The whole review will go live next month, but for now, I can share that School Library Journal's review of FINDING PARIS calls it: “An
intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation.”
It's the best live television you may not be watching. Okay, it's not always the best. Sometimes it panders. But often enough it's surprising and fresh and rude and provocative and very New York, and it makes me laugh. It's Bravo producer Andy Cohen in his Clubhouse interviewing a wild mix of celebrities and 'Bravo-lebrities' and other famous folk, some of whom are famous for real and serious reasons. As Andy himself called it on NPR the other day, he likes to have a mix of guest that you might find on either the cover of The New Yorker or US Weekly. Think about that, okay. (Also, yes, NPR! He was hawking his new book and playing a game show where he answered questions about houseflies. Yes, really. Here's the link: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/22/365599417/not-my-job-we-ask-real-housewives-producer-andy-cohen-about-house-flies It made me smile so much that I tweeted and lo and behold my very awesome editor was also listening. It was a bonding moment. But I digress)
If you don't know, Andy Cohen is the one who's responsible for the Housewives franchise on Bravo. Yes, yes, I know you're too cool and serious to be watching. But I watch. And while sometimes it's too much even for me, I find it fascinating on more levels than I can discuss here and if nothing else, it's like a little morality play some days. And trust me when I say I'm not the only one who has this at the top of her guilty pleasure list.
NPR has actually talked to Andy a lot about the whole issue of pop culture. Here's another one:
But back to WWHL and the Clubhouse. They sit in this tiny space and drink cocktails and talk. They play a few games. On Wednesday nights it's Shotski night, which means that midway through, Cohen and his guests simultaneously drink shots from glasses attached to a ski. So yeah. Dan Rather taking a shot. Julie Andrews, for god's sake! Dick -freaking- Cavett. (if you are too young to know his importance to television interviewing, just google it.)
Guests offer up surprisingly candor in silly games like Plead the Fifth. (Maybe it's cause they're drinking cocktails. Maybe because it's the kind of down and dirty talk show that no one else is doing, not even cute little Jimmy Fallon (who does, I have to admit, do other things make me laugh, like photo bombing family pics on top of 30 Rock with Cameron Diaz) It's why he gets one on ones with Cher. And Oprah. (Who gave in and said his name in that Oprah voice. "Andyyyyyyyy Cohennnnn" which made him delighted in a real way) And Lady Gaga, who, according to WWHL lore, also peed in the dressing room trash can. (one can only wonder.)
So yeah, he's also interviewing Teresa and Joe Guidice of New Jersey Housewife and indicted for tax fraud fame. And the episodes that air from SXSW in Austin sometimes feel a bit self-conscious. But he paired Tori Spelling with George Takei once! And Soleil Moon Fry (little Punky Brewster!) with Dr. Sonjay Gupta. Seriously. It happened. And a recent favorite: Amy Sedaris and Deeprak Chopra. Sitting together for 30 minutes. Talking.
I could go on. But I have a book due by the end of the year and I finally know where the plot is going and so I better jump in there and finish the darn thing.
If you're not watching -- it's on 3 or 4 nights a week on Bravo. You won't be sorry. I promise.
So here's the tricky thing about highly competitive occupations: Some days you feel like you will never be enough. I'll be writing along, as fast and well as I can-- loving the story and its complexities and loving the challenge of putting this grand adventure on the page--and then it happens. I catch up on the industry news or I dip my toes into some form of social media or another and there it is: The three book series that someone else sold while I'm still trying to get a proposal to work. Or yet another list of wonderful books which I'm not on. Or an event to which I wasn't invited. Or I read a review that is less than stellar. Or someone says, no, unfortunately, we couldn't budget that for you.
And suddenly I feel like I'll never possibly be enough. I started too late, or I'm just not good in the first place. I'm not smart enough or quirky enough. I don't have a fascinating narrative. My wardrobe is dirty yoga pants. The shelf life on me being labeled a prodigy has expired, and even if it hadn't, I was pretty ordinary to begin with. (my stellar Star Trek fan fic on yellow legal pads and reams of angsty unrequited love poetry aside. Cause that stuff is killer.) I am the Queen of Sucky who lives in Suckyville and that's how it is, you know? What did I expect? Who did I think I was? Aren't I looking at all those Instagram shots of all those people having fun and being uber cool while I'm struggling with this page I can't get right? If I posted right now, I would caption it: #isuck
The truth as I see it: You don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to show up and keep at it. And yes, some luck is often involved. (that's the scary part)
Wildly successful fashionista Diane von Furstenburg once said that she often feels like a loser. That in fact, according to her, all successful people HAVE to feel like losers sometimes or they don't get that creative, competitive fire in the belly that pushes them to do something new.
So yeah. I agree.
I think if you're not hungry enough of the time, you stop reaching high enough.
But what can you do when you feel less than enough?
What do I do?
I take a deep breath.
Sometimes I have to take another.
Or walk the dog.
Or buy a new coffee pot.
Or--yes, really -- do something nice for someone who is not me.
I remember that I did come to this later in the game and how freaking wonderful is that? I shifted course and left a more comfortable niche and found the creative life. Being brave enough to do that has changed everything for me. I am very lucky.
Then I get to work on the one thing I can control--which is, of course, the work.
As Mark Twain once said and as I quote to myself quite often: The world owes you nothing.
But I owe the world my best work. I owe my readers my best work.
Going to finish this book now. You will see it in 2016. :)
And somehow, it's Friday again!
And the middle of December!
1. Today's observation is that when you write a novel that covers a vast spectrum of time (in this case, 1913 until the present), you find out many tidbits you never knew before. For example! Did you know that Martin Luther King and Anne Frank were both born in 1929?
3. Macy's -- taking over from the now defunct Marshall Field's-- sells my childhood favorite candy, Frango Mints, but only at Christmas time. At least here in Houston stores. I'm sure I can get them year round on line, but there is something about seeing the stacks of boxes in the store and all that yummy chocolate/minty aroma! If you have never eaten a Frango Mint, you are missing out!
4. Newsies is finally coming to Houston! Need I say more?
5. John Corey Whaley is a genius. NOGGIN is brilliant. Read it now.
1. I have many, many thoughts on Peter Pan Live, which so many of us watched last night. But Time and the Daily Beast say it better than I can. Beyond that, I applaud you Allison Williams. You flew very well. And nailed your landings many more times than Walken nailed his lines. There truly are no words for Walken's "I've put the plank on the poop."
2. Lovely, lovely time Wednesday presenting workshops to amazing librarians in Texas Region 12 at the Waco Library Jubilee. Hooray for librarians!! Plus an entire day hanging out with my partner in crime P.J. Hoover, whose latest MG novel TUT just made the Lone Star list!!
3. Oh how I love writing IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS -- which will hopefully arrive in 2016 from Soho Press and will be what happens when you morph Tuck Everlasting with Veronica Mars and amp up the romance and broaden the historical scope.
4. Still racing through season 2 of House of Cards. Oh Francis Underwood. Oh Claire Underwood. Oh the glorious, nasty corruption.
5. And finally, in a miraculous moment, my favorite Chicago pizza place, Gino's East, is branching out to other states and somehow decided that my little north Houston 'burn was the place to begin!! Yes! They are bringing me their version of deep dish pizza with that yummy blanket of sausage!! It's a pizza miracle, I tell you!! A pizza miracle!
I don't know about you, but when I get overwhelmed with deadlines and doing All the Things (whatever those things might be), I usually find myself retreating to a corner with a book or TV show or magazine or soup can label that must be read. (Okay, that last part isn't exactly true. But if there's nothing else to read, I've been known to read labels or cereal boxes...)
The point being, I have a book due soon and a proposal and sample pages that are due as well and so of course I have been reading and watching things and sneaking in moments to fill the well as best I can. Plus Thanksgiving was here this year, and I made stuffing from scratch! And the leaves have turned amazing colors because it got freakishly cold very early for the Gulf Coast and now they've been falling off the trees in flurries like autumnal snow. Every time I see it, my breath catches. So lovely.
In no particular order:
1. House of Cards!! Yes I know many of you have already become obsessed. In this house we are late to the game, but every time Kevin Spacy turns to the camera, I shiver and laugh and clutch my knees! It's Shakespeare gone to DC politics and backstabbing and pushing your enemies in front of an oncoming subway train. Robin Wright as Claire Underwood! Lady Macbeth with awesome outfits and heels. Love this show. Love. Love. And it's huge-- dozens of characters coming and going and power, power, power! Worth getting Netflix for.
2. Noggin - by John Corey Whaley. I'd bought it when I met him at Carson City Lit Fest back in June and read a few pages until work and life got in the way. But now I'm back (having just re-read Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King, which if you haven't read, you absolutely must), and I'm loving Noggin, too. More than just its high concept 'dying kid allows his head to be cryogenically frozen and wakes up 5 years later attached to another body' premise. It's about life and death and what happens when you stop out of the world for five years but everyone you love moves forward. Loving this, too.
3. Haven't seen Mockingjay yet or Birdman (which I really want to see!) but did squeak in The Theory of Everything-- the Stephen Hawking biopic. It was, at times, immeasurably sad, but for me this sadness wasn't for the reasons most people might state. Yes, I know it's one of those cosmic tragedies: one of the greatest scientific minds trapped in a body ravaged by ALS starting at only age 21. But for me, the saddest thing was the inevitable dissolution of a marriage. (and in full disclosure, this film is based on Jane Hawking's memoir) I sat there watching Jane fall in love with quirky, brilliant Stephen. And there she is-- also brilliant and in school and studying for a PHD in Medieval Spanish poetry. (okay, I know this is not a practical field, but it's her passion.) And it's 1963, and so you know what's going to happen. You know that she is going to by necessity and love, circumvent her studies and her passions to make sure Stephen becomes everything he needs to be. And you know that eventually, this is going to make her feel lonely and trapped and bitter and terribly guilty because she loves him so much. And that unless she's a saint, eventually, they will part. And so that's what made me cry at the end-- and actually not until the very end where they scrolled those sentences of "what happened next" and I read that Jane finally got her PHD. Curious to see what everyone else's take on all this is...
4. And in other news, on 12/13, I'll be teaching a class at Writespace Houston on How to Find an Agent. We'll also be talking about what an agent does and doesn't do and why you might or might not need one. It's a quick 2 hour workshop. If you're just getting started in your career, then this might be the class for you!
So yeah, it's my annual literary gift to the world time. The VERY FIRST THING I ever wrote was a 5 act Thanksgiving play. Yes, 'tis true. 2nd Grade. I got my friends to perform it with me. We played multiple roles. The Pilgrims came from Holland. (this is actually historically accurate, although why I knew this is a HUGE mystery.) Mostly they were concerned about washing their clothes. I don't know why. They just were, okay?
So an early HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
READ ON AND SEE HOW I WAS DESTINED FOR AUTHORIAL GREATNESS!! This is where the magic began, folks. A 7 year old playing with 5 act structure! *please note that the original is in brown crayon. I have typed it here for your ease of reading*
Mary: Oh, we hardly have enough food to last us on the whole trip to Virginia, Sue. Sue: I know it, Mary, but we will soon be there. We will have good crops and maybe the people there will show us how to make our homes snug inside. Julie: Sue, we are near to shore now. Sue: But Julie, all I see is trees and grass and how cold it is out.
Scene 2 Sue: The men are going down on the new land now, Mary. Mary: But look, what is on the land, Sue? Sue: Maybe the Indians are going to welcome us. Julie: I certainly hope they're not angry at us, Sue. Mary: Julie, listen to what the Captain is saying. All women go to shore.
Julie: Now we are on land, Mary and we must wash our clothes. Joe: Hey, Jack! Jack: Yes, Joe, those Indians are pretty friendly! Joe: Well, let's start building and cutting down trees, Jack. Jack! I've made friends with some Indians.
Sue: We're certainly having a cold winter, Mary. Mary: And a hard time finding food, too. Julie: We are having so much snow this winter.
Mary: Now that the winter is over we shall have to thank God by having a feast. Julie: We shall invite some Indians to share it with us. Mary; When we are done, some of us shall go back home. Sue: now we shall start our feast. The turkey is good and the cranberries are delicious. Julie: Now that we are done, we shall say goodbye to some of us. Mary: They shall go back to Holland.
I live in Texas. I write YA novels and eat guacamole. My books include THE DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks), THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and its sequel, THE A WORD (Soho Press). In 2015, FINDING PARIS arrives from Balzer &Bray/Harper Collins. And then there's my Bravo Channel addiction...