Sunday, August 15, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"There's no place like home," I say, and my friend laughs from the other side of the bar where she's sitting in a gigantic bag designed to wrap awkward Christmas presents.
I wait to be found, sighing when I hear the high-pitched scream my friend makes when she's discovered. I know now that no matter what, I'm not IT.
Did I mention we're 20?
Or that being IT is still worse than anything on the planet? That we still play Nose Goes to avoid being chosen?
It doesn't matter how old we are, though, or how many years worth of stock we've put in playing hide-and-seek in the dark with the lights off. Because we're all allowed to be a kid. In fact, if we're smart, we'll turn to childhood a thousand times before our lives end.
The thing about kids that gets me is their contagious happiness.
I sell baby clothes. I've watched hundreds of kids walk into the store, see the Hopscotch painted on the floor, and get all giddy with excitement. They tug and tug at their parents' arms, pointing in case they didn't get the message.
"Watch me," they yell, running over and fighting over whose turn it is to go.
What I wish for them, and for everyone else in this world, is for that to be enough sometimes. There are so many bad moments, bad situations we find ourselves in, and yet kids are often blissfully unaware.
It's raining, so they splash in the puddles. The ice cream truck is rolling down the street, so they ask for a Rocket Pop. It doesn't matter that the blue and red juice is running down their arm, or that it's not the most nutritionally sound choice for a snack. There will be other moments to care about that. Now is not one of those times.
What if it never had to be one of those times? What if we could all be better at separating work from play, and in the process, feel less guilty about how we want to spend our free time?
As long as we're not hurting anyone else, if we want to go to the water park on a scorching Saturday afternoon, or the drive-thru at one a.m., that should be nobody's problem but our own.
We are never too old to learn from the kids in our lives.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
"Each song is a different confession to a different person."
Sound familiar? Reminds me a little bit of those Myspace days, blogging about people in your life that were important in those Guess Who posts. Each person had a sentence dedicated to them, and people were free to comment.
"Am I number seven? What about three?"
It's times like this that I wish I wrote song lyrics. There are people I would like to talk to, to tell something, but like most of humanity, I keep it inside. And I have more than a few such secrets.
Why do we do that?
PostSecret's a great example of this. Perfect strangers find out that you resent your family, that you flitter between sexual orientations, that you're afraid of love, but your own friends are in the dark.
Maybe we're afraid that the people who know us most won't accept us if we're not the person they think we are. But we can't know that for sure. We can't.
If we're going to make some grand assumption, why not make it something to hope for? Probably, it'd be so much better to think that it can't go wrong. Because here's the kicker. Here's something I've learned from my family:
The people who love you, who truly care, won't turn their backs on you when you tell them.
For all you know, they already know. Or they're going through something just as bad. Or they've been there before, and they can help you. There's a reason there are so many people out there writing memoirs and personal essays and giving speeches. They've been there before, that indefinable Somewhere, and they want you to know that You're Not Alone.
We're all a conglomeration of our own secrets, our own confessions, so we better start owning up to them.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Then you're disappointed because you never jumped in the first place, so there was no way you were ever making your dream a reality.
When I was a senior in high school, just a few weeks after graduation, I wrote my sister a letter. I never gave it to her, but I thought that if she read it, maybe I could spare her from making mistakes. It was the kind of letter I wished someone wrote and handed to me. A guide I could tuck into my pocket and pull out, smoothing it down to read whenever I needed some reassurance that I was on The Right Path. I just read a blog post that inspired me to share that letter, with the hope that it will offer guidance to someone somewhere. Maybe even just one little sentence.
Dear (your name here),
I'm only now starting to realize the sheer volume of growth that I've had over the past two years of my life, and I realized today if I were you I'd be thankful to have someone to share a little bit of that knowledge with. So here goes. It's okay to feel emotions other than hate or resentment and to let yourself cry (not just because of a fight with your mom). You have to allow yourself to like boys, to put your heart out there. Vulnerability is quite possibly the scariest yet most exciting feeling you can allow yourself. And if you like a boy, tell him, but try not idolize anyone. Guys make some of the best friends, too. Most of them won't admit it, but they are capable of feeling weak and they listen. Not just about the new jeans at Hollister, but they have this intuition that I could never grasp and can help you gravitate toward the girls who won't put you down so they feel better about their own lives. Make a lot of mistakes, but make sure they're worthwhile. And when you're done, learn from them. It's okay to drink every once in a while, but not every day and don't go around flaunting it. Stay modest but take compliments. It seems easy enough but you're hard on yourself. Keep dancing (or whatever you love to do) because I know you love it. Know that answers will rarely come to you so keep guessing. Tell your mom some things, not all, or she'll grow suspicious. And know that the best way to live is that you can't stop crying on the day you move away. Take advantage of these last two years because as much as you'll love senior year, it goes too fast and you'll want another one. And last, don't be afraid to blast my car stereo while I'm gone because music was meant to be played loud with the windows down. I love you and know I'm only a phone call away.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I've been dabbling in this new Thinking Ten concept, letting my fingers type away for ten minutes, letting the story unfold in front of me. Last week, I had to start my ten-minute piece with this sentence: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink". Just to give you an idea, here's my piece:
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. Which is difficult, to say the least, since I have a big, fat piece of metal dividing the side with the garbage disposal and the other, regular drain. But I digress, it's all in a day's work. And today, I'm holding my breath, trying to pretend that someone, some unknown face, is on the other side of that swinging door. There's just a crack underneath the door, big enough for this mystery person to lean down on all fours, hugging the floor, and looking through to see my feet on the cold tile. I could just sit on the counter Indian style, but that wouldn't give me the full effect. My butt wouldn't be numb, my knees cramped, my toes a little wet.
"You have to get your toes a little wet," my Grandpa always used to say. "That's the only way to go through life." He was in the Navy, a real trooper, with a big heart and a knack for serving his country. And I know he said that metaphorically, at best, but I'm taking it to heart right now since I forgot to clean out the sink before I sat in it. There's a leftover puddle of water inside my cereal bowl from when I washed it out.
I call it Experience Writing. My villain, in this latest misadventure, is on the other side of the kitchen door, breathing so quietly I can't even hear him. That's what I tell myself, since you and I both know there is no villain on the other side. It helps me feel tense, keep the words flowing on the page. And the funny thing is, in a way, there is someone else on the other side of that door. A different kind of villain, maybe, but a villain nonetheless. It's my mother, coming inside from hanging laundry on the clothesline, and she's going to scream. Not out of terror though. I wish it was out of terror, but I'm not a very scary little girl. The scariest thing about me, according to her, is my tendency to dress and act like a boy.
"Mom," I tell her, whining. "I can be whoever I want to be. I'm a writer."
"So be a girl," she tells me, smacking me upside the head and demanding I get down from there right now before all the germs from my dirty feet infect the sink and she has to spend hours scrubbing it out.
I argue with her for a few minutes, reminding her that girls don't always get recognized for their writing. Not until they're dead. And I need to experience "Boy Life" because my latest story is about a boy. Girls don't worry about villains, I insist.
She shakes her head once more, firmly, and wraps both arms around me, pulling me out and setting me down.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday's goodness came to me unexpectedly. Remember that contest I got nominated for? The one for the Six of the Month? Well, I won. I won the whole entire thing! When I logged into the website on Friday morning, I just kind of stared at the screen and said, "What the...". And my little sister's in the other room, going, "What happened?" And I'm waving her over, "Come here, come here," and pointing at the screen. And then she freaks out, so I freak out, and pretty soon we're both jumping up and down screaming and hugging each other. Those are the moments I live for. Those are the moments I save for a rainy day.
As I read further, I learned I'll be headlining the newest 6s book, called 6s: Half A World Away. It'll be available on CreateSpace starting Friday. I'll post details once they send me a link for it, so check back later for that.
In other news, I've been blessed in the movie and book department lately. This past week, I watched Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island which left me stunned. Same with Inception, which I watched Saturday. Both of them were so well-written, so well crafted, that I'm just hoping someday I can write something that brilliant. What killed me (both times), was probably the ending. If anyone can tell me for sure what it means--"what does this mean?!" as Rainbow Guy would say--I will feel so much better. The endings for both were ambiguous in the most painfully perfect way. What happens after the camera stops is up to you. And of course, I'm a Leo fan. It's been a Leonardo DiCaprio and apparently Joseph Gordon Levitt filled week, as I watched (500) Days of Summer last night, too.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
For me, I have to get those words down on the page because as I write them, as the thoughts form, I hear my own voice shouting back at me. And it's saying, "Yes. Finally, you understand what it means to be a teenager."
It's more than that, though. I hope my books can teach people lessons, because that's important. You can't make all the mistakes in the world. Sometimes you have to learn from what other people did wrong. For instance, the main character in my newest book keeps going back to her boyfriend, despite the disapproval of her parents and her best friend. Sure, that tells you something wonderful about the girl: she's forgiving and loyal, but to a fault. Maybe you're not that kind of girl, but your best friend is, and after reading the book, you can help her because you feel like you've been inside this girl's head. Even if you don't agree with her logic, at least you're starting to understand it, right?
That's all we want in life. Someone to understand us and still love us. I hope my books can make people see that.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Barry sat across from me, staring so hard at my forehead that I thought he might burn a hole straight through it. My fingers hovered over the white pegs, even before he called out "B-12", sinking my cargo ship. I added another white peg to the boat, shaking my head. "Liar," he called out, standing up and peering over the other side of the grayish plastic barrier to find all my boats filled with white pegs, my game long over. That's how I ended up in the other room, eavesdropping while my husband of almost fifty years asked the customer service representative if he could speak to Milton Bradley himself about what to do when he found his wife cheating. At a board game.
I'm happy with it, but sometimes it baffles my mind. How does someone just sit at their computer with this small inkling of an idea, and come out with a life? A life that's never existed before? Do we have the authority to do that? That's some pretty powerful stuff, writing is.
Jumping off that, a great book needs a great image on the cover. I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," right? That's half the battle for me. The other half? A great first sentence.
Here are some of my favorite first sentences from the YA genre:
"You can tell a lot about people from what they order for breakfast." - THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE, Deb Caletti
"To say my life changed when my mother married Dino Cavalli (yes, the Dino Cavalli) would be like saying that the tornado changed things for Dorothy." - WILD ROSES, Deb Caletti
"Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect." - NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, Justina Chen Headley
And why are they great opening sentences? Because the words are so definitive, so matter-of-fact, that you're forced to ask a boatload of questions: "Who ordered breakfast that was so transparent?" or "What did Dino Cavalli do that was so life-altering?" or "Why from behind? What am I missing?" There are hundreds of examples throughout written history, but these are just a few quick examples. My books each have to have a powerful cover and a powerful first sentence. I'm going to give you a small glimpse into each.
"Even if I had enjoyed this flight, what followed could only be described as inevitable. With my eyelids finally drifting closed, my last few moments of peace in this world were cut short by a loud, overly friendly voice. It had been my third, maybe fourth attempt to sleep."
"In the beginning, you never see the end, but it's there. Just a little glimmer off in the distance that you have to squint to see. Beginnings were always the same: the morning after, so many bad decisions just reek of alcohol and loose lips. There I was, okay, several mornings after, trying to do laundry so I could rid myself of any memory of the stain on my shirt, the smell of liquor on my clothes. In the laundromat across the street from my neighborhood. And I prayed, just prayed, that my father didn't drive by, peering inside the glass interior to see my tired face staring back."
Note: The covers are mock-ups, and I'd love to hear opinions on them, even though I fully intend on redoing both of them at a later date. Right now they are placeholders for my website, which I hope to launch in the fall.
Friday, July 16, 2010
At any rate, I have news to share. That "Mind Games" contest I mentioned on Monday? Out of more than 300 entries, my entry was selected as one of the stories to be published. In a book. A "Mind Games" book. Of course I already bought the book, and it's being shipped to my house.
Another contest is in the works. This one, I failed to mention, since I didn't bother to vote in it, but somehow that didn't matter. It's for the June 2010 Six of the Month, also on the 6S Social Network, and the 6 finalists, myself included, were announced today. Now people have until Thursday, the 22nd, to vote for their favorite. As far as what the finalists will be receiving, I'm not sure yet. It's all hush hush as they say. I'm going to post mine below, and if you like it enough to vote, please do so.
"Half a World Away" by Kaleigh Somers
We ran through that cornfield, dodging branches, unable to see more than a few feet in front of us. And I prayed that if I squeezed his hand hard enough, if I never let go, we could break through some time-space continuum. When we stopped, me a few steps behind him, smacking hard into his back, I thought we'd done it. Above us, a rainbow covered the sky for miles in either direction, illuminating it. "Aw man," he said, shaking his head and dropping my hand, bringing me back to reality. Instead of a pot of gold, an endless supply of wishes, another world altogether, we were left only a moment away from where we'd started: two kids being called inside for dinner.
Check back soon. I'll be posting my 6S Mind Games story along with some mock up book covers.
Monday, July 12, 2010
1. KEEP IN TOUCH, my first YA novel, is now retitled RUNNING IN CIRCLES. I'm planning on going back to it at a later date and revising it, making it better, so that maybe it's sale-able one day. We'll see. The basic plot line is the same, but there's a couple believability issues I'm working out.
2. LEAP OF FAITH, my second YA novel, is finished (first draft, that is). Revisions are already underway and pretty far along. The title, in many ways, reflects how I feel about the book itself and the writing process. This one, in many ways, was easier to write than the first book. Often I woke up at midnight or even later, scribbling down plot ideas for the next few scenes, hearing the characters in my head while driving, sending myself text messages with dialogue when I didn't have access to paper and a pen. LEAP's about a high school junior, Faith, who, when the story starts out, is just recovering from a break-up with her boyfriend. She's caught up in a million little problems that all start to strain her, before she can't help but break down with the weight of all these secrets she's so good at hiding. All she really wants is to go back in time and not make one major mistake, but it's too late for that.
3. Six Sentences has a contest going on at their Ning site, called Mind Games. Submissions were due at the end of June, and winners will be notified on Friday. Cross your fingers that my entry made it! The owner's publishing a book compilation of the winners.
4. Speaking of contests, I also entered Writer's Digest's Your Story contest for the July/August 2010 Issue. The due date was on Saturday, and I'm not sure when notifications go out for finalists, but I'll be eagerly (and nervously) awaiting that as well.
That's all for now, but maybe in the near future I'll post some book excerpts and my mock-up covers for both novels. Keep reading!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Last Wednesday, I submitted a six-sentence story to six sentences, a blog that publishes a different story each day. The rules are simple. You're guaranteed a response within six days, the title cannot be more than 36 characters, and you have exactly six sentences to tell a story. Anyone can submit. So I wrote one, submitted it, and tried not to think too much about it, in case they hated the story. Turns out, they liked it a lot, and it's today's blog post.
There's talk about a writing contest at JMU, which I think would get a great turn out. Maybe I'm biased, but I think my fellow students are talented in a variety of areas, writing being one of them. Hopefully it pans out.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Anyway, back to the contests. If you have interest, I've got several for you. My goal is to enter the first one, as soon as I choose a novel worth entering. Here they are:
1. The Next Big Writer's The Strongest Start Novel Competition 2010 - With a main category and three sub-genres, you're sure to find a place for your work. And it's forum-style, so while you wait eagerly for a response from the contest's host, you'll get feedback from others in the competition. And, here's the kicker: you don't have to have the manuscript completed. Which for me, is like saying, "Yeah, Kaleigh, pull one of those awesome 25-pagers out of the trash and give me a little more work, a little more dedication, and you're golden." Golden. What's not to love?
2. Writer's Digest always has a Your Story prompt, calling for up to a 750-word submission. It's annual. But this spin-off competition caught my eye. For all your photographers out there, this visual prompt calls for an opening sentence based on the image, using "ten" (10?) in the sentence somewhere. Have at it, kids.
Oh, and another reason I'm a fan of that one? You need one great sentence. First sentences are hit or miss with me. I flip through a book, look at the first sentence, and make a decision to buy/rent/borrow it based on that most of the time.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
To say I know the exact moment I became a writer would be wonderful, because then I'd have an awesome story to tell, but I'm not making something up just so I'm more marketable. I will say this though. I'm not your average kid. There's times I'm driving and something pops in my head, a "perfect" sentence or thought or idea, and I'm struggling to remember it because I don't have pen or paper. And I don't think linearly all the time. I'm sitting in class but I'm not always there in my head. Not that I'm not focused or disciplined, but there's times my imagination or my creative juices take over. And for those of you who don't write, who've never felt that way, I just want you to know that you're missing out. Those are the best times.
So here's to writing for writing's sake. And not having to label it, but knowing that there's something unique about you. That you might not be normal. Embrace it for all it's worth.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I just read Writer's Digest's May/June issue and immediately flipped through their annual list of 101 Best Websites For Writers. For the past three years, I've scanned the list, but this year's really resonated. Bloggers all over the world are on the list, offering free advice for anyone who wants it. They discuss getting published, writing in general, query letters, and more. So of course I chose to "follow" many of the blogs, and my dashboard is now cluttered with more entries than I can possibly keep up with. Here's last year's list if you're interested. This year's list isn't up on the site yet.
On the list, I discovered Chris Guillebeau, a man who may have just succeeded in changing my life. Chris's website, The Art of Nonconformity, is ladden with advice, his blog about his world travels, and free pdf files that really guide people who want to make something of their life. The first of two manifestos, entitled "A Brief Guide to World Domination", captivated me. While I don't want to take over the world, I think my goals are on par with that. I want to publish a young adult novel while I'm still a young adult. I want to graduate college with a published novel. When I tell people I wrote a book, most of them look at me funny. Not in a "you must not see the light of day" way, but more in a "I wish I could do that" way. Apparently it's not every day a 17-year-old sits down and writes away until two in the morning, after working all night at Rita's Water Ice. I admit, there were times I didn't even change out of my uniform because I couldn't type fast enough. I had to get it all down before it escaped. Sometimes, I stop and ask my friends what I was thinking. I ask them if they remember how it all started. And they do. They say "You just said you wanted to write a novel." So I did. And I'm working diligently on a second novel.
The second bit of information I gathered from the list? I think I love the writing style of Allison Winn, a novelist whose books I've never read or even heard of. She had excerpts on her website so I read them, and BAM, after the first few sentences, I was hooked. I think there was something magical in her characters' tone that captured me and reeled me in. It's something I don't find often in YA lit and I'm not sure if she even classifies herself as YA or women's fiction or what, but it signifies something greater for me. During my junior year of high school, I went through a phase where I made trips to the local library several times a week, devouring YA fiction - the good, the bad, the ugly. And my ultimate goal in being published is this: I want to offer teen girls something worthy of reading, something they can't put down. Because as bored as I was, there were times I could have put the book down it was so poorly written.
So if you're like me and you need a push, check out the list. It's given me a new bought of determination, and if you know anything about me at all, you know that once determined, I make things happen.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Just today, I started taking a class in web design and the professor threw out a whole laundry list of vocabulary used that I didn't really know much about at all. However, by the end of the 8-week class I will have to have 2 designed websites, so it's my hope that I can incorporate my education into this website, maybe changing up HTML, adding some more pictures, and cleaning it up. Functionality says a lot about websites these days and a poorly designed website turns people away quicker than most companies or organizations probably realize. I'm hoping that this class helps me spruce my website up and attract more readership.
On a side note, I'm also starting a class that's focused on Photoshop CS4 and maybe if I'm getting the hang of that I'll be able to put together a mock book cover for Keep In Touch using my new skills. No promises though. Make sure to check back and see how the classes are going, and maybe you'll be more inclined to stick around if I put my skills to use on this site!