Congrats to Debra, Gayle and Jen who won Kate Ledger’s Remedies.
Deb Sarah is so excited to share that her second novel is coming out three months early! The pub date for The Bungalow has been moved up to December 27 (from March 27), which officially means that Sarah has had two books come out, and given birth to one baby, in one year. This makes her feel like taking a nap. Right now.
Deb Tawna would like to thank her fellow Debs for not telling her how chaotic the weeks surrounding a book release can be. Had she known, she might have canceled the book’s publication and done something more relaxing. Like water torture.
Deb Kim wants to say WELCOME to the 2012 Debs. I’m clapping as hard as I can, but these darn gloves are so quiet!
Past Deb Eileen Cook is signing TODAY at the Young Adult Summer Extravaganza at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, WA at 4:00. Seattleites, that’s SIX YA authors in one place – go visit and send her all of our love!
Past Deb Jenny Gardiner says, “Hi,there! I’ve recently released a few novels direct to Kindle, including my award-winning debut novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, which was a victim of the demise of Dorchester Publishing. They’re all perfect summertime reads: Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Slim to None (both on Kindle and in Print), House of Cards, and Over the Falls.
And some other big news, I have a funny story (“My Dog the Dominatrix”) in the upcoming dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (spearheaded by our practically honorary Deb Wade Rouse) that is a fundraiser for the Humane Society and is getting a lot of early buzz (it got picked for the September Indie Next List and there’s going to be a big froo-froo launch at a fancy dog boutique in Manhattan and another in Chicago with Jen Lancaster. it’s going to be a hilarious book with a powerhouse list of contributors (including Chelsea Handler’s dog Chunk, as well as 11 NY Times bestsellers, 2 Emmy award-winners and a Tony award-winner).
Last but not least, my memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me is still doing well with the animal lovers!
Thanks for indulging me! — Jenny”
Meet The Debutante Ball Class of 2012!
They’re here! They’re here! Well, almost. The class of 2011 will be sticking around for a few more weeks – and what a few weeks those will be: we’re celebrating the debuts of Deb Elise Allen’s Populazzi and Deb Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves!
But fear not, we’re not just celebrating – we’ve been hard at work selecting next year’s class of debut authors, who will take over at the end of August. So put on your tiara and welcome our 2012 Debutantes to the Ball…
By day, Canadian Joanne Levy wrangles bank executives; by night, she wrangles her menagerie of pets while writing books for kids; her middle grade novel, Small Medium at Large, will hit shelves June 14, 2012.
A native New Englander who now lives and writes in North Carolina, Erika Marks is the author of Little Gale Gumbo, which will be published by NAL in October.
Virginia resident Linda Grimes is an ex-actress who used to support her theater habit by teaching English, and now channels her love of words and drama into writing light urban fantasy; her debut novel, In a Fix, will be released by Tor in July 2012.
Rachel Bertsche lives in Chicago, where she spends her time writing (for magazines, websites and, now, books) and trying to make new friends; her memoir, MWF Seeking BFF, is due out in January 2012 from Ballantine Books.
M. Molly Backes teaches creative writing at StoryStudio Chicago; her young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa will be published by Candlewick Press in May 2012.
We’re so happy to have them here! Please give them a big Debutante Ball welcome in the comments!
We’re so happy to have Elizabeth Stuckey-French joining us at the Ball today! Deb Eleanor was lucky enough to be on a panel with Elizabeth at the recent Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago, and she can vouch that Elizabeth is smart, funny, and talented as heck. Today Elizabeth has some great advice for aspiring writers, and she’s giving away a copy of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady to one lucky commenter!
Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of two novels, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady and Mermaids on the Moon, as well as a collection of short stories, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa. With Janet Burroway she is co-author of Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft. Her short stories have appeared in The Normal School, Narrative Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Five Points, and The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005. She teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.
Advice for Aspiring Writers from Mr. Franzen n Me
The great Jonathan Franzen recently said this about writing in an NPR interview: “It’s absolutely necessary to say things that are absolutely unsayable.”
I couldn’t agree more. As writers, each one of us must say the unsayable. Amen.
Mr. Franzen went on to describe some of his unsayables, but I won’t mention them here because they won’t help us much, because the thing is, what’s unsayable to Mr. Franzen is not going to be what’s unsayable to us. What we writers must do – and this is the hard part, the really hard part – is to honestly ask ourselves, “What are my unsayables?”
This is something nobody else can tell you. You must figure out, for yourself, what you feel you should never write about because you fear that you could never find the right words or because you just want to move on already, damnit, or, more likely, because you’re ashamed and don’t want everybody knowing how base and vile, how absolutely human, you really are.
That we want to hide from such things is understandable, of course. How do we hide from them? Well, one way, I think, is to throw everything else in front of our fears so we don’t have to directly face them. We piddle around, sorting through boxes full of fluff masquerading as important stuff. Boxes labeled, “A weird story that could be sold to the movies and make me rich!” Or “A lyric nature poem I would write if I were a good person.”
Sometimes I can get through these boxes to the real stuff by giving my unconscious a kind of Rorschach test. I take my pen in hand and poke around in my own dark attic. I ask myself tough questions and answer quickly, before I have a chance to think. Right at this very minute, what am I most afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen to me at this point in my life? What makes me sadder than anything? Happier than anything? What could I not bear to lose? What could I never write about in a million years?
Of this last, I’ve noticed, with some embarrassment and shame, that whatever I publicly say I’ll never write about has a way of coming back like a gremlin and announcing, “Of course you’ll write about me, fool.” And before I know it I’ve turned around and done just that. Instead of lying after the fact, I lie before the fact.
Here’s one example of this shameful behavior. A few years ago, at the NonfictionNow conference in Iowa City, I gave a presentation on a panel called Writing About Disabilities. I spoke about my older daughter, Flannery, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is basically high-functioning autism. Here’s a quote from that presentation:
“One thing that bothers me about much of the recent Asperger’s fiction is that the writers, apparently because they’ve taught somebody with Asperger’s or been around an Aspie or read up on the syndrome, now feel like they can write from the perspective of a character who’s affected by Asperger’s. This is something I would never try to do, and maybe I envy them their audacity, but it also seems more than a tad presumptuous.
The tipoff, I suppose, should have been in the never followed quickly by the envy, but I didn’t hear it. Soon after I wrote that essay I began taking notes for my novel The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, which has two Aspergers teenagers in it. Soon, I realized that I felt compelled to try to write from their point of view. Anxiously, guiltily, and on the sly, I dove in, telling myself that I wouldn’t show anybody the results, that it was just a backstory exercise that would help me understand my characters better. Turns out that those chapters in the book are my favorites. It was incredibly liberating for me to write them, and the writing taught me something important, something I’d forgot. Characters must be and can be human beings first and Aspies–or whatever–second. Those two characters both have Asperger’s Syndrome but they are also different from each other, their own people.
Okay, so why don’t we writers just figure out what we need to say and say it? Well, it ain’t that easy. The unconscious is balky and shy and sometimes needs to be mollified and coaxed into the open. And then there’s the actual writing part, which is always hard work because there is never a blueprint, a sign directing you from point-A to point-B. You must find your own way. This is when craft becomes important, applying seat of pants to chair is important, filling the page is important.
But if you skip the self-examination part, you are liable to write something that is technically proficient yet forgettable, something that you knew all along you could say rather than something you never believed you could.
Thank you, Elizabeth! Ladies and gentlemen, that is some great writing inspiration from a master of the craft. Hope you’re taking notes! (Or maybe just bookmarking this post.) Read on to learn more about The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, and leave a comment to thank Elizabeth for joining us and enter to win a copy!
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is based on an actual event. During the late forties and early fifties, more than 800 women, told they were taking vitamin “cocktails,” were given doses of radioactive iron as patients at Vanderbilt University hospital.
My novel begins in 2006, when Marylou Ahearn, a fictional victim of the experiment, is now 77. She is still grieving over her daughter’s death, from cancer, decades earlier, when she discovers the whereabouts of the doctor who gave her the “radioactive cocktail” during her pregnancy. Accompanied by her Welsh corgi, Buster, and disguised as “Nancy Archer” (the heroine of the 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), Marylou moves to Tallahassee, Fla., where Dr. Spriggs lives with his daughter, menopausal Caroline; her husband, Vic Witherspoon, who’s contemplating an affair, and their children: 18-year-old Elvis-obsessed beauty Ava; 16-year-old science geek Otis, who’s secretly building a nuclear breeder reactor; and overachieving, attention-deprived 13-year-old Suzi. As “Radioactive Lady,” Nance creates trouble for the entire family, but her revenge plans mutate after discovering the old doc has dementia, and she starts becoming a bit too fond of all of them.
I’ve gotta be honest – I’m not usually a big fan of the Young Adult genre.
Maybe I’m too far removed from being a teenager, or maybe I’m not removed enough. Whatever the case, it’s seldom my first choice in genres to read for pleasure.
Deb Elise’s Populazzi made me rethink that
It’s not hard to figure out why. Deb Elise did a phenomenal job creating a narrator who is smart, quirky, flawed, earnest, insecure, driven, kind, funny, and a bit misguided. In other words, human – someone so entirely relatable you feel like you know her.
As I followed Cara on her journey through the minefield of high school popularity, there were times I wanted to grab her by the ear, give her a good shake, and say, “girlfriend, what are you doing?”
And then maybe we’d hug and braid each other’s hair.
See, that’s what’s so powerful about this book – the fact that the characters aren’t just cardboard cutouts, but real people who make you want to laugh and cry and stay up all night reading the book because dammit, they’re your friends and you need to know RIGHT NOW what happens to them.
Not that I did that.
OK, I totally did that.
If you share my love of flawed-but-lovable characters who become your very best friends in just a few pages, you’ll definitely want to pick up Deb Elise’s Populazzi.
Here’s a quick synopsis in case you’ve missed it in the other Debs’ posts this week:
Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say. They are the Populazzi, and they’ve always been many rungs on the Popularity Tower above Cara and her best friend Claudia.
Yet when Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, Claudia urges Cara to seize the opportunity and change her life… by using the Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and by molding herself into the perfect girlfriend to guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, Cara will be able to achieve the ultimate goal: becoming Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school
What starts off as a lighthearted social experiment becomes increasingly twisted and difficult, and Cara soon finds even the most basic things about herself aren’t what she always believed. Though the Ladder may seem like a straight climb to the top, for Cara it’s a sometimes-dark, sometimes-absurd, always-winding journey to find out who she really is.
What’s the last book you read that had characters so vivid, so well-crafted, so very, very human that you felt like you knew them? Please share, I’m always looking for good reads!
And please go buy Elise Allen’s Populazzi. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!
I was soooo excited to read fellow Deb Ball sister Elise Allen’s debut novel, Populazzi (which I, oddly, always want to spell with two “p’s”—which makes zero grammatical sense!) for so many reasons: a.) in the lost years between junior high and high school, I was a little shy, a little unsure of myself, and, like Elise’s main character, Cara, totally the type of girl whose diaries are uneventful (though I hid them anyway, and I bet my parents did snoop, but I forgive them!), b.) I have full lips, just like the girl on the cover (I love them now, but I felt self-conscious about them growing up), and, b.) I have fond memories of YA books as a teen, most notably The Babysitters Club series—so I was really excited to rediscover the genre as an adult. And, friends, long story short: This book met all of my expectations and then some. It was such a treat.
Here I was, a 33-year-old mother of three, totally identifying with Cara. For 390 pages, I lived vicariously through her. (And, for the record, while I didn’t have an “accident” like hers in Kindergarten, I did have excema on the backs of my legs and was so afraid to stand in the front of the line for fear that someone would make fun of the rashy skin behind my knees. Funny how we still carry these feelings/worries with us through life. I can still feel that anxiety years later when I think back to that year.
I could ramble on and on about all the ways I connected with this book, but here’s the thing: I will always remember this story because it took me back to a time when I grappled with these very same questions and choices. I distinctly remember being a scrawny, sort of shy, eighth grader, nodding obediently as a more “popular” girl gave my friend and me a “lesson” on popularity in the cafeteria one day (just like in Populazzi, there were four levels of popular kids, she said, and we’d have to act, dress, and even talk in a certain way if we were to climb the ladder. Oy!).
Somewhere along the way, I worked out what mattered most: Being me. Bravo, dear Elise, for writing about these issues of youth with such wisdom, tenderness and authenticity. xo, Sarah
P.S. Have you ordered your copy?
Sorry, we’re a Dr. Seuss family and well, it just worked. Would you could you on a blog? Would you could you in the fog? If that’s someone asking you to learn about, buy and DEVOUR Populazzi then the answer is YES!
Congrats to Deb Elise on the launch of her YA/MAA (Hey, I loved the book and I’m a middle aged adult, so I think the genre is perfectly legit) book called Populazzi. From The Elise Allen Populazzi website:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be? Would you grab it? Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?
Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say. One of the Populazzi.
It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.
When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.
The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.
I read Populazzi and really enjoyed it, all while thanking the good Lord above I am not in high school circa 2011. And I thought not having hair that would feather like Farrah Fawcett’s was a big problem? Cara and her schoolmates face far bigger and more important (and socially relevant) hurdles than I imagined as a teen. Deb Elise tackles popularity with perfection. And she also makes the reader think about the ramifications of divorce, blended families, parental love and acceptance, bullying among peers, drug use, the true meaning of love both amorous and platonic and so much more. Her setting in suburban Philly rings (Liberty bell joke!) true because Deb Elise hails from the city of brotherly love. As a plus? Anytime you can weave TastyKakes into a story, I’m with you!
So congrats to Deb Elise. Buy the book in your favorite format as soon as you can.
Guess what? It’s time to celebrate Deb Elise Allen’s Populazzi!
I met Deb Elise when I was in LA, but we only got to talk for about three minutes, and we were so excited we forgot to take a picture, but I loved her immediately, and reading this book only cemented that.
Let me catch you up with a back-of-the-book summary first:
Cara has never been one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and always ready with the perfect thing to say. A girl at the very top of the popularity tower. One of the Populazzi.
Now, junior year could change everything. Cara’s moving to a new school, and her best friend urges her to seize the moment—with the help of the Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms into the perfect girlfriend for guys ever-higher on the tower, she’ll reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi.
The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment, a straight climb up, but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.
Like most of us, I was awkward and self-conscious and confused throughout my teenage years. I went to a small, private, all-girls’ high school, so the social strata were laid out differently, but there was still a social ladder of sorts, and while I wasn’t tempted to climb it, I did always wonder about it.
How do people fall into groups? Who are these mysterious golden “Supreme Populazzi”, and how do they get there? I remember in junior high school, the people at the top of the social strata were not nice, and nobody really liked them, but somehow they remained “the popular crowd”, even though that totally defies the meaning of popular. Whatever. Nobody is interested in semantics in the 7th grade.
Watching Cara climb the Ladder in the book is both sad and fascinating. I wanted to cheer for her even though, at thirty-ahem years old, it was absolutely clear that the Ladder was going in completely the wrong direction. But along the way, Elise gives you lots of things to think about in terms of the way we find people we identify with, and how we learn to be happy with who we are (which is a lesson even we thirty-ahems could use some reminding of).
Special bonus that the main character is a smart, literate girl who has inside jokes about Shakespeare with her best friend (if you’ve read The Weird Sisters, you know I dig me some Shakespeare on occasion).
Congratulations to Elise on a smart, funny, clever book that had me thinking long after I closed the cover.
What social group were you in as a teenager? Did you ever want or try to be part of a different one?
Congratulations to commenter #10, Kelley, who won a copy of Populazzi! Thank you, everyone, for supporting Elise’s debut!
True story. I came back from an overnight at my daughter’s summer camp, sat down at the computer, wondered, “Hmmm… better write Monday’s Deb Ball post. Wonder what the topic is?” Then I clicked on the page and realized…
I’m the topic!!!
Originally, when we realized Tawna and I debuted on the same day, I volunteered to have Populazzi take the week before launch. Launch week is a big deal, but I’ve always heard that online retailers pay close attention to the week before launch week too, so I was more than happy to take this week at the Ball.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to launch day.
The book launched without me.
It didn’t really — with the exception of tomes with the words “Harry Potter” in the title, books don’t launch like movies. They ship out from the warehouse when they’re ready, and once they’re at the store, or the online retailer, they’re put on the shelves or sent out to customers. So on July 20th, Populazzi started arriving on Amazon.com pre-orderers’ doorsteps, and the “Pre-Order” button became simply “Add to Cart.” Barnes and Noble online followed suit a couple days later, and a day after that, a Twitter friend told me the book was already on the shelves of her local store.
What did I do when I heard the ridiculously exciting news that my very first novel was out there in the world?
I pretty much turned into a Cathy comic.
“AAACK! I haven’t done enough promotion yet!”
“AAACK! What if nobody buys it?”
“AAACK! The next few days will determine the course of my entire career as an author!”
“AAACK! AAACK! AAACK!”
Yeah… it was a lot of that.
Last week I talked about my dysfunctional brain, which flip-flops between delusions of grandeur and self-loathing dreams of doom. I lived up to that dysfunction by building up all kinds of expectations for what I had to achieve by debut day for me to consider it a success. When the warehouses prematurely ejaculated Populazzi into the world (sorry — couldn’t help it), I was suddenly smacked in the face with those expectations I hadn’t yet met. And every time people congratulated me on the book’s release, or said, “You must be so excited!” I’d say yes and mean it, but a little voice would trill in the back of my head, “I’m excited, but…” as the litany of self-erected hurdles (yup, did it again) I hadn’t cleared filled my brain.
Then I took my daughter to the Santa Monica pier. She just discovered she’s no longer afraid of big-kid rides, and was dying to try the Pacific Park roller coaster. They pump music all over the place there, and while we were waiting in line, I heard one of my least favorite songs in the world: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
I mean, really — I love Aerosmith like crazy, but that song? Total cheese fest.
Yet much to my dismay, that load of Limburger triggered an epiphany.
My debut novel is out there in the world. This is a dream come true, a once-in-a-lifetime experience… and if I let my head stay muddled with neurotic insanity, I’ll miss it. And cheesy or not… I don’t want to miss a thing.
Since then I’ve been much saner. I won’t lie — I check the Amazon rankings, I Google “Elise Allen Populazzi,” I study the Google Analytics for my website… but I don’t freak out about the results.
More importantly, I’m letting the great stuff truly sink in, and there’s a lot of great stuff. The positive feedback I’ve gotten from bloggers, writers I admire, and other early readers makes me jump around the room and dance like a maniac. Writing a story is wonderful, having it published is exhilarating, but it’s only when other people read the book that it really comes to life. Every single time I hear from someone who read and loved Populazzi, I get a rush that’s even better than stand-up paddleboarding… and you all know I’m obsessed with stand-up paddleboarding.
This has already been a phenomenal journey, and in the mad rush towards publication I forgot that pub day isn’t the end of the race, it’s just another mile marker in an absolutely incredible marathon. My head’s in the right place now, which means I can not only enjoy the hell out of every minute, but I can also go back to listening to real Aerosmith songs.
Thanks so much to my fellow Debs and to all of you for your support throughout the year! And if you haven’t bought a copy of Populazzi and would like to, Barnes and Noble and Amazon are selling it online for just $10. And at last check on Amazon, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” Making Waves by Deb Tawna, The Weird Sisters by Deb Eleanor, and Skipping a Beat by former Deb Sarah Pekkanen. Sharing an Amazon page with those three amazing women? Now that’s seriously something I would not want to miss.