Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark was the last city on our Scandinavian trip.

This is Ny Haven (New Harbor) though it's actually quite old. It's the touristy section of Copenhagen and the place where we boarded a tour boat to see the rest of the city.

1-Nyhaven 2

One of the palaces

2- Copenhagen

I think this is the new theater

3- Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid statue as seen from the tour boat
4- Copenhagen

One of the most upscale neighborhoods in Copenhagen
6- Copenhagen

A bicycle parking lot near a subway stop. Bikes are super popular in Denmark. Almost no one wears a helmet, everyone wears normal clothes (to include skirts) and there are separate bike lanes on all the busy streets.
11- Copenhagen

An older part of the city
16- Copenhagen

The Library in Århus, Denmark

I love visiting libraries in other cities. Here's the Århus library in Denmark.
22- Libary

The teen/YA section


The picture book section
24- Library 6

The middle grade/ elementary school fiction section

25- Library

A play area in a loft above the kids' section
26- Library 11

The multimedia area in the kids' section
27- Library

After I took this picture two kids came and played a video game on this giant screen.

28- Library

There was a separate room off of the middle grade fiction section filled with fantasy and sci-fi books for kids and teens.
29- Library

This is the doorway and other wall of the fantasy room.30- Library

Harry Potter in Danish

Library 13

Highlights Workshop

In March I was lucky enough to go to the Whole Novel Revision Workshop at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania.  I got excellent feedback on my novel, listened to helpful writing lectures, read my classmates work and gave feedback, wrote in my cabin, chatted books and writing with others, and ate fabulous food.  What a fantastic seven days! Here are a few pictures:

The Whole Novel Revision Group

The whole group of students and teachers

The main building where we worked and ate

Me and a few classmates having appetizers before dinner in the main building

I loved the cute cabins we stayed in.  In my ideal fantasy life I'd have my own cabin (and so would each of my friends and family) and then we see each other several times a day in the main building for classes and meals!

Inside my cabin.  There are 2 beds but I had the cabin to myself.  It was wonderful having a cabin to myself and having my laptop and Internet.  Home is where my laptop and Internet are!

Rowena Eureka Goes To New York

Life – I went to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in New York City a couple weeks ago. Since the conference I've struggled with a flood of writing assignments, plus I got some wicked cold virus that came with its own fever, chills, and sweats.  I've finally finished my writing assignments and am starting to feel healthier too.  Yay! (PS- I'm taking an excellent online writing course right now.)

 The SCBWI Official Conference Blog has good summaries of the entire conference so I'm going to link to it (and a couple other sources) to list my favorite parts:

* Cheryl Klein, an executive editor at Scholastic, gave an excellent hour-long crash course on how to revise your novel.  Her blog and plot checklist will give you a good start on revising.  Now I want to read her book on revision because the hour went too fast for me.

* Katherine Erskine's speech on how to focus on writing was full of concrete ways to nurture creativity and make sure that turns into actual writing. 

* Jennifer Laughran was my favorite agent to speak at the conference.  Not only does she know the book world inside and out, she's funny too, and sharp, and she has her own blog.

*I got to meet and talk to my regional advisers –Edie Hemingway and Lois Szymanski– and was struck by not only how truly kind both of them are, but also how much writing and publishing experience they each have.  

*I went to the extra evening LGBTQ session as a spur of the moment decision and was glad I went.  It was a refreshingly fun and honest session, full of:  good writing information, friendly people, and a list of new books I now want to read.

* I was surprised how much I liked Cassandra Clare's speech about forbidden love and how to create satisfying love triangles.  It was partly because she used shows like: Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, and Felicity as examples, but I also liked her speech because she made a lot of good points. 

Clare explained that to have a real love triangle, as opposed to a love "V", all three parties have to have a relationship and connection with each other. She used the TV show, Felicity, as an example of a love "V" because the two guys Felicity likes– Ben and Noel– have no real relationship or connection to each other.  Her example of a true love triangle was from the TV show, The Vampire Diaries.  The fact that Damon and Stefan are brothers makes their love triangle with Elena all the more interesting because the audience cares about their relationship as much as they care about Elena and Stefan or Elena and Damon.

After Clare's speech, the SCBWI Co-President Lin Oliver pointed out that if you are writing Middle Grade fiction, you can use Clare's points on love triangles by exchanging the word love or romance for friendship.

July 2010 In Brief, Part 2

Road Trip – My son and I cruised along Midwestern highways on a 12-hour drive to Lake Michigan, squeezing in plenty of teen driving practice, and passing by a few colleges along the way. I made a road trip playlist of music we both liked: The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Violent Femmes, Rage Against the Machine, and the Dr. Horrible Soundtrack, brought lots of gluten-free snacks, and together we sped through the Midwest loving that 70mph Michigan speed limit.

The Lake Michigan Cousin-palooza– About 50 relatives trekked in from all over the country to my aunt and uncle’s beautiful lakeside house for the Fourth of July.  We chatted, talked, conversed, and caught up on all the news while cooking, eating, and building sand castles.  Every evening at sunset we’d crowd on their deck and watch the sun melt orange and pink stripes onto the water.  No wonder we all keep coming back.

Fiction Books Finished:
Feed, by M.T. Anderson (*** 1/2) –  [2002] Titus and his friends are living in the last years of a dying empire where teenagers have a commercial TV and internet system called "The Feed" playing right in their heads.   During a spring break vacation to the moon, Titus meets home-schooled Violet.   When the two of them have their feeds hacked at a nightclub, Titus begins to look on his carefree life differently.  M.T. Anderson creates a vivid futuristic world with its own addictively real teen speak.  It’s a book that was ahead of its time and worth checking out. [YA Science Fiction, for ages 14 and up]

The Next Best Thing to Having the Super Power of Speed Reading:
When my to-read list hit the 100 book mark, I finally faced up to the truth: I read painfully slow. If I can’t have the power of speed reading, listening to audiobooks is the next best thing. There’s a wide selection available, they make my house work more pleasant, and I’m able to "read" at least an extra book a month now.

Audiobooks Finished:
Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery, by Peter Abrahams (***) – is an average, but entertaining, YA murder mystery.  Mandy Siegfried, the narrator of the audiobook, is especially good at teen dialog and really made the book come alive for me. [YA mystery, for ages 10 and up]

A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban (*** 1/2) – is a sweet, satisfying book about an 11-year-old girl who dreams of playing classical piano in Carnegie Hall, but instead ends up playing the electric organ that her quirky agoraphobic dad bought her. This is a quiet sweet book about coming of age in an eccentric family.   [Middle grade realistic fiction, for ages 9-12 years old]

Non-Fiction Books Finished:
Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action), by Amanda Marcotte (***) – Amanda Marcotte at is one of my favorite bloggers. Since she’s blunt, funny, and raised in Texas, calling her a young Molly Ivins is a somewhat apt description, though she’s more into pop culture than Ivins.  Her book is a quick breezy guide of everything progressive from eating local foods to why giving to Planned Parenthood is such an excellent cause.  She even has advice on how to talk to your climate-change denying relatives.  

My favorite part is the beginning descriptions of each type of political person one finds on the Internet: Manic Pixie Dream Girl Liberal Chic, Less Fun Feminist Liberal Chicks, Liberal Dudes, Liberal Dudes Who Scold Feminists About "Important" Issues, Country Club Republicans, Rush Limbaugh Impotents, Your Mom The Swing Voter, etc.  She manages to both accurately sum up and amusingly mock the values of each and every one, including her own category. 

Our Inner Ape, by Frans De Waahl (****) – A fascinating book that explores the social patterns of our two closest relatives– the chimpanzees and the bonobos– and looks at what we can learn about humans from the studies of primates. One of the most interesting finds– for me– was how primate researchers are discovering that social patterns and habits are more environmentally constructed than instinctual. When the primate environment changes, many characteristics like aggression, sexual relations, and social structure change too.

Better Off Ted – This workplace satire never got the attention it deserved.  Netflix instant now has both 13-episode seasons.  So if you’re in the need for something fun, check it out. It took me about 3-4 episodes before I knew the characters well enough to enjoy the show.  After that, I laughed and laughed. [Watched on Netflix Instant]

Doctor Who (season 5) – I thoroughly enjoyed the new doctor and his companion Amy Pond.  The season had a good plot arc with a satisfying finale. [Watched on BBC America, also available on iTunes]

The Guild  (season 1,2,3) –  Felicia Day (Penny from Dr. Horrible) wrote this amusing story about a World-of-Warcraft-type guild who end up meeting each other in person.  Evidently Felicia Day played a lot of World-of-Warcraft between acting gigs and it shows. Her characters both pay homage to and playfully mock  a lot of the gaming stereotypes: the micromanaging guild leader, the guy who misinterprets banter with any female characters as flirting, the gamer trying to escape life, etc. It’s a fun series for anyone into gaming or anyone who lives with a gamer.  [The series started out as web-episodes and is now available on Netflix Instant.]

July & August 2007: Inbrief

Quote of the Month:

“Being me is a full-time job and I’ve never missed a day.”
Stephen Colbert (June 27, 2007)



July SCBWI Conference in Westminster

Bought an mp3 player- Wow! It’s like living in a movie montage: Rowena walking to the store, Rowena cleaning the house, Rowena riding metro.  

L.A. Trip:

-August SCBWI Conference in L.A. w/ ZQ & Laura

-Hanging out w/ ZQ

-Hanging out w/ Ladytiamat

-Meta’s Uno Party

-Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier

-Celebrity Sighting: Enrico Colantoni  (aka Keith Mars) crossing the street to the Celebrity Scientology Center for their annual festival with what looked like his wife and two young daughters. 

-Tons of good food

-A whole relaxing week of books, writing, & TV talk, games, music, and fun

The new school year starts. Yay!


Books Finished:

*** ½ New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer

****    ZQ’s WIP (reread)

****    Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling


 Comics & Graphic Novels:

***      Buffy, season 8 comics, issues 1-3

*** ½ The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg


Movies Seen:

***       Stranger Than Fiction

****    Pan’s Labyrinth

****    Freedom Writers

****    Why We Fight

*** ½ The Devil Wears Prada (Meryl Streep was the highlight of this movie, for me.)


Music I Listened To:

Fall Out Boy: From Under the Cork Tree *** ½   & Infinity on High ****

Frou Frou: Details *** ½

Imogen Heap: Speak For Yourself **** & I, Megaphone ****

Charlotte Martin: Veins *** ½

Paramore: Riot! *** ½

Emiliana Torrini: Fisherman’s Woman *** ½


Sub Jobs:

1 day- computer lab (1st week of school)


TV Watched:

****    Big Love, current season

****    Daily Show, current season

***     Entourage, current season

****   Monk, Season 1 (in French or Spanish w/ English Subtitles)

New York City Trip

I’ve been meaning to post a summary of my New York trip for two weeks now.  Unfortunately sinus infections and allergies are my own special kryptonite and just reading blogs or following TV is difficult, never mind trying to put thoughts together on paper.  Argh!  Stupid hyperactive immune system.


Anyway, the daughterling and I went to New York City during her Spring Break. Thanks to 10-day forecasts we knew the weather was going to be rainy and winter cold. There were even snow flurries each morning, but we were prepared with rainproof winter jackets, umbrellas, hats, and gloves.  We happily walked down 6th avenue hand in hand from Penn Station in the cold rain towards our hotel.


The theme to this year’s trip seemed to be books and TV.  We ate at Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights (the outside is shown in Seinfeld), walked passed the apartment block in Greenwich Village that’s shown in Friends, and visited several sites from the book, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City.  We also saw the play, Wicked, and went on another Tenement Museum Tour.


Being planners, we combed through New York City guides and novels to decide what we wanted to see at home and then decorated our laminated map with dozens of tiny stickers showing exactly where each site was located. 




Wicked– It had all the elements of a successful musical: clever catchy songs, eye-popping sets, and fun dance numbers, but Wicked is surprisingly complex and meaty for a musical. It not only offers a completely different view of the Wizard of Oz, but also delves into the complexity of female friendships, how the press decides who’s good and who’s evil, government propaganda, dealing with prejudice, and the difficulty of being a smart quirky girl.  We loved it. Now I’m reading the book.


Tom’s Restaurant – in Morningside Heights at 112th Street looks just like the shots in Seinfeld on the outside. Inside, it looks most like the first season of Seinfeld, where the booths were brown and the wallpaper a tan color, rather than the bright, roomy white floored inside of the diner scenes in later Seinfeld episodes.  There is a signed picture of the cast over the cash register and a brief description in the menu of how the diner is well known from Suzanne Vega’s song and then Seinfeld, but the diner itself is low-key and untouristy with good inexpensive diner food. The Bank Street College bookstore, chocked full of teaching guides and children’s books, is across the street.  We spent a happy hour there too.


Lower East Side Tenement Museum– Probably my favorite museum.  This year we went on the Confino Family tour.  An intern took our group of 16 into the basement of the tenement house.  We were given the details of the Confino Family, a Sephardic Jewish family that were forced to leave Turkey in 1912 due to war and ethnic cleansing.  The intern had us pretend to be an immigrant family from 1912.  Since a large part of our group was a real 2007 British family, we decided to pretend to be British.  We were then led upstairs to the Confino family apartment.  An actress playing the Confino’s 14 year old daughter,Victoria, greeted us.  We squeezed into the tiny 3-room apartment that she shared with her 10-member family. (They were out working).  She advised us on how to start our new life on the Lower East Side and answered our questions about her life.


The actress stayed in character so well I really believed I’d been transported back to 1912.  The daughterling had a different reaction.  She spent the entire time wondering about this actress’s life.  Did she think about the character when she wasn’t working?  How did she acquire her accent?  Did she study Laredo (the Spanish-Hebrew dialect spoken by Jews in Turkey and Greece)?   


Ellen’s Stardust Diner – It’s designed to look like an old-fashioned red streetcar on the outside.  The inside is covered in fifties murals and memorabilia.  The wait staff, wearing poodle skirts or gas station outfits, all have names like “Pinky” and “Gus”.  In-between serving burgers, fries, and malts they sing karaoke and dance.  We had fries and pie while we watched the wait staff perform “Downtown”, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “A Whole New World.”


Chinatown – We wandered through Chinatown past fish markets and sidewalk fruit stands. The main streets of Chinatown were loaded with tourists checking out cheap t-shirts, but the tiny winding side roads, where key scenes of Kiki Strike had taken place, were almost empty.  It was cold outside so ducking into the tiny Vegetarian Dim Sum Restaurant was toasty warm. Turns out we’re really not adventurous enough vegetarians to appreciate Vegetarian Dim Sum.  We ended up having vegetable stir-fry instead.


Velselka’s – We subway-ed to the East Village to visit the Marble Cemeteries from Kiki Strike.  Along the way we stopped at Velselka’s, a Ukrainian Diner, which serves delicious raspberry blintzes and had me wishing I’d skipped the vegetable stir-fry so I’d have room for their varied vegetarian choices. Velselka’s is featured in a key scene in the book, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist—of course I had to check out the bathroom that plays a role in that scene.  The daughterling hadn’t read Nick and Norah, but Velselka’s fit in nicely to our Kiki Strike theme since Kiki’s guardian, Veruska, made the girls cherry blintzes after their Underground City Adventures.


The Scholastic Bookstore– in Soho is one dangerously tempting large room of every novel, picture book, toy, and teacher guide Scholastic has published. We spent an hour here just looking and reading.


Greenwich Village– We walked down Cornelia Street and found the seven hidden houses mentioned in Kiki Strike, then walked past the apartment block that’s always shown in Friends.  There was a huge walking tour group standing in front of it so it was easy to find.