Saturday, September 22, 2007

bookstore conversation

Overheard at Barnes and Noble:

Teenage Girl, "I am so sick of fantasy!"

Her two friends were trying to be supportive, but didn't seem to agree. We were leaving, so I didn't hear what else they said.

Food for thought: there wasn't much fantasy on the table they were looking at, but some of the covers looked like fantasy covers. Maybe she wasn't sick of fantasy so much as sick of the sameness of covers or or that fantasy is being marketed more with Harry Potter finishing up this year and the movies that are coming out that are based on fantasy novels.

Friday, September 14, 2007

vampire poetry

I made up a vampire haiku for a writing contest, which now I'm thinking of making into a T-shirt - just because it makes me laugh. Here's my haiku entry:

Vampire kids all chant:
"I suck! You suck! We all suck
for blood-y ice cream!"

hee hee

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Death and Writing Exercises

Nathan Bransford had a first lines contest on his blog this week (winners posted today - good luck everyone: )

Several people commented on how many entries involved death, so I thought it would be fun to do a writing exercise on death - yes, I do have a warped sense of humor. Here's the writing prompt:

Make death funny.

(Disclaimer - I know death isn't funny, but we're writers and we can imagine ways that death could be funny.)

Here's my exercise:

You know it’s going to be a bad day when the dead rise up out of their graves and start running around the cemetery like kindergartners on a sugar rush. They weren’t like the zombies on TV. No moaning and walking around slowly with their hands out in front of them. In fact, it looked like they were dancing - ballroom dancing. Each zombie was grabbing a partner and twirling around to music I couldn’t hear. When the dirt under my feet shifted, I started to run.

I almost made it out of the cemetery, but my ex-boyfriend Brett caught me by the gate, spun me around, and started to waltz back to the big death dance party.

Where did he learn to dance, in hell? And when? He wouldn’t ever dance with me – hated to dance because he didn’t know how. Maybe he learned to dance from Misty Fairstein, or Shana Patrick, or even Janicia McHenry. He was dating them the whole time we were dating, so who knows what else he was doing? I couldn’t see him taking ballroom dance lessons, but I never thought he’d cheat on me either.

None of the other girls visited his grave. We all found out about each other at the funeral and they washed their hands of him. I couldn’t help going to the cemetery, but then I had always been fascinated with death. I think I went there more to be around death than to visit Brett.
We were all dancing towards something I couldn’t see in the middle of the cemetery, right by the mausoleum. There were all types of corpses, fresh ones like Brett that looked almost alive, skeletons with clothing and random bits of flesh, and skeletons so old they looked like walking dust in the shape of a person. I needed to figure out how to get away from Brett one last time, before I became a permanent member of dance troupe death.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

sruble's new world


I'm blogging over on LiveJournal and just opened this account to comment on Blogger blogs. :0)

Update: Blogging on Blogger now! I've imported some of my old LiveJournal posts into this blog so they're all in one place.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading Graphic Novels

In LA, the topic of graphic novels being hard for some people to read came up. With these conversations in mind, I stopped to look at the graphic novel section in the bookstore this weekend.

Disclaimer #1: I'm a long time comic strip reader but I'm new to graphic novels so I'm just going on observations here. Feel free to try and convince me that I might need to look at this in a new way.

The thing that I noticed was that some graphic novels ARE hard to read. They are not as accessible because of the way the art looks or because of small or stylized lettering that makes the text hard to read. (If you wouldn't print a whole regular novel in all italics because it's hard to read, then why would you put all the text in a graphic novel into italics or flowery script that's hard to read?)

Sometimes, in a prose or verse novel, the writing gets in the way of the story. It's too pretty or descriptive, or just plain bad, and you notice the writing while you are reading. Sometimes a character or more will have a thick accent that will take a while to get used to and make the book hard to read in the beginning, but once you get used to it the story comes through.

I'm sure that this applies to graphic novel art as well. Sometimes you need to get used to the look of the images and to figure out the visual accent, but once you do, the story comes through. There are also cases where the art doesn't work well to tell a story. Maybe there isn't enough contrast so you can't really make out the figures or the action, or maybe there's a distracting shading technique or poorly drawn figures.

Just like in a regular novel, a graphic novel should think about the reader and focus on creating a story that the reader will be able to be drawn into. That story focus should include how the images look.

Disclaimer #2: Personal preference plays a part. What doesn't work visually for me, might work really well for someone else.

Some graphic novels are inviting to almost everyone; the story is easy to decipher in both the pictures and the text. These are my favorites, especially if they also have a great story and wonderful characters.

After my trip to the bookstore this weekend, I can see how it might be hard for some people to read graphic novels. Maybe they just haven't found the right one for them yet.

Friday, August 10, 2007

LA part 2

Some notes and stuff - most are not direct quotes - I can't write as fast as people speak!

Walter Dean Meyers: Why is the character's problem important to the reader? Why is his life important to the reader?

Peter Brown told us that the Russian version of Cinderella has a talking cow instead of a fairy godmother. (You know I'm going to have to do something with that!)

Pam Calvert / pamm told me that one of the images in my portfolio reminded her of M.C. Escher. Thanks Pam!!!!

Laurent Linn: The best book ever is your favorite book as a child.

Mark McVeigh: Wait until after a critique is over to get emotional so that you can get everything out of the critique and hear everything the critiquer has to say.

Anna Grossnickle Hines recommended a book, The Zen of Seeing, by Fredrick Franck. Check it out if you're interested in Zen Drawing. (We did an exercise out of the book at her workshop. It was nice to have quiet time to draw during the conference, and I think I can alter the exercise for my art.)

John Green:
-If a writer does it right, it makes the reader feel like it's a co-creation of they story.
-Literature doesn't just come to you - you have to work at it.

Jo Whittemore/ jo_no_anne and I had fun talking about food (and anticipating dessert) at the Golden Kite luncheon. ;)

Mac McCool:
-If you're going to write or illustrate graphic novels, you have to read graphic novels.
-Write distinct voices in a graphic novel, just like you would in a regular novel.

Emma Dryden: Give your characters a personality.

Linda Sue Park:
-Unexpected inevitability is her favorite kind of ending. (Not only is it a great ending, but it's fun to say too!)
-LSP and her editor Dinah Stevenson called unpublished writers pre-published. I'd heard it before, but it stuck with me this time as a really cool way to say you're not published, YET.

Kirby Larson: Sometimes when life gives you lemons, it shops at Costco. (Love this saying!)

Laurent Linn and MarkMcVeigh (on graphic novels): Artistically, anything goes. (YAY!!!)

Want more about LA? Check out Elizabeth Dulemba's great notes from LA here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

LA (part 1)

The conference was fabulous. Alice Pope has blogged about it here:

I didn't take a ton of notes, but will look over the ones I have and see if there's anything worthwhile in there that Alice didn't already cover.

Here's my favorite quote from the conference:
"Write the book more than you write about the book." - Linda Sue Park

I needed that advice for one of my stories... did someone say Tornado Novel?

It was a different sort of conference for me this year, as I'm still recovering from my injury and wasn't able to do everything I usually do. But I still had a good time, met some wonderful new friends and got to see some old friends too.

Now I'm going to work on the PB request I got during my portfolio review :0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Editorial Musings and Reading Lists

Musings on the role of an editor

How many times have you heard an editor say, "I have to fall in love with a book," or something similar? I’ve heard that a lot, but I think there’s something more that the editors aren’t saying.

In order to acquire a book, I think that an editor not only has to love it, they also have to have a vision of what the book can become. This is why you hear so many authors talking about how great their editors are, especially at awards time.

The editor has a vision for the book and conveys that vision to the author through conversations on email, phone, and revision notes. A good editor will help the author by enhancing the original vision for their book.

There would never be a book without the author’s imagination and skill in writing the story, but an editor can change what the final book will be through questions and comments that make the author think.

An editor needs to love a book to acquire it, but they also need a vision of what it could be. Each book that’s published (or wins awards) would be a different book if the author had worked with a different editor.

What do you all think about that? True? False?

Notes from Cheryl Klein illustrator talk hopefully tomorrow.

Recent reads that I’d recommend (in A-Z order):
Araminta Spookie (books 1 & 2 ) by Angie Sage – LOVE the art & the stories are a lot of fun
Breathe by Cliff McNish – chilling, original ghost story
Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman – great book about growing up & questioning your faith
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner - (adult book) humerous look at what it’s really like to have children
Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen – one of my favorites in this great series, there’s a mystery to be solved & Sammy saves the day
The Silverskin Legacy (books 1 & 2 - 3 comes out later this year) by Jo Wittemore – fantasy adventure on a cool world where everyone can do magic- each book is a separate story, but it’s more fun to start at the beginning
SOLD by Patricia McCormick – hard to read, but a story that needs to be told about girls sold into the sex trade

What I’m hoping to read next (in A-Z order):
Good Girls by Laura Ruby
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Tattoo by Jennifer Barnes

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th haiku

Friday the 13th by Stephanie Ruble

Friday the thirteenth.
Something scary might happen.
Hee, hee. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Old MacDonald's Farm

Did you have a favorite animal on Old MacDonald's Farm? I don't remember having a favorite as a kid - I just liked making the animal sounds.

But as an adult, my favorite is the cow. It's just so much fun to say, "with a moo moo here, and a moo moo there, here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo." :0)

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Farmer In The Dell

For some reason I had "The Farmer In The Dell" in my head this morning - the end part, where the cheese stands alone. I never understood that as a kid. I clearly remember thinking, "that doesn't make any sense." There was the game you could play with the song too, and a person got stuck in the circle standing alone. Nobody wanted to be the cheese in the middle.

The whole idea of the cheese standing alone still doesn't make any sense to me except that for some reason, I feel like I'm standing alone today. Well, not completely alone. Cheese is here with me (Cheese from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends).

Anybody know why the cheese stands alone?

Were there any songs, nursery rhymes, games or stories that you remember not understanding as a child?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

celery needs

My favorite subject line of spam email today was, "I be celery." So, since I'm apparently celery today, I thought I'd look up "celery needs" on google. Results from page 1.

1.Celery needs a particularly long cool-weather season
(maybe for celery, but not for me!)

2.Celery needs rich, sandy loam and lots and lots of water.

3.Celery needs more boron than most plants.

4.Celery needs at least 1 to 2 inches of. water from rainfall or irrigation each week during the growing season.

5.Celery needs deep, fertile soil that has been enriched with organic matter

6.celery needs teh shox
(????? no clue what this means)

7.Celery needs approximately three months as a seedling and three months in the garden.

8.celery needs water.

9.celery needs - daytime temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees F during the day, 60 to 65 at night ...
(sounds good to me!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Houston, TX

I used to live in Houston. I liked Houston, even though the summer I lived there was the hottest it had been in about 40 years - I still have the newspaper headline somewhere.

My fun quote for today is from FORTUNE magazine 3.29.99

"Texas is not for everyone. If Dante had ever walked across a Houston parking lot in August, he would have added another layer to hell."

Maybe, but it was still a fun place to live!

Friday, March 9, 2007

new favorite cartoon character

My new favorite cartoon character (actually DH's new favorite too) is Cheese from Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends.

"I like chooocolate milk!"


"Bad doggy!!"


"Do it again, DoItAgain, DoItAgain, DoItAgain,"

Thursday, March 8, 2007

notes and things

I still haven't typed up my notes from the NY conference, but I found some random (and hopefully helpful) notes from the last few years. They're listed by the year they were in my notes. If they don't have a name attached to them it's because I didn't write down who said it - sorry!

Pat Cummings (always a riot to talk with or listen to!) On Winning Through Whining: Record every injustice, Embellish, and Encourage others to sink to your level.

Barney Saltzberg: Make 3D models of characters so you can draw them from every angle.

From the Long Island conference: Magazine stories are more linear, while Picture Book stories are more circular. PBs are also more visual, have more action, and are similar to songs in that they have lots of concrete images.

NY Conference: HARRY THE DIRTY DOG by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham is one of the only books that was published the way it came in, which is extremely unusual. Almost all other books go through revisions, sometimes multiple rounds of revisions. (I think this referred to the text and not the illustrations, but unfortunately, I'm not sure.)

Perseverance is the key – it (success/getting published/goals in general) usually takes 10 years longer than you think it will.

Jill Davis (Bloomsbury)
- By the 3rd or 4th spread of a PB, there should be a major event
- Plot is easier with a misunderstanding between characters, rather than mean intent.
- A picture book about something is a good thing.

Robert Quackenbush
- Try writing 10 stories every week. Keep the ones that are good.
- Stretch yourself and take chances.
- School visits are like giving parties.

Melanie Cecka (Bloomsbury)
- Young PBs, Birth – 3 yrs old: ideas and subject specific to small world the child is familiar with. More about concept and less about the narrative. Example, WHOSE NOSE AND TOES? By John Butler
- Older PBs, 3-8 yrs old: more about the narrative and more sophisticated ideas. Example, HOW TO MAKE AN APPLE PIE AND SEE THE WORLD By Marjorie Priceman

Paula Danzinger (from one of the market books, maybe CWIM 2005?):
- She always insisted that her Amber Brown books were not a series, nor were they sequels. Paula used the term "sequelizer" because each was written without relying on previous or upcoming books. (This is the kind of series book that I would want to write - if I wrote a series.)
- Keep in mind how quickly culture changes. Four years is a HS generation. By the time you're 12 years out of HS, your own experiences are three generations removed.

SELF magazine Feb. (nothing to do with children’s books – just makes you think)
- Profound Beauty Volume Power hairspray comes out of the can at 75 mph. (Holy Hairspray Batman!)
- A sneeze can rush out as fast as 100 mph. – Michael Setzen M.D. (ewwwww!)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

something to think about

This morning, one of my characters said, "It's easier for cartoon characters to learn how to dance, because somebody draws all the moves for them."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cheryl Klein notes

These are notes from a talk that Cheryl Klein gave to a group of illustrators a couple of weeks ago. Even though these notes are for illustrators, there are some things that might be interesting to writers, especially PB writers. These are notes, and not direct quotes, just what I could scribble down while she was talking.

Cheryl also has a ton of information on her website

Picture Books (PBs) – editors want a narrative line with a climax and conclusion (not just one damn thing after another)

Good PB art always reads left to right, with the punctuation mark on the right

When the PB text is more dry, the emotions can be conveyed with the illustrations instead of the text (because you have to have emotion in there somewhere).

Check out Once Upon A Banana by David Small (even though it’s a S&S PB) it’s really fun and very well constructed.

When looking at an illustration, ask, "what’s the first thing my eye goes to?" That’s the narrative focus and the rest of the picture should reinforce that.

You can put familiar stories or nursery rhymes in your portfolio to show how you would illustrate it, make it new, and also how you would narrate it (do you add new things, like someone pushing Humpty Dumpty?)

Stress the emotion in your illustration. They like to see the range of atmospheres and emotions that you like to do and can do. (look at David LaRochelle’s new book The End to see details, emotions, book design, and text).

The plot discussions on her website are applicable to PBs as well.

Emotions should change in a sequence of images, not just the action or movement.

She goes through her art files regularly.

All submissions information is on her website and she opens all her mail.

A tear sheet/promo sheet in the front of the portfolio is a good idea because it tells you what you need to know about the artist right away. You can end with a different tear sheet too, to reinforce what you have to offer.

Likes to see the whole dummy, not just text. Can send a few samples if you want to illustrate it but are ok if they consider other illustrators – also put that in your CL.

Loves the way an illustrator can draw you in with the illustration that introduces the characters and story ideas.

Send samples to both art directors and editors.

Likes postcards. Sample packs are good too, but postcards are better.

Likes books with more action and conflict.

Olivia is an example of a description book (with no real plot/story). These types of books work, but the illustrations have to carry the book. A description book works better for young children, and it’s nice to see more in the illustrations that aren’t just an echo of the text.

Loves characters, relationships, conflicts, and possibilities.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

bookseller quotes

From PW Jan. 22nd issue, The 2006 Cuffies (Children’s bookseller picks)

Oddest Request by a Customer
“Someone asked for Goodnight Gorilla in audio – it’s a wordless book.”

“Your versions of fairytales are all too modern. I want something more traditional – like Disney.”

“So … it’s books that you sell?”

“I’d like a classic book to read aloud to my dog.”

Hee hee – my favorite is the first one, but they’re all good!