Tuesday, March 31, 2009

T.S.Eliot and Me

T.S. Eliot seems to be stalking me this week.

First, I came across his animal farm rejection, via Althouse.

Then, I was reading "The Pobble Who Had No Toes" to my kids, and came across the Runcible Cat. "Aha!" I thought. "Runcible Cat, Runcible Spoon. It's not a spork, it's Tortoise Shell!"

So I did a search for "Runcible Tortoise shell" and got pointed to this book, in which Eliot discusses the reasons that Runcible does NOT mean Tortoise shell, in a lecture on education.

The Lecture in question? The 1950 Aims of Education Address at the University of Chicago!!!!!!!

Weird, huh? A random internet search on Lear connects to The College...... and makes me miss the quads all the more. Good thing my 10th reunion is coming up, so I can play at being an undergrad again!

Monday, March 30, 2009

In springtime, a young mother's thoughts turn to...

Greek and Latin. Maybe it's because my reoccurring 'final exam and I didn't study' dreams have started up again. Maybe it's because it was around this time of year that I left Chicago and arrived in Greece. Maybe something about the longer days, the greener grass and the warmer temperatures just make me yearn for a blanket on the quads, the Middle Liddell, and Sophocles.

Maybe I'm just avoiding today's toil by yearning for yesterday's.

Hard to tell. But for the moment, I've got classics on the brain 24-7.

Ooh! Maybe it's just that the final installment of Percy Jackson is ALMOST HERE!

Did you here the one about the barber, the bald guy, and the scholar?

Roman Jokes. Though to be fair, this book is from the LATE EMPIRE. And some of the jokes she mentions remind me of Plautus and Terence. And it would make sense that the best routines of P&T were reworked and repeated through the ages-- heck, we're STILL using them!!

Minor Changes in Progress

I just looked at my blogroll this morning and realized it no longer reflects my favorite sites -- There are a lot missing! So I'll be adding to it over the next few days. (Currently my tastes run to a weird mix of politics, kidlit, education, Catholic Stuff and comics --some of which are not appropriate for kids.)

Awesome Historical Rejections

T.S. Eliot rejects Animal Farm. I especially loved his regret at having to pass, since the editor who accepted it would also get all of Orwell's future work.

And his argument IS an interesting criticism of the politics of Animal Farm. I'll have to find my copy (first american edition--woohoo! Unfortunately missing the DJ, so only collectible to me) and reread it so I can see if I agree with Elliot's take.

(I know my politics have changed considerably since I last read the book. And my view of human nature has changed too... so it will be a fun reread!)

H/T to the amazing Ann Althouse, who you really OUGHT to be reading, if you're not already. She's really got an awesome community of commenters, so her combox arguments are a great read.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm editing this post because it was Lame

So what shall I talk about instead?

How about "The Secret History"-- No, not the Procopius one. The trashy, Classicists gone wild novel of the same name....

I lent it to a friend and it never came back, along with the bulk of my pratchett.

I miss it, sometimes.

Critique Redux-- a week later

So a week after the now infamous "critique of doom," I have to say, she was right. The new rewrite clears up the one huge problem I was having trouble with--making the reader CARE about Ben before the action starts.

And my beloved 'waking up in a hospital not knowing how he got there' start WAS cliched. Yes, I thought of it as "Homage to Zelazny," but, really, I'm no Zelazny.

So I think my first 2 pages are stronger now. The current plan? I'm going to wait for the last couple agents from the current round of subs to reply, and then, if it's all 'no' I'm going to pull back for a while and do ANOTHER rewrite.

Then I have a list of about 5 more agents who handle commercial MG (as opposed to claiming to handle it but have never had any kids books...) and if they say no, I'll give up on the agent route for now and try editors....

Because the experience of friends has taught me that if you can't have a really good agent, you might as well have no agent. And I can always get an agent for book 2, or 3, or somewhere down the line.

(Before you tell me there are more MG agents than I would think--yes, I know. But most don't want action/adventure/sci fi stuff. They want coming-of-age stuff and lyrical stuff. Not so many explosions and helicopters and superheroes........ so I COULD submit to those other agents, but I'd probably just be wasting everyone's time.......)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Doesn't He Know that Voldemort is Gone?

This odd tidbit from a Breitbart Article on the Post Office's financial troubles (emphasis mine):

Lawmakers also raised questions regarding recent news reports that Potter
is paid as much as $800,000 a year. That is not correct, Potter said. He said
his salary, set by Congress, is $263,575. He said the news reports were counting
his retirement fund, the cost of his security detail and a $135,000 bonus that
would be paid over 10 years after he retires.

h/t The Instapundit

--As if you all didn't see it there first! =)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amazing discovery.

Someone's willing to pay me for unsolicited advice on taking toddlers to Mass?? And all this time, I've been giving unsolicited advice away free of charge and wondering if I was ANNOYING.

Actually, I probably am annoying. But I hadn't realized that annoying = money.

Also, I find it interesting that they'll pay me for parenting articles, but not for articles on the ancient shrine of Brauron. This is what's wrong with our country-- people would rather have information on taking toddlers out in public than on Athenian rites of passage!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More self-promotion

But this time shameful, not shameless.

A while back, I submitted a first page for critique. With each passing day, I've grown more afraid, and more certain that it's not good enough.

Well, Editorial Anonymous got to my first page today. The verdict? I pretty much totally suck. So I tried a rewrite, but mostly I want to withdraw this MS from submission to agents, stuff it in the furthest, most cobwebby recesses of my hard drive, and never see it again. And just focus on my new WIP which is way better anyway. And my magazine work, since that's at least decent.

Now, excuse me while I crawl under a rock and die a thousand deaths. ..... My favorite kidlit blogger hates my writing! Arghhhhhhhhhhhh. Maybe, when I feel a bit better, I'll go weep on Verla Kay's board for a while. But for now, I'll devote myself to dishes and laundry. It's probably what I SHOULD be spending my time on anyway......

Joining the Borg

I've started writing over at Associated Content because several writer-friends assure me that it's an excellent way to pick up extra cash.

On the plus side, assignments are short and easy.

On the minus side, I worry I may be selling myself too cheaply.

But it's a way to make extra cash without leaving the house. And it doesn't seem to use the same part of my brain as my children's work does, so it shouldn't hurt my other work.

We'll see... I'm giving it a one-month trial. If the effort to cash ratio is decent, I'll keep it up....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

People I wish I could hang out with

Neil Gaiman. On Colbert. What a totally awesome guy. We should have him over for a board game night sometime! =)

I love it when the people who write good books also turn out to be the sort of people I'd like to have over for dinner!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Randomly Cool

My favorite kidlit blogger apparently enjoys a bit of G.K. Chesterton from time to time! How cool is THAT. And in a post that mentions Greek Tradgedy too!!!! I really wish she wasn't anonymous--she'd be AWESOME to have coffee with!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moving in a fog

My daughter got a cough. Within a day it was full-blown croup, with fever and vomiting too. She's on the mend this morning.... a few minutes ago I took her temp and it was normal.

But then my other two kids started coughing...and one of them just started getting a fever....

And I'm still not recovered from the all-nighter I pulled with the first illness....

So no blog for a few days. Or writing. Or coherent thoughts......

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weird Dream

BTW-- Last night I dreamed that I submitted a children's poem to National Review and they published it! And that William F. Buckley sent me an hand written note praising me on my wit and literary ability!

And we were operating a 4 star restaurant out of our kitchen.

Talk about fantasy.

Lament, Fairies, and the moral order--a mini essay

Ok, I just finished reading Lament , by Maggie Stiefvater, and loved it. (I'm a sucker for Tam Lin retellings, and this is a GOOD one!)

It also got me thinking about the meaning of fairies ----- so I'm going to inflict a mini-essay on you. (I'm trying to move my 'first of the morning' rants off other people's blogs and onto this one. I think that's called 'establishing a presence', right? )

My favorite line in Lament comes at the end of the book.
"What happens to Deirdre?"

Eleanor shrugged. "Probably an extremely boring life. Ugly
children. Midlife crisis. Bed Pan. Death."

Why do I like this line so much? Because it hammered home the meaning of fairies. It's a given that Zombies represent our fear of death and decay, right? Well, I think fairies are more complicated. They represent BOTH our fear of adult-hood, and a fear of perpetual adolescence.

They represent our fear of adulthood, because they're perpetually young and beautiful. They kidnap teens and give them an eternity of parties, dances, feasts and music. They have no responsibility or consequences. They can dance in the moonlight while drinking champagne, and they never have hang-overs. They can have bruised egos, but never broken hearts. They're forever 16, and forever the coldest, cruelest, 16 imaginable.

And what do the fairies fear? You can see it in Eleanor's reply. "Ugly children." --Having duties and responsibilities to another, coupled with the unconditional love of a parent. Suffering because you see another's suffering. COMPASSION.

"Midlife crisis" --realizing you may have been on the wrong path. Wondering if you focused on the wrong goals. Despairing, because you can't go back and start over. REGRET.

"Bed pans" -- Aging. Growing weak and ugly. Needing others to take care of your most basic bodily needs. DEPENDENCE.

and DEATH.

The fairies shun all these things, and so they're evil and destructive. And in all the Tam Lin stories, the answer to the riddle, the way to SAVE the fairy knight from his cruel fate, is to embrace these things. Janet must love the fairy knight, and want to save him from his agony. She has to wonder if she's made the right choice as she's waiting in the darkness beside the road. She has to hold onto him, no matter what happens, and she has to endure pain, suffering, and the specter of death.

***Random Lenten Adendum---ignore if you're not interested.-------******

Another interesting thing, at least to me, is that the Tam Lin story, and the fears of the Fairy Queen, also echo the Way of the Cross. (Didn't Chesterton say something about all these legends pointing towards Christ? Or was that Augustine? Oh, well, I'll look for it later.)

How does Christ save us, and the world, from Satan's dominion?

Compassion - Think of when he meets the women on the road, and tells them to weep for themselves, not for him. Or when he says 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do'

Regret - The agony in the Garden. "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"

Dependence -- The wine-soaked sponge. Simon of Cyrene's help.



In a sense, everyone in the world is a Tam Lin, imprisoned by sin and cruelty. And Christ is Janet, riding to our rescue, so that we can finally LIVE.

****End of Lenten Rant********

Anyway, the upside of posting my morning rants on my OWN blog is that I can include religious themes if I want. The downside is no one will read them, argue with me, and call me out on my logical fallacies......

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Totally Out of My League

Looking for an agent reminds me of high school crushes.

For instance, I just subbed to someone who is TOTALLY out of my league. I mean, yeah, he IS one of the few agents who represent middle-grade science fiction.

(Aside: What is it with agents only wanting to represent the LITERARY stuff? Maybe I can pitch my novel as the tenderly written story of a young boy on a voyage of self discovery.... with explosions? No? How about a young boy learns important lessons about love and betrayal when he becomes part of an elite group of super heroes? Oh well...)

Anyway, he reps my genre, but...... but...... he has a couple big names. Really big names. Like "When I was in junior high all my babysitting money went to their books" names. In fact, I didn't even MENTION why I thought I was a good fit in the letter, because I couldn't keep from gushing and sounding like a crazed fangirl instead of a responsible, adult, author.

Then I did a search for his name plus "interview" and found out he used to represent Clarke and Dick, before they died.

I. Am. So. Not. In. This. Guy's. League.

But I subbed anyway. Because my husband said "go for it!" But I know that, deep down, he's just hoping I get a request from this guy so he can brag to his friends next time he's at Gencon.

Anyway, that's another sub out at least. And Flix and Vester are trudging along, about to break into a run now that the school visit is safely behind me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My First School Visit

I did my first school visit yesterday. I found a few things surprising:

1. The total exhaustion afterwords. Being fresh and fun and enthusiastic for 90 first and second graders (split into 3 groups) totally wiped me out. I was asleep by 7 pm!

2. The kids favorite parts were seeing the magazines with my work in them, and the handout with places that they could send their work. They were so-so on the activity.

3. The huge range of ability levels/ages in just two grades. I'd hoped a group activity would even things out, but..... I need to rethink my activities for the next time.

4. Also, there were a fair number of kids with Aspereger's (Hadn't realized how common it was!) and they kind of did their own thing... (they did the group activity independently, and, not wanting to force things, I just treated them like groups of one. Which would have been fine, except that then a few other kids who had the ABILITY to work in groups, but not the desire, got cranky. )

So, in the end, it was a lot of fun, really hard, and I need to tweak my presentation a bit.

(Also, I realized that my idea of first graders was a bit optimistic. I assumed they would be like older, more competent, and less distractable versions of my own, super-ADHD, 5 year old..... um, no. Some of them were, some of them were actually about where she is. But some of the second graders were more like third graders so...... I don't know how early elementary teachers DO it! =) )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cool Captchas!

So, those two word Captchas on some sites? It turns out that they're helping to digitize books!


This study just proves what I've always known-- Doodling is good for you.

I've always found that I can reconstruct and entire lecture AND my side-thoughts from a good page of doodles.

And, when I'm at my non-sleep deprived best, I don't even have to look back at my doodles to remember.

Though I've also found that on days when I doodle a lot, I have no mental energy left for writing. Hmmmm......