October 19, 2011

Just popping in [a little inspiration]

Just popping in to share something I found on Pinterest, which, if you aren't familiar with this site, you should seriously check out it. Sorry I haven't been around much, but I'm working on something top secret (and not at all writing-related). If you'd like to know, feel free to email me and I'm willing to divulge... ;)

Available here on Etsy (where else, right?)

Hope all is well in the blogging world!

September 10, 2011

10 years passed

I was 16. A junior in high school when our country changed forever.

Before 9/11, I didn't know where or what the World Trade Center was. I was unfamiliar with terms like 'ground zero,' 'al Queda,' and 'jihad.' Had no idea what anthrax was. Didn't know the lyrics to God Bless America.

I knew Afghanistan was somewhere over there by the other "-istan" countries, but I couldn't tell you the capital or what kind of government it had. Iraq was that place we kicked the pants out of during the Gulf War when I was 5 years old.

I didn't personally know anyone who died on 9/11. For that I am forever thankful. But my brother has served in 2 wars that began in its aftermath, and since, I have grieved honorable men and women I will never have the privilege of knowing. Walked with a ghostly, unshakable fear for 26 collective months as my flesh and blood toiled in a war zone. Like many Americans, I continue to bear the emotional scars of a day that will haunt me the whole of my lifetime.

Below is a journal entry I wrote in the months following 9/11. I can't remember the exact date; I think it may have been written in October '01. I've typed it up exactly as it was written:
I will never forget the day. I really don't remember the condition of the day before about 9:00.

It's September 11, 2001. Pretty normal day. It was the second week of school and I was in second block, AP US History. My teacher, Mr. Wilson*, was explaining something, though I can't recall what, when one of the librarians, Ms. Melton, appeared in the doorway and beckoned Mr. Wilson over. He trotted to the door and Ms. Melton and he had a quick, frantic whispered discussion. Ms. Melton disappeared from the door and Mr. Wilson looked at our class rather gravely.

"You guys, the World Trade Center in New York's been hit by a plane. It's probably a terrorist attack. Y'all, if this is true," he shook his head, "then this is a whole new era in history."

I'm not sure those were his precise words, but that was the idea of what he said.

The entire class sat shocked in our seats. We began discussing the situation frantically (I remember hearing the name Osama what's his name a few times - really, who could pronounce bin Laden's entire name before September 11th?). Suddenly, Ms. Melton reappeared.

"They've hit the Pentagon!" she called, running down the hall to tell another teacher. All I can remember thinking at this point is scenes from Independence Day and Armageddon popped into my head.

"Turn the TV on!" someone cried. We turned it on to find that, oh great, the tv is not working. Mr. Wilson fiddled with the TV a few seconds then, to our great relief, a teacher came to our door, saying, "My classroom's empty and my television works!"

Without even so much as uttering a word or even looking to Mr. Wilson for permission, all 20-something of us gathered our belongings and hurried to the empty classroom. Someone flicked the tv on and BAM -- !

Oh my gosh, it's not a joke. It's true. A minute later we watch in utter shock as the World Trade Center began to pancake down, falling over a hundred stories. My classmates and I watched in panic.

Several girls began to sob and I wiped a tear away as I realized THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN THERE. All I could say was, "This is America. This. is. AMERICA! How could this happen?" There was no way it was real. I mean, c'mon, Hollywood, this is a pretty cruel joke.

But, of course, as we all know, it certainly was real. We watched CNN's coverage until the bell rang and then I was off to my 3rd block, Spanish. My AP History class being one of only about 10 or 15 classes in the entire school that was told the attack on America was taking place as it actually happened, my Spanish teacher knew nothing of it. Myself and one or two other students who knew about the attack told him it was happening. He laughed, not believing us. Finally, he turned the tv on, saw it was true, and flicked it back off. The class bellowed at once and nearly in unison, "We can't watch it?"

"No, no. It's time for Spanish."

Being a good student, I usually get along with teachers quite well, but at the moment, I truly wanted to slap that idiot of a teacher. Who cares about Spanish when I just saw my country violated on live television?

As my Spanish class wore on, I got more and more agitated, and when the bell rang for lunch I stomped out of the classroom and to the cafeteria. My friends Jenna and Janet had been allowed to watch the coverage during 3rd block so they filled me in on what the latest developments were - including the airplane that crashed in Shanksville, PA.

The bell for 4th block rang and I hurried off, breathing a sigh of relief when I arrive to class and found my Global Affairs teacher glued to the television. Our class watched sadly and attentively all class. I was so glad when I got home and I could watch with my family undisturbed.

September 11th was a horrible, tragic, fearful, historical, hurtful, and defining day. I shall always remember my utter disbelief, my utter sadness, my true despair, my REAL anger, my FAITH in God - I will always remember.
September 11, 2001 changed me in ways big and small, some which I cannot properly articulate even now. I think I'm a more compassionate, aware person, but I'm more fearful, too. I'm always trying to figure out how to live my life, not 'let the terrorists win,' while confronting fears that, had 9/11 never happened, wouldn't be even a seed in my mind.

September 2001 was a fearful time to be a teenager, but maybe now is even worse. Sixteen-year-olds now have lived nothing but terrorist threat levels, troops at war, an unbalanced economy, a country still struggling to balance the ideals of security and freedom.

On the eve of 9/11, I hope you will remember it not just as a jumble of horrific images and tragic sound bites. I hope you will pay remembrance to the human cost, both immediate and long-reaching, and recall not just where you were when you found out, but the manner in which the American people gave the very best of themselves. Let's try to hold onto a piece of the goodness, the pride, the dedication to our fellow man we felt in the days and months following that awful day. If we do that, the terrorists can never win.

*Names changed to protect privacy

July 22, 2011



Now that I've had a week of perspective, some thoughts on the end of HARRY POTTER and DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART II:

First, I was struck by how well-made the film is. The attention to detail is outstanding, the acting never better, the use of music and color (or lack thereof) and even humor nearly perfect in nearly every moment. Steve Kloves found the oddest, coolest places to insert humor, and of all the films, I think he's written some of the best non-canon dialogue in this one.

Of course, anytime the film diverged from the book, I kind of wanted to twitch. I felt like most of the changes were necessary and understandable (for instance, Voldemort getting weaker each time Harry destroys a Horcrux), but a few dug at me (as Sarah Enni pointed out, McGonagall telling the Slytherins to get out is at odds with JKR's point of allowing the Slytherins a chance at redemption; and why, why did Snape's memories need to come out in tears? By now, we all know the Pensieve uses pearly memory strands). However, with just one exception, all of the scenes I longed to see were brought to life beautifully.

Strange to say, but I loved the savagery. One of the problems I have with BREAKING DAWN is that the stakes are almost non-existent. You never really feel Bella, or anyone except the bad guys, are in true danger. Here, the danger, the brutality, the desperation and awfulness and fear, are very real. The dragon in Gringotts was so battered and bruised and bloody, my heart hurt for him. Voldemort's mass goblin-cide, complete with bloody feet as he steps calmly through pools of fresh blood, displayed both his utter cruelty and his growing desperation. And Voldemort's completely casual order of execution for Snape, followed by Nagini's vicious, visceral attack? If I was 8, I'd probably have nightmares about that snake.

The one exception to my satisfaction was the fact Fred died off camera. I know quite a few people were disappointed we didn't get to see Tonks and Lupin die on camera, either, but I was okay with that. In the book, we do not experience them dying, but Fred? It was a memorable, gut-wrenching scene, one of the first deaths in the Battle of Hogwarts that made me think, truly, all's fair in love and war. I mean, if she's killing a Weasley twin, who could possibly be safe? I felt like I needed to see Fred's death, and was sad the filmmakers chose not to show it.

The epilogue has always been a source of discord among HP fans. Some love it, some hate it, and the same holds true for the film version, it seems. I've always loved the epilogue, and though I was worried how it would translate to screen, I think the film epilogue was well-acted and poignant, the perfect imperfect ending, capturing a lovely mundaneness I'm sure the main characters craved after such a turbulent youth. As the screen faded to black, I could almost hear Jo Rowling saying, "The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well."

I'd been wiping away tears here and there throughout the whole movie, but when finally did fade, a lump formed in my throat and I honestly wanted to cry in earnest. I just kept thinking, "How disappointing. It's really over." In my head, HARRY POTTER had been around too long to be over. Even though I knew it was coming, somehow the fact this was the last film for the last book didn't connect until the credits started rolling.

To me, it was a lovely and moving end to the most beloved book and film series of a generation. The fact tears of disappointment bubbled to the surface at it's end, for me and for thousands of others, only underscores the beauty and worth of it all.

July 13, 2011

*GULP*-worthy mistakes

Each week, YA Highway hosts Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival in which YA Highwayers discuss a topic on their blogs and invite readers to do the same. This week's RTW topic is:

What's the biggest writing/querying/publishing mistake you've made?
Writing: Early on in my 'serious writing,' (i.e., after I quit my day job), I wrote a scene (from a now defunct novel) describing my main character by letting her look in a mirror and notice things about herself. I know, I know. Textbook rookie mistake. I've noticed mirror scenes in a number of published books since then, and they always kind of bug me.

Publishing: The only author I've met as an adult also happens to be one of my top 3 favorites: Jennifer Weiner. Last July, I attended one of her signings, and when I finally made it up to her table, I told her I was a YA writer and handed her my card. She accepted it, said she'd check out my blog (which she did!), and asked me what my favorite YA book was. I drew a complete blank, so I just mumbled THE HUNGER GAMES, even though I hadn't (and still haven't) read it! Yikes! Sorry, Jen! I also walked away without getting a picture, panicked, then ran back and asked for one.

What's the biggest writing/querying/publishing mistake you've made? Tell me in the comments or join the fun over at YA Highway!

July 11, 2011

The horror, the horror!

Remember when there was a big storm and my electric went out and I slept with the window open and a SLUG got in my bedroom?


I never could find the shiny 'slug trail' from the creepy thing's point of entry. As far as Bear and I could tell, the trail started on the carpet right next to the wall near our bedroom door.


Yesterday Bear was laying on the bed and he discovered a SLUG TRAIL ON OUR CEILING.

The errant slug had not entered our bedroom from the window furthest from our bed—it had entered the window ABOVE OUR BED—a foot from my head, no less—crawled (or whatever slugs do) all the way up the wall, across the ceiling (DIRECTLY ABOVE MY BED), down the other wall, and then across the carpet until we found him the next morning a foot or so from the bedroom door.

I don't know where he thought he was going, but he ended up flushed down the toilet.

Also, I had closed the window above our bed sometime around 1AM and discovered the slug around 7AM, so apparently, slugs really do crawl (or whatever) veeery slow.


Just thought I'd update y'all on that.

June 27, 2011

What qualifies as having "been" somewhere?

What, exactly, qualifies as saying you've "been" somewhere? And by "been," I mean experienced. Because let's face it, when someone says, "Oh, I've been to Ohio/Ottawa/Outer space," the assumption is they've actually had a meaningful experience in the place, explored, learned something firsthand while they were there. But increasingly, I hear people touting long lists of places they've "been," that in reality are places they passed through, "experienced" as layovers, or were connect-the-dots on a road trip to somewhere else.

Example: when Bear and I were in England last year, we took a day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor. There was a pretentious Australian couple on the trip with us, going on and on about what all they'd been doing, and I heard the girl say, "Oh yeah, we did London one day last week."

Um... what? You "did" London—one of the coolest, oldest, most culturally rich cities in the world—in a day? I always wonder what exactly they "did," though I have a feeling it was something like this: take famous red double decker bus tour, see major sites from bus, get dinner, go back to hotel, leave the next morning.

I mean, really. On the way to and from England, Bear and I spent 5 hours in Helsinki International Airport, but is it realistic to say I've "been" to Finland? Sure I have technically, and sure I learned a few things (such as: Bear must have Scandinavian blood in him—every single airport worker in Helsinki looked like him—over 6 feet, blond, blue-eyed, even the same type of nose. It was freaky. I'm sure this isn't representative of the whole country, but those were the people working in the airport, no lie.), but c'mon.

So again, what qualifies as having "been" somewhere? It's a hard thing to define. To illustrate, let's go back to my day trip: I would say I've "been" to Stonehenge. There's not a whole lot to do there, and I spent 45 minutes walking the perimeter of it pondering the huge stones, who put them there, how they relate to the stars, etc. And I'd say I've "been" to Windsor, because I saw basically everything a tourist could see at Windsor (though I would love to go back someday and see it all much. more. slowly. Seriously, you're talking to someone who spent an entire hour in ONE room at the British Museum studying medieval artifacts).

But Bath? We spent a little over an hour there. All we got to do was walk around and pop into a couple shops. Beautiful, beautiful Bath. Would I say I've "been" there? Well, obviously I've technically been there. But have I truly experienced it? No. If you asked me about Bath, I would tell you something along the lines of: I only got to spend an hour or so there but I really liked what I saw and I'd like to go back one day. I would not say, "Oh yeah, I've been to Bath it's so wonderful you really must go some day blah blah blah."

I'm not trying to be all lawyer-y. Obviously, if you've been somewhere, you've been somewhere. But when you present an experience as something it's not to garner impressed looks or to achieve a higher opinion from others, it boils down to is misrepresentation, which is annoying.

I'm not saying you need to bold-italics-underline experience every single place you go, or that you can't learn things by passing through. I mean, I've never done more than stop in Connecticut a few times, but I can tell you it's the land of CVS and Dunkin' Donuts, not 7-11 and Krispy Kreme country like here in the South.

All I'm saying is, people look kinda silly ticking off this long list of cool and exotic places they've "been," only to eventually reveal that the majority of said places were experienced via gas station, airport terminal, or car. It was fun to play, 'How many states have you been to?' in 4th grade and count up all the places you'd driven through on the way to Aunt Sally or Grandma Jones' house.

But as an adult? Just be honest. No one cares one way or the other how much you've traveled. And if you frame it truthfully, people will be interested in hearing your story, whether it's a weird cashier at a gas fill-up in middle of nowhere Arizona or a grand adventure in a distant land.

So what do you think? Have you noticed people doing this? Does it bother you? Or am I just crazy and splitting hairs? ;)

PS - the winner of my YA prize pack is Meredith! Congrats, Meredith! I will be emailing you!

June 09, 2011

Changing philosophies on blogging, reading, and writing

This is a bit of a long (okay, long) post. I hope you'll read it all, but if not, I've broken it down a little so you can read what you want to read.

Writing blogs

Like everything in life, there's a progression to blogging. I used to have so much to say, but as this blog has gotten older, I've covered so many topics, to the point I feel I have less to say, and thus, am doing a disservice to my followers by trying to maintain a semblance of a 'blogging schedule.'

I'm tired of feeling guilty because I don't post 3-5 times a week on this blog like clockwork. Which isn't to say I don't absolutely love those type of blogs, because I do. But I don't love them because they post 3-5 times a week like clockwork—I love them because they have something interesting to say 3-5 times a week like clockwork. Good examples of this type of blog are Kiersten White's and Natalie Whipple's. Both of them, I'm sure, would also tell you how hard they work to be as interesting as they are as often as they are.

Because let's face it: no one's life is always interesting. I'm pretty sure even the president has days where he sits in boring meetings and signs boring paperwork and reads boring briefs. And maybe it's important work, but it's boring.

The rules, the experts, say set a schedule and stick to it. And in an ideal world, I would post interesting, funny, thought-provoking posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, like I used to (I hope the posts were interesting, anyway).

But. Where I am now in life, blogging—or trying to blog, anyway—when I have nothing interesting to say is draining me, taking vital time and creative energy away from my writing. When I try to force it, my blog ends up resembling one of those cheap Easter baskets you get at Wal-Mart: there's a few cool things in the basket, but the majority of it is candy nobody eats and toys that break within 5 seconds of being opened.

Filler, in other words. I don't want my blog to be a few great posts strewn amongst bloggity filler.

So where does that leave me? Hopefully somewhere close to StephaniePerkinsland.

You see, Stephanie Perkins, awesome author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, does not blog regularly. Sometimes no blog for a month. Sometimes a couple in one week. But every time I open my blog feed and see a post from Stephanie, I get excited. Her posts are always interesting, informative, entertaining, poignant, funny, silly, cool, and sometimes all of the above. So regardless of whether I 'hear from' her for a month or a week, I stay subscribed to her blog, stay interested in her, because she blogs when she can be interesting.

So from now on, THE TABBY CATT is scheduleless. I worry about this a little. But I also know it's what is best. You might hear from me a couple times a week and then not at all for a few weeks. The only rule I'm giving myself is not to let 2 weeks go by without blogging because... well, I'm afraid I'm probably not as interesting as Stephanie Perkins, so maybe her rule-breaking awesomeness won't apply quite as well to me. However, what I can promise you is you'll be getting interesting Abby, not Abby scrambling to find something interesting to say. And no filler.

Reading and commenting

You have to be careful that in blogging, you don't lose yourself in the contests, the cliques, the memes, the following just to follow, the reading just to read, the commenting just to comment. When I comment on someone's blog, I want to be thoughtful. Occasionally I get comments on my blog that I know are perfunctory—the well, I haven't commented on that blog in a while, better do it or they'll stop commenting on mine type comments. I know I'm guilty of this sometimes, too. Those types of comments, though, we all know them when we see them. And they don't put a smile on your face, or offer insight, or do anything really except add a +1 to the number of comments at the bottom or the top of your blog post.

I don't need those, and I don't want to write them. So last week I went through and pared my blog feed down to my favorite 50 or so blogs. That's a lot to keep up on, but I also got rid of a lot—a lot of blogs that are good, quality, interesting blogs. But you just can't read them all. When I open my Blogger feed, I want to be excited about what's there, not overwhelmed! I don't want to go... oh, gosh, I took a few days off and now I have to slog through 37 blog posts. After reading 20 or 30 blogs, none of the posts are going to interest you.

Reading diversely 

I came into the YA game less than 2 years ago, so I've spent the better part of the last 2 years 'catching up' on the multitude of YA out there. In fact, 35 of the 62 books I've read since 2009 were YA, and since January, 11 of the 15 books I've read are YA. I just finished FLY AWAY HOME by Jennifer Weiner. That book came out almost a year ago, but I just got around to reading it because I'd been trying to stay up on YA. I shouldn't be putting one of my top 3 favorite authors to the side to read ARCs that I probably wouldn't have picked up in a store, except for the fact they are YA and I feel like I have to read every YA book I can get my hands on in order to stay up on the market.

We talk a lot in the YA community about diversity. I think that should extend to the books we read, too. Not just one genre, not just one market, not just one age group. I read adult books long before I was an adult, so why should I only read teen books now that I'm an adult? I want to read Tony Blair's autobiography and Jeanette Walls' "non-fiction novel," and EAT PRAY LOVE and AN AMERICAN WIFE.

So I'm going to. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the 'right' thing, and it doesn't help that there's a lot of experts out there telling us what we must do—many qualified, but plenty not. But you know what? From now on, I'm going to do what works best for me. I'm going to treat YA books like any other type of book—if it looks interesting to me, I'll read it. I'm not going to allow myself to get caught up in the 'oh-this-is-the-next-big-thing-you-must-read-it' buzz. If it doesn't interest me, I'm sure someone else will love it, but I've got shelf after shelf of books that I hand-picked waiting to be read.

So what?

Please don't take any of this as a judgment against anyone. If you want to read only YA, knock yourself out. It won't affect me, and I won't mind. Boiling it down, I basically have just been thinking a lot, have rewritten the philosophies that I've developed regarding writing blogs, reading blogs, and reading books over the past few years. I just thought I'd let you know... in case anyone else felt the same way. :)

The good part

As a reward for getting all the way to the bottom of this long, winding, and occasionally whiny post, I'd like to say thank you. I'm clearing out my bookshelves again (so many new books just keep coming!) and giving away a gently used set of YA (and one MG) books:

The usual rules apply: comment to enter, must be a follower, extra entries for tweeting/putting it on your sidebar. No links necessary, I trust you. ;) US & Canada only this time. (:()

Giveaway ends 6/23.

Thank you all for being such awesome followers. Blogging and being part of the YA writing community has had a very positive effect on my writing, my confidence in my abilities, and my life in general. Please know that.

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