Thursday, December 30
Wednesday, December 29
I love year-end lists! Best books, best movies, best sandwich of 2010 – I love all of it! I know of course that it’s almost absurdly subjective. “Best” is truly in the eye of the beholder and it’s almost impossible to judge art by anything resembling a universal standard. I know that, but yet I love reading the wrap-ups of what various publications or people thought was the best thing of the past year. (I’m especially interested if you had a great sandwich in 2010. Please share in comments.)
I’m not going to touch "best books" because I know way too many authors and I can’t speak with any sort of authority on best movies because I have little kids at home and they rule the DVD player. I could easily tell you what the best “Handy Manny” episode was of 2010 ("Chico Goes to Preschool," obvs.) but that’s about it. And OK, I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to, but I am happy to nominate my favorite album of 2010. It is ….. (*drum roll*) “The Monitor” by Titus Andronicus!
I very rarely buy CDs anymore, but I was given a giftcard to Border’s and decided to not just buy books (shocking!) but some music too. I forget when I first heard Titus Andronicus, but when I saw their disc at Border’s I was like “Oh yeah, those guys!” So I bought it and listened to it pretty much non-stop for the next few months.
Now, if you google this album, you will no doubt read that it is a punk rock concept album about the Civil War. Maybe that sounds awesome to you, maybe it sounds terrible. But I don’t think it really has all that much to do with how great this album is. There are little spoken passages between some of the songs quoting Lincoln and so on, and some of the songs do mention the Civil War, but the songs aren’t history lessons. They’re sometimes fun and sometimes sad and always well-written and they really do rock hard. There are shouted choruses, huge guitar solos, and even some good storytelling. There you go: best album of 2010.
(Note: on the album, this song is twice as long, but this is a pretty good intro to their sound if you’re curious.)
One more fun thing: One of my Twitter friends (she works at my publisher) was tweeting about Titus a while ago and I was like “I love that band!” And she was like “Yay, that’s my brother!” And I was like “Wait: what?” And she explained that her brother is the singer of the band! I was like “Tell him I love his band. And his beard.” So I feel happy about that connection. Also I feel like the possibility exists that I might get a chance to hang out backstage at some time in the future, or possibly be invited to sing with them at a show. Call me, guys: I know all the words.
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 28
Monday, December 27
So what can I do?
Well, I guess I can talk a bit about the upcoming year and how excited I am about all I've got going on. But really, I'm only doing that...so I can stop thinking for a few minutes about the foor-foot drift of snow outside my door!
In 2011, I've got a lot going on. Three of my YA books will have their paperback releases: Crazy Beautiful on January 3 (just eight days away!); The Education of Bet in April; and The Twin's Daughter in August. The next two books in The Sisters 8 series for young readers will also be released simultaneously in hardcover and paperback: Book 7 Rebecca's Rashness in May and Book 8 sometime in the fall. But finally, what I'm perhaps most excited about...
LITTLE WOMEN & ME comes out in hardcover on August 16!
Here's the publisher's description of LITTLE WOMEN & ME:
Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.
And why, you wonder, am I so excited about this particular book? Because even though it's not coming out for another eight months, it's already receiving lots of early blogger love, appearing on several lists of Most Anticipated Titles of 2011.
I hope all the anticipation proves worth it. I hope people read and enjoy the book. I hope the book does well enough that I can go on having a career as a writer. I hope no one curses the day I was born, or at least not over this. I hope...I hope...I hope...
I HOPE A GENIE APPEARS AND DOES SOMETHING ABOUT THIS FOOR-FOOT DRIFT OF SNOW OUTSIDE MY DOOR!
Oops, what's that you say? All the genies are currently busy? Rats. I suppose that means that I'm going to have to save myself from that foor-foot drift of snow. Ah, well.
Before I go do that, let me just say that I hope that, whatever you celebrate, you got to read great books, saw great movies and TV, and heard great music this year. Please use the comments section to tell me what those were so that if I ever make it back inside from outside, I'll know what to look for.
Be well. Don't forget to write.
Thursday, December 23
Last week, after 2+ years of blogging, I had my web guy take my blog down. Partly because Wordpress has been a NIGHTMARE this year for me (that's a whole other post), but also partly because I started blogging before Facebook became the sensation it is today and before Twitter even existed in a public way. I spend a lot of time on Twitter (probably more than I should, truth be told) and try to update Facebook at least once a week. So the question became, What is the point of my blog?
Much like Sara, I had to stop and think about what I really wanted to accomplish and how much I cared about it. And the truth was, I just didn't feel like it made sense to rehash in a blog post something that I've already tweeted or FB'd about. Sure, a blog gives you unlimited space to share your thoughts. But with unlimited space does not come unlimited time, and so I made the decision to remove blogging from my list of things to do.
But the more I got to thinking about my blog, the more I got to thinking about social media in general. And I realized that, for the most part, it requires a lot more energy than it probably nets in benefits for me.
The benefits of social media (at least to me - your mileage may vary!) is to be able to connect with like-minded people. Whether they're fellow booklovers, people you're friends with in real life but don't get to see very often, or people who share your passion for kittens or underwater basket-weaving, it's nice to be able to make a connection with people at your leisure. No more coordinating schedules or avoiding a phone call because you fear a friend's new baby may be asleep.
But what I've also discovered is that I don't get as much personal connection value out of it anymore. I love being able to cheer someone's good news as it happens (it's usually on Twitter long before they get around to blogging about it or sending a mass email with news). And people make me laugh... a LOT... which can be just the thing I might be needing when I check Twitter at that moment.
That's the upside.
The downside? It can be a HUGE time suck if you let it. I'm one of those people who feels bad if they don't respond to every tweet or FB comment. I'm just wired that way. :-) And yet to respond to all of them would require me to take more time away from my real life (you know, that life you have when you're not attached to your keyboard or your phone?). In many cases, I'm taking time away from my family and my closest friends to respond to people I have never met and probably will never meet.
That realization was a powerful one for me.
What is the purpose of social media for me then? I think the answer is that it's a way to stay active in the book world. I like hearing what's going one, who has good news, and seeing what fabulous new books people are recommending to feed my book habit. But it has to come with balance. Family and friends first, writing second, social media further down the list.
2011 is going to be the year I put my real life first. We'll see how that goes. :-)
What about you? Any plans to change your social media ways in 2011?
Saturday, December 18
I look at some people and they blog at length every single day, and at the moment I'm lucky to blog once or twice a month. I'm not sure why this has happened, though I suspect Twitter has a lot to do with it. I seem to either Tweet or blog but have trouble doing both. And then there's Facebook, that too takes time. If I'm not careful I'll end up spending all my time networking at the expense of writing!!!
So, what to do? I don't know. I've been blogging for over five years, and it would be sad to stop. I have no idea how many people regularly read my blog because my stats don't reflect all those on Google reader etc.
What do you think? If you're a blogger do you blog as much now? Has your blogging suffered as a result of Twitter and Facebook?
Wednesday, December 15
Here…I’m just going to reach inside, grab this guy by its little ears, pull…and, um…well, here’s my pick for favorite album of the year! I guess you could say that, like fashion or style, picking a favorite album is a highly subjective endeavor. I have to admit that my selection isn’t as meaningful to me as it was when I was younger. I used to agonize over my favorite album. Now I just pick. Perhaps this is the way it is with fashion too: one day you’re wrestling over what to wear, pulling out this and that, and then one day you’re old, living in some senior citizen community and you’re pulling out a pair of old brown polyester pants without really caring what anyone thinks. Anyhow. This year my pick for favorite album is: The Nationals, High Violet. They had me with the line – “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees.”
I assume by now you’re all asking yourselves what the Christmas does my favorite album have to do with fashion and style? Well, that’s a good question and worthy of an answer other than “I must have grabbed the wrong hat.” Hopefully I’ll manage to connect the dots for you and if I don’t there’s worse things in life.
Now, I’ve been told I look good in a suit but I’m not so sure, I think it’s just a line people feed me. I’m really more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. You see, when I wear a suit I always feel like an impostor, the same as if I slipped on a white lab coat and pretended to be a highly intelligent scientist. I might be able to walk around the lab for a while and blend in but sooner or latter I’d have to actually do something. I’ve heard that there are elements that will explode if you don’t mix them properly. I’ve never felt comfortable in a suit. I think that’s the most important aspect of fashion: you have to wear something with a degree of confidence. If you don’t, well, it’s just not going to work. The Nationals’ High Violet is a very confident album played with a straightforward honest attitude. Maybe that’s another reason why it’s so enjoyable.
Here’s another connection The Nationals have with fashion. Unlike many popular bands these guys perform in concert tastefully dressed in suits, ties, and nice shirts. Although I do feel there’s a slightly Monty-Pythonish quality to their fashion tastes. Like me, they don’t seem able to pull off the whole wearing a suit with confidence routine but for a rock band that might be a good thing. Rock stars can sometimes find themselves being perceived as egocentric elitists. A little awkwardness goes a long way in establishing a common bond with their fans. Although I have to admit that lead singer Matt Berninger rivals only myself in his apparent suit-wearing discomfort. He also has a tendency to appear slightly inebriated and I’m not sure if that can be contributed to his attire or the consumption of alcohol but I suspect the ladder.
Music and fashion have always had a long-standing common-law marriage. Music sets a tone; it establishes style. Try to picture a fashion show without music. And need I point out the countless marriages between rock stars and fashion models? I didn’t think so. So in closing, let’s review: fashion requires confidence, style is subjective, The Nationals’ High Violet is the best damn album of the year and always remember if you’re going to pull a rabbit out of a hat make sure you’ve got the right hat.
Anyhow, I guess this has all been a long way for me to say…check out this video, and tell me it doesn’t get stuck in your head! And since everything’s subjective – what’s your favorite album of the year? Bend my ear and tickle my brain.
Love this song.
Tuesday, December 14
Handbag one - The Doormat. I love this bag so much and I'm pretty sure that it really is made out a doormat. But since it pretty much goes with everything and is incredibly robust, it's a keeper!
Handbag two - The Dynasty Collection. How adorable is this? I mean it's fake patent leather and it has a very large fan in the middle of it. Of course it's also totally impractical and considering the size of it you can only fit in a lipstick and some cash, but sometimes you've got to suffer for retro handbag fashion
Handbag three - Fancy Dynasty. Yes, very similar to the fake patent leather but instead it's fake snakeskin in a gorgeous navy. It can also be worn as a clutch at night time and it has a zip so it doesn't matter if you turn it upside down, nothing nasty can fall out (and by nasty I mean all the shopping dockets that I forget to throw out).
Handbag four - The Seventies Never Left People I can't tell you how long it took me to find this little baby but it was so worth the wait. I love it, and of course in the true spirit of retro handbags, it only cost six dollars!
Handbag five - Apple Green Heaven. This gorgeous little creation was actually the one that started my love of old handbags in the first place. Isn't it gorgeous and it even comes with with a little mirror in case of any spinach-in-teeth emergencies!
So that's me and my life of retro handbags. Does anyone else have any little treasures that can't stop buying regardless of what certain misunderstood people in their life might think???????
Thursday, December 9
In my childhood, Christmas Eve meant eating the smelliest mushroom soup made with sauerkraut juice. And it was black. As in the color of crude oil. And it stank. Bad. Real bad.
Then we had the tradition of, from oldest to youngest, getting blessed with the sign of the cross on our forehead. In HONEY. If my grandmother got you real good? Your bangs were plastered to the bridge of your nose for the rest of the night.
Then there was Polish kielbasi. Pirogi. Horseradish and beets.
Your mouth is watering, right?
But that's what the holidays are to me. So here I am . . . years later . . . still serving that every Christmas Eve (with the exception of the soup . . . I mean, COME ON. SAUERKRAUT juice???).
And something about it connects me to my larger family, to my childhood, and makes new memories with my kids, who are half-Mexican, and half-Russian and Slavic. They may love Mexican food and have Mexican last names. But once a year? They eat a bunch of weird stuff they can't spell.
So . . . how are food and holidays tied together for you? Anything weird?
Tuesday, December 7
Monday, December 6
Notice, the use of the word “week” and not just “Thanksgiving Day.” Because Thanksgiving isn’t a day anymore. It lasts ALL week. Especially when you arrive at your in-laws the Monday before Thanksgiving and don’t leave until the Monday after. Let it suffice to say that all we did the ENTIRE week was eat.
So after stuffing our faces for a full seven days, my husband and I became resolved to go on a diet when we got home. Except we never diet like normal people. We don’t buy diet books or subscribe to fancy websites that count your calories. We prefer to make up our own diets.
Like this week. We decided that as soon as soon we got home, we would go on a “Soup Diet.” That’s right. Nothing but soup for five days straight. YUM! (We do love soup!) So off we went to the supermarket to stock up on all our favorite organic soups. And the diet was going quite well until about…well, six hours later, when we’d both consumed an unbelievable amount of soup and were craving...well, just about anything else but soup.
So I said, “You know...come to think about it. Soup might not be enough. I think we should be allowed to eat salad too. After all, salad is perfectly healthy and no diet should ever exclude salad.” My husband readily agreed and our diet quickly transformed from the “Soup Diet” to the “Soup and Salad Diet.” YUM! (We do love soup and salad!)
Well, that went pretty well until we were driving around the next day, feeling pretty hungry and not at ALL in the mood for soup or salad, when we happened upon a sushi place. Our mouths immediately started to water. (We do both love sushi!)
So I said, “You know...come to think about it. Sushi is really healthy too. And as long as you don't have any tempura rolls or anything with cream cheese in it, the ingredients of sushi are pretty much the same as the ingredients of soup. Except...you know...without the broth.”
My husband readily agreed and our diet soon after became known as the “Soup, Salad and Sushi Diet.”
Well, it went on like this for a good couple days. And eventually the title of our "Diet" contained so many foods, we stopped calling it by all the things we could eat and started calling it by all the things we couldn't. And by Thursday afternoon, it had turned into the “No Fried Foods or Dairy Diet.”
And that lasted until around Thursday night when my parents treated us for dinner and my mom just had to order those sinfully delicious Fried Cheese Wontons. And...well...you can probably guess what happened next.
Oh well, better luck next Thanksgiving.
So come on…who else has invented crazy diets (successful or otherwise)?
Friday, December 3
And I'm so excited to share mine this week because I've had to keep it "mum" for months! But now the mumness is over and I can sing out and do my happy dance in public!
As reported in Publisher's Weekly this week, I recently sold four new books to my publisher, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Macmillan Children's)!!!
The first three are part of a new sci-fi/love story trilogy, starting with the first book titled, UNREMEMBERED. (A sixteen year old girl awakes amongst the wreckage of a devastating plane crash with no memories--the only clue to her identity is a mysterious boy who claims she was part of a science experiment 100 years in the future) And I've also sold another one of my contemporary stand-alone titles (along the vein of The Karma Club and my forthcoming, My Life Undecided). This fourth book is not yet titled.
Also, the Unremembered trilogy was optioned to producer Doug Davison (The Departed, The Lake House, The Ring, How to Train Your Dragon) with screenwriter Whit Anderson attached to adapt it as a film. Doug and Whit are both also attached to the recently-announced reboot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.
If you want the full details (including more info about the Unremembered trilogy), you can read Publisher's Weekly's write up here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/deals/article/45329-deals-week-of-11-29-10.html
And now, I better go. I have a LOT of books to write! :)
Happy weekend everyone! I'm off to do more happy dancing. :)
Thursday, December 2