Saturday, June 6, 2009


We've all talked about how difficult writing is. But I can't help but think that if I had a suit like this guy------>

that writing and many other things would suddenly be possible. 

"What's that muse? You don't feel like working today? My Hugo Cabaret ray gun says you will. And like it!" 

This reminds me of something along a similar vein. 

Has anyone else seen the preview for the upcoming movie called 9? There are two coming out, one is 9 (number) and the other is Nine (word). I'm talking about the upcoming movie 9 produced by Tim Burton of Edward Scissorhand's and many others fame. His movies work and don't work for me, but THIS looks to be an epic animated masterpiece directed by Timur Bekmambetov (miracle if I spelled that right). Anyways here's a site where you can download the trailer, and I recommend downloading the HD large trailer (it's worth the wait): 

It comes out on 9/9/09 or to Canadians that would read, 9/9/09.

And last of all for today is a picture of Linus. This is the other day when we were on a walk and were attacked by dementors. 

Don't worry, my elephant patronus warded them off. Unfortunately dogs can't eat chocolate so it took him a little longer to recover. I took my medicine in the form of a king size snickers bar. 

In case you were wondering what Linus hears when dementors are near, well he told me. He said the sound of a day with no walks. I asked him what that sounded like but he wouldn't elaborate, only shuddered.   

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Summer Revision Smackdown Progress

So here's my summer revision smackdown progress. Or this might be easier to read: 

It was such a nice day I took my SRS goals outside with me and my writing coach Linus.

Sometimes I like to use a white board to mix things up. 

Oh the stress of that blank page. 

So first I tried to loosen up with some art.

My shadow self-portrait.


I'm a writer, not an artist. Black sheep in my family.

Then I went to work loosey goosey. Great writing session thanks to my Summer Revision Smackdown buddies and that licorice WHERPLASH! It's a great kick in the rump and I think it is really motivating me and helping me get my butt in the chair, wherever that chair may be.

My other inspiration today came from my dad's post about how the journey is the destination ( and also with Kirby's revision tips to go for a walk and then get your butt in the chair (

You know what I realized?

That sometimes I make writing all formal and uptight. But when I chill out a little and customize it to me and my quirks, it becomes fun (God forbid). And when that happens my big butch perfectionist bully shuts up and glares with her arms crossed. But SHUTS UP! Hallelujah. And then my writing relaxes too. 

The journey is the destination. Time to enjoy the journey and the love of writing. My way. 

And so we soaked ourselves with the hose and I put my butt in the chair. And Linus murdered our neighbor's dog's stuffed animals. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Shameless - rated R post

Ok, so southern Vancouver Island has been incredibly hot and muggy. No this is not normal around these parts. Linus and I have been taking turns hogging the fan. I think Linus might think it's his buddy since he keeps licking it.

Here's some photos of his nap. 

Dork. Must be related to me. 

And apparently needs some lessons in modesty because he has NONE. Warning canine full frontal nudity below. Please cover any adolescent dog's eyes nearby.


Shutting the door

In honor of my new music player that sits (used to sit but got thrown out for slowing things down) at the bottom of this blog, I'm throwing this question out there. What do you listen to when you write or create art? Does your music preference change when you switch from brainstorm to rough draft to revision and so on? 

For myself I like to listen to music when I write, especially to block out noise. In On Writing, Stephen King has this to say:

"I work to loud music--hard-rock stuff like AC/DC. Guns 'n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites--but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out. When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you're writing, you're creating your own worlds."

Sometimes I just need it quiet so I turn everything off with the shades drawn and the lights out. Or I head to my Other Office (see pics below). Other times I have a couple writing playlists on Itunes, usually set to random. Lots of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, classical, guitar. Sometimes I need just instrumental stuff, other times my writing mood gets a boost from a soundtrack. How about you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My other office

When I was a boy I was notorious for reading in the tub. Or anywhere else for that matter. I would stay in and read for hours as my mom yelled, "Ben, do you have a book in there?"

"No ma." 

Of course I did. Every time. She especially didn't like it when I'd take our Scribners Classics in there or our nice copies of The Lord Of the Rings. This also happened when I had to "ahem", use the loo. It got to the point where she'd check me as I'd go in or out for contraband (see books). No we weren't in Nazi Germany, just Murphys, California. 

I learned to stash books quickly if I sensed I was under scrutiny, under the sink, beneath the washcloths. I also grew adept at tucking them in the front of my pants and shirt, then sucking in my stomach as I went by the Gestapo, sorry, my parents. (disclaimer: they actually encouraged me to read my whole life and didn't speak German at all, they just wanted other people to use the bathroom too) Of course Scribners Classics contained the stunning full page NC Wyeth illustrations and a bunch of other pages that made me look suspicious, and pregnant, as did the Lord of the Rings, War and Peace and the other "fatties". When that was the case I'd resort to a distraction like throwing a pillow at a lamp or something else to "throw them off the scent". Steinbeck, Kjelgaard and many others were nice and slim, no outlines.  

Well my cloak and dagger days have come and gone (as far as you all know...) but my
affinity for baths and books have not. I figured since I loved reading in the bath so much, why not write in it too?

It was love at first dip but my early attempts were primitive. The problem with writing in your journal while in the tub is that you have to crank over to the side for too long and it isn't very comfortable. Plus you have to keep your elbows and forearms dry so you don't get your Moleskin black leather journal wet either. Right? And that narrow ledge.

So, through trial and error, and with "necessity being the mother of invention" my tub writing has evolved into my "Other Office". That's what I write in my notebooks when I write there, usually accompanied by time and date (which I never know, so I always have vague attempts that are pretty pathetic - Nightime, sometime in October, or November, I think the 12th, or the fifth pretty sure a Tuesday or Sunday, In Other Office). 

So here are some pictures of my "Other Office" (no not with me in it). My dad thinks I'm nuts. I don't spend a majority of my writing time here, but if you want to get away from all distractions, I recommend it. 
Notice the waterproof job on the ipod. I don't always listen to music, and sometimes just need quiet, but other times Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan are mandatory. My wonderful wife made me those awesome sandwiches this morning before she went to work, so I just had to pull them out and presto. If you can see there is a king size Snickers bar, but the apple on the right balances it out. Balanced meals are everything. Yes, there is a candle. Yes, I would get beat up by the guys I grew up with if they saw that. Yep, that's a phone too. So if you ever call and hear a strange echo while I'm talking, bingo. My pops gets all weird if he hears me in the tub and hangs up when he figures I'm in there. There is an alarm clock as well so I don't forget to pick up Amy at work or if I need to do whatever. The desk itself is the middle leaf to our dining room table upside down.

It is important to have a lifeguard around, while in the water. 
                                         So here he is:

I think this looks pretty inviting. Don't you?

And yes, of course that's coffee in my new mug. Plenty of cream and sugar please.  

Time to take the plunge. Nice dirty mirror. 

Yes, that is the same sweater in every picture I've posted on here so far. There IS a logical reason for that. It is my WRITING SWEATER. It makes me feel like a writer. That being said, there will be other sweaters in other pictures someday. And shorter posts. And literacy rates will improve. Ok, one thing at a time. Of course most of my other sweaters are brown too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Licorice whippings

All right, now I'm really in trouble. 

I just signed up for the Summer Revision Smackdown, the brainchild of Jolie Stekly and Holly Cupala. Here's Jolie's blog where you can sign up to be whipped:

Basically somebody whips you with licorice or something until you finish your revision. Maybe I misheard exactly how it works and with my convoluted approach to writing my novel I'm not sure if I'm officially on revision or not. However, I'll take the kick in the butt. (actually I think they send the winner a licorice or it's a virtual licorice thrashing or something like that, should have read the rules a little more carefully)

My goals involve getting up early, going to bed early, not drinking coffee. (ok that last one I'd NEVER agree to) And basically trying to bang out three chapters in June...


Great, now it's in cyberspace (or cyperspace as I just wrote, cyperspace sounds better, no?) so I can never take it back. Well I better get writing then. Too bad blogging doesn't count. 

One of these days I'm gonna get around to writing about the upcoming writer's conference at Reed College in Portland. 

Officially called 

Guest Editor ARTHUR A FREAKING LEVINE is going to  be there... WHAT!
That's right folks. Not to mention Caldecott Honor recipient for 2009 and lifetime most stylish and hip looking artist award winner, Marla Frazee. Not enough for you? How about Benjamin Watson? Ok, you've never heard of him, but I'll bet you heard of Bonny Becker! My pal and writing spurrer-on-er who (with her hubby) used to write for Garrison Keiller, Susan Blackaby, the elegant and funny Ann Whitford Paul, the crazy as a cat Susan Goldman Rubin, the classy Elsa Warnick, and two other faculty members that I haven't met yet but who are easy on the eyes, David Gifaldi and Linda Urbin. AND last but not least, the amazing and scary (to me when she's reviewing my manuscript in front of me, I melt in fear and take ALL her suggestions and run out the door when she releases me, but at all other times is a funny, generous, warm, caring, sweet, and incredibly talented person with an awesome hubby artist whose artwork is hanging in our house as we speak), the great Linda Zuckerman. 

Now everyone but that Benjamin Watson guy are this year's all star faculty.  I kid about Linda being scary (no I don't, she's had a lifetime worth of children's book publishing experience, editing the likes of Trina Schart Hyman and then she's sitting there with that shrewd editor's look and that PEN, READING MY MANUSCRIPT, TERRIFYING, And I haven't even TOUCHED her first page critiques), she is a lot of fun to hang out with and has brought one of the best in-depth children's book experiences I've ever been a part of (twice before). Plus you get to "live" on campus with the faculty and have meals with them and food fights and poker games. (ok we haven't yet gotten the faculty in on food fights or poker YET but) 

This is in no way competes with or replaces SCBWI conferences, rather supplements them. I love going to them both and this Portland conference is kinda like going to a week long SCBWI retreat kinda thing. But slightly different. I've been to numerous Western Washington local SCBWI conferences, and both national (or is it international?) SCBWI annual conferences in LA and NY, and hope to go again soon. 

If this is my teaser what is my post about it gonna look like? Geesh. I need to write some shorter posts. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

You didn't know the country mouse sports dreadlocks?

Of course he does. I know this because he's my brother, Jesse. And that dreadlocked country mouse just headed all on his own to New York City. Again.

Apparently Prince Harry had the same idea and they are hanging out right now as I type. Reading about Jesse's NY adventures on his blog ( made me think about my first and only trip to New York City.  

I went with my big brother. It was about four years ago and Jesse was giving the whole "children's book thing" a try. I'd already attended a number of SCBWI conferences and the Haystack conference. This time it was the SCBWI annual winter conference. Jesse had arrived two days earlier than me for the Illustrator's day. 

After flying in to JFK and taking a shuttle to our hotel in Manhattan (I think one of the Marriott hotels), I was about ready to turn around and head straight back to microscopic Port Townsend. 

My face was glued to the window as I absorbed this strange immense world. I felt like the immigrant in The Arrival. My senses just couldn't cope. The drivers, the buildings, the mass of it all. I had felt similarly in Bangkok, Thailand but I was expecting that to feel foreign (duh). But in New York I'd brought some preconceived notions. I had entered the cultural center of the world, as important today as Rome, Athens, Babylon, Beijing or London had ever been. The NYSE, The United Nations, the Met, NY Public Library, Kramer. And I was half-expecting to get mugged, shot or raped any second. The reality of encountering that city and its mystique in person awed me into a mild state of shock. 

After surviving the shuttle ride (thank God), I checked in, found our room and checked and rechecked the door of our room. Evidence of another Watson boy was strewn about the room. I peeked out the curtains to the opposite skyscraper and however million floors down to the concrete ant sidewalks and streets far below. I curled up in the corner of the huge bed. I carefully unfolded the SCBWI winter conference schedule and reread it for the ten-thousandth time that day until the phone rang. 

It was my big brother. He was making sure I got there ok and seeing if I wanted to go out with a friend in Harlem. I could hear lots of people laughing in the background.

"Yeah, we'll take the Subway, it'll be awesome." 

Two things I was not ready for was Harlem and subways. Or going out for that matter.

"Ok, tomorrow night then," Jesse said then added, "New York is so f#@'ng cool." A few minutes later my dreadlocked country mouse brother walked through the door with a huge smile on his face.

He looked down on me turtled up, still wearing my jacket, sucking my thumb.

"Isn't New York so cool?"

Turns out, in addition to the conference, my big brother had already travelled around on the subway by himself, FIGURED IT OUT, checked out half of New York, not the tourist parts either, and basically almost become a local in two days time. I, on the other hand, felt like a baby refusing to believe he'd just been born. 

We looked at each other and at that moment I understood that my brother was much braver than I was. Especially in this urban jungle. 

In the middle of the night Jesse finally coaxed me out just in front of the hotel to a guy on the street selling the grubbest of grub and cheap Indian food (or was it Mexican?). At night the line stretched down the sidewalk. Weird. And awesome. Even McDonalds closed at night in Port Townsend.

The conference was amazing for both of us, especially because I was there with my brother. Jesse entered a piece of his artwork from a turtle story he was working on in the SCBWI New York Showcase and won the grand prize. When it was announced I was so excited I forgot to film him going on stage and getting his award from Lin Oliver. When I finally realized I was holding his camera at this pivotal moment in his career, I whipped it out (the camera) and shakily filmed the tail end of him walking back to his seat looking red-cheeked and squinty-eyed. Jesse always gets squinty eyes when he's trying to smile at people with his mouth closed and he's embarrassed or shy. These are things little brothers know.

We were so excited afterwards that Jesse called his mother right away with the good news.


Yes, that's right. Not his WIFE at home with his son. His MOTHER. Man us Watson boys got issues. 

The rest of our trip we both made the rounds to publishing houses. That is I had the great privilege to meet and go to lunch with The Great Arthur Levine at Scholastic, who I try to call Awdie with my pathetic New Yawkah accent. New York is the children's book publishing center of the universe. We were both dwarfed by the magnitude of it all but had a brilliant time. 

While we were there Christo was preparing to unveil his Central Park installation art piece, The Gates. Jesse finally did get me on the subway and we did some tourist stuff. I didn't get to go to the New York City Library. But that will be my first stop whenever I go back. I read somewhere that the lion statues out front were named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LeGuardia because these were the qualities New Yorkers would need to survive The Depression. 

My big brother has since gone back to NY on his own to "pimp himself", do some school visits and to promote his book Chess Rumble. 

He's back in NY again right now by himself to promote his new picture book, I and I and to make the rounds again, including the huge BEA. I'm very proud of my big brother and how hard he has worked to make a career as a Children's Book Illustrator. I foresee very good things for him and can't wait to see what is in store. 

Jesse made a DVD of our trip together and when he gets back home maybe I can get his help getting it on here. The two yokels visit the biggest city. 

New York is an amazing place and the more I learn about it, the more I want to. I loved and was completely intimidated by that city. I can't wait to go back, but I don't see any trip beating the one time I went there with my big brother. 

Have fun Jesse. Wish I was there with you. Though I'm sure you'll tell Mom all about it so I can ask her. Just maybe call your wife first with the good news this time.