New York

Office Space: A Peek Into Where I Write

11188291_10102733005536818_6462092429022030358_n Living in New York City for most of my adult life, I always dreamed of having a home office. Well, first, I dreamed of trading the fluorescent lights of a corporate America for my couch, but once I'd done that for awhile, I wanted the real-deal. The much sought-after dedicated writing space.

This year, I was able to finally make that happen. My fiance and I found a great apartment with just enough space for me to really spread out. My friends reminded me that I used to say that my main goal in life was to settle down in Greenpoint (a residential neighborhood in North Brooklyn), write full-time, and get a dog. Well, it happened. And the home office was the icing on the cake.

Anyway, I'm obsessed with learning where writers do their work, so I thought it fit to share mine!

Writers-desk

Here's my desk on a clean day (it doesn't look like that while I'm on deadline, err, right now). It looks out on a sweet little garden that I may not have access to but is frequently filled with cardinals, which makes me happy. I even went for an Aeron chair. It was part of my goal to take my writing more seriously. But more truthfully, I'm a design nerd, and I salivated over Herman Miller while working for years at Elle Decor, and I'd rather splurge on chairs than shoes ANY DAY.

For art, I looked to things that reminded me of the people I love and my travels. Left to right: A Georgia O'Keefe print of New York City, purchased in Santa Fe on a cross-country trip with my fiance; two paintings from Bali; and a painting by my sister over a collage of snaps from college.

11127866_10102733005636618_6398489754565178809_o Of course, no space would be complete without a color-coordinated bookshelf. (Yes, I realize this is so common it's annoying now, but I still love it.)

Or a white board and bulletin board for serious plotting work only (not illustrating my dog and snapping photos of friends in an attempt to procrastinate).
Which brings me to my favorite part about my office ... my wonderful coworker, Farley!

Seriously, you can't beat that!

Happy writing, everyone! I'm going to stop procrastinating now and actually use my office for deadline-meeting purposes.

Inspired by Coney Island

IMG_4461 Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

So yesterday, in honor of the Fourth of July, I had the great pleasure of hitting up Coney Island with my fiance and a good friend. It felt like the right kind of thing to do on Independence Day.

I've been to Coney Island a couple of times before, but there was something about seeing such a diverse group of people, locals and tourists and folks from all over the world, just have a good time on a holiday. And the thing about Coney Island that is hard not to love as a writer, is there are just so many stories here.

There's the history first off, the fact that you can literally ride a ferris wheel built in 1918. Then there's the fact that for me, I know my grandparents used to come here to go to the beach in the 1940s, as likely many people's grandparents did and do. There's Nathan's and the hot dog eating contest and all the men and women who look far too skinny to be able to pack down sixty hot dogs in ten minutes. There's the famous "Sideshows by the Seashore," which over the years has been home to more stories than any novelist would need in a lifetime. And beyond that, there are the characters. While in line for the Thunderbolt, my friend and I met an official member of ACE, which stands for American Coaster Enthusiasts, a middle-aged woman who spoke about roller coasters like a sommelier discussing fine wine. At the Sideshow, we saw a brother-and-sister team breathe fire and swallow swords. Taking a break on the beach, we saw countless families tossing beach balls and building sandcastles and trying to keep their kids from running off too far.

Coney Island is like a nostalgic dream. It's one of those kinds of places they always show on TV but never actually feels real until you're there. It's all the things that make you feel wild and silly and like a kid again--greasy food and scary roller coasters and a boardwalk that is enough in and of itself to entertain you for hours. Like New York, it is a mishmash of stories, and though I'll probably never set a novel there, it's one of the many reasons why I love living in this city.

Here are some more snaps from our day:

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The famed "Face of Steeplechase."

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Nathan's already counting down to the next hot dog eating competition.

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Fourth of July wouldn't have been complete without some greasy grub.

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My friend and I all strapped in for the scream-inducing Thunderbolt coaster. IMG_4480

(That's us after the first drop.)

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Bikers and strollers on the Riegelmann Boardwalk.

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Pointing the way to Deno's Wonder Wheel.

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A particularly patriotic swingset.

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Bathers packed onto the beach, as seen from the Wonder Wheel.

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A view of the city from the Wheel.

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The boardwalk from the beach.

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Finally got to see the famous Sideshow!

New York Trip Part Three: My First Book Party. My first Reading. With VIDEO!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3ZlkixlAx0&w=560&h=315] Well I meant to post this ages ago, but I guess life got in the way. I've already blogged about all the fun I had in New York at Book Expo America and my first author school visit, but the most fun had to be the book party!

I have to admit I was very intimidated by the planning/throwing a party for myself. I love planning things for others, but when it comes to celebrating me, I usually stick to casual meet-ups or low-key dinner parties. So planning a book bash in Manhattan was a BIG DEAL.

All planning worries aside, the party was a huge hit! It was amazing to be surrounded by so many friends, family and supporters. Thomas acted as my official bookseller, and I even ran into the problem of running out of books (a good problem to have).

The whole thing felt like what everyone says about weddings--that it goes by in a flash and you talk to so many people but can hardly remember it. For me, it was a flash, but a wonderful one. Old writing teachers, the authors who blurbed my book, former coworkers, even Thomas's extended family attended. I felt so blessed to have so many loving and supportive people in my life--and I can officially say that I couldn't have done it without any of them.

For those who missed it (or those who will enjoy a video of me stumbling over my own work), I've made a quick video of the main event--the reading. Enjoy!

New York Trip Part Two: Book Expo America (with lots of pics!)

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Since my return from New York, I have of course been way behind on everything, but I am belatedly getting to one of my favorite events there--Book Expo America (BEA).

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Let's be clear--I have never been to a book event of this magnitude before. It's thousands of square feet at Javits of ... BOOKS. Yes, it is truly, amazingly booktastic, and now they open it to the public one day, so you should def check it out next year.

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But anyway, my publisher had set up a half-hour signing for me in the autographing area. It felt super official (and super nerve-wracking). You had to go sign in at this special booth and then make your way through this behind-the-scenes curtain (where they stored boxes of everyone's books) to pop out just as the author before you left and make everything look super seamless. Then a bunch of people get in line and you just sign your book to your heart's content. Since I'm such a new, unknown, I was a little worried I'd have the sad empty line, but I didn't. It was full the whole time. I met a lot of cool people, and got some great practice on my autographing skills :) It was awesome to meet people who'd seen the book in the show catalog and had marked it down as one to pick up!

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After that, the publicist swept me back to the F&W booth, where we did another impromptu signing with my tower of books. See above. (It's not really allowed, so shhh, but it was really fun.)

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All in all, it was truly an amazing and humbling experience. I felt like a real author for maybe the first time. One of the women walking by even said, "You're the author? You look to young to be an author!" I'm going to take that as a compliment.

Other highlights included cool LEGO structures and getting a glimpse of the Ron Hubbard scientology booth. See below.

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I want these.

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Really bad.

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That's right, a book really is sold every 2 seconds... If that's not terrifying, I'm not sure what is.

New York Trip Part One: My First School Visit!

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit Oh man, oh man. It has been exactly a week since I returned from New York, and I feel like I'm still recovering! All in all, it was an AMAZING trip, and I seriously don't even know where to begin. So I'll start with my first school visit (and first book event) ever ... my visit to Hudson High School of Learning Technologies. And what a great first event it was!

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

I met with two groups of students who LOVE creative writing to talk about The After Girls, share tips and do a couple exercises, and it was so much fun. I can't explain how exciting it is to talk to teens about writing. Speak to adults, and you get a whole slew of questions about getting an agent, getting published, royalties, advances, sales, business business business. Not to say that isn't all terribly important, but speak to teens, and you get questions about ... wait for it ... WRITING. How do you keep writing when you feel stuck? How long does it take to write a novel? How do you think up your characters? How much do you base your stories on real life? What music do you listen to while you write?

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

Needless to say, it was refreshing. It reminded me why I do this all in the first place. Because writing is a joy and a blessing--and I am so lucky to be able to share that blessing with others.

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

The best part? These bright-eyed teens were great writers! They were uninhibited, creative, observant. They were eager to learn more and to make their stories better. They weren't worried about how to get published. They were only worried about how to get down all the wonderful things they had to say.

After the workshop, I signed all the kids' books, probably the most fun of all! Above are a few photos. See them all on the school's Facebook page.

P.S. If you're interested in having me visit your school, just email me at leahkonen@gmail.com, and we'll try to work something out. I'm available in-person in many locations and also via Skype.

This Week's Events in New York City!

New World Trade Center from BrooklynAs you can see from the photo above, I'm back in the big apple. Above is a view from my friends' lovely balcony in Brooklyn, overlooking the new World Trade Center. My feelings toward the five boroughs and all their amazingness can hardly be expressed now. I'm deep in a mix of excitement to be back and nostalgia for the life I lived during the five years I was here. Thankfully, I had an afternoon of gross weather and crowded subway rides today to remind me that everything here isn't perfect all the time.

But anyway, today I did my first event for The After Girls, a school visit at Hudson High School in Manhattan (more to come on that later, but it was amazing), and I've got two more awesome events planned this week. Stop by if you can!

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Tomorrow night (Wednesday), I'll be celebrating the publication of The After Girls at Revival near Union Square from 7-10 pm. There will be books. There will be treats. I will sign your book between beers. Above is the info.

And finally, I'll be attending my first Book Expo America this year. Bloggers, book-lovers, booksellers and librarians--I'd love for you to stop by Table 18 in the autographing area at 1:30 on Friday. I'll be signing ARCs of The After Girls.

Other than that, I'll just be enjoying this wonderful city, and will post so many more pics next week.

Vintage Photos as Writing Inspiration

How cool are they? So, my grandparents were married 66 years ago today ... in New York City ... in the famed St. Patrick's Cathedral (I don't know how they pulled that off, either). That's them, above. Aren't they gorgeous together? I never remember meeting my grandmother, Mary. She passed away shortly after I was born. But my grandfather, Gordon, was one of the happiest, smiliest, most kind-hearted people I've ever known. Here's to them!

Anyway, I'm home visiting my parents right now, and I've been looking at a lot of old photos--ones of my other grandparents on the West Coast, standing in front of a classic car and a dusty landscape (I'll share that in a separate post), ones of me and my sister as a kid, ones of my parents as babies. Old photos are so amazing (I mean, just look at that car!). They can completely transport you to a different place and time, much the way a good book does.

I set my writing mostly in present-day, so photos aren't necessarily a window into another era for research purposes, but I guess when I look at them, I just realize how many stories each person has. I remember the way I felt when I was a kid. I remember places I used to live and visit. All of it makes me feel very creative, like there are endless tales to tell, moments to capture,  you just have to find them.

As a writer, what fun it is to be able to jump into a character's head and find their most happy, sad, dramatic, distraught, elated, book-worthy moments. I think that's one of the reasons we all love writing.

Anyway, enjoy the photo--and happy anniversary to my grandparents in heaven!

The Bad Writing Party and Why Everyone Is a Writer

bad-writing-partyAbout a year ago, one of my best friends in New York had a brilliant idea--throw a Bad Writing Party where everyone brings one or two examples of their worst writing: cheesy short stories, embarrassing cover letters, novels you started when you were eight, etc. Let's just say it was a hit.

I read from a few overly descriptive and indulgent stories for an introductory creative writing course in college, a friend read from her middle school journal, another girl read her child fantasy novel (along with a story inspired by her love for Ryan Gosling); one guy even played for the group a recording of him singing a song he'd written for his high school girlfriend. I'm sure it was enhanced, at least a little, by the wine, but it was hilarious (there I am, above, trying to keep a straight face).

One thing we started to notice was that all the bad writing wasn't really all that bad. Sure, they all needed a good edit, and each had at least one or two cringe-worthy lines, but for the most part, each piece was pretty engaging. I'm not saying any of them would have made The New Yorker, but they all had something to say, and given that most of the pieces were written when we were younger, we were all saying it rather honestly (if not also terribly awkwardly and embarrassingly).

I've been calling myself a writer for awhile now, long before I had an agent or a publisher. I went to a reading once and the author said you just have to start saying that, because if you don't believe it, no one else will, and worse, you won't push yourself to actually be one. A lot of times I felt silly telling people about my books (No, they're not published yet. Working on that), but I still think it was important to say.

So many people I know wind up telling me these great stories and how they'd love to write a book but: "I'm not a writer." They say it as matter-of-factly as, "I have brown hair." I'm not a "writer" any more than they are, apart from the fact that I write regularly. I'm not saying that everyone has the potential to be the next Hemingway (most of us don't), but I also don't think that every respected author is a genius. They're just people who write often and even when they don't really want to and listen to the stories around them, in their pasts, and in their heads. They're hard workers.

The funny thing is that, as evidenced by our Bad Writing Party, no one says "I'm not a writer" when they're a kid. Instead, they just write.

My Last Weekend in New York: Karaoke, Gossip Girl, and 4 out of 5 Boroughs

I'm sitting here, it's nearing one a.m., and I'm trying to finish a revision before I move to San Francisco in just three days. I'm surrounded by packed boxes, bubble wrap, blank-looking walls, odds and ends, and what looks like too much work to do in the time alloted. It will get done, though--it always does. I'm not worried about that. I not even worried about moving somewhere new with no definite job--or driving 10 hours a day for six days--or fitting two people's lives into a Budget moving truck.

I'm not worried--but I will miss New York. And my last weekend here didn't help with that. My wonderful friends--the same ones who've always supported my writing, who've helped me find jobs and finish bottles of wine, who've danced and picnicked and been generally far too silly with me for the last five years--threw me a surprise karaoke party. It began with a sake-soaked sushi dinner that led to a private karaoke room in midtown. We started with Mariah Carey and ended--I kid you not--with a group rendition of "Don't Stop Believing." My boyfriend jumped up with my best friend from high school's older brother to belt out "Lady in Red." My fellow North Carolina friends stood with me to indulge our country roots with "Friends in Low Places." It was a dream of a night and one I'll never forget.

Saturday was spent recovering and packing, eating pizza, and then heading to the Palace Hotel in Manhattan for the Gossip Girl series finale wrap party. It's the show my boyfriend has worked on for six years, the same one that serendipitously stopped shooting for good the week we'd planned over a year ago to move. The Palace Hotel is a beautiful place (that's one of the rooms in the photo above), the champagne was flowing, there was a PHOTO BOOTH, and my boyfriend had the chance to say goodbye to the crew he's worked with day in and day out. Everyone wished us well, many expressed hints of jealousy, and most had one story or another of a winery or must-see locale in Northern California. When we'd had enough glitz for one evening, we took a taxi over the 59th street bridge into Queens and down into Brooklyn--the driver, who'd at first given us a hard time about going into Williamsburg, shared his strategies for getting the most customers in any given night (he likes to go against the crowd).

Sunday--in all its mild, sunny fall beauty--was spent taking the train over the Manhattan Bridge into Bay Ridge, having lunch with my boyfriend's grandmother, and then heading to Staten Island to see the rest of his family. It was a day of amazing food and company, and we topped it off by driving by the new Brooklyn Nets stadium on the way home.

There's a lot to love about this place--and it's not just the glamour of New York (which is never as glamorous as it seems on TV, though the GG party did come close)--more than anything, it's the people who somehow manage to make you feel at home in a city of 8 million. It's them I'll miss the most.

The Ten Things I'll Miss Most About New York

I'll be leaving this great city in exactly a week, and I've been thinking about the parts of it that are truly irreplaceable. Here are a few:

The Craziness: I’ve seen a Spiderman impersonator using the leverage of a cart to bounce off walls like a scene from The Matrix. Celebrities walking down the street unnoticed and unbothered. Elmo suiting up in the subway station to get money from tourists in Times Square, only to be arrested a few weeks later … only in New York.

The Contradictions: There are dozens of amazing restaurants within a few blocks and yet I’d have to take a 30-minute train to buy good socks. There are film crews—big and small—everywhere, but no one here ever goes to the movies. 500 square-feet is considered HUGE. You get the idea.

Free/Cheap Stuff: New York is super expensive in a lot of ways, but some amazing things are surprisingly inexpensive. $30 to see Kevin Spacey as Richard III. $5 to get into the Met and see Van Goghs, Monets, the works. I saw Florence and the Machine for free—just had to put my name on a list. My boyfriend and I went bowling once and were treated to a performance by the original singers of The Lion Sleeps Tonight—while bowling. Jazz music is everywhere. At restaurants, coffee shops. Most recently in the bar below my apartment, drifting through the window on Sunday nights.

Everything About Williamsburg: Widely known for its droves of hipsters, tattooed or not, Williamsburg is a great neighborhood. There’s a park, a waterfront, amazing food, great bars, good music. TWO GREAT BOWLING ALLEYS. The list goes on. There are people rocking fashions popularized anywhere from 10 to 80 years ago. There are lots and lots of puppies. And of course, there are enough ridiculous characters for my former roommate and I to regularly play Hipster Bingo. Fluorescent overload, FTW!

Central Park: Sheep Meadow in the summer, where a man will make a mojito with a portable blender for $5. Bethesda fountain, which pops up in countless TV shows once you start to notice it. Strawberry Fields and a guy singing “Imagine” while strumming a guitar. Motorized sailboats. The sweeping reservoir. People getting married. More people getting married. A zoo, which seemed to come out of nowhere the first time I came across it. It’s one of the best parts of NYC.

Street and Subway Performers: My boyfriend and I once saw two guys do the entire “Who’s on First” skit in the time it took to ride the L train beneath the East River. Then there’s the guy who plays Nirvana on his stand-up bass, or the one who carries a HUGE piano all over the city. There are acrobats, Julliard musicians, dancers, soul singers, accordion players, garbage can drummers--everything you could ever imagine--all you have to do is pay attention.

The Pace: Everyone is always moving here, and I’ve grown used to it. It’s what makes people think New Yorkers are rude. They’re kind, generous citizens who love this city and the people in it. They also have a places to be, and if you’re in the way and just standing around, expect an earful or a slight nudge.

Picnics: Wine, cheese, salami--enough said. I’m lucky to have lived in a place for five years where everyone loves to picnic.

The Pizza: Seriously, how is it so much better here than anywhere else? I’ve heard it’s something to do with the water. Anyway, as much as I’m thrilled for tacos in SF, I’m going to miss having access to the best pizza ever. Fresh mozzarella. Chicken and broccoli. Spinach pinwheels. Everything oversized and perfectly foldable. I will also miss knowing the pizza guys well enough to engage them in gun-control debates while ordering a slice.

The People: I think E.B. White put it best: “The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”

“A sensitive look at the wake of a friend’s suicide, infused with genuine emotion, hope, and just enough well-placed romance.”~Booklist

“The Writing King of Difficult Subjects has to be John Green. After reading The After Girls, I would definitely put Ms. Konen in his court.”~Ink and Page

“A striking debut and an eerily good book… THE AFTER GIRLS is a vivid portrayal of interrupted lives and enduring friendships. It is as much about the known as the unknown and as much about healing as loss.”~Michael Northrop, author of ROTTEN, TRAPPED and GENTLEMEN

Ella, Astrid, and Sydney were planning the perfect summer after high school graduation. But when Astrid commits suicide in a lonely cabin, the other girls' worlds are shattered. How could their best friend have done this--to herself and to them? They knew everything about Astrid. Shouldn't they have seen this coming? Couldn't they have saved her?

As Ella hunts for the truth, and Sydney tries to dull the pain, a chilling message from Astrid leaves them wondering whether their beloved friend is communicating from the after life. The girls embark on a journey to uncover Astrid's dark secrets. The answers to those questions--questions they never dreamed of asking--will change their lives forever.

Get a copy of my debut young adult novel, THE AFTER GIRLS, here. 

The Right and Left Coasts and Writing About Where You Live

Me in San Francisco

I can't believe that after five years in New York City, I will be leaving in less than two weeks. There's truly no turning back at this point--the moving truck is booked, the first-month apartment is all set up, and we just called to cancel our internet! Haven't started packing yet, but that's only because my boyfriend and I are MAJOR procrastinators.

We'll be driving out in 6 days, which is a little crazy, with the only real stops being in Denver and Reno (I suggested we just throw our life savings on Black in Reno and see what happens...). And then, come November 1, we'll be San Franciscans! Living in the photo above!

I've never lived in California, but growing up in Washington state, I think that going back to the West Coast will feel like going home (it will also mark the fourth corner of the U.S. I'll have lived in). I was nervous for awhile, but now I just feel excited. I love this crazy, frenetic, dirty, beautiful, incredible city, but I'm also ready for the next adventure--and to trade a bitter NYC winter for the land of permanent fall in SF.

I keep thinking about how it will affect my writing--I've always been one to write a lot about places, but I've never been able to write about New York. Maybe once I'll leave I'll finally figure out how. Maybe, instead of setting things in the suburbs or the small towns of North Carolina (where I went to high school and college), I'll be able to actually throw a character into the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn--we'll see.

Fellow writers--are you able to write things set in places that you currently live in?

Realistic Young Adult Fiction as a Genre

Last night, I headed with my friend to Greenpoint in Brooklyn for an event at Word bookstore as part of Brooklyn Book Festival. On the agenda: a discussion with authors Gayle Forman (If I Stay), Michael Northrop (Trapped), Matt de la Pena (Ball Don't Lie), and E. Lockhart (Real Live Boyfriends) about writing realistic YA fiction. The event came complete with brownies and brews from Brooklyn Brewery, and helped raised money for First Book-Brooklyn, which provides new books to kids in need through local literacy programs.

It was a fun panel--a good mix of laughter, beer, and insight--and also very inspiring for us up-and-coming writer types working on contemporary YA for shelves dominated by paranormal and dystopian series. It was an especially good exploration of what makes a book contemporary or realistic, and whether "realistic" can even be considered a genre. I think E. Lockhart put it best--the only thing all four of the panelists' books have in common is that they don't have vampires. I tend to agree that "realistic" shouldn't be considered a genre. It's what people have been writing and reading for hundreds of years and it's what they'll continue to read and remember and return to years from now. In a way, shouldn't everything be based in emotional reality? Aren't those the best books? Sure, none of us are actually going to wizarding school, but we all know that feeling of being somewhere new, making friends, trying to create a space for yourself in a world of cheaters and mean kids and evil lords (apart from the lord bit, that just about sums up high school).

What's more, many of the books that are being called realistic aren't even wholly based in reality--for example, Gayle Forman's If I Stay is literally an out-of-body experience, from cover to cover. Gayle does it beautifully, and so the reader doesn't feel like it's fantasy at all--instead it's just this stunnig tale of a girl's life and a chronicle of what really matters, when it gets right down to it--it just happens to be told from the perspective of someone who may very well soon be dead.

I think all the mish-mashing of genre just further proves that the best books are genre-less--they're impossible to define. They're mysteries with heart, and with characters as pensive and deeply developed as in contemporary (In the Woods), or they're dystopian that make you not only see the horror of war and poverty, but remind you why, in the end, it's better to fall for the good guy, the calm and kind-hearted person who balances you out (The Hunger Games, Team Peeta all the way). Or a 19th century novel written with a GRE-prep-book vocabulary and filled with subtle drawing room discussion that manages to be more desperately romantic than almost anything written since (Pride and Prejudice).

Those are the books that, in the end, I think we all want to write, even if we joke about coming up with the next paranormal or dystopian hit and cashing in. They're the books that I want to read not just because they are page-turners, but because I come away understanding something that I didn't quite get before--or understanding it in a new way, at least.

Both Gayle and Matt noted it on the panel: there's an undefined takeaway that you can't push onto a book (or else it's propaganda--or just bad), but it's something that, in the best books, comes naturally, leaving you thinking about them long after you've turned the last page. Gayle said that if she'd set out to write a book that convinces you to love and appreciate your family, it would have been horrible, and yet most readers come out of If I Stay feeling that way. Without being overt or obvious, or trying to make you feel that way, she's created a story that just does--it's something I think we all strive for every time we sit down to write--otherwise, what's the point?

(It's also worth nothing that at the meet-and-greet after the panel, I nervously introduced myself to Gayle and explained to her how I finished If I Stay on the subway and immediately started crying. Her response: "It should have a warning sticker!")

A Lady Writer in the Gilded Age

Gilded Lady My boyfriend and I headed to the New York Historical Society in Manhattan this weekend. It's an awesome museum but not many people know about it (the ticket-taker actually asked us if we meant to go to the Museum of Natural History when we entered), so you can see a lot of cool stuff without the crowds. There was a sterling silver exhibition and and a room full of paintings of historical American scenes, but my favorite, by far, was a tiny, dimly lit room which displayed Gilded-Age miniatures by artist and New York socialite Peter Marié. All the pieces were painted on ivory in frames measuring about 2x2" and completed between 1825 and 1903. It basically felt like walking into an Edith Wharton novel.

Among the amateur actresses and Upper Easy Side dames, my favorite was the lady pictured above. Julie Grinnell Storrow (Mrs. Stephen Van Renssalaer Cruger) was born in Paris but lived in New York. She was the grandniece of Washington Irving, a society-wife-turned-widower (later turned divorcée), and most interestingly, the author of 17 novels under the penname Julien Gordon. She looks innocent enough, but I like to think she had a bit of a wild, Old-New-York life.

Also, 17 novels is nothing to scoff at. She inspires me to get started on something new.

Old-Timey Carriage

P.S. We also saw this carriage, one of only three fully intact models of its kind that survive from the era (late 19th century). How much does it remind you of Downton Abbey and Lady Sybil and her chauffeur?