Wednesday, December 31
My best friend Pammie and I go to the movies all the time. As my "date," when we see scary movies, she is subjected to me squeezing her hands until the circulation cuts off, tugging on her sweater sleeves to hide my eyes (RUINED one black sweater of hers, as a matter of fact, during SE7EN).
But few movies freak me out more than zombie flicks. Undead? They terrify me. Two nights ago I watched I Am Legend. Yeah, I know critics didn't love it. But flesh-eating zombies? Of COURSE it's a Christmas movie!
What is even funnier, I guess, is how I define scary. You see . . . Friday the 13th didn't scare me. I mean, come on? Freddie Krueger? I laugh in the face of this gloves. And those movies where you answer a cellphone and next thing you know, you're dead? Come on! Or those Final Destination ones? I laugh in the face of their gore.
But zombies? Well, they could really happen!
So could devils! The Exorcist had me awake for a week after I saw it.
I don't know why I have this pecking order of what I believe could really happen and thus it's scary. But I do.
The only movies I avoid in that realm are torture porn flicks like Saw. See . . . that's just sick. Not scary.
But tell me . . . what movies keep YOU awake at night?
Monday, December 29
Anyway, adapting a movie from a book must be popular because more are on the way!
Cornelia Funke's Inkheart hits theaters on January 23, 2009 with Brendan Fraser (hot!) and Helen Mirren (super talented!). I started the book a few weeks ago, but didn't finish it. Has anyone read it? Do you think the movie will be good?
Also in January, Emma Roberts stars in Hotel for Dogs, based on Lois Duncan's book. Haven't read this one, either, but I want to now! The movie looks cute.
February sounds as if it will be a good book to movie month with Neil Gaiman's Coraline, He's Just Not That Into You and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
All of this info came from Bookreporter.com--a cool site that dedicates an entire section to books turned movies. It has a complete list of books to movies from 2002-2008. Wow.
So, if you're a writer, do you have a cast in mind for your book(s)? If so, share! If not, what's your #1 favorite book to movie? Or, what book to movie did you dislike?
Sunday, December 28
Tale of Despereaux. The review was mostly positive, but neither the review nor the trailers I've seen reflect the sensitive and serious book I read, so unless my eight-year-old drags me to see it, I'm staying home. (Note: She's very good at dragging! She even got me to take her and a friend to College Road Trip last year - talk about really loving your kid! Ticket Taker: "You here to see Horton?" Me: "No, College Road Trip - you know, the best movie of the year?" Ticket Taker: "You just keep telling yourself that, lady." Really, I love my daughter; and, you know, at least the Raisinettes were good.) I do agree with the reviewer that the red hat makes Despereaux look more like a bunny than a mouse.
Bedtime Stories. Lousy review, but I'm still going. Adam Sandler deposited a lot of good will in the bank with Wedding Singer years ago - hysterical and moving - and he's still reaping the returns, at least with me. Plus, I only recently discovered "The Chanukah Song," I'm Jewishly grateful for it, and that hamster looks adorable.
Revolutionary Road. Not a good review, but I'm still going. I'm curious to see how Kate Winslet, whom I adore - yea for the occasional not-skinny movie star! - and Leonardo DiCaprio do together 10 years after Titanic, plus it looks dark-dark-dark in the way that other period piece Far from Heaven was, and I've been needing to indulge my dark side lately as an antidote to all this holiday cheer.
Marley and Me. Bad review, and I'm going to try hard not to see it even though I love Jennifer Aniston - go, Team Jennifer! - and my daughter says she wants to. My daughter cried buckets when the often-mean gorilla died in "Tarzan," the play, prompting all the adult strangers around us to get tears in their own eyes at the sight of her sorrow, so how are we going to get through the death of a cute dog???
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This is the real problem. The Times review was mixed in parts, but mostly the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. And I really like Cate Blanchett. And I really like Brad Pitt, even though I am devoutly Team Jennifer. Have I mentioned I'm Team Jennifer? I really am. But, but, but: the F. Scott Fitzgerald story that it's supposedly based on is one of my favorite short stories ever, I've read it several times, and everything I've seen about the movie bears no resemblance whatsoever to the story I love so dearly! Well, except for the title and the fact that the main character physically ages in reverse. But other than that? Nothing! And how in the world did they take this short story - did I mention that it's a short story and not a 500-page novel? - and turn it into a nearly three-hour movie??? But I still may go. Maybe. Because I'm curious about Curious and because my daughter wants to see this one as well. Maybe I could trade her: We skip the mouse/bunny and the dead dog in favor of seeing just what the hell Hollywood has done to Fitzgerald this time? OK, maybe I won't phrase it like that, but you get the picture. So...
QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHAT MOVIES ARE YOU GOING TO SEE NO MATTER WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAY?
Be well. Don't forget to write.
Oops, I forgot to mention: The first two books in THE SISTERS EIGHT series, ANNIE'S ADVENTURES and DURINDA'S DANGERS, go on sale tomorrow - please buy early and often!
Monday, December 22
In other news, I am busy plotting out my WIP. I discovered One Note and am totally in love. I created a notebook for my WIP and have different pages for each chapter, as well as a page for my characters and another one for my plot notes. It looks like an electronic binder. Fabulous. I usually get to chapter five and panic because the ending is done and I have to get into the meat of the book. I've tried many different plotting methods and have only had minimal success with any one method and it seems to change with each book.
In still other news, (am loving this week's topic of anything goes!) today is my birthday. People always ask me if I ever felt cheated having my birthday this close to Christmas, but I never did. When I was little, I thought all the lights and hoopla was just for me. As I got older, I still loved having the house decorated for my birthday. My parents and family always made sure I got separate gifts, so it was never a problem. The only thing I didn't like was never having my birthday presents in pretty birthday paper, it was always Christmas paper! As if having a birthday and Christmas so close together wasn't enough, my husband and I got married on the 27th... let's just say I make out like a bandit the last week in December!
This will be the last time I post here this year... so I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. I am proud and happy to be a part of Teen Fiction Cafe!
Sunday, December 21
Saturday, December 20
If you think it's tough going through the teens years, then take it from me it's no picnic going through it again with your kids. In fact I have only one piece advice to all parents: remember you were young once.
And as I frequently tell my kids: there's nothing you're doing that I haven't already done - so don't bother trying to fob me off with untruths!!!
Having said that, it's still hard to watch them make the same mistakes, although at least they do confide in me in a way I never would have with my parents.
Their father doesn't see it like I do, and is continually saying things like: 'it wasn't like that in my day'....... maybe that's why I write young adult fiction and he doesn't!!!
Friday, December 19
The feed is here: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/tfcblog/
You should be able to go to your add/remove friends page, and add the username tfcblog
Thank you Jo Knowles for the suggstion!
Wednesday, December 17
I’m not sure if I ever wrote about it here before, but for years I didn’t mention the fact that, as a kid, I had been bullied.
One of the reasons I didn’t talk about it is because I didn’t understand it. I’d done nothing I could think of to instigate their behavior except move to a new town, and arrive at my new school with a major stomachache and a bad case of nerves. But by lunchtime that very first day, word was out, and my new nickname of “Stuck Up B*&%h” somehow stuck. There was even a song created to go with it, one that made liberal use of my nickname, over and over again.
But despite the lyrics professing that I thought I was “sooo bitchen” I’m here to say I pretty much felt I was anything but. I may have lived in the biggest house on the street, but trust me, it was by no means happy inside. My parents were constantly fighting, on the verge of divorce, and my entire world was falling apart, making it hard to determine which was more miserable, being at home or going to school.
One of the other reasons I never talked about it is because I was ashamed. When a group of kids decide to outright reject you, without talking to you or getting to know you first, but merely deciding to hate you at first sight, it does more than just hurt, it makes you question your entire being, your self-worth. Besides, back then, bulling was relegated to something boys did. No one ever spoke about the propensity of meanness in girls. And believe me, there was nothing covert about what they did, it was right out there in the open, available for teachers and parents to see, but not once did anyone ever step in to stop it.
And though the taunting eventually stopped, the effects lingered for a very long time. And it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I read Rachel Simmons incredible book, ODD GIRL OUT that I could finally define what’d happened to me. It’s hard to describe the emotions I went through when reading the book, but it was definitely a cathartic experience. Just knowing that I wasn’t alone, that others had experienced the same type of thing, provided tremendous relief.
Not long after reading it, I wrote ART GEEKS AND PROM QUEENS, my book about bullying, conformity, and the insidious meanness of girls. And I thought I was done with the topic, having fully moved on, when the strangest thing happened just a few days ago.
One of my bullies sent me an e-mail.
She’d found me on a social networking site and contacted me. Telling me how horrible she’d felt all of these years, and how she’d never tolerate that sort of behavior in her own kids. And even though it would seem like I should be well past caring either way, I could hardly believe my eyes when I read it. That e-mail meant a great deal to me, much more than I was probably able to express in my reply.
So I guess these are my tips for Surviving Adolescence week here at The Cafe:
If you’re being bullied- speak up! Don’t suffer in silence; tell someone who can help you! And definitely get yourself a copy of ODD GIRL OUT.
If you ARE the bully- then STOP IT! Just STOP IT! Treating others poorly is one of the worst things you can do, and it is NEVER okay. The cheapest way to feel good about yourself is by bashing someone else. Find a better way to boost your own self-esteem.
Oh, and no matter how many decades have passed, a heartfelt apology goes a very long way.
Monday, December 15
So for today's post, let's share survival tips. What are some of your best strategies for getting through the holidays?
I'll list a few of mine to get us started:
1. Look for something you can do to brighten someone else's holiday.
Test me on it if you don't believe it works, but getting involved in some kind of service is the best way I know to forget about your own stress, plus it has the added benefit of helping someone and it makes you feel great in the process. It's even better if you do it anonymously.
2. Take control. If you have a family gathering looming and you dread the pushy, nosey questions some of your relatives love to dump on you each year, go proactive. Be prepared with topics to steer the conversation. If that doesn't work, have an escape plan in place!
3. READ! Curling up with a great book is another stress reliever. If you'd like book suggestions, we are discussing book gift ideas over on my blog this week and all of the suggestions so far sound fantastic. My TBR list is growing by the day!
So how about you? What are some of your holiday survival strategies?
Sunday, December 14
And now, the winner - drawn by random number generator(every author's favorite friend) is:
Thank you to everyone else who entered and don't forget to keep checking back in because there will be more prizes up for grabs closer to the release date not to mention a MASSIVE blog party with a whole heap of amazing authors (and a whole heap of books written by the before mentioned amazing authors!!!)
Friday, December 12
I truly wish I could give everyone a copy because you all inspired me. Alas, I've only got two copies, and so...
My random pulled-out-of-the-hat winner is: Yan! Congratulations! (By the way, walking up and down hills is a great workout!)
And the very difficult decision of the second winner is Ruby, because her story is very similar to something that happened to me in 6th grade when I was just innocently walking down the hall to class, minding my own business, and this 8th grade boy I didn't even know looked me right in the eyes and said, "You're fat." And for some reason, it takes tremendous powers of the mind to get the unsolicited opinion of a random stranger out of my head 27 years later! I also think what Ruby says about the people you surround yourself with is important. If all your friends are constantly saying mean things about other people's appearance, you might want to think about how that's affecting your own views.
If Yan and Ruby could please email me your contact info - sarazarr at gmail.com - I will get those signed books in the mail next week.
Again, thanks EVERYONE, you are all winners to me!
I blogged about how over the moon I get when people tell me they were inspired by my book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, and how I wanted to do some sort of fan art contest. Well, I've finally had the time to figure out details (for the most part, there are a couple of legalities I am waiting to hear back from the publisher about) so now I am happy to announce the Inspired By Contest!
There will be two categories for the Inspired By Contest: Fan Art and Soundtrack.
Fan Art Category:
Submit your songs, poems, drawings, paintings, photography, zines etc that are inspired by IWBYJR OR dress up as a character, film a scene from the book, make a She Laughs music video OR design a logo for a She Laughs band t-shirt. Basically anything creative that is inspired by the book will be creative.
You will need to submit your entries by email to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com, which means that you will need to be able to send a photograph of your art project or in the case of songs or videos, you will need to send me a link to where I can hear/see the song/video like on YouTube or MySpace or whatever. Please also include a sentence or so about how the artistic endeavor was inspired by IWBYJR ie "This song is about a relationship like Emily and Johnny's" or "This is me dressing up like Emily did for her first show" or "This is a painting inspired by Louisa." Oh and yes, you can submit up to three entries as long as they are different types, ie. one song, one soundtrack, one She Laughs logo design.
Deadline is January 15th. This should give you time after the madness of the Holidays, but of course if I don't get enough entries or you guys don't think this is enough time, I'll push it back.
Judging will be done by my blog readers. I'll post a blog entry with all the photos and links and ask people to vote. Yeah, you can vote for your own or send your friends to vote for you, that's fine!
Grand Prize will be your choice of a 25$ online gift certificate to either DownloadPunk or Amazon or (if we have them) a She Laughs t-shirt PLUS a signed poster from my Metro reading with Irvine Welsh (signed by me, Irvine, and Bill Hillmann, pictured above) PLUS once I receive them (which may not be until spring), you will get a signed, advanced reader's copy of my next book Ballads of Suburbia!
Second Place will get a signed poster from my Metro reading with Irvine Welsh (signed by me, Irvine, and Bill Hillmann).
Three Runners Up will get signed coverflats of IWBYJR.
All Winners will have their work posted on or linked from my website.
And note that depending on the number of entries, I will try to do a little something for everyone who enters, like either put your stuff up on the website or send you a signed bookmark or something!
A note about the She Laughs logo design entries/making t-shirts: this is the thing I am waiting to get legal clearance on from the publisher. If we get legal clearance (which will probably involve me posting some legal mumbo jumbo and potentially having the winner sign something), I may like to use one or more of the She Laughs logos that is designed to actually sell shirts for charity via a Cafe Press store. If your design is chosen, regardless to how you place in the contest, you will receive a t-shirt with your design!
This is for those of you who like me, may not be musically or artistically inclined (though I could write a poem or dress up as a character and I'm willing to bet most of you could too) or who just LOVE making mix CDs.
Submit your list of up to 20 songs that would be on your personal IWBYJR soundtrack. Unless the song is super popular (ie. Nirvana' or the Beatles or Britney Spears or something), if you can give a link to where the song can be heard or a YouTube video or something that would be great. Even more awesome, do your soundtrack on Project Playlist. Send the list of songs or link to Project Playlist to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.
Deadline is January 15th.
Judging will be done by the blog readers and again, you can vote for your own or send your friends to vote for you, that's fine!
Grand Prize will be a copies of both of my soundtracks (I have one for IWBYJR and one for Ballads) PLUS once I receive them (which may not be until spring), you will get a signed, advanced reader's copy of my next book Ballads of Suburbia!
3 Runners Up will receive their choice of either my IWBYJR soundtrack or my Ballads soundtrack.
All Winners will have their soundtracks posted on my website. And depending on the number of entries, I may post all entries on my website.
Whew! That is a lot of info, but it's kinda a complicated contest. It's also the one I am most excited about running so I hope those of you who have read the book will enter, it should be really fun!
Tuesday, December 9
Monday, December 8
OMG- there's only four months until ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH hits the shelves and to celebrate this momentous occasion I'm going to give away my Very Last arc!
Now, I love my heroine as much as the next author, but between you and me, I think Mia probably would've found it a lot easier if she'd had some sort of Zombie Survival plan. So, in order to give Mia a helping hand, and to prepare yourselves for if you should ever be in a similar situation, I want to hear everyone's best Zombie Survival Tips for what they would do if they were being attacked by the living dead.
Though, let me give you a gentle hint - don't say that you would lie there and play dead because it wouldn't work. Zombies might look stupid - what with all the crazy walking and the drooling - but they've got a serious sense of smell and they'd be pulling out the ketchup bottles and chewing on your arm before you even realized your mistake.
So, see, it's simple. All you need to do is leave me your best zombie survival tip and you can go in with a chance to win. I'm running this competition on my blog, myspace and Teen Fiction Cafe and you can leave an answer on any of them (or all of them if you REALLY want to!!!!) and I'll pick a winner on Sunday night. Easy peasy.
Friday, December 5
It's promo week at the cafe and I almost missed my turn as I was in Las Vegas celebrating my b-day with my amazing husband-- Thanks babe you ROCK!!
Thursday, December 4
Anyway, a night like that happened this week at the book party I co-hosted at Butter (a favorite Gossip Girl eatery) with Gamer Girl author Mari Mancusi, who rules. Here she is signing her book. Isn't she pretty in purple?
We were celebrating Gamer Girl (which has a purple-ish cover) and Violet in Private, so I wore purple tights, too, but I have no evidence of that. Sorry! Here (with me, left) were awesome authors Bennett Madison (The Lulu Dark mysteries) and Deborah Gregory (Cheetah Girls series and Catwalk).
And Mari and I got to rub elbows with Scott Westerfeld (Uglies) and Diana Peterfreund (Rampant). They came with fellow fabulous authors Justline Larbalestier (How to Ditch Your Fairy) and Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett).
Mari put games on the table, so here's Becky, Jeff and Dave getting into Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
Great crowd too--attendees from Vogue, Teen Vogue, ELLE, InStyle, Daily Candy, CNN and, of course, Mari's colleagues from Better TV. We also had socialites, publicists, a ton of great authors, and Dorchester and Penguin editor types.
What other authors were there? Glad you asked! Michael Northrop (Gentlemen), Liz Maverick (Wired) and Anisha Lakhani (Schooled). It was cool.
Oh, and we had signature chocolates that looked like they had gold in them. It was like magic!
Thanks to everyone who came and celebrated with us--too many awesome people to name. Also, thanks to Butter, and to Clarins and Lierac for the gift bag contributions. We had a blast!
Tuesday, November 25
I’m going to start with a fangirly story about Richard Peck, but I promise that this post will eventually get to the topic at hand this week: books and reading. At the Utah Book Festival, I had the lucky chance to spend some quality time with the acclaimed and bemedaled Mr. Peck, and marvel at his career longevity and energy. At one point, he asked my husband and me about favorite movies. After we answered, we asked him about his favorite movie, and without hesitation, he said: Dodsworth. Now, I think of myself as pretty film literate, across genres and decades, but not only had I not seen this movie, I’d never even heard of it! How humiliating! I don’t like to not know things. It conflicts with my image of myself as the all-knower-of-things. Anyway, because I developed a great affection for Richard and wanted to prove myself worthy of his friendship, I of course ran right out and got hold of Dodsworth. It was great. In the long run, it’s mostly a movie about ideas, and I liked the ideas it explored and the way it explored them. But this post is not about movies, it’s about books!
So, Dodsworth the movie is based on Dodsworth the novel, by Sinclair Lewis. I checked the Kindle store to see if it was available, as a lot of classics are, on the cheap (like $5 and under for Kindle versions, much of the time). No sign of Dodsworth there, but I did find a bunch of other Sinclair Lewis books, including one of his most well-known, Main Street, in a Modern Library eBook Edition. I started reading it the other night and it includes an introduction by the author. I love author introductions! They tell you so much about who the author is and what kind of relationship he or she had with his work in the process of writing it, and later at the time of writing the intro. They tell you if the author has a sense of humor about life and work, or is a self-important blowhard. They also offer inspiration and understanding to authors who might feel uninspired or misunderstood. Lewis’s introduction made me immediately love him and feel inclined to love his work. Here are some quotables:
“To me (and I think to most writers) there is no conceivable subject so uninteresting as one’s own book, after you have finished the year of ditch-digging and bricklaying, read the proofs with the incessant irritation of realizing how much better you might have said this or that if you had had another year, then fretted over the reviews---equally over those in which you are hoisted to the elevation of world master, and those in which you are disclosed as a hypocritical illiterate.”
He started the book fifteen years before it was published. Originally it had a different protagonist. He threw out his original material and started over. About 30,000 words into the do-ver, he decided that he wasn’t up to it yet. (And writes, “Whether I was up to it in 1919 [the year it was published], either, I must leave to critics less prejudiced.”) He went off and wrote short stories for awhile and sold a serial to the Saturday Evening Post. That gave him enough money to take a year off and he put nose to the grindstone, “eight hours a day, seven days in most weeks, though a normal number of daily hours of creative writing is supposed to be about four…I never worked so hard, and never shall work so hard, again…unless Comes the Revolution and I am driven from writing to real work, like bricklaying or soldiering or being a nursemaid.”
Despite the fact that I sometimes see all the different versions of classics as just a cheap way for publishers to make money on expired copyrights, a good edition tells you stuff you might never get to know about a writer who died before we all had blogs. This edition also has commentaries from ten other authors, including E.M. Forster, Dorothy Parker, H.L. Mencken, and Sherwood Anderson. I’m not reading those yet, because I like to know a book myself, first.
Speaking of the book, I’m loving it. It’s about small town Midwestern America just after the turn of the century. The protagonist is a college grad from St. Paul, who marries a country doctor and reluctantly moves to one of the prairie towns that she so hates and fears. Here she is taking a walk on the first day in her new town:
"She stared with seriousness at every concrete crossing, every hitching-post, every rake for leaves; and to each house she devoted all her speculation. What would they come to mean? How would they look six months from now? Which of these people whom she passed, now mere arrangements of hair and clothes, would turn into intimates, loved or dreaded, different from all the other people in the world?"
And one last note about the Kindle itself as it relates to the books/reading topic. After owning mine for a month or so, I'm finding that I go to it for very specific things: reading manuscripts, reading one of those "through the bible in a year, for dummies and lazy people!" bibles, and finding cheap but good electronic classics. Often the versions at the library are either big heavy hardcover editions, or mass market paperbacks with tiny print and yellowed pages. Something about having a classic on the Kindle makes it feel accessible and new, and you're not thinking, "Damn, this is an old book!" as you read. Which is good for a reluctant reader like me.
Monday, November 24
Sunday, November 23
DEADLINE, by Chris Cruthcher. After being diagnosed with an incurable form of leukemia, 18-year-old Ben Wolf decides to forego treatment and keep his illness a secret, instead electing to pack an entire lifetime worth of living into his senior year.
GYM CANDY, by Carl Deuker. A high school football player resorts to steroids to amp up his game.
BOY TOY, by Barry Lyga. A then-and-now story about how the sexual relationship a boy has with his teacher at age 12 still affects everything in his life now that he's 18.
KNIGHTS OF THE HILL COUNTRY, by Tim Tharp. Think "Friday Night Lights" only in small-town Oklahoma, where sometimes football even ranks ahead of God and country.
GETTING THE GIRL, by Marcus Zusak. An earlier work from the best-selling author of "The Book Thief," set in Australia, about family dynamics and competition between brothers.
And since I'd be remiss if I made such a list and didn't give a shout-out to my own husband:
SOMETHING HAPPENED, by Greg Logsted, about a 13-year-old boy, still mourning the death of his father, who falls prey to the attentions of a hot new teacher; and ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH, forthcoming, also by Greg Logsted, about the globe-trotting son of a CIA agent, forced into hiding, who now faces the real challenge of his life: junior high.
Oh, and I just happen to be working on a new book myself with a male protagonist.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHAT BOOKS HAVE YOU READ WITH MALE PROTAGONISTS THAT YOU CAN RECOMMEND?
Be well. Don't forget to write.
Tuesday, November 18
Does holiday music make you want to puke, or does it put you in a merry mood? Do you have a favorite holiday song or CD? If so, please share!
I was exposed to those songs at a very early age and even though I really only remember them as background noise, they definitely influenced me subconsciously. When I was young, my parents listened to a lot of folk music when I was little, so I grew up on songs by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and others. Their songs often told stories about people who worked hard to get by or who were trying to bring change to the world. Admittedly, as I grew up and started discovering my own music, those artists didn't really interest me. Like my character, Emily from I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I usually searched for music that was loud. One big exception was Johnny Cash.
I had a really cool teacher in college, Joe Meno (who some of you might know for his books like Hairstyles of Damned), who brought a boombox and a bunch of Johnny Cash CDs into our creative writing class one day. He wanted us to listen to the stories in the songs and think about music as a form of storytelling. After all, before the printing press and all of that, stories were often passed along as ballads. I wrote in my journal furiously during that class because it helped me figure out something very important about a novel idea I had that would become my second novel, Ballads of Suburbia (which is already available for pre-order on Amazon, squee!). I realized that the Johnny Cash songs that Joe was playing had something in common with a couple punks songs I really liked, namely "Story of My Life" by Social Distortion and "The Young Crazed Peeling" by The Distillers. They told the story of the most important moment (or moments) of someone's life (perhaps a real person, perhaps a character). I decided to do work that concept into Ballads of Suburbia. Each of my characters writes their ballad, or the defining moment of their life, in a notebook. Their ballads aren't songs though they all are introduced by lyrics that speak to the character and remind them of their story.
I'm about to start revisions on Ballads of Suburbia, which may be one reason I'm re-obsessed with songs that tell stories. But the other reason is a song called "Anna is a Stool Pigeon" by Tom Gabel, the lead singer of Against Me! who just put out a solo ep called Heart Burns. I've been listening to the song over and over again. It's based on the true story of activist Eric McDavid and I might just have to share the song with my parents because it likes the punk version of the folk songs they raised me with. Here's a clip of Tom performing it at my local radio station Q101:
This is the link to the video of the song, but be forewarned, the lyrics in this version are not "radio friendly."
As for some other story songs I like, Against Me! has a song called "Thrash Unreal" that weaves the story of a very interesting and sad female character. I have no doubt it will inspire me to write a story someday. Also, Nirvana is my favorite band and even though Kurt Cobain is known for writing lyrics that are hard to understand and interpret, he wrote one of my favorite story songs, "Polly," which is based on the true story of a girl from Tacoma, Washington who was kidnapped and escaped her captors. Their song "Paper Cuts" is also based on a newspaper article that Cobain read and the song "Scentless Apprentice" is basically a book report on the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind. It's interesting to think of Kurt Cobain being inspired by books and newspaper articles to write his songs, when I'm inspired by music and newspaper articles to write my books!
What about you, what are some of your favorite songs that tell a story that is really vivid or resonates with you?
Thursday, November 13
It's always a gamble when a favorite book is adapted for the silver screen. Here are some examples from recent years (in no particular order):
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Fail. How could they add that stupid talking snake and music montage and take away the animated rug and sliding down the banister?
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Awesome, especially the quidditch game.
Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Fun. Ever notice how well Hector Elizondo plays the gentle advisor to confused diamond-in-the-rough young women? See Pretty Woman.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Fail. What was up with the costuming? Bleh.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Well done. Made me cry, just like the book.
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Disappointing. A beautiful movie to look at, but sooo chopped up.
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
OK, The DaVinci Code was not a favorite book, but I had to include it to ask - what was up with that awful hair they gave poor Tom Hanks? Ick.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Loved, loved, loved it. Great adaptation. Especially Dule Hill as Sam and Jon Voight as Mr. Sir.
And there are so many, many more.
Have any of your favorite books been made into movies? How did they fare?
P.S. I'm giving away the first ever advanced readers copy of DEATH BY DENIM this weekend on my blog. Come on by!
Wednesday, November 12
Since it’s anything goes week here at the café, I thought I’d write about a little phenomenon you might have heard of called TWILIGHT (the movie). And while I won’t get into a Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate—I think we’ve all had enough of divisive politics for a while—I do want to talk about the amazing fact that according to Fandango, over 100 show times are already sold out across the nation—and we’re still a week away from the premiere!
And while I haven’t read past NEW MOON (yet!), I’m definitely planning to see the movie—at midnight—on Thursday—and yes, I preordered my tickets from Fandango too—or rather Jessica Brody pre-ordered them as she’s far more organized and industrious than me—but I digress!
And in case you were wondering (you probably weren't, but still) I don’t consider myself a rabid fan. I mean, I really really liked the book, and by the end I was even more than a little annoyed with my husband for not being a vampire like Edward—because how cool would that be? But still, I’m not as obsessed as some people I know (you know who you are!). So I guess that’s why I don’t have these huge expectations other than to be entertained.
What about you? Do you have major expectations? Will you be disappointed if it’s not true to the book?
Alyson Noel, is the award winning author of seven novels. EVERMORE, the first book in her upcoming IMMORTALS series will be in store on 02.03.09, BLUE MOON will follow in Fall 09, with three more titles in 2010. You can visit her at: www.alysonnoel.com
Monday, November 10
So anyway, it got me to thinking, do I love both these songs because they are familiar or because they are different? But of course, as you teen fiction cafers have probably already twigged, it's because they are both, and it suddenly occur ed to me that this is what I always try to do with my writing.
I love taking something familiar (like death or zombies) and building up my own little world for it where things can happen my way. I'm not saying everyone will like what I do with it, but as a writer, it's definitely what keeps me feeling challenged and happy. So what do we all think? Do you like these sort of covers of have the artists committed the ultimate sacrilege????
Sunday, November 9
For my post this week I decided to talk about ideas, and where they come from. It's a subject that fascinates me because my ideas are a bit thin on the ground. I'm truly envious of writers who say they have enough ideas to keep them going for the next fifty years. WTF!!!! I'm lucky if I have one or two swirling aimlessly around my head at any one time.
One source of ideas for me, though, is my teenage son. The things he gets up to, and has in the past, help me greatly. The staple gun incident.... one of his. A friend and him riding round a farm, one on a quad bike and one on a lawnmower and crashing..... and his friend persuading the owners of the bike/lawn mower not to tell his parents and letting him pay for the damage in instalments...... perfect opening to another book. Swapping keyboards in a computer test so his friend could complete his while it looked like he was doing the work..... ingenius. The trouble is he's getting older and more responsible.... so then what shall I do. I can't rely on my daughter. Apart from the fact she's older she's always behaved herself.....
So, if you write, where do your ideas come from?
Sunday, November 2
Thursday, October 30
Lately, however, J's cut down on her shifts. There are new people there, and they are very smiley and nice (J often surly, but it's part of her charm), and these new people do not make the coffee right. Too much cream, too little sugar, not enough cream, waaaay to sweet... the combinations of wrongness are endless. I miss J.
This one small thing--someone changing shifts after five years at my coffee shop--has really thrown me! I can't get the coffee I want, and therefore I can't write as well as I want to! I need my Dizzy's iced coffee!
Now, never fear, I've taken to stalking J's few shifts and ordering coffee then. It's not the same, but I should cut back on the cream anyway, and this just makes the perfect cup all the more special and tasty--it's become a real treat.
Has this ever happened in your world? One small shift that seems to have a ripple effect? And also: What is your Dizzy's coffee? The thing you need to sit down with when you start working on something? (I'm thinking of subbing in Gummy Worms.)
Tuesday, October 28
Of course, before I was actually in the lull (the more I type that word, the more wrong and crazy it looks), I looked forward to it. I'd fantasize about waking up to empty days and being able to relax and play and read and putter and shop and lunch and go to movies and maybe even mop the floors. In reality, waking up feels a little bit like falling into a hole. As soon as my eyes open, I'm slipping down, down, down into an abyss of uncertainty: How will I approach my day? How will I get myself to make good use of my time without obsessively trying to be "productive"? What is the balance between rest and work? And if I think I've found the balance, can I trust my own judgment? Et cetera.
"Wow, Sara, this sounds like the perfect time to get cracking on your next book or some other wonderful fun writing project!"
Oh, does it now. Yes, on good days I do dabble in potential future projects and try out some new ideas. But I find it difficult to concentrate when in the back of my mind I know there's a monster editorial letter coming that embodies my dearest dreams and worst fears and will be the beginning of a lot of hard work (during the holidays! yay!).
Still, I know that if I want to sustain a long-term writing career and keep the hits comin' and not have a psychotic break, I need to learn how to deal with The Lull. That might look like working on a writing project, or it might look like figuring out how to relax and enjoy the down time, or a little of both.
How do you deal with the lull? Tell me your secrets!
Monday, October 27
It's a draft and it's down! With this draft, I did my own sort of NaNoWriMo but in half the time. I started this draft with a 25 page outline on October 10 and finished it yesterday. It flowed so well and there were times when I couldn't stop writing.
Now, it's onto paper editing for a few weeks. I'll be glad not to be starting at my computer screen for most of the day.
How do you celebrate when you finish a first draft?
Sunday, October 26
That's all I wanted. I wasn't selling my neighbors usuriously high-priced gift wrap or other things they didn't need. I just wanted to know which women in my neighborhood were for and which against this crucial issue. Somehow in my mind, I had decided that the women's liberation movement could not possibly stride forward unless I was able to provide statistics from my own minuscule neighborhood in suburban CT. So I trudged from one-acre lot to one-acre lot, doggedly seeking my data. This did not take long since I was only allowed to go to three streets. Nor was it a very successful day for the movement. What few women did answer their doors - I remember all of them wearing hair curlers - did not answer as I'd dreamed they would, mostly just shooing me away. I remember one woman who wouldn't even answer her door, opening a second-story window just long enough to fearfully implore me, "Please. Just go." Who did she think I was, the Ghost of Women Future? It was tough not to picture a chain reaction of hair-curlered women, each one calling her neighbor to warn about the kid with the dry-cleaner cardboard survey who was threatening to come their way.
It's odd to me now to think of that little girl: how earnest, how certain she was that what she did mattered!
Funny, I still think that certain things matter. It matters to have opinions on the significant issues challenging our times. It matters, whether we do it literally or figuratively, to register "for" or "against." And it really matters, even if we live in states so far red or blue that it doesn't seem like it matters, to exercise our privilege by getting out there and voting.
I started out by thinking this an unglamorous post. I mean, it's not exactly Gossip Girls, is it? But now I'm thinking it's very glamorous. Standing up and being counted: that's sexy. And there'll be nothing sexier come November 4 than walking out of a polling station with one of those happy little "I voted today!" stickers plastered to your chest. So get out there this year and vote. And if you're not eligible yet? Then imagine your parents are Kevin Costner and make like "Swing Vote" - make sure they vote. Seriously, if you don't, I may have to come knocking at your door with one of my dry-cleaner cardboard surveys.
QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: GOT ANY POLITICAL ANECDOTES TO SHARE? OR ANY TALES OF EARNESTLY BELIEVING IN YOUR OWN IMPORTANCE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?
Be well. Don't forget to write.
Saturday, October 25
I have always been huge into books. I'd guess that most authors loved reading from an early age. My parents are both big readers and definitely encouraged that love. We spent a lot of time at the library. We didn't have cable until I was ten and I don't think we had a regular video membership until I was eight or nine because we just got movies from the library. I always did the summer reading challenges at the library growing up and usually won them.
I started drifting away from the library a bit when I got into high school because I didn't feel like there was much there for teens. I was definitely reading adult books at that time because there were only a couple YA books that reflected me and my life (Weetzie Bat and the other books by Francesca Lia Block and Girl by Blake Nelson). I've gotta say I'm jealous of teenagers now who have a much wider variety of books to choose from! Then again, part of the reason I started writing about teen characters is because I wanted to create those characters I thought were missing from literature.
People ask me all the time if I think I'll write something other than YA someday and I'm sure I will. I would love to write urban fantasy, but most of all I would love to write a pirate story. Yeah, you heard me right. Pirates. Why? Because the first story I was ever obsessed with as a kid was "Peter Pan." I was four years old. I made my mom read it to me over and over. But who was my favorite character? Not Peter. Not Wendy, the main female character. I loved Captain Hook and the pirates. And I told my mom that I wanted to read more pirate stories, preferably with girl pirates. My mom sighes heavily whenever she tells this story and says, "Stephanie, do you know how hard it was to find pirate stories appropriate for a four year old? Let alone girl pirates?" Yeah, I pity my mom and the librarians she employed to help her with this task. Ultimately Mom just had to keep reading "Peter Pan," which was fine with me fortunately. But I guess it is no wonder why I'm obsessed with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies now and especially love it when Elizabeth Swan is out there on the seas kicking butt. It fills a void that I'd had for twenty-some years. And now I'm sure there are more pirate books out there, even for four year-old girls. But don't be surprised if I write a pirate story one day. I'm just waiting for the right idea to strike...
So what about you? What was the first book or story you were totally obsessed with?
Tuesday, October 14
So, as you’ve probably already gathered from the previous posts, this is embarrassing moments week. And as a person who’s suffered (and continues to suffer) such moments, I was really debating just which personal humiliation I’d be willing to share. I mean, which of the many horrifying events, (the landmarks of my life!), would I not just foist on you, dear reader, but also send out to the blogosphere where it can live on, indefinitely . . .
And it didn’t take long for me to decide that I wasn’t about to spill any of them. I mean, for years now I’ve denied those moments so successfully, there’s no use taking ownership of them now.
But then, right after I thought that, yet another embarrassing moment came to mind—one that I happen to relive on a daily basis. Or at least whenever I attempt to eat a sandwich, bite into a taco, or make headway on a sushi roll—out in the open—where everyone can see. And since this particular dirty little secret is becoming impossible to hide, I figured I might as well come clean with it now.
So here goes:
I, Alyson Noël, have an open bite.
Which means my top front teeth don’t make nice with my bottom front teeth.
Which also means they can’t tear food or successfully aid in the ingestion of any of the above items without the aid of a knife and fork. (Yes, I actually cut my tacos into small manageable pieces like you do with a toddler!). And just in case you don’t think this is embarrassing enough, I ask you when was the last time a tuna sandwich ended up on your chin, shirt, lap, and pretty much everywhere but your digestive track?
If by this point you’re thinking: Big deal! Just avoid these things and you’re golden! Well, you’d be right. But the thing is (oh, I also pronounce the word thing like theen not sure if this is open bite related?) sometimes I forget. Either that or I convince myself that this time will be different. Or I miscalculate the size of the petit four, thinking surely I can fit the entire theen into my mouth, only to find once it’s wedged half in-half out and refusing to go any further, that I can’t.
So after years of dealing with this, after years of talking about getting it fixed, I recently visited an orthodontist who told me I’ll need to wear braces for a year and a half, and possibly have jaw surgery in between that!
Yup, metal, rubber bands, and excruciating discomfort—all so I can eat a piece of pizza without suffering the shame of public humiliation.
Is it worth it? I haven’t decided. There are more consultations to come. But one thing is sure, a year’s worth of braces at my age is bound to bring on a whole new set of humiliating experiences, so at least I’ll have something to write about next time this topic comes around!
What about you? Did you ever wear braces? And if so, did you do it for food?PS- WARNING!!! Shameless self promotion ahead!!! If this sort of thing sickens you, turn away now before it's too late!! Otherwise, read on . . .
It's Teens Read Week, which means it's time to vote for your favorite YA reads in YALSA's annual Teen's Top Ten Award and I'm happy to say that SAVING ZOE is nominated!!! If you read it and liked it and feel like voting, well, all you have to do is click HERE!
Thanks for indulging me!