Monday, August 8, 2011

The Proposal!!!

So I think it's safe to say that I am having an exceptional summer. First a book deal, then a marriage proposal. What's next--a jumbo-sized Publisher's Clearinghouse check delivered to my front door?

Seriously, though, winning all the money in the world could never top the sheer bliss of my soul mate--Ben Lindvall--asking me to marry him. I'm the luckiest woman in the world to have him as my future husband!

Since I promised some of you a video message about the details of the big moment, I figured I'd just post it on YouTube, so anyone interested could view it. Besides, this way when someone asks me to tell them the story, I can say, "Get thee to my Blog!" (Does that count as shameless self-promotion? Probably, but oh well.)

So feel free to click here and enjoy!




Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DEAR BULLY: The story behind my story in this remarkable anthology

Last year on vacation, my boyfriend and I were driving down the open highway, en route to Holland, Michigan, when we got into a long conversation about bullying. I’m not quite sure how it started, but I think it’s safe to guess that one of the countless horrific cases that had been covered in the media—Phoebe Prince, Megan Meier, and Brandon Myers, to name just a mere few—got us on the subject.

My boyfriend admitted to being picked-on as a child, and so did I. My younger brother and I were the only kids in our neighborhood who went to a Catholic grammar school, so rumors were spread about us, like we wouldn’t take a bath in anything except for holy water. Thankfully, that was the worst I'd seen at 10 years old. (God bless the 80s.)

In high school, there'd been a girl who spread some lies about me because a boy she'd liked had shown interest in me instead. We had one small confrontation in the school locker room, where I told her to knock it off, and she apologized to me and backed down. Of course, I consider myself really lucky to have avoided the more serious abuse that come at the hands and from the mouths of people who are supposed to be your friends.

But other people weren’t lucky at all. Some classmates of mine suffered brutal verbal taunting on a daily basis, and nothing was ever done about it really. Or if there was, it wasn’t evident from what I witnessed in the hallways.

It was much harder for me to talk about this stuff with my boyfriend. In fact, I actually started tearing up with I told him about this particular girl who was bullied by a group of boys in our class because they suspected she was gay. I’d watch as they crowded around her and said really mean things that I refuse to repeat here.

Let me say that again, and with feeling: I’d watch.

Back then, I was a bystander, plain and simple. Thinking about it made me wish my boyfriend’s blue pick-up truck would turn into a silver DeLorean so I could go back in time and change things.

Sad to say, that wish didn’t come true. As our conversation winded down, I made another wish—that I’d find the courage to write about this someday.

I kid you not, a week later I found out that two teen authors/activists were compiling a collection of short stories, essays, etc. for an anthology devoted to combating the bullying epidemic. I took it as a sign, and immediately sat down in front of my computer and started typing. I didn’t know if I’d be able to aptly express the guilt I’d felt for not standing up for the kids that needed it, but I hoped that my story would be of help or comfort to today’s young readers who are finding themselves in similar situations, and scared to speak up or act.

The story turned out to be only a few pages, but as I typed the last line, it felt as though I’d written a thousand. Now all I had to do was put it out there.

I was surprised that when I forwarded the story to the editors, a peacefulness began to wash over me the moment I hit the Send button. When I found out that my story was going to be included in the anthology, the peacefulness turned into pride. When I got my hands on a copy of the galley and read all the moving, unforgettable stories from this awesome group of teen authors (seriously, the list of talent here is staggering), the pride turned into hope—the hope that we can fight this crisis and win.

With that said, I hope that you’ll pick up a copy of DEAR BULLY when it hits stores next month, or that you’ll pre-order it soon. The amazing Carrie Jones and incredible Megan Kelley Hall did a fantastic job pulling this memorable collection of writing together. They run a wonderful group on Facebook, too, called Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, which you can join by clicking here. You can also visit the blog here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The BIG ANNOUNCEMENT I've been hinting at!

I’m SO EXCITED and THRILLED to finally tell you why I have been missing-in-action on my blog! Complete with a photo-filled re-enactment of the last six months!


But first, here's the fantastic news! From this morning's Publishers Marketplace:

Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam's ELUSION, pitched as an "Inception"-type futuristic thriller series about three teenagers attempting to solve a mystery with serious personal stakes, that leads them inside an alternate reality game which transports users to dangerously seductive Utopian world, and ETHERWORLD, to Katherine Tegen and Sarah Shumway at Katherine Tegen Books, in a significant deal, by Christy Fletcher at Fletcher & Company (for Gabel) and Esther Newberg at ICM (for Klam) (NA). Foreign/UK: Fletcher & Co. Film: Josie Friedman and Nick Harris at ICM.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you believe it? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Isn't that FABULOUS? !!!!!!!!!!!!


I just might faint. Seriously.

While I try to make the room stop spinning, why don't you read the behind-the-scenes story, okay? Great! 


At Christmas, my dear friend and fellow teen novelist Cheryl Klam called me up to wish me a happy holiday. We talked about the usual stuff—what her kids were up to; what books we were reading; our favorite bits from Kathy Griffin: Life on the D List; the molecular structure of tannic acid; etc.


Then the conversation turned to writing, which it almost always does. Cheryl and I have worked on a number of projects together—a treatment for a movie, a script for a sitcom pilot, and a one-woman comedy show about aging gracefully, called HEY, YOU--GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY ACTIVIA! (Just kidding about the last one.)

Even though our projects didn’t get picked up, we had such a great time collaborating on them. So Cheryl said, “What's our next move? What do we do now?” And then I replied, “Here’s an idea. What if we work on a BOOK….for TEENS? You know, like we’ve already done on our own?”

There was a contemplative silence. Or maybe it was just the biggest “Duh!” ever experienced on planet Earth. Why hadn’t we thought about that before?!
Then Cheryl said, “It has to be an idea that’s really different than what we’ve already done.” Then I said, “You’re right, but it should also be something that both bucks the current trends and yet embraces the current trends.” (That came from the editor side of my brain, of course. Cheryl is subjected to this voice more often than she’d like, I’m sure!)


So for a few weeks after that, we thought long and hard. We brainstormed on the phone and emailed back and forth with our ideas. We pitched each other until we couldn’t stand it any longer.

And then it happened, a true EUREKA moment! We immediately knew that we had something special, so we spazzed out. HARD. Like so:







Then it was time to get to work. Cheryl and I decided the best thing to do was write an in-depth outline that detailed the story for the book and its sequel. It would cover everything—the concept pitch; how to position the book; character descriptions; backstory; world-building; plot; competitive titles, author bios; you name it. We also needed to compile sample chapters to go along with the outline, preferably 75-100 pages.



The outline was actually the easiest part of the process, even though it took us months to complete. Cheryl and I would set up conference calls, and basically spend hours plotting each act of the story arc on our computers. Then we’d shift the document back and forth, editing it less and less with each pass. Writing the sample chapters was a lot harder, though. After we picked which scenes to write, Cheryl went off and did a rough draft of the pages. Then she’d send them to me and I’d write over her. Getting the voice right was so tough. We couldn’t figure out how the main character should sound, we didn’t like how she was reading on the page. We actually got into our first real spat over it. Not good!



But then we thought we might be having a hard time because the POV we were using wasn’t gelling for us. Perhaps we should switch to 3rd person from 1st person? We gave it a shot and it totally worked! Of course we ran into some other problems along the way, but thankfully they were minor and didn’t slow us down very much.

After getting our materials together, we sent the package off to our agents (Christy Fletcher for moi; Esther Newberg for Cheryl), and waited to hear back from them. This was so nerve-wracking! What if they weren’t into our idea? What if they didn’t think it was awesome like we did? I may be an editor at my day job, but that didn’t help calm me down any. So Cheryl and I did A LOT of stress eating. (DON’T JUDGE!)

Luckily, that didn’t last for long! Christy and Esther loved our idea and were so excited about our proposal. They told us they wanted to represent it! Which meant were on our way!

But there was more work to be done. We had to do another round of edits on the proposal and the sample chaptesr. We had to fine tune some characters and weed out some plot points that weren’t sticking. We also had to revisit the rules of our world because they weren’t lining up right. And we had to do it ASAP, which was difficult considering that Cheryl has two daughters and I have a full-time job.


We pulled it off, though, and once the book was sent on exclusive to an editor we LOVED, we pretty much collapsed. Once we recovered, our nerves were in full swing again. We were confident that we had done a great job with our submission materials, but you just never know whom it’s going to connect with.

As an editor with a lot of books to juggle and an intimidating To Read list, I warned Cheryl we might be in for a wait. But I was wrong! We actually got a swift response from a spectactular publisher (I should know!) and received an amazing offer from the wonderful people at Katherine Tegen Books!

EEEEEEK!!!!! I’m soooooo unbelievably psyched to be working with my colleagues at HarperCollins Children's Books, an awesome editor like Sarah Shumway, and with my dear friend Cheryl, on this wicked cool project! I can’t wait to share more details as our journey together progresses, and I promise to keep up with everyone on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook.


I wish I could hug all my friends online and in real life at once, but since I can’t, let’s just celebrate in the comments section, shall we? (If you aren't a follower of my blog, please sign up now--you are in for a fun ride that will include regular contests, giveaways, and other sweet stuff!)


YAAAAAY!!!!! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite American Idol Moments

Tonight is the premiere of American Idol: Season 10, so I figured I should commemorate the occasion with another "favorite moments" list. I have to admit, my love for AI has waned in recent years--especially when there were four judges and Ellen DeGeneres was hired (Still have love for Miss Ellen though! Just not on a music competition show). I'm curious to see how everything plays out tonight with J-Lo and Steve-Ty. It could be TV gold, or a massive train wreck. Anyway! Let's get to the list, shall we?

10) Lisa Leuschner – Sweet Thing: I'm still very ticked off about Lisa Leuschner not making it to the finals in AI 7. She's beautiful and I love her sexy, R&B voice. I mean, the girl has SKILLZ. Just listen to her sing this Chaka Khan song. It's just as good as the original--how often can you say that? Boo judges, boo.

9) Carly Smithson—Audition: I was bummed that Carly Smithson got booted from AI 7 after singing Jesus Christ Superstar. That's no way to go out! I have to say, when I watch her audition footage, I still get chills listening to her sing the opening from I'm Every Woman. (PS: Chaka Khan rules!)

8) Michael Johns—It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right: Okay, I am apparently obessed with AI 7, and I think that's okay because I remember so many people from that year, especially Michael Johns, the gorgeous Australian who loved classic rock. Swoon! I thought his best performance was when he covered this Dolly Parton Song. Sooo bluesy and perfect.

7) Paris Bennett – Audition: I'll always remember Paris's audition for AI 5, not only because she sang The Dixie Chicks AND Billie Holiday and OWNED them, but because of the emotional reaction she gets from her family once she gets the golden ticket. Also, I still think it's so strange how different her singing voice and speaking voice are. Crazy!

6) David Cook – Hello: Back to AI 7, the mecca of great performances. I know that David Cook is a little bit smarmy, but I  must admit, his electrified version of Lionel Richie's Hello was flat out genius. He managed to make a very dated, but sweet song feel really fresh and angsty. Too bad David all but disappeared after winning this season.

5) Elliott Yamin – Moody’s Mood for Love: Confession time--I actually own Elliott's debut album, and I heart it so much, I can't even begin to tell you. I always thought it was crap that he lost out to that Tucker What's His Face, and Pretty Tall Brunette Girl with the Big Teeth. How could anyone deny Elliott's superior talent, which is proven by his A++ take on Moody's Mood for Love, one of the most difficult songs to sing? This dude is, was, and will always be AWESOME.

4) Kelly Clarkson – Without You: AI 1, where it all began! And who knew how big Kelly Clarkson was going to become? Well, I'd like to think that I did after hearing her belt out this heartbreaking song by Badfinger. Although this performance isn't flawless, it's clear that Kelly has what it takes to be a superstar.

3) Bo Bice – In a Dream: While Carrie Underwood won AI 4 and went on to take a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, the high point of the final showdown this season was Bo Bice's performance of this Badlands track. It was pretty damn ballsy for him sing without a band or backup-singers, and the hush that falls over the crowd in this clip is almost palpable. I won't ever forget how I felt watching this for the first time--completely breathless.

2) Melinda Doolittle – My Funny Valentine: I'm going to go on record and say that Melinda Doolittle was robbed on AI 6. I know that teenagers rule the voting and that's part of the reason Jordin Sparks reigned instead of this classy, uber-talented vocalist (who is also a sweetheart), and I've come to accept that. But come on guys, Melinda is totally where it's at. When I saw this performance, I closed my eyes and just listened to her voice--it was freaking RADIO READY. Just love the judges reaction to it, too.

1) Fantasia – I Believe: Yes. I said it. My number one pick is Fantasia singing the cheesiest, cliche-ridden song in music history. But you know what? I don't care! And the fact that Fantasia could make me NOT care about how lame the song is, is a feat in and of itself. Also, the way her face lights up when the  gospel choir starts singing with her is like magic, and the grit of her voice reflects her troubled personal history, which I found so compelling as well. She had one of the longest ovations in AI history, and has over 4 million hits on this video clip, so I'm not the only person to feel this way. I do, however, try not to think about the fact that she turned out to be a homewrecker and a reality TV star. Instead I focus on this brilliant moment of promise, and I think that's what people love about AI in the first place.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Ten Memorable MTV Music Award Moments (In my world, of course)

Don’t know why I had the urge to post about this, but I guess I was in the mood to make a list. So there.


10) Justin Timberlake – Like I Love You (2002)

I was never really an *NSYNC kind of girl, but JT’s performance of his first solo single made me rush out and buy the album Justified. I still listen to it regularly, on a boom box just as big as the one on stage. Seriously. You should come over to my place and see it.

9) Eminem – The Real Slim Shady (2000)

What I liked about this performance was Eminem’s “Don’t F with me!” attitude as he was walking into Radio City with a gazillion guys dressed like him. Still haven’t seen a grand entrance like this since.

8) Michael Jackson Tribute (2009)

I was shocked as hell when I heard the news Michael Jackson died, and then I worried about how this tribute was going to fly. But all the dancing and Janet showing up to kick ass during Scream—yeah, won’t ever forget it.

7) Puff Daddy/Sting/Faith Evans – I’ll Be Missing You (1997)

Speaking of dying, I wasn’t that shocked when I heard the news that Biggie Smalls was killed (especially after what happened to Tupac). However, I was shocked that I was moved to tears by a Puff Daddy performance. Didn’t think that was possible. Perhaps it was Biggie’s wife Faith Evans’ soulful, heartbreaking singing that got me choked up. Yep, that explains it.

6) Britney Spears – Oops, I Did It Again (2000)

I tried to learn the choreography to the Oops video one weekend at my friend Michelle’s apartment in DC. That sh*t was HARD! But Britney makes it all look easy on stage, including wearing flesh tones—not everyone can pull that off.

5) LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1991)

I swear to God, LL Cool J has not aged AT ALL since the 90s. Just watch NCIS: Los Angeles and see for yourself. Oh, and more to the point—this was the first time I heard rap music performed with live instruments and I absolutely LOVED it. Still do. I also love back-up dancers dressed like featherweight boxers.

4) The Beastie Boys – Sabotage (1994)

I had no idea the Beastie Boys could clean up like this, but damn, put suits on these guys and some shades and they suddenly become CLASSY. Also another shout out to live instruments in a rap song. What can I say? It works!

3) Nirvana – Lithium (1992)

Kurt Cobain. LIVE. Do I need to say more than that? Oh, wait, I do. The moment when Krist Novoselic throws his bass up in the air and it nails him on the head—PRICELESS.

2) Madonna – Vogue (1990)

Some people prefer Madonna’s Like A Virgin performance, where she rolls around on the stage in a sexy 80s wedding dress. But that’s not enough of a spectacle for me! I want PASSION! I want DRAMA! I want RENASSIANCE-ERA INSPIRED COSTUMES! Done, done, and DONE. Thank you, Madge.

1) Tom Petty – Freefalling (1989)

I was fourteen in 1989, and I remember that for weeks, MTV kept talking about this “special guest” for the finale in their promos. I stayed up extra late to watch it and was bummed when Tom Petty came out. Yeah, I liked Freefalling, thought it was a good song—but really MTV? You’ve been begging us to watch Tom Petty all this time? And then—BOOM—Axl Rose comes strolling out on stage, surprising the hell out of everyone and making our lives meaningful again. I will always remember standing up and punching a clenched, celebratory fist in the air.

G’N’R forever!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I've Been Doing This Fall Instead of Blogging--Told in Pictures!


Love the kitchen!








1) Putting my apartment together. This is the first time I've had my own place! It's been a wonderful experience so far, especially because it's very quiet and secluded.






    
My cozy living room

 
Another view of the living room.

The view as you walk in...





The Loo--I really adore the shower curtain!
 
Bedroom--this one needs a little bit more work.

















2) Eating my face off at holiday parties and Thanksgiving.

Turkey dinner at the Silo in Greene, NY....yum!

The appetizer table at the Gabel holiday party


The Gabels dont' fool around when it comes to dessert

Hot perogies! Right here!
















3) Buying my Halloween costume at the hardware store


Me-OW!
4) Dancing my butt off at weddings

Oh yeah!
My moves were killer

5) Spending quality time with loved ones

I am so thankful for Ben...

And my mom, who just turned 60!


In 2011, I need to see more of my sister Luci

I watched my brother run the NYC Marathon in November
We were all really proud of him, especially my dad

I hope to be blogging more once the holidays are over and my schedule becomes a little less full. Hope all of you are enjoying the wonders of the season!