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BLARGH: June 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Micol Ostow

So now you know just how bad a boy you magnetize. Must be something in the water. Or your genes. Or you jeans.

Racing headlong now towards the culmination of first SWOONS. Remember, you still have two more days to comment back with your own first SWOON and be entered to win a signed copy of SWOON. And you still have two more days to nag me about submitting my own rather awful admision...

Today we have a swell SWOON from the indomitable Micol Ostow, author of The Bradford Series of novels and ultimate how-to, self-help tome So Punk Rock (And Other Ways To Annoy Your Parents). I know Micol was on a guillotine of a book deadline, yet she still made good on her promise to dig deep into her past and pull out this plum. Thank you, Micol, for SWOONING, and for the best sub-title ever...

"I Was A Pre-Teen Cougar"

His name was Jerry.
Or maybe Matt?
Or possibly Adam.
I dunno; it was a long time ago and anyway, I’m changing names to protect the innocent.
(Yeah, that’s it…to protect the innocent!)

So anyway—Adam.
He had red hair buzzed into a crew cut that begged to be run against the flat underside of my palm. His cheeks were dusted with freckles and he probably weighed less than I did.
I was eleven. Adam was ten.
We were campers together at a Jersey day camp one summer. His “bunk” (we had no bunks—day camp, you see, but whatevs) sat one level below mine in the amphitheater each morning for daily announcements. Hence my spectacular view of the top of his head.

May I just say: swoon.

Adam was my first dry-throated, rapid-fire blinking, don’t-open-your-mouth-‘cause-Gawd-knows-what-senseless-insanity-will-pour-forth crush.
Was it the nylon soccer shorts? The tube socks pulled up to his ankles? The fact that he stubbornly refused to sing along to our morning sing-alongs?
I’ll never know.
But what I suspect is that it was all to do with his age.
You see, in addition to Adam being my first crush, he was also my first introduction to that elusive species known as The Younger Dude. We were only a year apart chronologically, sure, but everyone knows that girls mature more quickly than boys. Between us lay vast oceans of cognitive dissonance that our budding chemistry couldn’t possibly bridge.

Still, though, I tried my hardest.
I recall early experiments with “lip gloss” (ChapStick) on our camp overnights, and knock-knock jokes hurled blindly in Adam’s direction with no regard toward timing or punch line.
I may or may not have tripped him during Jump the Brook.

Okay, my technique could have used some perfecting.
But puberty was washing over me like a bubble bath set to boil, and one thing I realized about guys—that is to say, boys—like Adam, was that the younger ones?
They flat-out worshipped an older woman like moi.
(And who could blame them?)

If I played my cards right, I quickly, learned, Adam bore his Jump the Brook battle scars with pride, laughed at my jokes and sought me out with one-liners of his own.
Younger men were impressed with me simply because I was older.
They were easily flattered, they didn’t tend to argue much.
It was a lesson I internalized quickly, completely.
And it wasn’t until some twenty years later that it occurred to me that there was a flip side to all of that immaturity coursing to and fro.

I gave up my real estate in Cougartown and set about finding someone who was my emotional equal.
Only to discover that at 33, as a young adult writer, I left my brain somewhere back at sweet sixteen.
Luckily, my One True Lurve is totally a kid at heart, as well….

And, um—at exactly one year and three days older than me (gotta love a Taurus), he is the source of all things swoon-worthy in my quasi-grownup life.

Micol Ostow is the author of The Bradford Series and So Punk Rock (And Other Ways To Annoy Your Parents). Visit her at

Friday, June 26, 2009

Are You a Bad Boy Magnet?

We interrupt these “My First SWOONs” to bring you an important message. Judging by the response to “Sin & Dice Love Advice,” the romantic counseling service on this very website, a lot of plenty cool girls are dealing with some pretty bad boys. Are troubled types drawn to you like tornadoes to trailer parks? Take this quiz to see if your mojo is set on sin! Then read on to find out how to handle it.

1. A guy comes up to you at a party. His opening line is…
A. “Have you tried the bean dip?”
B. “Have you read any Chuck Palahniuk?”
C. “Have you got twenty dollars?”

2. Oh, by the way, it’s a masquerade party. He’s dressed as…
A. A vampire. But the nicest, sweetest, most gentlemanly and polite vampire ever.
B. Himself. He didn’t know it was a costume party and, in fact, he’s crashing.
C. Well, he’s got cool facial hair and the cutest little horns, but when you ask who he is he says, “My name is legion…”

3. When you flunk a test, the guy who’s crushing on you…
A. Offers to tutor you in the subject.
B. Offers to download your iPod with his “music to vent by” playlist.
C. Offers to slash the teacher’s tires.

4. You just missed your bus. Moments later, like magic, this guy rolls up…
A. On a bicycle, and offers to take you home on the handlebars.
B. On a motorcycle, and offers to take you home on the back.
C. On a motorcycle, and offers to take you across state lines.

5. You agree to a blind date because your friend says the boy is perfect for you. Actually, the boy is…
A. Sweet and smart, washed and pressed, and a mere two inches shorter than you.
B. Snarky and smart-assed, and his bangs are longer than yours.
C. On parole.

6. Someone is seriously sweating you. You know because…
A. He left you a hand-written note to that effect.
B. He’s always staring at you with this enigmatic expression.
C. He left a dead rat on your doorstep. The rat had a bow ribbon around its neck. But still…

7. That’s it! You’re done with guys who…
A. Think lattes are a gateway drug.
B. Can’t stop flirting with your friends.
C. Have a wife and two kids in Baltimore.

As Good as It Gets (mostly “A” answers)
I don’t know what they’re feeding you but you’re attracting altar boys only. Not that there’s anything wrong with altar boys (if you don’t mind ending every Saturday night date at eleven PM so he can be well rested for Sunday services). Maybe a darker shade of nail polish—or proudly carrying a copy of SWOON around town—will bring some naughtier fish to your dating pool.

The Bad and the Beautiful (mostly “B” answers)
Your allure is a siren’s song to left-of-center, slightly screwed-up sweeties. For the most part, though, they wear their dark side on their sleeve, but their heart is close to the right place. Let your own innate nobility inspire and influence him. Don’t worry, your parents still won’t entirely trust him.

Bad to the Bone (mostly “C” answers)
You emit pheromones that reach the deepest, darkest recesses of the massively messed up. Do yourself a favor and don’t leave the house again till your 30th birthday. If that’s not reasonable, try to be open to dudes that don’t have to take a piss test before each date. Prove that nice guys needn’t finish last!

Hope you got a chuckle and an eye roll from the quiz, but let’s be serious a second: If you ever feel threatened by or frightened around a guy, or just get a nagging feeling something’s not right about him, do yourself—your body, your sanity, your life—a favor and get the hell away from him. STAT. ASAP. PDQ. NOW. You’re too smart, too noble, too beautiful to let an abuser or addict have power over you—no matter how manipulative he is or how enticing his surface allure. Look, I write fiction, but I know from reality, and I am not making this up! Confuse a bad boy with a sick person and your worst nightmare can come true...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Nancy Holder

Many thanks to Aimee Friedman for sharing her passion for Paris. Ooh-la-la, as they say. We've so far had swooners swooning over songs, dogs, dancing, embarrassing rock stars, and now a city. Point being: Your first swoon doesn't have to be about a boy. So if you have a swoon to share, please do so by 30 June 2009. Comment back with your tale for a chance to win a signed copy of SWOON.

And so, the swooning continues...

Nancy Holder writes like a demon. She has more books to her credit now than most people have socks, though she’s perhaps best known as the co-author of The New York Times bestseller Wicked: Witch and Curse and (coming in July) Wicked: Resurrection. Thanks, Nancy, for swooning…

My first swoon took place in the water, just as in Nina’s Swoon. I was twelve; it was summer in Japan, hot, sticky, buzzing with mosquitoes. My blended navy family lived on a military base in one of five row houses created out of World War II parachute lofts, and I was home in a sort of bored fugue, probably reading and listening to sad rock songs. No doubt feeling a little sorry for myself, since my stepsister, who was two months and four days older than me, had a boyfriend and I did not. I was pretty sure that Danny, the boy I liked, had no clue how I felt, which was a relief, because what if he didn’t like me back?

Then our home phone rang, and it was my GF, Karen. “I’m at the pool,” she told me. “And so is Danny. And he says he’s not going in the water until you show.”

This was stunning news. This was fabulous news. And I honestly don’t remember getting my suit on and layering it with shorts and a T-shirt. I don’t remember putting on my sandals. I can’t remember if I took the bus or walked to the pool. I don’t remember much of anything until

I saw him sitting on the edge of the pool, legs dangling in the water, grinning at me as I appeared just like Cinderella to make his day.

I remember that the world fuzzed out and I almost didn’t recognize where I was—same old pool, the usual smell of French fries; and there was Karen, who was laying out on a chaise lounge and grinning at me, too. Caught in the tractor beam of Danny’s smile, I felt hot. Literally hot. I felt as if I were dissolving.

I peeled down to my suit—blue and green boy-shorts and a halter top—like I really didn’t know he was watching me, and walked on over. My blond hair brushed my shoulder blades. I felt beautiful.

I sat down next to him. Then, without a word, we pushed on the palms of our hands and we just kind of slid into the water, warm and cold, no words spoken. We both went under, and I could see him through the water, his face filled with joy. Because I had shown. Still submerged, he took my hand and pulled me toward him. And as we got ready for our first kiss, I remember thinking, What will it be like when we come back up?

Nancy Holder is the co-author of Wicked: Witch and Curse and Wicked: Resurrection. Visit her at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Aimee Friedman

Thank you, Robin Wasserman, for swooning…and for dancing…and for sharing your playlist. Warning: One of the numbers on your list, New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” has been known to have strange effects on people. I have a friend who, back in the track’s heyday, would fall in love with the first boy who entered her line of vision while the song was playing. Has anyone else out there swooned for a song? Please do tell all. I’ve been remiss in reminding y’all of the “My First SWOON” contest—comment back with the story of your first SWOON by 30 June and you’re entered to win a signed copy of SWOON.

And now for our next swoonie…

I once had the pleasure of being edited by Aimee Friedman (mm-hmm, in addition to being an author, her latest being Sea Change, she has a real job). She was spearheading a quartet of holiday-themed novellas called Mistletoe and asked me to contribute. While the other writers penned sweet, funny, romantic pieces that made you go “awww,” I delivered the tale of an obnoxious male TV star and the dead girl he got stuck spending New Year’s Eve with. And Aimee let me. Merci, Aimee, for that—and for swooning here…

The First Time I Saw Paris…

I didn’t want to go. I was fourteen, it was winter break, and I was counting on hanging out with my best friend and dissecting high school thus far. Paris did not figure into those plans. My older sister had been living there since September —and had the chic new haircut and cute French boyfriend to prove it — and had invited me to join her over the holidays. Anyone sane would have jumped at this opportunity, but I clearly wasn’t in my right mind. I thought the world started and ended in New York City, my hometown.

Over the course of one magical week, that opinion would be changed forever.

But first I had to grumpily board an Air France flight, brood into my hoodie as I soared over the Atlantic (I can never sleep on planes), and sourly trudge into Charles de Gaulle Airport. My sister and her boyfriend (I resented his mere existence) were waiting for me there, and my sister handed me a paper cup of cocoa, my welcome gift. The drink was piping hot and very sweet, with a thick chocolate skin. Even through my haze of jet lag, I registered that this was probably the best hot cocoa I’d ever tasted.

That was, I think, when Paris first whispered to me, when I began to wonder if this hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.

We drove to the city, and in the gray afternoon gloom, the outskirts of Paris looked ordinary and dull, no different from anywhere on earth. I dozed until we arrived at my sister’s pied-a-terre, an ancient-looking apartment with chipped walls and a claw-foot bathtub. Sort of charming, I thought before passing out on her futon. When I awoke, it was nighttime, and my sister was watching me in her patient way. “Let’s go out,” she suggested.

And it was love at first sight.

The city was lit up on all sides, like a golden-flecked globe. The streetlamps were wrapped in white Christmas lights that twinkled through the light drizzle. There was the long, lacy Eiffel Tower, much prettier than in pictures as it shimmered from top to bottom. There was the Pont Alexandre III, a bridge festooned with gilded angels and nymphs. Even the people on the wide, windswept avenues seemed illuminated—the women in their spangly dresses and sparkling scarves knotted at their throats, the men with glowing red cigarette tips dangling from their lips, the boys with their bright, mischievous gazes. Gazes often directed at me.

Flat-chested, tongue-tied, curly-haired me, who, back in America, didn’t garner very many gazes from the opposite sex, unless you counted that dorky boy in science lab. What was different here? Somehow, in my rain coat and the beret my sister had lent me, breathing in the scents of coffee and perfume that permeated the air, I felt almost…alluring. Beautiful. Maybe my sister had felt the same way when she’d met her now-boyfriend. French boys appeared bolder, more inquisitive, more willing to take a chance on girls than their American counterparts. It was an exhilarating thought.

It seemed to me that my sister and I walked the length and breadth of Paris that night, only stopping once at a café for a delicious dinner of steak frites . My sister let me sip from her glass of wine, and the drink left my cheeks flushed and my heart racing, like the side effects of a serious crush. But there was much more of the city to see, and as the week unfurled, I stood on my tiptoes to see Mona Lisa smile at me at The Louvre, I bit into flaky, buttery croissants, I bought my own filmy scarf to knot at my throat, and a little vial of perfume to spray on my wrists. And, at a whirling night-club one night, I got kissed by a navy-blue-eyed French boy, who told me I was une belle fille and I wholeheartedly believed him.

Is it possible to swoon over a city? I think so. As much I still love my native New York, and various other places I have taken sleepless flights to over the years, nothing makes my pulse race like Paris. It’s a cliché, I know, crushing on this most romantic of cities, but I can’t help it. Paris not only seduced me that first night, but it also opened the door onto my adulthood, onto the me I would slowly start to become. And for that reason, the city holds my heart.

Aimee Friedman is the author of The Year My Sister Got Lucky, the South Beach trilogy and her new novel Sea Change. Visit her at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Robin Wasserman

Many thanks to Lisa Schroeder for swooning in verse—and for giving me a new appreciation for Sammy Hagar...which is kind of perverse….

When people ask, “What’s your book about?” I simply refer them to the killer blurb Robin Wasserman wrote for the back cover of SWOON. As Robin’s fans know, her stuff is incredible—novels like those in the Seven Deadly Sins series, as well as Skinned and Crashed. (Holding your breath till its September release? Here’s a preview of the cover). Visceral, frightening and immensely readable—that’s Robin Wasserman. Thank you, Robin, for swooning…

The summer I turned 14, I fell in love with dancing.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you this is a lie. They’ll tell you I almost never dance, that the phrase “let’s go dancing” makes me laugh, scream, then run in the opposite direction, that I’m the girl who needs to be dragged onto the dance floor kicking and screaming and that, once there, I spend most of my time complaining that I’m not a very good dancer and probably look like a spastic money, and that in actuality I am a not very good dancer, likely because I spend most of my time obsessing over the possibility that I look like a spastic monkey.

All this is true.

Also true, however, is the fact that the summer I turned 14, I fell in love with dancing (cue the “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” soundtrack) and it’s a love still going strong, even if much of the dancing takes place in the safety of my own home.

Lots of things changed that summer; it was a summer of first swoons, as it were. I went away for the first time, to the kind of un-camp that unathletic, uncoordinated, socially awkward adolescents occasionally get to attend. It was a writing program on a college campus, and while it only lasted three weeks, it seemed to stretch on forever. Long enough for me to meet and befriend a merry band of freaks and geeks – the first real “they actually get me” friends I’d had in a long time. Long enough to discover a passion for writing, something that until then had just been one of those things that you tell people you like to do because you figure you’re the kind of person who should like to do them. Long enough to remember, or maybe figure out for the first time, that not everything sucked and that there might actually be life after junior high. Once I got back home, I would immediately begin counting the days until the next summer, and until college—but for those three weeks, I just let myself get lost in the moment. (And trust me, I am not a get lost in the moment kind of gal.)

The one fly in the ointment, the mote in the eye of this perfect summer, were the weekly dances. Now, at age 14, I’d been to plenty of dances. Elementary school graduation dances, junior high school dances, not to mention an endless stream of bar and bat mitzvahs. Which meant I knew enough about dancing to know that I hated it. Hated it the way I hated things like tuna fish and volleyball—by which I mean, not only did I find dancing personally repugnant, but I literally couldn’t understand why anyone else would disagree. I would watch the poor fools out on the dance floor, jerking their arms and legs in various directions, big sloppy grins on their faces, trying to decipher what was going on like I was the creature from outer space.

So understandably, I spent most of those summer dances hiding in the lobby. (You might suspect this was due to my wardrobe, which included a denim vest with so many dangling beads that I jingled when I walked, but mostly it was the dancing thing.) But in the closing hour of the final dance, for some reason I can’t remember—though I’m guessing it involved an ambush and some serious bodily force—I found myself on the dance floor. And somehow, I was dancing. Dancing almost without hating it. Then the Violent Femmes kicked in, and I was still dancing—not only without hating it, but without even thinking about it. I took my hair out of its tight ponytail and joined my friends in an exceedingly nerdy attempt at headbanging, despite the big blond afro I knew would result.

I don’t know what it was. Some perfect combination of the music, the people, the summer, the knowledge that it was all about to end—something kicked in and I let go. Just like that. And then I danced my little spastic monkey heart out.

These days, on those very occasional times when I can be persuaded to dance in public, and those even more occasional times when I can forget myself enough to enjoy it, that’s where I go in my head. That summer, that place, that moment. My first taste of what it meant to forget everything, even myself—especially myself—and just enjoy.

Now, because as it turns out, pre-college nerderiffic summer programs are just as ritualistic as regular overnight camps, the playlist at each and every one of these dances included the same canon of songs. If a dance ended without each and every one of these songs being played, there would be a mass rebellion. And I speak from experience—we’re talking outraged, sit-in-style, hell no, we won’t go (until you play our songs) rebellion. And it somehow seems wrong to end this post without similar tribute to tradition. So here, for posterity, all I can remember from the playlist of my footloose summer:

“Birdhouse in Your Soul” (They Might Be Giants), “Istanbul” (They Might Be Giants), “Brown-Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison), “I’m Too Sexy” (Right Said Fred), “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” (REM), “Oh L’Amour” (Erasure), “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin), “Bizarre Love Triangle” (New Order), “Blister in the Sun” (Violent Femmes), “American Pie” (Don McLean)

Robin Wasserman is the author of Skinned, Hacking Harvard, the Seven Deadly Sins series and the upcoming Crashed. Obey the call to visit her at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

“My First SWOON” by Lisa Schroeder

We’re smack dab in the middle of these “My First SWOON” essays and I hope you’ve been digging them as much as I. Okay, perhaps I’m slightly more into them than you, since for every one I run, that’s one less BLARGH I have to write. And I’m still on the fence about confessing my own “First SWOON” here—the ones running have been so sweet and so cute and mine is…so not. Eileen Cook, whose essay ran previously, was the ultimate in sweet and cute, not to mention hilarious. Thank you, Eileen, for swooning…

Today we reveal the first SWOON of Lisa Schroeder. You’ve got to love Lisa for taking something as potentially daunting as poetry and making it as accessible and relatable as your best friend or your favorite jeans. Here, she brings that same graceful touch she employs in her novels Far From You and I Heart You, You Haunt Me to a personal confession of her own. Thank you, Lisa, for swooning…

We were in that magical place,
between the innocence of girlhood
and the complexity of adolescence.
Always looking ahead
but holding on to the past.
Not sure of much
except who’s hot,
who’s not,
and which group should include us.
One warm summer evening,
hanging out at Gigi’s house,
when the lovely Dawn,
as cool as her name,
brought her tape player over.
She plopped it down and pressed play.
Nothing like The Carpenters or John Denver
like my mom listened to.
Nothing like Simon and Garfunkle
like my dad listened to.
This was different with a capital D.
It made my head nod
and my insides tremble.
He sang to our souls
about falling in love again,
and I had to know who he was.
Dawn smiled and her eyes sparkled
when she said his name.
Sammy Hagar.
We listened.
And we swooned.
After that, we knew one thing
as sure as we knew
the best days were yet to come –
There’s only one way to rock!

Lisa Schroeder is the author of Far From You and I Heart You, You Haunt Me. Visit her at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Eileen Cook

Hope you enjoyed eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between Sin and I. Enjoyed, and found your mission: If you want a SWOON sequel, or a SWOON series, do your part to make SWOON a massive bestseller!

Yechhh, why does self-promotion feel so sullying? Just typing the above makes me want to take a shower…

Before I do, I must return to our next guest blogger and her first SWOON…

The term “perfect stranger” never made sense to me until the day an email popped in my inbox from Eileen Cook. The author of Unpredictable and What Would Emma Do?—whom I’d never met—had just read an ARC of SWOON and felt compelled to tell me how much she dug it. How good did it feel to have this stranger contact me with just the perfect words? Very!

Further proof of Eileen’s perfection: She wants to give you—yeah, you—$75 to spend on books. Mm-hmm, she’s running a contest to celebrate the six-month anniversary of What Would Emma Do? and the winner gets a $75 gift card to her/his book store of choice. So go right now to for entry details. Hurry, contest ends 2 July 2009.

Go, go, go—then come back and read Eileen’s perfectly cute and smart and funny “My First SWOON.”

Falling for Him

I went to a Catholic high school. We were required to attend church on random school days as our souls needed way more saving than could be completed on a Sunday morning. We all grumbled about having to go, but it was better than sitting in math class having to sort out quadratic equations and polynomial expressions. In theory we were supposed to be pondering our eternal souls, but in reality most of us spent the time whispering, passing notes, and plotting our romantic lives. Attendance was required so it provided a great chance to scope out various classmates all in one place. A sort of Target of dating, everything you could want (or never want) all under one convenient roof.

I had a crush on someone. I’ll call him X. Over the course of a few weeks we had passed the preliminary stage of acting like we didn’t care and had moved into the stage of having our friends discuss our potential relationship. God forbid we directly discuss it ourselves.

My Friend (MF): So what’s up with X?
His Friend (HF): Why do you ask, does Eileen like him or something?
MF: Maybe. Does X like her?
HF: Maybe.

This negotiation process had continued for some time and now all parties were fairly clear that:

a) I liked X, and X liked me;
b) Cardboard boxes had better communication skills than we did;
c) Our friends were in training to be United Nations ambassadors by getting maximum information while promising nothing; and
d) It was time to take our relationship to the next level

X and I were engaged in meaningful glances during the church service when it happened. The world began to seem far away. I could hear my best friend whispering to me, but she sounded like an adult from a Snoopy cartoon “wah, wah, wah, wa ha.” I suddenly was covered with a clammy sweat. Black spots started to appear in the corners of my vision. I knew love was supposed to make you feel wonky, but this seemed all wrong. I had to get out of there.

I could see X’s face. His eyes were growing wide as I stumbled towards him and the aisle. I stopped in front of him. My vision narrowed.

That’s the last thing I remembered, then I passed out.

Apparently I gave some sort of primal grunt. My friend described it as “it sounded like you were trying to pass a cow.” I then lunged for X, although I suspect it was more of an uncontrolled fall. No doubt X thought one of the following had happened:

1) I had been overcome by my love for him and had to have him right then, right there,
2) I was having a religious vision;
3) I was a zombie and wanted to eat his brain; or
4) I was a total loser and social geek and should be avoided at all costs in the future.

X went with option four. I regained consciousness after only a minute or so. Everyone was staring at me, except for X who was clearly planning never to look at me again.

This experience taught me a couple valuable lessons.
1) Always eat a good breakfast or you could become lightheaded.
2) Although the idea of “falling for someone” sounds romantic, in reality it involves making unattractive noises and drooling. If you are wearing a skirt you may fall over with your panties on display. This should be avoided at all costs.

My advice is if you plan to skip breakfast be sure to wear pants and don’t fall for anyone unless you’re sure he’s the kind of guy who can be counted on to pick you back up.

Eileen Cook is the author of Unpredictable and What Would Emma Do? as well as the upcoming Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Visit her at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SWOON: the Series…?

Many thanks, Sarah Rees Brennan, for your biting guest blog! But I interrupt these “My First SWOON” essays with a blargh of my own. Many curious readers have written lately wondering if SWOON the novel will become SWOON the series or at least SWOON the sequel. Readers, you’re not the only ones to so inquire….

It is very early morning. AKA the middle of the night. I am abed when someone comes calling inside my head…

Sinclair Youngblood Powers: Dearest lady?
Nina Osa Malkin: Sin?
Sin: It is I. Are you awake?
Me: I am now.
Sin: I’ve disturbed your slumber. Forgive me.
Me: It’s okay. There’s a sixteen-pound cat on my head, Sin—I don’t sleep well in general. So what’s up?
Sin: Nothing. Which is the problem, precisely. I miss our chats…our collaborations. I miss you, dear lady.
Me: Oh, Sin, me too. I love you so much. But your story’s told. SWOON is officially out. You ought to be excited.
Sin: I am! Of course I am. Millions of readers shall thrill to the tale.
Me: Millions, huh? Here’s hoping.
Sin: Except now…I feel so...adrift. What has become of me? Am I truly gone, never to return in print?
Me: Sin, your ego knows no bounds.
Sin: Cruel mistress! You have no notion what it’s like. To be brought to life so vividly, so exquisitely, have your story told so eloquently, and then to…to…to what?
Me: That’s part of the pact, babe, the author-character agreement. The last two words of every tale must be “the end.”
Sin: But it’s unfair.
Me: Oh, come on. You don’t see Dice complaining.
Sin: No. But as narrator she got to tell the story—she had a voice.
Me: You harboring a grudge about that? It’s Dice’s story as much as yours. Besides, the synopsis on the website is in your voice.
Sin: A paltry paragraph! Small favor.
Me: Sin, what do you want from me?
Sin: Can it not continue? The further adventures? I assure you, there are plenty. Especially now that I’m here, in New York…
Me: A sequel. You wake me up in the middle of the night to badger me about a sequel.
Sin: Is it not possible? I can’t imagine you resting on your laurels.
Me: Well, I have been getting emails from readers on the website, wondering about a sequel. And I have been wondering myself—I’m sure the further adventures are intriguing. But here’s the thing, the state of the economy, the recession we’re in right now: My publisher didn’t do me a deal for a series, and the book business is stanko right now, so they probably wouldn’t want a SWOON sequel unless they could bank on a slam dunk—
Sin: Ah, if SWOON were an enormous bestseller…
Me: The book’s only out a couple of weeks and they tell me it’s doing really well. But if it went mega; if readers wrote Simon & Schuster demanding more SWOON; if there were fan clubs…
Sin: Fan clubs! I like the sound of that! So how do we make it happen? Perhaps if I paid a visit to our readers, I could convince them to—
Me: Convince them, huh? You are funny, Sin. Look, I feel like we’ve done our job. We’ve told the story; Simon Pulse is promoting the book. Now it really is up to readers. I mean, I’d love to do more SWOON, but at the moment….I’m a little distracted
Sin: (somewhat indignant) Indeed you are. Because you have another!
Me: What? mean Leo.
Sin: Yes. Leo.
Me: You know about him.
Sin: I know about him. And the young lady; I know about her as well. Ha! People think I’m trouble!
Me: I know, I know, but…well, they’re talking to me, Sin. They’re in me.
Sin: I see. So where does that leave us?
Me: I don’t know, Sin. You go off and make literary history. You’ve got millions of readers to seduce — sorry, convince. And me…
Sin: You, dear lady?
Me: I gotta pee. So I might as well get up, turn on the computer. You know, do what I do.
Sin: Which is?
Me: Find out what happens…

Friday, June 5, 2009

“My First SWOON” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Big wet sloppies to Terra McVoy for swooning. Have I mentioned that Terra is a hot shot in the Georgia book world and I am sucking up for an invite to the Decatur Book Festival? (She is; I am.) Have I also mentioned that this whole “First SWOON” thing is a contest—that if you comment back with the story of your own first swoon, you’re automatically entered to win a signed copy of SWOON (which at 421 pages makes an adequate door stop)? Have I duly noted as well that if people want to hear the unsavory story of my own first swoon, you’ll have to drag it out of me (figuratively, in your comments)?

Onward, then, to our next swooner—which is bound to get tons of response since her demonic debut just hit shelves this week!

The first I knew of Sarah Rees Brennan, she was on top of me. More precisely, the advertisement for her novel The Demon’s Lexicon was above the ad for my novel SWOON on the inside cover of the Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Summer 2009 catalogue. I was instantly intrigued, as I’d long been a fan of The Devil’s Dictionary, that sassy little classic by Ambrose Bierce. As Sarah proves in the following true confession, she’s a sassy little classic herself—I highly recommend you to check out her book ASAP. Thank you, Sarah, for swooning…

My first swoon happened, as is traditional, after my first kiss.

I have to admit, a few other things happened in between.

It all started with my mother, who was born in Liverpool around the right time for her friends to date the Beatles and for her to travel around Europe by smiling at total strangers and asking for lifts. She escaped being sold into slavery, nobody has ever been sure how, married my father and moved to Ireland. Which was a quiet, traditional country where divorce was still not legal.
My mother the flower child promptly started burning underwear in bins on the street. There is a picture of me, aged four, perched on such a bin.

I was wearing a bobble hat. I look like I’m having fun.

Fast forward a few years on, and I am the most hardcore feminist nine-year-old in all the world. I had a bowl haircut, glasses and an expression of near-permanent fury.

Conversations between me and the opposite sex tended to go a bit like this.
“Sarah, could you move?”
“Typical. Just typical. Since the dawn of time men have been oppressing women by treating them as objects to be put out of the way when convenient. Well, let me tell you, you don’t own me. I’m not one of your many toys.”
“Only I kind of have to get home, and you’re leaning against my bike and reading Pride and Prejudice.”
“Well, do you know how many times Mr Darcy told Elizabeth to get off his bike? Never, that’s how many! Think about that. And stop oppressing me!”

My father and my two little brothers also got this treatment. At the time my baby brother Saul was exactly one year old, and I used to trot home from school, pick him up out of his crib and say fondly: “Whoosa good boy den? Whoosa sweetums. Okay, stop crying. Jeez, quit oppressing me.”

It was worse at school, since the boys there were first very puzzled and then extremely amused by me. Sometimes they would come oppress me all through our lunch hour just so I’d get annoyed and deliver one of my impressive speeches about the rights of women. I think everyone quite enjoyed themselves.

One day things went too far.

One day someone suggested Kiss Chase.

At first I was relatively unmoved. It was, of course, a shocking game, and it was infringing the rights of women everywhere. I made that very clear. I climbed on top of the bike rack, which was sort of my special spot, and delivered a speech on the subject.

It would never have occurred to me that things would go any further.

There was this boy in my class. He was tall, blond and had a strange sense of humor. I don’t wish to name names, but let’s just call him Ciaran Oppressor Keogh.

He had a sudden brilliant flash of inspiration.

“Sarah,” he said, advancing on me like a panther. A panther in Nike shoes.

I said: “I am not finished the chapter quit oppr – mff? Mfff!”

Ladies and gentlemen, my first kiss.

Unfortunately for Ciaran Harasser of Womankind Keogh, I was capable of going from zero to feminist fury in a matter of seconds.

I am about to tell you something awful about myself. I hardly know how to put this.

Reader, I bit him.

I bit him kind of hard. Teachers at the scene used harsh words to describe it, such as "overreaction," "disproportionate response" and "frenzied bloodlust."

Ciaran and I were both dragged to the principal’s office, where our mothers showed up and immediately began a catfight.
“My child was assaulted!” said Mum.
“Your child was assaulted?” protested Ms. Keogh. “My child sustained grievous bodily harm! My child is bleeding!”
“My Sarah is a delicate flower,” claimed Mum.
“Only two,” said Ciaran.

I began to think more kindly of him.

It had indeed been only two stitches. What were two stitches to make such a fuss about, in the grand scheme of things?

“This isn’t the only time this has happened, though,” said the principal.

This was simply outrageous. It was definitely the only time I had ever been kissed on the playground and caused a boy to need an insignificant two stitches. Why they allowed principals to tell such lies I did not know.
“There was that incident where Sarah was dropping books down at boys,” said the principal. “From a height.”
“I didn’t hurt them!” I said, shocked. “And the boys were fine too.”
“Sarah just seems to be very volatile around the opposite sex,” said the principal. “Very strong-minded. Which is a good thing in many ways, of course. Though obviously not for Ciaran. I simply wonder if this is the right environment for her. I was thinking – I fancied I might make the suggestion – I think Sarah might be right at home in convent school.”

At first the words didn’t even sink in. What the woman was saying was clearly absurd. Convent school? I wasn’t even Catholic!

Then I looked at all of the serious adult faces around me.

My head went all swimmy. My knees went out from under me.

And that was my first swoon.

Convent school wasn’t actually so bad, even though the kilts were not fetching. I’m still a feminist, and I still think biting wasn’t such a bad idea, though now I’m older and wiser I admit making the poor boy get stitches was going a bit far.

And when I was sixteen and at a party, a tall blond boy with rather an interesting scar on his upper lip walked back into my life.

But that’s another swoon.
Sarah Rees Brennan is the author of The Demon’s Lexicon. Visit her at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“My First SWOON” by Terra Elan McVoy

Thank you, Amanda, for swooning. It’s awesome to learn of your newfound puppy love, but you did open the door for me to wank about a cause I take seriously: Putting an end to the unnecessary suffering and euthanasia of the world’s homeless animals. While there’s nothing wrong with purchasing from a reputable breeder, there’s nothing better than adopting a rescued or surrendered dog or cat or insert-favorite-species-here. Your local shelter has the perfect bundle of joy (and, yes, poop) waiting for you now, so if you’re looking to add a little love to your life, please, please, please get ye to your neighborhood shelter — or if you’re in Brooklyn on Saturday June 6th, join me at the Love Wanted Adopt-a-Thon at Salem Church, 450 67th Street.

Okay, enough of my yakking (almost). Before I present our next “First Swoon” guest blogger, I must remind everyone of the “My First Swoon” contest. That’s when you comment back with the story of your own first swoon by 30 June—which is your chance to win a signed copy of SWOON. Reader and all-around awesome person Kiera Cass did, but we both tried in vain to post her vlog here. Since that didn't work, here is the link — check it out for inspiration and b/c it's so dang cute:

Cool, yes? Is Kiera’s the most swoonworthy entry? We shall see, so you better send your blog or vlog comment before time runs out. And oh yeah, if anyone wants to hear the horror story of my first swoon, comment back and tell me so — I'm not convinced you want it yet!

All rightee then…

Terra Elan McVoy is a book person in the best possible sense of the word. She not only writes lovely novels like her debut, Pure, she helps run Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, one of the coolest indie bookstores in the land. Most authors simply sit at their desks weaving their dreams into words—Terra splits her time between that and ensuring that writers as a community have a venue to reach their readers. Thanks, Terra, for everything you do, and for swooning…

Picture wrestling an angry octopus.
In a small cage made of chain-link fence.
With your tongue.

Okay that was my first kiss.

My first swoon on the other hand—well, that was electric firework daffodils streaming through every nerve in my entire body and shooting out the back of my head, leaving my hippie-long hair standing straight on end.

That was with a different guy, of course.

The beginning of my freshman year, there was a dance at my school. A dance at which some of the most intimidatingly cool guys in the senior class were going to DJ. Everyone wanted to be there, including a lot of my friends who didn’t even go to school with me. He came with some of them. I noticed him right away, with his hair so blonde it glowed almost white.

I love to dance. And I always have. So, whenever there was a dance in a gym or an armory or even (as in this case) my high school cafeteria, if the song was good I was out on the dance floor. The friends of mine who were best and closest to me were the ones who shared this enthusiasm, even the boys. Because all the songs were good that night, we were all dancing hard and fast and constant—even him.

The more we danced, the closer we got. It started with the eye contact and the smiles. Then we shifted to being either always directly across from or next to each other. Next came the shoulder-bumps, the elbow touches. Eventually we were sitting together, cooling off, on an out-of-sight bench, talking and pressing our knees together. I don’t remember what either of us said. What I remember is his mouth.

Sweet pillowy fire—that’s what happened when this boy kissed me. It was like someone put a sugar-coated sparkler against my tongue and held it there, tasting and teasing. That was all he did, this boy I’d never met, but that was enough. I was so stunned I only recall snatches of the rest of the night; somehow giving him my phone number, learning he was the ex of one of my girlfriends. (One whom, I shamefully admit, only made this swoon all the more revengefully sweet.)

That kiss that could-have-shattered-Cinderella’s-slippers wasn’t all this boy had up his rugby shirt sleeves, either. No, there were a couple more stairs down which I would tumble, reeling over him: the letters written to me in class and sent in the mail, the first mix tapes I’d ever gotten (each song with its own powerful message), and (ah, sweet burning!) those kisses on just my fingertips and palms at the movies that I somehow felt in my pants.

Like all swoons, however, this one was hard and fast and over really quick.

I was babysitting when he called me. He and my jilted friend had been talking, he said. Spending some time, he explained. And even though he cared about me (he wanted me to know), they’d decided to give it another try. I think that’s the part that sucked the most. It wasn’t that he was dumping me; it’s that he was getting back with her. To this day I can still picture the expression that must’ve been on her face —that purse of satisfied retribution—knowing she’d pulled the knife from her own back (the one I planted there) and was plunging it into mine.

He and I still liked to dance, however, and we still ran in the same social circles, so I’d see him (with her) from time to time at the local all-ages clubs, or at some football game. Once I got over my embarrassment it was easy to be friends. By October I’d met someone else who liked to dance anyway. He was tall and dark with eyelashes as long and thick as a girl’s, and he did the weirdest thing—he became my friend.

Eventually he would teach me a thing or two about swooning, too, but that’s another story.

Terra Elan McVoy is the author of Pure. Visit her at