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Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Dictionary

I had an epiphany last night. Don't be scared.

So, I have a problem. A problem I'm a wee bit embarrassed to admit. Bear with me.

*deep breath*

Sometimes, when I'm reading other people's blogs and/or press releases and/or emails and/or news stories, I come across writing terms that make me go "WTFTDTM (What The French Toast Does That Mean)??"

Especially those various deal terms. You know: "significant deal," "good deal," "makes-you-want-to-slam-your-head-into-your-computer-and-give-up-writing-because-they-are-so-much-more-awesome-than-you deal." I come across those terms, and they make me go, "Gee, I wish there was an online dictionary of random and various YA writing terms to which I could refer in these embarrassing situations."

Which in turn made me go, "Gee, that would be kind of fun to put together."

So now I'm going, "Hey, YA writing community, wanna help?"

(If there is already a dictionary like this out there, I am very sorry and did not intentionally swipe your idea. Let me know and I'll more than happily hit you up with some linky-love.)

I've started a list of all the terms I have trouble with/can think of off the top of my head, but I know I'm missing some. I'm only one part of the YA publishing world, and a very small part of the publishing world at that. So to all of you multifaceted members of the YA world, I beseech you:

What writing terms do you know/would like definitions too/think would be useful in a YA Writing Term Dictionary?

The link for said (in progress) dictionary will pop up in my navigation bar in 5...4...3...2...

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Love Letter

Dear New Book,

Hi. How are you? I'm good. How are your plot twists? Still shocking? I hope so.

That's not really why I'm writing this letter. I mean, I care how you are, but I'm really writing this letter because, well, I just wanted to let you know I like you. A lot. You're the first story in a long, long time that I've really connected with, ya know? And I thought I should let you know. Take risks, right? Gotta jump sometimes. So this is me jumping.

I think you felt it too. I mean tonight, when I wrote that really funny scene. It just felt right. Didn't it? I can't tell you the last time I felt this-- this-- in tune with something. Your characters get me. They're so witty and understanding, and I have to admit, I think about them all the time. They're constantly gibbering in my head, making me count the minutes until I can see you again. And all those epic fight scenes coming up? Those tense revelation scenes? And, of course, those steamy kissing scenes? I'm EXCITED. Excited. I haven't been EXCITED in, well, years.

So I just wanted to let you know. I like you. And I think this you-and-me thing could go somewhere. I'm not trying to go too fast or anything, but I really hope we stick together long enough to create a finished manuscript. Hopefully you feel the same way.

Forever yours,
The Author

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Wait. Who's really earnest anymore?

According to my good friends Merriam and Webster:

Earnest -- A serious and intent mental state

So...I guess everyone. Everyone being all writer-folks. Unless you're those bubbly, giddy writer-types who jot down magical things as easy as they sneeze. Then you probably spend less time being earnest, more time being pelted with things BY earnest writer-folks.

What was my post about? Oh yeah:

It's taken a few years, a lot of personal revelations, a dash of terror, a smidgen of heartache (woa, smidgen is recognized as a word! Another personal revelation...), and a healthy dose of confounded-ness for me to get to a place where I can begin piecing together some semblance of a personal philosophy. You know, an outlook on life. My hakuna matata. Me manifesto. A compendium of all my beliefs.

I know. Heavy stuff.

But, like most aspects of life, I've found that it only takes looking at writing to really see what I believe. Because everything I need to believe, I have come to believe through the writing world. And one of the most important things I've come to learn (and am still in the process of perfecting, mind you) is the ability and dire importance to let myself feel.

Earnestness, anger, jealousy, rage, sorrow, depression, guilt -- you name it. It happens. It happens a LOT. It happens when people get kick-ass deals and I'm still floating in submission land (Pirates are notorious for having SHORT FUSES. Someone buy them SOON or they will attack the publishing industry with their steamboats and water nymphs and crocpeople and I won't be able to do a THING about it). It happens when one of my awesome friends sends me a KILLER manuscript and I grovel in my perpetual inability to commit to any story long enough to even DEVELOP a manuscript, yet alone a killer one. It happens when I end another week without having done any of the research I'd intended to do, and see an entire 7 days I could've used to get that much farther ahead with any of my could-be-awesome ideas.

I used to fight it. I used to feel those feelings coming on and fight them tooth and nail, violently opposed to letting myself admit I felt those things. No, I wasn't jealous. No, I wasn't angry. No, I wasn't *insert adjective here*. I wasn't I wasn't Iwasn't. I was strong and talented and capable and totally and completely in control of my future and career and feelings and I would NOT succumb to petty little emotions and see, I feel better already?

But smushing those feelings down doesn't do anyone a damn bit of good. In fact, it just makes them stronger the next time they come. And the next time. And the next. And before you know it, you're hyperventilating in the car on the way home from your "real" job because there were 5 more hours you COULD'VE spent writing, dammit, but you DIDN'T, and now you're going to go home and just make dinner and veg in front of the TV all night because you're too tired to write, and there'll go ANOTHER 5 hours...

So I tried something once. I felt a wave of jealousy rise up in me. And I -- let it. I saw it and waved to it. "Hey, I know you. You're that green thing that's been here before. How's it going?"

And you know what? It nodded at me. Brushed some dust off its coat. And took a seat in the back corner, foregoing any of its usual quiet bickering.

It's something I learned from Eat Pray Love. To embrace you, all of you, every flawed bit. We've been trained to resist bad things, to fight the good fight. But it's so much easier, so much less stressful, to just let it be. To recognize the bad stuff welling up inside of you but say "I see it. It's okay. I still love you."

So, next time you feel yourself needing to be earnest, ride it out. Unless that earnestness compels you to pelt bubbly, giddy writer-type people with blocks of Post Its. Then by all means, harness that earnestness and pelt away.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Clothes

Ya dig?

This is how I spent the better part of my Monday night. *waves at new blog layout* Pretty? Even if you don't think so, lie to me, because I spent a long many hours reworking the title picture so it'd be mostly centered and playing with the apps so they were arranged just so and generally getting so frustrated with my impatience with technology that I went to bed shaking.

Patience is SO not my virtue. I'm in the wrong profession.

Anyway, hopefully it isn't too appalling, what with my obvious skill with graphic design. Now I'm off to get some sleep before I embark on a fun-filled day of homeworking. Turns out I have to actually DO work before they give me my diploma. No one told me this at orientation.

AND I just realized I missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Blast my forgetful tendencies. Even though French Sam (my nicknaming abilities are as amazing as my graphic design abilities) reminded me a few days before. They'll kick me out of the pirate club for this infraction. Good thing Yazoo's on my side. No one can say no to him. You know, without getting a crocperson dropped into their bathtub. While they're in it.

And that's my cue to go to bed. Cheers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SPEAK Loudly

Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to go. to. bed. Long weekend, little sleep, and a cold-that-isn't-a-cold-that-wants-to-be-a-cold-but-I'll-be-DAMNED-if-it-is-a-cold are slowly wearing on me. So I had every intention of holding off on this post until tomorrow, when I was slightly more coherent or at least had a few more hours of sleep under my belt. But I checked Blogger one last time before I called it a night and saw this post. And I couldn't not put mine up tonight.

You can read the actual attack on SPEAK here. Many, many other fabulous bloggers have explanations of it too, so you can shoot on over to this post, this post, or Laurie's post. These women are amazing for speaking out and being so brave as to voice their opinions against the heinous accusations about SPEAK. People like this make me inordinately proud to be part of the writing blogosphere.

Now, on to my stance.

Unlike many of the other bloggers who have been speaking up, I am not a Christian. I used to be. I used to be the strongest, most devoted, most intense Christian possible. I used to be, as I call it now, a "psycho-Christian." The in-your-face, life-or-death, every-day-is-a-battlefield Christian. The kind of Christian that gives other Christians a bad name. At the time, though, it was EVERYTHING to me. They taught me how to eat, how to pray, how to talk, how to function. They told me what to believe about sex, relationships, the law, the world. There wasn't a single thing I did that didn't have a solid foundation in my Christian leaders' teachings, and every time they opened their mouths they sounded exactly like Scroggins.

One of the biggest issues they had was when Harry Potter exploded onto the scene in the early 2000's. An entire book about witchcraft. An entire SERIES that promoted Wiccan. This book was evil, pure evil, a handbook for people who wanted to unleash sinful things onto the world. Every pulpit, classroom, and lecture hall resounded with the voices of my Christian leaders condemning Harry Potter.

But when asked if they ever read it: "Of course not!"

This response, and their many subsequent and equally infuriating responses to other questions, eventually led me to escape their downright terrifying cult. But that's another thing about it -- it isn't a cult to them. THEY are the good guys and people like the KKK and extremist Muslims are the bad guys. "Obvious" bad guys. But not MY church. Not us. They just sit around, telling people what to believe without ever actually letting them figure out whether or not it's right for them. They just destroy people's minds with barriers of "Don't question God!" instead of destroying people's bodies with bombs or fire or guns. They just tell you exactly how to live, then when you fail to live up to their laws because humans have never-accounted-for-flaws, they ostracize you and berate you for not being "in line with God" no matter how hard you break yourself for their cause.

Yeah, THEY'RE the good guys.

(I'll probably tick some people off with this (lord knows I have already in the years since I denounced my Christianity), but that's not my intent at all. I'm not saying ALL Christians are like this. Absolutely, 100% NOT. Hell, scroll back up to the top of my post; I linked to 4 different women who profess to being Christians. I am a huge supporter of faith. I'm just telling you my story, MY STORY, so you will know why Scroggins' accusation was personally disgusting to ME. The sect of Christianity that I was a part of is a very, very extremist sect, and should not be seen as a general view on all Christianity.)

Scroggins' opinion was not at all surprising to me. I've heard such an opinion so many times before on a myriad of different areas of life. Books, movies, music, magazines, websites, social networking sites, even "too liberal" Bibles and Bible studies. If anything strayed at all into the realm of uncomfortable, real, or painful, my Christian leaders would deem it unholy and sinful. All we needed to fill our little heads with were stories of God's power and might and how we can all grow up to be holy, shining beacons of Heaven. And those stories are great -- but not when they're the only thing you read. Not when you grow up for 18 years in a bubble of "OUR world is perfect. That world is scary. We're not going to tell you why it's scary, because you'll never need to leave our world to go there, but it's scary. Trust us."

So when I left "their world" and discovered that the "real world" wasn't scary -- it was just unknown -- I was more than a little shocked. I'm still shocked. The shock of going from a world where everything is controllable and perfect and shining and purposeful to a world of chaos and disorder and madness and beautiful, glittering uncertainty is something that has taken 3 years to sink in. I still find myself gawking at how little I knew the world around me for the first 18 years of my life. All because my Christian leaders saw books like SPEAK, books that showed the reality of the world without any mention of God or heaven or redemption through Jesus Christ, and banned them. People saving THEMSELVES? People overcoming obstacles WITHOUT God's grace? Blasphemous. Wicked, corrupt blasphemy.

And it's disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting that when something shows a different side of this wondrous, multifaceted world we live in, Christian leaders such as Scroggins block it from the view of those children under their tutelage. Like if they keep barring enough things, their children will continue to grow up in the perfect bubble they shaped for them and nothing bad will ever penetrate their thick layer of God-skin.

But even while I was in the throws of "psycho-Christianity", imperfection worked its way in. People got hurt, attacked, destroyed. Usually, mostly, by other "Christians." My boyfriend during the last years of my Christianity was a horrific, abusive person, but he was God's chosen one for me. So no one stepped in. I didn't step in. When bad things penetrated the God-bubble, no one did anything to stop them. God's will. It was always God's will.

This was the biggest reason I left Christianity. I couldn't stand everyone doing NOTHING. Throwing up barriers against books like SPEAK yet doing nothing at all to prevent a young mother from being beaten by her husband, or refusing to step in to stop a dysfunctional family, or neglecting to get real medical treatment for a disease, all because it was "God's will." It was God's will that people died young. It was God's will that families fell apart. It was God's will that perfect, innocent young girls were attacked.

I couldn't take it anymore. When I left, all I could think, all I can STILL think about them is "FUCK YOUR GOD'S WILL."

MY will is that girls, boys, anyone who needs fantastic, soul-nourishing books like SPEAK have access to them without being berated by supposed leaders. MY will is that beautiful little girls who are told God has a reason for their pain will realize one day that there is NO reason good enough for that to have happened, and NO God would purposefully cause any of it to happen. It's not their fault, and God did NOT put that situation in their life for some almighty plan. It's THEIR life. Theirs. Not God's. THEIRS. And whatever good comes from it came because those little girls were strong enough, brave enough, and amazing enough to make a rose blossom in a pile of garbage.

That is the lesson I live my life by now. A lesson that SPEAK helped instill in me. No matter what bad comes, it isn't because some psycho-Christian's God dropped it into my life for a "higher purpose" that I'm not worthy enough to know. It's because shit happens. SHIT HAPPENS. And if I become a stronger, bolder, braver woman because of a bad situation, it isn't because a psycho-Christian's God instilled the strength in me. It's because I was strong all along. It's because I CHOSE to be strong, and to rise above it, and to not let a bad situation have victory over me.

"A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melinda-girl I haven't seen in months. That is the seed I will care for." -- SPEAK

That line is my single favorite line from a book. It captures the essence of this life I'm trying to now lead. Throughout our lives, when bad things arise, there is always a tiny seed of ourselves behind it all, whispering quietly in the dark. It's there, even when we're broken beyond repair and can't possibly move beyond the horrible, ominous dark. It's there. The quiet seed of ourselves that's waiting, just waiting for us to turn to it and say "I will be okay." And when we finally find the small sliver of strength to say that, the small part of ourselves that's been waiting all this time to hear it will smile. "I know," it'll say. "Now let's go back toward the light."

And if that displeases Scroggins' God, he isn't much of a god then, is he?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts Post-Easy A

Certain genres of movies infuse me with all sorts of post-movie-wisdom once I leave the theater. Scott Pilgrim was one. Easy A is another. And I like lists, so:

1) The banter in this movie was UNBELIEVABLE. And this is coming from the girl who owns the last 4 seasons of Gilmore Girls and finds ways to work Lorelai-sayings into daily life. I can't choose just one Easy A line as my favorite, so I'll just jot down those that stuck in my head:

Mary Anne: "If God wanted him to pass high school, He would've given him the right answers to the tests."
Olive: "You've gotta be shitting me, woman."

Olive's Mom (to her black son): "Don't worry, honey; everyone in our family's been a late bloomer."
Son: "But I was ADOPTED!"
Dad: *bangs on cupboard* "Who told you?!"

Dad: *plops next to adopted son on couch* "So, where ya from?"

There were so many lines that made me start to applaud, realize I was in a packed movie theater, and settle for quietly bouncing in my seat. This still elicited strange glances from the people around me, but when directors make an entire subsection of characters for the sole purpose of exhibiting the zealous characteristics of most mega-religions, I can't not squeal with joy. Bravo, Hollywood, for having the guts to make fun of what I usually get harped on for making fun of. Bravo.

2) The main character, Olive, is played by Emma Stone (who also played in Zombieland. I have such a girl-crush on her, right up there with Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13). Despite a few minor plot holes that I won't go into nitpicking, Olive is a fantastic embodiment of the stay-true-to-yourself coming-of-age storyline. Even when she gets herself stuck in the slut role, she OWNS it. This, of course, got me thinking.

How often do we OWN what we do, especially our mistakes? So much of our lives (or, at least, MY life, as I certainly can't speak for everyone) are spent trying to cover up what we've done or trying fix who we are so we can become someone better and THEN own THAT person, but lord knows THIS person is a horrible mistake of a person and good god, do you see THAT flaw, no, we can't possibly own being THIS person.

But Olive totally and completely embraces every mistake of hers. She tries to help out a gay friend and now people think she's a slut? No problem: she embroiders red A's on her wardrobe and dresses like a 50's burlesque dancer. She sees the problem, the rumor, but takes the idea and runs with it. The ultimate "untouchable" stance.

(Of course it ends up being *slightly* more than untouchable, but you'll just have to watch the movie.)

That kind of confidence is brilliant. To look at your mistakes and, instead of dissolving in a weeping heap of "But I'm NOT a slut! Why do they think that? Why are they so MEAN?", rise above them in a totally certain, I-am-ME-hear-me-roar way. I'm not saying to never admit to your mistakes; I'm saying to not let them defeat you. To not let them keep you awake at night, running through your head like they downed a carton of Mountain Dew and two packs of energy bars. To say to them, "Yes, I screwed up. But you know what? It's MY screw up now. And right or wrong, good or bad, I made it. So there. :P"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Utah Saga: Part the Third

Below you will find my final Utah Saga post, in which I smush everything that didn't really fit anywhere else. If it doesn't make sense, I have done my work well.

Giant egg seat! No home is complete without one.

OMG! It's Carrie Harris' book cover! In a frozen yogurt shop! Can we say "best advertising ever"?

In-ground trampoline! I'm easily entertained.

Between Carrabba's, Natalie's curry, and sushi, I think I gained somewhere around 30 lbs this trip. But it was so, SO worth it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Utah Saga: Part the Second

The second part of my Utah Saga of Awesome begins with a clue.

Cupcakes? In a bookstore? I knew I liked this state.

Pink frosted cupcakes in a bookstore can only mean one thing:


Look at us, all excited and stuff.

The signing was at a teeny bookstore in Salt Lake City called the King's English. It's one of those freakishly adorable house-turned-Indie-bookstores that has a maze of at least 20 different rooms, each with multiple book themes. I lost Natalie twice.

The actual signing was on the patio, where we waited with bated breath for:

HOLY BLEEP, the quilt! The quilt!

Kiersten was there too. And she had a book, or something?

BLEEP PART DEUX! A matching purse!

Much to my chagrin, neither the quilt, the zebra-print book purse, or that a-freakin'-dorable little girl in the background were for sale. Blast Kiersten and her luckiness.

Kiersten explained a bit about PARANORMALCY, did a reading...

Vampires! Tasey! Chaos!

...and answered questions. After which we all mad-dashed back into the bookstore because this was waiting for us:


But one of the many upsides of this predicament was the opportunity to converse with all of the people in line, who turned out to be mainly Bloggers of Epic Epicness. I felt like such a groupie, meeting all these people I'd admired from afar for so many years.

"You're a REAL PERSON?! No way! Me TOO!"

And, after much chatting and giggling and maneuvering around that teeny bookstore (shout-out to the poor bookstore girl who had the daunting task of keeping us crazy writer/blogger/book fans in check!), I finally made it to THE table, where I met THE Kiersten (again), who signed THE book. Or, you know, ONE of THE books.

AND I snagged a couple of AWESOME kt literary client swag from the table:

Are bookmarks swag? I'm calling them swag.

Whew! All kinds of excitement! Gotta take a breath.

Pop on back tomorrow for Utah Saga: Part the Third, or Utah Saga: Part with the Stuff that Wouldn't Fit Anywhere Else.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Utah Saga: Part the First

So, those massive amounts of pictures and stories of Utah excitement I promised? Prepare to be AMAZED.


Are you prepared? Seat belts fastened, trays locked, seat backs in the upright position? Note the exits at the front and back of the blog as well as the complimentary neon-pink barf bag in the seat pocket. If at any time you feel motion sick, nauseous, irritable, cranky, congested, sneezy, dopey, happy or grumpy, please alert one of your stewardesses and they will provide you with a box of furry little Corgi puppies to ease any troubles you may have. Corgi puppies solve everything. Trust me; I'm not a pilot.

Firstly, the single biggest reason you all should be jealous of my Utah Saga of Pure Awesome is because I got to spend 5 whole days with one of the most amazing people in the blogosophere and real-o-sphere, Natalie. Not only did she put me up in her home and chauffeur me back and forth to Starbucks to satisfy my morning cravings, she made me curry and took me to get sushi and made sure all of my first impressions of Utah were fabulous. I may gush, so I'll stop. But if it wasn't for her sheer awesomeness (and, of course, the awesomeness of her hubby and two a-freakin'-dorable kids), none of this Utah Saga would be possible.

One of the first things I heard about Utah was that there were some mountains, or something. I think it's a rumor.

Seriously, Utah. You can do better. Psh. It's like you're TRYING to make easy photo-ops. You don't have to flaunt it.

This person drove to the mountains from New York. NEW YORK. Let that sink in.

But even more impressive and beautiful and majestic were the FABULOUS writers I got to have lunch with on Friday. (Side note: When I die, I want it to be because I ate too much creme brulee at Carrabbas's Italian Grill.)

That's me, Natalie, Kiersten, and Renee. I kept thinking the universe would implode from the absolute amazingness of so many wonderful people in one place. These ladies are all as brilliant and funny and whitty and beautiful in real life as they are on their blogs.

So as not to overload you with Utah Awesomeness, I shall break this trip into 3 parts. Stay tuned tomorrow for Utah Saga: Part the Second!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I get to do something AMAZING tomorrow.

I get to go to UTAH.


Namely this freakishly awesome Ninja Woman, whom I have adored distantly for 2-ish years. And tomorrow, nay, in mere HOURS, I get to MEET HER. Face to FACE. Pirate to NINJA. Cutlass to THROWING STAR.

Can you feel the IMPORTANCE? I can. I can feel it.

I promise promise (cross my heart, hope to die, stick a peg-leg in my eye) that I will fill you all in with massive amounts of pictures and stories of Utah excitement when I get back next week. But until I return, I will be AWOL from the general social networking community. (Facebook and I have been at odds lately anyway. Twitter I'm okay with, Blogger too, but Facebook. Grr, Facebook. We need a break. It's not you, it's me. No, actually, it's you. You kind of make my life suck a little.)

To sum up: I get to meet someone I never would've known if it weren't for the sheer awesomeness of the writing community. The fact that writing brought me to know Natalie and a whole plethora of fantastic people is more mind-blowingly amazing than a book deal ever could be.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go re-color my rather faded purple hair streak. Can't have the Utahns thinking us Ohioans are unkempt.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Step #2: Haunted Places and Judaism

Character sheets: DONE.

Well, that is if your definition of "done" is "really, really thought about," then yes, they are done.

In my defense, I ran into a snag. I know nothing about the Civil War, Judaism, Haunted stuff, Photography or any of the other random and various things that will make this book multifaceted and awesome. So when I got to the question about Elias's birthday I put "Before the Civil War. Which was...um...18...50? 1860? 18-something. November 13, 18-something." Or for the question about Sophie's favorite sayings/expressions, I put "Jewish stuff. Dreidel. Matza balls. Oh, that's good! As a curse word: 'Oh, matza balls!'"

Needless to say, I made a LOT of headway. Again, if your definition of "headway" is "really, really thought about."

Which brings me to the next by-the-book step in novel writing: research. As much as I just want to start writing (that empty Word doc is calling my name. Screaming it. Sometimes it sings my name with John Rzeznik's voice and it takes everything in me to just...say...no.) I know it will only lead to a wall of frustration and not-as-good-as-it-could-have-been. So, in order to properly complete my character sheets and move forward, I Amazoned a few book purchases:

Judaism for Dummies and Encyclopedia of Haunted Places

The order police at Amazon are now going "What the matza balls?"

One of the good things about being a writer is you get to become a semi-expert in a bunch of areas. Which has always been a problem for me -- I like a LOT of different things and have a really hard time sticking to any one area for extended periods of time. Just ask my college counselors. Eight different majors. 3.5 years. That's gotta be some kind of record.

But now I get to research Judaism, Haunted places, and a whole other slew of stuff that has no logical connection or link. Randomness FTW.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go convince my friends to insert "matza balls" into daily their profanities.