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September 16, 2009

As I cook chicken soup for my under-the-weather son, I blog.

Have you settled into the swing of things yet? I almost have. This is me in the car on my way back to civilization after a fabulously uncivilizing August (ahhhh..)

So anyway, now that I'm back, I want to tell you about my thoughts on the shameful way a few adults have behaved in the past week (and what I think would happen to them if they were teens!) and also about all the new book news (!) and finally my disastrous attempt at eyebrow beautification this past weekend. but those will have to wait until my son's feeling better.

For today, I want to share with you an interview I did with the National Coalition Against Censorship ( www.NCAC.org ) last January, after my new picture book was (gasp!) banned. I hadn't read it yet, and in fact would have missed it all if a wonderful librarian hadn't commented on it today. I LOVE LIBRARIANS! THEY KNOW (and find) EVERYTHING!

Even if you are not a librarian, you can find the whole thing here: http://www.ncac.org/Interview-with-Author-Rachel-Vail along with the lovely picture of me with some fabulous and GORGEOUS readers. or just go ahead and read it here.

The soup here smells great - gotta run. Keep reading!

Love,

Rachel Vail

Interview with Author Rachel Vail

1/23/2009

Rachel Vail is the author of over 30 books and short stories for children and young adults, including her most recent, critically-acclaimed, picture book, Jibberwillies at Night (2008).  A strong proponent of the freedom to read, Ms. Vail spoke with the Kids' Right to Read Project about censorship and her experiences and responses to it as a writer.

Kids' Right to Read Project: What are your experiences with censorship?

Rachel Vail: Recently, a school librarian refused to allow my picture book, Jibberwillies at Night , to be stocked or sold by the PTA at her school because she believed that a book that talks about children having worried feelings would cause children to feel worried.  Before this censorship issue with Jibberwillies at Night , I had only one book censored as far as I know.  That was my second book, Do-Over , which was about a 13 year-old boy.

Kids' Right to Read Project: Have these experiences affected the way you write?

Rachel VailI was asked at the first school I ever visited as an author if my book (my first novel, which had just been published) had any "bad words" in it.  I said that I try to choose only the best words I can.  I started writing for teens with a pledge to myself that I would never sugar-coat or "adultify" how it feels to be mid-metamorphosis.  I try to keep that pledge every day.  But I do know that I self-edit now around word choice - do I really need to use this word that will keep this book out of clubs, fairs, and classrooms?  Is it essential, or could I get around it and still be true to the character?  I hope that I always come down on the side of truth, but it is hard to know.

Kids' Right to Read Project: How have kids responded to your books that have been censored?

Rachel VailIf they know about the censorship, they tend to want to read the book more.  The more insidious kind of censorship quietly removes the book without a fuss or a discussion - and then, they can't react at all.

Kids' Right to Read Project: How has being a writer affected your understanding of what "censorship" means?

Rachel Vail: Before I was a writer, I thought censorship was a historical fact like slavery or polio - awful, and thank goodness now vanquished. I was honestly shocked to learn that all three still exist. 

Kids' Right to Read Project: Did you anticipate controversy over any of your books when you were writing them?

Rachel Vail: I have sometimes wondered what people would object to in my teen novels, since often a censor's concerns seem so odd to me - a teacher who removed my book Do-Over from her school said it was because two minor characters, a boy and a girl who'd been going out for over a year at that point, had decided that if they were still together senior year they'd lose their virginity to each other, and the narrator thought that was cool.  This teacher objected that this thirteen-year-old boy narrator "never mentioned the possibility of teen pregnancy or the increased risk of cervical cancer among girls who have sex early or with multiple partners."  That was honestly a sentence I'd never considered trying to wedge into his mouth.  I thought people instead might object to what he referred to with horrible embarrassment as his "constant stiffies."??I never anticipated any controversy over Jibberwillies at Night because it is a book that reassures kids that it is normal to feel worried sometimes, and that you can lean on others, including adults who love you, for support and help when you do feel worried. Jibberwillies just never seemed at all controversial to me, which made this censorship situation particularly odd.

Kids' Right to Read Project: If so, what is important about the controversial parts of your books?  Why is it important for kids to read this?

Rachel Vail: Borges said, "Reading is thinking with the mind of another."  Reading can be both a window (there are other ways of being than my default!) and a mirror (I am not alone!) - and often the least comfortable truths are those that cut deepest.  We want kids to read, partly because of the transcendent epiphanies readers get to experience.  It is natural for those of us who love kids to wish we could protect them from shame, danger, sex, jealousy, fear, and death.  But the truth is, we ultimately can't.  Reading helps us become resilient by giving us a chance to have experiences vicariously.  We want kids to be resilient, and empathic, and open to the world.  It takes some courage to let go enough to let them find their way.

Kids' Right to Read Project: What would you tell kids at a school where books have been challenged or banned?

Rachel Vail: I would tell them to fight it.  I would tell them they have the right to get information and stories and opinions that might be uncomfortable, not just for censors to allow them to see but even for them to confront themselves.  I have told students that I believe in trusting them with a loaded mind - and that they need to maturely, politely, enthusiastically and adamantly fight for their right to read.

Kids' Right to Read Project: What advice would you give to fellow authors facing censorship controversies?

Rachel Vail: I would suggest immediately contacting NCAC, and following their advice.

 

September 3, 2009

Happy September! Are you back to school, work, real life yet?

I'm not. Still wringing the last bits out fun of summer.

August was a month (almost) completely OFF for me. It took me two weeks of floating in a lake staring at the sky and looking at flowers to unclench.

Last year was packed full, too full. This year I am planning to do things differently.

My goals:

  1. Don't renovate my apartment (I like having some goals I feel pretty confident about reaching)
  2. Exercise daily (to balance things out in the likelihood department)
  3. Exercise 4 times/week (more likely)
  4. Laugh more
  5. Take dancing lessons
  6. Hang with friends more
  7. Answer fan mail faster
  8. Blog more/Run more contests/give out more free books
  9. Write my next book (Shh, not telling what it is yet)
  10. Celebrate, in spring, the publication of:

BRILLIANT

(the third book in the Avery trilogy!!!)

and, around the same time,

JUSTIN CASE

(my new book for elementary school kids!!!)

Do you have new-school-year resolutions? What are they?

Here's to a great one, for us all.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

 

July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

As promised, here's your free sneak preview of GORGEOUS!

 


Have a great holiday weekend!

Love, Rachel Vail

July 2, 2009

I did it! I recorded my podcast!

This is me, in my almost-not-where-I-live-anymore living room, pretending to be an old-time radio person as I talk about GORGEOUS.

It was kind of fun to do, in the end. As with most things, the dread of figuring out how to do it was way worse than actually doing it. Why am I still learning this? Does this happen to you, too?

Anyway, now all I have to do is figure out how to send the nifty little recorder (see above) back to Harperteen. It involves stalking a UPS man or finding a UPS drop-off center. Oh, dread. Maybe I don't have to deal with that until tomorrow.

Do you ever get déjà vu?

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

July 1, 2009

Happy July!

My younger son came home from camp yesterday with a half-made lanyard.

It reminded me of all the lanyards I had made for my mom, in various musty arts and crafts shacks at a series of camps back in the day, and remembering those lanyards reminded me of a poem by Billy Collins. (from http://www.billy-collins.com/2005/06/the_lanyard.html )

It also made me think about the complex, complicated relationships the Avery girls in my current trilogy have with their mom, and she with each of them.

Luckily my mom was here when the lanyard was presented to me and I thought of this poem, so I got to read it to her.

Did you ever make a lanyard? The square style or the barrel style? Or the much more difficult and, to me at age 10, unattainably sophisticated, butterfly stitch?

If you made a lanyard, did you give it to your mom?

Here's the poem. I hope you like it, too.

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift-not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in the FORTHCOMING book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry . Purchase from Amazon ( here ).

June 24, 2005

 

June 30, 2009

How's your summer going? Mine hasn't yet settled into that mellow summer rhythm - I am moving back into my apartment one week from today, and meanwhile working like crazy.

I think I still feel like July and August should be all about lazy days in flip flops



. and long romantic evenings that take their time turning to night. Oh, well - or as the devil in GORGEOUS would say, alas. At least the light hitting the trees outside my (temporary, only one more week!) window is absolutely inspiring.


So, while enjoying that beautiful sight, I am about to do a podcast all about GORGEOUS!

But first - I have been meaning to mention: If you were in NYC the other night, you got a treat if you looked up at the sky. Here are some shots from my block, since (you may have noticed) I have just figured out how to work the camera on my devil-possessed new phone (and am very intimidated about trying to work the podcast recorder, so I am procrastinating):

Ms. Kissel, who knows all, says these are Mommotus clouds, which are often followed by tornadoes. No sign of any of those yet, but Toto and I are psyched anyway.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

June 20, 2009

Here it is, your free sneak peek at LUCKY:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

June 19, 2009

Are you done with school? Or still taking finals, etc?

I am here to help you procrastinate! (Or, if you're done, to fill the lovely lazy hours.)

First off, here is my first ever book trailer! Big thank yous to all the GORGEOUS girls here reading GORGEOUS.

Are you one of them? Am I? (Okay, yes, I am. See if you can spot me.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ds2-GNtvXg

Coming tomorrow: A link that will take you inside LUCKY - browse around in it for free!

Then coming right after that: A link to get inside GORGEOUS!

And coming soon:

LUCKY Mondays (in which we share tales of wonderful and awful weekend fiascos and how we luckily survived them - I will start with some of my own Worst Dates Ever)

And

GORGEOUS Fridays (in which we'll have some fabulous secrets for looking and feeling your best just in time for the weekends.)

But for now, a terrific piece by the addictively readable Meg Cabot, Princess of All Things, who explains why books like hers (and, it turns out, mine) are so great:

http://www.megcabot.com/diary/?p=816

Love to Meg, and also to you,

Rachel Vail

 

June 12, 2009

Today is my Sweet-16 wedding anniversary!

And I still have a crush on the guy I married, all those years ago.

He and I are going to celebrate all weekend (I hope) but today I am a very cranky girl.

First of all, in the ongoing saga of my apartment renovation: the only light switch for the new master bedroom is in the living room.

(Through those doors is my bedroom. That switch, here in the living room? Yeah.)

So that should be really fun, in so many ways.

On top of that, there was a really annoying group review in the New York Times today called Girls of Summer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/books/12maslin.html?_r=1&em

It is a lump of wildly different books, all jumbled up together because the one thing they have in common is:

They were all written by women.

And you know all women are alike. Also, frivolous. Just like all girls.

The books are cute on the outside and, well, whatevs on the inside. Like, um, women?

The implication is that although these books all impressed the New York Times reviewer, none would be suitable for guys, because they are all by female authors. And therefore beach reads for the nail-polished only. Makes you wonder how many people would read Updike and and Grisham and Cheever and Irving if their first names were Susan instead of John.

Is the world really this sexist? What year is this?

There are also many digs at books with pink covers. Not that I take that personally; why would I?

 

Here is a great blog about why this article is so frustrating, by the wonderful especially when riled up Justine Larbalestier:

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/

(with some excellent comments, particularly by and about John Green.)

So, anyway, that is why I am feeling quite cranky.

Cheering emails gratefully accepted at RachelVailBooks@gmail.com until I get the rss feed going here.

Have a great weekend!

Love,

Rachel Vail

PS I am on twitter now! If you are, too, come follow me - I am RachelVailBooks there, too.

 

June 9, 2009

Question of the day, as sent to me by my Aunt Ronnie, is:

Are women born like this?

http://richards-creations.net/Videos/Are-women-born-like-this.html

Although I resist gender-stereotypes very adamantly, this is just too funny not to giggle at.

Meanwhile, over at slowfamilyliving.com (a wonderful site when you need to take a load off, which is so where I am today), there is this lovely list of advice from a 90-year-old wise woman:

http://slowfamilyliving.com/2009/06/07/life-lessons-from-a-wise-woman-2/

And, while I am handing out wisdom, here's advice from my 14-year-old son:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.

He actually does talk like that sometimes. It's kind of weird around here. But usually he is quoting. Bonus points from Z for those who get the reference.

And now, speaking of that son, he has a quiz: what food can you name that wouldn't go well with either garlic or chocolate?

I say Sour Patch Kids, but he swears they go with chocolate. Ew. What do you say?

(Bonus points from me for anyone who agrees with me. Because, well, it is my blog.)

Love,

Rachel Vail

June 8, 2009

I just came across a great review for JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT - and as a bonus, it comes with some excellent links.


It's from the blog A Sea of Books, which has as its motto one of my favorite expressions:

IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE AT THE BEACH, YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH.

You can go right to the site:

http://aseaofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/05/review-jibberwillies-at-night-by-rachel.html

But I am reposting it here in full so you can get all the links ASAP.

Love,

Rachel Vail

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009

Review #5: JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT by Rachel Vail; illustrated by Yumi Heo

JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT by Rachel Vail , Yumi Heo (Illustrator)

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Pub. Date: October 2008

ISBN-13: 9780439420709

Sales Rank: 419,557

Age Range: 4 to 8

32pp

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Katie Honors is back! Katie loves playing with her friends and snuggling with her family, but sometimes at night she's afraid. For Katie, her fears and worries take the shape of Jibberwillies, creatures who fly through her bedroom at night. Luckily, Katie's mom knows just what to do. Together, they catch the troublesome Jibberwillies in a bucket and toss them out the window. It's tough work, but finally the Jibberwillies are gone and next time it happens Katie knows just what she'll do. An empowering book for any child who has ever had nighttime fears.

MY RATING: 5/5

This is a delightful book with an enticing little heroine and an ingenious mom. Over the first few pages, we meet Katie, and she gives us a quick rundown of her day -- waking up with a smile, playing with her friends, and snuggling with her family. Then she gets down to business and explains that sometimes, only sometimes, when she is trying to fall asleep at night, the Jibberwillies come and pester her. She bravely tries to deal with them herself with a variety of sweet and childlike coping strategies, but when those pesky Jibberwillies prove to be too tough for her, Mom comes up with a fool-proof plan to oust the annoying rascals into the night.

The kids at my house really enjoy this book, and we have read it over and over. Colorful and expressive illustrations by Yumi Heo accentuate both the joyous nature of Katie as well as her sense of bewildering fear. The Jibberwillies themselves are yukky, but not overwhelmingly so.

On the back flap of the book, Rachel Vail , who resides in New York City, explains that she wrote the story in September 2001 and "Lots of people had Jibberwillies right then." This knowledge adds an element of poignancy to the story. With older children, it can also lead to a discussion of the events of that September. My 8 year-old nephew has a fascination with New York City (as well as with reading book flaps!) and we talked about how kids living in the City must have felt and coped during that time.

Rachel Vail and Yumi Heo also teamed up for a previous book about Katie, SOMETIMES I'M BOMBALOO . I tried to find a website for Yumi Heo , but was unsuccessful; however, she has illustrated and written other picture books which you can look over here .

Rachel Vail has written many picture books and is also the author of several young adult novels, including the very recently released GORGEOUS . You can access her blog through her website .

I won this book through a giveaway hosted by Kimberly Pauley of Young Adult (& Kid's) Books Central (a/k/a YABC ). YABC is a fun and in-depth site and, if you're not familiar with it, you should check it out. Kimberly Pauley is the author of SUCKS TO BE ME: THE ALL-TRUE CONFESSIONS OF MINA HAMILTON, TEEN VAMPIRE (MAYBE) . Check out her blog and book, too!

POSTED BY GWENDOLYN B. AT 5/30/2009 10:39:00 AM

LABELS: KIDS , PICTURE BOOKS , RACHEL VAIL , REVIEW , YUMI HEO

 

June 5, 2009

Yesterday I went to Greenwich CT to speak, along with my friend and fellow-author Mitali Perkins, to a class run by the fabulous Leslie Gueguen.

Here we are!

One of the funny things about being a supposed expert at a thing like this is how much you get to learn. I learned from the questions these serious but fun and enthusiastic students asked, and I also learned so much from Mitali Perkins. She is so wise and so funny.

She is also a master at twitter, which I am going to start doing Monday. She promises to guide me through my beginner-dom (beginner-dumb?) on it. Phew!

Do you twitter? Will you follow me if I twitter?

I am so psyched I got a signed copy of Mitali's new book, The Secret Keeper. I have so much work to do but that book is so intriguing it is calling to me from across the room.

Love,

Rachel Vail

PS There are still a few free bookplates - write to me ASAP at RachelVailBooks@gmail.com for yours!

 

June 4, 2009

What I hate about wearing heels:

Blisters

What I love about them:

How pretty they are.

 

And you? What do you love/hate about wearing heels?

Love,

Rachel Vail

PS Which of the Avery sisters do you think LOVES wearing heels so much she steals a pair from Mom's closet? You may be surprised.

PPS!!! For those of you who have been asking how to get signed books:

First ten people to send me an email with the subject line I AM GORGEOUS at RachelVailBooks@gmail.com (and your address inside - get permission if you need it!) will be sent a free personalized, signed bookplate to stick inside your book!

 

June 3, 2009

I just walked home in heels, in the rain.

As I walked, this is what I figured out:

What I love about rain is the smell.

What I hate about rain is the way the wet works its way up your pants legs.

How about you? What do you love/hate about rain?

(I will have a place for you to just answer me right on the site soon. Very soon. For now, just email me at RachelVailBooks@gmail.com - first five responders get to look GORGEOUS to seven people of their choice, without even selling their cell phones to the devil.)

Love,

Rachel Vail

PS What I love/hate about heels is another story. Maybe tomorrow.

 

May 27, 2009

Thanks for all the great enthusiasm about GORGEOUS and LUCKY!


Reviews are starting to come in. Here’s what the pros are saying about GORGEOUS:


In Lucky, readers followed middle-schooler Phoebe; now we’re hearing the story of Phoebe’s ninth-grade sister, Allison, who’s tired of being the unremarkable, unbeautiful middle child in the family. To this end, she makes a literal deal with the devil, trading not her soul but her cell for people to see her as gorgeous. It looks like it’s paying off, because when she bunks off school with new girl Roxie to try out for a magazine feature on the “new teen,” she’s selected as a finalist, and she also seems to garnering the attention of handsome Tyler. But does it really count if it’s devil-prompted, and will it help her family face their current financial crisis? …Vail does a particularly nice job on the slow reveal about Allison’s old friend, Jade, who depends on Allison’s insecurities for her own stability, but the other character dynamics are sharp and perceptive as well. That’s especially true of the family situation wherein Allison isn’t entirely wrong about where she’s been slotted, but she’s also underestimating her parent’s love and support. The book also refreshingly avoids clich» by making Tyler a genuinely good guy and not just a misguided crush, and by making Allison’s successful photo shoot something other than the glamorous butterfly emerging from the chrysalis (it’s her haunted and tearful face they choose)…

(BCCB)

 

With two popular and beautiful sisters, Allison Avery feels like she’ll never measure up. She’d confide in her best friend, Jade, except that Jade is hypercritical of Allison’s appearance. Jade is also interested in Ty, the boy Allison’s been crushing on forever. When the devil appears in Allison’s room one night, she trades her cell (not her soul) for the chance that seven people will think she’s gorgeous. The deal seems to be legit; Ty now seems to notice Allison exists, and her cell phone has taken on a life of its own. As the end of Allison’s ninth-grade year approaches, friendships in flux and her chance to win a modeling contest show her that there’s more to being gorgeous than outward appearances. Allison is sarcastic and often moody, but she also cares deeply for her friends, traits readers will recognize.ÜVail shows a clear understanding of the everyday turmoil faced by today’s teens and handles them with wit and obvious affection. If they haven’t already read its predecessor, Lucky (2008), teens will want to after finishing this one.

(Kirkus Reviews)

But, as always, I am much more interested in what actual readers think. Have you read LUCKY or GORGEOUS yet? If you have, you can send your reviews to me at RachelVailBooks@gmail.com or just post them on the GORGEOUS or LUCKY page at Amazon.com or BN.com and let everybody know what you think (especially if it is good.)

So far, people seem to really be loving them, which means it’s turning out to be a pretty great (though not particularly gorgeous) Pub Week. Wow, Pub Week. It sounds like a lot of fun when put that way. My old college buddies could definitely organize a super fun pub week… hmmm… may have to call them up and see what we can organize.

Speaking of which – lots of events and contests are being organized to celebrate the books (and spring, and gorgeousness and luckiness in general), so keep checking back and you won’t miss anything!

Love,
Rachel Vail

May 26, 2009

Pub Day!

Today is the big day: GORGEOUS is in bookstores!

Hooray for Allison, hooray for GORGEOUS, and hooray for all of you who have emailed me already that you're on your way to getting your copy!

I feel like I should go get my nails done today, to honor the GORGEOUS cover, but instead I am typing, as usual.

If you get a copy of GORGEOUS this week, don't forget to email me a picture of yourself with the book - and maybe you'll be in the movie we're making!

More later in the week on CONTESTS and FREEBIES - so come back soon.

Love,

Rachel Vail

May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

 

What are you doing to celebrate? Parades, cookouts, parties, swimming?

I spent the morning with my guys, digging in the dirt, planting stuff in our garden. In a few minutes we're going to go for a hike.

But in the down-time moment while my husband takes a mini-nap and my boys watch an episode of the old Dick van Dyke show on DVD, I am thinking about my friend Zack, who is across the world, serving in the US Army in Iraq.

He and I email a lot. He tells me about facing down bad guys but more often about playing soccer with Iraqi kids, or keeping Iraqi workers safe while they build a new medical center in a forsaken area that has never known modern medical care. He is a good-natured, funny, smart and brave guy, and an excellent writer. He told me of seeing Iraqi pilgrims heading toward a religious festival a few months ago, all shrouded in their black clothes, and remarked that they looked like they were on their way to a heavy metal concert. He told me about the mutual surprise he and a buddy shared when they discovered that the buddy had been a skinhead, and Zack is Jewish.

And he told me this week about another buddy of his who was just killed in action. The memorial service for him was yesterday. It was formal and personal, tough and right.

Zack turned 21recently. I asked him about his motivations for joining up, and if he still feels the same. He said some of the reasons have changed, but some have stayed; he said he had wanted to be a soldier since he was a kid. Listen to kids, he advised - sometimes they really do know what they want to be.

Hooah, Zack. Thanks, to you and all your buddies, for having our backs.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

May 23, 2009

On another note entirely.

My husband is a doctor - but now he is also a published poet! Here is the poem he wrote that was published in the May 12, 2009 issue of the journal Neurology (bet you didn't know they published such good poems in there, huh?)

 

If I had time


If I had time to write a poem, then
I'd make the subject this mother of two,
Now forty-four, unable to speak,
Her husband's anger a reproach to my training
And skill. Or the retired physician's wife who
So silently slipped away last year,
Her brain's decay explained but unexplained.

But we had toast this morning, and jam, and then
Packed lunches and sent the boys to school;
We shared the paper, and a pot of tea,
And talked about the candidates' speeches that
Went on too long, then kissed at the door.
"Will you be home for dinner?" you asked me.
I shrugged. "I'll call you later," you said.

Sweet luxury our later. And then
The day, like others before and still to come,
A flood of patients, papers, lectures and letters,
Passed deadlines, and dead lives. Past hope,
She too is speechless, offering only a shrug
To my "I think you're getting better."
After, an old man holds his wife's hand, and copes.
This once, at least, I'll make the time to write this poem.

--Mitchell S. V. Elkind

 

(Can you guess who the "you" is in this poem? Oh yeah.. I make such an inspiring pot of tea..)

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Pools are opening, schools are closing, flu is spreading..

Both my kids are home from school today. How about you? What's going on flu-wise with you/your school?

We should be out enjoying the gorgeous weather, I know - but my kids, citing the notices from their schools that they should be home rather than out socializing, are still in their pjs at 2PM, making imovies. Actually right now they are making a "the making of." for one of their previous imovies, starring my younger son's stuffed animals. It's pretty hilarious.

Meanwhile, I am doing a bunch of stuff to get ready for the publication, THIS TUESDAY of my new book, GORGEOUS!

Check back Tuesday for the contest/chance to win stuff.

Meanwhile, if you see GORGEOUS in the store before then, and you snatch up a copy for yourself, email me a picture of yourself holding or reading it. There's a movie being made, and YOU could be in it. all we need is a picture of you with GORGEOUS.

Stay healthy, enjoy the long weekend, and get ready for a fun week next week.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

May 20, 2009

Things that bug me out of all proportion to the harm they do the world:

1. Sunburns (see last post)



2. People who cut in line - especially those who pretend they don't even see the people they are so rudely cutting off

3. Plastic wrap

4. The use of "ROFL" when there is no way the using is actually even laughing, never mind rolling on the floor laughing



5. Unanswerable questions posed by technology - for example: twice my old computer stopped everything it was doing and showed only this on the screen:

 

FATAL SYSTEM ERROR.
Do you want to continue?
YES

NO

 

Those were the only choices. There was no asterisk leading me to explanations of the ramifications of YES or NO; just that, the stark choice, the lady or the tiger, and all in the context of that lovely, reassuring word FATAL. It felt like a vision of the void, or a metaphor for life - with incomplete information and only the knowledge that a wrong choice can be on some level actually FATAL, you must choose.

I chose to panic, by the way.

Also to call my little brother, who helped me first down off the ledge and then to a solution. I don't remember what it was. Perhaps all further metaphors.

6. Tea that tastes like coffee was brewed in the pot earlier in the day



7. Cell phones that ring during shows or yoga class (oops!)


8. Whining


9. Lost keys/glasses/book/phone number/thing I put in a safe place so I wouldn't lose it


10. "Between you and I"

And you? What annoys you out of all proportion?

Email me you answers. I'll post some soon. RachelVailBooks@gmail.com

Love,

Rachel Vail

PS Keep checking back - contests and freebies coming very soon - because GORGEOUS comes out May 26!

May 18, 2009

I always talk about how great reading is.

Not today.

Today I am going to talk about how dangerous reading is.

BE WARNED: Reading can be hazardous to your health. I am living, sizzling proof of this today, my friends, and though this may be blasphemous, I swore when I started writing my first book that I would always tell the truth to my readers, so here is it, unvarnished truth: reading is not as benign as people make it seem, with all that "Reading is FUNdamental" propaganda.

The example that comes to mind is, sadly, me -- sitting here slathered in aloe and likely to spontaneously combust.

I was in Miami, FL over the past few days.

Saturday, we finally got to the beach. It was a slightly overcast day, with a pleasant breeze blowing across the sand. My husband and I settled down on our lounge chairs, an umbrella between us.

Since he easily overheats and I easily underheat, I gave him the shadier chair. I was plenty cool. It was cloudy - so cloudy in fact that after a little while of reading obliviously side by side, we realized that everybody seemed to be rushing off the beach. Then the sky opened up and drenched us as we belatedly joined the throngs in the 100-yard-dash toward shelter. We took shelter, and lunch, and lovely beverages, in a restaurant across the street. By the time we finished, so had the squall, and we headed happily, deludedly, back to the beach.

I had saved some portions of the best ever issue of The New Yorker (the Innovator's Issue - just shockingly good) to read on the beach, and within a minute of sinking into my lovely plush chaise, I was happily reading, reading, reading.

I didn't do the rotisserie turn thing.

I didn't use sunblock.

I didn't cover up.

So now, 2 days later, the back half of me looks like it usually does, but the front portion looks painfully pink, except for the blindingly white areas in the shape of my bikini.

I have a black tie Authors Guild dinner to go to tonight, and if I wear the gorgeous strapless dress (btw, designed by the same woman who designed Michelle Obama's inauguration dress: Isabel Toledo - but I got my dress before that. I am so fashion forward!) that I have long planned to wear, it will look like I am wearing a white bikini under it, from the front.

Actually, it will look like I am a silly sunburned girl who forgot to use sunblock.

But the truth is, it is all because I was reading! I was deep, deep down in the words on the pages, so deep I had no idea my skin was cooking. Reading will do this to the unsuspecting - especially if it's good stuff. Do not trust excellent writing! It is a menace!

(When I was in 7 th grade, an ex-drug addict came to my school and talked to us about how awful the druggie life is, sharing his harrowing story, forever scarring me and scaring me about drugs so much I still hesitate to take a cough drop. But I did envy his jaded been-through-hell authenticity, and wondered if I would ever go through hell and be able to report back from the dark side and say, kids: don't make my mistakes.)

I am on fire, here, kids. Don't make my mistakes. If you must read, try not to do it on the beach. If you must read on the beach (and really, what is the point of a beach but to sit on a lounge chair and read?), you absolutely must wear sunblock,

and turn the heck over every half hour. In order to remember to do that, try not to read something really well-written, and for goodness sakes, and your skin's sake too, do NOT read last week's New Yorker on the beach. Or while operating heavy machinery.

Consider yourself warned.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

May 16, 2009

I think my phone didn't freak out because I dropped it in the toilet. Twice.

I think it freaked out because I wrote a book where the narrator sells her cell phone to the devil. And life, alas (as the devil would say), tends to imitate art.

 

In GORGEOUS which comes out May 26 - 2 weeks from now?!), Allison sells her cell to the devil in exchange for becoming gorgeous. It seems like a fantastic deal, until her phone starts freaking out and she ends up in way more trouble than even she ever imagined.

In my own defense, I will say that I did not wake up to find the devil sitting in my bedroom, looking hot and slightly impatient, ready to trade me something for beauty.

However, after I wrote LUCKY, in which (among other things) the Avery family toaster has an obnoxious tendency to incinerate things, my toaster started (I kid you not) to develop way too much personality. By personality, I mean of course, it started blowing stuff up. Randomly. It would toast three slices with no problem; the fourth would catch fire instantly. It also started whining occasionally, and sometimes kind of humming. When it exploded a waffle, I chalked it up to a weird coincidence and bought a new toaster.

Then I started GORGEOUS. While I was working on it, thinking about Allison (middle child) Avery and how crabby she gets, how self-loathing she feels, how disconnected from the world she makes herself, I dropped my phone in the toilet for the first time.

Despite my best repair efforts, it started scrolling through modes I never knew existed on my phone - outdoor, speaker, mute, terrarium. I heard ring tones never before bleated by anything owned by me. Sometimes it insisted on calling somebody, despite being carried quietly in my pocketbook; other times it randomly deleted voicemails. My friends and mother were confused and maybe a little annoyed with me, during the siege of the cell phone. I apologized and explained, chalking it all up, of course, to the cell phone's recent non-voluntary swim.

But it got me thinking: what happens when our lines of communication are cut? What if Allison's cell phone started acting as possessed as mine was acting - how would that affect her (already strained) relationships? As soon as I started thinking about her cell being possessed, I knew the devil had to appear, and once he did, he kind of took over. As you would expect. He became one of my all-time favorite characters.

So that brings us to now: the book is about to come out. I just recently got my first copies of it and they look gorgeous. And I once again dropped my cell phone in the toilet.

I fished it out within a second, and now that I am an experienced cell-phone-in-the-toilet girl, I knew what to do (except the whole DON'T DROP YOUR CELL PHONE IN THE TOILET thing): remove the battery immediately, dry everything off but not with a hairdryer, etc.

I thought everything was okay until morning. The scrolling through weird applications habit was back full force. But no big deal. I headed to yoga class.

Now if you take yoga you know that, just like in a theater, you have turn off your cell phone. It is not hard, and it is just respectful. When somebody's cell rings during yoga class, I think all kinds of nasty non-yoga-ish thoughts. So, knowing my cell was on the fritz, I turned it off, made sure it was off, then checked again to be absolutely certain it was fully off.

45 minutes into the hour-long class, I heard ding-dong. A cell phone, with the doorbell ring just like mine. Weird, but not so weird. Some jerk who forgot to turn off her cell phone has the same ring tone as me. It rang twice more. Maybe it's mine? Well, if it is, it will go to voice mail after 3 rings, so by now I will just ignore it. Four rings, five. Everybody was doing ooji breath to try not to become homicidal about the damned cell phone that would not stop ding donging. 9 rings, 10. By then I knew it was my phone; who else's could it have been?

It stopped. Thank goodness. Deep cleansing breath.

It started playing a jaunty little tune - you have a voice mail!

On and on it went. By then standing up to grab it meant doing the walk o' shame: bad enough your cell rings in yoga class - can't you at least have the courtesy to grab it and leave? Must we listen to a medley of your phone's greatest hits?

By then it was playing a lilting waltz and I knew somebody was going to grab it out of my bag and find my ID, and the whole class would stone me to death with their little rubber yoga bricks, and I would totally not blame them. So I did the mature thing.

I dashed over to it with my head down, grabbed my bag, and slunk out as quickly as I could, abandoning my mat and everything else.

Out in the anteroom, I listened to my voicemail. It was my son's orthodontist, confirming his appointment for the following week. Great. Then it said I had another voicemail, and promptly shut itself down before it told me who had called.

Dead. Completely dead.

As I sat there pressing every button I could think of, the yoga class let out. Twenty sweaty yogis filed out, glaring at me as I held my silent, cold cell phone, debating whether to try to explain.

I didn't bother.

Instead I opened my computer, got on the internet, and ordered a new cell phone for $200. Two minutes after I hit send and committed to the purchase, my crazy old cell phone buzzed back to life - battery fully charged, but quiet and still as the class valedictorian. Though I did detect a smirk on its electronic soul.

I blame GORGEOUS.

Also, I blame the devil. I await the gorgeousness.

Because my new phone came yesterday and it is possessed, too.

How about you - is your cell possessed? Did you drop it in the toilet or does it just have a mind of its own? What do you do when it freaks? (To find out what Allison does, you only have to wait 2 more weeks.)

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

May 7, 2009

Yesterday I was in the store collecting paint samples because I have to choose what colors to paint my apartment - which still looks like a bombing site, by the way.


They say we will be moving back up there in June. Do you know how many colors of blue there are? Turns out more than just navy, royal, and light.

I am currently really loving a color called yin yang.

Not just because of the name. But maybe a little because of that, too.

Anyway, there in the paint store, where I was hoping to be inspired by a shade of blue and also, for our doors, by a color of stain (yuck, stain? Couldn't we call it something nicer than that? Choosing a stain seems like a really odd thing to do. All these years I have been trying unsuccessfully to AVOID stains. Now I have to buy one? Maybe they could call in tint, to get away from that taint?)

But there on the wall was a quote that ended up inspiring me way more than the paint (and stain) chips. It said:

If you hear a voice within you saying,

"You are not a painter,"

then by all means paint.

and that voice will be silenced.

 

- Vincent van Gogh

 

I loved that thought so much I wrote it down in my (always with me) notebook and have read and reread it dozens of times since then. I love that van Gogh got it that the problem is not that your doubts might actually be the Voice of Truth - but that there is an annoying voice in your head, a nattering, nasty petty voice that needs to be shut the heck up.

The fact that I was more moved by the words than the colors tells me something about what I love, I guess. But the idea is not limited to painters; it's true for writers, too.

By all means, write.

Or dance, or sing, or run, or cook, or listen, or play.

 

I left the store happily with both the quote and some paint chips that remind me of a Starry Night.

And no stains at all.

Love,

Rachel Vail

 

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