Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Girls Fo' Lyfe

I've been fortunate enough to make a lot of great friends over the years. And while the definition of friend varies widely depending on who you're talking to - for me, my friends are the ones who know me inside out and love me anyway.

Sure, I never call them (yah know how I do).

I allow my life to get in the way of doing girls weekends and Happy Hours (there's the matter of those pesky novels that need to be written and of course, cheerleading 9 mo. out of the year).

And, though I remember the month and usually the general time of month of birthdays...I can't always be counted on to remember the actual day. Thank God for Happy Belated e-cards.

Yet these women continue to show me love.

No matter how much of a Grup I believe myself to be, the fact is we're getting older. Getting together more for kids recitals than flaming Mojitos and turning into our own parents as we say the words to each others' kids that we always hated hearing, "Lord, the last time I saw you, you were this high." Cause, you know, that never gets old.

It's cool growing old with people who you don't have to explain your quirks to (like my whole pen monogamy thing. Don't ask!)

Even though they say never thank people individually, because you're bound to leave someone out - sometimes you just have to shine the light on those in your heart - even if you haven't seen them in a hot minute.

The truth is, I have LOTS of friends. But these ladies are my girls. And once you're my girl, you're my girl fo' life!

Mad love to:
this isn't a ranking, this is the order I met them

*Karen & Steph (the fam)

*Trinita (literally back to diapers)

*Evette (the B-Dub crew)

*Nicki (Two Plus Too)

*Denise (down-ass roomie)

*Karen & Trinette (My Wine-Price Posse)

*Leia (my front!)

*Dawn (my back...well, when Lisa and Wendy weren't there!)

*Mary (blew the Falcon Crest coop together)

*Michaelle (blowin' up Hornets, now!)

*Danielle (more Hornets love)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Yes, I Am Obsessed

Okay, okay, my latest obsessh is this whole Opal plagirism, packaging, big publishing gone ape-business.


It's like Reality TV. You swear you'll only watch this one season and then BAM, five seasons later you're still ticking off names of contestants and results.

The latest?

Opal's being pulled from the shelves and I heard the potential film adapted from the book, no more.

But I couldn't resist re-posting these two interesting articles from Slate.

The first is one writer's fling with Alloy, Opal's packager:

I Coulda Been A Pretender

The other, Ann Hulbert's take on the whole issue of packaging teen lit:

How Kaavya Got Packaged And Got Into Trouble

Look, I swear I will not devote another post to this debacle.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Much Ado, About Packaging

A moment of silence for my last ounce of innocence.

:::heads bowed, eyes closed:::

Thank you.

The world is a crazy place. We spend half our time here just riding the bull hoping we don't get flung off into the dust.

Since world issues are a big mouthful to swallow, many people - me, for example - take small bites out of the world and spend the majority of our time simply trying to digest the things we're well connected to or come into contact with on the regular.

If we're lucky, we'll retain the knowledge we gain along the way and broaden our horizons.

Until I sat down to write my first novel, I happily read without much thought to how the book was published or even who published it, most times. My focus was on the author and the story.

I'm terribly loyal and because I have less time for pleasure reading than say, eight years ago when I only had one little Princess and a hubby who worked nights, I tend to read two types of books: those by my very favorite authors or books that catch my eye within very specific genres.

And I could have gone on living in a Literary Neverland if I hadn't started my own book. Once I started down the road to publication I had to educate myself on the process, jargon, people, and industry.

So went my innocence. Because a few things came to my attention that would have never crossed my mind, otherwise:

1) Just how much friggin' work goes into refining a book. Authors aren't prolific - they just work themselves silly until they get the prose right! The very first person diagnosed with OCD had to have been a writer.

2)Authors do a great deal of their own marketing and promotion. Hah, so you're saying you won't spend a quarter of a millon dollars to market my first novel? I'm no Judy Blume, you say? The nerve!

3) You do not secure an agent like you would an attorney, accountant or other professional service. THEY have to pick YOU.

4) Three of five top-selling YA books come from a packager.

And here, I begin the rant, or at least a mild diatribe.

Packagers have been around for a long time. It's not the practice, per se, I'm annoyed about.

When I found out my favorite teeny-bop series, Sweet Valley High, was the product of a packager it surprised me - mainly because until that point, it never occurred to me that any fiction book was written any other way except by one single author pouring a story from their head or heart onto paper.

But as a teen reader I sucked up SVH books like melting ice cream. So packaged books work. Teens love them.

Witness success of Gossip Girls and the like.

They work!

More power.

Also, packaged books are written by writers. Many, probably trying to make a living like me. Ghostwriting is a well-respected profession. I did lots of it in the corporate jungle. So it's not like they have a team of monkeys in the back pounding away at a keyboard producing best sellers.

No, those aren't my issues. This is - how, I ask you, are first-time authors and mid-list authors supposed to compete with an entity that will 1) put a big splash behind a book and 2) churn said books out at the rate of several a year?

Back in the day, seemed like SVH books came out damn near every month. Could be the warped sense of perception had only by the very young...but it truly felt that frequent.

With the whole Viswanathan madness swirling around the publishing industry like a swarm of African Killer Bees, I'm only trying to strategize my way to success without copying someone else's work or a bazillion dollar advance to off-set my promotional activities.

And I know what you're thinking. I'm a selfish Beatrice. Here, Kaavaya Viswanathan sits, her career in the balance, her six-fig advance on the line and all I can think about is how all this talk about packaged books vs. non-packaged books will affect me.


Other writers don't scare me. We're all, for the most part, starting out on even ground trying to reach readers and rise above the literary noise. It's a waste of energy for debut authors and mid-listers to fight amongst themselves. That energy is better spent supporting one another. Touting one another's books if we truly believe the book is worthy of a read.

But packaged books have the feel of the tail wagging the dog. Of the marketing being done before the book is written. Like someone said "ooh write this." Then later realized "that" would sell better. So they go back and tell the author - "No, no. Right that, instead."

It's like my old job with an emerging tech company. We'd sit in meetings and the marketing staff would trot out an elaborate chart strategizing the promotion of the next "hot" product in our arsenal.

The conversations went like this:

Me and the only other PR person in the company: "So, tell us what's different about this iteration from the last?"

Marketing: "Ummm...nothing."

PR: "Okay, what are the hot features? Company XYZ has a similiar product but it can do Cool Thing A, B and C."

Marketing: ", our product can't do that yet. But we're going to re-package it."

PR: "When will our product do those things?"

Marketing: "Soon. Probably next fall."

PR: "Shouldn't we wait until next fall to promote it?"

Marketing: "Why?"

PR (nudging at each other to ensure we're not dreaming): "Uhhh..cause it's not really improved or new. Right?"

Marketing (getting excited, cause we finally get it): Right, exactly! Look, can you guys get us a Wall Street Journal article, top of the fold?

Packaged books are like that. They feel like they're good books because the marketing tells us so. Because the concept of the book is good i.e. the book has to be good.

Now, now, before you say I'm sucking sour grapes...okay, I sort of am.

Can you blame me?

Without a scandel to propel sales or a packager to sustain a marketing buzz, I'm left standing on a good story, a solid book and my squeaky clean reputation.

Dammit! How boring is that?!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oops- Marketing's New Poster Children

Remember when you wrote a report and you had to pore over an encyclopedia to glean all the facts?

Wait, remember encyclopedias?

I do. But honestly can't recall the last time I saw one in real life.

What I do recall is handwriting notes from the encyclo - because making copies was usually too costly or just not available while in school - with the teacher's warning to "use your own words, or else" clanging in my ears.

Those words were spoken in a stern, ominous voice and the consequences were never quite clear. I just knew they were bad because it was the same voice used when my parents said to clean my plate, don't lie or - when I got older - be home by curfew.

In other words, it was a warning I was prone to heed.

Well, apparently either teachers and parents are no longer as practiced in the art of threat-making or there's a new marketing technique taking the publishing industry by storm. Okay, maybe not by storm. How about slowly creeping to the surface and is endangered of becoming an all-too regular practice?

It's not really new. It's called controversy. One of the least expensive and yet, riskiest marketing tools ever. It's the old "Oops, we had no idea our product was made by four year old child slaves in an open roof factory...but it's still the greatest thing since sliced bread," theory.

It's when a company purposely does something knowing it will generate additional attention or neglects to double check certain factors figuring they'll take care of any issues when those issues hit the fan - thus, generating additional attention.

Age-old marketing ploy that works well when it comes to getting people to take notice. Sorry, I have no stats on how well it actually does for sales.

So now it's the book world's turn to try this strategy.

First, it was James Frey and his million little memory lapses. Now, it's Kaavya Viswanathan and the issue of unintentional copying, which by the way, was what my teacher was warning against as I struggled across the library under a ton of Encyclopedia Brittanicas.

Apparently unintentional copying is the politically correct term that gives the unintentional copycatter the benefit of the doubt.

Let me just tell you, Mrs. Crowner would have never believed me if I had tried the unintentional copying approach for my report on Timbuktu - Is It Really The End of the Earth?

Teachers know when something has been copied...and umm...maybe publishers do too. But, that's not really where I'm going here.

This is about cutting through the clutter, being heard above the noise. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

Getting a new author heard is no easy task.

In Viswanathan's case, I believe the original tool intended to draw attention was that big ol' fat half-a-mil check she was given as an advance as a 17 year-old, two years ago. Now there's an attention grabber!

Talk about a buzz-builder. You give someone that kind of, wait, you give a teenager that kind of scratch and trust, streets is watching.

I don't think they were counting on this new controversy. And I don't know what it's doing for her book sales. But in writer's circles, the whole hoopla isn't doing a thing for her credibility.

Writers are funny like that.

We don't get the kind of rock star love that, well, rock stars get. But we work just as hard at our task. Dare I say harder since a rocker is probably slurping from a beer bong at 3 a.m. and a writer is up pecking at the keyboard trying to stay on deadline.

Yeah, I'm generalizing and stereotyping. But you get my point.

We take writing pretty serious. And in a way, whenever a writer takes a hit publicly for something like plagirism or lying we immediately begin to panic about how it will impact the state of the industry.

How will this impact our next book, our next contract?

Will it now become harder to find an agent or a publisher? Will those trying to climb out of the slush pile be subjected to new ridiculous research requirements or be forced to take a series of lie detector tests to prove the words really came from their head?

We're a bit nutsy fagen like that.

Nonetheless, why buck a trend if it's working? So, let me just put it out there now so my publisher can get started on their Oops campaign:

- There was that one wild night of streaking through campus caught by the local news. Let's plan on using the footage during my Today show interview as I talk about what message such acts send to impressionable young readers.

- There is a possibility I plagirized my own writing. Better unlock the vaults, better known as the box in my mom's closet full of my old writing, and double check. I'm a very litigious person and may possibly sue myself if I find out I didn't credit myself. We call this, The Court TV angle.

- My main character may be based slightly on some of my daughter's traits. Be prepared for some crazy girl, claiming to be my daughter, to pop up at every interview claiming credit for any and all antics of the book's MC. I hear her mom is litigious. Better be prepared for another Hyman v. Hyman lawsuit (see point above).

- Due to wide lapses in memory I may have "made up" a lot of what goes on in my book. Oh wait...that's okay. It's fiction. Whew. Dodged that bullet. it turns out, apparently I have no juicy scandals awaiting airing out. However, there's still 10 months before book launch. There's still hope for a hot Oops marketing campaign, yet.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Smart Kids, Curses!

When I was a kid, I could swing A's and B's with very little studying. Or, I could cram the night before a test and still hit a "B."

Thank you short-term memory!

It's saved my butt more than a few times. Not just for school. But when I pledged in college.

Oh my goodness. I would have been up shits creek without excellent short-term memory. You try singing the Greek alphabet on command to Janet Jackson's Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend then name the founders of the sorority (first and last name please...and sometimes middle) - who pledged when my grandmama was a young woman.

All this while still attending classes by day, sorority "sessions" by night.

Yes, short-term memory is my friend.

But, that's besides the point.

Because I could score good grades with little effort, I took full advantage of that. I was a good student. But once I realized I could get a "B" by studying vs. studying hard - well, I did.

My mother would always say, "Why not just study a little more and get an A." And I was like...ummm...why, what's wrong with a B?

Some will call that underachieving. I called it, being well-rounded. Because I had good grades, was in student government, ran track, was a cheerleader and held a job.

Unh, take that whoever agreed with the underachiever comment!

I laugh about my easy-going study habits. After all, I graduated high school and college. I've been successful in my career. Obviously my technique worked.

Still does.

Hell, I can't help that I don't need eight hours to get my work done everyday. Heh, heh.

But okay, it's not funny anymore. Because damn if my daughter isn't paying me back, big time on this one.

Whenever I check in on Princess A's homework, the conversations go something like this:

"Finished your homework, yet?"

"I didn't have any."

Confused pause. What the hell are they teaching kids these days that homework has been cut off the menu? Damn, Oprah was right. We are failing our kids!


"Well, I did it in class, already."

Heavy parental sigh followed by obligatory mandate to bring all work home to complete it. It is HOME work, after all. And then, for good measure, I throw in a threat. "I tell you what, that report card better not reflect all this no homework stuff."

So far, it hasn't. Grades have been all good. Honor roll every semester, so far.

But here's where she really got me.

Her last book report, which she did on Bra's and Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski(hey, Sarah), had some bizarre cereal box project thingie that went along with it.

I don't try to understand what on earth these type of projects have to do with the book anymore. But, she knew about the deadline and yet I saw no evidence she was working on the actual cereal box part.

I'd check in, make sure she was indeed reading the book, periodically and drop a hint like - Okay, the 19th is coming soon.

Finally, the Sunday before it's due, I'm like, "You need to work on the project, now."

She's all, Mom I have it under control. Only she didn't say those exact words. Because even at eleven she knows such a bold assertion would set me to lecturing. Still, what she said amounted to that.

And, this year, I'm all about the tough love. I refuse to force her to do a project my way. If it fails, I point out how she could have made it stronger or better. Plus, there are consquences if the grades fall i.e. cheerleading is history.

So, the night before the project is due arrives. It's like 9:00 and I see no cereal box jazzed up to look like the cover of Bra's and Broomsticks. She says, "I have all the cut-outs, I'll put them on at school. Our teacher gives us 10 minutes before class starts to finish any last minute work."

At school?

Ten minutes?!

Oh no, we are not starting this. I did that crap in high school. Used my first period independent study to get homework done. But that was HIGH school, not middle!

So I fuss her out and make her finish the project right there. Pretty much used the same old lecture about home work being called that for a reason.

She sighs one of those - my mother is such a wack job - but smartly, goes on to finish the box.

I review the work.

I'm not impressed.

It looks a little plain to me. No fancy duplicaton of the book's cover. No, interesting tongue-in-cheek references with crazy hand drawn symbols. No elaborate color graphics pulled from the internet.

Lord, kids have the internet at their fingertips to make book reports dazzle and shine. And all they use it for is myspace and IM. But that's another story.

I say nothing. Hey, let the teacher tell her it's not her best work. That's her job, anyway.

Don't you know this chick comes home from school the next day and scored a 93% on the project. She scored perfect on several components and only lost one point a piece on a few others.

I don't know whether to be proud or scared.

She got an "A," what am I gonna say? "Yes, you got a 93 but you could have gotten 100 if you had finished the box earlier."

Yeah, right. Like I'd get through that sentence with a straight face!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bitch Azz Muse

I'm pissed at my muse, today.

She's suffering from PMS or whatever disease muses get when they feel like messing with your mind.

Today, on the way to get my hair cut (still hangin' at the barber shop, yah!)my muse kept sending me snippets of inspiration for my WIP. As my fellow writers can attest, this is like manna from heaven. When it starts falling you have to be ready to catch or it pops into non-existence like soap bubbles.

So I'd start driving and the muse would whisper in my ear, furiously. I mean the stuff she was passing on was gold. Gold, I tell ya! Of course, I couldn't get to a stop light fast enough to capture the exact phrasing and nuance of the snippets.

I'd get to a stoplight and scribble madly in my notebook. Yes, I always keep a notebook nearby for just these types of run-ins with Miss Thing-Thing Sometimey Muse. No sooner than I'd stop and pick up the pen then my brain froze and the muse stopped talking!

So traffic would begin moving guessed it she started blabbing away. She's so eloquent when I'm driving and can't get near a pen. Damn her!

So I tried to trick her. I kept the pen in my hand and tried scribbling as I drove.

Not joking. I was seriously driving at like 50 mph and writing.

But being in the mood she was in, that didn't work. Also, I figure she doesn't wish death on me, just major irritation. So she wouldn't float any gold bits if the car was in motion while I held a pen.

Finally, I gave up. Yes, I risked losing the golden images flashing through my mind just so I could arrive at my destination safely. Foolish girl that I am.

Instead, I let her run her mouth, pretended I wasn't listening and then when I got to the barber shop, I ran in and snatched the notebook out of my purse and captured as much as I could remember. And the barber says - I shit you not - "Hey, what you writing in your diary today?"

Look, there's nothing wrong with maintaining a diary or journal. I journaled until about five years ago. But just 'cause the little lady is writing something down doesn't mean she's Dear Diarying.

How come he didn't ask if I was preparing for a big presentation or working out a formula for the cure to cancer?

He's a nice guy. I'm just giving him shit.

Anyway, I scribbled out a few more pages and feeling satisfied, put the notebook away. I think the barber shop scares my muse. She never uttered a word the entire time we were there.

She's been quiet the rest of the day. But I'm planning a dinner for my hubby's birthday, tonight, so I can't really focus on girl-talk with her now anyway.

On another note - this WIP is in first person POV.

Why is it that when I read a first person I love it? But when I try to write it using only one person's POV it sounds like a whole bunch of blah, blah, blah.

It's a mental block I'm trying to bull doze so I can get this book in motion.

And, just when I thought single first person was my only issue, just got feedback from my eddy on the last book I wrote, which was a revolving first person - one I thought I had nailed. She said she love love loved it BUT....yes, the infamous but (luv ya, Stace). But the revolving POV and a few other things could use some work.

Actually I'm not that bummed. I mean, yeah, of course I wanted her to say, "We love this book. Here take this trunk full of cash."

But, I wrote the book in two weeks. It floated out of my head when me and my muse were real tight-like. No surprise that it needs a little finesseing.

So now I have this WIP to jump start and the other book to finesse. If my muse is listening - girl, don't take the title of the blog personally. I'm just saying, cut a sister some slack when she's driving.

Or at least whisper slower!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Life Beyond Essence: It's not me, It's You

A letter to my old-school loves:

Once upon a time you were all I read because you fulfilled my needs. One of you served my inner hip hop head and the other helped me round it out, ensuring I never lost my lady-like ways. Your insights were enough that I never needed any other lifestyle mags. And even when I strayed, it was only a newsstand purchase, never a subscription.

But, I divorced one of you a few years ago. And I let the relationship with the other lapse only recently.

And while I hate to do this, so publicly - couldn't risk you causing a scene - I think it's best if we just ended it here. I've found another. Actually, feeling a little freaky, I found a few others to fill the void.

Yes, my love affair with Essence and Vibe has come to an end. And since I'm cleaning house, I've also parted ways with Ebony and Jet. It's nothing personal, just lately, they all bore me.

Sure there are glimmers of goodness in all of them. But at nearly $4 a pop, I need more than a glimmer.

At one time, I was in awe of Essence and Vibe. They were among my top two wish list when I was hot and heavy into freelancing. But the stars fell off my eyes awhile ago.

Essence really kind of put the last nail in the coffin for me when the cover of their Hollywood issue featured, for the bazillonth time, Denzel. Yes, yes, we all love Denzel. It's a felony in at least 48 states not to!

But were there simply NO other black actors, with projects out, who were cover worthy?

Look, I know their jobs are hard enough trying to be everything to every body...every black body that is. And twice as difficult when the magazine is expected to set new trends, reach new heights all while maintaining a strong circulation of subscribers.

But I'll go ahead and say it. All-in-all, urban lifestyle magazines - read, black - are in need of a huge gust of fresh perspective and a pinch of trail blazing spit fire.

It's the lack of trend setting among my steadies that has me jonsing for other mags. That's why my head was so easily turned by The Ave and Uptown mag. Both have got me totally open.

Thanks to BV for lacing me with copies.

It's been a long time since I've picked up a mag and been unable to recognize half the profiles. And that's a good thing. Because I'm sick, sick, sick of the bandwagon thing where Magazines A, B, C through Z all feature the exact same profiles.

Yes, I get it. An artist or actor has a new project out and their publicist puts them out there on a press junket.

I get that if said celeb is truly hot they'll have enough mag covers to make a pretty bouquet of glossy pages.

But, covers aside, magazines and news papers are supposed to be covering what's NEW or showcasing issues that provoke thought not recycling the same tired background just because a star has a new project or giving us the same seasonal stories, i.e. "Get your man in ten easy steps."

I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read The Ave's article debating the death penalty, revolved around the execution of Tookie Williams - former gangbanger and children's book author.

I felt like doing cartwheels when Uptown showcased Sistahs of Harlem instead of Baby Phat and instead of another article on Angela Bassett (due respect, the sister has skillz) they did a profile on Tamara Tunie, long-time actress on As The World Turns. A true blast from the past since I haven't watched soaps since college.

It's not that Angela Basset and Baby Phat don't deserve ink. But what will Magazine B cover that Magazine A didn't?

It's been a long time since I've been green. I lost my innoncence some time ago as a PR Chick. You can't stay virginal long when reporters tell you flat out, your product is good and worthy of ink but they won't touch it with a ten-foot keyboard until at least two other premier media outlets does.

So, yeah, I know how the game is played.

It only takes one brave outlet to set the trend. Well, I need a mag that's a leader.

Used to be that media outlets were all about the "scoop," being able to get a story before their brethren. Once a story was scooped, it was old news. The outlets moved on to something else.

Now, it's nothing to go by a newsstand and see the same celeb on four different covers. Hmmm...what exactly is my motivation for buying all four?

As a consumer, (and I told you, I'm just old school like that) I read magazines to see what's hot out there. What they say is hot doesn't dictate my life. I just mean, when I pick up a mag I'm hoping to read about people, places and things I don't know anything about.

One of the reasons I have let ALL my mag subscriptions lapse is because not one mag has offered me that in a long time.

Now, The Ave and Uptown are quarterly. Which is a bummer, because it's hard to keep news fresh when it's only coming out four times a year. Yet, the info within both issues was more refreshing and interesting than the most recent issues of Vibe and Essence.

Being that The Ave is a nod to us aging hip hop heads and Uptown lets me get my professional grown woman on, both can easily replace their more established counterparts.

Competition is a good thing.

So, a word to my old loves, I'll gladly come back to you as a subscriber, when I can no longer predict what will be within your pages. A girl needs a little adventure, ya know?

Until then, I've gotta get my urban lifestyle jones filled elsewhere. So, along with The Ave and Uptown, I'm having a menage a quatre (ahh, five years of french and this is the best I can do. Madame Ogilvy will be so disappointed):

Black Enterprise- Really love BE. If you close your eyes and read the content...well, you can't but I'm saying, if it weren't for the mag's monikor the advice within is equally as relevant across the races.

Jewel- still trying to cop an issue

America Magazine- Picked this up in the barbershop one day. It was the issh with a profile on Gordon Parks. Mad, interesting!

Upscale- Has always been a low-budget version of Essence. But from a content perspective, always veers more towards the unique vs. the bandwagon. Their website can sometimes be a little dated. But here's a perk - when you click "subscribe" the covers with Vivica and Gabrielle are two I contributed to. See what I mean by a little dated?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What's your Gen?

Not, "der" as in what sex are you! I mean what generation have the all-mighty marketers and Gods of Pop culture placed you?

I'm Gen X, which is roughly people born betwee 1965 and 1982. Gen Y are the '82 through like 2000 and I've heard today's kids called Gen M (for mobile, of course).

Let's not take it too seriously. After all, just like the terms chick lit, urban lit, emo-punk, neo-soul and "new and improved" gen monikors are just terms used so the corporate powers know how to categorize something.

As a marketer, I eat that ish up. As a consumer it drives me nuts! Don't ask how those two bickering traits live in me...I'm an enigma. Ha!

But, Gen X'ers are turning...yikes, 40. Well started turning 40 last year. While that's hella scary and I refuse to go quietly into that night when it's my turn, I feel like celebrating all that is holy about being a member of Generation X.

So, just in case you have no idea where you fit (and really, isn't it all just a state of mind), you're a Gen X'er if:

12. You still remember when athletes staying in college all four years was the norm.

11. You've ever been caught up in a lay-off...or quit a job before they could lay you off. Technology bust, anyone?

10. Professionally, you consider yourself a free agent. Being a company-man is a Baby Boomer thing, keep it moving! Also, see #11.

9. Every two or three years when it was time to move on, your parents secretly planned interventions to whup the slacker out of you and make you "settle down."

8. You turned a hobby into a lucrative career (i.e. skate boarding, gaming, writing). Come on, who needs a 9-to-5 when you can play all day?!

7. You still own albums and/or home made cassette tapes. To qualify, the home made tape must include at least two seconds worth of the DJ or commercial at the end of the song 'cause you couldn't hit stop in time.

6. You can find at least one photo of yourself from the 80's that would actually be considered in style today. Big hair, bold patterns, mini skirts...let's hear it for getting old enough to see styles come back!

5. You didn't find it strange at all when Shaq ventured into rapping then acting. We are, after all, masters of the multi-career.

4. You have kids and can't say one word about them doing homework while also surfing the 'net, listening to an iPod and have the TV blaring in the background. Come on, we did it!

3. TFB's like Paris Hilton piss you off. The least they could do is actually work for their spending money like trust fund kids of our day. John-John did it dammit, so can they!

2. You roll your eyes when your kids act like you don't understand IM and Text talk. Uh, hello, they didn't invent it. We did!

1. Everytime a song comes on, you give a lecture about who wrote the original or where the sample came from and how they used to bump it at the skating rink.

All hail Generation X, jacks of all trades, Kings of none!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stupid is as Stupid does

In a stupid move rivaled only by crossing a busy intersection blindfolded, the DC Council voted, months ago, to move their traditional Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade from its spot on the actual King holiday (Jan. 16th) to April 8th. Their reasoning, the weather.

According to the event's organizers, it's too cold in January and the possibility of snow may prevent crowds from attending.

Guess what?

It was cold (literally only one degree warmer than it was this past January 16) and rainy on April 7th( was dry as a bone on the King holiday). guessed it, the crowd was sparse.

Here's my question - how many city council people does it take to make dumb-ass decisions?

No one in the original meeting said, "Hey, wait a minute. The King holiday was created to celebrate Dr. King's life. We should keep our parade to the day the rest of the NATION celebrates."

Celebrates his life, huh? Novel idea.

I guess that why it's held on, say...his birthday and not the anniversary of his death!!!

I won't even go there about who the originator of this idea was. AhhhchooooMarionBarry.

Barry lovers please don't email me defending him. Like I said, I won't even bother to waste my breath.

I don't have to since hardly anyone showed for the parade, that was moved to April to avoid bad weather, because of bad weather....'cause, well, that speaks volumes!

The only smart thing they did was not hold the parade on their original proposed date, April Fools Day.

I swear to you, I'm not making this ish up!

Oh, and what does Hiz Honor former Mayor McCrackalack say when asked should the parade have been kept at the original date. "Better rain than snow."

God bless the District of Columbia!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cheerleader Nation

No, not the show, my life.

Since I began coaching my daughter's competitive cheer squad, I've endured some of the whackest ish I've ever seen in my life. People do and say things they wouldn't for any other sport.

Yeah, I said sport. You better recognize. Don't make me go off, up in here!

There are the inevitable accusations that the reason I do it and have the temerity to enjoy it, is because I'm living "through" her experience. :::sigh::: Okay, to those small-minded people, listen up!

I was a cheerleader from the age of nine until I graduated high school. Did the pee wee league thing, the middle school and Jr. High thing and the competitive thing. Was Captain of my squad several times and everything. Loved it. Cherish the memories. I'm over it! Hung my pom-pom's up back in 19-Lickety.

The irony, I never considered registering my daughter for cheerleading until at eight years old she asked could she take a year off from ballet and try it. Talk about disappointed.

I loved dance!

She was so cute in those little outfits. And ballet is so pretty. there was some living vicariously action for you.

Then there are the ill-ass parents who swear that because me and my other co-coaches insist that the girls practice hard, focus and give us a shockingly tough 4 hours a week of practice (that's 2 days a week)that we're fanatics.

It's called dedication be-yatches! Teach it to your kids and they may actually use it elsewhere in their lives. On the other hand, letting them skip practice because they don't feel like it; miss cheering for a football game (because we do sideline and competitions) because they'll miss the first hour of their friend's birthday party or quit the season in the middle - yeah, those are all great lessons.

I'm grateful though. We have a twenty-girl squad - and it has been larger some years - and typically we only get one per year like this.

My favorites, are the ones who still believe that cheerleading is wearing saddle shoes and waving pom-pons on the sidelines.

Yes, that is cheerleading...ummm, minus the saddles and the poms. But cheerleading is also busting your ass, dancing, chanting and hurling as many stunts as you can in three minutes. Welcome to the new milleny.

We've come a long way, baby!

These people are always shocked when their daughter's fall. It's when it stops being cute and starts getting real, that they realize danger is a component. Then they start checking stats on cheerleading injuries and get themselves in a lather over it and want guarantees their daughters won't fall.

Guess what? Cheerleaders fall!

But there's a big diff between falling and injury.

Want to know how many injuries my squad has had? NONE.

Want to know how many times someone has fallen? Couldn't tell you. The ish happens all the time. It's a part of the sport. The key is, if the girls know the proper technique, that fall will result in a bruise or an ache instead of a sprain and a break. Thank God. And now and then...thank your coaches.

Finally, there are the "catty" callers. These are the people who sit back, smug and look their nose down on the level of drama involved in cheerleading.

I won't deny that the drama is HIGH. But I've seen it within other sporting circles too. Drama doesn't mean that we're all catty, backstabbing, hiring hit-men Wanda Holloways.

I can't lie, it does get tiring - the long season, the highs and lows of my squad's emotions (they are only 10 and 11, after all) and the parents' demands.

But I coach because my daughter loves it.

I coach because, when she joined, the cheer component was in need of some organization. I figured sitting back and bitching about it wouldn't serve her well and pulling her out of something she loved wasn't real high on my option list, either.

I coach because I love seeing something I enjoyed as a young person, being enjoyed by other young people.

And hell, it's not bad for my career. These girls keep me smack dab in the middle of my YA fiction demographic. They're plotline gold!

Today, we're off to our Nationals, in Atlantic City. The light at the end of the tunnel is burning brightly.

Mad shout-out to my Hornet honeys and their parents. Let's bring us home a title!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gone Fishin'

Not really.

But when I'm in the middle of a WIP (that's work-in-progress for the writer acronym illiterate) that's what it feels like.

When people who like to fish, go on a fishing...expedition? trip? What do they call it? When they "go fishing" they take sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake seriously. Just them, the fish and their pole hanging deep. They cherish the quiet and they need it because otherwise the fish may never bite.

Same as writing a book. Once I dip my fishing pole into the creative well, I just want to sit there and let the fish jump on my hook. I'm perfectly content to think of nothing else until the well is dry.

Of course, in my case, my pole is the computer and the fish are the little ideas that float from the ether down into my brain.

Here's the thing, I take ridiculously long breaks in between books. And I think it's because I zone out so deeply when I'm writing.

I wrote my last book in September of 2005 and swore I'd start another after a month (I always say that). Come November I was still luxurating in my "down" time. Notice the quotation marks. I don't HAVE any down time. When I'm not writing it just means something else fills up that space (like sleeping).

There's always a point where all this sleeping actually begins to bother me. I mean come on, how much sleep does a person need? Eight hours?! Madness, I say.

I can do a 15-hour day on three, four-hours tops, easy!

Still, eventually, I start chastising myself for not having the focus to sit and write every day NO MATTER WHAT.

Which is truly easier than it sounds. And for the writers who can do it - mad, mad kudos to you.

But damn the guilt, I'm back in the saddle and as usual the rest of the world has disappeared. Here's how you can tell I'm working on a new book:

** You're talking and I'm saying "un-huh" or even laughing in the appropriate spots, but what I'm really thinking is - Yeah, in chapter four Josey can get hit by a bus and then wake up with super powers.

** I start saying "I'm tired," a lot because I've started late-night writing binges without the luxury of sleeping in - after all I have kiddies to get up and a job to drag my sorry butt to.

** While in the car I'll suddenly start barking out orders for someone to hand me a pen because the ether has just given me the plot line for chapter 10. I then proceed to drive and scribble down the info, dialogue included, on the back of an old ATM receipt I found lying under the seat.

** The same scenario as above, only when I'm driving alone it's much scarier!

** I become a complete Schizoid Sally - one minute lucid and pleasant, the next distracted, irritated and annoyed because the conversation with you is disrupting the dialogue in my head. Sshhh, I can't hear!

** Suddenly, things I used to enjoy - being outside, eating, sleeping - become bothersome.

Yeah, and you thought writing was a career choice. Now I ask you, who asks to be that damn nutty on purpose?!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Flavor of Fame

So I had forgotten all about the Flavor of Love reunion show. Flipping through the channels on Sunday, I ran up on it around 11:00 p.m., decided to tune in even though I wasn't hardly as hyped about it as I had been directly after the show.

Short version - It was boring.

Look, I know that networks will beat a show into the ground. If it's a new show that can't get ratings out the box it's hist. If it's a popular show they'll pound that puppy until one person is watching.

So I get it. It's about the cheese, the dough, the scrilla, the scratch.

But, Vh1...come on!

Flav "reveals" that he and Hoopz aren't together because she doesn't have enough time for him.

Uh...okay, that's his story and he sticking to it.

It couldn't possibly be that Hoopz was about winning and had no intention of being your ride or die chick.

But hey, we'll stick with his version.

So LaLa, who moderated the show, asks if he's going to do another season.

We all know he is. But his answer was something to the affect that he did the show with one purpose and that was to find a chick to kick it with. Since that didn't happen...umm..ahhh.."yeah, I'm gonna have to do it again," he says.

No, you have to do it again because Vh1 paying you and laced you with a phat crib. You have to do it again because this is now your career.

Mad respect. Do you, playuh.

But don't make it like it's about the love.

There were 20 girls sitting on the stage that he reached varying degrees of intimacy with. Uh, why not just choose one of them?

Shoot, New York made a blip-blazing fool of herself crying and whatnot to her mama about how much she loved him. Ay, Flav, pick her!

I don't care what he does. But he been ripping some of these girls a new hole for not being honest with him.

Be honest with us.

You want us to watch another season? At least lure us in with some of the sincerity I saw on shine during the few eps I caught. You like being the center of attention, you're good at it and you get some tail while you're at it.

That's why people watched, right?

For real, squash that whole wholesome, doing it for the love thing.

Most reality TV "stars" are at least honest enough to be like, "Yeah, Gee, it was mad fun, I'm gon' do it again."

I can live with that answer.

And shoot, knowing he doing it just cause...well, what else does he have to do? Lay down tracks to an album? At least I know I'm tuning in because he ready to gear up for another season of hooking up with wild-ass, wacky, don't mind acting a fool in front of national TV, women with too much time on their hands and stars in their eyes.

That, I can respect.

But for the love?! Pssh, please. tripping!