Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Reason to Celebrate

I finished my draft late Sunday night.  And then I did this:

... although, admittedly without the splits or the shaming at the end.  I have no shame.  And then I went and stood in front of the TV and made my husband watch me dance.  It feels SO GOOD to be done!

Now, before I get the Grumps, I have a few things to tell you about:

First of all, I mentioned possibly being on a panel at Comikaze this weekend.  Unfortunately, that will not be happening this year, so I apologize if you were planning on swinging by to see me.  Barring something cropping up in the next few weeks, I believe I'm done with public appearances for the time being.  Stay tuned right here for updates.

Secondly, LitCrawl.  Last Wednesday, I joined a bunch of lovely writers to do "Book and a Movie" at the Republic of Pie in North Hollywood, CA as part of the inaugural LitCrawl NoHo.  The Los Angeles Review of Books sponsored our YA event, and it was fun! 

Right before we went on, the management pointed to the room full of 20-something art school students and other people-- not one of who was under the age of 18-- and said "this is a family establishment, so keep it clean" in a stern voice. Which lead some authors to literally say "bleep" during their readings, and had me explaining violence doesn't count in a movie if it's toward a zombie.

Aside from some technical difficulties (um, if you don't have sound, why are there microphones?) which were quickly cleared up*, we had a decent roomful of folks and some hilarious movie/book combos:

1.  Cecil Castellucci's First Day on Earth - Close Encounters of the Third Kind
2.  Gretchen McNeil's 3:59 - Donnie Darko
3.  Lauren Strasnick's Then You Were Gone - Skins (the BBC show)
4. Orleans - Doomsday (the world, not the story!)
5.  Sarah Skilton's Bruised - Haywire

A scene from the movie of choice was played, then the writer took the stage and read the scene evoked by the movie, and then the movie trailer played.  I confess I was hesitant at first, but also curious.  The first scene started to play and a woman sitting next to me asked "Why are we watching these clips?"  I said, "Hold on, it's a thing..." And it was a thing!  A fun thing that totally worked out and made people clap.  It also made them want to see Doomsday, which I can't really recommend as a "good" movie but hey, I watched it, so why shouldn't everybody?  And I've been meaning to see Haywire.  Now I can imbue that decision with literary purpose!

Thanks to the fabulous Cecil Castellucci for making me show Doomsday to the world!  Litcrawl is still getting it's legs under it (ha!) but it looks like it will be a fun annual event!

In a further attempt to stave off the Grumps, I went to the bookstore tonight and came home with a giant book on Victorian Households (did you know a widow was expected to wear mourning clothes for two years or more?), and The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhejll.  Looking forward to tea and text tonight!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reasons to Celebrate

Tonight, we celebrated the publication of the Hedgebrook Cookbook, a compendium of delicious recipes from Denise Barr and Julie Rosten, two of the magnificent chefs at the Hedgebrook retreat. (That's Denise laughing next to Julie in the upper right hand photo on the cover.)  A group of alumnae and friends of Hedgebrook both new and old gathered at a gorgeous home in Brentwood to eat from the cookbook, to talk about Hedgebrook and its mission of supporting women writers in bringing their voices to the world. 

We ate lavender shortbread and asparagus tart, drank Cedar Deep wine name for one of the hidden places in the woods above Hedgebrook's cottages and garden.  The amazing Mayda Del Valle performed some of her gorgeous poetry.  It was a wonderful night.

Yesterday, we celebrated For Women Only, a charitable organization helping homeless and at-risk women stand on their own two feet and succeed.  I was joined by Carol M. Tanzman (Circle of Silence), Jennifer Bosworth (Struck), Erin Fry (Losing It), Gretchen McNeil (3:59)and Kathy McCullough (Don't Expect Magic), signing books and talking to the most interesting people!  Many thanks to Penny Armstrong and the Manhattan Beach Barnes and Noble for organizing a fun Saturday afternoon for such a worthy cause . For Women Only's current initiative is to help young women from underserved communities finish high school and get on a path to college.  A portion of our sales went to support the organization, and it doesn't stop there.  Please visit their site and, if you are in LA, turn out to support them.  FWO will be doing holiday gift wrap at several Barnes and Nobles around the LA area as part of their fundraising efforts.  As much as this weekend was about celebrating two amazing organizations, it was also about raising awareness.  Both Hedgebrook and  For Women Only need our help to keep their good works alive!

This weekend was about writing, books, and counting my blessings.  I know such amazing women!  It serves as a reminder to celebrate every day.  We have voices.  Let us use them well.
Hollyhocks in the Hedgebrook Garden this August!
Oh!  Don't forget to join me this Wednesday, October 23rd for LitCrawl in North Hollywood!  I'll be doing "A Book and A Movie" at the Republic of Pie on Magnolia from 6pm to 7pm with the fantastic Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts), Lauren Strasnick (Then You Were Gone), Gretchen McNeil and Sarah Skilton (Bruised).  Just one more reason to celebrate!

Lit Crawl LA: NoHo

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Saturday Last and Next

Last Saturday's Teen Book Fest at the Central Library in Los Angeles was phenomenal.  I started the morning out chatting with Cornelia Funke in the green room (we had a green room!  And Cornelia Funke was in it!).  If you haven't visited her website yet, please click her name and do it now.  It's wonderful, clever, interesting-- all a reflection of the woman herself.  From the green room it was on to my first panel, moderating a discussion on Historical Fiction with Patricia McCormick (SOLD, NEVER FALL DOWN) and Elizabeth Ross (BELLE EPOQUE).  What charming, intelligent ladies.  It felt like a day at a literary spa with girlfriends.  Patricia shared the fascinating true story behind the her novel, while Elizabeth delighted us with images of 19th century France and the birth-of-the-Eiffel-Tower-as-metaphor (trust me, it works). 

After our well attended (thank you everyone!) panel, I sat in the audience for the Middle Grade Book Panel, featuring Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson (The OH MY GODMOTHER series), Kristen Kittscher (THE WIG IN THE WINDOW), Jenn Reese (ABOVE WORLD), Ned Vizzini (HOUSE OF SECRETS) and Cecil Castellucci (LAST DAY ON EARTH).  This panel
made me want to write for middle grade.  I'm drawn to YA because I think those are the books that shape the adult you become, but the panelists all seemed to agree Middle Grade readers are at an age when magic is still possible and self-confidence has yet to be shaken.  That would explain SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS and how a bunch of kids can just sail off and live on a island for days on end without their parents calling the cops or anybody crying for no good reason.  I dig that! (And thus date myself beyond even my extensive years!)

The afternoon found me on the Other Worlds Panel, with Cecil Castellucci , Tom Leveen (SICK), Gretchen McNeil (3:59), Mary E. Pearson (THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX), and Marlene Perez (DEAD IS JUST A DREAM).  It was like a mini-reunion of writers I've met this past year.  We had a blast talking about our books and the challenges of world-building.  All in all, the day was a success.  We're hoping it becomes a regular event, so please do keep checking back here and I'll let you know if we can do a repeat next year!

So, that was last Saturday.  NEXT Saturday you can find me at the Barnes and Noble in Manhattan Beach, CA from noon to 4pm for the- Inspiring Authors for Teen Girls Author Fair.  This event is a fundraiser in support of For Women Only whose education program, “Passport to Life: A College Bound Project” is an Education Program helps prepare young women aged18—24 to pursue their academic goals.  Come on down and say hello!

Monday, October 7, 2013


Okay, so movie reviews aren't my usual thing.  Well, don't worry, this is not a movie review.  I'll go ahead and say SPOILER ALERT, which isn't really needed.  I don't give anything away, but if you want to see the movie without any inkling of what it's about (other than what I just gave away in the poster) then cease reading here and come back later.  For the most part, this is a genre discussion. 

Alfonso Cuaron's new movie GRAVITY came out this weekend.  I just saw it and I confess, as much as I love Cuaron (CHILDREN OF MEN, come on!), I was reluctant to see this one.  I take issue with Man versus Nature stories.  Ever since being forced to read "To Build a Fire" in grade school, I've shivered at the thought of the futility of man in the face of the great big insert-here (world, universe, everything).

So, a movie about two astronauts trying to survive in the vaccum of space?  Kind of awful.  I just think of Jack London's protagonist and those damned matches.  And then I think of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" and those damned matches and it makes me want to stay home forever in footie pajamas by a warm fire with a cup of cocoa.

The thing is, Man versus Nature is such a stripped down format, but it's so darned effective.  It's just Man (or Woman or Child) with nothing more than the clothes on their back-- if they're lucky-- and maybe one or two not-so-impressive tools.  And then there's Nature, red in tooth and claw, with all of her glory suddenly gone not-so-glorious for said Man/Woman/Child.  What more do you need?  These stories are about tension, hope and hopelessness, and digging deep for the will to live.

It gives me a stomach ache.

So, SPOILER ALERT (again, not really, unless, etc.)

What's impressive about GRAVITY is the way the ante, which is already literally sky high, gets upped, and upped along the way.  "The Little Match Girl" and "To Build a Fire" are short stories.  They both have one villain, manifested in one simple way-- the cold gets colder.  In GRAVITY, there's more than one way to die.

So, I'm sitting in the theater with my stomach clenched and my feet flexing at the ankles, like I'm trying to pump the brakes from the passenger seat and I come out of the theater more stonyfaced than entertained (appreciative of the effects, the camera choices, my belief in Cuaron as one of the most talented, thoughtful directors of our time, yes) and it occurs to me:  I wrote ORLEANS.  And I've been told that its given some readers the same tension tummy.  And yes, it is in some respects a Man versus Nature story in which there are many ways to die.

What was I thinking?  So, this is my apology for making any of you guys feel oogie while reading ORLEANS.  Hopefully it will stay with you, the way Andersen's and London's stories did with me.  It's funny how what you read as a child influences what you write as an adult.  It's also interesting to create something I considered "fun!" (ORLEANS, to me, is dark, difficult, but a romp with a badass heroine aka "fun!") from a place of childhood fear.

Maybe I should write something set in space?  Truly, just the thought makes me cold.  Which probably means it's worth looking into.

Hey, don't forget, I'm at the Teen Book Fest on Saturday, 10/12/13 at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.  Come on by and say hello!