Archive for the ‘Writing and other bookish things’ Category

I haven’t done a Road trip Wednesday in a reeeeaaallly long time. But I’m nearing (so near, so very very near) finishing revisions on my WIP, and I’m about ready to come out of the hole I’ve been in for far too long. And I couldn’t resist a chance to talk about the best book I read in November.

And that book is… The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall! Oh, how I loved this. Automatic classic.

I’ve been working on simplifying my writing, and maybe that’s why The Penderwicks struck me. Jeanne is a master of simplicity. Four sisters talk nearly nonstop, and nearly every dialogue tag is “said” (except Hound, the dog, whose tag is “barked”). “It’s Batty’s fault,” said Skye. “It is not,” said Batty. “Of course it is,” said Skye. “We wouldn’t be lost if…” You get the picture. But every sister has such an individual personality that flowery tags aren’t needed. The dialogue said it all. Nearly whole book takes place in one simple setting (a yard, no less!), but she fills it with the kind of childhood exploration that made it seem huge and thrilling.

The book is wonderful and whimsical and summery and lovely, and perhaps that’s why it’s a National Book Award Winner. Can’t wait to read the rest of them!


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The moment Taylor Swift was announced the AMA Entertainer of the Year, my Twitter feed started coughing up a horde of “Is this what music is coming to?!?!” tweets. And I know, I know… she beat out Adele? Seriously?

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I understand why. I’m not denying that Taylor minus auto-tune isn’t cringeworthy. What I am saying is that Taylor gets people. More specifically, she gets teen people, and people who were once teens (which, for the record, is a pretty good chunk of people).

It’s been 14 years since I was a teenager, but her songs take me back to the way I felt then (even when I didn’t want to admit it: the angst, the first realization that people weren’t always who you thought they were, the uncrushable hopefulness of having your whole life ahead of you). There was the crush you were willing to cop to, but also the secret crush that you would never admit to, even to your BFF… either because you were too cool to crush on him or because you weren’t cool enough.

  • Taylor on secret crushes: “He sees everything black and white/Never let nobody see him cry/I don’t let nobody see me wishing he was mine/I could tell you his favorite color’s green/He loves to argue, born on the seventeenth/His sister’s beautiful, he has his father’s eyes/And if you ask me if I love him, I’d lie.”
  • On pretending to be someone you’re not: “Seems the only one who doesn’t see your beauty/Is the face in the mirror looking back at you/You walk around here thinking you’re not pretty/But that’s not true, ’cause I know you/Hold on baby, you’re losing it/The water’s high, you’re jumping into it/And letting go and no one knows/That you cry but you don’t tell anyone/That you might not be the golden one/And you’re tied together with a smile/But you’re coming undone.”
  • On the first jerk of a boyfriend: “Say you’re sorry, that face of an angel/Comes out just when you need it to/As I paced back and forth all this time/Cause I honestly believed in you/Holding on, the days drag on/Stupid girl, I should have known/I should have known/I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale/I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet/Lead her up the stairwell/This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town/I was a dreamer before you went and let me down/Now it’s too late for you and your white horse to come around.”

Who hasn’t felt this way? (Don’t lie. You know you have.) I have. My inner fifteen-year-old relates to these like nobody’s business. A couple of years ago, I was at a weekend event for teen girls, and “You Belong With Me” came on over the gym speakers. In five seconds flat, 300 girls were singing at the top of their lungs: “You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, she’s upset/She’s going off about something that you said/Cause she doesn’t get your humor like I do/I’m in the room, it’s a typical Tuesday night/I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like/And she’ll never know your story like I do/But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers/Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find/That what’re you’re looking for has been here the whole time…” Why? Because every girl in that room had sat on those blasted bleachers watching her boy friend and wishing he was her boyfriend. Every single one of them. And so have I. And so have you. This is the teenage reality.

As writers, I wonder if we run the risk of making our MCs what a teenager “should” look like – what we wish we would have been in high school. Our heroes tend to be tough and hard and never-give-up, and they would never sit around moping because some stupid boy didn’t like them (See: the writing world’s disdain for Bella Swan). I have a feeling that if Jane Eyre had been written today, Jane would have given Mr. Rochester a swift punch in the face and thrown a match onto Thornfield as she walked away. That’s all kick-butt and superheroine of you, Jane version 2011, but the problem is that it’s not really what we do in those situations (the last time I found out that my groom was hiding his mad wife in the attic, I sat down and cried). Right or wrong, Jane loved him, so instead she wanders around aimlessly, starving and homeless. Rational? No. Kick-butt? Definitely not. But the truth is that what we should feel and what we do feel are two different things, and that’s especially true for teens.

Taylor Swift is just about as good as it gets when it comes to the honest emotions of your typical teen. We would do well to learn from her. Remember all the insecurity that comes with becoming your own person, and infuse that into your MC. Your readers will respond.

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Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. This Week’s Topic: The house is on fire and you’ve only got time to grab five things. What are they?

Yay! So excited to be road tripping today! Been working feverishly to finish revising my WIP, which has left precious little time for blogging. But this prompt was just too good to pass up.

Hmm… This is tough! I’m going to assume here that hubby and baby were out buying some formula or something when the fire broke out (presumably because I left the iron on AGAIN). That being said, my five items would have to be…

1. Does a bookcase count as one item? No? Drat. Then I would have to grab my world’s-most-beautiful copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Leather bound. Gold-edged. Exquisite.

2. My laptop. WIP, anyone? (Yes, it’s saved in other places, like cyberspace and flash drives, but you can’t be too careful, ya know?)

3. My scrapbooks. I’m counting them as one item because… well, I don’t have an excuse. Just because I can. I got into the scrapping thing in college, which unfortunately was before the digital age, so now ALL my high school/college/early married life photos are cut up in pieces in three enormous books. Hmmph.

4. My jewelry box. Even though 80% of the jewelry I own is Target clearance, it’s got my engagement ring, my grandmother’s diamond, and my great-grandmother’s engagement set in it. None of them are of much monetary value, but they’re priceless to me.

5. Diaper bag. Because some things you can’t go without, even for a day.

It’s funny how we see things as so important, but when I sit here and try to think about what I’d be worried about, none of it matters all that much. If hubby and baby get safe, I just can’t bring myself to get worked up about everything else, even in imaginary land. Which, I suppose, is the way it should be.

What about you? What would you save?

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 Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic:
How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals?It’s funny. I think back on the writing goals I’ve met – completing a chapter, completing a book, finishing the dreaded synopsis – and each time, it seems like the satisfaction of having completed it was the reward in itself. I might order a mocha, or my husband might take us out to dinner or something, but I guess I just haven’t really given myself a “reward” per se. (But perhaps I should start!)

As for the big goals, the future goals, the dream goals… well, here goes:

1. Top priority when I hit it big ;)… quit my day job. Best reward EVER.

2. A wonderful, amazing, incredible around-the-world trip. I want to see where my good friends Charlotte, Emily, and Anne once lived. Also Jane. And Charles. I want to walk on the moors. I want to go to Italy. And the Holy Lands. And Egypt. I’ve entered lots of contests and such, but alas, it seems that I’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and just become the next Suzanne Collins. 🙂

3. There is a certain person whom I would like to buy a van. And no, it is not me. But that has been on my list for a while.

4. For all other questions, see #1.

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Earlier this week, I committed to perform some act of abnegation (self-denial) as part of the DIVERGENT Faction-of-the-Week Challenge. And let me tell you… abnegation isn’t for the faint of heart.

I started the challenge with 24 hours television free. *ducks for cover* Before you mock, let me explain… I have a crazy life. Ridiculous crazy, filled with a six-month-old, fulltime job, a ministry, and sundry other things resultant from the fact that it is physically impossible for me to say “no” to anyone who asks me to help with anything. So, usually, my husband and I will put baby to bed and then enjoy an hour of Bones… or Criminal Minds… or what-have-you, just to relax. It’s mindless entertainment at its best. (I’ve now finished defending myself. Let’s proceed.)

What I learned is that making a conscious decision not to watch television is hard. It’s hard because you’re the only one doing it – and everywhere you go and everywhere you are, there’s a huge box blaring at you. I took Bren to see my grandmother… she’s got Bonanza on full blast. Go to a restaurant… they’re piping in ball games and Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s not a moment of peace to be found anywhere. On TV-free day, I enjoyed the quiet. It made me wish for more quiet moments and look for ways to root them out. I will do better at this.

My next challenge was 24 hours chocolate free. I’m not quite sure when I became a chocoholic; I only know that it happened. But you know what? This challenge was easy. I didn’t even miss it. Sweet!

Today I’m going caffeine free. *shudders* All I can say is, “Wish me luck!” This is one I want to stick with permanently. Caffeine makes me nervous, and it keeps me from sleeping well, and I hate it, yet I still love it. Call this the first day of the rest of my decaf life. I hope, I hope, I hope.

The hard part of removing something from your life is that you have to fill that little life-bit back up with something. So if you remove television, for instance, you have to put something in its place. Or instead of chocolate, carrots (eww). It’s taking the intentional road instead of the thoughtless one. I don’t think any of the things I chose were difficult to give up, but I did have to get all Robert Frostish up in here and actually think about where I was going/what I was doing. I had to decide what to do instead of mindlessly going through the motions. It meant living life with purpose, even with the small stuff. It was a good thing and I needed to be reminded of it.

Next up… 24 hours internet free. Yeesh.

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Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic:
Some audiobooks are read by celebrities. Most recently, Cassandra Clare’s CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS was partly read by Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl.  So, if you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be and why?

The answer to this question is always, always Tom Hanks. WIP, favorite novel, cereal box… it should always be read by Tom Hanks. In the words of Tom as Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

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This week I’m starting a challenge that has me SUPER pumped… and here’s why.

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (confession here: I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on the top of my TBR pile) proposes a make-you-think-really-really-hard scenario which is essentially this: if you could only choose one virtue to embody in your life, what virtue would it be? In Roth’s dystopian world, every sixteen-year-old has to make that very choice. They choose from these five factions:


CANDOR—The Honest

ERUDITE—The Intellectual/Knowledgeable

AMITY—The Peaceful


I learned just last week that a person’s brain – and especially the decision-making part of said brain – does not stop developing/growing until the age of 26. I’m not sure how I would choose the one virtue of my life at the ripe old age of 32, much less if I were a kid with ten good years of brain-growing left to do! So in honor of the book, and to make myself do some good old-fashioned thinking, I’m joining a group of writers who will be spending the next five weeks attempting to embody one of the five factions/virtues, focusing on one particular virtue each week.

This week’s virtue is ABNEGATION. In layman’s terms, abnegation means denying yourself. It’s giving something up in an attempt to rid yourself of bad things: vanity, for instance, or laziness, or greed… you get the picture.

On Friday, I will be blogging about what I chose to give up this week. I have an idea… let you know on Friday how it goes!

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