Thursday, August 29, 2013

I love summer... (By Brian Katcher)

Of course I love summer. I'm a teacher.

Visiting friends in Seattle, 2013.

Wyoming, 2013

ALA conference, 2011

Silver Dollar City, 2009

One-armed alcoholic? It's the role I was born to play! 2003

First time traveling with my future wife, 2002.

Cuba, 2000.  This is the coolest I've ever looked.

College, 1997

High school (float trip), 1993. That's my dad in the black cap. I didn't know it at the time, but the guy next to him in the blue shorts would become my brother-in-law.

Y'all get the point. I'm in love with summer. She gives me time to write, time with my family, time to relax. The other seasons are nothing but hell.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Summer (by Margie Gelbwasser)

I've had summer loves of the romantic kind, but I won't write about those. Mainly because thinking back about them kind of bums me out. I never really grasped the whole summer love concept. I always wanted them to last longer than a summer. Maybe if I got the memo that they were only supposed to endure a summer--contrary to the said boys' proclamation of 'you never know what can happen'-- it all would have gone down easier. But romantic me missed that message, so yeah.

Therefore, I'm going to write about my own kind of summer love--my favorite summers.
I always WANTED to go to camp. ALL my friends went to camp. Camp was supposed to be awesome, first-kiss-sneaking-into-boys'-bunks-madness. But I never went to camp. Instead, every summer, I went to a bungalow colony in upstate New York with my older sister and grandparents. There were a few of these colonies. The first was in Monticello, and I was four or five. My sister and I collected salamanders and played hide-and-seek in the tall grass. Once a week, there were movies shown with an old school projector in a little trailer, while the owner sold ice cream bars--the kind with the crispy chocolate coating and vanilla inside. There was a pool and a merry-go-round that the older kids would spin--by running around in circles and then hopping on. We went there until I was seven. That was the year it burned down. Rumor was the owner started the fire to collect insurance money.

The year after, we went to a bungalow colony in Liberty, NY. No salamanders here, but there were cows and chickens, and we got fresh milk and eggs. There was a trailer with weird curtains that always looked like there was someone/something hiding behind them. We swore it was a ghost. We swore it was haunted. We'd run in, stay ten seconds, get freaked out by some noise and run out. Was there a ghost? Who's to say there wasn't? I met a girl there who became my best friend for years. Her name was Faina. We recently reconnected on FB and it was great to reminisce with her about all this. She doesn't remember the whole ghost thing. There was an amusement park within walking distance and my grandpa used to take the kids, telling stories along the way. My grandpa was an awesome storyteller. This bungalow colony was also the first place I played doctor. In some secluded shed. None of us understood why our grandparents were so mad.

We stayed in Liberty a year or two, and I'm not sure why we left. But a bunch of us--Faina's family included--moved to another bungalow colony the following summer. It was in Ellenville, and we stayed there for six years. When I think of summer, that is the bungalow colony that comes to mind. The bungalow colony in my novel PIECES OF US is based on this one.

At the time, I didn't appreciate it enough. I loved seeing my friends, loved the tranquility, loved being someone else every summer. Maybe not someone else, just me. A me who didn't worry about being popular or wearing or saying the right thing. But a part of me still wanted to be like everyone else, and go to camp. As an adult? The memories from this bungalow colony are my favorite and where I retreat to in my mind for the simpler times. They were being with my grandparents all summer. Waiting for my grandpa to get back from his berry picking run in the woods so we could eat fresh raspberries and blackberries and currant. It was watching my grandma make fruit compote and jam from the berries. It was playing baseball with the older kids and begging them to let us play truth or dare too. It was playing manhunt and cops and robberies and hiding in the darkness. It was swimming until our lips turned blue and our grandmas yelled at us to get out of the water already. It was learning to ride a bike and do cartwheels and waiting until older brothers or parents came who could drive us to movie theaters and roller rinks. It was having my big sister to myself every day of the summer and hoping I'd have summer boyfriends like she had. It was knowing no matter how much I annoyed her, she always stood up for me and made the older kids include my friends and me in their games. It was my grandpa, carrying his huge stick to pull back branches, walking all the kids down a hill to wade in the creek. It was also him gathering every kid in the bungalow colony to put on plays and shows for all the families.

I miss those days a lot now. My son went to his first full day camp this summer. He loved it. I was really happy for him. But I often tell him stories about my summers as a kid. About the berry picking. The jam. The creek. The endless days and grass we used to run on. And you know what he says? "Mommy, I want that. When can I go there?" And I smile. We all want what we can't have, right?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer love (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

When the “summer love” topic was announced, I figured I would be the only one writing this month about not having had a summer love. At least, I never had a summer love in the classic sense of a romance from camp or vacation: an exciting, beautiful, might-have-continued-if-we’d-lived-closer kind of story.

But I’ve seen that I’m not alone there after all. It’s a great reminder that many of life’s supposedly iconic moments or experiences are not universal after all.

Books let me experience many different kinds of romances, though: summer flings and serious long-term relationships; crushes requited and unrequited; good boyfriends and bad boyfriends. Romances chaste and sexy, same-sex and opposite-sex. For me, summer love was often about lying in a lawn chair (or on a beach towel, or on the couch) with a book, and testing out the romantic waters that I would soon navigate in real life.

If your “summers of love” are similar, here are a few favorite fictional romances, summer and otherwise:

Struts and Frets, by Jon Skovron: This book is mostly about the struggles of a garage band. But there’s also a friends-turn-into-more plotline, told from a guy’s point of view.

The Day Before, by Lisa Schroeder: Life is about to change forever for two teens. The day before the change, they meet, and the attraction is undeniable.

My Invented Life, by Lauren Bjorkman: Romances need not be smooth and perfect. Bjorkman’s Roz is in love (or at least in lust) with her sister’s boyfriend. Or … maybe with the mysterious beauty in the drama club. Or … maybe with the quiet guy in the corner. Roz is questioning, but the one thing that’s clear is that she has a great sense of humor.

Shrinking Violet, by Danielle Joseph. This book about a shy girl finding her voice as a sassy DJ features one of my favorite teen couples. The love interest is nice but not saccharine, attractive yet believable.

Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta: I’m normally not a fan of romances that start out as rivalry, but this one works. This is also a book about friendship and family, but plenty of sparks fly in the romance department.

The Order of the Poison Oak, by Brent Hartinger: This one actually is a summer romance--with hints that it lasts beyond summer. Two boys meet at camp, and their relationship is full of the longing, misunderstandings, and distractions worthy of any romantic comedy.

I’ll leave you with a summer romance from my own growing-up years: Ellen Conford’s Hail, Hail, Camp Timberwood, in which a girl at summer camp copes with a bully, fights her fears of learning to swim and ride a horse, and—of course—pairs up with a swoony guy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer Love of Kayaking (Kristin Rae)

I didn't really have a summer romance, but this summer I learned that I love brainstorming out on my kayak. A few years back I was resistant to kayaking in general, convinced I would flip over just trying to get in. But hubs works hard and I like him to be able to do activities that help him unwind, and I like being able to spend time with him so ... I sucked it up and picked out a bright green kayak of my very own (his is camo) and a hot pink life vest with the thought that if I ever drifted away, I would be visible at all times.

Hubs likes to fish when we go kayaking, it relaxes him. Me? It stresses me out, plus I'm too grossed out to take the fish off the hook, so hubs has to do it and it's just a bigger ordeal than it should be. So I've started bringing my notebook or printed pages of my MS along, and while he fishes, I float nearby, feeling inspired by the calm of nature, editing, drafting by hand, or jotting ideas for future stories.

You do have to be adequately prepared for this type of writing location. A big plastic bag to house your  paper goods since water gets everywhere while you're paddling, snacks, something to drink, extra sunscreen in case hubs says, "Hey, let's paddle down to that area way over there and see if anything's biting," and you're out on the lake an hour longer than expected, in which case you should bring even more snacks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

summer loves (a list)

old-school composition books (stuffed with pictures, as well as words. Movie tickets. Popsicle sticks. Flower petals tucked between the pages).

homemade mixes on cassette tapes. And playlists decorated with magic marker hearts <3

roller-skating at Hot Wheels. (I still have my quads with the pink wheels).

shout outs on Power 96.

endless rounds of Super Mario.

midnight swims in hotel pools

falling asleep with a Sony Walkman tucked under your pillow

secret poems inked on your sneakers

cicadas buzzing like UFOs in the late afternoon

reading stacks of graphic novels in the treehouse

drawing your own graphic novels (and never getting past the first page)

finding a stack of those faded composition books...

...and remembering.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Time Flies When You're Having Fun by Patty Blount

Back in the ‘80’s, I very briefly dated a boy three years older than me but it didn’t work out. He had no patience for my parents’ list of How To Date My Daughter rules and after just three weeks, he cut me loose. But we lived a block apart so avoiding each other was logistically difficult. Though my heart was shredded, I refused to hide my face and continued my routine. In a school yard across the street, I skated or played handball and at the hamburger place down the block, I ate or fed quarters into the video game machines.

By the summer before tenth grade, I’d caught the eye of another guy – the first guy's best friend. He was tall and hilarious and decent and I loved spending time with him. We went to the beach, to the movies, to the arcade and had so much fun.

But there was a problem that loomed on the horizon. He was seventeen and had already graduated high school. He had plans to move to California for a job with an aircraft manufacturer. We started hanging out in July, when hot and hazy days were long and endless. September felt like it was centuries away. You know that old saying, time flies when you’re having fun – hell, it’s never had as big an impact on me as it did that summer. Suddenly, I blinked and it was the first day of school. He was packing, looking for roommates and checking airline fares.

I was miserable. I was in love. I was fifteen.

The week before he was supposed to leave, he came over to say goodbye, I thought. But he hung his head and told me his job fell through. There wouldn’t be a California trip. He told me he didn’t know what he was going to do next and I barely heard him because I was too busy silently cheering. He eventually decided to attend school in New Jersey to obtain his FAA power plant license (he already had one license; the second one would qualify him for airline employment.)

I didn’t know it then but he was miserable, too. And he was in love. And he stayed for me.

We were married the year I turned twenty and are still together. It’s been twenty-seven years now. Time really does fly. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My summer with TWO boyfriends (Lauren Bjorkman)

I am a late bloomer. A late, late bloomer. By the end of high school, my statistics in the romance department were deplorable:

Crushes – 16
Dates – 6
Kisses – 2
Boyfriends – 0

The summer after graduation my world changed. At the graduation party, Rick (not his real name) kissed me. A week later as I came off a shift at my summer job, Rick was waiting for me. I liked him. We started going out.

Before all that, I’d developed a substantial crush on another boy named Pelle. We’d met in a community college poetry class that I took my final semester of high school. On the first day he read a love poem. To his girlfriend. For some reason that didn’t discourage me from getting to know him (flirting, actually). After several weeks I learned that his girlfriend lived 400 miles away. (yes!) And then one day, he invited me to go sailing. The whole time we were together, we had a blast—laughing and talking and being silly.

Nothing “happened” on my date with Pelle. He didn’t ask me out again right away. While I waited for him to make the next move, Rick asked me to be his girlfriend, and I accepted. Rick and I enjoyed each other, but I couldn’t help comparing him to Pelle. Unfavorably. Then Rick told me that he planned to break up with me at the end of the summer because long distance relationships don’t work.

That was not a good move for him.

One evening Pelle appeared on my doorstep to return a sweater I’d left on his sailing dinghy. And to ask me out on a lunar eclipse viewing date. Oo la la. But one of my closest friends was staying the night, so I turned him down. When he left, I felt I'd blown my last chance.

A few days later Rick told me he wanted to have sex before the summer ended. Before our pre-determined break up, naturally.

Worst. Move. Ever.

Luckily Pelle persisted. Not long after, he invited me on a drive to an overlook. As we gazed at the shimmering lights together (swoon), he still didn’t try to kiss me.

Was I wrong to go out with him without telling Rick? Yes. Did I worry about it? No.

Finally the turning point arrived. Pelle and I spent a romantic evening together in San Francisco. At the end he hinted that he would break up with his girlfriend. I hinted I’d do the same.

Now Pelle and I are married. Our son is 16, one year younger than I was in the above story.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Love by Wendy Delsol

Summer love.


Well, for starters, summer camp was not in my family’s budget. I hung out with the same set of high-school friends in the summers as I did in the winters. And my summer job—stocking shelves at a drug store—didn’t provide much in the way of cute co-workers. It was the kind of job where you put in your hours and high-tailed it back to your own neighborhood and pals.

The summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college is memorable for my first real break-up, actually. I’d started dating a guy around prom time, and we made it through graduation and the senior class trip, until… We were headed to different colleges, and I just didn’t see how a long-distance relationship would work. He was a super-sweet guy, and I regret having hurt his feelings, but I had new beginnings on my mind.

In college, I met a guy my freshman year (his senior year), and we dated him for four and a half years, though much of it was apart because he was two hours away back in his hometown. Immediately following my college graduation, I spent a year in France, immersing myself in the language and culture. I returned in June and soon broke up with him. There was the age thing. At that point, we'd spent more time apart than together. And, again, nice guy, but I still had a serious case of wanderlust.

And, yep, so far this is more about summer break-ups than summer love.

Next stop, California, where it felt like perpetual summer to this Midwestern native. Three of my four Michigan State roommates had also moved to L.A. The four of us were single, starting careers, and loving beach life (guys included). I had about three years of casual dating until—on one of those nights out with my girlfriends—I met my husband. We met on October first at a bar in Manhattan Beach. Again, not quite fitting in with this month’s theme of summer love, but, hey, at least it’s not another summer break-up story. And we’ll be happily married twenty-one years this month.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cockroaches, Hotdogs, and a Different Kind of Summer Love by Jody Casella

For a few weeks now I've been wracking my brain for a story to tell about a summer love. The trouble is I've never had a summer love. (Mainly because I dated the same boy for nine years and we were having fun times wallowing in our melodramatic, dysfunctional relationship during the summers, but I digress.)

The year I finally let go of that boy, I felt awesome. Until summer approached.

I was away at college, and the truth is I was afraid that if I went home, I'd slide right back into the familiar melodrama.

Enter: my best friend, Tom.

He had sublet an apartment and invited me to be his roommate. I had no job. No money. No car. But I did one of those leap and the net will appear thingys and said yes. Somehow I managed to find two jobs. A paid (but not much) internship at a magazine downtown and a hellish waitressing job (that still gives me nightmares) at a Perkins restaurant.

Because Tom is such a ridiculously nice guy, he agreed to drive me back and forth to both jobs.

A word here about our relationship. As soon as it became known that Tom and I were going to live together, the rumors began to fly. I don't know if this kind of thing would be said today, but back then, if a girl lived with a guy, it was called living in sin. Also, shacking up. This, by the adults in our lives. But even some of our friends wondered if "something" was going on between us.

One of the guys I dated told me point blank (after he learned that Tom was my best friend) that he did not believe it was possible for men and women to be friends. I argued with him, but now I think he was envious of what Tom and I had. For a few years we were so close there wasn't much room for other people in our lives.

We met the very first week of freshman year. Somehow we got fixed up and went out on a date. A movie (Creator) and dinner (Houlihans, where--to show you how not with it I was back then--I ate potato skins for the first time). I regaled Tom with stories I thought were funny about my angsty high school experiences. (He told me later that I scared the crap out of him.)

The next day he called and asked me if I would give him one of my friend's phone numbers.

So that seemed like the end of that.

But somehow we kept orbiting around each other. We liked the same movies and music and books. We had deep philosophical discussions, the kind you don't ever seem to have except in college, about the meaning of life and the importance of Art with a capital A and the inherent injustice in the world. We majored in the same subject, Creative Writing. We went to a lot of parties. We vetted each other's romantic partners.

We said, only half joking, that if we didn't find our true loves by the time were old--30--we would get married. We weren't physically attracted to each other, we both agreed, but in every other way, we were perfect.

That summer we put this idea to the test.

The apartment was the most disgusting place I've ever lived. Filthy. Smelly. Infested with cockroaches. I slept on a futon rolled out on the matted, dirty, shag carpet. Tom had read somewhere that cockroaches would not cross over boric acid, so we bought a container and drew lines of boric acid around the periphery of the rooms. Later, it occurred to us that if this was true about the boric acid, we had just effectively trapped all of the cockroaches inside the apartment.

Both of us were broke that summer. Me, for real. Tom, because he was asserting his independence from his family. We prided ourselves on our frugal grocery shopping. We ate a lot of hotdogs, ramen noodles, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and tuna fish. I paid my half of the rent and utilities to Tom in quarters I got off the big tippers at Perkins.  

Most of the summer consisted of Tom driving me to my internship in the morning and picking me up in the afternoon. Then driving me to my hellish job later in the afternoon and picking me up after midnight. In between we hung out at the apartment pool or ate our mac and cheese and watched TV while screaming (me) and throwing shoes at cockroaches (Tom).

Tom and I went back to school for our senior year closer than ever.

In November I met a sweet, interesting guy at a party, and when it looked like there might be something developing between us, before it went too far, I leveled with him: Look. My best friend is a boy. If you have a problem with that, let me know now.

The guy was totally cool with it and we ended up falling into a serious relationship that year. (Reader, I married him.)

Unfortunately, things were never quite the same between Tom and me.

We still keep in touch though.

His name is prominently featured on the acknowledgment page of my first novel. It should be. In addition to chauffeuring me around town for an entire summer, he's also read every single story and book I've ever written (some in multiple versions).

A few weeks ago Tom called and said that he's going to drive down for my book launch (a 754 mile trip).

Turns out, he is still a ridiculously nice guy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Summer I (Re)Fell in Love with Reading (Amy K. Nichols)

They say the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

And indifferent about sums up how I felt about reading at the beginning of this summer.

What a horrible confession, right? I mean, I'm an author and what do authors do? They read. But something happened in the late spring. I felt very meh about reading books. 

It wasn't that any one book turned me off to reading. It was rather that I got busy taxiing kids about, washing dishes, revising my novel, goofing around on Facebook, etc. Books fell by the wayside. I grew indifferent toward reading. Every night I'd pass the stack of novels beside my bed waiting to be picked up and read. And every morning when I woke up, they'd still be waiting there, forlorn and lonely.

Poor sad, lonely books. Poor sad, indifferent me. 

But then a couple of amazing things happened that caused me to fall in love with reading all over again!

Photo courtesy of

First, the calendar told me Book Club was fast approaching, and I had better get reading -- especially since I had chosen the book: Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray.

The book is a gorgeous read, and while the subject matter is heavy and oftentimes sad, reading Ruta's book felt like warm towels right out of the drier. I couldn't wait to snuggle up with this book. 

Then, I met Neil Gaiman. 

Wait, let me rephrase that: 


And I bought his newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Still in my puppy love glow from Between Shades of Gray, I jumped into Ocean with both feet and didn't stop until I'd reached the mysterious, wondrous ending. 

What a book! By now I was truly head over heels for reading again. 

Not wanting to lose any time or momentum, I picked up one of the novels from that stack beside my bed and tucked in. This time it was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Actually, it still is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It's a really, really big book with really, really small print. I'm at this totally engrossing part where the main character is about to (hopefully) find some clues about the creepy beings who killed his parents, and while I'm anxious to see what happens next, I find I'm reading this book with care, savoring the words and descriptions. If there's a book for savoring words and descriptions, it's The Name of the Wind

Also, this book makes me want to do magic. What could be more awesome than that?!

So, whereas in the spring I felt meh, now I feel like this:

These books rekindled my love for reading, and I'm so, so happy. In fact, it feels just as amazing as it did when I first fell in love with reading as a kid. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a book I need to go read.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I’m guilty.  I’ve written my own summer romance.  PLAYING HURT is the story of two former athletes: Chelsea’s basketball career ends abruptly after an injury on the court.  And Clint’s girlfriend is killed in a car accident on her way to his hockey tournament; afterward, his head is no longer in the game, and he has to hang up his skates.  Chelsea and Clint meet when Chelsea’s dad takes the family on a vacation to the Minnesota resort where Clint works…and their unexpected romance winds up helping them both heal for good.

The story has not been without controversy among bloggers.  Mostly because Chelsea has a boyfriend waiting for her back home (Gabe) when she has her love affair with Clint.  I suppose I could have taken the easy route and made Chelsea boyfriend-less when she heads out on vacation.  But to me, an important subplot is learning the difference between loving someone vs. being IN love with someone.  Chelsea thinks she’s in love with her boyfriend…until she meets Clint.  

I do read my reviews online…mostly because each book is a learning process, and a good portion of the learning, I think, comes from my readers.  What PLAYING HURT taught me is that some (and by some, I mean a lot) of readers have to like a character to like a book.  This was completely new to me—I’ve never had to like a main character to enjoy the book.  Ever.  But it’s a lesson I’m not soon to forget.

…I also tend to remember the “mixed bags”—the reviews filled with loves and hates (they seem more honest to me).  Here’s one of my faves (lifted from Goodreads):

This book was very well-written by an obviously talented writer. The plot is well-developed and the characters multi-dimensional, with backstories of their own and true-to-life action. But something about this book leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Playing Hurt is about a girl who cheats on her boyfriend over the summer with her personal trainer. Obviously there's a lot more to the story, but that's the central plotline. Chelsea is portrayed as a sympathetic character, like her actions were justified. And I had a hard time with that.

Part of why this was so difficult to read was that everything in me wanted to side with Chelsea--and I had to take a step back and look at her actions, separate from her character, to judge what was going on. She's doing something she knows is wrong and the reader has to realize that on her own time--it's not implicitly stated. You have to separate the character from her actions.

Overall, as I said, this is a fantastic book. But it is not an easy read. It'll stick with you.

Love that last line.  Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My first summer love: BOOKS! (Stephanie Kuehnert)

I don't have any grand summer love stories to tell. Well, I had one that would have been a great summer fling story if 1. the guy hadn't told me in August that his girlfriend was arriving the day after I was leaving, which confused me massively because I thought I was his girlfriend and 2. I hadn't continued to pursue him because of this and ended up in a long, tedious relationship. If you really want to know about that one, you can read part of that love-gone-awry story on Rookie here, but today I would like to focus on my first and truest summer love: BOOKS!

There is just nothing that says summer more to me than reading. Maybe that's because I've always been an avid library visitor, who was sucked into summer reading contests at like five (stickers! writing mini-reviews that they hung up on the walls! AND unlike athletic contests it was one I had an actual shot at winning!). But really books go perfectly with just about everything summer. They're nice by the pool, on the beach, on the drive or the flight to your vacation, at the campsite or cabin your parents dragged you to, in the ice cold air-conditioning on a sweltering day.

This summer because of the whole moving cross-country thing I didn't read nearly as much as I would have liked, but I made up for quantity with quality:

I know I'm behind on this one, but oh how I enjoyed it. The fairytale/magical realism/supernatural/can't quite put my finger on it feel. It was the perfect amount of spooky and mysterious for summer. (I did read like every Nancy Drew book ever for one of those summer reading contests!) Plus time travel! Plus those pictures!!! What a genius idea to build a book from old, found photos. 

I picked up this incredible graphic memoir by Ellen Forney on the recommendation of a friend. As someone who has struggled with depression (though not as much mania) and spent a lot of time thinking about how it impacted my art (I mean, Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath are my heroes! But do I want to end up like them? Will I lose the emotion in my work if I'm not wallowing in my own crazy emotions?), I related SO MUCH. It was also a delight to discover that the author is from Seattle and so there were all these places in my brand new city mentioned and drawn throughout.

I could not WAIT for this book to come out. I mean have you seen the trailer??? This book looked like it had everything I could ever want: music, fun fashion, science, A SHAMAN PANDA!!!!! This is my other kind of perfect summer read. I like either spooky and mysterious or fun stories about journeys. In this book Sophie Sofia is having these episodes--like seeing the lunch ladies dance to the Ramones and meeting her shaman panda, Walt, type episodes. She thinks her long-lost, brilliant physicist dad can explain them so she and her BFF hightail it from boring, suburban Illinois to New York City to look for him. I cannot even express what a fun and delightful read this is. It would be the perfect book to cap your summer off with, so check it out.

I am capping my summer off with this book:
I mean the other thing synonymous with summer for me is the summer blockbuster, preferably the book-based summer blockbuster, so in preparation for the movie here I am. Reading a series really is a great way to spend the summer, so in retrospect I should have done this sooner, but hey, it works!

What have you read and loved this summer?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Heartache (Jennifer Castle)

I, too, never had a summer romance. I'm irked by all the things in art and media that make us feel like we're incomplete if we don't. But that's another blog post.

It wasn't like I never had the opportunity; I didn't spend my high school and college summers at home watching "Dirty Dancing" on a forever-loop. My experiences were teed up perfectly for Love, or at least Lust, but...let's say I hadn't yet found my swing.

I spent two of my summers at performing arts camp. One year, I crushed on this one talented and hilarious guy who, I realize in retrospect, was totally on-fire gay. The second summer, I pined unrequitedly for Jesus. Or rather, the boy who played Jesus in our production of "Jesus Chris Superstar." I played a leper. So, yeah.

All costumed up for "JC Superstar."
What? You wouldn't want to hit this?
I spent a summer as an exchange student in France but as I've written about before, I was too neurotic and insecure to make anything happen with Olivier or Marcus or Laurent or any of the other Eurostuds who dotted the scenery.

When I got to college and found myself able to, you know, actually interact with boys normally, my summers were somehow all about anti-love.

For instance: the summer after my freshman year in college. I'd visited my boyfriend twice, and he'd acted distant and weird. I won't use real names but oh, let's call him Schmadam. When a mutual friend came to stay with me, I saw an envelope from Schmadam in her suitcase. (Yes, this was when you had to stay in touch with people during the summer by sending letters through something called the "U.S. Postal Service.") In one of my least-fine moments, I pocketed it, then read it in the bathroom, learning that Schmadam had hooked up with someone else and was trying to find a way to dump me. I could not make up the flurry of tearful conversations and angrily typed-out correspondence that ensued.

Then there was the summer when, after two years of dating, I realized I no longer loved my first real love, Schmeric. I knew this in May. It took me until August to get up the nerve to tell him. GAH.

The one that still twinges was not a breakup but rather, a romance that almost was. I had spent the last half of my senior year in college afflicted with the biggest crush I've ever felt. I was slowly getting to know this guy, who I'll call Schmosh. We had a certain spark, but time was running out. We were graduating soon and the Real World would not be geographically kind. There were some missed chances right up to the end, and then over that summer, we began a witty, flirty, quietly romantic correspondence. I'm not sure what we were after, but in the end, we became long-distance friends for a few years, then eventually lost touch as our lives took us on different courses, with different people.

The one that might have been. Oof. Is there anything worse?

The way I deal with all of this, the nevers and the uh-ohs and the not-quites, is to weave them into my writing. I'm grateful for that outlet, but I know not everybody has one. These are the things that can take you out of the now and real of life and fill you with want and regret. It's damn hard not to let them.

Whether this summer's legacy is fabulous, bittersweet, or cringeworthy...I hope it'll be memorable for you in its own fated way.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Confession (Sydney Salter)

I never had a summer romance.

Not for lack of wanting, wishing, hoping and, you know, stalking.

My high school diaries are full of detailed accounts of my well-researched, well-timed "chance" encounters with The Boy.

During school visits I share what I wrote on August 24, 1985. My friends and I woke up at 4:30AM and decorated our favorite boys' cars with mustard and whipped cream. Next I read the car-decorating scene from My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. I like to show students that writing doesn't have to be perfect, or even good. It's full of misspellings, grammatical weirdness, and inside jokes that I can no longer explain. But that hastily-written passage gave me great material to mine decades later.

I rarely reread my diary entries. And I hadn't looked at my high school diaries until I started writing YA a few years ago. Oh, all that desperate boy craziness. All that wanting, wishing, hoping, and, yes, stalking.


But here's the surprise. Much older me saw a pattern in all that earning for the perfect summer romance: I wasn't ready. I liked boys who didn't like me. Boys liked me but I didn't like them. So much delicious drama. But little risk. I simply wasn't ready for a boyfriend.

I am enjoying a great romance, 27 years and counting, but it started in the cold, sweater-y month of November. But, hey, no complaints. I can always write about summer love!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer of Love - Jenny O'Connell

Oh, yes, I had a summer love. And he was awesome. Rich. We met in Providence, where I was spending the summer at a program at the Rhode Island School of Design.

It was my first night of the program and my new friends and I headed to Thayer Street to explore. We were walking down the street when this guy passed by. There was something about him and my head turned. He kept walking in the opposite direction and my friends and I went into an ice cream shop. i couldn't stop thinking about him as I ordered. When I walked out to the sidewalk with a chocolate ice cream cone in hand, who was there? The guy. I wasn't about to let him pass by again. I went up to him and held out my cone, "Would you like some of my ice cream?" Worst pick up line ever. I have no idea what the hell I was thinking. No, he didn't want any of my ice cream, but he did ask for my phone number and he called and we went on a date.

A horrible, terrible date. I hated him. I'm pretty sure he hated me. But we decided to try a second date. And that was it.

We spent seven fabulous weeks together. We went to Newport, went out on his boat, played around Providence and fell in love. We were soul mates. We couldn't get enough of each other. Only I was going to be a sophomore in high school in CT, he was going to be a freshman at Brown University. From day one it was a countdown until I'd leave Providence and head home to my real life. Our relationship had an expiration date even if I didn't want to acknowledge it at the time.

When that day finally came we made plans to see each other again, to have him come to CT to visit, to have me take the train to Providence before he started college. We said goodbye on a Friday night and I cried. The next morning I was leaving RISD with a new friend and going to her family's house. I sat in the back seat of her uncle's car, my heart breaking as the car pulled away from our dorm and headed toward Thayer Street and away from summer. As we turned the corner I looked out my window and... (I swear this is true, I couldn't make it up)... there was my summer love, walking with his brother on the sidewalk for a few feet before stepping inside a store. It was surreal. It was like the window was a TV screen I was watching, a show that  would go on long after I left - his life that existed before me and would continue to exist after me. My summer love laughed with his brother, they were carrying on a conversation, going about their lives as I at in the back seat of a car watching the scene unfold through pent up tears that finally found permission to fall.

We did actually see each other again. He did come to CT to visit me and I did take the train to Providence to see him. But even though he sent me beautiful love letters and we talked on the phone, when he left for college the letters stopped arriving and the calls ended.

I ended up seeing him years later, when I was a freshman in college and my friends and I took a weekend trip to Brown. I found myself in his fraternity, at a party, searching for his familiar face. But when we met up there wasn't the recognition I'd hoped for, no declarations of years of longing and regret for our lost love. He was just some guy I'd known a few years before, someone I had a special song with, someone who'd told me he loved me and probably meant it at the time, a boy I'd hoped would last longer than just one summer.

I've long forgotten the broken heart and the anguish of realizing that even though we declared our undying love, it only lasted as long as the summer.  And were is he today? Still in my memories of that awesome summer. Oh, and in Vermont. That's where he lives with his wife and two kids. Gotta love Google.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Truth About Sleep Away Camp by Kimberly Sabatini

Truth: Growing up I desperately wanted to go to sleep away camp.

Truth: I had a deep seated feeling that my life would change if I only went away to sleep away camp.

Truth: I suspected that at sleep away camp I would be able to reinvent myself.

Truth: I figured I'd meet at least one awesome new friend at sleep away camp.

Truth: I knew love would find me at sleep away camp because it just wasn't happening in my sleep here life.

Truth: My parents couldn't afford sleep away camp.

Truth: I resigned myself to longingly reading books about sleep away camps that were filled with high jinx, friends and romance.

Truth: The summer before my senior year I was chosen to go to NLC (A National Leadership Conference) along with seven other kids from my high school. NLC was located at a camp right in my hometown, but kids from NYC and Minnesota would be coming in for the ten day event and I was going to be there for ten whole days. In essence--it was SLEEP AWAY CAMP!

Truth: Sleep away camp was everything I suspected it would be.

I don't have a lot of pics from NLC. I didn't take many and back in the day things depended on good old fashioned film. Cell phones and selfies hadn't been invented yet. My parents didn't even own a cordless phone, a microwave or a VCR at that point. So, lets just say I'm lucky to even have these few pics. And maybe that's not a bad thing considering my very permed 80's hair. LOL! But I don't need pics to remember it all clearly. It's stuck with me. This is what happened at sleep away camp...

Truth: My life completely changed by going to NLC. I got a glimpse being able to reinvent myself and an appreciation for who I already was as viewed through the eyes of strangers. It left me me with the desire to fight even harder for scholarships to go away to college. I felt vibrant and very confident at NLC, in a way I'd never felt before and I still pull from that experience to this day.

Truth: I met lots of awesome friends at NLC. Some I'm still friends with today. I made friends from NYC and Minnesota. I made friends with the amazing counselors. But the biggest surprise was that I built an incredible bond with the kids from my own hometown that carried me through my senior year and in some cases has lasted to this day. My husband was one of those awesome friends. He was literally hiding in my own backyard.

Truth: I had a HUGE crush on the head of the camp. I think everyone did. *grin*  He looks about as young as I do (bottom picture) but at the time he was twenty-seven and while it was never a romance, he was an incredible pen pal for my last year in high school. He lived in NYC, had an avocado plant growing in his window and was artistic and worldly in a way I hadn't really experienced in my small town.  He reminded me often that I was an amazing and talented person. To this day I sign my name, whether it's autographing books or signing birthday cards with a little graphic that looks like a sun burst. It was something he shared with me in a letter because he thought that I was the kind of person who was lit from within. That mattered to me. It stuck with me. Twenty plus years later, I'm reminded that the small kindness of people can have a long reaching impact. We lost touch when I went to college, but someday I would love the chance to say thank you for his kindness.

Truth: True love found me at NLC. And not the older counselor crush kind. I mentioned my husband was at this camp. We'd known of each other since kindergarten. My dad was his soccer coach. We'd danced once at a Jr. High School dance. We argued politics day and night. I was a hard core liberal and he was a hard core conservative. Our arguments went from social studies class, into english and straight on through to lunch. God I hated him. Not as a person, but as a irritating thorn in my side. And then we went to camp together.

Just like me, he got to reinvent himself. He was able to view himself through the eyes of strangers. He relaxed a little and I noticed that he had a heart behind all of his political bravado. He was fun and in ten days he some how became one of my very best friends. We didn't date--it wasn't romantic. But we vowed that for our finally year of high school we were going to replicate the way things were at NLC. We were going to have a year with the same kind of fun. And we did. We stayed close to the rest of the NLCers and we surrounded ourselves with friends who wanted the same kind of thing in their own lives. We had an amazing year. Those friends are still my friends today. I love them. My hubby and I grew our friendship the good old fashioned way--over time. We went to the senior prom together as friends. And then our freshman year in college we realized how much we missed each other and started dating. And of course you know how it ends...

 This was us at our senior prom--with so many of those special friends.

High school graduation with our future best man.

Our first date at a West Point dance.

Back to West Point again for our wedding.

Truth: 20 years and three boys later--I love him more than I did at NLC. 

Truth: The best things happen at sleep away camp.

Have you ever been to sleep away camp? Did you want to go and never got a chance? Or would you have hated it? Best camp story you've got? Still friends with any campers? Favorite camp book? I'm dying to dig into CAMP BOYFRIEND. It's next up on my night stand!!!!