Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Books of 2011

I know I'm a little late to this party, but I'm still on bed-rest. Sue me. My best of 2011 posts will be less categorized than last year, because there's so little time left, but books definitely get their own post!

Like last year, this list is not in preference order. Also, it's books I read in 2011, not necessarily books published in 2011.

I read 253 books this year. That's 20 more than last year, but I think the difference comes down to my discovery of Buffy comic books.

Best Books:


Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I am pretty sure this is on everyone's list, but I judge books I love by whether or not I just want to sit there and hug them after I read them, and this book definitely gave me that squealy, I love you forever feeling.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I know some people take issue with the snarkiness of Dash, one of the narrators of this book, but to me he is the perfect literary love. He's a bookish boy, not afraid to love someone a little whimsical. The two have intellectual conversations via a red moleskine hidden at The Strand. This book has awesome best friends named Boomer, Great Aunt Ida and Muppets. WHAT MORE IS THERE?

Paper Towns by John Green

I adore John Green, and can't wait for The Fault in Our Stars, but Paper Towns was the book that finally converted me to LOVING ALL THINGS JOHN GREEN FOREVER. The insightfulness, the quirk, the road trip in graduation gowns... I love it. Full review here.


The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

London! Jack the Ripper! A Torchwood-esque organization that deals with ghosts. ALL THE AWESOME.


I know most people discovered this bok a long time ago, but I didn't, and I'm glad. The themes of isolation, acceptance and connection faced by Charlie, the main character, really spoke to me at the time I read it. Also, it's set in 1991, which is a time I identify with for some reason, and it has a soundtrack that is incredible. Read it before the movie comes out, on the off chance they ruin it....


The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This is one of those books I can't believe I read only ten months ago. It's ingrained itself on me in ways I don't get and RCM has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I reviewed it here, so I'll leave it at that.

Where She Went by Gayle Foreman

I read If I Stay this year too, but connected to WSW more. (What is it with me an angsty adolescent male narrators?) Full review here, but essentially it's about a rock star and the love of his former live gallivanting around New York over one night. I think there's a New York theme to this year's list....


Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Especially as my Buffy obsession has increased my nerd-cred over the year, the short stories in this book really opened my eyes to the amount of quirk that happily exists in the YA world, a world I'm happy to be a part of. It deals intelligently and humorously with all areas of Nerdishness from gaming, to Rocky Horror, to fandom. Any nerd will find at least one story they totally relate to.


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I put off buying this book, partially because it's pricey and also because I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret and worried Selznick would try to use the same techniques without textual justification, because that's so important to Hugo. I was wrong. I won't go into details and ruin the twist of the book, but the drawing-and-text structure makes even more sense than in Hugo, which I didn't think was possible.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Another book I can't believe I hadn't read a year ago. I contend you're either a CitR person, or you're not. Holden Caufield's voice is caustic and seems whiney to many people. I find it scary that I TOTALLY GET HIM. But I do. See above: Angsty teen narrators.


Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

I read this from NetGalley in September. It is amazing, but will not be pubbed until March, so I will say no more here. Go pre-order it. Now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Musings: Deenie

by Judy Blume

I finished this book about two weeks ago, but I've been having trouble putting my thoughts about it into words and contexts properly. It is more rooted in its time than many of Judy Blume's "issue books" and though their are timeless elements, that is important to keep in mind.

In the novel, twelve-year-old Deenie is struggling with her desire to break free of her mother's demands that she become a model. Partially she just wants to be able to spend time with her friends after school instead of being dragged to modeling agencies all the time, but she's also tired of the constant refrain that something is wrong with her "posture" and that she must "try harder". After several examples of this humiliation, Deenie is finally told that she has scoliosis and will have to wear a brace for four years.

And this is where I found it very hard to keep liking Deenie. She has traits I admire. She doesn't rely only on her parents (and thank God, because her mother is clueless) or her doctors to understand her condition. She takes to the encyclopedia. She tries to make decisions about her treatment, and she does--unwillingly--follow the rules set out for her. But she whines a lot. I know one of the major themes of the novel is body image, and to have one's body so completely taken over by something foreign would incite different reactions in different people--but Deenie's reaction turned me off big time.

Moreover, I had about as hard a time as Deenie with people's desire to start seeing her as someone with a disability ("handicapped" in the language of the time). The principal wants her to ride the "special bus" which she balks at. I found the scene really unnecessary, because though it's meant to show Deenie realizing that she is one of the people she judged, she never really comes to terms with whatever connection she has to this segregated group. She does okay getting over her issues with the girl with excema, and even the old hunchback lady whose fate she fears. But the treatment of people with disabilities is disappointing. I know the book came out two years before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and in some ways it's fairly progressive, but reading it as someone with a disability, all I could feel was disappointment in Deenie's attitude--one I couldn't relate to at all--and Blume's dismissal of this element.

If we accept Deenie as the character with a disability, the book does sort of pass my guidelines for disability-related books. She is more than her disability, a curious girl interested in the world, in her friends, in sexuality, in her family dynamic. But she doesn't have much else going for her, and she requires confirmation from a boy before she accepts her new body structure, so points off. There's no cure story, but enough other elements introduced--Deenie's relationship with her mother and modeling, for instance--were introduced as focal points of the book and never properly resolved enough for me to be able to say this is anything but an issue-book about her disability, and not a fabulous one.

I would recommend it only as an example of the way people with disabilities were on the periphery before IDEA and the way in which learning about a disability can, realistically, terrify a family. I'd recommend it less to a person who has grown up disabled.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life Stories

First of all, I'm going to be AWOL for a couple of days, not related to the Piles of Books. I'm having surgery today--just a quick one--and I'll be in the hospital for a couple of nights. Don't pine for me too much while I'm away.

While going through the Book Piles (and boxes) I've also encountered other things I kept on my shelves in the old house. Notebooks. Tons and tons of notebooks. Some for school, with quotes for this paper or that thesis, but mostly with stories.

I went through my start-a-story-but-never-finish-it stage very early. I think most everything I've written since tenth grade or so has ended up finished, if never revised, but there are notebooks with the beginnings of countless stories. I love going through them and tracing my ideas, tracing the writing style and tracing my life through the notes and doodles in the margins.

And amongst all of those is a notebook where the first plans for the MS I'm now querying are written out. In another, there's one post-it from a plot chart i made for it two summers ago.

It helps remember how long I've believed in that story specifically, and my writing in general. And it makes me more determined than ever to keep believing.

What are you believing in this season?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pictures in My Head

If there's ever a time when I'm a bit AWOL this break, it's because I'm contending with this:

and this:
and this:

My parents moved house over the past four months, and so I have to cull, sort and shelve all my old books. I'm even doing the picture books, which haven't been seen in years. Going through one of the boxes yesterday, I found myself flipping open a beautifully illustrated copy of Baby's Christmas.

The pictures--not the words--were incredibly familiar, like old friends I hadn't seen in years. And even though I probably haven't read them since I was two or three, I remembered them.

I mean, who could forget Paintbox Penguins?

I couldn't. The illustrations of penguins painting a fence red and yellow to make orange stuck with me much more than the simple words about colors.

And even though I don't write picturebooks, I think that it's important to remember to create those moments, those images that stick with the reader for years and years, like old friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Five!

1. There's no place like home for the holidays!

My parents moved house while I was at school, and the new place is all kinds of cozy There's a gas fireplace! And a heated pool! And a Christmas tree! (well, okay, I guess that didn't come with the house). It's a great place to curl up and read, which I plan to do a lot of.

2. The other thing I'm going to do a lot of is sorting through my books here to cull, sort and shelve them. I've already found this one, which was the first book I ever read in bed, past my bedtime. NB. it was still light out. I was five.

There will probably be much more book nostalgia over this break. Expect it. 

3. I don't know where this has been all my life, but the other day I discovered Mark Watches and Mark Reads. Basically, this guy provides commentary on All The Things. He's currently doing Buffy on Watches and Looking for Alaska on Reads (!!!), but he also has things I LOVE in his archives. There. Goes. My. Break. 

4. Last week, I read Dash and Lily's Book of Dares for the first time. I'm not going to do a full Book Musing on it, because frankly, I can't. It's kind of flawless to me. It's got a kind of romantic-comedy plot, about two teens who spend the days before and after Christmas communicating via a red notebook the girl hides in The Strand--but the execution is far from Rom-Com. It's intelligent and mind-bending and about what it is to find your place in your world, in your family, in your city. It is absolutely the perfect holiday read and nothing will convince me otherwise.

There's a Muppet named Snarl in there, though, and all I can do is wonder if David Levithan and Rachel Cohn knew Gonzo was originally named Snarl.

5. In case you didn't know I'm a total dweeb, I am in love with Taylor Swift's new video. Watch, then tell me what the first book you remember reading as a child is. (Unrelated? You bet!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Susan Cooper Book Signing!

I'm starting this post sitting on my floor I just swiffered. My bedding is in the wash, and the pillows are on the chair and the clothes are in the suitcase. That's right, it's Christmas Break Time!

It's also my 400th post on this blog. That's cheating a little, because some of the posts were imported from an old blog. But, hey, still a cool number. The Blogoversairy for this blog will be in a few weeks, too.

But enough housekeeping (quite literally. I have used all the Lysol wipes. ALL OF THEM), last week Susan Cooper came to Porter Square Books in Cambridge. She was promoting her book Master of the Revels, about the man who invented the Boston Christmas Revels. I honestly neither knew, nor cared, much about that--though it ended up being interesting. One of Susan Cooper's books was My Book as a kid. The book that got me interested in Shakespeare as a twelve-year-old. The one that introduced me to London. The one that got me onto the stage. The one whose influence I see in my life, and in my writing.

That book is King of Shadows. It makes me smile every time I see it on a shelf. A few summers ago, I wrote to Susan Cooper to express my love for this book.

She wrote back. My first author-contact, and she's been full of encouragement ever since.

For the past couple years, we've exchanged sporadic letters. We've both moved, and when I landed near-ish to her home in the North East, I hoped one day I'd get to meet her.

Dreams come true.

And even though it's kind of a simple thing, this photo will forever serve as a reminder of that for me.

That, and when I told her my name she said, "Oh, yes! I owe you a letter!"

You never know the influence you have in the world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Five!

1. Well, my dears, it has started snowing in various places about the state, which means it is nearly time for me to get the hell out of Dodge. I leave for warmer climates on the 14th, and will be back some time in mid-January to schlep my way through the white stuff. Between now and then I have to finish a paper, return all the library books and clean all the things. Also, there's no room to do any of the packing or cleaning before Tuesday, because I cannot have my suitcase out anywhere in my room and still be able to move.

2. One of the other things I did this weekend was go see the Burlesque show Slutcracker over at the Somerville Theater. I have THOUGHTS about it, and the way in which it does--and doesn't--reclaim feminine sexuality for females and the way it corrects the mistakes Rocky Horror makes, but I do try to keep this blog PG. What I do know is that I'd never seen a ballet before (I flipped out at The Nutcracker in pre-k....) and was really surprised by how well the story was conveyed.

3. For my Realism in Contemporary Young Adult Novels class next spring, we have a list of Touchstones we have to have read by January 30th. I'm familiar enough with eleven out of the twenty-seven, (Perks of Being a Wallflower!). For the rest, a surprising number were available in my hometown library. It doesn't always do so well with controversial YA from the 80s. One of the non-availables is Annie on My Mind, which nowadays is just your old-fashioned lesbian love story!

4. I'm to the point in my to-read list where I'm hitting up the library eBooks so I don't have to worry about getting books turned in and I sort of realized....I still really do like reading print books better. Maybe it's because I do so much on a computer and an iPad screen still feels like a computer, but print books do feel realer to me. Doesn't mean I'll stop using my iPad, by any means, but I'm not going to stop checking out/buying real books either.

5. It's hard for me to feel Christmasy until I go home (which is slightly contradictory given the whole Florida thing) but I did watch A Muppet Family Christmas the other night. The problem is, I have a tendency to watch that in July too. I do need to put all my holiday DVDs together to take home....What are your favorite holiday movies?

Go win a book!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movin' Right Along

Last night I got to see The Muppet Movie on the big screen. This one:

The Brattle Theater had it as an exclusive (and if you're a Bostonian, it's playing tonight too). I went on my own because all my friends are losers, or have a paper due or something like that, but with an event like this you're not really on your own. it was so cool to be in a room with people who appreciated the movie enough to go to an event like this--or people who wanted their first experience with it to be in an actual cinema and so were into the experience.

It wasn't a digitally remastered rerelease or anything like that, so there were some pops on the screen. What's interesting about that, to me, is that it makes me very aware I'm seeing a film, and The Muppet Movie breaks the fourth wall often enough that this almost adds to it. It's the Swedish Chef up there with the projector, after all.

The one thing about reviving movies that I find interesting is it makes you realize how contemporary to their times even the most classic films can be. Some of the jokes in the movie as well as the cameos require you to know the context--and it's ten years older than I am, so some I'll never quite get. The moment when a film, book or TV show is released is crucial--I don't think anything is TRULY timeless.

What do you think?

Don't forget, comment here to win December's book contest!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's About Power

If you don't watch a single other video I link to ever again, please watch this one. It's a short (very short) film about the disability experience and relates it in a way that's incredibly meaningful, at least to me. I'll even link to both parts for you, so you don't have to leave this page.

If you'd like to win a book that also depicts the disability experience in an incredible way, go here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the Midnight Radio

On Saturday night, I went with friends to see Dar Williams play in Northampton. Let me quickly clarify that I'm not, generally, a huge fan of folk. No closed-eyes swaying for me. But I've been listening to Dar since I was fourteen or so and her music is incredible.

Often I don't realize songs she's recorded are covers until I hear the real thing and Google tells me that, in fact, Hedwig and the Angry Itch did not cover Dar.

 Her lyrics are also very intelligent. One of her songs "Buzzer" is about the Milgrim obedience experiments.

And she's working on an entire album of Greek-myth oriented songs.

Speaking of Greek myths, my friend Sarah who is working on a novel featuring a myth, also went to the concert. She was with a separate group of friends.

But she was stalking me.

At different times during the night I ran into her in the bathroom line, leaving the venue and in the parking garage. Okay, whatever, right? We went to the same event.

BUT THEN my ride stopped at a McDonald's off I-90 for coffee. We piled out of the car and I waited by the Happy Meal toy display while she and our other companion bought drinks.

And in walked Sarah and her group of friends. This wasn't the first McDonald's past Noethampton. It wasn't a massive service station. It was a random exit. So, stalking. Stalking, I tell you!

If you have made it this far into the rambly post you deserve a reward. A chance to win a book and more Dar. This is the song that introduced me to her, and I love it:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Five!

1. If you haven't seen The Muppets yet, go. I'll wait.


2.  Good, now go see Hugo. Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. We read it in literary criticism, where we were very careful not to call it a novel or a picturebook. It's both, but it's neither. I dubbed it a "cinematic novel" and worried that it would lose something by having that transfered to a modern film. (The books illustrations are in black and white, and heavily influenced by silent film.) It didn't.

The film added a few elements to the book that I questioned, but ultimately worked for me. They were disability related. In the background of scenes in the train station, just in crowd shots, there was a person in a wheelchair. And the station master whose character was expanded for the film was injured in the Great War. It almost falls into the trap of villan=disabled....until it doesn't. I do have a small bit of issue with the disabled=broken them, but I think Scorcese and Logan er on the side of acceptable. Overall, the film is absolutely gorgeous, and a perfect adaptation of the book.

TL;DR Media is problematic.

3. I can't believe how all-about-movies this is about to be, because I'm not a movies person, but the other day I went to see the limited engagement of Being Elmo at the Brattle Theater. The tiny, one screen theater is just another thing I love about Harvard Square. They play all kinds of films--they're showing The Muppet Movie next week--and they have a real old-style theater feel. They even show Casablanca on Valentine's day.

Anyway, Being Elmo is about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who made Elmo, well, Elmo. And I know that currently Elmo is an obnoxious ball of red fur who sings "la la la la" way too much. But when I was little, in the early 90s, he was the preschooler watching the show. He wasn't the biggest star. He was just there, just Elmo, and he was your friend. So seeing the story of the guy who made him--who came from a Baltimore suburb with surprisingly supportive parents and who idolized Jim Henson--is pretty cool.

Also Whoopi Goldberg narrates. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT?

4. This article is about a kid who basically took his disability and said, so what. That's what I love. He didn't let it determine what he did, or didn't do. He loves music, so he plays piano, even though he doesn't have elbows or five fingers. And he sings my favorite song ever. (Slightly off key.... but whatever).

5. The Second City Network posted this on YouTube yesterday, and I think it's really intelligent parody. I loved--mostly--the video for Katy Perry's The One That Got Away (although I thought her old-age make-up sucked) but it's not realistic for today's wannabe artist. Her flashback scenes reminded me of Patti Smith's Just Kids, a world that doesn't really exist anymore. I really liked the way they're pointing that out.

5a. I'm doing SO much in then next week, so hopefully there will be posts about it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Contest: Stoner and Spaz

This month's giveaway will be Ronald Koertge's Stoner and Spaz. My review is here and the GoodReads summary is:

Colleen Minou is a hard-core stoner, a girl whose motto is, "I'll get high and do anything." Ben Bancroft is a movie-addicted preppie who suffers from cerebral palsy, "the resident spaz, invisible as the sign that says NO RUNNING, the one no one pays attention to." Together, they form the most unlikely couple since Dharma and Greg. He's Brooks Brothers, she's Salvation Army. He's never even smoked a cigarette, she's got 20 different chemicals running through her veins.

 But when these two lonely teens meet one night at Ben's favorite hang, the Rialto (a classic film theatre that "smells like butter from the Paleozoic"), sparks fly. At least for Ben they do. Maybe it's because Colleen's the first girl to ever really notice him, to have the nerve to tease him about his disability instead of pretend it's not there. For once, Ben is actually more interested in his real life than a movie. Colleen takes him clubbing, lights his first joint, even challenges him to direct his own movie. But when Ben, in turn, dares her to stay straight, Colleen admits that, despite his devotion, she still needs the drugs to "smooth out the edges." Is Ben capable of convincing her otherwise? If not, how will he ever be cured of his Colleen addiction?

To win you must be a follower and comment on this post with your name and email! Winner will be announced on December 10th!

Book Musing: Stoner and Spaz

Ronald Koertge

This book, you guys, is what disability in YA should be. Ben Bancroft is a move-obsessed guy with a snarky attitude, an over-bearing grandma and a thing for stoner-girl Colleen Minou. Oh, yeah, he also has Cerebral Palsy. 

Ben's relationship with Colleen is life-changing for both of them, but not in a let's cure the disability and the drug addiction by the end of the book. Instead, Colleen helps Ben see his own love for film, and he helps Colleen out of a troubled relationship. They're self-absorbed teens with huge problems--in other words, entirely realistic. 

It's not that Ben's disability isn't a central focus of the book. But his issues with self-identity could come from any teenage boy. As his grandmother says "everybody, and I mean everybody, looks in the mirror and wishes they were something different" (127-128). That's what I love about the book--everyone has something they don't like about themselves, something others don't like, and everyone is surprising. Plus the dialogue and narration are fabulous. Ben's description of his grandma-bought outfits especially. "A shirt with a little horsie" cracked me up--which wasn't the best thing ever since I was listening to the audiobook on a bus.

As for my qualifications for disability-related novels, disability is not the only point of the book, nor is acceptance of it the biggest change Ben makes. It's not cured, he definitely has other traits and as for my nitpicks-only-I-can-have...well, there aren't many of them. I kind of didn't like how isolated Ben was in the beginning, but it's a result of his personality, not his disability so i let it slide.

A definite best disability-related book I've come across in a while, and I can't wait to read the sequel. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of November

It's Road Trip Wednesday over at YA Highway and today's question is:

What was the best book you read in November?

I have two answers for this, but since one of them is scheduled to be my December giveaway (stay tuned) I'll have to give my second answer.

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

And not for the reasons you might think. This book hurt me with it's realism. It's simple. A girl and her best friend go to drama camp. There are no deaths, no lost siblings, no heavy-handed plots. But the very, very REAL way this loves-the-theater, maybe-not-a-star girl is portrayed just about killed me.

I was Sadye. I was the one who sang the showtunes in the back of the car, all too aware that the person next to me was going to be a Broadway star. Heck, I lost my best friend to Interlochen, in a far less painful way, after she did the summer program there, just like Sadye and her bff Demi. And E. Lockhart portrays all of this in a way that's so real, so honest that it took me back to being sixteen, standing on a stage and knowing I was a part of something better than the rest of the world. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dammit, Janet

A friend and I went to see the stage performance of The Rocky Horror Show at Club Oberon on Friday Night and it left me with a lot of questions. Like am I still a Rocky virgin since there was no "picture" involved? Is it bizarre to see The Muppets and Rocky Horror in one six-hour period? Why is it so difficult for media to exist in the world?

Wait, back up, you say. Muppets? You saw it?

Yes I did, and that's a whole 'nother awesome post. But not to be included in the post about disability and sexuality in Rocky Horror. Although The Muppets Rocky Horror would be FAWESOME in an Avenue Q way

Anywhodaha, while watching Rocky Horror, I started wondering about the true message of the show. Again, my first time, but I wondered what it said that the characters are punished for becoming sexualized. Dr. Frank N. Furter the "sweet transvestite" is a diabolical asshole, but also sympathized in a Long John Silver type way (promise I'm not just thinking Tim Curry). But SPOILER he doesn't make it to the end.

Brad and Janet, whose sexual awakenings are the main plot of the show, end up broken up, potentially freed but also potentially being punished for becoming sexual. And the alternate-villain Dr. Everett Scott--the one who is arguably anti-sexual--is in a wheelchair.

I assume the show purposefully uses these tropes to make a point about the way society sees things. But even now, and especially in the 70s or the 50s (the time the show Time Warps to), I don't think we were/are free enough for them that the opposing message isn't also affirmed. Sexuality is at once celebrated and punished, but no alternative to the anti-sexual, broken nature of disability is given unless we get meta-(In the original the actor who played Scott also played Eddie so did not spend the entire show in a chair).

I'm not criticizing the show, or even attempting to find an answer. I'm sure more aware people than I am have already done so. Thinking about this just made me aware that media in the world is inherently problematic. It's coated with biases, intentionally and unintentionally, and will always cause controversy and question. That's not a bad thing. In fact it's necessary.

So everyone who puts media out there can relax a bit. What you do will offend people. It's part of the game.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Five!

1. Yesterday after Thanksgiving at my friends' apartment, I came home and watched ALL the Thanksgiving things. The Four-Thanksgivings episode of Gilmore Girls, the Native American Spirit episode of Buffy and the George Shoots a Turkey episode of Grey's Anatomy. 'Twas fabulous. And soon it will be time for all the Christmas things. There are so many! Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, episodes of Grey's, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls... Probably not that one episode of Buffy, though, I still don't understand the snow...

2. I have made my Christmas playlist! I can't promise to be really in the mood until I'm home for the holiday and there's a tree and stuff, but I figured I'd go ahead and put together the music. Maybe I'll post some of my more obscure holiday songs as the month progresses.

3. Tonight is going to be awesome epicness. I'm going to The Muppets, dinner at one of my favorite Harvard Square restaurants then seeing Rocky Horror--which I've never done (I KNOW, Rocky virgin!). Should be a great start to an after-holiday weekend!

4. It's also my annual Emily Dickinson reread time. It's always fascinating to me that I get such different things out of her oeuvre every time I read it.

5. It occurs to me that some of you may not have seen the Muppet Family Christmas, the amazing 80s Muppet Christmas special. I must therefore use this opportunity to educate you. Beware of the icy patch!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Gratitude

YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday topic today is gratitude.

What writing or publishing-related thing(s) are you most thankful for?

I'm thankful for the usual things--my writer friends and the possibilities open to me right now. I had a window open tomorrow that could lead to good things. Or not. But the hope is there.

My journey, though, very much involves my whole life because of where I am in life. I'm in an MFA program, so I treat EVERYTHING as the next step on my publication road. 

Tomorrow I'm having Thanksgiving with friends. I'm grateful how much better that is than last year, when I went to the Homeless Grad Students dinner done by the school and sat next to a guy who is BANANAS. 

I'm grateful for these friends for introducing me to Buffy (and more than that) because of how much I feel the show is teaching me about writing. 

I'm grateful for the AIM conversation I'm having now with a writer, because the advice I'm giving her will help me. 

I'm grateful for the friend who sent me a book today, because another book is always happy, and I like bonding with her over the things I love best. 

I'm grateful for my supportive family, even though they are insane and not really doing Thanksgiving, and I'm not going home anyway. 

I'm grateful for my teachers, who support my thoughts and are interested in what I have to say. 

And in a weird way, I'm grateful for the manuscripts that I'm working on, and  the stories I have to share because they are the catalyst for so much good in my life.

So, YA Highway, all the little things add up to the publication and writerly things I'm grateful for, because they're all part of my path. Also, the image on your page is one from notecards I used to own. Which is a little creepy. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Had a Spaz

In one of my lives today, researching headlines for the organization whose social networking I run, I came across the phrase "special needs mass." I didn't read the article, on purpose, so I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. A mass with special needs? A mass for a person with special needs? Who knows?

Not to mention the fact that the phrase "special needs" is not en vogue, at least not in the States. Disability and special healthcare needs is a phrase that gets bandied about, because often a kid with asthma or diabetes isn't considered as having a disability but has an IEP or 504 plan and needs to be discussed. But "special needs", not so much. Special snowflake, if you must.

But whenever I start considering language, I start thinking about my own. I often claim that I--and other people with disabilities--are allowed to use non-PC disabilit-related language. We're fighting the fight, we have the right. However, my favorite term lately has been "had a spaz." My computer "had a spaz," the scanner at work "had a spaz." Now, spas is colloquially  kind of an all-purpose word for people with physical disabilities--spastic limbs--but it most directly relates to people with epilepsy--spazzing--again in the slang. Can I say that because I had a seizure at the age of eighteen months that I'm allowed? Probably not. Constantly worrying about seizures, being on medication for them, losing control of bodily function because of them--none of that is something I've had to deal with.

So, I'm not a person with this disability. The word isn't mine. I could ignore that, but then would I be the reporter talking about a special needs mass? It's a thought.

In the mean time, I need something new to describe the freak-outs my computer has. Any ideas?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Musings: Become by Ali Cross

DISCLAIMER: Ali is one of my fav author friends. She is my querying cheerleader and gets me off a lot of ledges. But that will not color my review of her book, promise.

Gah. Such a gorgeous cover.

BECOME is the story of the devil's daughter. In an interesting mix of Norse and Christian mythology, Ali brings us Desolation (Desi), the daughter of Loki aka Lucifer aka Satan aka Hugh Jackman. (Okay, he just looks like HJ). She's, in effect, Lucifer's little minion, sent to collect teenage souls who are on the edge.

But after her last mission cost her someone she maybe-loved, she's not sure she's going to obey orders anymore. She might. She's not sure. Desi vacillates a lot, which makes sense with her character--the cover hints at why--but it can be a little frustrating for the reader who just wants her to pick a side already. Like I said, though, it makes sense. Desi's character is very well-written (she's a total badass!).

Ali's writing is incredibly lyrical and gorgeous, which did make some of the pop culture references seemed off to me. Before I knew Desi went to the human world, especially, I was like....where did she get an iPod? And even once she's in the human world she is so aloof from humans that the references--specifically to Buffy--irked me. And made me smile, too, because let's face it, I've done nothing but watch/read Buffy since May.

The secondary characters are INCREDIBLY well-drawn. Miri, who becomes Desi's best friend. Lucy, her sister/Mom figure. James, the bad boy who loves Miri. They were all fabulous.

I can't comment much on the plot. I have trouble following actiony/fantasy plots, and angel stories aren't my thing, but the book is worth reading for the writing and characters. Ali pulls them off without a hitch.

Ali Cross is the sensei of the Writer's Dojo where she holds a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles.

You can reach her:

On her blog.
At the Writer's Dojo.
On Facebook.
Or Twitter.