Happy Hump Day, Everyone!
I’m pretty sure if I were a romance writer, I wouldn’t be allowed to talk about Hump Day in a public forum, but luckily I write for young adults, where we just giggle and roll our eyes a lot.
I didn’t embrace the greatness of Hump Day until I went to college in Iowa. (And yes, I’m going to keep saying Hump Day until you giggle. Hump Day Hump Day!) I went to Grinnell, which is known nationally as being a great liberal arts school with a huge endowment, and known locally as “the one with all the naked kids.”
Let me back up for a moment. About me: I grew up in Wisconsin, just outside Madison, and after college I moved to New Mexico, where I taught middle school. Currently I live in Chicago, where I teach creative writing at StoryStudio Chicago and spend much of my day talking to my greyhound Zia.
My book, THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA, is a reverse-Cinderella story in which an It-girl who seems to have it all – the gorgeous boyfriend, the perfect best friends, and a spot on the Homecoming Court – starts to wonder if there’s more to life than being popular. (And, as Deb Tawna mentioned, there’s also a gay creative writing teacher, a fake car accident, a real car accident, some jokes about Muttnik, a sexy nerd, an angry alternateen, a disastrous homecoming parade, and an airbrushed T-shirt that says “I love my Iowa Grandma.”)
Just as Deb Erika’s book is a love letter to New Orleans and Maine, my book began as a love letter to Iowa. When I wrote it, I was living in a weird little house in the mountains of New Mexico with my dog Zeke, and homesick for the rolling prairies and fields of the Midwest….
Which brings me back to Hump Day.
So in college, the woman who took your ID card at the dining hall was named Norma,* and she was a little bonkers. We had many theories to explain her weirdness, ranging from Nazi War Criminal Deep Undercover to Slightly Defective Android. Norma tried to memorize everyone’s name, and she was very good at it unless you wanted to be called something different than the name on your Student ID, in which case Norma’s wires seemed to get crossed, and she would just start shouting random names at you.
And every Wednesday, Norma would greet you with “It’s Hump Day!” Only she’d kind of shout it. “IT’S HUMP DAY!”
We all loved her.
One Wednesday – the BEST Wednesday – I was leaving the dining hall with some friends, and Norma showed off her name skills by wishing us each a Happy Hump Day. “HAPPY HUMP DAY, PAUL! HAPPY HUMP DAY, KEVIN! HAPPY HUMP DAY, MOLLY! HAPPY HUMP DAY, ZACK!”
I’d walked out with just Paul and Kevin, so I glanced around for a Zack, but there wasn’t anyone else in the hallway. Behind us, I heard Norma say to herself, “There’s no Zack there.”
HAPPY HUMP DAY, everyone! I’m so excited to be spending a year’s worth of them with you!
*name changed to protect the Nazi War Criminal and/or Android
According to the nursery rhyme “Tuesday’s child is full of grace”…Well, I should warn you all I am not particularly graceful. I have my moments, but for the most part, if there’s a curb that requires a step down, I won’t see it, or a pole that necessitates walking around, ditto.
What I am, however, is enormously excited and honored to be part of this wonderful group of writers and readers at The Debutante Ball. We’re going to have a lot of fun in the coming year so get ready.
I actually get to start the party early since my debut LITTLE GALE GUMBO is set to release first on October 4th (I’ve been freezing tubs of gumbo and pralines since April for the big event–I had to evict the ice trays shortly after Memorial Day.)
You could say this novel is my love letter to two places that will forever have my heart: New Orleans, where I met and fell in love with my husband, and Maine, where I was raised. The story follows a single mother who leaves New Orleans in 1977 to start a new life with her teenage daughters and ends up on a small island off the coast of Maine where no one knows quite what to make of a Creole woman who practices voodoo and cooks gumbo. That is, until she falls in love with a divorced islander and their passionate and unlikely love affair inspires her to open an authentic Creole café that will become an island staple. It’s a story full of food, romance, secrets and even a dash of mystery. Come on over to my website for lots more on the novel, and other delectable subjects…
Now as for any secrets I might have…well, maybe not secrets, so much as things not well-known about me:
I own my own tool belt and I can handle myself behind most any saw—table, miter, circular, jig, coping, you name it. I don’t believe there is such a thing as bad chocolate or bad wine. I love to drive, U-Hauls in particular, and wish playing poker was considered a viable form of exercise. But since it’s not, I’ll gladly go for a hike or ski, or just dance my brains out with my girls in the living room.
But enough about me…Let’s get this party started! Raise your glass—or mug or sippy cup or juice box, whatever you have nearby. Here’s to a wonderful year of debuts and a great big thank you hug to the amazing class of 2011 who made it look way too easy and way too much fun.
Now please indulge me and leave a secret, er, I mean, a lesser-known fact about yourself in the comments. And don’t worry—what happens at the Deb Ball stays at the…oh, you know.
So this is my first post, and the first post of the 2012 Debs, as we receive the baton passed from the awesome, shiny, talented and just absolutely lovely class of 2011 Debs. Wow, these are some big shoes to fill and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m nervous about trying to live up to the legacy that Kim, Sarah, Eleanor, Elise and Tawna and all the past groups have created.
Well, I’d better just jump in.
I’m Joanne and I’m going to be your Monday Deb for this year, so I’m definitely going to try to be funny and witty so your Monday Blahs turn into Monday HA HAs. Okay, that was lame. Sorry about that. Yes, sometimes I do get corny, but people tell me that’s part of my charm. Well, my mom does, anyway.
But back to me and who I am. I’m the Canadian (eh!) representative of this year’s Debs, so I will talk a lot about pop (not soda) and the escalating cost of hydro (not electricity) and most importantly, Tim Horton’s, which incidentally originated in my home town.
My middle grade book, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE, will be published by Bloomsbury Kids in June 2012. It’s not the first novel I’ve written, nor the second or even, um, the tenth. Let’s just say Joanne got a LOT of practice writing novels before she finally got it right. But I’m super happy to be here and I’ve wanted to be a Deb for a very long time. A while back, the class of 2008 took pity on me invited me to write a guest post about publishing perceptions versus publishing realities. Boy, do I know about the realities! And for anyone following along, my Snoopy pajamas wore out long before I got my book deal. True story.
As for the personal stuff about me, I’m a married DINK with a menagerie of pets that I have a feeling you’re going to get to know over the next year. Zoe is our most recent adoptee; at 8 months, this sweet little black Lab is definitely keeping us on our toes.
But isn’t she beautiful? Chester is our younger cat who adores Zoe and wants to lay and snuggle with her at every opportunity. Simon is our quiet, low-key cat, who came to us almost thirteen years ago, just days after my husband and I got married.
And then there’s Gabby, the evil bird who is definitely a cousin to Jenny Gardiner’s Graycie, if not in blood, then definitely in attitude (speaking of blood…). Don’t be fooled when you hear Gabby say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Or ask you sweetly what a dog says (and then follow up with a bark); she’s buttering you up and would gladly throw you over if you come between her and her man (my husband – she does have good taste, I’ll give her that). If you see ghastly bites on my hand, you’ll know I’ve recently made that mistake.
My weekdays are spent in an office, huddled over a computer, planning meetings, managing calendars and ordering coffee as the Executive Assistant to a bank VP. My weekends are spent huddled over a computer creating books for kids that I think I would have liked to read back in the days before mortgages and taxes were on my radar. Basically, I spend a lot of time huddled over computers; massage gift certificates always welcome.
But back to the important stuff. I’m just so excited to be here, and in the short time that I’ve had so far with Molly, Rachel, Linda and Erika, I have come to know that we’re going to have a GREAT year. I’ve got my gloves and tiara on already and am so looking forward to dancing with all of you!
Let the music begin!
Congrats to Karen K who won Daniel Polansky’s Low Town.
From the 2011 Debs…
Our wonderful 2012 Debutantes join the dance tomorrow! If you missed our introduction, you can learn more about them here!
On Saturday, Deb Elise placed third in her age group in the inaugural Mammoth Mud Run! It’s her first-ever medal for speed, not just for finishing, and she’s insanely excited!!!
Deb Eleanor was thrilled to hear that The Weird Sisters was at the top of heat‘s recommended reading list for the second week in a row. Now, how long do you think it would take to swim to England?
Deb Tawna‘s Making Waves was featured in the Chicago Tribune‘s romance review roundup! Remember that old Sesame Street jingle, “One of these things is not like the other?” That’s what Deb Tawna has been humming all week as she looks at all the big-name authors featured in that same article and wonders if someone is playing a practical joke on her.
Check out this great email Deb Elise got from Amazon, recommending Deb Eleanor‘s The Weird Sisters, along with The Paris Wife, The Peach Keeper, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and Like Water for Elephants!
Deb Kim is enjoying (easy to say as the sun shines on Friday) Hurricane Irene. Hope everyone is safe in DebLand!
Past Deb News
Check out Deb Kristina Riggle’s interview on the Michigan Writers Network!
Friends of the Debs
The Debs are sad to note the passing of Barbara Drummond Mead, owner of Reading Group Choices. An ardent supporter of reading and authors, Barbara was a bright, beautiful, and charming dinner companion at many a book festival, and we are grateful for her support.
We love this article on yesterday’s guest, Amanda Kyle Williams, in Decatur Metro!
Deb Dish — On Their Last Day, What Words of Advice Would the 2011 Debs Like to Give the 2012 Debs?
Take advantage of the Deb network! Your Deb class will be a huge source of support, but we Former Debs are here for you too. Debs from previous years have made a huge difference in this year for me, giving me invaluable advice. We’re all only an email away, and we’re all excited for your turn at the Ball!
Be excellent to each other, and party on, Debs!
Deb Kim Set reminders on your calendar and plan as many posts in advance as you can. The night before your weekly posts comes fast and often!
Have fun! (And try not to wait until midnight the night before your post-day to write, because you will be very, very sleepy the next day!)
Don’t be so hard on yourself (and pause to snicker at any & all hard-on jokes). Seriously, there will be a million times you want to kick yourself for missing promo opportunities or blowing off deadlines or finding yourself so far behind on emails that you consider changing your name and deleting your account. Cut yourself some slack, realize life is chaotic for all debut authors, and reward yourself well for all the things you are doing right.
We’re happy to welcome Amanda Kyle Williams to the Ball today! Amanda’s debut novel, The Stranger You Seek will officially be released this Tuesday, but we’re giving you a sneak preview right now! Read on, because Amanda has quite a story to tell – about herself and the book!
An electrifying thriller debut, The Stranger You Seek introduces a brash, flawed, and unforgettable heroine in a complex, twisting novel that takes readers deep into a sultry Southern summer, a city in the grips of chaos, and a harrowing cat-and-mouse game no reader will ever forget. Amanda’s giving away a copy to one lucky commenter, so don’t forget to say hello!
Amanda Kyle Williams has contributed to numerous short story collections and worked as a freelance writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In order to lend authenticity to her Keye Street series, she studied criminal profiling under Brent Turvey, a nationally known criminologist and profiler, took courses geared to law enforcement in serial homicide investigation, worked with a PI firm in her hometown of Atlanta on surveillance operations, became a court appointed process server, and consulted with professionals in bond and law enforcement.
Amanda Kyle Williams Takes the Deb Interview!
What is the best perk of your job?
It’s been a little over a year now that I’ve been working as a full time writer. It’s such a great job it’s almost hard to zero in on the one perk that out rocks the others. First of all, it was my dream. I was a writer for a couple of decades before I was a writer with a contract. That’s another off-the-charts amazing gift—a contract. I can write this series and still make my car payment. Go figure! Now my office is in my home. I guess that’s the greatest perk. Coffee at my desk, a window that shows me pine trees and big water oaks and jasmine climbing the backyard arbor. My dogs hang out with me. Three of them. They’re completely rotten now. I’m the doorman. I really don’t know how they made it when I had normal hours. That’s the other thing; my hours. I can make the schedule that works for me and write when I’m most creative. Of course, I’m doing stuff like emailing people in the middle of the night on a weekend because I have no idea what day it is. I’m living in some kind of weird writer’s bubble.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
I’ve been impacted in a million ways, large and small, by many books. But I guess the first book I read cover-to-cover was the most significant. It was a kind of mile-marker. I was 23 years old. I had been diagnosed with dyslexia the year before and I’d worked for that year on developing recognition skills so I could deal with things like long text and sequenced numbers. My reading skills had improved so much in that year. A librarian recommended Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This book rocked my world. Not only because Austen brought to life all this tension around love, family, and class so brilliantly, but also because I understood for the first time why people read for pleasure. I fell hard for words and language. That book was like a door being flung open.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I once learned how to pilot an ultralight aircraft called The Hawk and spent a summer traveling to air shows with an old guy who built and sold them. Pretty funny considering I don’t like flying commercial airlines. My palms get sweaty. I try not to visualize the plane spiraling down. I’m a big believer in visualizations. Somehow learning to fly an ultralight, which is much more dangerous in reality, didn’t scare me as bad. Probably because I was in charge of the ultralight. And that’s another issue entirely.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Well, it’s been on-the-job training for me and I’m still pretty new at it, but I’d say; don’t wait for the big idea or for the clouds to part or whatever to get started. The real magic happens after you push through an hour or two of clunky, hard, brick-by-brick foundation building. Getting something down whether you’re having a good writing day or not is huge. Because the next day, it’s a heck of a lot easier to go back and fix something, build on it, give it life, than it is to get new work on paper. And for me, the ideas really start to flow when I’m revising. Disconnect from the Internet for a few hours each day when you’re working. Treat it like a job. Tie yourself to the chair if you have to. Once you actually start, moving forward it isn’t that bad. But you have to start. You have to make yourself sit down. And know that when you do, the mind and flesh will rise up against you. There will be a spot on the window that has to be cleaned. You’ll get hungry, thirsty, headachy, sleepy. Did the mail come? Wouldn’t a cup of coffee be great? Don’t listen! Fight your way through it and just be still. Just get the next scene out.
What’s your next big thing?
The Stranger You Seek hits stores on August 30th! I can’t even see past that. It feels like I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time.
And we’re thrilled for you, Amanda! Congratulations, and enjoy every second of it!
“My name is Keye Street. In life, I am a dry alcoholic, a passionate believer in Krystal cheeseburgers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and a former behavioral analysis for the FBI How I ended up here in the South, where I have the distinction of looking like what they call a damn foreigner in most parts of Georgia and sounding like a hick everywhere else in the world, is a mystery Emily and Howard Street have never fully unraveled for me.” So begins THE STANGER YOU SEEK as Street—ex-FBI profiler, ex-drunk, ex-wife—dodges flying bottles while trying to apprehend the latest criminal who has jumped bail and who she needs to recover. While not the most glamorous job, it pays the bills—until her friend Aaron Rauser gives opens up one last shot in the Atlanta Police Department. A terrifying serial killer is on the loose and the department is desperate for her expertise as a profiler. Keye signs on—and even though she has seen the dark corners of the human heart and mind more times than she can count, nothing can prepare her for what the Wishbone murders will lead her into, both professionally and personally.
Hey, we’ve heard a little rumor that there’s a link to the first two chapters of The Stranger You Seek over on Amanda’s site! Clicky clicky for the sneak peek! Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter to win a copy!
You can also hang out with Amanda on Twitter or on Facebook!
For our final posts here at The Debutante Ball, we’re supposed to talk about what’s next and say goodbye.
But really, what are they going to do if I fail to do either of those things? Drag me out by the hair?
What I’d rather do is tell you what I love best about the incoming Debutante Ball class, and why they rock so hard they make me seasick. Here’s a rundown:
Joanne Levy’s debut middle-grade novel, Small Medium at Large hits shelves next June. I loved the idea of a middle-grade Deb, since reading at that age played a big part in why I became a writer in the first place. I especially adored Joanne’s description of the book in her application:
Lilah Bloom is just an average twelve year old. She’s looking forward to starting a band with her best friend, tries for decent grades and is dreaming of finding the perfect guy. That is, until her regular life becomes not-so-regular when she gets hit by lightning and can suddenly hear dead people.
I love the “her regular life becomes not-so-regular” angle (as you might have gathered from the “normal may be nice, but weird is wonderful” tagline on the cover of Making Waves) so I already know this book is going to totally roll my socks up. I also love that she’s a longtime Debutante Ball reader.
Erika Marks had me hooked from the very first line of her Debutante Ball application:
I wrote my first Harlequin-hopeful novel at 18, printed it on dot-matrix, sent it out and was hooked for life on writing thanks in part to several editors and agents who were far too gracious to tell me I had no business writing about sex when I’d never so much as kissed a boy (Do you think it was that obvious? Er, yes.)
Her book, Little Gale Gumbo, is not a Harlequin romance, but rather a women’s fiction title being published by NAL in October. I know I’m going to love it based not only on the description, but on Erica’s voice throughout her Debutante Ball application, including her response to our question about whether there was anything else she wanted to share:
Well…I prefer a gin martini to a vodka one, I can’t let my hand hang over the side of the bed when I sleep, and my favorite Golden Girl is Dorothy, although perennial-Deb Blanche is a close second. I think that about covers it!
Then there’s Linda Grimes. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that Linda is not only my beloved agency sistah (we’re both represented by the amazing Michelle Wolfson) but also one of my critique partners. Worried it might look like I was throwing my Deb weight around on behalf of a friend, I deliberately stepped back a bit and waited for the other Debs to weigh in before I offered my two cents. It turned out I had nothing to worry about, since all the Debs adored Linda’s humor, wit, and frequent, friendly comments on our posts (as one of the Debs put it, “I feel like she’s already an honorary Deb.”)
I’ve already been lucky enough to read her light urban fantasy debut, In a Fix, which will be released by Tor in July 2012. As a comment on her release date, Linda noted:
I’ve always pictured it as summer read. On a beach. With umbrella drinks. Maybe the kind that come in coconuts, and are delivered by cabana boys. (Not that I’ve over-thought it or anything…)
If you don’t fall out of your chair laughing over this book, you seriously need to check your butt or your chair for Superglue.
Then there’s the nonfiction Deb, Rachel Bertsche. It’s not like we sat down and specifically said, “there simply must be a nonfiction Deb!” but it was wonderful to get an application from someone in that genre that made us all say, “she simply must be a Deb!”
Her debut memoir, MWF Seeking BFF is due in January 2012 from Ballantine Books, and the premise is so clever and unique, I think we all ran out and clicked the preorder button on Amazon the second we read about it:
MWF SEEKING BFF is a memoir of my yearlong search for a new best friend after moving to Chicago for love. Sort of I Love You, Man meets The Happiness Project meets AJ Jacobs, it looks at how difficult – and hilariously awkward!–it is to make new friends as an adult. I went on 52 “friend-dates” over the course of the year, and I interweave the stories of those dates with the latest research about the science of friendship.
Yeah, she had me at “hilariously awkward.”
And finally, there’s M. Molly Backes. Her debut young adult novel, The Princesses of Iowa, will be published by Candlewick Press in May 2012.
Before I began blogging with our own Deb Elise Allen and read her amazing book, Populazzi, I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of YA. Deb Elise changed all that for me, to the point that I’m seriously looking forward to Molly’s hysterical sounding story:
The Princesses of Iowa, set in suburban Iowa, is a reverse-Cinderella story in which an It-girl who seems to have it all – the gorgeous boyfriend, the perfect best friends, and a spot on the Homecoming Court – starts to wonder if there’s more to life than being popular. (I stole that from Publisher’s Marketplace.) There’s also a gay creative writing teacher, a fake car accident, a real car accident, some jokes about Muttnik, a sexy nerd, an angry alternateen who changes her name from Miranda to Mirror, a disastrous homecoming parade, and an airbrushed rainbow T-shirt that says “I love my Iowa Grandma.” I’m told it all hangs together, somehow.
I not only want this book, I want to take Molly out for drinks and a pillow fight and then tickle her until she tells me more about all those little details.
So that’s it for the new Deb roundup. Not that I’m going anywhere. Ever. I’m staying right here. For good. Hey, wait a minute. What are you doing? Ow! Dammit….
I can’t believe this is my very last Debutante Ball post. I’m not good with goodbyes. Sometimes when my husband leaves the house for the store (one mile away) to get milk, I get teary-eyed. Yes, I just typed that. What if he gets into a car accident and leaves me alone to raise three boys? Clearly, I have some things to work on. But, truly, this year as a Deb has been one of the most memorable years of my life, and its amazing looking back on the experiences. So many things happened in my world: Babies (1) , books (1 published, 2 written, and another in process), new friends (4, and their names are Eleanor, Tawna, Kim and Elise), and a gazillion other exciting incidents.
The posts you read here this year were only part of our Deb experience. Truth is, we shared a lot together privately—in person, on the phone, over email—with each other. We squealed with joy over good news, growled about bad news, cried a little (OK, maybe I’m the only one!) and laughed a lot. Mostly, I just respected and appreciated these women from afar. Eleanor’s I’ve-got-your-back attitude and organized, take-charge ways (I would like her to come to my house and be my life coach), not to mention her sheer brilliance with words; Kim’s raw honesty and strength, and huge dose of humor (you are a gem—truly one in a million, my dear); Tawna’s ability to write a single sentence (any sentence) and make me laugh out loud (still hoping to make it to Bend to say hello!); and Elise’s heartfelt posts and wise observations about life and writing that I can always relate to (and we are so running that marathon together someday, even if I do the half and you do the full!).
So, I won’t say goodbye. I’ll say hello. To lifelong friends. To new books. (Um, but no more babies, for me.) To huge successes. To all that’s to come.
Hugs and kisses and teary thank yous, everyone, for a wonderful year,
P.S. Lovely readers, please keep in touch! I blog here, and here, and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.