this is my brain on relaxation

Hey all!

Two big nuggets of news.  This past year I have finished two (read: two!!) novels.  I have no idea how I’ve done this because I’ve also been full-time raising two (read: two!!) boys.  But there it is.  They (the novels, that is) are both in production and both coming out in 2015.  One is middle grade and one is young adult.  I’ve seen the cover for the middle grade and it’s amazing.  I just changed the title on the young adult and I’m loving it.

So guess what I’m doing this week?  Nothing.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.  Okay, yes…drop my kids off at school, a trip to Whole Foods, a few emails, obsessive podcast listening to Serial, walk around the Reservoir.  This is how Central Park looked this morning.  Perfect.

This is my brain on relaxation.

Love,
Carolyn

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my year of…

UnknownPhew!  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  A full year.  Phew again.

What have I been up to?

First, the good news.  My husband and I have been raising our two amazing sons, ages 4 and 9.  I suppose that’s the fullest of full-time jobs.  We hit up all the playgrounds in NYC, have countless playdates, eat croissants from our favorite bakeries, walk on The Highline, ride bikes in Riverside Park, eat dinner in our roof garden with friends, and spend many hours at the New York Public Library (yay, Bloomingdale Branch!) checking out stacks of books.

Somehow in the crevices of free time this past year, I’ve revised my young adult novel, EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, and just turned in the latest draft to my editor.  It’s 350 pages, 5 teenagers, 4 years.  Will be out in Fall 2015.  I also wrote and sold (!!) my first middle grade novel (!!).  Since I have my very own, very enthusiastic middle-grade reader, I was eager to try writing for my son’s age group.  And I loved it.  More details on title, etc, soon.  Look for this one in Summer 2015.

And now the maybe good, maybe bad news.  Anyone who knows me know that I’ve gotten terrible migraines my whole life.  They come, I’m floored for 5 hours, and then they go away.  Well, last fall I got a migraine that stayed for over two months.  Yep, for real.  I look back at last fall and have no idea how I survived.  Thanks to an excellent team of doctors, I did survive and I’m a different person for it.  I don’t sweat the small stuff as much (and I used to be a big sweat-er of small stuff).  I appreciate any moment that I’m not in pain.  When I do get a headache (and I’m still getting a lot of them), I tell myself that it will pass.

I had no idea I would be grateful for a health crisis, but I (mostly) am.

So…it’s been a year of life.  And a good one.

Love,
Carolyn

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May 29, 2014 · 9:51 pm

the power of books

Hey all,

So I’m spending this week writing a speech that I’ll be giving at the amazing annual SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in August (www.scbwi.org).  I was looking over some past speeches I’ve given, and I came across one from 5 or so years ago.  I wrote it the year after my grandmother, Betty, died.  It really spoke to me about the power of books and writing, and I wanted to share a portion with you.  Excuse the choppy writing!  My speeches are always written in weird truncated shorthand…

***

Last August, my grandmother passed away at the age of 97.  For my whole life, I called her Betty.  Betty was a potter, very much a bohemian, baking granola, hot tubbing naked, making all her own dishes.  Betty and I both loved books and we both loved writing.  Ever since I knew how to write, we wrote letters back and forth…  I called her Bettina, she called me Carolina.  We wrote letters even when she was losing her vision…I wrote really big letters in a huge font.  When I started writing, she read everything, edited manuscripts, wanted to talk about it.  Read it with magnifying glass.  She came to my first book party, brought me a corsage to wear.  She was so proud, bought my books for everyone.  We talked about characters and words.  She was in the hospital and she asked me to bring my latest manuscript and read to her.

Last summer, when her health was failing, my mom and I drove up…  My mom has a cabin next door to Betty’s cabin.  We visited with Betty, my son played with her ark that she made for her kids during the Second World War.  Went back to my mom’s, put my son to bed.  A little while later, my mom came over.. “Do you have a copy of Guyaholic with you?”  My fourth novel had just come out and I brought to show her.  I said yes, and she said, “Betty wants to see it now.”  It was ten-thirty at night, maybe we should just wait until morning.  My mom didn’t think Betty was going to make it until morning.  I brought it over.  Betty looked at it…traced her fingers across the cover.  GuyaholicCarolyn MacklerHigh heels on cover.  Said she was so proud of me, has always been so proud of me.  I cried and hugged her and said I loved her.  Later that night, Betty died.

Last August, I lost my grandmother and my pen pal, but I’m so deeply moved by how words and books brought us together, that even as she was dying we were able to connect through books.

***

So there it is.  It’s kind of cool to have this record.  If it weren’t for that speech, I don’t think I would have written about the night my grandmother died, or even fully remembered that special connection around books and writing.

And now, back to this summer’s speech!

Love,

Carolyn

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Where I’ve been, what I’m doing

So after my big pledge late last summer NOT to have a lame blog, it turns out I have a lame blog.  What is it with me?  Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. just don’t come naturally to me.  Is it that I’m in the moment and don’t want to get swept into virtual life?  I wish!  I think it’s that the moment – parenting, writing, parenting, parenting – pulls me in so deep that I often don’t remember there is much else out there.  I have little kids.  I’m knee-deep in revisions for my latest novel.  Where I am is good.  Though I do need to set up an appointment for a massage soon.  My shoulders are up to *here*.

For those who have asked about my latest novel, this one is a solo venture (though Jay and I are always talking about another collaborative).  This book is almost 300 pages long and still coming.  It covers five teenagers over all four years of high school.  They make a pledge at the beginning of ninth grade.  That’s all I’ll say.  It’s my longest and most ambitious yet, and I’m loving it.

So that’s where I’ve been, and that’s what I’m doing.  I will be in touch the next time I take a moment to look outside my moment.

Love,
Carolyn

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Countdown to The Future of Us paperback!

The Future of Us paperback comes out this Tuesday!  Jay and I just had a great phone conversation about it as I was power-walking in Riverside Park (brisk and chilly – the park, not the chat).  We love this new cover, and we’re so excited for the paperback publication.

So mark your calendars for October 16 and run to a bookstore.  Hang on.  Am I in 1996?  You can also order this baby online.  Like, now!

Oh, hey.  If you’re reading this and thinking Where has Carolyn been?  I’ve been checking and checking her blog and she’s totally MIA.  I’ve been writing.  Hardcore writing.  Yep.  That’s all I’ll say for now.

Also, if you’re excited about The Future of Us paperback and decide to tweet or FB or whatever way of mass-communicating you prefer, I’ll thank you right now.  Thank you!

xoxo

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why I am the way I am (well, partially)

Sometimes I see good as the absence of bad. My friend Juliet calls it the “worry ball.” My worries have to be somewhere. But when they’re not? When things actually feel smooth for two seconds? Well, that’s amazing.

I’ve always assumed it’s just the way I am. But then again, I never got to know my grandmother. She died of colon cancer when I was ten. I remember her kisses and her smile and the way she said my name. That’s about it.

This summer, I buckled my boys into the back of our car, picked up my dad, and we all drove out to Queens to tour his “old neighborhood.” He wanted to show his grandsons where he grew up. We visited the deli that used to be his candy store. We visited the theater where he used to see twenty-five-cent movies. We begged our way into his elementary school and the boys played in the sprinklers at his park.

And then we swung by his old home. His parents sold the house and moved to Manhattan in the late 1960s. We hovered on the sidewalk outside as he pointed out where his bedroom was, and where they cooled off before air-conditioning, and where his dad used to sit and read the newspaper. My dad was tempted to knock on the front door, but I said, “No. Let’s keep this memory as is.” I mean, what if whoever answered turned out to be icy and unwelcoming?

But then the front door opened! It was a woman in her early seventies, cherry-red hair, hurrying to her car. We quickly explained that my dad grew up in this house in the 1940s and he’s just showing it to his grandsons. My older son was hanging onto every word (my toddler was dancing in the grass under a tree).

“Are you the Macklers?” the woman asked.

My dad and I were taken aback.

The woman told my dad, “My husband and I bought this house from your parents over forty years ago.”

We couldn’t believe it! The house had never changed hands. Wow.

But then it got better. The woman went on to explain that she and her husband had just sold the house and were moving in a few days. That’s why she was rushing. She was on the way to the library to donate a carload of books.

“I wish I could stay and show you around…” she said.

We told her we understood. We thanked her for her time.

But then she turned and said to me, “I remember your grandmother. I met her once and she had a great tan. It was only spring. She said she got it from her garden. But I’ll always remember what she said to me when we were looking at the house. She told me, ‘Nothing bad ever happened to my family in this house.’ It struck me at the time. I never forgot it.”

Nothing bad ever happened to my family in this house.

Sound familiar? Good as the absence of bad. If we had planned our trip to Queens one week later, I never would have known where I got my entire mentality.

A few days ago, on my dad’s 70th birthday, my 7-year-old stood up and made an impromptu toast to him. This is how he introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Grandpa’s grandson.”

So simple. And yet it says so much.

I guess I’m my grandmother’s granddaughter.

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happy moments

I turned 39 this summer and, all of a sudden, started having existential thoughts such as “Why are we here?  What does it all add up to?  Do I really have to keep taking showers every day of my life?  How many times must I clean this same floor?  Why do I write books?  Why am I here?”

It sort of sucked.  And it was sort of good.  I mean, why not attempt to find the meaning of life once and for all?

I shared this dark side with a few close friends.  My friend, Ismee, told me that I’m smack-dab in an Erikson psychosocial life stage (she’s going to look up which one).  My friend, Jenny, suggested I read  Sartre.  When we were driving home from an amazing week in New Hampshire (several friends, all our kids, in the woods, on a lake), the boys were chilling in the backseat and I asked my husband his take on it.

“There isn’t some clear distinct meaning,” he suggested.  ”Life is about little happy moments, big happy moments – our kids, each other, weddings, parties, dinners out, plays, good novels, vacations.  That’s what we’ve got, to enjoy these moments.  That’s living.”

And so that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been finding little happy moments, big happy moments.  Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens?  For me, it’s been watching my little guy make friends at his new preschool (big hugs, BIIIIIG hugs), walking my older son to his first day of school this morning (nope, didn’t even see the scaffolding and trash bags when I took the photo), some great tofu my husband marinated and cooked for me last night, hardcore laps in an icy pool this morning, reading something very exciting relating to The Future of Us (can’t share it yet), thinking about a very exciting writing-related meeting I have next week (can’t share this one yet either), a cool idea I wrote down for my next short story for American Girl.

Oh, and speaking of good novels, I have discovered the writer Carol Anshaw this summer.  Now THAT is a happy moment.

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new site, new blog, new start

My little guy starts preschool tomorrow.  My older son starts third grade on Thursday.  And I am starting yet another brand new blog.  This one, unlike a New Year’s exercise regimen, I am determined to maintain.

Let me explain what’s up.

I have an incredibly conflicted relationship to being an author.  Not the writing part.  The writing part comes naturally, like having blue eyes or being a blubbering dork around celebrities.  It’s the author part, the life of an author.  Just yesterday, I was flipping through the NY Times Sunday Book Review and I saw my name listed as a participant at the upcoming Brooklyn Book Festival and I got that weird feeling inside, the same feeling I get when my name is announced and I’m about to step onto a stage.  That’s not me.  It’s my name.  It’s my picture.  But it’s not me.

My fractured identity is probably why I find it hard to blog and tweet and spam my Facebook friends with book news.  I know it’s part of the job.  I hope it helps sell my books.  But it never feels like I’m giving the full story.  Then again, how much of the full story do I want to tell?  Do I talk about how I finish writing a novel and then basically forget that I ever wrote it (and therefore find it excruciating to talk about it)?  Do I talk about my kids?  No, it’s their life.  Their privacy.  But how can I post about my life without talking about my boys?  They ARE my life.  And on and on.

And so I retreat.  This past hiatus has been since January.  Jay Asher and I were on a book tour for The Future of Us.  I woke up the last morning of a 9-city, 9-day tour and I missed my husband and sons like crazy.  All I wanted was to be home.  And I honestly couldn’t think of one more thing to say about The Future of Us.  I loved writing this novel.  I loved working with Jay.  I am so proud of the book.  But I was all talked and tweeted out.  I was spent.

I flew back to NYC on the red-eye that night.  I came home and hugged my family and cried and decided to put writing and speaking and publicizing on hold.  I stayed with my toddler full-time, and cooked meals and read books and did Pilates.

And then, this spring, I got an idea for a new YA novel.  I spent four months writing (my Harper editor has it now, waiting for her to return to NYC so we can discuss edits).  Once my book was in, I began contemplating my big dilemma: Web Presence.  And that’s when I decided, what the hell.  Heck.  Whatever.  I enlisted my wonderful husband to help.  He listened to my agonizing, sorted through exactly what I wanted, and then put together this simple website/blog that I can easily update.

So with a new school year and a new novel, it feels right that I should start this new blog.  This is me, at my desk, trying to be as honest as possible.

Stay tuned….

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