Sunday, July 24, 2011


Head for the basement, Toto!
In retrospect, deciding to live in an apartment with poor ventilation and a weak AC unit was a mistake. Of course, who would have anticipated Chicago having a heat index of almost 115.  I survived the heat wave, but barely. You should have seen me trying to get a bag of ice home before it melted. It was more intense than Mission Impossible.

Not to mention the insane storms we've been having here. Trees tossed around like javelins, power lines fishtailing in the street, hundreds of thousands without electricity. I could be wrong, but I'd say Mother Nature is upset about something. I just wish she would use her words.

I realize I haven't updated this is in, lets see, forever? However, my reason is stellar. I made the final push to finish my manuscript in time for the SCBWI LA Conference. The idea for this manuscript was hatched one night when I was out to dinner with a friend. Almost three years ago.

So, needless to say, it feels amazing to complete it. In three years I've been to five conferences, met AMAZING friends and critique partners, scrapped my story 100 pages in and rewrote from the beginning and been fortunate enough to sit down with people in the industry who gave me professional feedback.

All the while I kept plugging away on my manuscript. While I worked full time and went to school part time.

You're cheap but I love you.
To be at this point is such a personal achievement I nearly went out and bought myself a ribbon. You know the kind. Tiny, red or blue ribbon with gold or silver writing. The kind you pretended were crap when you were a kid but yet you'd go home and proudly hang it up in your room. 

I gave myself a few days for distance and started editing. This is the fun part. This is where I get to go through with clipping shears and Miracle Gro, tending each sentence with a critical eye. This is the part I love.

I'm beyond excited for the conference in LA in two weeks. This is the first time I will be walking in with a completed manuscript in my back pocket. I no longer have vague answers to when I will be finished. Everything about this conference will be different for me this time around. I can't wait for the next step in the adventure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Young Adult Controversy

Most people in the kidlit world has read or heard about the Wall Street Journal article posted yesterday. Meghan Cox Gurdon, who penned the article, questions the darkness and gore found in today's YA market. She introduces us to a concerned parent trying to find a book for her thirteen year old daughter, only to leave the store with nothing. The article caused a hullabaloo on the web, rallying YA authors to defend the literature being produced.

There is even a Twitter tag (#YAsaves) being used to explain why young adult fiction is necessary. Why it should continue and why it saves lives.

Now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that people who write kidlit are rising up to defend it. It would be silly if they didn't. It's the testimonials from young readers that really pack the punch. Authors sharing stories of a child reading their book and finding comfort.

Comfort in darkness? Really? Yes really. To ignore the way the world is would be dangerous. To not write about it would be just as dangerous. YA literature isn't the darkness. It's the light.

I don't personally know Mrs. Gurdon. I don't know how often she hangs around with teenagers. I can only speak for myself. I've spent the last four years working in a middle school. There is nothing particularly extreme about the school. It's a safe and supportive environment with kids of varying academic abilities preparing for high school. We're pretty Norman Rockwell-ish compared to other schools.

Yet even here, in the bubble, I am increasing amazed by what the kids know about their world. Are they too young to know some of what they know? Probably. That doesn't change that they know it. Did they learn it from books? Perhaps some of them did. More of them learned it from TV, movies, video games and pop culture icons.

And some of them learn it from their own lives. Their own experiences.

Let me put it this way:
You're walking down the street and a starving child is sitting on the curb. Do you offer the child some food or do you walk past them? If you answered the latter, click away from this blog and flee.

You'd feed them. Or you'd find out some way to help them. What good is our society if it doesn't look out for the children?

So what do you do when a kid opens up to you that a parent at home drinks too much and gets angry? Or something happened to them at a party and they don't know what to do. Or they live in a neighborhood that has shootings in the alleys and drug deals on the corners. Do you help these kids or do you walk past them?

Books are tools that help us make sense of the world. Children are at a place in life where everything is about them. No one has ever felt their emotions. No one has ever seen what they've seen. No one could possibly understand.

Except Melinda. And Alice. And Ponyboy. And Kristina.

The list could go on for pages.  Thankfully.

Lets be glad for the stories that line the shelves of the young adult section. Our world would be darker without them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bring In Da Noise

A person can go about 3 to 5 days without water. You can survive without food for a little longer than that.

I, however, cannot live longer than a few hours without sound of some sort. It could be normal city sounds, background television shows, thunderstorms or music.

Complete silence is not calming. It is not refreshing. It is loud. It is terrifying. I do not like it, Sam I am.

Maybe it's because half of my life has been spent in noisy places. In the city car alarms go off at one in the morning, bar-goers stumble past your window at two shouting at the top of their lungs and sirens of all kinds of emergency vehicles play a sporadic nighttime symphony. If I did not have these sounds, I would not sleep.

Ever since I was little, listening to a Billy Joel tape in my Walkman as I slept, my need for sound was apparent. It started with a constant running fan, even in winter, and progressed to leaving the radio/tv on.

How does this effect my writing? I've had conversations with other writers who can't write with noise. Others can write to music as long as it doesn't have words. Then there are the ones like myself, who can write with anything on, at almost any volume. As I type this I have the Elite Eight Arizona/UConn game on in front of me.

I'm one of those who creates a playlist that I think matches the mood of my book, or even the scene I am currently working on. Scary part? Those We Don't Speak Of from The Village Soundtrack. Haunting part? Creep cover by Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Introspective moment? Breathe Me by Sia.

If the music is faster, I type faster. If only the same principle worked when I exercised.

My mind wanders if I try to write in complete silence. I start to wonder why there isn't any sound or whether or not I took the chicken out of the freezer oriftomorrowisgarbagedayorwhereileftmykeys. My thoughts are too loud in silence and rarely hones to the task at hand. Music/noise allows me to focus.

Are you like me? What do you listen to? Do you need quiet? How do you achieve isolation from noise?

Monday, March 7, 2011

WriteOnCon Contest!

The WriteOnCon crew just announced the dates for WriteOnCon 2011. They happen to span my birthday as well! August 16, 17 and 18 are the dates so mark them on your calendar. It's a fantastic opportunity.

Speaking of opportunities, they are running contests to help get the word out. The first contest has begun, with the prize of a query critique from Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency! Go here for more information: Sarah Davies Critique!

Keep checking the site all day today for the new contests! I see they just put up a query critique from Jennifer Rofe of ABLA! I met Jennifer in Big Sur in December and with her feedback I improved the first pages of my MS. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Puppies, Claws and Fleas

Sure, she looks cute now.
I get it. Puppies are adorable. Kittens are cuddly. Baby animals reduce us to inarticulate goo.

Like most children I started begging my mom for a kitten shortly after learning to speak. Fluffy fur? Win. Pull-able tail? Win. I had to have one.

I named our first kitten "Sarah" because I'm original like that. She was cute, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. She was also a blood thirsty piranha.

For Sarah, every day was hunting season and your ankles were the game. She would hide behind the couch, in baskets of laundry and I'm pretty sure there were times she would descend from the ceiling a la Mission Impossible.

After the removal of her front claws she came at you like a Velociraptor instead. She was a real charmer.

The animals that followed in the wake of Sarah weren't on her level of insanity. Most of them were actually quite gentle and even sweet. However, as I got older I started to realize how much of a responsibility these little creatures were. They insisted on eating regularly. Some of them needed walks. They even defecate and stare at you until you do something about it.

Not what I signed up for.

Don't get me wrong, I love animals. I do. But I love them the way I love babies. I'll come play with yours then hand it back over when it starts to fill it's diaper.

I'll sympathize with you when your dog eats your pumps, then go home and hug my intact shoes. I'll hand you a paper towel when your cat coughs up a hairball on your carpet, then go home and kiss my hardwood floors.

Maybe someday I'll feel the need to have a dependent furball in my life. Anything is possible. For now, I'm content.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


A stopped moment on I-94, during my 2hr+ drive home.
I guess it takes the entire city of Chicago shutting down for me to make a blog post. I'm sitting here, day two of no work and no classes, digging deep into the pantry so I don't have to try to fishtail my way to a store.

All my muscles are very upset with me. They told me it wasn't a good idea to shovel for several hours yesterday and now they are chanting "I told ya so" every time I move. At first I had the six-year-old reaction of: SNOW! YAY! LET'S GO PLAY IN THE SNOW! SURE I'LL SHOVEL, IT'LL BE FUN! That enthusiasm lasted all of five minutes. I've never had to clear two feet of snow before and it's an experience I'll add to the "never again" list.

Yes, that's my car under there.
Digging my car out was the pinnacle of the day. The drifts had made it almost unrecognizable and yet it was still in better shape than the cars on the street.

We had to clear the driveway first which took roughly an hour and a half (with a snow blower even). Then I had to clear the car off and try to get to the snow that the wind packed under the car so that the tires would move. I started the car, thinking it would be easy to move it over to the clean part of the driveway so we could get to the rest of snow behind it. My car wasn't having it. It took another hour, pounds of salt and the smell of burning rubber to get my car to move.

The reports of stranded cars on Lake Shore Drive makes me thankful I was driving into the city and not out of it. If you have ever been to our fair city or can equate Lake Shore Drive to one of your popular highways you understand how intense it is to think of people just abandoning their cars and running for it. I can't imagine having to make that decision.

At the end of it all I am lucky to live in a place with heat and water pipes that won't freeze. I'm going to use my unexpected time off to get some writing done and ask the snow gods to retire.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

iPhone, you phone, we all own some kind of smart phone...

When I first held an iPhone in my hands the action felt very familiar. Was what I held in my hands a revolutionary phone that allowed my fingers to do the talking? Was it something I would have to adjust to? If I planted it, would it grow more iPhones?

As I inspected it, my fingers said, "Hey yo, we're having a flashback." Yes, my fingers speak like Tony Danza. 

My hands remember a time when such a device had another purpose. A purpose so awesome that kids all over the world spent hours with it, ignoring things such as productivity and sunshine. What device am I talking about?
Beep. Boop. Beep.
Game Boy of course.

My Game Boy went with me everywhere. I played Mario while I waited in the Orthodontist's office. Sailed through Disney's Aladdin when I should have been doing homework. Weeping while I gave Zelda the old college try.

So when the iPhone showed up, I saw it for its most useful purpose. Gaming. Beautiful, addictive, time-wasting gaming. 

As we all know, the popularity of iPhone applications has pretty much exploded in the last couple years. Being already pre-disposed to obsess over games on tiny screens with simple controls, I have downloaded my fair share of apps. Here are my current top three:

3.) Rock Band

For any of you who have enjoyed the full fledged game on your game system of choice, this Rock Band app is a cute companion. For those of you, like myself, who have no guitar strumming coordination or kick pedal timing this version makes you feel like a rock star. 

Perhaps you're asking, "Kelly, how do I know if I can be successful in this Rock Band app?" To you I say: put your hand on a flat surface. Now tap your fingers. Did you tap successfully? Congrats, rock star.

2.) Angry Birds

It might be because it is simple physics combined with birds and mustachioed pigs but this game is just plain addictive. You fling the birds in a slingshot and attempt to destroy the hungry pigs that have stolen the bird eggs. Simple concept. Simple fun.

Plus, the look on the faces of the pigs when you fail makes me want bacon.

1.) Plants Vs. Zombies

There aren't words for how habit-forming this particular app is, but I'll give it a try. Again, the premise is simple. The Zombies are attacking and your garden is all that stands between you and them. They think your brains are tasty and are relentless in their pursuit.

Some zombies are football players. Some are disco dancers. Some wear safety cones on their heads. 

When you beat the first round of the game there is a music video awaiting you that is a proper conclusion to one of the best apps available.