Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Cutest Blog on the Block

I love having a blog. It's great for communicating with fans. Sometimes it's like having a therapist I can call any time of the day or night just to get something off my chest. And it often takes the role of a best friend who allows me to annoy her by telling her every little thought that pops into my head--like the fact that a couple of nights ago, I had a dream that I was at work and my boss told me that my new job was watching soap operas all day. So I'm at my desk in front of this gigantic flat-screen TV watching Days of Our Lives while my coworkers are answering phone calls and filing paper. Crazy, right? And why was there a swimming pool in the middle of the office? I mean, in the dream it seemed perfectly normal, but...

Huh? Oh, sorry. Got a bit off track there. My point is that while I love my blog, I do realize that it is, for the most part, pretty self-centered. What did I do today? What do I like? How are my books doing? Who talked to me today? I, I, I. Me, me, me. [Shaking my head sadly.]

Well, here's what I have to say about that: It won't be changing anytime soon. Ha! You heard me! I, I, I, ME, ME, ME!!! Being this self-absorbed might be completely socially unacceptable in real life, but in here? Well, it's almost a requirement!

I kid. But the reason this even occurred to me is that I've been reading a lot of YA blogs lately--blogs that were started by book lovers who spend their free time writing about something besides themselves. Sure, there's some talk about the books they liked and why, but even that is serving to help others. They spend huge amounts of their own time organizing book giveaways (I'm looking at you, Princess Bookie!), writing reviews, interviewing authors, promoting other people's blogs--all in the name of the love of young adult books. And some of these bloggers are young adults themselves! It's impressive and inspiring. It makes me want to be a better, less self-obsessed person.
...        (<---quiet reflection)

That said, check out Ashley Suzanne's blog right now. I thought I had the cutest blog on the block, but I was wrong. She's got the title. Says so right on her homepage. Oh, and who did she just interview? And which author's books is she giving away? Who is currently in her spotlight? ME ME ME!!!

Ahem... I'll work on it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Time

Hey, everybody! Long time, no see. I know, I know. But I won't waste time on apologies this time. Just know that whenever there's a long stretch of quiet from me, I have my reasons. And some of them are pretty good! (Yes, sometimes it's just laziness, but not usually.)

This time it was mostly that I was working on a couple of writing projects, both of which fell through in the same week, believe it or not. One was a result of some corporate restructuring--que sera sera. But I don't mind telling you that the other really shook my confidence as a writer. No one likes to hear that her writing wasn't good enough. And as I mentioned before, I live on gold stars and pats on the back. So to get the opposite of that, well... How can I describe it? Ouch. OUCH! I spent a few silent days curled up on my couch, eating nothing, listening to sad music, and questioning my entire career--followed by a few days of eating everything in sight, watching lots of happy movies, and getting pep talks from my friends and family. (Shout out to Oprah Winfrey and her Life Class. It sounds corny, but hearing her talk about how she had been demoted from doing the evening news, and how that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her, really helped me get past this.) I'm happy to say that I did eventually come out of my funk and even found the silver lining in the whole situation:

After several months of toiling away--and putting pretty much everything else on the back burner, including trivial things like laundry and leaving my house once in a while--I find myself with free time again. More important, I find myself with time to write for myself again! I've spent so long trying to realize someone else's vision, but now I get to come up with one of my own. I'm excited. I feel free! And yes, a little nervous. Will I be able to do it on my own? Will I be able to write something that will get an agent's attention? Or am I about to face another year spent writing something that will earn me a mountain of rejection letters? Well, there's only one way to find out, right?

And what better time to start than November, which, if you don't know already, is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Everyone is welcome to participate in this. You don't have to be a published writer. You don't have to have taken any classes. And you don't even have to pay. All you need is a bit of creativity and the willingness to spend a solid month trying your hand at writing a novel. And to support you in your efforts, the fine people at have developed all kinds of handy tools on their website, including a word count calculator and a place where other writers can give you encouragement. Why have I never done this before? Even if I don't finish a whole novel, it will be great to just focus on the joy of writing--something I'd almost lost.

I've also recently gotten reacquainted with my other literary love, poetry. About a month and a half ago, a friend of mine from high school, Pura Fernandez, invited me to see Beau Sia perform at a little spoken word spot on 1st Avenue and 1st Street called the Nexus Lounge. I've been a huge fan of Beau Sia's ever since I saw him perform on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, and again in the Broadway show featuring some of the best Def Poets around. His poems are hilarious, thoughtful, angry, refreshing--just so, so GOOD. But his real claim to fame is his in-your-face delivery. So of course, I high-tailed it over to the Nexus Lounge, and I was not disappointed. Before Beau went on, they had an open mic segment. You could tell that some people in the crowd were regulars, there every Tuesday and Thursday night, with notebooks full of poetry in their hands. And some, like me, were there for the first time. Pura was one of the first to take the mic, reading from her BlackBerry a poem she had written on the train that morning. It turns out my friend, who I hadn't even known wrote poetry, had been a regular for a while too, and it showed.
Pura getting down with her poetic self. 

The room was full, but it felt intimate and supportive. And you didn't even have to be a poet. There were musicians and comedians. One girl did a monologue from Rachel's Getting Married. Then a hip-hop/spoken word group called People with Teeth went on and blew me away. I ended up buying their CD and loved it.

Here are two members of People with Teeth along with
my friend, Pura.
Finally, Beau Sia took the stage, and everyone could see right away that he wasn't his usual explosive self. He was quiet; he wore a pair of dark shades the whole time (in what was already a dark room); and he seemed exhausted. It turns out that he had been in a serious car accident not too long before and had  been struggling to recover ever since. Even the dim light of the spotlight hurt his eyes. He'd thought about canceling his appearance, but he didn't want to let anyone down. Plus, even though he was in pain, he still loved to perform and he had a lot to say. He read us poems about getting hurt and how vulnerable it had made him feel. He wrote about Facebook and how overwhelming and isolating it can be, and how chasing fame had gotten in the way of his writing. And he talked about how frustrating it was to not be able to perform the way he usually does, not to be able to give people what they want. But personally, I found this Beau Sia even more compelling than the ball of energy I'd see on HBO. At times he was downright tender and philosophical. He wasn't just trying to entertain; he was trying to figure something out about the world and about himself. I became even more of a fan.

After the show, Pura and I hung around, waiting to talk to him. Pura had taken a writing workshop with him years and years ago (before he was who he is now) and wanted to reintroduce herself. She assumed he wouldn't remember her. But as soon as she walked up, he took her in for a moment, pointed at her, and said, "Pura Fernandez." Beau Sia is awesome. They talked for a while and then she introduced me to him. I told him how much I loved his work and that it was an honor to meet him. He seemed genuinely appreciative, and he shook my hand, giving me his undivided attention for a few minutes. These are the kind of people for whom I become a groupie--as you can see from the crazy look in my eyes in the picture below.

Me and Beau Sia.
(I promise, he was friendlier than he looks here.)

Anyway, I left there that night inspired. I needed to get to writing! At the very least, I vowed to come back and become one of the regulars. So the very next Tuesday, I went back--this time by myself, since Pura couldn't make it and none of my other friends are into poetry, really. I always feel beyond awkward going to do stuff like this alone, but as I often tell my mom, if I were to wait for someone else to go with me to do everything, I'd miss out on a lot. I would never have gone to Penn State. I wouldn't have seen tons of movies. I wouldn't have gone to Greece! So I went, and long story short, I performed.

Unlike the last time I was there, it wasn't a packed house. That night it was pouring rain outside, so only a few brave souls showed up--about 10 people total. But Mike Geffner, who runs the Inspired Word nights, and the host, Nathan P., were there and made it seem as if the room was overflowing. I read a poem I'd written in Greece, and a couple I'd written years ago. I hadn't done that in so long. I'd forgotten how good it felt. Even better was listening to everyone else who took the stage that night. They were incredible! And yes, one of the Def Poets was in the house and set the stage on fire (not literally).

This is everyone who read at the open mic night. The gentlemen in the pin-striped suit and fedora is the super-cool host, Nathan P. And the man in the black shirt to my left is Mike Geffner, who puts the whole thing together. 

Anyway, I am now inspired, ready, and willing to write something new. And I've gotta tell ya, I can't wait to get started.