Monday, March 26

It's all in the balance...

Hey, all! I'm Bev Katz Rosenbaum, author of I Was a Teenage Popsicle (out now!) and Beyond Cool (coming this August--woohoo!), chiming in on the whole apres school thing--this week's theme at the Teen Fiction Cafe.

I was a pretty busy kid after school, being a pretty serious dancer as well as a drama geek. Plus, I did my share of part-time and summer work. During the school year, I was a part-time typist (yup, this was before computers!) for a company that specialized in film and stage scripts. (I'm totally sure this job sparked my interest in the writing/editing field, though I'll admit I almost quit when I had to transcribe several episodes of The Twenty Minute Workout. Can you say boring? Or guilt-inducing?). During the summer, I was a theatre director at an overnight camp. (Loved the power. Gave all the kids I liked the good roles. The mean kids were trees.)

There's been all this stuff in the media lately about how high schoolers are burning out with all their extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs. I've seen it happen, and I'm here to say if you're finding it hard coping with a surplus of activities, lighten up that load! It's sooo not worth the toll it could take on your health/sanity, and your relationships with friends and family members. I was fine in high school, but in my second year of university, when I was juggling a full course load with two part-time jobs and three dance classes a week, I did have a breakdown of sorts. A nice long rest--from everything--helped. When I felt better, I cut the part-time work down considerably, and made myself be content with only one dance class per week.

These days, high schoolers in my neck of the woods have to complete forty hours of community volunteer work in order to graduate. This is on top of the extra-curriculars and the paying work! It can all be done, and indeed, should be done--all these things give you such a great sense of satisfaction, and can help you decide on a future path--but again, take it easy. Don't do too much, especially if you're having trouble handling it all. Pace yourself.

A word about the volunteer stuff. One summer when I wasn't working as a theatre dictator, I volunteered on the heart ward at a children's hospital. Such a gratifying experience. I didn't do any volunteer work again until I got married, and at that point, my husband and I started doing a weekly sing-song at another local hospital. We stopped when we had our kids, and I only recently returned to volunteer work, at a home for the aged. I spent my first afternoon there this past weekend. I had it in my head that this was going to be a 'chore'--albeit a satisfying one--but the joke was on me. I spent the most delightful afternoon accompanying one of the residents to a concert that was taking place on the main floor. The singer was great--she even did some stuff from Wicked, my new obsession--and the woman I sat with regaled me with hysterically funny stories about her childhood and the home.

As a bonus, the afternoon got me thinking about a possible new book idea...

Feel free to comment about balance, volunteer work, or anything else I've written about (though you may already have talked about your part-time jobs and extra-curricular activities in response to the other great posts on this week's theme!).

Love ya,


Branching Out: Join a New Club!

Hi everybody! Thanks for stopping by the Teen Fiction Café. My name is Wendy Toliver, and my novel, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, is hitting bookshelves this December.

When I was in high school, I liked to play sports and be in musicals. Those two took up a lot of my time, and most of my friends were involved in one or the other. Around my junior year, I decided I’d add some more academic extra-curriculars to my resume, thinking it would be a bonus for getting scholarships.

I signed up for Speech Team, also known as Debate Team or Forensics in some schools. This was quite the shift in social circles, and more than once I asked myself what I was thinking. Especially at six in the morning on a Saturday, surrounded by unfamiliar coffeehouse dwellers in their cool eyeglasses and black clothes. I’m an outgoing sort, so being surrounded by strangers wasn’t too mortifying for me, but I have to admit that when I was sitting in another high school’s cafeteria, waiting for my round, I would’ve paid someone to come over and say, “Good luck!” or “You’re going to do great!” (Where’s your mom when you need her? haha) But the thing about Speech Team is, you very well might be competing against anyone in the whole cafeteria, and they take their wins very seriously. So it’s not like everybody’s buzzing around being nice. Might also have something to do with it being so dang early in the morning, now that I think about it.

When it was my turn to compete, I’d go into my assigned classroom and take a seat. The other students sized me up while I fumbled through my notes, hoping I wouldn’t freeze when it was my turn. And when I was up, I’d be speaking to icy glares, which wasn’t that great when I was trying to be funny. In time, I started earning good scores, and by the end of the season, I could totally hold my own against the others. I was even having fun and making friends -- taking it upon myself to make cafeteria time a time to meet and greet fellow competitors. And believe it or not, I met a hottie from another school by being on the Speech Team.

Did you ever do anything completely out-of-character or out of your comfort zone for the greater good of your future? Or maybe just to see what it’s like? Tell me about it!

The Best of Part-time Work

Hi, I'm Kelly Parra and my first novel, GRAFFITI GIRL (MTV/Pocket Books) is hitting bookshelves May, 2007, and I just wanted to say that I totally advocate the high school part-time job.

Let me tell you my reasons...
a) Part time jobs give you some responsibility.
b) PTs get you away from parental supervision.
c) And the pocket change ain't so bad, either.

Of course, there's a more important reason. Let's take a step back into my teen years. I had 3 part-time jobs.

1) Old Country Buffet aka OCB

OCB came into town, swooped up a bunch of high school kids and opened its doors. First buffet restaurant in my small town with plenty of goofing off with friends, and free buffet during break time. The downsides were sticky tables, cheap tippers, and the polyster uniforms. Can you say, "itchee?"

2) Ricky B's Pizza

The highlights for working at Ricky B's were the free pizzas, and of course, the front counter view of cute guys. Oh, and I'm just a tad on the short side, and I was happily eye-level with Ricky B. It was a nice feeling. hehe. The con--late night weekend shifts when you could be out having fun with your pals. Who would have thought pizza was so popular on the weekends? ;)

3) Baskin Robbin's 31 Flavors

Yes, if we're on the same wavelength, you totally guessed right. Working at BR31 = Free ice cream. Free banana splits, Brownie ala modes, milkshakes, and Chocolate blasts. I also can't forget the muscular forearms I was sporting scooping rock-hard Peanutbutter Chocolate and Rocky Road. The downer, you had to mop and wipe down for hours on end. Those ice creams shops run a tidy ship.

So my conclusion? The absolutely best part of these high school part-time jobs?

Free food. :)

Share your high school job!

Thursday, March 22

Proper Education

Hey everyone! I’m Alyson Noël, the author of Faking 19, Art Geeks and Prom Queens, Laguna Cove, Fly Me to the Moon, and the upcoming Kiss & Blog (May 07) and Saving Zoë (September 07). I’ve lived in both Mykonos and Manhattan, only to come full circle and end up right back in the OC, where I was born and raised (and where most of my books take place)!

I’ve just started writing my latest book, the one I call, Untitled #7, when I realized I’ve yet to write a book about summer. Which, when you consider how much I love summer, how I practically live for summer, and how most of my books take place in the OC, which is known for its summers, well, it just doesn’t make any sense. But somehow I always focus on the school year, and to be honest, I pretty much hated the school year.

Hate’s a strong word, I know. That’s why I chose it. Because it sums up, in one crisp syllable, just how I felt about my junior and senior years. Suffocated, bored, apathetic, and disinterested— would also work. Though, like Alex in Faking 19, I wasn’t always that way. I started out well enough with a stint in student government, a host of clubs, and a full schedule of AP classes that kept me somewhat interested.

Then, somewhere around junior year-- I. Just. Stopped. Caring.

Some of it had to do with trouble at home, but most of it had to do with my habit of sneaking off campus so I could hang in L.A.—a place where everything seemed so glamorous and exciting, a place that made my small town seem so small time.

But the one class I never cut was AP English. I had the same teacher both years, and I respected and admired him way too much to ditch. Mr. Sawaya played jazz records, encouraged discussion and debate, he respected our opinions, and he made learning fun. He was the kind of teacher former students kept in touch with and came back to visit.

So when it came time to write the acknowledgments in my debut novel, Faking 19, he was the second person I thanked (right after my mom!). Because little did he know, but the day he read one of my short stories to the class, everything changed. With that one small act I went from feeling lost and unsure, to thinking there just might be a place for me after all. And I wanted him to know he made a difference.

A year ago I visited the school, spoke to his classes, and he took me to lunch. And I’ll never forget how it felt to return to that campus and discover it wasn’t the malevolent place I’d once thought. Sure there were probably cliques, heartbreak, and drama, it’s all part of the process. But I realized that even though I lived for the summers, it was the school year that formed and shaped me the most.

So what about you- did you have a teacher who made a difference- a favorite class- one you would never dream of ditching even if you wouldn’t get caught?

Sunday, March 18

School....... the best days of our lives????

Hey, guys! I'm Sara Hantz and my first book 'The Second Virginity of Suzy Green' is being published by Flux in September 2007. I live in New Zealand so if you want to ask me anything about this awesome country, please do so.

How many of you have been told, enjoy school it's the best time of your life? I know I was told it repeatedly. But, I didn't get it. How could it be? I was always in trouble for disrupting lessons, dying my hair non-regulation colours (well, as school shirts were blue, I fail to see how having a blue flash at the front of my hair was a problem - it matched), having a small radio in my purse and balancing it on my shoulder so I could listen to it.... the list goes on and on.

I couldn't wait to leave. But once I did, school took on a whole new meaning. I thought going out to work meant no one would be telling me what to do every hour of the day (like in school). Wrong! At school, unless you do something really bad, they can't kick you out for underperforming, unlike work. And school hours being 9-4, with two breaks and an hour and a quarter for lunch, is pretty good when compared with working 8-6 or however long it takes to get the job done. And as for the long school holidays. Try swapping that for 3 weeks a year.

And lets not forget what they actually teach you at school. I might not have valued it then, but I sure do now. Education gives you choices. So when you come to decide what career you want you're not restricted.

So, best days of my life? Not the best but, with hindsight, better than I thought. And my BFF I have known since school.

What about you, how do you feel about school?

Friday, March 16

Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen!

{Waving hello at everyone!}

Hey gang! Great to see you all here...thanks for checking out our corner of the World Wide Web. I'm Marley Gibson and next spring (that's right...join me in the wait), my sorority sister series from Penguin Putnam's Puffin Books will be released. The first two books, Rush - A Sisterhood Novel and Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel, will be released simultaneously, followed by Greek Week - A Sisterhood Novel in the summer and Spring Formal - A Sisterhood Novel in the fall. I'm having a blast writing the books and I hope you'll enjoy reading them.

What's fun about writing my sorority sisters is that I'm really trying to work the whole idea in of how when young women go off to college, they still need to maintain a balance of exercise, sleep and nutrition. It's so easy to fall into the late night pizza fests (which my girls do!) and drinking too much (which my girls try not to do!) and quick delivery and odd hours. That "Freshman 15" is not an urban legend. It's for real, people.

In my books, one of my characters is a diabetic who is struggling with controlling her disease while still participating in all of the activities of her new sorority. Another swims every day for stress relief and exercise. And my third heroine-just like that friend we all know and have-can eat anything and never gains a pound.

But staying physically fit when heading off to your new college life doesn't have to be, like, this total, major overhaul for you. There are easy ways to keep off those dreaded Freshman 15 and still have fun, participate and get the most out of school. Here are a few tips:

    Walk to class. Walk to see your friends. Basically...walk. Walking is one of the best exercises for you. It strengthens your muscles, is good for your legs and helps with good breathing.

    Ride your bike. Instead of driving places around campus, get a bike and literally put the pedal to the metal. Just remember to lock it up so sticky fingers don't walk away with it.

Portion control. Any major weight loss program will tell you that portion control is one of the biggest things you can do to control, lose or maintain your weight. Sure, you can join the gals at the sorority house for just don't have to eat five pieces! LOL!

Get your rest. College is a time for breaking free, enjoying life and celebrating your freedom. Who doesn't want to stay up all night chit-chatting with your chicas, hanging out at the fraternity house with the cute guys or pulling an all-nighter for that big test the next day. Still take care of your health by getting plenty of rest. If your body is well-rested, you'll avoid catching the "germs of the week" that make their way around campus, which means missing out on less things.

Drink plenty of water. Water is the best thing you can put in your body. Doctors recommend it heartily for a healthy life, and, let's face it, water is easy to get. You can carry a water bottle around with you and it's much better for you than all those sugary (and sodium filled) sodas. Plus, lots of water helps you have glowing skin.

Hope these tips are helpful! If you have any other tips, please be sure to post here and let us know what you think.

Back to those book revisions...oh yeah...let me fill my water bottle while I'm at it!

Sorority Rush Begins - Spring 2008!
Puffin Books

Tuesday, March 13

R U What U Eat?

Konnichiwa, ya'll.

Linda Gerber here, author of a couple of the SASS books (NOW AND ZEN and the soon-to-be-released FINNISH LINE) and the upcoming mystery DEATH BY BIKINI. I live and write in Japan and I have to tell you, the whole exercise thing is a little different over here. Do I work out? Sure. Every time I go somewhere. Driving short distances is crazy because the roads are so small and gas is so expensive and parking is limited, so everyone bikes or rides the train. I may not have a set work out schedule, but I get my aerobic excercise by default whenever I bike around town or climb the steps at Tokyo station or try to push my way on to the train.

But what I really want to talk about is food.
Ever hear that old saying, 'you are what you eat?' Not a pleasant thought when a plate of squid heads is set down in front of you. (I am not kidding. Just a couple of weeks ago, when we were on a ski trip up in Naeba, we went out to eat and the proprietor brought our group a special treat - fried squid heads. I actually ate one. But that's another post.) How about a bowl of rotting beans? (Really. The stuff is called natto and people actually eat it.) Or deadly fish? (If not prepared exactly right, fugu (blowfish)can kill you.)

Weird stuff aside, I think there's something to that adage. Ever notice how when you eat a lot of junk food, you end up feeling kind of meh? I'm speaking from experience here, being a lover of pizza, chili-fries and all things chocolate. Er, not together. Usually. Point is, I really do feel much better when I eat things like fresh fruits and veggies and really good whole wheat bread (which is very difficult to find in Japan.) I eat junky, I feel sluggish. I eat healthy, I think clearer and have more energy. Any one else find this to be the case? What's your favorite junk food? How to you balance it with the healthy stuff? (Or are you one of those people who can eat whatever they want and they will still stay skinny and energetic and ravishing?)

Monday, March 12

Workout Routine...or not

Working out!
I admit I don't have an exercise routine. I seriously have the best of intentions and every morning have the plan to work out and eat healthy and lose weight. Somehow my plans go awry every day.

There are the people who have a workout routine and never stray from it. They won't go out or take a shower until their workout is finished. Then there are the people who are obsessed with working friends who run eleven miles a day unless it's thirty degrees below zero.

I wish I had a routine. I'd like to do cardio, I just inherited a treadmill from my friend.

But, then again, I've heard that you need to switch up your routine so you do cardio one day and weights the next.

And what about the Pilates classes or the Yoga classes my friends signed up for. Are those good enough on their own? (yes, I picked this picture because it's something I'll NEVER be able to do)
Do you belong to a health club? Do you work out alone or by yourself? (one of my friends has two treadmills in her house side-by-side so she could always invite a friend over to chat with while she's working out) Do you switch up your workout routine or do the same workout every day? Or maybe you're like me and don't have a routine. (I also admit I'm a procrastinator)
I'm going to get better at waking up early and working out. Although I wish I could afford a cute guy to come over and get me out of bed and make me work out like Oprah does...

Simone Elkeles

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation in bookstores now!
Leaving Paradise (4/07)
How to Ruin my Teenage Life (6/07)

Friday, March 9

Would you rather...

Hello, everyone! I'm Jennifer Lynn Barnes (also known as "Jen"), the author of GOLDEN and TATTOO, as well as the upcoming PLATINUM and THE SQUAD. I'm 23, wrote my first book as a teen, and enjoy long walks on the beach and candy with high sugar content. I'm currently single and just finished reading AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green, in which the main character, Colin Singleton, tries to develop a mathematical theorem that predicts which of two people will ultimately break up with the other one, and when. Colin theorizes that there are two kinds of people in the world: dumpers and dumpees, and all of this dumping talk led me to a simple, twisted conclusion.

I'm pretty sure I'd rather be dumped than dump someone. This is a sad fact about my personality that often leads to me sending subtle (and not so subtle) subliminal messages to my boyfriends that they should dump me, after I've started entertaining the idea of breaking up with them. I have only managed to successfully pull this off once, with my first boyfriend. We were sixteen, and about the time we hit the two month mark (which seems to be the point at which my relationships often nose-dive), I started getting really busy, and then I just started thinking that maybe, if I stayed busy enough, he'd break up with me. And it actually kind of worked- he mentioned that I was really busy, I agreed, he said "so maybe we should..." and I filled in "break up," and he said, "yeah," and then we immediately became really good friends with no post-break up awkwardness at all.

I have since learned that this was nothing short of miraculous.

The rest of my break ups haven't been quite so smooth- probably because I'm not that smooth. I just hate hurting people, and in my search for a way to break up with someone without hurting their feelings, I end up doing something ridiculous, like telling my end-of-high-school sweetheart that he was a great guy who should go "be a stud with the girls at college," when what I was trying to convey was "I think we should see other people." I'm still hanging my head in shame over that one. I am a bad, bad dumper.

I have suspicions, though, that I might be an okay dumpee. Granted, I don't have a ton of experience with it, but still, I think I could totally do the moping, going around in pajamas, listening to angry girl music, eating ice cream out of the carton with my friends thing. I'd be good at that. I'm just not so good at watching someone I care about cry and knowing that I'm the reason. I'd rather be hurt than hurt someone else; ergo (to put this in mathematical terms):

Jen's Theory of Dumpingness
being dumped > dumping someone else

Of course, I should add:

Corollary 1
not being dumped OR dumping someone else (aka "happy relationship") > being dumped > dumping someone else

And then there's:

Corollary 2
Dumping someone who really deserves to be dumped > being dumped > dumping someone who is relatively innocent of wrongdoing

It's all very complicated (and not nearly as mathematical as Colin's Theorem!) What about you guys? Would you rather have your heart broken or be the heart breaker?

Monday, March 5

Loving the Bad Boy

Hi! Thanks for visiting us at the Teen Fiction Cafe. I'm Liza Conrad--my pen name for teen fiction. And in my so-called real life, I'm Erica Orloff, and I write fiction for adults. Beyond that, I'm insane enough to have four kids and three dogs, leaving me seriously outnumbered. I write in my pjs, and try to keep up with my crazy life.

When I sat down to blog this morning, I realized that all three of my teen books, Rock My World, High School Bites, and The Poker Diaries, have bad boys in them. Considering my first husband was a bad boy (and I won't go into how brief THAT marriage was!), there's something to that bad boy appeal.

When I was in high school--and on through a lot of my relationships--there was something about me, looking across a crowded room, seeing a guy who looked like trouble, and . . . love at first sight. They were the guys with earrings and shaved heads, tattoos and a lot of times enough emotional baggage to fill a football stadium. But I loved them.

Now I just write about them. In High School Bites, I took the bad boy to a new level--he's a bad boy vampire. Blood-sucking undead . . . the new punk.

But in thinking about it, I decided that the reason I loved bad boys wasn't so much that I loved them, as I loved the idea of taming them. That somehow my love for them would be so intense, so strong, that I could magically fix them.
I've learned a lot over the years and the bad boys I left in the wake. Most especially that you really can't fix anyone. They have to fix themselves.

How about you? Have you ever loved the bad boy? Or do you run the other way?

Sunday, March 4

Is It Love?

Welcome to Teen Fiction Cafe, the place to go to talk about every topic under the sun with some of your favorite YA authors! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Lauren Baratz-Logsted and I wrote several novels in various genres before having my first YA novel, ANGEL'S CHOICE, published in December. I live in Danbury, CT, with my husband, Greg Logsted, whose own first novel for tweens will pub in 2008, and our seven-year-old daughter, whose writing talents put both of us in the shade.

So that's me. With no further ado then, off we go!

In ANGEL'S CHOICE, from the very beginning readers know Angel is in love with Danny Stanton, high-school basketball star. Angel and Danny have a history of connecting at parties when neither is with anyone else and Angel is sure that one day Danny will see the reason for this pattern is that he is in love with her too. Her best friend thinks she's delusional. But when Angel gets in trouble - it's not giving away any state secrets to tell you Angel finds herself pregnant - it's Danny Stanton who becomes one of her biggest defenders. Some readers, looking at this, wonder where the groundwork for it is. Because, it's true, Danny does behave like a jerk towards Angel in the beginning. But I wrote Danny Stanton because I know Danny Stanton. Angel's story is not my story, but I know Danny Stanton very well.

Can I be the only female in the history of the world who has fallen in love with a guy who everyone else is certain cannot possibly return those feelings...and yet...and yet? OK, it happened to me no less than three times during high school and college. I would develop huge feelings for some guy and there would be times when we'd connect and I'd be sure the guy felt something for me other than what my friends thought they saw - that he was using me. And then, sometimes it would take years for it to happen, but eventually there would be one night and a huge revelation.

One of the more spectacular of these instances happened when I was in college. A friend of mine and I met these two guys that were also friends at the same party. The four of us spent the whole night, into the early hours of the morning, hanging out together, getting to know each other and finally pairing off. I was immediately so into this guy. I've always had a quirky sense of humor but this guy got every one of my jokes, even finished them for me, and the mirror image was true too. He'd start some riff and I would just run with it. If I used such phrases at the time, I would have said we were soul mates. When we looked into each others eyes, it was like we totally *got* each other.

But then the next day came and the next and my friend kept seeing the guy she'd met that night while the guy I met had...cooled. Oh, he was still pleasant enough, but it was like he wouldn't be alone with me and, somehow, it came across to my brain that he *couldn't* be alone with me. Still, I obsessed about him. With no concrete evidence that he felt anything remotely for me like what I was feeling towards him, I obsessed about him. And I told everyone about my feelings for him, and my certainty that he returned those feelings, to the point where other people were sick of it. So I stopped talking about it out loud. But inside, I still knew.

Then came the night, long after that first night, when a group of us were out and he was in that group. For some reason, everyone else but us was gone from the table at the same time. Were they giving away free munchies? Did everyone, guys and girls, all have to go to the bathroom at once? Who knows? All I know was, there he was, and there I was, alone, together.

It was quiet at that table for a long moment. He looked me in the eyes and it was like being right back at that first night we met, keying right into each other, and then he started talking. He told me he'd been in love with me ever since that first night, that he wanted to get me out of his head, couldn't get me out of his head, had to get me out of his head, because he still felt the same and it was too big for him, it was too scary, it was bigger than anything he'd ever felt.

I will confess: I wished I'd had a tape recorder with me. Here was validation that I wasn't crazy. My extraordinary love *was* returned. And we did spend the rest of that night talking, living in each other's heads, keying into each other once more. Soul mates. But then morning came and he went back to being the same scared-of-love person he was all along, and that was that. I was done with it. Fool for love that I've always been, even I couldn't bring myself to go on carrying the torch for someone who was too scared of their own feelings, too scared of love to leap. So I moved on. But I still wished I'd had a tape recording of that conversation because, I swear, when I told my friends the next day that I'd been proved right, that he *did* really love me down deep, they all still thought I was delusional. But I knew. And that was at least something. It was nice to know I wasn't crazy, even if everyone else still thought I was.


Thanks for listening. Don't forget to write.

Friday, March 2

Welcome to Teen Fiction Cafe, the place you can hang out with some of your favorite teen fiction authors from all over the world. Three of us will be posting every week, so there will always be something new and exciting going on. We hope you drop by often, and when you're here, be sure and let us know what's up. See ya!