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!