Monday, September 29, 2008

Fashion and the author

I admit that I'm a fashion dropout. This is one of the perks of being an author. You can hang out in your pajamas flipping popcorn into your mouth while you work. What could be better?

But I do have to go out every once in awhile, so occasionally I find myself perusing the racks at the mall, wondering what is 'in fashion' and what I can wear without looking like I'm trying to be sixteen. It's hard to buy anything in the big, loud prints that are popular right now. I still remember making fun of those after they went out of fashion the last time.

And besides, I don't trust fashion designers. I think secretly they are like the tailors in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes and they just come up with outlandish things to see if they can make people look like fools.

"Ha ha," they laugh in their fashion designer lairs, "We make people look ridiculous and they pay us large amounts of money for it! What can we get them to wear next?"

You don't believe me? Take a look at some of these recent outfits that probably cost more than your mortgage payment. (And no, these pictures didn't come from the worst-dressed issue of some magazine. These are straight out of the September 22nd issue of People magazine.) Apparently the celebrities were proud of these outfits.

Here is Anne Hathaway in a dress which was obviously inspired by a Hershey's kiss: (Well, fashion designers have to eat something while they design . . .)

Here is Christina and a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. A word of warning to all other celebrities who may be tempted to wear this sort of thing: Video of Lucy Lawless singing the national anthem when her arms went one way and her strapless top went another are still floating around the Internet.

This is obviously a castoff costume from the old Buck Rogers show. Watch out Martian warriors, Beyonce has joined forces with Twiki.

And lastly, here is Victoria Beckham sporting the latest craze: Sponge Bob Orange dress.

Now don't you feel better about your wardrobe?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm coming to the Tempe Library this Saturday

No this isn't an announcement of my next run to the library to check out books. I'm doing one of my school visit presentations at the Tempe Public Library at 3:00, Saturday, September 27th.

I'd love to see any and all of you! (Read between the lines: please don't make me go through the library grabbing strangers to drag into my presentation so it looks like I have fans.)

Tempe Public Library
3500 S. Rural Road
Tempe, Arizona 85282

3:00, Saturday September 27th

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you've ever felt like you couldn't compete with super models, read this:

I was all set to post a blog about fashion and the average author (some of you may think that's an oxymoron) but last night I was at a talk that just blew me away, so I have to blog about that instead.

It was a self esteem workshop for the young girls at my church, and I must admit I only went because mothers were invited and I didn't want my daughter to be the only one whose mother didn't show.

I am so glad I went.

The statistics they told us were staggering. Did you know that only 2% of women worldwide feel beautiful? By the time girls hit 12 years old 57% of them hate their bodies. One in four 12 year old girls think they are fat.

I can't remember all of the statistics because there were too many, but each one basically told the same story: Society relentlessly tells women that we are not good enough the way we are. We are subjected to an average of 3,000 adds a day. We will spend an average of three years (Three years!!) of our lives watching commercials, and all of us know what we see in those adds. We see perfect faces and bodies. The models not only don't have flaws, they don't have pores.

None of us can measure up to that. How can we help but feel bad about ourselves?

Oh here's another scary fact. The average model 30 years ago was 5'8 and 132 pounds. Now the average model is 5'10 and 110 pounds. Hello, that's concentration camp skinny. Should that really be the standard we weigh ourselves against?

Why do advertisers do it?

The theory they told us last night is that advertisers want us to feel bad about ourselves so that they can sell us the fix. If only we'd use their clothes, make up, hair products--whatever, then we'd be as beautiful as the models.

But here is the horrible secret: Even the models themselves aren't as pretty as their pictures. (You can tell how worked up I am about all of this because of all the italics I'm putting in here.) The average cover of a beauty magazine costs 60,000 dollars to digitally fix and enhance. The pictures inside run about 5,000 each.

Watch this video from Dove, and see how the advertisers/magazines do it. Really. Watch it. You'll never look at those photos in the same way again.

PS--I've just realized I can stop trying to be beautiful all together. I just need a good photoshop program.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The good school visits

I thought to balance the last story of Alene's bad school visit, I’d blog about a good one. The problem: I’ve had so many good visits that it’s hard to choose just one.

There was Shepherd Junior High in Mesa, Arizona where one of the girls told me that she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before because she was so excited that I was coming in. I felt like Santa Claus.

There was Wy’ East in Oregon where two teachers sold snacks out of their classrooms to pay for my visit. That’s dedication. I really hope I was worth all of the beef jerky.

There was San Manuel High in Arizona where I overheard the principal talking with one of the teachers about the difficulty in paying the school’s air conditioning bill—it was humbling to realize how much they were struggling financially, and yet they’d paid for an author to come in to try and inspire their kids to read and write.

Ditto for San Rafael in Ferron, Utah, a town so small they didn’t have a bookstore, but I could tell how much the community and librarians cared about getting the kids to read.

But the school I want to blog about is Estrella Middle school, perhaps because like the school in Alane’s bad school visit story, it too was a school full of at-risk students. In fact, the first thing I saw when I drove up to the school was a big sign that said, “We beat the odds!”

I’m always a little nervous when I do school visits because you never know what to expect. I have these paranoid fears that a) the school forgot I was coming b) I’ve come on the wrong day and was supposed to be here yesterday or c) my powerpoint presentation won’t work on the school’s computer, and I will spend the entire day making shadow puppets on the screen.

So I was my usual nervous self and the librarian told me that a couple of my classes were filled with kids who were just learning English. Then I was really nervous because a lot of times it’s hard to keep the kids' attention when they understand what I’m saying, what would it be like if they didn't understand me?

It turns out I shouldn’t have worried. Every single class at this school was great. The kids were creative, enthusiastic, and respectful. One boy gave me a story he had written to read over lunch. It was so sweet--not the story, (which as I recall had a hot girl and exploding buildings) but it was so sweet that this boy was writing and he wanted me to look at it. I was that way in sixth grade too. I’m sure if he keeps at it one day he’ll be a published author.

Another boy told me that I should write his story. You could tell he felt passionately about it. He said, "People don't realize what we had to go through to come to this country." You know how sometimes in life somebody says something and you know it will stick with you forever? That’s what it was like when he said this to me.

He was eleven years old and I have no idea what he went through to get to this country.

Afterward I talked to the librarian about him. I told her to talk to his parents and if they agreed, he could tell me his story and I'd consider writing it.

But the parents never answered back. Maybe they thought they'd get in trouble with the law if they were telling an author how they sneaked into the country.

Anyway, it was one school I’ll always remember. I hope the kids I met there do beat the odds.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Guest blogger: the bad school visits

I’m on a list with some other authors and the subject of school visits came up. First off, I want to say that 99% of all the school visits I’ve done have been great. The teachers have been wonderful and accommodating and the kids have excited but respectful.

However, I have to say I always get a kick out of hearing other author’s bad school visit stories. Alane Ferguson shared a couple with me that are worth passing on to all of you aspiring writers out there. In speaking about why free school visits aren’t always the best thing for authors to do, she wrote:

I had a personal revelation when I went to my old elementary school and spoke for free. First, they forgot I was coming. Next, they made me pay for my *&^%$#@ school lunch. And then last but not least, teachers stood up in the middle of my assembly (sorry, but we've got early recess) and ushered a third of the little darlings out of my assembly while I had the mike in my hand. They actually turned out the lights on me while I was packing up my things.

First I called for help, and then I had to go and find the switch in the complete dark - I must have fumbled around for a full five minutes. I'm SUCH a celebrity!

That also reminds me of another horror speaking trip I had, this time in Texas. I was placed in an auditorium with middle-school kids from an inner inner INNER city. First, when I met the small group in the library, the kids would ask me questions, but their accent/street talk was so thick I kept turning to the library lady, pleading, "What did he/she say?" (At times it was hard to tell who/what was asking the question.) And she'd have to TRANSLATE for me! I felt like I was in that old 'Airplane' movie where I had to turn to the Beaver's mom who says, "Pardon me, I speak jive." It was so embarrassing!

So then all of the teachers left me with these kids who looked like were posing for mug shots. I really mean that ALL the teachers left, as in they were gone to their own teacher party. When the bell rang the kids filed out and then the same kids came back and sat down, which I figured out when they started repeating my lines back to me during my second presentation. So I'm looking around for help, and there was none - the kids were just dumped with me for two more hours until the last bell. I was doing sock-puppet tricks by the end. Oh, and the principal, when he showed up, was armed, if that gives you a hint.

And I swear to you on all that is Holy, the librarian, who drove me home, told me she was into all kind of kinky things with the principal, who apparently had no principles. I found out w-a-a-a-y too much about whips and chains and all kind of unmentionable things. Talk about overshare! I did not want to KNOW! I kept staring out the window muttering "I'm from Utah, please stop.”

I could not get out of that car fast enough.


Janette popping in again. Okay, Alane's story made me laugh until I cried. (Which just goes to show you the kind of supportive friend I am.) If any of you authors out there can top this school visit story, I want to hear it!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I've made it! . . . well, sort of . . .

Okay, remember how I said in a blog long ago that I would know I'd made it when Mattel created a Barbie doll of one of my characters? Well, I was flipping through my latest Barbie doll catalog and low and behold what do I see but this picture:

Look at that long pink hair and the gaudy accessories. Clearly this is Chrysanthemum Everstar from My Fair Godmother, (See the picture in my last blog) which means that my book and character must have reached the same fan level status as Elvis and Priscilla, Lucy and Ethel, the cast of Grease, and Batgirl, who are also in the catalog.

I am officially cool.

Okay, so Mattel didn't know they were making a Barbie doll likeness of one of my characters. She's actually one of their designer series Barbies. This one is by Tarina Tarantino. (Don't you just want to rush out and buy something of hers?) And because she's a designer Barbie, she costs twice what the normal collector Barbies cost, and I'm going to have to shell out 80.00 if I want to own one. (It's basically the same principle involved in buying designer jeans.)

I sooo bet that Priscilla Presely got a free copy of her doll.