Thursday, May 27, 2010


Another great day at BEA. A bit of a slower afternoon for me. I did a lot of wandering on my own and I sat at two excellent panels. The Young Adult Editor's Buzz was a lot of fun, certainly very different than the Adult Editor's Buzz the day before. First of all, the authors were all female. As opposed to a mostly male panel the day before. Today, all of the author's protagonists were female and all of their novels dealt with female issues. As opposed to only one book that highlighted a woman's story the day before. Today, there was only one contemporary novel and the rest were fantasy based, paranormal, or dystopian. As opposed to a perfect split between non-fiction and literary fiction the day before. So, some pretty major differences between what's 'buzzworthy' in the adult and young adult markets...

I also sat at the Author's Reading Club Panel, mainly because Pat Conroy was discussing "My Life in Books" a forthcoming book about his reading life. I read nearly everything that Pat Conroy wrote when I was fifteen years old. Looking back, I think that's a bit strange and I don't have much recollection about what drew me to his books at that age. As much as I don't like to admit this, I do not have a good memory when it comes to books. I read them and the good ones amaze me and the feeling I get from them stays with me forever. However, the plot... the characters...the themes, they often leave me. But in my heart, I know that Pat Conroy is a great influence. And, I know this is a bit backwards, but I am excited to go back and re-read and understand why.

After growing a bit nostalgic about Pat Conroy (and angry with myself for my poor memory), I made my way back to the Autographing Area to get
Beth Kephart's ARC of Dangerous Neighbors. I can not tell you how happy I was to meet her! I've been following her blog and reading her books with great interest the past few months. I don't understand vampires and werewolves. Fairies and dragons leave me a bit confused. But I know that Beth Kephart writes the kind of stories I love and understand. She writes for the kind of girl I was back in high school. Well, maybe that's not true. She more likely writes for the girl I am still. She is just as kind and thoughtful in person as she is in her writing and I hope we cross paths again.

So yesterday was a whirlwind and today I was a bit of a wanderer. BEA was certainly a treat. Now, I return tomorrow to reality. Back to the cubicle. It will be strange and a little sad not to be in a room full of people who desperately love books.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So. Many. Books.

So, I attended BEA today. I am used to navigating the Javits Center for the International Toy Fair, so I know how overwhelming it can be. Aisles and aisles of exhibitors, so many colors poking at you screaming 'lookee here', people everywhere, and shwag galore.

Perhaps, rather foolishly, I did not quite realize how many books there would be. I know, I know, what did I think Book Expo meant? It just did not occur to me that, literally, everywhere I might turn, someone would hand me a book. And then, the author, ya know, the same one on the book jacket? would be smiling up at me and offering to sign it. I'm not sure what I thought 'Autographing Area' and 'In Booth Signing' meant, but bear with me people, I'm a newbie.

So, I'm going to re-cap the day for you 3rd person style because it did feel like an out-of-body experience. I felt like I didn't necessarily belong there and, yet, I couldn't imagine any other place I belonged.

1. Melissa stands in awe and looks at all the books.

2. Melissa stands a little bit longer shaking her head in sheer amazement and looks at all the books.

3. Melissa RUNS. TO. GET. THE. BOOKS.

4. Melissa asks Brunonia Barry if she can take a picture of her. Brunonia Barry obliges.

5. Melissa meets a debut author. Debut Author, completely out of the blue, asks Melissa if she's a writer. Melissa nods stupidly. Debut Author, completely out of the blue, asks Melissa if she is looking for an agent. Melissa nods stupidly. Debut Author points to someone and says, "See that man in the glasses. He's my agent. Go talk to him." Melissa is convinced Debut Author is the good witch of the North. (No, really, it was creepy.)

6. Melissa, a new disciple of the good witch, breathes deeply, gives herself a pep talk, and braves talking to Debut Author's agent. Melissa shamelessly plugs her novel and experiences her first ever in-person pitch. The whole thing was amazing. Melissa walks away emotionally spent. She considers taking a nap.

7. Melissa decides there are too many books that people are simply giving away to take a nap.

8. Melissa tells the people at American Girl she wants to write for them. The people at American Girl look at Melissa veeery strangely.

9. Melissa tools around with the fabulous Trish from Hey Lady, Whatcha Reading? who apparently knows everyone at BEA and convinces her to get even more books than she already planned.

10. Melissa eats an overpriced salad in the cafeteria.

11. Melissa gets an ARC of Lauren Oliver's new book and mwahahahahaha's her way to the downtown stage for an author panel.

12. Melissa's feet hurt. She listens to the Authors of the Editor's Buzz panel. And falls head over heels in love with Emma Donaghue, Jonathan Evison, and Anne Fortier.

13. Melissa rushes to get Emma Donaghue's book "Room" and tells Emma Donaghue she is the only author who signs in different color pens (a different color for every book). Emma Donaghue looks at Melissa veeery strangely.

14. Melissa realizes she has a crapload of signed books to read and/or give-away to the readers of this blog. I know! There are 29 of you! That's way better than the 2 I had last year.

15. Melissa wonders how she will ever carry said books across town and over another borough to Brooklyn and decides it is time to leave.

16. Melissa is very sorry she is bragging about all the fabulous people she met today. But she promises she will give away many if not all of these books to you guys because she still can't believe just how many books there are at a Book Expo...

Monday, May 24, 2010

And A Bijon Frise

Since getting this crazy idea in my head that I'm going to publish a book, there are three pages in every book that I pay close attention to:

The Dedication page.

The Acknowledgements page.

And the Author Bio.

Whenever I read these pages, it grounds me. It tells me that publishing a book actually happens to people. Real people. Who write. They like to dedicate their books to Moms, Dads, and true loves. And they have editors, agents, publishers, friends, and other mysterious strangers they like to acknowledge.

But, when it comes to the Author Bio, I'm always a little bit underwhelmed (a word I would like to mock myself for using. What exactly does it mean to be whelmed?) It most often states that the author lives somewhere and proceeds to list all of the mammals in their home. Sally Tutu lives in Denver with her husband, daughter, and a German Shepherd.

It all seems far too normal. I think it would be funny if people really peeled back the veil on that one. Sally Tutu lives with a husband too self-involved to attend her book signings, a daughter from a previous marriage who resents her, and a Bijon Frise who once took a dump on her bed pillow.

Photo Credit: Arou

Friday, May 21, 2010

Someone Else's Story

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about who a story truly belongs to. When you tell people you are a writer, people often say they have a story for you. That they are willing to give it to you. It becomes an offering and you must care for it as if it were yours.

Characters themselves take ownership. We feel a sense of duty to tell their story, a story that slowly becomes ours.

In my novel, Spared, my main character struggles with ownership of stories. She struggles to take responsibility of a story she wrote for someone else. She learns that a story she once told someone is no longer hers. She wonders about the stories she does not know, the ones a non-verbal sister can not tell.

And, I always think of the haunting song, "Someone Else's Story" from the musical "Chess" about a woman who stands outside of her own life. Who has trouble accepting her own story. (For a beautiful rendition, check out the video below)

I am not sure you can ever pinpoint who a story truly belongs to. A writer. A character. A reader. I just like this idea of sharing ownership. This is her story. His story. Mine. I like that very much...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Blog, A Book, and A Contest

I've been meaning to tell you all about a blog I really like and a contest that made my eyes bug out of my head.

First: Allison Winn Scotch's blog Ask Allison. It is a wealth of information about the publishing industry from a writer's point of view. She covers everything you could ever want to know. And I have learned a lot from her blog.

Second: this upcoming contest. A guaranteed query and 1st chapter read by her agent, Elisabeth Weed. No worries about getting lost in slush. No feelings of if only they would read that first chapter, I know they would want my book! If you write adult fiction, particularly women's fiction, and you have a completed manuscript and you're ready to query, you are positively loony if you don't run out and buy Allison's new book The One That I Want and become eligible to enter this contest. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


So, yesterday I cracked open the WIP again. Once I began the agent search, I tucked it aside and swore not to touch it. It was complete. It had been through 4 drafts, many ugly critiques. It was finished.

But I had a moment... a very persistent moment...a lingering moment. A very whiny, nagging, annoying thought. Chapters 3 and 4 need to be reversed. I tried to push it aside. But last night, it said: Immediately, Melissa. Sit the eff down.

So that's how it went. Back to the WIP reversing two chapters that probably never needed to be reversed.

So, how do you feel about this whole idea of 'finishing'? Is it ever really finished? Even when it's published, printed and on the shelf, can you actually open it up and say: yepper do, that's done! I wonder...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I decided at the last minute to attend Book Expo America this year. I have heard it is not necessarily a great conference for aspiring writers. But I remember sitting in my cubicle last year thinking that there were all kinds of wonderful books and all the people who love and write them mere minutes away. I also figured if babs is going, then so should I.

To my delight, I discovered that there are literary agencies who brave the scene. And one or two of these are agencies I had already planned on querying. I also discovered that there will be some authors there who I would very much like to meet. And, last year, I had the great pleasure of meeting a lot of book bloggers who will be attending again this year.

I must tell you, conferences freak me out. I'd much prefer to meet all of you at my favorite Italian restaurant over a bottle of wine, instead of under the harsh lights of the Javits Center as I desperately try and think of something to say and fail. But I'm going to brave this thing. In the name of books.

So, are you going? If so, I'd love to meet you. Please e-mail me at thistooblog (at) gmail (dot) com. I also live in New York City so feel free to ask me any questions about the area if you feel so inclined.

Monday, May 10, 2010

In Which My Worlds Collide

I think this has already been making its rounds through the publishing blogs. But there's no better way to represent my life than this video.

Here's why:

1. I make toys for a living (no, really, I do...)
2. I was the girl chewing my hair in the back of the classroom reading Jane Eyre.

Therefore, this is NOTHING SHORT OF AWESOME.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What About the Boys?

Guess what?! My very first guest post is up at Media Macaroni. If you write children's literature, work in children's media (or aspire to) her blog is a fantastic spot to learn about all the media out there for infants to tweens. And, ya'll know I write about women and girls like it's nobody's business. So, in a surprise twist, my blog post is about a population I am concerned about in the kid-litosphere and beyond: boys. Check it out!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Second Chances

As I slooowly begin the agent search (seriously, I'm a trepid turtle these days), I've been thinking a lot about second chances. We've all heard it. You only get a first impression with an agent. That query letter has to be perfect. That manuscript has to be flawless. If they are anything less, you've missed your one, golden chance.

I struggle with this. I am a writer and producer. My job is to, literally, make things happen. From start to finish, it is my job to make things faster, better, stronger. And along the way, if there's a problem, it is my job to fix it. What? You don't like this direction? This isn't working for you? No problem. I can fix it. I can make it work for you.

It doesn't seem that the publishing industry works this way. Thanks-but-no-thanks is an everyday occurrence. There is no time to sit and say, "Well, how can I make this work for you? I am willing. I am able." It's more like an irritated mother, yanking her child's arm. "No. Means. No." There are no second chances.

But, as I've said, I am a producer. I make things happen. It is always my job to say yes. An eternal optimist. An eternal problem solver. And I know that this 'no second chances' thing, it doesn't really work like that.

If an agent rejects your work, they are the ones who never get a second chance. You are the one with endless opportunity. To be faster, better, stronger.
And, yes, that's my tough make-it-happen face.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Begin to begin

I once wrote something a long time ago and I used the line "She was desirous of everything and, yet, nothing at all." It's kind of a clunky line, but I think of it every now and then. Because it's a line that applies to most of my characters. They are often quite restless and they want so many things they find themselves standing still.

Maybe most of my characters feel that way because I feel that way a lot of the time.

Right now, I want a lot of things out of life. Most of them have to do with my writing. I want a literary agent. And I want a book deal. And I want to see the book I worked on for so many years mean something to somebody. I want to finish another novel. And I want to re-focus my career so that I will always sit at a desk with a wide open window and lots of blue sky. A desk where I define the time of day that I sit at it. A desk that's really mine. And I don't want my work to sit in a drawer anymore. There are too many stories, too many plays, too many scenes, too many characters that are tired of being tucked away.

But I am also afraid that nobody wants to see any of it. That by putting myself out there I've actually set myself up for failure. I'm afraid that there is no desk to call my own. Because how do you even begin to begin again?

It seems that if you are someone who wants a lot of things, you run the risk of walking away empty. That the more you ask for, the more you may not receive. It can be scary to want things because, well, what happens if you don't get them? Do you just find new things to want? Or do these desires linger? Do they stay?

My experience has told me that they stay. That they stay whether you move forward or you stand still. But the more I make room for them and allow them to grow, the more I wish they would just go away.

Have you ever wanted a lot of things in your life?

Have you ever wanted so many things you don't even know where to begin?