Friday, March 15, 2013

A Change in this Blog

I've decided to change this blog a bit.  It's still going to be my 'author' blog, and I'll still talk about books and writing, but it's also going to be my general public blog. I have a lot of other things to write about so I figure I'll just include them here.  They're pretty random.  Expect...
-Introspection about Judaism
-Updates from Israel during my trip this summer
-Birchbox Reviews (I'm addicted... addicted...)
-Graffiti photos

I don't have too many followers yet here, so I think the change won't be too disruptive.  But feel free to unfollow if you like! I definitely won't take it personally.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tomorrow I'm piling into a car with Danielle Ellison, Cindy Thomas, and Kate Kaynak and we're heading out to the Berkshires for a writing retreat!  We're meeting Angie Frazier, Amalie Howard, and Kristi Cook there, and we all rented a house. 

I'm pretty excited to meet all of these amazing ladies. I'm also excited to spend some dedicated time writing. I've turned in my revisions for ETHER to my agent, and so while that's temporarily out of my hands, it's nice that I'll have these few days to focus on my next book.

I'm also a little anxious.  What does one do at a retreat? How much sharing will there be? Writing original work has always been a pretty solitary endeavor for me. I will report back when I return, or maybe I'll live blog our snowed-in YA extravaganza. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

I have a literary agent!

I'm so thrilled to report that I have a literary agent!  It's something I've dreamed of being able to say for some years now, and it's very surreal to me to get to post this.

It's difficult to tell the entire story, because it's tangled up in some details that I can't share at this point, but I'll write what I can.  I started querying back in June, after months of pruning and polishing my letter with the help of some extremely patient friends (Thanks, Danielle!).  I definitely had moments where I wanted to give up, but I'm so glad I kept at it.

I ended up having to choose between some really fabulous agents.  I loved each person I talked to. It's really remarkable, after sweating and crying and laughing over writing a manuscript, and then fighting tooth and nail to get it seen by industry professionals, to hear people you respect and admire sharing your love and enthusiasm for your baby.  I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been able to speak with these agents. If you're querying, or preparing to, hang in there! You just never know when things will turn around, and it's so magical when things start to work out.

In the end, I chose to join the amazing authors at Veritas Literary! I'll be working with Jennifer Skutelsky and Katherine Boyle.  Jenn is going to help me revise, which is so exciting.  She has background in the themes and angles I'm going for, and is a writer herself.  Katie will then take lead on the pitch effort, which I'm completely thrilled about, she's represented some amazing stuff and really knows her way around the industry!  I'm so excited to work with these two incredible agents and feel like I'm in fantastic hands and great company!

In other words, keep your chin up! Anything can happen.  Thanks so much to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST by Austin Kleon

Amazon calls it "self-help"
You can buy it here, or visit the author's website

I absolutely loved this book! I recommend it to everyone with creative pursuits or even non creative pursuits.  I recommend this to you if you can read.

The author is an artist and writer and in this brief and cleverly laid out book describes the top ten tips he'd give to a younger version of himself about being creative.  Those tips I've had experience with I found to be really good advice, and the new ones I'm excited to try out.

This one's my favorite:

"Think about your favorite work and your creative heroes. What did they miss? What didn't they make? What could've been made better? If they were still alive, what would they be making today? If all your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? Go make that stuff."

Just the thought of Steinbeck, Anne Bishop, Gaiman, Waterhouse, Maggie Stiefvater, and Jon Crosby getting together and creating something makes my insides quiver.  What would they make?  What would they make if I were on the team too? WOW. Damn.  I want to make that!

Here are some others that resonated with me:

"The computer is really good for editing your ideas, and it's really good for getting your ideas ready for publishing out into the world, but it's not really good for generating ideas.  There are too many opportunities to hit the delete key.  The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us - we start editing ideas before we have them."

I've been in a writing funk lately, and now I'm going to try really hard to only write in a notebook for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference.  See if I'm more merciful with my prose when I can't so easily erase it from existence.  See if it's better the next day, or if the next day I can find a way to make it better.  I'm excited to try.  No more editing ideas before we have them! Just heavily editing them after :)

"Artists aren't magicians.  There's no penalty for sharing your secrets."

This is a big one! I feel like writers live in constant fear of being stolen from, to the point where we smother our own work instead of sharing it and giving it the air and light and attention it needs to grow. And while it's good to be conscious of where and how we post our work, I want to believe that sharing is better than not.

On this front, the title of the book of course alludes to the way we are inspired by (okay... steal) the things around us and from other artists. There is an obsession with originality that makes me feel at times so wary of copying others I completely box myself in. One thing I love about this book is the advice Kleon gives about how to "steal" in a way that honors source material and creates something new(ish) and interesting in its own right. I won't give you any spoilers about this.  You should read it!

Overall, this book gave me a lot of great ideas on how to jumpstart new projects and greatly reduced my anxiety about stepping on other toes during my process.  I'm a lot better off having read it, and I expect it will be my birthday present to all my friends this year :).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: CLARITY by Kim Harrington

As I stated in the intro post, my looks at books are not so much reviews as what I learned about writing from reading them.  But I'm going to use the term "review" for simplicity's sake and so that they can be easily picked out on the page for those interested!  Now...


I got this book at Tatnuck Booksellers.
I read it in 2 sittings.
You can buy it here, or visit the author's website.

CLARITY came out back in March 2011, and I was fortunate to be at the launch party.  Kim Harrington is an extremely sweet, friendly person who also happens to be hilarious and a very talented writer!  CLARITY is about Clarity "Clare" Fern, who gets visions of emotions or moments of the past by touching objects.  She uses this skill at her family's psychic readings studio on Cape Cod, and also to help solve a local murder (or 3). I'll go with the pack here in saying that CLARITY is a bit like a paranormal Veronica Mars, and last I heard, the series has been optioned for a possible television production, which is fantastic.  Fingers crossed that pans out!  Overall, CLARITY is a quick, fast paced read that's suspenseful without being stressful, making it fun and perfect for summer.  Plus, it takes place in Massachusetts, so my heart is already hooked <3

My three favorite things about the writing in CLARITY:
  • Pacing. This book hits the ground running. Since the first few chapters are often all people in the publishing industry will see (if that) when you're trying to get your work out there, I always pay particular attention to what authors do with that prime literary real estate.  There's so much packed into the first 30 pages of CLARITY! We see Clarity ostracized by bullies in town, her family giving a reading, her banter with her brother, an exploration of her gift, many demonstrations of her lovable snark, the introduction of 2 boys (although one of them didn't end up being a love interest, which intrigues me still) an arch nemesis, a murder, family angst, and a rival psychic moves to town! There was no question about if I wanted to keep reading - too many interesting threads were introduced for me not to follow. Harrington accomplishes this by not dwelling for too long on any one aspect. She gives brief snippets of all of these tantalizing things and then switches to the next one without overdeveloping them at the beginning. The result is a whirlwind, and the constant alternating focus moved the book along quickly and with a lot of tension. On a bigger scale, CLARITY is the first of a series, and this book introduced enough lingering material (like her mysterious, MIA father!) to propel me on to read the next book, PERCEPTION, with excitement. 
  • Parents in YA Lit: There is a tendency for parents to be completely absent or evil in YA literature. I think this is because people think that a teenager could not get up to any real adventure with parents who are loving and caring and constantly present. CLARITY is fascinating because Clare's mother is not only a loving, caring participant in Clare's life, she's also a telepath who can read her children's thoughts! You'd think this would put the brakes on Clare's fun, but actually it's quite the opposite. Her mother, Starla, butts out when appropriate, gives her children room to breathe, and pipes up at hilarious moments.  One of my favorite parts was when Starla makes a comment about Gabriel checking out Clare's legs. HA! 
  • Sexuality in Passing: Sexuality in YA can be tricky subject, and I find that discussions of it are usually the part of the book where I disconnect from the characters and remember that this isn't a teen narrating, really, but a grown adult, usually a parent. The treatment of sex in CLARITY is really refreshing because of how matter-of-fact it is.  Clare's brother is a total womanizer. Her boyfriend cheated on her and slept with someone else. Clare's aware of her own appeal despite the boys in town disliking her because of her unusual talents. Clare accepts her conflicting attraction to two very different boys without too much preamble. It feels authentic because it's simply a part of Clare's life and her world, rather than something constantly hyped up and anticipated or cautioned against.  That's not to say there's no conflict or thought given to these interactions, just that the narration rings true, and I believe that's because sexuality is treated as something real with ups and downs, rather than as something mythical and magical. This isn't news to me or to most people, but CLARITY is a really great example of it.
I'm looking forward to reading PERCEPTION, which recently came out, and more of Kim Harrington's work!

Kim Harrington and her editor, Aimee Friedman, at the CLARITY launch last spring.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First, What Did You Learn?

When I was in graduate school, my adviser and favorite professor, Kimberley Patton, taught me more than I could regurgitate in one blog post.  I took four classes with her, one on animals in religion, on on weeping in the religious tradition, one on angels, and one on twins and twinship.  (Awesome, I know, right?) And in each class we either had to present a short paper, or write a response for each meeting.  These papers always had one key rule: First, write what you learned from the reading.

The tendency for graduate students is to read or consume something and immediately criticize it.  Each and every thing in this world is flawed in some way, and we've been trained to find those flaws and attack them.  I'm not sure why that is our first priority, why the need to invalidate something trumps all other responses, but I don't think I am alone in having been brought up this way.  Maybe my intellectual aggression comes from years of debate team in high school and college, where the object was to mortally wound the opponent's argument and then dance all over their rhetorical despair. In fact, at my very first collegiate tournament I made that poor team from Vassar cry at the podium.  I don't even remember the topic, but I remember her salty, salty tears.

But Professor Patton pushed back on this approach, and allowed us to write in the following order:
1) First, what did you learn?
2) You may then offer an analytical response
3) You may then offer a personal response

So we had to get through all of the complex, useful writing before we had a chance to rant and rage about the text's inaccuracies or its privilege or its misogyny or its narrowness or its overwhelming breadth or our hatred of its employment of adverbs.  And more often than not, I filled my two pages with productive thoughts and ran out of steam before I got to my teeth gnashing.

And I have to say, my teeth are a lot better off for it.

When forced to push my criticism to the back burner, I found myself getting a whole lot more out of the texts, and I found that most of my judgments were superficial and comparatively unimportant.  It's almost as if I gave in to my knee jerk reactions to avoid having to actually grapple with what might be a difficult topic. When I reflected on what I learned, first and foremost, I learned more.  Always.

This approach helped me tremendously in the ivory tower, and I'm finding it helps just as much on my couch with a good book.  I'm going to use this blog to apply Prof. Patton's rules to my reading, mostly of YA and romantic fiction.  Because while it's true that everything in this world is flawed, everything has something to teach, too.