Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fan Mail

Many of you already know I'm a huge fan of Ke$ha. I have blogged about her awesomeness, most recently how I saw her in concert in Milwaukee. You may also know that Ke$ha is in treatment for an eating disorder (disgustingly encouraged by the very people making money off of her). I have blogged before about my penchant for writing letters and sending books to famous people I dig. Here's a link to a previous post about people who have not written me back. And here, right now, is a post about Ke$ha, who did.

I have been writing fan letters since at least junior high, although the first letter I really remember working hard on was to a band called Out of Order. They were the house band on a kids' talk show on Nickelodeon called, "Don't Just Sit There." I was madly in love with the bass player/lead singer, Chris Guice, so I wrote a letter (I have no idea what I said, but I'm sure it was brilliant. Or mortifying.) and my friend Tracy (yes, of Get Well Soon and Have a Nice Day fame) decorated the envelope with mosaic paper cutouts. One day, weeks later, I received my SASE back, and in it an autographed picture and a letter from Mr. Guice. I believe I cried. Here is a picture of me, taken on that very day. (I have no idea how I remember this picture is from that day. All I remember is that my friend Beth was over, and we took a bunch of pictures. Probably to commemorate the occasion.)

I must note that I am now "friends" with Chris Guice on facebook. Why, I do not know. It seemed funny at the time.

Over the years I have sent many fan letters to people. I am starting to reflect on why I, and other people, do this. I'm old enough to know that we won't become friends. Probably. But I feel writing a letter, and getting one back, would be some sort of validation, an "I exist!" acknowledgement from someone I admire. Which sounds really lame as I type this. Who cares if someone famous acknowledges our existence? (Obviously, a lot of people, since that's pretty much the whole point of twitter.) Whatever the reason, I can't help myself from still being a fangirl at age 39 (holy fuck I'm 39). With Ke$ha, it felt like a good time to write her a letter, supporting her when she's feeling a little low. As I'm sure thousands of other people are doing. In it I told her how happy her music makes me and how I think it's great how she is a proponent of being oneself. And I sent her some of my books because I know how long the hours in treatment can be (hell, one of my books is even about being in treatment!). Plus, I do happen to mention her a few times in The F-It List. Then I sent the books off, along with a SASE, and that was that. Until a letter with my handwriting arrived in the mail with a person named, "K. Damnit" in the return corner. To those who send out SASEs: are you always as confused as I am when one arrives back in the mail with your very own handwriting? It took forever for it to register that Ke$ha wrote me a letter. It turned out to be a really sweet one, and I was thrilled to get it. I didn't cry or take pictures of myself afterward, but, I will admit, I did write her another one. Because who the hell doesn't love a penpal? I come from an era of writing to people I didn't know but whose addresses I found in the back of teen music magazines because we both liked The Monkees. I had a penpal friendship that spanned junior high through college with a teenaged boy. I still write letters to my friend in Australia because it's fun to get international mail (and hella expensive). So, yeah, I wrote Ke$ha back. Of course I'm crossing my fingers and toes she'll write me back again. Because it's a damn good feeling to be acknowledged by someone I adore and admire. And I will never lose the excitement of going to my mailbox in hopes that something exciting is waiting inside. [note: by "something exciting" I do not mean the spider that lays eggs in our mailbox every year.]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Do I Name Thee?

Thank you to all eleven thousand-- oh, excuse me, eleven-- people who took my poll about blog content. I appreciate you taking the time to click on the button (Did that sound sarcastic? I was going for self-deprecating). The number one blog (six votes, yo!) choice was how I name my characters, so here goes.

I first have to remember the names of my characters. Let's start there. You know how Brad Pitt somewhat recently said he thinks he has some disorder where he can't recognize a face that he's seen before? I think I have something like that about names. And I think it may make me seem like an asshole on occasion, but it's a real problem. Just the other day one of my daughter's friend's moms made fun of me for not knowing any of the other moms names in her class [ to which I say, a) why you gotta make fun of me?, b) at least I know all of the kids' names, and c) I swear none of them actually look like their names!]. So when I choose character names in books, I try to select names that match the characters. What was unique as I wrote The F-It List was that I was pregnant at the time. And because of all of the pregnancy troubles I had dealt with prior to this last pregnancy (that resulted in my now seven month-old son), I was struggling a lot with the idea that this pregnancy would actually result in producing a baby. Because of some new, intense testing, I knew very early on we were having a boy. But we really didn't have any boy names we completely loved. Because of this, the main male character in F-It, Leo, changed names a multitude of times. And I solicited people for name advice, which I do not normally do. Maybe it was so hard to name Leo because it was so hard to connect a name to the possibility of a baby. But I'll get back to Leo in a minute. Let's look at the two main female characters first.

Alex and Becca's names were based on two friends who helped and inspired pieces of F-It and made it possible for me to really understand what it was like to be a teen with cancer. In real life, Alex (or Allyx, as she spells it), was the person with cancer, and Becky, her friend. I thought Alex seemed more like a name for the tough-on-the-outside narrator, and Becca felt like a more romanticized version of the name Becky. Plus, I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea that these characters were completely based on real people. I am happy with my choices.

Looking at my list of characters, here are some name trivia tidbits:
  • Damien West was inspired by Damien Echols.
  • Eliza Klise has the last name of my good friend, writer James Klise.
  • Brandon Hathaway shares the last name of my longtime movie crush, Noah Hathaway.
  • Jenna Brown was originally Jenna Gold but had to be changed to be alphabetically locker correct.
  • Beth Sidell is a combination of Jewish friends from grade school (you probably see a lot of people named Beth, Liz, and with the last name Rubin in my books).
  • I kind of hate the name Lottie McDaniels.
  • Ms. Norton was the name of my first grade teacher.
  • The school nurse, Mrs. Kafcas, shares the last name of one of my close friends, as does the secretary, Mrs. Novack.
I chose Caleb for the home-schooled neighbor because it sounded religious to me. Not that the character is religious, but I pictured him being old-fashioned. He is definitely one of my favorite characters.

Back to Leo... I believe Leo started with the name Sam. It's a name I really like and one I think has a kindness to it. But then Matt and I thought maybe we would name our son Sam, so I had to take it out of the book. Then I changed it to Dean (fans of the TV show "Supernatural" will recognize those names), but Matt and I kind of liked that one, too, so it was gone. Looking back at emails with Liz, my editor, we came up with some other names like Griffin and Gabriel (but, again, Matt and I liked Gabriel, and Griffin to me seemed too trying-to-be-cool). Leo was semi-last minute, and I like it. I don't remember how I chose it, or even if I was the one who thought of it in the first place. I don't know if it fits the character as well as some of the previous names mentioned, but I knew I wouldn't name my kid Leo, so it was a safe choice. I'd be curious to know what you readers think!

And in case you didn't already know, we settled on Dean for the baby. It had a cool, 1950's vibe to it, and while it isn't a unique name it isn't very common these days, which we liked. It's short and simple, and if Romy and Dean decide to start a band, I think Romy and Dean has a cool ring to it. Truthfully, it's hard to tell if he's a "Dean," but I suppose he'll have to be. I hope he's as brave and loyal as Dean Winchester, his TV character namesake, and I certainly wouldn't mind if he turned out to be as good-looking. I do hope he has better luck with relationships. And, you know, doesn't go to Hell. [None of this will make sense to you unless you watch "Supernatural."] Naming a baby and a book character is a lot of responsibility. I hope I chose wisely!

Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm Back!

Did anyone notice I was gone? I have sort of faded away from blogging. I quite enjoy the format, actually, but life has just really taken over, as has lack of sleep. I have a seven month-old, and while his sleep is significantly better than it was a month ago (which means it was shit for over six months), my boobs are not catching up. Seriously, I could make this blog all about breastfeeding, since it seems that's all I do, day or night. My boobs have taken over my life. Even when Dean sleeps, my boobs are all, "Wake up! Wake up!" I kind of hate them. Anywho, since I received a really cool email from a guy who recently read The F-It List (twice!), I thought it was time for me to post Alex's horror movie list that I promised 700 years ago. Alex, for those who do not know, is the main character in The F-It List. She is a lover of horror films, as I am, and this list is culled from my years of watching horror movies as a teenager and college student. I tend not to watch as many these days, mainly because my husband does not love them and I can't stay awake for ten minutes of a television show, let alone a movie. Below is a picture of the list I attempted to keep as I wrote The F-It List of all of the horror movies I included in the book:

I like how at the bottom of the list it reads, "Casablanca." You can also see a tiny section of Alex and Leo's (named "Sam" on this page-- more on that in another blog post) class schedule on the right side. Those are the kinds of notes I take as I write to help me keep track of things. I fully intend on typing the movie list up and posting it here and on the official F-It List page on my website, but for now I hope you can read my handwriting. I will go into more detail on the titles, if people like, to help you best with your viewing decisions. In fact, why don't I post a good, old-fashioned poll? I used to love to post these on my blog. So, if anyone is reading, please take a moment to answer the question of which items you'd like me to post about on my blog. Feel free to embellish your answers or add other ideas in the blog comments.
What should I blog about next? free polls