Helllloooo 2014!

Hey everyone,

I suck at New Year’s resolutions. Once I even managed to mess up my resolution not to make any resolutions!

I’m the total New Year’s resolution cliché. I start out with good intentions. I’m even willing to use positive visualization…

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And then I actually try the thing I’ve resolved to accomplish.

Which quickly leads to this…

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Because why would a smart person resolve to do this thing?! WHY?! It sucks. It’s hard. I’m not good at it. I don’t wanna…

And this is my response when my friends and family remind me of all those idealistic plans…

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Every. Single. Year.

I think part of the problem is that you are supposed to master something by the end of the year. And that is awfully daunting to a girl who still has burn marks on her neck from a 3am encounter with a marshmallow.

I’m not even making that up.

But I realized something about myself recently. Something that I probably should have figured out years ago.

I’m really good at failing.

I don’t mean this in a bad way either. I don’t think that I am a failure. I absolutely love my life, my friends, and my job. But when it comes to making a mess…I’m something of a natural. I once asked my best friend whether she thought I’d make a better assassin or a better chef.

She said that the only way I’d ever kill someone was if I attempted to cook for them.

I think that sums up my culinary skills pretty nicely.

Now normally this is when I’d feel obligated to make a resolution that involves cooking classes. To read recipes when cooking. Heck, maybe even buy a cookbook!

I don’t want to use recipes though. That takes all the fun out of it for me. And I don’t want to feel guilty if I take a cooking class and then can never reproduce the dish without supervision.

I don’t want to feel pressured to prove myself. Especially not in the kitchen.

Which is why this year I am resolved to be more open to failure. I could make some poorly constructed sushi rolls. Or I could have a super awkward encounter with a dance partner while attempting to tango. I could very easily mix up my left and my right in the midst of an ice skating class…and faceplant on the ice.

And if it turns out I actually have a knack for any of those things, well, that’s cool! If not, that’s fine too!

I just want to keep trying new things. And laughing. I expect to laugh a lot in 2014.

So on that note…

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I hope you have an incredible new year!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

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Portland, You’ve Got Marni!

Hey everyone,

I realized that I haven’t shared much about my awesome new home in Portland with you! All you got to see was nostalgic-Thanksgiving-Marni. And she’s not all that much fun. Trust me.

So let me fill you guys in!

My second day in Portland was spent with a whole bunch of my friends in Ikea.

I’m so lucky that they agreed to help me because Ikea has to be the most overwhelming place in the history of overwhelming places! My friends were like, “What kind of a bed are you looking for, Marni?”

To which I brilliantly replied: “Y’know…the kind that holds a mattress? And sheets? I’m quite fond of those!”

They were the ones who instructed me to try out all the mattresses on my stomach…

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Because that’s how I roll. Or, y’know…sleep.

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And they only mocked me a little for taking off my shoes in the store. I thought it was the polite thing to do when testing a mattress!

Somehow we managed to make it out of Ikea in time to make an afternoon showing of the Hunger Games. I thought the movie was absolutely great. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it, you totally should! Although I will admit that during this scene…

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All I could think was, “I’ve been in that elevator! It’s the same hotel I stayed in for the RWA conference in Atlanta! That stupid elevator nearly made me seasick too!”

So that was a little distracting for me.

Anyhow, the next morning I had a battle of my own to wage. Marni vs. The Ikea Bed.

It was a long painful struggle, but I’m proud to say that I put the whole thing together all by myself! And there is only one loose screw in the entire thing! 

Now if you’re thinking, “Marni, that’s not a big deal. All you had to do was follow directions!” well, yes. It is that simple. I just happen to hate following instructions. It’s partly why I’m a terrible cook. I glance at recipes and growl, “You’re not the boss of me!

So for me to successfully decipher the bizarre Ikea instructions was nothing short of miraculous.

Here is what my room looks like now:

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Have I mentioned that I love twinkle lights? Because I do. More than just about anything.

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I was so cold when I first arrived in Portland that I tried to insulate my room by putting a layer of clear plastic on my window. I don’t think it helped keep the heat in, but it’s now a great place to brainstorm ideas!

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This is Monsieur Mustachio! I can tell whether or not my heater is on by glancing at his magnificent facial hair. 

I’m still trying to get a lay of the land. I’m plotting new bus routes and testing out coffee shops. But this place really does feel like home. It helps that my housemates are completely made of awesome–especially the furry one!

This is Hamlet!

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He is a total sweetheart. But he also has some very strong opinions about petting time, so…sdjlhgkergvwgnwwwwrtu

I better appease the prince!

Awkwardly yours,

~Marni

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (RWA, Please Fix This!)

Hey everyone,

So yesterday I received the following email from the Romance Writers of America:

Dear Marni Bates,

Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed.

Awards are important. And I’ve spent the past hour staring at my screen trying to figure out how to discuss them without coming across as narcissistic. Here’s a sad truth: It requires bravery for a female author to say that she believes her work to be worthy of consideration. It’s a whole new level of scary. It’s the kind of statement that you instantly want to take back before somebody says, “You aren’t a real writer! Your stories are light fluffy things of absolutely no consequence!” because that would make you want to crawl up into a very tight ball in the back of your closet.

Which is why I still feel obligated to preface this post with something self-depreciating.

Not that I expected to be nominated…

Not that I had a shot at reaching the finals…

I’m mostly disappointed that so many of my peers won’t get the recognition they deserve…

And yes, I absolutely believe that gender plays a large role in this. If you want to read an amazing article on what it’s like to be a female YA author, I highly recommend this piece by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s spot on.

Here’s a small excerpt from her article:

Common Responses To Female Authors Promoting Themselves I Have Seen, Over and Over Again.

“Why do you think you are so great? You are not so great.” (By promoting yourself/talking about yourself or your work, you indicate that you do think you, and/or your work, has some value, and there is so much pushback, conscious and unconscious, to that.)

“Don’t reblog fan graphics/talk about your characters/talk about your MALE characters (what do you think you are, some sort of harlot?)/be so smug about your books as if you think they might be any good. It makes it seem like you think you’re so great!”

“Do you expect PRAISE?” (I don’t! I never do. Most ladies I know don’t, being accustomed to expecting constant negativity. But it would be nice if people didn’t talk about praise as if it is some incredible, celestial prize that a women should never even dare to dream of getting, and the very idea of them getting it is to be scorned.)

“She’s writing romance and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing YA and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing literature and men write it better and she sucks./She’s writing about a girl and girls are annoying/shallow/not literature.”

So I repeat: Awards are important. Why? It’s a source of validation. And for a whole bunch of us, it means that we will feel valued instead of dismissed. Especially if you write books that end with a happily ever after.
Now I will always love the Romance Writers of America. I’ve met so many unbelievably talented people through that organization. My life is a hundred thousand times more awesome because of the friendships that have formed, too!
But they have made a huge mistake.
The Young Adult community within the RWA first began to feel alienated last year when the organization decided that all books in that category must “focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents.”
Here’s the problem: YA is all about coming of age. It’s about figuring out your own identity at a time in life where everyone has an opinion about your future. And yes, YA protagonists often navigate complicated romantic relationships, but the happily ever after is usually built on the character’s ability to know what they believe in. Young Adult fiction can also mean just about anything. Historical. Suspense. Horror. Sci-fi. Contemporary. Humor. Drama. There are YA books that include all of those elements…and have a romance too!
So here is the position that most YA writers found themselves in. Do I really want to spend fifty bucks when I’m pretty sure my book is going to be instantly disqualified? Do I want to feel guilty about focusing more on the growth of a primary character instead of an overarching romance?
And for a bunch of people the answer to that was a resounding, “Oh, hell no!” Some of my friends are going to leave the organization because they feel so frustrated/alienated by these policy changes.
Now that whole category has been eliminated.
I know you might be sick of hearing this, but…AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT!
This community is important! This is our refuge when the rest of the world tells us that we are girly and that we suck. So I hope the RWA will remove the problematic language and consider opening the category to late submissions.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
~Marni