Post-Christmas GG thoughtsicles

GOSSIP GIRLMy fake boyfriend Chuck Bass is pondering something. You see? He has his wonder face on. The thing that he is wondering is this: why is Penelope, the bitchtastic leader of the UES Plastics when Blair has something better to do, like throwing a totally awesome party or being a member of the Non-Judging Breakfast Club or keeping vigilant watch while Dorota skins 101 dalmatian puppies and makes a coat out of them, so powerful that she can kick around Nellie Yuki, who is my all-time favorite marginal GG character, and Hazel, who is my all-time favorite marginal GG character with a Tumblr, yay!?

Okay, but seriously. Penelope sucks. She’s no fun, she’s not smart, she’s not cunning, she’s not interesting, she’s such a Blair-bot it’s ridiculous (headbands WHAT?!),  ad infinitum. There are a million reasons why Penelope is the worst. I want to see an episode that is completely centered on Hazel and Nellie’s plan to destroy the evil that is Penelope. I can’t believe she ever had the nerve, THE NERVE, to freeze out Blair Waldorf, at BUTTER OF ALL PLACES THAT RESTAURANT IS SO A YEAR AND A HALF AGO. Also wasn’t her name Hazel last season? I’m just saying. Perhaps I will call her Un-Hazel from now on, to differentiate her from the true blue Hazel that reminds me of Gretchen Weiners and will likely, in the future, rise up to destroy her master.

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Even I, who have a pretty low opinion of Little J, think she’s too cool to be hanging out with this clown posse. Penelope must be STOPPED, if only because I am sick of her getting screen time because she is THE WORST EVER. Check it.

Well, Penelope won’t get away with this kind of crap for long. I am always watching, and soon I will sic my boyfriend Chuck Bass on her. He’s in a destroying mood, although you wouldn’t know it from the TOTALLY AWESOME SANTA HAT I got him to wear.  Observe:

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Happy Holidays from Chuck and I! Penelope, watch your back.

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365 days…

That’s how many days until next Christmas. Next Christmas, I swear I will be prepared. I will have my presents bought by the end of November and Christmas cards (imagine!) written out before Thanksgiving. I will do it! Next year, I will be an adult!

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m the biggest procrastinator, next year I will write the exact same post I wrote below, about how I didn’t get anything done until the last minute, what a slacker I am, goals for the NEXT Christmas, etc. Well, at least I’m consistent.

So how was everybody’s holiday? Mine was spectacular. I thought I would be sad because this would be the first Christmas I didn’t spend in Chicago, and it was in a way, I missed my aunt and uncle and cousins and grandmother something awful, but also it was a very low-key holiday, just me and my siblings and my parents, and we were relaxed and happy and the food was still totally delicious. My mother, upon my request, made a full Wigilia dinner on Christmas Eve and then we opened presents and ate cookies and then they even let me get away with putting the kibosh on Pasterka (we went this morning instead) because I was so super jet lagged. This morning after Mass we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, which my brother bought me for Christmas, and ate the Giordano’s pizza my aunt and uncle had sent to us from Chicago (dinner at Giordano’s is a Christmas tradition for the Molzabs). I’ve had plenty of time to read (right now I’m devouring East of Eden) and I even was able to fix my iPod because my sister generously donated the use of her new MacBook Pro for the cause. I had a long chat with my cousin Emma tonight, Jenny and I drove around Dublin/San Ramon looking at Christmas lights, and tomorrow I’m going with my mom to the outlets, I think. Sigh. This is the life. I feel so happy and relaxed; California is good for my soul.

One thing I didn’t do is send my manuscript to my editor, because I keep thinking up new things to do with it; sometimes it’s stuff that I should’ve fixed but slipped my mind (there’s one or two of these) and sometimes it’s a desire to make sure everything is absolutely right before I send it on, but I do intend to fix everything I can and get it in my editor’s inbox by the 31st, which is my deadline.

Anyway, I’m just really content right now. I feel like I’m really getting the break I needed, nothing is stressing me out. I’ve never had that experience before during the holidays. I’m thankful for that. Happy Holidays, everybody!

The method to my madness

Wow, so it’s Christmas, huh? When did that happen? I swear, I feel like it was just August. Because of the breakneck speed with which this holiday season approached, I of course was incapable of getting ready at all. I completely forwent sending Christmas cards this year, because I didn’t have time to update my list or write out the cards, or the funds with which to purchase the amount of cards I wanted to send or the postage. (Note to self: buy Christmas cards on clearance this year! Then you’ll be prepared. And write them before Thanksgiving in 2009, jackass.) I bought the bare minimum amount of presents, so there are people who may be getting Christmas presents from me in January. Sorry! I suck at life.

However, I feel like I have a good excuse this year–I mean, besides the economy, which is everybody else’s excuse. I was knee-deep in revisions between Thanksgiving and now, and it really did take up much more time than I thought it would. Revisions are no joke. I know that if you’re a writer, published or aspiring or under contract, you already know that, but I feel like it must be said over and over again so that we all get it through our thick skulls that you can’t turn over a manuscript in two weeks, no matter how clean you might think it is. Thank God I had four weeks.

My mind and life are generally in a state of total chaos, so when I’m tackling a big project it’s necessary for me to come up with some sort of system with steps in order to accomplish whatever Big Ass Goal looms over my head. You’d think it would help that I’ve revised a novel, particularly this novel, several squillion times, but it doesn’t. Each round of revision is like a new adversary that must be crushed. It is with this spirit of resistance and combativeness that I approached my revisions for AUT during this, the supposedly most joyous of seasons, and I am happy to report that I emerged from the other side intact and, most importantly, satisfied with the results.

This is how I did it.

Step One: Waited impatiently (because I am an incredibly impatient person) for my editor’s brilliant revisions.
Step Two: Received said brilliant revisions; counted pages of the revision letter (4, not bad); saw Twilight (sparkles!); put the whole thing away in a drawer and avoided it like it carries the small pox virus for a week or so.
Step Three: Read the revision letter, absorbed all the comments; cried (just kidding, I don’t cry); still couldn’t face the marked-up manuscript, so continued to avoid that like I avoid tourists and people from Staten Island (just kidding! not really).
Step Four: Went to San Diego for Thanksgiving. While on the plane, made copious notes in preparation for fleshing out a character that was, perhaps, a bit too much of a cipher in the first billion drafts. Wrote a new character manifesto for said character. Compiled a playlist specifically for said character and listened to it a lot on the plane. Consulted my friend Scott about a new car for said character. Flew back to New York, thinking, “God, this writing thing is a breeze! I can’t wait to start doing it again.”

My previous thoughts were, of course, wildly untrue. I knew that I had to write new scenes for said character, and I knew that I could do it, but I didn’t know what to write. Because I’ve always been sort of a micro-to-macro type personality (is that a personality type? whatever, it is now)…

Step Five: Went through the marked-up manuscript and made all the small typographical changes my editor suggested. Flagged any and all questions written by my editor in the margins that would require bigger changes, that I disagreed with, or that I thought could necessitate further discussion.
Step Six: Began the first stage of deflagging. This came after a conversation with my editor, during which we discussed some things and I cleared some stuff up for her. After that conversation, I went through and got rid of the flags marking those passages we’d discussed, and started making some of the medium-sized changes to get some momentum.
Step Seven: Finally dove into writing the new scenes. This became so, so, so much easier once I figured out exactly what it was I wanted to write. I decided on three scenes, a happy first scene, an emotionally charged second scene, and a sad closing scene. I figured out where to put them, and then I wrote them. The prose was terrible–repeat-y and purple and weird–but the skeletons were there. Then I sent them to my agent, who had an idea about how to take a scene a little bit further, so I worked on that. Then I cleaned up the scenes and put them to bed, so to speak.
Step Eight: Second stage of deflagging, making more medium-sized changes using the momentum I’d built up from the first deflagging and writing the new scenes.
Step Nine: Created a final to-do list, and tackled it to the ground.
Step Ten: Final once-over, making sure everything was good in the hood.

I’m probably not technically done yet. There is one thing my editor requested I do that I did not do, which I’ll probably have to explain, and there was something she asked that I do that I’ve been trying to do for a year, literally, and none of my efforts seem to have wholly fixed the situation, so I’m waving the white flag of surrender on that one unless she has some ideas about how I can do it. I’ve hit a wall on that one, sad to say, because otherwise I feel pretty confident about this round of revisions. I’m willing to work on it more, but at this point the well is dry on that aspect. But that’s a job for next year. Right now I have one or two things that came to me in the middle of the night (this is very annoying, brain, BY THE WAY) that I want to fix, and then probably I’ll send my editor the manuscript via email tomorrow or something. Then, Christmas! I’m so relieved.

Bliss

I’m currently eating a red velvet cupcake, wearing rearview spy glasses, and listening to Hanson. It’s snowing like mad outside, and later, when I have to go out, I’m going to be so annoyed by the weather, but right now it’s gorgeous. Tell me you’re not jealous, I dare you!

Y are people still hating on YA?

This topic seems as old as the hills now, doesn’t it? The whole adult fiction=good, YA fiction=bad argument keeps cropping up in hoighty-toighty magazines, newspapers and blogs and, frankly, I’m sort of surprised. Wasn’t everybody convinced by Margo Rabb’s excellent essay in the New York Times, I’m YA and I’m OK? Maybe the snobs don’t read the New York Times. And they probably don’t read the outraged blogs of prominent YA authors ranting against the whole presupposition that if it’s for teens it’s “facile” and “uncomplicated”, to crib some vocab from this New Yorker article about Kathe Koja’s Headlong, which I got from Carrie Ryan’s blog this morning. And I’ve already talked about Caitlin Flanagan’s hilariously insane article about Twilight in The Atlantic (which, BTW, was a trivia question this Wednesday on pub quiz, and of course we got it right). “I hate YA novels; they bore me.” Riiiiiiiight.

If people are supposed to align themselves with “YA” or “adult”, then let’s talk about the stinkers Team Adult has put out recently, versus the rockstar books on the YA shelf. But, in truth, there are SO MANY BOOKS on the market, obviously some of them (in YA and adult both) are going to be terrible, uncomplicated, flacid, boring, badly written, poorly edited, full of flat characters with no real substance, preachy, dismal, or chaotic. That’s just the risk you run by producing art for consumption. It’s not always going to be deemed great by all, or most, or even some, of the population. But that really has nothing to do with YA v. adult. I’ve read some really dumb adult books in my day, believe me. The shelf a book appears on, the catalog it shows up in, is not an arbiter of quality. DUH. You know what’s facile? The argument that if it’s YA it’s simple and if it’s adult it’s brilliant and complex.

I never set out to write YA. I never set out to write not YA, either, I just never gave it a lot of thought because I didn’t start learning about the market until a few years ago. I was writing All Unquiet Things and focusing on the story, when my grad school adviser told me, “This is great, but you know it’s YA, right?” I didn’t, but that was actually the best thing anyone had ever said to me, because then I went home and I wore Google out investigating every aspect of YA. That research has not only helped me in my writing career, but it helped me get my job at Browne & Miller, through which I met Joanna, who is now my agent, and it helps me in my day job all the time. Once Nic made me think about it, I was like, “Of course YA! That’s the perfect place for this book.” And I’ve never looked back.

In my opinion, there is a reason why YA and children’s books are doing fine (even well, in some cases) in this terrible economy while adult imprints are struggling, being reorganized, freezing acquisitions, and enduring layoffs. Part of that is, as people have said, because adults scale back their own purchases but still buy their kids things, I’m sure. But I think a lot of it has to do with how innovative the genre is, how many good books are being put out that adults are buying because they’re making such a splash (hello The Hunger Games), and, most importantly, how deeply supportive YA authors are of each other. The world of adult books is fraught with contempt and competition, especially in the “literary” genre. YA authors, however, are using the mediums of their audience to communicate with that audience, and they support each other immensely. What a great place to be a debut author. I’m so lucky.

I have to say that I’ve gotten nary a negative glance about writing YA from the people I tell about selling AUT. Everybody’s just really excited about my book and my accomplishments. Maybe some of my snobby undergrad or grad schoolmates would be condescending about it, but I don’t talk to those people, so I have no idea. I’m proud of my book. I’m proud of the books I read by other YA writers I admire. And my friends and family are proud of me. That’s all I care about.

Charmin Bathrooms NYC: the full report

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That’s right ladies and germs, last night I made my first (of many, I hope, although it won’t be around much longer so I’d better take advantage while I have the opportunity) foray to the Charmin Bathrooms this year. If possible, it was actually better than last year. Yes! I know, how is that possible you ask. Well, it’s simple. The decorations were better, there was a Duracell station on the third level where I got to play Nintendo Wii for the first time, and there was a disco ball in my bathroom. Also, they took this picture and gave us a copy for free, and a website and code to download it onto our computers–again for free! The only thing that sucks about this picture is that there’s a spotlight above the sleigh and it makes Jenny, Cambria and I look like a trio of washed-out ghosts or something, and Eric is conspicuously in the shadows, which is just weird. Also, it’s hard to see the giant Charmin bear in the back of the sleigh behind our fatheads, but he’s there, trust me.

Terms of endearment

I really got a lot accomplished today. I’m very proud of myself. I wrote several new scenes for Part Two of AUT, and now I’m letting them settle in. Tomorrow I’ll read everything over again to make sure that the scenes make sense where I’ve inserted them and that they do the absolute best job conveying what I want. There’s a big one that I might have to toy with for a while, since it has to be perfectly calibrated, but that’s for tomorrow.

I don’t particularly relish adding scenes to what, to me, is a basically finished manuscript. Obviously it’s not really finished since it needs these new scenes, but I’ve been working on AUT for so long now, it’s like a sculpture or something, it feels weird to add to it because the whole point of carving a sculpture is to take stuff away until it looks exactly how you want it. It gives me that Frankenstein feeling. But those scenes need to be there, so my job now is to make sure they fit seamlessly in with the rest of the manuscript.

(I’m also concerned that the new scenes are messing with chapter lengths and bumping me up over my 85,000 word cap–I’m not sure how immutable this is, though–but I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it. Now is not the time to concern myself with that stuff.)

I can’t really talk about what scenes I added because of the mystery nature of the book and not wanting to spoil anybody a year before the book comes out. However, I did do something else just a few minutes ago that never occurred to me before, but just struck me while I was thinking about a particular character’s voice. I just thought I’d mention it because it’s a small change that means big things, at least to me.

AUT has two narrators, and they both talk about parents a lot. Parents don’t get much screen time in the book, but they are crucial to the back story, characterization, themes and overall atmosphere. Thus, the words “mother” and “father” appear numerous times in the manuscript. However, it just occurred to me that while Neily definitely uses the words “mother” and “father” exclusively to talk about his parents, Audrey would not, and I had to make sure this was consistent throughout.

My reasoning for this is that Neily is very removed from his parents, emotionally. He’s not very close with them, and he doesn’t particularly want to be. “Mother” and “father” are much more distanced terms for the parental units–they’re more formal, less familiar words.

Now, of course, not everyone who says “my mother” and “my father” more than they say “my mom” and “my dad” isn’t close to their parents–those are the terms I myself use most often to talk about my parents, because I prefer the way they sound, even though I’m very close to my parents. I even call my mother “Mother” to her face sometimes (I call her Mom, Mommy, and Ma, too), which she doesn’t really like. Her distaste for the appellation makes me think of that quote from Gilmore Girls when Rory calls Lorelai “Mother” and Lorelai says, “Don’t say ‘mother’ like that.” Rory says, “Like what?” and Lorelai says, “Like there’s supposed to be another word after it.” I swear I don’t mean it like that! I really do just like the way the words “mother” and “father” sound when you say them. I’m pretty sure my mom doesn’t like being called “Mother” because it seems too stiff and cold, which I totally see.

But anyway, for the purposes of my story, Neily uses those terms in his narrative because he’s more distanced from his parents. It’s a personality thing. Audrey, on the other hand, while she has her own parental issues, it makes sense to me (and hopefully it will make sense to others when they read AUT) that she would use more familiar terms. She’s just less distanced from the idea of parents. I think this is because she yearns for parents; she doesn’t see them as authority figures out to crush your spirit, she sees them as the holy grail, the thing she’ll never really have. So she says “my mom” and “my dad” and even calls her father “Dad” in non-dialogue narrative, which Neily never does.

So anyway, you can imagine how BFF me and Find+Replace were tonight. Now it’s time for bed.