Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Book Store of the Future

That is all.

 

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How To Write A Successful Young Adult Book Series, By Homer Simpson

Watch here.

 

 

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I’m With the Band

In addition to being a writer, I can now proudly call myself the producer of a boy band. They’re called Level3, and yesterday, I spent ten hours in the studio helping them record their new hit single “Heyday.”   So, you might want to watch your backs 30 Seconds to Mars.

Cuter than the Jonas Brothers, more soulful than Big Time Rush, Level3 seriously rocks.  And there’s no doubt in my mind that this adorable pop trio would be sweeping the charts if it weren’t for this one minor problem.

They’re fictional.

Like the premise of a bad Hollywood movie, the rock band in my book Reunited has come to life!  Of course, this would not have been possible without the AMAZING talents of some actual musicians—Brian Therriault, David Minehan (of the Neighborhoodsholy crap!), Dave Westner, and Emmanuel Ording.  Truth be told, I just sat on the couch and tapped my foot a lot. ;)

So here is the real boy band.  (Do not attempt to adjust your computer monitors.)

 These promising young upstarts might just be the next big thing. 

 “Heyday” still needs to be mixed, but will be available as a free download closer to Reunited’s release date—June 12, 2012.   “LIKE” me on Facebook if you want to stay in the loop.  And a single of  Level3’s “Parade” is also in the works!

And on a personal note, it’s really a shame I don’t have a musical bone in my body because getting to be a part of a rock song coming together was SO MUCH FREAKING FUN!!!

“Heyday” was recorded at the wonderful Wooly Mammoth Sound Studio in Waltham, MA.  And this project would not have been possible without a generous grant from SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) who were kind enough to bestow Reunited with their 2011 Book Launch Award.  Thank you, SCBWI!

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Gay penguins, a tightrope walker, a tree stump, and the Berlin Wall

What do these things have in common?  They are the subject matter of four of my favorite picture books which also have the uncanny ability to dissolve me into a sniveling mess each time I read them.

The last culprit to do this was Peter Sis’s The Wall, a beautifully told and gorgeously illustrated history of growing up inside the Iron Curtain that had me weeping for pages.  When the Beach Boys come to play during the Prague Spring and Peter and his friends finally get a taste of freedom, then the Soviets roll in, effectively ending it–oh, how it hurts my heart.  And then when the wall comes down and they are finally free–tears of joy.

Then of course there’s Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, the gold standard of heartbreaking picture books.  If you don’t cry over this one, you are probably a robot.

My son was only two when I read him And Tango Makes Three, the true story of a Roy & Silo, a gay penguin couple who live at New York’s Central Park Zoo and the baby penguin they adopt.  I had no idea what this book was about when I checked it out of our library, so this beautiful story of love and acceptance totally caught me by surprise.  And my son was way too young to have a clue as to why I was crying.  But all I could tell him was that they were happy tears.

Lastly, the wonderful non-fiction picture book  The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein tells the story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk between the Twin Towers.  Of course, in the last pages of this story, the Towers are gone.  But Gerstein mentions the Tower’s absence in such a gentle and vague way that parents need not worry about traumatizing their little ones.  However, be prepared for your own waterworks to start.

 

 

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Can’t We All Just Agree? (An Open Letter to America)

 

Dear America,

 

Can’t we all just agree to put our own personal agendas aside for once and try to work together?  Most of us seem to behave ourselves pretty well in our day-to-day lives (the occasional toy store stampede death aside).  Whether we’re inviting the weird kid in class to our child’s birthday party so he doesn’t feel left out, or stopping our cars to let an old man cross the street (even though we’re running late)—we make decisions all the time that are based not solely on our own selfish desires, but on what works best for the group of people we find ourselves living among.

 

Which, last time I checked, included ALL OF US.

 

So here’s the annoying thing.  Whenever politics come up, so many of you kind, considerate people revert back to this Me! Me! Me! attitude, as if national policy decisions will effect only you.  I see it happening on a smaller scale, too, every time I go to a PTO or school board meeting and some parent stands up to the mic and says, “Well my kid hates it…” without even bothering to take even the briefest moment to consider how said decision might effect the other 3,000 kids in the district.

 

Of course, you and your family come first.  I get that.  And it shouldn’t be any other way.  But while you are thinking about what might work best for you and your family, I think it’s also important to pause at the metaphorical crosswalk to think about how stepping on the gas pedal might impact that old man crossing the street.

 

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Books that changed my life (the early years)

I brought it on myself.  I see that now.  I was thirteen-years-old, wasting a perfectly good summer’s day lazing about on the chaise lounge by our pool, sighing dramatically about how bored I was, which inevitably prompted my parents (after failed attempt to get me to do yard-work) to shove a well-worn copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” into my hands.

“Trust us, you’ll love it!” they implored, forcing it on me with that special brand of parental enthusiasm that provoke eye-rolls in even the most compliant of teenagers.   “Just give it a chance.”

Seeing no other choice, I took their smelly old book, agreeing (yet highly skeptical) to read only a chapter.  By the end of the day, I had finished it.

But “The Catcher in the Rye” is just one of the many books that rocked my childhood literary world.  Here are some of the others.

“Look Through My Window” – this is the first book I ever fell in love with.  It felt like I had a secret stealing away to my room to read this in third grade and I remember being called down for dinner and literally not being able to tear myself away.

“Joni” – I did a book report on this autobiography of a teenager who becomes a paraplegic when I was in the fourth grade.  Reading such a tragic and inspirational story made me feel very grown up.  And afraid of diving into swimming pools.

“Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?” – for obvious reasons.

“Forever” – I was only in fourth grade when I read Judy Blume’s “Forever.”  For some reason still unbeknownst to me, my mother thought it was appropriate for a ten-year-old to read about a high school girl having sex for the first time and her boyfriend with a penis named Ralph.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” – I read this in Mr. Eliason’s seventh grade Reading Class.  In retrospect, I should have taken Spanish.  But boy, did I love this book.

“Diary of Ann Frank” – for obvious reasons.

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton.  I read The Outsiders at least three times and it’s probably the first book I read that made me cry.   Still to this day, when I’m feeling melancholy, I often recite Ponyboy’s favorite Frost poem in my head.  “Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold…”

What books made a mark on you as a child?

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My first review! (is from a dog)

As a debut novelist, it can be hard to get that perfect blurb.  Which is why I was extra lucky that the very first galley of REUNITED I sent out for review was so well received.  Clearly, this dog has great taste in books.  (Sorry.)

Special thanks goes to Kari of Teen Book Scene (who will be running REUNITED’s blog tour in May & June) for sharing the crime scene photo with me.  ;)  And if you want to see more incriminating photos of Toby, check out her blog at A Good Addiction.

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Brett Ratner’s Out? Then Let Me Produce The Oscars

Dear Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,

You need a new producer and you want to make the Oscars fun? Let me lay it out for you people in 8 easy steps.

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I was a Jewish Pig Farmer (by Accident)

It’s my fault we got the pigs.  We’d never discussed the idea of raising livestock, other than my husband suggesting we buy a flock of sheep so that he wouldn’t have to mow the lawn anymore.  But then he bought a riding lawnmower.  We live in the country, so the idea of raising animals for food is not a foreign concept here.  At least half our friends—people who aren’t technically farmers—have a chicken coop out back.  But taking care of two stinky,  grunting mammals had never been a part of my life plan.

Okay, so maybe I don’t actually have a life plan.  Which is probably how I ended up bringing home two pigs by accident. It was Labor Day Weekend, a huge three-day celebration that’s been a tradition in our town for 94 years.  On Saturday night there’s a “rock and roll dance” at Town Hall.  My husband and I often play in the tennis tournament (but only because he won’t play mud volleyball).  On Labor Day itself, there’s a road race, a “white elephant” sale, kids’ games, food, and a juried art show.  And my family has not only marched in the Labor Day parade, we’ve won ribbons for our floats all three times.  Though I’m pretty sure everyone gets a ribbon.

A few years back, there was also a Pig Scramble on Labor Day, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, is basically a bunch of kids with large burlap sacks chasing down piglets in an enclosed area.   The Pig Scramble’s the kind of event so unabashedly folksy, that when you watch it, you can’t help but have a smile plastered across your face.  Unless a member of PETA.  So I was headed to the Pig Scramble with my son (age 4 at the time) and two of my friend’s kids, a seven-year-old boy and his ten-year-old sister, who were both planning to enter the Scramble, though as “Main Street kids” (as opposed to farmer kids) we all knew they didn’t stand a chance.

On the car ride there, the kids and I discussed this fact—how it was always the 4H Club kids who won—fearlessly snagging a piglet by the hind leg then heartlessly stuffing the squirming beast into their sack, deaf to its high-pitched squeals of terror.   But the thing about my friend’s kids was that they weren’t even expecting to win, they just wanted to participate.  And unlike the farmer’s kids, their family had no pigpens to store them in, nor a desire (at least on their parents’ part) to raise their own pork. Which is why I told they kids that if they won (ha ha, fat chance) that we’d take their pigs.

Then, just before the Pig Scramble started, these adorable little siblings got into a fight.  It wasn’t a big deal—just your typical brother-sister squabble—but apparently it was enough to kick their sibling rivalry into overdrive.  So, as the National Anthem played (because all major sporting events start off with the National Anthem) I could see the little brother’s eyes glaze over with the determined focus of a professional athlete.  His big sister stood next to him, hand clenched around her burlap sack, glaring at her seven-year-old brother as if he were her  diehard opponent, as she waited for the whistle to blow.

Within two minutes, each had a pig in their bag, caught by employing exactly the same strategy we had discussed in detail  in the car ride there.  Oops.

When the Scramble was done, I ran over to the tennis courts to interrupt my husband’s doubles match in order to inform him that we were now the proud owner of two pigs.  Oh, and could he build a pigpen for them, say, in the next 48 hours?

I can still see the poor guy digging fence-posts holes at 11:30pm, the extension cord for his work light snaking it’s way down our driveway and across the lawn.  But within two days, our pigpen was built and Jello and Pudding (my son’s names) had a new home.

Having never raised livestock before, I didn’t know how I would feel about eating animals I had personally known.  Would I be able to enjoy my organic free-range bacon having once looked into its eyes?   But by December, I was ready to eat Jello and Pudding’s faces off even while they were still alive.  God, did I despise those greedy, snout-ramming, scarf-eating, pain in the pork-butts.

I don’t think I ever would have raised pigs by choice.  But in the end, I’m glad I got to have the experience (and the short ribs).  And I think sometimes, the most interesting things we do, we do by accident.

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Teaser Tuesday: WHEN IT HAPPENS by Susane Colasanti

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here’s my teaser for  WHEN IT HAPPENS by Susane Colasanti:

“It’s tradition for Laila and Maggie and me to go to Burger King whenever we have something major to discuss.  But it’s not tradition for one of us to have a boyfriend waiting.”

Just getting into this one, but I’m loving it already. –Hilary

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