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It always seems nice at the time….

May 5, 2011

The idea of writing a book is like
The idea of reading a book under a tree

It seems lovely.

You have your idea, you have your laptop (or notebook), the air crackles because you’re embarking on something new.

You have your book in your hand, the spine hasn’t even been cracked yet (or is so cracked the pages are falling out), the air seems fresher because it’s morning and you have a warm cup of coffee in your hand.

So you sit…

At your desk. The white screen of your laptop (the empty page of your notebook) is UNDAUNTING. The words flow. Your ego soars. You are a writer! You. Are. Killing. It.

Under the tree. The grass is soft, the sun is warm, you read slow letting the words seep into your consciousness. It’s a lovely moment.

And then…

You are not sure of the meaning of a word. You look it up. You search around to see the word in context. You briefly check your email. You go back to your idea, but wait… where were you?

The sun is warm. You scoot further under the tree where it’s more dirt than grass. You throw a frisbee back to some guy who almost took out your nose. You lean against the trunk, but wait… are those ants?

So now…

You’re lost. Does any of this even make sense? And what comes next?

You’re swatting ants off your legs. Sweat trickles down your back. You spill coffee on the book.

And so.

You get up from your desk and make lunch.

You go inside and take a shower.

Writing a book is like reading under a tree.
It seems nice.
Until it isn’t.
And then you try again.

TLA and then WLTYA and then SLEEP

April 18, 2011

I have been a lazy blogger lately. For shame. I have a good excuse, though – I have been busy pretending to be fancy. And as you may or may not know, pretending to be fancy takes a lot of time. You have to take a lot of showers and poke your eyes with mascara wands and decide how much xanax is the perfect amount for sleep, but not so much that you'll wake up with head full of stabbing bales of cotton.

Stabbing bales of cotton?

You know what I mean.

Also, when you are pretending to be fancy, you have to be "on" all the time, which means fooling people into thinking you are actually charming instead of someone pretending to be charming. This requires engaging in multi-faceted conversations, limited swearing, and a variety of breath perfumes. It also requires a LOT of energy, because remembering people's names is hard, and even harder than that is remembering to be constantly vigilant about your overactive armpit sweat glands that require you to keep some extra distance between yourself and others so that you don't cause an Exxon Valdez type calamity but with armpit sweat and a cocktail party full of fancy people instead of oil and vulnerable animals.

So.

I got to pretend to be fancy for a while, and this took a lot of preparation. Then it happened and it was awesome, then it took major recovery. I am still recovering.

And I wasn't even pretending to be THAT fancy. Just mid-list fancy. Which, if you know about publishing, isn't actually fancy at all. Unless you're typically trapped in your house chasing after kids and never get out. Then it's mega fancy because it requires bathing and ordering from menus.

In conclusion, I'm sorry to have been a poor blogger/tweeter for the last, well, forever. But there are at least three more librarians in the world who have bought my books so that is a huge win. Also, I got to hobnob with other ACTUAL fancy people (or at least people who are fancy in my own head) and so that was super cool.

Now I'm off to remind my children who I am again, and to try and write more books so that I can continue to have opportunities that get me out of the house in shirts without stains on them.

Poor. Weather. Metaphors

April 7, 2011

Settles over me
A black cloud
A stormfront
A fog
Every weather cliche.
Eyebrows dip into a V
Like the tornado puppet
in Elmo’s World.
But my eyebrows are
(hopefully)
less bushy.
Wind buffets my ears
but it is not real wind.
It is made of words
I don’t like
that swirl
and force me to write
Staccato.
Poems.
With poor.
Weather.
Metaphors.

A poem for today. Title: Or Not

April 7, 2011

I fell into this plot hole, dangling by a participle.
But luckily a sentence ran by and reached out an extra syllable.
I grabbed it, hoping for revelation.
But it left me hanging, a syllabic malformation.

A red herring burst forth (a less than beautiful sight),
Giving me brief hope to solving my plight.
Hope was fading faster than the main character’s arc
I was lost, distracted, losing my snark

What’s a writer to do when she’s lost her way?
How about
Trying out
Writing a poem a day

a poem a day for a month

April 4, 2011

Can I do it?

For the past couple of days, I've been rewriting famous poems and trying to make them funny. Will this earn me bad kharma? Probably. But the idea of Sylvia Plath writing about Twitter makes me laugh.

Today, though, I'm branching out. Here's one I wrote about the kitchen table. It was not written by Allen Ginsberg first.

Kitchen table sticky with snail trails
of ice cream from hours ago
but I am too busy
or too lazy
to wipe them up.
Instead I sit at the table, wondering about it
The cracked formica and rusted chrome
the yellowing plastic chairs, the silver duct tape holding them together.
How old is this table, really?
Has it lived in Texas longer than I have?
Would it be offended if I had the chairs reupholstered
as I would be offended if someone suggested I have my own
seat repaired?
It deserves better than an owner who lets the ice cream drips
harden into tributaries of
sticky filth.
It deserves better that rusty rivets
or whatever those things are called that hold the chair backs together.
It deserves someone who knows the name of those things.
My table deserves better than me.
A statement that reflects poorly on my own self-respect
At this moment

New book deal!

April 1, 2011

It’s been killing me to keep this a secret. KILLING ME. But I finally got the OK to spread the word, so here goes…

I’m going to write a YA sequel to Gone With the Wind. WHAT?! I KNOW! We just secured approval from Margaret Mitchell’s estate, and the book is slated to be published in fall 2013 by McSweeney’s McMullens, the new McSweeney’s imprint for children’s books.

The book is a (historical!) post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller about living in the throes of post-war chaos and trying to find a place to survive in a new, unfamiliar, government-controlled (aka Reconstruction) town. The main character is Ella Kennedy, Scarlett’s daughter from her marriage to Frank Kennedy. Ella’s sickly brother Wade and her fiery-tempered cousin Beau are also major characters. These are teens struggling to survive in a new, dangerous, world. They’re trying to fit in, but desperate to make their own opinions about the politics of the day, and they’re also alternately supporting and rebelling against Katie Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, who has become quite a force to be reckoned with in her shrewd old age.

When I was a teen, I read Gone With the Wind over and over again, and while it’s always been a controversial book, it’s been a book close to my heart. There are passages I have memorized, passages I’ve underlined and reread from the time I was 14. Now to finally have the chance to add to the history of this book… it’s just unthinkable.

I cannot WAIT until you guys can read some of this manuscript. I’ve been working on it day and night. And in my dreams. Because of course this is not a real book deal, it’s just an April fool’s prank I’m writing in the coffee shop when I should really be working on something more constructive. :)

I went to the Rio Grande Valley and all I brought you was this blog post

March 31, 2011

You guys! It’s me, Kari! I know you probably thought I’d been abducted by aliens and enslaved on a ship with a bunch of other writers forced to write exceedingly high quality children’s books for the kids of planet xl932, but that is UNTRUE.

I have been working on my very own books, trying to finish up a new one, work on some other new ones, and still maintain the facade that I am a present and attentive parent.

Hard.

But ALSO, I have been gallivanting around Texas visiting with librarians and teachers and students. Earlier this week, I spent three amazing days in the Rio Grande Valley as part of the Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars program.

Gwen Zepeda is on the left, holding her book I KICK THE BALL, and that’s me with MIKE STELLAR.

The program brings authors to economically disadvantaged public schools in the state of Texas. And not just that, each child at a participating school receives a signed copy of the author’s book. During this latest visit, over 4,000 books were handed out!

I joined forces with authors from New York and Seattle and cities all over Texas. Split up between us, we visited 6 elementary schools in the Valley. My schools were Clinton Elementary in Penitas, TX and Kika de la Garza Elementary in Mission, TX.


It was very exciting to visit a school named after Bill Clinton!


Bill Clinton was the first president I was old enough to vote for.

At Clinton, Gwen Zepeda spoke to the Pre-K through 2nd grade kids about her picture book, I KICK THE BALL and then I spoke to 3rd-5th graders about MIKE STELLAR.

Those kiddos could not have welcomed us more graciously if we were JK Rowling and Dr. Suess.


The kids at Kika de la Garza held up signs!


Amazing Mike Stellar artwork by 4th grade students at Clinton


At
Kika de la Garza, I had the pleasure of visiting the school with author Samantha Vamos. She spoke to the younger students about her picture book, THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED, and the older kids got a crash course on space adventures from me.


Samantha Vamos and I are posing with the Kika de la Garza Millionaire Readers – kids who have read a million words or more. Check out the beauty queen sashes they made for us. AWESOME.

During these school visits I had some of the most rewarding, exciting and emotional encounters with students I have ever experienced. When the kids learned they’d each get a book, the excitement in the room was electric with cheers and squeals. I haven’t given so many hugs and posed for so many pictures since my own wedding, I think!


Presenting to a very attentive audience. Check out the posters on stage!

One very special moment of the trip occurred while I was passing out books. The students line up, and it’s a bit of an assembly line, trying to hand out 300-400 books in a short amount of time. One little guy stopped, though, and handed me a note. He’d been paying close attention when I spoke about my own kids, and told them that my youngest son, Isaac, has a scar on his forehead just like Harry Potter.


“Hi my name is Isaac and I have four scares on my head”

He grinned at me as I read his note, and then I told him it looked like my Isaac wasn’t the only Isaac with a Harry Potter head! Big smiles all around.

I am just so touched to have had this opportunity, and for that I thank Clay Smith of the Texas Book Festival and Blair Newberry, the outreach coordinator for TBF, who organizes the author visits for the Reading Rock Stars program. I also want to thank the amazing and gracious English department at UTPA. Not only are they partners with TBF in bringing authors to the Valley schools, they were wonderful hosts, who drove us around the towns and took care of anything little thing we could think of.

(Special shoutout here to Amy Cummins, of UTPA, who took me and Samantha fourwheeling in her Camry in order to avoid a road closure that would have made us late to our breakfast with the millionaire readers at Kika. She drove us over a yard and through a ditch to get around a wreck. A BEAST behind the wheel, that Amy Cummins.)

And, of course, I want to thank the students and faculty of WJ Clinton Elementary and Kika de la Garza Elementary. YOU GUYS ROCK.

Kids, books, new friends – and of course breakfast tacos. I don’t think a children’s book author could ask for anything better.

The step stool started it all

March 8, 2011

This step stool is only for standing on
Or so says my grouchy mom
But if I flip it over
Like a brand new quarter
It becomes a hovercraft
That transports the cat
To the mysterious land of blue

The marker was just laying there
On the floor by dad’s old chair
Why not pick it up and draw?
That’s what markers are for, after all.
Now the kitchen is a spaceship
Chasing us through a spacetime rip
To the mysterious land of blue

The step stool takes a dive
The cat falls off, losing his ride
Hovercrafts don’t work in space
I’d forgotten that was the case
Now there’s nothing to transport us
Except this ugly old school bus
To the mysterious land of blue

I grab the cat and stuff him inside
We buckle up, prepared for flight.
As we hurtle through the spacetime rip
I hear Mom yell from a far off clip
The vacuum of space drowns her out
Even though she’s starting to shout
About the mysterious land of blue

Suddenly, our ride’s complete
A space monster has grabbed my feet
Sucked me into a big black hole
Threatened no ice cream for my dessert bowl
The cat runs away, a big furry wimp
I take the mop, damp and limp
And wash away the land of blue

Whew!

March 7, 2011

fake deadline was met
no time for couch sitting, though
need a time turner

Sorry I’ve been sort of MIA from Bloglandia for a while. I’ve been using all my extra minutes and seconds to try to finish yet another draft of a book I’ve been writing since I was in the hospital, pregnant with Ike-a-saurus. Yes, this one’s been in process for a LONG time.

Last night I finally sent the third draft off to my agent – hopefully the draft we can send out to the Big Wigs to see if anyone wants to make it into a real, actual book.

Whew!

This means my minutes and seconds are a little free-er now. For blogging, for watching Blues Clues, for changing sheets. But it also means my minutes and seconds are free-er to… write another book. Write some haiku. Submit some stories somewhere. Start a fake Twitter.

Probably, the sheets should take precedence, but how boring is that?

A March resolution!

March 2, 2011

Blog more!

Except I have to come back later, because I have one frillion things to do right now.

Be back. Until then, a haiku to tide you over:

drinking cuppa tea
need to go potty, can I
finish haik