In Which I Reveal . . . the Plot!

The Penguin Fall 2010 catalog is officially out in the world, so I'm finally going to share with you WHAT MY NOVEL IS ABOUT.


It's about . . .


Hardy har har. I am so mean/lame.

Okay, here's the REAL DESCRIPTION:

A contemporary romance set in the City of Light, guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna — and readers — have long awaited?

Do you know what my favorite part is? Can you guess?


I am very, very excited about my novel, of course, but I am waaaaay more excited about Étienne St. Clair. I had so much fun writing him! I hope you'll like him, too. Also, two notes about the catalog:

(1) His name is spelled wrong. This version here, on my website, is correct.

(2) There's one part I cut, because it's sort of misleading:

"Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible."

It makes it sound like his accent is tri-cultural. He's certainly tri-cultural (and swoon-worthy!), but he has only one accent.

And that accent . . . is English.

HBM for the win!

(DISCLAIMER: Étienne St. Clair does not wear breeches nor cravats. But he does have a T-shirt with Napoleon on it. So that's something.)

In related news, according to Amazon, Anna will be released one week earlier, on December 2nd. I haven't been able to get this confirmed — there's a good chance it could still slide one way or the other — but for now, YAY! Earlier is better!

Sooooo, let's see. What have I been up to?

I'm back from Minneapolis after a surprise overnight layover in Atlanta. My first flight was delayed on the runway, which meant I missed my connecting flight. By ten minutes. That lost ten minutes? Yeah. It cost TEN HOURS. Which was super fun.

Alone. In an airport. For ten hours. With a sore throat, a cold, and propensity to cry in public. I know the situation could have been far worse, but it was certainly . . . unpleasant. And when I staggered home, my copy edits were waiting on my porch.


Which leads me to this. After a recent post, the fabulous Katie asked:

I have an editing question: I am thinking you are past the revising part where you have to make up new stuff so why is this editing business so hard? You are my second friend to talk about how utterly draining it is. Why?

Like, there must be some kind of horrible stage between what I would call "major revision" and "editing commas."

Do explain.

First . . . HA!

Second . . . ah, okay. I think the easiest way for me to answer this question is to explain each stage of editing that I've been through. Sorry. This already long post is about to get much longer:

November 2007 — I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo. It was not called Anna and the French Kiss, but that's what it would become. And I use the word "novel" extremely loosely.

December 2007 to September 2008 — I turned that scrap of a novel into something functional. Bit by bit, piece by piece. There were rewrites in here, but these were still of the "figuring out the major plot" variety. There were also several times that I shared chapters or scenes with critique partners, who gave me feedback. But there weren't any HUGE overhaul revisions. I was still just figuring out the basics.

October 2008 — I show the completed (again, loose definition) Anna to three critique partners. This is the first time I am given MAJOR feedback that requires MAJOR revision. Big things are cut, new things are added, the last third of my novel is rewritten. (It will be rewritten several more times.)

November 2008 to January 2009Anna is put into the hands of my dream agent. I begin work on my second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door. In early January, my dream agent signs me! The world explodes.

January 2009 to February 2009 — I do another revision for my agent. This one is also large and intimidating, but exciting as well. My agent has ideas. I have ideas. They match up. Things look good!

March 2009 to April 2009Anna is placed into the hands of two editors. Both are interested. (OMG.) Both say my novel needs serious revision. (Yes. It did.) One editor wants to talk with me about these revisions, to see if our thoughts are aligning. The other asks me to do a revision now. I cut 10,000 words in one week. THAT was a crazy revision. I'm fortunate enough to receive offers from both editors. I accept with the editor I did not do the revision for, but now I have a shiny new copy to share! I send my editor another revision — it's almost like the last one, but with two scenes I'd cut added back in. (One of these scenes is still in the book. The other is not.)

May 2009 to September 2009 — I work on Lola. This is not my happiest nor most productive period. In late September I learn Anna's publishing date has been bumped up a year. Yippee! Which means my editor and I have a LOT of work to do. And not much time to do it. (Not so yippee.)

October 2009 — I edit the bajeezus out of Anna. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE revision. Multiple chapters cut! Big scenes rewritten! Blah blah blah! Stressssss!! I want to die!!! But then . . . I'm sitting on my prettiest copy of Anna ever. Happy, happy, happy.

November 2009 to February 2010 — I start my third novel. And then I have a month in Paris! And then more Lola. Also, I spend a lot of time catching up on my friends' projects.

March 2010 — I receive my line edits. Line edits are the first time an editor corrects things at a sentence level. For some writers, this round goes smoothly and quickly. And then there are others. I am an other. I'm honestly thankful for this — I wanted to work with my editor because I knew she'd challenge me — but ohmyword. I had a little more than two weeks (one of which was spent in NYC, and was essentially lost) to rewrite the first chapter, cut an entire chapter, and fix . . . everything else. This was another big one. Done in a week. Maddening and heartbreaking and exhilarating.

April 2010 — Welcome to the present! I'm currently working on my first round of copy edits. There will be multiple rounds, but I'm not sure how many. Copy edits are the tinier edits. IMPORTANT edits. But, yes, commas and capitalization and grammar and fact-checking and such, which is far less stressful.

Less stressful, unless you happen to be either Kiersten White or Manning Krull, both of whom are on the receiving end of my endless emails.

To Kiersten: This or that? This or that? This or that?
To Manning: French iz sooooo haaaarrddd. Helllpppp.

Novels are NOT written by one person. I would gladly add the names of at least a dozen people (hello Kiersten, hello Manning) to my cover. Including my copy editor. Whomever you are, dear copy editor, thank you for being awesome. I'm learning so much from you!

So — now that I've taken this question way too far — yes. There is a horrible stage between "major revision" and "editing commas." The name for that stage? MORE GIGANTICALLY HUGE INTIMIDATING REVISIONS. FOR YEARS. IT DOESN'T END. EVER. AND IT WANTS TO DESTROY YOUR SOUL!!

On that happy note, I need to get back to work. Bye!


Greetings from Minneapolis! (And now I'm going to talk about New York.)

I feel as if I'm cheating on my current trip with this previous one! I'm currently visiting my sister's family in Minnesota. We're supposed to be at the zoo right now, but my nephew (wonderful, sweet) decided today would make a much better day for vomiting (orange, stinky).

So . . . I have a rare afternoon off!

Let's go back to New York, shall we?

Thank you so, so much to everyone who left suggestions in my comments. The embarrassing thing was that I only had two items on my to-do list — the Tim Burton exhibition and frozen hot chocolate — and . . . I didn't do either one! (To be fair, Burton was sold out. Which was UN-fair.) Also, the only comment that I directly answered, "Yes! I'll do that!" was Lilie's suggestion to eat at Cafe Lalo and . . . I didn't do that either! (I ate mac and cheese across the street at Fred's. It was delicious, and I made a new friend. Hi, Heather!)

But I will go back for the food I missed.

Anyway, here's what I DID do . . .

Thanks to comments from Connie and Gate Keeper, my friends and I went to the High Line, a new urban park built onto the old freight train lines above Manhattan's West Side. The day was GORGEOUS. Spring had just arrived in the city, and it was lovely to see it blooming between the old tracks:

Helloooo, billboard.

Marjorie and I, accompanied by my yellow magic bag of tricks.

But we didn't realize that not all of the High Line has been completed yet! So we decided to make the trek up to Central Park through the West Side.

The Upper West is so pretty!

Buuuut we weren't the only ones with this idea:


At the park, we saw more beautiful trees in various stages of spring:

Some white . . .

Some green.

And . . . we ate.

OF COURSE, we ate! We stopped inside the nearby Levain Bakery, which was also recommended by Connie. (And by someone else, too. I'm sorry, I forgot whom!) The Levain Bakery is famous for their SIX OUNCE cookies.

Their sexy, sexy SIX OUNCE cookies:

Extreme sexy close-up. (Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip.)

Marjorie and Manning modeling Chocolate Chip Walnut. Oh la la!

Yeah. Two thumbs up for Levain! Or six, if you count all of our thumbs.

And . . . there was more delicious foodage. Most of it I didn't photograph, but I couldn't resist this happy shot of Marjorie and her beloved Nutella:

And this was from The Bagel Store in their neighborhood. Whole wheat with jalepeño cream cheese. YUM:

It makes me despise North Carolina bagels.

More Brooklyn . . . stuff:

Look! It's a thing on a roof! I LOVE things on roofs!

For the wizard rockers who read my blog. Looks like the cover to a Harry and the Potters album, no?

This was the most random thing of the trip:

A dirty wine glass filled with water and a jar of achiotina. Like you do. (What is this story??)


"Tom Hanks? More like TOM HUNKS!"


Though this . . . well, this was a close second:

Oh, what's that? You can't read it? ALLOW ME TO ENLARGE:

And now I'm gonna look for one of those for my nephew.

(Just kidding. I promise. Sort of.)

EDITED TO ADD: I miss you, M&M. Thank you for a perfect week.


Editing + Meeting My Editor!

ME #1: OH. Who is THAT??

ME #2: That's our celebrity boyfriend, Jim Sturgess.

ME #1: Wow. Why does bedhead look so much sexier on guys?

ME #2: It really is unfair.

ME #1: [wipes drool off chin, onto jeans] So why are you giving me this picture? What did I do to earn it?


JIM: [enters office] Are you talking to yourself again?

ME: [slams laptop shut] No!

JIM: Bloody hell. So this is where of all of our coffee mugs went.

ME: Do you have a reason for coming in here?

JIM: I, er, don't want you to take this the wrong way, but the other celebrity boyfriends and I have been talking, and, well, you really ought to consider a shower. How many days has it been?


JIM: No! No. You're just . . . a little ripe. That's all.


JIM: I know, darling! It's just . . . is that tuna you're eating? Straight from the packet?

ME: I was too tired to cook.

JIM: So you're eating tuna. Straight from the packet.

ME: Um. It would appear so.

JIM: With your fingers.

ME: [blinks] You have preeeetty hair.

JIM: [leans out door] BACKUP! I NEED BACKUP!

So I've been editing Anna and the French Kiss. And now I'm done editing. Until the next round of editing. So, you know, that's what's been happening.

I like editing. Actually, I love it. But it takes a lot of out of me.

I wish I had some glorious nugget of wisdom to impart to you (or to Future Me), but I really don't. My mind is shot to pieces. I'm pleased with the results (my editor is brilllllliant), though I'm already agonizing over certain bits I'd like to fix. But . . . that's how I roll. If deadlines didn't exist, I would NEVER give up my work! I would edit that one thing for the rest of my life.

So now I'm deep in a recovery that involves taking uncontrollable fourteen-hour naps, staring blankly at the accumulated mess in my kitchen, and watching British period dramas.* This is so I can feel refreshed — as soon as humanly possible — to finish another round of Lola. Which is already overdue. Which still has a TON of work left. Which is making me feel like I want to crawl into a ball and die.

Not to be melodramatic or anything.

So! Manhattan! I totally went!

This post is a good time to talk about the main reason I went to New York . . . to meet my editor! And do book-y things!

Like . . .

Visit Books of Wonder, a famous children's bookstore:

Ooo! Ahh!

Naturally, my first stop was the young adult section:

Someday . . . I'll be on this shelf!

But the entire store was fantastic. (It's ALL children's books! How could it not be?) I felt awkward taking too many pictures inside — my apologizes for the lack of bookstore porn — but I did snap these figures hovering above the door:

The Tin Man is my favorite.

Then I went to visit my publisher. Yes, ah hem . . .



Even more embarrassing than asking to take pictures inside the bookstore, was asking to take a picture of the following sign. Seriously. So embarrassing.


It was mind-blowing to step off the elevator, see that iconic bird, and realize I have a connection with it now.


I was there to meet my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel. If you've been following this blog for a while, you already know that I like my editor. Very, very much. Julie is the woman behind so many books I'm passionate about — including ALL of John Green's novels, Gayle Forman's If I Stay, and Lauren Myracle's Winnie series.

And, for some reason, she's my editor too.

I'm still scratching my head over how this happened. I honestly haven't been this nervous about meeting someone since I met my husband. I wanted it to go so well, so badly! In fact, I was SO nervous that by the time it was over, and I was back in my friends' brand-new apartment, I threw up in their brand-new toilet. Which was simultaneously a high and a low:

HIGH: It went awesome!
LOW: I am vomiting in my friends' toilet.

But yeah. It went awesome! Julie is just as intelligent and funny and thoughtful in person as she is in her emails and phone calls. I don't know how it's even possible, but I'm MORE thrilled to be working with her now. She's incredible. Period.

(She's making my book so much better, you guys. For instance, if she were editing this blog, she would have just cut the vomiting part.)

Tra la la! Just hangin' out with my editor. Like I do. (Aren't we cute?? Braggidy brag brag.)

She also introduced me to tons of people around the Dutton and Penguin offices. Everyone was so genuinely nice, and I was grateful to have a chance to thank them. At least, I *hope* I remembered to thank everyone! I was in a state of dumbfounded awe the entire time.

The highlight of my entire trip occurred when Julie introduced me to someone who then immediately SHOUTED the full name of the boy in my book! To hear his name coming from the lips of a woman I'd never met (and in such a flattering manner!), was . . . shocking. If I could swallow my tongue, I have no doubt that I would have.

It never ceases to amaze me that anyone could possibly care about this book but me. Or that people will actually read it. People have ALREADY read it!

Surreal. When did this become my life?

I'm feeling a lot of love for Anna and her boy right now . . .


Coming soon: My last New York post, PLUS a special treat! And it's not tuna!

*SO FAR: Persuasion (2007), The Way We Live Now (2001), Brideshead Revisited (2008) — All three were good. Persuasion was a repeat, and Brideshead was a surprise. The cinematography was outrageously beautiful in an Atonement meets The Brothers Bloom kind of way (Gorgeous English home! Venice! Morocco! Fabulous costumes!), and the acting was superb. Though I wish they would've shaved fifteen minutes off the final running time. It dragged a bit towards the end. Oh well. Still worth watching!


Lazy Friday in Coney Island

I'm tired of saying, "I'm busy," but . . . I'm busy! I returned from New York on Tuesday evening, and I have an insane week of editing Anna ahead of me.

[Yes! Still editing! And there will be MORE edits after this one. For those of you not in the writing business, a LOT of work goes into one book. Way more than you can imagine. And I'd bet you have a pretty good imagination.]

I want to talk about my trip — especially my visit to Penguin! — in further detail, so I thought I'd just share a few more pictures from Coney Island for now. (OF COURSE the puking mannequin was found on Coney Island.)

While I was away, I stayed with my friends Manning and Marjorie in Brooklyn. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might recognize their names from my January trip to Paris. They recently moved from France to New York — Manning is American, Marjorie is French — and I was happy to see them again so quickly!

In an ideal world, they would keep moving, and I could plan all of my vacations around them. Ha!

Anyway . . . the three of us headed out last Friday for an afternoon in the sun. Coney Island turned out to be my kind of place — strange, charming, and a little bit sketchy. I'm sorry there are no pictures of me! I know. You are DYING to see pictures of me. (Snort.) I honestly forgot to take any.

Perhaps my favorite shot of the day.

These cheapo Smurfs are negatives of themselves!

LOLA! I am rather fond of the name.

I heard they're tearing this down. So sad.*

That patty looks more like a brown watermelon. MAYBE a taco.

I kept forgetting there was, like, a beach there. A pretty one!

Should I warn Mal about the blue gloves?

Love this creepy dude.

This creepy dude was okay, too.

The haunted house is called the GHOST HOLE, you guys.


The best part about that one is that while we were taking pictures, the building started telling us to bump our asses off. I kinda wish I could buy the recording as a ringtone.

And I love this silly picture. We were riding the subway home, feeling tired and happy, and the expression on Marjorie's face just makes me smile. So cute!

More soon! I hope you all are having a wonderful April!

*This morning, I received this tweet: TheCyclone @naturallysteph Lovely post about Coney! fyi Parachute Jump stays, it's a NYC landmark along with Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, Childs Bldg :-)

So . . . it won't be torn down?? Even though that was, um, the roller coaster talking to me? Not sure how official the information was, but I'm happy to hear it!


I'm in New York . . .


. . . and things are going great!

I took a lot of cool pictures today that I can't wait to show you. But, for now, I'm leaving you with this burned puking mannequin instead:

You're welcome.