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.

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 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!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Many thanks... 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!

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 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 There were several writers, a lawyer, a stand-up comic, a documentary writer and producer, a name the profession, it was probably represented ( 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.


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.

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!