Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stories Written in Gum

There are stories everywhere and some of them are written in gum.

I took a recent trip to Seattle, Washington with my teenage daughter to see my brother and sister-in-law and we visited the legendary Pike Place Market with the piles of fresh salmon on ice, fruits and veggies, crafts people, and bakeries.

Wandering among the vendors, we spotted the bay below and the Seattle Aquarium a couple of blocks away. There was not a clear path from the market to the aquarium and we soon found ourselves winding down stairways and alleys.

That's where we saw the sign for the GUM WALL. I didn't remember seeing that one in the travel brochure. The name describes it all, it is a wall (actually about four walls) completely covered in gum. It's the sort of place that makes you instantly want to do something ridiculous.

After a few silly poses, we started asking questions. How does something like this get started? Was there a sudden plot to decorate the wall in gum or did little blobs of Juicy Fruit just accumulate over time?

As we walked a little farther we saw notes written in gum. There was an invitation to the prom and a proposal of marriage. Instantly stories started developing in my writer's brain. Who created the prom invitation? What was the response?

Did the same couple return years later with one proposing marriage or was it a different duo? 

I imagined a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy where her high school sweetheart asks her to the prom in gum. They have a fight and go their separate ways, her to become an undercover FBI agent in a beauty pageant, and him to live his life as a fishmonger so he can stay near the Gum Wall and think about his lost love. Years later when her fiance, a Wall Street tycoon, wants to propose, he makes the mistake of writing his message in gum, making Sandra recall her tender romance with the fishmonger who is selling his fresh salmon right next door at Pike Place Market.

Sandra finds the fishmonger and they marry, of course, and the other guy just tries to ruin everyone's fun by putting up this pointless sign.

Hmm. I wonder if other writers plot like this while on vacation. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My New York/Chicago Pack List

I'm on my way to the Rockaways in New York to chaperone my daughter's youth group as they particpate in the Next Step Program to help rebuild houses on Long Island that were damaged during hurricane Sandy. They say we get to use shower trailers. I must work that into a story.

When I leave the Rockaways, I'm heading straight to ALA in Chicago (and a real shower and bed at the Hilton). Consequently, I've got a pretty diverse packing list: hammer, high heels, safety goggles, blow up mattress, books, nail apron, bookmarks, and on it goes.

On Sunday, June 30th, I will be taking part in the YALSA Coffee Klatch. I hope I still have some clean underwear by then.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Gathering Authors First Annual Retreat

I have just returned from the First Annual Gathering Authors Retreat in Taos, New Mexico and am already looking forward to next year's event. The Gathering is a LOOSELY organized group of traditionally published New Mexico children's authors who meet to offer each other encouragement, support, and industry tips. In the photo above we are about to enjoy lunch at Lambert's. If you aren't used to New Mexico chile, beware. Left side - front to back (Kersten Hamilton, Me-Carolee Dean, Kimberley Griffiths Little). Right side - back to front (Lauren Bjorkman and Sheralyn Pratt - joining us from Utah). Not pictured (Sheralyn's border collie - SeBi).

Our retreat, also LOOSELY organized, was held at the Sagebrush Inn. The only cost was travel and hotel expenses. We made a list of topics we wanted to cover and that was the extent of our planning. Topics included - The Changing Face-Book of Social Media, Wacky Marketing Ideas, Effective Marketing Plans, Publishing Woes/Joys, and How to Hit the NY Times Best Seller List).

Some of the most memorable events of the retreat included our totally unplanned excursions. A discussion about dystopian literature and end-of-the-world scenarios (including the Maya apocalypse I recently finished writing) led us to create the Twitter hashtag #createyourownapocalypse and coerce the owners of Moby Dickens to let us film a spontaneous YouTube video in their bookstore. (The video will be posted as soon as Sheralyn figures out her new computer program.)

I ran into a librarian friend of mine who was attending an Art Institute at the Sagebrush. She described the Inn as "shabby-chic," which also describes most of Taos. The cost of lodging also covered a free, cook-to-order breakfast. Several of us pitched story ideas during these breakfast meetings which led to the death of at least one debutante by Main Character Assassination. Better to get rid of them BEFORE you write an entire story about them.

In addition to having stimulating conversations, we found time to take a guided tour of the Taos Pueblo and shop on the Plaza where we toured an art gallery, listened to street musicians, and checked out Day of the Dead figurines. We've already had several out-of-state authors who say they are planning to join us next year. We are planning a night of music on the Plaza and we might even see some tribal dancing. If you are a traditionally published author/illustrator, contact me at  for additional details.