Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday
Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What's the best book you've read in August?

I know, I know.  I'm sooo late to this game (pun intended), but I finished The Hunger Games early in August.  I'm a relatively new YA reader.  A newbie. A preemie.  I only started reading YA with a lusty appetite in May, but I think I've read some great ones.

But everyone knows that The Huger Games is the cat's pajamas, so I'll offer one more that made me feel very uncomfortable in a good way: Please Ignore Vera Deitz.  This novel is about an almost  18-year-old whose best friend's ghost is haunting her, begging her to clear his name.   She also happens to be in love with him.  She also happens to keep a stash of liquor under the driver's seat while she delivers pizza to deal with her crappy life.  I was shocked, I laughed, and then I was horrified again. It's a YA book on the edge, like so many are now, and it works.  It stays with you.

BONUS: I'm pitching in my own Road Trip Song of the Week because Jessica Love introduced me to this greatness.  It will stick to your brain.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Enough to Eat

Summer vacation is officially over and my teaching cap is getting more wear than my writer's beret. But, I still have time to post some goodies.

First, I've been honored to receive the Liebster Blog Award, bestowed upon me by Jillian from Writing on a Limb. Thanks, Jillian!

Liebster means dear or favorite or apparently a bazillion other positive things in German (thank you Google), and the official rules are as follows:
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top 5 picks [blogs with fewer than 200 followers] and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!
Here are my picks:
1.  I love reading Stars Like Rain, a blog by a YA writer who is repped by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. 
She. Is. Cool.
2.   It Ain't Over Til the Fat Guy is Skinny is another fav blog written by my friend in New Jersey.  He's had a long history as a director, a playwright, an actor, and now, a novelist. His blog has personal and professional reflections on life, and is a little breath of fresh air for me.
3.  Jessica Love Writes, because she is a high school teacher (to whom the rest of civilization should bow and pay respect), and because she "kills her darlings," too.
4.  Sarah Enni's blog, again, because her blog on YA writing rocks.  Very entertaining.
5. Awkward Girl, who I met via YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday, and whose writing is not awkward at all! 

Congrats, bloggers!  Share the love, and may your blog grow plentiful and ever more exciting this year.

Second, the recipe for the mouthwatering, fantasmagoric orange cake that was baked especially in honor of the orange tree in Song of the Orange Moons and served at the reading club in my previous post.  Thanks, Dixie!

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
2 orange rinds, grated

Juice of 2 oranges
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream SUGAR and BUTTER, add EGGS.  Combine FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, BAKING SODA, and SALT, and add alternately with SOUR CREAM.  Add VANILLA, NUTS, and ORANGE RIND. 
Bake in greased, floured tube pan for 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Combine ingredients for the "SYRUP" and boil 5 minutes. Pour syrup over hot cake and let cool in the pan.  When cake is cool, turn out of pan onto cake plate.

****For and impressive touch:  Slice Fresh Orange Cake horizontally into 3 layers.  Fill and top with 2 cups WHIPPING CREAM, whipped with 1/4 cup CONFECTIONER'S SUGAR and 3 Tablespoons of ORANGE LIQUEUR.  Add 1 pint of sliced fresh STRAWBERRIES between the layers, saving some gorgeous ones for the top.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I woke up this morning to an unexpected and delightful creative writing contest on Janet Reid's website.  
Here are the directions:

"Sounds like PANIC to me" Writing Contest!

There are two kinds of people in NYC today: those who are panicking about the incoming storm, and those of us annoyed by the hysteria.  To give everyone something else to think about for a couple days, let's have a writing contest! The prize is a good one: THE CUT by George Pelecanos.  (It's f/ing AMAZING!!) Rules for the contest are a little different this time.
Write a story using 150 words or fewer (note the word count change from the usual 100).  Use at least three sets of homonyms (words that sound the same) from the list below...

Out of respect for Mother Nature and Irene, as she approaches, I wrote this micro-story:
from here

She stood on the pier and faced the sea that whipped its fury against her cheeks. She would not budge, whether hurricane or whale lunge for her, or the indignant weather leave its wale across her flesh.  She wailed.  Thrust her fist in the air and cried “Whore!” to the sea that had devoured him. 

Her fisher, who three days ago had left this pier and his hook in her heart, and was swallowed by his bride-sea. 

A fissure in her heart widened, but she reined the two halves together. The sea would not reign her, would not strike an oar across her shaking calves and send her tumbling into the violent, black-ore depths.

“You have his flesh,” she shouted into the deafening rain. “But I have his soul. It was me he gazed at when you pulled him down to your cold bed. Behind his eyelids, it was me.”

150 words exactly.  That was a fun and challenging exercise.  Visit Janet's blog to read more of the entries in the comment boxes and to add your own.  Contest ends tomorrow (Sunday)!
Leave a comment here for me if you enter the contest so I can go read your story, too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Block? What block?

(Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.)

This week's topic is
How do you beat writer's block?

I've been told by writing teachers of yore that writer's block doesn't exist.  That's right.  It's a figment of my imagination, this four-sided, five-letter word that is the worst four-letter word a writer can imagine.   But I don't really buy it.  

Not to fear.  I've found the answer to my imaginary foe.

It's not the local Starbucks for me. I get sidetracked by all the wonderful commotion and the real estate agents trying to close a deal at the tables to my right and left.

It's not the perfect desk sitting all alone in the middle of an empty room. Stephen King tried it and warned me it wouldn't work, but I didn't listen and had to try for myself.  I've got a cute little black desk in the middle of my office, but am I sitting at it?  Nope.  

To get my writing juices flowing, I sit in the dining room on cushioned chairs or on the armchair next to the dining room table.  Comfy, but just formal enough to keep me from falling asleep. Then I email my friend and say, "Hey, I'm going to send you an entire chapter sometime tonight."

Then I go get this:

from here

Then this:

Then I open my laptop, close my internet browser, and write.

So, optimistic promises + chocolate + wine + familiar chair to place my butt = a few darn good pages.

Oh, and before 4 PM, I have coffee instead of wine.  That's one cure for the malady of writers, and I endorse this message.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maiden Voyage on Road Trip Wednesday

"Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic."

 Today I'm answering for my first RTW topic, and it is a perfect maiden voyage topic for me, folks.

This week's topic is: What time do you prefer to do your writing? Early Worm? Night Owl ? Any five seconds you can grab?
I used to be:
from here
Only I wasn't this blue and cool and lovely.
No. My eyes were redder and droopier because I'd already played a few Wii games with my young son or helped him with his homework or made him something to eat, and I was on my third glass of Malbec.
Sometimes fourth...but they're tiny bistro glasses.
And still, I could churn out several pages before falling asleep on my keyboard with a little chocolatey drool easing its way out of the corner of my mouth.
Chocolate drool because that's what I eat when I write.
 Note to writers: Eating bowlfuls of dark chocolate with red wine is not a sound diet. 
After ten pounds inexplicably found their way to my waist, I am now...

from here
Is 7:30 considered early? If not, maybe I'm just a "worm" and not an "early worm," inching my way though my manuscript.
It happened on vacation, of all places. My family was visiting a good friend in Michigan, and we were staying in a cabin on his little spread of land.  We took literally a few steps out the cabin, and there was our private lake with our devoted loons and baby frogs hopping on wee legs. 
Before the kids woke up (10:30? 11?), I sat with my laptop in front of the lake view window and wrote for at least two hours every morning. I traded wine for coffee and chocolate for almonds, and somehow wrote more than half a YA novel manuscript in just a few weeks.  
 Note to writers: I (highly) do not recommend abandoning wine for extended periods of time. 
Now that the school semester is almost upon me, I've traded early morning sessions for evening again, and I have to admit that I was much more productive writing in the morning. It takes me a solid hour of deleting and pulling my hair before my muse kicks in at night.  Coffee seems to kick-start the muse faster.  It's a conundrum when you write best when you're supposed to be teaching writing elsewhere.
I wonder how many other writers need wine and/or coffee to settle down and focus on the first few productive paragraphs.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seven Wonders


So many fun things to share this week, I hope to cram them all in here. 

1. I finally got the nerve to officially Follow YA Highway, a Young Adult Fiction Writers blog.  It's going to be fun haunting this amazing site as a regular visitor.  My writer-friend, Samantha Mabry, introduced me to it. If you love YA books (openly or as a closeted 30-something reader), you might love this site, too.

2. Some advice for other writers who have novels recently released or forthcoming. (I love that word "forthcoming"--it's so full of possibilities and optimism.)

3. Pics from The Hunger Games film are out.  Squeee!  Very happy about this, having recently read it.

4. Almost finished (yep, you read that right) with my summer YA novel manuscript.  I heart my Beta Reader, who keeps me energized.  I'll have to think of a special thank you for her.

5. I discovered a great little site called Inkubate that provides a platform for established agents and publishers to contact writers with manuscripts.  It sounds very forward-thinking and exciting.  

6. If you LOVE to read (and I know some of you do), consider joining the September Read-A-Thon.  You know you want to.  Brag a little.  Serve a microwave dinner to the fam and enjoy an extra chapter or two. 

7. Finally, here are some pics of a cozy reader's group, who read my novel last month.  Note the beautiful orange juice cake, in honor of the book.  The sweet host, Dixie, served three different dishes that reflect the three main characters' cultural backgrounds.  That seriously rocks, people.  I felt special, indeed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I have a "beta reader" for my YA manuscript in progress.  It forces me to write a chapter a day so I can email it to her and keep my writing mojo strong. I just finished Chapter 15.

I woke up this morning to find this email from my beta reader:
"Oh my goodness!  This book is great!! A page-turner, read in one day kinda great!!!! Can't wait to read what happens next :)!!"

This is not a fifteen-year-old girl.  This is a woman with three children.  That fact alone makes this email perfect.  But let's not neglect the other reason why it made its way into my blog: I love the gratuitous exclamation points (probably because I've been trained not to use them in writing fiction), the fine use of the aptly placed fragment, and the cheerful if not redundant smiley face, just in case she thought she might have understated her enthusiasm.  
I. Love. This. Email.

Thank you, Beta Reader. I'm sending you Chapter 15 today.