nice try, february

I am just buzzing with excitement right now. First off, February is so over. Longtime readers of this blog know how much I struggle with February. But this year I tried to stay focused on the good things I’m looking forward to and…well, February didn’t seem so bad this time. It tried to suck the sparkle out of life and the result was an epic fail. March swoops in tomorrow to save winter. We made it! Congrats, friendly neighbors. This is the best TGIM warm fuzzy I can think of.

And there’s more. March starting tomorrow means that So Much Closer comes out in two months! It has a strict on-sale date of May 3. My publicist is putting together my book tour right now. I’m hoping to be able to post the tour schedule by April, so stay tuned! In the meantime, there are two ways you can score a So Much Closer ARC. Book Woman Reads YA! is running this giveaway. It’s open to international readers and I think it ends tonight. And Princess Bookie is hosting an ARC tour for book bloggers. If you’re an interested book blogger, you can sign up here (scroll down to the So Much Closer area).

But wait! Just when I thought February ending and my next book release getting closer were more than enough awesome for one day, Crumbs announced their cupcake of the week is the Smiley Face. Could this be any cuter?

Crumbs smiley face cupcake

February OUT.

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doing it all

In honor of James Franco hosting the Oscars this Sunday, I’d like to give respect to those people who seem to do it all. You know the ones. They have demanding careers and side jobs and packed social calendars and an intimidating number of interests. Their talents are astounding. Just hearing about their schedules makes me want to take a big nap.

Do you ever wonder how they do it all? I wonder all the time. In the case of actor/writer/director/student/artist/new tweeter James Franco, I believe the mystery has finally been solved.

Update: James deleted his Twitter and WhoSay, so unfortunately I can no longer share this pic with you. But it was the cutest thing. James was sleeping on the couch with headphones on, a book on his blanket, and cats sleeping on top of him. To die.

As you can clearly see, even when James is sleeping he’s still doing three things at once. That’s some hardcore multi-tasking.

I am not nearly as talented. I only sleep when I’m asleep. Can you believe all the time I’m wasting? Well, sometimes I’ll wake up from an intense dream and suddenly know the next turn whatever book I’m working on should take. Even major plot lines have come to me in dreams. But for the most part, that’s one-third of my life where I’m not getting anything done. In the future, they’ll probably have a way to compress the same restorative health benefits from eight hours of sleep into, like, two.

Until then, I have to accept that doing it all just isn’t possible. Choosing to make time for the things I want to do more of helps. I used to make pie charts of my typical day in hours. Eight hours would be for sleeping. I wish I didn’t need so much sleep, but I totally do. Another eight hours would be for working. I’d look at the remaining wedge and ask, “Is this how I want to be spending my free time? What are the things that I keep wanting to make time for and never do?” Then I’d try to restructure my routines to better fit the life I wanted to be living.

I suspect James Franco does not have these issues.

But it’s not really about doing it all. It’s more about loving what you are doing and contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

That said, I’m doing something very exciting with James. I’m co-hosting the Oscars! Okay, fine. Anne Hathaway is. But people keep telling me we look alike so I’m vicariously living through her. The guy at the bakery down the street even calls me Anne. At first I didn’t see it, but now I maybe sort of do a little.

Anne Hathaway     Susane Colasanti

Maybe a little? Well, I’m counting it as one degree from James Franco anyway. And sometime this weekend, I will attempt to take a cat nap while listening to an audio book, reading Palo Alto, and outlining my plan for world peace. Ciao for now.

nyc teen author festival 2011

Woot! The NYC Teen Author Festival is back for another thrilling year! An impressive total of 76 authors will be participating in events over the week of March 14. If you’re a fan of YA, you will definitely want to be here for this. You can join the NYC Teen Author Festival group for updates.

I’ll be at these two events during the festival:

Friday, March 18
5:00 – 6:00
Under the Influences panel discussion

NYPL 42nd Street Branch, South Court
476 5th Avenue (at 42nd Street)
New York, NY 10018

Sunday, March 20
3:15 – 4:00
Ginormous signing!

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

Here’s the complete schedule!

Monday, March 14
6:00 – 8:00
NYPL Chatham Square Branch, 33 E Broadway
Finding Voice, Giving Voice: Speaking Up for Characters

Authors:
Cathleen Bell
Jen Calonita
Cecil Castellucci
Brent Crawford
Elizabeth Eulberg
Brian James
Kekla Magoon
Melina Marchetta
Marie Rutkoski

Moderator: David Levithan


Tuesday, March 15

7:00 – 8:30
B&N Union Square
YA Reader’s Theater

Authors:
Holly Black
Judy Blundell
Gayle Forman
Eliot Schrefer (aka E. Archer)

Host: David Levithan

Wednesday, March 16
6:00 – 8:00

NYPL 42nd Street Branch, South Court
YA Rocks, featuring Tiger Beat!

Tiger Beat:
Libba Bray
Daniel Ehrenhaft
Barnabas Miller
Natalie Standiford

With music-related readings from:
Philana Marie Boles
Libba Bray
Barnabas Miller
Jon Skovron
Jeri Smith-Ready
Rita Williams-Garcia

Host: Jack Martin / Chris Shoemaker

Thursday, March 17
10:00 – 12:00

Five Borough Read

Manhattan:

NYPL Seward Park Branch, 192 E Broadway
Alma Alexander
Philana Marie Boles
Leanna Renee Hieber
Lena Roy
Mark Shulman

NYPL 96th Street Branch, 228 E 96th Street
Violet Haberdasher
Kimberly Marcus
Micol Ostow
Eliot Schrefer
Natalie Standiford

Washington Irving H.S (in conjunction with Mulberry St Branch), 40 Irving Place
Eireann Corrigan
Jocelyn Davies
Anne Heltzel
Matt de la Pena
Patrick Ryan
Leila Sales

NYPL Muhlenburg Branch, 209 W 23rd Street
Alexandra Bullen
Helen Ellis
Sarah Mlynowski
Matthue Roth
Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Robin Wasserman

Brooklyn:

Central Branch, Brooklyn Public Library, Dweck Auditorim, 10 Grand Army Plaza
Cathleen Bell
Gayle Forman
Christopher Grant
Melissa Kantor
Jeri Smith-Ready
Melissa Walker

Bronx:

Bronx Library Center, 310 E Kingsbridge Road
Margie Gelbwasser
Sarah Darer Littman
Arlaina Tibensky
Maryrose Wood

Queens:

Library TK
Brent Crawford
Barry Lyga
Melina Marchetta
Neesha Meminger

Staten Island:

St. George Branch, 5 Central Avenue
Elizabeth Eulberg
David Levithan
Michael Northrup
Danette Vigliante

Friday March 18
2:00 – 6:00

NYPL 42nd Street Branch, South Court
Symposium

2:00 Introduction

2:10 – 3:00 Telling the Truths – Hard Topics, Illuminating Fiction

Authors:
Eireann Corrigan
Donna Freitas
Sarah Darer Littman
Kimberly Marcus
Micol Ostow

Moderator: David Levithan

3:00 – 3:50 Debut Author Showcase

Authors:
Jocelyn Davies
Margie Gelbwasser
Christopher Grant
Anne Heltzel
Kimberly Marcus
Arlaina Tibensky

Moderator: Jack Martin / Chris Shoemaker

3:50 – 4:00 Break

4:00 – 5:00 I Think I Love You (But Maybe I Don’t?) – Writing About Teens in Love

Authors:
E. Lockhart
Terra Elan McVoy
Sarah Mylnowski
Patrick Ryan

Moderator: David Levithan

5:00 – 6:00 Under the Influences: Discussing Influences on YA Fiction

Authors:
Libba Bray
Alexandra Bullen
Susane Colasanti
Barry Lyga
Carolyn Mackler
Lena Roy
Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Maryrose Wood

Moderator: Barry Lyga

Saturday, March 19
1:00 – 5:30

NYPL 42nd Street Branch, South Court
Symposium

1:00 Introduction

1:10 – 2:00 The Ties That Bind, Part One: The Struggle Against Darkness

Authors:
Kim Harrington
Lisa McMann
Maggie Stiefvater
Robin Wasserman

Moderator: David Levithan

2:00 – 2:45 The Ties That Bind, Part Two: Family Bonds

Authors:
Melissa Kantor
Melina Marchetta
Alyssa Sheinmel
Natalie Standiford
Danette Vigilante

Moderator: Jack Martin / Chris Shoemaker

2:45 – 3:30 The Ties That Bind, Part Three: Friends and Community

Authors:
Matt de la Pena
Torrey Maldonado
Michael Northrop
Leila Sales

Moderator: Barry Lyga

3:30-3:40 Break

3:40 – 4:20 Tribute to Michael Cart

Host/Opening: Jack Martin

Speakers/Readers: David Levithan and Jacqueline Woodson

Acceptance: Michael Cart

4:20-5:30 LGBTYA: Past, Present, and Future

Authors:
Nick Burd
Michael Cart
David Levithan
Martin Wilson
Jacqueline Woodson

Moderator: Jack Martin / Chris Shoemaker

Sunday, March 20
1:00 – 4:00

Books of Wonder Signing, 18 W 18th Street

1:00-1:45

Lizabeth Zindel (A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills, Penguin)
Maryrose Wood (The Hidden Gallery, Harper)
Suzanne Weyn (Empty, Scholastic)
Danette Vigilante (The Trouble with Half a Moon, Penguin)
Maggie Stiefvater (Linger, Scholastic)
Natalie Standiford (Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, Scholastic)
Mark Shulman (Scrawl, Roaring Brook)
Alyssa Sheinmel (The Beautiful Between, RH)
Kieran Scott (She’s So Dead to Us, S&S)
Leila Sales (Mostly Good Girls, S&S)
Patrick Ryan (Gemini Bites, Scholastic)

1:45-2:30

Marie Rutkoski (The Celestial Globe, FSG)
Lena Roy (Edges, FSG)
Michael Northrup (Trapped, Scholastic)
Sarah Mlynowski (Gimme a Call, RH)
Neesha Meminger (Jazz in Love, Ignite)
Terra Elan McVoy (After the Kiss, S&S)
Lisa McMann (Cryer’s Cross, S&S)
Kimberly Marcus (Exposed, RH)
Melina Marchetta (The Piper’s Son, Candlewick)
Torrey Maldonado (Secret Saturdays, Penguin)
Barry Lyga (Archvillain, Scholastic)

2:30-3:15

E. Lockhart (Real Live Boyfriends, RH)
Sarah Darer Littman (Life After, Scholastic)
David Levithan (Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, RH)Melissa Kantor (The Darlings Are Forever, Hyperion)Carla Jablonksi (Resistance, First Second)
Gwendolyn Heasley (Where I Belong, Harper)
Kim Harrington (Clarity, Scholastic)
Christopher Grant (Teenie, RH)
Margie Gelbwasser (Inconvenient, Flux)
Elizabeth Eulberg (Prom & Prejudice, Scholastic)
Helen Ellis (The Turning, Sourcebooks)

3:15-4:00

Daniel Ehrenhaft (Friend is Not a Verb, Harper)
Sarah Beth Durst (Enchanted Ivy, S&S)
Matt De La Pena (I Will Save You, RH)
Brent Crawford (Carter Finally Gets It, Hyperion)
Eireann Corrigan (Accomplice, Scholastic)
Susane Colasanti (Something Like Fate, Penguin)
Marina Budhos (Tell Us We’re Home, S&S)
Kate Brian (Book of Spells, S&S)
Philana Marie Boles (Glitz, Penguin)
Judy Blundell (Strings Attached, Scholastic)
Cathleen Bell (Little Blog on the Prairie, Bloomsbury)

The festival is organized every year by the remarkable David Levithan. If you see him there, please shower him with sparkly confetti. I hope to see you there, too!

happy making

TGIM, friendly neighbors! Today I’m all about the things that are making me happy. It’s my way of dealing with the harsh reality of having one more month of winter to endure. You know how much I enjoy the little things. So here are some little things that are making this winter brighter.

1. Vintage mail rules. I love getting actual letters from readers. Email and comments are also awesome, but there’s something about seeing a person’s handwriting and holding the same piece of paper they held that I find really touching. So when I saw the back of this envelope from Tanisha L., it made me smile.

Awesome reader mail

2. It was over 60 degrees last Friday. Having a warm day like that bust out in the middle of February was such a relief. It was in the 50s a few nights before, when my friend Jim and I totally gave February the finger by sitting out on a stoop eating cheesecake from Magnolia. An element of nostalgia was involved. When we first discovered Magnolia after Carrie and Miranda went and ate those cupcakes on the bench out front (which isn’t actually there, by the way), we would get our cupcakes and find a pretty stoop and sit and eat them. Or take them to the river to eat them on a bench like Rhiannon and James do in Take Me There. Last Friday evening was so warm that I walked down along the river to check if the new mini golf place was finished. It was! We have mini golf in New York City! How freaking amazing is that?! Plus there’s a new beach volleyball area. Not that I play volleyball. Mini golf is pretty much the only sport I like, even though I suck at it. Oh, and badminton. Maybe we can play badminton on the volleyball court? Dude! I can’t wait for spring!

3. Paul Simon has a new album coming out in April. I hear the guitar is so beautiful you can’t even handle it. Which is exactly how I like my guitar.

4. The Freedom Tower (now called One World Trade, but still the Freedom Tower in our hearts) is getting super tall. You used to be able to look through the Washington Square Arch and see the Twin Towers framed in the distance. Since then, there’s just been this hole in the sky. But the other day I looked through the Arch and there was the Freedom Tower. Some musicians in the park were playing “Here Comes the Sun.” It was one of those moments I’ll never forget.

5. A Facebook friend told me about two sites she knew I’d love. I could seriously spend all day on Collection a Day and Things Organized Neatly. I mean, hello, I am all about things organized neatly! If it’s possible to be soul mates with a website, these two are mine. Thanks, Deirdre!

what’s on my bookshelves

Every few years, I like going through all of my books and reorganizing them. Not just because I’m an organization freak. Digging out books I haven’t seen in a while is like reuniting with old friends. All I have to do is hold a good book I read a long time ago to take me right back. I like trying to remember what was going on in my life when I first read them. I love lingering in their lasting impressions. It’s a sweet ride.

This most recent reorganization project was more about necessity. My books are double stacked, so you can’t even see all the books behind the ones you can. Sometimes I even forget which books I have. I’m beyond out of room. Which is always a problem when I’m about to receive a bunch of author copies. So I desperately had to find a way to create more space on my already packed bookcases. That was not easy. But I’m always up for an organization challenge.

Let me preface this by stating two important points.

1. My ideal bookshelving is all about the built-ins. I know exactly how I want them to look. Glossy white floor-to-ceiling bookcases with customized shelves, cabinets below, and drawers separating the cabinets from the shelves. Just to be fancy.

2. I have a pathetic grand total of two bookcases. About 100 more bookcases would be required to hold all of the books I want.

Here’s what my bookcases looked like before:

Bookshelves before

What you see is the result of giving away and donating TONS of books over the years while trying to hold onto my faves. Even after parting ways with so many books (always hard to do), my bookcases were totally crammed. Plus I had extra author copies of my books piled on top of the right bookcase. Extending that one to make it higher seemed like a good idea. When I went to the local woodworking chain, they told me that making a little extension cube to fit on top would be $350. Dude. I could buy a whole new bookcase for $350. It was an excellent opportunity to think outside the box. Online research commenced. I eventually found a cute double storage cube the same length and width as my bookshelf for about $25. I have some of my books in it already and there’s plenty more space for the new shipments I’ll be getting in.

But that was only the beginning. Because then I felt the need to reorganize all of the other shelves. When reorganizing, you basically want to keep what works and change what doesn’t. I like creating little nooks for photos and things to break up the monotony of just having rows and rows of books. I also enjoy grouping books by size and color within each genre. And stacking some of the books vertically helps to add pizzaz.

This is after:

Bookshelves after

Okay, I know the before and after pics look almost the same. But look closer! Most shelves now have more space. Which means I don’t have to move. Not yet, anyway.

Some highlights…

LEFT BOOKCASE

Above top shelf: Globe lamp. Massive dictionary I’ve had since high school in which I’d mark all the words I looked up (like Diane Court in Say Anything…). Big and small fox stuffed animals from The Little Prince.

Top shelf: Children’s books like Lafcadio, The Missing Piece, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Picture books by Eric Carle and Leo Lionni. My original copies of The Outsiders (the same one I kept under my pillow in 7th grade), Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh, and Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume.

Second shelf: All teen novels. Copies of my books sit proudly with books by my fellow Viking authors S.E. Hinton, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen, and Blake Nelson. They are my literary idols and mentors. It makes me really happy to see our books with their Viking and Speak imprints all lined up. And it blows me away every time I see The Outsiders sitting next to When It Happens. Proof that creative visualization works like a charm.

Third shelf: Everything by Jodi Picoult, Tom Perrotta, Garrison Keillor, Jonathan Tropper, Jay McInerney, Rick Moody, and Russell Banks.

Fourth shelf: Pretty much all Stephen King. I have all of his books from his very first one until the early 90s. I think his writing was at its best in the 80s, when I became obsessed with his books. I learned how to write from reading, and Stephen King had an enormous impact on me. The spines of those books are practically shredded from reading them so many times.  I actually managed to create some extra space on this shelf. Bonus!

Bottom shelf: Physics and Earth Science textbooks.

RIGHT BOOKCASE

Above top shelf:  New double storage cube for author copies of my books.

Top shelf: I love how all of my Anne Tyler books are stacked in a pretty rainbow on the left. They were like that before, but they totally deserved to be moved up. Anne is sharing space with Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Carver, Nicholson Baker, John Updike, and Kierkegaard, among many others.

Second shelf: A super sweet shelf for some super sweet books. On the left, we have my fave books by authors who have written me back. I used to write letters to authors whose books had a major influence on me. This was before email. Getting letters or postcards back from them was the ultimate. Of course I kept them all, which you can see sticking out from their books. The authors who wrote me back include Jodi Picoult, Nick Hornby, Thomas Beller, and Scott Spencer. Everything by Steve Martin and Alain de Botton is there. Also Tom Robbins, John Irving, Joyce Maynard, and Christopher Buckley.

Third shelf: Astronomy and physics books. These were originally on the top shelf. This Genius Shelf includes work by Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Isaac Asimov, and Carl Sagan.

Fourth shelf: My girls. Featuring Jennifer Weiner, Meg Cabot, Lisa Jewell, and Jane Green.

Bottom shelf: Mostly some college and grad school textbooks I wanted to keep.

So there you have it. My bookshelves are not a perfect system. Improvements can always be made. But these shelves aren’t about perfection. They’re about celebrating the words that have made me feel alive, that have inspired me and touched my soul and made me want to reach out to my own readers. They make me happy just being there. I hope you find happiness in your bookshelves, too.

observations

Well, I’m back on deadline! I met with my editors this week to discuss my new manuscript. They’re the only two people who read my books in their initial stages, so I never know if they’ll like what I’ve submitted until I hear back from them. It was a relief to find out that they liked it. Especially because this new book is risky in some ways. So now I’m starting the first revision. It’s seriously exciting. I’m fortunate to have amazing editors who always know how to make my books the best version of themselves.

But there’s more. I found out that my editor who’s been with me since my first book loves Friday Night Lights. Because of me! Regina heard me talking about visiting the actual Panthers field in Austin and then she saw the FNL shout-out in my manuscript and started watching it. Naturally, I had to clarify that Sarah Dessen is the one she should be thanking. Sarah totally got me into FNL. She’s been talking about how the series finale was just on, but she’s saving it to watch later. I hear her on that. When the final season comes out on DVD, I’m going to want to watch the whole thing right away. But I might save the final ep for a while. As long as I haven’t seen it yet, the show isn’t over in my mind.

I’ve recently discovered another show I love. While it doesn’t possess the magical quality of Friday Night Lights, it’s still smart and quirky and ridiculously hilarious. What took me so long to start Netflixing How I Met Your Mother? So freaking good. My love for Nick Andopolis makes it even better. The ep where Marshall has to say goodbye to his beloved Fiero is classic. All the eps are, really.

Other observations I want to share with you:

1. There’s a new ad campaign on the subway showing how much sugar soda has. Drinking two glasses of soda is like guzzling 27 packets of sugar. I wish this campaign were around back in my teaching days. I pretty much started every class by pleading with my kids to drink more water. It would have been easier to just put up one of these ads. Although my kids did see me drinking water every day. And I did the experiment where you put a nail in a beaker of Coke and the nail decomposes. Gut rot, anyone?

2. I love that whole packing/airport scene in Up in the Air. Organization freaks like me could watch that stuff for hours.

3. The other night I was in line at The Container Store. It was a much longer line than usual. There was a girl and guy behind me. I heard the guy asking why they had to wait in line and the girl told him that’s how the store works. After waiting for like ten minutes, the guy went, “I still don’t get why we have to wait in this line.” The girl was like, “To pay.” He said, “Are you buying something?” And she said, “No, I thought you were.” This is the kind of funny scenario that might get written into a book one day. Some things are just too good to let slip away.

Time to put the wheels of this revision in motion. For those of you who will be working all weekend, you’re not alone. Let’s make it a productive one!

take me there photo tour

Today is supercrazybusy, so this will be a quick note.

For those of you who’ve read Take Me There and want some behind-the-scenes action, I’ve posted an updated photo tour on my website. I’m hoping that it will enrich your reading experience. Or just give you some pretty cupcakes to look at.

Ciao for now 🙂