Thursday, April 30, 2009

Body Image Week Follow-up

Body image is a term which may refer to a person's perception of their own physical appearance, or the internal sense of having a body which is interpreted by the brain. Essentially a person's body image is how they perceive their appearance to be to others, which in many cases may be dramatically different from how they actually appear to them. (From Wikipedia)

I told you I'd remind you!

Many people remarked on my post last Friday and I thank you all for your support. I also want to thank all of the wonderful authors who posted about their own body issues at My Favorite Author and on the book blogger sites, Presenting Lenore, In Bed with Books and The Story Siren. They were all inspiring posts to read - and of course, I love to read the comments! Sometimes those can be just as insightful and thought-provoking.

Now, how did I do? Well, I was very good about the whole weighing-every-day thing - I limited myself to just once (yowsa that was hard!) and I allowed myself to eat all the fruits and veggies I wanted (believe me, this is a tough thing to do when you fight the urge to be hungry and constantly deny yourself what your body wants). So that was a good thing.

It's still hard to look in the mirror and lord do I wish this challenge came during a week I did NOT have my period! All I could see was bloat! But again, I tried to see the bigger picture and actually look at myself and say, hey, those legs aren't so bad! To be totally truthful, I couldn't get any higher than my legs - and just barely to my thighs! There was no way I was going to look at my butt or stomach...maybe next time around. :)

And lastly, the compliments...I LOVE giving compliments - I pretty much do it all the time. Part of that is being a teacher and wanting my dancers to feel good about certain things they are doing so they know I am not always picking on them but also, I learned that habit from my mother who is always good at complimenting strangers.

Taking compliments? LOL! I didn't get any! I got a couple for my dancing which I usually do and I am always gracious and thankful for that but no one said anything to me about anything else. So...oh well. Again, maybe next time around!

Now how about YOU. (You look great in that color, btw, and I love how you've styled your hair.) How did your week go? Did you fight the urge to turn your head from the mirror when you got out of the shower? Did you admire the way your toes curl gently beneath your flip-flops? Did you offer or accept a compliment from a stranger?

Go on back to My Favorite Author and see how others did then enter to win some terrific books from some of today's popular YA authors!


Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome, Kay Cassidy!

I'm so happy to introduce you to author Kay Cassidy who is not only my doppelganger but also the creator of the Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, which I and a whole TON of other YA and MG authors are participating in. Her debut novel, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, will be out next April from Egmont USA. In the meantime, check out her website for more fun stuff.

First of all, a little about Kay:

2008 Golden Heart winner Kay Cassidy is the author of teen fiction she wishes was based on her real life. Kay is a former college cheerleader and sorority girl, an M.B.A. and a member of Mensa. She thinks it's comical when people are surprised to discover those things aren't mutually exclusive. Kay is a seasoned professional trainer and former leadership development specialist who enjoys teaching motivational workshops around the country. She is also the founder and host of The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, a national library outreach program that provides year-round free programming for teen and youth librarians. THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY is her first novel. Visit Kay on the web at

And now, some insight into the inner workings of Kay's mind:

Q: What made you decide to create The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest?

A: As a YA author and proud owner of a well-worn library card, I wanted to give something back to all the librarians whose book recommendations helped me grow as a writer and fed my imagination over th
e years. With the economy in turmoil, funding for public libraries is taking a major hit. School libraries are struggling as well. So I set out to create a totally free program that teen and youth librarians could use to keep kids excited about reading.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of trivia, scavenger hunts, mysteries... so The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest was a natural fit. I would’ve been all over this when I was younger. Trivia fans... unite!

Q: What exactly is The Hunt?

A: The Hunt is a brand-new, super easy, totally FREE library outreach program for teen and youth librarians. The program is open to librarians in the U.S. and Canada, in public libraries and school libraries alike. It offers year-round free programming that’ll keep readers coming back to the library for more.

Over 120 YA and middle grades authors have created a 10-question scavenger hunt (i.e. super fun trivia quiz) for one or more of their books. Scavenger hunts include questions like “What was the color of Moe’s hideous car?” or “What is Gemma’s favorite comfort food?” Every scavenger hunt also has a special note from the author to give it a personal touch.

Q: How does The Hunt work?

A: Once librarians register their library, their readers (called hunters) are eligible to participate. Hunters can check out the list of more than 200 titles in The Hunt, read the book of their choice, complete the scavenger hunt, and turn it in to their librarian. The librarian checks the answers against the quick answer key. If the hunter gets at least 8 out of 10 answers correct, the librarian can enter the hunter in the monthly contest. (NOTE: All scavenger hunts must be submitted to a participating librarian in order to be eligible for the contest. Participating librarians may enter hunters via the official contest entry form.)

Q: And thus, the prizes! What kinds of prizes do you have and how can people win?

A: Every month, I’ll choose one lucky hunter as the winner. The winning hunter will receive a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card (good in stores or online) to use for whatever their heart desires. Even better? When a hunter wins, the host library wins too… a library prize tote filled with more terrific scavenger hunt books for the library’s collection. It’s a win-win!

Q: Definitely a win! So, tell me more about your upcoming YA debut. When will hunters see a scavenger hunt for it in The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest?

A: My debut novel, The Cinderella Society, is the first in a new YA series. The series takes readers behind the veil of a secret society of extraordinary girls where ultimate life makeovers are the main attraction. Lifelong outsider Jess Parker thinks life on the inside is her ultimate fantasy until she discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It’s a battle of good vs. evil played out on the high school battlefield, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment. When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood… and herself.

The Cinderella Society will be an April 2010 release from Egmont USA with book two in the series to follow in Spring 2011. I’m very excited about sharing a scavenger hunt of my own in The Hunt. Come on, next April!

Kay wouldn't let me off the hook without asking me a few questions of my own, so now it's my turn:

Q: What made you take time out of your busy schedule to participate in The Hunt?

Me: I LOVE scavenger hunts! I used to make them up when I was a kid, hiding things and making my younger brother try to figure out where they were based on little clues. It's very Nancy Drew-ish to me (and I adored Nancy Drew!).

Q: How did you decide which books to create a scavenger hunt for?

Me: I chose both books, LOVE, MEG and ALL ABOUT VEE because it was too much fun to limit myself to only one. And I did have a terrific time, as I mentioned in an earlier post when Kay launched the contest. I was only supposed to do 10 questions for each but I could have done twice that easily! I hope readers have as much fun answering the questions as I did writing them.

Q: Do you think you would’ve wanted to be a hunter when you were younger?

Me: If there had been contests like this when I was a kid, you bet! I would have read even more books than I did.

If anyone has any questions for Kay about her books, her contest, or her wonderful self, please leave them in the comments section below and she'll stop by to answer them.

Thanks so much, Kay! I can't wait to read your book next spring!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Random or not....a personal tale of body image

By far, one of the most frequent questions I get from readers is "Why did you write ALL ABOUT VEE?" The answer I tell them is my standard how-I-got-the-idea anecdote: Not long after moving to LA, I saw a heavy young woman waiting to cross the street in Beverly Hills near all the talent and literary agencies and it occurred to me that she could be an actor on her way to an appointment and that made me wonder what it would be like to be larger in a city that values skinny above skill. And since I'm all about fish-out-of-water stories, I took that character and moved her from Arizona to LA just to freak her out and see what she'd do.

Kind of like me.

In truth, Veronica - or Vee - is nothing like me. I have none of the confidence or self-esteem that she has regarding her weight or her talent. She has a very deep well of support from her friends and family that she can go to when she needs a boost. None of that is present in my life nor has it ever been.

One of the reasons I wrote that book is that I have always had a problem with my weight. I have always thought of myself as a Fat Girl. In Connecticut. In Boston. In New York City. And especially in LA. It doesn't matter what the mirror reflects or what the numbers on the scale add up to. The number is never small enough. The size on my jeans is never small enough. I am never small enough.

On the internet, I troll the Fatosphere, a collection of blogs by men and women who espouse Fat Acceptance (FA) and Health at Every Size (HAES). I love these blogs! They're insightful and truthful and I find myself nodding in agreement whenever I read them. I heartily endorse the practices they proscribe. For others, though, not for me.

Why? Am I being hypocritical thinking like this?'s a bigger light to shine on the inner workings of Leigh's mind: I also regularly visit a blog called Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder, run by Dr. Stacey, a clinical psychologist in New York City. I don't lurk there - I post. Often. Because I am a woman with an ED. Anorexia if you haven't figured it out. And btw, thanks for not mentioning it. :)

FA - what Rebecca Rabinowitz and other experts promote - is Fat Acceptance. Rebecca read ALL ABOUT VEE recently and blogged about it. (See this link for the very interesting blog thread which answered many of my questions.) While VEE had a lot of great things going for it, FA was not one of them. This boggled my mind: I had a character who was big and who loved herself for being big and had friends and a boyfriend and was popular and talented and wasn't that promoting FA?

Well, no. Because Vee lost weight - not much but enough to negate the theme that it's okay to be large. I thought that's what I was saying in the book. By not having her diet or smoke or get lap band surgery, I assumed I was promoting FA and HAES. But Vee does lose weight when she takes up yoga.

In an earlier draft of the book, Vee's friend Ginny and Vee's love interest Malcolm react very negatively to her losing weight. Ginny thinks she's rejecting her and Malcolm just wants her to be exactly as she was forever and ever. Alas, those scenes were "trimmed" (hah!) from the book so the voices of readers who might have wondered if Vee losing weight was a cop-out were silenced. Perhaps if those characters and scenes had stayed, Rebecca Rabinowitz might have given me higher marks!

I will probably always be this way about myself and my weight. It's deeply ingrained in me, it's who I am and always have been. It infects all that I do and say and write about. But I won't stop trying to get better. And in the meantime, at least my characters have the courage I don't.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Body Image Week at My Favorite Author!

Today is Earth Day and what better way to honor Mother Earth than to take pride in all Her creatures - no matter what their size!

A new challenge - and it's a doozy! Kind of book-related, in that the challenge is at a book blogger site and the people posting are writers or readers of YA books, but really, it's about YOU! It's about how YOU feel about YOUR body. It's a challenge to be accepting about your body, to recognize the wonderful strengths it has and some of the odd and funny quirks we all share.

Come on, we're human, after all! We have weird and wonderful bodies, especially us women.

Over at My Favorite Author - which is a YA book blog for adult readers (yes, that's a lot of us who feel a little, um, awkward about hanging out at the teen blogs) - the challenge has been issued. Go over and check it out: a week-long attempt to be more conscious of how we view our bodies, and to question why we do and say things we do about ourselves, why we don't honor our beautiful selves like we should. And a whole slew of great writers willing to talk about it all - including me here later this week. (I joined the party at the last minute so I'm not official.)

Then at the end of the week, check back in (I'll remind you, don't worry!) and see how you and others fared during the week. Did you give yourself a break when you had to try on that swimsuit? Did you say thank you when someone complimented your smile? Did you offer another person a compliment? You'll have a chance to win FREE BOOKS too!

We've got to be good and kind to ourselves: it's the cheapest therapy out there.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Celebrity Sighting - Sort of...

When is a celebrity sighting NOT a celebrity sighting?

When you've both been invited to an event. Over the weekend I attended a party at the private home (can't say where) of a friend (can't say who). HH and I were thrilled to celebrate the launch of her new book and we were having a good time snacking and cocktailing and chatting up the guests when all of a sudden, HH leans over to me and whispers, "Oh, Conan's here."

As in Conan O'Brien, the late night guy who's about to take over Jay Leno's spot on NBC.

I love how HH told me this, like Conan was a friend of ours and HH was informing me of his arrival or he was someone we'd heard would be there.

Ha! Like no. This was a private gathering! Celebrity stalking would be the uncoolest thing in the universe. He was there to celebrate too. He wasn't there to crack jokes or be the center of attention and despite how tall he appears on television, he was not the tallest man at the party. He's kind of hard to miss when he's in a room: the red hair really stands out and tales of his pale skin have not been exaggerated. But he was low-key, mingling on the outside of the groups, completely unassuming, and pretty much everyone there kept their distance.

We spent the rest of our time there talking to our hosts and admiring their gorgeous house and enjoying the fantastic snacks they had.

"See?" I told HH as we sipped our drinks and wandered around the yard. "This is how you mix with celebs."

"But we're ignoring him."


Friday, April 17, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Thoughts on my VC Andrews Challenge Progress*

* contains spoilers

My Sweet Audrina is unusual in that it's a stand-alone title from the VCA canon. No sequels or prequels; all the long-winded exposition occurs in this single book. The opening is quite a teaser: seven year old Audrina has no idea what day it is, how old she is, or even what time it is. This is the fascinating tidbit that carried me through to the end of the book, despite the thread being completely ignored after the first quarter of the story. She lives in a giant mansion with her gorgeous mother, gorgeouser father, evil aunt and eviller cousin. Damian Adare works in a stock brokerage while his wife sits at home in transparent peignoirs reading romance novels and eating bonbons. Truly. Aunt Ellspeth, who was shamed by having a child out-of-wedlock which is a major no-no in VCA Land, is treated like a servant in exchange for room and board for herself and her 12 year old daughter Vera who is being raised as Audrina's sister although they are actually first cousins (not!).

Audrina, she is told repeatedly, is not the First and Best Audrina. That young girl perished at the age of 9 after being raped and killed in the woods by three horrible boys. As a consequence, the Second and Lesser Audrina is scared of sex. So let's examine some of the more heinous sexual issues in this book, shall we?

1. Arden Lowe, Audrina's future husband and who is eventually revealed to have taken part in the humiliation of the First Audrina, falls in love with 7 year old Audrina while he himself is 12. Um, ew!! Even when we find out that the Second Audrina is actually the First Audrina, that makes her 9 when she re-meets him. Nine? Why is a 12 year old having sexual feelings for a 9 year old? And vice versa? Ew!!

2. On their wedding night, Arden badgers Audrina into having sex with him, to the point of breaking down the bathroom door and later, nearly raping her. This is love? This is the man we WANT Audrina to be with?

3. In keeping with VCA tradition, Audrina watches her cousin/half-sister Vera have sex with her piano teacher. It is rough sex, more violence perpetrated by men against women in the name of "love" and serves to promote the idea in Audrina's mind - and VCA's young female readers - that men are supposed to inflict pain upon the women they care about.

4. After seeing Arden's mother Billie (legless Billie in VCA Land) in her father's bed, Audrina immediately blames Billie for the transgression, even though later she admits that she shouldn't have, that she should be angry with her father for getting another lonely woman in his bed. In response, Billie begs Audrina's forgiveness and, saddest of all, tells her that if she can have even the tiniest amount of affection - not love - from Audrina's father, she will have lived her life to its fullest, regardless of how badly he treats her otherwise.

Lord help the girls who read VCA as instructional in regards to sex. These books will have spawned an entirely new generation of women who think men bashing them around means they love them. Great.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3 + 1 = 4 Movies To Get Excited About!

What happens when you take 3 awesome theatrical releases plus 1 stupendous DVD release? You get 4 sci-fi/fantasy movies to drool over!

1. X-Men: Origins - have you seen the promos for this yet? Have you seen Hugh Jackman's ripped chest and bulging biceps? Not to mention that Wolverine is simply the most compelling of all the X-Men characters. This is one sequel/prequel I suspect will surpass the originals.

2. Star Trek - yeah, yeah, yeah, another prequel, this time concerning Kirk and Spock and their buds from the Enterprise. Normally, I wouldn't get super-duper thrilled about a new Trek flick. They're hit or miss, frankly, although I watch them all. (Duh, of course.) But this one comes from JJ Abrams, whose work I really admire. I know, I've heard complaints that his style is cold but I disagree. He brought us "Felicity", remember?

3. Let The Right One In - okay, this is a remake and the original was SO good, it's painful to think that someone would remake it. However, Matt Reeves (who did Cloverfield which I loved and thought was underrated) is going to return to the source material, a novel by John Lindqvist, and that apparently differs from the original film. So we'll get another interpretation of this amazing vampire romance/bildungsroman.

4. Caprica - a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, the best sf show on television even if it has ended. This is a straight-to-DVD film about the planet Caprica about 50 years before the events that preciptated the BSG series. Early Cylon technology, an amoral planet, rise of monotheism...excellent stuff! And then next year, the series will start!

I just realized these films are all either prequels or weird is that? Normally I'm skeptical about movies that could be considered rehashes of better originals but in these cases, I think the filmmakers and writers are doing some really unique things.

At least I hope so!

Monday, April 13, 2009

4 Sources of Writing Inspiration

1. Museums, specifically the Los Angeles County Museum of Art here on Wilshire Blvd in LA. Sprawling grounds are perfect to contemplate the shape of clouds (it's a puppy! a puppy playing! a puppy throwing up in a shoe!) while the exhibits inside give me a peek inside the working minds of creative and clever artists. I always leave with my mouth slightly agape, wondering how I can do the literary equivalent.

2. Other writers. I'm not the sort who reads a book or watches a movie and thinks, Pfft, that was crap, I can do better. I don't aspire to write "better than crap." I aspire to write "great." Or "amazing." Or "moving." Whether it's a classic by Ray Bradbury or John Steinbeck or Edith Wharton or something by a debut author, I love to be inspired to push myself deeper and the best writers do this to me.

3. Movies based on books. Taren at Chick Manifesto recently posted about this, along with some thought-provoking responses from readers. While I do honestly believe books and the movies based upon them are two entirely separate beings, I do find inspiration in the movie versions. Sometimes a screenwriter and director team can streamline a complicated novel (e.g. "Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien) into something much more manageable and, in the end, understandable. I have tried many times to read LOTR and have gotten bogged down and confused but knowing that it can become the Peter Jackson movie makes me continue to try and to respect the book as I might not have before.

4. Ballet class. As you can tell from the above, I often find inspiration for writing in distinctly non-writing sources. Ballet is a physical art form, the movements codified, and yet new and different combinations are devised all the time, making the idiom more flexible than you might think. We all use the English language, yes? But you put the words in a different order than I might and your result is wildly dissimilar from mine. Not to mention the endorphins that are released during physical activity, which makes me feel really positive about my creative endeavors: never underestimate the power of positive thinking when it comes to writing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Deep Thoughts

1. You should never have more "friends" than books on Goodreads.

2. If more people treated each other like love letters instead of spam, the world would be a happier place.

3. If you want success, learn from American Idol: the best contestants are the ones who did a lot of hard work before they stepped on-stage. They were prepared for their big shot at stardom.

4. You can't pick up every piece of paper on the planet but you can pick up your paper.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Great Scavenger Hunt!

Kay Cassidy, the author of the upcoming THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, is hosting Scavenger Hunts in connection with libraries all across America! She asked over 120 YA authors (including yours truly!) to come up with a list of 10 questions for their books, the answers to which readers could only discover by reading the books themselves. Hunters then enter contests at their participating libraries with the answers to win prizes.

This was SUCH a cool idea! I had a blast picking the questions for my books; in fact, it was so much fun, I didn't want to stop. I could have come up with 20 or more questions for ALL ABOUT VEE and LOVE, MEG.

Here's more about the Scavenger Hunt.

When Kay and I met online, we found out we have a lot in common, including the fact that we were both cheerleaders in high school! Check out her website for great fun stuff and to learn all about her debut novel, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

4 Underrated Animated Films

I never realized I was such a fan of animation until someone asked me recently to name some of my favorite movies and I said "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Spirited Away" and "Lilo and Stitch" and "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc." and then I was all...hey, I guess I really do love big-screen cartoons.

Those are all very well-known films so here are a few you may not have seen or have forgotten about. If so, put them on your queue

1. Meet the Robinsons - based on a novel by William Joyce, it's the story of a boy in an orphanage waiting to be adopted who is whisked to the future where he meets his family. He uses the time machine to go back to the day when his mother leaves him on the doorstep of the orphanage, intending to confront her. This was such a sweet film with some unexpected emotional moments. I think the movie got lost in the shuffle but it's worth a rental.

2. Iron Giant - with the voices of Vin Diesel and Jennifer Aniston and directed by Brad Bird who did the more successful The Incredibles. This was also based on a novel by Ted Hughes (sense a pattern with the best films?) and is the story of a boy who finds an alien who has fallen to earth. The boy teaches him about Superman, another alien who comes to earth and who champions humans. Like Superman, the Giant eventually sacrifices himself to save the boy and his town. I loved this movie when it came out although it was not a commercial success. Bird's later work was more popular but I think this movie has more heart than The Incredibles and the 2-D animation is gorgeous.

3. Kung Fu Panda - an amazing voice cast, rollicking storyline, with terrific action sequences and beautiful animation. I think this film got lost last year when Wall-E came out. As much as I loved Wall-E (it made me cry) I believe this movie has more replay value. The 2-D dream sequences are graphic-novel quality and the camerawork on the 3-D stuff is simply amazing. And yes, the story is incredibly cute with not one scene that lags. Rent it.

4. The Animatrix - a collection of short animated films that take place in world of The Matrix. Each gives us a little more insight into the strange Matrix universe with a different director and different set of characters and with a completely unique style of animation. Beautiful and quirky.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

4 Princess and the Pea moments*

1. One of my iPod earbuds has lost its little spongy cover so it won't fit into my ear properly which is seriously aggravating. Only one, though, so that means the other one does fit, which is somehow even more irritating.

2. I asked HH to check something for me on my Google Analytics page and he clicked on something that removed/deleted/destroyed a chart I used to like. Now I can't get it back no matter what I try.

3. My upstairs neighbor, who is a filmmaker, is getting ready to start a new project which means he - and his actors - pound across the floor - and my head - from morning until night every single day. Plus I've heard the script so many times, I could act the roles myself.

4. Time is passing much too quickly without my accomplishing what I need/want/must do. This is unbelievably vexing.

* The story of the Princess and the Pea was one of my favorites when I was a kid. A young woman shows up at a castle one rainy night , looking for a place to stay and claiming to be a princess. To test this, the Queen puts a pea underneath fifty mattresses; if she can feel it, she is indeed a princess. The woman complains the next morning that she couldn't sleep well because of something in her bed, thus proving that she's a real princess. She marries the prince and they live happily ever after. When HH and I become increasingly annoyed by small things, we say we are feeling "very princess and the pea."