Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Having A Jessie Spano Moment

This is so me right now:


School started for me last week. I'm at a new school teaching a completely new grade level and I'm nervous and scared and I feel so far out of my comfort zone that it's ridiculous. I'm doing my best to keep a positive attitude and keep my head above water. We'll see how it goes.

(I really miss my old school and my old students, though. A lot. I didn't realize how attached I was.)

Last week was also my two year blogoversary. I was going to have a special post and all of this, but I have been so busy I have hardly answered my email.

So, yeah...I'm busy. Busier than my usual busy.

I mean, I'm dealing with...
New teaching job where I have to start from scratch with my entire curriculum
My first packet of work is due for my MFA program in a week and a half
I need to finish this WIP of mine
I have to be a good dog mom to Gunner and take him to the park every day
I have to work out at least 4x a week

ACK.

THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TIME.

Is anyone else having a big freakout like I am? I feel like life hit me like an oncoming big rig right now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bookanistas: Kissing Shakespeare

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide. 

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright. 

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I love Shakespeare, I've taught Taming of the Shrew for the past five years, so I'm familiar with that play, I love a good time travel, and I love a good romance. But I don't usually love historical, so despite all of the elements I liked, I still went into this book with pretty low expectations. And then it went and surprised me, because I really, really enjoyed it!

The historical aspect didn't really throw me off too much because Miranda, the narrator, was from the present day. So the narration of the story was in modern language, not historical language. Yes, the proper words for things were used, but Miranda would explain them or find modern words for them, and I liked that a lot because it helped me feel at home in this story and not just like a visitor. 

There is a really fun slow-burn romance in this book that kept me smiling on every single page. I don't want to say too much about it, but I really did love these characters and loved seeing this relationship develop. Fun, fun, fun.

There's also a fun mystery sub-plot, and you really do learn a lot about the history of religion in England, which is a fun little bonus.

I don't think I realized how much I enjoyed this book until
1) I couldn't fall asleep because I was thinking of alternate endings for the characters
2) I dreamt about possible sequels
3) I woke up and wanted to immediately re-read my favorite parts

Yeah, I dreamt in fan fiction.


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


Corrine Jackson is awed by AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE

Nikki Katz raves about the THE RAVEN BOYS

Tracy Banghart talks up TIMEPIECE

Shelli Johannes-Wells wows with an ebook giveaway

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My (rather overdue) SCBWI 2012 Update

I have so many things to catch you guys up on, and it seems that the second I sit down to type up a proper post, I get whisked out the door again!

I was only home from Europe for 2 days before it was time for the SCBWI annual sumer conference in LA. This conference is my favorite writing event of the year, and I wasn't going to let jet lag and the fact that I hadn't been home in almost a month stop me from attending.

I was amazed at how this conference, my third year, felt so different from my first two. My first conference I shared a room with my friend Heather and I knew literally no one. Heather and I were both pretty new to the whole kidlit world and we were so wide-eyed and overwhelmed. I had major anxiety that year, and I was so thankful that Heather would just walk up to groups of people and start chit-chatting with them. It helped me realize how nice and inviting most of the people in the kidlit world are! (I ended up meeting Liz at that first conference, and now she is one of my CPs and very favorite writing friends.)
Jess and Heather, total n00bs - SCBWI LA 2010

My second conference I knew a lot more people. I didn't feel as nervous talking to people. I got recognized here and there from my blog and from Twitter, and I felt much more confident about everything. Heather and I often had to split up because we were both getting invitations to hang out with various groups of people. I had a book that was almost finished and almost ready to query...I even pitched an agent.
Did I mention that I also met Judy Blume? Because, yeah...that happened. 

Heather and Jess...a little more confident but still just as awesome - SCBWI LA 2011

This year Heather couldn't make it, and I was worried I would feel lost without my conference buddy / writing bestie / conversation with random people starter. But I knew so many people this time, and I had an agent, so some of that pressure was off of me. It was a completely different conference experience, and I can't wait to see how my conference experience continues to evolve as my writing life changes and grows.

I was a total fail at taking pictures, so here are a few I stole from various people.

With my awesome roommate Dana Elmendorf before the Hippie Hop party. I found this hippie dress at a vintage shop in Paris and it was perfect for the occasion!

A major highlight of the Hippie Hop party was the flash mob that was planned as a surprise for Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser. As soon as Age of Aquarius came on, we all started dancing!




With Robin Reul, who happens to be one of the most awesome people ever, at the after party...

...where I was dancing up a storm!

There was so much more to the conference than just the party...it just seems like that's all anyone took pictures of. There was meeting and hanging out with Christa Desir, one of my very favorite blog/Twitter/writing friends. There was chatting with Pam and Quita about life after signing with an agent. There was seeing Barry and Liz and Rachel and meeting Cortney and Morgan and Ryan and Karen. There was hearing Ruta Sepetys talk about writing Between Shades of Grey and me sobbing my eyes out as I listened. There was sitting in on my agent's session and panel and hearing everyone in the crowd comment about what a rockstar she is. There was blowing off one of the keynotes so I could sit in the lobby with my writing buds and brainstorm out the ending to my WIP. There was hanging out with Cynthia Omololu, who befriended me at my first conference when she was an actual author with a book out and I was a lowly newbie (I will never forget this kindness, Cynthia...thank you so much.)

It's hard to sum up SCBWI LA, really. It's so many little awesome moments that make up an incredible, unbelievably motivational experience. I can't wait for next year...hopefully I'll see you there.

Monday, August 13, 2012

CONGRATULATIONS RACHEL!

I am absolutely thrilled to share this exciting news with you guys. My awesome, amazing, wonderful, and every other positive adjective friend Rachel Searles has snagged herself an absolutely outstanding agent!

YAY RACHEL!

Yup...Rachel has signed with Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary, and I couldn't be happier for her. Much like me, Rachel connected with Joanna not through the slush pile, but through a blog giveaway contest. (This is SUCH a reminder to have your ms READY TO GO even if you think you're just getting a critique.) Want to hear her agent story? Go over to her blog and check it out, and be sure to give her lots of love and congratulations.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bookanistas: Such a Rush


High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business--until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers--and the consequences could be deadly.

My Jennifer Echols fangirl status is no secret, so me recommending this book is probably the least shocking thing ever. And the funny thing is, as I was reading this book I was thinking to myself, man, Jennifer Echols's characters are always lying to and manipulating the people they care about, and in any other book that would bug me so much, but she seriously pulls it off every single time. I love it so much. It's like that guilty pleasure soap opera that you just can't quit, even though you know it's a bit ridiculous.

Maybe it's because she brings the sexytimes, and she brings them good. This book is no exception...in fact I think this one pushes the envelope even more than her previous books have. If you blush easily, this is not one you want to read in public because DAMN is it hot. 

Jennifer Echols...keep doing what you are doing. Keep giving me scandalous summertime reads full of lying and trickery and hot boys doing sexy, bad things. I will eat them all up. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Anna Returns To Paris

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is one of my very favorite books, so when I found out I was going to be headed to Paris for a few weeks, I was really excited to re-read the book and maybe take it out with me to some of the special places featured in the story.

What I didn't realize until I was deep into my re-read was that I was staying in Anna's exact neighborhood! That first movie theater she goes to? Around the corner. The Monoprix she shops at? That was my Monoprix. Everything Anna and St. Clair did was right within walking distance of where I was staying. (Well, almost everything...I didn't end up going to the Pere Lachaise cemetery because I just didn't feel like getting on the Metro this day.)

So on one of my (rare) free days, I decided to take my well-loved copy of Anna for a little walking tour.

(Just a warning, there will be some Anna and the French Kiss spoilers in this post. If you haven't read Anna yet...what the heck is your problem? Turn off the internet, go read it, and then come back.)

First stop on the Anna walking tour was Le Champo, the first movie theater Anna and the gang go to.


It was tough to squeeze in and take a picture because lots of people were coming up to the sign to see what was playing and when. I guess it's a popular little spot for films!
There was a movie playing around town called Lola...I was so sad it wasn't playing at this theater, that would have been an epic photo.

Our next stop was the amazing English language bookstore Shakespeare and Company. I love this place, and I made several trips here over the course of my visit.

Can you see Anna in the front there? 


Then, of course, I had to bring her inside so she could hang out with a book of Pablo Neruda poetry

We moseyed on over to St. Etienne-du-Mont church, where the dreamy Etienne St. Clair got his name. Fun fact: This is also the church where Owen Wilson is sitting on the steps in Midnight in Paris.



Right in front of St. Etienne-du-Mont is the gorgeous Pantheon. One of my favorite scenes in Anna is when she comes back from Christmas break and sees St. Clair on the steps of the Pantheon and that's when he turns from St. Clair into Etienne. Love it. 



My absolute favorite spot in Paris was Jardin du Luxembourg, aka Luxembourg Gardens. I had the pleasure of walking through this beautiful park every day to and from my classes, and it happens to be the setting for Anna and St. Clair's big make out scene. Yeah...I wanted to make out with someone there, too. *sigh*



That scene starts off here...although there was no one sailing little boats there the day I took the picture.

Then it moves over to the grass. There are very few spots you can actually sit on the grass here, although Anna did mention they were sitting on grass illegally. And the cherry blossoms weren't in bloom when I was there, so I wasn't sure *exactly* where they were sitting. But there were throngs of people making out on the grass you can sit on, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine that Anna and Etienne were amongst their ranks. 


Finally we stopped by Notre Dame, home of a few important moments in Anna, including the awesome climax. (But, no, I did not climb to the top.) 



Of course, we had to stop by Pont Zero and make a wish...
And I wished that someday I could write a book that people will love as much as I love this one. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

European Vacation


The husband and I took advantage of the fact that I was going to Paris for school to tack a little bit of our own fun on to the beginning of my trip.

We started by flying into Rome, where it was very, very hot.
St. Peter's Basilica 

I was showing too much skin for St. Peter's, so I had to buy this cheesy scarf to cover up

Dinner at Piazza Navona. My makeup had long since slid off my face in the heat (so, yeah, don't ask me why I'm wearing that scarf). It was about 9pm when this picture was taken. Love those late sunsets!

The Pantheon...my favorite building in Rome (or anywhere, really)

The Colosseum at sunset

From Rome we flew to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day and meet up with friends.

This French cutie totally reminded me of Etienne St. Clair

Tried to go to the Catacombs, but they were closed

My friends and I loving France on Bastille Day

My friend Melissa moved to Prague last year to teach at an American school, so it was really awesome to meet up with her in Paris for Bastille Day...which was also her birthday!

We watched the fireworks and the Eiffel Tower Sparkle Party from Tuileries Garden
(I realize this is the worst picture ever)


From Paris we took the train to Amsterdam where it was cold and rainy, but really, really amazing.

It sure is pretty there

Lots of canals


Went to Anne Frank's house, which is an amazing experience.
Didn't see Hazel and Augustus. 
Couldn't get the husband to make out with me during the movie.

We saw this sign

And I did this

From Amsterdam we took the train to Brussels, which was this hidden gem of awesomeness that we just loved.

So awesome!

We took a 3 hour bike tour around the city, which was just amazing. So much fun!

View of the Autonium from the highest spot in Brussels

Delicious fries with yummy dipping sauces! (The curry ketchup was my favorite)

Everyone is crazy over this little fountain

It was such a fun and crazy 10 days, and it was the perfect way to kick off my time in Europe.

Friday, August 3, 2012

SCBWI Weekend

It's that time of year, everyone! Time for the SCBWI summer conference in LA. I'm spending the next few days surrounded by my writer friends and soaking up all the knowledge and inspiration that I can.

If you are at the conference, come say hi!

If you aren't at the conference, follow the SCBWI Team Blog for all the highlights. I'll be Tweeting a lot, too. You know how I do.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bookanistas: Devine Intervention

There is a great legend of the guardian angel who traveled across time and space for the human girl he loved, slaying those who would threaten her with a gleaming sword made of heavenly light.

This is not that story.

Jerome Hancock is Heidi Devine's guardian angel. Sort of. He's more of an angel trainee, in heaven's soul-rehabilitation program for wayward teens. And he's just about to get kicked out for having too many absences and for violating too many of the Ten Commandments for the Dead.

Heidi, meanwhile, is a high school junior who dreams of being an artist, but has been drafted onto her basketball team because she's taller than many a grown man. For as long as she can remember, she's heard a voice in her head - one that sings Lynyrd Skynyrd, offers up bad advice, and yet is company during those hours she feels most alone.

When the unthinkable happens, these two lost souls must figure out where they went wrong and whether they can make things right before Heidi's time is up and her soul is lost forever.



If there is one thing that really makes a book for me it is a unique and compelling voice, and, oh boy, this book has it in spades! I fell for the voice within the first few sentences and it seriously just kept going until the end. Jerome isn't at all your typical YA guy, and I loved that about him. He has this unique take on the world and this way of looking at things that just made me crack up over and over again. He's a total screwup, but he's a loveable screwup. 


This is a book that made me both laugh and cry. I thought at first it was just going to be funny and silly, a satire of the countless angel books on the market. But it turned into something so much more, and I found myself wiping away a tear or two at some of the scenes toward the end of the book. I love when a book can ride that balance between smart humor and touching truth, and this one does it perfectly. It's a lot of fun to read, it has a compelling, consistent, and hilarious teen boy voice, and it gives you a lot to think about, too.