I feel like it’s the calm before the storm. Things are ramping up to my MFA residency, in less than three weeks. There’s reading to do for the workshops, critiquing for the small critique group, and picking which excerpt I’m going to do at the reading (we have to read for 5 or 6 minutes in front of the other students). I’ve gotten most of the workshop readings done, finished critiquing today, and already picked out what to read. I also booked my hotel for the first night.

I’m pretty much ready. This is probably a good thing because it’s going to be intense, I imagine.

I did get my partial request on Finding Frances back this week. It was a no, but they did say my writing was “smooth and polished,” which was nice. That was my last outstanding query. And I guess I lied about not sending it out to more agents, because I already sent it to one. This one only takes exclusive queries, but they respond quickly (if interested, that is). I might look for some other ones that prefer exclusive queries after this one comes back before sending out a slew again.

I did repost the short story I wrote, “Now Would Be Good,” in case you’re interested in checking that out.

The only other notable thing is that I developed this weird inner ear problem that caused me to fall over from extreme dizziness, resulting in a day and a half of unplanned vacation, during which I read like crazy. Which was awesome.

Review: Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Fly on the Wall book coverHave you ever wished to be a fly on the wall somewhere totally inaccessible to you? Gretchen Yee does, and, strangely and without explanation, she gets her wish.

It sounds weird—and it is—though it starts off a simple story about a girl attending a competitive arts high school in Manhattan. Gretchen is a little obsessed with superheroes—reading them, drawing them, and wanting to be one (who doesn’t, at least a little). She’s a bit of an oddball. She’s awkward around and confused about boys, although there is one she particularly likes, Titus. She has a single friend, Katya, who has become a little distant recently. Then some unexpected turmoil starts at home, causing her to have to take a hard look at her mess of a bedroom and really her life. She’s a bit of a pack rat but can’t imagine getting rid of any of the stuff she has.

Gretchen’s an interesting and well-developed character full of contradictions. She seems a little shy, but she’s not. She’s not afraid to tell of the realtor who asks if she’s adopted when she’s with her white mom (her dad’s Chinese). She’s a little immature for 16 and needs to grow up. But boys… boys just frustrate her. She wants to understand Titus but can’t figure him out.

One day after class, she manages to initiate a chat with him about a weekend museum assignment, which provides a perfect opportunity to suggest they go together. She chickens out, but not before making an observation I loved:

Titus bends over to pick his pencil off the floor. There’s a strip of skin between his shirt and the top of his jeans in the back. I can see the top of his boxers. Plain light blue.

She can’t figure out boys as a whole, especially after an interaction she has with Titus, her ex-boyfriend Shane, and three other guys:

As they move past us, Shane bangs a locker hard, just to make noise, and I jump.

Why do boys do stuff like that?

Then Shane pinches her butt and she wants Katya to tell her what it means. Katya tells her it means nothing and not to worry about it.

In frustration, Gretchen says, “I wish I was a fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room.” That evening when she goes home to an empty house because both of her parents are out of town, she reads some Kafka and bam. Fly.

She witnesses exchanges she never expected and finally comes to understand some things about Titus and boy politics. It’s not at all like she expected.

The book is a little unusual in style, alternating fonts when going between inner monologue and real-time story. I wasn’t really sure what the point of that was, to be honest, and I found it a little distracting. But then again, it sort of suited the general strangeness of the book. I mean, the girl becomes a fly for a week and we never come to learn how. But it’s fine—we just accept it and enjoy the book for what it is. An interesting story about a girl coming to terms with sexuality, really (without any sex involved, though there were a fair number of “gherkins” in sight).

This is definitely a fast read, coming in at under 200 pages. Even though there are fantasy elements, I still think of it as contemporary more than fantasy. Anyone who’s enjoyed other Lockhart books will like this one, and so will anyone looking for a complex 16-year-old girl trying to figure things out.

Just a Saturday

Yesterday was bit of an adventurous day for me. First of all, a couple friends came over to help me put together my dining room table, which has been sitting in two boxes for weeks. We did manage to get it together and I even set the chairs up so my house is starting to look like a real house now. Check it out:

dining room table

I even have the new chandelier up. It goes well with the sofa I put together a few weeks ago and the rug I’ve had rolled up in a closet since moving in:

sofa and rug

(Yes, that’s a giant cat wheel in the background. And no, they do not use it. Of course they don’t. They’re cats. Though if you want to see cats that do use one, check out the videos at http://onefastcat.com/. It’s sort of awesome.)

My friends also helped me move a large metal file cabinet in the garage and to get the old dining room table out of the kitchen and into the garage. Then we were standing there in the garage with the front door open when this woman shouts at someone out of sight about keeping their dog on leash. And then a minute later a dog races into the garage and nearly into the house, but my friend managed to block it (we figured out it was a she later). The dog races all around the garage, the driveway, the street, but she’s mostly centered on ramming into any of us humans silly enough to stand still for a moment.

Every time a car would go by, one of us would grab her collar. She had a pink one but no tag on it. She was obviously somebody’s very friendly but poorly-trained pet, but with no tag, we weren’t sure what to do. I live in a small townhouse complex, across from a large apartment complex, and there’s another large apartment complex at the end of the road. There’s an unfenced grassy area that serves as a dog park on my street a few houses down and houses that back up to it, but she could have easily run from literally anywhere, especially if she remembered the park. I happened to have a leash for a harness I’d gotten in case I wanted to take a cat for a walk (which I’ve never done…) so I ran inside to get that. Then we walked her down the street a little, but it was clear that wasn’t going to get us anywhere.

I ended up calling an animal control officer. We sat on my driveway with the dog and lots of cars came by but no one claimed her. When animal control got there, he scanned her and there was no microchip, which was really disappointing. I still feel really bad about sending her off, but I really didn’t know how to reunite her with her owner and I couldn’t keep her. No way would I let her in the house with my cats, and I couldn’t put her in the garage either and risk her chewing up the things out there. I think since she was so friendly she has a very good chance of getting adopted. Anyway, in my head her name was Peaches:

peaches the lost dog

Then after that, I went with my friends to a Polynesian festival where I ate Hawaiian shave ice for the first time. It was a million times better than a sno-cone, even though that’s what it looks like. The ice is shaved so fine it’s almost creamy. I got vanilla, grape, and passion fruit. Yum:

shave ice

And Hello Kitty was there (in a hula skirt with a lei, of course):

hello kitty

On another topic, Marvin and Marlowe are getting along well:

marvin and marlowe

And that was my adventure day. Any day that involves something other than being at home, work, or Starbucks is notable in my world.

Atlanta, Here I Come

I’m on my way to a writing conference in Atlanta now, probably quite uncomfortably stuffed into an airplane seat and weighing the pros and cons of drinking something—pro, I want to; con, then I might have to use the plane lavatory, which freaks me out a little.

The conference targets romance writing (it’s actually a larger conference for all sorts of book fans as well as writers), but I’m looking forward to picking up lots of general writing tidbits. I’m doing a boot camp that lasts two days and will probably wear me down. But fortunately the sessions don’t start for the rest of the conference until 10. So, wish me luck and fortitude.

This isn’t related. I’m sort of embarrassed that I bought one of these, but I couldn’t resist (it has blue in it—I love blue food*).

unicorn frappuccino

* A biochemist I once knew told me that humans are averse to eating blue food, since it is probably spoiled if it’s that color. More support for my theory that I’m not actually human.


So everyone knows a lot of women get really into shoes, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars on these tiny, delicate things that look like they’ll fall apart if one wrong step is taken (if the wearer doesn’t hit the pavement first, anyway). Stilettos, strappy sandals, over-the-knee boots—all that. Now, I would definitely trip and break a leg or arm if I tried to walk around in heels. But that doesn’t keep me from loving shoes. I have a whole collection covering the rainbow and then some. And I got two new pairs this week that make me exceptionally happy.

rainbow vans
Rainbow Vans!


silver shoes

The Vans are particularly interesting to wear because people—even strangers sometimes—comment on them. Every time I’ve worn them out, this has happened. I’m also proud to mention that the silver pair is actually a ladies’ shoe, which is rare for me. You should be proud.

Anyway, now you know. I dig shoes.

Weird Day

I just had to share this really weird day I had. Earlier this week, I had jury duty, and on the first day I went to Panera for lunch. As I was approaching the door, so was a family consisting of a young woman in a wheelchair, and older woman pushing the chair, and a little girl maybe 2 years old. So I held the door for them. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t? They were excessively thankful, which made me uncomfortable because I’m socially awkward and can’t take thanks or a compliment properly to save my life. Anyway, once we were in line, the older woman was holding the little girl, who pointed at me and said, “There’s the nice lady.” So then we had to have a little exchange where we said hi and then she thanked me again and I said it was no problem.

When the next register opened, they weren’t ready, so they told me to go ahead. I figured we were even, all squared away. Then I tried to find a place to sit and literally the only open spots were at one of those big tables with 10 chairs, and the two at the end were occupied. So I sat at the other end.

Soon, the appreciative family came along (and they had picked up Grandpa by this time) and were also finding nowhere to sit. They pondered sitting at my table. I was thinking it would be awkward because they’d have to all sit on one side, and I’d be sitting amongst them. Then, the guy at the two-seater right behind me left, so I snagged his table. I hadn’t even gotten my food yet.

Then Grandpa came over and asked in wonderment if I’d moved for his daughter. I’m not even sure what I said, because I was again embarrassed. I mean, it so wasn’t a big deal. Besides, I’d rather sit at a small table alone than a big table with people I don’t know.

Then this older woman sat at my table. She didn’t even ask if it was okay—she just looked at me, said, “I won’t bite,” and sat down. I go out to eat all the time, and I have never had a stranger sit with me at a table, much less a tiny one with two chairs. But you know, there really wasn’t anywhere else. So that was fine. Then we got to talking as I noticed that she had on a juror badge. I was in the middle of being considered for a two week trial, which I thought was bad enough, but it turned out she was on an actual case that was stretching out over six weeks, which would totally suck. She was pretty interesting so we were chatting about old people driving and chemistry. And how you have to be true to yourself. You know, normal stuff. And I have to say, if a 78-year-old woman with five kids, nine grandkids, and fifteen great grandkids thinks it’s okay for women not to need men, give that some thought.

Then I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye and saw the little girl standing there with her mom, holding something out. I realized slowly that it was a gift card, and they had the girl thank me again. I really didn’t know what to do, but I took it and said thanks. We all went on with lunch and eventually they left.

But seriously, they gave me a gift card for being nice. I mean, what a crappy world we live in where doing something that helps somebody else and doesn’t inconvenience you in any way is worthy of major thanks.*

So, see if you can do something nice for somebody.**

* It also occurs to me that they probably all had the opposite reaction to the experience. “See, the world is great—there are still wonderful, thoughtful people out there, helping each other out!” Of course, I am usually a pragmatic, glass-is-half-empty kind of person (in my defense, this may be because I figure I must have been the one to drink the other half, since I do love my liquid calories, and now there’s less left to drink).

** Also, maybe you’ll get a gift card out of it.