Thursday, March 31, 2011

Queries and other minutiae

Hi everyone who is here from Matt's blog. For those of you who aren't, my query is up for revisions over at the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment here. Go check it out. Matt is amazing for putting up with my "Um, so, I don't know how this works, but d'you think you could...." email. It's the kind of thing that comes from trying to get myself out there in the YA world!

Unfortunately this post, the first for some people, might be quite boring! Not much has been going on here. I spent the past three days working to get my new Verizon iPhone activated. Now that it is the score is Apple 2--for being consistently nice Verizon 1/2--for finally finding the problem on their end.

Gotta love the Genius Bar. And I do.

My friend--who is currently reading Background Vocals--and I were chatting the other day and she gave me a blurb I can never use for the book, but I'll share it with you all because you've read the query (right?)

"It's what Izzy Willy Nilly should have been".  This inspired a post about the evolution of issue-books that will probably be up in the next few days, so stay tuned for that!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday!

Quick Announcement: my query is going to be on Matt's blog at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment tomorrow and Friday! Go say hi to him, and comment on my query!

Today's YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday topic is:

What books were you obsessed with as a kid?

I was obsessed with a lot of books as a kid

Baby-Sitters on Board! (Baby-Sitters Club Super Special, 1)

I don't know how you want me to pick just a few. I mean, I was a very prolific reader.
Mallory's Christmas Wish (Baby-Sitters Club)

And my parents were VERY good about bookstores. They never really questioned what I read, so I read all across the board.

Kristy and the Haunted Mansion (The Baby-Sitters Club, Mystery #9)

And there were a lot of random library finds. All those four-book series from the 90s that never picked up. Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew...I'm not sure you could say I was really obsessed with one thing.

Baby-Sitters' European Vacation (Baby-Sitters Club Super Special)

Or that I knew the complete guide by heart.

The Complete Guide to the Baby-Sitters Club (Baby-Sitters Club Portrait Collection)

And NEVER did one book series populate my entire list of imaginary friends.....

Karen's Wish (Baby-Sitters Little Sister Super Special)

What? Claudia Kishi's phone number? It's KL5-3231. Why? 

Kristy's Book (Baby-Sitters Club Portrait Collection)

Anyone remember the lame computer game from the late-90s? No! No, me either! No, I didn't spend hours on it....
The Baby-Sitters Club: Mallory and the Mystery Diary/Mary Anne and the Great Romance/Dawn's Wicked Stepsister/Kristy and the Secret
You know, guys, I don't know what has me thinking this, but one of these days I should do a review of Jessi's Secret Language. That's random, huh?

Jessi's Secret Language (Baby-Sitters Club)
PS: Why does she look Native American on this cover? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Musings: Like Mandarin

Like Mandarin

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

This book sat on my to-read shelf for ages, because I was deep into a reread of Notre Dame de Paris, but when I finally got to delve into it last week, I read it in one sitting. It's a wonderful look into the life of a girl who is desperate to model herself off of the one person in town who is willing to be herself, regardless of what other people says, the one who also wants out of their Wyoming town. But Grace bites off a little more than she can chew with Mandarin, who is older, much more cynical and a little over Grace's head at times.

And oh my lord, I was Grace. I remember each and every girl I wanted to be. Remember nodding at what they said even when it bashed my expectations like Grace and the cowboy-themed dance. The agreeing that yeah, that teacher's a bitch, even though you don't think so, just to get the approving smile? Totally been there. I understand her love for and desire to escape from her hometown. The book struck a very personal chord with me.

The writing is also gorgeous. Kirstin Hubbard is a travel writer, and it really shows. It made me realize how much setting can add to and enliven a story. I loved the little moments when we saw what Grace might be doing if Mandarin wasn't in her life, like going to the dance with the dorky guy who sat behind her.

A few times I thought Grace could be more active, and I was a little surprised by the ending, but I did adore the book overall. The minor characters were incredibly well-drawn. I loved Grace's little sister Taffeta and how well her mother's obsession with beauty pageants was shone. Every little detail went back to the setting and the themes of dressing up to be someone else to try to figure out who you are. Beautiful and poignant. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

This post is going to be a drive-by Friday Five, because I got about four hours of sleep last night, am stoopid tired and am volunteering at the French Cultural Center tomorrow.

1. I saw Natalia Zukerman play tonight. Please go see her if you can.She's FABULOUS, FABULOUS. This if you don't believe me:

I have a hard time focusing on live music because A. I am a writer and have 90's-child ADD, and B. I focus so much on the musicians, their emotion, their movements. Her percussionist Mona Tavakoli was absolutely fucking incredible.

2 I had a WIP breakthrough after a day of being sure I'd never get the stakes right. One of my writing group peeps listened to me complain all day, but I think I have it. It'll require some major plot refiguring, but it will condense as well. Woo!

3. I finished my synopsis for the project I'll be querying this summer. I've never been good at them and having the support of other writers online has been amazing. The query comes next, then one final polish, eep!

4. I've had Tamora Pierce on the brain lately due to my publishing project on repackaging Alanna: The First Adventure for 2011, but I finally got to start Tortall and Other Lands today after listening to the Trickster books on audio again.  I won't spoil, but the story "Nawat" about Aly's crow-husband from the Trickster Books dealt with disability in a fabulous fascinating way. I love the way Pierce isn't afraid of new frontiers, the way she faces societal issues, from women's right, to queer issues, to disability. I'm mulling over a post on my opinion of the overlooking of disability in diversifying YA and my sheer glee at this story makes me want to write it sooner rather than later. 

5. This:

Good night. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Evolution of Adulthood

Lili Wilkinson tweeted something last night that made me think. She said she was "Realising that being a grownup doesn't mean you can't play with toys, daydream, watch The Muppets or read kids' books. #reasonstolive". This really hit home for me, since last week's Friday Five involved a Muppet video, and frankly I think I've regressed some this year with my pink-hair and monkey hat.

I'm experiencing a lot of things as a child might. While I was walking to campus a few minutes ago there was a snow flurry. As tired as we all are of this long winter, I was still enchanted by the snowflakes to the point of catching a few on my tongue. I thought about the elongation of youth that's happening with today's adolescence, the amount of casual dress in some workplaces and how far removed this is from a couple generations ago when it was unacceptable to have childish behaviors as an adult.

And I thought: what if there's more to it than the nostalgia for childhood that the children of the 80s and 90s have. What if the trend towards looser regulations on what is and isn't "childish" is something beneficial, something we've been heading towards since the corsets came off and the line between child and adult blurred. When psychologists began examining the inner-child it was often a repressed element of the psyche. What if letting it loose is exactly what we're supposed to do?

I don't mean we should all--I dunno--go back to pacifiers and blankies. I mean we should acknowledge that the pleasures of childhood are pleasures for a reason, and there's nothing wrong with holding onto them after you pass some society-dictated age. I think the more people realize that the more open-minded, and happier, we'll be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Cause

Sometimes I think there is so much that needs to be fixed in this world that you cannot possibly fight for it all. I plan to try. In that vein, a cause unrelated to disability that I also feel strongly about: Planned Parenthood. This video sums it up, I think, and also encapsulates my attitudes toward writing YA. America's youth is not stupid, and they want the support to be even smarter.

And for the record? I don't have sex. But I plan to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One-Eyed, One-Horned....

I'm blind in one eye. A lot of people don't know this, or they find out the hard way by walking on my right side and having me accidentally knock into me, but the loss of vision was the reason for much disability-related epiphany when I was a teenager, as well as the roundabout cause of my broken knee in the tenth grade. I rarely notice it anymore, except when I do. Today I was walking across the quad on my way to the bus stop and I became very aware of the blackness on that side.

I only see half the world and my depth perception sucks. It's a hindrance, one of many disability-related hindrances in my life. I considered it today while I listened to a recording of Marianne Leone (author of Knowing Jesse--a memoir about raising a son with Cerebral Palsy)'s keynote from the conference the people at my volunteer job ran earlier in the month (I work Mondays at the Federation for Children for Special Needs). I thought about how for so many people the world of disabilities is something they don't see or fully understand.

My friend is currently stuck in the Salt Lake City airport, trying to fly out standby with her mother who is Deaf and has low vision. My friend is taking care of her, working hard to get them on a flight, being incredibly responsible. That sense of responsibility and adulthood is something I haven't experienced, so I can only sit on the sidelines and encourage her. Last time I got airport-stranded on standby I bought a ticket, but I was lucky.

Another friend is having (has had by now, I think) surgery today, and   she's on her own in a country completely other to her own to have it done. It's one step further than I've ever gone. I can see it, but don't have the depth to do much more than be awed at her courage.

But I try. I try because I want to be a good friend. And I try to understand others experiences fully and deeply when I write, too. it's hard, extremely hard. To take on a persona other than your own, be it to empathize or to write, is a bit like going through the world seeing out of one eye.

Trust me, I know.

You can only see half the things and your depth perception sucks. But you keep going. You must always keep going.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Agent Pitch Contest

There's a contest at YATopia for followers of the blog to pitch to Ammi-Joan Paquette (my writing professor's agent!) It's a great opportunity, because she's not open to submissions. Go forth wrtiterly ones!

And upcoming, a post on my way of categorizing the world. Are you a Holden?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Five

1. This came up on my shuffle while I was sitting on the bus today.

Somehow Gonzo manages to sum up what I've been feeling lately. The knowledge you want to be somewhere, and you're not sure where."Part Heaven, part space, or have I found my place?" The confusion, the desire to return and yet to move on. I don't think my place is floating in the sky under a bunch of balloons, but what do I know?

2. On the same bus there was a little boy who waved at me. I noticed he was holding his fist like a microphone, so I lowered my headphones. He was singing a little ditty about "being cool" and it was so adorable. Also adorable was the little girl who held the door open for me in the bathroom at the movies. I was still five stairs up, and ti takes me AGES to do stairs, but she held it.  I love cute, sweet kids.

3. I've always loved people watching, especially on public transit. Today I saw two people greet each other and talk about how they hadn't been seeing much of each other lately. They were incredibly different--a business woman and a man for whom my disability radar kicked in--but he moved to sit next to her and they chatted the whole ride. Similarly, on the plane Monday I listened to a man and woman talk for hours about their lives--she was starting over, he was beginning-- I began to think about how connected we all are. How one bus ride, one plane flight can connect us, and you never know if that connection will be forever. You never know who the next important person in your life will be.

4. I just got lost in a sea of Jim Henson tribute videos. There is so much to learn from him and his legacy. I have my problems with the way Sesame Street is done these days, but there's no argument against what a great man he was, how beautiful his ideals were and how much we should immolate him as people who create things, and as people in general. I need to remember that more.

5. The fact that I can watch videos from a memorial that happened in 1990, and movies from 1930 and horrible music videos made by nasaly teenagers (I WILL NOT link to Rebecca Black) makes me think of how mixed up our culture is these days. Pop culture isn't just what exists currently, but what's existed as long as there's been preserved media we know what's there and miss what's lost in the minor sense--not just the libraries of Alexandria, but lost episodes of TV shows--I'm not sure what this says about the awareness and consumerist nature (in the media consuming sense) of our culture, but i find it interesting. A teen now could be spoken to by the punk rock of the 70s as much as Lady Gaga, because both are accessible, and now that more books are digital they will become available-forever marks of current culture. Interesting, no?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wanted To Be Like...

This is a post for the nontour going on for Kirsten Hubbard's book Like Mandarin

Like Mandarin

Kirsten recently replied to an email I wrote her, pointed me in the direction of AbsoluteWrite where I've made some great acquaintances and was just genuinely nice. My copy of Like Mandarin is sitting on my To-Read pile at the moment, but I wanted to go ahead and be a part of this.

Quote from Kirsten's Blog:

In Like Mandarin, 14-year-old Grace Carpenter would give anything to be like 17-year-old Mandarin Ramey -- the bold, carefree wild girl of their small Wyoming town. Amazingly, almost everyone I've spoken to experienced that sort of longing as a teen -- a longing to be like someone else. A friend, a sister, a celebrity, an acquaintance, a cousin, a teacher or, as in Grace's case, a girl you thought had no idea you existed.

I had a lot of Mandarins. Sometimes I think as a teen I was always aspiring to be someone else. There were the seemingly carefree and elegant girls in my theatre troupe--the ones who got the part while I sat in the back of the theatre covered in set paint. But for them, I mostly wanted to be their friend. To be a part of their world, which seemed so much more interesting than my tiny life. These girls were, I think, the ones I now write about. The ones who had complications and love lives and who were, probably, much more unhappy than I saw.

But my true Mandarin was, weirdly, Meredith Grey. From Grey's Anatomy.

I know. Why would you want to be dysfunctional, dark and twisty, Meredith Grey? Maybe part of it was that I'd only recently let go of my life-long aspirations to be a doctor. Maybe I just wanted a McDreamy (or a George). Or maybe I envied the fact that in spite of all her problems, Meredith still had amazing friends, a gorgeous love interest and a fascinating life.

Whatever the reason, I shopped at New York and Company when Ellen Pompeo became the face of the store. I bought lavender conditioner. I got bangs (and they behaved about as well as Meredith's in Season Two--which is to say not at all) I even believed tequila was my drink of choice for a while. (God, that was an unpleasant period of time)

I'm not Meredith Grey. I have have too functional of a family for that. But I do have the friends. Maybe I'm a Lexie--the better-upbringing, still a Grey--but the time when I wanted to be Meredith, when I knew every episode of Grey's by heart and the music of the show was almost all that was on my iPod still says a lot about me.

And I'm still searching for my McDreamy

Monday, March 14, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

I'm back! I spent last week visiting my friends from undergrad in Atlanta and didn't have much time online. It was a nice break, but there's something disconcerting about a day that begins with a four am phone call to your best friend because you need help finding your nose ring (she was coming over at five anyway, and I woke up with the eerie knowledge that it was NOT IN MY FACE) and ends thousands of miles away with the laundry done and your room looking as if you never left, and the person who was a phone call away now across the country.

There is comfort in the knowledge that so many things were unchanged. At dinner last night my friends and I fit so well, as if no time had passed. They appreciate, and even enjoy, my humor, the things I like, and even my stupid obsession with "that's what s/he said jokes". (Once I start I can't stop.... that's what he said). The love me as much as I love them, which is so weird, and there's a connection I don't have here yet.

It helps that the reasons I hate Atlanta were eliminated. With such a time crunch, I wasn't left in the lurch for a ride, ever. Boston has conditioned me so that the walking I did do was easier. The weather was gorgeous and every moment spent cruising down North Druid Hills with the windows down and the radio blasting in my friends' cars felt like stolen pieces of Edenic bliss I won't find anywhere else.

Then again, I think it had more to do with the friend than the location. As one of my Sigma sisters pointed out to me last night, we grew up together in a way. We've been through things. She's picked me up from the ER and pried wine bottles from my hands on one memorable night. We have inside jokes that no one else will get, and I don't want them to get. That takes time, but I also realize is not dependent upon place.

We're scattering. One friend will move to Tennessee soon, another is getting engaged and will relocate to Seattle. People are moving on to grad school and not sure where they'll end up in this nomadic world of ours, where you go miles from home to find another home and then abandon that nest, too. Although I'll always have people to go back for, one day Atlanta will not be the hub of my friendships it is now. I'll be packing bags to jump around the country, and maybe organizing trips that five or six of us can go on every few years. Time will pass imperceptibly while we don't see each other.

But here's the thing: I'll always be willing to pack the bag. I'll return to Atlanta--the place I ran away from as fas as possible--I'll fly cross-country, pick up the phone, buy the plane ticket. Anything to go back to the stolen moments cruising down the highway to the next destination where smiling faces and inside jokes wait.

And that's what she said.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


It's three in the morning and I am sitting on my bed eating Double Stuf oreos (spellcheck doesn't know oreo) Partially this is because I'm a broke grad student and I'm leaving for Spring Break in Atlanta (!!!) tomorrow so have no real food on hand. But the other part of it is I have bee lying here since midnight watching old VlogBrothers videos. Now I can't sleep because of all the thoughts running through my head.

John Green's videos about Catcher in the Rye had me shouting "Yes, yes, yes!" not for the reason one might shout that in a college dorm at three AM, but because it's so exhilarating for me that a YA icon believes what I believe about the book that has most spoken to my own feelings about alienation. And I think it's partially why the Nerdfighters are so amazing. Their videos give something for people to see and say "Yes, I think this too, this interests me, I am not alone." It's why i kept watching alone, on an almost deserted campus.

But there are also things I don't get. I hate video games, and so when Hank Green said it's required for nerds, I felt the sting of alienation. I'm not mad at Hank-- it made me see: c'est la vie. (check out that rhyme)

We are at once accepted and alienated from every group we attempt to belong to, due to the differences and deficiencies of the human experience, of empathy. And we're constantly searching for the people or the group who "get us", or who accept and tolerate the most of our unique characteristics. Where we can "be ourself". It's why I'm so excited about going to Atlanta, because I've repressed the feelings of loneliness I had there in favor of the positive memories, which are by definition more numerous than the ones in Boston. Here I am still developing the base group of people and also I don't quite know who "myself" is yet here, though I do know she has a monkey hat.

I don't mean to say that common traits are a necessity for acceptance. I can feel as alone in a group of people with disabilities, a group of Harry Potter nerds, a group of YA authors. The more experiences we have, the more, I think, the potential for this unlike with like, alone amongst others, experience. And it's not an all-consumming, must be depressed now, thing. But I think we need to acknowledge it as a possible basis for our need to be constantly reaching out--tweeting our smallest thoughts, writing blog posts like these in the hopes that somewhere out there someone else is eating oreos at 3AM and can say: 'I see you. You are not alienated in this moment'-- because it's the moments when we feel least disconnected that we hold onto and nurture in our memories.

We deny the other moments and see them as "wrong" but I would argue that they are also an awareness of individuality, which is not wrong. It's beautiful. And so is the connectedness. It's all unique, and uniquely human.

So don't fear the alienation, because it goes hand-in-hand with the connectivity.

For more on this, see my posts on Nick and Norah's Fabulous Playlist and Pink.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Five

1. I've been ill in one way or another all week. Pink eye of some kind over the weekend, an infection on my leg and bronchitis. It has not been fun, but I plan to rest over the weekend and then I'm heading down to Atlanta for Spring Break. Kind of funny how excited I am when you consider how ready I was to leave.

2. While I was at the doctor today I could hear this woman screaming. They told me she had dementia and was always confused when she came. But she was yelling in pain, saying "I can't stand it". I don't care if the pain was mostly a result of confusion, I was incredibly grateful that I can only count a handful of procedures I've had that have been truly unbearably painful. I'm lucky in that--and tons of other--ways where even though my disability is life-long and annoying and has caused some major disturbances, I'm not in excruciating pain most of the time, or even frequently.

3. iPad 2 was announced this week. There doesn't seem to be much to entice those of us who already have an iPad, which is good because i'm broke. I suppose Apple is banking on the next wave. The "I'll by it when the bugs are out" group.

4. New Amanda Palmer video:

5. I cannot find a five in my Mucinex addled brain. So.... MONKEYS!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spread the Word to End the Word

Today is the day we spread the word to end the word.

I have a friend named Katie. She's seventeen. Her brother Daniel has Austism and Tourette's Syndrome. For over a year now Katie has campaigned on behalf of the spread the word to end the word project, which is determined to take the word "retard" out of the vernacular.

It's an easy thing to say. "This is retarded." or even, "I'm such a retard" wherein the defense is "Well, I'm talking about myself." I've been guilty of saying it, too, and my excuse used to be I was a teenager and didn't think.

But Katie is a teenager. She thought.

And what she thinks is this: more than any other word "retard" is offensive because the people to whom it refers often cannot defend themselves.

I'm lame, often. If I refer to something as "lame", yes I know I'm referring (technically) to the physically disabled. But I'm one of them. I limp along with my cane and I can say that--for instance-- having class on a sunny day has about equivalent suckage. It is lame. And if I WERE offended by it, I could speak up.

But people who were once classified as "mentally retarded" often cannot. And the word has a ton of insulting connotations. It's often used far in far more derogatory ways than lame, and also it implies the same second-class citizen status as the n-word.

I also believe in the taking back of words, such as the c-word, but this is a decision the population TO WHICH THE WORD REFERS must do. The word, I think, belongs to them now. And since it's the Special Olympics who heads the campaign to see it gone, I want it gone.

Not everyone agrees. I encountered an author once whose books were about accepting LBGTQ teenagers who had her teens use the word for "realism" and the double-standard was never addressed. She got very defensive when I pointed it out to her.

Don't have a double standard. Don't fight against "that's so gay" and "faggot" and accept a word that hurts a group of people who are--generally generally generally speaking--too innocent or otherwise less able to fight back.

And if you read all of this and don't second guess your use of the r-word, I offer a quote from a man born today who had a lasting impact on the world using very few words:

"A person's a person no matter how small".-- Dr. Seuss

And I ask you to add to it: "A person's a person no matter of their abilities" and a person does not deserve to be insulted just because you're too lazy to think of another word to describe the friend who accidentally cracked an egg on his head.

Take the pledge to end the word

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Musings: Pink by Lili Wilkinson

Happy March everyone!

Starting off with a fabulous book!


I'm sure I heard about Pink through KTLiterary's blog, but I can't remember when. It has been on my too-read list essentially forever and then went on my to-read pile for a longer forever while I was line editing and couldn't focus on other people's books. I read it yesterday and it was worth the wait! 

Ava (yes like Ava Gardner) is a goth who wants to be a pink-wearing girl. As someone who straddles the line between both, I completely understand. And that's what this book does so well. It shows how everyone straddles the line, how you can feel out of place even among the misfits (Oh how well I know....) and how easy it is to manipulate the way you seem. Ava feels guilty not just for partying with the Pastels, but also for hanging out with a nerdy level of misfit her erudite girlfriend might not approve of. Poor girl isn't even sure if she likes girls, or boys, or both. And that's okay. Wilkinson's point is that it's all okay.

I need to hear that at twenty-two, let alone at seventeen. Other perks include Doctor Who references, theatre kids-- we even had a ginger stagehand in my theatre days whose name started with an "S"-- a character who's not afraid to be intelligent. All things I love in a book, and which reassure me that one day my quirky books might make it, too. 

A few nitpicks. I wasn't okay with the complete parental absence for a while, but it did get redeemed. And Ava's girlfriend... well, I'm not sure we saw enough of her "not a bitch" side, though we did see a great rendering of the way Ava morphed herself to fit into Chloe's world. And the description of her was perfect. 

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous book says this pink loving misfit!