Thursday, April 29

In the News: Sandra Bullock (and Archie's new friend, and male fairies) Hooray!

For this week's News theme, I considered writing about the new gay character in Archie comics (yay! Meet Kevin, left) or Disney creating boy fairies for their online games (at the demand of kids who didn't get why there were only Tinkerbelles flying around Neverland).

So you can see, that although I do read the newspaper (at least on weekends, thankyouverymuch), my news is kind of pop culturey in nature. Which brings me to what I actually want to write about: Sandra Bullock!

It's a little weird how happy this PEOPLE cover made me. Of course she must be devastated over the terrible things her soon-to-be-ex-husband has done, but she's been working on adopting this baby, Louis Bardo Bullock, for four years (she brought him home in January) and now she's going forward with the adoption as a single mom.

She'll have teary nights and a lot of pain to work through over Jesse, but Sandy's choosing to be strong, move on and choose happiness. I'm inspired!

A question: Is it weird to be so affected by pop culture? I'm also finding myself upset over Jill and Bethenny's friend-fued on The Real Housewives of New York. Maybe I should get a hobby.

Wednesday, April 28

In the News: "Do local newscasters confound you on purpose? What it may mean for gas prices this summer."

Like Erica, who posted yesterday, I don't really watch the TV news. I keep up by listening to Morning Edition on NPR, skimming and/or reading the New York Times, and with the occasional viewing of The News Hour on PBS. Even if I had cable, you could not get me within a hundred feet of cable news. But, once in a great while, I'll watch the local news. Oy gevalt!

Nothing highlights the absurdity of most commercial news media like minor-market local coverage. Desperate for viewers, local stations drop in teasers during prime-time commercial breaks, teasers that are apparently meant to variously annoy you, scare you, or make you go: WTF? Or, as we say in Utah, what the crap? Their purpose is definitely not to give you helpful information. Here's the kind of thing I mean:

"A grandmother, a phone call, an inmate. Why they matter to your bank account."
"Rain? Snow? Sun? All of the above? Will it be time to break out the bbq, or unpack the umbrellas?"
"How childhood obesity is affecting the safety of your pets, and what it could mean for Southern Utah."

I guess sometimes we just don't have news here. Like for example last night. After watching another fine episode of Parenthood, I thought I'd catch a few minutes of the local news to see what's going on. Top story: It's Windy. After a couple of days of beautiful spring weather, a storm was a-brewin'. So there were about ten minutes of on-location reporting and recorded interviews of people all saying more or less the same thing: "It's really windy." At one point, we saw a picture of a tree that had blown over. The reporter mentioned a power outage and said, "...possibly caused by this downed tree." Orrrr possibly not. Possibly caused by a downed tree fifteen miles away, or by someone simultaneously using their toaster oven and Wii in a poorly-wired house. Who can say for sure?

My feelings about local news got some indirect play in my latest book, Once Was Lost. Melinda Ford is a local reporter in the fictional town of Pineview. Bits of information about Jody Shaw's kidnapping are revealed throughout the book in the form of Melinda's newscasts. She's one of those side characters for whom I imagined an entire life outside of the book...I pictured her as a cross between Nicole Kidman's character in To Die For and a young, ambitious small-town Nancy Grace who practiced saying, "For KPXU, this is Melinda Ford" in the mirror every night, with different dramatic inflections. Like Samara's mom says in the book, "There's nothing that girl loves more than bad news," and in a way Jody's kidnapping was the best thing that ever happened to Melinda Ford.

Which brings me back to last night's news, and me saying to my husband, "What are they smiling about?" They were grinning like fools there behind the news desk. I guess that wind storm made them pretty happy.

Tuesday, April 27

In the News: Other

I'm supposed to blog about the news, but I can't watch the news. I used to watch the news, but then somewhere along the line, it became about splitting the screen and having two people yell at each other--and suddenly, that's news. Heck, sometimes they even split the screen by four and FOUR people yelling their opinions.

Me? I'm looking for a little peace. See that little guy? That's my baby when I took him to march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I also took my other three kids, and we gathered, peacefully, with about 50,000 other protesters against the war. I'm trying to raise my children with a sense of purpose, peace, and tolerance.

So the news? It's about anything but. I'll read the news--every day, in fact. But I can't listen to the animosity. Because when I boil it down, it is almost always about OTHER. After 9/11, I met a Sikh who was attacked. He couldn't drive his cab for a couple of weeks in fear for his life. Sikhs are not Muslims, but they do wear turbans. They look different--they are Other. In Arizona right now, they want to make it a law that if you look like Other, you can be asked to produce proof you are a citizen or else get hauled to jail. Other extends to fear of gay people, fear of people whose skin is darker, whose religion is different. Fear of Other extends all the way to offices of power, and all the way down to the corridors of high schools. Like millions right now, I know the name of Phoebe Prince, a girl who was "bullied to death." High school, when people are trying to figure out who they are, seems to magnify Other. A lot of kids are looking to fit in, not stand out.

So do you watch the news? Do you see a hatred for Other consuming our world? And even our high schools? Does it disturb you? How can we combat it?

Thursday, April 22

Movies, Books, TV, Music - Well, Sort Of

Story of my life. Usually, I can't get Blogger to upload the images I want it to, leaving me with the most bland-looking content in the blogoshpere. And when I finally am successful? I wind up with a monster-sized version like the one on the left. Feh.

OK, here's the deal. Today I need to write the penultimate chapter on a YA novel due out next year. I've been waiting a very long time to write this particular chapter - yea, me! Problem is, it's my turn to write something here at TFC. And I'm just Type-A enough I can't bring myself to blow you off. However, because that chapter is calling me - "Write me, Lauren! Write me! If you do, I'll even learn how to spell your last name!" - we really do need to keep this short.

On May 3, the fifth volume of The Sisters 8 series for young readers age 6-10 officially pubs. It's called Marcia's Madness and it's already shipping from all the usual suspects. The series, in case you don't know, starts when the parents of the titled octuplets go missing in Book 1: Annie's Adventures. Look at the gorgeous website Houghton Mifflin Harcourt made for the series: The Sisters 8 website. I can hear you now - "Ooh!" "Aah!" Thank you. There are all sorts of cool things on the website, like a craft section and even an area for kids to get tips on starting their own book clubs.

Oh, dear. I hear you talking again. This time you're saying, "But this is Teen Fiction Cafe, Lauren. Where's the teen in all this?" Yeah, well. Surely you must know a kid somewhere you'd love to give A SIGNED COPY TO. Yes, that's right. Now hold on just one more minute.

Since this week's topic is "Movies, Books, TV, Music," I'm going to ask folks to leave comments saying what new-since-the-first-of-the-year thing in any one category - or all four if you have time and are so inclined - has caught their fancy. For me, it would be the new TV show "Parenthood." It's very 1opm-soapish, but it works for me. Of course I don't get a chance to win by telling you that.

But you do! So post away! Sometime Saturday morning, Danbury time, I'll pick a winner and that winner will receive a signed copy of the hardcover edition of Marcia's Madness, signed by all three creators of The Sisters 8: Greg Logsted, 10-year-old Jackie Logsted and me.

Oh, and if you help spread the word about the series and the gorgeous website? No, you don't get any extra chances to win. But I will think you're wonderful and be eternally grateful to you, so there is that.

OK, have fun, turn me on to some new stuff, good luck, Happy Thursday, be good, don't take any wooden nickels, AND...

I'm off to write that chapter. Go, me.

For the love of vinyl

Since Wendy covered books and movies so well earlier this week, I thought I'd take on the "music" aspect of Movies, Books, TV & Music week at TFC. After all, I am a major music geek. Have been since the age of ten. That would be when my family finally got cable and with it... MTV. Back then it wasn't a constant Hills/Real World/16 & Pregnant reality TV marathon. Don't get me wrong, I loved the trainwrecks that were Jersey Shore and Rock of Love but I love music videos WAY MORE!

Back in 1989, my impressionable eyes and ears were filled with the sounds and images of Janet Jackson and Guns N Roses... and then when I learned to stay up late and watch 120 Minutes, I began to discover punk and indie bands and life as I knew it changed. The record store became tied with the library for my favorite place on earth.

I'm still that way. That's why I was super excited for Record Store Day, which took place last Saturday. In case you didn't hear about it, it was a celebration of indie record stores. All the labels put out special releases--maybe brand new songs by well-loved artists or unreleased or out of print stuff and most of it was on vinyl!!!

My two prize purchases were the blue 12 inch of REM's first EP Chronic Town which has been out of print for years and the white 10 inch of "Skinny Little Bitch," the first single from a "reunited" Hole (I put that in quotes because the only original member is Courtney Love so that doesn't feel like a reunion, but I am still enjoying the music I've heard by them so far). Maybe some of you are fellow vinyl lovers, but others are going... "Wait... why do you listen to records?"

I'm one of those audiophiles that will tell you the music sounds better on vinyl. I grew up on my parents' records and I was probably the only class of 1997 graduate who asked for a record player for graduation since vinyl was basically dead then. But I was into punk and punk bands still put out seven inches and that is what made me a collector. My most prized possession? A clear pink 12 inch version of Nirvana's first album, Bleach. I found it for 10$ several years ago and when I checked back then it was worth 200$. Not that I'll ever sell it because it's part of my collection.

I only listen to my iPod when I'm on the go or traveling. I find it convenient for storing massive quantities of music, but that's about it. I don't download music, I go to the store and buy it. I like to support local businesses and I have interactions with Jodi and Peter, the owners of The Old School Records, the indie record store in my town, that I couldn't have with iTunes. I play with their dogs and their baby when I come to the store and they personally introduce me to new bands.

But even if I lived in the middle of nowhere with no cool record stores, I'd probably find a record store that would ship things to me. I discussed this with Peter at my record store. Both of us don't feel like downloaded music is as a real. It's not tangible. I can't touch it. And it has no resale value whatsoever. As Peter joked, "There's no "Download Day" because downloads have no real value." Peter says he doesn't take music seriously until he has the product in hand. He feels like downloads treat music as a disposable, like magazines. You can use them and then just delete or throw away. I have to agree.

So yeah, that's why I still buy vinyl--love interacting with real people to buy my music and I want my music to be physical, though preferably with a download so I can easily put it on my iPod for when I travel. I want the actual record in my hand. I want to read the liner notes and look at the pictures and not on a computer screen. I want to smell it, listen to it crackle. It's the same way I feel about books and why eBooks will never replace paper books for me. What about you? Do you still buy music in physical, vinyl or CD form? And if you celebrated Record Store Day, what did you get? If you missed it, no worries, just be sure to look for info on it next April!

Monday, April 19

Beach Books and Plane Ride Flicks

Aloha friends! This week at the Cafe, we're talking about Books, Movies, and TV. And since I just got home from a lovely (though windy) week in Maui, I actually did have a little time to (partially) watch some movies and read books.

I've had TFC's own Sara Zarr's Sweethearts for a while and I've been dying to read it so I brought it along and read it in about 3 sittings. I also brought the HUGE but worth-lugging-around book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I only got about 1/4 through it while there, but I am looking forward to finishing it. Not only is it totally interesting, it's written so incredibly well!
Now, back to Sweethearts. Have you read it yet? If not, I totally recommend it. It's about a girl named Jennifer who used to be the chubby girl kids made fun of. She had only one friend, a boy named Cameron, who had a terribly disfunctional family life. As 10 year-olds, they realized how much they needed each other and knew their friendship was deep and special. They stuck together and survived the horrific events life threw at them. And then Jennifer got the news that Cameron was dead and a huge chunk of her died along with him. She reinvented herself and became Jenna, the girl people liked, the girl with a boyfriend, the girl who hid her true feelings within her new non-chubby self. But then something happens to disrupt this new life she's built around herself, opening old wounds, her eyes, and her heart.
Another thing I really loved about Sara's book is that like my own Miss Match, it takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lots of fun, familiar references for those of us who've lived or visited the beautiful, quirky city.
Disclaimer: If my review sounds lame, keep in mind I've been on an all-night flight! :)
And speaking of flights, our flight from LAX to Hawaii had a problem with the entertainment system so we weren't able to watch movies; but on the way home, I watched half of "Precious" (I do not recommend only watching the first half because you only get the sad parts and I hear it has a happy-ish ending) and about five minutes of "Did You Hear About the Morgans," which seems like a cute romantic comedy. That's what you get when you've got 3 little boys with you, haha!
What books have you read lately? And if you've seen "Precious" or "Did You Hear About the Morgans," do you recommend I watch the rest of them?

Friday, April 16

Good News Friday!

To kick off our Good News Friday, I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of my TFC sisters and everyone who participated in the Cinderella Society launch party here on Tuesday! I had a fabulous time celebrating and seeing The Cinderella Society on the shelves after all these months. Definitely a day I'll never forget. :-)

For my good news, I'd like to announce the winners of the blog launch party games!

Winners of the Cinderella Society glass slipper bookmark:

Congratulations to Giada (Italy) and Liz Patanders!

~ AND ~

Winners of the Cinderella Society mini glass slipper:

Congratulations to Jen Petro-Roy and Jill of the O.W.L.!

Thanks again to everyone for celebrating my debut day with me! Contact me here with your mailing address to claim your prize. :-)

So, that's my good news for the week. What other fun news does everyone have to share?

Tuesday, April 13

It's the official blog launch party for The Cinderella Society!!



I mean, "Hey! Guess what day it is!" ;-)

At long last, I'm delighted to be celebrating the release of my debut YA, The Cinderella Society. When I was planning what to do on launch day, the first thing that came to mind was celebrating with my author buds here on TFC. They've been with me from the start (and some of them have been with me since long before I sold!).

So here we are on release day, ready to celebrate. How? By giving away free stuff, of course! :-)

*** THE BOOK ***

On shelves... today!

What's a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?

Sixteen year old Jess Parker has always been an outsider. So when she receives an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret society of the most popular girls in school, it's like something out of a fairy tale. Swept up by the Cindys' magical world of makeovers, and catching the eye of her Prince Charming, Jess feels like she's finally found her chance to fit in.

Then the Wickeds--led by Jess's arch-enemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers there's more to being a Cindy than reinventing yourself on the outside. She has unknowingly become part of a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and now the Cindys in charge need Jess for a mission that could change everything.

Overwhelmed, Jess wonders if The Cinderella Society made a mistake in choosing her. Is it a coincidence her new boyfriend doesn't want to be seen with her in public? And is this glamorous, secret life even what she wants, or will she risk her own happy ending to live up to the expectations of her new sisters?


To celebrate, I'm giving away two kinds of special The Cinderella Society goodies!
A glass slipper bookmark

And a miniature glass slipper

I will be randomly choosing four separate winners, one for each TCS prize in both of the launch games.

Playing along is a breeze!

Choose one game or play both... just respond to each game in its own comment below. (And yes, if you've played the excerpt game on my blog, you can totally share your favorite quote here to play again!)


Step #1 - Go check out the excerpt of The Cinderella Society

Step #2 - Come back and post your favorite line from the excerpt in the comments of today's post


Step #1 - Share your favorite girl power quote to celebrate The Cinderella Society's girl power creed:

Celebrate your strength - Embrace your future - Be extraordinary

That's it! :-)

I'll be announcing the winner in our Good News Friday feature (since winning a prize is pretty good news, don't you think?). ;-)

Enjoy the free excerpt, good luck playing along, and thanks for helping me celebrate the debut of The Cinderella Society!

PS - And don't forget to join me tonight on Twitter for the official Twitter launch party and more great TCS goodies! #HonoraryCindy is your ticket to the festivities. :-)


Monday, April 12

Google Reader

This week we're talking about blogs and websites, so I thought I'd talk about how Google Reader has changed my life. Okay a slight exaggeration, but seriously using it has cut my surfing time in half.

It's so awesome to be able to read all the blogs I follow at the same time without having to flit from blog to blog. The only downside is that you can't post a comment without going into the actual blog.

Mind you it was a bit daunting when I came back from two weeks vacation and had nearly 200 posts to plough though. To be honest I skimmed most of them.... actually I just scrolled down and only read the posts where the odd word jumped out at me. But that's okay, I don't go away often.

So who else uses Google Reader? And what do you think of it?

Friday, April 9

You Wear It Well

(blog title courtesy of Rod Stewart)

So this week we’re blogging about clothes and style and fashion, and I have to admit that I waited until today to post because I wasn’t quite sure what to write.

But then yesterday, while I was working on Riley Book #2 (NOT the official title!), writing about a particularly heinous kindergarten memory of Riley’s, I started to revisit my own early memories—which lead me to what I wore on my very first day of kindergarten:

Purple velvet hot pants

A white frilly shirt

White tights

Black, shiny, go-go boots

A blue fake fur coat with gold buttons (not because it was cold, but because it completed the look).

Oh, and I’d recently cut my nearly waist length hair into a short, cropped pixie cut.

I kid you not.

What I love most about that outfit is the way I wore it—with the kind of self-assured confidence only a little kid who hasn’t yet been knocked around by the opinions of others could. I was sure it represented the truest version of me.

Dressed like that, I felt like a rock star.

I wasn’t dressing to blend (obviously!), though I wasn’t attempting to stand out either. I had no idea what kids my age were wearing, I didn’t really know any other five year olds—didn’t really have any “age appropriate” friends—since my sisters were both older by 5 and 10 years, and all the other neighborhood kids were way closer to their ages than mine. So to me, that outfit just seemed like the kind of thing any person of style would wear on such a special day as the first day of school.

I remember finding the pieces in a department store that no longer exists, I remember how excited I was when I put them all together and showed them to my mom. But what I love most is how my mom didn’t balk or visibly cringe or try to talk me out of it. She just smiled, hauled it all up to the register, and allowed me to be that particular version of me.

I don’t remember any kids making fun of the outfit. In fact, I don’t remember them paying it much notice at all. Though I do remember some kid making a mean comment about my hair looking just like a boy’s, and though it broke my heart a little (okay, more than a little) that was pretty much the extent of it. The rest of the day is a blur of apple shaped, construction paper nametags, and a nap time I was too excited to truly participate in.

If memory serves, I think I got maybe a few more wears out of those hotpants and go-go boots, and then I outgrew them and they went off to Goodwill. And while I spent the following decades experimenting with all kinds of looks, not one of them could ever match the thrill of what I wore on that first day of school.

What about you—what is your favorite fashion related memory??

Tuesday, April 6


This week on TFC we're talking about fashion and style. This topic is a timely one for me because I'm pretty much immersed in international style at the moment. I'm deep in revisions for Book One of CASSIDY ON CAMERA (my middle-school series that comes out next year) and the main character's sense of style is one of the things that makes her who she is.

Since she's grown up all over the world, Cassidy has a unique view of fashion. She's not tied into the trends of a particular country or region when it comes to clothes, but simply chooses what she likes and what she's comfortable wearing. Also, she likes to collect new pieces to add to her wardrobe in every country she visits, whether it's a nautical striped shirt from Brittany or a Harajuku Girl purse from Tokyo. Her signature style emerges as she puts the pieces together in her own unique way.

As I've been working on these books, I've thought a lot about what constitutes a "signature style." And... confession time... I'm not sure that I have one! I do have one favorite piece of clothing - an old jean jacket I can wear with just about everything - but I don't know if that defines my style. What about you? Do you have a signature style? How would you describe it?
P.S. On a related note, in Kay Cassidy's upcoming book, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY (out April 13 - watch for it!) her character Jess learns about signature styles and how to settle on the right one for her. It's a very fun book, but also a very sobering one, as Jess also learns to empower herself against bullying. If THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY isn't already on your radar, be sure to put it there!