Sunday, August 31, 2008

Time to Hit the Books

Tomorrow’s the big day! Not only for the kids heading back to school (including my two girlies), but me too!

So, welcome back, kids! Hopefully your first day won’t involve a tattooed bully with a scrawny wingman trying to steal your only nut!

Illustration by my eight year old girlie.
(Thanks for allowing me this Kathy Lee Gifford moment. If they ever get out of hand, please blog slap some sense into me. I happen to have a kiddo who draws and draws and draws some more. Often times I find one that cracks me up. So when that happens, I may share it with you, too.)

The fact that I’m happy about school's return, well, I’ll only feel bad about it for a minute. It’s only been five seconds? Oh, well! I’m happy already. Yippee!

Hello, Routine.
Hello, Consistent Writing Time.
Heeeelloooo, Daily Latte (because when my office hours are held at The Vault, not only do I get things done, but I get a latte)!

I welcome the schedule that will come my way tomorrow (even though it means I can't drink my morning coffee as liesurely). It means writing time five days a week (for sure) instead of this getting-it-where-I-can way of summer.

I’m hoping (NO, I’m SURE) it will mean I’ll finally finish my revision which I started back in May. Probably a taste of what’s to come from this blog…a whole lotta revision angst that I hope you’ll help see me through.

This morning (as I sipped my cup o' coffee) I picked up Stephen King's ON WRITING. It's a great book to have on hand when your in my current situation, which is in a state of lacking must-reads in my queque. Well, there are plenty in my mental queque but none waiting for me on my nightstand. This is what happens when you get only one book from the library, in my case Sara Zarr's SWEETHEARTS, and then devour it bit by bit in a day's time. Today, I must make my way back to my local library, a Carnegie Library btw, to restock. Anyone else have the treat to visit a Carnegie Library on a regular basis?

Question: What do you do when you read a book and something rings similar to what you are currently working on (a scene, a situation, a name)? For example, in SWEETHEARTS, there is a key character named Cameron Quick. In the book I'm working on I have a character named Kameron Keller. Hmm. Please tell me how you get past these discoveries.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

So Much To Learn

I have much to learn from the blogging community!

Yesterday I learned from Stephanie that it's a great idea to trickle something yummy (like James McAvoy) through a post to keep people reading. I'd like to try cupcakes, but the virtual kind won't be as appealing. (Wouldn't that be great if it could really be done? A trail of cupcakes crumbs until you reach the end and voila--a giant, perfect cupcake!)

Today I realized that a blogger should alway, ALWAYS carry a camera.

As I drove down the main drag in Port Townsend, there was a large group gathered on a corner with huge signs that said, FREE HUGS. I almost stopped. I should have stopped. If I had had my camera, I would have stopped.

I could have used a "stranger" hug today! Right?

I'm sure the FREE HUGS were tied to the following story. If you haven't seen it, you should watch...all the way to the end.


If those kids are there again tomorrow, I'll get a picture. Really!

Now I'm certain I need to get down to Portland in September for the 2nd Annual Kidlitosphere Conference. Got to. Got to.

There's just so much to learn.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Coffee Chat with Laini Taylor

When thinking about starting this blog, I thought about what I'd most like to do. Simple! Sit down and chat with the authors I love over a great cup of coffee. I think I've figured out a way to do just that and share it with you, whether it be a real coffee chat or a virtual one.

I knew my first chat had to be with the talented Laini Taylor.

I recently had pleasure of meeting up with Laini and her husband Jim, along with a whole mob (but a wonderful mob) of writers and illustrators from the Seattle area. We met at the wonderful Grand Central Bakery and Cafe in Seattle's Pioneer Square.

Laini is an artist and writer, and if you haven't read her first novel FAERIES OF DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER you should go HERE now so that you can. The sequel SILKSINGER can't be on shelves soon enough. And there's more torture to be had as we are also forced to wait for LIPS TOUCH, Laini's first young adult novel (you MUST read further to get a little taste). Laini is also the creator of Laini's Ladies, a wonderful gift product line (I love them and have more than I can count).

You likely already know that Laini has a popular, colorful, and wonderful blog of her own. On her Grow Wings blog Laini has shared so much of herself from personal to professional in such a beautiful way that it keeps readers coming back post after post. When it comes to writing, Laini strips down and exposes her own process, sharing and helping her fellow writers and artists in such a generous way.

But let's get onto the coffee chat, shall we?

Drink of choice?
In the morning, just a giant cup of coffee with a smidge of sugar and some skim milk. It is prepared and brought to me by my frog butler, and I am only a fraction of a human being until I’ve drunk it. While I sip, I come alive by degrees.

I mentioned that you “expose” yourself to the many who read your blog through your "Process Porn." Your generosity towards the children’s book writing community shows. Why is that important to you?

(That sounds kind of unsavory, when you put it like that!) Well, it took me a while to figure out how to do this thing I’ve wanted to do all my life: write books. And I felt so empowered once I finally finished my first novel, I want to help other people reach that place. I feel like if the online community had been in existence when I was a young writer, I would have found my way more easily. When I was a young aspiring writer, I had no possibility of contact with “real writers.” They might as well have lived on clouds; writing was so shrouded in mystery. Blogs are an amazing way to strip away the mystery and show writing to be a real career filled with real people, doing this unmysterious thing of sitting down day after day to work. All is revealed. Well, perhaps not all. One thing I want to see more of -- and I am beginning to -- is published authors being honest about how hard it is, rather than only writing/talking about the good parts of being a writer. Misery loves company, and I know it buoys my morale to read about other writers’ struggles, so I want to pass that along. I’ve had to develop such strategies to cope with my own issues with perfectionism, I think I have a lot to pass on to writers who suffer from the same hang-ups as me. Also, I have to admit there is a selfish component too: the best way to get over my own hangups is often to write about them, to remind myself plainly in black and white of what I know I need to do to make progress on my own writing. I need constant reminders!

Would you describe yourself as caffeinated or decaf?
Let’s just say that when I recently tried to cut back on coffee, the effect was such that my husband commented that he had never realized my personality was 95% coffee!

If you could have coffee with an author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Well, I don’t have a ready answer for this one. I don’t know! My answer is that I’d like to have coffee with the following fantasy writers in the worlds they created: Tolkien on a terrace at Rivendell; J.K. Rowling in The Hogshead Tavern; Philip Pullman in a hot air balloon, whilst our daemons regard each other warily; Garth Nix on the Abhorsens’s island. . . and many more.

If you could have coffee with any children’s book character, who could it be and why?
Well, to be honest: my own characters!I would love to sit around the campfire on a fang-shaped island in the Bay of Drowned Dragons with Magpie and Talon and the crows. The gypsy wagons would be drawn up in a tight circle around us and the crows’ smoke rings would be floating in the flickering light. We’d drink muddy coffee out of tin cups and eat chocolate we’d stolen from humans, and we’d talk about witch doctors and dust spells and devils while Talon knitted wings out of spidersilk and Magpie drew out a map to a Djinn’s dreaming place. That would be a wonderful coffee date!

What is it about writing that gives you a buzz?
Too often, it’s not the actual act of writing, but the aftermath. That old quote: “I don’t love writing; I love having written,” is too true of me. I love rereading what I have written, and I love tinkering with sentences and polishing them up. The “futzing” stages really suit my perfectionist personality. BUT -- the times when I manage to slide into the writing and really lose myself in it (doesn’t happen every day), that is some of the purest joy in the world. There is no greater buzz than a good writing day!

Give us a taste of what’s to come from Laini Taylor.
Well, 2009 is going to be a good year for me! The paperback of Dreamdark: Blackbringer is coming out in the spring, followed shortly by the hardcover of Dreamdark: Silksinger in the summer, and then in the fall, my first YA: Lips Touch, which is a collection of three supernatural tales about kissing. I’ve just started a new novel, and I’m in the high excitement/terror stage with it!

Here is a sneak peak of the opening of “Goblin Fruit,” the first tale in Lips Touch:

* * *

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a highschool campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.


The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.

Like Kizzy.

* * *

If I ordered a cup of Laini at my favorite coffee spot, what would I say to the barista?
I (Jolie) am taking this one, but maybe Jim and others of you who know Laini well will leave your own Cuppa Laini orders.

This is how I would order a Cuppa Laini. "I'd like a venti-whole lotta talent-with a splash of fuchsia-and a way with words."

And before leaving, Laini gifted me with these wonderful coffee quotes. Enjoy!

"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."- Flash Rosenberg

"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move. . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."- Honore de Balzac

Farewell Olympics!

It’s over! But I enjoyed it while it lasted. I thought it would be appropriate to mention what a writer (meaning me), learned from the Olympics that relate to writing (at least in my mind).

I heart the Olympics. I really do. Not so much that I have ever dreamed of being part of them myself, but enough that each time they near, I get excited. Once they arrive, I’m addicted.

Here are my writerly learnings (and maybe a few others) over the past two and half weeks:

1. There’s nothing like a story about the underdog winning big. There’s nothing like a story of heartbreak. And, there’s nothing like a story of enormous odds. coupled with extreme determination. that result in a Phelpsian Feat! That Michael Phelps made the Olympics for me.

2. Names are powerful. I read a great article recently in the latest and greatest 2009 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market edited by the lovely Alice Pope. In the article “Creating Memorable Characters” by Cecil Castellucci in part talks about the importance of a character’s name. During these Olympic Games there was a perfect example an athlete who could not have been named more appropriately—Usain Bolt. Need I say more about the name of the fastest man in the world?

3. There are always people who will cheat to get what they want. I can’t believe some of the doping stories I heard about during these games. I guess I just didn’t know. I always thought of doping as steroid-type drug use that athletes did to be more powerful. What I didn’t know were all the other reasons athletes dope, like a marksman doping in order to reduce trembling. Sometimes it’s not even a person, but a horse in the equestrian competition. They (the cheaters, that is) give horses (grrr!) a drug that makes their skin sensitive so they want to clear the obstacles. That’s TWISTED! Then there’s the non-doping kind of cheating that was the big brew-ha-ha of these games—the Chinese woman gymnasts. Were they all sixteen? It certainly didn’t look like they were, but I really wanted them to be.

4. Thank God!!! I don’t have to write in a bikini. Did you see Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh? They are a skin-stretched-over-muscled-kind-of perfection. Their bodies are so conditioned, they can play their sport (meaning do their job) in the smallest of bikini sporty-ness. Impressive! Not one thing jiggles or moves as they jump up, smack the ball, and fall to the sand. Why can’t writers experience such benefits as we go for our dreams? Unfortunately, the act of butt-in-chair doesn’t produce such firm results. So, on a side note, I’ll say it here and now, because if I put it in writing I’ll follow through. I’m off to train to become a Les Mils BODYPUMP instructor in a few weeks. No laughing. It’s not a joke. This is really in the plans. (The world now knows. I must go.)

WARNING! Tangent coming in 3…2…1…
Excuse me a second while a climb up on my soap box and put on two other hats I proudly wear—woman and mother of young girls. The many women and girls in the Olympics are amazing and inspirational. They are healthy and driven and I think great role models (compared to the many others in our society) for young girls. I love that I can look at two different woman (even within the same sport, like Shawn Johnson & Nastia Liukin, Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh) and see two very different—but very healthy—bodies. What a great time to sit with our daughters and notice those differences. What a great time to discuss goals, perseverance, disappointment and sportsmanship. Okay, I’m hopping off now. Thanks for letting me get that out. I suppose that’s a perk of having a blog.

Don't miss tomorrow's post where I'll have an interview with the colorful Laini Taylor. Or maybe I should say, DON'T READ TOMORROW'S INTERVIEW if you will be dying to get a hold of Lips Touch after Laini gives us a taste that will leave you wanting more!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pour Me Another Cup

I love it here! So many of you told me I’d be addicted, and I am. I really am. It’s almost as bad as coffee.

Thank you for welcoming me so very warmly! That’s really what makes it addictive, friends coming by to visit all day long. So tell me, is this how it always starts? Everybody drops by and you get all excited, but then they all slowly fade away until no one comments any more? I hope not. I like your company! I have the feeling that not only will my hubby say, I'm on the bean, but he'll have a new one for me and say, I'm on the blog!

Baristas and Books - The Vault

It seems very appropriate that my first Baristas and Books post spotlights my favorite coffee spot for writing-The Vault.
The Vault is a unique and intimate coffee nook, tucked away above Aldrich's (an historic grocery store rebuilt after fire), in uptown Port T0wnsend, WA. It's occupies its own sweet corner of the building next to a bank and overlooking the store (strange, huh?). It's two free walls display local artists' work, typically changing each month. Last month featured Jesse Watson, not only a cool guy, but awesome artist, and talented children's book illustrator. This month one of the barista's (Mallory) artwork is displayed.

This is one of her pieces haning now (and it's sold!). The Vault also sells books and CDs by Port Townsend residents. How cool is that?

One of several friendly faces greets me each time I show up with my computer/writing bag slung over my shoulder. And none of the lovely baristas ever make me feel bad about taking up one of their tables for hours at a time.

I had a chance to talk to a couple of them.

That's Mallory on the left and Alison on the right.


What's your favorite drink to make?
Mallory: A Caramel Macchiato

What's your favorite children's book and why?

Mallory: The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books because they are great magical stories. The Boxcar Children, too.

Alison: Totto-Chan. Someone gave it to my sister when I was five and I still have it. I still read it once a year.

Alison even mentioned loving the story and the original sketch so much that she wants to get a tattoo of it. Now that's book love!

Now, because I'm curious, if you were to ever get a "book" related tattoo, what would it be?

Why is The Vault a great place to plop with a good read?
Because we have a very relaxing energy that creates productive customers,” Mallory laughs, “and a warm atmosphere.”

I completely agree.

Pour Me a Cuppa Jolie

Today’s the day. The official launch of the Cuppa Jolie blog. The inaugural breaking of the champagne bottle. The breaking ground. The big plunge. The cutting of the ribbon.

Maybe in this case, it’s the pouring of the cup—the Cuppa Jolie! Okay, get on with it already.

Just like that, a person (like me) decides they want a blog and can have one. How ‘bout that? Just give it a name, type in a few words, and wahlah, it’s mine! Cuppa Jolie. Whether someone wants to read it or not. Yikes. Both are scary thoughts. Do I want people reading (especially ones I know) these posts? I guess that would be a yes and a no. I don’t exactly want a blog that no one wants to read, and yet the people I know (and like) will be reading all my random thoughts (good, bad, and ugly).

So, thank you, Jim Di Bartolo, Laini Taylor, and Jaime Temairik for being my blog pushers. These lovely people gave me a shove into the Blog World. So, guys, you asked for it, but did you really know what you were asking for? And, I have to wonder, why? Did the three of you want me to hop on the blog wagon with all of you or did you actually think I would have something interesting to say? And, don’t lie. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s because when you put my name in one of your posts, you could only link to a dull bio or nothing at all.

If you plan to read on, now or in the future, you should know the following: I’m super good at skipping words, misspelling words, and goofing up punctuation. But there is no way I could blog if I had to also proof and edit. So, my posts are what they are. If my goofs will bug you, this is not the place to be, but if my humanness (or my screw ups) is cool with you, then yay, I hope you visit often.

The plan for this crazy little blog is as the description reads: Books. People. Coffee. Because, ahhh! I love them all.

I love to read ‘em. Write ‘em. And truly, I love the people who write ‘em, edit ‘em, design ‘em, agent ‘em, and read ‘em. Book people rock!

They fascinate-charm-captivate me. I think that’s why I’m drawn to do the things I am. I love, love, love to people watch, but not in a creepy way. I like to think of it as in a scholarly way. I pay attention to what people do, how they react, and always think about why. The why is the best part. Many times, that’s where story comes from (at least for me).

I can’t start my day without it. I’m a caffeine junkie. Okay, I’m not exactly out of control. But my hubbie does say, I’m on the bean. He’s right and I have no plans to get off. My favorite place to write is in a coffee house with all its glorious white noise and busyness. And, hey, what better place to people watch. I get all my favorites in one place.

Cheers! I raise my cup to clink with all my fellow bloggers and blog readers. I’m happy to be here. Ching!

In the next few days you can look forward to an interview with the lovely Laini Taylor, as well as my first Baristas and Books post where I’ll feature two of the baristas from my number one top writing spot, The Vault.

Time to go and refill my cup.