defying defeat

Reason #580 why I love New York:

Joe the Art of Coffee billboard

This inspirational gem was brought to you by the billboard outside Joe the Art of Coffee.

We will not be bested by defeat. Stay strong, friendly neighbors.

January out.

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throwback moment

One of the questions readers most frequently ask me is: Where do you get your ideas? Which is probably the easiest question to answer. I get my ideas from everywhere. Ideas appear in my imagination. They come to me in dreams. And you can totally find experiences from real life in my books – anything from random details to major plotlines.

Here’s an example of how a detail from my past inspired an idea for one of my books:

My wall in college

This was a wall of the studio apartment I had junior and senior years at Penn. I thought it would be cool to write all over my wall with a charcoal stick. The best part is probably the photo of Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court from Say Anything. You can see it in the heart at the upper right. This was back before you could find photos online and print them out. I was determined to score some sweet photos from Say Anything. So I called the production company and told them I wanted to include some photos in a project I was doing. They totally sent me some! On a more disturbing note, that weird thing at the bottom was a foam board I decorated with a sketch of Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine, concert ticket stubs, and fortune cookie fortunes. Like the wall says, I still don’t know what it was supposed to be.

So how did writing on my wall inspire a story idea? Marisa writes on her wall in Waiting for You. She does a lot more with her wall, but this is where the idea came from. Using inspiration from your actual experiences can enhance your writing. It helps your writing feel realistic and relatable. For those of you who are stuck on a story you’re writing, why not brainstorm random details from your life that have left an impact on you? One of them just might be the key to unlock the next stage of your story. Write on!

what a difference a day makes

Today didn’t get off to the best start. The reservation list for tomorrow night’s Zumba class at my gym was already filled when I called this morning. That’s never happened before. Oh gym in January, you never cease to be a crowded mess. Between being shut out and general malaise, I just wasn’t feeling my usual TGIM perkiness when my day started.

But then I went to the dentist.

Which would normally make my day much worse. A dentist appointment is not something I typically enjoy. I have a lot of sensitivity. I’m even sensitive to the air they blow on your teeth while you’re getting them cleaned. So you can imagine how excited I was to find a new dentist who may very well be the best dentist in the history of teeth. She has an actual dental spa. That’s right. A dental spa. It totally mellowed me out. While I was getting my teeth cleaned, I gazed out a huge window overlooking Central Park. There’s nothing like a sweet New York view to calm me down. Plus she used a numbing spray instead of that cream most dentists use and it worked like a charm. I’ve endured many horrific dental antics over the years. Lacking dentistry is one thing I am happy to be DONE with.

Also making my day brighter: So Much Closer was nominated for a Teen Choice Book Award! Please vote for it here if you can. Thank you, friendly neighbors.

Do you remember when I had surgery last month? For the first time since then, I’ve been feeling way better. I’ve had zero pain for like a week now. Having constant pain that finally decides to go away is the ultimate mood enhancer. It feels good to recognize myself again. There’s a chance that the pain and symptoms might return. You’ll know if they do because I’ll be writing a blog post entitled Susane vs. Fibroid: Ultimate Smackdown to keep you informed. But for now, my heart swells with hope.

My heart also swells with hope every time an open house comes up for an apartment that could possibly be my dream home. As you may know, I’ve been looking for a new home for a while. I have a very strong feeling that 2012 will be my year. My neighborhood rules, but my place isn’t the best scenario for someone working at home. I went to see an apartment yesterday. Gorgeous building, gorgeous renovation. And the best part? Views featuring tons of water towers. If you’ve read So Much Closer, you know how much I adore water towers. I just think they’re beautiful. And edgy and weird – all good things. The enormous water tower right across the street had me at first glance. Also across the street? Major construction. Of a really tall building. That will be going on until at least next year. The broker assured me it would be way too noisy to work. The place was a bit small anyway. Otherwise I would have snatched it up and worn earplugs.

So the search for my dream home continues. And my heart continues to swell with hope. It’s amazing how one day can turn everything around, whether it’s with unexpected good news or something that makes you so happy you can’t stop smiling. I keep days like this in mind when I’m not off to a good start. Anything can happen. Unexpected goodness is infinite. And I am keeping hope alive that 2012 will continue to bring the magic!

blank canvas

So I was all ready to order these sweet customized Converse. I designed mine with hearts all over them. Then there were the Marimekko poppy ones that I was lusting over. But for some reason, I didn’t order either pair.

Now I know why.

No disrespect to Converse. None at all. I owned like every single color back in college. They were all I wore for years, even with dresses. The thing is, they kind of make my feet hurt now. Not sure if that’s an age thing or that I just ignored the pain before.

Which is why I was stoked to discover Rocket Dogs. I pretty much rock the Dogs exclusively now. They are so freaking comfortable. I walk everywhere in them. I’ve worn them out so much the soles have pieces missing and I don’t even care. When I found these new blank canvas ones, I knew I was meant to design my own.

Blank canvas Rocket Dogs + Sharpie fabric markers = infinite possibilities

Blank canvas Rocket Dogs + Sharpie fabric markers = infinite possibilities.

I’m trying to narrow down ideas until I reach the ultimate sneaker design. I considered writing song lyrics and stuff all over them the way I did back in high school. Then I thought of doing a whole Dream Big theme to wear at my upcoming Keep Holding On readings. But I have sparkle Converse and some cute new flats to wear for those. So I’m kind of stuck.

What would you design, friendly neighbors? I can’t decide!

this is 38

Wait. Hostess went bankrupt?

That’s impossible.

I mean, yay that Americans are making more of an effort to be healthy. But Hostess is a big part of our culture. Twinkies. Ho Hos. Ding Dongs. Freaking CUPCAKES.

Hostess CupCakes forever

Where would we be without those delicious swirly-iced cupcakes? Hostess CupCakes are an icon. I was so relieved to find out that Hostess will still be making everything. They just tried to acquire too many other brands, is all. Now I can cancel my plan to stockpile all the cupcakes I could find at CVS.

In the midst of worrying about the lifespan of Hostess CupCakes, something occurred to me. People my age don’t generally worry about this kind of stuff. They’re worrying about way more important issues, like saving to send their kids to college or doing home repair. You know. Grownup stuff.

But here’s the thing. One could really only classify me as a grownup because of my age. I’m 38. Well, technically I’m 38. My internal age will always be 16. The kids I went to high school with have kids of their own now. They’re living in houses and driving cars and bulk shopping at Costco. They have this whole suburban life with carpooling and bake sales and mowing the lawn. Which, like, blows my mind. Because that life sounds middle-aged. It’s the life I expect my friends’ parents to be living. Not my friends.

Very few of my friends have kids or are even married. We get together to go for walks or to play board games. We go to the movies and museums and concerts. We have three-hour dinners at amazing restaurants. We talk endlessly about finding our soul mates. Of course, our lifestyles are heavily influenced by living in New York City. If I were anywhere else, I would probably be married with two kids by now. But I love it here. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or have read my books, you know that I am passionately, hopelessly, crazy in love with New York. NY + SC = TLF. People in other parts of the country give me weird looks when they find out that I don’t have kids or have never been married. But I love this life I’ve created.

My point is this. You are the architect of your own destiny. You can create the life you want and live it proudly. Even if it’s different. Even if people give you weird looks. Following your heart is the most important thing. Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. For me, that means being 38 and shopping in the juniors section. And writing with glitter feather pens. And appreciating Hostess CupCakes.

“You are what you think.” – Buddha

full circle

Don’t you love Full Circle Moments? Where something significant from your past is introduced into your life again in a profound way? I had a major Full Circle Moment the other day in Barnes & Noble when I saw my book on display next to The Outsiders:

Teen Favorites display

I’ve written here before about how much The Outsiders means to me. It was the book that first inspired me to write my own. When I was in 7th grade, I slept with that book under my pillow. I wished for some magical form of osmosis to happen in my dreams so that I could write books for teens one day, too. The Outsiders sits on my own bookshelf next to my books. At first I was booknerding out over the fact that we have the same publisher. Now I’m thrilled that we’re chilling together somewhere beyond my own bookshelf. And the other books on this display are obvs among my faves. So not only was this a sweet Full Circle Moment, it was a sparkly warm fuzzy as well!

And there’s more happy book news. I’m thrilled to report that the first draft of the book I’m currently writing is done! There’s still a lot of work ahead. But writing the first draft is always the hardest part for me. Once I have a draft to work with, it’s so much easier to revise. Revising is always easiest for me on paper. There’s just something about actual paper that helps ideas flow more than staring at a screen. Guess it’s all part of my old-school ways. I print out the first draft, take over my puffy chair, and mark up that hard copy something fierce.

Writing a book is always hard. But it was harder this time around. You guys know that I recently had surgery for a health issue I’d been dealing with for a while. My pain was so bad that some days I couldn’t sit in a chair. Or stand up straight. Or leave my apartment. Writing an epic love story when you’re in pain is not easy. But I refused to give up. I kept focusing on my goal. I kept hope alive. And most importantly, I kept all of the positive energy you guys have given me in my heart. You are why I write. Remembering that made the pain more bearable.

That’s what we do. We focus on the things that are most important to us. We work towards our goals a little bit every day. And once in a while, we have a Full Circle Moment to remind us of where we came from, where we’re going, and that anything is possible.