Recounting a day of filming

This weekend was a busy one. I spent Saturday evening setting up a fake diner for the shoot on Sunday with our teen actors . My co-teacher and I wondered around the location, searching for a small podium to use as a hostess station for about thirty minutes before we finally found the person who knew where it was. We learned we can’t fold linens with any skill, and decided light switches should all be on the wall right inside the door, not across a dark and perilous room.

To the benefit of us all.

The set was ready Sunday when the kids arrived, mostly in costume and off-script. I say mostly because with teenagers, everything is a little haphazard and mismatched, especially this close to the new school year. Right off, we had casting and costume issues, which led to me playing a street kid with two lines in one of the scenes we were scheduled to shoot.

The two actresses in the scene with me, both teens, informed me I am not thug. I was in agreement, especially when they wanted me to pop-lock (I think that’s what they called it?) and I looked like I had a wedgie instead. It was also 100 degrees outside, where we were shooting this scene in direct sunlight, and I was wearing a hoodie. This was for two reasons 1) my Doctor Who T-shirt had to be covered, 2) I am a 28 year old woman wearing make-up, not a dirty-faced a 14 year old girl.

We managed to get the scene. I never crossed the thug threshold, but that’s ok. I was hot and slightly irritable the rest of the day.

Shooting multiple scenes with quite a bit of blocking takes a while. We shot for five hours, at the end of which we still had four scenes to get and decided to come back for another day to finish.

The kids were troopers. When you’re working with professional actors, shooting is trying, the waiting around is frustrating, and the pressure to perform sets everyones nerves on edge. When you are working with untrained kids, everything feels exponentially harder. That said, they have all my respect and admiration for how they soldiered on. Filming is not glamorous. Getting usable footage is difficult and requires multiple takes, from multiple angles, and a lot of repetition.

I am excited about what we accomplished yesterday, and I know they can’t wait to see the final product.

A Brief Tale

Today I went to the bookstore to grab a quick gift for my niece’s 20th birthday. As I was inching my way around the YA section, I came upon the pretzeled body of a teen-something. All legs and sideways messy pony, with chipped nail polish the same color as the surface of the sun, and lean tanned shoulders sticking out from a deliberately loose tank, she sat tapping at a list with a hello kitty pen and checking it against the sprawled stacks of books in front of her. Switching and re-stacking and re-prioritizing said hard-backed and slick-jacketed intellectual food, her concentration twisted her brow. I hovered behind her, debating between stepping over her flip-flop adorned, toe-ring accessorized foot, or going around, when her focus faltered. She suddenly turned, clamping her syrupy brown eyes on me and her pen in her teeth.

“Sorry,” she said, drawing a leg out of my path.

I smiled back. “You’re fine,” I glanced at her stack of books. “Summer reading?”

She shifted her gaze back to her stacks. “I have to pick one,” she answered, releasing a choked sigh.

And right then, I was simultaneously thrilled that one book in ten was the mountain she had to climb and ruffled that one book in ten was all she could buy.

“Good luck,” I said, taking another sweeping scan of her choices. I knew what I would pick, if I were her and this was my greatest feat for the day.

Her shoulders fell. “Thanks. I want them all.”

Yeah, I do too. 

“They’re not going anywhere,” I offered and she nodded. “Good to have something to look forward to.”

Later, when I was leaving, she passed me with her mother. Her eyes were bright as they met mine. She flipped the book cover into my view, sideways, but I’d recognize it anywhere. I nodded approval. If you’re going to read just one, The Fault in Our Stars is choosing wisely.

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of this post. We really hope you will take part.

This is my first time taking part in this blog-hop, but I’ve been wanting to for a few weeks. So, yay for today!

What I’m Reading

I just finished Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. I’m taking a workshop with Nova, and hadn’t read this book yet. I highly recommend it if you are looking for something truly unique with heartbreaking narrative. Also, Nova is the bees knees. I just started reading Fuse by Julianna Baggott. Fuse is the second of the Pure trilogy. Julianna is a phenomenal, hardworking mother and writer, who’s prolific and unbound by genre. I firmly believe Pure will be an important series to reference in the coming years. I’m also reading pages from classmates books they are workshopping in Nova’s class. The talent is astounding.

What I’m Writing

I just finished a massive revision on my MS and sent it to a couple readers, and an author friend, for feedback. After every revision I hope to be done, and by done I mean, ready to submit it for publication. I am optimistic, yet not expectant. We aren’t done with our manuscripts until our editor says so, and it’s in copyediting, and that readiness is decided by many different factors. I am mulling what to work on in the interim period. Part of me wants to work on a new project, and part of me wants to get a massage. We’ll see which part wins out.

What Inspires Me

My fellow writers. Writers are readers, and readers are people who never grow up.

The color of my son’s eyes.

Cobalt blue
Cobalt blue

True family stories, full of character arcs that astound.


What Else I’ve Been Up To

I went to NYC last week, which I wrote about on my blog briefly. It was a bit of a whirlwind. If you do not follow me on Twitters (which you can do with the scroll to you right) I posted a pic of me being supercool when I met Lauren Graham.

Random House Open House. Me and Lauren Graham.
Random House Open House. Me and Lauren Graham.

Can you see how cool I’m being?

My son is on the last leg of potty training. Life without wiping someone else’s ass is a miracle. The end.

I’m exercising. I hate it, like most people, but I believe I will love not feeling like a marshmallow anymore. I am already seeing results, mainly in my face. I haven’t done any face exercises, so this is a bit of a bummer.

Happy Wednesday!

Five Awesome Things About This Week

via Aaron McFarlane
via Aaron McFarlane

1. We moved into our new house. We have only a handful of boxes left to unpack. Of course, when you are coming from a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, NY, that is not really something to brag about. But still…Yay for this!

2. My son can spell his name. What is even more awesome about this than just the sheer brilliance of him understanding the concept of letters making words, is how epically proud of himself he gets. Not one for humility, he boldly shares this fact with every random stranger he encounters. He’s so stinkin’ cute that said strangers (who are eyed closely by me) smilingly entertain him.

3. I have read three books this week and currently am working on a fourth. Take that Goodreads! Not awesome, however, is that for every one book I finish three appear on my TBR list. I guess it’s saying something awesome about the YA landscape, but it’s a little overwhelming to me.

4. I had dinner with YA author and super cool chick Lindsay Cummings. As Texans, and blondes, and self-professed book nerds, we had A LOT to talk about. I highly recommend you follow her on Twitter @lindsaycwrites and check out her blog by clicking this link. Her book, The Murder Complex is due next year, and she just signed a deal with Katherine Tegen Books for an MG Fantasy called The Balance Keepers. So, yeah, she kicks major writing ass.

5. I have finished a rewrite on three chapters in my novel that I think are, well, awesome. I am now able to dedicate three workdays to writing, which, in itself, is quite possibly one of the most awesome parts of moving back to Texas.
Hope you all had as awesome a week as I did, and if you did and want to share (*clears throat* brag) feel free to do so in the comments section. Cheers!

Rainy Day Sam

I love rainy days with my son. Not all rainy days. There are the inevitable rainy days when Samuel refuses to engage in imaginary play, or do a craft, or read for large chunks of the morning. Those rainy days fill me with dread. When you’ve been a mom for a little while, you learn to pick up on the cues in your child’s demeanor that warn you’ll have a long day. One filled with arguments, then weighted down by unreasonable requests, and ending in the bedtime battle. When those days also fall on a rainy day, being trapped with your child inside can lead a person to drink in the afternoon.

Today, as slushy rain falls from the sky above Brooklyn, is thankfully not one of those days. Today he woke with wide eyes and eagerness. He discussed the finer points of Spiderman’s origin story with me over a banana and pb & j. (I had oatmeal. If I’m to survive the holidays without a meltdown, dry oatmeal and raw veggies have to become my new best friends.) We read through a plethora of books and sang. We made a birthday card for our upstairs neighbor, Sophia. He dictated a message to me with enough inflection to warrant this — !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— type of punctuation.

And for the first time in a while we just reveled in the pleasure of each others company. Sometimes I am not the best about this. I can be either too involved, or too distracted, too aloof, or too emotionally available. Striking a balance with my son is sometimes harder work that writing 3,000 words ever thought about being. So when it happens, it’s something to treasure.

However, capturing the moment on camera has mostly illuded me.


Last Tuesday afternoon I had the immeasurable pleasure of texting both my agent friend and my husband (who had already returned to New York) that my revisions were finished. A whole bunch of Awesome! and Wow, well done! followed. Then the panic set in. What had I done? I finished!!!!!!!!!! My OCD rose up and began to line-edit (again!) and beg for mistakes, work needed, moments with my characters to fill me up until I begin the sequel. All of these things are, of course, completely unnecessary. There will still be work because I am not a copyeditor, an editor, or my agent friend. I am just the lowly, obsessed author with a brain that won’t be still.

Today, after reveling in my rechecking, I sent my manuscript to my agent friend for a read. I’ve been spiraling since, and excited. Revisions are a funny friend. They make you feel like you are losing your mind, lost in your own world and out of control. This revision has seen me scrutinizing every scene to the last word, asking myself the hard question that no writer wants to ask: is this moving the plot forward? My answer was sometimes no, and sometimes for scenes I truly, absolutely loved.

I have had the question asked, over the last month of revisions, what is my next step?  My simple and untempered answer is: I don’t know. I have ideas, a swirl of ideas in a brain filled full. I have plans, and hopes, and scope, but I can’t tell you the order. I can’t be in control of that and I am utterly grateful for that fact. For now, I sit in a place of completion. This revision feels like a real end. And I feel like Winnie-the-Pooh here (only sub in my manuscript and a glass of wine):

Keep Austin Weird!

This post will be brief because I just arrived in Austin, TX for the Austin Teen Book Festival and I’m tired from watching my husband drive. My husband is very kind to attend this with me as he himself is not so much a reader of YA, but a supporter of my desire to be a writer of YA (not to mention my fangirling of all things YA), and I am not a great driver.

Phew! I have not been to Austin since the Thanksgiving before we moved to New York. The Texas Hill Country is one of my favorite landscapes in the US to view. If you have never been to the Hill Country, you really, really should. Upon exiting I-35 for our hotel in Downtown Austin, we were greeted by a pack of peaceful petitioners for the legalization of marijuana in Texas, and the US overall. They also carried a sign for us to HONK if we agreed. Needless to say, in a city with a slogan about staying weird, and a major university, HONKERS abounded. Nice to know free speech still exists.

Tonight we’ll chill, for tomorrow I plan on absorbing as much knowledge and awesomeness as my brain can hold. (I don’t know if we come with an awesome threshold, I hope not.) I will also be working with the teens in the afternoon, so my energy must be at full-throttle. It’s a thrill for a YA writer to get to shoot-the-shit with a group of engaged readers in her target audience, in a city so completely strange and oddly old-school as Austin. I imagine much fun will be had by all tomorrow, the least of which, a humble, prospective author. Happy Friday to you, wherever you may be!