Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hooray for Comic Con 2011

What is this phenom called Comic Con?

Let me start by sharing their mission statement:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

To me “The Con” is the place where I can get my fan-geek on without being judged as I soak up the latest on Star Wars, Superheroes, Hobbit, True Blood, Dexter, Big Bang Theory, Vampire Diaries, Glee, Twilight, Torchwood, Dr. Who (list too long to continue) and of course fantastic YA and MG authors/books. It’s an awesome platform to promote your work.

My feelings about Comic Con 2011 are bittersweet. I’m delighted there were multiple panels devoted to MG and YA literature this year, but sad that I didn’t get to see them. To channel my inner-Scarlett O’Hara I say, “As God as my witness, I will never miss Comic Con again.”

As a special treat today, I have an interview with one of this year’s Comic Con attendees, Cameron Rose.

What is the pull of Comic Con for you?
I like being a fan of what some consider “geek culture.” Aside from seeing movies, TV shows, and reading comics there’s really no other way than Comic Con to celebrate my appreciation for the huge umbrella that is popular culture in one place. There is nothing quite like being there in person when something exciting happens like Joss Whedon announcing there will be a DOCTOR HORRIBLE 2.

What were the best costumes you saw this year?
The best, and frankly most exciting was seeing Garrus and Shepard from the MASS EFFECT video game series. I saw more people dressed as the 11th Dr. Who character than anything else. There were at least three really well put together Dalek costumes from the Dr. Who series.

Did you dress up?
I was Spiderman, my personal favorite superhero, but my goal was to make the worst Spiderman costume possible. I think I succeeded.

What were your favorite panels?
THE best panel was Joss Whedon. He’s my favorite writer and he’s made all my favorite shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and FIREFLY. (RIP FIREFLY) What made the panel so great was its format of just a simple Q&A between Joss and the fans. Something a proud Browncoat can appreciate very much.

Note: Browncoats are dedicated fans of the show, FIREFLY.

The Dr. Who panel was also fantastic. I love the show. Being a Dr. Who fan in America can be a lonely pastime. Being in a room with thousands of people cheering and screaming for Matt Smith (the 11th Dr. Who) and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond, his companion) was a totally new and incredible experience.

Anything else you’d like to share about Comic Con?
I think it’s great that the actors, authors, and writers that speak on the panels seem just as excited to be there as us fans. It makes you feel like you have a real connection to these people whose work we love and admire.

Thank you, Cameron.

My lifelong dream is to someday be on a Comic Con panel promoting my own work. What about you?

Did anyone see any of the YA or MG lit. panels at "The Con?"

Many of the Comic Con Panels are available on YouTube. Browse and enjoy. Here is a post from DM Cunningham that guides you to the kid lit. panels.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has a Comic Con story or aspiration. Hope to see you all there next year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Designing a Character: Using Line

With the craziness of summer travel engulfing me, I have decided to rerun my series of blogs Designing a Character. Hopefully this is new to most of you. 

Line is one of the essential elements of design.  The type of line used in a drawing or composition creates a psychological impact on the viewer.  Imagine the theoretical spine of your character as a certain type of line.  How does that impact their personality and actions?

Vertical lines, especially substantial mechanically drawn ones, convey strength.  In nature, we relate the vertical line to trees or buildings that define a city’s skyline.  The horizontal line cannot help but be associated with the horizon, where sky meets sea, i.e. peace, tranquility.  The diagonal line needs support to keep it from toppling, but is oh so exciting to slide down.
Let’s not forget our friends the curved lines.  The half-circle, not so thrilling, but the spiral conjures the power of a tornado.  The meandering curved line takes us on an easy but not always purposeful journey, like the course of a river.
What kind of lines do your characters represent?  

I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  I’ve always seen Harry as an active spiral, sometimes loose, but having the potential to pull in tightly at any moment.  Harry can also be a straight line that rapidly changes direction such as the readings on a seismograph.  Hermione is definitely a vertical, and Ron, meandering.
Time to share.  What kind of lines do you see in some of your favorite characters?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pardon Me, Mr. Frost...

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, "The Road Not Taken" has a special place in my heart. Metaphorically, it is the voice in my head encouraging me to go my own way creatively.

I spent the last week in and around Yosemite National Park, so Frost’s words had a more literal meaning as I hiked through the beauty of the Sierras.

Here are some images along my “roads.”

The road MORE travelled by (AKA scary mountain yard art):

The road LESS traveled by (AKA *Sigh*):

Happy travels on your summer roads.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Delightful Excesses of a First Draft

On my journey into a frightening, cluttered cabinet in the kitchen, I came across an old recipe book from my childhood called,Southern Cookbook *250 Fine Old Recipes*.  It is filled with pages and pages of deliciousness that would make a Weight Watcher’s coach keel over in shock.

The recipe that caught my eye was for Kentucky Burgoo. It’s a special stew that is traditionally served on the day of the Kentucky Derby. Burgoo is the quintessential definition of excess. (Recipe to follow – brace yourself.)

In a non sequitur way, my writing brain shifted to a first draft where excess rules supreme.

(This is the portion of the post where plotters wring their hands and gnash their teeth, while pantsers dance naked in the forest.)

Where else in our writing process can we toss everything lying around the corners of our brain into the story? The first draft is the “try anything” canvas. We jump from the high dive. The “editor has left the room sign” should be blinking when we pour out our heart and soul into the birth of our manuscript. We should break out into the song “Anything Goes.”

Sprinkle in similes
Mess with metaphors
Align audacious alliteration
Electrify your eloquence
Scintillate the story stakes
Offer up onomatopoeia
Mesmerize your MC 
Quantify your quest
Hold nothing back and fall in love with your story.

There is plenty of time – and necessity - in the revision process for trimming, slashing, rethinking, changing, changing, and changing again.

My wish for you is to taste that wild abandon where you plunge into the garden of excess, writing on the white hot wave of inspiration during your glorious first draft.

Historically served to huge crowds at political rallies, horse sales, and other outdoor events. (Hmmm – maybe an idea for the SCBWI LA Conference gala?)
600 lbs. lean soup meat (no fat, no bones)
200 lbs. fat hens
2000 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
200 lbs. onions
5 bushels of cabbage, chopped
60 10lb. cans of tomatoes
24 10lb. cans puree of tomatoes
24 10lb. cans of carrots
18 10lb. cans of corn
Red pepper and salt to taste (are you laughing yet?)
Season with Worcestershire, Tabasco, or steak sauce
Mix the ingredients, a little at a time, and cook outdoors in huge iron kettles over wood fires from 15 to 20 hours. Use squirrels in season…one dozen squirrels to each 100 gallons. (I did not make up the squirrel part. Who knew there was an actual squirrel season?)

And THAT, my friends, is excess. Happy first drafting.