The Long Ride Home

Maybe it is because I’m a high school teacher and spend my days surrounded by actual young adults that my standards for YA literature are so high. My favorite books for readers in their teens are full of characters facing real life problems with no clear solutions. The dialogue needs to sound like something an actual kid would say, or else I’m gone. No messages, please. No lessons to learn that could also be imparted in a thirty minute sitcom. No morals to the story allowed. Ever. If I’m going to recommend a book to anyone to read it has…

The Ghost Daughter Wants To Come To Your Book Club

In an hour or so I’m attending my first book club for The Ghost Daughter. I love attending book clubs as an author. How To Be Manly got me invited to a couple. It remains amazing that I write words and people read them. Someday I’ll get over myself and understand that people reading my books is what happens when I write them and find cool editors and publishers. Someday I’ll be used to it. Today is not that day. Other invitations to appear at book clubs to answer questions about The Ghost Daughter are already rolling in. It’s all…

Rerun: To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I was reminded today in an email about happy I am being a writer, working with other writers and publishing professionals who care deeply about excellence in literature.  As a reader, some of the most rewarding and amazing books I’ve read have been published in the past five years. As a teacher, I am especially grateful to the gatekeepers and writers of the YA world.  Today’s September Back-To-School Issue challenge is a rerun of a post I wrote a couple of months ago in response to an incident of online abuse hurled at a literary agent by a disgruntled writer. I was angry when…

Rerun: 7 Thoughts For Labor Day

My students’ daily homework assignment is usually to frolic in the clover. When I write frolic in the clover on the board where the homework assignment goes, new students want to know what I mean. Students:  Is that a book we are supposed to read? A website we’re supposed to look at? Me: No. Just find a patch of clover and frolic in it for a second. Students: What do you mean frolic? Me: Why does the forty-five year old lady have to tell the teenager how to frolic? Just find a patch of clover and do this (takes off shoes and…

5 Weight Loss Rules I’m Glad I Broke

September is always a New Year’s season for me, and in honor of fresh starts I am embarking on a daily blog challenge for the month. My September challenge this year is called Back-To-School Issue, in which I recreate the magazines of my teenage years with the interests of my current self in mind. There will be journal activities at the end of each post for friends and followers who want to play this fun game with me. This was me at Sacramento Comic Con at the end of June: This is me tonight, eight weeks later: Body image has…

To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I’ve been rejected more than you. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t. But I’d be willing to bet I have and I hate gambling. I’ve been a writer knocking on the door of the publishing game for nineteen years, nine books, dozens of short stories, articles, and poems. My failure to success ratio is about one hundred to one and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  The only reason I’m mentioning my rejection rate now is because my long history of hearing “no thank you, not at this time” gives me authority to say to you this: You are doing…

The Ghost Daughter 

My housemate from college, Laura Alvarez, is an important artist and she and her husband will always be in the acknowledgements of every book I ever write because their approach to life and art is an astonishment that never ceases to inspire me. I swear sometimes I don’t know if I’d even be a writer today if it weren’t for their encouragement. Well, Laura loved my novel The Ghost Daughter, and really got what I was trying to do there which is an amazing feeling that truly hardly ever happens. She wrote about it on her amazing fashion, art, and inspiration…

What I Was Thinking When I Wrote The Ghost Daughter

A few years ago I stood in the check out line at the grocery story, Casey Anthony staring at me from the cover of the People magazine. I don’t follow crime stories usually, but this one followed me. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated.  A young woman claimed her little kid went missing a full month after anyone had seen her. The authorities found the thoroughly decomposed body of the child months later in a pile of duct tape. The prosecution was inadequate to the task of conviction and the judge let her go. Everyone thinks she did it. But…

I Am Not Proud of You

Eighteen years ago, I had a colleague named Bertha at a pretty rough public elementary school where I taught fourth grade. This woman taught first grade with the masterful calm of a Jedi. Her room was an oasis of peace and productivity. I tried to learn as much as I could about teaching from Bertha. She was a goddess of a human being, which she would laugh at me for saying but it’s still true. One day Bertha was telling me about her grown son who had just started his dream job as a forest ranger. I said, “You must be…