April 13, 2006


Thank you for the comments. It's weird -- most of my blog entries are just whatever is wandering through my scattered brain at the moment, but sometimes the stuff I call "my real writing" escapes and sneaks in here, and that happened with the last entry. It felt odd to have something that felt close to me the way my fiction does so IMMEDIATELY out there. Thanks for saying reassuring things and for having insights and for responding when I stuck myself out there in a way I generally do not. Now I am all toe-scrubby and shy. SO! LOOK OVER THERE! SOMETHING SHINY!


This is me in the box where I crouched like a feral rodent for four days straight, reading the audio book version of BETWEEN, GEORGIA. I look drunk and possibly insane in this shot, so let us kindly assume I am reading one of Ona Crabtree's lines. Did you know I stole the name ONA from my teeny tiny poodle-headed gramma? She died while I was writing Between, and in a crazy memorium, I named this vicious pit-bull of an alchoholic character after her.

My gramma liked VERY much to be the center of attention---I think she would have been charmed and amused to have her name in the book, even pasted on an evil whack-job like the Crabtree Matriarch. Mercifully, Ona Jackson and the character of Ona Crabtree have very little in common. Ona Jackson was tiny and dark and and a more-flies-with-honey-than-vinegar sort. Ona Crabtree believes you get more flies with a shotgun. Also, my grandmother was a strict teetotaller.


Now here I am looking moonfaced and lobotomized with BOB, the producer/director of the audiobook. He's cool, and I include the pic because HE looks nice in it. Bob had never had a Muffeletta!!!! I was like, SWEET MERCIFUL LORD what do they FEED you out there in Los Angeles?. I think it must be pretty much wall to wall Sushi with Tofutti Dreamsicles for dessert. If YOU have never had a Muffuletta, please, rectify that as soon as ever you can manage it.

NOW here is something cool...as you may recall, my brother makes his living as a sculptor. We're very close, and I have always wanted to find a project we could do together. In fact, a long long time ago, LONGLONG, I think back when Sam was VERY new, in fact, my agent shopped a children's book series I was working on with co-author Lily James and my brother as the illustrator. It was, please excuse me, an awesome project. Mr Bungaloo and the Soup Mines. Mr. Bungaloo and the Well Built City of Sand and Cheese. It employed that sort of STIFF VICTORIAN prose that was completely out and no one liked back then, but that now the glorious Lemony Snicket, may he live forever has practically reinvented and certainly revitalized, but it was for the picture book crowd.

My brother did AMAZING sample drawings, but they were very PEN AND INKY. In some ways they reminded me of John Tenniel's original illustrations for Alice and Wonderland

Alas, this was more than ten years ago. The two sample color plates weer stored on an old comp of his that DIED A HORRID death, but he had the paper copies of the original pen and ink prelim sketches and I had him scan them and send them to me.

The project didn't fly...Here's the reasons I think it was a no go:

1) It's harder to sell a writer/illustrator package than just a writer. Houses like to use their own illustrators.

2) That freakin RAINBOW FISH phenom was still happening. First of all---I hate that fish. I hate the whole idea. I mean, I guess you can read it as a book about sharing and sharing is good. Sharing is important. Whatever. BUT. This isn't about OBJECTS -- this is the FISH HIMSELF. Here we have a fish who is different and special, and so everyone hates him, and the solution is dumb himself down? To Conform? This poor fish has to tear CHUNKS of his OWN FLESH off and let everyone be just like him? CREEEEEEEEPY. Shades of Vonnegut. BUT! It was very en vogue, so the writing was off.

Mr. Bungaloo is kindly and virtuous and upright and into having a WORK ETHIC and sticking to his own moral center. NOT a conformist. He has a horrid little sociopathic dog named HORACE as a foil. Horace is Pure Id, the incarnation of willful fulfillment of one's immediate desires. Mr. Bungaloo loves him even though Horace is often Very Very Naughty Indeed. It was not a very I'm okay, you're okay touchy feely we're alike Rainbow Fish sort of book, and stiff victorian writing was exactly what the market hated that day. Look, here is Mr. Bungaloo and Horace. POOR HORACE, his awful naughtiness got him into trouble -- he eventually had to be decanted in the dreadful machinery of the Soup Mines where Mr. Bungloo works. You should have seen this after Bobby did all the colors and shading ---amazing. The sketch can give you an idea though.


3) The illustrations missed the market, too. Everything picture book was all about big blowsy watercolors and torn paper collages. Bobby did the exact opposite with his skritchy detailed pen and inks. LOOKIT! I alos still have the prelim "what does Horace LOOK LIKE" sketch. I remember watching Bobby draw several Horaces while I sat on the sofa and said "Make him Grumpier! Make him SQUANCHIER! OH YES! THAT IS HIM! THAT IS HORACE! LOOK LOOK I LOVE HIS SPRONCY EYEBROWS I NEVER THOUGH HE WOULD HAVE BIG MUSTACHES BUT OF COURSE HE MUST! HE IS PERFECT!"

Look at his FEET. I LOVE the feet.


I told those stories to Sam back in the day, and Maisy is four now. I should drag them back out for bedtime if i can find them. We wrote them 4 computers ago, at least.

ANYWAY, that was a HUGE digression, but I had the drawings and I think my brother is cool. So I WILLFULLY digressed. And there was a point, which is often not the case with my digressions, so let's celebrate our moments as we find them. AND THE POINT, Oh My Best Beloveds, the point is this:

I FINALLY got to work with my brother on a project, and it was secret, and it was related to BETWEEN!!

He did something for me---something COOL, and you can win a piece of it, as soon as I think of a good contest, which I will do LATE|R TODAY I hope and maybe even post tomorrow. This was that secret thing I have mentioned several times....YOU! WILL! LIKE! IT!

Any contest suggestions? I guess I can always do a bland old hat drawing, but if you have a BETTER idea I am SO game to hear it.

Posted by joshilyn at April 13, 2006 1:00 PM

All that talent in one family? Your parents must be so proud...

Posted by: Karen at April 13, 2006 1:20 PM

I LOVE your brother's drawings!

And I'm totally with you on that goody two-shoes little Rainbow Fish!

Posted by: Edgy Mama at April 13, 2006 2:16 PM

I hate that Rainbow Fish. He's just Socialist propaganda. Oh, I'm sorry. Do I sound crazy?

I love Horace's little feet - they almost look like little cloven hooves, which would be appropriate, since he is very, very bad.

Posted by: laura at April 13, 2006 2:26 PM

Bob is very attractive. Is he single? Does he now reside on the right coast or did he have to turn left again to go home? Do I sound desperate? Please, please don't answer that.

Posted by: hollygee at April 13, 2006 2:32 PM

I am so with you on the 'Rainbow Fish' thing. How creepy is that book? I'm all for encouraging my kids to share, but ripping off bits and pieces of yourself so that others will like you? Making yourself less 'you' so that other people feel better about themselves? Not so much.

My son loooooves the 'Series of Unfortunate Events' books. He keeps saying "the last book (which comes out this October, appropriately enough on Friday 13) BETTER NOT HAVE A HAPPY ENDING!!!". I think he would have loved your Horace. He's a villainophile.

Posted by: Laura at April 13, 2006 2:44 PM

I do and have always detested the Rainbow Fart Fish.

I adore Horace.

I think your contest should be: Whoever is named Angela and lives in Birmingham and reads this blog wins.

OH LOOK! A winner already!!!

Posted by: Angela at April 13, 2006 3:23 PM

I want those books. Raphael would love those books, and would belly laugh at the pictures of Horace. WAIT! I'll show him Horace!
*time lapse*
As expected, he laughed, which drew his brothers. Max wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED, and was irritated when I said I didn't know.
So. Tell the publishing world that Max wants to know what happened to Horace, and Raphael is annoyed that there are no more pictures of Horace.

Posted by: Kira at April 13, 2006 3:39 PM

I. WANT. THAT. BOOK!!!! It looks just hysterical! Since you have an in at Warner, have you thought about trying to pitch it again? Horace is marvelous!

Posted by: Beth at April 13, 2006 4:34 PM

I *love* Horace! He's perfectly cranky-looking. I second what Beth said -- why not see if Warner would be interested? If every wackadoo non-writing celebrity under the sun can publish a children's book, there's no earthly reason why you shouldn't, too.

Posted by: Aimee at April 13, 2006 4:44 PM

Aw ya'll're sweet and Horace IS unendurably awesome, but I have so much on my plate---I can't imagine trying to promote a children's series right now.

I want to get Between properly launched and I want to finish this book I am writing for Warner right now. I can't see past that--- I am so buried I can't even see my FEET. If I added "find, edit, polish, sell, and promote children's series all stages of which must be co-ordinated with artist and other writer" to my to do list, I think my head would pop off.

Let me just get this book done please.

Posted by: joshilyn at April 13, 2006 4:49 PM

I'm down with any contest that involves me being a winner. Hmmm--- let's see, think we can make that happen? ;)

I love Horace too -- I think I may need to interview dogs to find a real life Horace, sidenote: Horace is a TRULY wonderful puppy name, will file for future doggies.

Posted by: patricia at April 13, 2006 5:24 PM

My daughter, quoting Jane Yolen who I will now semi-misquote, says that the Triumverate of Evil is Rainbow Fish, The Giving Tree and Love You Forever. (Yolen may say Of Mediocrity, but she's being tactful...)

Posted by: rams at April 13, 2006 8:43 PM

You could have a contest to see who can write the best story of how Horace kills the Rainbow Fish. Just a slightly evil thought.

Did Bob ever get to the point of wanting to have sex with the character you wanted him to want to have sex with in Between? (I hope you know who/what I mean because I am way too lazy to go through the archives and find pesky details like character names.)

I love your brother's drawings.

Posted by: DebR at April 13, 2006 10:26 PM

As it's agreed everyone loves naughty Horace perhaps your contest should be a description of THE DEED that caused his banishment to the Soup Mines. Or an explanation of what, exactly, constitutes a Soup Mine. Or even, perhaps, a scientific argument for or against the theory that global warming will lead to Condensed Soup Mines in the future.
Can you make Hachette (ohh la la) pay to bring you back north for Between?
Please? Pretty, pretty please?

Posted by: debra at April 13, 2006 11:02 PM

Joss you are delightful. And to everyone else, brother Bobby's work is awesome...so be prepared to scrabble it out for the prize... oh an neee ner, neee ner, nee ner! I'm soooo gloating in my specialness - okay so I'm a legend in my own mind, don't burst my bubble.

Posted by: Cele at April 14, 2006 12:26 AM

I think we still have that stinking Rainbow fish tripe around here somewhere. I always hated it. Let's let Horace eat the Rainbow fish while gleefully asserting his individuality! Now that's a book I would buy.
I can't wait for the contest! ;)

Posted by: Amy-GO at April 14, 2006 9:54 AM

Ms. J you are so pretty, and Horace could make me want to actually own a dog in real life, but only if he could have those eyebrows and little cloven Horace feet. Your bro is AMAZING!!!

And I lurv Angela's "Rainbow Fart Fish." And also the idea of Horace killing him in myriad ways for your contest, a la DebR's suggestion.....

Posted by: Cornelia Read at April 15, 2006 12:14 AM

Wait, what, you want us to eat muppets? Is this a southern thing? I remember the grits, but not muppets. Was I a lot drunker on that trip than I remember??

Posted by: Mir at April 15, 2006 1:40 AM

Now I'm feeling trashy because I kinda DO like the Rainbow Fish. But that's probably because it IS socialist propaganda and I'm just like that. Admittedly, I never thought of it as ripping out chunks of your own flesh just so people would like you better. I just like the pretty sparkly scales and I think it's nice when everyone has one ... yeah, it's pretty much just that I'm a flaming socialist.

The Giving Tree, however, is clearly a glorification of co-dependent relationships, and should be burned. The book, I mean. I sure don't want that tree to suffer anymore. Just get some therapy, tree!

Posted by: TrudyJ at April 15, 2006 6:44 AM

Okay, I read above that you have too much to do already and can't re-pitch this book now, but the first thing I thought when reading this was "yes! But now! Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman (The Day I Sold My Dad for Two Goldfish) and the Happy Hocky Family and all kinds of edgy weird and/or pseudo-Victorian stuff is IN right now. It will sell, people will think it's cool. I'm a school librarian and I KNOW."

But then I read your comment, so okay, I understand! Write, please, not least so I can have something to read in summer 2007 or 2008 when I need a break from endless kids' books. But please don't forget about it! Because I would so buy it for my library. And then when some kid asked for Rainbow Fish I could say, "Well, it's checked out, but how about THIS?"

Posted by: elswhere at April 15, 2006 2:02 PM

I had a post not too long ago on the three branches of the Triumverate of Mediocrity. Branch One: Rainbow Fish. Branch Two: Giving Tree. Branch Three (and I'm surprised no one has mentioned this): Love You Forever. Now if we consider how hot the current market is for kids books, weigh in the fact that you are talented beyond measure, and take your galleys to heart then you have a better chance now of getting them published than ever. By the way, Rainbow Fish isn't socialist propaganda. I never met a socialist who enjoyed lobbing off body parts because they looked too sparkly. But that's just me.

Posted by: Fuse #8 at April 19, 2006 12:50 PM