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.

Righteous.

college, 15 years later

Those of you who’ve lived in more than one place know that nostalgic feeling of returning to somewhere you used to live. You’re interested in how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same, passing by your old building and being like, “I lived right there!” If someone’s with you on your trip down Memory Lane, you want them to feel the same way you do. But of course that’s impossible. Which is why I had a blast walking around Penn by myself. It wasn’t until I was there that I realized it’s been 15 years since I graduated. Good to know the exorbitant amount of tuition dollars I spent is still managing to pay for campus renovations and such. It was also good to see that Ben Franklin was still holding down the fort:

Ben Franklin bench at the University of Pennsylvania

Why was Ben Franklin there? Because he founded Penn in 1740. And yes, I’m talking about the real Ben Franklin, not this guy.

My old science lab building was exactly the same. I swear it’s like stepping back into 1974. I spied on a physics lecture and knew where the bathroom was and just sort of soaked up all the ambient brain power. Then it was off to the campus bookstore. Penn’s bookstore was totally redone (more of my outrageous tuition at work) into a huge Barnes & Noble. Last time I visited, they didn’t have any of my books. It felt really good to go in there and see all of them displayed on a table. You know those Sarah Dessen recommendations I linked to last time? They were all on display, with a special sign and everything! Even the Center City B&N had a sweet endcap:

Sarah Dessen Recommends endcap

One more thing about Penn, just because I’m obsessed with nostalgia. It’s a secret. If you’ve read Take Me There, you may remember the whole sidewalk chalk thing in front of the school. That message Rhiannon writes? Is actually based on a very similar sidewalk chalk message I wrote to my TA in college. And this is the exact place I wrote it:

Sidewalk chalk inspiration for Take Me There by Susane Colasanti

I remember that night, sneaking over with my friend Jordi, our flashlights, and a big pack of sidewalk chalk. I had a big crush on my TA and thought the sidewalk chalk message would win him over. That’s so not what happened. When the dean saw what I wrote, he thought it was a bomb threat. Or that’s what I heard. Like Rhiannon, I didn’t sign my name and wasn’t there the next day to see people’s reactions. Whatever. The important thing is that I took a chance. If we never try, we’ll never know.

The main reason I went to Philly was for John Mayer’s concert. It was a different experience for me. When I see John, I’m usually in the front or second row. But this time my friend Mike scored us tickets farther back on the floor. It was cool to be part of the crowd more and to see all the graphics clearly, instead of being so close that it’s hard to tell what patterns the lights are forming. I loved when John played “In Your Eyes.” And before the show we got to watch him play basketball out back. It was a good night.

Here’s to nostalgia, reunions, and many more good nights!