That second step Monday, Dec 28 2009 

Following my own advice (for once), I let my bookshelf do the talking, and today it’s J.D. McClatchy’s voice pointing out, in a nod to the New Year, maybe: “I knew the second step in the right direction/Would be the hardest, but didn’t care.” That second step! What would we do without poets?

If the first step is behind you, congratulations. Walk on.

Shelf wisdom Wednesday, Dec 23 2009 

Some writing workshops make you do warm-up exercises, like “Write for ten minutes about a city you’ve visited” or “Reach into the Imagination Basket, take out an object, write about it.”  I can’t say if this kind of shotgun approach is helpful; anything can be helpful when it’s the right tool for your hand. One writing instructor I knew of had people take from the classroom library and use, as a prompt, the first sentence in the first book they found there, which is a kind of sideways bibliomancy, if you think about it, isn’t it?

Do it now.  You don’t need to write about it (unless of course you want to), but let the shelf be your guru today.  Ask a book.

Bowie Ball, paging 14-year-old me …. Monday, Dec 14 2009 

If this had been happening when I was fourteen I would have gone nuts with joy and found a way to go, no matter what.  Ziggy Stardust absolutely rocked my world (still does); I was known in my junior high for being that chick who was, like, obsessed with David Bowie, who is David Bowie, that big weirdo.  As it is, I can only clap my hands and say yeah! The fact that BowieBall took place at (Le) Poisson Rouge is just icing on the cake, or rouge on the cheek.

In Ms. Stofflet’s class Thursday, Dec 10 2009 

Susan Stofflet’s 7th grade class is reading Buddha Boy, and we’ve been having a lively discussion about the book, and my writing schedule, and where ideas come from, and whether or not I watch Glee, over on Facebook.

Now I’ve asked Susan and her students if they would like to leave comments about the books they like, the music they listen to, the movies and TV they watch, the stuff they think is cool.  So tag, you guys, you’re it!

Mentoring at Seton Hill Sunday, Dec 6 2009 

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be mentoring next semester (which is coming up pretty quick now, whoa) at Seton Hill, as part of their MFA program in popular fiction. Working with new writers is fun – and I am serious, always, about having fun – and I also hope to give back to the universe a little of the great good things the mentoring instructors, and my fellow students, gave to me, back in the day at the Clarion Workshop.  You never know when your life will change, but sometimes you can see the event horizon.

In Patti’s class Wednesday, Dec 2 2009 

Visiting O.W. Holmes Elementary yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Patti Smith’s students, discussing bullying and Buddha Boy and why we won’t show just anyone our deepest thoughts; herewith are pictures taken to prove I do so know how to work my camera, you guys, when someone helps me switch it from video to still.

I came to know about Patti’s students, who are visually impaired, through Cory Doctorow’s heads-up request that downloadable YA books be sent her way, so the kids would have age-appropriate Braille material.  I also learned that many Braille textbooks are staggeringly expensive; Patti had a middle school geography textbook that might as well have been printed with gold leaf in midtown Atlantis, it’s so costly.  Check out these figures, from the Alternative Media Access Center:

The following figures are provided only to aid our customers in approximating a rough cost estimate.

Price per page of embossed Braille:

  • Literary texts $3.45
  • Math texts 6.00
  • Science texts 6.00
  • Foreign Language 5.00
  • Music 7.25
  • Computer 6.25
  • Illustration (embedded with text) 4.95
  • Embossing Only(books in NEON) 0.62

Illustrations Only: $35.68 per hour

Please note that the transcription and illustration costs include all materials, embossing, final production, and shipping (free matter for the blind).

To have to pay this much money to  have a book you can comfortably read seems quite a hurdle for readers who already have hurdles enough to surmount.