Road Trip Wednesday: #165 Bossypants

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: Good for a laugh: who is your favorite comedian or funny book and/or movie?

I have been a little hectic this last week, for personal reasons, so I apologize for not being more active on the internet. I do have a response for this weeks Road Trip Wednesday question, however, and I do not think I will be alone in my choice.

TinaFeyBossyPants

If you haven’t read this book, and you are a professional/parent/ female or gay man, you are doing yourself a disservice. I read it on an airplane to New York. I don’t know how many of you do a lot of comedy reading on airplanes, so I don’t know your experience, but I can attest that mine was not a dignified one.

I snorted my wine through that space that connects your mouth and nasal cavity. It trickled to my upper lip and didn’t have the same flavor going back in.

This happened more than once.

Whatever you think of Tina Fey, whatever your politics, you will forget that when you read this uncensored and oddly comforting memoir. It’s really more of a guide to life for the slightly awkward, brunette, or Polish, but transcends even those labels.

Here is an excerpt from the largely publicized, Mothers Prayer for Her Daughter:

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.

Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes

And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.

Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, 

For Childhood is short — a Tiger Flower blooming

Magenta for one day — 

And Adulthood is long and Dry-Humping in Cars will wait.

There’s so many points in here where I laugh-cried and then spit coffee at the airplane seat in front of me. Where I wished I could kick someone for my simultaneous humor and inability to express that humor, because that cloistering of emotion should be punished.

I have aften gone back to reread chapters about Brooklyn Moms or Television Writing, because I find they resonate and educate more than a college textbook.

As an actress, she isn’t always my favorite, because sometimes I think she forgets America isn’t Manhattan. But her book is more than worth a read. It’s worth snorting wine through your nose and freaking out fellow travelers for.

As a fellow Bossypants, and woman who has been told many time over how unattractive that is, and why don’t I just keep my mouth shut, I recommend this book. There is something in it for everyone.

I am not going to list all the stuff on TV and in Film that makes me snort various drinks and kick various friends because I’m so amused. I will not subject you. Here are some highlights:

nick

Also, pretty much any episode of Arrested Development. Ellen Degeneres just has to look at the camera and I expect to be doubled over. I apologize that I cannot sufficiently answer this question because I am now LMAO at the truly funny people writing and performing today.

Happy Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday: #164 If I had a bookstore

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic is: Imagine you get to open your own bookstore. What would it look like? What kinds of books would you sell?

My son got present obsessed during Christmas, a totally normal and completely enraging pastime for three year olds. After the initial panic that present time was over wound down, Sam began to ask, “What present do you want?”, whenever he got bored. Whoever was around had to answer him, and then ask him the question in return. His answers range from a Spiderman bounce house, to a trip to the moon, to a puppy, etc., etc., etc..

I felt the only appropriate way to answer this was by looking inside for what I would have wanted as a little girl. Other than a window-seat and “to be a Newsie”, there was one lingering, unattainable desire I carried. Upon introspection I realized, I still carry it. So I said, “I want a library.” He furrowed his brow at me, “A library?” I grinned. “Yes, like the Beast gives Bell.”

The truth is, I have always dreamed of a room with books lining walls. When I was in my early teens the movie You’ve Got Mail was released. I wanted that bookstore. That home for books, where quirky people found not only a wonderful new companion made by words, but also answers and true friendship.

This makes me sound like a romantic, which I guess I am, to an extent. Or maybe I’m an idealist. Maybe my fantasy bookstore only exists in a movie, but it’s a fantasy, so that’s OK.

recycled

source: Mary Beth Butler

books

source: Project Vinyl

In my hometown of Denton, TX, there is a wonderful place called “The Recycled Bookstore”. It’s housed in the old Opera House, and jammed full of thousands of books, vinyl records, DVD’s and even VHS’s. When I was young, I thought the place was haunted. My friends and I would go there to get Nancy Drew books and search for wandering spirits.

My bookstore wouldn’t only be about the books, it would be about the atmosphere. It would be a place to go, not just to buy. It would be a retreat from the normal world because that’s what books are. Books are our way to more.

The other day Sam came to me in the kitchen while I was cooking. He and his dad had been playing “store”, and he had bought me a present. In his hand was my library.

read library lights

My Two Cents on Starting

Most days I think I’m a good mom, and an improving writer. I think I can cook, but I can mix drinks better. I think I am pretty, but only now that I’ve grown my hair out. These parameters keep me from being too wrapped up, too vain, or too emotionally stunted. I sharpen because I believe I am not perfect, nor am I a train wreck.

I recently read an article by author Julianna Baggott. Now, it should be said, that I have a girl crush on Julianna. Maybe I should call it a writing crush, since it stems from how deeply I identify with her voice. Her communication style. Her writerness. Whatever I call it, I heart her.

In the article, which you can read here, Julianna puts forth a method for writing your first novel. She calls it a loophole. It began for her as a way to trick herself into writing by pretending it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t about creating a masterpiece, it was about getting fifty pages done and out. She suggests writing is about wanting to turn the page, for the writer and the reader.

This rang very true for me. I have discussed before that this is my first novel, the MANUSCRIPT I am revising now but not forever. Before writing the manuscript, I had mostly worked in the medium of screen-or-stage playwriting. I had attempted, after completing a feature length screenplay and then not knowing what the hell to do with it, a novelization of my screenplay. Ultimately, I was burnt out on that story and needed something new.

When I sat down at my computer sixteen months ago with a voice in my head, I didn’t know what I was doing. There was no plan. There wasn’t even a concept. There was an inkling. A whisper.

I don’t consider myself a naive person. I live in Brooklyn and haven’t died yet, for goodness sake. But about this I was. I believed I could do it. And why not? It was just a novel. Geez. I had written a screenplay, so a novel couldn’t be much harder.

Had I read anything about writing a novel before I started, done any preparation at all, I would have failed. I would have psyched myself out. I’m such a fool I flippantly professed to anyone who would listen that I would finish in a year.

I just wrote. I kept writing when I wasn’t sure where I was going. I kept writing when I was angry at my characters. I kept writing when words flowed like cold honey. I just flipped the switch inside me and wrote.  As Julianna said in her article, I kept turning the pages. 

I finished the first draft about six months after I began. It was 70,000 words and a lot of it was shit. Some of it was brilliant. Some of it was acceptable. 30% of it was garbage I wouldn’t wipe dog poop off my shoe with.

I’m being hyperbolic, but you get it.

So, the advice I would add to Julianna’s (who knows way more about this than I do) is this: Be naive. You can’t lose if you put blind faith in yourself. You all know I hate losing, so if I’m saying this…

Believing you can’t fail may seem like you’re setting yourself up for crushing disappointment, but it’s a wonderful place to begin. Self-doubt and the knowledge that you will never be good enough comes later, when your beta readers rip your heart out, or the rejections from countless agents come flying to your inbox.

Begin naive, you can’t fail.

Road Trip Wednesday: #163 Goals Anyone?

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: What are your goals for the new year—for reading, writing, or other?

I am going to attack this question in the three parts it’s broken up by — reading, writing, other.

I am not really a goal-setter. I discussed this in my New Year post, you can see that here. To briefly reiterate, I do not like to fail. I do like to have a plan though, and that plan does leave room for me to fail.

So…whatever.

Reading:

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads this year. First year I think I have ever done that. You can see my little tracker over in the sidebar. I’ve read one book so far. My goal is 75. We will see. I would like to try to read in genres or sub-genres I don’t usually read in for at least 30% of my reading. For example) Literary Fiction, Contemporary YA, Nonfiction or Memoir.

Writing:

The biggest goal I have here should be obvious: get the manuscript to a sale-able place. For those of you who are agented, you will understand how very little power you have in reaching this goal. It comes down to absorbing the notes on your work, interpreting it through the eyes of your characters and your voice and your story, then making that happen in the writing. That’s what I’m doing now.

Beyond that, ideally the book will sell. I’m an holding my breath for that. Holding my breath, praying, crossing fingers, dotting “i’s”. It’s happening this year. I would also like to consistently blog, tweet, and build my presence on the interwebs. And, if my manuscript is out in the world of publishing, I’d like to begin work on the sequel.

Somewhere in there I will sleep and potty-train my three year old son.

Other:

Potty training is happening. Sometime between now and when he turns four. My husband and I joke about this, and other more challenging aspects of parenting, in order to remain sane in the midst of chaos. He says, sometime between now and when Sam’s eighteen he’ll be able to sleep through the night (use the big boy potty, eat his vegetables, dress himself, etc., you get the idea), so no pressure.

I’d like to find time to sew, which I haven’t done since moving to New York.

I want be more settled this year. This is more of a feeling, something I will know when I get to it, but not necessarily know how to get to. I’d also like to be more flexible. Last year, I was learning how to be a mom and a writer. I’m still learning, but I hope this year, I’ll be better at the dance.

Those are my current goals. I find goals evolve, like all living things, and goals should be alive. They are a part of who we are. As you journey towards something the end result you were hoping for usually matures. Sometimes it changes entirely. By the end of the year, I may not meet any of my goals, but I may still feel I’ve accomplished everything I set out to. (This is a mentality I am developing in order to counter my need to win compulsion. So far, it’s working.)

The Top Five YA Books I Read in 2012

I have ambitiously decided to narrow down the thirty books I read this year, consisting of mostly YA, to my Top Five.

Yes. I’m going to try. *Cracks Knuckles*

I read a few non-YA books this year, but as I am a Young Adult writer, I think it’s most appropriate to limit the Top Five list to just YA. No offense meant for the amazing “Adult” books I read.

There is a certain gut reaction I can’t ever seem to escape, but I am really going to try and be conscious of reason. I write fantasy, so I read a heck-of-a lot of it this year. I will make sure to include a smattering of the brilliance happening all over YA, not just in fantasy, because there is a lot of amazing stuff to be seen. Try to keep in mind, I am still playing catch up, so some of my favorite reads may not have been published this year at all. In fact, I am sure at least two will not.

OK, so, enough chatter. Onto the list, starting with number 5.

5) The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

fios

I loved this book for so many reasons. It was my first John Green, which is sad, so I added all of his books to my TBR list. I actually picked this book up because Veronica Roth recommended it at the reading for Insurgent I attended earlier this year.

I am so glad she did. From the moment we are introduced to Hazel, and then Gus, they capture the reality of people living (and dying) with a disease and the sentiment of trying to make sense of an otherwise confusing world. They are children becoming adults. The tragedy is tempered skillfully by wit and humor, so it’s never too much. Until it finally is. Then it crushes you.

This book is a good read for a girl or boy. It also has the added bonus of creating a love story for the dying that anyone will root for. Check it out, even if you don’t like Contemporary.

4) The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson (Bonus: Its sequel The Crown of Embers)

goftcoe

I found this book through a YA Highway suggestion, and again, I am so thankful I did. This is true high fantasy with a twist. Rae Carson set her book in a world influenced in dress and environment by an area in northern Africa between Algeria, Morocco, and Spain.

What’s even more compelling about these books than the landscape and food, is Elisa, the protagonist princess and fated bearer of a mystical stone of power. I really fell for Elisa, her transformation from weak, overweight princess to freedom-fighter and Queen is wonderful. Rae Carson draws on the classic Tropes of Fantasy literature and spins them around until their heads pop off. **Bonus** The Crown of Embers has a super steamy romance.

If you aren’t sure about high fantasy, this is a great pick for you. It’s nerve racking, tragic, inspiring, and based in a compelling world.

3.  UnWind, by Neal Shusterman (Unwholly is the sequel)

unwindunwhollyThese books will not be for everyone. UnWind was published in 2009, and it’s sequel, UnWholly was just released in the fall of 2012. UnWind is one of the most difficult books I have ever read in terms of theme.

It takes place after the Second Civil War in America, which was over the issue of Abortion. The solution is that life is inviolable from birth to thirteen, but from the ages of thirteen to eighteen a parent has the option to UnWind their child. UnWinding is a process where each piece of the body is separated and redistributed. The story follows three fated UnWinds and how they battle to stay alive, or in some cases, die.

This is a gut-wrenching subject and Neal Shusterman doesn’t shy away from it in the slightest. If you are a parent, especially of a teen, I think it is an important book to read. It is a brilliant commentary, as well as a non-stop roller coaster of a read. If you can get through it, it just might change you. If you can’t tell, I feel very strongly about these books. I think you will too.

2) Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

sbAnother high fantasy flipped on its backside. This is Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, and it speaks volumes about her potential as an author. She’s been around the Hollywood scene as a make-up artist for a while, and her eye for the dramatic is definitely felt in the pages of Shadow and Bone.

This awesome slice of fantasy takes place in a Czarist Russian inspired world called Ravka. A magical force has created the dangerous fog known as the Shadow Fold, which slowly grows around the country, cutting it off from resources and endangering the lives of the citizens. The First Army of the King is aided by a magical army called Grisha, led by the mysterious Darkling. The story centers around an orphan girl named Alina who possesses a dormant power much needed in this desperate nation. A power she never knew she had. This power changes her world forever.

Alina is a vibrant narrator, with a certain snark and sharpness to her that is refreshing, and the plot vibrates along at a comfortably quick pace. This book isn’t my number one only because I am a little jealous of the Fabulous Leigh for writing it and not me. I think anyone, even those who generally loathe high fantasy, can get into this book. If you haven’t already picked it up, do it…now!

**Bonus** Sexy boy love interests are exponential!

And…my favorite read this year…

1) When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead 

wyrmThis was a hard choice for me. When You Reach Me is actually Middle Grade, which I don’t usually read in, but I had heard non-stop raves for this book, so I had to. I am tickled pink that I did. Every time I think about this book, I smile, which is why it is number one on my list. It touched the child in me while giving me food for thought and stroking the science fiction nerd deep down.

When You Reach Me was the Newbery Winner for 2010, among other prestigious awards, but it’s really a very gentle, simple slice of life tale with a truly golden heart. It takes place in 1979 New York City, and is told by Miranda, a twelve year old girl who’s best friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore. When Miranda begins to receive mysterious notes with eerily accurate information in them, her world turns upside down.

I don’t want to tell you anything else. Just, seriously, read this book. Like, tonight. It’s short and sweet. It will reaffirm the goodness of humanity, the mystery of the universe, and the joy of true friendship. Be warned, you will probably cry, so keep tissues by your side. Anyone, anywhere, can read this and appreciate it. I would even read it aloud to younger children.

Phew, I feel better now. A few Honorable Mentions that I must now mention are:

Hope you enjoy the list, and get a few great reads out of it. Feel free, or largely compelled, to share your own list, especially if it differs greatly from mine. I am ALWAYS looking for more books to pile on my TBR list.