Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September morn

 As I write this, I know it's morning because I hear the hungry metallic sound of garbage trucks munching their way through the trash on my block and the blare of angry drivers honking their horns as they beg the trucks to move a little faster.  I can see the sun struggling to make its way up from the East River and over to the west side of town where I live.  I can smell the coffee as it begins to perk all on its own (amazing, modern technology!) And no matter how hard I try, I can't block out the sounds of the kids moaning about the location of their notebooks, folders, sneakers, and Ipods.  Somehow the fact that those things are missing is all my fault.
Ahhh just another New York morning.  We are back in the routine!
The beginning of school always has a sense of excitement and anticipation about it.  Even those of us who haven't been in school for a long, long, long time seem to call September the beginning of the year.  I don't know if it's the back to school ads, or the emergence of the fall fashions in the store windows, or just some internal calendar we all develop after 16 or so years of starting fresh in the ninth month of the year,  but there is always something exciting about September.
At least for the first week or so after Labor Day.
And then I get to the point where I am now.  The point where I realize that summer is officially over.  There is no vacation in the foreseeable future.  And the morning I am currently experiencing will be replayed over and over until the four-day Thanksgiving break.
This is the time of year that I really have to push through, and keep the positive energy up, despite the crisper temperatures in the morning, and the changing of the leaves.  After all, as any writer knows, deadlines come in all seasons.  And when you are currently writing three book series (and planning a fourth--am I crazy or what?) there is always a deadline.
But Fall also brings new opportunities for school visits, and signings, and readings.  I love those opportunities, because I get to see my readers in person.  I get to talk to them, hear the rhythm of their language, and remember just how little some of them are.  (In addition to the rocoms, I am currently writing books for kids in grades k-5, so some of them are really little.)  I get to hear about their day-to-day lives, and inevitably I get inspiration (for both plots and life!) from them.
I love the questions kids ask.  They're so open and curious.   Did you always want to be an author?  Where do you get your ideas from? Are you famous? How much do you make?  (No. From my kids, my childhood and kids like you.  To some people.  Not as much as I'm worth.)  And most of all they make me laugh.  This time of year, I can always use a good laugh!
I am happy to tell you that next week I will be able to come face to face with my readers  in a hugely exciting setting.  This year, once again, I am honored to have been asked by Target and the New York Times to participate in the Great Read in the Park.  It's taking place on October 5  at Columbia University and I'll be there at 10:55 reading from the newest Katie Kazoo Switcheroo book, and running a fun audience participation program.  Right afterwards I'll be signing.  So if you're going to be in the area, or you want to come into the city to be part of a really fun day, please stop by. The Great Read is a terrific event! 
Think of it as a break in the routine.
Anyway, I've gotta go.  Apparently, Ian needs me to print out one more copy of his English paper and he's already running late for school.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Love is in the air!

Hi friends!
First off, I need to apologize. I have been a very bad blogger of late. As some of you know, from the 8th to the 13th, I ran a cyber-launch party on my author blog to celebrate the launch of my newest book, POPULAR VOTE (and though POPULAR is not technically a Simon Pulse rocom, it is a romantic comedy in the same vein, so by all means, check it out!). Since then I have not only been derelict in selecting the prizewinners from that party, but I'm also quite late checking in to this blog (I usually post here mid-month, for those of you keeping score at home).
But I have a good excuse! I swear! In addition to literally being buried under deadlines (schoolwork went in two weeks ago, new manuscript in the Bradford series--eek!--tomorrow), last weekend my loverly N surprised me by popping the question!

Yes, it's the truth: this hopeless romantic is going to get hitched. Squee!

The pic you see is the flowers with which he proposed, and a Scrabble board and a Noah and Micol Mad Lib (random inside jokes). Aren't the roses pretty?

And as if that weren't enough romance permeating the atmosphere, this weekend we're up in Toronto at the future brother-in-law's wedding. It's been a lush, lavish weekend filled with love and well-wishes. If it weren't for the book deadlines, I wouldn't want to go back home!
(Meh--on second thought, forget the book deadlines. I can always write from the EXTREME comfort of this hotel).

It's a good thing I write romances, since I seem to be drowning in it of late. Next on my reading list: SOMETHING BORROWED by Catherine Hapka, of course.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Skinny on TV

There's been a lot of internet discussions going on these days about the superskinniness of the girls of the new 90210, namely Jessica Stroup (who plays "Silver", pictured on right) and Shenae Grimes (who plays "Annie", pictured on left). Having very thin TV stars (not to mention movie stars, rock stars, models, etc.) is nothing new, but I think it's an issue that still deserves attention.

It makes me sad when a young lady compares herself to one of these celebrities and is depressed that she'll never look like that or, worse, dives into unhealthy habits in hopes to obtain that certain look. There are, as always, many factors to take into account, including: metabolism, bone size and structure, genetics, diseases, etc. On the other side of the coin, there are certainly health problems with people who are overweight.

I think the best thing is to find your own personal healthiest weight and through food, exercise, and other lifestyle choices, learn to love your body. I know it's easier said than done, but I get excited when I hear someone say she/he loves Beyonce's or Venus' or (fill in the blank with a celeb with a curvy, muscular, or otherwise healthy-looking body) or see a whole line of clothes or soaps and lotions that praises not only superskinny people, but people of heathy sizes.
Anyone want to weigh in?

P.S. As you can see, the main character of my upcoming (Feb. 2009) Simon Pulse Ro-Com isn't superskinny. Isn't she darling?!?

Allow Myself To Introduce...Myself

Yay! and Hello!
I thought long and hard about what the first words of my very first post on this fine blog would be. And considering the corny-and-proud girlie that I am, I think the ones I went with are appropriate. Thank you, Jenn, for inviting me on board! I’m super excited (!) to join this community of talented authors. Still (for now), I promise to keep the exclamation points to a minimum.
A little about me—I’m a magazine writer turned YA author. My very first Pulse Ro-Com—tentatively titled PERFECT SHOT—is scheduled to hit bookstores in the Fall of ’09. As of October of 2007 I’ve been living overseas in Bermuda. The hubby got hired by a company based out here, so mere weeks after our wedding we made the move. It’s been an adventure adjusting to the high cost of living (gas is over $8 a gallon!) and learning to drive on the left side of the road, but we’re enjoying it.
The move has also given me the opportunity to write full-time from home. Other writers have drawn inspiration from this mid-Atlantic island—most famous of them was Mark Twain. While I don’t propose to have one-tenth of his creative genius, it is nice to know that this is a magical place to be a writer. And talk about inspiring—if the turquoise ocean or unique architecture don’t move you, the island’s pleasant people will. Bermudians are dynamic folk. Through school visits and youth organizations, I’m beginning to learn that being a teen in Bermuda is similar to being a teen in a conservative, cosmopolitan place with a very small-town feel. Imagine every local in your town knowing you or your family.
I think of Karina Pasian’s hit song “16 At War”—the refrain is “I’m 16 on the block” and she paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to be 16 in an urban environment. In a few ways, being 16 here in Bermuda is different from Karina’s 16. For one, it’s nothing like when Karina sings, “Bad air in my lungs—man, I can't breathe; My eyes burning from all the dirt in the debris.” The fresh air out here is nice. Pollution is low—although this 21-square-mile island has about 66,000 people, it’s considered densely populated. (They should visit my 4 square mile, NYC area hometown of East Orange, NJ with its 66,000+ residents.) Being 16 here means you’re now able to get your scooter—not vehicle—license, so you most likely ride your scooter to school (Yamahas instead of Vespas seem to be popular with kids). Whether you attend a public or private institution, you wear uniform to school. There are only a handful of movie theaters in the whole country and no major mall, so you hang out at places like the beach, parks or eateries. You can catch the CW, MTV, BET and all other current American TV fare on cable so you’re up to speed on most music and trends. Some of your friends are already attending high school at boarding schools abroad. Entering college means you’ll be living oceans away from your family—most Bermudians attend schools in Canada, the UK or US because the local college is a two-year one. Your passport has lots of stamps in it and you’re no stranger to the idea of making a wardrobe shopping trip to the nearby US.
That’s a little about what 16 looks like here. So tell me, what makes being 16 unique where you live?

Friday, September 12, 2008

This Time Next Month...

I'll be in South Korea! My husband needs to go for work, so of course I cashed in the frequent flyer miles to go along. Though I'm pretty well-traveled (side effect of being an Army brat), I've never been anywhere in Southeast Asia. I'm completely pumped--I'll have three and a half days to soak in as much of Seoul as possible. I think I could easily find a month's worth of things to do in Korea, but I'll take the three days in Seoul.

Here's what I like most about visiting somewhere entirely new to me: I get to use a different part of my brain than I do tapping away at the keyboard in the cocoon of my home office. I've spent the last few weeks reading everything I can online and in travel guides about Korean history, various historic sites, Buddhist temples, royal palaces, fortresses, the DMZ, shopping districts, and even Seoul's fish market. It's like going back to high school and taking a specialty history course. And though there won't be a test, I'd like to know enough to make it from point A to point B comfortably and to get the most out of touring all of Seoul's historic sites.

I promise to post pics when I get back, so stay tuned. And when Korea pops up in unusual ways in my next book, you'll know why!

Why YA Fiction?

There's an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere about the irony that some perfectly good books that adults would like to read are being consigned to the ghetto of YA (my very loose paraphrasing, read more from the YA author Jennifer Lynn Barnes' perspective here).

In following the conversation, I realized that I've formed a conviction, over the years of being a teen, raising teens, and writing for teens, that YA fiction is an important genre because it focuses on the formative years of human beings. Those years where boys and girls become men and women, figure out (or fail to) what they're going to do with their lives, and how they are going to choose to live them. YA -- from Holden Caulfield to Harry Potter -- is about taking on the mantle and power of individuality, responsibility, and autonomy.

Is is unsurprising that such powerful subject matter should be of interest to adults?! But that it grips and fascinates those who are actually living through the transition? Ummmm...duh!

When I was a teen, I loved to read about characters living very different lives from me -- much harder lives, much easier (on the surface) lives, lives full of important choices that really mattered. Because, really, even though I was a bookworm non-sports nerd, I recognized that all the choices I made in those years mattered. I agonized over quitting band in high school (right decision, because it opened up the ability to join the bowling team...yes, really). I pushed myself to get involved with school plays (not in them, actually, just makeup artist and general dogsbody). In short, I tried a lot of things that I wasn't sure I was suited for, merely because I had "practiced" them in the pages of a book beforehand. I also avoided a lot of problems because of what I read, too.

It isn't really surprising that a lot of YA is told in first person. And it isn't really surprising that adults, accidentally visiting the YA ghetto, find themselves transported to the time when they were sixteen and stood on the edge of their future willing for the courage to dive into it.

I think the Simon Pulse RoComs capture this feeling perfectly, don't you? Where else can you, the reader, work in a theme park as a costumed character, try on fashion design, date a prince, join a band, star in a play, work behind the scenes in Hollywood...and so much more?

I know, I know, that sounds like a commercial. But...every so often the truth sounds like a commercial, so what are you going to do? Maybe that's the secret appeal of YA to those living the teens, and to those of us who remember them well?


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A visit to my alma mater

Last Saturday I attended a football game at Auburn University, where I went to school. I am pretty sure the football stadium at my high school was bigger than the stadium at many colleges (the editors for Major Crush questioned me on this: "Your high school stadium held 5000 people? Do you mean 500? Please check") so I thought you might enjoy a little tour of Southeastern Conference game with 87,400 spectators.

The first event of the day was Tiger Walk. Fans line up outside the stadium for a chance to see the coach and the football team parade by. Here is a picture of what Tiger Walk apparently looks like. But I am short, so this is what I saw. Please note that Elvis was in attendance.

Then we entered the stadium for the pre-game show. Someone at Auburn is having a lot of fun making music video-style clips to show on the JumboTron. There's one for the university itself, one for the football team, and one for the MARCHING BAND!!! With apocolyptic music in the background, it starts with the drum majors stabbing the ground with maces, then continues to make trombonists and tuba players look like warriors from a movie trailer for 300. I wish somebody had made a video like that for me when I was drum major in high school, because I was totally that cool.

Maybe not. Moving on, here is the very awesome band spelling out something that was not legible from the eighteenth row:

And, lest we start having too much fun and forget why we are all at college, here's a shot of the ten-story Haley Center peeking over the top of the stadium:

Almost every class I took while at Auburn, and every single class I taught, was held in Haley Center. I also made the mistake of taking the GRE (the college equivalent of the SAT) in Haley Center during the Tennessee game. If George paints the house red on Tuesday and Betty paints it green on Friday...*CROWD SCREAMS FOR TOUCHDOWN.* I honestly can't remember whether this was the time I aced the GRE or the time I pretty much flunked it, because I have done both. At any rate, if you are ever in Auburn, you should definitely take a tour of Haley Center. Architecture students across the U.S. study this revered building as one of the nation's premier examples of Ugly.

Wait. I forgot to take picture of the football game itself. Until a sudden downpour in the fourth quarter.

We got soaked, but we are die-hard Auburn fans, so we stayed until the end. Then we walked up to Toomer's Corner, where people throw toilet paper into the trees at the entrance to campus whenever the Tigers win.

Because this is Alabama, and we are fancy like that.

What are some of the fun traditions of your college, or the one you hope to call your alma mater?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Drive Me Crazy

Good news! I just turned in a first draft of my next Romantic Comedy (slated for next summer), and as a reward my editor sent me the cover! Here it is - cute???? (The answer to that question is "yes".)

Cyber-launch party this week!

Hi all:
In honor of the the release of my new book, POPULAR VOTE, I will be hosting a "cyber-launch" party all week at my blog: Come by to read Q&As with some of your favorite kitlit folks (including some RoCom-types), post a comment, win a prize, and make me feel popular. Hope to see you there!

Here's the roster:

Taylor Morris
Jill Santopolo
Claudia Gabel

Marjetta Geerling
Jeanine LeNy

Liz Gallagher
Tricia Rayburn
Jen Echols

Nancy Krulik
Kelly Parra

Paul Ruditis
Erin Dionne

Friday, September 05, 2008

What's in a name?

Sorry, I have been so out of the loop all summer. It's been crazy around here. I just finished my latest ro com, LOVE OFF LIMITS (October 2009). I will write more about the book in my next blog. Just peeked at the cover art yesterday and love it!!
For those of you who don't know, I also have another deadline coming up -- the end of my pregnancy. Both of these big due dates seem different in many ways. However, I've realized that writing a book and being pregnant actually have one thing on common -- picking out names. Finding just the right name for characters and for my child has been no easy task. Would you all agree that certain names seem to go with a particular type of person? For instance, you wouldn't name a wild child Mary. Roxy might be more appropriate for the free spirit. Certain characters are meant for a particular name.
The other thing that makes picking out names difficult is that when you meet someone with an undesirable personality it can really ruin the name. One of my characters in LOVE OFF LIMITS was originally called Spencer -- this was before I realized I cannot stand Spencer from The Hills. I had to change his name. Sorry, if you like the name Spencer. I like the name too -- it's just that particular person who has kind of shadowed my feelings toward the name.
My husband and I settled on a name for our baby early in the pregnancy -- Lyla. It shares the same meaning as my maiden name, Lyles, meaning "from the islands." Please spare comments if you don't like the name or know someone else named Lyla. I've already gotten enough grief from my mom who told me that she once had a trashy cleaning lady named Lyla. Funny, no one in my family remembers this cleaning lady. Obviously, my mom's not a fan. And ever since we told friends it was our number one choice we've been flooded with opinions and stories of ten million other people who also just named their baby Lyla. We have a runner up name and for a while there I was literally changing my mind every other day. I guess I have to actually meet the babies. As I said earlier, characters go with certain names.
Will keep everyone posted on both deliveries. Hope you all had a great summer!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Distraction = State Fair

Last time I posted on this blog, I said I would be done with my next Romantic Comedy the next time you heard from me.

I lied.

I am one kiss shy of done, and I can't get that last page or two written. It's making me crazy! I WILL be done by next weekend, as I am booked up with a very important social event: celebrating my twins' first birthdays.

One of the things that has pulled me away from my last few pages this week was the Minnesota State Fair (see photo reference of me and my little girl in the Sky Glider). Paw, you say. A State Fair. Who cares. Well....Minnesotans take their State Fair very seriously and it is a major annual event here (which I am just rediscovering, given that I relocated from NYC last fall).

Perhaps you've heard of our State Fair because of all the food-on-a-stick? For instance...cheese on a stick, alligator on a stick, key lime pie (dipped in chocolate) on a stick, reuben on a stick, spaghetti and meatballs on a stick, hot dish on a stick. Total items on a stick? 63! (Check this out!)

This year's new addition to the MN State Fair food roster: chocolate covered bacon!

And all I had was cotton candy.