{thanks, again}

This year, I did not do my Daily Gratitude post-a-day challenge in November.

Have you ever heard of scleromyositis? Systemic scleroderma? Polymyositis? Neither had I… but October and November were largely given over to familiarizing myself with Latin and Greek words that characterized these random autoimmune disorders. I suggest you don’t get on the internet and look up either one, or their adjacent symptoms; it’s just not helpful. It’s honestly never helpful to go straight to WebMD after talking to your doctor, but it’s least helpful when you have an autoimmune disorder, and everything you hear or see is a variation on this disorder is related to both fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s and arthritis, and Your Mileage May Vary. At baseline, you can characterize it as the chronic inflammation of the nerves, muscles and joints, but it’s much less straightforward. There is just so little unambiguous information on our bodies attacking ourselves. It’s hard to figure out what you’re feeling, how you should react, what you should fear, and what you should do next.


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I didn’t lack gratitude this autumn — I don’t lack gratitude — but I was lost in my head, trying to remain normal, participate in normal industry activities within the Kidlitosphere, finish this novel, keep normal on the front burner while my head was filled with gray mist and buzzing. After a September move, and finally settling into a little jewel box of a house, I should have been grateful. After the horror of the fires, I should have been grateful that we have had a lovely autumn, with one last splash of unseasonably warm days in October followed by glorious rain, and more rain, with a few clear blue days interspersed in between. Autumn has had a drinkable quality this year, as our lungs praised the air quality and took in deep draughts of petrichor, crisp, leaf-mould, wet ground, faint woodsmoke, and glowing moonrise. I got a new bike! I randomly lost another seven pounds! There has been much that is lovely and fine, including the gift of teenagers trick-or-treating who ensured that we did not have a year’s worth of old candy in a jar to keep eating. Even amidst the grinding exhaustion and pain, even with the weird lesions that showed up on my fae, there has been so much grace, so much relief, so much change – but I missed a lot of it, locked in to the paralysis of What? How? Why?

I’ve started on an immunosuppressant drug this week which means a lot of hand-washing – and a lot of hand-wringing about having twelve people for Thanksgiving and five choral performances and loads of rehearsals between now and December 16 – but the plans were made before the treatment was decided, and there’s no turning back now. I’m being as careful as I can, whilst balancing and juggling all else that is on my plate — being a good partner and friend and daughter and writer. We’ll see how it all goes.

As for my blogging, it’s time for a recenter/restart. It’s never to late to try for some gratitude, after all. Hope you’ll join with me for December Light. It’s a dark old world out there, so I’m going to light a candle a day – a poem, a thought, something. The new trailer for A Wrinkle In Time reminded me of my favorite part of the book, when IT was vanquished:

“Suddenly there was a great burst of light through the Darkness. The light spread out and where it touched the Darkness the Darkness disappeared. The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure.

It’s not a direct quote from the book, but the movie synthesizes it beautifully: The only way to defeat the darkness is to BECOME THE LIGHT.

Join me?

{the new year’s resolutions…}

*dusts off blog*

Autumn, incoming. Been foggy and chilly in the mornings for most of August, and this morning I opened the first jar of applesauce we canned two weeks ago. Today’s chill and fog, in honor of the battering poor Hawaii is taking, is hardly noticeable, and yet: September. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, the breezes smell of apple peels, etc. September is always the beginning of the year, after sooooo many years of school and teaching. So, happy new year, friends. It’s time to start over, and make new resolutions.

Strawberries on Cake

Summer’s goal was to finish the WIP by today, the official, can’t-really-excuse-it-anymore month when summer ends. Guess what? It’s …kinda finished! But, I’m not in the Cake-With-Rejoicing phase. *checks mood* Nope. Definitely still The Whining Phase, so it’s not time for cake. (Banana bread with whipped cream and a few shavings of chocolate, maybe. Technically, despite my Scottish friends’ snorts to the contrary: banana bread IS NOT CAKE. {LIE: it is BANANA CAKE. Maybe it’s just not time for chocolate cake yet??}) I’m not yet sure the novel says what I want it to say. Secret Agent Man will look it over on the 15th, Tech Boy is reading it now, so I’m holding off saying I totally hate it until then, but…

I might hate it. As usual. The thing is this: I keep trying to write to the well of deeper ideas that I have within me, the well which doesn’t come with a winch and a bucket but just… a cover? A nice little decorative bench seat around it? Some wild flowers? No way to get the water out, in other words. This inarticulateness really bugs me, but the cure for being unable to speak is to keep talking, and talk… louder. And, so I continue.

To that end, I’ve also listened – equally, doubly important. This morning I listened to a round-table discussion on Writing The Other with three writers of color, discussing the importance of practice, of failing, and of not holding minority communities responsible for your wanting to tell their stories. This is important to me – still and always – as a person of color, because my current Kinda Finished Work features a person who is part of the albinism community, and a Latino character. I don’t feel like I necessarily need an empathy-check on writing these characters as human beings, but it’s been empirically shown this year that people of color can still mess up – COLOSSALLY FAIL, even – if they don’t check in with the people whose voices they’re borrowing, so to speak. And so, the plan is to check in… once I get past this mushy, “I think I hate this” spot. Eventually.

(What’s really niggling with me right now is less writing minority experiences ignorantly, but writing, I guess, feminism coherently. There is a metaphor about teen girls as blank canvases that makes my main character kind of an extended metaphor – and she kind of is, but she’s also a character, so she’s kind of is not. Her albinism is being used to underscore that metaphor, but I’m still not sure it works. ANYWAY. Book mechanics!)

Part of my intentional resolutions for this new year is participation – I’d like to go to another writing conference, somewhere, and listen and talk about ideas and writing. Last week, I let out into the light of …social media, if not “day,” the idea I’ve had and written and rewritten for a science fiction novel. I’ve kind of been discouraged by my agent about speculative fiction — on his website, Secret Agent Man flatly states he doesn’t read it and has let me know that the editor with whom I work at Knopf has no experience in it, either. Since “Contemporary YA sells” (Thanks, John Green), the interest in it from my people has been less than faint, and so I’m kind of at sea… but on the other hand, thinking positively, I now have the opportunity to work with new people. I may even use a different configuration of my name, just to keep things straight. I’m determined, especially after listening to people writing under the hashtag #YAWithSoul, that there really does need to be more representation of marginalized groups in science fiction and fantasy. I’ve been fiddling with this novel FOR YEARS and — I’ve decided it’s going to be the next one I work on. I’m hoping it feels riskier than it is.

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Finally, there’s a potential move on the horizon – another international relocation. I tend to lose my ability to write in the panic of packing and unpacking. This time, I’m a.) going for less panic (“Well… good luck with that,” Anxiety says, examining her nails), and also intentionally going to carve out some time for my brain — and at least write some poetry or SOMETHING to start processing things sooner. More information on that as it happens.

(And, hopefully, cake. Soon.)

So, those are my new writing thoughts for the new year. What are new year thoughts?

{thirty steps to meltdown or, what happens when I am stuck on a manuscript, in no particular order}

  • wander aimlessly through my house
  • stress clean the kitchen
  • read a lot. And queue up reviews for weeks in advance
  • trim my hair
  • Tell myself not to panic
  • trim tech boy’s hair
  • tweeze my eyebrows
  • tweeze my leg hair
  • look up trichotillomania on WebMD
  • rearrange the fridge
  • rearrange the spices by height
  • rearrange the spices by alphabetical order
  • stress bake cookies with no recipe
  • ask God WHYYYYYYYYY multiple times
  • wonder where that one figure skater is doing now
  • sigh a lot
  • dust mop beneath the couch
  • analyze the dirt in the Roomba
  • discover where earring backs have gone
  • rearrange my earrings
  • stress clean my desk
  • write notes to myself
  • find a spider. usher him or her out
  • ponder the pile of laundry in the laundry room
  • consider doing one load. consider doing ALLL the loads
  • lie on couch, staring, dry-eyed
  • Panic. Just a little
  • imagine names for pets
  • argue with self if pets are cats or fish or turtles
  • write faux jacket copy and abandon it
  • try outlining, then laugh wildly at how bad it is
  • full on panic. Wheeze
  • organize notes to myself by writing – neatest to scribbliest
  • read novel notes from 6 months ago, laugh wildly, edge into hysterical sobbing
  • make a serious stab at a novel synopsis
  • begin novel-as-movie paragraph, “In a world where…”
  • wail. Loudly.
  • find a spider. Usher it from this life
  • promise the muse nonexistent firstborn
  • take back promise, because kids would make this even harder
  • close my eyes and imagine the character
  • remember whatever the character wants needs to not happen
  • rediscover the concept of CONFLICT
  • write a letter, telling story of novel so far to mother
  • whisper, “Ohhhh…!” as light breaks
  • is that a spider? Huh.
  • mutter prayer of thanks and GET BACK TO WORK

{six word stories: winners!}


PEAS AND CARROTS had a great book birthday. Thank you so much for the love and good wishes sent all day yesterday! It was nice to hear from so many of you. It was also excellent to see the effort that went into the six word stories you sent. Sometimes big stories lurk in little words. Some of the stories are sweet:

“Autism teaches patience, love, and truth.” – C

And others, not so much…

“Hell is other people. Or parents.” – D

These little stories definitely made me want to hear more. I liked that they were little novels enclosed in a tight space. Six words can give you a lot to go on — more than you might think:

“Product of Tiger Mom and DEFCON1.” – AC

“Mixed nuts, emotionally adrift; imperfect strangers.” – d

And I was amused by how many stories included… dogs. What is it with six word stories and dogs? The basic gist of all of the dog stories is wrapped up in this plaintive sigh:

“Nobody understands me but the dog.” – L

The stories have gone into the hat:

Congratulations to:



[email protected] Reads

Winners, once again using the contact form (Don’t leave personal information in the comments, of course) send your mailing address and you’ll receive a signed copy of PEAS AND CARROTS and some other tiny goodies.

Thanks to everyone who played along, and thank you again for being part of a great book birthday. I hope you keep writing the stories of your families, and of your lives.

{book birthday giveaway: six word family stories}

Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that’s a truth that Dess has learned to live with.

Dess’s mother’s most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother’s foster family. Dess doesn’t exactly fit in with the Carters. They’re so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve. Dess and Hope couldn’t be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.

Tanita S. Davis, a Coretta Scott King Honor winner, weaves a tale of two modern teenagers defying stereotypes and deciding for themselves what it means to be a family.

9780553512816-3 copy

In honor of PEAS AND CARROTS’ book birthday February 9th, I’m out and about in the blogosphere, talking about hiding (@B&N’s OPEN MIC Project – do check out the other pieces), writing about divine (every) bodies (@STACKED BOOKS, and thanks to Kelly for inviting me), and tomorrow I’ll be at John Scalzi’s blog, sharing the BIG IDEA – or one of them – behind the book. At some point, I’ll also show up in The Horn Book blog. I have two copies of PEAS AND CARROTS left to share, and I thought I’d give someone a chance to win one… by sharing a six word family story.

Hemingway’s famous six-word tale, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” inspired the “six word story” meme, and has served as a writing prompt for decades, challenging writers’ ability to create an entire narrative arc in just six words. Having a topic may – or may not – make it easier… give it a shot and see!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Create an original six word story – funny, poignant, etc – describing your family, whether chosen family, foster family, or the one you were born with. Submit this story, between NOW and midnight February 9th (PST) via the site’s contact form, with the words “Six Word Story” in the subject line. I’ll be sharing some of these as I receive them, and will throw the very best of them in a hat and select two. Winners to be announced February 10th, and personal details, mailing information, etc., will be requested then.


Good luck! Remember you have between now and midnight (PST) December 9th.

{a tiny PR note}

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I’m told the candy does NOT, in fact, taste like peas or carrots. Bummer.

People expecting copies of PEAS AND CARROTS, those are going out this week. People who want a chance to win a copy, along with a lunch bag and a little magnet — please stay tuned to the February 9 release date —

February is not just when the groundhog emerges (albeit with a LOT of help from people pulling it) from its hole to find its shadow – it’s apparently the month when introverts Make An Effort (also with a LOT of help from people… pulling). I’ll be booktalking, and being visible this February here and there – first, I’m presenting a webinar February 2nd for The National WWII Museum on Mare’s War as part of their WWII emphasis this year. Teachers and families who do homeschooling, you’ll want to jump on this! The week following, I’ll be on the blog STACKED and then the tumblr Size Acceptance in YA; at BN Teen Blog’s Open Mic project sometime next month, and on John Scalzi’s WHATEVER blog’s Big Idea project on February 9th, which is the same day that PEAS AND CARROTS has its book birthday.

I’m grateful to everyone who asked me to show up and hang out next month, and given me the opportunity to talk about what I do and how I do it.

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{the opposite of indifferent}

The antonyms of indifference, Merriam-Webster reminds us, are attentiveness, curiosity, warmheartedness and sensitivity. I agree, and Tabatha Yeats, a writer who blogs at The Opposite of Indifference has those qualities in spades. Dismayed at our after-Christmas distress, she sent along the perfect joyful little distractions… games!

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Please note the blue and copper glitter nail polish= also a fun distraction

Love Letters is kind of a narrative game of risk that seeks, in a most unloverlike fashion, to knock all the other lovers out of the game. It’s kind of amusing when really cut-throat people play it; Tech Boy and I are still kind of fumbling their way through and the first round, anyway, were somewhat gentle with each other. (That didn’t last.) But Red7 is …catnip for the competitive, a game in which one has to change the rules to win. On the surface, it’s very simple… you’re simply organizing suits, in a way. But, you’re also playing seven games at a time. We were a little amused and a little relieved to see that there are Youtube tutorials – at least three – on how to play.

If the first ten days of January predict how the year will go, I’m going to be well amused (and also well drookit, as the Scots say. This rain is kind of amazing)! Thank-you, Tabatha, very much.

{cover & swag}

Have I shown you this cover yet?


Is it not stunning? So ORANGE it is. SO orange. I immediately want one of those Outshine Tangerine Carrot ice lollys, as the Scots call them. I want to roll around in that sizzling hue. I love, love, love the vibrant colors. *happy sigh*


This final cover is the result of a lengthy negotiation between my understanding of the book’s characters, and the designers’ understanding of the job before them. I’ve been asked not to share design “dud” rejected for the official cover – and really, it wasn’t a dud, per se, it just wasn’t right for this book – but the original concept introduced to me was a broad lawn on which two girls lay – separated by a lot of space. Unfortunately, they were separated from the reader as well – we looked down on them from far, far away, and to me, they looked tired, or hung over, or …something passive. This was brought back to me cropped in various ways, lightened, darkened — but it was variations on a theme, and for me, it didn’t work no matter how we angled our gaze. For one thing, there was a glut of books a few years ago that looked like lawn-care manuals with all of that grass. For another, a quick check through internet images will net romantic YA novels like STEALING PARKER by Miranda Kennally and the paperback of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by that one guy — both with people lying on lawns. And there are more. MANY more. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong a lawn, one of the characters in the novel is not a product of suburbia, and would probably never be found just lying down on nature — not public nature, anyway. You don’t know where that’s been. We take so much for granted, culturally, and we can be quite tone-deaf sometimes about projecting our perceptions. So, it was a “no” from me, over and over.

It is hard enough differentiating a book from the herd; it’s easier when your book doesn’t look like another book that just came out. Hopefully I didn’t frustrate too many people as I quietly lobbied for a whole new design. And asked my agent to help me lobby for a new design – and we got one! And it just pops with that brilliant color.


The designs you see accompanying this book are MY design duds. Now, I don’t always do as much public PR stuff as I *cough* should with regard to books (still vainly hoping that merely writing them is enough) but as soon as I knew I’d have a book out in February (a discovery brought home to me by the ARCs arriving two months ago – previously I understood there was an Autumn release date, not early-early Spring) I started checking into costs and considerations on creating swag for giveaways.

Aside: There is a wildly misunderstood notions by those outside the industry and some authors who are independently published or published through a small press, that only THEY have to worry with doing their own PR. Haha, no, I am published by one of the BIGGEST of the “Big Six” (which is now Big 5, since two morphed into one RandomPenguin) and this is still something I need to do, and it is my money that goes into it. (While we’re on the topic, did you read that the Author’s Guild reported most writers earn below the poverty line? Unless your name is Joanne and you wrote about wizards whilst living in Scotland, you’re usually not rich. Thanks to Tech Boy, I worry a bit less about this, but…) It’s a choice we all make, how much of our advance we plow back into PR stuff, how helpful and fun it is for readers, etc. Wise writers have advised it’s a better use of time/funds than social media.


A rummage through Google brought a few helpful ideas to the fore, beginning with Sherri D. Ficklin’s tips on price and practicality, on through the magical Joyce Wan, and into the wilds of Etsy, a dangerous place to go with your wallet. I found quite a bit of fodder for swag, but the most helpful thing has been the niecelet currently living here rent-free being a newly minted graphic designer with an MFA in Advertising and Art Direction from Academy of Art University. I advise EVERYONE to find one of these if they can, trés helpful. (Oh, don’t look like that. I’m not using her, I’m a client. And, I’m going to pay her. Eventually.) We did a lot of brainstorming through the summer on what we could come up with, and… I said “No” to her a number of times, and felt increasingly embarrassed about it. However, as she reminded me repeatedly, at the end of the day, nobody is going to love my book project more than me, so I sat down and did some actual designing myself. Niecelet made it look like it wasn’t done by chimpanzees using broken crayons on a laptop screen, and the upshot is that bags and magnets containing my design should be arriving next month.

I feel professional! And excited! And a little horrified by how expensive it is to get things printed on bags! Never mind, though – it’s a great way to connect with librarians and bookstore owners, and some lucky person in a few months will get a finished copy of the book with a bag or a magnet or — heck, maybe both. Stay tuned, ALL SHALL BE REVEALED…

{some “broad” hints…}

When you get SCREEN CAPS from friends (broads?) to let you know a.) that they’re talking about you online, b.) that they’re talking about you online in a forum to which you have no access c.) that they’re talking about you online in a forum to which you have no access and want to make sure that you know they can say whatever obnoxious thing about you that they want because you’re not there to defend yourself, you know it’s probably past time to join Twitter.

If your agent/editor/book designer gives you exasperated side-eye because you won’t reconsider Facebook… yes, you, too can be shamed into joining Twitter — even if your agent/editor/book designer doesn’t tweet, you can hope they acknowledge that Twitter’s “better than nothing.” Nothing, which you, like I, was perfectly happy doing…

And so resumes the uneasy marriage: introvert and social media.

For however long the ride, it should at least be entertaining. 😈

{goodbye to the wit and wisdom of sir terry}

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Oh, Mr. Pratchett. You were a diamond, too.

And now comes the time for the wearing of the lilac…

It’s a bit of irony that I think would amuse Terry Pratchett: after all of his advocacy for assisted suicide and the right to die, he passed away in his sleep.

He wrestled Alzheimer’s to the ground – and won.

Happy are those who live life on their own terms, all the way to the last day.

Godspeed, Sir Terry, and thanks for all the books, and all the worlds you shared; flat ones atop elephants and a ginormous, improbable turtle, deep ones, in the nap of the carpet, crumbly ones, well dug into dirt, high ones in Dunmanifestin or the Ramtops, and little ones inside our hearts, patrolled by verbose frogs, illogical blue men and irascible – and far more importantly, incorruptible watchmen. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? You. Always. And you showed us how to watch ourselves.

Boy, were you loved, and will be missed and mourned so very much.