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

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!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flashback Friday--January 17, 1987

On January 17, 1987:

*Shake You Down by Gregory Abbott was the #1 slow jam in America.

*Critical Condition, starring the late and great Richard Pryor, raked in lots of dough at the box office, despite mixed reviews by Siskel and Ebert.

*President Reagan signed a secret order permitting covert sale of arms to Iran. (Oh snap!)

*Mike Ditka threatened to resign as coach of the Chicago Bears, even though he led the team to the Super Bowl championship in 1985.

I also wrote in my diary that day! Let's see what my eleven year old self had to say.

Dear Diary,

Sorry for not writing for a while. I’ve been really busy. I’ve been sick and I still am looking for Mr. Right.*

You know, Matt?* Well I think this girl Heather, she’s on my squad, likes him, or feels sorry for him. He’s got MS. Oh well, I still think he’s cute.* But maybe he’s taken. You never know.

Well, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Your friend,


PS: We had a game and we lost. I didn’t mind. I was watching Matt.*

* Still looking for Mr. Right? I was ELEVEN. How long could I have been actually looking? A couple of weeks, tops. Also, good to know that even at that age, being really "busy" interfered with my journal writing--I continue to use that excuse today!

Don't wake me up 'cuz I'm dreamin'...

*Okay, here's the details on Matt. He was a second-string basketball player on our pathetic middle school team and I don't think I ever spoke to him. All I remember was that he was very tall and resembled the lead singer on that cheesy-but-awesome teen TV show California Dreams (which I watched religiously every Saturday morning, even though it was a blatant rip-off of Saved by the Bell). While I was on the cheerleading squad, Matt clearly didn't know I was alive, mostly because this Heather chick would pretty much pounce on him every chance she got. (No, I'm not bitter!)

*I love how the only thing I cared about when it came to Matt's degenerative illness, was that the disease had not affected his cuteness. I mean, when you're hot, nothing else matters right?

*After reading my post-script, I'm surprised I didn't turn into a stalker.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Flashback Friday (sort of)--Anniversary-inspired Edition

Ben and me on our first anniversary
Tonight, my boyfriend Ben and I are celebrating our two year anniversary, which is funny because the both of us have said on several occasions that it seems like we've been together much longer than that! Maybe it's because we were crushing on each other for months before our first date, but had no idea the feeling was reciprocal. Or perhaps it's because our personalities are very similar--we're both creative, sensitive, goofy, loyal, affectionate, giving individuals. Or maybe it's because we have found in each other a person who  makes us really happy in a multitude of ways--someone supportive, nurturing, and engaging. I could go on and on with theories!

Now let's flashback to 1986. I was eleven-years-old and not quite loving my life. I had a bad, short, done-at-home-by-my-dad haircut. My teeth were as crooked as Lehman Brothers. I wore large glasses and Star Trek t-shirts. Surprisingly, there were no boys interested in me! And this made me feel super self-conscious because all of my other friends were holding hands with boys and sharing their McDonald's French fries with them.

My first name ain't baby, it's Janet:
Miss Jackson if you're nasty!
Then I discovered Janet Jackson's Control album. It was filled with messages of female empowerment and catchy songs that you could dance to--i.e. Pleasure Principle; Nasty Boys; and What Have You Done For Me Lately. Who needed boys when you had a fierce sistah like Janet, with her spiral perm and her shoulder pads? Uh...not me!

But all of my tween feminism evaporated when I witnessed the brilliance of the When I Think of You music video, which was on high rotation on MTV. (In fact, back in the 80s, my friends and I used to argue about who was better--Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson? I would always use the awesomeness of this video to prove my point--Whitney. Houston. CAN'T. DANCE!) Anyway, the choreography was amazing; Janet Jackson looked so young and beautiful; and the lyrics made me hopeful that one day, I would find a love so wonderful that any time the world got crazy, all I'd have to do to calm it, is just think of someone special. 

Well, folks, the dream finally came true! And I couldn't feel more blessed. So enjoy this YouTube link to Janet skipping throughout da hood, thinkin' of her lovah man. Oh, and take note of the way the video is shot. It's actually filmed with only one camera and there aren't any edits either.

PS: HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (And yes, there will be a Halloween related blog post after this festivities this weekend, so stay tuned...)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flashback Friday (Sorta)--Early Wedding-Inspired Edition

My good friend Anne is getting married on Saturday, to a cute, classy, and clever gentleman named Eric! Anne and I met about ten years ago when we were both assistants at the same publishing house. I believe the first time she noticed my existence is when she walked by my cubicle and overheard another coworker trying to talk me out of going to a Christian rock concert (long story). Since then, it's been nothing but a Manhattan joyride-filled friendship!

I'm really happy for Anne, and looking forward to hopping a plane to "Hotlanta" and seeing her get hitched. I'm sure she and her soon-to-be hubby have already picked out the tune for their first dance, but I urge them to consider the love song I wrote in 7th grade, for my long-time crush Fred. I have the lyrics memorized, so I can sing it LIVE AT THE RECEPTION! Isn't that the best idea EVER? I think so. You will too once you witness my musical genius.

A love/rap song by Claudia Gabel, age 13

You're hot,
You're hot,
You're hot,
And you know, know what you've got.

When you walk by me, I don't wanna turn my face,
Cuz I know you've got something that's erotically placed.
Maybe it's your style, or your radical walk,
Come pass by me again cuz you know what I'm TALKIN' BOUT.

You're hot,
You're hot,
You're hot,
And you know, know what you've got.

When you sit next to me, I wanna jump into your lap,
And when you leave me alone I always feel LIKE CRAP!
So come on boy sit yourself next me cuz you know that I've been waiting oh so PATIENTLY.

Take me in your arms, that is my desire,
Cuz when you're next to me my heart beats so much...HIGHER!

You're hot,
You're hot,
You're hot,
And you know, know what you've got.

Obviously, I was born a romantic. Peace out, yo!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flashback Friday--Sort of...

Okay, I know I haven't been blogging lately. And I'm still going to use the same (lame) excuse--I've been super busy sprucing up my new apartment and working that I haven't had enough time. However, while I have a few minutes, I want to tell you about one of my new favorite things:

The weekday evening TV line-up on the Hub Network!

I can see by your confused faces that you know not of what I speak. Let me enlighten you. The Hub Network replaced the Discovery Kids Network a few days ago. The Hub targets a dual audience, young children in the daytime with original and acquired children's programs, and families at night with reruns of older television sitcoms, dramas and feature films.

That's right Reruns!

No, not those Reruns.

These Reruns!

8-8:30 p.m.

Family Ties

As you all know, I am a HUGE Family Ties fan. When I was twelve, I would have sold both of my kidneys if it meant I could meet Michael J. Fox. I loved all the other characters, too, especially Michael Gross, who played Mr. Keaton. He was really everything you could ever want in a father--caring, smart, and a good baritone singer with a gift for deadpan comedy. Every time I watched the show, I'd get all warm inside. Which is why I have a lot of the seaons on DVD. I pop an episode in when I've had a rough day, and it washes all the blues away. I also love spotting all the famous guest stars, like Tom Hanks (remember drunk Uncle Ned?), Geena Davis, and Courteney Cox. The only thing left to say is, "What would we dooooo, baby, without uuuuuuussss? Sha-la-la-laaaaaah!"

9:00 p.m.

The Wonder Years

OMG, don't even get me started on how much I adored The Wonder Years. In the summertime, my mom had strict orders to call me inside when this show started so that I wouldn't miss it. It was the one show that I could watch with her and feel like I understood what her childhood was like. And how cute was Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold? I mean, I still want to put that kid version of him in my pocket. His on-again, off-again relationship with the super pretty and sweet Winnie Cooper was so true-to-life and compelling--my heart broke every time one of theirs did! There were a lot of great political episodes as well, which I still can't forget. Last but not least, I'm kind of happy that none of the kids on this show grew up to be druggies or strippers or what-have-you. Fred Savage does a great job directing It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Danica McKeller is married with a kid and a math genius, who writes fun, educational books for teen girls with titles like Kiss My Math! And Paul wound up being Marilyn Manson. It's a win-win-win, folks!

9:30 p.m.

Doogie Howser M.D.

Remember when you'd get a good grade in school, and your jealous best friend would say stuff like, "Oh, nice job, Doogie." And then you'd be like, "Shut up." And then she'd be like, "WhatEVER!"

That's about all I can remember about this show. That and the fact that Neil Patrick Harris was the first person on TV to write in his digital diary to the thought-provoking sounds of a Yamaha.

Oh and his sidekick was kind of funny, too. Vinny, right? Ah, it's all a blur. But I love NPH big-time and the fact that his childhood is preserved like this.

To all those Doogies out there in the world, I say, Go on with your bad selves.

10-11 p.m.

Happy Days

There was a time that my sister Luci and I would do nothing but talk about Happy Days. Well, actually, all we talked about was Scott Baio, who played Fonzie's nephew Chachi (I think that means something dirty in Chinese....not 100% sure though). You see, Luci had a rule that we could not have a crush on the same TV character simultaneously. Since she was older than me, that meant I could only have a crush on Scott Baio when she was finished having a crush on Scott Baio. Therefore, I had to have a fake crush on Ron Howard/Richie Cunningham, which was obviously not even remotely as cool as crushing on Scott Baio. Now that the show is back on again, I should probably check with Luci to see if she's over Chachi. Better late than never right?

11:30 p.m.

Laverne & Shirley

This show was billed as "the female Odd Couple." Which is true, but somehow totally underselling the hilarity of Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall. Their brand of wackadoo comedy and on-screen chemistry was off-the-charts. I still LMAO when I watch Laverne and Shirl get into mishap after mishap, or when they say a word like "dumb" or "asinine," then Lenny and Squiggy walk in. It's a stupid gag, but it's also a classic. And classics, my friends, will never die. I also think it was one of the first shows to depict single women, living together, drinking milk & Pepsi together, and never apologizing for it. Sing it with me ladies! "Schlemile, Schlemozzle, Hausenfeffer Incorporated!"

Thank you, Hub Network, for making this girl's dreams come true....for me and yooooooouuuuu!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Romeo & Juliet & Vampires SPEAKS!

I'm so excited to share a clip of the audio version of Romeo & Juliet & Vampires with you! Broadway actress Stina Nielsen did a tremendous job reading the book--she makes my prose sound so elegant and sophisticated. Nielsen has also lent her voice to many other audio books, including Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever and Meg Cabot's Airhead.

Hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did, and that you'll share it with your circle of friends.

Have fun!

PS: I know I've been lame in the blogging department lately. Promise to get back into the swing of things next week...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City Girl Part 1

So I've been MIA the last few couple weeks because I've been busy packing up five years of my life in preparation of moving into my own apartment. EEK! It's all very exciting, and I wish I could write in detail about it all. But honestly, I just don't have the time as of late. However, I promise to fill you all in with all the specifics once things calm down and I get all settled!

Until then, please "enjoy" a poem I wrote when I first moved to NYC (after being on Long Island for grad school), roughly 10 years ago. Looks like I was absolutely shell-shocked and about to go postal, but I'm so glad I gave the city a chance. Because honestly, I would have missed out on so much living if I had left it all behind...


Eyes down at my feet
Avoiding contact with the streets
of this city--
this state of disillusion
that keeps me penned in
between buses barreling toward
green lights, the heinous honks
of cabbies that cradle commuters
at 9 a.m.
It's too early for this
I miss the way I used to saunter slowly
past mom and pop stores,
the dock where I used to ignore
the clock and eat ice cream
out of the carton as the
moon glittered off the water,
his hand in mine.
Now it's just crowded cars,
cursing kids on their way
to school.
Head phones, cell phones,
corporate drones.
Millions and millions of us--
cramped together and
in the city.
Wondering how we all got here
and how the hell we're going to get out.
The noise is louder than
last week's traffic jam.
I am
going to find my way--
and I will breathe in this
smog and exhale
the clean, crisp air
of my youth that's tied
up in willow trees
and bumble bees
and summer breeze.
I will look up in this
city's sky
and find a way
to make it

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flashback Friday--3/9/87

On March 9, 1987:

* Shad Gregory Moss--also known as Lil Bow Wow--was born.

*Irish rock band U2 releases their 5th studio album The Joshua Tree.

*Lethal Weapon debuted at the box office. (Too bad we all missed the crazy look on Mel's face in this poster as a warning sign.)

*Windmills of the Gods by Sidney Sheldon was a New York Times bestselling novel.
I also wrote in my diary that day! Let's see what my 12-year-old self had to say about cheerleading. (I bet you are on the edge of your seat!)
Dear Diary,
LIFE IS GOOD!!!!!!!!
Sorry for that outburst, but I needed that. We got into THE FINALS at cheerleading!* Let me tell you about it. We really messed up on the first cheer. We were totally freaked after that in line. Mary Beth said, "I wicked messed up." And Heather said, "So did I."*
Then I said, "Just concentrate on the next cheer." (We had only spent 4 days practice on the first cheer.)*
St. Mary's sparkled. They did flips and somersaults and they wowed the judges and the audience. (They got into the finals.)*
On our second cheer, called HOT,* we were FABULOUS! NO MESS UPS! But we didn't think we made it. At the last line up, Rachel and I were up front. We stood absolutely STILL with frozen smiles on our faces.
The announcer started calling out the finalists. First he said, "St. Mary's." Rachel and I and the rest of my team frowned. Next he said, "St. Stanislaus!" Rachel and I looked at each other and screamed. We were jumping and shouting and everything was GREAT!* Then my mom took me and my brother Paul for pizza. I had a fun time.
I have to go and I swear I'll write tomorrow.*
Your friend,
PS: I <3 ???*
*I joined the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) cheerleading squad in the 6th grade because my older sister Luci was a cheerleader and I wanted to do everything she did, which was 1) be pretty; 2) be popular; and 3) talk with cute boys. (Think Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club, only a lot nicer) At first, I thought becoming a cheerleader would transform me into a Luci-clone, but no dice. Luci's fantastic qualities had to do with being Luci, and putting on a short skirt and waving pom-poms around was not going to help dig me out of the geek gutter. I was good at cheerleading, though--good enough to make into THE FINALS.
*I do not remember Mary Beth or Heather. They sort of blend into one skinny, feather-haired girl. Wherever they are, I hope they remember this fateful day in detail.
*I like how I portray myself as some pillar of calm during this "wicked" freak out. And why were we doing a cheer that we only spent 4 days on? That's pretty risky if you ask me. I blame the coaches.
*While I can't remember any of these cheerleaders individually, I do remember them collectively, especially the St. Mary's squad. This team of girls were all wannabe Kristie Phillips--most of them had a gymnastics backgrounds and incorporated handsprings into their routines while the rest of us losers could only do cartwheels and the occasional split. Every year St. Mary's went to THE FINALS and won first place. I kid you not. Except for the year that St. Stanislaus won, when Luci was on the squad, of course!
*Yeah, that's right. Our second cheer was called HOT. Take that, St. Mary's!
*I still remember the amazing feeling of the announcer calling our name and having a huge spaz attack with my teammates. We were literally jumping up and down and squealing like we'd won the actual championship, and not just a chance to compete in THE FINALS. There were two divisions of the CYO--the West and the East (kind of like the hip hop rivalry). Three squads from each division were picked for the big cheer-off, and the competition was fierce. Unfortunately, we didn't even place in THE FINALS, but I do keep that spaz moment in my heart forever, because they just don't make 'em like that anymore.
*I did not write "tomorrow" as promised. My next entry wasn't until June 4. What a slacker!
*This is one of the few entries in my journal where no boys or crushes were mentioned. I am relieved to know I had at least one other interest.
Hope you come back for more flashback shenanigans next Friday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My biggest critic: My mother

Okay, first things first: I love my mom. She's a wise lady who has sacrificed a lot to help me get to where I am today. She's the person who encouraged me to follow my passions and taught me the value of a hard-earned education. And she is the smartest woman I know. Seriously. My mother triple majored in college. Yeah, you read that right. Triple. Majored. She received B.A. degrees in English, History, and Drama from Misericordia University. She has also not forgotten a single shred of information she learned there. I kid you not. My brother Paul and I used to call her the Walking Encyclopedia, because she could spout off any historical fact from the top of her head.

A sample conversation normally goes like this:

Me (reading a magazine): "Wow, I had no idea that New York was once the capital of the United States."

Mom: "Of course! New York was U.S. capital from 1789 to 1790, and the state capital until 1797. By 1790, it was the largest U.S. city, and in 1898, a new charter was adopted, making the city Greater New York, a metropolis of five boroughs. God, Claudia, didn't they teach you any of that in school?"

Me: "Yeah, like 20 years ago!"

But I digress. I consider my mom my biggest critic because she's the most direct woman I know. If you ask her whether an outfit makes you look fat (and it actually does) she will say yes without hesitation. She delivers her opinion on most things with conviction, too, which makes her views even more difficult to argue with. For example, she is lover of great classic literature, so if she thinks a book is sub par, she will articulate why with the thoroughness of a skilled orator or lawyer. Oh, and she's a Shakespearean scholar as well. She has studied his work and life from every possible angle and has a bronze bust of him sitting on top of her desk. (I wish I was making that up.)

So can you imagine her reaction when I told her that in my next book, I was taking Shakespeare's most well known play and adding vampires to it?  Well, needless to say I've blocked that encounter out of my mind permanently. Can you also imagine how apprehensive I was about giving her a copy of the book this week? My heart was filled with so much glee now that my new novel was on the shelves, and yet when I handed it to my mom, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

What would she think of it? Um, actually I knew that already. The real question was: what was she going to say to me? Or would she say nothing at all...for once?!

Well, Nostradamus couldn't have predicted her response. The morning after I gave her a copy of Romeo & Juliet & Vampires, I ran into her in the kitchen. She grabbed me by the arms---kind of crazily, I might add--and said, "I was up all night reading your book, and it was incredible!"

I was frozen with disbelief. Had my mom actually liked the book that I was sure she was going to loathe? I was only able to eek out a "Really?"

"It was so good, I could not put it down!" she replied. "I mean it, I was really engrossed in the story. You stayed really close to the original plot, but it felt new and entertaining. I'm really impressed."

I was waiting for her to blurt out, "KIDDING!" but when she didn't, I just hugged her and said, "Thanks, Mom. I'm so happy that you enjoyed it." Then I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

I'm still flying high off my mom's review, and all the positive ones that I've been reading/tweeting online! I'll put all the links at the end of the post, in case you didn't get to see any of them.

I will say this: the common thread in all the blog reviews, and my mom's too--no one expected to like Romeo & Juliet & Vampires as much as they did. So if you have any preconceived notions about mash-up books, I urge you to not judge a book by it's genre and read it for yourself.

Because my mom liked it. So there. :)

* * * *

YA Book Queen - posted on Tuesday, 9/7


The Book Spot - posted on Friday, 9/3


The Reading Teen - posted on Friday, 9/3


The Mundie Moms - Posted on Thursday, 9/2


The Book Girl - posted on Wednesday, 9/1


YA Bookshelf - posted on Wednesday, 9/1


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tattoo Me Pink

Behold my love child with Shakespeare
Hey people, have you heard the news? ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES is out in stores TODAY!!! I'm so excited I can barely even breathe. There are a bunch of other great teen novels that share my release date, including Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (also from HarperTeen), so you should get to an online or brick-and-mortar bookstore as soon as you possibly can.

But after you buy a copy of R&J&V, I want you to ponder something for me: what should my commemorative tattoo be? Okay, I can see you're a little confused: a commemorative TATTOO? As in permanent ink on a part of the body? Is this lady serious?

Pisceans rule!
Oh yes, I most certainly am. Back in May 2000, I started this little ritual of getting a tattoo to celebrate big milestones in my life. I got the first one when I graduated from Hofstra University's Master of Arts program with an American and English Literature degree. The tattoo is the medieval sign for Pisces (my astrological sign) and it's located on my lower back, on the right side.

The tattoo that never quits
Then in March 2007, I got the number 607 tattooed on the inside of my left ankle. 607 is my hometown area code (Binghamton in the house!!!) and the month/year that my first book, IN OR OUT, was being published. I never expected it to get the response it has--I'm always stopped in the elevator or on the subway and asked what the number means. It's kind of the perfect promotional tool--I have it on me all the time! Also, I think I should mention that once a construction worker used it to cat-call me. "607? Hey baby, that your address?!" Sadly, I was too flustered to think of a comeback, so I just ignored him.

Anyway, so what's next?! I've been trying to come up with cool ideas for designs and placement, but I'm really stumped. Which is why I am begging for help via cyberspace! Please post your thoughts in the comments section, and let's keep it PG, folks. I do not want to be walking around town with a naked woman on my bicep (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Before I peace out, I just want to thank everyone at HarperTeen for doing such a great job with ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES. I'm so proud of the book and how the packaging turned out. I hope it finds a lot of readers, and that people enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!!!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Winners of the Romeo & Juliet & Vampires/Blog giveaway

Congratulations to the five lucky winners of a vampire gift bag, courtesy of moi!

Miss Jill
Miss HardyGirl
Miss Cory
Miss Krista
Miss Music Luffler

Contact me with your mailing address and I'll get the prizes out to you asap. Thanks to all who joined my blog in recent weeks, and stay tuned for more chances to win cool stuff!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flashback Friday! 12/5/88

Will to Power
On December 5, 1988:

Shuttle Atlantis launched the world's 1st nuclear-war-fighting satellite

*Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley by Will to Power was on top of the U.S. music charts (seriously, I checked)
*The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad was playing at theaters everywhere
*Ross Johnson, then CEO of RJR Nabisco, was on the cover of TIME Magazine for spearheading the biggest corporate take over in American history.

I also wrote in my diary that day! Once again, here's a window into my 13-year-old life (for better, or worse).

Dear Diary,

Hello! Yesterday was our first game* and we lost, 52-29. Not that bad, but not that good.
Today I went to a skating party,* It was alright, but the best thing that happened was this 6th grader Donnie* told me he liked me and gave me this real cool bracelet.* He is cute, and nice, but he is two years younger than me and it would be so difficult. I told him I wanted to be his good friend. I hope he isn't upset with me. I guess I do like him. OKAY! I LIKE HIM ALREADY!*
I don't know what to do! Tell ya what happens with him tomorrow. 

PS: Help me! I want to go out with Donnie but it will ruin EVERYTHING!*

*When I was in 8th grade, I was a cheerleader for our middle school basketball team, who for some reason were called the Knicks--like we had some kind of affiliation with the NBA. I love that even though we lost by nearly 30 points, I considered that a mediocre outing for our team, rather than a miserable failure. 

*Oh my God, remember skating parties? The pop rock music blaring, the disco ball twirling above, the moonlight skates for couples! Ah, it was all so magical, wasn't it? Most skating parties in my town were held at this roller rink called Skate Estate. Believe it or not, it's still open, and you can skate as long as you want for 5 freaking dollars!

Michael J. Fox, lookin' fine
*Thinking back, Donnie was a pretty adorable kid. He was short and skinny and had lots of freckles. In fact, he was the spitting image of Michael J. Fox in the first season of Family Ties (which happens to be one of my all-time favorite sit-coms). For someone his size, Donnie had a whole lot of swagger, and I think that's what made me like him. He thought nothing of standing on the outskirts of the rink and grabbing me when I rolled on by so that he could say, "I really like you" and then give me a gift. That boy had mad courage!

Friendships were built on these once.
*So this "real cool bracelet" was actually one of those friendship bracelets that were made out of thin pieces of woven yarn. Every girl in my class was obsessed with making them, and we'd try to sneak in some craft time during our classes to braid as many as we could. If a boy gave you one these bracelets, he meant business, and if you took the bracelet and wore it, that meant you were middle school married. Alas, I took the bracelet from Donnie, but I didn't wear it to school, apparently because a relationship between us would be "so difficult" because we were two years apart. (Please note that my boyfriend Ben is 6 years younger than me--my 13-year-old self would be appalled!)

*"Okay! I like him already!" I really enjoy how I act as though my diary is a person, forcing information out of me. What an imagination!

*But nothing compares to the post-script in this entry. Being with Donnie would ruin EVERYTHING? Let me set the record straight. "Everything" back then was not a whole hell of a lot. Despite being on the cheerleading squad, I wasn't the most popular girl at school, and I had no kind of reputation to protect. In fact, if I was to quantify "everything," as in the most important things to me at the time, it would have amounted to Capri-SunJoradache jeans, and NBCs Must-See TV. Sadly, I would give none of those things up for Donnie's love. 

Hope you tune in next Friday for another flashback! :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pub Day Paranoia

The last book in the Hunger Games trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, officially released today, and this is all I can think about:

How is Suzanne Collins feeling right now? With the midnight madness parties, media scrutiny, interviews, and Twitter-craze, one would assume that she's thrilled that there is so much excitement for her book and extremely grateful for all the support she has received from her fans.

But is she worried at all? Is she scared of what the reactions and reviews might be? Is she fearful that Mockingjay won't live up to people's expectations? Does a part of her wish she could hide under the covers instead of doing the publicity tour?

I wonder because this is exactly how I feel, one week out from my ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES release date--and I'm not even a big deal!

Sure, it's only natural to be nervous, and I bet all writers--even smash bestsellers like Ms. Collins--must go through a bout of anxiety before their books hit the shelves. But much like I did with my IN OR OUT series launch, I'm in danger of letting my pre-pub day agita color the whole experience, which would be such a shame, because I am proud of what I've accomplished and very happy with how the novel turned out. I mean, I went from writing about teenage girls in Poughkeepsie to classic Shakespearean love stories with a huge supernatural twist. That's quite a leap!

God, I hate to admit it, but I'm probably still as concerned about what people think of me as I was when I was a teenager. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but what I'm trying to get at is: I've never liked the idea of disappointing anyone, and the thought of a reader not liking what I've done can be kind of terrifying. In the case of Ms. Collins, any similar type of angst would be magnified by a billion, because she has a gargantuan following that has been counting down the minutes until Mockingjay arrived.

So in light of that, I should just CHILL THE EFF OUT, and GET OVER MYSELF, right? 

Yes, absolutely, I should. And I think the best way to accomplish that is to close my eyes and remember the large chest filled with notebooks that sits in my old bedroom at my mother's house--notebooks filled with stories that I wrote when I was twelve-years-old. Some of them are good, and some of them are horrid.

But regardless of what anyone might say, all of them are a collective preamble to a dream come true.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Courage and Grace

Grace and me, Pentwater, MI, 2009
Just wanted to give a shout out to my boyfriend's younger sister, Grace, who is about to do something very admirable with her life. For the next year, she will be working in Kenya through the Presbyterian Church's Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) ministry program. As an intern at the Change One Life foundation, Grace will be helping initiate and coordinate health-focused retreats that will promote HIV/AIDS education for adolescent Kenyan girls, as well as revitalizing their Mother’s Milk project at Kikuyu Hospital and assessing the needs of COL's rural clinics in Ndiwa and Lawanda. What a courageous task to take on at the age of 21!

I'm so proud of Grace for making such a selfless commitment to the people of Kenya, and while I'll miss her dearly (as her whole family will!), I can't wait to read her blog and hear all about her journey, which will be life-changing, without a doubt.

To learn more about the YAV program, or to make a donation, click here.

Best of luck, Grace! Have a safe trip, and an amazing time in Africa! XO

Friday, August 20, 2010

Flashback Friday! 9/16/88

On September 16, 1988:

*The Grateful Dead played a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden (see the set list here)
*Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses was the number one song in America
*Moon Over Parador, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Sonia Braga, and Raul Julia, was raking in 11 mil at the box office
*The 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, were about to begin.

I also wrote in my diary that day! Here's what was going on in my 13-year-old life (with footnotes, of course).

Dear Diary,

(actually written in all caps) FRED* IS A JERK! I WANT TO KICK HIM IN THE ASS! You see, I'm mad at him. He thinks I prank his friends just because I gave Rob's # to Michelle*. I GIVE UP ALREADY! Maybe if Fred's attitude changes, I'll like him again. Until then, he's a jackass. We are NOT speaking to each other, except Hi.* Now, I like my buddy Chris George.* He is soooooooooooooooooooooooooo CUTE! DAMN CUTE!

Today, Chrissy, Michelle and I went to a restaurant called The Carousel.* The roast beef chopper guy was cute. Then we went to the mall. We made a music video at Soundtrax.* It was fun! Well I gotta run.


PS: I <3 Chris George

PPS: The roast beef guy was at the mall, too!

PPPS: The song was "Angel" by Madonna

*Fred was one of the boys in my neighborhood, and I was in love with him for like, four years. If I were to compare him to one of today's teen heartthrobs, I'd say he looked like Leonardo Dicaprio circa his Growing Pains days, but a lot more of a jock. Fred and I used to hang out a lot in the summer, and his wardrobe was practically all surfer-wear from OP. He wore a Swatch, and would take it off three times a day to monitor his tan line. He also was a bit of a troublemaker and rode a skateboard. Are you in love with him yet?

*Michelle was Fred's younger cousin, and I was pretty tight with her. She was a little shy, but very sweet, and Fred picked on her relentlessly. For some reason, that never changed my opinion of him. Until this big incident with Rob that is! I guess Rob was Fred's friend, and Michelle liked him a lot, and I had Rob's phone number somehow so I gave it to Michelle. Then Rob told Fred he was getting a lot of crank calls, and this was blamed on me because I gave Rob's number to Michelle. Dah! The travesty!

*I'm really glad that even though I was pissed at Fred, I was still courteous enough to say Hi to him. I was such a classy chick!

*Chris George was another boy from the hood. Instead of a skateboard, he rode a Schwinn. He was really tall and way too old for me, but he was super adorable and very crush-worthy. He didn't have the same edge as Fred did, though. Heart-throb comparison: Chris Klein in Election. Chris George never saw me as anything but a little kid, but watching him ride his Schwinn around was the highlight of my life back then.

*The Carousel was basically Old Country Buffet. The food spun around in circles under these bright heatlamps, and apparently they hired cute teenage boys to cut meat there and flirt with preteen girls. Not a bad idea, I guess. Just look at the dudes from Abercrombie & Fitch!

*Soundtrax was basically this recording studio at the mall where you could either get an audio cassette tape made of you singing a song, or record an actual video of you, pretending to be in a band. My friends and I saved up a lot of allowance money to make a video. I think we chose Angel by Madonna because I was going to be lead singer and the key of the song was in my pathetically small range. Anyway, we dressed up in boas and danced around and laughed hysterically.

God, I wish I still had that tape! I wonder how many YouTube hits it would have recieved.  :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Announcing Flashback Fridays!

To quote the wise, insightful lyrics of Bon Jovi's monster ballad Never Say Goodbye, "Remember days of skipping school? Racing cars and being cool? With a six pack and a radio, we didn't need no place to go."

Well, now you do have a place to go, my friends, if you want to recall the days of hair bands and scrunchies and broken teenage hearts. On Fridays, I will be sharing selections from my old diaries and adding some funny commentary, along with stats from the past, like what the #1 song was on Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown that week. It will be SO MUCH FUN!

One more thing: you can find the inspiration for Flashback Fridays right here. Thank you, Sarah Brown!

Friday, August 13, 2010

L.A. Woman

I have to say, my four-day trip to LA for the SCBWI Summer Conference was a whirlwind of activity and I truly loved every moment of it. When I sat down to write a nice summary of events, I realized how much happened and that I couldn't squeeze it all into a moderately-sized blog post. So I figured, why not just share the highlights? Here goes!

Top Five SCBWI-L.A. Moments

5) Introducing the faculty--The conference kicked-off the morning of Friday, July 31. There was a gigantic event in the main ballroom of the Hyatt, where everyone in the faculty was led out to the massive stage to introduce themselves. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because literally ALL the attendees were there, watching us intently, and we had to come up with a word that would either sum up our feelings in that moment, our hopes for the conference, or the meaning of life. Talk about pressure! Anyway, it was amazing to watch agents, authors, and other big publishing players, greet the aspiring writers. This is a large industry and oftentimes you'll know someone online, or through a colleague, or through an article in Publishers Weekly, but never had the chance to put a face to the name. Also, it was cool to hear everyone's word--from "hope" to "caffeine" to "dude" (that last one is mine, of course).
Me and Michelle Houts, author of

4) Think Like Packager workshop--regardless of how calm I might appear on the outside, I'm always nervous as hell when I get up in front of people. In fact, my neck usually breaks out into a bright red flush when I get close to a podium. Classy, huh? Well, luckily for me, I was able to work through it and deliver a really solid lecture about how packagers develop book ideas for teens and tweens. For a recap of my presentation, visit Ara Burklund's guest post on the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog

3) Meeting one of my former authors--I love telling people about how I came to be award-winning Middle-Grade author Michelle Hout's editor! It's one of those rare stories of finding talent in a heap of contest submissions. A few years ago, Michelle entered the Delacorte Press First Middle-Grade Fiction contest, along with hundreds of other people. I just happened to pick up her manuscript, which was tucked in a large pile of other entries, and I could not stop reading this sweet, charming story. It's about a farm girl named Libby Ryan, who is raising her first pair of steers for the Practical County Fair. The novel was a contest finalist, and after revising her manuscript, I eventually bought the book. Since then, The Beef Princess of Practical County has gone on to win the 2010 International Reading Association Children's Book Award for Intermediate Fiction, and is currently a finalist for the 2010 Buckeye Children's Book Award. I couldn't be prouder of Michelle, who I finally met for the first time at the conference. She's every bit as funny, smart, and kind as the characters in her books! I hope I get to work with her again someday...

2) Running into one of my old friends from college/The Heart & Soul Party--How is this for weird? My former colleague and good friend Krista Marino text messaged me on Saturday night, right before SCBWI's infamous annual dance party. I thought she was going to ask me to be her wing woman for the evening, but I could never had expected this: a girl I knew from my study abroad program in college was not only one of Krista's dearest friends, but she was also at the conference, too! Sarah and I went on a 5 month long group trip to London through Binghamton University's English Department. We had the time of our lives, but we also lost track of one another after graduation. I had know idea that Sarah was living in San Diego and used to work with Krista in California. It was soooo great to see her and catch up. And we had an amazing time dancing the night away with the rest of the conference attendees! I'd heard about all the costumes and the boogie-ing down, but seeing it for myself first-hand was incredible. Despite what you may think, children's books writers know how to RAWK!

1) The critiques--Evaluating an aspiring author's writing can be a difficult task, and not just because of the effort that's involved in reading their pages. There's the face-to-face discussion about their WIPs that can feel as awkward and strange as a blind date! However, I find the one-to-one critique process at conferences to be my favorite part of the experience, mostly because I get to talk with people about their story inspirations, writing goals, and the vision they have for their work. When I read the conference submissions, I never forget that there is a person attached to these words, and if anything, I'm usually pretty intrigued about why they decided to tell this particular story. So when it comes time to meet at a small table in a hotel banquet room, I'm really looking forward to hearing all about them. Sometimes you even find a project and author you connect with, and while that doesn't happen as often as I'd like, it's still worth the trip. Here's why--the writers are (most times!) thankful to have feedback from someone in the industry, even if it's the kind of constructive criticism that requires them to perform major alterations on their manuscript. They are in real need of communication and opinions and suggestions. Honestly, I feel so honored and privileged to provide them with whatever two cents I've got.

Case in point: I received this email right after one of my critiques, in which I told the author to pretty much change the entire concept of her book.

Hi Claudia,

I know you had tons of critiques and I don't expect you to remember mine, but I wanted you to know how grateful I am that my pages were assigned to you. I read over your comments and everything you pointed out made me feel a thousand times better about the new direction you suggested I take my story. I LOVE how clear you were, and I appreciate you mentioning the positives. More than anything, talking to you and hearing your true thoughts on leaving out the time travel really blew open my mind--in a great way-- on where this story could BEST go. Like you said in your workshop, you give editorial feedback in the best interest of the BOOK; I feel so privileged to have gotten that editorial experience first-hand.

I'm glad I waited to query this one out to agents. When I do, if it turns out to be "the one," it will be thanks to you. Seriously. I would never ever have known the best place to take this book without your advice.

Thanks again for the amazing feedback!

~An SCBWI writer

'Nuff said! :)