Monday, October 29, 2012

Henna Designs

A couple weeks ago, I chaperoned a 7th grade field trip to the Renaissance Festival. Falconry and fun, fun, fun.

The boys grabbed a bite to eat and sat down to watch the acrobats. The stage happened to be right next to a henna booth, so I... kept one eye on the kids and ran off to get a design on my arm. It takes all of two minutes to get a small one done.

Now, when I lived in Abu Dhabi, I used to have henna on my hands and feet. Roses and scrolls, and all lovely sorts of flowers. That took a long time to dry. I keep things a little more discrete here in NC- just in case.

I picked a small dragon and the artist applied the design where long sleeves would hide the whole thing. Henna only lasts two weeks anyway. (This design is a couple of inches, enlarged here for detail.)

My sleeve rolled up, I went back to the boys.

Darling son rolls his eyes at me.

His friend says "Ooo. How much was that? I want one."

Chaperone Me cringes. : "What if your parents don't like it?" Maybe I shouldn't have said that. I think I sealed the deal.

Two of them run off to get designs done. One gets the same design as mine. The other selects a scary six-inch dragon. Claws and all - it looked ginormous on that small boy. I had a flash to the future where he is covered in ink. And I hope the parents don't hate me for it, but really - if that's what he wants, someday he's going to get it done. Right? (Help me here. I feel a little bit guilty.)

As they sat waiting for the precious design to dry, boy number one asked me - "How is henna part of the Renaissance?" This kid is thinking tattoos are a new thing - I can see it in his eyes.

Hmm. "Well - Remember the Crusaders from the middle ages? They went east and lots of ideas came back with them. During the Renaissance, there was trade with the east. And henna is a very old art. Older than the Renaissance."


From my previous posts you know, in the east, henna is mostly used for celebrations like weddings or feast days now. It originated in the fields, where women dyed their hands as a protection from the harsh work of the harvest.

This is my first ever ejderha - dragon design. In Turkey, and in many other eastern cultures, the use of animal designs is frowned upon or even forbidden. This stems from a firm stance against idolatry. 

Some beduoins tattoo themselves with black tribal markings, but I like henna (aka kına or mehndi) because it's temporary. Next time I can get something else that suits my fancy. Ink is too permanent for me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Playing Favorites

Elizabeth George Speare
I'm in the Your Best Book writing workshop this week, where Tracey Adams of Adams Literary is discussing character. One of the prep questions for the workshop: Who is your favorite children's book character? Be prepared to share why.

The options seemed endless, so I broke it down in categories:

Picture Books-

HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON? Maybe. Yes. I like him, but is he my favorite? I think I like the crayon.

Stellaluna? I like her, but I didn't read her story when I was little. She's cute, but not my favorite.

Conclusion: I'm not really a picture book writer.

Middle Grade-

Lots of maybes in this category: Laura Ingalls, Mary Lennox, Lucy Pevensie, Nancy Drew, Anne Shirley...  Meg Murray? I reread A WRINKLE IN TIME because I remembered loving it years ago. But, it's not Meg. (Hey! Even Nathan Bransford has issues with this story these days.)

Conclusion: I like middle grade, but I don't love it.

Young Adult:

Karana from ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS - I really like this book, but Karana isn't the reason.

Kit Tyler? Kit Tyler.

Woah! Flashback!

I was in sixth grade the day I first read THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. 

We had round tables in class, which I appreciated because the teacher couldn't just look down the rows and reprimand me for reading. Somehow I got a seat tucked way into the corner. The pockmarked plexiglass window behind me threw a dappled shadow over the table. The perfect place to hide a paperback? The inside of my science book, SERENDIPITY.

The story sucked me in, and then.... tears! I didn't care about the room full of kids around me, or the teacher who finally figured out the science wasn't making me sniffle. I even got myself a pen pal in the Barbados afterwards.

Remembering Kit's story, certain scenes are vivid still for me. Just in case she's not my favorite, and to research the WHY:

I reread WOBP over the weekend. I didn't cry, but it was a wake up call for me - as if I saw my younger self through a mirror portal, and I was comfortable with her.

Kit and I are sisters of the soul, and here's the why: Kit was one independent girl striving for a way to find her place in two worlds. Not an apple, or an orange, she was a pomegranate, like me. Did I know that way back in 6th grade? It was the year I went from Catholic school to public, so maybe I had an idea.

Now I look at BURNT AMBER and I see Kit Tyler walking through those pages, nodding her head. She knows me. Even in MIST OF KAVALA, I see her mark.


Kit Tyler is my favorite.

Now, is it because I'm a YA writer at heart? Who is your favorite? Is it a classic? Is it something more recent?

AND lastly, I have to point out that Sarah Fine launched her book last week:

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos's best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone – she's determined to save her best friend's soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she's captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city's endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn't – the dark city isn't the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkish Publishing Industry

Frankfurt Book Fair, 2008
What to blog? It's Friday afternoon (as I'm writing this) and I have NO IDEA!

Duh! Read the news.
Syria. Syria. Syria.
Not getting into that quagmire.

Oh, look! A pretty picture of BOOKS.

Ah! An article about the Frankfurt Book Fair, specifically, an article about the Turkish companies attending:

A total of 21 Turkish publishing houses will attend the book fair, including eight publishing houses geared toward children’s and youth literature. Seven copyright agencies from Turkey will also be present at the fair. Source:Hurriyet Daily News

Wow. 21 publishing houses. Maybe I should see what this is about. Curious minds want to know!

Clickity, click.

Fifty eight companies representing Turkey? 58. Huh!

Click. Click.
Hmm. This stupid site won't give me more than a list of names.
Open new tab.
Google. typey, typey.
Whirr. Click.

Akcali Copyright

Page opens up to a George RR Martin cover. OK. This house must represent front list translations.

Scroll. Click.

YA & Children's page:
Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini and Roald Dahl.

Does this mean they like fantasy/sci-fi, or is that what's on the front list right now? Hmm.

Click back to the Frankfurt Book Fair page. Skip down the list.

Can you see me doing this? Or maybe I've spent too much time with picture book authors lately? Shall I put in an art note here? ;) 

Next company:

AnatoliaLit. Agency representing Turkish authors internationally, also offering translation services for people looking to get into the Turkish market. American agent's name on the list, Bryn Mawr grad.

Eyebrows go up. Literary agent in Istanbul. That's a job to strive for in my next life.

Next company:

APRIL Best sellers of a different sort : Jodi Picoult, Mary Higgins Clark, Dr. Phil. I think they're interested in how I feel about things. ;)

Ayrinti Serious, serious stuff here. Analytical, Historical, Theological. No kids stuff=Not for me.

Publishers, printers, literary agencies...These are just the As. There's a whole list (with lots of countries) on the Frankfurt Book Fair site, if you're interested. And I'm sure any agent dealing with foreign rights already knows all of this. I just thought you might like my picture-bookish Friday adventure in making this blog relevant to my writerly world, with a Turkish angle, of course.

PS. In 2008, Turkey was the focus of interest at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the photo above was part of the pavilion designed for the event. The theme was Faszinierend farbig (Fascinatingly colourful).

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Writer's Roller Coaster

Coney Island Cyclone
I'm fresh off the roller coaster that was the SCBWI Carolinas conference. I have a few things to say.

1) Go to a conference near you and make some good friends.

2) Participate, even when it hurts.

3) Listen to what the experts are really saying.

4) Don't drink the coffee.

So, here's the correlating WHY:

1) A writer needs friends in this process. Online friends are good. Real live, huggable, hand-holding ones are better. I can't imagine how I did without the support before. And each time I attend a conference, the bonds get stronger.
  • After you get a critique - good or bad - you need to share. Immediately.
  • When you have one great AND one not so great review, then you need help to focus on the good again. Immediately.
  • Friends are great for reminding (gently, and much later) that you should not forget the bad either, because that is how you get better. You know what I mean?
2) Participation is hard. It's easier to just sit and absorb. If you want to get the most out of the conference, even at the risk of melting away in your seat under the laser beam eyes of the expert, do it.
  •  After you recover from the meltdown, you end up asking yourself the hard questions.
  •  Hard questions make your writing more focused - as in, the very next day epiphany focused. (This was a plot workshop. My plot was fine, but leaning toward average at the end. Now it will be awesome.)
  • Friends are very helpful with the meltdown situation. (ref: point 1, above)
3) If you are lucky enough to have your work reviewed (in front of hundreds of people), your ears will ring. Between thudding heart beats, you will try to listen very carefully, but you will only hear half of what the experts say.

It's good to have friends listening to the criticism at the same time. You can always review the feedback with them later. (ref: point 1, above)

A couple of my friends got picked. One of them focused on the negative comments. Weeding out the harsh to find the seed of goodness is hard. I haven't spoken much to the other yet, but she's stronger than me, so I'm not worried.

Then mine was read.

Gasp! The last few pieces scored editor comments like: "Annoying." or  "Irritating." or "Too many like this." My sample was from the second round of revisions from my NaNoWriMo project. There was no way to magically remove my submission.

"There's nothing wrong with the writing," says one editor. "Want something more special to start."
I'm thinking: That's a Meh! response, but I'll take it after the comments the last few people got. It is, after all, only an early attempt at the beginning for this manuscript.

"I'm intrigued. Want more details on the setting," says the second.
I'm thinking: Another Meh!, but I'll take it. This guy is HARD to impress. Besides, I cut so much to keep inside the 200 word limit, and you all know my setting details can be too detailed sometimes.

"Swearing is a cheat. Find another way to show emotions," says the third. "Also, damn sounds out of context with the world."
I'm thinking: 1) No swearing is a good rule to remember. 2) Maybe I should make a list of world specific words for each character - one more problem a sci-fi/fantasy writer needs to deal with!

4) The coffee is mediocre at best. Also, when your heart feels like it might burst out of your chest, caffeine is probably a bad idea.

And finally, as SCBWI President, Stephen Mooser reminded: A writer's career is like a roller coaster. You can't keep your eyes closed the whole time. You have to put your hands up and scream if you want to enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Muhteşem Mythical Birds

The new Muhteşem Yüzyıl season is up and running, and Hurrem Sultan... Well, I can't wait to see how she gets out of this mess: There's a new girl in the harem, and Sultan Suleiman has fallen head over heals over her.

Firuze is more than just a girl though. She's got something magical going on. Suleiman was in her dreams- before she met him. She heals Hatice Sultan with a sweep of the hand and a Persian poem. And she has a mysterious tattoo on the back of her neck. This girl is my style!  (I'm still rooting for Hurrem to win, of course.)

Last week's episode had me googling all over the place. I'm still looking for the correct mythical bird of Firuze's hairpin. It's not the Simurgh (above), or the Shahrukh (which is the root of the word roc, btw). It's a lovesick bird with a tragic end.

A la Arabian Nights, she tells Suleiman this tale:

The diman (?) falls in love with the sea - a sea as blue as Suleiman's eyes.
It protects the sea, so it can't bear to leave the shore for fear that something would happen.
It never drinks a drop of the water.
When the bird dies of thirst, waves wrap around the body and pull it down to the deepest, deepest heart of the sea.

Is she planning to kill Suleiman? The Ottomans are about to march on Tabriz. She might be in the harem on a mission. I guess we'll find out. At the moment, it seems she's obsessed with Suleiman as her destiny.

Meanwhile, I'm obsessed with the bird. The story feels familiar, but I might be confusing it with the Greek myth of Narcissus.

Has anyone else heard of this mythical bird?


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