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

Review: http://yabookqueen.blogspot.com/2010/09/romeo-juliet-vampires-by-claudia-gabel.html

The Book Spot - posted on Friday, 9/3

Review: http://book-splot.blogspot.com/2010/09/romeo-juliet-vampires-claudia-gabel.html

The Reading Teen - posted on Friday, 9/3

Review: http://www.readingteen.net/2010/09/review-and-giveaway-romeo-and-juliet.html

The Mundie Moms - Posted on Thursday, 9/2

Review: http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/2010/09/book-review-romeo-juliet-vampires.html

The Book Girl - posted on Wednesday, 9/1

Review: http://thebookgirlreviews.blogspot.com/2010/09/romeo-and-juliet-and-vampires-william.html

YA Bookshelf - posted on Wednesday, 9/1

Review: http://www.yabookshelf.com/2010/09/romeo-juliet-vampires-2/