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Friday
Nov212014

What's Making Me Happy This Week, third edition

Hi, friends! It's time to talk about what's making me happy this week!

1) I spent this past weekend up in the Catskills with a dear friend from college and her family. I've probably been to visit them 25+ times, but the Catskills region just never gets less bizarre. Highlights of the trip included:

- participating in a "pub sing" in a 17th-century farmhouse. It began with people leading raucous songs about drinking and being cuckolded, then shifted to include somewhat less raucous songs about Jesus by the end of the evening. Someone texted me a question while I was there, and I replied, "I'll have to get back to you on that—I'm in the middle of drinking cider out of a jam jar while sightreading four-part British carols." I held my own admirably, considering I had not sightread music since I was seventeen.

- visiting Twin Peaks Coffee and Donuts in Tannersville, where the donuts are made to order by a donut robot. The employees punch in how many donuts you want, and then you can watch the robot drop the dough into the boiling oil, flip them over, and send your finished donuts up a little conveyer belt. They were ridiculously tasty. To make matters weirder, this scarecrow was hanging directly outside the shop's front door.

 

 

- shopping in Tannersville, where I discovered a store called Stones and Bones Antler and Bone Decor. Inside, crammed in with the giant insects set in glass paperweights, the decorative skulls covered in feathers and turquoise, and the deer-hoof bottle openers, was this two-headed taxidermy duckling in a bell jar. Like you do. (I also visited an antique store that had the first snowsuit ever made by Ralph Lauren.)

- bowling at the small-town alley in Margaretville where Lucius shot their "Hey, Doreen" music video. 

- watching season three of Buffy with my hosts, who have never seen it before. Nearly all my friends are Buffy fans, which means I've never watched it with complete newbies, and it was such a delightful experience to listen to them gasp and speculate and laugh at the jokes for the first time. Now I know how my old roommate felt when she introduced me to the show back in 2004. 

2) The New Pornographers, whose Brill Bruisers tour I saw at the Hammerstein ballroom on Monday! I hadn't heard the new album, but I'm a big fan of it now, and it was awesome to hear some of my old favorites as well. It's always a pleasant surprise when bands sound just as good live as they do recorded. The only drawback was that we were in this strange balcony section with seats, which were packed so close together it was impossible to stand up, and nobody around us seemed to be having fun at all. The girl directly in front of me literally put her head down on her boyfriend's shoulder and took a nap during the show.

3) Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I'm a huge fan of the Raven Boys books, and this third book was just as good as the first two. Honestly, not that much actually happened in it, but Maggie is such a brilliant writer that I don't even care. All I wanted to do was swoon over individual sentences and then text them to all my friends. Whenever I need lessons in good writing, I'll be coming back to this series.

4) Tenth of December by George Saunders. You guys, these stories are so weird and unsettling, and I'm enjoying them so much. I think it's better if you go in knowing nothing, so I won't say any more, but you should definitely pick up this book.

5) I AM BUYING MY TICKETS TO AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND TODAY. Is it April yet so I can leave?

What's making you happy this week? Tell me on Twitter @alison_cherry!

Thursday
Nov132014

What's Making Me Happy This Week, second edition

It's time for our second edition of What's Making Me Happy This Week! Let's get to it.

1) The European Space Agency has landed a spacecraft called Philae on the surface of a Central-Park-sized comet FOUR BILLION MILES AWAY, and it's sending back some truly fantastic photos. Sentences like, "The lander was secured the comet's surface by ice screws and the craft had fired its tethering harpoons" are all over the news. This is REAL, you guys. We are living in the future. (Unfortunately, it's likely Philae will run out of battery power and stop functioning tomorrow, as it landed in a spot too shady to use its solar panels. BUT STILL.)
 
2) Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. In my opinion, Mallory Ortberg is the funniest person on the internet, and she has written a collection of text conversations between fictional characters and their friends/loved ones. I devoured this book the moment it landed on my doorstep (with Wikipedia open beside me, because I'm not actually well read enough to get all the jokes without help.) I can't think of another place one could find humor about the Wakefield twins, Medea, and Miss Havisham all at once. I found the texts from John Keats, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Scarlett O'Hara particularly excellent.
 
3) This week, my book club hosted Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife, who is visiting from Melbourne! I absolutely loved her book, which is written from the perspective of two girls doing a semester-in-the-wilderness program. Every single plot point is achingly realistic, and the characters were so lovable and flawed. I particularly appreciated the very frank conversations her teenaged characters had about sex, something I rarely see in American YA literature. Fiona was a delight, and we had a fabulous time talking books with her. We also learned that she hates the wilderness and would never have attended such a program herself.
 
4) Lake Michigan is full of zombies. No, really. Weather conditions in Chicago on Halloween night were so windy and treacherous that Navy Pier's floating haunted house sank, spilling fifty-odd lovingly-crafted zombies into the water. Divers are attempting to pull them all out, but some were likely swept away and will turn up in some unsuspecting fisherman's net next summer. I can't WAIT.
 
5) Discovering comics as an adult. I've never really read them before, and I kind of feel like I've missed out, but at the same time, I love having this entire new world to explore. This week, I've read Ms. Marvel (an especially important one if you're looking for great diverse girl characters,) Rocket Girl, and the first few issues of Hawkeye. Great art, great storytelling. What's not to love?
 
6) Daniel Radcliffe. Last week, he was a guest on NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me," during which he was unexpectedly hilarious, witty, and adorable. He used the word "lovely" about fifteen times during his conversation with Peter Segal. The interview prompted me to finally watch the video of him rapping "Alphabet Aerobics" by Blackalicious on Jimmy Fallon, which he does flawlessly and in an American accent. I like him so much more now than I ever did during the Harry Potter era.  
 
7) I had a dream in which Rainbow Rowell wrote me a letter stating that I was both "the young Sherlock and Watson of our generation" and "a dedicated starfish." I don't know what is going on in my brain while I'm sleeping, but I like it.

 

Happy Friday! What's making you happy this week? Tell me on Twitter at @alison_cherry!

Friday
Nov072014

What's Making Me Happy This Week, first edition

Hello from my long-neglected blog! 

Lately, I've been completely obsessed with NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It's produced by Linda Holmes, who runs the NPR pop culture blog Monkey See, and features a bunch of NPR's other music, book, and television bloggers. Each week, they focus on one specific topic, like a single TV show or movie, and one broader topic, like unreliable narrators or nudity in film or the deaths of beloved characters. Everyone who contributes to the show is incredibly smart and entertaining, and I cannot stop listening. At the end of each episode, the whole PCHH team goes around the room and talks about what's making them happy this week. Anything is fair game: museums, comic books, new albums, internet memes, cakes they baked, etc. 
 
I've been looking for a painless way to resurrect this blog, and there's nothing I like more than sharing things I love with the rest of the internet, so I'm going to steal their format and give it a try. Here you have it: the first edition of What's Making Me Happy This Week!
 
1) Pop Culture Happy Hour. Seriously, guys. It's so good.
 
2) I received the very first finished copy of For Real this week! It looks ridiculously pretty, and I am thrilled to pieces. Behold the gorgeousness!
 
The process of creating this book was rather fraught, so it's especially gratifying that it has become a real, tangible object I can hold in my hands. It's available for preorder now, and it hits shelves December 9th!
 
3) Last night, I saw the delightful Leigh Bardugo talking about the Grisha trilogy at Books of Wonder. Leigh is one of the most entertaining and well spoken authors I have ever heard speak, so I always seek out her events with great enthusiasm. My favorite part of the evening was when she said the key to creating well rounded, flawed characters was never to write archetypes—the hero, the love interest, the villain. Instead, she encouraged us all to just write people with competing agendas, pit them against each other, and see what happens. She also stressed that killing a character is not the worst thing you can do to her; it's far worse to take away the one thing by which that character defines herself and then make her live without it. I found that very insightful.
 
4) Did you guys have spirographs when you were kids? That toy could entertain me for hours, and now, thanks to the internet, I can play with it again. Here. You're welcome.
 
5) Last night, I finished reading Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's first graphic novel, Skim, and I cannot recommend their work highly enough. I loved their second book, This One Summer, even more, and I encourage you to seek it out immediately. In addition to having a beautiful story and really great art, I loved how they depicted so many different body types and never commented on anyone's physicality at all.
 
6) My friend and critique partner Kayla Olson rescued this adorable kitten this week!
 
  
Since orange cats are almost always male, she assumed he was a boy and named him Rupert. When she took him to the vet, it quickly became apparent that Rupert is, in fact, a girl. But Kayla's three-year-old son refuses to call her anything but Rupert, so that's still her name. (She has, however, been given the middle name Marie.) I giggle to myself every time I think about furry little Rupert Marie.
 
What's making you happy this week? Tweet me at @alison_cherry! (Unfortunately, I had to turn off comments on this blog due to constant spamming.)
Tuesday
Oct212014

777 Challenge!

I've just be tagged by Lindsay Ribar to do the 777 Challenge. The rules: post seven sentences of your work, start on page seven, seven lines down. The following is from my third YA, Look Both Ways!

---

Desi and Jermaine shout hello to my dad in the kitchen as we head inside, and Sutton marches up to Skye and plants her tiny fists on her hips. “Did you know I’m adopted?” she challenges.

Skye’s eyes go all soft and gooey. “Aren’t you precious,” she breathes.

“I’m not precious. I’m Chinese.”

Jermaine leans over to kiss Marisol’s mouth, then her belly. “How’re you feeling, sweet girl?”

“Like I swallowed two bowling balls that like to punch me in the bladder. It’s delightful.”

Sutton looks up at her. “You ate a bowling ball?”

---

There you have it, folks.

I hereby tag Nicole Lisa, Kayla Olson, and Liz Whelan, because I don't feel like tagging seven people and I DO WHAT I WANT.

Monday
Jun232014

The 11 Stage of Drafting

The Magpie Phase

Deadlines loom on the horizon. You have so much work to do. But when that brand new idea pops up smack in the middle of your brain, how can you possibly ignore it? It’s JUST. SO. SHINY. You try to push it away, but it sits there in your peripheral vision all day, twinkling and sparkling like someone went at it with a Bedazzler, making it impossible to concentrate on anything else. Eventually, you have to snatch it up. You don’t want someone else to get it first, do you?

 

The Toe-Dip Phase

Writing that first chapter involves some serious apprehension. You skirt the edge of it, carefully testing the waters before you submerge yourself. Is this a good entry point? No, it’s a little too cold. Can’t start over there, or you’ll cut yourself on those jagged rocks. The waves are looking kind of big today. And is that a shark? Better try the next beach over…

 

The Honeymoon Phase

For a little while after you’ve found your starting point, drafting feels like falling in love. You constantly discover new things about your characters, and everything you learn is endlessly fascinating. You like spaghetti, oh protagonist of mine? I like spaghetti, too! Tell me more. We were obviously meant to be together.


 

The Daredevil Phase

You’ve only just embarked on your journey; you don’t need to know where you’re going yet, right? Ignore that internal GPS and follow the plot bunnies wherever they may run. Hmm, the entire chapter you’re writing may be an unnecessary tangent? Who cares! You can fix it later! There might be something cool around this hairpin turn…

 

The Act 2 Slump

Your zippy little drafting joyride has come to an end, and now you’re sitting by the side of the road with several flat tires. You think you know where you are, and you think you know where you need to go, so why can’t you get from one to the other? Oh god, nothing makes sense, and everything you’re writing is so boring and aimless. You’re bored even writing these scenes. How could anyone ever be expected to read them?

 

The Organizational Fiend Phase 

All right, that’s it. You need a map. You should’ve bought one at the gas station way back in chapter one, where you stocked up on Cheez Doodles and caffeinated beverages. Why do you always leave without a map? Now, halfway through the draft, you start to outline. You plot things out on a calendar. The colored notecards and Post-Its come out to play. You are going to whip this thing into submission if it kills you.


 

The Corporeal Possession Phase

Somehow, your main character seems to have crept inside your body, and now she’s controlling you from the inside. All your emotions are directly tied to hers, whether they relate to your own life or not. People ask you how you are, and you tell them how she is without even thinking about it. You feel angsty all the time, but you can’t tell if it’s because the writing isn’t going well or because you’re writing someone else’s angst very well.

 

The All-Nighter Phase

When you hit the climax of your story, your daily word count skyrockets beyond anything you’ve ever been able to accomplish before. Food and sleep suddenly seem like friendly suggestions you can safely ignore instead of necessities for continued life. You’re almost there, and all you want to do is write write write write write until you’re finished…

 

The Last Day of School Phase 

OMG YOU’RE DONE! YOU TYPED “THE END!” YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS AN ACTUAL MANUSCRIPT! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Time to dance like a maniac and eat ten thousand celebratory cupcakes and down a bottle of wine all in one go and then sleep for a week straight! *fires confetti cannons*


 

The Hangover Phase

In the harsh light of morning, you can see the truth: this is officially the worst thing you’ve ever written. Sure, it’s book-sized and book-shaped, but it makes absolutely no sense. Where are the themes? What is it actually about? How can a book feel too action-packed and too slow-paced at the same time? Why did you even write this piece of crap? Nobody is ever going to want to read it. And why is there a wine bottle under your pillow?

 

The Revision Phase

At least there are words on the page. Bad words are better than no words. Bad words are fixable. Time to get started.