Friday, July 30, 2010

Freak-Out Friday: Forty Fun

Ok, yeah, I'm freaking forty today. Uh-huh. I was going to write a post boring you with a run-down of my life's greatest hits thus far, or moan and groan about gravity and fine lines, but then I

It's a birthday, which means joy and fun and celebration. So on this day of my birth, I'm celebrating you.

I'm so grateful I have people who actually click on this site and read my ramblings. The publishing biz is tough, but I am constantly amazed at how freely my fellow writers offer support. You are all wonderful, interesting, vibrant people, and I want to offer something to thank you for your amazingness.

I wish this list could include a diamond bracelet or an all-inclusive trip to Cancun, but hey, I'm a writer, so my goodie bag is a bit more modest. Here goes:

1. I will be someone's beta-slave. Query? Synopsis? 300,000 word dystopian based on Gone With the Wind? I'm there, red pen in hand.

2. I will give someone a tarot card reading. Online, but still fun.

3. I will attempt to match your personality to a book I have on my very crowded shelves. It might be something obscure; it might be a bestseller. I will then send it to you.

4. I will give free advice, on any topic. I'm actually pretty good at giving advice (notice I didn't say taking).

5. I will say nice things about one lucky reader on facebook and twitter and my blog for an ENTIRE day! Whoo-Hoo!

If you're interested in any of the above mega-gifts, just mention the number in the comments section, or send me an email at lorettanyhan (at) gmail dot com. First come, first served (except for the tarot readings--I could do those all day.)

Happy Weekend! I'm off to drink a gallon of resveratrol!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the Vault: Moms and Dads

I've seen a lot of discussion lately about the depiction of parents in YA literature. Most of the opinions I've read are basically complaints: the moms and dads we see (when they're not conveniently dead) are cartoonishly self-centered, and often absent until they're needed to help the plot along by providing a ridiculous obstacle.

The arguments against this either find examples of richly drawn parental figures (Hello, Zarr, Dessen, and Caletti!) or explain that in a YA novel we're seeing the world through a teen's eyes, which would, at the very least, keep the focus on the teenager, not the concerns of her parents.

As a YA writer, I've been giving a lot of thought to this issue. How do I present realistic parents without taking anything away from my teen protags?

I'm a reader, and I usually to search out my answers through reading, but I think a lot of my ideas regarding character development came from television. In the 70s and 80s YA pickings were slim in the library, but television was full of stories about young people AND their parents. I can think of five off the top of my head that focused on teen concerns without skimping on adult character development. And though my examples come from TVland where the characters had at least an entire season to develop, I think if you separated out one episode, you'd still see a rich and realistic depictions of parent-teen relationships. Here goes:

1. Family Ties: Ex-hippies Elyse and Steven Keaton deal with raising (gasp) an uptight Republican son and two daughters, a tween and a teen. The show never falls into the traps you'd think--it's not preachy or dogmatic, but instead richly explores issues still important to teens: sex and pregnancy, drugs, body image, and identity crisis.

2. Good Times: The Evans kids, J.J., Thelma, and Michael, try to manage growing up amidst the violence and economic instability of the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Their parents weren't consistently around, but their presence was always felt.

3. Little House on the Prairie: Half-pint's relationship with her Pa was the heart of this series.

4. Eight is Enough: Seven of the eight were teenagers. The focus was the kids' shenanigans, but Mr. Bradford always seemed like a real--if kind of harried--dad, and Abby, the stepmom, is hardly evil and earns her PhD over the course of the show. Seriously!

5. My So-Called from the 90s, but is the freaking gold standard for creating richly drawn adult characters in a teen driven series.

I missed a ton, I know. Care to add any to the list?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freaky Friday

1. Inception--I have only a vague notion of what this is about, but I haven't seen people this excited about a movie in a long time. I think it's going on my to-do list this weekend. I mean, who can resist Leo, right?

2. Book Clubs: I joined one a while back and it's been an amazing. The ladies of Baby's Got Paperback really put 100% into the experience, and as a result the discussions are smart, thorough, and highly entertaining. And the food is pretty great, too!

3. Friday Night Lights--I have no interest in football whatsoever, but I do love a good one-hour drama. I rented the first season of this show from Netflix on the recommendation of a friend. Do you guys watch?

4. Thank God for camp counselors, those rare people who manage to be cheerful when confronted with incessant whining, killer bugs, and temps in the high 90s. I bow before them.

5. I just got an invite to a screening of Who Does She Think She Is?, a documentary about five female artists who struggle to balance their creative lives with their roles as mothers and wives (We all know how unbalanced it can make us, right?). Check it out if it's playing in your city. Here is a review from the NY Times for the curious.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Check this Out!

Hey, everyone! Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation now has an official web site and blog. Go take a looksy by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From the Vault: Netflix Extravaganza

I'm obsessed with coming-of-age stories. I write them, watch them, teach them. The 1950s offered the best literary coming of age; the 1960s gave us music to reflect that time in our lives. What the 1970s lacked in literary and musical offerings it made up for in cinema. Probably as a reaction to the 60s youth movement, there are a ton of great 70s movies about growing up. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Butterflies are Free (1972) An overprotected blind man moves into his first apartment and makes friends with his giggly, half-dressed hippie neighbor. Guess which role Goldie Hawn plays?

2. Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976) Paul Mazursky's autobiographical film about a young man finding himself among the artsy, bohemian denizens of Greenwich Village. It's set in the 1950s, but is definitely informed by 70s cynicism.

3. Friends (1971) I've seen this described as Romeo and Juliet meet The Blue Lagoon, but it's so much more than that. Two teens falling into a childish love that has adult consequences.

4. Harold and Maude (1971): If you haven't already seen this there is something very wrong with you.

5. Carrie (1976): Greatest horror movie ever about female adolescence.

So, do you guys have any to add from the 80s? 90s? 00s?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Freaky Friday

Super random:

1. Things I'm spending my money on: Josie Maran cosmetics (The company is super committed to eco-goodness.), Rowan yarn (I WILL make a kick-arse sweater by fall.), and Picket Fence Pinot Noir (available for a limited time at Trader Joe's.).

2. I'm obsessed with people who can make a living doing something other people would never think to do. Burning Dan is my hero. He's a fire dancer who keeps body and soul together by teaching and performing. Do you think he does children's parties?

3. Movie I'm definitely going to make time to see: The Kids Are All Right. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in the same movie? Playing a married couple? I'm surprised I haven't seen it already.

4. New goals for the rest of 2010: Complete my third novel, THE FOUR OF US; learn to use my sewing machine; paint my son's room. I figure if I send this list out into cyberspace these things will actually get accomplished.

5. TV is my friend again. Mad Men is back. Weeds, too. And, this man/werewolf is protecting Sookie on True Blood:

Aaaaah-woooo! Happy weekend!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Passion of the Mel (and Mary)

The movie Tim was on cable a few weeks back. It's based on Colleen McCullough's touching novel about a mentally challenged man's affair with an older woman. I love McCullough's more famous work, THE THORN BIRDS, but TIM is a gentler, more nuanced book. The movie adaptation succeeds because the acting is so spot-on--Mel Gibson, in his first film role, portrays Tim's disability in such a natural, unaffected way the audience feels compelled to protect him.

I wish I still felt that way about Mel. If you haven't heard it yet and have the interest, laineygossip has an audio of Mel's verbally abusive conversation with his girlfriend/baby mama Oksana. It's absolutely brutal--the man speaking is a racist, misogynistic bully. The insults flow from his mouth with such ease there is little question this wasn't the first time he's levelled that kind of abuse on someone close to him.

It's hard to reconcile that man with the artist who directed Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, but then, I think the man Mel was then is buried deep under a mountain of empty liquor bottles, if he even still exists at all. The first thing that struck me about the audio was how much he sounded like X, a person I once knew (now deceased) who drank and drank and drank and then spewed venom. Against his family and remaining friends, trying to destroy them with his words. Against himself, who he ended up destroying with whiskey.

People often say getting drunk is no excuse for bad behavior, and only unleashes what was already inside. I agree there is no excuse for violence and brutality, but I do think alcohol erodes not only the stomach lining but the personality as well, rubbing away the good until the alcoholic covers the bare spots with rage and hatred. And there is a difference between someone having a few too many at the office Christmas party and saying something obnoxious to the boss and the slow deterioration of brain and heart and soul that comes with long-term alcoholism. Those personality changes are often severe and irreversible if the drinking doesn't stop.

Coincidentally, I read LIT this weekend, the newest memoir by Mary Karr (author of THE LIAR'S CLUB--great book.). In beautifully poetic language she discusses the ugliest time of her life--her drinking years. It was horrible to read about a wasted, out-of-control mother screaming at her toddler son in the supermarket, a near fatal accident while driving drunk, the constant vomiting and trembling of the DTs. I worried for her, my anxiety slightly assuaged when I turned to the back cover to see a nicely made-up, healthy looking Mary. Whew, I thought, she got through it OK.

I wish the same for Mel Gibson.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Freaky Friday

How can it possibly be Friday? And July? Oy.

1. The Emmys: Glee scored 19 Emmy nods, Mad Men 17. Whoo-Hoo! I love it when deserving shows are recognized. I do wish Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell were nominated for their fine work on LOST. Their acting during Juliet's death scene is worth a closetful of trophies.

2. ONE DAY by David Nicholls: OK, I read it almost entirely in one long stretch, it was that good. Until...well...shoot me an email at lorettanyhan (at) if you want to discuss. And oh, boy, do I ever want to discuss.

3. Harry Potter Wizarding World: It's officially open to the public. They serve butterbeer. You can walk into Olivander's and your wand picks you! Voldemort couldn't keep me away from this place.

4. Libba Bray on libraries: I have a major girlcrush on this babe. Here is her blog entry about the value of local libraries and what we need to do to save them from sweeping budget cuts.

5. Kombucha: Long-time readers of this blog know about my love of fermented tea. I don't do Red Bull or even coffee, but every so often one needs a bit of motivation to get through the afternoon, no? Kombucha supposedly supports the immune system, energizes the body, and gives the digestive system a dose of probiotics. What's not to love, right? Well, the other day I cruised into Whole Foods to pick some up and the Kombucha display was gone, replaced by a sign stating it had been recalled. I asked the WF dude what was up and he explained--don't you just love how everyone working at Whole Foods loves to engage in conversation?--that the problem was the tea kept fermenting in the bottle after it had left the factory. So the trace amounts of alcohol listed as byproducts of the fermentation process became a lot more than the .05% listed on the label. In other words, I was downing the equivalent of a wine cooler in the middle of the day. No wonder I always felt so good at after-school pick-up!

The Whole Foods dude told me I should just make my own Kombucha in the basement. Um...if any of you know how to do this without blowing up my house, let me know.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From the Vault: Style Edition

I'm, um, coming up on a BIG birthday. One of those milestones that, according to my cousin's husband, "Make you start thinking you're extremely lucky if you really are at the halfway point."

But seriously, I don't mind aging so much. Sure my hair isn't as lustrous as it once was, it's harder and harder to lose weight, and it only takes a sip of wine to stain my teeth purple (What is up with that?), but those things pale in comparison to what I've gained. (OK, maybe not entirely, but I'm going with it.)

When I was a teen I tried on as many identities as most girls did prom dresses. I had a (thankfully) brief flirtation with jock chic (legwarmers, high top Reeboks, big hair) and preppie (Bass penny loafers and polo shirts with turned up collars). I had a longer affair with Goth. Oh, how I loved pairing Doc Martens with torn black dresses and practicing sullen looks in the mirror. The problem was, I'm kind of a sunny person. I can't help smiling at people. It kind of killed my whole Goth persona AND made me look like an ass in front of the real Goths. My real personality kept seeping through, but I wasn't comfortable enough to accept it. I'm naturally a hippie/gypsy/boho kind of chick. Still, during my last years of college I went through an Audrey in Paris phase (black leggings, ballet slippers, bobbed black hair) and a Marilyn phase (Chanel No. 5, tight dresses and a short curly `do).

I still wear ballet flats almost exclusively, but at nearly (fine I'll say it) forty, I've come to accept that I'll never shop at Hermes, and Doc Martens just make my feet sweat. This is my style, and has been, if I'm honest with myself, for decades:


I love these inspirations, but mostly I follow my instincts. I know myself, and I know my tastes. And that is one of the true benefits of getting older (OK, that AND reduced insurance rates).
So, how about you guys? Do you feel like you've reached the age where you're comfortable in your own skin?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Freaky Friday--Eclipse Version

OK, I went to the midnight showing on Tuesday, yes I did. Standing in line was awesome--hordes of teenage girls decked out in their Team Edward/Jacob finery, squealing and crying and intensely debating whether or not the headboard banging scene would make it to the final cut of Breaking Dawn (most thought yes, it would). Just standing there was like hormone replacement therapy.

The movie itself? Loved and hated it with equal measure. Here are my reasons:

LOVED (mild spoilers if you've been living under a rock):

1. Jacob and Bella kiss. Since Jacob spent the entire movie running around in Daisy Dukes, you are sooo primed for it to happen. H-O-T. (And, Taylor Lautner is, um, legal now, so I can stop thinking about him as "the kid who played Sharkboy".)

2. Jacob tosses off some seriously funny one-liners. So does Charlie.

3. The producers obviously had more cash for the important stuff. Special effects. Make-up. A decent director.

4. Bree Tanner is introduced. Now I might actually read the novella.

5. Jasper doesn't make me want to laugh hysterically every time he appears onscreen. All the Cullens--Rosalie and Emmett especially--actually have lines, and reasons for being in the film.

What I HATED (Again, spoilers if you haven't read the book):

1. The tent scene didn't exactly live up to my expectations. It was more about Edward and Jacob, than the, um, heat in that sleeping bag. Roger Ebert called it the "Brokeback Mountain scene", which is right on.

2. Bella's perpetual case of blue-balls. Sorry, there is no more applicable term. Edward is saving her soul by refusing to have sex with her? So the end result of asking for what she wants in the relationship is losing her very essence. Ugh. Double-ugh.

3. The ring looks like this cubic zirconia mess my mom bought with her 30% off Kohl's coupon a few years back. They couldn't do better?

4. When did Anna Kendricks become the most annoying person in the series? In a movie full of annoying actors, this is an accomplishment.

5. Bryce Dallas Howard was a poor choice for Victoria. She just looks too nice--definitely her father's daughter. It weakened the action scenes considerably.

I'd love to hear what you guys thought! Did you love or hate?