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?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As we all know, I am a little crazy when it comes to selecting a personal planner (see my Chandler's blog post, which STILL gets hits and comments). Last year, I bought from the Target's line of greenroom planners (why did I insert a "the" in front of Target?). A nice planner, all environmentally sound, but it had some bulk to it that didn't make it ideal for carrying in a purse. This year (we're talking school year) I purchased the baby version of the greenroom planner. However, I had received a regular year (like, a calendar year as opposed to a school year) pocket planner from my mother-in-law at the holidays that was compact and lovely. I ended up switching to that one and keeping it in my purse. But now, once again, I am torn. Even though I still have months left in my MIL planner, I need a school year ahead of me to plan, you know, important things like circuses and award ceremonies. So, what to do? The mini greenroom one wasn't as satisfying as the MIL one, so I already returned it. I found this one at Target, a faux leather, chintzy model with a string (which I like), similar to the MIL version:

The pages look like they may fall out, and I do not enjoy the design of the pages as much as the MIL model. I found this last night:

I believe this is the same one my MIL bought me, just in a jazzy, purple with a sheen. The problem is, I think it's made of leather. I would be lying to say that I am so perfect and leather-free and eat no animals. I do eat some animals, of the poultry and fish variety, and I wear some leather (in boots, mainly. Actually, pretty exclusively. You'll never find me squeaking around in leather pants or a leather jacket). But it seems really cruel to be like, "I'm so much better than animals that my WEEKLY PLANNER MUST BE MADE FROM THEIR FLESH." Or am I over-thinking this? Because check out the quality differences in the pages from the Target faux one and the fancy leather one:

Should I have gotten a manicure for this blog post? Oh look! The leather one even has that thing where you can tear off the bottom of the pages (a new feature!). Sigh. And there isn't even much of a price difference (you'd think dead cows would cost so much more).

Such a commitment! One year of daily usage! I still don't know what I will do. But until I figure it out, don't make any plans with me for next year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

All Grown Up

It has been years (ten or more) since I regularly read adult novels. Being a school librarian meant I had to stay on top of books for kids and teens, and my slow reading ability (which makes me sound special, but really I think I just read slowly because I read every single word. Or maybe I don't even read slowly, but I only read for very short amounts of time, and, therefore take forever to finish a book) meant that I never had time to read books only for my own pleasure. Forever, I was addicted to YA, as many adults seem to be. But now that I am not forced to read anything for any reason, I have actually begun to read books intended for my age group. Celebrity autobiographies came first, because those are written at below grade level for sure. And some pulpy stuff, like the Sookie Stackhouse books (okay, I've read one and a half of them). The most recent novel I finished was actually a book reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. I write that as though it's some major accomplishment, but it's definitely different from what I normally read. But not. Because the novel I chose was called The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (btw, this is not a memorable title in my brain. I had to run upstairs to look at the cover next to my bed, then I ran back downstairs and promptly forgot it again), and the story was all too familiar: something has happened to the Earth that is causing the days to grow longer and longer, all told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is falling in love and watching her parents' relationship disintegrate. I very much enjoyed the book, and it definitely reminded me of one of my all time favorite apocalyptic books, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Which got me thinking: what is the difference between an adult end of the world book about a teenage girl and a YA end of the world book about a teenage girl? This is what I came up with:
  • Adult books like to make pretty sentences (unlike the sentence I just wrote) - I noticed right away the very flouncy way adult authors write. It was very much like our goals in creative writing classes throughout my school career: show, don't tell, and whatnot. I'm not knocking this method, but after reading so much straightforward YA (which tends to more subtly integrate beautiful writing into the story making adults who read it often think it's light and fluffy) I felt like I wanted to tally up the lovely sentences.
  • Adult books have really crappy adults - People like to complain about the parents in YA books, but the ones in the adult book I just read (is this not hilarious that I am making bullet point statements about the ONE ADULT BOOK I have read?) were way yuckier and surprisingly just as one dimensional as many YA parents.
  • Adult books don't have to have endings - I think one of my favorite parts of YA is the directness of the stories (which is similar to the directness of actual young adults). This is partially what makes YA have a sort of formula, but most YA books have concrete endings (even those where you don't know what may happen to the characters still have the feeling that the book ended). The ending of the adult book I just finished felt like a cop out. Like, the author could be as floaty and ambiguous as she wanted because it was an adult novel. The genre allows for this, unlike YA Also, the whole reason the days were getting longer was never explained. Susan Beth Pfeffer had to come up with something to explain why horrible things were happening (the moon was hit by an asteroid! Pushing it closer tot the Earth!).
Obviously this not-so-thorough examination is my opinion, and I very much enjoyed The Age of Miracles (if not the title). But the comparison definitely got me thinking about my place as a writer and a reader. Do I write YA because I like the openness of the characters and the structured nature of the stories? Absolutely. How would my writing fit into an adult market, if I attempted to write for adults? Would I have to significantly change my style? Do other people who read both YA and adult novels recognize these comparisons, or make comparisons of their own? Does this mean I am finally ready for a grown-up book group?