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!