Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My bookish experiment

Sequels, sequels, producers love them, publishers love them, and if you've written them properly, the audience will love them too.

When I wrote ALL ABOUT VEE originally, it was 800 pages long and had the title, FAT GIRLS IN LA. The story was about all three Vees: Veronica, Virginia and Valeria. They all came to LA and they all had different professions/dreams/desires. When the book was purchased, however, the publisher only wanted one Vee so it became Veronica's story.

Although I was disappointed, I had always planned to write the stories of the other two girls and publish them as sequels to the first book. Alas, my publisher and I parted ways and I didn't get the chance to do that.

Until now.

The first of the two sequels is called THE RISE OF GINNY COOPER. I consider it book two of the Fat Girls in LA trilogy. It tells the story of Virginia Cooper, one of the Vees from Arizona, who comes to LA to live with her best friend Veronica May. Ginny is a writer, also plus-sized like Veronica, who has dreams of seeing her work on the big screen. She also dreams of finally having a boyfriend.

I am riding the wave of the future: digital. And I am publishing it online - for free - for everyone. As part of the experiment portion of the plan, I am releasing it in four sections during the month of January on The Story Siren's website.

Kristi, the Story Siren, is a fantastic YA blogger and book reviewer whose site has influenced many, many readers and bloggers. I chose her because I like her optimism, her constantly changing content, and her love of books. I was thrilled when she agreed to do this! Beginning Monday, January 4th and continuing for every Monday in January, Kristi will release a section of the book in a pdf file, which is free to everyone who wishes to download it. She alone will have exclusive access to the new book, which means you - the reader - will too.

How cool is that? After the book has been released completely, I will publish it on Scribd, perhaps, or for Kindle. I'm not sure about that yet. For now, I just want to see it in the hands of readers online. I am so excited about getting this story out to people!

And, as a bonus for this experiment, Kristi will be holding a contest to give away a signed copy of ALL ABOUT VEE to a lucky reader. So if you don't have your own copy or you haven't read it yet, be sure to enter the contest! But not to worry, you don't need to read the first book in order to understand the second one. It's not that kind of sequel.

Okay, everyone ready? Let the experiment begin!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Non-traditions, non-celebrations

Merry Christmas morning...I was up late watching two completely non-traditional movies, "Star Trek" and "Tommy." I hadn't seen the latter since I was a kid when I thought it was compelling and disturbing. I wanted to see if it still was compelling and disturbing. It is. And best of all, it holds up as a very stylized rock opera; it doesn't feel dated at all. Except for Roger Daltrey's hair.

And this morning, I slept late. Now, with coffee in hand and computer on, it feels like a normal morning for me. Mo and I didn't decorate at all, didn't send cards other than an e-card, and didn't go out with friends or family, as we might have in the past. So yeah, it really feels like a typical Friday morning, except I won't be teaching today.

For Mo, the holidays really mean nothing. He doesn't consider himself religious at all and is often disdainful of people who are. He is as zealous in his anti-religion as some fundamentalists are. For me, I wanted to keep a very low profile this year. The economy has really affected most of my daily living so there isn't a lot left over for extra things, like a tree or cards or gifts. So when it looked like Mo and I wouldn't be doing anything special this year, I welcomed it with monk-like stoicism and frugality. We would be cheerful without going into debt!

But I have to admit, I miss some of the traditions of the past: the exchanging of gifts with family, the mass on Christmas Eve, decorating a tree and wrapping presents. When we lived in NYC, Mo and I used to go out for sushi on Christmas Eve before we went to visit his family or mine on Christmas Day. It was a tradition we carried over to LA until last night; without much else going on, holiday-wise, we simply brought in Chinese food and watched movies.

And that was nice, pleasant even, but a little...meh. I think next year I will bring back some of the things we used to do. Hopefully the economy and my personal situation will allow me to spend a little more. Even monks celebrate something, don't they?

Happy Christmas to all~

Monday, December 21, 2009

On a winter morning

Why writers take rejection so personally

I'm a lot better with rejections than I used to be. Honestly. I used to moan for days, stop whatever I was doing for a big chunk of time and constantly ask my husband, "Why me?"

But I've been in this writing thing long enough to know that it's not me. Oh, it may be me but it's not just me. It happens to everyone - and I do mean everyone. I know lots and lots of writers who go through the same thing. And these are writers whom I consider successful.

Even though I know this, rejection is still painful. It still stings to hear "no" or to read a negative review. It still sucks when something you believe in doesn't sell. And even though I'm better than I used to be, I still take it personally. I try to "be professional," approach my writing like a business, but when editors or agents write rejections that include the word "love," how can you be totally objective?

A common rejection from an editor or agent will be that he or she "didn't fall in love" with the material. Of course you want to elicit emotion from a reader when you write a book but what do you do when you hear that the person who is in a position to buy or represent your work says they didn't "love" it? When you go on a job interview and don't get the job, does the HR person tell you they "didn't fall in love with you"?

It's hard to overcome those words. They haunt every writer who receives a rejection.

Didn't fall in love with it.

Of course we take it personally. Love is a very personal thing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I was on the radio!

Yesterday, Barry Eva, aka "Storyheart," interviewed me - I use that word loosely, since it was more like two friends chatting about books and stuff - on his show, "A Book and a Chat" on Blog Talk Radio. The cool thing about the show is that it's archived! Unlike regular radio which is only available in the moment, Blog Radio is available 24/7.

Barry was a great interviewer - he really did his homework! Checking out my website and blog and Wikipedia page (yes, I have a page on Wikipedia!) and bringing up all sorts of things from my past you wouldn't normally expect to discuss on a show about books. He was so much fun - and that British accent is so charming! The time just flew by!

If you have a moment, I hope you'll click over to the show here, and give a listen while you're surfing the web.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Book and a Chat with Storyheart!

On Thursday, December 17th at 6:30PM eastern/3:30PM pacific, I'll be on the radio! Chatting with Barry Eva, aka Storyheart, a very charming and cheerful writer who hosts literary chats on Blog Talk Radio on his show, "A Book and a Chat."

Check out his chat archives here.

And check out his blog here.

I love listening to Barry's chats whether he's talking with nonfiction writers, YA fiction writers or adult fiction writers. He always knows just what to ask to get his subject talking. Maybe it's because he's a writer too and knows how hard it is for writers to talk about themselves (it's so much easier to talk about your characters - they're usually far more interesting!). Plus his British accent makes everything and everyone sound so much more pleasant!

So, on December 17th at 6:30PM/3:30PM, if you're sitting at your computer and want to listen in, tune in your e-radio dial to Blog Talk Radio's "A Book and a Chat" and hear Barry and me chatting about...books! He might be drinking tea but I'm sure I'll be having a cup of coffee.

As they say - across the pond - cheers!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guest review at The Page Flipper!

Chelsea at The Page Flipper - an awesome blog wherein Chelsea discusses all things book, writing and occasionally movie related - has begun a new feature: the Author Reviews.

This is an opportunity for authors to write reviews of their recent reads, favorite reads, or simply books that influenced them in some way. I am the first one! Ta-da!

One of my most recent and favorite books is by Janice Erlbaum, "Have You Found Her," a memoir of her experiences working with a teen runaway. It blew me away. Check out my review over at The Page Flipper today and I'll bet you'll want to read it too.

Janice, btw, was the very first author I wrote a fan letter to. As soon as I finished the book, I ran to my computer to look her up. I felt like such a fangirl!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Putting a positive spin on things

1. Headaches can be productive:

I had a migraine this week which reminded me that my current novel on submission began with my migraines. I have suffered from them since I was a teenager and whenever I get one, I feel like I'm outside my body, as if I'm not me anymore. Naturally, that feeling evolved into my present book, SHIFT.

How awesome will it be to tell people who ask about the book's genesis that it started with a massive headache?

2. Deadlines can be fun:

I have 6 knitting projects that I want to complete and send to the east coast before the end of the year. Slippers and leg warmers, oh my! One of my very favorite things to do after teaching several hours of classes is to get out the knitting. So relaxing especially when it's for someone else.

3. Spending all your time on the internet can be profitable:

I am currently writing a novel whose main characters are constantly updating their statuses, playing games online, chatting with friends electronically, etc. I would never have been able to get the job and write the book if it weren't for my own obsession with Facebook and email.

4. Not being wealthy can have its advantages:

I know people who want to be my friend are not looking for celebrity or connections, since I have none. And no one is after me for money, that's for sure. If I hit a tree with my car at 2 in the morning, I'm fairly certain the police, press and paparazzi won't hound me for details.

Be thankful for small things.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More about Plus-Size Teen Fiction

Here's a nice little article at by Francine Morissette about Plus Size Teen Fiction and looky there, ALL ABOUT VEE is mentioned.

Check it out. A great list of books to be among.

Thanks for the mention, Francine!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fat and skinny writing

I write fat.

I'm not talking about my plus-size heroine, Veronica May, in ALL ABOUT VEE. I'm referring to my style of writing. My first drafts are huge, monstrous things, with all sorts of conversations between characters I never imagined, scenes that don't belong, and long paths taken where a short one should exist.

Most people who write "fat" are not working from outlines. They are usually working from a basic idea and trying to find the story and flesh out the characters in the process. Then they go back and cull the story from the chaff. Beautiful moments can be discovered this way, when you allow yourself to go places you hadn't intended.

Outlines, otoh, especially editor-approved detailed outlines, should keep you on track - and skinny. And by skinny I mean efficient, lean, with very little excess baggage. Outline writing is usually quite tight and serves you well when you're on deadline.

But not me. I do both. I have a detailed outline and then I write and write and write, discovering backstories and relationships and themes as I go. First drafts end up at least an extra 15% of where they need to be which is fine because I am also a ruthless rewriter. I have no trouble cutting when necessary. I very rarely fall in love with my babies.

I would love to write skinny but I don't know how to do that.

How about you? Are you an ectomorphic writer or an endomorphic writer?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The lure of leftovers

If you don't know me, you will probably think I sound strange and if you do know me, well, you'll probably think I'm a lot stranger than you already do.

I hate having food in the house.

Weird, huh?

I also hate furniture.Okay, see, I have this fear of settling down, of staying in one place too long, of not being able to pack up and leave at a moment's notice. Buying furniture - and painting the walls and putting up pictures and decorations and generally making an apartment more comfortable and personal - means you're stuck. You can't put all of your important belongings in the car and drive off.

I know, I know. I've been in this same apartment, same town, for ten years (10, oh my god) and it doesn't look like I'm about to leave any minute.

But I could. I can. I can leave what's here and start new somewhere else. I can put my husband and my ballet slippers and my laptop in the back of the car and just go. Well, maybe Mo doesn't go all the way in the back.


What exactly does this have to do with food and my distaste for having it in the house? You're probably asking yourself. And then quickly following that with, "man, Leigh is seriously deranged."

How could I just leave - or go away for the weekend or shake up my world - if there is food here? It means I can't do what I want when I want or the way I want. Food in the house, like furniture, requires me to make plans and decide where I'll be for a while. Most of the time, I do like plans and I do enjoy a routine but I like the feeling that I don't have to if I choose not to. In other words, I want to choose to be routine, not feel forced to have one.

Is that so strange?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Is it already Thanksgiving?

Oh my...where has the time gone? This means we're just a month away from Christmas, and while that doesn't really mean a lot to me since I will continue to write and teach throughout the New Year without much of a break, I know the "holidays" and its attendant "spirit" will soon be in the air.

You know what I'm talking about: big sales!

Tomorrow, Black Friday, marks the official start of the shopping season and though I hadn't intended to be part of it, my Mom and Dad apparently had so that's what we will be doing at least some point during the day. Mo with Dad at Costco, cuz that's manly shopping, and me with Mom at (hopefully) some non-mall discount stores.

I already have a headache just thinking about it.

I will probably sound anti-American (and supremely non-thankful) but I hate consumerism with a passion. I hate the accumulation of material things. I hate the idolization of acquisition. I don't want to own things. I don't want to covet my neighbor's new car. I don't want to feel like less of a person because I don't have a house, a boat, a giant television set, or a closet full of designer clothes.

I don't begrudge other people the right to purchase whatever their heart desires but I do hate the media and big business for exploiting and encouraging it above real values, values of friendship and family and honor and honesty. It's almost as if - could it be true? - that corporate America doesn't want its citizens to live fully, to make choices based on need rather than want. Especially during the current economy! It's unconscionable to foist false dreams on the American public.

Recently I watched the movie "Food Inc." which is an excellent documentary about where our food really comes from in this country. The section on cows and E. coli included discussion about how the potentially deadly bacteria gets into our food. Eric Schlosser, who wrote the book Fast Food Nation on which the doc was based, said that cows could easily be rid of 80% of their E. coli if they are taken off a corn diet and fed grass, as is their natural evolutionary wont, for 5 days.

Rather than take this "natural" step, the beef industry chose instead to create an additional, even more unnatural step of washing the meat in an ammonia bath. In other words, rather than move in a more positive and humane direction, the industry took drastic steps to maintain the status quo.

Apply this to our economic situation: big business is not seeking new solutions to old problems but is desperate for ways to continue doing things the way they always did. It continues to push consumerism on us - it's merely seeking new ways to cut costs so that we can more readily afford what it's selling. Close US industries, open factories in Guam or some other small island nation where the employees can be exploited, keep costs down - but sell, sell, sell and earn even more profits for its shareholders.

This isn't real change. This isn't helping the American economy. This isn't giving families what they truly need. On this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for being allowed to speak my mind, thankful I have good friends and family and a loving husband, thankful I'm able to live in an apartment and buy healthy food. It's what I wish for all people in this country.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Moon thoughts

No, I haven't seen the movie yet and likely won't until it comes out on video. I did see Twilight and laughed so hard I thought my spleen would explode. I have heard this is better - better script and director, better SF/X - but I just can't bring myself to do it. I even know 2 people connected to the film (Rachelle Lafevre who plays Victoria is a former neighbor; one of the editors is a dancer in a class I take) and I wish them all the success in the world. I hope every Titanic-loving tween girl attends three times and puts money in the pockets of all the people who made the movie. Uh-uh. I appreciate the storytelling in the books - they were absolute pageturners a la Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" - Uh-uh. I read all the books, okay? Don't make me see the movies too.

HH is going to see it. With a male friend of his. Without me. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday breaks

Over at the fab blog, YA Fresh, a whole slew of amazing YA writers weigh in on their plans for the holidays, specifically whether or not they will get any writing done. Some, like Tina Ferraro and Melissa Walker, use the time to take a break from their work to enjoy some relaxation with family and loved ones or just catch up on reading. Others, like Stephanie Kuehnert and Heather Davis, say they will continue to write, either out of habit or simply because they don't have a house full of relatives visiting!

This made me think about the importance of daily writing in my life. As it is with dancing, I think I physically and mentally suffer when I'm not writing every day. For the past six weeks, for instance, I haven't been writing anything - only outlining - and it was brutal. I felt crabby and anxious and just plain out of sorts.

Now I'm at the start of a new book and it's - fitful - heaven. I'm excited to get to my computer every day, excited to think about words or phrases or scenes I will use. It's fitful, though, because I have to ramp up my speed. I normally write between 2k and 2.5k a day when I'm in the throes of a book but I have to get there! I can't jump in at that pace.

So, while I will take a very short break over Thanksgiving when my parents are in town, I won't over the Christmas holidays. I will keep working, keep writing, keep dancing every day. Maybe dancers and writers are strictly creatures of habit and that's the only reason we get anything accomplished!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday the 13th

Things I Used to Be Afraid Of

1. Spontaneous combustion - not just the sudden conflagration of a pile of newspapers in the closet but of my own body. As a kid of maybe 8 years old, I was seriously worried I might spontaneously burst into flames. I must have seen this on an episode of "Wonder Woman" or "Six Million Dollar Man."

2. Getting stuck in purgatory - I was a good Catholic kid so naturally I was concerned I would go to Hell if I was bad (forget about Santa not giving me presents, I feared the Devil). Worse was learning about purgatory or limbo. To assuage my worries, my mother assured me that would not happen to me since I had been baptized. So naturally, I became worried for all of those babies who had not been baptized.

3. Botulism - in the 70s there were some outbreaks of botulism linked to canned mushrooms which marked my psyche forever. To this day, I still examine every centimeter of a can of anything and refuse to purchase or use a can that has even the slightest indentation. So technically, this is one thing I am still afraid of.

4. Dolls coming to life - not to terrorize me a la "Chucky," nor for adventures a la "Toy Story," but to chastise me for not taking them into bed with me. For this reason, I would tuck all of my stuffed animals and dolls under the covers each night and make sure that they each had a turn to be next to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rachel Olivier's new e-novella!

"The Holly and the Ivan" (Drollerie Press) is a delightful holiday story with elements of magic woven into the romance and mystery. Rachel Olivier is a master at using just the right word. Every sentence feels chosen, not merely written. She makes me want to tether myself to a thesaurus!

Holly is a pretty barista cum girl band singer who meets 2 very different men in her coffee shop and invites both to be VIPs at her concert that evening. Mike is blond and cheerful while Ivan is dark and brooding. She feels sparks with both men and wonders how she got so lucky to meet two cute guys in one night. Her friends and bandmates remind her that she hasn't been so lucky in love lately - in a word, her love life is a train wreck!

Mike and Ivan, however, are not who they appear to be, as we soon learn. Ivan is following Mike and trying to save Holly for reasons that are known only to him. Holly, unfortunately, learns the hard way - yowch! First, however, there's a charity performance of Holly's band, Canto Sybilla, where the showdown between the men occurs - where dark meets light and Holly is the casualty. Will she survive to meet either man and if so, will it be her choice?

I love how Rachel Olivier adds touches of fantasy to our everyday, mundane lives: the bottomless pocket that holds the right change for a tip - or a gorgeous silken dress! A magical blessing over a crowd that makes the night more special for everyone that the real reason we have such a great time at rock concerts?

(You mean it's not the contact high?)

I often find fantasy cold and suffering from pretension. Too many characters have weird names. The dialogue is often stiff and faux Olde English, the prose overwrought and overwritten, the plot convoluted. But Rachel's stories are immensely entertaining and readable and I enjoy them as much as I enjoy stories from the best urban fantasy writers like Emma Bull, Melissa Marr and Holly Black (well, those are my favorites!).

For just a couple bucks, you too can delight in Rachel's story. Check out the link here to Drollerie Press and download a copy for yourself. And ignore the "erotica" tag. This story is pure romance.

This was a new experience for me, reading an e-novella. I don't have an e-reader so I had to download the novella to my desktop as a pdf file. Fortunately, my computer is a tiny notebook so it was quite comfortable to read while laying down. The graphic design was beautiful, the font easy-to-read and unlike a real book, it was simple to make the typeface larger or brighter as the sun faded and I had less light to read by.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big bargains on all things LEIGH-related at Amazon!

Another big sale at Amazon: LOVE, MEG hardcover for less than 5 bucks! Wowsa!

Check it out here.

And ALL ABOUT VEE still has a separate bargain price: less than 4 dollaroonies, yo.

Here's the VEE link.

I wonder if I should take these markdowns personally. Don't you like my books, Amazon gods?

So get a jump start on your holiday shopping. Tell your friends. Buy a copy for your school or library. Add it to your Amazon cart and be sure to get the free shipping!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The winner is...


Yay, Miss Page Flipper! Congrats on scoring a signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG from the In Bed With Books' contest. Just in time for the holidays - I'll sign to you or someone else if you want to give it to a friend.

Ah, I love giving things away. If only I could give away some of the chocolate-frosted Devil's Food cupcakes I made yesterday so they're not tempting me with their devilish-chocolate-y scent...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A total bargain!

Ever want a copy of my book, ALL ABOUT VEE, but you said to yourself, "Aw that's too much money. I want to pay much less!"

Well, now you can! For a limited time only, ALL ABOUT VEE is less than 4 bucks at Amazon! Just click over to this link and you'll find the bargain paperback.

I have no idea why it's being sold for such a low price, but I say, take it while you can get it! Cheap is good...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hidden costs of freelancing

When you decide to work for yourself, create your own business, live life on your own terms, there are certain costs involved. For one thing, you have to pay yourself. You have to pay your own taxes - no withholding or worker's comp taken out each week by an employer. You have to pay for your health insurance (yowch!), office supplies, electric bills, computer costs, etc. No more paid holidays or sick time or vacation.

But you know all of that. After all, you're smart enough to be working for yourself, not THE MAN. If you're starting a new business, you've probably saved up some money to live on while the business builds and you've budgeted rent and food and Netflix too so you're good to go.

Wait. Did you know about some of these other costs?

1. Coffee - my former employer had a well-stocked break room which included all manner of coffees, teas and hot chocolates. There were plenty of bottles of name-brand spring water too, plus the occasional treat someone would bring in or the company (in its flush years) would provide. On your own, YOU supply the break room. And it can't be a trip to Starbucks every morning either or you will quickly go broke.

2. TP - you're in an office environment for 8-10 hours per day. You're gonna use the bathroom. That's toilet paper, paper towels, and soap five days a week, fifty weeks a year. Now YOU have to provide the bathroom supplies. And the more time you spend in there, the more you have to clean the sink and floor and wash towels. That's added expense too unless you have a cleaning person and since you're on a budget, I'm thinking NOT.

3. Gas - when I worked in Burbank, I would park my car in the company garage for free and walk to do all my errands at lunch, thus saving gas and time that would have been spent after work. Now I have to drive to the bank, drive to the pharmacy, drive to the doctor, rather than walking. So that's gas I must use and parking I must pay for.

4. Birthday lunches, holiday parties, special occasions - without co-workers and an employer, YOU are paying for your own birthday lunches and YOU are spending your precious money to have a party at the holidays. No, it's not a big deal and honestly, who needs to see the guys from accounting wasted and Xeroxing their naked butts in the copy room? But these are social opportunities you could use to blow off steam or vent about the new memo policy...then again, you're working for yourself so you shouldn't need this!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Countdown to Halloween

1. Skeleton earrings dug out of the jewelry drawer? Check.

2. Scary movies in the DVD player? Check. Bring on "The Thing," "Dawn of the Dead," and "Shaun of the Dead" (okay, that last one is more funny than scary but it's an instant classic).

3. Camera charged to take pics at the Halloween Carnaval? Check.

4. Hidden bag of candy just in case we get any trick-or-treaters? Check. Got the kind HH likes because, realistically, he's the one who will eat it but if it were for me, this is what I'd pick:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Close calls: Jobs I've Applied For in a Past Life

I wasn't always this cool YA novelist/ballet instructor. It took years to get to this place. Along the way, I've had job lulls, frustrations, and depressions. And many, many times, I've felt desperate for a change. You know the feeling: I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS PLACE! NOW!!

And whenever I felt that way, I looked for a new job. Here are a few I thought would be perfect matches for my particular qualifications:

1. Barbie Publishing marketing executive - why not? I knew marketing from the engineering firms I had worked for and this HAD to be similar, right? And I loved Barbie dolls as a kid, even though I knew they were aspirational and women didn't look like that in real life. I especially liked Barbie's shoes and coordinating purses. Plus I always wanted a giant Barbie head that I could make up and whose hair I could style. If I worked for the company, they would probably give me one!

2. Stockbroker - yet another ideal match for me! Forget the fact that I was miserable in math class, had never taken statistics, and could care less about making money for other people. It was good pay and in a big (well, bigger) city and all the offices had glass walls. How cool was that? Actually, I was in a post-grad haze when I believed my awesome grades and Phi Beta Kappa key would get me anywhere I wanted to be. How glad am I that I didn't get to a second interview for this job?

3. Arthur Murray dance instructor - I could dance. I could teach. I was personable. But there was one thing I was missing: a certain piece of anatomy that people of my gender did not possess. Why? Women come to Arthur Murray to learn to dance. They don't want to partner with a woman. They want to partner with a man. Therefore, men were the preferred instructors. I suppose this might be different now, when more people of both sexes are coming to ballroom classes to learn, or they're coming in with partners, but back when I was young enough to think I could do anything, it was just single women.

4. FBI agent - oh yeah. Me. Working for the feds. Ha! I got as far as a phone interview which was cut short when I admitted to, ahem, drug experimentation (c'mon, it's not like I was a meth addict). When I objected to the rejection because I believed my knowledge of this aspect of American culture could actually help me, I thought the interviewing agent's laugh was going to kick me into next week. Oh well. Seemed like a logical argument to me and weren't Fibbies supposed to be logical?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Did you...

1. Enter the contest at In Bed With Books to win a signed copy of LOVE, MEG? Even if you have a copy already, I will sign it for a friend or relative - makes a great Christmas gift (which is coming very very soon!).

2. Get your Halloween candy? I love this season even though HH and I never get any visitors. Ever. Even when we lived in Brooklyn, Maurice would buy bags of candy in preparation for an onslaught of kids but never a single soul rang our bell. So he'd end up eating it all. Moved to LA - same thing. Now we don't even buy a single bag and instead we go to the massive Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood.

3. Rent "Bolt"? Second only to "Wall-E" in my recent favorite animated movies and far superior to several Pixar flicks. Great voice cast, terrific story and my god, the animation is perfect! Take a look at the pigeons and the way they move their heads and flap their wings. CG animation has come a very long way.

4. Sign up for your flu shot? Me? No. It's not that I'm afraid of needles (like some people I know) and it's not that I think there's a conspiracy involved (like some other people I know - yes, really). I've talked to some people I trust who say this first vaccine may not be ready because it was rushed through the process and the proper clinical trials were not conducted. Honestly, I'm really not afraid of needles. I'm not.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Contest and Guest blog... In Bed With Books!

Check it out.

Read. The blog.

Comment. As directed.

Win. A signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

TRW: Beyond Reality!

Each year, the American Library Association promotes Teen Read Week and this year's theme is Read Beyond Reality! A whole week of encouraging teens to read out-of-this-world fiction, October 18-24.

As part of the festivities, a wonderful group of Los Angeles-based YA authors (called the LAYAs) is participating in a week of events with various branches of the Los Angeles Public Library. We're pairing up to make local library visits, talking to kids about books 'n stuff and probably having snacks. Because seriously, what's any sort of event without snacks?

On Tuesday, author Susan Casey and I will be visiting Cypress Park Library at 4PM to talk about fiction and non. Susan has written some nonfiction books that are crazy fun about kid inventors! We'll be talking to readers about the differences and similarities between creating fictional characters versus nonfiction ones. And we might even get them involved in creating too!

And in addition to snackage, we'll also have raffleage - giving away a copy of each of our books! Whoo-hoo! Free books! Free food! If you're in the area on Tuesday, definitely stop by and say hey. Here's the pertinent info.

In the LA area and want to know who will be at YOUR local LAPL branch?

Tuesday, October 20, 4PM

Hollywood-Los Feliz: Cylin Busby & Andrew Smith

Northeast-Cypress Park: Leigh Purtill & Susan Casey

Eagle Rock: Carol Tanzman & Amy Koss

West Valley-Encino-Tarzana: Heather Tomlinson & Cara Haycak

Northridge: Jonathan Bernstein & Alexa Young

East Valley-Sherman Oaks: Mark L. Williams & Betty Birney

Robertson: Justine Musk & Blake Nelson

Downtown Central Library-Teen 'Scape: Brenda Woods, Cherry Cheva, Ben Esch & Francesca Lia Block

Wednesday, October 21st, 4:15 pm

Echo Park: Anna Hays, Jordanna Fraiberg & Michael Reisman

Thursday, October 22nd, between 4:00 and 4:30

Western-Palisades: Ed Decter & Lin Oliver

Friday, October 16, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Loving and Hating LA
1. Pro - The camaraderie of weather. When it rains here, just as on the east coast when it snows, people sort of wave to each other, shrug their shoulders at the traffic, wince at the accidents, and cautiously move along.

Con - It rains every year, people! Why do you all act like this is something brand new falling from the sky? It took me over two hours to travel 18 miles one evening because there were 2 massive rain-related accidents.

2. Pro - A reminder that movies are made in this town. When a movie can shut down a major boulevard for 4 nights in a row and blast humongous lights from cranes just to create a piece of entertainment for the masses, it makes you realize you live in a pretty unique place.

Con - hello? That road is a primary thoroughfare and you're shutting it down in both directions? For 4 weeknights in a row? And what about all those people who live in the area whose homes are being lit up from 9PM until 5 in the morning?

3. Pro - Dodger fever! Just when you think LA is so jaded about its sports teams, it catches Dodger fever, sending people into a frenzy just thinking about the possibility of a win.

Con - seems to me like fair weather fannage. Oh, they're winning? Yeah, sure, I love the Dodgems...I mean, Dodgers.

4. Pro - 90 degree weather after it's been cold and rainy. I love sun and being warm.

Con - um...there is no con. This is awesome.

Bonus randomness: next week is Teen Read Week! And this year's theme is Beyond Reality. I wrote a guest blog for In Bed With Books that she will post next week and you can even win a signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG! Whoo-hoo - free books!

Also, if you're in the area, I will be visiting Cypress Park Library with author Susan Casey on Tuesday at 4PM. We'll be talking about creating characters and inventing stuff. And yes, there will be a raffle there - free books and snacks too!

See you there~

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainy Day Reading

Not YA but still a good book, "The Double Bind" by Chris Bohjalian. Laurel was the victim of a vicious attack when she was in college. Six years later, she has created a life for herself that involves being a social worker at a homeless shelter, living with her old college roommate, and dating older men who don't want any commitment.

When a client from the shelter dies, leaving a collection of photographs, Laurel becomes obsessed with the mystery of this man. Many of the photos are of famous musicians and actors - and one of Laurel herself on that fateful day when she was attacked. Could the man have been connected to a wealthy family from Long Island, the home of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan?

Yes, that's right. Characters and themes from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" are woven into Bohjalian's story. Many people have criticized the book for some obvious flaws but to be honest, I didn't even notice them until they were pointed out. And while I do agree with some of the criticism, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was the perfect literary mystery for a rainy day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

2-Fer Halloween

I love fall. I love everything about it: the weather, the temperature, the quality of the light in the afternoon. In LA, I love how it's warm during the day and chilly at night. In New England, I love the crisp leaves and morning frost.

And in both places, I love breaking out the apple pie recipe and whipping up a pie or two for friends and my Ninja Webmaster. It's about the only decent thing I can cook that people actually ask me the recipe for (it's surprisingly easy and just about the best pie recipe out there - just make sure you pick the right apples!).

But more than any of that, I love the feel of Halloween in the air. I'm not a Halloween fan per se. I mean, I don't dress up or host parties. I'm not a fan of candy or chocolate bars or even those sticky caramel-covered apples and frankly, no child has ever rung our doorbell either here or in Brooklyn. But I like Halloween on other people.

And I like scary movies. I'm not crazy about gore in my movies, unless it's in something like "Shaun of the Dead," which is one of the most brilliant zombie movies of all time. But I do appreciate a well-told horror movie. And here are two I highly recommend:

"Shutter" - no, not the American remake. Get the original Thai version. This filmmaker must have been studying the J-horror trend of movies like "The Ring" and "The Grudge" where dead people appear in ghastly pale fashion with long, stringy (and usually wet) hair. A couple hits a woman in the road and then leaves the scene. Soon after, her image appears in the guy's photographs and she herself pops up out of nowhere - in the dark room, in a lab room...just when you think they've settled her spirit and the movie has to be over, it goes one - no, two - steps farther. The last image is freakin' brilliant.

[Watch this one with Sliver-Vision.]

"Trick R Treat" - you know those movies that go to video after a brief limited theatrical run? 99.99% of them usually suck. Not this one. Great acting (what a cast! Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin and more), great directing, great cinematography, great editing. Very well-written and tightly constructed, it's a collection of intertwined stories told about Halloween night: the guy who seems nice but poisons kids, the girl who appears innocent yet may be a creepy supernatural being, a group of kids playing a trick on a weaker girl...all the cliche Halloween tales are nicely tweaked. Not gory but definitely creepy-scary and beware, a few kids meet their end so if that bothers you, well, skip this one. But in general, good guys get their revenge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More images from WeHo '09

Check out how smiley I am in the top photo versus the bottom one! One is beginning of day and the other is much later...can you tell?

Below are some photos that include the other LAYA authors involved in the booth and stage events, who eluded my trusty camera. Thanks very much to Sally Nemeth who managed to capture them!

Susan Casey and her group

Sally Nemeth introducing her group

Noah, Amelia, Noah, Riley and author Ben Esch read from Sally's book

Mark L. Williams introduces his group

Mark and Susan watch in the audience

Carol Snow watches her group

Authors in the audience

Amy Koss and me at the booth with Cherry Cheva on right

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Images from West Hollywood Book Fair '09

Sally Nemeth at the LAYA booth

Wow, what an amazing event although I do feel like my entire weekend was spent either at the fair or preparing for it (does this mean I can claim another couple of days this week as my weekend?).

Just wanted to share a few photos of our LAYA authors, our booth and the teen readers on the stage, which was truly the best part of the day for all of us. We loved having these awesome readers presenting our material to a very appreciative audience - twice!

Amy Koss, Cherry Cheva, and Jonathan Bernstein at the booth

Jonathan in the audience waiting for his group

Cherry Cheva and Michael Reisman enjoying the show

Erica, Erin, Sarah and Amelia reading from ALL ABOUT VEE - my book!

Hayley, Kendall and Amelia on stage

Sarah, Noah, Riley and Noah

Kendall, Erica, Sarina, and Sarah

Kendall, Riley, Noah and Ben Esch

Sally with the group

On behalf of all of the LAYAs involved (Sally Nemeth, Carol Snow, Amy Koss, Ben Esch, Cherry Cheva, Jonathan Bernstein, Michael Reisman, Susan Casey, Mark L. Williams and me), we thank everyone for participating and for attending and cheering us on!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: Carrie

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors and their books that have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

Who has the right to tell you what to read? No one. Except me. Put "Carrie" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"Carrie" by Stephen King is frequently banned, not because of the violence or gore, but because of its anti-fundamentalism, its anti-Christianity. If there is a person alive who does not know this story from either the book itself or the movie with John Travolta, then he or she has been living in a cave - or surrounded by fundamentalist Christians.

I joke, I kid, I come from love.

Seriously, though, "Carrie" is a terrific exploration of what it's like to be a persecuted teen in high school. It's a revenge fantasy that satisfies a part of all of us that wants to get back at the people who hurt us, willfully or not - and remember, lots and lots of people died in this book, not simply the girls and boys who were mean to Carrie. Ultimately, the revenge is not sweet nor is it satisfactory, because, well...I can't spoil that for you, can I? Suffice to say, one certainly may want revenge and fantasize about how to get it but the outcome isn't nearly what you think it will be. Innocent people often lose, as do the people who seek revenge in the first place.

Sure, there's a lot to upset people in this book: teen sex, profanity, telekinetic powers...but it's just a fun book, nothing more. Sometimes a book is, you know, only a book, a story to be enjoyed. I love King's books for their shiver effect. His best make me a glutton for words - I just want more and more and more and I won't stop reading until I'm stuffed to the gills.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: The Handmaid's Tale

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors and their books that have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

Who has the right to tell you what to read? No one. Except me. Put "The Handmaid's Tale" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood is dystopian science fiction, utopia gone horribly wrong. It has been banned in places because of its depiction of the mistreatment of women as well as sexual scenes and of course, accompanying profanity. Atwood wrote the book in the early 80s, a time when there was a backlash against the feminism of the 70s. The 80s were a sorry time for women in this country: all the advances that women had made, the sacrifices they had made in order to create more opportunities for subsequent generations of women, were being ignored or rejected. There was a national call for women to return to the home, to leave the workplace and go back to raising the kids. Sure, you remember the big hair and shoulder pads but do you remember Nancy Reagan? Do you remember the conservatism of the 80s?

Atwood's story is told by Offred, a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a class society in which women of a lower caste are the concubines for the ruling caste and provide babies for the women. In this society, sexual intercourse is considered degrading to women so only the lower class women have it. Men and women are very strictly segregated, according to their gender as well as to their class. Atwood critiques fundamentalist religions as well as caste societies and the military.

I attended a women's college in the late 80s and we were taught we could - and should - do anything we wanted to. I also was raised by parents who never told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl. However, that's not the case for millions of women all over the world. So many women are treated like third class citizens, like chattel, like property, like they are only good for one thing. Many young women in the US don't realize that American women used to be treated that way too. They often take their freedoms for granted. Don't get me wrong: there's absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to be a wife and mother but women should not be defined by those designations alone, just as men are not. We need to promote worldwide equality for women.

This will be an eye-opening novel for a lot of people. Read it.

Tomorrow...Carrie by Stephen King.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: Fade

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors and their books that have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

Who has the right to tell you what to read? No one. Except me. Put "Fade" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"Fade" by Robert Cormier has been banned and probably burned in many places. Why? Well, why not? It's got murder and rape and incest and a kid spying on other people because he can make himself invisible. I didn't read this book until I was in my early 20s but it still had a big impact on me as a reader and continues to do so as a writer. You would think that a tale of someone who can be invisible would be heroic - superheroic - with lots of derring-do and discovery but this is very, very dark.

What if you had an ability that caused you more pain because of what you could do with it? The temptations that you would face to use it unwisely, perhaps immorally, would be a constant challenge, to say the least.

The story is told across 3 decades by and about 3 different characters. There is teenage Paul who tells the story of how he first learned of his ability to fade, an ability that affects one member of each generation of his family. Fading seems like it would be cool for young Paul but he soon sees things that he doesn't want to. As an adult, Paul learns that his nephew is the next fader in the family but poor Oscar has been abused and uses it for revenge. And finally, the third story is told by Susan, Paul's cousin who is a writer, who finds his memoir and has to figure out if it was true or not.

Cormier's books are frequently challenged by parents and library patrons. People seem to want him to write neat and tidy stories of teens for teens when, in fact, he writes about real life. Can a person really fade to invisibility? Well, no but you certainly can feel like it. You can feel what it's like to be persona non grata, to be an outsider whom no one pays attention to. And yes, all of those nasty things do happen in our world. I love Cormier's books, including "The Chocolate War" (brilliant!!) and "I Am the Cheese."

Tomorrow...The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: A Wrinkle in Time

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors and their books that have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

Who has the right to tell you what to read? No one. Except me. Put "A Wrinkle in Time" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle was one of my favorites as a pre-teen and I recently re-read it and loved it just as much. It has been challenged and banned by people who believe it's anti-religious (anti-Christian, that is, not Muslim or Buddhist or any other type of religion) and for its references to witches and crystal balls (kind of like the banning of "Harry Potter").

The focus of the book is young Meg Murry whose parents are both scientists and whose father has disappeared. Meg's mother believes he will be back but others are not so sure. They think he has left the family. Meg's younger brother Charles Wallace is a genius but odd, as many young geniuses are. But it is his strange ability that draws three witches to their home: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, all of whom can travel through time and space by folding it (tessering - btw, this was my first introduction to space-time theories - it's very easily explained in the book!).

The witches tell Meg and Charles Wallace that they can help them find their father who is stuck on another planet. Meg is wary but Charles Wallace is eager to go. They bring along Calvin, a lanky teen who goes to school with Meg. I always pictured Calvin as sort of a taller, cuter Ron Howard from his "Happy Days" role of Richie Cunningham.

They travel to all different planets and each one is more interesting than the next. My favorite part of the book is when Charles Wallace is being controlled by the evil IT. The young boy is cold and emotionless. In order to save him, Meg must show him love. It sounds a little lame but it works in the book - it's kind of sad too.

Several more books followed in the series but I only read the first one. The rest are on my TBR list.

Tomorrow...Fade by Robert Cormier.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: 1984

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors whose books have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

I truly believe the people who seek to ban books from libraries and schools are indeed self-centered, egotistical individuals. How else to explain why someone wants to prevent others from reading something - forever! - simply because he or she doesn't approve of it?

Isn't it enough to exert influence over your friends and children with your opinion? When I don't like a television show or a song, and the subject of said show or song arises during conversation, I will offer my opinion to the person I'm talking to. But I would never tell that person to not watch or listen - ever! Who am I to tell you what to do?

Well, now I am going to tell you what to do. Put "1984" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"1984" by George Orwell is one of my very favorite novels of all time. It's been banned in the past because of perceived pro-Communist views and sexually explicit material. The book tells the story of Winston Smith, a disillusioned worker drone in the Ministry of Truth. His country, Oceania, is at war with either Eastasia or Eurasia and depending on what is happening, history is constantly rewritten to accommodate the changes. For instance, if Oceania and Eurasia are allies now, history will be rewritten to show that they have always been allies.

Wherever Winston is, Big Brother is watching. The government knows if he is doing his morning exercises or not, if he's sneaking out to be with someone, if he isn't doing his job. Repercussions are severe.

When Winston meets a young woman, Julia, he is suddenly lifted out of his crappy existence. She helps him find a place for them to meet and have sex (they live in a sexually repressed society) away from the watchful eyes of BB.

But of course, life cannot become pleasant for Winston, can it? Very quickly, he is betrayed and brought to the dreaded Room 101 for torture. Torture here is based on your own fears (in Winston's case, it's rats). He is forced to give up Julia - but was it she who turned him in? Or someone else? Can anyone ever really trust anyone else?

Tomorrow...A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The LAYAs at WeHo! Free books! Free candy!

Meet the authors of some of your favorite books!

On Sunday, October 4th, 10 amazing writers from the LA area - members of a great group called Los Angeles Young Adult Authors (LAYA) - will be at the West Hollywood Book Fair with a terrific group of teens who will be reading from their books on stage, readers theater style.

There will be 2 sessions on the Teen Stage. The first, from 1-1:45PM, will feature the following writers:

Jonathan Bernstein – “Hottie”
Susan Casey - “Kids Inventing”
Cherry Cheva – “Duplikate”
Amy Goldman Koss – “Side Effects”
C. Leigh Purtill – “All About Vee”

And from 2:30-3:15PM, there will be these authors:

Ben Esch – “Sophomore Undercover”
Sally Nemeth – “The Heights, the Depths and Everything in Between”
Michael Reisman – “Simon Bloom”
Carol Snow – “Snap”
Mark L. Williams – “Danger Boy”

The authors will be signing books at the nearby Barnes & Noble booth, plus they will be promoting their books - and hanging out looking to make friends! - at the LAYA booth (#B15 in the center of the park).

We will also have a raffle for 2 baskets of books - one basket featuring books from the first session's writers and the other for the second session. You gotta come by the booth to enter!! And say hi to your favorite writers - they're mostly shut-ins so they need to see happy faces smiling back at them.

The fair runs from 10AM - 6PM and will be held at West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA.

Come see us!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Applying ballet lessons to writing and to life

As some people know, I not only write but I also teach ballet to teens and adults, from absolute beginners to advanced dancers. I love ballet and I truly enjoy teaching others. It's something I hope to be able to do for the rest of my life.

Not long ago, one of my students expressed surprise that I still take classes myself. My fragile ego assumed she meant I was too old to dance but then I realized she thought I didn't need to take class anymore, that I had learned everything. After all, I teach, don't I? Doesn't that mean I know it all?

No way! When you become a student of ballet - whether your goal is to perform or simply to exercise - you are a student forever. Now, as both a teacher and a student, I have come to understand that many of the lessons we learn can be equally applied to a career as a writer and to life in general.

1. Break it down. A dancer who can perform a double pirouette needs to look at the step itself and then slice it into its various parts.

Sometimes, when we look at something we want to accomplish - writing a book, for instance - it seems like a huge task. It's so overwhelming that it's hard to know where to begin. Well, break it down into steps and take it one at a time. Multiple pirouettes are daunting if you're just starting. Why would you expect your body to be able to do it all of a sudden? The final product may be complex but when you take it a step at a time, you'll find it's quite manageable.

2. Little changes can have a big impact. A dancer working on her pirouettes knows she can't whip her arms around her wildly and expect to turn gracefully or efficiently. She knows that she must change small things about her body in order to affect her turns. She'll increase the snap of her head, change her spot, lift or lower a hip, and so on. She will continue to try different things - one at a time - to see how they affect her pirouette.

The same is true in our lives. We have our goal. And it's hard to get there. And sometimes we think we need to make massive changes all at once when things don't seem to be working. Quit the job! Enroll in every writing course under the sun! Move across country! Sell the house! But what if you try one small thing first? Adjust your schedule so you have more time to write. Try one writing course one night a week. And so on. Just like the dancer, you may eventually find the thing that makes it all work for you.

3. What works for someone may not work for you. If I cross my arms over my chest and hope to turn ten times like a dancer who is studying Balanchine technique, I may be out of luck. It might work for me but more likely it won't because I'm not studying the rest of Balanchine technique.

Sometimes we look at another person who has what we want and we think, If only we follow THAT person's path, we'll get where we need to be. And then we try - and it doesn't work! Why not? Because we're not living that person's life - we're not studying his technique. And that's perfectly all right. I can learn from this person and be inspired by his success but to recreate it exactly would mean being that person. And I can only be myself and live my own life.

4. A new set of eyes can see different flaws. When I take class with a new teacher, she may see something in my technique that isn't working and give me a correction to make it work. Aha! I just need to lift my chin to make that spot better. Why didn't my other teachers tell me that? Were they not as qualified? Sometimes fresh eyes see things from a new perspective and every teacher comes with her own focus. The important thing is to continue to be open to new teachers. One of us might just give you the correction you need to make your pirouettes better.

Similarly with that book you're writing or the big change you're trying to make in your life. Being open to new possibilities - new people who can teach you different ways of doing and seeing things - means allowing yourself to see flaws and correct them. If you only do things one way all the time, you may get stuck in a rut and never get out.

5. Never stop learning. My path as a dancer is changing as I get older and I recognize that. I can't do things I used to be able to do but I can do other things better now. I am in class to learn: I am inspired by both older and younger dancers, by my teacher, by the accompanist, by myself. I look at each class as a chance to learn one more thing that will help me as a teacher or student. So what if today I can't do a double pirouette on my left? Tomorrow I might. Instead I might focus on my extension or my petit allegro. There is always something to learn.

My path - your path - as a writer, as a person changes all the time. And that's okay. What worked yesterday may not work today. What I enjoyed yesterday I may not enjoy today. But if I continue to read, continue to adjust, continue to make corrections, my path will endure.

6. The path is not a straight line. It curves and swirls and doubles back on itself much like a dancer on stage. You can't change that - nor should you want to. A good choreographer knows never to stifle the creative process. You are the choreographer. Enjoy the process.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things I Kept When I Cleaned

1. One of the last letters from my late maternal grandmother.

2. Cards from friends congratulating me on the publication of my first book.

3. A perfume sample from a store in Florence, Italy.

4. A collection of Phi Beta Kappa keys from my late paternal grandmother.

5. A Simpsons watch from Burger King that chimes with Bart's and Lisa's voices, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" when you press the button.

6. A conch shell bracelet my brother and his family brought me from the Caribbean.

7. A photograph of Oscar the Grouch from a shoot I did back in NYC when I was a script supervisor.
8. A pin that says "Shut up and dance."

9. The sign that says "Leigh Purtill" from outside my old cubicle at the CW Television Network.