Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Wish List

It's that time of year again! And no, I'm not talking about the holidays (though those are awesome, too). I'm talking about the End Of Semester Woes. Those last 2-3 weeks of the semester where you just have so much to do, you can't make yourself do it. Any of it.

So, in honor of procrastination, here is my holiday wish list, the book version!

YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard
ROOM by Emma Donoghue
GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry
SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal
MEMORY WALL by Anthony Doerr (who is awesome in person, FYI)
BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken
CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick
FLYAWAY by Lucy Christopher
WHORES ON THE HILL by Colleen Curran
THE LINE by Teri Hall

Also, as a side note, everyone needs to go see Tangled. I took my sister to see it over Thanksgiving weekend, and it was AWESOME. I laughed, I cried, and I have to see it again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For Thursday

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. A lot. I'd make a longer list, but it would be lengthy and boring, and nobody would read it. So I thought I'd narrow it down and share with you just a few things I'm feeling especially thankful for.

1. I'm thankful for taking chances.
Isn't there a saying about how you never really get anywhere in life if you don't risk going? I'm sure I paraphrased that horribly, but you know what I mean. You have to take risks if you ever want to succeed, is what it boils down to. And I took a lot of risks this year, all of which paid off. You know why? Because I learned something about myself, and the things I'm capable of. I accepted an internship in a new city, in an unfamiliar part of the country. People still tell me I'm crazy for randomly moving in with Ajah without really knowing her; the two of us admit it was an insane move. But you know what? It was the best decision I've ever made. Not only did I get the internship of my dreams, but I made new friends, gained a sister, and now have a second family that is stuck with me for life.

Also, looking back, I can finally say with certainty that I am thankful for my time in Ireland. Regardless of the assault that really has changed the way I look at things, it was an experience I needed to have. I learned that I can be on my own and not flounder. I learned that I am stronger than I thought. And those are important life lessons to have.

2. I'm thankful for being a writer.
And not just the writing part of it. The last year or so I've really dug my fingers into the publishing world and connected with writers and agents and publishers. My knowledge has grown exponentially, and I still learn something new every day. When things in this industry go awry, like the SPEAK debacle I mentioned a few entries back, I was humbled and honored to be amongst such a tight-knit community. Writing has introduced me to some of my closest friends, and I will always be thankful for them. To everyone at Plagiarism Haven and LTWF, you mean the world to me. I couldn't have grown as a writer, or a person, without you.

3. I am thankful for the friends I still have, and the new ones I've gained.
I didn't realize this until recently, but some of my closest friends I've known for a decade or more. And while that makes me feel old, it's also really awesome to think that I've found the people who will remain in my life until I'm old and saggy. My very best friend lives in NYC now, and I've only gotten to see her once a year (twice, if I'm lucky) since we started college. But every time I talk to her, it reminds me how thankful I am to have her in my life. And in a few short months I'll be living in the same city, and the distance we've had to deal with for so long won't be a problem anymore!

Similarly, Michael and I are still friends. We've weathered just about everything the universe could throw at us, but today our relationship is good. It's solid. And I am proud of that.

But this year I really tried to reach out and make new friends, while also strengthening the ones I already had. PH and LTWF have both helped with that, yet another reason why I will forever be eternally grateful. The Madison Review has been a part of my life since I transferred to Madison in 2008, but I didn't really hang out with the staff outside of events until this year. And what did I gain from that? A whole new set of friends that are even more awesome than I could've imagined.

4. I can't have an 'I'm Thankful' list without mentioning my family.
My parents are the most supportive people I know. Even when they disagree with me, they stand behind my decisions. They trust me to do the right thing, and that is a gift I treasure. Someday, when I have my first book deal, I will dedicate that book to them, and everything they've done for me. They are my rock, and I'd be lost without them.

As for my siblings, I think I really have a lot to be grateful for this year when it comes to them. My sister and I have always had a rocky relationship, and the last few years have been spent rebuilding it. This year, for the first time, I really felt like I had a sister I could talk to. Our relationship is finally the one I'd always hoped for, and that means more to me than you'll ever know. And my brother was a real surprise this year. He called me this summer with all these great plans he had for the rest of his time in college, and what he wanted to do afterward, but what really got me was when he said it was because he wanted to be like me. He wanted to follow his dreams and be excited about something. He gave me the gift of feeling like I'd really accomplished my goal in life - to be a good rolemodel for my siblings. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

So while there are many more things I'm thankful for, these are the most important. These things mean something. And I won't soon forget it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don't Make a Scene: An Excerpt

If you've been following me on Twitter, you'll know I've decided to take a break from OBSESSION to work on something a little more light-hearted. This semester's been insane, and I really needed a story that was more uplifting than a high school shooting.

Enter DON'T MAKE A SCENE. I wrote this one back in high school/freshman year of college. The first draft is just over 82,000 words, so it's a decent length, and as it was the first YA novel I ever completed, it has a special place in my heart. There are a few plot points that definitely need to go, and some characters that need fleshing out, so I've decided to rewrite/revise this one over the next month or two. I'm hoping to have it ready to query by early next year, and if I keep up with it, that shouldn't be a problem. As you can see by the sidebar, I'm doing pretty well! So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, here's a snippet from chapter one! Enjoy!


New Girl Encounters Demon Child

“You can do this,” I muttered under my breath, nervously hiking up my tank top as some guy walking past let out a low whistle. “Piece of cake.”

Staring up at Adams Morgan High School, a brick prison bordered by an endless wasteland of black tar, I couldn’t help but wonder what my mother had been smoking when she’d uprooted us from our happy home in Wisconsin and registered me for the upcoming school year in our nation’s capitol. Kids of every size, shape and color hurried past, forcing me closer and closer to the building looming before me. I had absolutely no desire to walk up those steps and give in to the yearly torture session commonly known as The First Day of School. I hadn’t even made it past the parking lot and people were already trying to kill me.

“Get out of the way,” I heard someone yell, and leapt onto the sidewalk just as a large blue van screamed to a halt where I’d been standing only a second ago. A middle-aged woman was behind the wheel, glaring at me as I swallowed back a scream.

She rolled down the window and called out a warning. “Watch it. People don’t always look where they’re going.”
Clearly, considering the fact Soccer Mom had just nearly turned me into a pancake. Which reminded me that I hadn’t bothered to eat breakfast, and would be paying the price soon enough. Somehow, I always ended up as That Kid. You know, the one whose stomach rumbles all through class and annoys everyone until someone hands over a granola bar, and no matter how much you try to stifle the noise with your hands or a backpack, the growling just gets louder.

“Great,” I muttered, scowling as Soccer Mom pulled away after depositing a blue-haired boy in tattered jeans on the sidewalk. No wonder she seemed so miserable.

Figuring the chance of being run over would be significantly reduced if I went inside, I turned to face the school, taking a tentative step forward.
And ran straight into something very solid. And wet. A boy had been raising his coffee cup to his mouth when we collided, and now something hot was seeping into my clothing. He managed to get off scot-free, but he didn’t look happy about being deprived of his caffeine.
“Thanks a lot, kid,” he snarled, tossing his now empty cup into the trash before storming off. His hoodie covered most of his face, but it was impossible to miss that Roman nose and jutting cheekbones. I wasn’t sure what color his hair was, but I knew it was dark. Unlike most of the other guys I’d seen so far, the coffee spiller had definitely been hot.
Then I remembered my skin was burning. Glancing down, I couldn’t hold back a groan. A large, awkwardly shaped brown splotch had soaked through my thin white t-shirt, and plenty of the boy’s drink had managed to dribble down my leg as well. The August heat wasn’t helping the situation and, bemoaning my coffee-stained clothes that were now suctioned to my body, I figured it was about time I caved and went inside. At least I could see if the office had a spare shirt I could borrow.
Trying to look inconspicuous, despite the poop-colored stains, I made my way up the steps and shoved open the front door. Straight ahead was a set of stairs, and I knew from the map I’d been given that my locker was somewhere on the lower level. I made a beeline through the crowd forming just inside the doors, relaxing when no one else bumped into me or spilled coffee down my shirt.
But my relief was short-lived. Just as I’d put my foot on the first stair, a booming voice cut across the lobby. “You! White t-shirt girl! Get back here.”
As if my day couldn’t get any worse at the moment, when I turned around, a burly security guard was waving me over with a scowl on his face. Everyone was staring, a few shooting confused looks at the coffee stains. I heard someone ask their friend if I was new, but missed the response as the guard, whose faded nametag read ‘Robert Bukowski,’ turned a severe eye to me. “New this year?” he asked in a bored tone, arms crossed over a paunchy stomach. I glanced at his waistband; he didn’t even have a gun. Just a battered old nightstick that looked as though it had been manufactured in 1700.
“Is it that obvious?”
He held out his hand and I stared at it, wondering if he intended for me to shake it. When he just continued to frown, I tentatively placed my hand in his and pumped it twice. Behind me, someone snickered.
“Bag, please,” Robert ordered. It wasn’t hard to miss the annoyance creeping into his voice. There were two other security guards, but I was clearly holding up the line. I handed over my backpack and watched as he made a cursory glance though my belongings. Secretly I wondered if this could be considered an invasion of privacy. Then I had to ask myself why there were security guards going through our things in the first place. The school’s brochure hadn’t mentioned any recent school shootings or bomb threats, but I suppose that’s not the kind of thing you’d want advertised. Maybe Mom was secretly hoping someone would knife me so we could sue the school, win a bunch of money, and move out of my grandparents’ house. It was conniving, but I wouldn’t put it past her.
Eventually Robert handed me back my things, satisfied that I wasn’t trying to smuggle in a pipe bomb or an AK47. I moved off to the side to dig out the scrap of paper with my locker number on it, and when I looked up, realized I hadn’t actually taken in my surroundings yet. I guess it was probably a good thing, though, since what I saw made me want to vomit.
I’m not sure what I’d expected from Adams Morgan High School, but coming from a small town high school that was pretty old, I’d figured this place would be a step up or two. Boy, was I wrong. AMHS made my old school look like a palace. Everything just screamed “tacky.” The floors were covered in black laminate, a few squares coming up at the edges. The walls were tiled in some kind of puce green, decorated with colorful posters I could only assume had been printed to cover the obvious monstrosity. The lockers were probably the worst of all, though, alternating between salmon and forest green, all of them sporting a fair amount of rust and dings.

Afraid of what else I might find should I allow myself to linger, I headed back toward the stairs and spent the next ten minutes tracking down my locker, which was tucked in the corner of a random hallway, next to the boy’s bathroom. It wasn’t even 7:30, and already it smelled. Awesome.

It took a few tries, but eventually I managed to get the thing open. The puke-green metal was rusted, and the door had a massive dent in it, but at least I had one small space in this school I could call my own. I dug out a few photos from my backpack, along with the tape I’d stolen from my mom’s office, and got to work. As I hung pictures of me and my mom, my grandparents, and my old house, kids ran back and forth down the hallway, rushing to beat the bell. Since I had a meeting with Principal Webber first thing, I didn’t really care if I was late; I’d just tell him I’d gotten lost.

After I finished with my locker, I headed back to the main level. The lobby was blessedly quiet, the hallways empty. Robert the security guard was nowhere to be seen, but neither was anyone else. I looked around for a sign that might point me in the right direction, but AMHS apparently had no desire to help their students in times of crisis.

With a dejected sigh, I leaned back against a pillar, blowing brown fringe out of my eyes. I’d pulled my hair back into a ponytail, but already pieces were falling out of the elastic, tickling my shoulders. I tucked them behind my ear, but after a few failed attempts, gave up. I’d tried to change my look before moving to D.C., but I still wasn’t sure I liked it. This morning, nothing was going my way, and even if I’d still had long hair, I doubt it would’ve been cooperative.

Knock it off, I told myself, squaring my shoulders as I looked around the lobby. Enough with the pity party. I had a meeting to get to, and I was already late; at this point, I wouldn’t even be lying when I told Principal Webber I’d gotten lost. The walls were all void of helpful signage, but there was a hideous two-story mural and an outdated bulletin board. I could just make out a poster advertising last year’s prom, and what looked like a sign-up sheet for volunteering at the local soup kitchen. From what I could tell, it was empty.

Deciding I’d never get to the office if I didn’t even try to find it, I eeny-meeny-miny-moed it and ended up taking the hallway to my left. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find the main office. In fact, other than the cafeteria and the gym, there was only one other door on this side of the school. Lucky for me, it was the one I was looking for.

The administration’s inner sanctum was a step up from Adams Morgan’s grimy halls, but not by much. Walls that I assumed had once been white were adorned with cheap imitations of famous paintings, and an ancient chalkboard listed this week’s goals for both students and staff. The office smelled of coffee and stale donuts, a plate of which was sitting out, undisturbed. There was a row of orange plastic chairs along one wall, so I dropped into one, tapping my foot nervously in time with the oldies coming from the radio on the receptionist’s abandoned desk.

The office was completely empty, and I spent a good fifteen minutes watching the hands on the tiny clock tick away the time. At one point I decided that the room smelled more like cat lady than stale donuts, and when the receptionist finally returned and took down my name, I knew why. She flashed me a warm, albeit toothy grin, then disappeared down a narrow hallway that led away from my seat. Doors lined either side, and all but one of them was open. The closed door labeled ‘M. Webber’ was closest to me, and I could hear muted voices arguing behind it. Being a girl, and thus inherently nosey, I scooted the chair over a few inches, hoping to make out part of the argument. I wasn’t much for gossip, but I knew absolutely nothing about this school, and I needed some kind of assurance that the kids here weren’t all blue-haired hooligans, drug addicts, or sweatshirt-wearing douche bags.

Nobody had come in since I’d taken a seat nearly twenty minutes ago, so I wasn’t worried about looking weird as I leaned to my left, my anxiety rising as the voices behind the door grew progressively louder. Still unable to make out more than a few words, I scooted the chair even closer, unaware that I was leaning so far that the only thing supporting me was the chair’s two left legs. Just as I’d made out a few curse words and someone beginning a Hail Mary, the door flew open and I toppled over.

“Out of the way,” someone snapped, and I glanced up to see the guy whose coffee had ruined my outfit. I’m not sure if he recognized me or not, but this time I made sure to get a better look at him. It wasn’t hard, considering he had to stop and find a way around me. I gave myself props for guessing correctly this morning; definitely brown hair. In fact, it was probably closer to black than brown. His hood was down, and though it looked like had hadn’t taken the time to brush his hair this morning, the disheveled look worked for him. I’m sure a smile would do wonders for his face, if the kid even knew how. Right now he was glaring at me like I was the antichrist.

Eventually he just decided to step over me, and I watched in bewilderment as he stormed out of the office, a stack of papers falling to the ground as he whizzed past.

“Lacey Radner?” a disgruntled voice called out.

Glancing up from where I sat sprawled on the orange shag carpet, I spotted a weathered old man poking his head out of the door Demon Child had just exited. He looked confused to see me on the floor, rather than in a chair, but made no comment.

“That’s me,” I squeaked, gathering up my things and scrambling to right myself and the chair I’d been sitting on.

“I’m Principal Webber,” the man said, extending a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.” And though he didn’t say it, I heard the double meaning in his words: Please don’t let this be a repeat of my last meeting. I couldn’t blame him.

“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied, thankful that at least this man wanted to shake hands; my earlier encounter with Robert had made me wary.

The office I stepped into was missing the shag carpet of the outer office, and the chair Principal Webber offered me was new and made of leather. I breathed a sigh of relief, plopping down onto it and dropping my bag to the floor. The wall behind me was decorated with plaques and photos of the school’s sports teams. Someone must have painted recently, because the dingy eggshell I’d seen earlier had been replaced with a fresh coat of white, and the bay window let in plenty of light. Though most of what I’d seen of AMHS so far had not been pleasant, I was happy to see that at least one person took care of their space.

“So,” the older man said, taking a seat behind his desk and placing his hands on his paunch belly. “What brings you to Adams Morgan? Needed a better education?” His eyes twinkled in amusement. I spotted an open file on the desk that contained my transcripts. Even from where I sat, I could see the straight line of A’s down the page.

“Something like that,” I said, smiling politely. I saw his eyes drop to the stain on my shirt, and quickly pulled my backpack into my lap to try to cover it.

“I have your schedule here somewhere,” Principal Webber muttered, shuffling papers across his desk. “Give me a minute.” When he finally extracted it from beneath a large book entitled Administration 101: How to Make Your Students Like You While Still Remaining an Authoritative Figure, there was a large tear down the middle. “Nothing a little tape won’t fix,” he proclaimed with a smile, handing it over.

“No worries,” I replied, taking the battered piece of paper from him. Despite the man’s obvious lack of organizational skills, I found that I liked him immensely. Maybe because he reminded me a bit of my grandpa, or maybe because he was the only person this morning who’d even bothered to smile at me. Either way, he seemed perfectly harmless.

“I see that you’re taking nearly all AP classes. Very impressive, Miss Radner.”

“Lacey,” I corrected. “And thanks. I think.” Skimming over the courses listed, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me as I spotted a rather unexpected, nasty surprise. “Um, Mr. Webber?” I pointed at the undesired class. “I never signed up for P.E.”

He chuckled, ignoring my horrified expression. “Everyone here has to take four years of P.E. You’ll be fine.”

I was pretty sure P.E. would be a nightmare, knowing how uncoordinated I was, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. There was no way I’d be able to get out of taking it, especially considering the fact that I’d never had to take a gym class in my life.

This day was just getting better and better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Upcoming Book Reviews

I've received quite a few books lately, thanks to some lovely people and lovely contests. Here are some of the book reviews you have to look forward to. Probably once the semester is over and I have a month to do absolutely nothing.

THE UNWRITTEN RULE by Elizabeth Scott
LADY LAZARUS by Michele Lang
HEART DANCE by Robin D. Owens
BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK by Helena Andrews
PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White
LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld
SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready
INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

Any suggestions on where you'd like me to start?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Recommendation: Mockingjay

Vanessa Di Gregorio and I wrote this back in August and posted it on LTWF, but I somehow forgot to post it here as well. Go figure. So! Here is a spoiler-free review of MOCKINGJAY, and just in time for your holiday shopping! In the spirit of goodwill and literacy, you should probably just get everyone this series.


MOCKINGJAY, by Suzanne Collins
Published August 24th, 2010 by Scholastic
400 pages

As you probably all know, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the last installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. And we must say, it was worth the wait! Perhaps we didn’t love it as much as we loved The Hunger Games (though the jury’s still out on that one, in Sammy’s case); but there’s no doubt about how good a read it is. Now, in order not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t yet read it, we will be as vague as humanly possible.

So here’s our vague summary: Some stuff happens (some of it quite epic). Some people die. There’s a climax and a conclusion. And you will laugh, and you will cry. The end!

But in all seriousness, what is so brilliant about MOCKINGJAY is the way it resolves many of the series’ conflicts. And there are a lot of conflicts. In this novel, we find the Capitol once again at odds with the Districts, find Katniss fighting with almost everyone, and we see Katniss, Gale, and Peeta all struggling with themselves and each other. The most notable aspect of this novel is how it leaves you thinking about the horror that is war, and its consequences. Katniss and her friends aren’t spared from this cruelty, and deaths (which there are many of) occur quickly and furiously. We would find ourselves stopping to try and absorb what was happening, as the pacing during the action-heavy scenes is rather quick. However, we found that it worked really well and was far more realistic than if Collins had stopped to dwell on each and every individual death. Because in war, you lose friends, and you lose them quickly. You don’t have time to stop and think because thinking is what could get you killed, and by using that same tactic in the book it was, we felt, far more brutal and painful.

However, the book (which is spilt up into three parts) lacks the same urgency that is felt in the previous two titles of the trilogy. The story begins slowly, with Katniss absorbing everything that has happened since (and there’s a lot). And as the bits and pieces fall into place, we’re faced with a relatively slower pace for the first half of the book. Considering how CATCHING FIRE ended, we had assumed that this book would start off in medias res. But while it doesn’t start off with furious pacing, it does certainly end off with one. And if the book had started off where Katniss just hit the ground running, it probably would have been a much less effective opening. So much transpired during the first two books, especially at the end of CATCHING FIRE, so it seems fitting to give Katniss some time to think things through (and there is a lot to think about!).

Peeta was by far the greatest surprise for us. His character is wonderfully explored in ways not seen in the previous books. He changes from the sweet, optimistic son of a baker to a scarred and brooding shell of a man. In some ways, Peeta has endured even more than Katniss, and everything that he has experienced up until now has really brought out a new side in him that, at times, can be really hard to handle. Because the books are told from Katniss’s point of view, sometimes it can be challenging to really get into the heads of other characters, but we believe Peeta was really challenged and explored in this last enstallment, and really rounded out an already beloved character. We may even like him better after this book, if that was at all possible.

Another aspect of the series that is really explored is the idea of good versus evil; which side, if any, is the enemy. Up until this point in the trilogy, we were led to believe that the Capitol was the root of all evil, but what if that wasn’t the case? Corruption exists everywhere, not just within the confines of the Capitol, and the way Collins portrays both sides is wonderful; neither the Captiol nor the rebels are perfect. She also does an excellent job instilling doubt in both her characters as well as her readers. If the supposed “good guys” aren’t always so good, what does that say about the “bad guys?” It’s really left up to the reader to decide which side they ultimately believe in.

The story is shocking, thought-provoking, and original. What we would’ve loved, though, was being able to see what was happening, instead of being told. There are a lot of blackouts in this novel which, sadly, means that we are told of events after the fact. And while it’s understandable to use one or two, it happened enough that it began to take away from the urgency of the later half of the book. We felt like a lot of the tension was lost each time Katniss woke up and was told what had happened while she was unconscious. Some of it was pretty intense, and it would’ve been really nice to have seen Katniss in those situations, rather than knocked out and on the sidelines.

There is also a lot of explaining; perhaps a bit too much at times. The Hanging Tree song was explained at great length as Katniss remembers the significance of the song. It felt a bit too much; we certainly didn’t need to be told what it was about for over a page, and we’re sure younger readers would have understood it as well. But we certainly can’t say Collins doesn’t trust her readers to understand complex ideas or issues, because this trilogy is full of it; MOCKINGJAY especially. Which is one of the reasons why this series is so good.

We did love that the romance wasn’t so blaringly obvious in this book; in fact, there wasn’t really much romance at all. With everything going on, Katniss didn’t have time to think about whether or not she’d rather be making out with Gale or Peeta. Everything about the romance was very toned down and simplified, and really worked to keep the tension surrounding the revolution very immediate. The little romance that is in the book doesn’t take away from the trilogy’s overall theme and message. Some readers will definitely be disappointed by the lack of romance, but we felt that it worked incredibly well with the overall story/series arc. It would’ve ruined the book if it had been included more.

And that ending! It is bittersweet and haunting, and includes an epilogue that actually works. Though the epilogue might not be necessary, it ends the trilogy with an absolutely wonderful visual; one of hope. After everything that has happened to Katniss, the ending was perfect.

All that being said, MOCKINGJAY is a must-read, especially if you’ve read THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE. Collins has written a wonderful story featuring a remarkably strong heroine who suffers through heartbreak, hunger, and the horrors of war. It is gripping, edge-of-your-seat suspenseful; and not at all what you will have predicted. If you haven’t picked up this book (or this trilogy, for that matter), you are missing out! So, we definitely recommend you read this.

Actually, we insist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Recommendation: Ballistics

I've never really liked poetry. Sure, I own a book of Emily Dickinson poems that I occasionally enjoy digging up, and there are a few Edgar Allen Poe poems that I absolutely adore. Hell, if I could marry Shakespeare, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But for the most part, I'm not poetry's #1 fan, despite my best efforts. I've had to read plenty in my time as an English/Creative Writing major; I think that goes without saying. I understand the merits involved in teaching it, especially the older stuff like Chaucer and Spenser (oddly enough, I was the only kid in my class who enjoyed THE FAERIE QUEENE). But as far as personal preference goes, poetry will never be my go-to genre when I feel like reading.

That being said, I have some exciting news for us non-poetry-enthusiasts! There is poetry out there (modern stuff -- I'm not talking CANTERBURY TALES anymore) that is good!

BALLISTICS, by Billy Collins
Published September 9th, 2008 by Random House
128 Pages

A friend recently lent me a copy of Billy Collins' BALLISTICS, and I'm actually considering purchasing my own. I have to admit, I was leery at first. Most of the more modern poetry I've read I haven't enjoyed, but I was willing to give this one a shot. If anything, I really liked the cover, and god knows the art history buff in me can't resist a good cover. So I sat down one afternoon between classes and opened up BALLISTICS.

I finished the book the same day I started. Each time I turned the page I'd tell myself just one more poem, and eventually I just ran out of them. I liked the sequence of the poems; even though there is no plot in a collection of poetry, I almost felt as though there was one tucked away in this book. I felt as though I were reading an actual story, rather than a bunch of poems.

There were two poems in particular that really stood out to me: "Adage" and "Evasive Maneuvers." The language is just incredible, and I definitely came across a few lines I wish I'd written myself. Here's just a stanza from "Evasive Maneuvers":

And I hid behind books,
usually one of the volumes of the encyclopedia
that was kept behind glass in a bookcase, 
the letters of the alphabet in gold.

And an excerpt from "Adage":

When it's late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter

of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it's a little more complicated than that.

It's more like trading the two birds
who might be hiding in that bush
for the one you are not holding in your hand.

There's just something so simple and beautiful about the way he puts words and ideas together. THAT is what I feel poetry should be. Maybe Billy Collins is just easily accessible, making it easy for just about anyone to like his work. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. I thought BALLISTICS was really charming, and now I'm eager to pick up one of his other collections.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Font Snob

I just couldn't help but laugh when I saw this on

Friday, November 5, 2010

All In Good Fun

Because this relates to books, and is made of nothing but win, I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


As I'm sure you're all well-aware, National Novel Writing Month began yesterday. That joyous time of year when us writerly folk dedicate ourselves to churning out 50,000 words of pure and utter crap, which we then agonize over revising in December. That joyous time of year when we turn down dinner dates and skip class in order to complete our daily word count. When we forget to eat. Or sleep. Or basically function outside our novel.

I won't lie when I say I live for November. I'd heard about NaNo for years, but didn't actually begin participating until 2008. That year I wrote probably the worst story of my life; to this day, I'm still embarrassed to let anyone read it. Then last year I used NaNo to write the first half of my senior thesis. Granted, the first draft was complete shit, but! The resulting edits and completion of the novel landed me with a pretty solid manuscript, if I do say so myself. 

Up until about a week ago, I wasn't sure if I was going to participate this year. I've basically been married to my studies this semester and I thought maybe I'd sit this one out. Let one year pass in which I didn't nearly kill myself by slaving over a manuscript that would eventually need so much work, I'd nearly die a second time. My box of potential story ideas offered nothing inspiring for the coming month and I sat, dejectedly, wondering what my life would be like should it be NaNoless for a year.

Then I thought to myself, why don't I just cheat? I'm halfway through OBSESSION and need a push to finish it. Maybe NaNo would be just the ticket!

So here I am, day two of NaNoWriMo 2010, sitting on a 21,059 word manuscript. I have both the beginning and end, but now I need that chunk in the middle. The part of my story where life gets miserable, and I have a hard time writing because the subject matter is tough. But if I can push through this month, I should have a completed first draft, and can finally move on to the more enjoyable aspect of revising. I love OBSESSION. I like the idea behind it. I like that it isn't happy, and that it doesn't have a happy ending. I don't think every book needs that.

So yes, I'm cheating. I'm not writing 50,000 words, I'm writing about 30,000. But a writer's got to do what a writer's got to do. Good ol' NaNo. I knew you'd never let me down.

Anyone else participating this year?