Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ain't Technology Grand

Since I’m spending the holidays in a Technological Void and haven’t been able to get onto this blog, Micol totally beat me to the post on FIRST KISS (THEN TELL). I’ve got a little memory play in the book called “Improvisation” and I so agree with her about the use of personal angst in my writing career.

Speaking of Technological Voids, can you guess what the hardest-to-find gift was this holiday season? Nope. Not the Wii. It’s a VCR. A plain old, simple VCR. Sure, there are plenty of VCR/DVD combos around, but what if your TV already has a DVD player built in? Why be redundant? It seems we no longer have a choice. The VCR has gone the way of Betamax. (And please do not ask me “What is Betamax?” I don’t think I could handle that right now.)

I had a chuckle a few weeks back when one of the kids on KID NATION (Yes, I watched every single episode. Your point?) thought a phonograph was a modern invention because it had a CD on it. Now, I do not blame the kid for this mistake. Recognizing a phonograph was simply outside of his life experience. Of course, this got me thinking of all the things I grew up with that kids born today probably won’t know. Heck, even things some of you reading this blog right now may not recognize, such as...

-Records. 8-Tracks. Cassettes. And probably CDs.
-A rotary phone. With a cord. And that buzzing sound when you leave it off the hook. (Oh, and the sweet mystery of not knowing who is on the other end of the line until you pick up the receiver.)
-The sound of a typewriter.
-Wham!
-The fine art of passing handwritten notes in class.
-A TV antenna.
-A TV Guide
-A TV ... well, depending on the fallout from the writers strike.
-Pong
-A Green Machine (It’s a kind of Big Wheel ... but green ... do they still make Big Wheels?).
-Roller skates – not blades.
-The Wonder Twins

I could go on, but I am WAY too young to feel so old.

Hope you all have a Happy 2008. Me? I’m going to stay right here, happily ensconced in 1987.

Peter Cameron had it right

...in that one way to make one's adolescent angst useful later in life is to repurpose it for inclusion in a short story collection AVAILABLE NOW FROM BLOOMSBURY!

Check it out:

First Kiss (Then Tell): A Collection of True Lip-Locked Moments.

25 teen authors recount the story of their first kiss. Mine's called "First Last Kiss." And I'm in some truly excellent company INCLUDING Ro Com authors PJ Ruditis and Niki Burnam.

Now, if only I were making royalties off of all of those painful memories....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Up All Night

As a family we have made it through Christmas and I am doing my best to keep up with my son in Guitar Hero. I'm looking forward to a very writerly new year. I have a book coming out around Valentine's Day (it's called Prama) and another one coming out next December - which ironically is set around Valentine's Day.

Back when I was in film school, we had a term called the "latent image blues" which referred to that sense of disappointment you felt when the film was sent to the lab for developing. During this period all you could do was wait and think about everything you wish you had done differently. That's how I feel about Prama right now. I hope it's good, but I've lost all perspective. All I can do is sit back and wait for it to come back from the lab. (or Publisher, rather.) At least it's done. The book coming out next December is fast coming due. The imposing deadline has created mucho anxiety. So, right now, I am suffering from both the latent image blues and the crush of an approaching deadline. Needless to say, I'm a lot of fun to hang with.

In fact a lot of writing is surrounded by negative feelings. Which makes one ask, "why do we do it?" For every writer the reason is different, but for me one came a week ago when talking to a high school girl who lives down the street and read my last book - Animal Attraction. She was reading it at night and got into it. She told me that she kept intending to put it down to finish another day, but didn't. Finally, she committed into staying up way past her bedtime to find out what happened and finished around two in the morning. She had no way of knowing that she perfectly described what I always hoped - that at least one girl would stay up way too late reading it. She made my day and my week. And now, it's is almost two in the morning and I am the one who is still awake. I'm working on the book. (Alright, now I'm procrastinating and writing a blog, but I'll get right back to it. Writing can be disappointing. It can produce way too much anxiety. But, most of all, it's a lot more fun than any of the alternatives.

The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren Finally Out!


It's official, friends! The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, my first YA novel, is officially official! That's right; you can see my pretty purple book for yourself at your local bookstore. So while you're out and about, returning the Chia Pet your Auntie gave you, keep an eye out.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Time Machine

You know, it's a funny thing about being a writer. Since your name is on your books, people you haven't seen in eons know exactly what you've been up to all these years, while you don't know a thing about them. Sometimes, that can be embarrassing, like when you get a note, or an e-mail, from someone you have absolutely no recollection of meeting. But other times it can bring back friends you haven't heard from and really are glad to reconnect with.

That happened to me the other day. I got a message on myspace from someone who had been my friend back in elementary school (how long ago was that? I'm not telling. But let's just say no one had a home computer back then, and you still had to go to the teller at the bank to get cash for the week! Oh and I had a cassette deck to play my music on!) Anyway, she moved away after sixth grade and I hadn't heard from her since. So it was kind of a shock when she wrote me now. But it was fun to hear from her, and get pleasantly nostalgic with someone who remembered being in All-Cherry Hill Choir with me (you didn't really have to sing that well,, Cherry Hill's kind of a small place) and remembered my parakeet. It was also very cool to find out she'd grown up really snart and become a doctor!

After I heard from my old friend, I pulled out some old scrapbooks and looked at the class pictures and birthday party collages I'd put together back then. And you know what? Despite all this talk about kids growing up too fast, or the times being different, we really didn't look all that different from the kids my children know now. (Except for the clothes and hairstyles, which are much better now!) In a way, everything changes over time, but nothing changes, too. (That either sounds cryptic or insane, depending on how you read it.) Which gives me hope that years from now people will still be reading our rocoms, and enjoying the make-believe universes we've created.

As for my friend, her daughter bought one of my "How I Survived Middle School: books and seemed to like it a lot. Which made me happy, since there are plenty of references to my Cherry Hill childhood in those books. So the connection was made in a lot of different ways.

I hope all of you can reconnect with old friends this holiday season.

Best wishes for a great year.

And let's hope '08 brings us all peace. It's time.

xxoo

Nancy

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I hereby resolve


December has a split personality. It's freezing cold in NYC, and all I want to do is snuggle in bed. Meanwhile, people are dashing off to cocktails parties right and left, being all extra social and stuff. Everything is winding down: my second semester at Vermont (!), my first semester teaching through Media Bistro, the final death rattles of my life as a single woman (yes, it's true, as of this month, I've got myself a permanent roommate. Good thing he's cute 'cause he's a snorer). But of course, we're thinking about the future: the holidays, some vacation if we're lucky, and the new year.

There's a reason the gym's so freaking crowded in January, right?

This past year I actually managed to get my butt back in shape--no easy feat, given my fledgling freelance career. So that's covered. But I should probably either give up giving up processed sugar, or quit whining about it. Anyway, in honor of my very favorite literary romantic comedienne (and yes, I'm aware that this pic is from the movie but THERE YOU HAVE IT), my hopes for '08, such as they are:

-unpack the overflowing suitcases of clothing spilling all over the floor in the "new" apartment; also, pay rent from last two months

-be better about opening important mail like rent bills and such

-stop expecting my father to do my taxes and learn to be a grown-up

-develop a better filing system than the Family Guy folder I've been using for two years now

-floss

-stop lying to my mom about the flossing I'm not doing

-spend less time thinking about going to the gym (note that I am *not* suggesting more time at the gym. Just *less* with the thinking)

-commit to changing out of the pajamas at least once a day during the week, even if only to put on a track suit and my fleece-lined clogs (yeah, you don't get a picture of that)

-maintain more emotional distance from stars of "reality" shows like The Hills. Stop wondering *why* MTV would have us believe that Lauren and Brody are actually dating!

-less procrastination, more full-on avoidance

-more sleep

-more quality time with friends and family (but with less resenting of my future sister-in-law for her naturally quick metabolism)

and, of course...more writing--and reading--of romantic comedies!

Happy holidays, all! I'm off to paint my nails by the silver tinsel Chanukkah bush downstairs.

Sisters


In case you couldn't tell from the title, my newest book, THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY, is about sisters. About two sisters, who, after moving to a new town, grow up and grow apart and fight and confess and get closer. It's a kind of dance that they perform, which is fitting, since they are dancers--aspiring ballerinas...just like my sister and me. I'm fairly obsessed with the topic of sisters--there's just so much drama and complexity and love and competition. Think of all the great sister stories that have been written: Jane Austen's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY; Jennifer Weiner's IN HER SHOES; heck, the SWEET VALLEY series. Our closest friends can be like sisters, certainly, but there's something about the sister bond -- about knowing someone all your life, about seeing yourself in another's face--that's wholly unique.
My older sister, to whom I dedicated the book, was the inspiration for the story. Like Michaela, my sister was the star pupil at our dance school and she was always the rational, tidy, levelheaded one, while I was the messy, hotheaded, dramatic one who was too busy daydreaming to get her pirouettes just right. We balanced each other well, like partners in a dance do. As my sister grew up, though, she began to change -- she stopped dancing ballet and started spending more time with her friends and a few boys (!) than she did with me. She started wearing lipstick, and cut her long, curly hair to her shoulders. We started looking less alike. We stopped whispering in our beds every night. It was difficult, wrenching at times, that feeling of being left behind. It took a long, bumpy time before I realized that I needed to grow up a little bit myself, that maybe the perils of the adult world -- boys and romance and make-up and secrets -- weren't all that perilous. My sister and I are still best friends - while I was writing this post, she interrupted me for an iChat, which made my night -- but we also have our own lives, our own paths and identities. Sure, I'm still nostalgic for those simple, carefree nights when we'd lie on our bedroom floor, painting each other's toe nails and making each other laugh so hard we cried. But we still have those moments, even if they're rarer now.
I'm curious. What are some of YOUR sister stories? Are you close with your sister? Are you two similar, or different? If you've read my book, how does your relationship with your sister compare to Katie and Michaela's?I look forward to hearing from you!
Happy holidays!
Aimee

I Heart December



I have a lot to be happy about right now.

1. For one, it's snowing like crazy--the picturesque kind of snowstorm you see on Christmas cards. I'm eager to take advantage of living close to 3 ski mountains and get my snowboard wet.


2. I'm finished with my Christmas shopping.


3. My family is healthy. And it looks like my oldest son got through his terrible tripping-on-ice incident without a single scar.


4. My parents and sister are coming to visit soon. I'm so excited to see them!


5. Dec. 21 is the one-year anniversary of the sale of my first novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN.


6. Dec. 26 is the Official Book Launch date for the aforementioned book. (That's 1 week from today!)


7. Dec. 29 is the Official Book Launch Party, hosted by my adorable, generous and supportive husband. A perfect excuse for eating yummy food, hanging out with friends and family, and buying something really fun to wear.


I hope your December is going as well as mine, friends! Wishing you and your family the happiest of holidays.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

News Oddities

Maybe it's a writer thing. Maybe it's just that I'm odd. But one of my little joys in life is reading offbeat news items. I always check the "Funny News" section on CNN.com, and the "Strange News" section of the CBS site, for instance. Where else can you learn about Tweety, Mickey, Donald, and Daisy being compelled to testify at a trial in France? Or check out the guy who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for getting hit by a car?



Some of my faves, though, are about stupid lawbreakers. Like the guy who stole an airplane to impress his girlfriend. Or the couple in Fort Collins, Colorado (where I went to college, at Colorado State), who are threatening to sue the police for killing their pot plants. Poor, poor people. (Snarf.)

What about you? What stories get your attention? What's the most amusing/offbeat/bizarre story you've heard lately?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slightly Clueless New Kid on the Block

Hi everyone! I am so excited to be amongst such a great group of authors. I haven't read every book in the series, but I've read many, and have enjoyed all of them. Many firsts for me -- my first time blogging here, and I also just completed my first YA novel, Party Games. It doesn't come out until next summer. However, the way time is flying these days June seems dangerously close.
Bear with me here people, because for as long as I can remember I have been pretty clueless when it comes to anything computer, or basically anything high tech. Right about now Jennifer Echols probably wants to kick me out of the group. Thanks for all your patience in getting me started here, Jenn. If it's any consolation, I'm sure my high school computer teacher Mrs. Mullins and my website guy can commiserate with you. I am currently unaware if this blog is going to wind up on my website or the Simon Pulse blogspot. We'll soon find out...
Also, get used to my typos. One would think, after publishing four novels and a novella that everything I write is stain free. However, last night I received an alarming phone call from my brother, Chip, who was thrilled to inform me that I had misspelled my own address on the 75+ Christmas cards that I sent to all my family and friends. And I don't mean the return address label. I mean, we just moved and I wanted everyone I've ever known to have my current address. So I did the Christmas and "we've moved!" card combo. I put the address beneath our holiday greeting and family photo. Being a native San Diegan, I know that my home town for my entire life on earth is not spelled San Deigo. It was an honest mistake, and one that I should've picked up when I proofread it twice on Shutterfly. My brother called me three times today to ask if I knew how to spell how my husband's name, my daughter's name, and to basically torture me with embarrassment. Some things never change with little brothers.
Looking forward to many more blogs and to lots of great reading!
xo,
Whitney

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Don't take me seriously

In the October issue of Seventeen (p. 122), Tina Fey writes a hilarious letter to herself at age 17 (she is 37 now). It starts, "Dear Nerd," and ends, "PS: You might want to think about plucking your eyebrows. Just a little bit in the middle. And on the bottom. And the top."

Because Tina and I are the same age, and because great minds think alike, I too wish I could go back to 1987 and hand myself the tweezers already.

In our defense, Brooke Shields and her woolly-caterpillar-above-the-eyes aesthetic were all the rage back then. And in my own defense, one of my all-time favorite books was The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger.

Paula Danziger is the mother of modern teen romantic comedy (or at least the mother of mine). She meant her books to be funny. I doubt she meant them as dire warnings about cosmetology. Nevertheless, that's how I took The Pistachio Prescription. The heroine has a mishap while shaving her legs for the first time, and another while plucking her eyebrows.

Thus I was deathly afraid of taking these plunges myself. I probably didn't pluck my eyebrows at all until I was 25. My friend Catherine convinced me to shave my legs when we were teenagers after she did it first and did not die. But my mother suggested I only shave them up to my knees since my hair was blond and practically invisible anyway.

This worked fine until I got made fun of by the class clown on a field trip. Being made fun of is bad. Being made fun of by a boy is worse. Being made fun of by a really funny boy is downright depressing, and when he notices your unshaved thighs on the way to the field trip while you are stuck on a school bus with him and forty of your classmates for the rest of the day, you can imagine how angry you are at your mother by the time you get home. Mothers do not always know best. Mine also makes her lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

I get the sweetest notes from readers telling me they enjoy my books and have read them ten times. This is the best compliment anyone could give me, because it means somebody feels about my work the way I feel about Paula Danziger's. But it also makes me wonder if anyone is taking the fictional episodes in my books as realistic omens. I'm sure not all trombone players are obnoxious like the ones in Major Crush. I have never met one who isn't, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. And please don't be afraid to wakeboard just because Lori has an accident in The Boys Next Door! This scene is based on my brother's water-skiing accident, but for heaven's sake, you're not my brother.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I heart Frances Bradburn

Who, may you ask, is Frances Bradburn?
Well, she is not someone I've ever met, or even spoken to--not directly anyway.
Frances Bradburn is the person who reviewed my new novel, THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY, for Booklist, and she really, truly GOT my book, and fully understood and appreciated what I was trying to say about sisters and relationships and change. It's so rare when that happens, so it made me smile.
Here is the wonderful, kind, thoughtful review:
_________________________
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof..:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Issue: December 1, 2007
The Year My Sister Got Lucky.
..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Friedman, Aimee (Author)
Jan 2008. 415 p. Scholastic/Point, hardcover, $16.99. (0439922275).
Katie and Michaela, the "famous" Wilder sisters of the New York City Anna Pavola School of Ballet, are city girls, born and bred, until their parents uproot them and move to Fir Lake, a rural Adirondack town.Michaela thrives even without ballet, while Katie mourns her friends, her fashionable wardrobe, her dance community, and her old way of life. Through her complex characters and their responses to the world,Friedman has transformed the traditional YA novel about moving and growing up and away into an authentic, real-life exploration of adaptation and acceptance. Even though Katie and Michaela are sisters,their responses and approaches to their new environment are diametrically opposed: Katie is closed and critical; Michaela is open and interested. And, as they mature in their new situation, their relationship also grows and changes, and Friedman getting the push and pull of the sister bond just right. A delightful,funny, insightful journey.
— Frances Bradburn

So thank you, Frances Bradburn, wherever you are.
Aimee

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Shopping: A Primer

I hope everyone had a Happy Black Friday. (Oh, and Thanksgiving, too.) I was up with my family and out the door by eight o’clock to get the early morning bargains on the first official shopping day of the holiday season. No waiting in line at four a.m. for us. We’re professional shoppers. We know how to find good deals without having to exchange dollars for sleep. (And don’t even mention “Cyber-Monday” to me. That’s for quitters who take the easy road. It’s not real shopping without the possibility of bloodshed. Yes. I am a full contact shopper.)

Now, as a professional shopper, I thought it might be helpful to share some advice with any of you shopping novices out there as we enter into the Official Holiday Shopping Season. I can only hope that my words will help you survive the mall experience ... particularly if you’re shopping in the same mall as me.

For those of you who are learning to drive or who having been tearing up the roads for years ... I know I’m in California where it’s warm, but I do holiday on the East Coast. I understand that it gets cold there. But just about every person circling the lot is hoping for that one lucky spot by the front door. If you’re in a crowded parking lot, you’re going to have a much easier time finding a spot if you aren’t afraid to walk a little. Seriously. It’s the holiday season. You know how much you ate over Thanksgiving. A little exercise can be a good thing.

And please don’t follow me at five miles an hour while I’m walking back to my parking spot. My car is actually on the next aisle over. I’m only walking down this aisle to annoy you when you see me cross between the cars and realize you’ve been wasting your time.

Once inside, remember that you are in a crowded shopping mall, not alone on a desert island ... or a dessert island, which would be the best holiday vacation spot ever! (But, I digest). If you see a shiny object in the store window, do not stop short to look at it. There are people behind you. There are people behind THEM. When you stop short, they stop short too. Except me. I will continue to walk at my brisk pace and KNOCK. YOU. DOWN.

Along those lines, I do realize that we all walk at different speeds. But be warned: I have long legs and I am on a mission. If you’re out for a leisurely stroll through the mall, please stay to the right. Or, if you must, stay to the left. But DO NOT meander down the center of the walkway while traffic backs up behind you. I repeat: I WILL knock you down. (Note: This is especially good advice for when you’re the one walking through the parking lot. Because out there, I’m behind you in a CAR.)

Say you’ve found that perfect gift and are stuck waiting in a really long line to purchase it. You finally get to the register. The cashier rings you up and bags your item. Now is not the time to go searching through your purse for your wallet or in your pockets for cash. It should not come as a surprise that the cashier is going to ask you to pay for the item that you waited in line to purchase. Do everyone else in line behind you a favor and have your wallet in hand when you reach the register. Oh, and GET OFF THE CELL PHONE!! This will make your transactions so much smoother.

And finally, bear in mind that NOBODY likes a screaming child ... especiallly not the child’s own parents. So give the poor moms and dads a break. They don’t want to listen to their kids screaming any more than you do. If you’re stuck in line next to a wailing child, instead of glaring at the parent, try making funny faces at the child. Maybe you’ll even get a giggle in return. Not every parent will appreciate your effort, but if it works, the people in line—and the store employees—certainly will.

Have a Happy Holiday Shopping Season!

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Being Interviewed LIVE today!

Hello everybody! I'm so excited to share that I will be interviewed live by Book Bites for Kids at 1:00 MST (3:00 Eastern Time) this afternoon (Monday, November 26). We'll be discussing my upcoming book release, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, which comes out in exactly 1 month!

To listen, just go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bookbitesforkids at that time. If you want to call in and ask a question or make a comment, here's the number: 1-646-716-9239. I know this is totally last minute and some of you actually have to work or will be in class, so you can always go to that web-site at a later time and listen to it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The First Page

Lately, some of the other Ro-Com writers have been blogging about that glorious moment when a manuscript is complete. (Although, the glory is usually tempered by the fact that it's in the middle of the night, you're exhausted and there's the very real chance you wrote the last five pages on auto-pilot and they really suck.) I had that about a month ago when I finished the manuscript for Prama - which will come out early next year but is not in the Ro-Com line. (although it is Simon Pulse.) Now, however, I'm at the other end of the experience. I have just started writing a new Ro-Com that will come out later in the year and I am at that all so awful and wonderful place - the first page.

Much has been written about the daunting nature of the blank page. But for me the problem with the first page isn't so much the blankness, it's my incessant need to rewrite it about a hundred times. (Oh, how I wish that was exaggeration.) But the truth is, a part of me thinks the first page is what makes a book sink or fly. Is there any feeling like picking up a book and reading that first page and being so quickly engaged that you can't put it down.

When I'm at that point, I like to pick up about twenty of my favorite books and read the first page of each. Just to get me in a mood. (My favorite is Carl Hiaasen.) Today, I got a nice treat in the mail. Sangeeta - our lovely editor at Simon Pulse - sent a package with a couple of the most recent Ro-Coms. I read the first pages and got excited about the upcoming weeks - months - whatever it takes to finish this book. I'll do my best to live up to their high standards.

I Feel Like Such a Turkey!

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. . .I do not cook. I call in, heat up in the microwave, or open a bag of salad. But I do not cook. In fact, when the kids were little, every time the doorbell rang, they would scream "Pizza's here!" (Now they shout Sushi's here, but that's another story.) So you can imagine my chagrine when my husband and I got assigned the turkey for his family's annual Thanksgiving dinner. We were not given a choice, which I think was both cruel and brave on his parents' part. Still, I got a recipe (hey, I passed chemistry, I just had to think of the ingredients like different chemicals, right?), called the turkey hot line to see how long to cook a 21 pound bird, and got to work.Five hours after putting the turkey in the oven, I pulled it out. It was golden brown. Gorgeous! I shlepped the bird to my sister-in-law's apartment, and proudly placed it on the table. But instead of oohs and aahs, my mother-in-law frowned and said, "You cooked it upside down!"

I didn't know you could do that. . .

Anyway, after I got over the desire to get out of there and never come back, I suggested they carve and taste the turkey before they criticized. And wonder of wonders, it was good. Really good in fact. And so ws the gravy. Cool, right? I cooked something and it was delicious!

I just hope this doesn't mean I have to do it again next year.

Happy Holiday Season!

Nancy

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Many thanks...


...to the lovely folks at B&N who've set up a gorgeous endcap in their Union Square teen section prominently featuring our romantic comedies--including my three babies.

And now, some serious holiday sleeping in must be done!

What I’ve been up to

November 3 was a busy day for me. In the morning I ran in my fourth 10-K race. I came in 1665th! Boo-yah! For real, I’m happy with that finish. I guess I haven’t progressed past the point that I’m thrilled to complete a 6.2-mile run without stopping, walking, or falling down. I celebrated my fantastic finish by registering for a half-marathon in February. I’ll let you know how THAT goes.

Then it was off to the annual Readers’ Luncheon hosted by my local writers’ group here in Birmingham, Southern Magic. Chicks travel from all over the Southeast for this gig. About 20 authors each have their own table, and the 120 or so guests sit with whatever author they’d like. So if they’re early and lucky, they sit here:


If they’re late and not so lucky, they sit here:



But we had an awesome time at my table. The chicks were very cool, and some were up-and-coming authors. They didn’t even stay mad very long when I accused them of eating my cake while I had my back turned. (I found it later.)

There were beautiful door prizes and raffle baskets full of books. There was barbecue. Did I mention cake? The keynote speaker was best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon. But for me, the highlight of the luncheon was welcome speaker Debra Webb. She said people always ask her what her writing day is like, so that was the focus of her speech. To get us in the mood, she wanted to show us what she wears when she writes. She promptly stripped out of her suit, revealing her PJ’s underneath. She wore her bedroom slippers through the rest of the luncheon and the book signing afterward.

Then, on November 8, I finished my novel in progress, No Parking. I now have two completed novels circulating with publishers, looking for a home. I need to start something new but I’m not sure what that will be. In the meantime I’m reading, cleaning my house, working at my "real" job as a freelance copyeditor for medical journals (check me out: I can spell fluorescein isothiocyanate without looking it up) and deciding whether to dye my hair red. What do you think?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts


Funniest Thanksgiving Menu Item: Pickled Eggs. They’re purple! My neighbor eats ‘em every year. He’s from Pennsylvania, so maybe that explains it.


Ugliest Thanksgiving Decoration: Anything with a turkey, especially anything you have to eat off of. Almost as ugly as fish platters.


Worst Thanksgiving Tradition: Watching football all day long. Especially if you actually hate the sport but watch just so you don’t get stuck doing dishes. (Disclaimer: I love football, but only when my favorite team is playing.)


Coolest Thanksgiving Tradition: An organized football game at the neighborhood park Thanksgiving morning.


My Vote for New Thanksgiving Tradition: Paper plates.


Best Kept Thanksgiving Secret: Costco pies. As good as the homemade varieties.


Most Revolting Thanksgiving Chore: Taking bag of giblets out of turkey butt or stuffing turkey butt. Really, anything that involves raw bird meat. And butts.


Coolest Thanksgiving Day Parade Float: The one with the huge, floating super hero or cartoon character.


Most Memorable Thanksgiving Moment: When my little boy thanked God for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Contrary to POPULAR opinion...


Here's what *doesn't* happen when you finish your manuscript:

-there's no marching band
-there usually aren't any flowers (though I am lucky enough to have some left over from another celebration earlier in the week)
-your friends with scary grown-up jobs can't suddenly drop their workloads and rush over to have an impromptu dance party in the middle of the afternoon
-the weekend doesn't magically present itself a full 24-hours earlier
-the weather doesn't clear up so that you can play with your dog in the park
-the rent bill doesn't vanish into thin air, along will other payments required
-your manicure doesn't randomly auto-refresh itself
-your first draft doesn't print and bind itself into a book

These are true facts. It's all a little bit anticlimactic. So you have to find ways to celebrate all for yourself (mine involve taking a "Gossip Girl" and popcorn break).

Yes, you heard right: my manuscript for the tentatively titled POPULAR VOTE (Scholastic, 11/08) is off, sailing through the ether, as we speak. And to think, only two months ago, it was just a sparkle in my editor's eye....

NOW can I take a nap, please?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Come see some great teen authors!

An exciting conference is being held in New York City this year. The NCTE, National Council of Teachers of English, and ALAN, its teen division, will be hosting publishers' booths at Jacob Javits Center, and holding tons of amazing panel discussions at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I'm not sure if any of the other Simon Pulse RoCom authors will be attending -- please comment on this post if you are!

Here is my schedule of events:

On Friday, 11/16, from 4-5, at the Scholastic Booth at Jacob Javits, I'll be signing copies of the sparkly short story collection, 21 PROMS, along with an all-star line-up of teen authors: Holly Black, Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, Daniel Ehrenhaft, David Levithan, E. Lockhart, Leslie Margolis, Sarah Mlynowski, Lisa Ann Sandell, Adrienne Maria Vrettos. The best part is, there will be balloons, punch, music, and perhaps you'll see some of us authors in our prom finery!

On Saturday, 11/17, from 3-4 p.m., I'll be signing at the Scholastic Booth at Jacob Javits, alongside...gulp...the great Brian Selznick! I am such a huge fan of his, AND he is the nicest guy...I know I will be very humbled in his presence.

Finally, on Tuesday, 11/20, I'll be giving a panel talk on graphic novels at the Marriott, at 11:30, along with Mark Siegel, editor-in-chief of First Second Books (the graphic novel imprint of Roaring Brook Press), and George O'Connor, an acclaimed artist.

I hope lots of people show up to support this great event promoting literature and literacy.

See you there!
Aimee

Monday, November 12, 2007

Same Song, Second Verse

My chipmunk magically disappeared. I know not where he went, but I celebrated mightily. I didn't find a body, so I assume it wasn't a cat, a car, or the dogs next door. Maybe he discovered that, hey, there's a HUGE FOREST nearby. Prime living! Low cost! No strange blonde lady trying to catch me in her little Hav-A-Hart trap to transport me to another county!

Sadly, though, within a week, the chipmunk was replaced by something even worse. VOLES and MOLES.

Yep, I have both. They've tunneled all the way around my house and are living like kings, eating the roots of my perennials and leaving long, tube-like mounds everywhere. They've gotten bold enough to sprint across the driveway right in front of my dog in the broad daylight. Oh, and they're having lots of little mole and vole babies.

So last week, I brought in the pros. No more attempts at humane trapping. (I know animal lovers everywhere are cringing. So am I. But better that than having them chew through the wiring to my air conditioner, therefore electrocuting themselves and frying my A/C at the same time...had a chipmunk do that two years ago.)

On the bright side...while the Vole Man is outside, I'm finally able to write! If you see the odd wildlife reference in my next book, you'll know why.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Don’t read this!

This morning after my son got out of the car at school, “Shake Your Booty” by K. C. and the Sunshine Band came on the radio. My first instinct was to turn it off quickly. When I was a kid, my mother didn’t allow me to listen to raunchy songs such as “Shake Your Booty.” And then I looked around the carpool line, remembered I can do whatever I want now, and CRANKED IT UP BABY (with the windows closed).

However, in general, as an adult I didn’t rush to experience everything that was forbidden when I was growing up. You will not find me watching back-to-back reruns of Three’s Company, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island while scarfing Double-Stuff Oreos and wearing a T-shirt from Fudpucker’s Restaurant that says “You ain’t been pucked till you’ve been Fudpucked,” which I brought back from a high school trip to Florida and mysteriously disappeared from the laundry. (Mom, if you're reading this, do NOT try to deny you took it. I've got your number.)

But people are different, and sometimes I wonder whether my son will turn his back on everything I’ve taught him when he leaves the nest. I can imagine walking into his dorm room to find him watching marathons of Future Weapons, Spongebob Squarepants, and Angelina Ballerina while stuffing his face with Fruit Roll-Ups.

How about you? Do you listen to the lessons of your elders or just nod your head and wait for 18?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Different Kind of Writing


Over the weekend, I attended Ken Levine and Dan O'Day's sitcom writing workshop in L.A. (my trip has been wonderful, so far, with Screenwriting Expo a full week of fun). If you've ever wondered what a writer's fantasy camp might look like, the Sitcom Room workshop is the weekend long no-holds barred TV version. I loved it, and I am determined to break in (after the WGA strike is over, of course). I won't go into the whole setup, because my sitcomroom bud Keri does it best in her blog. What I want to touch on are two things: writing as a team, and seeing actors perform your scene.

As a novelist, I'm accustomed to writing alone (for the most part -- pay no attention to the editor behind that curtain), seeing my writing neatly bound (with gorgeous covers I didn't design but always love) into a book that can sit on a shelf to be plucked up and read...silently....by others (hopefully many others).

Sitcom writing is different. We were given a scene (the actors performed it for us as it was initially written), some basic info, and then broken into groups and sent off to rewrite said scene. I'd been nervous how that would work -- would I speak up/be heard/be funny/be annoying/be banned from the room, etc? And, the big one -- could I give up control of the final output? The answer was yes, I could speak up/be heard/be funny/be annoying and give up control of the final output. Sadly, I was unable to get myself banned from the room. That probably would have taken a few more days.

The biggest thing I learned was that it can be fun to write in a group -- we pushed each other farther than any of us might have gone alone (although one or two of us had to be pulled back from the brink a few times, too). At well after midnight, when we turned our scene it, I think we all actually thought it was funny. But the true test would come when when the actors performed our version the next day, and we all knew it.

The performance of our scene was nothing short of magical. Seeing jokes we'd written, lines we'd whittled away at endlessly (actors, not surprisingly, hate to deliver long speeches), and some of the physical gags we'd put on the page was a little bit like sneaking into my own brain for a peek at what my writing/reading looks like free of words and paper. Most interesting were the times the actors made our lines sound even better than we thought they were -- and the times when they didn't perform the scene according to direction (surprisingly annoying, I must say, although it made it clear how important the non-dialogue part of the writing can be at times for helping actors 'get' the scene). I highly recommend the workshop to any writer with a free weekend and a little (okay a lot) of extra cash.

The nice thing is that there is no age limit for fantasy camp, our youngest participant was 18 and the rest of us spanned all ages up to and including ...me... There were several writers, a lawyer, a stand-up comic, a documentary writer and producer, a programmer...you name the profession, it was probably represented (well...no doctors or pole dancers that I know of). There was someone from Denmark (who spoke English so well he had the idiom down as far as I could tell) and someone from Germany who is already writing and filming fabulous German short comedy. In other words, the only common denominators were talent and interest. I think talent was optional, but given the scenes I saw acted out, there was a lot of it in the room.

I know my novel writing will benefit from this weekend, no matter what.

Speaking of novel writing -- anyone who is interested in a weekend novel writer's fantasy camp, I can set it up for you for free (much cheaper than sitcom room since there is no need for a writing room, other participants, or actors). Here's what you do: go to the quietest room in your house (or sit at the kitchen table) with a laptop (or pad of paper). Wear comfortable clothes (or nothing at all). Sit down (or recline). Write. Drink coffee/tea/Monster as needed. Write more. Love it. Hate it. Edit it. At the end of the weekend: take a shower, be careful about shielding your eyes when you walk into the bright daylight, wonder if anyone will like what you wrote, shrug, and decide you'll think about that in about 300 more pages.

Kelly

Calling all teens (and fans of YA!)

If you're in the NYC area, come by NYPL's Teen Central on Thursday at 4pm for a special Jewish Book Month panel featuring: myself, Judy Goldschmidt, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lisa Ann Sandell.

http://www.nypl.org/events/breventsdetail.cfm?EventID=59422.732988

Monday, November 05, 2007

Boys Don't Read (or do they?)

I just did a quick mental inventory through my writing career both in television and in print and I noticed something interesting about the protagonists. See if you can spot the trend when I list their names - Shelby, Jojo, Emily Elizabeth (yes, I did some time with the Clifford machine), Jane, Molly and Darby. They're all female. And that list doesn't include the book I did about the WNBA or the Sports Illustrated for Kids articles I wrote about Mia Hamm and Briana Scurry. In fact, the most male thing I can remember writing is the time I wrote a single episode of the Playhouse Disney show Stanley. (And, he wasn't particularly masculine. After all, he talked to his goldfish.)

When I worked with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, there was a sense that it was important to write girl characters. The idea was that boys will watch anything, but girls were much more likely to watch shows about girls. But, I wonder about the books. How many boys read for fun? (I practically have to beg my twelve year old son to read.) Are they're boys out there leafing through the Ro-Com series? I also wonder if girls would as interested in reading books with male protagonists.

Just curious.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween Rocks!


Here's me in my Halloween costume this year, right before going into the haunted house. Have you seen the new fangs you can get these days? They're so scary realistic!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween!


Me as a prom queen (and Noah as my redneck boyfriend). Blondes do have more fun!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Red Sky in Morning

I turned in the manuscript for the third book in my teen series, DRAMA!, this past Wednesday. For an idea of what the week leading up to that deadline was like for me, please check out Jenn’s brilliant post on the “Nine signs you’re about to finish writing a new novel.” It perfectly mirrors the days leading up to sending my own baby off to my editor ... minus the parts where Jenn refers to her husband.

There was also one other major difference with my life leading up to the deadline, which has a lot to do with the book I was turning in. You see, DRAMA! is set in and around Malibu, CA.

First, let me make it clear that I live in Burbank. The fires aren’t near my home. I have not been in jeopardy. I am perfectly fine. At various points over the past six days, however, I was able to see huge plumes of smoke to the North, East, and West of me, off in the distance. For much of the week, the world outside had a yellow tint to it. Today, not only was the sky gray, but the very air around me was gray as well. I shudder to think what is currently in my lungs.

My sister was in a more precarious situation in San Diego. Her home is relatively insulated by several neighborhoods, but the mandatory evacuations did come within a few miles of her place. When the electricity went out the other day, she decided that it was time to take a short out-of-town vacation. She’s fine. The house is fine. But still, kind of scary.

I am, in no way, trying to compare my situation with those who have been displaced, lost their homes, their possessions, their pets, and in a few cases, their loved ones. But I do want to share how I have experienced this tragedy from a truly unusual perspective.

My characters live, work, and play in the part of Malibu that was directly threatened by the fires. In the scramble to get my book done, I would take breaks to find out if the places I was writing about were still there.
-Pepperdine University? Evacuated, but safe.
-Eric’s fictional house (the only house in the entire series that I have placed in a specific location)? Fine. But a house on the same block is gone.
-The shopping center that now plays an integral part in Bryan’s life? Varying reports note that anywhere from three to five stores are destroyed.

My heart goes out to the real people who suffered genuine tragedy, but I find myself surprisingly moved on a personal level, as if I was living the fire through the eyes of my fictional characters. It’s not like I can compare this to the actual losses people have experienced, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel more touched by this particular fire than the many others in Southern California (well, except maybe the one in my sister’s neck of the woods).

Malibu is about an hour away from my house. I’m often there scouting locations for scenes, hanging out to get a feel for the place, and setting up camp at the local coffeehouse that I like so much I set a scene there in Book 2. (No. It’s not the coffeehouse that Britney Spears frequents, although I have been there too). For the past two years, Malibu has played a significant role in my life and has been almost a second home in my imagination.

The Malibu fire is now 100 percent contained. It may not have been as devastating as the other fires in Southern California, but it has taken a definite toll on the community. As I begin work on Book 4, I have to decide how (or if) I need to address the fire in the series. Once things calm down out there, I’ll take a trip to survey the damage and determine how it affects my characters and their world. In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to share my experience here, as an example of yet another way writers’ lives tend to be different from people with “normal” jobs.

P.J.R.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nine signs you're about to finish writing a new novel

1. You have stopped calling your critique partner three times a day to whine about the plot.

2. Way too much caffeine.

3. You can't sleep. (I wonder why?)

4. 4:30 a.m. After tossing and turning all night, you don't wake up when your husband gets ready for work.

5. 6:30 a.m. You realize your son has no clean jeans to wear to school. Frantic laundry! [Incidentally, this is the only time in your life you will read the phrase "frantic laundry."]

6. 10:30 a.m. M&M cookies.

7. 1 p.m. Starbucks pumpkin cream cheese muffin!

8. When your husband returns from work, he looks you up and down and says, "Taken to wearing our sweat suits out in public, have we?"

9. Aaaarrrrrrg, I know #9 was the most important one but I CAN'T REMEMBER!!! Ask me next week when the novel is done.

A "Go Jenn go!" would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Going Dutch


October 8th marked the 2-year anniversary of me firing up the Internet and ordering myself a boyfriend; yeah, I can't believe N and I have been together for that long, either. We've got some other exciting news on the horizon, too, but I'll save that for later.

Anyhoo, as we were thinking about what to do for the occasion, we were reminded of a running joke in our relationship: back in the early days, lo so many months ago, we contemplated running away together. I reminded him that as a writer, my bank account hovered somewhere in the low triple digits. "I don't think we'll get much further than Amish country," I told him.

And so it was.

For anyone who is unfamiliar, Lancaster county is way more than just the setting for the phenomenal Harrison Ford/Kelly McGillis vehicle, WITNESS (which in fact we watched last year, on anniversary the first). There's gorgeous countryside, fresh farm produce and dairy, and historic landmarks.

Of course, you won't see any of those if you hit the (no pun intended) holy trinity of the area: Intercourse (hee), Strasbourg, and Bird In Hand. You also won't be able to drive more than three miles an hour down the one major road (off of which, picturesquely, our B&B was located). We charged through and gawked at horse-drawn buggies, quilts, and a staggering collection of "barn stars" (such a strangely popular aesthetic choice). I felt slightly guilty about gawking, but then, the Amish were actually giving their own tours, so I figured they were kind of ok about it all.

Our first stop was the National Christmas Center. Though growing up I always celebrated Christmas with my mother's family, I still felt like some kind of also-ran; after all it wasn't *really* my holiday. So I reveled in the opportunity to dive headfirst into one (astonishingly dedicated) man's collection of Christmas...stuff. The vintage advertisements, the dioramas of Santas throughout the world, the recreated 1930's Five and Dime pre-Christmas...all of that was fascinating. Unfortunately, the artificial gingerbread smell piped through the building didn't do a whole lot for my sinuses.

After lunch we hunted down the Wilbur Chocolate factory in Lititz. This was totally up our alley. Free, and less of a "factory" than "huge store where in the corner you can watch them pouring chocolate into molds." Mmm. I bought chocolate bubble bath, but I haven't used it yet. I'm afraid it will make me more hungry than relaxed.

On Sunday we went pumpkin-picking (and just in time...rumor has it there's a nation-wide shortage of pumpkins this season? Yikes!), and visited a vineyard. The weather was spectacular and it was the perfect cap to a perfectly bizzare, but always interesting celebration.

When I first met Noah, his travel schedule worried me. I'm sort of a homebody at heart (case in point: I'm totally still in my pj's from this morning). But in the time that we've been together, I've come to understand his love of adventure...and to relish the fact that he chose me as his partner in crime.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oops Moments


Remember that scene in Bridget Jones' Diary when she shows up at a party dressed as a Playboy-esque bunny only to find everyone else is dressed "garden-chic"? Or for those of you who watch the new Gossip Girl series on TV, when Serena is expecting a jeans-kind of night but her date shows up in suit and tie?


On my first official date with my husband, he showed up at my dorm in his tennis outfit. (It was right after tennis practice, but he hadn't thought of changing into something a little less ... sweaty.) I, on the other hand, had taken a whole hour (which is saying a LOT for a girl who took 20 minutes to transform from soccer player-in-overtime to Homecoming dance photo-ready in her high school days) going through my friends' closets and making sure every detail was Just Right. Luckily for me and Serena (there was no hope for Bridget I'm afraid), we could pull the "Oops. I'm running a bit behind ... Let me just go in and change into something more comfortable," and go along like nothing's wrong.


Unfortunately, here's something for which there is no quick fix. This is a photo from our first annual Eden Writers' Fall Conference, which took place this last weekend. Apparently, this was the only photo that turned out of the Eden Writers and the key note speaker, hilarious and inspirational screenwriter David Sheffield. It will be in the photo show that we're sending to all the attendees and the albums we're sending to our amazing presenters. I'm on the right. Um, didn't the photographer say it was going to be a "crazy" photo, to pull faces, etc? I guess I was just hearing things. Great.


So, if you feel like helping me feel like less of an idiot, I'd love to hear your stories about being caught doing or wearing something Totally Wrong. :)


Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Official!

It's now official. My son is a man. Okay, not technically, but we did just manage to survive his bar mitzvah weekend. It was kind of hard to believe, watching him up there, that my baby was now a full fledged teenager. Of course, there have been the signs--the rolling of the eyes, the look on his face that says "mom, you don't know anything", and the three showers taken every day. (Not to mention the fact that you can smell his Axe body spray from every room in the apartment.) Still, it wasn't until I watched him up there, reading in Hebrew, giving his speech, and smiling with relief when it was all over, that I realized how grown up Ian really was. But I didn't cry. I swear. I promised him I wouldn't. He said it would embarrass him.

So now I have two teenagers! My daughter I can handle--I get the sudden tears, the slamming doors, the make up and even the overwhelming desire to change the planet (Amanda's attending her first anti-war protest next week! i'm so proud of my little neo-hippie). After all, been there, done that. But this boy thing is alien to me. Something happens to boys when they hit the teen years. Conversations seem to go like this:

How was your day?
fine.

What did you do?
Nuthin.

Who's that on the phone
Just somebody.

Followed by his battle cry: Do we have any food around here? (No one eats at like a teenage boy! He wolfed down six slices of pizza the other night!)

It's a good thing Ian has a lot of female friends. . .they give me all the details, every time they come over to hang out. So far, it seems Ian's still the funny, sweet, cute guy he's always been--at least outside of the house. Which is all any mom can hope for.

And the way I look at it--while I may have lost a little guy who likes to cuddle, and who thinks its really cool to have a mom who is a writer--I have gained a new source of material for future novels. One day I may try writing one from the guy's point of view. . .

As soon as I figure out exactly what that is. I suspect it has something to do with food.

xxoo

Nancy

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seventeen

I am officially psyched. Seventeen Magazine is holding a fiction contest and I'll be one of the judges...alongside my brilliant editor Abby McAden, and one of my idols, the great author Meg Cabot. I cannot wait to start reading entries (which won't be for a while, because all the entries are due in January, but I know the time will fly!). I hope a LOT of people enter. Seventeen was hands-down my favorite magazine when I was in high school; my best friend and I would get our issues in the mail on the same day, camp out on her living room floor, and read them slowly and carefully, savoring each angsty advice column, each glossy fashion spread, and finally, the short stories in the back. Seventeen doesn't print as much fiction now, but I remember discovering so many amazing writers in its pages, such as Edwidge Danticat. I remember feeling so inspired by the stories--at the time, I was starting to write more and more, to discover my own voice as a writer, and I began to feel like I was part of something bigger, a literary tradition for women, by women.

When I gave Meg Cabot the bound galley of my forthcoming novel, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, I wrote the following on the title page: "I feel like I'm signing a knock-off bag and giving it to Miuccia Prada." Talk about literary tradition; I truly believe that without Meg Cabot, chick-lit books for teens--books for teens in general -- would not be as popular, and not be as good, as they are today. She is the Real Thing, the designer everyone wants to emulate, and she raises the bar with every book. Our writing styles and subject matters are very different, of course, but she is a great source of inspiration for me, and I know, for countless other young adult writers. So her being such a big part of this contest makes it all the cooler.

Though I never entered a writing contest in Seventeen, I did win a prize in a fiction contest run by, of all places, Scholastic Inc., which, aside from Simon Pulse, is where I publish, and work, today. Destiny, perhaps? Who knows? Either way, pick up those pens, laptops, or keyboards, and get to scribbling for Seventeen...you never know where taking a chance might take you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nic vs. Nature

For the last three months (yes, MONTHS) I've had the worst kind of writing distraction. No one believes me when I tell them, either.

It's a chipmunk. Yes, really.

He has several holes in the flowerbed under the window of my home office. He's tunneled all around the bulkhead in the rear of my house, and he has two separate entrances to his chipmunk condo, located under my front stairs. He makes squeaky sounds all day long, attaining the greatest volume when he's sitting on my front stairs, in full view of my dog, Tipper. I think he does it specifically to torture her. Tipper sits by the front door and barks back, frustrated that she can't get the chipmunk, looking at me for help.

When it all started, I plugged up the chipmunk holes and emptied the bird feeder. I figured removing any food sources would deter the chipmunk. Maybe get him thinking about staking a claim to a large area in the woods behind my house, where he could build an entire chipmunk mansion without bothering anyone. No luck.

A nine-year-old kid in my neighborhood showed me a great trap, one that can catch a chipmunk without hurting it, so the animal can be re-released elsewhere. I dutifully set out the trap, baiting it with raisins and a couple Cheese Nips. Two days later, I caught a chipmunk. Wrong one. (Too small.) I drove that one out to a wooded area a few miles from my house, found a nice spot near a reservoir, and let it go.

I re-baited the trap, figuring if I could catch one chipmunk, surely I'd catch THE chipmunk. But no dice. After a few days, the neighborhood kid needed his trap back--he'd promised it to a relative with chipmunk problems--so I continued to plug the holes while I searched local hardware stores for a similar trap.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I found the same exact trap at a hardware store I'd already visited. On night one, nothing happened. Night two, I caught a (very frightened) mouse, so I took him deep into the woods and let him go. On night three, nothing. But on day four, I caught two chipmunks--at once! I got excited for about a minute...when I saw that, once again, I hadn't caught Mr. Big. These were both little. Again, I drove the creatures out to a wooded area, but they managed to poop in my car en route (now I know to put newspaper under the trap when I transport it.)

For the next three days, the trap stayed empty. I decided to move it, camouflage it with leaves, and put extra raisins inside. Mr. Big found it, but proved he's smarter than I am. He tipped it over, knocked out the raisins, and then dug a hole directly under the trap.

So now I'm back to square one. Right at this moment, Mr. Big is sitting on my front step, torturing the dog while I try to write. I think he's actually enjoying it; if chipmunks could laugh, Mr. Big would be howling up a storm.

Any ideas? If you send me an idea that actually works, I'll send you a free autographed copy of any Niki Burnham book--your choice. I might even draw a picture of a chipmunk in it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

tiny bubbles...

Here is how today went.

8-3pm: life as usual: cereal, email, Television Without Pity, editing for my Media Bistro class
3pm: pack necessities (two outfits plus alternates, and a few contingency outfits, plus schoolwork, toiletries, meds, special hypo-allergenic dogfood, etc) in a rolley-suitcase, haul dog plus suitcase downtown.
3:30pm: arrive downtown, feel overwhelmed and frustrated by omni-presence of rolley-suitcase in life. call N to complain about the perceived irrationality of maintaining two separate apartments. get put in place by N, who has an office job and must deal with such meltdowns off the clock.
6:00pm: despite grumpiness, agree to stick to original plan of chili and football, with the caveat that N must bring chili ingredients home himself. N agrees, asks if i can run the dishwasher.

i can. but.

i actually NEVER used the dishwasher when i was growing up and never had one as an adult (not yet, anyway), so i am not innately familiar with its mysterious intricacies.

i looked for the dish detergent, but couldn't find any. all N had was a bottle of what looked like Palmolive.

now, I'm pretty sure Palmolive is NOT meant for the dishwasher. Like, seventy-three percent sure. so i call N, but he doesn't answer. i debate waiting until he comes home to run the machine, decide that after my attack of brat this afternoon i'd rather not be seen as lazy, too. decide to run machine with Palmolive.

(i was very savvy about it; only used about half the amount, to be safe).

7:22pm: come downstairs to find kitchen floor SUBMERGED in bubbles in vein of 80's romantic comedy (about people who frolic in kitchens, i suppose).

8:02pm: N comes home, finds me on the ground squeegie-ing up the bubbles with a baking sheet and tossing them onto the patio. somehow resists the urge to suggest that i return to my separate apartment, laughs.

chili-making commences.

9:30pm: chili-eating ensues.

and, scene.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MIA with a good excuse...


There have been very few (translation: no) posts from Erin Downing in the last few months and for that I apologize. I promise you there are many good excuses for that. Most notably, the picture I've included in this entry, which features my brand-new-fresh-out-of-the-oven twins and my charming toddler...who knew I was old enough to be responsible for THREE kids?! Twin A and Twin B (aka Henry and Ruby) were born a month ago today and things have been a little nuts. Apologies for my absence on the blog.

But wait! I do have extremely exciting news on the book front. A very wonderful TV network (who shall remain nameless for now) has decided to "option" Prom Crashers, which means there is a possibility it could someday be made into a TV movie! Of course, a millions stars need to align (and a million TV executives need to give it the green light) before we break out the champagne, but this is the first exciting step to a possible TV future for my prom crashing friends. I couldn't be more thrilled!

Later,
E.

Contests for readers and writers...

Nice approach! You win the prize for Best Email Opener by a Cousin Asking for Auburn Tickets...

This is an e-mail from my cousin, who's in charge of tickets to sports events at my alma mater. I love winning a contest I didn't even know I'd entered! Now my husband and his BFF get to go to the Auburn vs. LSU game, and I never have to wash dishes again.

I can't offer you Auburn tickets or a lifetime of clean dishes, but here are a few contests going on now for readers and writers.

For readers...

Teens Read Too is offering five free copies of MAJOR CRUSH and THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, plus lots of other YA novels. Sign up by October 31 for the drawing. And congratulations to Kate, Tiffany, Brent, Alexandra, and Brenna, who won copies of my books in September! They're in the mail as of this morning. (Really.)

For readers nominating writers...

Nominations are open for the 2007 Cybils, "the only literary awards by bloggers." Anyone can suggest a book, so click here to make sure your favorite YA novel of the year has been nominated!

For writers...

The Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, sponsored by the Birmingham-based writers' group Southern Magic, has a YA category. Plus, I am the contest coordinator. So on its way to the hands of our judges--avid readers, librarians, and booksellers--your book will have the privilege of getting my fingerprints all over it and then sitting in my laundry room for a few days. Don't worry, the Tide is on the opposite counter. Click here for all the info and a downloadable entry form, or e-mail me with questions at echolsjenn@yahoo.com.

The National Readers' Choice Awards are also open. And if you write romantic comedy, of course you've already entered the RITAs. Right?

Edited to add: THE BOYS NEXT DOOR just won the coolest prize of all: the approval of the teen reviewers at flamingnet.com. And a dragon!
The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols: A Flamingnet Top Choice Award Book

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Happiness is a dreary Tuesday...


Well, despite the fact that I have been absolutely drowning in work, there's been some funnage going on of late, as well.

For starters, N and I celebrated two years last night, for which I was gifted 24 roses (it took me WAY too long to realize that it was one per month since we'd met; I've never been one for math) and a lovely dinner at Top Chef Season One winner Harold's restaurant Perilla. Olive oil poached sea bass=YUM.

We also had the pleasure of attending the first ever Kidlitosphere conference this past weekend in Chicago (http://www.robinbrande.com/1st-annual-kidlitosphere-conference-rsvp-list/), where we got to meet and chat with some very cool people, including Laini Taylor & her illustrator hubby, Ysebeau Wilce, Barry Lyga, Robin Brande, Esme Codell, and a zillion others that I am leaving out only because, well, the attendee list is included in the link above. But rest assured, a great time was had by all, and I'm looking forward to next year in Portland.

Alas, N and I are missing from any group pic you might find online, as Saturday night we missed the group dinner to hit the US premiere of "Tehilim" at the Chicago Film Festival! I wore fabulous shoes and N Q&A'd the eve away. Then it was back to the hotel for some much needed room service and r & r.

Meanwhile, my Media Bistro students are KICKING my butt--in the best possible way, that is. They rock so hard, and came to class super-prepared. I am going to have to stay on my toes for the next 11 weeks.

And finally, I am thrilled as peaches to announce that CRUSH DU JOUR releases today! It's my third S&S romantic comedy, with a fun (IMHO, anyway) cooking theme. So, you know, pick up a copy and get cooking! (sorry).

Now, back to my regularly scheduled manuscripting.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Murphy's Law...Rules!

I tend to have my characters start off with a big change. In Getting to Third Date, Katelyn goes to college, in my Salem Witch series, Pru has to change coasts, schools and her whole way of living. In my yet-to-be-irrevocably titled nanny book coming out next fall, my character has to get used to living with a whole new (strange) family -- and being responsible for a pair of headstrong twins. In the book I just handed off, after yet another round of revisions, someone dies and someone doesn't (which may be the biggest change of all).

Writers tend to notice the themes they write about after a few books. And then, of course, ask why. My why is pretty easy to uncover -- as I child I never lived in one place more than a few years. I was born in Charleston, SC while my father was still finishing college at the The Citadel. After he graduated and got a job, my parents moved out to a suburb called Goose Creek (really!). And then, for the biggie, when I finished first grade (and when my youngest sister was 6 weeks old), we moved twelve hours north to Delaware. After three years, my dad was transferred to SC (Florence, this time). We stayed there for four years -- but I went to three schools because I did 5th and 6th grade at the elementary school across the street, my first year of junior high at the in-town junior high and then was bussed for eighth grade to the big new school on the outskirts of town. It wasn't until we moved back to Delaware that I finally stayed put...for four years, at least, until I went to college and began the ritual of moving dorm and apartment almost yearly until my husband, daughter and I ended up in Maine, at last. We've been here twenty years. Longer than I've lived anywhere (my husband lived in his family home from birth to twenty, so he's just even).
So, naturally, when my youngest graduated high school, I noticed I was itching to change my circumstances (moving house is the best way to clean and organize *ever*). DH can't move, he's got a job that needs him here (bummer, dude). So my compromise? I'm headed here:

Yep. Really. I'm only going for six weeks...at first.... But I'm going to look for work writing for TV. Wish me luck!

Oh...and the Murphy's law part? There are certain things I know about my life, and one is that I always pick the longest line. Always. I always get the wrong order at the drive-thru window if I don't check before I drive away. And my timing at stop lights and traffic circles -- and really, for anything -- is almost always off.

Like now. When I have the plane tickets. The place to stay. Two fabulous conferences to go to. Friends who will go out to lunch with me (or so they say). It is "Houston, we have a go!" ...except that it looks like the WGA is going to strike (that's the writer's union for film and television writers). And strikes mean you can't work (or if you do you're a scab, and I wouldn't do that because I think unions do mostly good things).

Now, one thing I know about Murphy's Law. It has taught me a lot through the years (patience, the proper way to proceed through a four-way stop when you all get there at once, and which checkout clerk to always avoid at the grocery store). So, what is it teaching me this time? I'm really not sure. I suspect it has something to do with making contacts (everything about work in Hollywood is about contacts -- my personal skill at making and following up contacts is dreadful). I suspect this trip will be all about meeting people and then (horrors!) remembering them by face and name and following up with friendly reminders that I want to write for them.

Or maybe it's another lesson altogether. Guess I'll figure it out after I come back (which won't be until December). I'll let you know then.

Until then, though, here's the game plan: meet as many people as I can who can hire me (or know some one who knows someone who may be able to hire me). I have one ultimate connection goal in mind: meeting Rob Thomas (the Veronica Mars Rob Thomas, not the singer Rob Thomas). Did you know he was a Simon Pulse author, too? I just read his Rats Saw God and loved it. So now he's my new (imaginary) BFF. You have to understand, everything in Hollywood is connection -- and Rob and I have a major connection, don't you think? We both wrote for Simon Pulse (sure, there's a gap where he became a big wheel writer-producer and I...didn't...but really, what's a small gap between writer-house-buds?).

Having put that out into the universe, another writer might expect to run into Thomas and be instantly taken under his wing because of the deep, profound and unbreakable connection. I, however, count on Murphy. This is how my brush with Rob Thomas with go:

Starbucks. Line out the door. Oblivious woman reads book in line as it slowly crawls forward. Man bumps into her as he carries out a Venti Mocha Latte.

MAN
Sorry.

WOMAN (looks up from book and smiles faintly)
No problem.

Man walks away.

GUY IN LINE BEHIND WOMAN
Hey, wasn't that Rob Thomas?

WOMAN WITH GUY IN LINE BEHIND WOMAN
That Veronica Mars guy? Yeah. I hear he's bringing back Cupid.

Woman shoos away a bee and keeps reading. Line moves forward. Woman orders a Venti Caramel Macchiato. EXITS.




Friday, October 05, 2007

And the bride wore red

Last weekend I went to NYC because I was in the wedding of my best friend from high school in Alabama. Here are my husband and me at the wedding rehearsal on the rooftop of an apartment building in Hell's Kitchen:
Here is the bride chugging a prenuptial Red Bull:

Here is the funky wedding cake (lots of chocolate layers inside!!!):


Here is the bride spinning fire at the reception:

She did remove her veil first for reasons of safety and inflammability.

It was by far the most fun wedding I've ever attended. But the best thing about it was how every careful detail reflected the bride and groom's personalities.

Personally, I am allergic to tradition, attention, fashion, and taffeta--everything weddings are made of. So my husband and I eloped to Hawaii (which reflected our personalities, too). But I know chicks exist who dream for years of their wedding day. I roomed with one of these people in college. There was a lot of bridal mag scattered about on the dorm room floor and a lot of "Jenn, which dress do you like better--this white one, or this white one?" *eyes crossing*

How about you? Are you a virtual wedding planner? Or, if your dad is like mine and offers you cash NOT to have a public ceremony, will you take the money and run?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

adaptation

One of my favorite movies is "Adaptation," the crazy Charlie Kauffman-Spike Jonze tale of a neurotic writer, his (possibly imaginary) twin brother, an orchid thief, a journalist, and the act of writing itself. I don't know if I would like the film as much as I do if I weren't a writer. There are some scenes where I identify so greatly with the protagonist (like when he can't sit down to write because he keeps thinking he needs a muffin) that it's creepy. One of the things I love best about the movie is how it plays with the idea of adaptation--both in the sense of evolution(thus the orchids), adapting a movie into a screenplay, and just adapting, adjusting to change in general.

I think humans are amazingly adaptive animals. That's a line I've just written into the new book I'm working on. I'm thinking a lot about change and adjustment now that I've finally moved into my own place. I posted over the summer about my search for an apartment. And now here I am! I found a lovely light-filled studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's not my favorite neighborhood, but a lot of close friends live nearby, and most importantly, the space feels big and airy, with enough room for my mammoth desk, my bookshelves, my shoe collection, and hopefully, for the dinner parties I plan to have! And it's mine. Eek. It's still very odd to come home to an empty apartment, to not have to listen for a roommate's key in the door. It's both wonderful and strange, freeing and a little lonely. On the one hand, I can sprawl out on the couch wearing whatever as I watch THE HILLS. I can be up at all hours typing in my bed without fear of waking someone. On the other hand, when there's that story I just HAVE to tell someone right away, or a purchase I'm bursting to show someone (I just bought the cutest lamp at Pottery Barn...) it's not quite as satisfying to do so over the phone. I know it's just an adjustment process, though. It takes a while before anyplace starts to feel like home. And a home you can write in...well, that's almost a whole other story.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The GOOD Girls of Hollywood

In my upcoming Ro Com, LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE, the main character, Tracy, has an encounter with the newest Hollywood “It Girl,” a fictional actress named Christy Caldwell. When I wrote Christy I made it clear that, while she certainly has a rebellious streak, she is most definitely not a party girl celebrity like so many of those lost souls we hear about all the time on the news ... particularly on the news in Los Angeles. (Seriously. Lead story on the local news almost nightly. Unless we get a rainstorm, which the reporters here react to in much the same way East Coast newsies report on a blizzard. I once heard a reporter warn, “It’s raining hard enough to make puddles!” But I digress.)

The most annoying thing is that these stories are usually about four very specific young women. Hardly anybody seems to talk about all the many other fine young actresses/entertainers out there, so I thought it might be nice to give a few of them some mention here. (This is only the tip of the Hollywood iceberg, mind you. And please forgive me if I reference someone with her own scandal. I can only be up on so much Hollywood gossip at one time.)

First, my personal fave ... Mandy Moore. I didn’t consciously base Christy Caldwell on Mandy Moore, but every time I picture the character in my head, I see Mandy playing her. Ms. Moore darn near broke my heart in A Walk to Remember, but I will always love her for her hysterical villainous performances in The Princess Diaries and Saved! (And speaking of The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway is seriously poised to be the next major Hollywood player. Agree? Disagree? Abstain?)

She might not always choose the best movie roles to showcase her talent, but Amanda Bynes is making a pretty impressive transition from TV to film. As many people have said, she was a total standout in Hairspray this summer. The best part is she’s a comic actress not afraid to look silly ... a trait she has in common with another standout, the Emmy award winning America Ferrera from Ugly Betty. And I don’t mean the bushy eyebrows and braces make Ms. Ferrera look silly. They actually make her look normal. It’s the poncho, the butterfly costume, and the constant walking into glass walls that are the comic gems.

Jennifer Hudson’s journey from American Idol castoff to Oscar winner has got to be one of the strangest career paths in Hollywood history. I was never a fan of Sex and the City (Okay, you can get off the floor now), but I may go to the movie just to see what she does next as Sarah Jessica Parker’s assistant. And kudos to Ms. Parker for transitioning from Young Hollywood Starlet to A-List Adult with a minimum of E! True Hollywood Story episodes along the way.

I think I’ll wrap this up with a reality star just to prove that not every young woman who lives her life out on TV is evil. How about that Lo from Laguna Beach and The Hills? She may only be a part time reality star—and maybe that’s why she seems the most down to earth—but she’s got brains, beauty, and sarcasm ... a dangerous combination.

Brava!

P.J.R.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG!

In honor of the blog’s first birthday, here are the Simon Pulse Ro-Com authors’ fave lines from their books. What are some of yours?

Niki Burnham

From ROYALLY JACKED:
"Exactly two weeks, one day, and ten hours ago, my mother completely ruined my life."

From SPIN CONTROL:
"He gave me a half-hour lecture on the risks of fracturing my molars with the stud (doesn't "fracture my molar with a stud" sound vaguely kinky?), though he did stop short of reaching into my mouth to remove it."

From DO-OVER:
"Nothing beats a butt-ugly feather dress--which the entertainment reporters are bound to note costs the equivalent of a year's college tuition--for getting guy frustration out of my system."

From SCARY BEAUTIFUL:
"Who ends a relationship of two and a half years in an airport over scrambled eggs and French toast?"

Jennifer Echols

From MAJOR CRUSH:
“And that’s how I came to be riding back from Gadsden late Saturday evening with Mom, Allison’s mom, Allison, and a pageant trophy the size of a refrigerator.” (p. 196)

From THE BOYS NEXT DOOR:
“Strange that the lips were so soft in such an edgy boy.” (p. 213)

Aimee Friedman

From A NOVEL IDEA:
"Boys are boys, and books are books, and sometimes, it's best to have a little bit of both." (p. 234)

Kelly McClymer

From GETTING TO THIRD DATE:
"Who knew that Shakespeare knew all about crushes gone wrong way back in the Dark Ages?" (p. 202)

P.J. Ruditis

From LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE:
Tracy and her best friend, Liz, talking about ro-com movie cliches:
"A lot of the time the women in these movies are klutzes. Amanda Bynes can hardly take two steps without falling over something. Usually herself."
"That's because most romantic comedies are written by men who don't understand women enough to give them actual flaws to reflect the three-dimensional beings that we are," Liz said.
"And because watching people fall down is funny," I added.
"Exactly."

Wendy Toliver

From THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN:
“Unless my life has been one big Scooby-Doo cartoon and I've been wearing a band geek disguise for sixteen years, then maybe ... possibly ... perhaps there's a grain of truth to this whole Siren thing.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Back to Brooklyn!

I was born in Brooklyn.

I tend to wear that like a badge of honor, proud to be part of a place with such a rich heritage (and strange accent!). But the truth is, I haven't lived in Brooklyn since I was nine, and that was more years ago than I care to post on this blog. In fact, I've lived in my Upper West Side Manhattan apartment longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life.

But I still don't claim to be a Manhatanite. That kind of sophistication--knowing just what accessories go with which little black dress or black slacks, or black skirt and jacket (people wear a lot of black in Manhattan)-- just isn't where I'm at. In fact, right now I'm in a pair or ripped cargo pants and a Grateful Dead concert shirt, which I actually dared to wear to the flea market across the street! I guess the fact that both my parents still don't have any idea where to put the Rs in words (somehow soda still comes out soder, while car still sounds like cah), or the fact that our favorite family book is called When Brooklyn was the World, keeps me attached to that outer borough. Is it any wonder that I drag my kids to Brighton Beach for real Russian food, or insist they ride the rickety old Cyclone every summer? (Alas, Coney Island is changing fast, and the ride may soon be a thing of the past, but that's another story for another blog).

All of this explains why I was so thrilled to be asked to speak at the Brooklyn Museum's Book Fair on November 17. I speak all over the country, at schools, book festivals, and conventions, but this one is kind of special. Let me tell you, my folks were really excited. Even though they don't live in Brooklyn any more, like me, they still have that umbilical cord firmly attached to our little house in Mill Basin, or the old apartment on Ocean Parkway. So if you're in the New York are on that autumn day, (and who doesn't love Autumn in New York), come on out and say hello.