This past weekend was the ALA annual conference. I always read about these big, huge book events and I'm always jealous that I can't go, but this year the big ALA happened to be right down the freeway from me in Anaheim! YAY!
Friday: Got to the convention center, picked up my exhibit pass, and waited around with the ladies of YAConfidential and some of our other friends for the exhibit hall to open. I thought I had an idea of what to expect, but, uh...I really didn't. There were so many people entering the exhibit hall at once, and MAN was it hot in there! So the crowds of people and the temperature and the overall frenzy of people running around really left me feeling overwhelmed. I lost my friends almost immediately, and since I don't do so well in crowds I was really sort of floundering for a little while. I clearly don't have what it takes to hang at these sorts of events. Luckily I am ginormous and have this glowing hair, so it didn't take long for my friends to spot me and for us to be reunited.
Saturday: I got to the exhibit floor a little late because I had my bff's baby shower to attend. That wasn't a big deal for me, since, although getting ARCs and all of that is nice, the main reason I was at ALA was to see all of my writing / blogging / Twitter friends in person. So the highlight of Saturday for me was meeting up with the Bookanistas, the YALSA meetup, dinner with my YAConfidential girls and friends, and then the YAHighway mixer.
I started the evening by meeting up with some of the Bookanistas in the lobby of the Hyatt...it was awesome to meet the ladies I hadn't met before and see the ones I had met again. From there we moved on to the YALSA meetup which was PACKED. I had wanted to do a little mingling, but I physically could not move from my spot at the bar. I saw lots of awesome friends walk by and I was able to wave at a few from my perch, but I didn't get to roam around the way I had been hoping to. It was really awesome that so many people showed up. It was nice to have some breathing room at dinner and relax with some of my favorite ladies. (I'm so glad Sara took some pictures because I was a complete fail.)
The YAHighway mixer was also packed, but there was a little more room to move around. Again, I was a total fail at taking pictures, but check out YAHighway for some great pics of the huge crowd of awesome there.
Oh man...can you tell how exhausted I was by this point?! I look like I'm about to fall asleep on Lauren's shoulder.
Sunday: I was exhausted. I didn't get off my couch or out of my PJs until 4pm. All that socializing was a little much for this introvert.
Monday: I went back one last time, mainly to say hi to Tamara Ireland Stone and snag a signed ARC of Time Between Us.
Me and Tamara! YAY!
(OMG, I still look so tired. I am too old for this, I swear.)
I had a good time walking the exhibit floor by myself, and I was happy to find it a lot less frantic and crazy-making than the first day. I could tell that things were about to get nuts with people trying to snag all the display copies of books, so I hightailed it out of there before I got caught in that crazy rush.
I was exhausted at the end of it, but I really did have a great time at my first ALA. The best part of it was seeing all of my great friends from all across Twitter and the blogoshpere.
And really, what I get most out of these events is inspiration and motivation. There is nothing like walking the exhibit floor and seeing people I know and love signing their own books that makes me want to run home and work my butt off on my own writing. Every time I saw a book with a familiar name on it I thought, "If I just keep working hard, this WILL be me in a couple of years. It WILL." Getting that kind of motivation is so worth the cost of the exhibit pass, the daily cost of parking at the Hilton, and the complete exhaustion at the end of the weekend.
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.
It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.
This book follows around all eight girls on the list, and sometimes it goes into flashback. You might think that eight different characters in both past and present might be a little too confusing to handle, but Siobhan Vivian does a great job of making each girl's story clear and easy to follow. The girls are all very different, and they each have distinct personalities and clear storylines.
Life isn't easy for any of the girls on the pretty list, but I found myself most drawn to the "ugly" girls' stories, particularly Sarah (ugliest junior) and Danielle (ugliest freshman). Possibly because they were the two most relationship-focused stories and I am completely predictable when it comes to loving the romance stories. (And props to Siobhan Vivian for Milo...cute Asian boy FTW! You know any book with a cute Asian boy will get my intense love.) But I did find all of the girls fascinating, and this book really puts a spotlight on the way girls look at each other and talk about each other and what an impact those looks and words can have on us.
I will warn you that this book doesn't completely resolve every single one of these stories with a neat bow. Some people seem a little irritated by this, but I actually like ambiguous endings, and I love that we are left to wonder about some of the girls. I like that level of realism and I felt it actually added another layer of realism to this very real look into the lives of teen girls.
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BFF in town
4th of July
Girls trip to San Diego
Europe for 3 weeks - vacation and MFA
Vegas for my anniversary
I have like 10 days that aren't scheduled...I'm not even kidding. And in every free minute I need to plan an entirely new curriculum and finish my WIP.
I'm not complaining about ANY of these things. Writing my WIP, planning for my new classes, starting my MFA program, going to Europe, ALA and SCBWI...it's all just packed with awesome no matter how you look at it. But it's going to keep me busy, busy, busy.
Unfortunately, blogging is pretty low on my priority list, so you won't see a ton of updates from me for the next month or so. Well, not with any regularity, anyway. I'll still be posting my Bookanistas reviews when I have an awesome book to share with you, I'll still be over at YAConfidential, and I'll still be poking in here and there, but only when I have something to say.
I just feel like I have even less free time now than I did during the school year, and I want to make sure I use it as efficiently as possible. So if any word count needs to grow in the next two months, it needs to be the word count in my WIP, not my blog. You know how that goes.
But don't worry...I'm never far away. And you know I'm always all over Twitter.
Have a fantastic summer everyone! I'll see you soon!
Thursday was my last day at my school. Luckily it was so insanely busy that I didn't have much of a chance to get too sad. I got lots of visits, lots of treats, lots of sweet yearbook messages, lots of pictures, and lots of thoughtful, caring goodbyes from my students. They made signs and cupcakes and cards for me and I felt very, very special.
I love this canvas from one of my favorite girls. I'm going to hang it in my new classroom.
Yup...I'm going to have a new classroom. Last week I was offered a position teaching middle school in my same district and I took it.
I can't thank you all enough for your support and kind words on my job situation. I'm convinced that it is all the good energy that you put out in the universe on my behalf that led this job my way. The truth is, I've never taught middle school before and I know very little about it. I identify very much with teaching high school. I relate so well to high school students, and I know almost nothing about middle school-aged kids. This is going to be a big, big challenge for me.
But who knows...maybe I'll love it. And maybe it will inspire me to write some MG.
I have a lot of reading and planning to do this summer...a summer that is already packed with travel and starting my MFA and finishing my WIP. So much for relaxing, right? I guess I never did like things to be boring.
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve. As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.
I absolutely loved Morgan Matson's debut novel Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, and I've been dying to read something else by her. I was excited when I heard her second book was going to be a summer book, because there's nothing I love more than a good summer romance.
Well, this book isn't a romance. Not exactly. There is definitely a romance element to it, with Taylor trying to reconcile with her first love, Henry, whom she left rather suddenly five years before and never spoke to again. But this book is about so much more than that. It's about family, it's about friendship, and it's about learning to be who you are and go after what you want.
My favorite thing about this book was the fully realized characters on every page. Each one of the characters was so developed and so layered, I felt like any one of them could have hopped off of the page and existed on his/her own...from Taylor and Henry to each of the members of Taylor's family to Nora, the next door neighbor, or Wendy, the girl who worked at the pet store. (Did I mention there s even a dog in this book? I love a book with an awesome dog!)
Morgan Matson's writing drew me in from the very first page. I knew before the first chapter was over that I was going to be absolutely in love with this book, and I was right. I thought the story might lag, give that this book is close to 500 pages, but it never did. I was glued to every single page, and I loved taking this summer journey with Taylor and her family.
If you loved Morgan Matson's first book, if you want a summer story that is a little deeper than your typical romance, or of you're looking for a good summer cry, you'll love this one.
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Confession: I'm not doing so well at the whole staying positive thing.
Losing my job is, quite literally, the worst breakup I have ever had to suffer through. I feel like I've been dumped by a boyfriend I am still desperately in love with for the biggest "it's not you, it's me" reason ever, and then forced by circumstance to keep hanging out with his awesome family for another few weeks and pretend like everything is A-OK.
It's been difficult, yo.
I cry EVERY DAY. The second my students leave my classroom I crumple up in a heap in my chair and just sob my eyes out. I barely hold myself together front of them. A kid brought me flowers that he picked for me from his front yard and I made him leave because it was so unexpected and thoughtful and I knew I was going to lose it and I didn't want to do it in front of him.
This is the last week of school and I don't know how I'm going to get through it.
The thing that makes it harder and easier is that my students have been so rad. I wasn't sure if I was going to tell them what was going on, but I had to start packing my infamous classroom library and I knew they would be asking questions, so I just told them. Since then they have been doing the NICEST things for me.
Like I said, one of my kids from last year brought me these beautiful roses from his yard. (He promised me that his parents were okay with it...haha) They are on my bookshelf at home right now and they have opened up so beautifully that I can't help but smile when I look at them.
They have been writing the most thoughtful and amazing things in my yearbook.
And then there was this awesomeness...
I guess that's not too much of a surprise given that this is how I'm signing yearbooks this year...
But the best thing that these awesome kids have done for me...they took it upon themselves to start a petition to save my job.
ALL THE TEARS.
This week is going to be really, really tough for me. I'm thankful every day for the time I've had with these rad kids, and I'm hoping, hoping, hoping there is something amazing right around the corner for me. But it's hard for me to get up in the morning, and I've been spending every evening wrapped in my blanket on my couch, trying to just wish this all away.
I'll get myself together next week. I promise. I have no intention of staying this mopey and depressed for the long term. But breakups really suck, and I'm just having a hard time with the whole put on a happy face thing for now.
I go by my married name at school, so I blocked it out because I am paranoid about the anonymity of my students. Go away, stalkers.
When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider. As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both. Full of danger, romance, and intrigue, Transcendencebreathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live?
Okay, first we need to talk about this cover. There has been a lot of whitewashing going on with YA covers lately, so I can't even tell you how excited I am to see a cover with gorgeous dark-skinned Griffon front and center and looking directly at me. I got this book on NetGalley, but I'm still going to go out and purchase a copy just so I can use my money to say, "Hey, publishing industry, I will totally buy books that don't have white people on them, FYI." (Confession: I'm actually having a hard time typing this up because I keep scrolling back up to the cover to stare at that cover!)
Second, I was so caught up in this story! There are lots of flashbacks to Cole's past lives, and while I thought they might detract from the story, they just add suspense and they are actually so, so cool. I loved revisiting Cole's past selves through her flashbacks. This book focuses mainly on two different lives, but there are hints of others, and it was fascinating to see the places and people she had been. I loved the flashbacks.
I also really loved the relationship between Cole and Griffon, and I loved that it was the major focus of this story. I'm a huge sucker for a good romance, and these two had everything I'm looking for in a good YA romance: tension, sweetness, and lots of awesome making out. Yeah, there's a bit of insta-love going on, but C.J. Omololu does a great job of explaining all of the things that might bug you about a typical paranormal romance. And, let's be real here, wouldn't you fall instantly in love with that hottie on the cover? I know I would. Rawr.
And can we talk about something that bugs me a lot with all of the series books coming out lately? Cliffhangers. Oh, the cliffhangers. It drives me nuts when I get into a book and I get to a cliffhanger and find out I have to wait another year or so to find out what happens to these characters. I loved that this book tied up the active story by the end. There is a clear setup for the next book, but we don't end up dangling over the edge of a cliff or wondering what is going to happen. There are surprises and twists, but they all wrap up so you can close this book feeling satisfied, not frustrated.
If you're looking for a great paranormal romance and you're into past lives and reincarnation, or if you just want to support a great book with an awesome POC on the cover, you need to check this one out.
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If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I posted this picture on Friday:
That's because Friday was a really, really crappy day. On Friday I got notice from my school that I won't be coming back next year.
I'm absolutely devastated. I've taught there for six years, and, obviously, I love my job. I love the school, I work with some of the best people ever (including one of my very best friends), and I absolutely adore my students. Looking at my classes right now and knowing I won't be there to see these guys graduate in two years...it kills me.
Anyway, it's not at all because of my performance. I wasn't fired, and I'm not the only one who got let go. It's just the economy and the crappy state of education in California and BS politics and nonsense like that. I guess that makes it better? (But also worse, really.) And the thing is, my job isn't just going away. Someone from another school is coming in to take over my job and teach my classes and bond with my students and UGH, YOU GUYS, I AM SO UPSET.
I can't even.
So, I have two more weeks of work right now. Then the last day of school next Thursday will be my last day, too. I had really been looking forward to the last day of school, because that means summer! Two months off! But I'm not looking forward to it anymore. At all. It's no fun when you know you aren't going back.
I'm generally pretty positive when it comes to this kind of news. I give myself one day to wallow and be sad, because sometimes you really just need to indulge that side of you. But then I get myself together and start looking for the opportunity here. Obviously the universe has some other things in store for me. Finding another job is not going to be easy, but there is something new and better out there for me. So even though part of the reason I went into teaching was so I could get a job at a school and just stay there at the same place for 30-odd years, teaching the children of my former students when I'm old and grey, I believe this is a chance for me to challenge myself, so I guess I'll see what challenge is out there for me. I have a few leads that are pretty different from what I've been doing, so we'll see how those things pan out.
I don't know, you guys. I'm really, really sad. And I'm pretty scared. And I kept myself busy all weekend so I wouldn't have time to think about it and get too upset, but now that I'm sitting down typing it all out...the tears are coming.
I don't even know how I'm going to tell my kids.
This has actually happened to me once before, but I got a last-minute reprieve when someone in the district retired at the eleventh hour. But I think I may have used up all of my last-minute luck last time. I doubt that will happen again.
So it looks like I have two weeks to finish my grading, pack up my classroom, say goodbye to my awesome friends and amazing students and then...I don't know.
It's a never-ending quest for me to find a workout that I actually enjoy. I recently stumbled into Body Pump classes, and I actually really like them. I've been too intimidated by all the weights to try the class out for years now, but I'm so glad I finally got over myself and gave it a try. It's a great workout, the hour goes by so quickly, and I actually have a pretty good time doing it.
May 22 - Pink
I was so excited to find this awesome pink and blue laptop bag at the Volcom sample sale that we just happened across one weekend...for only $10. The color is perfection, and it has all of these great pockets inside. I absolutely love it, and I can't wait to use it at school this summer.
May 23 - Technology
You saw this picture on Wednesday...it's my new Samsung Galaxy tablet. I absolutely love it!
May 24 - Something new
Some cute new black flats...because Gunner keeps eating all of my shoes.
May 25 - Unusual
This is unusual because the TV is never, ever, ever off. I like it off, but it's a rare occurrence here. I prefer music and the internet to TV any day of the week.
May 26 - 12 o'clock
12 o'clock on Saturday was wrapping up an awesome morning of dim sum with some of my very favorite ladies for Diane's birthday.
May 27 - Something sweet
Spent Sunday with my family at my parents' house, where mom kept us happy and fed. The highlight was this chocolate creme pie. Mmm.
May 28 - The weather today
Memorial Day was absolute perfection. Clear, sunny, and warm...just the way the kickoff to summer should be.
By the way...I can't seem to get this collage thing working the way I want it to. That palm tree picture just would not cooperate.
May 29 - A number
Yeah, I'm that teacher who has the countdown up on the board. It's for the kids!
I'm happy to say that after today we are in SINGLE DIGITS!
May 30 - Your personality
I know a lot of people find this hard to believe, but I am SUCH an introvert. As much as possible I like to hang back and check out a situation before I jump in. I find myself in this position a lot...observing, thinking, taking it all in.
May 31 - Something beautiful
I really think this fuzzy boy has one of the cutest, sweetest faces I have ever seen. I adore this little dog.