Thursday, October 30

Dizzy's Iced Coffee

This is my coffee shop. I get an iced coffee with cream and sugar here nearly every morning. J, who was working five mornings a week, knows how I like it to taste like coffee ice cream. She humors me, even in the winter. (Hot drinks make me feel like I have the flu--it's weird, I know.)

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

the lull

Right now, I'm in the lull between having turned a manuscript in to my editor and getting editorial notes for revision. I do not have a day job, and I don't have kids, and there are no pressing tasks on my immediate horizon. In other words: I'm in hell.

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

Anything goes! Let's talk first drafts!

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of Behind the Bit, the third book in my Canterwood Crest series. When I hit the PRINT button, a happy nerd dance began! Sure, the draft is messy, there are INSERT WITTY DIALOGUE HERE in place of actual conversation in some spots and the final scene needs more work.


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

YA the Vote: An Unglamorous Post

In summer of 1970, at the age of eight, I committed my first act as a political animal: I conducted a poll. Taking a piece of cardboard from one of my dad's dry-cleaned shirts, I magic-markered on the white side: WOMEN'S LIB. I underscored those radical words and underneath wrote two other lines:



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.


Be well. Don't forget to write.

Saturday, October 25

What Makes a Book Popular

Last night, I had the good fortune to sit next to YA author Mette Ivie Harrison (author The Princess and the Hound) at an author signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Layton, Utah. She brought up an interesting conversation topic: What makes a book popular? Sure, advertising/publicity, reviews, awards, and marketing considerations including: cover, placement, and availability play roles.

But what about the book in and of itself? We agreed a book's popularity isn't solely the writing or even the story. We suggested that a world that's created completely and imaginatively, a strong connection to its audience, and timelessness are important.
What do YOU think makes a book popular?


It's book week on TFC, though it has been rather quiet around here. Perhaps my fellow authors are hiding away writing like I have been!

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

Heavy Metal

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!

Alyson- XOXO

Which way to the restroom??????

Embarrassing moments..... hmm.... there have certainly been a few over the years. But there's one, that's not only embarrassing, but I've repeated on more than one occasion. WTF!!!! I'm sure you're wondering how embarrassing it can be if I'm stupid enough to repeat it over and over again. Well, see for yourself..... after I tell you about the first time.....

Many years ago when at college, I just had enough time between lectures to pop to the restroom. It wasn't one I'd visited before, and immediate first impressions of decor, smell, and funny silver 'thing' running alongside one wall, made me momentarily decide that I probably wouldn't visit again. Anyway, needs must, so I went into the cubicle, of which there was only one (with hindsight, also weird considering the size of the restroom). Several minutes later I emerged, poised to wash my hands before leaving, and I'm greeted with a room FULL OF MEN!!! OMG I nearly died on the spot. But did what any self-respecting girl would do under the circumstances..... looked forward, clutched the handle of the bag on my shoulder and marched outside.... complete with heart pounding so loud in my ears I swear they could hear it 5 miles down the road.

And as I mentioned, on several occasions since I have ended up in the men's restroom by mistake..... WHY???? Am I unable to read the signs on the door? Or am I unable to distinguish between the figure of a man or woman they put up there...... I guess it could be that...... I never wear my glasses when I'm out (only wear them for TV and driving)..... okay, so I'm grappling for excuses here...

So, is it me.... or have any of you ever done this?????

The snake that came to stay

This week the topic is about embarrassing moments and while I've had plenty of those, most of them have been buried deep in denial land and I've been advised not to go in there without medical supervision (and gloves)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, as I glossed over all the stupid things I've done I suddenly recalled a little adventure my husband and I had about fifteen years ago when we were still living in Australia. The house we were in was on a small island that overlooked the water but was surrounded by bush. So one day when we went upstairs for lunch there was a rustling noise and we both looked over to see a small brown snake slithering across the room.

I immediately started to scream (not before jumping onto the closest table) and then as I racked my brain for everything I knew about snakes, I suddenly remembered that brown snakes were poisonous. The minute I told my non-snake-experienced English husband this, he jumped on the table next to me as the snake continued to slink along our carpet.

Now some people like to say that snakes are just as scared of us as we are of them, but I can assure you this is NOT the case and after standing on the table for about fifteen minutes, my husband realized he was going to have be a man and try and get it out of the house. For moral support I crept behind him, clutching at his shoulders and screaming every time the snake so much as stuck out its tongue.

Eventually he managed to hustle the snake to the back of the kitchen. I seem to recall the thinking was that we could then try and get it to go out the window. Unfortunately, the snake, obviously not liking this idea (it was a second storey window so I suppose I can see its point) decided to go toward the fridge instead and then proceeded to wrap itself around all the wiring at the back -it was an old fridge.

Anyway, the more my husband tried to get it off, the more it stuck - not helped by my continual screaming and arm flaying. After about an hour of complete panic, the snake was still there and since this was before the days of computers and google we ended up ringing the museum to try and find out what to do with this highly poisonous creature.

I was thinking they would need to send some sort of snake removal expert over in a helicopter at the very least and after I stopped hyperventilating, I finally managed to describe the snake.

Which was when the poor person on the other end of the phone had to inform me that it wasn't a brown snake but rather a completely harmless grass snake and that we should just leave open the windows and doors and wait for it to leave.

Okay, so perhaps it wasn't poisonous but it still looked pretty scary and there was no way in the world we were just going to calmly wait for it to leave, so I made my husband help me drag our very old, very heavy fridge outside onto the deck and wait until the thing finally untangled itself and went away.

The whole incident took about five hours and after the snake finally left, our closet neighbour appeared and when we explained what had happened they blinked at us like we were crazy and said that we should've just called them and they would've picked it up for us. What? And miss out on all that humiliation and screaming? Never...

Friday, October 10

Fan Girls and Affordable Housing

I started a new job last week. As any young adult/middle grade writer will tell you, it's important to stay current. Not so much on the trends, which come and go, but with what teens and tweens are thinking and feeling. Some of it is universal and timeless. Check out Judy Blooms books if you don't believe me. Many of them written over twenty years ago still capture the thoughts and feelings of youth. But some things are new. For instance, we are now dealing with a post 911 generation. It's... different.

Anyway, in my desire to stay current and work in a field I believe in, I took a job with Community Partners for Affordable Housing. I help run an afterschool program for young people and children in poverty. It's a rewarding job and a blast because kids... well, they're fun.

Yesterday, a group of teens who have graduated from the program, came by and the director introduced me and told them about my book, Read My Lips. One of the girls had seen it on display at the library and was out of her mind with excitement. (She's a big reader, too.) She would call me over to the table while I was working with the little ones to ask questions. I heard her ask the other two, "Am I the only one so excited about this?" Then she asked me how much input authors had on their covers. I launched into a speil on it and one of the other girls said, "Wait! You wrote this?"

Classic moment.

So if you have a moment, check out CPAH's mission. I'm going to be collecting books for the library in the community center and am especially in need of books that have main characters of color.

Sunday, October 5


By the end of this year, I will have had five books come out in 2008: Secrets of My Suburban Life (YA, Jan); Me, In Between (tween, Mar); Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (adult, Sep); and the first two volumes in The Sisters Eight series, Annie's Adventures and Durinda's Dangers, written with my husband Greg Logsted and our eight-year-old daughter Jackie (young readers, Dec).

As you can see, I've been a busy beaver, but since this is Promo Week here at TFC and it's October, and I have no books out in October or next month, then I might as well plug someone else's book. And who better to plug than my husband?

SOMETHING HAPPENED, by Greg Logsted, is scheduled to be published by Simon Pulse on Tuesday, November 4. The nice thing about that date is however the election goes here in the United States, for it will indeed be Election Day here, we'll have something to celebrate.

The official description on Amazon for SOMETHING HAPPENED is:

Five months after his dad's unexpected death, Billy Romero is still struggling with the loss. Billy's mom spends more time talking to her Bluetooth than to him, and his best friend, Ziggy, just doesn't get it. There's no one who understands how alone Billy feels...except his new English teacher, the young and beautiful Miss Gate.

Miss Gate offers support and friendship, even giving Billy extra help with his writing outside of school. Billy isn't really sure how he feels about spending so much time with his teacher. It's a little weird, but it's also kind of exciting that someone like Miss Gate wants to hang out with him. But the closer they get, the more Billy wonders what kind of friendship this really is...

SOMETHING HAPPENED is a wonderful book, even if I am admittedly biased. So, everybody, go here to preorder your copy of SOMETHING HAPPENED!

And, since I'm incapable of posting even a promo blog as monologue, preferring dialogue whenever I can get it, here's the question of the day:

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Wednesday, October 1

crushes: are you my daddy?

When it comes to the topic of crushes, there are a million different stories I could tell. Most of them are extremely embarrassing and many are perhaps inappropriate. Let's just say I fall easily and hard. And you might ask - but aren't you happily married? Yes! That has nothing to do with it! The part of you that gets crushes is not amputated on your wedding day.

Now, I'm going to focus on some of my childhood crushes that could be categorized as Famous Men I Wished Were My Father.

Exhibit A: Bill Bixby. You'd think that I mean the BB of The Courtship of Eddie's Father, but no, I crushed on Bill as Dr. David Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk. He just seemed so...sad! And angry! Kind of like a certain man who lived in my house but was not available by simply turning on the TV, and was at a less safe distance.

Exhibit B: Danny Kaye and Gene Kelly, i.e. The Men of PBS Movie Night. I grew up before the time of cable TV and VCRs in every home, but thank God for Channel 9, our local public TV station, which showed lots of old movies. Such as Singin' in the Rain and The Five Pennies.

In The Five Pennies, Danny Kaye plays a talented jazz musician who gives up his career when his daughter contracts polio. Of course he'd do it again but you can't deny he's depressed and bitter. Then! When she's a teen, daughter finds out about dad's musical past and makes him open a club and then it's all sad until Louis Armstrong saves the day. My dad had a musical past, too, and since I already had a co-dependent savior complex this movie pushed my little nine-year-old buttons. And Gene Kelly was just...swoon.

Exhibit C: Captain James T. Kirk. I don't know. It's hard to explain this one except I must have been watching Star Trek at a time when William Shatner's bare chest and my blossoming man issues and my imagination all collided into a brilliant outer space explosion. I had this recurring fantasy that I was a stowaway on the Enterprise and Captain Kirk found me in the hold (or something) and took me under his wing and brought me to the bridge and I became part of the crew/family. [See also: Captains Von Trapp and Steubing.]

Exhibit D: Pa Ingalls. Covered wagons, leather boots, and good honest sweat. Pa would do anything for Laura, including climbing a mountain or belting Almanzo. Who doesn't want that kind of father?

There were others, but I think I've said enough.