July 13, 2010

She Wasn’t Always Like This

That’s what I wanted to call my new book. But the professionals—my agent, my editor and others at the publisher—all thought Stalker Girl was the better choice. Short and to the point, they said. No one would wonder what it was about.

Maybe. I acquiesced, deferred to the pros.

But to me, “She wasn’t always like this” captures the heart of the story better. It’s the opening sentence in one of the book’s early chapters. We’ve already met Carly, the Stalker Girl, in full-blown stalking mode and now we’re about to learn who she is and why she’s following her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend around the streets of Manhattan.

Carly wasn’t always a stalker, and she hopefully won’t always be a stalker.

But right now, she’s seventeen and her first serious boyfriend has not only dumped her, he’s found a new girlfriend in what seems to Carly to be a pretty short time.

Who wouldn’t be just a little bit curious?

Who wouldn’t at least try to find out what the girl looked like?

Who wouldn’t start comparing themselves to the new girl?

Who can say definitively that they would never do the things Carly ends up doing in this book?

To me, “She Wasn’t Always Like This” conveys the idea that we can never know what acts we’re capable of, be they admirable or embarrassing.

July 11, 2010

We Have a Winner

The prize for the Best Stalker Story goes to Rachael Larose, who, like Carly in Stalker Girl, stepped out from behind the computer for real, live, in-person stalking.

I was vacationing in Florida, at the mall with my grandma, when I noticed a dashing young man walking by with two fellows at his
side. We made eye contact, he smiled, and I swooned.I kept glancing back until he disappeared into a store that sold sunglasses. I wasn’t focused on the name of the store, just the boy. I turned to my grandma and told her I would be right back. She smiled and told me she’d meet up with me later. I nodded, not paying attention, and scurried away to the store with sunglasses. Of course,as soon as I entered, he left. He caught my eye and I had another swoon moment as he exited.

For the next hour and a half, I followed this boy, entering every store he was in. He once bumped into me, and apologized. I was so embarassed because what I said in return was “you…it’s…eyes-I mean, it’s okay”. He gave me a funny look, grinned, and left. I followed him into one more store when my grandma found me and took me to lunch. My head was still spinning.

Congratulations, Rachael!

Filed under: Uncategorized

July 9, 2010

This Week in Patronizing Male Reviews of Women’s Art

I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Kids are All Right since hearing about its debut at Sundance. It’s out this week, getting reviewed positively everywhere.  The Times’s A.O. Scott says it’s “the best comedy about an American family since …” Because it is without precedent, he decides to “let the superlative stand unqualified for now.” He praises director and screenwriter Lisa Cholodenko for the way she “blends the anarchic energy of farce — fueled by coincidences and reversals, collisions and misunderstandings — with a novelistic sensitivity to the almost invisible threads that bind and entangle people.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle calls it “rich and psychologically truthful work.” Fresh Air’s David Edelstein considers the political implications:

Cholodenko has a female partner and a child, and in a political climate hostile to gay families it must be hard for her even to suggest that two moms might not be enough. But she’s a true dramatist. She tests what is presumably her own design for living; she bombards it with every satirical weapon in her arsenal. Then she picks up the pieces and rebuilds.

Reading and hearing these reviews today confirmed the unease I felt reading Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review last night. Lane loves the movie, too. But his review is marred by strange and patronizing assumptions about the director/screenwriter’s intentions. After noting that California of TKAA “is a greener, gayer update of the California that Woody Allen took such perfect potshots at, more than thirty years ago, in ‘Annie Hall,'” he declares that “Cholodenko doesn’t always know that it is funny.”

Huh?

He goes on to tell us more about Cholodenko’s intentions

She wants us to laugh at Paul’s initial response when he learns of the family setup . . . and she rightly notes the casual, bantering racism of the liberal bourgeoisie . . .

Then he asks whether

the screenwriters not realize that half of the women’s conversation—”We just talked conceptually,” “It hasn’t risen to the point of consciousness for you,” “It’s so indigenous!”—is pure, extra-planetary prattling and nothing but? The prattle turns chronic when Jules, who fancies herself as a landscape designer, is hired by Paul to reshape his back yard; she suggests “a trellisy, hidden garden kind of thing,” or, alternatively, “you could go with the Asiany.”

The assumed answer to this patronizing question is no.  Cholodenko and her co-writer share their characters’ lack of self-awareness.

Is it me or is this the second patronizing review of a woman’s work from a major publication this week?

July 6, 2010

Facebook Stalking, Summer School Stalking, and One from a Stalkee

What not to say: “I know where you live.” Anon learned that the hard way:

My story also includes the internet. I was in total swoon-mode after I met him at a football game, so I asked for his e-mail– from there I added him on facebook, checked out all his personal details and spent the next few hours just googling and searching out what I could find out about him. His address and mobile phone were on his fb details (and still are, despite this). So, I added him, and then quickly messaged him. After a week or two of msn chats, phone calls, etc, I told him, as a joke, his house was close to mine (like, out of the blue, and he didn’t mention it at all). THAT freaked him out, and I never heard from him again. Hey, it was on his facebook details!

Paige also finds Facebook a great stalking ground:

I saw this girl on facebook. She knew a lot of my friends from my school, but she didn’t go there. I went to her profile page and kinda creeped around trying to figure out who she was. She had a very…unique last name. I ended up going to her profile so much, I learned about her dad and his job, and also her brother and sister. My step-sister came over one day and started telling us about her new boyfriend. She mentioned his last name and I instantly recognized it. I asked if his sister had just graduated and if his dad was a coach. My whole family was like, “Do you know her?”. It was really embarrassing when I had to reply, “I kinda stalked her on facebook…..” and then proceeded to tell them about her boyfriend (past and present) and the fact her birthday was the next day.

E takes the long way, just to get a glimpse:

I’m currently a high school sophomore (going to be a junior) in summer school. Since freshman year I’ve had this crush on a junior whose name I don’t even know. I don’t really try to find out what’s his name, but I keep wanting to see his smile. So I go and take the long way to my classes just to be in the same hallway with him to get a chance to see him smile. Right now he’s in my P.E class in my summer school, and
Monday-Friday, for 2 hours per day I get to see his smile. *melt*

While the competition is limited to stalker stories, today we have a glimpse from the stalkee‘s side. While the guy’s behavior does sound slightly scary, our stalkee readily admits that “It is kinda fun to make him jealous now when i’m having a bad day though!”

From “nostalkerswanted!!!”

ok..i know this doesnt count because i was the stalkee, but i thought i’d share it anyway. This guy i thought i liked, but didn’t, asked me out to the school dance- which i never go to. I said yes but then I realized i just wanted a bf, and that i didnt really like him. I had 2 classes with him, one of which i sat next to him, and i ignored him in school. but one day he ran up to me, and in front of everyone said:”I can’t do this thing alone.” I was thinking, wtf is he talking about?? So i told him i wasn’t going to the dance with him and walked away. After that day I saw him looking at me all the time, he was always somewhere, he got his friend to talk to me thinking i wouldnt know, and he facebooked me at least 4 times before i finally blocked him. Very creepy. It is kinda fun to make him jealous now when i’m having a bad day though!

Filed under: Uncategorized

July 1, 2010

Driving, Walking, Stalking

Today we have pen names!

From “Gemini”

I’d seen her feed the meter so I knew her car: a red, beat-up Sentra. When she pulled out of her spot, I followed, keeping what I thought was a good distance.. When she got gas, I circled the block until she was done. When she stopped for groceries, I parked a few rows over and waited. When she pulled into the small lot of a video store, I circled that block a few times. When she still hadn’t come out, I pulled in and decided to accidentally/on-purpose bump into her inside the store. I’d finally get up the nerve to start a conversation. Movies would be a perfect topic! Then the next day we could talk more at the café. But before I’d even gotten out of the car she came out of the store, holding hands with a guy I call Badmohawk Boy. She didn’t even glance my way.

This writer says to call her “Sancho”

Not sure this counts as stalking. But I did follow a guy for about ten blocks once.

The summer between my junior and senior year I got a job at an ice cream shop in my medium-sized city. I worked from 12-5. Every day at 5, I’d walk to the bus stop and see this same guy walking the other way. He was older—probably in college, I thought. He was tall and good-looking and he wore a tie. One day we made eye contact and he smiled at me. The next day eye contact, smile and chin lift.. It went like that for a few more days and then I got eye contact, smile, chin lift and a “hey.” It got so I couldn’t wait for the end of my shift, not because I got to stop working, but because I’d get to see him. Each day I imagined him stopping and turning and introducing himself. But he never stopped, never slowed down. One day, without really thinking about it, I stopped and turned around and followed him. I stayed about twenty feet behind. After about three blocks I started to notice that a lot of girls and women were smiling, nodding and lifting their chins. This guy greeted every remotely good-looking female between the ages of 17 and, oh, about 25. Some of them went on smiling after the encounter just like I had. On their faces I could see he’d made them feel special, too.

At the time I was disappointed. I felt cheated. But looking back, I think he must’ve been a sweet person.

Filed under: Uncategorized

June 30, 2010

Stalker Stories.

The first entries are in, and they’re fun.

From Ru, a stalking story with a happy ending:

Well, if internet stalking counts, I have a short story for you. I had a crush on one of my friends for the longest time, and as someone who spends way too much time on the internet, I often tend to do searches on my crush through social networking sites and other media. A couple of months ago, I did a search on this particular crush’s name, and it turned out that there was a porn star by the same name, which I found endlessly amusing, so I told him the next day. Only I stupidly started the sentence with, “So I was googling your name last night…” Lots of people heard. I turned beet red. He probably thought I was a total creeper, which I kind of am. But that’s okay, because the two of us are together now.

From R, a story of mallstalking:

I was vacationing in Florida, at the mall with my grandma, when I noticed a dashing young man walking by with two fellows at his
side. We made eye contact, he smiled, and I swooned.I kept glancing back until he disappeared into a store that sold sunglasses. I wasn’t focused on the name of the store, just the boy. I turned to my grandma and told her I would be right back. She smiled and told me she’d meet up with me later. I nodded, not paying attention, and scurried away to the store with sunglasses. Of course,as soon as I entered, he left. He caught my eye and I had another swoon moment as he exited.

For the next hour and a half, I followed this boy, entering every store he was in. He once bumped into me, and apologized. I was so embarassed because what I said in return was “you…it’s…eyes-I mean, it’s okay”. He gave me a funny look, grinned, and left. I followed him into one more store when my grandma found me and took me to lunch. My head was still spinning.

And from “JMTW,” who says, “I’m not a YA, so this one’s for fun, not a prize,” story with a most unhappy ending:

I had a terrible, painful crush on a boy whose locker was next to mine. I’ll call him B. He was shy and I had no idea how to talk to boys and so despite the locker proximity, we hardly spoke. B was a football player and got badly injured one season. Badly enough that they put his leg in traction and kept him in the hospital. The same hospital where I donned a candy striper’s uniform every Sunday and rolled around a little cart selling candy and newspapers. My friend and candy-striping partner, P, had much more experience with boys than I did. She insisted we pay him a visit, pretending we were just doing our job. To do this, we had to take the cart to a floor we weren’t supposed to be on because they had all this special equipment and they didn’t want us bumping into stuff. When we finally found B’s room, P peeked in and reported that he was asleep. We should go do the rest of the floors we were supposed to do and come back. An hour later, we were back on B’s floor. P ran ahead to see if he was awake. He was. She waved me over. “Come on! Before they catch us.” I froze at the threshold of his door. This was nuts. I was wearing a red and white striped jumper. I never knew what to say to him at school, what could I possibly say now?

Just give him the spiel,” P said. “Pretend you don’t even know he’s in there. Just say ‘Hi, would you like anything from the cart today? Candy? Newspapers?’ Then, look surprised and say, ‘Hey. Don’t I know you?’ or something like that.”

It was so easy for girls like P. If it was her crush, she’d go in, plop herself on the bed and start rubbing his feet or something.

Me, I froze. P put her hand on my back and pushed me in. I got as far as the foot of his bed and gave the spiel while staring at the leg that was strung up in the air. “Hiwouldyoulikeanythingfromthecarttodaycandynews-paper?”

Silence. I looked up. He was awake all right and so was his mom, who was standing next to the bed with a—is that? yeah, it is—a bedpan in her hand. From the way she was holding it, and from the smell that only hit me then, it became apparent that I had, shall we say, come at a bad time.

I turned on my heels, returned to the hall and the cart and P, blushing more deeply than I ever knew was possible.

B returned to school three weeks later, on crutches. P volunteered to help him get around. They were a couple by Christmas.

Is that a stalking story? Or a YA novel? Or something to tell my therapist?

Keep them coming!

June 29, 2010

Who Has the Best Stalker Story? Yes, It is a Contest.

To celebrate the upcoming launch of Stalker Girl I will be giving away the one and only hardback copy of the book currently in my possession (pictured below) to the person who submits the best stalking story.

What do I mean by “best stalking story”? Hmm. Good question. First of all, it should be a stalker’s story, not a stalkee’s. It should make us laugh and cringe at the same time. While stories of stalking celebrities are welcome, I’ll admit that I have a slight bias toward stories of everyday infatuation. It should not involve harming an individual.

My Only CopyAs a warm-up, I asked some friends to offer their confessions. Here’s what I got:

“I walked my dog past my crush object’s house, almost a mile away, every night (weather permitting) for more than a year. This would have been my sophomore year of HS or thereabouts, and is without doubt the longest I’ve ever been able to sustain a program of regular exercise.” J

“I distinctly remember my best friend in the 6th grade pointing out a skinny 8th grader playing basketball. For the majority of the year we made up a code name for him, followed closely behind his friends, his classmates, and his little brother so we could find out more about him. Once, we hit the jackpot and found a note he had thrown away…swoon!” L

“1991, Maine: best friend and I would load up the car with coffee and junk food, and drive into the woods in the middle of nowhere at night, looking for a Subaru wagon with a green kayak on the roof and an Earth! First sticker. It was her bio professor’s. We did this about once a week. I have no idea what we were going to say if he ever ran into us on the dirt road leading up to his house.” D

“Albuquerque, 2004. Looking at my co-worker’s break schedule to find out when I should situate myself outside her car. Taking my break 5 minutes earlier than hers and playing it so cool, as I hand her, not flowers or chocolates, but a free carwash coupon. Yeah, I’m THAT kind of nerd. Ah, love.” R

“October 2000 in New York with K. We saw Salman Rushdie with Lakshima walking near Central Park. Pre-9/11 he was still under the biggest threat of any major personality, but I walked at least fifteen blocks, carefully calculating my steps behind him, K complaining about the blisters from her new shoes. I even took pictures. At one point he ducked into an apartment that I suspect wasn’t even his.” T

“Santa Fe, NM, 1997. My best friend sat in our kitchen, lamenting the lack of phone contact she’d had with her latest “hook-up partner.” My mother swiped said best friend out of her chair, dragged us both to the car, and drove us 15 miles out of town to where the “hook-up partner” lived. We spent the night parked in front of his house, waiting for him to arrive home with … what? Another girl? Another boy? A sign on his back saying, ‘I like girls who like to stalk?’” J2

Interesting how many of these stories involve accomplices in the form of best friends. My Stalker Girl, Carly, gets into trouble because she doesn’t tell her best friend, or anyone, about what she’s doing. She knows they’d make her stop. And while she knows she should stop, she can’t.

How to enter: You can email through the contact page (put “contest” in the subject line) or leave a reply below this post. While the email and reply forms ask for a name and email, I promise not to publish your personal information or to share it with anyone else, unless you want to be identified. You may use a pseudonym, go by a single initial or simply call yourself  “anon.” I will assign numbers to the anons. By submitting your story, you are giving me permission to share it (though not your identity).

Who should enter: While I prefer to give the prize book to an actual YA reader, all are welcome and encouraged to submit confessions. If you want to share your story but not compete because you are not a YA, just indicate somewhere that you are not competing for the prize. If you aren’t a YA reader but can pass it along to one, that’s fine, too.

Contest Open Until Friday, July 9th

Disclaimer: I feel obliged to state that I understand that stalking is a crime and that stalking behavior that might seem funny at first can develop into something much more serious. If you are a victim of serious stalking behavior, you’ll find help here.

June 28, 2010

True or False: “There’s a little stalker in all of us.”

I was visiting a Las Vegas high school last spring, just after finishing Stalker Girl. During the Q & A, a student raised her hand and declared that she believed there was “a little stalker in all of us.” I nodded, remembering all the glimmers of recognition I’d seen in the eyes of people I’d told about the book.

But a funny thing happened in that auditorium. “Girls stalk,” one of the boys protested. His buddies nodded. Some of the girls nodded, too. But some of them fought back. Everybody, it seemed, had an example of stalking by the opposite sex.

But my book is called Stalker Girl, and if you google (as I have done—just once!) that phrase, you’ll get over a hundred thousand hits. Stalker Boy, by contrast, gets about thirty-five thousand.

A few months ago I found myself at a table full of male colleagues in the faculty lunchroom. I’d just gotten the Stalker Girl galleys and had a copy with me. In the conversation that followed, I explained that part of what I was trying to do in this novel was show how slippery the slope that led to full-on stalking could be. To illustrate my point, I confidently asked, while raising my own hand, “Who here hasn’t googled and ex?”

All but one sat motionless. Were they holding back, embarrassed? Or was it, as one of them suggested, that they didn’t have that many exes? They were mostly Math guys. One was a priest. The one who raised his hands taught a romance language.

So . . . is stalking a girl thing?

Not according to the National Center for Victims of Crime which reports that 70% to 75% of stalking victims are female and 85 to 90% of stalkers are male.

Why then is the phrase Stalker Girl so much more common than Stalker Boy? Am I contributing to this false perception with the title of my book?

To be continued . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized

June 26, 2010

Dwight Garner is Trying

Dwight Garner is trying hard to avoid sexism in his review of Jessica Stern’s Denial, A Memoir of Terror. He quotes Joyce Carol Oates to demonstrate that he understands how women writers have had to fight for the right to write about violence. “Men,” Oates wrote, “don’t take women who write about [war, rape and murder] altogether seriously.”

“It is possible,” Garner magnanimously declares, “to take Ms. Stern very seriously indeed . . . and to consider ‘Denial’ a profound human document.” What is not possible for Garner, alas, is to deem Stern’s memoir “a profound literary one.”

What keeps Stern’s writing from being sufficiently literary? For one, “it lacks allusiveness and distance.” Okay. Plus it’s “hot to the touch in ways that are both memorable and disturbing.”

Hmm. Disturbing enough to inspire metaphor, but not literary. (more…)

January 31, 2010

Stalker Girl, August 2010

Filed under: Book Trailers

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