Mrs. Avery is Haunting Me & Awesome Idea at End of Post

Let’s start with the ridiculous today, shall we? For the last three days I have been suffering from a virulent earworm. (I get a lot of these, but rarely do they linger so long.)

The song?

Sylvia’s Mother by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Please suffer with me:

And who wrote that song? Shel Silverstein. (Isn’t it time for long hair on guys to make a serious come-back?)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Haiti and what I can do to help. The first thought, of course, is to sell everything I own and buy a boat to sail down there so I can just do something, anything, like dig in concrete or pour water or adopt a thousand kids. None of that is realistic, sadly. I am, instead, thinking along the lines of auctioning off a character in my next book and sending the proceeds to a Haiti relief organization. More on that as it develops.

I am very proud to say that The NOLA Tree, an organization that coordinates teens who want to make the world a better place with projects that need their help, is stepping up to the plate. Up until now the focus has been helping to rebuild houses in New Orleans. Phil Bildner just blogged about the possibilities that The NOLA Tree can be of use in Haiti. Please read his post, send suggestions, and donate. (Truth in advertising: I am on The NOLA Tree’s board of advisors – totally volunteer. So is Ellen Hopkins.)

Bookavore, my daughter who runs a bookstore in Brooklyn, gave a presentation last week aimed at booksellers, but applicable to all of us. Her argument was that if we all spend ten percent of our time doing something that we care about that is fun, it more than enhances and enriches the remaining ninety percent. She uses her experience running a basketball league for book nerds as the model.

If you’re having trouble watching Bookavore’s video, you can read what she said on her blog.

I did a couple a super Skype** visits last week, one with a middle school class in Mississippi, and one with a public library in Colorado. I was asked a terrific question:

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

I’m not sure I would be a good collaberator with another writer. I am something of a control freak (my dog and husband are rolling on the ground laughing – they claim it is a bit more extreme than that) and so I would probably turn into Ms. Bossy Pants and my co-collaborator would flee the country to escape me. That would defeat the purpose.

I think it would be fun to work with someone in a different artistic field; a musician (looking at you, Tori Amos, please, please, please), the way that Shooter Jennings and Stephen King just worked together. If Tori is too busy, I’d jump at the chance to work with Dave Matthews, Jill Scott, Gretchen Wilson, or Sting. (Sade would be cool, too, but I know she’s real busy because SHE HAS A NEW ALBUM COMING OUT!!!) If you know any of them, feel free to let them know.

I answered another question that was posted on a friend’s blog this week (paraphrasing):

I blog, I read blogs, I have a FaceBook and a Twitter feed, and I read those of many other authors. But the online stuff is beginning to take over my writing time. How much is enough?

I started off my answer to her by waving a magic wand.

I hereby give you (all of you!) permission to turn off the Internet. Reading blogs will not turn you into a published author. Writing blogs won’t either. Writing books will. You have precious little time after your other responsibilities and if the goal is to write a book, well, then… write it.

I have an idea!!!

We had NaNoWriMo in November. December and January have been filled with revisions for many of us, and by many of us, I mean ME. And many of us want to finish up the current project so we can get hopping on the next one. So………..

Let’s make February a blog-free month.

(I heard that gasp. Breathe slowly. Into a paper bag. With your head between your knees.)

Do not panic. February is short! We could call it the new BFF: Blog-Free February.

If you do this, you’ll be at the cutting edge of the next digital trend: the Slow Media Movement. Give everyone a heads-up that you’re stepping away from blogging for a couple of weeks. If you are truly bold (or desperate) make February an Internet-free month, not just blog-free. On March 1st, write a blog (or a letter) evaluating any differences in your productivity during February.

What do you think? Pros? Cons? Shall we turn this into a Thing or let the matter drop because we need our blog reading and writing like we need oxygen?

**If you want to set up a Skype visit with me, email queenlouiseATwriterladyDOTcom.

Skype visits & Revision Tip #8 & Washington Post column

Sorry for posting so late today. I just finished a fun Skype visit with 5th graders from Upton Elementary School in Upton, Wyoming. The kids had all read CHAINS and had oodles of questions about the book and about FORGE (which comes out in September, 2010, BTW.)

This is what the kids looked like to me.

And this is what I looked like to them! The kids each came up to the computer camera and microphone to ask me their questions, which was nice because I was able to see them so clearly.

I wish the Skype technology were a little better; the three visits I’ve done have had annoying bursts of pixelation issues. It has to improve soon, right?

Pixelation issues aside, I love Skype visits. Why? My publishers don’t want me visiting schools right now. They want me to stay home and write. But I really miss connecting with my readers. Skyping allows me to have the best of both worlds.

Are you interested in having me Skype with your students? Email Queen Louise to set it up: We are really interested in doing more of these, so pass the word!

In other news, Professor Jim Blasingame of Arizona State University brings up the TWISTED censorship In Kentucky in his Washington Post blog. I am not thrilled with the headline (which Jim did not write) because it vastly overstates the issue, But the column is great, especially when he references the wise words of (United States Library of Congress Living Legend Award winner) Katherine Paterson.

Revision Tip #8

Read each scene and highlight each mention of a sense other than sight. Any scenes that only have visual details need to be revised to sneak in one or more of the other senses. If you are having a hard time with this, picture the scene in your mind. Now imagine you are the character, and close your (the character’s eyes) what other sensory information is still available?

Friday Five catching up

1. I picked up my laptop with the new hard drive yesterday. Since the failure of the hard drive was so spectacular and they couldn’t pull any data from it, I set it up to absorb all in the info on the desk computer while I was sleeping. Now I have to configure it to be a lean, mean, travelin’ machine.

I’m also going to try and perform the MobileMe syncing between the two computers and the iPhone. I haven’t tried this since the updates to the MobileMe system. (I couldn’t get it to work last summer, even after OfficeMouse, who is a tech geek, spent hours on the phone with Apple). Is anyone out there successfully using MobileMe to sync their Apple technology? Any tips?

2. Thank you for all of the suggestions about the roof for the cottage. A friend emailed me about a roof/roofing materials on a nearby farm we could reuse. (We’ve been knocking on doors of all the farms near our house in search of old lumber and anything else useful.) Cedar shakes are more expensive than asphalt shingles, but cost less than slate and have a lower installation cost. That might be the right compromise. Someone mention a thatched roof; that would be the ultimate fantasy! But there are only a dozen or so people in the US who can do the work. The closest guesstimate to the cost for a thatched roof? $24,000!!! That is not a possibility.

3. Thank you, Oklahoma! TWISTED has been named to the 2010 High School Sequoyah Book Award Masterlist by the Oklahoma Library Association. Lots of my friends’ books are on the list, too, which is always fun. Thank you, Mitali Perkins, for the heads-up.

4.Thank you, Warsaw, Poland! The school I visited there a few years ago had it teachers’ book club read CHAINS. Yesterday we had a Skype visit to talk about it.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Happy teachers, half a world away.

5. I figured out how to run the contest. It will be as simple as possible and fast. Watch for details on Monday.

13 days til WINTERGIRLS comes out…

Love from USA Today and a Skype visit with readers

USA Today gave an early shout-out to WINTERGIRLS and the 10th anniversary edition of SPEAK in the Book Buzz column yesterday!!! (There was dancing in the Forest.)

Once the excitement about that died down, it was time for the First Grand Experiment With an Online School Visit. Through the miracle that is Skype, I sat at my desk and talked to a class of 7th graders who live hundreds of miles away. Because both of our computers have cameras, we could see as well as hear each other.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is what the visit looked like at my end.

Their teacher, Kate Messner, is a friend and a fellow author. This was all her idea in the first place, so thank you, Kate! She and I tested the connection over the weekend, and then first thing in the morning yesterday, before the actual event.

You can read a detailed explanation of how the visit went (complete with more photos) on Kate’s blog.

How did it go from my POV? Excellent. It took about an hour of my time. I didn’t have to travel and sleep in a hotel. I really enjoyed being able to see the faces of each reader. I was able to hear their questions and enjoy interacting with them. I also got to be a little bit of a ham, knowing that my face was about 10 feet tall on the projection screen.

There were a few glitches. We lost the connection several times and had to reboot (or reconnect or reskype – we need a new verb for this) which was a wee bit frustrating, but not that bad. The quality of the video was not what you’d imagine, going by the visual quality portrayed in the ads on TV. Both of those problems could be a result of my location way out in the boondocks. We frequently have pixelation issues and limited bandwidth. We’ve had the technicians from Time Warner out here countless times and they have a different explanation every time.

I have another test Skype visit next month, with a group of teachers from the American School in Warsaw, Poland. (Yes, it’s the one I visited a couple of years ago.)

I am thinking of offering Skype visits to book clubs after this Spring’s tour and to classrooms starting in the fall. If you are a bookstore or book club interested in something this spring or summer, email me at laurie AT writerlady DOT com. If you are interested in a classroom visit, watch this space in September. I’ll make an announcement when I have it all figured out.