Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bad as in 'bad'

Wonder Woman,
from http://www.crushable.com/
           I’m bad. I haven’t been able to keep up with my blog posts. And I had promised to. But the truth is that I’m not blogging not because I’ve given up on writing but because I’m writing too much. I’m freelance copy-editing for a prestigious European academic publisher. And I’ve recently started re-editing my own manuscript Lost in the Spanish Quarter, which I have thus decided to remove temporarily from this blog. Goodbye, 100 pages! And I hoping to say arrivederci to another 75. The impossible is actually happening.

Oh, and all the while I’ve been taking care of my newborn and my five-year-old. So I might be bad but also a little bit cool. Like Wonder Woman cool, at least when I don’t have spit-up on my jeans or banana in my hair.

But I can’t do it all…so blogging will have to put aside for a few months. In the meantime, please enjoy some of my older posts, also to be found as a collection at http://www.lulu.com/shop/heddi-goodrich/confessions-of-a-wannabe-writer/paperback/product-20844675.html.

So watch this spot. I’ll be back even badder, with an entirely new, kick-butt manuscript for your perusal. Cleaner, meaner and ready finally to find the perfect literary agent.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Choosing a children's book by its cover


As a mom to a five-year-old boy, I’m constantly making trips to the library to get out books on naughty dinosaurs, blue monsters and run-away dump trucks. Children’s picture books is an area where I break my steadfast rule about only reading non-fiction. And I usually only have enough time in there – between avoiding knocking over the fish tank while wrestling with a screaming newborn – to select books based on the quality of their illustrations, often just the one on the front. To choose books by their cover.

The proverbial warning is so true. Because I pay for my superficiality by getting home and being continually disappointed by the quality of the writing. On average, only three out of the twenty books we’ve chosen are truly worth rereading. Despite the pretty pictures.

Of course, this has made me – a wannabe writer – want to write my own children’s books. How hard could it be? After all, I make up stories every night after the lights are out and some of them even have a beginning, middle and end (though no one is awake to hear it).

But apart from cool illustrations, I’m not sure what the ingredients are for a great children’s book. What is the magic formula used in books like Room on the Broom (by Julia Donaldson) and Say Hello to Zorro (by Carter Goodrich), and because we own a fine collection of Italian-language story books, I’ll also add something like Il Signor Tazzina (by Maria Sole Macchia)?

But if the magic formula were that easy, everyone would be writing and publishing children’s books. In the wild hope that an overnight inspiration – and a couple days’ work – could turn into an overnight sensation.

Perhaps all I can do for now to get anywhere close to the magic ingredients to an amazing children’s book – apart from funky pictures – is to work out what they are not. Here’s my list thus far of things I can’t stand in a children’s book:

·        protagonists named Tommy or Billy

·        a spelled-out moral at the end

·        forced rhyme, especially where word order rules are broken just to make something rhyme

·        onomatopoeia – zip, screech, brrr, zoom, plop plop

·        too much dialogue – with all the different voices required (high-pitched, gravelly, Southern accent, etc.), this just makes more work for tired parents

·        overly poetic feel-good plots with no beginning, middle or end

·        serious plots (the girl in wheelchair, grandpa dying, etc.)

·        geographically misplaced animals

·        finding out, in the end, that it was all made up (isn’t Billy an imaginative little chap?)

Can you add any pet hates? Or what, for you, is a magic ingredient?

Friday, June 28, 2013

An (illustrated) children's book by Heddi Goodrich (Italian - English)

El Negro era proprio figo. (illustrazione di una pecora nera circondata da ammiratori) Pecorino non lo era. Era uguali agli altri. Banale come una nuvola batuffolosa.

Black Dude sure was cool. (illustration: suave black sheep surrounded by admirers) Sheepy wasn’t. He was just like everybody else. As boring as a fluffy white cloud.

“Quella assomiglia ad una nave,” disse l’amico Pecorello. (guardando le  forme delle nuvole nel cielo)

“That one looks like a ship,” said his friend Sheepish. (looking up at the cloud shapes)

“Che ne dici, mi tingo di nero?” chiese Pecorino.

“Do you think it would work if I dyed myself black?” Sheepy asked.

 “Onestamente? No.”

“Honestly? No.”

E allora un giorno… Pecorino decise di agghindarsi di rami.

So one day…Sheepy decided to dress himself up with branches.

Era la pecora più elegante di tutto il pascolo. Attirò qualche ammiratore. (uccelli) Ma gli altri non lo compresero.

He was the fanciest sheep on the paddock. He had a few admirers. (birds) Most of the other didn’t get it.

(le altre pecore) “Stavi meglio senza quei rami.” “Così ti rovini la lana.” “Ciechi un occhio a qualcuno.” “Ti pungi.”

(the other sheep) “You looked better without those branches.” “You’ll ruin your wool like that.” “You’ll poke someone’s eye out.” “You’ll prick yourself.”

Ma erano solo invidiosi.

But they were just jealous.

Un picchio cominciò a beccare uno dei suoi rami. A Pecorino non dava fastidio. Era un ritmo quasi musicale. A Pecorino piaceva la musica.

A woodpecker started to peck one of his branches. Sheepy wasn’t too bothered. It was almost musical. Sheepy liked music.

Pecorino inciampò. Un ramo gli si conficcò nel fianco. A Pecorino non dispiacque poi tanto. Soffriva comunque di prurito proprio in quel punto.

Sheepy stumbled. A branch poked him on the side. Sheepy didn’t mind. He had an itch just in that spot anyway.

I rami erano fighissimi. Ancora più del nero.

Branches were cool. Branches were the new black.

Altri uccelli gli si appollaiarono sui rami. E altri ancora. E ancora.

More birds landed on his branches. And more. And more.

“Secondo me, stai scomodo,” disse Pecorello.

“You look uncomfortable,” said Sheepish.

“Non sto scomodo. Non sto mai scomodo.”

“I’m not uncomfortable. I’m never uncomfortable.”

Gli uccelli non capiscono niente di musica vera. E allora Pecorino si incamminò con eleganza verso il granaio.

Birds know nothing about real music. So Sheepy strutted elegantly into the barn.

Pecorino decise di radersi a zero.

Sheepy decided to shave himself.

Era l’unica pecora tosata in tutto il pascolo. Attirò qualche ammiratore. (scoiattoli) Ma gli altri non lo compresero.

He was the only shorn sheep on the paddock. He had a few admirers. (squirrels) Most of the other didn’t get it.

(le altre pecore) “Stavi meglio con la lana.” “Dovevi aspettare la primavera per tosarti.” “L’inverno è alla porte, sai.” “Ti becchi l’influenza così.”

(the other sheep) “You looked better with your wool on.” “You’re supposed to wait till spring to shave.” “Winter’s on its way, you know.” “You’ll catch the flu.”

Ma erano solo invidiosi.

But they were just jealous.

Cominciò a piovere. Gli altri corsero al riparo sotto gli alberi. Ma Pecorino no. Non gli dava fastidio la pioggia.

It started to rain. The others ran for cover under the trees. But not Sheepy. He didn’t mind the rain.

Cominciò a grandinare. Agli altri si appiccicò il ghiaccio alla lana. A Pecorino no. La grandine gli scivolò di dosso.

It started to hail. The others got ice caught in their wool. But not Sheepy. The hail rolled right off him.

Zero era fighissimo. Ancora più del nero.

Short was cool. Short was the new black.

Il vento cominciò a tirare. Tirò. E tirò.

The wind started to blow. And blow. And blow.

“Hai freddo,” disse Pecorello.

“You’re cold,” said Sheepish.

“Non ho freddo. Non ho mai freddo.”

“I’m not cold. I’m never cold.”

Gli alberi non servono a niente quando c’è vento. Allora Pecorino si incamminò con tutta rilassatezza verso il granaio. (tremando, con gli inizi di un raffreddore)

Trees are useless when it comes to wind. So Sheepy wandered casually into the barn. (shivering, sniffling)

Un paio di giorni dopo uscì con un nuovo taglio. (una specie di mohawk con i rasta)

A few days later he came out with a new do. (a type of body mohawk with dreadlocks)

“Che fine ha fatto il look a zero?” chiese Pecorello.

“What happened to the shorn look?” asked Sheepish.

“Quello? Beh, è così fuori moda.”

“Oh, that? That’s so yesterday.”

“Vuoi dare un’occhiata alle nuvole?”

“Wanna go check out the clouds?”

“Idea fighissima,” disse Pecorino.
 
“Cool,” said Sheepy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

An (illustrated) children's book by Heddi Goodrich


Black Dude sure was cool. (illustration: suave black sheep surrounded by admirers)

Sheepy wasn’t. He was just like everybody else. As boring as a fluffy white cloud.

“That one looks like a ship,” said his friend Sheepish. (looking up at the cloud shapes)

“Do you think it would work if I dyed myself black?” Sheepy asked.

“Honestly? No.”

So one day…

Sheepy decided to dress himself up with branches.

He was the fanciest sheep on the paddock.

He had a few admirers. (birds)

Most of the other didn’t get it.

(the other sheep) “You looked better without those branches.” “You’ll ruin your wool like that.” “You’ll poke someone’s eye out.” “You’ll prick yourself.”

But they were just jealous.

A woodpecker started to peck one of his branches. Sheepy wasn’t too bothered. It was almost musical. Sheepy liked music.

Sheepy stumbled. A branch poked him on the side. Sheepy didn’t mind. He had an itch just in that spot anyway.

Branches were cool. Branches were the new black.

More birds landed on his branches. And more. And more.

“You look uncomfortable,” said Sheepish.

“I’m not uncomfortable. I’m never uncomfortable.”

Birds know nothing about real music. So Sheepy strutted elegantly into the barn.

Sheepy decided to shave himself.

He was the only shorn sheep on the paddock.

He had a few admirers. (squirrels)

Most of the others didn’t get it.

(the other sheep) “You looked better with your wool on.” “You’re supposed to wait till spring to shave.” “Winter’s on its way, you know.” “You’ll catch the flu.”

But they were just jealous.

It started to rain. The others ran for cover under the trees. But not Sheepy. He didn’t mind the rain.

It started to hail. The others got ice caught in their wool. But not Sheepy. The hail rolled right off him.

Short was cool. Short was the new black.

The wind started to blow. And blow. And blow.

“You’re cold,” said Sheepish.

“I’m not cold. I’m never cold.”

Trees are useless when it comes to wind. So Sheepy wandered casually into the barn. (shivering, sniffling)

A few days later he came out with a new do. (a type of body mohawk with dreadlocks)

“What happened to the shorn look?” asked Sheepish.

“Oh, that? That’s so yesterday.”

“Wanna go check out the clouds?”

“Cool,” said Sheepy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Short and sweet

           
           As promised, this week I’m practicing succinctness. Short and sweet.

Cool news: I’m published! OK, I mean self-published. But because the book was published online not by myself but by two of my loved ones as a surprise gift, I’m technically not self-published. In any case, ‘published’ is an adjective I’m enjoying throwing around this week, a bit like ‘succinct’. Last week it was ‘contingent’. (Don’t ask. Or I’ll have to delve into details from a parent committee meeting at my eldest son’s preschool.)

In any case – remember, Heddi, succinct, succinct, succinct! – this is possibly the best present I’ve ever been given, better even than a year’s supply of apricot white tea unavailable here in New Zealand. My self-published book is a selection of blog posts from Confessions of a Wannabe Writer, from the last two and a half years of pouring out my heart to you on my ongoing journey to publish my memoir: the excitement, the rejections, the laughter, the tears! Remember, O my Best Beloved? And then all the musings about language and all the fun writing in Italian too…Week after week, how we have laughed and suffered together! And it’s all there, in full color with shiny cover.

When I first unwrapped the copy of my own book – so thick and book-like – honest to god my first thought was, “Who wrote this?”

Funny how while trying to publish my book, I ended up writing another one.

…But I’d promised I’d be brief. The best short and sweet adjectives I can find to describe how I felt to receive such a gift? Blown away, grateful and a little bit famous. A few adjectives to describe the book itself: funny, heartfelt, sometimes witty and decidedly (for this struggling author) inspiring.

Confessions of a Wannabe Writer by Heddi Goodrich can be purchased on lulu.com at http://www.lulu.com/shop/heddi-goodrich/confessions-of-a-wannabe-writer/paperback/product-20844675.html.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Economizing


            To keep good on my renewed promise to write in my blog weekly, I have to be realistic. I’m a time-poor mother of now two boys and I no longer have the luxury of writing whenever I want. Or as much as I want. The same, of course, goes for showers.

            So how to manage editing my whopper of a memoir, copy-editing academic articles, collaborating on a film project and writing blog entries? As it is, many simpler tasks seem nearly impossible to squeeze into everyday life: keeping in regular touch with family in the States, sending emails, cleaning the toilet, reading books.

If I want to write, then something has to give. The first to go is obviously sleep, but from experience I can say with certainty that that sacrifice barely covers the more urgent (and bill-paying) copy-editing. I’m unwilling to sacrifice the showers altogether. And skipping meals is pointless: as it is, I already eat standing at the kitchen counter while serving a finicky four-year-old, washing dishes and answering calls from time-share pushers and soul-savers.

            Clearly, one obvious solution is multitasking. It’s no exaggeration when I say that as I’m writing this now I’m also rocking the baby, eating leftovers for lunch and ironing my husband’s shirts. But what I gain in efficiency I seem to lose in quality. The baby doesn’t fall into a deep enough sleep, I drip salad dressing on my pants and possibly the business shirts, and the writing…well, the writing. You can judge that yourself.

            Another solution is to be less of a perfectionist. Laxer with punctuation, less fastidious about synonyms, a bit more flexible with grammar. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen.

            This leads me to the only logical conclusion. Brevity. Economy of words. And some incomplete sentences. At least when writing my blog.
 
Fewer words. Lord knows it would do me good…and possibly be a relief to my readers. Unless you have any other tips?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Excuses, excuses



At my most 'watermelon'
             You’re probably wondering if I’m dead. I’m alive and well after a long, unannounced hiatus from my blog.

            It may look like all these months I haven’t been writing. Oh, but I have! First there was the super top-secret film treatment for a children’s animated feature; then there was the polishing of a book on ancient Chinese supernatural stories about as thick as Encyclopaedia Britannica. Then came the English translation of an Italian children’s story about aliens with super powers. I only write about super things.

            But, to be perfectly honest – because these are my ‘confessions’ after all – a few other things got in the way of tending to my blog. My four-year-old and I went to my hometown of Washington, D.C. It was a busy time. Halloween to prepare for. Lambchops to eat. Hurricanes to ride out. And when we got back to New Zealand, the Southern Hemisphere summer had begun. I had a tan to work on, though this was mainly to mask an unflattering pregnancy-induced skin condition. I had scans to go to, sandcastles to make. My tummy looked and felt like a watermelon. I ate melon, dreamt about forbidden prosciutto, about newborns falling over balconies. I began to waddle. Then there was another copy-editing job and just about as much sitting at a computer as my poor weighed-down bottom could take.

Excuses, excuses!

Because I wasn’t actually so time-poor as to not have been able to squeeze out a couple of hours a week to write in my blog. The truth was that I just couldn’t focus on anything more complex than being a mom and enjoying the summer. I fanned myself while sitting on the porch listening to children at play. I ate huge seedless grapes, swatted flies. I was tanned, rotund, relaxed. I even began to think my blog might have run its course, that I’d run out of things to say, run out of words.

It turns out it was just the hormones.

Because now that our long-awaited second child is here, born in March as heavy as a watermelon after all, I’m mysteriously drawn back to my blog. Back to thinking about my own writing on a weekly basis. About one day making a career out of writing. Wild and crazy thoughts like that.

And yet the excuses for not blogging have multiplied. Crying baby, crying boy. Leaking diapers, leaking breast pads. Mountains of laundry. Then we had to Rug-Doctor both couches after our anxious cats soiled them to mark their territory. We’ve had a flea infestation, a leak in the roof. An opossum stuck in the chimney. Oral thrush. Head lice.

Nonetheless, finally tonight I’m giving up much-needed rest to stay up and write in my pyjamas, not knowing if there’s anyone still out there patient enough, interested enough, forgiving enough, to read me. To read this slightly less polished, slightly less full-circle, slightly less correctly-punctuated me. I’m writing not because I should but because the words buzzing in my head – at least the simple ones that sleep deprivation has not robbed me of – forced me to get up out of bed and (after first doing the dishes and re-checking my head for lice) sit down and write.

I’m still alive!