Comfort zones

I read an article or something yesterday about how Groupon is changing the way people shop, or how we value things, or, hell, I don’t really remember. I was still in a haze from tax day.

But I remember being startled by that because I never use Groupon. I’m not one to frequently step outside my comfort zone. I go to restaurants I’ve gone to before. If my husband and I want to go out for a nice dinner, it’s either the Japanese Steakhouse (we don’t even call it by it’s name) or Bonefish Grill. We buy the same things at the grocery store every week — to the point where my budget obsessed husband sent me an email to tell me that this week’s grocery bill and last week’s were within $0.06 of each other. If I like a brand, I stick with it.

There’s this restaurant in the middle of town called Three B’s. I’ve lived here since May 2005, and I’ve never once gone there. I’ve always wanted to — it looks like one of those truly redneck diners where the letters are falling off the sign but the food is amazing. I mean, there’s a massive light-up pig on the roof, so how can you go wrong?

I’ve never walked inside. I want to. I’ve just never stepped outside that comfort zone. What if it sucked? What if six years of expectation are flushed down the drain in a moment?

For now, I’m sticking with what I know.

But here’s the funny thing: I’m completely accommodating. If someone wants to go somewhere I’ve never been, I’ll go. New restaurant, new food, new pattern, I’m good. When left to my own devices, however, it’s pattern pattern pattern.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot with my writing, because I don’t want to fall into the same rut of always playing it safe. I did that with my first few novels, and when I finally said F it and wrote what I wanted, I landed a book deal.

It’s scary, though, not knowing what you’re going to get, or how it’s going to turn out. Once Mike taunted me about only reading paranormal YA (not true), but I decided, “I’ll show him.” So I went on Amazon and scrolled through the top 100 books that day, and looked for the absolute furthest thing from paranormal YA. I wanted a book that I would NEVER ever pick up on my own. No Jodi Picoult/Jennifer Weiner. No detective novels. No chick lit. No YA.

I ended up with this book with a completely nondescript cover, about three black maids living in the south in the 60’s. When the book arrived, I didn’t even want to read it, but damn it, I’d made a challenge to myself (I’m all about the challenge), and I was going to sit down and read it.

It was amazing. You know what it was? The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Pick it up. You must read it. It’s all about girl power, and sisterhood, and it’s all about a young white writer who secretly tries to find out what’s really going on in the lives of these black maids — like what happens behind the scenes. If you’re looking to step outside your own comfort zone, this book will rock your world.

I was looking to make a point somewhere in here, but I think the baby is eating my brain.

Have you guys successfully stepped outside your comfort zone? What were the results?

Clique Clack Boo

So, yeah, I’m going to talk about the YA Mafia.

I don’t usually jump into the middle of these things, because I’m busy, I’m pregnant, and I’m generally late to the party and my hair’s a mess. And most of the time, I don’t have a lot to say that someone else has said better already.

First off, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll sum up. There’s a bunch of talk rolling around the blogosphere and Twitter that cover a few different things. First, that there are killer cliques of YA authors who band together to smite aspiring authors. There’s also some talk about book reviewers getting blacklisted by YA authors and agents for things they’ve posted on the internet.

Here are some links, if you want to read what other people have said (or just to get a feel for the story).

Holly Black: YA Mafia and the Ruination of Careers

Justine Larbalestier: YA Mafias & Other Things You Don’t Need to Worry About

YA Highway: Field Trip Friday Special Edition: The YA Mafia

Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier are great writers, and both those blogs are worth reading, for more than just the YA Mafia stuff. I also enjoy the YA Highway blog, so check it out, too, if you’ve got time.

Here’s some irony for you: when I first heard the term “YA Mafia,” I thought it was a new blog or something. Seriously, I thought, that sounds like a cool group name.

A lot of these posts and blogs talk about whether there is such a thing, whether there are YA cliques, whether powerful authors have the ability to blacklist authors, whether YA writers really do band together and talk smack about the little people. A lot of talk. Really.

Here’s my talk: who cares?

Ten years ago, I learned a fantastic piece of advice that has become my mantra. Sure, I learned it from a woman who was addicted to prescription painkillers who later accused me of sleeping with her husband in a stall in a horse barn, but don’t let that take away from the absolute power of her statement:

You can’t change others. You can only change yourself. 

Let me tell you, this is my go-to mantra. If I have a problem with people, I say it to myself. I might actually mutter it through clenched teeth while my fingernails are digging into my palms, but I say it. And it helps.

First off, I learned really early that there will always be cliques. Always. What can you do about it? Nothing. When you’re outside the clique (especially a clique you want to be in), it’s really easy to feel hurt and disgusted and imagine that the people in that group are all mean and hateful and devoting their time toward your personal ruination.

Guess what? They’re probably not.

You know what else? When people fail at something, a lot of times, we want to look for excuses. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say we were blacklisted by a big agent than to think, “Hey, maybe I should take a look at my writing.”

Or to think, “Hey, maybe I failed.”

Here’s the thing: you can’t stop YA writers (or anyone else) from making friends. Sure, I see authors sharing private cover art on Twitter, or talking sorta secretly about inside information, and I immediately get that little gut clench that says, “I wanna know! I wanna be in your circle!”

But then I realize that I have conversations on Twitter all the time with Sarah Maas, and people are probably thinking the same thing about us.

Actually, considering our last Twitter conversation involved Sarah taking my eyeballs and keeping them in a jar on her desk, people are likely thinking we’re disgusting.

ANYWAY. I digress.

There’s also some talk about a book blogger who was forced to take down her blog, because she’d heard that it was going to hurt her potential for finding an agent or selling a novel. I feel badly that she felt the need to do that, but she made the choice to do it. No one forced her to. She couldn’t change the way other people were treating her, so she changed her blog and stopped reviewing books.

Look, people, from a mother, here’s another mantra: Life is full of choices, and sometimes they’re hard.

Sometimes I want to blog about something that happened at work. I’m deathly terrified that I’ll lose my job, so I don’t. (Buy lots of copies of ELEMENTAL in 2012, and maybe I can quit my job. Then I’ll share all the stories you want.) Sometimes I want to blog about my family, but I don’t want to put my husband in a compromising position, so I don’t. (My mother, however, is fair game.)

Sometimes I read a book that sucks, and I don’t talk about it.

The only person who can make or break you is you.

Here’s a little story. I once saw this guy on the news, crying about the fact that he was losing his home and his business. The government was seizing everything he had, and he didn’t know how he was going to provide for his family. A family who was used to high-end cars, a personal maid and butler, a huge mansion of a house. The poor, persecuted man. The big, bad government was after him.

Because he didn’t pay his taxes.

I didn’t feel any pity for that guy. He didn’t pay his taxes! I mean, come on! You can’t complain about someone coming after you, if you do something wrong in the first place.

I hope I’m drawing a parallel here, but just in case: if you openly trash people online, and they turn around and refuse to support you (or even actively bash you in return), well, you can’t really point any fingers, can you? I’m not saying it’s mature, I’m just saying you can’t be surprised when it happens.

Remember: you can’t change others, you can only change yourself.

You can’t stop the YA Mafia (seriously, I love the name. I want to join.) if it even exists. You can’t stop cliques. You can’t stop people from being friends. As my husband likes to say, you make your own stress. If you don’t like seeing authors interact on Twitter, stop following them. No, even better, go make your own friends and talk to them.

I have a three-year-old son, and I’m constantly telling him, “Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what you are doing.” I used to teach riding lessons, and I would say it all the time to those teenagers, too. “But, Miss Brigid!” they would cry. “So-and-so is jumping three feet! Why can’t I jump three feet??” Then they’d make snarky remarks about the other girl. She’s nasty. She abuses her horse. Her parents buy her everything. She thinks she’s so much better than everyone.

Yeah, because being a bitch is going to get you to jump three feet.

Wrong. Riding better is going to get you to jump three feet.

When I sold my book to K Teen, I immediately went to see what other authors had been acquired by my editor for the same line. Did I look at their badass cover art and squish up my mouth and talk smack about them? Hell, no. I sent Erica O’Rourke an email and said, “We need to be friends.”

(And people, you need to put her book on your to-read list ASAP. It sounds insanely hot. One of the love interests is the main character’s bodyguard. I actually might need to break into Erica’s house and steal the page proofs.)

(Don’t tell her I said that. Just in case someone actually, you know, breaks into her house and steals page proofs.)

I know I’m dissolving into rambles. I just hate when people get fired up and get their feelings hurt online. Take a step back. Repeat that first mantra to yourself.

I can’t change others. I can only change myself.

It’s powerful. It helps.

Now go out there and make some friends of your own.

~

P.S. – I’m on twitter and Facebook. I’d love to be your friend. We can talk about extricating eyeballs all day.

Cheating

When I was in grade school, I used to cheat on tests.

Wait, you’re getting the wrong idea. I didn’t cheat off of other students. I was a straight A student myself; I didn’t need to look at anyone else’s answers.

I let them cheat off me.

See, we moved every year. I went to a different school for every grade from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Every year. I was always the new kid. I never knew any differently.

Yeah, you’d think military family, but that wasn’t it. My dad ran nursing homes, and he was the kind of guy who would go into a nursing home that was close to failing state survey, he’d clean it up, hire people, fire people, get it in better shape, and then move on to the next one. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve heard some stories (from my now divorced mother) about how my dad just wasn’t happy anywhere and he just kept wanting to move, but I’m going to keep my illusions about the nursing home thing, thank you very much.

Anyway. Back to the cheating.

So you know what happens to new kids, right? They never have a best friend. They never have real  friends, period. I remember being in fifth grade, and starting a fledgling friendship with this one girl. We were eating lunch together, and we learned that our birthdays were one day apart.

I got all excited and said, “Isn’t that cool? Maybe we could have a birthday party together! My mom said I can have an ice skating party this year, and–“

She cut me off and said, “Yeah, I really don’t like you very much. I was just eating with you because the teacher said I had to be nice.”

I don’t think I ever talked to her again.

So when you don’t have any friends, and you feel like no one likes you, you can go in two directions. You can do what my brother did: spend your grade school years with a chip on your shoulder, full of knee-jerk reactions and defensive attitude. Or you can do what I did: anything you can to possibly make people like you.

When you’re a straight-A student, people want to cheat off you.

So I let them. All the time. Copy homework, look at my test, whatever.

Did this make me any friends?

Nope. But it bought me some refuge from the normal new-kid crap.

I did have sorta-friends while I was growing up. I mean every kid finds friends eventually. But mine were always the one-offs. The kids who were already outcasts from their class, so I naturally fit in with them. Maybe they were relieved to have a friend, too.

When I got to high school, I knocked that crap off. I went to a private, all-girls Catholic high school. It wasn’t like a feeder school, so everyone was new. There were all kinds of ice-breaking activities and Freshman orientation, and being a good student was a good thing, not something to make you an outcast. I had friends. Lots of them. We were geeks, sure, but we were friends.

And the funny thing was, I didn’t have to do a damn thing to get them.

I still don’t have dozens of friends. I’m not one of those people who goes out with a big group of girls for every occasion. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a big group of girls, honestly. I didn’t go to college for very long (that’s a story for another day), so I don’t have sorority sisters to hang out with. All my high school friends went off to college after graduation, and I started a corporate job, so our paths diverged somewhat.

I don’t want this to sound depressing. I’m a pretty resilient person, I can change gears on the fly, and I can get along with just about anyone. Really, anyone. It makes me very good at my job. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything. I have an incredible mom, and I’m married to an amazing man.

When I sold the book and had my first conversation with my editor, she said something like, “You have a full time job and a toddler — how do you find the time to write books, too?”

I laughed and said, “I have a really supportive husband, and I don’t really have much of a social life.”

She laughed and said, “Well, you certainly have an active imaginary life in this book!”

I started writing in late grade school and early high school. I used to tell people that I couldn’t find enough books to read, so I just started writing my own.

But once my awesome editor said that, I realized maybe it was something else.

Maybe I started writing because I needed friends.

I mean, that paid off, right?

That chick who was “just being nice”? She can suck it.

🙂

~

The Valentine’s Day I wanted to stab a guy with a plastic fork

If you’re just here for the free goods the contest, scroll to the bottom. You totally don’t need to read my tale of woe to enter. You just need to have your own. 

First off, if you missed the post about  my trip to the firehouse, keep reading past this one. (If you want. That’s not really a command. I just posted it late in the day on a Sunday, so it was outside my regular schedule.)

Ha! I just said “regular schedule.”

Anyway.

I’m going to stretch the memory banks for this one, guys, because it was over ten years ago, and my description of the guy might be an amalgamation of several random guys from my early twenties.

But you won’t know the difference, so here we go.

So imagine Valentine’s Day 1999. I was single, young, a free spirit. Just like everyone else who was single on Valentine’s Day, I was not exactly feeling the love, if you catch my drift. So I did my two favorite things, alone.

I went to the movies, and afterward, I went to the bookstore.

There used to be this huge Borders bookstore in Towson, just north of Baltimore, and boy, that place was my stomping ground in the years following high school. It was three stories high, full of books and couches and even a cafe on the top floor.

So I found my book, and I went up to the cafe to have a coffee and a snack.

I’m sitting at the table, reading my book, eating, pretty content really. Yeah, I was single on Valentine’s Day, but life didn’t suck. It was okay.

Then a guy stopped by the table and said, “May I join you?”

I tend to remember things like they happened in a movie.  Kind of like: His hand would fall on the edge of the table, and I would look up slowly from my book to find this movie-star cute boy standing there, all blue eyes and dark hair (yeah, I have a type). End scene.

Now, in reality, he wasn’t movie-star cute. He was okay. I remember he had long hair (Hey, it was the nineties. Thank the grunge movement for that.), and a nice smile, and I think he was wearing glasses. I was just so startled that a guy was asking if he could join me. It’s not like there weren’t a dozen empty tables around. Bookstores aren’t what you’d call “hopping” on Valentine’s Day.

But I told him yes, he could sit down, and he did. Then he struck up a conversation.

Now I don’t remember everything we talked about. Our books, I’m sure. I think he was reading something completely outside my wheel house, like a biography or a book on migrant farmers or maybe something by John Steinbeck.

I do remember that he led of with a statement like, “I saw you were alone on Valentine’s Day, and I am too, and nobody should be alone on Valentine’s Day.”

I ate it up. Come on. You would too.

I remember he was in school, and very kind, and he kept leaning in against the table and making conspiratorial comments about the other people in the cafe. He was cute. Funny. Engaging. I was having a nice time.

Inside, I kept screaming to myself, “This could be fate! We’ll tell people we met on Valentine’s Day! What a cute story to tell our children one day!”

And then he took his last bite of pie, set down his fork, and said, “Well, it was really nice talking to you.”

And with that, he stood up and left.

Now, we didn’t have all these nifty acronyms when I was twenty-one. The only one we had was LOL, and I sure as hell wasn’t doing that.

My expression was more likely a combination of OMG and WTF.

I mean, seriously, he just stood up and left. It was like a complete 180. He’d been sitting there bantering, chatting, being flirty, the whole nine yards. And then he stood up and left.

More than ten years later, I’m still not sure what that was. A Valentine’s Day hit-and-run? Did he think he was being kind to the poor dorky girl? Because I’m sure I would have enjoyed another thirty minutes with my novel a lot more.

That’s my story. I’m sure you guys have some. Let’s hear ’em.

Wait! Let’s do a contest! I’ve never done a blog contest before.

In the comments section, tell me your worst Valentine’s Day story. I’ll pick the best three and post them on the blog tomorrow, and everyone can vote. 


Anna and the French KissWinner gets a $15 Amazon gift certificate. Use it to buy a copy of the incredible book Anna and the French Kiss. Or anything you want, really.


Deadline is whenever I wake up tomorrow! (Psst. That’s 5am EST Feb. 15, 2011) 

Let’s hear the anti-love! 


(I know some employers/schools block blog comments, so if you can’t comment on the blog from where you are, just send me an email at brigidmary@gmail.com, or post it on my Facebook “Like” page, or write it on a Post-it and stick it to my windshield, or hire a plane to skywrite it…)


Please promote!

Researching a novel is fun (a.k.a, My Trip to the Firehouse)

This ladder truck was massive. I stood right next to it.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way: I didn’t get to ride on a fire truck.

I live three blocks from the fire station, so I hear fire trucks go out all the time. Before noon? Three different calls. My husband joked to me, “See, you’re missing all the action.”

He was right. After noon? No calls.

Watch, while I’m writing this post, I’ll probably hear a fire truck go rocketing by.

So I didn’t get to ride on a fire truck, but I did get to see inside of one, and I got to see all the gear. The local fire chief was a fantastic subject for my first professional writer interview. He told lots of good stories, shared lots of good data, and seemed like a generally good guy.

He made fun of that movie Backdraft, too. 

I mostly tried to avoid looking like an idiot.

I learned a bunch of things I didn’t know. Like how the fire department goes on pretty much every call there is. They’re the first responders for just about everything. He said they’ve gotten calls for sparking outlets, for ducks stuck in some guy’s gutter, for people getting trapped on the ice, everything. (I live right off the Chesapeake Bay, so there’s water all over the place.)

Some of what he had to tell me was really sad. I asked if they get most of their calls around Christmas, and he said yes, which I expected. Then he said, “A lot of suicides.”

He told me about his first house fire, when he was sixteen (you can be a firefighter at sixteen in Maryland), and not only was it his first time in a full-on house fire, but they found a dead body in the bedroom.

He talked about how much noise goes on in a house fire. Like anything you have in a jar or an aerosol can is going to explode. How lightbulbs are drawn to heat, and they’ll pull in the direction of the greatest heat. (So they’ll see lightbulbs bent sideways.)

I’m so glad I went. I’m trying to think if there were any good stories. One was about a guy who called because he was bleeding. It turns out he was trying to . . . ah, have a good time, using a Sawz-All, and he cut off his . . . ah, member. (Trying to keep it clean here, and failing.)

What’s funny is that the fire chief is telling me this story, and I didn’t know what was coming, and he said, “Oh, how do I put this delicately?”

And I waved a hand and said, “Don’t worry about offending me. I’m constantly surrounded by men, so I’m tough to offend.”

Then he said, completely deadpan, “Okay, well, he was masturbating with a Sawz-All, and he cut his male part off.”

(If you highlight that last bit, you’ll see what it says. Again, trying to keep it clean, folks.)

So yeah, suffice it to say, I wasn’t expecting that.

Overall, an educational day at the firehouse.

~~

Can we say, “Life in flux”?

Hey guys, sorry for the recent absence. I know you’re desperate for bad internet dating stories, like the guy who wouldn’t remove his shirt (EVER.) or the one who proposed to me on IM, or the one who asked me if I wanted to step into the men’s room at The Melting Pot (I was 19 and naive and very much like, “Um, you mean like as a joke?”).

But those stories will have to wait until later.

Right now my life is in a huge state of flux. I have so much going on I’m not sure what to lead with.

So I’m going to have to keep it all to myself right now.

Dudes, can you go “Like” me on Facebook? Look! There’s a link right there! —>

(If that arrow doesn’t line up, pretend it’s someone else’s fault.)

In the interim, check out these awesome links:

This is just frigging hilarious and has nothing to do with writing:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/01/wolves.html

This is why you need to be good at revising (even moreso than writing):
http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/2011/01/heroism-of-revision.html

This is the dumbest name for a serial killer I’ve ever heard:
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/27/six-more-possible-grim-sleeper-cases-being-investigated/?iref=allsearch

This site is a great place to get news, in a funny way:
http://www.fark.com/

And finally, I love this video so much, and it will mean even more if you’re married:

The human slush pile

I’ve talked about American Idol before, but it was on last night, so it deserves a passing mention.

As I sit here and watch the people filter through, I just keep thinking of all the query letters agents receive, and wonder if American Idol is really just a human slush pile.

There are the truly clueless, the people who can’t sing worth a lick, who are barely sane, and who flip off the camera when the judges say it’s not for them.

There are the bad, the people who just don’t KNOW they’re bad, but they’re willing to get up there and face criticism. These are the guys and girls who slink off the stage, looking a little downtrodden, but not slinging the F-bomb at the judges.

There are the average. People who were probably in the choir in high school, and maybe their mom told them they could carry a tune. Nothing special, nothing bad. Average. But hey, this is a competition, and average isn’t going to get you anywhere. These people might have a shot, if they pay their dues.

There are the above average. Sometimes these people get to Hollywood. These are the people who have shiny hair, a nice smile, and a glimmer of talent hidden under some tarnish. They might make it, they might not.

There are the almost-professionals. The people who prove, again and again, that they deserve to be on that stage. They rise to the challenge. They take the criticism with an attitude of Bring it. And then they bring it. These are the people who end up competing for America’s vote.

Then there’s the winner.

What kind of singer are you?

What kind of writer?

Living the dream*

On Sunday, I got on a train to New York City, and I had lunch with my agent.

I just typed that sentence then stared at it for two minutes. I’m not quite sure it’s sunk in yet.

So think of what it takes to get an agent.

Well, this is what it took me:

In 2006, I started to take my writing seriously. I started posting pages on a site called My Writers Circle, I started finding critique partners (Hi, Bobbie!), I started doing the research you need to do to get your act together and get published.

In the fall of 2007, I had a finished novel. I started to query agents.

I got rejected.

A lot.

I’ll still never forget the one rejection letter that seriously changed my life. It was late 2007, my son wasn’t sleeping through the night yet, so I checked my email at 3am, a still-hormonal mom looking for validation anywhere I could find it.

That email started, “Hey Brigid, there’s no plot here…”

Brutal, yes?

No, it was awesome. It inspired me to put that novel down, to start something new, to get my act together and really write. That was a practice novel. The next one? The real deal.

So in the spring of 2008, I started A Wicked Little Rhythm, a novel about the son of Apollo living in secret, running a music store in downtown Baltimore.

More critique partners, more work. I went to my first book conference, Bouchercon, in the fall of 2008.

I met real writers. I heard them speak. I learned a lot.

I finished A Wicked Little Rhythm in the spring of 2009, and started to query.

In July 2009, I received a full manuscript from Tamar Rydzinski. A week later, she called me, asking for significant revisions, including writing my first sex scene, something I had never done.

I did it.

In October, the awesome Tamar became my agent.

In February 2010, I mentioned to Tamar that I was working on a sequel, and she recommended starting something new.

Thank god she did (See? Awesome agent.) because the first book didn’t sell.

I finished Elemental in October 2010, and after a few rounds of revisions, it went out on submission in November.

It’s out there right now. I’m proud of it. No details; I don’t want to jinx myself.

So when my friend and agency sister Sarah Maas mentioned that she was going to be in New York City for the month of January, I said I should hop on a train and we could all have lunch.

And we did.

And it was awesome. I had such a good time.

(The tri-colored gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce was incredible.)

Five years, people. Five years. And I’m still not quite there yet.

I once read a John Grisham interview where, after The Firm became a bestseller, they said, “What’s it like to be an overnight success?”

He said, “For you guys, it’s overnight. For me, it took ten years.”

~

* The title of this post is for you, Alison, because you gave me a much needed reality check while I was sitting on that train. 🙂

Back to the beginning

I don’t remember how old I was when I really started writing, but I remember the story. It was about a girl who found a boy with wings in the woods behind her house. His name was — ready for this? — Flyboy. I think I was a Freshman in high school. It was this long meandering story about how this girl and her veterinary mother nursed Flyboy back to health, and then scientists caught up with him to take him back to the lab for further “research.” I think I swapped this back and forth with my friend Jessica Marxen, and she wrote half. It filled a whole notebook of looseleaf paper.

It was all longhand, and all crap.

High school is an interesting time to be experimenting with writing. You’re not as afraid of what people will think, so your writing is more open, more raw. It’s a good time for obsessive habits, of which writing is definitely one for me. I remember my Pre-Calc teacher seeing me pull out a notebook from my backpack, and saying, “No, no. No writing your stories in my class.”

At the time I remember being indignant, but now when I look back, I wonder. Just how much was I writing that she knew which notebook held my stories? It’s not like she was my English teacher. She was my math teacher.

I have page after page of stories where my friend Sarah Perrich took notes and made comments in the margin. She used to tell me I didn’t know how to punctuate, but really, it was more about writing fast. Again, it was all longhand. We didn’t have a real computer until I was 16, and I sure didn’t know how to type.

I learned real quick.

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a short story about a boy sitting in his kitchen, contemplating suicide, and the devil and an archangel show up to start bickering over his soul. Wait, I think I put it on the blog once: Don’t judge me on this writing. I actually let a teacher read it.

He kind of frowned and said, “You have guys kissing.”

Oh yeah, I went to an all girls high school, too.

When I was in my late twenties, I started taking my writing seriously. I wrote a Real Novel.

But see, I’d hit my late twenties, and all those silly adult insecurities had crept in. Could I use the F word? What would people think if the male protag shed a tear? If the main character had a fight with her mother, would people assume I was fighting with my mother?

The book didn’t go anywhere.

I was writing scared. I was writing safe.

Then I had a child.

Something happens when a kid enters your life. Suddenly you’re responsible for another being, and it’s not enough to keep yourself safe. You have to protect another being. Not just physically — emotionally, too. I’m not a confrontational person, but I had to learn to stand up for not only myself, but my son, too.

That changed the way I write.

The funny thing is that I was on the right track in my teens. I had to shed all the adult crap to write the way I was supposed to.

I didn’t realize how heavy all that baggage was until I dumped it.

~

That good ol’ Christmas spirit

There’s a funny video going around the interwebs right now, about a little boy reacting to his parents’ audacity to give him BOOKS for Christmas. “Those aren’t toys!” he screams. It’s kind of funny, and kind of sad.

I have a three year old, though, one who walked into the living room a few weeks ago, put his hands on his hips, and said, “Mommy. This kitchen is a mess. You better clean it up. Right. Now.”

So, yeah, I know you can’t control what comes out of their mouths.

Here’s the video, in case you haven’t seen it:

Commenting has been disabled from the video, probably because of ignorant people bashing the parents.

But you know what? I feel for them. Two years ago, when Nick was about 18 months old, we bought him Kota the Dinosaur. Do you remember seeing this thing? It’s huge, about three feet tall at the shoulder. It doesn’t walk, but he roars like a dinosaur, and he has sensors all over, so when you pet him, he preens, and you can feed him his leaves, and when you bounce on his back, he plays songs. Yes, it cost a frigging fortune. Michael and I were so excited that it was the first year we could get Nick something like that for Christmas. He’s a little boy! He loved the Jane Yolen How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You books! How could he not like Kota??

Well, here’s his reaction:

And still, two years later, he won’t approach that thing.

Anyone want a dinosaur for Christmas? Never used…