Sunday, August 29, 2010

College Obsession

Junior and senior year of high school, I obsessed about college. I swear I did not have a single conversation over those two years that did not touch on the topic of college in some way. Of course, this was not helped by the fact that when one is that age, everyone begins every conversation by asking, "So where are you applying?" And as soon as you can answer that, they begin asking, "So where are you going to go?" And as soon as you can answer that, they ask, "So what's your major?" And then, "What are you going to do after you graduate?" Really, it's enough to make anyone high-strung, and I was high-strung enough to begin with. (I am, after all, the person who had a mid-life crisis at age ten because I didn't know what my career goals were yet. Incidentally or not-so-incidentally, that's when I decided to become a writer. But that's another story.)

I had stacks and stacks of brochures from colleges. I sent away for the promotional videos. I made endless lists of pros and cons... You see, I knew that this was a Big Moment. Whichever direction I went, it would influence what I would do and who I would become. A lot of times, we have Big Moments and have no control over them or don't even recognize them as they happen, but I knew this was one and I had at least the illusion of control over it. Hence the freaking out.

My new novel ENCHANTED IVY is about Lily Carter, a 16-year-old caught in that pre-college obsession. Unlike the 16-year-old me, she knows where she wants to go: Princeton University. She just doesn't know if she's going to get in.

She also doesn't know that Princeton is a portal to a magical realm. If I'd known that, I totally would have done Early Decision.

As it was, I didn't end up deciding where to go until April of my senior year, a few days before the answer was due. After all my careful research and all my lists of pros and cons, I chose Princeton because of the trees. Seriously. I saw the arch of elm trees over Washington Street, and I was sold. In retrospect, this is perhaps not the best way to choose a college. But I loved it there. And it led to this book. So feel free to draw whatever moral you'd like from that. :)

44 days until ENCHANTED IVY!

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Freshman Year Sarah

It is now 50 days until the release of my next book, ENCHANTED IVY. I'm excited! And I'm thinking about college. (The novel is about getting into college. Also, talking gargoyles and were-tigers.) This is me in my dorm room freshman year of college:

Nearly everything I brought with me was a memento: the tall glass cylinder by the window contained dried roses from prom and from various recitals and shows, the gray lamp was my dad's from his college days and the stickers on it were from my elementary school sticker collection, the sunset painting on the wall was painted by my brother, the mug was from my friend Gillian (of INTO THE WILD fame), etc.

Looking at this photo, I think about how much I've changed...

Hmm, I still have that cylinder of dried roses (though the roses in it are newer), and I still have a dead plant on my windowsill (though this one is a geranium). I still have those sandals and wear them every summer. I fill that same mug with hot chocolate every winter. (It's the perfect size for a packet of Swiss Miss.)

Okay, fine, I haven't changed much.

*sticks out tongue*

I do have longer hair. And the cassette tapes (see far left on my desk) have been replaced by iTunes. Also, several years ago, a mover lost that sunset picture. (I'm still annoyed about that.)

I'm more comfortable as me. I'm happier. A lot of that has to do with the person who was on the other side of the wall in that photo. Six years after this photo was taken, I married the boy who lived on the other side of that wall.

As the countdown to pub date continues, I'll be talking more about college, about getting into college, and about my new novel. I'll also be posting an excerpt from ENCHANTED IVY soon, so stay tuned!

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jedi Fireworks

Only thing I don't like about Return of the Jedi: the fireworks.

In a galaxy far, far away, why would the fireworks look like 1990s Earth fireworks? Fireworks technology changes. Also, why does everyone have fireworks displays at the ready? It was a surprise attack by the Rebels (or it was supposed to be). Have they been keeping the fireworks prepared for the last few decades? Seems a bit optimistic of them. Like keeping confetti in your pocket for years in case you find yourself in the middle of an unexpected surprise party.

Aside from that... BEST MOVIES EVER.

I hear a single line of dialogue from Star Wars, and I feel instantly comforted, as if I've bitten into a chocolate chip cookie or sunk into a bed with a dozen pillows. The first movie in particular (A New Hope, of course, NOT Phantom Menace) is, for me, the ultimate in storytelling and the obvious answer to "What's your favorite movie?"

I also like The Princess Bride, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. But really, Star Wars tops them all. And for the record, Han MUST shoot first.

The trilogy was on TV last night as I was working on polishing my Top Sekrit Project. I'm at the scrutinize-every-sentence-for-clarity-and-poetry stage, which is one of my favorite stages because I love playing with language. Only thing I don't like about this stage is that I means I'll be done soon.

I used to look forward to finishing a novel, thinking there would be some great sense of accomplishment. Or a parade. Or at least a few elephants in fancy hula outfits. But after writing several novels, I now know that I feel a bit bereft after I finish. I miss my characters. I miss my world. I miss writing the novel that I've been immersed in. So I've stopped looking forward to finishing and have just been enjoying being immersed in the novel.

I think there's some deep life lesson in this: enjoy the ride or it's all about the journey or keep the fireworks ready or whatever.

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