Friday, March 27, 2015

Do What You Love


I wrap my hair into a bun and attack it with hairspray so it doesn't tumble out as I tumble.

I'm in the hotel bathroom the morning of my final gymnastics state championship. It's senior year and when the meet is over, we'll check out nearby colleges that I've been accepted to.

In the quiet between nerves and the TV mumbling in the next room, I realize a simple truth: I don't want this meet to be the end.

So I'll make sure it's not.


The good: I make it onto the college team.

The bad: I keep breaking things. ACLs, MCLs, meniscuses. (Menisci?) Metatarsals. Ribs.

I keep coming back.


"You should really think about majoring in education," my father tells me on the phone. It's sophomore year of college and I'm keen to find something to pursue along with my writing degree. A "get a job with this one and write on the side" field of study.

I look into education -- childhood and secondary. I look into athletic training.

I choose Spanish. I don't know if it will unlock any secret doors, but I love all of my classes.

Ay, dios mio.


Senior year of college, I apply to a mix of MA and MFA programs. Something about the MA seems more "professional," with a clearer track to a PhD.

You'd rather write your own stories, not write about literature, a voice tells me.

You hate writing research papers, another voice adds.

I push away the thoughts. I can make it work.

My dad and I are driving when I tell him my school choice -- an esteemed MA program a few hours away.

He hits the brakes. The car stops. "Why would you do that?" he says. "You want to do creative writing."


I've yet to get that education degree, but with my MFA (thanks, Dad), I teach community college students. I also coach gymnastics, which requires a degree in Extreme Patience, something I am continually working on. And I'm writing, which I wanted to do all along.

I don't work normal person hours. I have tried. I don't work at a desk. I've tried that, too. It's taken time, a good amount of stubbornness, lots of soul-searching, and plenty of ice cream. At the end of the day, I do my own thing, pieced together, and it works for me.

It's eight in the morning and I hand out the assigned reading, Tony Hawk on NPR's "This I Believe." The subject: do what you love.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New year, new title, and a lesson in falling

Happy 2015!

I've started the new year with plenty of snow, joining the Fall Fifteeners (coming soon!), and a new title for my novel.

The book formerly known as What Happens in Water is now Lessons in Falling. It's an encompassing summation of all of the novel's threads. Gymnastics falls. Mistakes made. Falling apart. Falling in love. (And falling into the water. Don't worry, there's still plenty of water to go around.)

If any of that sounds enticing to you, you can add it on Goodreads!

(I've also seen a mock-up cover with the new title and OMG. That is all I can say.)

And because the universe works in wonderful ways, I witnessed quite the lesson in falling this weekend.

It's inevitable in gymnastics that you'll wipe out. Sometimes, it happens publicly. The struggle, then, is how you'll react. Will the rest of your routine become a fall fest as you sob through the rest of your skills? Will you shrug it off and come back fiercer?

This weekend, "publicly" meant "a competition with over 2,000 gymnasts from across the country." It's a great meet with six gyms running simultaneously, judges from different regions, and the general atmosphere of bringing one's A-game.

One of my gymnasts began her beam routine. Her teammate, phone raised, dutifully pressed play as soon as she was on. Chances were good that the routine's highlights would be fodder for their group Instagram account.

Press handstand -- good. Jumps -- solid. Full turn -- wiggly, but safe. She raised her arms for her back handspring, paused, and jumped backwards --

-- Onto her face.

"Are you okay?" I called.

She nodded. Her face twisted in a look of "I want to cry but I have to wait." She climbed back up and continued the routine.

Then she landed her dismount, saluted to the judges, and ran past them to her teammates, calling, "Can we use that for Fail Friday?"

Conclusion: when life gives you lemons, turn it into an Instagram post.

Friday, November 28, 2014


That when I was a college senior wrestling with the MA versus MFA and told my father that I'd decided to attend an MA program, he stopped the car and said, "You don't want to do that. You want to do creative writing."

That one of my Spanish professors agreed. "You can read all of those books on your own," he said. "You should do the creative writing thing."

That there are people willing to read my words (and reread) (and reread again).

That ten years after surgery that replaced my torn ACL with a graft of my patellar tendon, I can do stupid things like run five mile races without training and have no pain.

That when the spirit moves me, I can still kip with my feet off of the ground.

That when I return from wandering dark roads, faces turn to greet me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Write

The song that pierces you. The lyrics you know by heart, although for the life of you you can't unravel an antiderivative anymore. The open road, the stars over the dash, the throb of the engine. The single light on the mountain. The highway that twists away in a puff of exhaust. 

Best friends giggling in the dark. Sweatshirts and fall wind against bare legs as you run over red-gold leaves and long grasses that scratch at your skin. Sometimes you want to lie down, breathless, and other times you want to sprint so they can't catch you. 

The promise of a look. The moments that exist just between us. The hiss of rain, the first peal of thunder. Lightning on the water. 

To sing to you. To sing to myself. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pitch Wars 2014! About Me, Wishlist, & Mentor Blog Hop!

Back and better than ever!

About me:

I mentored Pitch Wars last year, and I had such a blast with my mentees (#TeamDangerZone) that I can't wait to participate again!

I'm from (the state of) New York and coach competitive gymnastics, throwing girls into the air and catching them on the way down. I love country music, driving down back roads, all things Peeta Mellark, and quotes from The Office. I also like to run (slowly).

Why should you pick me?

I'm a writing professor well-versed in providing constructive, in-depth feedback. My BA and MFA are in writing, earned from the blood, sweat, and tears of hours of workshops. I know what it’s like to have your work up for review and what kind of comments are especially useful. (And the ones that aren’t. You know the kind I’m talking about.) I'm encouraging, collaborative, and love brainstorming.

Speaking of feedback/blood/sweat/etc., I’m an agented writer who’s been through the query trenches (and my first novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, releases in 2015!). I’ve also been an intern at a literary agency, so the slush pile and I have become quite intimate. I see what stands out from the crowd, and I'm going to help your manuscript achieve that -- while having fun at the same time! You can look forward to in-text comments as well as an "edit letter" of sorts that details what's working and offers suggestions for where to improve.

NOTE: If I'm intrigued by your entry and want to see more material, I will also request a synopsis.

I'd love to see:

Contemporary new adult: Characters in NA situations where romance plays an important role, but so do family, friends, and growing pains. (See: MAKE IT COUNT by Megan Erickson and the upcoming FIERCE by LG Kelso.) I'm also partial to military stories (SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller). Humor is welcome. Darkness is welcome. A blend of both? Perfect.

Contemporary young adult: Darker stories and complicated relationships (see: POINTE by Brandy Colbert), stories that invert expectations (RECLAIMED by Sarah Guillory and 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma), beautifully-written prose (THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta). Once again, humor is quite welcome as well (FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell).

In both, I also love:

  • Stories where the setting is like another character; 
  • Serious athletes (so many great narratives in sports -- send me your athletes!); 
  • Strong friendships, fascinating secondary characters, and love interests with a slow burn are all winners for me.

Feel free to chat with me on Twitter to see if we'd be a good fit!

For submission details and the list of participating agents:

Visit the indefatigable Brenda Drake.

To see the other mentors:

Hop along here:

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
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I look forward to reading your work!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Flipping Out for BEHIND THE SCENES

Today's the release day for Dahlia Adler's contemporary YA novel, BEHIND THE SCENES! If you don't already follow Dahlia on Twitter, get on that -- she's hilarious, provides valuable insight into the pub industry, and rocks a tiara like no one's business. Also, is there any stronger advocate for awesome YA/NA? Methinks not.

High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

The fabulous and talented Dahlia!

To celebrate BEHIND THE SCENES's release, I'm going backstage into my own life.

Way back.

To the '90s.

Ah, when the scrunchies were fierce and the velvet was crushed.

In my novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, gymnastics plays a major role in Savannah's life -- despite how much she tries to walk away from it. Ever since I was 11 and wanted to do whatever my BFF thought was cool (hi, Lena!), it's been a major part of mine, too.

From the thrill of victory...

Who thought white leotards were a good idea? I shake my fist at you, '90s.

To the agony of defeat.

This boot was made for walking, that's true.

These days, I do more coaching than flipping. It's a line of work that's challenging, rewarding, frustrating, entertaining, enlightening -- much like writing, really. I'm on the sideline instead of up on the beam: observing, making corrections, offering encouragement and motivation.

But when that siren song whispers in my ear -- back tuck circle? -- I must heed the call:

Speaking of siren songs:

You can stop by Amazon, B&N, the Book Depository, and Indiebound for your copy of BEHIND THE SCENES!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

That Dares And Defies

I have won NaNoWriMo three times.

Book 1: New adult before "new adult" was a thing. Possibly the most fun I've had writing a novel, besides WHIW. A plot line needs to be overhauled and scenes to be filled in, but I'd love to get back to it one day.

Book 3: Young adult fantasy with fast-talking characters, battle scenes, and blood rain. I hit 50K and realized that there were many Ks to go for the story to be told. But I enjoyed those wisenheimers and also want to return to this.

Then there was book 2, year two. Oh, book 2.


There is no excuse for book 2. That's what I told myself last night when I cracked it open to reread it. Two years out from my MFA and I had book 1 and my thesis under my belt. Both of those works were coherent. Structured. 

What book 2 was going to be:

-Multi-POV chapters that so that each chapter could stand alone as a short story while relating to the whole; 
-A total free-for-all -- no planning, no outlining, no cheating by writing scenes beforehand; 

Culminating in Unadulterated Literary Genius. You could smell the artistry from a mile away. I was sure of it. 


What actually happened:

-Magical realism;
-Characters running around in the woods like Arden's going out of style;
-Public bathrooms;
-An adult kidnapping;
-Selective blindness;
-Two daughters and a tired dad narrating;
-An ambiguous ending;

Culminating in I'm Only Finishing This Because I'm Too Competitive Not To. See also: Hot Mess, Never Show This To Anyone, and At Least My Fingers Got Exercise From Typing.


From Kate Chopin's The Awakening:

"Painting!" laughed Edna. "I am becoming an artist. Think of it!"
"Ah! an artist! You have pretensions, Madame."
"Why pretensions? Do you think I could not become an artist?"
"I do not know you well enough to say. I do not know your talent or your temperament. To be an artist includes much; one must possess many gifts--absolute gifts--which have not been acquired by one's own effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul."
"What do you mean by the courageous soul?"
"Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. The soul that dares and defies."
I had forgotten.

I forgot how good it felt to let my mind go nuts and see what happened. I'd forgotten that hey, these plot points actually ended up working out in weird ways and that there were some solid dialogue exchanges. That I'd allowed myself to write something strange and uncomfortable (especially one scene -- OH, THAT ONE SCENE), and that I saw it through to the finish.

And I'd forgotten about one of my favorite passages of The Awakening, a book I read in college and held close to me.

Without meaning to, I had begun limiting myself. These were the things I could do well and I'd do best to remain in said places.

Or else--

Or else what?

So here's to those places. Stumbling in the dark, turning on the light, and watching the shadows twist. Following where they go. Seeing what happens next.
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