Thursday, April 26, 2012

Get Back Up and Dance Again

Three weeks ago, I wiped out at dance class.

All things considered, I had it coming, really.  I've been doing Irish dance for nearly three years and I had yet to fall.  It's like when you go ice skating--inevitably, you will eventually fall.  For Irish dance, skipping around on the balls of your feet, crossing one foot in front of another as best you can, and then adding in all the other complicated footwork that comes with more advanced steps...yeah, you're just going to eventually hit the floor.

So I wasn't exactly surprised.

Our dance teacher had decided to start drilling those of us planning to compete in August on our solo steps.  Reels, to be exact, but likely very few of you will know what that even means.  For competition, we have to do two full steps, back-to-back.  I somehow came out of my first step weird, and when I went into the start of my second, my ankles twisted around each other and I fell sideways.

I'm told it was a very graceful fall.  For me, it just seemed comically slow.  I had enough time between my ankles getting knotted and finally hitting the ground to think "huh, I'm falling."

After I fell, I sat back up and waited for my dance friend to finish the step I'd epically screwed up (hint: I wasn't supposed to faceplant).  My poor dance teacher, who seems frequently afraid of breaking us, was freaking out a little, asking me over and over if I was okay.  I kept telling her I was.

"I'm fine!  Really!  I'm good!"

I got back to my feet, ignoring the twinging in my ankles, and went back to the spot on the floor where we'd started.  My dance teacher suggested nervously that we try the steps again.


She looked at me warily for a while before then asking if I really wanted to, making sure once again that I was okay.

"I'm good!  Back on the horse!  Let's go!"

(To note: I really was talking with exclamation points.  It's likely, looking back on it, that I was slightly hysterical.  And I feel like my voice was about an octave higher than it usually is when I talk.  I don't know why this was.  Feigning confidence, perhaps, or maybe I was trying not to laugh.  Whatever the case, it's no wonder my dance teacher seemed worried that I had done myself more harm than I had.)

She kind of looked at me like she didn't really believe me, but let me carry on.  We did the two steps again, and this time I didn't screw it up.  I danced the remaining 45 minutes of class on two sore ankles.  In retrospect, this was a mistake, because I really should have wrapped my right ankle (my notoriously bad ankle) right away.  As it was, I only put my ankle brace on for the walk to the parking garage after, then iced my ankles when I got home.  A few days of ankle pain later, I was good as new.

This past week marked the release of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist list (there's a connection, I promise.  Stick with me).

I never really thought I had a chance to make the top 50 of the YA category.  In fact, I'd been pretty freaking surprised when I'd made it to the Quarterfinals (top 250 out of 5000).  So while I was nervously waiting to see if somehow a miracle would occur, I was mostly panicking about the looming Publishers Weekly review that was going to come with the announcement.

I hadn't been panicking, though, until I read an old thread on the ABNA discussion boards where last year's Quarterfinalists were sharing their PW reviews.  And then I suddenly realized how unbelievably harsh some of the PW reviewers are.  That's pretty much when the panic set in.

I'd more or less decided, since I never expected to make Semifinals anyway, that my degree of disappointment would be contingent on that review.  If I didn't make it, but my review was either good or, at the very least, not mean, then I'd be okay.  If I didn't make it, but my review was one of the ones that makes people go "OUCH", then I'd need a whole lot of chocolate.

So the Semifinals list was posted.  I wasn't on it.  I kind of got over it quickly, though.  Then I, and 499 other writers, waited anxiously for the posting of the reviews.

And waited.

And waited.

They finally went up about half an hour before I left work.  Good thing, that, meant I could stock up on chocolate on my way home from work, rather than having to make a special trip.

My review was definitely an "OUCH" review.

So after I got over the shock of getting a review like that, and after I purchased much chocolate, I went home...and that night I revised a chapter in the novel I'm currently fixing.  Part of this was because I wanted to submit something to writers group for Saturday, and hadn't realized that I hadn't fixed this one chapter after my critique partner had looked over it several weeks ago (oops).

But part of the reason was because I needed to prove to myself that I could.  I needed to get back on the horse.  I needed to get up off the floor and do the steps again on two sore ankles (see?  Told you I'd connect it).

I didn't let myself mourn the bad review until the next day.  That's when I let myself feel the heartache.  But my immediate response to getting such a harsh review, other than eating chocolate, was to write something.  Anything.  Even if it was only a handful of sentences.  Even if it was just fixing a chapter I should have fixed weeks ago.  I had to do something.

So I did.  And then I wrapped and iced my wounds and am now letting them heal. 

In a couple of days, I'll be good to dance the writing dance again and I'll just be able to laugh and say that it was inevitable I was going to fall eventually.

It's just what happens when you put your writing out there.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Then Please Tell Me What a "Real" Book Is...

Today was an annual event that happens at my day job, where our entire section of the company takes over a high school...and we proceed to have to listen to presentations on how to better ourselves and grow and blah blah blah.

Usually, this particular event is not anything worth me blogging about...or, honestly, talking about after we're released from it. But something happened at lunch today that I can't get out of my head.

Here's an important thing to note about me: I'm basically semi-antisocial when it comes to eating lunch in cafeterias. I prefer to sit alone. And while I sit alone, I read (or write, if I'm actively working on a first draft).

At lunch today, the cafeteria at this high school was super crowded with the 700 people that were crammed into it, so a couple of guys ended up sitting across from me. No big deal. I'm pretty great at tuning out noise and talking and I just kept reading. About fifteen minutes before we were supposed to go to the auditorium for the large group session, I decided it would be a good time to stop by the bathroom, so I started packing up all my stuff.

And then THIS conversation happened between me and one of the random guys sitting across from me.

Random Guy (RG): What are you reading?
Me: Possess.
RG: *confused look*
Me: It's...a Young Adult paranormal...
RG: *that look that I hate that asks me why the crap I'm reading YA when I'm in my twenties*
Me: ...I'm a Young Adult writer.

Now, see. I'm used to that conversation. How that conversation usually ends is with the other person nodding understandingly...because, apparently, it's only okay that I'm a twenty-something that reads YA because I also write it. (But whatever. Different rant for a different time.) Oh, no. THIS conversation continued.

RG: You know what I don't understand? Why Young Adult has gotten so big.
Me: *stares*
RG: I mean, it's all vampires and Harry Potter.
Me: *stares*
RG: They're just page-turners. Just fast reads. I don't get why people can't read real books anymore.

Oh. No. He. Didn't.

I didn't even know what to say to this, so I ended up saying something about how they're more exciting to read. And then I excused myself and left. (Of course, it was ten minutes later that I thought of a better response...about how Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling are laughing all the way to the bank anyway.)

I just...there were no words. NO WORDS for how annoyed and...angry that comment made me.

I mean, first of all, I had JUST told him that I write YA. What made him think that was a smart thing to say to someone who WRITES YOUNG ADULT?

And, second of all...

"Real" books? "Real" books?

Please, tell me. What on earth makes a "real" book? Because...I mean...maybe I'm wrong, but isn't a real book one that has characters and a plot and is published in some way, be it epub or traditional or otherwise? Isn't a real book one that people take the time to read?

So what makes Young Adult stories not "real" books? Because they're exciting? Because they're typically pretty quick reads? Because they have a tendency to garner large, passionate followings?

It kills me when people say things like that. When they think that YA isn't "real" just because they're page-turners. YA can be just as deep and explore characters just as much as adult fiction. It's not always "easy" to read and it's definitely not "easy" to write. It takes emotional turns and curves and explores tough topics. It makes you cry and worry and panic and fear for the characters and just feel ALL THE THINGS. It makes you see the world around you in a different light and it makes you relate to that world differently.

What about all of that isn't "real" enough for you?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wasn't Excited At All

I wasn't excited for The Hunger Games. No, not at all.

I haven't been following the movie news ever since the production was first announced and casting was first done.

I didn't start rounding up my friends two months ago, trying to figure out who would go to the midnight premiere of the movie.

I didn't re-read the book and make a mental list of all the scenes I was most looking forward to (or most dreading...or both) seeing.

I didn't buy a ridiculous amount of merchandise from Hot Topic, nor did I buy the soundtrack the second it came out.

I didn't dye my hair last Wednesday night for a costume, or spend hours making Hunger Games-inspired food for a dinner party.

I didn't tweet obnoxiously all day on the day of the midnight premiere about how excited I was for the movie.

No...not me...

Okay, you caught me. I was INSANELY excited for this movie. Insanely. And as is my norm, when I'm insanely excited for something...I may go a bit overboard. But I love every minute of it.

As I said above, I made a costume. Katniss. And, yes, I dyed my hair for it (to be fair, though, I'd been kind of wanting to dye my hair anyway). I also had a Hunger Games dinner party with a few friends the evening of the premiere...just because I had a few recipes I'd seen online that I'd been wanting to try anyway.

The most important things learned at the dinner party:
  • lamb actually doesn't taste much different than beef when in stew
  • syrup tastes great on drop biscuits that only contain three ingredients
  • goat milk actually just tastes like...milk. Huh.
  • Peeta was definitely onto something when he was dipping rolls in hot chocolate
  • customers in retail suck

All important things to know, of course.

The adventure officially started when I had to call one of my friends (Jessica, I'm looking at you) and talk her into getting her butt to the movie, regardless of how tired she was from work. My argument? "Know what will make you feel better? Watching teenagers kill each other!"

This made her laugh. So I won.

We left for the movie. Janet headed off to kidnap (er...pick up) Jess, and Caitlin needed to swing by her house to get a jacket before going to the theatre. Kathleen (one of my roommates) and I were driving separately. We were like, "we're TOTALLY going to beat everyone there! We're going straight to the theatre! Weeeee!" And then I got all excited about deep discussions regarding fandoms and cross-overs and how people totally underestimate the passion of the Hunger Games fans, because we're just quieter than other ones...and totally missed the exit for the theatre. Oops. So this required us to go another couple miles down to another highway, and another couple miles down THAT highway, before we could turn around and come back.

We STILL beat everyone to the theatre. (This is why I need a GPS even in my hometown. At least the GPS lady would have been screaming for us to get off at the correct exit.)

Half an hour later, most of our group had arrived and we discovered that...barely anyone else in the theatre was in costume. The down side to being one of five people in full-on costume is that you get a lot of strange looks and you feel kind of ridiculous. The plus side is that people REALLY notice your costume, which is pretty epic.

Fast forward to the previews. One of the first previews was for the next Twilight movie. Between the little 13 year old girls sitting behind us screaming at the top of their lungs IN MY EAR, and my friend Caitlin throwing an anti-Twilight shit fit three seats over...I couldn't hear a single word of the trailer. Which was vaguely annoying, because I was kind of curious what was being said (it's really grating to see people's mouths move and have no idea what's going on).

The 20-somethings got their revenge as the next trailer started. First, there were humorous comments from the 13 year old girls about the "disaster related horror" warning that came before the trailer started. And as we were all wondering what on earth this could be for, we saw that famous opening shot of a little underwater robot descending into the deep unknown.

At which point all the 20-somethings in the audience started cheering and freaking out about Titanic.

And the 13 year olds were clearly VERY confused as to the freaking out. Which was hilarious.

I went into what I loved about the Hunger Games movie on the Fiction Flurry blog, but I will say that I thought the movie was exceptionally well-done. It was a great book-to-movie adaptation, I loved the cast, and I just can't get over the amazingness. There was one moment toward the end where I jumped violently in my seat and made some weird quiet-screaming sound, which made my friend Jenn nearly pee herself because she was laughing at me so hard (I'm easily startled...I still jump when the Inferi grabs Harry's ankle in the Half-Blood Prince movie and I've seen that sucker a hundred times).

All in all, it was a great midnight movie experience.

And then, two days later, I saw the movie again.

No...I wasn't excited AT ALL.