Tuesday, June 26, 2007

half full or half empty

Thanks to those who let me know their favorite childhood books, particularly Beth, who reminded me about the Little House books. I'm getting the urge to read in bed all night under the covers with a flashlight, like I did when I was little and supposed to be sleeping but couldn't put the book down. Although I suppose husband might find it a tad annoying. Just a tad...

In her article in the newest Oprah magazine (yes, Oprah magazine; don't judge. Seriously. I see you. Judging me. Stop it. It's a very funny article I just read. About the time the author got her cousin to feed a peanut to a monkey and it ripped cousin's hair out. But I digress...), Lisa Kogan tells us "on a bad day I can make Sylvia Plath seem like rodeo clown."

Funny! If it's not funny to you, I'm sorry. It's freakin' hilarious. Sylvia Plath... rodeo clown...

Anyway, I'm with Lisa Kogan. I wasn't always. When I was younger, I figured things would always work out. The glass half full girl. Will it all be okay? Sure. Why not?

Then I got older. Collected my share of life's bumps and bruises and nasty ass surprises. That half full glass switched to the half empty. Didn't want it to, I suppose. But it did. And sometimes I call it being pragmatic. You know, as in it's pragmatic to prepare in case the Cossacks really do ride in (these are metaphor Cossacks, by the way) and destroy the village and pillage my house.

But sometimes, I miss the old me. The one who figured she'd always land butter side up eventually. ( even the butter got a little smeared or dotted with lint balls)

Then again, I'm married to the man who seriously just warned our son to be careful doing yard work in Arizona by telling him about a spate of fatalities of people trying to cut down palm trees.

There's no hope for my glass. None. Guess I'll have to switch to paper cups.

So how 'bout you? Optimist? Pessimist? Somewhere in between?

Til next time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

the books that inspire

I can't imagine a life without books. Without reading. Without the inspiration that comes from those stories that grabbed me and just wouldn't let go.

I'm lucky, I suppose. I was raised on a diet of poetry and fairy tales and the classics. Both my parents came from poor families. Both raised by immigrant parents from Poland and Russia. Reading was education and education was the road to success.

And so we read.

My mother read me all the great fairy tales. And her favorites from a book called 101 Famous Poems. And Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. And she filled my room with other books to read alone - the ones she'd loved as a girl and figured I would love too. No YA fiction then. Not really. Just Little Women and Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and many, many more. And then I found the series like Nancy Drew. (Who I see has been recreated in a new film starring Julia Robers niece Emma)

And then I found more and more. A Wrinkle in Time and Edgar Eager's Half Magic. And biographies by the cartload. And stuff like Up a Road Slowly and Light a Single Candle about a blind girl's struggles. And the Oz books. And children's books like The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Princess. And later I discovered so many others - the grand dame of modern YA, Judy Blume. I mean, seriously, who didn't read Forever - and then re-read like a million times?

And the heavier hitters - Great Gatsby and Grapes of Wrath and the Fountainhead and Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina....

The world beyond mine. But the world that was mine nonetheless. The pain and joy and love and laughter of living.

How could I not read? How could I not want to try my hand at writing? How could I not, when I had a kid, read him bucketsful of great stories? One of his favorites is still Tacky the Penguin. The non-conformist little penguin who does splashy cannonballs when everyone else is doing synchronized dives. But he still saves the day. And my personal mantra story, Leo the Late Bloomer. "And one day, in his own good time, Leo bloomed!"

Still, let us not forget. Tonight the twentysomethings appear on episode two of Age of Love. Baby, it sure ain't Faulkner. It isn't even good television.

But I'll probably be tuning in anyway.

So what are your favorite childhood books?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller??

Til next time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

summer reading

I've been swallowing books like candy lately and it's been glorious. (Okay, I'm not really sure I like that last image, but my head is so clogged right now with revision issues for my novel, the possibility that my hardworking and brilliant agent Michelle now thinks I'm doofus of the year, and internal questions about quests (perhaps the heroine will simply take the cute guy and open a small pie diner in Duluth, Minnesota, pump out three kids and never darken the doorstep of my brain ever again??) that I can't come up with anything better.

But back to the books. Obviously, because I write (or, this dark and gloomy morning believe I attempt to) young adult novels, I spend a lot of time with them. But I pretty much grab anything that comes my way.

Of the best lately, I'd recommend:

Melissa Marr's new book, Wicked Lovely. It's YA urban fantasy and once you pick it up, you simply won't put it down again until you discover what's ultimately going to happen to Aislinn, Seth, Keenan and Donia. You get faeries, a love triangle, some real danger and some gorgeous writing. Plus Melissa is my personal hero for showing me how to throw oneself into the job of pre-promotion. Her book is flying off the shelves right now because she's worked like a lion. Bravo!

The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater. Just darn funny. Laugh your butt off funny. Irreverant. Subversive. And left me wanting to read more.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castelluci. The main character's personal journey from, well, boy proof to confident young woman is a true delight.

Twisted, the newest book by Laurie Halse Anderson. Dark, serious, and a stellar male protagonist. We've got too few of those by my estimation and Anderson has given us a story about subjects that have no easy answer.

And if you've not yet read Avalon High by Meg Cabot, grab that one up too. Basic premise is what if King Arthur and Lancelot and Mordred and Lady of the Lake, et al, were all re-born - into a suburban high school setting. Great, great fun. Snappy dialogue. And one of my Meg Cabot favorites.

Could name a dozen more, but that's enough for now. Let me know if you've got some favorites to recommend.

Til next time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

let's go to the movies

Came home last nite in time to catch the top ten of the 10th anniversary AFI Top 100 Films. Top 2? The Godfather at number 2 and Citizen Kane at number 1. Can't say I disagree. Dear husband of course, was muttering from number ten onward that if Godfather wasn't on the list the AFI people were idiots. I don't think there's a guy I've ever known who doesn't jones over The Godfather. "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli," and all those other lines. And okay, I'll admit it - it's one of those movies I absolutely never get bored with - never tired of watching.

My personal list is a little less esoteric, of course. I also never get tired of watching Legally Blonde. Never get tired of weeping over The Way We Were or Ordinary People or Rudy. In fact, for a rather mildly athletic person, I'm a true sucker for sports movies. Yup, from Brian's Song (the original made for tv one with James Caan (oops, back to Godfather again) as Brian Piccolo) to the aforementioned Rudy to Breaking Away or the first couple Rocky movies or Remember the Titans or even the recent Invincible, I fall for those films every single time.

If I had to pick, I'd probably pick a weepy film over a funny one. I'm one of those weird folks who rarely cry at the appropriate moments. Probably cause I was such a cry baby when I was a kid. So now I just, well, don't. But give me a sad movie and I'm rummaging through packs of kleenex like a crazy woman.

But in honor of film number one, Orson Welles' tour de force Citizen Kane, I'll leave you with one last word. Yeah, you know it, don't you?

Til next time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

how honest is too honest?

One of the things I find most difficult - and rewarding- about writing is the opportunity to tell it like you see it. Sometimes it's easy. I'm on a rant about something or I'm happy or sad or whatever. And it just sort of flows out of me and onto the page. But sometimes, especially when a topic hits a bit too close to home or gets a bit too deeply personal, it's a little harder. Will I offend someone? Will I hurt someone's feelings if I tell the truth? Will I expose a piece of me that I'm, well, not quite ready to expose? (that's the figurative exposure, by the way, in case you were about to run from this blog averting your eyes)

It's a tough question for a writer, I think. When have you crossed a line? Or are there no lines, really? When have you said too much? Is that possible? When might your message get lost in the shock value? How do you know when people aren't quite ready for the truth - or at least the truth as you see it? And when all these questions collide with stories that are about how teens live now - the good, the bad and the ugly of it - especially how teens live here where I do, in an overly affluent corner of the world that too often feels like a theme park with matching trash cans - it's a pretty big can of worms, let me tell you.

No answers today, I'm afraid. But a lot of questions.

Til next time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guilty pleasures part 2

Didn't think I'd write more about this topic today, but then, last night, there was "Age of Love." Yes, folks, the show that pits 20 something women against 40 something women, all vying for the affections of a hunky 30 year old Aussie.

Like a car wreck - or news about Paris or Britney- once you start watching, you just can't stop. Because you gotta love a show that shows the 20 somethings waiting til it's their turn to meet the guy... and they're all taking turns with a hula hoop. (quote: "Oooh, it's cold on my belly) While the 40 somethings wait... and one puts on reading glasses to do what I think was a cross stitch project. Someone else cleaned the kitchen area.

But all I have to say is that no matter whether you're 26 or 46, having to rappel down the side of a building in order to win someone's affections (which was last night's "date") is humiliating. End of story.

Til next time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

guilty pleasure

All right. I admit it. I watched the end of "Celebrity Fit Club" last night. Had resisted the impulse all season. Honestly I don't even have a clue who most of the B or C list celebs are on that thing anyway. But there was one I did know - Maureen McCormick - aka, Marcia Brady. Yes, that Marcia. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Oh my nose Marcia. Oh I'm in love with Davy Jones, Marcia. So the temptation was too great. I just had to turn in.

Well, it turns out she still looks adorable. And she was the top winner - dropped from 150 to 116. So good for you, Mo McCormick!

Guess we all have our guilty pleasures. I certainly have my own share, although not typically Celeb Fit Club. My agent and I share a mutual affection for "The Hills." Yes, it's totally contrived. Shallow as can be. But how can you not wonder when Heidi is finally gonna get a clue and kick Spencer to the curb? Answer: possibly never.

For my college son, it's Entourage. He and his house mates simply can't miss it. Since we are too cheap in this house to pay for HBO, I may never know the attraction.

Embrace your guilty pleasure. It's okay. I certainly won't tell.

Til next time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

When's enough enough?

So I counted the other day. And discovered that there are seven - yes SEVEN- Starbucks within a five mile radius of our house here in prime suburbia in Houston. Okay, not all of them are free standing. There's the one in Barnes and Noble. And one's in Kroger's. But seven? I kept re-counting (in that crazy anal OCDish way that is a trademark of my father's side of the father who once wrote the people at Britannica that they'd made a mistake on something fairly big and they sent him a free set of encyclopedias back there in the dark ages of my childhood when everyone really cared- at least in my family- if info was accurate and didn't just take Wikipedia's word for it, but whatever) and still came up with seven.

And you know, I 've been to them all. Seriously. Me. Who didn't even like coffee for years and years. Thought it tasted like dishwater or something. Preferred tea. Or water or soda or juice or anything that wasn't coffee.

So was it that first flirty little frapaccino? The froth on the lattes? The cheap little cafe au laits? The iced cafe con leche? The cups with those sleeves? Some secret chemical that makes me yearn for those cute little packets of raw sugar and the possibilities of soy milk even if soy milk so doesn't taste like milk and so absolutely would be something I wouldn't drink even in the desert island scenario.

But even so. Seven? Seven?

Til next time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just purse your lips and whistle

Oh total bliss and laughter last night when husband and I went to see Spamalot. If you're a fan of the movie - and I suppose we are with probably 30 (yes we're total geek types) viewings between us, maybe more - then you'll probably love it. If you've never seen it, well, still funny. But it may take you longer to warm up. As for me, I'll be spending the next few days singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

So in honor of the Pythons and their silliness, I give you the Thursday Three. Three things I love. Three for the bright side.

1. Breakfast at Waffle House. Seriously. If you've never been to Waffle House, go. Now. Find one. It is total breakfast theater. They speak their lingo. Cook the stuff right there in front of you. The waitresses are tough and call you doll and honey and sweetie. And you can get hashbrowns like ten thousand ways.

2.My crazy mug collection. I don't have one from Waffle House yet. But I should. But I do have one from House of 101 Omlettes in Sedona. Seriously. 101 choices. Clearly I'm hyperfocused on breakfast this morning. Probably because I'm planning not to eat any because we stopped for a hamburger after the play and even this morning's walk/jog didn't clear that baby out of my system.

3. Delightfully weird places like Garlic World in Gilroy, Ca. Or the Big Tree down in Rockport, Texas. Or anything of the ball of twine ouvre. Or yes, one of my favorites - Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Check it out! Try on a cheese head hat. Like I said, I'm a geek. If it's got a sign, I've gotta go.

Til next time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


So what does an author do while waiting to hear if her book is going to sell? Honestly, I have no idea what anyone else does. But as for me -

I've bargained with the powers that be. Checked my email so many times a day that I'm starting to get that same dirty, depressed feeling I get in Vegas when I pump 20 bucks into a slot machine and don't win a dime. Seriously. I am the world's worst gambler. But I digress.

I've stopped calling certain friends because I KNOW they will ask the question. You know. THE QUESTION. "Heard yet?" Or worse, something along the lines of "When's your book going to be out?" Because if they ask it, I get to mentally kick myself for ever mentioning it in the first place, which I didn't for the longest time and then did and well... you get the point.

And I'm wondering if this has all been the best way to start my spanking brand new blog. Could have talked about how I'm reading Daniel Pinkwater's The Education of Robert Nifkin and have absolutely fallen in love with Daniel Pinkwater. Why didn't anyone tell me about him?

Could have talked about the G8 summit. Or how really, really, really thin Amy Winehouse has gotten. Or Rob and Big's new mini horse. Or how I'm trying to find the cash to go to the SCBWI LA conference in August.

All for another time.
Until then...