The Critic Rocks the Ozarks

Let’s see, how many trips and writing conferences can I cram into the last month before NaNoWriMo?

If you guessed “at least three and two, respectively,” then congratulations! You win a prize!


You get a beer!

The first weekend of October was my 10-year high school reunion, which was held in a haunted conference center out in BFE. (I did not actually find out that the conference center was haunted until that evening, when a friend of mine who used to work there told me all the stories. I was alternately freaked and sad that we didn’t get to do a ghost tour.)

It was wonderful to see so many people I hadn’t seen since graduation and see a few more I’d only met through Facebook pictures. Even though it had been a decade, there were times it felt like we’d just been gone for a long weekend and were back at school again.

To my knowledge, none of my classmates became hitmen, and I don’t think we had to foil any assassination attempts or hide bodies at the high school.

Oh well. There’s always the 15-year.

This past weekend, I headed over to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for the Ozark Creative Writers Conference (along with a few other people). It’s a relatively inexpensive, small conference that nevertheless manages to get some great editors, agents, and writers as speakers. Plus, Eureka Springs is a great little tourist town with some excellent shopping, restaurants, and sightseeing.

This year, the featured speakers were Cherry Weiner, a literary agent, and Daniela Rapp, an editor with St. Martin’s. They had a lot of fantastic information, and listening to the two of them together was absolutely HYSTERICAL. (Seriously, I would pay money to watch The Cherry & Daniela Show on a regular basis.)

OCW is also the contest I entered back in August. Two of my stories placed: “Benny’s Bedtime Adventure,” which won second place at the Tulsa Library contest earlier this year, got second honorable mention in its category, and “Don’t Tell” got third honorable mention.

Lissa also placed twice, with her poem “Tanka 42” taking second honorable mention and another poem, “Dragonfly,” taking second place in the nature poetry category.



If you’re in this part of the country and you’re looking for a conference that isn’t going to make your bank account scream in agony, OCW and OWFI (which is Oklahoma City every May) both give you some great bang for your buck.

My big “it’s not really a #WriteMotivation goal-check month but oh well I’m going to set one anyway” goal for this month was getting my Buzz articles finished as early as possible.

Because of travel, I didn’t get them done by October 13, as I’d hoped, but I got them all finished and submitted by October 16, which is just three days off. That still works, right?


More beer!

Now I get a breather from that for a week while I work on other stuff. Like editing. And NaNo plotting. And finishing up the 8 billion reviews I have sitting on my computer. (I actually have a Word doc called “Holy Shit Reviews.” No, I am not kidding.)

Meanwhile, I’ve got my sister-in-law’s baby shower this weekend and the Nimrod conference at the University of Tulsa the weekend after, as well as a pre-NaNo plotting session (which should be a ton of fun!).

And then it’s November!


Now it’s a coping mechanism.

How’s October treating you? If you’re doing NaNo, are you ready for it?

Beer picture by Bernt Rostad

The Barenaked Archives: Sky High

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Sky High PosterOver the past couple of years, we’ve run the gamut of superhero movies. There’ve been the original ones and the comic adaptations; the good, bad, and downright ugly; the serious takes and the light-hearted, funny ones.

Sky High falls into the original, light-hearted take on superheroes. Between the very comic-esque names and the great opening and ending credits, it’s happily clinging to its genre as a summer movie.

Now, it isn’t exactly the most original of movies. By about thirty minutes in, you can guess most of what’s going to happen. However, unlike most movies which turn boring in their predictability, Sky High manages be a fun, entertaining movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Will Stronghold is the son of the two most famous superheroes in the world, the Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), and he’s about to begin his freshman year at Sky High, the high school for superheroes.

There’s just one problem: Will doesn’t have any powers, which gets him relegated to the “Sidekick” track rather than the “Hero” track. To top it off, he has to deal with classes, homework, a new crush, an archenemy, and a plan to destroy the school. It’s just another day at Sky High.

It’s rare that a movie can have so much going against it and come out on the other side a relatively cohesive whole (that’s funny, no less), but Sky High pulls it off. There’s something innately interesting about the idea of a high school for superheroes, just as has been proven by a certain popular high school for wizards.

As a high school movie, you know what it’s going to involve going in (a popular crowd vs. an unpopular crowd, at least one party, and a climactic scene at a school dance), but throwing superheroes into the mix makes it funnier.

A fight in the cafeteria doesn’t just involve food, but fireballs and getting thrown through walls. Humiliation in gym class is no longer getting picked last for kickball, but having to show your powers in front of your whole class and being judged on it. Science classes require you to learn the difference between a “beam” and a “ray” when it comes to guns. And your entire social life throughout school is determined by whether or not you were powerful enough to be a Hero.

Also central to the movie is the father/son relationship between Will and the Commander (a.k.a. Steve Stronghold). Will doesn’t want to let his dad down, and Dad would like nothing more than to have his boy follow in his footsteps.

Kurt Russell is great as the Commander, and it’s even better when he tries to balance his need to be a good disciplinarian with his unbridled joy when Will gets his powers. (Note: they tell you that in the trailers. Ergo, not a spoiler.)

Sky High is also fortunate enough to have some awesome cameos by geek-adored actors. Featured most prominently in the previews is Bruce “Ash” Campbell as Coach Boomer, the gym coach who sorts the incoming freshmen into Heroes and Sidekicks. He’s just so good at being a condescending jerk, and it’s funny to watch his opinions of the students change as they demonstrate their powers…or lack thereof.

There’s also Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, as Principal Powers, and Kevin Heffernan of the Broken Lizard comedy group (Farva from Super Troopers) as Ron Wilson, official Sky High bus driver. The enthusiasm with which he approaches his job is hilarious.

Sky High doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It keeps it light enough to be a fun popcorn movie, but just serious enough that we actually do care about Will and his friends, and what happens to them. In the end, it’s just a fun, escapist movie that reminds you what summer should be about in the first place.