Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're in the Basement Part II

I thought people would be more excited by my basement expose, but perhaps it's early.  I also thought people would be into my podcasts, but that was kind of a bust, too.  Still, I might get back into the podcast business one of these days.  Or maybe some vidcasts (um, what are those called?  Vlogs, right?).  Stay tuned for a poll at the end of this blog.

For the second shelf in my basement (I forgot to explain in the previous post that much of my basement is decorated with Ikea shelves, filled with toys of various levels of adorability and value.  That is what I am showcasing in these posts.  Mostly.), which lives to the right of my King of the Hill shelf, is the Random Shelf.  I suppose it would be better to arrive at the Random Shelf later in my expose (do you not love how I keep calling it an expose, especially because I have no idea how to type in an accent?  Even though I looked for a tutorial online, and it still didn't help?  Why do I sound more and more like an old person every time I blog?), but this is where it appears in my basement.  Behold:

Let us dissect.
Here you see a set of Dungeons and Dragons characters from the 80s cartoon, as well as a Wonder Woman Barbie doll (I was a huge fan of the WW television show when I was in preschool), some Aardman creatures, and a Xena doll (from Hercules, not from Xena).

Here we have the partner Hercules, a set of Planet of the Apes in Lego style, and Gonzo with Camilla the chicken.

Next to Gonzo is the news guy from the Muppets (name?), a Doozer from Fraggle Rock, and a hideous, yet coveted, Buffy doll.

Below it all is my complete series box set of Monkees episodes on VHS.  I purchased this when I got hired for my first real librarian job over ten years ago.  This was how I spent my money.  I don't regret a dime.

More basement action tomorrow!  And now for that poll:

What would you like to see on my blog? Choose all that apply (and maybe comment on why?)
Just words
Words and pictures
Other (explain)

Free polls from

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We're in the Basement Part I

You are supposed to sing the title of this post, a la the B-52's "Legal Tender." 

I have always wanted to do a series on my weird collections and items in my basement, and now is the time.  Where to begin?  I think I shall start in order of what you see first when you walk down the stairs (please ignore the cat poo on the floor.  Tobin loves to leave random poos in the basement.):
It's the King of the Hill shelf!  The guys used to hold their beers in their hands, but Romy discovered the shelf (we always carry her if we take her into the basement due to those poos I mentioned previously, so she has a perfect view of the gang).  You may also notice Bobby is missing.  Romy took him with her in the car yesterday.  Matt was traumatized when she dropped him and chipped a little of his hair.  The Hill gang also shares the shelf with a Wizard of Oz Pez set.  Just because we have no room on any other shelves, and this gang was the most accommodating.  The Pez will soon be relocated.

I must now share this other picture of a member of the Hill gang, patriarch Hank:
This pictures is soooooo funny.  Romy has in one hand a, ahem, pad, and the toilet paper roll in the other.  And poor, ol' Hank is trapped on the toilet.  I imagine him crying, "I don't want this!"

Look for more on my basement tomorrow!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pizza is Calling

I'm in one of those phases where any food that is remotely exciting in the house goes directly into my mouth.  For instance, Annie's various bunnies graham crackers.  I wouldn't even buy them, except now I have a child who needs to eat.  That sounded weird.  What I meant was, pre-Romy, I just wouldn't buy food I shouldn't eat.  But now, Romy needs things to eat, and Annie's graham crackers are a pleasant snack.  Romy loves them.  I could shove a handful into my mouth at one time.  And don't get me started on the combo flavor pack they claim are "friends."  Friends of the snack devil!  Right now I am trying to not eat the leftover pizza in the fridge.  Can you hear it, too?
In writing news, I think I may have decided (can you feel the confidence in that statement) to postpone working on the GET WELL SOON sequel, at least for a week or so.  I have written thirty pages so far, but I feel like I am just forcing myself to write.  Instead, I am going to give myself a tiny bit of vacation.  Wish I could have done it in DC at ALA!  But I'll think of something cool to do.  So far Romy and I have tested out three new parks.  That's way cool.  Just as long as I don't eat all the Annie's before we get there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why Do These Exist?

I am a coupon user (even as a kid, I made my mom buy one of those coupon organizers), so I love going through the Sunday paper's coupon sections.  But it's almost not worth it when my eyes are assaulted by THESE:

The picture in the ad is even worse (this picture is from their website), where the shoe is actually on a human foot.  You'd think the model in the picture would be wearing pantyhose under these monstrosities, but lucky for her it's summer.  Not that that would stop someone who would choose these shoes.  Why are they so awful?  I don't know.  The faux denim, the wood-like heel, the fact that their name is "Classique"- it's all so disturbing.  But you can get two pairs for only $24.99.  That's under $12.50 a pair!  Shiver.

In actual news, I went to a different town's library yesterday afternoon to try and write novel #4.  I sat in one of their private study rooms.  While these rooms are good for being completely non-distracting (I used the study rooms at my own public library in the past, and they are all the same: one door, four very plain walls, no windows), they are also very depressing.  Handy when you're writing a book about depression?  Perhaps.  But when I'm blinded by the sunlight when I leave the library, I don't know if that's such a good thing.  Maybe I'd feel better about it if I had a new pair of shoes.  Blue Denim anyone?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Going Nowhere

This post sounds more ominous than it should, but it's a bit how I'm feeling right now.  Pretty much every summer of my life, I have been on or planned one trip or more.  This year?  Zero. This has to do with the fact that I am staying home from work for a year, and we should be trying to save money.  To which I say: blah.  That's what our money is for!  And reading blogs and tweets all about people going to ALA in DC this weekend has made me ultra jealous.  So much so that I was frantically looking for hypothetical plane tickets to DC just a few moments ago.  And why not?  I even have relatives there I could visit and of course tons of librarian friends to see.  But will they even know I'm there if I plan it so late?  Not that I'm really going.  Matt is not a spontaneous person, particularly when it comes to travel.  But I bet Romy would be down.  She loves a good visit to somewhere.  If she could just talk well-enough to convince her daddy...

In non-related news, check out the comment on my blog post, Duh, from my actual copy-editor!  The post was about how I must look like an idiot to the copy-editor, since I had so many mistakes on my newest (and all others, really) novel.  She tells me differently.  And she really did like the book!  Which is great to hear, since she is the only person who has read it besides my editor.  Maybe my agent read it.  But if she did, she didn't say anything.  Man, I'm feeling pathetic today.  See you in DC?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tiny MeRL

I must start with this old lady question: how the heck do I make a tiny URL?  I feel like I miss all of these revolutionary computer things, and it makes me feel old.  Well, I am half way to seventy.  That's what I thought my friend meant when she turned thirty-five and she said she was "half-way."  She probably meant half-way to forty, but that's how my mind works.

I heard back from the librarian who posted the scoop on the public library that tossed GET WELL SOON in the trash.  Now I know the actual library name.  I emailed the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual freedom, in hopes that they would help me pursue some sort of action on the book dumpage.  I haven't heard back.  Is it because it's summer and no one's in the office?  Is it because the ALA conference is later this week [and I won't be there :( ], so they are busy?  Is it because I am but a meager non-best-seller of an author, unworthy of the attention?  Can you tell I'm feeling a bit insecure today?  The real question is: should I call instead of email?  And when?  Here is a delightful poll for you to enjoy.  And answer.

What should I do about this public library throwing my book in the trash?
Wait ___ days, then call the Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Find the library, and throw a cryptic note in their drop box.
Contact the library's YA librarian, and try to get her to raise hell.
Weep in my bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats (with the Toy Story 3 prizes).
Visit the library with a group of rabble rousers with giant protesting signs.
Call the local news network (and tell them what???).
Other (please elaborate in the comments).

Free polls from

Saturday, June 19, 2010

GET WELL SOON... In the Dumpster?

First off, I am extremely tired, since I have not had a good night's sleep thanks to this weird sound I keep hearing outside of my house, a sort of whistling that wakes me up at all hours of the night.  Then this morning, all I had were dreams-- interrupted by the sound-- where I explained this sound and my lack of sleep to people over and over again.  What am I going to do?  I needed to tell you this because I am not my chipper self at the moment, but I did want to post this blog.  While searching for "get well soon" "halpern" (I do that to see if there are any new posts about the recent challenge), I found THIS.  It's a very thorough account of GET WELL SOON being challenged, but not only in Fond du Lac.  The more thorough piece of the post is a horrid story about how GWS was removed from a public library in Indiana by ONE PARENT while the teen librarian was out of town.  And it was thrown out.  Into the trash.  Not given to someone who could use it or sold to earn money for the library.  Tossed away.  Makes me want to toss my cookies.  Once I wake up a bit more, I am going to try and get in touch with the blogger to see if I can get the actual identity of the teen librarian, so I can write to her.  What will I say?  Not sure yet.  But this is really gross.  People are out of their minds.  Delusional.  Like those people out there who think we don't need any reform to our insurance system.  I'm going through that right now, so that I can take my year off from work.  Will I have to pay $23,000 for my COBRA?  Will I get insurance in time, with all of the hoop jumping and form-filling?  And will I ever get a good night's sleep again.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Yesterday, GET WELL SOON was saved from banning at Theisen Middle School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Huzzah!  I have to say, Ann Wentowrth did not think highly of my book at all.  I guess I shouldn't care, since I don't think very highly of Ann Wentworth, but it's still hard to read negative things about my work.  In the article where I learned of the verdict (yeah, no one called me or anything.  Is that the norm?) on, a second person was quoted saying things PRO-challenge:

Ruth Ann Elizalde of Fond du Lac, who is a grandmother and great-grandmother, said she is "old school" and disagreed with the disrespect for authority shown in the book.  She believed it would be appropriate reading if a counselor wanted it for a patient who contemplated suicide or was depressed but not "any kid who wants to read it for entertainment."

This is sort of a perfect time for me to read that quote.  You see, I am having a hell of a time starting the GET WELL SOON sequel.  Normally, I start a book, and it just flows.  It's fun to write.  I had no idea when I proposed GWSII (not the actual title) that it would be so painful.  I have started it several times.  I have changed the voice back and forth.  And I have begun to outline the story, which I never do.  I guess I was not thinking about the fact that writing a story about being depressed, including group therapy, the awkwardness of acclimating to real life, and the cruddy relationship between the parents in the book, would be hard.  Duh.  But that quote from Ruth Ann got to me.  Because that was the whole point of me writing GET WELL SOON.  Or at least one of the points.  The adults in Anna's life, my life, didn't deserve respect because they didn't offer any respect to me.  It's that simple.  And Anna, me, was finally able to gain her own strength to get out of her depression not by the help of the adults but by the help of her peers.  You have to give respect to get respect, Ruth Ann.  And the same goes to you, Ann Wentworth.  Respect these kids.  Respect your poor daughter.  Because after three unsuccessful attempts to ban books from your daughter's school, goodness knows your daughter needs someone to show her some respect.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Get Well Now

I am almost finished reading GET WELL SOON before I leap into writing the follow-up.  I am surprised by how much I like it.  It's funny because it's very much a younger version of me.  Not that I was so much younger when I wrote it, but I was a little younger, and it really is written as me, teen-style.  So it's interesting, to say the least, to read it.  I am happy to find that I really like the book, the characters, and the writing (although of course I am finding a million ways that I would tweak.  S'all good).  Next week: the writing begins!

Ironically, next week is also when GWS will be brought up for its big, official challenge.  I don't know if I should share this because I always feel like a tool sharing "official" things I write (like resumes and cover letters when my friends want advice in that area), but here goes.  Below is the letter I sent to the superintendent of the district where my book is being challenged.  Please don't say anything negative about it or tell me to change things because it's already in his hands.  Sonya Sones gave me some tips on writing a response letter to a challenge, so I'm hoping mine is top notch.  Peep it:

Dear Dr. Sebert,

Thank you for this opportunity to express my thoughts about the recent challenge by Ann Wentworth of my novel, GET WELL SOON.  It is a novel that belongs on the shelves of Theisen Middle School’s library.  My story tackles the issue of depression with a respect and sense of humor that your capable students deserve.   The language, while colorful at times, reflects the natural dialog of teens.  I am certain that the words are no different than those heard in the halls of Theisen Middle School every day.  How do I know this?  Not only am I the author of several books for young adults, but I am also a middle school librarian.  On a daily basis, I encourage my students to find books that speak to them, inspire them, and help them in their journey to become life-long readers.  I also hope that my own books will lead to a sense of self-discovery and understanding.  

GET WELL SOON has been a blessing in my life, as I was finally able to put into words my own experience with teenage depression.  I was thrilled and honored when the National Alliance on Mental Illness awarded GET WELL SOON the Ken Book Award because I knew that would help the book get into more hands of those who need it.  And that is just what happened.  I receive letters and emails weekly from kids who are dealing with the same issues that I once had to go through. 

With GET WELL SOON, a fictional, funny account of a teenager dealing with depression in a mental hospital, teens are able to laugh, the best medicine for getting through a tough time.  More directly touching to me is the effect I have had on my own students who come to me after reading GET WELL SOON, checked out from the shelves of my library, to share their experiences with depression.  These children are comforted by the fact that they know someone who not only lived through what they are living, but made it through to become someone successful and happy.  That is what I aimed to do with writing GET WELL SOON, and that is why I believe it would be a loss to the students of Theisen Middle School to not have the book available.

I applaud your courage in confronting this book challenge and commend you for putting the students’ interests and needs first.  Please don’t let the ideas of one parent steal the freedom and dignity from all the students at your school.  I am certain you will do everything in your power to convey the message to your students that it is unacceptable for one parent to be the parent of all.

The bright light of this book challenge is that it will very likely cause more children to discover my book.  It is the icing on top of the literary cake.  As Michel de Montaigne wrote so long ago, “To forbid anything is to make us have a mind for it.”  Thank you, Ms. Wentworth, for giving so many children this mind.


Julie Halpern

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Challenge and Dress-up News

Two things:
The GET WELL SOON challenge in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin continues!  Ann Wentworth, who has already challenged Sonya Sones's WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW (and failed) and one of the SISTERHOOD books (and failed-- read about it here) is bringing GET WELL SOON up to the plate next Monday, June 14.  This day is a bizarre choice, seeing that it is Flag Day and my recently divorced parents' wedding anniversary.  Not that knew this when they chose the date.  Whatever happens, I hope it lands me in the next edition of this:
ALA puts out this book every few years, listing all challenged or banned titles, where, why and when they were attacked.  Am I too late for this year's edition?

The second order of business is that I have no adult clothing to wear.  Tonight is the eighth grade graduation at my school, and I tried on all of my appropriate dresses (not like I have inappropriate dresses, but dresses appropriate for a middle school graduation are not the same as ones for a wedding.).  None of them fit me.  Not one.  I know, I know, I have no right to complain, since they were all too BIG, but still.  I hate to look like a freaky, bad-dressing librarian. The only dress I could find that fits nicely is this dress my mom made for me to wear when I was an extra in the John Cusack movie, High Fidelity.  It's super cute and made out of an alien fabric.  A fabric covered with aliens.  Not fabric from another planet.  I don't think.  That prompted me to sing a song to Romy last night that went like this, "I am an alien.  I wear an alien dress."  It sounds really good, trust me.  You can see this dress (barely, since this is a crappy clip that I found on YouTube that is also in Spanish) as I walk behind John Cusack, Jack Black, and the other guy in "High Fidelity," holding a fake boyfriend's hand.  It's at 2:40.  The scene is when Lisa Bonet sings that awful Peter Frampton song at the glorious, and sadly defunct Chicago club, Lounge Ax, where I used to be a regular at their karaoke night hosted by Fred Armisen.  Random, I know.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Sequel

I am about to embark into sequel territory.  It's not necessarily a sequel in the sense that you have to have read the first book, and there's no mega cliffhanger in the first one demanding a second.  It's a sequel in that the story takes place after the events of the first book (GET WELL SOON) with many of the same characters.  The setting is very different (outside of a mental hospital, as opposed to inside), and the story is different (coping with life post mental hospital, as opposed to in mental hospital).  So maybe it's just a follow-up?  Whatever the label, I have to write it this summer.  And I'm nervous.  I think there are bigger expectations--from me, yes, but now from other people who have read the first book and want to hear the same voice and revisit the same characters.  I don't want to disappoint.  And I'm also nervous about revisiting those depressing feelings from high school.  I am kind of kicking myself for taking on such a tough novel.  I didn't think it would be tough at first.  A sequel?  Same characters?  Picking up where I left off?  How could that be difficult?  But I'm scared.  This is the character that is as close to me, in my depressed high school state, as it gets.  And here I am, inserting myself back into her ratty Converse and tragic brain.  The first step is to re-read GET WELL SOON (which brings up a million changes I'd make now, as an author with three novels under her belt instead of none), make a list of characters and stuff to remember, and then I'll start writing.  Next week.  Anyone out there who has written a sequel have any advice to offer?

Friday, June 04, 2010


I just sent off the mostly final changes of my third novel, DON'T STOP NOW, to my editor (I still can read it through once the pages have been made to look like a book and see if I need to change anything).  It was the revision with all of the copy editor's marks on it.  I had written down some hilarious notes as I read through the manuscript to include on my blog, but those notes are nowhere to be found.  I believe they said something to the effect of, "That person must think I'm a freakin' idiot, with all of the red pencil they used!"  What I want to know is, do other authors have this issue?  Do their manuscripts come back to them looking like a B- student's term paper?  Does the copy editor laugh at my mistakes?  Shake their head?  Wonder how I made it into writing in the first place?  Or are they happy to have something to do while reading my book?  Is finding errors like finding little treasures?  The copy editor did make two positive comments about the actual story content, which doesn't usually happen.  So that's got to be a good thing, right?  I think I'm just fishing for clues because I literally only went through ONE revision (with my editor.  I did three or four on my own), plus this most recent one, which only about ten pages that needed changes made.  So that's not even one and a half revisions!  How is that even possible?  I'm so freaked out by it.  I guess I lack the confidence to be like, of course it barely needed revisions-- this is my third book, and I know what I'm doing!  But, even if one knows what they are doing, that doesn't necessarily mean the book is that close to being ready to go.  Does it?  Or do my editor and I work so well together that the process is smooth and easy, and this is the end result?  I can't wait until it's actually in a format that other people can read.  I'd like to know what people think.  I really liked the book as I wrote it, and I enjoy it every time that I read it.  That's got to count for something, right?  Right?  Hello?