A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Chocolate--Random Thoughts Thursday

I haven't written a blog post here since July. I had a great summer, watched teens do great things, suffered writerly angst, and received the first edit letter for my second novel (due out September 2013). All of this passed without so much as a sentence about it on my blog. Blame it on summer laziness, summer busy-ness, or what have you, I didn't blog. At least not here. (I did however write one post for the Class of 2k12).

You might be wondering what life-shattering event could have possibly pulled me out of my blogging slump and caused me to re-visit my orphaned blog after two and a half months. Strangely enough it was a dream, so I'm dubbing this post "Random Thoughts Thursday."

Last night I dreamed I was out for a run and I saw a piece of really, really good chocolate sitting in front of me on the sidewalk. I don't remember exactly what kind it was, just that it was really good chocolate, that it was fully wrapped, and that I wanted it.
I picked it up and suddenly there were people all around me. I could see the question on their faces,
"Is she really going to eat that?"

I am not a germaphobe. I have been know to invoke the 3-second rule when it comes to something really delicious falling on my "not so pristine" floors. But honestly, I'm not sure if in real life I would pick up a piece of chocolate (even really really good chocolate) off the sidewalk and eat it.  

But what I remember about the dream was that I was okay eating the chocolate until I realized people were watching. Then I saw flaws in it, maybe the wrapper wasn't wrapped as tight as it should be, maybe it wasn't really all that great of chocolate, maybe it wasn't really safe. I woke up, not knowing if I was going to eat the chocolate or not. 

Today, during my morning run, (as I was scanning the sidewalk for a piece of really really good chocolate) I was thinking about the dream. I came up with a couple of analogies.

The first one was this: 

I just turned in my first round of revisions for my second novel to my editor. This has been a book that has made me crazy. I sold it on proposal with a sliver of an idea and it's taken a year for me to get it where I felt like I knew the story and I liked it.  (Compare that to 8-10 weeks for the first draft of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL). In less than a year (fingers crossed) my second baby will be out into the world and open for criticism. Even though I've been through it once (and maybe because I've been through it once) that scares me. In fact very few things in my life are as terrifying as people actually reading what I've written.

Any yet, I've wanted to be an author as long as I've known there were real people (and not magical fairies) that wrote books.

So back to my dream. If being an author is like the chocolate, something I really, really want, then why should it matter what everyone else around me thinks? Even if it isn't perfect and may even be dangerous (to my emotional security)?

I have another analogy that I will put forth in a later blog post, one that I've been thinking about for a long time, but for now I want you to think about that chocolate, (I know I have been) and ask yourself this question,

What dream are you holding back on because you're afraid of what other people will think?

I hope that question will help you come up with the motivation to move forward with something that you've held back on. (Then I'll feel like my random thought wasn't in vain.)

Or maybe you'll just come to the conclusion that Jennifer is so obsessed with chocolate that it has invaded her dreams. :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

TAKEN BY STORM--Interview with Author Angela Morrison

To continue the celebration of TAKEN BY STORM's 10-year anniversary I got the chance to ask Angela Morrison some questions about the TAKEN BY STORM series and what it's like to revisit a book and characters ten years after the concept was first conceived. 
This week you're celebrating the writing prompt that spawned TAKEN BY STORM and consequently, your writing career. Can you tell us about that writing prompt? 

It was the first free write I'd ever been challenged to. I was sitting in a circle with all my brand new MFA classmates at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the graduate assistant leading the session gave us the prompt, "Remember a sound." I started writing, and Michael's voice flowed out on the page. That was July 20, 2002. Ten years ago today! You can see the actual free write on my blog.

I'm always curious about what happens to the characters that live in your head for so long as you create a story, ten years later, do you still hear Michael and Leesie's voices? Do you ever think about writing a new chapter in their story? 

When I finished CAYMAN SUMMER (Taken by Storm Book #3), I managed to coax a long epilogue from Michael and Leesie, but that was it. Their voices no longer haunt me. I miss them. I coaxed them out of hiding this week for online Q&A sessions. Michael was pretty grumpy about it. Leesie was, let's say, distracted. Readers have asked me to write more about them--another book or even a scene, but I can't.

The format of the book is unique because it's told in poetry, chats and dive logs. What was the hardest way to write the story?

The hardest part was discovering that format. TAKEN BY STORM started life as he said/she said dual first-person narrators. Michael's experience was so much more intense than Leesie's that his voice dominated. When I let Leesie narrate through her poems, she began to match his intensity level. I love writing free verse poetry and the compression you get with narrative poems, but they were the hardest the write.

You grew up in Tekoa, the town where this story is set, are any of the scenes in the book based on real-life experiences?

It was great to set the story in a place I knew so well. The places are as realistic as I could paint them. All the people are fiction. But I did saddle Leesie with an awful groping incident on the school bus that happened to me. The cool thing about using your worst high school days in a novel is you can send your heroine a hero--like Michael. I just scurried off the bus in defeat. I gave Leesie a champion. 

Michael and Leesie's story came from a writing prompt, where else do you find writing ideas?

Everywhere and in everything. Michael actually was inspired by an accident my husband and I heard about when we were scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. A hurricane in Belize. I asked myself, "What if a guy on that boat survived but his parents didn't? What would he do? Where would he go? Who would love him?" The answers became TAKEN BY STORM. 

What have you changed or added for the new release of this book?

We changed the cover! YAY! I love this new one. We also reformatted the text so it would be a readable ebook. The original ebook Penguin produced didn't use scalable fonts for the dive log headings or the chats. It was unreadable unless you read it on a big computer screen. We fixed that. I also added an extra bonus scene, "Airport Good-bye," that comes between the end of STORM and the beginning of UNBROKEN CONNECTION. 

You have been one of my greatest mentors and your advice to me through the years has been invaluable. In that vein, what advice do you have for other writers just starting out? For writers who have been at this for awhile.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Find opportunities to learn from professional writers, agents and editors. Sign up for SCBWI conferences and online writing classes. Find a good critique group. It never gets easier. Even when you've broken through and got a contract and books on the shelf, it's still the hardest but the best thing you'll ever do. If you think publishing a book is going to make you millions, find another scheme. Writing is for the driven, crazy people who absolutely must do it to stay happy and sane. Don't sell yourself short, though. If you are driven to write, you are a writer. Own it. Stand tall. Work hard. Be professional.

Thank you Angela!

To learn more about TAKEN BY STORM and check out the rest of the celebration, go to Angela's Cayman Summer blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Ten Year Anniversary

 Hi all! This week I'm helping my biggest writing mentor, Angela Morrison, celebrate a milestone anniversary and the birth of a fabulous story. Ten years ago this week, Taken by Storm's scuba-diving hero, Michael, swam out of award-winning YA author, Angela Morrison's brain and onto her page. You can join the anniversary celebration and win your own copy of the brand new paperback!  Snag Taken by Storm's Kindle ebook for only $ .99Unbroken Connection (Book 2) and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The promotion ends Friday, July 20th. Don't own a Kindle? Download free Kindle apps for your laptop, tablet, iTouch, or phone.

Here's a little bit about the book.

In Taken by Storm, Mormon girl Leesie has life figured out until devastated Michael lands in her small town high school. He needs her like no one has before. A rare journey into a faithful LDS teen’s intimate struggle. 

from Taken by Storm . . .

I’m lost to his firm chest,
his slender fingertips, his long wavy hair,
his mouth sucking my bottom lip—
The world spins, the stars shift,
and I can’t see anything except his smoky
gray eyes gazing into mine.
You scare me, whispers
from my mouth across his.
Good, he breathes into me.
I need you to save me.

"[Morrison] handles the topics of religion and premarital sex gracefully without passing judgment. The message has less to do with religion than learning to respect and cherish others while staying true to one’s own beliefs.”  – Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Brand new paperback and reformatted ebook with fully scalable fonts. Includes bonus, never-before-published scene, "Airport Good-bye!"

Angela Morrison is the award-winning YA author of Taken by Storm (Books 1-3) and Sing me to Sleep. She grew up in Eastern Washington on the wheat farm where Taken by Storm is set. She's an advanced NAUI, Nitrox certified scuba diver. The hurricane that kills Michael's parents was inspired by a real-life diving accident. She wrote Cayman Summer, book three of Michael and Leesie's saga, with fan input, at http://caymansummer.blogspot.com. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Begining Again

I have a confession to make, I love Mondays. There's something about the first day of the week (okay, I know technically Sunday is the first day of the week) that gets me motivated to start over and do better. Monday is a great day to re-start that diet, that exercise program (yes, I am writing this from my treadmill) or to dive in to a new project. It's almost like every Monday can be a new January 1st.

So, today I'm blogging again. I haven't blogged since the day BREAKING BEAUTIFUL released. I feel bad for that, but I also feel like I needed the break.

I firmly believe there is something called "post-par-tum book depression." When you release a book, just like when you have a baby, you have all of this anticipation that you have built up for months, years, even a lifetime. And then it happens. And maybe nobody cares about it as much as you do. And maybe your baby isn't as well-received in the outside world as you thought it would be. And maybe there's still a lot of work ahead.

Baby, or book, all of these things are true. (I've been through both.) Granted, my book didn't need to be fed every two hours all night long like my four babies did, but it has kept me up at night. On the other hand, no one will ever publicly post a one star review of any of my children (at least I hope not).

It's hard to come to the end of a journey. It's hard to release something you have worked on for so many months or years out into the world. Even if everything happens according to your expectations (and it never does) there is still a feeling of being let down. All this build-up for this?

In the middle of enjoying, agonizing, and coming to grips with all the realities of my first "child of paper"  shelves, I was writing my second book, so I was also experiencing "second book syndrome" angst.
Book two was way harder for me to write than book one. Maybe because I was writing it based on a proposal and on deadline. Maybe because I was afraid it would never live up to my first book. Maybe because I was afraid that this second book would expose me as a fraud. One book, sure, but two? Who does she think she's kidding?

Boy, it really sounds like I'm complaining. I'm not. I woke up this morning to a quiet house, (one of the benefits of summer with older kids) a beautiful summer day, and a head filled with new ideas to write about. For the first time in a while, the blank computer screen doesn't scare me. I'm excited to write. I'm excited to begin again.

Not that I didn't enjoy writing my second book. I love my second child of paper (as hard as it was to bring to this point) as much as I love my first. I'm excited to get edit notes and make it better.

But today, I'm excited to move forward. I'm excited to begin again.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Signing books surrounded by donations for SafePlace

The cake I didn't get to try. It was red velvet!

Brooklyn, my lovely trailer actress.

My fellow Washington Author Peeps: Marissa Meyer, me, Daniel  Marks, Megan Bostic, Kiki Hamilton and J. Anderson Coats.

Fabulous books donated for the raffle.
I have had a lot of really great days in my life; high school graduation, my wedding, the birth of each of my four kids, but I have to say, today ranked among the best days of my life. Today I celebrated the launch of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL at Fireside Bookstore in Olympia. I was surrounded by my husband, my kids, my baby brother and his family and many many of my friends and fellow writers.

Thomasina talking about SafePlace
The store completely SOLD OUT of my books. There was food and cake and I got to talk about my book and sign and sign and sign. It was all kind of surreal and amazing.

I also collected donations and money for a wonderful local women's shelter, SafePlace. Thank you to Thomasina for coming in to talk about the shelter and thank you to SafePlace for all the work they do. Thank you to my publisher, Walker/Bloomsbury and my agency, Nelson Literary, for providing books for the raffle for SafePlace.

My happy teen helpers!
I only had a few regrets 1) I didn't get to talk to anyone very long. 2) I was so busy signing books that I didn't get to try the beautiful cake I got from Wagner's Bakery. (Apparently my sixteen-year-old son took the last piece. 3) I didn't get any pictures with my husband, my kids, my brother or many of my friends who were there. 4) I wish I had brought some kind of sign-in book so I would always remember who was there.

Overall though, it was truly one of the best days of my life. A dream I have had for so long finally came true.

Thank you to all who helped with my launch party; my husband David, my kids David the Younger, Sabrina, Zach and Daniel, special helpers Elizabeth, Chelsie, Monica, Ashlyn, Dallin, Jennifer and so many others. A huge thank you to Jane at Fireside Bookstore and her husband Ed for making this such a lovely night. I am truly blessed!
My fabulous red shoes and Daniel Marks, um, lovely red shoelaces.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Child of Paper

It is now 12:01 am PST. April 24, 2012; a day I have looked forward to for a very long time. The counter I've kept my eye on for so long has zeroed out to "Now Available" and my first child of paper has been set out in the world.

 In case you don't get what I'm talking about I'll scream it out loud: BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, MY DEBUT NOVEL, RELEASES TODAY!!! (Friends on the East Coast did you hear that???)

Do you have any idea how cool that is? Do you have any idea how much that FREAKS. ME. OUT. My first child of paper is available to anyone who is willing to pay money for it, or who checks it out from the library, or who borrows it from a friend, or a relative or some stranger on the street. My hard-fought, long-poured-over words, and they don't even need my permission to read it. YIKES!

Like any other mom/author, I'm worried about how my child will be accepted by the big, bad, outside world. Yes, the ARCs have been out for months, it has been available on NetGalley, and I have already seen both positive and negative reviews, but until now I felt like me and/or my publisher had some control over who got to see my baby. And now we don't.

Total strangers will be reading it, and that scares me, but here's the REALLY scary part, people I know will read it to. In fact, I'm having a launch party tonight, and all these wonderful, supportive friends who have listened to me talk about my book and who have followed me on my journey to this point will be able to own some of my words, actually own A LOT of my words, and maybe even a little piece of me.

And what if they don't like it?

There are just about hundred million unknowns in this business of this (I know, I stayed up counting them all last night). One of them is that everyone's taste, experience, and opinions are different. Thank God for that, but that also means someone could love me and hate my story, and that has to be okay.

I'd probably prefer that they don't tell me how much they hated it AND I'd probably prefer that they don't tell me what I should have done differently, (at least not right up front) and I'd probably prefer that they don't mention such and such typo/mistake/continuity error on page such and such, but I have to be okay with that too. Because in the end, it's just a story. (And yes it was painful for me to write that last sentence. AND yes my brain is screaming "No, it's not just a story it's MY STORY.)

I think everyone gets that this is hard for me, but at some point I know I'll have to let my child of paper go. It was out of my hands months ago, I wrote and re-wrote, plotted and revised, and re-read it so many times that I almost have it memorized so yes, it's still with me. Just today, driving home from the store I thought of something I should have done differently. I had one of those slap myself in the forehead, "why didn't I think of that earlier?" moments. Since a number of copies have already been printed and shipped I don't think my publisher would be happy with me if I asked them to change/add that thing I thought of today. I have to let it go. (Okay, but I'm thinking that maybe I can have a "deleted scenes" or a "what-if" section on my website and then I can add that piece that came to me today. I can, right? Right? I know, I know, let it go.)

In the book "THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron, she says something like, "A book is never finished, it just ends in an interesting place." I know that's true. I also know that a book never really starts from the beginning, it just picks up in an interesting place.

I think life is a lot like that. I can remember the day that I sat down and began BREAKING BEAUTIFUL with just the thread of an idea, but it didn't really start then, any more than it's starting now with an official launch date. The ideas, experiences, and stories that I used to build my story have been around for a long time (probably even longer than I have). The same goes for anything else I write. As I think about today, I realize that it is neither an ending or a beginning it's just an interesting place to be.

And as scary as that is, I think I like it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Trailer Debut

I'm so excited to share the book trailer for BREAKING BEAUTIFUL. Because I was a broadcasting major and because creating videos has been one of my hobbies, I had the trailer for this book in mind before I ever finished writing it. When the time finally came to do the trailer, I wrote a script and was ready to move forward, but then my husband got his diagnosis of MS. It took some time for us to get back to real life after that. I had to scale everything back and focus on the really important things.

When I finally had the time and energy to think about it again, I knew I had to do something more simple than what I had originally planned. It all worked out fo the best. Scaled back or not I'm so happy with the way it came out.

I'm so grateful to everyone who helped, my husband who did the videography, my lovely actress Brooklyn who endured every crazy thing I asked her to do, Steve, the North Thurston high school librarian who helped me get in to "shoot" the locker scene and my extras, David, Chelsie, Melissa, Jennifer, Josh, Ben, Jesse, and "best creepy voice ever" Tristan. Thank you!

So without further self-gushing, I present my book trailer for BREAKING BEAUTIFUL which releases in LESS THAN ONE WEEK!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Top Ten Signs that you are a "Directioner" Mom

I've done a lot of self-promotion on my blog lately. (Check the counter to the left. We are getting CLOSE to the release of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL).
The "One D" Shrine

But today I decided I'd do something fun and random and possibly embarrassing to my teen age daughter to change things up a bit.

I blogged in February about my now 14-year-old daughter's rock star crush on the band ONE DIRECTION. As I've seen this band sweeping the nation, the world, and my house, I thought it would fun to come up with a David Letterman-style top ten list, so here goes:


10. You know the difference between a "Directioner" and a "Diretionator."

9. You stayed "Up All Night" or at least later than usual to watch Saturday Night Live for the first time in ages, and had to change the channel a couple of times. (Were the skits always so raunchy?)

8.  You have to accommodate your daughter's new eating habits; no spoons and carrots every day in her lunch.

7. You know exactly what time on Saturday morning pre-sale tickets for their 2013 US Tour go on sale.

6. At least one wall of your house is covered with ONE DIRECTION posters.

5. You know exactly where in the world "The Boys" are on their current tour.

4. You refer to them as "The Boys."

3. You're staring to think Harry is cute in a non-creepy-30-something-mom kind of way.

2. You're trying to figure out how to plan a wedding for your daughter that includes five grooms.

1. You have "That's What Makes You Beautiful" constantly running through your head, and it reminds you of your beautiful daughter.
Maybe it's just me, but as fast as this group is sweeping the world I can't be the only "Directioner" mom out there. If you have more to add to this list (and I certainly do) I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rock the Drop, Results

So today was the day to "Rock the Drop"  in honor of Support Teen Lit Day.

I chose two books to "drop;" my book, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL and SING ME TO SLEEP, my sister-in-law's book and a favorite of mine.

Here's how it went down:

I started with SING ME TO SLEEP at the Lacey Public library. I may have over-thought this one. First I decided that the grandmother statue might like something new to read, after all she's had the same pile of books on her lap for as long as I can remember.

But, I decided it was too hard to see it there, so I put it on the bench next to the statue.

 It looked really nice there, but I was worried about our unpredictable Washington weather and the fact that it was so close to the actual book drop. I thought someone might pick it up and try to return it to the library. Being the dutiful library patron that I am, I went inside and asked a librarian. She suggested I put it here:

It worked! I went to look up a book on the library computer and when I came out SING ME TO SLEEP was gone!

Next it was time to "drop" my book. I really wanted to find a good home for it. I kind of felt like I was leaving my baby in a basket at someone's doorstep with a note that said something like, "Pease love me." It took me a while to figure out where I wanted it to go.

I waited all day until I went to my daughter's Freshman orientation night. I went upstairs to the library, and again, I asked a librarian. He suggested this ugly gold chair:

Apparently it's well-liked by the morning library regulars. I felt like I was giving my baby a good home.

And while I was "Rocking the Drop" in Lacey Washington, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was out for a lunchtime stroll with my editor. She found a lovely place to leave it:

 Madison Square Gardens. I'm a little jealous, my book seems to be hanging out in cooler places than I am.

This is what I love about book people. We love books so much that we're willing to give them away, just because we want to share the joy that they gave to us. How many other industries are so willing and happy to give away and loan out their product?

If you find any of these books I'd love to hear from you!

This was fun. Let's do it again next year.

Did you "Rock the Drop?" Did you find a free book somewhere randomly placed today? What do you think about this whole idea?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'm Rocking the Drop, Are You?

Tomorrow I will be joining with readergirlz, the Class of 2k12, and many others in the YA community to celebrate Support Teen Lit Day, by "Rocking the Drop."

This is how the whole thing will go down: Dressed in all black I will go out at midnight and under cover of darkness... actually, I'll probably wear normal clothes and go out sometime tomorrow after all my kids are in school, but I will be leaving a copy of my book, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, and some of my friends' books in various locations around town where teens have been known to hang out. I'll take pictures of where I left the books and post them here as soon as the deed is done. 

Teens in Thurston County (and throughout the country) this is your chance to get your hands on some great (and FREE!!!) reading material. Keep your eyes open. The books I leave will have my bookmarks and contact information. I hope that whoever finds them will contact me and let me know how they liked the book(s).

Check out how you can "Rock the Drop" by clicking on the picture above.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


My official BREAKING BEAUTIFUL blog tour kicks off tomorrow!!! Thank to Kari and Corrine with Teen Book Scene for putting this together.

You can find out more about me, my characters, and BREAKING BEAUTIFUL at the following blogs for the next four weeks:

Monday, April 9: Kari at A Good Addiction (Character Interview: Blake)
Tuesday, April 10: Rummanah at Books in the Spotlight (Author Interview)
Wednesday, April 11: Kate at I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read (Review)
Thursday, April 12: Jessica E at Confessions of a Bookaholic (Character This or That: Allie)
Friday, April 13: Nicci at Paper Dreams (Review)

Monday, April 16: Amber S at Me, My Shelf and I (Character Interview: Caitlyn)
Tuesday, April 17: Corrine at Lost for Words (When I’m Not Writing)
Wednesday, April 18: Rummanah at Books in the Spotlight (Review)
Thursday, April 19: Heather M at Proud Book Nerd (Character This or That: Blake)
Friday, April 20: Heidi at The Readiacs (Review)

Monday, April 23: Bailey at IB Book Blogging (Character Interview: Andrew)
Tuesday, April 24: Kate at I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read (Author Interview)
Wednesday, April 25: Amber S at Me, My Shelf and I (Review)
Thursday, April 26: Nicole at Books Complete Me (Character This or That: Caitlyn)
Friday, April 27: Heather M at Proud Book Nerd (Review)

Monday, April 30: Hannah at Paperback Treasures (Multicharacter Interview)
Tuesday, May 1: Heidi at The Readiacs (Tens List)
Wednesday, May 2: Bailey at IB Book Blogging (Review)
Thursday, May 3: Nicci at Paper Dreams (Character This or That: Andrew)
Friday, May 4: Jessica E at Confessions of a Bookaholic (Review)

Thank you to all the fabulous bloggers who have put this together! I think I speak for all authors (especially debut authors) when I say I couldn't do this without you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Many Hats of a Debut Author

I feel like I'm in the last stretches of a marathon and I didn't realize how many hills would be at the end of my race. BREAKING BEAUTIFUL comes out in (checks official counter) nineteen days,and thirty-five(ish) minutes.


There is still so much to do! When I (naively) submitted my query almost two years ago, I didn't have any idea the amount of work that would be involved in making this book thing happen or how many different roles I would have to take on before my book even came out. I think everyone (me included) has this idea that an author sits around in his/her pajamas daydreaming and creating worlds of fiction. Then they submit their art to their editor, tweak it a bit (again in their pajamas), and then sit back and collect royalty checks.

A dream job, right?

Um, not quite.

I've had many jobs in my life, from waking up early to milk cows, to working with handicapped children, to electronic editing, but I don't think I've ever done anything that was quite this mentally taxing or required me to take on so many different roles. Except perhaps the mommy thing I've been doing for the last sixteen years.
(Incidentally, the "mommy thing" is another job that is often misunderstood and often done in pajamas, mostly because you don't always have the time or energy to get completely dressed).

In the last week alone I've played graphic designer, publicist, event planner, video director, mail-room associate, web designer, accountant, and blogger all while continuing to be a mom, and trying to complete my second novel for a May deadline.

 To give you an example of what I've been up to, (including a few "life" things thrown in) the past week or so:

Monday: Answered e-mail. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Probably shouldn't do this.) Worked on the design for the poster to advertise my launch party. Decided on the number of books to be ordered for my launch party. Cleaned my house in preparation for the arrival of our latest Japanese exchange student.

Answered e-mail. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Sometimes a big lift, sometimes a downer.) Re-cleaned my house. Met with the librarian at my son's high school to talk about an author event in May. Went to conferences for all four kids. Went to a welcome potluck and met my Japanese daughter for the week, Mirei. Gave a presentation on disability awareness at my son's cub scout pack meeting.

Sent poster off to my agent, editor, and my publicist at Walker for approval. Worked on guest blog posts. Answered e-mail. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Maybe not healthy.) Directed my lovely voice-over actress, Brooklyn, as she recorded her part for my book trailer. Had her try on the red dress that I may or may not use in the trailer. (Depends on how it works out.)

Answered e-mail. Took the approved poster to Minute Man Press, a local printer. The nice manager there, Renae, showed me all my mistakes and told me how to fix them. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Okay that's kind of become a daily event.) Did some actual writing on SHARDS OF GLASS.

Answered e-mail.  Made a list of all the people I need to send my author copies to; friends, family members, bloggers, and a few charity auction winners. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (I have a million other things I should be doing, why does this keep creeping up?) Bought envelopes to mail them. Finally got some writing in. (Not in my pajamas.)

Answered e-mail.  Cut the ugly white border off 1,000 (literally) swag stickers. Put books and swag into envelopes to mail. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Enough already.) Took my daughter, son and my exchange student to Seattle for some sight-seeing.

Relaxed with my family and played games with our exchange student. I don't work on Sunday, I need that day for church and family stuff and to mentally recharge.

Met with Jane, the owner of Fireside Bookstore, where my launch party will be held, to figure out where to set up tables and audio-video equipment. Got the name of the person at the restaurant next to the bookstore to see if they can do appetizers for my launch party. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Not because I'm vain or anything I just, you know, want to know what advance reviewers are saying.) Mailed off packages of author copies and swag. Made updates/changes to my website.

Worked on SHARD (again, not in my pajamas.) Worked on guest blogs. Stalked myself on Goodreads and checked all my Google alerts. (Okay, you get the idea.) Listened to a webinar about diet and MS with my husband. Put together a picture album for my exchange student as a good-bye gift.

Said a tearful good-bye to Merei. Went through all my loosely filed receipts to get everything ready for tax appointment at 4:00. Went back through bank statements and e-mails to figure out mileage and put expenses in a spreadsheet. Beat my head against the wall because I hate this kind of stuff. Swore to keep better records next year. Tax appointment. Trip to Trader Joe's to find non-gluten food for my husband's new MS diet plan. Did laundry and packed for family trip to Seaside Oregon (including shooting the final footage for my book trailer.) Didn't even have time to stalk myself on Goodreads and check all my Google alerts.

Wrote this blog post!!!

Whew! Not much of what I did this week could be done in my pajamas and not a lot was actual writing. So, I guess I'm still looking for that job where I sit around in my pajamas and daydream all day. In the meantime, I'll continue to be an author, the job I used to dream about, (and still love) even if it's more work than I ever imagined.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Riding the Rollercoaster

I've neglected my blog (yet again), but I hope any readers I still have hanging on (hi Mom) will forgive me when I explain.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post called THE BEST YEAR EVER!!! As I wrote it, I fully believed it was true. 2012 was going to be my year. All of my hard work writing, revising, querying, waiting, waiting, querying, writing, revising, revising, revising, revising, (you get the idea) was finally going to pay off.

In some ways 2011 was a hard year for our family, we started out with a ski accident where my daughter tore her ACL and ended with three surgeries in my immediate family (two for her and one for me). Then we had a bunch of car repairs and at the end of the year our furnace had to be replaced. When 2011 ended I remember thinking, "Shwew, glad that's over."

2012 started out great. I was gearing up for my book launch in April and I sold my second book, SHARDS OF GLASS.  However, within a week of announcing that book sale, we received devastating news; my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about what MS is, you can find out more here, but needless to say, our lives have changed.

We're faced with a huge pile of questions and unknowns. My husband has always been healthy and active. He runs, he swims, he's an avid photographer, and he's a great skier. These are all thing we love to do together as a family (except taking pictures, the kids always complain when we have to wait for Dad to get just the right shot). Now he's often tired, his hands and legs go numb, and he is in constant back pain. We don't know when this episode will subside (if it ever will) and what he might be left with when it's over. We also don't know when the next episode might hit it.

There is no cure for MS. There are treatments, but none of them are easy or cheap, and while they've been used for years, honestly there's no guarantee that they'll do anything. We've talked to several MS patients who feel like the treatments are as bad as the disease. We can't speak to that yet, and we are planning for him to start treatments as soon as the insurance company approves everything. (Ranting here, another unnecessarily long process for someone who is already suffering.)

Since the diagnosis, we've had wonderful well-meaning friends give us advice on diet, aromatherapy, and a variety of other alternative treatment options. We're so grateful that they care enough to pass on the information, but honestly at this point, what to do and what not to do is another overwhelming unknown. I know that these things have helped other people, but we have to sort out what will help David. The path to wellness with this disease is different for everyone.

There's also the question of paying for it all. Two years ago, we changed to a high deductible insurance because we never dreamed we would hit our deductible. No one in our family ever got sick or injured. (Yeah, this was before the three surgeries.) Then at the end of last year, even though we had sailed past our deductible, we decided to go the same route. After all, we had already had our share of bad luck and honestly, the cost difference ended up being a wash. Now we're faced with more medical expenses than we've ever had to absorb, even with insurance.

There-in lies another question and unknown. Up until now I've been able to stay home and raise our four kids. We've been so blessed to to have the advance money I received for my writing, otherwise we would really be floundering right now. But, in case you didn't know, authors (unless they are named J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Suzanne Collins, or a few others) don't make a lot of money. Especially not for the amount of time that they put into their writing. It's a labor of love, and most writers I know have day jobs. After spending nearly a year trying to make writing my job, I have no idea how a writer with a real job and a family and any other outside commitments does it. However, because of the mounting expenses and the unknown for the future, the next step for me might be a real job.

These last two months have been a roller coaster of emotions, from selling my second book, planning my launch party, and receiving my first real-life copy of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, to getting the diagnosis, and figuring out where we're going from here.

There is a long road full of unknowns spread out in front of us. I read a quote recently that said,

"There are three things I know about life IT. GOES. ON."  

So, I guess we will continue to ride this roller coaster even when the tunnel ahead is long and dark. I'm grateful for faith, and family, and so many friends (including my fabulous agent and editor) who have supported us through this. I know they'll continue to be there for us.  

My blogging may be sporadic (ha ha I know that's not unusual) but I hope to make it more personal than I usually let it be. When I'm not feeling so overwhelmed I hope to become more of an advocate for MS through this blog and through my writing. I know that somehow this whole experience will be for our good and that we will be stronger because of it, and I hope to share what I learn with others.

Thank you to everyone for their prayers and support!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


It's my first real-life copy of my first real-life book BREAKING BEAUTIFUL!!!

There was screaming. There were tears. There was dancing. There was much rejoicing heard throughout the house. (And I was the only one home!)

It's real I can touch it and stroke it and read it and other people might actually buy it and read it. (Okay, that kind of freaks me out.)

Still, JUADSOLWMD (jumping up and down, screaming out loud, with much dancing :))

Happy Day!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Teens Doing Great Things: A Boy Named Gabe

When I saw this video and the post, Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, on my friend and fellow author, Rebecca Bryan's blog, I knew I had to share it. The kid in this video is amazing.

I don't know a lot of of Junior High students who would be brave enough to dance in front of all their classmates like this, but Gabe does it.  He touches everyone in the room with his smile and his enthusiasm for life.

 Rebecca puts it this way:

And Gabe's face! Oh if I could put it in a bottle and bring it out whenever I am down or feeling sorry for myself. His face radiated pure,simple joy.

The joy of dancing.The joy of moving your body.

The joy of living!

To read more about her take on the experience, check out her blog. Thanks Rebecca for letting  me share this, and thanks to Gabe for being an amazingly brave kid.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


This went up yesterday from Publisher's Marketplace:

February 14, 2012

Young Adult Author of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL Jennifer Shaw Wolf's next dark young adult mystery, SHARDS OF GLASS, about the mystery surrounding the death of a teenage girl and the message she left for her best friend, to Mary Kate Castellani at Walker, in a nice deal, by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency (world).

(Jumping Up and Down Screaming Out Loud)

I've discovered selling an option book is a little bit different than selling your first book, so I'll dispense with the long, Acedemy Award reminiscant thank you speech and just go with this:

Thank you Mary Kate and the whole team at Walker for believing in me (again) and hanging on for the months it took for this idea to be developed and approved. Thanks to Sara Megibow for coaching me (write in: holding my hand) while I figured out what my next story would be and pretty much every step in along the way. Thanks to my husband for not letting me give up, no matter how much I wanted to. And... thanks to my family, friends, critique group, and fellow authors for understanding my particular brand of insanity.

I'm so excited for to enter the next chapter in this crazy journey!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentines Day Gift to You: THE CANDY-GRAM COMPETITION



If you're still trying to find that perfect gift, may I suggest two great reads, SCARLET, by A.C. Gaughen
and LETHALLY BLONDE by Patrice Lyle. Both of which released today! Happy Book Birthday ladies!!!

And now (as promised) a semi-romantic short story...


by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

“Thanks for your donation to the cheer team.” I flash my nearly-perfect white teeth at the skinny, dark-haired freshman boy. He fumbles in his pocket and keeps his eyes on the floor as he pulls out two crumpled dollar bills. I toss my hair over my shoulder and make sure our hands touch when he gives me the money. “Any girl would be lucky to get a candy-gram from you.” Another smile. “Remember you can always remain anonymous.” He hesitates for another second, which second I use to catch him in my blue eyes. “What’s your name again?”

“Zachary,” he clears his throat and straightens up. “Zachary Gibbons.”

“Zachary Gibbons,” I say it like I’m committing his name to memory, even though I know I’ll forget him as soon as he walks away. “I’ll be watching for that name. Thanks again, Zach.” I put the money in the box and flash him another smile while he backs away, flustered.

“Another victim, Leah?” Anthony Richards materializes from the trophy case and places himself in front of the ‘Buy a Candy-Gram for Your Valentine, Send the Cheerleaders to State’ Sign. “It’s not fair that you get to campaign from the table like that, right at the source.” He takes a big bite out of a chocolate muffin, leaving a trail of crumbs on the pink plastic table cloth in front of me.

I brush the crumbs away in disgust. “Maybe you should just accept defeat right now. The costumes is already in my cheer locker. I can’t wait to see you in pink wings and a diaper.”

“After crushing you freshman and sophomore year? Not a chance. I just have to do some leg work.” He scans the cafeteria in front of us, like he’s looking for his next victim. He doesn’t have to wait long. She crawls right into his web, a tall, long-haired sophomore, cute, but not up to his usual standards. “MJ?” He smiles and puts his hand on her shoulder. “Hey girl, what’s up?”

“I was going to buy a candy-gram for some of my friends.” She sounds nervous, but she’s not moving away from his hand.

“We’re friends, right MJ?” He brushes her hair off her shoulder and then steps back towards the crowd. “I guess I’ll let it be a surprise.” He winks at her, then leans into me. “You might want to lose some weight before baseball season, that hotdog costume is pretty narrow.”

When he walks away I’m fuming so much that Kari, sitting next to me at the table has to take the girl’s money; twelve-dollars worth of candy grams for her friends and another five for a giant chocolate bar for Anthony.

“That’s another one,” Kari points out, “He’s ahead by four points.” Like I haven’ t been keeping track.

I blew out a frustrated breath. I hated every part of him, from his soft brown eyes, to his chiseled chest, from his enormous feet, to the short cropped, jock-hawk on top of his head. It’s hard to believe that in another life, Anthony was my boyfriend. Something about junior high demanded that the prettiest girl in school date the best-looking guy. It took about half of seventh grade for us to figure out that we couldn’t stand each other. We broke up right before Valentines Day, just in time for the middle school’s annual candy-gram fundraiser. I got five more candy-grams that year than he did, and the competition was on.

We’re in our third year of this and after two humiliating defeats, I’m determined to win. The rules have gotten more complicated as the years have gone on. This year it’s a point system; one point for a single lollipop, three for a lollipop bouquet, and five for a giant chocolate bar. We’ve also added a bet. If I beat him, he has to spend Valentines Day delivering the candy-grams dressed like cupid. If he wins I have to dance around in a hotdog costume in front of the concession stand at the first home baseball game. I can’t lose. Mustard yellow is not my color.

“I’m planning on buying you one,” Kari tries to comfort me. “And I know the rest of the girls on the cheer team--”

“--only candy-grams from the opposite sex count.” I say miserably. The bell rings. I only have two more chances to beat Anthony. Tomorrow is Valentines Day, so we’ll sell at lunch and then right after school. We’ll be putting the candy-grams together tonight.

“Maybe you need to change your strategy,” Kari picks up the cash box.

“Maybe.” I’m thinking about my strategy as we turn the cash box into the office. Since my tardy is already excused I duck into the bathroom so I can darken my eyeliner and make sure my lip-gloss frames my heart-shaped lips just right. Then I roll the waist-band of my cheer-skirt up an extra notch, because every little bit helps. I toss my head and smile at my reflection, then work on my hip-swinging walk towards the door.

Someone crying from the corner stall stops me. Before I can decide what to do, one of the Special Ed teachers, Ms. Thompson, walks into the bathroom. “Leah, have you seen Wendy Green?” She says to me.

I blink at her, and then shrug. I have no idea who Wendy Green is.

A muffled sob comes from behind the stall door, then a nose blow, then a tear-garbled voice, “I’m in here.”

The counselor leans against the door. “Come out honey. I heard what those boys said, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The handle twists and the door opens. A short, fat, girl with long blonde hair launches herself at the Special Ed teacher. I recognize her as one of two Special Ed kids in my choir class, the ones that always make us sound bad. She buries her face in the Mrs. Thompson’s blouse and starts sobbing; noisy, wet, snotty sobs. I back out the door, disgusted and embarrassed, as the counselor soothes, “You’re a beautiful girl Wendy, you’re not fat.” I shake my head to clear the scene from my mind, compose myself enough to smile at the guy by the drinking fountain, and hip-walk to my next class.

I spend the next three periods talking and flirting with every guy I see. By the time lunch roles around the line to buy candy-grams stretches to the back of the cafeteria. I’m flirting with a geeky-looking senior as he hands over the money for a giant candy bar for me, when a familiar voice interrupts us. “We need to talk.” I put the boy’s money in the cash box before he can change his mind, then I glance up at my boyfriend, Jackson.

“I’m a little busy,” I answer while looking at the boys who are lined up, hoping that Jackson standing here isn’t blowing my chances of getting more candy-grams

“Okay,” he says, “then I’ll just say it here. We’re through.”

Now he has my attention. “What?”

“We. Are. Through.” He clips each word off with anger.

I blink my surprise. “What? Why?”

“I’m tired of watching you flirt with every guy at school,” he says.

I stand up and pull him around the corner, leaving Kari to handle the line, not that anyone is buying anything right now. They’re all too busy trying to see what me and Jackson are doing.

“Look, it’s just because of the stupid competition,” I hiss at him. “I have to beat Anthony, I can’t wear that hotdog costume. If you would just convince all the guys on the basketball team to buy a--”

He holds up his hand so I’ll stop talking. I hate it when he does that, but in the interest of peace I shut up. “I’m done with this, Leah. If your stupid bet with Anthony is more important than me, I’m done.” He walks away. I stand with my mouth open, in complete shock, not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Jackson can’t break up with me, not now, not the day before Valentines Day. I really like him. More maybe than I’ve liked any guy I’ve dated. I even saved up a bunch of money and bought him tickets to a stupid basketball game. He’s supposed to be taking me out to dinner tonight to a nice restaurant. We’re the cutest couple at school. He’s supposed to be taking me to Prom. This isn’t supposed to be happening.

It takes a minute after Jackson stalks off for me to realize I’m not alone. A guy comes up to me, like he was waiting for Jackson to leave. He looks vaguely familiar. Maybe I flirted with him at some point today. “Are you okay?” He asks.

I’m too upset to pretend to be nice. I’m too upset to care whether I blow the competition. “Mind your own business!” I snap at him.

He backs away with his hands up. “Okay. Geez. I was just trying to be nice.”

Instead of hip-walking, I plod from class to class. I don’t flirt anymore, in fact, I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t even respond to Anthony when he presses both hands against the glass of his biology classroom window to show me that he’s up by seven points.

I avoid the crazy, last-minute after school candy-gram sales, but I can’t get out of helping to put them together. The other cheerleaders are already spread out on gym floor with tissue paper, ribbons, and candy scattered all around them when I get there. They have the music up loud and they’re talking louder. I sneak in and slump down beside Kari.

“Hey,” she says. “Good news.”

“Good news?” I ask her ironically. There’s no way she could not know that Jackson dumped me.

“Yeah, we made a ton of money, and you got a bunch of candy-grams right after school. I guess there were a lot of guys who felt sorry for you or something. “ She runs the scissors down a piece of ribbon and it springs back in a little pink curl. “Or, maybe they think you’re available now. It was kind of brilliant getting Jackson to pretend to break up with you like that.”

“He wasn’t pretending.” I say through my teeth. “He really broke up with me.”

“Really?” Kari puts her hand over her mouth. “Oh. I’m sorry. Right before Valentines Day? Oh. That sucks.”

“Yeah, it does.” I shake my head. “At least I don’t have to wear the stupid hotdog outfit. “

“Um, actually,” Kari keeps her eyes on the candy bar as she wraps it in white tissue paper. “We sold a lot for you, but um, Anthony still beat you, just barely.”

“Fabulous.” I throw my head back, bumping it on the gym wall. “How much did he beat me by?”

“Two points.” Kari says.

“It might as well be a hundred. Hotdog costume, here I—“ I stop as a conversation across the room catches my attention.

One of the JV cheerleaders is telling a guy standing at the door that it’s too late to buy a candy-gram. I recognize him as the boy who talked to me in the hall after Jackson broke up with me. I stand up and hurry over. Maybe I can still salvage some part of my dignity.

“Hey, Aimee,” I step in front of her, “We have plenty of candy left. Let’s give…?” I pause for him to supply his name.

“Carl,” he says.

“Carl, the chance to buy something for his girlfriend,” I touch his arm.

“Oh,” he looks flustered, he’s actually kind of cute, in a non-descript, wouldn’t stand out in a crowd sort of way. I was too upset before to notice how long his eyelashes were. “It’s not for my girlfriend.”

“O-oh?” I ask, “Who is it for then?”

“I want to buy a couple actually.” He crosses his arms over his chest, not as chiseled as Anthony or Jackson, but not bad. “One for my little sister and one for a girl who had a really crappy day.”

“Oh?” I flash my biggest smile, brush back my hair and lean in towards him. “That’s so sweet!” I touch his arm. “Nothing makes a girl feel better than chocolate.”

He takes a step back, “Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. But I want them both to be anonymous.”

“Oh, okay. Thanks so much for supporting the cheerleaders.” I turn back to Aimee, “Could you help my friend, Carl here? Make sure he signs his name to the sheet, even if it’s not on the card.” I walk away quickly, because I don’t want to ruin his surprise.

When everything is wrapped and ready to go, I head back to the table to make the final tally. I push through the basket with my name on it, full to overflowing, and count up all my points, even though I’m sure I’ve won. I still come up one point short. I push through the basket again, this time looking for a card that’s in Aimee’s handwriting. I find it, but instead of the chocolate bar, it’s a a stupid lollipop.

I call Aimee over to verify. “What did that last guy buy?” I ask with my hand on the card.

“A lollipop bouquet for his little sister, a lollipop for you, and a candy bar for some girl named Wendy Green.”

“Wendy Green?” I ask, screwing my face up into a school. “The girl who’s in Special Ed?”

Aimee shrugs, “I don’t know her, but his sister is Kaylee Fox, the freshman who came to cheer camp, but then quit because her family couldn’t afford the uniform.”

I barely here what she's saying. I can't believe Carl gave a candy bar to Wendy Green and just a lollipop to me.

I’m the last cheerleader to leave, partly because I realize too late that Jackson won’t be picking me up and I have to call Mom, and partly because I have to do something that the other cheerleaders might not agree with. I spend a lot of time looking at the one, single candy bar for Wendy Green, and the single lollipop stuck in the middle of my overflowing basket. The one the boy whose name I know now is Carl, left for me.

One point between me and a long baseball game in a hot, itchy hotdog costume. One point between me and public humiliation, and Wendy Green will probably be just as thrilled to get the lollipop as she would a candy bar. She won’t even know the difference. It should be an easy decision. My texts me from the car, "I'm here," and I make up my mind. I switch the Wendy’s chocolate bar to my basket, and leave the lollipop for her.

In the middle of the night, I dream about another girl crying in the bathroom, but this time it’s me. I’m in the fourth grade, and I’m crying because I fell and ripped my pants. All my friends went to lunch without me. All I can think about is how hungry I am, and how mad my mom will be when she sees the ripped jeans. Then the little girl that talked funny came in. She patted my hand and shared a box of raisins with me, and went to get the nurse. The next time I saw her, she tried to say hi to me, but my friends laughed at the way she talked and we all ran away. I don’t remember ever seeing her again.

I wake up from the dream with a lump of guilt working its way down my throat, choking me. I don’t sleep at all after that. I lie in bed thinking. A couple of times I consider getting to the school early and switching the candies back. Instead I spend extra time covering the dark circles under my eyes with make-up and curling my hair until its perfect. I have to look so good that nobody notices I’m spending Valentines Day alone for the first time since Anthony dumped me.

By the time I get to school, Kari has already informed Anthony that he lost the bet. He’s dressed in the cupid costume, armed with a bow (but no arrows, school policy), and a long list of candy-grams. He salutes me and he heads off to make his deliveries. I don’t gloat. Maybe because he’s being a good sport. Maybe because I’m still upset about Jackson. Maybe because the heavy lump of guilt has worked its way into my stomach.

Anthony delivers candy-grams all day. He really gets into the cupid thing, like he was actually enjoying it, but I still feel guilty every time I see him. When he catches me between classes, he winks and says he’s saving something special for my delivery, to show he doesn’t have any hard feelings. I work to avoid Carl, the guy who bought the candy-grams for me. Until yesterday, I didn’t know he existed. Now I see him everywhere, like he’s following me; him and Wendy and Anthony. The lump of guilt in my stomach gets so big, that I skip lunch. If I ate one tiny piece of chocolate, I’d throw up. I no longer want even one candy-gram, much less the basket that’s waiting for me.

I just want the day to be over. Anthony finally shows up during choir, my last class. He has my basket of candy-grams in his arms and about half the baseball team is with him, including Carl, who I didn’t know played baseball. The choir teacher, Ms. Blanchett stands up in front of the class. “These boys have a presentation for a special girl in our class.”

I glance towards the corner where Wendy is standing by herself. She’s rocking back and forth, her eyes half-closed, with her one lollipop stuck in her cheek. She looks happy. In fact, she’s beaming. I knew she’d be fine.

“Leah?” Ms. Blanchett smiles at me.

But I’m not sure I’ll be.

I look back at Wendy, then at Anthony, then at Carl, then down at the ground. I’m positive Carl knows what I did. The look of disappointment in his eyes is too much. Without looking at anyone else, I hurry to the front of the room. I grab Anthony by the hand and push him out the door and shut it behind us so I don’t hear the murmurs from the class that follow us out.

Before Anthony can say anything I take the basket from him, put it on the ground and start digging through it.

"Are you hungry?" He asks.

I ignore him, pull out the card from Carl, the one I switched, and shove it into my pocket.

“What are you doing Leah?” Anthony squats down next to me and I realize he actually looks good in a sash, diaper and pink wings.

“Help me, okay?” I pull out a candy bar and carefully peel the card off of it. “We have to get the cards with my name on them off everything. I need the basket to go to someone else.”

“What are you talking about?” He says.

“I cheated okay?” I take the next card off. “I lost the bet, so I switched a candy bar for someone else with a lollipop for me.”

“You mean you made me wear a diaper for—”

“Get over yourself, you know you enjoyed it. You love being the center of attention.“ I smooth the place where I pulled the card off a candy bar, wishing I had time to re-wrap it and make it look nicer. “I’ll still wear the stupid hotdog costume. I’ll even do it for two games okay?”

“How about the entire state tournament? Our school is hosting it this year.” Anthony grins and reaches into the basket to help me.

I grit my teeth. “Okay whatever, just don’t tell Carl.”

“Don’t tell me what?” Suddenly Carl is standing above me, with his eyebrows raised, watching me tear apart my basket.

I look up at him, wondering how I could have ever missed a guy like that. Not just a guy with pretty eyes and a decent chest. The kind of guy who would give a candy-gram to his little sister, and a Special Ed girl who was having a bad day, and even me, who deserved it less than anyone in the whole school. “I switched the candy-gram you gave me with the one you gave Wendy, I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head, his eyes heavy with disappointment. “Haven’t you got enough--”

“—but I want to make it right.” I finish taking off the cards and hold the basket up to him. “I want to give her these. All of them.” He keeps shaking his head. “And maybe I can get your sister back on the cheer team for the state competition. We had a girl break her ankle, so we really need Kaylee to complete the formation. She was fabulous at camp and she can wear my freshman uniform, and I can work with her after school so she knows the routines. Whatever I can do to help, I’ll do it.”

“What about all the guys who sent you candy-grams?” Carl leans against the wall, a little smile pushing away some of the disappointment in his face.

“I’ll write them all thank you cards.” I say, indicating the pile on the floor next to me, “Just please, stop following me around, making me feel guilty.”

He laughs. “I wasn’t following you. We have three classes together and the same lunch period. We have for this entire semester. You actually borrowed a pen from me in English two weeks ago, before you were trying to win the candy-gram competition.”

“Oh.” Now I feel really stupid; worse than hotdog costume, mustard yellow stupid, and guilty again. “I guess I’ve kind of been wrapped up in--”

“Yourself?” Anthony finishes.

I look down at the floor and think about how terrible I’ve been, to him, to Carl, to Wendy, to Jackson, to pretty much everyone.

“C’mon you two,” Anthony says. “I have one more delivery to make and then I want to get out of this thing, before I get diaper rash.”Carl laughs, and I laugh with relief.

We walk back into the choir room and I whisper my plan to Ms. Blanchett. She nods and calls Wendy to the front of the room. The baseball team sings the first verse of “My Girl,” badly, and Anthony hands her the basket of candy-grams. Wendy gets so excited that she starts shaking and nearly drops the basket. The whole room breaks into applause. Ms. Blanchett wipes her eyes. I realize I’m crying too.

As the bell rings, I try to melt into the crowd so I can fix my mascara, but Carl is there again. I take a deep breath. “Are you busy tonight?” I ask, more nervous than I’ve been for a very long time.

“Don’t you have about a hundred thank you cards to write out?” he says.

“Yeah, but I’d rather start with an ‘I’m sorry.’ How would you like to go to the Pizza Shack with me? I could buy you dinner.”

His face breaks into a grin that reveals a row of braces, on him, very cute. “I think I could handle that. You can just meet me there, I get off at eight.” Carl raises his hand to Anthony and disappears into the crowd.

The room empties and I’m left with Anthony, still shaking his head at me.

“He works at the Pizza Shack, doesn’t he?” I say sheepishly. Anthony’s head shake turns into a nod. “Was I ever rude to him?”

“Most likely, but he’ll get over it.” Anthony takes off his pink wings and tucks them under his arm. “A guy can forgive a lot when you look the way you do. But I suggest you be nice to this one. I don’t want to see you mess things up with only the second decent guy you’ve ever gone out with. ”

I lean into him and put my flirty face back on, thinking about what he said about forgiveness. “You’re not really going to make me wear that hotdog costume for the entire state tournament are you?” Instead of answering, he starts walking away. I gather up my pile of cards and follow him down the hall. “Anthony? C’mon, you actually enjoyed the diaper thing, and you look good in it. It shows off your chest, all the girls said so.” I have to trot to catch up to him. “Maybe I could get the cheer team to cheer for the baesball tournament.” He keeps walking. “Hey, how do you feel about basketball? I have a couple of tickets you could have. Really great seats.” He ignores me and turns toward the locker room, his bow dragging on the ground, his diaper sagging just enough to show off his heart-print underwear.

I stop following him and sigh. The state baseball tournament is months away, maybe the cheerleaders can sell Shamrock-grams or Easter eggs and we could do the competition again. Anthony could be the Easter Bunny or the tallest leprechaun ever, or maybe we I can bet against him getting Prom king. Whatever.

I walk towards the door, feeling good about myself in a different way than I usually do, Excited about my date with the previously unknown Carl. Feeling like maybe this was an okay Valentines Day after all. Feeling like I actually won the bet, even though now I don’t have a single candy-gram.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Firsts: The First Kiss

Ah, the first kiss, an inevitable scene in many young adult novesls (whether they're romance or not) and something that most of us remember, whether for good or bad.
Here are some examples of YA authors describing that first kiss:

Angela Morrison in SING ME TO SLEEP:

His mouth finds mine. He kisses me, soft and tender, whispers, "Does this help too?" And kisses me again. "I've been dreaming about this for  weeks--since we chatted." His lips caress and soothe as much as his hands did. "You've got me in some kind of spell. Am I rushing you?"

"I think--" My eyes drift open. "I want to be rushed." 

Stasia Ward Kehoe, AUDITION:

"It's fun partnering with you."
His face comes close, grinning
Before he brings his lips to mine.

Sometimes the earth shifts beneath your feet
Like jumping on a hill of sand.
What was true and solid begins to slide, disolve.
Your thoughts unravel faster than a satin ribbon
Whose edge hasn't been burned
Until you sit amidst a tangle of limp, pink threads,
Unable to reason
At all.

A fictional representation that's close to my first kiss experience comes from Janette Rallison in ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR, AND HIGH SCHOOL:

Then he leaned over, right there in the restuarant parking lot, and kissed me. And it wasn't a friendly kiss either. It was tender and real and utterly romantic.

As I consider writing that all-important first kiss scene in my work in progress, I have to think back to my own first kiss...

I had just turned sweet-sixteen and never been kissed. (Okay, unless you count my childhood boyfriend. We used to sit on the front row during the children's class and kiss, much to the mortification of my mother who was the music leader. But I digress...)

It was early fall and my friends and I spent the evening hanging out with a group of guys we had met "dragging main" (for a complete description of what dragging main, is refer to my website). I had a huge crush on one of the boys we were with and as the night wore on we progressed from sitting on opposite sides of the back of the pick-up truck we were riding in to cuddling in the middle. It was a beautiful night, the wind in our hair, the bugs in our teeth, just chilly enough to make cuddling a neccesity. Still, no lip action.

Finally it was curfew time for both of us. We met back with the group at his high school (our rival high school) and he walked me to my car. He shut my door behind me, I rolled down the window, he leaned in, I started the car, then it happened--quick, exciting, and very sweet! I drove away to my friend's squealing DID HE KISS YOU? HOW WAS IT? Questions I couldn't answer until I was safely out of his earshot and half-way home.

My friend Gina Rosati, who's book AURACLE comes out August 7th, was kind (and brave) enough to share with me her two "first kiss" stories:

FIRST First kiss was when I was in 1st grade. Chrissy Lane came up to me in class and said "I bet I dare to kiss you" to which I replied, "YOU BETTER NOT!" Later that day, I was walking home and I could hear someone running up behind me. Chrissy kissed me fast on the cheek and kept on running with this very triumphant grin on his face. I was stunned. I figured we had to get married now, obviously, because he'd kissed me, but as tragic fate would have it, he moved not long after that and I never saw him again.

SECOND First kiss (which was like, a real kiss!) was in 9th grade. I had been spending my free periods in a friend's Spanish class (in order to stalk the captain of the football team) but another player thought I was there to stalk him, so he asked me to a movie. Hmm ... the captain didn't seem to know I existed, and this other guy was nice, funny, smart, cute ... so much potential. But his concept of a hug was to put his arms around my shoulders and lift me up so my feet were dangling off the ground. I remember that first kiss as wet, sloppy and badly-in-need-of-a-shave-and-a-breath-mint. I don't remember a second kiss with him.

Real or fictional, that first kiss can be wonderful or a disaster, but always memorable. Are you brave enough to share your first kiss story?