Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good News: Lost Oasis gets another chance

This Saturday is the last day for Lost Oasis in Central Park, but I found out today that it looks like the show will get a reprise in the undergroundzero festival, in NYC, on July 28, at 3pm. I'm not sure of the exact location yet. All reports are that the show is going quite well, and I'm glad it'll be able to continue a little longer (assuming the actors can all do it, etc.).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Saving myself for Michael

Sicko comes out in wide release on Friday. There are a whole lot of people spending a whole lot of money trying to tell me what to think about it before I've seen it (quite a few of them would prefer that I don't see it at all). So at the moment, I'm on a slightly careful media diet, avoiding reviews and commentaries. I even turned off an NPR piece that was going through the film blow-by-blow giving the thumbs up and thumbs down on each of Moore's claims. I'd like to hear that after the movie, but such news pieces miss the whole narrative aspect of Moore's films, and why they're successful. He tells an interesting story. (Yeah, it's often manipulative. Hello, it's a movie.)

Is Michael Moore a egotistical blowhard? I guess so. Sometimes. Does he have a point of view? Hell yeah, he's not a newsman, he's a filmmaker and an agitator, with strong opinions and a sense of outrage.

I've really enjoyed his films. (I think I liked Bowling for Columbine best.) And I love how he's managed to survive and continue to stick it to the Man, despite the big ton of bricks the establishment has dumped on him over the years.

I can't help but admire his ability to work the media (even the parts that hate him) to get exposure for his films. Anyway, I'm looking forward to making up my own mind (and dragging my wife with me to the movies).

Monday, June 25, 2007


I was at a small lake this weekend, for a little family reunion. The kids and I were trying to catch minnows with some butterfly nets. After 35 years of trying to catch little fish, I've finally figured it out. A quick swipe straight down over a cloud of minnows, press down all the way to the bottom, and drag back towards me, netted me a few inch-long fish almost every time. We caught exclusively little perch, except for one itty bitty catfish, which was really cool. We dumped them all in a bucket and watched them swim around. Later, after a great deal of patience, I also managed to catch a six-inch sunfish. By far the biggest fish I'd ever caught with such a tiny net, larger than I thought was even possible.

This is what I do with theatre--writing and sending out lots of short plays for small productions. I have fun catching them, a sense of triumph even, but they aren't exactly going to feed me. Every once in a while, something really interesting and unusual happens with a small production. And often I'm not sure that I have the right tools to land the big fish , but with a great deal of patience and many, many failures, sometimes I do catch a medium-sized fish, one that might not make for a whole dinner, but at least a few mouthfuls. And it feels like I caught a whale.

Friday, June 22, 2007

8 Random Facts about me meme (I'm slow)

I was tagged by Laura for this meme on May 31, and I'm just really, really slow.

Here are the rules of the house: Bloggers must post these rules and provide eight random facts about themselves. In the post, the tagged blogger tags eight other bloggers and notify them that they have been tagged.

Here's what I can think of:.

  1. I have moved 18 times in my life. (10 as an adult)
  2. I've won prizes in competitions for building with legos (as a kid) and for juggling (as an adult).
  3. I was on the MIT Rugby team, for all of one game. (Problems: I was too busy writing my thesis (a screenplay), I didn't like beer, and I weighed about 145 pounds.)
  4. On paper, I'm a Master Urban Gardener. Which means I took an eight-week class and I used to help run a community garden in Boston. But I'm not really an expert. I don't have a garden now, and I really miss it.
  5. I was once used by Mario Cuomo to make a political point. He was visiting my dad's small biotech company, and his advance men told him that I was attending MIT, so in front of the reporters he asked about my plans, and stated "this is why we need to improve our state's colleges, so young Mr. Gabridge doesn't feel like he has to go out of state." Or something like that. He was a really impressive guy in person--super smart.
  6. I've never been skinny dipping.
  7. I once played Rip Van Winkle in a local TV commercial for a mattress company.
  8. I have a habit of acquiring musical instruments that I can't play. I currently possess a guitar, a harmonica, a trumpet, a violin, and a recorder. (I can play the guitar and recorder a little.) I used to own a clarinet (jr. high orchestra), too. I'd really like a banjo, with the hopes that I would somehow be inspired to learn it, or that I would magically just pick it up one day and be able to play. (My wife is skeptical of this plan.)

It's hard to come up with 8 bloggers who haven't already been tagged by this . I'll tag: Dan, Dave, Mirror Up to Nature, Meron, Ghost Light, Playgoer, Matthew and Johnna.

5am Habit

So far I've stuck to my plan of getting up at 5am and writing for the past two days. So far so good. (I'm planning to sleep in on weekends.)

I'm a fan of early morning writing, because my mind is clear and I'm still in somewhat of a dream state. I've found I can make it easier if I stick to these rules:

  • Set my my laptop (or blank pad of paper) in place the night before. Pencils and dictionary ready. The tools are all ready to go. The desk is clear of crap besides my work.
  • Make sure my e-mail program and internet browser are closed and I don't open them.
  • I take a tiny bit of time when I go to bed to prepare for the next morning, just giving a conscious thought to what I'll be working on, or re-reading the section I need to edit.
  • I often will listen to music on the ipod, so I don't hear the rest of the household waking up.
  • I don't usually stop for a snack or drink, because I try to get to the desk as quickly as possible.
Both yesterday and today, everyone else got up late, so I was able to put in a full two hours or more each day. Good stuff. (They all know I'm a lot more pleasant when I get my writing in.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

5/5 Meme

Malachy Walsh tagged me with a meme started by Laura.

...its purpose is to get people talking about their passion in life. It’s called the 5/5 meme. Five questions, then pass it to five people. “Expertise” could be your profession, hobby, or area of intense interest.
If I haven’t named you specifically and you would like to do it, feel free. I’d love for everyone to answer these questions. I’ve named five just to get it going.
Remember: This is a “get to know you” meme. It’s supposed to be breezy and fun.

1. Name your area of expertise/interest:

Writing. I have experience in a lot of different kind of writing--novels, plays, screenplays, articles, newsletters, non-fiction books (okay, proposals anyway). I also have a strong interest in helping writers figure out how to market their work (hence starting Market InSight, and the Playwright Submission Binge).

2. How did you become interested in it?

I got involved in theatre because of my mom, who acted and made costumes for community theatres. I started acting and working backstage with a small professional company. When I was in college, on a lark, I wrote a short play and submitted it to them. They decided to produce it. It was a great experience, and the rest is history.

When I was in college at MIT, I took a class called "Creative Seeing", where we made a short video project. I loved it.

I was lucky that the public response to my early plays and films was so positive (as was the process of making them). If it wasn't, I probably would be a computer geek right now.

(Confession: I also played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in high school, and that taps a lot into basic storytelling skills and desires.)

3. How did you learn how to do it?

I got a super 8 camera and started making short films that we'd show at dorm parties, and people loved them. I took classes (which weren't inspiring), made some 16mm shorts (which taught me a LOT), and spent a summer working part-time as a cameraman for a TV news station in upstate New York (Plattsburgh). I read all the books I could find on screenwriting (which was pretty much only Syd Field back then), took a class at NYU (though couldn't get into grad school there, and couldn't afford/didn't want to attend Columbia, which let me in at the last minute). Basically, I wrote a lot and started submitted. Many years later, I got an agent and worked a bit with a producer, and that taught me a lot, too. Lots of learning by doing. (And watched a TON of movies and broke them down.)

For writing plays, again I learned by doing. I've never taken a playwriting class (though I took a bunch of creative writing classes in college). But I acted in high school and college. After college, I self-produced my first full-length play as an Equity Showcase in NYC. Later in Denver, I co-founded a theatre company (Chameleon Stage) which I helped run for a few years. I was up to my neck in all aspects of theatre for years (I ran playwrights' groups and organizations, facilitated readings, directed plays, ran sound and lights, etc.). My first play was produced 20 years ago (isn't that a scary thought?).

How did learn to write other stuff? By trying it. I thought it would be fun to make radio theatre, so I wrote a grant and produced four half-hour radio shows (we sold three of them to NPR). I love novels (isn't that like saying I like air?), and wanted to see if I could write one, so I did. It took a long time to get it published, but I liked it enough to try writing another (I'm in the middle of it right now).

4. Who has been your biggest influence?

In terms of plays, when I was young, I was a big fan of Pinter, Beckett, and Ibsen. Plays by Anthony Clarvoe and Ping Chong and Caryl Churchill were important to me. The Denver production of Hunting Cockroaches by Janusz Glowacki has always stuck in my head. But really, I've been most influenced by the other writers (and our director, Mark Higdon) in Chameleon Stage, and the writers in Rhombus, my current group. These are people who have pushed and challenged me year after year.

I started writing screenplays under the spell of the Coen brothers, Spike Lee, Coppola, John Sayles, Oliver Stone. I'm a big fan of Charlie Kaufman and Alan Ball.

For novels, there are so many writers I admire. Toni Morrison, James Baldwin. I love Nick Hornby right now, and Jasper Fforde, and Anne Tyler. As I kid, I grew up reading science fiction, reading all the Heinlein and Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke I could find. Narnia and Watership Down and Lord of the Rings drew me in completely.

My friend Mark Dunn is someone who I look to. He wrote plays, a whole bunch of which are published, then wrote a great novel, Ella Minnow Pea, followed by more novels, non-fiction books, with more to come. He's one of my role models.

5. What would you teach people about it?

Hm. That's a tricky one, isn't it. (I've read some of the other folks in this meme, and they offer such good advice.)

There's two different parts to my answer, because there are two different parts tothe question:

1) I'm not sure how to teach someone how to actually write. From my experience, it's something best accomplished by practice and repetition. Write something, get it produced or published. Write more. Write more. For the actual writing, part of the goal is to get good enough at the basics (being comfortable coughing up words out of your brain in a coherent string) that you can get the hell out of your own way. In some ways this gets easier, as you practice, just like typing. However, in some ways this gets harder as you've written more, because there are more external pressures and it takes more energy to silence the internal critics they represent. Real writing happens when all the voices of self doubt and criticism shut the hell up for a while, and you're able to listen to the story and characters all by themselves. You must write in a state of self-delusion--you must believe, at least at first, that what you're creating is worthwhile and fantastic and thrilling. Sometimes it's just crap, and you'd better be able to write absolute crap and not assess its inherent crappiness until after it's on the page.

2) I've thought a lot about what I can teach someone about how to be a writer. In addition to writing, my hobby is thinking about the discipline and mind set and marketing that it takes to be a "writer" in the sense of someone actually working on creating a lifetime body of work for a public audience.

In this sense, I'd suggest that people who want to be writers:

  • write a lot
  • have a regular schedule
  • make friends with other writers (playwrights need to know directors, actors, and producers, too)
  • submit widely
  • remember that getting rejections means that you're doing your job
  • remember that for most people, it takes a very long time to build a writing career. We read about the exceptions in Newsweek and in the New York Times. Even most of those writers have been working their asses off for years in order to appear to be overnight sensations.
  • Don't confuse poverty or riches with quality. Not all great writers are poor and unknown. Not all rich writers are hacks.
  • Expect to want to quit often. Even if you start to taste success. If you quit, you only have to answer to yourself. If you think you can live with that, you might not want to start. (However, since you're only answering to yourself, if you quit, you can restart anytime you want.)
  • Reaching a wide audience requires talent, hard work, and a lot of luck. I know many many writers who have the first two ingredients, not so many who've gotten #3.
(That seems like more than enough.)

I'm not sure I know five bloggers who haven't already been tagged by this (some aren't writing about theatre). I'll tag Dan, Dave, Mirror Up to Nature, Meron, and Johnna.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Summer To-Do List (recipe for madness)

Here is the list of all the things that I intend to do this summer. (The kids' last day of school is tomorrow!)

  • Get up at 5am every weekday and write for 90 minutes. (Mostly on new novel.)
  • Finish the non-fiction book proposal that I'm working on (with a collaborator) and get it out to publishers.
  • Proof Tightly Bound for Brooklyn Publishers (due Monday, so I might actually get this one done). It took some work, but they finally agreed to publish this collection of my short plays for women.
  • Send out a bunch more screenplay queries.
  • Take the kids outside to play every day.
  • Take the kids on an excursion every other day (though they'll be in camp in August) (try to find places where both the dog and kids can swim)
  • Read a novel every two weeks. (sounds easy, right?)
  • Read Anna Karenina (might take more than two weeks. I've already had to take back the copy I had from the library. I read the first page. It was a really, really good first page. This time I'm just going to buy a paperback, so I won't rack up so many overdue fees.)
  • Read the new Harry Potter. (We've already paid for our copy, but I'm third in line in our house to get it. Luckily my wife and daughter are very fast readers, so I won't have to wait too long.)
  • Strip and paint the wood window in the bathroom. (been putting this off for months)
  • Hang up the pictures in my office (we've been here a year, no more excuses).
  • Build built-in shelves in my office.
  • Blog regularly. (Do better at reading and commenting.)
  • Practice playing the guitar. (Maybe finally take a lesson?)
  • Do mini-soccer skill drills 3x per week with daughter (for both of us--I just started playing a weekly Sunday morning pick up game, and have discovered that my skills have not stayed at a the same place I left them when I last played 20 years ago, and that my 40-year-old body could perhaps get in better shape).
  • Do a little French language brush-up (with daughter who will start class in the fall).
  • Do some funky dancing with my son to my the James Brown Greatest Hits CD that I got for Father's Day (we did a little of this today already).
  • Do some work on my new on-line project that will help change the way writers get information to market their work. (Top secret for now.)
  • Help son keep learning how to read. Math practice, too.
  • Send out a handful of play submissions.
  • Nap (as needed)
  • Contact whoever is in charge (Mr. Intelligent Designer?) and arrange to have 25th and 26th hours added to the day.
That's about it. Shouldn't be too tough. And if I don't do it all, I'll be a complete and utter failure as a human being. (or else just a human being)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

tick tock, tick tock

I can feel summer vacation breathing down my neck. The kids only have three and a half more days of school, so writing time is about to get pretty scarce until August, when they have day camp. I'm actually pretty disciplined about finding the time to write, especially if I'm deep into a project (and I am now, smack in the middle of a major rewrite of my new novel). Usually that means getting up at 5am and writing for 90 minutes, not much time for screwing around. I might try also getting in one night per week, at the library or something. It's finding time for the other stuff, the marketing and networking, that gets tough during school vacation.

Even if I don't get much work done, hopefully we'll have fun (if I can keep the two of them from driving each other crazy, and me along with them. Ah, the joys of sibling rivalry. Such sympathy I have for my parents these days. )

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

marketing efforts: trying to make the PIMP pay

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I plunked down a very precious $100 to sign up with Script PIMP (Pipeline Into Motion Pictures), which gets me access to an online database of production companies, agents, and managers looking for new scripts. And they have a feature that allows you to submit queries through their site to companies who want them--I don't know if they're any more likely to be read than a traditional e-mail (I hope so, but have no idea).

Finally I've been getting my act together and going through the database and figuring out which companies are right for my work and which particular scripts they might like to see. So far I've sent 22 queries, so I'm down to less than $5 a shot. Not great, but it's getting better all the time.

I've heard absolutely no response yet, though it's only been a week or two at most for any of the queries. If this hadn't already worked for me about three years ago, I'd be wringing my hands in despair, wondering if it's all a scam. Since I know better, I just get to practice my patience instead.

Looking at my submission database, I can see a pattern for my screen work. I send out a handful of queries and then get an agent or manager. I work with them for a while, some scripts get submitted (maybe not as many as I'd like). And then the whole thing falls apart, and my screen work languishes for a few years. When I say the whole thing falls apart, I mean, the project that got them excited doesn't sell quickly and they get more interested in something else and stop calling me back. (Is this how it works for other people, too? I have no idea. Actually, one agent just went out of business.)

I'm not quite sure how to break out of this cycle, besides try to make sure that I get lucky and see one of these suckers all the way through, at least all the way until I have something to put in my bank account, but really I want to follow it until there's something to see on the screen.

In addition to sending out these queries, which feels like the minimum I should be doing, I should probably do a little assessment of who I know who might be able to give me a referral to an agent. I've found screenwriters to be pretty tight lipped with agent information. I understand why this is, because they're tough to get, and the relationships can be fragile. But I guess I still need to at least try.

(If any of you have tips on good screenwriting sites that go beyond the very basics, I'd be interested to know. (I've had agents, a manager, and had a script optioned, so I've at least gotten my feet wet.))

Monday, June 11, 2007

marketing efforts: book clubs (and my meagre resources)

Getting ready for the BEA helped reinvigorate me for marketing Tornado Siren. Just before the conference, I sent in $40 to to get on their preferred titles list for a month, which puts an image of my cover the front page of their site. They get more than 35,000 page views a month, but we'll have to see how many of those visitors click through to my page. My traffic is up, but it's definitely still slow. It's tricky trying to figure out where to stick my very finite resources (I'll have to find a way to barter with fellow playwright blogger Malachy Walsh for some marketing tips...).

I also used the ReadersCircle site to approach book clubs. Last week I sent e-mails to almost 40 clubs, half in my area, and half in Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas/Colorado, to let them know about the book, and offer to talk to their groups either on-line or in person (f0r the New England ones). The response had been mostly deafening silence until today, when I heard from the Boston University Barnes & Noble. She said that the book isn't right for their book club, but she was interested in the book and ordered copies to shelve in her store. So that's a success. Now I just need that to happen about five hundred more times.

I know this is extremely unlikely, but if any of you who are reading this are in New England and don't have a copy of Tornado Siren (surely not possible), be sure to head down to 660 Beacon Street next week and make them happy they ordered the book. (It'd make me happy, too. And make you happy, because it's a fun book.)

Trying to figure out how to sell novels has been an interesting puzzle, and I'm still trying to figure it out. In some ways, marketing a play production is easier, because it runs for a few weeks, you market the hell out of it (with scant resources), and either you sell tickets or you don't, and then it's over. And you've got a cast and crew plugging the show to their friends and family. With a book, there's no cast and crew. Just me--and my friends and family have all done their duty. Getting the word out there to the rest of the besieged world is the tricky part. As soon as I stop marketing it, that's it, people aren't going to buy it and read it. Which would suck.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Snappy Dance (wow)

This afternoon I took my 7-year-old son to see a show by the Snappy Dance Company (it wasn't a kids' show per se, but he likes dance). We're friends with Bonnie, one of the dancers, but the schedule has never worked out for me to see a whole show.

Wow. I don't know a lot about dance or the vocabulary that does with it, but I guess you'd call them a contemporary dance company, with a strong emphasis on visual imagery and acrobatics. I'm interested in some the basic ways that dance differs from theatre, one of which being that while the show is in progress, it's a perfectly acceptable thing for you (in the audience) to say to yourself, "Wow. How do they do that? I could never do that." Whereas during a play, that's a bad thing. For a play, the "wow" moment should ideally only come at intermission and when the show is over. If you're admiring the acting during the show, something is wrong.

Not to say that Snappy never pulls you in. Some of the pieces are simple, and the rhythm and imagery conjure up a whole range of emotions. Some have a narrative thread (my son liked the one about a couple who are having a very hard time sharing the Sunday paper), but in general the pieces are fairly abstract. It's a good mental exercise for me, as a playwright, to release my mind from strict narrative confines.

Of particular interest this afternoon was a new piece they've just developed, String Beings. Double wow. This was a long routine (taking the whole second act of the performance) that used a live guitar player and a violinist (she got picked up and twirled around while she was actually playing), and a whole multi-media/video setup, using cameras on stage to project images onto a scrim in front of the stage (of the dancers, but digitally altered) as the dancers are on stage. (Or sometimes with a slightly delay.)

I wish I could see it again (without trying to manage a squirming 7-year-old at the end of his attention span. Did I mention that our seats were in the very center of the very front row?), so I could better piece together all the thematic elements and narrative connections . The effect was almost a kind of delirium, with both laughs and serious moments, and a recurring series of ghost-like images. It has to have been one of the most effective uses of video I've seen on stage with live performers--it wasn't used constantly during the piece, but when it was, it generally enhanced the performance, so that the audience has an experience that has an entire extra dimension (4D dance). Kudos to my friends Kathleen Rogers and Rick Teller for co-commissioning the piece.

I'm sure I was even more impressed by the physical aspects of the performance today, because I played in a pickup soccer game this morning (I haven't played in years). I am not 17 years old anymore, and my body was strongly reminding me of this fact all afternoon. The thought of jumping and stretching and contorting seemed especially out of this world.

So, if Snappy comes to anywhere near you, don't miss them. (They tour all over the world. When I told my son that they performed for the King and Queen of Sweden, but he kept looking around the audience for the King).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Good news from Smith & Kraus

This morning I got an e-mail saying that Smith & Kraus wants to publish two of my plays, Pumpkin Patch (which was just done in NYC) and Stop Rain, in Best Ten-Minute Plays 2007, Two Actors.

I'm delighted that both plays were selected and will now have a chance to reach a broader audience. I'd had a couple tough rejections lately--usually rejections don't phase me at all, but these were for things I REALLY wanted--so these acceptances come at the perfect time. I've had items in S&K anthologies before, but it's been quite a while.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Gregory Maguire rocks

Tonight Tracy and I went to hear author Gregory Maguire speak at my kids' school. He's written a lot of books for kids and adults, including Leaping Beauty, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (basis for the hit Broadway show).

I'll confess that I haven't read any of them (yet), but Tracy really liked reading Wicked. Apparently he was at the school all day, working with 3rd and 4th graders. Tonight he gave a prepared talk, for an appreciative crowd of 60 (mostly kids).

He was amazing. His experience as a school teacher showed, in his comfort speaking with and for the kids. But he managed to engage the adults just as well, with all the skill of a master storyteller. He's got a new book coming out this fall, What the Dickens. I can't wait to read it. We bought Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Leaping Beauty tonight, to add to that big pile that we got at the BEA.

I wish I could easily summarize his talk, but it was a playful and complex mix of joy and sorrow, beautifully weaving slices of his experience as a child (he spent some time in an orphanage after his mom died before his dad remarried and came back and got him), as a younger man (serving on a peace mission in Nicaragua in the 80s), and as an adoptive father. His love of fairy tales and his belief in the power and importance of reading and writing and telling tales was shared with us completely. I've got a new role model when it comes to giving book talks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

from the Onion (funny post)

A friend sent me this post from the Onion about a Shakespeare production, and I got a good laugh out of it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

BEA report (part II):

I had a great day at the BEA. The fact that my in-laws watched the kids while Tracy and I had the day to ourselves (along with 10,000 other people in the Javits Center) made it sort of like a day-long date. She's a librarian and I'm a writer, so being surrounded by tens of thousands of books is a good thing.

My distributor and publisher had a very nice booth, though it was on the outer edge of the floor, so it saw a lot less traffic than the booths (though some were as big as our condo, so it's a stretch to call them booths) controlled by the big publishers. Plus we were right on the way to the bathroom, so by the time people worked their way over to our aisle, they were a little shell-shocked and exhausted from the barrage of displays and in desperate need to pee. This made it a little tough to flag them down in order to interest them in a signed copy of Tornado Siren.

I did sign and give away half a dozen copies in my 30-40 minutes, and met some interesting people. One woman was hooked the second she saw the cover--her sister lives in Greensburg, Kansas, and was there for the big tornado a few weeks ago. Another woman (and fellow writer) told us a story about how she was hit by lightning while driving her car across Texas.

My main celebrity sightings were Dave Barry (I wish that I'd said Hi, but I was too shy) and John Patrick Shanley (who signed two books for me). Had a great conversation with the guy who runs Arcadia publishing, who put out the "Images of America" series of pictorial histories of towns. Their business model is genius (they have 3,000 titles, with 800 more on the way)--they basically provide a book template that can be filled in by a town's local historical society that ends up producing an attractive book with a built-in regional niche market. Particularly interesting was that many of the books are sold in non-traditional venues (hardware stores, funeral homes).

Going to BEA as a writer left me with a touch of seasickness. Half the time I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of publishers and books out there. I'd look around and think, "What can I possibly add to all of this that hasn't already been written? Look at the incredible amount of competition. What's the point?"

The rest of the time, I'd realize that all these publishers meant that a decent book with market appeal had a good chance of finding a publisher. And that each of these publishers needs new material every year. At BEA next year (at least for the big publishers), they're going to be pushing different books altogether. They need me to provide them with something to sell. (I'm working on it, guys.)

The BEA isn't a good place to try to find an editor or publisher for a manuscript, because the booths are staffed with salespeople trying to get bookstores and librarians to buy stuff for next year (and there were lots of press and other industry folks busy networking), but it does remind a writer that the book business is a big business (and it's all about selling books).

Stuff You See in Boston While Walking the Dog

We live near the Muddy River, which separates Brookline from Boston. On my daily dog walk tonight, I spotted two large snapping turtles laying eggs along the path. (Last September we found ten newly hatched baby turtles along the same path.) I've never seen one depositing eggs before--quite a sight. They dig with their hind legs and raise and lower their rear ends and bury the eggs pretty deeply, but above the high water line. The one turtle wasn't more than two feet off the bike path--I hope she makes it through the evening undisturbed (she clearly wasn't going anywhere until she was finished).

Monday, June 4, 2007

BEA report (part I): Bounty

Half the fun of a big conference is picking up the giveaways. A book conference is better than any other, because instead of pens and pads and other doodads, you get books. Books that nobody else has read yet, because they aren't coming out until next year.

Here's the pile that we brought home (minus one or two that we left at my in-laws house). 21 books. Here's what we got:

  • The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg. We waited in line about half an hour for this one, at the end of a long and tiring day. Tracy was a huge fan of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and then she read it aloud to our daughter. We're all excited to read this new book.
  • Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls by Danielle Wood
  • The Boy's Body Book (Everything You Need to Know for Growing up YOU) by Kelli Dunham
  • The Bee Tree by Stpehen Buchman and Diana Cohn, ill. by Paul Mirocha. This one comes at a good time, because my son's class just had a visit from a beekeeper.
  • Selavi: A Haitian Story of Hope by Youme
  • The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iaian Banks. We got a couple promising books at the Macadam/Cage booth, who publish my friend Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea, which is still in print, and a fantastically clever and fun book.
  • Are The Rich Necessary? by Hunter Lewis. I had to fill out a little survey to get this one, asking me if I thought the rich are necessary, and a few other gimme questions. I'm curious to see what he says (I'm guessing the answer is mostly, "no").
  • Do Me Twice by Sonsyrea Tate
  • Doubt by John Patrick Shanley
  • Dirty Story and Other Plays by John Patrick Shanley. Mr. Shanley happened to be at the TCG booth, signing copies. The TCG booth was small (smaller than the one my distributor/publisher had), and there wasn't really any line. I wished desperately that I'd seen Doubt when it came to town, but I hadn't, so I didn't really have anything intelligent to say, other than, "I'm a playwright, too. Congratulations on all the success of Doubt. It's great that it's done so well." And he signed my book, shook my hand, and said, "It's always a surprise when it works out." Just a reminder to us all, that even if you win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (2005), you still show up at conferences and sign books. There were a couple people behind us (though not much of a line). I wished I'd stayed and chatted longer.
  • Trail of Crumbs (Hunger, Love and the Search for Home) by Kim Sunee
  • A Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer
  • Hallowmere: In the Serpent's Coils by Tiffany Trent
  • Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is a YA novel that sounds pretty interesting.
  • Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz
  • Caspian Rain by Gina B. Nahai
  • Mirriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus. This one wasn't a gimme. The woman at the booth was only awarding them to people who successfully spelled a word from a list, a mini-spelling bee if you will. I'm proud to report that I spelled "penitentiary" without too much trouble.

It's a pile with something for everyone in our family, and I have hope that there will be a few pleasant surprises. Guess I'd better get reading.