Monday, April 25, 2011

On The Intelligence of Teens- The Smartest Most Alive People on the Planet

There is this writer I love and have never met named M.T. Anderson. Perhaps you have heard of him? If not, you have now and must run to your nearest bookseller to buy a copy of any of his books. I suggest Feed and/or The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. (His new book, The Game of Sunken Places, is out now and quite good, of course.)

Why do I love him? Because he is a gifted writer who takes writing seriously. Because he writes for young adults. Because his work elevates the genre to its best and highest level. A childless, bespectacled, Samuel Beckett-loving friend of mine told me to read Feed years and years ago and it changed my life and made me consider YA for the very first time.

I was poking around the internet and found his website- which I had never thought of looking for before. There's this whole speech he wrote On the Intelligence of Teens that made me weep with joy.

When I write I try not to think of my audience as being, like, teenagers. I know they are, but if I think about it too much I try to appeal to them a little too much, instead of writing a good book that will interest my kind of reader, at any age. I don't want to dumb down anything on total accident. I am not writing for children, for Christ's sake. I am writing for adults, that are young.

And I trust that teen readers are not dumb and are socially aware and do not live in a techno-centric culture vacuum.

Teenagers? I adore them. They are the smartest, most alive people on the planet.

Alone is Where the Heart Is.

So there's this thing called "Twitter" that I used to mock the crap out of but now am kind of into- (feel free to follow me @arlainat) and I follow all kinds of random people including two Sylvia Plaths (although she is- er dead).

One "person" I totally follow and which never fails to impress me or shape my day or otherwise cheer me up (I mean let's face it, being a writer is effing depressing) is @quotes4writers.

I love it. I do not, however, have deep or kind feelings for Martin Amis, but he's a smart
fellow at least and I have to give him some credit of some sort, at least for saying this:

"The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when alone."

I read that and it was all lightning bolts and mermaids singing opera and stomach flipping excitement because, yeah. It's so freaking true.

I am, sadly, MOST ALIVE, when alone. Not happiest, most content, cheerful, balanced, stable, etc. MOST ALIVE. Like now for instance, just tippity tapping away on my old blog here, the house is silent, and child-free, a tepid mug of almond milk (don't even- it's something I'm trying) cappuccino at my elbow I am buzzing with aliveness.

Even the exercise I like-- swimming, Bikram (love of my life) Yoga, aerobics at home to a Crunch VHS from 1999- are all, really, for all intents and purposes- solitary activities where, while doing them I feel--- wait for it--- MOST ALIVE.

Having said all this please do not call social services, I still adore people and parties, and companionship and etc. I'm not becoming Howard Hughes.

But I would always rather be alone.

Because it is when I feel MOST ALIVE.

Am I insane?

If the answer is yes, keep it to yourself.

Now, if you'll excuse me...











Friday, April 22, 2011

Lynda Barry: My Hero.

"The best way to write is to let the image pull you. You should be water-skiing behind it, not dragging it like a barge. Writing should take you for a ride.”

-Lynda Barry

There's this place called the Omega Center in Rhinebeck New York that is a cool collective for "awakening the best in the human spirit." I got this postcard in the mail and read it quick, wondering if they might, perhaps, one day, hire me to teach a class... one day. And I was looking at the writing courses and the teachers and they have great writers- Marge Piercy, poets Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, and Mark Doty and, be still my heart: LYNDA BARRY.

Now, you might not know who Lynda Barry is but you should Google the crap out of her and find out because she will blow your mind. Ernie Pook's Comeek was a regular comic strip in the Chicago Reader and when I was a kid- and I mean, like, 12. I'd get my pre-teen self downtown however I could and come home with fist-fulls of Readers. I loved the Reader. It made me feel independent, like, I could always think whatever I wanted and no one was ever, really, in the ways that mattered, the boss of me.

I especially loved Lynda Barry's Marlys character in all her freaky, quasi abused, depressing, in your face outsiderness and one night, listening to Prince and Joe Jackson on tape over and over and over again, covered my cassette player radio with my year long collection of Ernie Pook's Comeek from the Reader. Do you know how hard it is to cover a radio with newspaper and packing tape? I carefully taped around the speakers, the play, rewind, record and pause buttons.
It was post-modern mid-eighties awesome. Part Pee-Wee's playhouse, part B-52s, and a lot of Cyndi Lauper and Dead Milkmen. These were the Earth Girls Are Easy years and my art piece was part of the zeitgeist, man. And I think I would pay $200 to have that thing back in my house.

Lynda Barry is a great artist. I'm sure she is a great teacher. God how I love her. And I forgot all about her until I saw this class. Lynda, if you are reading this- I love you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


“Engrossing, messy, complex, and real. Moskowitz's writing is raw and so right." –Lauren Strasnick, author of Nothing Like You

"An intense, bittersweet novel about how people come together and how they break apart, set over four summers. A powerful story that will stay with you." --Jennifer Hubbard, author of
The Secret Year

“It’s clear that the author cares deeply about her characters, and she gives their lines density and, frequently, a heavy nostalgic feeling. Teens will welcome the unfiltered dialogue….Chase is a sympathetic protagonist who, like many teens, is on a quest for connection and understanding….Readers will…embrace Moskowitz’s introspective characters and the dramatic situations in which they find themselves.” –

“The dreamy alternate world of summer vacations provides the backdrop for this soulful look at the growing pains of a single, outwardly normal family....In four sections, each one year apart, Moskowitz delivers a series of scenes--some so brief and spare you'd almost have to call them 'moments'--that communicate Chase's aching awareness of the passage of valuable time....Coming off the edgy Break, this is surprisingly breezy, and you have to commend Moskowitz for her commitment to writing sensitive books with male protagonists." –Booklist

There is a writer I know who has had a huge impact on me during this whole YA escapade.

Her name is Hannah Moskowitz. Perhaps you have heard of her? If I had been pregnant in high school, I am technically old enough to be her mother but I am not her mother- I am her acolyte.

We had the same agent and then we moved to the same agent in a good way, for exactly the same reasons. And we have the same publisher. WHAT ARE THE FREAKING ODDS?

She was crazy emotionally supportive of me and my effed up ego fear writing hangups early on, not by like, addressing them with me over coffee via Skype, but by leading by example.

She is just awesome and deals with that on a daily basis.

And she writes her ass off.

And she is so talented and insightful that I am constantly whipping out my notebook to jot down the bits of wisdom that flutter down from the master.

And her amazing and beautiful book INVINCIBLE SUMMER is out TODAY TODAY TODAY!

Run, don't walk, as the kids say. Available at fine booksellers everywhere.

And thank you Hannah Moskowitz for everything...


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I am so rocking the drop tomorrow because it is like paying it forward for geeks and I am so into it it's not even funny.

And yes, I know that right now it's midnight and I just figured out that it is tomorrow and not next week, if it's not too late for me it is not too late for you!

Unless you're reading this um, late.

Rock it.

Remind me to tell you that about the Bikram Yoga book I paged through next time. Now THAT is a book that would make me swoon if I found it just lying on a tree stump next to a church or ice cream truck or hell, anywhere...

Monday, April 4, 2011


Even before I wrote a book that is supposed to have been written on one, I have always been a fan of the typewriter. Long ago I had a small collection that my mother donated to the local Nurse's Association Thrift Store once I moved out. I didn't freak out. I just went and bought more.

It's the sexy little "portable" ones of which I am especially fond. What people once thought of as portable in this age of iphones, and microchips, and GPS and what have you, redeems my faith in humanity. As I'm sure you are aware, when the Rapture comes, eyeglasses with become currency and those with typewriters will be the ones who will repopulate the world.

And so now there's all this chatter about the "hipster"and their "love" of "typewriters." There's stalls of them at the Brooklyn Flea. On Etsy, you can buy necklaces, cufflinks, and elaborate brooches made from typewriter keys and precious decoupaged and silkscreened art pieces with Olivettis and Smith Coronas. This NY Times article is amazing and, for the record, I have never paid more that $20 for a typewriter.

Nothing says I am hyper literate like a typewriter fetish. So yes. I am (re)amassing a fine collection. I have about 4 in storage in New Jersey. I have a recurring and often seemingly urgent fantasy of getting industrial shelving from Ikea and arranging them, MOMA like, above my writing space- where I am sure they would plummet from the wall and bash my brains all over my computer.

Flavorwire had this piece up with capital W Writers and Their Typewriters- kinda like Major League Sluggers and Their Bats, or, Notorious Gangsters and Their Tommy Guns. But it still turned me on. The iconic pic of Sylvia Plath is there and- to my great delight!- Francoise Sagan upon whom I shall lavish more attention later. And that dashing scoundrel angel Langston Hughes. Enjoy!

Flavorwire » Famous Authors And Their Typewriters

Friday, April 1, 2011

My items are up FRIDAY APRIL 1 at 4:00! NO JOKE!


Bid Bid Bid~


(One Of a Kind...)

Great people great and legit cause and I am hoping I am the winner of a hot little pair of hand knit fingerless gloves...