onwards and upwards

Is it just me, or is September in two days? That’s crazy talk! But it’s also good talk because this summer was a scorcher and I am not at all sad to see it go. I’m excited for those of you who are going back to school. Just hang on – you’re getting closer. On my end, September looks like it’s going to be a really busy month. Not only am I working on a first draft (which is always the hardest part of writing a book for me) but I’m overhauling my website. I wanted to make some fun design changes and also needed to make room for my next book, So Much Closer. I can’t wait to share the cover with you guys! You are not even going to believe the story behind it. I should be able to post both the cover and synopsis here in the near future.

Since redesigning my website requires lots of 12-hour work days, I’m appreciating two things. One, my Knoll Generation Chair. And two, taking classes at the gym again. I believe I recently mentioned how I’d been in an elliptical rut for the past, oh, eight years. Getting back to the classes I owned in my 20s (step, kickboxing, cardio sculpt, yoga, core) was a serious wake-up call. Yeah, that was me on the mat in cardio sculpt a few weeks ago, reduced to a quivering heap under the lightest body bar. But what’s cool is that our cells remember. In just a few weeks, I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually do everything again. I’m not that girl who was always in the front yet, but I was in the front today and didn’t make a complete fool of myself. Yay for progress! So, how is working out related to long work days? If I’m going to sit in this chair all day, I’d better take some time for cardio and strengthening. Better health results in higher productivity.

Speaking of being productive, I wanted to share something that made me smile. I do volunteer work with seniors in my neighborhood. Every week, I visit Marion, a self-described “upwards senior.” She wanted a copy of Something Like Fate, so I gave her one, explaining that I totally understood if she didn’t feel like reading it. But dude! She loves it! She even made notes on all of these Post-its:

Something Like Fate + Post-it frenzy

It’s cool how parts of the book I didn’t think would stand out totally do for Marion. There’s a scene in art where they’re doing pointillism. For some reason, that really spoke to her. And she was majorly upset about how Blake was outed. I love that people of all ages are into teen novels. My main purpose is to reach out to teens, but when moms and grandmas let me know that they enjoy my books, it’s a really sweet bonus.

Well, it’s time to get back to work. Whether you’re working or going to school or both (I feel your pain there, my friend), please take care of you. And if you’re thinking about starting a new workout routine, go for it! We’ll be in it together.

oth & ssb

Happy Mockingday! Suzanne Collins was here in New York at the Columbus Circle Borders this afternoon. I really, really wanted to go stand in her insanely long line, but it was a mob scene. Oh yeah, and I had to work. Now I’m feeling like I’ve missed out on a piece of history. Well, hopefully I’ll get to meet her one of these days and she can stamp my copy of Mockingjay with her special stamp (which I heard is what she’s doing instead of signing copies) and tolerate my zany fangirl antics. I’m sure some of you are already done reading the book. Was it as amazing as you’d hoped? No spoilers, please.

I’m totally behind in my reading. I haven’t even read Catching Fire yet. I know! Does it sound crazy that I’m loving the anticipation of having two more Hunger Games books left almost as much as I’ll love reading them? One thing I did manage to finish is last season of One Tree Hill. It just came out on DVD and Netflix was kind to me. Wish I could say the same about Friday Night Lights, but unfortunately it’s stuck in very long wait status. Not. Fair. And Gossip Girl just got pushed out of my queue entirely. Oh, Netflix. We were having such a good relationship. Where did it go so wrong? At least I got my One Tree Hill on. I thought last season was really sweet, except I was seriously missing Lucas and Peyton. They’re the defining characters of the show and it’s just not the same without them. So I was relieved to see that my favorite couple is still going strong:

Nathan and Haley forever, One Tree Hill

Naley forever. What else. The John Hughes tribute rocked. Especially when Haley and Nathan were kissing over her birthday cake in the Sixteen Candles scene. Tear! And Jamie’s bunny, Chester, is such a scene stealer. Chester is so fat and fluffy I can’t even stand it. I could just watch Chester for 42 minutes. Hm. Maybe this means I should get a bunny.

I’m pretty sure I need a bigger apartment first, though. Saving up to buy a place in my neighborhood is no joke. It’s a big part of the reason I don’t spend much money on myself. The other part is that I’ve always been super frugal. It’s how I put myself through college and how I paid back my student loans. But sometimes? I like to try on outrageously expensive clothes for fun, even though I know I’d never buy them for myself. This is part of my SSB – Secret Shopping Behavior.

Remember in Sex and the City when Carrie was talking about her Secret Single Behavior? If I recall correctly (which I totally do because I’ve seen every ep like a grillion times), it was to spread grape jelly on a stack of saltines and eat them standing up in the kitchen while reading fashion magazines. My SSB – the shopping kind – took me into Anthropologie. Don’t you love it in there? Everything’s so watercolor floaty romantic. Like this super soft shirt I tried on:

Susane Colasanti loves Anthropologie

Of course I documented the try-on for you. I loved this shirt, but it was $68. There’s no way I’d pay $68 for a shirt. If I spent that kind of money on clothes (jeans being the exception) I’d still be paying off student loans and living in Queens. I rarely spend more than $20 on a top, or $10 on a tee. Could I have technically purchased this shirt for myself? Sure. It’s just not how I operate. So I’ll keep trying on pretty clothes and adding things to my online shopping cart that I’ll never check out with. We all have our SSB, whether it’s the single or shopping kind. And one day, I’ll own a home and the years of saving will have been worth it. Now that’s what I call SSB – Smart Saving Behavior. Love.

why i live here, reason #103

KIMM FENEX, Motivational Artist, 6th Avenue & 9th Street:

Friendly neighbor alert

KIMM’s purpose is to help others feel good inside, encourage self-awareness, and engage people with their surrounding environment. New Yorkers typically walk very quickly without taking time to really look around. I was crossing the street when I noticed KIMM’s bright pink sneakers. He was holding a bowl of rolled papers tied with pretty ribbons. So of course I had to ask about them. They were motivational messages for the mind and heart.

It was hard to pick just two messages. The first one told me to picture something I think I can’t do, then to do it. The second one was a reminder that we should surround ourselves with people who support us. Sometimes I forget that one and end up spending too much time with negative people. Negative people are energy drains. Inviting positive people into our lives makes it much easier for us to live in the light.

Truth. You go with your motivational self, KIMM.

pub date + more news

The pub date for So Much Closer has been finalized! It’s May 3, 2011. I know that’s a while from now, but Amazon already has a So Much Closer page and we’re pretty sure the pub date won’t change. When I’m allowed to share the cover, you’ll see it here first. It’s my favorite cover so far. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

There’s also some event news. I’m coming to Texas! I’ll be at the Austin Teen Book Festival on October 2. I’ve been hearing how cool Austin is and I’m really looking forward to meeting those of you who live in the area. I’ll post all of the event details here when I have them.

Some online news:

Erika Breathes Books interviewed me about cupcakes, the best part of the YA world, and which song I would be (loved that question!).

In a review of When It Happens, Just Read says, “Susane Colasanti never fails to give me faith in fate, soul mates, and love.” That’s what I’m here for.

That’s Write reviewed Take Me There. Leigh says it’s “romantic and angsty, and justice is served.” Awesome.

I’m feeling that dystopia is the new vampires. Did you read this New Yorker article about why YA dystopia is so hot right now? I loved their point about how high school is a dystopia. Because everything is pretty much as bad as it can get in high school.

It’s so funny when I meet grownups and they find out I’m a YA author and they’re like, “Oh, I loved high school! I wish I could go back!” I’m like, Who are you? Seriously with the wanting to go back? I mean, yeah, I’d go back if I could have perfect skin and hair that did what I wanted it to and rich parents so I could fit in with all the other kids at my school instead of getting tormented every day. But let’s keep it real. Anyone who says high school was the best time of their life was either physically and financially privileged back then or just forgets 98% of what happened.

This is actually good news. For those of you in middle school or high school, let me just tell you. Things do get better after this. Like, way better. And those kids who make your life miserable? Eventually, you won’t even remember all their names. Or even that you knew them. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. So focus on you this year. Get stellar grades, learn new skills, and make good friends. It’s a new year and it can totally be a new you if you make it happen. I’ll be rooting for you all the way.

colors and copyedits

I have this conflict about paper. I love paper. The different textures, the colors, the nuances amidst the fibers. I even like the way every book seems to have its own unique smell. I have zero desire to read a book in electronic form. I look at a screen all day, thanks. Reading is supposed to be my relaxation time. That said, becoming increasingly paperless is a good thing for many reasons. You guys know I’m all about the green living. But paperless books? It will take me a long time to get there. Like, a long time.

There’s been one switch from paper to screen that I’ve already adapted to, though. With my first two books, I submitted my manuscripts in printed-out form via vintage mail. When my editor was done with line-editing, I got the manuscript back with all of her symbols and notes. I loved looking at those symbols and notes. Getting my manuscript back from the copyeditor was always a thrill. There were my copyeditor’s notes and my editor’s notes and other notes, all in different colors of colored pencils. I would pick out a colored pencil that was a different color than the ones they used (preferably purple or hot pink) and write in my responses. I still have those copyedited manuscripts. They’re like quaint relics now. Which is so weird because they’re only from like three years ago.

See, this is why I’m so thankful that I became an author when I did. I got to experience both worlds of publishing – the old world that is quickly being phased out, and the new world in which I don’t even use colored pencils anymore. Now we all use track changes in Word to communicate our edits and notes. Our comments appear in bubbles in the right margin. Bubbles are the new Post-its. Each of us has her own bubble color. The thing is, the bubble colors change from one day to the next. I am very sensitive about which color I get.

My editor sent me the copyedits for So Much Closer a few days ago. When I first opened the document, my bubble color was aqua! Aqua rules! Well no, lavender rules, but aqua is a close second. Of course I had to document the aqua (I may never get it again!):

Ultimate copyediting colors

The next time I opened the document, I got red. Still good, but not the best. Now I keep getting dark blue. Which is bumming me out, but I’m not allowed to pick my color. Supposedly. However, my skilled copyeditor has selected a lime green for herself and every time I open the document, she’s lime green. I’ll have to find out her secret.

At this point in the life of So Much Closer, I’ll only have one or two more chances to make any final changes. So I’m scrutinizing every word, every optional comma choice, everything. I’m one of those perfectionists who’s never happy with the end product. Oh, well. It’s time to get back to my dork-off with track changes in color anticipation. Lavender? Please?

you’re the only you you’ve got

There are a lot of things I wish I could change about myself. I’d rather be shorter and get to dress up in cute 4-inch heels than be 5′ 8″. It would be excellent if my hair were naturally straight so I didn’t have to deal with butt-numbing Japanese straightening every six months (which takes over five hours, by the way). And if my circadian rhythm enjoyed mornings, it would make life much easier.

It’s not just me. Everyone I know wants to change part of who they are. That whole wanting-what-you-don’t-have tendency is pretty universal. But here’s the thing. You only get one you. If there’s something about yourself that you want to improve and you can improve it, now’s the time. What are you waiting for? Oh, that? Don’t wait for that. Because while you’re waiting, life is happening. And that thing you’re unhappy about will just keep being an energy drain. What can you do, starting right now, to change one thing that’s making you unhappy?

Of course, there are plenty of things we don’t like that we can’t change. What can we do about those? Not much, really. But our attitude can change. We can accept those things and learn to live with them in a more positive way. Like how I get car sick. I hate that I have to take Bonine (which is like Dramamine, but doesn’t make me feel like I’m about to enter a comatose state) even for the shortest car ride. Good thing I hardly ever ride in cars. I’ve had this problem forever. My motion sickness is the result of an inner ear imbalance. That girl having a crying fit in second grade gym because she couldn’t walk across the balance beam like all the other girls? Yep, that was me! It’s amazing that I remember it at all, given how I’ve blocked out most of my school-related trauma. I was just quivering on one end of the beam, clinging to my gym teacher’s shirt and bawling hysterically.

Balance has always been a problem. Same with fighting not to throw up in cabs whenever I’m forced to take one. Which thankfully is not often.

What else is wrong with me? Oh yeah, I don’t know how to swim. I remember this time at day camp when I was five or six. We were all sitting by the pool and the counselor asked if any of us knew how to swim. For some wild reason, I raised my hand. She called on me to demonstrate swimming. So I got up, walked to the pool stairs, and started walking down them. And kept going. The next thing I remember, I was standing on the pool floor, completely underwater. I saw the counselor’s legs moving toward me before she yanked me up.

Ah, memories.

The swimming issue is one I can resolve. I don’t hate not being able to swim enough to join that class of five-year-olds at the Y, though. Instead, I turned my lack of skills into something positive. It’s what inspired Lani learning how to swim in Something Like Fate. As for the things I can’t change, I’m trying to be more positive about them. Because if I don’t accept myself, I can’t expect anyone else to.

Oh, and the whole wanting-what-you-don’t-have thing? I’ve found that usually, the things you want the most are the things you already have. Take another look around. You might be surprised.

getting connected

Whenever people ask me what I like best about being an author, it’s always easy to answer them. The best part of my job is getting to meet my readers! You guys are why I write. The thing is, I work at home all day and rarely get the chance to see my readers. Which is why I’d love to meet you on my next book tour! If you’d like me to visit your area, please join my Facebook fan page discussion. Just tell me where you are and the name of your school or local bookstore. With enough interest in your area, we can hopefully schedule an event there during the So Much Closer tour next year.

I’m super excited to get out there again and connect with readers, teachers, librarians, counselors, and everyone else who makes my job possible. For now, though, I’m spending the summer writing book six. It’s hard to believe that I’m working on my sixth book already. Three years ago at this time, I had just resigned from teaching. I was trying to get used to working alone after being around hundreds of people every day. One thing that helped was connecting with other authors. I started reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog regularly. You can learn a lot over there. I loved Laurie’s post last week about her revision process. She shared an early first page of Wintergirls. Naturally, I immediately got out my (signed – awesome!) copy of Wintergirls to compare that early page to the final version. Extremely inspirational. Laurie said how we shouldn’t be so critical of our first drafts. First drafts are a time of exploration. And they often suck. Which made me feel better about the suckitude of my current first draft.

So I’m pressing on. If we never give up, we can only get closer to our goals. One goal I recently achieved was scoring excellent seats to Mummenschanz! They’re the ultimate performance art. I saw them on Sesame Street when I was little, then again on a Girl Scouts field trip, and then here in New York years ago. I’ve been waiting impatiently for them to return. On the winter solstice, they’ll be back! I can’t wait for the reunion. In case you don’t know Mummenschanz, here’s a compilation of some of their performances. They redefine awesome.

the hunger games

I know I’m tardy to the party.

But oh. my. god.

I cannot believe how amazing The Hunger Games is.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

When was the last time a book had me so addicted? I can’t even remember. This is the kind of rare book that you stay up way too late reading, knowing you’re going to pay for it the next day but not caring. The time was 3:21 a.m. when I finally put this book down. I could have easily read right into sunrise.

Fans of Suzanne Collins have been raving about this book. Of course I heard them. It’s just that the whole dystopia genre isn’t something I prefer. I like realistic books with realistic characters doing realistic things. But I finally had to get this book after all the raving by people who know me and know I’m all about The Real. I was thrilled to discover that this story felt just as realistic (even more so in a lot of ways) than anything else. So if you’re like me, please don’t be deterred by the nature of the story. It’s an incredible read. I’m completely blown away.

It’s been really hard not to dive right into Catching Fire. There are some galleys of books I might blurb that I promised I’d read, so they’re priority. But when I’m done? It will just be me, Catching Fire, and my puffy chair.