Monday, March 31, 2008

Hangin' with Mickey -- Robin

Last week, my husband and I took our son to The Happiest Place on Earth. It happened to be Spring Break week, so that meant Disneyland was also The Most Crowded Place on Earth. And by the end of the day we discovered it was also The Most Expensive Place on Earth.

Even though we brought our own bagels and nuts and juice boxes, we still managed to blow over a hundred bucks! A Diet Coke is how much!? But when we were leaving the park, my son clutched his new Buzz Lightyear toy and said, “That was the best day ever.” Aaaahhh…worth every penny.

My favorite part? It wasn’t even in the park…it was the moment when we first went through the gate and stood in that in-between part, right between Disneyland and California Adventure, and they had Raiders of the Lost Ark music piping through speakers and I suddenly felt like I could take on the world. Like the possibilities were endless. It was an amazing feeling.

Does anyone else get all tingly just before they enter Disneyland? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I don’t get out enough.

Here we are on the ‘C’ just outside California Adventure…ready to take on the world…

We finally made it on to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and my son decided he wanted to spend the rest of his day as Captain Jack Sparrow. I thought if I heard “Aaarrggghh, matey!” one more time I was gonna scream. But he looked so cute as a pirate, all I could do was smile. (Then happily sip on my $4 Diet Coke.)

- Robin

Friday, March 28, 2008

Title Me This -- Jay

Stop! Easter Bunny, You Forgot Something!

That was the title of the first picture book I ever wrote. And guess what. It never sold. Why? Because editors couldn’t get past that title. (Okay, that’s not entirely true. The story wasn’t great, either. But I needed an introduction to this post, and that’s all I could come up with.)

No, I don’t need help finding a title for my next book…yet. But I do need help finding a title for an upcoming writing workshop. I’ll be speaking at the national SCBWI conference this August. Problem is, whenever there’s a breakout session for workshops, there are 11 or 12 workshops to choose from. And I don’t want to talk to an empty room! So I need a catchy title to lure ’em in.

My workshop will deal with adding suspense to your manuscript. Not how to write a suspense novel, but how a manuscript from absolutely any genre can become a page-turner if elements of suspense are sprinkled in.

So leave your titles in the comments section. If I use yours and you’ll be at the conference, I’ll treat you to two drinks. Why two drinks? Cuz everyone says, “C’mon, I’ll buy you a drink.” It’s a cliché…and clichés make me nervous.

If I choose your title and you won’t be at the conference, I’ll send you something autographed in the mail…and it’ll probably be something I wrote (unless you want me to autograph someone else’s book, which I have done recently).

- Jay

P.S. Here’s my favorite suspense-themed joke:

Question: How do you keep a moron in suspense?

***for the answer, check back in two hours and I’ll have it up***

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Finding Discoland #8

“Seek and ye shall find…something TOTALLY different than what you were looking for.”

Such is the case for those who typed the following words into search engines and discovered us. The Disco Mermaids!

- natalie portman turns into a mermaid -
(jay suddenly loses his fear of the ocean)

- sheep made out of hostess snowballs -
(are not as cool as goats made out of hohos)

- dumb dr. phil quotes -
(oprah? shoot...she ain't nothin' without me)

- mermaids and mermans world -
(it took you two-and-a-half years to figure that out!?!?)

- fat disco chicks -
(calm down, ladies...calm down...take a deep breath)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cover to Cover -- Eve

I have to admit something. Growing up I was a serious reluctant reader. A “High-Low” kid. A real pain in the ass of a student. Because I was smart, my teachers just assumed I had a laziness problem. But the reality is I was a very slow reader and had atrocious comprehension skills. Kid you not, I could read the same page over 8 times and still have no clue what I had read. Reading was a really strange activity for me because I loved stories, and wanted to read tons of books like all my friends and family members, but physically my brain just could not handle taking in tens of thousands of words at the normal human rate. When books were assigned in school I cringed at the sight of the thick ones because I knew I’d have to spend every spare waking moment of my adolescent life struggling to comprehend massive amounts of text. Soon it became a major chore. It’s kind of like running. I love it so much, but if I’m required to do it at a ridiculous pace, it becomes painful.

That said, there are a few books (very few) that have captured me from moment one, and never let go, no matter how long it took me to read them. Though I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly that sucks me in, I can always tell by page 2 if it will be one of those books that I HAVE to read in one sitting, cover to cover. You know, those books you cannot put down no matter how hungry/thirsty/tired or in need of a toilet you are? So I’m taking this moment and showing respect to the short list of books that have cast that spell on me over the years.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Love Story by Erich Segal
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Forever by Judy Blume
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Homeboys by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Stuck In Neutral by Terry Trueman
Holes by Louis Sachar
Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (only set it down once to write this blog post!)

Luckily, after several years of college and grad school, I’ve finally learned to read and comprehend at a normal, age-appropriate level. But it still takes an incredibly riveting story to hold me still for a few hours. So, if your book made my list, bravo!

- Eve

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Life, Extra-Regular -- Robin

It was quite a week for the DMs. When one DM makes the New York Times Best Sellers list, we do what we always do (for the first time ever)...we cry, we call everyone we know, we cry some more, Eve drinks Cosmos, I drink beer, Jay drinks shots of espresso, then we cry some more.

There’s only one downer to sharing a blog with someone who announces they just made the NYTBS list…you get a voice message like this, “Hey, Robin. It’s Jay. It’s your turn to post next.”

So I get to be the one to post after Jay’s big announcement. Oh. That’s. Just. Great. How can I follow that!? Because right now, my life is a little less exciting.

It’s funny how things in your life can be super exciting (a friend’s success), or things can be going remarkably crappy (the flu)…but there is always laundry. Seriously! Doesn’t laundry know when to take a break? Listen up laundry…I’m putting you on notice!!!

Other than Jay making the NYTBS list, life was extra-regular for me this week. My evil cold morphed again into a sinus infection that now requires me to blow my nose non-stop from morning till night with the only respite being when I get to sneeze. I think our country may get out of this recession if we all invest in Kleenex.

Oh, but I did have something extra cute happen to me this week. (Thanks for asking!) My son has been begging to see pictures of me when I was a little girl. So I had my parents (who live in Georgia) go through all our old photos and pick some out to send to my son. Well, they went a step further and scanned in a bunch of pictures of me from birth through college and then mailed us a CD.

And my son’s favorite picture? The one of me when I was his age…in kindergarten.

But there were pictures of me in high school, and knowing my fellow Mermaids, they will be made public someday without my permission. Unless, of course, they’re willing to show me their high school yearbook pictures. Oh, it’s on!!!

- Robin

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm a What!?!? -- Jay

Exactly twenty-one hours ago I found out Thirteen Reasons Why will be making its debut on the New York Times Best Sellers list. That means, of course, that I’ve been freaking out for exactly twenty-one hours now.

After getting phone calls from my editor and publisher, calling my wife and parents, and opening a ton of awesome e-mails from other writers, my brain took a brief detour to The Silly Side. For example:

During my first conversation with the first girl I ever went on a date with, I noticed my shoelace was untied…yet I never would’ve thought the awkward moment which followed would make it into a NY Times best selling book.

When I slipped on wet grass, my friend tumbled over me, and two girls we were trying to impress began laughing hysterically…I never would’ve thought that embarrassing moment would make it into a NY Times best selling book.

And when I finally identified the bizarre flavor of my first real kiss…I never would’ve thought that taste (slightly adjusted) would make it into a NY Times best selling book.

But it’s true!

So I’d like to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who read Thirteen Reasons Why. And I’d like to send a gigantic heartfelt thank you to everyone who told their friends that they needed to read it, too.

Wow! You made me a New York Times Best Selling Author!!!

- Jay

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who Cares? -- Eve

People have definite opinions on what I write, why it’s not selling, and why I should really give up and write something else. During the last six years, I’ve heard these comments at least infinity times:
  • “Who cares to read about poor, tough, inner-city kids?”
  • “You should write Chick-Lit; it’s much more publishable than what you write.”
  • “Why don’t you write about white girls instead of (insert choice of ethnicity or shade of pigment here) boys? White girls are the ones who buy books.”
Publishable. Salable. The bottom line. Show me da money. I totally get it. I know this is a business. My problem is that I’m not attracted to the idea of writing the “popular” book. I couldn’t create Gossip Girls if you paid me ten million dollars. Okay, maybe I could, but I wouldn’t enjoy it.

Here’s my thing…first, who’s to say that the “typical” reader won’t be interested in reading about impoverished kids going through tough times? Two words: The Outsiders. ‘Nuff said. Second, if it’s true that very few teen boys read, shouldn’t those of us dedicated to literacy be creating interesting stories for them, in hopes of increasing those numbers?

Today I volunteered in several middle school English classes. True, very few boys actually read during free reading time. So, I took an informal poll. Turns out, all agreed that they would choose to read if they could just find something of interest. Little House on the Prairie just isn’t doing it for them. We do have the Greg Neris and the Alan Lawrence Sitomers out there doing their parts contributing to gritty tough-boy lit. But I think we should be flooding the market with endless choices for those tough boys.

Who cares to read about poor, tough, inner-city kids? Well, I do, for one. And I have a feeling I’m not alone. Maybe tough-boy lit will become the new wizard-lit. And then I’ll be kickin’ it like J.K. while little children dress up like my main characters and wait in line at midnight to purchase my books.

- Eve

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hometown Signing -- Jay

It was awesome to do a signing at the bookstore where I worked while writing much of Thirteen Reasons Why...

Me reading as Clay and Sabrina reading as Hannah...

I never thought I'd say this, but I love public speaking...

Yes, I managed to squeeze Vanilla Ice into my presentation...

I could look at their expressions forever...

If you misspell a name, are you supposed to buy them a new book? Just askin' for the future...

And of course, everything's more fun with the other Mermaids around...

- Jay

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Achoo! -- Robin

I’ve been sick at home this week with some sort of head cold that seems to be morphing into some sort of plague. Have you all come down with this one yet? Just when you think you’re getting better, it shifts into fifth-gear and says, “Nuh-uh, we’re just getting started!” I am officially calling this year’s cold The Evil One. It makes me want to take my head off…like Calvin:

Yesterday, I sat around the house all day, unable to go into work. I was hoping to spend some of that down time working on my manuscript, but every time I looked at the words, they got blurry and my head felt like it was going to explode.

So instead, I spent my day watching The E! True Hollywood Story. (But I did take a break to watch an infomercial for Hip Hop Abs!) I am so addicted to T.H.S., and I suddenly realized why. There is no reason on earth for me to suddenly love Jennifer Lopez, but once I heard her back story, I couldn’t help but love her! (Even though the whole Bennifer thing was super annoying.) But knowing her struggles growing up and how she persevered and stuck with her dreams, I couldn’t help but get inspired!

And that reminded me why back story is so important in my own manuscript. So instead of writing, I spent some time thinking about my character. Why do I love her? Why should the reader love her? What in her life motivates her to act the way she does? And most importantly, when she accomplishes her goal, will she be covered head-to-toe in bling!?

Even though I didn’t get any writing done, I got some thinking done…which is quite an accomplishment under the influence of TheraFlu!

- Robin

Mermaid Sightings: If you happen to be in San Luis Obispo this Saturday, swing by Barnes & Noble at 6pm. Jay will be discussing and signing copies of Thirteen Reasons Why. Need two more reasons to stop by? Okay. Eve and I will be there, too!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old School -- Eve

I just returned from Yucatan, Mexico, where I machete-whacked my way through the jungles in search of freshwater cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins, subsisting on berries and plants and the occasional iguana that I had to fry over an open fire made of mangrove roots.

Oh, wait. No. That was my last trip down here when I was young and silly and thought eating fried iguana was exotic. In reality it’s just chewy and tasteless. This time I lounged around a nice tropical house with 8 of my best girlfriends from college. Go UCLA Bruins! We’ve known each other since we were 18 and we have a history and understanding of each other that is unique in so many ways. We travel together at least once a year (sometimes two or three times!) and every one of us attends, no excuses. All responsibilities, including kids, jobs, husbands and pets, are dropped for the week, and the only rule is that we have fun. Over the years we’ve gone canoeing, wine tasting, hiking, spa-ing, snorkeling, cliff-jumping, blueberry picking, played soccer, attended Spring Training baseball games, entered break-dancing contests, raced cars, and swam with dolphins.

The best part of these trips is experiencing the rapid regression back to our teen years. Although we’ve had our share of crazy life experiences over the last 20 years (marriages, motherhood, illnesses, divorces, Peace Corps, grad school, career changes), being together brings us back to simpler times when our greatest concern was fretting over what to wear for a sorority theme party. Every time I see these girls, I feel like I’m a freshman in college again. If I could go back to any age, I’ve decided it would be 18. We had infinite energy and freedom and very little responsibility, but just enough to feel grown-up. And there were so many major “firsts” for me that year. First real boyfriend that I actually loved (Hi Jimmy B!), first frat party, first road trip, first time living away from home with roommates, first hazing session, first beer, first hangover (blech!), first drive-by shooting (witnessed one, didn’t partake in one), first time really having to consider what the heck I wanted to do with my life. And these girls never let me forget who I was at that age (lively, sweet, trusting, naïve, perpetually optimistic and annoyingly cheery…of course I’m none of those things now!). So, I consider hanging out with them to be the best research for my novel, since my MC is 18. Doesn’t that make this trip a tax write-off?

The last day of the trip, I sat at the pool working on my computer and watching the girls slinging Corona, dancing around the hot tub and playing beer pong while the iPod blasted The Pussycat Dolls songs out over the beach. We even learned a few Justin Timberlake dance routines and practiced together in the living room, just like we used to do when the Fly Girls performed on In Living Color. We’re hoping it leads to our own reality show. Although, it will probably be called The Cougar Dolls for obvious reasons. It’s nice to see that as time passes and life becomes more hectic and less predictable, some things will never change. No matter how old or wrinkly or incapacitated or demented we become, when we’re together we’ll always be kickin’ it old school!

- Eve

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Don't Forget to Write! -- Jay

This post, I hope, will give encouragement to other apprehensive writers out there to write as honestly as possible. As most of you know, Thirteen Reasons Why deals with some very serious issues that way too many teens deal with in real life. While I was writing it, I had to constantly ignore the inner-person I refer to as Insecure Jay.

I.J. knew there would be people who didn’t approve of the way certain issues were dealt with in the book…or that those issues were dealt with at all. As someone who tries really hard to avoid conflict and hates tense relationships, I.J. constantly considered watering down certain scenes to avoid such problems. But C&H (Confident & Honest) Jay knew that was the wrong way to go because he hates reading watered down scenes in other books. It always weakens the emotional truth of a story.

For some reason, I’ve recently found myself discussing this issue with other authors working on edgy teen novels. (By the way, I’ve decided “edgy” simply means “someone’s gonna disagree with what you have to say.”) I know I would've had a much easier time comforting Insecure Jay if I’d been able to hear what actual teens thought about some of my favorite edgy books.

So…here ya go!

I received permission from two teens who sent messages to my MySpace account to reprint their words on this blog. In exchange, I’m sending each of them a signed audiobook of Thirteen Reasons Why. These messages represent two types of people who seem to really be latching on to my book. I chose them because they arrived close in time to each other (two days apart) and…well…because I love the honesty in their voices. It probably took a lot of guts to write what they did, and I appreciate it.

(To maintain the integrity of these messages, I didn’t change a thing…other than deleting their names.)

Female; 16 years old
Hi there =) My name's (-----). I just wanted to let you know that Thirteen Reasons Why made a big impact on my life. For the past couple years I have actually been struggling with the thought of suicide, and everything you mentioned and portrayed were so accurate; the rumors, the boys, the drama, everything. And it makes me feel so much better knowing that someone understands. Hannah really reminds me of myself. When i read the poem that she wrote that was studied in her class, it really affected me because I wrote a poem very similar to that, prior to reading the book. It's almost eerie how much the book resembles my life. i just wanted to let you know that your book gave me hope. It made me realize that no matter how much you think no one is there, they might be the person you least expect. And i want to thank you for helping make a difference in my life =) I read it in one day. I couldn'y put it down. Please keep the novels coming =) I love your work. Take care, and thanks again.

Male; 19 years old
Dear Jay Asher, Yes your book was amazing and i bet you get that alot. From reading this book i have changed alot. I use to be someone that would be very mean and would be a dick to people. Since your book I have changed from listening to people and being more curtious. I know you have probley all ready thought about this but i think you should make a movie out of this book. Thank you for reading this and i hope to talk to later.

- Jay

Can't Post...Too Busy Laughing!!!

Garfield Minus Garfield

*we just had to give this website its very own post

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Back to the Butcher Paper -- Robin

This past weekend I attended a plotting workshop put on by Robin LaFevers, author of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (recently nominated for an Agatha award!). Her presentation was fabulous. We learned about plot layers, inciting incidents, rising action, world building, turning points, acts, pacing, finish work and the pelvic woo! (No, we didn’t really learn about the pelvic woo. It just happens to be my favorite phrase and I like to use it whenever I get a chance. If you have a child addicted to SpongeBob, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

I had many “uh-huh” moments at her workshop. (I’m hoping with the popularity of Oprah’s “a-ha” moment that the “uh-huh” moment will soon be sweeping the nation.) The first “uh-huh” moment came from the discussion of when to start the story. (Hint: right away...or at least, kinda soon!) My current WIP was getting pretty blah, blah, blah-ish at the beginning and I realized that I probably wrote it more for myself than the reader.

Later, I looked up more information on beginnings in a screenwriting book. Richard Walters writes that the beginning “is that part before which there is nothing.” For example, he says that the movie Kramer vs. Kramer is a film that starts at the proper beginning. Meryl Streep is standing in the doorway with her bags packed, ready to leave the family. It would have been tempting to start with the couple’s escalating fights and then get to her departure, but that’s not really what the story’s about. It’s about the father reconciling with his child. So get to the story!

The other “uh-huh” moment I had at Robin’s workshop was when she talked about writing in acts. She suggested writing just to the next act, like a mini-goal. It makes the idea of writing a whole novel seem less daunting. Surely I can write one act! Right!?

So all that plotting and structure talk caused me to do what I always do when I’m trying to plan a novel…pull out the butcher paper. For me, the scenes have to be drawn on a long paper that I can put up on the wall as a daily reminder of what the heck I’m doing. Even though “what the heck I’m doing” seems to change daily. But there’s always more butcher paper!

How do you writers out there prepare to write a novel? Outline? Note cards? Close your eyes and throw a dart?

- Robin

Oh, wait! Uh-huh Moment #3: Always find a babysitter who can stay the whole day while you attend fabulous workshops so you don’t have to speed home on the lunch break and pick up the second babysitter, then scarf down a PB&J sandwich in the car instead of eating a lovely lunch with your peers. Or maybe that’s just me…

Monday, March 03, 2008

No Country for Little Children -- Eve

I’m currently lounging in the beachy backyard of a rented house in the Yucatan of Mexico. This is my favorite place in the world. After college I even moved down here to “live off the land” and work with local doctors in a tiny Mayan village for a while. Yucatan is inhabited by the most gracious and generous people I’ve ever met. Smiles and waves spread cheery greetings everywhere I go and, for the most part, I’ve always felt safe here. In fact, I hitchhiked through the jungles back in the day without a single incident.

The other day, to my disgust, I entered the most unexpected and horrific of scenes…the flight arrival, customs, and immigration area of the Cancun Airport; basically a mosh pit of American tourists and spring-breakers. I cannot even articulate how frightening the situation was. The anger and spite and frustration levels definitely surpassed the red zone and hovered in the…I don’t know…whatever’s scarier than the red level. Maroon zone?

Apparently, the airport was understaffed (an understatement, if there ever was one) and a ton of flights arrived at the same time when they were supposed to be staggered. What ensued was beyond mayhem. We’re talking screaming, pushing, fistfights (no lie), and pretty much full-on rioting. I cannot count how many people were punched, how much hair was pulled, or how many kids were trampled during those 3 ½ hot, sweaty, hungry, tired, angry hours.

Normally, I’d expect this type of tantrum-throwing from exhausted toddlers. But the source of all the shouting, shoving, and thumping? Adults! Full grown, middle aged and older, adults! It was crazy watching well-off American travelers whining about the Federales doing their jobs (i.e. checking people in thoroughly in this post-9/11 world), and going ballistic over having to delay their sunbathing for another few hours. Those who felt above the velvet-roped, Disney-esque snaking lines tried to jump and cut and ended up paying dearly for it. I don’t know which was worse, watching those without consciences who refused to wait their turns pass me by, or watching people get pummeled by the haters of the haters of the rules.

I found it so interesting that the kids (babies and toddlers included) and teens in the mosh pit were perfectly calm, polite, and rule-abiding. Although we always talk about how cruel children can be to each other, I think it’s fair to say that heat, fatigue, and unrealistic expectations can bring out the worst in adults. Sometimes, children really can teach us a lot about patience, compassion and understanding. For proof, go watch how the kids ultimately treated each other on Kid Nation. Then compare how adults treat each other on Survivor.

It’s no wonder I write for children!

- Eve