Boring confession: I am horrible at titling things.
I came up with the title of my book just before we sold it, and while I never hated A POINT SO DELICATE, I was always sort of meh about it. Though I’ve gotten used to saying and writing it for a while now, it continued to feel like a placeholder. I do think it captures the nature of the book — a girl dealing with a number of obstacles that could (might?) push her over the edge — but while it’s a pretty title, it always seemed a bit overly precious to me.
So when I learned we had to come up with a new one, I was mostly excited but also daunted. I begged for help from a few very patient friends who are much better at this process than me. I spent a very long day with a word cloud. I submitted a whole slew of titles and bounced them around with my editor and agent and they just didn’t work.
Then I got an email from my editor with a title that she thought might be The One. And then another email with a title that was absolutely The One. Which left me thinking: 1) She’s brilliant. 2. (Obviously.) And 3) How did I not think of this from the start? Because my new title is …
[are you ready for this?]
[now I’m just being a jerk]
Not so super far from the original and yet quite different. I like that it’s succinct, that you look at it and instantly know the story has roots in the ballet world. And it also plays nicely on “pointing the finger” as guilt and blame comprise a large theme of the novel.
I can’t wait to share more about the book (!!) but in the meantime, you can add POINTE here on Goodreads. If you are so inclined.
I reached my goal of reading 55 books this year, a whole 20 books more than last year. Definitely a challenge for this slow reader who sometimes gets distracted by things like the copyright page (not even kidding, I am going to nerd out over that so hardcore when I see it in my book) and the page that describes the history of the book’s typeface. [Is there a name for this page? Please advise.]
Like last year, I have a disclaimer that these aren’t necessarily books published in 2012, but my favorite of the novels I picked up for the first time this year. I’ll also add that I was lucky enough to read several really, really great books being published in 2013, but I won’t be including them on this list. Which is as follows:
THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers
I’m not into zombies. That’s what I first thought when I read the premise of Courtney Summers’ newest book. I mean, I knew I’d read it. I’m clearly a huge and vocal fangirl of her books. But would I love it as much as her last three novels? In a word? YES. It’s not a zombie novel. I mean, it is. There are zombies and blood and some deliciously gory scenes. But it’s mostly a really wonderful character study that skeeved me out in all the best ways and made me stop saying I’m not into zombies. It’s nearly impossible for me to choose my favorite Courtney Summers novel, but this one is definitely in the running.
LEVERAGE by Joshua C. Cohen
I like books about really tough situations. The more depressing the topic, typically the more interested I am in the book. LEVERAGE is the most honest book I’ve ever read about bullying. It goes where you think it might go and then further than that. Rock bottom. It’s also a sports book and I’m not into sports, but there are some beautifully crafted descriptions of football plays and gymnastics moves that even I appreciated. I really admire books that remind me to be an honest writer, no matter how difficult the subject, and LEVERAGE is at the top of that list for me.
LOVE & LEFTOVERS by Sarah Tregay
I’m a sucker for a good verse novel, and this is one of my favorites. I love Tregay’s writing and though the book was shorter due to its format, I felt as if I’d read a prose novel when I’d finished. So much depth conveyed in so few words, and the story felt very authentic. It’s one of those books I can’t really explain in detail why I like so much and generally tell people, “Just read it!” I found it really inspiring and it will likely go in my very small pile of books that I reread once a year or so.
HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr
I mean, it’s Sara Zarr. That should say enough. But really, I didn’t expect the connection that I had to this book. It was the same feeling I had with her book SWEETHEARTS. Her characters are always incredibly real but these are achingly so. I really felt for them. So many emotions for my stone-cold heart. [Also: I know I said I wouldn’t put 2013 books on this list, but I got an early read of THE LUCY VARIATIONS, Sara Zarr’s next book, due out in May 2013, and it is fantastic.]
BLANKETS by Craig Thompson
Okay, this book was published almost a decade ago, but let’s just pretend you all recently discovered it like I did. I read quite a few graphic novels this year and this was the most surprising. I was heartbroken by the sixth page (and this is a memoir, which made some of the scenes even more upsetting), but the story was also funny at times and beautifully told through all 592 pages.
What are your favorite books of the year? Or feel free to link to a post you’ve made in the comments section!
It’s obviously been a while, although if you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me hanging out there talking about TV I love and books I love and Cosby-inspired sweaters (which I also love) and I don’t even know.
1. Not a lot of book news to report right now, but what you need to know is that a) As I finish up another round of revisions, I must say the brilliance of my editor, Ari Lewin, cannot be overstated, and b) We will see lots of amazing things like jacket copy and a cover and a release date in the new year and I will be ecstatic to show them to you.
2. I’ve done some fun guest posts over the past few months, including this Q&A from yesterday and a roundtable post with a few of my debut writer pals. It always feels a little strange talking about my writing in a public forum. Two things I’ve learned in the last year is that I’m a pretty private person and that I don’t enjoy talking about my writing process (mostly because there is no real process), but I find interviews really fun. Perhaps because I’ve generally been on the other side of them my whole life, what with the whole journalism thing? Ponder. Discuss.
3a. Back in October, I visited New York for the first time in four years, where I caught up with a few old friends and some new ones, too; got lost a lot (typical); ate delicious food (also typical, but very appreciated); and probably walked more than I have in the past year and a half (blame Los Angeles). I also met my agent, Tina Wexler, for the first time in person and she was, of course, delightful in every way just as she is over email and the telephone. We had lunch with my editor, whom I’d met back in August over a lovely dinner, and stormed the Penguin offices afterward. I wore a cat dress. And you know, even a year and a couple of months after my book deal, this whole author thing is very surreal (the Penguin offices, up close and personal?!).
3b. My trip to New York was two-fold; after three days in the city, I rode up to Woodstock where I embarked on a writing retreat with six other fantastic ladies. I am, admittedly, not much of the nature-y, outdoors-y type (somewhere in Missouri, my mother is cringing) but it was really nice being in such a remote location for five days. I got to see the gorgeous colors of autumn leaves that had turned for the season, breathe smog-free air for the first time in a long time, and see actual stars at night. There were lots of delicious homemade dinners, cheese, wine, book talk, career talk, games, AND some writing. Definitely one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and here is a picture to prove I was IN NATURE:
4. TV. You thought I was going to end a post without talking about television? SURELY YOU JEST. But, yeah. I’m a hardcore TV junkie to the end, but it turns out that watching whole seasons of TV shows while I’m revising is actually vital to my existence. In the past couple of months, I’ve devoured the entire series (thus far) of Awkward and Downton Abbey, and am steadily working my way through Breaking Bad and Scandal, both of which are absolutely phenomenal. And now I will stop because I can and will talk about television for days (but please know that the second seasons of Shameless and Homeland are on tap during the holidays).
That’s about it. I think. Either way, I’ll be back soon(ish) with a post about my favorite books I’ve read in 2012. So far I’ve read 51 books (only four shy of my goal for the year — can this slow reader do it in the next 11 days?) and there have been some really, really great ones in my stack.
As it turns out, I’m pretty good at not blogging, but in case you were wondering what else I’ve been up to? You’re in the right place at the right time, my friend.
1. Revisions. Always. Forever. Okay, not really. But I am in the midst of second-round revisions for my book and I continue to be amazed and humbled by my editor’s insight. And how much work goes into a book. And how many times I can look at this manuscript without wanting to throw my laptop across the room. But overall, I could not ask for a better job. Which, it’s strange to finally refer to my writing as a “job” since publishing a novel is my ultimate dream, what I’ve wanted and hoped and wished for since I was seven years old. But it is work. Hard work. Fun work at times, but work all the same. And some day, that work will be a book that I can hold in my hands — a fact that I still can’t believe, most days.
2. Friday Night Lights. Has taken over my life. I finished season 1 months ago and the start of the second season was a bit slow for me, so I took a break. It is well worth it to keep pushing on. Imperative, actually. I’ll not tell you how quickly I’ve flown through all of season 3 (my favorite, thus far) and almost all of season 4, for fear that you will judge me. Because I often joke about being a TV junkie, but it’s not really a laughing matter. I love television only slightly less than I love books (IF FORCED TO CHOOSE) and if you give me a good drama . . . well, frankly it’s embarrassing how many episodes of a good show I can take down in one sitting. But? I think writers can learn a lot from well-written television and films and FNL is exceptional. I don’t know if I’ve ever used up so many TV tears on one show. Nor have I felt this way about a cast of characters since Felicity and Six Feet Under and those are two of my top five favorite shows of all time. Though I’ll refrain from naming my favorite characters (*cough* TIM RIGGINS *cough*) because that’s just about everyone. (Also, I’m well aware that I’m late to the party on this one but let’s just pretend otherwise, okay?)
Because that happened. First time seeing Rocky IV on the big screen since I was 6 years old and suffice to say I was in boxing film/80s nostalgia bliss. Have I not talked about Rocky here yet? Oh, I have lots of love for the Rocky saga. This love began when my dad took my older brother and me to see Rocky IV in the theater, and this love is not at all ironic. But we’ll save that for another time.
So, remember when I mentioned I was offering a 5,000-word critique for the wonderful Crits for Water campaign? That day is here and my auction is up! Thus far, the campaign has raised more than $11,000 and there are 25 days left to raise even more.
Now bid! And tell your friends! Help provide funding for clean water projects in developing nations!
May is here! It is my favorite month, and not just because it is my birthday month. I’m from Southern Missouri and grew up experiencing all four seasons. Spring was always the season I most looked forward to – the fresh air, the new earth, pretty flowers. Chicago’s spring is basically a joke (IT SNOWS IN APRIL THERE YOU GUYS), and LA is, as you can imagine, pretty much the same all year (a beautiful, warm kind of sameness, yes). So what I’m saying is, this is the month to ask me for things, guys. I’m in a good mood.
I’ve also been crashing the blogs of friends who’ve been nice enough to host me:
Last week, my good friend Amy Spalding asked me to post about my in-person writing group. So I did. Because they’re the best. You can read my post here. You should also check out Amy’s posts because they are funny and useful. Oh, and there’s a lot of Zac Efron, if you’re into that.
And today, the very excellent Mindy McGinnis (and my fellow Lucky 13er) posted an interview with me. I talk about my writing process, my agent, and how I’m bashful online. That interview is here.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the types of stories I enjoy, from books to movies to television. In the last week or so, after various conversations with friends, I’ve decided to come clean with the fact that my taste in fiction generally leans toward the dark and depressing. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, so I try to read widely, which includes books with a lighter premise or tone. But the truth is, I feel much more at-home with stories that explore the uglier sides of society because I find it fascinating to see how people (fictional or not) deal with their problems.
(This is not to say that I enjoy scary movies. I do not. At all. Someday, I will tell you all about how watching Gremlins in the movie theater as a five-year-old pretty much ruined my life. Or how the scene I deem most frightening in The Shining is hardly the scariest at all.)
But I have found that it’s easier for me to reread darker books than it is to rewatch darker movies or television series. (Seriously, Six Feet Under, I heart you so hard and think about you all the time, but I’m not sure I can ever watch you again. I’m still destroyed by your series finale, seven years later.) Which made me realize, there’s a good amount of movies that I loved to pieces, but I honestly don’t think I can ever watch again. After some serious reflection [i.e., perusing my Netflix ratings], here are my top four:
I have my issues with certain Disney movies (doesn’t everyone?), but there is something about their very old animated films that never fail to bring me back to my childhood. They are some of the first movies I remember watching over and over again, and my mother is a huge fan, so we always had them around the house. But Dumbo? Nuh-uh. Most people point to Bambi as The Saddest Disney Film Ever, but have you watched Dumbo as an adult? He’s relentlessly mocked because of his ears, has one friend, AND IS TAKEN AWAY FROM HIS MOTHER WHO IS CAGED IN ANIMAL PRISON. Sad elephants + circuses + that horrifically depressing Baby Mine song? Apparently the movie is only 64 minutes, but that’s an hour and four minutes that will never again receive my tears.
The Squid and the Whale
Well, this one was unexpected. I think I initially watched because I’m a fan of Laura Linney, but I didn’t expect to sob my way through. It’s about divorce. It’s an uncomfortably intimate view of a family dealing with divorce. Which, if you’re a child of divorce, it can resonate in a way that is wholly unique and heartbreaking. It’s an incredibly well-done movie (and also quite funny at some parts), but it took me a few days to get over this one and I imagine it wouldn’t be any better the second time around.
To be fair, I have seen E.T. more than once. I was only three years old when it was first released, but I very likely saw it in the theater since a) my family liked going to the movies, and b) I had an older brother who was nine at the time. I decided to rent it several years later, when I was in junior high and you know what I decided? Never. Again. That music. That friendship. And the goodbye at the end? It all adds up to me in a puddle of tears and dude. I just can’t.
Boys Don’t Cry
I saw this movie a few years after Hillary Swank won the Oscar, but I couldn’t help wishing I’d seen it before her win so I could cheer her on for such a moving (not to mention deserving) performance. I think I spent the majority of the film holding my breath. And the next three days or so hating humanity. Out of all the movies I’ve mentioned, I think it’s probably the most difficult to watch. Let’s be clear: it’s not enjoyable. But it’s an important story and one I think everyone needs to watch.
Do you rewatch movies that sent you into the depths of despair? Which ones would go on your list?