Playing Catch-Up.


“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”
~Andy Goldsworthy

So, um … it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written anything on here. Whoops. I’m not sure how that happened. For as quickly as time flies all year long, it seems to move along at warp speed during the holiday season. It was just Thanksgiving, and now I’m sitting here and looking out the window at today’s fresh snowfall glistening in the re-emerging sun. It is the prettiest kind of reminder that winter’s on its way and a lovely backdrop as I play some catch-up with y’all.

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After spending most of November planning out my new book, I was finally ready to jump into drafting last week! Not gonna lie, it felt immensely strange at first to be writing about characters other than Remi and Charlotte, but I’m almost 11,000 words into the book as of this morning and am having a blast with it now. My MC Eden is very different from anyone whose story I’ve told before, and I actually really love that. Her world is currently tumbling down around her, but what falls down can also rise up, and I’m excited to watch her rebuild, renew, and refresh her life. It’s going to be a fun journey to take. Beyond Eden, I’m quite giddy about the supporting cast: Eden’s grandmother Lillian (I have always wanted to write a grandma/granddaughter relationship), her soon-to-be best friend Serena, her parents Mariah and Joel, her love interest Wilson … it is an eclectic group in more ways than one, and I can’t wait to explore the dynamics further.

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Speaking of Remi, look what I got for Hanukkah! The keychain’s hard to make out in the picture, but it says “write your own story.” I love, love, love them both and am so happy to have a Nantucket shirt that’s straight off the island. If I can’t visit there yet, this is the next best thing.

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Totally worth braving Sunday’s snow (yep, it snowed Sunday … and today … and evidently again this coming Saturday) to finally see CATCHING FIRE. I was blown away by how wonderful it is. The acting, the sets, the soundtrack, the special effects … it was phenomenal from start to finish. I love that the movies stay so true to the books, and yet, at the same time, they’re easy to follow along with if you haven’t read the story (at least, it seems like they would be … can’t attest to that personally). This is my favorite of the books and now my favorite of the movies so far, too. Huge kudos to the whole cast for being so fabulous, especially Jennifer Lawrence. She is just crazy awesome.

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Also crazy awesome? Nancy Lee Grahn. It is always such a pleasure to visit with her when she holds her East Coast events every other year.

Your turn: tell me what’s been up with you guys lately!

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Six.


“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
~Stephen King

If you heard a squeal of happiness yesterday at approximately 10:30AM Eastern time – or perhaps it was more of a cheer – chances are it was coming from Pennsylvania. From the general vicinity of my desk. From my mouth. Because that’s when I reached those always bittersweet words: THE END. When I first wrote them back in June, I was misty-eyed. When I reaffirmed them yesterday, I was smiling from ear-to-ear. My major round of revisions? FINISHED. And the icing on the cake? I came in more than 2500 words below my goal. That makes for one very excited writer. The final chapter of this book was my favorite thing to write, ever, and even though I was so ready to wrap up edits by the point I reached it, yesterday’s work was still a joy. That’s what this manuscript will forever represent to me: pure, unfettered, unequivocal joy. I’m taking a week-long break while we head to the shore for vacation, but to be sure, it won’t be far from my thoughts or heart.

And now (this is a complete non-sequitur, but I must post this quickly so I can finish packing), a “six things” meme, which I was tagged for by the wonderful Megan.

1. What is your favorite movie quote and why?
Is it cheating if I choose a quote from the film adaptation of a book? I positively adore the following, from The Help: “Go to New York, Ms. Skeeter. Go find your life.” Skeeter is one of my all-time favorite characters. The way she stands up to societal stereotypes, the way she breaks down walls through her writing and through her determination … it’s an inspiration. She tells the stories she can’t not tell, and she reminds all of us writers to never, ever give up. We must find our lives. We must create them.

2. It’s back to school time. What was the best year you had in school? What made it so great?
You know, I’m really not sure if I can pinpoint a single year. I honestly enjoyed so many of them. Junior year in high school was an incredible amount of work, but I loved my AP English Lit and American History classes. I learned more in that English course than in any other. I adored my senior year in high school because of all the extracurriculars I was part of, especially being on the steering committee for our school’s Involvement Day (where regular classes were cancelled, a plethora of speakers came to speak to students about a variety of causes and volunteer organizations, and everyone got to choose which sessions they attended) and acting as student coordinator for the district’s media symposium (even if it meant giving a speech in front of over a hundred people – talk about nervous!). Going further back, I loved sixth grade – candlelight hour, creating “bare books” with the first graders, watching Voyage of the Mimi, and more – and going forward, I also loved my senior year in college.

3. Is there special something you do every day (journal, Skype someone, take a walk, etc)? What is it?
Write, write, write. That was a shocker of an answer, huh? I also go for a long walk when the weather is cooperative. And, um, does playing Candy Crush count?

4. How do you get blog ideas?
Well, obviously a lot of my posts revolve around writing – sometimes they’re updates on my own process, sometimes they’re reactions to things I’ve seen or read elsewhere. Beyond that, I try to balance it out with other topics and generally just write whatever I’m inspired to discuss.

5. Has anybody famous ever followed or mentioned you on twitter or another social media site?
Yes! Several General Hospital actors and actresses have responded to comments – they are amazing at being in touch with the fans – as well as some of my favorites from American Idol. There are also some fabulous authors who followed me back and who I chat with – so fun! And then there’s Kristin Chenoweth, who answered me twice within the span of a day. To say I was excited is a gigantic understatement.

6. Describe your perfect Sunday.
Writing, reading, walking, and watching a handful of old I Love Lucy episodes … unless we’re talking about a summer Sunday, which would also include swimming and take place seaside.

Your turn: answer one (or more) of the questions in the comments, please!

May the odds be ever in your favor.


“Hope – it is the only thing stronger than fear.”
~President Snow, via Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games

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HOLY HUNGER GAMES. That movie is SO GOOD.

Like everyone else, I have been counting down the days until The Girl on Fire made her big-screen debut. This weekend couldn’t come quickly enough. After flying through the trilogy of books because I could NOT put them down for anything, I was more than a bit excited to see how the compelling story would translate to a movie version – and, I admit, a bit concerned, too, because if reading about the violence was that disturbing, wouldn’t it be even more difficult to actually watch it unfold?

Thanks to some very clever cinematography and slight changes from the often graphically-descriptive novel, the answer to that is (at least in my opinion): no. The movie didn’t glorify violence. Instead, it used the sensitive subject to show exactly why and how violence is saturating society. It made the same point Suzanne does in her intricate novels, that it has become too much, and instead of the horror, we must fight for heart, for integrity, for all that is good and hopeful. Although there were many points in the trilogy of books that were unspeakably, emotionally difficult and draining to read, that’s the message I took away: as President Snow states in the movie adaptation, hope is the only thing stronger than fear. Light can outshine darkness. Even after the worst of times, the sun can come out again. Even if we’re forever changed, we can still find faith. Still find good.

I thought the movie did an excellent job of showing that – from Prim’s unconditional belief in Katniss, to Cinna’s faith in his Girl on Fire, to the heart-swelling welcome Katniss and Peeta received upon returning to District Twelve, we saw the delicate strands of inspiration woven among all the pain and challenges. That was just one of many high points. Others included the beautifully poignant scene between Katniss and Rue (made me cry in the book and again in the movie!), the chillingly emotional salute all of District Twelve gave to Katniss, the addition of Haymitch going to Seneca to fight on behalf of Katniss, the behind-the-scenes look at the Gamemakers perspective, which we didn’t see in the book, and the simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming conclusion of the Games. The embrace between Katniss and Peeta, between these two people connected forever more in the way they saved one another, was enough to make many eyes well with tears. I also loved the addition of the scene between President Snow and Seneca. Snow’s line about hope being stronger than fear is my favorite from the whole movie.

There were a few things left out that I really had been included – especially District 11’s gift of the bread to Katniss as thanks for her compassion toward Rue – but overall, it did an amazing job of staying true to the heart of the book. It had the action and suspense, the sadness and shock, the dignity and heart. We very much saw Katniss’ strength and determination. We saw straight into the characters’ souls. I thought all the actors shone like absolute stars and did an exquisite job – such amazing casting – and the sets/special effects brought the story to life in captivating ways. It was like literally seeing the pictures Suzanne painted with her words.

And, above all else, it left an impact. Just like the novels, this is a movie that affects you and won’t leave your thoughts. It makes you feel, it makes you ponder, it makes you wonder. Katniss, Peeta, Prim, Haymitch, Rue, this whole cast of complex characters, they made their way into our heads and hearts when we read about their journey. Now they’re leaving another handprint. This is a movie that will stay with me for a long time, one I think will stay with many people. And yes, we’ll remember the struggles, the atrocities, the sheer shock and horror of something as awful as the Hunger Games. But we’ll also remember the hope that’s stronger than fear and the spark lit by the Mockingjay. We’ll remember that compassion is key.

And with that knowledge, the odds are ever in our favor.

Have You Ever?


“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
~Harriet Tubman

Have you ever …

– Had a group of fictional people feel as real to you as the friends you talk to on a daily basis?

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– Struggled through a few rough writing days, where the words simply refused to flow with ease and instead insisted on being stubborn, only to have them followed up by a frenzy of typing that catches even you completely off-guard? Amazing what can happen when you let go and simply follow the characters’ lead. 2154 words today? Kinda makes me want to jump up and down.

– Laughed out loud while reading a book because the author – and character – is so witty?

– Been SO IN LOVE with the beautiful weather (happy spring!) that you rolled down the car windows, turned the volume up on Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” and sung along like you were actually at her concert?

– Made a new friend who quacked you up (ha!) with his antics?

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– Cried from a television show? (I’m looking at you, General Hospital, and your beautifully sad scene with Patrick and Emma yesterday.)

– Helped work the merchandise table for a singer whose music is like a ray of sunshine?

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– Resolved to turn an insanely frustrating experience into something motivating? And cheered yourself up by buying three new nail polishes “just because” and for no reason more?

– Bought movie tickets almost a full week before the film’s release day?

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– Cheered out loud because you won a Scrabble game?

– Admired and felt inspired by Mother Nature’s beauty?

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Me, too.

The Help.


“Go to New York, Ms. Skeeter. Go find your life.”
~Aibileen Clark, via Kathryn Stockett in The Help

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If you have read Kathryn’s best-selling novel – even if you haven’t – please do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk, to your local theater for a showing of the movie adaptation. I can say with confidence that you won’t be disappointed. And, if the audience I shared the experience with is a good barometer, you will also laugh, cheer, cry, and feel more inspired than you can possibly imagine. In fact, if I could only use one word to sum up this film, that’d be it: inspiring. There’s something very, deeply, fully special about the book, and to see it translated to the big screen adds an entirely new dynamic. It takes the images Kathryn paints so beautifully with her words and makes them come alive. We’re transported back in time to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and become a part of an extraordinary journey taken by three extraordinary women and the people who fill their lives. We see their struggles. We understand their boundaries. And then we watch them break those boundaries and cross all kinds of lines. We’re right there beside them as they change the world – one word, one story, one book at a time.

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Without giving away the details (seriously: read the book and see the movie, have I made myself clear?), I’ll say that they did a fabulous job following the plot and including the milestone moments, both big and small, that are at the very heart of the novel. They showed the power of a myriad of bonds: family, friendship, and the relationships that encompass both. The casting could not have been more spot-on. Emma Stone positively shone and sparkled as Skeeter, Octavia Spencer achieved a delicate balance between tugging at the heartstrings and being laugh-out-loud funny as Minny, and Viola Davis embodied Aibileen with stunning complexity. Together, they told the tale of three women whose lives intertwine in the most compelling way. Their journeys are separate, but their story is one. It’s unified. It’s proof of what happens when different threads are woven together with dedication, devotion, and diligence: you create a tapestry with everlasting stitches.

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There was one scene left out that I’d have loved to see – Aibileen taking over for Skeeter at the newspaper – but beyond that, the depiction was so true to the essence of the book. I can only imagine what a sense of overwhelming pride, jubilation, and pure emotion Kathryn must have felt the first time she saw the film. To have your vision come to life before your eyes instead of playing like a movie in your mind, words cannot describe how magical and moving it must be. It’s so well-deserved for Kathryn. She’s an example to so many of us who are pursuing our own writing dreams. Never give up. If you believe in your story with all your heart and soul, keep going, keep trying, keep working until your dream becomes reality.

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That’s what Skeeter did. Even when so many people told her it wasn’t possible, she followed her passion. She broke down walls, she took a leap of faith, she told the stories she couldn’t not tell. Maybe that’s why her character resonated most strongly for me, both in the movie and the book. Maybe that’s why, nearly a year after I read it, I still find myself thinking of her. She’s a reminder of who writers are. Of what we feel. What we love. What we do. What we create. What we love and what we live. There is a breathtaking scene towards the end where Aibileen tells Skeeter to “go find your life.” Reading it made me pause. Hearing it gave me chills. Because even though I’m not there yet, even though sometimes it feels like I never will be, I know what my life is. I know what I pray for it to be. Will it play out that way? Things never happen exactly as we plan. We never know what curves are waiting around the bend. But if Skeeter can do it, maybe I can, too. One thing’s for certain: I’ll never give up. I’ll remember the lessons these women taught, the lessons they make us feel. And, like so many other people whose lives have been touched by this story, I’ll be inspired.

Something Borrowed.


“I made safe, careful choices and hoped that things would fall into place for me. Then I fell in love with Dex and still viewed it as something happening to me. I hoped that he would make things right, or that fate would intervene. But I have learned that you make your own happiness, that part of going for what you want means losing something else. And when the stakes are high, the losses can be that much greater.”
~Rachel White, via Emily Giffin in Something Borrowed

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It’s no secret that Emily Giffin is one of my absolute favorite authors. The way she crafts her characters into people we relate to, people we understand, people we honestly feel as though we know … it’s remarkable. Emily has a distinct talent for telling stories that resonate. They stay with us for days, weeks, months after we read the final page. They leave a handprint on our hearts, and through that, Emily is able to connect with her readers in a very real, very special way. Add in the fact that she’s one of the most genuine, kind, gracious people you’ll ever meet, and, well, how could she not be a favorite? And her novels, how can they not follow suit? I rarely re-read books, but Emily’s are the exception – and, like an old friend, they simply get better with time.

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So when I heard that Something Borrowed was being made into a movie, I was beyond excited. I’m usually wary when a favorite book (actually, any book) is turned into a movie, because it’s often really hard to translate the magic of the story to the big screen. Important plot points are changed, meanings get lost in translation, new twists and turns are added. But with this movie, I had faith from the beginning that it would do the novel justice. Emily kept us all in the loop via her facebook page , and her involvement in the process made me sure that the movie would stay true to the book. After seeing it last night, I’m happy to report that it does just that. It was a perfect reflection of Emily’s story and vision, a perfect portrayal of these characters whom I loved from page one of the book. Without giving too much away (seriously – go see this movie for yourself, I promise you’ll be glad you did), I’ll just say that the casting is extraordinary all around. The actors get their characters and their hearts, and they did a fabulous job turning the written word into the spoken word. Ginnifer Goodwin positively shone as Rachel, Colin Egglesfield epitomized Dex, Kate Hudson was the perfect Darcy, and John Krasinski brought the house down as Ethan. My favorite parts: the badminton scene, the dance scene in Rachel’s apartment, the flashbacks, the ending, the sneak peek during the credits, and, of course, Emily’s fabulous cameo!

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I was proud to sit in the (nearly sold out!) theater and watch this story come to life all over again, just like it does in the book. Emily always paints such a compelling picture with her words, and now that picture is playing out on the big screen, too. To say I’m elated for her is an understatement. The movie is absolutely fantastic. Every moment is a joy, and I already can’t wait to see it again. As I’ve alluded to on here, it’s been a very long, very draining, very emotional two weeks for me and my family, and this movie gave me something to look forward to amidst it all. Emily’s writing, characters, dedication, and passion have inspired me more than words can say, and seeing her novel up there on the movie theater screen reminded me again why I cannot, will not, ever give up on my own publication journey.

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Like Rachel, I believe that we make our own happiness. Fate and serendipity may be out there, but what we choose to do with them is entirely on us. And sure, high stakes also means the possibility for greater losses. But we’ll never know unless we try, and don’t we owe ourselves that? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to go for what we want and grab for our goals? Happiness is within our reach … we just have to make it happen. Thanks, Emily, for that reminder.

Have any of your favorite books been made into movies? Did you like the film version?