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It’s that time of year when we’re all buying books as gifts for the ones we love (at least I assume you guys all do that too), so today I want to introduce you to a book I read in one sitting! It’s a delicious behind-the-scenes peek onto the set of a Race Around The World style reality TV show — if you’re looking for a holiday gift for the reader or reality TV fan in your life, this is it! And today, I’ve dragged in author Alison Cherry to answer some questions for all you lovely readers! But first, let’s hear a little about For Real!
No parents. No limits. No clue what they’re in for.
Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister’s shadow. While Miranda’s life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.
When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it’s Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.
But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life… or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what’s for real?
Alison, I looooooved For Real! Spill! How on earth did you get hold of so many fantastic details?
I did so much research for this book! It was pretty easy to get hold of details about how to audition for reality TV effectively—I read several entire books about that. But once someone actually makes it onto a show, the network makes them sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements, so it’s significantly harder to find behind-the-scenes information about the filming process. Fortunately, reality shows have a lot of rabid fans, and they’re pretty good at scrounging up secrets—in fact, there’s a nearly-500-page, fan-written tome about the first few seasons ofThe Amazing Race. Since the show in my book is pretty similar, I found all kinds of information I could use in there.
Of course, I also needed lots of little details that were far too specific or mundane to address in that kind of book. What’s the sign-in process like at an audition? What does the producer’s side of the conversation sound like in a daily recap interview? Are the contestants allowed to snack on camera? How do you attach a microphone to someone when he’s not wearing a shirt? Fortunately, I was able to find one reality show contestant, one casting director, and one field producer who were willing to do interviews with me. I probably drove them crazy with all my super-specific questions, but they were incredibly good sports about it, and they did an excellent job of demystifying things!
And what about the exotic locations? I’m guessing an all-expenses-paid world tour wasn’t on the cards, so how did you so convincingly convey that local flavour?
Sadly, you’re right: a world tour was not included in my advance. I actually did a lot of my local flavor research by watching The Amazing Race; there have been something like twenty-five seasons at this point, so I was able to find at least one episode that took place in each of the cities I’d chosen. I never stole a challenge from the show, but I paid a lot of attention to what was going on behind the contestants so I could accurately describe the road signs, the taxis, the locals’ clothing, etc. It often took me ninety minutes to get through a forty-five-minute episode because I had to keep pausing it to write down descriptions of cows and rooftops and bridges. The “street view” function on Google Maps was also an incredibly big help—I spent one entire afternoon virtually driving down highways in Scotland. Honestly, I can’t imagine how people did book research before the internet…
I know I looooove Race Around The World for my vicarious travel fix, and For Real felt like being allowed behind the scenes. Are you a big reality TV fan?
I used to watch a number of the competition shows pretty religiously: Amazing Race, Top Chef, So You Think You Can Dance, Work of Art, and Project Runway were my favorites. I loved watching people showcase their talents, and I used to get really into it. Unfortunately, writing this book kind of ruined reality TV for me. Maybe I just know too much about the strings behind the puppets now, but it just doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore. Scripted dramas only from now on, I think…
To leave reality TV for a moment, For Real also explores the relationship between sisters. Was that something you set out to do when you began writing the book?
Absolutely. The sister story came first, and the show came later; in fact, Claire and Miranda never even made it past the final round of auditions in my first draft! The sisters have been apart during Miranda’s four years at college, and I was most interested in exploring the way their relationship shifted and strained and morphed as they struggled to get to know each other again as adults. I sent them on this trip around the world together because it was the best way to raise the stakes and the tension; it turns out emotions bubble to the surface much faster if you surround your characters with manipulative strangers, deprive them of sleep and personal space, and stick a camera in their faces!
And finally, what’s the one book you’d pack if you were setting off around the world?
I’d bring a big, thick, plot-twisty novel full of scandal and scheming and intrigue, like Gone with the Wind or The Count of Monte Cristo. Those books are so long that they’d last me through a bunch of transcontinental flights, and if I did manage to make it to the end, I love them enough that I’d be perfectly happy starting over again right away.
Thanks Alison! Readers, I’m sure you can see now why I’m so into this book–there’s nothing like being kept up late by an amazing read, and this one kept me laughing, guessing, turning pages, and kept me from sleeping!
Amie Kaufman is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, a YA sci-fi novel out now from Disney-Hyperion (US) and Allen & Unwin (Australia). Book two, THIS SHATTERED WORLD, is out now in Australia, and coming on December 23rd in the US! Her new trilogy will start with ILLUMINAE, coming from Random House/Knopf in 2015. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook, or visit the These Broken Stars website for exclusive sneak-peeks and contests. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog.
1. The idea for the story came about originally when I was in the sixth grade. I used to read those YA and middle grade novels about those groups of girls who had the perfect close-knit relationships—the whole best friend forever thing personified. I was in grade school and I saw the cover of the Bangles “Everything” cd and they looked like that type of clique and I wondered what they were like at thirteen/fourteen. As an adult I wrote the story to show how Landry thinks everyone else has these tight groups of friends who never get mad at one another and everything is always perfect and she wants that and hopes to find it with Devon, Peyton and India. However, reality sets it…reality is such a bummer sometimes, isn’t it?
2. The older actor Devon has a crush on that the other girls make fun of her for is based on my crush on Liam Neeson.
3. People ask if I had best friend necklaces/bracelets/earrings/etc. when I was growing up. Yup, with several friends. Some I’m still close with, too. The day I told my writing group about my book contract I noticed I was wearing a silver bracelet with a heart charm and it never occurred to me before how much this was like the bff bracelet in the story—or the bracelet Landry’s dad gives her. I took that as a sign and that’s why you see the broken bff heart on the cover dangling off the, “s,” in “Colors.” BTW, one of my favorite gifts is still a thoughtful bracelet from a friend.
4. Landry’s last name, “Albright,” comes from Madeleine Albright. As a kid I was very aware there weren’t a lot of female role models in my social studies books. I distinctly remember being amazed as a kid seeing Benazir Bhutto in my Weekly Reader at school. So I used the name to pay tribute to a woman who broke through the glass ceiling—the first female U.S. Secretary of State.
5. The designer, Franciszka T, all the girls are obsessed with got the name because my great-grandmother, two of my great-great-grandmothers, and my great-great-aunt, were all named Franciszka. I picked “T,” because the great-great-aunt used to design and make clothes (she made her sister’s wedding dress and her own bridesmaid’s dress). Her last name started with a, “T.” I also look a little bit like her—we have the same big alien eyes.
6. When I first saw the possible cover models, I thought the one who ended up on the cover looked like a couple cousins of mine. I knew she was the perfect choice. Months later, the cover model found out about being on the book and contacted me. Turns out she lives in Poland and is from a town next to the city my great-grandpa was from! Crazy coincidence.
7. I’m not from the city the story is set in (Grand Rapids, MI), but my parents were, so I decided to have Landry and her mom live there. I’m actually from the other side of the state—an hour north of Detroit.
8. Landry’s name was originally, Sydney, but I changed it because the name was getting overused. My mom suggested the name Landry because she had a little girl in her class years ago with that name. I loved it and what’s funny is she had a student named, “Krysten,” too, and she told me that Landry and Krysten were best friends.
9. I named the ice cream parlor everyone hangs out at in the story after my great-grandfather. I picture the ice cream place being in Grand Rapids, MI (where the story is set)right near where he lived when he first moved to this country. In case you’re from the area and curious, I picture it being on Diamond Avenue.
10. Like Landry and Ashanti, I was a big soap opera fan. My favorite was, One Life to Live. I pictured two of the characters, Colin and Lanie, as being Landry’s parents. If you look at the cover model, she really resembles them both.
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like.
She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. TRUE COLORS is her bestselling debut novel from Astraea Press. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing. She received her master’s in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint.
Randi Zuckerberg — yes, the sister of Mark Zuckerberg and former Facebooker — is partnering with Bravo for a reality TV show (about finding the next young star of Silicon Valley. It also has a show in the works with Ben Huh who runs the... Read the rest of this post
Facebook gets back to its roots — students — with its latest feature (called “Groups for Schools.” The feature allows university students to create groups that are only visible to students with official university email addresses.... Read the rest of this post
Millennials are global-minded citizens and love learning about other cultures (so we think it’s brilliant that MTV is making it easier for them to connect with the hottest music acts and pop culture trends from around the world. Millennials... Read the rest of this post
Marestaing, Alex (2011) Izzy’s Popstar Plan. Thomas Nelson Publishing. ISBN 9781400316540. Author recommended age: tweens. Litland.com recommends age 13+, with parents discerning if appropriate for younger readers.
Publisher’s description:Izzy Baxter has big plans-popstar plans. Ever since she was six, she’s dreamed of becoming the world’s next singing sensation. Now sixteen, her singing career is on the rise, and she’s been selected to compete on the hit TV show International Popstar Challenge. As Izzy performs in far off locations such as Tokyo and Paris, it seems as if her plans are coming off without a hitch. But God has plans of His own, and Izzy will soon discover that living for Him is “way cooler” than megastar fame.
Living in the world but not of it…that is what many of us try to do. It means to take part in the world, enjoy the good, and stay away from that which is bad for our well being. If your family enjoys those American-idol type reality shows, then here’s a book for you.
With dialogue uniquely formatted as a blog, we follow Izzy’s adventure into stardom, complete with its struggles. Healthy choices, redefining the meaning of friendship, setting boundaries, and learning from mistakes all come into the picture. The blog entries are short but poignant in a quick-to-read format. This makes it of interest to all tweens and teens, advanced and reluctant readers alike. Although focused on a female character, boys in the crowd might enjoy it…nothing too mushy or girlie—after all, she is a rock star!
The real world of the American teen/tween today is full of cable TV shows creating (or cloning?) one pop star after another Lizzie McGuire style, from which come the cd’s, concerts, clothes and books. The scripts have formulas: cute girl faces typical teen problems and, with help of friends, makes decisions independently. In the process, parents and other authority figures typically exist as props to be manipulated, bumbling fools believing any lie. Even boys the same age as the main character often play a secondary role. In these shows and books, friends and family exist to serve the girl. Many parents are tired of this entertainment forming the attitude of their kids.
In walks Izzy the pop star, just as cool but better. She misses her mom, loves and respects her dad and brother, family and friends are everything. On the road to stardom, she learns that respect and integrity are non-negotiable. This author is “in tune” with today’s teen and Izzy’s Popstar Plan meets kids where they are at…in their real world. She deals with real teen issues such as lying to her father to sneak out of her hotel and go on a date, her first kiss, the onslaught of materialism badgering teens today, the world’s definition of beauty vs. true beauty, etc. Don’t let the blog format fool you; the life lessons are poignant and run deep. She is faced time and time again with the challenge of being self-serving or selfless, often with adults putting pressure on her to make the wrong choice. It is not Disney babies, and I disagree with Amazon’s listing this for sale to 9-year olds. Because this 16-year old character deals with issues rather than childhood problems, Litland.com recommends this book for age 13+. Families should use discretion with younger readers.
I used to pride myself on the fact that I only watched high-quality reality TV. This was maybe five, six years ago - before I'd succumbed to LAGUNA BEACH and then THE HILLS; before SHEAR GENIUS damaged the good brand set out by shows like PROJECT RUNWAY; before CROWNED: THE MOTHER OF ALL PAGEANTS was a glimmer in anyone's eye.
So, yeah. I DVR'd the first two episodes of DENISE RICHARDS: IT'S COMPLICATED and LIVING LOHAN. I ... I am practically speechless. This is trainwreck television at its absolute worst.
First up, let's talk Denise, whose potty mouth is so horrible she makes me feel positively G-rated. Okay, fine, she curses. Whatever. Denise is all about presenting herself as a Good, Single Mother and Devoted Daughter and Victim of Tabloid Journalism. She complains about past boyfriends, yet refuses to break out of her pattern of picking well-endowned dark-haired bad boys (hey - I'm only quoting Denise here). She breeds her pet pigs, gets an at-home airbrush tan, references WILD THINGS a dozen or so times. The entire series so far is about us watching Denise as she wanders through her life, wide-eyed and looking somewhat psychologically imbalanced.
Although I do have to say, there was a moment in last night's episode, when Denise goes to confront a tabloid journalist, and the journalist talks to Denise like Denise is a moronic piece of trash not worthy of the hack's time. In that instance, when Denise storms out, calling the hack the c-word, I almost - almost - cheered.
Next up is LIVING LOHAN, which is so much, much worse. Witness Ali Lohan, kid sister to Mistress of the Trainwrecks Lindsay. You can't blame these girls - watching Mama Lohan do her thing, you can totally see how they were victims of DNA. Dina swears that she's doing this show purely to set the record straight about her family - which is what Denise claims is her MO, too. I'm sure neither of them really care about the money or publicity or anything. No, it's all about truth in journalism. Dina Lohan is VERY concerned about this, and begins each day reading Page 6 and the tabloids for news about her daugther and herself. She even adds "Google us" to her assistant's list of duties. Self-absorbed much?
But last night's episode - in which the Lohans confront their twentysomething music producer friend about an article in which he's quoted as saying he's Lindsay's new boyfriend (when in reality he's never even talked to the girl on the phone) - oh, that took the cake. First, Ali gets all hyperdramaqueen on his ass, calling him a liar and slamming out of her bedroom vowing never to talk to him again. Then Mama Lohan sits her down and explains how Jeremy is the Bambi here, and how he doesn't understand the way the evil tabloids will twist his words. So, they sit down with Jeremy together, and Dina gives him the what-what, and then dismisses Ali from the conversation. In her one-on-one, it becomes pretty clear that Jeremy DID plant the fake story, but does Dina flinch? No, she merely informs Jeremy that she's using him as much as he's using them.
Flash forward to a party scene in NYC, where Dina is being honored for being on the cover of a magazine. Jeremy is there at this party, and I swear to god, Dina is eyeing him up like he's a Whopper with cheese and she hasn't had a meal in the last month. Cougar alert! No wonder she doesn't want to dismiss the cutie, even if he is an opportunistic liar. I would bet money that Mama Lohan tries to bed this boy at some point, whether we see the footage or not.
I do not think I will be watching LIVING LOHAN going forward, as doing so makes me feel like I need a shower. As for Denise - the jury's out on her. For now.
In the beginning, there was no television. I know this because I saw it on the History channel. Back then, hunting was not only man’s primary means of obtaining meat, but also a major source of artistic inspiration. At night early man slept, club in hand, dreaming of hunts to come—but not until he’d carved vivid accounts of that day’s exploits into the walls of his cave. This hobby effectively got him out of having to wash the dishes (Damn it, Rhonda, I’m busy! When’s the last time you drew me slaying a mammoth around here anyway?”), and would someday provide him with countless hours of diversion when he found himself trapped in the cave due to a meteor shower or the ice age.
Man eventually moved from the cave to a loft in the artsy district, but although he and his descendants were evolving, plot lines seldom ventured beyond the realm of familiar everyday themes. Greek tragedies, for instance were simply reenactments of tragic events in Greek history. The Roman’s idea of relaxation after a long day at the massacre was watching gladiators hack it up in the arena. It was not until Shakespeare started writing plays in which Italians spoke perfect English that the audience was required to suspend disbelief for a minute, but even then, he still threw in enough fairies and Jewish stereotypes to make his tales relatable to all.
Opera contributed by introducing characters who lived in a perpetual state of extreme song, their subsequent tragic deaths being the plot’s only link to the rational. Ballet pitched in, too, nudging the door of man’s imagination open yet wider each time a ballerina sprung across the stage in impossibly tight pants.
By the early 20th century, however, most people couldn’t afford to go to live shows thanks to economic constraints, flu epidemics and world war. Understandably, this period is known as the Great Depression. Fortunately, radio momentarily saved the day, allowing listeners to enjoy thrilling crime stories from the safety of their own homes, without even having to read.
But the grand prize, of course, went to television. Thanks to TV, our minds were finally free to prance through the worlds of heroes and villains, penetrate deep space or chuckle at talking animals at the click of a button. We had finally achieved complete detachment from reality, no conscious thought or cruelty to mammoths required. No longer was art merely imitating life; it was instead dictating it. Naturally, it was just a matter of time before someone fingered TV for the decline of our civilization.
Realizing we had created a monster that had to be controlled, a strategy was devised by which real people dealing with real moral, real personal and real serious issues were sent behind hostile lenses to infiltrate the world of television, just as it had infiltrated ours.
Unfortunately, the codename of the operation—Reality TV—blew its own cover, and television promptly resolved to exact its revenge. It didn’t take a lot. All TV had to do was turn our own weapon against us, sit back and watch what happened. More unfortunately, we still haven’t caught on that TV has caught on, although the fact that many of its most rightfully defunct former stars are once again being regurgitated onto our TV screens via the reality show ticket should be a clue.
And so here we are, trapped in a Dog Eat Dog, Surreal Life with Jon and Kate, unaware of The Mole in The Real World, engaged in a less than Amazing Race with The Bachelor, The Apprentice, and their Big Brother, Real TV, to see who will be The Biggest Loser or at least America’s Next Top Model. There can be only one Survivor.
As for me, I’m gonna wash the dishes, or maybe draw a mammoth.
Last night I watched the "music video" from the upcoming remake of "Fame." Those of you who know me well, may know that the original "Fame" is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I'm really struggling with this particular remake (vs. say "Ice... Read the rest of this post
Today we belatedly cap off our Year in Review coverage with a fun exercise in wishful thinking. I asked our Youth Advisory Board members what "pop culture phenomenon they'd leave behind in the last decade." Below are answers from Michael, Chase and... Read the rest of this post
The Wacky Wednesday post is back this week, and I’m excited about this topic! Being a full-time freelancer, step-mom, dog-mom to two dogs, wife, and pregnant with one on the way, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Even when I read, I’m usually reading for my blog or for my weekly column in the Sunday paper. (Although I do enjoy reading for a reason, too.) But anyway, here’s the topic that Sprint and JuiceBoxJungle asked me to write about today! I bet a lot of you busy, working parents and teachers can really relate.
Sprint has just launched Gaming on the Now Network™, bringing you the first wireless 4G network from a national carrier. Sprint and JuiceBoxJungle have sponsored me to write about what “ten minutes” a day means to me and what I do with a free ten minutes.
I have two main things I do with a “free 10 minutes.” And it’s a toss up on any given day what I choose to do. Drumroll please. . .I either take a power nap or watch reality TV. Okay, I’ve admitted it. Some days, I just need that power nap. I remember in college I told one of my friends that I needed a power nap–just let me close my eyes for 15 or 20 minutes, and I’d feel much better. She thought I was crazy! But then a few months later, she told me, “Hey, that power nap thing really works.” And it does–even if you just have 10 minutes. I like to lay on the couch, close my eyes, and tune out the world for a while.
But my other love is reality TV. Yes, I am one of those viewers that many people think are ruining television program options. But I can’t help it. Some of my favorite shows are on TLC; and lately, I’ve been really addicted to Say Yes to the Dress. I have been trying to figure out why, and I guess it’s for a couple reasons. One, I can’t believe how much money some people spend on their wedding dresses. Good Lord, I went to Vegas with 40 people for my wedding and had a reception back in St. Louis, and the total cost was less than some people spend on their wedding dress on that show. Plus, it’s just a happy show. There’s just something about watching a bride find her wedding dress and seeing her face when she knows that’s the one.
So, there’s my 10 minute story. What do you do with 10 minutes of free time? Here are some other things you can do in 10 minutes:
I had an epiphany this week. I realized that I am just as grateful for the things I am not and do not have as I am for the things I am and do have. This may sound confusing, but stay with me here.
This is NOT me! Yeah!
I’m not really a big TV watcher, but occasionally I turn it on. Have you ever watched Inside American Jail on Tru TV? I watched several back to back episodes last Sunday, and I can tell you that I am now so grateful that I am NOT in prison! After 3 hours of watching that I danced around my house and back yard repeatedly chanting, “I’m NOT in prison! I’m free!” Today is Thursday, and I am still grateful that I am NOT in prison! What a fabulous feeling that is!
Here’s another reason how TV helped me feel more grateful. I was watching the Kardashians reality show for a few minutes. (I can’t take any more than a few minutes.) I realized how stupid and miserable those people are (even though I realize most of that show is fake), how meaningless that show is, and (even though the money must be nice) I am not a Kardashian! “I am NOT a Kardashian!” I am a happy me! I do not have camera’s in my house, and do not have a house full of whining people who accomplish nothing every day except for getting into other family members’ pathetic business. I do not have a giant butt. NOT being one of them leaves me with gratitude as rich as winning The Powerball.
Yet another way of raising the gratitude bar is to watch the local news for 30 minutes. There is rarely anything positive on there. But instead of letting it bring me down, I simply put myself in the shoes of the less fortunate people being featured. I was NOT stuck in my car on I-95 when it was shut down for 3 hours one night this week! I was home safe and sound! “I was NOT stuck on the highway for hours!” How liberating.
So you see, you can be just as happy about the things you are NOT as they things you ARE. If you are feeling down, imagine what it is like to be incarcerated in a filthy prison for life. Then when you think about how you are NOT in prison, you have to feel pure joy. It’s just that simple.
Like it or not, reality TV is a significant part of American culture — and Millennial culture, in specific — but many students, parents, and school administrators were not happy when the topic showed up on the SAT test this spring. Students... Read the rest of this post
Author and photographer Melanie Dunea appeared on last night’s episode of Top Chef: All-Stars on the judging panel for a “last supper”-themed challenge. During the meal, Dunea rated food offered by the show’s contestants.
Other special guests included chefs Masharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck, and Michelle Bernstein. Bernstein was one of the fifty chefs featured in her book, The Last Supper.
In the Google Talk video embedded above, Dunea explains how she conceived of the idea for The Last Supper. Her photography has appeared in Anthony Bourdain‘s Medium Raw and fashion designer Carmen Marc Valvo‘s Dressed to Perfection.
Last night Bravo TV premiered the first episode of their new show Platinum Hit. It is a Top Chef/Project Runway-like competition for singer-songwriters. Jewel is the host and former American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi is the head judge. Here's the official season preview:
What I loved most about the first episode (and what I think I'll love most about the series) is that it's almost like a writing competition. Watching the songwriters create their lyrics, their hooks, their melodies, is almost like watching the writing process. I think it's as close to a So You Think You Can Write show as we'll get on television.
And a couple of the first episode songs were just amazing. Ah. Maze. Ing. I'm in awe of the process of putting words to music (my musical intelligence is definitely a weakness) and I hope the season lives up to the first show.