I am so excited be having guest bloggers today--Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance, authors of The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading!
I will either steal your story idea or kick your scrawny cheerleader butt if you don’t write this.
~ Darcy Vance, February 2004
Ah, encouragement. This is the reply I received after emailing Darcy the premise of what would become The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. Initially, Geek Girl was my solo project and the inspiration for the story came from my senior year in high school. I was a geek girl, and I did make the varsity cheerleading squad under circumstances not unlike those in the book.
As for the rest of my season on the squad? Let’s just say the book is a whole lot more interesting.
Fast forward a few years. I’d shelved the story, brought it back out as an exercise in revision, then--pleased with the results--sent it out to agents. The good news: I was getting responses. The bad news: they were of the almost-but-not-quite variety.
One agent even offered to look at a rewrite if I managed to accomplish certain things. This prompted an existential crisis that resulted in the following emails:
From: Charity Tahmaseb
To: Darcy Vance
Subject: RE: The first reject
To me, it’s like thinking: Oh, maybe Hottie McHottie will take me to the prom if I do X, Y and Z, but I’m not sure what X, Y and Z really are.
From: Darcy Vance
To: Charity Tahmaseb
Subject: RE: The first reject
But what if I said Hottie McHottie thinks you are really cool, but he likes girls who wear sparkly blue eyeliner, and who invite him to dances face to face instead of over the phone? Would you wear blue eyeliner to go to the dance?
From: Charity Tahmaseb
To: Darcy Vance
Subject: RE: Sparkly Eyeliner
Well, see, if Hottie McHottie would only go if I wore that blue eyeliner, I might wonder if maybe there was another guy out there, one not all caught up in the whole blue eyeliner thing, one who would think my lack of eyeliner charming, natural, refreshing.
I might be happier with him.
As you can see, I was not convinced. Darcy went as far as to rewrite several of the chapters in first person, adding what she calls the “sparkly eyeliner” (it’s so much more than that), but I wouldn’t budge.
Then she sent me an email about her son who’d been suffering from an ulcer on his tongue.
They think it’s cancer …
Four words that change everything.
The limitations of online friendship hit me. Even though I told Darcy my inbox was open 24/7, it didn’t seem like enough. With more than five hundred miles between us, I couldn’t stop by and do the laundry or drop off a hotdish.
But then I realized I did have a virtual hotdish, in the form of a certain manuscript. I proposed that we work on it together, and if we sold, she could use her part of the advance to help with the medical bills.
In the time we worked on the manuscript together, queried agents, and revised again, I don’t think we talked on the phone to each other. Odd, I know, but we did everything through email and IM.
On the day our agent sent the email with the subject line: GREAT NEWS, I knew Darcy was offline. So I did it. I picked up my cell phone and I called her. All I said was: You need to check your email.
Looking back at that very first email in 2004, it’s clear Darcy’s been with The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading since the very beginning. And I think now: this was the way it was meant to be.
The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading
Simon Pulse, May 2009
About The Book
When Bethany -- self-proclaimed geek girl -- makes the varsity cheerleading squad, she realizes that there's one thing worse than blending in with the lockers: getting noticed. She always felt comfortable as part of the nerd herd, but being a member of the most scrutinized group in her school is weighing her down like a ton of textbooks. Even her Varsity Cheerleading Guide can't answer the really tough questions, like: How do you maintain some semblance of dignity while wearing an insanely short skirt? What do you do when the head cheerleader spills her beer on you at your first in-crowd party? And how do you know if your crush likes you for your mind...or your pom-poms?
One thing's for sure: It's going to take more than brains for this girl genius to cheer her way to the top of the pyramid.
LET YOUR SCHOOL SPIRIT SHINE!
Winter Varsity Cheerleading
LET YOUR SCHOOL SPIRIT SHINE!
Winter Varsity Cheerleading
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a high school boy in possession of great athletic ability must be in want of...
A bowl of oatmeal.
At least on a cold November morning in Minnesota. And maybe a carton of orange juice on the side, but definitely not a girlfriend. Jack Paulson, mega basketball star and crush extraordinaire, did not date. Just ask any girl in the Prairie Stone High School junior class. The cheerleaders, the preps, the drama queens, the band crew, the art nerds, the skater chicks, the stoners, the loners, the freaks, the cool and the not-so-cool, all of them had tried.
I was hoping to try again that day, if only my best friend, Moni, would show up already. Ever since her parents divorced and her dad moved to Minneapolis, it was like he took Moni's punctuality with him. She'd been totally unreliable. So I wondered, could I pull it off? Could a lone geek girl linger by the cafeteria door in a casual manner? Not likely. You see, every school has a danger zone. At Prairie Stone, ours occupied the space in the lobby that was an equal distance between the cafeteria, the gym, and the girls' bathroom. It was the spot where all the popular kids hung out. A place the rest of us tried to avoid. Moni and I called it the gauntlet.
We discovered that term last year, in word origins class. In case you're wondering, gauntlet (noun) = a form of punishment where the victim must endure suffering from many sources at the same time. It comes from the Swedish word gatlopp. In Sweden, apparently, they used to punish reprobates (n. those who are predestined to damnation) by making them strip to the waist and then run between rows of soldiers who were armed with sticks and knotted ropes.
That sounded about right.
And so I stood at the edge of Prairie Stone's gauntlet, close enough to the gym to sniff the delicate aroma of sweaty socks, near enough to the cafeteria to catch a whiff of oatmeal -- and the promise of Jack Paulson. One more step and I would officially enter gauntlet girl territory.
Chantal Simmons, the queen of cool and gatekeeper of popularity at PSHS, stood at the apex of it all. She turned her head in my direction, her blond hair flowing in a way rarely seen outside of shampoo commercials. Her glance made me consider climbing the stairs to the balcony and crossing over the top instead of pressing my way through -- but only a coward would do that.
Which is to say, I've done it plenty.
Chantal had a radar for weakness. One wrong move and she'd find yours and use it against you. Forget those sticks and knotted ropes. Chantal could annihilate the hopes and dreams of your average high school junior with just a whisper. And once upon a time, back in the dark ages of childhood and middle school, Chantal Simmons was someone I had told all my secrets to. In retrospect, that was kind of like arming a rogue nation with a nuclear bomb.
No risk, no reward, I told myself. If I wanted an early-morning glimpse of Jack Paulson (and I did, I really, really did), then I needed to cross into enemy territory. Alone. But before I could step over that invisible boundary, someone called my name. Someone short, with a mass of yellow corkscrew curls poking out beneath a QT cap.
"Bethany!" My best friend, Moni Fredrickson, bounded up to me, still in her winter jacket, her cheeks pink from cold and her glasses fogged. "Brian just called me on my cell," she said. "They're in the Little Theater. They have Krispy Kremes. Brian said he'd save us one each, but you know how that works."
Of course I did. It is another truth universally acknowledged, that high school nerds in possession of a great number of Krispy Kremes must be in want of...
At least not until they shook out the last bit of sugary glaze from the box. Then it was total Lord of the Flies time while they searched for more. We had to get there before they tore Brian limb from limb. Moni pulled me along toward the Little Theater and away from the gauntlet. I glanced over my shoulder, sure Chantal was still glaring at me.
But she wasn't. No one was. Not a single gauntlet girl or wannabe peered in my direction. Instead they'd all turned toward the cafeteria, eyes fixed on a tall, retreating figure -- one with dark spiky hair and a Prairie Stone High letter jacket. Jack Paulson. He didn't look back at me -- not that I expected him to. But then, he didn't acknowledge Chantal, either.
Jack Paulson = Totally Girlproof.
I stumbled along behind Moni and wondered, What would a girl have to do to get a boy like that to notice her?
If there was such a thing as gauntlet girl territory at Prairie Stone, then the Little Theater was dork domain. Chantal Simmons might rule the lobby, but a few steps down the hall Todd Emerson (president of the chess club, co-captain of the debate team, editor of the school paper, and all-around boy genius) maintained a benevolent dictatorship over the academic superstars and the techies.
In other words, a bossier boy never lived.
Todd was Harvard bound. Or Yale bound. Well, certainly somewhere bound. Somewhere that was far snootier than (what I was sure he already thought of as) his humble beginnings. He was one of those kids who wouldn't return for a school reunion until he managed to make a billion dollars or overthrow a minor country.
A bright purple and gold notice hung on the door to the theater, instructing all who entered to let your school spirit shine! and inviting us to attend a call-out meeting for the winter varsity cheerleading squad. As if. I passed through the doorway, gripped the handrail, and followed Moni down the small flight of steps, my eyes adjusting to the semidarkness.
The Little Theater had killer acoustics, something Todd took advantage of up on the stage.
"Can you believe they denied Carlson's request for new desktop publishing software?" he thundered. "You know what they -- " Todd broke off mid-rant. "Hey, Reynolds, how long does it take you to lay out the newspaper every month?"
I tried not to roll my eyes about the newspaper -- or about Todd calling me by my last name. It was this thing he did, like I was a rookie reporter to his big-city editor in chief.
How long did it take for me to lay out the newspaper? "A while," I said. Forever was a better answer, but Todd was wound up enough. The computers we used were ancient, the software even older. I sometimes thought that cutting and pasting -- with real scissors and glue -- might be faster. Mr. Carlson, the journalism teacher, had been lobbying for upgrades for years.
"Guess what they bought instead?" said Todd. He gestured wildly from the podium. "Come on. Just guess."
I heard the sound of someone's stomach rumbling and the barest click of a Nintendo DS. I looked around at the collection of smarty-pants misfits that made up our "clique." These were the kids who lived to raise their hands in class. That no one offered a guess was a testament to the power Todd wielded over the group.
He pounded the lectern. The crack of his fist against wood echoed through the theater.
"They bought new" -- Todd stepped out from behind the podium for effect -- "pom-poms." A look of disgust rolled across his face as he approached the front of the stage. "For the varsity cheerleading squad."
I glanced at Moni. She crossed her eyes at me and pointed toward the seat that held the Krispy Kreme box. Todd glared, daring someone, anyone, to speak.
A throat cleared behind us. "Well, I highly approved of the new outfits last year." This was Brian McIntyre, Todd's sidekick, mellow where Todd was high-strung, soft-spoken where Todd was loud. Brian was one of those boys whose looks froze in fourth grade. He had a roundish face and full cheeks, with sweet blue eyes and hair that flopped over his forehead. People constantly underestimated him, which was why he cleaned up in debate, at chess, and in the Math League.
"The cheerleaders had new outfits last year?" Todd asked.
"You didn't notice?" Brian sounded genuinely puzzled.
Moni paused before biting the doughnut she was holding and raised an eyebrow at me. I'd known her long enough to catch the meaning of that look: When did Brian start noticing cheerleaders? Not the best development, especially when you considered that somewhere around homecoming, Brian and Moni had gone from "just friends" to something a touch friendlier.
"I guess it doesn't matter how big a boy's brain is," I whispered, "it can still be derailed by an insanely short skirt." But Moni wasn't paying attention.
"Whatever," she said to the group. "There's nothing so special about cheerleading. I mean, even Bethany and I could do that."
"Do...what?" Todd and I said at the same time.
"You know. Ready...okay!" Moni bounced on the balls of her feet, like she might break into a display of spirit fingers at any moment.
"You mean," I said, going along with it (because annoying Todd was my favorite sport), "you and me trying out for the varsity cheerleading squad?"
"Who says we can't?"
Ummm, technically, no one.
Todd knelt at the edge of the stage and frowned down at us, his oversize dork glasses slipping down his nose. "You have got to be kidding."
Yeah. What he said.
But out loud, I agreed with Moni. "Think about it, Todd. We could petition to expand cheerleading to support the debate team. The chess club, even. You know, Gambit to the left, castle to the right, endgame, endgame, now in sight!"
Moni giggled. Brian, still lazing near the back of the room, snorted in appreciation. A few of the other guys took up the cheer.
You know how in Greek mythology, Medusa could turn anyone who looked at her into stone? At that moment she had nothing on Todd Emerson. Lucky for me, the bell rang. Or maybe not so lucky -- Todd and I shared first-period honors history.
We all filed from the Little Theater and straight into the heart of the gauntlet, together...
I will have my review of the book up soon!