Friday, October 29, 2010

Socksquatch lives!


In my interview with Frank Dormer, I forgot to post one crucial bit of info: Frank will be signing copies of Socksquatch at Books of Wonder in New York City on October 31 (Halloween!) from 1-3, in an event with Sergio Ruzzier, Caron Lee Cohen, and George Bates. 
If you live near New York, you should definitely go; you'll have plenty of time to be home for trick or treats. :)
I want to again express my thanks to Frank for taking the time to do the interview, and for writing such a fun book!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author/Illustrator Interview with Frank W. Dormer (Or: SOCKSQUATCH will rock your socks!)

If you're looking for a fun, charming Halloween read full of delightfully kooky monsters...look no further than SOCKSQUATCH, written and illustrated by Frank W. Dormer. (Two notes: 1) Doesn't the title just hook you in itself? and 2) Frank is a member of my local SCBWI group, and is just as cool a guy in person as he is in writing. I am so excited to have him join us for a crazy Halloween interview!)
Socksquatch may be big and furry--but he has a heartwrenching problem: he's missing a sock and his toes are cold! The story's humorous text and even more humorous illustrations follow him on a quest through a medieval castle full of monsters to find his foot's one desire....
So, are you ready for a great interview? Enjoy!

HI, FRANK, AND WELCOME! LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING I LOVED SOCKSQUATCH; I WAS PRIVELEGED TO SEE IT IN ITS PRE-SUBMISSION STAGE, AND I FEEL A LITTLE PROUD OF THE NICE, LITTLE (OR MAYBE, MONSTROUS, LITTLE) BOOK IT GREW UP TO BE. IT IS ONE OF THOSE RARE BOOKS THAT KIDS AND ADULTS BOTH ENJOY...IN MY HOUSE, EVERYBODY GATHERS AROUND WHEN IT GETS PULLED OFF THE SHELF.


SO, QUESTION #1 (I'M STARTING WITH THE IMPORTANT ONES, YOU SEE...): WHAT DOES YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF SOCKS LOOK LIKE?

FWD: Unfortunately my tootsies are a bit sensitive. I spent all summer at the doctors solving a long overdue foot problem. So I am primarily a white sock guy. It’s simple and easy. Unless of course I dress up, then It’s argyle all the way.


#2: WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT ILLUSTRATING YOUR OWN STORY/WRITING FOR YOUR OWN PICTURES? AND WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART?

FWD: The best thing is that I have complete control over the stage. I can place the words in the actor’s mouths; decide what the actors look like, and where they dwell. I can also break rules and type new words.
#3: HOW MANY REVISIONS OF SOCKSQUATCH DID YOU ILLUSTRATE? WHAT FORMAT DO YOUR DRAFTS TAKE?
FWD: The original idea had Socksquatch as a mutant tree that grabbed socks at random. Then I realized trees can’t move and aren’t great leading characters. That version never left the sketchbook. The next draft transferred closely to the final book. That one went to the editor. The proposal took the form of drawings scanned in with a basic text added. I usually create one color illustration for the editor to view.


#4: ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS YOU PARTICULARLY ADMIRE, OR ANY PICTURE BOOKS YOU'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY JUST BECAUSE THE ILLUSTRATIONS WERE SO GREAT?

I buy any book illustrated by Serge Bloch. I love his loose, drippy line. I also like the illustrations of Russell Ayto. My all-time favorites are Norman Rockwell, Edmund Dulac, and Arthur Rackham.
Incidentally, when I was about 5 or 6 my Dad took me to this small gallery over a grocery store, and a white haired man was sitting behind the cash register smoking a pipe. Later my father told me he was the artist for the paintings in the gallery. I realized later it was Norman Rockwell. I still remember him sitting there watching the people walk around.


(OK, THAT IS SO COOL. ALSO, WE APPARENTLY HAVE VERY SIMILAR TASTES IN ILLUSTRATION...I HAVE A SHELF IN MY HOUSE DEDICATED TO NORMAN ROCKWELL, ARTHUR RACKHAM, AND A FEW OTHER GOLDEN AGE ILLUSTRATORS...)
#5: WHAT'S ONE ART TOOL YOU COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT?

FWD: I like to draw with just about anything. Sticks dipped in ink, a brush, or even a ball point pen. But the one that feels the most like an extension of my hand is a nib I purchased back in college that I still use for my final illustrations. I have about 70 of them, so I hopefully won’t run out too soon.


#6: IF THERE WAS ONE STORY (BY SOMEONE ELSE) YOU COULD BE/COULD HAVE BEEN THE ILLUSTRATOR FOR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?


Anything by Roald Dahl. His characters were so dirty and wrinkly. Of course that could be me projecting based on Quentin Blake’s illustrations. When I read these books to my kids I enjoy the language, especially when the author uses so-called ‘profanity.’ Kids love it when an adult is subversive. They see the child in the adult and I feel a greater connection to that author. That’s just my opinion..

(AND I AGREE...)
#6 (GETTING BACK TO THE CRUCIAL THINGS...): DO YOU THINK MONSTERS, AND NOT HUNGRY DRYERS, COULD BE AT THE ROOT OF THE GREAT SOCK-VANISHING MYSTERY? PERHAPS WE COULD DONATE OUR LONERS TO SOME POOR MONSTER WITH COLD FEET?

FWD: I never set out to solve that problem. I’m happy to see that those who have read it aren’t trying to solve that particular riddle. Of course Socky is getting all sorts of sock ransom notes. Just today he received a photo of one of his favorite socks, with the individual toes. He went round the twist after that one. We had to pay for that one, I tell ya.




THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW, FRANK, AND ENJOY ALL YOUR RELEASE-TIME FUN! TO EVERYONE ELSE: FIRST OF ALL, YOU CAN VISIT/HAUNT FRANK AND SEE MORE OF HIS ARTWORK AT http://frankwdormer.com. AND READ HIS BLOG AT http://frankwdormer.blogspot.com. SECONDLY, GO BUY SOCKSQUATCH NOW...OR LIVE TO REGRET IT. YOUR FOOTWEAR MAY NEVER BE SAFE AGAIN...JUST SAYIN'.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Free Fall Fridays

I'm excited to share with you a new opportunity to get your creativity flowing and growing: Free Fall Fridays, hosted by Kathy Teaman and one of my lovely writing friends and critique partners, Betsy Devany. They are going to provide a writing prompt every Friday, hoping to provide opportunities for writers to spark ideas, build courage and confidence, and just have fun.
Because I love a good writing challenge, I took them up on their offer. Below is the prompt, followed by my page of insta-write. :) Enjoy! And please visit their blogs to join in the fun.

Prompt # 1 – Study the photos. Now write one page starting with the words: _____ was halfway up the stairs when_____ turned around and _________.




I was halfway up the stairs when I turned around and saw that my little brother wasn't following. He stood at the base of the stairway, his feet planted on the weathered stones of the square, turning those puppy-dog eyes on for everyone who passed. He held out the cheap soda cup he'd licked clean.


“Adam!” I spat. “I told you not to do that again!”

The brown pools of helplessness were turned in my direction. “Please, lady,” he said, “help a poor, starving boy. All I need are a few dollars for lunch. My mom's dead. My sister Ellie is so mean she won't even give me a decent meal or clothes on my back. Please...can't you help?”

A young guy walked by and dropped a few nickels into the sticky cup, avoiding eye contact with Adam but giving me a condemning glance.

I stomped down the steps and stood before my brother, bending forward so our eyes lined up. I crossed my arms. “Yeah? Well, my mom's dead, too. And my little brother's such an idiot he's going to get us arrested one of these days.” I grabbed his arm and started to drag. “Come on. And stop being melodramatic. It's not that bad.”

Adam raised his eyebrows, but he didn't fight me. “Do they have good food in jail?”

“Sure, caviar and Baked Alaska for breakfast. I can drop you off on the way home if you want.”

Adam cocked his head to the side, as though he was actually considering. “Ellie? If I stay with you, will you sing Mom's song again tonight?”

Do you know what Baked Alaska is? I was pretty sure they never really had it in prison, but Mom used to make it for us sometimes before she...well, she used to make it. It's baked ice cream, all hard and cold in the middle and soft and creamy on the outside. I felt like I had a lot in common with Baked Alaska at the moment, hard and soft at the same time. My heart was turning to pure mush while the lump in my throat got harder and thicker and colder.

I ruffled Adam's hair with my knuckles, partly because I wanted to reach out, to touch him, and partly to show him I was still in charge.

“I guess so,” I said.

We walked in silence up one street and down the next. When we came to a mound of cardboard boxes and blankets in a corner, I was the one who sighed.

“I came,” Adam said. “Remember you have to sing the song.”

His muscles beneath my hand tightened; I could tell it was an effort for him to step forward.

“It's not that bad,” I said again. “I'm taking care of things. I promise.”

I pushed him ahead and cleared my throat, thinking of Mom and Baked Alaska and whether the food in jail was any good after all and trying not to let Adam see any of that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Frogging

The knitting world is full of wonderfully strange terms and phrases that sound like babble to the uninitiated. A purl is a stitch, not a jewel, and a cable is for decoration, not to direct electricity. But my favorite knitting term is one sadly relevant to my writing at the moment: frogging.


It means tearing apart a project and starting again. (Apparently, someone thought saying “rip it, rip it,” was just too similar to a frog's croak to let the opportunity for word creation pass.)

I haven't frogged too much knitting...probably because it doesn't bother me to let a few wrong stitches slide. But I think I'm about to frog my writing WiP. In writing, anything less than my best is completely ...infuriating, depressing, frustrating...to me. There are so many elements to think of at once: plot, structure, POV, voice. And when one of these isn't working right, the rest seem to crumble.

I've frogged entire novels before for plot flaws. Then I learned more about plotting and became a staunch supporter of outlines. The problem this time around is even more complicated. It's that so-essential, ever-elusive, without-it-you-have-no-book element:

Voice.

My character's voice is all over the place. I've never really had this problem before, as the voice is usually the first solid thing in my stories. And I'm not really sure what to do. Other than start again. There's nothing more frustrating than looking the last month's work in the face and saying, “Au revoir.” Other than looking at the last month's work and knowing it's not right. As my husband says about his own writing, “Good enough isn't good enough.”

So I'm back to a blank white page. The good part is that beginning a story is where all the fun stuff happens. The bad part is I'm afraid this won't be the last beginning. Oh well.

If anyone has a panacea for this malady...other than chocolate (though of course you're free to send that, too)...well, I'm begging now. Help!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Joys of Learning English (or, Whoever developed this language had a cruel sense of humor)


Lest the title mislead you, let me make my position clear: I'm a dedicated fan of the English language. I would even say I “love” it, except that in a post dedicated to English I wouldn't want to abuse it too soon. Truly, though, it fascinates me. I, um, really like having such a vast choice of words from which to choose. I think the spectrum of languages from which ours descends gives it more flavor and variety than any other language. While it may not be as fluid as some languages, not as harsh as others, I believe the mix creates a rhythm and tone that surpasses the one-note sound of simpler languages.
However...I am afraid I may never master it. I am continually reminded of my own inadequacy. A few days ago, upon rereading the marvelous Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, I stumbled into a misuse of which I am utterly guilty.
Forgive me while I lapse into colloquialism:
Did you guys know that “nauseous” doesn't mean “experiencing nausea”? The proper word for that is “nauseated”, while “nauseous” means “causing nausea”. I can't tell you how many published works by brilliant people I've read that contained this error. I can't tell you how many times (especially when I was pregnant!) I said that I felt nauseous. That seems pretty embarrassing now. Some well-educated Strunk and White reader was probably laughing in his sleeve.
Anyway, I thought I'd best let you all in on the secret so the one-in-a-million person who actually knows the difference doesn't laugh at you, too. :)
Speaking of laughing, the complexity of English does have its good points: listening to a three-year-old trying to figure out the subtleties of pronouns has had me in stitches of late...
I was pointing out the words “me” and “you” in a book with Lucy. She shut the book, climbed up on my lap and said, “Mama, mama, I call you, 'you,' and I call me, 'me.' And you call you, 'me,' and you call me, 'you!'” (Try saying that twice fast.)
I smiled and said, “You're right, Lucy! That's very tricky isn't it?”
She beamed. “Yes. But I know it.”
Then an opportunity for more learning occurred to me. Lucy has been using the third person pronoun “her” or “him” instead of “she” or “he” constantly. So I figured that would be a good time to point out the difference. I pointed to Zoe, my one-year-old. “Well, Lucy,” I said, “If you call me, 'you,' and you, 'me,' then let's think about what you call Zoe. She is Zoe,” I emphasized. “What do you call her?”
Lucy smiled, not to be confused by all my teaching. “Her is my little darling!” she exclaimed.