Monday, August 31, 2009

The coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth

Apparently, according to YahooNews, researchers seeking the best possible place to locate a space observatory have pinpointed the coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth. Ridge A, 13, 297 feet up on the Antarctic Plateau, averages temperatures of minus 94˚F. But it's dry cold, and it boasts "very little atmospheric turbulence." As a bonus, no human has ever set foot there.

In related news, scientists have also pinpointed the warmest, moistest, least calm place on Earth and it is my son at bedtime.

Needless to say, I am dreaming of a weekend trip to Ridge A.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Book I Am Not Writing

In which I ask you to confess your indiscretions.

Shh. Here is a secret: I am cheating on Ant. Oh, I still love him and his story and I'm still working on his rewrite. But I have a new love, a sweet little picture book with shin-kicking and interplanetary travel and no thorny plot problems. And it rocks.

This always happens to me. The best books I write are the books I am not supposed to be writing. Picture books come to me so much more easily than anything else -- they're like my secret trysts in the middle of the much longer work of novel-ing. And unlike a real affair, everyone wins: I get a break and a great new book, and whatever I AM supposed to be writing benefits from my taking a minute to step back and have writing be pure fun again.

So, tell me. What are your illicit writing secrets?

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm back...

...and while not necessarily better than ever, I am definitely better than before a week at the beach.

Highlights have to include hours of swimming in the ocean and daily ice cream. I did catch Tinkerbell demanding money back from the hotel manager because our room was haunted and, failing a refund, offering her services as child detective to solve the mystery. Which I love, of course.

But the best part may have finding Edgartown Books, my new favorite bookstore. Why are they my favorite? Well, look what Captain Destructo found while trolling the picture book shelves!

Okay, really I took this picture later, after I'd shrieked with glee and gone to the register to introduce myself and offer to sign them. The folks there were incredibly nice, even let Tink put the "autographed copy" stickers on, and congratulated me on not being an author who annoys booksellers. Which felt good, of course.

And now it turns out things were Going On while I was gone. Wanna see what I look like? Lee Wind (with whom I fell in heart at SCBWI this month) posted a video of me talking about my Jacqui Reads her Children Books Other People Think Are Bad For Them experience with The Rabbits' Wedding. While you are there, you should read the rest of his blog which is wonderful and good for the world. Meanwhile, Banned Books Week is September 26 - October 3 this year and "Jacqui Reads Her Children Books Other People Think Are Bad For Them, Part 2!" will kick off the first of September with my favorite challenged book ever -- my own! Yes, apparently it is very dangerous to read your kids The New Girl...And Me. I'll explain on the first.

And Ann Finkelstein nominated Jacqui's Room for the Kreativ Blogger award. Ann wrote:

The entire world should enjoy life as much as Jacqui Robbins.

Which makes me happy because I think it means I made someone smile. And also because I can't be nearly as ranty and grumpy as I feel half the time. So thank you, Ann! I know I have homework to do with this honor too, but my "to blog" list is miles long, so is it weak to give a rain check???

It's good to be back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Michigander Monday is ME

Head on over to Debbie Diesen's blog, Jumping the Candlestick, today, where her featured Michigan author for the week is, well, it's me! So come and say hi!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Zombie? Zombie!

What are you doing this weekend? Writing zombie poetry? Yes! The Bookshelf Muse is having a Zombie Haiku contest. I love this idea. Here's my entry:

My Zombie House at Dinner Time

What you want dinner?
Dunno. What you want dinner?
Delivery man!

Hello? Pizza House?
Send pizza. And pizza guy.
Ding dong. Nom nom. Burp.

That delicious, but
Me need little something sweet.
Neighbors for dessert?

Make sure to let me know if you enter, so I can see your offerings. And have a good weekend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It begins

As you can imagine, Tink can be a little, um, creative when detailing how her day at camp or school has gone. And now this:

JACQUI: So what did you do at school today, Captain Destructo?
DESTRUCTO: I play on playground.*
DESTRUCTO: I go on ti-yah swing.
JACQUI: Great.
DESTRUCTO: Den dere a fi-yah drill.
JACQUI: A fire drill?
DESTRUCTO: Yeah. Dere fi-yah at my school!
JACQUI: There was a fire at your school?
DESTRUCTO: Yeah, but Grover come.
JACQUI: What?!
DESTRUCTO: It Super Grover! He fly down and save all the friends!
JACQUI: He did?
TINK: No, he didn't.
DESTRUCTO: He spray all the friends with his hose!
JACQUI: He did?
TINK: No, he didn't.
DESTRUCTO: He save everybody!
JACQUI: He did?
TINK: No, he didn't.
JACQUI: Tink. Enough.
TINK: Well, he didn't!
JACQUI: I KNOW THAT. But let him talk.
DESTRUCTO: (who has been talking all along and has, in fact, not taken a breath in three minutes) And den the friends all got to fly to Sesame Street on Grover's back and...
TINK: That wasn't GROVER!
JACQUI: Tink, that is your problem?
TINK: It wasn't Grover.
JACQUI: (fumes)
TINK: It was Oscar.

* But you have to imagine that he says 'l' like 'y' and it is absolutely adorable.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bears Gone Wild

Welcome to this week's Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM), in which I make A.A.Milne turn over in his grave.

from the AP:

Winnie the Pooh pulls bank job

Apparently, Winnie the Pooh has robbed a bank in Chicago. Okay, not really. Somebody robbed a bank wearing a Winne the Pooh sweatshirt.* I am not sure why this is news; presumably the "Winnie the Pooh bandit" will change clothes, making his sweatshirt a poor primary clue for catching him, but let's go with it.

What if it really WAS Winnie the Pooh? In fact, what if the whole Hundred Acre Wood crowd decided they were tired of hunting heffalumps and eating thistles and decided to take Chicago by storm? Sick of Al Capone getting all the Chicago mafia credit, the Hundred Acre Gang hits the streets. I'm picturing them all bellying up to a bar under the El somewhere, plotting the heist. They even sound like gang names: "Piglet," "Roo," and "The Rabbit." Will police ever catch up with "Owl," the mastermind behind it all? Can Tigger control his trigger finger? Who's that on Eeyore's tail?

It all comes to a head, of course, when the gang from Farmer McGregor's garden takes Pooh and his friends down. The Hundred Acre Gang are carted off to the slammer while darn goody-goody trio Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail dine on bread and cream and blackberries for supper, as usual.

Who will write me this book?

* Why is it so cold in Chicago in August that people are wearing sweatshirts???

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tooting my own Horn Book

Do you get the Notes from the Horn Book e-newsletter? Well, why not? They are geniuses, obviously. They are recommending TWO OF A KIND in their feature on "School Daze" this month. Yee-haw!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I don't know what you heard...

... but I don't know anything about a secret raid on the Hyatt Regency Candy Stash at SCBWI-LA this weekend. I don't know anything about a pair of giggling bandits who snuck in and stole their weight in red vines. I was busy grinding organic whole wheat to make bread to feed orphans. Yup. And so was Tammi Sauer.


In other news, I ask again, WHEN DO YOU L.A. PEOPLE SLEEP? I have a beautiful blog post about the conference planned. It is informative. It is funny. It will leave you inspired and motivated and... I... can't... stay... zzzzzz (drools). Snort. Huh? Where am I? Oh. Sorry. Stupid red-eye flight. I'll try again tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Beekeeper's Picnic

Today, I am off to L.A., but not before I tell you about the beekeeper's picnic, which is today's Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moment.

You may remember Tinkerbell's good friend Belinda, of "wake me up before you go to fairyland" fame.* Her family keeps bees and this story comes from them.**

Last week, Belinda's dad decided to collect the honey from their hives, so he moved the hives into their garage, hoping to separate the hives from the bees who can be, of course, protective of such things. But he forgot to shut the garage door. So when Belinda's family came back, the bees had all moved into the garage, swarming and buzzing and generally having a great time in a nice, enclosed, shady place. Belinda's dad tried several ideas, but couldn't separate the bees from their hives. Eventually, he had to move the hives back outside, wait for the bees to follow, and then grab each hive, sneak around to the back of the house, enter through the back door, and drag the (hopefully bee-free) hive through the house back to the garage. There was some marital disagreement about whether such activities left a sticky trail of honey on the floor. But the part I really like is that the bees were apparently baffled. Where did the hives go? As Belinda's dad put it, they were all asking the leaders, "Dude, you were doing the 'come here' dance. Where's the hive?"

I want a picture book from the bees' perspective. I want the bees just trying to have a nice picnic and an increasingly overwhelmed beekeeper trying to outwit them. I want a NYC bee shouting, "Leonard! What's your problem? You did the dance. I came. Where's the goods?" I want David Small to illustrate in pen and watercolor with the kind of awesome details he's so good at. I want the race through the house to include every room, with bees primping and powder-puffing in the bathroom and face-to-face staring at the fish in the aquarium. And I want the book to end with Belinda's baffled mom coming home and finding everyone -- kids, dad, bees, dog, whoever -- asleep, jars of honey everywhere, and a trail of honey from the back door, through the whole house, ending in the garage.

Who will write me this book???

* Not her real name.
** But the book I want would greatly exaggerate the story, of course.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Great Material I Get From My Kids

"Oh! You're a writer?" everyone says, smiling fondly as Tinkerbell and Destructo spin wildly around the room. "You must get so much great material from your kids!"

So I thought I'd bring you some of the great material I get from my kids. Like this conversation they had tonight:

Feed Me: A one act play

DESTRUCTO: Tinkerbell! Feed me.*
TINK: Not tonight.
TINK: Not tonight!
TINK: No no NO!
JACQUI: (bangs face on table)

Or how about this gem from the other day?


DESTRUCTO: He-yoh Tinkerbell!
TINK: Hello, Apatosaurus.
DESTRUCTO: I not Grandpa!
TINK: I didn't call you Grandpa.
DESTRUCTO: You say "Hello Grandpa saurus."
TINK: No, I didn't.
DESTRUCTO: Yes, you did.
TINK: No, I didn't.
DESTRUCTO: Yeah. You did.
TINK: No, I said, "Hello Apatosaurus."
DESTRUCTO: Oh. What dat?
TINK: It's a dinosaur with a long neck.
TINK: For real.
DESTRUCTO: Why you call me dat?
TINK: I dunno.
DESTRUCTO: Okay. I play dat game now?
TINK: No. Go away.
DESTRUCTO: Yes, you let me play.
JACQUI: (beats self in head with garlic press)

I think I will stick to making stuff up.

* She was a saint one night and talked him down from a have-to-stay-in-your-strappy-seat tantrum by feeding him bites she pretended were from the Sesame Street friends.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do you write in your voice?

I surprised Boni Ashburn. She gave TWO OF A KIND a lovely shout-out, which included high praise for THE NEW GIRL...AND ME as well.*

But the books surprised her. As she put it:

... I was already won over by her wacky sense of humor and wild perspective on writing and life. So when I first read her book, I was expecting over-the-top hilarity- and I didn't get it. Her book was not what I expected at all! It's a sweet story, though not overly-so, and unique, and RIDICULOUSLY well-written, with subtle humor, which just isn't what I was ready for.

Boni is not the first person to be surprised by the disconnect between my blog and my books. What I'm wondering about today is why. I think it's partly because there's no pressure (or revision) here, so it's easier to let loose the goof. And I think it's partly because here in Jacqui's Room I have somehow hidden the fact that at heart I am a socially awkward six year-old; people who have known me a long, long time read my books and say, "I read the words and heard you saying them because they are so you."

But I also think it comes from my teaching style. I believe that my classroom isn't all about me and my personality, so when I teach, yeah, I am a strong voice and there's humor and I run a tight ship and etc. But overall, I believe in stepping back and letting the kids and their accomplishments be the center of attention. It makes for a quieter style of teaching, one that involves a lot less orchestrating and a lot more watching. And I think it seeps into my books, where I try to step back and let the story -- and, more importantly, the experiences and connections that readers bring to that story -- be the center of attention, without all my very strong voice getting in the way.

Is this a good thing? I don't know. I feel very, very proud of my books and of the way children connect to them and feel like they were really written for them. But every once in a while, someone is surprised, and I wonder: should I be bringing more crazy? And does anyone else have this disconnect?

P.S. I am off to LA for the SCBWI conference on Thursday, right after a real life TNoftheAWSPWTBIM. Anyone else going to be there? Come find me. I'll be the one hiding behind the palm trees, watching, and hoping nobody punches me in the head.

* High praise made even higher by the source: a great PB writer and source of one of Destructo's favorites: "You friend dragon book!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chicken Dance

Remember Space Chicken? He has a new favorite book, just out, and I can't wait to read it.

by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat

Here is why I am going to buy this book:

1. Poultry + Elvis. It sounds like a Thursday News of the Absurd Inspirational Moment set up.

2. If reading the book is half as much fun as they had making this video, it's worth twice the cost: