Book Review: THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher

I’ve just read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I know, I know! All my writer buds are shaking their heads at me that I’m just now reading it.  *hangs head in shame*. But whatever, I’m a slow reader and my reading list is frickin HUGE! *High-five to all my slow readers*

This book was Jay’s debut novel. It won fourteen different awards (maybe more now) and earned blurbs from some very heavy hitters in the literary world such as Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Ellen Hopkins, author of Tricks, Identical, Crank and Collateral just to name a few. EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE. And….it’s going to be a movie!

This is an amazing book. I could not put it down. The story is told on cassette tapes- thirteen of them- by Hannah Baker who is dead. Love this premise. It is a journey through some very distraught days of her life, choices she made, choices others made. Clay Jennings, the boy who receives the tapes, does not want to take this journey and yet he must. He has no choice but to listen to the end. What he learns changes his life forever.

This is one of those books that will stay with me forever.

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!! WARNING!  YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

This book is about bullying. Bullying is not just about one person punching another person in the face. In fact, it’s rarely ever that anymore. It’s about what’s said, whispered, and written.

It’s about sexual assault and rape. It used to be “no means no”. But my daughter informed me from her health class, “without an enthusiastic YES, it’s no”. Which means unless both parties are enthusiastically saying YES, it is sexual assault or rape. Don’t ever assume you can put your hands on another person.

It’s about turning the other way, not helping when you could have. Doing nothing makes you part of the abuse. Nobullying.com reported for 2014, 64% of children who were bullied did not report it. Only 36% reported bullying and more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.

It’s about not perpetuating bad behavior. I don’t believe in the mentality of “It’s a rite of passage” when such rites hurt other people. Or “It happened to me and I survived”. Let’s stop that BS and do better.

After reading this book I started thinking about my actions as a young person. Did I have an effect on someone else’s life? Was it good or bad? In a perfect world there’d be no hate, everyone gets three cookies and a glass of milk at the end of the day, and we all hold hands singing “We Are The World” and not just at Christmas time. But that’s not the world we live in. But it could be better. I could be better. We could be better. Better us, better world. *Sigh*

Not everyone likes me. *Gasps* You all better be gasping! Here’s another shocker- I don’t like everyone out there either. I never claimed to be the Blessed Mother! We don’t all have to be besties but we should try to be open minded and not wound anyone with our words or actions. I don’t always get it right. When I was younger I got it even less right, but that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?

I don’t have a time machine — actually really pissed about that– so I can’t go back to the 1980’s and right the wrongs that I may have done. You’re probably thinking, “well I’m sure you didn’t kill anyone, so what’s the big deal?” And you would be right. I’m happy to report; homicide is NOT on my resume. But did I ever cause someone irrevocable damage with my words or actions like Hannah experienced? Could I have ever made a difference in someone’s life who may have been struggling? Did I partake in gossipy bullshit that could have ruined someone’s reputation? I don’t like gossip. Never have. So I’m pretty sure I’m safe on this one but for the rest, I honestly don’t know. Just for the record, if you are a person from my past, those middle school-high school years, and I wronged you in any way, I’m truly sorry.

So no time machine, but what I do have is my voice, my words. That is power.

I’m a parent of teenagers now. CRAY-CRAY. So even though I can’t go back in time, I can speak to my kids about making the right choices today. Sure, they’ll make some wrong choices anyway on their own, because we can’t control everything our kids do and we’re human, imperfect. We just need to put our best effort into not making mistakes that mangle someone else’s life.

I talk to my kids all the time. All. The. Time. They will roll their eyes and totally attest to this fact. I have one boy and one girl. They each come with their own unique ideas and personalities. And neither one of them came with a hand book. Whoever said God doesn’t have a sense of humor doesn’t have kids. It’s a challenge at times to say the least. But it’s worth it. It’s necessary. If we don’t tell them not to criticize the way someone else looks, they won’t know.  Nobullying.com also reported that “The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks, body shape and race.”

Looks. Body shape. Race. Really?? Come on! We are like a box of chocolates, thank you Forrest Gump. We are different shapes, different colors and we are all fabulously de-lish!

If we don’t guide our kids on what is acceptable behavior, shame on us.

And it’s not enough to just speak to our own kids. We have to reach out to other kids too. If we don’t show them love, kindness and respect how will they show it to others? I know it’s cliché, but still true, we lead by example.

Gossip is poison. Don’t do it. If your friends are doing it around you, stop them. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and judge no one.

Be kinder. Not because of what someone can do for you or what you can get from them but because it’s the right thing to do.

It is my opinion that Thirteen Reasons Why should be required reading from seventh grade up. A young man in my daughters school killed himself the second day of freshman year. Bullying was a huge factor. I heard about a teacher that bullied a student in front of the whole class just yesterday. This is unacceptable! We can do better. We MUST do better.

I have not had the pleasure of hearing Jay speak in person yet but I do stalk, achem, follow him online and you can too!

www.jayasher.blogspot.com or on Twitter @jayasherguy #ReasonsWhyYouMatter #50StatesAgainstBullying.

 

Until next time…PEACE, KINDNESS AND COOKIES FOR ALL!

Don’t be an A-hole

In this great country we have freedom of speech. We have the right to express ourselves. We have freedoms and rights up the wazoo.

That having been said, my question is:
Just because we can do something, we have the right to, should we?

I recently had a conversation with a teacher about a thirteen-year-old student that physically lashed out at another student for calling her fat. When you first read that you may think, well that sucks that she was called fat but hitting is excessive. But what if I told you she was called fat in front of the whole class, twenty-five students, and they all laughed at her? Does that change your perception a bit? So the teacher called her parents to tell them what happened. So I said, “Did you call the parents of the name-caller too?” The teacher said no. Hmm. She explained to the so-called “fat girl”, that in life people are going to say things you don’t like and you just have to learn to deal with it.” I think that’s the wrong message.

I write for young adults. What they say to each other matters. What they post about each other matters. So what I say to them or about them matters. What I say about other adults also matters because the young people I write for, and live with, are always watching, online and in person. Always.

Should you punch everyone in the face that talks crap you don’t like? No. You’ll go to juvie or jail. But on the flip side of that, let’s make the name callers accountable too. Let’s hold each other accountable.

Social media is BANANAS. I live in the Northeast but because of the internet I have the opportunity be friends with all sorts a peeps all over the world, young and not so young 😉 Bananas!

But it’s not all love and sunshine through these cable wires and satellite dishes. It’s gotten a bit ugly out in cyber world. This past week I have read some awful things written about a YA author. I do not wish to comment other than to say just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not talking about censorship. If I want to write about a gay, purple-shoe-wearing, elephant-riding, hippo, that’s my right and you can’t tell me not to. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. But written opinion about an actual person is different.

YA and MG authors write for young people. We tell them NOT to be bullies. We use examples of cyber-bullying that results in suicide for plot lines to drive home the fact that words matter. What you say counts. You can’t just swing your verbal blade and not care whose head gets cut off or whose guts spill out onto the floor. Well, you can, but that makes you an asshole. I prefer not being an asshole as much as possible.

So here’s the thing. We teach by what we do. So if we’re online being creeps to each other what are we teaching the very people we write for?

I’m no angel. My mother is probably saying a rosary and making the Sign of The Cross in my name right now as you read this. My anger has gotten the best of me more than a time or two. I can do better. But the big balls that are displayed in the hit and run posting, is not cool. Not cool at any age at any time.

Calling someone names and getting a class of twenty-five to laugh at someone sucks. Calling names on the internet where thousands if not millions get involved is beyond sucky.

I live with two amazing teenagers. My husband and I tell them every day; don’t let the assholes get to you today because there are a lot of them out there. My husband says “jerks” because his potty mouth is not as extensive as mine.

My point, without getting too preachy, is let’s not be the assholes. Young, youngish, and old as dirt, we can all do better.

PEACE…Spread it like fertilizer and watch the love grow.

2015…BRING IT!

Happy New Year fabulous people!!

Sorry I was MIA for a bit. I was stuck in a funk but I’m done being funky.

Rejection is the suckiest of all suckishness. My finalist #PITCHARAMA status is officially over. The editor who was interested in JESSICA MARCO PI has passed on the project. There, I’ve said it. I was sad. I was distressed. There was a day or two of immature pouting, kicking, rolling around on the floor. It wasn’t pretty. I’m over it. Overall, it was a really GREAT experience. The editor, Katie Teller at Curiosity Quills, was helpful in getting the book into the shape that it’s in. Now I just need to find the agent/editor that it is right for. Although this project wasn’t right for Katie, I would definitely submit to her again . If you’ve got a story, hit her up. She’s super cool.

Don’t go feeling sorry for me. This is the game I’ve chosen. It’s just part of the process and I learn from every experience, even the ones I don’t particularly like.

Let’s move on! *fist in the air. feet marching*

While I’ve been away the holidays came and went… Happy Happy, Merry Merry EVERYTHING! (((Hugs Abound)))

I spent some great time with friends and family– eating, drinking, watched awesome movies, read fricktastic books, spent a day at the zoo, and visited an indoor trampoline park TWICE! I have no pictures of the amazing back-flips I did without killing myself or any small children in my vicinity– you will just have to take my word for it.

Some of my writer friends are choosing a word for inspiration in 2015 instead of resolutions. Cool with me. I pretty much have the same resolution every year: Be a better me. If I’m a better me, hopefully I’ll inspire you to be a better you. Better me. Better you. Better world. Simple.

Back to my word problem. What word will I choose? Oh, the pressure *back of hand to forehead* Good Lord there’s so many! Triskaidekaphobia? Not a great choice for inspiration since it’s the fear of the number 13. I don’t want the fear of anything. Fear is a real friger!

Fear can frig up the best of plans.

“I want to draw but I’m afraid no one will like it.”

“I want to take a dance class but I’m afraid I’ll look silly.”

“I want to talk to that person I think is da bomb but I’m afraid they won’t like me.”

“I want to write a book but I’m afraid I’ll suck.”

Before even trying, fear can beat you into nothingness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on nothingness. I want to be lots of somethingness. I’ll get back to this.

I want to share some of the books I read.

The first is called Finding Out by Sheryn MacMunn. I had the pleasure of having tea with Sheryn, who is a self-published author, and has had huge success with this debut novel. It’s a story about a young woman in the corporate world whose life falls apart and gets help putting herself back together from her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. Sheryn marries two very different stories in a cohesive interesting tale that I really enjoyed. She shows how the human spirit can endure and overcome just about anything. I personally find the spirit to be an amazing thing and love to read stories that show that. Check her out at sherynmacmunn.com.

Another book I read is Because of Low by Abbi Glines. I was especially interested in reading this book because it is in the New Adult genre just like my JESSICA MARCO PI and because I heard Abbi speak at the NYC 2014 SCBWI conference. LOVE her! It’s a romance with a great backbone. What do I mean by that? It’s not all about sex. It’s a great story about overcoming some crappy life circumstances told from the POV of the two main characters. Again, it’s that human spirit, that amazing power we all have to overcome. Abbi uses two very distinct voices so you see it clearly from each angle. She even had me sympathizing with the jerk in the story! Find her at abbiglines.com.

And the last book is called Every Day by one of my favs, David Levithan. LOVE! Imagine waking up everyday in a different body. You are always the same age but some days you’re a girl, others a boy. You have no control over who you land in whether they be obese, a drug addict, gay, straight or suicidal. Totally about the spirit of each of us who is really who we are anyway. The body is just a vehicle. It’s like a car for the soul. Trippy right? This book is awesome! For me this is what writing fiction is all about. Being able to step into the shoes of a character and bring you along for the ride. Did I mention LOVE? David has way too many other books for me to mention the love for, so go to davidlevethan.com. Be in awe. Come back when you’re done…. I’ll be here.

Welcome back!

So. My word for 2015? You probably guessed it-

FEARLESS

Fear is the stop before I start. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is anxiety producing. Fear of failing will keep me from ever being published. Not havin it. Don’t have time for it.

Are there an abundant amount of things to be afraid of? Hell yeah, just watch the news for five minutes. Will my worrying about any of it help at all? No. Am I telling you not to be afraid of anything? No. As my mother always said, “a little fear will keep you safe.” If you’re in a house that’s on fire– RUN! There’s a difference from being fearless and being stupid. Don’t be stupid. All you stupid people should be reading some other blog. Everyone else… Be fearless with me in 2015!

Until later this month,

PEACE, LOVE, AND A FEARLESS 2015.

 

 

Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

Looking for something to read this Halloween season? Nothing says Halloween like a séance and a Ouija board!

I’m talking about Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page – Book Blitz & Giveaway!

IslasInheritanceBlitzBanner

I had the good fortune of meeting Cassandra on Twitter this summer when she picked me for her team in the #pitcharama contest which has put my novel in the hands of an editor, who is at this very minute considering publishing my work!!!  I love the internet! If it weren’t for the Twitter contest I would not have met Cassandra nor would I be reading her FABULOUS book! Not just because she’s a debut author but the chick lives in Australia and I’m here in CT. Not much chance of us running into each other at the mall.

Now I have the pleasure of throwing some writer-love her way! Isla’s Inheritance, released on October 9th, is her AWESOME debut novel. A full review to come but for now just a few words—hooked from page one, chill-a-licious, intriguing, secret-reading-in-bathroom-at-work! Secret reading is always a good sign 😉

Check out the Goodreads description, a teaser excerpt AND giveaway below! Feel free to ask a question or leave a comment. Cassandra will be checking in to answer.

Teaser Excerpt

“I’m not sure which is worse,” I whispered to Hamish, stroking his fur, “believing I killed my mother, or believing she abandoned me…and Dad lied about it.” Hamish didn’t answer. He was already asleep. “Well, you’re no use.”

Against all odds, the steady rhythm of Hamish’s breathing lulled me into a doze. It seemed like no time had passed when I awoke to a change in light: my father’s large frame was in the doorway, blocking the light.

“Isla? Are you awake?” His voice was tentative.
“Yes.” I sat up, rubbing my eyes. Hamish grumbled a protest.

“Can I turn the light on?”
“Sure.”

I blinked and stared at my father. He looked dishevelled and his eyes were wide, like he’d seen a ghost. He was holding the gift bag he’d given me on my birthday. “You left this at the restaurant the other week, when you went out for dessert with that boy,” he said, his voice strained.

As confused and resentful as I was feeling right now, I still loved him, and his appearance worried me. “Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he said. He was an even worse liar than Sarah. He came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Here.” He tried to hand me the bag. Vomit burned the back of my throat, and I flinched back.

He saw the flinch, and his face grew even more drawn. “Isla, take it.” There was an urgency in his tone that I neither understood nor liked.
“No. Dad, what’s going on? You’re freaking me out.”
He looked around the room. “Do you have any of my work in here?”

The question confused me. I felt my cheeks warm. “Um, I’m not sure.” The answer was no. Pretty much every piece of ironwork he’d given me was in the shed. The rest I’d given away to friends.

“Here.” He upended the gift bag. The heavy iron circlet tumbled into my lap.
My stomach twisted with nausea so severe I clenched my teeth, afraid I’d throw up. Where the iron touched my thighs through the denim of my jeans it felt ice-cold, and yet it burned at the same time. I gasped, shoving it away from me and onto the floor. It singed my hand.

“What the hell are you doing?” I jumped to my feet. Hamish leapt up too, yapping.

Dad said nothing but the look on his face was wild, despairing.
“You’re crazy,” I cried, fleeing the room.
“Isla, wait,” Dad yelled after me. But I ran, snatching my bag from the hallway before rushing out the front door.

I ignored the bite of tiny rocks on the soles of my feet. I had to get away from him, from everything.

 

Isla

 

Goodreads:

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

Enter to win a $50 gift card at Amazon or Barnes & Noble – winner’s choice (open internationally) click link below. Good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d0425123570/

Purchase:
AUTHOR BIO:
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
Author links:

**SORRY FOR THE REBLOG…ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES!**

 

EDITOR UPDATE and WORK IN PROGRESS

Hello my friends!

I completed my revisions and sent JESSICA MARCO PI back to the editor, Katie Teller at Curiosity Quills, on September 22, which just happens to be my birthday. Guess what I wished for when I blew out the candles this year!

I am not checking my email every five minutes. Okay, yes I am, but I’m also busy on my new WIP, work in progress. I am 9,000 words into my next YA novel. That translates into about forty pages, for my non-writer peeps. After reading FB and Tumblr posts by Victoria Schwab (veschwab.tumblr.com) I was inspired to chart my progress on a calendar. I tweaked her idea to be more of what I needed.

I’ve committed to 500 to 1000 words a day. I am not using fancy stickers, I’m just not that organized. Mine consists of numbers and lots of !!!!!!! and happy/sad faces. Keepin’ it simple ‘cause it’s fight-for-every-friggin-free-minute up in here and I’m easily distracted.

I find myself squeezing in ten minutes here, ten minutes there because I rarely have a large block of time that I can dedicate to writing. That makes it sound like writing is my hobby. Quite the contrary mother cluckers!

Writing is the beat of my heart. I daydream about my next chapter like some people daydream about a holiday or vacation. I know it’s weird. I’ve always been weird I’m just not hiding my freak flag anymore which earns me strange looks from people who thought they knew me.

But the reality is that so far I’ve only made fifty bucks from writing. Although it’s the bestest-frickin’ fifty bucks EVER, and as much as I consider myself an artist, the bills need to get paid; the kids need to be driven to school, sporting events, gatherings and movies with boyfriend. The oh-God-please-make-it-stop renovations on this why-did-we-move-here house need to get finished. Groceries need to get shopped for if anyone in my house is going to eat. Dinner prep; same reason. Exercise needs to happen so the size of the booty doesn’t get completely out of control and by out of control I mean splitting my pants or hanging down to my knees. Laundry! Teenagers– ‘nuff said. Oh, yeah, and then there’s that other thing I do during the day called a JOB, which for right now is paying some of the bills until my writing career blows up and I’m swimmin’ in da doe.

BUT…writing is the beat of my heart. It is where I dream. It is where impossible things become possible. It’s where I laugh and cry, like an idiot, in a small ugly room in my house along with a laundry wrack and a snoring French Bulldog.

It is what I love to do. Besides my family and God, writing is the most important thing in my life. So I realize as I work on my WIP that I too, am very much a WIP. Aren’t we all?

PEACE, LOVE AND GROOVINESS!

JUDGMENT AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

There is a ton; I’m talkin’ a mother-cluckin’ boat-load of judgment out there. And when I say out there, I mean on the Web, on the TV, on the street, at your job, your school, your neighborhood, in your own house, among your family. EVERYWHERE. We’re so quick to judge celebrities, authorities, teachers, parents, other people’s kids, our own kids, races of people, enemies, strangers, and even friends.

Why?

Is it because it makes us feel better? Not me. I’ve instantly regretted saying something negative about someone else the moment it left my lips. But I’m certainly guilty of it. I’ll admit sometimes my lips move faster than my brain and I speak with out thinking. SORRY if I’ve ever said something that has hurt your feelings! I am not a mean-spirited person and meant no harm. I’m also guilty of going up to complete strangers and telling them I like their shoes, haircut or fabulous outfit. My daughter says “it’s creepy”. Whatever.

So, is it because we’re stupid? Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Is it because we’re ignorant to the effect our words will have? You say, well the person, be it online or on the street that you pass in a car, can’t hear what you say. What about the person we are saying it to? Does that encourage them to do the same thing or worse? Or does the negativity swirl and fester and carry on to other things throughout the day? I think it does.

How about self-judgment? Sometimes that’s worse than how we judge others. I know it is for me. My skin’s too pale, my hair’s too frizzy, I have ugly feet. Now don’t be checkin’ out my ugly feet the next time you see me in flip-flops!

So why are we so apt to tear someone up rather than build someone up, including ourselves?

Because it’s easier.

Anger comes quick and easy. I have a hot temper. I know right, who’d a thunk it! Anger is an easier emotion to handle. Anger keeps you from accessing a situation properly. I have found, with things that really matter that are out of my control, anger keeps pain from getting too close. But it has its downfall too. Anger keeps out love, peace and happiness.

It takes work to be happy. It’s a choice. Even when life sucks it’s still a choice.

I was recently accused of having a happy life. It’s crazy but I felt like I needed to defend myself. It’s true; I have an amazing husband that after 22 years of marriage I’m still stupid-ga-ga in love with. I have two teenagers who are not only NOT strung out on drugs but are A-students, healthy, beautiful loving people who I truly love to be around. My husband and I both have jobs, we own a house, cars, clothes and we can put food on our table. We usually get to take a vacation once a year. Is there room for improvement? Hell yeah! After three years we’re still renovating the damn house! LOL. I also have a crazy French Bulldog who had to see a psychiatrist recently—don’t ask—and there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.

I am blessed and I am grateful but no one gave me this life. I’m not a trust fund-kid. It has been hard work. It’s still hard work. And I have skeletons in my closet just like everyone else. What’s that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence until you get there and they have the same overgrown weeds you do and big holes that need filling and snakes in the Pachysandra and a deck that’s not done and huge puddles when it rains.” I actually may have just made that up, but just go with it.

There is, however, a real quote that a lot of people post: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from.” Isn’t this true of all of us? I’m partial to the other version: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from and I have no problem punching you in the face.” LOL!

When you look at someone, before the judgmental words tumble out of your mouth, think about this:

Are they struggling with an eating disorder? Do they go home to a mother that’s high on drugs? Are they being physically abused? Mentally abused? Do they have scars that you can’t see? Are they an alcoholic struggling to stay sober?

The kid that’s being a pain in the ass in your kid’s class… Is his mother working two jobs because she’s a single parent trying to provide for her children?

The check out person at the grocery store who’s a nasty bitch…Is her father a drunk? Is her boyfriend beating the crap out of her?

The neighbor that won’t talk to you or is just flat-out rude… Is he/she suffering from a mental illness?

The person that just cut you off…Are they rushing to the hospital or a job interview because they’ve been out of work for a year? Now, if they’re texting, and you friggin’ texter-drivers know who you are, by all means show them your finger. What? I meant thumbs down. HAHA!

We all face challenges in our lives. Trust me, I’m no saint, but I know from my own life; you have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from. Don’t judge me. Happiness and the pursuit of it is a choice.

PEACE

My List of Ten Books…

Thank you cousin Oni Thalheimer and Mark Radzin for nominating me to name 10 books that inspired me or had some kind of impact on me.

I felt like I needed to explain some of them so what better way than to BLOG IT!
Okay so first of all, I have NOT always been an avid reader. I can hear you all gasping so let me explain. I flat-out hated reading when I was a kid. Enough with the gasping already. Sheesh.

All I can remember about reading was reading comprehension tests. I was a slow reader so therefore did not do well on those tests. I felt like a stupid failure or maybe a better way to say it is, I felt stupid and like a failure. I still have an aversion to polka dots because of those tests.
On top of being a slow reader I had a bad case of living in my own private fantasy world. While the teacher would drone on about the required reading assignment, from some boring book I hated, my mind would take me to far away places where I would be the princess in a beautiful castle beatin’ the crap outta the dragon. I was the kind of girl who wore dresses and ripped tights from climbing trees and rocks. I’m still that kind of girl but now I’m an excellent climber…I hardly ever rip my tights anymore.

 
So I made my way through school as a B/C student. I’m not advocating for these kind of grades, I’m just stating my truth. This went on until mid way through Junior year in high school. As luck would have it, I had bunion surgery. Bunions are not lucky. Quite frankly they suck. But because of the bunions the town wouldn’t let me go back to the public high school for fear of someone stepping on my enormously bandaged feet and them getting sued.

The lucky part came in the form of a tutor, whose name I am ashamed I can’t remember and my mother was sleeping so I couldn’t ask her. I couldn’t daydream in front of the tutor. It was just me and her. In a room. For four hours a day. No distractions. Game on.

I became a straight A, honor roll student in high school and in college largely because of this tutor. The first great thing I can remember reading was:

#1. The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. This was one creepy-ass individual and I dug that about him! He inspires me still.

The rest of the books that I’ll mention are not really in any order.

2. Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this to my children and have given it as a gift. It is incredibly insightful. A lot can be learned from the simplicity of the messages in children’s books.

3. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I was scared to death of this book because of its sheer fatness. When I looked at it, I thought, good God, it’s going to take me a decade to read this sucker! But since its one of my Aunt Minnie’s favorite books, and I adore Aunt Minnie, I finally gave in. I’m happy to report it did not take me a decade to finish and it became a personal triumph as well as one of my favorite books.

4. The Bible by God. There is some amazing history in that book! Sure, its taboo to talk about it, but a little taboo is okay. I enjoy my freedom to read and believe anything I want and I respect yours to do the same.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank. I actually read this in Jr. High while studying the Holocaust. My maiden name is Thalheimer. Half of my family was in Germany during this time. My grandmother told me a story about my Great-Grandfather speaking out against Hitler in a pub and how the SS military beat him to within an inch of his life and how they came and took over their house, forcing my Great-Grandparents and Aunt to cook and take care of them. This was horrible, yes, but it could have been so much worse as I found in Anne Frank’s Diary. This book put a face on evil for me at a very young age.

 
6. Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume. This book belonged to my cousin Heidi, who probably never realized I stole it from her. I liked reading this book because I thought I wasn’t supposed to read it and of course because it’s fabulous!

7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. ‘Nuff said.

8. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. When my daughter (who’s now 16) started kindergarten I went back to school for writing. This was the first thing I read that convinced me, without a doubt, that I am a writer.

9. Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini. This book has great significance to me. I met Kim a few years ago when this book, her debut novel, was coming out. I didn’t know this at the time, how bat-shit-crazy a writer’s life is when their book is coming out, which makes this even more special to me. A mutual friend put us in touch with each other, and by that I mean I got her email and stalked her till she wrote back. LOL! And even though she had that bat-shit crazy thing going on, Kim graciously took me by the hand and led me down the newbie writer path. This book represents what I can attain. Kim, as a person, represents the kind of author I hope to be. THANK YOU MY SISTAH!

10. Mother Teresa’s Everything Starts from Prayer arranged by Anthony Stern, M.D. My love for Mother Teresa was cultivated by my Oma (grandmother in German). Mother T was one wise, wrinkled woman! You don’t have to be Catholic, or even Christian, to dig this lady. Mother Teresa said, “People throughout the world may look different or have a different religion, education, or position, but they are all the same. They are the people to be loved. They are all hungry for love.” Her mission was to love everyone regardless of race, gender, wealth, place in the world, or anything else you can think of. I have learned a tremendous amount from her.

You don’t have to be a writer to love reading. You do, however, have to love reading to be a writer. I read EVERYTHING! Young adult, new adult, adult, mystery, romance, paranormal, fantasy…if it’s got words…I read it! I don’t love everything I read but I usually learn something from it all.
So that’s my list. What’s yours?

PEACE

PITCHARAMA CONTEST UPDATE & BEYOND…

Life is a crazy roller coaster ride…so grab a fist full of your underpants and hang on!

As I said in my last post, I made it to the final round of #PITCHARAMA, hosted at http://www.aussieownedandread, thanks to my friend Mel @MyInnerMG, for telling me about the contest and Cassandra Page, who chose me for her team. It may have been my creative way of getting the words “goat balls” into my synopsis or that there was no one else left to pick from, but nonetheless…Cassandra Page @CassandraPage01 you-da-bomb forever in my book!

For a few days it was all—WOO-HOO! and YAY BABY!

Then on June 27th , while on a road trip with my family, the editors made their picks. I watched the twitter feed. I stalked my entry http://aussieownedandread.com/2014/06/27/30-jessica-marco-pi-na/. NO requests—NOT ONE.

My happy dance turned into a wailing-flailing-crying hot mess that went a little like this: “NOOOOOOO! Wahhhhh! and WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, WHY?? “

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This roller coaster ride of highs and lows dove into heartbreak hill, twisted around vomit lane, chugged up frustration tower and rolled to a stop at pissed-as-hell. I settled into suck-ville and ate lots of ice cream over the course of the next day.

The twitter feed posted to keep a look out for late requests as some editors were still lurking about. I stayed hopeful for a few more days, checking my phone on vacation constantly until I got yelled at by my two teenagers. Imagine that? My kids were yelling at ME to put down my phone! So I did.

Turning the phone off was easy. Turning off my mind? Not so much. I knew I was going to have to blog about this epic fail because I had opened my big mouth to tell everyone that I was a finalist in Pitcharama and hey look at me, I’m so great in my finalist status. Shit. Shit. Shit.

I licked my wounds, drank wine with good friends and decided, GET OVER IT! Dive Bouteille.jpg

You made it to the final round and that’s pretty frickin’ cool. I stopped stalking the twitter feed and enjoyed the rest of our vacation except for the four hour traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike. Oh. My. God.
People do some CRAZY shiznit when they’re stuck in traffic on a hot day.

An old man peed right next to us – did not turn away, just hung it out there for all to see, and whizzed. Dude, nobody wants to see that. We saw whinny kids get yelled at, brothers and sisters beatin’ the crap out of each other and some YA’s smokin’ weed. I’m not judging. It coulda been medicinal marijuana.

I’m thinkin’ no, but hey, you never know. And driving and smokin’, not the best choice. I’m just sayin’.

After we got home I decided to forge ahead and query like a mo-fo.

Then on July 3rd my husband and I were having coffee and I get an email from the Cassandra saying, “Hey, just wanted to make sure you saw the late request.”

My heart started to pound and I started to sweat- the really unattractive sweating- not the girly Keira Knightley glow. I checked my entry and there it was! A glorious request to see more of my manuscript from Andrew Buckley at Curiosity Quills! Thank you Andrew! Check out Andrew at http://www.planetkibi.com

I checked Curiosity Quills submission guidelines, curiosityquills.com, and sent my query and first three chapters. *Note: Whenever guidelines ask for three chapters, they mean your FIRST three. I once sent an agent chapters 5 thru 8. Needless to say, I did not hear back from her.

Four days after submitting to CQ, Katie Teller @KatieTeller1, Acquisitions Editor, requested to see the full manuscript. YAY!!! Thank you Katie!!

VALIDATION! Someone, besides my mother and Cassandra, liked what I wrote. I’ve experienced this feeling one other time when I sold my first short story for fifty bucks. Best high I’ve ever had; truly intoxicating!

Let me just say, I write because I love to write. No real revelation there. It’s the same with all writers. There are stories inside of me that I have to tell, notebooks of notes, napkins with words I’ve been searching for that happen to find me at Dunkin Donuts, and snip-its of dialogue that I’ve only spoken to my French bulldog so far because I have yet to put it all on a page. But I am also addicted to that intoxicating feeling of someone telling me they liked what I wrote, that it made them laugh, that it touched them in some way.

I will write no matter how much success I attain from it. But, getting this far in Pitcharama, is just about the best thing ever!

I’ll keep you posted on JESSICA MARO P.I. and when it can be purchased 😉

Now I’m off to write the next story.

PEACE. Peace my friends, until it oozes from your pores like an infection and spreads like the plague!

*all images from http://commons.wikimedia.org

#PITCHARAMA, JESSICA MARCO PI

#PITCHARAMA

Hi All! This post is for a twitter writing contest. You can find the details at aussieownedandread.com and on twitter #pitcharama.  You can also follow my progress on twitter @jeannieintrieri. Good luck to all participants! This is my story and here’s my pitch:

 

Title:                     JESSICA MARCO PI

Author:               Jeannie Intrieri

Genre:                  NA

Word Count:      59,000

SYNOPSIS

Jessica Marco, a twenty-four year old private investigator, is working on a kidnapping case when she discovers her sister’s piece of shit husband is the kidnapper. He unfortunately gets away by throwing Jess off a small cruise ship where the transfer of money for victim was supposed to happen.

While on the kidnapping case, Jess gets a call from a friend who runs a local funeral home where Fat Sal’s arms and legs have been stolen two days before his scheduled wake. Everyone knows you can’t pull off a wake without arms and legs. They’ll be screaming, serious freak-outs and old ladies fainting at the casket. Who the hell needs that? Jess takes on the case to save her friend’s funeral home from ruin.

Her personal life is just as crazy as her work-life with a mother who steals her laundry, a sister who’s done too much plastic surgery, a grandmother who’s paranoid about the “chill” because that bastard’s always trying to get someone sick and a hot cop/sorta boyfriend.

Her life goes from bad to total goat-balls when her investigation ties both cases together and puts her in the middle of a medical black-market organization that’s killing people for their skin and organs. With millions of dollars at stake, they also have no problem killing anyone who gets in their way.

If Jessica is successful in solving her cases, everyone, except the piece of shit husband, gets to live happily ever after. If she fails, she and everyone she loves will lose their life…and their skin.

NEW ENGLAND SCBWI SPRING CONFERENCE 2014

Create Bravely: Make Your Mark
PART 2

Whoa, phew and holy canoli! Shameful, just shameful!

Sorry it’s taken so long to get part 2 of the amazing SCBWI spring conference blog done.

Life got in the way, as it tends to do sometimes. Quick summation: It was bad (dad had emergency appendix surgery), better (dad is home healing), AWESOME! (Niece’s wedding), talented (both kids were in recitals/concerts and killed it!), mundane (day job, laundry, groceries, cleaning, cooking, and taxi driving). On a side note; a cleaning lady is first on my list when I can afford it!

Anyway… *trumpet blast* onward!

The keynote speaker for the second day was award-winning author Laurel Snyder; Seven Stories Up, The Longest Night, and Good Night Laila Tov, just to name a few! You can check her out at laurelsnyder.com.

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I was shocked to hear Ms Snyder say that this was her first keynote speech. She was eloquent, poised and honest. She appeared totally at ease, no matter what her insides were doing. I was immediately engaged and thought, this is a chick I’d like to have a cup of coffee with. Coffee is big in my world, so please know that is a HUGE compliment. LOL!

She spoke the hard truth: “It’s not enough to just produce something. The world is full of books. Produce something worthy of publication.” My interpretation of this is, don’t just write a bunch of crap. Don’t settle for “it’s good enough”. We writers need to hold ourselves to the highest standards. Good enough, is, well, NOT good enough.

Be spectacular! “You can struggle to make work that matters or you can struggle to make work that doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re going to struggle.” Amen to that, sistah!

She also said, “Don’t write a book about vampires because that’s what’s hot on the market right now. If you try to be something you’re not, it’s not authentic and it shows in your work. Everyone is unique with their own personality, voice and experiences. Become who you are. Figure out what is it that YOU have to say that no one else has to say. Make YOUR mark. That’s your book.”

Inspired yet? Wait, it gets better!

“Draw on personal emotions in your writing. Not that you have to write about every painful experience, but you can use those emotions in all of your writing. If you dig deep down you’ll find the things in you that make you brave. Be brave because it will put your best work out in the world.”

A bunch of years ago I had an accident and hurt my back. Now, I’m not going to write a story about how I fell on a treadmill and broke my ass. BUT, I am going to use those same emotions to write a scene where someone is in pain. The subject matter can be different as long as the proper emotion gets across.

Ms. Snyder made another good point; “Who are you writing for? It’s not just that you have something to say, but you want someone to hear it. Picture the person you are writing for. The listener defines the voice of the speaker. The listener will shape the way you write.”

Very true. I am going to use language when I’m writing for a middle school person that’s different when I’m writing for a senior in high school.

Then, Ms. Snyder cleared something up for me personally. Okay, I know she didn’t write it for me, per say, but it spoke to my heart.

“How do you know when to listen to yourself and when to listen to what other people say?”

When you’re a writer you have to have critique partners. You need an opinion on what you’ve written that isn’t from your mom, sister or neighbor; I don’t care how honest you think they’ll be. It’s great if they like what you wrote but their view is going to be tainted, slanted and sometimes just plain wrong. No one who loves you is going to actually tell you you suck.

BUT, what if you get some feedback from a crit partner that feels off to you? Ms. Snyder said, “You have to check in with yourself about how you react to what other people say, and ultimately you have to have the final say.”

For new writers, here are some fun facts that she mentioned:

– Kids don’t read down. A senior in high school is not going to read a middle grade book so when you write to an agent and you mention who your audience is, be mindful of this.

– Publishing shuts down in the summer.

– Querying during the holidays is useless.

FIRST WORKSHOP

Writing in 1st Person with Nova Ren Suma, author of 17 And Gone and her new book, The Walls Around Us, coming out Spring 2015. Congrats! You can check her out at novarensuma.com

 

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Ms. Suma spoke about some of the reasons writers use first person point of view. Sometimes it’s for story reasons; why the story can only be told through this character. It may also be to illuminate the character so that the reader can get up close and personal. “A writer should take advantage of the narrow scope in which first person tells a story. It should be used as a tool not a fall-back.”

The positive possibilities for using first person:

-The story can feel more real and authentic. The reader can know deep secrets only that character can tell. In first person you can “write with authority, bringing the character to vivid life.”

-Some of the challenges for writing in first person and things to consider:

-You have to be distinct not generic. You can’t write in generalities.

-If you are writing from more than one point of view, you have to make it clear who is speaking.

-You have to describe your character/narrator physically. Nova said, “NOT looking in a mirror! It’s been done to death.”

-Make sure your character knows only what they can know.

-Is your narrator’s voice likable?

Nova also reinforced what I’ve heard at all of the conferences I’ve attended: Show don’t tell. “Instead of having your character say, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m out of control—show it. She read an excerpt from Miles From Nowhere by Nami Mun to demonstrate this technique.

Ms. Suma gave us some tips on finding your narrators voice:

– Journal as your main character.

– Make a list of character’s stuff; room, clothes, music, images.

– List character’s painful memories, make a to do list, write a letter he/she would write.

SECOND WORKSHOP

Beyond OMG; Writing Authentic Dialogue for Teens with Sashi Kaufman, author of The Other Way Around. You can check her out at http://www.SashiKaufman.com and on twitter @sashikaufman.

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Ms. Kaufman said, “Writing good dialogue comes from hearing voices in your head.”

“Listen to the dialogue going on around you.”

I love to write dialogue! Here are some helpful suggestions from Ms. Kaufman on getting it done:

“The use of dialogue is to reveal characters, NOT to advance the plot. Remember that your characters are people first and foremost. Do NOT use dialogue for a plot dump!”

“Everyone needs a voice – Not the same as everyone needs a stereotypical role.”

“When you’re writing for teens realize they are one body in two worlds; not children any more but not adults either. Embrace the contradictions.” I LOVE this accurate statement! I have a sixteen year old and a thirteen year old…I live in contradiction-land 😀

“Make your dialogue do the work.”

“Dialogue reveals characters through conflict.”

If your characters are sitting around having coffee and everything is hunky-dory, your story goes nowhere. If your characters meet at the coffee house to discuss fictitional-Joe’s new head growing out of his arse, well now you’ve got everyone wanting to be at the coffee house.

“With dialogue, less can be more and remember you can never go wrong with IDK.”

“Don’t overuse dialogue tags,” she said knowingly. Dialogue tags, like adverbs, should be used sparingly and thoughtfully. (Love Sashi’s humor!) “Unless you absolutely need something for connotation or sarcasm, a simple he said or she said will usually do it.”

When slang works:

– It’s part of voice.
– It’s carefully researched.
– It’s originality.

When slang fails:

– It’s dated.
– It’s meaningless.
– It’s overused.

For those of us who write YA – How to stalk teenagers:

Starbucks, food courts and movies. Sit near them and listen.

 

Twitter    Instagram   

Google+       YouTube 

And other social media venues.

Drive a bunch of them some place. (I can totally attest to this one!)

It’s important to note that Ms. Kaufman takes no responsibility if you get arrested. LOL. 

A few Truths from Ms. Kaufman:
– Teens don’t stand still to talk. You have to get them moving.
– Teens are emotional creatures. They think with their heart first then their head.
– They are universally self conscious about EVERYTHING.
– Avoid stereotypes.
– When writing parents into the story, keep them clueless.

 

AFTERNOON WORKSHOPS:

Six Steps to a Killer 1st Page with Patricia Newman, Regional Advisor for SCBWI. patricianewman.com

 

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“Your first page has some heavy lifting to do. It has to be so compelling that the reader won’t put it down. Your first page is your thirty-second pitch to an agent.”

That statement is SOOOO true! Who hasn’t gone shopping for a new book, picked something up off the shelf, read the first page, and either bought it or put it down? Agents do the same thing. Ms. Newman surveyed a panel of agents for this workshop and shared her findings, which I found t be super useful.

Agents:      Scan the cover, read the submitted pages and IF they like the pages, they read the synopsis. The first page must communicate tone through language and style, character and plot, description and setting.

To accomplish what the agents wants, ask yourself these questions:

Who is your character?

Start with people. Show emotion. Focus on a single point in time; setting, relationships, action. Establish the main character’s voice and age. And the end of the page informs the beginning.

Agent Says:      Grab me! Intrigue me. Ground me. I can usually tell within the first page if it’s a yes or no.

Where are we?

Give a physical location. What’s the weather? Give a hint to the time period. Include senses; talk about textures to refer to touch, color to sight, and what does it smell like.

When I’m writing a scene I close my eyes and I ask myself, what do I see? What does it sound like? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry? What can I smell? Food? Cut grass? Cow poop? Whatever it is, I write it so that the reader can BE there with me. I have an interior design background so it’s a very visual process for me. BUT, at the same time, Ms. Newman said, “Don’t over burden the reader.” So for me, that means to hold myself back a little. She also said, “–ing words are passive. Get them off the first page.”

What engages us?

Unusual settings. Suspense. Mystery. Character’s voice. The time period. Artful prose (or verse). Read your first page out loud and record it.

I’ve heard of reading the page out loud before but I never thought to record it. I thought, hmm, how does it sound? Is it choppy? Does it flow? Does the voice come through clearly? Did I repeat anything? First page real-estate is precious. Don’t waste it by saying something you’ve already said!

Agent Says:      I have to be kidnapped by the language.

What is the Action?

Get your characters moving, put them in motion. Start with a plot point; conflict, question. Get your characters talking: Dialogue. Show vs. Tell. Skip exposition on your first pages. And remember that in YA and MG, parents stay in the background.

Agent Says:      Age? Who is this manuscript for?

Who Is Your Audience?

Know your audience. Picture your ideal reader. Do your word choices match the setting and time period? Know the word count for your genre. The child must solve the problem in the story. And lastly, white space is essential on page one.

Agent Says:    I want a sense of style on page one. Voice is key.

Does Every Word Count?

What is your language style; formal, conversational, regional? Is your use of vocabulary done well and more importantly, correctly? Use active verbs. Mind the white space! Find the words that suck and change them to ones that are FABULOUS! Every. Word. Counts.

“Make your language sing right off the page.”

Thank you Ms. Newman! LOVED your workshop!

 

LAST WORKSHOP:

English 101 for Authors with Professor Marvin Terban, author of a ridiculous amount of books! LOL. (see below)

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First I have to say, Mr. Terban is hilarious in his presentation. If you have a chance to listen to him speak, do it! You will be informed and entertained for the whole session. Mr. Terban said, “We write for children and therefore have a responsibility in doing it correctly.”

Three reasons why an author uses the best grammar possible:

1. The first person who reads it (agent/editor) does not want to fix it.
2. We write for kids and have a responsibility.
3. Modern day technology is ruining English.

If you send your work to an agent and she/he is looking at your query and someone else’s that is equally engaging, it may come down to grammar to make the decision on who to represent. It is extremely competitive in today’s market. Agents and editors want to work with authors that make their job easier. So even if your idea is good, but your paper is loaded with spelling and grammatical errors, they will pass on you.

 

Go here to see the top 15 grammatical errors that make you look silly.  http://www.copyblogger.com/grammar-goofs

 

English, and the learning of English, hasn’t changed. Look at some of Mr. Terban’s books, or all if you’re feeling confident your brain won’t explode from the awesomeness. Refresh yourself. Check on the things you think you know. Change all of the things that you have no frickin’ clue about.

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Schools can invite PROFESSOR GRAMMAR to visit their school by emailing him at mterban@verizon.net.

Like Laurel Snyder said, “It’s not enough to just produce something.”

Be magnificent! Be superb! Be brave!  Make your lasting finger print on the world. Be someone who wrote something that people can’t stop talking about. And then do it again, and again, and again…

Peace My Friends 🙂

*You can also find me on twitter @jeannieintrieri