Brand New Writerlady Dot Com

:: trumpet fanfare plays and cymbals crash::

Web God Theo Black has finished the major website overhaul at my website,!

All Hail The Theo!
All Hail The Theo!
All Hail The Theo!

Yes, there are nit-picky things to clean up, and yes, there are still a few things to be added, including a page to tell you how to get signed copies of my books, but we’re getting there. If you get stuck in the branches of the tree (still a glitch there) use the words at the bottom of the page to navigate.

Be sure to check out the shiny new, veeeeeeeeeery long Frequently Asked Questions section, which is found in the Junk Drawer. (Many of the questions were posed by people on my blog: thanks for the help.)

What do you think of this new version of the site?
What do you like?
Anything not working for you?
What’s missing?

Chooing in Chattanooga

I have to admit, I was ignorant. I had no idea Chattanooga was so lovely and filled with exciting things and sweet people. This place needs to go on the Roadtrip Vacation List!

Yesterday I talked to students at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and Tyner High. (Yes, yes, I know I am technically on hiatus from school visits, but this trip were arranged through the A Tale for One City program, so it’s different.)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Do they look like Monday morning, or what? They were actually much more lively than this picture looks. It was really nice to hang out with kids again. (Special thanks to the kids who came over from Howard!)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic CSAS is in a historic building and some of the lockers are wooden. Gives the expression “old school” new meaning.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic After CSAS, my wonderful host, Fran Bender, took me to the Art District for lunch at a coffee shop and quick walk through the museum neighborhood. Then it was on to Tyner.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The students at Tyner were some of the friendliest I have ever had the good fortune to run across.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Some of the guys instantly freeze into GQ cover model positions whenever they feel a camera on them.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The girl on the left wins the “most thoughtful and insightful questions of the decade” award.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Thank you everyone for making the day so much fun!!

Long day today – more schools and my public presentation tonight.

I leave you with John Scalzi’s article about the financial realities of the writing life, not to discourage any of you from becoming writers, but so you know what you’re getting into. If you are seriously contemplating writing as a career, you owe it to yourself to read the entire article. Thank you, Stef, for the link.

Finally, thank you, for the heads-up about the extremely nice review of TWISTED in the Drew University Campus newspaper, The Acorn.

Oh – one last thing. Dinner last night? Shrimp and grits. Heaven – just heaven.

Seventh grade…again

Yesterday I had the chance to go back to junior high, only now they call it a middle school, and next year they change it again to a K-8 configuration.

Levy. On Fellows Avenue in Syracuse.

This was not as traumatic as revisiting my high school was. For one thing, I went to Levy with a bunch of kids I grew up with, and we hadn’t moved or gone through all the other trauma that made 8th-9th grade so ouchy for me. For another, I was an incredibly clueless kid in seventh grade. I’m sure there was all kinds of middle school drama going on around me, but it did not register. I remember feeling tall and awkward, I remember my art class, the gospel choir, and, vaguely, Social Studies. I remember being in a couple of fights and burning my arm on the radiator in the cafeteria. And I remember the long walk there in the winter darkness. Nothing horrible, nothing earth-shattering.

But yesterday was fun. I got to speak to a group of teachers (including one that I went to school with) and a larger group of students.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic They were neither clueless nor awkward, though a couple of them were tall. Two of the girls were daughters of women I had grown up with, which was very cool. Syracuse really is a small town. I like that.

I’ve spent today deep, deep into pages. More tomorrow. We might sneak out for some of the local holiday festivities on Saturday. If you don’t want to drive north to Mexico, drive to Syracuse instead to watch my almost-mater, Nottingham High School perform SPEAK on stage this weekend.

QUESTION: What is your strongest memory from seventh grade?

Thanks, Parkrose and friends!

Now that was fun!

I am officially on a hiatus from school visits so I can write all these books that are crowding my brain. This hiatus officially went into effect this autumn, and will very likely extend to the 2010-2011 school year. This is a Good Thing. I need more quiet time at home, I want to write more than I speak.

But I miss seeing kids.

That’s why this morning was so much fun. The Multnomah County Library system always sends its visiting author to Parkrose High School to speak to an audience assembled of students from ten different area schools. So even though I am still officially on hiatus, I got to go to school today.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It was a big crowd.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic A very big crowd, filled with great kids who had read my books and showed me all kinds of respect and friendship. Thank you, everyone!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is a leftover picture from last night when I met Linda Schlechter. She is a community member who found out that there were kids at Parkrose who didn’t have the resources to go to the prom. Instead of shaking her head or muttering, she did something useful. Linda started The Gateway Prom Project to raise money for the kids who couldn’t afford their one special night. Last year, her organization sent 21 kids to the prom. We are holding a frame that is filled with pictures of the beautiful men and women at prom.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic We saw this on the way back to my hotel; a church with the word “Fever” spraypainted up near the roofline. How would you caption this?

I’m going to sleep early and am going to wake up earlier in an effort to shift back to east coast time. Tomorrow is another airport/airplane day, but it will end in my favorite place in the world: at home.

Random school visit question

Like many authors, I visited schools for years to talk about my books and the writing process. I have spoken to around half a million high school students and maybe half as many elementary school students.

Yeah, that’s a lot of kids.

I loved visiting schools, loved meeting the teachers and librarians, and really learned a lot from the students. I did not love how much energy the visits drained from me, and how much time it took away from writing. I also found that every day spent visiting a school generally took two days of preparation, not to mention travel time and time away from my family. So I decided to take a very long sabbatical (at least two years) from visiting schools.

But many of my friends are still out there. And several of them have written this week about a strange new requirement. Suddenly, school districts are requiring them to show proof of insurance… an insurance that would kick into effect if anyone decides that the author’s presence at the school somehow harmed them. In addition, one author has been asked to sign an 8-page Hold Harmless agreement, in which the author states the 50 million ways she will not pursue the district in any kind of lawsuit.

Several of these friends have consulted with lawyers and brokers and are preparing to pay close to $500/year in the required insurance.

Does anyone else have experience with this?

I have to say, it makes the decision to stay home and write even more attractive.