Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Can Writing Be Therapy?

Check out my explorations of this question in today's vlog.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Hey all, so I'm starting to vlog now!! I'm working out the kinks as I go (aka, next time there will be a stable surface to set the laptop webcam on, and more light) but here's my first real vlog, talking about my first impressions of Minneapolis, getting lot A LOT, and how people look funny when they jog ;-)

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Having it All" - Wisdom From WHITE COLLAR

So, TV screenwriters, sometimes you can just hit the nail on the f'ing head. For example, from a recent episode of USA's White Collar, about a white collar thief, Neil Caffrey, who avoids (more) jail time by working for the FBI. Anyway, check out the wildly perfect convo from this week about what "having it all" means. I agree, Caffrey, that IS pretty much the dream:

Jones (FBI agent): Well, because choices are sacrifices. And, inevitably, that means giving up something that you want for something that you want more. So, now I have to ask... What does "having it all" mean to Neal Caffrey?
Neil Caffrey: Never having to worry about money. Doing something that's meaningful, being surrounded by people I care about and respect, you know. That's pretty much the dream.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rejection's A Bitch

The process of becoming a writer is often like becoming a Professional Rejectee. It’s a good life skill to have, and even though I’m actually experiencing awesome successful things in my writing career (after YEARS of the rejections!!!), rejection in other forms still abounds, socially and manifold other ways. There's the quiet kind of rejection – where people just don’t notice you at all and you want to shout: “I’m interesting and awesome, I swear!” Moving to a new city where no one knows you is rife with this kind of (perceived) rejection. Then there’s also the loud kind – the blunt NO. My method in general for life the past few years has been to barrel forward, face-plant into a wall of rejection, be knocked to the ground in a kind of bewildered shock (cause you gotta think there’s a chance of being successful if you’re gonna keep that kind of full-speed forward motion going), slowly and dazedly pick myself back up onto my feet, and start going forward again. I can’t decide if this is because I’m a glutton for punishment or if this is just the necessary formula to actually accomplish anything in life.

Sometimes I have such confidence in myself—that I can tackle and be successful at almost anything reasonable I set my mind too. Then there are other times when every little slight or even barest criticism seems to cut to the bone, and you cuddle up in your blankets feeling like a giant uninteresting blob of failure. You wonder how you ever felt extraordinary. Then, if you’re me, you re-dye your hair blue, drink some wine straight from the bottle, and go to sleep. And when you wake up the next morning, things always seem to be better and brighter. One foot in front of the other til you start gathering momentum again ;)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest Post Up at The League!!

Check out my guest post: Is This a Kissing Book? at The League of Extraordinary Writers today, in which I discuss (you guessed it!) kissing, action, Twilight, and why I like it when authors show dialogue :D

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stranger To Myself

I wake up at 8am each morning. I just got back from a half hour walk. Like, you know, for exercise. I've been making my bed every day. I ate vegetables for lunch today.

It's official. A stranger has invaded my life or I've been body-snatched!!!

Well, that, or I just moved to a new city and am at this very straaaaaaaaange transition period in my life! And I've finally found a medicine that, for the first time in A DECADE, helps my CFS and allows me to exercise without it putting me in bed for a week. Soooooooo. That's weird. I push my body with exercise... and it doesn't push back. I only need 8 hours of sleep at night instead of 10-12. I was always the kinda girl who woke up at noon.

I'm just so awake and have energy and keep active most of the day. Part of my freaking identity has been inevitably composed in large part by my illness and its limitations. I can't really tell if I'm happy or sad. All my rubrics for understanding the world and my happy-o-meters have been thrown out the window. Dragos and Joseph are still in Romania. I don't know a person in this city, other than online friends, who I'm slowly trying to meet IRL ;)

But I AM being productive. I do feel a bubbling creativity that's pouring into my writing. I go to the corner cafe and read some of my "deep thinking" books each morning. Then I write/edit for a few hours. In three days I've gotten through half my edits.

I come home, rest a little. Maybe go to the store to get more to set up the apartment. Read more. Eat vegetables with rice. At sunset, go for a long walk along the river, the sun shining through the giant leafy trees along the Mississippi. The trees make a canopy over the walkway. It's all so freaking green. There was a cool breeze blowing through my hair as I walked!!!! I just left 105 degree Texas last week, so yeah! the weather here just adds to my bizarre feelings, a little alienation, a little adventure, a lot STRANGE. Albert Camus talks about the Absurd as "an actor without his setting." Yes, I feel like that--like the stage crew stole off with my setting when I wasn't looking!! I'm trying to construct a new one, toss a little structure together in this chaos. Hence the bed-making and routine-creating, I think :) 

I have no idea who I'll be on the other end of this when I'm able to articulate an identity in words again. But I'm optimistic about good things--both good things coming, and good things now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All Alone in the Big City!

I've been here in Minneapolis a total of 5 days, maybe 6? I've lost track, but it's definitely been one of those weeks that feels longer than normal weeks do. I went and got lost in the city trying to find a bookstore today--always the best reason to get lost :-)  I broke out my street map and found myself again, eventually found the bookstore too. I've been here 5 days or whatever, and I've been to three bookstores and one library. Shocker, I know ;)

Then I went for a walk this evening. Did you know the Mississippi river runs right through Minneapolis? I didn't, before I got here last week. And our apartment is seriously two  blocks from the river. I went out walking on a path along a high up bank. So much greenery! Giant old trees, and the sun was setting through the branches as I walked. Then a nut from a tree fell and landed on my head and I just laughed and laughed. Absurd world we live in! *yes I know I probably looked like a lunatic, laughing my ass off and rubbing my head as I walked down the sidewalk*

It's so bizarre not to know a single person around me. Dragos and Joseph are still in Romania for another week and a half, and it's seriously whacky being so on my lonesome. Not sad really, just STRANGE! At my old coffeeshop where I went for years and wrote my book (and the three starter-books before), everyone knew my name and I knew theirs. I had in-jokes with the baristas. We hung out sometimes outside of the coffeeshop.

Here, I've been frequenting the same cafe every day this week, but I'm not feeling up to being gregarious and trying to introduce myself. This is the first time I've moved to a new place without some mechanism in place to get to know people, like school or a church or a job. I don't know how grown-ups get to know each other and make friends without these things. Guess I'll learn and start coming up with some inventive ways!

In other news, I am being wicked productive on line edits. After two days, I'm 65 pgs through the 300 pg draft, and I gotta say, I'm SO EXCITED about what's happening with this edit round. I may not be the most objective observer, but I feel like MAGIC is going down with this draft! I read the notes from my editor or see how she tweaked a line, and I swear it's like SHE INVADED MY BRAIN and plucked out exactly what I meant but hadn't expressed well! So yeah, every edit round I get more excited about how having a great editor can really shape up a book into something excellent and exciting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How I Want To Live: With Passion & Compassion

Every new day brings so many new experiences since I've moved. I swear I haven't felt this kind of unbridled newness and adventurousness to life in years, maybe since I was a teenager. It's like, after a certain amount of time as you get older, you just stop expecting things to change. You settle into a routine. Even decorating my new apartment feels liberating--not just decorating with the old things you've always had, maybe they didn't match or weren't quite YOU, but they were there, so you just keep moving them around.

But we sold or gave away all our old ugly furniture when we moved. I've been buying little bits here and there everyday. A nightstand, a table, a bookshelf. I bought a rug today that is the kind of rug I always wanted to have--lime green and a little funky. I'm obviously invested in making the outside of my body reflect my inner personality :) but this is new to me--having my living space as a conscious form of expression as well.

And I've been reading, reading, reading. A mixture of awesome YA books and then other books that help me, well, learn about the world and how to live in it. Mainly Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, and Natalie Goldberg. Today I bought Camus' Myth of Sisyphus and started reading through some of it. I find a lot of overlap and interconnection with these writers. Watts talking about the problem of alienation and personal identity, Campbell discussing the "art of living," Goldberg with her delicious view of the world and our fabulously chaotic 'wild minds', and now Camus talking about the question of whether life is meaningless or not, and what the role of artists might be in this world. Certainly part of me seeing all the interconnectedness and relationship of ideas between these authors is my intuitive self making meaningful connections. But still, so many people and writers and authors are all asking the same questions: does our existence have meaning? how do we create meaning? what is life about? how do we live in a dynamic and fully participatory way in this world?

On the road trip with my brother, we spent a lot of time talking about stuff like this. I was able to distill my hopes for my life in a way that I think encapsulates it clearly: I want to live passionately and compassionately. I want to be passionately excited about what I do each day, and I want to love and care for others.

Here's a little of Campbell to whet and delight your appetite:

You really don't have a sacred space, a rescue land, until you find somewhere to be that's not a wasteland, some of field of action where there is a spring of ambrosia--a joy that comes from inside, not something external that puts joy into you--a place that lets you experience your own will and your own intention and your own wish [...] Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a continuous and increasing joy.

What you have to do,
you do with play.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Week of Whack

This week I moved from Texas to Minnesota, from a smallish college town to right smack in the middle of the city, and oh yeah, I had some health problems hit the day before I left that made everything more... interesting. My brother helped me roadtrip up from Texas, he left yesterday, and today was the first day of being alone in a new city. By myself. It's both stressful and so amazing I can't put it into words.
I do believe this place will become my new haunt: Seward Cafe, part of what appears to be a large community co-op. There's this amazing grocery store too that's part of the co-op. Super cool, lots of hipsters inside with great hair and tattoos, chilled out atmosphere, they discourage cell-phone use and there's no wifi. Sometimes it's nice to go analog, old school, and watch the squirrels and birds in the garden out back, read a book and write in your journal instead of on the computer. And the food: to frickin' die for. I had an omelet this morning that seriously made me want to lick the friggin' plate!!!!

It's a place that will be ideal for writing I think. No distractions. Lots of peace and quiet. Greenery. I caught some peace there this morning, sitting quietly for a few hours, drinking bottomless coffee from those fabulous thick diner cups. Catching back up with myself that had been all whack during the moving week.

Muscles I didn't know I had are sore from moving stuff around in the apartment. I'm setting up this great nook in my apartment, lazy-boy chair right by the window with this gorgeous view from my 13th floor. I look around this still pretty empty room and think: "huh, when I say home now, I mean this place. this strange place in the middle of a city. this place that feels like I'm just visiting will become home."

The world is whacky. Here's to embracing my new corner in it.

View from my bedroom window, crapo quality b/c I don't have a camera right now, just my web-cam camera! and my crazy-ball hair framing on the right side :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Taking Leave

I left Austin (moving to Minneapolis!) this morning to a beautiful sunrise and the Once soundtrack. Perfect combo of hopeful morning light and super emotive music :-)

Roadtripping w/ my eldest brother = fun times. A really good break from stress and craziness. We're in Kansas. The air is already cooler from sweltering Texas temperatures. We took a walk tonight after we got to the hotel and there was a veritable COOL BREEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shocking, I know!! Strange world, transition spaces, but I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose REVIEW

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

This book is so beautiful. It’s the kind of book I would have loved when I was a tween (is that the term now? I’m so old, lol)—it’s got an intensity and seriousness to it, but it’s still so accessible. I’ve never read a novel in verse before and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. I wondered if it would slow down my reading. Instead though, I think it made it swifter, while at the same time, some of the line breaks would add punch to thoughts, descriptions, or emotions.

This story is intense, un-put-down-able. This book enters loneliness and darkness and hope in ways that are just almost heart-stopping. Though set in the past, it’s one of those books that feel universal, that grabs you with its raw language, stark images, and-- even though it’s set in the middle of nowhere--it still has incredible momentum and tension.

May B. debuts January 2012 (Schwartz and Wade/Random House Children's Books). My thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this ARC.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What I've been doing insead of blogging: Painting! & Vlog auditioning!

So I got the painting bug again, and here's a painting that's been rumbling around my head and I finally got to get onto canvas! And yep, it is tied to my A Dark, Dark Forest post from last month.

Finished painting:

 And a close up:

And vlog auditioning for the YA REBELS open spots. Wanna see me In Real Life? Check out my vid response and all the other great auditions!!

Next painting (which I think will happen this week), I'll combine painting and vlogging, and show you fabulous people the (sometimes ugly!) process of a painting, as least as my amateurish self does it :D

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer: Review & GIVEAWAY!

I’ve always had a special love for Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade. I tracked down an ARC of it last summer because it looked so delicious, and after I’d finished it (and been super impressed by it), I checked out Cremer’s website and noted her agent, Charlie Olsen of Inkwell Management. I was querying my own novel at the time. I’d heard of Inkwell, but not of Charlie in particular, but I thought, damn, if he repped Nightshade, this is a dude I’d have similar interests to. Sent him a query and it’s all history from there, and now he’s my agent too! [side shout-out: all the love to Agent Charlie ;) ]
And now to Cremer's sequel, Wolfsbane, which I bought the day it went on sale and devoured the next. There are some moments of serious honesty going on in this book. Several points in reading, I was just shocked thinking: damn, sh%# just got REAL!

One of the things I love about this series is the way it so powerfully demonstrates the way a particular group’s discourse can twist the supposed “facts” of history in order to hold power over others. Cremer previously showed Calla’s implicit belief in the history she was told, and it’s only in book 2 that everything is really blown to pieces and we find what really happened. And how the lies about the past so directly impact the future.

And Shay. God I loved Shay in this book. He’s just so real and roundly developed. He’s not the perfect guy. His insecurities and fears for Calla are very raw and on the surface. Both he and Calla are in these huge transition states with so much expected of both of them, so much Calla should never have had to shoulder at her young age—the way that choices you make at one point that seem the best can have unexpected difficult consequences. Is intent all that matters? Or does the actual outcome matter more? Should Calla have seen what would come to those she left behind, or was it impossible for her to because she never knew the truth about the Keepers? So many complex and difficult questions, and Cremer never takes the easy way out in answering them. If there’s an awkward or combustible conversation to be had, we get to see it on these pages!

This book is just an example of how killer and awesome first person narration can be to just pierce right through you as a reader. We get to share Calla’s intimate thoughts about all her confusion, genuinely not knowing who she is, what she feels, or what’s right to do next.

One line I loved from the book: “Lies, blood, and bones. Had our lives been made of anything more?”

And for the GIVEAWAY of a copy of Wolfsbane:
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