Monday, September 26, 2011

No Sibling Rivalry Here!

While twin sleuths Cyd and Jane of my Megabyte Mystery series suffer from sibling rivalry, the novels in the series don't! 

Each book has it's own nom.   

My second middle grade novel Dead Bird through the Cat Door was nominated for the the inaugural John Spray Mystery Award, administered, along with a number of other literary awards, by the Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC).    

The John Spray Mystery Award was established in 2011 to honour excellence in the mystery book format. John Spray, President of the Mantis Investigation Agency, noted that mystery books made him a passionate reader at an early age and helped him find his chosen career. It will be awarded annually to a Canadian author of an outstanding work of mystery writing for young people.

Good luck to all the nominees. The winner will be announced in Toronto next week! 

Dead Frog on the Porch was nominated for the Golden Eagle Book Award. The Golden Eagle Book Award is a children's choice literary award that is given annually to an Alberta writer whose book is selected by children in grades four through eight from schools in a number of southern Alberta communities. The students read the books in the fall, vote on them and come up with a short list by February. 

I'm excited to be nominated and happy to see lots of my Alberta writing peeps on the list as well. 

Let's hear it for the noms!  

I know, one too many cat pics for this blog post, right!?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm back!

I have landed safely back in the cybersphere and I want to thank my guest blog posters for holding down the proverbial blog fort for the last few weeks. 

Big shout out goes to:

Author Candy Gourlay who blogs at two places ('cause she's just not busy enough) Notes from the Slush Pile and her own blog

Writer Angela Ackerman who blogs at The Bookshelf Muse.

Writer Jenna Quentin who blogs at Meandering in a field of words.

Writer and actor Jocosa Wade (aka Jocosa of the Earrings) who blogs at I may not be John Irving.

and NY actor Katie Repman who blogs at Barbie Kong.

Candy seemed to think that I revealed my inner warrior when I was gone (believe me it was a battle royale!).

I'm not brave enough to do what these people did and participate in the No Pants Subway Ride 2011. I have an annoying habit of keeping my pants on while on the subway!  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Barbie Just Got Konged: Katie Repman Guest Blog Post

Katie Repman is an actor in NY and my niece! She blogs at Barbie Kong and recently embarked on a thirty day character challenge. 
She created a Barbie Kong you tube channel for all 30 of the videos. Katie acted, wrote, directed, and edited a different comedic character everyday for 30 days. She wanted to embark on this project to challenge herself to work, on a daily basis, on characters of different genders, ages and dialects. 
I'll let Katie take it from there ...
As some of your know I am really into comedy and I want to explore it more on my blog; specifically the impact that woman have had in comedy over the last few years (hello Bridesmaids). I'm still probably going to throw in the odd movie review every now and again (hello Tree of Life) but it will be primarily based on this wonderful new generation of funny ladies.
Here are a few examples of the videos that I created during my 30 day character challenge. You will see that each of the videos has a different feel and represents different aspects of the comedy that I would like to explore.

A New York City Runner's Guide: In this video I used sound and editing capabilities to enhance the comedy of the sketch. By using the slates to describe the action in a serious way and then to show the action in a more absurdist way the comedy emerges. I also like this video because we shot it outside and it gave the video a more grounded feeling. The audience could feel more connected to the character and relate on a more personal level, I mean who hasn’t gone running just to come home and pig out!? I also used a loose narrative to show the journey of this failed athlete. Using the narrative, the game (the premise of the sketch-comedy term) became more heightened which allowed the boundaries to be pushed even further.

Teen Mom Jenelle Evans: This is a your straight up, old school character sketch. Single hand held camera looking directly to the actor. I didn’t want to over complicate things here. I simply wanted to show Janelle in all of her wonderfulness. The writing in this sketch was enough to sustain the comedy and there were no fancy bells and whistles that needed to be added. This is by far my favorite character, I think I like it the best because I really didn’t have to put much on it, most of the ideas (the credit card) was taken directly from the MTV show. Of course, it wasn’t word for word but Janelle Evans is a real person who has a lot of problems and sometimes you don’t need much more than that. The truth in Janelle’s story allowed for many comedic opportunities, think Tina Fey doing the Palin sketches, most of that was taken directly from words and comments Palin had said. Sometimes you just need to Observe and Report (also the title of a hysterical Seth Rogen movie, netflix it……it’s good).

Lady Gaga Fan on the Train: This one was probably the scariest video to shoot because it was really depended on the reactions of everyone around me. In this video I used a more gorilla style approach. Think Sascha Baron Cohen in Borat. The comedy lies in the absurdity of what I am doing juxtaposed by the reactions of everyone around me. Because it’s New York most people didn’t blink an eye but some of the reactions of annoyance from the passengers around me are simply priceless. This was fun to do because in way it felt like performing in front of a live audience, I had to remember what I was doing and why I was doing it and not let my harsh critic take over. For those of you who know clowning terms, I really had to use clown logic in order to believe the imaginary circumstances that I had set out for myself.

 Anyway, I hope you all stick with me and help me embark on this new journey - Barbie Kong 2.0! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

QUERY 10, VOICE 0: Jocosa Wade Guest Blog Post

Jocosa Wade has long been known to my bloggowers as Jocosa of the Earrings my crazy, er, awesomely creative writer friend who took a vow not to cut her hair until she was published. That was almost two years ago! We've been following the growth of her hair and her growth as a writer as she tirelessly re-writes. Last time we heard from Jocosa she was stuffing her pie hole with vegan zucchini muffins, wrapped in a blanket watching bad TV, and recovering from rejection #33

Since then she started her own blog, jumped out of a plane, wrote a poem about her vagina and plans to quit her job (okay the poem was about the experience of jumping out of a plane). And. She. Still. Hasn't. Cut. Her. Hair! Way to commit to a vow Jocosa!

Here's how she looks now.  

Here's Jocosa of the Earrings with Query 10, Voice 0:

I attended The Backspace Conference in May. If you’re a writer who hasn’t heard about Backspace—check it out. 

One of the highlights of the conference was the Author/Agent Seminar. Participating writers were divided into their genres. Each genre group met with two agents in the morning and two different agents in the afternoon. The morning included the Query Letter Workshops. Writers read their query letters out loud to their group, then the agents provided feedback. My query was solid. And although both agents said the darkness of the story might narrow my submission opportunities, they found nothing amiss in the material. Relief.

The Opening Pages Workshop took place in the afternoon. Again we read our material aloud, and the agents gave us feedback on when and why they would stop reading if the material came across their desk. The agents told me, I hadn’t started the story in the right place—they were bored, and I had no voice.

“Thank you,” I said. Is there still time to get to the top of the Empire State Building and jump off?

No writer wants to hear they have no voice. But I wasn’t surprised for two reasons.

Ever since I chose to abandon acting for my first love and write for life, my worst fear had nothing to do with getting published. My fear was that I didn’t have a voice. Is it possible that I manifested my fear? Yes. 

I also wasn’t surprised because this road is not new to me.

In my first year of graduate school everything I knew to be true about performing was upended. After addressing my inability to act, my advisors slammed me with the following.

“The depth of your emotional truth blows the audience away, but we can’t stand to listen to you.”

I was an actress without a voice. Oops. The chair of the University of New Orleans theatre department gave me the name of the vocal coach at Tulane. 

I’ve always been a willing student, but somewhere in the back of my mind I believed certain people had strong voices while others didn’t—in the same way some people have operatic voices while others sing rock and roll. Or some people are ballet dancers while others were born for jazz—like Fosse. I was wrong.

The pixy like vocal coach asked me to lie on the floor. With gentle hands-on guidance she cooed directions. When I opened my mouth to release the requested sounds, my body provided an accompaniment of vibrations.  I was an instrument of sound and could’ve been played like Yo-Yo Ma’s cello.

I was not myself, and yet, all of myself. My vocal coach, who also happened to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique, guided me to a place where I was the most self I’d ever been—and I had a voice. Over time, I discovered how to get out of my own way so the voice of my characters could sing. 

So, you can see why I wasn’t surprised to hear the agents felt I didn’t have a voice. I’ve always been a little late to the party.

Hearing I had no voice seared my windpipe. Speechless? You bet. Did I think about quitting? I’m ashamed to admit it, but I thought about leaving the conference, packaging up my dream and stamping it unfulfilled. Did I?

Did you bump your head? I’m an artist, not a quitter. I take full responsibility for not serving my story to the best of my ability.

How do I know those agents were spot on and their comments weren’t a matter of personal taste? I have 34 rejections hanging in my office to prove it. Interesting how our habits are our habits no matter what craft we’re engaged in. What will I do?

Figure out how to get out of my own way. How will I start? With the notes gathered in Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workshop, where he pushed us to shove our protagonists to the edge of the cliff and let them fall. His workshop ran all day. I was on the verge of tears for half of it because I knew what I needed to do. I need to throw everything out and start fresh. That means 6 ½ drafts in the trash. And I thought Loglines were hell. Silly girl.

But I accept the challenge because that’s what life as an artist is about—venturing out beyond our comfort zones to unleash the ugly truth that must be examined.

I’ve got nothing to lose.

The important thing is to keep on. As artists we must continue to chisel away at whatever element is holding us back.

How about you? What element of craft do you need to concur in order to allow your story or character to resonate in the hearts of your audience?

Thanks for reading and being the presence I need to discover what I must to write on.

Abi - Jocosa's sweetheart of a possum/rabbit killing dog!