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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, New Me? (Maybe.)

It's the end of the year as we know it, and it's time for everyone's favorite self-imposed (and easily broken) resolutions!! I have to admit, I tend to stay away from resolutions like "go to the gym more!" (although I am resolving to go to the gym more--but only because my new gym offers massages and yummy snacks!) in favor of resolutions like: "Drink more champagne!" and "See more movies!" What can I say? Resolutions are so much easier to honor if they're fun...and I'm nothing if not a woman of my word.

So without further ado, here are my resolutions for '11:

1. Get more sleep.
2. Drink more water! (Okay, this is kind of a chore, but since it makes my skin look oh-so-pretty, the underlying motivation is self-serving.)
3. Make more time for my family, friends, and boyfriend. (Corollary: have more dinner parties.)
4. See more movies! (I actually resolve this every year, and have so far never managed to do it.)
5. Host more theme parties.
6. Make my bed in the morning! (My mom is appalled that I still can't manage to do this, at 28.)
7. Make more time for pleasure-reading.
8. Go to Greece.

Phew. Okay, I think that's sufficient. What about you guys?? What's on your resolutions for '11?

Happy New Year, all--and may the 2011 bring health and happiness to you and yours!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Xmas!!

Guess what, guess what?? I am writing you from my BRAND NEW IPAD! (courtesy of my adorable boyfriend). This, plus the fact that my sister came back from England for the holidays, PLUS the fact that we're off to Hawaii tomorrow, means that all my Christmas wishes have pretty much been granted.

So what's on your wish list this year, people?? I want to know!

Merry xmas and happy holidays...I hope you're all stuffing yourself full of family, friends, and yummy goodness.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I wish you a British Christmas...

...and a Delirious New Year!

I am so, so excited--I received an early xmas gift today of a bunch of beautiful British ARCs of Delirium! Here's a pic. You know how you can tell it's British? Because it's drinking tea, silly!!

Anyway, this means I can give some galleys away. So please respond to this post BY USING THE WORD "DELIRIUM" IN A SENTENCE. Don't forget to include your email address! And you will be entered to win one signed copy of the UK ARC.

Additionally, I will be sending you a nifty bottle of Delirium essential oil from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with it but it comes in a cool bottle. See?

(On a side note, the picture above is an excellent example of artistic perspective, and might be used to practice drawing. Look how gigantic my hand looks!)

Please reply by 1/1/11. (OMG--best number ever!) And good luck!


Monday, December 13, 2010

A Special Holiday(ish) Message

Hey lovelies--

It's the end of the year as we know it!!! And that means it's award season. I just found out today that Before I Fall was the recipient of the silver prize in the German Audience Bookaward “Leserpreis – die besten Bücher 2010”, in the category "Bester Buchtitel" (Best Title). More than 2500 different books had been nominated, 35 titles made it to the shortlist of each category, and my book reached the Top 3!

As we say in America: Hells Yeah!!!

Now my book will wear this nifty little sticker over there:

And don't forget to cast your votes for the Goodreads choice awards! Before I Fall was nominated in the following three categories:

Goodreads Author

Favorite Heroine
Young Adult:

Still don't want to vote?? WHAT IF I ASK YOU REALLY NICELY IN THIS VIDEO??

Friday, December 10, 2010

Want to hear me speak about DELIRIUM??

You know you do!

As you probably all know by now, I am SO EXCITED about the release of DELIRIUM--it feels like I've had to wait FOREVER for this book to hit the shelves!! (Okay, forever is a bit of an exaggeration...but waiting two years is no picnic, let me tell you.)

In this video I explain the origination of the idea for Delirium, and also disclose secrets of my gym habits (i.e., that I often write in my head!) while gesticulating wildly. I mean, I knew I was a hand-talker but jeez.

Anyway, check it out, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Figment Fiction Contest!!!

Hey all you lovely writers...

Have you heard about the awesome new website Figment? It's like a mash-up of youtube and facebook--but for writing only! You can create a profile, upload your work from ANYWHERE (as you should all know by now, I'm a huge fan of writing on the fly!), and surf around to see what other young creatives are working on.

Plus, Figment is having A FICTION CONTEST JUDGED BY YOURS TRULY!! Check out the details here. The winner gets a signed copy of Delirium...so what are you waiting for?? Get cracking (er, writing) and enter already!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekly Writing Challenge Submissions: The Yum Edition

In celebration of thanksgiving, my latest writing challenge (check it out here), asked that you submit writing samples to me that all focused centrally around food. I have to say, I got incredible submissions this time--each submission was unexpected, and subverted the expectation of "coziness" or homeliness usually attached to descriptions of meal-time.
All of the submissions deserved to be winners, but I've picked only two below out of the pot...because, well, because otherwise I would go broke trying to buy prizes for everyone! I'll be sending Elizabeth and Zoe copies of Like Water for Chocolate, the seminal book of magical realism in which food and story are seamlessly intertwined.
Incidentally, both writing samples below could also be used to teach an MFA course in the importance of cliff-hangers/great first pages. I mean, for real!

Eating for Two, by Elizabeth Parker (check out her blog here.)

She let her eyes wander lustfully over the Thanksgiving dinner. The table was stocked with all sorts of goodies: pecan pie, turkey with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes with gravy, and some sort of Jello-covered substance that Tom’s infamous
Aunt Myrtle had brought. She was so, so hungry, and the food all looked delicious.
Tom took her hand as he and his family bowed their heads to say the prayer over the meal. They had been dating for a little over six months now, and although she trusted him with her life, she still hadn’t told him all of her secrets.
The prayer finished, and the family was finally able to eat. With a tremulous glance down at her pants which were already too tight, she took heaping portions of each of the plates stacked on the table, and started to cram food into her mouth. Slow down, she told herself, but her brain didn’t listen. Soon enough, she was completely stuffed; yet, when another pie, this time apple, was offered, she was the first to accept a piece.
When everyone was done eating, she excused herself to go to the bathroom.
She was a pro at this by now: she turned the water on first to mask the sound of her retching. After she finished, she sat on the toilet, ashamed of herself; she had been trying to stop for the past few months, but it hadn’t been working. She loved food too much.
Before she even noticed, the door was opening. It was Tom. He slowly looked at her, sitting on the floor covering her knees, and then at the vomit-encrusted toilet.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Her mind raced. She couldn’t tell him the truth. Not now.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.

Apple Pie, by Zoe MacDonald

There are few things in this world that I remember. Laundry, homework, lyrics or where I left my license are just examples. The one thing I’ll never forget is my mom’s apple pie.
My mom’s apple pie was just the way it should be – not like the stuff people think they can just get from the grocery store and still pass it off as ‘wonderful’.
It was always the first indication that maybe, just maybe, things were going to get better, the smell of cinnamon throughout the entire house. Even before the pie was started, the house smelt like warm pie-ish cinnamon.
Then would come the peeling of apples. My mom worked hard to make sure that the peels stayed attached – in one piece. Snakes, she called them and if I was home, I would get to eat them as she sliced the apples up into tiny slivers.
She was so particular with this that by the time she was done, I would run away, my attention needed for something far more important.
When it was done, usually by the time I got home school when I was older, the pie would be sitting on the pie rack, cooling down. It was practically picture perfect, a little cut out in the center, steam rising up, the whole house smelling like a scented candle.
My mom would serve it when it was ready in her eyes -not before then - and it would just be exactly how an apple pie should be soft apples and sweet, flaky crust – perfect.
The pie always meant something good, that she was getting better, getting what was making her happy.
I guess it makes sense then that the day she killed herself, the pie was sitting on the pie rack, waiting to be served.

Okay, so neither submission actually makes you want to eat, but...sheesh! They sure make you want to read on. I should also say, as someone who has gotten a lot of flak from parents about the "content" of my books (Before I Fall references drinking, sex, suicide, and bulimia, among other issues), it is actually somewhat nice to know that I am not the only one interested in honestly exploring some of the darker and more problematic issues out there! Take that, censorship!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rock the Vote (for yours truly)...

'Tis the season...for book awards! I recently found out that Before I Fall has been nominated in some pretty cool awards.

First up, The Goodreads Choice Awards. Before I Fall has been nominated in three different categories, including Best YA fiction, Goodreads Author Award, and Favorite Heroine (actually, I guess just Sam Kingston gets that last honor). PLEASE VOTE HERE (even if you don't vote for me. This is America, after all--you have a right to your opinion!).

Second of all, my book has been nominated for Der Leserpreis – die besten Buecher 2010, a fiction award in (you guessed it) Germany!! So, okay, I know the website (here) is in German, but look for my name and click "voten"...unless you're compelled to voten for one of the other German titles...

I'm so thrilled and excited by these nominations home and abroad, and honored to be included among so many other great titles. So vote once, vote often, and spread the good word!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Creativity--Pass It On!

When I was younger, I remember we used to play a game at Girl Scouts (yes, don’t laugh, I was in the Girl Scouts! And I always sold a ton of cookies) where we would “pass the pump”: we would all stand in a circle, holding hands with our eyes closed, and when you felt someone squeeze your left hand, you would squeeze the person’s hand on your right. I don’t know exactly what the point of this game was, although it does prove how easily entertained we were in those days…

But I was reminded of those halcyon years of my youth recently by the lovely Miss Ella, fabulous administrator of my very own fan blog (see her pic, below)!

Ella sent me artwork she had done that was inspired by a specific scene from my forthcoming book Delirium. Please check it out here. I was so moved, both by the rawness and expressiveness of her art, and also by the very fact of having served as inspiration for someone else’s creativity. I wrote a book; she made art; perhaps one of you lovely people will be inspired by her art to do something creative, like write a story, or a song, or bake some cookies, or paint a picture…

And so we continue to pass the pump.

I draw inspiration all the time from books I read, and art shows I see, and music I listen to. Creativity is the world’s energy: it fuels itself, and leaves nothing but positive emissions. Now if only we could power our cars with it…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Most Delicious Writing Challenge Yet!

Hello all...

On the eve of one of the most venerated--and scrumptious--annual american holidays, and in light of my crazy food-tour of Japan, I would like to present to you the newest and yummiest writing challenge yet! Without further ado...

Write 250-300 words of a scene that PROMINENTLY FEATURES FOOD. It doesn't have to be a family dinner table scene, although it certainly could be (bonus to you if the dinner devolves into a food fight). Maybe the scene involves a boy giving a girl chocolate-covered-peanuts for Valentine's Day...little knowing that she's deathly allergic to peanuts! Maybe it involves braces, broccoli, and a terrible first kiss. As always, let your imagination run wild! But some kind of food must be central and integral to the action.

One of the lovely writers who contributes will receive a special edible chocolate treat from NYC, to help jump-start the holiday season!

Until then...


xo and gobble gobble...


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Domo arigato, Japan!

Did you miss me?? I’m back in the good US of A (although I won’t actually be home for a while—tonight I stay in Newark, NJ, and tomorrow I’m off for the NCTE/ALAN conference in sunny Orlando!) and already missing the splendor and stateliness—and, of course, the FOOD—of Japan. My trip was too wonderful and expansive to be described in anything close to concise terms, so I will prove traitorous to the society of writers and follow the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There will be 4,000 words below…enough for a chapters’ worth!

My experience in Japan, in a place totally foreign to me in every way (I had never been farther east than Budapest) has inspired me to generate a NEW WRITING CHALLENGE. So check back at the beginning of next week, and I’ll be kicking off a new online writing workshop.

In the meantime, I’ll be hobnobbing with fabulous authors, editors, and librarians, and lounging poolside…and maybe even seeing Mickey Mouse! Fingers crossed, peeps. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Konichiwa! ( I hope.)

Hi my pretties...

Sorry it has been so long since I've posted. My birthday week (yes, week) was absolute madness, and yesterday I left New York for a marathon travel itinerary to...Tokyo!

So how is Tokyo, you might be wondering?

Well, I AM STILL WONDERING TOO!! So far I have gotten no closer to Japan. In fact, I've actually gotten farther. We were grounded in Buffalo due to fog, then stranded in Toronto overnight, and now have gone West to Vancouver, where we are allegedly (finally!) supposed to depart in a few hours. But to be honest, I'm not convinced.

I'm telling you, friends, dystopian might be a trend in literature and a frightening vision of the future, but it's a theme that is alive and well at Air Canada kiosks and airports across this fair nation of ours...and across Canada, too.

Here's an image of me after 24 + hours of travel, 1 lost (and thankfully found) bag, sadistic airline employees, and apathetic american express people have aged me approximately 18 years. (Incidentally, I just felt the background was thematically appropriate.) But happily, my sense of humor and my optimism remain untouched. They may take our lives (or, um, original itineraries), but they will never take our freedom!!

Onward, and (hopefully) upward...send me good thoughts of winging toward Japan!

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's my Bday and I'll BRAG if I want to!

Hello hello...

Because it's a very special day today...MY BIRTHDAY!

And in celebration of the day of my arrival on this planet, I am going to take this moment to post very selfishly about me, me, ME!

So, many exciting things happened to me last week, but the most exciting of all was this:


Isn't it beautiful?

I must tell you, it almost knocked my socks off when I saw that Ella had taken the time to build this beautiful site! She is wonderful and lovely, so please check back often, as I will be working with her on contests and posting exclusive content to the site. AND if you'd like to give me a very special bday present...please, become a follower!

Alright, my pretties. I am off to eat cake!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scary Halloween Stories! (Post-Halloween)

Your sugar rush has already faded, your masks are collecting dust on the floor of your closet, and it's another year before you get to bust out the cat ears...

But NEVER FEAR! I am here to keep on keepin' on with the Halloween-cheer. I must say, I was DYING laughing over the incredibly inventive spooky Halloween stories you send me in response to my last writing challenge, featuring renegade and evil appliances. You all rock my world. I've posted a few below.

From Kate, of I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read:

Sam Chase looked up at the decrepit Victorian house and let out a deep sigh. “Really?” He mumbled to himself. He shook his head in frustration and continued to the front door. He knocked once then twice.

“Hello!” he yelled at the door. “Anyone ho-”

Before he could finish, the door swung open and a cloud of dust flew from its hinges. Sam tentatively stepped in. He looked behind the door and saw no one. Confused, he walked further into the foyer and saw a note on a small table up against the wall. It read, “Went to the store, will be back soon. The basement door is through the kitchen. -Mrs. Kritcher.”

He pushed past the kitchen and ambled down the wooden steps to the basement. He looked around in the dim light and flicked on the flashlight he always kept attached to his belt. A ticking sound coming from the back of the large room caught his attention. He walked toward the noise and saw a coal-fired boiler opening through the darkness. The grate of the boiler resembled teeth and goosebumps spread up his arms. Flames licked around in the massive metal container as he approached it.

A loud moan came from inside the boiler. Sam jumped back and knocked over a tower of boxes that were stacked behind him.

“Help me!” The voice seemed to encompass the entire room.

Sam ran back toward the voice. The opening of the boiler was just big enough for him to fit through. He touched the surface of the door and pulled back at the scorching pain. He blew on his hand and cursed. He looked around the room and found a pair of heat gloves. He pulled the gloves on and opened the door.

“I’m here! Are you alright, what happened?” Sam’s eyes squinted against the heat and light of the fire. He wedged his body in further and felt a push from behind him and fell.

He never felt the slamming of his body against the burning bottom of the boiler. His ears never registered the creaking of the latch, locking him in. He never felt the satisfied grumble that came from the blood lusting boiler that swallowed humans whole.

From Zoe MacDonald, "Over the Oven"

It was a bad idea. I mean, I had always prided myself on being an intelligent, rational teenager who made good choices. So, why I had agreed to go to the house, was beyond me.

“This is a bad idea,” I murmured as we hiked up, sleeping bags tucked under our arms.

One of my girlfriend’s friends laughed and threw her hair over her shoulder. “It was a bad idea bringing you.”

“Don’t listen to them,” my girlfriend said and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “What else are we supposed to do on a Friday night?”

I shrugged. It was pitch black now that we had left the glow of streetlights far behind us. “White’s are having a party. We could do that.”

She smiled and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Silly. We can do that any weekend. This is going to be gone in a couple weeks.”

All the more reason to leave it, I thought but didn’t say anything. I was already having enough issues with her friends.

In the end, I knew we should have left.

One of the jocks broke down the door and we all filed in.

“Cozy,” one of the nameless friends said, turning on a flashlight. “Let’s go.”

We all followed after him and that’s when we heard the rumbling . An ominous sound that rattled the whole building.

“What was that?” one of the girls asked, grabbing onto his arm.

He shrugged, detaching her in the process. “Let’s check it out.”

I wish we hadn’t.

We all tiptoed along like there was someone else who might hear us and eventually found ourselves standing in what resembled a kitchen from the 1950s.

Right in front of us, there is a stove that seems to be making the rumbling noises as it cast an eerie glow all around us.

“What is that?” one of the guys asked disgustedly, as if some freshmeat had just taken his seat in the lunch room.

“Oh my gosh!” one of the girls cried. “That’s totally unsafe. Let’s get out of here.”

Everyone nodded and turned around but then the oven door was flung open and then from behind someone screamed.

“The door’s locked!” one of the girls cried but I knew it was all too late. I had read more than enough horrors and had seen my share of thrillers to know what happened next.

And the winner of the Halloween contest, and soon-to-be recipient of a copy of The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff...

From Elena Thomas, "Frankenfridge":

I was bored, so as usual I decided to go get something to eat. I’d always had a bad habit of eating when I was bored. Today it was an especially bad choice.
When I was just about to pull on the fridge handles to open the old piece of crap, I heard a soft laugh. It was barely audible, but it was there, sounding amused and delighted.
I looked around the kitchen, searching for the source of the noise.
“Who’s there?” I asked, hesitating and spinning around.
“Oh, you heard me!”replied a deep voice coming from nowhere.
“W-Where are you? Who is this?!” Turning around in circles, I saw a slight movement on the fridge. The cheap magnets covering the fridge had aligned themselves to resemble what looked like a smiling face.
I screamed so loud my own ears rang. “What the?!”
“Oh dear, don’t be scared, I know you were coming here to eat. Open me up and you will find something very nice in store” The magnets winked.
Whatever the hell was wrong with my refrigerator, I was absolutely sure it was not supposed to be talking to me. I was seriously going crazy. Either that or I was dreaming. I pinched myself hard, wondering if dreams really work that way. Nothing happened, so I decided if I wasn’t dreaming, I probably was crazy, and might as well embrace it. There was no way this was real, so might as well have fun with it.
“What are you?” I asked with more confidence. I knew I was crazy but that was slightly okay with me.
“I’ll be truthful and tell you,” the fridge said, smiling, “I’m a zombie. A zombie fridge. Probably the first of my kind. Wasn’t until recently that I woke up. But seriously, I am not trying to eat your brains or anything. That is just a cruel stereotype.”
“Huh, okay,” I said, actually curious, yet not scared, “What’ your name, zombie fridge?”
“Good question, I don’t know.”
“Alright, you can be….” I tried to think of a name appropriate for a zombie fridge, ”Frankenfridge!” I exclaimed. “It couldn’t be more fitting!”
“Hooray!” The jubilant fridge cheered, flashing open its doors.
I could feel an awesome friendship coming on.
It’s a good thing I was crazy, cause no one in their right name would be friends with a Frankenfridge

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with Author Leila Sales!

On this Monday morning, I have a very special surprise to help get your week off to a good start: an interview with the lovely author Leila Sales, whose debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, was just released by Simon Pulse! Leila not only happens to be my neighbor and good friend, but she is a wonderful writer whose hilarity never, ever ceases to amaze me (both on the page and in real life). But don't take my word for it! We'll let Leila speak for herself:

--So, your fabulous debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, just came out. How does it feel? Have you been stalking your book on the shelves yet?
It is constantly surreal. Even holding the finished book in my hands doesn't make it feel any more real, because of course I didn't create the book's cover or binding or any of that exterior stuff. It's only when I open it up that I'm like, "Good lord, I wrote every single word in here."

I've gone into a few stores to sign stock and stare at MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS on display. But often when I'm passing bookstores I'm on my bike, so I don't want to go in and ask to visit MGG, because I worry the booksellers will be like, "Jeez, we had no idea author Leila Sales was so sweaty." And then maybe they won't want to carry my book any more.

--Are you a Mostly Good Girl, or a Sometimes Bad Girl? Is there a substantive difference? Describe, discuss.

I am mostly good. I am very rules-oriented. When I break rules, it is usually by accident, and then I feel really bad about it. Or sometimes I break rules that I think are stupid because I don't "believe" in them. That seems like more of a Sometimes Bad Girl thing to do, though.

At my book launch party, I asked everyone to fill out a name tag saying what they were mostly good at. Mine said "Mostly good author." My mom's said "Mostly good mama." One of my friend's said "Mostly good grades." I was like, "Me, too."

--You and I went to the same college! What was your favorite part about the University of Chicago? Your least favorite?
Favorite part of the U of C was Scav Hunt (http://scavhunt.uchicago.edu), which is the world's largest annual scavenger hunt. It lasts for four days and includes 300 items, all of which can be found within a one thousand mile radius of campus. The U of C has intimidatingly bright students, so it's amazing to see what they can create when they put together all their talents and resources for a few days

Least favorite part of the U of C was that it was very far away from any place where one could go out dancing to good music. The only party options in Hyde Park were frat parties or apartment parties, both of which played generic hip-hop every weekend. I used to bring party mix CDs with me and throw them on when the hosts weren't looking. I'm sure everyone found this wildly endearing.

--Your full-time job is in an editorial department at Penguin Books. Do you think working as an editor has helped you as a writer?
Yes, absolutely. I spend every day looking at stories, and it's given me a much clearer sense of the technicalities of how a story works. But being an editor is no cure-all for writing troubles. No matter how capable an editor you are, it is always easier to see the flaws in other writers' work than it is to see them in your own. Or, perhaps more to the point, I can see problems in my own work, but I'm often at a loss as to how to solve them. I tend to know how to help other writers solve their problems.

--Why are you so cool?


--What percentage of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is autobiographical?
Somewhere between 53% and 68%. These might strike you as made-up numbers, but I thought about them a lot.

--If you could eat an ice cream flavor RIGHT NOW, what would it be?
The most chocolatey ice cream flavor that has been invented, plus some hot fudge on top.

--Rumor has it you eat foods based on their color. Don't you think that's a little discriminatory?
I have gotten better about food diversity in the past couple years. I think this is part of what it means to "grow up." When I was four years old, I would eat only purple foods. Then I branched out into white and brown foods. I refused to eat any green foods for many years, and now I occasionally eat green foods, but only because I hear they are "good for me," NOT because I enjoy them. All my favorite foods are still white or brown.

Also I have I "theory" about food, which is that if you take any combination of bread products, chicken products, cheese products, onion products, and tomato products, you will by definition get a delicious meal. 85% of what I eat is comprised of those five food groups. The other 15% is orange juice and chocolate.

--Lastly, what would be your ideal book:
1. To read in prospect park on a sunny day? THREE MEN IN A BOAT, by Jerome K. Jerome
2. To read next to a fire THE SUN ALSO RISES, by Ernest Hemingway
3. To read to your children (for when you have them, of course) CHARLOTTE'S WEB, by E.B. White

Thanks, Leila!
Okay, now for more fun stuff: Not only will I be giving away copies of Mostly Good Girls to the winners of my titling contest (check them out here), I will also be conducting a separate giveaway just for MGG later this week--so be sure to check back for that!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Yesterday, we unveiled the names of the Delirium sequels in Publisher's Weekly for the first time ever! Check it out!


Congratulations, Lynsey Newton and BookChiq!! (Also, BookChiq--send your email address/mailing address to laurenoliverbooks@gmail.com so I can hook you up with your prize!)

So, the trilogy titles will be:

Pretty cool, huh?

Thank you to everyone who entered. You are all so pretty and nice! (And much, much better at titling than I am!)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Challenge--Scary Halloween Edition!

Time for an extra-special, last-minute, oh-so-scary Halloween edition of the Lauren Oliver Blogspot WRITING CHALLENGE!

This writing challenge is inspired by the fact that I recently moved into a brand-new apartment, which is spacious and cozy and beautiful in every way...except that literally in the past two months every single appliance has broken and required replacement. My friend and I have decided that the previous owners must have had some traumatizing early life experiences involving all things electric, and so been engaged in a kind of constant warfare with the microwave, oven, washer/dryer, and refrigerator.

In other words: the previous owners were obviously terrified of these appliances, and trying to beat them into submission.

So your Halloween writing challenge is this: write a submission of no more than 400 words (longer than usual) in which you describe an encounter with an evil/possessed/sentient appliance! A vampire refrigerator! A cannibalistic oven! A poison-spewing microwave! A TV with aspirations to world domination!

Submit to me at laurenoliverbooks@gmail.com and I will, as always, post submissions on the blog. Also, one person who submits will get a scary book of my choosing! (It will probably be The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff, as I love that book and it is SUPER SCARY.)

Now go forth and write! (And stay away from that refrigerator....)

Monday, October 25, 2010


Did you think I forgot about my titling contest??

Well, I most certainly did NOT.

Thank you so much for everyone who participated--if I could, I would hire each and every one of you as my Official Titling Assistant.

I have, in fact, selected a title for both the second and third books in the DELIRIUM trilogy, and everyone--from my editor to my publicist to my sister--is completely wild about them. I will be giving prizes to the first person who selected each name, as many of you suggested similar titles (great minds think alike!). I'll also be giving prizes to two people I select at random.

What will these prizes BE? Well, books, of course! And also, a fabulous DELIRIUM tote bag. Wear it with pride, people.

I will be announcing the winners once I officially announce the titles, which won't be for just a teensy while longer...so please be patient!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VERY SPECIAL BLOG POST!! Rebecca Serle, and Why She Can't Sleep At Night

Greetings from the land of silicone, movie stars, and train-wreck child actresses (I'm in LA, y'all). Since arriving in the West Coast I've had no time to blog, since I've been zipping between meetings and losing business cards and then GETTING MADE FUN OF FOR LOSING BUSINESS CARDS BY ASHTON KUTCHER. (I love how my first-ever celebrity encounter entails me being a complete stress ball.)

Point is, my gracious friend, sometimes-yoga instructor, Huff Po blogger (check out one of her fab articles here), and fellow YA author REBECCA SERLE volunteered to do a guest post. Earlier last week, Rebecca's debut novel went out on submission, meaning it was sent around to various publishers in order for them to squabble over who gets to publish it. I remember when I was out on submission for Before I Fall, I was convinced that no one was going to buy it, and so terrified I had no choice but to cut my grad school class (Sorry, NYU!) and eat about a pint of ice cream on the couch. Want to know how Rebecca's coping? See below!

So my book is out on submission. People who don’t know too much about publishing get very excited when I tell them this. “It’s out!” They exclaim. “Where can I BUY it?!” Then I have to sit them down and tell them what I tell myself every night in the mirror: We will get there. We are just not there yet.
Here are the facts:
1) I wrote what I think is a good book.
2) I have a great agent.
3) I pace my apartment for hours on end with no real sense of time or space.
Turns out, being on submission is kind of stressful.
I was having lunch with another YA author friend of mine yesterday who had been through this process about a year ago. She told me that she was a total mess but that if she could do it over again, she’d enjoy it. “Enjoy what?” I asked her, my eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep (yes, sometimes the pacing occurs at night). “The anticipating,” she said, “the not knowing.”
Now I love this girl, I really do. I value her as a peer and a critic and a friend and a writer. But I also know her to be someone, like myself, who wants all the facts. Enjoying the not knowing? Come on.
But then she explained more and what she said was that this time, before I have any answers, is one of infinitive possibilities. “Think about it,” she said. “Right now you’re a bestselling author. You’re number one on the Times. You have no information to tell you otherwise.”
“Or to tell me so,” I pointed out. “What, exactly, are we working off here?”
“Nothing,” she said, smiling and going back to her French fries.
Nothing. So often that word is one we avoid. It can be fear inducing. It’s empty, black, barren. It’s unknown and scary. But it’s also new, and, admittedly, full of possibility.
Starting a book is never too easy for me. There are a million things to figure out and explain and catalog. But it’s also my favorite part. When everything is ahead and plot points are endless and absolutely, positively, anything can happen. It’s nothing, but that nothing isn’t empty. That nothing is bubbling over.
There are times in our lives where we are forced to wait, where something that we need in order to move forward we just don’t have yet. But instead of seeing these times as ones in which to shut our eyes and misery our way through, it might not be a bad idea to enjoy them. Am I still pacing my apartment? Absolutely. But I’m also dreaming. Haven’t you heard? I’m a bestselling author.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Evil of Adverbs

"You look beautiful," he said nervously.

"I can't wait for tonight," she said excitedly.

"I can't believe you," he said angrily.

What do the bolded words have in common? They're all adverbs, and they're all evil. Like, Lord-Voldemort evil.

Kill them now, or your writing career is in great peril.

Here's why:
We've all heard the old adage "Show, Don't Tell." In some cases, of course, that's not feasible. Sometimes you just want to give us some factual information about a character--so-and-so is fifty-four, such-and-such has blond hair gone prematurely gray. Whatever. Occasionally telling is fine. In fact, "telling" is an essential part of narrative.

But when it comes to revealing what your characters feel, the beauty of fiction lies in the discovery.

The best fiction is greater than its parts. in other words, all fiction consists of action, exposition, and dialogue (although I tend to include dialogue as part of action). But in great fiction, the juxtaposition of these three things allows you, as the reader, to discover emotional truths not just about the characters in the book, but about yourself. You get to "read" yourself into the book, and see yourself reflected there; but in order for this to happen, you need room to insert yourself, mysterious spaces that don't TELL you how to feel, but allow you to grope your way in on your own.

That is why showing and not telling is so important.

Take the second example above:

"I can't wait for tonight," she said excitedly.

This sentence, written as is, establishes with the reader the relationship of strict teacher to unruly child. In other words, this sentence says: here is everything you have to know, and don't ask why. It's just because I said so.

On the other hand, take this sentence:

"I can't wait for tonight," she said, wrestling a t-shirt over her head. She didn't seem to notice that she'd put it on inside out.

In this case, the reader has to do work--unconsciously or consciously--to determine the emotional state of the character. She's excited--she even says so--but she's also excited to distraction. Something big is going to happen tonight, or at least the character expects it to, and the anticipation is totally consuming her.
All of this work has occurred in a fraction of a second in the reader's head, probably without him/her even realizing it. So the relationship here is one of cooperation: I wrote a sentence, but it must be interpreted and enlivened by the reader. I have reached out my hand; in order for the sentence to work, the reader must reach out and grab my hand back.
We are now connected.

That is, of course, also one of the roles of good fiction: it connects you to something outside yourself.

So let's all agree: Down with adverbs!!

Dialogue Tips: A Balancing Act

Last week I spoke about the importance of adding physicality to dialogue, because people tend to communicate as much (if not more) with their bodies and their actions as they do verbally. In fact, it might be helpful just to think of dialogue as another variant of action: your characters are in the act of "doing" communication, and that communication should both physical and linguistic forms.

One of the things that's critical, I think, about showing the interplay between what a character is saying and how a character is behaving is that it often enables you to show contrast or tension between the two. People often don't say exactly what they mean. Think of all those times you've been around your secret crush, and not a peep about your abiding love for him/her has come out! Think of all the things you've wanted to say to your parents, or the times you've accidentally let slip a cruel comment to a friend whom you resent for one reason or another, etc etc.

So think of it like this: You have a variety of ways to show action. Your character can "do words", and your character can "do behaviors"--cut up cucumbers, look away nervously, chew fingernails, etc. It's the interplay between these two forms of "doing" that allow you to show the reader your character's complex feelings, characteristics, and emotions.

But how much is too much? Pamela Harris rightly points out that too much physical description in the middle of a spoke exchange can pull the reader out of the moment, and she's absolutely correct. However, I think there are three basic principles that can be helpful when determining how much or how little physicality to include:

1. The key is "interplay"--make sure what your characters are doing is meaningful. This applies, of course, to both the doing of words and of behaviors. In real life, you have exchanges all the time that are meaningless, in the sense that they just pass the time and don't become relevant. In books, every spoken exchange must either advance the story or our sense of the characters (preferably both). Similarly, your character's behaviors must be relevant. Don't just write in little physical details for the sake of it.

In other words, DON'T do this:
"I really like you," Debbie said, while cutting an orange in half.
WTF does an orange have to do with her confession of like?

But DO do this:
"I really like you," Debbie said, scuffling her feet.
Okay, you should do something better than that, but at least you know that the fact that she is scuffling her feet connotes nervousness. In other words, because of the interplay between the words and the behavior, we learn something additional about the character, without having to be "told" that she is nervous.

2. Think about real-life situations in which you would notice someone else's physical behaviors, and real-life situations in which you wouldn't. Adjust accordingly.

For example, if you find yourself at a party, sitting next to your long-time crush and having the first spoken exchange with him you've had since he got cute in sixth grade, you would no doubt be noticing everything about his body language. Is his knee brushing yours? Is he tapping his foot? Biting his lip?
OMG does that mean he likes you????

Okay, you get the point.

On the other hand, when you and your best friend are screaming at each other because you've just discovered she has been secretly hooking up with your longtime crush, you no doubt wouldn't care that there was a lock of hair hanging down over her right eye or that her fingernail polish had begun to chip. In fact, you wouldn't care about anything about anything except pushing homegirl off a cliff.

Your writing should reflect the emotional intensity of the moment--people tend to lose perspective and a sense of detail when they're extremely angry, or terrified, or overwhelmed with joy.

3. This isn't so much a tip as a truism--remember, it's much easier to cut physicality down than to add it later. Part of what focusing on physicality does is force you, as the writer, to vividly imagine the moment--to slow down and truly understand what your characters are thinking, feeling, doing. It forces you to understand them better so you can better evoke them for the reader.

James River Writer's Conference--My Very First Time!

This weekend I flew down to Richmond, Virginia to speak at the James River Writer's Conference. It was my first-ever conference and it was AWESOME. (Here's a link to this fabulous organization's website--you should definitely check it out.)

I spoke on three panels: finding your inner teenager (with the luminary Jacqueline Woodson); how to create convincing dialogue (which, ironically, has been a major preoccupation of my blog recently); and the importance of social networking, with the amazing Harper publicist Joseph Papa, who confessed to finding twitter "life-giving." It was really awesome to meet so many other people professionals in the field, and I loved speaking with the attendees, as well. (And, let's face it, getting put up in a nice hotel with extremely efficient room service ain't the worst part of a writer's life!)

And Richmond turned out to be such a cool city! There were tons of gorgeous old cobblestone and brick streets, and I got to geek out over the house where Edgar Allen Poe lived during his early years. PLUS, PEOPLE REALLY HAVE SOUTHERN ACCENTS HERE. A guy called me ma'am in the elevator and I giggled about it for at least fifteen minutes. I could so get used to a down home way of life...if they could just figure out how to make NYC-style bagels.

I'll be returning to the issue of dialogue later this week, because I feel the topic has not been totally explored, and I have not yet addressed Pam's excellent question about balance, which you can find in the comments section of my He Said/She Said blogpost here. (Incidentally, I met Pam, and her writing-partner-cousin, at the conference. They were both lovely. That's called The Blogisforreal, people...when blogs and real life intersect!)

For now, I wanted to turn over to you a question that came up during my social networking panel: what are some of the faux-pas of the social networking world, in your opinion? How much is too much tweeting, for example? Asking someone to retweet--declasse?

This is why I am a total conference convert already--I love that attending JRWC gave me the opportunity to think more deeply about these issues.

LMK what you think!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dialogue Writing Challenge: Your Responses!

Oh, my pets...

I received SO MANY incredible entries in response to Friday's Writing Challenge. It was wonderful to read such a variety of interpretations on the short spoken exchange, and really underscored how creative it's possible to get with a limited quantity of basic materials: from the same pretty run-of-the-mill back-and-forth between characters, we've ended up with different characters, settings, atmospheres, and tones.

I can't possibly post all of your responses, so I've selected some at random (and check out the "posts" section of the challenge for some equally excellent entries). And thank you to everyone who emailed and posted your responses! I hope you enjoy the writing challenges as much as I do--you all are really inspiring!

From Kate of I Just Want to Sit Here and Read:

Brian’s subtle cough was unheard so be blurted out, "Hi."
Ried nearly jumped out of her Jimmy Choos, "Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
"Sorry." He looked down at his poor excuse for work boots and anxiously tapped his toe on the ground.
She turned to straighten the rack that nearly fell, trying to hide the heat that was steadily creeping up her face."No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." She stammered, embarrassed that after all of this time she still could not help but want this man who broke her heart.
He took the opportunity to press her,"What?"
She shrugged. She fingered the ends of her long blonde hair, force of habit,"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all." She had to pull herself away from him, thankful to see a customer at the cash register.
He followed right behind her, "I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here." He realized his hands were shaking and willed them to stop.
"Yeah. Three times a week." She practically jogged around the counter to help the young teen with her purchase.
"You like it?"
Her eyes flicked to the girl, not wanting to exploit the fact that she loathed working here, "It's a job. Money's not bad." She finished with the teen and once again they were left alone only with a counter between them.
"You look good." His mesmerizing sea green eyes stared into hers.
"Thanks." She tore her eyes away from his and looked toward the door, hoping that someone would come in to call her attention away from this conversation.
"Is that weird to say?" His hand reached from the counter yearning to touch hers if but one last time.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?" She asked, staring at the military buzz cut. She smiled to keep herself from crying, soon enough he would walk away from her to go back overseas and who knew when she would see him again.

From Bethany Beznos:

I rested my elbows on the counter. Cheri was turned around making a smoothie “Hi." She flipped around her eyes bugging out making them seem larger then they already are. "Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
I shrugged "Sorry." Cheri shook her head.
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." she was keeping her eyes down. Cheri seemed to be determined to put the cap on that smoothie just right. "What?" I said
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all." She twirled her dirty blond hair through her fingers.
I know I have a stupid grin on my face but I can’t help it. It always happens when I’m with her "I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here."
"Yeah. Three times a week."
"You like it?" I asked
"It's a job. Money's not bad."
"You look good."
She smiled shyly “Thanks."
"Is that weird to say?" I ran my hand through my newly buzzed hair nervously; I’m still getting use to it.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"

From Zoe MacDonald:
, "The Job"
I was sitting by myself alone on the dirty old park bench when I heard footsteps behind, which I promptly ignored, focusing on the glow my computer screen.
"Hi." The only sound beside the cars and the pigeons and the far away squeal of children playing on the playground.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, turning around and faking surprise. "Hi. God, you scared me."
Conner was standing behind me, looking down at me, or more likely, at my computer screen as he flipped his hair out of his eyes. He then nervously patted his hair and squinted as he tried to read - something I knew he couldn't do without his glasses, which he wasn't wearing.
"Sorry," he said and blushed. Things hadn't been the same since I had gotten The Job a couple weeks ago and he hadn't.
We had spent three years together, working as interns at that terrible newspaper. Then The Job came along and we both wanted it. I wanted it so badly me teeth literally hurt. He wanted it so badly, he'd stop at nothing to get it. All in vain, I suppose, because he wasn't the one sitting there with a brand new laptop, finishing up to meet the first deadline.
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." I said, hoping that he'd drop it, as I shut the laptop so he couldn't see what I was writing.
"What?" he asked and I groaned to myself. I just wanted him to leave me alone but I knew that wasn't happening anytime soon. Good thing the laptop was being put away.
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all," I lied. My mom usually brought me lunch around this time.
"I ran into Caitlin recently," he told me and I nodded - I could tell he was just trying to fill space, until he got the courage to talk about why he was really here. "She said you were working here," he said nervously, and I rolled my eyes to myself. Cait couldn't keep a secret if her life depended on it. Even when I told her not to tell anyone - Conner in particular - where I was working.
"Yeah," I said. Then I added on: "Three times a week." That was what the bosses would let me. They didn't really mind where I worked, but liked me being in the office at least two days a week.
"You like it?" he asked, kicking a pile of dirt with his boot. I could tell just how badly he still wanted the job.
"It's a job. Money's not bad," I hinted, mainly just to taunt him. I tried to seem nonchalant, like it wasn't that big of a deal. Remind him that I was better than he was - good enough to get the job that he wanted.
"You look good," he said with a sneering smile that I knew was being used just to mock me back. We both knew I looked terrible.
"Thanks," I said with a smile to bug him back.
"Is that weird to say?" he asked and I shook my head, still giving him my workplace smile.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"
He touched his hair nervously and I knew I had hit a nerve. Conner hated anyone talking about his hair.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Want to Hear Me Talk About Things??

...If not, why do you follow my blog, silly-billy! Go read The Superficial. :)

But if SO, check out these video interviews I filmed for Romantic Times Book Reviews. There are actually four mini-videos:

On the Nuances of Being a Teen
Advice for High Schoolers!
On my upcoming projects!

See?? It's just like I'm TALKING STRAIGHT TO YOU, THROUGH YOUR COMPUTER. (Actually, that's kind of creepy! I'm waaaaatching....)


Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Writing Challenge!

I've had a lot of great responses, both on the blog and via email, to this week's musings on dialogue, so I'll probably keep pushing the discussion to next week, especially I have some questions to answer (see Pam Harris's excellent question about equilibrium in response to my last post, He Said/She Said Helpful Hints.

This challenge was partly inspired by Ellie H., a 14-year-old writer (notice I do not say "aspiring writer"--you either ARE writing or you AREN'T, peeps!) who emailed me recently after reading Before I Fall, and who asked me very nicely to keep up with the challenges.

So, this week's challenge runs thusly. I am going to write out some lines of dialogue, below. I will NOT specify anything about the characters who are conversing--I won't even specify sexes. That's up to you. Your job, in fact, is to flesh out the dialogue by making choices about the interlocutors, and by adding physicality and dimension to the scene.

Make sense? You can make the characters a stepmother and a daughter, or two best friends, or two ex best friends, or two exes, or a brother and a sister who haven't seen each other in a while, or whatever the heck you want. But we must see them, and we must see them in the CONTEXT of the dialogue. In other words, don't just describe them, and then have them speak. Their physical descriptions and interactions should be interwoven WITH the dialogue.

Sound difficult? That's why it's a CHALLENGE, people! :)

Okay, here's the dialogue for you to play with:

"Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..."
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all."
"I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here."
"Yeah. Three times a week."
"You like it?"
"It's a job. Money's not bad."
"You look good."
"Is that weird to say?"
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"

Okay...go forth and write!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He Said/She Said Helpful Hints

Continuing on the week's theme of what makes successful dialogue...

One of the things I've seen a lot as an editor and avid reader, both of unpublished and published writers, is a tendency that newer or less-experienced writers have of forgetting all about showing the reader the physical actions of their characters as soon as they begin to speak. That means a lot of exchanges that look like this:

Danielle looked at Jason.
"You really mean that? You're going to ask Sarah to prom?"
"I was thinking about it."
"Why? Because you heard she got breast implants?"
"Don't be mad just because she went through a growth spurt."

Or whatever. Basically, you see lots of dialogue that follows the format of a script or a play: lots of exchange, and not much for a reader to visualize.
The biggest problem here is that you're missing an opportunity--namely, you're missing the opportunity to show us how your character feels about the things he or she is saying and hearing. Possibly he/she feels vehement about the point he/she is trying to make; possibly he/she is lying, or avoiding some other truth, or uncomfortable, or nervous, etc. etc. And the best way of indicating these different attitudes is by showing them.

For example:
Danielle stared hard at Jason.
"You really mean that?" Her voice sounded weird and squeaky, even to her own ears. "You're going to ask Sarah to prom?"
Jason shrugged, looking at Danielle sideways. "I was thinking about it," he said, and she wondered when he had gotten so good at sounding casual.
"Why? Because you heard she got breast implants?" She blurted out the words without meaning to, and instantly regretted it. Her face was burning. She had just said the word breast in front of Jason. The last time they'd discussed body parts was when they were three and splashing around naked in the kiddie pool.
"Don't be mad just because she went through a growth spurt," Jason said, chucking her on the arm. She jerked away.

Here you have the opportunity to develop a complex relationship between your characters, and to indicate subtle shifts in what they are thinking and feeling, even within a single conversation. In the first exchange, Danielle's words might communicate that she is jealous, or skeptical, but they communicate little else--you have no idea what her relationship with Jason is really like. In the second exchange, you have the opportunity to learn more about their history together, and their changing relationship through time. Even relatively small physical gestures--he chucks her on the arm (super friendly); she jerks away (the friendliness is grating on her)--can be incredibly revelatory. Is Danielle falling in love with her childhood best friend???

Helpful Hint: When you're editing your MS, go through the pages of text. if you see a lot of pages with a ton of white space, it probably means lots of dialogue that needs fleshing out with physicality and gesture.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Monday Musings--Realistic Dialogue

What makes dialogue "feel" realistic? This isn't a rhetorical question--I'm actually interested in hearing, and then reposting, your responses. Please post examples, reference writers, or quote passages you feel might be relevant.

The interesting thing about dialogue that feels real is that, interestingly, it's actually NOT perfectly realistic. For example, in real life, you might be on the phone with your friend telling a story about your night while simultaneously surfing the internet, and a direct transcription of your end of the conversation would look like this:

"Yeah, and so then he was like, getting all crazy or whatever, and I was, like, wtf? You know? It's like...he has such a problem... [pause] What? Oh, no, sorry. No, I'm not typing. No, anyway, what was I saying? Oh! So he was, like, you know that's over, say it's over, and I was like, what are you talking about? I don't know. And then Jon came over and we kind of just, like, dropped it, so I have no idea."

While that may be "real" dialogue, it actually reads as both stylized and incredibly annoying. In fact, it's the opposite of good writing: it uses lots of words without actually saying anything meaningful.

On the other hand, we all know the dreaded "Dawson's Creek" phenomena: I hate it when I read a manuscript (or open a book) and find a 16-year-old girl, described as an average student, shy, maybe with not much of a romantic history, who speaks like this when in a confrontation with, say, her stepmother:

"I'm tired of the fact that you and dad have a perfect domestic life, while I feel totally excluded. It's as though he has completed forgotten about my real mother, and you're pretending she never existed!"

That's a lot of clarity for a 16-year-old, and more transparency of thought/communication than most adults ever express.

Then again, if a 16-year-old were to say to her best friend in a novel: "I hate how dad and Kerri just pretend like we're some family in, like, an LL Bean commercial, you know? He doesn't even talk about her anymore--my mom, I mean. Like she never even existed."

I'd buy that.

Again, though, it's far easier to point out what makes BAD dialogue than to identify what makes GOOD dialogue. Some more pet peeves:

"Cliche" dialogue: "Oh my god," Becky, the head cheerleader, chirped, "Did you, like, see what she was wearing? Lo-ser."

In teen books, too many "teenisms": "OMG WTF! I cannot BUH-LIEVE Andrew didn't retweet you!"

In children's books, children who talk like what conservative grown-ups in the fifties wished their children had spoken like: "Oh, wow, Tommy!" Sarah said, as Tommy showed her the treehouse. "That's super neat!"

I'd like to spend time this week on the blog, focusing on dialogue. So please, tell me: what kind of dialogue do you respond to? And what kind of habits/tendencies do you see in written dialogue that drives you bananas?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In The Land of In-Between

Finishing a novel is always a bittersweet experience. It brings a tremendous rush of accomplishment, which I think partly relates to the geometric aspect of a novel: a good novel has an arc, it has a clearly delineated shape, and there's a kind of ingrained satisfaction you get to completing its symmetry. Then there is the fact that you just plain made it through the slog--through all the days when every single cell in your body resisted the computer and the page, when each sentence took forever to work its way out of the muddle and murk of your brain, when friends were calling and the sunny skies were taunting you to come out and enjoy! When you finish a novel, you have once again come to the end of a long, hard, dusty, and often grueling road...like a marathon, except without anyone to cheer you on and offer you little sippy cups full of juice at the finish line.

On the other hand, finishing a novel often fills me with sadness, and a kind of regret; for months I have toiled among the same characters, in a specific world, and all of a sudden they are gone, and the world buds away from me, complete, floating off into the ether like a soap bubble. It leaves me with a sense of loss that (I'm ashamed to admit) has more than once made me cry.

Last week I finished the sequel to Delirium, which was an interesting experience for me partially because I knew it was not the end of these characters or this world--I still have a final book in the trilogy to complete, and my mind almost instantly began cycling forward to the new book, plotting and scheming and thinking about what will come next. But if completing Delirium 2 didn't leave me with the usual sadness, it also didn't leave me with the typical feelings of accomplishment; the road is not yet finished.

For now, however, I am in that blank and shimmering space in-between books, a wonderful and also terrifying place to be. I won't start Delirium 3 until early next year, so for now novelistic possibilities are endless. I could write a book of poems! (For the sake of all potery-lovers/readers in the world, however, I'll spare you.) Or a rhyming picture book! Or a murder mystery featuring a delinquent cat detective! (Again, in the interest of good taste, I won't--but I could.)

This will be my week to explore a new project, and once again get started on another marathon slog toward the finish line. Maybe I'll invest in some sippy cups, just in case. :)

Boxes and Gas Leaks and Books, Oh My!

Alright, peeps. I'm getting serious about my blog hiatus and I'm vowing to be much better about posting. I recently moved, and my apartment is still in a state of disarray (plus my oven broke--thus the "gas leak" portion of my post title), but I am slowly carving my way through the mess of boxes and books, and am feeling a little less like a headcase and a little more like a human.


Now I just need a title...

Thus the reason for my MASSIVE TITLING CONTEST!!

Okay, so I realize that typically in order to title books it helps to have read them, but I've never been a super traditional kind of girl, so I'm just going to go ahead and host the titling contest anyway. However, keep in mind that this is the follow-up book to DELIRIUM, whose Goodreads description I've pasted below:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

All you have to do to enter is write in with a suggested title for book 2 (hint: it should be a single-word title that kind of "goes" with the title of Delirium, and suggest big, epic, explosive adventures, or sweeping illness, or tragic love...any of the above, really. :)) As long as you suggest a title you'll be eligible to win--I'll select the ultimate winner at random.

And what, pray tell, will you win?

Signed ARCs of both Before I Fall and Delirium, along with other secret goodies I plan on digging up for you POSSIBLY INCLUDING: a tote bag, signed bookmarks, and a large smiley face drawn on a sheet of paper. (What? I LOVE smiley faces!)

I can't wait to hear what you all come up with!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm baaaaaack

Hello, my pretties!
Did you miss me? Sorry for the long blog delay...I was wrapping things up in Paris, and then I returned home to a horrifically disordered house and a To-Do list that could double as a phone book, except with a lot more incidents of the word "laundry" in it.
Anyway, I wanted to share the news that I'll be celebrating my return to the states this weekend in true literary style, by participating in the awesome annual BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL! See below for Sunday's "Youth Stoop" events--I'm on the Happily Ever After panel with absolutely SWOON-worthy authors, so come check it out. (Actually, you should just make a day of it...you'll want to once you see what else is going on during the day!)

*You’ve Got to Be Kidding. Former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka (Spaceheadz), National Book Award Finalist E. Lockhart (The Treasure Map of Boys) and Mac Barnett (The Brixton Brothers) take on the absurdity of life in books and writing and talk about their ways of making us laugh, including hamster space aliens and panicky smart alecks. Moderated by Betsy Bird. THE YOUTH STOOP 10:00 AM

*DRAWN! Illustrator Draw-off. Illustrators bring magic to words with the simple stroke of a pencil. Watch award-winning illustrators create in response to a few energetic prompts from the audience, and hear them discuss the magic behind their illustrative work. Mike Cavallaro (Foiled), Shane Evans (Olu’s Dream) and Vanessa Brantley. Moderated by Darren Farrell (Doug Dennis and the Flyaway Fib). THE YOUTH STOOP 11:00 AM

*Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made. Laura Toffler-Corrie (The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz), Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich (8th Grade Superzero) and 2009 Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me), bring us relatable, inspiring characters embracing challenges with friendships and popularity—while trying to solve a mystery or two—set against very different New York landscapes. Moderated by Wendy Lamb. THE YOUTH STOOP 12:00 PM

*About a Boy. Newbery Honor-winning Jacqueline Woodson (Peace, Locomotion), debut author Torrey Maldonado (Secret Saturdays) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Charles Fuller (Snatch: The Adventures of David and Me) offer us a rare look into the minds and hearts of young boys who could really use a second chance. THE YOUTH STOOP 1:00 PM

*Happily Ever After? Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall), Jenny Han (It’s Not Summer Without You) and Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars) talk about characters who are forced to relive their past, come to terms with haunting memories and who have committed terrible acts. Moderated by Kirsten Miller (The Eternal Ones). THE YOUTH STOOP 2:00 PM

*When it All Goes Wrong. Adele Griffin (The Julian Game), Tracy White (How I Made it to Eighteen) and Sofia Quintero (Efrain’s Secret), discuss what happens when life gets out of hand, from online stalking to addiction to the lure of living double lives. THE YOUTH STOOP 3:00 PM

*Making It. Mitali Perkins (Bamboo People), Francisco X. Stork (The Last Summer of the Death Warriors) and Kate Milford (The Boneshaker) bring tales of their characters’ extreme survival to the stage, from a teen soldier in Burma to an orphanage in Mexico to a girl in 1913 Missouri who finds herself in the middle of a battle between good and evil. Anjali Wason, moderator. THE YOUTH STOOP 4:00 PM

Tiger Beat. Teen author band Libba Bray, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Natalie Standiford and Barnabas Miller perform at the Festival. THE YOUTH STOOP 5:00 PM

Friday, August 27, 2010

Writing Challenge, Parisian Edition, My Turn!

Okay so it might be a little silly but I had a ton of fun working on this! Enjoy...

We hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago, but she still looked exactly the same: the same way of wrinkling her nose, as though constantly smelling something distasteful. The same haughty look in her eyes. The same black, sleek fur coat. The same habit of twitching her whiskers when she was lying.
“Mirabella,” I barked, as she came sauntering into the room, tail swishing. Normally I have a good bark, low and loud. I may be a mutt—pound born and bred, thankyouverymuch—but I got the pipes of a champion. That’s one of the reasons Tom and Carol picked me out from the clink. Tom’s a retired cop, spent most of his career busting dealers and pimps on the strip. He’s made a lot of enemies in his time. But when I say her name, it comes out like a Maltese’s pipsqueak.
“Bruce,” she purrs, making it sound my name has about a thousand u’s.
I can’t say I was happy to see her. I can’t say I wasn’t happy, either. One thing I can say: I never expected to see the lap-cat of Portia Derbish, heiress of the Derbish Burger Chain, sniffing around a dump like the Bayside View Condos in Boca Raton, Florida. Only view we’ve got is a parking lot and a cracked above-ground pool, plus the old broads in the building who like to set out their lawn chairs and suntan topless, even though their skin’s already the color of old shoe leather. The handbag-hags, Tom calls them: beat up as an old purse.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing Challenge--Parisian Edition--Your Responses!

From Kate of I Just Want To Sit Here And Read:

They hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago.
Francois gripped his coat tighter around him. He looked down. His fingernails were turning blue again. Great, he thought. He scanned the bridge, looking for her. I wonder if she looks any different.
The sky was turning an ominous grey color and Francois gave himself another ten minutes and then he was out of there. On the south end of the bridge, he finally spotted her.
“Clarice,” he breathed.
Clarice was the typical Frenchwoma, dressed head to toe in black. Her heel clicks echoed across the bridge and deep into Francois’ heart. Her eyes never left his. A hint of a smile played on her lips, making him grin goofily. He stepped toward her, insistent on closing the distance between them as soon as possible. Clarice reached behind her and appeared to scratch her back before returning her hand to the front and reaching for his.
Francois saw that Clarice’s eyes were rimmed with red. He lifted her into a hug, wishing that he could dry those tears forever. “Clarice, it has been too-,” he started to say.
A ringing in his ears escalated to a full pounding. He looked around at the empty bridge then back at Clarice. “What-” he said. Clarice backed away as Francois fell to his knees clutching his stomach. He pulled back his hand to see red, sticky liquid pouring from his body. He looked up at the sobbing Clarice, and managed a tiny smirk. He saw the glint of metal as she returned the weapon to its resting place behind her jacket. At last he managed to whisper, “Touche.”

Love, love, love. I love how Kate tells a complete story, and I love how she subverts our expectations of what is going to happen when Clarice and Francois meet. And the fact that she manages to actually "touche" in a literal sense? Hilarious.

From William White, proofreader extraordinaire, of William White Books:

We hadn’t seen each other since Paris almost two years ago. I had hoped I would never see her again. It had only been one night but in the hundreds of long nights since I found myself unable to erase her from my memory.
I had been in Paris during a layover flight from Cyprus on my way back to the United States. In those days I flew the pond quite often. I planned upon visiting my old friend Nicoli and enjoying several bottles from his families’ impressive vineyard. Unfortunately Nicoli had been called away suddenly to attend the funeral of the Ukrainian Prime Minister, killed in a train crash two days before. With no one else to call upon that evening I took up residence in the airport’s ‘Salon Exutive’ and resigned myself to an evening alone watching television at the hotel. It was during my second cocktail that a fellow traveler, a somewhat inebriated Irishman, engaged me with pictures of his rather large family. While the man was enlightening me as to his reasons for naming all the male children after long dead Irish saints I happened to look up from the photos and see her.
As she walked into my life.

One of the great things about this piece, other than the elegance of the prose, is the way it immediately engages the attention by offering a full, well-rounded sense of world and character: the protagonist is a traveler, someone who rubs elbows with the high and mighty; it seems as though we are stepping into a narrative that is already fully imagined and realized.

From Lizzy Douitsis, "Shoebox Memories"

Covered in dust and hidden from sight under my bed was a shoebox of old things I could neither bring myself to look at nor force myself to throw out, things from my past. An old faded candle, a small braided basket, a wilted blue flower, these weren’t just things. These were memories, memories that caused a sharp ache in my heart whenever I thought of them, which is why I kept them shut away. Out of sight out of mind is what my mother liked to say. But she was wrong. I couldn’t escape them.
A steaming, home cooked meal set on the small round table by the window with the moonshine seeping through the dark night, and the candle, burning bright and orange on the centerpiece reflecting the light of his deep, dark eyes; eyes that always sent shivers down my spine; eyes that I could have stared into forever. Curled up together on his living room couch by the flickering light of the TV, a gentle hum in the background, all focus intent on the small braided basket we were making, that he was showing me how to make. A basket to put my car keys in when I got home because I was always losing them. Lying down in a field in a mess of green grass and tangles of rainbow coloured flowers, staring up at the sky and making pictures in the clouds, whispering that we would never be apart, him pressing a soft blue flower into my hand and telling me that my eyes were the exact same color, except prettier.
Things, memories, shoeboxes, my heart beat faster as tears pooled in my eyes. We hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two year ago. If I could have stuffed that memory into the shoebox I would have, but I couldn’t. I only wished I could forget. Waking up in the middle of the night listening to him breathing beside me, gallivanting through the streets, hand in hand, lying on the hood of his car and staring up at the stars, seeing all the sights of Paris, we acted like a pair of silly tourists who had no clue what they were doing but having a great time doing it. Those were the best times of my life. And then there was the last memory, the one that changed everything one bleak August night. Screaming, crying, fighting, everything exploding and falling, and coming undone, feeling like my life was shattering in front of my very eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it, the night I lost Julian forever. I thought my heart would stop.
And now I was going to see him again, and I didn’t know what to think because until now I had kept all of our memories hidden away in a shoebox, pretending that they didn’t exist, that they had never happened at all. But my efforts to erase the past were useless because I still thought of him every time I saw a candle, or a basket, or a flower. Julian was alive in my memory, just as alive now as he was the summer we spent together two years ago. And I still felt the exact same way. A shoebox could never contain my feelings. Because despite everything that had happened, despite everything that had gone wrong, despite even the scattered remains of my broken heart, I was still in love with Julian Johnson.

I love this piece because Lizzy riffed on the prompt--she did not actually begin with the sentence "We had not seen each other since...", but she allowed it to inform and shape the rest of the piece. Also, Lizzy and I suffer from the same tendency toward getting carried away by our writing and doubling our intended word count! I feel you, L.

From Zoe MacDonald, "Two Years Later"

We hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago now, even though it seems like a lifetime. In two years, so much had happened and neither of us were the scared teenagers that lived in the small back road apartment with five other high school sophomores. When we were fifteen, the city was the only place either of us wanted to be, with its sparkling lights and cobblestone streets. Then we turned sixteen and more important things came along and we were back home in our respective countries.
Now we were eighteen, and wiser and had moved on.
Then I saw his face, through the crowd. Out of the hundreds of people on a train platform in Toronto, he was the only face I saw.
After two years, he looked completely different but at the same time, just like the boy I had once loved.
His hair wasn’t in pencil thin dreads, instead fell into curls at the back of his neck. He was no longer trying to be a hippy, so instead of the army pants with flowers and peace signs or torn baby blue jeans, he was wearing a pair of dark pegged skinny jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. His eyes were still the same blue that took my breath away. Even from across the platform I could tell that.
That’s when he met my eyes.
“Caroline,” he said and smiled, making his way over to me.
“Hey Free,” I said softly, looking at the ground, unable to look him in his eyes. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” he said then looked down to my empty hand. “Where’s Henry?”
I bit my lip and held back tears debating whether or not to tell him the truth.

There are two things that really struck me about this submission: 1. That Zoe accurately captured a phenomena I have always noticed when I am in love with somebody--that no matter where you are, in how crowded an environment, you can always seem to locate the person you are in love with immediately. It's passion radar! I love, too, how she named her character Free; it's so unusual, it makes you want to know more about him.

From Paige:

We hadn't seen each other since our trip to Paris, and that was almost two years ago. He stayed away from me, as I stayed away from him. Our trip was fantastic, and that was the way that we wanted to keep it. We broke it off on the plane home from our trip, just so that that would be the last memory we had with each other... keeping it light and airy. My name is Amber Daniels, and his name was Stephen Reimann and he was the love of my life. It sounds weird I know, but we were still very passionately in love when we left Paris when we broke it off in the airplane. You see, Stephen had a brain tumor. Just a few short days after we got back home from our trip to Paris, he died in his parents house as peacefully as possible. I've heard the last words on his lips were my name and Paris.
It brings tears to my eyes to remember it, but as cliché as it is... we will always have Paris. It was his last love-filled, romantic weeks on earth... and it was the best time I've ever had. We didn't talk about his tumor, we didn't talk about sadness or cry in front of each other... we were just happily in each others company. We told each other things that we never wanted anyone to know, because we wanted to know about each other inside and out before he left me. I didn't want him to leave me here alone, but I knew he had no choice. We laughed until we gasped for air and our sides ached, we cuddled until we fell asleep, and we talked until we were hoarse. I love you Stephen Reimann, and you'd better be waiting with flowers at the Pearly gates for me.

Paige did something here for which I have absolutely no talent--she wrote a "short short"! (A very short short story; typically, between 100-500 words). Her submission has a full arc and actually tells the complete story of a relationship!

From Stephanie Sanders:

"Hello my love." Came a horribly familiar voice.
I slowly turned around and there he was. My worst nightmare. The last time I saw him he was covered in my blood.
My knees felt week and I didn't know if I had the strength to keep them steady. He smiled that same dark smile that he had the day he tried to kill me.
I thought I had escaped, I thought it was over. As he reached for my hand, I knew it would be soon.
"We haven’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago. I‘ve missed you," he said as our hands met. I felt a tingle run up my arm as he touched me. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, everything that I had worked for to get past the memory of him was gone.
All there was in the world was him and his hand upon mine.
I couldn’t bring myself to run or to scream. I was lost in his murderous eyes. He led me to the ally behind the coffee shop, and still I did nothing. I was tired of running, tired of the nightmares, tired of what my life had become. I looked into his eyes and I knew this was it. My fight was over. I was over.

Ooooh, LOVE IT!! So scary--I'm dying to know what happens next, and I love the way Steph inserted the prompt in dialogue and went in a completely unexpected direction.

Content by Lauren Oliver - Copyright 2011. Blog designed by Ella Press Studio - 2011.

Author Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie - Copyright 2010. Original Font Idea by Erin Fitzsimmons - 2010.