Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why yes, I did ask another parent if she were an escort...

In case it is not ragingly clear, I have this embarrassing tendency to say exactly what I think in situations, even when it would be more prudent to hold my tongue.

I will give you a few examples. I toyed with the idea of being a Montessori teacher for quite some time and ultimately decided against it. The other day, I ran into one of my kids' former teachers and she asked me if I was still considering teaching. Me: "No, I decided I wouldn't be the best at it because I only really like smart kids."

Another time, my kids and I were at a Saturday afternoon Halloween party where the grown-ups were all milling about upstairs while a magician entertained our kids in the basement. One of the new parents in Jojo's class was dressed in a very fancy outfit and I asked her about it (since the rest of us looked like we were getting ready for dinner at Applebee's). She said she was about to go to work. Me: "Are you an escort?" I swear, it sounded funny in my head. It turned out that she is a violinist for the Lyric Opera.

Happily, I am the first to admit this flaw in myself (and in case you are concerned, the "escort" is now one of my closest friends). I am also the first to recognize that I am frequently wrong about things. I say this not because I feel that I am wrong about anything, but in the future, when I happen to be wrong about something, you can remember this about me.

I used to ask this question in college (which now has been spun out and derivated into an FB phenomena that bears no resemblance to my original question but trust me, it came from my brain): If you were any character in the Hundred Acre Wood, who would you be?

Now most people would say Pooh or Piglet or Kanga or CR. Some of my type A friends might admit to being Rabbit. And my ADD friends mostly answered Tigger. My stage crew theatre friends always said Eeyore. You get the idea.

But me, I was Owl. I have always been Owl. Since I was really little, people would come to me for answers and I would be able to provide them.

You are saying to yourselves that it figures I would choose the smart character. But this is where you are forgetting the nature of Owl. Owl is definitely NOT the smartest character in the 100 Acre Woods. Pooh is. Owl THINKS he is the smartest character in the woods and in his utter confidence, he convinces everyone that he is the smartest. He can't even spell his name right if you recall but that does not stop everyone from going to him as the reading authority.

My friend Ally once caught me spouting misinformation on something and asked me why I was discussing something of which I had no idea. My answer, "Uh, because he asked me about it." Obv.

Apparently, it was not obv to Ally because she then asked why I didn't just say I didn't know. I had to further explain myself, "You see Ally, people are asking because they want an answer. They don't want to hear, 'I don't know.' 'I don't know' is a non-answer and it sucks. I am a provider of answers. Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong but I always have an answer. If nothing else, you can count on me for that."

Ally still likes me (I hope) but she also is the first one to point out that I have no idea what I am talking about. And I love Ally for this.

So now, please consider yourselves officially warned. If you are drinking this Koolaid, you know that it is spiked with a lot of Awesome and an occasional shot of Suck.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Exercise in Humiliation Friday

I have decided to make this a new weekly blog feature because inevitably, I will have some humiliating episode to report and now, I will persevere to save these until Friday. But first, I will start with Awesome because I am a Nerdfighter now and our goal is the promotion of Awesome and the decrease of Suck. Therefore, Awesome must always come first.


This care package from my friend Jeannie. She is Awesome. It is also Awesome that I now have 25 people who are following me, not that I am playing the numbers game because it can only lead to Suck if I start doing that but it is nice to know that there are others out there laughing, I mean, with me.

PROM by Laurie Halse Anderson is also Awesome. She did this book for all the teens requesting a book about "normal people" and she did it beautifully. "Normal people" is a lot harder to do than you would imagine.

Awesome is also the number of e-mails that I received from my friend Bruce today regarding a school memo that referred to a "suction item" instead of an "auction item." I laughed out loud at least 6 times. (Unfortunately, these "suction" e-mails led to my later humiliation--see below). And finally, Awesome is the fact that Julio comes home tomorrow after being gone for 9 days (you see, I could have put this under Suck but as a Nerdfighter, I am focusing on the Awesome of his return and not the Suck of his being gone). This also plays a prominent role in the below mentioned humiliation.


The fact that I just found out today that all the pithy replies that I have been making to you all via e-mail about your comments on my blog posts are apparently not going to you. They are going to some fellow called "no" This makes me very sad because my replies have been incredibly funny, sufficiently obsequious and humble that you have chosen not only to follow me but also to comment, and very well-written. Ask "no," he has been rolling on the floor laughing at me all week long. I am waiting for my FB friend request from him soon.

Suck is also my daughter's teacher handing me an enormous basket of classroom laundry to do because it is "our family's turn" with the following note attached to it:

"Christa, sorry there is so much. I forgot to give the laundry to other families for the past two weeks. Can you also wash the teddy bear that is in the basket? I think it is infested with lice."

There are no words. I can't tell you the number of nights I have woken up in a panic that one of my children has lice. This is not unfounded, my daughter is 1 of 3 girls in her entire class who has not gotten lice this year. I thought it was because of her mixed race hair, my hair stylist friend Liz suggests it may be because we don't wash it that often (she's not the smelly kid, she showers frequently, she just has really dry hair and curly-haired people should not overwash).

It is Awesome that we have avoided lice so far. Not that it is that big of a deal, it's just that de-infestation appears to involve a lot of house cleaning and laundry and I always prefer to avoid that sort of thing if I can. Because, you know, cleaning is Suck-y.

And now on to the humiliating...(thanks for hanging in there with me)...

Butter (my 3 yr old) and I got out of music class this morning with 30 minutes to eat lunch and get him to afternoon preschool. I buckled him in, glanced down at my phone and saw that I had received 4 emails from Bruce about the "suction" type-o. I was laughing so hard that I barely registered that my car wasn't starting. Weird. I wiped the tears out of my eyes and tried again. No dice. I tried to take the key out of the ignition and start again but it wouldn't come out. It was stuck and the car wouldn't start.

I called Julio (as if he could help from out of town) but he didn't answer. I called Mark, my back-up husband and he did not answer either. I looked at the clock. 22 minutes to get Butter to preschool. I looked at my phone for two more minutes before heaving a sigh and calling Stan, my mechanic. He told me that he was closing the shop for the day (me: dude, at 11:30? what kind of hours are you all running over there?). I got that teary quiver in my voice. He said he would be there in 5 minutes.

He arrived and fixed the car in 16 seconds. Want to know why? Because I had it in Drive. Not in Park. The key doesn't come out in Drive. The car doesn't start in Drive. Naturally. I was so humiliated. I started doing the babble thing. That never ends well for me.

ME: I am so embarrassed, Stan. I can't believe this. I just am very frazzled because we are a bit late and my husband has been out of town for awhile and he isn't answering his phone.

STAN: You need a friend? I could be your friend.

ME: (feigning innocence at Stan's innuendo): Thanks. You're really great, Stan.

STAN: You need a friend?

ME: I have a husband.

STAN: I'm Italian. (what?)

ME: My husband is really great.

STAN: You need a friend?

ME: Stan, aren't you married?

STAN: Yes. You should shake my hand because it is my birthday.

I shook his hand and Stan pulled me into a strange hug. You all are probably thinking that this is weird and skeevy and it totally is except that Stan is about 100 years old and I have actually watched him doing this same thing to 90 year old women. He may have even asked my husband if he needed a friend when he was in there getting his car fixed a few months ago.

Needless to say, Butter was late for preschool and I will now have to find a new mechanic.

We are having breakfast for dinner in my house tonight. Does a bottle of wine go with sausage and pancakes?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nerdfighters, Stickies and the Pee/Sex Panel

I am an insomniac. When I am thinking about something, I can't sleep until I resolve it. This is a BIG FAT SUCK for writers of novels because you can't just pull an all-nighter and knock out that 60,000 word resolution. I have taken to leaving myself stickies on my computer to remember my late night musings. This has proven to be a bit of a problem because I am not exactly certain what the following stickies mean:

1. Talent Show Cheez Whiz
2. Do love letters from someone who later realizes he is batting for the other team still count?
3. Walgreens, CVS or Rite Aid?
4. Is Minneapolis K and St. Paul W or vice versa?

Sadly, there are a least a dozen more on my desktop. So not such a good solution after all.

I became a Nerdfighter tonight and somehow feel that I have now aligned myself with a bunch of fabulous (no noun needed here---John Green has turned fabulous into every part of speech, it will no doubt be in the new dictionary along with the ridonculous revision of ridiculous). My ten year plan was revised tonight and it now includes meeting other Nerdfighters at Joss Whedon conventions (with me on the Buffy side and them on the Firefly side).

I was on a panel of parents in support of Montessori education last night. After 15 minutes, it became clear that I was invited to be a panel speaker because the school wanted to show new families how well they deal with crazy. I did try to caveat every statement that I made with the disclaimer: "I am that mom" but after awhile, it seemed redundant. At one point, I actually mentioned that the reason that I didn't want my kids going to our local public school was that when our babysitter was at the junior high, she had to hold her pee all day because she kept bumping into kids having sex in the bathrooms. You could hear crickets chirp in that room. I quickly tried to cover this TMI statement by mentioning that my kids were really bad at holding their pee. Outstanding.

My friend Rebecca gave me a bag of her old love letters. They rule. I feel like I am in junior high all over again because I am secretly pissed that she got WAY better love letters than I ever did in school. I have one crappy poem that I found from my pot-growing ex-boyfriend. It is the worst and one day when I am feeling snarky and ambitious, I just might post it here. (Yes, I totally proofread it and it has so many type-o's that you would think a pot smoker wrote it...oh wait).

Happily, my husband rules. Completely. I don't tell him enough but I am still considering the "Julio rocks my world" tattoo.

Today my hair became a little purple and I feel like greatness will soon follow...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fabulous Other Writers and De-Suckification

So I am finding this incredible community of writers. And I am cyberstalking them (just a little bit and in a very complimentary way). This is because I love the stories of their journey. I have met and corresponded with these fabulous sisters named Lisa and Laura Roecker who have a YA book coming out in March called the Liar Society that everyone should buy. And through them, I have found Elana Johnson who I think is formidable and I wish that she were my next door neighbor so that I could bake her cookies while she read my book and told me how to make it not suck. She also has a book coming out in June of 2011 called Possession. Everyone should buy this book.

MID-BLOG NON-SEQUITIR: I would like to take a moment to thank my lucky stars for the existence of my Amazon credit card which has now provided me $175 in gift certificates with which to buy more books. (Please don't ask how much money I had to spend on books to get these certificates because the answer is too embarrassing to mention).

Now back to the business at hand. I found this article that Elana wrote that was incredible in its truth (if not a little daunting) and it made me turn back to my book AGAIN this morning to work on further de-suckification. Here is the article with a picture of her upcoming book so that you remember to buy it:

Publishing: A Journey of Many Steps
by Elana Johnson

Okay, so I was asked to share a little bit of my journey toward publication. Dude, I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. And hopefully, you’ll read something to help you take the next step, whatever it may be.

Step 1: Write a book. Or if you’re me, you write 12. That’s right. I’ve written 12 novels. Only 2 of them don’t suck. And even that’s debatable.

Step 2: Query a book. Realize it’s a lot of waiting and frantically checking email. Who knew?

Step 2A: Repeat step 2 for 6 months. Too many queries to name. Want to die.

Step 2B: Shelve book. Ouch. Yes, it hurts. No, it won’t kill you.

Step 3: Pick another novel to de-suckify.

Step 4: Revise/Edit/Rewrite the thing.

Step 5: Enter the ABNA contest.

Step 6: Move into the quarterfinals.

Step 7: Gain much needed confidence.

Step 8: Query the book. Get ready to wait it out.

Step 8A: Repeat step 8 for 8 months. 189 queries.

Step 8B: Beg, plead, pray, hope that this book is “the one.”

Step 8C: Make up mantra: “Work hard. Don’t give up.”

Step 8D: Revise twice BEFORE an offer is extended.

Step 8E: Field 5 agent phone calls BEFORE an offer is extended.

Step 8F: Get “the call.”

Step 8G: Cry, laugh, scream, cry some more, grovel in gratitude.

Step 9: Sign with dream agent. After 188 rejections, this feels goooood. Up next: take over the world.

Step 10: Or, uh, revising. Yup, again.

Step 11: And…then again.

Step 12: Wait. Taking over the world put on the back burner while gnawing fingernails to nubs.

Step 2385: Get an offer from a dream publishing house.

Step 2386: Scream, eat a lot of bacon, laugh, smile until face hurts.

Step 2386B: Wait.

Step 8939: Announce the deal!

Step 8940: Wait.

Step 12,094: Edit novel—again.

Step 12,095: Wait.

Step 18,306: Release cover. Freak out.

Step 18,307: Wait. June 7, 2011 can’t come fast enough.

My best advice through all the steps is simply to remember this: Publishing a book is not a race where the winners come in first. It’s not important WHEN you finish, just that you DO. Oh, and one more thing: Your journey is your own. It won’t look or feel like mine. It shouldn’t. Don’t compare journeys. Just be grateful you can take one more step.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Does it count as "going postal" if I cry?

As of 3pm, my day could be summed up by one simple incident:

Butter (my 3 year old) and I had 15 minutes to waste before picking up my bigs from school. I am tired of getting hopped up on 3pm lattes and then staying up all hours so I decided instead to go to the post office and buy a book of stamps. (You may be scoffing at me because who even uses snail mail these days but I am on a one-woman campaign to bring back the loss art of correspondence and therefore I send my in-laws a letter a week---yes, it is very Emily Dickinsonish of me)

As usual, the one mail carrier working the "window" has a line 20 people deep, all sporting large boxes (undoubtedly being sent internationally). But huzzah (PSAT word!), there is an automated stamp machine with only one guy standing at it. So Butter and I take our place behind this man and wait. We wait and wait and wait. Butter looks at me in question and I say loudly, "Hang in there, Butterpants, we'll be able to get our book of stamps in just a second." Then we wait some more. What is going on? The man at the automated stamp machine seems to be pulling manila envelopes out of nowhere. And evidently, each envelope needs to be weighed and its zip code entered.

Tick tock, dude. After 7 minutes of this, with Butter starting to look longingly at the Most Wanted pictures on the wall, the man turns around and says, "I'm going to be awhile. I have all of these." Then he signals to a mysterious box that has suddenly appeared and is full of AT LEAST 100 of these manila envelopes. He clearly doesn't realize that I am standing there with a 3 year old looking to buy 1 book of stamps. "Well, do you think that I could just quickly buy a book of stamps? I can pay cash." I say this very patiently (or you know, patiently for me). He looks at me and Butter for less than a second and then signals to his box again and says, "I have all of these."

WTF??? Really? I stood for a moment in shock before picking up Butter, mumbling an obscenity and walking away. Then I called Julio and started to cry.

Now, if I were writing this scene, it would have ended very differently. Because in writer world, all my characters know exactly what to say ALL THE TIME (especially once going through 17 revisions) and crying because an ass-munch won't let you buy a book of stamps just isn't a good resolve.

So, I am throwing out 3 options for new endings and any of you may feel free to weigh in on your fav:

1. (Adapted from my friend Bruce): Pull out cell phone and start having loud conversation with "Trixie" about awkward girl things. Then, say, "Hang on, Trixie, I've got a poopy diaper to change. I was hoping to change it somewhere else but..."

2. Stand super close to the guy and start asking him incessant questions about how many more he has to go, where is that one going, etc. Then let Butter start rifling through the envelopes in the box while saying something like, "Sorry, he's really curious. He gets into everything."

3. Ask if he is sending out a manuscript (because let's face it, why else does anyone have 100 manila envelopes to send out at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon?) and then accidentally drop my latte into his box before wishing him the "best of luck."

In case you are wondering, my day has gotten better. Thanks in part to a community of writers that I am stumbling upon in the blogosphere. I still love what I am doing and now, I am falling in love with the people that I am doing it with.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Throwing Away Love Letters and Looking for Jordan Catalano

Do you know that my YA betas tell me that they don't read blogs? They aren't against blogs, per se, they just don't read them. Huh.

So who is reading them? The blogger dashboard has this little button at the top that says "Monetize" which gives you stats on how many people have read your blog. Cool, huh? And it appears that my blog has been monetized (or whatever) by more than just family members. But what really makes a blog worth reading?

I write my blog to practice writing and to talk about this crazy journey of writing a book that I am on. I used to write in a journal when I was younger. You know, all the typical emo stuff that teenagers go through (because really, you aren't sitting down to write in your journal when you are in a great mood). Then, one day, it occurred to me that I would be aghast if anyone ever found my journal. I mean, what if I were killed or in a car accident or something and my parents found this journal and read it and then thought, "Holy Crap! Our kid was really depressed"? Yes, I was depressed in high school (it was HS, who wasn't?) but if my journal was any indicator, I was practically the next Sylvia Plath. So I threw the journal away and now I totally regret it because that would have been such good fodder for YA books.

I also threw away the teenage boy love letters that I received. I kept them for a really long time and finally, after I met Julio, I threw them away because what was I doing with these other guys' letters? And as smitten as I still am with Julio, I totally wish that I had kept them. Because RADIO STATIONS ARE FOR LOSERS is partially a love story and I am struggling to get the voice of my boy. Teenage boy voices are hard to get. First, it is difficult to capture the incessant mumbling thing, and second, it is even more difficult (for me, at least) to be able to portray the humor and self-deprecation of boys. (How in the world did "My So-Called Life" pull off Jordan Catalano so beautifully?)

And as much as I have kept Julio's cards and notes, they just aren't the same as a teenage boys. Which means that I will need to find some boy betas and do the big ASK to see if they will let me interview them (which is going to be awkward to say the least but what are you gonna do?).

This should be interesting...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Dance Central kicks butt over DDR...

So I'm writing...and revising. And it is closer than it was yesterday so that is all good. But whatever for that right now because first, I have to say how much I love Dance Central on the XBOX360 Kinect. For those of you who think it is like Dance Dance Revolution, I would argue that that is like saying the new Karate Kid is like the old one. Apples to oranges, my friends. (New Karate Kid is way better--obviously!)

Dance Central has a bunch of different music (everything from the Commadores to Salt N Peppa to Lady Gaga) so really, it is a game that everyone in my family can totally get behind. And the dance moves are great. Yeah, so it has been over 20 years since I've had to do a jazz square but still, I've learned more moves from three hours of playing this game than in 3 years of teaching aerobics (Yes, I taught aerobics, it was a great way to lose weight and make money--win/win as far as I am concerned). On New Years Eve, my friends and I spent over an hour breaking down the Cabbage Patch for the Dance Central version of "Bust A Move." You heard me, the CABBAGE PATCH...and we hadn't even been drinking that much.

So why is this relevant to writing? It's not really except to say that I have about 20 hours a week to write (if you don't include the evenings trying to write while Julio is watching a football game which tends not to be that productive). And if I didn't love writing so much, those 20 hours would be sucked up playing Dance Central. This game rules and I pretty much HATE all video games so you know that's saying something. For real, it's awesome because you are working out and learning how to dance in a million versions of fabulous!!! (yes, that's 3 exclamation points, ad friends!!!)

My friend Rebecca has a weird sense that RADIO STATIONS ARE FOR LOSERS will actually be picked up before GESTAPO. My response to that is: Not if I keep unlocking new songs on Dance Central!!!

I will endeavor to remain focused (or as focused as I can be with 3 small children) in completing my first draft of RSAFL. In the meantime, find me if you are looking for some Cabbage Patch pointers. And wish me luck!


What I'm reading: STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli--Yes, I have heard mention of this book but I just didn't know. I mean really, how did I miss this book when it came out? It is everything that I hope that RSAFL could be and I know that it won't (because there is just one Jerry Spinelli).

What Jojo just read: SCHOOL OF FEAR by Gitty Daneshvari. Jojo finished this in a morning so I am going to say that is a good reco from her. She was nervous about it at first because she can get freaked out by books (she didn't like THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY for that reason and that book was great) but she said SOF was really funny.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I like YA books...

So people have asked me many times why I want to write YA books. The implication behind this is of course, who do I think I am that I can write YA books? I am certainly more "A" than "Y" and despite my love of Glee and the slightly dated but still awesome My So-Called Life, I haven't been a teenager in 17 years. A lot can happen in 17 years. Believe me, no one is more aware of this than I am.

But if you want the quick answer, this is what I've got:

1. I love reading YA more than just about any other kind of book. Yes, I do read other kinds of books but really, most of the time, I finish these grown-up books with a "meh" and return to my YA books. They are faster-moving, spend less time with flowery description, and are almost always chock full of good drama that makes me chuckle. Most importantly, they make me so grateful to be PAST that time in my life.

2. No one ever questioned why John Hughes spent so much time in the YA world. The answer is obvious in every brat pack movie that he made. Teen drama is FUN!!!

3. I write well in this genre. I see scenarios on a page and can hear the teen voices in my head. I love YA dialogue. How frequently can you write a line like: "You are so uptight. Why don't you have another jello shot and try to remember that I've seen your birthmark?" in grown-up books? about never?

4. And finally, there is something about the YA time of life that is addicting. With the hormones and the freedom, it's like watching toddlers try to drive cars. I just can't help myself.

All that being said, I will stay writing in this genre for awhile. It is just too great to leave.


What I just read: THE D.U.F.F. (Designated.Ugly.Fat.Friend) by Kody Keplinger---I loved it for all the great shallowness. Kody was 17 when she wrote it and there is something about 17 year old writing that hits the nail on the head. I mean really "D.U.F.F."??? Awesome.

Jojo is still reading HP6 but we are making a library run today because "it's awesome but kind of heavy, Mom." Yeah, just a little bit.