Monday, December 28

How Embarrassing!

This week's topic is Embarrassing Moments. Or at least I think it is. My husband tossed out my December calendar where I'd written the topic and so I guess if I'm wrong, I can just add this to my long list of embarrassments.

My mom is here visiting and she suggested I write about what she considers my most embarrassing moment so here goes ...

When I was in Jr. High, I had a major crush on a guy who lived at the bottom of our cul-de-sac. His name was Keith and we're guessing he was a good 8 years my senior. He had dark skin, hair about the same deep-tan color, light eyes, and a great body. One day, which happened to be the day before we were heading to Rocky Mountain National Park for a family reunion, I noticed that he was washing his red Jeep Wrangler with his shirt off. (Think Jacob in New Moon, haha!) Word was, he was heading off to college. Now, I've always been the show-off type around boys, trying to get their attention by being athletic and daring and crazy. So I hopped on my dad's VERY old bike, my sister sat on the back, and I whizzed up and down the street as fast as I could. We were having a great time. Until the bike started shaking and my sister flew off the back. I was trying to stop but the brakes wouldn't work and I turned around to see if she was okay and crashed RIGHT IN FRONT OF KEITH. This wasn't just any ol' bike crash. I think I left a good 1/3 of my skin on the road. My sister had escaped all injury, thankfully, but I was a bloody mess. I tried not to cry as Keith asked me over and over if I was okay. I brushed myself off, leaving the bike in the street, and hobbled up to my house. I didn't realize how badly I was bleeding until I walked into my house, where all my family (including aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins) came rushing over to me, talking about whether or not I needed to go to the E.R. (I did.) After holding it in for so long, I just started bawling. "Oh my God, I'm so embarrassed!" I wailed. "I just fell off Dad's bike in front of KEITH!"

I have major scars all over my body from that fall. And as for Keith, though I'm sure he did notice me that day, I'm afraid he didn't fall in love with me or anything romantic like that. In fact, while he was away at college his family moved away and I never saw him again.

Did you ever do anything crazy or dangerous to get the attention of a certain person? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, December 26


This week is all about friends, and how fitting as it's a holiday week and a lot of us get together with friends and family. We live in New Zealand and most of our family is still in the UK. But lucky for us we have some good friends over here who we can have fun with and today was no exception.

As has become our annual ritual, on December 26th we have a BBQ with my very good friend, and amazing author, Amanda Ashby and her family (and one of my brothers who also lives in NZ). I haven't laughed so much in ages, especially as the men decided to drink as many beers from different places around the world as they could (my husband manages to 'collect' them). This was made even funnier when we had the annual mince pie tasting by Amanda's husband - who is a mince pie guru, and knowing how every year something goes wrong with mine, it's usually a scary moment. Today was no exception, especially when he turned it over and could see how the underneath wasn't cooked properly and all the mincemeat was oozing out..... their saving grace was the amount of whiskey I'd added to the mincemeat!!!

But I was redeemed by the chocolate biscuit cake..... phew!!!

So did you celebrate with friends? And how was it?

Saturday, December 19

Top Books of the Decade

This week at TFC, we're talking about what's in the news. There's the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, the ongoing Olympic torch relay toward the Vancouver Olympic stadium, and for those of us in the US, the winter storm on the east coast and the weekend Senate vote on the health care bill.

And there are lists. Lots of lists.

Since we're reaching the end of the decade, all sorts of lists have popped up in the news. The best of this, the worst of that. Top news stories, most watched you-tube videos, worst celebrity moments. My personal favorites are the book lists. Here's a list from Good Reads of readers' favorites. I pulled the top picks from this decade (including more than the top ten because Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling take up half that list!) Here we go...

The Best YA Books of the Decade

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer (2005)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (2008)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling (2006)
Holes - Louis Sachar (2000)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer (2007)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling (2000)
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (2005)
Uglies - Scott Westerfield (2005)
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (2008)
Eragon - Christopher Paolini (2005)
City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau (2004)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares (2001)
Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray (2003)
Looking for Alaska - John Green (2005)

How many of these books have you read? Which ones did you love? What would you add to the list?

Saturday, December 12

Haiku Tributes to the Best Movies of 2009

My three favorite films that I saw in the theater this year were This is It, Inglorious Basterds and Up! Here, a tribute to each in haiku form:

1. MJ, gone too soon.
A talent like no other.
Make me wanna dance.

2. Brad Pitt hunts Nazis.
History Revised for film.
Best since Pulp Fiction.

3. A sad beginning
gives way to an uplifting
adventure of color.

Anyone want to add some favorite-film haikus? Go for it!

Friday, December 11

Fame! I'm gonna watch it forever.

Being of the generation I am of, I have seen the Alan Parker movie Fame many times, watched the TV series as it originally aired (yes, all seasons), and saw the new feature film on opening day. The original movie is the best, hands down, but for me the TV show that ran all through the eighties has the most sentimental value. So when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago and saw that they had the complete first season on DVD, I grabbed it! I've been watching it and let me tell you. Like most TV shows from my childhood and adolescence, the memory of watching it doesn't quiiiiite match up with what I see when re-watching it.

For one, okay, the TV Coco can't sing. I mean it's not like listening to American Idol auditions or anything, and I like her acting, but she is no Irene Cara when it comes to the pipes. Also, TV Doris looks about nine years past high school, but maybe she's there so that TV Bruno (who is also Original Bruno) doesn't look old all by himself. But, it's all about Original/TV Leroy aka Gene Anthony Ray (may he rest in peace), always my favorite. And Debbie Allen is still fabulous, both dancing and acting. Child, you do not want Ms. Grant mad at you! Some of the musical numbers aren't half bad, like when the kids put on Othello despite the teacher strike, and even Danny dances.

All things considered, it's still awesome. Watching it again reminds me what I loved about it: The school and the sets and the clothes the students wear all look really real. They always seemed to me like normal kids (other than the fact that they were so old) in a grubby school like mine, hanging in the band room like I did, surrounded by water-stained soundproofing tiles, and of course wearing leg warmers. I loved Leroy and his relationships with Ms. Grant and Sherwood. I loved the music, even when it was bad, because I loved the idea of performing, and busting out into song at any moment to express the angst of growing up. In fact, in junior high I was known to jump up on the cafeteria table and start belting "Hard Knock Life" from Annie. That may be a post for another day.

I have tried to get into Glee. I have. But I'll take Fame any day of the week. I now have all the seasons in my Netflix queue, and can't wait for Janet Jackson and Nia Peeples to make their appearances in later seasons.

Jammin' in the lunch room!

Thursday, December 10

The DJ in Me

True story . . . in college I was a radio DJ. And I took gigs on the side spinning records (yes, those were the days of RECORDS) in very dirty, very rough clubs downtown. I loved it. My play list THEN would likely include . . . The Ramones, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, and some unheard of acts like EBN OZN. As well as the Smiths . . . the Clash. Oh, those were the DAYS.

So flash foward to three Christmases ago. Significant Other purchases me the (at the time) Rolls Royce of iPods--video, 160 GB of storage. I looked at said gift and did not speak the thought I had aloud. "What the HECK am I going to do with this thing?"

You see, I had an extensive CD collection. Do you mean to tell me I had to download ALL that music onto some little portable device? The idea was madness. Until . . . I started.

I now have the equivalent of enough music on my iPod to survive a nculear fallout without having to repeat songs. When my iPod is not up-to-date, I feel panic.

Sunday night, I did a major update. I erased all my old playlists and created new ones. I bought music (the Across the Universe Jim Sturgess Beatle remakes; songs from GLEE; old Rolling Stones plus a Fatboy Slim remix). I channeled my inner DJ.

What's on my iPod? Oh, all the names I listed from when I was a DJ. But lots and LOTS of new names: Ray LeMontagne, Jeff Buckley, Fatboy Slim, Modest Mouse, Bell 1X, Glenn Hansard, Kings of Leon . . .

So . . . anyone else channel their inner DJ? And what's on your iPod right this SECOND? Hit shuffle and tell me.

All right . . . shuffle . . . .

SHIP OF FOOLS by World Party!

Thursday, December 3

My Favorite Websites

This week the topic at TFC is blogs and websites. There are more blogs that I check out from time to time than I can count, but I don't dare try to make a list of those I like best, because no sooner would I press Publish Post than I'd see someone post a blog link on Twitter and then I'd think, "D'oh! How could I have forgotten X? I hope X doesn't see this post and then get hurt/annoyed at not being included!" Of course I could always edit the post, adding another link, but that would just start a chain of such editing/linking and I do have a few other things to do today - "General Hospital" is on in less than four hours!!! - so...

I'm just going to link my three favorite websites for writers and readers, two of which are forums, one of which is a weekly reader devoted to the love of books. These are the places that, in addition to checking in at Twitter and Facebook, are absolute musts for me.

Backspace is a discussion forum for writers at all stages of their careers, from those still trying to figure out what to write to NYT bestselling authors. With 1192 current members - and counting! - it's the best place I know for those dreaming of getting published to learn every aspect of the craft of writing and the business of publishing and for published authors to network and get support from others. I wish BKSP had been in existence when I first started out and am very glad to have it as part of my life now.

BookBalloon is my favorite forum for book lovers to discuss every sort of book imaginable. There are some threads for writers, but this is really a reader-centric site where in addition to talk about books and publishing news, there are monthly book discussions focusing on individual titles.

BiblioBuffet, subtitled "Writing Worth Reading, Reading Worth Writing About," posts several new literary-related essays every Sunday night. I have an every-other-week column there called "Writer-in-Residence," in which I write essays and reviews. I also recently launched a new semi-regularly feature there that I'm insanely happy about called "The Disrespectful Interviewer," in which I ask incredibly rude questions of prominent authors. The first one ran a week ago Sunday, Dissing Jon Clinch. I hope people will give it a look.

So how about you? What are your favorite websites? Or, if you're braver than I am, what are your favorite blogs?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Tuesday, December 1

My favorite foodie website

Since we are talking about websites and blogs this week on TFC, I thought I'd share my favorite recipe website. It's that time of year where people are doing a lot of cooking and baking after all. So my go-to site when I'm looking for something fun to make is As the name suggests, it is a vegan website and I'm sure not all of you are vegan, but don't let that scare you. Instead, I dare you to use it to try something new! Vegan food is very delicious and often very healthy. You'll probably find a lot of twists on old favorites.

I went vegetarian when I was 13 years old and vegan when I was 17 (though I did have a lapse in my early 20s where I started eating dairy again, but it really upsets my stomach so I went back). I was not a cook by any means when I started. The reason I didn't go vegan until 17 is because I was moving in with a vegan friend who knew how to cook, so she could teach me. My mom was kinda at a loss about vegan cooking. Pretty much pasta and salad was all she could figure out to make for me.

So I started cooking when I moved in with my friend Tai and I bought a couple vegan cookbooks over the years. But while I was in college, I really fell into the stirfry tofu with some vegetable and rice or eat a vegan frozen meal trap. I was busy and I was living with a guy who didn't cook with much flair or flavor (everything was too spicy for him). But after I kicked him out, Tai moved back in and I was inspired to have my old cooking buddy back. I've been a serious cook for about four years now. My prize wedding gifts were new cookware. No joke, I'm a total vegan cooking nerd!

I discovered when I was doing revisions on my first book I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. I was working a 9 to 5 job and had to come home and get write to work on revisions, but I didn't want to sacrifice and go back to frozen meals. Conveniently Vegweb has a "Quick & Easy" category, so I printed out a ton of recipes from there. And then I was hooked. I have a writer's group that I cook for every other week so when I get bored with my cookbooks, I find a recipe on there and it has yet to fail me. The other girl who hosts our group consults Vegweb regularly too. Last week, it was her birthday and I decided I wanted to bake something for her. While I am a cook, I am not much of a baker, but it's something new I want to get into more. I decided I wanted to find some sort of red velvet cake recipe to try. Lo & behold, here is one on Vegweb! It was totally delicious, though I followed the frosting recipe from the person who included their frosting recipe in the comments instead because it looked better to me (and it was amazing!). That is what is super cool about Vegweb is that usually people leave comments about modifications they make to recipes and it helps you play around to get the perfect dish.

So yeah, check it out and let me know what you think. Are you much of a cook? Do you have any favorite foodie websites (of course I'm extra excited about vegetarian ones, but whatever floats your boat)?

Saturday, November 28

My deep dark fashion secret

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am going to reveal my deepest, darkest secret where fashion is concerned.

I loathe clothes shopping.

There, I said it. I know many women and girls love shopping for clothes. They love trying on a billion things and scouting for bargains. They love the rush of a great sale when the blouse they've been eyeing is suddenly half off. And I used to be one of them. Really, I did.

I'm not sure when this change happened. But now, I buy nearly all of my clothes online. I only shop in stores if I absolutely have to. Part of it, I think, is that I have a very unusually shaped figure. Nothing that's currently in style looks good on me, and I'm that weird not-quite-petite-not-quite-average height so nearly everything is either too short or needs to be hemmed. If I'm going to tack on $10-20 for each piece of clothing to be hemmed so I don't look like I'm wearing my husband's castoffs, I'd better like it. Which, sadly, is a rare occurrence.

There are pros and cons to ordering online. The pros are, most obviously, convenience. And with so many online retailers offering free shipping this fall, it's a no-brainer. Especially if you can return it to a local store's catalog dept instead of paying for return shipping.

The cons are many, however. Colors often don't look the same on screen/in catalog as they do in real life, sizes can vary widely, and sometimes things are tucked or twisted on the models so they don't actually look the way they do in real life.

Sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes it's not. I placed one order this year for tall boots, skirts and sweaters for book signings. Since most of my wardrobe consists of yoga pants and polar fleece, upgrading my wardrobe is a priority. This particular order was probably a dozen items, of which I hoped I might get lucky and find three that worked. Imagine my surprise when I kept every single one! It was like winning the shopping lottery, I tell you. I even did a little dance, I was so giddy.

And then there was another order I placed. I ordered the same pants in the same size in two colors. One fit perfectly around the waist but was an inch too long and the other gaped around the waist but was the perfect length. If I could've combined the best features of these supposedly identical pants, they would've been perfect. And they were almost 40% off! So... I ended up deciding to order those pants again, but order a couple of each figuring that surely I would find a keeper in each color that way. I also ordered them in a third color because they're perfect wardrobe builder trousers (and I often order basics that fit me in several colors because it's so hard to find good basics that work on me).

Anywho... 7 pairs later, I managed to find two pairs that were mildly close to fitting properly. Not even a great fit, just an okay fit. The other five varied in length and waist size regardless that they were the exact same pant, exact same size, just in different colors. Crazy.

So that's my deep dark fashion secret. Even though fashion plays a role in my books, I secretly detest having to do the shopping thing in a real store. What about you? Do you like clothes shopping or are you an online shopper extraordinaire?


Tuesday, November 24

The style gene passed me by!!

This week we're talking about fashion and style, and I'm going to off load and admit to everyone that I have no sense of style!!!

My mother, is obsessed with bags and shoes. My daughter.... obsessed with bags, shoes, clothes and makeup. To give you an example, she recently begged me to give her my brown boots (the only pair I possess), yet she has, to my knowledge 8 pairs of boots at least half of them varying shades of brown.

So, what happened to me???? I have a pair of shoes and wear them until they fall to pieces. Ditto with clothes. And as for make-up, I've been doing it in the same way since I was a teen (much to my daughter's annoyance). The thing is, I hate shopping and find buying new clothes a chore. I don't see the point in buying lots of different make-up when what I use suits me fine. And why would I want to put my feet through the torture of wearing heels, when flats are much more comfortable?

What about you? Are you a style icon.... or more like me?

Saturday, November 21

Foodie Fixation

I have a new guilty pleasure: foodie shows.

Actually, not that new; it started years ago with the original Japanese show Iron Chef. I couldn't resist the comic campiness of Chairman Kaga's dramatics (like when he'd whip back the cloth to reveal the show's theme ingredient... "Kyo no tema wa..." fish innards!)

Now there are so many addicting food shows. Some of my personal favorites-

Competition shows like Top Chef, Chopped, Ultimate Cake Off

Food appreciation shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (This is actually a family obsession. We will actually seek out the diners featured on this show when we are traveling - and have rarely been disappointed.)

Travel foodie shows like No Reservations and Man vs. Food

The MG series I'm working on right now features a bit of the latter - the mom is a foodie on a travel show. I'm not really sure if I became more interested in these shows because of her character or if I created her character because of my interest in these shows...

How about you? Do you watch any food shows? What are your favorites?

Thursday, November 19

Me and Amelia Bedelia

So does anyone remember Amelia Bedelia? She was the housekeeper who managed to do everything wrong apart from her saving grace: she kicked butt when it came to making lemon meringue pies (moral of the story is that if you can make pie, then you can get ahead in the world!).

Anyway, I was always jealous of Amelia - not because of all the screw ups that she did, but because she had her thing. That one thing she could do better than anyone else. So, for many long years I've searched for my cooking thing but so far my only achievement is to find a meal that I burn less regularly than other meals (and I don't want to name it since we're having it tonight and I think my family has already suffered enough without me jinxing myself!!).

But, despite all of my crimes against food, I finally found my own inner Amelia Bedelia. Yup, that's right, I've got my thing.

Chocolate coconut brownies.

And I mean, I don't like to boast but I'm almost at the stage where I could make those suckers blindfolded and they would still turn out (but I won't of course because like I said before, I think my family have suffered enough). However, I can't tell you the relief I feel at now having one thing I can make, secure in the knowledge that it will turn out just like it should.

So what about everyone else? What's your cooking thing (and more importantly could a novice like me make it!!!!!!)

Wednesday, November 18

American Pie

(blog title courtesy of Don McClean_

So this week’s topic is food—something I love, look forward to, but also have a pretty bizarre relationship with, in that I’ll try anything once:

Pigeon pie in Morroco? Check!

Fried crickets in Santa Monica? Sure, why not!?

Lamb’s brain in Greece? Bring it on!

While, grilled octopus is one of my very favorite things in the world!

But faced with the prospect of fast food of any kind, all you can eat buffets, and/or cafeteria food—and I’d rather deal with the hunger pangs until I can locate something, er, else.

And apparently my aversion is so bad that a few years ago, a good friend and former fellow flight attendant, told me that back when we first met she was sure I had an eating disorder due to the fact that I pretty much survived six weeks of airline training on nothing but frozen yogurt (it was the only thing in the entire Delta cafeteria that I could bring myself to eat), but then later, when we shared an apartment in NYC and she saw me in action at a restaurant, she quickly changed her mind.

So what about YOU?

What food will you avoid at all costs?

PS- SHADOWLAND was released yesterday, and it's WalMart's "Read of the Month!!"

Friday, November 13

Travel: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia!

My dad's family from waaaay back when is from West Virginia. I try to get there at least once a year--Dad's buried there now--and it's always a place full of ghosts and stories and new adventures, which is kind of an awesome combo. Here are some pics from my latest WVA visit this fall.

Walking "the farm," my great-grandfather's former residence (this is me by the tool shed).

Kayaking and reading a little Cassie Clare!

Dinner at my cousin Molly Moss's farmhouse is eaten under a photo of Robert E. Lee... here's Dave in the dining room with General Lee looking on:

Also in Molly's farmhouse is an old photo of my grandmother Carol and her brother Clem. I'm obsessed with these antique family photos. LOVE them:

There's a lot of land along the Potomac where my great-grandfather's farm sits. The house is falling down, but it's full of old letters and notes and magic. Maybe even ghosts. I love going to see it:

My friend Pete Kephart lives right near the old farm and is an amazing artist. He experiments with lots of styles, the latest of which is Fire Painting. How cool is this?! Learn more here. (And come to his show in NYC if you're around in December).

These are all to say that sometimes the best travel consists of a trip where you go back home to places from your family's past. Anyone else have somewhere as special as WVA is to me? I hope you do!

Thursday, November 5

If I ran the high school English department...

Last week, I returned to my own high school for the first time since I graduated. I didn't have a particular fondness for the place. In fact that is putting it lightly. I hated high school so much, I graduated a semester early just to get out of there. (Before I went, I recounted my own most memorable high school moments on my blog, so if you want, you can check those out here.) It was weird to be there again after almost 13 years. I remember the stairways and where the exits were located more than anything, more than the classrooms. I guess it just illustrates how I felt about high school, always planning my escape. Other stuff looked vaguely familiar, like it could have been the same or could have been different. I'm pretty sure the English Department was in a new place, but I could be wrong.

I went there to meet with two English classes. One was a combination American Lit/pre-journalism class, and another was the creative writing class. If you were to predict which students were more interested in talking to me, which would you guess? Well, I would have guessed the latter. I didn't take creative writing in high school (scheduling conflict during my senior semester), but if I had and I'd had the chance to meet a real writer, one that had survived... err graduated from my high school, I would have been so thrilled. But as it turned out, most of the kids in that class took it because they thought it would be "easy," a blow-off elective (OMG, writing is so not easy!!!). The kids in the pre-journalism class were honors students. They were excited and wanted to know all about me (they asked some questions that were a wee bit too personal and I really hope don't end up in the school newspaper article they are writing). The time in that class just flew by. The other dragged, awkwardly because the few kids that were interested couldn't keep things afloat.

In between the two classes, I got to eat lunch in the staff cafeteria with the teacher. That was pretty exciting because it was one place in my school I'd never been. I'd never even thought about there being a staff cafeteria because I'd never thought about teachers doing human things like eating. The teacher asked me what I remembered about my high school English experience, what books I read, what I liked, what I didn't, who I had as teachers.

My two most memorable English classes were the one I loved most and the one I hated most. The one I hated most was English lit, junior year. I always looked forward to my English classes and I knew this one would have Shakespeare so I was extra excited. But I hated it. The way the teacher analyzed things, told us what was right and wrong drove me crazy. And it was in the Hemingway room. Hemingway graduated from my high school and as I understand it, hated it and my hometown as much I did. That is the only thing I ever liked about Hemingway. I hated his writing style, thought his subject matter was boring and borderline misogynist and to sit in a room dedicated to him. *shudder*

The class I loved most was an elective, Humanities. We got more of a say in what we read. Different kinds of books were assigned like Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, which my teacher allowed me to write an essay comparing themes in it to those in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. This meant I got to write about a book I was passionate about and I got state my thoughts about it as opposed to being told how to interpret things.

The teacher whoI visited agreed with me that it was important to let teens interpret what they read and not tell them what is right or wrong, just ask them to back up their interpretation with textual evidence. She also agreed with me that the old canon (ie. the dead white guys) that they still teach in high school is... old. She says many teachers will argue that they are classics and have withstood the test of time, but she thinks the kids lackluster response proves differently.

Now I was kind of a freak who loved the classics. I adore Shakespeare (except when jerky teachers don't let me try my hand at interpreting it). As a girl whose love life was subject of the rumormill at the time I read The Scarlet Letter, I related to it. It's one of my favorite books. Loved the Great Gatsby as well. I hated Farewell To Arms and still do. I had to read Tom Sawyer and Catcher in the Rye again post-high school to really get them. I'm glad I didn't read Grapes of Wrath in high school because I'm sure it would have been ruined for me. And I think the people who hated some of the other classics might have gotten more from them in college. But still, the most excited I was about English class was when I got to read a book of my own choosing, a book I loved. And if the point of English class is to get teens reading and encourage them to enjoy reading, wouldn't it be better to bring in books they are interested in?

It was a huge compliment when the teacher I met with told me, "You know, I would love to teach your book in my American Lit class." But she had her doubts she could get that past the powers that be. Instead she is trying to propose an elective class featuring Chicago authors with the hopes that some of us can visit and meet the kids. Definitely a cool idea, but it will attract those honors kids who are already interested in reading.

If I could lord over the high school English classes in America, I'd turn the curriculum on it's head and say for every classic we read, we find at least one contemporary to read too, preferably something with a comparable theme to help the teens find their way into the classic. Two of the books I'd love to see on curriculum alongside those classics are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Books that deal with real issues faced by teens and will raise awareness and create a real dialogue in the classroom.

What about you? Do you like the classics? What contemporary books would you add to the high school curriculum if you could?

Be True To Your School

It's timely that the topic at TFC this week is Schools, given that yesterday I did a book-signing at my favorite school: The Unquowa School, where I was a student - once upon a very long time ago - for nearly six years. Unquowa was the first place that it occurred to me that if I wanted something, dreamed of achieving something, and I was willing to put the necessary work in, I could realize my goals.

When I first began at Unquowa, I was in fourth grade and it was the middle of fall term. Compared to the other students I was behind in math and science, and a few other things as well, like music. I couldn't quite figure out what to do with the recorder I was given in music class and when I was given an audio quiz where I was supposed to identify what I was hearing, I'm fairly certain I did preposterous things like mistaking the harp for the bassoon.

At the end of the term, the headmaster, who was a very old-school headmaster, arranged to speak with me in an empty classroom. There, he explained that the grades I had received were not exactly stellar. They weren't completely abysmal - there were no Fs involved - but C seemed to be the common theme and there was at least one D there. I was sure I was about to get kicked out of the school, having never felt good enough to be there in the first place, but that wasn't what he had in mind. Very kindly he explained that I shouldn't feel bad about those grades, since my previous school had not given me the proper tools, and then more kindly still he set out to explain how if in the next semester I did X and I did Y and I did Z, that no, I couldn't achieve an A average for this school year - although, who, he wondered aloud, could say what I might achieve in future years? - but that it was possible to lift it all up to a solid B average.

So that's what I proceeded to do. I did X and I did Y and I did Z, and at the end of the year I made the Honor Roll for the first time, receing a white card with green lettering that said Second Honors. As time wore on, I would achieve First Honors, and eventually the coveted gold cards that read Headmaster's List. Those gold cards became a regular thing in my life.

It's not that there wasn't hard work involved, but someone had taken the time to draw me a road map to success and I was smart enough to take that road.

Unquowa was critical in instilling in me the desire for intellectual achievement, but in every other aspect as well it also encouraged the confidence that if I wanted a thing and was willing to put the work in, almost anything was possible.

In seventh grade I tried out for the girls' basketball team. Four-foot-eleven and athletically challenged, my skills earned me a place as last person on the team. Having spent most of the year on the bench, I resolved to get better. I knew there was nothing I could do about my lack of height, but I could learn to run faster and I could learn to develop a killer outside shot, which I achieved by getting my one-foot-taller older brother to train me every day over the summer. By the time I was in ninth grade, my last year at Unquowa, I was co-captain of the team.

Academics, athletics - it's all good, but there's got to be a social aspect to school life as well. At Unquowa, I never lacked for feeling socially connected to other people. It was there I discovered that people could be complex, that the same person - me - could be an A student and an athlete and a social butterfly and fashion conscious; that in fact there was no need to ever be pigeonholed into those narrow boxes that some schools tend to force people into. That refusal to be pigeonholed as one thing or another has served me well in life.

Academics, athletics, social stuff - what have I left out? Politics! When I started at Unquowa it had a five-day-a-week dress code involving uniforms. The school had been in existence since 1917 and girls had never worn pants but when I was in seventh grade we finally organized ourselves and brought our case to the Board of Governors, resulting in a modified dress code that allowed us to dress far more liberally on everything but Fridays and assembly days. It was the same pattern all over again: wanting a thing, creating a road map, and going for it.

Finally, were it not for Unquowa, I don't know as that I'd be a writer today. It was there, when I was 12 years old and in the eighth grade, than an English teacher was so impressed with one of my stories that he made the class listen to it three days running. It was there that for the first time it occurred to me that maybe I had stories to tell that other people would want to hear.

So that's my story of Unquowa love. There would be other schools in my life following my graduation from Unquowa in the bicentennial year of 1976, but none would inspire so much school love or have such a profound impact, although each would form me in some way. But that was just fine. I'd already been given the map I needed.


Be well. Don't forget to write.

Sunday, November 1

What Can and Can't be Worn to School

If you know me, you know I get really into Halloween. So I couldn't very well post the day after my favorite holiday without sharing a few photos. This is my family, minus the youngest who went as Spider Man. (My husband has his camera and I'm afraid I haven't downloaded his photo yet.) So, now that I have this out of my system, I will discuss this week's topic: School.

It seems like what people can and can't wear to school is always making news. Just the other day, there was an article about a junior high girl who got her nose pierced to honor her Sikh background. Since this piercing didn't adhere to the school's body piercing rule (meaning it was somewhere besides her ears), she was suspended. As you can imagine, it caused quite an uproar. The school and girl eventually compromised and she stuck a clear plastic stud in her nose.

Here's another story for you. Now, keep in mind that this is from my babysitters who go to our local junior high, and I have no idea why they'd make this up, but keep in mind I haven' t heard this from the school itself, so I'm going to leave names out in case there was some misinterpretation. I do, however, think this is probably a rule at other schools so I feel justified in mentinioning it here. This particular junior high doesn't allow "cross dressing" for Halloween. So, a boy cannot dress like a female cheerleader or an old lady or Madonna. A girl cannot dress like Michael Jackson or Santa or Peter Pan. Anyway, you get the idea.

On the other hand, our local elementary school allowed its students to wear masks for the Halloween parade portion of the school day.

I left out my opinion on purpose because I'm curious what you think of these particular school-issued rules: body piercing, opposite sex costumes for Halloween, and masks for Halloween.

Thursday, October 29

Note passing and other trials of youth

So I was chatting with my neighbor the other day about her son getting caught passing notes in class. And while we were talking, I mentioned that I used to be a champion note passer in class. Mostly in junior high, but some in high school as well. I'm not proud of this, mind you, but it was a moment of nostalgia that brought back memories.

I had a laugh thinking about the one time I got caught--I mean, really caught--passing notes in class. The sad part is that I wasn't even passing it yet! I was just sitting at my desk writing the darn thing.

Our junior high had this open air classroom section that looked like this:

Okay, so see where my math class was? All of those yellow hearts represent my lovely fellow classmates of 7th grade advanced math. The pink heart represents one Kay Cassidy, student of 7th grade advanced math/lover of all things note-related.

So I'm sitting there writing a note and all of the sudden, the social studies teacher comes around the end of the divider to make a joke to our math teacher and (with the stealth of a child going for the cookie jar ten minutes before dinner) snatches the note off my desk and holds it above her head like a prize.

So. Busted.

She then proceeded to read said note to the entire class. Thankfully, it was NOT about my crush du jour. Instead, and far worse in ways I didn't understand until later, it was about how horrifically boring said math teacher was. Which I felt TERRIBLE about because he was really a sweet guy. But, you know, 7th grade advanced math. Not exactly mesmerizing stuff.

As you might guess, I got teased about that for the rest of the year, mostly by my teacher (who I also realized later had an excellent sense of humor). He would stop class periodically throughout the year and ask "I'm not boring you, am I, Kay?" when I was totally paying attention, thankyouverymuch.

Fortunately, my teacher and I actually got along great so it was more like good-natured ribbing. I had him for 8th grade advanced math and then for typing in 9th grade, so he never got rid of me until high school.

By the way, there's a tidbit in my debut novel, The Cinderella Society (sorry for the plug, but it's where this comes from), that I think is fitting to mention here. In the book, the Cindys (the members of The Cinderella Society) have a great strategy to help put stressful or embarrassing situations into perspective. It's called The Rule of 5s.

Here's how it works:

Whenever something really stressful or embarrassing happens, stop and take five slow, deep breaths.

1... 2... 3... 4... 5.

(You feel better already, right?)

Then, stop and ask yourself the Five questions.

1) Will this matter in five hours?

2) Will this matter in five months?

3) Will this matter in five years?

This technique is actually based on a newspaper column from the mid-80s that my mom gave the drama queen that was teenaged me. You'd be surprised how effective it can be to put things in perspective. Even things that seem horrific and mortifying often don't pass the five-month test. And things like someone cutting you off in traffic? Those don't even pass the five-hour test.

It's all about perspective. :-)

So next time you're stressed or angry or mortified, give the Cindys' Rule of 5s a spin. I hope it works as well for you as it does for me. Let me know what you think!

~ Kay

Wednesday, October 28

Embarassing Tales

This week we're talking about embarrassing things that have happened, so I thought I'd write about something that's happened to me several times (more than several, actually).

For some reason, known only to the ether police, sometimes when I send an email to someone another address gets added, or an extra attachment gets added. I know it sounds strange, but it happens. Here are some of the results of this:

When sending an attachment to my boss, a job application (for a job he didn't know I was going for, especially as I hadn't been there long) went with it!!! When I found out I emailed saying please don't open the other attachment it was sent by mistake........... he didn't mention it, so I still don't know if he opened it or not (hmmmm..... I know what I'd have done).

Another time, I was emailing a friend about the various places she could try to find a guy (you know real girly stuff) and accidentally it got sent to my brother too (who I wanted her to meet :))

Another time, before I announced to my family that I was writing, an email to a crit partner also went to my aunt in the UK.

What the..... It's seriously weird.

And there was also the time when I meant to forward an email from a student to another member of staff (and I was moaning about this student because I thought she was being unreasonable) and I hit reply instead of forward..... I have lots more of these....

What about you..... have you ever sent anything accidentally, and what happened?

Friday, October 23

Zombie Queen of Newbury High book trailer

Okay, so this isn't really good news, but since I'm a sharer I thought I'd let you all have a peek at the book trailer for Zombie Queen of Newbury High!!!

Obviously, no expense was spared in the making of this trailer and though my children weren't exactly paid for their time, I did let them keep the plasticine afterwards, which I think was very kind of me!

Anyway, in order to celebrate my new, fancy book trailer, I'm running a competition. To enter all people have to do is either post a copy of the trailer on their blog, link to it or even post a tweet. Then, once they've done that they just need to send me an email to:

amanda at amandaashby dot com (no spaces)

to let me know what they've done and I'll put them in the draw to win my Very Last Zombie Survival Kit.

Yup, that's right. This is the last one I have and since we all know that it's only a matter of time before zombies take over the world, I think we can all agree that having a zombie survival kit will be pretty darn useful!!!!

More GNF!!!

Hey Everyone,

It's Good News Friday here at The Cafe, so I thought I'd share mine:

I just learned that SHADOWLAND, book 3 in THE IMMORTALS series, received 4.5 stars (out of 4.5!) from RT magazine and was chosen as a Top Pick!

Here's what they said:

“Noel’s novel is absolutely amazing! Fans of her Immortals series will not be disappointed—Ever and Damen’s love is challenged like never before, and the story ends with a big, satisfying twist that will have readers begging for more. This long awaited installment is incredible.” --4.5 Stars- Top Pick! RT magazine

Also, the SHADOWLAND trailer is not ready for viewing, just click HERE to see it!

And, regarding the Readergirlz chat Melissa posted below--I took part on Monday and it was a blast!! I urge you to stop by if you get the chance!

What about YOU??? Any good new you want to share?!

Have a good weekend everyone!


Good News Friday: Teen Read Week Tributes!

Over at readergirlz, authors are posting tributes to YALSA's Teen Read Week every 15 minutes today! And yes, many of the Teen Fiction Cafe authors are at the party.

Tonight: A Live! Chat at 9pm EST/6pm PST with Dia Calhoun and Sylvia Engdahl, pioneer sci-fi author!

Just a heads up! Have a great weekend, everyone, and Happy Teen Read Week!

Thursday, October 22

Book Boyfriends

I'm a romantic. I love falling in love. Which is why I love book boyfriends. They give you the rush of falling in love without the sticky commitment thing. They aren't pushy about your relationship with them. They'll sit patiently on your nightstand or in your purse until you're ready to hang out with them again and then they'll whisper promises and secrets with every turn of the page.

Book boyfriends don't have to be perfect - in fact, it's always more interesting if they aren't. And you don't have to be perfect for them. Book boyfriends don't care if you meet up with them dressed to the nines - or wearing sweats with your hair all pulled up and no makeup. It doesn't bother them if you sneak in five minutes here and ten minutes there. And when you're done with them, book boyfriends don't mind being passed along to your friends so they can fall in love with them, too.

Some of the book boyfriends I still think about include Darcy (of course!) from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jamie, from Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series, Owen, from Sarah Dessen's JUST LISTEN and Jesse, the hot Spanish ghost in Meg Cabot's MEDIATOR series. How about you? Who are some of your most memorable book boyfriends? What makes them so?

Wednesday, October 21

Love The One You're With-?

So this week at the café we’re talking about friends and/or boyfriends—which often times, or at least in my case anyway, becomes the same thing.

I can honestly say, that while the bulk of my romantic relationships didn’t end up going the distance, nearly all of them resulted in some really nice friendships (please note, I wrote nearly—there are definite exceptions to this!).

And yet not one of those relationships started as a friendship. They pretty much followed my usual course of initial spark to burning flame to complete and total burn-out to a friendship that while nice, had no lingering smolder or sizzle (or at least not on my part anyway). Which is funny because I’ve written quite a few books where the couple in question start out as either friends or disliking each other entirely, and even though I love the idea of not realizing that the love you’ve been searching for has been right there in front of you all along, it’s never, not once, happened to me.

Which leads me to wonder—has it happened to you? Or is this just the stuff of books and movies?

Sing it out in the comments!

Thursday, October 15

In the News: Is Crime Linked to Candy Consumption?

My friend Anne wrote about this Time magazine article that links candy consumption to crime, which is a funny/disturbing concept. Basically it has to do with impulse control (if you don't have much of it, you'll eat candy when you're a kid and maybe commit crimes in adulthood--there's a better explanation in Time). There's a lot to think about there, but here's how my train of thought went:

Eating candy --> committing crimes --> living in candy jails --> behind candy cane bars --> sleeping on marshmallow pillows --> wearing licorice stripes.

That's right: I started thinking about candy. Which made me think about how author Elizabeth Scott is asking people what their least favorite Halloween candy is this week (for a great contest--go enter)... and lots of people are saying Candy Corn. But I love candy corn! Those people are nuts.

What do you guys think? Favorite Halloween candy? I'm for candy corn! Who's with me?

Tuesday, October 13

in the news: how smart is your city

At the Daily Beast this week, there is a sorta scientific and sorta not ranking of the country's smartest and dumbest cities. Here's how they did it. Now, if you are a reader of my blog over at, you know I am a transplant from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, and my husband and I are starting to look for a way to go back. Since SF is so freaking expensive, we are open to other cities. The intellectual environment is important! So maybe this list could help us decide where we'd consider living. Here are how our current and past dwellings ranked, along with the rankings of the cities we've been talking about moving to:

San Francisco Bay Area (the homeland) = #2! See? My love for SF is not just about the mild climate, the ocean, and dim sum. And here I would like to point out that the Raleigh-Durham area is #1. Guess who is from Raleigh? My mother and her whole family. Booyah!

Salt Lake City (the current residence) = #14. Not bad at all. It is only one city away from New York (#13). High scores in book sales pushed us over the edge, apparently. There are a lot of great writers here, you know, and we love to buy books.

Denver = #5. I've always liked Denver, and now that I know how smart it is I like it even more. Drawback: still too far from the ocean. Drawback #2: Broncos fans.

Seattle/Tacoma = #7 in a tie with D.C. Who wouldn't want to live in Seattle? I know the rain is a killer, but it is gorgeous and full of walkable, livable neighborhoods.

Portland, OR = #9. I fell in love with this place when there for the KidlitBloggerCon or whatever it was called last year. It's progressive, beautiful, and has great public transport. And now I know it also has a really big brain.

That's it! We haven't really considered moving east or south, but if we did maybe we'd go for #1 Raleigh or #12 Austin. Everywhere else in the top 15 is too cold!

Thursday, October 8

TV Head

I know some readers and writers who disdain TV as an inferior form of entertainment. They say, rather snootily, "I don't watch TV," as though this puts them in the same socio-cultural stratosphere as Michelangelo or the guy who first performed open-heart surgery.

Me, I'm a TV head. Does that make me a moron? I don't know. I may be a moron, but not because I watch TV. In fact, I read more books than anyone I know and write three to four books a year. (OK, now I'm starting to sound like a socio-cultural status snoot. Sorry about that.) My point is that it doesn't have to be either/or. You can be a person like me who spends most of her hours staring at words that either I or other people have produced and still enjoy kicking back with a good show.

So what do I like to watch these days?

As aired on TV:

So You Think You Can Dance
Mad Men

Currently in progress on DVD:

Battlestar Galactica
I Love Lucy
I Dream of Jeannie
Leave it to Beaver
The Addams Family
Doc Martin

Daytime TV:

Morning Joe (for politics fix while exercising)
The View (while answering email)
General Hospital (because I have to)

Late-night TV:

Jon Stewart
Stephen Colbert
David Letterman

Honestly, it's amazing I get any writing or reading done at all! But yes, I really do write three to four books a year and read upwards of 250 books a year. Oh, and somewhere in there I even manage to do a few other things!

So how about you?


I'd like to stick around but I've got to get back to Morning Joe.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Wednesday, September 30

Favorite web sites

I have LOADS of favorite web sites. Some are for entertainment, some are for information, and some are for... okay... shopping. I'm one of those people who really doesn't enjoy shopping. I'd much rather be home reading or surfing those fave sites o' mine or tweeting or, well, you get the picture. :-)

So I thought I'd share some of my favorite web sites. These are in no particular order, but I hit them all at least once a week. Usually a lot more.

Okay, I'm a weather junkie. I love love LOVE seeing what's up, especially in the tropics. (A throwback to my corporate days where my company tracked every named storm on a giant map.) I check the weather every day, at least once a day sometimes more. I know there's a Google gadget that will put this right on my desktop, but I like getting there the old-fashioned way. (@kaycassidy - come say hi!)

Well, technically I access it via Tweetdeck most of the time. But the end result is still the same. I fear I may have to go on a Twitter hiatus as I get closer to my The Cinderella Society book 2 deadline, but oh how I shall miss it!

I heart Chatzy. Yes, it can lock up on occasion, but I still think it's fabulous to be able to set up a free impromptu chat anytime you want to. The Tenners (my debut class of 2010) do twice-weekly Chatzy chats--I usually try to make at least one of them--and I've popped into several author/blogger chats just for fun. They're usually in the evening, so it's a great way to wrap up the day!

What about you? What sites do you hit every week? (Besides TFC, of course!) :-)

Tuesday, September 29


I don't know about you but I have certain blogs that I visit every day without fail. And if I forget I get really twitchy, in case I've missed something crucial (gossip is crucial, in case you're wondering).

The only trouble was the time it took to go from one to another. So when a friend told me about Google Reader where I could read all my blogs at once, it was great. Now I go into Google Reader several times a day and can keep up, no problem. It's perfect.

It got me thinking, though, that by using Google Reader I'm not registering on a blog's statistics. So, someone with a blog might think they're getting less visitors than they really are.

What about you. Do you use Google Reader? And if so how many on your roll?

Saturday, September 26

Fashionably Late

This week at Teen Fiction Cafe, the topic is fashion... which might be one reason why I've been putting off posting about it. Any of you who know me may have noticed that I'm a little... challenged in that area. I don't know what it is. Some people are born with fashion sense, some people are not. I fall firmly in the latter category. Any day now, I'm afraid that Stacy and Clinton are going to show up on my doorstep with candid shots of all my fashion disasters.

So I am more than a little grateful that Melissa was able to provide me with material to write about. Last week, she had a piece on NPR's All Things Considered. Check it out here.

First of all, yay, Melissa! Second, hooray for books that can help even the most challenged of us learn to be a little more fashion forward. I think I need that Fashion 101... (although it's geared to teens, which I am decidedly not.) I plan on checking it out anyway because I'm not convinced that my sense of style (or lack thereof) really reflects my sense of self.

How about you? Does your clothing reflect who you are? Or are you a creature of comfort like me?

Friday, September 25

Good News Friday: More Wedding Stuff

I'll stop with wedding blah, blah, blah but I had to share this hometown Chapel Hill Magazine story, especially since they gave it a book angle!

This might be as exciting as when Sarah Dessen and I were on the cover... almost.

Happy Good News Friday, all! And congrats, Erica!!!

Good News Friday

So I won.

This is my middle-grade fantasy series.

I feel like there should be chocolate or something.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 16

Can I interest you in a bag of potatoes?

We are talking about food this week, but I bet you figured that out!

This summer I did something I've wanted to do ever since I heard about it - I signed up for CSA, that is, Community Supported Agriculture. Basically: in the spring you pay some money to a local farm for a share of what they grow. Based on how many shares are sold, the farm starts plantin'. Then, in summer and fall, you get a pile of fresh, seasonal produce (which you pick up from whatever pickup point is close). It's great because a) it forces you to try new things, b) supports local farmers, c) keeps you with a steady supply of fresh and usually organic fruits & veggies, which we all know are good for us.

I bought one share and have tried to keep up, but despite my best efforts the produce is piling up. Especially potatoes. Every week. Lots and lots of potatoes. It's a bumper crop of potatoes! Red ones, yellow ones, and even purple ones. Fortunately, they keep for a long time. Unfortunately, I do not have a root cellar with an entire potato room.

Other than a backlog of tomatoes and peppers (and of course spuds), CSA has been a good thing. There is only one thing I've received that I do. not. like. Yes, the dreaded eggplant. I'm not sure what my issue is with our friend the aubergine, but I think it's a texture thing. i.e. slime. I do however love baba ganoush! That is the only thing I can do with eggplant and enjoy. If you don't know about it, it's a superyummytastic Middle Eastern dip you have with pita. Here's a recipe.

Of all the things you could receive in a surprise box of produce, what would make you say, "Ohhhyeah!" and what would make you say, "Ohhhnooooo!"?

Monday, September 14

Catching Food

I got to spend last week on a friend's boat north of Vancouver, and I went salmon fishing for the first time. I actually caught my food! My friend Natalie and I hauled in three big "pinks," with our amazingly kickass guide, Candice.

They called our boat the SS Estrogen, and we caught more fish than any of the men out there!

Here's a photo of Candice filleting the fish after we got back to the docks. (I'm on the right in the yellow pants... hey, it was cold and rainy!). Okay, yeah, I skipped the hard part of cleaning the fish. We ate fresh salmon that night and then made one fillet into Gravlox, a salt-cured salmon, for an appetizer later in the week. Sooo good!

Reeling in those fish was an adventure, I tell you! It makes me appreciate the fish market at my local grocery store a lot more too. And it just might be inspiration for a set-on-the-water novel at some point.

Have you guys ever caught your own dinner?

Thursday, September 10

Honeymoon Travel Planning

Like Lauren, I didn't get to go on vacation this year. I was supposed to visit a friend in Kansas, but got really sick (doing the photoshoot for this magazine interview that just came out today actually. I already had a bad cold, then was shooting at night out in the freezing cold. I felt like I was on ANTM, just waiting to be yelled at by Tyra or something! But the photo is really cute!), so other than spending four days in a house about 2 hours away to write, I got nothing.

Actually Lauren and I have a lot in common when it comes to travel, like our favorite city, Seattle (which is the last place I was, back in April) and our current dream place to travel, South Dakota. Really, I wish more than anything that I had one week free this month to drive out the Badlands and Deadwood (I've been watching the show Deadwood, so I'm obsessed), but I don't. And the reason I have no time and no money for travel is I'm getting married in a little over three weeks!!!!

So now my vacation fantasies are all about the honeymoon. Because the wedding is so expensive (and ours is cheap in the scheme of things-- I have no idea how people afford these lavish weddings, rich parents or lots of debt, I guess. We don't have wealthy families and I'm not willing to take on more debt than I already have with my mortgage and student loans.) and planning it is so time consuming, we are waiting to do our big honeymoon. Right after the wedding, we'll be staying at a Bed and Breakfast about an hour away from home for a couple days. I already can't wait for it!

We're hoping to do the actual honeymoon in January and the plan is to go some place really warm while it's terribly cold in Chicago. Back when I was 11 years old, I was in my aunt Amy's wedding as a junior bridesmaid (it was one of those big, traditional weddings). She went to Hawaii on her honeymoon and at that point I linked honeymoon and Hawaii in my mind. So our number one choice for the honeymoon is definitely Hawaii. After an informal Facebook/Twitter survey last week, it was decided that Maui or Kauai will be our islands of choice. But honestly, I'm kinda afraid that we aren't going to be able to afford it. And having never planned a vacation like this, I'm really unsure about where to look for the best deals. Anyone have suggestions?

I'm also putting together a plan B for our honeymoon. It has to be a place where no passport is required because we don't have them and I'm not planning to get one until after I change my name. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were suggested to me, though I don't know how much cheaper they will truly be than Hawaii. Florida is a possibility, I guess, though I've never been much of a Florida girl (except Naples, I really loved Naples!). So right now my second choice is San Diego. I'm not sure how much there is to do there that is honeymoonish, but I hear the weather is great and it is on my list along with South Dakota of places I need to see. Again, I'm open to ideas.

And what about you, if you were to go on a honeymoon or second honeymoon or just a big tropical vacation, where would you go?

Wednesday, September 9


Before we get started here, I'd like to apologze to Alyson, Amanda, Jessica, Kay, Kelly, Linda, Liza, Melissa, Sara, Sara, Stephanie, Teri and Wendy. Have I got everyone covered? (Double-checking the TFC sidebar.) Yup, I do since I don't have to apologize to Lauren seeing as Lauren is me.

I'm apologizing for being remiss lately. I have absolutely read and been entertained by your blog posts here, cheered your successes here and elsewhere, but I've failed to take that extra step of vocally commenting or cheering, because I've been a little self-involved lately - even more so than usual - and that's because...CRAZY BEAUTIFUL came out on Monday!

Terrific, now that the mea cupla and the obligatory self-plug - darn, that sounds dirty - are out of the way, we've got another hurdle. You see, I've been assigned to write about Vacation/Travel this week, and the problem is...I didn't go anywhere this summer! And I refuse to use the word *staycation* - outside of having just used it but that was only so the rest of this sentence makes sense - because that word annoys me. In fact, it goes right in the bin with other odious verbal constructions like "teachable moment" - bleagh.

So what shall we talk about?

I know! We'll make this mercifully short. I'm going to name one city/state and country I traveled to in the past and loved and one state and country I've never been but would love to go to. And then you do the same. If you're really feeling creative about it, you can tell us why you're so passionate about those particular places, but don't feel you're required to strain yourself - clearly, I haven't been feeling that requirement lately!

OK, here is self-absorbed me going first:

(I can't believe Blogger doesn't have a way for me to underline things!)

OK, here is self-involved me really going first (having decided bolding things will work almost as well):

A favorite city/state I've been to: Seattle, Washington. Mountains, water, tearing a king crab apart like a crazy woman.

A favorite country I've been to: Iceland. Waterfall, geyser, volcano, falling off an Icelandic pony.

A state I am dying to go to: Well, I don't know about dying, but I would like to see South Dakota. Shouldn't someone really want to see South Dakota? And isn't that where the Badlands are? I think I belong in the Badlands. Yes, thank you, Wikipedia, they are in SD. And so's Mount Rushmore. I thought it was but didn't want to speculate before checking Wiki because then I might expose myself as being geographically stupid. Oops. I just did.

A country I am dying to go to: Greenland. I see no reason to explain myself further.


Be well. Don't forget to write.

Friday, September 4

GNF: You like me? You really like me?!?

I've been hiding out for a few weeks just trying to get part of a third book written. Should be finishing that up over the weekend (cross your fingers that I can do it and that my agent likes it and that it eventually leads to more good news), but I wanted to pop over and celebrate a bit today because Ballads of Suburbia is continuing to get some amazing reviews from the people who matter most.... teens and other readers!!!!!

Publishers Weekly never reviewed the book, which kinda disappointed me, but today this wiped that disappointment away. A teen reviewer on the PW blog called Ballads "unforgettable" and recommended it to anyone in high school!

I've gotten a bunch of other reviews from YA book bloggers which I am going to link to on my website as soon as I meet my deadline. But a couple other recent ones that made me smile were from Shooting Stars Mag and Harmony Book Reviews.

Also Julia, a bookseller from the fabulous LA bookstore Book Soup, wrote up a fantastic review which compared me to an adult writer I really love, Hubert Selby, Jr.

So it's been a good week for reviews. And that is keeping the inspiration alive while I try to get this next writing project going.

Thanks for letting me share! Have you gotten any motivating news lately?

Thursday, September 3

Schooooool's out... for... wait, what were we talking about?

Sorry, my mistake. It's not school's OUT, it's school's IN. Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for students to get back into the daily grind of Monday through Friday classes. I know some of you have been back for a few weeks already!

When I was in high school, we always started school the Wednesday after Labor Day. Always. Where I live now, students head back to school in mid-August. Mid-August! That just seems crazy to me. I wasn't even thinking clothes shopping in mid-August when I was a teen. (Disclaimer: That was a blatant lie. I started school shopping as soon as the fall clothes got put on the racks. But I'm trying to make a point here, so let's roll with it.)

So I was debating the other day whether I would've rather started school in mid-August and been done the end of May -OR- started in early September and been done in mid-June.

I grew up in the North, so the pools were nowhere near warm enough by the end of May to actually do any swimming. And some of the schools didn't have adequate air conditioning, so late August days would get a bit stifling in the classroom. Both points in favor of doing a September-to-June schedule.

On the other hand, having an August-to-May schedule would mean I could... um... my friends and I would surely... err...

Okay, I have no idea. What are the advantages of doing the August-to-May schedule? I'm sure there are plenty! So now I'm even more curious. If you could choose between having a September-to-June schedule or an August-to-May schedule, which would you choose? And those of you on the August-to-May cycle, school me! What are the perks? I know there are obvious ones that I'm missing. :-)

Happy back to school shopping!


Monday, August 31

Back to high school...Blatant honesty

As adults it's easy to stand back and view high school as something we are no long apart of. Something foreign and scary. Were we ever that young and carefree? Did we really do all that stuff? How the heck did we survive?? Hundreds of teenagers we don't know, cramming the halls, slamming lockers, cussing to their friends and enemies, complaining about teachers and parents. Acting like life's a beach and then you a wave.

But as authors for teens, it takes a certain something for us to step back into the chaos of high school. We can't just describe high school so plainly with what we think teens see through their eyes. We have to add what they could be feeling and we have to make it believable.

Sometimes I have to remember back to my days in high school just to reconnect with the YA reader. What I did day after day, weekend after weekend. How we talked and what we said. How I felt about this person and what it meant.

High school was often chaotic, filled with classes I had to take, not that I wanted to take. Teachers that made me feel uncomfortable. Only able to breathe when I was with my closest friends. Hanging out at parties I never had fun at all because everyone else was there and I didn't want to miss something.

High school was blatant honesty shoved down a teenager's throat.


So what's my point?

I like to try and write that into my books.


Sunday, August 30

Farewell, Summer

Since most kids around here are back in school now, it's only natural to mourn the lazy days of summer. Except, for many of us, summer is anything but lazy.

Early on, we had a family reunion (on our own turf so no traveling involved, except to and fro the airport), and then Matt (my husband) and I went to New Orleans. I learned a lot about New Orleans culture while there and though I was horribly ill, I had a great time.

I also learned two new sports this summer: wakeboarding and mountain biking. I feel pretty good about wakeboarding, and I can do a 180 and am working towards jumping the entire wake. And as an added bonus, I became an excellent drive-the-boat-onto-the-trailer person.

Mountain biking is another story. I only went once, and my right leg was one big bruise, and I don't even have a cool crash and burn story to share. (I bruise easily.) Maybe once I heal I'll give it another go.

Sooooo, what are YOUR favorite things to do in the summer time? What are you going to miss about summer?

Friday, August 21

More GNF!!!

Huge Congrats to the awesomely talented Melissa Walker and her new book deal (see below)!!!!

My good news for the week involves this:

The new cover for SHADOWLAND!!!

Oh, and the new release date for SHADOWLAND:

November 24, 2009

And the fact that it'll be in hardcover!!

What about YOU??? Any good news to share?

Thursday, August 20

Good News Friday: New Books to Write!

The news is out, but I had to make it official by throwing some confetti on TFC!

Melissa Walker's SMALL TOWN SINNERS, the story of a small town girl who is excited to star in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, until a childhood friend reappears and makes her question her faith, to Caroline Abbey at Bloomsbury Children's, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Douglas Stewart at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).

I'm pscyhed! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 19

the boyfriends who never were...

At the risk of making myself sound SUPER OLD, I just celebrated my 19th anniversary. How is this possible, you ask, when I am still so fresh and dewy? A) I drink lots of water, B) I use moisturizer with sunscreen, and C) I got married at 19 to a man I met when I was 16. So you can probably guess there was not a looonnnngg dating life, to say the least. Nonetheless, I did manage to work in some romantic dramas and one actual going-steady (for one month) boyfriend before I met The One. Most of all there were the Boys Who Might Have Been, but for various reasons, weren't. Here were a few of the landmarks:

Let's Call Him Pete: Sixth grade. Someone said, "Pete wants to go with you." "Oh." Then Pete and a few friends cornered me near some lockers and said, "You're going with Pete." And I said, "I don't want to." And then they walked away. Ah, sixth grade!

Let's Call Him The Senior: When I was a freshman in high school, I had a killing crush on The Senior. He was totally tall, and sweet, and didn't seem to have a girlfriend. We were in the school play. A bunch of junior and senior girls knew I had a crush on The Senior and thought it was cute and tried to manipulate something into happening despite my protests. One day at rehearsal I was helping him do his Spanish homework, and he said, "Would you like to come to my grandmother's house for dinner?" Me: "YES!" Him: "Oh, no, that's the sentence I have to say in Spanish." In the end, he did ask me to the winter dance, a situation that I'm sure was helped along by the junior girls. The day of the dance...HE WAS NOT AT SCHOOL! As you well know, if you expect to go to the dance, you darn well better show up to school. My mother called me at school. So I'm in the school office, receiving a call from my mother telling me that The Senior's mother called her, and TS has mono. Mono! Of course I'm thinking, "Riiiight. He totally made that up to get out of going to the dance with me." And I cried all day. But then he didn't come to school for like a month, and I guess that would be a lot to go through to avoid me. We had a make-up date going to the ballet with my sister chaperoning, but apparently no sparks were flying for him. Well, maybe between him and my sister.

Let's Call Him JJ: He was a sophomore, I was a junior. We hit it off and hung out ALL THE TIME. Basically we were best friends that year and played hooky a couple of times in my 78 Datsun, driving off to Ocean Beach to smoke* and listen to music. Between the school plays and community theater and hanging out, we had a lot of adventures. I met my future husband around this time, too, and JJ got a girlfriend and we drifted apart. Later I found out that JJ liked me In That Way at least for part of our friendship. We did have a joking deal that if neither of us were married by the time we were 30, we'd marry each other, but I hadn't realized there was more there. (Also, why did we think 30 was so old?) My friendship with JJ remains one of the highlights of my non-adult life. [Edited to add something I just remembered: he was the first male and non-family member to tell me I was beautiful. That moment has always stuck with me.]

Let's Call Him Echo: Makeout session at a cast party. The end.

So I guess all of these guys could have been my boyfriends, but life always stepped in. It's a good thing, too, because I couldn't have handled the breakups. How about you and the almosts? Regrets or relief?