Sunday, January 29, 2006

Remember This Author!

Check tomorrow for a very provocative post about Marin County Supervisor, Hal Brown! Hal was put on this earth to make my life, and the lives of all residents of our neighborhood, miserable, following the Ross/Kentfield/San Anselmo/Fairfax Floods of 2005-2006. Hal gives new meaning to the word "incompetence." Our beloved, late neighbor had a sign in his yard with the photo of a horse's ass that also looked like a downward pointing thumb. It said "HAL" on it. Brilliant. Once in awhile I see the Peter Principle in action.

The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.

I have never seen it more clearly demonstrated than with "Horse's Ass Hal." Do you know there is a Peter Principle game?

I'm sure "Horse's Ass Hall" (I refuse to dignify him with his so-called title, "Supervisor") would be very good at this game. Be on the lookout also for lovely art featuring "Horse's Ass Hal" by a very talented anonymous artist. Ah... but I'm ranting ALREADY, and therefore getting ahead of myself!

Today, though, is the day to welcome fellow Girlfriends Cyber Circuit member, Laurie Stolarz, to the blog! Poor Laurie has had to read all of this mini-rant about "Horse's Ass Hal" before finally reading her own interview, so let's give her a big round of applause just for her patience!

Laurie is the author of the teen magic/suspense novels, BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, SILVER IS FOR SECRETS and her newest novel, RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE.

  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, Reluctant Reader Quick Pick Nominee, 2006, American Library Association
  • SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, Reluctant Reader Quick Pick Nominee, 2006, American Library Association
  • BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, 2005, American Library Association
  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, COVR Award Finalist,2005
  • SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, Quill Award nominee, 2005
  • BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, Top Ten Teen Pick Nominee, 2004, American Library Association
  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, Top Ten Teen Pick, 2004, American Library Association
LAURIE'S BIO (in her own words)
I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and widely known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. People sometimes ask me what it was like growing up in a town whose name conjures up images of cauldrons and broomsticks, but it was simply home for me—the place where I went to school, worked part-time jobs, and hung out at the beach. People also ask me if I myself am a witch, especially after writing BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES. But, alas, I am not. Witches do exist in Salem as well as all over the world. They’re everyday people, who work regular jobs, lead regular lives, and go about their regular business; I suppose being open to understanding that is the biggest influence Salem has had on me.

I currently teach writing and French at a local college. I started learning French in high school and loved it so much I decided to pursue it further in college. I had a fabulous French professor at Merrimack College, Dr. Sylvie Pressman, who inspired a love of French culture and language. With her encouragement, I ended up studying abroad in Cannes and Paris, and then traveling around Europe.

I started writing before I could even hold a pen. When I was little I would tell these enormous tales to whomever would listen. I would also spend hours acting out stories with my dolls. Then, when I actually could write, I would develop scripts for my Barbies and put on plays. I wrote my first book at the age of seven and I still have it—-it fills the pages of a 3x5 black and white steno bound notebook.

In college I started getting into writing more seriously. I knew it was what I wanted to do. And, with the inspiration of one of the bestest English professors on the planet, Dr. MaryKay Mahoney, I pursued it fully. After my undergraduate education, I went to Emerson College where I got an MFA in Creative Writing. At Emerson, I worked with some amazing writers: writer/illustrator LISA JAHN-CLOUGH, authors JESSICA TREADWAY and STEVE ALMOND, and screenwriter DEBBIE CHAPEL, to name just a handful. When I first arrived at Emerson, I didn’t know I wanted to write for young adults. I started in screenwriting and my first screenplay became a finalist in the Massachusetts Film Office’s screenwriting competition. My love of screenwriting sprouted, I believe, from my love of movies and TV shows geared for young adults.

In addition to working with great teachers, I was also able to attend classes with many talented student-writers: LARA ZEISES, author of BRINGING UP THE BONES, CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, and ANYONE BUT YOU; TEA BENDUHN, author of GRAVEL QUEEN; and STEVEN GOLDMAN. Lara and I first met in an adolescent fiction writing workshop. In addition to being an amazing person, friend, and critique partner, Lara is an incredible writer. If you haven’t already read her work, I suggest you run to the bookstore ASAP. I met Tea in an adolescent literature class. She is a fabulous individual whose work is wonderfully poetic—ditto my comment above about running to the bookstore if you haven’t already checked out her stuff. Steven is another amazing writer and friend. He writes both essays and young adult fiction. His work is truly insightful, humorous, and wonderful, and has appeared in such publications as the Gettysburg Review. Lastly, though I did not meet her until after graduating from Emerson, KIM ABLON WHITNEY is another Emerson alum whose novel, SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD, was nominated for Best Book by YALSA. Her new book, IN SERVICE TO THE HORSE, comes out November 2005. Kim, Lara, and I have done readings together at bookstores. We've also been involved in a writers group, along with Tea and Steven.

(from the publisher)
Since Jacob's disappearance, Stacey has been trying to move on with her life. With a full scholarship, she begins classes at Beacon University, which her best friend Amber is also attending. But Stacey still misses Jacob and can't quite accept that she'll never see him again.

The president of Beacon introduces Stacey to his fourteen-year-old daughter Portia, who is struggling with her own nightmares that foretell murder. The two become friends as Stacey helps the young girl cope with her frightening premonitions. They work together to find the boy in Portia's dreams - locating him in a cult-like community. Despite their innocent goal to live peacefully without technology and material goods, there's a dark side to this community. And one of the members, Shell, looks remarkably like someone Stacey used to know . . .


MO'C: How did they come up with your covers? They're wonderful, and
my daughter ADORES the blue one.
LS: It came out of a launch meeting and the owner of Llewellyn suggested the shadowy background with the catch phrases. I love the Blue cover as well. The covers have really worked with the whole color candle theme.

MO'C: How were you inspired to write the series? Was it clear to you
at the beginning that it was going to be a series?

LS:No, I had no idea I would create a series. I first started Blue is for Nightmares in an adolescent fiction writing workshop at Emerson College. I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. I wanted my main character to be relatable for teens; I wanted her to be flawed, to have secrets, and to have lots of opportunity for growth. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft. That is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class. I had no idea what I wanted Stacey, my main character to do, so I had her meditating in front of a blue candle, looking for answers. Because I had made Stacey originally from Salem, MA, like me, people in my writers group made the witchcraft connection with the candle. They encouraged me to go in that direction. That one scene ended up being the inspiration for the novel and now the series. Even though I grew up in Salem, I didn’t know too much about the formal practice of the Craft, though I had heard growing up that my grandmother had experience with the sixth sense. I started doing research and asking lots of questions. I learned a lot this way. I learned of passed down home remedies, interesting family superstitions, tea readings, card readings, and specific experiences with the sixth sense, some of which find themselves in the novel.I also researched the more formal practices of Witchcraft and Wicca, as well as other folk magical practice/home remedies that pass down within families. Having done this research and seeing the way that Witchcraft is so often negatively portrayed in the media, I wanted to show the true peaceful nature of this earth-based religion, without the hocus-pocus. I wanted to weave an education into the story, using Stacey Brown as a reflective, self-empowering young woman. After writing Blue is for Nightmares, I knew I wanted to create a trilogy, which I did, however, I also knew that the ending of Silver is for Secrets begged for a sequel. That is how Red is for Remembrance came to be.

MO'C: Most of us were interested in magic as a teenager or a child,
and many of us retain that fascination. Can you please comment on
what draws us to the world of the unknown?
LS: I think people like the idea of being able to tap into some greater power within themselves.

MO'C: What do you have in common with Stacey? How is she unlike you?
LS: We're both have a grandmother who had experience with the sixth sense and we both wear the same amathyst ring. We think a lot alike and we both practice home remedies. I am not a practicing witch, like Stacey. I also don't experience premonitions.

MO'C: Do you have any tips for maintaining an organized writing day?
LS: Having an organized husband helps. Organization is a tough one for me, but I try and follow his lead as best I can. Also, I think having a space you're excited about helps. Loving your desk, your chair, your bookcase - it makes you want to keep it looking orderly.

MO'C: You teach college level writing. What's the biggest challenge
your students seem to come up against? As a writing teacher, how do
you help them break through their problems?
LS: For composition courses, I always try to teach students about the importance of maintaining their own presence in writing essays. I think it's important to establish a voice, a presence, a tone in an essay that's your own. Too often I find students trying to hide their presence, using language and texture that isn't their own. It isn't as interesting.

MO'C: As someone who went to school with Steve Almond, can you please comment on the infamous Mark Sarvas/Steve Almond controversy?

LS: I had no idea there was a controversy. All I know is that Steve Almond was a brilliant teacher who gave it straight. I learned so much from him in just one semester. If Steve spends much of his time marketing and promoting his work, so be it. He's brilliant.

MO'C: Who's your pick to win the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament? (A little time spent on my blog will reveal my own) :o)
LS: I'm from Boston - the Celtics, who else:)

MO'C: Thank you very much!!! :o)
LS: Thank YOU very much!

I'm sure you'll agree that this was a particularly magical interview! Visit Laurie's website here, and buy RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the bestest choice, your local independent bookseller.