Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Now, I need to do some blog packing. As in, preparing blogs for next week when I'm gone This is a Macbook free vacation, I'm just taking my writing journal. We'll have a computer, but I don't plan to do writing. However, I'm sure I'll be checking it a few times a day just in case someone decides to buy my book (ugh, this waiting, the waiting...).
What this means is that I need to prepare stuff now to post while I'm away. Here is where you come in. I'm looking for two things from my audience:
Send me any questions you have that you'd like me to answer (or try to answer). This can be anything from questions about writing, finding an agent, submitting, MFA programs, teaching English to teenagers or anything about my life. I'm not shy...ask away!
2) Guest blog posts
I'd love to feature some of you on my site. I get a lot of traffic because my students (teens!) read these postings. If you have a blog that you'd like to share with me, send it my way. I'll try to post some while I'm away and link to your site (more traffic for you).
You can post your questions in my comment section or e-mail them directly to me. You can e-mail your guest blog entries to me at (firstname.lastname@example.org). If I choose your blog, I'll notify you ahead of time. If I get a lot of them, I may save some for a later date.
Please share or ask questions, I'd love to feature some new voices or ideas on my blog! Thanks in advance!
Send these no later than Friday at 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I thought it would be pretty hard to make my story work without Jack being the way he is. I thought about it for a few days, trying to figure out how characters can fall and then have redemtion. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that's what I wanted to say with my writing. I didn't want unlikable characters. I didn't want to take away my characters second chances. I wanted characters who could change. Characters who realized their mistakes and didn't just make choices without remorse.
I rewrote a large part of the book looking at Jack in a different way. I started to understand why he made this mistake and through the analysis of his character, I realized that he could still be good. He had his second chances and I gave him the opportunity to possibe become a different person. Whether or not he chose those options, you'll have to wait to read the book to find out. However, he's no longer a villian with his back up against the wall and no where to turn. I gave him secret passages and trap doors to get out of the situations he'd created. He surprised me with his choices and it made my book a lot stronger.
My students and I discuss a quote from Romeo and Juliet that I think fits this idea perfectly, "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied/And vice sometime by action dignified."
Villians don't always need to stay villians, just like good people can sometimes turn bad. It's something to think about and a new way of looking at your writing.
Having said that....here is a scene I deleted in which I had Jack cheating on Kate....
IT WAS just a flash of red next to a flash of blue.
Blue like the middle of a flame sparking in the dark or a grape not yet ripe.
The red flared up like blood.
It was only a flash of red and a flash of blue, but it cut deeper than any knife could.
It punched harder than any prized fighter would.
It bite harder, pinched meaner, slapped with a sting that throbbed longer, ached rawer, pulsed stronger, rubbed me deeper than any other image I’d ever seen in my life.
It sat on the tip of my nose, engraved itself in the back of my brain and clung to both sides of my head, shaking me until my insides rattled.
It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, but that was all I needed to distinguish the last of the flame inside of me, fighting to survive, fighting to live.
It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, Jack and Haley, Jack and Haley, Jack and Haley.
It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, but the color was so bright it was able to end all hope I held inside, to destroy my world, destroy my will, destroy me…
Sunday, March 28, 2010
This weekend I spent a bit of time deciding exactly what books to bring to Florida (5 days and counting!). I decided to pack five, because my annual trip to Florida involved pretty much nothing but laying next to the pool or on the beach and reading. I also plan to stop whatever I'm reading next Tuesday when I run out and buy Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Uhm...are you as excited for it as I am? Seriously, I'm bouncing up and down right now thinking about it.
Here's the books I decided on. They're all obscure titles but come highly recommended from different places (and a few are from publishing houses where editors have my book).
I'm racing through Before I Fall so I have it done before I go. It's not hard to get through it fast, though, because it's awesome. Seriously. Go buy it now and READ IT! I think the best part is that it's long. I love getting into a good book that you don't finish in a few days. I like to spend some time with my books.
And how about this rocking bookmark my cousin's four year old son, Everett, made?
You can tell I'm a reader because my main squeeze and I looked at a house today that we're thinking of putting a bid on. I made him go into the library so I could check it out. Don't you know how important it is to have a good library near your house? This one is a block away from the house...a dream come true.
In other news...you can tell I only have four more days until Spring Break. I'm getting giddy and busting out the red glitter nail polish. I'm super conservative when it comes to stuff like nail polish, make-up, clothes or jewelry during the school year (my students notice everything), but I wanted something fun. I've been writing a lot lately, and I love how sparkly my nails are now when I type.
I hope your week is starting with something as great as sparkly nail polish! :)
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I'm a new book snob.
I'm not sure when this happened. I think maybe after I got a job where I was making real money that I could spend or perhaps when I started writing and realized how important it was to support writers by buying their books. Regardless of where it started, I am addicted to brand new book.
I place a $25.00+ dollar order about every two weeks to Amazon.com (Shhh! Don't tell my main squeeze). I love how they recommend other books under the books you order. It's such a good marketing ploy because I'm always buying one of those books too.
I can't walk into a bookstore without coming out with a book. I'm lucky because I got the educator discount which makes buying a book a little bit cheaper.
A student recommended a book to me yesterday called Montana 1954. It sounds often (the themes remind me of my own book Canary). I asked if I could borrow her copy and she dropped it off today. Well, it was old and kind of dingy. But...you could still read it easily. What do you think I did? Ordered a new copy off Amazon because I wanted a new copy of it.
I try to rationalize my excessive buying of books with the idea that I'm using them in my classroom, but the truth is that I have stacks and stacks of books at home. A lot of the time they don't even make it to my classroom. I like surrounding myself with good novels while I'm writing, it motivates me.
All this evidence shows that I'm guilty, but I wasn't always a new book snob. I went to the library so much when I was young that the librarians all knew my name and I didn't need my card (they just looked me up in the computer). I also worked at the library in high school. I am a firm supporter for libraries, and I even wrote a letter to my governor when he started cutting hours and closing libraries in Ohio.
I have no doubt that when I have kids, I'll be back at the libraries all the time, but for now, give me a brand new book. There is no arguing that there's nothing better than the smell of a brand new book!
What about you? Are you a book snob?
ADDITION: Jennifer Hubbard is taking donations on her blog (and links to several other blogs participating). She will donate fifty cents to her local library for every comment she gets. I may be a book snob, but I also know how important libraries are! Please donate a comment!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Books were my savior during those years. I turned to them to help find answers, escape or to understand that other people were going through a lot of the same things that I was.
Books are so powerful and I believe they can sometimes save a person when nothing else around them can. I write because I want to speak to my readers and let them know that they aren't going through things alone. I want them to see that they're not the only ones going through these emotions and that they can (and will) make it through okay (and usually stronger).
I was paging through my elementary school diary and found an entry from when I was eleven and then when I was twelve. I think the entries below speak volumes for how with all the pressures I see my students going through now, teens today need honest well written literature that they can grab on to when everything else around them is spinning.
My writing and I talked about it and we decided it was best to "take a break." We didn't see other people or go out and get wild with our single friends. We just spent some time away.
But....it's official. We're back together! We're back, we're back, we're back!
I've written 57 pages in the last week for my new novel and it's just like our relationship wasn't even on a break! I'm writing again, the ideas are flowing and I feel compulsed to write at all hours.
This is good stuff, folks! Very good stuff!
Monday, March 22, 2010
Here's the summary (complete with links so you can follow me around on my weekend)...
*I headed to Old Navy after school to take advantage of the 30% Friends and Family coupon I had for the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy (I may or may not have already taken advantage of it the night before online!). I got the deal of the century on boyfriend fit pocket tees that were marked down to five dollar (three-fifty with the discount!)
*My main squeeze and I went to Pizzazz, our favorite hole in the wall pizza place. I love it because they make a cheeseless pizza for me loaded with veggies and sauce so you don't miss the cheese. I eat low fat, so it's nice when I find a restaurant that has healthy options.
*We headed to downtown Willoughby for dessert at Oliver Twist. I splurged on chocolate, which kind of negates the healthy pizza I got!
*I slept in until ten (okay, who am I kidding...I sleep in every weekend morning. I love to sleep!) and then went to get a 90 minute massage. It was my Valentine gift from my main squeeze and it was just glorious.
*My main squeeze and I headed out to Legacy Village for some shopping and then dinner at Stir Crazy (another favorite because they'll make my stir fry with chicken broth instead of oil).
*Talked main squeeze into going to Joseph Beth bookstore (even though we were heading to Borders). This is my favorite bookstore in Cleveland...loves it!
*We finished the night with a trip to Borders because it was educator's discount weekend (which meant 30% all purchases). I loaded up on new YA titles and got a few gifts for a special family member who is turning one in less than a month!
*Tried to talk my main squeeze into getting Mitchells Ice Cream. They have my favorite vanilla frozen yogurt in the world and since moving from the west side to the east side of Cleveland, it's no longer in walking distance (in fact, it's about a twenty mile drive). He didn't believe that I truly wanted ice-cream at 9:45, so we skipped it. I talked him into running through the McDonalds drive-thru because I really was craving an ice-cream cone.
* I met my mom and sister at Aurora Farms Outlets to again take advantage of the Friends and Family coupon at Banana Republic and Gap outlets. Let's just say that my sister owns stock in the Gap, and I think I helped make it go up with all my purchases!
*And then....my main squeeze, sister and I went to see DAVID GRAY! I love love love him and he didn't disappoint. We had front row seats in the mezzanine at the Cleveland State Theatre. It's small and the perfect venue to see a singer. He was amazing and I don't even mind how exhausted I am this morning! I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I love bands from the UK. Damien Rice is my favorite singer of all time and the best concert I've ever been to in my life (if you don't know him, check out his music) and next month I'm going to see The Swell Season.
It was the perfect weekend, and I didn't stress at all. What about you? What's something great you did this weekend? Share!
Friday, March 19, 2010
However, before I sent my book out to new agents, I made some major revisions in the book (see this post). I'm a bit embarrassed about this first version because Kate, my main character, is nothing like the girl she is now. In the first version, she was weak and let herself be pushed around by her boyfriend. She turned ignored things that were wrong and allowed herself to be treated like dirt. She wasn't what I wanted a girl character to be like, and I realized that when I worked on revisions all summer.
Kate is now strong, sure of herself and an individual. She makes poor choices in my book, but she isn't a weak person. I love her now and have no idea who the wimpy girl in my early excerpt below was...
I would like to think that we all have those moments.
Those times when you want to believe everything is good, everything is pure and all intentions are true.
You feel safe, secure, maybe even loved, and you want to think this moment is going to last.
That you are a part of something that can only get better.
With everything that was going on in my life; I wanted to think that Jack and I were still good, that I could still count on him.
That’s why I ignored what happened between Jack and I.
That’s why I went to school the next day, found him near his locker and walked to his class with him like everything was the same.
That’s why when Jack didn’t bring up the parties again, I didn’t even and when he told me he was busy Saturday night, I nodded and let him be busy without me.
That’s why when Jack started becoming more busy during the week and soon on the weekends,
I told him I understood.
That’s why I didn’t ask why he wasn’t inviting me to be busy with him.
That’s why I stopped asking Jack things.
That’s why I took the questions that I had rattling around in my head, keeping me up at night, and pushed them down deeper, letting them get lost with all my fears about Brett.
so I didn’t try to push Jack, I didn’t try to demand things or ask things. I tiptoed around him on glass slippers, careful not to crack through the ice that was our relationship.
There were times when I wanted to say more, times when it would be fair to ask why he turned when I saw him coming down the hallway at school or why I heard people talking about a party he was at, when he had told me he was at home obeying the curfew my dad enforced. I wanted to ask him what was going on, because I knew something was going on, but maybe that something wasn’t what I wanted to know about, so as messed up as it sounded, it was easier to ignore things, to pretend the bad feelings I were having were nothing.
What about you? Have you included things in your book that you later look back and wonder why you did that?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I write in journals before I type out my books, and I paste pictures on the pages as a way to find inspiration and encourage ideas. I've been pulling pictures for my newest book, but only have a few so far.
However, I have the pictures for Canary (remember that book I wrote, that's on submission? Yeah, I've kind of been blocking it from my mind because the waiting to hear back from editors is TORTURE!). I kept them bookmarked because each time I started a new journal, I repasted the inspiration pictures. Here are the ones that I used:
This first picture goes along with the title of my book...it's background on my computer right now too!
This picture has to do with the title of my book and the theme:
Kate and her dad used to play basketball outside every night. It was the way that they were connected, but when her mom dies and her dad shuts down, they stop playing basketball. The loss of this time with her dad affects Kate greatly.
Kate's dad lands a job at Beacon, an elite private school. I picture Beacon to look a lot like the oldest dorm at Kenyon College:
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Please observe the evolution of my crushes....
The Early Years
I kind of had a thing for cartoons. I loved Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks. I think I found him so attractive because he went for Jeanette, who always carried a stack of books with her. Sadly, I'm over him. I'm not digging the make-over he got for the new Chipmunk movies. He totally sold out for Hollywood.
Cartoons weren't the only thing I liked when I was young. I was also attracted to older men. My sister and I grew up listening to Micheal Jackon (I even had a MJ Barbie doll complete with a white glove you could take off), and I was convinced that he was the man for me. This year for my 31st birthday I went with twelve of my friends to see a MJ impersonator band at House of Blues!
The Grade School Years
Ricky Schroder first caught my eye in Silver Spoons. Well, maybe it wasn't him, but more the train he had that you could ride on. I mean, come on, who wouldn't want a guy with a train running through his house? And perhaps, I was a bit of a gold digger. He had the best toys! I practiced my early writing skills by drafting letters to him professing my love. I wish I still had copies of those gems!
I quickly gave up Ricky when Fred Savage came on the scene. I also wrote letters to him and sent them! I still have an autographed picture from him hidden somewhere. I remember carrying the picture around in my bookbag. Oh geez!
Jonathan Brandis was probably my biggest crush. The Neverending Story was my favorite movie growing up. When the sequal came out, it seemed right that I would give my heart to the boy in the movie.
Now, fast forward to the present day. My main squeeze holds all the room in my heart and I've given up my crushes on celebrities, but something happened the other day.
So I must complete my evolution of a crush by listing my list one...
And if you haven't read him, you have been living an uncompleted life. Check him out. I have a feeling you might start crushing on his words too.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
The only problem is that my main character isn't the nicest. Her sister is dying and instead of grieving, she's jealous. She's always been jealous of her sister and now in the last weeks of her sister's life, these feelings intensify to the point where she does some pretty awful things. Things that I'm something shocked about in my own writing. Scenes that make me ashamed for both my character and the world I've created in the story.
However, there's redemption for my main character. She has reasons for why she does what she does and the story isn't about the negative relationship with her sister, but in the end (if I execute it right), one of strong love and ferocious caring for a person you're going to lose.
I think it will work, even if my main character pisses me off at times.
Do you ever create characters you don't like? Do you give your character flaws so that they aren't perfect? Is this hard for you to do?
I haven't shared in awhile, so I'm including a scene from the piece. Enjoy and happy Friday!
When Amelia first got sick, she started running at night. My dad, who had moved back home after the diagnosis and was sleeping in a guest room as if to let us know that he was in fact just visiting, said matter or fact, “It’s because she can’t sleep, just like your mom.”
Dad believed my sister’s night became day and oftentimes, her life never turned to the hours of sleep. I asked him if he had the same feelings and tried to tell him about my own nightmares that kept me awake, but they evaporated in the air. He had already left the room and I found myself talking to myself.
I knew the truth, though. Amelia didn’t run at night because she couldn’t sleep; she ran because she didn’t want to sleep.
“There’s going to be a time when I won’t have the energy to run anymore,” she confessed to me when I found her hiding in the mudroom, bent over her tennis shoes, lacing them up quickly. She had put a finger to her lip and squatted down, nodding at me to do the same. My mom was looking for her, wandering slowly through the house and it seemed like she was the one who needed to be found. “Tell her I’m gone; I’m already running.”
I nodded and she was off, her shadow dark and racing against a sky that was even darker. When she rounded the corner, I went inside, closed the door and dead bolted it. I turned off the light over the front awning, making our house a black unwelcoming hole against the candles that burned from the miracle seekers in our fields. Sometimes I had wished my sister would just run and run and never come home.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Especially some of those great questions I created before my first boy/girl party? Apparently, I was nervous about someone turning off the lights at the boy girl party.
"If only I was born 1 year later my life would be the best. I met a boy named Jason -. He's so cute! Right when I saw him I knew I liked him. I never did believe in love at first sight but now I do. I know he likes me too but theres one big problem. He's going into 5th grade and I'm going into 6th grade. See I first met him at the Rad (read and discussion) club at the library. Every once in a-while he'd smile at me or I'd smile at him...."
I'm not sure what's more funny, that I fell in love "at first sight" at the library or that I believed I sketched a realistic picture of this boy:
I was in love with Ronald McDonald!
Nothing like robbing the cradle at the library! I was a cougar at the ripe old age of eleven!
I think the tribute last night on the Oscars to John Hughes helps give voice to my reasons for writing Young Adult literature.
If you have a minute, watch it. It's amazing....
Be sure to check back tomorrow...I plan on sharing more of my teenage years with you when I realize some more pages of my diary! You know you can't miss that!
Friday, March 5, 2010
I'm not sure what my next book is going to be, but I do know that I'll be reading it in style.
Seriously, you'll all be jealous of my Guinness Book of World Records certificate that I'll be receiving for helping break this record tonight!
Only in Cleveland can you do something as crazy as this!
Happy Friday, everyone!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
How amazing would it be to have a place like this to go to and write everyday? Laurie's writing cottage is incredible!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I knit while I watch TV. I'm usually on the couch and my Main Squeeze sits on our chair. We're about five feet away from each other (remember this fact, it will be important in a minute).
This year I've knitted a lot of little projects like baby blankets...
This lounge hoodie I just finished...
Do you want to know what he said?
"When did you make that?"
Remember how I said we sit and watch TV on the couch and the chair...which are only FIVE FEET away from each other?
He really missed me knitting for months to make a sweater THIS BIG?!
It's nice to know that I can plot to take over the world with my Main Squeeze sitting next to me. If he didn't notice me knitting a sweater this big, my plot for world domination will most likely go unnoticed by him!