Monday, December 17, 2012


People are talking about mental health in this country. That is something I, for better and much worse, know a lot about. Get Well Soon, my first novel, was about a teenage girl hospitalized for depression. My newest novel, Have a Nice Day, follows that girl back to high school when she gets released. Get Well Soon is closely based on my own experience with depression and hospitalization in high school. The book was one of the recipients of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ken Book Award in 2008. I was flown to New York City to accept the award in front of mental health professionals and the other award winners, all of whom were best-selling, award-winning, high falutin' scholars. I felt like an out of place child at the ceremony, not to mention the fact that I was eight weeks pregnant and could barely keep any food down. At the time, I didn't understand why my little YA novel would receive such a prestigious award. After years of receiving letters from teenagers about their own struggles with depression, or their friends' or siblings', I am starting to understand.

Mental healthcare in this country is complicated, expensive, and abstract. My stay in a mental hospital in high school cost $25,000 from my parents insurance plan. For some reason, all of the teenagers in the ward were aware of their parents' insurance plans. Most covered a standard $25,000 for inpatient help. That amounted to approximately three weeks, twenty-one days. Somehow "helping" me cost over one thousand dollars per day. There was a joke with the kids that one guy, the "lifer," had million dollar coverage. Ha? As an adult, I was occasionally told by those in the know that I made the mistake of using my health insurance to pay for my mental health care (anti-depressants, trips to my therapist or psychiatrist). I eventually found out that it was a mistake. When I left my job as a teacher, with comfy group health insurance, my family had to apply for individual care. I was grilled over the phone for hours by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the same company who covered me while I was employed for ten years, and emotionally stripped naked by some asshole who asked me question after question about my physical and mental history. I was told that withholding information would lead to automatic disqualification for insurance. What I was not told was that ANY admission of mental healthcare-- I'm talking your weekly chat with your social worker about how your boss is annoying-- was an automatic insurance red flag. No one would give us insurance because of it. We finally found United Healthcare, a very high deductible plan, to cover us, but with the clause that we could not use it for mental health care. We are grateful for the insurance.  But what happens if down the road, someone in my family needs more? Needs to go somewhere that costs $25,000? And that was twenty years ago. Who knows what the cost is now?

Good mental healthcare is important. I have received both good and bad care, met with quacks and idiots, those who wanted to help and those who wanted to bill me $200 for ten minutes and a slip of paper. It is hard finding trustworthy, talented, responsible mental healthcare workers. I am probably more cynical on that front than most; it's hard not to be when you've seen the number of incompetents I have in my life. It's just a damn shame that so many people can't or won't get help when they need it. A huge part of the problem is financial. Now, my family pays out of pocket when we want to talk to someone to keep stability in our home. If I am in a place where I need more, I visit my general practitioner or my OB/Gyne, both whom I trust immensely, to give me my prescriptions. I have yet to find a psychiatrist who fits that bill. My last one typed the entire time I spoke with him and still had important details of my life incorrect. I am glad to know friends and family that have found ones they can trust.

But this is all coming from a person who has gone through her life under the eyes of therapists, from parents who accepted mental healthcare as a necessity. Annoyingly, I still sometimes need a lot of help. And it's a shitty kind of help to have to ask for. Why would I want anyone to know the horrid places my brain goes to when it's not working right? If I'm scaring myself, what impact would that have on someone who loves me? It is even harder now that I have a child; every sick, selfish, deathly thought is reflected back at me through her innocence. Several years ago, a colleague of mine killed herself. After our staff met about the suicide, a teacher friend of mine came up to me, ripping with anger. "I can't believe she did that to her sons," she seethed. I didn't say anything. I knew how she could. I knew what she was thinking: that her kids, the world, would be better off without her. Moments later, one of the feelier teachers came up to me, hugged me, and thanked me for keeping going (referring to the depression I've dealt with in my life). It was touching and terrifying, so much to live up to.

I have unfortunate mental health genes; my family, both sides, is filled with bi-polar disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicides. I grew up in a complicated house, one that was at times very scary, and often unpredictable. Mental healthcare, when used wisely, changed that. Everyone needs help sometimes, whether it's a antibiotic or an anti-psychotic. If we don't admit that as a society, there will continue to be people walking around, bubbling inside with confusion, self-loathing, and fear, looking for some way to release it. I don't know what the answers are. But it doesn't sound good when someone who wants help, who has asked for it, has a red flag. Those who may need it even more don't stand a chance.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gift Time

Last week, my family visited the in-laws in South Carolina for early Christmas. Therefore, we celebrated Christmas, are currently celebrating Hanukkah, and when that ends, less than ten days later comes real Christmas. TOO MUCH CRAP. Romy doesn't think so, of course. I actually had to rack my brain for things I wanted this year on my wish lists. It's not that I don't want things, but I can't really remember what it is I want when it comes time to tell someone else.  And it seems lame to be like, "I could use some more of my bath gel." I managed to ask for- and receive- some excellent presents while in South Carolina, though. Here's a sampling of my bounty (and a look inside my dorky, gift-asking brain):

Oh, man, I love this shirt. Many of my gifts were Battlestar Galactica themed. I think I often choose one theme and run with it. I laugh every time I look at the shirt.

The new Ke$ha book! I love Ke$ha. Truly. I also received her new CD. Fabulous to the maxx.

This game is cray-cray. As an RPG player, I am used to very long, complicated game playing. The rules and contents of this box require mass amounts of studying before I will ever be able to play this game. And then I have to find at least two people to play it with me. Volunteers?

Hilariously, I asked for the DVD last year. Now I have both the DVD and blu-ray. That's how much I love this movie.

Okay, this wasn't for me. But I bet I would have loved this as a kid. I was a fan of going to the dentist. Because I was that cool.

I hope everyone is getting what they want for the holidays! Remember, if you want a signed book plate for any of my books, just send me an email with the name and address of where to send it. You can have a personally autographed book to give a friend or loved one! Now go get your teeth cleaned.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Happy Holiday Bookplates!

Thank goodness today will be in the 40s here in Chicagoland. It really freaks me out when it's the wrong weather. Two days ago we were int he upper 60s. Freakish. Last winter sucked with almost no snow. What's the point of being a kid with a pair of snow pants and a sled if it doesn't snow? I'm crossing my fingers it happens sometime this month. Speaking of this month, the holidays are coming fast! Hanukkah starts this weekend, and Christmas is less than three weeks away. Who's giving books for presents? I hope lots of you are. You know a way to make a book gift even more exciting? Have it personally autographed by the author! So here's my deal:
1) Send me (email a copy of a receipt (or forward an electronic receipt) for any of my books that you purchase for a holiday gift (There are four to choose from: GET WELL SOON, INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER, DON'T STOP NOW, and HAVE A NICE DAY. Personally, I think pairing GET WELL SOON with its new sequel, HAVE A NICE DAY would make a great gift. Don't you?)
2) Send me the name of whoever (whomever? Those darn Whos down in Whoville) you'd like me to sign the book plate(s) for (That was a horribly un-gramatical sentence).
3) Send me the address where you'd like me to mail the bookplate(s).

It's that easy! I can only mail bookplates within the US, since I can't guarantee that I can get to a post office during business hours. I just mailed my new manuscript to my editor, and, what do you know, she read it and already has my editorial letter. I have to bust ass on this one and get it back in less than two weeks. I think that may have been the reason I couldn't sleep last night. Happy holidays to me?

Now get shopping!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five by Five

I just finished my fifth novel and sent it off to my editor and agent. It's always a strange, freeing moment. Not that it's done. The way I work (I'm guessing it's not the same for all authors) is this: I write a book, with a pen (or two or three. They always run out), into lots of notebooks. I generally write the first chunk of chapters and let it simmer a bit. Then I read those chapters and continue writing until I finish the book. I type up what I have written, making small changes along the way. When that's finished, I print it up and reread it with a pretty-colored pen (I like pink because it shows up well against the black ink). I make changes to words and typos, and add or change things as necessary. Then I type in those changes, and that's when I send it away. So after today, whenever my editor or agent read the book, it will be the first time someone else's eyes see it.

That's the scary part.

How much will they want me to change? What will they like? Will they think it's funny? IS it funny? This last book was sort of a doozy of un-funniness for me. So will fans of my previous books like it? Do I have fans, or just random people who read my books? Being an author is so weird. The only time it really makes sense is when I'm visiting a school or at a conference and there are actual teenagers for me to talk to. I wish that was a more frequent occurrence. I find it harder to get into local high schools, since most don't seem to have author visits. Middle schools are great for author visits, but my books have too many swears. And this new one has sex. I can't help it. It's what comes out when I write. So the big question is: now that this book is finished, or almost finished, what comes next??? Besides, you know, watching Magic Mike and eating felafel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I think the name of this post was supposed to sound like "Xanadu," although I don't know why. Admittedly, I was never into that movie even though I was raised to be. Not that my parents were forcing me to watch it, but I was a kid during that time when the first Grease was HUGE (like, in first grade, my friends and I lipsynched to Grease songs in front of our class. We had the coolest teacher EVER. She also had a table with records that we could listen to if we finished our work early. My two favorites? "Call Me" by Blondie and this song about Triceratops). To tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever actually seen the entirety of Xanadu. Don't hate me. I know some people are super territorial about that movie.

Anywho, I'll try to blog a little more now that I am ALMOST DONE WITH MY NEW BOOK. Today, I think I'm going to finish reading it over for my final revision before I type in the changes and send it off to my editor. I will make certain I finish. But what next? My first advneture will be opening my Honda Civic's trunk and taking inventory of all of the presents we bought for Romy over the last few months. Which will be for Hanukkah? Which night? Which for Chirstmas? Which will go under the tree or in the stocking? And how much more can I buy! I did go out on Black Friday, but it was after everyone in the house was up. I only went to two stores and bought five things. Only one of the things was something I hadn't thought of buying, but it was awesome. I can't say what it is, just in case Romy has learned how to read and follows my blog. I can't wait to wrap everything. I love wrapping paper. But that's all I use. No bows. My cat would eat them.

Speaking of blogs, my glorious husband, author/illustrator/dead-mouse-disposer, Matthew Cordell, is offering up something amazing at his blog if you buy copies of his new book, hello! hello! We're talking original art and stuff, but only until Saturday. Make sure you head over there and check out his hottt dealzzz. I would also like to offer a hottt dealz, but I don't draw purty pictures. However, I am thinking of offering a signed book plate deal if you send me a copy of a Have a Nice Day receipt. Would anyone be interested? Even if I haven't seen all of Xanadu?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Time

The title of this post is a little nod to The Monkees, who I'll be seeing this Friday night for the first time with Mike Nesmith. Tears will be shed, for sure. Tonight I'm going to see Damien Echols speak, also certain to be a profound experience. And the rest of my time? I'm busting my butt trying to finish a novel by a deadline. I have never actually worked with a deadline like this. In the past, I tended to write with my own schedule and always make it in plenty of time. This book has had a lot of setbacks. Not writing setbacks, but life setbacks that have majorly gotten in the way of writing. Because of that, I am rushing to type up my handwritten pages, then print and revise those pages before December 1. And then somehow do my big editorial revision in the month of December. All of this would be no sweat [I have never used that phrase but feel the need to bring it back], but I have a KID. And that is my REAL JOB. This kid, who just turned four, does not like to play by herself. She needs food and toys and rides and someone to wake up with her and put her to bed and read to her. She is wonderful, but she and Author Mom have a very hard time coexisting. I get a maximum of two hours a day to work on my books. Most days less. This is not enough time with a deadline, but that's what I've got. I'm not bitching, just sort of tellin' how it is. Why I haven't blogged much. Why I get to watch an hour of TV a day that isn't Curious George. Why I'm just a little grumpier than usual (some who know me might change a little to A LOT). I hope it's worth it. I hope it's a good book.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Time for a winner!

I'm so happy to have more entries into my Have a Nice Day Contest. Nothing lamer than a contest no one enters (and if you'd still like to take a picture of HAND in the wild and send it to me, I would totally dig that!). The winner is... Mindi! I'll send you an email to get your address. And for all of you who didn't win? Some hideous Sunday clothing ads as a consolation prize:

Would you look at the size of the crotch on these things? Why stop at five pockets? There's room for at least fifteen. Thank goodness the waist is 360 degrees stretchy.

Lush, plush AND velvety soft? Sign me up for some SLACKS.
I have no idea why this ad was funny. Maybe I cut it out because I secretly wanted to buy the coat. It is a Wonder Coat, after all.

This woman's nails combined with that glove = terrifying.

First off: is the brand called Weatherman, or are these "weatherman-style shirts?" Of course, I would prefer the latter. My favorite points: "Soft and fleecy inside" and "chest pocket with eyeglasses loop."   

I had this very funny duo of ads, where the first ad was a woman in an outfit and the second ad was the same woman in just a bra. I don't know where those pictures went. Maybe the cat took them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

there are no winners here

Dudes. DUDES. I am going to tell you the truth. NO ONE entered my Have a Nice Day contest. I see authors all the time offer contests that require their readers to do something a little extra to enter, but apparently I am not yet one of those kind of authors. I am going to assume you did not enter the Have a Nice Day contest for one of the following reasons:
1. You don't live near a bookstore.
2. You didn't have time to go to a bookstore.
3. Your bookstore failed to carry my wonderful new book.
4. You didn't even know I was having a contest.
5. You love me so much, you bought the book already and didn't need to enter the contest.

I'm sure there are other reasons, so because I love having contests, even though they sometimes make me feel pitiful, I am having ANOTHER contest. This time you don't have to leave your house. All you have to do is comment on this post with your name, email, and the reason you didn't enter the original contest. It can be one of the above reasons or one of your own original reasons. I'll give you another week to enter. The winner will be chosen at random from the LONG LIST of people who are going to enter this contest. I'm talking long, people! Remember, the winner receives a set of signed books: Get Well Soon and the brand new sequel, Have a Nice Day. And I'll throw in some of my buttons, too. You have until Wednesday, October 31. That's Halloween to you and me, Rusty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Have a Nice Day! Today!

Have a Nice Day, my fourth novel and the sequel to Get Well Soon, is out in stores today! Kirkus gave it a starred review (still waiting on more reviews. Do I see stars?) and said, "Biting wit makes this quest for suburban normalcy in the face of depression and anxiety both laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent." They also called it "fresh as a daisy and sharp as a tack" (love that). In honor of the release, it's time for a contest! If you'd like to win signed copies of both Get Well Soon and Have a Nice Day, all you have to do is find Have a Nice Day in the wild (you know, a book store or library) and take a picture of it. Then send the picture to me at one of these three places:
  1. email it to
  2. tweet it to @julie_halpern
  3. post it to facebook at
All who post a picture will be entered! And you get one entry for each place you post it (so three max). You have one week (I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, October 23). Good hunting!

Monday, October 15, 2012


I don't know how many times the word "Sheboygan" was said this weekend. My daughter's favorite game was to ask random strangers, "Do you think I live in Sheboygan?" And then to tell them she did not. If you live anywhere near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, I highly recommend adding the Sheboygan Children's Book Festival to your yearly list of things to do. It was so well-organized, well-attended, and in the most beautiful spaces I've ever had the pleasure of presenting in. Of course, I have no pictures of the actual presenting spaces, but, as promised, I do have pictures of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center bathroom! Behold:

This last picture is my daughter looking into a toilet. A fancy, art-filled toilet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

See You in Sheboygan!

This weekend the Halpern/Cordell family will be appearing at the 3rd Annual Sheboygan Children's Book Festival. I'm excited! I've never been to Sheboygan, although I had a great friend in college from there. Her name was Kari Fisher. I think it may have been spelled differently, and it was definitely spelled differently than the actress. I wonder where she is now. Anywho, I'm doing author stuff all day Saturday, and Matt is doing author/illustrator stuff all day Sunday. It looks like a wonderful event with lots of other great authors and illustrators to ogle. The website has the full program guide, but if you want to see me here's where I'll be:

12:30, Saturday, October 13
Mitch Teich Talks with Five Authors of Novels for Children and Young Adults
Fictional families come in as many different shapes and sizes as real families. How and why do authors create the families they do for their characters?  Join Sarah Weeks (So B. It), Ilsa J. Bick (Ashes), Jacqueline Houtman (The Reinvention of Edison Thomas), Lisa Albert (Mercy Lily), and Julie Halpern (Have a Nice Day) in a conversation with Mitch Teich about family dynamics in novels for children and teens.

I'm really excited for this panel with a stellar crew of authors. I am also excited that it takes place at the Kohler Arts Center because the word on the street is they have crazy bathrooms!

At 1:30, I will be signing copies of all of my books (including the almost out HAVE A NICE DAY!!!) along with the other authors on the panel at the Kohler Arts Center. I'm guessing not in one of the bathrooms. Don't worry, I'll take lots of pictures.

I don't know how far away my next event is, but I'll have to scoot over to the Mead Public Library for my presentation at 2:30:
It's Your Parents' Fault with Julie Halpern
That title is a million times more hilarious due to the fact that is says, "with Julie Halpern." Like it's a TV show, and I'm the host. Here's the description:
YA Author Julie Halpern (Get Well Soon, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, Have a Nice Day) talks about how all of the trauma of coming-of-age can turn into funny, realistic fiction.

I'll have another signing at 4:30 at the Mead Library alongside Ilsa J. Bick, Edward Hemingway, and James Kennedy. Maybe I can interview them for my TV show! Head over to husband Matt's blog to get his Sunday schedule. We hope to see a bunch of you in Sheboygan!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

I Can Write

I am writing! It's happening! I go to the library and sit at a table in a little room, and I write! Phew. I was definitely struggling a bit for a while, but finally I called my editor. Or had her call me. I think that's left over from the days of expensive long distance calls. Remember those? I don't normally do this during the initial writing process. I tend to plow through, get a few revisions in, and then I send the manuscript on in beautiful shape. But this new book has had me stuck for a while. I wouldn't say I had writer's block; I don't think I get that. I could write, but what I wrote wasn't going to magically meld itself into a cohesive story. So the call. It was incredibly helpful, and it was also really fun to hear Liz (the glorious editor of all five of my novels) respond to the ideas that I had about the book. It gave me all sorts of confidence that I didn't have just writing by myself. Is that why people work with writers groups? I'm not ready for that, but I can see now how getting some help along the way can be beneficial. Now it's just a matter of writing the dang thing. I get approximately two hours per day to work on the book; some days that is actually one hour and forty-five minutes when I write in my car as Romy's in preschool. Some days, it's less when I can't get to the library in time for my booked space. And sometimes, well, I just can't get myself into the writing mode immediately when the bell rings and I am forced to use that tiny amount of time to BE CREATIVE. It will be interesting to see how this book turns out. But who cares about this next book? Have a Nice Day comes out in ONE WEEK! I hope someone out there is excited!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Making the Drop

My Banned Books Week drops didn't look nearly as cool as George O'Connor's:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Win a Copy of Get Well Soon and Have a Nice Day!

I started a blog post yesterday about the great posts Macmillan Kids is writing about Banned Books Week, but, man, I am having the darnedest time completing everything I want these days. So I'm giving it another go because- ta da!- today's featured banned book is Get Well Soon by ME! If you head over to MacKids' blog, you can enter to win copies of both Get Well Soon and its brand new sequel, Have a Nice Day. Now scooch! Wait, is that how you spell scooch?

And that's all the time we have, Ladies and Gentleman! Join me tomorrow when I attempt another coherent paragraph.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Sign Here

I had a wonderful time at the Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference on Saturday. It's always fun to be on a panel with authors I've never met and to be inspired by what other authors have to say. Also, the hotel had really good cookies. And check this out:
Have a Nice Day was for sale at the conference! A total surprise, since its release date isn't until October 16. This is me signing my very first copy! Thank you to Amy Pine, who not only bought the first copy and had me sign it but just happens to already be in the acknowledgements for helping me out with high school teacher stuff.

The funny thing about signing books is that it has a bit of that signing yearbooks element for me. What the heck am I supposed to write? I used to feel the pressure to write something special in each book I signed, but I choked whenever I did that and ended up writing something really stupid like, "Have a fucking headbanging summer. Do bongs." [Note that I have never written that in a book, but Abe Betancourt actually signed my eighth grade yearbook with that sentiment, then promptly threw my brand new green pen out the bus window.] When handed Have a Nice Day, I didn't know what to do or say. After about five books, I found something semi-cute. But I still have to think about it. I have the Sheboygan Children's Book Festival coming up in a couple weeks, so I have to get ready. Something short, sweet, with a little laugh to it. Now where's that green pen?

*It's Banned Books Week! I'll be writing more about it throughout the week, but here's a thoughtful review of my own banned book, Get Well Soon, from the blog Girl to the Rescue to get you started.

Friday, September 28, 2012

See Me, Hear Me, Don't Ban Me

It's starting to happen! Stuff! For my new book, Have a Nice Day! Ring-a-ding-ding! [Note that my daughter was up most of the night, and I do not deal well with that at all. And I will continue to not deal well with it all day long until I collapse in a weeping heap on the floor at some point.] Tomorrow is the Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference, where I will appear on a panel (three times throughout the day) with other local authors, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Nancy Grossman, S.J. Kincaid, and Chris Rylander. It's always fun to meet new authors and hear their stories. I'm hoping it will inspire me as I write my new book (which is getting easier, dare I say?). In two weeks, both Matt and I will appear in several presentations and signings at the Sheboygan Children's Book Festival. I have never been to this one, and I am really looking forward to it. Plus, Have a Nice Day will debut at the festival!

Next week is one of my favorite weeks to celebrate (especially when I was a librarian, and I could school the kids on what's what), Banned Books Week. And look at my little quotable in this Publisher's Weekly article! Remember that time when Get Well Soon was totally being challenged? And when someone threw it out from their library? Grrr. Also, this article in the Chicago Tribune by my good friend and amazing author, James Klise, is a must read on the subject of banning books and people, essentially, and the decisions librarians have to make. SO SAY WE ALL!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Perv

So my new book is veering into total sex territory. I always knew I wanted to write sex scenes (um, that sounded weird. But people like to read sex scenes, so someone has to write them!). In fact, when I was a teenager, well before I had done anything I was actually writing about, I used to create perverted romances for my friends on a typewriter. Mind you, I had a computer (an Apple IIGS), but I liked the clicking of the typewriter (such a young, ironic hipster). My dad once found one of those stories, and I was mortified. It was such a weird situation. I don't remember what I said to him, but, really, I didn't know what I was talking about.

I feel like a weirdo, sitting in my car while my daughter is in preschool, writing steamy scenes. Will the new book attain total pervosity, as it looks like it might? Only time will tell. Once I finish it (and, man, I have a long way to go), I will revise it. And then I'll look at it again and wonder, would I be embarrassed if my family read it? That's something I'd love to talk to other authors about, the ones who write really great, nasty stuff. Has anybody seen anyone speak about this? What a fabulous panel that would be! Someone who knows people, set that up, please.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Just... No.

 Would you look at the length of that crotch zipper?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Basking in Blue!

Lookie what I got in the mail yesterday! A finished copy of my soon-to-be-released novel, HAVE A NICE DAY! So purty. I love the yellow cover underneath. And the peaking smiley face in the back. And, you know, the book inside. I really do love it. I hope you do, too! All will be revealed October 16.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Working It

Oy. This is rough. Two days into writing the new novel, and I am not sleeping a wink. This was my day yesterday: Kid woke me up at 7 (actually, I was already up, but she got me out of my room). Tried to blog (failed), answered some emails, paid bills, did some banking, counted my (not) earnings from my weekend craft fair, folded laundry (much of this while I spent forty-seven minutes on the phone with AT&T regarding a rebate I should have received months ago), made Romy breakfast, did a twenty minute yoga tape, showered, ordered a pair of Vans with my (not) craft fair earnings, made Romy lunch, took her to her first day of preschool, parked my car in her school parking lot and tried to write in the less than one hour and forty-five minutes I had while she was in school, picked her up, bought a first day of school treat (she had a cookie, I had a taffy apple), went grocery shopping, rushed home to make Romy dinner before dance class, then dance class. After that: story time, bath time, bedtime. FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKKKK. Did you catch the minuscule writing time in there? Even right now, as I type this, I am in a panic because I have to get dressed (unshowered) to make it to the library at 9 a.m. for my two hour reservation in a little room to write my book. Am I seriously going to live like this until the book is finished? I already feel horrid. Insane. Tired. Ugly. Will it get better because the family will get into a rhythm? Or will it spiral completely out of control until I have to call my editor bawling that I will never be able to write another book until my daughter is in school full time (not for another two years)? Stay tuned for more Diary of a Mad Writer

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Day

I knew this day was coming. I have never put it off like I have for this one. But it's not my fault. There were many things, situations, procedures, emotions that got in the way. But today is officially the day. The room is booked at my local library. My bag is packed with a binder, notebooks, pens, earplugs. I have the first six chapters, written a year ago, waiting for the rest of the book to begin. So today, ladies and gentlemen, I go back to writing after a very long hiatus. Let's hope I didn't forget how.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Not So Crafty

Over the weekend, my friend, Lillian,  and I shared a table at the Portage Park Craft Fair in Chicago. This was Lil's first attempt at a craft fair, but it was not mine. Years ago (maybe seven?), Matt and I tried our hands at the local craft fair scene with our delightful greeting cards. These cards are fabulous, containing pictures drawn by Matt and printed by the two of us on our little Gocco press. We packaged them and brought them to a local fair, visions of selling out dancing in our heads. We barely sold anything. We tried one more time, but with the same results. Y'all have seen Matt's artwork (and if not, take a look at yesterday's New York Times Book Review. Yeah.), so that obviously wasn't the problem. I'm still scratching my head about it because, even though I did sell some cards, it still wasn't some big, huge sale. And I lowered the prices A LOT. The previous weekend, in the Chicago hipster neighborhood of Bucktown (where Matt and I used to live before we bought a house somewhere we could afford one), was the Renegade Craft Fair. A family stopped by my booth at the regular, old craft fair and admired the cards, then told me that people were selling that style of cards for $4 a pop at the Renegade Craft Fair. How were people passing by my low low prices? I will never understand the craft fair scene. I checked out the Renegade Craft fair's website, and for the upcoming holiday fair they are charging $375 for a booth! Seriously? No wonder people have to pay $4 for a card. I think I may be done with this scene (is this a scene?). Next stop: Etsy. That's a much slower, anti-climactic sales venue (like, I won't know how much I earned in a two day period), but at least maybe people will see and buy the cards. And selling online means I won't spend all of the money I make on craft toys for Romy and expensive farmer's market cheese. I'll let you know when I set up the Etsy store. I'll take payment in the form of credit, paypal, or cheese.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


With only one month and three days until the release of HAVE A NICE DAY, the sequel to my first novel, GET WELL SOON, GWS has finally been released for Kindle and iPad! Whilst checking out the listing on Amazon, I came across a funny phenomenon. I don't know when they started doing this, and maybe it has already been noted in various other blogs, but at the bottom of the page Amazon has started pulling and highlighting blurbs from reviews. Not professional reviews, like they've always had on the site, but blurbs from Amazon reader reviews. And I'm wondering if a human being or a computer is the one pulling the blurbs. Behold the three for GET WELL SOON: [Forgive the font and size changes. That's what happens when you cut and paste from the web. The spacing is all jacked up, too.]

I enjoyed the crazy cast of characters Ana encounters, and although I haven't been in a situation like hers, the story rang very true for me. London  |  9 reviewers made a similar statement
Nice, right? And apparently, 9 reviewers made a similar statement. Same with the next one.
The really funny moments of the book make you laugh out loud. Colleen  |  9 reviewers made a similar statement I found this blurb to be weird. Not in the context of a review, but as a blurb that is supposed to highlight the book, this felt really random.  She brings up some really great points throughout the novel, such as the idea of eliminating stereotypes. Runa  |  3 reviewers made a similar statementNow let's look at INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER, winner of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award! (I can say that officially now.)
It was different, funny, and filled with great characters. Addy Simpson  |  9 reviewers made a similar statement
I don't know. This isn't selling me on the book, yet supposedly 9 reviewers made a similar statement. Again, it's not a bad thing to write, but I don't know if it's a quotable quote.
I think teens and adults alike will really enjoy this book. Book geek  |  6 reviewers made a similar statementDid 6 people really make a similar statement?
I even have an interest in giving Dungeons and Dragons a try sometime! TeensReadToo  |  5 reviewers made a similar statementThis blurb is cute but makes me think that there isn't a real person choosing the content. Why, I don't know. Just, how did they decide what to pull?  Finally, let's take a look at my first book, the picture book TOBY AND THE SNOWFLAKES:TOBY AND THE SNOWFLAKES
One snowflake wishes for a warm piece of pecan pie...A snowflake voice calls out, `Come play in us. M. Allen Greenbaum  |  1 reviewer made a similar statement
Bravo to Julie Halpern and Matthew Cordell, a married duo, for their success with their first-time collaboration! Eva K. Esrum      The last blurb is funny because it was made by Matt's high school art teacher. I don't know why that's funny, but I like the small-worldness of that blurb being pulled. 
Do people read these blurbs? Are there humans pulling them, and if so, how do they choose which lines to pull? How similar does a statement have to be to garner a nod in the similar statement statistics? The science of blurbs is always interesting. My publisher has consistently pulled different blurbs from my professional reviews than the blurbs I choose to pull. From the first (and only, so far) review of HAVE A NICE DAY, my publisher chose this quote to post on Amazon: 

"...laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent.”--Kirkus

 I chose these lines from the same review for my webpage: 
"Biting wit makes this quest for suburban normalcy in the face of depression and anxiety both laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent... Fresh as a daisy and sharp as a tack."  

Read the full *starred* review from Kirkus here, and choose your own blurb! Not quite as exciting as a Choose Your Own Adventure. But what is?