home again

After months on the road, the book tour has finally ended. A big thank-you to HarperCollins, my agent, and my PR team, Karen and Tracey!

The day after I arrived home from Chicago, I woke early to teach a class. I walked to my car and found a pale dusting of ash across the windshield. Fire had swallowed the Everglades. Smoke thickened the breeze. I rubbed my eyes. They never stopped stinging.

When the Florida Center for Literary Arts invited me to teach a teen writing workshop, I thought: Man, this rocks. And I wish that something like this had existed back when I was in high-school, pestering my English teachers to read my Xeroxed novels-in-progress about swashbuckling elves.

The workshop lasted until late afternoon--a bit long, but the kids hung in there. At the end of the session, we shared their narrative poems about secret kisses behind the lockers (and boys who smelled like vinegar), knife-wielding murderers running through the woods, and the first time a boy sniffed glue in kindergarten (my favorite line of the day: "The walls started shaking.")

On the next Saturday circled on my calendar, I spoke with a panel of authors at the Barbara Seniors Harkins Foundation, which strives for the betterment of schools in South Florida. Beside me sat C. L. Freire, who writes fantasy for tweens. We passed the karaoke-style mic back and forth while the kids asked questions ("Do you know Chris Brown?"). Once they spotted my bouquet of lollipops, they stampeded down the aisle. A blue-eyed boy grabbed a sheet of paper and showed me his tag: Abstract. ("Where do you hit that up?" I asked. He said, "West Palm Beach.")

Now my calendar is empty. My only responsibility? Grading finals in a few weeks. It feels a little strange...like I should be doing something more for my book. But at this point, I have done everything I can do. My characters are wandering out there in the world, finding their way. They will come back and tell me what they've seen.

One last thing to write = the answers to this meme, which floated along to me a couple days ago.

What were you doing ten years ago?

Studying film in the UK. And chopping off my hair, shortly after this photo was snapped in the Irish countryside (one of the horses was an extra in the movie, Braveheart. Since he could only see out of one eye, he didn't flinch when the arrows flew through the air).

What's on your to-do list for today?

Write a letter to my friend in Norway (or maybe I'll record it on a CD), ride my bike and take a picture of the burning trees.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

I'm more of a savory kid than a sweet girl...but I can't resist Japanese candy. Here's the stash I brought home from San Fran.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Buy a brownstone in Brooklyn. Or maybe just a room with a view (as long as the view is in NYC). Also--my friends and I have this fantasy about creating a sanctuary for stray cats.

What are three of your bad habits?

Um. I'm way too obsessive. But you already knew that. I think four-letter words are funny and I drink too much coffee.

Where you have lived?

I was born and raised in Miami. During college, I lived as an exchange student in Prague, as well as Paris. I hope to live abroad again someday. I keep all my journals in a wicker chest in my bedroom (my version of a hope chest...the hope of traveling again).

What jobs you have had?

In my twenties, I wrote a weekly film column for a newspaper on the beach.

One summer, I worked as a production assistant (fancy phrase for "person who fetches things on the set). I tossed rose petals at the girls modeling spring dresses in a TV commercial. But man, I could get used to "craft services," (endless supplies of treats) and the lady who walked around with a tray of cafe con leche every morning.

I worked as a script consultant (fancy phrase for "person who reads fifteen feature-length scripts a week and tells the producer that they suck). I still remember some of the ridiculous lines from those awful pages, like, "Her stomach jumped like a tuna." (How does an actor perform that feat?) and "He was all over her like a wet noodle."

I was a journalist for many years. I interviewed crazy DJs during Winter Music Conference and high-rollers during Art Basel. Worst interview ever = A certain Icelandic triphop band which shall remain nameless. During our "chat," one of the dudes asked if my boyfriend could buy weed for them. The dude ignored all my questions. Instead, he dropped lines like, "Miami is a girlfriend who never stops smiling." Then he pretended to snort coke off the table.

Taught college: screenwriting, summer theatre camp, creative writing, you name it. Still do.

And my favorite job of all?

Exactly what I'm doing right now.