Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Friday, December 31, 2010

What Are You Doing New Years' Eve?

It's the Eve of the New Year, a time to ponder over the past one, and send energy out for the new. How was your year? What are your hopes for the new one? 2010 marks my moving through a lot of fear - I started blogging, I moved, I published. I put myself out there in a wholly new way, shedding old skin to make way for the new. My hopes for the New Year are tangible, but I'd like to get to a more ethereal place. Yeah, we all would like a book contract or two, right? And how about financial security? 'Nuff said.

I am celebrating this New Year with my family, my mom, and some of her friends at Crosswicks in Northwestern Connecticut. We have done this for a few years in a row now, establishing a tradition - the kids are excited to stay up as late as they want to watch the ball drop, and to play Apples to Apples and Trivial Pursuit, maybe watch a movie, nibble and snack. My mom also presented them with gift cards from www.globalgiving.org where they can choose their own charitable contribution. I am extremely grateful to be able to take them into the New Year giving to other.

And my late Christmas present from my mom came in today's mail - perfect timing: my very own Kindle! Finally, I will join the ranks of e-readers. A Kindle - something I would never procure for myself but am giggling with delight over. Something I feel that I can't afford - but a gift, making me feel rich! Is this a premonition of things to come - will I leap into the New Year with more technological savvy? Will I leap with faith that book contracts and job security will happen on their own time and when they need to?

I was happy to pay $9.99 for Edges, and thrilled to find that I could download my great-grandfather's out-of-print books for 99 cents each. (Yes, Madeleine L'Engle's own father, Charles Wordsworth Camp was not only a journalist, but a playwright and the author of mystery novels!) My first read will be The Gray Mask.

So . . . I will ring in 2011 with hope and gratitude, love and joy. With a focus on the journey, rather than specific accomplishments. And remember the words of Mick Jagger whenever I hit a road block: You can't always get what you want, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!

And the poetry of Rumi:

They will ask you
what you have produced.
Say to them,
except for Love,
what else can a Lover produce?



I wish you all the best in the year to come! Thank you for sharing this journey with me!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is it Really Wednesday?

Is it really Wednesday? I get lost in the maelstrom of snow and holidays and vacation - yesterday felt like a Sunday, and I don't even know what today felt like. (I managed to make it to the gym and to the library to work with an eighth grade girl on her amazing story.)

What are we doing right now? My ten year old is reading Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld, my eight year old is humming Oh Come All Ye Faithful while he finishes a puzzle (did he inherit this humming habit from the great grandfather he never knew?) My five year old is watching Little Bear and my husband is making dinner. And I am blogging under the glow of the Christmas lights. It's all very cozy, isn't it?

Edges has been out for three weeks, and reader response has slowly been trickling in, positive and lovely. I haven't been able to work on my manuscript - it's almost there - almost. The kids have been home and I've been enjoying them, reading aloud (A Wind in the Door and The Hobbit) and watching movies (Nanny McPhee Returns and Hook).

I even got the chance to read a novel, staying up late into the night to finish it. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. Two narratives - a Nigerian refugee and a suburban London housewife, moral ambiguity. Good stuff.

I'm being called to the dinner table . . . I'll write more on New Year's Eve, when we'll be up at Crosswicks with my mom!

Monday, December 27, 2010

What Do You Believe?

The original letter sent asking about the vera...Image via Wikipedia
"Do you really believe in Santa Claus?" my oldest son has asked me for the past three years.

And the answer is always "Yes!" Or at least, I want to believe. It is more fun to suspend disbelief than not. My ten year old chooses to have fun, and my five year old doesn't have to suspend anything: she knows. My eight year old is somewhere in between.

A post-Christmas blog about Santa ? How passé, you are probably thinking.

Yet this time of the year never fails to strengthen my belief that we are what we perceive. This is what I am most curious about with my friends, family and new people that I meet: how do you view the world? It's not a question of religion.


My eight year old son, when he hasn't been playing in the snow, has been running around the house with a special pair of glasses that his grandmother in North Dakota sent him. These glasses hold promises of rainbows - you put them on, look at a light, and the world becomes a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors. Quite an interesting spin on the ole "rose-tinted glasses" phenomenon.

In my youth I used to wear figurative rose-tinted glasses  - it was like being a fraudulent Pollyanna. But whenever I got shot by the slings and arrows of life, I would rip them off, giving myself a dose of hard "reality", which would inevitably send me on a frantic search for those glasses again. You see the tautological conundrum!

As an adult I am constantly seeking balance between these two ways of looking at the world, and of course have found multiple others. (You all know how obsessed I am with mysticism!) Rose-tinted glasses don't have to be what we put on when we don't want to deal with reality. Neither does religion, Santa Claus, spirituality.

And somebody somewhere is always accusing religion of being the opiate of the masses. (Karl Marx)

But it is what helps us to see the world in all of it's glory, both dark and light. My beliefs help me to see the cup as half-full, and help me to stay grateful for what I do have instead of focusing on what I don't.

This is what I wish for myself and for everybody this solstice/ Christmas/ New Year: gratitude and acceptance, with a generous sprinkle of the fun of Santa Claus, no matter where your beliefs lie.



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Friday, December 24, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life

A distraught George Bailey (James Stewart) ple...Image via Wikipedia
Hey there and Merry Christmas! What are you up to?  I am watching one of the most heart-wrenching movies ever, as you can tell from the title of my post. I've been talking about it for the past couple of days, so when we turned on the TV at 8PM to look for a Christmas "special" and it was on - it seemed like fate. The boys are staying up late with us and watching for the first time. The girl is long gone to bed.

George has just said to Billy: Where's that money, you silly stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison. That's what it means. One of us is going to jail - well, it's not gonna be me. A tale of woe, yet also of resurrection and redemption. I start crying on and off from when Mr. Gower hits the young George's bad ear through the whole movie. We feel George edging towards hysteria, we understand it, we can taste it - he is constantly faced with choosing between his values and his dreams.Why do they have to be so disparate?

He is so good, good, good, and life is so unfair that he finally loses it.

Have you ever lost it?

Child: Can I pray for him?
Mary: Yes, pray very hard.

There have been many times when I have lost my way.  

George: Show me the way - I'm at the end of my rope.

And then Clarence the angel makes his bizarre appearance as George is about to jump off the bridge. Clarence doesn't use "magic", no. He simply jumps in the water himself.


Clarence: You tried to save me - and that's how I saved you.


Service, that's what it comes down to. Being of service, taking actions to help others, and tuning into your highest self. George needs to see that this is the way he has lived his life and how it has impacted his community.


(Okay, a moment of horrific comedy - George is aghast that Mary is an "old maid" and a "librarian". Single-dom rocks and librarians are the shizz!!!)

Saving. George sacrificed himself for others, and they in turn "saved" him.

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks Clarence. And thank you dear reader friends! Blogging and getting feedback has been tremendously rewarding. We're giving to each other!


The boys loved it and have just given big hugs and trotted upstairs to bed, eager for the morning to come. 


It's a wonderful life, indeed. I keep thinking of the moment I had at the book launch when I realized that this could be as good as it gets and I was going to enjoy every minute of it. My anxiety is down, my tear ducts full, my shmaltziness at a peak.


Merry Christmas!





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Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrinkles in Time and the Lunar Eclipse

Lunar EclipseImage via Wikipedia
The full moon sure is purty tonight. Full moon AND a lunar eclipse I hear, starting at 3:17AM in New York. AND it's winter solstice.

AND I just saw a fantastic production of A Wrinkle in Time at The Round House Theater in Washington D.C.

Is this all a coincidence?

As many of you know, I have been struggling with how best to honor my wonderful grandmother, and yet retain my own sense of self, my own voice. I am not trying to ride on her career, I want to have my own, yet at the same time I can't deny the profound influence she has had on me.

My dear friend Katherine and I moved from the same building in NYC at the same time almost 6 months ago - I to Northern Westchester, and she to the suburbs of D.C. Our daughters are bosom buddies. Katherine was offered the position as Grants Manager at the Round House Theater this fall and when she found out that they were producing Wrinkle, she immediately started lobbying for me to come down. She leaned on me in such a disarmingly charming way that after several weeks, even though Edges was just coming out and Christmas was only a week away, even though D.C. is a 6 hour drive, I was able to commit to a matinee on Sunday the 19th. She then lobbied Round House to invite me to do a "talk back" after the show, and after that wrote to me saying that Round House would also like to sell copies of Edges. Wow! "Now I've made it so you really can't back out," she joked.

I was terrified of being a disappointment. Who would care enough to stay for the talk back, never mind buying a book, my book? Fortunately, the play was captivating enough to energize me and get me out of myself. A trimmed down version yes, but for the stage, and John Glore's choices for dialogue and "showing" character was phenomenal. I was worried about Meg - because Meg's faults carry the story - for me. Meg is the character I identified with forever, whose example showed me that I could be, and was, loved, warts and all. Meg could have been played as whiny, and that would have been wrong. But Erin Weaver didn't do that.  She embodied Meg's anger, frustration and spunk perfectly.  We rooted for Calvin to kiss her at the end, and we believed that he saw her awesomeness.

And that's what I hope for, for all of us. That our loved ones will still see the best in us, even when we are at our worst and most insecure. That our own darkness won't totally eclipse us, that we will have the strength to tesser even-though-it-is-terrifying, to find our own light, and to be able to celebrate the darkest day of the year on solstice because we know that the days will start to lengthen again, that we will thaw and new life will grow.

Time was wrinkled for me during that performance, and I was thrown back to being the girl who identified with Meg (except for the math part) tall, awkward, bespectacled and yes, braces graced my teeth.  I thought about how Gran was always a combination of Mrs. Whatsit and Aunt Beast to me, and I was able to get up onstage after the show where people did indeed stay to ask questions, and some also stayed to check out Edges as well - including Erin Weaver and Jake Land, the actor playing Charles Wallace!

I could write so much more about the production - and maybe I will - tomorrow. I am incredibly wiped out after a whirlwind two weeks since the release of Edges and I must confess that I haven't been sleeping very well amidst all of the excitement. So no, I am NOT staying up to witness the lunar eclipse, although it wouldn't surprise me if my Gran whispered in my ear at 3AM waking me up to wrap myself in a blanket, make two mugs of hot cocoa, and sit on the deck and wait.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nostalgia at the Cathedral

This is one of my favorite pictures from my childhood. I am perched on the arm of a hideous orange fake leather chair while my sister sits in our grandmother's lap as she reads to us in the library of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

I took a trip into the city today with some writer friends - played "hooky", in order for me to give them a special tour of the medieval-styled Cathedral, the mish mash of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the site rife with multi-religious and ecological symbolism that has meant so much to me over the years. 

I hadn't been there or given a tour in over 6 months, and it will probably be another 6 months before I visit again. As you might expect, I've been feeling nostalgic for my grandmother and wishing she were here. I'm a published author, Gran!

I really wanted to visit the Library, to sit in an orange chair, joke about the color and talk to her, but by the time we got to Diocesan House, it was the lunch hour and there was nary a soul to let us in.

So in place of that, tonight after a long day (including a two hour session with a student helping him submit his fantastic story to the Scholastic Art and Writing Award contest, and spending time with my loves, I looked up the very first blog I did two years ago on my grandmother's official website commemorating her 90th birthday, and here I am. (It would take me over another year to create this site and start to blog regularly.)

I would like to share it, but I warn you, 'tis lengthy!

So these are my thoughts tonight as I get ready for the next few days of whirlwind activity: Caroling with kindergartners, reading with young Writopians at Borders, road tripping to DC to see old friends and make some new ones at the Roundhouse Theater. And I wish my Gran were here to share it all with me. Aaah - here she is - she wants me to promise to take pics and report back!

;-)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good Tidings!

"Guess what?" Allan at Books of Wonder said as he excitedly grabbed my hand yesterday.

"What?" What could he be so excited about?

"I just crunched the numbers this morning, and Edges was our #2 seller this week!"

It took a while for that to sink in while I signed some more stock for the store. Not too shabby for a debut novel, and certainly not what I expected. I'm thinking of Edges as the little-book-that-could: chugga chugga, chugga chugga. How wonderful to have an independent bookstore champion it!

I stayed at the café, waiting for my long-time friend and writer Benjamin (author of wonderful historical fiction novel Lillian Leowe) to go down to the Pen Parentis holiday party with me where I would be reading. I got an email from my publicist that she was finally able to find a bookseller who would be able to sell copies of Edges at the Roundhouse Theater on December 19th, when I will be attending a performance of A Wrinkle in Time and giving a talk-back. Yahoo! (Roundhouse had approached me about this marketing strategy last week, and I figured it was too good of an offer to pass up. However, we were having difficulties finding a bookseller because it is the week before Christmas - AND stores in DC don't seem to be stocking it yet. So this news was definitely a coup!)

AND the husband sent me a link he found to the Christian Scientist Monitor in which I am mentioned in a lovely article that made me cry. (If you read my blog regularly, you'll know why!)

Benjamin and I had a lovely visit, and braved the cold to go down to the Libertine Library on Gold Street downtown. It was an intimate evening in a beautiful space, where I got to share the stage with another writer/parent/friend John Reed. And since there were no kids in the audience, I got to read a different section of the novel. Something more - dare I say it? Edgy.

So I'm feeling good because I feel like there's some real energy behind Edges - besides me just trying desperately to flap my wings. And today I'm being taken out for a celebratory lunch by Judy Blundell and Katie Davis - no, not too shabby at all!
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Persistence and Cribbing

We were determined to do it. That piano had been sitting in our garage since we "moved" into this house in the 'burbs 6 months ago - moved into the basement, that is, while we've been fixing up the rest of the house. (This is the piano I had growing up - I practiced playing Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, well before I was ready because I was in-love with those pieces. Much as when we write, we fall in-love with something beyond our grasp and seek to understand it through story . . .)

My mom gave it to me when she inherited my grandmother's grand piano. I don't play anymore, but my daughter wants to, and I would like to start practicing again.

It took the husband and me three hours to get it up the two steep steps from the garage into the kitchen, through the dining room and into it's proper resting place. We had to use blocks of wood to lift up each end of the piano slowly. Husband called it "cribbing", a word I never heard of until today, but I quite like. He said it was how they built Stonehenge and the Pyramids, and we would use this technique to move the piano, thank you very much. We would raise one end, then the other, and so on . . .  quite a feat of engineering. And there were moments when we thought that it couldn't be done, that there was no way, despite our best intentions, we were going to get it up the stairs and through that door.

Isn't that a lot like writing, or any other endeavor we are passionate about? The sheer impossibility of taking on a project is mind boggling, but we write anyway. We persist. We engage in "cribbing" with a great lump of a story, and keep raising it up on all sides to make meaning out of our words. We place down our words, like the pieces of wood, and heave, hoping that we won't make a mess of things. And sometimes we look at it and feel like giving up. What's the point of having a piano anyway? What's the point of writing? It's so ha-ha-hard!

Then we take a deep breath and move forward slowly and patiently, taking the wood (words) away and put it where it is needed next.

Now look - the piano is in place - and will help make our home feel warm and cozy, and will inspire us to get other things out of the garage too. Edges will find it's own warm and cozy place, and I will keep writing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Open Mic and My New Living Room

It's raining cats and dogs and I am finally sitting in my new living room, and finally sitting on the new couch that we bought 6 months ago. Yes, finally. (Breaking rule of NOT repeating words.)

And look at the beautiful paint job husband did! Everything is (one more time . . .) FINALLY coming together: the book AND the house!

I've been feeling like a published author since Thursday evening, after my wonderful inauguration at Books of Wonder. It helped me feel less anxious about the Open Mic event at Borders in Mt. Kisco last night (although I was worried about attendance - because most of my Writopia kids are planning on reading at the event next Friday, December 17th).

The barometer was Borders and the kids' happiness and everyone was thrilled, so the event was a success! (And people bought books!)  I had two girls from my 10-year-old group and my 3rd grader, Finn, brought two of his friends from school to read their poems for the Open Mic portion of the afternoon. Two girls, three boys, and me. An exhilarating part of the evening was the Q&A, where the kids and I answered questions about the writing process. The girls waxed eloquent about Writopia! It was a joy to watch their confidence build the more and more they spoke - indeed, I had the same experience on Thursday night - I was nervous reading, but during the Q&A when I realized that people were really interested in what I had to say, I completely relaxed!

And now I can relax in my living room with my family on a Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow maybe, I can get some writing done, somewhere other than my bed!
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Was a Special Debutante Guest!

Debutante Ball InvitationImage by neutralSurface via Flickr
Hey there strangers! I was invited to dance at the Debutante Ball, and so have a guest post up today! So pop on over if you are so inclined. They asked me to blog about uh, balance, something you know I work hard towards, so it wasn't much of a stretch!

Gotta dash - I've already made a pot of chili to have after the reading at Borders this afternoon, but we have much more cleaning to do before people come over! I'll write more tomorrow - promise!
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Found My Edge

I am the really good kind of exhausted after a slam dunk good time last night. Despite my initial anxiety, I was able to relax, enjoy the moment, and finally feel like a published author! I read an excerpt, answered fabulous questions and signed over 50 books!







Here I am asking Santa for some magical mojo when I visited the North Pole beforehand.





And here with my agent, Edward Necarsulmer of Mcintosh and Otis. We look good together, don't you think? (Husband agrees!)

Books of Wonder is, was, and always will be, an amazing place. I had the first taste of it's magic when Peter Glassman had a much smaller store, and my grandmother and I read from The Glorious Impossible. Little did I think or dream that twenty years later, Peter would be hosting my first book party!

We walked in to a bookshelf facing the door, full of copies of Edges. What a thrill! The staff were awesomely helpful and soothing; Peter gave me a stellar introduction, surprising me with his intimate knowledge of Edges, radiating authenticity in his admiration of it.

And dudes - I got to sign books! With a black sharpie! I found my edge last night - pushing myself beyond spiritual complacency and right into the moment.

Tomorrow is the Writopia Open Mic/ Edges reading at the Borders in Mt. Kisco. I have to keep my expectations of attendance low, because Books of Wonder set the bar so high! Thank you so much to everybody who came out - I felt so loved and supported!
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pre-Party Checklist

Books of WonderImage by Robert Hoge via Flickr
First: Breathe deeply, or that's what I've been told, and I'm trying!

The world keeps turning on it's axis: Edges launched on Tuesday and we're going to celebrate in the city tonight at Books of Wonder. Husband and I have bought 64 cupcakes and 64 brownies for the occasion. Check. I have been striving for a state just below shameless self-promotion on Facebook and Twitter, and hope I haven't been too annoying. I've listed another giveaway on Goodreads - this time the odds are slightly better with two signed copies in the mix. Check.

Next for the day is to live my life: supervise oldest son making lunch, followed by a trip to the city - first stop will be Book Culture on 114th and Broadway to sign copies of Edges, and then we will go to Macy's for our annual visit to Santa. I LOVE Santa! Just because we moved to the 'burbs doesn't mean we have to do away with this tradition!

I got some great news yesterday: I'll be in Washington DC on December 19th at Round House Theater to see their staged production of A Wrinkle in Time adapted by John Glore - not only have I been invited to do a talk-back with the audience after the show, but they want to sell Edges in the lobby after that performance! And I never even asked or thought of that as a possibility! Thanks go out to friend Katherine Freedman, who works there and who has been lobbying for me to come and visit her since the fall and I'm sure has something to do with this!

So tonight I celebrate, and put all of the hard work on Edges behind me. Family, friends and many from the YA community are going to be stepping out with love and encouragement behind their smiles. (I even have a long lost cousin coming - someone I haven't seen in over 30 years!)

If you can't come, I urge you to celebrate your own accomplishments too. We all have them, but if you're anything like me, you hide from them, downplay them. I think this is part of the reason I am so passionate about working with kids and teens, and getting them to step up and put their work out there with pride sooner than later. (Open Mic events at Borders in Mt. Kisco, December 11th and 17th!)

Check back tomorrow, and I'll recap the event!

Hugs!

Léna
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Pub Day to Edges!

Dear Friends,

In honor of my publication day, I am taking an internet break. It is almost 10AM and I have been staring at the screen since the kids went off to school, and gotten frustrated because I can't figure out how to auto tweet. This is not what it's about, Ms. Roy, is it? Therefore, I have printed out another draft of my current WIP and my day will be comprised of lovingly laboring over my written word, and I will celebrate by taking a break and getting a professional pedicure. (Maybe I'll even go hog wild and get a matching manicure.)

You can help me celebrate by hounding your local bookseller - praise them for being awesomely on top of things if they're already stocking it, or kindly ask them to order it for you. Use your gift cards, discounts, what-have-you, and then read in public! At a café, on the train, walking down the street! Or read at home in your favorite spot (mine is under the covers). And if you can't get or don't have time for Edges yet, remind yourself about how much you love reading and writing, how story shapes us, uplifts us, makes us think . . . celebrate reading.

If you want to find out more about Edges or order it on-line, please check out my website for details! I link to Indiebound and Powell's, as well as all of the usual suspects.

And wish me luck on my internet break!

Love,

Léna

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writopia Reminds Me of What's Important

What's a girl to do the day before the publication of her first ever book? Take train to city, forget I-Pod, roll eyes in annoyance, look out the window, try not to think about book, allow a few minutes of self-obsession, meet editor Beth Potter from FSG to celebrate book release at Craftbar in Flatiron District, eat fried risotto balls, feel supported by the gal with the porcelain skin, drink cappuccino, walk her back to work, remark on the cold weather - it's winter already!?! Take subway uptown and . . .

be reminded why I heart Rebecca and Jeremy Wallace-Segal so much by supporting them and their mission at the first ever Writopia fundraiser!!!!

Monkey mind - stop! Writopia reminds me of what's important.

The event was held at a comedy club and we brought swag bags, tables, and goodies from Zabar's  to Stand Up New York on 78th street. There was a flurry activity in setting up, where I rested in not being in charge, but being told what to do. (Sometimes that's so relaxing, don't you think? I feel like I have to make so many decisions every minute - anyway, I digress!)

Everything looked beautiful, and Rebecca and Jeremy were rock stars with their professionalism. Parents and kids alike got up on stage and shared what Writopia means to them, how having this community has shaped their lives, and how it's an important piece of the dream to provide excellent programming to all kids/teens who want to participate, regardless of their socio-economic background. (Writopia prides itself in providing reduced or waived fees to 40% of the student body, but in order to facilitate that, the program need help from the community at large!)

Yes, I got all fired up. It's amazing to be part of this community, for my own personal mission to be so lined up with others. We're growing in Northern Westchester, we are. It's slower than I want, I must admit. We have the carpooling hurdle to overcome, the larger distances and limited public transportation. Sports. Yet I have two vibrant groups and several private students. I'll be hosting two Open Mic events in conjunction EDGES on both December 11th and December 17th at the Borders in Mt. Kisco. Yay!

(Writing and community . . . speaking of community, Judy Blundell was in town for the Books of Wonder holiday party, and we actually were able to meet up at Grand Central Station to take the train back to Katonah together!)

I am so blessed to be a part of all of these different writing communities - as a teacher, a writer, a novice, but most of all, a life-long learner!

Publishing is only a piece of the pie. It is not the whole pie.

That being said, tomorrow is pub day, and I am happy. I am also rambling on, and I must stop! It's late. Sleep well, my friends!
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Not a FIGMENT of the Imagination . . .

Figment is launching, figment is launching! Can you tell that I'm excited? What is this Figment, you may well be asking. A figment of the imagination? No! (Yet it IS all about imagination . . .) It is a new social networking website for teen writers to read and share each others work! Their motto is: write yourself in . . . isn't that fantastic? (You can read the New York Times piece about it here.)

"Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you're into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here."

Sounds like our mission at Writopia, but on-line!

I was invited be part of the test launch of Figment six months ago because of my affiliation with Girls Write Now. It took them six months of testing and perfecting the site, and now they are ready to rock and roll!

I have just spent some time familiarizing myself with the perfected site, and have replaced my old profile with a new one, participating in a forum with teens writing in from all over the world.

I love that new voices are going to be heard!

(And I also love that I can market something else other than my book right now! Big day in the city tomorrow - lunch with assistant editor on EDGES, Beth Potter, and then the Writopia fundraiser at Stand Up New York!)
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Friday, December 3, 2010

The Writer

My daughter's kindergarten teacher gave me this poem today, because it made her think of my boisterous and determined angel. I was thrown back to 25 years ago, when I first read Richard Wilbur, and the self I was back then. Her teacher watched me read with love and intensity, and I surprised myself by needing to fight back tears. Did she know what a gift she was giving me?  My daughter wants to be a writer, like me. Maybe that will change, and maybe it won't, but I left the room, pondering my roles as a parent, daughter, writer, person . . . and I wanted to share with you.

The Writer  
by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.



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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thank you YA Community!

I had a hard time falling asleep last night I was so excited. Everything is coalescing as my book birthday looms in front of me, only five days away. I had lunch with new friend and neighbor Katie Davis the other day. She asked me what my book was about, and I faltered in the telling.

"Why are you hesitating?" she asked.

"Well, people don't think that alcoholism and recovery are very sexy," I said.

"Says who?" She challenged. "You've got to own this. It sounds AWESOME. And it hasn't been done before."

Yeah. My book IS awesome. Thanks Katie! Katie not only writes amazing kidlit and YA, but also does a weekly podcast and is a social media/twitter maven. She told me about twitterbookbday.com and I struggled through the signing up, but I did it! (So hopefully a lot of people will be tweeting about Edges next Tuesday.)

And more thanks go out to Judy Blundell for her endorsement of Edges and for her friendship; Sandra Jordan for being with me through the long haul:  Courtney Sheinmel for her adamant insistence that I have a book birthday party; Rebecca Stead, Daphne Grab, Deborah Heiligman, Lucy Frank, Elizabeth Winthrop, Jeanne Betancourt, and Carolyn Mackler for their support and encouragement during our monthly lunches. (Happening TODAY! Must train to the city with Judy in mere minutes!)

And to you, dear readers, and the community we are building through Facebook and through this blog, your support means everything to me. Thank you so much for reading and for reaching out your hands in friendship - I am reaching back and holding on - you're coming with me!

Addendum: I have to also give a shout out to fellow debutantes Lish McBride and Jen Violi, who both live as far west as you can get in this country, and whom I never get to share a real plate of french fries with, but who have been crucial partners in crime, traveling the zig-zag road of YA Lit and publishing! I heart you guys!






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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seven Years To Publication

My pub date is looming! One week from today! I have moved through the tremendous anxiety I have been feeling to sheer excitement. Why have I been so focused on "sales" and what stores are or are not stocking the book? Edges will find it's audience and will be the first of many novels. I've already proven to myself through these seven years of gestation that I can suffer through my impatience, I can write and rewrite, and rewrite again, and that practicing any craft makes you better. Period.

So all ye writers out there - do not give up hope! If I can do it, you can!

Seven years. Much has been made of this number in every religion. The sum of the spiritual three + the material four is seven. Seven comes from the Hebrew word, shen-ban, meaning to be complete, or full. For a more complete breakdown of the symbolic meaning of seven, here is a good place to start. It's my new favorite number!

The giveaway on Goodreads ended this morning, and there were 953 entries! I like to think that is a good, healthy number. I grabbed my only copy of Edges and tried to come up with something pithy to write along with my autograph, but ended up pith-less but personal. (An "edge" has multiple meanings, and I hope the book encompasses all of them! Do you guys have any ideas? I can think of several, but they are all cheesy . . .) Then I went to the post office where I sent it off all the way to Kalispell Montana! It should get there on Friday.

Seven years to publication. Seven years to completion. It's almost here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Gran

Dear Gran,

You would have been 92 years old today. This holiday season wouldn't be the same without commemorating your birth in some way - it was always part of the end of the year line-up: Halloween, Thanksgiving, your birthday party, Advent with lots of singing, more parties, Christmas, New Year's Eve. As we are both writers, I am sure that you would be tickled by a blog post as well as the white candles I am lighting in your honor.

(Because you would blog. Oh yes, you would. I know of no other writer as devoted to communicating with people as much as you. You answered every single letter, and made deep friendships over the years through people reaching out to you. Of course you would blog)!

I am reading A Wrinkle in Time out loud right now to your youngest granddaughter, Scarlett L'Engle. I have read it out loud to the boys too, and I am moved every time, not only by the text, but by my memories of you: reading Wrinkle aloud to me the summer when I was 9 and in a hospital with broken bones and fractured mind; identifying and commiserating with me whenever I got dramatic or emotional as a teenager; writing stories with me, as I do now with some of my own students and my children; taking me to museums, the opera, ballet; giving me glimpses of light in the world so that I may find my own light.

You generously shared your love of literature and language, your love of story as truth. You taught me about love, hope and possibility in a world that is at times impossibly cruel. You taught me that our faults and our virtues are on a double-edge sword. How wonderful that Mrs. Whatsit gives Meg her faults to conquer IT with! You taught me that I could be and do anything, as long as I didn't let fear get the best of me. Well Gran, as you know, I always have to learn the hard way!

Remember when I put everything in storage and moved to Moab for a year? You were not happy that I was going to be far away from you, yet you knew that I must follow my own path.  My time in Moab fourteen years ago inspired my first novel! I started writing Edges seven years ago, and now it will finally be published next week, December 7th. I almost gave up several times. Thank you for showing me that writing is a discipline and a practice. You never gave up through all of the lean years and rejections. You kept going, because that was who you were. There wasn't anything else to do!

Having you as my Gran in this business has been a mixed blessing - on the one hand, your influence has been my inspiration, on the other, I have been so afraid to dare to follow in your footsteps. If people are expecting you, they will be disappointed. Nobody can be you.

Many of us spend much of our youth folding ourselves up into pretzels, trying to please others and to conform to our ideas of what our family, friends, society want us to be. We are afraid of not being loved. Finding and owning my voice as a writer has been a hard won process.


“On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems. You know that, don’t you, dear sister?”
            “No,” Meg said.
            “Oh, yes, you do. You’ve seen at home how true it is. You know that’s the reason you’re not happy at school. Because you’re different.”
            “I’m different, and I’m happy.” Calvin said.
            “But you pretend that you aren’t different.”
            “I’m different, and I like being different.” Calvin’s voice was unnaturally loud.
            “Maybe I don’t like being different,” Meg said, “but I don’t want to be like everybody else either.” P.155

This is part of what inspires me to mentor young writers, to show them that "originality" is finding their own authentic voice.

Thank you for always being my guide and mentor, in heart, mind and spirit. For continuing to kythe with me, even now, three years after your death. Happy Birthday Gran, you are always with me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanks and Giving

A Turkey.Image via Wikipedia
There is a new kitchen in my house. Which means, a working oven to put a 13 pound turkey with stuffing in, and a refrigerator to chill the Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. We are keeping things very simple this year, wanting to celebrate this holiday in our new house and create new rituals.

When my Gran was alive, the extended family all gravitated towards her and we would have a big shin-dig wherever she needed to be, whether it was in the city or the homestead in Northwestern Connecticut. But since she passed, we have all been trying to find our center, and  I can't think of Thanksgiving without thinking of her, as her birthday is also just around the corner. So, without further ado, let me give her a shout out: we love you and miss you Gran! You are always in our hearts . . .

My first Thanksgiving with my husband was in 1996 and we had just shacked up together in Moab, Utah. My parents were getting divorced, and this was one of the first times I wouldn't be with my family. What to do for the holiday? My future husband was all about action, so it became about joy, rather than loss. Neither of us had been to Las Vegas, so we drove to the dust bowl of neon and celebrated there, thoroughly enjoying the culture shock and cognitive dissonance that comes with going from one extreme environment to another, and having a turkey dinner in a fancy hotel restaurant and seeing a show.

I am grateful for my years with my husband, the three children we have together, the life we have built and continue to build. I am grateful to have this chance at being a published author, for the work I do with kids as we all strive together to find our own unique voice. I am grateful for wonderful friends, new and old. I am grateful that I continue to learn and grow. I am grateful to have a kitchen in which to finally cook a Thanksgiving feast for the first time on my own.

The kids and I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread yesterday (and are having friends over this morning to share it with us), my eldest son made two pumpkin pies, we had good friends over for dinner on their way to Cape Cod. This morning as I write this I am half watching Scooby Doo, we have a new puzzle to do and a gingerbread house to make, and of course, the art project - making the Thanksgiving Tree. Uh. Don't forget about the FOOD!

And look at the time! I'd better get crack-a-lackin' on the bird! But I want to hear from you too! (There's always so much to write, and not enough time!) What are you thankful for this year? What are some of your stranger Thanksgiving rituals? AND . . . wish me luck with the turkey!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Have Tea!

A teacup on a saucer.Image via Wikipedia
I want to have a Tea Party as I write this post. (As in have a cup o' tea dearie? and not the political movement. )

Unfortunately, it will have to be virtual and one-sided, but I feel oh so very chatty, and long to get cozy with you all and talk for hours. However, a warning is in order -  I have a tendency to take conversations in a few different directions! (My husband is forever catching me stopping in mid-sentence and then starting to talk about something else.)

It's almost Thanksgiving, and two weeks until my pub date, (!!!!) and I have to confess that I have let the whole NaNoWriMo frenzy fall by the wayside: indeed, it is hanging limp. But you knew that. However,  going into the realm of fantasy for a few days gave me an AHA! moment and I realized how to fix the problem I was perseverating on in my WIP, giving me fresh energy. Yay! Has anybody else had that experience? It's quite invigorating, let me tell you! (Another confession - this is the WIP I sent to my agent. I realized the problem and asked him NOT to read it! It should be really ready in another two weeks.)

The God Box is awesome.  (See post Mod Podge and God) I'm writing letters every morning, folding them up and letting go. This concrete ritual is just what I need right now.

I have tea and spirituality on the brain probably because I finally shared a pot of tea and scones yesterday in the city at Alice's Tea Cup with Donna Freitas, author of The Possibilities of Sainthood and This Gorgeous Game, also published by FSG. We have been trying to find a time to get together ever since our mutual friend Daphne Grab introduced us, and I found out that she was a Phillip Pullman scholar. I am a Pullman geek. Well, we didn't even get the chance to talk about Pullman yesterday, finding so much else that we have in common - growing up religious, but finding our own ways to God as adults (albeit in different ways), a fascination with religion and spirituality.

Now, enough about me. What kind of tea are you having? (I'm sipping sapchan oolong, with a hint of jasmine.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mod Podge and God

"Can you make slots in the top of these?" I asked my husband late this morning, handing him two Starbucks boxes that were only big enough to fit large mugs, excited for my arts and crafts project.

"Sure," he said, looking at them. "How big do you want them?" I have been talking about this particular idea for weeks, and had just come back from discovering Katonah's local art store, Janet's Planet, flourishing a bag laden with Mod Podge and tissue paper.

"Big enough to put a folded piece of paper in. You know - like a mailbox." Yesterday I had cut up some magazines in preparation for some collage work. I wanted to make a God Box.

In my early 20's I used to make collages as a form of meditation. I kept a folder full of cut outs from magazines and would glue pictures onto cardboard, seeing what I would come up with. Almost like Play Therapy. And then I was at NYU studying Drama Therapy, and my Masters thesis was a performance art piece, called Pandora's Hot Box, Lost in a Spiritual Supermarket. I dare you not to call that a collage.

But. I have never used Mod Podge. How can a girl have never used Mod Podge? I've fantasized about it of course. Imagined a house full of creatively découpaged objects. (Mod Podge is this amazing glue that looks white, but dries clear and glossy.) My excuse was always that my NYC apartment was too small. No space, no time. I need to write after all. Take care of some kids. Let them do all the arts and crafts.

Today was the day Mod Podge and I finally met and married - pictures and tissue paper with the impervious glue. The cut openings are for letters or notes to God (or the Universe, or Higher Self, Higher Power - whatever works for you.) A concrete prayer of letting go or of thanks. Another tool to help me get out of my own way.

I took my supplies up to my bedroom and laid everything out on my purple velvet comforter. Tissue paper, rip! Mod Podge, a picture of a palm tree and a hammock on the beach. God. This first one has to be for my BFF. She's a total beach bunny, while I am. Not. Images, shapes, patterns came to me with her in mind. Mod Podge. I just love those sounds together. God Mod Podge. Mod God Podge. Hmmmm.

Writing has always been the strongest form of prayer for me. Writing things down gives my words weight, makes them real. My journals are full of these types of prayers and my writing is between God and me anyway. This will be a constant, loving reminder.


Of course I made one for myself but it's not quite finished yet - I had to share my supplies with my children when they came home from school. Still, I hope to start out each day with a letter that I can tuck safely away in the God Box, beginning tomorrow. Maybe it will be the simple Serenity Prayer.



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Monday, November 15, 2010

Beside Myself

Beside MyselfImage by Danielle Scott via Flickr
Three weeks from tomorrow, peeps. Yes, I know we will remember Pearl Harbor, but it's also the publication date for EDGES. You must be beside yourself with excitement! People say encouragingly. Well, I am certainly beside myself, and excitement is merely one of the ways in which that phenomenon manifests itself.

So what does it mean when I am beside myself? Am I  literally out of my body, not myself anymore?  Or are there two of me, both unable to look in the mirror to see what's what. If I am beside myself, where exactly am I? Who am I?

I am a mother, writer, teacher, wife, friend. I am.

I am. Beside myself with excitement: this is truly a dream come true but it's also very much like being near the end of my first pregnancy, where I wanted my son so very badly and I couldn't wait to meet him, but I am  just so huge and can't sleep and can't walk, and I have heartburn on top of everything else.

I am. Beside myself with marketing: On Friday night I went to a party with a lot of other writers from the kid-lit world, where I heard about a couple of things that are NOT in my overall marketing plan. Evidently, blogs are out and podcasts are in. Facebook is okay, but Twitter reigns supreme. I left a little scared. I mean, I am on the internet PLENTY. Too much already. I was told to send invitations out for EDGES launch party ASAP. This was advice from the experts and I am the new-kid-on-the-block, so yes, you can guess how I spent my weekend, posting invites to Facebook and doing a fancy-pants evite with disco balls and everything.

Side note: If you didn't get an invitation, don't worry, please come if you are in the NYC area. It will be at Books of Wonder on December 9th from 6PM until 8PM. (Food will be involved, but of the cupcake, snack and soda variety, and not heftier fare.)

I am. Beside myself with anxiety: Will people like my book? Is "like" what I'm going for anyway? I want EDGES to spark discussions, and "like" may not even be a factor. Will people judge me as a debut novelist, or have different expectations because of my lineage? And when I'm anxious, I envision "people" out there as one entity, which is ludicrous, because a book is a relationship between it and an individual reader. Sara Zarr writes in her blog about having to read 230 books as a judge for the National Book Award and how daunting that was because of the subjective nature of reading.  She writes:  Richard Rodriguez says that the reader re-creates the book when he reads it. If that’s true, and I think it probably is, that means 100 readers could have 100 different experiences of the same book. Which can be frustrating, but is also kind of magical and also tells you something about what it is to be a person, an individual.

I love that!







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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Learned About Writing From The NYC Marathon

And no, I didn't run in it. (I run in the opposite direction from marathons.) But this year, my dear friends Ginger and Greg both pulled out all the stops to enter themselves and I became their unwitting cheerleader, watching from the sidelines. A marathon is a race, yes, but it's so much more than that. (This is a pic of Greg as we watch him pass mile 19 on 116th Street and First Avenue.)

A metaphor for life, but specifically, the writing life.

"It's a marathon, not a race," my agent, Edward Necarsulmer has told me about my career.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I've said, understanding the words intellectually, but not really getting it until now.

I started the NaNoWriMo thang last week, hoping to get my mind off of EDGES' looming pub date, but it has only served to get me in "race" mode, and worrying about things I don't normally worry about. Like word count. I already write every day, but I can't be in, what my writer friend Deborah calls "the bubble" for long periods of time right now. I am still adjusting to my new life out here in Northern Westchester, developing new relationships and making new friends, building Writopia out here and of course I have my husband, 3 munchkins, and a kitchen that is finally being put in.

But all of us have our distractions.

I watched Ginger and Greg not only run the marathon, but train for it, negotiating time for and with each other. Both work full-time - Greg is an actor and Ginger is a psychotherapist, AND they also have three kids. In training, they built up they're endurance over time to run the 26 mile race-that's-not-a-race. Writing is a practice, a training of sorts, needing determination, perseverance, and negotiation. NaNoWriMo is an intense training period, but it doesn't just end there.

"Once I got past the first five miles," Ginger told me "it got easier: it became about something else." That runner's high? (I'm past the first five miles with my writing career. After YEARS, my first novel is coming out in 27 days! I'm in the marathon-that's-not-a-race.) Greg got some leg cramps towards the end and thought he might not make it, but his coach jumped in and started running with him, egging him on. "You can do it!" He did it.

I have had some leg cramps and will certainly have more, but I've got a team around me and running with me to keep me going through the growing pains.

In a marathon, you're running with other people, working on your personal best. The goal for most people isn't to "win" - they win by trying and completing the 26 miles.

In the writing life, I'm developing my own voice and my personal best with each book, with each story that begs to be told. Sure, it would be nice to "win", but I want all of the other writers who are in the marathon with me to win too. We're in it together, some of us running fast, others limping, but we're all in it.

And books need to marinate in our heads and on the page - they take a long time to become real. Writing isn't a race. I used to be desperate to have a second contract already, but I still don't have one. That doesn't change my worth as a writer. It just makes me all the more determined to put my best work out there.

And I'm failing spectacularly at this NaNoWriMo thing. Only 6000 words! (Look who is counting?) But that doesn't mean I call it a day and give up, oh no! I'm just taking the pressure off, with a new understanding that life is a marathon, and as long as I keep moving, I'm good. It's when I stop and feel paralyzed that there is a problem. I allow myself to get trampled. And if I feel kicked - I ask for help and support as soon as I can.

After the NYC marathon on Sunday, we regrouped at Ginger and Greg's place for a debriefing and a pizza party. Amidst the chaos and soreness, G & G were glowing with exhilaration, pride, and relief. And most of all, this experience has woven itself into the fabric of their lives, love for each other, and has become part of who they are. Deliciously inspiring.

So, to myself and other writers out there: just keep moving forward, and don't worry about speed! Celebrate the little accomplishments along the way, pat yourself and your friends on the back and lower your expectations of word count and publishing, and allow yourself to feel the luxurious sensuality of words, and why we love to write in the first place.



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Thursday, November 4, 2010

EDGES Excerpt

The classic view of Canyonlands National Park ...Image via Wikipedia
This excerpt a couple of pages into the book and introduces life at the Moonflower Motel Youth Hostel. We begin with Luke, who left New York City seven months prior and at 17 has just become manager of the hostel and has moved into his own trailer . . .

Luke felt something like excitement for the first time in almost a year, and he welcomed it. He could hear the murmur of voices and laughter outside. Guests were returning from their day trips to nearby parks— Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley— and he needed to get back to the hostel. He stashed his stuff and put on a clean shirt, then jumped out the door and locked it, pocketing the key. He looked to the La Sal Mountains in the distance. He felt both contained and free in this valley, surrounded by the red sandstone of the Moab Rim. Moab was named after the Promised Land, he remembered Jim saying during one of their many conversations that winter, a twinkle in his eye. The first Mormons had given the town its biblical name in 1880.

It had certainly been that for Jim and Clare, discovering Moab last summer on a meandering road trip through the Southwest, after taking their daughter, Ava, to New York following her high school graduation in May.

“Where in New York?” Luke had asked.

“She goes to Barnard College, on the Upper West Side,” Jim
had told him.

“She must be crazy smart,” Luke had said, not mentioning that
he’d lived around the corner from the school.

“Well, she was smart enough to want to get a job right away, rather than tour the country with her parents.” Jim and Clare had burned rubber in a straight line west from New York to Denver and started their wanderings there. At first they just enjoyed the sights, but when they got to Moab, they were amazed by their visceral response to the place, and their willingness to jump into another life.
Some would call it impulsive, but Luke knew exactly how Jim and Clare felt, although he didn’t consider it a “spiritual conversion” the way they did. Well, the way Jim did.

A cherry red Jeep was idling in front of the hostel. The main parking lot must be full.

“Can I help you?” Luke asked, approaching it.

“Yeah.” There were two college- age kids in the Jeep. “We just got here. Where can we park?” Luke directed them to the alternate parking area behind his trailer.

He nodded to a few travelers congregating out front by the pic-nic tables as he opened the door to the hostel, knowing he would find Tangerine inside. She had jumped at the chance to fill in for him at the front desk because she was looking for more hours to work so that she could afford to stay longer. It was toward the end of the season, and businesses weren’t hiring anymore. She was talking to Brigitte from Chicago, who also had started living at the hostel earlier this summer and was thinking about quitting law school. Brigitte had patched together a full- time work schedule by cleaning at the hostel and making mochas at the coffee house on Center Street.

Luke stopped, mesmerized by Tangerine’s Australian twang. She had very bright red hair in two braids down her back, green eyes, a nose ring, a tongue stud, and several earrings. For all of that outer adornment, she didn’t wear any makeup, and Luke thought she was stunning. Of course, she also made him ner vous. Luke grabbed the guest book from the desk, wanting to finish the paperwork from his
busy shift.

“I’m broke and my mum wants me to come home, but I’m not ready to leave.” Tangerine sounded unusually glum, and the intimacy in her sadness made Luke feel like an intruder, so he turned and went back outside.

The sun was finally behind the building, and guests were milling about, wondering what to do for dinner. One family was firing up one of the grills, and two of the three picnic tables were full. It was virtually impossible to be alone at the hostel, and Luke had to zigzag between three children playing tag to get to the empty picnic table to finish his work. He saw the guys from the cherry red Jeep and motioned them toward the door, knowing that Tangerine would get them settled.

Hal sat down next to him. Hal had been hanging around the hos- tel for years, so when Jim bought the place and took over, he sort of adopted Hal with it, giving him the glorified title of “maintenance manager,” which was a nice way of saying that Hal was willing to do the dirty work but needed some management himself. Hal lived in a trailer on the grounds, even though he had family in town. Luke had never gotten the whole story, but he knew that Hal had been born and raised in the area, that his geologic knowledge was impressive, and that he believed in the inherent evil of extraterrestrials and Big- foot. He was also a diagnosed schizophrenic, but Georgia, who had been an art therapist specializing in adult psychosis, would have called Hal “high- functioning.”

Luke raised his chin briefl y. “How’re ya doin’?” he asked. Luke noticed that Hal had food stuck in his drooping mustache, but it never did any good to call attention to that. His graying hair was also constantly a bird’s nest, adding to his permanent look of confusion.

“Hangin’ in there,” Hal said as he turned away from Luke to greet the two new guys, who sat down at the other end of the table, opening cans of beer. Hal started talking to them. “You know the Zettians come in and just explode your world, man. It’s a totally mind- blowing experience!” The Zettians again. Luke smiled weakly at the new guys. He needed to do some damage control.

“That’s cool, man,” Luke said, knowing from experience that the best way to deal with Hal was to agree with him.

“No, man, it’s not cool.” Oops, wrong. “It’s not cool to have aliens invade your head and take you away with them. Those negative vortexes, man, stay away from them.”

“Wait,” one of the guys said, trying not to laugh. “What’s a negative vortex?”

Hal’s eyes bugged out. “You don’t know about vortexes? There’s electric and magnetic, positive and negative. You’ve got to watch out for the negative. You don’t know what can come through. Bigfoot,
the Zettians. They take over your mind and you can’t think for yourself, and the Zettians do what ever they want with you . . . They pick your brain, they just pick, pick, pick . . .”

“Hal,” Luke said gently, putting his hand on Hal’s arm. It always made him a little nervous when Hal was in one of his moods. “Sorry, man, that is rough. Hey, could you make sure there’s enough
toilet paper in the bathrooms? Somebody mentioned something about it this afternoon, but I forgot which one . . .” The look of panic was beginning to fade from Hal’s face, and he nodded.

“I’ll get right to it,” he said, and went inside the hostel.

“Was he for real?” came the inevitable question, and the two guys laughed. Luke laughed too, and he relaxed. Some people thought Hal was scary, but he wasn’t dangerous, just part of the wacky charm of the hostel. And he was defi nitely for real. At the Moonfl ower, Luke didn’t have to question his reality, the way he’d been forced to last year in New York. He shook his head slightly. Home in New York
with his father, Frank. That was another lifetime ago. Home could be anywhere. Home was right here. He loved this makeshift community.

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Reading Recap with Excerpt from Edges

Well folks, I've gone over one more hurdle in this becoming-author-like process, sitting up on a platform with six very distinguished writers, with me being the-new-kid-on-the-block. Despite my nerves, I really had a good time! Judy Blundell played the role of my fairy-godsister, picking me up and taking me to the train, weaving around Grand Central to the S, through the labyrinth of subways to the A train to get downtown. We had a bit of time, so we walked down Greenwhich Avenue to find a place to get a light supper - Judy knew of an Italian wine bar that served tapas-like meals. It was called Bottino, and with the first sip of cappuccino I was transported to Italy and forgot about why I was in the city in the first place. Good food and coffee will do that for me!

And when we made it to the Library, a small crowd was already there. Beth Potter, the assistant editor on Edges, Michael (the girl) Dobbs (who was interning at FSG when Edges was going through edits), my sister/writer/friends Daphne Grab, Deborah Heiligman, and Rebecca Stead were in the second row, rooting for me.

I sat between Rachel Cohn and Barry Lyga, and it felt like we were all in a wedding party, sitting up in a row on the small platform. Everybody's books were so different! Rachel and David read first from Dash and Lily, making me laugh out loud, and then I flustered a little bit reading second, but quickly found my groove. (The excerpt I read is pasted below!) I muffed up Tangerine's Australian accent which normally wouldn't be embarrassing, except for that Scott Westerfeld was sitting next to Barry and he lives in Australia six months out of the year!

All of the writers were awesome, and I want to read their books! They all seem to have an edge on sequels and series, a world that seems almost impossible to break into. (For a list of who and what, look at previous post!) I'm still pinching myself, that I was part of it all! (You can tell by my abuse of exclamation points!!!!!!)

The scene I chose is only a couple of pages into the book and intoduces life at the Moonflower Motel Youth Hostel. We begin with Luke, who at 17 has just vecome manager of the hostel and has moved into his own trailer.

Luke felt something like excitement for the first time in almost a year, and he welcomed it. He could hear the murmur of voices and laughter outside. Guests  were returning from their day trips to nearby parks— Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley— and he needed to get back to the hostel. He stashed his stuff and put on a clean shirt, then jumped out the door and locked it, pocketing the key. He looked to the La Sal Mountains in the distance. He felt both contained and free in this valley, surrounded by the red sandstone of the Moab Rim. Moab was named after the Promised Land, he remembered Jim saying during one of their many conversations that winter, a twinkle in his eye. The first Mormons had given the town its biblical name in 1880.

It had certainly been that for Jim and Clare, discovering Moab last summer on a meandering road trip through the Southwest,  after taking their daughter, Ava, to New York following her high school graduation in May.

“Where in New York?” Luke had asked.

“She goes to Barnard College, on the Upper West Side,” Jim
had told him.

“She must be crazy smart,” Luke had said, not mentioning that
he’d lived around the corner from the school.

“Well, she was smart enough to want to get a job right away, rather than tour the country with her parents.” Jim and Clare had burned rubber in a straight line west from New York to Denver and started their wanderings there. At first they just enjoyed the sights, but when they got to Moab, they  were amazed by their visceral response to the place, and their willingness to jump into another life.
Some would call it impulsive, but Luke knew exactly how Jim and Clare felt, although he didn’t consider it a “spiritual conversion” the way they did. Well, the way Jim did.

A cherry red Jeep was idling in front of the hostel. The main parking lot must be full.

“Can I help you?” Luke asked, approaching it.

“Yeah.” There  were two college- age kids in the Jeep. “We just got  here. Where can we park?” Luke directed them to the alternate parking area behind his trailer.

He nodded to a few travelers congregating out front by the pic-nic tables as he opened the door to the hostel, knowing he would find Tangerine inside. She had jumped at the chance to fill in for him at the front desk because she was looking for more hours to work so that she could afford to stay longer. It was toward the end of the season, and businesses  weren’t hiring anymore. She was talking to Brigitte from Chicago, who also had started living at the hostel earlier this summer and was thinking about quitting law school. Brigitte had patched together a full- time work schedule by cleaning at the hostel and making mochas at the coffee house on Center Street.

Luke stopped, mesmerized by Tangerine’s Australian twang. She had very bright red hair in two braids down her back, green eyes, a nose ring, a tongue stud, and several earrings. For all of that outer adornment, she didn’t wear any makeup, and Luke thought she was stunning. Of course, she also made him ner vous. Luke grabbed the guest book from the desk, wanting to finish the paperwork from his
busy shift.

“I’m broke and my mum wants me to come home, but I’m not ready to leave.” Tangerine sounded unusually glum, and the intimacy in her sadness made Luke feel like an intruder, so he turned and went back outside.

The sun was finally behind the building, and guests  were milling about, wondering what to do for dinner. One family was firing up one of the grills, and two of the three picnic tables  were full. It was virtually impossible to be alone at the hostel, and Luke had to zigzag between three children playing tag to get to the empty picnic table to finish his work. He saw the guys from the cherry red Jeep and  motioned them toward the door, knowing that Tangerine would get them settled.

Hal sat down next to him. Hal had been hanging around the hos- tel for years, so when Jim bought the place and took over, he sort of adopted Hal with it, giving him the glorified title of “maintenance manager,” which was a nice way of saying that Hal was willing to do the dirty work but needed some management himself. Hal lived in a trailer on the grounds, even though he had family in town. Luke had never gotten the  whole story, but he knew that Hal had been born and raised in the area, that his geologic knowledge was impressive, and that he believed in the inherent evil of extraterrestrials and Big- foot. He was also a diagnosed schizophrenic, but Georgia, who had been an art therapist specializing in adult psychosis, would have called Hal “high- functioning.”

Luke raised his chin briefl y. “How’re ya doin’?” he asked. Luke noticed that Hal had food stuck in his drooping mustache, but it never did any good to call attention to that. His graying hair was also constantly a bird’s nest, adding to his permanent look of confusion.

“Hangin’ in there,” Hal said as he turned away from Luke to greet the two new guys, who sat down at the other end of the table, opening cans of beer. Hal started talking to them. “You know the Zettians come in and just explode your world, man. It’s a totally mind- blowing experience!” The Zettians again. Luke smiled weakly at the new guys. He needed to do some damage control.

“That’s cool, man,” Luke said, knowing from experience that the best way to deal with Hal was to agree with him.

“No, man, it’s not cool.” Oops, wrong. “It’s not cool to have aliens invade your head and take you away with them. Those negative vortexes, man, stay away from them.”

“Wait,” one of the guys said, trying not to laugh. “What’s a negative vortex?”

Hal’s eyes bugged out. “You don’t know about vortexes? There’s electric and magnetic, positive and negative. You’ve got to watch out for the negative. You don’t know what can come through. Bigfoot,
the Zettians. They take over your mind and you  can’t think for yourself, and the Zettians do what ever they want with you . . .  They pick your brain, they just pick, pick, pick . . .”

“Hal,” Luke said gently, putting his hand on Hal’s arm. It always made him a little nervous when Hal was in one of his moods. “Sorry, man, that is rough. Hey, could you make sure there’s enough
toilet paper in the bathrooms? Somebody mentioned something about it this afternoon, but I forgot which one . . .” The look of panic was beginning to fade from Hal’s face, and he nodded.

“I’ll get right to it,” he said, and went inside the hostel.

“Was he for real?” came the inevitable question, and the two guys laughed. Luke laughed too, and he relaxed. Some people thought Hal was scary, but he  wasn’t dangerous, just part of the wacky charm of the hostel. And he was defi nitely for real. At the Moonfl ower, Luke didn’t have to question his reality, the way he’d been forced to last year in New York. He shook his head slightly. Home in New York
with his father, Frank. That was another lifetime ago. Home could be anywhere. Home was right  here. He loved this makeshift community.

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