Saturday, December 30, 2017

Out with the garbage fire, in with...

I can't say that I'll especially miss 2017. It's become almost a cliche to call the year a garbage fire, and indeed, much of it was a hot, stinky mess. But the intersecting worlds of writing and children's lit are excellent sounding boards and sources of comfort and/or distraction. Here are some things I'm glad to have had in my year:

-My writing projects. I did some new stuff and did more of some old stuff, and I'm excited about whatever comes next for all of it.
-A new writing group that, several months in, feels like a remarkably well-matched set of people and a generally really good thing.
-Parodies for Charities. Proceeds are currently going to the Hispanic Federation; commission some ridiculous writing today! (Hmmm, maybe a 2017 edition of this song? Or this one, retitled "Goodbye, Fire of Trash?")
-A whole lot of books, which I got to write about and discuss with smart people (in between our discussions about food).

As 2018 gets closer (someone please put a warm coat on Baby New Year), I'm excited about:

-More of all of the above!
-Starting my next writing project. I have only vague thoughts at this point about what it will be, but that means the possibilities are endless.
-My first-ever award committee. I'm an incoming member of the Sydney Taylor committee, which is exciting for a lot of reasons, including the AJL Conference in June. (It's in Boston, and it's before ALA. You should come!)

Hope your 2017 had some good things in it, and hope your 2018 has even better things. Happy New Year.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Happy anniversary, Parodies for Charities!

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Twelve months of mimicry, four full quarters of rhymes.
I've had a year of selling silliness in. It's
because we're living in interesting times.

A year ago today, in a fit of wanting to do something, I announced that that something would be selling parodies of all sorts to benefit organizations in need. Since then, I've gotten to write scenes for people's spouses, raps for people's coworkers, and songs for people's cats; to parody picture books, Gilmore Girls, The Daily Show, and a disproportionate number of showtunes. Requests have ranged from the broad ("here are some things the recipient likes; go to town") to the specific ("the chorus should stay the same, and here's what the verses should be about"). My writing has grown; my knowledge of Sam Seaborn's speech patterns and the metrical quirks of "Down with OPP" has increased. This is fun, is what I'm saying. Fun in exchange for donations to CAIR and First Book and The Trevor Project and others.

Many thanks to those who've participated so far! The offer still stands: a $10 charitable donation gets you a parody (more details here). Proceeds are currently going to the Hispanic Federation. Your choice how you earmark your gift; their drop-down menu includes everything from Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief to Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition.

P4C was started with the holiday season in mind, and look at that--the holidays are coming again. As always, email shoshana dot flax at gmail dot com for all your parody needs.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Once upon a wibbly wobbly timey wimey...

I don't even watch Dr. Who. I've seen a few episodes, but sci-fi is rarely my genre of choice, and for me it falls into the category of "I can see why people love this; I just don't personally feel that invested."

I feel invested now. And I hope you'll forgive an outsider's weighing in; I have little experience with this show, but lots of experience with being influenced by fictional and fictionalized characters.

Like the moment in college when I first saw the movie Dogma (spoiler ahead). God, or God's corporeal form, is portrayed in that movie by a long-haired, twenty-something Alanis Morissette. Somewhere around the part where she does ungainly but joyful handstands among the flowers, I remember thinking to myself, "If she can be an all-powerful being, I can handle writing my English 221 paper."

Yes, this was a silly thought. But the fact that I had it means that, after about nineteen years of life, the idea of a woman having that much power was new to me, and mattered. Maybe we should be past the point where casting a woman as the powerful one is no big deal, but we're not there yet. We still need to put more powerful women, and powerful people of color, and powerful people outside the default into our movies, TV shows, and books. Especially the books that are going to end up in young people's hands.

Good job, Dr. Who. It's about time.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Update roundup: conferences, creativity, coworkers, and the calendar

Life always seems to get busier this time of year. A few updates:

-I spent last weekend at the New England SCBWI conference. Here is lots about the learning side of that. It was also, as always, a great place to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, and to chicken-scratch lots of ideas for various writing projects, in hopes that those ideas will still make sense when I get home.

-There are various writing projects! (And most of the chicken-scratch does make sense a week later.) There's an ongoing one in a revision phase that feels reinvigorated, and a new one that dreams about being anywhere near a revision phase. And of course, there's Parodies for Charities; if anyone in your life (say, someone in need of a Mother's Day/Father's Day/graduation/transitional-time-of-year gift) would appreciate a personalized silly song or scene, you know where to find me. Proceeds are currently going to The Trevor Project.

-I am super-proud of Si├ón, who's about to become the Children's/YA editor at Shelf Awareness. Even though it means my office mornings will contain about 43% less discussion of Harry Potter houses, 56% less debate on what constitutes an acceptable breakfast, and 85% less rhapsodizing about whatever she's excited about on a given day.

-May approaches rapidly, but I am resisting turning a certain meme into a song parody for the sake of your earworms. You're welcome, and happy spring.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Parody, squared

There was one true statement in yesterday’s post: I am having a lot of fun with Parodies for Charities. But as I’ve said, P4C aims to make the world a better place, and enlisting me to solve your math problems would not further that goal.

Contrary to yesterday’s claim, my math skills aren’t dazzling, but I do have the ability to read a calendar. Happy Day After April Fools’ Day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My businesses are multiplying!

I’ve been having so much fun with Parodies for Charities that my mathematical side wanted to get in on the equation. Introducing Solutions for Contributions! Got math problems? Send ‘em my way! (You’re on your honor not to send me your homework.) I will dazzle you with my cunning calculations in exchange for a donation to the Number One Foundation, a charity that does the important work of looking out for its members. Starting rate is the square root of $100; a 50-cent surcharge applies if you need that square root calculated for you.

Your problems are my problems. Email for solutions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What Mary Meant

A blog about children's books can also be about what stories mean to us, especially if that meaning starts when we're young. So here's what The Mary Tyler Moore Show meant to me when I was in middle school and began watching it on Nick at Nite, or maybe it was TVLand:

It was a very funny show with great characters.

I probably should've been more focused on the fact that it was a show about a career woman. I would've applauded it for that, if I'd thought about it. But I don't remember thinking about it back then, at least not much. Mary was a grownup. She went to a job and did other grownup things.

You know why Mary's career didn't seem like a big deal to this '90s kid? Because career women were fairly normalized by the '90s. You know how they got normalized? By shows like TMTMS. (Among other things, obviously. But as we know, representation matters.)

I've been re-watching a few episodes this evening, and of course, by now it's very clear to me how amazing this show was. Though it was an ensemble show (with one of the first explicitly Jewish characters I remember seeing on mainstream TV), it was Mary's name scrolling over the screen during the theme song, Mary who carried the show. (Her previous show, you may recall, had her TV husband's name on it.) There's no extended love interest on TMTMS, and though some episodes focus on her (rather feminist) dating life, others focus on many different aspects of her existence. Friend stuff. Job stuff. Personal growth stuff. In the episode I started with at random tonight, sweet Hufflepuffish journalist Mary Richards spends a night in jail rather than reveal a source. You. Go. Girl.

All this is to say how sad I was to hear of Mary Tyler Moore's passing. (My initial reaction, actually, was more like a yelp of indignation.) Her best-known character seemed like a friend when I was young because she was sweet and funny, and now that I understand more about her, she seems even more like a friend.

And if representation matters, then God bless Mary-as-Laura Petrie for wearing pants.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A song for the Women's Marches

to the tune of “The People’s Song” from Les Miserables*

Do you see the women’s walks?
For if we sit this out, then when
will we speak up to say that “people”
means a whole lot more than “men?”
When the thousands taking part
echo the world’s variety,
maybe the powerful
should listen attentively.

Will you join in our crusade
just like so many have before?
Beyond the mess we’ve made,
is there a hope you can’t ignore?
Then join in the fight,
and you might find that women can roar.

Do you see the people march—
furious women, angry men.
Follow the footsteps of a peaceful wish
for hope to come again.
When the beating of your heart
echoes your pounding winter boots,
maybe a modern movement’s coming,
and you’re its roots.

Will you give what you can give
so people have the rights they should,
if it’s marriage, if it’s healthcare,
if it’s planning parenthood?
A lot’s going wrong here,
but you can be part of what’s good.

Did you hear when Dr. King,
during some marching of his own,
said that he dreamed of truer freedom,
said, “we cannot walk alone?”
Here we are, still waging words,
fighting the necessary fights.
Let’s walk together, march for humans
and human rights.

*chosen by popular vote, via a Twitter poll asking what song Parodies for Charities should commission from itself in honor of the Women’s Marches