Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Sweat the Rejections

Over the years I’ve pitched dozens of manuscripts to agents and children’s book editors. And I’ve received tons of rejection letters. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the rejections I received were encouraging: “Dear Ms. Press, I enjoyed reading your work, and think you have a great voice for the middle great market, and it is clear you really understand a kid's world and what would appeal to young readers.”  But then there’s the dreaded: “I’m sorry that we are unable to offer you representation at this time.” Or, “We regret that your manuscript does not fit our publication needs at this time.” And sometimes there’s a few helpful words: “the “doodle” approach to this sort of illustrated kid’s book is really clever—I almost felt like it could be more of a centerpiece, could drive the story forward more, where the doodles are part and parcel of the plot, etc.” But O.K. so why am I still toiling away at this business of writing? It’s simple: I get great satisfaction from putting into words the ideas that float around in my head. So maybe it’s really all about the creative process that drives me. Sure, I’d like to get published, but if it’s not in the cards today, then maybe it’ll happen tomorrow. So, file away those rejections dear writers, along with your self-doubt, and keep on writing!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Butt in Chair, etc.

by Carol Herder

I’m going to write about something I’ve come to love only recently; one of my writing processes. If you’re a writer you’ve heard the acronym BIC. It means butt in chair. And, most of the time that’s what it takes to get the job done. However, since my dog came to live with us I’ve learned another way.

When Brutus was young, he was wild. So I began walking him daily to expel some of that puppy energy. At first I had to watch the little monster every minute less he escape and get hopelessly lost, but these days he pretty much stays with me.

Our favorite place to walk is the apple orchard. It’s peaceful and allows my thoughts stray. Here, when I talk to myself only Brutus, the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and the fox that lives near the creek can hear. It doesn’t seem to bother them. The hawk that hunts the field below the orchard is bothered at times. But I don’t stay long and she soon settles back onto her favorite perch.

In the quiet of the orchard I’ve worked out tricky plot twists, contentious dialogue, and a number of scandalous scenes for my novels. This process came to me by accident, but it’s worked so well, I now SCHEDULE what I’m going to ponder during my next walk! Of course I still have to do the BIC thing afterwards.

Because of this experience I’ve learned something of great value; creativity comes in numerous forms. So here’s to whatever works! Another famous writers’ saying is “your process is your process” something I can now totally vouch for.

Busy Novelist Spaghetti

1. Giant Eagle frozen meatballs
2. Pasta (boxed or stuffed tortellini from the fridge section)
3. Prego spaghetti sauce
4. Pillsbury Italian bread in a can

Heat sauce and meatballs in pan. Heat water for pasta. Heat oven for bread. Cook and bake everything per directions; and serve!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Books I Love to Hate


posted by Andrea Perry
I guess I could more accurately have titled this little rant, "Celebrity Books that I Love to Hate," as it turns out all of my selections are from celebrity children's authors.  And I use the term 'author' loosely. I feel it is safe to say these books would never have been published if their creators had not had the whole celebrity thing going for them. Even more painful for me is the fact that some include poetry. (And yes I know that rhymes.)
Steve Martin let me down first with The Alphabet from A to Y.  What can I say about the letter I's couplet?
"Iggy's aunt Ida, indecent in undies,
 Hid icicles under her Indian uncle."
                      Or Z's?
"Zany Zeno zoomed to the end zone,
 But with a zucchini, scoring him zero."
Enough said?  Dean Koontz's Every Day's a Holiday prompted me to write a review on Amazon. It was that bad. To wit, an excerpt from "Snow Day," as to rewrite the entire poem is a waste of good blog space:
"...Lost deep in snow,
 And still more snow.
Froze my big toe.
 It had to go.
 I cut it off.
 I've got a cough.
 I just heard, dude,
We're out of food..."
And while we're busy gagging, here is "Abraham Lincoln's Birthday":
"Abe was born in a humble log cabin.
 He walked FIVE LONG MILES every day to school!
 I guess he was mentally unbalanced
 But the log cabin part sounds kinda cool."
I kept waiting for him somewhere along the line to rhyme "orange" and "door hinge!!" 
My final two chosen disasters are Party Animals by Kathie Lee Gifford, and Dirt on my Shirt by Jeff Foxworthy.  Dirt on My Shirt reads like a redneck lullaby, a stand up routine set to rhyme, while Kathie Lee's book comes with a CD where she sings the story to us! Help!  I am only heartened by the fact that when I questioned bookstore employess about Kathy Lee's book, I was told that almost everyone who saw it picked it up and paged through it, but then they all put it back.  Perhaps there's hope! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Post by Cynthia Light Brown

This month we're posting about love and things we love, in case you hadn't noticed. Here's a list of some books I LOVE. It's eclectic, as any half-decent list of books is. It's not complete; if I made a list tomorrow I'm sure I'd add a whole bunch more. And it's in no particular order.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King.
This book is so practical and so on-the-money. Use it. Love it.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

Dresden fascinates me as a character - he is hands-down a "good" guy, yet he is capable of doing awful things. And the Michael character is equally fascinating because of the way Butcher creates him as a wholly good, religious person and completely believable. Truly good characters are the hardest to create. I also love Butcher's Alera series.

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

and The Hobbit

and Lord of the Rings. I received The Hobbit as a gift in high school and was astounded and in love. Moved on to Lord of the Rings which further astounded me. If you love fantasy, you probably love these - and for me, The Hobbit no less than LOTR. It is not as involved of course, but it has a charm all its own. You can see that charm in a different and wonderful way in The Father Christmas Letters which is a collection of letters Tolkien wrote to his children every Christmas. Can you imagine being a small Tolkien receiving those? It inspired me to write letters to my own children when they were young from Father Christmas - even with illustrations.

Anything by Jane Austen. Especially Pride and Prejudice.
Her writing is amazing; the narrator is wonderful. I think I may not be the first person to notice this. And the BBC mini-series is as good as a movie version could possibly be (infinitely better than other dreadful movie versions). Austen's secondary characters are delicious. Who could desire a better character than Mister Collins?

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis.
All of the Narnia books of course. They give me hope. I put this one in simply because of Puddleglum. I do love Puddleglum. And Lewis' other fiction - including the much less well known, but wonderful Till We Have Faces. Lewis' nonfiction is another love of mine.

The Seal of Solomon by Rick Yancey.

When Alfred Kropp falls from the Devil Paimon, falls, falls, and then finally hears the voice of Saint Michael, "Speak, my beloved, and I will give thee words." I wonder if Yancey has heard those exact words.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

So many fun characters. I'm a sucker for good vs. evil. The third book has a great twist, and I love twists.

The Attolia series by Meghan Whalen Turner.
Lots of great twists. And such surprising relationships. They walk right up to the edge of not-to-be-believed...but you believe them. And love them.

Geology. I love geology. You can hold a rock in your hand - even just a pebble, and it has contained within it the story of the ages. I got a B.A. and M.S. in geology (the M.S. when I was pregnant with my second - that's how much I love it). So now I'm writing a series on the geology of our country, for kids. It's not dumbed down; if you want the latest research on theories of how and why the Columbia River Flood Basalts formed, it's right there in Geology of the Pacific Northwest by yours truly, coming May 2011, with 3 others to follow. Maybe you'll come to love geology too.


Guest Post by Christina St. Clair. Please visit her here.
This is a love story of sorts, but not the traditional boy meets girl, they get hot for one another, they eventually tumble into the bed and live happily ever after.  Such a beautiful fairytale, we all know, does not exist in real life, especially in relationships which, in order to deepen, take work, persistence, insight, and time.
So it is with the writing life, at least so it has been with mine.  Writing seemed a way I might quench a longing I couldn't even name.  When I was at my father's funeral in England, I began telling stories to my small nephews.  It seemed to me perhaps I could turn this interest in story-telling into a refreshing way of living.  How hard could it be?  I became convinced my words would be worthwhile enough for people to pay me money, enabling me to live freely, roam the world, and never again have to work in a nine-to-five job.  Success would surely come.
My first children's novels, I wrote feverishly, full of excitement.  I studied the genre, I attended workshops, I went to writers' conferences, I joined the SCBWI, I constantly read the best in children's literature.  I sent out my manuscripts time and time again.  The result was hardly any affirmation, and certainly no novels accepted for publication by major publishers.  I did get a monetary award for a YA historical fiction novel, which convinced me my novel would sell.  It did not.
Yeah, well--I can see other writers nodding their heads…
My thirst did not abate, but after twenty years of effort, I was ready to throw in the writer's towel, heartbroken at all the rejections, convinced of the utter futility of continuing.  Along came a writer friend, Eddy Pendarvis, who, like me, was a big fan of Pearl Buck's work.  It aggravated us that Buck never received sufficient acclaim for her writing achievements.  In spite of winning a Nobel Prize in literature, her work was strongly criticized by the literary establishment, and still is today.  We wanted to find ways to promote her best works, to acclaim this woman of high achievement and high principled altruism.  Doesn't that make you think of children's literature writers?  We little knew where our ideas would lead, but we wrote a children's story.
Eddy led the way.  She knew a Chinese scholar, Berlin Fang, who'd helped translate Peter Conn's Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography into Chinese.  Berlin suggested we send our work to the Chinese publisher.  It seemed an unlikely hope, but we gave it a try.  We were offered a contract to complete the work: no royalty agreements, no definite yes to publication, merely an agreement the book might be something this publisher could use if we got it to them on time in the length they wanted.  No money, friends said, for all that work.  Don't do it!  When you have hardly made a penny for your work for years, it didn't seem a big deal to decide we weren't in this for the big bucks, but for the Buck book (forgive the pun).  We had nothing to lose.
While we sipped tea at Tim Horton's, we talked about what to write, nurturing each other's suggestions, eventually coming up with twenty chapter ideas.  A lot of reading and research ensued.  If ever I love to do something, it is looking up facts, and letting them blossom into who knows what.  It was pure nectar following leads, trying to get facts straight, writing something tailored for Chinese students.
Our deadline loomed: we met in Hillsboro, WV, where Pearl S. Buck was born, to participate in the Pearl S. Buck International Writers' Conference.  Eddy orchestrated our participation, and Eddy insisted I come along.  What a good friend!  Others too ( Kitty Griffin, Marie Manilla, Laura Bentley, Philip St. Clair, Kathy Combs, Jim Gifford, Susan Caldwell to name a few), have turned my writing life from arid desert to crystal waters.  Eddy had obligations to fulfill at the event, but in between, we worked feverishly, putting our chapters together, smoothing out the writing, trying to get rid of the overlapping ideas we'd both used.  As I recall, at the end of the evening before we retired to our tiny room in a B & B, we sipped on fruit wine (Yes, Kathy, I am still drinking wine).
Eddy fed our completed chapters to Berlin who, with great mastery of both languages, translated them into Chinese.  We agreed on a three-way split of royalties.
Before long, we sent the best version we could manage to the publisherIt seemed to take forever, but eventually a contract arrived.  We signed it.  The book we co-authored, Between Two Worlds: a Biography of Pearl S. Buck, was eventually released by the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press in China as an English/Chinese reader.
The published book, beautifully illustrated on good stock, filled us with satisfaction.  We three (two writers and one translator) received royalty checks for about $200 each--not a huge sum, but a reminder of the power of friendship, persistence, connectedness.  For me, as well, this book gave hope for other writing projects.
My urge to write had definitely been encouraged.  I rewrote, reformatted, revised and sent out tighter versions of two young adult novels.  I gave up worrying about the outcome, I stopped needing anyone to tell me my work was good enough, and I accepted whatever happened.  At last, two publishers offered me contracts.  Instead of Harper Collins or Holt (do they even exist anymore?), my books got taken on by Bloodmoon and Rogue Phoenix.
The big publishers didn't want my novels, which certainly humbled me, but these e-publishers with funky names said yes.  At first, I felt despondent:  Blood moon, I muttered to myself, Rogue PhoenixBut, you know, it's been a wonderful experience.  The editor and publisher, Christine Young (RoguePhoenix), has given me insightful suggestions greatly improving my historical fiction novel.  Marlene Satter (aka Lee Barwood), my editor at Bloodmoon, whose supernatural novels inspire me, is a psychic soul mate.  Her book, Some Cost a Passing Bell, available on Amazon, is a book about mystical gifts used for love of Mother Earth.
I believe I can hear the universe chuckling.  I am laughing too, no longer concerned about money or recognition, simply enjoying the process, whether good and bad, for no doubt I have become a better writer, and hopefully I am a deeper person.  I feel as if I am drinking sweet water from a freshly dug well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine in the Era of E-Books

by Susan Chapek

With apologies to Fred Rogers

It's words I love.

It's not the book I read,

It's not the electronic feed,

But it's words I love.

It's words all by themselves,

The magic there inside them—

Not the things that hide them,

Not the books—

Books are just outside them.

But it's words I love—

Their shape and sound and rhythm,

The stories they bring with them

Whether old or new.

On Kindle or on Nook,

On a compact disc or in a book—

It's words I love,

The words themselves,

It's words, it's words I love.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cupid Energized

by Marcy Collier

Did you ever meet or work with a group of creative like-minded people? If so, how has that left you feeling? Energized? Recharged? Think back. Maybe at a conference, writer’s weekend or perhaps getting together with your critique group? After meeting with writers like yourself, did you go back to work on your manuscript with renewed energy?
I know I always do.

I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the Route 19 Writers blog. Each one of these ladies and gentleman (I can’t forget you, Dave) bring a variety of assets to our blog. Some are super detail-oriented, others are organized, many can always find the precise word that fits and some tell stories that are fall over funny. When we brainstorm together, a small snowflake of an idea often turns into a snowball as we each give our input. That sense of excitement when I talk with other creative minds drives me to push forward on my own writing.

Since we are well into the month of February, I encourage all of our readers to find a way to recharge your writing, whether it’s going to a conference, meeting other writers in your area or joining a critique group. I encourage you to post and share your story with us. If everyone adds one small snowflake of advice, together our ideas will snowball into an avalanche of creative energy.

And to help recharge your writing, here’s a recipe for a healthy green smoothie energy drink that will definitely give you the boost you need to finish your manuscript.

Writer’s Green Smoothie

Writer's Green Smoothie

1 bunch green kale
Handful of spinach
1 teaspoon of ground flax
1 banana
1 apple
Handful of blueberries
1 cup of ice

Blend until smooth and enjoy!

I am a super picky eater. If you can get past how “green” the smoothie looks, you’ll love the taste. The fruit, especially the banana is what I taste when I drink a green smoothie.

To learn more about the health benefits of flax and kale, please visit the following websites. Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Technology... Love to hate it... Or hate to love it?

Posted by Dave Amaditz

New technology is something I'm very ambivalent about using on a day-to-day basis. It's not that I'm a technophobe, but most of the time I get so comfortable in my normal routine that I hate to waste my energy learning  the latest, greatest thing. Or, as with texting, I simply fail to see how pushing a bunch of buttons is the best or easiest way to let someone know how you feel or what you plan to do. Why not just pick up the telephone and talk in person? I accept though, that it is a part of life and one that won't soon change.
However, there is one piece of modern technology I love. It benefits me any time I use the computer, especially when I write. My voice activation software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Before I purchased the software, my hunt and peck typing directly impacted the quality of my writing. Because of my spinal cord injury, the functioning muscles in my upper body were overstressed. I was constantly sore, and often struggled with tension headaches... Not a scenario conducive to good writing.
Also, my train of thought was too often interrupted as I searched to find the right keys. The perfect lines I heard in my head never made it onto paper. Ideas were lost, and time wasted staring at the computer screen trying to recover one thread of thought.
So, close to 10 years ago I took a trip to the local computer store, dropped 100 bucks on the software, which promised accuracy between 80 and 85 words per minute, and got to work. Not once have I regretted the decision.
About 10 minutes after installing the software, I was working on a Word document. At first, speaking my story into the computer was somewhat odd, having to say the word "comma" or "period" or "question mark" instead of typing them. Verbalizing my thoughts instead of transferring them directly onto the written page was strange as well. With the built-in training system, I taught the software new words, simply by spelling unrecognized proper or unusual names.
I've learned to love the technology. I've come to depend upon it.
Here's what I love about the software ...
No more soreness. (In my back, my shoulders, or my neck)
No more tension headaches.
No more losing my train of thought (age-related, maybe, but not because I'm a slow typist.)
Seeing words appear on paper almost as quickly as they come into my head.
The ability to hear each sentence of my story, each paragraph, each line of dialogue read out loud from my first draft to my last.

Obviously, using the software's been well worth it for me, but even if you're not as bad at typing as I am, I think you could benefit from using the software too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

John Green and the Barometer of Truth

by Jenny Ramaley

New York Times bestselling YA author John Green came to Pittsburgh last Friday, Jan. 28, courtesy of the Black, White & Read All Over program.* In case you need a memory jog, John won a Printz award with his first novel Looking for Alaska. His other teen novels have also won a slew of awards and include An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns and his latest, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. His presentation was funny, interesting, self-deprecating, and covered a wide-range of topics from world history and current events.
          But the most fascinating aspect of the evening was the audience.
          Of the almost-sold-out 612 seat Carnegie Lecture Hall, I'd say 90% of the crowd was teens and young adults – equally mixed between male and female. The multi-cultural group sported color-streaked hair, skinny jeans, and even a few girls wearing headscarves. Ah, the positive energy of youth.
          After a clever musical opening act, a duo who wrote songs based on scenes from John's books, John Green hit the stage to the kind of thunderous applause usually reserved for rock stars.
          Why do teens love this guy? Partly because they love his BLOG!  Sure, they obviously enjoy his books, but the big draw stems from their devoted attachment to his website  www.nerdfighters.com , with its dedicated community of world-aware teens who he charges with "raising nerdy to the power of awesome." During the Q&A session, almost every question from the teens focused on the blog, while every question from the 10% remaining 'mature' audience members centered on his books and the YA publishing world.
          While some kidlit author websites and blogs are aimed at adults, John Green's is not. The Nerdfighter website welcomes teens' thoughts, videos, and drawings, and encourages respectful disagreements. John Green and his brother have built a site where intelligent, artistic kids can meet and chat with other smart kids who share similar, sometimes quirky interests. The site and John Green's video rants employ a 'Barometer of Truth' approach because John respects youth's ability to see through less-than-honest information.
          In addition to being a touchstone for young people, Nerdfighters is also a perfect example of how an appealing website can differentiate an author from zillions of other writers and wannabes. The fortunate byproduct is that John Green has built a receptive audience for every new book he publishes.

*Now celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Black, White & Read All Over brings families and young readers together to meet the award-winning authors they love and share their stories (although the only parents I saw the night of John's lecture were dropping their teens off at the door.) Black, White & Read All Over is presented by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures in partnership with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh with the generous support of UPMC Health Plan.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

One more thing I love: Kitty and her wonderful book!

Fellow Route 19 contributor, Kitty Griffin, is a fabulous writer. (And an even more wonderful person, though that may be hard to believe if you are familiar with her books). And I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that she's had some good news recently about her latest picture book, The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy, gorgeously illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. It was selected as a Notable Book by a committee of reviewers from the National Council of Social Studies and the Children's Book Council! Here are the selection criteria:
"The selection committee looks for books that emphasize human relations, represent a diversity of groups and are sensitive to a broad range of cultural experiences, present an original theme or a fresh slant on a traditional topic, are easily readable and of high literary quality, and have a pleasing format and, when appropriate, illustrations that enrich the text."
A very good description of Kitty's book - but if you want to read further about it, check out the spot-on review on this library review blog. (I love this blog by Tasha Saecker at the Menasha Public Library - it's always a good place for me to get recommendations about new titles to read and buy).

One last thing: one of the things I like best about Kitty is her work ethic and determination. I'm not sure there is anyone around who works harder than she does. Like Betsy Dowdy, the heroine in her book, she is undaunted by obstacles and finds her own way to make save the day. Criticism? Rejection? Insanely tough market? She never gives up. She doesn't cry. Or throw tantrums. Or curl up in a little ball. Which are what I usually feel like doing. She just redoubles her efforts and tries again, making her work better and stronger. Something to remember.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love at First Write: The Writing Book That Saves My Soul (Or at Least My Manuscripts)

I am a big fan of books on writing generally, and I've read a good many that have shaped my skills and nudged me up another step. But the book I find myself returning to over and over (and giving away over and over) is this one: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. (I have in fact given my personal copy away so many times - and then really missed it and had to run out and buy and mark up a new one - that I finally did something that would make me hold onto my copy. Well two things, really. First, I grabbed a chance to hear Anne Lamott speak and got her to autograph my copy...
...and then I went to the bookstore and bought a stash of extras, so I'd always have a copy to give away when the urge hit me.

So why, you might ask, do I love this book so much? One reason is Anne's attitude, which is gentle, honest, encouraging. (Side note: I cannot help calling her Anne. Even though our acquaintance is limited to the 10 seconds I spent stammering Ireallyadmireyourbooksespeciallythisone, when it was my turn to get an autograph. She did give me a nice smile despite my rapid-fire blathering and didn't call security to have me removed as a stalker. That makes us buds, right?) Every time I read this book I emerge from its pages feeling like, yeah, maybe I can do this writing thing after all. Especially if Anne in the form of this book will sit right next to me, offering her quiet patience and acceptance.

But the other reason I love it is the content. It's beautifully written, of course, with a real voice that's rare in how-to books, so it goes down easily - but it's the reminders about how and why that I turn to when I'm stuck on my novel, a 400-word picture book manuscript or even a sympathy note about someone I barely knew.

For example, one of the first chapters is titled with a two word life line that's my mantra when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the enormous whiteness of a blank piece of paper or a new document: Short Assignments. Anne writes that she keeps a one-inch picture frame by her computer to remind herself to focus on one small, manageable task - a paragraph, a sentence - when the thought of a 350-page book makes her freak out. She describes this particular kind of terror in a way that makes me laugh, but which is also oh-so-familiar:
Trying to write a whole book "is like trying to scale a glacier. It's hard to get your footing, and your fingertips get all red and frozen and torn up. Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back."  
I used to have a cute tiny vintage picture frame by my computer too, but then one day when I needed a last minute gift, I nabbed it to hold a piece of tiny artwork. (Guess I need to lay in a stash of small frames along with my Bird by Birds...) Meanwhile, though, the one inch square I cut out of an old library card catalog card does the trick just fine. And I like how the card has an even tinier peephole in it - because sometimes even a one-inch square assignment is too overwhelming for me. Sometimes all I can manage is one word or one lightly sketched line.

This chapter is also the one that contains the story that lends the book its title. Once when her ten-year-old brother had procrastinated on a science report until he was sitting frozen at his desk the night before it was due, unable to write even one word, her father put his hand on the boy's shoulder and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

The next chapter is also a favorite of mine - and another much repeated mantra. Though I'm not as good at following the advice:

The other content, though, that I reread endlessly, is the last section of the book on the why of writing. It's good for me to remember that publication is not the only or even the best reason to write. This section offers all kinds of other ways to be satisfied writing - even without an official seal of approval from a publisher. The advice that opens this chapter is particularly worth remembering.

I will leave you with one more thing -  a Short Assignment, a mini exercise, if you feel like undertaking it. I found a scrap of paper in my copy when I grabbed it to photograph. There was one word written on it:

Nosocomial I have absolutely no idea why I wrote that on a scrap of paper and no idea either how or why it ended up as a bookmark in here. It's a medical term, from the Latin, meaning "acquired in a hospital" - like a secondary infection you pick up while you're recovering from surgery, although I guess it could also refer to the slipper socks you sometimes get to take home as a souvenir. "These? Oh, these are just my nosocomial socks." Anyway, your assignment is to write a "3-minute fiction" piece (like the ones for this cool recurring NPR writing contest) using the word. Oh, and you have to put in a parrot too. You know, for the bird thing. And a chickadee. You can post a comment here and link back to your piece. Have fun!