Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mike Ness is my hero & Why I'm vegan

Learn more about Mike Ness at

After seeing this video from, Mike Ness has been bumped up to the top of my personal heroes list. I didn't know he was vegetarian and I really think it is rad that he is. I wish I had known last summer when I interviewed him for Shooting Stars Magazine bc I def would have asked him about it.

I don't like to get up on a soapbox about vegan. It's a personal decision I made back when I was 17 (I became vegetarian at 13), but I don't like to lecture people on what they should and should not do seeing as that is one of my pet peeves about organized religion.

However this whole swine flu thing kind of gets me into vegan/environmentalist mode. If we didn't consume so much meat, we wouldn't have crazy huge factory farms and if we didn't have those, we wouldn't have people interacting with swine in such close proximity for there to be a swine flu epidemic. Even my dad, who's the executive director of public health in Kane County, agreed with me on that. Not to mention, as Mike Ness points out, meat is not green. Meat creates more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, etc combined. Your Prius does not cancel out your burger habit.

Seeing Mike Ness get out there and use his platform to explain his personal choices makes me think I might as well use mine too (though mine is much much much smaller). I'm not judging you or telling you what to do. I will never EVER do that. I'm also not interested in debating. These are my views and I have a right to them, just as you have your views and your right to them. I'm simply explaining why I've made the choices I've made. As one of my online friends Heather said the other day, it's good to speak your mind because ignorance is bliss and knowledge is power. 

I became vegan because of animal rights. I saw an episode about animal testing on Degrassi Junior High when I was 10 and me and my friend Jessie started calling all the companies on the backs of our tolietry products and asking them if they tested on animals. If they did, we told them how outraged we were and we stopped buying their products. 

Jessie was vegetarian, as was my friend Alison. I continued to eat meat for the usual reasons (it tasted good; I was lazy) for a few years, but they did continue to point out how the animals suffered. When I was in eighth grade, I cut into a steak, my fave food at the time, and watched the blood drip out of it. I put it in my mouth and tasted it. I was too grossed out to eat the rest. I went completely vegetarian (ie no red meat, chicken or fish) as my New Years Resolution of 1993.

When I was a junior in high school, I was getting way more into the political side of the punk scene and meeting a lot of people who were vegan including one of my dearest friends, Tai. Tai had worked on an animal rescue farm and told me the way cows and chickens were abused in the dairy and egg industry. Again, I held out for a little bit because I liked cheese and ice cream, etc, etc. But I quickly realized that my pleasure wasn't worth so much suffering and besides there were plenty of good substitutes! (Yes, I know, decent vegan cheese is really hard to find, but the Follow Your Heart brand is actually quite good and does melt and through much experimentation, I've found some homemade substitutes too!)

So my choice to become vegetarian and later vegan was based pretty much entirely on me being a sensitive, emotional, Cancer girl who couldn't stomach the idea of animals suffering. A lot of people will shrug that off and say whatever.

However, I now feel like I remain vegan because of a sense of larger responsibility. Factory farming is destroying our planet. Maybe I won't be alive to see it all go down the shitter and maybe I won't have kids, but I do have cousins and friends with adorable little babies and I want them to be able to have nice, green, safe planet to grow up on. And because of this I walk and take public transportation whenever possible and share a car and when it comes time to replace said car, it will be hybrid. I also recycle. I garden. I use energy efficient bulbs etc. But most importantly I do not eat meat or dairy. 

My friend Polly and I had a great conversation while I was in Seattle (and part of the reason I miss her so is these sorts of great conversations) about how we do see the difference now between meat/dairy raised on a small farm and factory farming. I could never personally eat any animal, but if you are getting your meat/dairy from a local small farm, it's a lot different when it comes to the effects on the earth. We were also talking about her decision to eat only locally grown produce and only when it is in season. I think in Seattle, she has a bit better access to do that than I do. I was relating to her my struggles of chosing pesticide covered local produce or organic produce from across the country or in South America during the winter in Chicago when there are no farmers markets. 

Anyway, I'm really going on a tangent now about environmentally friendly food. But my point is that you should think about what you eat, where it comes from, and what sort of effect it is having on the world as a whole. Less selfish actions by all of us will make the world a better place. And honestly, we are getting to the point where we need to be less selfish if we want to have a clean and healthy place to live in at all!

Okay, I'm off my soapbox and will get back to doing that fictional writing that you guys probably enjoy way more.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Melissa Walker!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! As usual, we start by announcing last week's winner (dontcha love blogs that start with winners?), who will get a ton of awesome She Craves stuff... Your Mom from myspace, please send me a myspace msg with your address and t-shirt size to claim your prize!

Today's Woman Who Rocks is an author I just adore. Not only does she write amazing books, she's just a sweetheart and is so friendly and pro-active and I really really hope I get to meet her someday soon. It's Melissa Walker!!! (Picture below, showing off her new haircut!) 

Melissa is the author of the Violet series and she has another book called Lovestruck Summer that comes out on May 5th. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to Lovestruck Summer, it's like the perfect beach read for people who adore music like I do! But I will let Melissa tell you more about it and share some other stories that show how much she rocks. Then, at the end, you guessed it! Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a copy of Lovestruck Summer!

Q: Tell us what Lovestruck Summer is all about and how you came up with the idea to write it?

Melissa: I have always wanted to write a summer romance, and last summer I got my chance when HarperTeen told me they'd be into having me work on one for them. I'd also just spent some time in Austin, so I wanted to set a book there. The story follows Quinn, an 18-year-old indie-rock girl who lands an internship in Austin at the independent music label she loves. She expects to find her perfect hipster boyfriend... and she does... but for some reason she can't stop thinking about Russ, the Texas frat boy next door.

Q: You are best know for your Violet series, which is primarily about modeling and this book is more about music. What were some of the differences in writing this book and what, if anything, still felt somewhat the same and gives it that "Melissa Walker" stamp?

Melissa: Violet was my first fictional character, and she is A LOT like me. Quinn is a little edgier than I am, and that was fun to write. Still, they both find themselves questioning their own instincts and trying to out-think their hearts, which is something I think we all go through around 18 (or, um, 31), so there's some commonality there.

Q: This book has to have a soundtrack. What are five songs that relate to the book and describe how they relate?

Melissa: Ha! Well I mention so many bands and songs in the book that I made most of them purely fictional, just for fun. I even had my blog readers come up with band names for me, which ruled. But in terms of real songs, I'd say these are on there:

1. Waltz Across Texas by Ernest Tubbs.
I listened to this song 100 times while writing the book--it just made me happy inside.

2. Fools Rush In-Elvis
This is the first song that gets stuck in Quinn's head after coming to Austin. She hears a country version and just can't get it out of her mind.

3. Portland, Oregon-Loretta Lynn and Jack White
Quinn can't believe country music can mix with the type of sounds she likes, but she has to admit it after hearing this duet.

4. People are People-Depeche Mode
Quinn doesn't really get along with everyone in Austin right away... but she would like this song.

5. Speeding Motorcycle-Daniel Johnston
It's odd and a little off, but really touching and open. Quinn buys a shirt that has a Daniel Johnston drawing on it while she's in Austin.

Q: You also help run I Heart Daily, which I absolutely adore. How did you come up with the idea to start that site? What do you love about doing it? Does it suck up writing time in any way or inspire your writing?

Melissa: My friend Anne and I both really missed working for teen magazines, but we didn't want to go back full time. We were always sending each other links and talking about things we wished we could share in that magazine format, so we decided to make it official--a site for stuff we like that we think you'll like. Yay!

It's honestly such a blast. The business angle is hard--we haven't taken advertising yet, mainly because we're not sure how to deal with money--but on the writing and ideas side: FUN.

Q: I know Lovestruck Summer isn't even out yet, but what is next for you, Melissa?

Melissa: Hopefully another book! I'm working on something now, but it's not quite ready to go public.

Q: I have two standard questions for my women who rock. The first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge :)

Melissa: First album: Thriller, Michael Jackson. It was a cassette tape. My first vinyl was Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. I loved MTV and these guys were in heavy rotation. First show: 6th grade, Poison--Open Up and Say Ahhh... tour. Tesla opened. Oh man, I loved it. Fallen Angel, Every Rose Has its Thorn? Somebody get me a lighter!

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

Melissa: I was once flown first-class to New Zealand to do a story about an upscale "finishing school" for privileged teen girls. The story ran in ELLEgirl (you can find it here: and during my two weeks in NZ, I had access to everything the girls did: mud baths, life coaching, personal shoppers, drivers and bodyguards... I had to admit I was living like a rock star. And it wasn't half bad.

Okay, that has to be another one of the top rock star moments we've heard. I totally envy Melissa! And I love that her first concert was Poison (in case you don't know I have a bit of a Rock of Love obsession), and the soundtrack for Lovestruck Summer just makes me want to read it even more, esp those last three songs. *Swoon*

What about you? Leave a comment about Melissa's interview or how badly you want to read Lovestruck Summer and you will be entered to win it!

I will draw a winner next week when I feature the woman who rocks my world most... I'm not talking about Courtney Love or Francesca Lia Block or Melissa Marr or the girls from Civet (again), though of course they would all be awesome to interview... I'm talking about my mom!!!! That's right, it's the Weds before Mother's Day, so I'm interviewing Mom! And I'll give out one of my books.... I'm not sure which. I'm letting her decide. She might lean toward IWBYJR since it was dedicated to her, but who knows she might pick Ballads...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ballads of Suburbia Book Trailer & the story behind it

In case you missed it over on Teen Fiction Cafe, here's the book trailer for BALLADS OF SUBURBIA:

I'm thrilled with it and to be honest with you, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. This isn't because I doubted the fabulous Jenn M who made the trailer. It was more because book trailers are a new thing and though I've seen some cool ones sometimes they can be totally cheesy and there is no way as an author you can know what the return on your investment is going to be (in other words, there is no way to link trailers to a boost in book sales). But Jenn's services were really affordable, so I decided to go for it.

One of the major things that influenced my decision to do it was that I got permission to use the music I wanted. The song in the trailer is by Office, a Chicago/Michigan band. I've been friends with members/former members and have always really loved their sound. I also appreciate it when artists within a community are willing to give each other a hand, so I was thrilled when Scott from Office said I could use the song gratis because he also believed that artists should help each other out. Anyway, can't say enough good things about Office and about the song "Suburban Perfume," which I listened to over and over while writing BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. I always envisioned it as the song that would play in the closing credits if the book ever became a movie. I think it totally sets the tone for the trailer and conveys the mood I wanted to create. The book is all about lost innocence and the song totally gives the trailer that feeling, as well as a somber/reflective feeling, which if you've read the first chapter on my website, you know is the way the book starts out.

Now let's talk about the magic that Jenn M made. I gave her a bare bones script, basically the words that you see in the trailer and an idea for some of the images and she rolled with it. The biggest struggle I think was finding characters that at least sorta kinda resembled my main characters. Since the book is set in the early/mid nineties and I always imagined my male lead as kind of a punk rock version of Cliff from Singles, Adrian was a little bit difficult to cast, but the actor she ultimately went with definitely looks good even if he is not my exact mental image. I didn't want too much focus on the way the characters look anyway because I'd rather readers get their own picture of them when they read the book. That to me was the scariest part of making the trailer: forcing imagery on readers, esp of the characters. So I was torn about doing live action. Jenn indulged me by doing a combination of live action and still photography, which I think works really well. It implants the other images I want you to have in your mind of the book. It tells you it's about self-injury and addiction; it also gives you a glimpse of the real setting of the book because Jenn used some of my photos of the Oak Park area.

Anyway, so that's the story behind the trailer. I love it and have watched it like ten times now. I hope you enjoy it too and if so, I hope you'll share it with other people on your blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc and if you do so, remember it counts as entries for my latest contest so remember to enter to possibly win an ARC of BALLADS!

Monday, April 27, 2009

My fantasy writing life and my reality

So I haven't been blogging as much lately and for that I apologize. I'm going through one of those phases where I'm trying to figure out how to balance my life between working, blogging, responding to email, promo stuff, wedding planning, keeping my house some respectable, attempting to get some sleep, exercising, watching the occasional TV show to wind down, spending time with friends/family/fiance, oh and writing. You know that thing that I am supposed to be doing the most of. The thing that I am grumpy if I am not doing enough of. Writing. Yeah, that's it. 

There hasn't been as much time for writing as I would like, so I'm cutting back on other things like blogging to do that. But I like to blog, so I'll be here as much as I can. And when I can't blog, I'm sharing random thoughts via Twitter on important things like: "According to US Weekly the way I wear my eyeliner is out. That's fine. I was sick of people like Nicole Ritchie copying me anyway." It's like fun short blogging... except often more meaningless, though that sort of stuff amuses me.

Anyway, I do ponder things that don't fit into 140 characters too and this is one of them.

*Warning: major geek alert*

So, since I obviously have oh so much time on my hands, I decided to sign up for ABC Insider Access, which allows me (supposedly) to give feedback on my all-time favorite soap opera, One Life to Live. (I warned you. I'm not just your garden variety Star Trek nerd... well I am that too... I've been addicted to the "stories" since age 14.) You see, I was reading all the plot summaries to see what I missed during the week I was in Seattle and there was this link asking if I had an opinion about OLTL and, by god, I did!

Now, when I have about ten minutes to spare (which I never do, but I make time), I go onto this special super secret forum, watch trailers for the upcoming weeks show, rate them, and then go vent about how pissed I am that OLTL is having another serial killer plot for the third time in as many years and can't the find something better to do with John because he's a great character, but they are totally ruining him by making him hunt down serial killers over and over and not to mention pairing him with Marty? Blech! I'm totally Team John and Natalie. And why has Natalie become this annoying whiny character ever since the broke up. And Blair's kinda like that too. And now Starr. Why must you ruin all the strong female characters, dammit!

Yeah, so I say stuff like that, but more eloquently and then I also point out that if OLTL needs a new writer, I am one and I write YA so I could totally help them continue to build their teen audience. And I put "LOL" after that, but secretly....

So here's my top secret fantasy writing life. Back when I was an undergrad, I saw this internship to write for one of the ABC soaps. I was so damn close to applying. But it was in NYC and I didn't and still don't want to move to NYC (no offense NYC, I like you, but if I move somewhere, it's gotta be a place with milder weather than Chicago and that's not you), and plus there was no guarantee I'd end up writing One Life to Live and while I like All My Children, I stopped watching when Sarah Michelle Gellar stopped being Kendall and went on to be Buffy.

But now, I kinda sorta secretly hope that I'll become a big bestselling author and someone will say, "So, Stephanie, who do you want to write for?" And I'll say, "Well, I would like to continue writing books for MTV Books cause I love them, BUT can I also write TV? Preferably One Life to Live. Like from my house? Maybe fly in for big meetings a couple times a year?"

Or maybe I would aim a little teensy bit higher. I feel like the new 90210 needs me. I have a bad feeling they are going to fall into a major teen cliche trap any second now and have Adriana give birth at prom and have a shotgun wedding. If she needs to melodramatically give birth some place, it should be in the middle of the school play, since for some reason there doesn't seem to be an issue about her being the lead even though she's about to pop. See I know this kind of drama. I've read it, watched it, written it, hell, even lived a little bit of it. That's my resume. Hire me.

Or... aiming for the absolute top. I was talking to my brother about Veronica Mars, which I know I'm late on the bandwagon, but I'm totally obsessed. Veronica is the kind of teen girl character the world needs more off. And then my brother tells me "Oh the show was originally supposed to be a YA book." WHAT?!? "The producer Rob Thomas is a YA author..." OH YEAH! I remember reading his book Rats Saw God in my YA Fiction class at Columbia. It was one of the books that really got me interested in writing YA. So now he is producing shows like Veronica Mars and 90210 and dude, I just want to be Rob Thomas (the writer, not the Matchbox 20 guy)! 

So that's what I've been fantasizing about lately. But in reality, I'm still working part time and trying my best to write new stuff as fast as I can. The last week I was struggling with a story to submit to an anthology. I'm not sure it will go in the anthology... I'm not sure it stands alone well enough because it's yet another novel idea. It's got a male protag and it's set in the whole Southern Wisconsin/River's Edge world of IWBYJR (but about five years earlier... though maybe he'll cross paths with Emily and the gang, who knows?).

Anyway I have to polish that and send it to the anthology submission people. Then back to work on my Persephone book proposal that my agent wants to send as my option book to MTV (ie. they get first right of refusal and I hope hope hope they don't refuse). Then because I'm a mad woman, I think I'll be working on my bartender book at the same time as Persephone because my agent thinks we can sell it into the adult market and the more books I can get out there, the closer I get to writing full-time (though I'd still work at the Beacon once a week for fun of course) OR maybe writing fiction part-time and teenage drama TV the other part....

*Shrugs* A girl can dream.

So what's your dream job or dream combo of jobs? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Christine Ely of She Craves!

Happy Earth Day and welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! As usual I will kick it off by announcing last week's winner: Acme Cleanser from MySpace! Send me a myspace message with your address so I can pass it on to Sarah Quigley and you can get your copy of TMI!

This week's guest, Christine Ely of the band She Craves, is someone I met through MySpace. I honestly don't like or go on MySpace as much anymore, but the one thing I do enjoy about it is discovering new bands. Christine messaged me because someone had told her that she reminded them of a character in a book named Emily Black of a band called She Laughs.... That has to be one of the most bizarre things that has happened involving my book so far: someone telling a real life rock star that they remind them of my fictional character. But anyway, I was excited because it inspired me to check out Christine's band's page and guess what? They really freakin' good! So go to their myspace page and listen while you read... At the end, as usual you will have the opportunity to win stuff. And Christine is extra cool because she is offering a lot of stuff!

Q: Tell us about your early years as a musician. When did you start? Were you self taught or did you take lessons? Who are some of your influences and inspirations? Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we are particularly interested in hearing about the women who influenced you.

Christine: I did have some lessons growing up, some piano and guitar. I basically took in as much of a variety of music as I could get my hands on and studied it by singing along and attempting to play it on the guitar and piano. I think when you listen to a variety of music, you start to hear the patterns in it and get a sense of what feels "right". I listened to everything from Broadway music to rap to pop to rock and everything in between. I know some people will laugh, but one of my biggest influences growing up was George Michael. I know a lot of people think of him as the guy in the public bathroom, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that he is an incredible singer, songwriter, musician and performer. I figured if I could imitate his voice I could sing anything. My biggest female influences growing up would have to be some of the 90's alt rock/pop artists like The Breeders, Concrete Blonde, Throwing Muses, and Alison Moyet. Performance wise I would say that Gwen Stefani in No Doubt is my biggest female influence. A lot of the energy and movement I bring to the stage I learned from watching her. I learned that you can be "just a singer" and entertain without doing fancy dance moves. Sure I would have loved to be able to be a Madonna, but I've always known in my heart that rock music is what I personally want to write and perform. And I've always known I wanted to be part of a band. I love the idea of putting 4 different people's influences together and creating a new sound out of it. I'll close this out with my biggest inspiration, Jeff Buckley. There will never be anyone that can touch what he did. People imitate, and they are great, but he was a musical genius and had the voice of an angel.

Q: Tell us about She Craves. How did you guys get your start and what is going on with you guys right now?

Christine: Ben (drummer) and I were in a side project together, and decided we wanted to do something full-time. We wanted the band to include a bassist and guitarist who would work as hard as we did. Ben suggested a bassist he played with in another band, Tim. We asked around town about guitarists, and we heard the same name from multiple sources, Matt Cole. It turns out that the band he was in had literally just broken up 15 minutes before we called him. So poor Matt had all of 15 minutes to sit around and wonder what was next for him in his life musically. After a year or so, Tim decided to leave the band to focus more on his personal life, so when he left, we all knew we were going to ask Roger, who was a good friend, and in Matt's old band. He said yes and it's been a great fit.

Right now we're in the middle of touring Texas and Louisiana, building up a regional following. We're also writing new songs and will head back into the studio before the end of the year. We released our 3rd CD in October of last year, Static. It's a 5 song EP with an interactive adventure, which we did in order to entice people to buy the actual CD at shows. Of course it's up online, but if you want the true adventure, you have to order the actual disk. That's all I'll tell you. It's fun!

Q: Tell us a bit about your sound. What bands inspire you? Which of the songs on your myspace player is your favorite or would you recommend people listen to first to get the best sense of your sound?

Christine: I, personally listen to a lot of different music these days, but I'm not sure how much of it shows up in my song writing. For instance I went through a jazz period for a while, but I'm pretty sure someone listening to She Craves wouldn't hear any of that influence in me. Of course the 4 of us all have different taste, but there is some commonality. I'm going to say the core of my influences is rock and theirs too. I love Muse and Kings of Leon. Morningwood is a band that Matt loves to play on the road and we all love it. Imogen Heap has definitely been a female artist I've listened to for the last couple of years. Though it's not "rock" per se, she is a great song writer and composer and very inspiring. Tegan and Sara are high on my list. They have a very unique sound and are great to watch live. And you know, if someone would put a real rock band behind Kelly Clarkson, I'm pretty sure she'd rock. You can hear it wanting to bust out of her.

It's hard to say which one song sums up She Craves, but maybe "Do You Remember" would get closest. It's got the rock sound but still holds on to the sentimentality and sincerity that I like to put through in my lyrics. My personal favorite is the last song on Static, "Change."

Q: As a female musician, have you ever had to deal with sexism either at your gigs or from people in the industry who were judging you based on your gender? If so, how did you deal with these situations?

Christine: I've had to deal with ignorant people here and there. I'd say the number one thing is usually the door guys at clubs who assume I'm a groupie. It happens a lot. I usually get talked down to and told I don't get a wristband because I'm not in the band or whatever. Then when I tell them I'm the singer they usually look surprised and sheepish. I like to get out there and show people something they aren't use to seeing. If I can show one door guy that not every girl who hangs out with the band is just a groupie, then I feel like I've accomplished something. I always try to have a sense of humor about it though because it reflects well on the band. I think for the most part things that I use to get offended by, like the sound guy treating me like I have no idea what I'm talking about, also happens to the guys sometimes too. I try to not automatically assume the reaction is because I'm a girl. Of course I know sometimes it is, but I just keep doing my thing and try not to let it get me down.

Q: A lot of my readers are teen girls, can you tell us a bit about what you were like as a teenager and give my readers some advice on how to survive the rough patches and come out rockin'?

Christine: When I was a teenager, the most important thing for me was music, listening to it and creating it. My teenage years consisted of a lot of late nights by myself creating things, poems, music, paintings. I was sort of an introvert, so I looked to music and art to be my best friend. I would relate to what was being said in a song or use the music to put myself in a certain mood or accompany a certain mood. I worked a job at a movie theater, and all of the money I earned went towards buying new music and experimenting with different sounds. I loved just picking out something completely random and buying it. Of course now you can preview anything on the internet, so it makes it a little less adventuresome I think. As I began to write songs, I started to learn that I express myself best through songwriting and I learned to use my emotions to write. That sort of validated a lot of the things that I was feeling at the time. I think that is why most of my material is about relationships between people. I like politics and probably would write about it more, but writing about things I experience personally seems to work better for me. Of course then you look at a song like "Radio Days", and it's me getting fired up over music itself, so there are exceptions.

The rough patches...yes there are many, many, many of them. My advice to anyone whether with their personal life, musical ambitions,or just life in general is to never give up. There are so many times things sucked and I couldn't envision the future going well and I wanted to just give up, but I never did. No matter how many bands broke up or disagreements we had, I never stopped trying, and now I have a band I love with three people I love (don't tell them I said something that sappy) who work hard and are true musicians to their core. I think a lot of times we let ourselves stay in bad situations because we think we can't do better, whether a friendship, a band, or a job. You should realize if you want to, and don't engage in self destructive behaviors, you can do better. Of course the biggest thing is to learn to do your part to make the relationship work. It's easy to blame someone else, but a little bit of self reflection can go a long way sometimes. And if you're really ambitious, and just don't get along with others because you're always right, become a solo artist from the beginning. You'll save yourself and your bandmates a lot of headaches.

Q: I have two standard questions for my Women Who Rock. The first is a two-parter: What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge.

Christine: Oh boy...well if you guys judge, I would think you would have stopped reading when I wrote that I like George Michael, so I'll just keep going on with the truth. My first album... I was super young and with my dad at the store, and I decided I wanted to be cool like my big sister and buy my own music, so I took my allowance and picked out the first record by the first band that I came across that I had heard of. So my very first musical purchase was Huey Lewis and the News, Sports. The funny thing is that I still like that album. If you just want some fun rock with good melodies, it's pretty timeless.

My first concert was the Jackson Victory tour at Dodger's stadium in LA. My mom took me a few of my friends and we were just in heaven. Oh yeah, Michael Jackson, say what you want about him, but Thriller is an amazing album.

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

Christine: I feel most like a rock star at our shows when the place is packed and the whole crowd is into our performance and singing along. It's sort of like a religious experience to be at the center of that. Then after the show, if a young kid comes up to me and looks at me with awe, like I'm actually someone famous or something, that is a great feeling. Kids are so honest about what they think, so to impress a kid is a good thing because you know it's 100% sincere. Another good memory is when we were opening a show, and the headliner's fans loved us so much they started giving me their jewelry, etc. as you see here:

Lastly, I asked Christine if she was willing to give out a prize and she was extremely generous saying,  "Yes I would be super glad to give away some stuff. We have CDs and T-shirts, so how about one of each and a handful of stickers they can place all over their town and bug people? It's the She Craves way... :) Thanks so much for having me Stephanie! You rock!"

Yeah, Christine is too awesome and I really wish She Craves would come to Chicago. Those of you in Texas and Louisana are really lucky right now! I hope you'll go see them live!

I will announce the She Craves winner next week when Melissa Walker is here to tell us all about her new book Lovestruck Summer, which is all about a music internship in Texas. Geez, I didn't even plan that. I love it when things transition so nicely. Anyway I'm off to listen to more She Craves, how about you?

New website, widgets, banners, and contest!

Today we are officially three months out from Ballads of Suburbia's release! So I celebrated by launching my revamped website (where you can find an excerpt from Ballads, the soundtrack, pictures of the real-life setting of the book, etc) and  showing off my new banners and widgets for the book on the MTV Books blog! Please check them out and if you post them places, well you can enter my latest contest to win ARCs of Ballads! I hope you are getting as excited as I am!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Best Friday Ever!

So in case you didn't catch my announcement on twitter or over at Teen Fiction Cafe where we have "Good News Fridays" devoted to news of the type I got this morning.... I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE finaled in the OK-RWA National Readers' Choice Awards! (OK-RWA is the Oklahoma division of Romance Writers Association). It's the first time I've finaled in a big writing contest like this. Winners will be announce in July at the RWA conference, which sadly I probably can't afford to attend, but we'll see.

Needless to say though I had the best intentions to get writing done this morning. It didn't happen. Then one of my dearest friends on the planet who I hadn't seen in too long came over for lunch and lunch included mimosas and lasted four hours so.... not a productive day, but a very happy one.

And it gets even better!!!! I was getting ready to work out and the UPS man came! He had my fabulous vegan engineer boots that I'd ordered earlier this week from mooshoes! (thank you Alison for telling me about mooshoes!)

My friend Mario's band is playing tonight and I have this hot new (well really it's old cause it's vintage) dress that I got in Seattle. So I'm all set to go rock out in dress and boots. Here's a picture of me getting the weekend started (well and finishing it because my "work week" begins tomorrow night.... that's a bartenders life I guess).

And here's a close up on the boot:

The Budweiser box is from the bar BTW, used for Scott moving like forever ago.... I do not endorse drinking of Budweiser.

Anyway I'm off to rock out and I hope you are too. Tell me of your fabulous plans!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GCC Presents: Jennifer O'Connell

Jennifer O'Connell is here via the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit today to talk about the anthology she edited, EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, which was just released in paperback.

Judy Blume was one of my favorites growing up, so I know I'll definitely be picking up this book. Here's a little bit more about it:

Whether laughing to tears reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great or clamoring for more unmistakable “me too!” moments in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, girls all over the world have been touched by Judy Blume’s poignant coming-of-age stories. Now, in this anthology of essays, twenty-four notable female authors write straight from the heart about the unforgettable novels that left an indelible mark on their childhoods and still influence them today. Drawing on their own experiences of feeling like a Fourth Grade Nothing before growing up to become Smart Women themselves, these writers pay tribute, through their reflections and most cherished memories, to one of the most beloved authors of all time.

Contributors include: Megan Cabot, Megan McCafferty, Cara Lockwood,
Melissa Senate, Laura Caldwell, Stacey Ballis, Shanna Swendson and 17 other acclaimed women writers.

Now, I'm lucky enough to have Jennifer here to answer my usual GCC questions!

Q: Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Jennifer: They would be terrible, horrible songs from the late 70s and early 80s, because that’s what Judy’s books remind me of. But I HATE songs from that era so I don’t even want to remember what they were.

Q: Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.

Jennifer: The main character in my essay was… me! So this is easy: Alanis Morrissette, Suzanne Vega, Toni Childs, Pete Yorn, Guns ‘n Roses, Pink Floyd

Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

Jennifer: Answer above, see I said this was easy!

Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Jennifer: I don’t listen to music when I write but it’s a huge inspiration to me. I’ll hear a line in a song and it will spark an idea and get me thinking and send me down an entire path of ideas for my story or characters.

Q: While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Jennifer: Deadlines. Music is huge, but so are other books, I’ll read something that just clicks and gives me ideas and gets my motor running.

Well, like Jennifer, deadlines are a huge inspiration to me right now too... so I'm off to try to meet one. But go check out the book if you love Judy Blume or any of the fabulous contributors!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Sarah Quigley

I'm back and so is Women Who Rock Wednesday! The winner of Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today is lovelessangel93 from LiveJournal! Ritsuka, since you've been a multiple WWRW winner, I have your address and will have the book shipped out to you from Amazon ASAP!

Now to introduce this week's Woman Who Rocks: Sarah Quigley, author of the novel TMI, which comes out tomorrow!!! 

I met Sarah in San Francisco last summer when I was reading as part of Not Your Mother's Book Club at Books Inc. Sarah handed me a bookmark for TMI then and I've been waiting for it's release since. I was lucky enough to get an early copy and can tell you it's a great relaxing vacation read. I'll let Sarah tell you about the book and more herself though! And of course if you comment after reading the interview you will be entered to win a copy of TMI!

Q: Tell us about TMI. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

Sarah: TMI is about fifteen-year-old Becca, a.k.a. the Overshare Queen. Becca can’t stop herself from telling everyone more than they want to hear, and it finally blows up in her face when her first boyfriend dumps her for kissing and telling. Becca tries to curb her TMI habit by starting a blog.

TMI wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my blog, Sure Thing, Babs ( I wrote about my own life in the third person, calling myself Babs. Babs was me, but with the volume turned up. She was a bit funnier, smarter, and sexier, always ready with a witty retort or scathing comeback.

A few years ago, an editor at Dutton Children’s Books randomly came across my blog and fell in love with Babs. She thought my writing style would work well in a young adult novel and suggested that my heroine create an alter ego on a blog, much the way I did with Babs.

Q: Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to TMI and tell us the reason behind them?

Sarah: 1. “Blue Orchid” by The White Stripes
TMI begins with a quote from this song: “We all need to do something/Try to keep the truth from showing up.” This encapsulates Becca’s struggle throughout the book as she attempts to stifle her motor mouth.

2. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” from the Grease soundtrack
Becca and her friends are involved in the school production of Grease. There’s plenty of drama offstage as Becca gets dirty looks from her ex-boyfriend in the lighting booth and shares the spotlight with her crush. The song is about a girl pining after a boy she can’t have, and Becca relates only too well.

3. “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam
I couldn’t get this song out of my head while I was writing TMI. The story is set in fictional Pine Prairie, Minnesota, which bears a strong resemblance to my hometown. Becca feels trapped in Pine Prairie and can’t wait to get out. “I changed by not changing at all/Small town predicts my fate” sums up my feelings about growing up in a small town. People think that they know each other, but this familiarity is wrapped up tightly in preconceived ideas. Becca transforms over the course of TMI, but not everyone sees it.

4. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel
Becca refers to this song in one of her blog posts in which she fantasizes about a romance with Matt. This song is also prominent in the film Say Anything, a favorite movie of Becca and her friends.

5. “Price I Pay” by Jane’s Addiction
I was obsessed with Jane’s Addiction in high school although this song is off the Strays album, which came out almost ten years after I graduated. When I listen to Jane’s Addiction, I am sixteen again, and all the uncertainties and excitement of that time come flooding back. This song is a fitting anthem for the last part of the novel in which Becca’s mistakes catch up with her. “I always do the wrong thing but for a very good reason…So forgive me now and forgive me later.”

Q: How did you get into writing? Is it something you've loved since you were a kid? Who are some of your influences, especially the women since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday?

Sarah: I wrote my first book when I was six. It was called Rocker and Roller Mary, and I illustrated and bound it in cardboard covered with wrapping paper. I made a series out of it, and my mom still has all the books packed away somewhere.

When I was nine, my aunt gave me my first diary, and I wrote in that regularly until I began blogging when I was twenty-five. Throughout that time, I wrote a bunch of short stories, a novel about a girl who could fly, and some truly heinous poetry.

I have a friend who is a children’s librarian, and she sent me a copy of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries a few years ago with a note attached saying, “I bet you could write something like this.” The thought hadn’t occurred to me before, but reading that book definitely lit a spark in me. I soon became a huge fan of Meg’s and started exploring other YA authors. I adore E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, Laurie Halse Anderson, and John Green (not a woman, but an author who seriously rocks).

Q: Aside from writing, what are some of your other interests, hobbies, and favorite things to do?

Sarah: Right after college, I was living in Minneapolis, going to grad school, taking belly-dancing classes, and going to live shows whenever I had a chance. I never missed a chance to see the Red Elvises, a Siberian surf rock band based in L.A. The Elvises have a song called “I Wanna See You Bellydance,” and they like to pull women onstage to fulfill the song’s request when they perform. I always stayed close to the stage so that I could jump up as soon as Igor, the lead singer and guitarist, shouted, “We wanna see you belly dance.” The Elvises are always touring, and when I moved to San Francisco, I kept going to their shows and gyrating for the crowd.

In between Minneapolis and San Francisco, I lived in New York for a couple of years. I became a regular at Hot Box Burlesque nights at the Slipper Room on the Lower East Side. The weekend would come, and I’d say to my husband, “Let’s go catch the burlesque show.” He always rolled his eyes and “complained” that I was dragging him out to watch girls take off their clothes. (He was also extremely upset when I made him go to an exhibit of nude photos of Marilyn Monroe at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.) Later, I had a chance to attend a burlesque workshop, where I learned the finer points of a good glove peel and pasty twirling. I have yet to perform, but my burlesque name is Ginny Tanqueray.

Q: I know TMI just came out, but what's next for you?

Sarah: I do have a new book in the works, but it’s coming along slowly, as many projects do for new mamas (my daughter, Charlotte, is fourteen months old). I’m hoping to pick up the pace this summer. The story is loosely based on my experiences waitressing at a resort in northern Wisconsin when I was in college. I spent two summers living with sorority girls, slinging prime rib, and making out with camp counselors. When I wasn’t dealing with bitchy customers and coworkers, I was having a blast.

Q: Now for my standard Women Who Rock Wednesday questions. The first is a two parter. What is the first album you bought and concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge!

Sarah: My dad is a musician, and he began buying me music when I was very young: Billy Joel, Prince, The Police. Good stuff. I honestly can’t remember the first album I bought with my own money, but it was probably something by Madonna or Whitney Houston.

I popped my concert cherry with Nirvana on their In Utero tour in 1993. I was seventeen and was not yet allowed to travel to the Twin Cities by myself (I grew up in a tiny town 70 miles away), so my mom dropped off me and my boyfriend at the St. Paul Civic Center. We found our nosebleed seats as Shonen Knife played their opening set, and I could hardly see the band because we were so high up and far off to the side. The Breeders played next, and they were fantastic.

During the intermission, I went to the bathroom and ran into my mom! She told me that one of the security guys had let her in without a ticket. I complained about our lousy seats, and she said, "Let's go find better ones. It's not like everyone stays in their assigned seats." I went back and got my boyfriend and we were able to score some kick-ass seats right in the center balcony. The show was brilliant, but I think I was even more in awe of my mom that night.

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

Sarah: 1. The first time I belly danced at a Red Elvises show was a great rock star moment. People even came up to me afterward and complimented my belly-dancing skills.

2. My wedding day also measured high on the rock-o-meter. My friend Nick was the DJ, and he surprised me by playing “Polyester Bride” by Liz Phair. That was awesome.

3. The day I found out I was going to get a contract for TMI was amazing. I had the day off, and I had just gotten a massage when my editor called to tell me the news. I immediately phoned my husband and my mom, and they were ecstatic. I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure, and then my husband and I went out for a dinner that still makes me moan a little when I think about how good the food was (for inquiring minds, it was at a place called August in Greenwich Village). Rock star day all the way.

Okay, how cool is Sarah? First of all, she had my dream first concert experience (so jealous you saw Nirvana *pouts*) and she's into bellydancing and burlesque? Super cool! So comment away on Sarah's interview and how much you want to read her book and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of TMI from Sarah herself. I'll draw the winner next Wednesday when I feature Christine Ely, frontwoman of the band She Craves!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seattle 2009

As promised I'm going to share a bit about my vacation to Seattle. I think I'll do this mostly in pictures because A. I'm kind of in a hurry (it's time to get back into serious writing mode. have to write a new book. scary times) and B. Seattle is always a weirdly personal experience that is hard to put into words. It took me a couple months to write an essay about my first trip there. It's just my place. I don't know how to explain it better than that. I've always been a girl who doesn't really feel like she fits comfortably anywhere. It's gotten better since high school, those teenage feelings of not really being cool enough even to hang with the "outcast" kids are gone. I find myself drawn toward places like the Beacon, the bar I work at, that attract people from all walks of life and feel much more comfortable there then when I go to hipster places. That's actually one of the major reasons I live in Forest Park, not in Chicago, but I'm getting off topic...

Seattle has always felt friendly and accepting basically ever since I stepped on to the bus from the airport and a few different people offered my friends and me directions and other advice. That just doesn't happen in Chicago. We try to avoid eye contact with everyone else on public transit. I make new friends every time I go to Seattle. Some are fellow travellers, but I've met locals too, like this guy Ralph whose band I saw the very first night I was in Seattle in 2004 and we're still in touch.

But it isn't just the feeling accepted factor, the air, the smells, the greeness, the water, water, water those are the things that make Seattle feel like the perfect place for me. And this whole thing about it being gloomy? Well, I love the rain. I'd rather that kind of dreary over this cold, pale gray/whitish gloom that is Chicago winter. That is what gets me depressed. And a sunny day in Seattle is like the most perfect day on earth. Coincidentally, every day but the day we left was sunny and gorgeous (like nearing 70 when it was in the 30s and snowing at home).

It was a much needed vacation. Before I left, I was experiencing burning pains in my stomach. At first I thought I'd eaten something bad. Then I realized, oh yeah, I had these pains in high school.... my ulcer is back. I've been pushing myself way too hard, stressing about everything. The trip to Seattle couldn't have come at a better time. Here is how I spent it.

Day One, Friday April 3

My friend Jenny (left) and I arrive from Chicago. Eryn won't arrive from Denver til 10 and Lynn from Ireland via Florida won't arrive til midnight.

We have dinner at a fabulous vegan Asian place in Capitol Hill and meet one of my best friends from high school, Polly, for a drink. Polly's pregnant though, so she's not drinking. She asks for a Sprite and gets served a whole pitcher of it!
Day Two, Saturday April 4

We meet up with friend and one of my fave music writers, Charles Cross, at vegan pizza place, Pizza Pi (soooo good!) in the U-District. L to R: Lynn, Jenny, Eryn, Charley, me.

Next off to Golden Gardens beach/park. If I could, I would get married here. Despite the impossibly huge set of stairs you have to climb to get back to the bus stop (last pic is view from the top of the stairs)....

We end the night (or at least Jenny and I do. Eryn and Lynn have another chaotic adventure) with drinks and a band at the Central. The band was like a combo of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden and I wish I could have captured a good shot of the singer headbanging...
Day Three, Sunday April 5

This of course is the 15th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide so we went to Viretta Park to remember him. The 10 year anniversary was huge. 15 years was basically us and a guy we met from Scotland who played guitar. He came on our shopping adventures in Capitol Hill (bought a cool hoodie at a craft fair. Spent too much $ but it's one of a kind!) and returned with us to the park at night where we sang songs and lit candles. It wasn't a sad, mournful thing. It was more of a celebratory thing, which Lynn said is the best way to remember someone who has passed and I happen to agree.

Jade joined us from NYC that day (a snowstorm delayed her travel by a day). L to R Eryn, Lynn, Jade, Jenny:

Oh and this slightly strange guy, Bo, gave us glowsticks at the park. Here Eryn and Jade use them to anoint the bus. Yeah, we're silly. Vacation silliness is important.
Day Four, Monday April 6

We traveled to Aberdeen, the place where Kurt and Krist grew up and Nirvana was formed. (Yes, this is Nirvana geek out part 2). Aberdeen was not so big on Kurt/Nirvana for awhile but now they have a nice little park by the bridge that Kurt claims to have lived under which inspired the song "Something In The Way." I love sitting under the bridge. And we started taking cool rock band style photos. We named our band The Only Source of Light because we only had one lighter among us for a while and Jade would always ask, "Can I have the only source of light?" when she needed it to light her cigarette (at least I think Jade started that. In my memory she did.) Gotta love vacationing with the girls, it's like the fun bits of high school all over again with all the inside jokes.
(The lyrics on the Something in the Way sign are a bit off... Apparently the fish "haven't any feelings" although Kurt definitely sings it "Don't have any feelings.")

The Only Source of Light rocks man!
I play at falling into the Wishkah River...

And my favorite part about going to Aberdeen besides visiting the bridge was the drive. It's two hours through pine trees and mountains and other wonderful goodness into the Olympic Peninsula (thats Forks country for you Twilight fans. Forks is not too far from Aberdeen) and it was an unusually clear day so I got to attempt to snap pictures of Mount Rainer. Which I really must visit one of these times to Washington.
The evening of the 6th ended at one of my favorite vegan restaurants (notice a theme here. I tend to drag people to all the vegan restaurants in Seattle when I'm there. Fortunately Jenny and Jade are vegetarian, Lynn eats vegetarian a lot and Eryn's a trooper.) Bamboo Garden which has these fake chicken products that are basically balls.... Lots of jokes are made about, "Can I try your balls? Would you like to eat my balls?" Yes, totally juvenile, but fun. Our friend Geoff's boyfriend Ray came along (sadly Geoff wasn't in town). He's so much fun. I really hope Ray and Geoff move to Chicago (HINT HINT if you guys are reading this!)

Day Five, Tuesday April 7

In the morning, Eryn and I went to the place were Mia Zapata of the Gits was found murdered to leave her yellow roses as a tribute. Yeah, Eryn and I are the queens of morbid rock star tributes, but Mia was a goddess and what happened to her was one of the biggest atrocities. It was nice to show our respects in some way.

Then I headed off to hang out with my friend Polly and her adorable daughter Unity. Little kid cuteness ahead!

That kid (and her parents of course) is one of the top reasons on my "Why We Should Move To Seattle" List. Also note Unity's smoothie mustache in the first photo, from yet another fine vegan restaurant that Polly introduced me too. I think Seattle is vegan paradise.

Day Six, Wednesday April 8

We roamed Fremont and Ballard, two really fun neighborhoods in Seattle. There was more shopping. I spent way too much, but vintage dresses are my weakness along with locally designed shirts and hoodies. Sigh. And there were lots of photo opportunities for The Only Source of Light in Gas Works Park and Ballard Locks/Botanical Garden.

Here's our America's Next Top Model photo shoot:
Lynn and Eryn shining my sneakers:
I am disconcerted by these mussel shells. Who left them here?
Lynn and Eryn find the restroom at Ballard Locks:

And we ended our last night on vacation the way all last nights on vacation should be ended by jumping on the bed. Eryn and I are wearing matching long underwear. Hott!

Day 7, Thursday April 9

We only had a couple hours in the morning before we had to head to the airport so we visited the waterfront one last time and I went to my place where I like to sit and think and meditate. My calm and peaceful place if you will. I took a photo and a video to remember it by, though I don't know if the video will play right and it is choppy because I suck at taking video.

Here's me and Eryn making our sad faces at the airport.
Fortunately Jenny and I got to fly to Denver with Eryn before heading home to Chicago, so here we are on our plane:

I was happy to see my boy and my kitties when I got home, but Chicago always feels so flat and gray (I know that's odd...) and ugly compared to Seattle. I really do hope we can move out there when in a couple years when Scott finishes school and we're in better financial shape. We shall see. To comfort myself on Friday, I watched Singles, which I blogged about over at Teen Fiction Cafe.

Now it's back to the grind.... which I'm a bit behind on because I forgot how time consuming photo blogs can be. Oh well, hope you enjoyed it!