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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Have a Writing New Year!

Before 2011 goes to sleep (forever), does it need to do anything else? Has there been anything left undone? Is there anything I need to do quickly, before 2012 begins? (Besides clean the bathrooms, one last time . . .)

It is the end of the winter solstice period, of the darkest nights of the year where we set our hearts, homes and lives ablaze with light to keep our spirits high. And we have one more celebration for the coming of light and the New Year.

2011 was our first full year living in Northern Westchester, and has most certainly been life on life's terms, yet we absolutely have no regrets and are thrilled with our choice in moving here.

We splurged on a Disney family vacation last February. We saw two big storms and experienced lengthy power outages. My kids turned 11, 9 and 6 and have pushed the boundaries beyond what they thought was possible in academics, swimming, football, music, reading. My husband revealed himself as a chef, I revealed myself as a competent driver. Writopia turned into an almost-sustainable business, with the addition of Larchmont this summer, and I have been working steadily since then.

I have written much, whilst I have had multiple frustrations with the publishing industry, leading me to wonder why I even bother. But I somehow always come back around to bothering: I write because it's worth doing. I believe in the power of words and that everybody has the right to write, to develop their voice and sense of self.

I have continued to blog in an effort to share my authenticity and not my "platform" - I do not want to be a persona - writing is thinking, and I have explored my thoughts here with you. I will continue to do so.


2012 will bring more resolve, more work, more writing. I will celebrate the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time and I'll get another book submission-ready. My kids will turn 12, 10 and 7.  I'll take the 12 year old with me to Mobile, Alabama in early March where I will speak and lead workshops on the craft of writing. My husband will renovate all of the bathrooms *and my website* and my godson James will be born.  (In the next three weeks!)

Tonight we have another family coming over to celebrate with us: dinner, games, and a children's candle ceremony. We will honor the lights in ourselves and each other, honor the past and the future, so that we can stay in the present.

(Okay, was that shmaltzy enough for you?)

Happy New Year! xoxox
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

This time of year is rich in layers of story and cultural myths no matter what we believe.

As both readers and writers, we are practiced at the willing suspension of disbelief. We have to have some kind of faith in order to write, to create inner and outer worlds. We also have to have faith in order to read fiction, don't we?

I believe in the power of redemption, Santa Claus and babies. I believe in giving gifts to the spirit in all of us, just as the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus, and the Norse God Wotan dropped gifts from the sky.

I believe that we have the chance to be reborn again, and again, and again. That believing is keeping our eyes alive, and being open to the concept of seeing what we believe.

Because I don't only want to believe what I see - that is too limiting. What if I am cranky, as can sometimes be the case with all of us? Then I will only be able to see the glass as half empty.

Believing takes a certain amount of work, of risk.

My friend Amanda, a writer friend in Chicago, sent me one of my grandmother's Christmas poems yesterday. The remembering made me smile,  and I thought I would share with you here:

The Risk of Birth
by Madeleine L'Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn --
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn --
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.



That says it all, doesn't it? Love.

Right now I am smelling the turkey my husband is cooking for our Christmas Eve feast. I am looking forward to going to church tonight, and then afterward, giving the kids their Christmas pajamas, (the husband and I get some too) and getting ready for bed, only to stay up late to have cookies, hot chocolate and watch It's A Wonderful Life. (Yes, we leave some for Santa!)

Then it's time for visions of sugar plums to dance in our heads, and the willing suspension of disbelief.

Merry Christmas, to my friends who celebrate, and to my other friends, thank you so much for being in my life and helping me to broaden my world view.

In love,

Léna

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice

I love this time of year unabashedly. I love all of the different religious symbols of light, I love how we are challenged at every turn by the commercialism of the season to break out of our own cynicism and be better. To love one another. To embrace our light and our dark. To breathe in love, and breathe out love, to give, yes, but also to be open to the power of receiving, of connecting.

I offer you three great posts by other writers who inspired me today:

The first is by my new buddy in Westchester, Dan Zevin, a master of the personal essay and author of several collections - whose latest, Dan in a Minivan is forthcoming in May. He wrote about How (He) Learned to Love Latkes. 

The second,  is by an author I don't how, a Reverend Emily C. Heath on Keeping the Christ in Christmas. "It's not the 'Holiday Tree' out in a public park that makes me think Christ has been forgotten. It's the ability we Christians have this time of year to confess our faith in one breath, and then be breathtaki­ngly small-mind­ed or just plain mean in the next."

The last is by my friend Keith Jennings, who has  a fantastic blog exploring the spirituality of creativity.  His latest post is about inspiration.

Oh! It's 7PM, time to go to my solstice gathering where we revel in the coming of the Light. And you all are lights in my life too!

xoxo

Monday, December 19, 2011

Madeleine L'Engle is a Doll!

A friend of my bro's found this pic on Flavorwire and I couldn't RESIST sharing it on Léna's Lit Life.

It's our Gran, Madeleine L'Engle, all "dolled" up and with a copy of the original cover of A Wrinkle in Time no less! I love the details - the bright colors and chunky jewelry, the highly arched eyebrows. She wore her hair cropped short since the late 1970's.

She would whoop with laughter if she saw this! Especially that the pants are pulled up way too high, but she would love that they have multi-toned stripes and the sweater - is that angora? She would hint wildly that she wanted "something cyclamen pink" for Christmas.

Speaking of which, my Gran was so much fun to go shopping for. She absolutely adored gifts, and always opened them with the eyes of a child. She collected unicorns, giraffes and angels.

I think that our big gift to her this year in keeping her memory alive is with the big celebration of the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time this February: there will be freshly minted books with the retro original cover, but with a colorful twist. I believe the book comes out again in January.

I miss you, Gran. You are still shining lights to all the dark corners for me and many others.

xoxox   Léna
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Practicing Principles Before Personalities in Publishing

I don't want to be the Grinch . . . but I'm mad at the publishing biz. I wish that I could take my ball and go home. Have a tantrum, scream "No fair!" and slam the door to my room.

What happened? You may ask, and the answer is a resounding: nothing. Okay, maybe I'm just hormonal, but still. What do I have to do to get someone to email me back? (I emailed the publisher a while ago simply asking for the contact info of the person who could help me BUY MY OWN BOOKS and . . . nothing. I want to sell them when I go to Alabama in March. Don't they want that too? Or do they make more money if there is a middle man? Still, the least they could do is answer my question. I'm okay if it's no, really!))

So . . . the way out of this funk for me is writing, and to remember to practice principles before personalities. Nowhere is this more apropos in the world of publishing where it's really not personal that the business doesn't care  about ME or my book, or YOU and your book. It cares about the bottom line, and so it should.

My principles, in case anyone was wondering, are: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, brotherly love, self-discipline, perseverance, awareness, and service.

This is where I practice the art of being human, and if I slip into Grinchy-mode for an hour or two, I can forgive myself and move on. It's progress, not perfection.

And . . . I know that I'm a day late in announcements, but hopefully, the post-person will get these goodies to you by Friday, in time for Christmas if that is your celebration-of-choice. The winners are . . . Melissa B and Kelly Andrews! Shoot me your email guys or DM me on Twitter so that I can get your addresses, and you will get a care package!

xoxox

PS Thanks for reading - I feel better for the writing!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

InbeTWEEN Pages: Dead End in Norvelt

I was thrilled to be asked to lead a middle school book club at the Bedford Hills Free Library and even more thrilled when my own 6th grader, Cooper, agreed to join. We had our second meeting last night, where we discussed our first book pic, Dead End in Norvelt by my new author crush, Jack Gantos.

Thank you Francine, owner of the much beloved Voracious Reader in Larchmont for the recommendation! This book is an excellent example of storytelling, with rich characters who jump off the page. Gantos takes us on a fascinating ride that helps his readers  understand the importance of learning from our past. How does he do this? Through our protagonist, Jack (Jack Gantos himself) and our unlikely heroine, Miss Volker.

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Dead End in Norvelt was not only a huge hit with me, but it was a home run for the tweens. They loved the interweaving of history through this book that's set in rural Pennsylvania in the summer of 1962. The writing was so textured, that I had to stop myself from underlining passages as I was reading a library book! (Jack Gantos, if you are reading this, I am buying my own copy for you to sign for me, because meeting you someday is now on my bucket list!)

We all wanted to know what was fact and what was fiction in this book. Did Jack Gantos the author really have an anxiety disorder that manifested itself through nosebleeds? And did he really have an old lady cauterize his nose on her kitchen table?

We also named ourselves so that we are a real entity in our community. Seventh grader and Writopian, Sammy, came up with InbeTWEEN Pages and that moniker was unanimously agreed upon by the 6th - 8th graders in our "club". We will be meeting the second Wednesday of every month, so if you are a tween or love a tween who also loves to read and live in Northern Westchester, our current read for January is A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Maas.

Hope to see YOU inbetween some pages!

PS  Today is the last day to enter the contest to win a signed copy of Edges - in book or audio form. Multiple chances to win! Enter here . . .
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Lights Up

I'm getting the hairy eyeball from "Monday" after a weekend of mayhem and joy in Western Massachusetts. (Baby shower for my friend Amanda who has named me godmother of her second child, James.)

All I want to do is lounge about and eat chocolate. Do you ever feel that way? And then I feel guilty when I'm not "productive" . . .

I don't want to discipline myself, yet I need to. Us creative folk crave structure deep down inside, even when we profess an affinity for loosey-goosey-ness. I need to be organized, to know what I'm doing.

And this is a wild time of year, isn't it? We're getting ready to embrace the darkness with all of the light we can muster.

My mind however, can't settle down and I know that I can't trust myself alone with the computer today. I have to be out in the world, collecting lights. Or in between the pages of someone else's words, or catching up with a friend.

There are other ways to light up my day than expecting myself to have a certain word count. Sometimes, you have to just let things marinate.

(Or maybe I'll just clean my daughter's room . . .)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Dad's Christmas Poem: White Christmas?


My dad, The Very Reverend Alan W. Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, sent me his latest poem yesterday, and I asked his permission to share it. I have been trying to get him to blog for a while now - he is a master storyteller and the author of eleven theological books - indeed, he has much to both teach and share with us! So I will leave you with this while I am on my way to Northhampton, Mass, where I have the honor of participating in a baby shower and being godmother to baby James who is due in January. There ain't nothin' like a baby at this time of year!*



White Christmas?

“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless.” Salmon Rushdie.

Irving Berlin remembered the sight of an Irish family’s Christmas tree when he was a child on the Lower East Side.  He later said it seemed to him to tower to heaven. In fact, it was a tiny, miserable little tree, but for the immigrant the holiday represented the magic and wonder of a New World.

Dreaming of a White Christmas?
Why not? Irving Berlin did, based, by the way,
on no experience.
So, here’s your chance to escape the mess of belief and disbelief.

Grab whatever story
you’ve been telling yourself  about yourself
and fling it into the season’s whirlwind!
What comes flying back may surprise you.
It may make you cry. It may make you ache with laughter.

Wandering into the story didn’t bother Irving.
Why should it you?
Besides, he had the knack of remembering
something that never happened.
It wasn’t a matter of belief
but an openness to be changed by stories.

Can’t we give this baby-in-the-manger stuff a chance to deconstruct whatever nonsense
we’ve been telling ourselves about the world?
Jesus, Izzy, Emma, Fred, and Sue? What in a name?
The baby’s the one that matters.


Don’t knock nostalgia.
Irving’s “White Christmas” did something to those who heard it in 1941.
The story of the mother and her baby
might do the same for us.

There are plenty of Pearl Harbors to go round (Who bombed the financial markets?
Who made the golden parachutes?
Yours and mine lost in the mail?)

One of our poets* said this sentimental song crooned
by Crosby, “caught us where we love peace.”
Not a bad place to get caught, a good way to start dumping the story that’s trapped us  
with the angst of clutching and fussing over what?  
You name it.

Bethlehem, like the Lower East Side,
offers us a new world.
Just like the ones we used to know! Hardly!
Izzy didn’t know squat – this Jewish kid from Russia.
His dismal story didn’t stop him from telling it anew -- discovering a New World.

So, start deconstructing!
See yourself in the mystery.
It’s your story too.
And given the mess we’re in,
isn’t it time to grow into a new one –
into the one where God slips in among us –
the divine New Deal?
Merry and bright!

Alan Jones, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

*Don't forget, multiple chances to win a copy of my book or an audio of Edges!  



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

EDGES: The One Year Anniversary

My first novel came out exactly a year ago. A sweet book with two teen protagonists, it explores addiction and spirituality on the streets of New York City and the red canyons of the desert Southwest.

A year ago, paranormal romance was trending, so Edges didn't come out with the BANG! I had hoped for. Still, I was/am incredibly fortunate to have been published in this exciting technological era where all of the rules are changing. I am ecstatic that I finally gave myself permission, albeit slowly, to write, and that I have become the person I was meant to be: a writer and a teacher.

I believe that everybody has the right to write - if they want to. Everybody has a story to tell, and we don't all have to be Shakespeare.

The most important factors to becoming a writer are passion, practice, discipline and a little bit of luck. In terms of luck, is it "lucky" to be the eldest granddaughter of Madeleine L'Engle? Of course it is!  But it is also a double edged sword. It might make people listen for five seconds, but it also sets up unrealistic expectations. (And that's not the reason I was published.) I have to sink or swim on my own, I have to have my own authentic voice.

Many of you know that I have had to table my second book, a companion to Edges called The Land of the Lost and Found due to "lackluster" sales of Edges. (And people, anything short of a best seller is lackluster these days.) I am happy with the sales of Edges, happy that it is being read.

The strategy is for me to move onto another publishing house with something new and fresh, and then publish The Land of the Lost and Found,  timing it with the paperback release of Edges. Makes sense, right?

So I have India Flips, a tween novel. It is about flipping out, flipping for, as well as literally flipping. (In November, for Nanowrimo, I started from scratch, but took the basic premise from another novel-in-a-drawer and completely changed the characters - from ages to personalities.)

I will celebrate my anniversary by going to the gym, and by throwing myself into revisions. And I think it's a good excuse for another contest, don't you? Since it's the season of giving and all.

I have one book (signed of course!) and an audio to give away. And bookmarks! (Everyone who enters will get a bookmark.) You will have multiple chances to have your name in the lottery.

1) Leave a comment . . .
2) Follow this blog
3) "Like" the Edges page on Facebook
4) Follow me on Twitter (even though I am not the greatest tweeter)
5) Give this blog and/or Edges a shout out by re-posting on FB or re-tweeting. Hey, why not both!

I will announce the winner on Thursday, December 15th, so that it will get to you in time for Christmas.

Thank you for reading!

xoxo   your friend,    Léna

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oui, Oui Christmas Concert

Happy Monday everyone. Today's post is about how I found myself involved in a Christmas Concert with CHARIS, "the finest vocal group in Westchester" . . .

We say yes for many different reasons (besides not being able to say no.) My biggest reason for saying yes is to help my community (friends)  and to stretch myself as a person.

However, saying "yes" can be uncomfortable, and sometimes I wonder what I have gotten myself into.

"We are desperate for a narrator for our Christmas concert," Amy said to a group of  mutual friends a couple of weeks ago. This was the first time I had heard Amy talk about singing, let alone that she was part of a choral group. And I don't want anybody to be desperate. I mean, I know how to read aloud, don't I? Isn't that what a narrator does?

"Maybe I can do it," I offered, and immediately Amy jumped on my words. It snowballed, and I got way out of my comfort zone.

I had no idea that the choral group Amy is involved with, Charis, would be comprised of over thirty singers, tenors, sopranos, altos and baritones and artistically directed by Art Sjogren. I had no idea they would be so professional. I don't know what I expected - a rinky-dink choir? I didn't think, I just said, "yes I can." I've read in church many, many times. (Of course, I haven't done it in years, but isn't it nice that my impulse was to engage instead of to cower?)

I was to play the part of "narrator" during a choral piece called Annonciation by Frenchman Daniel-Lesur's.  There were no long monologues, I just had to know when to be able to come in on the music. Oh, just that. Challenge #1. Gulp. Now that I have never done before.

I managed to go to one rehearsal immediately following a workshop and was stunned by the singers. I had actually been thinking of auditioning until I heard them. You want me to sing Mack the Knife? I'm your gal. But these folks aren't amateurs. I didn't want to embarrass them.

Then there were the performances this weekend.

Saturday was a FULL day, and I squeezed this concert in between events. I didn't have time to think about it, let alone be nervous, but then, during one of the parts of my narration, I started struggling with a cough.

And then I coughed once during a soprano's solo and . . . don't worry, I made myself stop. Have you ever tried to stop a coughing fit? (You end up crying instead, which I guess is apropos for the Annunciation.)

But still, I did not feel great about my performance. Coughing is not cool. (I kept thinking that it had been hubris to say "yes".)

I ran out to make the Christmas Tree lighting in Bedford Hills, where my son Finn was singing in the chorus. (He was delicious.)

Sunday I didn't have to rush around or be anywhere else, so I could just focus on the concert. My mom drove down from Connecticut, and my 6 year old daughter Scarlett came too. I had time to be nervous, but also was able to arm myself with throat lozenges and water.

No coughing, my voice was loud, measured and clear. I rocked it. The singers were just phenomenal.

So. Moral of this story? Get out of your comfort zone. Just do it. And if you live near Westchester, do yourself a favor and come to one of Charis' concerts. (It's not just church-y stuff. :0)

And now I have to focus that moral on exercising more regularly. NaNoWriMo coupled with not having time to work out has wreaked havoc on my back. Just do it. Heh, heh, heh.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Prayer for the newborn Snyder Twins

Yes, I love stories, and the story of Christmas and the other layered tales from even older religions fill me with glee and appreciation for life. I love this period of advent, of waiting, the visitation of Gabriel to Mary - her shock and awe of saying "yes" to life.

It is an opportunity to think about where our hearts could open more. To pray.

The day after Thanksgiving I learned that my closest friend's husband's brother from another mother - his wife - died after giving birth to twins. She  hemorrhaged after complications with a C-section. (This is not a picture of the actual Snyder twins.)

There are no words. Except: to send love, prayers and donations to the father, named Jay, and his beautiful twins Reverie and Jackson. To learn more about their story and to make a donation, please visit the website my friend created: The Snyder Twins: Help raise Jackson and Reverie Snyder.

The other thing that these stories - both tragic and miraculous - can teach us, is to appreciate our own lives more - to live it to the fullest and let our hearts open rather than constrict at the news of another tragedy, or another curve ball that life has thrown our way. To not take things personally - the universe doesn't hold grievances. It is a time to shine light on things during the darkest time of the year. Pagans and Christians alike light trees and candles, while my Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah, an eight day festival of lights.

Michal, the mother of the Snyder twins, was a Buddhist. I think many religions would subscribe to the belief that Michal's spirit is indeed inside both of her children, and with her husband Jay.

Advent is the period of anticipation for a baby, the baby in all of us who is new and hopeful, loves and needs love. The baby represents our innocence, vulnerability, and our future.

As long as we say yes to the things that will help us grow as human beings there is hope. We don't have to be Christian in order to appreciate the gravitas of Mary's choice, her decision to love.

This season represents all babies, all children. Especially Jackson and Reverie. Please help.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life Beyond #NaNoWriMo

Thank you Nanowrimo, for helping me put my nose to the grindstone. You and my cohorts made me push through my story, and I have just reached my personal goal of 40k, with 222 words to spare.

So no, I won't get a NaNoWriMo "Winner" badge, but I've written more in a month than I ever have before, and I have a live story with a character arc and a beginning, middle and end. I am fully satisfied with my experience in Nanowrimo-land.

I made sure to set a realistic goal for myself when I realized that I wouldn't be able to write at all during Thanksgiving week. I appreciated the momentum I had already built, and I didn't want to give up.

Writing a first draft is agony, but what gets me through it are those moments when I am surprised by my story. It makes me want to keep writing. But writing is a discipline, yes? And discipline isn't always fun. The fun part for me is in revision, because that's where craft comes in; I don't have to rely so heavily on the muse - it is something that I can control. (And agonize over as well of course, if something isn't "working.")

What's next? Setting up all of the advent calendars around the house tonight when the kids are asleep so they can be "surprised" in the morning on December 1st. Going back to the gym, preparing for Christmas with decorations, tree lighting ceremonies and music. Catching up on my favorite TV shows, being more available to family and friends.

This month has been intense, people.

I'm ready to let my WRITING sit and marinate for a little while so I can gorge myself on READING. I don't know about you, but I haven't had any time to read this month and my TBR list is about three miles high.

Next year you'll see me doing Nanowrimo again: I'll never have that Thanksgiving week to write, but maybe I can plan a little better and make it to 45k.

*Wink, wink, wink*

What about you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy 93rd Birthday Madeleine L'Engle, my Gran

Dearest Gran,

You were born on this day in 1918. You would be 93. Thank you for your legacy of love, laughter and eating the impossible for breakfast. Thank you for continuing to write, against all odds, and for being such a powerful mentor to those who were moved by your work and your process.

Thank you for showing me the way, just by being you.

We are celebrating your birthday with the launch of your brand new website, where we hope both new and old fans will get to visit and celebrate you too.  Countless of people will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time in February: you are remembered, you are loved.

You have been a beacon of hope and an inspiration to many - not just writers, but all kinds of artists, scientists, mathematicians. 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. You have helped us come into our own.



“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.”

Thank you for inspiring me to be my own writer, and not try to channel somebody I can't  be.  And to mentor other young writers, to show them that "originality" is finding their own authentic voice. To pay it forward.


“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.

“Oh, you must know them, dear,” Mrs Whatsit said.

Mrs. Who’s spectacles Shone out at them triumphantly, “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”

            “Jesus!” Charles Wallace said. “Why of course, Jesus!”

            “Of course!” Mrs Whatsit said. “Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.”

            “Leonardo da Vinci?” Calvin suggested tentatively. “And Michelangelo?”

            “And Shakespeare,” Charles Wallace called out, “And Bach! And Pasteur, and Madame Curie, and Einstein!”

            Now Calvin’s voice rang out with confidence. “And Schweitzer, and Ghandi, and Buddha and Beethoven, and Rembrandt and St.Francis!”

Thank you for teaching us that we can be fighters too by embracing our authenticity, our creativity, our gifts; that we can fight darkness just as well as anybody else; that we can be the heroes and heroines of our own lives.

xoxoxo I miss you, and I love you more-than-tongue-can-tell.

Always.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

My cup runneth over - I am blessed with so many wonderful people in my life, family and friends - work that I love. 

This time twenty years ago I never thought that I would feel this way, let alone be comfortable in my own skin. I sat around a circle in my Eric Morris-inspired acting class in San Francisco lost, alone, afraid, but most importantly, numb. Our acting teacher Robert wanted us to get in touch with what we were grateful for. I was ashamed that I couldn't think of a single thing. I was uncomfortably numb, so to speak, and for the next two years, I continued to vacillate between this awful numbness and search for comfort.

Feelings aren't always comfortable, are they? But growing up necessitates us learning how to manage those feelings, and it's hard. We're not perfect.

Make no mistake about it - gratitude is grace but it can also be a choice in the actions we take.

I am most grateful for cultivating gratitude, and for not believing that a state of numbness - comfortable or not - is acceptable. I am grateful to be able to experience the rich bounty of feelings that come my way, and the lessons that I learn from them.

I am grateful to be alive - and that twenty years ago I didn't give up.

What are you grateful for this year?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saying Yes . . .

. . . is so easy - it slips off the tongue, it's my default answer. Everyone knows that I'm a softie, and that saying "no" doesn't come naturally.

But I realized in my mid 20's that saying "yes" to everything without discernment isn't really an affirmation of life - it is more like a slow death.

I'm a recovering *buzz word* people-pleaser. And we've all learned that never leaves anybody happy in the long run.

It's a slow and LONG recovery folks.

As I grow up I'm able to experiment more with the boundaries of "no" and the fluidity of "yes".
Where am I going with this? I set out to write a post about saying "yes" to be part of a Performer's Showcase for the Westchester Library Association, and before I even mention it, I'm off on a tangent.

But I said "yes" without knowing what it was  performing? Do they really want to hear me sing? and then I promptly forgot about it until I got a reminder email from the organizer, who said: if you have any brochures, make sure you have at least 75. Brochures? I don't have brochures, but I've always wanted them, so this was the impetus to get 'em. (Say yes!)

My husband made his priority creating me a gorgeous brochure over the weekend to take to the event today, with a description and some reviews of EDGES and a number of workshops that I do. It's an a la carte brochure - almost like a spa!

I felt so good about this that I wasn't nervous about "performing" - I had a piece of paper to fall back on. (Which is another blog post in and of itself. WHY DO WE NEED A PIECE OF PAPER TO FALL BACK ON?)

It turned out to be very casual, and there were actual "performers" there - a science program - fashion designers - actors! There was one other writer hawking her wares too, and she happens to be a neighbor from Katonah whom I've never met: Deborah Batterman who has published a short story collection entitled: Shoes, Hair, Nails. I am looking forward to getting to know her!

Deborah, the other "performers" and I sat at separate tables so that librarians could come and talk to us about our programs. Mine? Red Rocks and Brownstones (Edges talk), Mining Your Life For Your Fiction, Truth, Fiction and Unicorns, The Modern Diarist, A Wrinkle in (an hour's) Time.

Of course, librarians, if any of you are reading this, I can tailor any workshop to your needs!

And I have to say, all in all, it did feel GREAT to have a brochure to fall back on. :-)

P.S. I said "yes" to NaNoWriMo, and miraculously, I am up to 30k. Yippee!!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

These Boots Were Made For Walkin' #NaNoWriMo 25k

I gave my brain a NaNoWriMo break today.

Why, you ask. Lord God, why?

Well. I hit the halfway mark with 25, 000 words last night.

I often forget that the carrot works better than the stick and don't celebrate my own accomplishments, but I think that 25k warrants some kind of reward. Don't you?

So. I had to drive into the city for some meetings, and during a free half hour, I bought the new pair of boots I had been too cheap to get myself.  (And no, they weren't on sale.)

I need to celebrate, because it will be a miracle if I make it to 50k by the end of the month with the holidays coming up.  (And then I won't have anything to celebrate.) With the craft projects and cooking and extended family. It would seem impossible.

Then again, I thought that 25k in ten days would be impossible.

Don't we always see our dreams as impossible at first? I dreamed of being published and yes, got my heart busted up in the process, but that doesn't take away from the fact that my dream came true, and that I am a writer. I would be a writer even if I was never published. "You're a writer if you write," was the mantra that my grandmother instilled in me.

So I will dangle more carrots. For every 5k, I will indulge myself. A pedicure. Lunch with a friend. (Any other ideas?) Boots!

These boots are made for walkin'
And that's just what they'll do -
One of these days these boots are gonna
Walk all over . . . you*

*The negative voices in my head that tell me I can't do anything**
** Oh, now she has voices in her head, does she? ***
*** Don't all writers?

What are your carrots?
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Week #2, Bring in the Dancing Ninjas, #NaNoWriMo

I was off to a roaring start. As of last night, I clocked in almost 20k words over the first week, excluding the weekend.

I went to work, but I did not go to the gym, cook or clean. My words were having a major dance party.

But today I am drawing blanks. Oh, I make myself write, but not as fast or as furious.

I am full of excuses, and I am starting to stress about how much busier November is going to get.  How can I possibly write another 30k?

I couldn't stay and write in bed because the tree guys were back at 8:30AM with their cherry pickers to clean up the mess from last week. (We had a freak snow storm resulting in loss of power for a few days and lots of poor, damaged trees.) (Yes, the noise and the expense makes me want to cry.) (And yes, I know that all of these parantheticals aren't correct.) (So what?)

I voted in our local elections, and then came here, to Starbucks. But I happened to be privy to a loud conversation about office politics from two brassy real estate agents. Sigh. However, I can't blame them, because now they're gone and I've resorted to . . . blogging. Which is still writing, btw, but it doesn't count for #NaNoWriMo.

Thank goodness for the pep talks that #NaNoWriMo gives you, like this one from last week from Erin Morgenstern.

I hear that the slump is more than common for writers, and that I need not despair. I need to keep carving out this space for writing, and give myself permission to dance with ninjas.

Back to Scrivener - farewell my lovelies!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Disturbia in Suburbia

A level 3 Sex Offender has moved to my street in Bedford/ Katonah.

And as you all know, I have three children of my own.

What does this have to do with a literary life? It doesn't, but if I throw in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and label Humbert Humbert as a level 2 sex offender, then you have some kind of reference. But I'm not blogging about Nabokov, or exploring the sexualization of young girls.

I am writing because I have been feeling helpless since I heard the news two days ago. What can I do? I can't make it/ him go away. But I can write.

This level 3 sex offender, David Ohnmacht was convicted only 8 years ago of various acts of sexual abuse (i.e. rape and sodomy) against four young girls on four separate occasions.  He held numerous jobs interacting with children including a DJ for children's parties, driving an ice cream truck, and camp counselor.

Why aren't there any "Child Safety Zone" laws in Westchester County, when there are in so many other counties across the country? How could the State have placed him on a street in a neighborhood largely comprised of families with multiple children? According to those laws, he wouldn't be allowed within 1000 feet of a school bus stop. But he is. He is much closer than that.

And yet I am torn. I want to believe in rehabilitation, in second chances, that people can grow and change. I was a psychotherapist for years. I have volunteered and done workshops in prisons - indeed, I am going through the extensive paperwork to volunteer at the Bedford Women's Correctional Facility. People's pain doesn't scare me.

But when it comes to a repeat offender kidnapping and raping children, my heart not only weeps, but ends up losing the muscles of tolerance that I have built up over the years. There are going to be many pains that I can't shield my children from. But I hope to God that rape isn't one of them.

The fact is, that this is a messy and complicated world, filled with both beauty and ugliness. I have to be on the look-out for both - to appreciate the random acts of beauty and kindness that the world offers, and at the same time, deal with disappointment, ugliness, fear. Protect myself and my children by giving them life skills that will help them navigate the pit falls inherent in a life lived to the fullest.

This is more than an issue of public safety. One of my wonderful neighbors wrote to our local congressman and I am suggesting that we all do the same. There is power in numbers and in words, in writing.

Will you join me?




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Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo Rocks!

Hello sweet people,



9252 words in 48 hours. My words are soaring because I am not censoring myself - I am not an "author", I am a writer, and for this month I can write whatever I want, because people, I've been stuck. ("Write fantasy" one person says. "Don't write fantasy - you'll invite unfavorable comparison to your grandmother!" another says. "Give up on the one about Reality TV - Libba already did it.")

Too many voices!

This month NaNoWriMo gives me permission to write what comes out of my heart. Yes, there's Reality TV. Yes there's Rock Band and a charismatic, philandering priest, and yes, there is a boy. Or two! I have scratched one novel, but some of it is reworking it's way into this one. I can't help it - it's not out of my system yet!

Maybe I'll be able to let go after writing it all out. Maybe I'll be able to move forward with a new project, or maybe THIS will be my new project, and I'll get to have fun revising from December through May. I'll get to stop and think. But for now - just write!

What about you? (If you want to add me as a NaNo buddy, I'm LénaRoy.)

PS Oh my! Look at the time! I am driving into the city for a writer's lunch at my Gran's favorite restaurant, Henry's. This will be my first time driving in! My God du Jour for driving is Gladys - she is the Goddess of traffic and parking. Be with me Gladys!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lessons from Madeleine L'Engle: Writing as Wish Fulfillment

We have the compulsion to write for an abundance of reasons. We  write to understand our relationship to shadow, and we also write with a yearning toward the light - at least I do.

Perhaps my greatest teacher for this phenomenon was witnessing the way my grandmother Madeleine L'Engle lived, and what was manifested in her writing. My Gran was devout, yet she was also known to raise her fist at God. The tenet of love conquering all that is so ingrained in her writing is wish fulfillment - it is the writing herself that brought her to her faith. In Wrinkle, she was Meg, struggling with all of the Divine questions.

As an only, lonely child, she always wanted a large family, so she wrote about large families, and intertwined her characters throughout her books so she never had to say goodbye. (This is one of my favorite pictures of my Gran - when she was Madeleine Camp. 14 years old, and already writing up a storm!)

And she created a large family - not only in her fiction and her biological family, but in extending her generosity to her readers. They too, became like family.

And who doesn't want love to conquer all, for the "goodness" in the world and in ourselves to outweigh the "badness". We don't all have to believe in the same gods to be on the same page about that one.

I wish that she could have read Edges. I know she would have appreciated me writing about god du jour. I know she would have applauded that my ending wasn't neat and tidy, that it was true to life.

We write to express our hopes and dreams. We write to find our faith. We write to know ourselves.

At least I do. What about you?
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can Writing Save Your Life?

Why do we write? Why are stories so important? As a student of C.S. Lewis says in the movie Shadowlands: we read to know we're not alone. So is it the same for writing?

I think so. That's why I believe that everyone has a story to tell. And that we write and tell stories to understand who we are, in both darkness and light.

Sometimes we tell the wrong stories about ourselves, and we need to shift our perspective and change them. We can get stuck on the story that we are unlovable and will always be alone, or we how about the story that we are a victim of circumstances and other people - know that one? Those stories don't serve us, and we need to find stories that do.

As a child, I wrote to explore and manage my darker feelings, and I am so grateful that I was encouraged to have that as an outlet. I don't know what I would have done without it. My journals were a receptacle for my negative emotions: depression, jealousy, self-hate, rage. Of course, I experienced the lighter side of life as well, but I didn't need to write about that. In college I wrote avant-garde labyrynthine short stories - explorations of psychological trauma. After college, in my "acting" days, I wrote my own pieces to perform.

Sobriety at the age of 25 brought me to a new kind of hopeful writing. Writing was the only way that I knew how to "pray", to ask for help. Writing was my own version of getting on my knees. (I grew up in the church and had to change my perspective about what humility really meant.)

At that time I was also in graduate school, earning my Masters Degree in Drama Therapy. For my thesis I wrote a performance art piece entitled: Pandora's Hot Box - Lost in a Spiritual Supermarket. (Yes, inspired by The Clash.) Writing was therapy then, and continues to be so.

Even though the publishing business can bring up all of my neuroses, it is the process of writing on a daily basis that keeps saving my life.

Writing Edges was partly a way for me to come back to an understanding and gratitude for my own sobriety. It would be a lie to say that it wasn't part of my personal journey - yet it is fiction. And so it is true.

And the fiction I'm writing now is letting me explore, through my main character, the feeling of being in someone else's shadow and finding yourself despite that.

What about you? Where are you in your writing? Does the process help keep you sane as well?

Warmly,

Léna   xoxo

Friday, October 21, 2011

Character Anyone?

I've been thinking all week about the dynamic difference between fiction that is character driven, vs fiction that is plot driven. To state it ever so simply: in the former, the character drives the plot and in the latter, the plot drives the character.

My writing gears toward the character-driven variety, and today I am stuck: I have reached the climax of a story, and there are so many different ways my main character could react to the situation she's found herself embroiled in. Only what is organic to her?

When I'm stuck like this, I know that I have to go deeper into character, I can't force the plot. I have to go back to asking questions about her motivations. What does she want most?

And then I also have to look at why I'm stuck in my writing. Where else am I stuck in my life? Is the story of my own life moving forward?

When my students say: I don't know what to write, we will brainstorm, and then I tell them to write through it, to try something, anything. To take the risk and see what happens. To experience being free. That there are no mistakes.

We usually tell others what we really need to hear ourselves, don't we?

So I will take my own advice and dive back in.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Make-Over

I'm doing what any self-respecting gal in relationship trouble will do and getting a make-over. Your relationship is in trouble? No, not my relationship with my significant other, but my relationship with my publisher. Our problem is not one about my writing, but about marketing. I need more of a platform, more readers, more followers! No biggie.

I'm giving my blog a make-over. What do you think? I'd love to attract more readers and invite more interaction, but only if it's organic and authentic, only if I truly connect with more people. So I'm asking you, dear ones, what would you like to see me blog about more regularly?

I blog a lot yes, but the topics are always varied. Should I commit to regular columns? I just had an inspirational chat with my friend Keith in Atlanta, Georgia, who has got me thinking about all of this stuff. Madeleine Mondays? Therapeutic Thursdays? Writer Wednesdays? Freaky Fridays? What Would Oprah Do Tuesdays?

I've changed the template on blogger cosmetically, but I am seriously thinking about amalgamating my very unsexy website, www.lenaroybooks.com with this blog on wordpress. I so wish that I could hire someone to do this for me! (This is why my current website is so unappealing - I am a DIY kind of gal. Oh yeah, and a financially strapped kind of gal.)

Feedback is wanted and encouraged!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Patricia Polacco Visits My Kids' Elementary School!

Talk about inspirational. Talk about riveting. Talk about someone who loves kids and is passionate about using art as service. Talk about beloved author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco.

We were honored to be able to have her come to our school yesterday, where my daughter attends first grade and my son attends fourth grade. She spent the morning in the library, where classes visited her, and then she had lunch with the teachers, and with parents like me who had helped with the funding to get her to stop in Bedford Hills during her tour of the Northeast. How many people get to say that they have had lunch with Patricia Polacco? (I have to say she was so gracious and such a good storyteller that she made me all misty-eyed about my grandmother!)

Her next stop was the auditorium where she sat in a rocking chair, and all of the fourth and fifth grade classes sat on the floor, chins on their hands.

Did you know that Ms. Polacco couldn't read until she was 14? That's right, she was learning disabled. And the bullying that she suffered from nearly crippled her emotionally.

But she persevered in life, and she didn't start her career as an author/illustrator until she was 41 - she has written all of her 80 books in the past 26 years! She based her hour long talk around two of her books, The Meteor, and The Keeping Quilt, and she managed to cover all the basics of how to be a good human being! Ms. Palacco does as all writer's do, and likes mixing up fact with fiction in her books. ("Just because it didn't happen, doesn't mean it isn't true.")

She brought tangible evidence too - this picture is of her holding up the actual Keeping Quilt, made by her great grandmother out of old clothes from Russia so that everybody could remember where they came from.

Ms. Palacco brought out a piece of the meteor that had landed in her grandmother's backyard that people wished upon. She held her audience in the palm of her hand as she told everyone that they would get a chance to wish on it too, as long as they didn't wish for three things: 1) money (by itself it shrivels your heart) 2) to change other people (kindness is the only thing that can change people, everybody knows that!) 3) things (gadgets and toys and gizmos only make you want more).

She was sensational. Another author to aspire to!




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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So What if Publishing is a Harsh Mistress?

First of all I want to thank everyone who bought my book. There are almost 1300 of you, and I am eternally grateful. But alas, my publishing house doesn't like those numbers.

I've become friends with many of you, chronicling my journey through this literary life, and I wanted you to know: yesterday I found out that FSG is not picking up The Land of the Lost and Found, not because it's not good enough, but because they are not satisfied with the numbers of Edges, no matter how much they love it. "It doesn't make sense to publish a companion novel."

Their negative view of the numbers also puts Edges in danger of never making it to paperback which is a shame because then it would be more affordable and reach a wider audience. (I don't know about ebook or audio sales, but I certainly appreciate it if you bought it that way too!)

As an author, I am far from being alone - 90% of us don't sell out our first book and have a hard time publishing a second, third, fourth.

But I will not give up: I will have courage in the face of discouragement, I will practice steadfast detachment and keep on writing the stories that want ME to write them. I will listen to my intuition and approach my entire life with creative fervor. And I will pass this passion on to the future generation of writers.

Yes, publishing is a harsh mistress, but it is first and foremost a business, therefore, rejection is not about us, or about our books, but about people making wild guesses and backing authors with a built-in audience. (Like Snooki!) I know so many of you are beginning your own journey, querying agents and the like. Keep going! Persevere. The world needs your stories.

And I want YOU to know that you guys are amazing - I am so grateful for your support and your belief in me and my writing.

Here's the pitch: if you haven't bought Edges yet, please consider doing so. And read it. And if you are feeling extra supportive, please go to Goodreads and Amazon and Shelfari and give Edges a lovely rating and maybe even a review.

Authors need readers. I need you. Maybe together, we can get this book off the ground.

xoxoxox  Léna

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why I Heart Gae and YA

Last night I dreamed that I got 10k and a contract for a new book. While that part isn't a reality yet, I still woke up this morning glad to be a writer, and in particular, a Teen Writer.

Here I am with 6 other YA authors and the women who rule Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, NY. 

We had just done a 3.5 hour event called Falling Apart and Picking Up the Pieces which was the brain child of Gae Polisner (third from the left). Her debut novel, The Pull of Gravity came out in May and she has been tireless in promoting not only herself, but other authors as well. This is what we in the YA scene come to understand and appreciate very quickly; that we're all in the same boat and it's much more fun to paddle together than by ourselves.

Gae pulled together Christopher Grant (far left) with Teenie, Michael Northrup (back middle) with Trapped, Nova Ren Suma (third from right) with Imaginary Girls, Arlaina Tibensky (second from right) with And Then Things Fall Apart, and Matt Blackstone with A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie.

She had us all "prepare" by choosing 90 second excerpts from our books based on certain themes. Nine of them! We would read some, and then "mingle" with the audience. And what an audience we had!

All because of the muscle that Gae and the women at Dolphin had put into the event.

Gae started working on this event last July when she approached the women at Dolphin about a group reading and signing. These wonderful women started hatching a plan to get a couple of us into the local high schools to promote each other and the event, in order to ensure an audience. (You know that there's no guarantee of people showing up to these things, don't you?)

On Friday morning, before the reading in the early evening, Gae and I met at a Starbucks for breakfast before heading over to Schreiber HS to talk and teach. Hearts pounding with nerves and anticipation, we entered the halls of the high school and were led to the library where we were to meet with Honors students. How many could there be? I had been thinking forty, but then we were told one hundred, and it ended up being more like one hundred and fifty. Gae introduced us, and then we worked well together, talking about how we came to be writers, how we came to write our books, and reading short excerpts. The questions from the students were phenomenal. We had such a great time! Gae is an amazing public speaker, even though she swears up and down it doesn't come naturally. She's a wonderful person to share a stage with.

Then Gae and I were separated ("I'll miss you!") and went into different classrooms, where I talked mostly about different approaches to writing and where there were so many questions I didn't have time to give them my back-up writing exercise.

We were exhausted and happy, ready to move on to meeting up with our other friends at Dolphin Bookshop.

Thank you Gae for a wonderful day, for your vivacity and generosity. And tirelessness!

Can you see why I heart Gae and YA?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steadfast Detachment with Writing?

I am trying to practice what yogis call abhyasa vairagya in my writing life. (Abhyasa means practice, and vairagya means non-attachment in the Yoga Sutras.)
 
My mind has been flitting all over the place lately, distractable and irritable whenever I try to sit down and focus on my current WIP. At least I am sitting down, I tell myself. At least I am engaging in the practice. But I have monkey mind.

Is it that I am still waiting to hear about the book that's out on submission, The Land of The Lost and Found? Last I heard was that my editor loved it enough to pitch it to the sales team and several other colleagues at MacMillan and FSG. But in this crazy, fear-based market, there is no guarantee.

(My second book is actually my current WIP - it was rejected by FSG after they took half a year to think about it, and I put it in a drawer instead of sending it to other houses. I don't know whether that was the right decision or not, but now I am completely rewriting it into a different book.)

There is never any guarantee of anything. This is why I must keep practicing letting go of the results, while at the same time engaging in my discipline and finding beauty in my own process.

I love this pose - it makes me feel strong and balanced, and it shows intention to both reach for the sky and stay grounded.

And in the meantime, I am all jazzed up about my day tomorrow with Gae Polisner - I am driving to Port Washington, Long Island, where we will be speaking to students and leading workshops at Schreiber High School. Later, Gae has created an event at Dolphin Bookstore where we will meet up with five other authors - Matt Blackstone, Arlaina Tibensky, Christopher Grant, Michael Northrup and Nova Ren Suma. It won't be your mother's author appearance, that's for sure! So if you are in the nabe, come see us! We'll be there with our proverbial bells (and Gae's real one) from 5:30 until 9PM!!!

PS Wish me luck with the driving! (I'll have to practice more of the abhyasa . . .)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Anyone and Everyone Can Vote!

I just found out about the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) Reader's Choice Awards.

EDGES is eligible, and anyone can vote!

In this day and age, it takes a village to raise a book.

I am inspired to ask you all to take the time and put in a vote for Edges because when I tweeted about it,  my friend Keith Jennings in Georgia immediately clicked on the site and nominated my book. (Keith writes beautifully about the creative process and the need for community - he is certainly my soul brother on that front!)

The more nominations means a larger community of readers . . .

. . . and a larger community of readers means . . . awesomeness!

Here is the link

Realistic Fiction is the category

If you are not affiliated with a school or a library, just say that you are a fan of teen lit and name your local library as your go-to place.

Edges was published December 7, 2010 by FSG so it is eligible.

The ISBN is 0374350523

Courage! have a great rest of your day everyone!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Authors, Readers and Future Writers Come Together at Little Joe's

I can't go to sleep without writing about today's Literary event at Little Joe's in Katonah!

But truth is that right now I am not legitly "lit" - tonight is one of those brain dead night's after a jam-packed three day weekend of girl fiesta sleepovers, trips to the city, french-toast making and (groan) shopping for clothes with 9 and 11 year old boys (who don't care that their clothes don't fit them anymore).

Still. I am so excited that Jen Cook, Katonah's  beloved entrepreneur and owner of Noka Joe's has taken a leap of faith by filling the void left behind by Borders in Mt. Kisco (which, legend has it, ousted a wonderful independent bookstore ten years ago) by opening up an indie above her sweet shop - a delightfully cozy and welcoming children's specialty bookstore. We've come full-circle in Northern Westchester and karma might just be readjusting itself.

Doesn't that just scream "hope and beauty" to you, when the publishing industry is a hot mess with e-book sales and the combustion of Borders?

The indie bookstore is back, people.

Jen opened the doors of Little Joe's last Thursday and has been celebrating with events all week. Today it was my turn to help in the hooplah, and I played my role of Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughter, armed with a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and hung out upstairs, reading excerpts, reminiscing, answering Madeleine L'Engle related questions and yes, anything to do with reading and writing.

It was a blast - the audience (made up of old and new friends, my Writopia students) was very appreciative and interactive, which always makes EVERYTHING more fun and interesting. It's always a two-way street, isn't it? We don't live in isolation. A bookstore provides a community space where ideas can flourish and be shared, an author and a reader have a relationship in that they co-create the experience of the book together (nobody reads the same book in the same way), and make something bigger than the sum of their parts.

Am I babbling now?  Good night, my lovely friends!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harmonic Convergence at Flights of Fantasy

It's wonderful when marketing, family and sociability are able to harmonically converge for author events and appearances. It happens when I double up with one or more authors and when I bring one (or more) of my children.

This weekend I went to Albany, for a reading and signing event at Flights of Fantasy Books and Games on Sunday afternoon with urban fantasy author from Boston, Margaret Ronald. (We had been slated to come in late August, but Hurricane Irene had thwarted our plans. )

Do you remember as a kid, how special it was going to a hotel, and having a parent (or two) all to yourself? I brought my 9 year old son, Finn (as in Huckleberry, not Finbar) and we were both giddy. We drove to Albany late Saturday afternoon and checked into the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road, and bounced on the beds.

Dinner was at The Red Lobster, since Finn's favorite food hails from the sea, and he was willing to wait over an hour to get a table. (We played Scrabble on my I-Phone, so it was still adventurous.) We brought leftovers and key lime pie back to the hotel, and Finn was incredulous when I said that he could have dessert in bed while we stayed up extra late watching cartoons. Yay!

I won't bore you with the rest of our particulars, but suffice it to say, we had a blast. We went to the bookstore at noon where we met up with the owner, Maria, and Margaret. Maria was a wonderful host and took us out for Thai food for lunch. She has a fascinating story herself as she comes from the corporate world . . . in the Phippipines! And now she is like a den mother to all of these fantasy, science fiction and gaming enthusiasts. Margaret is delightful too - she lives in Boston, and went to Williams College in Massachusetts. Her "day" job is as an assistant to a professor at Harvard, and her husband is an organist. I can't wait to read her books!

The bookstore is aaaah-mazing - it's a place you really could spend a full day in, there are so many nooks and crannies, as well as lots of gaming tables! Margaret read from one of her steam punk short stories, (so funny!) and I read two short passages from Edges, and then we answered questions about craft.

I am grateful that my friend Hope, another writer and fabulous blogger, was able to come with her family, and that I met some cool folks who otherwise would not have been exposed to my book. Thank you to Maria and Eleanor for reading Edges and for inviting me to your home-away-from-home and for believing in the power of reading!