Friday, August 31, 2007

Turkey Brain

Last night I was a guest on the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I love that show. If I didn't I never would have exposed myself to the humiliation of the on air multiple choice quizz. After all, I'm probably the only person ever to take the SAT and fill in all the little circles at random. Really, I did that! And I was a good student, graduated with honors and all that -- but when it came to standardized tests I panicked. Dry throat, sweaty palms, thump thump thump in my chest. All the words on the test page blurred into an unreadable, unsolvable puzzle. I vowed never ever to take another test like that. And I haven't. Somehow I made it to college, graduated, and here I am. So why why why did I agree to do this show? Well, for one thing, I knew I wasn't supposed to get anything right. I mean, when Salman Rushdie was a guest his quizz was on the subject of Pez Dispensers. And Madeleine Albright was asked about the history of Playboy Magazine. Both of them wound up with a score of Zero right answers. So I shouldn't feel bad, right? I shouldn't feel like a total failure. Like a Turkey Brain, as Peter would say to Fudge. But I do. (This is just one of several flocks of turkeys who hang out at our summer place. Now I can relate to them -- sort of.)

When the phone rang, I didn't panic. I wasn't even that nervous. Until Peter Sagal told me the subject of my quizz would be the TV show, The Price Is Right. My first thought was, Is that the show with the three doors? I know I must have seen it a couple of times, probably in the 70's. Not that that helped. I'll only tell you that when the question had to do with themes on the show -- I choose Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice in an RV instead of the correct answer which had something to do with sauce. Sauce! And when given the choice between a contestant who was so excited when she was selected, she ran up to the stage and promptly lost her tube top, or a contestant who ran up to the stage, looked out at the audience, totally freaked, and ran out of the theater -- I chose the latter. The topless contestant was the correct answer. Who knew?!

The show will be broadcast this weekend. Check your local NPR station for the day and time. Where I am it airs on Saturday at 11am. When I hear myself I may be sorry I told you about it. I take that back. I know I'll be sorry I told you about it. But aside from my humiliating moment, it's a very funny show.
XX Judy

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Soupy Signing

Yesterday was the official pub date for Soupy Saturdays with the Pain&The Great One and I was as anxious as ever. Had stomach pains before my book signing at Bunch of Grapes, the great independent bookstore in Vineyard Haven. I'm not going to write about my publishing anxieties again but for anyone interested you can read more than you want to know by clicking on Anxiety Diary. Some things never change.

But once I got started, or maybe once I
realized people were going to show up -- and I'm sure this goes back to my first book signing in 1969 when no one came except my mother with my two small kids -- I was okay, even excited. Because a lot of people showed up. Lots of parents who grew up with my books and lots of kids. What could be better? Or sweeter?

I started signing at 4pm and somewhere along the way they cut the line because they knew I had to leave at 6pm. Here's a video George took at 5pm - halfway through. I'm demonstrating how to avoid writer's cramp. Lucky for me my injured shoulder is my left, and I'm right handed. The crowd was so patient and lively, even after standing on line for an hour. I wish I'd had lemonade and cookies for them. Next time...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The "Bourne" Plumbers

On Saturday night we had 19 to dinner. Our last bash of the summer. On Sunday morning we discovered the dishwasher had flooded the basement (again) -- and not just any part of the basement, but Larry's "gym." Yes, Larry has built a gym, with a spiffy blue rubber floor, machines that clang and bang (one of them was too tall to fit so the same team you see at work here, on the dishwasher, cut a hole in the basement ceiling to make room for the "too tall" machine. In case you don't recognize them, it's George and Larry, our in-house fixer guys). There are weights and benches and cushy mats in our gym. George has put up one mirror (so far, though a second is still sitting there waiting -- have no idea why--but I know better than to ask.) Even I've been working out in the basement gym this summer. It beats fighting the traffic to get to the gym in town. My trainer, Ann, comes twice a week. George and Larry have a different trainer, Eddie. George and I work out at the same time. He and Eddie like to listen to opera while they train. They turn the volume way up and sometimes Eddie sings along. Ann and I roll our eyes but let the guys think they rule.
I'm disappointed in my workouts this summer because I've got an injured shoulder. Here's what I can't do -- hook a bra in the back. Here's what I can do -- kayak. Guess which is more important to me! I have an appointment to see an orthopedist when I get to New York next week. What a pain (literally!)

We loved having Mark, Michelle, and 2 year old Sam visiting. Here we are on the little beach across the pond. Notice my yellow kayak.
And yes, Mark and I had a good meeting about progress on the new website. Our new launch date is no later than Halloween. Did I mention my new deadline for book #3 in the Pain and the Great One series is Thanksgiving?! That's better than Labor Day since I've got to pack up and be ready to leave here on Tuesday and I'm still on the first draft of the book.
Stay tuned...
XX Judy

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hair Cuts and Hair Balls

Yesterday I flew to NY for a haircut. This is embarrassing -- that I'd fly anywhere just to get my hair cut. But it's true. When I called to make an appointment I learned that Robert, my hair cutter, was going to be away the week after Labor Day. That meant he wouldn't be able to cut my hair for my book tour. And let's just say I needed it -- badly. I'd starting wearing a baseball hat everywhere. Hat hair was looking better than unhatted hair. Robert has a tiny neighborhood salon on the Upper West Side. He's been cutting my hair for 13 years (ever since I read an article Susan Orlean wrote about him in the New Yorker). I trust him. So off we went for a day in the city. Did I mention that Robert also cuts George's hair? It was freezing in the city yesterday. I expected hot and humid because that's what it's supposed to be in August. But it was colder there than on the Vineyard. I bought a big, warm black sweater with great buttons then decided to save it for the book tour and shivered through the rest of the day in my jean jacket.

On the plane coming back (delayed 2 hours) there was a little boy, maybe five, in the opposite row ahead of me. His mother set him up with her computer so he could watch a movie. High School Musical (Two?) I missed it on TV last week so this was my chance (I confess, I've never seen HSM One either). Of course I had no sound and the little boy kept going back to his fav basketball numbers, but at least I got an idea of what all the buzz is about.

Randy and Elliot will be here tomorrow, with Keith, their cat. He's a sweetie. He's the best guest anyone could ask for -- except when it's time to leave he's been known to hide. (Most of our human guests leave on schedule.) But we know Keith's favorite hiding places. At least we think we do!

And Larry's college buddy is coming with his wife and two year old. Since he's also the designer of my new website I'm sure we'll be spending time on the nuts and bolts. Maybe then I'll have a better idea of the actual launch date. Should be a fun weekend! Never mind deadlines, right?
XX Judy

Friday, August 17, 2007

Where the Wild Things Are

I guess this is the season for state fairs, county fairs, and on the island of Martha's Vineyard, the annual Ag(ricultural) Fair. Every year the farmers on our road pack up their animals for a 4 day stay at the Fair. One of their pigs, Hilda (which was my mother-in-law's name so I'm very fond of her) gets trucked up to the Fair in her own pickup. That's how big she is! She is one impressive pig. One year the pigs got loose and came to our place for a visit. Have you ever seen pigs root? Have you ever seen the damage they can do to a lawn in a couple of minutes? Sometimes the cows get loose and come to visit, too. And this year 5 horses dropped by. They all leave something behind. (Though when you have 20 wild turkeys hanging out morning and evening, you get used to piles of poop.)

But George's favorite year was the year of the duck. Don't know why these two white ducks (with fancy names) decided to cross the road and summer at our place, but they did. George found an egg one of them had laid (no nest, just dropped in the grass). As it turned out that wasn't the only egg -- but it's the only one George decided to eat. I tried to dissuade him but he cooked it anyway. He described it as very rich but delicious. These are the perks of living across a narrow dirt road from a farm. But, don't get me wrong -- we love it!

So when my daughter, Randy, came up for the weekend I convinced her to go to the Ag Fair with me. I used to take my grandson every year but he's not here this weekend and anyway, at 16, he's not going to hang with me or his mom -- how embarrassing would that be!

Since I'm writing a story about Jake and Abigail (the Pain and the Great One) at the Fair, I needed a couple of details -- how much were they charging per ride this year (an unbelievable $5 worth of tickets!) Was the Gravitron still there (No). Were they using Porta-Potties (Yes, but there was also a rest room inside the Ag Hall.) At the "water gun" game -- you know the one -- where you compete with others, shooting a stream of water at a target and whoever's marker makes it to the top first, wins a prize -- I convinced Randy to play (that game may be in my story). And much to her surprise and embarrassment, Randy won! (Randy is a grown-up.) She got a blue and white stuffed pony as her prize.

"What am I going to do with this?" she kept asking. "I have to find a little girl who'd like it." So she waited until the next game, and when a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 didn't win, Randy offered her the pony. The little girl couldn't believe it. You should have seen her face as she looked to her mom, then her dad, then back to her mom -- and when they said, Yes, she could have the pony, she was thrilled! We had a camera along for just such a moment but neither of us remembered to use it. Oh well. So now I have all the answers to my questions about the Fair and can finish my story (except, of course, I'm writing in my blog instead! I suppose I'll get the hang of this and only blog after my work day).

This morning, right outside my writing cabin was this yellow bird. I'm going right up to my bird book to find out what he is.

Hope you're having a wild August, too.

PS The little yellow bird is an American Goldfinch. And the funny thing is, when I found his entry in the birdbook, there was a handwritten note --summer of 2002. So I'd looked him up five years ago! So much for my bird memory.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Master of My Blog

This is what George (husband, electronic guru, webmaster) tells me I am. Sounds impressive. We'll see. Can't believe I actually have a blog but here I am. I've promised I'll keep my readers more up-to-date (last letter from me on this website was January '07. This is bad, or sad, or something).

I'd hoped to launch my new, redesigned, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know website on August 28, pub date for Soupy Saturdays with the Pain&the Great One -- even though Mark, the talented designer, says my site is like an onion, a big onion, and since he and the programmer have full time jobs and Mark also has a two year old -- well, it's taking longer than expected. But it will be done, and soon! As for the blog -- I've been inspired by my friends, like Meg Cabot, who have blogs on their sites. I have good intentions this time. So stay tuned.

I'm really excited about Soupy Saturdays. As I wrote on the New York Times Papercuts blog: I've never done four books in a row about the same characters. I've never done four books in a row for the same age group. I like the challenge of writing about forty year olds, then writing about four year olds (not as different as you'd think). This summer I'm working on the 3rd book in the series (the 2nd, Cool Zone, is finished and will be out next May). I have a Labor Day deadline but I'm still on the first draft. First drafts are pure torture for me. I dread first drafts. So I think this baby is going to be late. More at Papercuts (scroll down for my entry)

This month I've been dropping in to to join the bookclub discussing Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume. I have to say, when I first learned of this book I wasn't happy. I mean -- I'm still alive and well and writing and it struck me (and George who put it best) Aren't you supposed to be dead before they publish a tribute to you and your work? Anyway, I had nothing to do with the book. The publisher never even let me know about it (which was especially unsettling since the same publisher has published many of my books over the years). But then I read the essays and well -- how can you be anything but appreciative about so many moving, generous, and even funny stories about your own books? I've been dropping in to answer questions and chat.

Now that August is more than halfway over, I'm finally in the groove -- the writing groove, that is. So I'm lamenting the short time left. Because if I could stick with my schedule and focus on the stories I'm writing... But we have to leave the Vineyard the day after Labor Day to gear up for the coming book tour. I've posted the tour schedule on the Soupy Saturdays page. I hope to see some of you at my signings. And your kids, too. Or your parents -- whichever fits.

More soon. And since this is my first entry I just have to say thanks to all of you for reading my books, caring about my characters, and being so supportive over the years. It means everything!