Friday, December 28, 2012

Okay, I Admit It, I'm Totally Erudite

I've been travelling a bit more than usual for work lately. All of those plane rides and handshakes have resulted in multiple colds, a sinus infection, bronchitis, and three weeks straight of antibiotics(!) But, even though I was still sick, I was so excited to find out that I was going to Chicago in the beginning of December.

If any of you follow me on Twitter, you might remember my manical pre-trip tweets about going to pre-Divergent Chicago and all of my #ChicagoBookGeekStyle tweets. If you don't, I'm sooooo kindly geeking-out blogging about my trip here.

Before I start, I just want to say that Chicago is lovely (and windy) and I really enjoyed my stay there beyond just hunting for elements of a pre-Dystopian world. I had amazingly good deep dish pizza at a local pizzeria, ate some great Japanese fusion food, and munched on the best gingerbread popcorn ever while taking in the gorgeous architecture. I can't wait to go back someday.

But now, on to the Divergent-y goodness:

The first night, I realized that my hotel room looked out on a building just perfect for Dauntless ziplining:

The Hancock building at night

Since I've totally embraced the fact that I'm Erudite (don't hate me), of course I had to find our headquarters:
 
The Chicago Public Library
Reading by the giant lima bean at Erudite Headquarters (the Lima bean in Millenium Park)


Of COURSE I'm wearing blue. My glasses were in my suitcase back at the hotel, though (contacts, FTW!)
 
No, I did not jump on those trains. What do you think I am, Dauntless? Ha!:
 
The L trains
 
I walked over to the Hub for my choosing ceremony:
 
The Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

And pretended to be Dauntless for a few minutes...

On the glass platforms of the Willis Tower. Not really freaky or scary and actually kind-of cool :)
Don't tell Janine I said that, though!

 ...but really, those simulation results don't lie. I'd rather be reading a good book than jumping off of buildings like those Dauntless ruffians.

And, that's it! Next trip, I'll make sure to make it down to the Navy Piers to see what all that fuss is about carousels and Ferris Wheels. :)

On a non-Divergent note, I also stopped by the Russian Pointe store. Before I stopped pointe because of my achilles tendon rupture*, my last few pairs of pointe shoes were Russian Pointe. When I saw the store, I knew I had to stop in and at least buy a pair of mini pointe shoes-- and I was lucky enough to find a pair that matched my last pair of recital pointe shoes (dyed black!):

OMG, that black dye got on EVERYTHING. Our feet were grey, our tights were ruined, even dance bags had streaks of black dye in them. In my next life, I'm just special ordering black shoes instead.
I was a happy little ballet and book geek that afternoon. Then, I boarded my flight and sadly waved goodbye to my #ChicagoBookGeekStyle adventure.

If you want more Divergent road trip goodness, definitely check out the Fictitious Delicious Divergent Road Trip blog post, which is full of awesomeness.

Have you been to Chicago? And geeked out, like I did?

 *I still managed pointe one year after the surgery, but I just never fully regained my strength in my left leg. Multiple tendonitis episodes pretty much sealed the deal for me on ending pointe. :(

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Annual No-Kiss Blogfest

/PSA

I'm posting today to pressure cajole sweet talk all of you to join me and a ton of other wonderfully bloggy people in the great Frankie Diane Mallis'

4th Annual No Kiss Blogfest.

From Frankie's site:

What: The No Kiss Blogfest! This is when you get to write a scene or post one from of your favorite books, movies, or TV shows that show the almost kiss-- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it, want it, NEED it....and then...they don't!

Last year, I had a ton of fun writing up a scene with my WIP's characters, and I'm hard at work on my post for this year's blogfest.

So, head on over to Frankie's site for more details and sign up!

/end PSA

Friday, December 21, 2012

Solstice

An entry from my paper journal, 12-21-2001: "Tonight is Yule-- the longest night of the year.

Tonight reminds us that even the darkest of nights are followed by light, and that even in the worst of times, we have hope. No night is so dark that day will never follow.

...so long as we have hope, it will never truly be dark."


The light installation at Longwood Gardens this past summer-
"wildflowers" over a lake

With the talk of an "apocalypse"(well, since I actually mailed out most of my cards before January 1st, at least pigs should have flown), last night I had another of these freakishly deep moment on twitter:

Tweet: "I'm going to be deep, and then I'm going to bed: The world ends daily for many someones. Live every day like there is no tomorrow. Love, me"

On this darkest night of the year, with so much shadow around us and hope before us, I wish you light when you most need it.

And a lifetime of living for today.

(This post brought to you by Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, and too many Christmas cookies.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Little Light

The events yesterday in Connecticut were awful, horrifying, senseless. Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I worked with one of the people who lost his child in the attack and it was surreal at the office when picture after picture of him and his wife showed up on news websites or the TVs in the breakrooms. My heart breaks for his family and all of the families who have to deal with the aftermath. (And I am only going to say that I'm disgusted with the media who kept posting pictures of families in their most vulnerable moments. Shame on you new outlets- the sorrow could be captured without exploiting the families' grief. Ditto with interviewing children.)

But this post isn't about that, per se.



While listening to the news yesterday, they interviewed a teacher who said she locked herself and her students in the classroom closet and read to them to keep them calm.

I'm sure a lot of familiar books came out to comfort children across the world last night.

While I talk a lot about YA on this blog because that's what I love to read and write, this post is in praise of the picture book and chapter book writers. Writing kidlit is incredibly difficult and writing picture books in insanely hard (contrary to popular belief. I hold picture book writers in awe.) The critical praise, movie deals, front page press is not as common, at least not when compared to older genres. Very few picture book writers and illustrators are household names, beyond the "greats." And yet, when our kids need comfort, there's nothing more powerful than a worn pressboard cover and sticky pages.

Thank you for writing and illustrating these books, toiling over just the right word, the right flow, the right colors. Thank you for stories that sparked our imaginations and continue to spark imaginations for generations to come. Thank you for the first "big kid books" we read, the kind to sneak under the covers with a flashlight because "I can read now!"

Thank you for being a little light in a sometimes dark world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing (Week 26)

My awesome friend, DB Graves, has tagged me with this meme where I get to go on an on and on about my WIP (uhm, sorry?) BUT! Then I get to tag some other awesome peeps and you get to go read about their WIPS! (much better, right?) And if you click on the link above, you get to read what she posted about her (believe me, awesome) paranormal WIP last week.

Ready?

1. What is the working title of your book?
  • You and I ... it used to go by Mini Sock Boy (or MSB) on this blog, but while working on a Bollywood flash mob scene, I pulled up some of my favorite music, including tracks from Hum Tum ("You and I.") The name just seemed to fit so well and the movie's theme of true love never quite remaining unrequited really resonated with some plot points. Now I have a little in-joke with the title :)
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
  • Anyone remember The Tale of the Mini Socks? Well, I was telling this story to someone and she said it might make a fun book. I had a problem, though- I was a paranormal/fantasy writer through and through... and I couldn't see how I could translate that little piece of life into an entire book-length story. But the idea rattled around in my brain, mixed with every awkward moment I ever had in high school, and out came book- and knitting- obsessed Phoebe, whose entire world is a giant YA novel waiting to happen.
3. What Genre does your book fall under?
  • Contemporary (GASP!!!)

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
  • This one is hard. I tend to keep my descriptions fairly ambiguous for most of my characters because I want the reader to insert her/his own casting. Grace, for example, is described as having "strawberry blonde hair" and while I've seen caucasian actresses who would fit her character, I also saw a picture the other day of a Korean actress with bleached hair who would fit her as well. Em might have a Greek name (Ephemie) but her dark curls and dark eyes can fit into any number of cultures. But... let's try casting the two MCs:
  • Phoebe Martins: In my head, Phoebe is at least half Brazilian and part Portuguese, with grey eyes and a complexion that tans easily. Martins is a common last name in both Portugal and Brazil and her extended family lives in Massachusetts, which has a strong Portuguese and Brazillian community. (hi, background info that never makes it into the story :) !!!)
    • So, I actually chose a Portuguese actress who, in a perfect world, would play Phoebe: Mafalda Tavares, back when she was on Morangos com Açucar: 
    Her hair is that perfect wurly-ness for Feebs!
    Image credit: http://fasmafaldatavares.blogspot.com/

    And this is totally Phoebe post-Grace makeover. She wears her hair curled most of the last 2/3rds of the story
    Image credit: The actress' facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=180912171970128
     Phoebe also has an older sister, so who better to play Trixie than the other talented Tavares sibling, Cátia:
    
    Their age difference is so perfect and Cátia is also adorable. Who better to play her college-aged fashion-fairy godmother sister?
    Image credit: Fas da Catia e da Mafalda Tavares 
  • Dev Andrews (last name still in flux): Dev's parents hail from Mumbai, so I'm thinking:
  •  A younger Shahid Kapoor *swoon*:
C'mon. Wouldn't you want him to serenade you?
Image Credit: Bollywood Pictures Online: http://www.bollywoodpicturesonline.com/shahid_kapoor_01.htm

 And he's just so adorable ("That's All I Really Wanna Do", from Teri Meri Kahaani):


5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
  • When book-geek Phoebe finds out the hottest guy in the clarinet section is crushing on her, she turns to her fictional idols for advice.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
  • I'm still on the traditional publishing bandwagon *crosses fingers* and I'll just keep writing in hopes that someday I get picked up. Nothing against self-pub, it's just not for me right now.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
  • I'm usually a fast first-drafter. This one has been slower than usual because of a lot of things that went on in my life (and lots of buisness lunch meetings, which cut into my lunch writing time.) I was already playing around with the two main characters back in February, was outlining March for a plot, voice and pacing came in late April thanks to the SCBWI Poconos retreat, and I really started around July. It will be finished either the end of this month or early December. I miss my 3 month draft binges!
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
  • Probably Anna and the French Kiss, Smart Girls Get What They Want, and Anne of Green Gables (yup, rocking it old-school with contemporary)
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
  • I'd like to thank mini sock boy, who gave me the catalyst for Phoebe's absolutely miserable situation. Mwahaha. Other inspirations: Every single YA author on the planet, 6th grade camp, Concert band/Wind Ensemble, and the Pine Barrens.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
  • This is the book for any girl who has had book boyfriends, who can read and walk at the same time, who dresses like the fictional character du jour, and wishes she was the MC with the hot love interest. Translation: This is an ode to book geeks everywhere.
 Now for the tags. I want to tag each and every one of you because I'm dying to hear more about your WIPs, but since the list would go on forever, I'm only tagging two people based on theme:

In keeping with the Portuguese/Brazilian theme, I'm tagging Rebecca Carvalho
And
In keeping with the New Jersey theme, I'd like to tag Jaybird over at The Bird's Nest

Can't wait to see what you two ladies post next week!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still Thankful...

But busy! I thought Thanksgiving break would give me a bit of time to blog (and it did, a little bit-- you'll see tomorrow!,) but instead, I spent a lot of time writing and living. I'm thankful for the time I had with my family, including the most adorable nephew on the planet.. I'm thankful for the exercise and movement-- from long walks to my exhausting skating lessons. My WIP was so much fun to work on.

Work has been incredibly busy, especially with the time lost from the hurricane, so it was nice to sleep insanely longer than I usually would. It was wonderful to just curl up in front of the fireplace or disappear into a book for a morning.

Now, I'm back to craziness-- I was in the office until almost nine last night and seven tonight. I'm using up the stockpile of relaxation from this past weekend.

But I'm still thankful!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RTW: The Alpine Path

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:
Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!

Since I'm not NaNoWriMoing because I'm mid-WIP, this inspiration is just to keep pushing through my You and I contemporary WIP, now at 50K. This post is also serving double duty as a Thanksgiving Blog hop post. Wheeeeee!

I picked up the top left "Emily of New Moon" on PEI because my original book is falling apart, but the 1980's covers will always be my favorites
I'm so thankful that the Emily series were the books that introduced me to LM Montgomery's writing. While a lot of people say Anne is their favorite, from the moment 10 year old me picked up these books, Emily captured my heart. We're so much alike, and her passion for writing spoke to the writer in me.

Everything about these books inspire me as a writer, but especially the passages where LMM captures the magic (and challenges) of being a writer. Passages like these, which sooooo perfectly echoed how I felt when I finished the first draft of my first manuscript:

"Again, it seized hold of her imagination and called forth all her creative impulse. She would write it out-- she would begin this very moment. Flinging on a dressing-gown over her white shoulders to protect them from the keen gulf air she sat down before her open window and began to write. Everything else was forgotten-- for a time at least-- in the subtle, all-embracinbg joy of creation. Teddy was nothing but a dim memory-- love was a blown-out candle. Nothing mattered but her story. The characters came to life under her hand and swarmed through her consciousness, vivid, alluring, compelling. Wit, tears, and laughter trickled from her pen. She lived and breathed in another world and came back to New Moon only at dawn to find her lamp burned out, and her table littered with manuscript-- the first four chapters of her book. Her book! What magic and delight and awe and incredulity in the thought."
...
"Emily finished her book in six weeks-- finished it at dawn one morning. She flung down her pen and went to her window, lifting her pale, weary, triumphant little face to the skies of morning...

"Finished-- complete! There it lay-- A Seller of Dreams-- her first book. Not a great book-- oh, no, but hers-- her very own. Something to which she had given birth, which would never have existed had she not brought it into being."
-Emily's Quest, LM Montgomery

Since these books are semi-autobiographical, there's magic in knowing that over 100 years ago my favorite author felt the same way that I feel today. She covered the joy and self-doubt of being a writer. She wrote about rejection and heartbreak and starting again. For a little while, (SPOILER) Emily just gives up. And she gave me a chance to be Emily holding the acceptance letter for her first book.

What greater inspiration could I possibly have?

How about you? What inspires you to write?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Never Really Belonging

A little bit more thankfulness for the Thanksgiving Blog Hop:

The hardest part about growing up as a first-generation kid who would spend her summers back in the "old country" was this constant feeling in my life of never really belonging. We were raised too European for the US and vice-versa. As a kid, it sucked.

As an adult, I love that I was raised with roots in both worlds. I'm thankful for that gift that my parents and grandparents gave me.

And, oh, what an incredible gift:



The Dolmen da Orca, Oliveira do Conde (Carregal do Sal), Portugal. A 5500 year-old megalithic burial chamber
The other side of the Dolmen. A similar dolmen site closer to town is in ruins, but since this one is in the middle of nowhere, it survived


The Poco Iniciativo at the Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal. This well's circular walkway lead to subterranean caverns and is one of the gems of the magic-infused grounds of the Quinta and Palacio da Regaleira. It takes a lot of wandering the forests near the house (estate? Palace?) to find this place.

Reading by the wood stove on a cool October night (and yes, my parents have a modern stove, too)


The castle walls of the Convento de Cristo in Tomar
And I have more pictures and videos from this year's trip on my Tumblr.

There's a burden with having so much history and having these roots. It can be a weight, sometimes, knowing (and caring!) that you have to pass this history to the next generation. It's hard to maintain a connection to Portugal when you grow up outside of the Portuguese community-- no Portuguese school for me or my sisters, limited exposure to other Portuguese-American kids.

It's hard to put down roots here (a place that I love) when I have roots there, as well. I have hundreds of years of ancestors weighing on my shoulders.

And it's so hard to walk out of my bedroom on the last day of vacation.

But for every heart-wrenching moment of saying goodbye for the year to our home there and all of the saudades that I have for this place that I've been tied to since before I was born, I've also been given a million moments of joy and inspiration.

What place are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

I have a lot of blogging to catch up on-- Portugal, books, hurricanes, nor'easters, Texas, and an epic head cold-- and I thought a wonderful way to start is by hopping on to Brenda Drake's Thanksgiving bloghop.

The bloghop turkey!!!
 

Since today is Veteran's day, of course my post will be about being thankful for our veterans. Not only for their service and their sacrifice, but for the continuous service many of them have provided to their communities long after their tour of duties. The US VFW and their ladies auxiliary hold a special place in my heart because, thanks to their Voice of Democracy speech program (I was the NJ state winner my senior year of high school), I went from a shy, awkward girl to a polished young woman. It would be so easy to just go home and forget about society, but they keep giving back. It's an incredible organization filled with incredible people continuing to do incredible things.

One of the prettiest (and somewhat saddest) memorials to service I've seen has to be the Memorial Chamber in the Parliament building in Ottawa, Canada. I was lucky enough to watch the page turning ceremony when I visited Ottawa in 2010.

 
Inside the Memorial Chamber

 From my travel blog entry (Feb, 2010):

And as I waited for the elevator up to the tower, I overhead one tour guide mention that her group was very lucky-- they were going to be able to observe the ceremony where the pages in the Remembrance books of the memorial chamber would be turned, a ceremony that very few visitors to the Parliament get to see (more on that later.) ...


This case holds more than one book, and the page turning was performed here by a family member of one of the honored soldiers
I did manage to get back to the entrance of the memorial chamber to catch a glimpse of the tail-end of the page turning. What this ceremony does (at 11am daily) is honor those Canadians who died in service to their country. There are five books in the chamber, each page filled with names. This daily page turning allows each name to be on display at least once a year. The chamber walls are inscribed with poetry, quotes, and psalms in English and in French ("In Flanders Fields" is one of those poems.)

It was a beautiful ceremony and, when we were allowed to wander around the chamber afterwards, I actually teared up a little bit on seeing the names in the books and John McCrae's words on the walls.


In Flander's Fields, on the wall of the Memorial Chamber. The book in the case is one of the books filled with names of those who died in service

"We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."
-"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

I'm also thankful for the Peacekeepers, who continue to put their lives on the line for peace around the world. That's probably one of the hardest jobs of all.

The Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa, Canada. This inscription reads "In the Service of Peace"
 
To our veterans (US and allies), thank you for serving and protecting.

That's what I'm thankful for today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pitch Live!

I'm back from Portugal, and blog updating has taken a backseat to a weird sort of non-jetlag that has me falling asleep consistently 2-3 hours before my regular bedtime, but still waking up just in time to get to work. That means that most of my free time has been spent on my WIP (almost 40 K!! Maybe I"ll finish it in time to start something new for NaNo. Maybe.) But I can't wait to get back to blogging, reading all of your blogs, and talking about some of the books I read over vacation. I have so many pictures and videos to share.

Plus, right after getting off the plane last weekend, we had my nephew's baptism. He was adorable and well behaved. I'm one proud but busy godmomma! :)

Today, though, I'm posting a video for the Pitch Live! blogfest, hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake, Erika Chapman, and Leigh Ann Kopans. Be sure to go HERE for the linky to other participating blogs.

Here's my entry (it MAY be updated due to my shakycam Hunger Games inspired filmmaking):



Title: The Desired
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 72K

Things that I learned while filming this pitch:

1. If you're going to film the weekend before a video is due to go up, don't forget your Bloggie(BEST vlogging cam in the WORLD) because you will then be forced to rely on a finicky cell phone camera.
2. Test the cell camera to see how to avoid horizontal line syndrome (uhm, I should have known, since the bloggie does the exact same thing.)
3. Taking outdoor videos also means that you're bound to deal with sunlight issues (check!), wind issues (check!), and the random airplane (I really should post a blooper video!)
4. I don't have shaky cam action going on. I'm just emulating the artistic style employed by the director of the Hunger Games. *nods* *nods*
5. Holy cow, low sunlight brings out my dark circles. More Benefit Erase Paste, please!
6. The NJ tourism association seriously needs to start paying me, since I'm always going on about how pretty it is here.

And I'll finish this post with more pretty pictures from "the place between the lakes" where I filmed this video:



 

 
 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

I've Created a Tumblr for my trip

that you can find here if you're curious. Between sketchy internet access (the walls are so thick, my little USB modem struggles some times for signal!) and some crazy randomness that I'm posting, I thought it might be the best way to trip blog.


Yes, this is a REAL town. Pronounced Fah-eel.
And I promise a real post with some of my favorite highlights soon!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Killing the Saudades

Saudade: A word in Portuguese that doesn't actually have a direct translation in English. The closest I can come to is a feeling of longing for something. But it's much stronger than longing. And I have saudades of this place when I'm in the States.

I'm in Portugal for my long-ish vacation (staying at my parents' house, of course. Otherwise, it would be short-ish.) Day one was about landing in Porto, seeing a two places I've never visited, and getting up and running with internet access and things that I really missed.

YUM! Hai chocolate. I luv you so very much.
I also have straciatella yogurt and Kelloggs Special K (the better tasting European version)
ready for breakfast this morning.
Most of this is family and relaxing at home, but when I go somewhere interesting, I'll be blogging and vlogging about my trip, including places like this:

Cafe Majestic in Porto
Oh-- and I vlogged about that:



And going to an AMAZING bookstore and buying this:

Look familiar?
So, now the question is... do I post it here or create a tumblr for my random pictures/musings?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You Are Stronger Than You Think

I'm talking about cadavers today. Soooo... if you get a little icked out by dead bodies, this might not be the best post for you.

My first cadaver lab was over nine years ago. Some people get broken in with one or two bodies. Me, I had a roomful of bodies, all of them over a week old. I had to walk through the lab area to get to the locker room, and, just as I stepped into the lab, the techs were rolling them out of body bags and on to the tables. I saw faces and open blank eyes. And I moved as fast as I could (without running) to get out of there.

As soon as I reached the women's locker room, I curled up on a bench and started rocking back and forth, saying, "I can't do this." And after a few minutes of having a mini breakdown and pity party, I reminded myself that I chose this career and, if I couldn't suck it up, I had to get out.

I sucked it up. As a newbie, I had the pleasure of having to remove all of the implants that the training surgeon had put in during his demonstration. And when the cadaver I was working on that day lost her arm because, well, a week of being studied meant the body couldn't handle being manipulated, I just kept going without blinking.

I took a really, really long shower afterwards.

It's been almost ten years of labs and visiting tissue banks. I've seen things that bench-rocking me would never have wanted to see. I've learned so much, and I hope that some of my work that came from these educational (and validation) labs has made a difference in people's lives. I've also learned that I can handle a lot more than younger me thought I could. I had really underestimated myself.

Oh, hai, night blooming waterlily! So pretty and unexpected!

This is one of my stories of unexpected strength. Do any of you want to share yours? I'd love to read them!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Temporary Toepick Title

I think I've confessed before on this blog about my intense fear of the ice, at least for the first few seconds after I step onto the ice surface for practice or a lesson. There's a very real moment where I'm convinced I'm an idiot and am going to break my neck. "WTF are you thinking? You're breakable. It's colder than hell* in here. Get your butt back into the lobby and go, I don't know, shopping or something."

*note: for me, hell is cold. I hate the cold so much. My office is cold. Operating rooms are cold. Cold is... sucky. And, yes, I willingly ice skate.

There are days when I have to force myself to lace up my skates and get on the ice. There are days when my leg muscles burn during warmup so much that I can't imagine pushing through for another hour-plus.

I'm trying to build back all of the muscle I lost because of my hamstring injury back in February. Months worth of physical therapy and I'm only at about two-thirds of where I had been. So, last Tuesday, I spent the entire 50 minute freestyle session feeling like I was trying to skate uphill. Sweat dripped down my back and I kept wondering why I didn't just get off of the ice. My legs were so tired, even, that I popped my loops, flubbed my salchows... and let's not even talk about spins.

My skates are dead and they'll cost from $400-$600 to replace. Lessons cost a fortune.

Unlike math, 2 + 2 doesn't always equal four. There are days when you could be doing everything right, but it just won't be a spin day or a jump day or an anything day.


An awful scratch-spin tracing from Thursday. See all of those loops?
In a good spin, they're small and in the same spot.
I'll never be an olympian. The only places I compete are at adult competitions and they're few and far between (and the only prizes, really, are bragging rights and a medal.) As an adult, I physically struggle more and learn slower than kids. A little boy or girl who starts now will probably have their double jumps by the time I finally land my lutz.

I've already had to get stitches on my chin and have gotten very good at falling.

Figure skating (freestyle) ice is hard to find in a hockey world. There are days when the ice surface is too hard (hockey ice), too bumpy, or, frankly, crappy beyond belief.

All in all, it sounds really and truly sucktastic, doesn't it?

But!

We started the choreography on my new Winter show program today. My coach and I set the Icelandic version of Never Forget (Mundu Eftir Mer) on loop and let loose. While she played with the opening, I practiced my camel spins. I did my best sit spin of the lesson to the violin solo in the middle, pulling my arm back mid-spin as if I were using a bow and screaming a "Whee!!!" as I came back up to standing. My coach kicked into a doughnut spin and I followed, then had fun on a jump combination she gave me.

I flew and spun and had an amazing time just trying to become the music. It's alchemy, making gold out of sweat and scratches and ice full of hockey player spit.

All of the problems listed before the "But" gave me this... and it's worth every painful, whiplash-filled, bruised second.

What about you? What is in your life that at face value is kind-of craptastic, but is so much more when you dig deeper?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Fangirl-y Kind Of Love

I have a little problem.

No, I don't mean my book or sparkly makeup or yarn-buying habits (though those are problems, too.)

My problem is that I have a bad habit of falling so hard for books and their characters that I kind-of want to be them. Or I'll start taking aspects of their clothing or hobbies and try to imitate them. Or just want to steal an aspect of their wardrobe. LM Montgomery's Emily series had me seriously coveting Edwardian clothing, Jimmy-books, and Emily's shot-silk blue-green dress. The Wings series by Aprilynne Pike had me hunting for hair dangles and was the catalyst for my hair tinsel. I've crocheted shawls so that I could pretend to be mooning on foggy mornings on the moors, I've hunted high and low for fabric to match the dress description in Amy Plum's Die For Me. I've dressed in black and been ready to kick butt thanks to Divergent. Three words: butterfly costume dress from Incarnate *swoon*. The Babysitter's Club series was one fashion disaster after another for me when I tried to imitate Claudia's wardrobe and went full-on ballerina over Jessi's outfits. Trixie Belden made me want to be a teenage gumshoe and, combined with my Sherlock Holmes phase, I can tell you a million ways to pick up fingerprints. There was the post-Dracula uber-gothy phase. I was a teenager and I was dancing around my grandparents' patio, pretending to be Drina. I still want her grey and scarlet school uniform (complete with a "smart" matching cape.) I have a properly Slytherin black, silver, and green silk dress that I made for the last Harry Potter release party.


The Franklin Institute Narnia exhibit: a fangirl's dream come true.

Okay, who hasn't dreamt of slipping through the wardrobe?
Who hasn't run around their house looking for an entryway to Narnia?

 Oh, God, I'm not getting in to what the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout is doing to me. Katy is already like us bookish types SO MUCH. I want her "My blog is better than your vlog" t-shirt and starry sleep shorts.

And fictional boys are ruining me for real boys. Tod, Daemon, Vincent, Bram, Cricket.. and those are only my recent crushes. I'm still carrying a flame for Teddy Kent, Jim Frayne, Gilbert Blythe... you get the idea.

This happens even when I'm writing my own stories. When I'm heavily immersed in my main character, I start picking up aspects of his or her personality or style and pepper them into my everyday life. Sara's a runner, so, even though I hate running, I found myself drooling over running skirts and a new pair of Nikes (teal. And they're very comfy for my skating warmups, thank you very much.) Aurora, a character in a short story I'm writing, is a bit of a girly fashionista based in Akureyri, Iceland. Hello, coveting the cute pink hoodie from 66°NORTH. Phoebe from my WIP is a book devourer and I"ve been buying a lot of... oh, wait, that's normal for me. But she's also a band geek and I've found myself digging through my piles of band music and brushing off my flute and piccolo, both of which have been languishing in their cases for AGES because apartment living= really hard to practice!*


New, pink flute and piccolo case! With a BUTTERFLY.
Yes, I'm four years old.

Thank you, authors, so much for amazing books and beautiful prose that make me want to become the characters. Thank you for the magic and covet-worthy wardrobes.

Thank you for making me go into frenzies of fan girl-y love.

*BTW, my flute playing isn't that bad. I do practice once in a while when my insane neighbors are out. We shall not discuss how 10 years of not practicing piccolo means that I sound like I'm murdering a bird.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Stone Girl Blog Tour: Mini Interview and Guest Post

I'd like to welcome Alyssa Sheinmel to my blog today and I'm really happy to share her book with you. Y'all know that I rarely (uhm... okay, really rarely) review books on here. When I do talk about books on this blog, it's because I really enjoyed them.

You'll see in a minute why I think this book should be a part of your library.

The Book:

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.

Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone. From critically acclaimed writer Alyssa B. Sheinmel comes an unflinching and unparalleled portrayal of one girl’s withdrawal, until she is sinking like a stone into her own illness, her own loneliness—her own self.

 (from Alyssa's website. You can read an excerpt and find out more about the book by clicking on this sentence!)

  







The Review: (Well, the part of this post where I gush about how much I liked this book)

When I was first approached by Random House to be a part of this tour... I'll be honest, I wasn't sure. Wintergirls was tough enough to read-- did I want to dive in to another book about body image and eating disorders so soon after all of the discussions I had been having with friends on and offline about my vlog post?

But then I opened Alyssa's book, read her foreword... and burst into tears. This was the book for girls like me and like many of my friends. Girls who didn't quite fit the mold when it came to textbook definitions of anorexia or bulemia. I won't write any spoilers, but there is a scene in the beginning of the book between Sethie and her friend Janey that gave me chills because one of my own friends had the same experience. Sethie is real and relateable and her story was hard to put down.

The (Mini) Interview: (Where Alyssa answers my LOOOONG questions)

1. When I received the book and read your introduction, I actually cried because you finally gave a voice to those of us who skirted the edge of the eating disorder cliff. There's so much stigma in society about body image and disordered eating as a "first world problem" and I have trouble talking about my experiences because I wasn't one of "those girls" who "really" had an eating disorder. Were there points while writing The Stone Girl where you had doubts about your story? Were these times when you thought about stopping?

Well first of all, thank you.  I wrote this book for many reasons, but one of them is certainly that I felt that there was a part of the story that is rarely, if ever, told; the girls who skate on the precipice of eating disorders – not quite sick, but certainly not well either.

And to answer your questions – Yes!  Repeatedly as I wrote the novel I doubted the story.  I wondered whether there was anything left to say about eating disorders that hadn’t been said already, and by people much more qualified than I am.  I wondered if anyone would care about Sethie’s story; the girl who skips or vomits only some of her meals, who doesn’t drop down to eighty pounds, who isn’t admitted to an eating-disorders clinic.  I stopped writing the book repeatedly, but something always kept me coming back.  Finally, I decided that I would write the book, but maybe I wouldn’t share it; maybe it was something I was writing for me, this eating disorders book that I just had to get out of my system.  But once I’d finished a draft, much to my surprise, I did want to share it.  And – also to my surprise – people seemed to believe in Sethie’s story.
 
2. The friends who opened up to me about their own experiences with body image issues and eating disorders/disordered eating have mentioned the amazing things in their lives that they wouldn't have experienced if they had continued down that path. For me, it's been skating and eating my way through a few countries. What are one or two things in your life that you have been able to enjoy because you were able to move past the need to be ultra-thin?
Oh my goodness, where do I start?  Of course, with the obvious – food.  The funny thing is, despite everything else, I’ve always been kind of an enormous foodie.  Going to new restaurants, taking trips just to try new restaurants in other cities, are some of my favorite things to do.  Thanksgiving is my single favorite day of the year, not least because it is an entire national holiday that completely revolves around a meal.  And being able to do those things I enjoy so much without the fear or guilt about food hovering over me is certainly something I would have missed out on had I not let go of my body-obsession.
 
But there is so much more, of course.  I don’t know exactly when or how I gave up my body-obsession, but I do know this: my life became infinitely better once body-obsession wasn’t a part of it.  I became better at my job, I made better friends, I began practicing yoga, I started dating the boy I would later marry, I got my wonderful, sweet, funny dog.  I can’t tell you exactly how it happened – Did I finally get to have these good things because I let go of my body-obsession and was able to concentrate on more important things?  Or was I able to let go of my body-obsession because my life was newly filled with these good things?  Or was it simply that these good things demanded the energy I used to spend on my body-obsession?  I honestly don’t know; what I do know is that the things I wanted most shifted.  There was a time when the thing I wanted most in the world was to be thinner.  Now, of course, I still have days when I feel fat, days when I wish I could change something about my body or myself.  But those thoughts are relatively fleeting.  Now, there are just so many other things that I want more.

The Guest Post:

A few weeks ago, I was sick – some kind of stomach bug or food poisoning.  I was out of town, and spent my vacation miserably holed up in my hotel room.  I pretty much couldn’t eat anything.  And here’s the thing – it was oddly familiar, walking into the market of the hotel, seeing foods that I loved and wanted to eat, and having to remind myself, No, you can’t eat those things.  It was a bizarre kind of flashback to the way that I used to live.  It only lasted a few days, but suddenly food was the stuff of longing, the stuff of bargaining, the stuff of promises.  What a strange thing, after all this time, to find myself promising that if I just made it through one more day of being “good” I could have whatever I wanted later.  Rationalizing that I could have one bite of the donuts from my favorite restaurant, but only one, even though I was hungry enough for two, or three, or four.  It made me sad for the girl I used to be, the one who spent so much of her energy thinking about food, feeling guilty about food, fearing food.  I was relieved when the vacation was over and I recovered, relieved when I could go back to normal.  I was so uncomfortable living like that for just a few days; I can’t imagine how I spent a few years that way.

Of course, even when my body-obsession was at its worst, I didn’t live like that every single day.  Sometimes, food was a source of joy or pleasure or simply nourishment, as it should be.  Sometimes, I could go weeks without trying to skip a meal, months without vomiting.  I never even dropped down to an unhealthy weight. 

Your questions got me thinking; with the publication of The Stone Girl fewer than two weeks away, I’ve been talking so much about the book, and about eating disorders lately.  I’ve written and spoken about my personal experiences with food and body-obsession quite a bit over the past few months, more than I had in years, more perhaps than I ever had.  I wrote this book thinking about those of us who – as you beautifully said – “skirted the edge of the eating disorder cliff,” and even now, I find that I check myself when I’m writing about my own life; I’ll delete the words eating disorder, anorexic or bulimic and replace them with the words body-obsession.  Even now, sometimes I still don’t believe I deserve to call whatever it was that I had an eating disorder. 

I don’t remember the last time I made myself throw up, the last meal I skipped in an effort to drop a few pounds.  It’s been, I think, fewer than ten years, but more than seven or eight.  I may still dance around the semantics of it, but this much is true: I was sick then, and I am better now.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

What if...? I Twisted a Fairy Tale?

This post was technically supposed to go up tomorrow, but Mondays are always crazy for me (and I don't trust blogger's post scheduling utility.) That means that I may, possibly, be the first person in this blogfest to post. :)

While stalking reading Morgan Shamy's blog, I came upon her announcement for the "What If? Fairytale Madness Blogfest," hosted by Morgan, Leigh Covington, Mark Koopmans, and Cassie Mae, and automatically had to sign up. I LOVE fairy tales, and love playing with these familiar characters.

WHAT IF?
Fairytale Madness BlogFest!

AUGUST 13th – 17th
Have you noticed that by changing one detail; one event, one character trait, one thought...you can completely alter the rest of the story?
Check out the links above for the rules.
Of course, thanks to hanging with so many romance writers, I just HAD to pick:



I was going to work with one of the obscure fairy tales, but then an idea popped into my head and I'm changing a tiny detail in one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, Beauty and the Beast. Note that I didn't use the Disneyfied version!

As the Beast raged on outside, I collapsed to the floor of my new prison and cried for the first time that night. I was trapped here. Forever.

I cried and felt the gentle arms of the wind wrap around me, pushing back the loose strands of my hair and drying my tears.

***

Time had no meaning here except when it came to him. It passed in breaths, not hours. He began to speak to me, now and again breaking the rules and his silence. First, a whisper in my sleep.  A word of support as homesickness took hold. When the Beast was in a particular mood, my wind would be at my side, offering tendrils of supportive words.

As my friendship grew with the Beast, different feelings began to form in me for my wind, my silent footman.

I knew he felt the same. In the dark of the night when he must have thought I was sleeping, I could have sworn I heard the faintest of whispers—nothing more than a breath—say, “I love you” as it lingered across my cheek and over my brow. I smiled. Perhaps he guessed. But we didn’t speak of it.

Until I learned about the curse.

“But we can’t be together. You need to break the spell.” His voice barely made it to my ears but I could still hear the anguish tangled in it.

I slid my hands up invisible arms to his neck and pulled his head down toward mine. “Right now, I don’t care about breaking spells. All I care about is you.” Even though I couldn’t see him, I could feel the brush of his breath on my lips, the electric tingle of proximity. “I love you,” I whispered, and then there was no more distance between us.

Want to read more? Go here and click on some more of the participants' links!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Another SCBWIPA Poconos Post- Revision

"Because revision is actually the best part."

 
Finally another SCBWIPA Poconos post! I think I have one or two more after this one (I have to break down my notes and see how they fall as individual post-age.) I just have to keep reminding myself that posting my memories and notes from a conference back in April(!) helps to refresh my memories of all that I learned that weekend. It's so easy to go to a conference, learn so much, get fired up... and then, a few weeks later, go back to status quo. These posts are my occasional reminders that I really need to put these tips into practice.

 
Also, a quick update! Remember that writing prompt exercise from my recap of this workshop? 12K in and it's been the anchor for the MC in the contemporary I'm working on right now. I discovered an aspect of my MC's voice that I hadn't known. Even better, I still smile while working on passages for this character. So, try goofy writing prompts. You never know what you might get.
 
Back to today's post. If you haven't guessed from my title or my picture (SQUEE!!), I'm recapping Laurie Halse Anderson's workshop on Revision.

 "Revision is taking the earlier explosion of inspiration and crafting it so that the reader can see the same world."
 
I not only signed up for this workshop because L.H.A. is a wealth of writing knowledge, but because *whispers the next part* revision makes me cringe. Especially the first of three truths about revision that she presented to us:
  • (first): Everything is on the table for potential change. Everything is on the table for a potential cut- even the main character.
    • Uhm, whoa. LHA was kidding, right? My beloved MC? You should have seen the looks we gave her on that one. But if the story is better suited for a different narrator, well... we need to be open to that change.
  • It doesn't matter if it really happened. All that matters is that you write the story that serves the purposes of the story you're trying to tell.
and, finally:
  • You can always make it better.
And then, when she was done, we all went up to her and sobbed all over her. Even those of us who said we'd never cry. And Laurie wrote that wonderful note in my copy of Wintergirls.  I'm still wary about the "best part" thing, but I have to admit I enjoyed this workshop and loved my last round of revisions on "D." It wasn't like the painful, plodding first fourish passes through the MS. Instead, it felt like I was infusing magic into the story.

Maybe Laurie Halse Anderson is right. Maybe ;)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Little Love Note

I didn't realize how many people would see the Wintergirls post and I am so, so touched by all of the comments and reactions that I've received as a result of that vlog. I didn't cry when I was making the video, but I cried when I read your comments. I love all of you.

I was telling a friend the other day all about the post and my surprise at its reception in the blogosphere, about how I loved it, but how I didn't want to be labeled as "that blogger who had the eating disorder." She then confessed to me that she had been a wintergirl, too, back in college, and how our stories need to get out. "If that helped one girl, it was worth it." I sort-of, kind-of cried again. It wasn't pretty. But it was wonderful, too.

I blame all of you. ALL of you.

A little over a year ago, I made the decision that I was going to put all of my fears aside and try to write this story that had been in my head for ages. I stepped into this world of tweeting, blogging, #1k1hrs, and conferences with no idea about what I was getting into.  I now giggle about then-me. She was soooooo cute with her wide-eyes and giant expectations! But, though I haven't achieved the totally unrealistic dreams that 1-year-ago-me had expected to achieve by this date, I've gained so much more than I'd ever anticipated.

I'm a Philly-area girl. Of COURSE I'd have these coasters!

Whether or not I ever publish, I'm so thankful for what this journey has given me. Without writing, I wouldn't have joined SCBWI and met some of the most wonderful people on the planet. Without this journey, I wouldn't have:

1. Twitter. I joined twitter for three reasons:
  • To fangirl my favorite authors
  • To follow book bloggers I liked and to get their recommendations on what to read/not to read
  • To learn more about the publishing industry
  • And I can't forget that I also made sure to follow my knitting friends! Yarn forever.
I kept telling myself that, but my list of "following" grew and grew until it became something more than any of the three above. Through twitter, I met new friends (both online and now off, too... including a twittertwin who makes me grin on my toughest days *hug*), Team Kilt!!!!, my new CP/fellow Team Kilter/real life SCBWI friend, and all of the amazing authors and editors and agents who tweet some of the best stuff ever. Honestly, I'd still follow everyone I follow (well, except maybe GoslingLitAgent, but that's because he'd just break my heart) even if I wasn't trying to write anymore, because the YA/kidlit community is just so, so awesome.

2. SCBWI and all of my friends *BIG SMOOSHY HUG*

I'm a nerdy, geeky, bookish girl. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere... and believe me, I tried.(uhm, Star Trek meetups, anyone? Not the conventions or the online RPG forums, just meeting with Star Trek fans monthly at the local diner. It was... interesting. I lasted about two meetups) We shall not speak about my awkward forays into "just getting out there and meeting people." But SCBWI automatically felt like home. And the Poconos conference? I'm still so thankful that Kim talked me into going. Because I fell into a family of awesomeness and found my "tribe."

3. An enormous TBR pile. And a smaller bank account.

Uh, yeah, that might be a downside.

4. All of you who follow this blog and whose blogs I follow.

Your comments make me grin (and made me cry.) Your posts give me something to read when I'm procrastinating on my WIP. I love hearing about your journeys and can't wait to hold some of your books in my hands when you do get published. I fangirl so hard over all of you.

Miss Phoebe-cat (a bit blurry! Sorry, she kept moving!) says she loves you, too!
Up next: I might try a post with content and not just gushing. *blows kisses at everyone*