by sarahenni on January 18, 2013

The main character in my WiP (and pretty much everyone else in the book, too) is in love with a fictional band I made up, formerly known as Idioteque 1 I’ve written so much about the band (describing their sound, nailing down their influences, creating a wildly charismatic frontman, even writing a fake interview with them) that this week I decided to do a Very Nerdy thing and create a playlist that represents the band’s debut album, which I named Behold! The Melon 2.

It started as kind of a lark, but actually I found making the playlist to be 1) fun (perhaps most importantly), but also 2) an interesting new way to engage with my book before I dive into yet another round of revisions and edits.

Anyway, making this playlist has had me dancing at my desk all week. If you enjoy noisy head-nodding rock, I think you might enjoy it, too. Take a listen:

What about you? Have you made up bands, books, or movies in your work? Have you made a poster, flyer, zine or anything IRL to go along with it? If so PLEASE link! I’d love to see it 3!

  1. They are pending another name, after astute beta reader and Much Better At Googling Necessary Stuff For Books Guru Lindsey Roth Culli pointed out that Idioteque is such a genius band name that it is, in fact, a real life band’s name. Grr.
  2. How 90s is that? I love it.
  3. And if not, I really encourage you to try!


Justin & Justin: You Should Be Too Busy Dancing

by sarahenni on January 14, 2013

Like most of the Internet I spent a good deal of this weekend freaking out about the forthcoming new Justin Timberlake album 1. I listened to his old CDs and prepared some dance moves that will need to be busted out all summer. I’m excited.

But my mellow was resoundly harshed by a broad-scale reaction to the news that took me off guard. A lot of people were using JT’s don’t-call-it-a-comeback as a reason to turn around and pour some hate on an easy target: Justin Bieber.

I was actually sort of surprised by my reaction to the Bieber haterade. After all, it’s not unusual to hear. But after thinking about it more (a little to much, maybe) I realized that it was because that reaction is actually a confluence of several different phenomena that, in tandem, form a rather large chip I’ll now attempt to brush off my shoulder.


Comparing Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber as their current selves is like comparing Puppy Bowl contestants with National Dog Show champions 2 You might say one is better than the other (more mature, sleeker, talented) but you’re forgetting something.

Let me provide you with what I’ll call Exhibit N for N*SYNC:

It has not always been glam and Bringing Sexy Back in the Timberlake camp. Hell, that shit isn’t even over; have you heard a description of his recent wedding to Jessica Biel? She wore pink and he sang her down the aisle. JT is a cheeseball, and loving him has gotten no less silly in the last 10 years. He was Bieber a few years ago. Outside of Neville Longottom there’s hardly a more compelling argument for letting a dude mature before passing judgment for life.

Oh, I love JT. I do, so so much. But this urge to shout from the rooftops that JT > JB plays into a time-honored tradition of Nostalgic Amnesia. We got plenty of this during the election, this doe-eyed romanticizing of A Better Time, When Things Were Somehow More Pure. But that ignores obvious history:  Timberlake, and Bieber, are part of a long, continuous string of decent-looking guys with good voices who are embraced by an audience of largely young, largely female fans who enjoy their music. For my mom, it was The Monkees’ Davy Jones. For my cousin, New Kids On The Block’s Jordan Knight. For me, it was JT (4eva), and for my younger cousin, it’s the Biebs.


So all that bluster about Timberlake being somehow better seems like so much hot air. Why waste time hating the current example of an inexorable trend? Especially in the same breath as lavishing adoration one version of that trend?

And let’s be clear: we’re not comparing Mozart to Maroon5 here. Take a listen:


And the Biebs.

Pop stars have one job: to make music that makes a lot of people want to dance. I think both JT and JB are doing their jobs well.

Finally: Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber alike rose to fame as artists targeted at teenage girls. Disparaging and belittling Justin Bieber (and his related teen-fame coterie, ex: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez) is contributing to a culture that repeatedly and vehemently tells teenagers—and in particular teenage girls—that their opinions, feelings, and perspectives have no value. 3

Most importantly, that attitude ignores the fact that we were all teenagers once. If you love Justin Timberlake, odds are that you’ll cop to liking at least on N*SYNC song. Or NKOTB song. Or a Monkees’ song! At some point you were a teenager, and you liked music made for and marketed to teenagers. So why be angry that someone between 13-18 is experiencing that same thing now?

 Am I the Only One?

I reached out to the resident Pop Culture Guru for this here blog, Erin, to see if I was crazy for having so many pop music feels. I think her response ties the arguments together nicely:

So, I am not much of a Bieber fan… but oddly I’m not a Bieber non-fan. For a few years, he looked so goddamned young that it felt creepy to even like his music. But the new Bieber (aka The Second Coming of Justin) I actually feel actively less guilty about liking. Because he reminds me of JT.

So the key here is that I probably had the same level of disdain for the young girls screaming for Bieber that my mom had for Justin Timberlake in 1998. “They’re boys, Erin,” she used to say to me, rolling her eyes with a How-could-you? look on her face. Did it matter to me? Not one iota. When you’re 16, you care a lot less about a pop singer’s ability to grow facial hair or have defined pectorals. They’re relatable to you at that age because they look like the guys walking by your locker between classes… and maybe in some way, they’re awakening you to the fact that even the unassuming guy who sits next to you in Algebra might have a little Timberlake in him. They’re so relatable because they could be any one of us. And at that age, isn’t every single door open?

I was hoarse for 3 days following the one and only Nsync concert I ever went to. And yes, my mother thought this was preposterous. But I thought it was awesome.

Now that I’m rounding the corner on 30 (WHAT.), I’d like my smooth-soul songsters to have a little spice in their lyrics; something that rings true to a different period in my life where I began to seek men for slightly *ahem* different reasons. (And yes, a period in my life where things like morning scruff and a ripped chest started to matter.) The older you get, the more you’ve been through the rounds on love… and you hope your singers have, too.

At some point in life, you stop watching cartoons. Who knows when this switchover happens; gradually Phineas and Ferb just aren’t funny to you anymore. You’re looking for something with more acid, more edge. So you wave a friendly goodbye to the animated characters of childhood and you move up to MTV programming. Maybe an entry-level Thursday-night comedy or two. And in our pop idols, we do the same. You move on. You grow up. You want something different than they deliver. But it doesn’t mean you were ever wrong in wanting it.

I guess if I knew a high school sophomore who was hoarse from screaming at a Justin Bieber concert, I’d see a little of me in her. And in Bieber, we should see a little of JT in him. (Swapping those deliciously frosted flopping curls for an artfully swished set of man-bangs, of course.) And we should appreciate how, even though we’ve changed, adolescence hasn’t.

And don’t even get me started on One Direction.

What do you think? Am I wildly over-reacting, per usual? Are you psyched about JT’s new stuff? Will you deny that you never tapped a toe to a single Bieber tune??

  1. The new single is here!
  2. I realize this metaphor is rather tortured. But, puppies!
  3. Examples of this are everywhere: This WTF piece of “witty” wannabe-Onion writing; Or this actual Onion piece… that picture is the joke. That’s the entire joke; or remember that JC Penny T-shirt about a girl being too pretty to do homework? And there’s critical evidence, too, such as this essay on the hugely negative connotations of “fangirl” from British Science Fiction Film and Television by Tobias Hochscherf and James Leggott; Or how about the insanely negative treatment of the overall fanbase for Twilight?


Horror Writing Playlist

by sarahenni on August 17, 2012

There’s something about fall. The leaves turning, the weather cooling, and one of my favorite holidays ever, Halloween. I’ve definitely been getting excited for fall during this sweltering August, and I’ve  noticed that a fever for Halloween and other spooky things has been popping up in publishing, too.

Agents: I want to acquire YA horror! Send me YA horror! Authors: write YA horror so agents can send it to me!! #HORROR #SayHorrorOneMoreTime
T.S. Ferguson
LOVE all these horror fans today - I smell a resurgence of it. Not too late to make 2012 the year of horror:)
Lindsay N. Currie
If you missed it yesterday, I announced the sale of two new books, including (dun dun dun!) a TEEN SLASHER:
Stephanie Perkins

The hunt for something scary is on! And to everyone considering writing a novel that errs on the creepy side (or anyone just feeling a little Halloween-y), I’ve started a playlist to get you in the right frame of mind.


What do you think? Any songs I missed?


RTW: The Sounds of Summer

by sarahenni on August 8, 2012

Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs. Check out their post for links to other Road Trippers’ answers!

This week’s topic is:
What has been your soundtrack for the summer?

I have a couple different ones to share: the playlists that I’ve listened to while writing, and the ones I’ve just been listening to for fun. Each of these songs come from a complete album that I’ve listened to, seemingly on endless loop, while drafting my WiP 1. (I love listening to full albums while writing—it helps the music become more like background.)

And these are the tunes I’ve been listening to for fun 2. A lot of the new music I find is thanks to KEXP, a Seattle-based independent music station that you can stream on any computer or mobile phone. It has the absolute best new music, and it’s saved my sanity at the day job many a time!

What about you?? Do you listen to different music when you write? What new artists or songs are you getting really into? I love new music—share please!

  1. If you don’t have Spotify, you can listen to the music here.
  2. If you don’t have Spotify you should be able to listen to it here.


2011 in: Albums

by sarahenni on December 26, 2011

Well, here we are friends! Though it seems like we just welcomed 2011 in, but its final days are winding down. That can only mean one thing—a deluge of fantabulous end-of-year lists to help us remember and commemorate the 12 months that was! In addition to being a wild year for me personally, 2011 was a fantastic year for writing, books, music, etc! To celebrate, some friends and I organized a week-long blog circus where we’ll share some of the best albums, books, and characters that we discovered in 2011 (not necessarily things that were new this year), and we’ll also look ahead to what’s in store for 2012!

We’re kicking it off today with the list of the best in writing music. Everyone’s different when it comes to writing—some prefer silence, some a loud cafe, some prefer full albums and some curated playlists. I go through phases, but usually you can find me using long playlists consisting of several full albums that help me lose myself in the music, the moment, I own it… oh—wait. No. No, Eminem did not make this list.

Here are my top 5 for 2011 (in no particular order), and the links to everyone else’s  response is at the bottom!

The Civil Wars “Barton Hollow”

This is about as Prairie Home Companion as I get, I’ve got to say, and what pushes this group past twangy kitsch is their undercurrent of southern gothic (best represented here). To me, the best of their music embodies the delightful American myth of a part of the country where the ghosts of your ancestors and their mistakes are nearby, haunting. Where long walks through never-quite-silent forests can lead you to any generation’s hell. If you’re writing a book that’s a little creepy and/or a lot wicked, I’d recommend adding one or two of these songs to your playlist.

Radiohead “The King of Limbs”

Radiohead is my spirit animal. One day, many years ago, I was a 13-year old punk endeavoring to download the entirety of Napster when I decided to search for songs with the name “Sarah” in them. I was in the market for a theme song because, obviously. I came across Lucky, and my universe tilted half a degree to the left. My friend Jessica recently used Radiohead as a verb to describe something that was so beautiful, and so sad, that it made you feel joyful in this nihilistic, invincible way. I almost kissed her because it was so, so perfect. ALL THIS TO SAY. Radiohead has made me feel inspired, and helped me unlock my inner weird, creative person for more than half my life. I love them, and I love that they consistently put out new music like this, that works so, so well to write to.

Jeff Buckley “Grace”

I know guys, I KNOW. I am THAT girl who is putting Jeff Buckley on her playlist. But there is simply nothing more gorgeous and haunting than this man’s voice, and for some reason listening to this CD while I was writing this year unlocked a certain character completely for me. If you haven’t listened to Jeff Buckley before, you absolutely must (but you might want to be sitting on a porch on a warm summer evening with a bottle of wine to get the total effect).

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs, “God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”

If you’re writing a song about two young people dealing with crippling loneliness in the far west desert of Texas … Ray does the trick.

1. Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

Ethereal, surf-pop inspired, steady beats, vocals in three-part harmony… Yeah, this album was basically my complete and utter jam. It struck that perfect balance between ‘soothing enough to be background music’ and ‘fantastic enough to just listen to normally at other times’.

And in honor of the #1 pick, I will also share one of my absolute favorite online videos of all time, a French online music magazine’s live version of Local Natives’  song, “Who Knows Who Cares.”

Check out what everyone else had to say:

Caroline Richmond

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lee Bross

Lindsey Roth Culli

Lynn Colt

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth