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June 30, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: June's Best Book

Kate Hart

In the event that Apolo Ohno and Jon Krasinski are unable to fulfill their duties as my backup boyfriend, Sherman Alexie is my new nominee (and let's face it: that's some serious competition right there).


wait, what? oh. right.

It's not like I haven't fangirled over Alexie before-- PART-TIME INDIAN is one of my favorite books ever, and I used some of his work in college history papers. But WAR DANCES is the first collection of his short stories I've read, and I like it better than his adult novels. (I also adore the cover, which is neither here nor there.)

Alexie won the National Book Award for this one, so I hesitate to admit that I loved the poetry in it less than the stories. That's true for me in general, so it's not a terribly fair criticism. But even in the poetry, his mix of amazing imagery and dry wit always wins me over.

An excerpt from my favorite story, The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless.
"'She's gone, she's gone,'" Paul sang the chorus of that Hall & Oates song. He sang without irony, for he was a twenty-first-century American who'd been taught to mourn his small and large losses by singing Top 40 hits.

There was a rule book: When a man is rebuffed by a beautiful stranger he must sing blue-eyed soul; when a man is drunk with the loneliness of being a frequent flyer he must sing Mississippi Delta blues; when a man wants revenge he must whistle the soundtrack of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When a man's father and mother die within three months of each other, he must sing Rodgers and Hammerstein: 'Oklahoma! Oklahoma Okay!'

Despite all the talk of diversity and division--of red and blues states, of black and white and brown people, of rich and poor, gay and straight-- Paul believed that Americans were shockingly similar. How can we be so different, thought Paul, if we all know the lyrics to the same one thousand songs?"


Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. We'd love for you to participate!

June 29, 2010

Two For Tuesday: Think and Laugh

Kate Hart
What is it? Post two of anything: book reviews, pictures, quotes, poems, songs, videos, rants, shout outs, whatever floats your boat. Just connect them somehow. That's it.

Today: Links to make you think and links to make you laugh.

One of the most interesting parts of getting beta reads back is seeing how people react to female characters. I hope none of my betas will be offended when I say: It's strange that no one seems to mind the male character who cheats on his girlfriend in Refuge, but everyone had (different) opinions on how the female MC should act in any given situation.

Don't get me wrong-- I do the same thing when I read, and when I write, I worry far more about how my female MCs will be perceived than I do any of the males. I need to ponder further why we're harder on girls, but in the meantime, words can't describe the love I have for Courtney Summers' post On Unlikeable Female Protagonists.

(What? Eclipse comes out tomorrow. You had to know more Twilight stuff was coming!)

Wow, messiest
Photoshop job
Author Amparo Ortiz makes a compelling case for how revising is similar to Robert Pattinson's hair.

The lovely Myra McEntire gives her non-spoilery review of the movie (and I get a shout out! I feel so famous!)

Meanwhile, my girl Kathleen takes Twilight to the Great White North. She tries to blame me, but I take no responsibility for the Nickelback.

Also? Dear RPattz, Ron Burgundy called and he wants his suit back.
(I'd like to take credit for this joke but I saw it somewhere else
and now can't find the link. I'm sorry original way-more-funny than me person!)

June 27, 2010

If Your Coffin Is a Double Wide, You Might Be a...

Kate Hart
That's right. In her infinite awesome, Kathleen took the last picture in my post from last week and made the cover for REDNECK TWILIGHT: An Arkansas vampire love story.

Which made me wonder. I know there are plenty of southern vampires (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Jasper, Louis). But where are the immortal good 'ole boys? The football-watching, beer-drinking, bass-fishing undead?

Maybe they are... all around us....
*looks around fearfully*

If so, it would be helpful to have a list of identifying characteristics to tip us off. That's where I come in.

Original (ridiculously Photoshopped)
picture is here.
You might be a redneck vampire if...
  • your coffin is a double wide.
  • friends gather 'round and yell "chug! chug!" while you shotgun a victim. 
  • your Volvo is up on blocks in the front yard.
  • you're missing a fang.
  • the dog protecting your crypt is a blue heeler.
  • black Hefty bags and duct tape keep the sunlight out of your house.  
  • you've been undead for several decades but there's still a KFC bucket in the bed of your pickup. 
    • you like basketball player victims so you can joke about "drinking a tallboy."
    • you don't need xmas lights to keep your house sparkling year round.
    • you're looking forward to deep fried blood at the state fair.
    • even though it wouldn't kill you, you wouldn't dare climb in your mortal girlfriend's window because her daddy's sitting on the front porch with a shotgun. 
    • your cape is lined with a Confederate flag. 
    • you'd be wearing a wifebeater and cutoffs if it weren't for all that damn sparkling.
    • mortals are always safe from you on the holy grounds of Graceland.
    • you're psyched that your unchanging body means never having to trim the front of your mullet again.

    The sequel:

    ETA: I totally forgot to say-- please play along in the comments, it would make my life.

    *In his defense, my husband would never drink Pabst Light. Pabst Heavy, on the other hand...
    **Many thanks to my BFF for helping generate this list.
    ***And remember, making fun of rednecks is like making fun of someone's family: I can do it, because they're mine. You can't. ;) 
    ****Unless of course you also have rednecks in the family, in which case, go right ahead.
    *****I really, really like footnotes.

    June 24, 2010

    Find the Yellow, Part 2

    Kate Hart
    Last week, I blogged about an exercise called "Find the Yellow." Later that day, I gave my boys the same mission: Find everything you can that's yellow, and see if you notice new things.

    I won't bore you with all the pictures (if you have access, the rest are on our family blog). But rest assured, they were very enthusiastic:

    And my husband thinks he is hilarious.

    (This is a redneck Twilight book cover, in case you're wondering.)

    June 23, 2010

    Road Trip Wednesday: FML

    Kate Hart
    Today on YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday:

    If fictional characters used the site FMyLife, what would they say?

    ETA: Spoiler alert! When you write posts at 3:00am, you make poor decisions. 3rd from the bottom is a pretty major spoiler from Catching Fire. Sorry about that!



    Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    We'd love for you to participate!  

    June 22, 2010

    Two For Tuesday: Awards!

    Kate Hart
    What is it? Post two of anything: book reviews, pictures, quotes, poems, songs, videos, rants, shout outs, whatever floats your boat. Just connect them somehow. That's it.

    Today: Award time!

    The lovely and talented Becca Rogers awarded me the "A is for Awesome" award! I'm passing it on to:

    --> Kaitlin, who has kept me sane during the querying process.
    --> Cory, who reminded me I haven't updated my blog in several days.
    --> Friends Mandy and Drew, who are some of the most amazing parents I've ever seen. I know a blog award is a ridiculously lame gesture in their case.

    In a similarly lame gesture, I'd also like to give it to my friend Anne, whose amazing is apparent from her blog, but I'm not sure how she feels about having that link posted publicly. So.... Anne, if you read this-- you're awesome! :)

    Three lovely ladies were nice enough to give me the "Versatile Blogger" award-- thanks Karla, Holly and Angie!

    I'm supposed to share 7 random facts about myself before I pass this on, so...

    1. I don't like berries. Of any kind.
    2. Six years of elementary school in St. Louis couldn't kill my southern accent.
    3. Math is my arch nemesis.
    4. I like to hike. I hate to run.
    5. My girlfriends and I went to choir camp every summer during junior high.
    6. One summer, my husband (then-fiance) and I drove I-40 in its entirely: Arkansas to California and back, then to North Carolina and back again. Then we spent 3 months in Europe!
    7. It turns out I make awesome fried zucchini. Who knew?

    Okay, so passing this on:
    --> Kirsten, because her recent road trip makes me want to get in the car and go. anywhere.
    --> Kathleen, who is a talented designer in addition to her writing.
    --> Michelle S., whose MG book is a-freaking-mazing.
    --> Michelle H., who deserves an award for surviving the tragic young RPattz photo I sent her the other night. (I'm going to recommend no one click this link. Or this one. Seriously.)

    I'm off to use some eye bleach. Go forth and award!

    June 16, 2010

    Road Trip Wednesday: The When & Why

    Kate Hart
    Today YA Highway asks one of the most basic writing questions:
    When and why did you start writing? 

    More interesting, regarding my life:
    Let's talk about when I stopped writing. 

    Answer: College.

    For two reasons. One, the lovely and talented Veronica Roth covers here.

    Two is a little more difficult for me to discuss publicly.

    I have stack upon stack of binders full of angsty poetry and short stories "loosely" based on my junior high and high school life. I fancied myself a writer, but in large part, writing was less about art and more about therapy.

    In college, I started treatment for clinical depression. As the need for literary therapy faded, my writing not only felt unworthy and unnecessary, but also dangerous, like an indicator that something was wrong with me again.

    Flash forward seven years. I'd tried academia, teaching, my current job, obsessing over my parenting, all kinds of crafts and arts, and still felt... adrift. My children were old enough that I finally had time to read again, and on a trip to the beach, I read that damn vampire book everyone was talking about. Stayed up all night reading it. Went to the grocery store and bought the next three in the morning.

    Spent the two-day drive home admitting to myself that I wanted to start writing again-- and it was okay not to write the great American novel.

    So here we are. It's a struggle still, sometimes, when I spend all day in my head, pieces of story flashing behind my eyes.When a writing day ends in guilty bedtime kisses for my boys. The publishing roller coaster doesn't lend itself to emotional stability, and my current WIP doesn't either. The emotions are much closer to the bone than my last book, and that can be dangerous, as my friend Myra McEntire pointed out in her brave and honest look at writing with depression. I couldn't have written this post without hers, to be honest.

    But that feeling of being adrift, of not following your passion, is a slippery slope into depression too. The need to write isn't a measure of what's wrong, and its product isn't a therapy tool. It's a measure of how far I've come, of my ability to balance its emotional demands with my own, and if I'm not well enough to do that, I'm not really well. As Myra says, "I know that writing is my calling. I rest in the fact that I am absolutely doing what I'm supposed to do."

    So that's why I started writing again.


    Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    We'd love for you to participate!

    June 14, 2010

    Find the Yellow

    Kate Hart
    Cheryl Arkison at Naptime Quilter posted a few months ago about "the optimism inherent in the colour yellow" (Canadian spelling hers--hi Kath!). She encouraged her readers to "find the yellow" in their day.
    Great writing exercise, right? Your everyday surroundings are full of inspiration, but familiarity makes it hard to find. But if you choose a color (or a shape, a letter, a texture... anything!) and refocus your eyes, it's amazing the things you'll see.

    For example, I had no idea our "topsy turvy tomato" had blossoms.

    Or that my husband already started the watermelon seeds (yay!).

    My photography skills don't compare to Cheryl's, 
    but here are some other yellows I found:

    In my sons' rooms

    Crafts and toys

    Bath and bedrooms

    Hiding in the pantry

    At my desk

    Want to play along? 
    Pick a focus, write a post on your own blog and leave the link in my comments-- 
    I'll feature all the participants in a blog post soon!

    June 9, 2010

    Road Trip Wednesday: Get Over It. Go Out With Somebody Else.

    Kate Hart

    Hi. My name is Kate and I am a quitter.

    Today's Road Trip prompt is supposed to be about how you know an idea or a project just isn't going to work out. But seeing as I've just started my second WIP, after revising the first one for months, I don't have a lot to say about giving up on a manuscript.  I do, however, have plenty to say on the joys of knowing when to quit on a bigger idea.

    When you get married in college
    and change your last name, you
    get to sit by your hubby at
    graduation. True story.
    So this is me, graduating from college. Which reminds me-- I never answered my 1 truth and six lies. The truth was #3: I had the highest GPA in my major. In both majors, history and Spanish. I graduated summa cum laude. I rocked my comprehensive exams. I killed at college.

    I say this not to brag, but so you'll understand why I thought grad school was my logical next step. I'm good at academia. It made sense to stay there. Just one problem... I had no idea what I wanted to study. Somehow I managed to talk myself into Latin American Studies, applied to a bunch of schools, and accepted an offer at Vanderbilt.

    Hiking to stave off
    crippling depression. Also
    true story.
    So this is me, living in Nashville the next year. SO FREAKING MISERABLE. Because guess what? I like Spanish but had zero interest in learning Portuguese. The class that was presented as "hands on career training" was just more "how to do research." Vanderbilt is an enormous campus in the heart of a big city, while I purposely chose an undergrad that was a small campus in a relatively small town. My undergrad was described by a national paper as a "gay friendly hippie utopia." Vanderbilt is... not that.

    My friends were scattered all over the globe, my family was far away, and the five or six people in my department were nice enough, but not exactly my speed. I developed a tic in one eye that still recurs when I'm stressed. I cried. A lot.

    Miserable doesn't begin to cover it.

    What's the point of this pity party? I succeeded in college by never giving up. No matter what, I muscled through (except for pottery, but that's not important, shh). Quitting was not allowed. So it was damn near impossible to give myself permission to quit grad school.

    But I did it. And it's one of the best decisions I ever made.

    Through the whole process-- applications, finding a house, moving-- I had ignored this feeling I get in my stomach. Have you ever seen a dog or a horse dig in its feet when it's being led? That's what it feels like: like my stomach doesn't want to accompany the rest of my body on whatever bad plan my brain has decided. I got it when we looked at a house recently, and it turned out someone was squatting on the property. I got it when we drove our 15-year-old Jeep to the Texas coast, and it broke down on the way home. I got it when my now-husband dated other people in high school (which was very confusing, btw, considering I was 17 at the time and not looking for matrimony).

    I also get its opposite-- a feeling of pieces locking into place when things are moving in the right direction, like my internal organs are part of a puzzle. I had it about getting married, even though we were "too young." I had it about buying our house. I had it both times I got pregnant-- I knew before I took the test that it would be positive (and let me tell you, I took 18 months worth of tests with the first baby. "Knowing" I was pregnant was a dangerous feeling).

    I have that feeling about writing.

    It feels dangerous to say that, considering a) I'm in the middle of querying with nothing to show for my efforts so far, and b) I'm insanely superstitious. I know this MS might not be "the one," and that not everyone will have "the one." I think we can all agree that between grad school and publishing, grad school is the safer bet.

    Get over it.
    Go out with somebody else.
    But since we left Nashville, I've started and dropped out of two more graduate programs, one in Higher Education Leadership and one in Non-Profit Management. I was smarter about it. I didn't uproot my entire life to try them out, and I took an intro class to get a feel for the department-- because that made it easier to follow my gut when it said, "No. This isn't where you belong."


    However, that means I have to listen when it says, "Yes, this is where you belong," even when rejections suggest I'm wrong. Just because it's right doesn't mean it will be easy (as author Elana Johnson proved yesterday). I don't regret my grad school "failures," because they've allowed me to recognize that feeling and decide when to muscle my way through-- and when to get over it and try something new.

    Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    We'd love for you to participate!

    June 8, 2010

    Two For Tuesday: Short Life, Soundtrack and Sparkles

    Kate Hart
    What is it? Post two of anything: book reviews, pictures, quotes, poems, songs, videos, rants, shout outs, whatever floats your boat. Just connect them somehow. That's it.

    Today: You guys gave me lots of blog post suggestions in my contest entries-- thank you! I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed, but you especially like the fandom LOLZ, so I'm here to bring them, because today, we have two new pieces of Twilight paraphernalia to gather:

    Eclipse Soundtrack
    I don't love everything on it (dear god someone rescue me from the torture that is Muse), but a few of the songs already own me, namely the ones by Florence + The Machine, Sia, Fanfarlo, The Black Keys, and Beck with Bat For Lashes.

    The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
    You can read this free online, but I bought a copy because she's donating a % of the proceeds to charity, and hey-- might as well encourage that kind of thing, right? I actually kind of liked it. I mean, it's not a literary masterpiece or anything, but that's obviously not what I expected, either. 

    It's hard to maintain suspense or introduce plot twists when everyone already knows the end to the story, but as a long character study, I enjoyed it. I hope she does another one when Breaking Dawn comes out. Leah should get her own book.

    Speaking of characters who deserved more "screen" time in the books, I'm super interested in the movie version of Jasper and Rosalie's back stories. (Click the pictures to see more new stills.)

    But we all know the real reason you're here.

    LOLZ. Sparkly, sparkly LOLZ.

    This is for Cory. 

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