How we start summer in the country

Now that all danger of frost is gone (not that it is ever truly gone up here), what did we do with that beautiful hot day yesterday? BH, Son & I split, hauled, and stacked seven cords of wood that we will burn next winter. We did it the modern way, with a nice hydraulic splitter (thank you, Honda) that we rented for the day.

I apparently passed my picking up sticks apprenticeship because I was allowed to run the splitter. The fun part was watching the sharp thingie snap the wood in two. The not-fun part was wrestling massive blocks of wood up on to the splitter. I’m moving very slowly today. My back, legs and arms have all gone on strike in protest of yesterday’s activities. But we got it done. I feel like a pioneer.

Woke up at 5 am – BH and I both thought we heard someone crying, but it wasn’t in our house. Then a thunderstorm struck. Maybe it was the spirits awake in anticipation of the storm.

Watched X-Men III on Saturday. I really enjoyed it except for one nagging thing. In the scene where the guy in the funny hat moved the bridge – was anyone else annoyed by the time shift that was unaccounted for? The scene starts in bright sunshine and daylight. It wasn’t even sunset. And it did not seem like the moving of the bridge itself took hours, but “suddenly” by the time the bad guys invade Alcatraz, it’s night time. In one shot, looking back on the bridge, the car all have their headlights on, which they didn’t earlier. The drivers of the cars had fled or fallen off. Did Funny Hat’s minions all say, “Wow, for safety reasons and better lighting, we should turn the headlights on”? Or maybe one of the mutants had special Headlight Power.

That bugged me. But I liked the rest of the movie a lot, and I am notoriously fussy about movies so that’s saying something.

Picnic with friends and relatives today. I’ll be the one sitting very, very still.

A desperate student question & a couple calm ones

Katie writes: I have a few more questions to ask you. If you could, please answer these as quickly as possible. Do you have any idea of how many copies of “Speak” were sold? Thank you so much!! If you could, please post the answer on your web site. I’ll be looking for it.

It shocks me to admit this, but SPEAK has sold more than one million copies in paperback, and about 80,000 copies in hardback in the last six years. In other SPEAK news, the movie is up for a Writers Guild of America award, which is a huge honor to Jessica, Annie and Fred, the powers behind the film.

Leah writes: I’m 15 years old and I’m in the ninth grade. I have a few questions for you. I am writing a book myself, and I’m wanting to publish it when I’m through. I know I have the talent and the skills to make it far. I love writing and I’m very creative with it. I want to know what I have to do to publish a book and if there are any sponsors I can send my book to. I don’t know a lot about publishing and how to make the book known or what is required so I need help from someone who knows what they are doing. Laurie Anderson is one of my favorite writers. I love her books more than anything. I have read a lot of them and I have a collection of them at home. A teacher told me it doesn’t matter what age you are so I’m assuming I can publish a book at this age? Anyway. Please if you could find some way to respond. Hopefully in the journal on the website.

I suggest you head to a library and start researching the business side of being published. Or, you can surf to Harold Underdown’s sitehere are the basics. It does not matter how old you are. If you write a book that is of a high enough quality (or has a great marketing hook) you will probably sell it. However, it could take a very, very long time. You have to be patient and determined.

Cynthia writes: We watched the DVD the other night! My husband joined us after it started and he liked it too! I especially liked how you wrote Speak as though you were a 14/15 yo girl. The nuances? were right on. The way girls…teens treat each other in school…all the non verbal stuff that’s hurtful.
Oh I …we were wondering why the all the writings on the walls weren’t included in the movie? We thought that they were important to the story.
In the book Melinda confides in her art teacher but in the movie it’s her mother. Why? Lastly, I wonder what became of Andy. If you could write a sequel what would Melinda’s sophomore year be like?

I did not have control over the script, although I think the screenplay writers made good choices. If they put the entire book on the screen, it would have lasted something like ten hours. If you read my book CATALYST, you’ll see a mention of Melinda in her sophomore year. In my mind, she’s going to be fine.

We took my mom out to see Chris’ swim meet last night and she was able to stay through the whole thing, which was awesome. The Mexico team won hands-down. The divers were excellent. I usually cringe or cover my eyes when the divers compete, but these boys knew what they were doing, plus it was clear that they were having fun. A good evening all around.

I have to take half a day to deal with correspondence that is piling up about this spring’s school visits. Although I love visiting schools, I am looking forward to my sabbatical from them. For every day actually spent in the school, there is usually at least another full day of correspondence and preparation, in addition to travel time. I know I will miss seeing students and talking to teachers, but my writer self is desperate for a steady string of uninterrupted weeks during which I can focus on books.

We have no kids this weekend, so I will spend it swimming in books about the Revolution. George Washington is my home boy.

Who is afraid of Friday the thirteenth?

No paraskevidekatriaphobic am I. Bring it on, I say!!

Friday morning mail call:

Max writes: Hey. I loved the book Speak, and the movie was a great adaptation of it. I was just wondering if you plan to sell the movie rights of your other books to any companies. I think Speak turned out great, and I would love to see Catalyst or Prom turn out on the big screen. Fever 1793 would also make a very good movie in my opinion. I just want to see all of your books turn into movies!!!

You and me both, Max. There have been a few tentative movie nibbles on CATALYST and PROM, but nothing that has panned out yet. No one has expressed an interest in FEVER 1793, which makes me sad, because I think it would be a great film in the hands of the right person. (And they could film it in Philly and me and my kids and all of their friends could be extras!)

What are the most beautiful words in the English language? According to a group of non-native speakers, these are. What do you think?