Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week started this week, and I'm curious to know what your thoughts are. Growing up in rural Mississippi I'm honestly surprised we were allowed to read what we did.

We read To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th grade (Looking back seems a little heavy for a 7th grade class? But I guess we all turned out okay. Right?), and I was surprised a couple of years ago when I found out it was challenged and banned in so many places. I need to give it a good re-read because I don't remember the book being overly racial.

I don't have a problem with you censoring what your child reads. The key word in that sentence is YOUR child. I get up in arms when one parent (or librarian or anyone for that matter), makes such a big deal about a book that the school or library takes it away. I also find it funny that most of the time, the parent hasn't even read the book.

I can remember my junior year of high school reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and a few students and parents had problems with the book, but nothing was ever done. Some parents said they didn't feel comfortable letting their child read "things like that" and they were allowed to read something else. My Mom read the book shortly before I did because she wanted to see what all the fuss was over. She apparently didn't see anything overly wrong with it, I read the book, and that was that.

Maybe my views on this topic are slightly skewed. Our only bookstore was small and super expensive, and our local library didn't have much in the way of middle grade/young adult books. I probably read The Chronicles of Narnia a dozen times and checked out every single BabySitter's Club and Sweet Valley High books more than once because that was pretty much the whole MG/YA section. I loved to read so I was forced to read adult fiction at an earlier age than most. I was probably around 12 when I read Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone. It was almost a life-changing experience for me. I realized life wasn't all unicorns pooping rainbows, and life was hard and difficult. For a parent to take that experience away from a child makes me a little sad.

With that being said, I now have PRIZES to give away! For the first five people to comment telling me about the first life-changing book they ever read, I will mail you an American Library Association Banned Books Week bookmark!

* Comment on this post telling me about a book that changed the way you looked at life (banned or not) and let me know how it bettered you as a person.
* Remember to include your email in the comment so I can get your mailing address. If an email isn't included, it doesn't count!
* This particular giveaway will be US only :(
* I only have 5 bookmarks, so only the first 5 people who comment will receive a bookmark, however please feel free to tell me your favorite life changing book!
* You do not have to be a follower or anything to enter, simply comment.

Also, do you plan on doing anything to celebrate Banned Books Week this week? I made a trip to the library this morning and came back with The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler and The Chocolate War by Cormier. I also wanted Catcher in the Rye, but it was checked out, which is good I guess! Happy reading and don't forget to enter my Smart Chicks swag giveaway!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour

Even if you only know me in the slightest bit, you know that I love anything about books, from the actual books themselves to the people who write them, particularly young adult books. When the Smart Chicks tour was announced last year with not one, not two, but THREE stops in Texas, one in my town and two only three hours away from me, I knew I'd be the creeper who attended all three.

The Smart Chicks tour consisted of various young adult authors, with Melissa Marr, Alyson Noel, and Kelley Armstrong appearing at every stop. Along with those three lovely ladies, I had the pleasure of meeting Cassie Clare, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Margie Stohl, Kami Garcia, Rachel Vincent, and Rachel Caine.

Night 1 was here in Austin at Book People. The event started at 7:00, we arrived a little after 6:00 and the place was already standing room only! There were 450+ people there, crazy!

Night 2 was in The Woodlands in Houston at Barnes and Noble. I was able to hang out with Houston buddies Shandra, Cynthia, and Maria! I rarely ever get to see them since they live in Houston so it's nice to catch up. There were 400+ at this event, but the store was way small and overcrowded and I felt overwhelmed the whole time. Plus I remembered at about 8:00 that night that I never ate lunch. Oops.

Cynthia, myself, and Shandra

Night 3 was at a place called The Refuge in Houston and was sponsored by Blue Willow Book Shop. This was by far my favorite event, even though my energy level was zilch at this point. There weren't quite as many people there and it was organized like WHOA. Those ladies had it down! Kudos to you, Blue Willow workers!

Each event consisted of about a 30 minute Q&A, followed by a quick "lighting round" Q&A led by Holly. After that the authors signed books and things. There were so many people there each night that this usually took about two hours. Crazy!

I am a horrible picture-taker. I'm usually so excited to be in that moment that I usually don't think about stopping to take a picture until later. However, my lovely friend Shandra grabbed my camera from me while I was going through the signing line at the Woodlands event and took some photos. If you squish your eyes you can pretend you're in line behind me!

Yes, I realize I am lying on Kami and Margie's signing table like a fool. I introduce myself and this happens:
Me: Hi, I'm Steph Pellegrin from Twitter. (And I'm totally NOT a creeper!)
Kami and Margie: Oh hey!!!
Kami: Ohmigosh, I thought you were tall! Like obnoxiously tall!
Me: *blink blink* Nope, I'm a shorty!
Margie: We want a picture with you! Here, get on the table!
Me: *more blinking* O...kay...

So, yeah... me lying on a table with Kami and Margie. Enjoy. You can also click here to watch a YouTube video the lovely Jackson Pearce made of the Woodlands stop. I'm in it around the middle/end blowing kisses to someone, or fanning myself and generally looking like an idiot. You decide.

For those wondering, here is my signed loot:

It was a fantastic week, and it's felt strange not going to a book signing of some sort today. I hope they do something similar next year!

I'm sure you're wondering, "Well this is great to hear about, Stephanie, but I wasn't able to attend a Smart Chicks event. What's in this post for me?" Well, dear readers... I will SHOW YOU.

Prize Pack of Awesome #1:

Prize Pack of Awesome #2:

That's right! two prize packs! Prize Pack of Awesome #1 will include a copy of Cassie Clare's story from Zombies Vs. Unicorns, chapter 2 in Holly Black's upcoming novel Red Glove, a Darkest Mercy bookmark signed by Melissa Marr, a Dark Flame bookmark signed by Alyson Noel, and an 8x10 inch Smart Chicks poster signed by Cassie Clare, Holly Black, Alyson Noel, Rachel Caine, Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong!

Prize Pack of Awesome #2 will include a copy of Cassie Clare's story from Zombies Vs. Unicorns, chapter 2 in Holly Black's upcoming novel Red Glove, a Darkest Mercy bookmark signed by Melissa Marr, a Radiance bookmark signed by Alyson Noel, and an 8x10 Smart Chicks poster signed by Cassie Clare, Holly Black, Alyson Noel, Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Vincent, Kami Garcia, and Margie Stohl!

How you can get your grubby hands on one of these Prize Packs of Awesome, you ask? Well it's simple!

*Fill out the form below.
*No, you do NOT have to be a follower.
*Only one entry PER PERSON. Multiples will be disqualified.
*This contest IS international!
*Contest ends in two weeks on Friday October 1st at midnight CST. (I will use to pick a winner at some point that weekend.)
*I will email the winner and they have 48 hours to email me back with their address. If they fail to do so, another winner will be picked.
*I am not responsible if the postal service loses a package or damages it in some way. :(

Now that the business has been taken care of, what are you waiting for? Fill out the form already!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When it rains it pours

So much has gone wrong in the past few days. Friday it was irritating. Yesterday it was funny. And today I'm just outright pissed.

I'm still looking for one more book to take with me to meet the Smart Chicks this week. I left work early to stop by Barnes and Noble to see if they had it and I fell in the parking lot walking to my car. Such a klutz! I scraped my left knee and left arm/hand up pretty nicely. I forgot how much a scrape hurts, I can't get the one on my hand to scab over so I'm having to wear bandaids over it at work.

Yesterday my check engine light came on and my keyfob didn't work to my car for some reason. Daisy (our guinea pig) got sick and had to take a trip to the vet. Diagnosis is that it's either something neurological or an ear infection. We can't really do anything about the neurological part so she's on antibiotics for two weeks. Poor baby hates it. :(

Today my husband texts me while I'm at work and says someone broke into his car overnight. I got so upset my manager made me leave. They smashed a window, stole our GPS and a spare key to my car. UGH. We're so upset, we thought moving was going to make things better for us but it seems like nothing has gone right since we've moved. I'm freaking out that the people that did it are going to come back and take my car. The key says Volkswagen on it and there's only two Beetles that live (Yes, they're alive) in our complex, mine being one of them. Odds aren't in my favor. So until we can afford to have the car re-keyed we bought one of those The Club things to put on the steering wheel. If they can take that off then I guess they want my car a heck of a lot more than I do.

I get so frustrated with life sometimes. It seems like some people have it SO easy and great things happen so naturally for them. I used to think I had decent luck but over the past few years it seems like nothing really goes right. I also used to think that things happen for a reason, but I seriously cannot see what the reason behind any of this madness is.

Also, if you're the praying type, please keep my nephew Bryce and my friend Lindsay's daughter, Sophie, in your prayers. Bryce has to have heart surgery at the end of the month, and baby Sophie is currently in liver failure. If you aren't a believer in prayer, positive thoughts are welcome as well.

Sorry for the emo blog post, but sometimes you just need to vent and get talk about things. Isn't that was blogging is all about? Have you had any life frustrations you'd like to share in the comments?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My leave of absense.

So it would seem I unintentionally took a summer break from blogging. This summer has been a crazy one filled with births, deaths, and lots of change.

June 9th at 5:58 PM my nephew Bryce was born. I was woken up by a phone call from my sister at 4:00 that morning telling me her water had just broke. I had to work a 9-3 shift that day and was frantically trying to get someone to cover my shift so I could make a 6AM flight from Austin to Jackson. However, my coworkers seemed to be sleeping and not answering their phones or my texts. The next flight left at 12:00, so I went in to work for a little while and then got someone to cover the rest of my shift. Husband and I are on the way to the airport when I get a text to my phone saying my flight had been delayed. So I'm sitting at the airport watching my flight get pushed farther and farther back. I'm not sure that I've felt more helpless. My flight finally leaves and I barely make my layover in Houston. My dad picks me up in Jackson and we make the close to two hour drive home. We arrived at the hospital at exactly 6:00 PM, a mere two minutes after Bryce came into the world.

Bryce will be three months old tomorrow! I haven't been able to see him since he was born, but my mom and sister send me pictures daily. He's changing so much and seems to be growing so fast. Hopefully I'll be able to see him again soon.

Just a few weeks after Bryce was born, our family dog of 16 years, Casey, passed away. We all knew his time was coming and I thought I had prepared myself for his death, but in hindsight I don't think you can ever fully prepare yourself for death and grief. He helped raise two little girls and mold them into the young women they are today, and for that I am forever grateful. Hope you're getting all the cookies a dog can ever eat, Casey. You truly were a great dog. See you soon, Man.

We also moved. We've been in our new place three weeks now and I don't feel like I'll ever be done unpacking. Moving was more difficult than I imagined, and it didn't help that the weekend we moved was the hottest weekend of the entire summer. Luckily we had some amazing friends that helped. At one point we had eleven people over! We can't thank everyone who helped us enough. However, next time we'll be hiring movers. ;)

Getting used to the new apartment has been difficult as well. I'm a very light sleeper and every single bump-in-the-night noise that I'm not familiar with wakes me up: The air conditioner turning on and off, the ice maker in the refrigerator making ice, etc. I am finally starting to sleep a little better, though. Hopefully I'll get used to everything soon. And no, I don't have pictures of the new place. I mean, I could take some I guess, but you don't want to see it in the state it's in now. Trust me.

Work has been very, very hectic and depressing. We've had some people quit over the past few weeks and are severely understaffed. It makes my life more stressful and sad, but hopefully soon things will calm down. I've been on a couple of interviews over the summer but didn't get the job. It's depressing to know that since moving to Texas I have (literally) filled out hundreds of job applications and only gone on a few interviews. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I'm a hardworking, honest person and it frustrates me to see other people getting awesome jobs. I can't help but be a little bitter. I'm tired of getting my hopes up only to have them shattered. However, this experience has inspired me to write more. I've put my Historical on the back burner and am working on a Contemporary YA, which scares me to death. I've never written anything contemporary. I don't feel like I have the talent to make real life issues seem interesting. This story idea hit me out of the blue one day and I'm very happy with it so far. It's the story I've always wished I could write. If I can pull it off I think it'll possibly even be readable one day!

I'm now more determined than ever to get a book finished and published. Maybe someone who saw my resume and sent it straight to the shredder will remember my name and think, "Man! I should have hired her after all!" I just hope people will realize they made a mistake in not taking a chance on me.

And in book related news I should be going to at least one (if not THREE!) Smart Chicks tour stops next week. I was planning on getting a couple of extra books for giveaways, but after much thought I don't think I'll be able to afford that. However, I do think I'll print out the downloadable posters and maybe give that away instead. Stay tuned!