Friday, April 29, 2011

Going to be writing on the road through May

Tomorrow marks the start of five straight weekends of travel. This also means I'll be spending five straight weekends writing on the road. I wrote quite a lot of Meant to Be while traveling, so I'm hoping all these trips will get my creative juices flowing on my shiny new project (that currently only has one completed chapter).

So what's on the slate?

Tomorrow I'll be driving south to hit Asbury Park with the Boston B Party to take on the Jersey Shore Rollergirls.

The bout is at the amazing Asbury Park Convention Center RIGHT. ON. THE. BEACH. It's going to be a good one (also, probably crazy tough... I'll update tomorrow night with the score!) 

UPDATE: We lost pretty big... the final score was 198 to 87. But that was ok, because the Jersey Shore Roller Girls were AWESOME hosts. We had such a great time playing them in Asbury Park. I'd go back and do it again in a heartbeat!

Next weekend is another hard-hitting derby weekend, when the Boston B Party travels to Philadelphia to take on the Independence Dolls. This one is FOR. SURE. going to be a really tough game. Philly is a notoriously tough team. I hope I'm not hobbled when it's over!

The following weekend I'm off to Tennessee to see my little sister graduate from high school, a fact I can hardly believe. Her graduation from Maryville High School means my own graduation was TEN YEARS AGO. Oh man...

I got her graduation announcement in the mail today, along with the invite to her open house ... look what my mom did to her! Poor Claire ... she was pretty cute, though, huh? You can't see it in the picture, but her prom dress was gorgeous, and I might try to steal it from her for my trip the following weekend... So here's the question ... should I try to find her a super cool gift, or do I just follow tradition and give her cash? Which would you prefer if you were 18 and getting ready to head off to the University of Tennessee?

The weekend after THAT I'm flying to Chicago to see one of my best buddies and favorite couples get hitched.

Kathleen and I circa 2005, acting like goobers on the steps of
the Wisconsin capital.

Kathleen just finished medical school and will be getting hitched and moving to Milwaukee to start her residency. Her soon-to-be husband's name is Joh, though he does go by another name sometimes:

John "Hayward" Williams is a totally amazing folk/Americana singer/songwriter, and if you're into that kind of music I recommend you check him out right away. I'm not just saying this because we've been friends for five years now and he's marrying one of my favorite people.

And in my last crazy trip of a long five weekends, I'll be flying to Las Vegas to represent the Boston Derby Dames at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association Annual Meeting. It'll be my first time in Las Vegas, and while it was never on my list of gotta-visit cities, I'm pretty psyched to be going with my friends (some other BDD WFTDA reps) to hang out with rollergirls from all over the world and geek out over roller derby.

And after that, I get to come home a stay for quite some time. I don't know how May always ends up quite so busy, but it seems like every year it fills to the brim with excitement. I'm hoping to use all the flight time to really crank on my shiny new project. I've been mulling it over and making notes for about a month now, and I think now it's ready to come pouring out. And once I get a good chunk written, maybe I can start sharing some of the secrets of the shiny new project and maybe even some teasers!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Things That Are Awesome Dot Com

Ten Things I Hate About You
(the TV show)

When I first heard they were making this show, I'm pretty sure I gagged. 10 Things I Hate About You is THE CLASSIC teen movie of my generation (Class of 2001 HOLLA!). I've watched it more times that I can remember. I can probably quote the whole movie. Not to mention the fact that it's the film that launched Heath Ledger into the dreams of a million teenage girls.

But this weekend, I was in the mood to burn off about ten thousand brain cells by streaming something off Netflix, and this was the winner. It might actually fall into the awesomely bad category ... it's campy, it's cheesy, it's completely over-the-top. And yet I couldn't stop watching. I can't even begin to explain why... ok, I'm pretty sure the reason I watched the entire season in a weekend was due to this guy:

Ethan Peck as Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger's original role). Yummy, right? Fun fact: He's Gregory "Atticus Finch" Peck's grandson. I definitely see a resemblance. I wish there were more seasons just so I can watch him give steely eyes to Kat Stratford. Also, the final shot of the first season (which turned out to be the series finale) had me screaming OMG WTF THAT'S IT?!?!?!?! at my computer.

Even though the TV show is slightly hokey, it did inspire me to go back and watch the original again. Now that truly is

Heath Ledger? Joseph Gordon Levitt? Julia Stiles? Not to mention a truly awesome 90s soundtrack with lots of tunes provided by one of my all-time favorite bands, Letters to Cleo... And then theres lines like these:

Dad: Hello Katarina. Make anyone cry today?
Kat: Sadly, no. But it's only 4:30


Chastity: I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?
Bianca: I think you can in Europe. 


Ms. Perky: So I hear you were terrorizing Mr. Morgan's class ... again.
Kat: Expressing my opinion is not a terrorist action.
Ms. Perky: The way you expressed your opinion to Bobby Ridgeway? By the way, his testicle retrieval operation went quite well, in case you were interested.
Kat: I still maintain he kicked himself in the balls.

Spring! (for the next few days, at least)

Because New England winters are so long and arduous, when hints of spring finally start coming, it truly is an awesome feeling (and folks down south who have been experiencing spring since February? Yeah, keep your mouth shut lest I smack you with my snow shovel...). Yesterday was one of the first truly warm days of the year ... of course it was followed by cool, gray mist. Gross. But spring is coming, I can feel it! Soon I'll be able to take my laptop down to the Esplanade and write overlooking the Charles River. There's really nothing better.  I even got my sassy bike shined and tuned up at the shop, all ready for when the sun finally comes for good.*

How can things not be awesome when I'm tooling around Cambridge on my pretty little bike?

*In New England, we could still be months away from spring... summer 2009 the highs were in the 50s and it rained every single day throughout June. Do you know how depressing it is to wear a coat in JUNE?!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hot pants and fishnets and roller skates ... OH MY!

As promised, it's time for me to tell you a little bit about my (not so) secret life as a rollergirl. First, some good news: my team won on Saturday night, and I was named MVP of the game!!! Pretty awesome, right? I was pretty excited. It was my first MVP, and there was definitely some fist pumping and whooping when they announced my name. Here's a photo from Saturday night of me blocking:

photo by Joe Medolo

Before we begin, here's a little video for those of you who are going, "Roller derby? WHat's that? Is there BALL?!" (for the record, no, there's not).

So the quick and dirty on me and derby: I started playing roller derby in 2007, when the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls were recruiting for their second season. I had been to all the games of their first season, and it looked so fun that I knew I wanted to play. I skated with BHRG until the summer of 2008, when I moved to Boston for work. That's when I started skating with the Boston Derby Dames. Almost three years later, I'm a skater for the Wicked Pissahs, I manage the Boston Massacre (BDD's all-star travel team), I serve on the BDD Executive Board (which makes me a part-owner of the league), and I am also a skater representative to the Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Association (WFTDA). Oh, and I recently started doing sponsorship and website work for my friend Dee Stortion's skate shop, The Bruised Boutique.

Me (Mona Mour) using my teammate Anita Bangher 
for support while I block the Cosmonaughties' Mrs. Dash
Photo by Joe Medolo

I love roller derby, which is why I'm involved in all those things in the paragraph above (which amounts to about 20 hours per week of roller derby, minimum!). If I could figure out a way to make a living off roller derby, I would (and believe me, I'm trying ... working for Dee is officially my first derby-related paycheck). As much of a passion as I have for writing YA, it's only matched by my passion for strapping on my roller skates and playing the game. It's tough, both mentally and physically, and I'm incredibly proud of myself for the fact that I've played the sport for going on four years now. Taking up roller derby was probably one of the bravest things I've ever done.

Here's a video of one jam from Saturday's game. My team is the Wicked Pissahs (in red), and I'm the one in the white helmet. if you turn the volume up, you can hear the announcers talking about my blocking strategy!

A couple notes on the strategy to help you understand what's going on. The blockers are trying to stop the opposing team's jammer (she has a helmet cover on her head with a star on it). You can see my team (in red) blocking the opposing jammer (in blue). At a couple points, you'll see one of the red skaters with her arms outstretched. This is because you can only engage (ie, hit or block) when you're "in the pack." When you get 20 feet in front of or behind the pack, you're out of play and not allowed to do anything. You can keep your blocker in play (and thus allow her to keep hitting the jammer) by doing something called "bridging," which in essence keeps your blocker from being out in no man's land and allows them to still hammer away at the opposing jammer.

There's so much about derby I could share, but when I sat down to write this post, I realized it was getting LOOONG. To tell you the whole story of roller derby in general, my story specifically, and then discuss just what derby means to me and those that play it? That could fill and entire book. Instead, I've decided to do a couple things... if you send me questions about roller derby, I'll be happy to answer them in a post! I'll also be doing an ongoing series on my roller derby world so that you can get a glimpse into what it's like to live this totally different life (some days I'm Mona more than I'm Lauren!).

So if you have questions about roller derby, feel free to shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer! lemorrill at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Things That Are Awesome Dot Com

I know, I know. I'm totally late to the Toms party. But I'm here now, so let's dance, ok?

I bought my first pair of Toms last week, this lovely stone-washed yellow pair you see above. I haven't worn any other shoes since. Most of the time when I look at slides, I see scary, red, blistery wounds on the backs of my heels. Not with Toms. These must be kissed by angels or something, because they feel like walking on kittens. Seriously, so comfortable. I think I'm going to get a black pair so that I can wear them to work and pretend they're dress shoes. One of my friends who was already a convert to the tribe referred to them as "grown up flip flops." I can definitely see what she means. These are going to be my go-to shoes all summer long.

Parenthood on NBC
Tuesday nights, 10pm EST

If you're a YA writer and you're not watching Parenthood, you need to move this to the top of your list STAT. While the show covers a myriad of adult characters, the scenes with Amber, Haddie, and a few other teenagers on the show are so pitch-perfect that you cannot miss it. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but last week's episode featured a rather OMG-whoops butt-dial that's every teen's nightmare. Unlike a lot of shows that are specifically about teens, this one really gets not only what it's like to be young, but what it's like to interact with people that aren't. Way too many YA/teen media focuses on the relationships between teens, but a lot of them get the parental/familial thing way wrong. Episodes are available on Hulu and NBC, so get on it, people.

 The Killing on AMC
(creepy narco cop is my favorite character)

Oh, and an update from last week's The Killing now has the first four episodes online for free! I'm pretty sure they're playing the drug dealer angle, getting us all crazy hooked on the mystery and then CUTTING US OFF! Don't worry, AMC, you've already hooked me. At the end of the fourth episode I literally gasped. Out loud. And then I pitched a mini fit that I had to wait a week for another episode. So yeah, I'll be paying for whatever episodes you make me pay for via iTunes!

Things that are NOT Eating skittles while drinking a coke. Ew. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

REVIEW: Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

Per my previous post, I barely made it halfway through this book before I started gushing all over the Internet about how much I loved it. Well, I'm finished, and now I can official say READ THIS BOOK.

First of all, I love the way Sarah Ockler writes. She has fabulously snappy jokes without it being a book of "oh look, here's another snappy joke. And another. And ANOTHER!" They flow right into the story, sometimes catching you off guard and making you giggle in a serious moment. Like this one, from the first chapter:

"Left turn in four. Hundred. Feet." An invisible electronic woman navigates us toward the highway from the distant planet Monotone, where everyone is tranquil and directionally adept.

And then there's Delilah, who is just such an excellent character. Fully-formed with a pitch-perfect voice, and like I said before, that's the single most important thing to me when I read YA. If the voice doesn't feel authentic or true, it's hard for me to trudge through another page. What I loved most was that it so clearly captured the "just me-ism" of being a teenager. Delilah is so wrapped up in her dilemmas that she fails to notice that everyone around her has troubles and secrets. Everyone (and thank you, Sarah, for writing interesting background characters with their own lives and stories!). But don't you remember being seventeen and thinking your problems were the only problems and the biggest problems and OH MY GOD YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M GOING THROUGH?!?!?! But what's great about Delilah as a character is that she doesn't stay in that self-centered rut. She grows, and not because Sarah Ockler makes her (don't you hate it when things happen in a book and you can tell the author is just strong-arming the character?). Delilah's growth feels natural, and by the end you want to spend more time with her (oh I hope there's a sequel...).

Oh, and can we talk about the swoon factor? Because holy wow was there some hot smooching in this book.

I've already picked up Ockler's first book, Twenty Boy Summer, and am psyched to dive into another one of her characters. If you're looking for a deep-yet-funny romantic contemporary YA, then this is your book. READ. IT. NOW.

ps- Thanks to Sarah who responded so kindly to my Twitter outpour of love of her book!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Too busy to write, not too busy to read!

I'm going to do a new post soon, I promise. You see, this week is bout week, which means I'm overwhelmed by my alter-ego of Mona Mour, Boston Derby Dame. Tomorrow The Wicked Pissahs (my team) will take on the Cosmonaughties. Both teams are currently undefeated, so it should be a good one. Also, it's sold-out.

I think I'll spend my next post explaining all that is wild and crazy about having an alter ego (after tomorrow's game and inevitable victory, of course), but for now, I'll just leave you with this:

I'm currently reading Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler. It's a book I saw floating around on the myriad of YA book blogs I read, and when I realized I had a couple more weeks before Bumped appears on my Kindle (are you dying to read that one as much as I am?!), I decided to check it out. I had Amazon send me the sample (um, best service EVER), and I burned through it, promptly purchasing the entire book. The first night I stayed up until after 1am reading, and I only stopped because I literally couldn't keep my eyes open for another second. I'm definitely going to do a review when I'm finished (especially if the plot is going where I think it's going, and even if it's not Sarah did a fabulous job with misdirection and OH THE MYSTERY!). And juicy plot aside, the voice is incredible. Delilah is totally speaking to me, which is what I'm really looking for in everything I read. For now, just trust that I'm willing to recommend the book without having read the entire thing. It's JUST. THAT. GOOD.

Pretty sure I'm going to finish it well before April 26th, when Bumped finally comes out, so I'm going to hit up Sarah's first book, Twenty Boy Summer, next.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Want Her Life: Meg Cabot

I want to be Meg Cabot when I grow up.

Meg Cabot was the first author I remember being aware of as a person. That sounds weird ... but when I was younger, Ann M. Martin and Francine Pascal and Carolyn B. Cooney all seemed like names on a book cover. When I came to my second go-round with YA, which was in my early twenties, I started to think of the authors as actual people. Meg Cabot was someone who actually sat down at a computer somewhere and made up the words inside the pages. Which as far as I was concerned was pretty rad.

I set out to learn more about her, which it turned out was a pretty easy task since Meg was an early Internet adopter and had (and still has) one of the coolest, most comprehensive author websites. She also had A BLOG. Which was pretty awesome, because now I could find out more about how she came to put all those hilarious words on all those pages. Meg's was the first author blog I actually paid attention to, the first one to which I subscribed, and it's still my favorite.

So if I were going to trade lives with any author, even just for a day, it would be Ms. Meg Cabot. Why?
  • She's hilarious. I learned from her blog that she doesn't have to work very hard to make her books funny, because she's pretty effing hilarious in real life. From her silly videos to her crazy advice column, I never cease to laugh at her writing.
  • She gets to live in Key West, which is endless summer. But she gets to visit her sweet condo in Manhattan. But she also gets to visit her farmhouse in Bloomington, IN. I know what you're thinking ... Key West, Manhattan, and BLOOMINGTON? But you see, I did two degrees at good old Indiana University, and over the course of my seven years in Bloomington I fell head over heels in love with the small, quirky, Midwestern, liberal, hippie college town. I'd give my right middle toe to go back as frequently as she does.
  • She gets to go on tour. Like a rock star. Which she totally is, in my world.
  • She has an endless supply of sassy heels and cute, frothy, vintage-inspired dresses.
 But while all of those things are good and well, there's really this one, big, giant, gargantuan, oversized gorilla reason why I want her life.


Every time I'm staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor, my mouse huddling over Firefox and Tweetdeck poised for hours of procrastination, I just think, "Meg Cabot wrote a trilogy before lunch." Seriously! The woman is nothing if not prolific (and I can say that because she's SO MUCH MORE). She's got something like twelve series in progress as we speak. She's got a book coming out on the fifth of EVERY MONTH. Ok, hyperbole, but seriously. The woman can not only write well, she can write fast. She must do what my mother always refers to as "buckling down." I'm not sure if this means she straps herself to her desk chair or if she's just that disciplined or if she really does love it so much she can't stop ... whatever it is, I want to know what it is. I want to pour it into a tea cup and I want to drink it every day from brunch.

But here's the thing. The more I think about it, the more I might actually have Meg Cabot's life. Or maybe I am Meg Cabot. Wait, what? No, just look:

It's uncanny, right? We're practically the same person! Conspiracy theorists? Start your engines ... no really, please. I imagine it can be nothing but golden for my career if people on the internet think I'm Meg Cabot.*

*let me state for the record that I am not Meg Cabot. Only in my wildest dreams. Or after a box of wine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's not all YA around here!

The very best part of having a Kindle (other than the ones I already enumerated) is how fabulous the pre-order feature is. Don't you hate it when you preorder a book online, then have to wait a few days after the release date for it to actually arrive in your mailbox? Well, with the Kindle, your book *poof* magically downloads on release day. It's a beautiful thing.

Which is how I'm starting Tina Fey's much-anticipated memoir Bossypants. By "much-anticipated," I mean I can't not hear about it on any piece of media I pay attention to, from NPR to Slate to Salon to EVERYONE ON TUMBLR. I swear, I could probably read the entire book just by stitching together all the quotes people are tumbling out there.

Now if only the T could stall out somewhere between Central and Harvard so that I get a few extra minutes during my commute to read. Pretty sure I'm not going to want to put this one down.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Things That Are Awesome Dot Com

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

This is third of Cohn & Levithan's books I've read, and it was by far my favorite. Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List was good, and their flagship Nick & Nora's Infitie Playlist was just ok (though my opinion is probably tainted by that disgusting vomiting scene from the movie that is NOT IN THE BOOK and I don't get why the director decided the movie needed VOMITING). There were so many moments where I would laugh out loud, and it's the first book I've read on my Kindle that has inspired me to the use the "highlight" feature. Like this:
"You see, Dash -- I never was the girl in your head. And you were never the boy in my head. I think we both knew that. It's only when we try to make the girl or boy in our head real that the true trouble comes. I did that with Carlos, and it was a bad failure. Be careful what you're doing, because no one is ever who you want them to be. And the less you really know them, the more likely you are to confuse them with the girl or boy in your head."
Um, ok. Yes. Thank you, David Levithan, for reaching into my brain and pulling out my innermost thoughts and feelings.  I feel like Dash and Lily is just waiting to made into a fun holiday movie, and I will definitely be in line to see it.

The Killing on AMC

About a year ago, I ditched cable. Not for any kind of noble, "oh but I don't watch television" kind of reason. It was more that I went part-time at work so I could have more time to write, and found that things like cable didn't fit into my new writer's budget. Plus, everything I watch (Parks and Rec, Parenthood, *ahem* The Bachelor) are all online for free. When I saw people on Tumblr all abuzz about The Killing, for the first time in a year I was actually bummed not to have cable. Well color me happy when I saw that the first two episodes are available for free download on iTunes. Which means now I'm hooked. Who killed Rose Larsen? Was it that politician guy? And what's with the creepy copy? And isn't that Warren from Empire Records? And OMG Rosie's dad is going to make me cry again! I might actually purchase new episodes from iTunes each week, because I. HAVE. TO. KNOW.

OhRyanKelley, who I follow on Tumblr because he's a fellow Bostonian and kind of hilarious, is the new muckety muck over at After seeing posts and tweets, I decided to give it a whirl. For only $3 in shipping costs, I was able to trade a book I had for a book I wanted. A few clicks on the internet and it appeared in my mailbox a few days later! I can't wait to see what else I can get (they're only set up for books, movies, and video games, so don't get any crazy ideas). I'm hoping for a copy of Whip It (as a derby girl, I feel like I need to own it, but also as a derby girl, I'm not totally down with shelling out the money to buy it...).