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.

Fairytale Madness BlogFest!

AUGUST 13th – 17th
Have you noticed that by changing one detail; one event, one character trait, one 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 ;)