Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Mellom Feast -- Robin

This Thanksgiving I put my vegan ways behind me for a day and chowed down on some turkey. I know…shame, shame. And the turkeys thought they’d be safe from me this year. Nope! They get as nervous around me as they do just before a Sarah Palin interview.

Mom and I cooked up dinner for ten and all I kept thinking was, “Please, please let there be enough chairs.” To accommodate, my mom sat in my faux leather computer chair (I even let her adjust the height).

While we cooked, my son took on the job of decorating the table with anything he could find in the driveway. Turned out kinda cute!

Then I helped my son scoop up some of that previously nervous turkey. But by this point the turkey was very calm. (Oh, and dead.)

In the kitchen with Mom. Love her!

And here’s our annual Thanksgiving family portrait and, as usual, it’s without my husband since he’s always on the other side of the camera.

Mom, Dad, Luke, Uncle Buddy, and his partner Martin

Hope you all had a turkey-filled thanksgiving. I’m now back to a life of lentils and tofu. Can’t wait till next year!

Wait…isn’t Christmas supposed to be a time to celebrate the wonders of ham!?

- Robin

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks -- Eve

The other day I read a funny article by Stephen King where he described all the things he was and was not thankful for this last year. It got me thinking about my "Thankful For" and "Not Thankful For" lists I've had over the years.

When my sister and I were kids, our family spent every Thanksgiving with the "Sycamore Street" neighbors. We were lucky to have a block full of kids my age and young parents who were all best friends. Every year, after hopping through potato sack races and watching the Twilight Zone marathon and overdosing on Tryptophan, we'd go around the table and discuss what we were each thankful for. When I was 4 years old, I chatted nonstop about how thankful I was for my big wheel. When I turned 13, I gave thanks for Duran Duran. At age 18, I was thankful for light beer and all-you-can-eat dorm food.

As my sister and I sit here this Thanksgiving week and reminisce about all the holidays past and thanks we've given, we marvel at how much we have to be thankful for now that we're all grown up.

Amy and I agree that this year we are very thankful for:

our wonderful family
good friends
eternal support of the Disco Mermaids
frequent flyer miles
South Park
sweat suits
Christian Bale
Ugg boots
plumping lip gloss
polar fleece
satellite radio
gummy fish
Dave Eggers books
Judd Apatow movies
Reno 911
heated car seats
intact memories

Things we are not particularly thankful for:

that bailiff dude who thinks Amy looks like Celine Dion

Tonight when we asked my 9-year-old nephew what he is thankful for, he had to think for a long time. Finally, J.B. decided he is thankful for:


He added, "That pretty much covers everything!" Then he said, "But you should know I am not thankful for shots, needles, or leeches!"

For the most part I agreed with him. Until I remembered that shots, needles, and leeches are the exact things that enable Demi Moore to defy the aging process. I think I'll add those three to my "Thankful For" list.



Monday, November 24, 2008

Mermaids at Twilight

Wow! I loved the movie even more than I had expected to (Edward Cullen is the hottest thing I've ever seen onscreen). Most people believe books are better than their movies. However, I usually have the opposite feeling. I'm a very visual person with a short attention span, so watching the story unfold onscreen in front of me often makes for more satisfying entertainment (and watching Robert Pattinson saunter his sexy self around for two hours makes for a lovely afternoon).

The movie did leave out a lot of scenes and became sort of a glossed over, Reader's Digest version of the novel. But if the movie-makers had crammed all 498 pages into a film, it would end up being 6 hours long (although, now that I think on it, 6 hours of staring at that perfect pale face and those luscious lips couldn't be all that bad).

The coolest thing to me was how well the characters were cast. Everyone looked almost exactly how I had pictured him/her. And, although Kristen Stewart was a little bland as Bella, she did capture her 16-year-old insecure yet idealistic persona. The acting was great. Not too melodramatic, but not too mellow either. The setting was perfect. And, yes, the "romantic tension" between Bella and Edward was palpable and anxiety provoking. Funny...I just realized that they only kissed one time onscreen. Amazing how the tiniest moments and slightest touches can be so romantic. I have to add that Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen was the most beautiful work of art I've seen onscreen since Brad Pitt trotted his way through Legends of the Fall. And did I mention how gorgeous Edward Cullen was?

Huge thumbs up for me!

I liked the movie. I did. I had a bit of a different reaction from Eve, in that I came away thinking, "Wow. The book was sooo much better." Which is a good thing. It tells me the book was more in-depth and I had a more emotional connection with the words than with the visuals. That's pretty cool! (I had the same reaction to The Prince of Tides.)

I would have to say there are things I wanted *more* of and things I wanted *less* of...

I wanted more of Bella's inner-thoughts so we could understand her motivations more.

I wanted less make-up. I mean, sheesh, just make them regular pale...not E.T.-dying-in-the-river pale. And not all of the family members were made up like that. Only Edward, Jasper, and Mr. Cullen. The others all looked normal. Weird!

I wanted more music. I heard the soundtrack rocks and I wish I had heard more.

I wanted less of Jay saying, "What!?!?" every time Eve and I squirmed when Edward came onscreen. Really, Jay. Just give us our girl-time!

I wanted more of Mr. Cullen's back-story. I found that part fascinating in the book--why he is the way he is and how they came to be a family of "vegetarian" vampires. And how he is a doctor and why he chooses to be one. I thought that was one of the best parts of the book.

I wanted more of Bella and Edward. Can you believe that!? I don't think they could've actually shot more scenes with them, but their relationship was so dripping with emotion and, you know...lust…that it was so much fun to watch.

And my only regret? Not seeing the midnight showing. (Sorry, Jay!) We saw it in the middle of the day on a school day and there were no teenagers in the crowd. It was a quiet group. I really wish I could've heard a bunch of girls swooning at all the right spots. Because that's what Twilight is all about...swooning and all-around fun.

I give it 3 out of 5 fangs, baby!

It’s funny how we all had different experiences at the same movie. Sitting by Robin and Eve, it sounded like the audience was packed with swooning girls. Packed! Of the three Mermaids, I think I was the only one who touched my popcorn. But I suppose it is hard to chew when your jaw is permanently dropped to the floor.

Okay, here are a couple changes made in the book-to-screen adaptation which drove me batty (tee-hee):

When Bella left the hotel and raced to the dance studio, my storyteller-brain nearly imploded at the lack of character motivation. Having read the book, I knew why she did that. But in the movie, she might as well have looked at the audience and said, “I have a sudden craving to do something really dangerous. Wanna watch?”

In the book, I loved the detail of the bad vampires first appearing as incognito backpackers coming out of the woods. In the movie, they were slo-mo Abercrombie & Fitch models (who happened to appear onscreen as Robin and Eve were just about to taste their first handfuls of popcorn).

But there were plenty lot of changes I loved, as well. Why simply run through the forest at breakneck speed when you can climb to the tops of the trees? It’s beautiful…and so cinematic…up there. Since Edward’s been a music lover for the past hundred years, his music collection should reflect that. In the book, he has a wall of C.D.s. In the movie, he also has vinyl records and 8-track tapes! Oh, and then there was that art piece made up of their collected graduation caps. Hilarious!

And then there’s my favorite change of all. In the book, when Bella first sits beside Edward in Biology, he seems like a barely contained ball of rage. But the movie takes a more creative approach and expands that scene. A book-reader knows the powerful thoughts ravaging Edward’s mind when she approaches, but to Bella, it appears less like rage and more like the mere sight of her is about to make him vomit. At that early point in the movie I thought to myself, that Robert Pattinson guy can act. That’s right. Act!

But you know who’s really hot? Ashley Greene, who played Alice Cullen. Unfortunately, whenever I did the masculine-swoon thing and shared my vampire crush, Robin and Eve shushed me and told me to eat my popcorn. Gotta love being a Mermaid!

If The Count from Sesame Street used decimal points, I'd give this movie "One. Two. Three-point-five out of five bats. Ah, ah, ahhhh!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Twilight at Midnight? Not for Me! -- Jay

It takes me forever to finish reading a book. My word-speed isn’t necessarily slow, I just have a short attention span. Rarely do I flip through more than one chapter per sitting. And then, who knows when I’ll pick it back up again!

For my birthday last September, Robin gave me a copy of Twilight. My goal was to finish the book before the movie came out. As you know, most theaters scheduled midnight showings for its release…which happens to coincide with this blog post going up. And I did it! I finished the book early! (Thirteen hours early, if you wanna know.)

So I called Robin and said, “I did it! We can see the movie tonight!”

And Robin said, “I’m not going to a midnight show.”

“What? That’s the whole reason I read it so fast.”

“Jay, I gave you that book in September.”

So Robin, Eve, and I will more than likely attend the 1:20pm show. (That, I wanna tell you, is thirteen hours later than a true Twilighter should be seeing it.) And I can’t wait! I completely understand why the book became the phenomenon it did, even if Edward doesn’t make me swoon.

If anyone’s looking to buy me a Christmas gift, mark me down for a copy of the Twilight sequel, New Moon. But does anyone know when that movie’s supposed to come out? Because my goal is to finish the book first…with hours to spare.

- Jay

P.S. Robin, I’m not really that mad that we missed the midnight show. But…ahem…I won’t be upset if you offer to buy the popcorn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Little Jumpstart -- Robin

I’ve been trying to get back into the edits on my middle grade book, The Happiness Project, but it’s hard to let something sit for a while and then pick it up cold. Whenever I open the manuscript, I stare at the screen, unable to make changes…fearful any word I write will ruin it forever. So I’ve been doing a lot of staring lately.

I had this problem once before when I was trying to make edits on my first middle grade book, Dude, Where’s My Locker? The manuscript had been in the hands of an editor for a while, and when I tried to make the changes she had suggested, I totally froze. I couldn’t write a word! For some reason, I wasn’t able to get into the character’s voice, couldn’t figure out what he’d do next, couldn’t put him in dangerous situations because I didn’t know how he’d react.

So to break myself out of my writer’s block, I started writing a fake sequel to the book. I knew it wasn’t really going to get published, so I felt free to explore situations and play around with the character’s voice. Usually I wrote short stories, kind of like blog posts, and I was finally able to “hear” my character’s voice again. The title of my fake sequel? Dude, What’s That Smell? I wrote a lot of scenes about the lunchroom. Of course it will never get published…and that’s what made all the difference. It allowed me to warm-up until I was ready to get back to the real deal.

So I may need to take this approach again with The Happiness Project. Which means I need a fake title to my fake sequel. How about…

The Somewhat-Depressed-Sure-Could-Use-A-Reese’s Project


The Frustrated-By-People-Who-Don’t-Use-Blinkers Project


The I-Have-To-Admit-I-Have-A-Crush-On-Anderson-Cooper Project

Any other suggestions?

- Robin

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Never in a Million Years -- Eve

I've always said that if I ever ran for President, my slogan would be "Can't we all just get along?" (Yes, I did just quote Rodney King.) Upon my inauguration I would declare, "Everybody be nice to everybody, starting now."

Some would call me naive, and some would call me stupid, and most would never vote for me in a million years. But, it's nice to know that somebody out there feels me on this. I read a blog post today by Laini Taylor over at Grow Wings that really touched me. Like, even made me tear up. And, anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows full well that I never cry. Sometimes I wonder if I have tear ducts. Anyway, you'll have to read her post yourself because I could never in a million years articulate with such eloquence my beliefs on the state of the world like the magnificent Laini does.

Yes, you will notice that in this post I'm referring you to her post where she mentions my previous's like a never ending house of mirrors! But, Laini really got me thinking (as she always does) about my core beliefs on humanity. Not sure if it's because of the historic election year, or my intense writing of book #2 or my experiences teaching the incarcerated kids, but for some reason, I'm full of deep thoughts lately on how to make the world a better place.

I'm a walking cliche, I realize that. " makes the world go 'round, blah, blah, blah..." But, ignore my naivete for a moment and hear me out.

Last Saturday I had one of those "aha" epiphany moments. A "Holy crap, that's the key to happiness!" realization. Want to know where I had this brilliant hit-me-like-a-ton-of-bricks thought?

Ironically, I was in jail. Teacher Johnny K was nice enough to turn his older girls' class over to me for a morning, so I could get a feel for teaching girls, which I'd never done. I have to admit, I did prejudge. I won't lie. I was scared. I'd heard things about these girls. Unflattering things. Frightening things. As open-minded as I claim to be, when I'd heard about their alleged crimes, I pictured them stabbing me in the neck with a pencil, tying me up with their socks and holding me hostage under the table while they terrorized the compound, then escaped into the Sylmar hills. Don't get me wrong, I didn't obsess over it. It was a fleeting thought. But, still, I had it. Hey, give me a break...I've watched way too many of those World's Scariest Jail Stories! shows.

Here's the twist. Not only would I never in a million years have guessed any of these girls was capable of breaking a law, let alone murdering someone. I witnessed a fascinating camaraderie I haven't witnessed before. Anywhere. It was touching to watch the girls comfort each other, wipe away each other's tears, share pictures and stories about their babies back home, comb each other's hair, and protect each other from sadness and harm. One girl brought in a fruit roll-up she'd received in a care package. She immediately shredded it into equal pieces for everybody.

They are strangers. They have not known each other for long. But they are a family. They are generous. They listen to one another. They are open-minded and accepting of each other's differences, including gang affiliations and sexual orientation (hear that Prop 8 people??). They have realized that they need each other to survive. It is a very communal feeling. Not at all like the jail shows depict it. Now, maybe the bonding of this lovely group of girls is a fluke. Maybe it was all for show. Maybe they'll go back to their cells and carve shanks out of their notebook paper. But, I'll never believe that.

When I asked at the end of class how they could all remain so nice to each other in such crappy circumstances, they said, "Because we are sisters. We're all we got." I swear that three hour class was a whole book in itself. And a clear affirmation that humans can be good to one another, no matter what they've done in the past. And, again, call me simple minded, but I have to believe that if every human shared just a sliver of generosity and compassion toward a stranger every single day, we'd create the perfect world that Laini and I dream of.

I think I've got book #3 figured out just in the course of writing this post. Amazing what blogging can do!

Thanks for listening...

- Eve

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Coffee Shop Hop -- Jay

I’m doing a little experiment. It’s one of those experiments more accurately described as just an excuse to do something I want to do.

While I still love the coffee shop I do most of my writing in, I’ve decided to occasionally change my scenery. New scenery means new people which means new oddballs to observe. And oddballs are great for sparking ideas.

So yesterday I drove down to Santa Barbara, a beautiful beach town a little over an hour from my house. I was there from nine in the morning till about six at night. Other than a random shift of gravity which forced me into a movie theater (taking ninety-nine hilarious minutes to get out of), I spent most of my day in a new bookstore/coffeeshop. Being surrounded by the newness rejuvenated something in me. My creativity seemed fresher. My writing seemed fresher. I just might even smell fresher!

It was also Farmer’s Market in Santa Barbara, which is always a great place to people watch and look for future literary characters. As usual, there were a lot of street-side performers (mostly playing Beatles tunes). The only musician who was potentially book-worthy was a boy around twelve-years-old playing an acoustic guitar and singing. I’d never seen someone that young play at a farmer’s market by himself, which made the writer in my brain scribble down some notes for later use.

But the only oddballs I saw who might make it into my next novel were downstairs at Borders. One male and one female, they were in the children’s section…but they weren’t children. They could’ve been college-age, and they were laughing hysterically, using the picturebook reading area to wrestle. She was trying to prove she could pin him and he was trying to prove he could deflect her best moves without breaking a sweat. It looked like a ton o’ fun, which meant some poor employee was going to be asked to break them up. But that wrestling match (with their ages slightly deflated) just might find itself in my next teen novel.

The experiment is working!

- Jay

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back at It -- Robin

I recently turned in my completed manuscript to my agent and thought to myself, “Hooray! I’m done! It’s totally, utterly perfect! Time to break out the Kit-Kats!”

Did I mention my delusional nature? Yeah…I can convince myself of anything.

My agent wrote me a long email (correction: long, long, long email) outlining what she loved and what she thought needed more work. The book is coming along, but it’s back to work for me!

I found myself reading her email several times. One, because I have comprehension problems. And two, because she said some amazing things in that email that I think will help not only my story but any writer’s story. They were little nuggets of brilliance that had me banging my head on the table many times. (The last head bang kinda hurt.)

Here are a couple of things she said that I loved. And she’s gonna hate me for putting a spotlight on her. She’s kinda the David Plouffe of the writing world...the one behind the curtain running an amazing campaign. So instead of telling you that her name is Erin Murphy, I will instead refer to her as Agent X (the X stands for “awesome”).

“The difficult but important thing is for readers to feel two contradictory things—that you can’t possibly sustain all this juggling, and that you are in absolute control all the time.”--Agent X

“But of course that means that we need to understand what that closest-to-her-heart thing is. And that has to underpin everything, be the thing she checks all her impulses against, the thing that allows her to step out of her comfort zone and makes her continue to take on more and more problems, upping the ante all the way—because the stakes at the heart of it all are high for her emotionally.”--Agent X

While Agent X is busy at being brilliant and awesome, little ol’ me will be busy getting back to work. See ya’ll later!

- Robin

Thursday, November 06, 2008

SURVIVOR: Lockup -- Eve

Lately I’ve been visiting Creative Writing classes in the L.A. juvenile jails as part of my teacher training. I wrote about my first visit here, and every minute I’ve spent in the jail since, I’ve learned something completely unexpected. Needless to say, this teaching position will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

When I tell people about this new job, the most frequently asked question is:
Aren’t you scared?

All I can say is that I am way more afraid of the mountain lion that lurks in the hills behind my house, and the pit bull down the street than I am of these kids.

To me, incarcerated kids are not scary. Here is what they are:

They are appreciative.
Thankful for the few things they have left, like family (if they have any), friends (if they have any), shelter, food, and outsiders who brave the halls of the pokey to mentor and listen to them.

They are curious.
They want to know what I drive, what kind of kid I was, about the books I write, what music I like, if I want to hear the song they wrote, if I like baseball, if my hair is real, why I dress the way I do, why I like the color pink so much, if I like their tatts, why I have no tatts.

They are lovers of reading and writing.
The other night, I sat in a cramped room with 12 alleged murderers; it was two of the most fascinating hours of my adult life. We didn’t talk about murder or gangs or “the outs.” We talked about…books! They crave books more than any other luxury item. More than candy or photos or soap or socks. For them, books are an escape, books are entertainment, books are education and wisdom. Even though many of them can hardly read fluently, they want books. Any books, all books, picture books, girly books, Dan Brown books. This surprised me…have to admit that my little closed mind assumed kid-thugs would find books boring. Boy, did they school me on that one! Writing is many things to them: therapeutic, entertaining, exciting, enlightening, hopeful, and anything but boring.

Most importantly, they are hungry.
Hungry for food. Hungry for shelter. Hungry for money. Hungry for attention. Hungry for respect. Hungry for compassion. Hungry for knowledge. Hungry for a new life. Hungry for guidance. Hungry for hope.

They are hungry because their basic needs have never been met. While on “the outs” they lie, cheat, steal, assault and kill in an attempt to acquire these things. The only difference between them and me as a kid is that my basic needs were always met…I had the luxury of loving, nurturing parents, constant roof over my head, plenty of food, money, role models, and opportunities for success in sports, academics, arts, and social activities.

Working in the juvenile jail is like watching a sick and twisted real-life version of SURVIVOR, where the contestants’ hunger for basic needs remains unmet, and the worst in them emerges. Ever notice how on Survivor there’s always a “losing” team that acts negative and defeated? They’re always out of food and skinny and sick and cold because their shelter leaks and they have no blankets. Then, as soon as that team wins a reward challenge, their demeanor and behavior completely changes. They become confident and happy and positive and physically stronger. Then, they’re less likely to steal food and fight and attack each other.

I believe that you can take the most compassionate and level-headed person and turn him into a monster criminal by stripping his basic needs. And I cannot judge them for the things they’ve done because maybe I would have taken the same route if I’d grown up in their circumstances. I also believe that if we help them gain and sustain these human needs, their behavior will change and hope will prevail.

- Eve

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


America's Next First Family!!!


...anyone doing anything important today?

Important things we've been doing:

Jay Asher - voted at 7:30 a.m.
Robin Mellom - voted at 8:55 a.m.
Eve Porinchak - voted at 4:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloweird -- Jay

’Twas the day before Halloween,
and all through the library…

Okay, I can’t think of a decent rhyme for library, so I’ll save you the eye-roll and just get to the point. Last Thursday was my final day working at the public library, and my co-workers put together a delicious potluck for my going-away party. So while the day felt bittersweet, it tasted like frosting and quiche.

I bequeathed a couple of my toys which had been put to great use over the past five years. I gave my pigapult (it’s like a catapult, but flings tiny plastic piggies) to Marci, my boss. But to keep the peace in my absence, I gave the piggies to Diana. I gave Mr. Peabody, who can shoot a stream of "water" up to ten feet, to JoAnn (for the past few years, her desk was well within Mr. Peabody's reach).

I received a few parting gifts, as well…including a pair of shiny red boxers. (Don't ask.) And when Halloween rolled around the next day, those boxers made a great addition to my costume. Thanks, Barry!

That night, my wife and I had a Halloween get-together at our house. While I was organizing the photos for this post, I realized that most of you have never seen a picture of my brother. So here’s Nate (do you notice the resemblance?), along with his girlfriend, Sarah (Moaning Myrtle!).

I had no idea what my wife was dressing up as. So when she came downstairs dressed as Hannah Baker (from Thirteen Reasons Why), I freaked out. Freaked! Out!!! How often do authors get to hang out with their characters?

Overall, we didn’t have as many trick-or-treaters this year, but we did have more teenagers. At one point, a group of three girls were at the door. My wife and I were letting them pick their favorites from the candy bowl. As they turned to leave, and we began shutting the door, one girl whispered something to her friend.

TEEN: She looked just like that girl from that book.
ME: Wait, what was that?
TEEN (turning back around): What was what?
ME: You said something about a book.
TEEN: She’s dressed like someone in a book I'm reading.
ME: Really? Really??? What book?
TEEN: Thirteen Rea—
ME: She is! That’s who she is! She’s Hannah Baker!
TEEN (to my wife): You read that book?
ME: I wrote that book!!!
TEEN (looking my costume up and down): You? You did?

- Jay