Monday, January 31, 2011

Motivational Monday - Isn't it amazing?

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

What is it about sunsets? We never grow tired of them. The beauty, the uniqueness, and the wonder of it all as we contemplate our very small selves on a very big planet in a very, very big universe.

I've been thinking that maybe we need to think about our work the way we think about sunsets. Each project different from the last, and each one delighting us in new and different ways. As we sit down to work each day, instead of grumbling, as we sometimes do, about all of the things that are wrong and all of the work we need to do, we should rejoice in our work. We can be awestruck about our ability to create a story from nothing. NOTHING! Isn't that amazing, when you sit back and think of it that way? Where no story existed before, because of you, one exists now. Wow!

The more we write, the more we can lose that sense of wonder. I don't want to lose that sense of wonder. I don't want to write without an excitement about what I'm doing - about what I'm bringing to the world. Yes, some stories are more work. Some stories are harder than others, and in that difficulty, we do struggle sometimes. That's how it goes. It's not always easy. But even as we struggle, I think we can take a moment now and then to stand back and admire what we are creating. Some days, it will be hard to see the beauty in what we are doing. That's when it's the most difficult, isn't it? So... stand back and find the beauty. Remind yourself what it is you love about the project you're working on. 

This week, as you write, think of your work as a sunset. Find the beauty in it. Be in AWE of it. If you're having trouble, read this post by Stephanie Perkins about making love lists

Love your work. Be blown away by it! Because it is amazing... isn't it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today I get to...

Today I get to clean the house.

Today I get to do laundry. 

Today I get to go to the grocery store and buy food for my beautiful family.

Today I get to finish packing for a trip I'm looking forward to.

How often do we gripe and moan about the chores we have to do, the piles of work we have, the errands we have to run?

I am so blessed to have a house that needs cleaning. To have clothes that need washing. To have a family that needs feeding.

 I'm thankful for this day and for the work that lies ahead. I'm thankful for the ability to do all of the things that need to be done.

Whatever you GET to do today, I hope you have a great day. Make it a great day!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Motivation - On Flying High

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam."  ~Richard Bach

I write best when I'm not worrying about my career, or comparing myself to others, or wondering if the story I'm telling is as good as the ones that have come before it, or a hundred other things.

For me, the hardest part of writing isn't the writing itself. It's shutting out the noise and finding my way into a story and getting to the place of blissful writing. Where I can fly free. Free of all things but words and story.
Some days, there is more to think about, more to worry about, more to wonder about, than others.

This week, I wish us all a lot of flying. Of finding that sweet spot where everything else melts away. A soul on a sunbeam indeed.

How does it start? By opening the document and diving in. It all starts there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yay, cover!

Shortly after I posted the title page yesterday, I got an e-mail from my editor, sharing the cover of the companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

I think it's so cute - I love how it looks like CUPCAKES but has its own personality and captures many special things about the book in the cover.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I don't have a cover yet.

Hopefully soon!

BUT I did get my first pass pages today, which are the pages where I get to read the book all nicely designed and printed like an actual book. I'm going through it now, looking for any last minute things I might want to correct.

Here is the title page - instead of cupcakes, you get little brownie sundaes throughout the book. Isn't it fun? I love it!!!

Now I want a brownie sundae. I may have to go to the store...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lately productivity is not my friend

I haven't been very productive lately. I have a completed draft of a manuscript I need to revise as well as an elementary school visit presentation I need to prepare.

But all I want to do is watch movies and read books. So many good books in piles around my house right now. My husband wonders how I can possibly read them all. Right now, I think I have four different books going. I can't help it - I want to read them all now!

Anyway, I must get to work. Maybe I need to bribe myself or something. I don't know. What do you do when you are dragging your feet and not getting to what needs to be done?

I'm hoping by committing here, I will get going. The next four days, I want to work on the manuscript and at least figure out what I need to do - develop my plan - and hopefully dive in and start doing it. Next week, I will tackle the school visit.

But wait, there's that book over there, and I'm really wondering what's going to happen...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Five - The Movie Version

Let's talk movies, shall we?

1. I watched The Town last weekend, and dang, Ben Affleck, if you didn't smash my low expectations to smithereens. You are good, you are hot, and you kept me on the edge of the seat the entire time. Ben not only starred in it, but also directed it, and even helped write it! I highly recommend it (but be warned, every other word is the F word, so, you know, make sure to watch when tender ears aren't around).

2. Last weekend we also rented Inception, which I know everyone probably saw in the theaters except me. Everyone who said it is mind-blowing is right. I'm actually really glad we watched it at home because my husband and I kept asking each other questions and talking out loud. "Wait, are they dreaming?" "What about now, is this real or not?" "Do you get what's happening?" "No, do you?" Yeah, people would have been annoyed with us in the theaters.

3. OMG, how much did I love Easy A. Very, very much. I think I laughed through the whole, entire thing. Her parents were SO hilarious. How come we can't all have parents like that? I have this urge to watch it again, actually, and that never happens with me and movies, but it's so rare to watch a movie that is really and truly funny, I think that must be why. I especially loved the homage paid to John Hughes. Just... love, love, LOVE!

4. When a friend invited me to see Tangled with her and her kids, I admit, I hesitated. Most kids movies put me to sleep. Okay, I have a few I love - Up, How to Train Your Dragon, and Finding Nemo. But, this, I don't know, it just didn't look that good to me. But my friend and her kids had already seen it once and were going back AGAIN, so I thought, wow, it must be good. And was it ever! It's one of those movies where the trailer really doesn't do it justice. It's really magical. And funny. Plus, can I say how fun it was watching her little girl get excited about the special parts? SO CUTE!! I loved the tower - wow! I want to live in a tower like that. Or, you know, have one in my backyard that is my writing tower. Don't you think any writer would just magically write better if he/she had a tower like that? My friend said if I liked it, I should rent The Princess and the Frog. So I'm going to do that. And make my teen boys watch it with me.

5. On New Year's Day, my family went to the movies, planning to split up, because we each wanted to see something different. My husband wanted to see True Grit, I wanted to see The King's Speech, and the kids wanted to see Tron. Well, we got there and The King's Speech was sold out. I was like, okay, I'll go see True Grit with my husband. Got in there, and the only seats left were in the very front, and neither of us can do that. So, we all ended up seeing Tron in this huge theater that was only about one-fourth full. They should have put The King's Speech in there! Tron was just okay - not really my thing. I probably should have went and watched Tangled again. Much more my speed.

My husband said this morning we'd try and go see The King's Speech this weekend. I hope we do, I have heard such great things about it, and want to see it before the Oscars, since it will probably take some awards.

What movies have you seen and loved?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The hard is what makes it great

I'm thinking of this scene this morning:

What do you think? Do you agree with the coach?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good job one and all!

As I do every year, I enjoyed watching the live video feed of the ALA award ceremony yesterday. And now I have a new list of books to read - yay!

I'm thrilled for A.S. King, whose book PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, received a Printz honor. I had two predictions for the Printz, and that book was one of them.

I love this poem, titled "What Happened to Your Book Today" by Kate Messner, which reminds us that the impact of books is really more important than anything else.

And now, I must get to work revising my work-in-progress, as there is much work to be done. I also have a seed of an idea for another book, which is always an exciting thing, since ideas don't come easily to me. We'll see if that idea stays in the back of mind for now, where I would really like it to stay so I can focus on the task at hand.

In closing let me say, to all those who won an award yesterday, congratulations! And to the rest of you, good job as well! You gave the others a run for their money. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dare to be different

Booklist has never given me a good review. So fine, one or more of them don't like verse novels. But when an editor from the Booklist "youth brigade" puts verse novels on the list of seven things he'd like to see "change or just go away," I had to comment. 

Here's the thing. Verse novels are different. I get that. But for some teens, they are the perfect kind of different. As I said in my response on that post, I get at least a few e-mails a week from teens who specifically write to me and tell me they usually hate to read, but they love my books.

Here are just a couple of examples of notes I've gotten:

"I am 14 years old. I found the book called I heart you, you haunt me in my school library and I decided to read it. I do not like to read at all. So my teacher forced me to read so I opened the book up and I started to read. WOW. I actually read. This book was so good I could not stop reading."

"Hi I'm Ashley, I love your book I heart you You haunt me.. I read it in only 1 day yes 1 day.. now I really lookin foward to reading Far From You. I think its gonna be another really good book. I hate reading but ever since I started reading your books it makes me want to read more."

I don't post these to pat myself on the back. I post these to say - thank goodness I don't write for the editors of Booklist. I write for teens who want or need a little something different to read. 

Different. I'm so glad there are artists before me who weren't afraid to be different. Who didn't let the critical adults of the world silence them.

On January 8th, 2008, three years ago from today, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME was released into the world. Yes, it's different. And it is certainly not the best book ever written. Far from it. I read it now and see all of its faults. But it has touched many teens, and some adults too, and has been a doorway into reading for some teens. And amazingly, it is still on bookstore shelves and continues to sell. 

So today, I say - Dare to be different!


And Happy Birthday little book of mine!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Why "oh well" should become an author's favorite words

On the eve of the 3rd anniversary of my debut novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME (I know. Three years? Really? Wow!) I've been thinking about the realities of being a published author. So, lucky you, you get to hear some of my rambling thoughts today.

Many writers pursue publication for years.

Years and years and years.

And when it finally happens, when a hard working writer finally gets the deal, he is ecstatic. Like, over-the-moon happy.

It's going to be a BOOK! A real, live, honest-to-goodness book that people can pull off of shelf, open the cover with his name on the *front cover*, and read. Yes, people will read the words he sweated and slaved over, trying to create a story that would move a reader, amaze a reader, and stay with a reader for a long, long time.

Cartwheels are done. Champagne is popped. Gratitude is expressed right and left, up and down for the opportunity to be published. It feels SO good!

But often, after weeks or months of dreaming about the book out in the world, the vision starts to shift. It's not just an imaginary shelf somewhere, it's a shelf in Barnes and Noble, and every single one of the independents across the country. The author may start to imagine the book face out on the "New Releases" shelf. Or, even better, "The Best of..." shelf.

The author starts to wonder about reviews. Will they be good? Will there be *stars* involved? If it's starred, lots and lots of libraries will pick it up. Awesome. Maybe it will make special lists, or maybe, even better, it will win awards! Awards? Oh my word, it could win awards!!!

Hope is abundant in those months leading up to the release. And it makes sense, doesn't it? Hope kept that hard-working writer going, year after year, despite the rejections that piled up. Hard-working writers live and *breathe* hope.

And then, the day comes. The book is out. And here is where, for too many authors, it all goes to hell. One or both of the chains pass, so when the author goes to find it in a bookstore, he can't. Furthermore, it only gets one or two reviews, and they are so-so. One of those might even be bad. Buzz around the internet is for other books who have a big publisher push behind them. And the author wonders, why? Not just one why, but a hundred whys. Why didn't the bookstores want to carry it? Why didn't my publisher want to market it better? Why didn't I get a book tour like other authors I've seen at my book store? Why, why, why?

The elation the writer felt when the champagne was popped has vanished, and in its place, the writer finds disappointment and feelings of failure.

The big question then becomes - what next.

In the months leading up to the release of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, I wrote like a crazy person. I had one novel ready to go and another novel started. The completed novel was rejected. That's the way it goes sometimes. But the other novel, what eventually became FAR FROM YOU, became the novel I worked on in those months immediately following the release of I HEART YOU.

Now, yes, I HEART YOU made it into bookstores. It got pretty good reviews (no stars though). It sold well, and in fact, much better than I think anyone expected. And sure, I was happy about that, of course. How could I not be? But I had let it go a long time ago, in case none of those things happened. I had mostly released it from my mind and my heart, wished it well, and moved on.

Now some will say, No, no way Lisa, you don't know what it's like. You can't relate. You haven't really been there.

But I can relate because none of my books have sold as well as that first book. FAR FROM YOU, my second novel, came out in December 2008, when it felt like the world was about to fall out from underneath us. When people were getting laid off right and left and it felt like a second Great Depression was imminent. Expectations were high for that book based on how well I HEART YOU did, and guess what? Books were returned to the warehouse in droves. And not because it was a bad book, but because that's just how it goes sometimes. Things happen, books don't sell, expectations aren't met.

Oh well.

Yes, you read that right - oh well! It's NOT the end of the world!! And it doesn't have to be the end of your career either. Really and truly, it doesn't.

Remember when you'd query agents and you'd get rejected and sure, you might take a couple of days to be sad over a particularly hard rejection, but eventually you'd say, "oh well," and you'd submit again? So why can't you use those words now, when your book isn't selling the way you'd hoped it would?

I think writers should celebrate the sale. Then, work damn hard on revisions and make it the absolute best book you can make it. And when you send those final pages back, and you've done everything you're going to do on it, you need to open Scrivener or Word, and start in on a new project. Or if you don't know what to write next, brainstorm ideas for a week until you have one.

You have to let the sold book go, and let it become what it's going to become. Release it, like a kite. It'll fly or it will fall, but it's out of your hands. And we *must* remember, every book is completely separate from the ones that became before it and the ones that will come after it. Even if you're writing a series, the success of one book doesn't guarantee the success of another one. AND, perhaps even more importantly, the failure of one book does NOT guarantee the failure of another one.

I have seen too many writers crushed after the first book didn't do well, and they're done. They walk away. And these are good writers! I suppose it's the flight or fight response. So you fought all of those years for publication and now, when factors completely out of your control affect the sales of the book, you're going to run away? Someone might argue, but isn't my career over at that point?

WHAT!? Says who?? If you write a book editors can't say no to, your career is not over! It's as simple as that. So if you want to be an author, sit down and write a book editors can't say no to!

Maybe, after the whole rotten experience, some people decide they don't want to be an author. And that's fine, if it's a conscious decision. Believe me, I understand, it's a tough business. But, if you love writing, if this IS what you want to be doing, shut out the noise of the publishing world, open up a document, and write.

You might say, but what about promotion? I have to be out there, promoting my book, I can't shut out the publishing world. Look, let's get real. I have seen authors promote 24/7 for months and months, and their books still didn't do well. You *sold* your book to a publisher. When you've finished writing the thing, your job is DONE. There is nothing else you *have* to do (unless your house sends you on tour or requires appearances of you, I suppose). And I'm sorry, but the promotion we do on our own isn't going to make a whole lot of difference anyway. If you're out there doing school visits and events like that, yes, it will probably make a difference. But skipping out on twitter because you need to write? Don't feel guilty about that.

Writers write. After each book, I kept writing. I kept moving forward. By the time the book was ready to be released, I had something else ready to go out, maybe even already sold.

I guess I want to close by saying - if you've published a novel, regardless of how well it did, be proud of yourself! You have accomplished something that about 97% of the US population dreams of doing. It's no small thing!

And remember how you dreamed of someone pulling it off the shelf, with your name on the cover, and reading it, and just *that* image made you incredibly happy? Well, that happened. Some people read your book. Maybe not as many people as you had hoped, but it's a BOOK, and you've been read! *You* are an author. And everything else that didn't happen?


And I bet at least a hundred people reading this post will think to themselves, I would be SO happy if that happened to me. (And then I ask, really? You really think so? Are you sure, if only *that* happened?). Ha!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How about some cuteness

I was looking up how to spell lhasapoo for a tweet (because I can never remember) and came across these ADORABLE pictures. I mean, so cute, right?

We recently found a lump on Stormy's leg. So we took her in to the vet, they took a sample and then sent it away to the lab. Monday afternoon, I had a message from the vet's office. It seriously took me about 3 hours to get up the nerve to listen to it. Thankfully, it was good news. The lump appears to be a benign fatty tumor, which is fairly common in dogs, I guess. They tested the sample at the vet's office, but there was so much blood, which concerned the vet a little bit, and they couldn't really get a good reading, so they had to send it out just to be sure.

Here she is, having fun in the snow (two years ago).

Love that dog so much!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I love my readers

And I want to thank YOU, Acacia!

How did you know that a big colorful heart in my mailbox is just what I needed?