Friday, October 31, 2008

Groundlings and Winchester Geese

In a post about my visit to the Globe Theatre in London earlier this month, I promised a later blog about the theatre’s patrons. Here we go.

In the days of the original Globe Theatre, patrons could pay one penny to stand or two pennies for general seating. The theatre-goers who stood in the yard to watch the plays were called Groundlings. Visitors to today’s version of the Globe can still purchase a Groundling ticket for five pounds. In case of rain, no umbrellas are allowed.

In William Shakespeare’s day, it was considered socially unacceptable for women to attend the theatre except in the company of a male family member. Members of polite society sat in the lower or middle galleries. Business was conducted in the upper gallery where prostitutes waved white handkerchiefs to attract customers, presumably to arrange for a meeting elsewhere. Prostitutes in the neighborhood were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester which earned them the nickname Winchester Geese. Now you’re probably wondering why they were licensed by a bishop. Answer: most of the brothels were owned by the Church of England. On our visit to the Globe, we sat in the Upper Gallery among tourists and a few locals. No business was conducted. As far as I know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Visit with Debut Author Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

It is my pleasure to have Kristin O’Donnell Tubb on the blog today. Kristin’s debut middle grade novel, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different was released last week. About the book: Autumn Winifred Oliver has charmed a hive of bees, wrangled a flock of geese, and filched a stick of dynamite from the United States government. But it’ll take a whole new kind of gumption to save her Cades Cove home.

Welcome Kristin!

Thanks for having me, Rae Ann! I’m delighted to be here.

In the book world, book titles are often condensed to three words max, so the title of your book is a treat in itself. Did you choose the title? [if not, did you provide suggestions, etc?]

I’m glad you find the title a treat! I did choose the title for Autumn; in fact, they were the first seven words of the manuscript I typed. I had the idea for a book set in Cades Cove back in 2002, and I started researching the text shortly thereafter. I started writing a year later, and I knew by that point that the protagonist would be named Autumn Winifred Oliver, and that she’d be a funny, feisty prankster. The title popped onto the page, and then I knew I had to write a character to live up to it!

Side note: The title is grammatically incorrect, and whenever those ever-so-practical legal eagles were involved (like, on the contract), they inevitably changed it to read “differently.” It was such fun to point out, “yes, that mistake is supposed to be there!”

You are fabulous at research. What types of research did you do for Autumn and how do you know when to stop researching and start writing?

Ah, research – my first love! As for the types of research I did for Autumn, I read seven or eight books about the history of Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and took extensive notes the old-fashioned way, on 3 x 5 notecards. (Makes outlining so easy!) I also traveled to Cades Cove (I had many times before, but this was specifically for research) and took notes on everything – the tiny size of the cabins, the gentle swish of the wheat fields, the chilling spray of the waterfalls, the feeling of protection that the ring of mountains provides. And the best resource of all was the library housed in the basement of the Sugarlands Visitor Center at the National Park. The library was created by park volunteers who realized that the unique Appalachian culture that had evolved in the Smokies would disappear once tourists arrived. Soon after the Park was formed, they roamed the area, taking pictures and conducting interviews. They cataloged everything: clothing, farm equipment, songs, stories, church sermons – so much of what makes a community unique. It was a goldmine. Still is.

And now, since we all love stories of The Call and yours is especially unique, would you please share your story?

Oh, lawsy, I think my Call story might go down in the annals of publishing history as one of the most embarrassing things a new writer could possibly do! But hey, it makes for a great story! (A good writer uses everything, after all!)

The scene: Early February, 2007. My editor calls my cell phone. I am nine months pregnant. I am AT THE OB/GYN.
Wendy: "Hello, Kristin? It's Wendy Loggia from Random House."
Me: "Oh my gosh! It's so good to hear from you! I'm at my gynecologist’s office right now."
Wendy: silence
Me: "Oh, um - I should say, I'm not in the office right now - I mean, I am, but I'm checking out. I'm done." Shut up Kristin. "I mean - I'm scheduling my induction for my new baby. I was newly pregnant when we met, remember?" Shut UP, Kristin. "Everything's great! Healthy baby! I'm scheduling his arrival right now. That's why I'm's office..."
Wendy: laughing "I think this is a first for me."
Me: unbelievably mortified "Uh, me too?"
Wendy: "So I wanted to talk to you more about this wonderful revision you sent me..."
And that was that! There, in my OB/GYN's office, I was offered my first book deal. Two weeks later, my son was born. It was one heckuva month.

Thank you, Kristin, for visiting!

Click here to view the book trailer for Autumn. Click here to visit Kristin’s website.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Southern Festival of Books

I attended the 20th annual Southern Festival of Books in Nashville last weekend for the first time, but definitely not the last. The three-day event is held at the War Memorial Plaza in downtown Nashville.

As I waited in the lobby of the auditorium for the previous sessions’ attendees to exit, a steady stream of people walked up to the ushers at the door asking, “Is this where Sherman Alexie is speaking?” As the ushers pleasantly answered yes over and over, I thought how awesome it was to see that type of excitement over hearing an author talk. Once I heard Sherman Alexie speak, I understood. He is the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the 2007 National Book award for Young People’s Literature. He was funny and inspiring.

Another treat was a panel of three debut middle-grade authors from the Class of 2k8, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Laurel Snyder, and Jenny Meyerhoff. They talked about group promotion and how a writer’s role expands upon becoming a published author.

When I told the moderator for the panel that this was my first time to attend the festival, she insisted that I come back next year. I’ll just have to do that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Visit to William Shakespeare's (New) Place

When DH and I visited London recently, I just had to see the Globe Theatre, the home of William Shakespeare’s company. The Globe we visited is actually the third Globe Theatre, built a few hundred yards from the foundation of the original.

The current reconstruction of the Globe was the brainstorm of American actor/director Sam Wanamaker. On a visit to London in 1949, he was disappointed to find that there was no great memorial to Shakespeare at the site. He started a foundation and spearheaded the rebuilding of a new Globe. Sam Wanamaker died in 1993 while the construction was underway. The building was completed in 1997.

We enjoyed the play, The Merry Wives of Windsor from the upper balcony. We had great seats, facing the stage. In the lobby, theatre volunteers were renting seat cushions for one pound each. We decided it might be a good idea to rent them. Good move. The theatre is generally a historically-accurate recreation of the original Globe, which means you sit on tiny wooden seats in the open-air theatre. But it was worth it! The play was fantastic and a very fun experience.

Two school groups were sitting in the lower area near the stage. They looked like they had come straight from Hogwarts, minus the robes, but with navy blazers and ties for boys and girls.

Tours of the Globe are held in the morning, so DH graciously accompanied me back to the Globe (the only site we visited twice during our trip) for the next morning’s tour. The theatre is in the Southwark neighborhood, across the Thames River. I pronounced it South-wark (in my Southern accent) until I heard the message on the Underground announce we were approaching Southwark station (pronounced Su-therk as in Southern with a K at the end instead of an N).

The first Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and stood for 14 years until a fire started by a cannon fired during a production of Henry VIII caused the entire structure to burn to the ground. The second Globe was built in 1613 with a tiled roof. William Shakespeare died two years after this Globe was built. The Globe met its demise in 1642 when the Puritan government closed and demolished all theatres calling them “nests of the devil”.

I’ll stop for now, but more on the Globe’s original theatre patrons later.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Conference Report

After the SCBWI-Midsouth conference, I was away on vacation for a week (more on that later). Finally, I have a report on the conference.

Over 100 people from ten states attended the regional conference in Nashville. It was great to reconnect with other writers and meet new people.

The highlight of the conference was hearing Bruce Coville give the keynote address and attending his workshop on writing fantasy. I certainly hope some of that great info seeps into my brain and pours out through my fingers onto the keyboard. During his workshop, he mentioned the importance of humor and secondary characters. This is something I have been trying to layer into my work as I discussed before on this blog. It is always interesting to see how good storytelling techniques translate across different genres of writing.

Picture book author, Alexis O’Neill, did a great workshop on getting published without an agent. It was very well attended by many of the agent-less writers trying to sell our work.

First page critiques by faculty editors, Amalia Ellison and Harold Underdown, were very popular. Unfortunately, my page was not pulled from the box for a public reading. This is a sure sign that I want feedback, if I am disappointed that my anonymous writing was not read aloud to an auditorium full of people to be dissected (in a very nice way).

Next week: tales from my travels.