Ten Advantages to Being a YA Author

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All Week, teen authors from around the country will land in NYC, the teen night club of cities, to share, discuss, and sign their young adult books. Come! Join us! Invite your friends! 

Here are just TEN advantages to being a teen author: 

  1. When you wake up to a little pink mountain on your left cheek, you can blame it on the hormone-raging world you choose to mentally live in for the sake of the cause. Clearly, the daily consumption of chocolate has nothing to do with you breaking out.

 

  1. When the radio plays your favorite song by Justin Bieber, you’re required to turn it up so you can hear it like a teenager. You can always sing, “Sorry,” later.

 

  1. When you get your news about the world from Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram first, you pat yourself on the back for staying informed. Post. Like. Share. Repeat.

 

  1. When you show up an hour early at the midnight premier of the movie version of your favorite teen read and initiate the standing ovation when the credits roll, no one can tell your age in the dark, so you are good. Clap louder!

 

  1. When you shop at Forever 21, you can justify your purchases in the name of research. Never mind that Forever 29 is actually your middle name.

 

  1. When your weekly eating-out budget runs over because of frequent trips to Chipotle, Panera, or Starbucks, you look on the bright side. At least your mom didn’t have to cook tonight. Oh wait. You are the mom. Even better!

 

  1. When hours disappear after binge-watching several seasons of teen TV, you have just saved the world from repeat stories and been there-done that characters. And sure it was six straight hours, but back in the day, there were people who watched television with commercials. Talk about an outrageous waste of time.

 

  1. When you scream like a teenager after spotting Taylor Swift at the Knicks game, you don’t have to play it off as if you’re cheering on the team. In fact, when the coach assists a bleeding player off the court, stand up and cue your very best rendition of “Bad Blood.” I’ll sing the chorus with you.

 

  1. When your significant other asks you out in a text message, when you slow dance in the parking lot to the song on your car radio, or when you kiss each other in the rain, because let’s face it, a functioning umbrella is rarely in the right place at the right time—permission to fuel those falling in love scenes afresh. Because when you’re a teen author, it feels like the first time. Every time.

 

  1. When you read your books, you smile, because you get to write the books you love to read. The stories you wish existed when you were a teen. But do now. So Yay!

**

What did I miss? I’m sure there are plenty more! And if you read YA, what have you read lately? 

BTW, did you get your tickets to see Allegiant yet?? Counting down the days! 

 

One Heartbeat at a Time

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My Sunshine and I endured a one-hour road trip down winding roads, around mountainsides, past palm trees and street vendors selling mangos and star fruit, guava and passion fruit. All because the only OB on the island of Dominica that had a functioning sonogram machine was in the capital city of Roseau. Except that when we arrived, the machine was down. Five months passed, and aside from the nausea and food aversions, I still wondered if I really was pregnant.

 

When we arrived back in the States, and Hubs came with me to my first appointment with an OB in Michigan, the doctor covered my tummy with a cool gel and then pointed to the screen. “Hear that?”

 

The whooshing sound grew stronger as she moved the device.

 

“Your baby has a lovely heart beat!” she said, and the tears began to flow and when I looked over to hubby, he was tearing up too.

 

This was for real. We were really pregnant, and this baby was on her way. Her heart beating was the song I had longed to hear for all these months, and it was even more amazing and precious than I had dreamed it would be.

 

When our second princess was born, the doctor told us she had a heart murmur and she would very possibly outgrow it. She did.

 

On Monday, December 8, 2014, I had just dropped off my youngest at school when hubby texted for me to please come home. He needed to talk to me. I left my laptop in the car, thinking whatever it was, I could hear him out and then get on with my day and my writing. Barely inside the front door, hubby met me and pulled me into his arms as he barely managed to say the words, “Julie’s son, Mikey.”

 

“What is it? What’s wrong? Is he hurt? Has there been an accident?”

 

But he only said two words, “His heart.”

 

And as we wept in silence before going over to our dear friend’s house, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what none of us could change. Twenty-five year old Michael Gomez, Division One Wrestling hero, State Champion, coach, and up and coming police officer had a heart attack in his sleep, and an entire community hurt deeply for the loss of such a treasure. And for the pain of two parents, two younger brothers, grandparents and all those who were grappling with the devastation.

 

It was a long week as funeral preparations were underway, and during the service, whatever each person heard, no one walked out of there without the sober reminder that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Each day is a gift. Each heart beat.

 

During this particular week, hubby who had been training for the past sixteen months to cycle from Seattle to New York City started a work up on his own heart in search of an explanation to an abnormal stress test he had—one in which he felt little to no discomfort, but the readings clearly showed a lack of blood supply to his heart when his pulse reached 160. But when he stepped off the treadmill, it took fifteen minutes for this to go away and a normal flow to return.

 

One test lead to another and with each step, it seemed that maybe it was just a false positive or maybe the machine was broken. I suggested his generous gift of chest hairs interfered with the readings. His coronaries were clean, and he’d never felt so fit in his whole life. The final test was an MRI on his heart, and the cardiologists and hubby felt pretty certain it would be fine too, and they’d have to somehow dig deeper. But then the MRI Tech called for him to return to get more images.

 

This whole time, I felt at peace. But that afternoon when I got the text that he had to go back in for more pictures, my panic button went off. Why did they need more pictures? What did they see? I needed to talk to someone. Someone I could cry with. So I called my parents. And as I spoke with Mom and Dad, I told them my fears, and they listened, encouraged me, and made me laugh, and called me, Crybaby. When my mom asked me, “Why are you crying?”

 

I said, “I don’t know. I just needed to cry. So I called you.” And she passed the phone back to my dad. He reminded me to trust God and just be patient.

 

The next day after hubby came out of his second MRI, I knew from the look on his face that he knew something. They saw something. And as we sat in the car, he told me that the tech suspected thickening of his septum (the middle passageway in the heart) and the diagnosis was very likely cardiomyopathy.
When he got the official report the next day, hubby met me outside and this was the first time in two weeks of testing that he broke down. We made our way to the kitchen table as he read the report to me and explained the terms to me. He has hypertrophic cardio myopathy, and there’s no way he can cycle across the country. Moreover, he can’t really do anything right now to make his heart work too hard while we wait it out and let his muscles inside his heart hopefully return to a healthier thickness.

 

Telling the girls wasn’t easy, but our second princess offered to wake up twenty minutes early so he and she could walk to school together. J Walking is safe for hubby to do. And in the midst of tears around the dinner table, my fifteen-year old nephew who was visiting for Christmas Googles something on his iPod and says, “I know this is really sad news, but I want to encourage you.” And he proceeded to share verses from the Bible on God’s grace and hope and love for his uncle at this time. The words were like rays on sunshine piercing through our cloud-covered hearts.

 

FullSizeRender-1So these days, we are counting our blessings. First and foremost, hubby is still with us. The diagnosis was found fairly early. He’s still leading the c4c Cycling for Change team, just from a driver’s seat of the RV now. And he just fixed the leak under the kitchen sink, for which he earned a Superman coffee mug. He’s my hero, even if the sink still leaked. Because maybe there’s something wrong with hubby’s heart from a medical perspective, but sometimes I wonder if his heart became too strong, not from all the cycling or some genetic disposition but rather from loving me so hard. And so much.

 

And as we lay in bed on the morning of the New Year, I said, “Good Morning. I want to dedicate a song to you for 2015.” And then I pressed play on my phone as Smokey Robinson broke it down for us. “One Heartbeat at a Time.”

 

Because sixteen years ago, we vowed, “To have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…” And as I dropped off hubby to the airport this morning for a class, he sent me a text after he got through security.

 

“Love you! Thanks for being my rock! For what for you foreva!”

 

Because that’s how our love story started. We promised to wait for each other. And now we continue to wait on God. As God unravels this new chapter, we wait as He helps us to understand Hubby’s new normal. Our new normal. And for as many heartbeats as he gives Hubby, I’m so thankful to be the one to get to hold his hand. Be held in his arms. And walk this life with him.

 

One heartbeat. At a time.

 ***

And you? Have you been needing a word of hope and encouragement during this new year? What challenges are you facing? How can I pray for you?

 

 

Top Ten Reasons to Remember 9/11

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Some say you shouldn’t dwell on the past. Others say why bring up the sad moments. Move on. Let’s talk about happy things and not keep bringing it up.

I used to call myself an optimist, looking for that positive spin on everything. Now, I’m more of a live-life-ist. Because every day will not run to the beat of #Happy. But we have to keep going. Keep living. And still value each day and each other.

Here are my TOP TEN Reasons to Remember 9/11:

  1. WE came together to mourn. If all the tears shed the days and nights those first year filled the valleys of the Rockies they would reach the peeks and overflow. Many times.
  2. WE came together to search. For weeks on end, firefighters, police, and lay people spent day and night, enduring smoke inhalation and the dangers of the rubble, hoping to find even one survivor. Beds were set up at hospitals across the city and Brooklyn. We didn’t want to give up.
  3. WE came together to comfort each other. I don’t know how many strangers I hugged during those weeks in NYC. And many hugged me.
  4. WE came together to care for those left behind. Donations were taken up for survivors and those who lost loved ones. Meals were shared. We gave and gave, even when we knew we couldn’t replace the greatest loss.
  5. WE came together to rebuild. When the dust had settled, and the search was called off, we began the painful process of rebuilding. Two incredible reflecting pools lay where the towers fell and the Freedom Tower soars above the NYC skyline, an emblem of endurance.
  6. WE came together to rethink things. What does it mean to be safe? How can we keep each other safe from future attacks? How can be more aware of those around us and be there when we see someone in trouble.
  7. WE came together to learn what it means to stand up and fight back. Especially from people like Todd Beamer.
  8. We came together to remember what we value. Not tall buildings. Communication. Family. Friends. Neighbors. Each other.
  9. We came together to live again. Even in the face of fear. We chose and we continue to choose to keep going. And endure.
  10. We came together.

**

If you lost someone during 9/11, my heart goes out to you. None of us will ever forget that day. Where we were. When we first heard. How we saw the towers fall. But I hope, after thirteen years and for all the years to come, as we reflect on this tragedy in our history, we will also remember one thing:

We came together.

***

Rajdeep Paulus, Award-winning author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and she writes masala-marinated, Young Adult Fiction, blogging for MasalaMommas, Brown Girl Magazine, Playlist Fiction, Nomi Network and her own site at rajdeeppaulus dot com.

Landing the Plane – A 9.11 Post

Photo Credit: Chris Bopp of Bopp Shots

Photo Credit: Chris Bopp of Bopp Shots

So I have this pilot friend. Who chooses to remain anonymous. So for the sake of the story, let’s call him “Bill.”

I met Bill on the flight back from Alaska, on our ten year anniversary. Hubs fell asleep before the plane took off, and I can never sleep on planes. Bill sat across the aisle, sporting his Pilot uniform and American Airlines pin. So I couldn’t help but introduce myself. And get the inside scoop on all things Blue Skies.

“So they say planes are super safe. Safer than driving. Is it true?”

“Oh for sure. The safest you are is in the air.” Bill was happy to engage this curious insomniac. “Then when you land, and cab it down the LIE in Queens, that’s the more dangerous than playing outside during a lightning storm.”

“Really? By the way, hi, my name’s Rajdeep. But you can call me Raj.” Because I hate having long and meaningful conversations with people and tagging the “Bye, I’ll never see you again. Oh and by the way, my name is…” on the end.

“Bill. You can call me, umm, Bill, for short.” Continue reading

Just Five Minutes

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This is Love.

To tell you the truth, it takes  a lot longer than FIVE minutes to type up an itty-bitty blog on my iPhone. Although, I haven’t tried to dictate the words to Siri, who still thinks “Raj” is “Rise” so I’m not holding my breath on that option.

Anyway, I write my first-five minute blog yesterday on the LIRR, heading to Manhattan, and Hubs sits next to me, amused. At first. After six. Then ten. Then twenty minutes of fixing all the words Auto-correct thinks I meant to say, I round out the five sentence story and hit SEND. Off to impress the socks off readers everywhere, because who doesn’t have five minutes to spare?

I promise to tell you all the details of our ultra-fun, topsy-turvy, full of “No way!… WAY!”-moments date, but first: The value of five minutes as I’ve experienced this past week, leading up to yesterday.

This past Tuesday, I make plans to attend a book reading of Ashok Rajamani, the author of the memoir “The Day My Brain Exploded” at a Barnes and Noble in the city. But I haven’t been to a bookstore in a while, so I decide to arrive plenty early to read and research popular Young Adult novels currently circulating the hands of teens. The train two minutes from my house, according to the LIRR website, leaves at 12:35PM. I leave my house at 12:27PM. Sure. I probably didn’t need to zap my coffee those last 30 seconds. But what can I say, sometimes a girl just has to have her coffee. Warm. Continue reading

Five Minutes

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“Five minutes. That’s all you get. To be on any digital device today. Else… Else I’ll just go home.” Hubs has made one thing clear.

So on this bright sunny Thursday morning, I bring to you my five minute blog series … Part One: Chasing the train.

 

We made it. That’s all that matters. As we board the LIRR to head downtown for my nearly birthday date hubs asks me,

“Top or bottom?” The LIRR has two levels.

 

“You know I like ….

Oops. Five minutes are up.

 

To be continued…

What would you do if you only had five minutes? Which website would win your time and attention?

Masala on the Mic!

2013-03-07 19.59.10Thursday morning arrives and I am a different person. Even a year ago, I might have spent weeks preparing for a speaking event. Thought of what I was going to say days ahead of time. Picked my outfit the night before. And rehearsed plenty before the day of.

Today is different. Because I learned something from the past. All that extra prep just makes me nervous. And I get more antsy than if I just plan minimally, think through the basics, and leave the details for the day of. 

So I wake up, thank God for kids who help me with laundry, and thank God again that we replaced the ink cartridge on the printer a day ago. Print out a few pages, pick out a black dress (can’t go wrong with black,) and head out to  get my hair blown out. Simply because it doesn’t cost much and when my hair looks nice, I feel like I can fly. Or at least have a bit of confidence in front of strangers.  Continue reading

Masala in Prose

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“Are you a writer?” pops up on my computer screen about a month ago.

Ummm? Depends on who’s asking.

“Yes.” I type my reply. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to tell this stranger since it’s not like I’m telling him where I live or that I’ll be vacationing in Bermuda from August 7 though the 15th, the perfect time to rob my house. 

“Are you published?” Next question pops up.

I should ask you the same thing. Or at least, Hello, what did you say your name was? 

“Funny you should ask,” I type, “My first book, Swimming Through Clouds, launches this June.”

“Great. Would you like to read a little bit at my book reading event?”

As in, out loud? And, wow! Really? Me? 

“Sure. I mean, yes! I’d love to. What did you say your name was?” Continue reading

The Who. The Who?

With the hubbub of holidays and the onset of basketball season for three out of four of our princesses, hubs and I have been overdue for a date night. So I asked for a Wednesday night. And hubs gave me an enthusiastic yes to the yes. :)
So as the day drew near, I realized that even for adults, a week night feels like a school night so I thought dinner and a movie, not to far from the house, would suffice. Want to see Denzel’s new movie Flight. Want to see Life of Pi. And still haven’t seen Breaking Dawn, the Twilight finale, but am willing to wait for the DVD to come out. Since I already know how it ends and all.

Hubs sends me a text half-way through my afternoon, “Can we leave by 6:00PM?”

“Ummm. One has to be picked up. Two have to be dropped off for practice. And your mom needs a ride back from visiting your dad. What do you think?” My way of saying, it’s gonna be a fight.
Continue reading

Reinventing Deana

Welcome back to Fiction Friday Folks! Here’s a character I met one night while dreaming. Wanna meet her? Join us for some coffee? Don’t be shy… she’s nice. Really she is.

“Reinventing Deana”

I get paid to fire people. It’s an ugly job, but someone’s gotta do it. My name is Deana. Some call me Dee for short. D stands for doomsday, death, deadly, and door. As in slam the door shut on your career. That’s my deal. Continue reading