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Less is More


I like cereal.  I think most people do.  In my house we usually have around seven or eight boxes going at any given time—a few twig-like whole-grain brands for me, some corn-syrup-laden-cartoon-character business for my husband, and a couple of vaguely healthy kid-friendly cereals for my son.  Theoretically, we could all eat the same kind of cereal (Honey-Nut Cheerios the most likely intersection of our collective sweet spots) but with so many options on the market, why bother to compromise?

The other day in the grocery store I counted 164 kinds of cereal.  And I’m not including hot cereals.  164!  Now, I’m all for having choices, and I know that I’m privileged to live in a country where I have the freedom to choose exactly which cereal best fits my individual needs, but there’s a fine line between abundance and, say, piggish overindulgence.

I think living in a culture that offers too many options is the hardest on our kids.  The average middle-class American child is bombarded with choices at every turn—whether they’re forced to choose between a selection of intellectually stimulating afterschool activities or flavor combinations of Extreme™ wild berry juice.  And we grown-ups play into this, working hard to make sure that each option flashier and cooler than the last.  No wonder today’s kids just want to zone out in front of their video games, or that so many of them have ADD.  For a child overwhelmed by abundance, the experience probably feels similar to being plunked in the middle of Times Square. With so many flashing neon lights vying for our attention, how do we choose where to look?


I think the real problem is,  in a culture of infinite choices, kids don’t really need to make a choice at all, because if the thing they’ve chosen for themselves doesn’t end up working out, there’s always another option, just around the corner.  Download a new song, then decide you don’t like it?  Big whoop. Move on to the next band.  Want a pair of sparkly, pink and green high top sneakers?  Just Google them. Chances are, they probably exist. We have so many options in today’s consumerist culture that the moment of reflection when making a purchase is no longer necessary.  Why think when we can just have.  But who ever makes a good choice for themselves when they’re dining out at the all-you-can-eat buffet?

And I can’t help but wonder if this kind of carelessness has an impact on other stuff in our lives, like the mortgage crisis, or divorce rates, if Americans have just become so accustomed to making disposable choices, we’ve lost our ability to stop and reflect about what it is that we truly want.

Don’t get me wrong; I like having options as much as the next guy.  But, I’d be hard pressed to find a reason why any store needs to offer 36 (yes, this is a real number) different kinds of toilet paper.  Though, in all fairness to my fellow Americans, there are about 36 different types of ass-holes.

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Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas

Today, we’re celebrating the release of a great new book on screenwriting,  Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas, written by Hollywood script guru Julie Gray.  I had the privilege of being able to interview Julie about her new book and how it can help aspiring screenwriters find success. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the book are the Fun Facts and exercises at the end of each chapter. Julie knows just what lessons are most valuable for budding screenwriters, and she presents them in a concise, encouraging, and easy-to-read way. 
There are a lot of screenwriting books on the market, tell us why we should buy yours.
 Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas is the first screenwriting book EVER to combine both screenwriting tips, theory, do’s and don’ts AND an explanation of how Hollywood readers evaluate scripts as well as advice about how to get an agent, how to know if you’re even ready for representation and how to keep running this marathon even when you feel totally dispirited. It really is a very holistic handbook to screenwriting that goes way, way beyond bullet-pointed lists or specific genres.
What’s the biggest mistake new screenwriters make and how can they avoid it?
Not testing their idea before they write. Not really making sure this IS a movie, that the idea is fresh, original and unique, that it has the dramatic legs to make a whole feature film. Screenwriters can avoid this by really checking out the idea carefully; comparing it to other films, writing up a premise line in three parts – 1st, 2nd, 3rd act – making sure they have a theme that is relevant and up to the minute, making sure the idea is specific and yet very universal. The book has a large section on idea testing. 
What advice would you give to the screenwriter struggling to break through?
I hate to say this but…… write and write and write and write. And by writing I mean not only scripts but ideas, premise lines, treatments, short stories. Really immerse yourself. And watch movies by the dozen. Really familiarize yourself with the breadth and the depth of what is available on film – use what has come before you for inspiration. 
Name your five favorite screenplays.
Ordinary People, The Salton Sea, American Beauty, Slanted and Enchanted (unproduced Christopher Columbus project), the Last Boy Scout. 
CLICK HERE to pick up your copy of the Screenwriter’s Atlas: 
Julie Gray is the director of the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon as well as the Just Effing Online Screenwriting Salon and writes for The Huffington Post, The Times of Israel and Script Magazine. A long time script and story consultant, Julie has taught at Warner Bros., Oxford University Student Union, San Francisco de Quito University in Quito, Ecuador, The London Screenwriter’s Festival and the West England University in Bristol. Currently a resident of Tel Aviv, Julie is working on her memoir, Eat Pray Kvetch. 
You can learn more about Julie at the Screenwriting Salon:
Here’s a sample page!


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Need a Soulful Escape?

My friend Em Falconbridge is hosting this delicious women’s retreat. In Bali! I can’t make it this year, but maybe you can…  For more info, check out her website.

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Drumroll, please…

The winner of the REUNITED Book Club Giveaway is Jill the O.W.L.! Jill, I’ll be emailing you separately to get your address. Thanks so much to everyone who entered.


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I Win Yoga

ImageYoga is not a competitive sport, nor is there any shame in relaxing into Child’s Pose when a posture becomes too strenuous. But even though I’ve been practicing yoga for seventeen years, there still are times when I find this difficult to remember—times when I glance around the studio as I’m setting up my mat and make mental notes about the relative fitness of my classmates in order to see where I rank in comparison. If I judge myself not to be the least in shape and/or chubbiest, I take it as a personal victory.  If I am, it’s a great reminder to practice loving kindness. And maybe some day, if I keep on practicing it, I won’t feel the need to rank myself at all.

So I was proud of myself yesterday, when I walked into a yoga class I’d never been to before—in southern California, no less!—and snagged myself a spot right up front. If my fellow classmates wanted to judge me, so be it. Though anyone distracted by my flabby parts should probably spend a little more time (soft)focusing on their own practice. 

It was a blissful class, and afterwards, I was happily surprised when two of my classmates complimented me on my practice and asked how I learned to do Crow. Because these two gorgeous 20-somethings with 0% body fat couldn’t do Crow Pose and I totally could! Not that I’m judging anyone. 


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Did you know you can make yourself into a Lego?

Yup.  You can.  Just go here.

The author, in Lego form.

The author, in Lego form.

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The YAmazing Race is over!

Thank you all so much for entering the YAmazing Race.  Winners will be announced on the Apocalypsies’ website tomorrow (10/30), but due to the hurricane and the possibility of people losing power, you will have a full week to claim your winnings.

The winner of my personal giveaway is Christa S. of Christa’s Hooked on Books, who will receive a  signed copy of REUNITED just as soon as I can get a plane back to the east coast.;) Though there could be worse places to get stuck than with my friend Leah in Austin.

Mmmm… breakfast tacos.

If you’re in the hurricane zone, please stay safe!

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What if School Looked Like This?

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Last Stop: Blue Bunny

I’m still riding the high from last night’s excellent reading/book-signing at Blue Bunny Books & Toys.  Or maybe it was all those cupcakes I ate. 😉

Store Owner/Cupcake Maker, Janet Reynolds

So happy I got the chance to meet some local tweens & teens as well as some lovely and enthusiastic booksellers.

Books & vanilla frosting. Two of life’s greatest pleasures.


And how often do you get a photo op with Babar and a life-size stuffed sheep?

Of course, no Road Trip Book Tour stop would be complete without the obligatory Pea Pod photos.

Kids: don’t read & drive.

Booksellers extraordinaire: Cheryl, Margie & Janet

Overall, I’d say Kristen-Paige and I had a very successful (albeit slightly exhausting) week.  Thanks to all the booksellers, friends, and readers who came out to join us!





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Giveaway Tuesday: Road Trips Rock!

In just one month from today, REUNITED hits the shelves!  So, in celebration of the final countdown, I’m offering four straight weeks of giveaways, either with a music theme, a road trip theme, or both!

“The Pea Pod” – the ’76 V.W. camper van in REUNITED.

Level3, jammin’ at rehearsal.

Since Level3’s reunion show is the thing that motivates Alice, Summer, and Tiernan (ex-best friends) to hop into a van together and drive 2,000 miles cross-country, this week’s contest takes place on Level3’s website.  All you need to do is head on over to and answer this question in the COMMENTS SECTION (of their blog or mine):   If you were on a road trip, what band would provide your soundtrack?

One winner (selected at random)  will receive their very own REUNITED T-SHIRT, available in your custom size, plus signed REUNITED bookmarks and a Road-Trip Mix CD.  Two runners up will also win signed REUNITED bookmarks and a Road-Trip Mix CD.

Winners will be announced here on May 22nd, when I reveal the next giveaway. Good luck!  And while you’re at Level3’s site, don’t forget to download three free chapters from REUNITED and TWO FREE SONGS from Level3!


Filed under books, movies, YA, writing, friendship break-ups, music, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, rock bands, Uncategorized, writing, young adult