Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Achievement Unlocked: Omi and Lulu
Last year, my good friend and publisher and cheerleader, A.N. Ommus of Evil Eye Books / Earwig Press / IndiePulp fame (he's a busy man, is Mr. Ommus) woke me up in the middle of the night with one of those crazy Twitter direct messages that wound up seriously changing my life for the next, oh, call it 18 months.
Boy did he have an idea for me.
The whole story of this project is over at the website from which I snatched a piece of beautiful artwork to decorate this post. Would I like to collaborate with two little girls with the biggest imaginations, maybe ever, on a picture book in verse? All about the amazing friendship between an orca (Omi) and a hare (Lulu)?
"Would I ever!" is what I told him, little knowing what I was getting into. I mentioned that my co-creators, Suki Sparkles and Zoe Zinger, have big imaginations? Well, they also have a mighty big story to tell, spanning ocean waves, island shores and vast and magical undersea cities, and involving a cast of equally diverse characters. And it has a moral, too, this giant story of friendship and faithfulness and honesty and trust.
My job was to take all of that imagination and set it into a short, intense burst of poetry.
It's been quite a challenge. I've never written for children before, for one, and while I'm quite at home with writing epic poetry, that's not quite the thing for littles, is it?
So yes, this gave me an excuse to go back to the greats for inspiration and advice. Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein and even Richard Scarry (I once named a car of mine, sadly no longer with us, the Gherkinauto after the pickle car in a German edition of one of his books that some friends of mine found in a second-hand shop in Montreal. He IS inspiration).
And then I had to find a rhythm. A meter. A rhyme scheme.
There are many drafts that just didn't work. And my mother and closest friends can attest to how I have wailed and despaired and said I never wanted to write poetry again.
And editing poetry, especially narrative poetry, is really hard to do. I'm sure Ommus and Suki and Zoe will soon be agreeing with this observation.
Because as of Saturday, it's in their hands.
I'm still in recovery from the effort, and there's still plenty to be done. I am sure what I sent off is not the final draft. I have a feeling Suki and Zoe are going to be very exacting critics, because it's always hard to please the puritanical partisans of the original form of an artwork when their baby gets adapted to another medium: in this case, from hastily scribbled notes from a pizza parlor into a bunch of six-line stanzas of iambic octameter (a meter that seems rather uncommon in English poetry, but which just felt right for this; the lines, when they finally came out in a form that I recognized as Omi and Lulu at long last, came out quite breathlessly, the way two little girls who are very excited might sound when telling a story).
And I might even have to change the meter or something. My partners might think there are still too many words to distract everybody from the beautiful artwork, because this is, after all, a picture book. I'm just the boring old lady standing next to the screen explaining the slides and clicking through them.
We shall see.
At any rate, now that I have this Achievement more or less Unlocked, I can at last turn my attention and energy to some projects that have hung fire for a while as I've struggled with this.
This blog is going to change a bit. I fully intend to continue my weird form of personal experience-centered cultural reportage, my book reviews and presentations of snippets of other stuff I find worthwhile and ridiculous things like this monster that Puttin' the Blog in Balrog has become.
But I'm also going to talk about writing. My writing. Because I'm excited to get going with stuff that is just mine (or, in some cases, that has come out of other collaborations, about which more below). People often ask me how this or that is going, and I've basically just umm'd and errr'd and muttered about orcas and hares.
I've got other stuff, though. Cool stuff. Weird westerns: some of you know that for the last two years ago there has been this little thing that was originally called Gospel of the Godless Stars but then was shortened to just Godless, that I've been writing with Adam Christopher. Oh, did we have fun with that, taking turns writing chapters and chortling over plot developments via Skype (he lives in the UK, I live in Wyoming, but we both live in the future!). We probably nauseated you all on Twitter, gushing over each other's chapters. What a romp!
You may also have seen that his career took off right in the midst of our getting a first draft together. He has an agent now and a three-book deal with Angry Robot and more on the offing that it's not my place to tell you about but can assure you is every bit as awesome as Empire State and Seven Wonders. Meanwhile, Godless had to go on the back burner, then got moved off the stove, and then put in Tupperware and shoved in the refrigerator. Timing, man, it's a hell of a thing.
Anyway, as anyone who pays attention to Adam knows, he's got a corkboard full of his own projects to do and an agent who is basically telling him to do them all NOW. And so he has turned Godless over to me. And the first thing I'm doing with it is restoring its old title. And the next thing I'm doing is finishing that first draft. And the next thing I'm doing is a second draft to smooth the rough edges, what few of them there are, because it turns out our prose styles, when we're both invoking H.P. Lovecraft in the Wild West, mesh pretty well!
So that's one!
And for another, there's Pepito Mojito, the Interstellar Feller, which began life as a sonnet serial space opera farce about a clueless kidnapped cabana boy and a pulchitudinous pirate cyborg queen's adventures in outer space. It still exists in that form over at Suppertime Sonnets (the entry at the top is the last; you have to scroll way down and way back to start from the beginning), but also exists as several cantos of an epic poem in ottava rima. There will be a few cantos more, and then I want to get together with an illustrator to release it as a crazy cool chapbook of some kind.
And then there's this insane cryptid soap opera I've been writing with another Cheyenne author, Colin Stricklin. We started that last year for NaNoWriMo and then had to let it go for a while because, among other things, Omi and Lulu happened.
And then there's the series of pulp fantasy novellas that Jennifer Williams (my partner over at the Shouty Men in Shiny Armour blog) inspired/dared me to do.
And some more epic poetry.
And some other stuff that I'm not allowed to tell you about, that I've been working on since 2008 in one form or another and is reaching its latest plateau of completion and has me right out of my mind with excitement.
But that would be telling.
Anyway, who can recommend me a good word count widget for project tracking in Blogger? Stuff like that kept Adam honest, and look at all the things he has finished!