Thursday, April 24, 2008

Recent Reading

I've been much pickier lately about the books I'll actually finish. Seems very little is giving me that can't-stop-reading feeling. I love getting carried away by a book, but if a book is just not for me, or not for me at this particular time, I will put it down and walk away, no matter how great the book is supposed to be. 

But... I did just read two terrific books:

SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr. I loved how she used a secret to create tension in this story. In fact, I'm going to write about it for my next Book Look column.

SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU by Peter Cameron. What a great coming-of-age novel. I read this in the car on the way to Florida, and I kept laughing out loud and reading excerpts to Alan. It's the story of James, a boy/man on the cusp of adulthood during the summer between high school and college. It made me laugh and cry and think about life... for me that's the mark of a great book. I hope it will be read by tons of teens as well as adults! 

So what are you reading? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fan Mail Excerpt...

After I received a really cute letter from a 10-year-old fan, I wrote her back, and then she wrote this: 

Everyone wanted to read your letter when it arrived! Thanks so much for saying that I'm a good writer!!! You don't know how much this means to me, I mean, it's like writing to Hannah Montana!

How cute and funny is that??

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Life Stuff (as opposed to writing stuff)

Passover is coming. And although I enjoy the seders (big, long family dinners with yummy food and the story of the Exodus), keeping Passover for eight days is not so much fun! We are not that observant in our family, but we don't eat any bread or flour products. And let me tell you... flour seems to be in everything... especially birthday cakes! 

This year, Sammy's and my birthdays both fall during Passover. So to shake things up a bit, we had a surprise birthday party for Sammy last night (one week early). While Sammy was at Hebrew school, Jacob decorated the house with streamers. I baked a chocolate chip cookie cake. My parents and siblings and all their kids came over. We ordered pizza, and I made lasagna and a salad. I love that my family lives so close!

Sammy was totally surprised. And then when he saw that his grandparents and we had bought him the guitar he'd been wanting, he was one happy twelve year old kid!

Speaking of instruments, Faith and I saw her clarinet teacher play in a concert over the weekend, and now Faith is totally inspired to be a musician when she grows up. 

And Jacob quit his drum lessons because he never liked to practice. But now we have that Rock Band video game, and he is playing the drums constantly for that. If only we could turn French and Language Arts into a video game...

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Workspace

I share my office with my whole family, but I have my own desk. It's almost always a mess. But I've been nesting! I bought desk accessories (never had them before), so now there's a place for everything. Yay! And check out my new awesome MacBook. Woo hoo!

I look out onto my street, so I get to see joggers and dog walkers all day long. I love seeing the different seasons out my window. And the kids walking to school. And the moms with their strollers. And the mail carrier. I love my mail carrier! Though, I have to admit, when I get too distracted by outside, I sometimes close my shades and focus, focus, focus.

Right above my window is this...

It's a quote that starts off JEMMA HARTMAN. One of my critique partners found this wall sticker and gave it to me for my birthday last year. Isn't that great?

Time to get to work at my very organized desk. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dear Birch Knoll/A Writer's Doubt

Today I was listening to some music when the beautiful Joni Mitchell song, "Both Sides Now," came on. All of a sudden I was transported back to my summers at Camp Birch Knoll. It's weird because I've mined those camp memories for the last couple of years while I wrote JEMMA HARTMAN, but for some reason I hadn't remembered that song. And all of a sudden... there it was.

We didn't sing "Both Sides Now" at camp, but we sang a song to that tune. 

The opening went like this:

Dear Birch Knoll it's hard to find
the words and music which combined
express the feelings in our mind
and thoughts we have of you.

I just sang the whole song for my daughter - a Birch Knoll girl herself, and even though she laughed at how badly I sang, she loved the sentiment. 

The thing is... this opening totally addresses my fear about JEMMA HARTMAN. What if I haven't found the right "words and music" to express my true feelings about camp? I hope I've captured the magic of camp. But I have no idea if I was successful or not. 

I remember being similarly anxious about JULIA'S KITCHEN. After the copy editing and before the book comes out, you've got this long period of time in limbo. You're not working on the book to make it better. But you have no idea if it will be well-received or not. How could you not worry just a bit? Perhaps this doubt is part of the creative process. What do you think?

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Next Chapter of My Life

These days I'm feeling like a pregnant Mom. Not that I'm having another baby! But I'm nesting. I want to clean out my closets, organize my office, get rid of every pile of cutter in my house. These are not normal urges for me. But in the last three weeks, my cat died, my house was robbed, and my beloved editor left FSG. I also finished the copy-edits on JEMMA HARTMAN and started working with Kathy Dawson at Harcourt on YUCKIEST DROOLIEST. I have a brand new laptop, a blank diary, and I've just picked out a new front door. 

Life is changing!

And I'm okay with that. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Stolen Diaries!

If you've read my website, you know I'm a huge fan of writing in a diary. I've been doing it since I was ten years old, and it's helped me in countless ways. A while back, I bought a safe to protect my diaries from fire -- and from curious children.

Last week while I was on vacation with my family, burglars broke into our home. Among other things, they stole my computer, my jewelry, and the safe with all my diaries!

The computer was backed up. The jewelry was insured. But my diaries!!! They're gone!

I am not sure if the burglars will be able to open the safe. It won't be easy. I picture them working for days and days on it, finally prying it open expecting to see jewels and cash, but instead finding a bunch of diaries! Ha! I'd love to see their faces then.

Actually, I'd love to see their faces in court. I am putting my faith in our police department. I hope they catch these thieves.

As for my diaries, I am sorry they are gone. But the act of creating them was more important than actually possessing them. I didn't go back and read them all that often. Still, it was comforting knowing my whole life was documented. I guess this is a lesson in letting go... a theme I write about quite often.