Monday, May 30

Favorite Places

The topic this week is supposed to be favorite haunts, but I'm altering it just a little bit because I'm pretty sure a place I've visited only once hardly qualifies as a haunt...

My daughter and I just returned from our trip to Italy and Greece and came home with a whole new list of favorite places to visit:

In Verona: We were kind of sad that the note wall we saw in Letters to Juliet is no longer a feature at Juliet's house, but it was still worth the walk to visit her home and sit in the courtyard.

In Venice: The entire city is amazing. We rode up and down the Grand Canal, of course, but some of the most beautiful finds were tucked into back alleys and canals.

In Pisa: After ooh-ing and aah-in over the leaning tower, we found an old fortress that had been converted into a public park and garden.

In Milan (which, for some reason, I can't say without an Edna accent-"Milan, dahling...") The Duomo is absolutely gorgeous, and there's a castle down the road (and panini and gelato street carts between the two!)

In Corfu: We rented a car and drove around the island and found this little beach a short hike from the road.

On Santorini: Oia is stunning. I little hike out to the old fortress was the perfect place to take pictures (and watch the sun set.)

On Delos: Amazing ruins. It used to be one of the busiest, most prosperous cities in that corner of the world. Imagine if New York City one day ceased to be.

In Elis: At Olympia, we walked on the original Olympic field and saw where the Olympic torch is lit for each of the modern Games.

So, those are some of my favorite places. What are yours?

Wednesday, May 25

What You Don't Know About Me: Obsessions

One of the best parts about writing for middle-grade and young adult readers, I would think any MG/YA author will tell you--is the mail. Email, handwritten mail, art . . . it arrives via the Internet, handed to me at signings or classrooms, or via snail mail. My favorite ones are those that ask me random questions . . . like one reader who wanted to know . . . WHAT KIND OF PIE DO YOU LIKE?

I like peach--so there, something you don't know about me now revealed. But I know that what's behind the questions are the fun ways we look to draw connections to each other, to find things we have in common--such as a shared obsession for peach pie.

So without further ado . . . here are five things I am crazy obsessed with.

1) Canada Dry ginger ale. It is the ONLY brand that will do and it is my cure-all. No flu, no cold, no headache, no anything that ails me cannot be made at least a little better with Canada Dry. And sorry Seagram's and Schwepp's. You don't hold a candle to Canada Dry.

2) Buddha statues. I have dozens and dozens all over my house to remind me to pause and think of a little karma once in a whole. I just like them . . . and now I get them as gifts from friends . . . each statue is different. I love them all.

3) My strawberry plants. I have them this year and they are sprouting MAJOR strawberries. But my arch nemesis . . . the SQUIRREL . . . is stealing them. This is a daily battle. But I am determined to grow them perfectly red and luscious.

4) All things Daniel Craig. Need I say more? I think not.

5) Old movies. The more swoon-worthy, then better. Musicals? I'm in.

How about you? Have an hidden obsessions you care to reveal?

Tuesday, May 24

What You Don't Know About Me: Nerd Glasses!

I filmed this tiny little snippet for Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret release, and it's still holding true...

video

So, what don't I know about you?

Monday, May 23

15 Things You Don't Know About Me

The theme this week is "What You Don't Know About Me" and those of you who read my last post know that I loooove lists. So here it goes:

15 Random Things You Didn't Need To Know About Me (But Now You Do)
by Jessica Brody

  1. I loves bananas but hate anything banana flavored.
  2. I'm squemish about collar bones and belly buttons. (Good luck touching either one of them)
  3. I've always secretly wanted to be a member of the Spice Girls
  4. I don't like it when vegetables try to pass themselves off as dessert. (Carrot Cake, I'm on to you. You're not fooling anyone!)
  5. The first book I learned to read was Go Dog Go at age 2, although technically I probably just memorized it.
  6. I can't whistle. (And no, it's not as simple as just putting your lips together and blowing).
  7. I'm allergic to avocado (a fact that I hate because I happen to love guacamole!)
  8. My favorite movie to quote is the movie, Arthur starring Dudley Moore. ("Bitterman, drive through the park. You know how I love the park.")
  9. I've always had a strange obsession with the scanners at supermarket registers and now I never miss an opportunity to use the self check-out lanes so I can scan my own food.
  10. I love speaking in a British accent, much to the annoyance of everyone around me.
  11. I've always hating doing anything athletic and I used to hide behind the handball courts in elementary school during P.E.
  12. I'm a major tech-y and have to own every gadget that comes out. Regardless of whether or not I have any intention of using it.
  13. I can't stand the word "pocketbook" or "panties."
  14. My all-time favorite foods are pixy sticks, sushi and afternoon tea sandwiches and I insist on having all three at my birthday parties.
  15. My very first novel was called The Puppy and the Kitty and was complete with illustrations. I wrote it when I was 7. (See photo below).

puppy and the kitty

Oh, and one thing you MAY have known about me, but I just thought I'd remind you is that my fourth novel, MY LIFE UNDECIDED releases on June 7!

Now here's one thing I know about YOU: You're going to go pick up a copy, right? RIGHT?

If you haven't seen the trailer yet, take a look below!



So there you have it! You now know everything there is to know about me. Does your life feel more complete? No? Well, you can't say I didn't try!

Okay, so what don't we know about YOU? Comment away!



Friday, May 20

Good News Friday: PW Review of Small Town Sinners!

I was really excited for my first Publishers Weekly review* this week. PW calls Small Town Sinners (out July 19th) "tender and provocative."

Another great sentence: "While the combined sincerity and extremism of the Hell House production is viscerally shocking, Walker creates an astutely balanced portrait of a conservative congregation's in-your-face response to perennial issues of domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide, as well as of those who struggle to fit the prescribed Christian mold."

Yay! Hope you guys will check it out this summer.

*The review is slightly spoilery, so be careful if you click

Thursday, May 19

Cyber Gems: A brand new website

As a tween/teen this was my favorite magazine on earth:



I mean look at that beautiful Johnny Depp! (and that is from over 20 years ago and he's still hot if not hotter, how is that fair!)

But Sassy was not about the eye-candy (though the covers with Johnny and Kurt Cobain and those sorts of guys definitely did it for me). It was about being yourself as a teenage girl, way more so than those other teen mags IMHO. It taught got me thinking about tough issues like rape and abortion. It introduced me to some of my favorite bands like Bratmobile and others from the Riot Grrrl era. It was about being YOU, not the you your friends or your parents or some cute guy wanted, YOU.

And I've missed it forever and been sorta kinda obsessed with Jane Pratt, the founder of Sassy ever since. I subscribed with her other magazine Jane, too, but alas it disappeared, too. So I was so thrilled when I got an email on Monday telling me that Jane is back with xojane.com!

It's got reviews and DIY stuff and all the brutal honesty I expected from Sassy and Jane. Some of the content is aimed toward older teens and women (ie. frank talk about sex and your body), but I'm thrilled to see Jane online again, bring her wit and honesty and savvy to the internet FOR FREE! So check it out. It's brand new but I think it's going to become one of my cyber gems.

What about you, did you love Sassy or if you are younger, what mags are you/were you hooked on?

Wednesday, May 18

Cyber Gems: This Video has Zero Views

I have an amazingly good (not that I'm bragging) cyber gym. A hidden gem. This video has been viewed zero times. You are impressed. I'm like one of those guys whose favorite band has never played outside of their basement. Well, this band has played outside of their basement. Actually it's an orchestra. And actually they played outside my library, so it's not like I was digging so hard to find these hidden geniuses. But nonetheless, I have a gem I want to share!



This is the Allentown School District City Orchestra and the reason I'm posting it here is not necessarily because they're the greatest musicians in the world (sorry, kids, but we all know that the greatest musician in the world is my dog --hidden secondary gem!). The reason I want to share this video is just because I think there are few things in the world cuter than kids playing classical music. And Allentown is sort of a rough place so the fact that these kids make space in their lives for violins and cellos and so on is wonderful to me. It makes me smile every time I see them trucking downtown with their unwieldy instrument cases. It makes me optimistic even, for the future.

Yet you will not be surprised to learn that this program is fighting for its life as the school district suffers through another round o' budget cuts.

I don't want to go on a diatribe (who am I kidding? Of course I do...) but we *need* arts in schools. We need music in schools. We need to tell kids that this stuff is important, that there is more to life than the ugliness we often see around. We need to let them know that we care enough about their future that we don't mind investing in them, even if we're going broke and even if they aren't the greatest musicians in the world (sorry, kids). This orchestra makes me smile more than any professional orchestra (with the possible exception of the London Punkharmonic Orchestra -- 3rd bonus gem!)

Rock on, Allentown.

Monday, May 16

Cyber Gems

It's Cyber Gems week here at TFC, the week for us to focus on great websites, interesting articles and fun YouTube clips etc. There's just one problem with that, or at least with me being part of the rotation this week: I'm pretty much the biggest tech-not in the world. You know the type of person, the one who's the last to know what LOL Cats is or discover the Numa-Numa Song or see Matt crazy-dancing in a gazillion countries. And since writing and reading is pretty much all I do with my waking hours, here's all I've got for you:

Backspace - If you're interested in having a career as a writer, the best thing you can do for yourself is join Backspace, an online forum with 1500+ writers at all stages of their careers, from just starting out to NYTimes bestsellers. There's a modest subscription fee but I know of no better place to get information on all aspects of the art of writing and the business of publishing while networking with other writers.

BookBalloon - The ultimate site for book lovers, there is no subscription fee, just discussion threads devoted to every genre, NF and book-related topic imaginable, and there are even monthly book-discussion groups. The proprietor, Gary Glass, is like a genie, making innovations to the site as demand arises.

The Official Sisters 8 Website - It hasn't been updated recently - there are only five books currently on it even though the seventh of nine was just released - but I still adore the publisher-created website for the series for 6- to 10-year-olds that I write with my husband and daughter. There are a lot of fun features there for kids to play around with - there's even a section on advice for kids to start their own book discussion groups - and all kids seem to love taking the personality-profile quiz "Which Eight are You?"

So that's all I've got for you today. I wish I had more. I wish I were the kind of person likely to be the first to discover the next Numa-Numa Song, but that's not me. Hopefully it's you? Please tell me: What are your favorite Cyber Gems?

And just in case you haven't seen it: The Numa-Numa Song.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Thursday, May 12

Anniversaries, the photo method

Recently, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. I swear we were just college students the other day. Where did that time go?

As I started pondering that question, I pulled out a photo box and sifted through it. There, captured on film, was the last 15 years. Or, as it turns out, mostly the holidays and trips of the last 15 years.

Being in a sentimental upcoming-anniversary mood, I decided that I would create a scrapbook of our life together. Not our family, just us. We have tons of pictures of our family, but not nearly as many that celebrate us as a married couple. This, I thought, would be a lovely anniversary gift.

So I began happily organizing the photos, jotting down funny notes about the trips that I happened to remember (which I should have done LONG ago because I'm sure I've forgetten most of them). And then I made the critical, bubble-bursting error... showing them to my husband while he sat watching a Nascar race and reading email on his laptop.

ME: Look, honey, remember when we went to San Francisco?
HIM: Mm-hmm. (not really looking)
ME: No, here. See? This is one of my favorite pictures of us. Look how young we look!
HIM: (watches cars go three wide into turn 2 then glances at the picture) It's nice. (gives me a kind, patient smile)

What I realized, other than my timing was perhaps not ideal, was that he wasn't all that interested in seeing the *process* of my scrapbooking. 50 miles to go in a big race wasn't egging on his sentimental side. :-)

So I've taken on this monumental task: scrapbooking our first 15 years together. It feels monumental to me because I've never really scrapbooked before. Zoikes. But I've got the pictures organized, a friend to scrapbook with (who, unlike me, actually knows what she's doing), and some basic (and, ok, not really necessary but SO COOL) supplies. My goal is one 2-page layout a week. Two pages celebrating events from the last 15 years of our life together. It's just two pages, right? That seems doable. Two pages that should capture the magic of those 15 years because they deserve to be honored and remembered.

No pressure. :-)

What about you? Do you take lots of pictures during the holidays and at other big events? If you do, what do you do with them after you take them?

Thursday, May 5

IF I COULD BE ANYBODY FOR A DAY.

When I was a kid nothing beat the summers, I mean absolutely nothing. They were the best. My brother and I would rise with the sun, shovel our breakfasts into our mouths as quickly possible and then bolt out of the house, leaving the screen door to slam loudly behind us. It seemed like we were always running and that we always had someplace to go. We’d spend the summers running to friends’ houses, ball fields, homemade clubhouses, lakes or just exploring the huge nature preserve at the end of the neighborhood. This was back in the day when a kid could disappear on his own for the majority of the day without his parents freaking out and sending out a massive search party.

The thing is back then I was…happy. I mean really happy. I loved each and every day. I tried my best to suck every ounce of pleasure out of the day and more often than not I succeeded. Back then life was simple and I didn’t really have a worry in the world, had close friends and was creative enough to keep myself constantly occupied. As I grew older things changed, but they have to, that’s life I guess, or so I’ve been told. Insecurities, responsibilities, relationships and days that get measured not by pleasure but by a monetary reward system have a way of changing your perception of the world.

If I could be anyone for a day I’m not sure who I would be. I mean there are rock stars that come to mind. Playing in front of thousands of people has to be rewarding. There are astronauts, pilots, actors and adventurers that hold degrees of appeal. I imagine the thrill of being a professional football or baseball player would be incredible, to be the star of the big game is every boy’s fantasy but I’m also struck by something Troy Aikman once said after winning the Super Bowl. He asked, “Is that all there is?”

There lies the genesis of my dilemma. Being one of these people would also require me to actually really be one of these people. I have no idea how other people perceive the world. I mean I can guess because I am a living person and I interact with other people, I listen to what they say, read what they write, experience much of what they experience but the thing is we’re all locked into our bodies, we’re billions of separate realities occupying the same world, each of us with our own memories, emotions and temperaments. There’s a reason why they hand out menus at your local restaurant.

That guitarist performing in front of thousands of adoring fans is the same person who’s spent countless hours alone in a room someplace practicing. The same holds true for sport stars and actors. What drives a person to success? Is it pleasure or personal demons? I have no idea. I’m not this or that person. I’m only myself. So when I think about who I’d like to be for the day that memory of my younger self claws its way into my thoughts and it becomes less of a quest to identify a person and more of a quest to identify an emotion because if I could be anyone for a day wouldn’t it make more sense to request to be the happiest person in the world or the most content, fulfilled or enlightened person?

But then again…isn’t happiness subjective? Take TV as an example. Doesn’t Dexter define personal happiness a whole lot differently than House? There’s no guarantee that what gives one person immense pleasure will give another the same degree of satisfaction. Ah yes, speaking of satisfaction, isn’t that another nice emotion?

Here’s a question: If you could be overwhelmed by any emotion for a day, to experience it more than any human in the world has ever experienced it, what emotion would you chose?

Happiness may be a lot of different things to different people but how many think it’s a warm gun? I guess everything’s subjective.

Wednesday, May 4

Channeling Sookie Stackhouse

Well, it seems it's my turn to choose who I would most want to be for a day, and taking my cue from Amanda--I'm gonna go the shallow/TV route as well.

I mean, yes, I'd love to be someone meaningful who engages in world changing/meaningful work--that's a given--but I'd also like to be Sookie Stackhouse.

Especially in this upcoming season of True Blood.

And this is why . . .



How about you? What TV character would you most want to be for a day?? Sing it out in the comments!!

Alyson
:)

Monday, May 2

If I could be anyone...

This week's post is all about 'if I could be anyone for a day'.

Now to begin with I thought I would be my husband just so I could find out how awesome it really is to be married to me. But then I looked at myself in the mirror, complete with bed head, wrinkles and yesterday's mascara and I thought better of it (oh, but don't be feeling too sorry for the husband, he knew what he signed up for!!!!)

So then I wondered if I should be someone who is terribly important and worthy so that you would all think better of me, but then I worried that I might let the team down by accidentally adding billions onto world debt by signing the wrong piece of paper.

And finally I realized that there is absolutely no point pretending that I am anything other than shallow and self-serving, so in answer to the question, 'if I could be anyone for a day', I have to say that I would be Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries because seriously, she has the best job ever. I mean between playing Elena and Catherine she pretty much ends up seeing every guy on that show in a serious state of undress!














So, that's me in all my shallow glory. What about everyone else, who would you be for a day?