Monday, September 27, 2010

Books are Hot

Yes, reading is sexy, but that's not what I mean by Books are Hot. Yesterday, at the West Hollywood Book Fair, the books were hot because the sun was scorchin'! My car said the temperature reached 106-degrees, and I believe it because I saw a few books that were actually warping.


And yet the book fair was a blast. My day began with an interview on the Teen Stage conducted by teen blogger extraordinaire, Ashley Thompson.

Ashley and her family drove all the way from Oregon so she could interview three YA authors. And she did a great job! Me? I did alright with my answers, but like I said, it was hot. At one point, mid-answer, I had to admit that the cold lemonade I was sipping wasn't keeping my brain cool and I totally forgot the question. But the interviewer was a pro and calmly repeated it for me.

Thanks, Ashley!

The interview was followed by a book signing with Gayle Brandeis and Stuart Gibbs. I even got to meet Gayle's son...Asher! (Cool name, dude.)

Then I roamed over to the LAYA's booth. They're a group of L.A.-based YA writers and I'm always jealous that I live a bit too far to call myself a LAYA. A few of their members which I ran into that day include Katie Alender...

Francesca Lia Block...

Carol Snow...

and Alexa Young.

Hot Author Disclaimer: I apologize to anyone I may have sweat upon. But trust me, some of you sweat upon me, too!

Friday, September 24, 2010

When in Rome...

Only positive things can come from teens and adults honestly discussing the serious issues presented in so many teen novels. That's why I'm always so happy to hear about parents reading Thirteen Reasons Why, or teachers working it into their curriculum. So imagine how thrilled it made me to know an entire community had decided to read and discuss my book! My visit to Rome, Georgia this week was only the conclusion to their lengthy discussion of bullying and suicide prevention.

On Thursday, I spoke at three schools. My time at Floyd Education Center, Rome Transitional Academy, and Rome High School were wonderful because almost every student I spoke to had read the book. At one school, students figured out something positive to take away from each cassette tape (in most books, that's what you'd call a chapter), and were reminded of those positive thoughts every time they walked down the hall.

Another school recreated Hannah's map on the wall as they read through the book aloud. But they didn't read the entire book themselves. Their teacher had previously recorded all of Hannah's words onto cassettes (their sides labeled 1 thru 13), and then different students added Clay's words. They also made Found Poetry, taking snippets of text from each cassette to create poems.

At Rome High School, I spoke to all of their freshmen at once.

And then, something I thought was going to be insanely cheesy turned out to be quite inspiring. Each guidance counselor had their respective students stand up and repeat a chant, challenging their group to have the most graduates in 2014. The entire freshman class then stood and sang their alma mater accompanied by members of the school band.

That evening, I attended a reception with the seven winners of a county-wide Thirteen Reasons Why essay contest, which included middle school, high school, and college students.

The reception was followed by a presentation to the community.

It was a very emotional evening from beginning to end. Hanging up in the auditorium were quilts displaying the names and faces of Georgians who took their own lives. The woman who introduced me to the audience said she felt personally connected to Thirteen Reasons Why because her son had once attempted suicide, and I had the pleasure of meeting him when my speech was over.

The speech itself was so much fun. The questions during the Q&A were some of the best I've been asked (and I didn't even have to pull teeth to get them to ask questions!).

Here are some shots of my new friends. Aren't they beautiful!

To check out the newspaper's take on my visit, as well as see some photos and watch some video taken throughout the day, check out the Rome News-Tribune.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Book = MY BOOK!!!

This Thursday, I'll be participating in one of the greatest honors of my writing career. The beautiful folks in Rome, Georgia chose Thirteen Reasons Why as their One Book Many Voices community read. So I'll be heading Down South to speak at several schools during the day, then giving a community presentation that evening.

Their newspaper has been hyping my visit for several weeks. They recently held an essay contest for middle school, high school, and college students in order to have a special dinner with me before the community presentation. Seven winners were chosen from 178 essays, and I am so excited to share a meal with those students!

But while I've used words like "greatest honors of my writing career" and "so excited", let me also add "insanely nervous" to describe what's going on. This community has set the bar fairly high. The past three authors they've invited have been Paul Rusesabagina (his autobiography, An Ordinary Man, was the basis for the movie Hotel Rwanda), Sherman Alexie (for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), and Dr. Maya Angelou (for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

Every time I read through those names, my throat goes: Gulp!

If you're anywhere near Rome, Georgia this Thursday, I'd love to see you!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Local Boy All Growed Up

Friday night was the beginning of the 26th Annual Central Coast Writers' Conference. The keynote speaker, Nathan Bransford, had a lot to live up to. His blog is one of the absolute must-reads for any writer hoping to get published. So how did he do? Sure, he's nice and charming and smart and engaging and optimistically realistic and informative and funny. So yeah, if you like that sort of thing, you would've loved his talk.

That was followed by the first workshop session. In this biz, the author I've been friends with the longest is Kathleen Duey. So I was feeling pretty cool getting to "guest speak" in her workshop to a class full of teen writers. No, not adult writers writing for teens, but teenaged writers. While this conference is geared toward adults, they've started offering teen-writer tracks, as well as special scholarships for those teens. Much respect to the people who thought of that!

On Saturday, I attended a few workshops which gave me ideas for writing topics to discuss later on my blog. But in each of those workshops, I was slightly nervous because in the afternoon...I was to be presented with a plaque! And they expected me to say something inspiring! THE PRESSURE!!!

Conference Director Judy Salamacha and Cathe Olson

They named me the Central Coast Writers' Conference 2010 Success Story, which was an extremely kind and wonderful honor. I began writing while attending Cuesta College (the location of this conference), and the Central Coast Writers' Conference was my first professional step toward publication. So I briefly shared with them some of the ups and downs of my journey, and I even let them in on a little secret that I haven't shared publicly yet.

Hey, I told you to attend!

And the after-party? Mmm...! It was held in the beautiful garden at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay, and they had nummiest hors d'oeuvres I've ever had. Let me repeat: Mmm...!

See ya there next year!

Nathan Bransford, me, Merrily Kutner, Kathleen Duey

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Central Coast Writers' Conference

This Friday and Saturday is the 26th Annual Central Coast Writers' Conference. This conference was my very first step toward taking myself seriously as a writer.

Here are my internal thoughts before registering for my first Central Coast Writers' Conference:

What in the world am I doing? If I do this, it's letting everyone know that I really want to be a published author. Who am I to think I'll ever write anything publishable? Everyone's gonna laugh at me!

Forget it. I don't need this! I can get published without anyone giving me tips on improving my craft. I don't need anyone's advice on getting ahead in the publishing world. I'm a self-made writer!

Okay, now I'm just lying to myself.

Just do it. Do it!

I did it.

But now I'm afraid to actually show up.

Whatever's keeping you from taking that first step, get over it!

I'll be there, giving a brief Local Success Story speech. Kathleen Duey will be there. Nathan Bransford will be there. A bunch of other writers and publishing people will be there.

And you? I hope to see you there, too.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Eight years ago today, JoanMarie and I both said, "I do." Two thousand eight hundred eighteen days later, looking back on everything, would we do it again?

"We would!"

(And yes, I did ask. Cynics!)

It's weird to think that this will be our last anniversary spent with just the two of us in our home. Weird...but wonderful.

Last weekend, atop San Luis Mountain.

If there's one thing that makes me feel like I'm absolutely glowing inside and floating a few inches above the ground, it's knowing that my son will have JoanMarie as his mommy. Isaiah is a very blessed boy.

And I'm a very blessed hubby!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Happy 9/02/10 Day!

I'm not (very) embarrassed to admit that I was a huge fan of the original Beverly Hills 90210. Of course, I probably wouldn't bring it up unless I had an extremely good reason. And that reason is, today's...

International 90210 Day!!!

We won't get another chance to celebrate this wonderful day until September 02, 2110. So you might as well party it up now!

Before you laugh at me too much (I'm not sure what constitutes "too much" in this case, but I'll let you know when you reach it), let me remind you that Beverly Hills 90210 was fairly groundbreaking in its early years, tackling subjects like drugs, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and lying to your parents(!!!). Yep, that was controversial stuff back in the early '90s. Thankfully, our society isn't afraid to openly discuss those issues today.

Sorry, now I'm laughing!

When the show was in its first season, a bunch of my guy friends were really into it. But I was much too cool to watch a show with such a silly name, so I made fun of them. Eventually, I had to start watching it just so I'd have something to talk about with them during lunch. And then...

I got totally hooked! I needed to know what trouble Steve was going to get into next. Was Donna going to lose her virginity to David on prom night? Would the hairless patch on Dylan's eyebrow ever be explained???

Here are some me-centered 90210 facts:
  • When my friends and I formed a rock band in high school, we played a smokin' version of the theme song.
  • Even though the actors and actresses were older than the characters they played (in some cases, much older...I'm looking at you, Andrea Zuckerman), they played students who were in the same graduating class as me. Class of '93 rocks!
  • During the final few seasons, I became good friends with one of my co-workers after one of us accidentally let it slip that we liked the show. From that moment on, if you needed to get ahold of me on Wednesday nights at 8pm, you could find me at Shannon's house.
  • A cast member who starred on the show for a couple of seasons contacted me about producing a film version of Thirteen Reasons Why. I had to say no for various reasons, but just being contacted by him and knowing that he loved the book was insanely cool!
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the opening theme song and credits to the original (and still the best) Beverly Hills 90210...

(If you never caught the episode titled "A Night to Remember", you're probably wondering: Did Donna and David do it on prom night? Well, it truly shouldn't matter anymore. Seventeen years, one month, and twelve days later, David married Megan Fox.)