“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!


It’s Nicer to be Nice.

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
~James Matthew Barrie

That was one of my Pop Joe’s favorite phrases: it’s nicer to be nice. He used to say it all the time, a smile in both his eyes and his voice. It’s been over ten years since he passed away, but still, I can hear him as though he’s right next to me. It’s a piece of grandfatherly wisdom I carry with me always. It’s also one that I feel like shouting from the rooftops sometimes.

Like yesterday.

If you live anywhere from Virginia to Massachusetts, you were probably expecting a snowstorm. Many got a winter wonderland. Others did not, swapping out the swirling flakes for heavy rain and strong winds. And, evidently, it made some people angry. I’m the first to admit that the forecast and the actual blast from Mother Nature didn’t line up. Philadelphia and the surrounding towns saw nothing more than an isolated flurry. Was that a surprise, given the predictions? Maybe. Did it warrant the backlash received by the poor meteorologists who, to be fair, said from the get-go that this storm would be tricky? Not in my opinion. Now, granted, I may be biased, seeing as how I worked at our ABC affiliate several years ago and had the chance to see firsthand how kind-hearted the weather team is, how truly passionate about their careers. But still … I was shocked at some of the comments they (and meteorologists from other media outlets) received last night. I’m not talking about the Facebook and Twitter posts that joked about the lack of snow or even teasingly gave the forecasters a hard time. It’s the hateful ones that were so horrible, these words filled with vitriol for professionals who were only doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Computer models are wonderful, but weather is capricious. It’s unreliable. Sometimes tracks change at the last minute. To verbally attack the meteorologists over it? No matter what you believe about hype, or sensationalism in the media, or news coverage … why is it ever okay to be so mean?

I don’t know, perhaps I’m just too nice for my own good. It’s certainly gotten me burned before. With the prevalence of social media today, though, it just seems like there are more and more examples of people speaking (erm … typing) before they think. And it makes me sad. No matter what sort of anonymity the online world brings about, there are still real people reading those words. Can we not have a conversation instead of spewing negativity? Can we not agree to disagree instead of putting others down? I know this is an idealistic view. I know there will always be divisiveness and I know that, though diversity is wonderful, there will always be different ways of expressing it.

It’s always been like this, I suppose, but one thing that stuck out as I was researching the 1950s for my current WIP is how much kinder people (as a whole) seemed then. I hope we can follow that example. I hope we can remember that it’s always nicer to be nice. I hope we can offer a smile instead of an accusation. I hope we can debate respectfully and build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I hope all the generous, genuine people who populate the online sphere can spread their presence even further.

(And, now that this snowstorm fizzled out, I hope we can leap forward into spring. Pretty sure that’s a forecast everyone will love.)