Daily Archives: March 28, 2011

How to waste time

We went to the library on Saturday. I hung around to hear Markus Zusak speak (it was as good as everyone keeps saying). But before that, it was a family outing to pick a few books.

Cameron decided it would be fun to get some Waldo books. Have you seen these books lately? They’ve been around forever, right? No big deal, right? You just find a guy in a striped shirt. Who cares?

Who cares? Yeah right.

The next day at church we broke one out.

Did you know now that you don’t just have to find Waldo, no no no no. You have to find Waldo, Wenda, The Wizard, Odlaw, the dog’s TAIL, a pair of binoculars, a camera, a scroll, a key and a dog bone IN EVERY PAGE!!! Now of course you don’t HAVE to find all those things but they are there and how can you not resist trying, at least trying, to find them (all of them-dumb binoculars).

This was a problem for me during church.

It was also a problem for me after church. It was a problem for me when my kids wanted to look at the books. It was a problem for me when Cam said, really? Then took the book and found the stupid wizard in like two seconds thus starting a Find Waldo and Friends competition that didn’t go well on my end.

Today, two days after the books were brought to my house, I have officially outlawed myself from looking at them.

I also wonder why I spend so much time doing nothing important.

They always say we have two things in life: Time and Choice.

I am the one who decides how my life is going to look, how I choose to use the minutes in a day. Should I spend my kids “quiet time” (new experiment around here) looking for Wenda? Or should I perhaps, work on my new novel I want to be writing but am not writing? Should I use the time after everyone is in bed to work on a revision, or should I read blogs about making my own wallpaper with a sharpie? Should I spend my thinking time during drives/walks/ etc. working through writing problems/characters etc.? Or should I think about whether Jennifer Aniston will ever truly be happy in love? It’s up to me, ya know?

Markus Zusak talked about how writing has to be either number one or number two on our priority list. Otherwise. Well. Otherwise it will never happen. I KNOW this is true and I also know that I have a hard time sometimes getting it up there in the top five. My hope is that I can be more disciplined than I have been. Especially before this new little baby enters our house and makes things that much more fun.

Marathon next weekend? The 7-9th? what do you think? Can we make a priority for three days? I’m up for it.  Who else is? I am going to give out a SWEET prize for whoever wins. SWEET as in maybe some starburst jelly beans? Those things are magical.


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Ten Things I Learned from Markus Zusak

At the end of my two-day novel workshop, where I met the fantastic editor Jessica Garrison from Dial (she happens to be Jandy Nelson’s [The Sky is Everywhere] new editor) and heard Ann Dee Ellis give a fantastic talk about revision and learned a bit about plot from Kristen Landon (The Limit)–we all piled into cars and headed for the Provo City Library where Courtney Lowe (amazing woman that she is) was getting ready to kick off the evening with Markus Zusak  (yes, The Book Thief author was going to be speaking). Here are ten things that I learned from him and the event.

! He has a great Australian accent.

@ Australian accents make people far more attractive. I say this without having ever seen  Markus’ face clearly. Yes, he told us to call him by his first name. I think, though, had his face been completely smudged out with an eraser, I would have thought he was cuter than someone like, say, Brad Pitt with no accent (and no terrific books to his credit).

# Being funny and tender makes for a good presentation.

$ Knowing how to work an audience–like by being both funny and tender– is a good thing. What made him both funny and tender? Zusak spoke about his life and about his parents’ lives. He connected to us through his books, first, and then he made the books even more real by connecting himself to them.

% He said writing is in the little details.

^ He made us feel his talk was just to us, a group of readers, librarians, teachers, authors, students, parents etc. He traveled 30-something hours to come to see US.

& He was humble. There’s something to be said for a good looking, Australian accented, humble guy who is pretty well-known for writing a marvelous book. So there. That’s a big hint to you writers out there.  It’s a-okay to think you’re kinda like your audience and not just better than ‘one of these people.’ (Yes, I had an author once say to me, “I not like these people. I’m a head-lining novelist.” And he didn’t have an accent to help him any, either.)

* Markus spoke to everyone who came to him to have their books signed. Now, I’m not sure about those people after the letter ‘D’ (the library divided the groups by the alphabet), but I’m guessing by ‘Zed’ he might have still been making each signature important. I left right after the speech, but Cheri Pearlie Early was in line from 7-9 and she was a late letter ‘C’.

( I don’t think he’s too nervous about flying. MZ never said anything like that, but he did fly here from Australia (and brought that accent), after all.

) Someone asked Zusak about writing the icky middles of a novel. She said she had a beginning and an ending and no middle (we can all safely assume that she has not been reading this blog or else she’d know the middle of a book–that really big part–can be tough). But Zusak said something I found pretty darn interesting. He said (and this isn’t an exact quote), “You have to make writing your first or second priority. If it’s not number one or number two to you, you’re not a writer yet.”

Where is writing to you?

It’s not number one or number two to me. But it might be number three in my most important list.


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