Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Brief Trip to the 1970s

I'm knee deep in revisions for my agent, so I haven't really had a chance to think about this week's post.  So I'm just going to post one of the clips I recently watched on YouTube while researching the 1970s for a story idea I'm playing with.

Mostly because Soul Train is all kinds of awesome.

Cool points to anyone who knows who Larry Graham played with before this band, and which modern day musician was heavily influenced by his playing style (hint: Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist).

History is so cool.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What are YOU doing to celebrate Banned Books Week?

You may have heard that I am up to my EARS in Banned Books Week celebrations. All month, at my main blog, I've asked readers to send in photos of themselves reading banned books. (Keep 'em coming! I'm accepting submissions through the end of Banned Books Week!) In return, I've been sending readers some fabulous buttons to declare their own banned book-reading awesomocity. Here are the buttons:

And this week, for every single day of Banned Books Week (which started on Saturday, the 25th, btw), I've got an interview with a banned author of SCANDALOUS books. So I hope y'all will check that out and leave these authors some love!

In any case, I wanted to show y'all what I'M reading in celebration of Banned Books Week, since everyone has been so forthcoming in sharing their own favorite banned books.

When I was about ten (that's me in 4th grade, right there), I was pretty busy tearing through all the Judy Blume I could get my hands on. I had always been an advanced reader, and my mom was pretty good about letting me read what I wanted. (I remember picking up Patricia Cornwall and John Grisham from my dad's bookshelf when I was in 7th grade. I eventually got bored and traded them for some Piers Anthony Dad and I found at the bookstore.)And , at the time, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. was like my Bible.

One night my dad took me to get a new book and I came home with FOREVER..., one of Judy Blume's most famous books. I was so psyched to read it and I showed my mom but she did not share my enthusiasm Actually, she sort of panicked. She took it and hid it away and told me that it wasn't appropriate reading for me. I was like what the heck, mom? It's by JUDY BLUME. How could anything Judy Blume wrote be scandalous?

(This goes to show that my pre-pubescent self hadn't quite picked up on the sexual subtleties of TIGER EYES and DEENIE, which remain some of my faves.)

Anyway, I never wound up reading FOREVER.... But as an adult I have not one but TWO copies of Blume's most banned book. And, putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, I figured I'd get my read on with the one book I was personally forbidden to read.

And I loved it.

I'm not going to go into a detailed review, because I'm probably the one person on the planet over the age of 18 who hasn't read FOREVER.... But I loved this book for its sensitive but uninhibited explorations of sexuality. I loved that the characters in the book were real teens that I related to as a kid who grew up in the 90s, even though they were written in the 70s. And I think that their experiences carry over in a way that remains real and relatable for today's teens.

Part of me remains surprised that this book was written in the 70s. It's pretty explicit, and I have to commend Judy Blume (or, THE JUDY, as I think of her) for not pulling any punches. Authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, who are writing contemporary YA and selling jillions of copies, still get challenged every year for being too racy. And I'm really glad that they -- and other authors, myself included -- have THE JUDY to fall back on. She paved the road for writers who want to keep it real, and that's freaking awesome. So if you, like me, never got around to reading FOREVER... as a teen, I hope you'll go pick up a copy soon.

And, for the record, I hereby forgive my mother for not letting me read FOREVER... as a kid. I wasn't ready for it. Though, I'm pretty sure I would have been so scandalized by the first sentence of the book that I would have hid it from myself in the closet and forgotten about it until I was ready.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A personal message and a fat vampire

There's so much going on I barely know where to start. J. Lo and Steven Tyler joining Idol (really?). Hang on, let's just chew on that for a minute, Dog.

My son turned three yesterday and my daughter will turn seven next Thursday.

I have at least four more gray hairs since the last time I counted and a horrible cough going on four weeks now. Notice a pattern?

We have a disgruntled contest winner from our Halloween in July contest who has not yet received her book. I totally understand this frustration. However, we cannot control when the author or publisher sends the book out nor is it nice to "gently remind" them more than a few times. Authors are very busy. They write and travel a lot. They also have a lot of contests to support. So, waiting 6-8 weeks (sometimes longer) to receive a contest prize is not unheard of. Just thought I'd put that out there in case anyone was interested.

Husband started a new job with the local police after twenty years with NYPD. In his new job, he had to be tasered and pepper sprayed. Heh heh. I volunteered to do both but the Chief of Police wouldn't let me. Darn it.

Three year-old is totally potty trained. No more diapers or pull-ups. So what's the problem? His new trick is he calls me every night to, "fix his blanket." Without fail sometime between 3-4AM I get the screaming call from my son's room.

Do you really care about any of this? I'm just babbling at this point. I tend to do that when I have something difficult to say.

That difficult thing is this is my last post for The YA-5. I am completely over committed right now with writing, YALITCHAT.ORG, the chat on Wednesday nights and all the other stuff I have going on. Kari Ann, Justina, Kelly and Emily are awesome so stick around. They may even replace me (as if that's possible).

OK, I feel bad. Gonna give away a book. Will that make you feel better?

HARPER TEEN has given me a copy of FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex! I'll choose a winner at random from those who comment below with a going away note to me that makes me laugh. Embrace your inner comedian! Make me laugh by this time NEXT Friday.

It's been a blast, people.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's Hear it for the Bad Guy

I’m a sucker for a bad boy. I don’t mean those delicious hunks riding their motorcycles and playing by their own rules that you find in a lot of books (although I like those bad boys as well). I mean, the BAD guy, the one who plots and plans, and most often makes life difficult for our hero/heroine. I love a good villian.

But I really love it when the hero of the story is the bad guy. I just finished reading I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President. Even though it’s technically Middle Grade, the book is hysterical, and Oliver is the kind of twisted genius that you just want to hang out with. Who cares that he’s not going to slay any dragons? He has a shelter dog trained to pee on command. How awesomely evil is that?

I’m also eager to read Dan Wells’ I am Not a Serial Killer. Reviews compare it to Dexter, although whether that’s because it involves a serial killer or because the characters are similar, I’m not sure. But as soon as I get a chance to read it I’m going to find out.

But, of course, not all villains can be main characters. Sometimes they are banished to the shadows, like the creepy President Snow from the Hunger Games, or the fanatical Sisters from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. And then there’s always the bad guys aren’t really bad (or maybe just sympathetic), like Niall in the Wicked Lovely books. In fact, “bad guys” take on a lot of forms, which is probably what makes them so interesting

So who are your favorite villains? Are they main characters or supporting cast?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back to School For Jedis

As some of you may have noticed, I have been AWOL for a couple of weeks, and I can tell you exactly where I have been.

In my car.

The Kids (tm) are back in school, you see, and alas, are in two different school districts, which meant, ladies and gentlemen, that I have been cursed to a half-life in a minivan, carting children, visiting teachers, meeting with speech pathologists, tracking down school supplies, buying lunchbox items, meeting with the principal, showing up for band auditions, then choir auditions, then soccer try-outs, and coaching Lego Robotics.

Uff. Just writing that made me tired. Sometimes I feel like I'm carrying the whole world on my back.

Slowly but surely I've negotiated some time periods in which I can work, which means that soon - hopefully - life can return to something vaguely resembling normal.

In the meantime, I'd like to discuss an issue that has been itching at the back of my brain, particularly as I watch my oldest child start Middle School and my youngest child start Kindergarten, and it is this: The Jedi Code.

 There's a lot a kid starting Middle School - or Kindergarten, for that matter -  can learn from the experience of the Padawans of old. In fact, I'm starting to think that the first Jedis came by their clear-eyed vision of the universe after first spending time in the madness of Middle School. Because if you can survive that with your sanity intact, you can survive anything.

Tenant #1: Emotion, yet peace: Pity the Middle Schooler - at the cusp of puberty, their bodies hijacked, their minds on fire, their parents super-lame and their siblings suddenly the most annoying creatures on the planet. They are at the mercy of their emotions, but their emotions are tricky, slippery and sly - faking them out and sucker punching them without warning. The sixth-grade-Jedis-in-training are desperate for knowledge. They hunger, they yearn, they thirst for the world, and yet they fear the world as well. And then - then! - they have to say goodbye to their friends and teachers in their small, comfortable elementary schools and dive into the cold, unfeeling and industrial bowels of a middle school. No wonder they're all a bunch of lunatics. The first tenant of the Jedi code tells the Middle Schooler/Padawan not to ignore their emotions. Indeed, emotions are part of who we are. Instead, the sixth-grade-jedi-in-training is encouraged to step back from their emotions, to be able to see them with a critical eye. The goal is not to simply feel our emotions, but to understand them. And when we understand our own emotions, we will never be ruled by them - and that's the first step towards becoming a real Jedi.

OK now can I have it back ?

Tenant #2 Ignorance, yet Knowledge This is probably the most important rule for the sixth-grade Jedi. The path of the Jedi is the path of understanding. The world - like the Middle School where the Jedi-in-training must spend her day - is vast, complicated and confusing. And here's the thing about ignorance: It's easy to be ignorant!. Why do you think the world abounds with ignorant folks foaming at the mouth? This is true on the radio, this is true in politics and in our jobs, and it's really, really true in Middle School. The Jedi must choose understanding, must choose Knowledge. And we come to a place of knowledge not only from our teachers, but also by seeking to understand all the people around us. And once we achieve understanding, we are well on our way towards Jedi-dom.

What is this thing for ?

Next week: Passion!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh yes. I kicked it with the Smart Chicks.

Last weekend I hauled myself up to my local indie to see the Smart Chicks. So many people turned up, and the Chicks were on FIRE.

Well, I mean, not, like, literally en fuego, just, you know, totally awesome. Smart Chicks organizers Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, and Alyson Noel sat on a panel with buds Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, and Rachel Caine, taking questions from the crowd. I wrote down some of the stuff they had to say about writing, 'cause I wanted to share my Smart Chicks experience with y'all.


Cassandra Clare uses "the House method." I.e., writer's block vs. a symptom of something greater. If you can figure out where the block is, you can flush it out and get your story back to health.

Melissa Marr, in all seriousness, stated that when she's battling writer's block, she snorkels in her bathtub until she figures it out. She willingly admitted that she's probably the only writer who does this, and that it's a little bit of a weird solution, but that it's what works for her.

Alyson Noel said that writer's block is from not knowing "enough about your story, your characters, or your world." If you can find out more about these things, you can probably get over the writer's block.


Melissa Marr said, "Whatever you want to do, follow your passion." According to Ms. Marr, the books that stand out are the ones written with passion.

Holly Black advised young writers to "get a critique partner, who will keep you honest and motivated." She said that there are plenty of people out there who will read your work and tell you its great (like mom or your best friend), but you need to find someone who will read with a critical eye.

Rachel Caine said, "Be Patient," because you're not instantly good at any art form.


Cassandra Clare: 4 years.
Alyson Noel: 15 years.
Melissa Marr: 2 years.
Rachel Caine: 8 years.

Every book's journey is different, and you can see here that if any author gave up easily their books would never hit the shelves!

All of the Smart Chicks admitted to making playlists, though Kelley Armstrong said she only does one song per character.

Of course it was a fabulous night, and it was so fun getting to say hi to all the fabulous Smart Chicks. I love the message they are sending to the young women of our country, because we all need to hear it sometimes: You can do it!

Here's the video the Smart Chicks made at the Austin tour stop. Enjoy! (I'm in there somewhere, but it's such a blur, I can't even see me!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The sisterhood of the traveling manuscript

OK-so, the title of my post is dumb. This is my third blog post this week--fifth if you count the ones I've posted to YALITCHAT.ORG (shameless but necessary plug--I'm not just a client, I'm also the President). :-)

This post is about the community of writers that has come to mean so much to me of which YALTICHAT.ORG is a major part. Because writing is normally a solitary profession and also quite competitive, I believe it's important to have a support system of people who understand you as a person, a writer and who understand the business well enough to "get" what you're going through.

Most often, it is hard to talk to friends, family and even spouses about the life of writing. So we would rather just smile or shrug it off and say nothing. Many of us tell few people about the work we're doing or the books we're working on for fear of ridicule--especially if it's something in the science fiction, fantasy or paranormal genres. You know what I mean right? How about you saucy romance folks? Afraid to let your neighbor beta read your work for fear they might think you're a little too pervy to let little Johnny come over and play?

The life of a writer is not always all it's cracked up to be. We need to be around our own. We need community. This is my story. This is how I survive.

Let me tell you about the first writer's group I ever joined. The Blue Boards online. The first writer I ever spoke to, the one who turned me on to it was Maggie Steifvater. This was back before SHIVER and LINGER and the like. Maggie was nice enough to point me in that direction. In doing so, she did two things for me. She showed me that being a writer is not just about climbing the ladder of personal success (being in it for you), but it's about helping others along the way. This is something I will never ever forget and a story I will always tell. The other thing she did was open me up to an experience unlike one I was not used to. I've been on boards before but none so welcoming and free-flowing with people willing to share with, help and support one another. It was so unlike the music business where I'd come from.

Then I joined SCBWI and started to interact online with my regional Carolinas chapter. And let me tell you--even if you don't ever have a chance to attend a conference (which I highly recommend you attempt at least once) just knowing that this group of folks is there (virtually and in some cases physically) to talk to, vent to, listen to and celebrate with online makes my writing journey that much sweeter. I love reading my daily digest of group posts from our regional chapter. It reads like a page from a motivational speaker's speech. No matter how big or small, we celebrate one another's achievements, reviews, signings, appearances, sales, agentings, releases, joinings, awards, etc. I'll be the first to admit. I'm not nearly as active as most members. But I am a member and appreciative of all I've learned at the conferences and the community that it affords me. I've personally made friends with a few members and my daughter has a new friend too as a result!

I want to brag a little about some of our group's members and their recent achievements. I hope I don't leave anyone out!

Carrie Ryan continues to celebrate the success of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH AND THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES.

John Claude Beamis in Publishers Weekly (digital w/ photo) and a short piece about his CLOCKWORK DARK Trilogy.

David Gill celebrates the release of BLACK HOLE SUN (blurbed by Suzanne Collins).

Elanora E. Tate is included in the September issue of Our State Magazine.

Carole Boston Weatherford to receive the North Carolina award. Highest award for a civilian in North Carolina!

Tameka Fryer Brown is featured in an interview on Cynsations!

Beth Revis celebrates release of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE on 1.1.2011!

Kelly Starling Lyons celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of the Million Man March with a blog tour featuring her picture book, ONE MILLION MEN AND ME!

If I've missed anyone (FROM SCBWIC) who is celebrating or needs to be celebrated, please, please, please know that is is simply the result of old lady brain. EMAIL me and let me know and I will add you ASAP.

And then there are my writer girlfriends who I consider "my heart." These are the people who I very much adore and celebrate daily. I also respect them tremendously as writers, women and take advice from them as to what to do not only about my work but my kids and my marriage and for whom I am eternally grateful to have in my personal and professional life.

Michelle Zink has just completed a tour for the release of GUARDIAN OF THE GATE. Not having her around to text with several times a day was like going through withdrawal. Welcome back!

Nancy Holder is celebrating the release of CRUSADE. I'm giving away a copy at YALITCHAT.ORG.

A.S. King is gearing up for the release of PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. Don't take my word for the awesomeness that awaits you. It received a Booklist starred review!

And then there are people that I don't get to talk to quite as often but when I do, I always feel better. These people are the real deal--genuine, trust-worthy and just plain fun. I appreciate you.

Alyson Noel is celebrating the release of SHADOWLAND in paperback and RADIANCE. Quite by accident and via Twitter we discovered that we are actually sisters separated at birth. imagine that.

Cynthia Leitch Smith Yes, I know I still owe you a guest blog post. Cynthia is a genuinely nice, smart and intellectually intriguing person. She has listened and offered help to me without asking for anything in return and for that I'm quite appreciative. Her sound advice helped me see what was right in front of me like a coconut being dropped on my head. Looking forward to BLESSED in 2011!

Dawn Metcalf is awesome and supportive in all kinds of ways. She comes through for me when I need a co-host for #YALITCHAT on twitter and our countless conversations about the industry and writing have been entertaining, informative and sometimes heartbreaking. I want the best for this truly amazing woman and look forward to the release of her book.

Jeanne V. Bowerman is co-founder and moderater of @SCRIPTCHAT and one of the niceset, most talented people I know. She is genuine, kind and good-hearted. If you are lucky enough to be a friend, you will find that she is free with advice, support and true friendship and not one of these high on themselves, too busy types. She is truly deserving of the success I know that is on her way.

Colleen Lindsay is celebrating a new job and freedom from agenting! She has been a friend, an industry mentor and a very supportive advisor to me personally. She has even helped me rewrite my query and strengthen the first chapter of my first novel. An avid supporter of #YALITCHAT from the start and even now that she's no longer an agent, she continues to use her influence to support us and me. I appreciate you and hope you know how much.

Michelle Wolfson is being awesome and celebrating the success of PARANORMALCY! She is kind, supportive and always willing to do what she can to help. Michelle has made herself available to me on weekends to talk agent submissions from the YALITCHAT.ORG Agent Mailbox and even advise me on my career goals. She's the real deal.

Laura Renegar and I share a love of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and I think a crush on Patrick Dempsey. We can't stop ourselves from tweeting one another on Thursday nights in season or the day after the shows air. Sadly we also talk a lot about our journey to publication which for both of us has been a struggle. She is a supportive and caring friend who also shares my love for Chick-Fil-A. I appreciate you, Laura.

JJ is wise beyond her years yet vulnerable and sweet. She's become a friend and mentor though I am a few years older than her (just a few). I know I can vent, rant and rave to her when and if I need to and she'll listen. She may not have the answers but she'll listen and have my back. You need that in this business.

Elan Roth and I met at an SCBWIC conference in Durham, NC. We talked for over an hour. She had previously rejected my query. We became friends that day. Why? Because I wasn't trying to get her to like me or be my agent. I was just happy to talk to someone from home (NYC), someone who understood me and my City-Girl ways, someone I could be myself with. We don't see eye-to-eye on everything and have even accidentally argued. Total misunderstanding. I was actually trying to cyber protect her. But what I do know is this. Elana and I have each other's backs. Yeah. I use that phrase a lot. I can call her when I need to and vent and vice versa. 'Cause sometimes you need to drop a few f'bombs on someone who gets you.

Megan Curd who was hired as the very first YALITCHAT.ORG intern. Though she is no longer an intern, Megan and I became very good friends and colleagues. We can talk about anything. She's a good egg!

Maggie Mo is always encouraging and friendly. That she is somewhat local to me but not close enough to visit makes me sad. She's the kind of person you see and just want to hug because life and love radiate from her.

Finally there is the 1700+ community at YALITCHAT.ORG. You complete me. Never before have I been so happy to engage with people and feel like I can just let my virtual hair down and be myself online. To my MODS, I love you for letting me be myself with all my imperfections. Lee-thanks for letting me know when I look like a fool with my pants on the ground!

Community makes writing better. Knowing that others out there are going through what you are is so powerful. Take time to reach out to others like you, who write in your genre. Maybe you won't need to use Google so much. Maybe you can ask someone who has been there and done that. Maybe they can tell you better which is the best choice or how to do something you've been struggling with. Make connections so you be a writer and a better you.

And in case you're wondering--all of the above people I've met initially online and then (some) in person. You CAN make real connections online. But be sure to get off the computer and pick up the phone, write a handwritten note, see a film, go to lunch, be a contributor to society beyond your writing. Beware of cyber stalkers and emotional drains on your energy and time. Most of all, have fun. If this has helped you in any way or you have something to contribute, comment and share!



The Top Ten Ways to Make a Group Write-in Successful

[This is cross-posted at The Spectacle and at my KA Holt blog. Just, you know, so's you know.]

Have you ever thought, “HEY SELF? This writing thing is lonely! I wish I had friends I could talk to who have, like, faces and arms! You know, instead of these pesky computer people who are fun, but who can’t actually hug me when I get a rejection in my inbox?”

Well, think no longer!

The answer to your woe is simple: You need a writing group! Not a critique group (though those are certainly helpful), this is a group of other writer-ly individuals who meet with you in actual real life places to tappity-tap-tap on their laptops at the same time you do. Fun!

The esteemed PJ Hoover (one of my real-life actual people friends who often sits across a table from me and writes WAY more words than I do) and I have assembled a handy list of tips for you.

So what are the top ten ways to make this type of group successful? Well, HERE YOU GO:

10. Find an undisclosed location where your children and/or family and/or non-writer friends will be unable to track you down. Like a cave. Or the moon. Or a coffee shop on a university campus.

(image from

9. Find somewhere with free WiFi. Because if you think you’re not going to check your email, you’re only fooling yourself.

8. Bring PJ Hoover with you because she will set a timer and force you to write, if only for 45 minutes

7. Bring a ruler so if someone talks while the timer is running, you can slap their hands. This is referred to as “not respecting the timer” or NRTT. (Additionally, you can come up with silly acronyms to pass the time while you should be writing.)

7.5. By the way, if you are found guilty of NRTT you must buy everyone a beer. Or a butterbeer, depending on ages and locations.

6. Store crayons in sekrit place on top of a door or windowsill in case your children track you down and they want try to write too. (Note: this also works well with crazy homeless guys, drunk waitresses and trolls. WE KNOW THIS FROM EXPERIENCE.)


5. Come to the writing place with a fully charged battery in case your writing group blows a fuse. An actual fuse. Not a brain fuse. You will DEFINITELY blow a brain fuse sometime during your group writing adventure. That means you’re doing it right.

5.5. PJ has asked that I add a note to this one to make sure that the place you choose actually HAS a plug for your computer in case you ignore #5 (or you have a super crappy laptop battery, which, yes, we all do). Some places *coughacertainB&Nhereintown* do not have said plugs and this might require you to bring a 50 foot extension cord and a 12 volt adapter for your car so that you can plug all your crap in but still enjoy the writerly ambiance of your friends and the cushy chairs they are spilling their lattes on.

4. Food is a great reward. Set a chocolate cake on the table and when the timer goes off, reward yourself by grabbing a piece.

4.5. Kari adds that forks are optional

3. Make sure caffeine is on hand. Always with the caffeine. And if you don’t drink caffeine, make sure you bring some for the other people so they can have enough energy to write AND wake your *beep* up over and over.

(Caffeine. And Star Trek mugs)

2. Feel free to vent on any writing topic during breaks such as submissions, revisions, agents, editors. And book bashing LAVISHING PRAISE ON ALL BOOKS is perfectly acceptable in this environment.

2.5. Make a note of your location during all of this, though. Like, if you’re writing in a coffeeshop in the Random House office building make sure you don’t say something extra super dumb.

1. Write! And even if your writing for the day is less than stellar, that’s OK. Because you’re doing it. You’re out of the house. You’re with friends. You’re possibly eating cake and drinking butter beer, and you’re putting words onto paper. YOU’RE EFFING DOING IT, YOU BADASS WRITER. LOOK AT YOU GO!

(PJ Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson are racing to see who gets the muffins first)

Don’t doubt it, YOU ARE DOING IT!

(K.A. Holt is doubting it, but only because someone or something has taken a bite out of her notes. Pesky Trolls!)

And your friends are there to support you all the way.

(Jessica Lee Anderson, KA Holt, E. Kristin Anderson and PJ Hoover celebrate writey timez)

KA. Holt wrote this post in conjunction with P.J. Hoover but it took her WAY longer than it should have because she did not have crayons hidden on top of a door or windowsill.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tough Chicks & Girlie Girls

I've seen some back-and-forth in the YA community this year on needing more STRONG female characters. We need tough girls, buff girls, girls who kick butt and take names. Some folks, though, say there are PLENTY of alpha females in the YA world. That there's room for girlie girls, too. Mousey girls, sweet girls, girls who played with Barbies and grew up to read fashion mags.

I say this: we need both.

Teen girls can't be lumped into one category. There are girls out there who are both feminine and fierce. There are girls who will relate to a character who gave her Barbies green Mohawks and there are girls who will relate to an aspiring model. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. There are books out there for both of these girls. And, in all likelihood, these girls are bffs, and end up sharing books with each other. Mohawked Barbie Girl reads GIRL IN THE ARENA by Lise Haines, loves it, and trades with Fashionista Girl for VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY by Melissa Walker. And what do I love about both of these books? They're well-written, insightful, and feature REAL girls. Girls who are three-dimentional, make good and bad choices, have complicated relationships with their family and friends, and are developing their own sense of identity.

I think there's also something to be said for girls who are strong in a more subtle way. Right now I'm reading JEKEL LOVES HYDE by Beth Fantaskey, and what I love about her character, Jill, is that while she's quiet and reserved and innocent, she is super super smart. She understands and LOVES chemistry. And even though she doesn't always stand up to bullies, and loves to be rescued and comforted by her crush, she's learning to make her own way. And girls can relate to that -- being the science nerd, feeling insecure and unpretty compared to a friend, crushing on a bad boy and wanting Prince Charming to come riding in on a white horse. And that's okay. Sometimes we need that. And sometimes -- like for Jill -- your brain is your biggest weapon.

I also love books like HOTTIE by Jonathan Bernstein, where you have a girl who kicks bad-guy booty while wearing designer heels. HOTTIE is like Clueless meets The X-Men, hilarious and girlie and badass. How perfect, because, in my mind, inside every don't-break-a-nail diva is a superhero ready to strike. And with a book as fun as HOTTIE, does it get any better?

The best thing writers can do for teen girls is to write REAL girls. And real girls are a lot of different things -- tough, happy, sad, lonely, strong, fearful, girlie, smart, feminist -- and there's no reason we shouldn't accommodate all these girls. There's plenty of room on the shelves for girl characters of every shape and size, mood and mentality!

Friday, September 10, 2010

So, maybe there won't be a garden gnome attack...

But... That's not the point. You see, I run a non-profit literary membership organization whose members are comprised mostly of pre-published writers. We rely heavily on information from reliable sources and industry professionals who keep us up to date on the latest trends in the business, guidelines, agents and editors, etc. Without this information, the books we passionately write would likely sit in drawers much longer than we can reasonably stomach.

And while we may not get an opportunity to thank these professionals in person or with hand-written notes, we sometimes get an opportunity to show our appreciation for the value they provide us.

I've come across such an opportunity this week and I hope you will take it. Chuck Sambuchino, is an editor for Writers Digest books and two annual resource books: Guide to Literary Agents and Screenwriter's and Playwright's Market. He also assists in editing Writer's Market. He recently helmed the third edition of Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript. Yes, Chuck is VERY busy. You may be most familiar with his blog, Guide to Literary Agents where he has been gracious enough to feature a few of my writing contests in the past.

What you may not know, is Chuck is also an author. His book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack was released this week from Ten Speed Press/Random House. I encourage anyone and everyone who has benefited from Chuck's awesome blog, books and advice to BUY THIS BOOK! Order it online or pick up a copy at your local bookstore. Why? Because you CAN say thanks to someone who has had an impact on your personal writing/publishing journey. Not to mention the fact that the book looks like roaring fun.

And who knows? It may come in handy in case those little buggers ever do decide to attack. It could happen.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm back, dirtywords!

That's right. Here I am. I'm doing a little rooster strut to get your attention. I had to R-U-N-N-O-F-T for a while there to take care of some Very Important (tm) trachea reconstruction in my youngest youngin'.
Things were so crazy for a while there I actually almost forgot my latest book was launched on August 17th. Oops.

But now I'm back, ready to get all talky and sharey about books and words and writing and reading and whatever else you want to talk about.

I am obviously not ready for the nitty-gritty of blogging, though, because my photos are jacked. I am too tired/lazy to fix them, though, so please use your imaginations as to where they might look best in this post. Gracias.


On to the book talkings.

Actually, no. I have to go to bed. So this is actually a teaser post for all of the fabulous things I will post soon-ish. Also, I want to talk about MOCKINGJAY, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I am going to sit on my hands and say nothing. Unless you are my husband, and then you're getting an earful of stories about katniss and peeta and all their malarky, but you don't care that much because you haven't read any of the books. Pesky spouse.

11% battery left on my laptop, so I have to go. But know that I am here. Even when I have to go.

I offer you all a post-summer fist bump and say, "May we never have to do that again" about all of the things I was busy doing when I couldn't blog.

What are some good books you guys read this summer? I have got to catch.up.

PS. Tomorrow is my birthday. I kind of want to have a contest to see if you can guess how old I am, but I think this contest may end with me weeping behind the couch, so you can use your imagination about that, too. (About my age, not about the weeping. Unless you're into that, in which case, I say this non-judgmentally - yikes.)

PPS. I am obviously cracked out on no sleep because this post blows and is kind of rip-roaringly insane. Alas.

PPPS. Do blog posts even use postscripts like this? Like I am sending you all a pen pal letter? The tired, it is pwning me. I must sleep. We will talk soon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shameless (Self) Promotion for September

Free advertising is great, right? One of my favorite book review websites, Dear Author, does this open thread for promotion or self-promotion once a month, and I sort of like that idea. I'm one of those people who never has enough to read (don't tell that to my TBR pile) and I gather up book recs like a squirrel hoarding acorns for the winter.

So this is your chance to promote your book, a friend's book, or something you just read that you think the entire world should read. Simply leave a comment with the title of the book and a short synopsis, and feel free to link to the book as well. The only rule is that the book must be already out, or have a release date sometime in September. This is your chance to promote shamelessly.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Let's open our hearts today.

Okay, before I get all serious on you, I want to remind you to visit my other blog at the dot com for the purpose of hate-mongering all over censorship. Or rather, so you can learn how you can win some supacute Banned Books Week swag.

Anyway, it's serious time. Why? It's National Suicide Prevention week here in the US, and I want to shed a little light on the topic.

I've mentioned in other posts that I struggled with mental illness as a teen -- trufax. Here's the part where I full-on out myself: I'm a woman with bipolar disorder (in remission, as my adorable, grandfatherly general practice physician calls it) and panic disorder. And I'm totally okay with talking about it. Why? Because the stigma is still floating around out there, and that can make an already difficult illness even more tough. Especially if you're a teen.

Whenever I tell someone about my illness, I get the "I never would have known!" response. Even from people I talk to regularly who also know that I have frequent panic attacks (which I guess seem common enough, especially on TV these days) and am easily overexcited and obsessive. Sometimes that makes me feel happy, because, hey, that must mean I'm doing a good job at assimilating as a fully-functional grown up! But in the back of my mind I think, well, it's not always easy to pick us out of a line-up.

Okay, here's an idea: think of your lunch table. Picture them lined up in front of you, in your head. Think about what they like, what they talk about, what they do after school, what classes they're good at and what classes they'd love to skip. Do any of your pals have bipolar disorder? Clinical depression? Anxiety? Schizophrenia? Borderline personality disorder? An eating disorder? Addiction?

Now I'm not saying you should get all diagnose-y on them. In fact, I very much discourage playing therapist at your lunch table. But what I'm trying to say is that there is probably someone you know suffering from mental illness, and you don't have a clue. And that's okay. What I'm trying to say is that you should be there for your friends no matter what, because if someone you know *is* thinking about suicide, or is self-harming, or is having secret panic attacks in the bathroom between periods, sometimes all it takes to keep someone from doing something drastic and ambulance-ride-y is knowing they have someone they can call and talk to when they're having a truly shitty day.

When I was in high school that person was actually my sweetheart (at right, with me, at my parents' before senior prom), whom I'm still in touch with via Facebook. He had issues of his own, too, which, admittedly, made him easier to talk to. I remember one day I was such a mess that I locked myself in the bathroom, refused to come out, and was feeling particularly destructive. (Let's just say it's a good thing my parents were already thinking about remodeling). My parents knew how amazing Sweetheart was, and they called him and my grandmother (who is my best best BEST friend to this day) and they got me out of the bathroom and we talked on the porch and, well, I can't say it was all better, but I survived.

Why am I sharing this with the whole wide Internet? Because I'm hoping that it will help someone reading. I'm hoping this will save someone the scary, scary pain that comes with suicide. Of all my adult friends, I can list on one hand the ones who didn't lose a high school classmate to suicide. Is that terrifying or what?

So let's think about that this week. Let's give our friends extra hugs and let them know that they can call us in an emergency even if it's four a.m. on a school night.

And in case you're looking for something to help you relate, one of my favorite books that deals with suicide is HOLD STILL (Penguin Speak, 2010) by Nina LaCour. In HOLD STILL, the protagonist has just lost her best friend, and is struggling to find her own identity, to make new friends, to relate to teachers who know what she's going through but who are scared to reach out. I also love WINTERGIRLS (Penguin Speak, 2010) by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is way too good at illustrating the harsh reality of anorexia and bulimia, and also deals with the loss of a best friend to mental illness. Of course there is also CUT (Scholastic Push, 2002) by Patricia McCormick, which is a beautifully written novel about a girl in a mental health facility, who refuses to talk about anything, let alone her self-harm.

Recently the book HOW I MADE IT TO EIGHTEEN (Roaring Brook, 2010) was released. It's an autobiographical illustrated novel by Tracy White, about a girl who checks herself into a mental health facility to figure out how to deal with her depression, her eating issues, her substance abuse, and, ultimately, her emotionally draining relationship. Also, check out Samantha Schutz's memoir-in-verse I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY (Scholastic Push, 2007) about panic disorder and anxiety. I think all of these books give an intimate picture of what it's like to be a teen with mental illness. And they could be just the trick to opening new doors with friends who are also struggling.

And, please, if you'd like to, take this as an opportunity to share your story. Post it in the comments, or blog about it and send me a link. I think the more we talk about our struggles, the more we can keep the stigmas at bay, and the more lives we can save. Sharing our stories can help us share the struggle, and ultimately help us heal.

(PS, check out Samantha Schutz' blog on this topic, You Make Me Feel Less Alone. I tried to work that in more eloquenty, but failed. Woops.)

I will now leave you with an entry me and my BFF Fiona wrote in my journal in 1999. This was probably around the time I was first seeing a therapist, but I still wasn't aware of the my diagnosis or the seriousness of it, and Fiona didn't know much about my illness yet, either. We were watching a rerun of Nirvana on MTV Unplugged, and it was breaking our hearts and blowing our minds:

(Click the image to see full-size & read my teenage ramblings.)