Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Publication Day for DRAMA QUEENS in the house

The dedication in my book reads, "To my daughter, Jennifer, and our jumble of a chosen family." Here's a picture of Jennifer at 16 accepting bouquets of flowers after a fabulous dance concert. Like the book's main character, my daughter is biracial. She's also tall and beautiful, smart and funny (with a huge laugh), deeply perceptive and good at anything she does. It's accurate to say that along with my many years in the theatre, she and the other members of our diverse and nontraditional family are the inspiration for this novel. That's what I love to write about -- family ties, relationships, all the ways we struggle to discover who we are and find the right path for ourselves in life.

Of course, in the act of writing, Jessie took off on her own (the way characters do) and became someone different from both my daughter and myself. Still, it was a relief to me when Jennifer read the final version of the book and gave it (and Jessie) her stamp of approval. I'll share more later about the other people who inspired this story.

Today we are celebrating a long writing, rewriting, editing, and publication process that has finally come to fruition.  Today you can buy the book (online at B&N, amazon.com, many other sites, as well as in bookstores). And you can find it in libraries, too. I hope you get your hands on a copy. I hope you read it and fall in love with Jessie and her crazy jumble of a chosen family. I hope you'll let me know if you do!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One Week Until My Book Comes Out

My new book, DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE (Roaring Brook/Macmillan) comes out next week. Tuesday, March 25, 2014 to be exact. I've been working on this particular book for nearly 10 years. The most intense work, of course, took place in the last three years since I signed my contract and went to work with my editor at Macmillan. The book has morphed and shape-shifted more than once during that time! And now, finally, here we are. Book launch ready. The book. And me. With only a week to go, I'm doing the things I know to do like: finalizing lists of all the people I want to share my excitement with, checking to see that local bookstores have ordered it, talking with their event coordinators to find out what I can do to help sell the book, agreeing to do some guest blogs and book give-aways -- those kinds of things. But am I ready?

Yes. And no. Excited. And terrified. I love my main character, Jessie, and her crazy nontraditional family. I'm so glad I got to go along with Jessie during a really important year in her life -- one where she has to deal with a lot of change and where she discovers some really cool things about herself and her place in the dramatic world of her family's theatre company. Jessie and I share a sense of humor, but she's a lot more outgoing than I am. And her family? Uh, yeah. A LOT more outgoing than I ever dreamed of being.

So as I sit here, crossing to-do items off a long list, I find myself feeling like the girl in the picture above. That picture of me was taken when I was Jessie's age -- 15, about to turn 16. Pretty smart, a reader, an artist, more introverted than extroverted except when I was performing. Then a miracle happened. All my self-consciousness disappeared and I became whatever character I was playing (from head cheerleader on pep rally days to my first dramatic onstage role as Tessie Hutchinson, the wife and mother who is stoned to death in Shirley Jackson's THE LOTTERY). When I defied my mother and the rules of my mother's religion and played that role (which, incidentally, won a best actress award at a regional competition), I had never even been to see a live theatrical production. That was about to change dramatically -- let's just say from then on the theatre was in my blood and nothing was ever the same again. Did I stop being introverted when I wasn't onstage? No. Not then, not in all the years since.

But the theatre gave me a voice. Maybe I should say -- gave me many voices to choose from. And the performance of those voices led me to writing poetry and stories and novels. And that led me to teaching and directing, which led me back to performance and writing and publishing . . . 

There's a lot to be excited about. Next week my book comes out.  It's the first I've written that draws its inspiration from my many years in the theatre and I hope it won't be the last.