This topic is very timely for me. This very morning I recorded a podcast for Simon & Schuster, answering questions about my just-released novel, SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE. (SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE is about a teen named Ren D’Arc whose novelist mother is crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books. In the aftermath of this unique tragedy, Ren’s father moves her from NYC to Danbury, CT, where Ren becomes involved in a sort-of mystery centering on an online predator – OK, obligatory self-plug over!)
One of the questions I was asked during the podcast was, “All the challenges Ren faces as a teen are common to many teens today – what do you think is most difficult about being a teen in today’s world?” Since I don’t want to be boring and simply quote verbatim what I already said there, I’ll try to incorporate the gist of it into something original here.
I think the most difficult thing about being a teen in today’s world is all the pressure to grow up too fast. But guess what? Those same pressures applied when I was a teen, ahem, X number of years ago. It may have started a little later than it does now – back then, you didn’t see eight-year-olds dressed like streetwalkers – but still. I went through puberty at age ten, have had the same 36Cs ever since. You can imagine how much fun that was at ten! Really, you try having cleavage at age ten. But by the time I was twelve, I was already wearing makeup, tweezing my Brooke Shields unibrow down to Kate Jackson perfection, wearing sky-high platforms to overcompensate for my 4’11 stature, and pretty much looking for trouble wherever I found it.
Often enough to complicate my life, I found it.
So what advice would I give to my adolescent self if I could turn back the clock and there was even the remotest chance she’d listen: “Please stop rushing everything so much! Trust me, you will be an adult for a very long time (if you’re lucky)! So pleasepleaseplease enjoy the day, the month, the year, the moment you are living, and stop hastening on to the next!”
Of course, I have enjoyed my life, still do, and I try to live my life with no regrets. But there are still a few things that, looking back on it now, I wish I hadn’t rushed.
Now, everybody…go out and buy my book! (Sorry, but if I didn’t try to self-plug at least one more time, I would hate myself in the morning.)
Be well. Don’t forget to write.
My adolescent self was never wanting for advice.
I have always had an exact replica of myself with 25 years more experience whispering in my ear at every juncture. Her name is Jan, and she is my mother.
She knew what I was up to before I’d fully formed a plan for mischief. She encouraged me to be kind when I playfully tortured teenage boys for sport. And she believed that I could do anything I set my mind to.
She still does.
When I think about the mistakes I made, the things I wished I’d tried harder at, or practiced more, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing.
Every misstep, every flat-out moronic endeavor, every victory, every chance I’ve ever taken has brought me to here.
If I changed one thing, I might change my path, my life might go in a different direction.
The death of my brother, every broken heart, every brave moment, every kiss, every step, every friend, has made me who I am, has given me the most extraordinary life anyone could hope for.
If I could give any advice to my adolescent self, it would be to enjoy the ride.
And give mom a hug.
When The Debs read Karen Dionne’s call-out to help promote the paperback launch of THE LIAR’S DIARY by Patry Francis, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, of course we said YES!
As many of you already know, Patry’s wise and beautifully written blog, SIMPLY WAIT, has served as inspiration to many writers and readers, and since her diagnosis she’s been sharing her cancer journey, openly, honestly, unsentimentally. Her prognosis is good, but while she recuperates from surgery, we would like to urge all of our readers to buy THE LIAR’S DIARY. It’s a terrific book, an intimate, mysterious, chilling tale of friendship and family secrets filled with insight and intrigue on every page. So do us a favor and buy Patry’s book today! You’ll be giving a gift to a generous and talented writer in need and giving yourself a gift of a great read!
Watch the trailer for The Liar’s Diary:
“The new questions and revelations just keep coming…Readers will be heartily rewarded.”—Ladies’ Home Journal
When new music teacher Ali Mather enters Jeanne Cross’s quiet suburban life, she brings a jolt of energy that Jeanne never expected. Ali has a magnetic personality and looks to match, drawing attention from all quarters. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities THE LIAR’S DIARY (Plume / February 2008, $14.00) is the story of Ali and Jeanne’s friendship, and the secrets they both keep.
Jeanne’s secrets are kept to herself; like her son’s poor report card and husband’s lack of interest in their marriage. Ali’s secrets are kept in her diary, which holds the key to something dark: her fear that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. While their secrets bring Jeanne and Ali together, it is this secret that will drive them apart. Jeanne finds herself torn between her family and her dear friend in order to protect the people she loves.
A chilling tour of troubled minds, THE LIAR’S DIARY questions just how far you’ll go for your family and what dark truths you’d be willing to admit—even to yourself.
About the Author
Patry Francis is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize whose work has appeared in the Tampa Review, Colorado Review, Ontario Review, and the American Poetry Review. She is also the author of the popular blogs, simplywait.blogspot.com and waitresspoems.blogspot.com. This is her first novel. Please visit her website at www.patryfrancis.com.
Thanks to Karen and Susan Henderson and many other kind and altruistic writers and publishing professionals, over 300 bloggers are participating today. So when you finish reading this post, and buying THE LIAR’S DIARY, head over to the others and be grateful that we’re all apart of this amazing community!
The theme this week? Advice to your adolescent self…An interesting concept. And I think most adolescent selves would agree, totally unwarranted and unwelcome. After all, what teenager wants advice from a grown-up?
So instead of an overwrought, bloated dissertation dispensing unsolicited advice on what I, the teenager, should do, I’ll just say this: never stop taking chances. And I’m glad I’ve taken my own advice to heart, as you will see…
A few weeks back on vacation in Hawaii, we went on a trek into the rain forests of Kauai to glide across the jungle on ziplines.
Now, I have a dreadful fear of heights. I cannot look down from my bedroom window on the second floor of my own house without my stomach lurching. So the idea of riding a zipline some 60 feet up—skirting the tree canopy and exposed to the elements—was so far out of my comfort zone, it had almost made a 360°-revolution right back into my comfort zone.
However, greater than my fear of heights is my determination to never become too much of an old fart. I’m a big believer in challenging yourself, regardless of your age or ability. Thus despite my embarrassing height-induced weeny factor, I agreed to ride the ziplines.
Not only did I agree to risk life and limb doing the ziplines, but I planted myself at the front of the line, refusing to allow my trepidation a chance to take root as the group zipped, one by one, across the rain forest, tethered to only a narrow cable of steel.
Okay, yes, that first time out, I screamed. Realllllly loudly. Our guides encouraged all sorts of vocalizing, and were duly impressed with my screaming prowess. But I went back for seconds. With more screams. And thirds. And more screams. And fourths. And still more screams.
At one point I stood on a narrow wooden plank barely wider than hip-distance apart, poised backward, a chasm some 50-feet below me with trees and vines and roots and lava rocks and probably a few wild bores all waiting to swallow me up into their midst. It’s hostile territory: a place not particularly welcoming to namby-pampy tourists who aren’t willing to take a risk.
And because I didn’t want to be a namby-pamby tourist (whatever that means), I took the plunge. Without seeing behind me, I leaned back, trusting that I was secure on the zipline, and took the fall, however it was going to happen.
With my book about to make its debut in the public arena, I feel as if I’m on another type of zipline right now. Teetering on the precipice, a huge element of fear factor looming in my gray matter. I did the easy part—writing the book. But now comes the hard part—selling the thing. And swallowing rejections, which are bound to happen, and the fear of disappointing people whose opinions I respect.
The mere act of taking all these ruminations and imaginings to paper (or computer), all the while knowing some day people might actually be privy to it, is a risk. But it’s a calculated risk, and at this point, I can only hope that most people will find my sense of humor equally humorous (my kids say I love my own jokes the most; I hope there are others who get a laugh or two along the way). Those who find my writer’s voice enjoyable. And those who “get” me, or my writing or whatever it is that needs to be “gotten” as I venture into the world of the published, a world overwrought with tens of thousands of other authors launching books annually. A world glutted to the gills with fine fiction, compelling non-fiction, and certainly lots of schlock masquerading as literature of some sort. And into this jungle I am about to take a blind leap, hoping to God I don’t get sucked up by the Earth, never to be seen again. Literally or figuratively, swallowed up into the potentially unforgiving world of literature.
After several hours of repeatedly challenging my fears that afternoon, we finished the afternoon jumping from a rope swing two stories down into an icy lagoon. Our guides forewarned us that once we climbed the make-shift ladder up to the gnarled, ancient banyan tree from which the swing was attached, there was no turning back. The only way down was to grab that rope, hold on for dear life, and let go when the time was right.
With my book on the verge of taking that step into the world, I again feel the same emotions I felt as I stood there, gripping that rope as if it were attached to me. Ready to take the plunge, knowing that however it ends, it will be exhilarating, scary, exciting.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? In the case of that rope swing some painful bruises (my husband can attest to that, having landed with a loud smack on his back). And in the case of my book, well, bruised egos can heal, and with a little luck I will make a splash—albeit a safe one, and return to swing another day.
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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·´Deb Jenny -:¦:-
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Many thanks to Deb Gail who graciously lent me her Monday slot on The Debutante Ball, since SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is debuting this week, so that we could dedicate Tuesday, my usual day, to help out Patry Francis, a talented writer and lovely woman whose novel Liar’s Diary will be released tomorrow. Patry was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and must devote herself to healing right now, thus can’t expend the enormous energy required to try to sell her novel. In her stead, hundreds of authors around the country are doing it for her, so please pass along the karma and do check out her novel. Thanks!
Deb Jess is thrilled to receive a fantastic endorsement from the phenomenal Marian Keyes: “Driving Sideways is a gorgeous novel — I LOVED it!! It’s enjoyable, uplifting, and so so so funny and sparky. I found it hugely entertaining and very touching. Jess Riley’s voice is irreverent and wonderful, and her writing is genius.”
Deb Eileen and her debut, Unpredictable, will be presented this Monday, January 28, at Seize a Daisy.
Deb Jenny’s debut novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, will be released officially on Monday, January 28, and Amazon already had to re-order!
A few more fabulous reviews for Sleeping with Ward Cleaver:
Singletitles.com says: “What a fun read from the attention grabbing title, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, to the final elevator scene; I was chuckling and agreeing with every word. How did Jenny Gardiner manage to “get it” so right and put married life into such hilarious perspective?! But you don’t have to be married to appreciate the humor and witty words of Ms. Gardiner. Her determined character, Claire, is a woman we can all recognize as she raises phoenix like from the “every-dayness” of life! For a fresh, funny, entertaining read; SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER by award winning debut author Jenny Gardiner is sure to delight and amuse.”
Kimberly Swan with Reader to Reader wrote: “Ms. Gardiner shares a heartfelt and witty tale packed with the trials and joy that comes with being in love. Compelling and wonderfully realistic, Sleeping With Ward Cleaver will keep readers laughing while they cheer Claire on to happiness.”
Deb Jenny is thrilled to be joining the Girlfriend’s Cyber Circuit, a wonderful group of authors who help spread the word on their upcoming novels via their websites/blogs. She’ll also be blog-touring starting this week, at Joanne Rendell’s fun blog, the clever Kim Stagliano’s blog, the hilarious Steph Elliott’s Manic Mommy blog, The Title Wave blog, Rose and Thorns E-zine guest blog, and Singletitles.com.
She’ll be over at Oncewritten.com hopefully this week.
Also please visit her over at romancenovel.tv.com for the final week of her contest—what would you do if you found yourself in protagonist Claire Doolittle’s shoes. There’s a free signed copy of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver up for grabs! Speaking of contests, she’s got two running at her website, with $50 Amazon gift certificates at stake. Stop by and check them out!
Lastly, Deb Jenny appears in a fun interview with Kathe Gogolewski on Mother Daughter Radio on January 31 here.
The Debs will be presenting at this year’s RWA National Conference in San Fran this July. Hope to see you there!
One week until the fabulous contests begin! Are you ready?
This week we’ll be shuffling posts a little bit—Deb Jenny will borrow Gail’s Monday slot, and Tuesday the Debs will give the floor to Friend of Debs Patry Francis, a lovely and talented writer whose novel Liar’s Diary will be released Tuesday but who is currently undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of cancer and is unable to publicize her book. Please be sure to check it out as she has an enormous support network of writers who are devoting their Tuesday to helping ensure that Patry’s novel gets the attention it deserves. Thanks!
Congratulations to Deb Founder Jennifer McMahon on the sale of her next novel, Dismantled, in which a terrible crime returns to haunt old college friends who once formed a group of Compassionate Dismantlers, believing that things (and perhaps, people) must be taken literally apart to truly understand them.
Guest Author Series:
The debs are thrilled to welcome the prolific guest author Lauren Baratz-Logsted this Thursday, January 31st as she introduces her young adult novel, Secrets of My Suburban Life.
In addition we have the honor of hosting guest author Karin Gillespie on February 2, talking about her latest novel, Earthly Pleasures. Please stop by and say hello to her.
Jordan Rosenfeld‘s fabulous new book Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story Once Scene at a Time is in bookstores now and getting rave reviews. Be sure to check it out.
What the Debs are Reading:
Deb Lisa is reading Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld
Deb Jess is reading Best Friends by Martha Moody
Deb Gail just finished The Liars’ Diary by Patry Francis (Tuesday is The Liar’s Diary Blog Day at The Debutante Ball. Be sure to stop by!)
Deb Danielle is reading Eileen Cook’s Unpredictable.
Deb Eileen is reading The Last Place by Laura Lippman
Deb Jenny is reading author Malena Lott’s upcoming novel, Dating DaVinci, which will be published in 2008.
What on earth was I thinking when I suggested “stereotypes” as the topic this week? This is way, way too difficult. First of all, I don’t want to get all “after-school special” on you. And if we haven’t heard the one about how it’s bad to stereotype, maybe we need to read a few ValueTales or simply get out of the house more. Take a few vacations that challenge our cultural comfort zones.
But if you try too hard to avoid stereotypes, you might end up being hyper-politically correct. Both are deadly to good character development. Except when the character is doing the stereotyping and ends up learning some interesting life lessons. Or not.
I love busting stereotypes–particularly those relating to women. For example, I like horror movies—the more obscure and bizarre, the better. (Aren’t we supposed to prefer romantic comedies?) I do not like diamonds. (Aren’t they supposed to be a girl’s best friend?) In school, I actually liked math. I would rather go for a hike than go on a shopping spree. I don’t mind dirt or bugs. In fact, I find certain bugs fascinating. Unless they are earwigs destroying my perennials. Then, soapy death from above, my little stinky enemies. You have eaten your last daisy.
Then again, now I’ve got myself reconsidering this whole shopping spree thing. If it’s a shopping spree for, say, all-weather radial tires and I happen to need tires, does that count? Or how about a shopping spree that includes groceries and household cleaning supplies? How about a shopping spree for a new laptop and maybe a solid pair of running shoes and some drywall? I would vote “Yes” on that shopping spree referendum.
And speaking of shopping sprees, does anyone remember that old game show Supermarket Sweep? I had some roommates in college who were addicted to that show. I’d come home from class every afternoon, and there they’d all be, lined up on the couch under a pink blanket, mechanically eating cereal or pizza while they watched couples race around some fake store tossing high-ticket grocery items in their cart. Those roommates weren’t particularly nice to me, so I spent nearly every night at the library and earned a 4.0 both semesters. (My grades were never as good when I enjoyed my living arrangements. At least it seems they shouldn’t have been.)
That was also the year I turned 21; so while I spent nearly every weeknight at the library, I spent more than a few weekend evenings at a bar called The Library. (I know! It’s like I enjoy being surrounded by books or something.) I also had my heart broken a few times that year by beautiful young men with low morals and high ideals.
So I guess that’s me. The somewhat neurotic, book-loving, highly caffeinated, romantically wounded, bespectacled writer who enjoys a stiff drink now and then. We have hopped our pieces all the way around the board and I have become a different stereotype. At least for today. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go obsess over my amazon pre-sales ranking, sew some corduroy patches on the elbows of my tweed blazer, and reorganize my dictionary collection.
All week I’ve been wracking my brain for something clever and/or deep to say about stereotypes. The Oppressor (aka my husband, Michael) suggested I turn it around and talk about “types of stereos” and earlier today I seriously considered haiku or possibly writing in iambic pentameter.
But finally, just as I’ve run out of time and must write something, I’ve realized I could tell you about how I came to be a writer.
I was the stereotypical actor. (see? there’s the tie-in.) I was working as a waitress, a temp and (most depressing) an extra between acting jobs. I wanted to do classical theatre–Shakespeare, Chekhov or perhaps a bit of Pinter, Sartre, Caryl Churchill. And of course I wasn’t averse to TV stardom or even Hollywood, should such a wondrous thing occur. What I ended up doing was lots of romantic comedy, farce, the occasional commercial or indie film and thousands of hours of dubbing English for a Japanese TV network.
Even though I wasn’t getting the work I aspired to, I loved the theatre. I loved the people, the rehearsals, the buzz on stage when everything came together and started to cook. I even loved travelling to small towns in the middle of nowhere to perform for audiences that were mostly made up of senior citizens. I loved not having a “regular” job.
But I started to see the gap widen–the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I watched Michael blow into Toronto and get into Stratford on his very first try (after I’d auditioned for four years in a row without even a callback) and I lived, vicariously, an experience I was dying to have myself. And I watched him work on characters and texts and not-so-secretly envied him because he had so many gifts I coveted.
I was exhausted and in a continual state of desperation.
Of course, I was in therapy.
And one day I was sitting there talking about giving up acting, maybe going back to school, and my heart was breaking. I was about to become a failure, give up my dream. But my dream was making me miserable.
I’d talked about writing, but in an offhand sort of way, “Maybe I’ll write…” (every actor says this at some point, usually when they’re out of work) But then there was this moment where I said it again and knew I meant it. I realized if I could write I’d walk away from acting without a second thought. It wouldn’t be a failure, it would be my dream, the one I’d kept secret forever, even from myself.
A few days later I sat alone in front of the empty computer screen in Michael’s Stratford apartment while he was doing a matinee. I had to do it: write something. I didn’t believe I could come up with anything original so right next to me was a book, one of those books that made me think: “this isn’t very good–I’m sure I could do better”. As an exercise, I was going to write a book with the same premise but totally different places, characters, etc, just to see if I could write at all. (Don’t try this at home.)
I must have taken a deep breath and started to type. And I must have continued to type because three hours later I looked up and there was Michael with his stage make-up still on, having died seven times in The Three Musketeers and come home. I blinked and swallowed. My face was flushed and my bladder was full and I had not moved from the computer. I looked at him and thought about how easily he could slide into a character, how things I had to fight so hard to “get” were so easy for him. And I finally understood how that must feel.
For me, acting was like repeatedly throwing myself against a wall but writing…writing was like breathing, like something I already knew how to do and had been doing all along.
Since then I have written two books and three plays (and married, got a dog, had a child) and here I am on my way to being published. Writing for a living is no easier than acting which means perhaps, that I am a great fool and a glutton for punishment. And on a daily basis writing is bloody hard work, not some kind of mystical, magical thing that lands on me and then flows like spiderwebs out my fingertips and onto the keyboard. But I’m a little better at it than I was at acting and, more importantly, much happier than I would have been at Stratford…though I occasionally pine for a corset and the chance to play Lady M, Katherine or Beatrice.
Thanks for reading and wish me luck. Or tell me to break a leg–I still speak “actor” now and then.