Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big News

From today's Publishers Marketplace:

Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan's I'LL BE SEEING YOU, a story of unexpected friendship told through letters shared between two American women on the home front during World War II, to Erika Imranyi at Mira, in a two-book deal, by Anne Bohner at Pen & Ink Literary and Joanna Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.

So...how did this happen?

Magic? Happenstance? Accidentally?

I fell in love with Suzy's words on her lovely blog. She read mine, too. We connected. We emailed. We discovered.

Both of us had projects on sub and waiting is hard and lonely. We became friends.

One day Suzy said, in her charming and enthusiastic way, "Let's write a book together while we wait." I said, in my best Spicoli voice, "Uh...okay."

We're both history geeks, the World War II era in particular. When Suzy suggested we write letters to each other as women waiting for their men to come home from the war, I was all over it.

When I got that first letter, my character came to me, fully formed, and started talking. It sounds crazy, but Rita became real, as did Suzy's character, Glory. I found myself refreshing my inbox, hoping a new letter would pop up. I had no idea when this would happen---sometimes days would go by.

When a letter did come, I'd take one look at the Dear Rita subject line and my heart would shake. The computer couldn't bring it up fast enough. My fingers couldn't type a reply fast enough.

We ached for these characters, laughed with them, cried for them. And when the last letter was written, we cried for ourselves. Because it was over.

But then, it wasn't. Our agents, Joanna Volpe and Anne Bohner, loved the book. Later, a wonderful editor, Erika Imranyi at MIRA, loved it as well.

We couldn't be happier. And we couldn't be luckier. How can we adequately thank the people who are making our dreams possible?

And, Suzy, how can I thank you enough? My crazy East Coast twin? Someday we will meet face to face, and you'll take one look at me and know what this has all meant. Love you.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sunset for Woody

A few weeks ago, I walked out of Midnight in Paris and said something I never thought I'd say after watching a Woody Allen film: "Well, that was cute."

And it was, in a literary geek/celeb spotting kind of way. Oh, there's Hemingway. And Gertrude Stein. And Omigod, Adrien Brody makes the best Salvador Dali!


In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen revisits the magical elements that made The Purple Rose of Cairo such an interesting, compelling film. But in Cairo he seemed to know this: the realism is just as important as the magic. Midnight in Paris is visually stunning and fairly whimsical, but it presents a world populated with caricatures. At some point during this film, Allen decided to sacrifice believability for jokes.

The thing is, he used to do both so well.

I get that he's 75, long past the age when most directors have retired or simply faded away. I also understand that artists evolve and later work may reflect a shift in perspective or a refusal to follow trends. I also suspect some find great comfort in repetition, in watered down versions of older, more successful works. I don't want Woody Allen to be guilty of the latter. It's just too disappointing.

I think he's still got it in him to create movies like the following, movies that made me laugh and think in equal measure, movies that made me want to be a better writer:

Annie Hall


Hannah and Her Sisters


The Purple Rose of Cairo

Radio Days

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Husbands and Wives

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Want to add any to the list?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy 20th Birthday, Kody Keplinger!

(Kody Keplinger, the author of THE DUFF and the upcoming SHUT OUT, is an agent sister, friend, and occasional writing challenge buddy. This is for her.)

I know, I know...in some ways it does suck to say adios to your teens. You're stressing. I could feel your anxiety over the Internet.

At first, I couldn't understand it. You published a novel at 18. You have another coming out in a couple of weeks. You've accomplished more than people twice your age. You're independent and lovely and focused.

But then...I realized that I'd forgotten.

I'd forgotten that jumping into your third--and first wholly adult--decade is a throat tightening plunge into an ocean of wide open nothingness. The water appears vast and overwhelming, and it seems the waves pull your raft--the safe, secure anchor of teen life--farther and farther out to sea.

My 19 year old self, full of nerves about the future, wrote a timeline for my 20s in my journal: By 19-- I would publish my novel (Um...not that I'd actually written one at that point!) In 19-- I would travel through Europe with only a back on my back. Then I would meet a wonderful man and get married. We'd live on a commune in California and an artists' colony in Provence and a rustic cabin in Maine. Etcetera, etcetera--the list was waaaay long.

Some of those things happened. Some of those things didn't. Your twenties is when you realize planning with pretend knowledge of the future is useless. And this is a freaking exciting revelation. Because anything can happen.

It is also universally acknowledged that at some point between twenty and thirty you will be the best looking version of you. (This is not a superficial statement because this beauty comes more from internal than external factors.) Acne will disappear, baby fat will melt away, and you will be years away from wrinkles and age spots. Your skin will glow. You might not have much money, but you will be secure in your taste and confident in your style. Your hair will shine. And one day you'll be sitting with some friends, holding a glass of wine or a root beer or a San Pellegrino, in a romantic cafe in a city you've come to know as your own, in a city that you've come to own. The sun will make the glass in your hand sparkle and you'll think of all the things you know and all the things there's left to learn and the road is so deliciously long. "This," you'll say, "is life."

And it is good.

Happy Birthday, Kody. The best is yet to come...

For more birthday wishes, check out blog posts by Amy Lukavics, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Erica O'Rourke, and Kaitlin Ward later today!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back to the Past

The book I'm working on now is set in WWII-era Iowa City. Yep, Iowa.

I have a good grasp of 20th C. history, but I nearly googled myself to death trying to get the setting right. There's not a lot out there, but, I thought, what I found was enough. Through the University of Iowa photo archives I saw where my character might live, where she'd do her grocery shopping, and where she'd stop for a cup of tea or a beer, depending on her preference. Their collection is wonderful.

Still, I had to make some assumptions based on more general historical facts. For example, small-town USO functions were typically held in YMCAs or YWCAs, so when my gal went to roll bandages for the guys overseas, she skipped on down to the Y.

Those assumptions started to bother me. What if I was wrong? You might think, who the heck is going to know the difference? Well, I would. Someone who was around back then might.

So I called the Johnson County Historical Society. The woman who picked up, Sue Foster, patiently listened to my questions. "You need to talk to Bob Hibbs," she said when I finished. "He's our local historian and he knows everything. Let me see if I can find his number..."

She did find it, and next thing I knew I was asking Mr. Bob Hibbs where I might go if I attended a USO function in 1943 if I lived in Iowa City.

"All the USO activities were held in the American Legion Building," he said without even pausing to think. "The old YMCA building burned down."

Okay, then. I would have been wrong.

This might not seem like a big deal to you. But the more I learn about the brave, industrious souls who inhabited Iowa during the war, the more I want to do right by them. It seems an insult to assume now. I want to know.

The closest you can get to that knowledge is through real, live human beings. Thanks, Sue. Thanks, Bob. My book is better thanks to both of you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Depraved YA: An English Teacher-y Response

It's been a few weeks since Meghan Cox Gurdon's infamous article in the Wall Street Journal decried the current crop of YA novels as pits of depravity, luring our youth into lives as cutters, bulimics, and drug abusers.

The response ranged from ad hominem attacks (Gurdon is clueless, an idiot, stupid, old, out-of-touch, etc.) to thoughtful personal essays (Libba Bray, Sherman Alexie), to a tidal wave of tweets including the hashtag #YASAVES.

Do books have the power to save teens? Well, this has been my personal truth. I was a horribly insecure person during those years, a misfit, unsure of my place in the world. I hate to think of what would have happened to me without the lifeline books provided.

But in equating YA literature with self-help books, we cease to view it as literature. This is more dangerous than Gurdon's article. If an author's main goal while writing a book is to offer solace to the suffering reader, it often comes at the expense of characterization, plot, even diction, the writer's careful choice of words. (And you are insane if you think I'm going to offer examples, but there are many who use the story to serve the issue, not vice-versa.)

This mindset also makes it nearly impossible to evaluate the worth of books like John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA, a young adult novel which contains all the hallmarks of classic literature. To describe it as a suicide book is to lessen the artistic impact of the novel.

Which leads me to the dicey topic of quality. This, I think, was an underlying message in Gurdon's WSJ piece. In evaluating these books solely on what she feels their impact is on a young reader, Gurdon is essentially saying this genre is not worthy of true critical analysis. Her method is not only impossible given the breadth of options in YA, it is simply not an effective way to critique art.

And YA lit is where some of the most exciting writers in any genre are crafting novels. Look at Jandy Nelson and Nova Ren Suma's use of language. Or Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth's expertise with plot. Or Sarah Dessen's ability to extend a metaphor. Or Charles Benoit's experimentation with point of view in YOU.

I teach literature courses to young adults. I know they are fully capable of looking at novels with a critical eye. To assume a monkey see/monkey do response is to insult their intelligence, and the artistic merit of the work. I hope Meghan Cox Gurdon eventually comes to that realization.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bobby D!

Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday. Second only to the Beatles on the list of my all-time greatest influences, I can't go too long without listening to his music. When I was a teen I studied his lyrics, so much so that I copied Tangled Up in Blue onto my history folder, with the seriousness and accuracy of a surgeon. When the teacher's droning got to be too much, I'd run my fingers over the words, again and again, hoping their perfection would seep into me somehow. I learned a lot about diction from Dylan, and the power of the image. Those lessons have stuck with me.

In honor of Bob's big day, here are my favorites of his many songs. Feel free to add your own to the list in the comments.

1. Tangled Up in Blue: A friend once said I require narratives of my music. I'd say that assessment is spot-on. Tangled Up in Blue is a freaking 7 minute novel. LOVE this song.

2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right: So simple on the surface but so emotionally complex, really.

3. Just Like a Woman: I, uh, assumed he was talking about me. He was, right?

4. Subterranean Homesick Blues: Maybe I just like the performance arty-ness of Bob standing there with the words on placards. Maybe it reminds me of the Beats. Maybe it's because the words feel like little punches.

5. Baby Let Me Follow You Down: Okay, he didn't write this one, but it's the perfect blend of Dylan's signature guitar, harmonica, voice. It just always makes me feel good.

Happy birthday, Bob!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm a Winner!


Writer/Fellow Blogger Diane Lebow (Check out her blog, About Writing) gave me this award:

In accepting it, I've agreed to write seven intriguing things about myself (um...no problem there--I know very few writers who would pass up an opportunity to talk about themselves) and to pass it along. As far as the latter goes, I'll pass it along to any interested blogger--go for it! Here are my seven:

1. My husband and I met when we were nine years old. Seriously. At fifteen, we went on one date. It didn't go well. Eight years later we decided to try again and had a better time. We've been married for thirteen years!

2. My favorite flower is the ranunculus.

3. I like to eat my ginger and garlic raw. I brush my teeth a lot.

4. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFJ, which, at one percent of the population, is the rarest of all types. I don't mention this to be braggy, as the descriptions always start with, "It won't be an easy life for the INFJ, but it will be interesting." Um...yeah. Totally.

5. I make crazy good lemon bars.

6. I like people, but I need to be alone a lot and I reaaaally like silence (see INFJ).

7. I don't have any tattoos, but I do have a birthmark on my upper right arm that looks like Mr. Peanut.

Okay, feel free to give yourself this award and get cracking on those big reveals...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts on Twitter from the Hippie Emily Post

Twitter is hard on writers. Especially those of the unpublished variety (Does anyone use the term "pre-published" anymore or has it been banished after general agreement that it's freaking obnoxious?). This is me : @LorettaNyhan. Make a pie chart of who I follow and you'll get a big old wedge of other writers, followed by a diverse group of publishing professionals: editors, publishing companies, agents, etc. A tiny sliver would represent people outside of publishing.

So most of my communication takes place between me and people in the book business.

Until recently, this was often problematic.

I'd assumed Twitter operated like a quiet pub on a Sunday afternoon. Three or four people sitting at the bar sipping their drinks, the conversation both leisurely and democratic.


For an unpubbed writer, Twitter is like being in a crowded classroom full of attention starved Type A students with a constant rotation of substitute teachers. Some subs care passionately about teaching and their students, others could give a crap about the students but love their subject. Some are just passing time until something better comes along. Some have borderline personality disorders.

The students desire to be heard, to stand out from the pack, to earn recognition for their "specialness." Not going to happen. Not often, anyway.

My Twitter philosophy has been this: if I find a tweet interesting, I should feel free to respond, no matter who the person is. I mean, the tweeter put it out there, right? Is this the way you guys feel?

This is fine if you understand three things: 1. No one is obligated to respond to you. 2. You might learn things about people you admire that you'd rather not know. 3. If you are responding to someone you hope to one day work with professionally, then conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Now, I like to think I haven't embarrassed myself on Twitter (yet), but it makes me cringe to think how easy it is to do so. I see unpubbed writers replying to big-name authors, editors, agents, etc., acting like they are not only sitting at a bar, but about to fall off the barstool. As in any industry, there is a hierarchy in publishing. The very idea of this may clash with your rebellious writerly spirit, but you need to respect it if you're going to get anywhere.

This is not to say the big-wigs won't respond. Some might engage. Others might not. Authors tend to have thickly drawn lines when it comes to tweeting. One famous author simply doesn't reply to anyone. Some only reply to other "names." One New York Times bestseller responds to everyone. I've seen her avatar so many times I think I know her face better than my own. And, though I risk sounding like Stuart Smalley, all of these choices are okay, and have nothing to do with you.

For an unpubbed writer, things get a bit trickier when responding to editors. These are people who might find my work in their inboxes someday. My rules for these tweets: 1. Proofread. 2. Don't fawn. 3. Avoid saying anything remotely stalker-like. You would think these rules are easy to follow. You would be wrong. I'm probably overthinking @ replies now, but I'd rather err on the side of caution. In this market there are so many reasons for an editor or agent to reject. Setting off the "Twitter Psycho!" alarm shouldn't be one of them.

Writing is a lonely endeavor, so it's not a surprise we all jumped into the Twitter pool feet first. Let's not forget that though social networking may jumble the private and public, it's not an excuse for us to do the same.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five: Happy Writer Edition

Hey, everyone! I'm starting a new project, which basically means I can't think of anything other than my shiny new story. When first drafting, I get a little wacko about my writing ritual, so for my list this week, I thought I'd share the five things I absolutely need in order to write. Here goes:

1. Silence: I can listen to music while I edit, but lyrics distract me when I'm writing a first draft.

2. Green tea: Absolutely necessary. Every day. Couldn't live without it.

3. Chocolate: Dark. Bitter. Like my humor.

4. Natural sunlight: Tall order for Chicago these days.

5. Yoga pants: Comfort beats fashion. Every time.

What about you guys? What do you need to write?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

Happy St. Patty's Day!

My paternal grandparents came from Ireland, and my father even spent some of his formative years in The Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary. Someday I'd like to visit this country I've heard so much about, but until then I have to satisfy myself with the next best thing, Chicago.

On St. Patrick's Day, being Irish and being a Chicagoan are synonymous. I've been celebrating in this city since before I could stand (and, during some of my college years, I could barely do that!). There are so many things I love about my hometown, and this holiday brings out some of my favorites:

1. Dyeing the Chicago River green:

Isn't it gorgeous? The city uses some top secret vegetable dye concoction I probably don't want to know too much about. It doesn't last long, which makes us all appreciate it all the more.

2. The St. Patrick's Day Parade, downtown Chicago. It isn't what it used to be, but it's still a great experience for the kids. When I was younger, it was always held on the actual holiday, but that resulted in too many kids ditching school. Um, not that I would have done anything like that. One other thing I wouldn't have been caught dead doing is adding Peppermint Schnapps to my Shamrock Shake. Never. Uh-uh.

3. Irish Dancers--before Riverdance, before they started wearing heavy pancake makeup and crazy wigs, young Irish-Americans learned how to dance a jig in smelly Catholic school gymnasiums. Now, there are Irish Dancing schools popping up everywhere, with kids from all walks of life practicing reels and begging their parents to take them to an Irish feis.

4. Green beer. I don't even drink beer and I think it's cool.

5. Irish Folk Music--Chicago has long been home to incredible Irish folk bands. Numerous friends and cousins drifted in and out of these groups, but one from my teenage years is still performing and sounds incredible: Baal Tinne. Have a listen to the band at Milwaukee Irish Fest.

So, Happy St. Patty's to you all! Wear green--everyone's Irish today!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Really, Really Like Me

Every issue of Marie Claire contains a short two-page spread where the mag picks a different city and asks a handful of women living there one question: What do you like about yourself? The answers are varied and sometimes unexpected, and the women are not all super models in training, but a motley mix of ethnicities and age groups.

I love this. And I was thinking about it yesterday, because this week was one of those where I found myself drowning in the "If only" pool. If only I had more talent, better clothes, more coordination, a skinnier bod, a straighter nose, more money, a quicker mind...

Yeah. Totally useless and destructive.

So for today's Friday Five * I'm going to list things I like about myself. Feel free to do the same in the comments section--it'll be good for you.

1. I throw amazing dinner parties. My husband and I could have a Food Network show, like the Heelys. Seriously.

2. I'm super polite. I always say "please" and "thank-you." I stay to the right when walking up or down a staircase. I give up my seat on the bus for pregnant women and the elderly.

3. I smile a lot.

4. My head is FULL of random factoids that actually come in handy when I write. And I rock Trivial Pursuit. You want me on your team. Definitely.

5. I can usually find a little bit of beauty in everyone. I consider this an amazing gift.

Okay, so let's hear yours. Don't be shy!

*I know it's Saturday. Deal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Fan-freaking-tastic discussion of sex in YA over at Kody Keplinger's blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

#YAMafia--Not Exactly the Corleones

I was in Cleveland this weekend attending the launch party for Lisa and Laura Roecker's book, The Liar Society (Yes, it was that awesome.), so I missed the brou-ha-ha (always wanted to use that) over this thing called the YA Mafia.

I've got to admit, the first time I read that hashtag I snort-laughed because I got this instant image of Libba Bray grabbing Maureen Johnson, planting one on her and growling, "I know it was you, Fredo."

Because it is just that ridiculous.

So what exactly is this YA Mafia? As far as I understand, it's a group of established YA writers who promote each other's books, hand out blurbs like candy on Halloween to fellow insiders, and meangirl authors on the rise or those who negatively review their books on goodreads. Am I right? I'm not exactly sure, because I didn't have the time to read through all the tweets and blogposts this morning BECAUSE I WAS WRITING.

Which is what those accused of being part of this conspiracy were probably doing. Because that's what writers spend 95% of their time doing. The other 5% is spent frantically trying to hold together the other aspects of our lives--cleaning the house, tending the family, taking a shower just often enough so we don't offend. If these mafioso--with all their deadlines, promotional responsibilities, and speaking engagements--have time to orchestrate high level harassment, I want to know how they do it! (Hey--now that's an idea for a SCBWI seminar!)

I'm not denying there are drama queens, jerks, and vindictive people in this industry. However, for the time I've been a participant in the YA community, I haven't seen many. I have seen a lot of kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness, though.

Once you've given yourself over to paranoia, it keeps growing until it evolves into narcissism. I know because I've allowed this to happen to me.

Okay, here's a by now standard Loretta analogy/story (I promise I have a point): I signed up for my very first yoga class in January. I'm a yoga kind of gal, but I always practiced at home to a DVD because I was absolutely terrified to be in a room where everyone would pass judgment on my ass while I bent in half for downward dog. And what if I started sweating? Farted? Split my yoga pants? Don't laugh. These were real fears for me.

On the first day of class I considered grabbing my yoga mat and running like hell. When we started our breathing exercises I was convinced everyone was secretly laughing at my "Om." But you know what? NO ONE was paying the least bit of attention to me, because these were true students of yoga. Their focus was on the practice of the art. It wasn't that I was beneath notice, it was that their job was to make themselves better. And if everyone in the class thought that way, we'd ALL improve.

Now let's hope the next hashtag getting all the attention will be #amwriting. Because that's what we should all be doing.

(That said, if Libba, Maureen, Holly, et al., want to sabotage me, I would LOVE it because I'd get more blog followers. And it would fuel my embarrassingly detailed Jason Bourne fantasies. But that's another blog post altogether...)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Liar Society

Happy Launch Day to THE LIAR SOCIETY!
Lisa and Laura Roecker's debut mystery is available today! Whoo-Hoo!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Freaky Friday

Grumpy today. Instead of the usual list of likes, I'm focusing on the hates:

1. People who call articles of clothing "pieces."

2. Parents who allow their children to do things like this (Give it 45 seconds) and then sign them over to Simon Cowell. I mean, she's going to give herself an aneurysm before you can say American Idol, right? Don't these people read Star Magazine? Lindsay Lohan. Britney Spears. Christina Aguilera. Cautionary tales, all. Give this girl five years and she'll be found passed out by the pool at the Chateau Marmont.

3. Justin Bieber (see above).

4. Modernizing/adapting/being inspired by/outright stealing any characters, settings, plotlines, or titles from Jane Austen. Don't get me wrong, I love Jane and Bridget Jones's Diary is one of my all-time favorite books (inspiration: Pride and Prejudice), but she has been sucked dry, people! Only the bones are left--let them rest in peace!

5. Hating on James Franco. Okay, he might be annoying to some, but in a world dominated by Kardashians, isn't it nice to see someone pursue higher education with such dedication? How many Ph.Ds does the guy have now? 18?

Whew, I feel better. How about you guys? Any hates?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From the Vault: Crushing

This is the best book promo I've seen in a while. It's for Allison Pearson's novel, I THINK I LOVE YOU, a story of the power of first crushes.

So...try to think back to the thirteen year old you. Who was your first big crush? Here's mine:

Oh yeah, I was hungry like the wolf...

Spill! Who did you have hanging up in your locker?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Which I Get a Little Rambly

Yesterday, I sent off a first draft of my current WIP to agent extraordinaire. Today I went wandering to reward myself.

I used to love walking around with nowhere to go, exploring and noticing and observing. I live a totally different life now, full of responsibilities and constant action (make lunches, walk the kids to school, go to the post office, grade papers...), so I often forget what it's like to move without purpose. The most delightful things come across one's path when there are no expectations.

So...I found myself in the next town over, walking block after block, when I spotted a shop I'd rushed past hundreds of times, always grumbling to myself that I should go in when I have a spare minute. This time I went in. On the surface the place was typical for a neighborhood filled with Victorian homes and people with money--candles, natural skin products, cutesy wall plaques with inspirational quotes. Then I looked a little closer. Some books on Native American spiritualism lined one wall. Palmistry and fortune telling the other. Okaaay, I thought. Then I spotted the Buddhas. Tarot cards. Incense. Bundled dried sage.

Then I saw the sign. "Shamanistic Readings by Appointment Only."

Holy freaking crap! What was a Shamanistic reading? I had to know. I approached the counter. The woman behind it was about the same age as my mother, with a blond suburban bob and a green sweater set right out of the Land's End catalogue.

"Who's gives the readings?" I asked. I don't know who I was expecting. A straight-backed elderly gentleman from the Cherokee nation? Jim Morrison? An ex-Deadhead who would also try to sell me some peyote?

She smiled at me. "I do."

This was my Shaman.

Turns out Shamanistic readings are kind of a guided, spiritual look inside the psyche. The focus is on answering a question, as in some Tarot readings, but all kinds of stuff comes out because the Shaman is gently coaxing spiritual energies. At least that's how I understood it. Anyway, this woman and I ended up having a great conversation about creativity, aromatherapy, life in general.

I didn't get a reading (Um, Shamans are expensive--even ones that look like they crochet instead of hang out in sweat lodges.) but I learned some things I can file away for that witch book I'm working on AND I scored some medicinal grade peppermint essential oil (great for focus and concentration.) All in all, a success.

There's a part of me that sees these excursions as a waste of time (You could be writing, Miss Flaky-pants, the little voice tells me.) But today I'm going to see them like a Shaman would: opening one's soul to the world.

And what's wrong with that?

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Kick to the Right Side of my Brain

Happy 2011, everyone!

I am so excited for what this year will bring, and I'm eager to get started on a major project I've been planning for quite some time. BUT I still have to finish up the one I'm working on. Exhaustion is common as one enters the last phases of a book, particularly during the busy holiday season, but I was lucky enough to come across some incredibly inspiring art to keep my mind whirring. Here's a taste...

1. JUST KIDS by Patti Smith. I realize I'm a little late to the party with this one, but--wow--if you were one of those "creative" girls in your late teens/early twenties, with no idea what to do with your creative impulses, this is for you. I loved reading how Patti came into her own and figured out what to do with all the ideas exploding in her head.

2. Bonobo is a pseudonym for the Brit DJ Simon Green. I usually can't write to music, but his hypnotic album, Black Sands, calls forth the words like a snake charmer. I'm obsessed!

3. Expanding my Beta circle. I love my long-term betas, but it's always good to search out new, critical readers. I've been lucky enough to meet some pretty sharp, fantastic people and my writing has truly benefited.

4. Black Swan--It's a Hitchcock/Twilight Zone/YA novel mash-up. LOVED it. I mean, I was totally creeped out, but it's been a while since a movie made me feel anything deeply. So...cool.

5. Comic books. My younger son has been writing his own comics. Watching how his 8 year old brain maps out a story has been a lesson in the art of simplicity.

What's been jumpstarting your creativity? Movies? Art? Music? Tell me!