Category Archives: Uncategorized

WHALE: POD as ???!!!

December 9th 2013

So my very smart, straight-laced hubby is applying to a doctoral program and despite already having a master’s degree, the poor man needs to take an entrance exam. Either the GREs (which are too long and *waaa* require remembering math n’ stuff – says the engineer) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) which are only an hour-ish long and require nothing more than a decent knowledge of ……trivia. I’m simplifying things, obviously. The exams assesses knowledge of everything from art to philosophy to mythology and their relationship to one another. It’s not an easy test to take, especially for a man who doesn’t read anything except sports blogs and the occasional article in The Federal Times. *salutes love of my life* Good luck with that.

Here’s a test example I remember best: (I’m making up the answers except for the right one)

POD : WHALE :: (      ) : CROW (to be read as Pod is to whale as (blank) is to crow.)

a. school

b. murder

c. flock

d. herd

The answer……tada…B – Murder. Yeah, baby. And who knew that? This girl. (And a bunch of my writerly friends that I asked.) Because I read and I remember stuff that I read. Of course, ask me what I had for dinner last night and I probably need 10 minutes to recall. Ask Bob what we ate and he’ll recall the ingredients and the amounts.

I had a lot of fun reading Bob’s practice questions. I was proud at how much ridiculous knowledge I have stored in my brain — knowledge gained from being a voracious reader. Truthfully, Bob will do very well on the MAT test because my husband is crazy smart and manages to just be that guy who does well on all things. I kinda wish I could take the test too just to see how well I’d do. Because I’m pretty sure I’d wiped the floor with him and there’s not too many things I can say that about.

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Warwick Children’s Book Festival

September 29th 2013

Today, I attended the Warwick Children’s Book Festival in Warwick, NY with some friends and my two kids. And even though the festival is called the Children’s Book Festival, I might leave my kids home next time. It’s hard to fawn over authors and illustrators when your kids are whining about going outside to the school playground. (I’m sure the highlight for my toddler was getting a foam play cookie from author, Ame Dyckman, who picture book Boy + Bot was a big hit at bedtime tonight.)

Benefiting the Albert Wisner Public Library, the book festival feels like a logistic feat. There are fifty children’s book authors and illustrators who sit at tables in the school gym with stacks of pristine hardcovers and paperbacks and Sharpie markers. Some of the authors had fun swag like foam turtle stickers and temporary tattoos (my 3-year-old’s favorite thing ever. My husband cringes whenever he asks if they can be permanent.) My ‘B’ boys had 3 picture books signed for them which we read tonight — all fabulous reads — all with bright and MOMA-worthy illustrations. This included Artie Bennett’s The Butt Book. (Side note: I overhead him give an interview about his book, Poopendous. That man is the boss of poop puns. Just sayin.’)

The highlights for me were meeting Susan Beth Pfeffer (again!) and having her sign The Shade of the Moon, the final book in the Life As We Knew It series. She is a lovely woman and a YA legend. I also met Kimberly Sabatini, author of Touching the Surface, who was super encouraging. A mother of three boys, she didn’t start writing until she was in her late 30s. Sometimes, at 34, I feel too old to begin a writing career. But it’s authors like Kim who make me realize that I can have a publishing career if I want it badly enough. (And I do!) Lastly, I met K.L. Going who took a few minutes to empathize with me about raising a preschooler and writing. She said she isn’t as prolific as she used to be because she has a four-year-old at home. She also gave a really interesting presentation about writing and publishing YA — unfortunately, my toddler wanted to stand on the chairs and babble really loudly and we had to go.

As a writer just getting her feet wet and a mom barely managing to stay awake past 9pm, it’s encouraging beyond measure to hear other YA authors talk to me about balancing motherhood and writing. Because most days I feel like I can’t balance laundry and dishes, let alone raising kids and writing. So I truly appreciate these fine authors for taking the time to talk to me about their work and lives. I’m feeling super encouraged. And perhaps, one day, I can attend the Warwick Children’s Book Festival as an invited author. But again…I am totally leaving my kids at home.

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I’m overwhelmed.

August 17th 2013

I’m feeling overwhelmed with writerly obligations. Wah. Wah. Call me a waaaambulance. I do know how to put things in perspective and my writing problems are issues of my own making. But damn, do I feel overwhelmed and I just gotta announce it to the universe so I can move on.

So what’s piled up on my plate that’s stressing me out?

twobookreviewspreeditsforLynnrenotetakingonbooksduebacktothelibraryformyWIP

shortassignmentsformyonlinewritingclassbloggingforTangledUpInWordsbloggingformyownwebsite

andapossiblerevisionforashortstoryIhopetogetpublished.

Not to mention takingcareofmykidscleaningmyhousefeedingmypetdoingthefoodshopping

Now how am I going to get this shit done? What did my friend Stephen say to me today?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Well, get me out a fork and knife because I have an elephant to eat.

Who else is feeling overwhelmed? What’s stressing you out? (Frasier voice) I’m listening….

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Bullying and Susane Colasanti’s Keep Holding On

June 25th 2013

I checked out Susane Colasanti’s Keep Holding On from my local library and read the novel in one sitting. I’m not sure what possessed me to pick it up since I don’t usually read YA contemporary fiction (I’m a SF girl), except that I reviewed Something Like Fate and I really liked her writing. I read the first few pages and I was immediately hooked when I saw the protagonist eating lunch alone. And so I pushed aside my giant pile of unread ARCs and two review books and read Keep Holding On.

High school junior Noelle marks a big X over each day on the calendar. She’s counting down the days until graduation — when she can get away from her awful mother and the bullies at her high school. For Noelle, each day is a struggle. There’s no food in her house to even make a meager sandwich, something the mean kids in the cafeteria notice. Noelle’s mother — who works a minimum-wage job and barely makes enough for rent, let alone enough money to properly stock the fridge — is bitter and takes out her anger on Noelle in the form of flat-out neglect. Not only does her mother not buy her necessities like tampons and clothes, but the woman barely addresses her at all. And so Noelle goes to school with mayo and mustard sandwiches on stale bread. She wears cheap oversize t-shirts to hide her protruding ribs. She doesn’t let her best friend come over to her apartment and she won’t entertain the thought that popular, kind Julian might actually like her. Most upsetting of all, although certainly not shocking, is that her teachers don’t acknowledge the bullying or try to stop the bullies. She truly feels like no one cares about her. Told in Noelle’s first-person point-of-view, it’s a heart-wrenching read.

I had no idea the book was based on Colasanti’s struggles with bullying as a kid until I went onto her website and read her biography. Turns out Colasanti and I have a lot in common, and I’d like to think that if she and I had known each other in real life, we would have been friends. First off, we’re both Jersey girls from affluent towns where we weren’t the rich kids. And, like Colasanti, I too was bullied.

From fifth grade right up until I wore my cap and gown at high school graduation, I was picked on for everything from my clothes to my weird sense of humor to my nerdiness. I even went to my senior prom by myself, and that was by default, not by choice. (Side story: A girl came up to me at prom and said, “I wish I came by myself. My date is ignoring me.”)

Things I was teased over were, at the time, agonizing. Fifth grade was the first time I became aware of clothing trends being a big deal. In fact, I remember having a favorite t-shirt that my mom bought at Bradlees (remember that store?). A “friend” said to me, “You know you’ve worn that three times this week.” Had I? Why did it matter when it had also been washed three times? It was the first time I remember being embarrassed about my clothes. In seventh grade, I got hassled on the bus every. single. day. And it wasn’t just me. My friends were also teased and harassed and we were each bestowed a nickname by the bullies. Mine was “piggy” because of my nose (It’s big and I’m Jewish and I’ve learned to love it). You’d think we would have banded together and taken on the bullies, but we all just sat there and took the abuse. Freshmen year of high school I was teased and intimidated by a girl on the softball team, a girl who was on academic probation and couldn’t play in games. I suppose she bullied me because I was a good student (although a lousy softball player) even though earlier that year I offered to share my locker with her when she was new to the school and hadn’t been assigned one yet. Also that year, I also got sexually harassed in my business class. Daily. I was the only girl in the class and the teacher, nearing her retirement, did nothing to stop the bullying.

My high school experiences weren’t all bad. There were things I loved about high school — senior year English, Battle of the Bands, my all-girls Sweet Sixteen, and even my prom where I went stag. I had plenty of friends and good times too. Eventually the bullies stopped saying things when I stopped giving a shit about what they said.  I also had faith that things would be better when I went to college. And they did.

Originally, I was just going to write up this post as a book review. Susane Colasanti has written a highly accessible narrative in which readers will identify with either the bully or the bullied. I didn’t really want to get personal about my experiences, not because I worry about calling out the bullies (I didn’t name them), who I imagine live fairly mundane lives at this point, but because I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. (To be fair, I was only ever picked on — the name-calling never escalated to physical confrontations.) These experiences have shaped who I am today. They are the reason I’d prefer to teach my sons kindness and empathy over a good batting stance. They’re the reason I don’t keep my mouth shut when a mean customer berates a teenaged grocery cashier for not moving fast enough (oh, that happened).

Truth is, I have a really awesome life. I’m married to an amazing man who is kind, funny and exceptionally smart. I have two beautiful kids and a minivan with heated seats (and you’d be a fool to think that heated seats aren’t awesome). My book is going to be published. All roads led here, even if those roads weren’t always smoothly paved.

So, if there are any teenagers reading this right now who are being bullied by insecure assholes — keep in mind Dan Savage’s wonderful campaign that ‘it gets better.’ And not only does it get better, but it also gets great.

Hang in there.

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Tangled Up in Words

June 17th 2013

Good news. I am now a contributor to a fun YA writer group blog called Tangled Up in Words. Also cool, I just did a get-to-know-me piece complete with this photo of me in a blue cast from 1997. Check out my awesome, and baggy, Old Navy carpenter jeans.  meincastYou’re welcome, Internet. You’re welcome.

 

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