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Monday, November 29, 2010

Creativity--Pass It On!

When I was younger, I remember we used to play a game at Girl Scouts (yes, don’t laugh, I was in the Girl Scouts! And I always sold a ton of cookies) where we would “pass the pump”: we would all stand in a circle, holding hands with our eyes closed, and when you felt someone squeeze your left hand, you would squeeze the person’s hand on your right. I don’t know exactly what the point of this game was, although it does prove how easily entertained we were in those days…

But I was reminded of those halcyon years of my youth recently by the lovely Miss Ella, fabulous administrator of my very own fan blog (see her pic, below)!

Ella sent me artwork she had done that was inspired by a specific scene from my forthcoming book Delirium. Please check it out here. I was so moved, both by the rawness and expressiveness of her art, and also by the very fact of having served as inspiration for someone else’s creativity. I wrote a book; she made art; perhaps one of you lovely people will be inspired by her art to do something creative, like write a story, or a song, or bake some cookies, or paint a picture…

And so we continue to pass the pump.

I draw inspiration all the time from books I read, and art shows I see, and music I listen to. Creativity is the world’s energy: it fuels itself, and leaves nothing but positive emissions. Now if only we could power our cars with it…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Most Delicious Writing Challenge Yet!

Hello all...

On the eve of one of the most venerated--and scrumptious--annual american holidays, and in light of my crazy food-tour of Japan, I would like to present to you the newest and yummiest writing challenge yet! Without further ado...

Write 250-300 words of a scene that PROMINENTLY FEATURES FOOD. It doesn't have to be a family dinner table scene, although it certainly could be (bonus to you if the dinner devolves into a food fight). Maybe the scene involves a boy giving a girl chocolate-covered-peanuts for Valentine's Day...little knowing that she's deathly allergic to peanuts! Maybe it involves braces, broccoli, and a terrible first kiss. As always, let your imagination run wild! But some kind of food must be central and integral to the action.

One of the lovely writers who contributes will receive a special edible chocolate treat from NYC, to help jump-start the holiday season!

Until then...


xo and gobble gobble...


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Domo arigato, Japan!

Did you miss me?? I’m back in the good US of A (although I won’t actually be home for a while—tonight I stay in Newark, NJ, and tomorrow I’m off for the NCTE/ALAN conference in sunny Orlando!) and already missing the splendor and stateliness—and, of course, the FOOD—of Japan. My trip was too wonderful and expansive to be described in anything close to concise terms, so I will prove traitorous to the society of writers and follow the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There will be 4,000 words below…enough for a chapters’ worth!

My experience in Japan, in a place totally foreign to me in every way (I had never been farther east than Budapest) has inspired me to generate a NEW WRITING CHALLENGE. So check back at the beginning of next week, and I’ll be kicking off a new online writing workshop.

In the meantime, I’ll be hobnobbing with fabulous authors, editors, and librarians, and lounging poolside…and maybe even seeing Mickey Mouse! Fingers crossed, peeps. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Konichiwa! ( I hope.)

Hi my pretties...

Sorry it has been so long since I've posted. My birthday week (yes, week) was absolute madness, and yesterday I left New York for a marathon travel itinerary to...Tokyo!

So how is Tokyo, you might be wondering?

Well, I AM STILL WONDERING TOO!! So far I have gotten no closer to Japan. In fact, I've actually gotten farther. We were grounded in Buffalo due to fog, then stranded in Toronto overnight, and now have gone West to Vancouver, where we are allegedly (finally!) supposed to depart in a few hours. But to be honest, I'm not convinced.

I'm telling you, friends, dystopian might be a trend in literature and a frightening vision of the future, but it's a theme that is alive and well at Air Canada kiosks and airports across this fair nation of ours...and across Canada, too.

Here's an image of me after 24 + hours of travel, 1 lost (and thankfully found) bag, sadistic airline employees, and apathetic american express people have aged me approximately 18 years. (Incidentally, I just felt the background was thematically appropriate.) But happily, my sense of humor and my optimism remain untouched. They may take our lives (or, um, original itineraries), but they will never take our freedom!!

Onward, and (hopefully) upward...send me good thoughts of winging toward Japan!

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's my Bday and I'll BRAG if I want to!

Hello hello...

Because it's a very special day today...MY BIRTHDAY!

And in celebration of the day of my arrival on this planet, I am going to take this moment to post very selfishly about me, me, ME!

So, many exciting things happened to me last week, but the most exciting of all was this:


Isn't it beautiful?

I must tell you, it almost knocked my socks off when I saw that Ella had taken the time to build this beautiful site! She is wonderful and lovely, so please check back often, as I will be working with her on contests and posting exclusive content to the site. AND if you'd like to give me a very special bday present...please, become a follower!

Alright, my pretties. I am off to eat cake!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scary Halloween Stories! (Post-Halloween)

Your sugar rush has already faded, your masks are collecting dust on the floor of your closet, and it's another year before you get to bust out the cat ears...

But NEVER FEAR! I am here to keep on keepin' on with the Halloween-cheer. I must say, I was DYING laughing over the incredibly inventive spooky Halloween stories you send me in response to my last writing challenge, featuring renegade and evil appliances. You all rock my world. I've posted a few below.

From Kate, of I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read:

Sam Chase looked up at the decrepit Victorian house and let out a deep sigh. “Really?” He mumbled to himself. He shook his head in frustration and continued to the front door. He knocked once then twice.

“Hello!” he yelled at the door. “Anyone ho-”

Before he could finish, the door swung open and a cloud of dust flew from its hinges. Sam tentatively stepped in. He looked behind the door and saw no one. Confused, he walked further into the foyer and saw a note on a small table up against the wall. It read, “Went to the store, will be back soon. The basement door is through the kitchen. -Mrs. Kritcher.”

He pushed past the kitchen and ambled down the wooden steps to the basement. He looked around in the dim light and flicked on the flashlight he always kept attached to his belt. A ticking sound coming from the back of the large room caught his attention. He walked toward the noise and saw a coal-fired boiler opening through the darkness. The grate of the boiler resembled teeth and goosebumps spread up his arms. Flames licked around in the massive metal container as he approached it.

A loud moan came from inside the boiler. Sam jumped back and knocked over a tower of boxes that were stacked behind him.

“Help me!” The voice seemed to encompass the entire room.

Sam ran back toward the voice. The opening of the boiler was just big enough for him to fit through. He touched the surface of the door and pulled back at the scorching pain. He blew on his hand and cursed. He looked around the room and found a pair of heat gloves. He pulled the gloves on and opened the door.

“I’m here! Are you alright, what happened?” Sam’s eyes squinted against the heat and light of the fire. He wedged his body in further and felt a push from behind him and fell.

He never felt the slamming of his body against the burning bottom of the boiler. His ears never registered the creaking of the latch, locking him in. He never felt the satisfied grumble that came from the blood lusting boiler that swallowed humans whole.

From Zoe MacDonald, "Over the Oven"

It was a bad idea. I mean, I had always prided myself on being an intelligent, rational teenager who made good choices. So, why I had agreed to go to the house, was beyond me.

“This is a bad idea,” I murmured as we hiked up, sleeping bags tucked under our arms.

One of my girlfriend’s friends laughed and threw her hair over her shoulder. “It was a bad idea bringing you.”

“Don’t listen to them,” my girlfriend said and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “What else are we supposed to do on a Friday night?”

I shrugged. It was pitch black now that we had left the glow of streetlights far behind us. “White’s are having a party. We could do that.”

She smiled and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Silly. We can do that any weekend. This is going to be gone in a couple weeks.”

All the more reason to leave it, I thought but didn’t say anything. I was already having enough issues with her friends.

In the end, I knew we should have left.

One of the jocks broke down the door and we all filed in.

“Cozy,” one of the nameless friends said, turning on a flashlight. “Let’s go.”

We all followed after him and that’s when we heard the rumbling . An ominous sound that rattled the whole building.

“What was that?” one of the girls asked, grabbing onto his arm.

He shrugged, detaching her in the process. “Let’s check it out.”

I wish we hadn’t.

We all tiptoed along like there was someone else who might hear us and eventually found ourselves standing in what resembled a kitchen from the 1950s.

Right in front of us, there is a stove that seems to be making the rumbling noises as it cast an eerie glow all around us.

“What is that?” one of the guys asked disgustedly, as if some freshmeat had just taken his seat in the lunch room.

“Oh my gosh!” one of the girls cried. “That’s totally unsafe. Let’s get out of here.”

Everyone nodded and turned around but then the oven door was flung open and then from behind someone screamed.

“The door’s locked!” one of the girls cried but I knew it was all too late. I had read more than enough horrors and had seen my share of thrillers to know what happened next.

And the winner of the Halloween contest, and soon-to-be recipient of a copy of The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff...

From Elena Thomas, "Frankenfridge":

I was bored, so as usual I decided to go get something to eat. I’d always had a bad habit of eating when I was bored. Today it was an especially bad choice.
When I was just about to pull on the fridge handles to open the old piece of crap, I heard a soft laugh. It was barely audible, but it was there, sounding amused and delighted.
I looked around the kitchen, searching for the source of the noise.
“Who’s there?” I asked, hesitating and spinning around.
“Oh, you heard me!”replied a deep voice coming from nowhere.
“W-Where are you? Who is this?!” Turning around in circles, I saw a slight movement on the fridge. The cheap magnets covering the fridge had aligned themselves to resemble what looked like a smiling face.
I screamed so loud my own ears rang. “What the?!”
“Oh dear, don’t be scared, I know you were coming here to eat. Open me up and you will find something very nice in store” The magnets winked.
Whatever the hell was wrong with my refrigerator, I was absolutely sure it was not supposed to be talking to me. I was seriously going crazy. Either that or I was dreaming. I pinched myself hard, wondering if dreams really work that way. Nothing happened, so I decided if I wasn’t dreaming, I probably was crazy, and might as well embrace it. There was no way this was real, so might as well have fun with it.
“What are you?” I asked with more confidence. I knew I was crazy but that was slightly okay with me.
“I’ll be truthful and tell you,” the fridge said, smiling, “I’m a zombie. A zombie fridge. Probably the first of my kind. Wasn’t until recently that I woke up. But seriously, I am not trying to eat your brains or anything. That is just a cruel stereotype.”
“Huh, okay,” I said, actually curious, yet not scared, “What’ your name, zombie fridge?”
“Good question, I don’t know.”
“Alright, you can be….” I tried to think of a name appropriate for a zombie fridge, ”Frankenfridge!” I exclaimed. “It couldn’t be more fitting!”
“Hooray!” The jubilant fridge cheered, flashing open its doors.
I could feel an awesome friendship coming on.
It’s a good thing I was crazy, cause no one in their right name would be friends with a Frankenfridge

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with Author Leila Sales!

On this Monday morning, I have a very special surprise to help get your week off to a good start: an interview with the lovely author Leila Sales, whose debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, was just released by Simon Pulse! Leila not only happens to be my neighbor and good friend, but she is a wonderful writer whose hilarity never, ever ceases to amaze me (both on the page and in real life). But don't take my word for it! We'll let Leila speak for herself:

--So, your fabulous debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, just came out. How does it feel? Have you been stalking your book on the shelves yet?
It is constantly surreal. Even holding the finished book in my hands doesn't make it feel any more real, because of course I didn't create the book's cover or binding or any of that exterior stuff. It's only when I open it up that I'm like, "Good lord, I wrote every single word in here."

I've gone into a few stores to sign stock and stare at MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS on display. But often when I'm passing bookstores I'm on my bike, so I don't want to go in and ask to visit MGG, because I worry the booksellers will be like, "Jeez, we had no idea author Leila Sales was so sweaty." And then maybe they won't want to carry my book any more.

--Are you a Mostly Good Girl, or a Sometimes Bad Girl? Is there a substantive difference? Describe, discuss.

I am mostly good. I am very rules-oriented. When I break rules, it is usually by accident, and then I feel really bad about it. Or sometimes I break rules that I think are stupid because I don't "believe" in them. That seems like more of a Sometimes Bad Girl thing to do, though.

At my book launch party, I asked everyone to fill out a name tag saying what they were mostly good at. Mine said "Mostly good author." My mom's said "Mostly good mama." One of my friend's said "Mostly good grades." I was like, "Me, too."

--You and I went to the same college! What was your favorite part about the University of Chicago? Your least favorite?
Favorite part of the U of C was Scav Hunt (http://scavhunt.uchicago.edu), which is the world's largest annual scavenger hunt. It lasts for four days and includes 300 items, all of which can be found within a one thousand mile radius of campus. The U of C has intimidatingly bright students, so it's amazing to see what they can create when they put together all their talents and resources for a few days

Least favorite part of the U of C was that it was very far away from any place where one could go out dancing to good music. The only party options in Hyde Park were frat parties or apartment parties, both of which played generic hip-hop every weekend. I used to bring party mix CDs with me and throw them on when the hosts weren't looking. I'm sure everyone found this wildly endearing.

--Your full-time job is in an editorial department at Penguin Books. Do you think working as an editor has helped you as a writer?
Yes, absolutely. I spend every day looking at stories, and it's given me a much clearer sense of the technicalities of how a story works. But being an editor is no cure-all for writing troubles. No matter how capable an editor you are, it is always easier to see the flaws in other writers' work than it is to see them in your own. Or, perhaps more to the point, I can see problems in my own work, but I'm often at a loss as to how to solve them. I tend to know how to help other writers solve their problems.

--Why are you so cool?


--What percentage of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is autobiographical?
Somewhere between 53% and 68%. These might strike you as made-up numbers, but I thought about them a lot.

--If you could eat an ice cream flavor RIGHT NOW, what would it be?
The most chocolatey ice cream flavor that has been invented, plus some hot fudge on top.

--Rumor has it you eat foods based on their color. Don't you think that's a little discriminatory?
I have gotten better about food diversity in the past couple years. I think this is part of what it means to "grow up." When I was four years old, I would eat only purple foods. Then I branched out into white and brown foods. I refused to eat any green foods for many years, and now I occasionally eat green foods, but only because I hear they are "good for me," NOT because I enjoy them. All my favorite foods are still white or brown.

Also I have I "theory" about food, which is that if you take any combination of bread products, chicken products, cheese products, onion products, and tomato products, you will by definition get a delicious meal. 85% of what I eat is comprised of those five food groups. The other 15% is orange juice and chocolate.

--Lastly, what would be your ideal book:
1. To read in prospect park on a sunny day? THREE MEN IN A BOAT, by Jerome K. Jerome
2. To read next to a fire THE SUN ALSO RISES, by Ernest Hemingway
3. To read to your children (for when you have them, of course) CHARLOTTE'S WEB, by E.B. White

Thanks, Leila!
Okay, now for more fun stuff: Not only will I be giving away copies of Mostly Good Girls to the winners of my titling contest (check them out here), I will also be conducting a separate giveaway just for MGG later this week--so be sure to check back for that!

Content by Lauren Oliver - Copyright 2011. Blog designed by Ella Press Studio - 2011.

Author Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie - Copyright 2010. Original Font Idea by Erin Fitzsimmons - 2010.