Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Sara Zarr

I hope everyone enjoyed my first group WWRW interview with Kay Cassidy, Tera Lynn Childs, Becca Fitzpatrick and Alyson Noel about their fabulous website Living Your Five. The lucky winner of swag from all five of us is.... CassandraBelikov440 from Blogger! I will email you shortly for your address!

Today I'm honored to have author Sara Zarr. Seriously Sara Zarr is like hero/idol to me. I can't tell you how much I adore her book STORY OF A GIRL. It's one of those books that just makes me work harder to be a better writer so that hopefully I can tell a tale so masterfully. I'm sure I'll feel the same way about her new one, ONCE WAS LOST which comes out tomorrow!

So here's Sara to tell us all about herself and ONCE WAS LOST!

Q: Tell us all about ONCE WAS LOST. What's it about? And how did you come up with the story?

Sara: It's about fourteen days in the life of a pastor's daughter, Samara, who's in the midst of something of a personal tragedy (her mother is in rehab, her father is clueless) when a local tragedy happens: a young girl from her father's congregation is kidnapped. We see that through the eyes of someone who would like to have some hope, but the things she's grown up holding onto don't seem to be coming through for her.

The idea was one of those that was a long time in forming. When a teen girl in my city (Salt Lake) was kidnapped in summer of 2002, I started putting it together. At first it was kind of an ensemble piece with multiple POVs, including those of adults, with every character peripherally connected to the missing girl. It was all very epic. In late 2007 I took control of it and began shaping it into a YA novel.

Q: What are five songs that would be on the soundtrack to ONCE WAS LOST and how do they relate to the book?

Sara:Oh God, Where Are You Now? by Sufjan Stephens - Basically, that is the question Sam asks throughout the book.

I Know There's a Word for This by Aimee Mann - A great anthem of malaise, if that's not a contradiction in terms, and Sam (and her mother) are depressed.

Idea #21 (Not Too Late) by Over the Rhine - This is the theme song of the book, for me.

The Killer Inside by Better Than Ezra - A number of people in the book may or may not be suspects in the kidnapping. It's good to have a creepy song like this (and also BTE's Porcelain) playing in the back of your mind as you read the last third.

Ballad of Humandkindness by The Dears - I always have a line of this song in my head, "And I turn on the news / and there's always some dude / who's relentlessly bringing me down." It's just a great song for anyone who is pissed off at the state of the world, and the state of themselves.

Q: ONCE WAS LOST is about a crisis of faith, something I believe we all go through as teenagers, not necessarily about religion but about who we are and how we fit with our friends and families. Can you talk about a time you had a crisis of faith, maybe as a teen, maybe as a writer, and how you got through it?

Sara:I'd never thought of this before now - I was going through my crisis of faith in myself, God, and my future as a writer exactly when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. That summer, so much was wrong with the world. I mean, I guess there always is, but I was really feeling it. 9/11 was still in recent memory, the economy was in the toilet, I'd just been laid off and had also parted ways with my first agent with three unsold books. I was relatively new to Utah and still feeling homesick for CA. When Elizabeth was kidnapped, it was the kind of thing that felt like the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back. My basic attitude toward life was, "What the HELL?" Who is in charge? Why is everything falling apart?

How did I get through it? I don't know. I started therapy. I went to my first writing workshop and felt like I was doing the right thing with my life. I prayed a lot. Mostly, I waited. Eventually (like a year later), there was this moment when I sort of felt a voice inside me saying it was going to be okay. And it was.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to become a writer? Was it when you were a kid or later in life? Who were some of the people that inspired you to become a writer? (authors, people in your life, fictional characters, whoever. Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we love to hear about other inspiring women, but we're happy to hear about influential men, too.)

Sara:I always wrote, but didn't think of it as a potential career until I was 25 and done with college. The people who inspired me were the people who were like me---writing and hoping one day to be published. I don't even know where most of them are now, but, hello if you're out there, and thank you! The very first writer I ever wrote a letter to was Marilyn Sachs. I'd adored her book as a young reader, and when I started writing seriously I felt like reaching out to everyone whose books I'd ever loved. Any writer of YA or MG who hasn't read Sachs, especially THE TRUTH ABOUT MARYROSE, needs to! She wrote back---a lovely handwritten card.

Q: I know ONCE WAS LOST hasn't even come out yet, but once we all devour it, we'll be wanting more, so what's next for you?

Sara:Oooh, well, all I can really say is I'm hard at work on my fourth novel for Little, Brown. My editor hasn't even seen it yet so I have to be vague.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask 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, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Sara:First album I bought on my own, with my own money: Abba's Greatest Hits, Volume II. On vinyl. First concert I attended that was not arranged by my mother: U2, in 1986, on their Joshua Tree tour, at the Cow Palace. Not a bad way to start.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Sara:This past spring I was lucky enough to be part of the Rochester Teen Book Festival. Man, they know how to make a writer feel like a star! They literally roll out a red carpet. You travel in a stretch limo. When you step out of it, they have all the festival teen volunteers waiting so that as you walk the red carpet they are cheering and shouting out your name. If you're an author and you ever get invited to this event, SAY YES!

Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing the story behind ONCE WAS LOST and telling us so much about yourself :)

Today's Contest:

And a huge thanks to Sara for putting up a signed copy of STORY OF A GIRL as part of today's contest. It's one of my all time favorite books, so here is your chance to win it!

To enter just leave a comment about Sara's interview. You can also get extra entries:
+1 for tweeting/blogging about today's interview/contest
+1 for tweeting/blogging about Sara and her new book release ONCE WAS LOST

Note your extra entries in your comment along with an email address to contact you at. Then tune in two weeks from today because I'll announce the winner when I interview author Kathy Charles!

That's right you have two weeks to enter this contest because I'll be off honeymooning next week :) And don't forget to enter my Save Shrinking Violet contest too!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Save Shrinking Violet & Win Ballads of Suburbia

I was saddened to get an email from my fellow MTV Books author Danielle Joseph last week and find out that her amazing book, Shrinking Violet was about to go on backorder and the demand would have to increase for more copies to be printed. It's particularly upsetting because Shrinking Violet is *such* an amazing book and I think it's a very important one. If you know me at all, the books I like best are the ones that give voice to the types of people who are overlooked or don't have a voice. Shrinking Violet is actually about a shy girl finding her voice. I called it "a Cinderella story for anyone who felt shy or like they didn't fit in at high school." It's very important that more readers who need her be able to discover the incredible character of Tere.

Fortunately, Danielle is not taking this lying down. She is fighting for Tere and urging people to spread the word about Shrinking Violet, buy the book, etc. She even started a contest. I'm going to post the details below with Danielle's words about her book. But I'd also like to do a contest of my own.

I'm putting a signed copy of my own book, Ballads of Suburbia, up for grabs and this is how you get entries:
+1 for each tweet about the campaign to save Shrinking Violet. You can link to this blog or to Danielle's blog
+2 for posting about Danielle's contest on your blog's sidebar
+2 for posting about my contest on your blog's sidebar
+3 for writing a blog entry about the campaign to save Shrinking Violet
+10 for buying a copy of Shrinking Violet for yourself or someone else.

You can leave your list of entries in the comments of this blog, but proof of purchase (scanned/photographed receipt or forwarded online order confirmation) of Shrinking Violet should be sent to me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

My contest like Danielle's will end on October 15th.

Okay, now here is Danielle's contest and campaign for saving Shrinking Violet:

Help Tere keep her voice!

Shrinking Violet is about an extremely shy high school senior trying to find her voice and reach her dream of becoming a DJ, despite the obstacles that stand in her way.

The book is about to go on back order and in order for more copies to be printed, more people have to place orders for the book.

Read more about Shrinking Violet:
High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out doing mock broadcasts for Miami's hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T to everyone's shock, she's a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ's awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest, and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize, Sweet T's dream could turn into Tere's worst nightmare. . . .

Praise for Shrinking Violet:
"Bella, eat your heart out. Tere is the girl every young woman truly wants to be. . . . Brilliant work, Danielle Joseph." -Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of Identical

"Danielle Joseph takes readers into the glamorous world of Top 40 radio, with a character who is both funny and relatable. Readers will cheer when Tere finds her voice!" -Alex Flinn, author of Breathing Underwater and A Kiss in Time

"A funny, romantic, and truly inspirational Cinderella tale for any teen who's ever been shy, loved music, or dreamed of going to the ball. Wait, that's pretty much everybody." -Gaby Triana, author of The Temptress Four

So here's how you can help:
Please tell anyone that you think might be interested to place an order now before it's too late. Guys, girls, grandmas. grandpas, you're never too old to read humorous teen fiction!

http://www.amazon. com/Shrinking- Violet-Danielle- Joseph/dp/ 1416596968/ ref=ed_oe_ p

http://www.indiebound.org/book/ 9781416596967

I'm also running a contest for those that want to have some fun! There will be four winners, each receiving a $25 gift certificate to iTunes or the bookstore of their choice.

So how can you win?
1. Post a review of Shrinking Violet on Amazon.com or B & N.com 2 points
2 Blog, Tweet or Facebook about the Save Shrinking Violet Campaign 1 point for each mention
3. Take a picture of yourself wearing a sweater and mimicking the book's cover (you must have the book in the photo too). 2 points

Contest begins at 11pm on Thursday, September 24, 2009 and ends at 11pm on Thurday, October 15, 2009.
After you enter, you can either email me at danielle at daniellejoseph dot com or leave me a comment on my blog at
http://daniellejoseph.livejournal. com/ under the entry, Save Shrinking Violet!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Video Interview and more fun stuff!

I just did a video interview as part of my favorite LA bookstore Book Soup's "What's Your Story?" Series where authors talk about a time a meaningful book just sort of fell into their lap. I really heart Book Soup and had a great time when I was there last year reading with Alexa Young. I couldn't afford to go out to LA to visit them this time around (I so wish I could!), so we did this long distance--it was taped by my fiance in our living room (with my kinda crappy camera hence I'm a little lispy-sounding). I'm really glad they offered me the opportunity to do this and I hope you enjoy it.

I also did a guest blog that is really important to me. There's a new blog site dealing with the topic of self injury called Razor Thoughts that I guess my "Ballad of A Scar" blog entry inspired. I'm really glad that me talking about my own struggle with self injury on my blog and writing a fictional portrayal of it in Ballads of Suburbia has led to more open discussion about. Anyway this is the guest blog I wrote, I hope you'll check it out.

And then there are three interviews that I had a lot of fun doing, so check those out as well if you can:

If you are a music lover, you'll want to check out my "Book Notes" on Largehearted Boy where I break down the songs that inspired me most while writing Ballads of Suburbia and why.

Here's one with Want My YA with some fun facts about me and also about my writing.

And here's one on Flip The Page that really asked some good questions about Ballads of Suburbia that got me thinking.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who weighed in on my Where Should I do Events question. I'm taking it all under consideration. Bay area/LA area people I will be back to California at some point no doubt. I've got lots of people I can stay with there. I think I need to give the East Coast some love next since most of the responses came from there, I just have to figure out it if I can do more than one city. But Madison, WI is definitely on the list too! Oh how I really really wish I could do a full tour and see all of you!

Of course my next readings are in the Chicago area. I really hope you can come to them. Turnouts have been so much smaller lately and it's a little sad :( Maybe you all are sick of me? Two books in two years was too fast? Okay enough of the guilt trip... But here's the info in case it worked :)

Tonight I am reading at 7:30 PM at the Tamale Hut Cafe at 8300 W Cermak in North Riverside. There's an open mic to follow, a great deal on great tamales, and it's BYOB.

Sunday at 2 pm, I'm reading at the Old School Records at 7446 Madison in Forest Park with Billy Lombardo and Don Evans as part of Arts Fest.

I'm really excited about Arts Fest in Forest Park this weekend. I really hope it doesn't get rained out, especially on Saturday because I want to take my friend's daughter. (She's like a niece to me, but we just started spending time together again after way too long.) What about you? Weekend plans?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: The Ladies of Living Your Five

This is a very special Women Who Rock Wednesday. It's my first ever group interview. I've actually got four women who rock here today and they have united in their awesomeness to create the website livingyourfive.com. What is Living Your Five? Well, you can find out at the website of course, which I hope you will do as soon as you are done reading these interviews, but for now, let's hear all about it from the women of Living Your Five.

The founder is Kay Cassidy, author of the forthcoming book, The Cinderella Society:

Q: Tell us about how you got the idea for Living Your Five?

Kay: In late 2008, I created the concept of Living Your Five as a way to help me focus my energy on the parts of my world that were most important to me. I was being pulled in a million different directions, as most of us are, and felt like the things that were most important to me (beyond family, friends and career) were always getting pushed to the wayside. So I sat down and chose my Five, the five areas in which I wanted to make a personal difference in the world.

It was such a profound change for me that, in early 2009, I wanted to create an online community where lots of people could create their own Five and cheer each other on to making a difference in their own pieces of the world too. I'm very lucky to have wonderful author friends who are very passionate about making a difference too. So I shared the Living Your Five concept with Tera Lynn Childs, Alyson Noel and Becca Fitzpatrick and invited them to join forces with me to launch a group Living Your Five web project. They all enthusiastically climbed aboard for the adventure, and the rest is history!

Q: I have two questions that I always ask 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, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Kay: Oh gosh, that's a hard one. I don't know if I remember the very first album I bought, but one of my earliest record player memories (yep, giving away my age there) was of me playing the 45 of Diana Ross's Upside Down. That must have been... the early 80s? And the first concert I ever went to was ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) when I was six. I loved ELO. So, naturally, I fell asleep halfway through the concert. It was an indoor concert - how could anyone possibly sleep through it? No idea. You'd have to ask six year old me.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Kay: Okay, keep in mind that my debut novel doesn't hit shelves until April 2010, so I'm still in that lull between first sale and first release. I was at the ALA national conference in Chicago this summer and had a woman in one of the booths see me and say "I just read your book!" It took me several seconds to realize that she was actually talking to ME. She said she saw my name tag that said "Kay Cassidy, The Cinderella Society" and the thought raced through her mind that the society was real and they'd sent someone to ALA. She was kidding, of course, but I got such a kick out of that. :-) And, of course, having that very first teen early reader send me an email saying how much she loved The Cinderella Society was definitely right up there as well. If email didn't look so goofy when printed, I'd frame that one.

Next up, we have Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush:

Q: Why did you decide to get involved with Living Your Five?

Becca: Making a positive difference has always been something I've tried to do – I can't remember a time in my life when I haven't been motivated to make the world a better place – but as life gets busier and busier, I've found my personal goals getting sidelined. And if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that nothing gets accomplished without goals. I was drawn to Living Your Five's philosophy: choose five ways you can make a difference in your everyday life. Now that I know my goals, I'm finding that opportunities to fulfill them are popping up everywhere. It feels great to be a part of something bigger than myself and having a way I can show my gratitude for having such a beautiful world to live in.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask 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, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Becca: The first album I bought was Debbie Gibson's Out of the Blue (I LOVED “Foolish Beat”). I remember spending many sleepovers where my friends and I sprayed ourselves with Electric Youth perfume and lip-synced all the songs on Out of the Blue. The first concert I attended was Sawyer Brown – I grew up in Nebraska, and we love our country music!

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Becca: Right before the 1996 Atlanta Games, the Olympic torch relay was scheduled to pass through my hometown of North Platte, Nebraska. North Platte is a teeny tiny town, and the torch was a big deal to us. A handful of great individuals from across the state were selected to carry the torch in the relay. My high school selected two students to escort the torch runners, and when I found out I was one of them, I was honored and ecstatic. During the relay, as I ran beside one of the torch-bearers, he reached over and handed me the torch, letting me run it through town, cheering crowds bracketing me on both sides. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life, partly because I was carrying an Olympic torch, but also because this man showed me what it means to be generous and to think beyond myself. Total rock star moment!

And now let's hear from Tera Lynn Childs, author of Oh.My.Gods and Goddess Bootcamp:

Q: What are your five and how is living them going so far?

Tera: My Five are, in a nutshell: Living a greener life, supporting subsistence/self-sustained living, preserving architectural heritage, disaster relief, and mentoring aspiring writers. The baby steps have begun, and we'll have to wait and see how the results snowball.

Q: What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended?

Tera: The first album I can remember buying is UB40. I don't even remember which album, just that it was the one with "Red Red Wine" on it. And I only remember buying it because my parents got mad that I wanted to throw away my entire allowance on the cassette.

The first concert I attended was (be prepared to be entirely appalled) was New Kids on the Block. It was summer 1989 and they were playing at the Minnesota State Fair. (Yes, really.) My mom had called in a favor and got me, my cousin, and both our parents seats in the fifth row. The opening acts were Tommy Page and Tiffany. (Yes, really.)

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment.

Tera: My biggest rock star moment was definitely winning the RITA award for Best First Book at this summers Romance Writers of America conference. They announced my name (in the second-to-last category, no less) and I had to climb up on stage in my gold stilettos and my golden dress and give an acceptance speech to a ballroom full of, like, two thousand people. All while jumbo screens projected my image on either side of the stage and hanging in the middle of the room (where I could see myself if I looked up--which is probably why I didn't look up much). It was ... truly overwhelming. And as people texted me and called me and came up to me to say, "Congratulations!" all night, I definitely felt like a rock star.

Last, but not least, we have Alyson Noël, whose most recent books are Evermore and Blue Moon in the Immortals series:

Q: What do you hope Living Your Five will accomplish?

Alyson: I hope it will inspire people (myself included!) to live more consciously in the world, to focus on what’s truly important—our relationship to each other and our planet—and not get caught up in perceived dramas du jour, which are really no more than a distracting time suck. I hope more people will discover that a positive attitude really is life changing, that a random act of kindness can live on—reverberating in ways you may have never considered, that you don’t need deep pockets to commit a random act of charity that can change someone’s life for the better, and I really, really hope it will get people to pause before they hit send on a not-so-nice e-mail message or scathing blog post. Our words have the power to harm or heal, so why not use them to foster some good in the world?

Q: I have two questions that I always ask 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, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Alyson: Since I answered this one last time I was here (Aerosmith Rocks for the album—still love that one!—and Foreigner for the concert), I’ll tell you my seconds which were Led Zeppelin’s Untitled 4th album—the one with Stairway to Heaven (still love, love, love that one!) and for the concert, it was Bow Wow Wow and Missing Persons. Annabella Lwin was crazy/good with the Mohawk and the dancing and still only a teenager at the time!

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Alyson: My Wayne’s World moment was the day Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame walked onto my flight (I was a flight attendant at the time) and I got to serve him (squee!!!!) and he was really nice! But, since I also answered that one last time around, my second was when Richard Branson (I’ve had a crush on him forever!) hugged me. Twice. Right inside the Virgin Megastore. He’s a really good hugger!

So those are the women behind Living Your Five. Which I hope you will all go visit now in fact by visiting it, you'll have the opportunity to get an entry into today's contest.

Today's Contest:

We've got one big swag pack for today's contest. Alyson, Tera, Becca, and Kay have all donated things such as bookmarks, postcards, buttons, bookplates and yes, a lot of this stuff is signed!!! Kay even threw in a beautiful glass slipper bookmark, the likes of which she gave out during my Cyber Launch Party. And since I think Living Your Five is such an important site to spread the word about, I'm throwing in bookmarks and signed coverflats for both of my books.

As usual, to enter you just leave a comment, perhaps about what your five would be. Then you can gain additional entries by:

+1 for blogging or tweeting about today's Women Who Rock Wednesday blog
+1 for blogging or tweeting about Living Your Five
+1 for visiting Living Your Five and leaving a comment on at least one of the entries there.
+1 for becoming a follower of Living Your Five

Please note your email address and your additional entries in your comment!

I will draw a winner at random next week when author Sara Zarr will be hear to talk about her new book Once Was Lost!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Upcoming Events & Where Should I Read?

For my Chicago area fans I have two great events coming up this weekend and I hope you can make it to one or both of them.

Friday the 25th at the Tamale Hut Cafe, 8300 W. Cermak in North Riverside, I'll be reading at 7:30 pm. I'll probably do an excerpt from Ballads and maybe just maybe share a sneak peek of what I'm working on. Also to further entice you, there is a two for one deal on tamales (which are soooooo good) and it's BYOB and there is an open mic. So my fellow writers, come read your stuff!

Then on Sunday the 27th at 2 pm, I'll be reading at The Old School Records at 7446 W. Madison in Forest Park as part of Arts Fest. Two amazing local authors Billy Lombardo and Don Evans will be reading with me and Tim Broderick will be doing some cool artwork in front of the store.

So please come to these if you can!

Now for those of you who are NOT in Chicago, post-wedding I'm hoping to plan a little bit of travel. Not much, cause I'm broke, but I am hoping to get up to Madison, Wisconsin and I do have a Southwest airfare voucher that needs spending. I was thinking of going to NYC, but I figured I'd try to see where I'd get the biggest turnout. So who wants to see me read where? Worst case scenario if I can't come see you now, hopefully when I have another book out, I'll have money to do a mini tour again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ballads of Suburbia Fan Art and Facebook Discussions

The lovely Ritsuka Walker brightened my day by sending me some artwork she did inspired by Ballads of Suburbia. I wanted to share it with you all. Here is Ritsuka's vision of Kara, which she did in Photoshop (a program I really wish I knew how to use!):

And here is Ritsuka's statement about her work:

I made the lines really rough and jagged because I personally think that it depicts Kara perfectly. She's been through a lot, she's rough around the edges, but she's still here. I also made her stance straight forward and in your face. She's finally learned to stand on her own two feet. I also decided to draw her showing off her scars, sort of like a badge of honor for surviving Scoville. Speaking of which, that would be Scoville Park in the background.

I absolutely love seeing how my readers were inspired by my books through their artwork, songs, etc. Last year I did a fan art contest for IWBYJR and I do plan on doing one for Ballads or some sort of contest for Ballads after the wedding. I dunno, what kind of contest would you like to see me run?

I've also been catching up on some blog interviews lately and one posted today with Crystal Reviews. It was a lot of fun to do, so please check it out!

I love doing blog interviews because it leads to interaction with readers and I also love doing online book clubs. I've been answering questions for a book club at the online community, the Viper Room. And it gave me two ideas:

One I really want to know who people would see as which characters in Ballads of Suburbia if it was made into a movie because I have no clue. I had an idea for IWBYJR, but am clueless with Ballads, so tell me your thoughts and I may steal them to answer interview questions someday.

Two, I decided I wanted to give more people the opportunity to ask me about my books and writing, etc, so I've started three new discussion threads on my Facebook Fan Page where you all have the opportunity to become fans and then ask about Ballads, IWBYJR or general writing questions. I plan to try to answer these questions once a week (this may fall apart right around the wedding, but I'll do my best). So if you have questions for me, please head on over and ask them. Hopefully this will be a lot of fun for both of us!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Pink!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Last week we had the fabulous Lauren Baratz-Logsted and she offered up a copy of her new book CRAZY BEAUTIFUL to one lucky winner. I'm happy to announce that the lucky winner of that contest is...Shooting Stars Magazine from MySpace. I'll send you a message unless you message me first with your address!

Well, I mentioned that I'd be changing WWRW around a little bit and talking about women who influenced me and why instead of doing interviews every other week. And after I saw Pink's performance on the VMAs this Sunday, I felt I simply had to feature her. In case you missed her high wire singing act, check it out:

Yes, I love Pink and I'm not at all ashamed to admit it... now. Sure I'm mainly a punk girl, but if I connect with an artist, I connect with them and there's just something about Pink. It's not very often I get into pop music. Sure, like a lot of girls in my generation I grew up on Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I openly admit that Janet Jackson was my first concert. I still appreciate all three of them for their talent. I stopped listening to Janet Jackson after Rhythm Nation and Madonna after Like a Prayer. Cyndi is probably my favorite out of the three because I love her voice and her unique sense of style and personality. And maybe that in a way, is how I came to love Pink.

She was definitely a guilty pleasure at first. Her "Get the Party Started" song was catchy and I was a bit of a party girl when it came out. I didn't run out to get the album then, though. It wasn't til I heard "Family Portrait" and "Dear Diary" that I thought okay, I can relate to her lyrics on a deeper level. I was going through some major issues with my dad at the time and something about the honest, simplicity that she used to talk about family problems, it was exactly what I needed. I honestly wished I'd had her when I was 16... though I might have had to pretend not to like her because I was too punk back then.

So I broke down and bought Missundaztood even though I hadn't bought a pop album in years. I swear sometimes it feels like she's lived my life. She knew my daddy problems, but she also apparently dated my abusive ex-boyfriend. The song "Numb" summed up an emotionally abusive relationship in perfect simplicity:

I laid there quiet, watched you have your way with me
I might have cried, the tears were silent inside you see
You called me names, made me feel like I was dumb
I didn't feel a thing and now I'm gone, gone, gone

I'd listen to it over and over, the same way I did a Heavens to Betsy or Bikini Kill song.

But the song that made me get over my guilt for liking Pink was "Don't Let Me Get Me." Sure it sung about some bad girl antics that made me feel like we were of the same tribe, but I'd seen that kind of thing manufactured far too often. Nope it was the lines:

L.A. told me
You'll be a pop star
All you have to change
Is everything you are
Tired of being compared
To damn Britney Spears
She's so pretty
That just aint me

Yep, I was sold. And when she went on to do songs like "Stupid Girls" and especially "Dear Mr. President" which still gives me chills and makes me well up every time I listen to it, I really felt proud to be a fan of hers. Pink is no poptart. She's outspoken and we believe in the same things

The range of her stuff amazes me. There are just fun songs about dancing and going out with your friends to the perfect breakup songs ("There You Go" was one of my theme songs for getting over my most recent ex and if I was getting over someone now, "So What" would be a great anthem)to the the really, really deep stuff. Like "Sober" in the video above. That would have been on the Ballads of Suburbia playlist if it had come out when I was writing it. It's another one of those songs where I wondered if Pink and I had lived the same life.

So yeah, Pink rocks because she can break my heart, fix it, and make me dance over and over all on one album.

Plus she has cool tattoos, worked with Tim Armstrong from Rancid on one album, and does PETA campaigns. What can I say, she's my kinda pop star and I think the music world is a much better place with her in it!

What about you? Do you like Pink? Or is there another musician who is not normally your cup of tea, but something about her songs or who is really touched you?

No prizes to give out this week, but I hope you'll comment anyway (it's the big test!). Next week, I'll be back with a really BIG interview with the ladies of Living Your Five!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jim Carroll and Thoughts on Dead Celebrities

Today the interwebs are buzzing about Patrick Swayze losing his battle with cancer. I enjoyed Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze was a talented guy and it's always sad to hear about cancer claiming someone. But I really don't have anything more to say about it than that.

Unlike most people, I haven't had a ton to say about the celebrities that died this year. Haven't felt the need to tweet about any deaths except for John Hughes or blog except about Jim Carroll, who I talked about today over at the MTV Books blog today because he truly was an inspiration. It would mean a lot to me if you checked out that blog and learned about Jim Carroll if you don't already know about him.

One thing I only touched on in that blog because I wanted it to be more of tribute than a reflection about the state of our culture was that I found out that Jim Carroll died two days after his death. That was somewhat strange given how instant celebrity death news has become, but honestly I thought it was a lot more tasteful. I'm pretty grossed out by the way we get the details of celeb's deaths live as they spill in via the gossip bloggers. With everyone who died this year, I heard the news via text message or twitter usually before it was even officially confirmed. It seems so impersonal and empty and the impact is lost on me. Even though I heard about Jim Carroll via twitter at least it was delayed a couple days. That seemed more appropriate. Jim Carroll is not my personal friend. I don't feel like I have the right to know about his death faster than I would get the news about a friend dying.

And now that I've had dear friends (and pets) die, I find I react to celebrity death news a lot differently. I'm not gonna jump to post a RIP or a video montage or even say anything at all unless the person really had an influence on me like Jim Carroll did.

When I heard Michael Jackson was dead, via text message of course, I was at Summerfest in Milwaukee. I was at Summerfest because a friend of mine, who'd lost her father when she was younger so she knew what it was like to feel the absence of a real person, had offered to take me because it was the one year anniversary of my friend Marcel's death and I needed good distraction. Literally my first thought when I heard about Michael Jackson was NO, this is Marcel's day. Marcel's loss should not be eclipsed by this huge public thing. This was supposed to be my day to be sad about Marcel, not the world's day to be sad about Michael Jackson. I'm still annoyed by this. Maybe it's odd, but grief, real grief for a living breathing person you personally knew and were close to, is a strange beast.

So, to me, June 25 will always be about Marcel, not Michael Jackson. And 2009 will be the year my dog died, not the year Michael, Farrah, Patrick, DJ AM, Ted Kennedy or even John Hughes or Jim Carroll died. (However I do find it oddly comforting that Domino and Jim Carroll died on the same day. It was disconcerting though that Domino died on a day that was already so sad, September 11.) Honestly, even Kurt Cobain's death which had such a huge impact on me when I was fourteen-- I mean I was devastated--doesn't feel the same anymore now that I've lost people in real life. If I was given the choice of bringing Kurt Cobain back to life or bringing one of my friends back to life or even my dog, I'd choose the friends and dog, hands down.

I hope this doesn't come across as callous in any way. I guess our celeb obsessed culture is just kind of getting to me especially when combined with my own grief. And I just wanted to see if anyone else thought it was weird, instant celebrity death news and the way we act like in losing them we've lost members of our families....

But we did lose a major talent in Jim Carroll and I hope you'll check out my memories of him and share your own.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday Night Reading and a Work In Progress Tease

Between writing and grieving for our dog, I've been behind on... well everything. So umm, this is short notice, but hopefully if you are in the Chicago area on Thursday night you can make it to this:

Please Join Literary Writers Network for a Special Literary Engagement, featuring critically acclaimed Chicago Author Stephanie Kuehnert, on Thursday, September 17, 2009, at 7 p.m. at the Book Cellar, 4736-38 North Lincoln, Chicago.

I'll be reading from Ballads as well as doing a Q&A and signing of course.

The some writers from the Literary Writers Network will be reading before me: April Galarza, Stephen Markley, and Nancy Werking Poling. You can find more out about their work and the event in general (with all kinds of talking up of my book that I felt weird copying and putting here) on the Literary Writers Network blog. They are a very cool group, so check them out.

Okay, so as you probably know, especially if you follow me on twitter, I've been struggling with a new novel proposal since I went away on my writing retreat. I sent that proposal into my agent last Tuesday, but um, the synopsis part is still all scattered because I'm terrible at figuring out where my books are going until I'm in the middle of it. So I'm still trying to figure out that and in the meantime I'm crossing my fingers and toes that she likes it enough to allow me to figure out exactly what it's deal is because I really, really like it.

I swore off talking about work in progress because I talked about that Persephone idea quite a bit and then that didn't work out the way I wanted and now it's on the backburner as I try to figure it out and I just feel silly. But I completely dropped out of the writing zone last week when everything happened with Domino, so I thought maybe if I talked about it just a little it would inspire me again. And it would give you a little bit of an answer to that dreaded "What are you working on?" question.

Right now the working title is: Anarchists, Soap Stars, and Regulars. It is called this because the main character Zoë is a very political teenager with an anarchist boyfriend (or ex-boyfriend) who keeps breaking her heart, an estranged father who she refers to only as the Soap Star "because that’s what he was—although the “star” part was only in his head", and a bartender mother, Ivy, whose regulars teach both Ivy and Zoë a lot about life. The other major characters include Bender, a homeless punk kid who was Zoë's best friend until he kissed her, and Jake, who is like Zoë's brother and is struggling with a recent bipolar disorder diagnosis.

I love all my quirky characters already and am finding it fun to incorporate my love of soap operas and my bartending experiences into a book. (Last night's near bar fight between one of my regulars and a Packers fan who dared grace the bar, totally going in. Especially the part where another regular--a very annoying one--started blowing a whistle in the middle of it all. In the fictional version I think I'll introduce a squirt gun per my friend Alison's Facebook comment about the incident...) Also I think each of my main characters embodies some sliver of my teenage self: Emily had my passion for music (though she was more talented), Kara shared some of my inner demons (though she was more troubled), and Zoë will have my desire to change the world (though she'll have more to fight against in 2005 than 1995).

Okay, that's all I'm going to say because I feel like I've said too much already. The last thing I'll leave you with is the first paragraph, which could totally change, but will give you an idea of the direction and tone of the book:

On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Mayor Ray Nagin declared a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile in Seattle, my mother, Ivy Petersen, came into my bedroom, removed her engagement ring, and told me she didn’t think she could marry Clay, her fiancé of two-and-a-half years.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Loving Memory of our dear family dog Domino

It's been a hard week. Our family dog Domino, who lives with my mom, is about to pass on. She is seventeen years old and has had a wonderful life, but as any of you who have pets or love animals know, they are part of your family and to lose them is serious heartbreak.

I'm struggling not to cry as I write this. I've been fighting tears since Wednesday when my mom told me that she thought Domino, whose health had been deteriorating for much of this summer, was nearing the end. I immediately went to see her and how frail she'd become in just a couple weeks time... it was so sad. She really hung on this long I truly believe because she was waiting for her boy, my brother Dan to come home, which he did for a week to spend time with her and care for her. Then she saw me and yesterday Mom and I took her out in the grass for a couple hours to enjoy a beautiful summer day once more. We hoped she would just go in her sleep last night, naturally, but as my friend Eryn said, she is a warrior and she is so loyal, she does not want to let go. As we don't want her to be in pain, we are going to have to take her to the vet to let her go later this afternoon.

But the end is really not what I want to talk about right now. I want to remember her and share pictures. She truly was such a good dog.

Domino came into our lives in the summer of 1992, the year I turned 13 and my brother 11. My brother had wanted a dog for ages. We'd had one briefly, but he was a dog who belonged out on a big farm and he kept escaping and running into busy city streets, so we had to give him up for adoption. I have always been more of a cat person, but I was thrilled when we got squirmy little puppy, Domino. Our neighbors came across her when they were on vacation in Michigan. She was born on a farm and had two sisters. Our neighbor adopted one sister, Augie (for August, when we got our puppies), their cousins adopted another, Michigan (for where they came from), and then we adopted Domino (for her markings, though I think my brother really wanted to name her Ozzie for Ozzie Smith, his favorite Cardinals baseball player, but he felt or maybe I objected that he couldn't do that because she was a girl. However people always thought Domino was a boy name anyway for some reason). On the farm, she'd been called Cow Puppy because she both looked like a cow and she liked to try to chase the cows. She's a total mutt, definitely some Beagle in her. No Dalmatian, though every little kid that ever saw her always asked if she was.

She came to live with us right before eighth grade, ie. right before my life started to get ugly and I began to wear all black. That summer I was still somewhat happy hence the bright colors you are about to see me in and I was also in a hippie phase, hence the tie-dye. And I spent the summer at the pool. It was probably the last summer I did that and I would never be so tan again.

Throughout the darkness of high school, Domino was a bright spot. She amused me and my friends. She also was my confidante and partner in crime... She was the only one in existence who knew about all of my secret crushes. Why? Because I used to take her for walks past their houses of course. And they were quite long walks sometimes, but she was always game.

Picture time. You can click on any of these to make them bigger.

A boy finally gets his beloved dog

Our neighbor Emily with Domino's sister Augie (the blonde with the blonde) and me with Domino
This gives you an idea of how small she was as a puppy. I showed this to Scott and he thought she was my cat, Sid. I am playing with her with a cat toy, one of our cat Snuggle's catnip mice, which puppy Domino loved almost as much as giving kisses.
Growing up, loving her bone.

If you look carefully in this shot, which I believe my best friend Katie took, you'll see my Doc Martens, evidence I've gone from bright tie-dye to angry punk girl, but Domino loved me and the attention of my friends just the same. (Plus stoned people tend to drop food or happily share food with dogs.)

When we got Domino, we already had an older cat, Snuggle. Snuggle did not like Domino. She had no interest in hanging out with her or playing, much to Domino's disappointment. So Domino was thrilled three years later when my cat Sid came to live with us. They were partners in crime. Sid (and sometimes Snuggle got in on this too if memory serves), would knock things such as pies or loaves of bread off the top of the refrigerator or counter and Domino would eat them, with Sid claiming his share too.

My mom introduces kitten and dog, she seems to be explaining the rules of playing together.

Kitten and dog learn to play nice. This may be my new favorite picture ever.

Domino let Sid share her water dish, bed, and toys without objection (food, however, she would object over). In fact, Sid took over one of Domino's beds so completely that we tried to buy him his own, but he didn't want it. He just liked Domino's.
Much like rock stars, Domino and Sid's overindulgence began to show as they grew older. Here they are circa 2003 in what I like to call their bloated Elvis phase. Sid is now a normal weight. Domino lost a lot of weight this year.

My mom used to joke that Domino got fat instead of her during the divorce. Domino really was a good one to share your troubles with. And yes, she would be happy to split that muffin with you, too. Oh, you're making macaroni and cheese? Even better. Chicken? Now, you're really talking. Carrot?!?! Puhtuey! Spitting that out. That was a really evil trick, trying to feed me that crap. I'd rather you give me peanut butter and laugh at me when I try to lick it off the roof of my mouth because I may look stupid, but that stuff tastes good!

The biggest benefit of the divorce for Domino besides People Food, was that the restriction that my dad had placed about her being on the couch got lifted when he moved out. (But ever loyal, she always greeted him with tail wagging, even when my brother and I were shunning him and wishing she would too). Not that you could really keep her off the couch anyway.

The only football fan in our house

I used to love to tuck her in on the couch before I went to bed.

I wish I had pictures of our walks, our games and many of my other memories. More than anything, I wish she could have lived forever, especially for my mom and brother's sakes. But she had a long good life. Her sisters both passed on a few years ago. And even though my religious beliefs are convoluted and I don't really believe in an afterlife for people (though I do believe in energy), I have to believe in some kind of pet afterlife. Domino is on her way there. Her fur will be dark black again like when she was young, not graying like it has been over the years. She will tramp through lots of green grass with her sisters. She will probably track down Snuggle and torment her a little bit. She will meet the dearly departed dogs of my friends and family. And hopefully she will think of me and our long walks and she will still keep the crushes from my early teenage years secret.

I love you, my sweet girl. We all do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday, the day that is all about celebrating women who are rocking the world with their creativity in some manner and learning about new books, music, film, and art to check out! Oh and there are usually prizes too!

This week I have two winners to announce. The winner of April Mosqus contest (for a Before We Get to Seattle tote bag and a copy of the film when it comes out on DVD) is.... lovelessangel93 from Live Journal. The winner of the contest for my zine is... Steph Bowe from blogger. If you ladies could send your mailing addresses to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com I'll make sure your stuff gets out to you!

Now, onward to today's guest, an author I love whose new book, CRAZY BEAUTIFUL, I'm very excited about. Let's meet Lauren Baratz-Logsted!!!!

Q: Please tell us about the crazy-good sounding premise of your new book CRAZY BEAUTIFUL. Also can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write it? I love new takes on classic tales. I have a myth of my own I'm really connected to that I want to do a version of (Persephone). What was your connection to the Beauty and the Beast story? What did you set about to do differently or was there a certain part of the classic tale you really wanted to focus on or add to?

Lauren: Thanks for having me, Stephanie! Crazy Beautiful is a contemporary re-visioning of Beauty & the Beast, told in he-said/she-said fashion, about a boy with hooks for hands and a gorgeous girl who meet on their first day at a new school. I've always liked Beauty & the Beast best of all the Disney-fied fairy tales and, after seeing it on Broadway, concluded the reason it's so successful is that it's the only one where the male lead is more than just mere window dressing to make the female look good; if anything, he's by far the more compelling character. So I decided I wanted to do my own version, focusing on how surface values - Aurora's beauty, distinctive physical features like Lucius's hooks, even rumors - affect how others perceive and treat us, thereby affecting how we perceive and treat the world in return. Oh, and I hope you do write your Persephone story!

Q: Can you share some of the songs that would be on a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL soundtrack and how they relate to the story?

Lauren: Ack! Now you're expecting me to be musically smarter than I am! Let's see...definitely Rob Thomas's "Lonely No More" - I love the moody sound of it - and "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. I'd also add Howie Day's "Collide" and "Listen to Your Heart" by Dht. How am I doing? Do I sound musically smart yet or do I just sound like an idiot?

Q: You have written a TON of books. What I think is super cool is that you also write a series with your husband and daughter. Can you tell us a bit about what that collaborative process is like?

Lauren: Well, it's just a little bit crazy, at least for me. Greg (www.greglogsted.com), Jackie (who's nine now) and I originally came up with the idea for The Sisters 8 series for young readers when we were stranded in Colorado by a blizzard back in 2006. Basically the way it works is we all brainstorm a book together, then I sit down to write. After each chapter, I read it aloud to them and they tell me what's good, what's bad and what they think should happen next. I'd never written by committee before doing this series. The one good part of being the person who does the actual grunt work of writing out the ideas is that I get final veto power. Really, they let me have it because I'm the only one willing to keep straight what will eventually be over 1000 pages worth of story, but I'll greedily seize power wherever I can find it. I'm pathetic that way.

Q: Where did your journey to being a writer begin? Did it start when you were young or later in life? And who were some of your inspirations (other authors, characters in books, other artists, parents or teachers)? We especially like to hear about other women on Women Who Rock Wednesday, but men are cool too!

Lauren: Well, I'm afraid it was a man who started it all. In eighth grade I was twelve years old. My English teacher, a man, gave an assignment where we had to connect three seemingly disparate items - a priest, a nurse and a camel - into a short story. He liked mine so much he made the class listen to it three days running, at the end of which time I realized maybe I had a little of something called talent, for want of a more modest word. From then on it just seemed like whenever I had a class that required some sort of creative writing, teachers would get that glassy-eyed look in their eyes like they were suddenly reminded why they'd got into teaching in the first place. Of course it's entirely possible that I had no talent, probably still don't, and that I'd merely happened to run across a string of sentimental English teachers who'd had the bad fortune to always have even worse students than me. I suppose we can also blame Little Women's Jo March for me becoming a writer. Really, we could probably go ahead and blame every book I've ever read, since as a lifelong reader I've pretty much lived my life in books, making me want to create them as well.

Q: Of course all the readers who have or are about to gobble up CRAZY BEAUTIFUL are gonna want to know... what's next?

Lauren: I've got four new books coming out in 2010. Two more YA: The Education of Bet, due out in April, is set in the Victorian era and is about a 16-year-old girl who impersonates a boy in order to get a proper education; and The Twin's Daughter, due out in the fall and also set in the Victorian era, about a girl whose life is changed forever when she discovers that her gorgeous and wealthy mother has an identical twin who was raised in the poorhouse. The other two books are Books 5 and 6 from The Sisters 8 series for young readers, which we discussed earier and which I created with my novelist husband Greg Logsted and our nine-year-old daughter Jackie. Phew!

Q: I have two questions that I always ask 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, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Lauren: I believe the first recording I used my own money for was a cassette of The Hollies' Distant Light when I was ten, and I know my first concert was Jethro Tull at the New Haven Coliseum, also when I was ten.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Lauren: Bummer. At first I thought you meant meeting actual rock stars, to which I'd have replied with something about the time after a Muddy Waters concert we chased all over the little motels in Storrs and Willimantic CT hoping to meet Muddy. Let's see...I guess maybe the time one of my editors told me she was going to lunch with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who was thinking of doing a book for her, and how the editor was bringing the duchess a copy of my debut novel The Thin Pink Line as a present. That felt pretty rock-starrish all around. But really, in some ways I feel like a rock star every day because I get to do what I love: write.

Today's Contest:

Lauren has been nice enough to offer up a copy of CRAZY BEAUTIFUL to one lucky winner of this week's contest. As usual to enter all you have to do is leave a comment about anything Lauren's interview or her book inspires you to comment on.

You can earn additional entries the following ways:

+1 for tweeting/blogging about today's Women Who Rock Wednesday feature & contest

+1 for tweeting/blogging about Lauren and her new book, Crazy Beautiful

Just note your additional entries in your comment and it is easier if you leave me an email address so I can track you down if necessary if you win.

I will announce the winner next Wednesday when I talk about another woman who inspired me in some way!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What's in a name? or why I'm changing mine...

When I get married next month, I'll be changing my name. Most of you won't notice because publicly I'll remain Stephanie Kuehnert. But y'know on my driver's license it will say something else and to the people in my private life I'll be named something else.

And I have terrible feminist guilt about this. My mother, the initial person responsible for my feminist beliefs long before I discovered riot grrrl or any of the other things that shaped me politically, kept her maiden name. She did so despite the confusion that it caused when signing permission slips and whatnot for school. (My parents didn't hypenate our names. Thankfully. I mean, seriously, do you really want to make Kuehnert more complicated!) She always had to put (mom) at the end, to the point that I sometimes wonder if she accidentally signed receipts with (mom) tacked onto her signature. It was that important to her to hold on to her identity, her name. Maybe because she was of a family of all daughters and no one would carry it on. Maybe because, seriously, who wants to take on Kuehnert? But mostly because that was her belief.

It makes sense to me. Women have lost their identities through marriage in so, so many ways for so many years. There was a long time that I never thought I'd get married because I had so many issues with women's role in the institution of marriage. I mean the pledge to "obey"? The symbolism of the dad giving the daughter over to the husband? Yeah. Yuck.

But then I fell in love. Hard. And it's that kind of love that just feels so sacred, like it deserves a ritual or a ceremony. I am a ritual/ceremony person. I like to declare permanence when something is really important (hence the huge tattoo with best friend). I want to celebrate and shout outloud how much I love this wonderful guy. So that's why I'm getting married.

But it's not why I'm changing my name.

Okay so it plays a role but just a small one. I do want to share a name with him. Share a bed, share a house, share a name. I like that, it feels right. But we could share either of our names or combine our names. So that brings us back slightly more specifically to the reason why I am changing my name to his name.

1. I fucking hate my name. Yes, a hate so strong I had to invoke the f-word. Ugh. I've spent 30 years saddled with this name that no one can spell, no one can pronounce. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I've wanted to get rid of it for as long as I can remember. I've asked my mom on many occasions, why she couldn't have take the feminist thing a bit farther and gifted me with much simpler last name of Napp. It gets missppelled at times (Knapp), but other than that, it's very nice and I like the sound of it. At one point in my late teens when I was ermm highly displeased with my father, I talked about changing my name to Napp, but I just never got around to it and eventually I reconciled with my dad and that seemed sort of mean.

Strangely, with the exception of the evil abusive one, every guy I've dated has had an incredibly easy last name. So I'd always thought, well if I end up with him, it would sure be convenient. Now, I've ended up with someone who has a name that you'd have to completely illiterate to misread, misspell or mispronounce. It's even easier than Napp. So I'm going with it.

2. This is about identity. Now Stephanie Kuehnert will become my professional name/pen name/public name. But my new name, that will just be me, privately. I put a lot of myself out there in public. It's just in my nature, like part of coming from writing zines I guess, but it will be nice to have that boundary because I'm sure at some point I'll need it. I'm also sure it will cause some headache... like with finances and paperwork and that sort of thing. But like it was worth it for my mom to sign everything (mom) so that she could stay true to herself, it's worth it to me to create a private side for myself, where I can just be who I am when I'm out with friends or at home with my kitties and especially my boy. There are really few people in this world (um like basically my mom and bff Katie) who know me as well as he does. So there it is. I guess it all comes back to love after all.

So I'm going to try to ditch the feminist guilt. I don't need to keep a name I've never liked just to make a statement. I can choose one that I like, one that has meaning to me because choosing your own identity is very feminist.

Anyway, names are very important to me, that's why I wanted to blog about this. I think out the names for my characters intently, searching for the right meaning, etc, but usually what it comes down to is what feels right for the character. This new name just feels right.

And I have to say now that I write this, part of me wishes I published under Stephanie Napp. But maybe having this strange, awkward, hard to pronounce name speaks to the kind of stuff I write somehow.

Well, now I'm off to write about a character I named Bender after graffiti I saw in a bathroom. Seriously. It was just right.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday- New Format?

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday. The guest I had scheduled, Kathy Charles had to postpone, so we'll hear from her sometime in the future and if you are in Australia, I highly advise you to look for her brand new book, Hollywood Ending.

This means that I'm continuing the contest for last week's guest, filmmaker April Mosqus until next Wednesday. So if you haven't read the interview about her film, Before We Get To Seattle and entered the contest, do so here.

This little lapse also gives me a chance to propose a new format of sorts for Women Who Rock Wednesdays. As much as I like bringing you new interviews every week, umm, it gets really crazy time consuming, tracking people down, interviewing, formatting. So I'm thinking of going to every other week with the interviews. There will be exceptions of course like when I get a bunch of cool people or certain dates that work for certain people.

On the off weeks, I want to take the time to talk about the women who have inspired me who I may not be able to interview for some reason or other, like maybe they are way too famous or dead (if I hadn't experienced some utterly terrifying Ouija Board incidents when younger, maybe I'd try interviewing that way, but...) or they are fictional characters. Or I'll talk about stuff in the news related to women. That kind of thing.

I hope that will still be interesting. And I hope you'll still come and visit me even if there aren't always contests. If the contests are a big reason you come, please do say so and I'll try to figure something out, but yeah.... That's what I'm thinking right now.

So I guess now it is time to give an example of what I'll be doing on non-interview Wednesdays.

Today I thought it would be fun to talk about a fictional character that influenced me, and I thought I'd actually share what I wrote about this particular fictional character when I was 16. So here is an excerpt from an article called "Growing Up Feminist: Influences in the Pre-Bikini Kill Days" which I published in one of my 'zines back in the day. I'll even leave the crazy spelling and punctuation intact.

Time to flashback to me in 1996 flashing back to the late eighties... ready?

My generation has been called the TV babies, so I have to admit that the idiot box has influenced me also. I remember liking She-Ra and Jem. I guess She-Ra was rather scantily glad, but you have to admit, that girl was powerful. And Jem, she was the eighties' girl rocker, and "truly outrageous". Actually I watched a lot of PBS as a kid, the one show the influenced me most in my entire life was on PBS, Degrassi High/Jr High. It taught me about all the issues: AIDS, teen pregnancy, abortion; pretty controversial for the eighties. It shaped my views on animal rights and many other subjects. My main role model on the show was Christine, known mostly by her nickname, Spike, after her hair. I've wanted my hair to be like her's since I was 8, I just plain wanted to be her. Spike wasn't the perfect role model though, she had a kid at 14. I guess that should rule her out as a role model, right? Wrong. Spike portrayed real life, she dealth with a lot of problems and never gave up. The school made her take special classes away from the other kids because she was a "bad influence" and then she had to do with raising her baby, Emma. She didn't drop out of school, but she made sacrifices like missing school dances and concerts. She dealt with getting child support and trying to find a job which was difficult because she was jurdged by her appearance. I was pretty disappointed when I found out high skool wasn't like Degrassi, maybe it's only like that in Canada. I still tape Degrassi from Showtime and I still relate to it. Before I grew up and found out who I wanted to be, I had these influences, who knows what I'd be without them.

Okay, back to the present day...

I've since learned to use a semi-colon correctly, that periods go inside the quotation marks and I have stopped intentionally misspelling things like skool, but to quote one of my favorite bands from back then, Skankin' Pickle, "I'm still in love with a girl named Spike."

I still stand by all that I said about her and as I was retyping this, I thought, wow, back then Spike influenced me as a person, now she has also influenced me as a writer. I think I've gone on to write about girls like Emily and Kara, who are flawed and in tough situations because I loved watching characters like Spike be a survivor.

So yeah, that is the tribute of the day. And I do actually have a prize (can you tell I just feel guilty about not giving you guys the opportunity to win prizes!)... I have a copy of the last issue of Kill Supermodels, the zine that I did with my friends in high school (please note it was about killing the idea that we all had to look like supermodels, we did not condone violence against actual supermodels or any women!). It was our best issue, IMHO, but I will throw in some additional articles that were pretty good including the one I excerpted from today.

As usual to enter the contest, just leave a comment. Let me know if you are cool with the new WWRW format idea (I hope you are cuz man I just can't keep up with the interview pace!). Or tell me about the ladies from TV who influenced you. And as usual, you get an extra entry for tweeting or blogging about this post. Go ahead and note that extra entry in your comment along with your email address so I can easily find you if you win.

I will announce this winner and April's winner next week when I do have a guest, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, who will talk about her book Crazy Beautiful which I am really really looking foward to, I don't know about you....

Oh and if you want another contest to enter, YA Book Central is giving away 5 copies of Ballads of Suburbia this month, go here to enter!