Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Writing Community

Sometimes I just sit back and think about how awesome the writing community truly is. The camaraderie. The willingness to donate time to help someone else. It's astounding really.

When I look back at my own journey, the list of people I'd have to thank would be quite long. The people who've critiqued my writing and allowed me to critique theirs. You can learn just as much from giving critique as you can from receiving it. The people who've commiserated. The people who pulled me out of the low points. The people who congratulated me during the small triumphs. The generous, such as Brenda Drake and Authoress, who try to create opportunities for writers to get noticed. The writer friends I've made through Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, and SCBWI conferences. Random tweets of encouragement. Writers who share their journey to publication and inevitably inspire others.

What a strong community we truly are. *happy sigh*

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Football Memories

Yesterday evening huzband and I needed a break from our Breaking Bad marathon and we decided to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and throw the football around. It reminded me of some of my happiest times in college and graduate school: playing intramural flag football. Our team was called the Broke Jokes and we even had snazzy t-shirts.


I was #19 Ice Princess. Go figure (ahhhh....bad skating pun). Anyway, I loved the weekly practices and games, and I was always sad when the season was over. I think Broke Jokes was the first time in my life that I had really played in a team sport. Figure skating is very solitary and I loved the whole team dynamic. My friends taught me how to throw and catch a football. How to run passes. How to play defense. And I found myself loving a sport that I had never really paid much attention to in the past.

One year we even made it to the UAB co-ed flag football intramural championships! Sadly, we lost to Excitement, Inc. I still remember the name of the team--the loss was that hard.

So back to yesterday evening. Huzband and I are throwing the football around, and the skin of the football is sticky and was literally coating our hands in reddish brown goey rubber. The seams were coming apart and the football was in this permanently deflated state.

And so it is with a heavy heart that the official Broke Jokes football had to be laid to rest today. He suffered from a terminal skin disease and was no longer fit to play.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gossip Time...WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN by Kristin Rae

I recently got to spend a few glorious days at the beaches of Miami. During which I shared some of my time in the sun with Kristin Rae's debut WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN. I devoured the book!

WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN is the fun story of Pippa, who is sent off to Italy for the summer to study boring art so that one day she can work at her Mom's boring art gallery. But Pippa decides to get a little sneaky, and pretends to go to art school while she sets off on an Italian adventure of her own! I thoroughly enjoyed spending Pippa's Italian summer with her (and the cute boys!).

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Pippa has always wanted to go to Italy … but not by herself. And certainly not to sit in art school the entire summer learning about dead guys’ paintings. When she steps off the plane in Rome, she realizes that traveling solo gives her the freedom to do whatever she wants. So it’s arrivederci, boring art program and ciao, hot Italian guys!

Charming, daring, and romantic, Bruno is just the Italian Pippa’s looking for—except she keeps running into cute American archeology student Darren everywhere she goes. Pippa may be determined to fall in love with an Italian guy … but the electricity she feels with Darren says her heart might have other plans. Can Pippa figure out her feelings before her parents discover she left the program and—even worse—she loses her chance at love?


What's even more interesting than WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN is the author herself! She's a former figure skating coach, photographer, and is always making crafty art projects. Plus she's expecting a baby girl this August. Check out her website here. Congratulations Kristin on a fantabulous debut!




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Never Under Estimate a Snail

I've always loved animated films, especially those by Disney and DreamWorks. I love the fantastical story lines and the cartoon characters and the songs. I don't think I've ever watched an animated movie that I didn't like.

But I tried watching TURBO a couple of months ago and I simply couldn't get into the movie. I've been going through what I'll call Anita's Jaded-Full-of-Adult-Stuff Phase of Life for most of 2014. And the reason I couldn't get into the movie wasn't because the snails weren't cute enough, or the animations didn't wow me enough, or the humor wasn't ha ha enough. It was nothing like that.

It was because the main character--a snail--wanted to become an Indy race car driver. My brain screamed: NOT POSSIBLE! NOT POSSIBLE! I mean, it's a snail. It's too small and too slow. It's just not plausible or possible. I couldn't even fathom how the writers were going to transform this run of the mill garden snail into a contender for the Indy 500. So, I remember I got up from the couch, turned my back on the movie, and proceeded to the dishes.

Seriously. The dishes.

In my mind there was no way the main character, a snail, could get what he wanted most, and I wasn't going to spend the next ninety minutes watching him flail about, only to accept in the end that he was never going to be fast, and he'd just have to accept his lot in life.

Fast forward a few months. Anita's still dealing with the Full-of-Adult-Stuff Phase of life, but I'm not as jaded. So I decided to give TURBO another chance. I was going to let DreamWorks prove to me that this snail would become the next Speedy Gonzalez. So still skeptical, I sat down to watch Turbo again with Sarcastically Delicious (aka huzband).

And I was blown away.

Literally, this snail raced past me and my narrow minded brain and left me choking on his exhaust fumes. I applaud DreamWorks for their ingenious creativity. And not only for that, but for teaching me a big lesson about keeping my mind open to possibilities.

Needless to say, if you're looking for a good movie to watch this Memorial weekend, I recommend TURBO.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Julia...No...Lola....No...Julia

So I started listening to this fantastic audiobook called MEANT TO BE by Lauren Morrill. It's the story of a straight-A high school student named Julia and her educational class trip to London. I love stories that are set abroad, and so when I read the back cover of the audio book I was hooked.

But I've been having trouble staying in the story because the narrator of the audiobook is Shannon McManus. I love her voice. She's perfect for YA and has so much enthusiasm and emotion. But she's also the narrator for LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins and I've listened to that audio book at least a dozen times.

So it is embedded in my brain that the voice is of Shannon McManus IS Lola Nolan. And Lola and Julia (the main character of MEANT TO BE) couldn't be more different. Lola expresses herself by dressing in costume, she does decent in school, is super creative, talks to the moon, and is the exact opposite of straight-laced. At the beginning of the novel Lola's dating a hot twenty-something rockstar. Julia would never break a rule, prefers to spend her time with books, and is a disciplined athlete. Julia's school appointed travel buddy, calls her book licker and accuses her of not knowing how to fun--which is kind of true.

So while I'm listening to MEANT TO BE, I'm like what's wrong with Lola? Why doesn't she want to go the party? What happened to her wardrobe? And then, I'm like woah...regroup...it's Julia. Not Lola.

What's even worse is when Shannon McManus does the voice of a British Guy, it sounds exactly like Etienne St. Clair from ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Etienne plays a role in LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, as it is a companion novel to AATFK. So when Julia is at a party in MEANT TO BE and is talking to some British guy that's hitting her. I'm like, why is Etienne hitting on Lola? No, I mean Julia. Why is he hitting on Julia? Why is he in London without Anna? Why? Why?

So, unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to finish the audio book for MEANT TO BE. There's just too much character confusion going on in my head. This may be a story I'll just have to pick up in its book form.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Confession

I've been so moved by the honesty and bravery of people like Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, and Natalie Whipple out there on the internet, that it has moved me to do the same.

Confession: I haven't been blogging much lately because I'm afraid I won't say the right thing. I don't want to offend. I want to up lift.

I don't have clinical depression like Myra or Stephanie, but I have family and friends that do. And when people I care about are sad, then I'm sad. I'm like an emotional sponge. I wish I was more like a rubber bouncey ball sometimes. Bounce. Bounce. Just care about my trajectory, and don't let sad things soak into my core.

I'm scared to truly talk about my writing journey. If I talk about something good that happened. Then I'm worried that people will think I'm gloating. If I share the low times, when I'm compulsively stalking my writer e-mail, screaming in my head: somebody please e-mail me back, say something, anything--I'm afraid people will think I'm mental. I'm afraid that people judge me because I choose to write middle grade and young adult fiction, and that I'm not writing intellectual things.

I don't really talk about what's going on with skating. Because frankly, people don't get it. They'll ask things like, Are you going to the Olympics? No, I'm not freaking going to the Olympics. Did you see me in Sochi? Besides do the math. There are so many elite caliber figure skaters out there, and only two or three people get to represent our country in the Olympics once every four years. There's so much luck and timing involved. And hard word. And sacrifice. There are infinite amounts of both needed. And money. Lots of it.

People will say, oh is it your hobby? (People, btw, ask the same thing about writing).
Hobby. That's such a diminishing term for it. That puts it on the same level as stamp collecting and bird watching. My family and I have probably put more money into the sport equivalent to pay for a couple ivy league degrees. I've made social sacrifices. I've cherished every moment on the ice, every glycol and Zamboni exhaust fume I've inhaled. Every fall that's brought me closer to achieving my goals. Every student I've taught. Every show I've performed at. Every competition that I put it all out there for. I'm proud of every piece of music I've edited for every skater. That music and the skating program connected to it, is a tool to their dreams. I am the person I am today because of this sport.

I'm 34. I want to finish off my tests. People my age aren't usually training Junior and Senior Freestyle programs. With my back and neck that's withstood 23 years of a beating with the ice, and my knee, which frankly won't ever be the same after ACL reconstruction...sometimes it's just easier to not talk about how the odds seem stacked against you. I know I'm trying to do something that isn't usually done. But, it's important to me. I've given my life to figure skating. How many people can honestly say that? And now, because I'm 34, I'm expected to just give up my dreams? I. Just. Can't. Do. It. We're talking about six tests. Junior Freestyle. Senior Freestyle. And 4 gold dance test. And then I'll be a triple gold medalist. For me, to pass these things, will be the culmination of my skating career. I can't have invested 23 years and come up short. Some people get that. Some people don't. And I'm tired of hiding the fact, that this is what I do. I spend a majority of my day chasing a dream. I have a day job and I pay my bills. But I hate the fact that I can't share this journey and the importance of it with my family or my friends. When they ask, how'd your day go? I feel like it's socially mandated to give a standard answer like: Work was busy. OR Paid the mortgage today.

Why can't I say, I skated a clean program and wrote a chapter I'm proud of in my WIP? Why do I have to talk about the mundane as if that's the most important thing in my life. When it's not. Why can't I talk about a song that cleared my mind or moved me to tears or a spiritual passage that spoke to my soul? Why does a day have to be quantified by the money earned?

And I guess in the end, I should do as Idina Menzal sings, "Let it go."

I'm not going to lie. I listened to that song five times today and progressively balled my eyes out even more with each repeat. It was cathartic. Something that I needed.

This is my blog. And I'm going to talk about the good and the bad. I hope that through my writing and skating I can inspire others, be a role model (at least to those who think that those things matter). And I don't want my success to be judged by my pay stub, or what car I drive, or the number of children I don't have.

So I plan on being here a lot more and I hope you'll come join me. Peace.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

COVER REVEAL: BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie Parker

Isn't it beautiful and eerie?!? And the line at the top: The most dangerous secrets are the ones we forget, just gives me the shivers. 

Natalie Parker's BEWARE THE WILD debuts October 21, 2014 (Harper Teen). Here's a little bit about the book:


There’s something about the swamp in Sticks, Louisiana. Something different, something haunting . . . something alive. Everyone knows this, and everyone avoids going near it. And even the Mardi Gras–bead-decorated fence that surrounds it keeps people away.
Until one morning when Sterling Saucier’s older brother Phineas runs into the swamp . . .
And doesn’t return.
Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out in his place, and all of a sudden, no one in Sticks remembers Phin at all. They treat Lenora May as if she’s been Sterling’s sister forever.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance—but first she’s got to find someone who believes her.
Heath Durham might be that someone. A loner shrouded behind rumors of drug addiction, Heath has had his own strange experience with the swamp. He and Sterling will have to piece together enough bits of memory and ancient swamp lore to get to the truth. But as the wild swamp encroaches on their town, Sterling and Heath may find a lot more than they expected . . . and Phin may be lost to them forever.
The concept of the novel is spooky and fabulous, and makes me nervous to go around swamps in Louisiana, or swamps anywhere for that matter. Swamps are just so...swampy. 
I've gotten to know Natalie a little bit this past year by participating in two of her Critique Camps. I put two manuscripts through camps and learned a great deal about giving and receiving critique. Natalie has an excellent editorial eye. And I suggest that anyone who wants to put the first 10k of their novel to the test--consider Crit Camp!