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Some Smart People Said Some Nice Things About My Book

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The news is out! The contest I mentioned I was a semi-finalist for last week is the Book Pipeline book to movie contest, and they have now posted their official announcement. Twelve semi-finalists chosen out of 576 entries. I’m so honored to have made it this far!

From these twelve, they will choose 3-5 finalists and a winner, who receive: “Entrance to the next Script Pipeline / Book Pipeline event in Santa Monica, CA, which will include representatives from Energy Entertainment, Benderspink, and Paradigm, in addition to other companies seeking literary material; Industry circulation to over 200 companies searching for new literary material; Additional one-on-one development assistance and consultation from Script Pipeline executives.”

Semifinalists also have an opportunity for further development assistance from Script Pipeline executives, and Matt Misetich, the Director of Development at Script Pipeline, has emailed me his thoughts about Hand Me Down being “ripe for feature adaptation.” So many people have told me that the book would make a good movie, and now people in the industry whose job it is to know what will make a good movie agree!

Matt Misetich, who seems like a generally funny and nice guy as well as a life-changer for up and coming writers, also said this about HMD:

“While it’s a story that’s been told before–the neglected child from a dysfunctional household trying to find her place–your writing style and depiction of character are so well-illustrated, it makes for a genuine page-turner. As someone who doesn’t usually prefer this subgenre of sorts, I was hooked after the first chapter. Credit not only your writing ability, but your understanding of how to develop character. Very impressive, and something I surprisingly don’t see often.”

Here is a sampling of some of the other judges’ remarks:

“The believability of the setting injected with a growing sense of danger for the girls, even in the safety of their own home, provides an intriguing narrative that only intensifies as the story progresses, leaving the audience in a constant state of suspense and a growing sense of dread for the fate of their young heroines.”

“The vivid portrayal of the characters allows the reader an uncanny grasp on their personalities and serves well to either draw sympathy or loathing from the audience depending on the characters’ roles. The raw nature of everything is deeply rooted in an underlining theme of neglect, pulling the audience into a deeper understanding of the human condition.”

“The instant investment the reader experiences at the start of the story is a sure sign of a well-developed plot and setting prime for a dramatic film adaptation. It’s that type of true conflict and stakes that of course always makes for good cinema.”

These comments meant a lot to me. I worked really hard to make HMD a page-turner full of complex, flawed, and engaging characters. I once took a workshop with Brady Udall who said, “You have to find a way to keep the reader turning pages.” That is the most fundamental rule of any piece of writing: you have to keep them reading. So it’s wonderful to hear that readers—especially these readers who are trained to evaluate story and character—were so engaged and connected.

I’m cautiously optimistic about HMD becoming a movie because it really would be a dream come true. Thanks Matt and the other readers for seeing HMD as a contender! Fingers crossed for finalist status, but even without it, I’m letting these comments buoy me up and feed my confidence for the lonely and grueling process of drafting the next book. Because it always, always comes back to the page.

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Happy Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m feeling pretty good today. It was a good week. But typing that makes me nervous. I don’t want to jinx it. You’ll notice I still didn’t say, “I’m happy.” In my experience, that’s just asking for trouble, an invitation for emotional ruin.

Except I am mostly happy, and one of the things I’m working on is how to celebrate the good moments instead of disbelieving them, or feeling like I don’t deserve them, or waiting for the horrible thing to rain down and punish me for my small moment of joy. And I’m learning that the small moments–the pretty clouds in a blue sky, or a sweet gesture from W, a nice unexpected email from a friend–these are worth noting and remembering and absorbing.IMG_20130518_173402

I’m also learning that there can be light and dark–that they can coexist within my heart and mind–and to be less afraid. If I allow the good sink in and become a part of me, even if the bad thing comes, and the jaded part of me says it always will, it still can’t steal my big smile or little heart flutter or whatever tiny blip of happiness I experienced. That is mine if I want it , and I’ve finally decided that I want it more than I want to be prepared for the other shoe to drop.

So here I am, celebrating, validating this feeling of optimistic contentment.

This week, I was asked to judge a prominent literary competition, and I found out I am a semifinalist for a book competition that could seriously boost my career–one of 10-15 out of five hundred entries. I read a new book by a good friend that I loved.

Last month I married a man I love and we are better than ever.  After eleven years together we still spend so much time talking to each other when we’re both home that it’s hard to get our work done. We are going to spend today, our first married Valentine’s Day, outside since it’s supposed to be in the mid-80s here in LA, barbecuing with good friends and playing croquet in their beautiful yard. Flowers never stop blooming here. Southern California winter is the best summer.

Sometimes I’m still in awe that I live in this place. The weather is part of why we moved here, but LA has been good to me, to us, and I feel like there is more to come. Optimism, people. It’s like a face lift.

So, anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you spend it with people you love who make you laugh. And I hope you too can take a minute to absorb the good, capture it so you can keep it with you no matter what.

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No Kid Hungry

Great news! I have an essay in the May issue of Good Housekeeping, on stands now. It is so cool to see my words, and my face, in a national magazine! Even better is the cause and organization this issue of the magazine is supporting: No Kid Hungry and its mission to end childhood hunger.

This essay came out of a request for stories of growing up hungry, of kids and parents on the fringes, who aren’t necessarily starving, but who struggle on a daily basis to provide food and other necessities. “Food insecure” is what my agent called it, and my family, along with thousands of others, certainly was that.

Good Housekeeping is partnering with No Kid Hungry to help bring awareness to this type of situation that happens more often that we may want to admit. It could be happening next door and you probably wouldn’t know–shame is powerful silencer. I didn’t talk much about the hardships I faced at home when I was younger, but writing Hand Me Down and receiving the outpouring of thankful responses from readers has lifted those floodgates. I am opening up about more of my childhood in the hope that it can help others feel less alone, less embarrassed.

If you would like to get more involved with families who need help, Good Housekeeping has a resource page for more information, or you can go directly to No Kid Hungry and learn more or make a donation.

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Confession 11-18-13

Confession: Sometimes I write things on my To Do list that I’ve already done just so I can cross them off. Otherwise, the long line of uncrossed items makes me too depressed to look at the list at all.

Father’s Day

Growing up, I didn’t know a lot of good dads. My alcoholic father was either absent or impaired, many of my friend’s mothers were single or their husbands worked full time and weren’t around much. None of the women in my family had successful relationships so I had no good male role models, and men were mostly off stage, unseen except in the pain they left behind, and unnecessary in my world. Women seemed to operate without men, and most of them did just fine, or, in the case of my mother, better, without a man getting in the way. The good men were like happy bonuses, appearing in short bursts to take my friends somewhere cool or teach them to drive. Without a  proper father figure, I began to believe I didn’t need one. That maybe women really were better on our own.

But I have come to know some really great men over the years. Guys who are loyal and caring, who are open-minded and sensitive and fun and funny without being cruel and really good friends and husbands. Some of these guys have become fathers in the last few years, and already I know their little girls will not have a lack of positive male role models who encourage them to be strong females. My friends will be great fathers; they are great fathers. I’ve witnessed it myself, heard the pride and wonder in their voices as they talk about their kids as people, seen them encourage their independence and guide without smothering.

I know W will be a great father someday, too, and all of this gives me hope that women aren’t on our own the way it seemed to me as a child. Just because some of us had bad dads doesn’t mean we have to be attracted to the kind of man who is abusive or distant, too critical or controlling. There are good guys out there, and they are raising another generation of boys who will grow up to respect women and take responsibility for themselves. Those are the men who deserve to be fathers.

So, here’s  to you, dads. Your children, and wives, are lucky to have you.

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Bright Lights and the Big City (I’m Moving to LA)

I was conceived in Los Angeles. My parents grew up there, and when my mom was just a few months from delivering me into this world, she and my dad moved up to Sacramento where I was born and mostly raised. I grew up with their stories of beach bonfires and friends with houseboats, and maybe that’s part of why I’ve always been drawn to LA. But on my first real visit as a kid, I fell in love hard.

I was eleven. It was January but it was seventy-five degrees and sunny, blue skies and tropical breezes. For someone who hibernates when the temp drops below sixty, this alone was heaven. But the ocean. Oh, the ocean—shades of blue from cerulean to teal, and even in winter, not so cold you couldn’t dip your feet while sinking into the sugary white sand beaches stretching for miles. It was still California, but it was different from the raging seas up north that I grew up visiting, the icy winds and freezing water, beaches carved into the cliffs so they are shorter and flanked by huge rocks. And the light. It’s different in So Cal. Brighter. It’s like the air itself sparkles.

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On that first visit, people seemed happier, lighter, artsy in a way that felt more free and less serious than I was used to. I was down there to perform in a huge conference with my choir, and my childhood dreams of acting and singing professionally were more than whispered hopes down there—they seemed like real possibilities, like warm winter winds, created by the right combination of timing and location. The whole city was wider, bigger, looser, shinier; all the things LA is supposed to be, but I didn’t know that. I just knew I wanted to come back.

W and I have moved five times in the last seven years. Each time that wasn’t for a job or school we’ve talked about moving to LA. But we didn’t know anyone there and it was too expensive and wouldn’t it be weird to just pick up and move somewhere because it seemed like a great place during visits? Fast forward four cities and still, nowhere has felt like home to both of us, and we don’t have kids or jobs that can’t be done from anywhere, and we know people in LA now and it’s still expensive, but we are a little less poor, so, why the hell not at least give it a try?

So after driving by close to eighty apartments and touring about twenty five (!) we have signed a lease. It’s a third floor unit with great western views of palm trees—and maybe even on clear days, the ocean—about four miles from the beach. We can walk to pretty much anything we will possibly need in just a few blocks—banks, gyms, restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, drug stores—and are a longer walk from a farmer’s market, bookstore, and more shops and restaurants. In fifteen minutes I can be at the ocean, and unlike up here where I’ve driven all the way to the beach and had it be too cold and windy for me to spend more than ten minutes out of the car, most of the year it will actually be warm enough to enjoy it.

Am I nervous? Sure. It’s a big city, a fast-paced change from our sleepy town now, but that is part of the draw. More restaurants, things to do, places to go, people to meet…I’ve spent the last two years sort of quietly and I’m ready to jump start a new phase.

And, still, every time I’m down there I fall in love again with the light and the palm trees, the ocean so close, the bright tropical flowers and vines hanging from everything, the succulents with their thick green spikes, the smell of sand, the endless blue sky…I can’t believe I’m finally going to live there. The eleven year old girl in me has her hand on her hips and is saying, “It’s about time.” My dreams of professional performing are history, but branching out into different writing forms sounds like it could be an appealing part of this new phase. Who knows? The possibilities down there are sparkling on the horizon, shimmering on ocean-blue waves of light. It’s time to dive in.

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News & Reviews & 3 Days Left!

The paperback of Hand Me Down comes out in three days! Have you seen her new beautiful face? Despite being unsure of it at first, I have now grown to love this cover as much as—or possibly even more than—the hardcover.

I hope new readers out there will want to pick up the book and hold it, that they will choose it off a shelf at a bookstore and take it home with them. Books just want to be loved, and I hope that all of you who enjoyed Hand Me Down in her first incarnation will tell your friends that she has been reborn. And that she is now cheaper! Though her price is not a reflection on her character. Her insides are still the same despite the new and less expensive exterior.

Also, the paperback has bonus material! I don’t know of any other novel that has added material from the character rather than the author. In this case, a new epilogue that is an essay Liz writes for her creative writing class featuring Liz and Jaime and their family ten years later. So many readers have written to me and asked for a sequel. This epilogue is not exactly a sequel, but if you wanted to know more about what happens to the girls after the events in HMD, here’s your chance.

You can preorder the paperback now from your favorite book retailer. Or wait until next week when you can pick it up in person at a bookstore. Or, you can enter this Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of ten free copies.

If you’re still not sure if you want to read HMD, two great reviews came out this week that might help convince you. One of my favorite book bloggers, Devourer of Books, (who is also one of my favorite follows on Twitter—check her out she’s smart and funny) wrote this fantastic review of Hand Me Down, the audio version. She addresses why the book is not YA, though it does have crossover appeal, and talks about how the fact that she was so angry with the characters proved her engagement with the book. “The hate didn’t make me dislike the book, though. On the contrary, the hate just showed me how completely invested I was in Liz’s story, and I, well, devourered Thorne’s story.” Love that last line. Told you she was funny. On Twitter she also said she was “glued to her earbuds.”

Another fabulous book blogger, Book Magnet, posted this thoughtful and kind review. The blogger, Jaime Boler, even spells her name the same way my Jaime does, which is not that common. She says all kinds of wonderful things about my book, including, “Thorne’s story left me indignant and emotionally spent, which is proof of the author’s skilled writing and adept characterizations,” and, “Thorne leaves readers with white knuckles as they wait to see if Liz and Jaime survive and even thrive…If you enjoy books narrated by strong teen girls, wise beyond their years, then Hand Me Down is a must read.” Generous as she is, she has also invited me to do an interview with her on her blog which will be coming soon!

I’m so grateful for these reviews, for all the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, for being featured on She Knows Red Hot March Reads list, for all the emails and Tweets and Facebook posts…it’s a great way to kick-off the paperback release week! Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and healthy paperback life for my baby.

Three more days!