Saturday, February 9, 2008

Red Earrings Should Show Up Nicely In A Blizzard

My friend Janet, to whom the dead and the gone is lovingly dedicated, is taking me to the ballet the day before my birthday. We have the whole day planned, a visit to the Frick, which has a one painting exhibition I'm eager to see, dinner at a Japanese restaurant near Lincoln Center, where Janet and I ate once, and they brought us a plate of appetizers even though we hadn't ordered them, and then when the waiter realized his mistake, he took the appetizers away from us and gave them to the people who had ordered them (and who were blissfully unaware that Janet and I had begun eating them), and then the New York City Ballet, which will be performing Serenade, one of my all time favorites.

So as soon as Feb. 16 started showing up on 15 day weather forecasts, I began looking. And once I saw those cute little snowflake pictures appearing on the date, I let Janet know about them.

After the second time, she e-mailed back, "STOP OBSESSING."

Janet is an incredibly nice and easy going person, but she simply didn't understand. I guess I couldn't expect her to. Her birthday is in September.

However I do intend to follow her Stop Obsessing advice when it comes to what I'm going to hear from my poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor about the Possible Third Book. Because I already know what I'm going to hear. Forty years of being a freelance children's book writer have taught me many tricks, including reading between the lines. My poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor doesn't like what she's seen of P3B, and at some point is going to have to tell me so.

Here's how I know. I sent her a quick one paragraph e-mail to let her know the basic direction of P3B Wednesday night. Thursday morning she e-mailed me back to ask what conditions would be like in this post Life As We Knew It book and why would any sane person want to read it. She didn't word it quite that way, but as a between the lines reader, I knew that was what she meant.

I promptly responded with a multi-paragraph (more than three, less than twenty) description of P3B, stressing what the world would be like and why sane people would be interested. I also mentioned my plan to write an outline of P3B that afternoon. Which I spent many happy hours doing, while checking e-mails every five minutes.

Finally that evening, she e-mailed back to say she hadn't yet had a chance to read my multi-paragraph response. She'd read it that night.

When I hadn't heard from her by mid-afternoon yesterday, I e-mailed in a charming, yet forceful, manner to let her know I was waiting to hear. Her response was, she didn't know, she wasn't sure, could I send her the outline.

My poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor hates reading outlines.

I sent it to her anyway, and haven't heard back, which, theoretically since all this happened Friday afternoon, could mean nothing. But I know what it means. It means she doesn't like this approach for the P3B. My guess is she finds it unsettlingly different from LAWKI/d&g. And even though I worked hard to keep the bleakity bleak under control, in a twenty page outline, that's what's most prominent. You can't see the subtle gradations when you go from attack in the woods to cholera victims to threat of hanging. It's all high points in a twenty page outline.

As it happens, I feel a strong moral obligation not to take responsibility for my failures. Last night I watched Walking With Dinosaurs and at the end, poor Mama Tyrannosaurus died in a volcano poisoned world, only to have her ill tempered but adorable babies killed by one nasty meteor (don't tell Mike Huckabee any of this). Suddenly I felt better. Three years after LAWKI/d&g, the world would be pretty darn bleak. My vision may well not be what Harcourt wants, but that doesn't mean my vision is wrong. However P3B turns out (and just because this go round didn't work doesn't mean I won't be making other tries), it's going to be the world I created with characters I care about.

Either that, or I really will be retired.

Meanwhile I read an article on that said people who were sad and self-absorbed were more likely to spend money. So I plan to stay that way until Monday, when I'll go shopping for a new outfit appropriate for ALA/FAME (black with red pinstripes is too winterish). And I'm determined to find a pair of red earrings. If I can't find red earrings right before Valentine's Day, I really will be sad and self-absorbed.

If by some chance I've completely misread my poor beleaguered (and very smart) editor on the subject of P3B, I'll certainly let you know. But I have a feeling my next few blog entries will focus on bragging and shopping and not on writing.

Be prepared, oh poor beleaguered (and very smart) readership!


Anonymous said...

Fortune Cookie says: "You have psy-chic friends. And a birthday."

Dawn said...

I wouldn't worry too much just yet! I mean hopefully your editor is taking her time this weekend to look over your outline and will get back to you on Monday.

I think that you should stay true to the world you've created! How on earth would the post LAWKI world be honky dory in just three years time? Did those NASA folks figure out how to fix the moon after all??

Good luck on the red earring hunt!


Paige Y. said...

I am quite depressed. How could ANYONE not like p3b? yes it is bleak, but so are many, many of the YA novels that I read. Kids like bleak -- they like to read about lives that are worse than theirs.

By the way -- Happy Birthday! Feb 17 must be a very popular day to give birth -- I know three other people born on that day and I cannot think of another day in which I know of so many birthdays.

I wish I could go to ALA but it's too far away and too expensive. Maybe someday.

By the way, I sold 7 copies of LAWKI at my bookfair.

Esther said...

Hi Susan --

I'm wondering: Are your ears pierced or not?


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Anonymous and Dawn and Paige Y. and Esther-

Yes, my ears are pierced.

I just blogged an update to the P3B saga and once you read it, you'll see things are looking up. Which is one of my favorite directions.

And thank you Paige Y for selling 7 copies of LAWKI at your bookfair. That's quite the accomplishment, especially given how pink the Scholastic cover is!