Monday, February 28, 2011

Remembering my friend, L.K. Madigan

It is so hard to know what to say. But not saying anything seems wrong somehow. I don't know. So here I go, doing my best to put what is in my heart into words, even though it will be so completely inadequate.

There is no other way to begin than to simply say I loved Lisa. She was one of the most kind and generous, fun and funny friends I've ever had. I remember when she won the Morris award, I stopped everything and made cupcakes for her. She was the type of friend who deserved cupcakes!

She loved coffee. She loved pie. Especially pumpkin pie with her coffee for a special breakfast. She loved blogging and the on-line writing community. She loved her husband of 20+ years. She loved U2 and frequently referred to Bono as her boyfriend. Actually, she loved music, period. In fact, she loved it so much, that when I asked her to go to a concert with me featuring one of my favorite bands, Lifehouse, who I think she could take or leave, she said, "Sure!" She loved her son so very much, and as the mother of two boys myself, we talked about our sons, and mothering to boys. She understood boys in a special way, and I think it's one reason why FLASH BURNOUT was so authentic in its voice.

We shared the love of some TV shows. Project Runway, for one. As you probably know, she channeled Tim Gunn a few times on her blog. I think I commented on one of those posts that she did it so well, it sort of scared me. Then there was My So-Called Life, which of course, was on many years ago, but we'd still talk about it sometimes. After she read my WIP in December, shortly before she got her diagnosis, she asked me if my main character's name (Rayanna, Rae for short) was after one of the characters on My So-Called Life. It wasn't, until she said that. But then I said, "You know, I hadn't even thought of that. But I like it! So yeah, I'm going to go with it."

And finally, Friday Night Lights. One of my favorite shows of all time. And I think she got fed up with me talking about it all the time, and telling her, you need to watch it, you need to WATCH IT! So one weekend, she Netflixed Season 1. And I can remember getting little texts and/or e-mails from her as she watched. She eventually watched the other seasons and was all caught up last year so she could watch Season 4 along with me.

The last time I saw her, in January, I took her a Dillon Panther's t-shirt. On the back it had their motto: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose.

Here's what I believe. Lisa lived that motto. She lived life with her eyes wide open, taking it all in. One of the last e-mails I got from her read, "Isn't it so pretty today? I'm sitting here watching the birds and the squirrels." And that was all. She just wanted to share that little moment with me. And it made me stop and take a moment to look outside, and take in the beauty of the day. And a full heart? Oh yeah, absolutely. She loved deeply. From friends and family to books and authors to music and bands to Europe and sunny beaches... I could go on and on and on. As far as the can't lose part? She wrote books, submitted them, and continued to submit them in the face of rejection because even though it hurt and it was hard, she wanted to see her dream come true. And thank God she did. I can still remember reading an earlier novel that was never published. I thought, dang, this girl can write. I knew it would only be a matter of time. And when I read FLASH BURNOUT, which made me laugh and made me cry, I knew it would be the one.

She was so supportive of me and my books too. The thing is, though, it wasn't just me. She made a point of letting authors know when she'd read a book and loved it. She was so good at making that personal connection and doing everything she could to lift authors up. I try to do that, but she didn't try, she DID it. And it makes me want to work harder and be better about that. She understood how hard this business is and how much a simple note of encouragement can mean.

Somewhere on Goodreads there is a lovely review of CHASING BROOKLYN where she talked about all of my books. I think it would make me too tearful, so I'm not going to go and look for it now. But in it, she said of all my books, FAR FROM YOU was her favorite. FAR FROM YOU tells the story of Alice, who is trying to adjust to a new life with her step-mom and new half-sister. Years before, Alice's mom died from pancreatic cancer. Yes, you read that right. Pancreatic cancer, the kind of cancer that took Lisa's life. These past days, I've found myself thinking of Alice, wondering if God put the characters of Alice and her mother in my heart to perhaps help me a little with Lisa's passing.

There is a passage in FAR FROM YOU I want to share with you, where Alice is unconscious, and has a dream of sorts with her mother.

"But Mom, I'm losing you.
It's getting harder and harder to find you."

She kisses my forehead.
"Honey, no matter where you are, I'm with you.
When the breeze brushes your cheek, it's me.
When the stars sparkle and shine, that's me.
When the tulips bloom in the spring, that's me."

Wednesday night, after a very sad day, my husband and I went for a walk. It was a cold and quiet night, and as we walked, it began to snow. Big, fat, beautiful flakes fell around us in the darkness. And a sense of peace washed over me. I will miss her so much. But I also know, she is with me always. As Alice realizes, her mom's greatest wish is for her to live a full life. To look for and find the joy everywhere. I know Lisa wants that for me too. For ALL of us.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Trust fund for Lisa's son

Here is your opportunity to do something for our friend, L.K. Madigan.

A trust fund has been set up for her son, to pay for college expenses one day.

Please make your check payable to: Nathan Wolfson Trust. Then mail it to the following address:

Becker Capital Management, Inc.
Attn: Sharon Gueck/John Becker
1211 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 2185
Portland, OR  97204

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I really have no words today, so...

One of many cherished memories I have is watching the musical Wicked together.

This one is for you, my dear sweet friend, Lisa. Handprint on my heart indeed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Motivation - On creating

"When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out and paint the stars." ~Vincent Van Gogh

On a message board over the weekend, someone posted about how worrying about reviews and what people think paralyzes her to the point that she finds it hard to write.

I get that it's hard to have people judging your art. It is really, really hard. But each of us has to figure out a way to continue to create once our work is out there. Yes, there may be times, before a book's release or immediately after, that we simply can't. I get that. The "noise," either in our head or around the internet, can be very distracting at times.

I think it comes back to the discussion I had about success recently though. We need to learn to find success IN the creating. I gave this analogy on the message board, and I thought I'd share it here.

If I made jewelry, I might make a bracelet, sell it, then someone would buy it and wear it. Maybe no one ever comments on that bracelet. When she wears another one, tons of people comment on it. But I'm back in my house, making more jewelry, because I don't follow my jewelry around to see how well received it is, so I never know if anyone comments or not. And I don't know that people like the other bracelet she wears a lot more than the one I made. If you asked me if I'm happy about the bracelet, I'd probably say, of course, because it found a wonderful home and I got paid for doing what I love.

I love Vincent Van Gogh's quote because what it says to me is that creating art for him was a deeply spiritual thing. It brought him closer to God. Without getting too "religious" on you, I feel the same way. I wrote two books last year that literally felt like a gift from God as I wrote. I look back at the writing of those books with such joy and fond memories. Now, not every book is like that. I don't know why. But when it is, I take the gift and am thankful for it. And maybe the books that are harder to write are meant to teach me things. In any event, our job is to write the best book we can. And then to revise that book as best we can, again and again and again, as many times as we need to, with or without an editorial letter.

After that, our job is done. It's time to look for a new story to create. As Sara Zarr said so well HERE, we have to learn to separate our identity as a writer from our popularity as a writer, because they are NOT the same thing.

It's not easy, I know. We want people to love our work. But in order to keep working, to keep painting more stars or designing more bracelets or writing more stories, we have to wish it well out in the world and let it go. And go back to our calling - the art of creating a story where none existed before. Which never ceases to amaze me that we DO that!

Be amazed. Be excited about what you do! Because isn't it just SO amazing and exciting? I think it is!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Five things on a Friday

1. It has been hard to blog lately. Hard to be on-line very much, actually. I don't really want to say why, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

2. I have news I'd love to share, but I can't yet, so... Wow, this is a fun Friday five, isn't it? I might as well just put a bunch of numbers up and no words next to them. Let's see if I can do better for the last three.

3. I finished revising my latest YA manuscript yesterday and sent it to my agent! Whew. What a relief. It's the longest book I've ever written, at 65,000 words, which I know is really not that long at all. But when you write in verse most of the time, that's long! It isn't in verse, but it's a contemporary story with mystery, romance, and a great hook. I hope she likes it, but she may not, and since I prefer writing the whole thing, I'm okay with whatever happens now. I have an idea for a verse novel that I can start any time. Well, after I get my taxes done and get ready for some presentations in March.

4. I am going to try to win the lottery this morning, er, get Taylor Swift tickets. Wish me luck!

5. Finally, look what I got in the mail!!! These are the Advanced Review Copies for SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, the companion novel to my middle grade novel IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. I plan to give them all to independent booksellers. I have a few in town I'll hand them to, and then I'll have a few left to mail. If you are an independent bookseller who loves middle grade fiction or you know one who would love to read this, please let me know in the comments.

Hope you have a lovely weekend. I get to do taxes, clean my house, and catch up on life in general after being focused on the book for so long. I'm actually looking forward to all of it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The seeds that grow a story

I remember one day I was sitting in the lunch room at work, and a few other co-workers were eating and talking. I don't know how the conversation got there, but Paul told us that after he graduated from college, he and his best friend flipped a coin to decide where they'd move to live and look for work. Heads Seattle, WA or Tails Somewhere, WI. It was heads, so they moved to Seattle, got an apartment together, and both found work. He eventually met the woman who would become his wife, they moved to Portland where she had family, and so... there it was. His life, all a result of that coin toss.

I told myself I had to use that in a book someday. So, when I was writing THE DAY BEFORE, I thought - I want to put a coin toss in here. I didn't know why. I didn't know how it would work. I just knew it was one detail I wanted to use.

That is how it works for me. I don't necessarily know how things will come together when I plant seeds into my story like that. I just have something in mind I want to use (usually a few somethings - what are those called anyway?), and then I write and see how they grow. See how things play out.

In the end, the coin toss didn't necessarily mean a BIG decision was made, like it was for Paul. It actually became much more for my main character. In the process of tossing a coin throughout the day, she eventually has a realization that's really key for her. An "ah-ha" moment, if you will.

Sometimes I think I should be more intentional about the details I put into my books. Except, I sort of love the excitement and mystery and eventually, the joy of discovery of how the details come to work together to add meaning to the story. It makes it SO fun!

As I've said before, when it all comes together and works, it's like... magic.

I'm curious. Are you intentional about what little elements or details or whatever they're called that you put into your story? Or are you more like me - throw things in and then see how they play out?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! (and contest winner)

How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. 

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight. 
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; 
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. 

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. 
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath, 
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose, 
I shall but love thee better after death.

Thanks to all of you who entered my Follower Love giveaway. I'm happy to announce the winner is: 
Serena@PensiveBookeaters! Congratulations - I'll be sending you an e-mail to get your mailing information.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Giveaway of TWO highly sought after YA ARCs!!

I'm really excited to be participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy Habel at I am a Reader, Not a Writer. Every month, Kathy organizes a "hop" so blog readers can quickly hop from blog to blog and enter to win lots and lots of prizes. So awesome!

I know a lot of people don't like Valentine's Day, but I do. Any day that is all about love is a fabulous day, in my opinion. Who was it that said, "All we need is love?" Some famous boy band, maybe?

Okay, so here is what you can win! One lucky person will win TWO ARCs, as follows.

First, From the December hop, I discovered that there are a LOT of people looking forward to DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth.

From Goodreads: 
One choice
One choice decides your friends, defines your beliefs, and determines your loyalties . . . forever.

Or, one choice can transform you.

In Veronica Roth's debut novel, Divergent, a perfect society unfolds into a dystopian world of electrifying decisions, stunning consequences, heartbreaking betrayals, and unexpected romance.

Source of the book: Publisher


SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD by my friend, Lindsey Leavitt. This one is even SIGNED by Lindsey.

From Goodreads: According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.
Source of the book: Author/Publisher


1 entry - leave a comment telling me someone or something you LOVE.

Because it's a Follower Love giveaway, earn extra entries by doing the following and TELL me in the comments what you've done:
+ 1 following this blog (for either current followers OR new followers) 
+1 following me on twitter
+1 liking my Author page on facebook

Please make sure you give me a way to contact you if you should win. The contest runs from February 8th all the way through 11:59, February 13th, and is open to anyone who has a US OR Canadian address. 
I will announce the winner on February 14th!!

If you're new to my blog, thanks for stopping by! If you're one of my regular readers, thanks, as always for reading!

(Below is the list of blogs participating in the giveaway - click on as many links as you'd like and enter to win many more cool prizes!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Motivational Monday - on waiting

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." ~Carl Sagan

HERE, you'll see that literary agent Jenn Laughran explains why it's really not a good idea to publicly talk about what's out on submission. So, I will refrain on talking about that as far as my work goes.

But I heard something the other day that I wanted to pass on. Because I know the waiting can be hard at times. It doesn't bother me nearly as much now as it used to. It's simply a part of the publishing business, and I decided a while ago that if I'm going to be in this business, I basically have to accept that fact, even if I don't like it much.

Joyce Meyer says that when we get frustrated that something hasn't happened that we've been waiting for, we should stop and send up a prayer of thanks. Because in that moment, God is working on our behalf, even if we can't see the results of that work yet. So we can say, "Thank you for working on my behalf," and be comforted by the fact that things are happening, even if we can't really see those things.

We aren't a very patient society. Especially today, when you can see the news the minute it happens by logging into twitter or facebook. But when it comes to the publishing business, we really have to learn how to be patient. There is no other way. The waiting will drive you crazy if you let it. So don't let it. Keep busy. Keep working. Tell yourself when the time is right, it will happen. And in the meantime, be grateful for the unseen work being done on your behalf.

Do you have any tips you can share about how you deal with the waiting?


In other news - I want to make sure you know about two events coming up this month. First, this Friday, Feb. 12th at 4:30, I'll be doing a Young Writer's Workshop at Powell's Bookstore on Cedar Hills Blvd. in Beaverton. This workshop is mostly for kids ages 10-18, but I sat in on the last one and they didn't kick me out. So, come if you'd like! And then, on Saturday, Feb. 26th, I'm doing a YA panel with four other YA authors at the Sumner Pierce County Library in Sumner, WA, starting at 2:00. We'll be speaking, answering questions, and selling and signing books. So come if you're in the area! Remember, you can always check my "events" page on my website, to see what's coming up and where I'll be.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Yesterday I had a good day of writing.

And when it was time to be done for the day, I felt good. I felt successful! That's what I want - to feel successful about the work itself. That's what we can all do - feel successful when we've put in the time and done what we needed to do on whatever projects we're working on.

Creating = SUCCESS

Remember that, okay?

I also got some really nice notes yesterday. I have the best readers! Here's one line, about my YA books, from a mother who has shared my books with her teen daughter, that especially touched me.

"Sometimes we find books that are such gems, they touch our hearts and open our minds; and that is what you are able to do with your writing."

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thinking about success

I've been thinking about success.

 Thinking about how I don't feel successful, and wondering why that is.

 When I googled the word "success" to see what images popped up, there were images of ladders, keys, people on top of hills, and street signs with "failure" pointing one way and "success" pointing another way.

This year, I will have published four YA and two MG novels. I am now writing full-time. Most people would say, Lisa, you are crazy, you ARE successful. So why don't I *feel* successful?

Is it because my bank account doesn't make me feel successful? That might be part of it. But I think there's also a part of me that believes lists and awards equal success. And since my books haven't made any lists or earned any rewards, I don't feel successful.

And yet, I could name a handful of authors off the top of my head who haven't made lists or earned awards, and in my eyes they are successful. They have written a book everyone loves or have sold extremely well or have a publisher that has bought many books.

What I want is to feel successful because I'm doing what I LOVE!

I was telling my friend Lindsey one of my goals this year is to be more like Johnny Depp. When David Letterman asked him why he didn't watch any of his own films, he said something like - I do my job and when my job's done, in my mind it's done, and I move on to the next thing.

What his response said to me is that he doesn't want *his* success to be tied to the *film's* success. He tries to keep them separate. And honestly, without doing some googling, I don't know if Johnny Depp has won any awards. I don't know how much money he makes per film. But I know I love some films he's been in and others, not so much. Still, I look at him and of course I see him as successful! And really cute, but that's another post.

As authors, can we separate the two? Can we be successful if our books aren't? I don't know. With a film, there are so many other people involved. But the same could be true of a book - how many times have we heard a cover can make or break a book, and that is certainly out of our control.

I want to feel successful because I did the work, not because of what happens to the work after that. That's what I'm working on.

What do you think? Is it possible? Or am I going to have a hard time doing that?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sad story and PSA

I love walking my dog. For years, I've looked forward to that part of my day. And it's definitely the highlight of Stormy's day.

But there's a part of walking her that I don't like. First, I should explain, she is not friendly with other dogs, unless she knows the dog. I don't know if that's because she has been scared enough times that her instant reaction is growling or what. And unfortunately, we have had a number of scares with dogs running at us. And that's the part I really don't like.

I actually carry pepper spray now on my leash because I was so terrified one time when a big dog ran across a busy street to where we were walking. I can't even describe the helplessness you feel when a big dog charges at you.

But then... yesterday, a new kind of helplessness. I saw the little, white dog come running down the driveway from across the street, toward us. And I saw the SUV in the road. And in that instance, I held my arm out, trying to alert the driver, but it wasn't enough. Where was my voice? Where was my ability to scream, to jump up and down, to do SOMETHING other than turn away when I knew the inevitable was going to happen?

The people were right there, in the driveway. The screams I heard after it happened will be with me for a long time. The dog's owner went to the back of the car, picked up the dog, and held him to her chest, balling. I'm sure it was killed instantly, which I'm thankful for. It didn't suffer.

And so, I stood there, frozen. What could I do? What could I say? It would all be too little, too late. But then I realized, sitting in the car in the middle of the road was a person who felt the weight of what I felt times a hundred. I picked up Stormy and walked over to the driver's side of the car. Her window was rolled down and she was crying. She was an older lady, and I did what I could to help her, to comfort her in that moment. But I know she went home as I went home - with a very heavy heart.

I cried off and on all evening. Until I was so exhausted, I finally crawled into bed and fell into blissful sleep. My husband told me, Lisa, you were really just an innocent bystander. But see, it's hard because if I hadn't been there, walking my dog, it wouldn't have happened. That sweet little dog would still be alive and those people wouldn't be waking up today with a broken heart. And I keep replaying that moment when I froze, wishing I could have a do-over. Wishing I could have screamed as loud as I've ever screamed before to STOP!! I think I froze because of all those other times I froze as the dog came running at us, and that feeling of helplessness took over.

I write this today because first, as many of you know, writing can be healing. But I also write it to all of us as a reminder. Things can change in an instant. We have to be diligent with our pets! They shouldn't run free EVER. This is the second time in the past *year* I've witnessed a dog getting run over. The other time I was driving on the other side of a road when a dog ran out and a car hit it. And how many times have dogs run at us and fortunately, a car wasn't coming?

Part of me wants to put the leash away and never walk with my dog again. But I can't let the fear win. Stormy LOVES her walks. And most of the time, I do too.

I know this will cause some of you who are reading some sadness, and I'm sorry. I just really needed to share and give everyone a friendly reminder. It makes me feel like I'm doing something so maybe some good comes out of a sad situation. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing Retreat 2011

I have known Lindsey Leavitt for a long time. Years and years. We met on Verla's message boards, and swapped our boyish middle grade novels, and I fell in love with her sweetness and sense of humor. I knew she had talent and it would just be a matter of time before she was published. It's not just her writing I love though. I ADORE Lindsey, and am so blessed to call her my friend.

But back to her books. I can still remember when she sent me the first chapter of Princess For Hire. She wanted to know if she should keep writing, and what did I think of it? What did I think of it??? Oh my gosh - so cute, so funny, so good!! Write it, I told her in ten different ways. And write it she did.

And then, there was Sean Griswold's Head. I fell in love with Sean as I read the manuscript. I have an ARC I'm reading now, and it's so fun to see the story I loved years ago transformed into a real book! And lucky you, I'm going to give it away next week. Trust me people, you want to read this book. It's fun and funny and has a whole lot of heart. It's my favorite kind of book. (Bloomsbury, March 1, 2011)

Lindsey and I met face-to-face for the first time a couple of years ago at an SCBWI conference. And since then, I can't get enough of her. When her husband was looking for a place to practice dentistry, I was like, Oregon is a REALLY GREAT PLACE. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. So, imagine my happiness when she suggested a writing retreat at her parent's vacation home. Yes, please!!

So, this past weekend, we gathered in the beautiful state of Utah. Pictures don't really do it justice, but I took a few while on a walk one day, so might as well share.

I will be honest. It was a bit bittersweet going on this trip. Our dear friend Lisa M. was supposed to be on the flight with me. She was supposed to be going out to dinner with us, and standing around the kitchen, chatting with us. I missed her. But I'm really glad I went. I got some writing done, and we had lots of fun alongside the work. The last night we were there, we went in to Park City and had dinner at an Irish Pub. Becca Fitzpatrick, author of HUSH HUSH, let me have some bites of her soup (it was REALLY good soup)! The beautiful lady sitting next to Lindsey is Rachel Hawkins, author of the HEX HALL series. OH! HEX HALL is out in paperback this week. If you haven't read it, you should buy it - it's so good! I'm REALLY glad I got to meet Becca and Rachel (and Emily Wing Smith, who I somehow failed to get a picture of, dang it). I adored them, and hope I get to hang out with them again someday.

Writing can be lonely. It's hard being inside your own head all of the time. It's so nice to get together with other writers, to brainstorm, to talk shop, to laugh until you cry reading, um, well, I probably shouldn't say. But yeah, it's good. Especially when you reassure each other that you WILL get through the WIP and make it out to the other side. Hopefully.

So now I'm home, trying to finish the revisions on this book I've been working on since October. I am hoping to finish it soon and send it to my agent to see what she thinks. I have about 100 more pages to go through and revise. I can do it, right? RIGHT!? If I close my eyes, and pretend I'm back in Utah with the beautiful scenery and the wonderful friends, I bet I can.