Teen Reader Lisa

For one of my library classes (Children’s/YA Literature), we needed to write a reflection of ourselves as teen readers. Here’s mine:


I’m having a hard time remembering what I read as a teen. I know I did all my reading for school very conscientiously. For a while I was obsessed with Anna Karenina; I thought Anna’s suicide was the most romantic gesture ever. My AP English teacher let us choose an author to study for the last quarter, and I read three Jane Austen novels, which I still enjoy today. Other than school reading, I read a combination of light teenage series books, sad novels, adult author binges, and ‘forbidden’ books.

I read a lot of fluff, the equivalent of the soap operas I watched faithfully in high school. I read all the Sweet Valley High books by Francine Pascal (plus some ghostwriters). Jessica and Elizabeth were fascinating to me; they were identical twins but so different. In retrospect, the characters were fairly stereotypical, but at the time I identified with sweet Elizabeth and admired/was horrified by Jessica. I know there are Sweet Valley Twins books for younger children; I’m sure I would’ve loved those, too.

Sad/emotional books really caught my eye too. Starting with Bridge to Terabithia, I was drawn to the stories where a sibling, parent, or friend dies, or the main character is a terrible situation. I remember A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), The Pinballs (Betsy Byars), and Too Young to Die (Lurlene McDaniel). I couldn’t relate to those books; nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened to me. But I got to see what it was like to be those characters, from a safe distance of course.

Like a lot of teens and adults, I latched onto certain authors and read most everything they wrote. I worked as a public library page in high school, doing the adult shelving, and I got to see everything that went out and in. (I also may—or may not—have read on the job.) I read through Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, Sue Grafton, Nancy Thayer, and other authors I can’t remember.  The books gave me a sense of what everyday adult life was like, and what kinds of issues adults faced. Not sure how realistic this education was, though, considering Steel and Collins!

I will admit to the occasional dirty reading. I began with the fairly innocent Judy Blume books (Margaret gets her period! Deenie has a special place that she touches! Katherine has sex for the first time!) They seem so tame now compared to so many YA books, but at the time I felt like I was reading something exciting and forbidden. Then there was The Joy of Sex, occasionally found on the shelves of houses where I babysat; I studied those line drawings and tried to make sense of it all.  I remember discovering Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books. Not only were they erotic novels (which was amazing in itself, because I didn’t know those existed!), but they were chock full of BDSM (an early Fifty Shades, but with princes and princesses). I sure got an education with those books! You can bet those books were well-hidden.

When I look back now, I wish I’d had a specifically Young Adult section like we have at libraries now. We had some older books in the children’s room, and some books in the adult sections with teen characters. But if there were a YA section then, I’d have been glued to it. I’m glued to it as an adult anyway.

Time to admit it: grad school is kicking my butt


I looked up the last time I posted, and it was… a few days before the semester started. Coincidence? I think not.

I’ve back at work full time (finally!), and trying to keep up with two Library Media Studies classes (Information Literacy and the School Curriculum; Electronic Media and Design). I’m learning a lot of interesting things. In the Info Literacy class, we’ve been doing things I’m enjoying like a 25-hour pre-practicum and taking both sides of a position for and against the Common Core standards (I know, I know, but it was fun to me to have to ‘believe’ in both sides. I should have been in debate, huh?) The Electronic Media class is kind of odd… So far I’ve made Power Points about cross sections and halftone technique, and now I’m researching schizophrenia for a unit on perception. It doesn’t seem very relevant to being a librarian, but… it is what it is. At least I’m improving my research skills and making Power Points better than I used to.

So, obviously I still have my family obligations and family fun, and the occasional spurt of housework (VERY occasional). Can you guess what’s losing out?

Could it be… WRITING? (I hear that in a Church Lady voice from SNL past…)

So. Writing. I was diligent for a week or two, carving out an hour here or there to work on my MS. After all, I’m in love with my concept, and I’ve had a few new ideas (in the shower, of course) about how to increase the tension and the stakes. But I’m so overwhelmed…

I guess I need to give myself the advice I’d give a friend. Set aside even one hour a week for now, and make it non-negotiable. Even if I’m behind on classwork, I’ll still keep the commitment to myself. Because it’s really for myself – it’s no one’s assignment to me. Writing isn’t my paycheck, or my required coursework. But it is necessary to me. I commit to me.

What’s Up Wednesday


 What I’m Reading: I just finished a fantastic book, “Butter,” by Erin Jade Lange. Butter is a 400-something pound high school boy who is lonely and miserable. Out of desperation, or for attention, he creates a website that counts down the days until New Year’s Eve, when he will eat himself to death online. His website gains him the attention of other students, and soon he has people to hang out with, and is starting to lose weight. He has to figure out if his friends are really friends, and whether or not he still plans his grand exit on New Year’s Eve. I liked this book because it was unique to be in the head of someone Butter’s size, and because it made me think about the big issues of bullying and suicide in a different way. I just realized that I totally sound like a book report, so onward.


What I’m Writing: I’ve been working on my WIP, and it’s slow going, because I’m trying to transition into using my new iPad with its wireless keyboard. I’m writing in Pages right now, and it’s mostly fine, but the cut and paste feature is annoying me to death. I probably don’t know the right way to use it. But somehow yesterday I lost 4-5 polished paragraphs, and I ended up with my laptop and my iPad, retyping paragraphs from one to the other. When my dad and kids came home from miniature golfing, I had in front of me my phone, laptop, and iPad, all laid out. It was kind of embarrassing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: My kids start school next week, and for the older one, it’s middle school. I think I’ve been desensitized to the whole idea from talking to other parents, but we’ll see what it’s like when it actually starts. My kid is confident and has a great head on her shoulders. I just don’t want anything to change that. I know she’s supposed to be moving on, and I won’t wish for her to be younger, but I just want her to hang onto her core even as she changes.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now: Ugh. I’m bad at this question. Is it cheating to say, nothing? Wait, I can do it. Since I only write at Starbucks, what inspires me right now is having a little bit of time to myself and enjoying my coffee. Is that enough for now?


What’s Up Wednesday



Right now I’m reading Elin Hilderbrand’s Summerland. The premise of Summerland is that there’s been a fatal car accident on the night of high school graduation. Penny, a junior, was sober, but driving too fast, and dies in the crash. Her twin brother, Hobby, is in a coma. Demeter and Jake (Penny’s boyfriend), the other passengers, are unhurt, but scarred by the whole thing, emotionally. The characters also include their parents, particularly Zoe, the mother of the twins, and Jordan, Jake’s dad, who had been having an affair before the accident.

I’m about 2/3 through it, and I’m enjoying it so far. I don’t always like books written from multiple perspectives, but it works in this book. The only odd thing is that occasionally through the book (including the first chapter), there’s no clear person narrating. It’s almost like an anonymous person from Nantucket is narrating, or even as if the island itself is narrating. So far, I’m most interesting part for me is Zoe and Jordan’s relationship: what happens when your child survives, but the other child (who was driving) doesn’t? I love books with “what if” questions.



I’ve switched back to my first book, Outside In, for a while. I’m back to some revisions (again!), and right now I’m focusing on how clinically accurate my main character’s experiences in therapy are.

Since I’m obviously not a therapist, I’ve consulted 4-5 therapists/ social workers in the last week or two. I’d vetted my scenes with one therapist before, but I’m looking at my scenes with more people now, because I want to make sure I’m not writing inaccurate experiences. The current question is whether my character’s therapist should’ve been more concerned about suicidal risk. Of course I’m getting different answers from different people, but I’m figuring out what makes sense based on their parameters.


We leave for California on Sunday!

golden gate

It’s a family reunion of sorts: my grandmother lives in Modesto, CA. My family plus my parents are flying out, and meeting up with both of my aunts, my uncle, and all three of my cousins. I can’t believe that all of us are coming from so many different places (MA, HI, the Canary Islands…). My grandmother is 94, and it’s time to go see her again.

We’re also doing some sightseeing in San Francisco–I’ve done it before, but my kids haven’t ever explored the city.


Switching manuscripts is inspiring me right now. Although I’m so wrapped up in my second book, it’s been a breath of fresh air to go back to the first one. I heard someone say once that the first book you write is the “book of your heart.” This one is. It’s my baby, and the one that will probably always mean the most to me.

How’s your Wednesday going?

What’s Up Wednesday – on Thursday


Ugh. So apparently it’s Thursday. But I’m going to do What’s Up Wednesday anyway, okay? It’s an easy way to blog. Did I mention that before?

What I’m Reading: I finished a book this morning, “Anybody Out There?” by Marian Keyes. It’s one of her books about the Walsh sisters (Claire, Maggie, Rachel, Anna, and Helen). I read the one about Helen earlier this week. It’s so much fun to read about the sisters from each other’s perspectives. The one I finished today was about Anna, but I was so curious to hear about Helen, who was completely fascinating in her book (“The Mystery of Mercy Close”) – a P.I. with a hard exterior and deep depression underneath (very interesting combination). In Anna’s book, she’s had a huge thing happen, but I can’t get say what it is because it’s a total spoiler!

What I’m Writing: I met with my critique group last week, so I’m working on their revision ideas for ch. 8 of “Marianna.” (I’m still compelled to mention that I don’t like my title.) I love their ideas. And I absolutely LOVE that they talk about my characters like they’re real. I also wrote two blog posts this week. I’d like to keep doing that, but we’ll see.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: My kids finally had their last day of school. My older one graduated from elementary school. It seems like such a trivial thing to me (back in the day, we never got to graduate from elementary school! We were lucky if we just got out at the end of the day! Uphill! Both ways!) but for her it was meaningful. She was one of the emcees, and did a great job speaking loudly and clearly. She was rather ungracious posing for pictures, but she’s 11, so…

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I hate this answer, especially when I look at other people’s blogs, but nothing. I’m still in the same funk I was last week, which is probably why I’ve done so little revision. I still want to do some writing prompts, and maybe if they’re in a nice pretty notebook that will inspire me.

Until next time…

What’s Up Wednesday

What's up Wednesday

Lately, I’ve been at a loss for what to blog about. I have the time – school’s out – but not the inspiration. So I noticed this meme on another writer’s blog – Katy Upperman’s – and I thought this would be the perfect way to move gently back to blogging. Here’s the structure:

What I’m Reading: I’m reading “The Engagements” by J. Courtney Sullivan. She wrote “Maine” and “Commencement,” both of which I read. The title sounds fluffy, but it’s not, it’s solid contemporary fiction. Not YA for once! It’s the story of Evelyn, Kate, Delphine, James, and Frances, and their engagements (obviously), marriages, and partnerships. I like it so far, and I’d better – it’s on a 7 day loan from the library!

The Engagements

What I’m Writing: Sadly, not all that much. I’m working on “Marianna,” which is a really bad title, and will absolutely be changed. I was kind of stuck in revision-land, half-heartedly going through my second draft, trying to figure out the middle of the story and what I wanted to change. Then I had a brainstorm on Friday – a way to up the stakes. Now I feel more interested. Plus, my writing group meets tomorrow, so that’s helpful accountability.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’ve been toying with a career switch to become a Library Media Specialist, and I enrolled in a summer class called “Reference and Resource Materials.” I’m learning so much – it’s been so long since I’ve taken a class. The only bad thing is that my perfectionist tendencies are popping up. I’m worried about the first time points will get taken off, and I’m sure they will. It’s an online class, and I love the structure. There’s so much more discussion than there would be in person, believe it or not. Is it weird to say that I love my professor’s voice? I have no idea what she looks like, but she narrated a Powerpoint that I looked at last week, and I think  have a girl-crush on her voice.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Honestly, not much of anything. I’ve been in a major funk for a while now. I’m hoping that by the next time I do a “What’s Up Wednesday,” I have an answer! Inspire me in the comments, please.

I have no idea how to show the other links of blogs doing this meme. So for now, I’m going to leave the link to a blog with the links, if that makes sense. This is Jaime Morrow’s blog URL:  http://www.jaime-morrow.com/. I’m going to figure this out!


Twenty very specific things I’m thankful for:

1. Both kids will still curl up with me on the sofa, which we call “shnuggling.”

2. My cat has not peed on my spot on the couch for about a month.

3. The seat at Starbucks with the comfy back, table, and perfect lighting

4. The comments my first graders make from time to time that crack me up. [Me (to student in an Ariel costume): Aren’t you cold? Student: Yeah. I don’t know how the real Ariel does it.]

5. The teachers that challenge both my children at school

6. Finally having someone to sit with at church now that my parents have moved near us

7. The rush that runs through me when I’ve thought of a juicy plot point in my story

8. That the library will just hand books over to you when you give them a shiny card

9. My husband will tell me the truth if I ask him if something looks bad. (And I don’t ask unless I want the truth.)

10. Bakers Semi-Sweet chocolate

11. That my girls and I like the same music, so we can sing in the car together

12. Writing blogs that give advice on craft and getting published

13. When I’m discouraged with lack of progress on writing, I have friends that will give me a pep talk.

14. I have a husband who will force me to get out of bed and go to Dunkin’ Donuts on Saturday mornings if I’m feeling low.

15. Law and Order SVU and a warm blanket

16. A thoughtful team of colleagues who have been nothing but welcoming

17. After 3 years in our new home, I have friends I can call on to go out for lunch or coffee.

18. The time I had with my father-in-law

19. My parents’ help with childcare, which lets my girls pursue their after school activities

20. My husband, who sees everything, but takes me as I am anyway

The Return of the Day Job

As some of you might know, I’m an elementary school teacher in “real life.” And any teacher knows that as soon as the calendar flips to August, a tiny egg of stress lays itself in your belly, grows into an caterpillar, wraps itself into a cocoon, and then becomes a beautiful butterfly – wait. Stop thinking about Eric Carle, Lisa. It’s only August 7th!

Nevertheless, August marks The Return of the Day Job. Now don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, especially teaching reading and writing (shocker). I love younger kids, and there’s nothing better than to see them grow in their understanding and love of learning.

And yes, I’ve been home with my children all summer, and of course that’s work, too – shuttling them around, playing Clue a few too many times, “Mommy, look at me” about a thousand too many times, that sort of thing. At least it’s more laid back. Best of all, I’m lucky enough to have a husband with flexible hours who understands that I NEED to go to Starbucks to write every day if he wants me to be sane (which he really does).

But along with the return of structure and early hours, August marks the reduction of my writing time. During the school year I write between the end of the school day and picking up my kids from their after school program – maybe an hour and a half a day when I’m lucky. This year, though, I’ve changed schools, and my commute has doubled, so I’ll be on the road 40 minutes each way. I’m worried.

Also, it’s the return of work brain mode.  I went into school for 3 hours yesterday. 3 hours, and my brain was dead for the rest of the day. Instead of writing, I cocooned (stop it, Eric Carle!) under my covers and lost many games of Words with Friends.

So how does that bode for the school year? I guess the answer is the same it is for anyone else that works full time, has children, and writes: I suck it up and find time, and make the time I find count (no Twitter, *cough* *cough*).  I know that I’ll need to be vigilant to protect some writing time, though–unless my husband wants a lunatic on his hands.

Life 1, Writer 0

Over the last two months or so, I’ve been facing difficult *stuff* happening in my personal life.

Lately, I arrive at Starbucks during my protected writing block, only to avoid any serious thinking or creativity. I’ll get my venti iced skinny vanilla latte with three Splendas and sink down into a comfy chair instead of a well-lit table as usual.

And then, I open up my computer and I… can’t face writing. I go onto Twitter on my phone instead. Or Draw Something. Or Words with Friends.

The ironic thing is that if I could write, really immerse myself into my stories, it would probably make things better. What better place to escape?

I know my creativity isn’t gone. It’s there. It’s just that there’s a force separating me from it, like until things are easier in my life, it has to be barred off. I’m not sure how to break the wall down unless I just keep tapping at it when I can.

I guess in the meanwhile I’ll keep reading and at some point I’ll be magnetically drawn back into the world of my stories.

What do you do when it’s Life 1, Writer 0?