Monday, April 30, 2012

YA Confidential

I have some exciting news to share this morning...I'm one of the new operatives over at YA Confidential!

Operative: Jessica Love 
Codename: J-Lo

Legend: Didn't date in high school because no boy was good enough; she was saving herself for Luke Perry. Currently undercover on a high school as an English teacher who dorks out over Atticus Finch, Nick Carraway, and John Green. Writes about popular girls who don't know they are looking for love and the guys who think they are worth waiting for. 
Known Accomplices: Jill Corcoran - Herman Agency

Yup, along with the awesome Katy Upperman and Matthew MacNish, I'm now joining in on the fun over at one of my favorite blogs. If you don't know about YA Confidential, it's all about getting things from the teen perspective. We work with teen spies to get the dish on what real teens are thinking and talking about, and we are deep in the trenches in teen life.

As a high school teacher, this blog is a perfect fit for me. I'm deep undercover with teens every single day, so I'm excited to share what I know with all of you guys on a blog dedicated to all things teen!

If you don't already follow YA Confidential, be sure to add it to your reader. And pop by the site today and give me an official welcome. I'm so excited to be a part of this amazing group.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bookanistas: Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. 

What I really loved about this book was Chloe. I read so many books about a shy, introverted main character who doesn't have a lot of friends or who is never noticed by any of her classmates. I know there are lots of girls like that out in the world, but there are also lots of confident and extroverted girls out there, too, who aren't getting represented much in YA. (Except as the foil to our shy, quiet main character, of course.) As I read this book I couldn't help but fall for exuberant Chloe and her wild shoe collection. This is a popular girl who isn't a bitch who runs into a problem and has a story about her...because popular girls are the center of their own stories just as much as the shy, quiet, bookish girls are. And I think their stories are just as interesting. 

The voice in this novel is so quirky and fun, but it's not just frivolous; the story has some surprising heft to it. It has a really entertaining cast of characters, a fantastic voice, and a really sweet story at the heart of it. I had such a good time reading this book and being in Chloe's head. I'm so glad she had the chance to tell her story, and I'd love to read more stories about girls like her. 

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Elana Johnson more than “likes” BEING FRIENDS WITH BOYS
Nikki Katz is crazy about CREWEL
Stasia Ward Kehoe  adores BREAKING BEAUTIFUL
Katy Upperman wonders at WANDERLOVE
Tracy Banghart  takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS
Jessica Love is wowed by WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE
Debra Driza marvels at MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH – with giveaway

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

La Times Festival of Books 2012

This past weekend was one of my very favorite local bookish events...the LA Times Festival of Books! The festival takes place on the campus of USC and it's two days packed full of authors, signings, and panel discussions.

Tameka and I showed up nice and early on Saturday for John Green's panel. He was being interviewed by Lev Grossman and the two talked about The Fault in our Stars, Nerdfighteria, and writing in general. It was an awesome hour, of course.

Lev and John

This is my third time seeing John Green in person. I'm a HUGE fan of his writing, his videos, and what I know of him as a human being. (He could kick puppies for all I know, but at least he keeps it a secret, and for that I thank him.) Every time I have my minute or two of face time with John Green I always try to figure out that special thing to say to him that will make him realize we should be best friends, but I always end up just muttering something silly and flailing around. 

Look at me flailing

So, the bag I was carrying around with me all day, well, I grabbed that bag from the corner of my bedroom before I left the house on Saturday. As I was shoving my books in it, I noticed a page torn from a magazine shoved at the bottom...probably from a visit to my parents' house, since they love to tear articles from magazines and newspapers that they think I'll find interesting. As we were waiting in line for John Green's signing I pulled it out and saw that it was actually the review that Lev Grossman wrote of The Fault in our Stars for TIME magazine! What are the odds? I decided that since we were there I would have Lev sign the article.

Thanks Lev!

I folded the signed article up and stowed it away in my copy of The Fault in our Stars. I feel like that's a pretty cool thing to have hidden in there. 

Once we were done with the John Green signing we headed over to the YA stage where this awesome panel was going on:
Blake Nelson, Siobhan Vivian, and Jessi Kirby

We were able to find a shady spot under a tree to listen to the panel, and I was super excited to spot two of my awesome students in the audience!

After that signing we snarfed down some food, unfortunately missing the panel with Corey Whaley and Patrick Ness. But we were able to hightail it across campus in time for their signing, so I was able to get my copy of Where Things Come Back signed and snap this picture.

Corey Whaley is SO nice

There was more hightailing as we took off back across campus to get to the Judy Blume panel that was already in session. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Judy Blume and hearing her speak this past summer at the SCBWI LA conference, but since she is a living legend I wasn't going to pass up a chance to see her again. Plus this time I could get a book signed!

Her talk was amazing. She talked about her books and why she wrote them. She talked about her writing process and her life, and I just loved every second of it. Like many women my age, I absolutely grew up on her words. 

My favorite was Just As Long As We're Together. I read that book over and over and over again. I wished more than anything that I had my childhood copy for her to sign, but I know it's in a box in my parents' garage, so I made a special trip to B&N prior to the Festival to get a copy. It doesn't have the great 80s-tastic cover, though.

The line for Judy Blume's signing was long, but it's Judy Freaking Blume, so we all waited happily. Tameka and I chatted with the awesome gals behind us, so that made the time fly by. (Well, maybe not FLY, but, you know, not crawl.)

Judy Freaking Blume

I don't think I need to tell you that Judy Blume was awesome. And meeting her on Saturday was just as cool as it was the first time. I guess getting face time with your heroes just never gets old. 

For the first time since I started attending the festival, I went to both days. On Sunday I met Claire at our local train station and took the Metrolink into Union Station in LA where the festival had a shuttle bus that took us over to the USC campus. I always like taking public transportation when I can, even though it isn't always an easy thing to do in LA. 

Claire and I were wandering down a little aisle between tents when we heard a golf cart right behind us. It was hot on our heels in a "I wish these girls would hurry up already" kind of way. As we reached the end of the aisle all of these photographers jumped out at us. We smiled and posed and were excited to be such a big deal, but then we turned around and saw that it was actually Florence Henderson getting out of that golf cart, making her way to the stage for her appearance. 

Florence Henderson is so adorable!

We eventually met up with Tameka and made our way into the panel I showed up for...Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle, Maggie Stiefvater, and Jacqueline Woodson. 

Moderator Susan Carpenter, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle (excited about all of the amazing women on the stage), Maggie Stiefvater, and Jacqueline Woodson

This ended up being one of the best author panels I have ever had the pleasure of attending. These women are all so intelligent and funny and they are all doing such bold things with their writing and their stories. They talked about sex, race, gender, and writing in general while making everyone laugh and think. I loved getting a chance to listen to them for an hour; I learned a lot, I laughed a lot, and I was inspired as a writer. 

After the panel we walked over to the signing area where I met up with Liz and her husband and I got to say hello to the authors and get some books signed. 

We didn't have much of a plan after than, so Claire, Tameka, and I just wandered around the festival a bit before we left. Our legs were getting a little tired, so we hopped on a pedi cab and let him pedal us over to our shuttle stop while we snapped a photo or two. 

We are smiling because we are finally sitting

This year's LA Times Festival of Books was the best one yet! I saw so many amazing authors, bloggers, friends, and people, and I had so much fun surrounded by books. I can't wait to see if next year can top it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

UNRAVELING Blog Tour and Giveaway

Today is the release day for UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris, and I've been invited to participate in a little blog tour and giveaway. Fun! I love giving books away!

Here's a little bit about the book...

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming. 

You can read the first 90 pages of UNRAVELING here.

And here's my prompt for the blog tour...

In her blurb for the book, Andrea Cremer describes it as VERONICA MARS meets X-FILES. Who are your favorite fictional sleuths?

Well, of COURSE I love Veronica Mars! Oh man, that show is one of my absolute favorites. But my first favorite fictional sleuth has to be Nancy Drew. I grew up reading the "new" Nancy Drew books. Do you remember these books? They had covers like these?

Once I got through all of those I went back to read through the classic books, but I really fell in love with new and sassy Nancy as a kid, and there is something about her spunk and problem solving that really drew me in as a Little Jess. I read and read and read these books, and I loved trying to solve the mystery before Nancy did...although that rarely happened. 

Do you guys have a favorite fictional sleuth? Anyone else read these "new" Nancy Drew books back in the day?

So, on to the giveaway...all you have to do is fill out this form and you will be entered to win one of two copies of UNRAVELING. The giveaway is open to everywhere Book Depository ships, and you're entered with everyone entering around the blog tour. (Which means that I am totally entering, too. Heh.)

Happy release day to UNRAVELING!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I'm having a rough time, friends.

I'm totally, completely, utterly unmotivated.

This is what my day is looking like lately...

Work. Stare off into the distance during breaks.
Drive home. Take dog to dog park. Play Draw Something.
Eat dinner. Collapse on the couch.
Comment on blogs...maybe.
Scroll through Tumblr. Reblog with abandon.
Get in an argument with the husband about going to the gym.
(Sometimes I go, sometimes I don't)
Fall asleep thinking about the things I haven't done.


The more I repeat this cycle the more I get used to it. The more I get used to it, the more frustrated and BEHIND I feel. The more frustrated and behind I feel, the less motivation I have. And on and on.

How do you guys get motivated when you are in a mood like this? I have so many great books to read...they are just sitting on my shelves. I have picked up The Disenchantments and put it next to me or put it in my bag AT LEAST four different times now. I know I will love this book! Why won't I open it?

And my WIP...I love the premise so much. I've hit a little snag, so I know that's my problem there, but I'm usually so excited to brainstorm and figure it out and I'm just...not. I just stare at it.

And we won't even talk about how my pants STILL don't fit.

UGH you guys...this isn't even all of it. I could go on and on and on, but I'm already on my own nerves.

How do you shake yourselves out of these moods like this? How do you motivate yourself? I've posted about being in a reading funk before, but this is an everything funk. And I hate it.

Someone kick me in the pants, please.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blog Me MAYbe

So the lovely Sara McClung had the great idea of a May blogging effort to prompt those of us who have been wanting to blog more regularly to get going again. It's not a blogfest...just a fun blogging effort with prompts and ideas and things to talk about each day. Sounds fun, right?

Here's what Sara has to say about Blog Me MAYbe...

The purpose: To get back in the habit of blogging regularly by following a weekly format for the month of May. (Or if you already post regularly, to have an easy schedule to follow without having to struggle with what to blog about.) (But if posting every day sounds like too much, or if you miss a few days, or only do a couple posts a week, who cares, yanno?)

What you DON'T have to do: Follow every blog that participates and comment on everyone's posts every day. This isn't a blogfest to gain followers--although maybe that will happen! And of course if you WANT to follow everyone, feel free :) 

The schedule: 

  • Mondays: May I tell you something about writing? 
    • This can be anything writing-related. A post on craft. A post on your process. A snippet of your WIP, if you like to share. A book on craft that you want to recommend. Things you struggle with. Things you rock at. ANYTHING at all!
  • Tuesdays: May I tell you something about myself? 
    • Pretty self-explanatory :) Share something about yourself that your follows might not know. Or maybe they do. It doesn't matter--this is just so people who read your blog can get to know you a little better. 
  • Wednesdays: May I ask something about you?
    • Ask your followers something about themselves.
  • Thursdays: May I tell you something about someone else? 
    • Make this post about someone else. A writing friend. A critique partner. A person from history who's fascinating. A character from a book. Anyone you want :) Have a guest poster. Give an interview. Get creative! Just let the spotlight shine on someone else. 
  • Fridays: May I share something funny? 
    • Fridays = the starts of weekends! BOOYA. Reason to celebrate and laugh on it's own--plus, who doesn't want to see something amusing after a long week? 
Sounds fun and easy, right? Just sign up over at Sara's blog if you need a blogging kickstart!

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Rocked The Drop Again!

Yesterday was Teen Lit Day, and I joined up with Readergirlz to Rock The Drop and drop some awesome YA books around my community for people to find and keep.

I had three books to drop this year. I didn't have a chance to print out the Readergirlz official bookplates, but I wrote a note inside of each book and then stuck a little note on the outside so the finder would know it was free for them to take.

I dropped my first book while I was walking my dog in the morning. The local schools are on spring break, so I knew there would be lots of kids walking around my neighborhood during the day. I left the first book on this wall outside of my complex.

I walked the dog around the neighborhood and it was still there, but about an hour later I peeked out of my window and it was gone! Someone grabbed it! I was so happy...I just wish I would have seen who it was.

I left the second book at my very favorite place, my local 7-11. I propped it right up next to the Slurpee machine.

I was a little worried about this one...that people might think it was being sold at 7-11 or something and not pick it up. But it did have the sign and the note, so hopefully that would be enough to convince people.

My third drop found me at the exact same place I was last year on Teen Lit local Food Truck Fest!
You can't really tell, but I'm wearing my Peeta Has Croissants t-shirt

Last year I left a book on a truck, but this year it was so crowded and I didn't see how I was going to do that and snap a picture without being totally obvious. So, I just dropped it in one of the planters people use for seating and felt confident that it would be picked up in no time. (It just didn't make as cool a picture as the truck pic last year.)

I was right...this one was snatched up pretty quickly. But it was a grown woman and not a teen who picked it up. I was a little bummed...I wanted a young girl to get all excited about a free Sarah Dessen book! But actually this woman seemed just as excited about it as any teen would be. She kept looking at it and showing it to the younger guys she was with. And, who knows, maybe she has some teen girls at home to share it with. I won't begrudge anyone their Sarah Dessen. Lord knows I would be stoked if I found a copy of one of her books with a sign on it that said Take Me!

Claire snapped this picture of the woman, one of the many times she was staring all agog at the free book she found just sitting there by the planter. 

All in all, it was a successful day of Rocking the Drop! I really love this celebration of sharing the love of reading every year, and I'm already looking forward to participating again in 2013!

Did anyone else Rock The Drop yesterday?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bookanistas: The Scorpio Races

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. 

Some riders live.

Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. 

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I know I am so late to the party on this book. I KNOW. See, I got an ARC before it even came out and I tried to read it, I really did. But first of all, my expectations were all off. I thought it was just about horses. Like, normal horses. I didn't realize it was about magical killer horses from the sea. So I went in expecting normal horses and found magical killer horses from the sea and was all ACK THIS ISN'T WHAT I WAS EXPECTING. Then I started reading and the magical killer horses actually, well, you know...killed. And I don't like violence. Like, at all.

So I put it down.

But then I kept reading all of these rave reviews about it. And the thing is, I LOVE Maggie Stiefvater's writing. And then it won a Printz Honor. So, jeez, I just had to give it another try, didn't I? Luckily for me, it was a bargain book for the Kindle so I got it on the cheap and gave it another whirl.

Hoo boy, I am so glad I did.

I think there is something to be said for expectations. I generally like to know as little about a book as possible when I go in. Many times I don't even read the back cover blurb because I like to have as much as possible be a surprise. But I think there are some things you need to be prepared for. Like magical killer horses from the sea vs. regular horses you find in a barn. You need to be prepared for that in your head, otherwise you may have a tough time. I really liked the book so much more when I was prepared for this. And the violence, too. When I was prepared for it and I knew to expect it, it wasn't so bad.

And then there was so much to love about this story. The family relationship between Puck and her brothers. The bond between Sean and his magical killer horse from the sea, Corr. The mythology of the magical killer horses from the sea and their relationship with the island where the story takes place. I loved the dual narration and hearing from both Puck and Sean. And, of course, there is Maggie Stiefvater's gorgeous, gorgeous writing. It's impossible not to fall in love with her words.

I know pretty much everyone has read this by now, but if you were one of those holdouts like I was, please listen to the Printz committee and give this one a try. You'll find yourself on Team Magical Horses From The Sea in no time.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Christine Fonseca gives a shout out for REGRET
Carrie Harris swoons for STRUCK
Corrine Jackson cries heaps over STORY OF A GIRL
Stasia Ward Kehoe loves up THE LIBERATION OF MAX MCTRUE
Katy Upperman delights in GRACELING
Tracy Banghart shares some CLARITY and PERCEPTION
Jessica Love delights in THE SCORPIO RACES
Hilary Wagner hosts a Guest Post by Author Aaron Kato on YA Voice

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: Inspirational Images

It's time for another Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies of YA Highway.
This week's question:

What images inspire/ represent your WIP or favorite book?

This is perfect because on Monday I posted a few lines from my current WIP. Now I can share some images that go with it.

I haven't really collected inspirational images before, but with the freeform corkboard and Tumblr, it makes it so easy to save and collect the things that I come across. Here are a few things I've saved:

Wheee! If only the actual words were that good. Heh. What do you think? Does it make you want to read it? ;-)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lucky 7s

I was tagged by the lovely Sara McClung in this Lucky 7s meme that is floating around. 

Here's how it works. 

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript 
  2. Go to line 7 
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines/sentences as they are – no cheating 
  4. Tag 7 other authors
Well, I'm still in SUPER rough drafting mode. I don't really have pages, actually, just mumbo jumbo folders and stuff on Scrivener. It's all out of order, some of it is flashbacks that might not have anything to do with anything. And, yeah, I know, excuse, excuse, excuse. BUT I'm not one to turn down a dare. (I know this isn't actually a dare, but...well, it sorta is.) So I went to my 7th page on Scrivener and went down to line 7 and found probably the most boring part of the entire thing so far. WOO. And now I shall share it with you. 

(This is super rough, you guys. Like, I'm in pre-first draft mode. Brain dump mode. Gah.)

“Ghost? What's wrong?”

“Hold on a second, okay? Talk to me for a minute. Tell me what you’re doing while I walk across the street.” Across the street was a park with a playground. If I could just get over there, I could sit down on the swingset and catch my breath. If I could just get to those swings I could get myself together. 

“Uh, I went out to dinner with my brother and his new girlfriend,” he said. “She had a friend in town, so we went to some ridiculous restaurant at one of the casinos. So overpriced, but she loved it.” His voice was hesitant. Gentle. He had no idea if I was being attacked or set on fire or what.

Aaaand, there you go. Ugh. 

I'm not going to tag anyone because I'm a contrarian like that...and I'm too lazy to dig around and see who hasn't done it yet. But if you haven't shared yet, feel free to play along! I shared my super rough words (and oh man does it feel weird), you can too! 

Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pretty Nice Little Saturday

It's Saturday afternoon. 

I'm at Starbucks doing this...
And listening to this...

If you want to learn how to use the freeform corkboard in Scrivener like I am above, go check out Erin Bowman's video tutorial.

If you haven't yet, go check out my shiny new facebook page. Friend me if you would like. I won't mind.

If you know something that will kick me out of this melancholy mood, let me know in the comments.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's Operation Teen Book Drop Time!

It's my favorite time of year again...time for Operation Teen Book Drop!

Operation Teen Book Drop is sponsored by Readergirlz and Figment in honor of Teen Lit Day, and it's one of my favorite days of the year. Here's how I Rocked the Drop last year (I did it the year before, too, but, alas, that post is on my old blog, so no linky)...and I'm so excited to participate again this year for the third year in a row.

Want to Rock the Drop on 4/12? Find a MG/YA book or two (or three...or four) that you want to drop around your town for a teen to find. Print out the bookplates on the blog linked above and stick them inside. Then get ready to drop those books and report back with pictures and your Rock the Drop story!

Monday, April 2, 2012

M to the F to the A

I mentioned this a little bit ago, but I didn't want to talk about it too much until it was all finalized...I'm going to be starting an MFA program this summer!

I'm so excited to start the MFA in writing for children and young adults program at Spalding University in July!

I'm a teacher, so getting a master's degree means an automatic raise for me as soon as I complete it. I can get that degree in anything...and English would be the same raise as Underwater Basket Weaving. I have been trying to decide what I wanted to pursue a mater's in since I started teaching six years ago, but I couldn't quite decide. Most of my coworkers get theirs in Education or something similar, but, honestly, that sounds so mind-numbingly boring that I don't know if I could commit two years to it and not go crazy. I mean, I want my raise, but I also want the time I spend working toward it to be meaningful, you know? Several years ago I looked into American Studies, which was my minor in undergrad and would be useful for my teaching, but I hit some snags in the application process and sort of realized it wouldn't be the best fit. Then my writing bestie Heather started her MFA at VCFA and I was all ZOMG, this is a thing? This is PERFECT.  I can spend time learning something I actually want to learn about, AND I will be able to get my teacher raise! WOOP.

I did a lot of research into MFA programs, and I had some ups and downs along the way. I love the idea of low-residency programs, but may had their residencies during times I absolutely can't miss at work. (Taking two weeks off in MAY? Hahahahaha! Yeah, right.) But then I ran across Spalding's program that offers a summer residency, so no missing of work. They offer extended semesters, so I complete one semester per year, so I won't get too stressed out with a full-time working and full-time school workload. (You guys, my plate is already SO FULL.) They offer the concentration on children/YA which is KEY for me. AND, here's the best part...the summer residencies are ABROAD. YUP...this July I will be heading off to talk writing for two weeks in PARIS.

Paris, I am coming back to you! Thank goodness you will be less FREEZING this time around!

I'm not going to lie...I'm a little nervous about adding to my workload. I'm stressed and busy and adding another thing to my To Do list makes me want to cry. But the thing is, it's going to be stuff I care about and I'm interested in, so I don't think it will be that bad. And even though it will take me four years to finish vs two, at the end of it I will have a fancy degree that will mean a nice raise for me at work...and I'll be a better writer. AND PARIS FOR TWO WEEKS. (And other fabulous international cities in future summers, like Dublin/Galway next year.) So YAY.