Saturday, May 29, 2010

Launch for Restoring Harmony

Today is the (Canadian) launch day for my fellow writer friend Joelle Anthony for her fascinating novel RESTORING HARMONY. Here's a quick peek:

The year is 2041, and for Molly McClure, her life is pretty much the same as it’s always been. She was only six when the Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population knew it. When she is forced to leave the comfort of her home and small island in British Columbia to travel down to Oregon, Molly discovers how hard the Collapse has been on the rest of the world.

What starts out as a quick trip to the U.S. to convince her grandfather to return to Canada and be the island’s doctor, turns into a rescue mission, a test of Molly’s strengths, ingenuity, and sheer determination. Will a farm girl like Molly survive in this upturned world? Will she be able to return with her grandpa in time for him to help her ailing mother? And just how much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back to B.C.?

Find out in Restoring Harmony by Joƫlle Anthony, May 2010 Putnam for Young Readers

I love this because the main character in my new book is a cellist - great minds think alike. I just got my copy and can't wait to dive in! It's getting great reviews all over the place, so head down to your local indie or buy it online if you don't have one. Check out this amazing book as soon as you can.

On this date: In 1917, John F. Kennedy was born.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Head Over to Story Secrets for a Chance to Win

One of the reasons I love being a YA author is that the community is so supportive. If you are interested in winning a copy of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, head on over to author Holly Cupala's blog for a great interview and a chance to win your own signed copy.

Holly's debut YA TELL ME A SECRET will be coming out in June - keep your eyes out for this fabulous new book!

On this date: In 1937, Volkswagen is founded.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview with Organizer Geralin Thomas

In one of those happy Twitter accidents, I became friends with Geralin Thomas, one of the organizers on the A&E TV show Hoarders. She has a great website called Metropolitan Organizing which is full of great tricks and tips for organizing your own life. If you're a fan of the show like I am, you appreciate how understanding she is with people in crisis and how much patience she brings to the job. It was a thrill and an honor to interview her recently:

I actually considered becoming an organizer at one point. How did you become a professional?

I’ve been organizing as long as I can remember. Even as a young girl I appreciated having quality over quantity. I was emphatic about keeping only one Barbie and wanted nothing to do with any of her friends. Instead of dating Ken, my Barbie stayed in on Saturday nights organizing her dream home & evening gown collection which was color-coded in ROY G. BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, Violet).

In elementary school, when we started diagramming sentences using the Reed-Kellogg system, I was in organizing geek heaven. I knew then and there that if organizing words could bring me such joy, organizing tangible stuff would be nirvana.

Once I had children of my own, the organizational skills had to grow exponentially. My two boys, born only 14 months apart, provided all sorts of organizational challenges – not just their stuff, but their time, their activities, and how everything fit into our family’s lives and our space. As every parent knows, children bring a new world of social networking, and the moms and dads I met all had their organizing challenges, too. I had fun helping solve some of their organizing puzzles, to the point where I realized this was a business opportunity; parents asked for my advice and hands-on solutions and were willing to pay for it.

2. 2 Everyone knows you from your work on Hoarders on A&E. How did you start working on the show?

I became involved with the show thru a very “old-school” technique -- they picked up the phone, called me and we chatted. I have worked with hoarders for a while, so when I was offered an opportunity to work with them on film I leapt at the opportunity. Through NSGCD I am a Certified Professional Organizer specializing in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD) and have a certificate of study in basic hoarding issues.

3. 3 You are so patient with the participants on the show – has there ever been a situation that you felt you just couldn’t handle?

Every single hoarding case has many challenging moments; each and every job is emotionally and physically draining. The homes are often full of safety hazards so spending long days in that environment isn’t healthy and once I walk out the door, for the day, the day’s events remain in my mind.

I do not accept clients that are animal hoarders, have dementia or live in squalor - - I don't take on those clients because they require a different skills set.

4. 4 One of the most difficult things about hoarding is that the problem tends to be hard to manage. Do you see a lot of success stories?

In my experience, hoarding is treatable but not curable. With the "Harm Reduction" method, success is measured by keeping someone SAFE so yes, there are plenty of success stories. Dr. Michael A. Tompkins covers the Harm Reduction method in his book, Digging Out.

I also consider it a huge success when clients begin to get educated about this disorder and agree to collaborate with both a mental health professional and myself.

Besides that, every step towards the client’s goal is a cause for celebration. My goal is to make the organizing experience a pleasant one for them and have them realize that organizing is just the tip of the iceberg.

5. 5 We only see two days on the show – do you work with the participants longer, either before or after the filming?

So far, I haven’t worked with anyone located in my home state of NC. I refer my TV clients to a qualified professional organizer who lives near them whenever possible. I do however stay in touch with many of the clients via phone and email. I even talk to some of their family members too, with their permission of course.

6. 6 Do you think Hoarders on A&E has had an impact on the disorder?

The show has indeed had an impact - - people now know there is help available and know the term "hoarding." The show provides aftercare so people can hire help and learn more about the disorder and the treatment.

Individuals can apply to be on the show by filling out a form at or access other resources listed at

One of the things I love most about the show is that it provides the public with an armchair view of a hoarder’s home. Though some viewers might cast unkind or unsympathetic remarks, the majority of viewers are supportive; cheering on the hoarder while applauding the bravery it takes to broadcast their homes and lives to a film crew.

Best of all, viewers can witness the different approaches and various techniques being used. Personally, I prefer a ‘team approach’ where several organizers are brought in to sort and purge while I work individually with the client. When emotional issues arise, I remind them that these are issues they should discuss with their therapist and that we have a job to do. My goal is that the client is understood, supported and cared for. I am painfully honest about expectations and feel it is important for them to realize that they will be experiencing some discomfort. I stay beside them the entire journey and when they decide they want me in the driver's seat, I am always willing to take the wheel.

I also think viewers are inspired to ultimately buy less stuff. And in addition, I believe the show holds the potential to motivate masses of American viewers to get organized and develop their own internal efficiency.

7. 7 If someone is interested in becoming an organizer, what is the best way to start?

Explore a lot of websites and blogs outside the field of organizing. It’s beneficial to investigate business ideas and models from somewhat related areas, such as record management companies, interior designers, therapists, handyman services, personal chefs, fitness trainers, etc.

For parents reading this, your children’s teachers are probably among the best organized people you will ever meet – volunteer in the classroom and watch a master of time management, space management, and stuff management at work! When you’re at a friend’s house, see how they organize their kitchen drawers, or their child’s artwork and school supplies. You may be able to transpose an idea you saw for a kitchen drawer to a brilliant idea for sorting something totally different, like jewelry or office supplies. You never know what will jump out at you and trigger an idea for another application.

8. 8 On the flip side, if someone is in a hoarding situation, do you have any advice or resources you’d like to share?

First, educate yourself about the condition. Being a “pack rat” may be due to chronic disorganization, which is not the same as compulsive hoarding. You can find more information on the A & E website, and I’ve written about this issue on my blog.

Second, seek support, whether from a mental health professional and/or qualified professional organizer who specializes in hoarding and chronic disorganization. You can contact the NSGCD for referrals. You'll find a list of questions to ask when hiring a professional organizer on my blog.

For additional resources, visit the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation and Children of Hoarders websites.

Thanks so much to Geralin for her time! If you have any questions for her, you can pop over to her blog or ask them in the comments.

On this date: In 1977, Star Wars opened.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Line of the Day

Mere moments into the song, Paolo rose and pushed his way past us on his way to the aisle, no doubt to empty his bladder or to fill it back up with another shot of whisky, his attendance at the symphony only another business obligation as far as he was concerned.

I have to say, I'm loving this revision. Revising, in my case, is basically code for rewriting the entire last four chapters, but its almost done and I think it's looking good.

I'll keep you posted!

On this date: In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Sacred Cows

William Faulkner supposedly said "In writing, you must kill your darlings." You have to take the best things about your book and be ready to get rid of them if their absence will make the book stronger. At least I think that's what he meant.

I'm finishing up my revisions for the new book (which still doesn't have a title, but we're getting closer) and I've been realizing how much you have to be willing to sacrifice to make the book as good as it can be. Both my readers and Agent E (and me if I'm being honest) had questions about the motivation of one of the main characters. Finding the solution to the problem has taken many hours of staring into space, picking up scenarios, turning them over and seeing if they fit. In the process, I started to question everything from the main character's 'issues' to thinking that I might get rid of the villan all together. I took apart every character's thread and followed it from beginning to end, seeing where the flaws were and if the character really did what they set out to do. If they didn't live up to billing, I was fully prepared to get rid of them.

In the end, I'm having to rewrite the last four chapters and change the order of several more. After a lot of soul searching, I discovered that the villain could indeed stay, but that her motivation was completely different than what I'd thought. Yes, rewriting the last four chapters means a lot of hard work is now in the delete file. I lost many day's worth of writing. But I think that this will make the book so much better.

When you're revising, you not only have to kill your darlings, but you can't have any sacred cows. No character is too important for the delete key. No scenes are too strong, no phrasing is too wonderful that it absolutely has to stay. If you think something is wrong with your book, pick apart every little thing to see if it needs to stay.

I've seen many writers who "revise" by changing a few words here and there while ignoring glaring holes in their characters and plot. That brings to mind another saying - something about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

On this date: In 1981, Pope John Paul II is shot.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Help Nashville, Get a Book

In conjunction with the wonderful writers/editors/agents/bloggers who are doing everything they can to help with the troubles in Nashville with the auction at Do The Write Thing for Nashville, I'm offering a signed copy of DLS plus a tiny shabby teddy. I'm also offering a signed copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson that I picked up at their event last week. They''ll be up for auction until Monday, so if you're interested, hop on over there.

Even if you already have a copy of both books (why else wouldn't you bid?), there are a TON of awesome things to bid on, so you should go and check it out.

Friday, May 7, 2010

So, How Was the Event?

Me, Jenny Han, Michael Grant, Susane Colasanti and Beth Fantaskey

I have a confession to make - yes, the book came out in February but last night was my very first bookstore event ever. (I'm confident that my publicist won't see this.) The uber-fabulous Jenn Laughgren took pity on me and included me in the launch for Not Your Mother's Book Club at the Books Inc. in Berkeley, CA. (If you're local and haven't been to the new Books Inc. on Fourth St, you should go. It's awesome and I'm going to be hanging around there a lot more.)I've been calling it 'four famous authors and me' because that's what I felt like, but they were all so awesome and made me feel like I belonged.

We all got to sit at the big tables, talk about the book, do a quick read and answer questions. I've seen it done a ton of times, but I have to say it was really amazing to be on the other side of the room. The audience was great and there were some familiar faces (including bloggers Alicia and Nancy and wonderful authors Jandy Nelson and Cheryl Herbsman) so I didn't freak out too much. I always feel like I'm buzzing around and sounding crazy at bookstore events (even ones that aren't my own) but my friend Amy said I came off as normal (of course, she lives next door, so she pretty much has to say that).

Me and Susane signing books.

Beth Fantaskey went first, mostly because my only request was that I NOT go first. She did a great job reading from her newest book Jekel Loves Hyde, but I felt bad for her because she was only in town for 24 hours and was staying out by the airport. I hope she gets to come back and stay longer. I went next and I guess it went fine. It's all a blur. Then Susane Colasanti read and talked about being eternally teen. I have to confess, I was most nervous about meeting her because, well, she's written a bunch of books and met a lot of famous people. But she was really awesome and made me feel great. Then it was Jenny Han's turn to read - I'd read Shug years ago and didn't know what to expect but she was deadpan and hilarious. Last up (and thank God we made him go last because I certainly wouldn't want to follow him) was Michael Grant. If you've ever read The Babysitters Club or Animorphs, you've seen his work - like somewhere between 150 and 200 books. He showed us the new trailer for the Gone series and was a really nice guy.

After questions, we signed books. One of my favorite people who asked me to sign (besides Savannah - loved her and her name) was either a librarian or a teacher at Berkeley High (I'm not sure which - sorry!). She handed me the book with the clear plastic library jacket and the library stamp on the side. It felt so wrong to write in a library book, but she insisted, so there you go. Jenn and Co. also had me sign a ginormous stack of stock copies of Dirty Little Secrets, so if you need one, go to Books Inc. because they have a lot they need to unload. Bookstore events are always really expensive because I have to buy everyone's books and have them signed. This one was no exception (DH, just kidding. I spent no money).

Now that the first one is out of the way, I'm excited to do it again. Of course, Books Inc. has set the bar really high and I can't thank them enough.

On this date: In 1812, Robert Browning was born.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Famous Authors and Me in Berkeley-TONIGHT!

Are you in the Bay Area? Do you like pizza? Come see some famous authors, get books signed and eat pizza at Not Your Mother's Book Club at Books Inc. in Berkeley - 7pm tonight!

On this date: In 1994 the Chunnel opens between England and France.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets Trailer

I always say that one of the reasons that I love writing is that something amazing can happen any day. Today was one of those days. I got an email from a librarian who read the book and took her own time and creativity to make a book trailer for me! (For those of you who aren't familiar with book trailers, they are short movies about the book.)

It is completely amazing and full of details that are important to the book (see if you can spot the Underdog glass). With no further ado and a HUGE amount of thanks to Naomi Bates, click on the link to see her creation:

SchoolTube - Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

On this date: In 1862, the Battle of Pueblo is fought in Mexico.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing About 'Issues' That Aren't Your Own

Please forgive my blogger-lameness lately. I've been out of town (hello Chicago!) and have just started working on revisions for the still-untitled book (which Agent E loved - more on that later).

While I was gone, the lovely and talented agent Mary Kole over on had a great post about writing 'issue' books and the responses that followed (her blog was just chosen as one of the best agent blogs by Writer's Digest, as well it should be. I can say that because Agent E doesn't blog.), but since I was so late to the post I decided to comment on it over here.

One of the questions I get all the time is if I grew up in a hoarded home like Lucy did. The answer is no. I've never even been in a house that was as bad as Lucy's. I have been in hoarder's homes before which gave me a good jumping-off point, but my house growing up was always neat and clean (and I would say that even if my mom didn't read the blog).

The best compliments I ever get are from people who grew up like Lucy did and wonder how I ever got so many details right. One adult child of a hoarder told me that it felt like I had a hidden camera in her house while she was growing up. Some children of hoarders have told me that the book is difficult for them to read because it hits so close to home. While these comments are painful, at the same time I give a little inner 'whoo hoo' because that means I did it right.

I got the idea to write a book about hoarding from a magazine article I read on adult children of hoarders. I thought about it for awhile and started "what iffing" the subject. What if I grew up like that? What if I was all alone with my secrets? God bless Google, because a simple search put me in touch with the website Children of Hoarders. Several women who were on the site agreed to be my research partners and were invaluable with helping me to understand their experiences. I literally couldn't have done it without them. In addition, I downloaded many pictures of hoarded homes and watched the documentary My Mother's Garden many, many times while I was writing (neither Hoarders on A&E or Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC were on yet).

My biggest fear was that I'd get an important detail wrong. That someone who really was an expert on the subject would see a big red flag and know that I was faking it. So far, that hasn't happened (although I still worry).

When you write issue books, you not only have a duty to get the details right for the story, but you need to become an expert on the subject for the people who will contact you once the books come out. Because they will. You'll get heartbreaking emails from teenagers who are still living in a hoarding situation and from adults whose aging parents are living in danger from their hoarded homes. And you'll have to know what to tell them. You'll have to have your facts right so that you can give them the advice they need in the short term and send them on to experts who can help them more than you can. You'll have to be so immersed in your subject that you can simply be an understanding ear so that people in pain will know they aren't alone.

One of the great things about books is that they let you walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Even more than TV or movies, books give you an intimate look at a life that isn't your own. I didn't set out to write an 'issue' book - Lucy's issues in Dirty Little Secrets didn't start out as my own, but over the past couple of years, in some small way, they've become mine too.

On this date: In 1933, James Brown was born.