Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hibernating

Happy holidays, everyone! I'm peeking my head out of my writing cave to wish you all the joyful well wishes and luck for the new year!

I've been working on major revisions of my book. My agent and I have been kicking my book's butt in a big way and the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of phone conferences, e-mailing new pages and brainstorming ideas to make my book super fabulous. We're in the home stretch and hope to start subbing in early January.

I'm going to continue to be in blog hibernation while I make these changes, but I'll be back at the start of the new year and resolution number one will be to get back to my blogging routine. I miss you all so!

Right now I'm writing on the couch in my new family room. I have the fire going in front of me...


And if I look to the left, I can see our Christmas tree in the living room...


It's the perfect place to get some revisions done on a snowy winter night! Now please excuse me, I have some MAJOR writing to do!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Literary Time Waster

The LA Times reported a new word data base that Google has come up with called Book Ngram Viewer.

Basically, you can type in words and see how the trends of when they appeared in books. You can look at words that were popular during different time periods or how the choice of what word to use changed throughout the centuries.

Google draws the information from a database of more than 5.2 million books, so you get a pretty accurate response. You can click on the graphs and see the specific books that the words were used in.

I'm not quite sure why this would be useful to me, but I did waste a lot of time looking at when the word "canary" was popular and how it was used. I took a few other words from my book too. There's nothing like finding new ways to procrastinate from revisions!

Give it a shot and let me know what words you searched for to waste time on this web page!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lots O'Books

Hey, hey....I'm back, although just briefly. I've been writing down my good reading but not blogging it. Since it's almost the end of the year, I wanted to get all my books down to keep track. I've read some AMAZING books during the last two months.


I thought about putting them in order of how much I like them, but then I realized they were all fantastic.


Which of these books have you read or want to read? Share your thoughts!


Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) 304 pages

Room (Emma Donoghue) 336 pages


The Duff (Kody Keplinger) 288 pages


You (Charles Benoit) 240 pages


The Mockingbirds (Daisy Whitney) 353 pages


How to Say Goodbye in Robot (Natalie Standiford) 288 pages


The Summer I Turned Pretty (Jenny Han) 304 pages


It's Not Summer Without You (Jenny Han) 288 pages


Revolution (Jennifer Donnelly) 496 pages


Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters (Natalie Standiford) 320 pages

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Is What Scares Me

I had a power talk with my agent yesterday, and she has a few more revisions that she wants me to make before we go back on submission. It's not a problem at all because we brainstormed some pretty awesome ideas and I'm looking forward to seeing how it improves the book. They were epiphany types ideas that make you hit your head with your palm and say "duh! Why didn't we think of this sooner?"

That's not what scares me.

What scares me is all the times that I've finished my edits and think my book is ready.

And then it's not.

I have done a lot of revisions, many of them after others have read my book. Betas, agents I first queried, my agent, even editors, will come back with comments. Usually these comments are kick ass and make my book better.

That's what scares me.

The idea that I keep thinking my book is strong and then realizing that there are ways to make it better. Often ways to make it a lot better.

It's scary.

Because in between these edits, I've put my book out there thinking it's the best that it can be. I've sent it to agents in the beginning and editors after I signed with my agent. I've sent out what I thought was my strongest draft.

And then I realize it's not.

So as I'm making revisions again, I must admit that I'm scared. I will make these revisions with the thought that these are the ones that make my book the best it can be, the strongest draft I can send out there, but in my mind, I'll wonder if it really is.

How do you ever know that your book is ready?

Do you ever know?

Does this ever scare you too?

Also, if you want an honest look at the submission process (one full of the fears and ups and downs), Natalie Whipple wrote a great post here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nervous

A lot of you know that my agent and I took a break after our first round of submissions for CANARY. I've been working on revisions since late August (uhm, yeah...that makes it sound like I had a lot of revisions to do! Not really, just a full time job and revisions and moving and wedding planning...phew!).

Anyways, the revisions are done and I sent the new draft to my agent about three weeks ago. We're having a phone conference today to talk about the book and our next round of submissions. I'm excited but nervous too. I'm hoping she likes my changes and that this round of submissions brings some very exciting news!

I'll keep you posted on her feedback and whether we're ready to submit again. In the meantime, what makes you nervous about your writing?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Leo + Gatsby = Best Ever

This is now old news, but I haven't done my fan girl scream about it yet.

Baz Lurhmann is directing The Great Gatsby.

You know, Baz Lurhmann who directed Romeo and Juliet...one of the best movies ever made (partly because he cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, who together are awesome). I look forward to showing it every year to my freshmen when we finish reading the play. I was obsessed with the movie in high school (to the point where my friends and I tried to find t Claire Dane's dress from the costume party scene for prom....which my one friend did!).

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books in the world. I read it almost every year and when my main squeeze and I first started dating, he read it too because I told him about how much I liked it. That's when I knew that he was special...any man willing to read Gatsby for a girl has to be the bomb diggity.

So far Leonardo has been cast for Jay Gatsby (squee!), Tobey McGuire for Nick and Carrie Mulligan for Daisy (both I think are a great choices). Although I must say, I don't know if anyone will ever top Robert Redford.

People are speculating about Tom, Jordan and Myrtle, and I have my choices. I think Ryan Gosling would be perfect for Tom, Natalie Portman for Jordan and Scarlett Johansson for Mrytle (if you want to go with big name actresses).

What do you think? Who would you cast? Are you as excited as me?????

We still have to wait over two years for the movie, so how about the trailer from R and J to remind you of how brilliant Lurhmann is?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shop Borders This Weekend

I'm switching to high school English teacher for this post.

Borders is giving customers a $15.00 gift card voucher for every purchase (books, music, even coffee or a bagel). This voucher will be used to make a donation to the public school of your choice through Donorschoose.org.

I urge you to go and make a purchase to donate to a school of your choice (and if you don't have one, e-mail me at rachelealpine@gmail.com and I'll hook you up with my school. We would greatly appreciate any donations).

It's soooooo important to get good books into our schools (especially YA literature) so kids want to keep reading.

Please consider going to Borders this weekend. You can check out the information here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Is For You?

Last night I talked my main squeeze into stopping at Borders. A trip to Borders usually entails me wandering the aisles and darting behind one every time I see him so we don't have to leave. It's a game of hide and seek just so I can stay in the bookstore longer!

He wised up and parked outside last night so I could just run in and grab a copy of The Mockingbird by Daisy Whitney. I've been dying to read it both for the story topic and the references to one of my all time favorite books To Kill a Mockingbird.

I went to the shelf and couldn't find it. I flagged down a worker who also looked at the shelf (uhm, I worked in a library in high school and practically lived in bookstores...I think I can tell if it's not there!). Of course, he couldn't find it either.

I was super bummed until he remembered that it was in a display for new books. I grabbed it and thanked him a bit enthusiastically (hey, good reading is good reading...I get excited when I have my hands on a great book).

He looked at me and goes, "This must be a last minute gift."

I shook my head no and was a bit confused.

"Oh, you're just so excited to have found it. I figured you needed it for someone."

"Nope, it's for me," I said.

"Really? You read young adult?"

Oh man, seriously? Do I read it? Uhm...yes! And write it, thank you very much.

He obviously doesn't know the wonderfulness that is young adult. What a sad sad life to go through oblivious to something so glorious!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Must Read Books

Gayle Forman (who wrote one of my favorite YA books, If I Stay, which is one of the top five books I highly recommend to my high school students) wrote an article about her favorite books for NPR (one of my Sirius radio addictions...I love NPR and my main squeeze makes fun of my excitement to have two choices on Sirius and one on regular radio of what to listen to at any given time).

She recommends her top five books of the year. Two I've read (Before I Fall and The Sky is Everywhere), one I'm dying to read but haven't had time (The Mockingbird) and one sounds like something I would love (The Things a Brother Knows).

Check out her recommendations and thoughts on each book here.

Have you read any of these books? Or Gayle's book? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The Story Siren is holding a challenge where you sign up to read twelve books by twelve debut authors next year. Since three of the books coming out are from members of my super awesome Cleveland book club, I felt that it was completely necessary to sign up for the challenge.

The first three are to show my book club love:
1) A Touch Mortal (Leah Clifford)
2) Liar Society (Lisa and Laure Roecker)
3) Witch Eyes (Scott Tracey)

The rest are based off of blogs that I love or books hyped on blogs that I love. I have a feeling that there are a lot more books coming out that I have yet to discover.

4) XVI (Julia Karr)
5) Across the Universe (Beth Revis)
6) Like Mandarin (Kirsten Hubbar)
7) Bumped (Megan McCafferty)
8) Divergent (Veronica Roth)
9) Possession (Elana Johnson)
10) Bad Taste in Boys (Carrie Harris)
11) Audition (Stasia Ward Kehoe)
12) Paper Covers Rock (Jenny Hubbard)

What books are you looking forward to reading?

If you want to join the challenge...check it out here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lucky Reading

I have been so lucky in the last week and a half...

I love finding books that I can't put down. Books that I carry in my purse, read while my main squeeze is doing an errand and I sit in the car, hold in front of me during meals and fall asleep reading. I love books and read a lot of good ones, but books like these are rare.

My last two reads have been like that! Woo-hoo! Nothing makes a ay better like some amazing reading.

The first book was chosen by my book club (which I had to miss, because I'm in painting hell at my house right now...we're going on the third week straight of painting every single night).
It's REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly. Oh my gosh. I loved it so much. Like loved, loved, LOVED it! I already placed the school's copies in the hands of my students and told them to read fast so other people can read it!


The second book is HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT. I had heard a lot about it, but I hadn't gotten to read it until now. It's beautifully written and Standiford's voice reminds me of Laurie Halse Anderson's in SPEAK.


As fellow book clubbers, Lisa and Laura Roecker, like to say, the way these writers write "make us want to throw in the towel." They are so wonderfully done; I can only hope to write like them.

What are you waiting for???? Pick up the books and read them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Attention All Middle Grade Readers

I have to say that as much as I stressed over my edits for CANARY, I'm so glad that I had the time to do that. It mean that I put the book I had been working on all summer aside for almost three months.

I'm now able to focus on my current book again. I've been spending some time rereading and brainstorming about it this week, and it's been amazing to come back to something with a fresh eye. I don't think I would have had the patience to set it aside if my agent would have made me do another round of edits.

One of the things that keeps nagging me is the main character and her age. I keep wondering what the book would be like if she was younger (I'm think 12 instead of 16, the age she is now). I've always loved young adult literature and think of myself as a YA writer, but the more I think about my novel, the more I want to try writing it as a middle grade novel. I feel like it would be a lot stronger if I did.

I read a lot of middle grade when I was growing up (tons of Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, The Babysitters Club, Sleepover Friends and Sweet Valley Twins), but I haven't read any lately.

That's where I need your help. Are any of you Middle Grade readers? What's big right now? What books should I read? My book is comtemporary, so I'm looking at stuff that isn't paranormal/fantasy. I'm looking for current books (maybe published within the last three years). Any recommendations would be appreciated!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Save the Date!

I know I haven't talked about writing as much as I've wanted to lately, but other things have been taking over my life. Such as....my wedding!

I got my dress this weekend! Woo hoo! It was both exciting and scary at the same time. I can't show it to you, though, because my main squeeze reads this!

But...I can show you the Save the Dates that we sent out to our family and friends. We found an amazing artist on Etsy, who made Save the Dates! We gave her pictures of ourselves and they look a lot like the two of us (down to the Converse that my main squeeze loves to wear). We love them so much that she's going to do some more stuff for our wedding too, but that's a surprise!

You can check out her shop here!

And check out our Save the Dates below...



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Angry

You know how when you read a book the last page is usually only about half a page? Or the book ends on the left side of the page?

Well, I just finished a book where the last sentences were at the bottom of the right hand page.

I was reading and reading and turned the page and found out THE BOOK WAS OVER!

Really? That's how you want to play this game?

I don't see anything cool about giving me no warning that the book is ending.

Shame on you, book publishers!

I don't know about you, but I slow down when a book is almost done and I almost always savor the last few sentences.

I have to admit that I was fuming when I turned the page and saw that there weren't any more words. Grrrrr!

What about you? What has been getting you angry lately?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life Hasn't Been All About Revising

Revising isn't the only thing I've been doing these last two months. I was able to have a little fun.

My main squeeze and I went on a mini-vacation to Salt Lake City Utah for a wedding.

I had never been to Utah and had no idea what to expect. I knew we were staying at a ski resort (Snowbird), but I wasn't prepared for how beautiful it was. We were lucky enough to have some perfect weather and while I did bring my laptop along, I got to revise looking out my hotel window at views like this...


Here is a picture of our hotel...


We took a ski lift up one of the mountains...



And I held onto my main squeeze's hand to make sure he didn't get too close to the edge!


We then cleaned up nicely for the wedding, which was held at the mansion where a bunch of scenes from Dumb and Dumber we filmed!


The grounds for cocktail hour were amazing (complete with swans)...


We then moved inside for dinner. How crazy beautiful is this place!?!



After dinner...we went to yet another part of the mansion for a little bit of dancing!

So my life isn't all revising. I have some wedding planning pictures to share soon and we've closed on our new house. It's been a busy few months! How the heck did I ever get my book edits done!?!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Pssssst!

Guess what???

My book is back in my agent's hands! She's going to read through the revisions and if she likes them (fingers crossed), we'll be subbing to some more editors!

You may be seeing more of me now that my revising is finally done! My big question is...what do you do with an extra three hours a night? I've been so used to coming home and revising, revising, revising for the last two and a half months, that I feel a bit lost!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revising All Night Long

I've been working on revisions based off of editor's comments for our next round of submissions.

I downloaded my book onto the Kindle and am giving it a read through. I keep writing down mistakes/edits I find so I don't waste time stopping and changing things. I wanted to read it from start to finish. Let's just hope that I can make sense of everything I've written down!

What about you? What have you been up to?

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Impressed

The other night I went with my main squeeze and his parents to see the stage adaptation of The Kite Runner at Cleveland Public Theatre. I did not have huge expectations for the show because usually when a book is adapted to the screen or stage, I'm disappointed (as was the case when I saw the movie version of this book).

However, I was very very impressed by the play. While they were unable to realistically depict the kites flying (which was my biggest disappointment), the playwright was about to capture the essence of the play. The first act was done with dual characters of Amir, the young Amir and the older one. The older Amir narrates the action during the first act and takes over during the second. The emotions and messages from the book were all shown in the play. I think the only thing missing was the history of Afghanistan. One of the reasons I loved the book was because of the background and history of the country that Hosseini depicts. Overall, I thought the play was great.

The adaptation got me thinking about other play/movie adaptations. There are few that I've seen that have done the book justice:
*Atonement
*Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
*Election
*The Namesake

What about you? Can you think of any movie adaptations that did the book justice?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Listen Up

I've gone on and on about how much I love the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. I attended for the second year this past summer and may have (shhhh!) planned my wedding for late July, so I can attend again this year.

The week is full of writing and producing new work in an environment of writers. We work in small groups with a published writer and it's required of all of us to share something we wrote in front of everyone in an open mic type setting.

The first year I was the last participant to present. This summer I was the first! I was nervous, but I liked going first because I could enjoy everyone else after.

The recordings are posted and you can listen to my piece "Red Rover." It's the very first one on the Tuesday, June 22 Participant Reading.

There are some other great readings on each of the nights including an amazing piece by my mentor for that week, Ron Carlson. It's from his new book and worth listening to. The instructors read on Monday, June 21.

If you have a minute, download the readings and let me know what you think!

Addition to orginal blog...The prompt I read was to create a story with 26 lines. We had to start with "A" and go through the alphabet in order. If you listen close, you can hear it!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Attention Writers!

A lot of you have probably already seen this, but I wanted to post it for those who haven't. Delacorte Press holds an awesome contest each year. The contest prize is a publishing contest!

Check it out and good luck!

The prize of a book contract (on the publisher’s standard form) covering world rights for a hardcover and a paperback edition, including an advance and royalties, will be awarded annually to encourage the writing of contemporary young adult fiction. The award consists of $1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties.

ELIGIBILITY
1. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian writers who have not previously published a young adult novel. Employees of Random House, Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates, and members of their families and households are not eligible.

2. Foreign-language manuscripts and translations are not eligible.

3. Manuscripts submitted to a previous Delacorte Press contest are not eligible.

FORMAT FOR SUBMISSIONS
1. Submissions should consist of a book-length manuscript with a contemporary setting that will be suitable for readers ages 12 to 18.

2. Manuscripts should be no shorter than 100 typewritten pages and no longer than 224 typewritten pages. Include a brief plot summary with your covering letter.

DATES FOR SUBMISSION
1. Manuscripts must be postmarked after October 1, 2010, but no later than December 31, 2010.

Writers will be notified between January and April as submissions are evaluated by the editors. Final contest results will be announced on our Web site on or around April 30, 2011.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Must Fold Laundry!

Just so you don't think blogging is the only thing I'm neglecting, I present to you my laundry!



Yeah, I haven't folded things in a long time. Thank goodness for guest room beds!

I promise that I almost (almost!) have a handle on things and will be back soon. And not only will I be back, but I also have a great Fall contest complete with cozy knitting items for when you're writing.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Remember Me?

Hey, hey...is anyone around here still?

Do you all remember me?

I just wanted to check in to tell you that I'm still alive; just crazy crazy overwhelmed.

I've been revising like a fool for the next round of submissions, planning a wedding (July 23, 2011...people!), we put an offer on a house we love and they accepted it (crazy!), I flew to a wedding in Salt Lake City and I've been battling an inner-ear infection that landed me in the emergency room. Phew!

I promise I'll be back soon.

I love my blog and readers so much, so I hate not being able to keep up with everything. I hope everything is super fab with all of you!

Just keep me in your blog feed and you'll be seeing more of me soon!

In the meantime...what has been overwhelming you or keeping you busy?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading Over And Over Again

Today I started reading The Crucible with my students. This is the eighth year I've taught the play. I teach at least five sections of tenth grade a year. If we multiple that with my years teaching, I've already read the play thirty-five times. Not the mention the times I've read it as a theatre minor or high school student.

That's a lot of reading, but I always look forward to it. I love the characters in the play. Abigail is so mean and so vicious, you cannot help but be drawn to a character like her. I like the power these teenage girls had and the idea that they could basically control a town.

The books I teach are definitely my most read books. However, there are also books I own that I go back to year after year. I usually need about a year time in between, but I never fail to fall in love with them again and find something new in each reading.

Some of the books that I revisit are:

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)

Looking for Alaska (Green)

Prep (Sittenfeld)

The Man of My Dreams (Sittenfeld)

The God of Animals (Kyle)

The Secret Garden (Burnett)

Speak (Anderson)

Charlotte's Web (White)

Middlesex (Euginides)

White Oleander (Fitch)

Coming back to these books are like visiting an old friend. I look forward to rereading them just as I look forward to starting The Crucible again with my students.

What about you? What is the book(s) that you can read over and over again?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Writing Superpowers

I may be slacking on my own blog (dang the start of school, agent revisions, wedding planning), but I'm showing up on other blogs!

Check out my guest post on Kristan Hoffman's blog about writing superpowers.

Leave a comment and let us know what your writing superpower would be.

I promise to be back with a blog post of my own tomorrow...woo-hoo!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Duff: In The Wild!


I heard rumors that THE DUFF was out in the wilds a week earlier than the release date.

So I went hunting...

And I caught my prey!

Please excuse me...

I've got to go read!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Teenage Boys Talk About In The Hallway....

Today was the sixth day of the school year (wow, it feels longer than that!). I had my students pick independent reading books from the library the second day. They could pick anything they wanted, although I admit I may have talked up a few books that I knew would keep their interest (The Hunger Games, Some Girls Are, Break and 13 Reasons Why).

Today I was listening to three of my male students talk. We were walking to the computer lab and I was behind them. The conversation went something like this between the boys:

"Man, I wish Miss Alpine had given us more time to read."

"I know, I can't wait to find out what happens in the book."

"Did you get to the part yet where Clay listens to his side of the tape?"

"No, I keep wanting to peek ahead."

"Me too! I wonder what he did to get on the tape?"

"It has to be something bad."

"I know, I need to find out."

I couldn't believe it! For real!?! Teenage boys wanting more reading time and talking about books?!

I LOVED IT!

Yay to a great start of the school year! Go YA literature!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kuddos To Women Writers

NPR posted a great article today by Linda Holmes in support of women writers. It's worth reading; she presents some warranted arguments and thoughts.

I've long been a fan of women writers. Jodi Picoult (who is mentioned in the article) is one of my favorites, and I've read all her books (and reread many of them). Holmes talks about women who write well and how their books are often passed off as "chick lit." She talks about a type of bias in the literary world for certain writers and how these books are often overlooked.

Take a look at this article and then tell me who some of your favorite women writers are. One of my all time favorite women writers who may have been put into the category of chick lit is Melissa Banks. If you haven't read The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, you must. It's AWESOME!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Passive Character? I'll Pass!

I talked to my agent and we're going to do another round of submissions. However, before we do the round of submissions, we're going to toughen up my main character a little bit more.

Kate (my main character in CANARY) is a bit passive during the first half of the book. The circumstances allow her to be more passive (she's trying to fit in at a new school among the elite and popular), but you don't want a weak character. This is somewhat of an oxymoron to me.

For example, take one of my favorite character, Melinda from Speak. I see Melinda as passive throughout most of the book. Yes, she made the choice to be quiet, she makes the choice to retreat inside herself and exclude herself from school, however, you root for her. You want her to speak up and do something. Why is that? Does she become less passive as the story goes on? Do the circumstances in her life allow you to view her as passive and still connect with her.

My mind is spinning on how to create a character that allows things to happen to her, but does not seem completely weak or passive.

Is your head spinning too?

How would you answer this questions? Any ideas or thoughts? Or maybe you want to argue with me and show me how Melinda is not passive throughout the first half of the book. I would love to hear from you all!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Team Peeta or Team Gale? Which Team Are You On?

Okay, okay...this is all over the web, so I feel like I have to do my post on it too.

Well, what are you???

Team Peeta or Team Gale?

I'm team Peeta all the way.

I mean, really, is there any doubt as to who the better choice is?

Now, looking at it from a writer's standpoint, you could argue that I'm pulling for him because Collins develops and stays with his character for the majority of the two books. Sure, we see Gale a bunch and we hear Katniss' thoughts on him, but Peeta is the one we're with most of the time and I gotta admit that I love that boy (man?). He is so faithful and loves Katniss, but not in a mushy or pining way. He is strong and tough and gets mad. I love in the second book when he lets Katniss sleep with him when she has bad dreams. He is just so good.

Besides, Gale becomes a whiny baby every time something is shown on TV or happens between Katniss and Peeta. It's not like he's fighting for her or really doing anything to show he cares. He almost expects her to be with him and when it doesn't feel like she is, he pouts.

I have the admit that I just finished Catching Fire.

Like five minutes ago (okay, maybe two).

I hadn't intended to read it just yet. I'm a dork and when I find a book that I like I hate for them to end. I sped through The Hunger Games in less than two days. Catching Fire was already out and while I wanted to reach for it and read it, I also wanted to save it a little longer.

So I did. I waited all summer.

And I planned to wait even long and still have Mockingjay to read to.

That is until my awesome amazing and plan killing book club chose Mockingjay as our next book. Curses!

Now I just flew through Catching Fire and plan to get Mockingjay on Tuesday. I'll probably fly through it, but on the bright side, I know I have some great reading in store for me!

What about you?

Have you pre-ordered it?

Are you going to any parties?

And most importantly...are you Team Peeta or Team Gale????

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stuck

I've made it a purpose to find some time for my writing these last few days, but I am having a hard hard time moving forward in my book. Right now it's about 33,000 words and pretty much a complete story.

I know I need to add more (especially since CANARY is 73,000...more the close to the norm for YA literature).

I want to add more.

But I've found myself staring at my text/outline more than writing.

I feel like everything I want to add is just stuff. It's not really important to the story.

In the past, I was able to go back through and develop things more.

Now, my story is just there.

I'm not even sure it's writer's block.

It's more like, "I don't know what else this story needs block."

Does this make sense?

Do you ever get stuck?

If so...what do you do?

You guys are always so great with comments, so I'm hoping to get some help on this topic.

I'd love any kind of advice for how you unstick (or unblock) yourself!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trying To Juggle It All

Today is an awesome day outside. The sky is blue, there's a great breeze and I turned my air conditioner off. It's the perfect day for my last day of summer.

I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Boo!

While I'll miss sleeping in, going on morning walks and having lots o'time to write, I am looking forward to going back to work and seeing my coworkers and students.

I spent my last day nice and easy. I slept in, went walking, read, wrote, knitted and sat outside. Nothing too exciting, but a great relaxing day.

This coming school year has me a bit anxious. I'm worried about fitting it all, but aren't we all worried about fitting it all in? I will be teaching full time, taking classes for my MFA, planning a wedding, working on my next book and hopefully buying/moving into a new house (we've been looking for nine months...we have to find something soon, right!?!).

Everything ahead of me is fun and awesome, but I worry about finding time for it all. I don't want to neglect anything, and I'm afraid that may happen.

In saying that, I am going to try to juggling everything around.

Including this blog.

I love posting every day, but as you can see from the last two weeks, I haven't been able to post as early as I've wanted to. So I've decided that instead of posting every single day, I'm going to cut back to Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts. I'll still be around, but cutting back will allow me to devote the right amount of time towards everything I love.

I hope you all don't mind!

And on that note...I'm heading back outside to read and enjoy the last few hours of summer vacation!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Lesson Planning

How did I miss this?

Did you miss this?

Are you sick of my John Green love?




Check it out here in the original format.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting The Writing Out During The Last Few Days

I only have a few days until I go back to school (next Tuesday), so I'm trying to get as much writing done as I can. Hopefully I can keep on the schedule I created this summer of writing a lot, but we'll see. I figure if I can even get myself to write a page a day during the week, I'll be doing well.

This is a scene from my new book that I've worked on all summer. It's a section from something that I workshopped with my group in June at the Kenyon Review Writers' Workshop. I haven't shared any writing in a long time, so here you go!

Amelia’s dress still hung in her closet, the plastic bag around it and price tag hanging from the left strap. It hung on a satin anger that she had talked mom into buying just to hold the dress. It was pale yellow, like the glow under your chin when you hold a dandelion up to it. It was a color choice not a lot of people would make, but then again, Amelia wasn’t like a lot of people.

Amelia had planned to wear the dress to Homecoming, a dance no one had asked me to.

Her boyfriend Tommy made a big production of inviting her. He set up candles in our back field in the shape of a heart. He called Amelia to tell her to look outside. The two of us stood in our parent’s bedroom window and watched the candles, some flickering out to make a lopsided heart.

“Hey, look, “I had said. “Now your heart is broken.”

Tommy couldn’t just have invited her to the dance like the rest of the kids at school, pushing out an awkward invite in the halls, texting the question or deciding during lunch to go as just friends. Tommy had to light up his love, even if the flames started to blow out when the winds blew too fast.

I started to try on the dress a few weeks after Amelia disappeared.

I put it on when Dad was at work and Mom was in the shower, running the water to cover up her wails that I could still hear.

I would slip into it and jam my feet into Amelia’s shoes that were two sizes too small and stare at myself in the mirror. I allowed myself for a moment, just a moment, to smile because I was here. I was strong and alive.

I would then take the dress off and hang it back up in the closet among Amelia’s other shirts, sweaters and tennis shoes that sat waiting for her.

Tonight I got dressed in the downstairs bathroom.

I watched for the headlights to Tessa’s ancient old Buick and slid out the door. I ran barefoot to the car, out of my house before anyone could ask where I was going. Amelia’s dress skimmed the ground, stirring up a fog of dust around the bottom.

I was shorter than Amelia and the dress wasn’t the same on me. Nothing was quite the same.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Reads

It seems like FOREVER since I've updated my reading list, but I've read some great books in the last month so I want to share.

Book Number 23:
Incarceron (Fisher) 448 pages

I read this book for my YA author book club, and I admit that I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. I'm not a big fantasy reader, but the book did keep my attention and kept us talking for a long time at book club.

Book Number 24:
Looking for Alaska (Green) 256 pages

It's no mystery that I love this book, and I think I talked earlier about rereading it. I could gush forever about it, but you already know my feelings, so I'll spare you!

Book Number 25:
Unaccustomed Earth (Lahiri) 352 pages

Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I've read her other works and got to hear her speak this Spring. I hadn't read her latest collection of short stories, and I fell in love with each of them. I feel like we have a similar writing style and her work is good to read when I'm working on my own.

Book Number 26:
Deception (Nichols) 336 pages

This is our August book club book (we'll be meeting on Sunday at Crocker...come join us!). It's a ghost story and I really found myself getting into it. I liked the narrator, Emma's, voice. She's very snarky but enduring at the same time. There's a sequel and Nichols ends it in a way that you must pick up the next book!

Book Number 27:
Delirium (Oliver) 320 pages

I think you heard my fan girls shouts for miles when I got this book. I loved loved loved! It's totally different from Before I Fall, but amazing in its own way.

I'm not going to count these last two in my list of books, although they are complete novels and WILL be published someday soon. I beta read two books. First, the amazing Emilia Plater, whose YA book Autochromatic is novel represented by Suzie Townsend and agent buddy Lisa Nowak's book Driven. Both books were awesome and you're going to wish that you got to read them too!

What about you? What have you been reading???

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At Least My Query Letter Wasn't This Bad

Querying was a stressful experience for me. I was glued to my inbox, obsessed over whether agents were reading my manuscript and although I tried not to let rejections get me down, they often did.

I wish I had found this site when I was query, because I think it would have made me feel a lot better. After reading these query letters, I could have consoled myself with the thought that at least my query wasn't this bad!

If you haven't, check out Slush Pile Hell.

Monday, August 9, 2010

California Dreaming

Sorry I have been MIA for a few days. How is that I'm able to keep up with blogging on vacation, but once I get home I fall off the face of the earth! This has just been a busy crazy week.

Thanks for all the engagement congrats! We're both pretty excited, although all the planning is already making my head spin. Phew! I just need to make sure that I find time to keep writing while planning a wedding!

Getting engaged wasn't the only thing that I did in California. It was a great trip! Do you want to see some pictures?!

We started in Sonoma where we stayed for a night in the Jack London Lodge. This was a last minute decision, and I was a little bit weary of the place, but I feel in love with the town and area. How can you not like a town named after a great author? We even visited the Jack London Tavern and hung out under pictures of Jack London all over the walls.


We visited wineries in Sonoma including Black Stone and Mayo Family Winery.

We headed to Napa the next day and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. I never knew it was so beautiful there!



We went to a bunch of wineries in Napa (Flora, Cakebread, Merryvale, Peju) and ate some amazing meals (Bottega and Bouchon). One of the meals came with a sparkly diamond! Ladies, if you're looking for something nice for your ring finger...Bottega serves it up! My main squeeze proposed to me there (in front of all the people eating!) and then we did a toast with Michael Chiarello.

After Napa, we headed to San Francisco for the weekend. We met some friends in Haight Ashbury (where the hippy movement started) and I had one of the best breakfasts in the world at The Pork Store Cafe. Seriously, if you're visiting San Fran, you have to eat here!


My cousin recommended Muir Woods, which was well worth it. We boarded a tour bus and took a terrifying (like tilting on curves and drops right down the mountain) ride to the National Forest.


Muir Woods is full of huge redwoods that have been around for thousands of years. It was an amazing place. And as you can see...we took a ton of pictures!





Our tour of Muir Woods also stopped in Sausalito, which is a hillside boat town near San Fran. It reminded me a bit of Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket with the boats and shops. My main squeeze and I joked that they only take you there after the ride down from Muir Woods so you can get car sick outside of their van.


We made the regular touristy stops in San Fran, including Fisherman's Wharf. We started the day off there at the Buena Vista where we got Irish Coffee (which warms you up all over!).


I had to try some seafood from Fisherman's Wharf, so I bought calamari. And not the fried stuff. My main squeeze thought it was gross, but I really liked it.


We decided not to go to Alcatraz b/c my MS had already been there, but we could see if from the docks.


Of course, we saw the sea lions! I loved them!



I begged my MS to go the Imagiknits, a HUGE knitting store. I was in heaven!


The trip was great....we relaxed a bit in Napa and hit the city of San Fran like tourists, running all over. Oh, and I came back with something glorious on my ring finger!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Can't Wait!

Uhm...how much are you dying to see this????

And how much do you wish you came up with this idea for a YA book?

And she gives a shout out to Judy Blume! Loves!

Okay, it comes out September 17, so we don't have that long to wait. Phew!



Click here to view it without the bad formatting that blogger does. Curses, blogger, why can you format right?!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Proposal

No, no, not a book proposal...a marriage proposal!

My main squeeze proposed to me while in Napa!

I don't think I've stopped smiling since!

This is us in Napa...isn't it beautiful!?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blogs Blogs Blogs

I've become addicted to reading blogs. There are two types of blogs that I read...writing/publishing blogs and knitting blogs. Oh, and this blog because it's so heartbreakingly beautiful. I've been reading it almost since the day it started, and I warn you...if you go to see what it is, you may be hooked too. Actually, it is now a sort of writing/publishing blog too, because Matt is writing about book about the experience.

I have a steady list of blogs that I read every day. I've found a lot of them through my readers, through google searchers on various agents/editors and things like that, and a few have been recommendations.

Here are some of my favorite non-writing blogs; perhaps you'll start following some of these!

Knitting Lemonade: Kara talks about writing, knitting and bike riding. I wish she'd post more, but every time she does...it makes my day!

Girl Who Knits: This is Kara's sister and she does some amazing knitting projects...amazing! Again, please post more!

A Friend to Knit With: I love this blog...it's full of every day simple things and her pictures make me smile (oh, and she knits too...ha!).

Lottie and Doff: Warning...this blog will make you hungry. Very hungry!

Lisa Leonard Online: My mom, sister and I all have necklaces made by Lisa. Her designs are beautiful and so are the pictures that she takes. Her blog is about her life and family.

Pink Picket Fence: Another more domestic blog with great pictures and crafts and fun ideas.

I haven't really found that many new blog lately. It's just my standard ones, and I feel like I know enough about the authors that I can take on a few more and start following their stories. Isn't that the cool part about blogging? That you start following people's lives and root for them and their successes?

I'm asking for you...my readers...to share some of your favorite blogs with me. This includes your own blog if you don't think I've started to follow it yet (and I should....geez!). Please include the blog address in the comment section and perhaps a description, although I'm sure I'll visit all of them and take a look.

Thanks! I look forward to some great new reading!

Friday, July 30, 2010

What To Expect...Revisited!

This post is cheating a little bit. It's a post I wrote about nine months ago when I first started my blog. But...on my defense, I only had about ten readers when I posted it!

I thought I would share it again because I would like your thoughts on the topic...what makes you a writer.

Read it (or reread if you were one of my early followers...thanks!) and then share your "writerly traits" with me!

When my old roommate started law school, the school had a special night to prepare the new students for the three years that lay ahead. My roommate came home with a bunch of pamphlets that reminded me of an abridged version of the book WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING that you give to newly pregnant mothers.

After I started working on my manuscript, I realized that pregnancy and law school weren’t the only places that needed information pamphlets. I decided to create my own list of what to expect when starting a manuscript:

*You will protect your external drive like it’s your first born child. In fact, your hard drive may become even more important than your first born child

*You will find the strangest places to write down story ideas: receipts, napkins, parking passes and maybe even texting lines to yourself from your cell phone

*You will act out parts of your story in the car, laughing at something a character may say, and stop when you turn and see the person in the lane next to you staring at you

*You will also find people asking you if you’re okay when you’re deep inside an emotional part of your story. You’ll have to assure them that nothing is wrong with you, but your characters may be another story.

*You will get to know the first names of all the workers at your local office supply store, as you buy mass quantities of printer ink and paper to perfect one single manuscript.

*You will hear somewhere that showers cause positive ionic charges in your brain, and suddenly feel the most creative in the shower. You will start to take long showers just to try to get ideas out.

*You will find yourself scowling at people who have the same name as an antagonist in your story

*You will develop rituals in order to procrastinate about writing. Your writing may depend on that one special pen, the right table in a coffee shop or song on your ipod.

*You will find yourself with a new obsessive compulsive disorder causing you to hit the save button on your computer hundreds of times while you are writing after you lose a piece of your writing for the first time

*You’ll convince yourself that the piece of work you lost was the piece that was going to win you the Printz, Pulitzer or National Book Award

These are just the start of the examples I’d include in my pamphlet. I’m sure you can add more…what else would you add to the list!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Overcoming Your Fears

Fellow Cleveland writer and bookcluber Christina Lee wrote a great blog the other day that I wanted to respond to.

She writes, "I received an interesting email from a reader. She asked how I dealt with the jealousy of hearing other writers succeed on Twitter and other blogs."

Christina's reply was that didn't feel jealousy, instead, she felt fear.

She wrote about her fear of not feeling good enough, not finding an agent and not realizing your dreams.

I'm hear to say that she isn't alone. I totally understood her post and also feel that fear. Unagented people aren't the only ones who have fears about their writing.

I was always one of those people who wished and hoped and prayed that I would find an agent. However, I now know it doesn't end there.

I still have fear, but it's a new kind of fear. My book is on submission and I fear that it won't sell. I fear I won't be able to finish my next book (which might be the book that sells instead). I fear that I've spent so many hours and so much time doing something that isn't good enough.

I venture to guess that even if (when!) my book sells, I will have a whole new set of fears. I'm not sure there would ever be a point where your fears end. I also think that's a good thing, because it's my fear that also keeps me going. I want to beat these fears, I want to show these fears who is boss, and because of that, I write and write and write.

Fear can be a terrible thing, but I also know how good it feels when I conquer my fears. So for now, I will keep writing and battling my fears.

What about about you? What do you fear about writing? How do you deal with this?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Outlining The New Novel

I've been working really hard on my new book. I now have over 150 pages and about 35,000 words. I kind of hit a wall the other day. I just kept writing and writing and then had the book, but knew there were a lot of holes in it.

I've never outlined before. I've tried many times and failed, but fellow agent sister Lisa Nowak encouraged me to try it. She has a great post on her site about outlining, and I encourage you to follow it.

I took Lisa's advice and started to outline my book.

First, I printed out the entire thing. I write in short scenes (I've never used chapters), so I spread them out and shifted them around until I got them into the form I wanted to. I spread these out all over my guest room bed.


My guest room is also where I blow dry my hair. In the summer it gets hot in the room, so I turn on the ceiling fan. Uhm, yeah...it took about ten seconds for me to realize that you don't turn the fan on when you have the scenes of your book all over!


A quick fix of grabbing some towels/scarves allowed me to dry my hair and then categorize my scenes.

After that I typed summaries up and printed them out. These summaries went onto index cards that were organized into plots/subplots (yay to Lisa for that idea!).


I have since written notes on the back of these summaries for things I wanted to change and added index cards for scenes I want to write. It's worked so well for me. I'm able to keep track of changes and work on plotting out new scenes. I figure once I actually write those scenes, I will summarize them, type them up and tape them onto a final note card to add to my pile. In the meantime, I look at everything hand written as work that needs to be done.

Not a bad method, huh?!

What about you? How do you organize your writing?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heading To The West Coast

My main squeeze and I are going to California for a week...yay! We'll be in Napa for four days and then San Francisco for three. I'm super excited and still trying to figure out how to jam everything into my suitcase!

I have postings set up for the next few days. I think I have the automatic postings right, so I'll still be around. However, in case they don't and get messed up, I'll be back next Tuesday posting again.

In the meantime...for a good laugh...I'm going to share what I looked like yesterday after I got my spray tan. I'm a huge huge HUGE sun safety person, but I wanted a little color for California. The fake tan has calmed down after I showed, but yesterday I looked like Ross from Friends (remember that episode?!).

I promise I look normal now! Ba ha ha ha!

Hope you have a fabulous week!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing Advice And A Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my summer contest! You all provided great advice and encouragement to writers. I've listed the advice below, but I know you all want to get to the winner.

My main squeeze picked the winner...

Congratulations to...

JEN!!!!

Seriously, I think it must be a karma thing because she's the one who featured me on her blog the day I announced the contest.

Thanks for entering and here is all the great writing advice that you shared with me:

*Playlists! I write best when listening to music, especially if certain songs speak to my character.

*Don’t self-edit! Wait until later before you edit otherwise you’ll second guess yourself.

*If the juices aren’t flowing, don’t try and force yourself to write anything serious.

*Dance parties to celebrate victories and really motivating for finishing.

*Brainstorm with a buddy.

*Write what you know

*Research

*Give the who, what, where, when and why.

*Adopt a plain writing style

*When stressed out, eat a cookie.

*When editing, read the manuscript from back to front.

*When querying, make sure you’ve got your genre right.

*Grammar—live it, learn it, love it!

*In the time you just spent whining about how you don’t want to revise, you could have revised two pages.

*Spring House Balsam fir candles. If your story is set in a forest and you live in the city, these can take you straight to the woods as soon as you light one. I’m big on scents when I write and have different candles for each story.

*Don’t write what you know…but rather write about what you care about.

*Love your writing like you love your dog; unconditionally. It might not always be perfect, but at the end of the day, you can’t live without it and it makes your soul smile.

*Completely ignore the editor on your should while writing. The little demon isn’t there to improve your writing, he’s there to sidetrack you so you never finish.

*The biggest one is to just sit down and write. Everyone thinks they can write a book, but very few take the time to do it, and that makes all the difference (of course, if they had a pen that smell like watermelon, I think they might be more motivated).

*Go see something artistic and brilliant. I do my best thinking about movies, symphonies, art galleries….I always feel compelled to write after I’ve beheld something triumphant someone else has tossed out into the universe for us to enjoy.

*Write something everyday.

*Read everything (books, blogs, etc.) and apply what inspired you to your writing.

*Spring House candles, Ipod music that fits whatever work you are currently writing and homemade sugar free vanilla lattes!

*Don’t let anyone discourage you from writing. If you want to write, write.

*Read other books

*Finish your novel

*Keep you butt in your chair and write everyday

*Write what you want to read. Forget about everyone else's thoughts/opinions and tell the story you want to tell. Go with your gut.

*Always go for the highest stakes. What is the worse possible thing that could happen?

*Kill those babies (things you love in your writing)...the new ones will be better!

*Read Stephen King's On Writing

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Knitting Nerd

Thanks for all the good thoughts and encouragement yesterday.

I took your advice and didn't write today.

It was nice to have a break and I'm a lot more relaxed.

Instead of writing I knitted (yeah, yeah, I'm a knitting nerd! You probably forgot about that geeky habit I mentioned a few times in this blog!).

Knitting is so relaxing, though, and taking some time off from writing allowed me to finish the scarf I've been working on. The main squeeze and I are heading to Napa and San Francisco next week, so it's the perfect piece to bring for a trip to California!

My MacBook camera doesn't do it justice, but the colors are amazing!

Here's the scarf around my neck...


It's really big when it's not tied!


Here's an idea of all the colors in it, but you really need to see it in person to appreciate the colors. It's full of blues and purples and greens...I love it!


Now I'm about to head out to dinner with some of my friends....hope your day is going well!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Of Those Days

Please tell me you've had days like I had today?

I was up last night until about two writing because I didn't want to lose my ideas.

I woke up early, went for a walk and sat down to type up my ideas.

But I just couldn't focus.

I stared at the computer for over two hours, getting up, walking away, coming back.

I wrote half a page.

I then went to sit on the couch for a minute and fell asleep for almost two hours.

Two hours, people! What the heck!?

I've come up with the conclusion that my brain is too full of writing.

I think I need a break!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Delirious For Delirium

Yeah, yeah, my blog is really late today. Partially because I've been sucking up, feverishly reading Delirium.

I just finished it about ten minutes ago, and I waited to post because I sat for about eight of those minutes just silently thinking about the ending.

Wow.

The end will blow you away.

Now, I don't want to say a lot about it, because I feel privileged to get a copy of it and I don't want to ruin anything. Perhaps when we get closer to the review date, I'll speak a few more words on it but for now, here are my first thoughts.

But...let me say that I think you'll be immensely satisfied as a follow up book to Before I Fall. It's a lot different from Before I Fall. If you're looking for a book similar to that, this isn't, but it's incredible in it's own way.

I would say that I loved it, but you see...in the main character Lena's world, you're not allowed to love or you'll be killed.

I had heard it was loosely based on Romeo and Juliet and I could see a lot of similarities, but none of them were in your face obvious so it felt like you were reading a re-telling of the play. I teach R and J with my 9th graders, and I think this would be a great book to pair with it. In fact, I may look into doing that with my second semester students!

How about three words to describe the book? Three words that might not make sense to you, and will keep you waiting until February 2011.

I'm mean, right!?!

Okay, so here's my review. I would say that Delirium is...
  • Terrifying
  • Beautiful
  • Gray
You have one more day to enter my contest. I'll be picking a winner tomorrow night!!! Spread the word to get more entries, just let me know through the commentor or form on the site.

Monday, July 19, 2010

There's A Whole Lot Of Screaming Going On

Remember how I raved and raved about Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall? I was so sad that Delirium wasn't coming out until February 2011.

If you check out Lauren Oliver's blog, you'll see that there are still 206 days, 12 hours, 26 minutes and ten seconds until it's released. Give or take a few hours once you read this blog!

But I'm sad no more. Look at what I have...


Fellow book club buddy and amazing blogger and author Chelsea Swiggett let me borrow her ARC that she got at BEA.

I mean, really? Really! How awesome is that!

Okay, okay, maybe this is how I felt when she handed the copy to me...


I'm taking good care of it, Chelsea! Thanks again!


Now, I really must go and read. I'm on page 232 and can't put the book down!

What about you? What books can't you wait for to be released?

P.S. Did you enter my contest yet??? You have until Wednesday to win some crazy good stuff!