Center Stage! The inspirational play list

In writing Center Stage, I’ve found it really inspirational to listen to music that I think my main characters would favor. I’ve developed a sort of “inspiration playlist” to help the story unfold, and I thought it might be fun to introduce you to the story through music!

I like to believe that Allison Burch would have a strong appreciation for female vocalists with unique voices. Here are a few songstresses who I think Allison would idolize.

Hope Sandoval / Mazzy Star / Fade Into You

Fade Into You was a big hit when I was in high school, and even today it makes me feel melancholy and nostalgic whenever I hear it. No one in the industry has a voice quite as haunting as lead singer Hope Sandoval.

 

Fiona Apple / Sleep to Dream 

For a while there, in the 90’s, this was the anthem of all girls, everywhere, who aspired to be bad girls. As a songwriter, Fiona Apple packages angst and fury in her lyrics that seemed like a call to arms for all girls who’d been burned by dudes. “Don’t come around, I’ve got my own hell to raise,” she warns the guy who’s wronged her in this tune.

 

Kelly Clarkson / Since U Been Gone

I was a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson when she was on American Idol, and her first single did not disappoint.

I think Kelly’s at her best when she’s vindictive, and in this video as she’s tearing up some guy’s apartment, she cuts loose. It’s kind of hard to believe from Justin to Kelly came out eleven years ago. My, how time flies. In may ways, Allison is based on Kelly, as she was the first girl in the USA to become a huge breakout reality TV music star.

 

P!nk / Try

I’m not going to lie – this song gets the tears flowing and makes me have fantasies about karaoke glory, even when I’m standing in line to pay for diet soda at the deli!

In many ways this song was the inspiration for the dynamic between Elliott and Allison in Center Stage! and of course, P!nk is right. You’ve gotta get up and try, try, try.

 

What are your favorite videos, and do you have any favorite contestants from reality TV shows like The Voice and American Idol?

The Emma book – finally here!

I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to make this announcement for ages, and have been holding off until the book’s been made available on Amazon as well as iTunes.
The Tycoon's DaughterThe Tycoon’s Daughter, aka The Emma Book, is finally available! You may remember the first mention of Emma in The Rock Star’s Daughter, when Taylor wanders into a mall and finds comfort in seeing the familiar face of her high school adversary in a window display at a Hunter Lodge store.

To all of her classmates at The Treadwell Academy, Emma appears to have everything a girl could want. She’s gorgeous and filthy rich, and if that weren’t enough, her father made her the face of the campaign for his iconic clothing brand. She’s on the cover of Hunter Lodge’s sexy catalog, and every teenage boy in America knows who she is.

But the tricky thing about having everything is that it can’t last forever. When Emma gains weight the summer before her junior year and her father’s creative team ever-so-gently removes her from the upcoming holiday catalog, her self-confidence is crushed.  What begins as a diet manifests into a dangerous obsession with losing weight, and as Emma pursues a high fashion modeling career to get revenge on her father, she quickly learns that everyone wants something from her, and rarely are other people’s intentions in her own best interest.

It took me quite a while to finish this book because I know from exchanging emails with my readers that body image obsession and self-harming behaviors are very, very common among this generation of teen girls. It seems like for the last ten years or so, young women have been force-fed even more unrealistic images of what the “ideal” body looks like by the media than when I was a teenager – back when Kate Moss’s Eternity ads launched a “heroin chick” wave of anorexia (not that Kate Moss should be personally blamed for that).  I’m not ashamed to say that I think the Victoria’s Secret Angel fashion show is about the most Satanic thing televised, ever, and I find it not surprising that there is no equivalent annual broadcast to send men into dizzy tailspins of dieting and exercise. However, times are changing. It delights me to see new faces on television and in movies of more diverse women being presented as “normal.” Lena Dunham’s a bit of a hero in this space, and I consider Ireland Baldwin (6’2!), Gabourey Sidibe, Demi Lovato, and Lorde to be refreshing role models for young women. Girls who say “this is who I am and how I look, deal with it” rather than publicly conforming to unhealthy standards, and women who have been vocal about their own struggles with body image so that young women feel less alone.

While Cameron Diaz isn’t a nutritionist or a psychiatrist, sometimes it’s more interesting for young women to get advice from someone who’s internationally famous for her beauty and talent, so I’m going to go ahead and plug her book, The Body Book. Cameron comes right out and states a simple fact that a lot of girls need to hear: when your body is hungry, you have to feed it. You have to feed it the right stuff and take care of it, because you’ve only got one life, and it’s a shame to go through it spending all of your time worrying about how other people view you.

Check out The Tycoon’s Daughter on Amazon and on iTunes.

On celebrities and eating disorders

I’m now just *days* away from the release of The Tycoon’s Daughter, the Treadwell book about Emma’s struggle with an eating disorder in the modeling industry. The book is very close to my heart, maybe more than all of the other Treadwell books in the series, because I think body image is such a profoundly important issue for young girls.
I’m sure this may be perceived as a bit of an inflammatory post because Little Monsters are quick to defend Lady Gaga, but knowing that, I’m going to post anyway.

Ke$ha

Ke$ha

Pop star Ke$ha, who landed her own record deal and became a star in her own right after singing backup for Britney Spears, just announced that she checked into Timberline Knolls, an eating disorder treatment center (oddly enough) in the town where my father lives outside Chicago. I can’t clap my hands loudly enough for her, because she’s let her fans know that this is an issue with which she personally struggles, and she’s demonstrating total girl power by getting help for it. THIS is setting a good example.
Last year, when Lady Gaga was called out by the press for gaining weight before her European tour, she made a big deal about informing her fans that she suffered from an eating disorder, then didn’t publicly make any statement about seeking treatment, and suddenly appeared 30 lbs slimmer in photos again once her tour ended. I’m a fan of Lady Gaga’s music, but I felt that this behavior of hers was completely counter-intuitive to her “Born This Way” platform and sent an indisputably negative message to fans, male and female, about body weight.

Jennifer Lawrence recently caused a stir when she told Barbara Walters that she thinks it should be illegal for the media to call people fat, and while I’m a big supporter of freedom of speech, I do think that there should be fines for making derogatory statements that impact how youth view themselves and their peers. Ms. Lawrence’s point that radio stations and networks are fined for cuss words is a valid one: who do cuss words really hurt, anyway? Do they inspire healthy kids to go on diets, find ways to get their hands on drugs to stimulate weight loss, and manifest in ways to cause other negative behaviors, like cutting? If more celebrities were forthright about their own personal struggles with body image, they might inspire more young fans to seek help and get serious about getting healthy.

Kudos to Ke$ha for her honesty and courage. I hope the lovely people of Lemont, Illinois take good care of her. For anyone struggling with this issue who could use some good advice, here’s one of my absolute favorite stars, Demi Lovato, addressing kids in treatment at Timberline Knolls, where she, herself, received treatment:
http://www.mtv.com/videos/news/746211/demi-lovato-stay-strong-visiting-timberline-knolls.jhtml

Farewell, 2013!

Finding words to describe this last year is proving to be quite a challenge! It feels like it flashed by in a matter of seconds, thankfully without any major personal tragedies!

Some highlights of 2013:

  • Jamaica, Jamaica
  • Meeting Narciso Rodriguez (so nice)!
  • Completing The Tycoon’s Daughter (coming soon)!
  • Contributing to The Rock Gods of Romance book bundle
  • Powering through Seasons 1 – 3 of Damages
  • Sticking with Insanity and not being a wuss (thank you, Shaun T)!
  • Spending lots of time in my beloved Los Angeles

I also can’t express enough how very much all of the emails and reviews I’ve received on The Treadwell Academy series have meant to me this year. Writing is my passion, and while I don’t always get to devote as much time as I’d prefer to it, you guys make it ever so much worth the effort.

Resolutions for 2014?

  • Continue doing Insanity – no mercy!
  • Run a 10K (preferably somewhere warm and sunny)
  • Finish editing the sequel to The Rock Star’s Daughter – everyone keeps asking about Taylor!
  • Finish the first book in the Allison Burch series

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2014 to all of you!

jamaica

Hurricane Emma… on its way

Hello, everyone! I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been so busy finishing The Tycoon’s Daughter and editing it for release that I

1) haven’t gone shopping in like… ages

2) haven’t gone to the beach in even longer

As I’ve been working on The Tycoon’s Daughter, I’ve been particularly sensitive to conversations going on around me about weight, food, and eating disorders, since that’s a huge part of Emma’s story. It’s always surprising to me, truly surprising, that so many women even my own age still struggle with all of these issues. So many girls define the quality of their lives on a daily basis by how they perceive their body to look, and ladies, we need to stop the madness.  I’m going to write a lot about this topic over the next few weeks, but in an effort to not be too preachy all at once, first I’m going to encourage everyone who has a computer to get their butt over to Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge.

Yes, it’s hippy new-agey stuff. Sort of. But it’s not just for old people, it’s for teenagers, too.

If you could feel better about yourself and see yourself as you really are instead of through the I-Hate-Myself lens by just spending a few minutes every morning clearing your mind and focusing on your own happiness, why would you avoid that?

Here’s a totally free way to have access to the world’s most famous physician and meditation guru: Deepak Chopra. He’s the guy celebrities turn to for help with establishing balance in their lives, and he’s made all of his best stuff FREE for all of us.

You may hate meditation. It may make you sleepy. That’s OK. The point is that too often we speed through our lives, letting negative thoughts build up. You are worth slowing down for a few minutes each day and focusing  on how YOU really feel.  Humor me. Just try it. And word: Jerry Seinfeld has been meditating for 40 years (since he was a teenager) and credits much of his success to it. So it’s not just for weird yoga people.

 

Hello again, LA

I was just back in Los Angeles again last week (making me start to wonder if I should just move back!) for work, and fell just a little more in love with the city of smoggy sunsets.  June, although being the time of year when you can expect a gloomy, overcast start to every day, is really the time of year when the air smells like flowers everywhere, and afternoon sunshine can lift anyone’s spirits.

The trip began with kind of a funny misunderstanding: the car service my coworkers had called to book for our drive to Newark Airport had run out of SUV’s, so instead they sent a stretch party limo.  We were so in awe of this ridiculous vehicle that our driver had to fight off a cop (who you can’t see in this photo due to the fact that I was rushing to get into the limo) because we were obstructing traffic while we were all taking pictures. Riding in it was kind of like being in a bachelorette party, only no one was getting married, my coworkers are the least likely people to ever attend a bachelorette party, and it was the middle of the afternoon.

Our party limo driver, fighting a ticket.

Our party limo driver, fighting a ticket.

Our hotel in Beverly Hills was *quite nice.* The Thompson is on Wilshire Blvd, walking distance from one of my most beloved places in Los Angeles (the Starbucks on North Beverly Drive – what can I say? I’m easy to please).

The very sleek Thompson Hotel, where they leave chocolates and phenomenal lemon madeleine cookies in your room!

The very sleek Thompson Hotel, where they leave chocolates and phenomenal lemon madeleine cookies in your room!

While in Los Angeles, I finally had an opportunity to snap a picture of the house that I had in mind as the one where Taylor and Dawn reside in The Rock Star’s Daughter! Here it is…  imagine Chase driving up to this beautiful little house to fetch Taylor’s belongings.

The house that I imagined as Taylor's.

The house that I imagined as Taylor’s.

We also made a mandatory stop at the holy of holies, In-N-Out burger, for crispy fries with cheese and milkshakes.

Teenage boys worshipping at the burger altar.

Teenage boys worshipping at the burger altar.

And because it’s Los Angeles and in so many ways just an absurd, laughable city, here’s a picture of two Fiats parked in a row (something you would never, ever see in Brooklyn).

Fiat, Fiat!

Fiat, Fiat!

 

Now, back to writing the Taylor sequel!

Daze Off!

It is my pleasure to announce that I’ve contributed a story to Be Active Media‘s Beat Girl project on Wattpad! If you live in the UK, you’ve probably already heard about Beat Girl, because the movie opened in theaters in May.

Beat Girl is the story of a girl named Heather whose life falls apart after her mom passes away unexpectedly. She loses her scholarship to study piano at Juilliard in New York, and has to live with her estranged dad and trouble-making younger half-brother. But life takes a strange turn when Heather tries her hand at spinning dance music. She’s actually good–really good–and has to decide between pursuing her old dream and giving a new dream a shot.

My story, Daze Off, is about a girl named Daisy Chatterjee who’s about to turn eighteen and graduate from high school in London’s East End. If you know anything about London, then you know that the East End is the tough part of town. It’s the neighborhood where Jack the Ripper committed his bloody crimes, and where the very famous British soap opera East Enders is set (it was Princess Diana’s favorite show). It’s also known as “Spitalfields,” as in, All Saints Spitalfields, and was the site of one of the very first hospitals in England (dating back to the 13th Century)! Daisy’s been desperate her whole life to find a way to escape her neighborhood, and thinks she’s finally found a reasonable shot at fame and fortune when the band she started has a chance to join a huge summer rock tour across the U.K. However, Daisy’s absolutely floored when her band mates–all guys– tell her that they’re kicking her out of the band to go on tour with out her, billing themselves as a wild & crazy boy band.

Daze Off

 

 

Daisy’s so upset, she’s not sure what to do. Even her own boyfriend, Mike, didn’t have the heart to stick up for her and insist that she go on tour with the guys.  All she wants to do is play drums and get famous, and she knows she’s got the talent to make it happen. She has a decision to make: wait hopefully for another chance at success, or create one for herself.

Here’s the trailer for the Beat Girl movie:

Your BEA Action Plan

Hello, friends! If you’re going to be among the masses descending upon NYC this week for BEA, here are some of my own treasured tips to help you make the most of the Expo.

1) Eat a big breakfast. Really go for it at your hotel or wherever you’re staying, because food at the Javits Center is a) pretty gross and b) ridiculously overpriced. So unless you’re attending one of the breakfast buffets as part of the Expo, load up on fruit and protein before you head to the West Side.

2) If you, like me, are a Starbucksaholic, don’t even bother with the one inside the Javits Center. I once stood in line there for forty-five minutes only to be charged more than $7 for a grande soy latte. Rip off!! There’s a perfectly fine Starbucks on 39th Street and 8th Avenue with a fast-moving line, and it’s open from 5:30 AM until midnight. You can drink your iced coffee on your walk to the Javits Center.

3) Bring Power bars, dried fruit, pretzels, and a bottle of water. As mentioned in item #1, the lunch options in the convention center are weak and the considerable lines will keep you from seeing things that you came to the Expo to see. This is New York City! If you’re going to spend big money on food, spend it where the food is good! If you’ve never been to the Javits Center before, I’ll warn you that it’s kind of a long walk away from… everything. Once you’ve loaded up on free ARC’s and t-shirts, you may not feel too enthusiastic about carrying your new winnings on a very long,  hot, five-block walk to the nearest sit-down restaurant. Oh yeah, and comfortable walking shoes are a must (see below about difficulty in catching cabs near Javits).

4) You might want to consider bringing Handiwipes. I’m just sayin… I’ve been to a few Comic Cons when the TP in the not-so-sanitary ladies’ room ran out early in the day. Every day.

5) Be careful at night. If for any reason you end up near the Javits Center after dark, please know that the West Side is still a little desolate and dangerous after the midtown crowds go home from work. It’s hard to catch a cab over there after rush hour, too.

6) If you’re hoofing it, check out the Muji superstore on 40th and 8th Avenue inside the huge fancy New York Times building.  It’s a good place to get cheap Asian snacks (mochi? hell yes!) and really cool souvenirs to take home.

7) If you have time to check out the book scene in New York, please don’t forget to visit one of our excellent independent book stores. There’s Books of Wonder for kids down on 18th between 5th and 6th, Idlewild (travel book store) a block away on 19th, and the world-famous Strand on Broadway and 13th, all in the Village/Flatiron area.  There’s also the very cozy Housing Works Book Cafe, home of a number of literary events that take place in this city for writers (and readers). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, hop on the train and check out Word in Greenpoint and my favorite, Bookcourt on Court Street in Cobble Hill.

8) Most importantly: bring your allergy meds! Our pollen count is insanely high right now, and you’re not safe from the sniffles anywhere, not even indoors! A lot of our neighborhood drug stores are sold out of Claritin D and other common over-the-counter (aka behind-the-counter) allergy medications, so prepare.

The Treadwell Academy – one year anniversary

Exactly one year ago today, The Rock Star’s Daughter was first published.

I had written the first book over the course of a year, inspired to write a story about how difficult it is to move forward in life after something completely unexpected happens. While my own dad is not a rock star (and probably if pressed to name a rock star, he might only be able to come up Mick Jagger) and my mom (thankfully) is in perfect health and is not at all the type to hang out in seedy bars in Hollywood, the event in my own life that inspired Taylor’s story was the very untimely death of a close friend. After the initial sadness and shock over his passing subsided, what was far more painful was the part that followed: figuring out how my life was still my life in his absence, when everything felt so different (and at the time, unbearable).  I shaped Taylor’s struggle to embrace all of the changes thrown at her on my own day-to-day acceptance of changes in my life.  Taylor’s story became one of triumphing over loss, of opening her heart to love even though she was in pain, when the risk of getting hurt (by everyone… her Dad, Jill, and Jake) was great.

Never, ever did I dare to dream that this book would be downloaded by hundreds of thousands (yes!) of readers, and that so many readers would review it so favorably and reach out to me. I’ve heard from readers who wished Taylor had chosen Jake instead of Todd, from readers who were angry that Allison never called back to apologize, from readers who have lost their own parents and identified with Taylor’s shock over her mother’s death, and readers who complained that Iowa doesn’t stink like manure!

Pretty much as soon as I started writing the Taylor book, I realized that there were a lot of other stories I wanted to tell about things girls go through at Tayor’s age. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than writing these stories, and I really cannot thank every single one of you who have downloaded the book and read it enough for your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this year so very special for me.

This summer, I’m busy editing books 3 & 4 (dealing with topics of sexual abuse and eating disorders) for release, and writing the sequel to Taylor’s story. In the follow-up, Taylor deals more thoroughly with her grief, but all of the Beauforte/Atwood clan will be back: Jill, Kelsey, Chase, Todd, even Betsey Norfleet…  and of course, Jake.

Wattpad party in NYC!

This Saturday I enjoyed the HUGE pleasure of getting to meet a bunch of my fellow Wattpad readers & writers at the Wattpad Meetup in NYC!

I don’t often blog about Wattpad, but if you love to read or are an aspiring writer, it’s simply the coolest site out there. First of all, the membership is global and enormous, so your work can be read by so many various people around the world. Secondly, it’s such a positive and supportive environment that I’m online all the time. Whenever I’m taking a break from my own writing, I really enjoy reading work posted there and providing comments and constructive criticism.  Wattpad has had Meetups before in London and Manila, and I’ve been holding my breath for them to bring the fun to their avid NYC members. They finally did, in a super hip loft space in Tribeca, which could only be accessed by a secret elevator… a true NYC experience.

Eva gave out Wattpad tote bags to tons of people for being such loyal members of the site

Frosting/cookie wagon wheel sandwiches. Doom!

Cupcakes from Crumbs

So, after spending nearly all of my free time for the last 9 or so months on the site, it was a joy to get to meet some of my online buddies from the tri-state in person.  And, it was a thrill to meet Brittany Geragotelis, whose book, “Life’s a Witch,” was the first I read on Wattpad when I joined. She inked an amazing deal with Simon & Schuster in February and I’m really excited to see what a major publisher does with the series, which is a very cool spin on a modern look at the Salem Witch Trials. If you haven’t read it, keep your eyes peeled for the series prequel on Amazon this fall (What the Spell)!

If you’ve never checked out Wattpad but you love to read, I highly recommend. You’re likely to find me there at odd hours, @caitlyn_duffy.

Special Saturday shouts out to Shannon H, Tahra J, Jade J, Javana, Chrisy & Danielle… see you soon online and don’t forget to message me when you post your stories after school lets out!