Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Would Have Given Anything to Be Like...

In Like Mandarin, 14-year-old Grace Carpenter would give anything to be like Mandarin Ramey. Mandarin is seventeen, self-assured, irreverent and mysterious; the notorious wild girl of their small Wyoming town.

Like Mandarin

From Grace: Sure, maybe most of the attention Mandarin got was negative. But it wasn't the kind of disdainful brainfreak attention I got, when I got any at all. Hers was lust. And jealousy. Because even as they condemned her, every single girl wanted to be her.
But nobody more than me.
I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.
I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.
I would give anything to be like Mandarin.

Grace's fascination with Mandarin borders on obsession. When they're paired together for a project, their explosive friendship rocks Grace's world – which makes Mandarin's betrayal even more devastating.

So, in honor of LIKE MANDARIN, I've been asked to blog about who my Mandarin was. This has, of course, changed over the years.


When I was about ten, my American grandma introduced me and my siblings to free movies from the library. And thus began my obsession with THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Because I fell in love with Wesley, so I desperately longed to be Princess Buttercup.

54_Miracle-Max1Uh, no.

This one.


These two still turn my insides into a wobbly, gooey mess. Wesley was so handsome, so perfect, and had such an irresistible voice. Princess Buttercup was a bit of a stupidnut, but she was beautiful and Wesley loved her. For a ten year old, that was enough.

But as I got way older, like a year later, Grandma checked out GONE WITH THE WIND. And this time, I fell in love with Ashley. I know, I was supposed to love Rhett Butler, but he's a grown woman type of man, you know. Ashley was all soft-spoken and sweet and whimpy-sexy, just perfect for a sixth grader. And Scarlett wanted him. Melanie Wilkes wanted him. So I wanted to be them.

Rhett-Scarlett-scarlett-ohara-and-rhett-butler-6915942-640-480 Melanie_Wilkes

Scarlett was stupidselfish, but she was strong and resilient. Melanie Wilkes was stupidgullible but she was the kindest, noblest woman ever. I wanted to be, like, their love child. And then marry Ashley. As I got older, I wised up and saw Rhett's appeal, but by then I'd moved on to Axl Rose.

And then, I fell in love and got married (not to Axl Rose), and one day my husband made a casual mention of Kate Beckinsale and my WTF radar kicked in. I was like, all sly and stuff: "You like brunettes, don't you." And his pupils dilated and his jaw tensed and he was like, "I love you and you're a brunette, so yes." And then I looked her up and understood. So, yeah. After that, I wanted to be like her, too. For obvious reasons.



But now, as much as I'd still love to be Kate Beckinsale, she doesn't exactly influence me. Like at all. Not like this person.


This is me with my Mom when I was about...two? We were near the old Humbolt Hotel in Playas, a beach not far from Guayaquil where I was born. My mom stood out like, well, a pasty white person in Ecuador. But she was so strong, you know? Having moved to Ecuador without knowing a lick of Spanish. And she was so determined to raise us kids right, all four of us, and would make us American donuts and pie to eat right along with our arroz con pollo. For our birthdays, she would make paper hats out of newspapers and always our favorite cakes. For me, it was cherry cheesecake.

It's from Mom I get my writing. When I was a kid, I used to sneak into her journals and couldn't believe that anyone I knew could write so beautifully, better than the stuff I read in books. Then when I wrote my first real book in sixth grade, HOW THE ELEPHANT CAME TO BE, she acted like it was the most perfect book she'd ever read, and has kept it to this day. She's the one who gets to read everything I write first, and she always makes me cry with how much she loves it. She makes me feel special, like I could do anything. And she's probably the nicest person in the world. Mom is beautiful like Princess Buttercup. Also strong and resilient, kind and noble--like the love child of Scarlett and Melanie. She's not brunette though, so that's good.

My big sister is brunette, though. But that's okay, because she's awesome. I want to be just like her too.


To this day, she keeps me from falling.



I would like to thank all of you who offered me such tremendous support in the last few days. I was blown away by this online community of writers and book people, friends and family. It was all so overwhelming, but exhilarating. I'm just so moved by it all. Inspired, really. I can't thank you enough. I promise, I'll post my agent story. Soon.

I also owe a special thank you to those of you who threw me my blog party yesterday. You guys have wormed your way into my heart. Thank you for being such amazing people. I look forward to each of your successes.

And to my agent, Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary: thank you. Many times, thank you.


  1. I love this! I totally wanted to be princess buttercup too. I like how you went through all these different women and then settled on your mother. My mom is a huge inspiration for me as well. :)

  2. We just watched The Princess Bride (again!) last weekend. I think I can recite the whole thing by heart :)

    I love that your mom and your sister are the ones who keep you from falling. You're so lucky to be surrounded by strong women.

  3. Awesome! I'll be entering the blog party contest later today! And I love when fellow bloggers sign with agents! Congrats! Vickie seems really nice.

  4. I want to be Carol when I grow up. Except not a woman. And from Scotland, not Ecuador. And writing adult fiction instead of YA. And a bit snarkier. I have no idea what that would make me, other than me. I may have to think about this a little more.

    But, as usual, 'twas a lovely post, m'dear. You do your mother proud.

    (Also, Kate? I like brunettes too.)


  5. I love this. I also wanted to be Buttercup. I wanted to fight with a sword too, but I blame growing up with a brother for that. lol.

  6. You have so many great examples! Well done Carolina, well done.

  7. ROFL at Simon's comment.

    My family watched Princess Bride two weeks ago. Okay, I made them watch it because I love Wesley and Buttercup. Fortunately they all enjoyed the movie. :D

    Great post, Carol.

  8. I wanna be like Veronica Mars. Or Buffy.

    You are blessed to have a wonderful mother. (I do NOT want to be like mine *shudder*)

    Also, I love Princess Bride. :)

    Hugs and love,

  9. This is seriously such a touching post. What a beautiful pic of you and your mom.

    And guess what, we have the same celeb crushes. When I was young I adored Wesley (dang, he still is hott) and Kate Beckinsale? LOVE her!
    Incredible post-I really enjoy reading your writing.

    Russo @

  10. Awwwww look at you and your mum and sister!! Lovely pics!! It's great that your mum and sister are your rocks!! Take care

  11. Aw... I love that photo of you and your mom!! SO DANG CUTE! I just played The Princess Bride for my daughter - I think she wants to be like Buttercup, too, and who could blame her!!

  12. There's this hill near my parents house, and while I was growing up my bff Krista and I used to throw ourselves down it calling for Wesley. I STILL think it'd be fun to do :)

    I can't get over how much you resemble your mom! In appearance AND in being so strong. <3

  13. the way you talk about your mom and sister is just lovely.

  14. I'm not so sure I wanted to be Buttercup as much as I wanted to just live in The Princess Bride and marry Wesley myself.

    I love your tribute to your mom and lovely. Isn't it funny how as kids we never want to be like our mom but realize, as we get older, that she's just the type of person we admire?

  15. This is such a sweet post. I love those photos from your childhood best of all.

  16. What a great post. Your mom sounds amazing. I love the retro pics!!

  17. Beautiful post! We all need someone to keep us from falling. I love that it's your mom. :)

  18. Funny, I always thought Inigo Montoya was the hot one. The stories my ten year old self made up about us sailing the pirate-ship Revenge into the sunset...

    That's so cool about your mom making sure you all had donuts. What a cool mom! Thanks for this post!

  19. "Oh my dear Wesley!"

    I love that movie, too. What a great post. And I'm still so excited for you! Can't wait to hear the whole story.

  20. Aw, you made me tear up! It was an amazing celebration and I was so happy to be a part of it. You are hugely deserving.

    I was a huge Axl Rose fan in my teen years too! LOL! When I was a kid though I wanted to be like Joel Rosenberg, my favorite author at the time.

  21. Beautiful post. I even teared up at Kate Beckinsale b/c of the beauty. =)

    You're mom must rock!

  22. Congrats on landing an agent. Woot!

  23. What a lovely post! When I was a kid, I wanted to be George from 'The Famous Five'. :D She was a tomboy, and got to do all the fun stuff. :)

    Your Mum is clearly a remarkable lady. I'm not surprised that she inspires you. :) Also, congratulations on the agent! I somehow missed the Twitter event, but I'm very pleased for you. :)

  24. What an awesome post Carolina! I think this is a book I have to read.

  25. Terrific post!! Great choices all - especially the family. My mom and sis are both my Mandarins too :)

  26. Beautiful tribute to your momma, Carol!

    And thanks for posting that pic of adorable baby Carol!!!

  27. Great post! Axl Rose, yes [g] Then Duff McKagan after... And you know what? Kate Beckinsale's dad was kinda cute too! Check him out in the old British series Rising Damp.

  28. Love these! Your mom is gorgeous. What a great story. :)

  29. I've already commented on your review of the Wills :) so I skpped back to this one, hope you don't mind (though it freaks me out when people skip my most recent blog to comment on an older one. It shouldn't freak me out!)

    Anyway I love your comment about your sister keeping you from falling. And i loved the whole complicated Gone with the Wind thing, too - (been there) I was a little too old when I saw Princess Bride... but the Axl Rose comment? grin.

  30. Having just lost my mom, I'm extra touched by this tribute to yours! You come across as such a genuine person and it's plain to see why you have such a great army behind you! And this is just the beginning...

  31. it's totally not cool for your Mom to post on your blog - but oh well. Totally ruined my makeup reading this (and makeup does get to be such a project after this many years). I still see you dancing on that big stage, so absorbed in the music, so graceful, so totally pulling off a COMPLETE surprise with a recital and costumes I never even knew was going to happen - always happier making others happy. I love you. Soar, Baby girl, Fly! We are honored and privileged to be on the journey with you.

  32. P.S. And I'm surprised that you haven't noticed the similarity between you and Kate Beckinsale. Other than the fact that you are prettier.

  33. What a lovely touching post and such a sweet picture of you and your mum. Always keep them close. x

  34. I loved the pictures of little you! Super cute!

    And I wanted to be Kate Beckinsale when I saw her as Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. *sigh*

  35. Great post. That's great you're so close to your mom. And that she reads your work first.

    I'm still so excited by your news.

  36. Mom, even when I saw nothing special in myself, you saw the world in me. Because of you, I know how to love. Because of you, I know how to be loved. Because of you, my life will always be filled with wonderful.

    Sis, you always get me. More than anyone else, you always get me. I love you.


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