Speaking of important things from the 90s…

With the holiday season in full swing, a wave of nostalgia has swept through the Ogden home, which we rode home to my parents’ house  for Thanksgiving last weekend. While there, my mom and I dug through some of the old boxes my parents had been storing for me, for two decades (thanks, guys!).

In between the old report cards, class photos, Reflections contest entries and short stories I’d fumbled through, we found a letter from one of my childhood idols, Ann M. Martin. In fourth grade, the enrichment program I was in hosted “Night of the Notables,” where all of the students researched and presented on a person of our choice, science-fair style, with those awesome tri-fold poster boards. Other students chose athletes, inventors, presidents, and celebrities. I chose Ms. Martin, author of the Baby-Sitters Club books, which I can safely say were among the most important non-living things in my pre-tween life.

So, you can imagine how much love a nine-year-old girl has for someone when they decide to make her the subject of a major school project. I wrote to Ann M. Martin with a few questions, and – holy ish, you guys, I can still barely believe it – she wrote back. And it wasn’t just a short, auto-reply. No, there was some substance to it:

This is a legit letter.
This is a legit letter.

Here are some highlights:

AMM1
THAT’S MY NAME.
Amm2
I still have my “Name Your Baby” book. It’ was purchased at Goodwill circa 1993, and has a copyright date of 1963.
NYB
(In fact, here it is.)
Amm3
WHAT. I did this! Did you do the illustrations, too??
Amm closing
Her pen touched this page.
Amm PPS
This is to show how nice she was. I sent a pre-braces photo, so “pretty” was rather generous.

(In case anyone was wondering, I got an A on the project.)
-DBO

Important 90s Girl Books

So, after seeing Catching Fire this weekend (and LOVING IT SO HARD), I tried to imagine whether or not I would have been into The Hunger Games trilogy as a teenager.

This is not an easy thing to do. Unless I’m mistaken (and someone, please tell me if I am), there wasn’t much dystopian YA on the shelves in the late 90’s. Or, if there was, I totally missed it since I was pretty busy searching Altavista for Backstreet Boys pictures, while my brother thumped on the door, demanding to use the computer for his homework.

But obviously we were all reading something in the 90s, right? For many of us with the reading & writing bug, the diagnose came during, or well before our teen years. My earliest memories of it are when I was three or four. I used to dictate stories to my mom before I could write, and then she’d hand me my pages and I’d illustrate them with crayon or marker, whatever was handy.

Anyway, I digress. We didn’t have Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling back then, but we did have the greats like Ann M. Martin (who I wrote to in fourth grade, and who WROTE ME BACK), Francine Pascal, and of course, our sovereign ruler, Judy Blume.

And so, I present the The Most Important Books I Read as a Kid, based strictly on how well I still remember them today, and how likely I’d be to stock them in the bedroom of our future kids…

SSJFAHStarring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. One of JB’s lesser known gems, and a fantastic one at that. A coming-of-age at the end of WWII? Yes, please.

AIRSOAlice in Rapture, Sort of by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I still remember her unfortunate discovery of what Lucite is, and I was horrified for her when she got sick at home by herself.

SS3SS2

Tie: Baby-Sitter’s Summer Vacation & Baby Sitter’s Winter Vacation by Ann M. Martin. Summer camp? And a SKI LODGE!? They were so grown up and mature!

ThirteenThirteen by Candice Ranson. There’s a scene at the beginning with the two protagonists on a board walk together, and a scene at the end when they buy matching dresses together in a big city. I dreamt of having similar experiences.

TBFGTWSOHS

Tie: The Mysterious Story of Henry Sugar & The BFG by Roald Dahl. I devoured and re-devoured both of thesuntil I was way past the target age group. Also, check out the Henry Sugar cover. I’d hang that in my house, to this day.

Honorable Mentions

Uncanny

Uncanny! by Paul Jennings. When I went on a school exchange program to New Zealand, I think there was a Paul Jennings story read to us in class (or maybe my host family had copies?). Either way, it’s a shame that more American kids weren’t introduced to the quirk.

TCS

The Children’s Story by James Clavel. Read to us in class by one of my sixth grade teachers, who gave me a copy at the end of the school year. Haunting.

TMDG

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. Read to us by that same sixth grade teacher. One of my first introductions to adult suspense (he read up through the last scene and then gave us a writing assignment to complete the story.)

Fun fact: all covers shown are the same ones I had, except The Most Dangerous Game. I’ve never seen a cover for that until today. 

NaNoWriMojo is in the air

Hello again!

Hiatus over! Yay! The aforementioned writing projects have come been coming along, which means that it’s now time to dust off the ol’ blog and welcome you all back. Take off your shoes. Can I get you a drink?

The weather has turned here in Eastern Washington, and we’ve already had our first snow. When we’re not driving slowly over sheets of ice on the way to work, people in our town are started to hunker down. This means that the last few weeks have mostly been stretching my back after spending hours at my computer, figuring out how to cook soup (tomato basil and broccoli cheddar, check. Not that I’m bragging or anything) and digging our Home Moods blu-ray out of the garage to trick ourselves and our dog into thinking we have an old-timey fireplace hidden behind our TV. Yes.

And, the other news is that I have lots of posts in the wings about just what the what has been going on for us these last few months (and yes, there are writing and non-writing things on the list). But in the meantime I couldn’t wait to say hi. I think it’s all that NaNoWriMo juju that’s floating around the internet this days which has for some reason turned me into a typing machine (I’m not even participating this year, which is probably why blogging sounded like a good idea.

And so, stay turned my friends. More updates are on the way.

-DBO

Lessons from a Writing Conference Attendee

Conference Reg
#notaphotographer

Friends, yesterday I returned from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference. I had a fabulous, eye-opening time that concluded with a 300-mile solo drive across my state. And yes, while passing the rolling wheat fields of Eastern Washington, I did have visions of a grand, sweeping blog post with thoughtful prose and eloquent language, summarizing the wise writing insights I’d received from some very impressive, smart (and well-dressed) people…

…but I scrapped that idea in favor of a list.

With that, I humbly present my Top Ten PNWA 2013 Lessons.

Writers should:

  1. Write well
  2. Know how to talk about our work
  3. Research whichever publishing path we choose
  4. Research any and all professionals we work with along the way
  5. Be nice
  6. Be patient
  7. Never give up
  8. Support other writers
  9. Accept criticism
  10. Recognize that finishing the manuscript is only the beginning of the work.

Bonus lesson: Always check for friends in the hotel bar before heading to bed. You won’t regret it.

-DBO

God Bless the Open Road…or something like that

Friends and fellow writers,

I have to confess that for months now, I have been mentally chewing on plot ideas for my next two novels. And by chewing, I really mean stressing obsessing freaking out thinking about (totally calmly, of course). And then -BAM- out of the blue, something magical happened.

Less than a week apart, I was somehow able to solve the single most significant plot issue affecting each story.

I know, right? What the hell. How does that even happen? Ugh. I want to roll my eyes at myself since I know how annoying that could sound to other writers who’ve been in the same boat.

But wait! the only reason I’m bringing it up is to tell you – or rather, show you – how it happened! Here goes…

Road1 Road2 Road3 Road4

…Road trips.

I’m talking good ol’ fashioned empty-coffee-cups-in-the-cupholders, radio-static, where’s-the-next-gas-station?, oh-look-a-rainbow, hey-how-should-i-end-my-next-novel? road trips. Apparently, I do my best thinking somewhere in between George, WA (look it up, it’s real) and Vantage, WA.

Perhaps I’m not the only writer this could work for (or perhaps everyone else already does this and I just missed the memo?) But either way, I thought I’d offer it up in case someone else may see the same results.

(Also, I wanted an excuse to show you how incredibly mediocre my camera-phone skills are)

A writer without coffee is like…a writer with tea


You guys, I gave up coffee for Lent this year. It was a rash decision (I’m not even Catholic!) but one that I’ve surprisingly stuck to. As expected, some days were tougher than others and I’m now counting the hours until tomorrow morning. I’ve also been daydreaming for weeks about what sort of coffee-infused goodness to have first tomorrow. Cappuccino?  Latte? Plain ol’ drip?? Flavored? Unflavored? So many choices! My head just might explode from all the excitement.

That said, you might not be surprised to hear that I’ve been drinking lots of tea for these past few weeks. Black Tea, Green Tea, English Breakfast Tea, Peppermint Tea and Chai. Oh, the chai. Chai Latte plain, Chai latte with caramel, Chai latte with coconut. Even, right now as I type, I’m sipping some Lipton

So, with this whirlwind exploration of tea, I have learned an important lesson that I wanted to pass along to my fellow writers. May these words bring you peace and comfort whether you’re plotting, drafting, editing, revising, querying, or any combination of the above.

For the love….don’t deprive yourself of coffee.

Just don’t.

Drink all the coffee you want, all the coffee you can.

You’ll thank me later.

coffee cropped
This will be me tomorrow. All day.