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Friday, February 02, 2007


It’s a busy time here.

I am extremely pleased to report that Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld have finally returned to these shores. Justine, being Australian and not having seen snow until the age of 26, is currently traumatized by the actual cold weather we have here in New York. We met for lunch in our usual spot to celebrate this wondrous occasion. They brought along fellow Australian author Melina Marchetta, who had to leave a bit early to go to the airport. It was an excellent time, even if Justine shivered throughout and looked at my gloves as if she had never seen these magical bodiless hand-creatures before.

The lunch was so excellent, in fact, that we barely even noticed when an entire television film crew rolled up five feet behind us (and eventually around us) and filmed some Food Network segment with Mario Batali and one of the Sex in the City women. (I have never seen an episode of Sex in the City all the way through, but I can at least spot at Sex in the Cityite in the wild. Also, Justine told me who she was.)

The three of us were astonished to find ourselves surrounded by cameras.

After that, we all snuck up on writing partner John Green, who was deep in the terminal throes of finishing the very last sentences of the first draft of his new book. In general, I do not advocate sneaking up on John Green. I have painted him in the past as a man on the edge. But he took it well, greeted everyone with joy, and got himself a sensibly-pointed, Weight Watchers friendly lunch. I pointed this out, and he confirmed it.

“Five points,” he said proudly.

“Wait,” Justine said. “You really are on Weight Watchers? I thought that was a lie that Maureen made up for her blog.”

“Lie?” I said. “Me? I don’t even know the meaning of the word. I am a creature of pure truth. When I blog about this, you will see. Every detail will be recorded with pinpoint accuracy.”

“What about that fight at Books of Wonder? What about John getting drunk when he won the Printz and trying to build a sandbox out of cat litter in the middle of the street?”

“Okay,” I admitted. “Those two instances were what I like to think of as truth explorations. John is an artist. He is capable of great swings of emotion.”

John nodded away and ate his low calorie lunch with gusto. But Justine was not done.

“Or that time you claimed that Scott was an alien with reptile eyes who tried to steal a non-existent helicopter from the top of the New York Times building?” she added.

I glanced over at Scott. He gave me a lightening-fast shake of the head and made a quick slit-throat gesture. Then he put his sunglasses back on.

“Well,” I said quickly. “Of course THAT didn’t happen! But that post was otherwise brimming with facts. I said that you don’t like chocolate and that Scott doesn’t wear jeans. You can’t deny that those things are true.”

“Be that as it may,” she said. “Sometimes, you tell stories.”

Reader, she is right. Sometimes I do. But everything I tell you is based in a deep, essential truthiness. And it was only those three times. Justine was astonished to find that my account of what authors do all day was actually the real deal, right down to the low fat cream cheese in John’s pants . . . in his pants.

And I’m certainly telling you the truth when I say that John Green and I are currently in similar boats. We are both finishing up first drafts. He’s done now, but I am not.

In a past entry, I described the process of finishing up a book in its very final stages, when the deadline is well and truly upon you, and the curtain is coming down. Maybe I should tell you a bit more about the other end, the part that is . . . as one of my most beloved theater instructors would have said . . . very loosey-goosey.

Maybe you imagine that writers sit down and start with the first sentence, and then keep writing away, until they finally type the words THE END. And maybe some do. But that’s not how it goes with me.

I may start with the beginning, but I may start with the middle. I may write a page, and then think of a sentence I want to write somewhere down the line, so I write that sentence, knowing someday I will catch up to it.

It’s like I’m building a house out of Legos—really, really small legos. Like, those single prong ones. But I don’t necessarily start with the ground and build up, carefully creating the base of my Lego house, leaving spots for the windows and the door. I often start with the windows. I hang things in mid-air. I build the roof. I put single Legos in where I think the bedroom will be. Sometimes I begin work on the pool in the back. Sometimes I build an entire LEGO CITY this way.

The result is that absolutely no one can read my drafts until they are complete, because they are literally masses of single paragraphs and sentences connected by the invisible ink that is in my head. And that’s fine by me, because I don’t usually want anyone reading at that stage.

I spend a lot of the first draft thinking about what the second draft will look like, because the two usually have little to do with each other. In draft two, I am Lego Godzilla, stomping all over the place and ripping things out with my squarish Lego claws.


But what I have right now is still Lego City. I happen to love this particular Lego City, and I have been working on it assiduously. I think this may be the best Lego City yet. But it is too soon for me to talk about it in depth.

But . . . what this has done is get me behind on letting you know about the newest members of my PIRATE DANCE CAMP CREW. I posed a challenge to my crew members to come up with some ways of getting the Girl At Sea message to the world. They didn’t let me down.

I am happy to introduce challenge winner Thea, now First Mate Katfish Kate, who is working on a short jellyfish-themed video about Girl At Sea. This won my heart, because I am terrified of jellyfish, and this fear of mine plays out in the book. I cannot wait to see this.

Also, an entire mini-crew form the second place Pirates Too. They include: Pirate Mandy Too Diefor, Pirate Miley Too Divine, Pirate Faith Too Dangerous, and Pirate Juliette Too Delicious. They are working on a plan so secret that it cannot be revealed here.

To all who entered, the ideas were all excellent. And there is a lot of time between now and the release of Girl At Sea, which means a lot of time left for more scheming.

Until then, I return, in all truthfulness, to work. Really.

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Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

In that picture of us being surprised---I'm Cary Grant, aren't I?

Your drafting procedures are strange.

I'm glad you sorted out the whole lying thing

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

Of course you are, Justine. All avid readers of this blog know Maureen is Jimmy Stewart, so it just follows naturally that you are Cary Grant. So suave, so debonair. So stunned...

Hey, MJ, that story about E.T.C.... that was true, right?

7:06 PM  
Blogger greeneyedwriter said...

Hi! Cool blog! My blog is also named CONFESSIONS OF A CATHOLIC SCHOOLGIRL...so is my book! Please check it out at: www.michellekane.com
Thanks! A percentage of profits go to organizations devoted to ending domestic violence

9:46 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Melina's books are amazing. As I read LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI, I pictured Anthony LaPaglia as the father. After finishing the book, I discovered ALIBRANDI had been made into a film - with Anthony LaPaglia as the father. I knew that I needed to see this film immediately. I was then told that it was not available in the United States. WHY?! WHY?!

In other news, Cary Grant has been one of my two favorite actors since I was an infant. (The other: Gene Kelly.)

I would love to play Dinah Lord in the stage production of The Philadelphia Story.

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