Saturday, November 23, 2013

TV I Love: 'An Adventure in Space and Time'

So, as you may or may not know, I'm a pretty big Doctor Who fan. (And yes, I've been epically excited for today's 50th anniversary special and no, it did not disappoint!!) But because I am about 20 years younger than the show, and because I did not grow up in the U.K., I have to admit I didn't know much about the history of it or about the doctors before the 2005 incarnation of the show, when I started watching.

David Bradley stars as William Hartnell in 'An Adventure in Space
and Time.'' Photo by Hal Shinnie/BBC.
So I was definitely intrigued by the concept of An Adventure in Space and Time, which tells the story of the inception of the show back in 1963. The film stars David Bradley (a.k.a. Filch) as William Hartnell, the actor who played the first doctor, and it centers on the creative struggles to get a little sci-fi children's show off the ground. I learned that the show was the BBC's first to employ a female producer (Verity Lambert) and an Indian director (Waris Hussein).

Let me just tell you: I loved this movie. Not only because it involved fangirl/boy moments of watching the creative team come up with the theme song, the TARDIS sound effect and the concept of a Dalek, but also because it was about something much more enormous and universal: the power of art to endure.

When you see a producer passionately fighting about why a Dalek needs to be in an episode, or an actor getting deeply immersed in the switches on his character's time machine, it's funny and compelling. But it's also deeply moving, especially for someone who has a lifelong interest in telling stories. It reminds me that those arguments those people had, the passion they showed for their work, it all mattered. They started something that has lasted for 50 years, it has impacted culture and people's lives for generations, it has given something for people to look forward to, to be entertained by, and to learn from.

And, really, isn't that the point of all art? How extraordinary it is to create something that makes an impact in someone else's life, that elicits emotions and reactions, that is, ultimately, much bigger than its creator. It's breathtakingly magical and it exists here, in the real, (unfortunately) TARDIS-free world.

I'm so grateful to this wonderful movie for reminding me of that. And, of course, if you have a chance to see it, I obviously can't recommend it enough. (P.S. It was written by the brilliant Mark Gatiss, who not only wrote a bunch of Who episodes but plays Mycroft in Sherlock!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Thick Skin Conundrum

If you're a writer (or, really, a filmmaker, painter, sculptor...any sort of artist), you have probably heard this before: "You need to have a thick skin."

I hear it all the time but the first time I really had to live it was when I went to film school. That was the first time I had ever put my work on display for anyone to see and critique. And, guess what? I needed a thick skin for that.

But here's the thing: to be a writer--as in just someone who sits and writes--you don't need a thick skin. In fact, you often probably have a thin skin. By that I mean you're likely observing the world and the people in it very acutely and letting them seep in, like osmosis. In turn, when you write, you're probably putting a lot of that world back out on the page and, even more crucially, you're probably putting a lot of yourself out on the page. In my experience, my best writing comes from tapping into my most vulnerable parts and from using my innate sensitivity to its best advantages.

But to be an author--by this I mean anyone who is in the process of getting their work out there from the query step to anything beyond--oh, boy, do you need a thick skin. From agents, to editors, to readers there is a lot of criticism and rejection to be had. 90% of it is absolutely necessary to create your best work. But even when you know that logically, it can be hard to just build up your armor, especially when you feel like parts of yourself are floating around on that page that's getting torn apart.

So how do you switch from one to the other? Honestly, I suspect that some writers are just better at it than others. For me, it is one of my biggest struggles, though I am continuously working on it. One of the things I've recently been trying out is a visualization technique. When I'm writing (especially a first draft), I let myself believe that I'm allowed to feel anything, to sometimes allow my deepest fears to become my characters' fears, to metaphorically bleed out onto the screen as it were. But when it comes time to hit a "send" button and let someone else into that world, well, then I have to sew myself back up. I need to hear the critiques, to understand them and utilize them, but I also need to separate myself from the work at that point and realize it's not a criticism of me as a person (even if parts of me have become characters).

Of course, when it comes time for revision, the stitches have to come out once again.

It's hard. And frustrating. And often times I feel like I don't succeed at it. Sometimes I wish I could shout out "Impervio!" and have everything just bounce off me. But then again, if I did that, would I be a writer? I suspect not. So I am learning to accept that what makes me a writer is the same thing that makes it hard to be a writer sometimes. It is a conundrum. Though, on the upside, it lets me use the word "conundrum," which is clearly fab.

Anyone else have ways of dealing with the thick skin/thin skin issue?

Friday, November 8, 2013

#Wordcount Is a Four-Letter (Non)Word

It's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which means that my Twitter feed is filled with inspiring posts about people getting 'er done and one very loaded phrase: word count.

Don't get me wrong. I think NaNoWriMo is an amazing concept and I know that it is very successful for a lot of people. But sometimes I see people writing things like: "I wrote 4,000 words today" and I just think, WOW. I don't think I've written 4,000 words in a single day ever in my entire life.

Inevitably, this has led me to guilt or wondering if I'm doing something wrong as a writer. Sometimes I have to give myself the pep talk that I know every writer has heard multiple times throughout their career: everyone's process is different.

One of my problems is that I am an underwriter by nature. My first drafts are usually abominably short--glorified outlines I call them. It's because I'm usually spending them trying to figure out the bare bones of my plot (and also probably from my years writing screenplays where everything was 120 pages long. 120 pages does not a manuscript make). Then in multiple rounds of revisions, I go through and add things like subplots, characterizations, and setting details. Then, usually, in further rounds of revisions, I try to connect the subplots, minor characters and other details to my main plot. Honestly, I should really start calling myself a reviser instead of a writer.

But being an underwriter means that word count can often be a huge enemy. Especially when writing that crucial first draft when I know that what I'm writing isn't necessarily very good or at all living up to the idea in my head, but that I have to somehow muddle my way through it anyhow. Why? I can't revise without a first draft!

So I've learned not to measure my worth by word count. Instead, it's more important for my process to just sit down and write almost every day. Even if it's for half-an-hour or forty-five minutes (and, to be honest, it usually is). I'm the person gritting my teeth and trying my best to ignore that little counter at the bottom of Word. Until the second draft, that is. Then I'm the person who's saying: er, now I need a subplot that will add 15,000 words.

My point is: if you are an underwriter like me, try not to fret too much. I've still written and finished multiple manuscripts of adequate length and you can too. And if you are writing 4,000 words a day: honestly, I am in freak. :-)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When Geeks Wed: The Details

It's been 6 months, but I thought it might be time to share some of the details from the biggest theme party I ever threw, a.k.a. my wedding.

So, without further ado, here are some of the bookish/geeky/silly details from our big day.

I made the bridesmaid bouquets (and part of mine) out of pages from Harry Potter and Pride & Prejudice. I was pretty proud of how they turned out. Cutting up books, however, felt wrong from beginning to end despite it being for a good cause.

Speaking of Harry Potter...

...there was a lot of him at the wedding.

Our guest book:

Our cake toppers:

Why, yes. That is Gandalf and Dumbledore getting hitched. What of it?

There was confetti on the dance floor.

There was the Doctor on the dance floor.

And there was trivia.

My husband painted scenes from some of our favorite movies and guests had to guess what the movies where. Do you want to play along? Then I shall post all of them below. Feel free to see how many you can get in the comments. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)




















And just for sticking with me through this, here is one more pretty picture sans nerdiness.

Credit for all the marvelous photos go to Hudson River Photographer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Upcoming Event: Journeys to Publication

It's been a little bit since I've had an in-person event so I am most pleased to announce that I have one coming up in NYC and that it involves being on a panel with a group of fantastic authors I admire/respect/adore.

Journeys to Publication (presented by Children's Media Association)
October 7th, 7 PM
The Hartley House
413 W. 46th St., NY, NY

The panel is bringing together 6 new YA/MG authors who are sharing their "tell it like it is" publishing journeys and answering questions about what publishing journey might work for you.

The panel includes:
Amy Dyckman (Boy + Bot, Tea Party Rules)
Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys)
Joanne Levy (Small Medium at Large)
Katherine Longshore (Gilt, Tarnish)
Elisa Ludwig (Pretty Crooked, Pretty Sly)
Me (The Mapmaker and the Ghost)

It will be moderated by the fabulous librarian/author/blogger extraordinaire Betsy Bird.

Register here for the event and I hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Books I Love: 'The Night Circus'

In a strange turn of events, I've been feeling a little restless and uninspired with my reading lately.

I think there's been a lot going on in my personal and professional and writing life that I'm trying to figure out and that has transpired over to my reading habits. I've just been reading much slower and feeling a little less inclined to pick up books than usual. Which, honestly, is usually how I gauge that I'm feeling off-kilter. If I don't much feel like reading...something is definitely not right in my world.

So I just want to say that I am so grateful for having picked up The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It was the exact right book at the exact right time for me. I did read it slowly, but only because I wanted to linger in that world for...well, basically, forever.

Magical realism is one of my very favorite genres when it's done right and The Night Circus gets it awe-inspiringly right. It is filled with effortlessly gorgeous writing and a setting that just left me floored with its beauty. But the thing that always makes me swoon over this genre is all the nuggets of life truths slighted away beneath that glimmer of magic.

Like this one, for example: "You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."

These words took up residence in my soul. I don't think they shall ever leave.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway of 'The Mapmaker and the Ghost'

The Goodreads giveaway of The Mapmaker and the Ghost is going on for a few more days. There are two paperbacks up for grabs...and I'll even sign them!

You can enter right through the handy dandy widget found below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash

The Mapmaker and the Ghost

by Sarvenaz Tash

Giveaway ends April 10, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Schools & Libraries: Win a Free Copy of 'The Mapmaker & the Ghost' + Study Guide, Swag

Update: All the books have now been claimed. If you signed up, look for your package in the mail soon!

I've been staring at my box of author copies of The Mapmaker and the Ghost paperbacks for the past week, wondering what I'm going to do with them.
Free to a good home...

And I think I've hit on a grand idea.

I'm doing this:
1. Because I owe SO MUCH to both my school libraries and public libraries (seriously, I would not be a writer without them).

2. Because there is nothing I would love more than to have my book sitting in as many libraries as possible.

3. Because I can't think of a better way to get my book into the hands of kids than through the wonderful teachers and librarians who know their kid lit.

Now you're probably asking what I'm doing.

I'm giving away 10 paperbacks of The Mapmaker and the Ghost to the first 10 librarians, school media specialists or teachers who sign up below. Each person who signs up will get one book as well as a printed up study guide and some bookmarks and pins in their packet.

That's it! No hoops to jump through. (Except that I will send the books out to U.S. school/library addresses only). Just fill out the form below and if you're one of the first 10 to sign up, the book is yours!

(And P.S. the study guide is available for all to download here.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Debuts I Love: 'Poison' & 'Bruised'

I recently read two brand new 2013 debut YA books that I can't stop thinking about, so I figured I might as well gush about them here. And they really couldn't be more different from one another.

The first one is Bruised by Sarah Skilton. Bruised is a dark and complex contemporary story about a Tae Kwon Do expert named Imogen who freezes up at the moment when she needs her training the most -- during an armed robbery. How Imogen deals with this life-altering event is surprising, realistic and heart-wrenching at the same time.

There are so many nuggets of relatable truths in Imogen's story - about everything from fear to self-discipline -- as well as a fascinating look into the world of martial arts training. It's truly very different from a lot of other YA books out there and I appreciate that about it so much.

My other recent favorite read is Poison by Bridget Zinn. Also very different from a lot of other YA books I've read recently but for completely different reasons.

Although Poison has a seemingly dark premise (Kyra, a master potioner, is on the run after she unsuccessfully tries to assassinate her best friend, who also just happens to be the princess of the kingdom), joy and airiness actually radiate from every page. Poison is frothy, funny and unputdownable. I absolutely adored its mix of a spunky heroine, one dashing hero (named after Fred Weasley, no less!), and fabulously fun fairy tale world.

Any great books you've been reading lately, ones that took you by surprise with their unique takes on the world?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Celebrating the Release of Bridget Zinn's 'Poison'

Bridget Zinn was a member of the Apocalypsies, just like me, and her debut YA novel, Poison, releases tomorrow, March 12th.

Here is the fantastic cover:

And here is the scrumptious synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Whimsy, and humor and fairy tales = RIGHT UP MY ALLEY.

Tragically, Bridget passed away from cancer in May 2011, at the age of 33 -- 10 months before she got to see her debut book make its way out into the world.

To honor her and Poison, Bridget's family and colleagues have asked authors to write a little about their own debut experience. It wouldn't be that hard to write about mine since it was less than a year ago. It was a whirlwind of blog posts and interviews; release parties, panels, and social media well wishes; and a sense of utter wonder and amazement I can honestly say I haven't felt since I was a kid. It was hard work, but magical, wonderful hard work. I will cherish the memories of my release week for the rest of my life.

Like most authors -- and like it was for Bridget -- being published was a lifelong dream of mine. In writing this, I started thinking about why that is. Besides having a compulsion to write and tell stories, being published means leaving a legacy of sorts, your words echoing through time long after you're gone. Jane Austen still speaks to us. Roald Dahl still speaks to us. And so will Bridget Zinn.

It breaks my heart that Bridget is not here to experience all of this for herself as she deserves to, but this is where we all come in. In this day and age, most authors have to be their own marketing teams: that social media, blog post, interview maelstrom I talked about. But since Bridget is not able to do that for herself, it would mean a lot to the success of her book for us to be her mouthpiece and spread the word of Poison. If you're an author, blogger or reader (really, that should be all of you here!), here are all the ways you can help.

Because I hope, wherever she is, Bridget can experience her extraordinary debut week too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Paperback of 'Mapmaker' Is Coming...and It Has a New Cover!

You heard right! On March 26th, get ready for the backpack-friendly, totally tote-able paperback edition of The Mapmaker and the Ghost. Available at a bookstore or online retailer near you!

And guess what? The paperback edition has a NEW cover. Well, sorta. If you've been following me for a while you might recognize...THIS:

Why, yes! That is my original, beloved cover back -- for real -- on the paperback! I absolutely adored this cover and am so glad I'll get to finally see it on bookshelves.

Oh, and here is the complete design because there are some exciting things happening on the back too!


- a new fantastic tagline: "Sometimes the best adventures await you in your own backyard..."

- a brand, spanking new synopsis that I adore:
Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. So, inspired by her heroes, Lewis and Clark, she vows to spend the summer exploring and mapping the forest behind her home. But soon after she begins, her task is complicated by a series of rather unique events. A chance encounter with a strange old lady has her searching for a legendary, possibly world-saving blue rose -- which incidentally lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers, whose plot to attain infamy and fortune will devastate the town of Pilmilton. But when Goldenrod stumbles upon a real, live ghost haunting the forest, she knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer...or an ordinary quest.
- AND two amazing pull quotes from reviews:
 "This page-turning adventure will tickle readers' funny bones." - SLJ
"Full of adventure and mystery, this novel is sure to bring out the explorer in every reader." - LMC

Who's excited? This girl!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Resolutions

It's 2013!

Hurray!! Happy New Year! [virtual confetti]

This year I will:

1. Finish the WIP I started in January of 2012. It's something very different for me (historical YA), and I'm very excited about the story. But, you know, it needs to get written first before I can think about any further steps.

2. Get married. As long as I can survive the rest of this wedding planning process, which has slowly gone from fun to bonkers. Being engaged was exciting but I'm more than ready to move on from it.

3.  Try very, very hard to get less stressed about things and "go with the flow" [cough -- resolution 2 -- cough]. I'm not, generally, a go with the flow type of person. But I have some ideas about how to get better about that -- including looking into some meditation courses which I've been considering taking for years.

What about you? What are your resolutions?