Houston, we have Marni.

Hey everyone,

So . . . I’m in Houston! And so far I’ve been having a wonderful time in Texas. I haven’t actually done all that much yet, primarily I’ve been riding on the back of my cousin’s scooter to bookstores and coffee shops. I really missed reading in Australia, especially because when I am in Portland I regularly go to the library, check out five novels and then read them over cheap Thai food. I now associate romance novels with Pad See Eew noodles. Yum!

But recently I associate everything with hopping on a scooter since that is Abbie’s preferred method of traveling. At times this makes me feel Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

My cousin has not let me drive yet. But that slightly manic grin looks identical to mine.

When I do not feel like Audrey Hepburn, however, I feel like the Random Girl from Bourne Identity. I’m sure she has a name, but let’s be honest: no one really cares what her name is since she’s only in the first movie before she winds up dead. Her role is just to look hot and play Jason’s love interest while he tries to discover himself. Yawn. I think it would have been great if she had asked him for a few minutes in a bookstore. Given all the time they spend using various means of transportation, a good book would have come in handy . . . I’m just saying.

“I don’t need money, Jason. But that half-priced bookstore over there looks awfully good . . . meet up in five minutes?”

Back to my point. Sometimes on the scooter it feels like we are in a massive chase scene as we speed down long stretches of highway with the wind slamming against my face. It’s a lot of fun. Then we hit a small pothole and I clutch even tighter to my cousin and do my very best not to “Eeeep!” shrilly in her ear.

Since I have always (not so secretly) wanted to be a badass, I’ve been having a great time seeing Houston this way. I just haven’t done too much writing lately. As in . . . virtually no writing lately. And I’d be tempted to say “time to buckle down, Marni!” in my most serious you’re-in-big-trouble voice except . . . Meg Cabot’s book ABANDON comes out in stores today.

You know what that means . . .

I’m not going to be sleeping tonight!

Seriously, I do not know how to quit reading a good book. It’s so hard for me to “find a good stopping place” the way that my Grandma suggests when she catches me sitting in the bathroom at 2am during family vacations. I only know of one good stopping place. The end.

But this means that I’ll blog about it quickly and then I’ll get to work.

Maybe . . .

More later,

Marni

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Goodbye Australia! Hello Texas!

Hey everyone,
I am officially on vacation in beautiful Australia! I took my last college final of the semester yesterday and now have one last day at a gorgeous ecolodge in the Glasshouse mountains to relax. Best of all, though, I am officially done with science! It’s a tad bit lowering to admit but one of the reasons I chose Australia for my study abroad program was because it would fulfill my science lab requirement.
To be fair, I really didn’t want to take that at Lewis & Clark College. That would involve me sitting in a classroom listening to someone ramble about things that would most likely end in osis or otics that I would find difficult to pronounce, challenging to spell and impossible to remember. See, I like the idea of being a well-rounded individual. That’s why I chose LC in the first place. It’s a small, liberal arts college that promised to transform me into a smarter, more articulate version of my high school self. Sold.
           
But then I actually had to take science and math classes. Suddenly I was all for maintaining my edges. Who needs to be well rounded, really? I mean, when was the last time that knowing the Pythagorean Theorem proved handy during, say, a classy dinner when you were wanting to impress somebody? It’s not like you can casually work it into the conversation.
Me: Oh you know, A squared plus B squared equals C squared, that’s what I always say. My mantra for life. Oh, what was that, Holly? What are my plans for the future? That’s rather Nostradamus-esque of you, now isn’t it?
Yeah, I think not.
Anyhow, my last final has been taken and my science requirement has been fulfilled. I also know my class schedule for next semester.
Art and Culture of Japanese Tea Ceremony
2D Drawing
Great Ideas in Physics
Senior Seminar on Henry James with The Incredible Rachel Cole
It’s going to be grueling because I could be taking walk/jog three times (seriously, that’s a class) but as long as I had The Cole, yeah, I don’t stand a chance. All of my really smart friends were crying over it last year. As in, they showed up to our Brit Lit class and one of them would say, “I had a complete meltdown in her office. She handed me some tissues” while the other girl nodded as if that were perfectly normal. Then again, English Major #2 would usually console English Major #1 by saying, “oh yeah, I’m going to see her after class today. That’ll definitely happen to me too.”
???
Horrifying! Especially since they were studying Nathaniel Hawthorne and from what I’ve heard he is significantly more fun than Henry James. Then again, I’ve heard that every author in the English language is significantly more fun than Henry James. Not that I’m nervous or anything. I have merely accepted that this class will crush my soul in the best of ways and have decided to more on.
Speaking of moving on . . . this will probably be my last post from overseas! I am headed to Houston, Texas next to stay with my cousin for an undetermined amount of time. I am very excited about this. One of the first things I will have to track down is Thai iced tea. I don’t know what is wrong with Australia in this respect. They are significantly closer to Thailand. There are Thai places all over the fricking place. Yet, none of them offer my favorite beverage.
Australia is weird.
But now that my time here is coming to a close, I have to say there are parts of my journey that were absolutely phenomenal. I think my person highlights were the week long Aboriginal immersion camp where I actually created my own, ahem, garment for the traditional dance night, the week at Heron Island where I felt like I was in a snow globe except instead of glitter I was surrounded by iridescent fish . . . and (on a less profound note, perhaps) my week at Arundel House in Sydney where I got to hang out with some seriously great Aussies.
I’ve also collected some pretty amazing embarrassing moments from this trip. They will make excellent fodder for future books, I’m sure. Plus they have given my fellow classmates plenty to tease me about throughout our journey. The worst was when I got distracted while cooking and decided to pan-sear my pre-made ravioli instead of boiling it. I’ll never live that mistake down. Then again, it has gotten me out of cooking duty a time or two.
So who is laughing now!
Actually, they are. At me. Still.
But back to my point. I’ve had some great times in this wonky country and I think I will find myself missing it, especially when Portland is wet and freezing cold. Since Portland is almost always wet and freezing cold, I may find myself reminiscing more often than I expect. In any case, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the stunning beauty of this country as well as the outrageous niceness of most of the people I’ve met here. From bus drivers in Brisbane, to bartenders on Heron Island, to college students in Sydney—everyone has been great.
It’s definitely been an experience. But I will admit, I’m ready to have more adventures in Texas where I can actually get cell phone reception. And go to libraries. And buy books without bankrupting myself. And talk to people without this stupid time difference tripping me up. Oh, and use the INTERNET without crashing the system!
So . . . you could say that I’m ready to go home. 
But despite all of that: Australia, you will be missed.
More later,
Marni

Back to Nature

Hey everyone,
Okay, don’t get me wrong; I love Heron Island. It’s absolutely stunning here with waters streaked with teals and royal blues. Plus have I mentioned the sea turtles? Yeah, that’s not going to get old anytime soon.
But as great as it is to go on a night snorkel expedition hyperaware that a shark might appear at any second, I think I’m poorly equipped for island life. I love the Internet—Facebook, Twitter, Gmail . . . it’s all too great for me to ever permanently hole up on an island where twenty minutes of access costs three bucks. Plus, I’d go broke. Oh, and I’d have to take a two hour long ferry just to access a library. Thanks, but no thanks.
I’ve never been one of those “back to nature” people. I find it ridiculous to mourn for the good ol’ days that were never that good in the first place. Who really wants to give up having a flush toilet? For a short while, okay, not a problem. But that’s only because you are getting an “experience” that will “build character.”
Although when was I ever lacking in character? Common sense, perhaps. But character? I don’t think so.
I remember back in high school when I went on an eight-day school sponsored hiking trip. It was hell. My “buddy” had a crappy attitude so she dragged her feet and whined about everything. Her pack was too heavy, her feet were sore, her legs were tired even the trees were stupid. She made my Jewish grandmother look like a novice at complaining—not an easy task. But the worst was yet to come. While I was out purifying drinking water for the group, she was supposed to learn how to make a tent out of found objects and a tarp. Except this particular girl had nonexistent listening skills. So I returned with water to discover that everyone else knew how to create a shelter except my partner. Then it started to drizzle and everyone was too busy fixing their own tents to help me catch up. That’s when the rain kicked into high gear. I spent the night shivering uncontrollably, soaked to the point of pruning, while my “buddy” told me at great length about how hot Halle Berry looked in tight leather pants in Catwoman. Not a topic I had initiated or wanted to hear about, actually.
All of this, mind you was after my nosebleed and before my twenty-four hour solo “adventure” where I sat alone in the woods eating raw Top Ramen and trying to think like the transcendentalists. Mainly what came to mind was this: hmm . . . the trees sure look beautiful. Is that profound? Nope, not really. Horribly cliché, actually. Man, this sucks. Crap, I’m supposed to be meditating or connecting with nature or something. Ohm . . . ohm . . . ohmy god, when will this end!
I was so damn happy to get home it’s entirely possible that I cried. Opening the refrigerator was akin to a religious experience. Fresh salad has never tasted so good.
For the record: I do appreciate nature. Oregon is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. because you get to enjoy each season to the fullest before the next one kicks in. That’s probably why I find it bizarre the way that Australia stays in a perpetual summer. That might be slightly inaccurate, scientifically speaking. I could look it up but that seems like a waste of my Internet time. My point is that even when it rains, the overall temperature isn’t all that cold—nothing compared to Portland. Which, at times, is fantastic. Scuba diving in Washington in the winter . . . it leaves a lot to be desired.
So as a place to go for a relaxing week off, I highly recommend Heron Island—especially if you are short on character. Snorkeling with a shark should fix that pretty quickly. And it can be nice to get away from the Internet and just disappear. Although if you are like me, three days into it and you’ll find yourself willing to fork over any amount of cash to Brett the bartender in exchange for time online. Three dollars for twenty minutes suddenly sounds generous. I’m only slightly embarrassed to perpetuate the stereotype of the Internet obsessed American tourist. Mainly, I enjoy chatting with Brett and the other locals every time I inevitably return (in twenty minute increments) to extend my time. They mock but they also seem to think I’m a good kind of crazy, so I’ve got that going for me.
And what is everyone else on my program doing as I write this? Studying for the exam we have tomorrow that’s worth twenty-five percent of our grade. I have every intention of doing the same later. After I post this online, concentrate on my latest work in progress, go snorkeling and procrastinate. But, you know, I’ll get to it. Eventually.
More later,

Marni

Heron Island!

Hey everyone!
Okay, so here is the latest Marni update. I am currently on Heron Island and loving it despite one truly hideous ferry ride where I hurled not once but eight times. According to my friends my lips were chalk white and I looked like death zapped in a microwave for thirty seconds. Thankfully, I’m much better now—although dreading the ride back. On the plus side, because no one wanted to disturb me while I slept off my seasickness I now have an entire dormitory room all to myself. This is truly wonderful and not a luxury I take for granted.
But back to Heron Island. This is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
I still can’t believe that I’m getting school credit for being here. Let me describe what I did today. I woke up around 6:30, ate a delicious breakfast with my friends and headed straight to the beach. We all read and relaxed, looking up at intervals to stare in awe at the ever-changing water which is streaked liberally with teal and royal blue. In the morning light the beach glows peach and the gray clouds only made the whole scene more dramatic and picturesque. I swear to you it’s like standing in a postcard. We had our lecture for the day on reef ecology at 10 o’clock only to take a “tea break” at 10:50. Then the real work did begin. We broke into groups, plotted out a research project (checking out the biodiversity of corals in three different zones on the reef flat) put on our water suits and began collecting data.
Now normally I would complain about being forced to do science. But since my group was really good about letting me focus on my strengths (like coming up with all the puns for our presentation) I actually had a good time. It also helps that I am at the Great Barrier Reef! My friends saw some little reef sharks and I saw a manta ray, electric colored clams, shock blue starfish, spotted sea cucumbers and oh did I mention the green sea turtle hatchlings!
Let me back up for a second. We picked the perfect time to come to Heron Island since all the hatchling turtles are making their run for the ocean (not an easy task with all the silver birds and crabs waiting to snatch them up for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack). It’s both tragic and beautiful. We cheer on these turtles and stand near them flapping our arms to scare off any birds that get too close. Then we watch as they get picked off right before our eyes. Still, last night we all went for a walk on the beach and a whole group of sea turtles were suddenly surrounding us, scrambling for the waves and crawling over our feet in the process. It made me feel gigantic in comparison to these delicate hatchlings and yet humbled at the same time. These guys are facing down serious adversity and at least 90% of them won’t make it to adolescence. But each one is so determined to make it into the waves that they make you believe it’ll be the one to beat the odds. This also makes it even more heartbreaking when a bird snatches them up right in front of you.
As for the rest of my day: just working on the project and eating dinner. I might do some writing in my room . . . or I might not. I have successfully plotted out a lot of my current work in progress so that’s a small success.

My novel plans . . . cool, right!
I feel like I’m on vacation right now. I’ve also been asking all sorts of great questions that might find themselves worked into a novel down the road. The funny part is that a UC group of students are also here are they are working significantly harder. Poor saps. Of course, we LC kids think it’s hilarious that every time we see them they are working and every time they see us we are enjoying another “tea break.”
What else . . . well, the snorkeling here is fantastic. I’ve only been once so far but that will be rectified tomorrow. Lots of fish to be seen and hopefully some sharks too. There have already been a few shark sightings (the variety with teeth not just the little reef guys I’ve already seen) but apparently they are not really a danger. I just need to avoid cone shells, which sting you if you pick them up. Did I mention they kill you in roughly fifteen minutes and that there is no existing anti-venom? Yeah. Our first day here we had a lecture on everything deadly and dangerous. Derek must have noticed our nervous expressions because he finished all calmly by saying “I’m not saying this to freak you out.” To which all of us thought: yeah, well, you succeeded anyway!
But it’s not so scary. To be honest everything here is so freaking gorgeous that you forget about the potential for danger. And as long as I don’t do anything insanely stupid I’ll be returned to the US in mint condition.
So this update is coming to you courtesy of the resort that is on the island. Internet access costs three bucks for twenty minutes so I was careful to write this blog out beforehand. I am also probably not going to be in contact with you guys again before my return to the mainland on Saturday. So think very good thoughts for my ferry ride back.
More later,
Marni
P.S. I was going to send this last night but I didn’t want to get lost on the island in the dark with only the light of my iPod to guide me. I am choosing to ignore all of you out there snickering. I’m glad I tried though because I went out on the beach and the stars are absolutely stunning here. There is no pollution to interfere with the view. I could see bioluminescent jellyfish bobbing onto the shore too. Just beautiful. 
P.P.S Internet here sucks. What else is new? Pictures will be added soon though!

Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, RWA, WWC . . . and Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Jealousy

Hey everyone!
So I feel like I am on vacation. Even though I am on a college study abroad trip. Maybe this feeling of freedom is because:
  1. I am done with my ten-page paper. Officially.
  2. I have been going to the library regularly and checking out fun books!
  3. I am done with my homestay!
Don’t get me wrong, my homestay parents were nice—we just weren’t the best of fits. And it feels so much better to rely on myself! If I want to stay out at night drinking tequila in a pub . . . that is my call. Okay, so I don’t usually want to spend my time (and money) that way. It’s still an option.
Just like curling up in the library giggling over romance novels is an option.
Speaking of which, it’s almost time for the RWA conference! For those of you who don’t know what this acronym stands for . . . shame on you!
The Romance Writers of America Conference is one of the few places where you can be walking along, checking out all fun looking books on display when BOOM!
Nora Roberts.
And then when you turn around, ostensibly so you can mouth, No way. That’s Nora Freaking Roberts! Oh. My. God. I’m geeking out! without her noticing, who do you see?
Yeah, Julia Quinn.
And, okay, I have never been to the RWA conference so I cannot say that I’ve actually had this experience. Sadly, I won’t be going this year either. I am going to be too busy finishing my work in progress in my hometown to make it. But I am going to try to read every book up for a RITA this year.
It’s actually probably for the best that I am not going this year. Not just because I would spend way too much money on books and would then want to drive into writing a romance novel of my own. See, I have a feeling I would try to talk to Julia Quinn. Which sounds great in theory because she seems so nice in all of her interviews, except um . . . she went to Harvard. And then she decided, hey, I could be a doctor! even though she had majored in Art History. But being Julia Quinn (aka crazy smart and talented) she got into Yale Med School. Did I mention that she was writing romance novels during this time?
Yeah.
I think I might get an inferiority complex if I stand too close to her.
There are some people like ahem, Julia Quinn, who are so intelligent and successful that it’s impossible not to be a bit in awe of them. Especially as I consider the classes I am registering for next semester. I’m planning on taking Fundamentals of Movement (a theatre course), Great Ideas in Physics (supposedly an easy math course) and Art of Japanese Tea Ceremony. I am not kidding—that is actually offered at my school. And, okay, I am also taking a senior seminar course on Henry James with Rachel Cole, the hardest English professor at Lewis & Clark.
But Julia Quinn could do all of that in her sleep. And write two bestselling novels on the side. Not that I’m jealous or anything.
Oh, wait. Yes, I am!
Unfortunately, my silent reaction to most bits of exciting news is: but why couldn’t I do that?
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m a spoiled brat. I’m genuinely happy when others succeed—most of the time. It’s just . . . come on! One of my Australian friends told me that her cousin was sitting in first-class when her plane hit some turbulence. Since she’s a nervous flier she was freaking out and just happened to be next to a super attractive doctor who happened to be super sweet and he happened to hold her hand. Then he happened to check up on her the next day.
You know where this story is going, right?
And as we sipped our Starbucks I couldn’t help wondering, why does stuff like that never randomly happen to me? I fly on airplanes! I’m . . . relatively charming!
But here’s the truth: I would not have been freaking out on the plane. I would have been grinning and trying to decide whether plane crashes were too hackneyed and cliché now thanks to Lost. Plus I would not be assigned a seat next to a super hot doctor. I end up next to jewel smugglers who show me pictures of what they looked like a few months ago when someone was paid to beat them up. This sounds super cool but actually . . . kinda creepy.
But I would take a jewel smuggler any day over someone who just sits there in stony silence. Awkward.
But I have a point here!
Okay so the plane example isn’t ideal because it’s not like the cousin accomplished anything besides potentially meeting her soul-mate (according to my friend). I get really jealous when other people are successful in ways that I covet.
Like Emma Watson.
I know that it is ridiculous for me to resent her for getting the role of Hermione Granger especially since 1. It’s not like I auditioned, 2. As an American without a British accent there’s no way in hell I would have been chosen, and 3. She plays the role really well.
But I wanted it. With every fiber or my elementary school heart, I wanted that role.
And that spark of jealousy, well it can make me a bit competitive at times.
So when I read that Meg Cabot wrote a book in 8 DAYS, I thought, challenge accepted!


Luckily, I have a very supportive mother who provides excellent wake-up calls. I believe her words were, “good luck, honey! On your best days you only write how many pages? 12? Okay . . . well, no pressure.”
You might be wondering why I am blogging about this. But the truth is that even though I have a book deal and an agent and a really fantastic life . . . I still compare myself with others all the time. Most of the time I wonder why I can’t be as productive as (blank) who never does marathon romance novel reading events.
But sometimes at school I get this weird feeling that I have to undermine my success. Especially since writing an autobiography is usually seen as an act of vanity. To be fair, they do require the assumption that someone will find your life interesting enough to read it. Plus, it’s hard not to sound narcissistic when it really is all about you! Autobiographies tend to make life complicated when you don’t want other English majors saying: why does the talent-less hack have the book deal? Why isn’t it me!
Not that they say it . . . to my face.
So I’m stuck between the land of Braggertyville and Modestlandia. And while nobody likes the people from Braggertyville (you know the type, the ones who still tell you their SAT scores) it’s just so tempting. Plus Modestlandia can get rather bland.
But then I think about going to the RWA and being surrounded by writers I view with the same reverence some tween girls attach to Justin Bieber and . . . I feel so out of my league.
What does one actually say to Julia Quinn (if one can get her mouth to work properly, of course)?
Um . . . I think you’re amazing! In a non-stalkery way, of course! Not that I would be opposed to stalking you. I bet you’re quite stalkable. It’s just that I don’t do that. Unless it’s on Facebook. But that doesn’t count, right?
Please, please, never let me ever say anything like this in real life!
I find jealousy interesting because everybody feels it but most people can’t admit it. And if you reach a certain level of success you are expected to never be jealous again.
But it totally doesn’t work that way!
I am in awe of people who know how to cook. People who go to the supermarkets and don’t end up with a serious case of visual overload, standing in the produce aisle, staring sightlessly at the yams and pondering the many ways it could be botched. I envy people who are able to follow instructions on the back of packages without feeling the need to revolt. 
The practicalities of life . . . yeah, I’m not so good with them.
And, okay, I’m sure I could handle myself just fine at the RWA conference. But I’m fine with meeting Julia Quinn next year. Hopefully, by then I won’t be quite as intimidated by her success.
The crazy thing is that soon I will be the intimidating one at a conference. Super agent Laurie McLean and I will be on two panels at the Willamette Writers Conference this year in August.
I just got the confirmation email.
 Bagging the Elusive YA – with Laurie McLean    Friday 10:30 – 12    

Win Big at Willamette – panel with Laurie McLean and Grace Ledding            Saturday 8:30-10

So hopefully everyone will be able to make it.
A long, meandering post but that’s what happens when I finish writing a ten-page research paper!
~Marni