Category Archives: Friends

On Learning to Say Goodbye, in Winter

On January 10, 2018, my dear friend and writing partner, Darcy Vance, lost her battle with cancer.

This is my tribute to her.

We met only twice in person, once in May of 2000 and again, nine years later, for our book launch, but I first encountered Darcy in an online writing workshop sometime in 1998. We took a few classes together and ended up in the same “study group.” From there, we quickly became friends.

Darcy often told me I was the writer she wished she could be. The thing is, she was the writer—and the human being—I wished I could be.

When I shelved my novel The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, Darcy wouldn’t let it go. She loved it too much, thought it too good to let me simply abandon it. So she jumped in—like she did with so many things in her life—started working on it, converting the prose from third person point of view to first.

This might sound easy, but ask any writer: it’s not. There’s tone and style and voice to consider. The way a third-person narrator might phrase things or relate an event is far different from the way a first-person narrator would.

Here’s the note she sent me when she first started working on the novel:

I would like (very much) to play with the first three chapters of your novel. If I’m pleased with what I come up with (a big IF) I would show it to you. After that, we’ll talk. No commitments on either side.

Here’s what I didn’t know: She’d already jumped in and started, so when I said yes, I had those three chapters in my inbox almost instantaneously.

After I got over the shock of reading my story in a completely different voice, I was entranced. Darcy had done something incredibly special. When I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at a line she had added, I knew we were going to sell this novel, and we were going to sell it because of her.

Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance’s debut THE GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING, the story of a self-confessed debating dork whose practical joke lands her a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad, where she realizes that if there’s one thing worse than blending into the lockers, it’s getting noticed!, to Jennifer Klonsky at Simon Pulse, by Mollie Glick at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Magic happened when we worked together. It was no longer simply my story; it wasn’t Darcy’s; it was the main character’s story. We managed to transcend both our egos and insecurities (and writers have plenty of both) and create something special.

It’s true that magic comes with a price. We fought, we fumed, we’d give each other the virtual side eye. If it was a plot issue, I usually won. If it was humor related, Darcy did. (The funniest bits in both our novels? Those are pure Darcy.)

But even when we butted heads, neither one of us wanted to call it quits. Not when we had each other.

At the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Signing books at the launch

In May of 2009, I was lucky enough to see how incredible Darcy was in person, too. My kids and I arrived in Danville for the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, but due to various circumstances, our luggage did not.

Without blinking an eye, Darcy got us to the closest Walmart before they closed and entertained my daughter while my son and I ran around the store gathering up the supplies we’d need for the weekend. By the time we met up at the cash registers, Darcy had already purchased a pair of sparkly glitter jeans for my daughter. Then she took us all out to dinner.

This is how she was in every aspect of her life. She knew what you needed whether it was a pair of glitter jeans, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or the missing plot point in your story.

That she was the same in person as in my email inbox doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t write and revise thousands of words together and exchange an untold number of emails without becoming part of that person’s life. While working on revisions in instant messenger, we often typed the same idea at the same time. One year for Christmas, we bought each other the exact same book. In 2015, we sent each other candles.

One night, I was booting down the computer when my daughter, about five at the time, said, “Goodnight, Darcy!”

I said, “You know Darcy doesn’t really live in my computer, right?”

My daughter didn’t answer.

Maybe Darcy didn’t live in my computer, but she certainly lives on through it. As far back as 1999, I started saving our exchanges. I have countless emails and replies from her, all written in her wonderful voice. I’ve been rereading her messages over these last few days, and I’m in awe of how blessed I am to have them. I know, in the future, whenever I need her advice, I’ll be able to find it there.

It’s been two years since I placed that Christmas candle on my nightstand. And while its wonderful scent has faded, I’ve never moved it from its spot. On the evening of January 10th, I inched it closer to me so I could see, if not smell, the candle while I reread her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn.

At around four in the morning, the cat became agitated in a way she never does. Something had woken us, but I couldn’t say what, exactly. I bolted upright. The cat was staring at the space above the headboard in that freaky way cats have. I held my breath and listened hard.

Then I caught the scent of the candle, the aroma stronger than it’s been for more than a year.

I know what logic says about this—grief, imagination, wishful thinking. I also know what Darcy would say.

I like to think she found a way to tell me goodbye.

My writing and my life have been so intertwined with hers that even when we weren’t working on a project together, I never considered a story truly done until Darcy read it. She helped me become a better writer, and more importantly, a better person.

Rereading her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn was a revelation. Somehow it was the same story and yet completely different from what I remember, very much like reading a brand-new story of hers. This is yet another gift she’s given me.

In a mere nine pages, she managed to convey so much about love and loss, and taking leaps of faith, making those scary jumps.

Near the end, there is this exchange between the two main characters:

Kathleen set down her glass and reached for her grandmother’s hand. She gave it a squeeze. “Oh, Nonni, what will I do without you?” she said.

“Jump,” the old woman answered, and she squeezed back.

I don’t know what I’m going to do without Darcy. But I do know this:

She would want me—and all of us—to jump.

 


 

More than anything, a writer loves to be read. Please take the time to read Darcy’s work.

I’ll be running a free Kindle promotion for Dating on the Dork Side between January 13th and 17th. Darcy loved our free promotional runs, was always amazed that by offering our book for free, we ended up making money. Our last run in May was so good, it caught Amazon’s eye, and they selected Dating on the Dork Side for their curated Prime Reading list over the summer.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Dating on the Dork Side

  • 1st Place: 2016 International Digital Awards, Young Adult Novel
  • Available on: Kindle  Print

Less Than Three

On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn: A Short Story

  • A contest-winning short story
  • Available for 99 cents on Kindle or read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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Filed under Friends, Geek Girl's Guide, Writing, YA

Diversity in YA Book Tour

Two our our 2009 Debs, Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo have put together a Diversity in YA book tour, possibly coming to a city near you starting May 7th!

Where, you ask? Well, in these cities here:

San Francisco | May 7, 2011 at 3 p.m.
— Focus on Asian American YA with Cindy Pon, Gene Luen Yang, and J.A. Yang
San Francisco Public Library (Main Library)
Latino-Hispanic Room
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Austin | May 9, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
— With Bethany Hegedus, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Cindy Pon, Dia Reeves, and Jo Whittemore, and moderated by Varian Johnson
BookPeople
603 N. Lamar
Austin TX 78703

Chicago | May 10, 2011 from 5:30-6:45 p.m.
— With Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, Nnedi Okorafor, and Cindy Pon
Barbara’s Books
1218 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Boston | May 12, 2011 at 7 p.m.
— With Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, Cindy Pon, and Francisco X. Stork, and moderated by Roger Sutton
Cambridge Public Library (Main Library)
Lecture Hall
449 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02138

New York | May 13, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
— Focus on LGBT YA with Cris Beam, David Levithan, and Jacqueline Woodson
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011

New York | May 14, 2011 at 1 p.m.
— With Matt de la Peña, Kekla Magoon, Neesha Meminger, Cindy Pon, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jacqueline Woodson, and moderated by Cheryl Klein
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

Want to hear more? Check out Malinda’s vlog:

Even if you can’t make the tour, check out the vlog. How else are you going to learn about the Chinese Twilight?

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Filed under 2009 Debs, Friends, Video, YA

News of the bookish variety

So … yeah, as Andrew would say. We got the word that The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading is a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest, in the young adult category.

Since I put my home phone (and not my cell) on the contest entry form, the coordinator emailed me to tell us the news. This is maybe just as well, since for a few moments, I forgot how to type. On the phone, I would’ve been all: Dude, no way! (And really, I don’t think you’re supposed to refer to contest coordinators as dude.)

So, when I sent Darcy the news, I asked her for a squee. She saw my squee and raised me a woot.

Anyway, we’re stoked here at Geek Girl central, and check out the other YA finalists:

  • Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle
  • The ABC’s of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro
  • Spring Breakup by Stephanie Hale
  • Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills

That’s some fine, fine company to be in. Plus, I first met Tricia when we both were finalists for the Golden Heart waaaay back in 2003. It’s neat that both our debut YA novels are finalists together now.

(Oh, and to my horror, I’ve just done the 2010 – 2003 math. Oy. Apropos to yesterday’s post with Jasper Fforde.)

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Filed under Friends, Geek Girl's Guide, Noodlers, Reading & Writing, RWA, YA

A dress a day makes the geek girl stay

I’ve never been someone with a knack for sewing/knitting/crocheting. How I got a decent grade in Home Ec. (as we called it back in the day) is one of those mysteries best left unexplored. Although my sister reported that when she took the class four years later, the teacher still remembered me. Fondly.

Uh. Whatev.

That being said, I love dresses. I’m not really a girly girl either (she says, clad in camouflage Chuck Taylors) but I could spend hours searching for the perfect prom/home coming dress online. Because, you know, that’s practical.

And I love it when bloggers post their sewing/craft projects. One of my favorite dress sites is:

A Dress a Day

And, if I’m remembering correctly, Darcy has a special fondness for Tetris. (Am I remembering correctly? You do ❤ Tetris, right?) So, this is for her, courtesy of A Dress a Day:

tetris_dress

When geekdom and fashion collide: a thing of beauty

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Filed under Friends, Misc

Help save Shrinking Violet

2009 Deb Danielle Joseph could use everyone’s help. Shrinking Violet is about an extremely shy high school senior trying to find her voice and reach her dream of becoming a DJ, despite the obstacles that stand in her way.

The book is about to go on back order and in order for more copies to be printed, more people have to place orders for the book.

Read more about Shrinking Violet:

High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T to everyone’s shock, she’s a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest, and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize, Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare. . . .

Want to help? Here’s what you can do:

Please tell anyone that you think might be interested to place an order now before it’s too late. Guys, girls, grandmas. grandpas, you’re never too old to read humorous teen fiction!

Can’t afford to buy another book? You can still help. Check to see if your school and/or public library carries a copy of Shrinking Violet. If not, request it! (A lot of the time, you can even do this online). Write a review and post it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads.

Danielle also running a contest for those that want to have some fun! There will be four winners, each receiving a $25 gift certificate to iTunes or the bookstore of their choice. For all the information on what to do, head on over to Danielle’s blog.

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Filed under 2009 Debs, Books, Friends, Reading & Writing, YA

Proof is in the cake

It’s true. You can have your cake and eat read it too:

cake

 

cake2

Cake and photos courtesy of the wonderful people I work with.

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Filed under Friends, Geek Girl's Guide

What a day!

Yesterday was crazy good. One of my favorite YA authors, Maureen Johnson, stopped by to offer congratulations. I was all: No! Way!

In case you missed my interview with Darcy over at The Long and the Short of It, you can read it here. I get Darcy to dish about the tattoo.

Today, Darcy has an essay up on collaborative writing and some background on our journey from critique partners to friends to writing partners.

Also, the lovely Em has our interview up at Em’s Bookshelf.

In case you missed it:

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Filed under Famous people, Friends, Geek Girl's Guide