Monday, January 31, 2011

Escape from New York

I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in New York for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2011 Conference and have crash landed in the PDX airport with a mug of coffee-flavored water, trying to piece it together before my certain-to-be hellish 3 hour shuttle ride home.

Over the weekend I met some truly excellent people in the writing business, and found -- as I alway do -- that despite cost, fatigue, and the cashing in of months of carefully accumulated points with my wife, these trips are always worth it. Yes, new knowledge, networking, and all the rest. But also, hey: NEW YORK CITY, PEOPLE.

I was blown away by how many cool, incidental things I was able to see in the city.

Ghostbusters building? Check. Subway stop where "Beat It" was filmed. Check.

And perhaps best of all: I literally overheard a gang (fine, group) of young, drunken Latino guys chanting "Los Locos kick your butt. Los Locos kick your face. Los Locos kick your balls into ou-ter SPACE!" I'm not making this up. And these guys were like 20. Meaning Short Circuit is still alive and relevant on the streets of New York. What a relief. And since Los Locos are officially ranked as the #6 Least Intimidating Gang in Movie History, I felt like I was really part of something.

I was also introduced to the oldest bar in New York: McSorley's. You can visit its web site here, which is completely unlike the experience of actually shoving into this ancient bar with a beer tapper that looks like a pipe organ from a cheap steampunk movie and a chandelier that literally hasn't been dusted since 1854. And you think THAT'S cool? You also order your beers by saying "one of each," meaning one light and one dark -- and once you're served the trick is finding enough elbow room with which to lift the delicious nectar to your lips. Incredible place. I was planning to travel to Ireland next year, but to hell with that. My 25% Irish self has now seen the best the pub scene has to offer.

And the pizza, I . . . well. Okay.

Those from New York can stop reading now.

I'm a Chicago boy, but I had some New York pizza. It's good. Just GOOD, mind you. I've come to love a casserole-sized slice with a manhole cover of a sausage patty on top, and the thin, bend-in-the middle pizza left me . . . hungry. Like I had to eat 3 slices. What's that all about?

But the hot pastrami -- fahgettaboutdit.

It was an all around excellent trip for mind, spirit, and stomach. But it's taken its toll. New York may be the city that never sleeps, but I'm in Oregon now. And as sleepy as Eugene. So all for now and goodnight.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Madam X Factor

Pictured above is the most recent fortune I've received from machine, cookie, live person, or otherwise -- taken from an exceptionally cool and creepy mechanized Seer outside of Market Magic & Novelty Shop in Seattle. The message has been propped up on my desk ever since that fateful afternoon, and is especially valuable now, a few days after sending query letters to several agents for my YA book Weavers.

Needless to say, I am currently pricing amethysts.

I did not, however, put another 50 cents in the slot to be told more. A good call, because the guy after me got something about "being stabbed in the back by a philanderer" which caused sudden weirdness between him and his girlfriend. Seriously.

So Madam X giveth, and Madam X taketh away.

If I'd stuck around all afternoon, I'd probably have an outline for a new novel by now. Instead, I had the sudden urge to rush home and open the mailbox . .  which was empty. Apparently even Madam X cannot make the mail come on Sunday.

But questions remain: Will such a letter come? Is Madam X a benevolent fortune teller or a Monkey's Paw/Dr. Terror's House of Horrors fortune teller? More importantly, is Madam X down with Zoltar? Could she somehow turn me back into a 12-year-old boy, and how might that either help or hurt my career as a young adult author?

I'll keep you posted . . .