Shocked Mom Wins the Internet #it’saboy

surprise it's a boy
Never trust an ultrasound.

This shocked mama just discovered that the baby everyone had said was a girl was, in fact, a boy. Surprise!

Australian mum Koto Nakamura had been told she was expecting a girl. According to Today Parents, they’ll have bundles of pink gifts and supplies to return since their little guy proved to be sneaky during the ultrasounds.

Nakamura’s priceless reaction to the news was even captured on camera by her birth photographer Jessica Jackson.

I’m pretty sure I made the same expression after my ultrasound.Then I went to the parking lot and sobbed. I, however, had several months to adapt to the concept of raising a boy, not seconds.

Don’t worry, according to Today Parents, all is well, and the couple is delighted with their new baby boy.

#bestbirthpicever

See the full story on Today Parents.

Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell

 

But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.

And…

pro rwa

 

I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.

 

10 Things I Learned During an Evening with Bill Bryson

1. I can make Bill Bryson laugh!

Bill Bryson Rollins College book signing

No, that doesn’t count. To be honest, I simply cannot recall what witty quip I must have whipped out to cause the celebrated travel, science, and historical writer to chuckle, but I have the picture to prove I said something good.

During Notes from All Over: An Evening with Bill Bryson, the writer entertained the crowds with his renowned brand of cerebral yet homespun humor. Before a packed house at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, Bryson spun tales about his life between readings from some of his well known works, sparking alternating bouts of laughter and applause. I’ve binged on his audiobooks recently, so listening to him read passages from A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and his new release The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain truly brought the books to life. The evening proved that America and Britain’s bastion of curmudgeonly wanderlust is just as charming, hilarious, and endearing off the page as he is on.

Some highlights:

1. On how to avoid a bear attack: wear bells so the bears know you’re coming. And keep your eyes open for bear scat on the ground. It’s easy to spot — it has bells in it.

2. When a British bookstore author questionnaire asked what he would like people to say about him 100 years from now: “Well, at least he was still sexually active.”

3. He’s never thought of writing fiction.

4. Reviewers of his new book,The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, have written that he’s far grumpier than he use to be. He used this as a segway into reading a passage from the book, a cautionary tale regarding the horrors of ordering for a large family at McDonald’s with grossly incompetent staff.

5. He profoundly curious and always does his own research. Writing is a difficult art, but through research, one gets to enjoy the joy of discovery. You never know what you’ll find.

6. On embellishment in his writing: it depends on which of the two types of books he’s writing. Ernest books of information have no embellishment. They’re meant to be reliable sources of information. However, when writing of his personal adventures, he freely expands and uses hyperbole or it wouldn’t be funny. He suspects his readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference.

7. He had nothing to do with making the movie version of A Walk in the Woods, having sold the rights to Robert Redford over a decade ago. The movie was supposed to reunite Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the first time since The Sting, but Paul got sick, and the movie was put on the back burner. When Redford decided to go forward with the production, Bryson wasn’t involved with the script writing. Bryson watched the movie for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. He sat between his wife and Redford, and found it insane because there was Redford on the screen answering to his name.

8. Bryson thought the film somewhat accurately reflected his book until one particularly awkward scene. “Bryson” on film began flirting with a hotel-keeper (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) and there’s obvious chemistry. He felt the strong need to lean over to his wife and swear this scene was not in the book and it never happened.

9. He sent his friend Katz (not his real name) the manuscript for A Walk in the Woods because he felt a bit bad that he’d portrayed him as such a buffoon (even though he was a total buffoon). Katz read the manuscript and said it was funny, but all fiction. Bryson walked him through each scene, and Katz fessed up to each antidote. Then how was it fiction? According to his Appalachian Trail companion, the stories were all true, but it was just fiction in the way Bryson told them.

10. Bryson’s greatest regret in life is not completing the (somewhere around) 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike. He never hiked or even saw Mount Katahdin, regarded to be the most difficult climb in the entirety of the A.T. Someday. Maybe.

Bonus: When asked what inspires him to write: bills.

Bill Bryson signed copy a short history of everything

My son’s first signed book!

And that, my friends, is the witty and wonderful Bill Bryson. If you haven’t read his books, you absolutely must. I highly recommend the audiobooks.

Some of my favorites:

And next in my queue:

#Friday Reads — A Bollywood Affair, Frisky Business, and Tiny Beautiful Things

What a wonderful week for reading, full of laughter, love, and maybe, just maybe, a few tears. These three selections are highly recommended.

 

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

 

 
Frisky Business by Tawna Fenske

No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, her ex-fiancé, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she’s had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming—and disturbingly wealthy—chairman of the board.

The kind of man she doesn’t want

Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you’d never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can’t help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit…

 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills. And it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar-the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild-is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things gathers the best of “Dear Sugar” in one place and includes never-before-published columns. Rich with humor, insight, compassion-and absolute honesty-this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

The audiobook is riviting, rich, and bursting with heartbreak and beauty.

Minecraft Snowflakes!

Minecraft + Christmas. An odd combination, right? With so many Minecraft programs at my library, I’ve been trying to come up with a little something different for each one. Since my next one is the Saturday before Christmas, I needed something…festive.

How about some Minecraft snowflakes?

Have yourself a creeperish little Christmas just doesn’t sound quite right, but it works for kids.

If you do an internet search, Star Wars snowflakes abound. But Minecraft? I found one. And it was challenging for me to cut it out, so leading 50+ five to twelve-year-olds through the tricky cuts wouldn’t be feasible.

So I designed my own.

Minecraft Snowflakes

I think they turned out pretty cool!

If you’d like to make these, the pdf templates are below:

Easy Minecraft Snowflake

Minecraft Snowflake

Tips:

-You don’t have to cut it all out in one continuous cut. You’ll get much cleaner outlines if you cut straight lines, bit by bit.

-The mouth is right along the fold, so it’s pretty easy (especially when you heed above advice). The eye is attached to the nose/mouth, so make a straight cut from the nose to get into that square eye.

Have fun, impress you kids/students/patrons with your knowledge of Minecraft, and get your craft on!

 

5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and Devid LevithanWriters are my rock stars. I am not afraid to admit I am an unabashed Rainbow Rowel fangirl. And when the Orange County Public Library hosted An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan, over four hundred writer-groupies drove from across the state to get up close and personal with two of the hottest names in YA fiction.

Rainbow is on tour for her latest release, Carry On, a Potter-eque/Twilight mashup story that delves into the fanfic world Cath created in the novel Fangirl. (Read both. Love both. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READS.)  David is promoting Another Day, a retelling of his previous bestseller Every Day told from Rhainnon’s point of view. Both novels are considered “companion” stories opposed to sequels, made to stand alone (though I recommend reading Fangirl before Carry On).

The dynamic duo entertained the crowd of booksworms with an hour of engaging conversation and readings from their new releases, followed an hour of Q&A.

rainbow rowell and david levithan at Orange County Public Library

Then came the book signings. Previously, the longest line I’d ever seen for a book singing had been for Queen of Romance Nora Roberts at the RWA Literacy Signing. This one beat it by a mile, but Rainbow and David stayed as long as it took to sign every books. (One public school librarian hauled a bag filled with every book by Rainbow and David in her school’s collection to autograph!)

rainbow rowell book signingThis fuzzy pic shows the people ahead of me when I finally made it to the line. There were just as many people behind me. And they’d been signing for at least 45 minutes.

 

 5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

1. Rainbow’s voice in real life is as funny, quirky,  and accessible as her voice is in her books. Seriously. I wanted to beg her to move next door so we could sip wine after a day of writing and I could stealthily siphon some of her literary juju. Rainbow and David bantered like best friends hanging out, who just happened to have an audience of hundreds hanging on their every word. Oh, and neither mind swearing.

2. Fangirl was a NANO book. Rainbow wrote the first chunk of that favorite during November’s National Novel Writing Month. She still uses daily word counts to get her shit done. She and David disagreed on this one. He’s all quality, not quantity.

3. Rainbow is a semi-plotter. She starts with a basic 1 1/2 page outline, whereas David is a total panster, letting the characters lead him where they want to go.

4. Eleanor & Park was not intended to be a YA novel, but her publisher marketed it that way in the U.S. When writing her first novel, Rainbow wanted to explore a first love story set in a place she held deep in her memory. As she commented during the program, no one else knew Omaha in the mid-eighties like she did: the neighborhoods, the hangouts, the music. She wanted to capture that unique place and time before she forgot. In a high school that was either black or white, she’d always wondered what it would be like to be one of the four Asian kids in her school. She’d looked back to that one cool Asian kid on her bus, and tried to imagine his life.

5. Rainbow, admittedly, writes better than she reads aloud. (Don’t we all?) The pair funked things up by switching gender rolls when reading from David’s Another Day. Rainbow read as Soul A (a boy), while David read as Rhiannon. This gender-bending was deliberate, not just for laughs. Both authors write gay characters indiscriminately, reflecting a fresh perspective for teens and adults alike. The laughs came when they read from Rainbow’s Carry On. David read chosen-boy Simon’s role and Rainbow voiced brooding possible-vampire Gaz. Sound effects and flubbed lines ensued. The selected passage contained an actual sword.Yet when read aloud, both authors and audience picked up on some “swordplay” of another variety as the characters attempted to outsmart each other with witty remarks and counter-moves, while fighting their growing romantic feelings for each other. Everyone laughed, and Rainbow swore that Simon’s sheathing and unsheathing of his blade had not been written with ulterior motives.

Rainbow rowell

.

david levithan
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
#1 New York Times best seller!

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here–it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Another Day by David Levithan

The eagerly anticipated companion to David Levithan’s New York Times bestseller Every Day

In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all

 

Thanks to the Orange County Public Library for a delightful evening!

She Reads Books of Fall

she reads newThough the calendar page announced fall’s entrance well over a month ago, the upper-eighties temperatures here in the Sunshine State have left me thinking it’s still summer. But now that holiday decorations have started taunting me from every store, I’ll accede to the truth: fall has arrived. In all of its blazing hot glory. (Seriously, I’ll need beach towels, on Thanksgiving Day!)

That means it’s time for the She Reads Books of Fall. Drop by She Reads for posts from all of the Books of Fall authors to get a glimpse into their writing processes and their writing spaces and discover how these diverse stories came to life. And, as always, gain access to the dozens of reviews from other She Reads book bloggers. You can find your new favorite Fall read!

And now, with out further ado, the Books of Fall:


The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Hawthorne family has it all. Supposedly. Great jobs, a fancy house, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth.

Only their lives take place inside a pressure cooker. (From an appropriately upscale store like Williams-Sonoma or such.) And untended pressure cookers have been known to explode.

It’s firstborn Angela’s senior year of high school. Her valedictorian status is under attack, her legs have started turning to led during track meets, and her extracurriculars and hours of AP class homework have left the perfect girl needing an extra edge to stay ahead. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, but her early admissions application is not going to write itself.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few rash choices crank up the heat on their pressure cooker lives, and the resulting mess is both achingly real and delightfully entertaining.

I zipped through this this almost satirical cautionary tale, both cringing and cheering as the Hawthorne family struggled with the thoroughly modern vices of over-scheduling, over-working, and under-appreciating each other while striving to achieve the perfect life. Recommended read.

 


The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Most of us have a ghost from our past who still haunts us: a bully, a back-stabbing best friend, or some person who forever altered your place in the world. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of some ultimate confrontation when you finally stand up for yourself and made that person pay (I know I have!). So when meek mom Caroline Jacobs decides to take her childhood demon on—cashmere twin set and all—readers can’t help but root for her on her quirky and heartfelt comeback tour.

Caroline is a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams (the F-bomb, no less!) at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline’s life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks’ signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way. Short but sweet recommended read.

 

::hanging head::  I haven’t squeezed in the last two She Reads Books of Fall, but they are on my TBR list. They’ve earned five-star reviews and accolades from many writers and reviewers I respect, so they are certainly worth a mention.  Both have elements of mystery and suspense, and both look like books to add to your TBR list.

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.


The Last September by Nina de Gramont

Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.

But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.

So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?

 

Have any favorite fall reads yet?

The Thankful Tree

Give thanks.

A simple sentiment so many of us forget to practice now that Thanksgiving has become lost in the shuffle of modern life.

The holiday was once a time for communities to unite, sharing tales of strength, hope, and gratitude among the generations while humbly reflecting upon the abundance in their lives.

For many of us, Thanksgiving had become a day of manic shopping, football, and family drama.

How about we put a little “thanks” back in Thanksgiving?

The Thankful Tree – a great fall library display/passive program. Perfect for classrooms or Thanksgiving table centerpieces, too!

The table had been covered in colorful fall leaves. This was after all my leaves and most of the display books had been taken. (Nice back-lighting and fluorescent lighting, right?)

I’d found these Thankful Trees via Better Homes and Gardens a few years back.

BHG Thanksgiving treeBHG Thanksgiving tree bare branches

 

It would be easy enough to set up our own library Thankful Tree, right?

If patrons took part, it could be considered a passive program, bringing the community  together and sharing in the reason for the oft neglected season. (And we could gauge which resources our patrons valued. Win-win, right?)

Using an old McCoy jug, a few branches snipped from my yard, and colored printer paper leaves, I set up a Grateful Tree on the library’s main display table last year. I didn’t have high hopes. Even  fellow staffers rolled their eyes when I asked them to share the love on their own leaves.

Fall library display  "Leaf a note and share which library books and services you are thankful for"

And then something beautiful happened.

thankful leaf 2

One leaf…

thankful leaf 1

led to another…

leaves

and another…

 

leaves 2

  And within days the bare branches displayed a bounty
of thanks and gratitude that made our hearts swell.

thankful leaves library

This library display/passive program was a win for all. It would also work in a classroom
or as a centerpiece for a holiday gathering.

We all need to express the gratitude in our hearts.
Let your patrons, students, or family “leaf” a note to express what really matters in their lives.

The Book that Scared the Bejesus Out of Me: IT

To get in the Halloween spirit, I’m sharing a bookish spine-tingler from the past.

It was a dark and stormy night. . .

No. Wait—

It came from a dark and stormy drain. . .

A week or so ago, the illustrious Chuck Wendig asked his readers to discuss their favorite Stephen King story. That’s a tough one. I could rattle off at least a dozen of Scary Stevie’s stories that continue to haunt my dreams and spur irrational fears twenty-five years after reading.

By far, IT scared the crap out of me more than any other book ever— 1100+ pages of pure horrific terror. For those of you too chicken to delve into the pages of the classic nightmare in print, a quick summary: 1958. Derry, Maine. Something is preying upon children, hunting them, devouring them. This something trawls children’s nightmares, shape-shifting into whatever will terrify them most. But its signature is that of Pennywise the clown, a fanged Ronald McDonald/Bozo lurking in the storm drains, clutching festive balloons. The seven kids comprising The Loser’s Club discover the monster, confront it, and kill it…or so they think. Thirty years later, the murders start again, and the group’s members return to Derry, to the horror they’d blacked out, to stop it once and for all.

Maybe because I read IT when I was thirteen (what the hell were my parents thinking?) and the unlikely heroes of the story were around my age. I was already plagued by an overactive imagination, and IT crawled into kid’s brains and dragged their worst fears and phobias into reality.  I’d been creeped out by clowns since watching Poltergeist at eight (again, thanks Mom & Dad). Or maybe IT was just a damn good (though occasionally wordy) tale.

IT preyed upon my irrational phobias. When I was six, I was stuck in the hospital for two long weeks. After my parents left to get some much needed sleep, the sadistic nurses allowed me to watch two movies that tormented me for decades: Piranha and Jaws. Picture it: an already frightened little girl, alone in a dark hospital room, eyes wide in horror as Jaws chomped on Quint and piranhas devoured kids in inner tubes. In the dark hospital room, evil fish baring razor-sharp teeth swam around my bed, waiting for me to dangle a toe in the blood-drenched water.

I saw them for years.

Once I read IT, I became terrified of my swimming pool. The pool had a drain. IT came through drains. IT would appear as a swarm of piranha, stripping my pale flesh with razor-sharp teeth. IT would shift into a shark, pulling me under the turquoise water, swallowing me whole.

I stayed out of the deep end. And I barely swam alone until I was seventeen.

Oh, and there was the little episode of the balloons. . .

My wonderful Dad had read IT before I did. Prankster that he is, he decided to traumatize his child play a prank. The drain in our shower had been loose for weeks. Though I was a mature thirteen, I placed an oversized bottle of shampoo on top of the metal grate, just in case (as I wrote—overactive, occasionally irrational imagination). That evening, I’d dropped my towel in the bathroom. One of my parents called me away, made me do a chore or something before I could turn on the water. When I returned, I pulled back the flowered curtain to find the shower drain tossed against the wall. . . and a bunch of balloons bobbing against the harvest gold tile directly above the open pipe. My parent’s laughter couldn’t drown out my screams. ***

pennywise in shower

Explains a lot about me, right?

In the spirit of this spooky time of year, which book(s) scared the bejesus out of you?

***Please note: after digging though our respective memories, my mom and I have realized that she bears no responsibility for said “Balloon Incident.” My father admits nothing.