Monday, February 27, 2012

Monkey Madness Monday: Irresponsible "Advice" from Rappers

Just heard a disturbing bit of news about online Hip Hop mag XXL and rapper, Too $hort. Apparently, the magazine was offering "Fatherly Advice" videos from your favorite rappers.

Too $hort thought it would be a good idea to tell middle school boys how to sexually assault their female peers. After being told about the video, editor Vanessa Satten had it removed immediately.

My question though, how did this video make it online to begin with? Obviously as editor in chief, I'm assuming Ms. Statten doesn't see everything that gets published to the XXL website, but she has to be responsible for her staff members and the trust she's placed on them.

Supposedly, this was a spoof about what advice rapper dads would give to their boys about picking up girls, but is it a good idea to do the spoof with a man who was arrested for battery after fighting with club guards who wouldn't let him bring underage females backstage to his dressing room? A rapper known for sexually explicit rhymes?

Too $hort states he was "in character" when he made the video and it got out of control. I don't think this is a very good excuse for using your fame to be totally and utterly irresponsible and promoting sexual assault among early teens.

There is a petition being signed requesting Ms. Statten's firing and the editors behind the video have been suspended, but it doesn't seem like enough. Seems to me some serious staff overhauling needs to be done as well as some mandatory rape/abuse awareness classes.

I'm honestly sick to my stomach that this kind of harmful rhetoric was in public view for even a small window of time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Weigh In: Slow start and stupid cats

Finally I'm back on track. Down 4 pounds and exercising again. Determined.

I had something I was going to blog about, but I think it's more vlog worthy, so I'm hoping to have some time to film a Middle Aged Angst segment today.

Instead I'll talk about Lola. The cat that comes to visit. Mind you, I am not an animal person, mostly because I have horrible allergies. But awhile back, this cat started coming to my window and meowing.

One day I gave her turkey. She seemed very hungry.

Then I did it again. And again.

Then one day I let her in.

Now mind you, she's not homeless. She doesn't have a collar, but she's well fed and not mangy at all.

So then me and the Things got her some stuff. A bed, a scratching post, a couple toys, a food dish and food.

This has been going on for at least a couple months now where she comes, mostly on weekends, though her weekday visits have increased.

Yesterday she came in and was acting crazy. Next thing I know, she's in my office peeing in a box that held the newspaper articles about me and my book. I promptly tell Thing One to kick her out, as she's really the only one in the house that likes her.

Now I'm convinced she's the reincarnation of the cat I accidentally ran over when I moved into the neighborhood. I always said the cats in the hood were stalking me after the incident, but now I'm convinced.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monkey Madness Tuesday *cough*: How to be a better reader

I've been asked to visit a classroom at a local community classroom and not only talk about the writing/revision process, but how to also become a better reader and the importance of reading outside of social media.

The class is a pre-college level reading and English class. The class consists of students of varying abilities and experience. Three of the students are second-language students. Needless to say, I'm nervous. I can't get my own daughter to read much, how am I going to convince a bunch of 18 +'s?

I thought I would start with a few of the benefits of reading.

  • Reading = success. There's been studies done on this. People that read get better do better in school and in life.
  • Reading helps to improve your vocabulary and language skills. The more we read, the more we continue to learn new words, idioms, phrases, and how to use them.
  • Reading makes you more knowledgeable. There is a quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Israel Shimon Peres. "To read is like going to swim in a sea of wisdom, endlessly fascinating. And there are so many wise people all over the world throughout history, and you can have it for free, for nothing." We have unlimited sources of knowledge at our fingertips. All it takes it opening the cover of a book.
  • Probably the most important, reading makes you smarter. Your brain needs to work out just like any other muscle in your body to stay fit. When you read, you're forcing your brain cells to engage in activity as your mind paints images about the story you're reading.

Of course, reading can be daunting if you don't find the right books. I said earlier, Thing One says she does not like to read. That's not exactly true. She needs the right books. I gave her 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, and she devoured them.

  • I think getting recommendations from friends, family, and librarians is a great way to get started.
  • I'm also going to suggest they think about the kind of movies they like, and find books that are similar.
  • Trying different genres until you find one that appeals to you is also a great way to find what your likes and dislikes are.

Some people get frustrated if they don't understand words or the story in general. Having a dictionary handy is a great idea.

I'm going to remind them that reading is inexpensive and portable, and is as accessible as ever with the technology we have these days.

What do you think? Any other ideas?

Friday, February 17, 2012

F³A: Fancy Bred

This is funny, I wrote about the quote, Tell me where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head, way back in 2010. That is from Willy Wonka. Of course, the original quote is Shakespeare, from the Merchant of Venice:

Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply.
It is engender’d in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies
In the cradle, where it lies.
Let us all ring fancy’s knell;
I’ll begin it – Ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell

What's funny about it, is that someone recently emailed me, a complete stranger, questioning my thoughts behind the meaning of the quote. It's also funny because just recently this quote has once again become very apropos for me.

I agree with the second half of the poem, that when love is based on the shallowness of physical beauty it dies an early death. It's the original question that still intrigues me.

Tell me where is fancy bred, Or in the heart or in the head?

Earlier in life, I would have argued with anyone who said "the head". I am by nature an emotionally driven person. When I'm passionate about something, I dive right in.

I've learned a lot about fancy in the recent past/present. I learned that it's not always the best option to be led by the heart. Maybe that seems callous, but I think people at my age who are searching for love cannot be driven solely by the beating of their heart and their racing pulse.

People my age have to be rational about love. There are other considerations. We have families, and careers. We have fears about not making the same mistakes we have in the past. We want to find people at our level, intellectually, emotionally, passionately. We have to decide what we will settle on, what we won't put up with, and what we'll fight for.

I've come to believe that you need a balance of heart and head to find a long lasting relationship. The heart is reckless and needs the head to help make good decisions. The head is obstinate, and needs the heart to help it overlook the things that are forgivable and worthy of fighting for.

But one or the other alone, I won't follow. Where the heart goes, the head will be close behind, and hopefully together they'll be able to find something rational and effortless, satisfying and rapturous.

So, the Friday Scribbles:

Random Pandora song of the week: Down in the Valley by The Head & the Heart

Book of the Week: No idea. Between school visits, and revising, and kid stuff and house stuff, I've not read a word. You pick. Tell me what you're reading this week.

Netflix of the Week: Going with The League Season 2. If you play fantasy football, you will love this show. It's partially ad libbed and I think it's hilarious.

Quote of the Week: I think I'll just go with the above.

Enjoy your long weekend. Thank a president.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday is Awesome

There's a lot going on. Some personal stuff I don't want to share yet, but it has me walking on air.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is looking into another print run of Never Eighteen, which is awesome.

Had a great interview on Book and a Chat with Barry Eva last week. You can check it out here.

I had an awesome classroom visit yesterday at Ford Middle School, and have two more next week at Tacoma Community College and Foss High School.

I was invited to a luncheon on Saturday where I can sell books.

Heading to the ocean with a girlfriend this weekend.

Life feels really good right now. I'm not sure if I'll be able to live up to my title as Angsty Writer for much longer. I may need a new handle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm not blogging today

Instead, I'm sending you to Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, Cynsations. I talk about my journey to publication and finding Austin's voice. I think it's pretty interesting stuff. But, I'm kind of a narcissist, so, judge for yourself. Comment if you wish. Worship the ground I walk on. Okay, maybe not that last one.

Since I'm not blogging, I'll give you another picture of a cute monkey today. (Oh, but you can wish my luck on my first classroom visit today. I'm terrified.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monkey Love: DWF seeks...

Yep, posting monkeys because I didn't have time to blog yesterday. But look how cute they are!!!

So, love, yes? No? Ugh.

I've been dating.


Some good, some bad.

I came to the realization that I don't know how to date. I'm a relationship person. I've always been a relationship person. I meet someone, we have a relationship, it ends.

So, now I'm doing this dating thing and I have no idea what I'm doing. I am learning what I want and don't want very quickly, however.

I did this awhile back, but here I go again:

DWF seeks...

  • Guy that is funny. This is a must. Anything from dry sarcasm to pee-your-pants funny. If you're not funny, I'm not happy.
  • A cute face to look at. I'm not real picky when it comes to looks, especially if the guy is personality plus, but I don't want to date Quazimodo either.
  • Athletic to average body type. Again, I'm not too picky, but I know I don't want to date Jabba the Hut.
  • Must not love dogs. Sorry, not a dog person. Aside from allergies, I just hate how they jump on me, and how they bark, and smell, and pretty much everything thing about them. *ducks rotten produce from dog lovers*
  • I like to work out, but I'm not a die hard, and I don't want to date a die hard. I think I'd get tired just looking at him.
  • Doing things in snow and water. Swimming and bathing are my limits. I don't ski, neither in snow or water, I don't snowboard, jet ski, yadda yadda yadda. I will sit in the boat and watch. I like boats. I will not do ANYTHING in the snow.
  • Must not do drugs. Sorry. #totalwasteoftime
  • Must like to have fun. I'm open to trying new things as long as they don't have to do with me being cold, bored, or scared for my life.
  • Must either read books or be educated. I'm not really into conversations that start with, "Uh, what?"
  • Must have job.
  • Must have shelter. Preferably not with your parents.
  • Must have car.

I know these last three seem like a given, especially for people my age, but yeah, no.

I suppose I'm done. I'm sure there's more, but I don't want to seem high maintenance. :)

So, happy Valentines Day to you all. I hope you have someone to share it with. If you don't, buy a gallon of Ben and Jerry's and watch chick flix all night. Yeah, you too guys.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Turbulant, I mean Friday

Yeah, I started this post on Tuesday. Um, little behind on the blogging this week, so without further ado...

Rewrites. My beta readers are coming back with their critiques. They're all very good, but now I'm finding it hard to breathe. Revisions, rewriting, reading a book yet again. You start to hate your own work when you've read it so many times. I'm not there with Sliced yet, but I'm sure it's coming soon. I just want one rewrite then I want to submit it.

I think it's good, but it needs some work. I think I'll just post some of it here. Right now. Total spontaneous idea. Tell me what you think. Or don't. :)

One morning when I was six-years-old, I woke up and found my mom’s telescope leaning against the wall. I remember looking around to see if I was in the right room because my mother never let me touch the thing. I climbed out of bed, walked over to it and stared for a moment. It seemed so big to me at the time, and gleamed shiny silver. I reached out and touched it—just with my index finger. I was afraid at any moment my mom would burst in and yell at me for touching her precious conduit to the stars. Nothing happened so I stroked it with my hand as if it were a kitten. Smooth and cold, I liked how it felt under my skin. My mom looked through it every night. If I asked nice and she was in a good mood, which was almost never, she’d let me, too.

I wondering again why my mom’s most prized possession was leaning against my bedroom wall. Then I saw the box. On my desk. It was my pre-school pencil box, pink with different colored flowers and Hello Kitty. I was afraid to open it, as if something horrible would jump out. I caressed the telescope again then decided nothing scary could probably fit in a Hello Kitty pencil box, so I opened it. There wasn’t much inside—her sparkly pink costume jewelry I thought was so beautiful back then, a few pictures of her and me. I don’t think I’d remember what she looked like without those pictures. I often considered burning them in effigy. The box held a letter, too. It said, Sorry, Sydney, but mommy isn’t happy. She has to go find joy. When I find it, I’ll be back. She didn’t sign it, there was no I love you, she. didn’t even draw a heart, or add any xo’s. And she never came back—which means maybe she never ‘found joy’ which is the only gratification I get from her abandonment—and of course the telescope, which took me exactly four years to the day to pick up and use.

Friday Scribbles:

Random Pandora Song: Break Even by The Script

Netflix of the week: Gray's Anatomy Season Seven. I just watched a musical episode. I love when shows do that.

Book of the week: I'm going with Scarlet by AC Gaughen and Lethally Blonde by Patrice Lyle, both are fellow 2k12ers and both release on Valentines Day

Quote of the week: I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately, so I'm going with this one “How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being." ~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monkey Madness Monday: Book Signing on the Base

On Saturday I was hosted by the Joint Bases of Lewis McChord for a book signing. It was at the PX, and this was my first in-store signing. My dad went with me for moral support, and it helped me calm my nerves a bit.

They are very no nonsense. You come in, sit at a table, sign books. An hour later you sign all the books you didn't sell, and you're on your way.

They supplied me with an escort, her name was Dawn, and she was very sweet, and it gave me someone to talk to during lulls.

It was a very surreal experience. They had three giant posters on the walls with my big giant face and book cover. They had me sign one before I left, and gave me one to take home.

People wanted to get their picture taken with me which I found to be very sweet and a little crazy, because in my mind, I am a nobody. I felt a little like a rock star.

I met some very interesting people. A wedding singer, teacher, a book blogger, an author with three books under his belt. Unfortunately, I also met a man who's son disappeared in Afghanistan. One thing I didn't think about when taking a signing on base was meeting people who had experienced real loss.

The base really knows how to treat their guests. They have both me and my father swag bags. There was some really cool stuff in there, and army t-shirt and hat, a reebok water bottle, a cosmetic bag full of samples, and I'm talking good samples: Prada, Versace, Jessica McClintock, Vera Wang.

They were very kind and appreciative, which I found funny. I was the one that should have been appreciative and I definitely was. They were awesome.

They had purchased 50 books. They sold a few before the signing, we sold 17 in the hour I was there, and Dawn assured me that they would sell the rest in probably the next few days.

I would definitely do another signing on base and highly recommend it to other authors in the area.

Oh, let's not forget our monkey. I got this picture courtesy of Heather at Starting on the Write Page...

Friday, February 3, 2012

First School Visit Rocked!!

Last night I had my first school event. It was a Writing Celebration at Ford Middle School in Tacoma. I have never seen a school so devoted to writing in my life. It was amazing. The entire cafeteria was full of written work from the students and across the different academic fields. The red and blue boxes you see to the right are writings based on the amendments. They chose an amendment and wrote why it's important, then embellished the boxes with artwork.

The picture below is a display of Mathlentines. The kids used mathmatically terms to write a love poem. It was so cool. They wrote things like, "we're like parallel lines, always side by side." Really cute idea.

The picture to the right is a writing quilt. Another awesome idea. After getting to look around a bit. I headed to the library (with my friend Angela, who totally rocks. She went with me to collect money for book sales).

At first there was no one there and I was a little worried, but after an announcement was made in the cafeteria, people started to filter in and soon enough the room was pretty full. Eighth grade Humanities teacher Beneva Johnson had invited me. She told the audience about my book, then introduced me.

When planning, I went back and forth about what to talk about. I decided that the parents and kids might be interested in the publishing process, so I talked about the basic elements of a story. Then talked about the editing process. I talked about using the internet to find an agent, as well as subsequent rejection. Then on to getting a publisher, line edits, copy edits, first pass pages, arcs, and finally a book. Talked about how the job doesn't end there. You still need to get people to read it.

The crowd was genuinely interested.

They had some pre made up questions from one of the English classes. Stuff about writing and reading, then there were a couple different question, what is a typical day like, and what kind of student were you. um...

Then we had Q&A. The parents and kids asked tons of questions. One kid even asked what year I was born, to which her mother gasped. lol. I shot silicone bracelets out to the audience when they asked a question as incentive, and handed out other swag. They really seemed to like it.

They raffled off three books. The winners are in the picture to the right. They seemed very excited. Apparently I'm shorter than most middle school kids and their parents. I sold a couple books, and signed a few and then called it a night.

I'm going back in a couple weeks to talk to a small group of future writers. I'm really looking forward to it.

I thank Beneva Johnson and Ford Middle School for the opportunity. I'm not only looking forward to going back there, but also to the other schools on my calendar!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I'm making myself crazy again. I feel like I'm spreading myself too thin, but I'm not sure I have anything to show for it. The last week and a half has seemed really crazy.

I finished my rewrite, which was kind of a first draft since I changed direction in the middle, so mostly was just going back and making things consistent.

Last Monday, doctor appointment for Thing Two. Tuesday, music lessons for Thing two. Wednesday, doctor appointment for Thing Two, plus dinner out for her birthday. Friday night soccer game for Thing Two.

Don't get me wrong, Thing One has stuff too, but mostly on the social end. My house is full of teenagers just about every day eating my food, messing up my kitchen and basement, etc.

Saturday was the last of my three release parties which seems superfluous, I know, but was necessary.

Sunday was all day soccer (three games). Monday pick up Thing One from basketball game. Tuesday, coffee meeting and music lesson for Thing Two. Today shopping for bass guitars, doctor appointment, and choir concert all for Thing Two. Tomorrow Writing Celebration at a middle school. Friday coffee meeting to deliver auction items, then soccer game. Saturday book signing and birthday party. Sunday two soccer games.

That's as far as I can think ahead. I miss my driver. I think I may need to spend the money aned hire another one.

And all of the above in the midst of me working the day job, trying to figure out what to write next, trying to finish up guest blog posts, trying to plan talks at above mentioned middle school, plus school visits later in the month. Designing a poster for a group event next month, and keeping up with social media, which for a writer is very important, grocery shopping, keeping house clean, etc. Trying to plan, family vacation, trip to NY, and budgeting my vacation time for all this plus school visits conferences etc.

I'm exhausted again and I miss the sun. sigh.

This is me, just bitching, venting, using you, my readers as a sounding board. Sorry and thank you.

My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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