Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Tonight, after coming home from the gym, I watched Steel Magnolias. It happened to be on TV, and though I knew watching it would be a gut-wrenching, painful experience, I couldn't help but curl up and surrender to the whole thing. I suppose that's a funny way to describe one of your favorite movies, and Steel Magnolias is just that--a movie I saw for the first time when I was ten and terribly homesick at summer camp, and I fell in love with it instantly: beautiful, young, tragically ill Julia Roberts, the women's close friendships, the lovely southernness of it all ( very exotic for a born and bred New Yorker!) My sister and I watched it again, and again, memorized all the lines, and would toss one or two into our daily conversation ("Pink is my signature color!" being my favorite). And,without fail, the ending would always, ALWAYS choke me up.

I'm not a big crier at the movies. I don't know why. I'll sob and wallow when I'm having an emotional crisis in my life (or sometimes--probably hormone-related--for no reason at all). But rarely do tragedies on the screen elicit tears. Except for Steel Magnolias. It gets me almost every time, and as much as it makes my heart contract and makes me think about all the people in my life who I love (see? I'm getting sappy just writing about it!), I kind of enjoy it at the same time.

What is it that we love about tearjerkers? Terms of Endearment, Ghost, It's a Wonderful Life...seeing these films, many of us know we are going to be weeping copiously, but at the same time we crave that. Does crying at movies provide some sort of catharsis, a way for us to release the sorrows of everyday life via a fictional character? Tears after all can be very healing (and I hate it when people say it's a woman thing -- I know guys who cry at movies, too!) I'll never forget an old Grey's Anatomy episode I saw that had me sobbing out loud. But I slept well that night and woke up refreshed in the morning.

For me, tearjerkers translate to books, too. In some ways, the best writing should leave us misty-eyed at the end, not just because of the emotional rush, but because we're a little sad to see the story close. RoCom writers that we are, we're really not in the business of making our readers cry (though there are so many sweet/bittersweet moments in all the RoComs I've read). But what are some people's favorite tearjerkers (books or movies?). Has your own writing ever made you cry? (and, no, not because you thought it was awful--but Lord knows I have BEEN THERE).

In any case, I am off to now watch something more light-hearted. Or perhaps I'll call up my sister so we can recite lines from Steel Magnolias and make each other laugh.

Mad Mudder Fluxers

I'm thrilled to report that as of 3:11pm this afternoon, our deal on I'M WITH THE TRIBE is officially closed! It's a graphic novel hybrid to be co-written with brother Dave, about three yeshiva boys who start a garage band. Punk rock is so kosher. We are going to be publishing with edgy, indie, alt-y (or as some might say, INTERSTITIAL) Flux/Llewelyn, with a tentative release date of fall 2008.

They are super cool. And also the publishing home of fellow Vermontster Miss Carrie Jones. Who is also super cool. (Coolness abounds! Except outside today, where it's actually sunny and hot).

Web site: www.fluxnow.com
Blog: fluxnow.blogspot.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/fluxnow


Oh, and please disregard the weirdness of the attached illustration. It's totally unofficial and just for fun and the color got all weird and I don't know how to edit a jpeg and etc. :)

Major news!

I just got the happiest phone call. MAJOR CRUSH is a double-finalist in the National Readers' Choice Awards, in the Young Adult and Best First Book categories!

Spring has sprung!

Hi all! There are actual flowers in the grass in Central Park! And flowers on the trees. New York is like a living, breathing rainbow and I am in the greatest mood. Nothing can bring me down today--not revisions,or the need to enter that deep dark foreboding world known as outline hell. At the moment I'm writing two series simultanerously, (Katie Kazoo Switcheroo and How I Survived Middle School) which comes to a book a month. But hey, as all freelancers know, it's better to have feast than famine, and I have to admit that I love the idea that kids of all ages are reading my books. And I love writing them. Getting lost in another world, having kids who say what you want them to, and do what you tell them to, it's every mother's dream. (Of course, then my kids come home from school, and I remember what real kids are like! LOL)

And speaking of the kids, spring fever has definitely arrived at our house. Ian's got the whole cycle of baseball, tae kwon do, piano, trmpet, and hanging with his buds in the park going on, while Mandy is running around from audition to audition and from party to party. In fact, all we pretty much see of the kids these days are their heads as they walk out the door, or their hands when they ask for money. Smiles have returned to everyone's faces--even the dog's! (Hmmm. . .I wonder what effect all of this fun will have on their report cards!)

I'm smiling too, especially since I learned that A Katie Kazoo Christmas hit #40 on PWs annual kids bestseller list, which was sort of a late Christmas present for me. The series has been a real shock--who knew when I started with a three book contract that I'd someday be working on book 29? When I started Ian was a fourth grade kid just like the main characters, and now next year we'll be looking for high schools for him. Mmm. . .I wonder how I can mine his newly minted male teen psyche for more book ideas! Having a boy definitely gives you insight into a whole other world. Actually it's a pretty incredible world--you should see the seventh grade girls who hang around him these days!

Well I'd love to write more, but I've decided to take the dog for another walk in the park. I think there's a tree out there somewhere he missed this morning.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hopped up on iced coffee

...with lots to say. Bear with me, I've been cooped up under deadlines. It's been a while since I've "talked" to anyone other than the dog.

Spring has finally sprung here in NYC (note jaunty sunglasses), of which the doggie keeps reminding me by insisting on taking her breakfast to the patio. She's such a diva, but seeing as how she's been sick over the weekend, I'm just pleased to see her eating again.

It's been a shockingly hectic (but pleasantly so) few weeks for the Ostow-Jones-Harlan clan. GETTIN' LUCKY released, and I got to read from the book at the latest Teen Author Reading Night, whilst sitting next to the lovely, sweet, snarky, and brilliantly talented Cassandra Claire (CITY OF BONES), aka my newest girl crush.

EMILY GOLDBERG was inaugurated into the NYPL's Books for the Teen Age, which was shockingly flattering, since it means she will be keeping company with works by the likes of Scott Westerfeld, David Levithan, Maureen Johnson, and other masters of the craft. Oh, and the paperback cover is girly and hilarious. Viva los Razorbills!

An unexpected by-product of the listing has been several invitations to speak to high school students at various outposts of the NYPL. I must confess, preternaturally literate teenagers terrify me. But I guess I'll have to wing it.

Mr. Harlan has been having a pretty good run of things of late himself. He and a group of investors recently acquired an internet marketing company that will bring in a fair amount of "passive income" (since when are we old enough to use terms like "passive income?" Gross), and will free him up to pursue his film projects without fear of bouncing the rent checks. We have also learned that his latest film production, Tehilim (Psalms), will be premiering at Cannes as an official selection In Competition. This is a big deal. It will be up against movies by Gus Van Sant, Michael Moore, and the Coen brothers. This greatly increases our chances of finding US distribution, as well as funding for future projects.

Oh--and he finally started writing his screenplay. Which, when I type it, sounds gross and phony and Hollywood-esque, but I assure you is the real deal: super interesting and thought-provoking. It seems his writer's block has finally lifted. Yahoo!

And since springtime is of course synonymous with change, Miss J and I will soon be relocating permanently down to 60 Leroy. We will miss our girl's nights of slasher films and white zinfandel up at studio 1211, but the downtown apt is much better appointed for my working, anyway. Oh--and it comes with that cute roommate-boy, too.

My mother is feeling much better since her health scare a few months ago; alas, we can't seem to convince her that smoking + previous pulmonary embolism = bad, bad news. My brother caught her sneaking a cig early one morning last week and FLIPPED. Which is, I suppose, one of the good things about him still living at home....For Mothers' Day I'm going to buy her a Costco-sized box of chewing gum.

And speaking of my brother...it looks as though the two of us have indeed sold our graphic novel hybrid project, currently titled I'M WITH THE TRIBE. My fantabulous agent is working out the deats so I shall refrain from any officialities, but stay tuned.

In the meantime, CRUSH DU JOUR is finally put to bed, my newest proposal is making the rounds among my brutally honest, but completely irreplaceable first readers, and I'm winding down on the Penguin project that I've been working on with Noah. It's a rare few weeks of peace and quiet before I have to dive into TRIBE. But that project has been percolating for so long, and is so personal to me, that I'm truly looking forward to getting started.

This week is Birthday Week for Noah and myself; April 26th and the 29th, respectively. Due to our abundance of parental-types, there will be festive dinners galore, culminating in a fiesta (complete with pinatas and door prizes) at 60 Leroy on Friday the 27th. In the NYC area? You should stop by.

Vermont College has posted its final faculty roster for the summer residency, and my classmates and I are all abuzz. I must say, I'm eager to get back. My phone check-in with adviser Kathi Appelt was inspiring and invigorating. She is the rockingest.

It's prom season, as well, and the New York Teen Author Prom actually made Gawker's hit list last week. If you missed their coverage, check it out. YES, we are all victims of arrested development. But if immaturity and adolescent angst are wrong, I don't want to be right.

The beautiful weather has made me feel guilty about not-running. So I'm thinking of taking up running again. Of course, I'm thinking about it from the sunny, sunny patio, with a cocktail in hand, but yes--the thought is there. I'm excited for cotton sundresses--all of the the comfort of loungewear, but the appearance of having gotten dressed in the morning. Perfection.

Apologies for the massive babble; as I say, I've just emerged from Deadlineland and my eyes are still adjusting to the sunlight.

Happy, lazy Sundays to us all....

Friday, April 20, 2007

Let's re-rethink this "athlete" thing

I just picked up my T-shirt and number for the 15K I'm running tomorrow. Imagine my surprise and chagrin that the T-shirt boldly proclaims, "THE SOUTH'S TOUGHEST 15K." Was I notified of this? I think not. What does it mean? Is it uphill both ways? Will the other runners try to knock me down with their elbows like in the roller derby? Isn't it bad enough that it's a 15K in the first place??? I think I will drive the course this afternoon and make sure no one's passed out on the side of the road.

Saturday morning update: I can't do it. I've been sick. I finally went to the doctor yesterday. I hoped against hope I'd be well enough to run this morning, but alas. Now I'm coming to terms with the fact that if you're committed to anything over the long haul, sometimes it won't work out, and you have to try again. Check back here for the triumphant return of Iron Jenn. *cough*

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Research: Can it be fun?

Hi everybody! I’m so excited to be included on this blog, in the company of such amazing authors. Since this is my first post, I wanted to very briefly introduce myself. My name is Wendy Toliver, and my first Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, is coming out this December.

In the meantime, I’m busy working on a new book, and I’ve run into a few things I need to research.

Research. The word conjures up all sorts of images, and most of them are unpleasant. Sitting in a dusty library surrounded by walls of books, cooped up in your room surfing the Internet and hoping what you find is factual and not someone’s prank to the world, making phone calls to other parts of the country when you’d rather be chatting with your BFF.

So I do everything in my power to make my research actually fun. For example, if a character is going to do something I’ve never done before, I try it out. In one of my books, a character of mine takes snowboarding lessons. So, just to make sure everything was totally legit, I learned how to snowboard. Another fun way to research is to go somewhere, like on a vacation. Many authors do this to get the right feeling of a place they recreate in their books. One of my stories takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’ve been there a million times, but once I started writing about it, it was amazing how many details started popping out at me. Another way I make research fun is talking to people in the know. This came in very handy with The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren when I needed my neighbor who’s a nurse to help me realistically create a hospital-based scene.

And what about watching TV, movies, or reading novels for research? That’s not so terrible, now is it?

So my question for you today is this: What do you do to make research ( for a book, a school report, an article, etc.) fun? Have you ever learned something that has contributed to the project you’re researching AND something else in your life?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Doing the Cannes-Cannes

I've definitely done my fair share of traveling this winter, from Palm Beach to Vermont to Lake Placid and Williamstown (phew!). Yup, being a writer sure is a flexible job! All I need is a wireless network, an electrical outlet, and a fresh cup of coffee....

Now that I'm home, though, the past month or so has been spent happily planted in New York City, not-so-patiently waiting out the leonine ides of March (and April. Seriously: snow in *April?*). And as much as I love, love, love my job, bumming around the house in my pajamas while the weather rages outside? Is starting to get old.

Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; Boyfriend Noah's most recent film was selected to premiere in competition at the Cannes film festival (that's my man behind the camera in the above photo). Not only will I get to spend a week in the South of France hobnobbing with international indie filmmakers, but I'll even be walking the red carpet at the premiere!

It's a far cry from pajamas, for sure. Have laptop (um, and deadlines, of course), will travel. I can't wait!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

KCAs and Celebrities!

Pardon the huge delay in blogging, but I have been in Los Angeles at the Kids Choice Awards! The picture here is really, really blurry because it was taken with my cell phone, but that's ME AT THE KIDS CHOICE AWARDS! I am thirty years old (ack, let's call it twenty-ten), and I have dreamed for two-thirds of them of going to the KCAs. Finally, this year, thanks to my good old "day job", I got to go.

The best part of all, though, is that working for Nickelodeon got me into the super-fun after-party. Rock-climbing, dancing, catering by swanky chefs and not-as-swanky-but-still-very-yummy Burger King, and celebrities milling about (a few I remember: The Naked Bros. Band, Devon Werkheiser, Emma Roberts, Nelly, Chris Tucker, and a whole bunch of tween/teen-types on Disney shows like Hannah Montana, etc., that I don't watch).

So yes, I had a lot of celeb-sightings last weekend. In fact, the entire Houston Rockets basketball team was staying in my hotel (hellloooooo up there, Yao Ming).

I am definitely not an L.A. person, but every once in a while, the brush with fame so close to Hollywood feels mighty fine. I guess that's what inspired me to write Dancing Queen. Liv, too, is a little celebri-obsessed and gets a little too close to fame for comfort.

Now that I'm back in New York, I have to go back to pretending that I don't care when I see superstars on the street (it's what we do in New York...I don't know why, but it always cracks me up). Who do you wish you could see on the street? Any dream celeb-sightings?


Let’s rethink this “athlete” thing...

On April 21 I’m running in the Statue to Statue 15-K (that’s almost 10 miles, yo) here in Birmingham. The starting point is the statue of Vulcan, the second-largest statue in the United States (after the Statue of Liberty) and the world’s largest iron statue. I’m fond of Vulcan. One of my earliest memories is of coming to Birmingham from the small town where I grew up and riding my tricycle around the base of the statue. Later I realized Vulcan has a naked fanny, and that’s just funny. A few years ago Vulcan was in disrepair, and people became afraid his finger or shoulder or the odd buttcheek would come crashing down upon the tourists below. So Robinson Iron from my old hometown was paid to restore him. (When I was a teenager, I babysat for the Robinsons’ children and Great Danes.)

The finish line for the race is the Statue of Liberty. I’ll bet you thought we didn’t have one of these! She used to decorate the Liberty National Insurance building downtown. A few years ago the statue was moved and the suburb of Liberty Park was built around her. I used to live out there, so seeing the statue at the end of the race would probably feel like coming home to me—if it weren’t for the ten miles of hills between Ms. Liberty and Vulcan. When I see her crown glinting in the morning sun, I will probably not be thinking, “Homecoming!” I will be thinking, “I need to sit down.”

See, my personal best is 7 miles, a week and a half ago. Then I pooped out, and caught a cold, and then there were a lot of Cadbury Creme Eggs. So I’m not sure I can make 10 miles. But I’m going back to my training regimen tomorrow. And I keep reminding myself that hard as running a 15-K may be, it’s not as hard as writing a novel. Once you’ve finished writing a novel, you really can’t tell yourself you’re not capable of accomplishing the impossible.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Roman Holiday!

I'm back from a FAB trip to Rome, Italy. Spent $$ buying purses (because naturally, that's why EVERYONE goes to Italy!) Ate a ton of gelato, went through the Borghese Gallery (for the second time in two years, because it ROCKS), watched the Rome Marathon from inside the Colosseum, went out along the Appian Way to check out the ancient Christian catacombs, and listened to happy Irishmen singing at a bar while watching their rugby team play Italy.

The cool thing about travel for me is that, in addition to learning about how others live, you see things you don't expect, like singing Irishmen in Rome. Or, for instance:

(Hint: If you click on it, you'll get to see the enlarged, full-on view, including pig detail!)

This is a panini (sandwich) stand located just outside the ancient walls of Rome, near the Appian Way. It had great looking sandwiches in the case, as well as freshly-cooked "humburgers", fries, and soda. What the chick on top is doing...well, I'm sure it's great for sales. As was the music blaring from two monster speakers located right over where you have to stand to place your order and pay. See what I mean, though? Unexpected.

In a few weeks, I'm heading to London, and I'll be keeping my eyes open for more of the unexpected. In the meantime--what surprising things have YOU encountered on a trip? An odd event? A store that wasn't what you imagined, judging from the outside? A tour guide with a strange habit?

The unexpected is the stuff of good stories!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Snow Day!

There is a high school senior in my home who is very happy today (despite the fact that it is his '89 Volvo buried under the foot of snow). Yes, it is April here. But today we get to stay home and play one more time before the chance of snow days disappear. Best of all, for my senior, he will not have to make up the snow day at the end of the year -- he's graduating!

I have also realized that this may be my last 'official' snow day. As a writer who works from home, snow days are just days when I absolutely cannot escape to the grocery store for a few moments of distraction. The real magic comes from a day when the kids wake up to find out they don't have to go to school and they are free (well, after the shoveling and snowblowing...and this year, trekking to the local pizza place on foot to bring back two large pepperoni, extra crispy). The joy lies over the house in the same way as the fluffy blanket of snow.

Ah well. I'm going to relish it while I can.

Those of you with flowers and budding trees -- enjoy! But I don't envy you. I'll get my flowers by late May. There's something about a surprise April snow day that cannot be explained to those who have never experienced it.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stick a fork in it

...the revised CRUSH DU JOUR manuscript is done, done, done. For now, at least. I think we have one more round of edits to go.

The changes were pretty substantial re: set up and characterization; I sort of wished they weren't valid (especially at 3am when my brain started to dribble out of my ears), so that I could blow my editor off and just go to sleep. But my editor, she is a wise one, and so ignoring her was out of the question.

She's also the one who pays me, so....

I slept ALL morning (sometimes it's especially great to be self-employed). It's gray and rainy and completely miserable in NYC, but I still feel celebratory. Tonight I'm reading at the Teen Author Night over at the Tompkin's Square NYPL. Not sure about the attendance given the weather, and people off spending Passover with their families. But what can you do? Still I forbear.

My favorite news of all, however, is that now I get to turn my attentions to my next Vermont College packet. Which involves snuggling up in bed and reading YA for the next few days. This is school? This is learning? I am too, too lucky.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Book signing photo!

It's all about the shoes.