Thursday, February 25

In the News: The Olympics...Sort Of

Every time it's an Olympics year, you hear the same debates: Is ice-skating [or substitute another event] a real sport? If there can be subjectivity in the scoring, some say, it's not a sport. But I say, there's a certain level of subjectivity in all sports. Take football, for example. How many times do you hear people say, "If the ref had called them on X play, this would have happened and my team would have won?" I'm certainly not going to argue that football isn't a sport. It is, as is ice-skating, which involves a ton of physical athletic ability.

Golf, on the other hand, is a skill. HA! Take that, golf-loving people who go around dissing figure-skating!

But really, in my opinion, it's a skill, just like my beloved pool. Swimming in a pool? Sport. Shooting pool? Skill.

Of course if we start eliminating what are really skills from the Olympics - I'm looking at you, archery, even if you are part of the curriculum for gym classes everywhere - we're going to need to fill those slots with new sports so that, you know, there's something to run through 16 days of television. Last night on The Daily Show, correspondent John Hodgeman suggested an excellent new sport to add zip to the occasionally lackluster games: it involved taking a bedazzled skater - as if skaters aren't bedazzled enough already - and shoving that person off an alpine mountain to see how they'd do with flying and landing.

Well, that's the inspiration for my post here today at TFC. I'd like to see folks make up their own sports that aren't real sports - yet - but should be. The more bizarre, the better.

OK, I'll go first. My sport is...


Here's how you play. First, you can't play on a regular basketball court. That would be too lame. You need to play on tarmac, preferably tarmac that hasn't been re-paved recently, so it's nice and bumpy and gritty. As a matter of fact, for Olympic play, you need to have some ground glass on the tarmac. Six people play and there's just one basket. After jump ball, with all six jumping, whoever pulls down the ball is on offense, while everyone else is on defense. The person on offense tries to get off a shot before getting tackled. If the person on offense is successful, she gets the ball again. Oh, and no fair tackling *after* the person has taken their shot. (I'm looking at you, Alyson Noel.) But up until the ball leaves her hand? Pile it on! The person who scores the most points in an hour without needing hospitalization wins.

So now it's your turn.

I hereby declare this Make Up Your Own Sport Day.

Let the games begin.

Wednesday, February 24

In the News: Making Healthy Choices

On the front page of our local newspaper, the Standard-Examiner, there's an article about how high fructose corn syrup can be linked to America's obesity problem. Then, as soon as I got online, I saw an article put out by Eat This Not That about the worst drinks at grocery/convenience stores and thought that with spring break coming up, it might come in handy for all those road trips we like to go on. (Okay, so I'm thinking WAY ahead but if you had 4 feet of snow in your yard, you would be too! LOL)

I'm by no means a health nut, but I am a bit of a label-reader and I'm always interested in finding out what foods and drinks are hiding under heathy facades but are actually really bad for us. This info was in Men's Health magazine as part of the popular Eat This Not That series, and it shows just how much sugar is in some popular bottled and canned drinks. I love that ETNT has equated the amount of sugar in each drink with a sweet treat so we can get a better idea just how much sugar we're talking about.
The Worst Tea: Snapple Lemon Ice Tea has 250 calories and 58 grams sugars. That's as much sugar as you'll get in 6 original Fudgsicle bars.
The Worst Flavored Water: With 150 calories and 33 grams sugars, Snapple Agave Melon Antioxidant Water sounds healthy, but you'd have to eat 3 bowls of Honey Comb cereal to get that much sugar.
The Worst Bottled Lemonade: You can eat 5 Good Humor ice cream sandwiches or drink a bottle of Minute Maid lemonade for the same amount of sugars (67 grams).
The Worst Soda: A 20-oz bottle of Sunkist packs 325 calories and 88 grams of sugars which is about what you'd get if you chomped 17 chewy Chips Ahoy cookies.
The Worst Coffee Drink: Did you know Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino has 290 calories, 4.5 grams fat (2.5 saturated), and 46 grams sugars? If you'd rather have 3 1/2 scoops of Dreyer's double fudge brownie ice cream, it's about the same.
The Worst "Heathy" Drink: Naked Protein Zone Banana Chocolate has 480 calories, 3 grams fat (1 saturated), 32 grams protein, and 70 grams sugars. That's as much sugar as 5 Breyers Oreo ice cream sandwiches! (I was glad that my favorite healthy drink, Bolthouse vanilla chai, is the healthy alternative they recommend.)

Here are some additional grocery/convenience store drinks you might want to pass up: SunnyD Smooth Style (for a kid drink), Rock Star (for an energy drink), Nesquick chocolate milk (for a bottled milk), and Sobe Lizard Lava (for a fruity beverage).

If you want little updates from Eat This Not That, you can follow them on Twitter here. And now, I'm curious: Do you read labels on foods and drinks before you buy them? What's your favorite bottled or canned beverage?

Monday, February 22

In the News: Bullying

The girl to the right is named Phoebe Prince. I stumbled upon this news article about her via Twitter a couple weeks ago and it is still haunting me. I advise you to take a moment and click over and read it and then come back, but the long and the short of it is 15 year old Phoebe moved to a town in Massachusetts from Ireland. She was a freshman and dated a popular senior boy. The mean girl clique at her school felt that she wasn't popular enough to be able to date this guy. The tormented her mercilessly, calling her a slut and more specifically an Irish slut. One day, they followed her home from school, threw things at her and called her names, and she walked into her room and hung herself in her closet. Her little sister found her. And the mean girls mocked her death on facebook. They continue to walk the halls of their high school unpunished, mocking this girl that they literally teased to death.

Yeah, I teared up reading about it and I'm tearing up writing about this. I just find it so upsetting the way bullying and the mean girl culture gets worse and worse. I was bullied pretty badly as a kid myself. In grade school, I tried to fit in with the popular girls, but since I didn't have the right clothes, parents who spoiled me, I loved reading and was therefore a nerd, and I was friendly to "uncool" people, I took a lot of crap. My "friends" made fun of me constantly and intentionally did things to hurt me like "accidentally" burning my forehead while curling my bangs. So by the end of sixth grade, I'd decided I was over it. I was just going to be myself and if that meant being "uncool," I wouldn't care.

This went well in seventh grade as I'd started junior high and was meeting more girls who were into different music and didn't think loving to read was a social crime. I'd joined stage crew but decided to try my hand at acting during the summer play. That was when I came up against a group of mean girls again. I wasn't one of them and in their mind I didn't deserve to try out for the play. They used to chase me home from camp every day. Fortunately I was a really fast roller-blader. I tried to act like the torment didn't bother me. I still had a good group of friends. I still remained involved in theater (those girls actually went to a different junior high so I didn't have to deal with them after summer camp and the theater kids at my junior high were much nicer). But I was hurt, upset, and scared on the inside. It was after that torturous summer that I started cutting myself and struggling with depression. The bullying from both girls and boys during my junior high years set me up for major self esteem issues in high school. And of course there were times during high school when I was called slut for dating the wrong person or people gossiped about me. I survived, but I literally bear the scar of my low self-esteem: I cut the word "Slut" into my upper arm when I was sixteen.

So that's when I read Phoebe's story, which sounded like a version of what I went through, my heart just ached. I really wish schools would do more to stop bullying. I really wish society wouldn't encourage girls to attack each other in order to feel better about themselves because I think it does that with every magazine article or gossip blog that mocks a certain celebrity's weight or personal issues.

I wish I had some sort of solution for this and maybe some of you have some ideas. All I've got is this: Be as nice as possible to everyone you know. If you have a bad day or insecurities, find a way to cope that doesn't involve taking it out on other people. And if one of your friends does something to upset you, TALK TO THEM, don't spread rumors or badmouth them behind their back.

And yeah, I'm definitely cooking up a mean girl storyline for one of my future projects because I think talking about these issues and keeping them in the open is key for finding solutions.

Hugs to anyone who has had to deal with anything like Phoebe Prince did.

ETA: After posting this, I was sent two interesting links. Fortunately it looks that some of Phoebe's tormentors will be facing consequences. Here is the information, though unfortunately this is all happening too late to save a young girl's life. A former judge also emailed me after reading this blog entry and told me about this book that he wrote about cyber-bullying. I haven't read it, but it might be worth checking out, it definitely sounds interesting because as the author says: "Only through education and awareness can we fight cyberbullying."

Friday, February 19

A Series of Truths

Truth time.

One of the topics for this week is books. I’d like to talk about mine, more specifically my writing. Something we as authors don't like to talk about publicly--the hard side to publishing.

We’re already into February 2010 and I’ve just started back to writing after a loooong break. Months, really. The reason? I had many tough changes occur over the last two years in my career, and all of it came to a head at the end of last year. A time that had me questioning if I really had the strength to keep writing.

I had three books that I’d started but I couldn’t move forward with them. There were a lot of factors I really can’t talk about, but it was pretty much a long road of ups and downs.

At one point during my break I said to my husband, “Maybe I’m not cut out to be an author.” He didn’t believe that I was serious. You see, I had a lot of stress since I’d sold my first book back in 2006. Deadlines, lines closing, numbers, promotion, unorganization, yada, yada, yada.

And during the last part of 2009 I just stepped back from it all and it felt…really, really good. It was like my mind took a giant sigh of relief.


Truth: I love stories. I love movies, and television, and entertaining books. I love characters. I have so many ideas that I just wish I could just splash them all onto the computer screen…

But for a time, I just couldn’t.

After months of thinking it all through, I finally came to the decision that I couldn’t walk away from something I love. But there would some changes. I would be a New “Author” me. I agreed that I wasn’t going to worry over things that I had no control over. I told myself I couldn’t please everyone, and all I can do is my best. It’s the same thing I tell my children, but for some reason I couldn’t follow my own advice. (Haha)

Another truth: I want to write stories that make me happy. So I submitted a romantic suspense to a new e-press and they agreed to publish it. It did make me happy. Gave me a little more confidence. My next test was to write a new short story. I finally finished it.

See? Baby steps…

Publishing is not the easiest business nor is it easy to keep everyone happy, not when it relies so much on the business side when some writers (like me!) would be pretty content to merely concentrate on the creative side.

The final truth: So the New “Author” Me accepts this is as a rollercoaster business. You can be riding along, then suddenly hold on for dear life as you maneuver sharp turns, steep dips, and then slowly go up again maybe for the next dive...

Okay, final, final truth: I’m about to start on my next YA novel and hopefully finish it with a lot less pressure and stress on myself. And then? Well, we’ll see what happens next. :)

Thursday, February 18

Overflowing TBR shelves

I've been on a book buying spree for the last 12 months. At last count, I think I'd bought well over 200. Some of those are librarian prizes for the national Great Scavenger Hunt Contest reading program I host, but at least half of those are for my own use.

What's on the list? A little bit of everything!
  • YA books
  • Middle grades books
  • Research books for The Cinderella Society series
  • Research books for my option book
  • Women's fiction and romance books
  • Mysteries
  • Even the occasional inspirational non-fiction title
The problem with this (budget aside because that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish) is that I have been busier in the last year than I ever expected. So most of those 100+ books that are for M-E? Yep. Still on my TBR shelves.

But I am committed to getting back to reading. Not only is it good for me to make time for things I enjoy, but it's good for my career too. Reading fabulous books inspires me to be a better writer. And so, with much fanfare, I moved my teetering TBR piles away from my comfy reading chair (where they were on the verge of burying me in paper if it toppled over) and into the safety of a bookcase. I can happily stare at these books and get all giddy about the literary goodness that awaits me.

Except... I can never decide what to read.

The problem, I've discovered, is that having too many good books to read is almost as troublesome as having not enough good books to read. Am I in the mood for a chick lit or a mystery? A middle grades adventure or a serious women's fiction? Usually I'm somewhere in the middle and that's no help whatsoever, thankyouverymuchbrain.

Craziest of all? I'm still. buying. books. I swear I need adult supervision when I enter a bookstore. But you know what? I will read those books. I will.

In fact, I'm willing to make a solemn vow right here at the Teen Fiction Cafe:

I vow to read the books currently on my TBR shelves by 12/31/10 come heck or high water.

There. I feel better already. Now if I could just decide what to read next. :-) What are you reading right now?

Wednesday, February 17

How you choose the books you buy?

At the moment I'm a judge in the Romance Writers of America's Rita contest. I love judging because I'm sent 6 to 8 books to read and many are authors I haven't read before. If I enjoy a book I can add that author's name to my list. Because, to be honest, my reading time is so precious I rarely buy a book by an author I haven't read before, or that I don't know personally, or that hasn't been recommended to me.

It's not that I don't want to try new authors, it's just that I don't want to risk not liking a book when I know that there are authors out there who never disappoint!

What about you.... do you try lots of authors or stick to those you know?

Sunday, February 14

Stop Press!!!!!!

In March it's three years since we started Teen Fiction Cafe. So many exciting things have happened to all of us and we want to share them with you.

Make sure you visit from 1st March onwards because for two weeks we plan to PARTY!!!!!

And there will be lots of fabulous prizes up for grabs!

Wednesday, February 10

Let Women Jump

Our subject this week blogs and websites. With the Olympics about to begin, I'd like to highlight a new website for you all to check out. (Well, okay, it's not new; it's redesigned.)

Here's the link:

And here's the story: During the 2006 Olympics in Torino, I was researching women's ski jumping for my book, SASS: THE FINNISH LINE, and happened to contact the kind people at Women's Ski Jump, USA for help. Until that time, I hadn't realized that women ski jumpers were not allowed to compete in the Olympics. I couldn't believe it. What century were we living in? Since that time, I've had a chance to meet the athletes featured in this MSN piece (below) and watch them in action. Sadly, I've also watch them have to fight for the right to be included in competition for the 2010 Vancouver games. They fought hard. They fought fair. But once again, the IOC voted not to include a women's ski jumping event this year. For some of the athletes - such as world champion Lindsay Van who holds the hill record at Whistler, where the Olympics will be held - the decision may have killed any hope of Olympic competition. For the sport, it means a sad lack of sponsors and a shrinking number of new athletes willing to give ski jumping a try, considering that they may never get to compete in their sport on an Olympic stage.

The website features a petition you can sign to show your support for the women jumpers. Please sign it if you feel so inclined.

You can read more about the bid for a women's jump event in today's WSJ article here.

Here's the MSN video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, February 9

Oh My Blog

So this week at TFC it's all about blogs and websites. Hmmm, okay, so this could be a problem because I sort of have an awful confession to make. I'm over it. All of it. In fact apart from my cute blog post title (and you must admit that it is cute) , I've got nothing.

You see for the last few months this terrible malady has been falling over me. I like to call it blogitis. Anyway, anyone who is suffering from blogitis will know what it means. Basically whenever I go to blog, I've got nothing to say. Nope, not a word. Even worse, I can hardly bring myself to read other blogs either. For a long time I thought it was because of my incredibly lazy nature, but honestly, I think it's more than that. I've been blogging and blog-reading for about five years now and I feel all blogged out. Hence the blogitis.

Also, will it sound like treason if I admit that I think it's all Twitter's fault? I don't even want to like Twitter (part of blogitis symptoms you understand) but there is something so appealing about the prospect of only having to write in small, bite-sized chunks that I can still manage it. But right now, all my other Internet stuff is a bit of a struggle (okay and when I say struggle, I actually mean non-existent).

So what about everyone else. Any blogitis sufferers out there? If so, should I be worried? Is this something that will go away or am I going to be a blog leper forever more?

Monday, February 8

Fashion Week: Extremes

It's Fashion Week at TFC (okay, last week was Fashion Week, but I'm late!). Anyway, I work closely with the fashion industry for my magazine jobs, and I'm always astounded at how night-and-day my two careers are.

So, when I'm a magazine editor, I look something like this (note ridiculously large sunglasses and vintage Oscar de la Renta heels in grass--silly):

And when I'm an author, this is me (unbrushed hair, fleece, general lack of make-up):

They're both me, in a weird way. Though I wear fewer heels than I used to (those things HURT!).

Does anyone else have two (or more) fashion personalities?