Lupe goes blogging

Okay, I’m probably crazy, but now that I’m finished rewriting my middle grade novel My Name Is Lupe Jones, I don’t want to wait to share it. So I’m going to excerpt it on a separate blog called “Lupe’s Journal.” Here’s the link:

If you know any 10–14-year-old girls, please send them this link and ask them to read Lupe’s Journal and comment on it. I’m looking for feedback from readers.  Thanks for spreading the word!

let’s call it what it is—jealousy

The answer to last week’s challenge is Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Now regardless of how you feel about the book, its author, its runaway popularity, or whether you’re Team Edward or you’re sick to death of hearing about vampires, you must admit: it’s a damn good first line.


“I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”

It’s got that hook that editors want and agents tell you is crucial. And it must have something else, considering it camped out at the number 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for so long.

I’ve gone to my share of writing conferences, and when Twilight made its splashy debut, I heard a few unpublished writers describe it in less than positive ways. I never read it, but I was leaning toward that bandwagon myself. After all, nothing of literary value could start such a marketing craze, right?

And maybe it’s true that every unpublished writer who labeled Meyer’s books as trash has written a literary gem that would win a Newbury Award if only it were published.

But probably not.

In this era of publishers playing it safe and fewer people reading than ever, let’s just be happy for the lucky few who do managed to get published and read. So I congratulate Stephenie Meyer on her great accomplishments. And I’m not afraid to say I want to line up right behind her. And even if one day I make the bestseller list, and I hear you, a fellow author, disparaging my book, I will still wish you all the luck in the world. Because my friend, you’ll need it.

Letters, letters, everywhere…

 Featured Web site of the  week:

Letters—the building blocks of literature. Letters make words. Words make sentences. Sentences make…well, you get the idea. But I recently realized that I am a member of several groups that go by their initials, or a group of letters that don’t form a word.


For instance, I am a member of CWC, or the California Writers Club. And to be more specific, I am in CWC-BB, which is the Berkeley Branch of the club. (Although I argue that since Berkeley is where the whole club started and all the other branches spun off from it, Berkeley should rightfully be the trunk, not a branch.) Now in the right context, people know what I’m talking about when I say CWC. But once I step out of the community of California writers, CWC could refer to any number of things. Well, not just any number. There are 51 recognized usages of CWC, according to the Free Dictionary’s Web site. Cricket World Cup, Central Wyoming College, and Cyclotron Wave Converter are just a few.


Same is true of my other groups. Although to me BBS is the Berkeley Broadway Singers (a 70+ member choral group that sings Broadway show tunes and jazz standards), to those who use initials for chatting online, BBS stands for Be Back Soon. To birders, it brings to mind the Breeding Bird Survey. In India, you’d probably be more likely to think of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. If you lived in England, BBS could very well refer to the British Boomerang Society. (I’m not making these up!)


I volunteer at our local middle school as a writer coach, so for the eighth graders I work with regularly, WCC stands for Writer Coach Connection. But in the world of medicine, WCC could either be a White Cell Count or Well-Child Check.  Quite versatile, WCC could also mean either the Women’s Correctional Center or the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. And oddly enough, it too refers to the World Cricket Cup (See CWC above.)


The only group I belong to with unique initials is SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Because the name is rather long and cumbersome, members often try to acronym it, pronouncing the letters “skwibby.” (Yes, acronym can be used as a verb—I looked it up.) But these organizations aren’t true acronyms because an acronym must be pronounced as a word, e.g., NAFTA, OPEC, or SCUBA (SelfContained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).

We all know that FBI stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but did you know it also stands for Full-Blooded Indian? Famous But Incompetent? Fairytale Believers Incorporated?  Visit this absolute treasure trove of useless but interesting information—it’s guaranteed to waste precious time. So what are you waiting for? A PUSH (People Unproductively Sucking Hours)? Okay, so I made the last one up…

It’s Not Just a Book

Earlier this year, I vowed I would no longer buy myself any books unless I was at a book signing where I could meet the author. It’s a Book by Lane Smith made me break that promise.

I happened to be at one of my local independent book stores, picked up the book, and read it. It struck an immediate chord with me. I had to have it. I asked the sales clerk if Lane Smith was due for an author appearance in the Bay Area any time soon. Not that he was aware of.

It's a Book by Lane SmithHmm…I realized I had a credit slip for Pegasus. So I decided that getting this book was more like redeeming a gift certificate than actually making a purchase. (Was it Woody Allen who said no one can go a day without a rationalization?) But the point is that I was willing to break my own rules for this book. That’s how fabulous it is.

The plot is simple: a donkey sees a monkey reading a book. The donkey asks the monkey all sorts of questions about the book: How do you scroll down? Does it need a password? Can it text? Tweet? The monkey keeps saying “It’s a book.”

Smith’s book reminds our technologically advanced society that we don’t need an app, a screen, or a source of electricity to enjoy a good story. It’s a Book came out in August of this year, and to my mind, not a day too soon.

Yes, publishing as we know it is changing. Newspapers are in the process of reinventing themselves, small presses are being eaten by larger ones, and the big publishing houses are taking fewer risks while trying to look toward the future and imagine what paths to choose in order to keep afloat. In today’s world of blogs, twitters, and e-readers, the bound book could conceivably be on its way out.

But Smith assures us with his simple text and captivating pictures that this is not the case. I, for one, breathe a sigh of relief.

taking chances with ducks and horseradish

Today’s BOOKLINES challenge
Name the book whose first line is this:

“I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”

Today I credit the dark and clever writer, Mr. Lemony Snicket, for providing my topic. I recently read a small hardbound copy of Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid that I’d picked up at the Bank Street Book Store in NYC over spring break for only $5. It would be a bit of poetic justice I suppose if I had bought the book without knowing anything about it—takinga chance that it would be worth my time. But to be truthful, it was raining that day, and I pretty much read half the book while I dried off and waited for a break in the weather. So I wasn’t taking a chance at all. I knew full well what I was buying.

If you’re in search of inspiration; a positive, pithy proverb; or that one sock that you haven’t seen since the last time you did laundry, then this is not the book for you. If, though, you were hoping for the chance to read something that produced a mildly evil chuckle or supported your theory that the world is not such a peachy place but one might as well laugh at it, then this may be the book for you. Of course you will have to obtain your own copy because this particular one is mine.

Here is one of the many pages I read and enjoyed:

Taking one’s chances is like taking a bath, because sometimes you end up feeling comfortable and warm, and sometimes there is something terrible lurking around that you cannot see until it is too late and you can do nothing else but scream and cling to a plastic duck.

You see, I think there are many of us out there who would never admit it, but we’ve had our moments clinging to plastic ducks, or rubber ducks, or perhaps living ducks, though that is certainly more difficult technically, and also less likely unless you happen to live near a duck pond or a zoo.

Of course there are also those who never even try to enjoy the warm, comfy bath when it’s offered, yet they never lose an opportunity to scream and cling to a plastic duck. But that has less to do with taking chances and more to do with the startling number of drama queens (and possibly an increase in the number of available ducks).

But the point here is that taking a chance has its ups and downs. If the outcome were always good, it would be called a sure thing, not taking a chance. I’m not suggesting that nobody take chances, but I’m also not suggesting that everyone take chances. Taking a chance is an individual decision not to be taken lightly and not for the faint of heart. But if you do take a chance, be sure you have a plastic duck.