Monday, November 28, 2011

There's The Bulle. Now Where's My Brain?

The Buxtehude Bulle (or, as I tend to think of it, My Buxtedude Bulle) has been wandering around my apartment since it got here, waiting for someone strong and tall to put it on top of a bookcase. This weekend I had a visit from someone strong and tall, and up it went.

I feel sorry for the Horrified B Movie Victims. It used to be they only had the Bride Of Frankenstein to fear. Now they have a giant (and very heavy) Bulle as well.

And since you're admiring my bookcase, isn't that picture of the solar eclipse fabulous? It's one of my favorite things in the world. I found it in a junk shop bin and paid a dollar for it. It's from the January 24, 1925 eclipse.

It's good that the Bulle is where it belongs. I wish I knew where I put my brain. I used to be able to use it whenever I needed, but lately it's developed a mind of its own.

I've been thinking about short stories, in case I write The Shade Of The Moon The Short Story Version, and in an effort to understand how they work, I read an anthology (Wandering Stars, edited by Jack Dann). I have a better grasp of them now (they seem, for the most part, to be extended anecdotes, with beginnings and middles and most of the time ends), although I still don't have a grasp of how to turn a bunch of short stories into a cohesive volume.

Also, last night I was remembering one of my story ideas (a Miranda story), and I remembered the beginning and the ending, but, alas, completely forgot the middle. My guess is middles are important in short stories (in books, you can kind of tap dance around them if necessary), and it would be helpful, should I write that Miranda story, to know what happens in between Once Upon A Time and They Lived Miserably Ever After.

Then, this morning, I was thinking about how many stories and how many characters and all that, when I remembered that my editor had suggested my actually writing a story and sending it to her to see if a volume of short stories was a good idea after all.

Now if she doesn't think it's a good idea after all, there's no reason to worry about middles and cohesiveness and how many characters and all that. As you can see, my brain isn't what it used to be, and there's no point sacrificing my limited number of brain cells on a project that might die aborning. Or shortly after aborning.

Therefore I'm going to write a single story and send it to my editor and see what happens next. I know a lot about the story already. It's an Alex story and I sort of remember its beginning and middle and end. Tomorrow I'm bringing my mother her clean laundry and Wednesday I'm going to New York City to see an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls and a matinee of Follies. But there's minimal reason not to write a story on Thursday, and no reason whatsoever not to write one on Friday, so I think I might just do that and send it to my editor and find out whether she likes it or not and whether I need to worry about cohesiveness, etc. or whether I can spend the winter searching for my brain, which I probably put in the back of the closet, along with my extra blankets and pillows.

Anyway, that's the plan. Since I've committed to it in a place filled with Anonymouses who are waiting for me to do something, I have to go through with it.

Assuming the Bulle doesn't fall on my head first!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yes It's Hokey But The New York Times Endorses It

The New York Times had an article on Tuesday about how being grateful for things improves your life. These kinds of articles show up regularly around Thanksgiving. I love them, just as much as I love the articles on how to survive your family during holiday get togethers.

This particular New York Times article says if you write down five things you're grateful for a mere once a week, then after two months you'll sleep better, exercise more, and have a greater chance at winning the lottery (okay, I made the lottery part up).

As it happens, Scooter has no problem with sleeping or exercising. I'm the one with the problems, since he sleeps when I'm awake and exercises on my bed when I'm trying to sleep. Still, I felt I should ask him to make a list.

Scooter's List:

1. Cat food
2. Cat food
3. Cat food
4. Cat food
5. Cat food

Scooter is nothing if not a traditionalist.

To be honest, I could make a list of ice cream, cake, cookies, candy, and caramel coated popcorn, but that's probably not what the New York Times has in mind, even if I do regard caramel coated popcorn as a health food. So I'll limit my five things I'm grateful about to five non-fattening things that are every bit as wonderful to me.

Susan's List:

1. Everyone who reads this blog
2. Everyone who votes on one of my polls
3. Everyone named Anonymous who leaves a comment
4. Everyone named something other than Anonymous who leaves a comment
5. Everyone who emails me about my books (well, except for some people who email to tell me how they don't like my books, and I bet they have terrible times at holiday family get togethers and it serves them right)

Whoops. See how easily I slip from grateful to cranky!

So let me add how grateful I am to all of you for putting up with this cranky but deeply appreciative freelance children's book writer. You mean more to me than you can ever imagine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Die Verlorenen Von New York (The Dead And The Gone) Is Nominated for A German Award

When I checked my emails this morning, I found that Die Verlorenen Von New York (a book I think of fondly as The Dead And The Gone) has been shortlisted for the prestigious German book award, Der Leserpreis- die bestern Buecher 2011, in the Krimi (Crime Thriller/Thriller) category. It is one of 35 books in that category, and the others all look very impressive.

Here's what Google Translation told me, since I still haven't learned German.

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award

Up to 20 November you had the opportunity to nominate a book for each category proposed. The rush was tremendous! Numerous books have earned the title of your opinion and have been proposed - a big thank you!

Among the many entries we have now asked to choose the books that were mentioned most frequently, to be exact, 35 per category.

You now have the opportunity to 27 To vote in November per category for your favorite book!
Note: each category can be voted only for a book. Think twice before he kicks your voice.

What is the Readers' Choice Award?

On the bestseller lists are books that sell well. Critics prizes books that a jury finds convincing. The reader, however, determine price alone readers, what books they liked this year very well. Join us and become part of our judges!

Why the Reader's Choice Award?

The Reader's Choice Award is a thank you the readers to the authors who enrich with their exciting, touching, entertaining and disturbing stories of our lives.

Books offer fans "The Reader's Choice Award" an orientation, a recommendation by readers for readers who clearly says that in 2011 books are really worth reading.

The Reader's Choice Award will be awarded this year for the third time. The reader response Awards 2009 Reader's Choice Award and 2010 was enormous: Nearly 30,000 votes were cast last year. This makes the Readers' Choice for biggest, awarded by readers

If you want to see the list and cast a vote, here's the Krimi Category.

And if you're curious about all the books nominated in all the different categories, start here.

Even if Die Verlorenen Von New York comes in 35th out of 35, I'm still delighted it was nominated. And maybe now I'll learn how to spell Die Verlorenen without having to stare nervously at the book jacket (I'm pretty good at the Von New York part!).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Bulle And I Are Home

Generally, I'm one of those people who has no interest in looking at anyone else's travel pictures. As a result, I try not to show my pictures to too many people. But that's not going to stop me now! Here are some pictures, and a couple of teeny tiny videos, from my recent trip to Buxtehude, Germany.

Pretty much as soon as I got off the airplane, I was taken to the unveiling of the Buxtehude Bulle Award Plaque for Life As We Knew It. That's the mayor helping me out.

Then it was off to my hotel room, which had a spectacular view.

I was kept very busy during my time in Buxtehude and Hamburg, but I did watch a little bit of TV. Thanks to the various time zone differences, I got to watch some figure skating live from Japan. The only thing I didn't like about the hotel was the bathtub, which I called The Bathtub Of Death. Every time I climbed out of it (don't panic- no one took any pictures), I knew I was risking my life.

(You know, if people showed me travel photographs of their bathtubs, I'd be delighted to look at them).

In Hamburg, I was taken to meet my publisher. It was there I finally came to understand that German and English are two different languages.

Here are two tiny videos of me receiving the Buxtehude Bulle from the Deputy Mayor. You might want to lie on your side for the second one.

For those of you who prefer a photograph of the event, here it is:

If you're looking for an article in German about the event, here's one that showed up on Twitter.

The Bulle was given its own very pink suitcase to go to America in.

I think it preferred the view from my dining room table.

Of course Scooter was happy to see me when I came home. And he always likes making new friends.

I feel as though I made many new friends both in Buxtehude and in Hamburg. The trip was a once in a lifetime experience, and a memory I'll cherish forever.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bulle is Mine!

I am now officially the proud winner of the 40th annual Buxtehude Bulle Award. And they weren't kidding when they said it weighs 25 pounds.

Not only did they give me my own bull, but they also gave me two certificates for my Wall Of Ego, a check, and an extremely pink carryon bag for the bull to travel in. Clearly this is a bull secure in his masculinity.

I had my own surprise for those in attendance. I gave my multi-paragraph thank you speech in German. Given that I don't speak German, this was quite a challenge. I couldn't have done it without the saintly assistance of my friend Renee. I wrote out the speech and then she translated it. But even more importantly, she taught me how to pronounce the words, and she endured rehearsal after rehearsal, including one a half hour before I left for the ceremony.

I have never been so nervous in my life. But the speech seemed to go well. At least they let me keep the bull!

Today I'm being taken on a tour of the area, and tomorrow I go home. Be prepared for lots of pictures of Buxtehude, bulls, and extremely pink suitcases!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'm In Germany! I Am! I Am!

I'm actually writing this in a German newspaper office, because I didn't bring the right kind of plug converter to use with my little portable computer. So I'm using a German keyboard, and the Z is where the Y should be and vice versa. You never realize how many Ys you use until you start seeing Zs all over the place.

So far everything has been wonderful except for the weather which is kind of grey (or grez as the case may be). The flight was smooth and easy and all my planning was for naught, since they gave every single one of us our own pillow and blanket. I did get a little bit of sleep, which was a good thing because as soon as I reached Buxtehude, I was taken to meet the mayor, and then to the incredibly fabulous Plaque With My Name On It ceremony. I am delighted to report that the plaque is right in front of a bakery, which given my fondness for baked goods, is extremely appropriate.

It occurs to me that part of this Y problem is because of my fondness for the word My. But I don't have the energy to switch to the Regal We.

Today I visited at a high school and this evening I'll give a talk at a library. Tomorrow I'll visit another school and go to Hamburg for another appearance. Friday I get a tour of Buxtehude, and in the evening I get my award. Saturday I go on a tour of the area, and then Sunday I fly back to America, to Scooter, and to keyboards with the Y where I'm used to it.

Be prepared for a much longer report then and lots of pictures. And just maybe the Regal We!

PS- I'm not sure how to spell plaque (I keep thinking maybe there should be a C in there) so I just used spellcheck, and the only word it says I spelled right is Buxtehude. This really is a German computer!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm Off To Germany Tomorrow To Get The Buxtehude Bulle

So I'm writing this blog entry tonight.

Don't expect coherence. I've already packed it.

First of all, thank you for your thoughtful comments and for voting on the poll. I found the votes really interesting. The majority of both age groups favor keeping Alex alive (so do I at this point), but not by enormous margins.

Poor Alex. My guess is if I'd put up a comparable poll about Horton the cat, a lot more people would have demanded his survival.

Oh, I put something new on the right side of the blog, a link to a really good essay about using Life As We Knew It in a science classroom. My ninth grade science teacher would have been stunned (I flunked Rocks. I'd flunk it again if I took it again).

Here's what I bought for this trip: A coat, a jacket with a lining to double as a pillow, six pairs of socks (I'm only taking five of them; the sixth was a bonus), a pocketbook, a ladybug luggage tag, a passport holder, the most expensive one of those things you need to plug American stuff in European sockets, plastic bags to put little plastic bottles in, and a suitcase, because when I went to pack everything in my suitcase I discovered I didn't own a suitcase. Did you know suitcases can cost $400? I didn't, and I'm relieved to report I found one extremely discounted for $90.

Also I've learned how to say thank you and please and good day and sausage in German. I don't like sausage, so now I know how to avoid it. But since I don't know the names of any other foods, who knows what I'll end up eating.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my Christmas cactus has six buds, and my Freecell winning streak is at 504. Now that I can undo all bad Freecell moves, it's kind of impossible to lose.

I'm hoping to be able to blog while I'm in Germany, and if I can find where I packed my camera, I'll take pictures to bore you all with when I get back. In the meantime, enjoy yourselves. I know I will!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I woke up at 5:30 this morning and instead of concentrating on important things like should I take brown shoes and black shoes to Germany or two pairs of black shoes, I started thinking about stories for the possible Shade Of The Moon Story Version.

I'm not opposed to thinking about stories, since I'm hoping to write one today. That, laundry, and the neverending exploration of my closet for travel clothes are the only jobs I have scheduled.

But the story idea that popped into my mind even before Scooter popped onto my bed was very La Ronde, moderately Lulu, and all kinds of bleak and dark. Naturally I loved it, but sadly it involves the death of Alex.

Since not a single word has been written, I'm not committed to anything (truly not committed; the contract remains unsigned in the file cabinet, where it's being buried by other unfiled papers). And the previous ending I'd worked out for the possible potential maybe I'll write it maybe they'll like it volume of stories has Alex alive and at relative peace by book's end.

But I do love this bleak dark story, which also ends with Alex at peace. And both versions of the book's ending (for those who worry) have Miranda going on with her life (she has nothing to do with Alex's death, should he die)

Anyway, I figured I'd put up a poll. It's only going to be until Sunday, since I don't know how much checking up on things I'm going to do next week. And it's just to give me a sense of how willing you are to have Alex die at the end. I'm going to divvy the poll into 4 possible answers, yes and no, and under 18 and 18 and over.

Feel free to leave comments. Again, this is just to get a sense of whether this story idea is worth working on, or whether, like several other ideas, it should die aborning.

And no matter what you respond, thank you!