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Friday, March 27, 2009

Last week my daughter had to choose an author to do a report on. She told her teacher she wanted to do me, but the teacher thought she'd have an unfair advantage in the research department, considering we live in the same house. So she decided to write about Judy Blume.

I know that she didn't pick Judy because she's read all of her books, because she hasn't. Or that she knew all of Judy's accomplishments, because she doesn't. She chose Judy because she got to hang out at Judy's house and go kayaking, and she still thinks it was one of the funnest (most fun?) things she's ever done.

Every summer we go to Martha's Vineyard, and Judy has a house on the Vineyard. It was the summer that EVERYTHING came out and the Martha's Vineyard Book Festival asked me to speak.

So there I was on a warm Sunday morning in August speaking to a group of people under a white tent at the Chilmark Community Center, and at the end of my little talk I asked if anyone had any questions. A woman sitting toward the back raised her hand and stood up. She had on a baseball cap and sunglasses. Before asking her question she proceeded to remove the sunglasses and baseball cap. At which point I realized it wasn't just a curious reader, it was Judy Blume. All I could say was, "Everyone, that's Judy Blume." And thank god I actually knew what she looked like!

It was quite surreal. Judy and her husband and I talked afterward and she was so gracious and lovely and sharp as a tack - the woman has no problem speaking her mind, as you'd imagine. Not to mention she's really very pretty.

Then a few days later I received an email inviting my family to Judy's house for an afternoon. Me at Judy Blume's house. The woman who wrote DEENIE, and STARRING SALLY J. and ARE YOU THERE GOD? Talk about surreal. Of course I said yes.

We spent the afternoon with Judy and her husband, drinking wine and having cheese and crackers, watching the kids kayak on the pond, walking around the property, seeing where she writes. Needless to say it was pretty cool. And when I mentioned that I loved reading Norma Klein as a girl, Judy told me that she'd been very good friends with Norma and relayed some fascinating stories - a total bonus.

So that's the real reason my daughter chose to write about Judy Blume. Because she has a cool rope swing in her yard. Because there are geese droppings you have to tiptoe around - and geese too! Because she has kayaks and overlooks the pond. Because her place on the Vineyard resemembles a really neat sleepaway camp. And sure, she writes books, too.

The trade paperback version of EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME comes out in April - if you're a fan, check it out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's Your Theme Song?

Lauren over at Shooting Star Mag ran a very cool contest to win an arc of Shrinking Violet. Entrants were asked to pick a song that they thought would represent a shy girl. The main character in Shrinking Violet, Tere, is painfully shy and has to overcome her fears and deal with the bullies in her life to reach her dream of being a DJ. Over sixty people entered and I listened to each and every one of the songs. The grand prize winner was India. Arie's Beautiful Flower, chosen by blogger Alyce. There were also two runner-ups. You can check everything out here: http://shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com/2009/03/shrinking-violet-winners.html.

I really enjoyed listening to all the different types of songs and was introduced to some new artists as well as rediscovered some old favorites. So it got me thinking that every book needs a theme song. For my next book, Indigo Blues (Flux, Fall 2010), I listened to the song, Pictures of You by The Cure a lot while writing so that is my theme song for that book.

So now I want to know, what is your book's theme song? Or better yet, what it your own personal theme song?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Ballads of Suburbia cover revealed!

I know a lot of people have been wondering what the cover of Ballads of Suburbia looks like and I've been going nuts because I've known for a few months now, but final touches needed to be made and approvals gotten. This has been a terrible, awful, anxiety-filled week because one of my cats is really sick, but the bright spot of my day is that I finally get to share this with you:

(click on the cover to see it larger!)

There it is. I love it in a completely different way than the last cover. That cover was like instant love. This one I had to ponder briefly. The lettering of Suburbia is perfect; it matches the cover of the notebook my characters keep in the book. But because Ballads of Suburbia is set in a real place, and this is not a photo of the real place, that threw me for a minute. Then I realized that this is wayyyy more visually interesting than the real place. And the sky, the duck, it makes the photo so eerie and unsettling- not in like a horror movie way, but in a "bad things will happen in this innocent-seeming place" way, which totally fits the book. The shadow of the duck, the boot prints in the sand, the streetlights. It's just perfect. The only thing I asked was if there could be some evidence that teenagers were there: cigarette butts, beer bottles, graffiti. They went with the last option and added that graffiti on the slide. I think it was the perfect touch.

So yeah, I'm thrilled and I'm hoping the cover draws you in and makes you wonder "Man, what is going to happen in this place, in the book behind this cover."

Here is the back jacket copy for those of you who haven't heard about it yet:

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

My website will be re-launched next week with a new Ballads of Suburbia look to it and you'll be able to learn more about the real Scoville Park and read the first chapter (though you already can read an earlier version of it here). I'll also have a book trailer coming soon and will be running contests for ARCs, so keep an eye on my blog. My street team always gets news first, so you may want to join. And of course if you're psyched, you can preorder from Amazon :)

So let me know what you think of the cover and please, as a favor, send good energy/thoughts to my sick kitty Sid.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You don't want to hear from me...

Not today.

Today is for leprechauns and the wearin' o the green and corned beef and cabbage.

Today is also the release date for our own Jennifer Echols' Going Too Far. And seriously, you want to go run right out and pick this up. I've had mine for a week-- *is smug*-- and let me tell you, it's been well worth the wait for this one to be released. I wanted to read it from the first time Jenn mentioned it to me, oh... two years ago, is it?

It's a beautiful story, beautifully written, and will stay with you for a long time afterward.

As for me, I'm going to go look for a pot o'gold or somethin'...

Happy St. Paddy's everyone! And congrats, Jenn! You done good.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beware the Ides of March

It’s March 15, and you know what that means. Yes, it’s two days before the official release of Going Too Far, but it’s also the day the action starts in the book. Meg is working in her parents’ diner this afternoon, looking forward to the end of her shift so she can sneak out with Eric (DON’T DO IT MEG) and end up on a railroad bridge in the middle of the night (BAD IDEA MEG). Can’t you feel the air buzzing with tension? I know everybody at my house is on edge, waiting for this book to start.

Then of course we have March 17 to look forward to. I hope everyone will celebrate St. Paddy’s Day AND the book release with a little Spending O’ The Green!

On Friday, April 3, I’ll be signing Going Too Far at the Little Professor Bookstore in Homewood, Alabama, from 4 to 5 p.m. I beg encourage you to attend. Believe it or not, even best-selling authors sometimes have book signings with low attendance, but it’s still a fate worse than death embarrassing, and I want to show the kind folks at this bookstore that I can draw my own mother plus one other person who honestly just wandered in looking for a copy of Twilight a huge crowd.

And then, sometime after that, my hometown of Birmingham is having a parade for me! Strangely, they have not quite pinned down the date just yet, but I have created this mock-up of what it might look like.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The End? Not Even Close

A few minutes ago I finished a YA manuscript I've been working on for eight months. Writing it has been great fun and a new experience, since it's my first humorous novel-length work. Although it feels fantastic to type "the end" at the bottom of a story, the real end is a long, long time in the future.
Seconds after typing the last word, I dashed off an e-mail to my writing group, attached my ms, and pressed SEND before I could change my mind. If I allow myself to start reviewing what I've written, I'll begin revising before they have a chance to give me feedback. And, right now I'm much too close to what I've written to be objective.
While I'm waiting for their comments, I'll tackle some projects I've been neglecting. I can update my Web site, add content to my Author Profile at S&S and AuthorsNow!, wash some windows, and dump the green stuff out of the jar at the back of my fridge. On second thought, I may ignore the inner voice telling me to rinse and recycle and toss it unopened in the trash. 
The next round of work on my ms comes after the talented members of my writing group give me their comments and suggestions. Their feedback is unfailingly excellent, but they seldom agree on the changes I should make. We discuss and debate, but it's up to me to sift through their ideas and decide what and how to revise. When those revisions are finished, they'll be gracious enough to read and discuss the whole story again. They're a brave and wonderful group!
After a series of revisions, my manuscript will be ready to show to my agent. It's a good thing she's a fast reader because I generally pace back and forth until I hear her verdict. If she gives the story a thumbs up, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing the future of my manuscript is in her market-savvy hands.
My story has many adventures ahead as it travels into the world of editors and publishers. The characters may change, the story line might be altered, the title could be scrapped for a better one. Whatever  happens, it's certain that the words I typed today are definitely not THE END.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hello, Goodbye

It has been a while since I posted. I can explain! I've been finishing up my third book. And it has pretty much turned me into a complete lunatic. I've been working on it like a crazed person, barely stopping to pee or take a sip of water. Of course, I'm only this way for the eighteen hours a week when I have a babysitter. I manage to drink water and pee--even eat and shower and have a life--when my daughter's around. But when I'm on the clock lately, I am deranged. Blogging seems like too big of a distraction.

The good news is that the book is done. Or done for now. Meaning I've sent it to a dear writer friend for some feedback and will probably be revising it again before considering it "done done" and ready to meet the world.

The bad news is that this book will not be published by MTV. But it's not really "bad" news, I swear. Ever since I had the idea for this book, I've felt like it might not be quite right for MTV. My lovely editor and amazing publisher let me plead my case and peeked at the manuscript and agreed to let me go out into the world with it, wishing me well.

I hope to have news soon about where this book lands. And I'll definitely pop up here to share that news with you. It was thrilling to be a part of the launch of MTV books as we now know it with "The Pursuit of Happiness" and to publish "What Happens Here" and it has been great fun to meet (mostly via this blog) the many wonderful MTV authors. I wish you all well and will be watching you, even though I'm moving on. But not in a creepy way, I swear.

Keep on rockin'....