April 16, 2014

March 27, 2014

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl (Stargirl, #1)Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is a timeless story about the battle between individuality and popularity in high school. I found the story well-paced, easy to take in, and relatable. There's nothing more captivating than the mystery of what makes an unusual person tick. I also love explorations about what makes us normal or unusual in the first place, as I think we can all relate to that confounding notion, no matter what stage we're at in life.

It was fascinating to follow Leo's story as he and the rest of his classmates struggle with Stargirl's unfettered individualism. I had to know what would happen--both with Stargirl, and with Leo and his affections for her. While I wished I could have gotten to know Stargirl earlier in the narrative (through dialogue and more fully fleshed scenes), Spinelli's concise prose weaves an undeniable rhythm that stays with you long after you've finished reading.

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March 22, 2014

Short Story: The Day Snuffleupagus Cried

When I was nine, I had a skateboarding accident. I wish I could say my injuries resulted from attempting a super-cool move, like an inverted 360 or something, but unfortunately, I was just pushing a skateboard up my neighbor's driveway on my knees. The board's front wheel caught a rock, and my right cheek caught a face-full of concrete, scraping off a solid stripe of flesh.

When my initial shock twisted into searing pain, I started screaming. My friends, true to middle grade form, ran away, screaming as well, leaving me more utterly alone than I'd ever been in my life. But after a few minutes, my heroic (although slightly built) neighbor ran outside, scooped me up, and wobbled his way to my house with my 50lb frame in his arms.

I remember that there was so much blood on his T-shirt. My blood.

I remember Mom's reassuring calm, even as we drove to the doctor's office just up the road. (In Summerfield, NC, pretty much everything was "just up the road.")

And then the strangest thing happened. Our doctor, who was young enough to seem friendly--although he had a beard that crept halfway down his neck, which was vaguely piratical in nature--asked my mom a question: would she mind if he hypnotized me to give me the two stitches I required?

My mom, being the world's okayest mom, said: Sure!

So then my doctor asked me to look at what may or may not have been a penny, and tell him about the latest episode of Sesame Street. So I did. My eyes drifted shut, and the episode played out as though projected directly onto my eyelids. Big Bird had a party, and he didn't invite Snuffleupagus. Naturally, Snuffleupagus cried. A lot. Then they made up.

Then I woke up.

Amazingly, I had two stitches right below my nose, and I hadn't felt a thing. Even by my mom's standards, this was a little bit crazypants. But honestly, I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. It wasn't unusual to believe in magic at that age.

Just this past week, my four-year-old strained his neck, and I found myself in the chiropractor's office, being asked a question: would I mind if he adjusted my kid's neck? If you've never seen a chiro adjust a neck, you might think this is no biggie, but trust me: adjustments are precise but incredibly dramatic. I was thinking of my mom and Snuffleupagus and magic when I said yes. And wouldn't you know it, the adjustment worked.

Sometimes in life, as in writing, the new stuff is terrifying...but those moments also hold the most potential. I feel this way fairly often when I'm writing. Some ideas are chock full of crazypants.  But sometimes a little crazy unlocks a whole lot of magic--and those are the stories I love to read the most!

Short Stories feature my random anecdotes and ramblings, sometimes tied to writing and other times to life at large. If you're an author interested in sharing a short story of your own, please do get in touch!

March 11, 2014

Counting Thyme to be published by Putnam!

I'm so, so thrilled to announce that Counting Thyme, my middle grade novel about a girl whose family relocates to NYC for her brother's cancer treatment, has sold to the lovely Stacey Barney at Putnam! Here's the PW announcement (!!!!!):

For as long as I can remember, books have been a magical part of my life. I can recall reading The Monster at the End of this Book with my mother before bed, and wondering when a furry blue muppet would come to visit me. By third grade, I stayed up late into the night reading classics like Where the Red Fern Grows and Charlotte's Web by the light of our upstairs hallway, falling prey to the "just one more chapter" syndrome that now rules my life.

An early revision manuscript

I find books miraculous. We have twenty-six letters in the English language, and a limited vocabulary, and yet writers create wonderful, new stories every single day. I'm so proud to become a part of that tradition!

Thank you to my critique partners, family, and friends for being so supportive, and of course my wonderful agent, Pete Knapp. I'm so excited to work with Stacey and Putnam to bring another miraculous collection of words into the world.

March 05, 2014

Shameless Addictions: February Edition

In case you don't have enough things sucking time away from your life, I thought I'd share my latest fixations so that you can join in, too.

Vikings is back. It's on Thursday nights on the History channel. You have never seen the Norse culture/mythology like THIS.

I've hated zombies all my life. Seriously, NIGHT OF THE COMET scarred me. But I can't get enough of this show! What really reels you in is the humanity. Settings may change, but people don't.

I purchased this book at my youngest son's book fair, and I've read it approximately 20 times since. IT IS SPECTACULAR.

And finally, I'm obsessed with this cover of We Can't Stop. It's so incredible. Treat yourself to all of the covers by this group. Warning: there's a clown in the cover of Lorde's song.

What are you obsessed with lately? Time to fess up and spread the love!

February 25, 2014

A Shot of Inspiration

I was reminded of this poem today, when my critique partners and I were discussing words of inspiration. A poem titled "in Defeat" may not sound very inspiring on first glance, but ever since I read this in eighth grade for an English assignment, I've loved every word. It's one of the very few poems I have memorized. I keep a copy of it hanging on my wall. Today, I share it with you:

in Defeat

Defeat may serve as well as victory

To shake the soul and let the glory out.

When the great oak is straining in the wind,

The boughs drink in new beauty, and the trunk

Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.

Only the soul that knows the mighty grief

Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come

To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.

-- Edwin Markham.

February 18, 2014

A Hint of Spring

It's hard to believe that this is just around the corner. But it is. Right? Hello? *shovels snow*

February 06, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead, Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

It took me a while to process my reaction to this book, primarily because the prose is so gorgeous. I don't often fall for pretty words, but in this case, the imagery matches the main character's voice so well. Laurel broke my heart, not because of her tragic story, but because of the way she sees the world. She is closed off, trapped in her own head, trying to make connections through the letters she writes to dead artists--musicians, actors...people like Kurt Cobain and Judy Garland.

The novel takes the form of Laurel's letters to these people. The epistolary form requires a bit of patience from the reader. The narrative can seem wandering and repetitive at times, even forced. But if you put yourself in the mindset of a teen actually writing these letters, they are more fascinating than anything else. Reading Laurel's story was an experience I will not soon forget.

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January 28, 2014

Save. Your. Energy.

There's this concept that one of my yoga teachers talks about: the idea of saving your energy. What I mean by that is, you know that moment, right after everyone in yoga does a partner exercise, and a burst of chatter and laughter takes over the room? Or, if not yoga, perhaps the moment right after you finish a run, or a swim, or any other kind of physical challenge? That moment is pure energy.

Seriously. In my yoga class, our teacher often has to ring a bell to get our attention after one of these energy-blasting moments. That's how jazzed we all feel. Smiling. Chatting. Being loud as heck. Basically, we revert to being a class full of wild child three year olds for about 3 minutes, until our teacher reminds us to SAVE OUR ENERGY.

At the moment you accomplish something (often a physical effort), your brain releases a rush of happy chemicals. You feel INCREDIBLE. You're instantaneously more extroverted and ready to gab. You can feel the energy rush through your limbs like electricity.

You have a choice then: either let all that energy out by some means of release...OR, hold it inside, like a hot little ball of inferno, fully charged and ready to explode.

Of course, saving your energy is not easy. But if you can hold onto that energized feeling and direct it inwards, you can use that energy for another challenge. In yoga, I hold onto my energy by staying silent and focused. Then my next arm balance or handstand is so much easier, because I have that charge stored up in my muscles, ready to go.

The same principle applies to creative energy. You know that moment when you have a creative breakthrough, and you want to hop on twitter and gab gab gab? Or message a friend? Or text someone? Next time, try resisting that urge. Hold onto your energy. Feel the pressure of it in your chest, filling you up. Stay focused, and move forward with your work. You will delve deeper. You will roll through to another eureka. Or in the very least, the next challenge you face will be that much easier.

Save your energy, friends. Put it to work for YOU. Happy writing, all!

January 08, 2014

Beta Reading Makes Good Writers!

I babbled on about beta readers on Twitter today, and decided to put it all here for easy reference:

January 01, 2014

Short Story: Time is Perception

I'm fascinated by the concept of time. According to the smarty-pants people of the world, time is the subjective experience of an indefinite sequence of unfolding events...and thus there is a component of time that is a human invention. We have created the terms past, present, and future, in order to organize this experience--in order to capture and corral time into building blocks that we can summarily absorb and discuss and "control."

But time exists outside of our human experience. And the experience of time, being subjective, can CHANGE. Time is flexible. It is not fixed. And therefore neither are we fixed--we are infinitely flexible as well.

With time comes loss...

...but also, growth.

Time is something worth thinking about.

On a lighter note, I get my nerd on about time through the books I read, too. Both WHEN YOU REACH ME and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS offer wonderful explorations of time and change and the incredible, subjective experience of being human, for however brief that moment may be. Wishing you the best in this New Year--get out there and create the experience you seek.

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