neighbor, his aunt, his sister and his mother. The story unfolds almost without noticing, but every detail leads to the powerfully dramatic climax.

A bleak subject, true, but somehow the reader reaches the last page experiencing the goodness of humanity mixed in with its faults. The writing is lyrical, funny at times, and a remarkable journey through the mind of a nine-year-old as he revises the religious ideas his father wishes to instill. I recommend this book to adults, as well as children.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Baykidi Stones

So many people have asked me what my novel is about that I thought I’d tell about it here. I’d love to know what you think. I am currently searching for an agent.

The Baykidi Stones (pronounced By-kee-DEE)
For ages 11-14

Ethnic tensions are smoldering in the Pacific island of Jalahar, where pockets of combatants challenge the government. Fourteen-year-old Velu, who is of the privileged ruling class, unwittingly interrupts a killing by insurgents, and finds himself on their hit list. He flees from his city, aided by people he barely knows. In his zeal to foil his pursuers, he mistakenly betrays innocent people to authorities. Soon he learns the people he denounced are part of an underground group working to unite the country’s two ethnic groups and to bring change using the “strengths of the heart,” rather than war. Can their methods really gain the release of those imprisoned due to his mistake, and can Velu help an unarmed crowd avert a bloodbath in a stand-off with government soldiers?