27 November 2008


Since the book is so close to completion, I've been given the go ahead to write out my dedications and acknowledgements. The dedication was easy, I knew/know who I want to dedicate every one of my books to because she's the one that's always championed my writing career (Hi Lilly!). Heck, without her there would be no writing career. So dedicating this book to Lilly was a no-brainer. Plus, in an egregious oversight, I wasn't given the chance to dedicate or acknowledge anyone for the first book. This is my opportunity to make it all right.

The acknowledgements section was a bit harder. I knew who I needed to deeply thank, all the people who had shepherded the project from beginning to end. That numbered four -- Lilly and Stefanie at Full Circle and Karen and Grace at Penguin. They were invaluable in helping shape the project and in many instances, contributing incredible ideas and solving knotty plot issues.

Beyond that, there were a few fashion consultants I would often IM or shoot a quick email to when looking for sounding boards or expertise. In one case, I asked my friend to describe the processes involved in her full makeup routine. I took meticulous notes. Then she IMed me back awhile later to say that one of the steps was wrong. Something about brushing versus smearing. Thank goodness for that, otherwise my cover as a knower of makeup application would have been blown. Generally, one of the best parts of writing the book was sending out random IMs to people that might have said, "Quick, how do you feel about gladiator sandals? Will they still be hot in two years?"

I asked my editor what the difference between a dedication and acknowledgement was. Her answer: "The dedication is basically who you dedicate the book to, whereas the acknowledgments page is where you thank everyone who helped you along the way -- or anyone else you want to thank." While that sounds plain and simple, it's not as easy to do as you'd think. I even Googled around to find out how other authors handled their dedications versus acknowledgements.

Since I didn't have the space to thank everyone in the acknowledgements, I thought I would compile a short list today on the most thankful of days. First, I have to thank the fashion team, which was headed by Des, Meggo, Helen and Dominique. Many names will have to be left off here because I can't remember everyone I contacted. Just know that your contributions were not wasted because now I think I know what's trendy and cool.

George, Lynn, and Janelle were consistently enthusiastic about the project and were the first people to see and read through the manuscript. I sent them the first draft and they seemed to enjoy it. It's hard to underestimate the relief that comes when anyone reads your work and can say nice things about it, even if they are related to you or former roommates. The three of them, along with James, were also my cover design consultants. Ultimately, the cover was the work of the publisher but it was nice to have their opinions and insight anyway.

Thanks to all the people who inspired names, personalities, quirks, and little tidbits of fun. Part of the fun of this project was being able to inject little Easter eggs for people. I'm not sure how many remained but hopefully there's a fair amount in there. I'm creating fiction, I can write anything I want! That's so weird!

And then there was Cleo, Amanda, Jennifer, Dhonielle, and Christina, who all read the book in various almost done states and gave me the general thumbs up -- plus a heap of useful feedback. Amanda had even made it through in one sitting, the day after I sent the manuscript over to her. Which says something (good) right?

Last of all, I have to thank my mom. Because everyone thanks their mom! Especially when you're living with her while you finished the manuscript. And I think I'll like to append a special thanks to George because without her there would have been no us (magazine).

26 November 2008

All the ladies who truly feel me

"But it is disappointing to watch what some have called the 'year of the woman' come to such an embarrassing conclusion. This was an election cycle in which candidates pandered to female voters, newsweeklies tried to figure out 'what women want,' and Hillary Clinton garnered 18 million votes toward winning the Democratic nomination. The assumption was that these '18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling,' as Clinton put it, would advance the prospects of female achievement and gender equality. It hasn't exactly worked out that way.

In the grand Passion play that was this election, both Clinton and Palin came to represent -- and, at times, reinforce -- two of the most pernicious stereotypes that are applied to women: the bitch and the ditz."
-New York Magazine-

23 November 2008

Twilight (2008)

A seventy million dollar opening and the new blockbuster franchise is here. Twilight is already too big to be a guilty pleasure so it's really just a pleasure. I'm totally biased about this movie but I'll just put it up front, "I loved it!" The movie wasn't the greatest thing in the world, as any review will tell you, but it had enough of everything to make it a thrilling experience.

For this entire Twilight experience, I've been riding along sort of passively, covertly having discussions about it with other secret fans. Halfway through the movie, as I clasped and reclasped my hands in glee, I decided to embrace my Twilight fandom without irony, judgement, or sarcasm. See, it's not about whether the books are actually great, or if the whole thing is a carefully calculated marketing campaign, the truth of the matter is that Edward and Bella will be a romantic touchstone for a generation of tween girls and it's useless to hide from it -- even if Bella is sort of annoying and wishy-washy.
"You have the story of a young woman falling so deeply in love that she doesn't care if she dies or becomes a vampire. There is something so dangerous and alluring about it, and it all goes off in this very lush mountain backdrop. It's an obsessive love that's not that far from 'Romeo and Juliet,' or 'Titanic' for that matter."
-Director Catherine Hardwicke-

No woman will walk out of the theater not wishing she had her own Edward, forever vigilant, incredibly great looking, and a dangerous bad ass with a sparkly heart of gold. As my friend said after watching the movie, "It reminds me of what it felt like to be in love for the first time." If you allow yourself to be pulled into the vampire magic, you will be smitten, I guarantee it.

Just ignore some of the cheesy lines, the horrific special effects, the unintentional comedy, and the entire hilarity that was the baseball game. Oh wait, I'm doing it again. I can't quantify my Twilight statements with disclaimers or dismissals, I just have to puppy love it and overlook all of its faults.

I kind of want to watch it again...

Also, I'm a big fan of Kristen Stewart. Her talents are old news for anyone who's seen her movies (Panic Room, Speak, In the Land of Women, Into the Wild) but she's challenging Ellen Page for the title of my favorite young actress. I also didn't recognize Nikki Reed as Rosalie, which makes Twilight a total Thirteen reunion for her and Hardwicke.

18 November 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Malcolm Gladwell's got a new book coming out. It's called "Outliers: The Story of Success." Even if you're not familiar with Gladwell, it's doubtless you've seen The Tipping Point or Blink. His books have their detractors and their faults but they are certainly entertaining and thought provoking. In fact, I believe Gladwell's work is overlooked a bit because his books are so easily accessible and populist. I'm not sure if he started the trend of this type of book but stuff like Freakonomics seems to me a direct result of Gladwell's strong sales and influence.

A few years ago I discovered Gladwell's website, where he's got all his articles from the New Yorker archived. It's a treasure trove. His pieces date all the way back to 1996 and each of them are worth a read. I find Gladwell's observations more gripping and easier to digest in shorter format, where it seems like he's not stretching as far to make a point. Plus, he really digs into some fascinating topics, many of them focusing on the (perceived) role of intelligence. Some of his other articles I've really enjoyed have been focused on food. Constructing the perfect cookie, investigating why ketchup doesn't come in as many varieties as mustard, or how caffeine created the modern world. This is stuff that's awesome to know.

Basically I think the appeal of reading Gladwell (aside from it just being interesting) is that it lets you feel smart, if just for a bit. You feel like you've really learned something and can now look at a part of the world in an illuminated light. His articles are like the type of fun conversation and observations you wish you could have with a bunch of friends over drinks or at the dinner table but rarely do because really, who in the world knows all this stuff? I saw Gladwell on a CNN round table once and was immediately struck by how much he reminded me of Cillian Murphy. Here's a video of him at TED talking about finding the perfect spaghetti sauce. I think I'd definitely invite him round to dinner if I had the chance.

Here's an excerpt from his new book addressing why Asian children are better at math. I mean, aside from the fact that we just study harder and our parents would kill us if we sucked.

12 November 2008

No Bull

"I'd never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous -- which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from.

I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people's money, would be expelled from finance."
-Michael Lewis, The End-

08 November 2008

Step into a World (Rapture's Delight)

In my mind, when I first heard hip hop, I loved it. That's how I tell the story anyway. Like I heard Tribe, instantly gravitated towards it, and become a fan of the entire genre. Then again, upon really thinking about it, that's not the story at all. If I really want to date when I got into hip hop, it was probably college. I mean, my musical life started at Meatloaf, wound around 10,000 Maniacs and Yanni, and firmly planted itself with Alanis and Jewel. No rap anywhere to be seen.

But rap was around me even if I wasn't paying attention. I can recall in middle school, the only two girls of color (one was black, the other Middle Eastern/mixed?) would go around reciting "You never know she could be earnin' her man / And learnin' her man, and at the same time burnin' her man" all day long. I had no idea what they were quoting until years later, when I finally pieced together how early they had caught onto Dr. Dre and Snoop. Or how late I had.

And then at this Chinese family retreat in '94, a younger kid from L.A. would bring his boombox into the ping pong room and put Warren G's "Regulate...G Funk Era" on repeat. Even then it didn't strike me that this was something I had to have in my life. It was just background music.

The thing I did know was that I loved Rakim. I loved the way he looked, the way he talked, and the way hearing the bass on "Don't Sweat the Technique" made me feel. I guess it made me want to dance, even if I didn't know how. It helped that the song was paired to a basketball video (NBA Jam Session, 1993) I watched religiously. Due to this video, I sought out Rakim and Eric B. albums but didn't get any further into rap -- aside for a bit of Heavy D.

In a way, everything else I encountered didn't have quite the same appeal. Near the tail end of high school I met friends who did have some rap experience but they were into Tupac or Wu-Tang, artists who were not my preferred rap taste, even though I hadn't really consciously developed my palate yet. According to Pandora, I was looking for "tremendous bass, swingin' beats and boastin' lyrics," which I didn't find again until I heard Tribe and Gangstarr in college.

After that, it was love at third (or fourth or fifth) sight/hear. And then a subsequent rap explosion. And it was probably all due to a girl -- a definitive crush at first sight. Once, while hanging out in the getting to know each other stage, she asked what type of music I liked. I said, "hip hop." Totally duplicitous in retrospect but I rolled with it, especially after both she and her friend commended me for my fine answer. I made a hasty exit before we could get in-depth about exactly who I liked. "Um, Rakim?"

Over the next few days, I completely raided the school library, checking out everything in the rap section and proceeded to crash course my way through Hip Hop 101. By then I realized that the posters on her dorm room door meant something. This was her (rap) cheat sheet. I took extra care in listening to The Roots and KRS-One. If I liked what she liked, maybe she would like me! There was also a Master P poster on her door but I couldn't get through any of his CDs. Even puppy love has its limits. Ugh. Na-nah, na-nah.

I'm cringing telling this story, because it represents a moment in time when I explicitly went out of my way to study a girl's tastes and then emulate them, in an attempt to get them to like me. I suppose lots of people do this but it's still wholly embarassing nonetheless. I hope I haven't been this blatant since. Actually, there's a whole host of embarassing stories surrounding this girl, and there was no happy ending to compensate. Not even close. Well, except for the hip hop I guess.

05 November 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 11

  • Chuck Klosterman IV - Chuck Klosterman
  • Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs - Chuck Klosterman
  • No one belongs here more than you - Miranda July
  • Love is a Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield
  • Geek Magnet - Kieran Scott
  • Model Spy (The Specialists) - Shannon Greenland
  • Westminster Abby (S.A.S.S.) - Micol Ostow
  • Cindy Ella - - Robin Palmer
  • Plus many other YA books flipped through
  • I can't really report that I finished my stated goal of reading a dozen YA books. Goal, unaccomplished. However, starting and finishing are two altogether different things and in that respect, I probably did shoot through about ten YA books on hand and kind of got my fill and got all inspired -- which was the point. Now that I feel like I'm a semi-accredited YA author, I take interest in the debate about "What is a young adult novel?" Some people feel like a young adult novel would basically be dumbed down versions of adult books. Like cartoons versus live action shows. Obviously this is a broad, and very faulty, stereotype. Cartoons are real too, just like YA novels.

    But there is a difference between the two, so what is it? Well, it's hard to say. It's not the language, that's for sure. Teens probably have a better vocabularies than most adults so you don't have to shy away from using big words or anything. So that's certainly not the difference. I do like this quote, which attributes some of the difference between young adult and adult books to a matter of perspective.
    "The protagonist in YA fiction is almost always a young person, from a teenager to late teens to early twenties. Yes, adult fiction has characters of this age, but generally adult fiction looks in on the young person's life, whereas YA fiction lives out the young person's life. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Young Adult titles and adult titles. YA titles will tend to be told from the point of view of the young person."
    -Ian Bone, Playing with the Big Kids-
    To be honest, I was confused and not entirely sure of the definition myself until I really started doing YA research. In the beginning, I wondered if YA books were the equivalent of PG-13 movies. No nudity, less swearing, drinking and drugs only as a morality lesson, and not too much on-screen violence. I wondered if you could touch upon themes that were dark or serious. Well, now I know. You can do anything you want. A good book is a good book and the young adult classification isn't there to put some sort of gauzy happy filter over everything.

    The best example of a book that's always in the YA section nowadays is "The Outsiders," which everyone read in school. I don't think I would have associated it with YA until I kept seeing it shelved there and realized that the fact it's about teenagers, told from a teenager's perspective, and S.E. Hinton was fourteen when she wrote it makes it the prototypical YA book. But The Outsiders has violence, death, cursing, murder, alcohol, drugs, and all sorts of bad things in it. And it's a timeless classic.
    "The language can be chaste or peppered with all sorts of choice profanities. Such a story could deal with vaguely sexualized 'crushes' without there being graphic portrayals of sex; another such story could deal with the confusion that revolves around the unfolding of one's sexuality. There is nothing inherently 'fluffy' or 'light' in such stories, even if the emotions expressed might seem puerile to those of us who are older and more cynical about matters of the heart and loins.

    I have found that the best-written YA lit (defined here as being stories that focus on common adolescent themes and worries, often with a teen protagonist) is very frank and honest with its audience, even if the said audience is as disparate and divided as the stereotypical school lunchroom seating arrangement."
    -OF Blog of the Fallen-
    I've never experienced this -- and I can't wait to! -- but YA authors are often looked down upon in the literary world. There's a NY Times editorial from an author who comes to terms (sort of) with her book being bought by a YA imprint. Like it's not "real" that she's a YA author. It all sounds like the snobby stereotyping that comic books, cartoons, board games, and other childish pursuits have to fight against; that they're not as serious or important as other types of art. This is definitely a fight I would gladly suit up for.

    And don't look now but YA novels are huge money makers. The YA market attracts all sorts of "real" authors and more than ever, shows and movies are based on fare aimed at young adults. Hello Twilight, I can't wait to watch you soon!
    "'I see now that dismissing YA books because you're not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you're not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I've discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that's filled with masterpieces I've never heard of.'"
    -Nick Hornby-

    03 November 2008

    (Next) Summer Lovin'

    It's like really official, the book is nearly complete. I have advance copies of it sitting right here and it looks amazing. I wasn't expecting a full blown cover or anything, just the words set up and printed out, but the advance version looks just like the real thing. Technically this version (advance uncorrected proof, "not for sale") is sent out to be read for minor corrections, last minute changes, and that type of thing, but it feels absolutely perfect. I know this isn't the final but it sure looks like it's ready to be passed around and ogled over.

    I don't even know if I've really talked about the project publicly but now that I've gone through final drafts and it's 95% of the way there, it's time to start talking about it all the time. First off, it's called "Exclusively Chloe" and it's about a girl who grows up as the adopted daughter of Hollywood royalty. It's a YA novel and geared toward teen girls but everyone will want to check it out because it's me writing as a girl!

    My inner teen girl has been silent for far too long and she's been itching to fall in love, to complain, to shop, and to well, shop some more. I won't even lie and say that research for this book wasn't fun. The few people who have read bits of this thing have all been like "Wow, I'm shocked this is you." Or one person said, "This is totally you." Anyway, it's about 245 pages, is being put out by Penguin/Puffin/Speak, and will be officially released May 14, 2009. I believe it'll be a bit under ten bucks so it's super affordable and totally worth every penny. Start saving up now kiddies, everyone on your list will need one.

    There's already a few blurbs out there on the Internet and the Amazon page is ready to take orders so I'm ready to reveal the full cover and start the talk. Here's the back cover copy to whet your appetite.
    "Chloe-Grace can't help it: she's spectacular. How could she not be, with celebrity parents who have been the queen and king of Hollywood for years? But Chloe is a celebrity unto herself as well -- she's the first ever celebrity-adopted kid in Hollywood. Some kids grow up with silver spoons in their mouths; Chloe had an entire set of platinumware shoved in her face, along with two hundred paparazzi.

    But now Chloe's sixteen, and she is tired of every undesired moment of the world's attention. Normal kids get to keep secret diaries. Chloe can barely keep her sanity -- until she thinks about what it would be like to be a 'normal' kid in a regular school. To really understand it, she would need to go undercover. So she gets a 'make-under' at the hands of her mother's fabulous stylist, and enters the normal world. But she soon finds out that there is just as much drama there as there is in Hollywood...."