Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday Tunes (14)

I love covers because they are a great reminder for me as a writer. Sometimes I hear of a book coming out, or I read a book, and I think ZOMG this is EXACTLY my idea! Then I get all sad and discouraged, thinking my idea is ruined because someone else has already thought of it. But then I think of all of my favorite song covers and remember that there are so many ways to interpret the same ideas...even the same words.

I was reminded of this last night when one of my favorite cover songs came on in a commercial.

Here's the original:

Here's the cover:

I love the Kate Bush original, but the Placebo cover totally taps into different feelings and emotions. It's amazing that the same exact words can be interpreted in such different ways...but both so awesome.

So just a little reminder to everyone out there who has the same freakouts that I do when someone else's work is feeling a little too much like that idea I have floating around in my head. We will all put our own spin on it and we can each have something awesome...and different!

Running Up That Hill - Kate Bush

It doesn't hurt me.
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know, know that it doesn't hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I'm making?
You, It's you and me.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
Say, If I only could, oh...

You don't want to hurt me,
But see how deep the bullet lies.
Unaware, I'm tearing you asunder.
Ooh, there is thunder in our hearts.

Is there so much hate for the ones who love?
Tell me we both matter don't we?

It's you and me,
It's you and me who won't be unhappy.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
Say, If I only could, oh...

It's you and me,
It's you and me who won't be unhappy.

Come on baby, come on darling
Let me steal this moment from you now
Oh come on angel, come on come on darlin'
Let's exchange the experience oh...

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems...

Say, If I only could...
Be running up that hill,
With no problems...

If only I could,
Be running up that hill...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking Forward To Summer

I love holiday weekends! Right now, instead of trying desperately to get my squirrley students to pay attention to the symbolism in The Great Gatsby*, I'm sleeping in, taking Gunner to the dog park, and generally being a layabout. I love it.

School is out on June 16th! Wheee!

Over my summer break I am...

~taking a class where I spend 150 hours planning and organizing my curriculum for next year
~working as much as possible at Job 2
~HOPEFULLY traveling to Querylandia
~HOPEFULLY starting my new project
~being a kick-ass bridesmaid in my bff's wedding
~being a kick-ass guest at a really fun wedding
~going on a girls' weekend to Vegas with some of my besties
~going to SCBWI LA
~going to Costa Rica with my family to celebrate my mom's retirement

And as long as I have a teaching job waiting for me, I have just a little over 2 months for all of this fun to take place. Yeah, not the most relaxing summer ever, but when is anything I do ever RELAXING? You know how I roll...I just like to have as much fun as I possibly can. You'll never hear me complain about being bored.

So this Lazy Monday may be one of the few days in the next few months that I just have NOTHING to do...and I'm living it up. I hope you're doing the same.

Happy Memorial Day...and thank you to all of our troops and veterans (including my dad and my grandpa, a WWII POW) for all you do.

* I'm glad my students haven't pulled this graphic out on me yet

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Five!

1. Thanks for all the support on my job situation. Sadly, this happens to me every year. Some of you were around last year when they actually came to me and told me that they gave my job to someone from another school and then three days later they came back and gave it back to me. The year before that they only signed me to a contract for half of the year when everyone else was signed to a full year contract. It really sucks, but I'm at least glad to have had a job this whole time.

More and more I'm wondering if teaching is the right path for me. There is so much I love about it, but there are also many things that are a constant struggle. And I do laugh when I think about how I got into this job partly for the job security.

The husband keeps telling me to just sell my book so I can quit my job, and I pretty much laugh in his face.

2. I'm still sort of sick. This is Day 27 in a row for those of you who are counting. It looks like I'll be making it all the way through May being sick for the entire month. You suck, May. Kindly get the heck out of here, and take all of my myriad sicknesses with you. Oh, and tell my immune system that I will welcome him back any time he's ready.

3. Obviously I didn't go to BEA this past week. I really wanted to try to get there, but my bff's bachelorette party is next weekend in Austin, so I had to choose one or the other. I was sad to miss it, but I did have a spy on the floor gathering up some ARCs to share with me. So luckily I will still get some of the benefits of BEA, even if I don't get to go to Teen Author Carnival. I seriously can't wait for some of these ARCs to show up on my doorstep. Luckily I have some awesome releases from GalleyGrab to keep me busy until then...I'll just need to pry the iPad away from my husband, which is a pretty impossible task.

(I like how I've barely been able to force myself to read a book lately and I'm acting like I'm going to be reading all of these like RIGHT NOW. HA!)

4. I finished up my latest revision to my WIP. It's amazing how having a deadline can get you to finish things! (And by you I mean me.) I had been dawdling with this revision and taking forever and then BAM motivation comes and I'm able to bust it out. People are reading it right now, and I'm hoping to get it back, make lots of changes, and then *gulp* be ready to query soon. We'll see. I may decide to revise it twenty gazillion more times over the course of seven years before I actually do that. Because that's how I roll.

5. I am totally obsessed with the Glee version of Rolling In The Deep by Adele. I'm not really an Adele fan. Not because I don't like her music, just because I don't know it. I don't own any of her albums, but mostly because I've been on a budget lately and haven't purchased any new music, even though I've been wanting to check her out.

Anyway, I've been totally in love with Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff singing together since I first heard the Spring Awakening soundtrack, which is now in constant rotation on my iTunes. So I DIED when they started singing a duet on the Prom episode, and then I adored the lyrics and the way they sang it and OH MY CATS their chemistry. (Can I just go on a quick Glee rant for a minute? Am I the only person who thinks Rachel and Finn have zero chemistry? I actively root against them pairing up because they put me to sleep when they are on screen together. More Jesse St. James, please!)

I've been listening to this song on repeat for awhile now, and I really can't get enough of it. You may think the original Adele version is better, and that's cool. I just really love Lea and JGroff, I love the rock vibe of the Glee version, and I really love it as a duet.

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Love - Divergent (and Giveaway!)

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. 

Yes, there is a ton of hype around this book. But RIGHTFULLY SO. It's so freaking good. 

I wasn't sure if I would love it as much as everyone else was loving it. I'm a contemporary girl, and I'm going through a little bit of dystopian fatigue at the moment. So, despite the raves, I went in with low expectations...and this book blew them all away. 

I don't even know where to start with this one. Tris is an amazing character. She's tough and strong and then my favorite quality...she's selfish. She doesn't sit around wondering if she's letting down everyone she loves. She doesn't waffle back and forth on the simplest decisions. She kicks ass and takes names and does what she needs to do with few regrets. I love that about her. It's rare I would be applauding a character's selfishness, but she's just a breath of fresh air for me. 

Then there is Four. Holy cats, the swoon in this book is off the charts. Four is sex on a stick, and Veronica Roth creates the most amazing scenes between them. You know a swoony scene is hot when I have to go back and read it again because I can't get it off of my mind. Well, there were several of those scenes in this book, and I still can't stop thinking about them!

Every single character in this book is so well developed and awesome and just REAL. (One word for you: AL.) I enjoyed being with all of them, and they all had flaws and stories and I felt like I knew them. 

There's also the world building. I loved this world that she created. The factions were fascinating! It didn't take me long to choose a faction for myself (Amity), and I was so interested to learn more about each of them and how they functioned. (How the factions functioned. Heh.) I felt so grounded in Roth's Chicago that I never questioned where she was taking me. And even when I did have an issue or two with some plot element or another, it didn't even bother me because I just TRUSTED her and her world building and her writing so much that I just went with it. 

I really could talk about this book all day. It's amazing. It's not your cookie cutter dystopian, and it is totally worthy of all of the praise it is getting. 

Anyway, if you haven't read this book yet, you need to! So, thanks to the amazing Martha Flynn*, I have a copy of Divergent to give away! All you have to do is tell me in the comments that you want it, and I'll pick a winner at random next Friday 6/3.

*I was lamenting my book buying freeze on Twitter and jokingly begged someone to buy me a copy of this book so I could read it. Well, don't you know that the amazing Martha sent me a copy for myself and a copy to give away...and a mysterious benefactor (thank you so much, mysterious benefactor! You rock!) sent me a copy for my classroom! Divergent for everyone! I have a student who has already read the classroom copy and we had a gush session over it. There is now a waiting list.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Signing: Matt Logelin

On Monday night I had the opportunity to attend a book signing* that I had really been looking forward to. Local author, blogger, dad, and music lover Matt Logelin was signing copies of his memoir Two Kisses For Maddy. I've been reading Matt's blog for over three years now, so it was cool to get to meet him in person and actually say hello.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Matt, his daughter Maddy, and their story, you can check it out on his blog here. For those of you who are familiar with Matt's blog or his new book, you know what a terrible thing he has been through. But you also know he has a great attitude and has done a fantastic job of raising Maddy in the wake of his tragedy. (I'll be totally honest with you. I don't really like little kids all that much. But I really do love reading about Maddy's adventures on Matt's blog. She's just so freaking cute! And she says and does the funniest things. I think I might not be so freaked out at the thought of having kids if I could guarantee that my kid came out just like her.)

I've had my copy of Two Kisses For Maddy for awhile now, but, honestly, I've been too scared to read it. I know I'm going to cry. A lot. And I'm fine with that, I just need to be in the right frame of mind for all of that crying.

Anyway. The signing. It was awesome. I've been to a lot of book signings. A LOT. And this was really one of my favorites. I liked that Matt read a chapter from the book, but stopped his reading often to tell side stories, explain inside jokes, and add things that were cut from the book. It added so much to his reading, and it was just so much fun. It was sort of like director's commentary on a DVD. I felt like we got to know so much more about Matt that way, and I really enjoyed all of the extra information.

Then he answered lots of questions from the crowd. I was so thankful that the crowd actually asked good questions. Nothing obvious or ridiculous, it was all stuff that was interesting and, again, I felt like we learned a lot about Matt and Maddy from the questions and answers.

Maybe this is the difference between a memoir signing and a fiction signing? I don't know, but I really enjoyed it. I wish more authors would do something like this.

Then we got to get our books signed, and, again Matt was super awesome. I don't know why he wouldn't be...he's just a normal guy who happened to have something sad happen to him, happened to blog about it, and now happened to write a book. So he sat and chit-chatted with us for several minutes, which was great. We talked about writing a book, our shared wedding anniversary, and how much I enjoyed his signing, and then we snapped a photo.

Now my copy of Two Kisses For Maddy is all signed and ready for me to read. But since I got tears in my eyes from the random chapter that Matt read at the signing, I know I'm going to lose it hardcore when I crack open this book. I'll have to lock myself in my room for a few hours or something.

If you guys haven't been reading Matt's blog or if you haven't looked into this book, I totally recommend giving them a shot. Matt is an awesome guy with an incredible story, and I'm so glad I had a chance to meet him.

*I have to add that this signing took place at the Cerritos Library which is the most gorgeous and amazing library I have ever stepped foot inside. No joke, it looks like something out of Disneyland. I wanted to move into this library and never, ever leave. You should have seen the freakout I had in the children's section. And then the YA area? My mouth was hanging open. I love my library and all, but it was nothing compared to this place. Nothing!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tough Life Lessons

I got some bad work news yesterday, just like I do every year around this time. This is my 5th year teaching, my 5th year on a temporary contract (which means I'm not working toward tenure), my 5th year having to wait to see if I'll get another contract, and my 3rd year where things have been really dicey for me...and JUST me, not the other temp teachers.

So I've been neck deep in "woe is me" since yesterday when I realized that almost all of the other temp teachers but me were offered contracts. I was the only English teacher who wasn't.


This is how rejection feels, huh?

Now I'm really seeing it. I mean, I got rejected from the MFA program earlier in the year and, yes, I was bummed. But only for like a day. And a little part of me was pretty relieved because it's a lot of work and I'm already spread so thin. And when I found out that it wasn't my writing that got me the rejection, I was sort of okay with it. Everything happens for a reason, and all that jazz.

But this, ugh. This is me vs my colleagues. And they outrank me. And they have for the past three years.  That really hurts that my admin says, "Ok, we have four English teachers and three contracts. Who would be easiest to do without? I think we can all agree that it's Jessica."

This is how it feels when everyone who has been writing when you have gets an agent and you don't. This is how it feels when everyone who got an agent when you did sells and you don't. This is how it feels when you do the best you can do and it's not good enough for someone. Right? (And I know everyone's journey is different. It's just hard to remember that when you all began your journey together, at the same starting line.)

Man, it sucks. I'm really getting it now.

So, I'm taking this as a learning opportunity. Handle this rejection with grace, Jess. This is the first in a long line of many if you are really going to pursue publication. Don't be bitter at your co-workers. Don't let this impact your teaching and your students this year.

Life is helping me to learn how to deal with the rejections that are surely coming my way. Thanks, Life. Thanks for the lesson. I obviously needed it.

I'm still hopeful for a contract this year. I'm not freaking out YET. I'm just sad. Because I am tired of getting screwed around by my job year after year. And I just want to know if I need to file for unemployment or look for another job or career or what. Blah.

So just like with my MFA rejection, I let myself wallow for one day. Yesterday. Just one day of whining and self pity. And today on I'm working harder on my WIP and giving everything I have to my students in these last few weeks of school, no matter what happens.

I'm not sharing this because I want pity or "Oh, Jess, you're awesome" comments. Psssh. I know I'm awesome. I just need to VENT. It's what I do. It's how I work through my issues in my head. I'm just taking this now and filing it in the Life Lessons folder. I've been getting a lot of them so far this year.

Oh, life lessons. Why do you have to suck so much sometimes?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blogging From My Sick Bed

Well, I never intended to take such a long hiatus.

Would you believe that I'm still sick? Well, I am. This is day 23 in a row of me being sick in one way or another. Yeah, that's the entire month of May so far.

I'm so glad that, after a morning shift at Job 2 on Saturday morning, I had the majority of the weekend to just SIT. And REST. And let myself HEAL. Aside from the 2 days I have called in sick, I haven't had a day entirely to myself to relax since *check calendar* April 24th. That was a month ago. No wonder my immune system has checked out on me.

So yesterday I just sat around on my bed, then my couch, then my bed again. I ingested my body weight in Vitamin C. I napped, and I napped again. Oh, and I wrote.

Yesterday was my little deadline I set for myself to have my current draft (full of many, many new scenes) DONE, and I'm happy to say that I made it. YAY for writing time! Now the draft will go to some readers to help un-hot mess-ify it and I will desperately try to get some grading done before the end of the school year.

I'm out June 16th, and I'm telling you, that date can not come fast enough. Not that I don't love my students. I really do. I've just had a very challenging year, and I am so, so burned out right now.

Summer isn't going to be a total vacation, either. Aside from the crapton of writing I have planned and possibly entering Querylandia, I'll be working lots at Job 2 as well as taking a class on curriculum development, where I have to put 150 hours toward developing my curriculum for next year. Sheesh.

And I wonder why I get sicknesses that last an entire month. (I was also sick for all of November, thanks to my hectic schedule. But I didn't let that slow me down...I still blogged every day and went to three concerts in three days. That's how I roll!) I over commit and over extend myself and then get stressed and exhausted. But, damn, I have a good time, and isn't that what matters?

Anyway, all this to say, I'm going to try to ease back into blogging this week. I'm feeling better and I have a bit more time...and I missed you guys! I have been reading and sorta commenting, but I really miss my own blog. I hate being away. I even have a giveaway coming up later this week. YAY.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sick and Tired

So, you may or may not have noticed that I was MIA last week. It wasn't a planned vacation...life decided to jump in my path and stick its tongue out at me.

I had a ridiculously fun, action packed weekend...followed by a slap in the face from sickness. I got a terrible cold, then an ear infection, then pink eye. (Yeah, all at the same time. Awesome.) I had to take a day off from each job (two different days),  but I couldn't spend as much time as I needed to resting because my best friend was in town from the east coast and I needed to see her because I never get to.

So, needless to say, it's been over a week and I'm STILL sick. I'm trying desperately to get caught up on things, but it's hard because I'm still not 100% and I still have tons of things on my plate and I still have more and more and more stuff planned. Argh. My kingdom for a MOMENT OF PEACE.

And in the midst of all of this, the Universe felt the need to give me another little smack. It said, you know that project you put away? Hahahaha! Take that thing off the shelf and get back to work on it! Yeah, some weird winds blew my way that nudged me to get back to work on it. So my awesome new idea that I was outlining is hanging out backstage and I'm back on OG project full force. I had sort of been dawdling on it, since I didn't have a clear picture of what was happening with the characters. But the weird winds blew some answers my way, too, and now I'm powering ahead with an end date in sight.

Of course, trying to power ahead with a head full of over the counter cold meds isn't always the easiest thing to do. But I'm trying. Oh man, I'm trying.

Anyway, this week I'm going to Vegas twice (Of course...because who goes just once? Going once in a week is for n00bs.) You know, since Vegas is the perfect place to get all better when you're sick. And it's also the best place to get some peace and quiet when you are trying desperately to edit your YA ms. I really know how to focus, don't I?

So, all of this to say...I may or may not be blogging all that consistently in the next few weeks. Because it's difficult to find the time to blog when you are:

a) coughing up a lung
b) drowning in essays (oh, did I mention? Only a month until school is out...gotta catch up)
c) trying desperately to make your ms awesome
d) at the blackjack table


If you need something to do in my absence, check out the auctions at All 4 Alabama! They open today at 10am Central with some amazing auctions. Just check out this contributors list! Holy cats! And remember, your money will go directly to a rural town in Alabama that desperately needs your help. Hope to see you over there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

All 4 Alabama

I know you guys are all aware of the recent storms that have devastated the southeastern US.

I also know that a lot of you are like me...far removed from the tragedy, but still wanting to help in some way. For someone who has never been there, I have quite a few friends in the Alabama area, and I have been wanting to do something to help, but from all the way across the country it's difficult to feel like you have an impact.

My good friend and writing buddy Crystal (who lives in Birmingham) teamed up with writer and blogger Courtney Barr (who lives in Tuscaloosa) to start up the All 4 Alabama online auction to raise money to help the affected areas in the south.

What is different about this auction, and what I think makes it extra special, is that All 4 Alabama is adopting two rural towns, Phil Campbell, Ala and Hackleburg, Ala, and all the proceeds are going DIRECTLY to help these towns. The Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas are getting lots of help, but these little towns that are farther away from the major metro areas are in huge need of support, and that's where All 4 Alabama (and YOU!) comes in.

The auctions are going to start TOMORROW, so why don't you go check out their blog today and follow it or put it in your Reader? Or why don't you blog or tweet about this auction and help us spread the word? I'll be talking about it a lot because I think it's a really awesome cause. It's rare that you feel the money you are donating is making a direct impact, but I can tell you that the residents of Phil Campbell and Hackleburg will directly benefit from your donations.

Other ways you can help:
You may have seen the Help Write Now auction online, spearheaded by the amazing Kate Hart. They are raising money for the Red Cross and they have some amazing things up for auction, so go check it out!

Also, thanks to author Lindsey Leavitt, you can buy books AND support relief efforts!

Between May 7th-14th, use code bookfair #1048605 when making a Barnes and Noble purchase online or in store. 10% of sales using this code will go to the United Way's West Alabama chapter to help tornado relief efforts.

If we raise over $2500, the percentage goes up to 15%; if we raise $10,000, the percentage is 20%!

So, if you have been feeling helpless and wanting to contribute in some way to the relief efforts in the south, there are so many ways that you can make an impact. Even if you can't bid on some of the bigger ticket items, a direct donation to one of these sites of anything you can afford, even if it's only $5, will combine with the other donations to directly improve the quality of life for these Alabama residents who lost everything. 

I'll see you tomorrow when bidding opens up at All 4 Alabama!