Monday, April 24, 2017

My Daughter is an Anteater

Wish I had more time to blog about what's been going on... but here's the quick version.

My daughter has chosen her college: UC Irvine!!!

More later!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Word Count Wednesday -- April 19th, 2017

What Have I Been Working On?

I have had more free time lately, but I'm still not getting back to work on my novel or the play. I've gotten distracted by a children's book idea.

Here's the thing. It takes a LONG time to write a full-length play and an EVEN LONGER TIME to write a novel. But a picture book can be conceived and created in less than a week. So, it's very tempting to forgo the big uncertain projects and return to my comfort zone: the Picture Book.

So that's what I've been doing. Haven't finished anything new, but I've had several good ideas and just as many false starts.

Word Count: 1200

How Do I Feel About the Process?

Mixed feelings. I'm trying to write more stories from a child's perspective -- and it's proving more challenging than I'd imagined. I used to be good at this POV... Where's my inner child when I need him most???

What Am I Reading? 

Speaking of my inner child... I've been reading old Spider Man comics.

Also... I am about halfway through Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon.

What Am I Watching?

I recently binge-watched two seasons of Better Call Saul. I have to say, I loved returning to the world of Breaking Bad -- and I never imagined I would have such sympathy for a low-life lawyer named Jimmy McGill.

The Reviews Are In!

Kind words about our new book from Kirkus Reviews:

"...Exuberant illustrations, emphasizing aqueous blues and greens..."

"...Instructive on several levels—and good, wet fun!"

It's funny -- months ago I was telling myself that I am going to be the kind of author that doesn't pay attention to what the critics say. But then, as soon as I heard that a review came out, I rushed to Google to find it. I couldn't help myself. Perhaps I'll try to be the kind of author who doesn't bother reading what they say about me on Goodreads... But who am I kidding?

I'm grateful that Kirkus likes the book! And I'm especially glad that the article rightfully praises Micha Archer's beautiful artwork.

Read the complete review...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Recalculating Route"

On Thursday I graded a whole mess of papers. It was the last batch until Finals Week. That means from now until May 12th I won't have any papers to grade, which means I can return my attention to creative projects.

But I didn't get any writing done yesterday (Friday). Part of that is because we spent much of the day packing for the weekend. Then in the late afternoon we drove out to Palm Desert. That's right, I'm at COACHELLA! (But we're not hear for a concert, we're visiting the Grandparents.) But the other reason I didn't jump back into writing is that I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where I am going as a writer.

Sometimes I feel like I am just throwing random stuff on the wall to see if it sticks. And sometimes I feel like my goals are very focused (such as the year I spent writing Duck Town).

Sometimes my goal as a writer is simply to make people laugh. Then, there are projects that are very personal -- and these are the ones I write without the expectation of the work ever making it to publication.

But sometimes I become overwhelmed with a thirst for success... I want so badly to impress publishers and editors that the my creativity dries up, and the only words that come tell stories that are trite and cliche -- I become too eager to please.

Whenever I go down this path, I eventually realize that it doesn't lead to anything of artistic value (or monetary value for that matter -- I'm not talented enough to be a sell-out).

When we were driving to the desert, we took a detour to avoid a patch of traffic. Whenever we do this, our GPS device starts to say, in her patient robotic voice, "Recalculating Route." How many times, as a writer, have I said this to myself?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - April 12, 2017

What Am I Working On?

Wish I had something more inspiring to say, or at least something I could brag about... But instead it's merely been a week of grading essays.

Word Count: ZERO

How Do I Feel About the Process?

I lost the novel's momentum. Hopefully once these papers are graded, I'll be able to return my energy to my creative projects.

What Am I Reading?

Lots and lots if essays... For English 1A and 1B. I finished all the Malcolm Gladwell essays and now I am moving on to the Poetry Essays.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Home Stretch

Not ashamed to say that I am counting the days until summer vacation. (36, for those of us keeping track.)

This has been a wonderful semester, one that I am not in a hurry to see end. I am blessed with very productive and insightful students. In fact, my English 1B students are some of the most diligent pupils in recent memory. Just about all of them are keeping up with the reading.

And it goes without saying that I am loving my Creative Writing class.  Hopefully I'll teach this course again in the not too distant future -- but that won't be happening this fall. Instead, I'll be teaching the world premiere of our Drama Studies course, so that will be fun too.

Anyway, despite loving this particular semester, I am looking forward to returning my focus to my creative projects. Summer is when I make my best stuff, and hopefully Summer 2017 won't let me down.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Resolution Check-In: April Edition

As you may know, if you read this blog, I am trying to keep tabs on my New Year's Resolution. My brain is a bit mushy right now because I've been grading essays all the live long day, but I'll do my best to be reflective.

1) Take More Photos (at least two pictures a week)

If I was part of the Selfie-Generation, taking pics would be second nature. But for me, I have to keep reminding myself about this one. It does help that I adopted my wife's iPhone 4. I just check, and it looks like I took a total of 69 snapshots in March.

It helps that we went to several cool places, including the touring production of Fun Home, the Universal Studios park -- complete with Hogwarts, Vasquez Rocks, and Disneyland. So, I am still keeping up with this resolution. I guess I should start posting more photos on the blog -- but as I mentioned before, the quality isn't great.

(By the way, I'm already off to a good start for April's quota. Mackenzie and I went out of state to visit colleges, and I took a bunch of photos.)

ACHIEVEMENT: 25% Complete

2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

Holy cow! Big news on this front. I haven't signed a contract, so it's not official... but it looks like my agent sold Picture Book #5!!!!

When I can post specifics, I will certainly do so. But for now, let me say that this book sale was very unexpected. It's a book that I wrote a while ago (not the one that was most recently sent). The publisher had it for a long time, and after several months they decided to go for it. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: Whoo-hoo!

Again, things can always fall apart... but for now we are going to consider this:


3) Generate idea for next big project (Complete 25% of it)

I have been adding to my middle grade novel off-and-on. In part because I let life (and essays) get in the way. In part, because I'm still trying to figure out who these characters are... and what the exact plot will be. It sounds kinda sloppy, right? But I am confident that I will eventually create a novel that I am proud of... whether or not publishers will want it is a completely different issue.

So, I believe I have added another ten pages... Which means I need 80 more to reach my goal. I am curious to see how things turn out next month, because I have slowed down this week. I am switching back into Picture Book writing mode, at least for a little while.

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete.

4) Work on a creative project with my daughters (YouTube video and/or Podcast) 

Emily and I were chatting about this, and I discussed the motivation of Youtubers. What draws them to this medium? Is it something that we want to pursue? If so, why?

Part of me wants to try to have this type of social media presence, but it might simply be motivated out of a desire for fame/recognition -- a way to try to create attention to myself as an author. And the more I think about that, the more it seems that my energies might be better spent actually writing instead of trying to brand myself as the John Green of the Picture Book World. (Although now that I've written that phrase, that does sound pretty awesome.)

In related news, Emily has been improving her ukelele and songwriting skills, so I think some Youtube posts might be arriving on her channel. (After she makes a channel.) Maybe I'll shift my focus and just concentrate on helping her film whatever she wants to film.


5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication. 

I am very lame at this aspect of my resolutions. And that's kind of a surprise to me. I had considered myself a naturally empathetic person who is anxious to reach out and connect with his fellow human. However, based upon this month's results, I am a selfish hermit.

I don't think I made any progress on my list of folks. Let's hope I get this percentage up next month.


6) Lose ten pounds. 

Yep. I'm still good with this one. But I did eat a sausage sandwich, complete with a large coke, so perhaps if I were to weigh myself I'd discover that I gained it all back. (I'm not stepping on that scale!)