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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mayday! Mayday! Gnome Infiltration

Libba Bray holds a gnome stowaway at SCBWI.
     Pay no attention to the headline of this blog. Everything is as it should be. Jen from the Block is not tied up in a closet, fighting for breath. She hasn’t been kidnapped by a gnome named Glenny. In fact, she’s never even heard of Glenny, and he has certainly not hijacked her blog. Glenny has no designs on some insubstantial, blathering account of the publishing industry and how it relates to advertising. A gnome named Glenny wouldn’t care if Jen ever sells a book or not. I mean to, he wouldn’t care about all that if he existed. Which he doesn’t.

     But if this non-existent gnome named Glenny had a blog, it would be about how people shouldn’t pigeonhole gnomes just because some smartass ad writer penned a campaign for Travelocity, featuring a wizened gnome (that was, I’ll have you know, washed up long before the audition) who now gets to tramp all over the world and be filmed lounging poolside and drinking coladas (which is a pansy drink, btw). To add insult to injury, he sometimes signs autographs. Why would anyone want his autograph? He’s nothing more than a Flat Stanley wannabe, gloating about having three dimensions to make up for his lack of literary connections. Flat Stanley is at least based on a book, whereas the Travelocity gnome is merely a pawn in some self-proclaimed ad wunderkind’s demented sales campaign. He is officially a garden ho, not a beloved icon. He gives us—er, GNOMES in general a bad name and makes all humans expect such behavior from every plaster creature in a pointed hat. The madness must end.

     Contrary to popular belief, not all gnomes are pranksters. They don’t control the internet and mess with your computer files (hackers do), or ravage your tulips before they’ve fully bloomed (that’s the deer). They don’t move storage boxes around in the attic, nor do they tunnel under the foundations of your homes, wreaking havoc with the structure. Really, people, you are getting gnomes mixed up with things like poltergeists and termites. Nasty nuisances, poltergeists are. And I can’t even think about termites without itching, so I’ll stop there. Gnomes are different. Most of us…er, them….are serious-minded creatures who like to talk about music and philosophize from atop those little bridges that humans build to get across the koi ponds in their yards. (Or, in cases where the owner of the yard has fewer resources, gnomes recline on giant, plastic mushrooms and ponder the universe. It’s like Woodstock for gnomes, minus the drugs.)

     We like to fish. That much is true. (Who doesn’t?) But we never, ever, ever fish with that moronic smile spread across our faces. Not to mention, we pin our beards up so they don’t get wet. (Oh dear, did I say “we”? I don’t know where my mind has gone. Of course I meant “they.”) There—right there! That’s proof that Jen is not under gnomic influences, for if she were, her mind would not only be intact, but would linger on far loftier topics than this blog traditionally tackles.

     Because gnomes are deep. Far deeper than former advertising professionals. They dabble in improving relations between all creatures. They contribute to world peace and promote great literature. In fact, we…er, they (I don’t know why I keep doing that) would’ve passed more than 500 writers through the third phase of the ABNA contest if given a chance. But gnomes cannot be Vine Reviewers, which—you must admit—is ironic, as there is a definite garden analogy in play. (Yeah, Amazon didn’t buy it, either.) I bet you didn’t know that gnomes idolize writers, EXCEPT, of course, for those who slur gnome reputations and threaten bodily abuse. Gnomes don't like authors of books like this one which provides a guide to surviving gnome attacks. (Like there's a market for that anyway. Pfft.) Those types of writers need to perish in flames, so it’s a good thing we don’t know any. A very good thing.

     Now since gnomes are a noble lot, an ancient clan undeserving of being bullied and/or anihilated, we should all be ashamed of ourselves for targeting them and making their lives a living hell for the past two months just because we happened to be going through “a thing.” At the very least, we owe them an apology. Recompense may be addressed to The Glenny Foundation at

While this is Jen's closet, she is NOT stashed in it.
     I, Jen from the Block, being of sound mind and body (one that is not tied up or otherwise restrained) recommend signing on to the above web site and making a donation ASAP. As for the pink flamingoes, the wind chimes, the ceramic geese (be they clothed or un-clothed) and the Marlboro man-esque cardboard silhouettes, Glenny/Jen says: have at it. They are abominations to both races: human and gnome. You have my blessing. Carry on!

....and congratulations to the ABNA quarterfinalists.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tweeting with Dignity

Someday I will get a twitter account. Because it’s the wave of the future and all the kids are doing it and I missed what the stars tweeted on Oscar night, which made me feel all Norma-Desmond-in-Sunset-Boulevard-depressed. (I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille! Bahahahahaha!) Mostly, I want to be schooled in the jargon. Hashtags, ztwitt, beetweet. Random ## symbols thrown about @ in weird places—it seems so mod. Let’s face it, in a world where technology reigns supreme, it’s either lead, follow on twitter, or get out of the way. So I will join…tomorrow if I don’t talk myself out of it first. By, say, slamming the entire twitter culture with a blog post. (Yes, this one.)

What are they?
     Turn back now if you can’t take some mild hating on the twitter. (And as you’re leaving be careful not to tread on the mome-raths.)

 Okay, so there might be an argument for chiseling advice and insight down to a mere 140 characters. We are busier than ever, not to mention worse readers. Maybe using so few characters builds…um, character. I mean, isn’t it the same thing as shrinking your baby (and by baby, I mean your hunkin’ 80,000-word + manuscript) down to fun size? The process is similar to crafting that concise 300-word teaser, and a pitch is a necessary evil, by all accounts. But why go there in LIFE? Do we really want to boil all of our experiences down to one brief line? Put it this way: You might as well be composing an inscription for your tombstone. (Fun! Fun! Fun!) I hate to be the bearer of doom and gloom, but each day may be your last. That this very sentiment has become the mantra of the texting generation is evidenced by songs like “If I Die Young,” “Like We’re Gonna Die Young” and “If Today Was Your Last Day.”
If you’re on twitter, that last tweet will define you for all eternity. Even if it’s: I think that guy who shot his girlfriend woulda put his legs on even if it was a robber in the bathroom. Hashtag#mootpoint

Or: Even tho I said hold the pickle, my bitch waitress gave me one anyway and now the juice is all over my plate.  Hashtag#dillcontamination
     And now, to my horror—and hopefully yours—agents have resorted to accepting twitter pitches. If you find a normal pitch to be a difficult undertaking, try coming up with one that fits the twitter field. In my opinion it started the trend of using these incongruous, cloying phrases in describing books. My book is The Clique meets Godzilla (Cliquezillas!), Night of the Living Dead meets Sesame Street, Jane Eyre meets Wanna Go Private (Don’t steal that one. It’s mine!), Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Madmen, Pride and Prejudice meets Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Game of Thrones meets Toy Story. (If you have a better one—which I’m sure you do—comment.)

     While seeking a job in advertising, I still feel as if employers frown upon a writer’s offering blog postings, twitter feeds and facebook pages as samples—even though they may be used effectively as advertising tools. Just like editors and agents snub experience in the fields of advertising and PR when an author lists such qualifications in queries. This strikes me as odd, since these fields are obvious extensions of one another--or at the very least complimentary. Case in point: Check out this writing field mashup: Copywriter meets Novelist. (Somehow it doesn’t sound as weird or controversial as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo meets Swiss Family Robinson.) So I don't know where that guy on the ABNA threads gets his logic.
      But back to twitter. Account or no account? I guess it all boils down to whether I can tweet in a dignified manner without feeling that I’m pounding the final nail in the coffin of world literacy.
Yeah, here’s the thing: Dignified people don’t generally tweet. The Queen doesn’t. The dalai lama doesn’t—nor does God. My YA-author idol Gary Paulsen? Ex-nay on the eet-tway. Dear old mom has no desire to tweet—she never has—and neither does my best friend Jodi, whose own mother, I might add, is also tweet-less. My uber-accomplished brother doesn’t, although he has considered blogging. Mr. Rodgers didn't include twitter in the world of imagination. Big Bird tweets, but we’ll forgive him, seeing he’s genetically programmed to do so. (Besides, I read somewhere it’s in his contract.) Do I continue to model my life after these great people (with an odd Muppet and/or deity thrown in) or emulate the likes of Snooki? You figure it out.
 In the meantime, here are some Downton Abbey tweets (proving they can be done with dignity).

     Mr. Bates to Anna: An acquaintance of mine who works in the kitchens of the dauphin’s summer chateau sent a French Maid uniform over. Slip it on and meet me in the stables. #hotwalkingwounded

     Lady Sybil to Branson: I’m sending Anna down with my phone, in part because I know you’re too poor to afford a decent data plan, and also because I have someone else do all my tasks. She’ll hand you a message, which she also typed: Do you want to elope? (with me, not her.) Please give her your reply (she’ll type it) and send her back to me. #quintessentialdamsel

(That one might be over 140, but oh well.)

 The Dowager Countess to Lady Cora: This twatter nonsense has to be an American invention. #uppitysnob

Matthew to Lady Mary: I forget, did you reject me or did I reject you?  #iceprincess

Carson to the Earl of Grantham: Very well, sir. #eternallackey

Thomas to anything in pants: (Insert your choice of lewd Texts From Last Night here) #evilsnake