Five Things.

“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.”

1. Seeing Les Miserables for the first time is quite an experience. Seeing it from the second row at the Academy of Music, one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Philadelphia, makes the experience even more fabulous. So many kudos to the amazing cast and crew of the touring company. They did a phenomenal job. (Also: “On My Own” has now been running on constant repeat in my head since yesterday afternoon.)

2. Whoever came up with the idea for antibacterial hand sanitizer is a genius. I cannot even begin to count how many times I’ve used it this past week. New favorites from Bath & Body Works: Iced Gingerbread, Vanilla Buttercream, and Paris Amour. Such pretty scents to go along with the germ-fighting.

3. As of last Friday evening, my query letter and synopsis are both finished(!!). I’m working on my agent database for the next couple days, and then it’s time to jump back onto the emotional roller-coaster also known as querying. I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous – for some reason, the process just feels even more important and electrifying with this novel – but I’m excited, too. It’s been a joy to send the book out to a few readers, and I can’t wait to see what agents think.

4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are beyond awesome. Can they please host every awards show from now on, even the ones that have nothing to do with television?

5. There is nothing better than a flash of writing inspiration. I haven’t begun any official planning for my next book – wanted to focus on getting the first Mine to Love queries out there first – but even so, ideas have been flying into my head and I’ve been rushing to put them to paper (well … computer). So, so excited to start fleshing out this manuscript even more in the days and weeks ahead.

Your turn: tell me something that’s on your mind today!


Rhythm of the Heart.

“The straight paved road won’t always get you farther than the winding dirt road.”
~Kelly Monaco

If you’ve been anywhere near my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the past three months, then you know how fervently I was rooting for Kelly Monaco to win this all-star season of Dancing with the Stars. It was a blast to watch her routines every week and also to see so many of her GH co-stars support her in the audience. I have been a fan of Kelly’s since her General Hospital debut back in 2003, and not only because she does such a lovely job of telling Sam’s story. Beyond that, she is genuinely gracious – I’ll never forget how she took the time to talk with me after co-hosting Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving parade back in 2005 – and diligently devoted. She is the kind of person who creates luck instead of waiting to find it, the kind of person who chases her dreams and works hard to turn them into reality. If you watched Dancing with the Stars, you know that. Kelly twirled her way into the hearts of people everywhere, and despite scores from the judges that were often lower than they gave other contestants, she and dance partner Val made it into this week’s finals. And while they finished in third place on the show, they were – and are – number one in every way that matters. They reminded us to never give up on our hopes, to never stop reaching for the stars even if they seem out of reach. They reminded us that people come into our lives for a reason and that lifelong friendships can blossom when you least expect it. They reminded us to always work endlessly for what we believe in. They reminded us to dance to our own song and listen to our own music. They reminded us not to internalize it when others doubt our goals. They reminded us that, even though the straight and paved road may be more direct, it isn’t nearly as meaningful as the winding, dirt one. Simply put, they reminded us to spin the rhythm of our hearts and to soar on its wings.

Seventy-percent of the way through my last major round of revisions for Mine to Love, I admit that I’m ready to cross the finish line and start the next segment of the race. I am so excited about this book and can’t wait to begin the querying process for it. Do I know how my quest to send it out into the world will play out? No. Do I know how the paths will curve? No. But, like Kelly said, I have faith in the journey. Whatever roads this book takes are the ones it is meant to travel. So, Kelly, I owe you a triple thank you – for your sincerity at the Thanksgiving parade, for your kindness in signing my parade production pass when I saw you at a GH meet&greet, and for your inspiration now. LeAnn Womack sings, “when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” Thank you for doing that and for motivating us all to do the same.

Your turn: who is your all-time favorite Dancing with the Stars contestant?

GH Love.

“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

So … the forest of my book? The landscape of trees that’s coming together after the seeds were planted and the ideas took root? It’s something I’m really excited about, and very proud of, and so, so eager to start sending out into the world. But it’s also becoming a bit of something else: an occupational hazard. I have been spending so much time editing lately that my neck and eyes are beginning to protest. As in, I’ve been legitimately worried the last couple days that a blood vessel in my eye is going to pop. I’ll spare y’all the lovely details – just suffice it to say, I’m trying to majorly cut down on the computer time this weekend. Editing has been going well – so well, in fact, that this manuscript is actually going to dip below my target word count, which never (ever … E.V.E.R.) happens! – and though I’m reticent to scale back on my workload, I’m also trying to be smart about things. So, instead of a wordy post today, you get pictures of the General Hospital event I attended yesterday. It was a Q&A and meet-and-greet with Kirsten Storms (Maxie), Bradford Anderson (Spinelli), and Brandon Barash (Johnny). I’ve met Bradford and Brandon before, but not Kirsten, and so it was lovely to talk with her (as well as them – I made sure to tell Bradford that Spinelli’s laptop needs a name!). It always strikes me how genuine and gracious the GH cast is. They love their jobs, they love their co-workers, they love interacting with their fans … they are just wonderful people.

Her sunny spirit is contagious!

Take 1!

Take 2!

Tell me – if you could meet the cast of any television show, who would you choose?

Lights, Camera, Action.

“Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
~Sanford Meisner

I have written many times about my love of General Hospital, so it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend an event this past weekend with two of its stars, Rebecca Herbst and Scott Reeves. They play Elizabeth and Steve Webber – a fantastic sister and brother duo – and I was quite looking forward to hearing what they had to say about the show. I’d met Becky once before and remembered her as being quiet, but so insightful and sweet at the same time. That was the case on Saturday, too. There’s a grace and graciousness to her that emanates constantly. And Scott, what can I say about Scott? He is also very sweet … and hilarious. As in, laugh-out-loud funny. You can tell that he and Rebecca are great friends, which made for a really fun afternoon with them. They chatted, they answered questions, they cracked jokes, they took pictures and signed autographs, they made everyone feel welcome. I know soap operas catch a lot of flack from some people, but in addition to the actual show, I think this is one of the reasons why they stand apart in a good way – because you can see, literally, how genuinely the actors enjoy meeting and engaging with the fans. It’s an awesome community.

I won’t get into all the details from the Q&A (though I have to share the funniest part – Becky’s reaction to someone suggesting an Elizabeth and Sonny pairing? “Sonny will sneeze on her and she’ll end up pregnant with triplets!” SO. FUNNY.), but I do want to mention something that came up while I was talking to Becky during the meet and greet. As my friend Steph and I were waiting in line, I was trying to decide what to say. I had my talking points, so to speak, for Scott – I wanted to comment on particular scenes of his that he shared with the actress who plays his mother. I wasn’t sure what to single out to speak about with Becky, though … until a few minutes before my turn, when it was one of those light-bulb moments. After she and Scott signed my GH bag and we chatted a bit about the fabulous Robin Mattson, I told Becky how authentic her scenes are, how it doesn’t feel like I’m watching a television show, but rather simply dropping in on someone’s life. Scott said something to the effect of “wow, what a compliment!” and Becky agreed, thanking me and saying how sweet it was.

The whole exchange got me thinking: isn’t it the same with writing? Don’t we put ourselves into our characters’ shoes – into their lives – much the way actors do? Don’t we strive to make them as realistic, as authentic, as true as possible? Don’t we want to create an experience for readers where they feel as though they’re dropping in on someone’s world, rather than watching from afar? I’ve never really considered the similarities between acting and writing before, but I can see now that there are parallels. That the same hallmarks apply. That the same lessons can be learned. No, we don’t have the same visual tactics that actors use, but we can try to achieve the same through our words. We can show instead of tell. We can paint a picture through dialogue and description. We can set a scene. It may not be “lights, camera, action” in the traditional sense, but those elements are still there. The lights illuminate the thoughts whirling through our heads, the ones scrawled out in our writing journals, the ones motivating and inspiring our characters. The cameras are mental instead of physical. They capture a freeze frame in our mind’s eye and we then have the joy of trying to recreate it in words. And action … well, books may play out in 2D instead of 3D, but the action is still there.

Anyone else agree? Or have I just been watching too much GH and it’s gone to my head? :)

Also: completely unrelated, but l’shana tova to everyone celebrating! May your New Year be healthy, happy, and sweet! xoxo

Sunshine for the Soul.

“Some people make the world special just by being in it.”

Ten and a half years ago, I watched my first episode of General Hospital. Six years ago, I met one of my absolute favorite actresses from it, Nancy Lee Grahn, for the first time. Four years ago, Nancy came back to New York for another event. Two years ago, she hosted a third get-together. And yesterday, during a luncheon that was filled with laughter, joy, appreciation, and sincerity, she gave me a plethora of new memories to smile upon forever.

Nancy is gracious, genuine, and down-to-earth. She plops down next to you at the table, talks to you like you’ve been friends forever, and remembers so many little details from years ago that it makes you marvel. So, when she announced her most recent event in New York, I didn’t think twice about buying a ticket. Nancy’s events are simply not-missable. She’s just that awesome.

Bright and early yesterday, Mom and I headed up to NYC. Penn Station was surprisingly quiet for a holiday weekend (well, at that point, anyway – not so much on the journey home), and as we waited for our connecting train out to Long Island, chords of violin music and tinkling, twinkling Salvation Army bells played in the background. After the second train ride, we arrived at the adorable boutique restaurant where the luncheon was being held. Nancy’s previous events have all been in NYC hotels, so this had a completely different vibe. It was smaller, more intimate (which is hard to achieve at a Nancy event, because they’re already so personalized), and even more laden with laughter than usual. She did her usual “pinky swear,” where we all promised not to repeat anything, so no spoilers. I’ll just say that, as always, she was her lovely, earnest, passionate self.

She chatted for two hours – about everything from Thanksgiving to her driving escapades to Twitter – and was full of humor, insight, wit, and eloquence. She moves around so much that it was tough to get pictures (gonna have to explore that “fast motion” setting on my new camera!), but I managed to snap a few. Favorite one? Nancy showing off her waitressing skills. She blew into the restaurant like a whirlwind of energy and immediately ran over to grab this tray of drinks. “I’ll serve you all!” she declared happily, and then she proceeded to do just that.

Nancy - drinks

Nancy - chatting

As always, visiting with her one-on-one was my favorite part. She signed our picture from last time, then happily signed another for a friend of mine up in Massachusetts who wasn’t able to attend. Quotable line: “I’ve already managed to forget what her name is. Can you remind me?” It was extra amusing because I hadn’t yet told her. We talked for quite awhile after that. She’d mentioned several times that she wants to write about her experiences – “that’s going in the book!” – and how much she admires writers, so I told her that she should seriously pursue it. She’s so talented and so articulate that she’d honestly have a bestseller on her hands. I brought her up to speed on my books and publication quest – she knew about the journalism, but not the creative writing – and she asked if it’s hard to get published. I said yes, of course, and I swear, I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her I’ve gotten requests from agents and that the full manuscript is currently out with one. The way her eyes got wide and she beamed will forever be imprinted in my mind, as will her “that’s AWESOME!” She asked me what the books are about and listened – genuinely cared and listened – as I described them. Then – this cracked us up – she looked at my mom, winked, and went, “is she good?!” She was teasing, of course, but Mom still launched into this whole mini-speech about my writing. ‘Twas cute on both their parts. We took a few pictures (“I wasn’t ready! Let’s take another!”), and then, in a moment I will always treasure, she turned back to me and said “Keep me updated about the books. I’ll buy them! I want to read!” So sweet and so sincere, too. Made my entire day and then some.

Still chatting ... oops!

Nancy and me!

Family pic!

And, because this is too amusing not to post … the restaurant where the event was held is located in Great Neck, Long Island. Struck us funny since my constant writing-editing-querying results in too much computer work, and, subsequently, some rather not-so-fun neck pain. Maybe this is a sign that it’ll disappear for good?

Great Neck

Huge, ginormous thank yous go out to Nancy for yet another fabulous experience. It was truly sunshine for the soul. There are some people who make this world special just by being in it, and she’s one of them. Her heart’s as big as her talent, and I will always be grateful for the memories she has given me to treasure.

Have you ever met a favorite actor or actress? What was it like?

Loving Lucy.

“Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.”
~Lucille Ball

If you clicked over to Google yesterday, then you probably have a pretty good idea of why I decided to switch up my planned blog posts and go with this one instead. If not, I’ll fill you in: August 6th is Lucille Ball’s birthday, and yesterday would have been her 100th. Television stations and websites are paying tribute to the actress extraordinaire all weekend, celebrating her life and pioneering vision, and as a huge fan (I even included her in two of my novels!), I couldn’t not follow suit. I’ve already written about her and the lasting impact she’ll have on American culture, so today, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my favorite I Love Lucy moments. I’d love if y’all would post some of your most-loved ones, too.

#1: First Stop – Favorite. Episode. Ever. No exaggeration, I’ve seen this at least fifteen times, and it never fails to make me literally laugh out loud. That’s the magic of Lucy, of this show, I think. It’s timeless. Iconic. All-encompassing. It makes the old new again. It brings a sense of familiarity and comfort, works its way into the soul and spirit. No matter what else is going on, it’s an escape into this world of humor, hijinks, and happiness. For me, this episode exemplifies that. When exhaustion sets in after a long, long, loooong day of driving to California, the Ricardos and Mertzes stop at a run-down, in-the-middle-of-nowhere cafe for dinner. The meal turns out to be less than gourmet – cheese sandwiches that aren’t exactly fresh – and they decide to leave. And, of course, Lucy – being Lucy – accidentally lands them right back where they began after she offers to drive. That’s not so great for Ricky, Ethel, and Fred, but wonderful for viewers. The cafe and one-room motel are directly next to the train tracks, and when one roars by, making the beds jump across the room and Lucy cling to Ricky as if for dear life, it is truly priceless. If I had to choose one scene from the show’s entire run as my favorite, that’d be it. I could watch it fifty times in a row and laugh every single time.

#2: L.A., At Last – How can you not love an episode where Lucy manages to both twirl an entire plateful of spaghetti around her fork and set a makeup-created nose on fire? The episode is fantastic from beginning to end, but my personal favorite part is when Lucy, Ethel, and Fred go to lunch at Hollywood’s Brown Derby. Their reaction to all the celebrities is endearing, William Holden turning the tables on them is amusing, and Lucy’s attempts to work her way out of another what-did-I-get-myself-into situation is, as always, deeply entertaining. That’s a thread that runs throughout not only every episode of the hit show, but Lucille’s subsequent work, too. She didn’t just make us smile. She didn’t just make us laugh. She made us feel. She made us live in the moment with her and absorb every drop of the entertainment she so flawlessly provided.

#3: The Freezer – When Lucy and Ethel buy two sides of beef, they think they’re getting a great deal. They think it’ll be the perfect way to celebrate the new walk-in freezer they bought. And then the meat’s delivered. And delivered. And delivered. As more and more is brought in, their reactions simultaneously become more panicky and hilarious. Lucy’s plan to set up shop at a butcher’s, selling the meat for a cheaper price, is pure comedic gold. And when she accidentally locks herself in the freezer later on? It’s one of those times that will forever be part of the show’s rich, layered history.

#4: Lucy is Enceinte – That final scene at Ricky’s club, when Lucy asks him to sing “We’re Having a Baby” and then tells him the song is for them … it’s no wonder it’s become one of the most loved scenes of the show’s entire run. There’s something very special about it, something almost magical. It feels like we’re being invited in to share this life-changing miracle with the Ricardos. We don’t just witness their bliss. We feel it, too. We share in their joy and celebrate their blessing. Knowing that it was more than just “reel life” for them, that Lucille was in fact pregnant with their own little boy, just adds to the poignancy. It’s a true fairytale moment.

These are only a select few of my favorites. Truly, I could go on and on. Other standout episodes include: Lucy writing a novel (no surprise that I’ll always have a soft spot for that one!), the Ricardos changing apartments, Lucy dressing up as Superman and getting stuck on the balcony, Ethel putting on a show in her hometown and the others joining in to teach her a lesson, the infamous Vitameatavegamin commercial, and, of course, Lucy and Ricky welcoming their son into the world. I especially love that it was coordinated to air on the night their real son was born. Again, there’s just something special about it.

There’s just something special about Lucy. She’s made us laugh, cry, wonder, reflect, reminisce, dream, and hope. Decades after she became America’s Sweetheart, she continues to touch lives and influence them for the better. Because, as she says, life’s not only about luck. It’s about knowing what you want and going after it. It’s about being willing to work hard and be fearless. It’s about crossing boundaries, breaking down barriers, and leaping before you look. It’s about going for your dreams and seeking out every opportunity. It’s about making your own luck. That’s what Lucy did. That’s what she inspires us to do. And maybe that’s why so many people are celebrating her this weekend. It’s not only because of what she did or how much she accomplished. It’s because of who she is and who she encourages us all to be. Lucy can make infinite audiences laugh like no other. She can make us feel like no other. But Lucille … she can make us believe like no other, and for that, we should be deeply grateful.

Happy Birthday, Lucille. Thanks for the entertainment, the joy, the reminder to reach for the stars … and, most of all, for the memories.

Family by Choice.

“We pick and choose who we want to remain close to, and once we’ve chosen those people, we tend to stick close by.”
~Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy)


So … I really wanted to write this post yesterday, but instead I spent the day helping to clear out my grandmom’s room so new, smoother carpeting can be installed for when she gets home from the rehab facility. Then I really wanted to write this post earlier today, but I spent most of the day in the car – driving my mom to my grandmom’s orthopedist appointment, waiting for two hours (seriously, no exaggeration) until they were finished, driving to the rehab place, and then spending forever stuck in rush hour on the way home. Throw in some time to visit with my grandmom, and poof, now the sun has set. It’s all about adaptation, right?

Okay, back to the actual subject of this post. Saturday was a wonderful day. It was a special day. It was also an I-finally-get-a-break-to-just-enjoy-myself kind of day, and I owe that all to my second family. Who is that, you may ask? That would be my AUTVers, the group of us who ran the campus television station back in college. We were small in number, but big in passion for what we were doing. Newscasts, a soap opera, a live talk show, even a twenty-four hour telethon, the programming we created and produced most definitely spanned the spectrum. We learned about camera angles, about designing digitized graphics, about structuring broadcasts, about using a myriad of editing and computer programs to pull together a polished final product. But we also learned about so much more – about teamwork, about shared goals, about the kind of friendships that grow into a family. Most of my senior year was spent in the Communications building, and a majority of that time was spent with six of the most talented, wonderful people I could ever hope to meet – Amy, Brock, Melissa, Kevin, Bryan, and Anthony.

When the hard drive with my senior thesis on it crashed just three days before the whole thing was due, they offered to help me film new interviews for all the news stories I thought were lost forever. Bryan’s computer prowess saved my thesis (and my heart rate!), but I know without fail that had it not been salvageable, they would have all been there for me that weekend, no questions asked. That’s what we were. That’s who we are. I know a lot of people talk about their college experience being the best time of their lives, and while there were other parts of mine that I enjoyed, it wasn’t until the tv station became my home away from home that I truly got it. Did we have an actual studio? No. Did I lobby for a news desk for three years and never get it? Yes. Did only a handful of people actually watch AUTV’s channel nine? Probably. But that’s okay. We loved what we worked on. We lived it. We were proud of it. And, in the end, it taught me one of the most important lessons of all: you don’t just gain an expanded education in college. You gain an identity. You gain lifelong friends, these people who come into your life, leave a handprint on your heart, and never leave.

That’s what AUTV is to me. And when we all got together on Saturday, it didn’t matter than nearly two years had passed since the last time all seven of us had seen one another. It didn’t matter than it’s been more than five years since we wrapped our last production for the tv station. Because with a group like ours, with a family that comes not from genetics but from choice, you can pick up right where you left off. Being with everyone again felt like coming home. It felt like an oasis of calm in the sea of craziness that my life has become lately. We’ve all grown since our college days, and we’ve all branched off into new adventures. But even though the paths we follow may not be the same anymore, they still lead us back to one another. Choosing to stick close by to someone has nothing to do with distance and everything to do with devotion.

In the fall of 2004, we made a vow to take AUTV to the next level. In the spring of 2005, we looked back on a demo reel that highlighted not only the shows we produced, but also the bonds we’d formed. Six years later, it’s more clear to me than ever how lucky I am to have found these friends. We all add a different stitch to the tapestry – different from each other, different from the ones we wove back in college – and that’s a good thing. I believe that people come into our lives for a reason, and I’ll be forever grateful that they’re a part of mine.

Did you find a close-knit group like that in college? What activities and club were you involved in? Any special friendship stories to share?

Sing from the Heart.

“All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am…”
~Sara Ramirez, singing Brandi Carlile’s “The Story”

Grey's cast

I believe in the power of stories. I believe in the power of music. And I also believe in the power they share in conjunction with one another. It’s something I’ve mentioned on here several times, so I won’t go into detail again, other than to say: wow, wow, wow has anyone else listened to the soundtrack for tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy yet? I’d originally planned to hold off until after I saw the show, but that resolve flew out the window this morning. Somehow, my fingers opened up iTunes. Then they searched for the soundtrack. Then they bought it. Oops. Hey, I figure since patience is an essential virtue to possess in this publishing journey, especially now, why not go with the opposite for something like new music?

Thirty seconds into the first song and I was so, so glad for that impatience. I know a lot of people have been skeptical about this episode, but if it’s even half as compelling as the emotion that grips some of these songs, then it’s going to be the most captivating show of the season. It’s not just the actors’ passion you can hear strung through the melodies and resounding in the harmonies. It’s the characters’ passion, too. Because Callie, Mark, Bailey, Owen, Meredith – they’re not just fictional people we watch on television every week. Through the writers’ words, the actors’ embodiment of their alter egos’ souls, everyone’s vision of who these characters are … they become real to us. We feel like we know them, which means we bask in their joys and share in their sorrows. So when we listen to these songs, several of which are iconic to the show, we don’t just hear them. We feel them.

And yes, maybe I connect to that on such a deep level because I’m a writer. When I spend months on end with my characters, I feel that bond with them. I go on their journeys, get in their heads, and live their emotions. That’s something I consider a blessing, and something that makes me crave a similar experience when I’m reading a book or watching a television show. It can never be exactly the same, of course, since those characters are someone else’s babies, but it can be very powerful and even more inspiring. When what sounds like the whole Grey’s cast joins together for the chorus of “How to Save a Life,” it’s a total goosebumps moment. Out of the whole album, that’s what got to me the most. Favorite part. Each song is special, each voice brings something unique, but when they blend together like that to tell the story of these people who viewers have come to know so well these past seven years, it’s just absolutely beautiful. And Sara Ramirez’s version of “The Story” … I think I could listen over and over. The message behind it is so important.

We all have our own stories. Each line is etched across our faces, each word resonates somewhere in our souls. Do those stories always have a perfect melody? No. Nothing and nobody is perfect. But when they come together? When they join to show our past and look toward our future? There’s a harmony there that strikes a deep, lasting chord.

Do you believe in the power of music and the written word? Do those stories-come-to-life ever give you chills? Will you be watching Grey’s tonight? Three hours and fifty minutes to go … not that I’m counting or anything.