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Thursday
Dec182014

FOR REAL blog tour link roundup!

The FOR REAL blog tour has come to an end! Did you miss any stops? Never fear! Here's a comprenehsive roundup of links!

 

How to Rewrite Your Book from Scratch in 75 Days (and Not Die): A Step-by-Step Guide, reposted by Bustle.com

 

A chat with Estelle of Rather Be Reading, in which I discuss what Claire and Miranda would likely buy each other for Christmas

 

I dream-cast FOR REAL, via YA Hollywood

 

I interview my sister, Erica, about sisterhood, via I Am A Reader

 

My very first podcast appearance, First Draft with Sarah Enni, in which I talk about traumatic revisions, New York City, stories from my former life as a lighting designer for theater, and eliminating the guilt from my writing process

 

I discuss my five favorite reality shows, via Falling for YA

 

An interview with Reader of Fictions, in which I discuss crazy marriage customs and what the plot of FOR REAL used to look like pre-revisions

 

An author spotlight via The Daily Dahlia, in which I rave about my critique partners and share a picture of me dressed as a Flashdance-themed zombie

 

An interview with Pop Goes the Reader, in which I discuss my research process, my influences, and Phil Khoegan

 

I talk about the ten most bizarre reality shows of all time, right here on this blog

 

and a bonus: my agent, Holly Root, talks about FOR REAL on her Tumblr!

 

Thank you to everyone who hosted me AND to everyone who has talked up or bought FOR REAL this past week! I so appreciate your support.

 

 

Tuesday
Dec162014

The Ten Most Bizarre Reality Shows of All Time

While I was writing my For Real, I had to think up concepts for eleven fake reality shows. (Some of my favorites: TwinCognito, in which twins switch lives and attempt to fool their friends and coworkers; Catwalk, the definitive pet fashion show; and Speed Breed, in which young women race to become pregnant.) Since I didn’t want to accidentally mock any real shows, I had to extensively research what had actually aired during reality television’s long and storied history. It’s a good thing I looked—one of my original fake shows, which involved a family fighting over someone’s estate, was indeed the concept for a real show.

Here, for your viewing pleasure (or, you know, sheer horror,) are the ten most absurd reality shows I came across in my research. These are all real, I promise.

#10: Fire Me, Please: CBS, aired for one season in 2005

Two people report to new jobs in different locations with the objective of getting fired as close to 3:00 PM as possible. The person who is sacked closest to the appointed time wins $25,000. The show is filmed with hidden cameras, and the managers are not in on the joke (though the owners of the companies are.) This was the first reality show to use a laugh track.

#9: Date My Mom: MTV, aired for three seasons beginning in 2004

Singles go on "dates" with three moms, who try to convince them to date their sons/daughters. The contestants make their decisions solely on the mothers’ descriptions, then choose a winner at a beachfront ceremony with all three mothers. Only after the winner is revealed do the daughters/sons show themselves. It has been alleged that this show was, in fact, scripted.

#8: The Singing Office: TLC, aired for one season in 2008

Office workers are “ambushed” by ex-Spice Girl Melanie Brown and ex-NSYNC member Joey Fatone and asked to participate in a singing audition. The top five singers from each office are coached and taught choreography, then compete against another office in front of a live studio audience. Competitions included Jet Blue Airlines vs. the Los Angeles Zoo and the Anaheim White House Restaurant vs. Sit ’N Sleep Mattresses.

#7: Trick My Trucker: Country Music Television, aired for one season in 2007

A personal trainer and a personal stylist give out-of shape truck-drivers makeovers with a focus on improving their physical appearances, diets, and exercise regimens. The truckers are are then tracked for several weeks, and the one who makes the most improvements to his lifestyle is rewarded with gas money. This show is a spin-off of CMT’s Trick My Truck, in which rigs are “stolen” and customized.

#6: Parking Wars: A&E, aired for seven seasons beginning in 2008

This show focuses primarily on employees of the Philadelphia Parking Authority and follows them as they ticket, tow, and “boot” cars. It also shows members of the public trying to retrieve their impounded vehicles. In later seasons, the show begins following parking officials in Detroit, Providence, Staten Island, North Hampstead, and Trenton as well. Unbelievably, a hundred and four episodes of this show aired before it was canceled.

#5: Drop! the Celebrity: ITV, aired for two episodes in 2003

Twelve British celebrities get in a plane, which ascends to 12,000 feet. Video of them is broadcast to a studio audience of one hundred people, who vote on which celebrity they’d most like to see parachute from the plane. The winning celebrity is the one who remains inside the plane longest, and £10,000 is donated to charity in his/her name. The show is most famous for the moment TV presenter and singer Cheryl Baker sprained her ankle during a bad landing. 

#4: Boys Will Be Girls: E4, aired for one season in 2006

Two band managers audition singers who have previously been members of boy bands. When the final four are selected, the twist is revealed: they must pass themselves off as a girl band called The Honeytraps. At the end of the series, the band recorded a cover of “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” by A Flock of Seagulls. The single was never sold in stores but did fairly well on the British download charts the month it was released.

#3: The Baby Borrowers: NBC, aired for one season in 2008

Couples between the ages of eighteen and twenty care for a baby, then a toddler, then a pre-teen, then a teenager, and finally an elderly person (which makes no sense, given the name.) Each caregiving session lasts three days. The parents of the young children monitor the surrogate parents via video and are allowed to step in if the contestants appear to need assistance. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry formally requested that NBC cancel this show, as they feared it would traumatize the young children involved.

#2: Chains of Love: UPN, aired for one season in 2001

Four people are literally chained by the wrists to one person of the opposite sex for four days, including when they are sleeping. One person is eliminated at a time, and the man/woman in charge decides how much money the eliminated person should receive from the $10,000 pot. At the end, the man/woman in charge can opt to continue dating the winner (unchained) or send him/her away and keep the remaining money. Contestants are unchained only to change clothes and use the bathroom. 

#1: Bridalplasty: E!, aired for one season in 2010

Twelve brides-to-be and already-married women make plastic surgery wish lists. Each week, the winner of a wedding-themed challenge receives one surgery from her list, and one bride is eliminated. The winner receives her dream wedding and her entire plastic surgery wish list. Her husband-to-be does not see her new look until their wedding day. The show included an “Exclusive Injectables Party,” hosted by plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow, who also performed all the procedures on the show.

 

Tuesday
Dec092014

What's Making Me Happy This Week, fourth edition

It's been a while since I've posted a What's Making Me Happy This Week—the world has been so weird and sad and incomprehensible lately that all I've wanted to do is bang my head against the wall and yell, "OMG, NEWS, WHY MUST YOU SUCK SO MUCH?" But this is the week FOR REAL became a real book people can actually BUY, which is extremely happy-making, so it seems like a good time to get back on track. Here are some other things that have been making me happy these past few weeks:

1) Big Hero 6. Much like Frozen, the trailer for this movie looked incredibly stupid, and I wasn't planning to see it until Pop Culture Happy Hour raved about it. But those NPR pop culture geeks have excellent taste, so I decided to give it a shot, and I am so glad I did. It's clever, it's action-packed, the animation is amazing, and it has such a big heart. I cried like six times during it. ("But Alison," you say, "you cry during every animated movie." Well, yes. You're not wrong. But still.) It was a thoroughly delightful experience all the way around, and I highly recommend it for kids and grownups alike, especially ones who like robots.
 
2) Jane the Virgin, which has also surprised me with its excellence! I totally wrote this off after seeing the posters, but so many people I trust were talking about it that I gave it a try. The premise is absolutely ridiculous—it's about 24-year-old virgin who ends up pregnant due to an error made by a distracted gynecologist. But the show turned out to be hilarious, smart, goofy, and really sweet. Jane is so relatable and flawed, and she acts (and looks!) like a real person, which I so appreciate. And only TWO of the main characters are white, which is pretty amazing for a show on the CW. I'll be watching the rest of the season eagerly.
 
3) Margaret Atwood. Margaret's 75th birthday was last week, and I went to an event in her honor. Erin Morgenstern and Chuck Wendig read things they're written in her honor, Lev Grossman read a section of The Handmaid's Tale, and then Neil Gaiman interviewed Margaret. It was extremely strange, at times—they went on this long tangent about a machine that enables long-distance kissing and didn't actually talk about writing very much—but it was pretty delightful just to be in the same room at someone who has been one of my literary idols since high school. At the end, we all sang happy birthday to her. I'm also in the middle of reading her new short story collection, Stone Mattress. One of my friends picked it up the other day, read the first sentence, and shouted, "Oh, screw you, Margaret Atwood, why do you have to be so GOOD?" Yup. That pretty much sums it up.
 
4) Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and a Half, did a long interview on Marc Maron's podcast, WTF, and it was extremely interesting. Allie has been really open about her struggles with anxiety and depression, but this was possible the most honest interview I've ever heard about anything. I strongly urge you to check it out, whether or not you struggle with those issues yourself. (Skip the first 20 minutes—Allie's not in those.)
 
5) This past week, I got to go to two events for My True Love Gave to Me, the holiday-themed anthology edited by the amazing Stephanie Perkins. (They were on the same day, back to back. I'm kind of a fan.) Holly Black wore a Krampus sweater and ranted about how mistletoe is parasitic. David Levithan asked whether a turtle dove was a bird with a shell on it. Gayle Forman wore a blinking Christmas sweater AND blinking earrings. I finally got to meet Kelly Link, who's been one of my favorite authors for years and years. Everyone signed my book. It was delightful. Plus, I got to spend the whole rest of the day at the Met Museum with Myra McEntire, a contributor to the anthology and my most excellent friend. She was so excited about the Byzantine Art I thought her head was going to explode.
 
6) I'm a huge fan of Sarah Enni's podcast, First Draft, which consists of long-form interviews with middle grade and YA authors. And a couple weeks ago, Sarah came to my apartment to interview me! I felt like a total celebrity. She asks such good questions and is so good at putting her subjects at ease, and the 90 minutes we spent talking flew by. My cats also loved her and purred on her lap the entire time—you can hear them in the recording. I'll post a link to my interview as soon as it goes live!
 
7) The Least Wanted Song. Back in 2009, This American Life interviewed Dave Soldier, a composer who polled the public about what they liked most and least in a song, and then they created the "most-wanted" and "least-wanted" songs based on their data. I just rediscovered this, and every time I hear the least-wanted song, I laugh until I cry. Start listening around 14:30. You will not regret it. 
 
And last but not least...
8) FOR REAL came out on Tuesday! I'm very excited for my launch party tonight at BookCourt in Brooklyn. Come if you're in the area! If not, you can buy the book here, here, or here. Thanks for all your support!
Friday
Dec052014

Eight (more) things I've learned about publishing since I got published

Last year, right after RED came out, I wrote this post about the nine things I wish I'd known about publishing before I got published. I stumbled across it the other day, and I still stand by everything I said then. But I've had all kinds of new experiences during this past year in the trenches, and it turns out I might be the teeniest bit wiser now than I was last November. So here are eight more things I've learned about publishing since I became a published author.
 
1) Nope, it still hasn't gotten easier. 
I'm drafting my seventh novel now, and I still get scared every single time I sit down to write. Despite loads of evidence to the contrary, part of me always feels like this will be the day I forget how to write, that the creative well dries up for good. The process of creating a story is so mysterious—I've never really understood how or why ideas come to me, and if I don't have an idea, there's no magical series of buttons I can push to make one appear. That's terrifying to me. I also have this theory that as your writing improves, it'll seem to you as if it's getting worse and worse. It's not—it's just that you're able to see your mistakes much faster and with more acuity than you used to. This is a really good thing in the long run, but it makes it way harder to churn out that crappy first draft. Sometimes I long for the days I was a terrible writer and thought everything I did was amazing.
 
2) Life is much much better if you don't google yourself. 
It's one thing to read your trade reviews or the nice reviews bloggers send you. But setting up a Google alert for your name or scouring the internet for everything everyone is saying about you can only end in disaster. Last year, my new year's resolution was not to Google myself ever; if I did, I was not allowed to eat anything with sugar in it for 24 hours. Every time I wanted to type my name into that search bar, it forced me to evaluate whether I'd rather have a pity party or a cookie. And you all know how I feel about cookies. (I haven't Googled myself even once since last December. I am a happier person for it.)
 
3) The weeks leading up to your second book's release are really, really different from your first.
I spent the entire month leading up to RED's release worrying, making to-do lists, stress-eating, and scouring the internet for reviews. This time around has been... a little different. Last night I was leaving an event with a friend, and I asked her, "When will I see you next?"
"Next week!" she said.
"Oh god, is book club that soon?" I said. "I better read the book."
"Um, no," she said. "YOUR LAUNCH PARTY is next week." 
It was the third time I'd made that mistake that day. This time, I'm not nervous people won't respond well to my book. I'm worried I won't remember to show up at my own party.
 
4) Eyes on your own paper.
This is a really difficult one. Every day, the internet is full of people sharing their new deals and good reviews and foreign rights and award nominations. December's the hardest month for this, because so many people write "best books of the year" lists, and everyone wants to share which ones they're on. It took me along time to figure out that that stuff doesn't affect me or my career. Someone else's success won't stop me from being successful. A best-of list won't make me successful. Everyone's career trajectory is different; read a few dozen "how I got my agent" stories if you need a reminder. Literally everything in publishing is out of your control except the words you write. Close that disappointing best-of list and type.
 
5) Taking breaks to refill the well is part of the process and should be counted as work. 
This is definitely the hardest one for me to remember. Since I started writing full-time, I feel like I'm slacking off if I don't write every single day—it's my job, and I have to do my job, right? But writing isn't the same as selling real estate or de-bugging code or campaigning for a politician or drawing a blueprint. Those things are self-contained; you can do them even if you feel really uninspired. Writing fiction requires that you go do other stuff sometimes so you have something to write about. There's only so much output your brain can give if you're not putting anything in. See movies. Go to lectures and museums. Watch plays and dance performances and operas. Read books you didn't write. Talk to other humans. Fill yourself up with other people's stories. It doesn't feel like work, but it's work.
 
6) Be gentle with yourself. 
Being a full-time writer means working for yourself, and this is fabulous in lots of ways. You can work on your own schedule. You don't have to get dressed or commute or make small-talk around the water cooler in order to do your job. For many (most?) of us, not having to interact with other humans is a huge plus. But that also means there's nobody sitting there in the next cubicle, noticing you look frazzled and exhausted and suggesting that maybe it's time for a coffee break or a mental health day. Your work is incredibly important, but it's never more important than your sanity. When nobody else is around to remind you of that, you have to remember to do it yourself. Sometimes I think of my brain as a child I need to care for. I need to make it do the unpleasant tasks, like eating its vegetables and cleaning its room, but sometimes it needs to be snuggled and rewarded, too. 
 
7) Whatever you're experiencing, you're not the only one.
First book isn't selling well? Just got an edit letter that suggests you rewrite your manuscript from scratch? Haven't felt inspired for months and feel like you might never write again? Got an awful Kirkus review? I guarantee there are tons of other writers going through the same thing today. YA authors excel at being honest about their process and their struggles, and there are probably ten blog posts out there that'll help you feel less alone. Chances are one of your friends has gone through the same thing or is going through it right now. Ask for help. We're here.
 
8) Look up. Pay attention to the world around you. 
Seriously, have you seen how weird the world is? Stories are everywhere, all the time. Catch them.

 

 

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!