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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leaky Con is Coming!!!!

Harry Potter LightningImage via Wikipedia
It's almost July, folks. I have been so busy with the end-of-school and with starting Writopia workshops at The Voracious Reader in Larchmont that I have lost track of time . . . but holy Smokes, Batman! Leaky Con is coming in less than two weeks! My sister Charlotte and I are leaving for Orlando  the evening of Tuesday July 12th and returning late on Friday, July 15th. Squee! Charlotte managed to track down the schedule tonight:

Proud Harry Potter geek, Léna Roy, will be participating in Lit Day on July 13th, pinching herself to be on a panel at 9AM called How Books Saved My Sanity, with superstars Cheryl Klein, Libba Bray, John Green, and Stephanie Perkins, moderated by the fabulous Maureen Johnson.


Yes, these arms are black and blue!

Then at 11AM I'll be doing a mini version of my writing workshop called Mining Your Life for Your Fiction, and finally, at 12:30, my sister Charlotte and I will be talking about our grandmother, Madeleine L'Engle, and her life, work, and legacy. (This presentation is the main reason Leaky Con is flying us into Orlando!)

This long weekend will be spent in Madeleine L'Engle land. Teaser: What didn't make it into the final copy of Wrinkle?




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Monday, June 27, 2011

And the Winners Are . . .

Charlie Sheen does the Sunday ComicsImage by susie.c via Flickr
Yes, I'm going to announce the WINNERS of my little "contest". But first: I've taken a few minutes to meditate of the concept of "winning" and all I can come up with is an image of  Charlie Sheen spouting his hard-earned philosophy: "I'm bi-winning. I win here, I win there."


And the whole question of "winning" sounds ludicrous to me. If you win, do I lose? If I'm a winner, are you a loser?  It's ridonkulous.

"Art is art, and everything else is everything else." (Ad Reinhardt)

But thank you all for playing: "you gotta be in it, to win it." (Vince Lombardi?)

(And I'm just happy to be in the game at all.)



Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. You didn't win this time. Of course, you never entered the contest, but that's beside the point.


I'm a bit loopy after a busy (but good!) day, weekend, month (life?) of constant movement and I need to pick the winners for my little "contest".


Audio Books go to: WC Cannon and Ash.

Hard signed copy goes to: Cheryl Dale

Now I must hunt y'all down!

Night, night. Sweet dreams

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Moving on and Up: Fifth Grade & Beyond

There are lots of reasons to celebrate today, despite the rain and pervasive mugginess.

We moved to Katonah from NYC exactly one year ago today, and I finally feel like we are really HERE. Transitions are always awkward and growing pains are par for the course, but we all are very happy that we took the plunge, took the risk to try something new, to change. Writopia in Westchester is finally taking off with a robust summer program that starts next week, the rollercoaster expectations of myself as a debut author have diminished, and the kids are looking back on their first school year in the 'burbs with happiness and gratitude.

We celebrate the beginning of summer and the end of school, the end of elementary school for fifth graders.

My own fifth grader, Cooper, had his MOVING UP ceremony from Bedford Hills Elementary School this morning. I was surprised by how verklimpt I got: eyes stinging, nose burning, thinking about him and all of the transitions and strides he's made throughout the years. The kids marched into the auditorium to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, sang songs, won awards, got diplomas: and what killed the parents was the slide show of the kids throughout the years that some folks put together, along with a soundtrack that had even the most stoic of us blinking rapidly. Even though this had been Cooper's first and only year at the school, it was amazing to see pictures of his friends as they had grown up through kindergarten: in my mind's eye I also saw Cooper in his various stages in NYC. These wonderful young men and women will all go on to Middle School next year at Fox Lane, and I am amazed by how well their teachers and the school have prepared them for this transition.

Afterward, Cooper wanted to hang out with the husband and me instead of staying at school, so we let him sit in the front seat (I sat in the back!) and drove to our local coffee shop for his favorite treat, a blueberry scone, and his very first decaf mocha. (He is always stealing sips from mine!)

Tonight his grandmother is coming to take us all out for a graduation dinner at Café of Love, where he wants to celebrate not only his moving on and up from elementary school, but our year of moving on and up from the city to Westchester.

At the end of the day, moving on is less of an awkward transition and more of a celebration - appreciating the past and embracing the future.

Speaking of future . . . have you entered my contest yet? Chance to win one of two audio books of Edges and a signed hard copy! Check it out!

(How was that for an awkward transition to try and wrap this post up!)

Peace out, folks.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Flying Squirrel, and Other Birthday Lessons

I'm not going to do it. I am on a field trip with the fifth grade, and the experience is for them after all. Oh look, there's my son, Cooper, (pictured here) bravely being the first kid to try his hand at the Flying Squirrel. He is in a tight harness, attached to a rope, while his entire fifth grade class holds onto the other end of the rope. The instructions? He runs forward, while his class runs backward.

He is up in the air, flying whooping.

"You should try it mom," he says under his breath once he's regained his cool.

I don't know, I think to myself. I weigh twice as much as these kids.

I cheer on the kids who are scared, and watch their faces flush with triumph when they're on land. Obviously, there is some trust involved, and some willingness to relinquish control. Need that, much?

I had done the trapeze "experience" before, and I felt like I didn't need to do it again. It had been scratched off my bucket list.

But it is my birthday, and I am a writer after all - every experience has it's usefulness in the creative process. I'll regret not doing it. Even if I throw up.

And then the elementary school's principal, Mr. Gold, is flying through the air like Peter Pan and I finally get the gumption to shimmy myself into a harness and put my money where my freakin' mouth is: to be honest, open and willing.

I am the last but not least in the air after a running jump, and trusting these amazing almost-middle-schoolers with my life, and I feel like Spiderman, not at all embarrassed when I land on my tuchus and NOT on my feet like everybody else. (Well, maybe just a little!)

"You looked funny," a fifth grade girl says to me, engaging me with her smile. I have no doubt about that! AND Cooper wants me to sit with him on the log at lunchtime.

This is the BEST!

I am 43 years old today, and life is too serious to be taken seriously.

PS Don't forget to enter my contest to win one of two audio books of Edges or a signed hard copy by yours truly  - sign up by Monday, June 27th at 6PM!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day: What would The Doctor Say?

Happy Sunday and Father's Day everyone! I hope you all have glorious plans. The husband let me take a pic of him from his goatee down to show off his Father's Day present:

Yes, those of us in the older Roy clan, from age 9 and up, are die-hard Dr. Who fans.

Today promises to be lovely: outside time, yoga, the town pool, and celebrating the third birthday of a delightful little girl with close friends.

We are in summer mode, with only one week left of school.

There is always so much to write about! There is a tremendous opportunity here for someone to write a post about whether or not Dr. Who would make it as a dad - would somebody write that?


But I need family time today, so I will hark back to Friday, and post a couple of links.

I guest posted an audition story on A Year of Auditions, a  blog started by debut author Stasia Ward Kehoe in anticipation of her upcoming YA novel Audition, out in October. I was an intense thirteen year old, choosing Nina's final monologue from Anton Chekhov's The Seagull as my audition piece for The High School of Performing Arts. Here is a teaser of my post:

Why did you say you kissed the ground I walked on? You should have killed me instead. I’m so tired! I want to rest, I just want to rest. I’m the seagull … No, that’s not it. I’m an actress. That’s it.
 
This was the beginning of my monologue, the one I used for my auditions for acting camp and the High School of Performing Arts (now LaGuardia) back in 1981. I was thirteen.

What possessed me to pick one of the most challenging monologues, from The Seagull by Anton Chekhov to do over and over again? This epic romance of a tragedy appealed to me on so many levels: it is a play for actors and writers, and Chekhov shows us the different artistic archetypes through his characters without telling his audience what to think.

I blame my grandparents for my love of the classics and the theatre. They met in the early 1940’s during a Broadway production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard after all. My grandfather, Hugh Franklin, an actor from Oklahoma, was playing the role of Trofimov, and my grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, was an understudy and Eva LeGallienne’s secretary.


And tomorrow is my birthday! So don't forget to enter the contest to win either one of two audio books or a signed hardback copy of Edges! Contest ends next Monday, June 27th at 6PM.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day! 
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Contest: Two Audio Books and A Signed Hard Copy For Grabs

We hit the six month mark on Edges last week and I didn't even realize it. Something must have been niggling at my brain because in my blog yesterday I announced a contest to win one of two audio books or a signed hard copy to my loyal readers. I was also riddled with insecurity.

But dang. We need to celebrate and for that I need to expand the contest! Six months peeps. No longer am I a debut author. I am a little more seasoned and rough around the edges (ha)!

Sure that means some insecurity sometimes, but I promised you authenticity, didn't I?

So. Contest rules. There are no rules! If you follow my blog and my Facebook page, I will enter your name 3x.  If you don't, no worries, play anyway - your name will be entered! I've hosted contests before where I've asked people to tell me about themselves, or answer a prompt, but I won't do that this time. It will be EASY-PEASY.

Just tell me in the comments where you will be vacationing this summer. That's it!

(Me? It will be a STAY-Cation with my family, but I AM going to Orlando next month for Leaky Con 2011!)

The contest ends on the first day of summer vacation for us out in the Northeast and the first day of camp: Monday, June 27th at 6PM.

And to bloggers out there - if you want to host a give-away on your site, let me know, and I'll see what I can do.

Peace out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Waiting, Clapping, and a Contest

Clap HandsImage by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr
I'm sitting at my desk, waiting for emails.

At least I'm not waiting for inspiration to strike. My new-ish WIP has been put aside for the past couple of weeks as I pull together a schedule for Writopia Lab's summer program in Westchester. I am very excited: there is some buzz, and I want to be able to keep up the momentum by emailing responses back right away, answering inquiries, walking parents' through the registration process.

I also might as well come out and admit it: I'm waiting for my agent and/or editor to get back to me about The Land of the Lost and Found, although that will likely be a phone call, and not an email.

It's been at least a month since my agent hit SEND on the document.

It will probably be another month or two, before I hear anything. I'm sure "they" (the publishers) want to see how Edges is doing. (Which is another thing I get asked all of the time.) And the answer is: I don't know. Well, to be honest, my fear and my suspicion is that it has DIED.

So peeps, if you haven't yet already, please become a fan on Facebook, and if you are able, pretty please give Edges a boost on Goodreads and Amazon with some good ole' stars. 

Clap if you believe. It worked for Tinkerbell, didn't it?

In fact, I'm going to have another contest. I have two audio-books to give away. Rate Edges on Goodreads and on Amazon. I will enter your name twice if you take the time to do both! (Let me know in the comments section by Friday, June 24th). I have also announced a contest for a signed book on the Edges' Facebook page as well.


And look, in the time it took to write this, I got another email from Vistaprint, asking if I need more business cards. (First 100 free!)

See y'all on the flip side.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Exclamation Points are Sexy!!!

A purple exclamation markImage via Wikipedia
Am I writing a defense, or a confession? I have been accused by many of abusing the exclamation point. Like curse words, they should be used sparingly.

I agree: they have almost entirely been eradicated from my fiction. But emails? Blogs? Really?

There seems to be a concensus amongst friends, family and colleagues that I'm a little too excitable when it comes to the exclamation point. The husband points out that I go out of my way to use it: it is on the far left of the keyboard, along with the shift button, and as a poor typist who has her own way of doing things, I have to stop and use both hands. SHIFT with my left and !!!!!!!! with my right.

Ah, that felt so good. I'm an enthusiastic person, and I believe the exclamation point expresses enthusiasm. Yet as I go over some past emails, I see that I have an exclamation point after each sentence.

It does look un peu ridiculous. (After all, I teach grammar - albeit in a fun, experiential way - to youngsters.) The allure of the exclamation point is all about the moment, so I need to stop and think before I act. Which, come to think of it, is what Anthony Weiner should have done. Come on dude! Sit on those poor impulses and go get some therapy, cop to it and then say: it's none of your beeswax. But I digress.

I am undergoing some rehabilitation, much as I had to do with the exclamation point's sassy partner, the apostrophe.

Wish me luck!!!!!!!    :-)
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writers are Shiny

It's wonderful when all aspects of one's life harmonize and sing. As both a writer and a teacher of writing, I feel this joy and vulnerability when my Writopia students' shine and are recognized.

On Friday, June 3rd, I took two of my students along with their chaperones, to showcase a few minutes of their prose at Writopia's city-wide Spring Reading. 

Here are two pictures of my Writopia students: both are finishing the fifth grade at Katonah Elementary School. Above is Caleigh Boyer-Holt with yours truly, and here is Beatrix Roberts.

The event was held in the Courtyard Gallery - a gorgeous open space downtown at the The World Financial Center, where Scholastic's Art and Writing Awards is having an art show through the end of June, in honor and recognition of the 2011 winners. You can see behind us some of the excellent work, from teens all over the country. Every year since 1923, Scholastic has hosted a contest for teens in seventh grade through twelfth. (Past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates.)

Since Writopia kids won more regional keys and national medals in the Scholastic Writing Awards than any other group of kids in the entire nation, our National Director, Rebecca Wallace-Segall was invited to host a reading in this space.

Beatrix Roberts, otherwise known as "Bea", was brave enough to kick off the event by volunteering to read first. She has been working on a dystopian novella - based on an image of a girl alone in the woods - and has delighted in watching it take shape and finding the tension in both controlling the narrative and letting the process guide her. She was so poised, her voice strong and beautiful: she brought a tear to my eye.

Caleigh was equally magnificent. I started working with her last fall, and we had an immediate connection, not only because of the writing and the spectacles, but because of growing up in the church: her mother is the rector of the Universalist Methodist Church in Katonah. (I grew up in an Episcopal Seminary in NYC where my father worked as a priest.) Caleigh's understanding of emotions is incredibly nuanced and developed for an eleven year old. I often have to remind myself of how old she is when reading her work! She has been finding her voice through weaving together stories of anthropomorphic wolves in Alaska, who not only battle the "toe-walkers", but themselves.

Both girls will be published in our on-line literary journal this summer, The Parenthetical, and have fallen in-love with the concept of layering and revision, wanting to nurture their burgeoning talent as writers.
 
And tonight, I will be missing the Fireman's Parade in Katonah, an experience I hear from everybody as Norman Rockwellian. Why would I miss such an event? Because of one of my students, that's why!

I have the honor of going to Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua for the debut of Writopian Lindsay Gittelman's play, SNAP. Lindsay is in the tenth grade, and she has written many stories with me since last summer, including SNAP. She joined a playwrighting class at school this spring, and turned this short story into a play. Part of the class is to use fellow students to play the characters, and direct it herself. I am so excited and proud.

It is a joy to watch others' flush with excitement when they receive acknowledgement for their hard work and effort. We all don't have to be superstars, but we do need to be heard, to know that our voices matter.

Caleigh, Bea and Lindsay, you all are superstars to me. And you are so shiny!


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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making the Darkness Visible

Fear mongering is rearing it's ugly head again.When I opened up my computer this morning there was an outcry on both Facebook and Twitter from YA authors and YA readers in response to an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon posted in the Wall Street Journal on June 4th entitled Darkness Too Visible deploring the "dark" content of much of YA Literature.

Sigh . . . but when such eloquent responses popped up on the blogosphere, including a trend on Twitter called #YAsaves, it brought tears to my eyes. I found a post from last year's blog in April entitled Why Kids Like Dark and I thought that would be enough of my two cents, but I am still thinking about it late on a Sunday evening.

We are only as sick as our secrets. We need to make that darkness visible so that we can better understand it. And we write and we read to better understand the world, to give our own feelings a voice. It is freakin' hard to be human, let alone a teenager. There is joy and sadness, darkness and light, and all of us have to jump over some mine fields in the vibrant emotional landscapes we've been given.  Everyone has problems, everyone feels pain. It is a matter of degree, rather than kind.

One of my psychology professors in grad school at NYU told me that the definition of mental health is the ability to tolerate ambiguity, to not see life in terms of black and white. The WSJ article suggests to me that the author doesn't have a handle on ambiguity.

Hopefully as healthy adults, we all learn to manage the ambiguity of disparate feelings, and are able to express them in healthy ways. But our brains aren't fully developed until we are 25. Think about that. TWENTYFIVE!

We need books to help us make the darkness visible.

Everybody knows intellectually that if anger, jealousy, anxiety and sadness are stuffed down, they fester, turning into depression which can manifest itself in any number of ways. That we need to give voice to our feelings.

We need art, literature, plays, movies, music to challenge us and to help us see things in a new way, to see other points of view. What a wonderful world we live in where there is something for everybody!

But I know that it's scary to be a parent. We don't want darkness to be out there at all, do we? We want our kids to have joy and hope. And they will, they'll have it all. You'll be there to help them navigate and think for themselves, have opinions.

Books can't take that away, I promise. And I'll say it again: we are only as sick as our secrets, and we need books to make darkness visible.

Someone tweeted this morning: Madeleine L'Engle saved my life. #YAsaves. I have read hundreds of letters to my grandmother with that sentiment. YA Saves indeed!


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Friday, June 3, 2011

Still Thirteen and all a-Go-Go

Cover image from the 1982 hit single, "We...Image via Wikipedia
The summer of 1981, the summer I turned 13. There was acting camp,  there were boy crushes, man crushes, girl crushes, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Royal Wedding (as in Charles and Diana).

There were lots of firsts, such as getting my period and getting creeped out by a flasher after walking home from seeing RotLA for the first time.

Oh, Harrison Ford!

I dreamed of being Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and my main desire beyond all else was to get into the Highschool of the Performing Arts. There was a girl with long strawberry blonde hair whose life I wanted: she was beautiful, an amazing actress and dating the best actor in THE WORLD,  but she was 16 so I never spoke to her.

Rabid journal writing.

Dieting, and the beginning of a tortured relationship with my body. I had a woman's body, but not the emotional maturity to go with it.


Y'all know I'm a preacher's daughter, growing up in an Episcopal Seminary in New York City. There was a seminarian named Jesus, (I know!) a man in his early 20's who kept asking me out, wouldn't believe I was only thirteen. It freaked me out, and I didn't know whether I should like it or not.


There was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blondie, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, The Clash and the beginnings of a minor obsession with Marilyn Monroe.


What does it mean to be female in this world? What should women be? What should I be?


Thank Goodness there was Beauty and the Beat and the Go-Gos. An all-girl band thrusting us into the world of the New Wave. Listening to them I felt empowered as a female, that I could do anything, be anything. They started out punk, evolving into this power pop sound that rocked my world.

So tonight, thirty years after the release of Beauty and the Beat, fellow YA author Sarah Darer Littman and I are meeting at Irving Plaza to get our Go-Go on. Our coming together for this is an uber-modern tale: we both happened to be on Twitter at the same time that Sarah read about the venue a couple of months ago. She dared me to go with her, and I double-dared her to get the tickets. And now, the rest will be history . . .

I turn 43 on June 20th, and I still know how to have fun. The way I have fun is different, as I am one of those high-on-life kind of gals without the intense angst, the self-consciousness, the body dysmorphia.

Okay, it's not ALL gone, I am human after all . . . but I much prefer being older, and being able to access every age I've ever been with a clean mind and body! (The wildness of my youth was fun in some ways, tragic in others.)

I wish that you all could come with us!

Tanti Baci,

GRRRRRRRL power!!!!!

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