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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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Filed under books, movies, YA, writing, favorite books, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Uncategorized, writing, writing advice, young adult

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

Cheez-Its, Democracy, and Me

My husband is a Cheez-Its fan, and since he brings his lunch to work every day, we often have a box in the house.  Which is how I became aware of the Cheez-Its “Vote for the Top Cheese” campaign currently on the back of the box, where snackers are urged to log on to Facebook to vote for one of the eight candidates, each personifying a different flavor of cheese.

There’s Colby, the bowtie-wearing “people’s cheese,” and Cheddar Jack, adorned in a bowler tie and cowboy hat (not to be confused with Pepper Jack who wears a top hat and monocle, because the guy apparently thinks he’s Brie).   The whole thing is completely cheesy.  Maybe it’s supposed to be.   So why am I so upset that only one of the candidates for Top Cheese is a woman?

Poor Mozzarella, batting her long eyelashes demurely in her matching pearl earrings and necklace.  She looks more like Baby Swiss’s mother than the next Commander in Cheese, even as she promises to be a “cheese for change.”  Surely such a bland cheese will never win the office of Top Cheese.  But I know that someday there’ll be a female Cheez-It worthy of that role.

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You Have the Right to Remain Sexy

Since the time we became friends in high school, and all through our twenties, my friend Jane* and I had a running joke about stripper cops.  It’s hard to say exactly what we found so hilarious about the concept, but the subject often wriggled its way into our conversations with  a glib (and deeply ironic) lechery.

For me, the best moment of the fantasy was when the man assumed to be an officer of the law dropped his ruse (and his pants) and delivered his Miranda rights punch line:  “You have the right to remain sexy.”  Of course, the flashing blue lights would be the perfect accompaniment to Donna Summer’s “It’s Raining Men,” which, as all women and gay men know, happens to be the only song men ever strip to.

So when it came time to celebrate my friend Jane’s 30th birthday, it was with this deluded scenario in mind that my friend Kim* and I decided to order Jane a stripper cop.  After all, we wanted to make Jane’s 30th birthday special.  And what could be more special than a gyrating half-naked policeman?  Plus, there was already a big birthday bash planned at Kim’s house, so when the police barged in “to break up the party,” it would seem so believable, no one would ever suspect our ploy.

Kim and I booked the stripper cop, and for the next few weeks, whenever I imagined the look on Jane’s face as some handsome beefcake cuffed her against his squad car, I giggled to myself.

But by the time Jane’s birthday actually arrived, I’d started to have second thoughts.  And instead of enjoying myself at the party, all I could do was obsess about the fact that our sardonically amusing fantasy was about to become a very real reality.   Every ten minutes I’d pull Jane aside for a worried tete-a-tete.  This was going to be weird, wasn’t it? I whispered anxiously.  Maybe we didn’t really think this through.  Or maybe, Kim mused, we just need to drink more.

To make matters worse, the stripper cop was lost, and as the rest of our friends partied on, getting looser and more relaxed, Kim and I were now periodically fielding calls from this man, attempting to guide him through her labyrinthine neighborhood of one-way streets.  His gruff Boston accent was the first turn-off. But even more unpleasant was the realization that this man on the other end of the line was an actual human being.  And the only reason he was driving in circles through Allston Massachusetts at 11:00pm on a Saturday night, about to take off his clothes for a bunch of strangers, was the only reason anybody did–because he needed the money.  And the harder Kim and I tried to help this guy find us, the less we wanted him to come.  But now that we had set this plan in motion,  we felt powerless to stop it.  Plus, if he didn’t strip, there would be no birthday gift for Jane.

By this point, I was starting to feel sick, and it wasn’t from the six beers I’d chugged.

But it was too late to turn back now.  The stripper cop was already pulling into Kim’s driveway, and not behind the wheel of a shiny blue squad car, but in a rusted out 1991 Ford Fiesta.   Before he even got out of his car, all ambivalence about the issue vanished and we knew with a grim certainty that we’d made a mistake.  But Kim and I just stood there, paralyzed with dread as we handed our $150 cash to this short, unattractive stranger and told him how best to sneak attack our oldest, dearest friend.  “Use the back stairs and look for a pretty blonde about six inches taller than you.”

From the very first moment he threw open the kitchen door and announced there’d been a noise complaint, I knew we were done for.  Even if he’d attempted to hide the boom box in his hand, no one would have believed he was a real policeman for a second.  Even worse, nobody cared.  In the harsh light of the kitchen, Kim and I took a better look at this man we were now in collusion with—noting every detail of his acne-scarred face, the spiky crispiness of his thin, overly gelled hair, and his pained expression at having to go through with this.

We could have stopped it right then and there, but instead, Kim and I dutifully pointed him towards the living room, where Jane was on the dance floor, unaware that the fun she was having was about to come to a screeching halt.

She knew as soon as she saw him.  Even before he turned on his boom box, or told her, in his dull, mechanical Southie accent that she’d been “a wicked bahd girl.”  Most people opted to leave the room before the striptease began in full, but a few onlookers gathered around Jane, like witnesses to a car crash–the birthday girl, it’s only victim.

There was no Donna Summer song as the stripper cop peeled off his uniform, performed a few rusty breakdancing moves, then proceeded—with nary a hint of irony—to push Jane to the floor in order to repeatedly thrust his speedo-clad package in her face.  Because after all, what better way is there to say, “Happy birthday, friend?”

The lesson here being that things that are fun to talk about, are not always fun to actually do.

*names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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I was a Jewish Pig Farmer (by Accident)

It’s my fault we got the pigs.  We’d never discussed the idea of raising livestock, other than my husband suggesting we buy a flock of sheep so that he wouldn’t have to mow the lawn anymore.  But then he bought a riding lawnmower.  We live in the country, so the idea of raising animals for food is not a foreign concept here.  At least half our friends—people who aren’t technically farmers—have a chicken coop out back.  But taking care of two stinky,  grunting mammals had never been a part of my life plan.

Okay, so maybe I don’t actually have a life plan.  Which is probably how I ended up bringing home two pigs by accident. It was Labor Day Weekend, a huge three-day celebration that’s been a tradition in our town for 94 years.  On Saturday night there’s a “rock and roll dance” at Town Hall.  My husband and I often play in the tennis tournament (but only because he won’t play mud volleyball).  On Labor Day itself, there’s a road race, a “white elephant” sale, kids’ games, food, and a juried art show.  And my family has not only marched in the Labor Day parade, we’ve won ribbons for our floats all three times.  Though I’m pretty sure everyone gets a ribbon.

A few years back, there was also a Pig Scramble on Labor Day, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, is basically a bunch of kids with large burlap sacks chasing down piglets in an enclosed area.   The Pig Scramble’s the kind of event so unabashedly folksy, that when you watch it, you can’t help but have a smile plastered across your face.  Unless a member of PETA.  So I was headed to the Pig Scramble with my son (age 4 at the time) and two of my friend’s kids, a seven-year-old boy and his ten-year-old sister, who were both planning to enter the Scramble, though as “Main Street kids” (as opposed to farmer kids) we all knew they didn’t stand a chance.

On the car ride there, the kids and I discussed this fact—how it was always the 4H Club kids who won—fearlessly snagging a piglet by the hind leg then heartlessly stuffing the squirming beast into their sack, deaf to its high-pitched squeals of terror.   But the thing about my friend’s kids was that they weren’t even expecting to win, they just wanted to participate.  And unlike the farmer’s kids, their family had no pigpens to store them in, nor a desire (at least on their parents’ part) to raise their own pork. Which is why I told they kids that if they won (ha ha, fat chance) that we’d take their pigs.

Then, just before the Pig Scramble started, these adorable little siblings got into a fight.  It wasn’t a big deal—just your typical brother-sister squabble—but apparently it was enough to kick their sibling rivalry into overdrive.  So, as the National Anthem played (because all major sporting events start off with the National Anthem) I could see the little brother’s eyes glaze over with the determined focus of a professional athlete.  His big sister stood next to him, hand clenched around her burlap sack, glaring at her seven-year-old brother as if he were her  diehard opponent, as she waited for the whistle to blow.

Within two minutes, each had a pig in their bag, caught by employing exactly the same strategy we had discussed in detail  in the car ride there.  Oops.

When the Scramble was done, I ran over to the tennis courts to interrupt my husband’s doubles match in order to inform him that we were now the proud owner of two pigs.  Oh, and could he build a pigpen for them, say, in the next 48 hours?

I can still see the poor guy digging fence-posts holes at 11:30pm, the extension cord for his work light snaking it’s way down our driveway and across the lawn.  But within two days, our pigpen was built and Jello and Pudding (my son’s names) had a new home.

Having never raised livestock before, I didn’t know how I would feel about eating animals I had personally known.  Would I be able to enjoy my organic free-range bacon having once looked into its eyes?   But by December, I was ready to eat Jello and Pudding’s faces off even while they were still alive.  God, did I despise those greedy, snout-ramming, scarf-eating, pain in the pork-butts.

I don’t think I ever would have raised pigs by choice.  But in the end, I’m glad I got to have the experience (and the short ribs).  And I think sometimes, the most interesting things we do, we do by accident.

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Teaser Tuesday: The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Guess what, kids?  It’s Teaser Tuesday time again.  Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And here is my teaser, from “The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet.”  Confession:  I did not open a random page this time.  These are the opening two sentences.

I hadn’t figured out a way to stop time, join the circus, or make myself invisible.  I hadn’t been able to contract a serious (but not life-threatening) illness, change my identity, or even get into the witness protection program.


Filed under books, movies, YA, writing, teenage girls, Uncategorized, writing