Colorado Weather

Last week we had a little snowstorm; yesterday and today it’s been in the high 80s. My tulips haven’t even shown off their flowers yet and it feels like we’re deep into summer. It’s quite a bizarre thing to have bare trees and bushes, and little tufts of green beginning to poke out of the ground here and there, but have it feel like the middle of the July. And tomorrow we’re supposed to have snow again. Ahhh, Colorado in April. Is there a place with more bipolar weather tendencies than this? I’ve lived here for almost 4 years now, so this really shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but it does. I love it though; it keeps life interesting.

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Meeting Shannon Hale!

I’m visiting my parents in the Bay Area and my trip fortunately coincided with an appearance by Shannon Hale and Libba Bray in San Francisco through the Not Your Mother’s Book Club. Yay! Their tour won’t be going to Colorado so I was super excited to get the chance to see them. Most especially Ms. Hale. I love, love, love The Princess Academy. Such a great book. I bought her latest one too, but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet although I’ve heard many good things.

My mom went with me to the reading and we had a fun day in the city. I was a little uncertain if this event would be adult-friendly. The book club is definitely targeted at teens (and these are popular young adult authors after all). I didn’t want to walk in and have all these teenagers sneer at me and say, “Ewww. . . who is that old person crashing our party?” But no need to worry. It was teen dominated and adult friendly, which is the best combo I think.

My mom and I were waiting outside the cafe where the event was being held when I saw my friend Rachel walking up the sidewalk. I had hoped I might run into some of my old Bay Area writing friends at the event, but I had been so busy before I flew out, I never got in touch with anyone about the reading. I was super happy to see Rachel, but not so surprised because she was one of the first people who came to mind that might attend. But she was pretty stunned to see me, since I was supposed to be over a mountain range and far, far, away.

The event would have been very nice if Rachel hadn’t been there, but with her there it was SO MUCH FUN. The organizers did a great job and if you live in the Bay Area and are a fan of YA, I highly recommend you attend future NYMBC events. I don’t know how much each event varies, but this one was very laid back. The cafe was closed for the event so it was just us fans there, which was nice. There were drinks and food and the event began with everyone snacking and making small talk while Shannon and Libba circulated through the crowd. They were great. Shannon even sat on the couch with Rachel and me, and we all talked writing for a few minutes. I don’t remember much of what was said because what was running through my brain was “So cool! I’m sitting on a couch chit-chatting with a Newbery Honoree!” But I can assure you that not only is she a talented writer, Shannon is as nice as I imagined her to be. (Which is really nice.) What I didn’t think about her being is funny, but she is. She just seems like the kind of gal I’d bake a batch of brownies with and sit around the kitchen table gossiping and giggling over ridiculous things. I don’t bake brownies often, but if Shannon and I hung out that’s what I imagine us doing. Hopefully we’d also exercise together because those brownies would go straight to my hips.

Anyway, after Shannon and Libba circulated, they stood up front and talked to the crowd. They were very funny and I would have sworn they’d been old college roommates and had known each other for a decade, but I guess they’d met for the first time only a day or two before. Talk about natural chemistry. They called themselves the Torso Twins because their book covers both feature the torso of a girl. They did a Q/A session with one another where they asked each other increasingly ridiculous questions along the lines of “If there was a sock puppet musical of your life, what would the theme song be?” They told silly stories and were all around entertaining. They ended their Q/A session by bringing up a couple people from the crowd to be backup dancers and sang “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (I don’t remember what led to that, but it seemed like a natural progression at the time and was quite funny.) Afterward they answered questions from people in the audience and then signed books. NYMBC gave out goody bags for every attendee that were a mix of promotional items for various books and two advanced reader copies of books soon to be released, which I thought was very cool. A very enjoyable evening all around.

Here is a photo of Rachel (left) and me (right) with Shannon Hale. In the very bottom left you can see Libba Bray’s neck and jawline:

X-Box Go Boom

My husband and I were out to dinner tonight and overheard a conversation between a mother and her son, who I would guess was around 10. The boy was upset about something to do with a friend named Joe. I heard the mom say, “Well, you just tell him, you say, ‘Joe, I know it was an accident when you knocked the X-Box off the table, but my mom says you have to tell your parents or she will.’ ”
And this is where the boy became particularly distressed. He responded, “But I already told him that, sort of. And he said that I should let him talk to you. He said he can be very persuasive. Joe can be very persuasive, Mom.”
“Oh please,” the mom said. “Joe can’t persuade me to do anything. No, he needs to tell his parents or I’ll do it for him.”
And they left shortly after that. I was fascinated by their discussion. It was an unfinished story that I needed to know the ending of. I was imagining this poor kid and how anxious he must be about confronting his friend; what would the repercussions be for him if he did or didn’t.
I mentioned this to my husband and he said, “That kid’s not worried about confronting his friend. He’s worried because he’s gotten himself stuck in a lie. He probably broke that X-Box himself, or at least had some part in it.”
I think I may have actually gasped when my husband proposed this. It just hadn’t occurred to me, but once voiced, the explanation rang so true. I liked my husband’s interpretation of the scene because it both surprised me–I’d been reading this kid (or character) totally differently–and it was a very satisfying surprise. Everything fit. The details had already been laid that made this “caught in a lie” assessment seem so accurate. The boy’s restlessness, his resistance to his mom talking to his friend’s parents, how he said he didn’t feel well and was so antsy he left to go sit in the car before his mom had finished paying the check. Signs of a guilty conscience? Perhaps . . .
This was a much more interesting conflict to me than what I had been imagining. The way I’d interpreted the scene initially, I had characterized this kid in a totally sympathetic way. He was the victim. There’s still conflict there–how will he tell his friend? What happens next? Will his friend refuse to be friends with him any more? But in that scenario, the boy doesn’t have much control. Everything has happened to him and he’s just reacting. His friend broke the X-Box, his mom is telling him what to do. It’s not unrealistic, but the other scenario is dramatically much more interesting because the kid got himself into this mess, and now he has to get himself out. But how? Does he tell his mom the truth? That’s going to take some serious guts to admit he’s been lying to her. Will he change his story a bit with an explanation for why Joe maybe isn’t totally to blame? Or does our hero dig himself further into the lie by telling his friend what’s going on and ask him to take the fall? And how would he go about doing that? Bully him? Create a new lie that would convince Joe it’s better he get in trouble than our hero? Or does he try to come up with the money for a new X-Box somehow and say it’s from Joe?
Thinking about this was a good reminder to me with my WIP. It’s not enough for my characters to find trouble. If their actions create the tension in the story, it will be a more compelling read. And if the stakes are high, even moreso.
If the wind blows open the gate and Skippy gets loose and the main character has to go find him, that’s fine. It’s a story. It’s not unrealistic. But the tension would be amped up that much more if the main character left the gate open and Skippy got out. And maybe taking care of Skippy was a test of responsibility and if he passed, the main character would be able to go to a concert with his friend, unchaperoned. Now he wants to resolve the situation not only because he’s worried about his missing dog, but because his reputation with his parents is at stake, as well as this concert he wants to go to. This could still be part of the scenario with the wind blowing open the gate, but if the character’s actions have brought on the conflict, it raises the question to both the reader and the main character, Is he really responsible enough? And seeing how he chooses to respond to both the problem and that question, I think, makes for a much more interesting story.

Hair Chop

For the last 12+ years I’ve had long hair, but not anymore. Today I had 10 inches cut off and donated it to Locks of Love.

My friend Jen (who donated her hair over the summer) and my hairdresser planted the seed for donating my hair. Now, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t worried a bit about doing this. The last time I cut my hair shorter than shoulder length, I looked 12. I was 17. When you are a 17-year-old starting college, the last thing you want is to look 12. Nowadays, I’m pretty confident I won’t be mistaken for 12. And if I was, I’d probably be flattered. But still, there was that little vain voice that was nagging me: What if you look silly with short hair? What if your husband hates it? But my husband thought short hair would look sexy, so I couldn’t use him as an excuse to back out. And in general I try not to be someone that is resistant to change because I’m afraid of the outcome. I won’t know if I like my hair short if I don’t try it. (Folding long hair up to chin level is not a good test of how that length will look on you, by the way.) So what if it didn’t look good? It’s only hair. It will grow out. And it’s for a good cause, for pete’s sake. If you are already considering going short, and you have enough length to donate, I don’t know if there is much better motivation than knowing you will actually be helping someone if you do. It can really shake you out of that vain perspective when you consider there are people with cancer who might appreciate you doing this.

So I did it. I chopped my hair. And when Hayley cut off my 10-inch braid, I was actually excited, not nervous or sad like I thought I might be. And I’m loving my new short ‘do.