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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

***** for LIE, by Caroline Bock

I met Caroline Bock, debut author of LIE last Friday night at a reading she did with the divine Tara Altebrando (promoting her awesome new book, Dreamland Social Club that takes place on Coney Island) at The Voracious Reader.

LIE explores a hate crime and racism - really tough subjects - and I was intrigued.

Caroline is a dynamic personality - she had us riveted with her reading. First she explained that she had been devastated and outraged when a Hispanic immigrant had been murdered by a gang of affluent white high school teens near her home on Long Island. How could this happen in this day and age and in her neighborhood? Thus the story was born.

The novel's first page has this quote from The New York Times: "The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it, "beaner hopping."

LIE is told through intertwining narratives, both adult and teen. We never hear from the force behind the "beaner hopping", Jimmy, but we learn about him through the three main characters: Skylar - his girlfriend, Sean - his best friend, and Lisa Marie - Skylar's best friend.


The book starts with Skylar, lying about what she knows about the attack. Everybody knows, nobody's talking is the mantra throughout the book.  The character that made my skin crawl the most was Lisa Marie, who is so invested in protecting Jimmy that it is more important than seeing how torn up Skylar and Sean are about not telling the truth. She and the absent Jimmy, control their narratives throughout the book. Caroline expertly shows us how devastating this is, without being preachy.

This would be a great book to discuss with high school students and book groups of all ages, about the effects of bullying, a charismatic leader who compels others to do the wrong thing by making it seem right, (Hitler anyone?) the importance of cultural sensitivity and out and out racism.

When I moved to the exurbs from New York City, I wanted to make sure that my kids would go to a school that reflected the world, and we have that in the Bedford Hills School district. Reading Caroline's book  strengthened my own point of view in the importance of tolerance and some new immigration laws that don't make it so impossible for immigrants to become part of the ever dwindling middle class. A lot needs to happen in this country in that arena.

We are all from somewhere else. The family tree on my mother's side goes way way back, with ancestors coming from France and Sicily, and my dad is British.

What is your ancestry?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Children's Book Day Surprise

Sunnyside (Tarrytown, New York)Image via Wikipedia
It was a wonderful day for a book event at Washington Irving's Sunnyside. The weather channel had threatened rain all weekend, but it turned out to be a beautiful Indian Summer day with plentiful sunshine gracing the rolling hills overlooking the Hudson River.

Sunnyside, the mansion where Washington Irving lived, is in Irvington (surprise!) next to Tarrytown. My family and I arrived early, and I was whisked off to see where I would be sitting - alongside Judy Blundell (who recommended me for this event) and Peter Lerangis of 39 Clue fame. That's right - Edges was in fantastic company, as Judy also writes under the name Jude Watson (Watson being her married name) with Judy's lexicon of work and all of the 39 Clues books.

I had a few minutes, so I walked around, saw other wonderful authors talking to young readers and their parents. (This event was mostly for a younger audience: I think that Judy and I were the only ones representing the YA scene!)

Imagine my surprise when a man genially walks up to me and asks if I am Léna Roy. Why yes, yes I am. (There was a HUGE picture of me that went along with the cover article of the Westchester Journal Weekender.)

"Did you go to Kent boarding School?"

My eyes popped. "Yes!"

"I'm Chris Dee, I'm married to Barbara Dee, and I was your 9th grade English teacher."

Holy cow! I'm getting goosebumps just writing this. What a small world! Barbara Dee and I had only recently become Facebook and Twitter friends and have been trying to set up a coffee date. It turns out that Barbara also taught at Kent when I was there - but was never my teacher.

Kent boarding school. The WRONG place for me. It was a disaster. I was incredibly miserable and can't believe that I lasted even two years there. But that's another story.

Mr. Dee though, was a pretty cool teacher. In fact, the only cool teacher.

Barbara and I gave each other a big hug, promising a long coffee date in the next week or two, and then it was time to sit at my table from 2PM - 4:30PM. Some of my Writopia students came, and it was lovely talking with people about books and the process of writing, and how important building community is.

This was such a wonderful event, supporting Westchester authors and the people who love them. I did not however, get to talk to everybody I wanted to, but it was tough to be pro-active when there were just so many people I wanted to meet. And yes, I was  too chicken to approach Gail Carson-Levine. Next time, I promise!
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

And the Winners Are . . .

. . . you're all winners! For sure, but I can still only give away three books. However, to everybody who entered, I will send snazzy bookmarks if you comment below with your email attached. And even if you didn't enter, your comment and email will earn you a bookmark. So there!

Wow. It was so nice of you all to enter, and to help me not feel so foolish for hosting a contest at all. This self-promotion stuff just KILLS me sometime. I am so eager to connect with people, but I want authentic connection. Don't you?

I went to a random number machine and the numbers I got were: 1, 9 and 27. So if I've done my math correctly, then that's Webstrider and the two Anonymous' (Anonymi?)

Sweet dreams peoples.   xoxox

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Weekender

Oh yes it's Friday, and that means it's the last day to enter my contest to win one of three signed copies of Edges that I rescued from the Borders in Mt. Kisco. The odds of winning one are pretty awesome. Click on the link above to enter!

It also means the weekend, which is chock full of awesome activities:

Tonight after my workshop at The Voracious Reader, friend and author Tara Altebrando will be joining Caroline Block to read and talk about their new books, Dreamland Social Club and LIE. I hope you can come!

Saturday after my daughter's soccer and a Writopia workshop, Katonal Live is having a block party downtown with four bands. Maybe I'll see you there!

And then on Sunday, after my son's football game, we will all be going to Washington Irving's Sunnyside in Tarrytown for the annual Children's Book Day. There will be over sixty authors, including me! I also had the honor of being interviewed last week by Karen Croke of the LoHud Journal - a Westchester newspaper. The article is on the front page of today's Weekend section. You can read the article online here if you are so inclined.

I will be announcing the winners of the books tomorrow - maybe you're one of them! And maybe I'll see you at one of these events this weekend. At any rate, have a great time whatever you are doing!

Hugs to all. And a kiss. oooox

Monday, September 19, 2011

Open Mics, Football, and a Cold Sore, Oh My

Is it okay if I curl up in bed with latest issue of Oprah until I have to leave for writing workshops in Larchmont in a few hours? I am supposed to be writing - my agent has glamored me into thinking I should try my hand at middle grade fantasy and I told him that I would roll up my sleeves (after sending him two synopses on Friday) but my brain is in a fog.

I LOVE the fall, but with the changes in temperatures and schedules-run-amok my body starts to shut down. Does anybody else experience this intensity? Every fall I am guaranteed to get a big ugly cold sore that blows up my lower lip. FUN.

I woke up with one on Saturday morning, but I had to take my girl to soccer, run a workshop, and then later host a fabulous Writopia Open Mic event at the Mt. Kisco Library. We had five kids read, and then inaugurate our Writopia wall of fame. The husband made a wall that we can move around, with photoshopped wallpaper on it of empty books that need titles. Our Writopians then get to choose a book spine to write the titles of their stories with their names as the author. (At Writopia Lab in NYC, all walls are covered in this fabulous wallpaper.) A favorite part of these events for me is to have all of the young writers come up and be part of a Q & A panel. This is where you get to see how esteemable their creativity is for them, how identifying themselves as writers boosts their confidence and gives them a voice.

Sunday morning we all had to get up early to the football field in Leonard Park to watch Cooper's very first football game - the Mt. Kisco Maroons vs. the Putnam Valley Tigers. By this point my lip had really blown up and I was starting to feel sick, so as surreal as football is for me anyway, it started to take on a science-fiction-y feel. It was amazing to watch him, even though I don't understand the game, and funny to have him quiz me afterwards. We had to race home to get our Larchmont Writopia wall in order to make The Open Mic event at The Voracious Reader!

Don't worry - afterward I drove straight to the walk-in clinic, was able to see an RN and get some meds so I am on the mend. (And the husband made chicken soup from scratch!)

And by the way - if you have managed to get through reading this post, and you haven't read Edges yet, or you have but would love to give to a friend, I have three copies to give away and am hosting a contest. Go ahead and enter!


Now is it okay to turn off my computer for a while? xoxox

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Borders Busts, Books Party with a Give-Away

 . . . Well . . . not exactly. But Edges and my readers will be having a party because I have books to give away - yes, you heard me GIVE AWAY. Shipping will also be at my expense.

I went into my local Borders and bought up the last three copies of Edges. They had been kind enough to buy a truck load of my books as I had been hosting Open Mic events, and "helping serve the community". (They're very community minded, these Mt. Kisco Borders folks. We will sorely miss them.)

What can I do to win a book? I bet you are asking. I like free stuff. Who doesn't? Well. There are many ways to increase your odds, folks, as your name can be entered into the lottery multiple times.

1. Follow this blog
2. "Like" Edges on Facebook
3. Follow me on Twitter
4. Retweet this post

Extra Credit:

5. Answer this question: what is your favorite way to unwind?

What? My name can be entered up to five times? You read that right.

So what are you waiting for?????? Use the comment section to tell me how many times you should be entered, and don't forget your email! I will pick the winners on the day that Borders closes it's doors for good: Friday, September 23rd

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Drinking Diaries

I have fallen off of the blogging wagon as of late: the end of the summer and beginning of school and new Writopia workshops has kept me very busy, so I'd love it if you hopped over to the Drinking Diaries blog where they have just posted an interview with yours truly.

You know that I have kept quiet about my own alcoholism, until the death of Amy Winehouse, when I had to say something. It was the serendipity of meeting Leah Epstein while I was struggling with writing that piece that encouraged me to publish it, and then to do an interview over at her blog with Caren Gerszberg.

I didn't want to muddy the waters and publicize my own struggles with addiction alongside the publication of Edges - that cheapens it. But the truth is that this disease wreaks havoc on so many people's lives, sometimes ending in death, and if I can help one person by speaking out, then it is worth it.

As for Edges, while much is true in the story, it is still a work of fiction!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Comedy of Errors, Madeleine L'Engle, and my mom

Photo of the first page of The Comedy of Error...Image via Wikipedia
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.

So sayeth Antipholus of Syracuse, upon searching for his lost twin brother in Ephesus.

Last week the husband and I took our three kids, ages 6, 9, and 11, to see their first unabridged version of a Shakespeare comedy across the river on the grounds of Boscobel at Hudson Valley Shakespeare.

My Gran would approve wholeheartedly. I think that I was seven when I had my first brush with Shakespeare at a theater with her, my sister and my mom in Stratford . . . Connecticut. Shakespeare,  Madeleine L'Engle and my mother are inextricably linked for me, fostering my love of theater and of words, language.

("Let's read Twelfth Night," Gran would say to my pre-pubescent self, with an impish wink, and my sister and I would climb into her four poster bed while we played the straight men (and women) to her fools. I will never forget her portrayal of Sir Anthony Aguecheek!)

We were all a bit giddy, having been without power for over 72 hours and then having it restored that afternoon. The night before, I had read the Mary and Charles Lamb abridges story from the late 1800's by candlelight, happy that the boys' stomach's were aching from laughing so much. Scarlett furrowed her brow a lot, but at six, that's to be expected.

We took a picnic, and arranged to meet friends overlooking the Hudson River before theater under a tent. Afterward, we found our seats underneath the tent and waited, holding our breath . . .

. . . we weren't disappointed. We were enchanted, captivated. Ephesus, the setting for the tale, was depicted as a freak show carnival. The brothers Antipholus were the straight men, whilst the roles of the other brothers, Dromio, were played by women in humpty dumpty suits, and the sisters Adriana and Luciana were respectively a bearded lady and a mermaid. There was even singing in iambic pentameter, and the Duke was played by a scallywag in a leopard print suit who delivered his lines like Elvis.

I to the world am like a drop of water . . . isn't there a profound universality in those words? Seeing this live performance was like a coming home again, a remembrance of something I loved that I can experience again with new eyes and a new heart.

In my teens I did a Shakespeare summer program at the A.C.T. in San Francisco and then later at The Royal Academy in London. (I was in a gender bender production of Troilis and Cressida playing Troilus to an Australian soap star's Cressida, but that, as Kipling said, is another story.)

I am thrilled that the kids are old enough now to share this with them. I haven't seen a Shakespeare play since having them, but I know now that I will see many more. It sparked their interest so much that they couldn't stop talking about it. In fact, the next night we visited my mom, who held them captive synopsizing many other of the plays for the kids, and Scarlett didn't want to miss a word.

"Don't talk about Shakespeare until I come back!" She yelled whenever she ran to the bathroom.

A new generation of fans has been born. Special thanks to Hudson Valley Shakespeare, Madeleine L'Engle, and last but not least to my beautiful mother, Josephine Jones, a true Shakespeare connoisseur, patron of the arts and supporter of all the important stuff!
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