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1. Travel

I love these series of three videos. Makes me want to travel again.


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.



LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.



EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

The last one is especially compelling. :)


Discovered via Gawker. More information here.

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2. Thank you Mr. Gaiman

  This past Friday, when asked where one could find a copy of Temps (or any other out of print book), Neil Gaiman explained to all 1.4 million of his twitter followers that BookFinder.com was indeed the place!

We've known that Neil Gaiman was a BookFinder.com fan for a while, but for some reason endorsements never seem to stop making you feel good about what you do, you know?

So... Thanks again Mr. Gaiman, we appricate it.


[Now Reading: Foundation by Isaac Asimov]

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3. It's snowing! It's snowing random links, that is.

Re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

I'm on vacation, at my parents' home in Southern California for the holidays. I made it out of New York on the last non-canceled flight to Los Angeles Saturday afternoon during the snow storm! Speaking of the storm, I was actually a teeny tiny bit sad to have escaped, because I really love snow, and there's something so special about the first big snow of the season. But I was happy to live vicariously (whil in 70 degree weather) via lots of photos and videos online. Here's my favorite:



This year really flew by. I'll try to do a proper wrap-up in the next few weeks, but today I'll direct you to agent Nathan Bransford's great "Year in Publishing" post.

And here's a recent article about a business practice in publishing that nobody talks about. In fact, I know very little about how this works and found the article fascinating myself.

I was a guest blogger over at the Debutante Ball last week, and posted about research--how I researched to find my dream publishing job, that is! Read it here.

Also, related to Meghan's post about eBooks, this is an interesting article about an experiment regarding the issue of DRM, or digital rights management.

And finally, in honor of the sad news that actress Brittany Murphy died over the weekend, and also the recent news of Kirkus's demise, I was reminded of my post from this past May about Bad Reviews, which referenced both subjects (albeit somewhat indirectly). And will add that despite my negative feelings towards some of the reviews in Kirkus, I was saddened by the news. It really is a loss to publishing. You can read more thoughts about this over at the Horn Book blog.




And to conclude this random post, let's get back to snow. Anyone who knows me well knows that my favorite snow book, which is also my favorite picture book of all time, is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Other snow books I love are Robert's Snow by Grace

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4. More SNL

Here are a few more videos I've especially enjoyed:

Jesse Jackson discussed the Bradley Effect:


Hall & Oates split on who they support:

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5. Recommended Reading: Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434

Now that Tami has you thinking like an actor, let's take a step back and talk like directors.  Because as I have said too many times before, we are the creators of our stories, our characters.  Although we certainly hear our characters, we are the ones who place them in tight spots.  We create story.

I first found Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434 in a bibliography.  I had just attended Robert McKee's lectures on Story.  Although I had no intention of writing a screenplay, I understood what a director's mind could add to my point of view and story telling abilities. A few years later, when I was writing my thesis, I found the citation and bought the book.  I am so happy I did.  Since then, I've recommended this book to all kinds of writers.

Because let's face it: this is about telling captivating, interesting stories.  For entertainment.  We write to be read.  The form doesn't really matter all that much.

I love this book for many reasons:

It is easy to read.  Unlike a lot of craft books, Lew Hunter's 434 reads like a great lecture.  He is often laugh-out-loud funny.  And smart.

On Where to Write:
When I'm developing a story, I like to use a pad and pencil so that process can occur in any invigorating place.
When I'm into script, I can write anywhere I happen to be.  I used to need every grain of sand in place on the Mojave Desert before I could get down to writing.  I then instructed my children, "When Daddy's writing, no one is to bother him unless they are on fire and can't beat out the flames with one hand."


The structure.  He takes us through the steps of writing a screenplay.  Ideas, the 2 minute movie (an exercise everyone should try), building characters, outlines, acts, and revision.  

And there is white space.

Great advice: new and old.
The book is full of great one liners and concepts.  From "kill your darlings" to fears and motivation, from petting the dog to talking heads, Hunter gives us everything we need.  He discusses conflict and the need for it, act twos (aka: the muddy middle) and surprising the viewer.  He compares drama to melodrama, believable unbelievability, open and closed stories.  he warns the writer not to be TOO brilliant. 

A snippet:


When you're trapped in the deepest story corner, rejoice.  THAT is when wonderful things can happen.  When you're in a corner, always look to your characters to lead you out.  They will show the way.

Another snippet:

I want you to spread your story and your characters before you as if you were to lift your intestines from your stomach and arrange them on a table.  Your guts, not anyone else's.  Get inside of yourself.  Pull things out.  DON'T BE SAFE. 

Please read Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434.  It's a great book with a lot to say, told in an engaging style.  


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6. Happy Blogiversary fellow bloggers and blog readers!

I woke up this morning to an NPR story about blogs, which reminded me that it was my day to post. According to a Wall Street Journal article"Happy Blogiversary" that was reported back in July, one of, if not the first blog was Robot Wisdom.

On Dec. 23, 1997, on his site, Robot Wisdom, Mr. Barger wrote: "I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis," and the Oxford English Dictionary regards this as the primordial root of the word "weblog."

Other early blogs were CamWorld and Scripting News. It's incredible that these blogs are celebrating their 10-year anniversaries this year--I wonder who among us will still be blogging 5 or 10 years from now. Will I?

The NPR.com page also has a little chart about who blogs and why people blog. I'd say the reasons why I blog are pretty much in line with the reasons why most people blog.

******

The above is partially re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls blog. I asked over there, and I'll ask here. In the spirit of the long life of blogs, is there anything more/less/different you'd like to see with my blog?

******

A few other Random things for this blog on this Christmas Eve morning. The first is a game my brother Felix introduced us to last night. It seems simple, almost stupid, yet it's oddly mesmerizing and addictive. The game is here. The goal is the trap the kitty, keeping him from escaping off the board.

******

And then two videos. These have been around a while, but I just saw them around Thanksgiving and meant to share them earlier. First, Daft Bodies:




And then Daft Hands (this one came first):




Enjoy!

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7. Are you right brain or left brain?

You may have seen this before, but my friend Heather sent this along. Check out this link here and let me know if you see the girl rotating clockwise or counterclockwise.

At first all I could see was her turning clockwise, which I guess means I use more of my right brain. This was interesting for me to know, because I never thought of myself as particularly a right brain thinker. But I guess if some of the qualities of a right-brain thinker include "big picture oriented," "can 'get it' (i.e. meaning)," "presents possibilities," and "risk taking," then it makes sense. (Although of course I associate with many of the left-brain qualities, too! Like "words and language," "acknowledges," "forms strategies," and "practical.")

I wasn't able to get her to switch directions until Heather suggested looking unfocused at her feet, and then she switched. So weird! Some of my friends were convinced that it was some technical trick, but yet when we looked at the same screen at the same time, I would see her turning clockwise, while another person would see her continually switching. I'm baffled as to how it works.

So, which part of your brain do you use the most?

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8. 100 Words a Day

My roommate Rose has been contributing to the blog 100 Words a Day. Check it out here. It's a cool idea and an interesting exercise; I think 100 words can sometimes last forever, and sometimes seem way too short. At any rate, I decided to make this post exactly 100 words to see how it feels. A bit weird, to be honest. Each word feels at risk of being wasted, but also feels worth something more.

I've been thinking about trying something new every day. This is one of my new things for today. My very first 100 word post.

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9. Poems for Grace and Robert

Elaine has recently posted two lovely poems on Wild Rose Reader for Grace and Robert that really touched me. Read them here and here.

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10. I <3 Lily Allen

Lily Allen is awesome. Went to her concert last night at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. Even though she complained at the start about being sick and having the runs (I forget how she said it, but in her cockney accent, it was adorable), she put on a kick-ass show. I was pretty close to the stage, but also right next to the speakers. I'm a little deaf this morning.



Here's her Smile video.


(If this doesn't work, you can view it here.)

I've decided I want to see more live music. I love it.

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11. How to get into publishing/editorial?

Check out my colleague T.S.'s new blogger blog, Must Love Books. He has a great post about getting into publishing, so check it out. Welcome to blogger, T.S.!

Editor Cheryl Klein also had a great post a while back about how to be an editor here.

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12. Don't try this. But watch it.

Another video I love. So soothing, somehow, although ridiculously dangerous and inconsiderate. I rode on the back of my friend's Vespa last night from Chelsea to Williamsburg, and it reminded me of this video, and also of riding my little scooter in Taiwan, weaving in and out of traffic, the fierce wind blowing, feeling like I'm flying. I need to get on my bike again soon!


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13. Amateur - Lasse Gjertsen

Saw this over at Earl Picken's blog. Really cool.

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14. No Blueberries for Al


So, we didn't go blueberry picking, but I didn't mind--and I had all the fruit I could eat: fresh strawberries, peaches, apples with cinnamon, bananas. The weekend in Boston was chock full of good food (mostly home-cooked, including a 6 hour brunch of fruit and riccota crepes, frittata, fruit, and more fruit), nice walks from Davis Square to Harvard Square, jogging around Jamaica Pond, and children's book talks with my fellow Blue Rose Girls. It was fun to be there with Sachin, too, and I only wish we had more time there.

One business thing that came out of the trip is a new blog that will focus on children's book publishing. We'll try to post something every day, so please visit us here! I'll still be posting my random musings here, too.

And now I'm off to the SCBWI Annual Summer meeting in LA. Two nights at my parents' house in Diamond Bar first, and then off to be surrounded by children's book professionals. Say hi to me if you see me, and come to my workshops!

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15. Best. Mac and cheese. Ever.

I was excited for my Boston trip, not just because I'm seeing a bunch of old friends, not just because it's my first trip up there with Sachin, and not just because we're going blueberry picking and blueberries are my all-time favorite fruit. No, I was even MORE excited for the trip because we were able to squeeze in a quick trip to Silvertone last night for the best mac and cheese ever. It's creamy, the spiral pasta is perfectly cooked, the bread crumbs on top are crispy and seasoned, and the greens on the side get slightly wilted and are perfect that way.

Have I mentioned that I love the mac and cheese at Silvertone in Boston? It's one of the reasons I was sad to leave Boston, and I haven't found any mac and cheese as good in New York yet, and believe me, I've tried. Even went to the new mac and cheese restaurant S'mac in the East Village, but although it was solid, it just didn't compare. The closest I've gotten is by making it myself, but seeing all the butter and cream and cheese that goes into it was too gross for me. Sometimes I don't want to know what I'm eating.

Suggestions welcome. A few people have recommened the mac n cheese at Brother Jimmy's, so I'll have to try it. And yes, the fried mac n cheese at Mo Pitkin's is great, too!

We're at Grace and Robert's beautiful apartment right now, heading to brunch soon, maybe to Johnny D's for their jazz brunch. I haven't been there in a long time.

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16. No Candy and Me

It's been a week and a half since my birthday, but I wanted to say thanks to everyone who made it a great birthday weekend, even birthday week. I don't actually care too much about my birthday, but then again, it's nice to throw a party, and it's nice to see and hear from family and friends. I used my 2nd annual rooftop birthday party this year to also start raising money for Fred's Team. As I've mentioned, I'm running the NYC marathon this November and am raising money for pediatric cancer research. I'll be starting my big fundraising push after I run the half marathon in NY at the end of August, but in the meantime if you want to help me out by donating, you can do so here. I'm running in honor of Grace Lin's husband Robert, who was also the inspiration for the Robert's Snow fundraiser that raised over $100,000 for the past two years. We're not having that fundraiser this year, so if you want to contribute, please donate for me running over 26 miles!

I raised $431 dollars from having a raffle at my party (thank you to everyone who contributed), and when added to the internet donations, over $600 (raffle money isn't yet online) so far. So I'm closer to my $2500 goal. A great birthday present! And on my actual birthday, Sachin surprised me with tickets to see The Producers and took me to a wonderful dinner at Gramercy Tavern--the perfect cap to the perfect weekend, which started off with a cupcake surprise from Grace.

But all that wasn't what I was intending to post about...what I really wanted to post about is CANDY. Candy, candy, candy. For the past two years, I've eaten tons of candy at my birthday party. Most of my friends know why, but a few asked me, "What's up with all the candy?" Well, here's the story. About five years ago I went home for the Christmas holiday. Whenever I go home to Southern California, my mother inevitably takes me to a new doctor or two she's seeing. It may be reflexology, chiropracy, or accupuncture, etc. At any rate, this trip she took me to see two different doctors, and as they were pushing the pressure points on my feet and measuring my energy levels through my fingers, respectively, both doctors asked, "Do you eat a lot of candy?" "Uhhh, well, no, well, maybe, well..." Well, yes, actually, I do. At that time, up until recently I had been roommates with Grace and Jon, and we all loved candy and sweets. There would be pound bags of Smarties everywhere, chocolate, sour candy, nerds, everything. I also had a candy drawer at work, and would eat candy throughout the day. I've always had a sweet tooth, partially spurred, I think, because my parents never had sweets in the house and forbade me from eating candy. So of course I ate it every chance I had.

Well, even though part of me suspected that my mother had tipped off both doctors, I realized that I really did eat too much candy, and it couldn't be good for me. So I decided to stop. Just like that, cold turkey, as one of my New Year's resolutions. I had guidelines, of course, and I didn't give up sweet things altogether, just candy. Candy was defined mostly by whether or not something was found in the candy section of the supermarket, and also by the intent. For example, mints were okay, because the intent was to freshen my breath. Also, if it was an ingredient in another type of food, it was okay. So, for example, I could eat chocolate chip cookies, or even cookies with M&Ms in them, or ice cream mixed with Butterfingers, because the candy in those examples was secondary to the main ingredient. So for one whole year, I didn't eat any candy. None. And to be honest, to my surprise it wasn't that hard. It was hardest when the candy was free (it's extremely hard for me to resist free food of any kind, even when I'm not hungry), such as in the many candy dishes people had at work. So anyway, because I did so well I decided to continue my resolution the following year, but as a reward (because a lifetime without candy seemed a dark life indeed) I decided I would eat candy one day a year, on my birthday. This proved successful, and for the last three years, for my last three birthdays, that is what I've done. (The picture above is from my birthday last year.) I start eating candy at midnight the night before my birthday, and continue until midnight the night of my birthday. And I enjoy every piece. This year, I started with Grape Heads that my friend Mat bought me (under my specific instructions--I had spied them in a convenient store on the corner of the where he was staying at the time). I also overdosed on Rainbow Nerds, chewy Spree, Bottle Caps, SweetTarts, M&Ms, this funny "make your own ice cream cone" candy (pictured here) that Saho brought me, and more. I think I'll continue this resolution for as a long as I can. I enjoy the candy more that way--I don't take it for granted (although I must say my teeth and sides of my mouth do take a beating). It has been tempting to watch my coworkers eat the candy in front of me (I've been bringing the leftover candy into work--and there's still more!). But I AM STRONG! I AM WOMAN! And I like to abide by the rules of my own making.

On a related note, CANDY AND ME is a book by Hilary Lifton that I read a few years ago. It's a "candy memoir" about her life and the role candy plays in it, and it's funny, poignant, fully enjoyable, and a book I totally related to. I liked it so much that I went to the Web site for it after finishing the book, and even posted a few of my own candy memories. Mine are about Alexander the Grape (now called Grape-Heads), and Sugar and Jello Mix. See them here. The author got my permission to print my Alexander the Grape candy memory in the paperback edition of her book, but I'm a little ashamed to say that I haven't actually bought/seen a copy to check to see if it's there. I will, though!

I'm going up to Boston this weekend to visit with Grace, Anna, Libby, Meghan, and Linda (I hope), and I'm going to overdose on something similar to Alexander the Grape--it's small and round and cute and delicious: blueberries! We're going blueberry picking. Perhaps my next post will be Blueberries for Al.

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17. Trudging on.

I did the full park loop the morning of the Fourth. I didn't wake up as early as I would have liked, because I had gone out on the lower east side to hang out on my friend's rooftop and drink beer. (Also saw Devil Wears Prada that night--liked it! It was exactly what I wanted/expected.)

I wasn't going to go out that night, because I knew I wanted to run in the morning, but I also don't want to start resenting my running. After talking to some people who have trained and run the marathon, some commented that they never want to run it again because it took over their lives. I don't want this to take over my life. I don't want to regret or resent entering. Then again, I also don't want to die when I actually run it. Everything is about balance.

I left my apartment around 9:30 am. It was 79 degrees out when I woke up half an hour earlier, and 81 degrees and rising when I left. But it didn't feel as hot as Saturday--it was overcast and pretty breezy. But I still felt like I was wading through water, sluggish, slow. But as I ran slowly around the Park, I realized that it's so much more rewarding if it's hard. That's obvious, I guess, but when I'm running after not enough sleep, 60% humidity, rising thermometer, I feel that I'm accomplishing something more. Like acquiring a book when the negotiations were a struggle, finding new love and hope after your heart was broken, writing that editorial letter when you didn't know where to start, having fun at a party you didn't want to go to, making it work in a brand-new city or brand-new job. One of the most beautiful moments of my life is getting on the ferry to Cosa Mui in Thailand about 9 years ago after a grueling 10-hour, crowded, uncomfortable bus ride from Bangkok. After waiting, exhausted, in the ferry station for about an hour, we finally got on the ferry to the island and suddenly everything was transformed. The water was impossibly blue, the sky equally so with perfect white fluffy clouds. We could see schools of glittering silver fish skim the surface of the water, and life was good.

My brother and his wife are celebrating their five-year anniversary this weekend in Las Vegas (101 degrees and counting!). They've had some challenging moments in their marriage, especially in this last year, but they've said that will make this celebration that much sweeter. I'm looking forward to being there to share it with them.

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18. Wordplay

I saw the movie Wordplay last night--it had been recommended by several friends, and it seemed like my kind of film: Wordfreak meets Spellbound, with Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton thrown in--how can you go wrong? Despite the fact that for some reason the volume in the movie theater was uncomfortably loud (I watched half of the movie with my fingers in my ears--am I just getting old?), I found it utterly delightful and inspiring, even touching (one woman talked about losing her husband to a heart attack right after the annual crossword tournament. So sad. ) I don't do crossword puzzles myself, but I found myself involuntarily answering some of the clues in the movie. Maybe I'll check out Monday's NYTimes crossword puzzle. Oh, one thing that bothered me about the movie is that parts of it felt almost like an ad for the New York Times--I had to wonder if they helped fund the movie or something.

And just to give a quick running update: I was able to go to bed early last night and wake up this morning to run before coming into work at the library where I am now. I think I need to start actually scheduling in my training--I hadn't run since my symbolic 26 laps over a week ago. I ran past my coworker Sarah in the Park--she's also training for the marathon.

I got a late start so didn't do the full 6 mile loop as planned, instead cutting out the bottom loop and running a little over 5 miles. It was only 75 degrees out at 9:30, but it felt hotter. I guess I'll have to start running earlier to beat the heat.

Happy Fourth and long weekend, everyone!

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19. I'm famous!

Every now and then I think about writing about my career, but never get around to it. But I just did this lengthy interview that's up now on www.thecareercookbook.com, so read all about me if you want. Thanks to Jarrett for referring them to me.

Just got back from Julie and Jim's wedding in Deerfield, MA. It was an incredible time, so unique and perfect and fun, and full of this amazing couple's personality. It was great to see old friends, make some new ones, and just enjoy a weekend away from the city. I'm so honored that they included me in their special day. They had a zydeco band perform at the reception--months ago, when I heard that this was the plan and also heard about Jim's "No 80s music" rule, I was a little apprehensive. But I have to say, I didn't even miss the 80s music. High praise indeed, coming from me.

A few pics (had to throw in the one of the beautiful cakes from the dessert party on Friday night):


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20. Happy Year of the Dog!



I have every intention of blogging about Thailand, but as more time goes by, I'm not sure if I'll get to it. I'll try. I kept up with my journal while I was there, so I can always refer back to it. I also wanted to talk about the Kindling Words retreat (http://www.kindlingwords.org/) that I attended this past weekend. But first, I wanted to blog about THE YEAR OF THE DOG before Lunar/Chinese New Year is too far in the past.

All of the books I edit are my babies and I love them dearly, and I know you aren't supposed to pick favorites amongst your children, but this one is so near and dear to my heart. It's a very special book about friendship, identity, and finding one’s passion in life, and for many reasons is exactly the book I wished I had growing up, and exactly the book I hoped to publish when I became a children’s book editor.

As childhood friends when I lived in Upstate NY, Grace and I were two of the few Asian children living in our small town. We bonded over our love of books, and devoured any book with Asian American characters (at that time, there weren’t many!). Grace and I remained close even after I moved away, and twelve years later, we were roommates in Boston just as we were both starting out in the children’s book industry: Grace as a children’s picture book author and illustrator, and I as an editorial assistant at Little, Brown. As the years passed, we both progressed in our careers, and at the same time, Grace’s picture book audience was growing older and asking for older books. Little, Brown was also looking to publish more novels, and I kept asking Grace if she'd ever considered writing one. One day (at Kindling Words in 2004, in fact) she told me, “I wrote it.”

I read it in one sitting, and imagine my surprise and delight to find that I was a character in the book! (My name is Melody in the book, because I thought it would be weird to edit a book with a character of my same name. When my parents were deciding what to name me, they narrowed it down to either Alvina or Melody, which is why Grace chose that as my name.) Many of the stories in this novel are based on events that really happened to us as children: our struggles with our ethnic identity, as well as school issues, friendships, and crushes—it isn’t too often that an editor gets to work on a book that tells her story, too!

THE YEAR OF THE DOG is both hilarious and poignant, and very powerful in its own way. I am thrilled to have played a role in introducing it to the world. Please go out and buy it, for yourself, for a friend, for a relative. If you do read it, I'd love to know what you think! It's gotten rave reviews so far, including a starred review, which is a rare thing. I'm hoping it'll sell a bazillion copies and becomes a classic. It deserves it!

And yes, this year is the Year of the Dog. It's a good year to discover your passion in life, if you haven't already.

You can check out grace's website at: http://www.gracelin.com/. She also has a great blog here: http://pacyworks.blogspot.com/

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