Oscar Telecast 2008— We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Writers, We Got Archives!

As per usual, Hubby and I went to Selene’s house to join up with her, Mr. Selene and Pamela for the Annual Oscar Watch.  And as per usual, she had a scrumptious and hilarious spread.  Here is the menu, verbatim:


For your snacking pleasure:

There Will Be Blood …Olive OIL and garlic

Michael Clayton … French bread

No Country for Old Men … Powdered sugar and fruit (they were out of Geritol)

Sweeney Todd … Meat Pies (3 flavors: vicar, poet, and president)


For your drinking pleasure:

Eastern Promises … Vodka

La Vie en Rose … Red wine

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly … Water


Inside your Bag of Swag:

Juno … Orange Tic-Tacs

Atonement … Hershey Bars


We were so glad there was actually an awards ceremony instead of an excruciating Billy Bush newscast a la the 2008 Golden Globes.  Of course, the writers got working on it a little late which left it lacking in parts.  But more on that later …




What was with all the red dresses and the I’m-not-wearing-makeup makeup?  Looked as if everyone was headed to a fancy Christmas picnic.  After scarlet gown number twelve, I found Rebecca Miller’s eccentric grandma-of-the-bride ensemble positively refreshing.  Poor bland Cameron Diaz (and …why was she there?) resembled a ten-year-old playing dress-up.  And I love Tilda Swinton—I do, I do, I do.  Only last night it seemed like she’d just popped over after performing with Mummenschanz.  But hey, at least she had color, having apparently poured tangerine nail polish on her hair.


Best dressed:  For the women?  Cate Blanchett in pregnant plum.  Marion “I’m not really ugly” Cotillard in freshly skinned mermaid.  Saoirse Ronan looking lovely in her leprechaun green.  For the hombres?  Javier Bardem, George Clooney and Viggo Mortensen produced the heaviest sighs in my bosom.  Johnny Depp always tries to hide his pretty features behind bangs, beards and Buddy Holly glasses, but this year several other men sported whiskers or goatees or extra-long sideburns.  Personal confession here:  I find stubble sexy.  Don’t know why, I just do.  So it was nice to see the guys look as if they’d slipped into tuxes after spending the afternoon chopping wood.




I don’t know what Wolfgang served at the Governor’s Ball, but some sort of crepes, champagne, and chocolate éclairs would have been appropriate.  France was the flavor du jour for movies in 2007.  Think about it.  We had Paris, Je T’aime, Two Days in Paris, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  Even Atonement was partially set in France.  Marion Cotillard disguised her dewy beauty to play Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose and won!  I personally didn’t like the film (why must all biopics be an endless stream of every tragic moment in the subjects’ lives, without giving us quiet time to get to know them as people?), but her performance was enthralling.


Another French-themed film that I enjoyed this past year was Broken English, with the always amazing Parker Posey.  Why was her performance overlooked?  It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was a chick flick in the best sense.  She perfectly captured the character of a single woman caught in a lonely rut—grappling with feelings of abandonment after the death of her loving father, her shameful envy of happily married friends, and the injustice of having to constantly validate her solitary situation.  I ached for her.


I suppose Parker Posey is just too offbeat for the Academy, and that she will continue to be underappreciated until she plays a famous musician/activist/scientist/ ruler of a Western nation who overcomes drug addiction/mental illness/physical deformity/the ravages of war in a “heartfelt drama about the triumph of the human condition.”


Ah, but I ramble and froth.  Back to themes …


The only other motif I spotted in last year’s films (besides France and homicidal mania) were movies with numbers in the titles (3:10 to Yuma; 12:08 East of Bucharest; 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days; 2 Days in Paris; 28 Weeks Later; 27 Dresses; 12; 30 Days of Night; 300; The Nines).  I’m not exactly sure what that signifies, but I thought it worth mentioning.  At least Once.  (Ar, ar.)




Because of the writers’ strike, this year’s ceremony could have been more stripped down, classy and heartfelt than in the past.  The Academy could have taken all the minutes they waste on lame banter or comedic stunts and given them directly to the winners.  In short, they could have allowed the little people (including the once-again employed writers) a chance to give their entire acceptance speeches for a change.


Am I the only person in this country who wants to hear what these sound mixers and costumers and directors of short, barely-to-be-seen films have to say?  Instead of thanking agents and publicists, these winners give tearful shout-outs to friends who lent them money for their documentary … or to buddies who let them crash on their sofas while they completed voice-over work on their animated short … or to long-suffering spouses who are seeing a red carpet event for the very first time.  These are the people who make film because they truly love it.  To me they are more deserving, rather than less so.  Would it hurt us to give them the same glory we lavish on movie stars?


Selene was reminiscing about the good old days, when the preshow simply involved watching the stars parade down the red carpet in their fancy duds.  No one was assaulted by an overly botoxed babe wanting to know if it was “hard to play a bad guy.”  Back then viewers could dish the dirt in the privacy of their own home.  There were no online comments, no style-meters, and no reporters on the roof of the pavilion telling you via live TV who looked fabulous and who made fashion boo-boos.


Well, apparently the Academy was also reminiscing.  So much so that they had to precede every award with a *&%$# montage!  I’m sure they meant for us to swell with nostalgia, laugh at the silly outfits of yesteryear, and sniffle to see dear departed Oscar winners.  But to me all it said was, See?  See how we screwed it up in the past? Schmaltzy Dances with Wolves won!  John Cameron won and gave the worst thank-you speech in history!  Cuba Gooding brought people to their feet … and got D-listed the minute he left the auditorium! 


We can only hope that next year the film editors go on strike.


I hardly ever like the set.  This year the Oscar stage looked as if the Queer Eye guys made over Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It was Dr. Frankenstein’s lab goes modern loft.  What, exactly, was that space-age tube thang?  Was it some sort of chute that sucked presenters out of their seats and onto the stage?  At any moment I kept expecting some Spinal Tap-esque faux pas.  Poor Martin Scorsese stuck in mid-pipe, cursing his New York best while pounding his fists against the designer PVC.  Thankfully, other than Colin Farrell skating into the podium, there were no dangerous slip-ups.


Oh, the Disney Horror.  Why were there THREE nominated songs from Enchanted, but only one from Once?  It should have been the other way around!  Pamela astutely pointed out that Disney is probably working on a stage show version of Enchanted, which is why they were all set with the schlocky dance numbers.  The music was dull, the choreography was charmless, the costumes were pointless.  Even the singers didn’t seem to want to be there.  (Speaking of … None of us could identify the guy in the Swiss dot suit.  Was he an actual performer?  Or some animatronic contraption from one of the theme parks?) 




Jon Stewart was spot on.  His jokes were clever and current, his monologue wasn’t too long or showy, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to be there.  And I wanted to hug him when he brought out Marketa Irglova to give her acceptance speech after she’d been pompously played offstage by the orchestra.


It was also refreshing to see a Hollywood “It” Girl admit to being a mere mortal.  When Katherine Heigl stepped out in her (you got it) red dress to present an award, she preceded with an apology and said she was nervous.  Aww! 


Favorite winners?  So glad Glen and Marketa won—especially after the absurd extravagance of the Disney numbers.  Thrilled for Javier and his adorable mamacita.  But overall, there were so many deserving nominees this year, it almost didn’t matter who went home with the butt-naked statue.



What a night.  Who needs to ooze into a silk gown and nibble on smoked salmon mini pizzas when you have friends like Selene?  I got silly on red wine, stuffed my face with cheese and chocolate, made snide comments, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. 


I’m just sorry I didn’t film the festivities or I’d make you a montage.



Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Youth Publishing, but Were Afraid to Ask…


I am often asked advice on getting published or finding an agent or how to understand the literary market in general.  I’m happy to help as best as I can, but I’m actually not the best resource – being the new kid and all.


Who is the best resource, you ask?  That I can help you with.  It is none other than my pal Cynthia Leitich Smith, the patron saint of children’s and young adult lit! 


Not only is Cynthia an accomplished author and all-around beautiful person, she is also an unofficial “tour guide” or “envoy” between those in the literary know, and those of us orbiting the periphery.  If you haven’t already, you MUST check out her blog Cynsations.  It is a magical place where several of your questions about the world of publishing are answered.  Her posts feature writers, editors and agents, contest details, and information about new releases.  In addition, she has links galore!


This week Cyn has launched the SCBWI Bologna 2008 series: 32 in-depth interviews that will forever demystify the inner workings of children’s publishing – featuring agents, publishers, authors and illustrators from the U.S. and across the globe.

So if writing is your thing (or even if it isn’t) hop on over to her blog these next few weeks.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.


All hail Cyn!  Thank you, girl, for lighting our way!

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Best Friends, Stuffed Toys, and Enchanted Medical Instruments


My daughter’s best friend came over the other afternoon.  These girls have been super close since their diaper days, so whenever they get together they automatically launch into complicated pretend play.  Some of their made-up characters are a couple of years old, in fact.  As you can imagine, it is quite something to behold.


Here are some gems I overheard on this recent play date:  
(Note: I can’t explain the context.  Your guess is as good as mine.  I only know that they were playing with their stuffed Webkinz animals.  And I think our living room had become a “vet’s office.”)



“Pretend I’m a midget and I don’t feel well.”



“PAUSE THE GAME!  I can’t find the magic thermometer!”



“What’s a reindeer gotta do to get some respect around here?”



Girl #1:  “Pretend he needs a CAT scan.”

Girl #2:  “But he’s a dog!”



It was after this last exchange that I could no longer contain my laughter.  Once they heard my guffaws, they picked up the toys and moved to her room.


Ah, to be able to let loose with your imagination like that.  That’s the true magic of childhood, is it not?



Here are more pix of the book launch/ “unpopular” party at Book People.  Remember that clicking twice on the photos make them bigger and prettier.

Some views of the crowd:

Here’s a shot of Mandy B., Book People person extraordinaire, who was such a huge help.  Love her hat.

My high school pals Sharon, Melissa and their friend Sandra (who married a high school pal) showed up to support me!

My lovely pal Lisa talking with me in the signing line:

My buddy John looking way too hip and cool to be near me:

Here’s my high school friend Mike and his beautiful daughter Kayla:

Me laughing at … something.  I can’t remember what.

Me trying to channel Mary Tyler Moore:

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a quote from those modern-day philosophers, Spinal Tap:

Marty DiBergi: Do you feel that playing rock ‘n’ roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?
Derek Smalls: No. No. No. I feel it’s like, it’s more like going, going to a, a national park or something. And there’s, you know, they preserve the moose. And that’s, that’s my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know.
Marty DiBergi: So when you’re playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage?
Derek Smalls: Yeah.

Couldn’t have said it better.  Writing Y/A books makes me feel a little like a preserved animal … with arrested development.

**(Thanks to Mike, Sharon and Book People for some of the photos!)


How NOT to Be Popular’s World Premiere Event! Fun Amped Up to Eleven!

If you were going to hold an ANTI-POPULAR party, what would you do?  How about holding it at a bookstore?  Perhaps instead of junk food and a big keg you set out a fruit and cheese platter and some pigs-in-a-blanket?  Rather than cranking up some rock music or hiring a garage band, you get a weird girl to stand up and read aloud?  And to top it all off, you ask people to dress dorky, wacky or just plain wrong?


Guess what?  If you do all that, you’ll have an amazing time!


On Saturday I hosted an official “unpopular” party/costume contest at Book People to help launch my latest novel.  It was great, giddy fun.  Around 75 family members, friends, and friends-yet-to-be-met gathered to hear me speak, read, answer questions, and look dorky in my unfashionable ensemble:




You can’t see the bottom half of me, so picture purple, polka-dotted leggings and speckled galoshes.  I have to say, I loved those boots!  We truly bonded that evening.  Normally when I give presentations I’m teetering on heels, but this time I was comfy and stable.  Of course, I walked like a lumberjack, but when frump-town is your overall look it really doesn’t matter.


In a way, it felt like my wedding (only Hubby wasn’t up there beside me and I was dressed waaaaay uglier).  Since this was a hometown crowd, I’d look out and see people I know from different sections of my life all shuffled together in the seats, smiling and rooting for me as they witness this important event in my life.


We held the official costume judging at the end.  Kathie Sever of Ramonster and Kayci Wheatley of Moxie and the Compound were our fabulous celebrity judges.  They organized a fashion show of sorts and chose the most creative anti-fashion ensemble based on applause.  The winner was my wacky-wonderful pal Selene!  She won a set of mullet magnets, a “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker, and a gift certificate to Book People. 


For some reason, I don’t have a pic of her hilarious outfit!  Augh!  I will try to find one.  In the meantime please picture an adorable spunky gal in a pair of mismatched checked pajamas, slippers, rain cap and bright blue eyeshadow.  And a single braid in the front of her head tied off with a huge bow.  Other creative runners-up sported various geek-wear, ski clothes, pink pajamas, shoes on their heads, 1970s-themed attire, and a Star Trek uniform (hubby).


Book People took good care of me.  Nothing was beyond their superpowers.  All evening they were busy organizing, promoting, author wrangling, bartending, directing traffic, and being their pleasant, helpful selves.  A big special thank you goes out to Mandy Brooks for all of her hard work.


When it was over Hubby and I packed up, bought a few books, and clowned around outside the store underneath the marquee.  This photo captures my Spinal Tap moment.  Notice I get second billing to “Puppet Show”:




I like to think this is because it’s listed in chronological order and not necessarily order of importance.  However, next time I’ll aim for an exclamation point of my own.

Thank you to everyone who took part in my silly party!  You truly made me feel “popular.”


**(Now that I know how to do hyperlinks, I go a little nutty with it – no?)

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