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The semi-coherent ramblings of YA author Micol Ostow
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1. Forwarding address

It's true, people - it's been real, but as I ready for the release of family, it's time for me to move on. 

I'm still awaiting the official re-launch of my author website, but in the meantime, please visit the new blog on micolostow.com. 
There you'll find a schedule of upcoming events, as well as an arc giveaway for family

Come on. You know you want one. 

Hope to see you soon in my swanky new digs!

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2. Thanksgiving leftovers

I was way too busy getting over the flu and stuffing my face (in that order, more or less) to stay on top of electronic communication this holiday, but that doesn't mean I'm not grateful. My life (like my stomach) is way too full. 

So. Giving thanks. Yeah. In no particular order: 

1. My husband. Our 1-year anniversary is coming up this week - what the what? When did that happen? We're off to Paris on Thursday to celebrate. Ooh, la la! More desserts and revelry, surely. 

2. My readers. Every single person who's ever read one of my books, whether you liked it, hated it, or were entirely indifferent. A few weeks ago, my esteemed editor, Elizabeth Law, came to talk to my Media Bistro YA workshop. When she spoke of becoming a publisher she mentioned how overwhelming it was to have achieved a lifelong fantasy of being involved in the process of creating classic books. While I'd deign to refer to any of my own writing as "classic," I absolutely appreciate where she's coming from. Since I've been old enough to read (or be read to), all I've wanted to do is to write, and to spend my life (professional or otherwise), celebrating books. 

3. And speaking of celebrating books: these girls rock. Likewise these folks

4. Oh! I'm thankful for family. (And also: this kind.)

5. And finally, where would I be without my guilty pleasures? "Us Weekly?" Check. Peanut butter m&m's? Check. "Real Housewives" on the DVR? Check, check, and check. 

Thanks, y'all. Hope everyone had a fab holiday. 

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3. Diva-licious!

Happy day after Halloween, all! Are you as chocolate-hungover as I am? Darn those magical elves at Hersheys!

Sugar crash notwithstanding, I'm thrilled to report that today marks the kickoff of my duties as Author Liaison and Diva over at the readergirlz blog. My first post has just gone live, so if, like me, you're a huge fan of Lauren Oliver, swing by and read all about BEFORE I FALL, our featured title! Lauren talks about our theme of the month, resilience, and it should surprise exactly no one that she has only brilliant  things to say. Stop by and join the conversation!

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4. Double fun!

So, I just finished Please Ignore Vera Dietz and can't stop raving about it. I loved this book so hard I just had to feature it over at The Contemps for this week's Spotlight Wednesday. And because AS King is totally made of awesome, she was kind enough to take some time out of her busy touring schedule to answer a few questions for me. Go. Read. Embrace. YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK. Swearsies. 

In other news of authorial amazingness, don't forget to swing by twitter tonight to partake in a readergirlz live chat with the groovetastic Laini Taylor. We're kicking things off at 9pm EST. Just use the hashtag #rgz. 

Two authors. Twice the fabulosity. Lucky me - and you!

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5. Awesome Authors Who Are Not Me

 Today I'm over at the YA Contemps blog, talking about April Henry's latest release, GIRL, STOLEN, for our Spotlight Wednesday feature. It's a great, compulsive read, so definitely check it out (but not unless you've got a chunk of time to devote, because it's hard to put down)!

I'm also very excited to be spreading the word about October's featured author over at readergirlz, Laini Taylor. If you haven't yet read LIPS TOUCH, now's the time - preferably before Laini's upcoming Twitter chat on 10/20! 

So there's my blog post, utterly honest in its title representation - two awesome authors who are not me. Get reading! 

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6. Falling Back (Into Reading)!

Now that it's September, I'm officially back in NYC full-time! Though I miss the quiet of 90 open acres and no one around but my fam, it's nice to be back with friends, and back into the book scene. Last night I attended the B&N Back to School Bast, where I heard readings from new releases and heard a rockin' performance from TIger Beat,  the best (and to my knowledge only) YA-author rock band around. 
Tiger Beat (pictured above) is Daniel Ehrenhaft, Natalie Standiford, Barnabus Miller, and Libba Bray. And if you like their books, you'll love their music. 

Read more about the night and other recent goings-on about the town in my readergirlz NYC host post from earlier today. 
For those of you who don't know, I've been hosting for readergirlz since March 2009, writing up the various literary events that happen in and around my fine city. As of November, I'll be taking on a new role at the site, coordinating content from featured authors. My first author will be Lauren Oliver, whose novel, BEFORE I FALL, blew me away. 

What else? Oh! While I was upstate, I fell MADLY in love with my Kindle. Too bad I only began this affair AFTER I returned from my 5-week honeymoon - it would have been great for traveling. Well, maybe on the next marriage. 
(I kid, I kid...)
But yeah, Kindle. Didn't think I'd be into it, now I can't put it down. Back in January, I joined up with some other authors in a challenge to read
100 books this year. I'm now somewhere in the 80's, and I think I have the convenience of the kindle to thank for that. 

What about the rest of you? Where do you come down on the subject of e-books? 

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7. On Keeping It Real

I know, I know, I've been a derelict blogger. As usual, actual writing has been keeping me busy. I've also been getting webby, both with the readergirlz, whom I've been working with as NYC host for the past few months, and also with an awesome new group of writers who've come together to create...

[insert trumpet and fanfare HERE]


The YA Contemps are a group of 21 young adult authors with contemporary fiction releases coming out in 2011, dedicated to keeping it real. Today is our official blog birthday, so I hope you'll swing by and join the conversation!

The Contemps are passionate about realistic fiction because these are the books that remind us we're not alone in this real world. Our mission is simple - to spotlight contemporary fiction for young adults through blog posts, author events, and (over)sharing from our teen years. Some of us have many books on the shelves, some of us are debuts. Some of us write only contemporary YA, some of us write other things. But the two things we have in common are the books we're bringing to you in the coming twelve months and our love for contemporary YA fiction.

During the coming year, we plan on discussing real life stuff teens are experiencing. We're going to (over)share information from our own teen years and ask some of your favorite authors to do the same. And we plan on highlighting contemporary YA fiction whenever possible, not just our own, but many other great books by other YA authors. It really isn't all about us, I promise.

We're also issuing a challenge to readers of contemporary YA - read 18 of our group's releases, and win yourself a complete set of all 21.

Um, that's a lot of books!

Take The Contemps Challenge!

Visit our blog to join the conversation, and to learn more about who we are and what we're about. Follow us on Twitter. Check us out on Facebook. And most of all - keep reading!

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8. On Caretaking

Via Gawker, a piece about an Australian man, Don Ritchie, who has single-handedly saved 160 people from committing suicide. He lives across the road from "The Gap,"  a well-known cliff where approximately one person per week attempts suicide. But rather than angst about this rather bleak geography -- or, for that matter, move -- Ritchie seems to take great comfort in being able to help others. 
It's fairly awe-inspiring. I wish I could say that in his shoes, I would be equally strong and committed to outreach. 

Now that I'm home full-time writing, my relationship to the outside world has morphed drastically. My interaction with other professionals is limited, and the bulk of my time is spent alone at my computer. I would say that it's isolating, but the truth is that in many ways, my new lifestyle has actually allowed me to deepen my relationships with friends and loved ones. We writers are, in large part, honest, and emotionally available. Though I may not see people in person, our communication via email is richer and more authentic. We support each other, we listen to each other, we offer e-pep talks. And when we need some one-on-one, we arrange it. 

I do wonder what it would be like -- what it will be like -- not to live in New York City, not to be able to dash out the street for a coffee, or a reading, or a walk in the park with a friend. It's possible that living in the heart of the West Village has a lot to do with keeping me connected. But knowing that I have a solid support system, people I can reach out to, people without judgement, is one thing I'd never trade. 

Lifelines are crucial. And people like Don Ritchie remind me that sometimes they come from unexpected places. 

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9. On Being SWEET

Those pennants. Those painted covers. That Peach Pit prototype, the Dairi Burger. When visions of sun-kissed, "perfect size six," FIAT-sharing, identical twin beach babes dance in your head, you know you've stumbled upon Sweet Valley.

Today I was invited to attend a "Sweet Valley Summit" of big-time, fangirl bloggers (of which I am proud to name myself). I approached with little idea of what to expect, and was, upon arrival, instantly ushered into the conference room of my wildest YA fantasies. 

It's no exaggeration to say that the Sweet Valley series was enormously influential on me. I stumbled on Sweet Valley High as a pre-teen and immediately sank into that fictionalized paradise of adolescent wish-fulfillment. At sleepaway camp, my friends and I composed back cover copy of Sweet Valley storylines we wanted to see. Little did I know I was essentially self-training for my first job out of college, editorial assistant at Simon Pulse. Discovering on my first day at work that I'd have a hand in launching the great Francine Pascal's newest series, Fearless, I realized my life as a reader and writer had come full circle, and I could die happy. 
(Though it's better that I'm still here, and still writing.)

I'm not the only one to over-identify with the whitewashed world of SVH. Not by a long shot. Say what you will about anti-feminist messages or ethnic homogeneity (and yes, it's been said, and yes, it's worth repeating), the series aimed to reach readers of "realistic" fiction, and certainly inspired many reluctant readers to libraries and bookshops. It revived -- maybe even reinvented? -- the genre, made it contemporary, and became a cottage industry unto itself. Without Sweet Valley, there'd surely be no Gossip Girl.
*And for all those who decry high-concept, mass-market publishing, I'll repeat my (semi-defensive, I'll admit it) refrain: 
These are the books kids buy themselves. These are the books kids want to read. 

As for what I want to read, it's simple: I can't wait to get my hands on Sweet Valley Confidential, a sequel, standalone novel coming from St. Martin's in March 2011. Today I sat down with bloggers and pub peeps and talked about how to get the buzz going for this novel, which picks up with the Wakefield twins a full ten years since last we left them. 
Jessica and Elizabeth are proper Young Adults. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: 
How is this my job?

The bloggers I met with were uniformly brilliant, hilarious, and amazingly informed on all things Sweet Valley. Sarah at Smart Bitches, Marissa at Sweet Valley Diaries, Lilit at The Gloss, and Emily at 1Bruce1 are going to knock your Sweet Valley socks off as we count down toward publication. St. Martin's is planning all sorts of online goodness, eventually to be highlighted and linked to at their umbrella site for the book. 

And -- oh! -- there will be swag. 
Your eyes aren't deceiving you; that's a "Team Jessica" tee in the photo above, and along with it, a swank, bedazzled SVH compact that will keep me as party-perfect as Jessica herself

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10. On Family


I'm not someone who ever approached my own writing with a Grand Plan in mind.

In fact, the Plan, such as it existed at all, was to be an editor. Which I was, for eight years, and which I loved. 
Because of the nature of the mass-market books that I worked with and in, though, it wasn't uncommon for editors to need last minute rush jobs for trend-driven projects. Hence my recruitment into writing media tie-ins. Would I pen an "American Dreams" novel in 6 weeks, for an advance that amounted to almost a fourth of my yearly salary? 
Of course. Of course I would. 
Other jobs sprang from that one and at the time, it was mainly about keeping a steady flow of freelance work coming. For the first time, I was living in NYC with enough income to actually enjoy myself, and even splurge on a manicure and a pedicure every now and then.

Eventually, though, (and much to my surprise), writing overtook the editing and I had to make a choice.
Since going full-time as a writer in 2007, I've struggled to resist the urge to chase every project that sways my way for fear of the well of opportunity (not to mention cash flow) drying up. The work has --somehow, miraculously -- been steady. I recognize how lucky that is. 

I decided to pursue an MFA in Writing for Children at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and it was there that I learned that luck and a dubious modicum of talent really aren't enough. If you're reading this blog, you're probably familiar with my work, and you must know that even my more "serious" novels are fairly light, commercial fare. Nothing wrong with that -- in fact, I rather enjoy it. And it has served me well. But as my third semester advisor asked me, "what do you want from this program?" Did I come to school only to "coast" (his word) on the skills that had gotten me accepted in the first place?
Well, I guessed I hadn't. 
I was good at what I was good at, he asserted. And he challenged me to try something different. 
He suggested I work with Louise Hawes, another author who had gotten her start ghostwriting for one of the mass-market masters
I pitched some of my story ideas to Louise, but she balked. Her thought was to start with a character rather than a premise, and to allow the story to built itself around him or her. 

So that's what I did. I wrote short stories and, via prompts, engaged in writing exercises. Got to know myself and my writing outside of the confines of a pitch or proposal that was firmly in place.
And that was how Mel came to me. 

She materialized at first like a mirage, slowly taking shape and sharpening as she moved closer to me, in from the horizon. As she crystallized, I knew: her voice, her frame of mind, certain details of her childhood.
But I didn't know where she was just then. 
Until I wrote Junior's story. 

You mightn't guess it to read my RoComs, but I've always been a fan of horror stories and thrillers. And as far as true crime goes, nothing fascinated me quite like the Manson family murders. My father gave me a copy of Helter Skelter when I was eleven and I was instantly enraptured in the gruesome details, all the more unbelievable precisely because they were, after all, true. 

It's not something you'd read in Helter Skelter, but:
There is a story that says that when he was young, Charles Manson's mother tried to sell him for a pitcher of beer.
It's a legend that to my knowledge remains unproven. But from that spark came a s

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11. On Teaching

 Last week, I posted at the readergirlz blog about going to see a former student, Alecia Whitaker, perform her self-penned two-woman show here in New York City. If you happened to catch the post, then you know that I had a blast watching Alecia and her partner, Ellen Hagan, act out vignettes of their own respective rocky paths through puberty. It was extra-fun recognizing pieces from her forthcoming novel, RICKI JO, that we worked on together, and getting a broader perspective on the experiences that have shaped Alecia as a woman, and as a writer. It reminded me all over again how gratifying it can be to teach. 

Currently I run a 12-week YA writing workshop through the media freelancers' hub MediaBistro. This "semester" marks my sixth time (I think!) teaching the class, which -- not to be braggy or anything -- has been selling out for the past year. 

What some people don't know is that I actually began -- and sold -- my novel, EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA, as a student in that very same workshop, back when it was led by the uber-talented and limitlessly energetic Kristen Kemp. I think that makes me one of the classes' certified "success stories." (ALSO braggy! Sorry, guys!)
It may have to do with the fact that MediaBistro.com attracts a high percentage of media professionals, but I'm proud to say that the caliber of writing skill among my students has been consistently, impressively high. Two of my former students have signed with agents, and one just sold her novel (I've no doubt that the other isn't far behind). Meanwhile, Heather Duffy Stone's THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU was snatched up within a week of her submitting it to brilliant Andrew Karre, back in his Flux days. Shani Petroff had so perfected the "elevator pitch" of her tween series, BEDEVILED, that a visiting editor couldn't help asking about it after class -- and later, buying it. 

You get it -- my students kick ass. And because we've had some great successes, I do think that these days, there sometimes is an expectation (or certainly a hope) going in that a student is going to finish his or her manuscript, perfect a pitch, and launch themself to literary fame and fortune. 
That makes perfect sense -- it's entirely natural to write with the hopes that one's manuscript will someday see the light of publication.
Perhaps more meaningful to me, as teacher, is the opportunity to see people grow their own work, and their own writing skills, from creating relationships within the workshop, and offering sharp, sensitive insight to their peers. It's incredibly satisfying watching writers open up and trust each other, and offer each other valuable feedback, which, as we all know, is such a vital part of the writing process. I love hearing that former students have formed critique groups, and I love seeing everyone at author events. Writing can be such a solitary existence that it's reassuring to know that somehow, communities are still being built every day. 

Which brings me to what teaching brings to me, other than the sense of pride and satisfaction described above.
Selfishly, I relish the chance to bring authors, editors, a

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12. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: And the Winners Are...


Well, readers, birthdays both book and author have come and gone. But, don't be sad, because I've saved the best part of the SASS blog bash for last --


We had a fabbity turnout at our SASS-y party, and I'm very pleased to announce our winners. 
If you are a winner, I will message you separately to let you know, but definitely feel free to email me with your contact info (full name and mailing address) at:

micol (at) micolostow (dot com)

as soon as possible, so I can get your lovely goodies out to you ASAP!

So, without further ado:

Day 1: 
laurasmagicday will receive a copy of WESTMINSTER ABBY, and UP OVER DOWN UNDER.

Day 2: 
inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com will receive a copy of WHEN IRISH GUYS ARE SMILING, and SWEDE DREAMS.

Day 3: 
BunnyB will receive a copy of SPAIN OR SHINE, and FRENCH KISSMASS.

Day 4: 
yavampirebooks will receive a copy of HEART AND SALSA, and GIRL OVERBOARD.

Day 5:
Our grand prize winner is lesleysays! Yay, Lesley! Lesley will receive a mondo pack consisting of NOW AND ZEN, THE FINNISH LINE, WESTMINSTER ABBY, UP OVER DOWN UNDER, THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA, and GETTING THE BOOT!

Thanks again, all, for sharing your travel tales with me, and the other amazing SASS authors! Happy post-book-birthday, and many happy returns!

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13. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: DAY FOUR GRAND FINALE - Linda Gerber!

Wow, friendly people! Thanks so much for coming out to celebrate with me this week! It's been quite a whirlwind, what with TWO birthdays and a book birthday thrown in there for good measure!

This was the first time in my 6(ish)-year writing career that I've had a book release on my actual birthdate - what a fun feeling of accomplishment. Publishers: take note. :)

Thanks to everyone who came by and chimed in! 
*NOTE: There's still time to enter to win SASS books! Post a comment on ANY of the entries from this week, and you'll be eligible to win a SASS prize package. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 3rd. So anything posted between now and then is fair game! 

In the meantime, I am thrilled to kick off our grand finale with Linda Gerber, the divine author of two SASS novels: Now and Zen, and The Finnish Line. Linda is also the author of the action-packed DEATH BY...series, and a prolific blogstress in her own right. Her next novel, Trance, releases in October 2010 and looks totally spooky. Can't wait! 

Thanks for joining us today, Linda!
 So, any horror stories from trips you've taken? 

I've been pretty lucky. Most horror stories were just inconveniences that wound up being adventures... such as the time my dear husband left my suitcase sitting on the driveway on our way to Paris, or when my daughter lost her passport enroute to Tokyo via New York... or when the man we hired as our driver/guide in Beijing turned out to have no car of his own and we ended up taking a taxi everywhere - even all the way out to the Great Wall.

Viewing the setbacks as adventures is probably half the battle! :)
What's your number one travel tip? Can't-live-without travel item?

Number one tip: Keep an open mind and try to experience what's unique about an area. Eat the food, climb the climb, dance the dance. If you want everything the same as it is at home, why are you traveling?
Can't-live-without travel item: Books! I will have anxiety attacks if I finish the book I'm reading and we're still on the road. I must find a bookstore immediately. Preferably one with English titles...

I'm right there with you. Do you have any souvenirs from travel that have special meaning or importance to you?

While we were in Tokyo, I found a signed, limited-edition print featuring the stone Zen garden at the Ryōan-ji Temple in Kyoto, where a pivotal scene from my first SASS book, NOW AND ZEN was set.

That's so exciting! Noah and I definitely had particular fun visiting some of the places in Australia that our character visits in
UODU. So, What's your dream vacation spot -- the one place you're dying to visit, and why?

There are so many places I want to see so I have dozens of dream vacation spots!
Tops on the list for forever has always been Greece. I love those travel posters showing the whitewashed buildings

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14. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: DAY FOUR - Suzanne Nelson!

Happy happy blog bashing, people! Today I'm feeling especially chipper, as it's my birthday, and I've consumed nothing but processed sugar products for essentially the past 24 hours. Let's see how long we can keep that up (and how chipper I remain in the...er, process)!

Today we're schmoozing about all things travelicious with Suzanne Nelson, author of Heart and Salsa, and The Sound of Munich. 

*A little bit of behind-the-scenes trivia for you re: Suzanne - we worked at Penguin Young Readers in separate divisions a bunch of years ago, and started at almost the same time. We were in the same computer orientation session, which she may not remember, but which I can't forget, as Suzanne was way quicker on the uptake than yours truly. 

True story. You heard it here first. 
But on to more sassy, scandalous vignettes, straight from Suzanne herself: 

Suzanne Nelson has written six young adult novels, including two SASS novels: The Sound of Munich and Heart and Salsa. She loves to travel, especially internationally. She believes you can never have too many stamps on your passport, read too many books, or eat too much cheesecake. She lives with her family in New Jersey.

Words to live by, Suzanne! I'll have to look into getting my hands on some cheesecake today. So, what's the most adventurous/out of character thing you've ever done while traveling?

Baiting 35-foot Great White Sharks off the coast of Capetown, South Africa, and trying to get away from a charging bull elephant in an open-air jeep while on safari in South Africa. Both were unforgettable experiences.

Holy cow! And here I thought the wallabies in Australia were scary. Do you have a horror story from a trip you've taken?

Once I was stranded in an airport for fourteen hours overnight. It was pretty horrific (and disgusting!) having to sleep on the floor of the airport terminal, but I survived to tell the tale.

Ick. That definitely belongs in a book some day.  What's your number one travel tip?

Be brave and flexible. If you miss a train or get off at the wrong station...so what? Grab some exotic food and drink, relax, and explore! Leave yourself open to adventure and spontaneity. Sometimes the best parts of the vacation are the biggest surprises! Can't-live-without travel item?

I am neither brave NOR flexible. Oy. Do you have any souvenirs from travel that have special meaning or importance to you?

When I backpacked through Europe, I kept all of my train stubs from all the countries and cities I visited. Everytime I look at them, it brings back all my memories of the trip. My travel journals are some of my most treasured souvenirs too, because all the emotions and adventures I had are there in writing, so I'll never forget.

I keep things like ticket stubs, too, and even though I'm not crafty AT ALL, I like to put together travel scrapbooks of favorite trips. What's your dream vacation spot -- the one place you're dying to visit, and why?

Two places: Greece and Egypt. I'd love to island hop in Greece and see the pyramids in Egypt. There's so much incredible history in both of those countries. And when I go, I'm definitely going with my one and only paramour. He's the only one I'd go for a moonlight swim in the Mediterranean with!

A moonlight swim in the Mediterranean...sigh. That sounds divine. And it definitely ALSO sounds like another scene from a potential book. SASS may be over, Suzanne

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15. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: DAY THREE - Michelle Jellen!

Hi guys, and welcome to DAY THREE of the week-long SASS super-special release party! Today's installment is brought to you by Michelle Jellen, author of Spain or Shine. 

But first, here's a snapshot of a hot-off-the-press finished copy of Up Over Down Under! The package of shiny, shiny books arrived on my doorstep just a few minutes ago. Perfect timing, huh?

Well hello, pretty book! How are you today? 

But we can't linger -- we have a party to attend, after all! So, let's hear what Michelle has to say about the perils and perks of travel: 

I’m a creature of habit. I like my routine. I start every day with an English muffin smothered in peanut butter and a sliced orange. And I end every evening by reading a chapter of a novel in the bathtub. It may sound predictable. Boring, even? But, to steal a line from Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, I like it how I like it.

This is why I love and also why I sometimes hate to travel. It shakes up my routine, gets me out of my comfort zone. Which can be, well, uncomfortable. But, it’s also a good reminder of how much there is in the world that I have left to experience. I love my English muffin breakfast. But, a lifetime of that could drive even the most routine-entrenched person a little Cuckoo.

The thing I love about travel is the same thing I love about reading and writing. You have the chance to get out of your life and into another life. A sort of parallel, almost-life. You get the chance to imagine who you might have been, or might be, in another place. What kind of person would I be if I lived in Paris or London? Would I eat the same exact breakfast every morning? Probably. But, it might be a croissant or that traditional English breakfast that has beans, boiled tomatoes, sausage and all kinds of other other strange, non-breakfasty things. Okay, I probably wouldn’t have an English breakfast every morning. But, maybe I’d have tea instead of coffee.

Because I’m such a creature of habit, I have some rules for getting the most out of my trips. Well, they’re really more like guidelines. Guidelines for finding these alternate selves, these people I might have been or might secretly be somewhere deep down inside.

Eat something unusual. Not just weird. Although, weird is good. Weird will shake things up. Something kind of out there may open you up to a love you never knew. Some pretty ugly things can taste pretty good. That’s how I found out—in Santa Cruz—that I absolutely love oysters, and also how I found out—in Boston—that I absolutely hate sea urchin. But, it’s more than just being adventurous. It’s also about letting yourself indulge a little, throw all your everyday food rules away. You cannot fully experience Florence without a cup of pistachio gelato. And, a trip to New Orleans just wouldn’t be complete without sampling the powdered sugar-dusted beignets at Café du Monde. Forget about fat and calories. Forget about how bad a chocolate croissant might be for your heart, your skin, your thighs. It’s good for your soul.

Lose the map. I hate getting lost. I really hate coming to a fork in the road and not knowing which

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16. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: DAY TWO - Suzanne Supplee!

Thanks again to everyone who partied with us yesterday! I'm thrilled to be chatting about all things SASSY today with Suzanne Supplee, author of When Irish Guys Are Smiling
(*Side note - how adorable are the SASS titles? Seriously.)

I had the chance to visit Ireland when I was studying abroad during college, but it's been...oh, quite some time since I've been back! This book is definitely going on my TBR pile, stat, so that I can visit by proxy.

So, let's get to it!

Q: What's the most adventurous/out of character thing you've ever done while traveling?

A: I drove all over Ireland by myself! This doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but it was huge for me back then. I was very young. I’d never traveled abroad, much less driven on the “wrong” side of the road. It was so much fun, though, all those sheep and stone cottages and hills and winding roads.

Q: That totally sounds like a big deal! Let's just say I'm not exactly a fearless - or skilled - driver myself. So, do you have any (other) travel horror stories?

A: I was extremely stupid while visiting Indonesia many years ago. Uh, hello, it’s south of the equator, and guess who did not bother with sunscreen? Yes, yours truly. If I end up a prune-like, leather handbag-ish old lady, you’ll know why.

Q: Ouch! I've been there. So, obviously, your can't-live-without travel item would be...

A: ...Sunscreen!

And, I’m a writer, so I need my journal and at least one great novel, preferably in paperback, maybe two. Oh, and also a highlighter because I am that nerdy when I read.

Q: Girl after my own heart. You won't see me with a kindle anytime soon. Do you have any souvenirs from travel that have special meaning or importance to you?

A: While visiting Ireland I bought this beautiful pair of wool mittens; all three of my daughters have worn them at some point. They are dirty now and covered in holes and too small, but I will never get rid of them.

Q: So sweet! Your mittens are kind of like the Traveling Pants. Ha! Have you tried any particularly exotic foods while traveling?

A: My favorite food while visiting Ireland was Irish butter. Not exactly exotic, I know, but it’s so sweet and delicious, and it screams green pastures and rain and friendly people. To have a giant glob of it on a hunk of freshly baked bread—my idea of heaven.

Q: Yum! I'll take that over Noah Harlan's choice (cubed cow's blood, for those who weren't with us yesterday) ANY day. So, what's your dream vacation spot - the one place you're dying to visit, and why?

A: Paris, please. It’s ridiculous that I’ve never been. Seriously ridiculous. I really want to go with my oldest daughter, not that I wouldn’t love to see Paris with my other two daughters or my husband, mind you. But my youngest daughters are eight and ten, not quite old enough to truly appreciate the extravagance of such a trip, and my husband has already been to Paris. Cassie and I would be seeing it together for the first time, and somehow that seems like a magical mother-daughter moment, one we would never forget.


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17. SASS Super Special Blog Bash: DAY ONE - Noah Harlan!

Hello all, and welcome to the week-long SASS Super Special Blog Bash! 
In celebration of the final installment in the Students Across the Seven Seas series, double-edition UP OVER DOWN UNDER, I'll be running interviews with other SASS authors all week long! Comment on any of the blog posts to be entered to win books from the SASS series!

Today we're chatting with  Noah Harlan, who happens to be enjoying a special double-edition celebration of his own: today's his birthday!
In addition to being my co-author, Noah is also my husband (funny how that worked out, huh?). Noah spent a year living in Australia when he was in college, and so when my SASS editor told me that her publishing peeps were interested in a super-special SASS story set half in Australia, a collaboration seemed to be the next logical step.

In UP OVER DOWN UNDER, eco-warrior and outdoorsy Melbourne girl Billie swaps places with buttoned-up politician's daughter Eliza. As Eliza tries to get in touch with her inner wild child down under, Billie learns the ins and outs of life on Capitol Hill. Noah and I took turns writing from Eliza and Billie's point of view. We hope you'll enjoy the results!

When we started writing our book, we weren't yet engaged, but a funny side note is this: we were married in December, and went to Australia this February for our honeymoon! That's us above, relaxing in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. G'day, indeed!

I'm going to give the floor to Noah. Take it away, birthday boy!

Q: What's the most adventurous thing you've ever done while traveling? 
A: I've had some pretty extreme adventures while traveling, but the MOST adventurous thing? That would have to be when I was nineteen and doing a semester in Africa. We spent a month hiking on Mt. Kenya. At 10:30pm on the night we were going to summit, a small group of us decided to head for the peak on our own. It was a full moon, the clouds were thousands of feet below us, and the air was extremely thin and bitter and cold. I thought for a moment about not going, but then realized that this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. We set out and it took just under 90 minutes to head up. A few moments before midnight, we summited, and spent about half an hour up there watching all of Africa under a full moon from 16,000 feet above the equator. We then headed back down. 

The next morning, with the rest of our expedition, we headed back up -- far more tired but still exhilarated. 

Q: That sounds incredible - and exhausting! Any travel horror stories?
A: I do have one, but it involves broken laws, corrupt police and a mad sprinting leap onto a moving ferry. That's all I can say about that...

Q: Say no more. So, what's your number one travel tip? 

Get off the beaten path! You have to find the places others aren't going to find something wondrous.

Q: Speaking of wondrous things: any souvenirs from travel that have special meaning or importance to you?

I used to keep trinkets, but in an effort to trim down my life (and make room for two of us in one space) I have gotten rid of a lot of them. I realized, as time passed, that the trinkets were just tokens to keep my memories alive, and I could actually keep those memories by looking at photos and staying in touch with friends I've met along the way.

Q: Keeping in touch is probably more rewarding than sitting at home alone with your trinkets, too! Have you tried any particularly exotic foods while traveling?

You bet! Street meat in Zanzibar. Pho soup with cubed cow's blood in Vietnam. Kangaroo steaks & ostrich omelettes in Australia.

Q: Um, wow. And...ew? I a

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18. A super-special send-off!

Yes, folks, it's true: the adorable Puffin Students Across the Seven Seas (SASS) series is going out with a bang with the release of a double-edition a week from today!

Also true: that super-special happens to be co-written by moi. 
Just sayin'.

To celebrate the series--and its latest installment--in style, I'm hosting a blog bash right here, all next week!

Check in from Monday, 4/26 through Friday, 4/30, to read Q&A's with other awesome SASS authors! Post a comment on any of the interviews and be entered to win books from the SASS series! 

Easy -- and fun! 

Here's our schedule of fabbity guest appearances:

Monday, 4/26: 
Noah Harlan
(It just happens to be his birthday that day, so it'll be a double-celebration!)

Tuesday, 4/27: 
Suzanne Supplee

Wednesday, 4/28:
Michelle Jellen

Thursday, 4/29*:
Suzanne Nelson

*(MY birthday! Woo hoo! Maybe there will be some extra-spectacular prizes that day? I can do that, you know, because I am the boss on my birthday.)

Friday, 4/30:
Linda Gerber

Amazing line-up, right? 
In summation:
double-edition, double birthdays

Hope you'll join us!

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19. My bookshelf, myself

Over at the Simon Pulse Ro Com blog today, I blab a little bit about what I've been reading lately. 
(FYI for those of you DYING of curiosity, I like to force myself to read "grown up books" when I'm on vacay.)

How about YOU?

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20. A Super SASS-y Party!

 As I mentioned the other day, April 29th marks the release date of my latest collaboration with my husband/occasional co-author, Noah Harlan!

Our forthcoming novel, UP OVER DOWN UNDER, is a super special in the SASS (Students Across the Seven Seas) series from Puffin/Speak. To celebrate, we'll be hosting a blog bash RIGHT HERE for the entire week of April 26th!

What that means for you: 
Every day from April 26th-April 30th, you can swing by this blog to read interviews with fellow SASS-y authors Linda Gerber, Suzanne Nelson, Michelle Jellen, and Suzanne Supplee! Comment on any of their posts and you're automatically entered to win copies of books from the SASS library, including a copy of the super-edition, natch! 
(Check the books out in the above pic -- aren't they cute all lined up in a row? Don't you just want to collect and read them all? Miss Jones thinks you should!)

These uber-sassy authoresses have lots to say on the subject of travel, trekking, and even the occasional travails of on-the-road romantic trauma! 

Tell your friends! Read our books! And definitely come party with us! 

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21. We rocked the drop!

Today was a gorgeous day in New York City, which meant that the hubs and I were all the more excited to get outside and rock the drop!
We decided to give away an ARC of our forthcoming SASS super-special, UP OVER DOWN UNDER, which releases on my birthday, April 29th!

(Side note: the obvious implication here is that if you buy a copy on release day, that's almost like a birthday pressie for me!)

If you've ever wondered what it's like to write a novel with one's significant other, suffice it to say, we turned the revises in a few months before the wedding, and somehow still managed to make it down the altar. 
I for one am especially excited about this book, as the first novel in the SASS series, WESTMINSTER ABBY, was also one of the first novels I ever wrote and published under my own name. Yay!

Here's a quick video clip of our adventure. Miss Jones was all too happy to help us on our not-so-covert mission (and all tricked out in her camo, yet). Enjoy! And let me know if YOU rocked the drop today, too!

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22. Will YOU Rock the Drop?

Tomorrow, April 15th, Operation Teen Book Drop will deliver 10,000 new books to teens on native reservations and tribal lands, a fabulous event that coincides with Support Teen Literature Day
The Drop is coordinated by the bookish divas over at readergirlz, YALSA, GuysLitWire, and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native children.

So, what can YOU do to help rock the drop? 
Oh my goodness -- so many things:

1. Visit GuysLitWire and check out the wish list they've created -- 750 books that supporters can buy from Powells.com. Purchases will be sent directly to one of two tribal school libraries, Ojo Encino Day School or Alchesay High School. 

2. If you are a teen author, download a schmancy bookplate from the readergirlz site and paste it into a copy of one of your books. Then, drop your book in a public location tomorrow for some lucky reader to find! Over 100 young adult authors have already pledged to participate in this giveaway -- why not join them? 

3. If you are a teen reader (or a fan of teen lit of any age), feel free to drop a copy of a favorite book in a public place as well! And visit the readergirlz site for downloadable bookmarks, widgets, and more fun stuff!

However you choose to participate, don't forget to let us know all about it on Facebook, Twitter, or your personal blog or website. The divine Cynthia Leitich Smith has posted a comprehensive piece about the event on her blog, Cynsations, and you can also watch the trailer here.

Some of you already know how much I like to rock. So come on, people -- don't leave me hanging!  

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23. NICE to see you!

Do you know my good friend, the talented and hilarious author Jessica Leader?
If not, you should --and you will soon! Her new book, NICE AND MEAN, releases in June and I for one can't wait! 

Jessica is currently away on vacation -- lucky sucker -- and has FOOLISHLY given the keys to her kingdom (that is, her blog) to a few author friends in her absence. She has asked us to post about instances of niceness, or meanness. 
I have chosen to regale readers with the tale of When My Boss Was Nice To Me, Or: How I Became a Real Writer. 
Go! Visit! Comment! Enjoy!

(Seriously. Why are you still here? Go!)

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24. reader girl

In so many senses of the term!

I've been babbling about this for days, now, but the zillionth time is the charm, so here goes: 

I was recently invited by the fabulous divas over at readergirlz to post for them as their NYC host!
What this means is that once a month(ish), I'll be sending them the deats on all of the ah-MAH-zingly bookish events going down in the greater NYC area. You can check out my March write-up just by clicking the link!

The eagle-eyed among you may note that indeed, yours truly has an event coming up tomorrow: The Metuchen, NJ public library will be dedicating their newly-remodeled teen section, and I'll be reading, presenting, and partying with their crew from 2pm until the cake is gone. Brother Dave will be joining me, and I'm guessing that as usual, we'll be rocking out in the proverbial sense of the term.

If you're local, I hope you'll come join us -- and I hope you'll keep me looped in on NYC-and-thereabouts events as they arise! I'm determined to live up to my title as hostess (potentially with the mostest?)!

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25. On Retreating

Currently I'm reading The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Check out that cover. Exquisite. A beautiful cover for a beautiful book. 
 Jandy's book is available now, but I was lucky enough to snag an ARC at ALA Midwinter. The only reason I haven't finished it yet is that I had to leave it behind when I was honeymooning - I knew that I'd tear through it too quickly to make it worth the added weight in my suitcase. 

Now that I'm back, though, I'm burning through the pages in record time. Jandy's novel is a book about grief that brims with life, that takes a dark, despairing event and infuses it with color and feeling. I was blown away by the writing when I first heard Jandy read from her manuscript while we were still at school, and the novel does not disappoint. When waxing rhapsodic about it on Facebook one afternoon, I struck up a deal with another fellow alumn: I'd send the ARC to her when I was finished (it's coming, Em!), and it would become the VCFA version of the Traveling Pants.

Jandy's book has earned a lot of (well-deserved) buzz, and the enthusiasm she has found from her VCFA colleagues is as inspiring, to me, as her book itself is. I often find that as I writer, it's easy to spend one's time comparing your own "success" to that of other writers, feeling inadequate, or, at worst, worrying that writing is a zero-sum game; that one person's success is directly linked to another's. We are, after all, for the most part, an emotional internal bunch, we writers. 

No? Just me, then? Okay.
Regardless, what I perhaps appreciate most about my decision to pursue my MFA degree is the nurturing--and inspiring--community that I've discovered at VCFA. I am, in fact, the type of writer who believes in the power of objects, locations, routines. I like to write in the same quiet corner of my apartment, and when I arrive somewhere new, the first thing I do (no lie) is scope it out for a proper writing space. I've cobbled together workspaces in the most unlikely of far-flung locations. 

Vermont, though, is one enormous work space, one vast font of inspiration. It was for that reason that I decided to register for alumn Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan's Seventh Annual Novel Writing Retreat this past weekend. 

*Note: I am a solitary person, particularly when in writing mode. Though I can be outgoing at parties and work functions, most of these events are contained, known quantities that are (mostly) on my own terms. I am *not* someone who bonds instantly with others, who can spend hours swapping pages and chit-chatting away like a rediscovered sleepaway camper. 
I am, in short, the least likely candidate for a low-residency MFA program, much less a weekend "writer's retreat." 

Why did I go, then? 
I went to VCFA because I wanted an MFA. Plain and simple. It was a personal goal thing, and it dovetailed nicely with the flexible schedule that fell into my lap when I decided to write full-time. I'll be honest: I wasn't much concerned with the externalities of the program - the residencies, I felt, were a necessary evil. Ten days of living, sleeping, eating, breathing, studying, and who knew what else with a cluster of strangers all bursting with camaraderie? 
Well, I'd deal. 

It's not that I am shy, per se, but more that I am the type who really needs to get the lay of the land before I can jump in. And so I did. I'm certain fellow classmates found me unf

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