Revamping my website

Welcome to my new and improved website! Special thanks to my husband who did something technical to make everything load faster and make my dashboard faster while I write. Faster dashboard = Less frustrated Kristin. And Less frustrated Kristin = More posts for you. I know how you wait impatiently for my nuggets of wisdom. Oh, and C.K. put that snazzy twitter feed in the sidebar. That way, you get more Kristin Sample with your Kristin Sample!

80's and early 90s-30What’s new? 

  • a streamlined, modern, and easy-to-read look
  • faster load times
  • my tweets in the sidebar and a place where you can tweet at me or follow me
  • header pictures that change with each click
  • simpler navigation in the menu bar

What should I definitely check out? 

  • Click around to see all the awkward pictures of me as a kid in the header bar.
  • Under “About Me,” click on “Meet My Family” to read about our crazy crew.
  • Under “My Writing” click on “In Development” for a teaser from Stagecraft.

Photo credit: Either Dad or Mom. That’s me on one of my tween birthdays. And yes, I’m rocking an old fashioned cowgirl shirt. I had just appeared as a flower girl in a theme wedding where apparently the bridal party was supposed to look like the cast of Deadwood.

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2015 Goals

Notice how I didn’t call this post New Year’s Resolutions? I hate resolutions. So permanent. So scary.  If I haven’t made the change already, the chance that it’s going to happen just because there’s a new number on my calendar is pretty slim.

Besides, my New Year’s resolution always has to do with losing weight. This could be due to the barrage of Weight Watchers commercials and news pieces about dieting or fitness that tend to gather like media storm clouds at the beginning of each year.  Moreover, the weight loss resolution takes me right out of the positive, hopeful attitude that accompanies the new year. I’m constantly focused on my flaws, on what I don’t have, on what I’m not.

So this time, I’m setting “goals.” Much less intimidating. A goal is something to aspire to, not to fear. And since I’m solidly a millenial with a millennial’s attitude, if I don’t achieve my goals, at least I tried. I’ll still get that little trophy at the end of the little league season whether I got a hit or not. Right?

Pink-dress-lisa-lisa-simpson-7864705-303-550This is not to say that I’m going into 2015 with a laissez-faire attitude. I usually get it done when it comes to my goals. I’m the lady who gave birth to her first child and went to graduate class a week later so she wouldn’t be deterred from finishing her second Masters. (Confession: I also did this to scare impress the professor into putting in a good word for me at her school district.) Yes, I’m that person. I’m a Lisa Simpson.

With an eye toward achieving these goals, I thought I’d make them public.  They are all about self-betterment and therefore have a New Year’s resolution “feel.”  But they are about focusing on adding to my life and being thankful for what I have and how God has blessed me so abundantly.

Not about diets.

Here’s the list (in no particular order):

1. Drink the recommended 8 glasses of water per day. This lady drank a gallon of water everyday for four weeks and look at the difference in her face. I even bought a snazzy pink bottle that holds all eight glasses. I enjoy that it makes me look a little intimidating when I bring it everywhere because I’m all about the branding of my mommyness. Whoa, that lady is such a supermom she gets dehydrated from it.

2. Take real estate apps off my mobile devices & disallow notifications from all social media on my phone. The only notifications I get on my iPhone now are texts or calendar alerts or actual phone calls (<–what a notion!). I took Zillow and Trulia off because we are not shopping for a house until next year at the earliest. Looking at homes just makes me think of something I don’t own: a home. I should be focusing on the beautiful, spacious place we rent, incredible elementary school across the street, and fabulous neighbors like the Sipping Sisters. And as for the social media app notifications, I wish had the fortitude to do away with all of it but I don’t. And I won’t cause I like fotchbook and twitterest. But really? Do I need my phone to have a banner come up every time someone repins my pin about crockpot recipes? No. I’m busy trying to finish this enormous jug of water.

3. Take more iTunes U courses. I think I can replace listening to the same Taylor Swift or Pitbull songs over and over with listening to some podcasts in the car. And while I’m getting ready in the morning or doing dishes, I could be learning something. The course I started on the History of the New Testament is given by a Yale professor and it’s free! When I listen to him talk about Peters travels in Acts or the Gospel of Mark, I feel like my brain isn’t melting from laundry and child rearing anymore.

4. Practice yoga everyday. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes, even if it’s a few sun salutations and that’s it, I think this could be one of the more important parts of my day. I started this practice a few weeks before the holidays, skipping only a day or two. My back already feels stronger and I think I’m sleeping better. However, now with the 8 glasses of water, I’ll be getting up a lot more to use the bathroom. Rats! Foiled again!

Blank book5. Finish my novel Stagecraft. I told my agent it would be done by the time Darcy was born. Yeah, Darcy turns one next week. I better get on this. Where’s my Lisa Simpson hat?! There is some editorial interest in the novel so I owe it to myself to finish the book and see where it goes. If you’re on facebook, like the novel’s page and follow my painstaking process.

Okay, that’s it. I’ll post an update in a few weeks. I promise to be honest about my progress.

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Filed under C.K., family, health, motherhood

Christmas Reflection

Dec. 27th…

This may turn into a 2014 reflection. In which case, I apologize in advance for the long-windedness and waxing sentimentality. This post will also be rambling and slightly incoherent. It’s 6:02 here in Austin. I’ve been up since 4:09 when my 4yo Jackson busted in our room in tears because he had a bad dream. Zombies again, I think. At 4:34, my 11-month-old dragon baby stood yelling at the corner of her crib and pointing at the red lights on the dropcam. On the monitor itself, Darcy looked like she was pointing at me, eyes glowing fluorescently with camera’s night vision. So I can’t promise anything too profound in this barely caffeinated state. Perhaps “reflection” was a bit of a reach.

So…reflecting on Christmas. This was something I tried in vain to do on December 25th but with all the cooking, cleaning, unwrapping, playing, talking, drinking…well, you know how it goes.

For the second year now, I hosted Christmas. This was something I’ve always wanted to do, even before kids, even before marriage. I alway envisioned my fully decorated home filled with good people, good smells of food cooking, and lots of laughter. That tableau is the Norman Rockwell version.

The saner among us (perhaps those who have hosted Christmas before) know that hosting Christmas is not all its cracked up to be. It is an endless “to do” of menial tasks and endless stress about budgets and whether or not your food will suck. To Do Before 12/25: cookies, cards, decorations, gifts, more cookies because you ate the first batches, menu planning, food shopping, cooking, freezing, defrosting, cooking. And somewhere in there, everyone gets sick and you are somehow supposed to make it to church. I totally failed on that last one. Christmas was most definitely an “Xmas” for us this year save a few reminders to Jackson that “IT’S JESUS’s BIRTHDAY!”

Last year’s Christmas was a blur. I was 36 weeks pregnant with Darcy. Unable to bend too much or stand very long, I can remember sitting on a step stool in my kitchen mired in recipe cards and dirty dishes and suffocating from the heat of the oven. I was just waiting for it to be over.

This year was much different in that regard. I made the conscious effort to accept any offers of help, to split up tasks and accomplish them throughout the month, to plan a menu that was simple, and to take lots of deep breaths. The result was one of the most enjoyable Christmases I’ve ever experienced and yet we had more food, more guests, and more wrapping than ever before.

They say many hands make light work. And mom, dad, my mother-in-law Karen, and C.K. did not disappoint. My mother-in-law, in addition to bringing several side dishes and desserts, helped everyday in the kitchen doing too many tasks to enumerate. By Monday we had basically a full Thanksgiving dinner to serve as our lunches and dinners leading up to Christmas. On Christmas day, she stood there washing and trimming mushrooms for about forty five minutes while I pulled together the other dishes and tried to hide my terror. She did so much in the kitchen that I looked at the dishes last night and thought “Oh, I have to do those?” She left early yesterday morning. Yes, Kristin. You have to do your own friggin’ dishes again.

And it was so nice to have her with us this year. This was the first Christmas we combined both sides of our family and I can’t even begin to express how lovely it was to see my children showered with attention from their grandparents.

My parents got here on Christmas Eve…just in time to take everyone out to a delicious dinner at Truluck’s. Last year, I made the traditional seven fishes dinner. And no, I don’t miss it. Dinner out on Christmas Eve for the win! On Christmas day, my parents arrived with three bags of gifts for us and then spent the day juggling an overtired sick baby girl, drifting in and out of the kitchen to clean and help with any extra tasks. Things just get done when my parents are around. A child is bathed. Clothes are folded and put away. A high chair is wiped down.

My husband, like my parents and mother-in-law, does too much to list here. I just give two examples of how generous a heart he possesses. First, he spent 2.5 hours putting together this Marvel Lego battle station thing at the end of Christmas day. When Jackson finished his bath, he strutted out in his Christmas pjs and promptly started taking it apart. C.K. didn’t complain at all. We did take a picture of him with the finished product for posterity though. And second, my husband, in addition to all his support of my “Christmasing” (especially the parts where I go over budget,) he got me basically everything on my Amazon wishlist.

Today we will celebrate Christmas with my little sister Maggie who spent her holiday working in the ER. She will never say it aloud but she is a fantastic physician whose medical knowledge is only outweighed by her compassion. I can’t wait to see her today, exchange gifts…and do more eating and drinking!

So Christmas was great. It was Darcy’s first. She killed it in her red velvet dress and despite being sick, she handled all the hoopla like a champ. And Jackson seems to enjoy it more every year. He is the best “gift-getter” I’ve ever met. Really, if any of you ladies out there don’t want to open all your bridal shower gifts in front of your party guests, Jackson will stand in. Upon opening his yoga mat, Jackson exclaimed, “A yoga mat! Finally! I’ve wanted one for so long. Thank you so much.” Every gift, toy or otherwise, was met with the same enthusiasm and gratitude. When I asked Jackson at dinner what his favorite gift was, he responded matter-of-factly, “my new jeans.”

Aren’t you lucky I didn’t go through the entire year? It’s late now but I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, and/or a Merry Feastivus/long weekend. And may your 2015 be filled with joy.

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The Elf on the Shelf Debaucle

It sounded like a good idea. All my friends on facebook were doing it. All my church pals who had little kiddos were talking about it.

The Elf on the Shelf.

I decided that this year Christmas would be extra magical. There would be decorating of cookies, our annual Nutcracker trip, tree trimming, present wrapping…and now there would be a stealthy elf who would hide in a different spot every night. Jackson would wake up, find him (maybe even with a little note or an advent present), and be the happiest kid ever.

That didn’t happen.

It all started this Thursday. I put Darcy down for her afternoon nap and Jackson and I went and played on his iPad on my bed. (Disclosure: I dozed while he played on his iPad. It happens.) But before we retreated to the master bedroom, a package arrived. I spied inside and saw the box set, complete with cheaply made toy elf and the classic book that explained his mythology. While Jackson was getting out his iPad, I snuck over to the tree and put it in plain sight.

When Darcy woke an hour later, I walked out in the livingroom and the act was on. “Jackson! Something came from the North Pole.” He ran out, little socks trying in vain to grip our parquet wood floors.  “What is it?,” he said, eyes filled with wonderment and glee as he held up the box. I grabbed Darcy from her crib and sat down to read him the book.

“I bet some of your friends already have one,” I smiled. But then I realized that he might ask why we only just got a scout elf . Think fast. “I knew we would get our elf when Darcy came along.” (If you’re keeping score, that’s friendly fib number two.)

I read the book with such feeling. I highlighted all the parts about how the elf is magical and comes alive at night. For those of you who don’t know the Elf’s mythology, here’s a quick run down…

  1. He’s from the North Pole. (or Amazon.com)

  2. You have to give him a name. (Saves money on personalized box printing.)

  3. He comes alive every night and visits his friends in the North Pole then goes all inanimate during the day. He’ll always be in the different place though. (Think Toy Story when humans are around.)

  4. He reports on his child’s behavior to Santa.

  5. He comes every year on Thanksgiving night and leaves after Christmas.

  6. You cannot touch him. His magic will fade if you do.

So I made sure to highlight the magical-little-elf-who-comes-alive-at-night part. I knew Jackson would have a blast looking for him each morning. I downplayed the whole Foucaultpanopticon part. We won’t have any Big-Brother-is-watching-you crap in this house. Besides, Jackson is good–and not because he’s afraid of some fictional portly man who lives up north. Jackson behaves because he has a healthy fear of me and C.K. Duh. Like when I say I’m going to vacuum up his legos if he doesn’t pick them up…NOW. And then I walk to the hall closet. Jackson gets his little butt on the floor and scoops all those precious legos into their bin. Why? Because I actually will vacuum up those little legos. Anyone who has stepped on a lego with bare feet will know how insanely gratifiying vacuuming up legos might be. Eff those legos.

But I digress. We read the story. His face was so precious, so full of awe. He took the directive about not touching the elf very seriuosly, using it as an excuse to boss around his 10-month-old sister. “Don’t touch Mr. Elf, Baby Darcy. No presents for you!”

We read the book a second time. Jackson was still completely plugged in. Then I suggested we call his grandmother to tell her about this most magical event that has transpired. “Yes! Call Meema.”

And that’s when it happened. Not five minutes into that fateful Facetime call, Jackson’s mood changed. “I don’t like him,” he whispered, a grim expression on his face.

Jackson realized it–something we all know about the Elf on the Shelf. That shit is creepy. He’s small. He grins all the time. He wears a ridiculous hat. He watches your every move. And then, the worst of it, he comes alive when you sleep. Now, supposedly the Elf just goes to the North Pole. But Jackson doesn’t know that. Maybe the Elf breaks your toys, vacuums your legos, climbs into bed with you, takes your soul. Who knows?

“I don’t like him. I don’t like his magic,” he cried. Now there were tears. I told my mom I’d call her right back. And then the lies just poured out of me. “He’s a good elf. He’s not a bad elf.” (Shit. Now he thinks there are bad elves.) “The elf is just Santa’s helper.” “The elves are making your Skylanders.”

“I don’t want him!” Jackson screamed, really terrified now. I called my mom back thinking she would help. He adores his Meema. Surely, she would play along with this amazing little fib.

But she was no help. We’ll leave it at that. No, we won’t. Not only did my mom yell at me to get rid of the elf, she could barely contain her laughter that this had gone so horribly wrong for me.

All the while, Jackson is now hollering at the top of his lungs, “Get his magic out of the house!” And my favorite line: “Give the elf to the poor kids.”  This was a clear sign that another advent activity was going wrong. I want Jackson to pick some toys to give to Salvation Army or Any Baby Can. I’ve been prepping him slowly for this painful decision. I want him to know that others don’t have as much and so it’s important to make some efforts to take care of others. Evidently, he’s not absorbing these values.

 After getting off the phone with Meema a second time, I had to come clean. “He’s just a story and a toy. He doesn’t really come alive.”

And that was all it took. Now “Knob” the elf is a happy addition to our home. And every few hours, Jackson asks me to hide him again. He shouts, “Let’s play Elf on the Shelf!”

Jackson did agree, however, that we should keep the magic part for Baby Darcy. And for Daddy.

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The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

My husband and I recently moved our family to a new neighborhood. We were lucky to find a totally redone townhouse in a really nice complex. Soon after we moved, we realized that we had altered the median age of said complex considerably. In fact, most of our neighbors are elderly women between the ages of 75 and 97. Ooh, another man. Oh a young man. So nice to have a young family. I don’t know that I’d use the word “young” to describe either myself or my husband. But to the cast of Cocoon residing in our subdivision, we might as well be in high school.

These ladies aren’t just any old ladies though. They are active (many are still working), vibrant, and charming. I’m fairly sure that they stay up later than I do. And on occasion, they sit on lawn chairs in the middle of our complex and drink wine and laugh and kevetch. They call this impromptu gathering the “Sippin’ Sisters.”

About a month ago on a sticky summer evening, I am lucky enough to receive an invitation from the Sisters. Joan, a 92 year old with two poodles and crazy swagger, told me about the group the day we moved in. I confess that while I said “Ooh that sounds nice” I hoped I would never hear of this again. But there stands Joan at my door, blouse impeccably ironed, wine glass in hand.

I go to this latest installment of the Sippin’ Sisters. My motivation is completely self-serving. I want to appear like a good neighbor; I want a bunch of ladies to hold my enormous five month old daughter Darcy. Certainly, both goals will be accomplished and I’ll be back in the AC in half hour.

To my surprise, I have the best time chatting with these ladies. Let me take you through the cast of characters. And they are indeed characters.

You’ve met Joan already. She’s Catholic. I am asked right away about my religious preference. Would I be Team Joan or Team Everyone-Else-Is-Protestant? I answer truthfully that I grew up Catholic but we attend Methodist church. This answer satisfies everyone and I am tentatively accepted.

There’s Dotty. “I am the queen,” she announces when I walk up. Dotty is the leader of the group. Armed with a glass of rose and tangerine-colored lipstick, Dotty informs me that she was the first person to live in our complex. She moved in over forty years ago after her husband passed. Dotty snatches up Darcy right away cooing, “Ooh she’s darling.” Dotty also notifies me that despite my native New Yorker status, God has certainly blessed me by giving me a Texan baby. Then she jokes, “What do you call a yankee who has lived in Texas for thirty years?… A yankee who has lived in Texas for thirty years!”

All the ladies laugh.

I laughed too. It’s funny because it’s true.

There’s Helen. Helen declares that she is the “second queen.” But before I could break it to her that there is no such thing, Dotty interrupts again, clearly invigorated by a new person to entertain. “You have the choice unit,” Dotty exclaims. It is evident that everyone in the circle had looked through my home when it first came on the market.

Helen thinks she’s 73 but no, Joan gently reminds her that she is 93. Helen sulks a bit at this revelation but quickly recovers. Clearly, Helen feels like she’s 73 and that’s all that matters. And who wouldn’t feel 73 in perfected quaffed gray curls and white capris?

There’s Joan and her daughter Kathy. Joan is sassy. I’ve already mentioned her swagger. She sashays past my home three times a day with her poodles. Joan and her dogs are my pug’s archenemies. Thatcher hates anyone with more swagger than her. (The pug is also sassy. But this post is getting lengthy so I won’t go into it.) Kathy is less sassy. Despite being one of the younger women in the group, she’s bashful. That’s probably because you can’t get a word in edgewise unless the queen asks you a direct question. Kathy tries to offer some neighborly words, “We are always home. If you need anything—“

“If you need anything, just ask. We don’t have what you need. But we will call someone for you,” Dotty cracks up.

Finally, there’s Naomi. She mostly sits there sipping her pinot giorgio (with ice) and giggling. As I leave she lets me know that she shares a wall with me. I shudder as I think of the worst—she’s going to complain about our parrot. But instead Naomi asks if her television is too loud. She’s just had her hearing aids put in and can’t tell if she’s bothering anyone. “I have a four year old, a baby, a pug, and a parrot. You’re fine,” I laugh and Naomi smiles, genuinely relieved.

There hasn’t been another gathering of the Sippin’ Sisters since then. I assume that people are just taking summer vacations, visiting families, tours of beauty, whatever. The Sippin’ Sisters aren’t ones to be driven indoors by the Texas heat.

Or maybe I just wasn’t cool enough to be invited back.

I hope this is not true.

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Our Heroine Goes to the Pool

Recently I’ve added pool time to my stay-at-home-mom daily routine. It breaks up the afternoon and simultaneously gets us out of the house and out of the heat. As I float around today with my two babies, I can’t  help but ponder my pool times before the arrival of these cherubs in my life. Back then, my main objective was to look good in a bathing suit. Now, vanity plays a much lesser role. I smirk as I wonder “Does this count as my shower for today?”

Before kids, I would see how I could weasel another drink out whoever was dry enough to go inside. Oh hey, are you getting out? I’ll take another beer. And then there’s the internal monologue that ensue when nature calls.  Damn, I have to pee. That means drying off, going inside, wriggling awkwardly out of my bathing suit then pulling the wet suit back on. Would anyone really know if I just peed in the pool?


But any young parent knows that pool time with kids is different, much more than sucking in your gut and debating the ethics of swimming pool urination.
There’s the hyper vigilance of having to keep your children alive. There’s the cramp in my left arm that’s cradling my 21 pound six-month-old as she kicks her chubby thighs frantically through the water. There’s the repetitive, ridiculously loud exclamations of my four year old. And then there’s me, pacing back and forth in the shallow end, trying to engage in whatever deranged narrative Jackson has created for today’s play and employing phrases like “use your walking feet” whenever Jackson scampers dangerously around the cement edge.

And you know what? Pool time is pretty awesome. Today Jackson wants to play a live action version of Plants vs. Zombies. Darcy and I are the “plants.” I am equipped with a green beach ball that I pelt at Jackson as he repeatedly swims from the stairs to my location. Even with the aches in my back and my four year old droning on about how he wants to eat my brains, I’m enjoying his laughter. And even though he thinks he’s a zombie, I’m watching him teach himself how to swim as I move farther and farther away each time we restart the game. And Darcy is happy too. She’s floating in my arms, breathing the summer breeze, and feeling the contrast of the Texas heat and the cool water.  As a typical second child, Darcy has no pool toys of her own. Still the baby contently chews on Jackson’s old water wing. And she’ll take a nap when we return home.

I’ll take it.

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Kickstarter Complete: 5 Lessons Learned

This week I sent off the last of it–my limited edition novels funded by my KICKSTARTER backers. Those who paid $25 or more received signed copies. Now that I have some space from the project as a whole, I thought I’d share some tips for those launching KICKSTARTER book projects of their own.

1. Do lots of research first. I mean this both in the empirical way and the soul searching way. I looked at many (MANY) kickstarter projects for books. I saw what others were charging and what rewards people were getting. I focused on successful projects or projects that were almost over and had most of their funding. I also thought a lot about what creative concessions I was willing to make. For example, I offered to change a character’s name for $1,000. You may not want to do that. Some other campaigns (mostly ones for fantasy chap books) offered to let backers decide plot points. That was NOT something I wanted to do. I make all plot decisions.

2. If you can complete your project with less money, raise less money. You can always do an extension. I raised 5,000 for my campaign. Other book campaigns were about that much. Friends who had successful projects said that was a good number and I could raise it. But let me tell you, that last week getting from $4,000 to $5,000 was STRESSFUL. By the last week, I was second-guessing the goal. And you can’t change the goal or the time frame once you set it. And as KICKSTARTER reminds you every step of the way, if you don’t receive full funding, you don’t get anything. Take that to heart. (Sidenote: I’m sure you can tell from the above paragraph that I’m not a business major/math-minded person. I know. I’ve been aware of this for awhile. Maybe I should’ve engaged one of my friends who doesn’t suck at math to help. Might have saved some money on TUMS that last week too.)

3. Utilize the talented people in your life. It takes a village. I mean, that’s basically the guiding concept behind KICKSTARTER, right? I got so many compliments on my kickstarter video. And it wouldn’t have been half as entertaining if I didn’t have a talented husband to film and edit it. My video was a short bit about why I need the money then outtakes of me screwing up. In short, C.K. made me look much more charming than I actually am. One thing I wish I did: get someone do create concept art. Like a picture of the main character. If I could do it all again, I would’ve called in some favors on that front. Maybe even make postcards printed with the art. That way  I could’ve given something tangible to the people who backed me for less than $25. There are lots of folks out there who don’t want another paperback, especially those who have transitioned fully to eReaders. But those people still want to support you and everyone likes getting postcards. (Right?)

Shipment from Publisher’s Graphics

4. Do the campaign in a month. No one wants to think about your kickstarter campaign for more than that. Start revving up interest prior to when the campaign starts (blog posts, facebook updates, tweets), but the actual “I need your money to make my dreams happen” shouldn’t be in people’s feeds for more than a month.

5. Order extras. I’m using the extras for giveaways on goodreads.com and my facebook page. I also had ten requests for full manuscripts from lit agents. No one offered representation because they didn’t think that North Shore South Shore had a traditional niche market. My novel is about emerging adults–a relatively new literary market that appeals to readers between YA and Adult fiction. Agents just couldn’t picture it. I’ll be sending some of these agents copies to help them do just that and prove that the novel is indeed sellable.

Special thanks to…all of my kickstarter backers, C.K. Sample, Glen Edelstein (cover design), Publishers’ Graphics, all my friends who tweeted or shared on facebook, and the good people at KICKSTARTER for accepting my project.

Follow me on TWITTER.

 

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Dare Me by Megan Abbott (or Cheerleaders are scary)

SPOILERS ABOUND

(I wrote this for people who read Abbott’s book already.)

If you weren’t already frightened by the competitive cheerleaders you see on ESPN2, you certainly will be after reading Megan Abbott’s novel Dare Me. The book, which follows second-in-command Addy Hanlon as she is torn between Top Girl Beth and Coach Colette French, is a vivid depiction of the incestuous, competitive sub-culture. The cheerleaders are  powerful, self-serving individuals but also a force to be reckoned with when they act as one body. Abbott constantly builds the image of one connected body/spirit as she describes the girls doing stunts. And this almost-mutant-like physical connection carries over to their loyalty to each other in the most scandalous of circumstances. They are indeed the scariest version of Voltron ever to grace the pages of a paperback.

Let’s talk about the plot. Nothing new here. It’s actually bland and predictable. Really. Try to imagine yourself pitching this read to a friend. It’s Mean Girls, Heathers, Babysitters’ Club on steriods. Maybe not the last one. The point is that Abbott uses a very “used” plot structure and makes it new, unpredictable, and at times, horrifying. Abbott’s writing chops are impressive to say the least. Dare Me, similar to Gone Girl, features tight, controlled prose. Like the textual version of a Hitchcock film. You discover ONLY what the writer wants you to know, what the filmmaker wants you to see. Any brilliant deductions you make are NOT due to your brilliance but due to the curating of the story.

Sorry. I think you’re smart.

No, really. I do.

So let’s talk about how the predictable plot is rendered unpredictable by the author. In my opinion, Abbott achieves the suspense in two ways. First, the creation of narrator/protagonist Addy Hanlon. Addy is unsure of herself in the beginning and looking for an alpha-female to follow / model herself after. Because Addy trusts Coach, her processing of the Sarge’s murder is unreliable and adds to the reader’s suspense. What’s most impressive about Addy is that she finds her own power in the latter half of the novel. The last chapter left me with a sense of discord–almost as creepy as the end of Gone Girl.

Second, Abbott’s depiction of the world of a competitive cheerleading team is amazing.  Just as interesting as the question “Who killed the Sarge?” is the inner-workings of the team and the hierarchy, and fight for dominance between Beth and Coach. And if I may flex my English-major-muscle, the team culture is further reinforced by the presence of Sarge and his boys.

Questions for you…

1. Do you think Dare Me should be a movie? (I think that Gone Girl would be awesome as a movie but Dare Me will be seriously diminished as a story in cinematic form.)

2. Who’s your “Top Girl”: Beth, Addy, or Coach? (As I mentioned above, I liked Addy the best.)

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Kickstarter–SUCCESS!

I take a spin class every Friday morning and the teacher is both a spinning instructor and a yoga instructor. She oddly pairs yoga affirmations like “Be thankful for what your body can do” with spinning affirmations like “Let’s GO! Burn off that good livin’!”

Her style is off-putting to say the least. But today, when she inevitably tells her minions  to “Dedicate our class to someone” as we go on three minutes of climbing resistance, I will dedicate my spin class to everyone who helped get me funding on kickstarter.

THANK YOU!

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

With ten hours left, I’m 102% funded and I have 70+ backers. I’m grateful for your generous pledges. I’m also grateful for your support in bringing awareness to my project (and for not hating me the past few days when all I’ve talked about is kickstarter). The tweets, status updates, etc. were instrumental in widening North Shore South Shore’s audience.

Thanks for bringing me to the next step in this process! Thanks to you–I’m actually going somewhere. It’s quite the opposite of spin class. My legs cycle furiously to loud music and I get nowhere.

Next up: Electronic release!  Like my facebook page for details. (It’s coming soon. I’m sending the manuscript to a formatter next week.)

Have a nice weekend everyone!

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Filed under family, friends, North Shore / South Shore

Toddlers are funny (The Library Edition)

Jackson planking in gymnastics class.

First full week of being a stay-at-home mommy. Since this would usually be my first full week of teaching, I find myself haunted by this eerie feeling that I’m supposed to be somewhere or I’m forgetting something.

But mommying is fun.

Exhausting but fun.

Jackson was introduced to storytime this week. We attended a session at our town library on Thursday and then one at a local town’s library on Friday. Both proved that Jackson needs a little more practice at structured group activities.

On Thursday he wanted to run the show. When the teacher asked if anyone knew “what to do if they’re happy and they know it,” one little girl answered “CLAP HANDS” and Jackson said “SING ABCs.” My girlfriend very kindly noted that Jackson was just offering an answer but I knew better. He was issuing an order. Sing ABCs now, lady. Or else! (Side note: At least he didn’t scream “Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle YEAH” because Jackson certainly knows what to do if he’s sexy and he knows it. And cue shame at the frequency with which we listen and sing along to LMFAO in the car.)

Later on, he walked directly up to the librarian, tapped on her leg just as she was about to start another song and said “Idea! Sing how many monkeys jumping on the bed.” (He’s taken to saying “Idea!” before announcing what he wants to do. Other ideas include “Idea! No nap! Only play!” and “Idea! Chocolate milk!” as he hands me back a juice box.) The librarian very skillfully deflected his demand and I thought to myself “That’s right. You gotta shut that down.”

On Friday Jackson got the Idea! a little better but story time was not without social faux pas. While the librarian read Animal Boogie to the group, a book with a rhyming refrain boogey-oogey-oogey, Jackson announced “I got boogers!!” I think he thought that all the animals in Animal Boogie had boogers. Boogie. Boogers.

Still I explained that “to boogie” is to dance with glee and “a boogie” is that green crap in your nose. I think I sufficiently clarified that one. It was a teachable moment.

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Filed under family, motherhood