April Showers (or, Why I’m Singing ‘Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta’)

Blue Bandana

Well, it’s not because I rock a blue bandana like nobody’s business. Even though I kind of do. Especially when I’m all zoned out in my happy place on the trail and severely under-caffeinated whilst trying to control a horse named Jess. Which is, by the way, a totally true story.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m singing that special little anthem. It’s simply because the spring brings good things! Seriously! The sun is fully out now, the trails are littered with fragrant blossoms, animals are coming out of hibernation, and you know something? When you stand out there with your eyes closed and the sun on your face, you realize that despite life’s many challenges and the general stupidity with which we’re bombarded basically every day… it’s still kind of awesome to be alive. Gangsta!

Our flora and fauna friends know that spring is a time for new beginnings. As a writing instructor, I always see a big upsurge in student enrollments and requests for manuscript consultations the first week of April. It’s like everyone stored up all this creative energy through the winter, and now it’s time to go outside and sniff the proverbial (and adverbial) roses and then go home renewed and recharged and ready to knock the cobwebs off that amazing book idea.

Speaking of spring cleaning, I looked back through the dusty blog archives (*cough cough* clearly it’s been a while) and found that when it comes to my own writing (and my own life), I too follow the cool-new-things-in-the-spring thing, and April apparently brings lots of new adventures my way every year:

  • In April 2011, I turned in revisions on Bittersweet.
  • In April 2010, I shut down my Facebook profile, leaving only a simple page and many more hours for creative endeavors in my life! Shutting down an FB profile might not sound like a big deal, but trust me. It was. And I’ve never felt so free! Electronically speaking, I mean.
  • In April 2009, I recorded my first vlog. I was super nervous and gooberesque, and clearly long-winded, but still, it was lots of fun. See?

  • In April 2008, I moved from Colorado back to New York City for a fresh new re-start (and then we ended up in Buffalo, which is what you see in the vlog above, and now we’re back in Colorado, but you know, it’s the journey, not the destination. And April 2008 is when I embarked on the journey. So it totally counts.)
  • In April 2007, I finished my very first novel, Twenty Boy Summer (that is, the book that would eventually become TBS after much professional input and many revisions, but a milestone worth celebrating nevertheless).

This year, April 2012, I have even more exciting news. At the end of March, I completed and submitted my fourth novel (and all you really need to know about it for now is that there’s a super hot motorcycle boy, and he’s even hotter than Michael Carrington of Grease 2 fame, who was and always will be my heart’s original hot motorcycle boy, especially that part where he’s all, “How ’bout that ride?”). Which means I’m now diving headfirst into something totally new and crazy!

New creative projects. Sunshine. Flowers. See? Super gangsta! Something is definitely in the spring air. Or maybe it’s the water. Quite possibly the soil has something to do with it too. And chocolate Easter eggs. Either way, I’m totally excited at the possibilities!

Now tell me: what are you guys excited about this spring? Anyone starting a new creative project? Any new dreams and ideas percolating? And just how awesome does it feel to go out and play in the sun after hibernating all winter? Love!

Still Here!

Hey loyal readers! Thanks for not giving up on me just yet. 🙂 Don’t get too excited or anything — this is just a quick note to say hello and let you know that 1) I’m still alive, 2) I totally miss you guys, and 3) I’ll be updating you all very soon. There’s so much to chat about! Banned books week recap, new book news, short story news, summer vacation essays, the fact that I finally finished all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and spent about three days crying because Tim Riggins is so awesome… Yes, it’s a glamorous life! I also have some tips on critique groups and social marketing for my writing friends, all coming in the next week or two. Stick around!

In the mean time, I would love to know… for those of you celebrating Halloween, what’s your costume this year? And what was your favorite costume of all time?

Haley Reinhart & The Problem with American Idol

We interrupt this blog hiatus to bring you an important rant about the mediocritizing of America and the squishing of dreams.

So, Haley Reinhart. Yeah, I got sucked into another season of American Idol. A partial season. I’ve been watching since about the top 10. And to be perfectly honest, none of the contestants really did it for me. Not like, chills-inducing, tears-in-my eyes, make-me-want-to-write-a-story-to-match, which is how I like my music to do it, and how Idol hardly ever does.

Until tonight. This performance, specifically (Haley’s second song of the night):

It’s a combination of the fact that I love that song, and her voice is just so scratchy and sultry and perfect for it, and she totally rocked that joint. I dare you to say otherwise. The judges gave her a standing ovation and called it the best performance of the night, and for once, and even though Haley never really stood out to me before, I totally agree with them tonight. So much so that I’m actually voting for a contestant on American Idol, something I’ve only ever done once in my life, like five seasons ago.

But House of the Rising Sun is not the performance I’m ranting about tonight. It’s this one, Haley’s first song, Lady Gaga’s unreleased You and I:

Okay. It’s not technically the most awesome, flawless, chills-inducing performance ever. But… seriously judges? Are you all passing around the same head cold, and sharing a bottle of NyQuil, and the pressure in your sinus cavity, when combined with the coma-inducing effects of just one swill from that green bottle, has completely janked your thought processes?

They told her she should’ve picked a song everyone knew.

Steven doesn’t count because he mostly loves everyone, especially the cute girls. But WTF, Jennifer and Randy? This girl takes a chance and does something different within the limited parameters of a show like yours — an unreleased song on which she puts her own cool spin — and you tell her she probably should’ve chosen a song everyone knew? That she lost out on connecting with the audience because no one had ever heard that song before?

So you basically want everyone to do the same old cookie cutter songs they always do, season after season, karaoke style after karaoke style, over and over and over again? Is that what makes an “American Idol?” Is that what sells records these days?

No, don’t answer that. I should know better than to watch this show. I know. But still.

Look. I’m not trash-talking any of the other contestants. I think they all have their own talents and strengths, and whatever your views on Idol, I think it’s cool that they’re working so hard to get something they want. And normally I don’t really care what the judges say, because I make my own opinions, and it’s not like I’m so invested in the outcome of this show anyway.

But tonight’s reaction to Haley’s performance really bothered me, because it wasn’t like they were just giving her some constructive feedback on how to be a better singer and performer. They were totally squishing her dreams. Telling her not that she did something technically wrong, not that she under- or over-performed, not that she was pitchy or flat or any of the other tired adjectives Randy likes to fling onto the stage, but that she just shouldn’t follow her own creative heart and soul. That instead, she should strive to be… just like everyone else. You know, so people can “connect.”


I don’t like when people squish dreams and try to cram other people’s creative ideas into a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Whether it’s music, books, art, food, dance, movies, or any form of creative expression, I think this world needs more new, fresh, unrecognizable stuff. More of the unknown. More people who are willing to stand against the mediocritizing of everything and take a chance to follow their dreams, even if it’s not the most popular or expected or predictable choice. Especially then.

So I’m voting for you tonight, Haley.

And um, yeah, hi everyone! Sorry I’ve been in hiding for two months. I promise you I wasn’t practicing for an Idol audition. I was doing something else just as exciting, though, and I’ll tell you more about it very soon!

Sad Songs Say So Much

[tweetmeme source=”sarahockler” only_single=false]I was just tweeting about this and decided to turn it into a blog post.

So, we all have a secret mental cache of those sad songs from high school, right? The ones that we can hear now, five, ten, or *cough* almost twenty *cough* years later and be right back in that moment, that raw craziness, as though no time has passed. I’m talking about the ballads and sad songs that got us through the breakups, sang us to sleep as we sobbed over an unrequited love, and reminded us that yeah, sometimes you’ve just gotta cry it out. I don’t know what it is about songs and smells that can trigger memory so powerfully, but man. Whenever I hear the opening chords to some of these, my heart squeezes up and I’m lying in my bed in my teen room, pouring my heart into my journal, listening over and over and looking for someone to tell me things are gonna be all right. Music is poetry and understanding, and it got me through a lot.

So here’s my list, for your late 80s/early 90s retro enjoyment, and at the end, please share yours!

When I See You Smile, by Bad English (aka Bad Hair)

I Remember You, by Skid Row

Love Hurts, by Nazareth

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday, by Boyz II Men

Good Feeling, by the Violent Femmes

One, by U2

Without You, by Motley Crue

I’ll Be There For You, by Bon Jovi

Pictures of You, by The Cure

There it is, the video diary of many a sad and lonely night. *sniffle*

Now it’s your turn. Post yours in the comments or do a post with videos and link back.