Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions for 2016

I was at home recently, and going through a bunch of old journals and miscellaneous items that I haven't looked at in some time. I found a list of things that I made as resolutions in 2011, which made me laugh because there were probably ten or so items on the list, and I think I only kept one or two of them, at the most. They were pretty mundane things -- take better control of my finances, get a better job, etc. One of the resolutions I'm still trying to mull over, but that's a story for another time.

But this is the end of 2015, and I feel like I've changed quite a bit since I made that list four years ago. And since the new year calls for a fresh start or outlook on things, I've decided that there are a few things I really want to change, and things I want to commit to. With no further ado, here are my resolutions for 2016:

I will write more. I will be less critical of my work, but still recognize when bad writing is bad writing.

I will not query a project until it is ready, even if I'm itching to do so. My next project should not suffer from me pulling the trigger too early as I've done with my previous work.

I will read more, and more often. I have my niche -- YA -- but I will read more broadly within and outside of YA.

I will be more patient with others. This is something that I really need to work on, and it will probably take all year, if not longer to accomplish this!

I will gain better control of my finances, and start saving for the future. I've got one year left of my twenties and I don't want to begin my thirties pretending that drowning under an ocean of debt is okay. (Not that I have an ocean of debt; it's closer to a large estuary.)

I will go to the gym more consistently, eat better, and have better control of my diabetes. I'd like to live a long and happy life, and exercising more and eating better will help with this.

I will be more organized. My small apartment already is jam-packed full of things, and I need to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle. I will, however, make exceptions for things like wampa rugs and more books.

Overall, I will try to be more positive. If I have a year of quiet happiness, that will be enough for me. Though if I happen to win the lottery or get a fabulous book deal (or really *any* book deal), I won't turn either down.

I'm writing this in the airport in Las Vegas, about to board a plane back to Boston, where the weather is currently thirty degrees colder than I'd like, but since I had to scrape frost off of the windshield of a car this morning in Southern California, things could be worse...or more strange, I guess.

2015 wasn't too bad a year, and here's to a happy 2016 for everyone!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer's Voice Entry: JETSTAR FIGHTER PILOT

QUERY:

Seventeen year-old Reeka Pendleton and her brother Dek have three rules: stick together, trust no one, and always go back for each other. When Dek is Recruited for the fighter pilot program at the JetStar Academy, the toughest, all-male school in their galaxy and disappears, Reeka finds their last rule difficult to follow. With the constant threat from the Iorge, a division of humanity intent on erasing all emotions from the population to create super soldiers, Reeka's options to find Dek are severely limited.

But Reeka is unable to stand by, and decides that she is going to join the Academy and track down her brother. Seizing an opportunity to be one of four female Recruits for the Academy, it is Reeka's chance to figure out what happened to Dek, and to get a taste of the skies. Her commanding officer, Bentley, who is Dek's friend, seems to know more about Dek's disappearance than he's willing to reveal.

With chauvinistic classmates wanting to beat her down and in the skies at every turn, Reeka must prove that she's meant for the Academy, and find out what Dek was really involved with before the imminent war with the Iorge explodes, and he is gone forever. 

JETSTAR FIGHTER PILOT is an 80,000 word YA sci-fi novel. It is a feminist spin on ENDER'S GAME, with a dash of Firefly. It is a standalone novel, with series potential. 

I have an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College in Boston. I'm currently employed at a local independent bookstore as a manager and the curator of the children's section. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

FIRST 250 WORDS:

       I collapsed in an alley, as the feeling in my ribs threatened to burst out of me in a fiery whip of pain. I barely had enough strength left to tap a message to Ari on my ion5: 
:Are you up?
       Several excruciating moments passed, and the hot, sharp jolts of my ribs acted as much more than a distraction. Finally, instead of a message, Ari sent me a vid-chat: “Reeka? What? Where are you?” she asked, her voice cloudy with sleep. 
      “Downtown?” My head throbbed, as I tried not to slip further down into the void that seeped into my consciousness. 
      “Wait, what time is it?” Ari’s eyes flashed to the digi-time. “Reek! It’s three AM! Why the hell are you out?”
       Her cursing made me laugh, but doing so made my ribs hurt, and I winced.  “Goozer. I tried going after Dek. Didn’t make it.” 
       Ari said, “You are so stupid, Reek. Why would you try to do that?” She sat up and turned on her bedroom low light. Her eyes were big behind her specs that she shoved up the bridge of her nose.  
       I braced myself against the wall so that I wouldn’t pass out. “I had to go after him, Ari.” I paused and closed my eyes. “I’m running out of options. But you’re right, it was stupid.
       Dek and I had made three rules for survival when we were kids: stick together, trust no one, and always go back for each other.

***

Thank you to everyone involved in the Writer's Voice this year, and good luck to all the entrants!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Need to Blog More

This is a short blog, kids, only because it is late, and I have seventy things on my plate right now. I need to catch up on both my writing and reading, and OH MY GOD, the weather has been so nice lately!

After that goddamn terrible winter, we fucking DESERVE this.
I was fortunate enough to travel back to California and New York recently. I'll be off again to New York for BEA, which I'm super stoked about, and where I'll get to stalk some more authors, as per usual. Hopefully.

I guess California can be pretty nice.

Granny and me
When I go to New York, I eat peanut butter...

...and turn into a child when a giant Clifford is available to hug.



















































Mostly, I've been having a blast at work and loving my job. This is the first time in a long time when I  wake up every morning, and think, "I can't wait to get to work." I am LITERALLY surrounded by books EVERY SINGLE DAY. There has yet to be a time when I turn into Emily Blunt's character from The Devil Wears Prada.



I've also started querying again. A new manuscript, and starting from square one. I have learned from my previous querying mistakes of last summer, if nothing else, and I guess if that old manuscript doesn't see the light of day ever again, that's okay. I do have some hope for this new manuscript, and that it might get somewhere, but time will tell. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I've read a few great books recently, some of which are not quite on the shelves yet — Shadowshaper, You Deserve a Drink, and Empire of Deception; and some that are — The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters, Rites of Passage, The Cost of All Things, The Maid, and The Wilderness of Ruin. I just started a few titles as research for my current manuscript, including Starship Troopers and Ender in Exile. All of these books are (or will be, for the titles that haven't been released) on the shelves at my bookstore, so please feel free to stop by!

Next up, another New York update!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are We Living Through a Modern Ice Age? (Because It Feels Like We Are)

Evening, folks. I write this not under fifteen blankets, but that's only because I have all of them piled at the end of my bed, ready to go for this weekend's storm. If you're like me and on the east coast, you know what I'm talking about. If you're on the west coast, then you're laughing at all of poor fools who are currently slogging through about six feet of snow, and prepping for several more.



Fortunately I was able to escape the snow for a little bit, and traveled to New York for the NY Now gift show, and to Ascheville, North Carolina, for this year's ABA Winter Institute.

The gift show was a good time, and took place at the Javits Center, which is huge. The show spanned several floors and I have to admit that there were times where I was a bit overwhelmed. It was sort of like being at Disneyland, except instead of giant turkey legs being waved at you, there's hundreds of  chatzkies and thousands of other items all vying for your attention.

Yes, that is a selfie stick, and yes, you will be able to purchase this at my bookstore soon. 

But it was a fun experience, and I was able to help pick some of the items that we'll sell at the bookstore. I do enjoy being in New York in general, and I had some down time to wander around the city. I was able to see Grand Central Station for the first time (and wasn't able to take a photo since my phone apparently is too crammed full of music and I had no space available). Seeing Grand Central might not seem like a big deal, especially for those of you who actually use it and probably see it more as a tourist trap than anything else, but I was able to go when it wasn't that crowded (or loud) and it almost felt like going to a church. I think I was sucked in by the historical significance of the space, and I stood staring up at the ceiling for awhile, like Lincoln on Broad City.


Also related, I experienced Penn Station for the first time, and all I have to say about that is that it is a terrible, terrible place, and I can relate so much to Abbi's date in the above scene. My train getting out of the city was half an hour late, which, in retrospect, isn't that bad, but as I was standing in Penn Station, getting hit by every asshole sprinting to their platform and thinking, "Why has my train disappeared from the board?" and "It keeps snowing. Maybe I will just be trapped here forever," it seemed as if me getting home at any time would never happen. But I made it back to Boston, just in time for another foot of snow.

Winter Institute (not ironically named, if you went to Winter Institute in Kansas City a few years ago, which I did not, but I kept hearing about, "Did you go to Kansas City? There were two freak blizzards. It was horrendous.") was in Ascheville, North Carolina, and was my first trip to the state. When my GM and I landed, we were welcomed with a sunny sky and a temperature of 73 degrees. We'd forgotten how blue the sky could be and as we drove from Charlotte to Ascheville, it was a picture perfect day.

I resisted doing this. It was tough. 

The Omni Grove Park Inn is a magnificent, sweeping estate built into the side of a mountain, and was supremely impressive as we drove up. We couldn't believe our luck that we were attending the conference in such a great space. Since our flight was slightly delayed in getting out of Boston, we had less time than we had anticipated before the opening reception in town, so we decided to take the shuttle into town and explore for a bit.

We hit up a few indie bookstores, including the Battery Park Book Exchange, the Captain's Bookshelf and Malaprop's Bookstore. My GM and I agreed that it's always an adventure going into another indie bookshop, especially since we're both prone to comparing and contrasting the space to our space. Each bookshop had its own unique character and flavor, and we enjoyed each of them. Battery Park uses the physical space of the store in a great way, that's aesthetically pleasing and interesting. At the Captain's Bookshelf, we found several Edward Gorey books, and a few old Playbills from the Colonial Theatre (you can see it here; it's the same illustration used for the production at the Martin Beck Theatre (now the Al Hirschfeld Theatre)). Malaprop's was similar in style and tone to our store, and we saw how they displayed some of the same books and gifts that we carry. If we had more time, it would have been nice to go back, since everyone who worked there was really friendly and it would have been fun to browse more.

The opening reception took place at a location simply called the Venue and was crowded when we arrived. You could feel the excitement in the air, and it was great to be in a room full of other book people. I met several people from all around the country, including my mentor for the Institute, who works at a bookshop here in Massachusetts. Her advice was to experience as much as I could, and I took that advice to heart. For the rest of the Institute, I sat in on classes and panels and interacted with people who love books just as much as I do. I'm such a sucker for things like this (that's probably why I was in school for so long), and I had a great time.

The highlights of the event for me included meeting several authors at a dinner sponsored by Harlequin books and at the big authors reception and the smaller press reception. There were two rooms full of galleys and ARCs, and needless to say, I took more than a few (five tote bags worth, which equated to three boxes when we shipped them). Hey, you say free books, and I say, out of my way. I also really enjoyed listening to Azar Nafisi's keynote at our breakfast on the last day. She's such a vibrant speaker, and so intelligent. I feel as if I could never be that charismatic, and pale so much in comparison, as both a speaker and a writer. Maybe someday. *Sigh*

An event sponsored by Scholastic gave me the opportunity to meet Pam Mu├▒oz Ryan, author of Esperanza Rising and the new novel, Echo. She was very kind, and listened to me blather about her book. I'd like to think that I wasn't blathering, but I probably was.


The event also consisted of several other authors, but I have to admit, after meeting Pam and the next fellow (that I will get to momentarily, hold your horses), even if I had a lousy time at the remainder of the Institute, it would have been completely fine.

That fellow would be…John Green. Yes, that John Green. He had given the afternoon keynote during the first full day of the Institute, and talked about the past ten years, and where the next ten years could head for books and bookstores. For all of the success he's had, he's supremely grounded, and I was really entertained by his talk, but I didn't feel like I was just sitting through a comedy act; I felt like I had learned something, especially about writing and being an author and how success doesn't happen overnight, and how you can enrich your life with the interactions you have with people who love to read and write. John (can I call him John? It's not like I know him personally, but it feels weird calling him Mr. Green, like he's my teacher or something. ANYWAY…) also took questions, one of which was what would his staff picks be if he worked in a bookstore. One of the titles he said was FEED by M.T. Anderson, who, if you recall, I've met a few times, and hearing John list this title pleased me to no end. At the end of his keynote, he stayed for a moment to take a few photos with the booksellers who introduced him with a very funny parody of "Wild Thing" and some others, before he left.

So to my surprise, he was at the Scholastic party later that day. My friend Amanda (who was at the Harlequin dinner with me) and I walked in and had the same reaction, "Is that John Green?!" We then proceeded to basically stalk him discreetly until we could get a photo. I didn't want to barge over and be rude, so we did a semi-awkward do-si-do, trying to act casually, and seem like we totally weren't trying to invade his personal space. I felt badly because a very nice guy from Biblioasis attempted to engage in a conversation with us, and we more or less told him that we were trying to talk to John, and that we would drop him like a hot potato if an opportunity came up to move over to John. He was a good sport about it when we did exactly that. Eventually our efforts paid off and we got this:

 This was taken with my phone, by the way. John Green had my phone in his hand.
We thanked John, and told him how much we enjoyed his keynote, and he graciously talked with us for a moment before he had to move on. So thank you John, and apologies if I happened to bump into you more than once.

The Institute was over far too soon, and I came back to the frozen tundra that we once referred to as Boston. We're expecting more snow this weekend, so hopefully I can get some writing/editing completed. I might have to do it by candlelight, and under those fifteen aforementioned blankets, as apparently the entire eastern seaboard is supposed to lose power at some point.


Stay warm until next time, folks!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's Here - Multicultural Children's Book Day!

Hi everyone! I'm currently stuck in the middle of Storm Juno, watching the snow pile up outside. However, it is Multicultural Children's Book Day, and as promised, this post will be a review of Mystery of the Giant Masks of Sanxingdui!

First off though, a little background info:

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

“MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

There are several sponsors that have gracious helped with this project. Sponsorship details can be viewed  HERE.

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include:

Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop 
Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.comAuthor Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof
Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing
Bronze Sponsors: Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books, Author Felicia CapersChronicle Books   Muslim Writers PublishingEast West Discovery Press


Author Sponsors include:

Beautiful Rainbow World by Suzee Ramirez
Lulu and the Very Big Meanies by Mac McGooshie, illustrated by Alexis Hogwood

Real Street Kidz Multicultural Children’s Book Series by Quentin Holmes


There are also several co-hosts:

Africa to America
Kid World Citizen
Multicultural Kid Blogs
Sprout’s Bookshelf

First Book

We’re also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Children’s Book Council:
MCCBD is collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

And of course, for more info, go to the Multicultural Children's Book Day blog.

Now! Onto my review!




Mystery of the Giant Masks of Sanxingdui is an informative, wonderfully illustrated book by Icy Smith and Gayle Garner Roski. The narrator is Min, a young girl who lives with her parents and brother in the village of Sanxingdui. The story revolves around the tradition of mask-making during their Warrior Festival. A minor plot point involves the gift of an elephant to Min's brother, Wei. However, what begins a celebration, ends with the onset of a rainstorm and the impending threat of an attack from the village's enemy from the north. The village, having faced their enemies before, decide to hide their masks and try to prevent the imminent attack of their enemies, as Min's father says, "Sometimes fighting is necessary, but this time we will stop the fighting before it starts." 

The final panel shows the village burning and burying their valuables, including the masks. Though the book ends in a somewhat sobering manner, an author's note speaks to the actual story of the masks, and how in 1986, construction workers in China accidentally stumbled upon a trove of artifacts from around 1300 BCE. It is unknown the fate of the village, but scholars have decided that it may have been destroyed through natural disaster, or an invasion (as the book uses). Because of the sophistication of the articles discovered for the time in which they were created, archeologists and anthropologists have found the excavation site to be a mystery.

I must admit, this is not the type of picture book that I would normally pick up. But, as someone who studied history and took an archeology class as an undergrad, I found this story to be interesting. I'd also not heard of the region of Sanxingdui, so I came into reading this with no context. The author uses key points to frame the story, but this text is a little wordy - I'd say it's for an older reader; and would be appreciated by an older reader who would have a better grasp of geographical constructs. As it is, I felt like I had learned more about the history of region in which the story takes place, and the author's note helped to cement the story's origins in reality. The colors of the illustrations are lovely, and I found myself looking closely at each spread to take in all of the details. 

Mystery of the Giant Masks of Sanxingdui is a solid read, and is a good jumping off point for a reader interested in ancient cultures. 

That's all for now, folks! Thanks for stopping by!





Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hello 2015/Goodbye 2014

Hello again, folks. I've been working on a lot lately, and the end of 2014 turned out to be a great finish to a pretty banner year. For one, I settled into my new job at the best lil' bookshop in the greater Boston area.

If we had these sliding ladders, you know I'd be all over that shit.
I'm still learning things in my role at the bookstore, and the holidays were somewhat chaotic, but it's been great so far, and with two trips planned for bookstore-related stuff to New York and North Carolina (ABA Winter Institute!!), I'm extremely jazzed for what this year has to bring. My review of Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang's IN REAL LIFE was published in the IndieBound Winter 2014-2015 Kids' Indie Next List, which was exciting.



The end of 2014 also brought a spontaneous trip to Paris. I had been a little sad that I wasn't going to Europe for Christmas and birthday, as I had for the past two years (if you're a reader of this blog, this is not news to you). And obviously, this being a #firstworldproblem, I got over that real fast (mostly because there are so many other terrible things happening in the world, and people suffering, so my sadness over not traveling seemed ridiculous.)

So I was all set to go home for the holidays (which was a bonus, and I really shouldn't have been sad at all), when my Auntie decided she didn't want to stick around California for the holidays and invited me to go to Paris with her. Clearly when someone invites you to go to Paris, you don't say no.

Within a week, we had the entire trip planned, and now here are some pics of our travels:

Bird's eye view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

Area near the Eiffel Tower 

Also from the Eiffel Tower, a view of the Aquarium

The Pont Alexandre III overlooking the Seine 

Near the Louvre

In the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles 

Statue of St. Joan of Arc in Notre Dame

With one of my pals :-)

At the base of the Eiffel Tower

At the Arc de Triomphe

On the Eiffel Tower

Across from Notre Dame
With Auntie on the Pont Alexandre III

Getting a portrait done in Montmartre

















Four days in Paris were a whirlwind, and it went by very quickly. Highlights included the hardest working server in the city (he hovered over the table and would literally snatch my plate the moment I was done eating), trying escargot for the first time (which I really liked and reminded me somewhat of eating oysters or mussels), maneuvering around on the Metro (successfully), meeting up with my friend Catherine (who I didn't expect to see, so that was a nice surprise), and overall, hanging out with my Auntie (who, not only is the coolest person I've ever met; if you need anyone to plan a trip/be a tour guide, she's your woman).

Being able to see things I'd dreamed of as a kid was amazing, and the trip couldn't have been better. It was funny though, because everything didn't seem so alien, like they did the first time I visited Europe. It was a similar feeling to when I'd been to New York a few times and I didn't feel so out of place. The allure of Paris was still there, but I guess I felt less like a tourist than the previous times I'd traveled. I'd love to go back.

It was a shock to hear about the terrorist attacks there recently, and to know that just a few weeks ago, I'd been in the city. An event like this just adds to the list of really shitty things that have happened in the world and continue to happen in the world, and while I know I can't do anything personally to prevent or stop them, I hope that events such as this don't happen at the same frequency as they have been. 

Not to end on a somber note, but New Year's Eve was fun, hanging out with some friends, and starting the year off right (though immediately after, all on the same day, my watch strap, the pull tab on my jacket zipper, and my favorite necklace all broke). I have plans for 2015 to be a good year, since I'm working hard on my writing, and hoping positive things come from it, I'm participating in Multicultural Children's Book Day, and I have high hopes for the rest of the year to move in an upward direction. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Old Job/New Job

Hello again, folks. There are big changes ahead. Now that I will be down to one job, I will have more time on my hands.

One job? you ask. What will you do with all your free time?

Maybe sleep, instead of looking like this every morning:




Or write (which, let's be honest, I should be doing ALL the time anyway):



But I will admit that it will be strange, going from two jobs, where I was spending anywhere between 68 to 70 hours of my time to one job where I might spend a mere 40 hours a week. I'm moving to work full-time as an assistant manager at the bookstore where I've been working part-time for past seven months. I know I've sworn up and down that I wouldn't return to retail, but this will be different, since instead of trying to push crappy, expensive costume jewelry onto people, I'll be surrounded by books and people who appreciate them.

Mostly accurate as to how my new job will be. 

But it's scary. I hate ending old jobs and moving into new ones, mostly because I doubt myself and my abilities. Which is terrible, I'm aware. I'm sure most people have this same feeling of doubt and regret. The only job I was so ready to leave was my retail job at Bloomingdale's. When that time came, it was not unlike this:


So yes, I'm leaving the super big corporation that I've been at for a little over a year to be a part of the indie bookstore world, which I think is going to be much more satisfying, both professionally and personally. I will never again have to deal with C-level assholes who think that because they have a six figure paycheck, they can treat me like dirt. I won't, however, be able to claim an editor title anymore, which does make sad (even though no one really understood what I did for a career when I would try to explain it anyway).



This wasn't a bad job per se, it just wasn't anything I could see myself doing long-term. And it did offer me enough flexibility when I was in school to stay in school and not worry about having specific hours in the office, and for that I'm grateful.

Today is my last day at my old job and it's pretty anticlimactic, really. But once 5 pm hits, for sure I'll be like: