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Reading Recommendations

It’s been a minute! I’m still alive and apparently so are you, which is perfect for the first day of spring. I was asked to share a book recommendation list by, with my choice of theme, and boy do I love a good theme. I chose the Best Books Set in the World of Academia, Prep Schools, and Campus Life. So many much-loved titles to choose from! But I was limited to my Top 5. Check these out, friends, and see if you agree. Would love to hear about any other titles you’d add to this list.


Friends, I am mostly not dead. I am, like you, busy with life and work and trying to avoid going out in public. I have written and rewritten a novel I sure do like, and my agent has been shopping it. I don’t know what is going to happen to it…there seems to be a curious clanging sound in the void as I sit tight, waiting lo these many months for an offer/reply/indication that I should not throw in the towel.

What if I throw in the towel? I mean, people need towels. If I throw mine in, maybe someone with a better book will catch it.

In the meantime, I love my job, my family, my friends, and our “corona dog,” adopted in April when we finished the last jigsaw puzzle.

Here he is, desperate to know what is going on in the outside world, just like the rest of us.

Everyday haikus (for troubled times)

Hi, readers. I hope you are all staying healthy. I would like to offer you a daily (or almost daily ) haiku in these troubled times. It’s been pointed out to me that my verses fall into the category of senryu rather than true haiku, as a haiku is generally about nature while a senryu explores human shortcomings in a darkly humorous way. So these can be everyday senryus, if that makes you feel better. Or worse.

Posting about your
spring break trip confirms you are
a selfish asshat.

I Ask State Rep. Mike Schlossberg Questions

I return State Representative Mike Schlossberg’s favor and interview him about politics, writing, and House of Cards. Lehigh County, PA, is very lucky to have him represent them! And pick up his YA novel, Redemption, a book about depression, anxiety, and saving the world.

LS: “Novelist” and “state representative” aren’t two careers whose paths often intersect. Tell me what it’s like to juggle these two professions.

MS: It involves heavy doses of caffeine. I haven’t slept since the mid to late 90s.

Actually, in a weird sense, it’s easier than you’d think, and that’s because both jobs are unified under a similar theme: Making a positive difference. Everyone has different issues that they work on, but for me, it’s mental health. I’ve typically addressed my legislative actions towards decreasing stigma and suicide – mental health is one of the issues I am most passionate about. Redemption is a book that’s meant to entertain but also inspire and give hope, so it sort of flows easily from my overall passion.

LS: What is a message you’ve tried to impart in your novel, Redemption, that dovetails with your platform as a state rep?

MS: That anyone can do anything if they seek treatment and try to address their challenges. That anyone can be a hero. That we all struggle, but we can all survive and thrive – even those of us who have suffered the most.

LS: As a political insider, tell us: How realistic is House of Cards? And which character do you most identify with?

MS: Ha! Avoid the Metro.

Nahh. My level is state government, so I don’t think it’s quite as brutal or Machiavellian. I still have a life, party politics aren’t quite as ugly, and I do not live in constant fear of getting murdered by Kevin Spacey. But, there are aspects of it – the scheming, the lying, the double-crossing – that hit too close to home. There were also aspects to the political portions of House of Cards that were straight-up silly. It stretched reality too much to be believed.

LS: What is the hardest challenge you faced in bringing your novel to publication?

MS: Probably marketing. Writing is, in a sense, the easiest part, but I don’t think most people realize that the only way you can tell your story is if you can get it in front of other people! I think Redemption is good. To my pleasant surprise, the reviews have been really good, and it’s sales are actually doing okay! That being said, if I don’t market the thing, every ounce of work I did on it means nothing. I didn’t write for myself – I wrote for other people – so I’ve got to hustle to get it in front of others.

LS: When you’re at a party, do you like to socialize, or do you prefer to hide in the laundry room and pet the dog?

MS: I know no one will believe this because I’m a politician. But the dog. Hands down. Every time. Give me a puppy and a good video game (currently playing Two Points Hospital) and I’m set.

LS: What does literary success look like to you?

MS: Inspiration. Redemption inspires people to be happier and lead a better life. Again, that’s the nice overlap between my two jobs: I’m here to help.

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg Asks Me Questions

Last week, State Representative Mike Schlossberg interviewed me about my YA novel, Permanent Record, as well as a subject close to his heart, mental health. As both a politician and a YA author, Mike strives to break the stigma surrounding those who suffer from mental illnesses. Lehigh, PA, is lucky to have Mike representing them! He returned the favor, so next week I’ll post my follow-up interview with him. It’s only six questions. You have time for six questions, don’tcha? Enjoy!

Six Questions with Leslie Stella

I Can Relate

Book and film characters that I can relate to are the ones that resonate most with me. The number one spot is Miles from Sideways. While I cringe every time I watch this scene, inwardly I shout, “YES. YES.” How about you?

No News

I have not updated my website in a year. One year! Because so much is the same. The same struggles with this career and the nagging suspicion that I am more qualified to work in an arcade than write books.

But so much is different. Life changed for me when my mom and sister died. So many things seemed vastly unimportant. Like myself. My writing career stumbled off a cliff in a spectacularly silent nosedive. I felt lost. And moreover, that I was a loser. Because winners are sleek. Powerful. They are without imperfection. Last night after I washed my face, I screamed into the towel. I admit I was soothed by the terrycloth’s weft and warp and its scream-muffling capabilities.

I just wanted to let you know that I am alive. Powerless and imperfect and hungry, but bursting with life.

Kentucky Derby 2015

Time for my annual Kentucky Derby pick. Friends will recall their massive payouts during my four-year winning streak from 2001-2004. It began when my buddy Ralph the barber gave me a tip in 2001. I alone sauntered up to the betting window in Waukegan at the world’s sketchiest OTB (and that’s saying something) to collect on 20-1 Monarchos.

Things went quiet in my prognosticating abilities for a while (oh please, like it hasn’t happened to you) but resurfaced in 2013 with Orb. Ralph the barber, I think of you often, elderly now and living it up in Florida, hopefully blowing your retirement at Hialeah.

This 2015 field is deep and strong. I don’t often pick the favorite, but this year I have to go with the incomparable American Pharoah. I’m worried about his post position (#18), but I guess if it doesn’t bother Bob Baffert, it shouldn’t bother me. This video (shared with me by my pal, racing writer Ed DeRosa) is of a recent workout. Watch him blow by that other horse early on and give it another gear in the stretch. Watch how motionless the jockey is. He doesn’t urge him on, doesn’t even show him the whip; his hands are still as ice. The Pharoah is doing this all on his own. There’s a reason why racing analysts say he wins with “condescending ease.” Good golly goddamn, he’s something special.

Library Life

This fall I did a presentation at Mount Prospect Public Library for the Suburban Mosaic Book Award, for which my novel Permanent Record was chosen as their 2014 Teen Book of the Year. I sweated my way through the event, and the cable show “Library Life” was kind enough to document it. My segment starts around 17:34.

Whew. Even thinking about public speaking right now, from the safety of my dark, lonely desk, gives me the fears. Luckily, the library provided cupcakes at the event.


Suburban Mosaic event

I survived last night’s event for the Suburban Mosaic Program at Mt. Prospect Public Library. I say “survived” because some of you are acquainted with my three crippling fears:

1.) Public speaking

2.) Traveling

3.) the dentist

Luckily my dental checkup was last week, so I got that psychological trauma out of the way.

Even though I babbled incoherently for the recorded interview I did with a local cable access program, “Library Life,” the rest of the program went well. I noticed that I was sweating through my jean jacket. Jean jacket, you say? Who wears one of those? I will tell you:



Reverend Jim

Mundelein author Leslie Stella, right, talks with Mount Prospect Librarian Joe Collier on Monday night as she promotes her novel "Permanent Record."

I’m not even fake-laughing. That’s my old pal Joe there, business reference librarian and graveyard aficionado, regaling me with stories of how he balances his two passions.

Really nice people at the reading, enthusiastic librarians, friendly teens/tweens, paperbacks for sale courtesy of Barbara’s Bookstore, plus cupcakes. The library provided CUPCAKES, people. With glitter.

They were delicious and helped lessen my fear of speaking in public, though probably will not help much with the dentist.