Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the announcement

About a week ago, in Jon Stewart-style, I announced on my Faking It Fans site on Facebook that I'd be making an announcement soon.

Well, here it is:
Today AmazonEncore released its spring additions to their publishing list, and I'm on it! That's right-- Faking It and Ordinary World will be re-released in March 2011 (complete with spiffy new cover art) as AmazonEncore books.

I'm thrilled amd super excited. :)

From the get-go, AE has been such a pleasure to work with. From day one, they've showed enthusiasm for my writing, and invited me through every step of the process of bringing my books to the public come March, from cover design to copyediting to marketing and promotion. I am pleased with my decision, and looking forward to working with them for a long time.

In the meantime, be sure to check out AE's current list (available in both print and ebook), including my friend Rob Kroese's Mercury Falls, and Karen McQuestion's Kindle Top Ten bestseller A Scattered Life.

Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2010

heart with joy

For the past week I've been trying to compose a post that encompasses the depth of awesome that is my life right now. I'm using that word in its true meaning. As I said the other night during a Q&A, "I'm having a fantastic year." Just in the last week, I've met three people who have inspired me throughout my life: Patrick McDonnell (creator of the award-winning comic strip Mutts), David Newall (aka "Speedy Delivery" Mr. McFeely, from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood), and, perhaps most notably, Aaron Sorkin.

I could've blogged about every single one. And I wanted to, but the words didn't seem to come.

Instead, I wanted to blog about what was behind the manifestation of these fortunes: the intention. The things that have come to me this year have all been the result of an intention I set. I visualized (not fantasized--that's a completely different action) my book on bookshelves, being read and enjoyed by people not related to or friendly with me. I visualized shaking hands with Aaron Sorkin, exchanging pleasantries, seeing him not as a star or a hero, but as a writer who is every bit as terrified of the blank page as I am. And meeting Mr. McFeely was the closest I could ever come to meeting Fred Rogers--he was definitely present--and there wasn't an adult there who wasn't as giddy as I was (especially when he brought out the puppets!). Our inner children had been tapped, and we were reminded of how special we are because we are each unique.

This past Saturday, I filled in for Stacey Cochran as MC for the latest Write2Publish event at Quail Ridge Books & Music. I intereviewed award-winning author Steve Cushman, whose latest novel, Heart With Joy, is an endearing tale about connecting to our authentic selves through the things (and people) we love. I ended the event on a cheesy but seemingly appropriate question: "What fills your heart with joy?"

If someone had asked me that question, I would've told them about my friend Larry, who'd called me an hour before the event to tell me about a woman he'd met who lost her spouse, that he told her all about my novel Ordinary World. And he thanked me again for creating Andi.

I would've told them about sitting in It's a Grind or Crema Coffee, breaking off pieces of a chocolate chip muffin or sipping vanilla chai, sometimes hanging out with my friend Susan, working on my latest manuscript.

I would've told them about the 2-hr phone conversation with my sister that passed like 10 minutes. Or the texts from my twin brother that had me in stitches.

I would've told them about driving in my Volkswagon Beetle with the windows down, on a great hair day, Duran Duran blasting away.

I would've told them about seeing Daniel Striped Tiger up close, and waving to him.

I would've told them stories about my grandmother, about my siblings, about their music.

I would've told them about walking on the beach off season on the east end of Long Island, or down Main Street in Sag Harbor.

I would've told them to get The West Wing from Netflix. Or The Big Bang Theory. Or the old Marx Bros. movies.

I would've told them about my writing partner and our discussions about our novel.

I would've told them about the "friends I've never met" (you know who you are!).

I would've told them two words: pop tarts.

I would've told them, quite simply, writing. Even on the days when it's sucking.

I have my bad days, my struggles and insecurities, my wasted time and procrastination, my fears and lost opportunities like everyone else. But I also have gratitude for the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a blessed life.

What intentions will you set for yourself today? I'm not talking word or calorie counts, to-do lists or goal-setting. I'm talking intention -- the vision of your life in its highest form. And what fills your heart with joy? How can or do you fill it on a daily basis?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

my annual peace message

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

More than ever, we need this day to be observed as one of peace than protest. We need this to be a national day (better yet, an international one) of forgiveness than vengeance. And yes, we need to be mindful of our freedom--not just of religion and speech, or from the tyranny and terrorism of others, but freedom from our own violence and hate, discrimination and bullyism. Because we are so much more than that, and we know it.

If we are the Christian nation that a few insist we are, then the way of the cross is to forgive those who persecute us. The way of the cross is to put down our weapons and help those who are victims of flood, victims of famine, of gender persecution, human trafficking, poverty, disease. The way of the cross is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

But we are so much more than that, too, and we know it.

This is a day of remembrance. I remember the day so well. I remember the black smoke against blue sky. I remember hugging colleagues. I remember the fear in my dear Egyptian, Muslim friend's eyes as she feared her American-born child would be taken away from her. I remember praying for the safety of my best friend who worked in the building next door to the towers, and the cry of relief when I found out she and her husband survived and were safe. I remember being humbled to be a New Yorker, to be an American. I remember what being united felt like. I remember a 13-year-old boy who said, on camera, "This would be a truly civilized society if we responded without violence."

We still can.

I've never said it's easy. Often I struggle myself. But then I remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who knew what terrorism felt like. I remember Gandhi, who knew what oppression from an occupying nation was. They understood nonviolent resistance, and we never give it the credit it deserves. It worked, after all. It's a viable option.

More than ever, we need this to be a day of peace and remembrance. So let's remember when strangers carried a woman in a wheelchair down countless flights in a building ready to crumble. Let's remember the outpouring of love from those who donated bottles of water, sandwiches, Hershey bars, and words of encouragement to rescue workers. Let's remember those people we called to say, "I'm sorry," "I forgive you," "Please forgive me," and "I love you." This is the greatest way to honor those who died that day, and those who have sacrificed their lives since.

If you want to end terrorism, practice peace.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

today's writing forecast: cloudy, with a chance of suckage

Last night my writing partner and I spoke on the phone after what was (for both of us, agreeably) a too-long hiatus. (Hey, sometimes life gets in the way.) Besides catching up, we discussed the recently updated To-do list for Why I Love Singlehood (thankfully, the list seems to be getting smaller).

"Did you happen to read the draft I sent of the final chapter?" I asked.
"I think so," she replied.
"You would know," I said. "It sucked big time."
"Oh, that one," she said with a laugh. "It was rough, yes. But I wouldn't say it sucked."
"I would. There's a fine line between 'rough' and 'suckage', and I crossed it."

I had considered posting that as my Facebook status, but decided it could be horribly misinterpreted. We decided instead that it would make a good forecast, only I made a slight edit, from "rough" to "cloudy". The latter is less accurate as far as I'm concerned; but it's also less, er... suggestive.

"Is it me, or have we been editing and revising this thing for a really long time?" my writing partner asked.
"Yes, we have," I answered. But, I assured her, this was not a bad thing.

Sure, the long distance communication, the patchwork fashion in which this novel was put together, the interruptions of life and other jobs along the way has made this a rather unorthodox process in every aspect, not just time. But I also reminded her that the blood, sweat, tears, and time have always been in the revision process. Sooner or later (preferably sooner), we'll call the draft "finished". But we'll do it only when we feel confident that we've put out a product worthy of our readers, something that will give them pleasure, make 'em laugh, make 'em think, make 'em crave a cookie to go along with their next latte. Something we would love to read.

We're almost there. We're so close. And we can't wait for you to read it.

In the meantime, we've got work to do. We've got rough edges that need smoothing. We've got poorly constructed sentences that need refinement. We've got loose ends that need tying. We've got suckage that needs... well, we've got to make it not suck.

I'm confident we're gonna get it done. In fact, don't look now, but here comes the sun.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

for Sylvie

Holy cow, it's been almost a month since I've posted? Whoa. Let's just chalk it up to enjoying the rest of summer break, working hard on the new novel, prepping for a new semester of teaching, and a bit of blogger's block.

Oh, and I've gotten completely hooked on The Big Bang Theory. I'm almost done watching Season 2 (thank you, Netflix!)

The first time I sold a book to someone I didn't know, I remember the bizarre feeling, almost like letting strangers walk through your bedroom when it's at its messiest. My hand shook as I signed it for her. When Faking It and Ordinary World took off on Kindle this year, the feeling was multiplied several times over. Not only were people I'd never met reading my books, but readers all across the country (and eventually Canada and the UK) were too!

Despite the weird feeling, this eventually pleased me, of course, and I was especially touched by those who had taken the time to write and tell me what the books had meant to them. Some had shared personal feelings and stories, especially of their own loss, and I never could have known six years ago that Andi was going to mean anything to anyone other than myself.

A few months ago one of my rhet-comp mentors called me out of the blue. She had been driving with a good friend of hers named Sylvie, who happened to mention this terrific book she'd just read on her Kindle that she just had to recommend. It just so happened to be Faking It.

"Oh, I know that book," said my friend to Sylvie. "In fact, I know the author. I'm listed in her acknowledgements."

Sylvie was beside herself. My friend put her on the phone to speak to me, where she complimented my work and was so pleased to be speaking to an author in person. The conversation had made my day as well -- how cool was it for someone I didn't know to recommend my book to one of my good friends!

Sadly, last week I found out that Sylvie was killed in a car accident on Staten Island. When I offered condolences to my friend for her loss, she told me that Sylvie had loved Ordinary World just as much as Faking It. This touched me deeply.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at here, except to say that most of us never know how we make a difference in another's life, especially someone we don't know or have never met. One doesn't need to write a book in order to touch another person's life. It can be as simple as a smile on the subway, holding the door open for a woman with a stroller, paying for a customer's cup of coffee just because. Little, random acts of kindness are contagious, and in some cases can actually be life-changing. Try it.