Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mean Girls

I have promised my dear friend Jeannie that I would do a blog about YA books that I love but the clock is ticking on catching up on the last two episodes of Glee and I want to be able to do a big blog at the end of the year as a "Best YA Books that I Read in 2010" sort of thing. So I guess my eight followers will just have to wait for it. (See END OF BLOG NON-SEQUITUR for Sneak Peak).

In the meantime, I would like to take a moment to talk about "mean girls." Certainly, we have all interacted with mean girls in our lives. In a HS class of 800, I have definitely had my fair share of mean girl altercations. And yet, never have I understood exactly what drives mean girls until this past year when I have had to watch my daughter navigate through the difficult waters of girl nastiness.

My daughter has a "friend" who has taken it upon herself to point out every single one of Jojo's shortcomings. This "friend" has decided that Jojo can only play with her at recess. She has also pointed out on several occasions how she (the friend) believes Jojo to be a mean girl. I am not certain how this vicious cycle has begun but I know that Jojo is lodged in the middle of it.

I also know that my constant refrain to Jojo that she should spend time with girls who "build her up instead of tear her down" has done very little to improve the situation. Finally, after spending a long weekend in the company of this girl (for what can only be described as the Brownie Horseback Riding Weekend from Hell), I have figured it out. This "friend" is indeed a victim of other mean girls. I watched how other girls treated her all weekend long and then I watched her turn it around on Jojo. It was a train wreck from start to finish but I now see why Jojo doesn't feel like she can step away from this girl.

In Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS, she laments (upon finding herself pregnant, alone and broke) not about the difficulty that she will have as a single mother but instead on the difficulty of having to watch a child go through 7th and 8th grade. She points out how much middle school BITES and how she doesn't want to watch her son experience all that pain. Jojo is not in 7th grade yet but I understand the sentiment perfectly. This is a lose-lose situation and it is difficult to watch my daughter trying to work it out. Sadly, I am also of the belief that it will get much worse before it gets better.

That being said, I am hopeful that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Mean girls are hard. They are not the clich├ęs from movies but tend to be mean for reasons that are often unfathomable to an outsider. For Jojo, she will have to learn to balance her tendency to champion every underdog with her sense of self-protection. I imagine it will not be the easiest lesson to learn and yet I know that she will get through it. Additionally, Jojo wants to be a writer when she grows up and maybe working through this will somehow help her in that area.

I don't wish my difficult HS experiences on Jojo (although I do hope she has a Barb, Dust and Lindsey) but surely I can hang on to the delusion that I went through all that drama in high school so that one day, I would be able to write with understanding about it. My eight loyal followers would not begrudge me that???


For anyone interested:

What I have just finished reading: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins--So fabulous that I don't know where to start. I would recommend it to any and all teenage girls that I know (including those of us who are still teenage girls at heart).

What I am starting on tonight right after I catch up on last 2 episodes of Glee: BEASTLY by Alex Flinn--I am suspicious of this one because a teenage retelling of Beauty and the Beastcould be as much of a disaster as the teenage retelling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (not that I didn't see Cruel Intentions at least 3 times before having to do a self-intervention on all Ryan Phillippe movies) but I will withhold judgment until I have read the whole thing.

What level of Black Ops Julio is on: 45

Friday, December 10, 2010

First Draft Euphoria...

The holidays are getting closer and instead of knitting or getting presents or sending Xmas cards, all I feel like doing is writing. I walk through the aisles of Target trying to solve plot problems and totally forget what I am supposed to be buying. If it weren't for the Amazon app on my phone, I would have nothing to show for myself in terms of gifts. (Well, that and commissioning my sister-in-law to create homemade gifts for a few close friends---not made in my home, mind you, but at least made in a home).

Part of this comes from the fact that I have a story in my head that wants to be written. Bij asks me every day how many words I wrote and if it is less than 1,000, he is incredibly disappointed. He isn't the only one.

I love the newness of a first draft. It is so full of possibility, like waking up on a Saturday morning to fresh snow and a day ahead of you with nothing to do but play. It is like going to the bookstore with a $100 gift card. During a first draft, I am the best writer in the world. It is a feeling that can't be beat.

I have no idea where this journey of writing will lead me but today, I am in love with it. I can't imagine being any happier in what I am doing than right at this moment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Am Parts of a Whole...

Today I read my book. Well, I actually started reading it last night. I saved it as a PDF and read it on the iPad. It was like reading a REAL book. Except for the mistakes: the type-o's and a few plot inconsistencies. (But who hasn't found those in REAL books?)

I spent 6 hours (thank you work vacation!) in the library reading it and making it just right. It is just right for NOW. I know that I will give it to my friend Sara and she will say something like, "I love it but don't you think that Rachel should be more of a feminist?" and I will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make my protagonist a better feminist.

I came home from the library today to find my mom teaching my son 6th grade math on-line and it made me realize how blessed I am. Yes, I am blessed to have smart, incredible kids. But more, I am blessed to be surrounded by people who make my life possible.

Julio makes my life possible. He always has. Our anniversary is Friday. I considered getting his name tattooed on my wrist as sort of a symbol of love. Rebecca advised against it. I am trying to come up with a good back-up but I have nothing to give him that could ever equal the life that he has given me.

My mom makes my life possible. She has been tutoring my kids and playing endless games of Life and Bingo for over 2 years now. This is two days of my week that I treasure beyond anything that I can say.

My sister and my friends make my life possible. They make me into a better person. They laugh at me and make fun of me and take me as I am (which is incredibly flawed). I could never be a professional friend (although it does seem like a job that I would try) but these people forgive me for that and love me still.

My big dysfunctional family makes my life possible. My step-niece is next in line to read my book. She will read the whole thing in three days. I know this about her. She is the kind of a person that will talk about it to the rest of my family at Christmas and I will be embarrassed and then everyone will want to read it (except for my mom who has already said that it wouldn't be her bag---although I might be able to convince her if I can get it translated into French). This is what makes my family great. They will either love it or hate it but they will never tell me to stop writing.

My dad used to wake me up every morning saying, "It is a grand and glorious day to face the challenges and opportunities that life has to offer." I am NOT kidding. He was that kind of dad and I love him fiercely for it (even if I used to throw pillows at him when I was younger).

I am a person who exists because the people in my life have made it so for me. I am parts of a whole and am so very very grateful to have each of these pieces in my life. Today, my book is perfect. It IS a grand and glorious day.

It must be time to let more people into the bubble. Get ready, Caroline...

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sounds of...Si...Er, A lot of Kids

I haven't written in days. DAYS. This is painful for me. I got sick last week. It sucked in multiple ways, not the least of which was zapping all writing mojo from my very being.
And not that making a pan of brownies and two boxes of Stove Top Stuffing was all that taxing but you know, Thanksgiving did put me a bit out of whack.

For the next two days, I have my 3 year old nephew staying at my house. He is fantastic and hilarious but also ALL BOY.

I have bookish kids. My house wakes up and everyone sort of rolls into their morning slowly and quietly. We spend time reading, sipping coffee (or in their case, orange juice) and working our way into the day. Peterson wakes up looking for people to play trains with and screaming that we need to shoot the monsters.

What's funny is that my kids are totally into it. They are shouting with him. No one even wants to eat breakfast. They just want to PLAY.

So much for bookish kids.

I guess we all need a change of perspective sometimes; something that will break up our routine and make us see things differently. Peterson is about the most delightful monkey wrench that any of us have experienced in a LONG time.

As for me, all the screaming makes me want to get back to my book. I, of course, won't be able to until later tonight but I am EXCITED about it again. Excited about fixing things in it (yes, Julio finished it --- right before completing Black Ops Level 43--- and gave me really good feedback). Excited about making it better so I can give it to the next 3 people who will give me feedback.

So I guess what I am trying to say is thank you, Peterson. You're the best cure for writer's block that I can think of.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What you can learn from hanging out with a preschooler...

Butter and I do this thing when we are walking places together where he asks me to tell him a story about guys with number names. Sometimes, I retell fairy tales and just give the main characters number names (i.e. Little Red Riding becomes a girl named #3 who is on her way to visit her grandma #5 when she encounters a big bad wolf called #11). Lately, I have been making up my own stories; silly tales with basic good and evil themes. This has actually proven to be a fun exercise. It is sort of another way of practicing writing.

I have taken several creative writing classes in my life and they all have taught me something about myself as a writer. One class had us do an exercise where we write a story about the worst thing that we have ever done (yeah, that's never gonna see the light of day). One had us tell the story of our homes from the perspective of the walls. These are all different ways to find something within us that is worth telling.

At the library this morning, I got an idea for my next book. It has been percolating for a few days but for whatever reason, it poured out of me as I sat leafing through ABC books with Butter. I grabbed my notepad and wrote it down so I could remember it later. I can't do anything about it now. I have too much work to do on my current one. But truth be told, it took me 10 years to write my YA book so I don't mind waiting. Besides, knowing that I have another book in me, just waiting to be put on paper is one of the best feelings in the world.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Excuse me but did you just teach my teenager a variation of strip poker?

So about a month ago, I was sitting at my block party chatting with the teenage girls in my neighborhood about Twilight (for those of you living under a rock, this is a guaranteed generation gap equalizer). We were all expounding on the fact that despite the suckiness of the movies (and our raging disappointment in Bella as a protagonist), we still found ourselves lining up with the masses to get our tickets for each subsequent film on opening night.

Just as I was starting to feel smug about my ability to meaningfully communicate with teenagers, I mentioned A Walk to Remember. (Yeah, you know it, bad boy Shane West must choose between juvie or community service with virgin PK Mandy Moore after he talks some kid into belly flopping into a quarry. He grudgingly chooses community service, falls in love with Mandy Moore and ultimately marries her after finding out about her leukemia diagnosis. It's a Nicholas Sparks classic TRAIN WRECK and get's a Christa Craptastic rating of 3.5 stars).

My apparently outdated AWTR reference resulted in the immediate dispersement of the teenagers. Eager to correct my faux pas, I mentioned that I was writing a YA novel. Well, for some reason, this sparked quite a bit of interest and suddenly I was inundated with questions as to the content of the book.

Without going into too great of detail (I do, after all, want to publish my novel one day), I explained that it was about a group of teenagers playing a game. After describing the game at length, one of the girls said to me, "So it's kind of like strip poker?"

Uh yeah, I guess. Well, no, not really but I was fascinated that this was how these girls saw the game. It also made me realize the power of words and story. And the responsibility that comes with writing something that would be available for these impressionable teenagers to read.

Unfortunately, the girls also thought it sounded like fun and suggested playing it at some party later. Crap. I'm going get calls about this.