Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The End of the Edits

I told you I was going to blog about some of the final passes of The F-It List, where the book is basically finished and there are just small changes to make. Sorry it's been a while. Not for any reason except that I have kids, and they don't like when I'm on the computer. The only reason I may be able to write this post is that my daughter slept at her Grandma's last night, and the baby is on a mat on the floor next to me. We'll see how long that lasts. Or how much drool collects.

This is what a manuscript looks like when I get it back from the copy editor.

This is usually the second-to-last time I can make any changes to the book. Those Post-It flags are mine. I go through heaps of them during the final two revisions. I put one on every page that needs attention. It could be that I don't like what the copy editor has suggested, I don't understand what the copy editor means (I should really make more of an effort to learn about all of those marks), or if I need to change something altogether. Much of the time, I wonder how stupid the copy editor thinks I am. When I finish going through the changes, I spend hours on the phone with my trusty editorial assistant, Anna Roberto. Our conversations are usually hilarious and nitpicky, and I love them. Here is a list of some of the things I flagged in The F-It List's copy-edited manuscript:
  • On the very first page is the note, "Compositor: please do a global change from 2 spaces after period to 1 space." This is something I try to do nowadays (remember back in the day when two was the norm?), but I guess I still stutter out two spaces sometimes.
  • There was a war of the hyphens in F-It (even the title technically has a hyphen!), and I started to get very perturbed by the number of suggested hyphens throughout the manuscript. Words were being strung together by hyphens far too often for my liking. Things like, I'm-going-to-die list and you're-got-to-be-kidding look. I felt like hyphens weren't always needed, or sometimes the same effect could be made with italics. But it was getting personal. When cheese-and-peanut-butter crackers had hyphens inserted, I wrote a note in the margin: "Why hyphens?" Later in the book, my comments veered toward the dramatic: "Really? Hyphens?"
  • One of the funniest (to me) things was that somehow my word "asseyed" was changed to "assayed." This carried over into the ARC, I think. Page 86. Maybe that one needed a hyphen?
  • I never know what to do with class names. Do I capitalize them? And I always screw up blond/blonde. I also compound the hell out of words that shouldn't be compound words.
  • I changed Big Time Rush to Zac Effron somewhere in the book.
  • Funny note from the copy editor: "DES: set upside=down crosses." Find that one in the final book.
  • Words the copy editor underlined for capitalization: butt and mullets anonymous.
  • T-shirt should always be t-shirt, in my opinion.
When the pages come back to me again, they are formatted to look like the actual book pages.

But I still have one chance to make changes. This time around, I made a lot of them. Some books, I only make a few. These are less grammatical and more fine tuning. I spent another hour or two on the phone with Anna debating the minutia, such as:
  • Changing "message" to "smoke signal" 
  • Taking out "video store" [yes, I'm old]
  •  Still battling the hyphens
  • Wondering why we capitalize Mohawk when referencing a hair style
  • Changing Ryan Gosling to Channing Tatum [any day, people]
  • Switching a dog reference to a cat reference (in the book, the line is something about "even dogs were going through cancer." At the time of my final revision, my cat, Tobin, was dying of cancer. He is also mentioned in the dedication.)
  • Double-checking that the List references corresponded to the correct phrasing and numbers as the actual List.
  • Making sure that the characters had the correct names (like who worked at the sub shop with Alex).
  • "Urinal cake with a candle sticking out of it" became "stack of frosted urinal cakes with a candle on top."
  • Certain words look bad when hyphenated onto the next line, such as "cof-fin" or "douche-cake."
  • "Some perfume to spray on it?" changed to "A spritz of Kardashian's butt spray." [It makes more sense in context.]
The final phone call is often pretty funny, with Anna and I debating the finer points of "asshole" vs. "dickwad." It's great to hear an actual person laugh at my work instead of me wondering if only I thought it was funny. Writing funny books is like doing standup comedy to an empty room most of the time. Anna is my audience of one!

I could write more, but Dean is now sitting on my lap and staring at the computer screen. That is probably not so good for his baby brain. Plus, he keeps pressing keys. Let me know if there's more you'd like to know.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Cyber Monday at the Blog of Wonder

Welcome to Cyber Monday at the Blog of Wonder! Some deal-esque items coming up, but first a little recap of blog stuff. Last week you may have missed two posts with some interesting factoids about working in the publishing business. First was my interview with April Ward, the designer of The F-It List (among many other books). Next up was a great interview over at MacTeens between me and my assistant editor, Anna Roberto. You can read all about who she is and how it is we work together on my books. Coming later this week I have a post planned about the hilariously specific changes Anna and I work through when my book is complete but just needs those tiny tweaks. Since my blog readers don't seem to be huge commenters, I'm not sure if you find these posts fascinating or not. However, I think the publishing process is probably interesting to a lot of people, considering the number who come up to authors and say some variation of, "I've always thought about writing a book." I thought I'd give you a look into at least this writer's process. So stay tuned for that one. Plus, it's kind of hilarious having to discuss which word choice is better: "douchecake" or "douchetaco." [Douchetaco is awesome! I wish I had thought of that sooner!]

On to the Cyber Monday stuff. Since I have two new books in bookstores (the paperback of Have a Nice Day and the brand new The F-It List), and since Hanukkah is here and Christmas is coming up, I'd like to offer anyone who would like to buy my books as gifts (funny books make great gifts!) a chance to receive a signed bookplate. All you have to do is send a scanned receipt (or a picture of you purchasing the book, which would be extra awesome) to, along with your address and to whom you'd like the bookplate signed, and I'll send it to you! Yowza! What a deal! Bookplates for all!

AND... Looking for that perfect, unique gift for a children's book lover, art lover, or someone who likes to put glorious drawings up in their kids' rooms? Look no further than the brand new Matthew Cordell Etsy shop! My husband, Matthew Cordell, makes the sweetest pictures, and I think art always makes a swell gift. So pop on over to the shop for some great holiday gift ideas! We're still working out the look of the shop, but items are up for sale and ready to ship. Fun!

And that ends my Cyber Monday post. Soon to be followed by Let Me Sleep Already, Baby Tuesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Covering Up

I always find it really interesting to learn about book covers that got away and the design process that goes into creating and selecting book covers. That's why I interviewed The F-It List's talented designer, April Ward! Below is the interview, and afterward is a selection of F-It List covers that didn't happen. I'm glad I don't have to design my own book covers. I have a feeling they'd all have something to do with cupcakes and Swedish Fish (of which I just ate both). Thank you, April, for the great interview and the gorgeous cover!

What is your job title, and what are your job responsibilities? How did you come to this position?

I am an Associate Art Director for Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. I design children's books, chapter books, and young adult novels for three imprints: Henry Holt, Feiwel & Friends, and Square Fish. I moved to NY after high school and studied illustration at Pratt Institute with a focus on children's publishing. I was taking some design and type classes as well but I thought graphic designers only worked on magazines and websites, which didn't interest me. My junior year I had an internship with an amazingly talented illustrator and designer, Kris Waldherr. At the time she was designing her book The Lover's Path which is an incredibly beautiful illustrated novel. Watching her process of illustration and design made me see book design in a totally different way. She also introduced me to some people in the industry which helped me land my first job as a design assistant at Harper Collins. I knew immediately that designing books was a good fit for me.

What is your process for designing a book cover? Do you always read the entire book first? Do you take notes along the way? Do images come into your head as you read? How do you take notes?
I like to read the entire book before designing it, though sometimes if we need a rush cover I will have to start on comps before I finish reading the whole book. I do read every book I design, I think that's one of the best parts of my job. While I'm reading I will write down little bits of the story that pop out to me visually like atmospheres, character details, moments…then I do little thumbnail drawings to get an idea of compositions that could work. Once I start in on photo research the concepts will change and morph into different directions based on what images are available. I have a little sketchpad with the original thumbnail drawings (now also covered in my daughter's scribbles) and I like to look back at those when the book is printed. It's interesting to see if an early concept stuck through to the final, or if the end result is something totally different.
How many cover design options are expected of you?
I try to to come up with 5-7 initial concepts, sometimes more depending on how many images I have that could work. Then based on feedback from the creative director and editor I'll do some revisions before presenting 2-3 covers at an art meeting.
Who has final say?
There are so many people involved in the process that I wouldn't say there is one person with final say. The final cover is chosen by a committee of sales, marketing, the editor, the publisher, the author, and even big book store buyers. Everyone's opinion holds weight and if one person has a negative reaction it generally means the cover will be reworked or at least discussed again, even if the comment comes after a point where the cover is considered final. We have to be really  flexible, which can be especially challenging when you're attached to a design.
Did you ever design a cover that you loved but everyone else hated? Has an author ever written to you and told you they hated the cover?
I've definitely done covers that I love that don't make it past the first round and you just have to accept it and let it go.  I've never had an author tell me that they hate a cover, that would kill me. 
Have you ever had the opportunity to redesign a cover after the book has been out? Say, for a paperback version of a book? Has the cover changed completely, and, if so, why?
Yes this happens pretty frequently, it's a good opportunity to rethink an existing concept or try to make the hardcover jacket punchier with a new direction. If a hardcover package is successful it doesn't necessarily need to be redesigned in paperback but I don't think it's a bad thing to give the book a new look for a new format. 
Are there any other questions you want me to ask you?
Sure! What was your daughter for Halloween?
A clown!

What are you doing this weekend?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We have a winner!

I'm having one of those moments where I can't have a single uninterrupted thought. Oh, wait, I'm having one of those YEARS. My children are trying to drive me mad. And they are very good at what they do. All I have to talk about these days is my kids, and all it is is complainy, tired bullshit. So here's a happy: congratulations to Ronni who wins the signed copy of The F-It List! I'll send you an email, too. Thank you to all who entered!

I was about to blog some more, but the five month-old is harassing me with his whines. God forbid I put him down and have access to BOTH of my hands. Thank you, ladies and gentleman, I'll be here all night. Two drink minimum. No hecklers, please.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Last Day to Win The F-It List! Plus Jewish Stuff

You should absolutely go to this post RIGHT NOW and enter to win a signed copy of The F-It List. If not for you, it would make a great gift for someone for the holidays! Hanukkah is next week! Speaking of, I still have not ordered this shirt, which I need.

I hope I'm not too late. I think I'll ask Matt to order it for me today as my Hanukkah gift. Maybe. I can't decide. But the time is nigh!

Also, I really want to order these:
'Tis a kitschy time to be a Jew!

Now for another lost F-It List cover:
I'm not mad at this cover, but I can't help but zero in on the shavings and think they look like fruit leather.

Alright. You have until midnight to enter the contest. I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Friday, November 15, 2013

F-It List Friday: The First Week

I am in a no-sleep foggy glaze of stupor (?), so this is going to be short and rambly, if that's possible. The F-It List finally arrived in stores! I have visited two, one biggy and one indie, and they both had the book. That's not always the case, so I'm happy! Don't forget to enter to win your own copy. All of the fun and rules and such are explained here. You have a one in three chance of winning at this point. Either no one reads my blog, or no one enters my contests. Or maybe everyone is just being nice and wants to buy the book? Um. Also, there's the Get Well Soon Readathon on Twitter. Happy book stuff! Holy balls I'm tired. Howsabout some funny book cover action? April Ward, the fantabulous book designer [not actual job title] designed the gorgeous cover of The F-It List, and she was gracious enough to share some of the cover bloopers. I will post more of them next week and an interview with April (if she's game) about how she came to design the cover, but for now here's one of the covers that didn't happen.
Whoa! Pretty sexy, eh? Underboob! I think I would have been embarrassed to give this book to my aunts with this cover.

I love cover bloopers, don't you? I don't think they're technically called cover bloopers, but I like the sound of the word. Blooper. I feel kind of like a blooper today. Shut up, Julie. YOU shut up, you blooper! Sleeeeeeeeepppppyyyyy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let the Readathon Commence!

Today is the first day of the Get Well Soon Readathon! I love the idea of people reading one of my books together and tweeting about it, so I hope people will join in the discussion. I can't decide if I will read along (most authors will report that they don't particularly like to re-read their own works), but I will definitely chime in with the chat. Get all of the details here:  Don't have a copy? Check your local library, or download it for only $2.99 for a limited time!

Also, I've updated my webpage. It's nothing huge, but I added a few things to the homepage (an F-It List button and links to my social media pages) as well as updating my other pages a bit. I streamlined the process by removing the line of links on the bottom of every page with a basic "Home" button. I hope it doesn't look cheap, but since I'm the one who built and maintains the site I'm trying to make it as easy as possible to update it. Coming soon to The F-It List's page will be a list of all of the horror movies mentioned within the book. I'll let you know when that's up. And speaking of The F-It List, it comes out tomorrow! Don't forget the contest to win a signed copy here. I'll be tumbling and tweeting and twerking (or not) all over the place, so be on the lookout.


Friday, November 08, 2013

F-It List Friday: Coming Tuesday! Contest TODAY!

Holy turkeyballs! It's almost here! The F-It List comes out this Tuesday, 11/12/13! I still haven't put a page on my website, but in the meantime you can read all about it here. I plan on posting a list of all of the horror movie suggestions from the book and hopefully some other good stuff, but first I have to, you know, build the page. And looky what I have:

A big ol' box of F-Its! So it's time for another contest. But first, I have to announce the winner of the paperback of Have a Nice Day! I used my trusty bag of D&D dice for the occasion.

Note this is not my original dice bag (my original was a Sesame Street pencil case). Somehow my daughter switched all of the dice from that bag to this purse. No biggie. They still work! So I picked out a lovely 8-sided (seriously, if you enter my contests you have a REALLY good chance of winning), rolled, and the winner is...
Rach! Who was excited because she was offered an internship (Yeah Rach!) Congratulations! I'll be sending you a shiny, signed copy of Have a Nice Day in paperback. Has anyone seen a copy of it yet in the wild? Take a picture! Speaking of pictures, here's the F-It List contest:
All you have to do to enter to win a signed copy is comment on today's blog post with your name, email address, and your favorite f-word (it doesn't have to be a swear, you know). BUT, if you want to be entered to win a brand, spankin' new, signed copy of The F-It List more than once, find a copy of it in a book store or library, take a picture, and email it to me ( Every picture you send will give you three entries into the contest! I'll give you until the following Tuesday to enter (11/19/13). And if you don't find The F-It List in a bookstore, tell them to order it! I'll give you an extra entry to win for doing that. Too complicated? Then just comment on this post. I made it so anyone, even anonymous posters, can comment on the blog (but, duh, if you want to win you have to include at least an email address). Good hunting!

P.S. Monday begins the Get Well Soon Readathon! Click here to learn about it. I'll have more info next week.

Monday, November 04, 2013


Over the weekend I found a bunch of people re-tweeting this website, and was blown away that it was all about me! (Imagine me spinning in a circle with my arms out and singing that last bit. You may recall this blog post of mine from a couple months back, all about my internship in 1995 on the Nickelodeon TV show "The Adventures of Pete and Pete." Somehow this got into the hands of a nice man named Brian Galindo at BuzzFeed (I'm calling him a nice man because he said my pictures were "Adorable." That word went a long way with tired, old-feeling me), and he re-blogged them (with his own delightful commentary). My mind is boggled by the fact that almost 50,000 people have now looked at these pictures. Wha??? That's rather rad. I think the thing I like best about that many people viewing the pictures is that there is no malice in the act. The internet can be so yucko and negative and dwelly that it's refreshing to see a whole bunch of people looking at something just because it's happy. So, yay to that! What's funny about the experience is that it made me look at my own pictures in a different light, and here is what I learned: I have a really long tongue. Why has no one ever mentioned this to me? Maybe I'm not always sticking it out, but you'd think someone would have noticed this in my thirty-eight years of life. You know what else is great about these pictures? They've put me back in touch with the Brothers Pete, at least in a pleasant, social media way. I wonder what it would be like if the three of us met up for a bagel or something. What happens when you see someone so after the fact but spent a concentrated amount of time with them way back when? Would we reminisce or just talk about grown-up us? Speaking of grown-up me, my baby just woke up from his nap (I swear that's all he does-- wake up. I barely recall the moments where he's actually sleeping). Don't forget to enter my contest to win a signed copy of the paperback of Have a Nice Day! I changed the settings on my blogger account, so now anyone can comment (but be sure to include your name and email, or I can't tell you if you've won). I am trying to think of a kicky way to end this post, but Dean is whining over the baby monitor. I'm whining, too, but no one if monitoring that. I don't think. For all I know, it will end up on BuzzFeed. (Um, please no.)

Friday, November 01, 2013

F-It List Friday: Win a Book!

This has nothing to do with The F-It List (again? So much for my theme posts), but today is my daughter's birthday so I'm celebrating with a contest. This Tuesday, November 5 is the release date for the paperback of Have a Nice Day! So all you have to do to win yourself a signed copy is comment on this post with an adjective describing the type of day you're having and your email address. If I were answering today, I would say exhausted. And it's only 7:30 am. But this is my nth night of five hours of interrupted sleep. I can barely see the computer screen through my puffy eyes. I wish my four and a half month-old slept like my five year-old! Anyway, happy November and have a nice (or better) day! I'll announce a winner next F-It List Friday. (Contest is open to readers in the US only. Sorry! I can usually only get to the PO after hours.) And stay tuned to win a signed copy of The F-It List, too! Out 11/12/13!

Friday, October 25, 2013

F-It List Friday: Supernatural Con

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning ("woke up" being a relative term, since I was awake approximately fifty percent of the night, as is the norm, thanks to my crappy-sleeping four month-old). Therefore, this blog isn't actually about The F-It List. I'm hoping I'll get a kick ass night of sleep tonight (keep hope alive and all) because tomorrow Matt, Dean, and I will be attending Supernatural Con. That's right: an entire convention devoted to the television show Supernatural. It should be interesting. I do love a good Con, so there's that fun aspect, and I obviously love the show (my son's name is Dean). But Supernatural has an intense fanbase I have yet to experience in person. There are factions. There is much fanfiction. And there are tons of people who have conspiracy theories about supposed relationships between characters and/or actors. It's a little weird and somewhat creepy, but it's also kind of awesome that a show elicits such devotion. I'm stoked. Also, Dean will be dressing up as Dean Winchester for the costume contest. My kids and their cosplay. Romy will not be joining us at the convention, mostly because if she did I would miss most of everything because she wouldn't want to sit and listen. And she'd be all, "Where are the Futurama toys?"

Here's a little F-It List action: a group of bloggers named The F-It List to their Selective Collective. Start here for a review, then follow the links at the bottom for an interview, discussion, casting of the movie, and a few other fun pages, including a contest for you to win the book. Thank you for the Selective Collective nod!

Time to put Dean down for a nap. Again. And again. There must be a book in this slice of my life somewhere. Either a book or another loony bin lock-up. Must. Get. Sleep.

Friday, October 18, 2013

F-It List Friday: I Got It!

As I said, this was a great week for mail (see yesterday's post). I now have my first hardcvoer copy of The F-It List in my tired, little hands. It's gorgeous! It has a die-cut spot on the cover:

Skeleton kiddo not included.

I can't believe we still have to wait until November 12 before it hits stores!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Have a Nice Day, Paperback

I received a couple exciting packages in the mail these past weeks (and, yes, I'm including my bumper sticker that reads, "Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole"). First, the paperback edition of Have a Nice Day arrived. The cover looks very similar to the hardcover, except for the lovely starred review quote on the top:
Here's the back:
I always wonder why my third novel, Don't Stop Now, is missing. It's the only one of my books not in paperback. I'm hoping it will have a comeback someday. I liked the book. It was my love letter to road trips. Anyway, you know what's funny? I haven't even read what the back of the paperback says. I get all weird and avert my eyes when my books come home. I like seeing them, but I don't want to see too much of them. Do other authors do that? I don't pour over every page, and I don't read the content over and over, looking for the good or the bad (as my husband does when his books arrive). I only just noticed what it says at the top of the back. I wonder who wrote that. Is it weird I don't know? When did I become such a space cadet?

Here's another page:
Here's Don't Stop Now! We didn't forget you, girl! And I like what it says at the top of the page. Awww.

If you buy the paperback, you get to read a jazzy, new interview with me, too!
Look for Have a Nice Day in paperback on November 5, wherever books are sold! Or, at least, wherever copies of Have a Nice Day are sold. Tomorrow-- my copy of The F-It List arrives!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I just started a tumblr account. Because it seems easier to update than my blog but less fussy than Twitter. I'll still post here when I have LOTS to say. Follow me on tumblr here (subscribe? I still need to get the tumbly lingo down.):

Friday, October 11, 2013

F-It List Friday: One Month!

Tomorrow marks the start of the one month countdown to the release of my next novel, The F-It List! I like to use a chocolate-filled advent calendar to mark the occasion. Not really, but that just gave me a really good idea to make my own life-sized advent calendar and fill it with full-sized candy bars hiding behind doors. Maybe I'm hungry. Or delirious. The baby boy, who turns four months today, is a crappy sleeper. He's still up every two hours. It's killing me, both mentally and physically. I think I've aged twenty years in the last four months. As you can see, this Friday post has a lot of month-measuring going on. And that's a big theme, both in the writing of "The F-It List" and the story itself. I used a friend's mom's online cancer journal to help me reference the progression of the disease and its treatment in the book. But in my own life, the months during the writing and publication of "The F-It List" have felt like centuries. Before I started writing the novel, but after I signed the contract, we lost a pregnancy (or was it two?). I had a lot of anger and hatred at my body and, sometimes, life in general. But there was that contract and a lightly looming deadline (nobody at my publisher pushed, but I knew I had to write a book). Not that I was dealing with cancer, but having medical issues helped fuel a lot of the questions and observations I used in the novel. Then I got pregnant again, something that should be joyous and anticipatory but becomes terrifying when you haven't always had success. That was last fall when I sat down for a few months to wrote the novel. Through morning sickness and endless doctors appointments, needles, and test after test after test, I wrote the story of a girl whose best friend gets cancer and how she helps her accomplish items from her bucket list. It wasn't the most uplifting subject while I was going through my own tumultuous medical adventure. So I added sex scenes. Because those are fun to write. And then my tests came back okay. And the morning sickness went away. And the possibility of actually having another baby seemed almost possible. This past spring, during the final pass through the pages of "The F-It List" where I look one last time for things I want to change (practically one word on every page), my beloved cat, Tobin, lost his own bout with cancer. He rested on my chest as I finished my final read-through (and before I knew he wouldn't be around much longer). The weight of his absence still drives me to tears (you'll find his name in the dedication of "The F-It List," and my son's middle name is Tobin). The last couple months of the pregnancy were fraught with gestational diabetes and the lack of sweet treats that come with it, plus the fear and uncertainty of what would happen during the birth. Then the baby came in June, healthy and sleepless. And here we are now, only one month away from The F-It List's release. Pretty much one year since I officially started writing it. Looking over this post, remembering the things that happened, it's been a really long year. A rough one. But also a happy one. Which I guess is what life's all about. "The F-It List," out November 12, is a book about life, not just about cancer. It sounds silly, but I found myself quoting Matthew McConaughey from "Dazed and Confused" (and I remember reading that he actually was quoting his own dad) a lot over this year: Just Keep Livin.' And I did.

Friday, October 04, 2013

F-It List Friday: Questions!

For this installment of F-It List Friday, I'm answering some reader questions (Okay, technically ONE reader's questions. Thank you, Becky, for asking!).

Does your writing process change with each book, or has it remained the same?
I think this question would be easier to answer if I felt I actually had a process. Let's see: I come up with an idea and some characters, and then I sit down to write. I don't outline, although as I write I tend to jot down things I don't want to forget. These include funny lines, movies I'd like to reference, or events I want to include. Depending on the book, I do have a certain method for keeping track of order. This may sound like an outline, and I suppose it could be considered as such, but I feel like it's more of a calendar method of organization. I am always concerned with the time frame of events; for instance, when I wrote Get Well Soon, I used a method similar to an assignment notebook. I made a list of events that needed to happen, and then I plugged in the events on one of the twenty-one days the book took place. For Don't Stop Now, I used a map to plan the book, since the characters were on a road trip. And for The F-It List, I used a real-life online diary from a mom whose daughter had cancer in order to keep track of what types of treatments the character would be getting and how sick she would feel at the right times. Other then these structural similarities, I tend to very much write from the headspace and voice of the narrator. I don't always know what she's going to say or what's going to happen next, so writing the book is just as fun and surprising as reading the book.

Do you write your early drafts on paper, or on the computer?
I write in spiral notebooks with pens. You can read about my specific tools of choice here. I find that my creative brain works best in this method.

What is your selection process when choosing a new brand of deodorant?
A fine question! I alternate deodorants sometimes, since I've heard that bodies become immune (or something) to deodorants after using them for a while. I hate a strong or musky or floral smell, so I usually go with something food-like. I really like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, so I've been using their deodorants. Plus, they have several food-smelling choices. When is someone going to come out with a cupcake deodorant smell? I'd be all over that.

Thank you, Becky, for your questions! Remember, folks, I'll be blogging about my new novel, The F-It List (out November 12!), every Friday and would love to answer your reader questions. Send me an email @ or comment on this post with any questions you have about the book or writing in general. Or deodorant smells. Or cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

First F-It List Review!

October 1st, and the first review for my new novel, The F-It List (out November 12) is finally here! And it's a good one! From Publishers Weekly:

The F– It List
Julie Halpern. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (256) ISBN 978-1-250-02565-4
Alex Buckley is reeling from the death of her father and the nearly unforgiveable thing her best friend Becca did the night of his funeral. Then Becca is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which forces a reconciliation between the two high school seniors and gets Alex entangled with helping Becca live out her expletive-based version of a “bucket list.” Halpern (Get Well Soon) takes a familiar YA formula and makes it fresh through Alex’s honest reflections about life, death, and especially sex as she navigates the objectives on Becca’s list, many of which revolve around sexual experiences (both solo and with a partner). Alex’s sarcastic narration and bawdy conversations with Becca and sweet, outsidery Leo (who helps Alex check off a few entries himself) are funny, smart, real, and even endearing once readers get the hang of Alex’s way of looking at life (of Becca’s sexy homeschooled neighbor: “He totally wants to bone the cancer right out of you”). A memorable novel about a rock-solid friendship surviving trying circumstances that never loses its sense of humor. Ages 13–up.

How hilarious is the quote they pulled? I don't mean hilarious in that it's a super funny line (although some might argue...), but hilarious in its randomness and pervitude. Perhaps that can be my next book title: Randomness and Pervitude.

Friday, September 27, 2013

F-It List Friday: Weepies

In today's edition of F-It List Friday, I'd like to disccuss the fear of reading sad books. I am guilty of this fear. I cry enough with a newborn baby and two hours of sleep per night; why would I want to read a book that makes me cry? As a teenager, all I wanted to do was cry. I read books to cry, watched movies to cry, and listened to music to cry. [I also remember crying heavily at an episode of "Blossom" when they had to sell their house. I also remember my dad getting annoyed with me when I did so. Ah, teenaged life.] But now that I am an old lady/grown-up/Ke$ha-fan-type person, I don't want to cry if I don't have to. I avoid movies that people talk about as "emotional." Same goes for books. And my musical taste these days has nothing to do with being curled up in a ball inside my closet.

So why write a book about a teenager with cancer? Well, there's a long story about the why, but this blog post is about the how. [I have to note that I just spent over an hour cleaning so much shit out of my car that I now have a stomachache and headache, so this post may not be as coherent as originally planned.] And I don't mean how I write.  I'm not blogging about my process today. I'm blogging about how I write books about things that are sad but try to make them not as sad. [Damn, this post sucks. I'm sorry. I wanted to have a regular post up each Friday, but I feel about as good right now as the bottom of my car's floor mats.] You see, when you are a writer and you are writing, you have to be in the head space of a book for months at a time. And who wants to be in the head space of a depressing, painful book? Not I. It is very difficult to write about a friend with cancer and how everyone deals with it and not go into a dark place. As much as I write books I want others to enjoy, I wouldn't write at all if I didn't enjoy the process [I used that word again. Forgive me]. So, as I often do in my own life to diffuse sadness, I add humor to my project to help me get through it. And sex. This new book has sex. I found that humor wasn't enough to get me past the cancer hump, so I added, um, some other humps, too. [Oy.] Once a book comes out, people are so critical of every piece and word and decision an author made while writing, as though the author was cognizant of how each word would be affecting readers. But as the author, at least for me, it comes down to writing a story guided by the characters and making it an enjoyable time for ME. Is that selfish? I don't care. What I learned from my time publishing zines that were all about me (and my friend, Liz, to whom The F-It List is dedicated) was that no matter how personal my writings are, someone else can always relate. Therefore, I don't sit down to write books that make people cry. Because I don't want to cry. It is possible that parts of The F-It List will make people cry, and that makes sense. As I've said, it is a book about a girl whose best friend gets cancer. But I also hope it will make people laugh. And cringe. And relate. And dance (can books make people dance?). Because it has never been my goal as a writer to cause you to curl up in a ball in your closet. If I had to add a label to my name, it would say: "Contemporary Young Adult Humorist." You know, after "Mom" and "Wife" and "Cleaner of Cars." Actually, it would come before "Cleaner of Cars." I write novels far more often than I clean my cars. Now that's a sad story for another day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

F-It List Fridays!

I'd like to try a new feature called "F-It List Friday." Since my new novel is coming out in less than two months, I thought I'd start blogging about it on Fridays (you know, since it starts with F). Right now, however, I have to jump in the shower before the baby needs to eat, the kiddo needs to eat lunch, and I have to take her to preschool. So we'll see how well I stick to my feature. I figure I can write about different things regarding the book, perhaps inspiration, movie lists in the book, and other stuff that is much more interesting than I can manage to think up while panicking about getting things done so Romy isn't late for preschool.

This is where you come in. What do you want to know about my new book? My writing process? What brand of deodorant I use? Ask away! I'd love to get some blog ideas, so I can get this feature up and running every Friday. You an comment on this post, my FB page, my tweet, or email me @ Next week I plan on tackling something I've seen a bit online-- that people might not want to read "The F-It List" because they don't want to cry. So stay tuned for that post.

I'm off to the shower now. Smell ya later.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Clue: My Movie

Anybody else read this amazing article about "Clue: the Movie" last week? I didn't realize the movie was a cult hit; I just assumed everyone was smart enough to know it is AWESOME. I liked learning more about the making, casting, and aftermath of the film. And it reminded me: My love for "Clue" knows no bounds. I'm talking the board game. I'm talking the movie. I'm talking the VCR game. I've loved them for a good portion of my life. I think it started when I was playing the game with my friend, Beth, with whom I played all of my board games (Trivial Pursuit and War were some of our favorites. During War whenever one of us set cards down for a war, we would have to sing, "War! Huh! Good god, y'all!" Didn't everybody?). Even though it was just a board game with little, metal (or were they plastic back in the 80s?) weapons, there was something creepy about it. When you think about it, people were being killed by the weirdos photographed (or were they drawn? Geez my memory is terrible) on the cards and box. Rather gruesome for a kids' game. Then came the movie, which so intrigued me when it was in the theater because, of course, there were three different endings. I don't think I actually saw it in the theater. Or maybe I did (Seriously - who took my brain?) But I managed to see it 600 times when it aired on HBO. Brilliant. [Side note: Beth ran into Martin Mull some years back, I believe smoking outside of a theater where he was doing a play in Chicago, and she sidled up to him and exhaled, "Colonel Mustard," as if that was his defining role. I love that story.] Then I got the VCR game. If anyone has played this, you know how insanely complicated the game is. Not only is it difficult to solve, but the actual rules and game play are wack-a-doo intricate. It took well over an hour to finish one game. No matter. I still have the game sheets with hilarious seventh grade graffiti from when Beth and I used to play for hours. The actors in the video were geniuses. I could sit around watching the video just for fun. I may have to do that later. Here are some choice tidbits (these are from the 2nd game, which is the one I had. I think the actors refined their roles for this one really.)
But it doesn't end there! I own numerous other Clue board game incarnations, even if I haven't played them all (My husband is not a board game player, alas, and my kids are too young. But they won't be for long!). I have two in the trunk of my car. And, I don't know if this is because I love the movie so much or that I just forgot I owned the previous version (Are you there, Brain? It's me, Julie.), but I own "Clue: the Movie" on DVD and Blu-ray, in addition to my VHS of the movie taped off of cable TV. I didn't realize until after reading the article just how much of a fan of Clue I really am. I suppose that's one of the reasons I love murder mysteries, as well. (Check out my adventures in murder mysteries here and here and here. Note how all include my Ke$ha partner-in crime, Katie. Not shown here is the murder mystery I threw at my house a few years ago with a bunch of co-workers. I was a man, a Colonel, I believe who wore a monocle, scratched his chin, and repeated, "Quite. Quite." frequently.)

Here is a smattering of my collection. Behold!
 See how complicated the VCR game is? Oooooh, how I wish I could play it right now!

These are just a couple of my murder mystery party game sets.
How did this get in here?

Not as exciting as it sounds.
And I'm not even a huge Simpsons fan!

The greatest VCR game ever created. For some reason I made it available for checkout at my school library. Thank goodness  no one lost any pieces!

The trunk of my car. Always prepared.
Strangely, I never read mystery novels. I think I like to be part of the action, not watching from the sidelines. Is this morbid? I wouldn't put it past me to be morbid. So I guess the moral of this story is: Never find yourself alone with me in a billiard room with a candlestick. Or a monocle.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Me & a Ke$ha Concert

Last week my friend Katie and I journeyed to Milwaukee for a Ke$ha concert. It was something I have wanted to do for a while now (one of my most visited blog posts is an oldie about my love for Ke$ha) but never found the right time to go. It's weird, pushing 40, and going to concerts. I know a few of my friends still do the whole "show" circuit, one that I exhausted in my twenties when I couldn't handle standing up for hours at a time in tiny clubs, inhaling others' cigarette smoke and waiting for a drunk fight to start. In more recent years, my concert-going has involved more seated venues and selective choices (The Monkees recent tours were not to be missed), as well as kid concerts with Romy (We've seen Ella Jenkins three times and Justin Roberts six times, so far). But I really have been dying to see Ke$ha. As a suburban mom (which, I must face the fact that I AM), I don't have many opportunities to go dancing, wear makeup, or, you know, fix my hair. Plus, I seriously love Ke$ha's music. Something about it has connected with me, and I'm still trying to completely understand why. But it makes me so damned happy. And I do love how she encourages people to be themselves, stand up to bullying, and enjoy giant, inflatable penises (well, I don't know if she encourages that, but she embraces it for sure). I love her. She gets a shoutout in my next novel, The F-It List, too.

When I saw that tickets went on sale for a show at a venue without seats (how lame would a Ke$ha show be with seats getting in the way of dancing?) two months after I had the baby, I had to grab them. I recruited Katie, also a school librarian (you may remember Katie from the many murder mysteries we have attended together) as my dance partner in crime, and the night of the show she came to my house to pick me up. We took an hour and a half to get ready, although I can't explain what took so long. Maybe it was that I had to breastfeed Dean several times before I left. Maybe it was that I had to put makeup on for the first time in years (I couldn't not wear makeup to a Ke$ha concert). Maybe it was gathering all of the crap I needed to bring in order to pump breast milk in the car. Behold:

That's me with my Pump in Style breast pump (the actual name of the pump, hilariously) and a bag full of stuff. I had to be prepared.

We finally left the house and stopped for dinner at one of our favorite Milwaukee haunts, AJ Bombers. We snagged a table under one of the peanut bombers, and they sent it down so the peanuts landed in our bowl. I pulled out this lucky guy:
A three bagger! Definitely a good sign.

Before we got to the venue, we had to find a place to park where I could pump breast milk. I had this vision of a police officer knocking on my window and asking what I was doing, and me having to expose myself just to prove I wasn't hiding something else underneath my cover. Luckily (sadly?) it didn't happen, and the milk was stored safely in the trunk.

When we arrived at the venue, Katie and I were nervous. I thought for sure I would be the oldest person there. And there were a lot of youngins in tiny clothing covered in glitter. There were also some delightful, slightly older women folk waiting in line for the bathroom. One of them had the brilliant foresight to hide vodka bags in her bra! (Please detect my sarcasm.)

We eventually scoped out a spot in the back of the "club" (too big, really, to be a club, but it was a big open space). We timed it so we'd miss the opening acts (we are too old to hang out for that long), and Ke$ha started about ten minutes after we staked our claim. Before that, however, a delightful young lady passed out nearby, and as her friends tried to revive her she puked all over the floor. Awwwwww. I wanted to walk over to her and ask her if it was worth it, since she wouldn't even be able to see the show, but I didn't want to be near the puke. Throughout the night it was delightful watching people slip on it. I much preferred slipping on the glitter everywhere. Here's a picture of me and my Ke$ha-adorned fingernails (which, almost a week after the concert, I really need to take off):

It was insanely hot inside. Like, I had to keep wiping my face on my t-shirt just so I could see. I think eventually they kicked the a/c up a notch, but no matter. We danced the night away. Here is a tiny shot of Ke$ha (and a hint of how far we were from the stage):

Here is a storm of glitter falling from the ceiling (Heavenly, really):

And here is me looking like a 38 year-old at a Ke$ha show:
I had envisioned a picture of me covered in glitter as it swirled around me, but we were a little too far back to get hit. Ke$ha and the band were fabulous. I wish I could see her a little better, and she didn't play long enough or all of the songs I love. Still, we danced the entire night, and no one puked directly on us. Plus, there was one woman pushing seventy years-old standing nearby. Which means I have at least thirty more years  available to attend Ke$ha shows. Now what did I do with that peanut...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I'm noticing that my next novel, The F-It List, is getting some pretty great reviews and attention around the internet (the web? What are we supposed to call it these days?). I guess. I mean, it feels silly to even type that statement. Silly for two reasons: 1) I feel like an asshole telling you that I'm looking for bits on my own books, and 2) it's not like it means anything. That sounded blucky and complainy, but that's not what I meant [I have used the word MEAN way too many times already in this blog post]. Seeing as The F-It List is my fifth novel, it's very hard to get jazzed about the possibility of having a real "hit" anymore. Like, a real hit, where it's on bestseller lists and people are fighting over the movie rights and I make enough money from it to go on a vacation without fear of not having money to buy a new refrigerator if we someday need one (did I just jinx my refrigerator?). It's fun to think about, though, that possibility. Because, aside from refrigerators, I like to buy stupid things without guilt. Such as these three shirts that I just HAD to buy for my kids (now that I have two kids, I look at clothes with longevity, you see):

I am laughing heartily at myself that these are my impulse buys, although I am a little disappointed in the Mr. Rogers one. That's not as funny as the other two. Damn, that Mr. T one gets me every time. Imagine all of the stupid t-shirts my kids could own if The F-It List hits it big! Because that's what important as an author: whether or not your book makes enough money to keep your kids rolling in ridiculous t-shirts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Balancing Act

I was much better at balancing things before I had kids. Now, the only thing I seem to be good at balancing is how guilty I feel about not giving each person in my life equal attention. That was the story for me at the Chicago Comic-Con, or Wizard World (official title). My original plan was to meet Jason Priestley and get a picture in order to complete my 90210 Trifecta [not a word in spellcheck, but it is in real life, right? Right?]. Alas and alack, that did not happen. I did see Jason Priestley, oh yes, as he was walking into his panel and I was sitting in the back of the room with my family, our lunchboxes splayed over the chairs and Dean, under a cover, drinking from my boob. Jason looked over at me, nodded, and said, "Hey." Thus ended my Jason Priestly interaction. [Note: That is the second nod-interaction from a celebrity I have had while breastfeeding during a comic-con. The first happened four years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con while I was hoping to meet Alex Winter, aka Bill S. Preston, Esq. At least we managed a picture (albeit blurry) later on with him.]

My family watched a bit of the Priestley panel, until we finished our lunches. Then Romy declared she needed to find The Joker, and Dean promptly pooped. Trifecta FAIL (although, kind of its own trifecta, no?). We were already so late to the con, due to how freakishly long it takes us to pack up, go to the bathroom, Dean needs to eat, rinse and repeat. Then the parking was a fiasco. By the time we arrived, there were only four hours left until the con ended. In that time, Dean ate twice, Romy entered a kid costume contest, and no Joker (except a really creepy one, and not in the classically creepy Joker way) was to be found. We made what purchases we could in the tiny time, and then, peace out. It was only after we got in the car that I realized the trifecta fail, as well as the fact that we didn't take any pictures of Dean at his very first Comic-Con (he slept almost the whole time anyway).

However, we did experience this:
The kids' costume contest was phenomenal! The host, apparently someone from a reality show I've never watched, was truly delightful with the kiddos. Romy was explosively excited, and every kid won in the end (complete with a prize table filled with crap to choose from!). She's the Robin next to the Jawa, by the way.

This post is going to be completely disjointed due to the fact that I have been writing it over three sit-downs. Another part of the balancing act I haven't quite figured out is how to get out a complete thought. Anywho, we chose to attend Wizard World on Sunday, the final day of the con. Matt and I both have felt in the past that Sundays are usually rather sad days at conventions, when the talent and sellers are so over it and ready to pack things up and head home. This is particuaraly evident at the San Diego Comic-Con when the deafening buzz has turned into only a slightly unbearable din. It wasn't much different here in Chicago. We ran through the halls [don't get me started about how they changed things up this year to have two floors of halls instead of one big one]as vendors packed up their tables. Blech. But Sunday is "Kids' Day," hence the costume contest. How do we choose which day to go on next year? Matt and I like the business and buzz of Saturday, not to mention how many more people there are dressed up to appease Romy's need for meeting superheroes. And yet, if we go on Saturday, we miss the costume contest. I guess we'll see what happens next year. I wonder if my brain will be any less scrambled by then. Or maybe it will be more so. Holy mind melt, Batman!

Monday, August 05, 2013


I have been waiting hours for Baby Dean to wake up. Naturally, I was up way early, and both kids slept in. Sigh. I need more sleep. The bags under my eyes have bags under their eyes! Thank you, Ladies and Germs, I'll be here all night! Sigh.

It's that time of year-- when my family prepares to attend the Chicago Comic-Con, not much like the massive San Diego one (seriously, I think they have almost completely cut out actual comics at this thing) but a lot closer to home. This year's hilarious guest meeting will hopefully come from Jason Priestley. I am making my way though the 90210 boys. Someday maybe I'll get to meet BAG (that's how we refer to Brian Austin Green in my house). Or James Eckhouse. Or Rush Sanders (not his real name, although it should be). As I do every year on my blog, it's time to revisit Chicago Comic-Con star sightings of yore. I know you've seen these before, but indulge me. I'm tired, I look like shit, and I guarantee that before I have a chance to finish this blog post there will be a baby on my boob. Let's enjoy these pictures/videos from my less haggard days:

This was too delicious. Ian Ziering was hilarious, and it was his idea to dance with me. He had very little patience when I had no idea what I was doing. Or maybe it was because I kept calling him, "Steve."

Last year, Matt and I met Luke Perry. Romy refused to go near him (wise choice?). He was super mellow. I bet he'd be fun to eat a small meal or light snack with.

This was the all-time greatest moment at any comic-con EVER. I don't see how anything can top it. It's me meeting the long-lost (fictional) love of my life, Noah Hathaway, AKA Atreyu from "The Neverending Story." 

This video will live in infamy (IN MY BRAIN) as one of the most romantic. magical moments of the21st Century.

Bring it on, Priestley.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


So I've been away from the blog (nothing new, I realize), but this time my reason is legit! I had a baby! His name is Dean! He was a few weeks early, and he's doing great. Romy is a fantastic big sister, and I am trying to be everything to everyone, as a mom does, and feeling like I'm failing miserably half of the time.

We made a day out for ALA on Saturday, since it was in Chicago. Matt had a signing and a million meetings, and I, well, I walked around and ate stuff and got books. It's weird to step back and think about how ALA used to be for me: When I was a librarian I went to Annual for the first time as a recipient of the Baker and Taylor Award (one school and one public librarian win the award that takes them to the conference). After that I won another ALA award (Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults, I think it was called. Man, I'm foggy.), and after that I went on to be a member of the Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults committee for two years. That was back when I knew Librarian was my calling. Toward the end of my committee work my first novel was published, so ALA turned into a combination librarian/author thing. That's when the confusion began: which hat do I wear, and what does that hat look like (a jaunty one for the author, I'm thinking, and a very comfortable and practical one for the librarian, naturally)? The confidence and comfort I felt as a librarian melded into the awkwardness of being an "author" (and believe you me, there is awkwardness in a job that mostly involves me being in a room by myself). And then I had a kid. ALA turned into Finding Authors to Autograph Books for My Child time (while still being a librarian AND an author). Soon after, I left my middle school librarian job to be home with my daughter, so ALA turned into Mommy/Author time. Equally awkward and more and more complicated to maneuver. I felt like a fraud of a librarian (not having a job and all), mostly a mom with just a sprinkle of author tossed in when I had a dinner or signing to attend.

That brings us to this year. With a two week old baby on my chest and a four and a half year-old in a stroller, I roamed the floor, gathering books and trying to keep my energy up. The ARCs for my next novel, The F-It List (out November of this year) were available at the Macmillan Kids booth, and the book's cover appeared on the booth banner. Yet, that was pretty much the extent of my authorly-ness. No signings, no meetings, no meals. Not knowing when the baby would be born, I couldn't schedule in any author things to do. And having him born early, my brain couldn't have handled much anyway.

So what does this mean for ALAs in the future? Will I ever be an actual librarian again? Will I ever feel like a real author? Will I ever attend without my kids again? Only time will tell. I noticed next year's annual is in Las Vegas. That could be interesting. As I recall, there's a massive M&M store. And, you know, some shows and gambling and stuff. I wonder if the kids will be down with that.

And now for some pictures! I handed Romy the camera at the Mac Kids booth, and here's what she came up with:

Me! Can't you tell?
Gordy! Romy's teddy bear.

I have to say, Romy is a great photographer. I asked her to get me (and my chins) and the book cover on the banner, and there we are!

Romy wanted me to include this picture of books.