April 30, 2007

Damn and Dam: Part the First

Damn is, I realized that I have about 28 days until I get my new color author photo taken by this screaming genius named Gilbert in NYC when I go up there for BEA and the Warner LOOK WE CHANGED OUR NAME TO GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING Party and OH my Best Beloveds….I am not camera ready.

We are not going to discuss the exact NUMBER of pounds I gained during the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul I had over the last year or so --- a brief recap: TGWSS – an ambitious project to begin with -- was kicking my butt, my gramma died, these things got tied up together in Very Bad ways…Yeah. So. ANYWAY. TGWSS decided to come together in a rather lovely and unexpected fashion, and I am a person of faith so death and the idea of death is not permanently disconcerting. In short, Tea Time ended. I am back in my old clothes thanks to frenetic working out, but just…barely. Yesterday I struggled into my old jeans and sat in church feeling PROUD and PLEASED and like my spleen was being crushed. Before BEA, I want those stinkin’ jeans to be my BAGGY jeans, okay? OKAY! SO!

My friend Lydia has gone and FOOLISHLY befriended a WILD EYED COLON-OBSESSED DIETICIAN who does all these terrible cleansing things to herself involving eating steam and wrapping herself in cultured seaweed paste– wait – maybe I have that backwards, who can tell, it’s all so insane and involves a higher level of admitting one HAS a colon than I care to indulge in. Colons are yucky. They should be neither seen nor heard. BUT this dietician friend prances around eating yeast and with Senna tea and she is slim as a ribbon and has skin that glows with the wattage of one thousand baby butt cheeks. So. There may be something to it, is all I am saying.

I am therefore on The Crazy Hippie TREE-BARK-IS-DELICIOUS Whole Body Cleansing Ritual Tea Fest and Hug-In Life Plan. (Life Plan is a California word that I think means “diet”) Just for the next seven days. To see how it goes. If after seven days my jeans are looser and my skin looks like it has met the word Luminous in passing, I will go another seven.

Telling you I am on this diet should in NO WAY be taken as an admission that I care about or wish to discuss my colon. Or yours. Or the concept of the colon in general. I EMPHATICALLY DO NOT. I am not even admitting that I HAVE a colon, got it? I am just cleansing my…inner child. Or something. My friend The Google assures me this is actually a pretty healthy eating plan---the bulk of it being raw fruits and veggies, NO animal fats, but I have a liberal hand with the olive oil and am eating wild caught fish and VERY whole grains. SUPER whole. Raw oats, Spelt bread, whole grain couscous and Crazy Bible Pasta.

Crazy Bible Pasta is a real true product, and I am really for true eating it, too. REALLY. IN MY MOUTH I am eating it. I am supposed to eat a fermented food, like MISO, but you find Miso in rural Georgia. I DARE YOU. Life Plan also suggested YOGURT as a fermented food, which I MUST have, Life Plan says, to replace my… Acidodolphins? Apparently my…inner child needs Acidoldrummy things to thrive, but I would seriously rather take a railroad spike through the eye than eat yogurt. Just the SMELL of it on my children’s breath sometimes makes me gag. So I am taking the acido-si-dos in convenient PILL form.

DIGRESSION: I pointed out to The Google that WINE is a fermented food, and The Google said, “Wine does not have acidungies, and you can’t have any in this Life Plan, so shut it.” Then The Google said, without being asked, “PS, Vodka doesn’t have acido-whoosits EITHER,” so now me and The Google, we are not speaking.

BAH – I have run out of time for DAM I spent so much time on DAMN. BOO! I will Dam you all tomorrow, yes? And the first one who raises the spectre of the PINK SOCKS unto me KNOWING I haven’t had chocolate OR wine in almost 30 hours now will be tied down and forced to eat Crazy Bible Pasta.

I TOLD you it was a really for true product! Skeptical Sally.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:44 AM | Comments (26)

April 25, 2007

3Q with Lauren Barnholdt (and Then Maisy Jane Explains The Nature of God. You're Welcome)

FTK reg Nienke sent me this ---


Man! I have been “cat busy” all week, doing absolutely NOTHING really, feeling about as productive as if I had scheduled an hour for waving a pink sock flag off my toes. Every second it seems like I am doing something and yet…nothing gets done.

While I try to ACTUALLY get a few things off my TO DO LIST --- which has grown so green and mossy and unwieldy and vast I suspect it is gearing up to become sentient---- I will let Lauren Barnholdt
talk to you about THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY! which us launching MIX! Simon and Schuster’s new imprint for tweens. Tweens, for those not in the know, is what they call “pre-teens” these days. Devon, the heroine, is thirteen…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

While Devon Delaney was living with her grandmother for the summer, she told her "summer friend," Lexi, that she was really popular back home and dating Jared Bentley, only the most popular guy at school. Harmless lies, right? Wrong. Not when Lexi is standing at the front of Devon's class, having just moved to Devon's town. Uh-oh. Devon knows there's only one way to handle this -- she'll just have to become popular! But it seems the more Devon tries to keep up her "image," the more things go wrong. It all has Devon wondering -- who is the real Devon Delaney?

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

LB: Honestly, I feel like every writer influences my work. There’s nothing that inspires me more than going into a bookstore and just seeing all the books, and thinking about how someone sat down to write that book. It motivates me to get back to the computer.

JJ: I know you blog, too. Why do you blog, and does it feed you or take energy from you?

LB: I think it feeds me, definitely. I love blogging. I like the chance it gives me to interact with other writers and readers, since sometimes it gets lonely being a writer. Plus, when embarrassing and humiliating things happen to me (kind of a lot), I’m always like, at least I can blog about this!

JJ: Have you ever lied about something like you character does in THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY?

LB: Okay, fine. Time to come clean. When my friends and I were in junior high, we were dating this group of guys from another school. So we made it seem like we were super popular at our school, and that all the boys wanted us. Which wasn’t even close to being true. One night some of the guys we lied to played basketball against some of the boys from our school who supposedly wanted us, and I just kept thinking, God, I hope none of them talk. And that was the inspiration for THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY. Only, unlike in my situation, poor Devon’s lies catch up with her.

Thanks, Lauren!

Lastly, I must stop making pink sock puppets and recount a conversation Himself had with Maisy yesterday. Miss Mais-O-May thinks her life is a musical... At any moment, if something of note occurs, Maisy will burst into narrative song while arabesque-ing and pirouetting about. It’s VERY gypsy.

Like just today she crept into my office and drooped by my chair and sang this dirge-like hymn:

OH IT IS VERY SAD AND THE SUN IS NOT OUT TODAY FOR ME!” <--- actual transcribed lyrics.

Sometimes she sings about pretends she is having, like the other day she sang,


So anyway. Scott was driving her about and Maisy was singing to herself about the nature of God:

Scott: Maisy? How do you know God is a boy?
Maisy: *in the tone of a person explaining something very simple to a creature who is clearly not too bright* Because DAD! At the end of our prayers, we say aMEN. We don’t say aWOMEN!

HA! Scott had no way to rebut this bit of pre-K wisdom, so it is official. God is a boy. With a good imagination.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:13 PM | Comments (17)

April 23, 2007

Someone Is Grumpy

It’s not me. Sample weekend dialog, Sunday, 8AM:

Me: Morning! ….Aw! Do you hear that? Outside? It’s the little finches. I love the little finches.
Him: Why?
Me: *boggles* Who DOESN’T love the little finches?
Him: Me.
Me: Oh shush, you do too.
Him: I do not love the little finches.
Me: But you have to! They are so round and dear, like twirpy little puffballs, and they come hippy-hopping up and put their heads to one side and say, ‘Might I have a crumb?’
Him: And me without my tennis racket.

Very very cantankerous we are, those of us who are in our forties. I am in my thirties, you understand, so the “we” is a courtesy. *beatific smile*

MEANWHILE, since I am still so young and fresh--- practically DEWEY---I don’t understand why I am going this AM to get a mammogram. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s called a baseline mammogram, a good thing to do while you are a nubile thirty-something in the prime of your fertility and vigor (Shut. Up.) When you start your regular mammograms (which should happen the same year you begin to hate perfectly darling little birdies) they will have something to compare, and this can REALLY help with early detection breast cancer. I overshare because I care. Get a mammogram.

I have a severalthings for SHOW AND TELL but I have to go put a delicate portion of my anatomy into a vice now, tra la, so I will get to it as the week progresses. BUT! I did want to show you the REAL TGWSS cover --- footless, as you can see. Also the colors are a little different---she took out the REDDISH bits, which, yay. I heart sparkle diamond this cover. Here’s the amazon version for compare/contrast.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:59 AM | Comments (30)

April 19, 2007

3 Questions with Paula Hyman (and more Psychic Amazon Jackson Books)

In So Not The Drama, Paula Hyman introduces readers ages 11+ to bright-eyed optimist Mina Mooney, a high school freshman with nothing more on her mind than climbing the popularity ladder, until a sociology experiment to rid the world – or at least Del Rio Bay High School – of prejudice backfires. The project causes a rift between Mina and her best friend, Lizzie and sends Mina on a journey of exploration that’s both funny and eye-opening.

Booklist calls it a “Contemporary friendship story, which revels in rich diversity of race, color and class,” and Publisher;s Weekly says, “Readers will like the genuine dialogue.”

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

PH: I dedicated So Not The Drama to three people, my two daughters and one of my best friends, Eddie Sellman. I dedicated it to my girls because this series is my gift to them. I grew up without a series depicting African American suburbanites. And though that never ever stopped me from reading voraciously, as a mom it bothered me that the void still existed some twenty years later. So this is for my girls, may the void in teen lit I experienced be dead and buried forever and ever amen.

I dedicated it to Big Ed because he and I rolled in the same clique in high school. We were a core of best friends who had some of the greatest times – good, bad, ugly. Right around the time my final mss was due, Big Ed passed away. It was the first time I’d lost one of my closest friends. Since the book is about a close-knit group of friends, it was fitting that I honor one of my own dear friendships by dedicating it to him. After all, our high school years was an inspiration for the Del Rio Bay Clique.

JJ: This book is the start of a series… How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book? Did you always plan for it to be a series, and if so, did you structure the first book differently, knowing another would follow?

PH: I’d always planned for So Not The Drama to be part of a series. I actually wrote the second in the series, directly after the first. I had two other storylines in mind, as well. But I didn’t flesh them out because my focus was on getting the first book sold.

Right now, there are a total of five books planned for the series. I don’t want this to be an open-ended series. Right before I go to write book #5 I’m going to look at the series’ future and decide on a number. I don’t want my characters to overstay their welcome. Unofficially, I’d like to take them through their senior year. So there’s the possibility of having two books per year – you know, to cover fall and spring semesters. So if that’s the case, there would be nine books total.

Hey, I think I just kind of committed myself to a close-ended series of nine books! Let’s see if my publisher will go along for the ride.

I was at the SCBWI Mid-winter in ’06 and Francine Pascal mentioned there was a Sweet Valley High reunion of sorts planned, showing her characters as adults. That sounded interesting. But…not sure my mind is going there. I’ve been asked if I’d consider doing something like that. But it’s way too early to know if that’s in the cards.

When it comes to keeping the timeline and world straight and fresh, I’ll admit, it’s a challenge for me. For being such a planner, I am horrible with wrangling paperwork. It’s why I don’t outline stuff. I get too excited and want to jump right in!

I have an author’s wish list. It consists of all the things that would make my life as a writer easier. At the top is a comprehensive binder detailing the world I’ve created. Man, that would make my life sweet! But when I sit down to start it, I immediately grow bored with it. Writing is so much more fun than book housekeeping. So I use the guide provided by my Copy Editor. It’s a big help. What’s missing are those little details about a character that are hard to retain when you’re writing about so many people. My cast is six-strong. And even though everyone isn’t the focal point each book, they’re all playing some part each time. It’s exhausting trying to remember who looks like what, or their mannerisms.

Seriously, I need an intern. If anyone would like to intern with an author who is a bit scatter-brained, please look me up!

JJ: You were popular in high school. So. Um. What was THAT like?

You know, I endure a lot of “cheerleader/popularity” bashing. I’ve been in countless conversations with other adults and when the conversation gets around to high school experience it seems that someone always utters this, with a roll of their eyes “well, I wasn’t a cheerleader or in the popular crowd.” And of course popular has air quotes around it.
I always feel like sticking my head in the sand since I was a cheerleader and was popular. It’s like if you were either of these things you were automatically a huge, rhymes with witch. And that wasn’t the case, for me. I look back on my high school years fondly. Being popular wasn’t necessarily who I was or what I labeled myself. It was just the way other people viewed me.
I had a group of very close friends and my world revolved around them. But I was also very active in high school – so my life was full and I was well-known because I was so active. I guess that’s what popularity is, being well-known. So that’s why I can say I was popular. But I wasn’t a mean girl type and being popular wasn’t a priority.

What I’ve tried to do with my main character in So Not the Drama is make her a very involved student, which puts her in the mix of a lot of people. So by sheer volume of people she interacts with through cheerleading, track, writing for the school paper etc…she’s “popular.” But she’s also quite obsessed with being more popular.

I’m trying to show that popularity is relative and that for those people who are “ultra” popular they’re nothing more than slaves to that status – very fake, always on stage people. My MC, on the other hand, isn’t like that. Despite realizing others are like that, she still wants that ultra pop status.

Contrary to popular belief (even my mom thinks so), So Not The Drama is NOT autobiographical. I just wrote what I thought would be fun, a peek inside the various high school circles. For every similarity I share with my MC, we’re also quite different. And most of the experiences in the book are things I wished I could have done as a teen.


IN OTHER NEWS, The fantastical DEB R has “found” another book Psychic Amazon has decided I should write…


Okay, look, this is a long standing FTK in joke… here is the thing about the pink socks---first you have to read the entry where the WHOLE PINK SOCKS THING BEGAN.

Quite a cliff hanger ending, eh? Aren’t you breathless, I mean BREATHLESS!!! to know what happened next? No? Me neither. So the next day I had a 3 questions interview, and I said, “I am not going to finish my highly anticipated thrilling sock epic today -- PUT DOWN THE KNIFE! IT IS OKAY! THERE ARE OTHER PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS TO LIVE! I shall defer the rest of the story about my SOCKS (what is WRONG with me???) because a Merciful God has declared it is time for 3 questions…” etc etc. Upshot: I didn’t finish the sock story.

The NEXT day, my blog turned one year old, and I forgot about the socks as I did a birthday post, and the next post I had links and general housekeeping to do, and then gods was about to come out and I had to panic and flail, THEN I got stomach flu (and who wouldn’t pause to blog THAT?) and then I took an interesting trip to Nashville and Maisy fell in love with a 3 year old boy she called AYEX (all more blogworthy topics than SOCKS, fer cryin’ cats) and and and and life kept happening, life AFTER pink socks, until I FORGOT what happened with the socks that made me want to write an entry. All I remember is, I wore pink socks skating. Which, really, I had covered that already.

The regs here do not accept that. The Pink Socks have become the Shangri-La of blog entries, a lovely and coveted thing, transcendent but never attainable, the theoretical perfect blog entry that would end all blogging forever should its Socratic Cave perfections ever become manifest in the world. Now ANY time I say “Oh I have to go, I will finish this tomorrow,” the unforgiving Cult of Sock rises and says YOU WILL SO TOTALLY SHAFT US ON THIS! WE KNOW IT!

Okay, first of all, SINCE the socks, I have MULTIPLE times told stories in halves and always (um, almost) remembered to finish. SECOND! I suspect Sock Part Deux was something dumb, just me planning to make a molehill out of a lumpy pebble, and thirdiferously, I WOULD blog it, I REALLY WOULD, I swear because you KNOW you are my Best Beloveds and I would not deny you… but I have NO IDEA what happened.

Still, let’s look at the close-up. I like how Deb, no doubt feeling vengeful about the never-to-be-told sock story, is letting me set my own hair on fire...Grace in motion, I am, even in FICTION.


Posted by joshilyn at 8:09 AM | Comments (14)

April 18, 2007

In Which I Veer Off Sideways Midpost and Upset Myself. Sorry.

So remember when I was saying the folks at Amazon were probably going to start predicting the books I SHOULD write as opposed to just listing ones that are currently still a pile of homophone error covered papers corrected in purple pencil and sitting on the floor of my copyeditor’s office? WELL! According to CAPTAIN RAY
in the comments, this is already happening. Look what he found for sale!

This appears to be a picture book, but THANK GOD, there are no actual pictures. YARG I gave myself the wig just saying “There are no pictures.” I feel suddenly and profoundly grateful to the good Lord for letting me go over and drink Europe in the 80’s, before every teenager in America had a camera in his cell phone. SO, I reiterate, there are mercifully NO PICTURES, but if you are NEW to FTK and don’t know the for true Boobs Stuck Under the Bed in Paris story that inspired Ray to um…”find” this Amazon page, then you can read it here


In other cheerful news---and Oh my Best Beloveds, I am looking HARD for cheerful news this week, let me tell you. I hate randomness! I HATE RANDOMNESS! I can’t understand or process or even bear to turn on my television lest I see that ASS Wolf Blitzer playing GUNSHOT SOUNDS to “identify the caliber weapon” on camera when A) HELLO, we know the caliber as the *&#^@_# weapon was found, and B) That Ass Wolf Blitzer (forever more to be known as TAWB) could just as easily let the expert listen OFF camera and say whether or not it sounds like the same weapon was used in the earlier shootings. But that would mean he would miss the chance to LURIDLY broadcast exactly what it sounds like when thirty-three fresh lives, barely in bud, are snuffed out by madness or evil or both. I am sure the families appreciate having the CORRECT and EXACT sounds to haunt their dreams, Wolf. You ASS.

GAH I wasn’t going to talk about it. Oops. Then I did. There’s nothing to be done but keep the TV off and pray and get angry at TAWB. It’s easier and more pleasant to revile Wolf Blitzer than it is to think about how large and random and fierce the world is, the same world my children go scampering through, oblivious and hopeful and in peril. There is no vaccination against random evil, against trucks driving too fast through our neighborhood, against childhood leukemia like our lovely babysitter Katherine is fighting, against bombs and bullets and comets, against the world. And yet I loose my children into it each day.

You know what?

I’ll tell you cheerful news tomorrow. Right now, I am going to go play darts with my new Wolf Blitzer board and then pray.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:40 AM | Comments (24)

April 15, 2007

Is That a New Dress?

Look! The scrutiating beautiful Jill James came through with mighty colors and gerberas and sneaky neon danger wasps and made it all FANCY around here. Thank you very much for all your suggestions! Jill and I read them while we brainstormed about how we could make the spice in my “sugar and spice and everything nice” be hot pepper instead of cinnamon, and your input was VERY helpful. I think she caught the flavor of it. We should BAKE her something.

The splash page is not done yet (or rather, I am not sure if I will have one or what it will be….) BUT! Go look around, okay? Go look at my bio page that you see linked to the left and see what you think of the new site!!! I am excited about it.

THE BAD --- I had to use my color author photo, which I am not crazy about, because the black and white looked so GHOSTLY next to all the vibrant-ness of the new site’s colors. In this one , though, I look a LEETLE like you could lift all my hair off in a single piece. This Plastic-helmet look is what happens when I am allowed to dry my own hair. Most days, I stick it in a ponytail and call it done, and for author photos, I usually have someone who understands hair fuss with it. For this one, I made the terrible mistake of doing it myself, and I used PRODUCTS. A LOT of products, apparently. I think I look like a SLIGHTLY dyspeptic legacy member of the junior league. Like I am about to say, “HEY! I HAVE A REALLY SUPER GREAT SPLIT PEA SOUP RECIPE FOR THE COOKBOOK, GIRLS!”

Mercifully, I am getting a new color photo taken in May when I am up in NYC for BEA, so that one won’t last. I may even have to switch it out for one Scott took. Not sure I can stand my hair…

Also---Amazon.com SOMEHOW got an early version of the TGWISS cover.
It is not EXACTLY how the cover will look, but it is close-- – I think it’s actually an early version of the cover than Anne Twomey has now refined to her usual perfection…How Amazon got it is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and served with conundrum flavored dipping sauce.

Strange as it seems, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING is available for pre-order EVEN THOUGH the actual book is 426 pieces of paper that are even as we speak being folded, spindled, and mutilated by the correcting purple pencil of my copy editor. It has not even been TYPE SET yet, but you can BUY it in the hopes that it WILL be typeset soon and printed up and bound. OR perhaps they intend to break into my copyeditor’s house and Xerox you a quick copy? Amazon has been getting stuff up earlier and earlier… Pretty soon they will have order pages for books up that I have not actually written yet. And a few years after that, they will have pages where you can order the books they think I OUGHT to write next.

Life is Weird, eh?

Posted by joshilyn at 4:43 PM | Comments (35)

April 12, 2007

Three Questions with Sara Rossett

Welcome back Sara Rossett,
writer of a series of cozy mysteries about a military wife who can’t seem to stay out of trouble of the dead-bodies-popping-up variety. I spent the first half of my childhood on military bases---Daddy was Army---so I’ve got a special interest in this series and am delighted to welcome Sara back to talk about the second book. I interviewed her about Moving is Murderlast year.

The latest, StayingHome is a Killer follows Ellie Avery as she strives to balance motherhood, marriage, and her professional organizing business, but her ordered world is thrown into disarray when a fellow military spouse’s death looks more like murder than suicide. Toss in her husband’s deployment and her daughter’s separation anxiety, and Ellie has to keep the home fires burning as she sort clues from chaos and proves that home is not for killers.

Publisher’s Weekly says, “The author, also the wife of an air force pilot, includes practical tips for organizing closets, but the novel's most valuable insight is its window into women's lives on a military base.”


JJ: So, you've weathered the release of your debut novel with grace and aplomb---How is the publication of a second novel different?

SR: I was writing the third book and going down to the deadline with it, so I didn’t have nearly the same amount of time to promote the second book before its release. The deadline for book # 3 fell three days before the release date of my second book, so I felt way behind the power curve for Staying Home is a Killer.

Fortunately, I was able to do a lot of promoting with the first book, so a good bit of the promotion stuff was already in place. I only had to update press releases instead of writing them from scratch. I did feel more comfortable because it was my second time through the process. I knew what to expect for copyedits and uncorrected proofs. There wasn’t quite that same level of giddiness that came with the first book, but I’m still very excited to have another book out and I actually think the second book is stronger than the first.

JJ: How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book?

SR: I have to write down a timeline to keep all the dates straight. Last summer I had to work up outlines for the next three books in the series and I would have gone crazy without the long timeline that noted when people were born, when they married, and when certain books are set. I also rough out a calendar for each book so that I know what happens on each day. The first book, Moving is Murder, took place over about four weeks. Staying Home is a Killer, the second book, was a bit shorter, but I still needed a calendar for the three week storyline. I’ve just completed the third book, Getting Away is Dangerous, and it clocked in at one week.

Since my characters move every so often (Ellie is a military spouse) that helps to keep the story fresh with new settings. The fact that Ellie’s a mom helps, too, because no matter what stage of life your kids are in there are always new challenges to face and that means Ellie has to keep growing and changing as her family changes. It’s a fine line. I want to welcome a reader back into a world they love, but I can’t let that world get stagnant or boring because then the reader would lose interest. I’m still working on that balance!

JJ: Tell us about your experiences with military deployments.

SR: A large part of Staying Home is a Killer explores what Ellie’s life is like when her husband is unexpectedly deployed. I’ve been in that situation many times. The unknown is tough to deal with. Staying home when your spouse deploys really is a killer. You have to deal with loneliness and worry. Then there’s the added responsibility. Overnight you go from being a couple to handling everything on your own—the kids, the bills, and the house. Everything falls on you. Even though it’s a fictional story, I tried to accurately portray the emotional roller coaster of a deployment in Staying Home is a Killer and show that the loneliness, the frustration, and the worry are all normal.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:32 AM | Comments (4)

April 10, 2007

One of These Stories is Probably True

Note: I decided to close comments on this entry. Please feel free to email.

1) My grandmother collected owls. Or rather, she once said she liked owls, and so people began collecting owls for her. Some of glass, some of brass, some of stone and some pewter, some were butt ugly but others were cuter. WOAH! I think I just accidentally channeled the Seuss. Anyway…she had owls. Big ones acted as book ends, little ones peered out of every nook and cranny in the shelf space. She had plush stuffed ones and one big poured plaster one that sat in a corner of the den.

One Christmas I gave her an owl. I can’t picture it. No idea what kind. I bet it was small and cheap as I was small (maybe 8 or 9) and poor. She tucked it sourly on a shelf next to several other owls, and she turned and said to me, quietly, so no one else could here, “I’ve come to hate owls. Never tell people you collect something. They’ll flood you. It will be an easy way to get you a thing without them having to think about you. And you’ll come to hate it.”

2) My grandmother collected owls. Or rather, she once said she liked owls, and so people began collecting owls for her.

I never gave her one. If I had, I think I would remember what it looked like. Once I asked her why she had so dern many, and she said to me, quietly, as if we were co-conspirators, “I made the mistake of telling people I liked them, once. Never tell people you collect something. They’ll flood you. It will be an easy way to get you a thing without them having to think about you. And you’ll come to hate it.”

I don’t know which story is true; my grandmother and I had a complicated relationship, and both versions are very possible. I KNOW she came to hate owls and I know she told me not to tell anyone I collected things. I may have ADDED the PERSONAL owl to the memory to vilify her when I was angry with her. I may have retold it to myself WITHOUT the owl I gave her so it would not hurt.

I have no way to know which is correct---Memory is mutable and subjective. I can clearly remember it both ways. Years later, I’d remember her words when people started collecting pigs for me. I have SCADS of pigs, and some are displayed around my house and are special to me…

---My salt and Pepper Pigger shakers from Scott, back when we were “just friends, Mom, GAWD, it’s SO not like that…”

---The stone pig from my sister in law, the one with the hair bow and the smooth back that Baby Maisy loved to pet and pet.

---The buxom six breasted pig struggling into a bra, a remembrance from a lost friend I am still grieving.

---The wedding cake pigs my mother gave me when I got engaged, and the pig in the diaper by the same artist that came when I told her Scott and I were knocked up.

---The evil black wrought iron pig, also from my sister in law, that had to be kept in a drawer for YEARS because my two year old son would wake up crying, THE BACK PIG IS EAT ME LEG! THE BACK PIG IS CHASE!
FINALLY I figured out it he was dreaming about that wrought iron fireplace pig. I offered to throw it away, and that freaked Sam out – like I would be LETTING IT LOOSE. SO. I had him watch me put it in drawer and pile things on so the pig could not get out. The nightmares eased up, but ALWAYS, on bad dream nights, that pig was a factor. He haunted Sam.
One day, when Sam was newly 7, I said, “Let’s get that pig out of the drawer.”
“NO!!!!!!!!!’ Sam said.
“Yes,” I said.
I opened the drawer and unearthed the pig, and he sidled over, very cautious and slow. Finally he braced his spine and peered in.
There was a pause, and he said, “Oh… I don’t think that’s the right pig.”
I said, “That’s the black pig, Sam.”
He shrugged and said, “Really? That’s not how I remember that pig being.”
He sauntered off, Mr. Big Man, and he never dreamed that BACK PIG IS EAT MY LEG again.

--My first pig, an ugly blown glass thing, old and faceless because all his paint had worn away. I stole him from my grandmother’s shed a few years after she told me not to collect things. I put him in my room and announced to everyone that I liked pigs, a lot, and that I would be collecting them, thank you.

Now most of my pigs are in a box in the basement, and I hate to get pigs. More than that, however, I hate that my grandmother was right.

To say that my grandmother and I had a complicated relationship is SUCH understatement---OH! Such understatement. She came out of a kind of poverty that still exists today, but that I have a hard time fathoming. It’s hard to look at and very ugly. I visited it while researching THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, and it is not regular American Southern Wal-Mart/Trailer poverty which features indoor toilets and television. My grandmother grew up hungry, in one room, breaking her thin back to pick cotton all through the years my children have spent playing and learning to read. My grandmother slept outside in the summer because the shack they lived in would be stuffed floor to ceiling with cotton they had sharecropped.

By the time I knew her, she was still poor, but it was blue collar, southern small town regular life. She had lamps. She had chairs and indoor plumbing. As a child, I never saw or visited the visceral, battle-to-survive poverty she grew up in, though when my grandfather would reminisce about “the good old days,” he did it alone. She had no tales to tell, and if we asked her for one, she would say, “These are my good old days.”

She was a difficult woman. Her childhood shaped her in ways I can’t fathom, and manners and putting a good face forward to the world were more important to her than love, than kindness, than choosing what was right, than…anything. You could be stabbing a person to DEATH under the table, and she would sit quiet and not mind as long as above the table, you kept a smile on and your white shirt was freshly pressed.

I wrote THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING to try to understand her. Not in a literal way. It’s a made up story. These are made up people. My grandmother does not appear. But I see several large pieces of her in it. I tried to learn her insides with it. I wrote it, I realized, so I could understand why someone might value the surface more than the substance of a thing, and to try to understand what could make a person so. I wrote the book, in short, to learn how to forgive her.

She died when I was halfway through.

I went to the funeral. We are Irish, and so we laid her out. Everyone came by to look down at her face and say she looked natural and pass slowly by and then stood around her body trading recipes and memories. I didn’t think I would feel much. We had not been close in years. I was there for my mother, quite frankly, and all of what I felt, I felt for her. And yet, when my turn to pass by came, I found it beautiful and strange to look into my grandmother’s coffin and recognize my own hands on the ends of her wrists.

Like most American women, I am ambivalent about my looks. I will never be good-pretty-thin-valuable enough, and in some awful way, thin and valuable are the same words in my head when I try to apply those concepts to me. My worth goes up as my weight drops, and I hate that about myself. I hate that I hate my body most days, even as it runs and does my work. It is strong and mighty, a magnificent beast, my body, a miracle. The things I value most, my memories and my love for my family, are HOUSED in it. This body fastens me to my husband, and together we made children and this body grew them well and kept them safe so that they came out hale and lovely. I should ADORE this body, but of course, I am American and female, so I don’t.

But I’ll tell you, I have always and without reservations loved my body’s hands. They are long and very beautiful to me---my mother calls them piano player’s hands. They do not match the wide duck feet I got from my father. I trip over dust motes, but my hands are always graceful. They are slim and elegant and quick. I was shocked to learn they are a lovely thing I got from her, and I did not know that they were hers until I saw them folded inside a coffin, older, and with all their quickness gone.

In an uncrowded moment, I went back to measure my hand by folding it over hers. Her skin was cool and waxy. The funeral makeup did not come off ---it was dry and felt like a varnish. But our hands fit exactly, our palms the same width, long fingers ending in the same pretty tapers.

Later, after we had put her in the ground and gone back to eat deli platters and Lays BBQ chips and sweet pickles, everyone kept asking me “Look around her place, Do you want anything? Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you,” I said. Over and over. Did I want this chair? These dishes? That vase lamp little table quilt rug sofa? No. I didn’t. Nothing.

My grandmother had moved from her house to a small apartment in assisted living. Many of the things I remembered her having in my childhood were gone. But when I went to her bathroom to exchange my black cashmere for faded denim, preparing to drive home, I saw that on a little knick-knack shelf over the sink, she still had a small tribe of her owls, watching me with their blank, round eyes.

I plucked a brass one from the back and stuffed him in my pocket. I thought I would put him down in the basement with my pigs, but I didn’t. He is in my office, the room of my house where I am most myself, where I work and do most of my in home playing. I think he is going to stay there.

For the record, I am NOT collecting owls, so would-be gift-givers, get thee hence.


I’m glad I stole him. I don’t know if he is the owl I gave her. I don’t know if I ever gave her an owl. Never the less, I’ve decided to remember that he is. As a child, I wrapped him in red paper and curled thin ribbon with my blunted scissors and put him with the other gifts for Sara Lee. Memory is mutable and subjective, and I own all of mine. So. I gave him to her and she liked him, even though she was tired of owls. She secretly always liked him best.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:55 AM

April 9, 2007

Easter Bread

After church yesterday, my brother ate SO many marshmallow peeps I am surprised he did not wake up this morning with type 2 diabetes. I was just as awful----we both went off ALL forms of dessert for Lent, for yesterday was pretty much a full blown candy orgy. UGH. SUGAR = BAD.

On Saturday, Scott and I went to Shakespeare’s Tavern to see Love's Labours Lost. If you live in the Atlanta area OR plan to visit it soon, this is a FUN stop! You basically sit in a bar and drink ale and eat Cornish pasty and shepherd’s pie and then watch very rowdy Shakespeare. SO fun. We went on a double date with Chuck and Karen, as if we were REAL HUMAN BEINGS instead of just PARENTS. It was AWESOME.

We didn’t get home until eleven fifty-seven, so I didn’t get to have dessert at the tavern. Chuck and Karen had some sort of apple crisp thing they said was super great, and Scott had bread pudding. Scott wanted me to try his pudding, and he assured me it would not break Lent. I tasted it and had to agree that it could NOT be counted as dessert, not on any planet. It tasted a lot like unsweetened cereal with a faint tang of wet socks and blueberries.

Once home, I counted off the minutes to midnight and then got into the Bunny’s store of hide-and-seek eggs and Whoppers. Not. Pretty. I was SO sick. Then al day yesterday I ate MORE whoppers and a huge bag of Poppycock. I have a sugar hangover and am SO ill and sorry today that I have decided to re-do Lent and am going BACK off all sugar for another 40 days.

I do think it will be interesting to see how I do passing on all dessert without Lent to CAUSE it. It’s MUCH easier to pass on dessert, even for an addict like me, when it is a sacrifice and is tied in with one’s faith and every time you think of breaking it, you remember the OTHER sacrifice, the one you are both mourning and gearing up to celebrate, and all-of-a-sudden, not having a pudding cup seems like the easiest thing in the world.

I’ll report on how I do avoiding sugar, so I am accountable to YOU at least, although somehow I am not sure being accountable to YOU will have the same weight as being accountable to, you know, God.

ANYWAY, so my brother was GORGING on peeps after church and this woman came up and said, “Why are you eating those nasty things when I brought delicious homemade banana bread you could be having?”

Him: Be cause peeps are cute. Look, they have eyes!

Her: Well, my bread has nuts!

How can you argue with such logic? He ate the bread. And then more peeps. And then more peeps and a Cadbury egg and then more peeps. I am willing to bet he feels as loathsome and sticky as I do today. NO MORE SUGAR!

PS -- Mr Husband's Meme results are SO worth sharing...

Scott NEEDS nude models.
Scott needs one of these. Not so he can aim right, its to prevent him from p*ssing on the cats head all the time.
Scott needs to ask himself how he would have handled an officer who put concerns for a friend over the demands of the job.
Scott Needs More Sleep.
Scott needs to be shown the back door and he needs to go spend a year in meditation under the Dalai Lama.
Scott needs a real serious butt chewing.
Scott needs warp power NOW.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:43 AM | Comments (28)

April 5, 2007

Best Meme Ever

You google YOUR NAME and the word NEEDS in Quotes. Like mine was “Joshilyn needs” Of course, if you have a name like Joshilyn, you get one result, and it is from your own blog:

Joshilyn needs Scott to come home and stay there for at least a while Right NOW.

Well, Duh that’s always true. And I SAID IT MYSELF so you can’t really call that the mystical wisom of the google. *sigh*

If you have a NORMALER name, you get a bunch of PREDICTIVE THINGS that you can use like a Magic 8Ball to plan your life and set your New Year’s resolutions. It may even be ALMOST as accurate as a magic 8 Ball. It is certainly almost as fun.

Since the single result yielded by my name WAS SO UNSATISFYING, I decided to use my nickname. As my close friends and most of the hardcore regs around here know, the H in my name is purely decorative. Joshilyn is actually pronouced just like the more common name, Jocelyn. Phontetically it is Joss-a-lyn. My husband and my close friends often call me “Joss.” So I tried that.


Joss needs to be canny and prepare for the unexpected (SO TRUE!)
Errm Joss needs to calm down (A little judgemental, but….well. Yeah. TRUE!)
Joss needs to sit her dolphin' lookin' ass down. Don't she look like a dolphin? Am I on the crack? (HEY! I vote CRACK! Step off.)
Joss needs a "World's Best Joss" mug. (I TOTALLY and DESPERATELY need a World’s Best Joss” mug)
Joss needs to shed her bling and take a stand on "dirty gold" mining! (I am not hip enough to know if this is true or not…Help us, Urban Dictionary, You are our only hope!)
Joss needs some color...her flesh is just nasty. (HEY! I resent that! I can’t HELP being Irish and pale as organic milk)
Joss needs to go have lunch with the Blizzard guys. (OMG I DO I DO! They are the game co that designed the game I play online. HA!)
Joss needs to cease and desist all usage of bright red hair dye. (I just YESTERDAY began polling my friends to see if I should go red for summer! WOW! The cosmos says NO. Although being Irish and pale as milk I DO have the skin for it…..but the magic google has spoken.)

I saved my favorite for last:

Joss needs better handlers.

Hehehhehehe. Ones with cattle prods, no doubt!

DO YOURS and put a link in the comments.

Posted by joshilyn at 4:24 PM | Comments (52)

April 4, 2007

Topic Salad with Linky Love Sauce

Dear Evil Weevils,

I am working on the owl story. It is a hard story to tell. I will get there. I have a draft. IT WILL COME TO YOU, probably in three parts. So. Sock me no pink socks. Owls yesterday. Owls tomorrow. Not yet owls today.

The Owlman Cometh

Today I have A LITTLE LINKY LOVE, first to my friend Lani, who has started a podcast called Will Write for Wine where she and her writer friend Samantha Graves talk writing and drinking---an old friendship at least as strong as Lani and Samantha’s, might I add. I long to be a guest because I have some DARLING wines I got at the Biltmore I’d like to overdrink while hanging with the ever delightful and amusing Lani Diane Rich. The latest podcast is called, Episode 3: Flaming Skulls and Acronyms. I think that sells it in itself.

ALSO, I want to link to Cornelia Read because if you have not read her fantabulous debut Field of Darkness then you are a sad sad little lost thing, but it is NOT TOO LATE. Also linking to her BECAUSE I LIKE HER and because she gave me LITERALLY the ….FANCIEST compliment I think I have ever gotten in my whole life today. I woke up to find an email from her where she PARAPHRASES a conversation she just had with a guy who was an advance reader for TGWSS. She says, BASICALLY, that he is VERY pleased with the new book, and that’s ALWAYS good news, but it’s HOW she said it that has made my morning…

“[he thinks] you are not ONLY the fiery humpbacked wonder beast of all that is good and fine, but that you ALSO glow in the dark and build strong bodies in 12 ways.”

It’s such a GREAT compliment I wish I had freakin’ written it. *sigh* Would that I could wake up every morning to be told such things. TWELVE WAYS! That’s like nine more than MILK!

Also today, coasting on the bighead that Cornelia has given me, I offer a toasted pontification of totally unsolicited a~~vice for writers currently looking for an agent. I will say these things with conviction, because that’s; the advantage of the bighead. These are BUSINESS END things I know very little about, but I will serve you up the teeny platter of things I have gleaned. WITH JAM! It’s a topic I get a lot of e-mails about AND it just came up on a list where I lurk and dawdle. SO.

First, ask yourself what you want. Do you want "to have a book published?" Or do you want "a career as a novelist?"

If the answer is A, I know verylittl ethat wil help you. I never wanted A much. A looked like a good place to START to me. So.

If the answer is B, then here are some things you can do to help make it happen.

1) Finish a book. Don’t query until you have a complete MS that you have work shopped and honed and it is as good and shiny and whole as you can make it.

2) Start working on your next book WHILE shopping this one, so your focus is on the writing, the new beloved project, not the one you are sending out into the icy tundra of the publishing industry. You may think you will never love another book like the one you are shopping now etc etc, but that's not true. The next one will seduce you, and not far in you will realize writing the other one taught you things and this new one is better smarter stonger faster and SO MUCH CUTER IN ITS LEVI JEANS. It will be a romance all over again, and it will help you let go of the old book. Which you have to do, because if you do NOT let go, even if you SELL it, the review process will KILL you. Get a new lover and kick that old one out of bed. Make it go get a job. It can pay you palimony while you canoodle with the new one.

3) In the same way that you don't give up after a query or two, you don't give up after a book or two. My agent shopped two novels, a children's book series, and a non-fiction essay project. We got as far as contract negotiations with Simon and Schuster with one, and then marketing nixed it. So gods was my third novel and my FIFTH shopped project. I started SERIOUSLY pursueing a career when I was pregnant with my son. My son was born in 1997 and is now TEN, and gods in Alabama came out, what, in 2005? So it wasn't an instant, overnight, or easy thing. The good part is, I have a career that gods began that I would NEVER had had with my first two novels. They were not BAD books, if you do not mind me saying so, but they never would have netted the kind of attention that gods got. And I always thought once I had a career I could go back and sell them...um no. ONE I may rework from the ground up as YA, but I would have to cut/change/fold/spindle AND mutilate every sentence before it was ready, and I havwe too many books I want to write RIGHT NOW to take that time. As my agent told me, MANY TIMES, you only get one first novel, and its sales and reviews determine a LOT. So.

4) Read debut novels. Read GOOD debut novels in your genre. Read non-debut breakout books in your genre. Read GOOD overlooked books in your genre. Read BAD books through, to the end, and then reread them liek a writer to see what bad writing looks like so you can recognize it when you perpetrate it. And you probably will. Lord knows I have. That's why God made revisions! Reading well paced books will internally teach you pacing. You'll know what a well paced book FEELS like. Screw voice creep. It won't happen UNLESS you do not have your own voice yet, and if you have not found your own voice yet, nothing will help you find it like reading and even emulating the well pitched voices of others. LORDY I spent A LOT OF TIME smoking clove cigarettes, wearing black, and trying to be Samuel Beckett as channeled by Jane Austen. It was not wasted time. They are both my betters, and I learned so much from trying to be them. Later, when you have your own voice, you may find there are certain writers you can't read when drafting, but don't worry about that. You will learn to recognize them and save their books til you are safely in revisions. Now, just read.

5) I cannot over emphasize this:

If you are currently looking for an agent or suspect that you will one day be looking for an agent, READ MISS SNARK RELIGIOUSLY. You need to KNOW the industry you are trying to break into. Miss Snark is good and wise. Read Miss Snark. Miss Snark answers ALL the questions you have and more you have not thought of but you need to know the answers. Read all the archives. READ MISS SNARK! TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT WHO DO WE APPRECIATE? AS WE LIFT HIGH OUR GIN PAILS AND SWILL? WHO DO WE READ? EVERY DAY? LIKE RABID FANGRrrrRRrrLS? Yes. Indeed:

Miss Snark!

Posted by joshilyn at 6:14 AM | Comments (15)

April 2, 2007

Tee Ess Tee Elle...

Too. Stupid. To. Live. Seriously, I should not be allowed to PUT GAS IN MY CAR lest I blow up Georgia. I should not be allowed to eat anything but finger foods, lest I stab myself in the back of the throat with a fork or put some unsuspecting fellow diner’s eye out with same.

My only comfort is that my friend Karen Abbott is possibly worse. I dunno though. It’s close.

Last week she told me Sara Gruen (author of what turned out to be my FAVORITE book from last year) was flying in to the Atlanta Airport with the entire Gruen Posse: Mr. Gruen and the three auxiliary boy Gruens. They had a SIX AND A HALF HOUR LAYOVER, and their flight landed about half an hour after Karen’s flight (she was coming home from a trip to meet her godson). so Karen’s plan was to wait at the airport for the Gruen-zoo and take them all back to her house, feed them, let the boy-pack gambol about in a park, and then return them to the airport.

Me: In what car? That’s SIX people, Karen.
Her: Chuck’s SUV is big…
Me: It seats 5. You can’t say to one kid, WELL, your BROTHERS get seatbelts, but you are kinda the SPARE, so you just hang onto the roof. I tell you what, you take Marta TO the airport, and when you come back on Saturday, I will come get you AND all the Gruens in my SEXY MOMMY McVAN, which seats 7 people with still room for a VERY LONG DOG to sack out on the floorboards.

So it was decided. I had Karen forward me Sara’a email with her flight info so I would have the number.


1) Sara didn’t take her cell phone on vacation. She thought to ask for KAREN’s number so she could put it in her husband’s phone, but Karen did not ask for Bob’s number. So Sara could call us, but we could not call her.

2) The airport was CRAWLING WITH A ZILLION HUMANS---mostly sweaty, mostly smelling vaguely of beer. Here I am TRULY not sure which is DUMBER, me or Karen. Your call:

a) Karen, who KNEW it was something called final 4 weekend, but did not connect this event with why the airport smelled like Hairy Man Brewery and was so crowded that, had we been standing in a primitive culture instead of an Atlanta arrival gate, I would now be LEGALLY MARRIED to the guy behind me.


b) Me, who didn’t know it was final 4 weekend, or even what final four weekend WAS. I still don’t, to be honest. It has sports in it and makes a four minute drive from the interstate to Kar’s house in midtown take 45. That’s all I can tell you.

3) We stood peering at the gate that all deplaining sorts come through, and we saw nary a Gruen among the tipsy masses as they churned and teemed and pushed each other and grunted, crazy to reach sport-nirvana. And Sara didn’t call. We stood there for over two hours, with various split ups so one of us could check the baggage claim and the airport restaurants and have her paged.

4) Finally we left the airport and went to Sweet Devil Moon and ordered WAY TOO MUCH TAPAS and drank a vat of Sangria and then Chuck came and got us and took us to a movie, and SARA never called even though we left at least 10 messages on…a phone we knew she did not have.

5) Then we got home and looked at the email.
And noticed her flight was actually coming in SUNDAY.
And that her email, which we had both read, NOT ONLY said the DATE, but also said, “Hey Karen, My plane gets in THE DAY AFTER yours, so maybe we can meet up…”


I had ALMOST forgiven myself by pinning most of it in KAREN, saying it was HER fault because she SAID it was the same day so ALL I had really looked at was the FLIGHT number, and *I* was not the dumbest here… but then, today, I had to go to my doctor for my annual check-up, and I drove relentlessly to his OLD OFFICE where he has not been for SIX YEARS NOW, and then sat in my car blinking in puzzled wonder when I saw his old building was not only CLOSED now, but a HEAP OF TORN DOWN RUBBLE.



Posted by joshilyn at 1:03 PM | Comments (24)