Ernie and Bert—and the (Sometimes) Benefits of Insomnia

Sure, sure, I know that you’re supposed to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. I’ve heard it can do wonderful things for your health and well-being. It might even leave you less groggy in the morning. Insomnia, however, has been a long-time companion of mine. Though I have no Boogie-Woogie Sheep to help me dance myself to sleep (alas), those precious eight hours can prove as elusive to me as they are to Ernie in this song.

There are times when this is a burden, without question. But there are advantages to say, having your natural clock wake you up at 3:30 in the morning. One of them is having some writing time.

In an ideal world, I’d have hours every day at my disposal to write and edit and think about the various stories I have percolating. But I work and I have a family, and that just isn’t realistic. So, I figure, if I’m already awake in the wee hours, why not put said wee hours to some good use?

The laptop sits by my bedside each night, and is frequently used. Sometimes I write down things I’ve dreamed about—what is now a large and unwieldy YA project began as a less-than-pleasant dream—and other times I go back in and revise whatever I was working on before bedtime. I’ve written down whole rough drafts of picture book stories that I barely remembered afterward.

Yes, this leaves me tired. Yes, I do realize it’s less than ideal. But you’ve got to work with what you have. And what I have is insomnia.

So, even though I know those tap dancing sheep would be lovely to have around, I prefer to let my much-beloved husband rest—and write myself to sleep instead.

Let’s (Re)Start at the Very Beginning

Throughout my entire life, I have loved The Sound of Music. I don’t mean that I enjoy it, or appreciate it in some detached way—I seriously love it. So when I sat down to write this post, I fully expected to put a lovely clip of the original movie in it.

Then I saw this.

It’s extremely difficult not to love this dance in an Antwerp train station. Sure, the flash mob thing has been done to death. But there’s a real exuberance here that’s impossible to resist. From the gentleman who rather enthusiastically begins it all, to the people flowing down the staircase, to the dudes in business suits giving it their all, this is a wonderful re-imagining of the original.

Which brings me to the reason I wanted to include this song in the first place. I’ve been working on the same draft of the same YA story for a long, long while now. It’s been, at times, exhilarating, exhausting, tedious, and downright wonderful. But now, the time has come to lay this draft to rest and start at the very beginning once again.

I admit, this is a little intimidating.

As I said, it took a long time to get here, and there blood, sweat, and tears have been shed along the way. But the story has evolved since I first began it, and I know now—which I didn’t when I started—much more about these characters and where I want their story to go.

This is not easy work. But it’s where the real guts of the story develop—the devil is in the details, but also in the revision, and I mean that in a good way.

So, on this lovely Friday morning (no snow at last!), I’m ready to enthusiastically throw myself back in and give this revision all that I can.

But I might need to watch that video one more time for inspiration….

Coming to the Dark Side, Where (Sadly) There Are No Cookies

It’s been a bumpy week of writing. I’m so far along in the first draft of the young adult story I’ve been working on that I can practically taste the ending that’s in sight.

But I still have to get there. And the road to the ending isn’t a pretty one.

For the entire seeming ages on which I’ve been writing this story, I’ve known how it was going to end and what was going to happen to get the characters there. I’ve known that there was going to have to be real unhappiness—even ugliness—at this point in the story. Now I have to write it. And, honestly, I’m just not someone who naturally tends toward the dark side of things.

Even if you did tend that way, though, I can’t imagine it’s easy to write about difficult things.

To say that you’ve grown attached to your characters is basically to say that you write. It’s impossible to spend this much time with anyone—even someone fictional—and not be completely invested in their lives. For someone who forms attachments rather too easily, it’s a real problem.

Because when it comes right down to it, I know what the story needs and what has to happen to my characters…but I don’t want have to be the one to do it to them.

How do you write Harry Potter’s walk to face Voldemort in what he’s been assured will be certain death? How do you make the soaring spirit of Anne Shirley deal with the crushing blow of losing her first child? How do you leave Hazel without Augustus?

The answer is: I don’t know.

So I procrastinate. I tackle my reading list. I dabble with other story ideas. I write a blog post.

What I really need to do, though, is put my nose back to the grindstone and face up to writing on the dark side. If anyone’s willing to provide cookies, just let me know.

A Valentine’s Celebration of the Good Boys of YA Lit

There are girls (and women) who have a serious soft spots for the bad boys of life and of literature—many of my dearest friends among them. For some reason, I have never, ever been one of them. Sure, Heathcliff is fun to read about, but would you really want to hang out with him? Even when I was much younger, I tended to lean toward funny, smart, charming guys.

Thankfully in the world of YA literature, there are still plenty of these “good” boys to have crushes on to offset the depressed, darkly brooding romantic heroes that still plague the pages of books everywhere. And, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are a few of my favorites.

Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables

Gilbert Blythe, from L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series

Anne thought she wanted brooding, but it turned out she wanted Gilbert. Sure, he started off his relationship with her by pulling her braids and calling her “carrots.” But soon thereafter, his roguish good looks and playful spirit won all of our hearts. Though it looked like he’d never gain Anne’s affections, his love stayed true, and he persisted in dreaming of his life with her. Generations of girls have swooned.

Po from Kristin Cashore's Graceling

Po, from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Bitterblue

Po may have looked like something of a bad boy—piercings, tattoos—but was good to his very core. His romance with (arguably a bad girl) Katsa is one of the most believable love stories in YA literature. Their internal conversations once she realizes what his grace truly is are almost thrilling in their understatement. And those silver and gold eyes…sigh.


Will Pary in His Dark Materials trilogy

Will Parry, from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy

Brave, noble, loyal and utterly trustworthy, Will fights to protect his mother, and ultimately gives up his true love in order to save the rest of the universe(s). He’s definitely cut from a more serious cloth than the previous two romantic heroes, but he’s the type you’d always want in your corner.


Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games

Peeta Mellark, from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy

The whole Gale thing never really held any water for me. It was Peeta all the way, from the moment he threw the bread to a young and starving Katniss in the first book. My heart broke for him when the Capitol managed to make him lose himself—the one thing he most feared—and then cheered when he ultimately came back to himself and Katniss. He’s a golden dandelion of hope.

Augustus Waters, The Fault in Our Stars


Augustus Waters, from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

The thinking girl’s romantic hero, his thoughts were stars he could not fathom into constellations. I literally laughed and wept when reading this book, and felt—along with Hazel—thankful to have known Augustus. To write more would be to get emotional about the book all over again. And I’m just not going there on Valentine’s Day.


Michael Moscovitz, The Princess Diaries

Michael Moscovitz, from Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series

He writes songs, he’s a computer nerd, and he’s the older brother of Mia’s best friend. But who, really, didn’t could resist a boy who writes songs about you being a tall drink of water? Mia couldn’t.



And, the ultimate proof that I love and cherish good boys? I married one. Smart, funny, charming, incredibly caring—he’s the love of my life. So, Happy Valentine’s Day to him and to you…and to whoever your romantic hero is!