Monday, June 30, 2008

The queen is dead. Long live her memory.

Connie Shillingburg died this weekend. She was a red-headed spitfire who taught history and English in several schools. We met at Edmond Memorial High School when I was a student teacher. I was fortunate enough to work with her and share the same book club, but I was most fortunate to call her a friend.

She inspired me. I loved that she loved traveling, reading, and laughing. Before she retired I asked her what she wanted to do post-high school. Aside from spending time with her grandchildren and traveling, I don't remember any other solid plans. She had always had fun in the classroom and dressed up in costume. I suggested she come to my English classes as Queen Elizabeth I. After all, she knew the history and shared a lot in common with the matriarch. Both ladies were witty, bullheaded, and highly intelligent. For several years, she visited my classroom and others. Among other tales, she regaled us with nursery rhymes about Queen Elizabeth and phrases we use today that originated in Elizabethan times. She made the queen real and made the people of her time--including Shakespeare--that much more attainable. For a couple of years I ran a Renaissance Festival for the ninth grade with the help of Creative Writing Club and Shakespeare classes. The queen reigned at the event. My ninth graders always seemed to be a little in awe of her. Even the representative sent to determine if our school was a Blue Ribbon School was enchanted by her. The woman had a list of classes to observe, but when she came to mine Connie was there, so she stayed for most of the hour!

Connie added to her repertoire and traveled around the country as Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and most recently Lydie Marland. (I think she impersonated another great lady or two as well.) In 2006 I had the pleasure of co-writing and performing a short play with her. I played the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots, and she played an Elizabeth I on her deathbed. Not only were our costumes spectacular, but also it was a good time. For Oklahoma's Centennial celebration, she conjured Lydie Marland. I wrote a feature article for Distinctly Oklahoma. Working with Connie was always a pleasure.

She is missed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Home again

We've had a little time to recuperate from the trip, but we're both still exhausted. Our big plans of going on an adventure this weekend have been set aside in favor of being lazy. After G. brought me home from the airport I went straight to bed. I even slept on the plane, which is really saying something about my sleepy level because I'd just purchased Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen.

We have new neighbors. First of all, there's Vincent the friendly guy who moved in downstairs while we were away. He said, "Hey, it's nice to meet youse guys." Yep, he really did. For those of you familiar with Evanovich's books, he looks like my idea of Morelli. He lives alone and I noticed passing by his window that his furniture looks remarkably bachelor-ish; however, he drives a modern station wagon. So, he kind of fits the Morelli mold in that respect, too.

Our other neighbors are quieter and furrier. A family of bunnies lives in the bushes below. Plus, there's a family of chipmunks in the same hedge. I told G I wasn't sure if I'd recognize a chipmunk and he said, "They look like mice with fluffy tails." Not long after he offered that visual, one shot across the street and back again. A tiny bird was on the ground, and I noticed they're about the same size. The red squirrels outside our window continue to entertain us.

The wildlife in NJ isn't what we'd expected.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Journal: Old Friends

The end of my two week stay in eastern Oklahoma was capped off with dinner at PF Chang's in Tulsa with three of my oldest friends. Clarification: We're not old, we've just known each other a loooong time--like our whole lives. Collectively, these girls could put together a tell-all book on my life. Of course, it would be incredibly dull, so what's the point? At one point or another, we've all resided in different states. Now, Ange and Amanda (the ones on the ends) live in Oklahoma, Katie lives in Minnesota, and I live in New Jersey. We haven't all been together in five years, but the stars aligned so that we could visit for an evening--in between knock-knock jokes from Katie's little girl! (Hey, some of them were even funny.) It was a nice way to end my visit.
Journal: Write about a friendship that endures.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

HAWK Workshop Last Weekend

The workshop went well last weekend. As always, Bill Bernhardt and the HAWK staff created an environment catered to the previous year's requests and critiques. Authors, a tv personality, a lawyer, a marketing director, and more offered workshops for attendees. It was a full two days.

A couple of years have passed since I've had a shot at teaching, so getting back into the groove was fun. I wholeheartedly approached my Indiana Jones theme by taking a bullwhip and throwing snakes (not real!) into the audience. Hey, Indie has a lot to teach writers about revision. Hopefully, the attendees learned something because I certainly had a good time. When my book comes out on November 18, I look forward to the opportunity of teaching/speaking engagements. If you know anyone who is interested, just send me a line.

Here are some worthy comments from the speakers:
"A pile of rejections doesn't spell doom if it's a pile of rejections from the wrong people."--Melissa Flashman, an agent at Trident Media.

This comment should inspire writers to not only research the genres agents like but to also keep trying. When discussing a hook for a query letter or pitch, she said that clever words don't interest her, but genre does.

"Smaller press can make you a priority on a list. A book that sells 10,000 copies will sell that many no matter who publishes it. If that’s the case with your book, consider that because people look at your numbers. It’s often the ones with the big advances that have difficulty selling the next book because the numbers are in the red." Paul Taunton, an editor at Random House

Not only am I thrilled to work with HAWK, a smaller house, but Paul's words reassured me that HAWK was the right house for my book. They really have made me a priority by allowing me to have a say on everything from final edits to book design. Where else can a first time writer get that sort of respect?

Below is a pic of some of my writing friends--old and new--who were at the workshop.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Journal: My brother is married!

I've been away from technology for the last week. My husband and I spent time at Lake Tenkiller where we have neither cell phone nor internet access. We definitely got away from it all--except for the tv interview on Thursday and my brother's wedding this weekend. It's been a memorable and busy trip.

My brother married his sweetheart this week. They've dated for seven years. After the preacher announced them "husband and wife," my uncle cried, "Hooray! Hooray!" It was an event many of us have anticipated for a while. We had the rehearsal dinner Friday night and the ceremony on Saturday. It was fun to see family and meet my brother's co-workers, friends, and new in-laws. I was so grateful that they planned the wedding during a time I could attend. It was a special time.

Unfortunately, I cried during the ceremony, which alarmed the bride and her mother due to their belief that the tears cried during the wedding are tears the bride will shed during the marriage. Since I'm not much of a crybaby--I was in college before a movie, tv, show, or song ever made me tear up!--we decided my tears didn't count since they were probably due to pregnancy hormones. Still, it was touching to see my brother taking his vows, winking at his bride, and being the happiest I've ever seen him in my life.

Journal: Write about a ceremony. It can be a wedding, christening, graduation, etc. However, it could also be something more original. Write it either as a narrative or a scene.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tulsa News Channel 6

If you're able to watch the news on 6 in Tulsa, OK, this Thursday, tune in! You'll get to witness my first interview. I think we'll discuss HAWK's workshop and Glamour. I'm scheduled for 12:40.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Release date is set!

Glamour is set to be released for November 18, 2008.

HAWK has been very kind and accomodating to work around my "pregnant" schedule. Since my baby boy is due in early September, they've pushed the release date for my book so that I can travel.

I hope to see you at future book events!

Friday, June 6, 2008


History has definitely been made this year with the presidential elections. Although Hillary Clinton may not have received the numbers required to make her the democratic candidate, she has forever changed history. For the first time, people actually considered having a "first gentleman" to accompany the president. Very cool.

I think elections are great. Always have. They give people who either lack the desire, knowledge, etc. to run for office an opportunity to have a say in the outcome of something bigger than they are.

I'm not just talking politics, either. Look at the reality shows our country loves. Why? We love to help the worthy(from our perspective) succeed. So, whether the election is for a sixth grade class president, prom queen, dog catcher, American Idol, or President of the United States we get into the groove.

Journal: Write about someone who wants to be elected.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

HAWK Writing Workshop

3 reasons to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 21-22, 2008.
3. Tornado season is mostly at an end by then.
2. The HAWK Writing Workshop is a good one.
1. I'm speaking at the HAWK Writing Workshop!

I've attended previous workshops and have been thrilled at the different approach taken by HAWK. It's not like any conference I've ever attended. There is a personal touch that makes you feel comfortable and opens you up to learning. This year promises to be even better--and not just because I plan to dazzle my (captive) audience. The model for the weekend changes each session, so just because you've attended one before does not mean you know what to expect. The organizers really seem to pay attention to feedback and give attendees what they want.

One of my favorite aspects of the event is that it's a real workshop. Sure, speakers will talk to you and pull some of the lecture-y stuff you get at conferences around the nation, but here they also give you activities you can use in your writing as well as the opportunity to practice new skills. For example, one year we had a one-on-one pitch practice session. I watched others give their pitches and get critiqued as well as practicing my pitch. The experience was invaluable for pitch sessions as well as query letters. The personal contact with speakers and other attendees makes the learning continue beyond the sessions.

This year, the first day of the workshop will have two tracks: one for fiction and one for non-fiction. The second day will consist of selling your work and all the little details it involves.

Learn more information here. Check out the faculty here. Register here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The movie. The fashion.

The girls are back in town! I saw Sex and the City in New York City yesterday with a girlfriend. The movie was not a disappointment. On the contrary, I think I may even like it better than the tv show.

Yeah, I know, sacrilege.

Don't worry, I won't spoil it for you if you've not seen it yet. Plus, I realize that some of you aren't old enough to see it for a few years. However, fashion surpasses age and movie ratings, so I'll share something with you.

Just like the tv show, one thing stayed the same: eye candy for fashionistas. I'm not saying I like them all, but here is what I noticed...

Belts. Waist-cinchers were everywhere. Below is a pic with Miranda and Samantha in their nod to the 80's.

Hmmm, SJP's little man suit is looking awfully 80's, too, actually. She's pretty cute, though, right? Charlotte, as ever, looked classy and divine throughout the film. I won't show more pictures of her because doing so may act as a spoiler if you've not seen the movie yet.

Feathers. They were in Carrie's hair. They were on runway models. They were even on a bag Charlotte carried. Expect to see them. Don't be shocked if they're blue.

Studs. Sure, a girl can always accessorize with a handsome fellow, but I'm talking about the kind worn in a gang fight in an old Michael Jackson music video. Carrie wore this belt in a couple of scenes. Also, Samantha wore a dress with studs around her neck and along the shoulder. It was like she'd gone crazy with the Bedazzler.

Pearls. Make it a long strand as seen above. Carrie wore these often. The other ladies wore long beads, too. However, Carrie even slept in hers. I doubt that's comfortable.

Roses. These flowers were everywhere. They were in several scenes in expected places like tables--tightly clumped arrangements in gorgeous and unexpected colors. However, they also appeared as a floral pattern in clothes as seen below. (Is it just me or is the line of that red dress part of what was wrong with 80's fashion?)I couldn't find a picture, but I loved the white jacket Carrie wore that consisted of white fabric roses.

Shoes. Certainly, the girls know how to rock a pair of shoes. In the movie, you'll notice they begin doing it in strange combinations. Chunky gladiators are worn with really girly dresses.

Metal. Whether it's an entire ensemble or only the accessories, these girls bring on the Midas touch. I'd also like to note here that I loved the Cinderella motif throughout the movie. Miranda seems to epitomize the idea of transformation through her style. She's never looked better. Again, see below for an example.
Let me know what you thought of the movie and what trends you predict!