Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Curious

This came up the comments section of an earlier post, and it got me thinking about rereading books.

I've reread almost every book I own (all of my fiction books that I bought before two years ago, I've reread at least once.) I LOVE rereading books. In fact, most of the time, I like them better the second time because I all ready know what's going to happen, so I can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Plus, school kind of ruined me. I have a degree in English lit, so I had to read a ton in college. I remember one semester I had to read 47 books. So I learned to speed read. And I can not get out of the habit. I speed read everything I read. So if you quiz me on a book (or even ask me about it a few months later) I've forgotten most of the details--I remember the big picture, but that's it. So rereading is fun for me to revisit stories that I blew through the first time around.

Do you reread your books? Just your favorites? None at all?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Spark That Got Me Writing



I've always known that I wanted to be a writer. At a really young age, I remember bringing a list to my parents and announcing that I waned to:

a) Act
b) Sing
c) Write

Acting--It didn't take me too long to realize that I was too shy to act in front of people (exhibit A: the disastrous school play try-outs of sophomore year. I wish I could wipe those memories from my brain)

Singing--I do well enough to sing my kinds a goodnight song and sing along with the hymns at church (you know, blended with about 150 other people) but I realized--also in high school--when a friend wanted me to sing with him, that I was way too shy to sing in front of people. (And I won't tell you about the time someone was covering their ear when singing next to me. I tried not to be offended...)

That left writing--which was my favorite one on the list anyway. I used to make my sister write stories with me instead of play. We were endlessly starting clubs together, and part of those clubs was that we'd have to write stories back and forth with each other. She never complained (maybe because I'm the oldest) and she always read everything I wrote (still does).

But there were three experiences that made me realize that I COULD be a writer.

1) Sophomore year of high school. We had a group project in history/English (combined class) where we could present our information any way we wanted. My group decided to write a soap opera and act it out (I know, acting. I had a bit part.) It was hilarious. We had the class bending over and almost crying because they were laughing so hard. It was awesome to help write something so entertaining.

2) Junior year of high school. We had to write an epigraph paper--so basically we had to find a quote that we loved and write a personal essay about that quote. I chose a quote from James M. Barrie: "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." The I wrote about a time a group of us spent an evening with a friend's lonely grandpa, listening to his stories, drinking root beer, and having a great time. My teacher cried when she read it. I'd never had anyone cry when reading something I'd written. It really made me feel special.

3) Senior year of high school. We had to write personal essays again. It was a nice break after all of our lit crit essays we wrote to practice for the AP English test. I wrote an essay about a bike race between my sister and I that ended in disaster. I got it back and it had an A+  Great job!! and then he read it to the class. It was powerful having other people read and listen to something I wrote.

There are a lot of other experiences that continued to fan my writing flame into college and beyond and give me confidence that I could be a writer, but the KEY experiences all happened in high school--all three in my English classes. English teachers do have the power to help their students achieve their dreams. Mine will probably never know what an impact just a few words in an entire year of lectures and reading and discussing meant to me. I'm glad I'm a writer (and not a singer or an actor.)


Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Just Too Close

I have son with Down Syndrome and because of that, people are often recommending books where characters have children with DS as a major plot point. There are several, but the two that are most well known is Jewel and The Memory Keepers Daughter. And I've read the synopses (I actually had Jewel for over a year) but I just can't bring myself to read them.

The reason? It's just too close to what I'm living right now.

I've read several non-fiction books on DS (those are a necessity), but I have a hard time with the fiction.

I don't know if I'm worried that they'll bring up something that I'm not worried about right now, but will be after reading the book. Or if it will just break my heart because no matter what I'll identify the DS character with my son. In real life my heart already breaks a little at a time every time I have to take him to the doctors for more tests and poking and proding, to the hospital for surgery, after surgery, after no-end-in-sight surgery, or when I hear kids whisper about why he's acting "funny." But I love him like crazy, so we do these things with a big, huge (kind of strained) smile so that he's not scared. I guess when we're done with it in real life, I don't want to read about it, too.

Not that it's all hard. There's the good stuff, too. The hugs and the smiles and the times he accomplishes things we've been working on for forever, and his laugh is the best laugh in the world--but I don't need to read about it. I can just go hug my son and tickle him and hear him laugh right then. That's so much better to me.

Is there any subject that is just hard for you to read about?

(And my sparkfest post is coming tomorrow...)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

See anything missing?


Look at the bears closely. Now do you see it?



The eyes.

I crocheted this afghan for my four year old—just finished it about a month ago, actually. It took me a year and a half to finish. Well, almost finish.

The eyes are a pain. They are supposed to be French knots, so I had a friend come and teach me how to tie French knots. I did an experimental bear, and 2/3 of my children had pulled the eyes out in less than five minutes.

Buttons: My kids would choke. The odds just swing that way for us.
Yarn Xs: The bears looked dead. It was totally morbid.
Yarn circles: a huge pain—they looked more like squares and were funky.
Felt circles: Not sure how I’d attach them so they don’t fall off.

I don’t have a ton of motivation to figure it out. My son doesn’t care. He loves it without the eyes. He’s been waiting 18 months for this blanket. He’s just excited to have it. So in my book, it’s done. He’s happy. I’m happy-ish. Moving on to the next blanket (a lion blanket) for my six-year-old.

I am not this blasé in all areas of my life. Maybe I’m just sick of this afghan or maybe my son’s excitement outweighed any OCD perfectionism tendencies that I might have had about it. I know with my writing, I always try to curb my tendency to lean toward perfectionism. I don’t want to perfectionize the voice right out of my writing. I go through and want to make sure all of my scenes have their “eyes” in place, but sometimes it’s the lack of eyes that makes something interesting.

And sometimes we just tell ourselves that when we’re feeling lazy. J

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to life? To writing?

Friday, August 19, 2011

For the Love of Contemporary

A few weeks ago, my friend Jolene Perry told me about this really fun, super ambitious project that her and Kelley Vitollo were working on: A blog dedicated completely to contemporary YA fiction.

I love contemporary YA.

So when Jolene and Kelley asked me if I wanted to be a part of their new blog, I was seriously excited. Probably too excited. In fact, it’s amazing Kelley hasn’t blocked me from the group email based on the long, mostly irrelevant emails I’ve been sending (Jolene is used to these, so I’m sure it doesn’t faze her.)

But I guess they’re okay with my tendency to say a short story long, because Jolene, Kelley, Stephanie Campbell, Kelley York, and I have been cranking away, setting up a lot of really cool things:

Interviews and guest posts from Sarah Ockler, Tara Kelley and more
Giveaways (first one in September)
Contests
Fab indie book reviews
Reviews of any YA contemp we can get our hands on and just love
Lots of teen participation (reviews, stories, guest posts)
Our favorite literary crushes
Delving into social issues
And so much more!! This has been a seriously fun project to be involved with.

The official launch is September 1st and we are going to be giving away loads of YA books.

So come here, check it out, and become a follower.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Borrow or Buy?

I love going to the library.
I've already been there twice this week. It's close, cool, and comfortable (the three c's you need fo a small town AZ summer)

Here is why I love the library:
1) It's free.
2) The librarians are great and do a really fun reading time.
3) My kids can check out twenty books a week.
4) If I check something out that I hate, I can just take it back.
5) We have a pretty decent YA section/New Release section

I also love the bookstore.
I've somehow convinced my husband on our last two dates to "drop in" to the bookstore (meaning, stay there an hour or more.)
I can't go into a bookstore without buying at least one book for myself, and my kids, and my husband.

Here is why I love buying books:
1) I get to have that book forever to read and reread again.
2) I can loan it out to all of my friends.
3) I can mark it up if I feel so inclined.
4) When I have a hard time sleeping, I love looking at all the books in my bookcase (its against the wall next to our bed, together my husband and I have over 500 books)and for some reason it's comforting to me--don't ask me why.
5) I feel like I'm helping support authors I love.

So which do you prefer? Do you like to check most of your books out at the library or do you buy most of what you read? And why?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It Is Really, Really Hot

My air conditioner broke today and the guy can't come out until tomorrow.

It is hot in my house.

Really, really hot.

Like I'm blogging at 11pm because it's too hot to sleep, hot.

Like I'm emailing all of my writing friends at 11pm to see if they are awake also, hot. (Because, let's face it, writers keep really weird hours and are probably the only people I know who stay up really late on week nights.)

I really wanted to work on my wip tonight, but kept getting distracted. Emails from friends, two separate school functions, broken air conditioning units, phone calls from two different family members and a friend (a saint friend who made me dinner.)

And I'm at this really great place in my wip that I'm really excited to write and where all the fun stuff and kissing (yes, kissing) is about to happen, and I can not find time to sit at the computer and write (well, except this blog post...)

Do you ever have those days when you are dying to work on something, but just can't seem to make it to the computer?

Or can you just send cool thoughts my way to make up for the broken a/c?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dog lovers will hate me, but...

I really shouldn't even write this post. And the only reason why I am doing this is because the person who owns the dog I'm going to tell you about doesn't read this blog. I think she doesn't read it. If she does, then I am very, very sorry.

So my friend called and asked me if I could:

a) come over and let her dog out of the kennel (Jack Russel Terrier--there's a huge possibility I just made this kind of dog up, but I think that's what she said--and if that statement doesn't tell you how much I don't know about dogs, nothing will.)

b) Take the dog into the backyard so that it can do it's business

c) Put the dog back in the kennel.

Oh--and her dog will probably be really excited to see me.

So I asked her, "When the dog is done with it's business, do I just open the kennel door and it'll go back inside?" There was a long pause after I said this, while she probably (rightfully) second guessed asking me to help, and she told me that I'd have to pick the dog up and put it in the kennel.

Pick the dog up??? I kind of had an freak out moment on the inside, but I'd already said I'd do it, and I am a committer almost to a fault, so I told her it'd go great, and to go out of town, no worries.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon convincing myself that I was a dog person (despite my past of disliking/being deathly afraid of dogs.) My friend Kathy has a five year old chocolate lab that we go on walks with every day. I love that dog. Never mind that when I water her plants when she goes out of town, I have to pep talk myself into going into her house and always call out to the dog first thing so that she doesn't attack me (she's never attacked a person in her life, and she loves me, but I still get freaked). And my friend Dee has an adorable little Yorkie that I hold and even let lick in the air in front of my face (not quite there for face licking just in case she turns crazy and bites my lips off). So I am a dog person, in some select instances.

4pm rolled around and I loaded my kids in the car to drive them around the corner (it was too hot to walk) and I went into the house where the dog was going crazy jumping everywhere and yapping. I gave it the treat--which it rejected--and got it out and slapped the leash on it really quick.

I took it out front yard...but it would not go to the bathroom.

So I took it in the backyard...but it would not go to the bathroom.

I thought the leash might be killing it's mojo, so I took the leash off and went inside. But the dog followed me inside, darted past me, and ran through the front door that I had (stupidly) left open. So I was standing there with this stupid empty leash, kind of shocked, watching this dog that is like my friend's child, run away. And here's the thing--in case you hadn't noticed yet--I don't know the dog's name, I don't know the gender, and I'm kind of hazy of what kind of dog it is in the first place. So I didn't know what to call out to get the dog to come back.

I ran out front in a smidge of a panic, and started yelling, "Here, dog! Here, dog!" and patting my legs to get it to come. It came running and me full force, so I turned and ran back in the house, and it started jumping all over me and tasting my legs, and scratching me all up--and only people who are afraid of dogs can understand how much this kind of thing can freak a person out. So I pushed it into the backyard while I took a moment to get my panicked breathing back to normal.

At this point, I didn't even care if it went to the bathroom or not. I needed to get out of there. I was all alone with this dog, and I was getting frustrated, and kind of wanting to cry (because that's my emotion overload default response), so I opened the back door and the dog came running back in. I opened the kennel door and told it to get in, but it wouldn't.

And here's the other thing, I was afraid of raising my voice, because I worried that it would be like an invitation to attack, so I was talking to the dog like you'd talk to a six month old baby--all high pitched and happy and smiley, but I was saying, "Get in your crate you stupid dog. I kind of hate you right now. Get in before I scream." And it kept opening it's mouth all the way, showing me all it's teeth, and it kind of reminded me of my trip to Louisiana and all of the alligators. So I steeled my courage, grabbed the collar, and dragged it into the kennel.

And it escaped before I could shut the door.

So I had to grab it again (and now it thinks we're playing all rough or something and it trying to gnaw on my arm) and I drag it back to the kennel, slam the door shut, tell it goodbye (in my nice voice) and leave. My hands were shaking when I got to the car.

Does anyone else have delusions about their abilities sometimes?

This is a common theme in my life. Somehow I convince myself that I can do things--even when prior experience has told me that I can't. I guess I'm the hopeless optimist (I have to be to keep sending out query letters, but that is another story.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Overheard Conversation

I took my son to the doctor this afternoon and overheard this conversation between two women and I HAVE to share it. I have to idea what they were talking about my my imagination has kind of been going while all afternoon.

Woman #1: I just got back from the sauna retreat.
Woman #2: What did you think?
#1: It was really intense.
#2: Yeah, they are really intense, but very spiritual, too.
#1: I know what you mean, but intense.
#2: We had a retreat a few weeks ago and you'll never believe who (garbled name) invited.
#1: Who?
#2: Well you know we don't invite ANYONE in law enforcement, lawyers, judges, or anything like that.
#1: Or prostitutes. We don't invite prostitutes either. (by the way, my ears totally perked up at the word prostitute, and I didn't even pretend like I was reading my book anymore)
#2: Yeah, no prostitutes. Well, (garbled name) invited a parole officer!
#1: NO! What happened?
#2: Well, everything was fine the first day, but then the second day we did (her voice was too low for me to hear what they did, dang it!) and he started questioning things.

And then the doctor called her back! I was going "No!!!!!!" in my head because I needed to hear more about what kind of lives these women live.

But, no worries about me being bored. The other lady in the waiting room took the silence as an opportunity to tell me about how her husband just sold their house out from under her and forcing them to move to Oklahoma (they are moving next week), for no reason at all, because neither of them have jobs--totally venting to me! But we got called back before I could dive further into that.

I love doctor's office waiting rooms sometimes. We are in them a LOT (my oldest has a ton of health problems) and the things I've overheard.... Although, this sauna thing was the most intriguing conversation of all.

Have you ever overheard something juicy? Do these conversations ever make it into your books?