Thursday, April 28, 2011

Diversity in YA Tour

Readers in San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Cambridge MA, New York City, and San Diego -- Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo's Diversity in YA Fiction tour is coming to you in May. Here's the Diversity in YA tour schedule. Cindy and Malinda will be presenting panels in the company of a whole lot of other great YA writers in each city, to talk about diversity in YA books. For example, on May 12, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, and Francisco X. Stork will come together to present a panel at the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library. And for those who can't make the events, check out their website,, and the Diversity in YA blog!

Lots of blogging ideas; no time. Happy weekend, everyone. If you run to your TVs and internets tomorrow to see what Kate, Chelsy, William, and Harry are wearing, not to mention Camilla and Elizabeth's hats, I will not judge you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Book Recommendation and a Bank Non-Recommendation

Writers out there: I strongly recommend the book Writing the Other: a Practical Approach, by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. It's the companion book to Shawl and Ward's Writing the Other Workshop. From the workshop website (linked to above): "Are you afraid to write about characters whose racial heritage, sexual orientation, or religion differs from your own? Do you think you'll get it wrong — or cause offense? In this intensive four-hour workshop, authors Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward will teach you to write sensitively and convincingly about characters of diverse backgrounds and cultures." The same can be said for this book, which contains a lot of great information, guidelines, exercises, etc., to help you write characters whose race, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, or sex differ from your own. The book is gentle. Shawl and Ward tell the reader that it's okay to make mistakes; that it's worthwhile -- more than worthwhile, important -- to try. Read this book.

Another helpful read, for writers and readers, is Mitali Perkins's article in School Library Journal, "Straight Talk on Race: Challenging the Stereotypes in Kids' Books."

I'm writing this in a rush because there are two 20-month old girls in the other room about to wake up at any moment. I'm writing it carelessly and badly because I'm distracted by being furious with Bank of America, who recently raised the minimum balance on my checking account from $750 -- which was absurdly high to begin with -- to $1500, and informed me of this change with a note on my bank statement. Hello. I am a freaking busy person. I read my bank statement to make sure no one is stealing from me. I do not always read the extraneous writing on my bank statement, and sometimes I don't get to my bank statement for a while. I should have been notified of a change like this in a separate communication. The new minimum balance is BEYOND absurd, as is the $14 fee I was charged for dropping below that balance. I have resisted closing my BoA account up until now, despite numerous frustrations and insults like this one, because so many of my bills are set up to be paid automatically from that account, and changing those arrangements will be a big hassle. Finally, today, I am mad enough to close the account and reorganize all my bills.

USAian readers, if you're fed up with your big bank and are ready to move your money to a local bank or credit union, check out, which explains the benefits of investing locally and also has features to help you find and read reviews of local banks and credit unions in or near your zip code. Thanks, codename: Joe (who was nearby when I saw the Bank of America fee, and witnessed me losing my temper) for the link. It's one of the resources I intend to use to help me open an account with a banking business that won't make me feel like I'm being taken advantage of on a continuing basis.

Apologies again for the rush in which this post was written. And for souring my support of Writing the Other and Mitali Perkins's article with this bank rant. They deserve better.

The littluns are stirring. Better post this and go. ^_^

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not a Lot to Say on This Thursday

Conversation between two people, overheard on the street:
PERSON 1: You could certainly drop the appendix.
PERSON 2: Yes, the appendix!
Here's what I'm wondering. Do you think they were graduate students or writers (or some such) talking about a document? OR, do you think they were surgeons, having a conversation about which organs it's acceptable to drop on the floor?

I prefer the second option.

Anyway. I don't have a lot of time today, but I want to recommend two things: the Edward Gorey exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum. And, this blog post by Lesley Kinzel about her thoughts on the TSA, scanning machines, patdowns, and differences between men and women. (Thanks, B!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Musical Medleys, PSAs, and James Franco Cutting His Arm Off

I'm going to send you to a website that you're never going to want to leave. Of course, maybe you've already been there. I keep sending it to people and they tell me they've already been there. Annoying people hooked into the pulse of the internets! Stop being so on top of things!

Go to this page, turn up your sound, click on a few squares, and see what happens. Then click on more. Keep clicking! Write your name and see what it sounds like. Draw lines and grids. Draw the Grim Reaper! Draw flowers!

YOU ARE WELCOME. (Thanks, Jess!)

Moving on. The following is a public service announcement for people who are new to the activity of running/jogging. Newbie runners, in case you don't know: when given the choice between running safely on sidewalk or running safely on pavement, choose the pavement. If the choice is sidewalk, pavement, or dirt path, choose the dirt path. Please. Running is a high-impact activity. You cannot condition your body to it too slowly. Take it easy, take lots of rests for your joints and feet even if your heart is going strong; if you are new to the sport, do not run every day; listen to your body and don't run if it hurts; and choose the least-hard (safe!) running surface available to you. Things you inadvertently do to your joints now, even if it feels fine while you're doing it, have the tendency to come back back years later to haunt you. TRUST ME I KNOW.

This has been a public service announcement, inspired by many people I saw running on the sidewalk along Memorial Drive today, even though the paved road was closed to traffic and open to runners, and even though there's a dirt path along the river.

The rest of this post is about the movie 127 Hours, and I'm not going to say anything grisly, but if you've seen the movie and had a hard time with it, or if you don't want to hear about self-surgery, now is the time to stop reading.

I quite liked the movie, and was super-pleased that a film about a man stuck by himself in a canyon for 127 hours wasn't the least bit boring. James Franco was completely believable and sympathetic as Aron Ralston, the real-life adventurer who actually was trapped by a fallen boulder in a Utah canyon for 127 hours in 2003, finally escaping by cutting his own arm off with a blunt blade. I will say that just as advertised, the graphic parts are *extremely* graphic, such that some of the images -- one in particular -- were imprinted in my brain for about 24 hours after watching. I don't usually have a problem watching grisly things, so this is a testament to how grisly this thing was. I'm not surprised to read about people fainting, having panic attacks, or needing medical assistance while watching this movie, and I will warn you to take it easy if you're planning to watch it. If it's helpful, the most difficult part only lasts maybe 10 minutes, and it's very close to the end.

I like to read other people's reactions to movies to help me cement my own. I read a few reactions that made a big deal about the character's deep inner transformation and inner experience, and I can't say that I shared that reaction. I felt that Ralston as a person was dealt with rather shallowly, as was any personal transformation he underwent -- and please note that I'm not saying he was presented as a shallow person, nor am I saying that real-life Ralston was/is a shallow person (I don't know him, I haven't read his book, I have no idea what kind of person he is!). What I'm saying is that the character's inner life and outer relationships were dealt with rather shallowly by the writers of the movie. "I should answer the phone when my mother calls" and "I should leave notes when I go adventuring so people know where I am" are both important realizations (the latter being of life-and-death importance in this instance, obviously). "I'm a person who needs other people, I can't do everything myself, I'm not invincible, I take people for granted" can be profound, but at least within the 94 minutes of this movie, it was not the stuff of a fascinating character study. I'm fine with that. Ralston's physical experience is well more than enough to carry this story, and there can be no doubt that what he endured and then accomplished physically demonstrated an enormous emotional and mental depth and strength. This is a survival story, well-filmed and well-acted. It leaves you with your mouth hanging open in amazement at what Ralston physically survived, and what people in general are capable of.

(I was also a little amazed at my own abusive cheerleading. After he finally frees himself, he pauses for the merest instant to rest and recover from just having amputated his own arm. In that instant, I started yelling at the TV. "What are you doing? Don't just stand there! Gather your supplies and move! Move it, Aron!" I couldn't help myself. I was so desperate for him to survive, and it's not like he cuts off his arm and then everything is better. He's still in a canyon in the middle of nowhere all by himself, starving, dehydrated, bleeding, in terrible pain, and minus one climbing hand.)

It's a physical survival story, and I recommend it for that.

Relatedly -- if you're looking for a survival story in which the character, also based on a real-life person, demonstrates tremendous depth, intellect, conscience, and a (heartbreaking) inner transformation, I would say watch Into the Wild, about the wilderness trek of young Christopher McCandless, except -- and this is a spoiler, but it's an important one -- that is not a survival story. McCandless died on his trek. The movie is desperately sad in the end, but McCandless, as portrayed by Emile Hirsch, touched my own life. I felt privileged to know him.

127 Hours trailer:

Into the Wild trailer:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Australia Stuff and Things; and a Rainy Day

It was raining like crazy today in Cambridge. Rain dripping from all the flowering trees. A perfect day to walk to my friend Titus's house and just hang.

Titus can't open the door by himself, but luckily, his butler was there to let me in. Titus is a problem solver (you can probably tell that by looking at him). As we hung out, my problems disappeared into the ether.

So, a while back, I mentioned that I'm going to be in Australia in May. I now have events, dates, and locations!


Thursday 19th May at 17:30

Galaxy Books, 173 York Street, Sydney

I’ll be doing a book signing.

Friday 20th May at 18:00

Kinokunyia, 500 George Street, Sydney

I’ll be doing a talk, Q&A, and signing.

Sunday 22nd May at 11:30

Sydney Writers’ Festival

Sydney Dance Company, Studio 4, Pier 4/5, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay

I’ll be ‘in conversation’ with Judith Ridge, and will do a signing at 12:30.


Friday 27th May at 17:00

Readings, State Library of Victoria

Palmer Hall, State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne

I’ll be ‘in conversation’ and do a Q&A and signing.

Saturday 28th May at 12:30 (note the time change)

The Emerging Writers’ Festival

Town Hall Melbourne, 90-120 Swanston Street

Panel: Going Global. How do Aussie writers fare overseas? We look at how to navigate the business of becoming a global success, and whether it’s more lucrative to sell to international or local markets. With Kathy Charles, Luke Devenish, Chris Morphew and me, hosted by Jacqui Dent. I will be speaking from the perspective of a non-Aussie writer, of course. :o). Presentations, panel discussion, and audience Q&A.

I'll let you all know if there are any updates or changes!

I could be on a panel. I have thoughts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

" is quite a risk to spank a wizard for getting hysterical about his hair."

It's very rarely that I read a book for the first time (or ever), put it down, contemplate what book I want to read next, then pick up the same book to start all over again. That seems to be what's happening with Howl's Moving Castle, though. It's just... Diana Wynne Jones writes such beautiful sentences! With the slightest word, she can make me laugh and laugh. If a book is witty and contains intellectual puzzles, like this one does, but *doesn't* contain heart, then I might like it okay, but I don't love it -- but this book has it all, including the heart, without being the least bit sentimental. I'm reading it again, because I wasn't paying close enough attention the first time through, and because it deserves it.

Here's a moment I love:
She had to get this right, and she was not sure how you did. "Well, here goes," she said.
That's it. Maybe it doesn't look like much out of context, but that's the character of Sophie in a nutshell. She never knows for sure how to fix things (which is, incidentally, NEVER her fault), but that doesn't stop her from trying. I love that.

Diana Wynne Jones died on March 26, and my inbox has been filling with friends' favorite tributes to her. The Diana Wynne Jones obituary at the Guardian, by Christopher Priest, taught me about the fascinating life she led. Kirkus Reviews' tribute, by Deborah Kaplan, taught me that her books had a way of predicting her future.'s tribute, by Sarah A. Wood, goes into more detail about the books, and Neil Gaiman knew her personally.

Thanks to Amanda, Tui, and Anindita for the links.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Home Is Where the Ax Murderers Aren't

I've been home for a couple weeks now, but I'm only just starting to get on top of the accumulated mail, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. The more important things, however, are completely under control. For example, one of my orchids is about to blossom, and I moved my ginormous (easily 6 feet tall, probably 4 feet wide) money plant tree out of my front window and into my office. It was getting too much light in the front window; the leaves were getting sunburned.

So. As I sat in my office swivel chair the other day, swiveling a bit (as one does), a hand appeared over my shoulder. I knew myself to be alone in the house, so there was only one explanation -- it was the ax murderer -- so I jumped and screamed, and even grabbed a pencil with which to STAB HIM TO DEATH.

Anyway. Turns out I'd just swiveled myself against my money plant tree, which was being friendly, not with hands, but with leaves. Which was QUITE a relief.

One of the things I haven't really gotten back on top of since I got home is my blog. Which accounts for the patheticness of this thrilling Ax Murderer? Or Overgrown House Plant? tale.

To redeem myself, here are a few things that made me really happy recently:

Have a nice weekend, everybody!

Monday, April 4, 2011

*is proud*

So, there are a lot of creative people in my family, and some of them take their creativity in unusual and, frankly, awesome directions. The Cashore Marionettes, for example (my dad's cousin ^_^). I highly recommend you watch their promo videos.

Also, something my sister, codename: Apocalyptica the Flimflammer, does in her free time, which she's given me permission to share with you. Are you ready for this? The first one is inspired by a character from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door. Meet Proginoskes (and click on any photo to enbiggify):

Here's what happens when she buys new sheets:

Recognize this Russian landmark?

This one's called Glad Bears:

This one's called Creature from a Dream:

This one's called Comb:

And here's a beetle:

*is so freaking proud*

These pictures are the property of my sister. Please do not gank them.

And that's all. :o)