Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gnomes and Gno-Gnos

I saw the new Gnomeo and Juliet movie with my kids this past weekend.  I must admit, I was not looking forward to it.  I have been permanently traumatized by G-Force and quake in anticipation of having to endure a relatively unknown kid movie.

My strange phobias aside, the movie was not all that bad (maybe more due to my low expections than the quality of the movie itself).  One thing I couldn't help but notice, however -- and this is where it relates to kid lit, I promise -- was the lack of children, or rather, child gnomes, in the film.  The characters closest to children in the movie were five rabbit statuaries that were yes-bunnies to the female matriarch.  The rest of the characters were adult...ish.  And the plot of the movie was right in line with the inspiration indicated in the title: two star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the tracks, I mean, fence.  There was more than your average amount of kissing in this movie, and my son tolerated it only due to the fact that they were concrete gnomes and not actual zit-pocked teenagers.

We have been told over and over again in children's literature that the story must be told from a child's perspective.  But somebody didn't pass along this information to the movie industry.  TangledMegamind.  All adults (correct me if I've forgotten someone...entirely possible!).  Name almost any Disney princess movie, and you get the same thing.  Children are relegated to the roles of fish, or teacups, or monkeys.  Sure, some characters are child-like in their behaviors and choices, but I think the purely kid-centered film is rarer.  Despicable Me comes to mind, as well as Up.  (Note both of these movies have very strong adult main characters, although they matured during the course of the film by the children's actions).

I'm not making a judgment either way, I'm just wondering what to make of it.  I did write one story with a child-like adult as the mc, but I was told by several sources to change it to a child to make it more marketable.  And I did, but I don't like it. 

What's a child-like adult woman author to do???  Give me your thoughts, please.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meeting My Goals

For the first time, well ever, I met my writing goals this week.  Okay, it helped immensely that the census is down at the home health agency where I work for actual pay, and I only worked 4 real hours this week, but I did it! 

I sent off two agent submissions; I reworked a picture book manuscript; I wrote at least 250 words a day (tiny, I know, but I have to start somewhere!), and I started some research on a middle grade project.  (Applause).

I've tried setting goals in the past, but the words just hung out on my board like curly parsley on a plate of turkey.  It looks good, but there's no way anybody's gonna eat the stuff.

Well, this week, I ate it!  And it didn't make me sick!  In fact, it made me feel pretty darn good.  (Do you think this would work for the gym, too?)

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's in a Name?

I really enjoy writing ethnic pieces, and part of the fun for me is name-finding.  I love hunting for names that have a meaning in the larger context of the story.  Sometimes choosing names for American-based characters in this way is too thinly veiled.  (Think Violet for a girl who loves flowers, or Christopher for a boy who loves to explore.)  Usually, however, names from other cultures are so new to American readers that their direct translation or underlying meaning is not widely known.  So it can be a fun exercise.  Sometimes this method for finding a name actually inspires a whole character for me. 

My latest name-find: Prasad meaning "pure."  This boy has haunted my thoughts for years, wanting to have his own story.  Even better though is the name for a sure-to-be nemesis for Prasad: Adripati, which means "Lord of the Mountain."  Doesn't that character just beg to be written about?

How do you get names for your stories? 

Friday, February 4, 2011

SCBWI NYC: Believe in the Work

What blog would be complete without a wrap-up of the SCBWI New York conference?  This was my first national conference, and it was wonderful to say the least.  (It was also my first trip to NYC, so I felt like I was walking around with my mouth hanging open much of the weekend.)

The best part of the conference for me was hearing the awe-inspiring authors speak: Jane Yolen, R.L. Stine, Lois Lowry, Linda Sue Park, and more.  They all spoke to writing as a craft and following your heart.  The real reward, they said, can be found in the art and work of writing itself.  Some of them taught us how to find inspiration.  Others taught us how to handle the inevitable difficulties and disappointments that are part of the writing life.

The challenge for me at this moment is to focus on what I really want to accomplish.  As a result of this conference, my heart is telling me it's not so much about being published anymore.  (Does that surprise anyone else?) What I really, really want more than anything is to become a great writer.  And I don't know if I can.  But as Linda Sue Park reminded us, it doesn't matter if we believe in ourselves or not.  What matters is that we believe in the work.  Amen!