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.