Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Five!

1. BOSTON AREA PEOPLE: I'm going to be reading at the Brookline Public Library's New Voices in YA event on October 3rd at 6:45pm. It's going to be a fun event, with readings from one of my WIPs as well as my favorite banned book. I'm super excited and hope to see many people there. More info here!

2. Last night, a couple of my friends had a joint birthday dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, and it was a blast, as per usual, but more than that I couldn't believe another year here had passed. Grabbing a cab with my roommate after was so much better than returning to my tiny dorm room. It's nice that everyday things like that can be happy.

3. I'm listening to the new Green Day album and have all these questions about the validity about them continuing to produce these "anthems for the young" when they're not necessarily young themselves, at least not in the way society usually thinks of youth. Billie Joe Armstrong is forty. Does the punk-rock world trap artists in some kind of perpetual adolescence? Also, why are they singing "Kill the DJ"? "Panic" is a Smiths song that should not be touched....

4. I was reading Libba Bray's The Diviners late the other night, and in it the villan whistles a song on his way to kill people. Someone started whistling outside of our kitchen window.

Never. Okay. Again.

5. This is a week old, but if you haven't seen it, you must:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Behold: My Life Goal

Last Friday night, Roommate Kathleen, Friend Allison and I went to a booksigning in Burlington, MA. We'd originally been planning to go to Libba Bray's event at the Brookline Public Library the same day, but Friend Tess told me that Sarah, Holly Black, and Sarah Rees Brennan would be at the Burlington Event. Friend Tess could not attend, leading me to make a phone call that went like this:

Me: Allison, remember how we were going to the Brookline event next Friday, and you were going to take your car to that?
Allison: No, actually, I was going to take my horse--
Me: Right, but, so, and, we're going up to Burlington instead, and we're taking Kathleen and her friend Anna.*
Allison: Okay!

Event preparation was difficult. Libba Bray has written all the things, and seeing the mountain of books piled on the coffee table required me to make CHOICES. (The dumb one of which was leaving Geektastic at home. I'll get it signed one day, I will!) Also, I'd ordered all of the Great and Terrible Beauty series from Abebooks, but one of them had a sticker on the PAPERBACK spine and removing it tore a chunk off and disheartened me so!

We ate at Chili's with my wheelbarrel wheelbarrow (We have recently discovered that like "colander", wheelbarrow is a word I chronically mispronounce) backpack full of books. Then onward to B&N. In the event area, we could only find one chair, which Allison pulled up to the front row for me. I felt like the Gimp on a Throne, with my friends flanking me, but it ended up crowded enough that we were not an island for long and it was less embarrassing. Which, it's not like my friends cared. The authors wouldn't care. Why did I care? Weird baggage, discuss.

The audience was a typically eclectic mix of Actual Teens, Adults and a few of those mythical creatures--boys! I bravely went up to a woman wearing a Maureen Johnson Stare T-shirt, and (shock! amazement!) correctly identified her as FelicityDisco, Maureen Johnson's assistant. She gave me a present! Allison was mystified in a how-do-you-know-people way. I gave her a lesson in The Twitters.

Kathleen and I watched the crowd grow and decided we want no more from life than to have even a smattering of people at booksignings who love our books the way people love these ladies' books.**

Sarah, Holly and Libba were wonderful. What struck my friends and I was how well they get on--they are such good friends. They have genuine love for each others' work and characters and it is awesome.

Sarah reading from Unspoken. Before the stripping. She also acted out The Diviners, pretty accurately from what I can tell three-hundred-odd pages in.

Holly giving Sarah the side-eye Kathleen already gives me sometimes. (Holly is awesome and signed the printout of the not-used, fits-the-series Black Heart cover I had tucked into my book).

Sarah under the table while we sing Happy Birthday to her. 

Their stories and writing tips had us alternately amused and inspired--basically if we can be half as good at them at entertaining a bookish crowd it will be incredible. When the time came for actual signing, my friends and I knew we'd be at the end of the line, so we clustered around my chair listening to the authors chat with teen Nerdfighters, grown-up librarians and the event coordinator who actually said "youse".

In line, Allison took my pile of books for most of the weight, until we got right up to the table. Annoyingly, seconds after I reclaimed them my new(ish) friend hip pain began spasming. It got better once I got to the table, but I probably looked a bit like a drug fiend popping a pill for it two seconds before my turn. There will be a post on this whole pain thing soon. Trying to wrap my head around thoughts on it. (Also, again with the my friends don't mind holding them, why do I worry so?)

Anywho, I've chatted with Sarah before, in person and online, so it was lovely to see her again, chat for a sec about my independent study, tell her the story of Anna and Kathleen* and share a mutual love for Buffy Time. Kathleen talked to Holly about being from Jersey, and I got to tell Libba Bray about my belief that not only does my one-eye-blindness totally make me qualified to be a YA author (she and Sarah are also one-eyed), but that we need to start a club. She agreed. There will be emblazoned smoking jackets.

On the way out, Allison and Kathleen commented on my skills at Knowing People. They'd both known about it, but never gotten to bank on it before. I'm simply not afraid to send an author/artist/person I admire an email. I believe in saying, hey, I like your stuff. It influenced me. Let's chat. Oftener than not, authors are cool about it and eager to exchange emails iffen you're patient and not begging them to read manuscripts.

On the drive back to Cambridge--aka the unending loop that is the interstate--Kathleen and I decided that we want our lives to be like that. We know that signing books for dozens of people for days on end is probably totally exhausting. That it'll take practice to learn to be on, and that neither of us is witty in quite the way of Sarah Rees Brennan. But we want to be up their talking about our books just as much as we want to see them in print. I think that's what really matters.

Also, it helps to remember that the goddesses who write sentences that make you squeal in awed delight are also cool people who went through a dressing-like-Buffy phase. (NB. I might still be in mine....)

In conclusion, yay booksignings!

*Anna couldn't come in the end, but there is a very funny story about her in re: SRB. When  Friend Tess and I went to the 2011 Diversity in YA panel, I overheard a group of girls talking in the ladies room. They were freaking out about meeting Sarah, because they'd made her a hilarious, embarrassing video online. Fast forward to Kathleen introducing me to her high school best friend Anna, who is now starting our program. We flailed about authors we like and events we'd attended and lo, she was one of the girls in the bathroom. TL;DR My roommate's high school best friend and I almost met a year ago, before either of them had started Simmons.

**We are going to have joint signings where we talk about living together. Allison will be our handler. Kathleen has said she will not act out my books Sarah Rees Brennan style, but will permit me to do dramatic readings of 80s parenting/disability books. DON'T THINK I WILL FORGET THIS.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Opportunity Taking

Last February, I was an idiot.

One evening, sitting in my tiny-tiny dorm room, I randomly went on the website of Jack's Mannequin, the band of Andrew Mcmahon, my favorite songwriter. He's in the playlist for everything I write. He's my ringtone. I am quite into him.

The band was in Boston. That night. Playing at House of Blues, which was .7 miles away from my dorm. I'd walked it before. The show started in an hour.

Did I get off my butt and head down there to beg for tickets? No. There wasn't a way to check online for tickets. I'd had a bad experience at HoB before. I didn't want to walk. (N.B. THERE WAS A BUS). But really, I was just going through a time when I let opportunity pass me by, because I was not mentally in a good place. I was convinced Things Wouldn't Work Out or Be Worth It.

Two days ago, I got an email about a benefit concert (in LA) that would "be the last Jack's Mannequin show". The band is splitting so Andrew can work on other things. I'm excited to see what that will be, but I will always, always regret not walking those seven blocks to try to see hm at HoB.

The thing is, you can't always recognize opportunity. The right way to spend an evening might be watching Buffy with your roommate instead of responding to that facebook event invite. But given the choice between nothing and something, I've always believed in something.

I spent my backpacking weeks jumping from event to event, seizing opportunities. It's time to reclaim that part of myself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Political Patter

Saturday night I went to a Dar Williams concert in Davis Square. She played wonderfully, of course, etc., but her opener got me to thinking. She was, apparently, a pretty well-known folk singer/songwriter in her own right, and none of this speaks anything to her songwriting abilities. Also, I'm a bleeding heart liberal so my opinion herein might not even be important.

Only, between every song some part of her patter had to do with being here for a "Scott Brown benefit" or some other joke about the conservative republicans. I suppose she knows her audience, but Dar's music isn't overwhelmingly liberal (though she is), and I can't help but wonder if maybe this wasn't the place for it. Fine, the majority of the audience were probably Cambridge hippies, but who knows, maybe they brought their right-leaning friends for a night of pretty music.

It just felt odd to me. I'm all for artistic license within a song, because the music is what we came for--but I think patter is such a great opportunity to delve under the music, and the artist. I don't think it's the time for superficial political jokes when, really, the whole world has kind of turned into a superficial political joke.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Five!

1. We're having a party tonight! My roommates and I are putting on our housewarming shindig that's sure to be the first of many get-togethers. I have to admit it's kind of bizarre to plan for a party that doesn't involve just moving the coffee table and turning up the stereo. On the other hand, in undergrad we used to put a lot into planning/decorating/dressing for the massive blow-outs, but now work still has to be done in the day before the fun.

2. I'm super-excited about next Friday, because there is going to be a massive YA author event in Burlington, MA. Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black, Libba's going to be FABULOUS. I found out about it Tuesday night and immediately picked up the phone.

Me: Hey, friend, remember how we were going to go to the Brookline Public Library to go see Libba Bray and you'd probably use your car for that?
Friend: No, I thought I'd use my horse.
Me: Right, so, but, we're going to go to Burlington instead and take people and it's going to be great!

3. Speaking of Sarah Rees Brennan, I am halfway through Unspoken. (I'm SAVORING IT, okay) and I keep having moments where I'll think something like, "Oh, Napoleon complexes aren't real, silly Love Interest." Or "How very Pyramus and Thisbe" and then the character says it. Clearly SRB and I think the same way. Clearly.

4. Yesterday, there was PitchMad, a twitter pitch contest. I found out about it checking my feed before I got out of bed (I am not a twitter addict, I am a person who dosen't like getting up) and by the end of the day I had two requests. I adore the Internet!

5. You will notice the lack of thoughts about the iPhone 5. I wasn't impressed. I'll upgrade to get a 64GB device so I can stop carrying my phone and iPod around like a tool, but basically meh.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Massachusetts Avenue: Of Life, Love and Amanda Palmer

I've kept the promise I made two years ago when I first discovered Harvard Square, the day I saw Amanda Palmer in Cabaret. I live off Massachusetts Avenue and finding an alternative's a little hard to do. (Storrow Drive is pretty in the fall). 

Yesterday, I walked home from Harvard Square for the first time in a few weeks, ignoring the twinges of pain that were weaker than the ones I experienced for most of the summer summer. There's something in that anyway, mixing pain with memory in the way of the song. I strolled down six blocks of Massachusetts Avenue, blasting Amanda's song of the same name, which finally has a studio recording on her new CD Theatre is Evil.

That song---and the entire album--sums up my Bostonian existence. Meow Meow opens the album in German, an echo of Amanda's role as the MC in Cabaret, the performance that transformed the way I think about art. It was my escape from the world and a reminder to tune into the world. Meow played several of Amanda's Late Night Cabarets, the post-performance concerts that were my only social engagement during those tenuous first few months in Boston. I didn't have much, living alone in a tiny dorm room, but almost every Wednesday night I didn't have to go back home at all.

There's more to the album than memories, of course, but every time I walk down Mass Ave I remember those nights in the darkened club, sitting a couple of tables away from Neil Gaiman, sipping red wine and being alive. Being hopeful.

One night, I contemplated not leaving my room for the show. (Do you want to go back home, check your messages and charge your phone?) I was writing. The words were flowing. I had my own art to work on.

Which is exactly why I had to go. That manuscript, which I hope very much to see in print someday, if only so I can list Amanda (and Neil) in the acknowledgements, is infused with the joy I absorbed that fall (Do you remember loving me more than I could be loved?). It's set partially in Harvard Square, the place I explored, and adopted, during long evenings spent waiting to enter the Oberon. It's about music, and living statues, and Jacques Brel, and drag queens, and acceptance, and art, and hair dye, and love, and not a little bit of wine. And I hope that one day someone will read it and think, I know that feeling. I remember that. I covet that.

But this post isn't about my manuscript. It's about the way we need to experience art to create art, and the way one song--one note--can bring back the joy and love of a moment.

I don't need lyrics to tell me I don't have to be alone anymore. I have friends. I have a life I don't need to escape. I've cried in the parks, and walked through the cemetery, and nearly been run down by trucks.

And every time I walk home, I pass the spot that holds my most vibrant memories and remind myself what I want to do, and whom I want to be.

"There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called [Boston[ [on a street] called [Massachusetts Avenue]. "

Monday, September 10, 2012


It's easy to live in anticipation of things. For instance, I want to get through today, because tomorrow will bring Amanda Palmer's new CD and Sara Rees Brennan's new book. I have been super excited for both of these things all summer.

This weekend, my roommates and I are hosting a housewarming party. Saturday is a Dar Williams concert. At some point in all of this, I need to go see Perks of Being a Wallflower.

With all these cool things in the future, it's hard to stop just looking ahead. Trying to "get through" one thing and onto the next. But that's also a recipe for missing out on the little things every day brings.

And I think being too focused on the next step in publication can go the same way. One day, I'll wake up and realize I've got an agent, or been pubbed, or whatever the milestone is. But I'll miss the days spent yelling at characters no one else knows about, while my roommate does the same thing a few doors away. I'll miss this time.

So I'm going to try not to wish the day away.

Not going to be easy. Unspoken comes out tomorrow, y'all!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Five!

Been a while, hasn't it?

1. I read Gilt last night, a novel set in the days of Henry VIII, about a friend of Catherine Howard. I really enjoyed it, but this morning I began to wonder if I'd filled in details that weren't there thanks to my obsessive reading of novels set in the Tudor period during my childhood. There were no mentions of Elizabeth I, very few of Edward, none of Mary. The political climate was alluded to, but I'm not sure the methods of trial were well-explained. That said, the novel served a different purpose. It read like a classic YA novel, about a girl trying to find her way in her world, set hundreds of years ago. Maybe it didn't need the sweeping political background.

2. Classes are going to eat me. I know i keep saying it, but I just put all my assignments on my calendar and...erp....The worst of it is, I brought it on myself. I'm doing an independent study. I created the list of things I'l turn in, and the dates they're due, and---It is all my own fault. All of it.

3. I've been getting physical therapy for the past few months, and I can say that there is nowhere--NOWHERE--better for people watching than outside or in the waiting room of a rehab hospital. From the moms comparing their sons traumas, to the women having the "no, YOU'RE inspirational conversations," it is all wonderful and priceless.

4. Yesterday, I was reunited with my one true love....the mozzarella sticks in my school cafeteria. They are magical. Also, the phrase "I don't have a meal plan" is the most bittersweet phrase ever.

5. This is an old video, but I hadn't seen it, so maybe you haven't either.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breathe in Peace....

Breathe out love. It's a saying I picked up from one of my coworkers this summer, and I'm latching onto it. The semester starts tomorrow, and even though I'm only in one class and one independent study, I feel completely overwhelmed already. I'm sure this will subside at some point. We'll see.

I'm shifting my focus for the next two weeks toward schoolwork to make sure I have a handle on this. The writing guilt is, thus, kicking in big time. How are you going to be a writer if you're not writing? asks the voice in my head. But what about all those writers who raise kids/have jobs/etc., they don't take time off to focus on other things. It's a balance! 

And I get it. For years, I've carved out that hour of writing per day. I'm not saying I'm giving it up. I'm saying there are other things that need to be done first. My brain will always be soaking up information to be tucked into my writing somewhere, always be annoyingly giving me story ideas in the middle of class. I have a revision out with an agent. There is progress being made brain, okay???

Breathe in peace....

Anywho, as for this blog, I plan on making Wednesdays after this "Disability Book Days" partially to get back to the mission statement of writing here (like I had one) and partially because that's a thing I'll be thinking about a lot anyway thanks to my independent study (on disability in children's lit).

So that's my stress. And my plan.

What's wigging you out this month?

(Breathe out love)