Friday, May 22, 2009

School Visits Rock!

My favorite parts of being a YA author are getting to work in my pajamas, receiving email from readers, hanging out with cool authors, and visiting schools.

Today I got to visit Grantsville Middle School in Utah, along with 5 other authors, an illustrator, and a photo journalist. Right when I walked through the doors, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lovely young lady holding a "Wendy Toliver" sign like chaffeur drivers do at airports. Kyra took me around the whole day, letting me know what to expect and keeping me from getting lost. First up was a delicious dutch oven lunch in the library, followed by an assembly in the cafeteria where the talented Jessica Day George (of Dragon Slippers fame) had the students in stitches when she explained that her 8th grade teacher told her she was such a great writer she could just quit school. Which didn't go over too well with Jessica's mom, needless to say.

Next I was taken to a classroom where I gave a talk to two separate groups of students. They asked some great questions and I hope they learned something from me, or at least were somewhat entertained by my sleep-deprived presentations. I had a personal first when one of the guys offered to be my agent. Finally, we had a book signing in the gym. In addition to books, I signed countless bookmarks, pieces of paper, foreheads, and hands. It was a wonderful day and I'm thrilled to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Frequent Flyer


Look up and wave, y’all. If you’re on the East Coast, chances are good that that’s me flying overhead in a commercial jet. I’ve been doing a lot more flying ever since I moved to an island. Thankfully, Bermuda is only a short jaunt home to New York/New Jersey—less than two hours! You could burn that much time sitting in traffic on the way to the Lincoln Tunnel!

My husband (then fiancĂ©) and I had never been to Bermuda until we were flown out here for his job interview close to two years ago. I remember how unconvinced I was when other ex-pats living here told me that we’d be taking plenty of trips “off-island” as the often-used term goes. I doubted, because it sounded like an expensive lifestyle. But they were right. Once in a while, it’s good to take a breather from a 21-square mile nation in the middle of the lonely Atlantic Ocean. There’s family to visit, weddings to attend, and—as is the case next week—the book expo (BEA) to dive into.

(landing in Bermuda)


Once upon a time, I didn’t mind flying. I never even flinched during bad stretches of turbulence. It just felt like a bumpy bus ride to me. In fact, I was usually the one helping nervous flyers feel at ease. I used to love flying so much that I thought about taking flying lessons. But last month’s flight to Atlanta changed all this. The pilot was horrible, saying alarmist things like, “There’s going to be a rough patch for the next 15 minutes—I hope we get through it.” I kid you not. I literally had to search my iPod for gospel music to calm myself down. All the passengers were tense and quiet until we touched down.

This new fear of flying has got to go. I have to “shake it off” like Mariah Carey. I can’t very well swim across the Atlantic. And, for that matter, I can’t swim very well--across the Atlantic or across a pool. When I was moving here, my geographically-challenged great aunt asked if one can drive to Bermuda. That’s a Guinness World Record bridge if I’ve ever heard of one. So, like we say in Jersey, “whaddayagonnado?” No other way around it.

So, hope to see you at the book expo next week. But for now, gotta fly!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drive Me Crazy!

Hey hey! Contest Alert!

In less than 3 weeks, DRIVE ME CRAZY, my next Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy will be on shelves. Exclamation point. I am SO excited about this release, since it's about all my favorite things: summer love and the lake and a hilarious road trip and, of course, friends.

To celebrate the release, I want to give 3 lucky winners a signed copy of Drive Me Crazy AND Prom Crashers or Dancing Queen - your choice.

HOW DO YOU WIN? Send me an email at erin (at) erindowning.com and tell me what your favorite romantic comedy book is (by any author), and a teeny little explanation of why you like it. I will draw 3 winners on June 2, when Drive Me Crazy officially goes on sale.



PS: I might post some of the responses here, to butter up my fellow authors' egos. We'll see.

Later,
E.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bad Work Habits

All of us have sloppy/bad/lazy work habits, though writers are, on the whole, rather notorious for them. I have friends who write in their bathrobes and clean their desks once a year...maybe. Others I know write for days without showering when they're on a tight deadline. Grocery shopping and housecleaning often go by the wayside when time is tight. Me, I've spilled soy sauce into my keyboard while trying to eat sushi and type at the same time (and learned my lesson, as I had to remove every key from the keyboard to clean up that particular mess!)

But the guys in this office in San Jose, CA, win the prize. I don't know a single writer whose work habits have required the services of a hazmat team, nor do I know anyone whose inattention to cleaning resulted in seven people being sent to the hospital. I don't know about you, but if I go to all the effort of carting food somewhere--like, say, an office--I don't let it go to waste. This story makes me wonder just how much food--and what kind--these workers left!

What are your worst work habits? Do they get worse when you're on deadline or have a project due? (And have you ever required the services of a hazmat team?!)

I was on the road last week, and had a fantastic time with Florida Library Association at their annual conference, where I talked to librarians about creating fun programs for teens. You can bet that when I arrived home, I cleaned the fridge!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A book for all seasons

A lot of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies are published about two months before the season in which they're set. For instance, Jamie's Valentine's Day book appeared in December, and Catherine's Christmas book came out in October. That's because Simon Pulse figures you want to read a seasonal book.

My books are no exception, and I recently realized that when my fourth book comes out, I'll have a book for every season! Here they are:

Summer: The Boys Next Door

A high school junior pretends to date the boy next door to catch his older brother, her childhood crush. This novel is set on a beautiful lake in Alabama, much like the one where I grew up. It begins a few days before Memorial Day and lasts until the middle of June, so if you love those seasonal books, you'd better hurry for this one! You can read more about it here or sneak a peek here.

Fall: Major Crush

A beauty queen turns band geek in a small Southern town. I was not a beauty queen, but I was the first female drum major of my high school marching band. I love fall, I love school, I love football, and I LOVE BAND. If that back-to-school feeling excites you too, this book's for you. Major Crush is also my first published novel, and I will always have a soft spot for it (and the hero, Drew). You can read more about it here.

Winter: The Ex Games

A snowboarder challenges her ex-boyfriend to a battle of the sexes on the slopes. It's coming out this October 6, just ahead of winter, The X Games, and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Mark it on your calendars to get you in the mood for cheering on your favorite chick-athletes! You can read more about it here.

Spring: Going Too Far

Published by the MTV Books side of Simon & Schuster rather than the Simon Pulse side, this novel is about a seventeen-year-old who avoids prosecution for a high school stunt by spending spring break on night patrol with the nineteen-year-old rookie cop who arrested her. It just came out in March, and I feel very happy and VERY grateful to all the readers who bought it, because it's already in its third printing. You can read more about it here, or listen to the soundtrack and read the first chapter here, or see what book bloggers have said about it here.

As for writing books seasonally--I never seem to do this. I wrote the summer and spring books in fall, the fall book in winter, and the winter book in summer. And I'm not a seasonal reader, either. Right now, personally I'm not looking for a book set in the late spring or the summer to get me in the mood for the beach. I'm simply on the hunt for the next great story. If a novel were able to transport me from Alabama's tornado season into the dead of winter (somewhere else, because Alabama does not have a dead of winter), I would admire the author and think that was pretty cool. How about you?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A New Book and a New Reader

Forgive me RoCommers, it's been months since my last on line confession. (Can you pick out the writer with the Catholic uprbrining.) Anyway, I apologize for my digital silence, it is unintended. Since we last spoke I had a Ro Com published (Sea of Love, I think my best, but who am I to know) and I wrote what feels like a thousand tie-in books. All those deadlines are what kept me from the blog. (Lame excuse I know.)

Anyway, I have just started a new book and am struggling with the first chapter blues. I wonder how the other authors feel about this situation. I've written the first chapter. I really like it. But I don't love it. It's all a matter of voice and POV and it's the reason I tend to write my first chapters like 75 times. Am I alone in this. I re-write it and re-write it until one day it kind of hits me that - yes, there's the voice. It's frustrating and a little fun.

I've also had quite a literary thrill lately. My fourteen year old son actually read one of my books. Years into this and he finally thought, "I'll check this out." I've never been so thrilled/scared in my life. And at the end, he said he loved it. And I was thrilled, but also wanted to add "Why do you say that like you're surprised?"

I promise, I'll write more to catch up. Hello again to all.