Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Memories of High School You - Margo Sorenson

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion and music have changed but that overall quest-for-self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  Fellow MG and YA authors will share their own spin on the hallowed halls.  If you're interested in participating just drop me a line in the comments.


This week, may I introduce Margo Sorenson, a fellow Verla Kay blueboarder and author of the books, Ambrose and the Princess, Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream, and her darling new picture book, Aloha for Carol Ann.

Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
It was a public high school, multicultural and multi-ethnic, located in an old suburb of L.A., and my graduating class was so huge --  985 – that we had to graduate in the Rose Bowl!  Wow! My high school where I teach only has 500 students total!

Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
There were cliques, just like every other high school in America!  I tried to hang with the popular kids, the cheerleaders and athletes and the student government types, but, because I was a not-so secret nerd, it didn’t always work out.   Basically, I tried to get along with everybody and gravitated to the “nice” kids.  In ALOHA FOR CAROL ANN, my most recent children’s picture book, her new classmates help Carol Ann feel at home in Hawaii, which, to Carol Ann, is a very strange and different place.  That was what my friends and I tried to do back then, make new kids feel welcome, because I knew what it was like to be the “new kid,” as many of us do.

Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?  I had a memorable teacher (in a bad way) who thought the way to teach Walden’s Pond was to test us on questions such as “How long was Walden’s Pond,” and that pretty much ruined literature for me that year, but it gave me a blueprint for how NOT to teach literature myself when I taught high school, years later!  A good memorable teacher was my classics teacher, who made literature come alive – Shakespeare, Plato, and Homer.  Sitting in class, discussing what we were reading, we all felt strong emotions through identifying with the characters, and that’s what I try to do (note emphasis on “try”!) in my writing.  I love those dynamic conversations between teens as they are formulating their ideas about life.

Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?  No, in fact, I was told by some of my teachers that I was a so-so writer (never an A in creative writing), so I concentrated on reading books and on writing reports (like on the California Legislature – fascinating topic – not!), instead.  I can still remember some of the painful comments made on my stories, so, teachers, please be careful with those red pens!

What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?  This is how geeky I was – any history book I read had an impact on me, especially medieval history.  But, Shakespeare’s Othello was amazing and I loved Arthur Miller’s plays, like The Crucible.  My love for medieval history is partly why I wrote the Ambrose the Mouse books, with Ambrose the medieval mouse as the star.  Some of my other books for readers 9-14 have a medieval or classical setting, such as TIME OF HONOR, my forthcoming middle grade e-book being published in October 2012 by Canadian publisher Muse Publishing, though most are set in contemporary times.

What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid?  Cover art you remember?  The Beach Boys were the best!  We had 45’s and albums – there weren’t even eight-tracks, yet.   (Yes, I’m a dinosaur!)  I’ll never forget doing the Surfers’ Stomp at the Beach Boys concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and playing my portable radio at the beach in Newport, with the Beach Boys’ music blaring through the air, while my friends and I checked out the cute guys and slathered baby oil all over us (oh, yes, those were the days we knew nothing!)...  And lemon juice in the hair, I bet!

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?  Shirtwaist dresses were it – and little flats – and plaid wool skirts with matching sweaters.  We all looked alike, but, I guess that was the point!  When I was younger, we wore starched petticoats under our dresses; I remember starching mine and putting them on an umbrella to dry!  We looked like little lampshades.  Luckily, that fad went away by the time we were in junior high.

What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?  There were no sports for girls, per se, back in the Dark Ages, but one of my and my friends’ hobbies was to tell our parents we were going to the library to study and then we’d cruise Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado Blvd, looking for cute guys.  The fun – and scariness -- of breaking the rules is something that has influenced my writing, whether it’s in the plot, or in the characters’ secret wishes.  In DANGER CANYON, the two boys go off the hiking trail (as we’ve all been told we should not!) and end up being threatened by prison escapees, a mountain lion, and the unforgiving terrain as darkness begins to fall.  That actually happened to me and my friends – well, truthfully, there were no prison escapees!  Although I don’t have the singing voice I wished I did (my sister got it!), I loved to sing, and I sang in the adult choir at our church and went to the church summer music, art, and drama camps, which were, of course, always the settings for more escapades.  Naturally, these have found their ways into my books, as in my to-be-published middle grade e-book ISLAND DANGER (Muse Publishing), in which Todd explores the forbidden ravine in Hawaii to find the hidden weapons, even though he’s been warned there are booby-trapped explosives and armed men guarding their pakalolo crops.  Not that I did exactly that at camp, but, you know!

Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)  Well, I guess you already know that from my previous answer.  My problem was that I wasn’t crafty or sneaky enough, so I’d usually get caught.  Case in point:  the very first day I got my driver’s license, I pulled the stunt above, going to Bob’s Big Boy with my friends, and I was driving my friends down the alley behind Bob’s, twenty miles above the speed limit – and, to add to the fun --  going the wrong way.  I’ve always been spatially-challenged!  Whoops!  There was a nice, but stern, police officer at the end of the alley who showed me the error of my ways by giving me a ticket.  The evidence for  my parents was incontrovertible – I was so NOT at the library!  Consequently, I was – at least most of the time – a pretty good kid.

Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?  
“That is so bitchen’” – I blush to even type the words!  


Who was your bestie?  Your frenemy?  Your sworn enemy?  Did you ever have one that switched to another?  Why?  I had a group of besties, not one single person.  I didn’t have any sworn enemies or frenemies; I was too milktoast and trying to be too nice for that!  The only thing that really got me annoyed was when I saw someone being treated unjustly.  For some reason, that would set me off and then “nice” went out the window.   The characters in my books often do the same thing, as in THE GOTCHA PLOT, where two middle school kids get revenge on the school bully with some cleaning fluid they find in the janitor’s closet that makes them invisible.  That was fun to write.


If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Don’t worry; it’ll all turn out all right, and high school isn’t like real life when you grow up!

How do we find you now? 
Physically, I’m in Southern California, writing, reading (still!), traveling, and visiting grandkids, and virtually, you can find me at www.margosorenson.com


Thanks, Jaye, for inviting me to interview!  Thanks for stopping by and playing along! 


Saturday, February 25, 2012

SCBWI SpringMingle - The Skinny on the Fat!


First and foremost, the best part of the conference was meeting up with Twitter and Verla Kay buddy, Mary Ann Scott aka @ghostgirlwrites. We decided to room together and hang out at the conference. Best. Decision. Ever. So much fun to have a writing buddy to share the experience with. We talked about our families, our manuscripts, our agents, our subbing experience - it was fantastic and we did great as roomies - not that we spent much time there at all!


Kirby Lawson is the cutest, most adorable author ever. She's warm and generous and a super speaker. Her keynote was beyond inspiring!  She made a point of making each of us feel as if we were right there on the same level and that her journey was no different than ours.  She also did a great panel on finding your voice and would put up one or two first pages sentences than quiz us on what we knew about the character from those snippets - a very telling exercise.  I came away from Kirby with a long TBR list:

  • The Lost Art of Walking (for writer fortitude)
  • The Principles of Uncertainty (for writer fortitude)
  • Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See (Kirby has made a practice of writing little, elegant notes to others in the profession as a result of reading this book, and has some very impressive penpals as a result)
  • Of Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
  • Unwind (resonance)
  • How to Steal A Dog (resonance)
  • My Life in France by Julia Child (voice)
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (voice)



Mary Kole is a veritable font of information. She knows the business inside and out and gave an incredibly in depth talk on the craft of picture books. As a critiquer of first pages, she holds back no thoughts, and tells it no bones like she sees it.  My favorite Mary quote (of which there were plenty, she's sort of an opinionated hoot) was "A publisher is like a bad boyfriend. It's really hard to get them to spend money on you." This quote was in reference to one of her client's picture books, Zoe Gets Ready, and how the publisher is actually going to put glitter on the cover. Something she's very excited about. I went to her all group picture book talk, but not her query talk. Her blog, KidLit.com,
has all her query information. Her big news, however, is that she's publishing a book on writing MG and YA books that will be released within the next year or so.


Another adorable editor - Greg Ferguson at Egmont is like your favorite little brother, funny, smart, and no qualms about swearing in regards to his favorite books. A worthy trait. As an editor he likes "boy books", action/adventure series, and edgy realistic YA. He'd also love to find a narrative non-fiction writer for YA. Egmont is not doing anymore dystopian or paranormal romance at this time. Egmont does not publish picture books.He gave two great talks, one on the process of creating covers within Egmont publishing and the other on making your thrillers thrilling (a genre all three of the industry panelists were interested in). In the cover panel he talked about successes and then used the examples of Bree Despain's The Dark Devine as an example of when the author wasn't happy with the first cover, and Ashes as an example of when a cover didn't send the right message (first cover said Paranormal Romance not dystopian). What I didn't know was that Barnes & Noble actually gets a say in cover design. If during sales meetings, they hate the cover work-up, sometimes publishing houses will go back to the drawing board.  

In his thriller workshop, he lamented the lack of good thrillers for teens, but sighted these four ingredients as essential: non-stop action, dangerous situations, hair-raising suspense, and heroic characters. He said the difference between a thriller and a mystery are the level of the stakes for your protagonist. Death makes a thriller! He also said there's more room to be both literary and write a thriller in YA, unlike the formulaic thrillers in adult lit. He cited his new book, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, as an example of this.

Kristin Rens of Balzer & Bray gave a wonderful talk on plot and its jigsaw puzzle attributes. What makes her fall for a book is when it grabs her, keeps her riveted, and the promise of the central conflict is kept, ending in a satisfying way.  She said that even though your stories should open with a bang, oftentimes authors try to squeeze too much into the first page or paragraph. She said a good first sentence needn't include an explosion but should introduce the voice of the character, and give the reader something to expect. She used the first line of Possess by Gretchen McNeil as an example. (Sorry didn't write down the line!) And like so many others who advise us over and over, start your story on the day things change. Not at the change, necessarily, but on the day it changes. She gives Rampant, a story about man-eating unicorns as an example. By page fifteen, we know the central character comes from a line of unicorn hunters, it's set in modern-day society, and her boyfriend gets gored in the leg by a unicorn, destroying her theory that they're extinct and her skills are no longer needed. And as Kristin put it, "And then you're off."  She gave the example of All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins as an example of a 'quiet book' with great plotting and tension.

It was also fun to hear her brag about and pump up my writing friend, Megan Shepherd's, soon to be published book, The Madman's Daughter, for which she is the acquiring editor.

A final shot of the conference presenters: LtoR Kirby Larson, Mary Kole, Greg Ferguson, Kristin Rens
More twitter friends: @janicefoy @julianalbrandt @jayerobinbrown and @ghostgirlwrites


That's all folks, hope I was able to pass on a little knowledge! JRo



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Drafts and Falling in Love

Back in the fall, when I was almost through a second pass of my novel, Marks of a Horsekeeper, a new voice popped in my head. She came unbidden, on my way to work, pretty much fully formed. I scrawled down some notes, wrote about six variations on a first page, and put her away. My writer friend, M.A. Scott, blogged of this phenomenon here, how as writers, new ideas often come when we're just about finished with old ideas.

Now, my new protagonist, Amber, has been with me for about three months, telling me her story in first draft form.  She's a hillbilly kid, stuck in a small town, trying to find a way out. But her family is dysfunctional and her attempts to change her life are pretty dysfunctional, too. I find myself wondering if anyone is going to like her. She's incredibly flawed. She lies, to others, to herself, but at her heart she's just a kid with unstellar role models and incredible spirit (along with a pretty big sexual appetite), despite her raising.

For the first time, I am absolutely giddy with the thought of revising. This draft is a mess. Plot holes, motivation gaps, too many justs, thats, I's, and me's. But this kid is real. She's messy. She's not perfect. She has aches and hopes and dreams and disappointments. I want to do her justice and it scares me that I won't. And I want her to find peace, inside herself, because as women, isn't that where our strength ultimately rests?

At about 200 pages in, I've passed that horrible page 100 place of feeling like the whole thing is garbage, and am in love. The climax is just around the bend and, hopefully, Amber's going to figure some things out without taking everyone down with her. It's a great feeling, knowing the story is so close to being clutched in your hand. And it's a great feeling, to get to the place of finding the heart of your story.

In revisions, I'll find the heartbeat.

What about you? Love your first drafts? Hate your first drafts? Somewhere in between? When do new ideas come to you?

And don't forget to visit Denise Jaden's blog and sign up for March Madness. Last year I signed on and for the past year have continued it under the Twitter hashtag #wipmadness. It's a great group effort to get the writing work done with encouragement and cheering along the way.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tag! You're It!

There's a little game of tag going on in the blogosphere and danged if Meradeth Houston at Write Stuff didn't catch me. Part of the tag was answering her vicious and evil questions. Okay, so not that vicious and evil but difficult, yes.

1.  You’re stranded on an island that has plenty of food and water, but no electricity or way to contact the outside world. But you have one object of your choice with you. What is it? 
Does my family count as an object? I'm going to say it does. I could not live without my people, dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and goat. Yes, even the goat. Together we would figure out a way for me to scratch stories in the sand and there would be lots of laughter.


2. Which do you like more, Facebook or Twitter? 
This one's easy. Twitter. I abandoned Facebook over six months ago and now have an almost religious fervor in regards to staying away from it. Twitter is all about my writing peeps. Facebook is about folks that I knew once, or work with now, but don't really share my passions. (Though I do miss keeping up with my extended family on Facebook)


3. Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Grovels, crawls on knees to the pot. With half 'n half. The real stuff.


4. Pick one word to describe yourself with. 
Complex. (Cheater word for not being able to describe myself in one word!)


5. If you had one wish, what would it be? (PS: no fair wishing for more wishes)
That I get to go that island with plenty of food and drink and hang out with my two-legged and four-legged family for all of the hours of all of the days.


And now it's my turn to tag some folks! I'm picking some of my beta reading buddies.
1. Pat Esden
2. Kip Rechea Wilson
3. Lora Rivera

And here are my evil questions for you!
1. What is the  best meal you've ever eaten - what, when, and where.
2. What is your earliest memory?
3. If given your choice of a secret rendezvous with any fictional hottie - who would you choose?
4. What is your favorite joke?
5. Pick three words to describe yourself (one is just too hard!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Memories of High School You - Danette Vigilante

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion and music have changed but that overall quest-for-self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  Fellow MG and YA authors will share their own spin on the hallowed halls.  If you're interested in participating just drop me a line in the comments.


This week I'm pleased to interview, Danette Vigilante, a fellow Verla Kay Blue Boarder. Danette's book, The Trouble With Half A Moon, was released in January of 2011. 
Thirteen year old Dellie lives with the guilt that her little brother's death was her fault. Her mother cries all the time and because she wants Dellie to stay safe, she keeps her inside as much as she can. It doesn't matter that Dellie longs to go outside to be like other girls or that there's a boy she likes and he likes her too. All that matters to her mother is that she's safe at home. So, Dellie has no choice but to watch the world of her housing project through her second story window. 

Things start to change soon after new neighbors move in on the first floor. Trouble like this has never happened in Dellie's building before. Now there are men fighting on the stoop, gunshots echoing through the night and Corey, a hungry and abused five year old boy knocking on her door looking for something to eat. Corey reminds Dellie of her brother and even though their friendship is dangerous, she wonders if this time, she'll be able to do what needs to be done. Will she be able to save Corey?



So after that, aren't you curious about the high school Danette? Let's go!
Senior Picture - Danette Vigilante
Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I attended John Jay High School; a large urban public school a bus ride away. The school had a bad reputation at the time but I never ran into any trouble, thank goodness!

Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
I was involved with theatre and was part of the Drama Club. We were our own clique, roaming the school and getting into the auditorium whenever we needed to. Mostly, we didn’t “need” to. It was just a ton of fun to goof around on stage.
Danette in a production

Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?
The teacher I remember most was my typing teacher. Every time I sit at my computer to write, I give her a little thanks. Because of her, my fingers know their places on the home row keys! I don’t think I’d get very far if I was a two finger typist. (How true is that! We had to cover the keys with masking tape. It's a skill that's held well.)

Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I began to write seriously. My first attempts were to the greeting card market but had no success. Next came short stories that didn’t really fit anywhere. Eventually, I found where I was the most comfortable; writing for young teens.

What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?
I’d have to say To Kill a Mockingbird. I found it to be very inspirational and moving. I remember feeling as though I was a part of the book. To think that an author could cause that kind of emotion to the reader was just amazing to me.  (One of the reasons I'm proud to be from Alabama)

What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid?  Cover art you remember?
When I was in High School, it was the needle on the record: albums! Believe it or not, I wasn’t what you’d call a big music lover. Sure, I liked music but I didn’t have one particular band I was crazy for. I was, however, a Rocky Horror fan. Every weekend, some of my friends from drama club acted out part of the show and we’d support them by being in the audience. During my tenth viewing though, I fell asleep and finally called it quits. I still remember most of the lines!

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
Oh, man. I kind of had my own style. Jeans, of course, but most of my tops were pink or purple (people sometimes called me their “purple friend”). At the time, a lot of girls were wearing these flat canvas Mary Jane type of shoe that cost about seven bucks. I bet you guessed that I had a pink pair and a purple pair! (Lucky you, I didn't really discover purple till I was all grown up - the color of royalty, ya know?)

What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
I couldn’t say I’ve been influenced exactly though I really think being in drama helped me to observe people’s mannerisms and actions, kind of pick things apart. This definitely helps a great deal with my writing. 

Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)
I was a goody-goody. Maybe that’s why I never ran into any trouble!

Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
This question makes me giggle. My best friend (whom I’m still close to today, hi, Renee!) used to tease me because I thought everything was “gorgeous.” 

Who was your bestie?  Your frenemy?  Your sworn enemy?  Did you ever have one that switched to another?  Why?
As I’ve already mentioned, Renee was my bestie. We became friends in junior high (she lived in a purple house!). We used to call her short but loud in high school and no one dared to mess with her. Maybe that carried over to me because I don’t remember having any enemies. All I can say is I was lucky (and thanks, Renee)!

If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Do. Not. Take. Your. Eyes. Off. Of. Your. Studies! Study now, play later.

How do we find you now? 
I love company! You can visit me at my site: http://danettevigilante.com/ or blog: http://danettevigilante.blogspot.com/ or on twitter: @DanetteVig   (J.Ro here - Danette's website is super cute, you should definitely check it out!)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Making the Space to Write - Literally!

I'm in renovations! Last weekend I bought trim paint (berries and cream - a dark raspberry) to repaint what was my son's room. When his sister moved out in the fall, he took over her room and his room has been sitting idle. Now, it's mine.

Deep pink trim and cream walls , moving in the mahogany desk I inherited from my grandmother, along with my old barrister book case constitutes the first stage. I have an ugly blue filing cabinet to hide in the closet, but a filing cabinet, nevertheless. Curtains are going to be something zany and wild, shades of orange and raspberry (like my blog background!). Eventually I'll add in a comfy chair or small love seat and probably a second bookcase. I'm going to have a bulletin board wall for storyboarding and tons of art. Plus all my craft books and kidlit books will be in ONE ROOM and my nightstand can be designated for the one I'm reading and not some towering TBR pile.

Here's the before pic. Random junk in the room still (including that grey monstrosity of a filing cabinet on the left and that ugly office chair- the cork screw table is an awesome artist-made piece that I'm going to put my old Remington on), trim paint started but not finished. No curtains. I won't be painting over the kids' grow lines on the door frame - too special. Now I'm off to finish painting the trim!

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to make your own space to write.
The beginning of the awesome.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

High School Tuesday - Don't Sensor the Real Stuff

It's weird how a microcosm of the world can happen under the smallish roofs of one school. This one week - let me repeat - one week, has included so much in these teenager's lives.  A popular senior girl is pregnant. It was all over the school within minutes. (And, yes, it's true) A young woman at a neighboring school committed suicide by slashing her wrists. She died several hours later. Her best friend shared the story of this young woman's abuse at the hands of her father. Abuse that led to her own self-destruction. Another student, proudly gay in this tiny little rural hamlet, went from having his first "real" date (which he was so excited about) to being bullied for waving his hands too much.

So, when I hear about books being banned for violence, or hard realities, I want to shout. There are only 500 students at my school. It's not an inner city school, or a wealthy suburban school rife with designer drugs, this is a conservative country high school. And ALL of this happened in one week. Let me correct that. The weekend (the date) and the last two days.

These young adults need guidance, stories that help them make sense of hard truths. They don't need whitewash and rainbows - correct that. We all need rainbows. But how can we truly KNOW the beauty of that rainbow without the realities of all aspects of life. Decision-Action-Consequence.  There lies the learning.

What hard truths do you wish you'd known about as a teen? What book stands out to you as one not afraid to take the risks necessary to answer hard questions?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ten Random Thoughts on My Writing Life


  1. A psychic once took a look at my hand, looked up and said, "You know you should write."
  2. I ran into a boy (now man) I dated my junior year in high school. I told him I'd become an artist and a teacher. He shook his head and said, "I always figured you'd be a writer." It surprised me.
  3. I don't remember writing anything but poetry when I was in school.
  4. I had a story about a cat published online when I was in my early thirties. I had no idea it was a significant thing to have happen, same goes for an essay in a horse periodical. Because there was no money involved I just figured they were doing me a kindness. I wish I could go back to being so blissfully ignorant about how it all works.
  5. Most of my story ideas start with a sentence spoken by a friend. Sometimes they start when a voice pops in my head. I never know the themes at that point.
  6. Writing rejection is harder than art rejection at this point in my life. I was rejected from many art shows and fairs over the years, but it never stung quite like a pass on a manuscript.
  7. I've never felt more neurotic or more happy, all at the same time, since I got serious about my writing.
  8. Being a spare-time writer is like having a romance no one else knows about. I go to my day job but there's this special tingly feeling that lives under my skin. It's something alive in me.
  9. I don't ever want to get an MFA in Creative Writing. Unless maybe I could go to Vermont and not go in debt to do it. I think higher education, in any creative field, is often the thing that stifles creativity.
  10. My dream job is to run a little book store that could at least pay for itself, write in spare moments, and have a kids' art studio in the back where I could teach after-school classes without the specter of grading. I'm hanging on to this dream with both teeth and all my fingernails. One day.

What about you? What are the things on your list?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Memories of High School You - Marie Lamba

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion and music have changed but that overall quest-for-self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  Fellow MG and YA authors will share their own spin on the hallowed halls.  If you're interested in participating just drop me a line in the comments.


This week, Marie Lamba, agent and author of WHAT I MEANT, OVER MY HEAD, and her most recent release, DRAWN, dishes on her own high school experience. You can find Marie at her website, www.marielamba.com.



Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I went to Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, NJ.  It was a suburban public high school with about 1500 kids.

Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
There are always cliques! But I really didn’t pay attention to any of that, and had friends across all different groups…athletes, artists, drama kids, nerds…I was friends with them all.  (J.Ro here - I notice as writers this seems to true for a lot of us. I think it must be because we study ways of being to be able to put it into words)

Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?
My honors social studies teacher Mr. Montana was this brilliant guy with a stern face and the driest humor you’d ever encounter.  We called him “the friendly stoic” and tried all year to make him crack a smile or laugh.  Once we even all suddenly put on nose masks. These are little 3x3 printed silly faces, with a little punch out section where the nose would be, and, yeah, you hang it on your face so that your nose becomes part of the picture.  So we all on cue silently put these masks on when he was writing on the board, and when he turned back to the class, his lips trembled, but no. No smile. (Please put that man in a book!)
How did he influence me? I guess I really respected his intelligence and his sense of restrained humor.

Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old, but in high school I was a little discouraged.  I got a “C” in journalism, an elective.  My parents freaked!  And I didn’t win any writing awards and I didn’t score any writing gigs in the town paper like some students did. But I did take honors and AP English classes, and I loved every minute of them.
What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?
The Once and Future King by T.H. White.  If you’ve never read this, you’re in for a treat. The first part of the novel served as the basis of the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone, and this thick novel goes on to chart the life and death of King Arthur.  I read this early in high school and was struck by how fun and magical and inventive a novel, even a seriously long one, could be.  And for the first time I was filled with sadness when a book ended.  
This also set me off on a long-term fascination with King Arthur and the Middle Ages, culminating in me writing my own medieval time-travel novel Drawn.

What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid?  Cover art you remember?
Oh dear.  Ready for blast from the past stuff?  I did the whole mellow music thing, loving James Taylor and Carol King, but I also loved groups like Cheap Trick and Heart. Heart was phenomenal in concert.
Yeah, it was albums all the way.  I’ll never forget my poor dad during my freshman move-in day in college carrying milk crates full of albums up five flights of steps. They weighed a ton!  Just a year later, everything was cassettes, and much lighter.
As for cover art? The Eagles album. The people in it all looked so hip and sunburned and blonde, and every guy wanted to wear those pukka shell necklaces!  Hey, stop laughing. (Not laughing. I actually got to see Cheap Trick my senior year in high school)

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
Preppy was starting to come into fashion, so there were lots of button-down collar shirts and boat shoes.  For me, it was all about clogs (I still wear clogs).  The ugliest trend? Gauchos.  Happy to say I never wore those.  I tended to do my own thing fashion-wise.  One of my favorite looks was wearing an oversized white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up.  I liked comfort.

What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
Art. I was really into painting, drawing, print-making.  And this definitely influenced my most recent novel Drawn.  That book is about a teen artist who draws a ghost.  I even did the cover illustration for the book.  
I was also a fencer, and this helped with the battle scenes in Drawn.  Plus I was involved in theater productions, and oh the drama! Timing and dramatic moments are important in writing tight scenes, so that influenced my writing too.

Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)
I’m a second child, the baby in the family.  My older sibling was THE wild child, and he was caught most of the time. Watching the effect on the family probably trained me to be more of the good kid, the old soul of the bunch.  But there was definitely some wild child too. ’Nough said!
Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
How old am I? I actually had to go through my high school yearbook to jog my memory on this one!  Jeesh.  Okay, we said “just joshin’” a lot, and when we were sarcastic, we’d say “Oh wacka wacka wacka…”  Hey, the Muppets were huge back then.  I know. Sad, right?
Who was your bestie?  Your frenemy?  Your sworn enemy?  Did you ever have one that switched to another?  Why?
One of my besties Margaret was actually my sworn enemy in elementary school, which is interesting.  I don’t remember any frenemy or sworn enemy in high school.  There was one lousy ex-boyfriend who was a major jerk. Does that count?  Absolutely!
I had different groups of close friends throughout high school. I was too busy doing my own thing, and I hate drama (even though I was in the drama club), so I gravitated toward drama-free people. Margaret and I drifted apart, and I became close to the girls on my fencing team. And at the end of high school Richard and Mike (who was my boyfriend at the time) became my besties. We’d go to concerts together and hang out in New York. We’re still in touch.
If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Don’t worry about that “C” in journalism or the fact that you didn’t land a single publication credit like a bunch of other kids have.  You’ll still go to a decent college, and no one’s going to stop you from writing or from anything else you really want to do. And forget about that jerk ex-boyfriend!

How do we find you now? 
On facebook: Marie Lamba, Author
On twitter: marielamba
Website/blog: marielamba.com