Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crisis or Quest....

My Inspiration for The Quest
I recently had a friend ask me, "Are you going through a midlife crisis?"

I let the question linger in my head for a long time.

And then, thanks to my friend Sera Rivers (she writes a blog for them) I stumbled across a Psychology Today article:
"What a Female Mid-Life Crisis Looks Like".

I read it.  Bookmarked it (on my phone!) and read it a thousand times.

Now, the thing is, I'm YOUNG-no where near mid-life...at least I hope not. I mean this stuff doesn't usually happen until someone's in their forties, right? (And shush, you people who know my real age!  I'm NOT THAT CLOSE!!)

But, I started early, according to modern timelines: college right out of high school; marriage, child and career right out of college. Yeah, I moved fast in my twenties, making gains most adults today won't even consider until closer to thirty.  So, I guess it makes sense that I'd need to re-eval my life earlier than most.

In truth, it started about the time my father died.  July 13, 2004.  He was only 61.  I had just turned 30-an age I dreaded most of my twenties.

Another big turn came four years later when my youngest started school.  Suddenly, I was alone for hours at a time, with absolutely no direction.  I figured I'd find my way eventually, but I didn't-until last year.

All this time, I'd been writing.  I knew it was going to take me somewhere.  But in my mind, I was wasting time, producing something that was a total "what if."  Then, my attitude shifted via life events: my trip to Haiti and multiple writer's conferences to name a few.

I began seeking change in earnest.  I explored opportunities that had potential to take me somewhere.  Some did, some didn't.  I tried on different roles and discarded parts of myself I no longer needed.

I started a QUEST for a new, better me.

The CRISIS part was the reaction from everyone around me-friends, family, etc.

Today, I'm nowhere near complete.  I'm still QUESTING, creating CRISIS along the way.  But, that's who I am, I guess: a fire-starter, a rabble rouser, and a trouble maker.  I can't be happy being anything less. No, I take that back!  I WON'T be happy with anything less.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Hyperion * DBG
ISBN 978-142311618-9
Ages: 14 and up

Daelyn’s been the victim of bullying throughout her life and now she’s simply counting down the days until she can commit her final act on Earth. It’s destiny that she finds a Web site to help her in her quest. She has the motive, the means, and the determination. Then she meets this boy, Santana, who makes her examine her choice of death over life. But is he too late to save her?     And is she too damaged to save him?

Description:  Julie Ann Peters' style of description is so amazing that I didn't even notice it as I read.  I got lost in her words, wrapped up in emotion and found myself just knowing things.  To me, that's amazing and I hope to one day be THAT good at writing.  Immediately, I felt the inside of Daelyn's house, the school and the bench that came to mean so much.  No time of mine was lost or wasted trying to figure out who, what, where or why.  (Score: 10/10)

Narrative:  The structure of this book is unique. Daelyn can't/won't speak and the premise sets the book up right away.  And I love the way internet features are worked in as part of the narrative.  (Recently, at a conference, I was part of a discussion about technology in YA.  By The Time You Read This is a great example of how to make current technology TIMELESS.)  Julie Ann Peters really takes the reader through the story using so many different types of narrative.  I learned a lot about narrative style while at the same time truly enjoying the reading experience.  (Score: 10/10)

Dialogue:  As I said above, Daelyn can't/won't talk.  And technology is involved.  So HOW does Julie Ann Peters maintain decent dialogue when the main character is mute?  Well, let me tell you...that's part of the POWER of this novel.  Sometimes, inner thoughts can be overdone or boring-the author is telling you what to think (and that makes me crazy!).  In By The Time You Read This, it's absolutely necessary.  The reader gets to know EXACTLY what Daelyn as thinking.  But the best part?  It's still showing not telling.  And I think it's pure genius.  Finally, readers have been brought directly into the world of suicidal thoughts without a whiny main character.  (Score: 10/10)

Characterization:  The cast in By The Time You Read This, is very small.  It grows throughout the novel and to me that itself is a poetic gesture.  It added to the feeling the novel stirred within me (and I didn't realize that until I sat down to write this review). I felt I knew each character, but wasn't emotionally attached or distracted by any one character.  (Score: 10/10)

Resolution:  Okay, here is where I get really excited (or disappointed-it depends on the book) about realistic fiction.  I can not stand contrived endings.  The layout of By The Time You Read This set up the reader to a high level of anticipation and then slowly closed out, leaving the TRUE ending up for discussion.  It flowed naturally, beautifully-POWERFULLY.  And I loved it!  I plan to read and reread and reread and reread this book in hopes maybe I can absorb some of Julie Ann Peters' style.

If you've looked at my profile, by now you may know I live in Western Massachusetts-a hot spot for the bullying conversation.  Phoebe Prince lived and died twenty minutes northeast from me and Carl Walker-Hoover lived and died twenty minutes east from me.  Both kids were victims of bullycide.  And both situations had (and still have) a profound effect on me personally.

Though I won't go into detail, I want to emphasize that I believe suicide is not related to one single reason.   It's  a process that takes place, a road that can curve at any time.  I believe this uproar about bullying is a great segue into a deeper conversation about suicide.  By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead  shows a true to life evolution.  Daelyn's issues run deep.  She has support and is in treatment, and yet, all it took was ONE human-Santana-to potentially alter Daelyn's course.  

The words suicide or suicidal tends to illicit such a visceral reaction in people that it's impossible to see beyond the act or attempt. Julie Ann Peters wrote this book in such a non-blaming way that I believe all people should read it. And then maybe, just maybe, we can all start acting a little more human when we need to save a life.    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fiction Mirrors Real Life....

Sometimes when I write, I think of the mistakes I've made...If  I've made them with you, then this song is dedicated to you....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Missions Accomplished at NESCBWI Regional Conference

From left to right: Sera, Me, Cybele, Patty & Penny
This weekend I attended New England's Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Regional Conference (NESCBWI) with a group of writers from my area.

I had two goals:

1) Participate

2) Find resource for starting my own critique group

And once there, I created a third

         3) Find way to be more active in my region.


Happily, I facilitated two Special Interest Groups with NO CLUE of how what it entailed.  I had planned to have a chat with one of the chair's directors prior to the conference, but it didn't happen.  So, I went into the situation winging it.  And it was AWESOME!!  I met some really great people with the same interests I have. The two topics discussed were social media and realistic YA fiction. And man, did we talk!  So, in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't have any expectations because then I avoided restrictions as well.

As for starting my own critique group?  Yeah, I've been procrastinating-making a thousand excuses as to why or how I wasn't ready.  Well, it just so happened, Sera and I sat next to the Regional Director of Critique Groups Saturday evening.  There goes ALL my excuses out the window!  So though it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest, I'm gonna push it off and DO IT.  I'm scared, beyond belief, but I need to push through it.

And finally, I asked the Co-Chair of the conference how to get more involved in NESCBWI.  She said, "Well, next year's conference will be in Springfield.  Where do you live?"  HOW CAN I NOT JUMP AT THIS CHANCE??  So, I gave her my direct contact information and told her I'd be honored to help out in any way possible.

And now, on my first day back to my "real world", I think about all I accomplished.  Really, it's nothing compared to what I learned.  So much creative energy in one building, it's hard to not to feel a tad smarter.  So, as I embark on the next level, I do so with great pride.  SCBWI is a great organization for all children's writer's and illustrators and I GET TO BE A PART OF IT!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yeah, I'm addicted to Victorious. Can you blame me?

YES, I'm addicted to Victorious.   I could give a thousand excuses, but I won't.  It all comes down to my writing.  The more I watch this show, the easier it is for me to create the strong teen girl character I want to portray.  Plus, the show's theme song really takes the edge of my fear of success.  And let me tell you, that fear is growing by the second, especially with what I see happening in YA today.  Realistic fiction is making a comeback.  Strong female characters are in demand.  Uh, oh world look OUT:

"Cause you know that if your live in
Your imagination
Tomorrow you'll
Be everybody's fascination
In my victory
Just remember me
When I make it shine"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


If it weren't for my 12 year old son's (aka The Boy) interest in politics, I'd probably be like many Western Massachusetts residents.

"Who is Scott Brown?" they ask me when I mention I read his book.

"Uh, only our United States Senator," I say.

"Oh...." The person vaguely stares at me.

"He won Ted Kennedy's seat after he died,"  I explain.

The person's eyes glaze over. "Oh, well, I'm not into politics...."

I shrug and walk away or make a wisecrack at this point, because I know  that Scott Brown is not someone who be unknown for long.

The Boy with Scott Brown-Barnes and Noble Book Signing
When I heard he was having a book signing in the area I immediately asked The Boy if he wanted to go.He was pumped.  Just a few weeks prior, we'd heard Scott speak at the Republican Committee brunch in our area and both of us liked what he had to say. (And yes, even at 12, The Boy knows a lot of what's going on in our world.)

I saw it as a great opportunity to share a morning together, waiting in line.  Was I shocked when I arrived to find few people waiting....he's our Senator, but, then I remembered...no one really knows who Scott Brown is.  All the better for us, I thought.

Like I do for most books purchased for The Boy, I read it first.  I didn't expect to like it.  I mean, who wants to hear someone successful talk about how hard he had it?  Frequently, these types of stories are whiny or make the person look like a superhero.  But, I loved it.  More than that, I related to it.  Everyone has to grow up.  Some people are better than others at it.  For some,  like Scott Brown, it came sooner than it should have.  And he's used every opportunity-good and bad-to better himself.

Maybe I'm naive in believing his experiences separate him from the rest of the pack of politicians.  Maybe I'm falling victim to a ploy of self-promotion. But I don't think so.  Since the Republican Brunch in February (where he dissed me-the voter- for The Boy), I've been paying close attention to Scott Brown.  He's in the area of Western Mass a lot, with little media fanfare. And he's requested to spend time training in Afghanistan this summer, according to the Boston Globe.  

Something's different about him.  I'm willing to bet his quiet, steady and focused demeanor will continue to propel him to higher levels.  I certainly hope so, because I live by many of the same beliefs:

"I believe that we each create our own playing fields and that we are all capable of overcoming whatever challenges might otherwise hold us back.  The ability to persevere, whatever the circumstances, lies in each one of us" -Scott Brown

And YES-The Boy will be allowed to read this book, whenever he feels he's ready!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts

So many people say that their mother made them who they are today.  And it's true...moms influence us in ways that no one else can.

But what happens when YOU are the mom?


Doesn't that change you as a person too?

Of course it does.  And I'm so thankful to be a mom.  I've learned more from my kids collectively than any experience in my life.

They are the mirrors of my soul: reflecting who I was, can be and will be in the future.

Does that put a price on them?  NO...the cost is always mine.  

I can choose to acknowledge what they are showing me or not.  Sometimes it's easier than others.  Often times, it's easy to overlook, explain away or ignore.  But something in me won't let me.  I need to grow, learn, develop.  And my little critters help me so much.

So, today, Mother's Day...I'd like to thank THEM for making me a better mom than I ever thought possible!!!

Love you D & A...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"I'm gonna sit in the middle, hang my feet off the edge...."

I left work the other evening and is what I saw from the parking lot.  I could NOT drive away.  The rainbow was perfect, so I stared at it and remembered a few important things.

#1) I remembered this song:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Why this one?  Because, if you listen to the lyrics...it's perfect for me.  Think of 'me', the writer and 'you' would be my readers.  Plus, I've always loved rainbows!

#2) I realized that rainbows follow storms.  I've been struggling with a lot lately, but seeing that reminded me it's all going to be okay.  I'm going to be okay.  And I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

So, if you're going through your own storm right now, or face one someday, please feel free to remember this picture and know that a rainbow is in your future!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Love Everybody...and You're Next

So, apparently, I'm in the midst of a loyalty battle.  Well, after reading Sera Rivers very persuasive blog with a really great title: Mingling Panties, I had to get involved.  I started it after all.  And yes, I did it to feed my own ego...and get a laugh out of Sera.

So, let's look at the facts.  Sera and I are both REALLY social people.  We both bring out the best writing in each other.  And very few people understand us, even if we are rather entertaining to be around.  And that makes our relationship so special and unique.

But I DO get scared, too ya know.  I love everybody...not everyone can handle that.  And sometimes I push people away.  Even while I'm hugging you close.

But, somehow, Sera, my dear, you've blown up any walls I may have tried to build.  You've blasted through so many of my damned issues that I should hate you....but I don't.  I love ya and even when I am famous before you, I won't ever forget that.  And I will NOT let you forget me.