24 September 2013

YA novels for your 13-year-old pianist/singer/ songwriter/equestrian/poet/artist daughter

I love sorting through my collection of YA novels to find the perfect book for an avid teen reader, or a reluctant one! Today's recommendations are for a friend's 13-year-old daughter, who has many interests and talents, but hasn't been captivated by a book in a while. My mission... to find a novel she'll love. Here's the care package I'll be delivering to her house today:

Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH, a National Book Award Finalist and all-time favorite of mine. It's magical and mystical and swoony and breath-taking. I recommend this collection of three novellas to EVERYONE. If the reader in question also happens to love to draw, all the better. This book features gorgeous illustrations by Laini's husband, Jim Di Bartolo. 

Hilary T. Smith's WILD AWAKE, about a 17-year-old pianist/ songwriter whose world goes a bit crazy in both frightening and wonderful ways. There's music and mystery and madness and murder! And a boy named Skunk, a.k.a. "Love Bison." It's the kind of book that shakes you up a bit, makes you feel WILD AWAKE. So, I'm thinking it's perfect for a reader who needs a book that will really grab her.

John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, the story of terminal cancer patient Hazel and her "gorgeous plot twist" Augustus, will break your heart in the best possible way. Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it. Cried their eyes out, sure... but loved it all the same. (It's funny, too. And sweet and romantic.)

Rainbow Rowell's ELEANOR & PARK is a first-love story about... Eleanor and Park! hah. Eleanor: A big, red-headed girl with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. Park: A half-Korean boy who has always felt like an outsider in their town of Omaha, Nebraska. They meet, they ride the bus, they share music, they hold hands (and we're talking some seriously intense hand-holding here). What I love most about this book is that I didn't recognize the characters from anywhere else. They are NEW and different and special.

How's that?

OH, and I nearly forgot... THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater! It's the story of a horse race... a deadly one, raced on the backs of killer water horses that rise from the sea! It's also about a boy and a girl and regular horse. Not your typical horse story by any means, but certainly a book a horse-loving girl might appreciate. Add it to the list!

09 September 2013

It's okay to NOT write every day (says the author who took the summer off)...

There are a lot of good writing and publishing tips on the Internet. I am quite certain I would NOT have found my fabulous writing friends or critique partners or agent or publisher (or completed a single manuscript, for that matter) if I hadn't followed some very good advice discovered on author blogs.

But, sometimes... that advice can make you feel like you're doing it wrong. Like this one: "Write EVERY day. Even if it's only a paragraph. Commit to putting words on the page every single day."

I've read that advice in various forms on numerous blogs. Heck, I've even GIVEN that advice. And when I don't write every day, I feel guilty. A little voice inside my head needles me. "If you were a REAL writer, you'd HAVE to write every day or you'd burst."

But there are times when something else is calling to me more strongly than whatever I'm writing. This summer, the voice of my WIP was drowned out by the activities of my children and summer travel plans. Instead of feeling guilty for neglecting my writing, I decided to enjoy it. I spent a week in Paris with a girlfriend (where I did some research for a book but no actual writing). My daughter and I completely redecorated her room (We shopped! We sewed! We painted!) My son had friends over for a DIY screen printing camp in our garage, attended weekly gatherings of a Dr. Who club, and played stand-up bass in a bluegrass band. I shuttled the kids to camp and dance and lessons and friends' houses and pools. I did a full purge and clean-out of our attic play room, discarding toys my children have long since outgrown, and transforming into more of a hang-out (and rock-out) sort of space. Then I reclaimed my office, which had become a dumping ground for STUFF. (All of the stuff.) 

I even sharpened every pencil in the house (we're talking hundreds) and put them in a giant pencil box. 

Some might call this procrastination (or possibly insanity). For me, it was a form of rest and rejuvenation. And you know what happened? Some of my best writing ideas came while I was completely ignoring my writing. They poked through, waking me at night or coming to the fore while I was brushing my teeth. They came to me after seeing something or meeting someone I wouldn't have seen or met if I'd been home writing. I scribbled them down somewhere so I wouldn't forget them. 

Now... it's time to write. The kids are back in school. My surroundings are in order. And a summer's worth of ideas are bursting forth. I feel certain my writing will be better for the break I took from it. 

26 July 2013

From Paris with Bookstore Love

I've just returned from a week in Paris, where I visited many fabulous sites (Notre Dame! Sacré Couer! La Conciergerie!), ate and drank well, and even saw the final stage of the Tour du France as the peleton raced along the Champs Elysees and around l'Arc de Triomphe. My friend was on a Julia Child pilgrimage, which took us to a hardware store and kitchen shop as well as Julia's apartment building and a favorite cafe. But the stops I always love best when traveling are book stores!

Shakespeare and Company in Paris

Hello, YA section!
How lovely it was to visit the YA section at the famous Shakespeare and Company, located across the Seine from the Notre Dame Cathedral. The original English language bookstore and lending library was opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919 at a different location. It moved to a larger space in 1922 and thrived there as a gathering place for artists and writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The shop closed in 1941 during the German occupation of France and never reopened. In 1951, American George Whitman bought a small apartment across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral, and turned it into a bookstore with 13 rooms upstairs to house writers. Originally named Le Mistral, he renamed it Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Sylvia Beach in 1964 after her death.

Bonjour, Calpurnia!
Shopping this famous English bookstore in Paris was a treat, but perhaps even more delightful was perusing the YA sections at French bookstores and finding the French translations of favorite books such as Calpurnia (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly).

Some day, I hope to find my own books in translation on foreign shelves! 

07 July 2013

Today's Library Loot, and the Amazing Effects of a Dazzling Book Spine

My nine-year-old daughter and I paid a visit to our local library this afternoon, to sign her up for the Summer Library Reading Program. I had also placed a few titles on hold athat were ready for pick-up. In addition to my three choices (LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger, REQUIEM by Lauren Oliver, and THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND by Margo Lanagan), we selected six books from the middle grade section for her as well. 

When choosing library books for my daughter, I am often attracted by a shiny metal sticker on the cover. Today, it was the Newbery medal on A YEAR DOWN YONDER by Richard Peck. I also picked two others that looked like good summer fun. My daughter selected THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS by Francis O'Roark Dowell (who wouldn't want to sit barefoot in the grass with those girls on the cover?). Then, she practically dove across the aisle lunging for a book that looked particularly good (it even elicited an excited little gasp). She read the first page and plopped the book in our bag. Can you tell which spine won her enthusiastic attention?

Yep, it was RATTLED by Debra Galant. I'm sure book spines with pink and purple squares with curlicue lettering do not appeal to ALL nine-year-old girls, but it certainly hooked mine. 

I know readers judge books by their covers, but I hadn't fully realized how important a spine can be to the equation! 

What do YOU look for in a book spine design??

20 May 2013

The slightly blurry (and beautifully mossy) world of WILD AWAKE author & former INTERN, Hilary Smith

Author and avid woodswoman, Hilary T. Smith
Four years ago, a publishing industry intern (who went by the clever moniker, "INTERN"), started a blog to share what she learned behind the scenes at the offices of Big Fancy Publishing House and the smaller Venerable McPulitzer. To those of us trying to understand that puzzling world and how to break into it, INTERN's posts were like manna from the gods. (Really funny manna, that is, from the kind of god you want for your best friend.) 

When I discovered that my new anonymous best friend also offered manuscript critiques, I asked my husband to get me one for Christmas. He obliged, and I handed my first YA novel to this mysterious young woman who appeared only as a blur of shaggy hair in her blogger photo. Somehow, I knew to trust her. And it was the best instinct I ever had. Her critique was the "aha!" moment I desperately needed—a turning point in my growth as a writer that ultimately led to my success in finding an agent and publisher. 

In November 2011, INTERN's YA debut sold to Harper Collins' Katherine Tegen Books, and real actual hilary (Hilary T. Smith) was unmasked. She continues to blog about her experiences as a writer and nomad. Her novel WILD AWAKE will be released into the wild on May 28, with much anticipation from her fans, friends and one very grateful pen pal.

Hilary kindly agreed to answer a few questions here on my humble blog: 

Q. What is the kernel of an idea that led to WILD AWAKE?


I had a conversation with a friend about halfway through the writing
 process that sums it up nicely. The conversation boiled down to this:
 Most if not all creative people undergo at least one major alienation 
experience in their formative years that permanently thrusts them off
 a mainstream path. Whether it's mental illness, psychedelic drugs, 
meditation, a wilderness encounter, or a traumatic event like the
 death of a friend, it causes you to see reality in a sharply different
 light and feel "apart" from society in some profound way. Another term
 for "alienation experience" might be "underworld journey." 

What I set out to do with WILD AWAKE was to show how one such 
underworld journey could take place—how a teen headed in a more or less mainstream direction could have her entire reality shaken in a 
terrible, but ultimately beautiful, way.

Q: What was your favorite part of the novel writing process? What was your least favorite?

A: My favorite part of the writing process is definitely line editing. I 
love poring over each sentence, tinkering with words—how the tiniest 
change can illuminate a sentence or revive a wilted paragraph.

The hardest part was despairing over the ending. There was a horrible 
month-long period where I started to wonder if I was even capable of
 finishing the book—I felt so ashamed, and so afraid. It wasn't that I
 couldn't write an ending—I wrote dozens—but there was something 
eluding me. Luckily, I have an editor with a knack for exuding supreme
 calm. Her quiet certainty that the right ending would bubble up in its 
own time was proved correct a few months later, when for no apparent
 reason, it did.

Q. Of the places you visited on your travels, which would make the 
best setting for a novel?

A: In Morocco, my boyfriend and I stumbled on a tiny village one day when
 we were were hiking around. It's not on the map and cannot be Googled, 
and the only outsiders who normally go there are surfers who keep its 
location a closely guarded secret. In recent years, a few of the 
village families have started renting rooms to surfers on an
 unofficial, bare-mattress-on-the-floor basis. We ended up staying with 
one of these families for a month. It reminded me very much of a
 Virkram Seth novel—"change comes to the village.” Here is this place 
where most families are still raising chickens and goats and getting 
their water from a communal well, but now some people are putting
 plastic chairs outside their houses to create "restaurants" or
 painting the word "Hotel" on their front wall. The village is very 
traditional, but now these "hotels" are harboring young Westerners who 
like to drink beer, smoke hash, engage in premarital romances, and do 
other un-Islamic things. Travelers also consume water and electricity,
 and create garbage—none of which the village was equipped to deal
 with. You could practically see the lines of tension forming—money and 
jobs on one hand, and the breakdown of the cultural and environmental 
ecosystem on the other. It's great novel material—conflict, drama,
 emotional impact, romance, tough questions...

Q. Favorite books of the year?

A: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — I had never actually read Huck Finn—I know, I know—but I picked it up 
in Portugal because it was one of the only English-language books I
 could find, and fell in love.

The Way of Zen by Alan Watts — 

I tend to be high-strung and nervous. Alan Watts has a way of
 convincing me that everything is actually okay. *deep breath*

I and Thou by Martin Buber

 — Martin Buber is Techie Boyfriend's favorite philosopher. I and Thou is
 a surprisingly readable book about...well...existence?

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

— Favorite YA read of the year! I howled with tears for hours after 
finishing it, which literally never happens.

Q: How will you spend book release day?

A: I don't even know which part of the country I'll be in on May 28th,
 but my fantasy book launch for WILD AWAKE would involve a midnight
 bike ride around Vancouver, followed by yam fries with miso gravy at 
the Naam, and perhaps a bonfire and skinny dipping at Wreck Beach.

Thank you, Hilary. I hope you get your WILD AWAKE dream date!

* * * * * * * * * 


In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith’s exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she’s the girl of his dreams.

But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri’s plans. He says he has her sister Suki’s stuff—her sister Suki, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries.

Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a WallflowerWild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

Book Description

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate, Lukas, will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won't be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can't he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*

*Also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith's debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

11 April 2013

Diana Peterfreund on Publishing, Prequels, and the Puzzle Pieces of a Post-Apocalyptic Persuasion

A few weeks ago, I treated myself to train fare and two nights in New York to attend the NYC Teen Authors Festival, which was awesome. Dozens of YA authors gathered for panels, readings and even theatrical interpretation! Among those featured was the lovely and talented Diana Peterfreund, author of eight novels including the Secret Society Girl series and the “killer unicorn novels” RAMPANT and ASCENDANT.
Diana Peterfreund

Diana gave a beautiful reading from her latest book, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARSand I was hooked! I had a chance to read this post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion while on spring break with my daughter. Days later, the characters were still on my mind and I didn't quite feel like banishing them with a new read. So, I asked Diana if I could interview her. She said "absolutely!" And here we are...

Q: Diana, I'm always curious about how a kernel of an idea evolves and grows during the course of writing a book. Could you share a little bit about the journey you took with FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, from that first little kernel to the novel it grew into?

A: Like many writers, I keep an "idea file" where I squirrel away all the fancies that come to mind. I'm a big fan of retellings, especially Austen retellings like Bridget Jones and Clueless. Since Persuasion is my favorite Austen, and also a really under-appreciated one, I had "write a Persuasion retelling" in there for years. I also had "write something post-apocalyptic" in there because it was one of my favorite kinds of books when I was a teen. One day, I was looking in the file and the two phrases combined in my head: "post apocalyptic Persuasion." Once it was there, I couldn't get it out, so from there it was about finding what would create a society that would form the backdrop to this timeless story. I went through lots and lots of ideas before I decided on the Reduction and the world of Luddites and Posts. Another big chunk of the puzzle fell into place when I was trying to consider how to make this story of reunited lovers work for teens -- so I made them childhood friends. And then another big piece was when I was trying to do justice to Captain Wentworth's beautiful letter to Anne, and I thought how making the story at least partially epistolary would make letters into an organic and integral part of the whole. 

Q: I'm enjoying the prequel to FDSTS you posted on your website. Can you tell us about the writing of it, and the decision to share it as a free PDF? (I'm interested in authors' use of free and additional content to develop their readership, and sustain interest between book releases in a series.)

A: I'm glad you like it! Providing free supplementary content is something I have always done for my books -- so seven and counting. I'm really glad that the trend has caught on in a big way. There's a whole series of "secret stories" on my website for my Secret Society Girl series. When Rampant came out, I made special websites filled with supplementary material and fun extras, and then later, I put up free short stories set in the world ("On a Field, Sable" and "Errant"). So this was just another opportunity. The PDF was my publisher's idea. They had it up on their site for a limited time. In addition to it being available from PDF on my site, you can also download it for free for your ereader from any platform: Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords... you name it. There is a connecting short story included in the back of the FDSTS paperback, and there will be a prequel available for ACROSS A STAR SWEPT SEA, as well. 

Q: How do you balance your writing with related activities and promotion (author appearances, Twitter, Facebook, blogging...)? 

A: Not very well! I definitely have to do a lot of reminding of myself that my main job is writing (for instance, I should be doing page proofs right now instead of answering these questions).

Q: If you were Queen of All Publishing, what would you change? (Would it be the way YA series are named, perhaps...?)

A: I have no problem with the way YA series are named. I have a problem with the insistence of one reader database, Goodreads, insisting that a) series must have a title and default to the title of the first book in that series, and b) that series must be numbered according to their system. Writers should not be forced to write according to Goodreads rules. In terms of publishing, I'd love to get rid of some of the dinosaur "slow to turn the boat around" policies on ebook pricing and scheduling. There are a lot of dynamic things being done with pricing and scheduling these days and I'd love it if NY got in the game. I'd also love it if we got a bit away from the blind following of trends, but it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle, especially since that seems to work so well with so many consumers. 

Q: Finally, your first novel SECRET SOCIETY GIRL was published in 2006. Looking back on your debut author experience, was there a particular moment, event or decision that influenced the direction of your writing career?

A: Well, the collapse of the chick lit market wasn't so fun. I was lucky enough to be able to finish my series and all my books are still in print, but a lot of my fellow chick lit writers were not so fortunate. There were a few years there where contemporary women's fiction was a really, really tough sell. (Another thing that seems to be changing, thank you, self pub trends!) I was lucky then that I was also writing YA. But beyond the obvious constrictions of what a publisher is willing to buy, I'm a writer that really follows my interests -- I am deeply fascinated by the topics of all my books, as my extensive collection of unicorn paraphernalia and Austen editions proves. 

Thank you, Diana! And readers... here's more on FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS:

For Darkness Shows the Stars

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

20 March 2013

NYC Teen Author Festival... See you there?

The NYC Teen Author festival is happening NOW! (Alas, I cannot get there until Friday.)

The first two events, on Monday and Tuesday evenings, featured authors Gayle Forman, Kristen-Paige Madonia, Bennett Madison, Jennifer E. Smith, Melissa Walker, David Levithan, Crissa Chappell, Tim Decker, Ellen Hopkins, Amy McNamara and Jessica Verdi.


How I wish I could've been there. Here's the rest of the swoon-worthy line-up, which I pulled from the Festival's Facebook page:

Wednesday, March 20 
(42nd St NYPL, South Court room, 6-8): 

Imagination: A Conversation
It’s a given that authors’ minds are very strange, wonderful, twisted, illogical, inventive places. Here we talk to five rather imaginative authors about how they conjure the worlds in their books and the stories that they tell, along with glimpses of the strange and wonderful worlds they are creating at the present.

Holly Black
Lev Grossman
Michelle Hodkin
Alaya Johnson
Robin Wasserman
moderators: David Levithan and Chris Shoemaker

Thursday, March 21
SOHO Teen night, 6-9pm (Books of Wonder, 18 W18th St)

Celebrate the launch of SOHO Teen
Featuring readings by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Joy Preble, Margaux Froley, Elizabeth Kiem, Heather Terrell & Ricardo Cortés, and Lisa & Laura Roecker.

Friday March 22
Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, Berger Forum, 2nd floor, 2-6)

2:00 – Introduction

2:10-3:00: He Said, She Said

Ted Goeglein
Gordon Korman
Lucas Klauss
Michael Northrop

Susane Colasanti
E. Lockhart
Carolyn Mackler
Sarah Mlynowski
Leila Sales

moderator: David Levithan

3:00-4:00: Taking a Turn: YA Characters Dealing with Bad and Unexpected Choices

In each of these authors’ novels, the main character’s life takes an unexpected twist. Sometimes this is because of a bad choice. Sometimes this is because of a secret revealed. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice at all, but rather a reaction. We’ll talk about following these characters as they make these choices – both good and bad. Will include brief readings illuminating these choices.

Caela Carter
Eireann Corrigan
Alissa Grosso
Terra Elan McVoy
Jacquelyn Mitchard
Elizabeth Scott
K. M. Walton
moderator: Aaron Hartzler

4:10-4:40: That’s So Nineteenth Century

A Conversation About Playing with 19th Century Archetypes in the 21st Century

Sharon Cameron
Leanna Renee Hieber
Stephanie Strohm
Suzanne Weyn
Moderator: Sarah Beth Durst

4:40-5:30: Alternate World vs. Imaginary World

Of these authors, some have written stories involving alternate or parallel versions of our world, some have made up imaginary worlds for their characters, and still others have written books that do each. We’ll discuss the decision to either connect the world of a book to our world, or to take it out of the historical context of our world. How do each strategies help in telling story and developing character? Is one easier than the other? Is the stepping off point always reality, or can it sometimes be another fictional world?

Sarah Beth Durst
Jeff Hirsch
Emmy Laybourne
Lauren Miller
E. C. Myers
Diana Peterfreund
Mary Thompson
Moderator: Chris Shoemaker

Friday March 22
Barnes & Noble Reader’s Theater/Signing 
(Union Square B&N, 33 E 17th St, 7-8:30)

Eireann Corrigan
Elizabeth Eulberg
Jeff Hirsch
David Levithan
Rainbow Rowell
Nova Ren Suma

Saturday March 23
Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, Bergen Forum, 2nd Floor, 1-5)

1:00 – Introduction

1:10-2:10 – Defying Description: Tackling the Many Facets of Identity in YA

As YA literature evolves, there is more of an acknowledgment of the many facets that go into a teenager’s identity, and even categories that once seemed absolute now have more nuance. Focusing particularly, but not exclusively, on LGBTQ characters and their depiction, we’ll discuss the complexities about writing about such a complex experience.

Marissa Calin
Emily Danforth
Aaron Hartzler
A.S. King
Jacqueline Woodson
moderator: David Levithan

2:10-2:40 - New Voices Spotlight

Each debut author will share a five-minute reading from her or his work

J. J. Howard
Kimberly Sabatini
Tiffany Schmidt
Greg Takoudes

2:40-3:30 – Under Many Influences: Shaping Identity When You’re a Teen Girl

Being a teen girl is to be under many influences – friends, parents, siblings, teachers, favorite bands, favorite boys, favorite web sites. These authors will talk about the influences that each of their main characters tap into – and then talk about what influences them as writers when they shape these characters.

Jen Calonita
Deborah Heiligman
Hilary Weisman Graham
Kody Keplinger
Amy Spalding
Katie Sise
Kathryn Williams
moderator: Terra Elan McVoy

3:40-4:20 – Born This Way: Nature, Nurture, and Paranormalcy

Paranormal and supernatural fiction for teens constantly wrestles with issues of identity and the origin of identity. Whether their characters are born “different” or come into their powers over time, each of these authors uses the supernatural as a way to explore the nature of self. 

Jessica Brody
Gina Damico
Maya Gold
Alexandra Monir
Lindsay Ribar
Jeri Smith-Ready
Jessica Spotswood

moderator: Adrienne Maria Vrettos

4:20-5:00 – The Next Big Thing

Description: Again, not to be too mysterious, but I will email these authors separately about what I’m thinking for this.

Jocelyn Davies
Leanna Renee Hieber
Barry Lyga
Maryrose Wood

Saturday March 23
Mutual Admiration Society reading at McNally Jackson 
(McNally Jackson, Prince Street, 7-8:30)

Sharon Cameron
A.S. King
Michael Northrop
Diana Peterfreund
Victoria Schwab
Nova Ren Suma
hosted by David Levithan

Sunday March 24
Our No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder, 1-4

Jessica Brody (Unremembered, Macmillan) 
Marisa Calin (Between You and Me, Bloomsbury) 
Jen Calonita (The Grass is Always Greener, LB) 
Sharon Cameron (The Dark Unwinding, Scholastic) 
Caela Carter (Me, Him, Them, and It, Bloomsbury) 
Crissa Chappell (Narc, Flux) 
Susane Colasanti (Keep Holding On, Penguin) 
Zoraida Cordova (The Vicious Deep, Sourcebooks) 
Gina Damico (Scorch, HMH) 
Jocelyn Davies (A Fractured Light, HC) 
Sarah Beth Durst (Vessel, S&S) 
Gayle Forman (Just One Day, Penguin)
Elizabeth Scott (Miracle, S&S) 

T. M. Goeglein (Cold Fury, Penguin) 
Hilary Weisman Graham (Reunited, S&S) 
Alissa Grosso (Ferocity Summer, Flux) 
Aaron Hartzler (Rapture Practice, LB) 
Deborah Heiligman (Intentions, RH) 
Leanna Renee Hieber (The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart, Sourcebooks) 
Jeff Hirsch (Magisterium, Scholastic) 
J. J. Howard (That Time I Joined the Circus, Scholastic) 
Alaya Johnson (The Summer Prince, Scholastic) 
Beth Kephart (Small Damages, Penguin) 
Kody Keplinger (A Midsummer’s Nightmare, LB)

A.S. King (Ask the Passengers, LB) 
Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14, Macmillan) 
David Levithan (Every Day, RH) 
Barry Lyga (Yesterday Again, Scholastic) 
Brian Meehl (Suck it Up and Die, RH) 
Alexandra Monir (Timekeeper, RH) 
Michael Northrop (Rotten, Scholastic) 
Diana Peterfreund (For Darkness Shows the Stars, HC) 
Lindsay Ribar (The Art of Wishing, Penguin) 
Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, St. Martin’s) 
Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface, S&S) 
Tiffany Schmidt (Send Me a Sign, Bloomsbury)

Victoria Schwab (The Archived, Hyperion) 
Jeri Smith-Ready (Shine, S&S)
Amy Spalding (The Reece Malcolm List, Entangled) 
Stephanie Strohm (Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, HMH) 
Nova Ren Suma (17 & Gone, Penguin) 
Greg Takoudes (When We Wuz Famous, Macmillan) 
Mary Thompson (Wuftoom, HMH) 
Jess Verdi (My Life After Now, Sourcebooks) 
K.M. Walton (Empty, S&S) 
Suzanne Weyn (Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, Scholastic) 
Kathryn Williams (Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, Macmillan) 

Hope to see you there!

09 March 2013

What I learned from Walter Dean Myers today

Walter Dean Myers
A few days ago I heard that Walter Dean Myers would be speaking at the Festival of Words, a one-day literacy event for Delaware teens, teachers and librarians. The program would focus on young adult literature, poetry and writing, so of course I immediately made plans to crash the party. (Actually, I emailed and begged to go and they said, "We would love to have you!")

For those not familiar with the awesome that is Walter Dean Myers, he is a poet and author of more than 100 books for children and young adults. (By his count, 105 have been published and seven more are "in the pipeline.") But we're not only talking quantity, here, folks. He's won a boatload of awards for titles including Monster, The Scorpion, Somewhere in the Darkness, Fallen Angels, Hoops, Autobiography of my Dead Brother, and Lockdown. He's written about life growing up on the rough streets of Harlem, basketball (his true love), and the Vietnam war (where he fought and a brother died). He is currently serving as Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Mr. Myers opened his talk by describing a typical day. He rises at 4:30 a.m, feeds his wife's cat, gets coffee, and then proceeds to write five pages, which takes two-and-a-half to three hours, he says. Yep, by 8 a.m., the man has completed his writing for the day! (But not his revising on another book, or his planning of a third. He has three books going in various stages of development at any given time.)

He shared many wonderful anecdotes and snippets of advice from his life as a writer, and answered dozens of questions. "I had to overcome the idea that all writers are geniuses, just open a window and let the muse come in," he said, reflecting on the need to learn the craft of writing. "No one would go into plumbing without learning the craft." Also important: "Learn how to finish books." 

He described his own approach to story development, the "Pre-writing" stage, which starts with a question and character. He charts the basic story on a six-box grid to see if it's interesting enough. Then he lists 30 scenes. "If I do 30 scenes and the scenes work, that's a book." 

Myers keeps a notebook with pictures of the characters in his WIP, which he pulls from a website that features older kids who need to be adopted. And he creates a timeline for each character, from birth to the present. A key event on that timeline is something that happened when they were four years old, which would be their first memory. 

"Pre-writing is most important," he says. "I'm a good writer, I'm a pretty good re-writer. But I make my living pre-writing."

I asked him how he decides whether he'll write a story in prose, verse, or screen-play form (as Monster was). His answer was fascinating, as he described how he interviewed prison inmates before writing Monster and found that whenever they spoke of their crime, they spoke in third person. It was a way to distance themselves from the crime... separate it from how they viewed themselves. So, Myers told his character Steve Harmon's story similarly, in first-person diary entries when sharing his feelings, but as the film script for a court-room drama when telling about the crime. The result was riveting! 

Myers noted that he never gets too attached to his words. If he's written a story in verse and the publisher wants him to change it to prose, he says, "I change it."

Thank you, Festival of Words and Walter Dean Myers for an educational and inspiring event!

04 March 2013

Three Quick Questions for Elsie Chapman (DUALED)

Newsflash! I have discovered that busy authors don't always have time to do in-depth blog interviews (surprise, surprise). But they also hate to say no to opportunities to connect with new readers. So, I've come up with solution makes everyone happy (I hope): Three Quick Questions, a mini interview! 

Elsie Chapman
My first guest is Elsie Chapman. Her debut novel, DUALED, was published on February 26 by Random House Books for Young Readers. A sequel, DIVIDED, will be released in February 2014.

Q: Hi, Elsie! How did you spend the release day for DUALED? 

A: I spent the morning catching up on twitter and tumblr, actually! The publication process is a long one, and you end up making a lot of friends during the course of it. And release day isn't really about you as it is about your book! So it's nice to just spend some time talking to the fellow authors and bloggers who have supported you, to say thanks for the congrats and for loving your work. Then in the afternoon, my daughter had a Science Jam event at the mall, which was actually great because it forced me to go offline for a bit. After that, my in-laws met up with us and had me sign their copies of DUALED. It was a very good day.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A brand new book idea! I'm very excited about it :)

Q: What are the last three YA novels you read and loved?

A: I haven't been able to read anything in months, but I can tell you the last three YA I bought: Ellen Oh's PROPHECY, Kasie West's PIVOT POINT, and Megan Shepherd's THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER. I read these a while ago in either ARC or ms form, and I absolutely loved them. 

Thank you, Elsie!

DUALED by Elsie Chapman
Two of you exist. Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.