Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holidays, everyone!

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

Hey all, so it's Christmas Day (and yes, I do still say "Merry Christmas" sometimes instead of Happy Holidays, but I do prefer saying "Happy Holidays" because there is more than one holiday celebrated in December, and I'm not religious), and I'm at my parents' home in good ol' Diamond Bar, CA. It's good to be here, to relax, to make up all the sleep I've lost from working and partying and traveling and overextending myself this past year. I haven't felt this relaxed in a long long long as* time, and it's great. I can take a deep breath, relax, and revert to being a kid again.

I got the most painful "deep tissue massage" ever (was really a cross between reflexology, acupuncture, cupping, chiropractic adjustment, and physical therapy), went to see the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Disney Concert Hall (great venue), got my hair cut, played tennis with my dad (he beat me 1-6, 0-6, but any time I even win one game from him, I consider it a victory), played video games and poker with my siblings (Erika won both), woke up early this morning to go jogging (it's hard jogging in this neighborhood, lots of hills), ate breakfast with my parents, and am now waiting for everyone else to wake up.

Life is good.

We had hot pot last night, and then I got out the Peppermint Pig that Rebekah gave me for Christmas. Apparently, there's this tradition where you pass around this peppermint pig-shaped candy, people hit it with a little hammer, and then share stories of the past year. Rebekah told us this at lunch one day, and none of us had ever about it before. It was fun, though, killing that poor pig, and it started us all telling stories about the past year and our earliest memories. I don't really have any memories from before age 4. Felix has a vague memory of almost drowning when he was 2. Ben remembers peeing in his diaper?!? Felix remembered trying to stick keys into an outlet. Ben remembered having a nightmare and me comforting him and draping a Charlie Brown comforter over a chair near his crib and telling him to look at the comforter and dream about Snoopy, and he did. We told the story about Ben, as a baby, being in the back of the station wagon (funny how that was considered safe and acceptable back then, to have a baby crawling around in the back). We were on the highway, stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. We always had a bunch of old tennis balls rolling around in the back--I guess for us to play with? And at one point a car pulled up next to us and a guy leaned over and said, "Did you know that you have tennis balls coming out of your back window?" we looked behind us and saw baby Ben happily throwing tennis balls out of the window.

Ah, memories. Ah, family. I also, as usual, look through old photo albums and read old diaries whenever I'm home. It's funny to see how much and yet how little things have changed for me. How things that were so important, dramatic, emotional for me in high school and college are now so far in the past as to be almost forgotten. But they've still shaped me into who I am today. And in ten years, I'll be reading my diary about all the stuff that happened in this past year.

I love to use the end of the year to reflect on what has happened in the past year, and to make new goals and resolutions for the coming year--but that's another post.

Okay, just wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone! If you're in LA, drop me a line, let's hang out! I'll be back in NY on January 2nd.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Editor, Editor

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

My promotion at work became official at the beginning of December. Not to toot my own horn (okay, for exactly that reason), here is the announcement that my boss wrote about me:

As Alvina Ling started her career here as my Editorial Assistant in 1999, I am especially proud to announce she is being promoted to Editor. Alvina is a talented, committed, and passionate editor and has been an extremely valuable role model and supportive mentor to our junior staff. 2006 promises to be a big year for her as she has an impressive fifteen titles on our list and two of her picture books, Flight of the Dodo and The Sound of Colors, have just been nominated for Borders' "Original Voices" award รข€“ a remarkable feat given that only six candidates are selected each year. Alvina is a champion of multicultural literature and in the next year alone she is introducing works by six up-and-coming Asian-American, African-American, and Mexican-American writers and artists. Finally, Alvina scored a major coup this summer by doggedly pursuing and ultimately successfully luring Jerry Spinelli, author of our #1 bestselling backlist title, the Newbery winner Maniac Magee, back to LB after a nearly 20-year absence. During a discussion of one of Alvina's notable acquisitions, Year of the Dog, I discovered that she was born in the Year of the Tiger and I found the following description remarkably apt: "Tigers are sensitive, given to deep thinking, capable of great sympathy. Although they are magnetically charming and fun to be around, tigers are courageous beyond compare. Tigers are born leaders and will fight the good fight to the bitter end if the cause is worthy." It's a jungle out there in the world of children's books and I'm grateful Alvina is on our side!

So, I've known that this was coming since September, so it was a bit anticlimactic, but this achievement has been significant for me because becoming a full editor was my long-term goal when I became an editorial assistant over 6 years ago, and now that I've accomplished that, I'm a bit at a loss as to what my next long-term goal should be. I don't know how high I want to rise. There are some administrative duties of my job that I enjoy, but I would hate to have to worry about PROFIT all the time. That's not why I got into publishing. (more on this in a future post, I'm sure)

My friend Grace reminded me in one of her recent blogs that we should try to savor achievements, that when you achieve a goal, don't think so quickly about the next step:

I think I was guilty of that when I skydived. (skydove?) I was already excited to think about the next thing to add to my list.

So for now, I think I will just savor my editorship. I have arrived. I will continue to do the job that I love. I'll think about that next step later.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season so far! I know I've been having a blast. December is chock-full of holiday parties. Lots of yummy foodBacon_chesnuts(chocolaty baked goods, mulled wine, stinky cheeses, special holiday coffee drinks at Starbucks, gingerbread cookies, tarts, bacon-wrapped chestnuts, etc., etc.), great conversation, old friends, new friends, presents, party hopping, Christmas trees named Douglas, beautiful lights and decorations all over the city, snow, cheesy Christmas music, etc etc. Of course, it's not all fun and games. I hate the crowds, Douglas_1how slow tourists walk, a lot of the holiday music blows chunks (Little Drummer Boy--ugg), I feel like I'm constantly on the go, that I have no down time, that the time I do have is divided too thinly. But I'm going to my parents' house in CA for a good ten days at the end of next week, and I'm looking forward to the summer vacation feeling of when I was a kid. ("Mom! I'm boooored!")

I went up to Boston this past weekend for the end-of-auction (Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure) party, and once again, we ended up bringing in over $100,000 for Dana Farber Cancer  Research! Thanks everyone who participated, thanks everyone who passed on the word, and thanks everyone who thought good thoughts. I won three snowflakes myself!

This post has been somewhat rambling, so I'll end quickly with some recommendations for children's picture books that make great gifts. And yes, some of these are books I edited (*), some are books by friends (!), some are books published by Little, Brown (#), and some are not (X), but all are books I love:

Slide, Already! by Kit Allen X
Francine's Day by Anna Alter !
Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown *
Santa Baby by Janie Bynum *
Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka !
My New York by Kathy Jakobsen *
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats X
Tickle the Duck by Ethan Long #
Robert's Snow by Grace Lin !
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell #
Zen Shorts by Jon Muth X
The Peace Book by Todd Parr #
One Grain of Sand by Linda Wingerter ! #

There's probably more, maybe I'll add more later, but for now, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thank you

So, it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, and even though I'm not going home this year to have my mother go around the table and make everyone say what we're thankful for, I'm thinking about it anyway.

This has been a year of major changes for me, and I'm actually thankful for a lot. I'm thankful that most of that bad stuff is behind me, and I'm thankful that I'm stronger now because of it. I'm thankful that I know how resilient I am. I'm thankful for all of the fun, crazy, random adventures I've had this year. I'm thankful for all of my friends who got married this year, who allowed me to be part of their special day, and gave me a reason to travel so much! I'm thankful my travel bug came back, for my friends and family I've traveled with, that the world has opened up for me again.

But above all, I am really really really so thankful for my friends and family, and everyone who supported, stood by me, and had adventures with me in many different ways this year. Thank you for everything: for letting me stay with you, lending me things I needed, listening to me, talking to me, helping me move (twice!), choosing me to move in, visiting me in NY, letting me call you at all hours, calling me from across the country to check in, giving me advice, taking me out to dinner, helping me pack and unpack, making me laugh, being with me when I cried, telling me how proud you are of me, telling me how strong I was, picking up the slack for me at work, letting me go a little crazy, letting me be self-absorbed, listening to my stories, having random adventures with me.

I hope you all know who you are, and I hope you all know how much you mean to me, how much I value our friendship. I am truly blessed to have the friends and family that I have. Thank you.
(I'm also thankful that my mother won't be asking me to sing "This Land is Your Land" this year in front of my whole extended family and guests. I love my mom, of course, but I'm afraid I'll probably be doing the same things she does when I have a family someday. Somebody stop me!)

So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'm staying in NY for the first time for Thanksgiving, am watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade from the new Time Warner Center at a special private viewing party for employees and guests (I won tickets in a work raffle). Then on to a friend's loft for a nice Turkey Day dinner for six. I made cranberry salsa last night, the rest of the food will be made tomorrow. I'm baking an apple pie, too--still debating whether to bother to make the crust from scratch.

Oh, I love food. I'm thankful for good food and good company. I'm prepared to be full for a week. Hope you are all happy and well. Now everyone, let's go around the table and share something that you're thankful for...

November 23, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Run run run run run run run run

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

Watching football as a child with my family (usually just the Superbowl, I think), I always remember my mother cheering someone breaking away with the ball by chanting, "Run run run run run run run run run run!!!!"

Last Sunday, 11/6, was a momentous day--the Robert's Snow auction started, it was a good friend's birthday, and it was the NYC Marathon. And Rose! Rose ran it! She said "It was the most exciting, difficult, and rewarding day of my life." I can believe it.

I watched the race from the West side of 1st Avenue and 73rd, right near our apartment, in front of Session 73. Lots of early beer drinking going on (not yet for me, I was jittery on ice coffee)--it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day. It was so exciting watching the runners and cheering them on. We were at mile 17. I loved reading people's names on their shirts and cheering them on. "Go, Moe, Go!" "You can do it, Kristin!" "Good job!" There was a group next to us cheering on members of Team in Training who were running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I was surprised at how many of the runners were still peppy and energetic and smiling, pumping up the crowd, giving us all high fives. Others were focused, tired, looking straight ahead, looking down, many were walking. Yet no matter how miserable they looked, they couldn't help but crack a smile when we cheered them on by name.

We saw people running in costumes--Elvis, ballerinas, elks, rhinos, one guy walked by in full Storm Trooper armor. A runner dressed as testicles ran by. Huge smile on the testicles...uh.."face."

We finally spotted Rose running, making a beeling towards us--when she reached us, we threw sparkling confetti at her. She looked great--big smile on her face as she said, "This is so miserable." An older man, one of the runners, stopped near us. He grabbed a beer from someone on the sidelines and started drinking it. A few minutes later, he crouched down and smoked a joint! Then asked a girl to get him two more bottles of beer from the bar. She did. He ran off with them. "Check the listings tomorrow! You'll see, I'll finish!" Crazy.

Chilled on our terrace with beers in the afternoon waiting for Rose to come home. Savored the rare Spring-like sun. Rose returned, tired yet triumphant, wrapped in the tell-tale silver wrap, medal around her neck. She finished! Amazing. Then onto the Banshee for beers, then a pasta dinner. We ate pasta with her in solidarity.

Watching the marathon made me consider doing it someday, even though it never appealed to me before. I mean, 26.2 miles! Rose finished under 6 hours. I imagine I'd take at least 5. That's a helluva long time to be out there. But as I get older, I'm starting to realize that I need these challenges, these goals. Then again, I went jogging on Sunday morning along the river--just a quick 3 mile run--and as I ran the last mile, I thought, geez, could I really run 26 of these?

My dad was in town this past weekend. We had a great time, saw Fiddler on the Roof, walked everywhere, ate a lot. We went to breakfast on Sunday with Lisa and Rose. And I decided right there at that breakfast that I would enter into the lottery to run the marathon, and if I got in, that would decide it for me. I'll run if I get in. I can't believe it! But hey, I've been looking for something new to add to my list of things to do before I die, so I'll add "run a marathon," and then cross it off the list in a few years. Dad said he'd come watch if I ran it.

Anyway, Rose is going to do it again next year! Anyone else want to run with us? Or at least enter the lottery? If I run it, I hope my mom will come and cheer me on. Run run run run run run run run run run!

November 14, 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Amazing Grace

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

Most of you know about Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure from last year, or because it's in the signature of all of my emails, but I don't think I've been talking it up as much this year as I was last year, so here I go again.

 My oldest friend in the whole world, Grace Lin, is a children's book author and illustrator. Some of her books include THE UGLY VEGETABLES, DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE, OLVINA FLIES (named after me), and the upcoming YEAR OF THE DOG, her first novel, which I had the pleasure of editing and is being published at Little, Brown.

This is how the fundraiser started in Grace's own words from the website: 

How it all started 
When Robert and I were married, the skies poured out a river of rain. Our wedding day was wet but it couldn't dampen our happiness. So, when Robert's aunts told me that rain on a wedding day meant good luck, I believed them. However, it seemed that the superstition was horribly false. 
That winter, Robert was diagnosed with bone cancer (Ewings Sarcoma). The treatment was grueling and Robert was left listless and weak.  
One night, I began to tell Robert a story. It was a children's story about a mouse that wasn't allowed in the snow, just like him.  
Robert became interested and it became our pet project. I titled the story Robert's Snow; and as the story grew, so did our hopes for the future.  
Nine months later, Robert was declared cancer free. Robert's Snow was accepted for publication. We felt that our good luck had finally arrived.  
But, in March 2004, Robert's cancer returned. We were devastated. Our doctor told us that Robert's best chance for long-term survival was a breakthrough in cancer research.  
So we decided to help the doctors the best we could. Because Robert's Snow had meant so much to us the first time, we decided to use it as an inspiration for a fund-raiser. We recruited children's book artists to paint wooden snowflakes and auctioned them off–the proceeds going to cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 
The response was tremendous. Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure "snowballed" greater than we ever dreamed. In the end, we raised over $100,000. And this sparked a blizzard. Because of the great interest, we produced a book Robert's Snowflakes which highlights the 2004 snowflakes. And we began work on Robert's Snow 2005, which we hope will be even more successful.  
Robert and I are still immensely touched by the outcome of our project. And I've realized that rain that fell on our wedding day was a sign of good luck after all. Every one of Robert's Snowflakes is a gift of love, community and kindness. Few couples have ever received better presents. Now we share them with you. 

I was on the Robert's Snow committee last year, and it was a wonderful experience to be able to be involved in such a unique project and help raise so much money. This year I took an expanded role of Artist Liason, helping to choose the artists and keeping the communication lines open with them. I can't speak for anyone else on the committee, but I feel that I haven't done as much as I could or as I hoped to. I have the usual good excuses--I'm busier than ever at work, I've had some distracting things happen in my personal life, I've been traveling more than ever this year. But really, Grace is so much more busy, and has so much more going on in her personal life, too. She is the heart, soul and manpower of this project, and what she's done with this fundraiser is absolutely amazing.

The kick-off event was this past Thursday at the Locco Ritoro gallery in the "artsy fartsy" SOWA district in Boston. It was an amazing space, and the snowflakes looked wonderful on the wall. Volunteers really stepped up, donating the space, got tons of food and drink donated, helped set up, and during the event volunteers poured wine, sold raffle tickets and books, took pictures, served food. Jarrett was the emcee and was his usual gregarious, charismatic self. I still have his mantra for promoting the raffle echoing in my head: "One-hundred sixty-five dollars worth of books! That's CRAZY" he screamed over and over. I'm surprised he still had a voice the next day. Three raffle girls circulated, selling tickets. Ki-Ki stuck by the snowflake wall, dedicated in her role as "snowflake handler"--wearing white gloves, she showed people the backs of snowflakes. Linda, Anna, and I were snowflake handlers, too. In total, we think between 200 and 500 people came throughout the night, some coming from as far away as Chicago, Vermont, New York, and Virginia.

For me, the best story of the night was this 12-year-old boy, Chad. He came with his mother all the way from Virginia specifically for this event. Chad lost his father to cancer when he was 8-years-old. He found out about the auction last year, and bid on and won one of the snowflakes. This year, the artist whose snowflake he won, Marion Eldridge, dedicated her snowflake to him and even featured him on the flake. Chad also won the silent auction for illustrator Katie Davis's snowflake. And when a raffle winner won for the second time that night and graciously gave up her second prize, the raffle ticket she drew was Chad's. So fitting.

The auction is about to begin. There will be 5 consecutive 8-day E-bay auctions with the first one starting today, November 6 at 5 pm PST, 8 pm EST. The last auction ends on December 11. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go to and look at these wonderful pieces of art. Even if you're not a children's book fan, I think you'll appreciate the works of art that each snowflake is. And please bid on your favorite snowflake.

Because at the root of this all is Robert. He's doing well, in good spirits, but the cancer is still there, and the money we raise may very well help cure him. I was Grace's roommate when she met Robert. I was there during their somewhat tumultuous courtship while Grace waited patiently for him to make up his mind (sorry, Robert, but you know it's true!), I was there on their beautiful wedding day that flooded rain. They deserve a lifetime together, a long future together, a cancer-free life. You never know what it is that will tip the scales, find the cure. So please help me spread the word about this auction.

November 06, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Food and life

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

Starting last Thursday night, I attended three formal, catered dinners in a row, spanning two coasts: The Guthrie Awards/Huntington's Disease Dinner (in NYC), the SJSU Homecoming Gala and Gold Awards Ceremony (in San Jose, CA), and then Denise and Roy's wedding (in San Francisco, CA).

Aside from adding an inch or two to my waist (great food!), I felt that each event was inspiring in its own way.

The Guthrie Awards, Main course: prime rib and shrimp 
At the first dinner, the 9th Annual Guthrie Awards Dinner, my boss was one of five honorees, along with the Time Warner Book Group. I had attended the dinner three years earlier when Paul Simon was one of the honorees and enjoyed myself, so this year when Megan extended the invitation, I jumped at the chance to support her and see her celebrated, and also to attend a nice event, even though I was to fly out to SF early the next morning.

Megan was being honored for her commitment to publishing books that celebrate the diversity of the world and focus on social issues. It was heartwarming to see that an organization outside of the publishing community looked upon the work we did as being valuable and important.

Megan's speech was well-written, powerful, engrossing, and touching, as she talked about her son Leo and how he was on his way to being a compassionate human being. Listening to her speech also made me think about my own career. When I had first interviewed with Megan over six years ago, I remember being so excited talking to her, because I saw even then her commitment to publishing diverse voices, and that was extremely important to me.

I see children's books as a powerful vehicle for influencing young children, and making a difference in their lives. And even though I'd like to think that the greatest reward for my work is knowing that children are reading and loving the books I'm working on, it was also nice to see that it can be rewarding in a formal, public way as well. And I have to admit, I want to see myself up there giving a speech ten years from now. I want to do great work, and I want to be recognized for it.

The dinner was also inspiring in another way--Nora Guthrie (Woody's daughter) spoke as well, and she was so exuberant and scattered and funny, and her talk left me feeling like I had just been given a pep talk about life. Two things in particular: 1) There is so much more good in the world than bad, it only just doesn't get reported as much, that there is really no reason to be depressed. I have always believed this, but it was nice to be reminded. 2) everyone should try to love as many people in their lives that they can, that at the end of it all, we aren't going to be judged by whether we found a cure for cancer or wrote an award-winning book, but by the number of people we've loved. It was a nice sentiment.

SJSU Homecoming Gala and GOLD Awards Ceremony, Main Course: fish 
The next day I flew out to SFO and then later that day drove down to San Jose State University with my cousins Jeanne and Rich. My sister-in-law Erika was being honored as a Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD). Incredible. When you think of how many people graduate each year, and then multiply that by ten, and also consider that she is a fairly recent graduate (2004), it's an amazing honor. Erika was being recognized for her work as a crisis counselor and client advocate with the YWCA Rape Crisis Center, as co-founder of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, being on the board for the Pro-Choice Coalition of Santa Clara County, and much more. It was great to see her honored and go up on the high stage with her image projected on huge screens. The night was also surreal because Dana Carvey was the entertainment--he was really hilarious, actually, but random. It was quite an enjoyable night. And it made me realize that I need to do more. I'm in a period of my life right now where I'm concerned about having fun, enjoying life. But I know I need to start to focus again on doing good, on accomplishing something worthwhile, helping people.

Denise and Roy’s wedding, Main course: pistachio crusted sea bass 

Dsc04867And then the next day was Denise and Roy's wedding. Denise is a friend from when I lived in Taiwan, and she is also a UC Berkeley grad, although we didn't know each other there. Roy went to my HS, although I didn't know him well. (They were introduced by another mutual friend).

It was an interesting night, because people from different circles had collided--I had friends there from HS, college, Taiwan, and also my parents know Roy's parents, so there were a few of the older generation who I knew as well.

I was feeling a bit down about the wedding at first--my best friend Jen was unable to go at the last minute because she was on-call (med student), so I was without my "date." I was treating James as my pseudo-date, but I knew he was going to leave a bit early. To be perfectly honest, I'm tired of going to weddings alone. Even when I was dating Will, he never traveled with me to weddings of my friends. Being the only single person at my table was tough, even though I had other single friends to hang out with. As usual, I fled to the bathroom during the bouquet toss. I hate that sh*t! But I loved seeing old friends, the alcohol flowed, and in the end I had a ton of fun. And most importantly, it was so wonderful seeing Denise and Roy so happy and in love. I remember it wasn't so long ago that Denise was a somewhat bitter, single, thirtysomething [correction from Denise--"I am the founder of the bitter twenty-something single women group"--her attitude changed when she hit thirty]. There's hope, people!

 This was also the first trip to CA in a while that made me actually want to maybe move back someday. Staying with Jeanne in the Marina was awesome. We walked along the water to the Golden Gate Bridge my first morning there, and I Dsc04881jogged the same path my last morning there. I had fresh, steamed crab at Fisherman's Wharf. Took the BART into Berkeley and walked on campus. Met up with old friends. I could see that being my life. Then again, when I got back from Montreal I wanted to move there, and the same when I got back from London, so who knows. 

Home, Main course: popcorn with rosemary olive oil 
And now I'm back in NYC and am reminded why I love it here so much, despite arriving in the freezing rain yesterday. Today was a beautiful, sunny, cold fall day. I went jogging in Central Park with Rose tonight—I never jog in the dark by myself, so it was a nice treat. I love the city at night—it’s quieter, the lights are beautiful, the city seems cleaner. Sometimes I think I could live here forever. Then again, maybe in a few more years I'll get restless and need to find someplace brand new to explore. I’m open to the possibility. I wonder where life will lead me. I wonder what I'll eat for dinner tomorrow.

 October 27, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

My butt hurts.

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

In my last post, I talked about how learning that something small can potentially open up new worlds…well, I feel the same way about discovering subcultures or groups. The more experiences you have, the richer life is—because worlds you didn’t know existed are revealed, things you didn’t understand become clear. Like the rave culture. The BBQ competition circuit. Poker. Fantasy sports. Publishing. Yoga.

Take joggers for example. Back in high school, I used to see people jogging by the side of the road and think that they were so cool, and wonder how I could be one of them. I thought they had all this inside information or experience that made them joggers. Then in college I started running—and felt awkward at first, thought that people watching me run would know that I wasn’t a *real* jogger. But before long, I was a jogger myself. I was one of them! I felt that way about bikers, too. I saw the people riding on the streets, so comfortable, and was envious. I had a bicycle for a little bit in college, but I never felt comfortable riding on the Berkeley streets. I was never a biker. When I received a bicycle as a gift about 5 years ago, I didn’t use it all that much, because in truth, I was intimidated. I took it on rides with my boyfriend or friends when they went riding, but I would never go by myself, and I knew nothing about bikes.

After we moved to NY, my bike sat chained to our stairwell for 2 ½ years. My boyfriend took it out once, but other than that, the scary NYC streets and the fact that we lived on the fourth floor of a walk-up apartment prevented it from being used.

Now I live in an apartment with an elevator. So when James suggested that we do the Century Bike Tour, I jumped at the opportunity. I hadn’t ridden a bike in four years, but with James’s assurance that it would be doable, I chose to do the 35 mile ride. It was a gorgeous day, and it was a fabulous ride through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. I loved it. And although I was tired and my butt hurt, I felt like I could have gone farther. And the best thing I gained from it was I got over my fear of riding on the streets of NY. The roads weren’t blocked off for the ride, although for much of the ride I felt safety in numbers. But as the ride stretched out, I just learned how to ride in traffic.

After gushing about the ride to Tanya, she forwarded me an email about the Time Warner Road Inspectors, a team participating in the MS Ride, and I was psyched. Not only would I get to ride again, but I could do it for a good cause. The distance was 30, 60, or 100 miles. James and I debated whether to tackle the 60-mile ride, but though that we’d better stick to 30. But at the pasta dinner with part of the team the night before, we found out that there was a 45-mile shortcut option off of the 60-mile route: perfect.

Left the apartment at 6:15 am, still dark out. Went down 2nd Ave and then cut over to the East River. Saw the sun slowly rising over the water—of course had to stop to take pictures. Got to South Street Seaport, registered, scarfed down a blueberry muffin, lined up at the starting line. Blind Melon’s “No Rain” came on at the start, and I sang along joyfully. The cold, windy, but sunny fall day was a blessing after a week of pouring rain and gray.

The FDR was blocked off for us—so cool. A biker wiped out behind us--scary. Went all the way to the top of Manhattan. Then down the Henry Hudson Parkway—also free and clear of cars. The wind was powerfully strong, and in our face. It felt like we were going uphill even as we went downhill, constantly pushing against the wind. The streets counted down too slowly. We needed to Dsc04679get to the Lincoln Tunnel before they reopened it to traffic at 11 am. Got there with 10 minutes to spare. Riding through the carless Lincoln Tunnel was such a rush, as we swooped in, whooping and screaming, I felt an exhilaration similar to how I felt skydiving.

New Jersey was tough, full of hills, the traffic was no longer blocked off. Passed a biker smoking a cigarette as he biked—and we though the guy looking for a light after biking 15 miles in the Century Tour was crazy! The last hill felt like it was a mile long—had to walk my bike halfway. Onto the George Washington bridge, the water and view spectacular. Dsc04706 

I felt like the worst was over, only to come down off the bridge and realize we were all the way up on 172nd Street. Chelsea Piers was a far far away. The wind was so strong that, at one point, coasting down a slight downward incline, the wind blew so hard that I was literally slowed to a stop and needed to pedal in order to keep moving forward. I was almost blown sideways a few times.

When I thought I couldn’t keep going, I just looked two feet in front of the bike with my head down. It helped.

So, I made it. My butt hurts, my legs burn, but I feel good. I rode a total of about 55 miles, if you count the ride to the starting line and the ride home from Chelsea Piers. Next year, bring on the 60 miles!

Thank you everyone who donated money. There’s still time to donate, so if you’d like to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City Chapter, go to this link:

So…am I a biker? Not really. Or maybe I am. But at least I have a taste of what it’s like, and I ride the streets of Manhattan without fear, weaving in and out, and maybe a kid seeing me will wonder what it feels like to ride a bike in the city like that.

I'll tell you what it feels like. My as* hurts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

For the past month or so, I've been obsessed with the song GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD by Elton John. I always have some song or another stuck in my head, and I have a song for every situation and the annoying habit of actually singing them out loud. But sometimes I get one song stuck in my head fairly consistently for a period of time (and then have the annoying habit of singing that one song out loud incessantly), and lately it's been GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD. It started on a road trip up to Boston one weekend in mid-September. For some reason the song was stuck in my head, and I looked frantically in my iPod for it, sure that I had it in there somewhere, but didn't. Then I was in Finnerty's the following Monday night, and it played on the jukebox. Two days later, it played on my Yahoo station while at work. Stuck in my head again. I decided I had to buy the CD. But then a week or so later I went to Amy's "goodbye and take my stuff" party, and she was giving away tons of CDs, including an old Elton John's Greatest Hits CD that I immediately snatched up, and sure enough, there the song was. I listened to it incessantly for a couple of days, then went up to Boston yet again and complained to my friends that the song had been stuck in my head for days (I wonder why), and then while at brunch in Jamaica Plain on Sunday morning, guess what song comes on yet again...

So, it made me think--was it truly just coincidence that this song kept popping into my life this past month, or is it always popping up, and I've only just recently become conscious of it/ have been looking for it? It reminded me of a moment back in college when I was studying vocab for the GRE, and learned the word "avuncular" for the first time. For those of you who don't know, avuncular means "like an uncle." At the time I thought, god, what a silly word, who would ever use it? And then I heard it used twice that week, once by my professor in a lecture, once on the radio, and I read it in print once as well. In one week. I was amazed. And I've since seen it used quite often (although not as often as that first week), which made me realize that that word has always been out there, I'd just ignored it before because I hadn't known what it meant. And that made me wonder, how much else is out there that I'm simply overlooking or ignoring?

Another example is those "Obey Giant" stickers that are everywhere (you know, those black and white graphic stickers of the face of Andre the Giant, designed by a RISD Before I knew what they were, they were simply just another bit of graffiti to ignore, but now I notice them everywhere.

All of this just reinforces my desire to learn more, be more aware, more observant, experience more, because the more you know (isn't that a Saturday morning cartoon jingle?), the more the layers of life make sense. Maybe you feel like you're just going along, on a plateau, kinda stagnant, but then all of a sudden you learn something that launches you up to the next level. It's exciting, isn't it?
And now, so you can all share in my joy, here are the lyrics to GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD:

When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man

You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road

What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again

Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

-Music by Elton John
-Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Flight of the Alvina

Retrieved from Friendster Blog.

Sunday, October 2, 2005:

I woke up to a beautiful day: bright blue sky, not a cloud to be seen, temperature in the upper 70s.

I started off the morning at Peter’s reading of FLIGHT OF THE DODO in Bryant Park. There was a large crowd there of kids and parents, so the "friends of Peter" group staked out the back row. I thought Peter was natural, funny, and a pro, and it was great to hear the book read aloud. I realized that I hadn’t read it in a while, so even though I had once pored over every word, over and over and over, it now (or shall I say still) felt fresh, and I laughed out loud several times. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter’s mother afterwards, and she was sweetly emotional; it made me realize how momentous the occasion was. This was something that Peter had worked a lifetime towards, and finally it was real. He has an actual book published that he wrote and illustrated, and he read it in front of probably over a hundred people in Bryant Park in New York City. Incredible. I can’t imagine what that moment must feel like, nor what it must feel like to be the parent of someone who has realized their dream.

Soon after the reading, I took off on my own momentous trip. Noel, Craig, and I set out in Tanya’s car (thanks, Tanya!) for Gardiner, NY. Destination: Sky Dive the Ranch. The ride up was smooth and fun; as Noel snoozed in the backseat, Craig and I gabbed away. We only took one wrong turn that we corrected immediately. Despite a late start, we arrived at exactly 2 pm, the time of our reservation, and as we pulled up we saw a bunch of colorful parachutes descending from the sky. Beautiful! It was finally starting to feel like it was actually going to happen.

We met Craig’s friend Javier there and were immediately ushered into a training session already in progress. Nothing seemed too difficult, but the training made me a bit anxious. There were actually things to remember: crouch with your feet together at the plane’s open door. Lift your head. Keep your hands on your harness. Arch your back. Check the altimeter. Reach back to check the ripcord. Arms out. Check altimeter every few seconds. Pull ripcord at 6,000 feet. Legs out at landing. Of course, I knew there would be an instructor strapped on my back to make sure nothing went wrong, but I wanted to do it right, dammit!

We had about 40 minutes before we suited up, and during the wait was when I started to feel butterflies for the first time. (I think I was a tiny bit hungover from the parties of the night before, too. I probably shouldn't have helped Eveline sip from her screwdriver while on the subway. ANYway...)

We watched one plane climb impossibly high above us, at times losing sight of it because it was so tiny; then we marveled as the parachutes seemingly popped up out of nowhere--they were so high up, we couldn't see the people falling until the chutes opened. "I hope I get a pretty color" I joked. Then later: "What color is your parachute?" har har.

All off a sudden, we were on deck. Tried to find jumpsuits in our sizes to no avail, and then the woman helping us said we could just go in our regular clothes, that the suits weren't necessary--they were just to keep you warm, and also to prevent your clothes from getting dirty during the landing, since we were to land on our butts. But so many of the jumpsuits had their butt area worn through, anyway, so they wouldn't have helped much. So in my jeans and halter top, I got into my harness, tried on my helmets, met my instructor and videographer (Stan and Zak), and then we were off to get on the plane. "Remember to breathe up there," Stan told me at one point. After which I discovered that I had forgotten how to breathe. In, out, in, out.

Stan and I were the first to load the plane. I straddled the bench and sat between Stan's legs, Zak sitting between my legs, Noel's instructor between his, and so on. Craig was right next to me on the other bench, Javier in front of him. Part of the way up Craig's instructor asked Craig and me who should jump first. So the two of us played rock paper scissors; Craig won and decided to jump last. The two veterans (this was Noel's second jump, Javier's third) were first on deck. I watched my altimeter climb. Put my helmet and goggles on at 9,000 feet. Climbed up to 12,000 feet. And before I knew it, I saw Noel in his bright yellow T-shirt standing at the open door of the plane; suddenly, he plummeted out of sight. Wow--so fast! Then Javier also tumbled out of sight--his fall seemed different from Noel's fall, and I remembered that he had asked during training if they were allowed to do flips as they left the plane. The instructor had said no, but perhaps his tandem instructor agreed to give him a ride.

Then it was my turn. With Stan on my back, we waddled to the door. I couldn't stop smiling, but the cold air was making my teeth cold. It was so surreal, the ground incredibly far below. We crept to the ledge, Zak hanging outside of the door with the camera. I looked down. Whoa. He reached his hand under my chin and tilted my head up. Right. Keep my head up. I think Stan must have counted off, and before I knew it I was falling falling falling. Plummeting.

 I kept telling myself to pay attention, enjoy it. Everyone told me this part went by too quickly. I remembered to check my altimeter and do the ripcord check, but although I looked at the altimeter, I had no comprehension of what it said, and I had no idea if I felt the cord. I think I looked at the altimeter several times during the fall, but am sure I never actually read it. Mostly what I remember is the rushing of air, the whooshing noise, the slight sensation of my ears plugging up, and the ground so far away, everything having the vague feeling of grayness and blur and speed.

But mostly I remember the rushing wind, loud and strong. It didn't feel real. I kept just trying to look around, to see everything, and think I may have mouthed "it's so beautiful" several times. Not sure.

Before I knew it, Stan was grabbing my hand and pulling it back to pull the ripcord, although I'm sure he was the one to do the ripping. The rushing sounds changed, I felt myself being pulled up, heard the sound of the wind catch the parachute, and all of a sudden had the sensation that we had simply stopped, that everything had stopped. Now the world was colorful and calm and quiet. Beautiful. I think I said something like, "Whoa" and Stan laughed.

He taught me how to control the fall, to turn left and right and spin. We did a few spins to the right, then the left, and it only made me slightly dizzy. Then he let me control the parachute. The landscape was beautiful. Mountains, lakes, lots of green and trees. And so peaceful. It was too hazy to see Manhattan, though. I turned the parachute lazily right and left. Fun.

We floated down, came in for a perfect landing, me flat on my ass, both of us laughing. Wow. It was over. We all watched our videos. I was the only one who jumped without sleeves, and my arms looked incredibly weird. The skin flapped and moved like liquid, you could see the outline of my bones. So strange. But I was smiling. It still doesn't feel quite real. Totally surreal. And although I'm happy I did it and would totally do it again--maybe in 5 years--it wasn't a life-changing experience. I guess I'm a little disappointed about that. But I think it's because I was never truly scared, never really thought I'd die. I mean, of course it occurred to me that I might die (especially since we had to sign a waiver that probably said over 25 times, "You may die"), but no more so than every time I ride in a plane. I'm sure bungee jumping is much scarier. You're so much closer to the ground. Maybe I should do that next... 

So I'm excited to now be able to cross skydiving off my list of things to do before I die, and to add something new. The fun part now is deciding what will replace it. Any suggestions?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What's brown and sticky?

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

What's brown and sticky? 

(answer at the end of the post)

First of all, if you're tired of getting an email from friendster every time I update this, you can change your notification preferences on friendster. Just thought I'd let you know.

Okay, so I just realized that I can use this blog to talk about BOOKS! What a novel idea. Get it? Novel? heh heh.

So, every book I've edited or worked on or acquired has a story behind how it was acquired. Today I will tell you the story of FLIGHT OF THE DODO by Peter Brown (who is actually a friendster). Peter and Tracy, if you' re reading this, I hope you don't mind that I'm telling this story.

A few months after I was relocated to NYC from Boston with the rest of the Little, Brown children's division (2002), I attended an illustrator event somewhere downtown. Since I was still relatively new to NY, I don't remember where I was or who sponsored the party--all I know is that there was free food and drink, and there were lots of illustrators around. Most of the people there seemed to be editorial illustrators and not children's book illustrators, but as I was mainly just hanging out in my group of coworkers I had come with, eating the free food and drinking the free wine, it didn't really matter to me. Tracy was single at the time, and was excited to meet a cute, eligible illustrator, so we were helping her scope out guys. Towards the end of the night when we were about to give up, she noticed a cute guy up on the balcony. He eventually must have felt 5+ pairs of eyes on him, because he looked in our direction, and Tracy boldly gestured him to come down. He disappeared from view and we weren't sure if he was coming down or not, but a few minutes later I saw him heading our way. "Hello, ladies" he said suavely. We laughed and all introduced ourselves. His name was Peter. We asked him what he did. "I'm a children's book illustrator," he said. We all exclaimed excitedly and told him we worked in children's book publishing. We talked some more, and then I gave him my business card after writing Tracy's email address on the back (it was clear that he was attracted to her, too).

The following Monday Peter emailed Tracy and they set up a date for him to show her his portfolio (does that sound dirty?). I remember standing at Tracy's cubicle before the date and saying, "Geez, I hope his work doesn't suck. That would be awkward."

The next day Tracy showed me his portfolio, and I was floored. His art style was beautiful, unique, incredible. I loved it. I brought his portfolio to an editorial meeting and everyone agreed that he was hugely talented. Tracy and Peter went out on a few more dates, and one night he came out with a group of us for drinks, and I asked him if he had any story ideas. He told me he had one about a penguin who builds a flying machine.

Around that time, my friend Grace's book OLVINA FLIES (named after me) had either just come out or was about to come out--her book is about a chicken who ends up having to ride in an airplane and is embarrassed. So I had flightless birds on my mind, and I loved Peter's idea. I liked it even more when he told me that the book starts out with Penguin getting pooped on. I mean, how genius is that?!? A flightless bird get pooped on by a flying bird. Incredible. So I told him I was really excited about the idea and would love to work with him on it.

He submitted it to me, and we went back and forth countless times doing different rounds of edits. During this time, he and Tracy stopped dating, but I kept in touch with him and worked on the book. A whole year after we had first met, I decided (at his agent's urging) that it was ready to bring to our acquisitions meeting.

Our acquisitions meeting is very formal, with all of the "bigwigs" present to decide if we want to publish a book--our publisher, editor-in-chief, sales director, marketing director, etc. It's always nerve-wracking to present at this meeting, especially if you care so much about the outcome as I did with Peter's book. I started my presentation when all of a sudden the lights in the conference room dimmed. I paused, and they went back on. So I continued, and the lights flickered again. This went on a few more times and then the lights went out completely. The room had a window so we could still see, but we could also see that the lights in the building next door were also out. Incredibly, our publisher told me to keep going, so I did. It was incredibly distracting, committee members kept getting up to call their departments or loved ones. Someone passed by to tell us that the lights were out all over Manhattan. And still the publisher told me to continue. Under these conditions, we managed to make the decision that although everyone loved the art and the story concept, we weren't yet ready to offer a contract because the manuscript still wasn't in publishable shape. But they didn't want to lose the project and so I was told to bring it back in a few months. As for the you may have guessed, this turned out to be the 2003 Blackout!

Peter and I worked more on the book, and after a few months I was finally able to offer Peter his very first book contract. Now, FLIGHT OF THE DODO is finally out and we're excited to share it with the world. Today, October 1, is technically its official publication date, but it's actually been in most stores for a few weeks now. It should be at a B&N or Borders or independent bookstore near you, and at the very least you can find it on Amazon:

So go out and buy it now!

For those of you in the NYC area, Peter is doing a reading in Bryant Park tomorrow (Sunday, October 2) at 10:25 am. He'll be at the Target Children's Stage of the New York Times Great Read in the Park festival. I'll be there, right before going skydiving, so come on out!

Oh, and, Peter and Tracy are dating again. In fact, she designed FLIGHT OF THE DODO and Peter dedicated it to the both of us "To Alvina and Tracy, two of my favorite birds." Peter Brown went to one party, got free food and drink, AND a girlfriend and book contract. How cool is that.

And what's brown and sticky?

A stick!


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Desire Lines

**Retrieved from Friendster blog**

Desire Lines

I walk to work every morning, and I pretty much take the same route--one that's not necessarily the quickest, but the one that I feel is the prettiest, most calming and fulfilling, while at the same time being fairly direct. This is my route: I walk down 73rd and/or 72nd street (depending on the lights) all the way to the park, cut across past Summer Stage to the mall (my favorite part of Central Park), walk down the mall, then down past the Dairy, and to the right of Wollman Rink. I wind around and down so I walk by The Pond, and then up the stairs that spit me out onto 6th Avenue.

Right near Wollman Rink there's this rocky dirt path down a hill that's been worn by pedestrians making a more direct route to the cement path below, and depending on what shoes I'm wearing, I'll take that path. I remember learning a term years ago for these kinds of paths--ones that have not been planned by the urban planner or whoever plans these kind of things, but ones worn by pedestrian will. We had many of these paths at UC Berkeley, and I know they're found everywhere. There was a huge one on the Berkeley campus that was pretty ridiculous--it was right near the Campanile, and it was obviously the most direct path to any destination, and when you're hurrying to get to another building in time for class, you don't want to step around for the sake of the grass. But the university was very adamant about trying to save the grass, prevent the path, putting up barriers, planting new grass. I didn't get it. I wonder if it's still there.

But I digress, back to the term for these type of paths--for the longest time I couldn't remember the term, and every morning I would wonder what it was called and be determined to google it when I got to work, only to forget. So I'm writing this now because I finally remembered to google--and what I came up with wasn't what I thought I remembered they were called, but I really liked the term anyway: "desire lines." This was how they were described in one blog: "Called 'desire lines,' these trails demonstrate how a landscape's users choose to move, which is often not on the paved paths. A smart landscape designer will let wanderers create paths through use, and then pave the emerging walkways, ensuring optimal utility."

I could go on and get all deep and philosophical about people's desire lines and all that, but perhaps I'll save that for another time (yeah, right). I'll just close by saying that it's sad that these desire lines are so often fought against, and so rarely made into "real" (paved) paths. But it's kinda nice that they exist at all.*

*cue corny music.

On a personal note, London was great (Yay, Sara and Neil are married!)! I drove a mixed-up car on the wrong side of the street, sang Karaoke, ate fish and chips, smoked too many cigarettes just because you can smoke inside, took a 3 am rickshaw ride in the cold and rain and saw the sights, rode the London Eye, drank beer in many a pub, had a banana split at Harrod's, walked all over Hyde Park, attended a traditional English wedding with lots of hats, saw Canterbury Cathedral, etc. etc. etc.

My next big trip is in October, out to SF for Denise and Roy's wedding.

Oh, and I finally got my bike up and running (rode on the streets of NYC for the first time last night!), and am riding in the NYC Century Bike Tour on Sunday. Doing the 35 mile route. We'll see how that goes. Before last night's ride of 3 avenues and 6 streets, the last time I rode was maybe 4 years ago. I may be in pain on Monday.

Over and out.