Monday, January 28, 2008

Look, I'm a real writer


On some days I don't feel like a real writer. I know, it's weird, but I've heard other writers say the same thing. I doubt plumbers ever feel this way. Or Doctors. I mean you never walk into an examining room and find that the doctor only sheepishly admits to his proffession.

Maybe it's because there are so many books out there. Generally when you tell the person sitting next to you on the airplane (or your child's teacher, or your neighbor)that you are a writer, they inevidably have never heard of you or your books. It's just hard to feel like a real writer in the face of all that anonymity.

But today I feel like a real writer. Thanks Scholastic. I love you!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I did on the MLK holiday


My 11 year old daughter loves to draw and this is her portrait of our family on Monday. Yeah, that pretty well sums it up. Somehow I'm always behind on whatever novel I'm working on, and so I end up locking myself in my bedroom and threatening the children with extra jobs if they keep bothering me.

As you can see, my five-year-old is slipping notes to me under the door while her older brother terrorizes everyone. Just another day in the Rallison household.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I am temporarily cool

Okay, so the Newbery committee passed on me again. (What were they thinking?) All is not lost though because for the very first Whitney Awards ever, one of my books: How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend is a finalist. Yes, I made it in the young adult category. Better yet, Stephenie Meyer and Shannon Hale’s books are in different categories and thus not competition for me. But alas dear reader, the bad news is that I’m still up against four other books, two of which I believe were NYT best sellers. Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians) and Brandon Mull (Fablehaven) so I doubt I'll win. Still it's nice to be a finalist. I'll actually be in Utah for the awards ceremony on March 22nd so I guess I'll have to go and it will be just like the Oscars where you see the losers graciously clapping for the winners when you know they really want to cry. I had better take a bunch of chocolate (back up happiness) with me.

Too see all the books listed you can check out the Whitney Awards site at

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Embarrassing Moments Contest


At long last I have updated my website!

(Translation: my daughter is home from college and did it for me.) My friend, Sarah Goodman (super photographer) took the new picture for me. Everyone hated the last picture. Seriously. Everyone. They said it wasn’t a real smile. I pointed out that usually when I smile it looks like a squadron of wrinkles are attacking my eyes. (And yes, wrinkles really do come in squadrons, like lions come in prides and fish come in schools.) Sarah is such a good photographer that she even makes wrinkles look good.

My latest book out is Revenge of the Cheerleaders. And it is a great book. You should buy it because not only is it brilliant and funny, but it will make you instantly skinny and rich. (The FDA has not substantiated these claims.)

For awhile I’ve thought about what sort of contest I should run in conjunction with its release, but really, I just couldn’t see myself asking for revenge stories. If my readers are out there exacting revenge on people in creative and memorable ways—I just don’t want to know about it. I’d rather believe my readers are all kind, intelligent, forgiving people. (These claims have also not been substantiated by the FDA.)

Since Revenge of the Cheerleaders is also about living through embarrassing moments (really, which of my books isn’t?) I decided to run an embarrassing moments contest. So send me a few paragraphs describing your most embarrassing moment. And hey, who knows, maybe the situation that caused you such mortification and shame will show up in one of my books. Because although I do draw on my own life for my novels, even I will eventually run out of humiliating experiences. (The FDA seriously doubts that this is true.)

I’ll let the contest run for a month or two (translation: until my daughter is around and can update my website again). Then the winner will get a signed copy of Revenge of the Cheerleaders.

In this spirit, I will share a deep, dark (or at least embarrassing) story from my past.

When I was a junior in high school, I took honors algebra. I did this not because I had any interest or talent when it came to algebra, but because I had a scheduling problem (probably trying to fit in my drama class). The counselor looked at my schedule and told me that although a teacher had to recommend an especially talented student to get them into honors algebra, since I was a straight A student, and already in honors English, he thought I would do fine in the class.

Janette as a junior in high school. You can see she is clearly a math whiz.

And thus I was in honors algebra. I was with the smart math kids. And I could handle this class just like I could handle everything else because I was smart. I sat down on the first day and it was like the teacher was speaking a completely different language. I tried to understand the gibberish that came out of his mouth but it didn’t work. I asked questions. The teacher answered my questions but since he was still speaking gibberish, all that became clear was that I was in serious trouble.

I probably should have gone in for some tutoring, but my afterschool hours were jam packed with drama rehearsal, tennis, Junior Miss, dating—you know, all of the really important things. So basically I sat in the back of the class with a deer in the headlights look on my face, wondering why I didn’t get what the rest of the students seemed to know intuitively. (I think they wondered about this too.)

I limped along with Bs and an occasional wandering A on my homework and tests. For a straight A student, it stung. (Oh stop rolling your eyes, it was a very academically competitive school.)

Okay, fast forward to those standardized test they give to the whole state every year. We took them, and afterwards the teacher decided to go over problem spots. There was this one question involving a circle and angles and very imposing intersecting lines.

The teacher told the class—using that amazed sort of voice that teachers sometimes use—that everyone in the class had got the problem wrong except for one student. And we were all going to be surprised at who that one student was.

Well absolutely no one was more surprised than me when the teacher called my name and told me to come to the board and explain how to do the problem for the rest of the class.

I couldn’t believe it. I, I had got the question right while the rest of my brainiac classmates, who effortlessly understood math gibberish, had got the question wrong!

It was validation of my intelligence. I could hold my own with the math whizzes!

I walked to the board and did the problem.

Unfortunately I did the problem all wrong.

I ended by adding two numbers together (at this point I’ve forgotten why). “So you have 8 and 5,” I told the class, “and when you add them together you get 12.”

Which, by the way, was the right answer to the problem. Unfortunately 8+5 does not equal 12. It equals 13, which was not the right answer. I had gotten the problem right because I had added wrong.

And more embarrassingly, I’d done it twice, and in front of the whole class.

There is really no way to live that down in a class full of math whizzes. I’m sure when they get together every year at their brainiac math conferences they still laugh about it.