February 28, 2007

Submission Shout-Out

It occurs to me that it's been ... like, dog years since I've posted any submissions. There's been a lot of reading and writing and not a whole lot of mailing things going on lately. I've typed up a number of pieces of short fiction, and then realized that the market for YA shorts is rapidly depleting. CICADA Magazine is currently not accepting unsolicited submissions. Know any anthologies in need of shorts? Have news on untapped markets for YA short fiction? Do tell!
Sumach Press is delighted to announce a new YA story collection about mothers and daughters and body image, to be published in 2008. The working title is Cleavage, and we're looking for stories of 2000 - 3500 words about eating disorders, cosmetic surgery, implants, clothing choices, hair, waxing, makeup, piercing, tattoos etc. Point of view should be thirteen and up, but the issues can be hers, her mother's, or both. We're especially interested in quirky, humourous stories that capture the bizarreness of body image along with defining mother-daughter moments. We welcome submissions from new, emerging and established writers by June 15 2007. For details, please visit.

Deb Loughead and Jocelyn Shipley, co-editors.
Blue Works Publishing has issued a call for chapter books for Middle Grade and Young Adult works. "Our 'young adult' books are defined as novels (50,000 or more) written for readers in the twelve to eighteen range. Our "chapter books" are approximately 20,000 words for readers up to eleven, with the most common audience six to ten year olds." Blue Works has specific guidelines, and they expect a lot out of savvy writers, so read, read, read before you submit. Respect the people and the time they took to make themselves plainly understood. The clarity will either alarm or intrigue you. Anyone with experience working with this company, we'd love to hear about your experience!
The 2007 Write It Now! Competition is open for entries! May 15 is the deadline. Judges include Printz-winner Terry Trueman for YA stuff, and the prolific Kathleen Duey for middle grade. Grand prizes includes SmartWriters.com acting as agent for you and showing your story to a publisher -- or several.

Aargh, will it never end?! NaNoEdMo is national novel editing month – all thirty-one days of March. The timing is so good it’s bad. I don’t want to commit to fifty hours of doing anything at this point... which is a sure sign that I probably should. SIGH.

Via Galleycat, check out books for boys, the newly formed Flying Point Press the company that is making boys' reading habits a priority.

Meanwhile more encouraging words about dealing with rejection - or silence which equal rejection - in the editorial and writing world.

February 27, 2007

Professional Courtesy...

I apologize for yet another long silence (except for my comments on TadMack's posts). I have this problem, which is that my writing confidence is easily bruised, and when it is, I don't feel like I have anything worth posting on a blog, even if it's just news tidbits. Which I'm also behind on. And being behind makes me feel even worse.

So I thought it might make me feel a little better to write a mini-rant about one of things that tends to bruise my writing confidence. That thing is the gradual disappearance of professional courtesy (which isn't only limited to the writing world, of course). I'm not referring to any one incident or offender in particular, but I have to say that it really bothers me when I send out a query (especially via e-mail, where a response postcard is physically impossible) and I do not receive an acknowledgement or a reply. When e-mail is involved, and I don't get an acknowledgement--even a terse "thank you, I will review your materials and get back to you"--I start to panic about whether my query was received at all, or if it ended up in the spam filter, and how soon is too soon to verify whether the e-mail was received, etc. etc.

When it's a hard-copy query...let's just say that it's REALLY BOTHERSOME (and I am actually thinking of somebody in particular here, a local newpaper which shall remain nameless) when you go to the effort to send in a query AND a very polite follow-up letter and receive absolutely not one word in reply to either. (Of course, I've long given up on submitting anything more to them anyway. They lost their chance!)

To me, this implies not just a lack of professional courtesy, but a complete invalidation of the work put into the sample(s) and the query itself. It makes me feel like my work wasn't even worth acknowledgement, like it was so bad that it didn't merit a reply. I realize that this is more and more the norm in the publishing world, and that big publishing houses are even starting to post in their writers' guidelines that if you don't receive a reply in X amount of time, consider it a rejection but don't expect a letter or your manuscript returned. Fine. But when you don't have this enumerated in your guidelines, I think a reply--no matter how short or how mass-produced--is appropriate. I'd rather have a quick no than wait around forever for somebody to say no.

Anyway, that's my rant on the subject. As you've probably guessed, I get a lot of noes....

The End: Eventually

The eclectically -brilliant Yuji Morales spoke this weekend about her way of writing, and of editing. She talked about making choices in her characters and styles as one must make choices about life partners: you just hone in on the one, and find out how to love them, then love them as if they were your only choice.

As I am currently facing the last two (three? Four?) chapters of my current work, and A.F. has just finished a first draft (cheers!) this strikes me strongly. Can I write like that? Can I just ... go with what I've got, and not be forever going backwards and forwards all at once, fixing, tugging, arranging?

Frankly, I don't think so.

I wish I were Ms. Morales -- no, I mean, aside from wishing for that 0 dress size, fabulous wardrobe and sense of style -- I wish I could write and draw and create with that single-mindedness of devotion to my own choices, with that belief that I have chosen rightly all ready, tidied up, and central to my mind. But I tend to question my own questions, even, which makes editing and revising with my agent like pulling leg hairs with rusted tweezers. One. By. One.


Apparently, revision neuroses abound: we all do it so oddly, and so much our own way. Cynthia Leitich Smith was recently interviewed about her way of doing things, in the wake of the release of her vampire novel, Tantalize, which I am DYING (no pun intended) to read. Her discussion about editing gave me hives:

Not Your Mother's Book Club: How much of your early work changes with revision?

Cynthia: Jeepers. Every time I say this out loud, I hear millions of writers screaming in the distance (and a few in front of me in workshop). But it is a regular part of my process to write a full novel draft, print it to read once, and then I throw it away and delete the file. Really. It's my way of just getting to know the characters and their world. If I were to build on those first, fumbling efforts, my stories would have pretty shaky foundations. I'm not saying this is for everyone. Some folks can fully envision their work right out of the chute. But me, I figure whatever survives when I open the new document deserves a fair shot. Whatever doesn't...doesn't.

World: "Aaaargh!"

Even other writers -- really, REALLY, really good writers are hyperventilating over this. But now, I am reconsidering... Is there some combination of steering by your one star and then tossing everything into the wind that could... actually ... work? Is it indeed trusting, like the swan in the ugly duckling, that what you are meant to be will out, because it is written in your bones, in your head, in your hands, on your heart? Does it matter if you toss it all out? Would it actually make revision easier not to try to dodge the bits and pieces that you are trying to hold on to, but to throw it out wholly, raze it to the earth, release it, and recreate it out of the dust?

Hm. Hmm, hmmmm, hmmmmm...

Yuyi Morales closed her keynote address with the prayers of Señor Tlalocan (know to many as Tlalocan Tecuhtli, Lord Tlalocan), who is one of the gods of creation in Mexican mythology. She told us that he, as many creators do, sometimes has trouble believing in himself and finishing the tasks set before him. He has candles and altars to his hands, to his pencil and eraser, to his impulses, and to his backside. (Perhaps Señor Tlalocan invented the famous Butt In Chair?) I leave you with this thought:

Mighty Impulses of mine, give me the courage to follow you always.
Might I remember that there is no right or wrong decision, but only commitment to what I choose. Help me stick with my favorite option, and work on it with conviction and passion so as to make everyone believe it was the only choice I had.

Now, go and light a candle on your altar, and then... revise, reverse, refresh, repeat.

February 26, 2007

Weekly Book News

Man, I am totally wishing that someone from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Cybils group was on hand this weekend. During the conference, A.F. and I did a total graphics/YA Cybil Nominee book swap, and I've come away with everything from the 9-11 Report in pictures to the controversial Fun Home to award-winning American Born Chinese, which I've been dying to read (and which was a great mix for the Year of the Boar celebration still going on in Chinatown in SF, where we, of course, got lost... but that's another story!). Of course, if someone from Sci-Fi/Fantasy had been at the Multicultural Conference, then there would be sixty book sitting next to my nightstand, so never mind...

My Cybil Sis LW has a Shelving Meme posted... which gave me a good giggle... Oh, good grief don't get me started on bookshelves. Argh! My Cybils books are in a stack, willy-nilly on the floor in my office. There's a stack of at least thirty books in my bedroom, and a good ten piled in my nightstand. My floor-to-ceiling dream bookshelves are at Ikea in a flat-packed box, and I can't put them up yet until the kitchen is done, and we tear out the rest of the downstairs carpet and put down the new flooring... so, I'll get back to you on how I shelve my books, dear ones. Because shelves? Order? Space? Somewhat at a premium just now.

We've all either heard of or read the ALAN Review, which is pulled together by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). I love the name ALAN, which stands for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, and I enjoy their thrice yearly published journal, which is full of great stuff on YA literature but three times a year is not enough for me! To fill the need for more intelligent discourse on YA books, there is now the ALAN Book Club Online, which kicked off last week with its first online book chat. (A transcript is posted here.)

The best thing about this book chat is that it is for EVERYONE, but of course, the first thing participants must do is READ THE BOOK. Please. I'm sure that's the last time you'll hear anyone ask nicely. You don't have to be a teacher of English or a writer or anything but a YA books aficionado... and a person who has read the book up for discussion. They also ask that all participants send one question for discussion to the moderator at least the day before the scheduled chat. Third, log in at some point to make sure you CAN log-on, and thus solve any technical difficulties before the fun starts. Then, join the chat at the appointed time and enjoy. Sandpiper which is a difficult, emotional book. This week, Ellen herself will be on hand to talk about her book and answer some questions. This sounds like a fabulous opportunity to even be a lurker and listen in.

Via Book Moot comes news of another book chat group - but this ones for YA'ers. Readergirls are reading Justina Chen Headley's Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies). Find a teen girl who reads and tell her to join the fun!

Ooh! New release news: Via Bookshelves of Doom, I find that Robin the Rad McKinley has another book out this fall! Pardon me whilst I squeee... This poor woman has been trotting around the countryside, on tour forever, so I was wondering whether she would ever get another free moment to WRITE. So glad she's on the way back! Also is it Hate Crutcher Week again? And nobody told me? Siiiigh... This man, who has faced more censors and book attacks than any other male YA author I know of, actually has good book related news too! It's entitled 'Deadline' -- coming in the fall to a bookstore near you...

MULTICULTURAL THOUGHT DU JOUR: Recently MTV posted a list of the ten best kid's books to make into movies. At our conference this weekend, Cal State East Bay professor Susan Fox challenged us to think of multicultural kid's books we thought would make great movies. (Incidentally, check out the trip to Iceland and England that Susan's department is pulling together for this summer!) I'm thinking... you think too, and tell me what comes to mind! Howzabout The First Part Last? or A Girl Named Disaster? Walk Two Moons or The Cay?

All right. I see a work avoidance pattern happening, so I'm off.
Warm soup and good books to you all this blustery Monday.

February 25, 2007

Elements for a Great Conference Weekend

Here are the things you need for a successful writing/book conference:
* First, reserve the most intensely colored hotel you can find.
Drag friends there to stay with you, and be thankful that the hotel furnishes you with earplugs... as the Tenderloin is only a bar, liquor store, club and dealer-filled noisy block away...

* Next, have a line up of some of your favorite illustrators and authors, people like Ashley Bryan, whose work you remember from elementary school, or the electric Yuyi Morales (pronounced with a hard y/j sound, as in Castillian Spanish), whose bright colors and heartfelt encouragement just make you both tear up and smile; or a writer of Awe Status like Our Jane, whose thoughtful keynote address had you trying to take notes and listen and think all at once.

Then, open up such intriguing topics as "Technicolor" which was about the depiction of multicultural representation in films made from children's books (you knew I'd be at that one), or Literature for Children of Mixed Heritage.

* Finally, name it something thought-provoking yet short, like Reading the World IX and give it a really neat logo and have an artist like the incredible Debra Frasier let you borrow her book cover for program art.

Then, you'll have it: a really fabulous conference on the promotion of multicultural literature for children and young adults from all parts of the world, for as you know, it is the right of every child to find their world reflected in the literature they read and find in their classrooms.

Although I was disappointed that Pooja Makhijani had to cancel her talk (and I'd love to know what happened! No one seemed to know...), there were a great many deeply thoughtful, unpretentious and wonderful people there and some big topics brought up that I'll ramble on about when I'm a little less tired... but it will suffice for now to say that this multicultural literature event happens again next March 23 -- and there will be cake, I hear. If you have the opportunity to go -- go!

February 23, 2007

Not Your Average Quest/Princess/Witch Story

When you've read a lot of fantasy, you start thinking that you've seen it all, that there's nothing really new under the sun. The idea of a quest for holy relics--a grail, a sword--is hardly original, and the changeling child who's really a prince raised in obscurity is very archetypal and Arthurian as well. But these are the kinds of stories that still resonate in our minds, and when an author can provide a new and unique take on a familiar theme, the results can be powerful, surprising, and riveting.

Amanda Hemingway's first installment in the Sangreal trilogy, The Greenstone Grail (reviewed earlier by TadMack), was one of these new takes on a classic theme. The second book, The Sword of Straw, continues the action-packed story of Nathan Ward and his family and friends. Now that the Grail has been retrieved and hidden for safekeeping, Nathan goes back to boarding school at Ffylde Abbey and things return somewhat to normal--as normal as they can be when you know you're being spied on by someone from another world, a parallel world that you can travel to in dreams.

But the normalcy is shattered by attempted thefts of the Grail from Nathan's Uncle Bartlemy's house, and by inexplicable bullying of Nathan by an older thug at school. Not to mention the fact that Nathan, now fourteen, finds himself traveling to a new parallel world, one with an intriguingly willful and beautiful princess in need of aid. Her kingdom is practically deserted, and her father languishes in bed with a wound that won't heal, dealt by the Traitor's Sword.

Meanwhile, Nathan's best friend Hazel is lonely and feels persecuted at her local public school. Even more isolating is the fact that she can't deny she's sort of...a witch. It's in her blood. So she decides to try to use it to her advantage to get a boy to like her, with unexpected and disastrous results. This is another fast-paced, difficult-to-put-down installment by an author who, I'm sincerely hoping, will keep writing fantasy after this trilogy's done--because I’m officially a slavering fan.

February 21, 2007

Gnommish Good and Outlandish Adventures

The fifth book in the Artemis Fowl series I thought would be a total wipe. It seemed impossible that a series could go on for as many books as this one has without a single misstep, and the minute I heard there was a GIRL involved and that Artemis was hitting puberty, well, I pretty much doomed old Artie to the scrap heap.

Eoin Colfer, however, is smarter than I am. I should remember that.

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony begins in Barcelona, where the thirteen-year-old genius is waiting... for something, driving his faithful bodyguard, Butler, insane, as he insists on standing where he cannot be protected. When he is finally dissuaded from waiting, saying that his timing was off, he sees something materialize in the middle of the Barcelona street. It is a demon, and Artemis grabs him. Fortunately, Butler grabs him, and he is wearing silver, which anchors them both to the human dimension.

Someone else was waiting for the demon. Someone else is almost as smart as Artemis. Her name is Minerva, and she thinks she has Artemis beat when the next time a demon materializes, she takes it, and gives him a saucy wave.

The twists and turns of this novel get better and better -- I won't give anything away except to say that the last twist means that the final book in the Artemis Fowl series may be the best yet.

She Wanted A Family. They Needed A Ghost

This book is the WINNER of the 2006 CYBIL AWARDS in Middle Grade Fiction

Singing in the outhouse is really only a form of revenge. Mostly it keeps Mary Maud Flynn from freezing out there. The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a warming, spirited chorus, but she is just as glad to be interrupted by the lovely Hyacinth Hawthorne who unlocks her from her cold and smelly prison, and decides to adopt her and take her away from The Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans.

Maud suddenly has everything - new clothes, books, a gorgeous room of her own, and a home with Hyacinth's sisters Judith, Victoria, and their speechless, lumpen and strange maid, Muffet. Her long-lost brother finds her and comes to call, and Maud is filled with the sense that she has it better that he does, now that she's been adopted. It seems like she should be thrilled, but not everything is as it seems...

A Drowned Maiden's Hair is a humorous, pathos-filled piece of turn-of-the-twentieth-century history when the American public was in the throes of an obsession with spiritualism and, as P.T. Barnum notably said, a sucker was born every minute. Maud is a vivacious, determined and lovable character whose observations on the world around her make this a truly enjoyable book.

A Radioactive Rock Collection

An absorbing novel about science, history and family, Ellen Klages' The Green Glass Sea is the 2007 Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and a book whose characters will stay with you for a long, long time.

1943 is the year that changes everything for Dewey Kerrigan. Her Nana goes into a home, and she is shunted off on the neighbor until a woman from the Army comes to pick her up. She thought her father was coming to get her. She thinks she is going to Chicago. But none of that is true - her father has been working on a government secret, and she is off to live in a dusty desert town called Los Alamos, hours away across the country. She is dropped off just in time to catch the train, and travel to him -- alone.

'Screwy Dewey' is ostracized and ignored by most of the girls, since she's ten, and she's got more in common with the boys who are older who tinker with "stuff." She loves Los Alamos; the freedom, the scientific minds at every turn, there to explain things, to help her put together radios, allowing her to scrounge in their cast-off tools to create on her own. She is absorbed in this wondrous land, knowing only that the adults are busy with "war work;" working on the "Gadget" that will end the war.

Clearly and deliberately written, delving into the secretive nature of the community and slowly revealing the truth to both Dewey and the girls in her community, this novel is about loss and the loss of innocence, as well as about finding your place again.

Preppy is the New Goth: Yikes!

Oh My Goth is a fast-paced, funny novel that I picked up simply because of the title. It was a quick, amusing read that turned out to be thought-provoking and surprising.

Persecuted high school student Jade Leigh is tired of people looking at her and simply judging her by her clothing/makeup/dyed hair/nose rings. It kind of sucks to be her, but she's okay with that -- I mean, in so far as she's okay with anything. She has her individuality, and she has friends, and that makes everything better. Only her teacher and the principal have got it OUT for her. They get her dad to agree to send her on this "field trip," which involves needles and gurneys. And then - whoa! She wakes up the next morning and it's all changed. The world, I mean.

Everyone's a goth. Now Jade's not so much an individual as much as she is suddenly the Queen of the Night.

Something is just not right! Is she really going to have to cooperate with the formerly perky-preppy cheerleader Mercedes to get out of this reality? The cute new guy, Clarik, seems like he might be her ticket into a new reality altogether...

Truth Well Spiced

Hayley Flynn's life is turning inside out. Her dad's kind of ditched them -- forever, it looks like. Her mom's going into a "program" to "work things out," which leaves Hayley having to move away from everything and everyone she knows in Kalamazoo, Michigan to spend six months with her freaky grandma -- in San Cristobal, MEXICO. Mexico wouldn't be bad for a vacation, but to live there? Will she have any friends? Is her grandma even... normal? Dad always said she was nuts.

But Dad was wrong about a lot of things...

Since life is getting spicier, there's nothing for Hayley to do but change her name to the more glamorous Margarita, and jump in. Making friends, going to school and getting to the bottom of la fantasma that haunts her grandmother's house is only part of what occupies Hayley attention in San Cristobal. Her father's abandonment and her mother's depression trouble her. What's worse, her new friend Lili's father is also not around anymore - but that's because he's picking grapes in Michigan -- and due to immigrations issues, he's stuck there. Since Hayley can't go home to her family, the least she can do is help Lili get her Dad home.

Truth and Salsa by Linda Lowery is a thoughtful and beautifully written book that explores living in a different culture and the challenges and joys of getting to know your family better. A great rainy afternoon read for those longing for a bit of sunshine.

February 19, 2007

The Scrotum Screed, or Much Ado About A Word

The other day, I had a conversation with my brother, who is a young adult, a bona fide age fifteen. He was describing his snorkeling trip to Catalina, and the process of tightening areas of his wet suit, which caused him pain. He used a word not normally heard in polite conversation. Do you suppose it was scrotum? Why no. It was not. Now, "polite" listeners may have wished it was, but it was not. This is how the kid talks. One might suggest more "polite" words to him, possibly encourage him to be bilingual, and have one vocabulary he uses with adults, and another that he uses when he's just comfortably telling a story, but at this stage of the game, one cannot change what he thinks is appropriate. That's just kind of the way it is.

I wouldn't have really remembered that conversation except that I listened to the radio recently, and then wandered over to Fuse's blog, and I want to say just one thing: I'm already well known for just not being good at suppressing my inner adolescent. When I read The Higher Power of Lucky, and came across the word 'scrotum' in the first chapter, it surprised a burble of completely inappropriate laughter from me. Totally inappropriate, I'm sure. Her description of what the word sounded like it could mean was priceless. Lucky is misled and confused about many things, which is part of her (and the town in which she lives, and Short Sammy's) quirky and realistically written charm. Yet the librarians who are getting sniffy, and talking about "how sad" and inappropriate this author has been are confusing to me. Yes, the prose is at first dense. Yes, maybe another Newbery Committee may not have chosen it. But this one has, and it's done, done, done. What is now the point to getting bent about that one word? And if you read the New York Times coverage of Much Ado About A Word, you get this gem:
"Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase."
Yes! I sit around SCHEMING to find the most 'touchy' word that I can find to sneak it in to all of my stories. That's why I became a YA writer. So I could give "Howard Stern-like shocks" to the adults. (Meanwhile, via the ever hilarious Jessica at Bookslut, the tally thus far of YA books that use that Impolite word. I've read some of these books, and not really noticed... again, with that inner adolescent!)

People wonder why it's sometimes hard to admit to being a writer... it's not enough that your father is hoping that someday you'll get a REAL job... now the NYT is sure that you're some kind of closet shock fetishist. I mean, seriously. Does that not make YA and children's writers sound completely creepy?

SIGH. Enough, enough...

The UK gears up to celebrate Bedtime Reading Week, a reading promotion geared to encourage families toward sharing books. This year, it's also a chance for UK authors to break into print.

May I just mention how jealous I am of all of the people who made it to Mitali's Bay Area readings/book signings? Sigh. Maybe next time.

I was glad to read that the shortlist for the Cybils YA was thought to be quite strong, and that it was as hard for them to choose a winner as it was for us to come up with a short list of only five! Cybils YA winners David Levithan and Rachel Cohn will be interviewed on what it took to write a book together, and hopefully will answer questions about sequels! Stay tuned.

February is so deceitful; we are having the most gloriously sunny weather after dumps of rain. It was seventy-nine degrees on Friday! 79!! And I can expect it to be 40 sometime next week, and gray fogbanks all over again... this is the weather, though, that people travel for miles and miles to the Bay Area to see. Unless they're your blogging partner, and then they've traveled miles and miles away from you, to soak up the sun... in HAWAII.


On an up note, the month wraps up with Reading the World IX, a multicultural children's book conference in SF this weekend. I am looking forward to hearing artist, author, puppet maker, Brazilian folkdancer and 2004 Belpré Medal winner, Yuyi Morales speak, as well as the savvy and socially conscious South Asian essayist and children's author Pooja Makhijani (her story of learning to wear a sari, The First Time, was published in CICADA); it will be lovely to hear Our Jane and circulate amongst other artists and writers from various nations and cultures. I hope to run into some of you there.

February 16, 2007

A SEQUEL to His Dark Materials in the works, poetry and Escape Plans

I never do the Friday poetry thing, but this Jack Prelutsky nonsense has been winging around in my head:

I Made My Dog A Valentine

I made my dog a Valentine
She sniffed it very hard
Then chewed on it a little while
And left it in the yard.

I made one for my parakeets,
A pretty paper heart,
They pulled it with their beaks and claws
Until it ripped apart.

I made one for my turtle,
All he did was get it wet,
I wonder if a valentine
Is wasted on a pet.

They're wasted on me if they don't use lots of glitter glue, just so you know. I'm partial to silver and purple. In case anyone wanted to know. (Ahem.)

Colleen from Chasing Ray is letting us in on an important opportunity to share books with young people in need of dreams. Via Books2Prisoners, Colleen is spearheading an effort to collect review copies of books from bloggers and reviewers and use them to build libraries in several New Orleans area juvenile facilities. As you can guess, the book situation in Louisiana is still bleak, thanks to Katrina, and the juvenile detention situation is bleaker still. Much focus has been on the public libraries, but the juvenile facilities are really lacking, and with the increased lawlessness in that city, they're filling up fast -- so your middle grade and up, multicultural and sci-fi adventure books can help fill a real need - give a young person a chance to see a different world, and more. There's a wish list set up by Colleen; just fill in her email (colleen at chasingray dotcom, only sans spaces and with the @ symbol), and you can find what they're looking for. The address to send your own review copies of books yourself is:
Books 2 Prisoners
831 Elysian Fields #143
New Orleans, LA 70117

ATTN: Nik Bose

(As per Colleen, Nik has requested that you please send a brief email and give them a heads-up that books are on the way. As they receive their packages at a box, they don't want them to stack up and will make sure someone checks often when they know something is coming. The email address is twista@riseup.net.)

Via Bookslut, facts little known about various authors.

Since I just had a good rave about Phillip Pullman's Ruby showing on the BBC, it seems right that the Guardian published a brief Phillip Pullman's interview with him today:

What good advice was given to you when you were starting out?
"Don't. You'll never make it. You'll never earn a living. Get a decent job and forget all about it. It's a silly idea. There's no future in it."

What advice would you give to new writers?
"Don't. You'll never make it. You'll never earn a living. Get a decent job and forget all about it. It's a silly idea. There's no future in it."

Nobody actually says that so much anymore as much as they give you really odd looks when you tell them you're a writer... they either assume that you're very, very rich... or will need them to pay your bridge toll. Hm.

And finally, here's a little preview for EscapeTV, the latest cure for 'adultitis' by intrepid extended adolescents, Kim & Jason. Coming soon to a world near you. Enjoy!

February 15, 2007

Yay for J.R.!

A quick kudos to my friend J.R., who is beginning her first semester as part of the Oregon Literary Arts WITS program. WITS stands for Writers In The Schools, and the cool thing is that J - an accomplished poet and author of two picture books, now gets to be the icing on the cake to 9th and 10th graders at her high schools. I would have died to have an actual poet and writer in our classroom for even a day, much less an entire semester. Lucky, lucky kids - and lucky Jo!
There are so many stories of the Holocaust that trail vaporous wisps of regret, "If only" or "What if" flutter from them like so many sad ghosts, and here's another... the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, as per this morning's NPR report, has just found letters from Otto Frank, the father of the famously journaling Anne, where he asks friends and acquaintances and friends-of-friends to help him get his family out of Holland. That hit me right in my heart. Oh, if only that bright girl had survived. They imagine her as a 77-year-old writer living in Boston, still unmasking the world with her dark eyes and finding the goodness in people... Of course, without her diaries, would we have ever known her at all? Would she be completely anonymous, just a fun grandmother who wrote little stories for her children? The world is full of so many alternate endings... it's like a Choose Your Own Adventure story; in this case, we turned a page that ended in grief, but the story still has so much depth and goodness to give us.


Now that the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (Cybils) are finished for 2006, the great idea now is to read all of the books on the list. I've been working on that, and you can too. As Jen Robinson suggests, if you find a book you loved, buy it -- from the Cybils site, so that the site gets a little commission, and the publishers get the idea that we, as bloggers, can create an impact as the reading public. Even if you normally support independent booksellers, it might be a nice thought to pop over to Amazon and buy a book where book stats are recorded. Thank-you for supporting the Cybils, and thank you Kelly, at Big A, little a, and Anne from Book Buds for the standout idea, all the hours and hours and HOURS of work you must have put in, and inviting the rest of us over to play. Readers ROCK!

Oh, THIS is good. I and many others have been wincing at the truly cringe-worthy trailer for the CGI-laden A Bridge to Terabithia, the latest YA novel-into-film disaster. Meanwhile, Christianity Today, the online evangelical magazine, has a Katherine Paterson interview where she discusses the trailer ("I'm just telling everybody I know, "Don't see the trailer, don't see the trailer." Because it's exactly what the trailer ends up making you think, is that it's this glorified fantasy adventure with nothing but special effects, and that's not what we ended up with in this movie."), the integrity her son David fought to preserve in the storyline, and more. Thanks to As If! for the heads up; I withdraw my earlier prejudice, and may see the movie after all. Maybe. If someone else sees it first and promises I won't want to fling popcorn at innocent bystanders...

Meanwhile, coming soon to a theater near you...? MTV's Shawn Adler helpfully explains which children's and YA books he thinks should be made into film next. Oh, goody. (Thanks to Big A, little a for the link, and for the suggestion to turn down the music at work!) Okay -- I won't lie. The MTV list shows some real thought. Books like The Westing Game, A Cricket in Times Square, and Artemis Fowl would make great movies, because they are indeed some fabulous books. Just -- filmmakers, please - read the books first, and bring what's already there to life. No need to rewrite the whole thing!

February 14, 2007

Forays into Editing

For my Valentine's Gift today, I got a note from my agent telling me that yet another house has passed on my second novel. I just sighed and sort of wandered away from the computer, deciding it was time to raid my stash of chocolate chips again.

There's a part of me that just knows I'm going to be called on to revise this manuscript -- again, and right now, I just can't even think about it. I have a semi-solid mid-March deadline for the piece I'm working on now (before ye olde Agent, S.A.M., goes to Barcelona for the Book Faire), and I'll soon be doing final edits on the first novel, so there's a big "Noooo!" swelling up from my soul at the idea of going backwards yet one more time to mess with this piece. I've heard it's too dramatic, too this, too that, but everyone loves the writing, loves the way it deals with "sensitive subjects." All right, then... can anyone be more specific about what they don't love, then?

A trip to Our Jane's Brain has cured me of my tendency to pout, though. Well, not entirely, but work with me, huh? Jane Yolen spoke at the SCBWI Midwinters Conference in NY, and this is some of what she said, as recorded in her online journal:
"If you enter into revision angrily, hating the editor and all of her notes, you will get little out of the process. So learn to love the process as well...

"Read the letter, put it down, and re-read it again the next day. Call a best friend and read the letter to her or him. Or take a hot bath and let the water soak away that initial anger, which—after all—is just the body reacting to being thwarted in the age-old desire to be loved unconditionally.

Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers can love you that way. An editor has better things to do with her time and your manuscript."

And incidentally, so does your agent have better things to do with their time! I have wasted a lot of time repeatedly allowing myself to become emotionally flayed by a guy who is really only doing his job on my MANUSCRIPT, not ME (oh, why is that still so hard to separate the two?).
Granted: rejection stinks. I still HATE hearing him say "No" and his gift for dry understatement in his pithy little margin comments initially brings me to hives -- or worse -- until I set his note aside for awhile. Writers just live too far inside of their own heads sometimes, and rejection in any form sometimes feels overwhelming. But when I'm sane (and when is that, exactly?) I know it's really not personal. Really. And though I may never feel comfortable with him, I know my agent knows his stuff. I think highly of him professionally, so maybe... maybe the fact that we'll never name our (non-existent) children after each other... well, maybe that's okay.

For Valentine's Day, I bequeath to myself the gift of realism: not everybody has to be best buddies.

All right, enough navel-gazing nonsense. Back to work...


Feel the love!
It's March of the Librarians, a goofy little valentine for the bookish amongst us, inspired by the mystical and deep March of the Penguins. Happy V-Day (0r, as a friend greeted me this morning, "Happy VD!"), to all of the writers of the books we love, and to all of the librarians who make libraries a great place to visit.

A love letter to prose comes from New York, where writer Emily Rubin will be doing readings while people sort their lights and darks. A laundromat seems to be the 'natural element' of readings, Rubin says. So very New York.

Even graphic novels are feeling the love today. While the phrase 'graphic novel' seems cutting edge and, well, edgy (even the fricative consonants sound like graphite and tree bark), this latest one profiled in the Guardian is all about... a Fluffy bunny. No, seriously.

And at last, at LAST! From the Cybils Committee comes the little love letter to David Levithan and Rachel Cohn we've all been waiting for. Happy Valentine's Day to the Ultimate Urban Fairytale, the fast-paced, foul-mouthed first-true-love story called Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, winner of the 2006 Cybils Award in YA Fiction (If you're wondering how the story can be all of those things at once? Read it). Check out the rest of the winners online, and cheers to everyone who played along at home. Though challenging to be sure, this whole experience has been great fun!

February 13, 2007

Media That Matters: A Girl Like Me

Probably the most painful, revealing and impactive film I've seen in awhile on girls and race I found on Mitali's Fire Escape today. Watch this, think about it, blog about it... I have so many thoughts I can't even express them yet. Wow.

Additions: This film was publicized on NPR's Talk of the Nation last October, and Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts responded to the film last September.

Ooh! And I meant to say...

...that this month's The Edge of the Forest is up! I was cheered to read Bruce Black's positive review of All of the Above (by Shelley Pearsall, which is in my bedside stack), and the funny feature piece on good old Judy Blume by Adrienne, plus lots of great interviews, Kid's Picks, Sounds from the Forest, and A Day in the Life (of a writer more organized than me).

Great work, Foresters!

Bring on the Book! Meera Masi & Camel Mobile

If you can't find the book you want, write the book you need.
That's what Bay Area women Sonali Herrera and Sheetal Singhal did to begin Meera Masi, a tiny Bay Area publishing company highlighting Indian language and culture books for kids. The Chronicle reports that as the Bay Area Indian population has reached about 150,000 strong, and especially as some Indian families object to the information found in textbooks about their people and ancient culture (fearing that the focus on caste and poverty is limited and will make their own children feel uncomfortable with who they are), the move toward creating books of their own which teach the language and focus on creating curiosity about the Indian culture is a positive thing. Though the books are geared toward Indian children, their audience is intended to be broader. The books have already been read at storytime in local public libraries. ¡Vivos los libros multicultural!

Growing up, we lived in an unincorporated part of the county, so we had a Bookmobile come out from the public library once a week. It was a treat to walk down the block to where the huge trailer was parked and return books and check out new ones; I was kind of sad when they created an actual library in our part of the county, since having our own neighborhood librarian was special. One of my Mills alums has shared the opportunity to assist with another bookmobile in a very unincorporated part of the world -- Kenya. And the mobile... well, it's a camel mobile for the Garissa Provincial Library! Masha Hamilton's novel based on this massive undertaking is coming out from Harper Collins this year, but the true story behind the story that she experienced is compelling. Watch this little video, and get the early scoop on what it's all about; look at the kids waiting for books to be unloaded, carefully choosing one, and opening the gift of another world...

The program has huge needs, and wishlist organizer Susan can answer your questions. If you can do anything to help - thank-you, from one bibliophile to another.

February 12, 2007

Odd Lots

Tick... tick... time is counting down for the Cybils; stay tuned for the winners to be announced on Wednesday, February 14th!

I have to admit that I'm becoming somewhat of a picture book fan (which may be a bit odd for a YA person, but I do odd pretty well). Though the refrain for years has been that the picture book market is all but gone, critical acclaim for works such as Caldecott winner Flotsam, the rise of graphic novels and avid interest in manga may be turning that around. Into that hopefulness enters fabulous illustrator Brian Selznick with another unique and interesting book. NPR reports on the beautifully cinematic The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and reveals the inspiration behind it as silent film genius George Méliès. Selznick is an avid researcher and a history buff, and it shows in his fascinating work.

Meanwhile, the Guardian is just a tad bit snide about this latest round of Harry Potter and the Dratted Publicity. Hee! Admittedly, though, it is a bit much that a BOOK has been written about the final book - before the final book has been read. Huh?

The ALA's adult-books-for-teens list has some intriguing titles, and since adults read YA, the cross-over now is moving the other direction.

Intriguing question of the day is on gifts - when do you give your agent or editor a gift? I just got lovely handmade stationery from my agent as a sort of 'hurrah!' for closing a deal. Do I reciprocate, or just send the ubiquitous 'thanks-and-good-wishes' note? Where's Miss Manners when you need her!?

February 08, 2007

Books, Book Clubs and Reader's Guides

Ooh! Via Cybil Sister Little Willow, Oxford-educated Michelle of Scholar's Blog has started an online book discussion group. Pop over to see what's on the reading list - some really good ones, and quite a few I'm dying to read! The stack next to the bed is getting taller!!

I have appreciated the work of Debbie Ridpath Ohi since she was a major contributer and the heart and soul of the now defunct Inkspot, the online writing mag which was sadly (and stupidly!) shut down in 2001 in a buy - and - break deal. I am glad to discover Debbie again, and appreciate her pointers and commentary even more at Inky Girl: Daily Diversions for the Writer. Her cartoon strip Will Write for Chocolate is updated every Wednesday is always good for a laugh when you need it! Visit and enjoy!

The UK Guardian predicts an ePublishing revolution by way of ...MySpace, and a British publisher called Social Disease... also by way of LW, this tidbit of interest from Garrett Freymann Weyr:
"Houghton (my publisher) has asked me to draw up a list of questions for a reader's guide. They/We are thinking of marketing the novel to mother-daughter book clubs. Obviously, I know the book ridiculously well, and can think of my own questions. But any from the outside would be greatly appreciated. I do worry that perhaps reader's guides are for people too stupid to think, but hey, I need to be more proactive about reaching readers. I may be too shy and socially retarded to join a book club, but for perfectly normal people who think perfectly well, a reader's guide may be perfectly normal. Fire away. Or, just let there be a thundering silence."
Admittedly, I've never used a reader's guide in my life, but I do imagine that it would come in handy in a mother/daughter book club where not all of the mothers/daughters could be counted on in any way to open up and talk -- and this is a book that could be the perfect springboard for some intense, revealing discussions. Anyway, you know we don't do silence around here, so if you've read and enjoyed the book, head on over!

G I V E A W A Y * C O N T E S T

You know you have to focus when someone says BOOK giveaway!

It's time once again for the The Best Chronicle Children's Books of the Year Contest. You have read many of the books already -- many of them are Publisher's Weekly Starred books, and several were nominated for the Cybils Picture Book Award, so they'll be very familiar. The great thing about this contest is a chance to simply have great books -- just for entering their drawing!
How do you enter?

* Click on the e-mail link below.
* Write Best Books in the subject line of your e-mail. If you are not already a subscriber to the Chroniclekids monthly e-mail bookblast, you will be signed up automatically.
* You will be entered automatically. Winners will be notified by March 15th!

Enter now! Send an e-mail to Kids@ChronicleBooks.com

February 07, 2007

Put this one under "JUST READ THE BOOK"

You know how kids are.
They have gummed their copy of Goodnight Moon and know it heart, they obsess over the dog in Are You My Mother? They know all the rhymes in Horton Hears a Who and when their Mothers say, "I said GO and GO I meant," they that they, like Marvin K. Mooney, had better hustle on up to bed pronto.

It's an accepted fact that kids thrive on the sameness and the repetition of favorite stories, and if their teachers or parents skip or substitute a word, they will be Corrected, and it may bring on Drama of the Highest Sort.

Apparently, though, we're supposed to grow out of that. By the time we're young adults, any old way that our very favorite novels and stories are repackaged and presented is supposed to be just fine with us. We read How to Eat Fried Worms, and if it's radically different in the movie, to the point of adding extra characters, who cares? We unplug the phone and put off our final graduate project in Shakespeare (sorry, Dr. Kahn) to watch what we think will be the fantabulous LeGuin epic, Earthsea, and find it whitewashed and insipid and hideous (and YES, I'm still p.o.'d about that, lo, these many years later. And I will be!!!!).

Oh-ho. Welcome to my rant.

You KNOW I hate novels turned into movies. Too few of them are done well enough to merit watching any of them, but last night, I conveniently forgot that, as I bundled into my blanket and huddled down to watch the PBS/BBC production of Ruby in the Smoke. Sometimes I think American Anglophiles assume that if it's British, it must be good, because the British Know Their Lit'triture, and if we don't like it, well... we're just too coarse to appreciate Heathcliff on the Moors. Somewhere under that comes the assumption, too, that the BBC never makes a mistake (I'm pretty sure this, in some part, the Potter thing - it's just not as good as it once was, but people get nervous and start accusing you of hating witches or something if you point that out), but let me tell you: Ruby in the Smoke? Not one of their best efforts.

I have always adored Sally Lockhart, because she is gutsy, determined, and can shoot and ride and knows military tactics. She is in the center of a Victorian mystery, which, in and of itself, is somewhat highly dramatized and clichéd -- but that's the way the story goes. While the BBC production was ... pretty, it was just too fast. Phillip Pullman has taken the trouble to write such a deep and complex book, showing, as he does, British history (and hypocrisy!), the background facts of the opium trade, and life in Victorian England as being both full of grinding, horrific poverty, rampant drug use, and ridiculous manners, as revealed by The Aunt. That's why the movie had me cringing -- we are rushed past plot elements and truths that are given time to digest in the novel, and the pinnacle moment when Sally actually has to take the opium herself is turned into a two minute dream sequence where everything was neatly resolved instead of a wrenching decision she really had strong opinions about and didn't want to make.

I guess my final, aggravated question is WHY didn't the BBC make it a two-part series? I expected that, actually, and they've been known to do that with billions of period pieces -- did they skimp on this because it's a young adult book? (Although you'll note there's no comment about the audience it is pitched to on the PBS site -- hmmm.) Ruby's just too huge of a book to shrimp down to an hour and a half size. The speed of the narrative left no room for drama, subtlety, for building the plot -- nothing. It was a confusing blur where you were told things but not shown them; you found out details, but you had no time to wonder if you were right, or try to guess at the particles of the picture you were given. All Billie Piper seemed to do was wear cuter and cuter outfits, 'til the final scene where she was even in a great little hat. That wasn't Sally! Not that she didn't have cute clothes -- oh, she dressed, all right. But this was a girl who wasn't all that obsessed with her appearance. She was... prickly, not all girlish sweetness. She stood out as herself, and I just didn't see or sense any of that in the BBC production.

I hate YA books made into movies... poorly. I am willing to redeem movies for a second chance if anyone has some suggestions on movies that are FAITHFUL TO THE BOOK -- which no one seems to be able to manage, and maybe I am asking for a lot because book covers sometimes aren't even faithful to the book -- which really does beg the question doesn't anybody READ!?!?!?

Okay, okay. Climbing down off the soapbox now...
Final comments: If you want pretty pictures? See the movie. If you long for a great story, a "ripping" good "Old-fashioned Victorian blood-and-thunder" historical thriller -- for heaven's sakes... read the book.

February 06, 2007

Odds and Ends

Not one in the genre particularly, but perchance of interest nonetheless: author and blogger Karen Scott is conducting a survey on racism in publishing. She is looking for African American or black authors who have been published for at least a year. In all, there are twenty questions in the survey, and all that she asks is that people be as honest as possible. Confidentiality is assured if requested, but for the findings to yield more weight, she would request that she be granted permission to directly quote from the answers given by the authors.

She’s hoping to poll at least 100 AA authors, in an effort to ensure that a fair representation is achieved. Interested parties e-mail Karen at hairylemony@gmail dotcom with the subject header ‘Please send me the survey.'

The deadline for the survey to be completed and returned to Karen is March 1st 2007
Ah, graduate school, and the days of completely tearing apart literature until it is but shredded rags within your all-knowing hands. Via GalleyCat, another take on the racism of Curious George, although this one goes further than I'd ever heard. I already thought it was weird that the man in the yellow hat takes a child-monkey from its home and just ... takes him, but I hadn't thought of it as an allegory of the slave trade...? Hm... In honor of the Super Bowl I give you another sports celebrity book, from NY Yankee great "A-Rod" -- no comparisons to the ...surprising effort by the fist-fighting, spitting, brawling, childhood role model Terrell Owens...

Via the PW Newsletter the 21-and-below-set can win a free mint condition X-Men Comic, or various iPods in "The Third Thing" Essay Contest, which is, of course, related to the very cool Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl. It's a great time to be a young adult who can read and write!

I TOTALLY blew it!!!!!! First it was Jane Eyre, and then it was the one I was really waiting for: Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke, the first title in his Sally Lockhart Mysteries quartet, which was adapted for television by the BBC (from whence all good things flow). It was broadcast on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday, and even had Billie Piper from Dr. Who, and I cannot believe that I missed it. But, the joys of Bay Area living have saved me again... we have four public TV stations, and so tonight - well, let's just say I don't plan to answer the phone for awhile.

Hope you're enjoying your week as well!

Another Eoin Adventure

I admit it -- I'm a sucker for just about anything Eoin Colfer writes, because I ADORE the dangerous and scary Artemis Fowl, whom I can never remember is ONLY TWELVE! When I picked up Half Moon Investigations I was hoping to find another character like Artemis. I did! Only it wasn't Fletcher Moon, the short, dorky private detective who nobody in his school likes. The character the most like Artemis is Fletcher Moon's nemesis, one steely-eyed, criminal-minded kid named Red Sharkey.

The Sharkeys are the crime family in Fletcher's town. Every petty theft, act of vandalism or outrageous school happening is blamed on them, and that's 'cause usually they're responsible, and they're proud of it. From their Dad to the youngest brother, they're bad news. It's because of them that Fletcher's nickname is 'Half Moon.' Fletcher's nose for sniffing out mysteries has never been appreciated by the people in his school, but thanks to Herod Sharkey, Roddy for short, now people like him even less. Especially girls like April and May, who hire him to find some stolen hair. All signs point to another Sharkey theft. If only it were quite so easy to make a Sharkey cop to a crime!

Fletcher's life of detecting hits a snag when not only is his badge stolen, but he finds he's been framed for a crime -- a real crime. There's something funny going on at St. Jerome's Elementary and Middle School, and there's only twelve hours to solve it. Luckily, Fletcher Moon is on the case.

A Higher Love

Lucky Trimble... isn't. Her mother died two years ago when she was eight, the morning after a huge desert storm, and so she's now being taken care of by her father's first wife, Bridget, from France, who might at any moment go home to her mother, who, in Lucky's opinion, is set on luring her back with gifts of mustard and homesickness. Bridget is a first class lady: cultured, smart, funny. What on earth would make her stay in the weird little town of Hard Pan that Lucky's called home since forever? Bridget is used to good restaurants, wine, cheese and Paris. Hard Pan has 43 residents, and only three paying jobs, one of which Lucky has.

Lucky knows her time with Bridget as her guardian is limited. She's been eavesdropping through a hole in the fence during the Anonymous meetings, hoping to find out how to find her Higher Power like her friend and former alcoholic Short Sammy, but she's not finding out how fast enough. She's going to have to do something - quick -- because she's seen Bridget's passport and her suitcases. Once Bridget is gone, Lucky knows she'll be put into foster care, and she won't be able to keep her dog, or her independence. The best thing to do is strike first by running away from Bridget. But there are complications, including a dust storm... who knew running away would be quite so ...complicated?

A quietly tender, sometimes sad, sometimes funny book, The Higher Power of Lucky is not necessarily an easy read, but is worth the effort -- buckle down your attention span and hang in there! It is also the recipient of the 2006 Newbery Medal, and word is a sequel is on the way.

Escape into the world of the Somerset Girls

It's bad enough that her mother gave her this weird name based on where she used to live: Cornelia Street Englehart. It's worse that her quirky, glamorous mother is never around, and she's famous -- and so sought after that grown-ups are willing to use their children as bait to snag a visit with the famous Lucy Englehart, concert pianist. "It's in your genes," her mother tells her, since Cornelia's famous father is also a concert pianist, although she hasn't seen him since she was tiny. But Cornelia is not a musician and she refuses to take piano lessons. She is a bibliophile, a linguist, and she is also an uncomfortable person, angry and beneath her anger, frightened and lonely and sad. Her mother is always leaving, leaving, leaving, and Cornelia gets left behind. At school, she doesn't fit in, and she seems to exist solely in the world of adults and their whims. With no friends of her own, she has only her fabulously gorgeous and famous mother to which to compare herself, and she falls so short in the glamor-and-fame department that she hates to look.

Into this miserable life rushes Mr. Kinyatta, a black French bulldog who belongs to writer Virginia Somerset, the woman who has turned the penthouse across the hall into a place of wonder. Marble floors, fountains, palm trees and stories are what Virginia, Patel and Mr. Kinyatta give Cornelia. A heart full of stories begins to feed Cornelia in ways she never imagined. Now she no longer barricades herself behind walls of words, instead she listens for the stories in them. Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters seem to be a made-in-heaven connection. Cornelia wants to keep Virginia, and the lovely stories she tells of the adventures of her girlhood all to herself. Otherwise, won't Virginia just want to meet Lucy, like everybody else? And then she'll know just how drab and ordinary Cornelia truly is...

Golden Girls

Middle sister Mayzie is brilliant, and goes to a gifted school downtown. She's proud of her brain - because it's all she's got. Eldest sister Brooke is the softball star, gorgeous and forever committed to one guy or another. Palmer, the youngest, is tentatively entering into life, but the one thing she's sure of is that she's lucky, being the ONLY freshman on varsity softball and living in the safe shadow of her sister Brooke. It seems to May that though she and her sisters bear names that speak of her father's love for softball, she's the one who isn't a member of the team. He calls her 'Professor.' Sometimes she doubts if her parents really see her.

When their father dies, the Gold girls fall apart. Brooke drinks and quits her first love, softball. Palmer's desperateness communicates itself in sleeplessness and panic attacks. While their mother works endless shifts, in denial about the chaos at home, May fends for the entire family, getting a job, hitting the books, determined to push through for her dreams. She can't do it alone, though. Reluctantly accepting the help of her arch nemesis neighbor, Pete -- while being confusedly attracted to him -- May learns to drive. Accepting that she's not the only one hurting, May, Brooke & Palmer learn how to be sisters -- and family -- for real.

The Key to the Golden Firebird is a great read. You are hereby commanded to get your eyes on the BOOK before the movie comes out in 2008.

Life in Color

A short, sweet linked story collection, Cynthia Rylant's The Van Gogh Cafe is a magical book about a magical little place. Like a neighborhood pub, this theater-turned-coffee shop is full of magical potentiality. It's where everybody in town goes, and where everybody is met with a smile from the ceramic hen next to the cash register, and the sign that says 'You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To.' They're also met by ten-year-old Clara, and her father, great coffee and once in a lifetime, lemon pie.

A place that is somehow able to fulfill wishes you didn't even know you have, the Van Gogh Cafe in Flowers, Kansas is a special place that lets writers write their best stories and poetry, provides just enough magic muffins for small children, and lets possums reunite old friends and lovers. It's like walking into a Van Gogh painting -- simply magical.

The Sound of Silence

Ms. Francine Green ("With Es like eek and screech and beanie,") can see the lights from Hollywood on premier nights, is deeply infatuated with Montgomery Clift, and wants to be an star -- an actress on film or stage. She sometimes dreams her life as a movie or a play, imagining herself saying classy lines, speaking her heart. The problem is that life's not much of a movie, and Francine isn't a star -- not in her world, where her father usually tells her to "Sit down and be quiet" or "Don't get involved;" her mother usually says "That's enough, Francine Louise," and "Take care of Artie," and where Sister Basil (the Rotten) smiles her mean little smile and claps her hands and makes her life very, very miserable.

Sister Basil and the other nuns at All Saints know that Francine's a good girl. Maybe she's not as perfect as The Perfect and Admirable Mary Agnes Malone, but she's a quiet, "pink" and has freckles, and doesn't want to get into trouble, so that's what counts. Everyone can predict Francine's every move - until Sophie Bowman from the neighborhood transfers into her class at All Saints. Suddenly nobody can predict anything, even the state of the world. The Russians develop nuclear capabilities, the newspapers talk about Communist sympathizers and Francine begins to worry about the bomb and free speech. As the world changes from a place where she can be quiet and complaisant, Francine is forced to examine her views. Then, The Loud Silence of Francine Green comes to an end.

A really interesting read about life in the McCarthy era and the Red Scare from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old.

February 05, 2007

Happy 3rd Blog Birthday! (Monday Randomness)

As one who has read many of the Potter books in ebook form (AFTER having read them at least once each in their tome-esque glory, please note), I was mildly surprised that the latest release from The Rowling Empire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will not be released in ebook form. And then I read the rest of the article, and realized every ebook copy I've read has been... illegally pirated!? Oh. Wow. And to think I've felt quite righteous in only buying the books from independent booksellers. Ouch.

A fun factoid from the UK Guardian is a look at the various languages the Potter books come in -- sometimes, due to familiarity and language issues, Professor Snape becomes Professor Sneep... but never mind, you'd recognize his sneer in any language.

You've no doubt heard of The Class of 2k7, a group of first-time children's and YA authors with debut books coming out in 2007 who hope to promote each other's books with a joint website, blog, newsletter, forum, chat room, and brochure. While it's a great idea, it begs the question (at least to me) of what people do when this year's "class" graduates. Are there plans for a Class of '08, or is the newness of the idea played out?

I had a chuckle last week, having just read a note from Ursula LeGuin on how smart writers ought not depend on the connections of other writers they meet to promote them (a VAST paraphrase, read the whole piece here), A few weeks ago, one of my Cybils Sisters met Justina Chen Headley for the first time, and she briefly lost the power of coherent speech, and grinned a lot. Now, I ask you, WHO are the people who, when meeting an author, decide that they simply must shove their manuscript into their hands? Who has that kind of ...nerve?! It still galls me that I ghosted around a Conference where two of my favorite authors were speaking and I could not do so much as meet their eyes. I guess I'd definitely rather be ridiculously awe-struck than ridiculously forward, though.

I have neither seen the Bollywood version of Pride & Prejudice nor seen the latest installment of it which starred Keira Knightly (I'm a BBC/Colin Firth fan, thank you very much), but I have, of course, read the ORIGINAL, and also read Enthusiasm, so I well knew that 2006 was very much the Year of Our Jane. Now, I find I was early with that idea -- THIS year is ostensibly being dedicated to all things Austen. Methinks 2007 is the year of Jane Austen OVERKILL -- as publishers and filmmakers rush to reshape her work for teen audiences. And here we'd thought Jane had already done that herself! And may I just share Bookslut contributer Jessica Crispin's ire regarding the UK Telegraph's use of the word 'spinster' in regards to Ms. Austen!? Sigh...

Well, we book purists have either swooned or shuddered over the impending Pan Scarlet sequel currently being penned by Geraldine McCaughrean -- latest details on the the newest Neverland tale, here.

I've just got new running/walking/theoretically-moving-quickly shoes. Don't you think this great tee would go well with them? You can purchase this fab shirt at AnneBLevy's Gallery at Zazzle in any of 250 lovely styles and colors, as a tee, a hoodie, or a tank. You know you want one: it'll pair nicely with your ratty Sunday shorts and the ALA bracelet about banned books. Support your reading habit!

February 01, 2007

Fighting the Good Fight

This book was a nominee for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

It seems like a truism that cancer isn't particularly funny. So how can you make a comic about it? Brian Fies did—and the result is a true-to-life graphic novel that is funny, as well as touching, sad, and uplifting.

Using a simple visual style that draws from traditional American comics as well as more modern graphic novel formats, Mom's Cancer uses a series of brief vignettes to tell the story of the author's mother's battle with lung cancer, and its effect on the rest of the family. More conventional sequential comics alternate with creative and very conceptual images—such as the two-page spread titled "Inoperable," showing the author's mother as the ill-fated patient from the game Operation, with afflictions such as "brain tumor" and "water on the lung."

Kid Sis, Nurse Sis, and the author all deal with catastrophic illness in different ways, and they antagonize one another as well as growing closer as the cancer runs its course. Meanwhile, the patient herself is irrevocably changed by the illness and its harsh treatment. This is a story that will be all too familiar to many families, but provides comfort in its simplicity and honesty. I wouldn't consider this a YA piece—it's not written from a YA viewpoint or specifically for a teenage audience—but the story will resonate with anyone who has had a family member battle long-term illness. An excellent addition to the area of non-fictional and "important" graphic novels.

Learning Your ABCs

This book is a finalist for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

The only other Asian in my class was Suzy Nakamura. When the class finally figured out that we weren't related, rumors began to circulate that Suzy and I were arranged to be married on her thirteenth birthday.

We avoided each other as much as possible.

Jin Wang, who grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown, is having trouble fitting in at his new school, where he's one of only a few Asian-American students. He comes face-to-face with racist stereotypes, cruel classmates, and, eventually, a crush on a classmate, Amelia. However, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel American Born Chinese is much more than just the story of a bicultural boy trying to fit in. Reality, imagination, and myth interweave in alternating story threads until, eventually, they seamlessly merge—an apt metaphor for the reconciliation of different aspects of identity that reside in the multicultural individual.

Jin learns that he, too, is trapped by his own set of stereotypes, his own belief in the exaggerated images of Asian-Americans. His sense of inferiority immobilizes him and creates self-hatred, much as the seemingly all-American character Danny dissociates himself from the hated stereotypical behavior of his cousin "Chin-Kee" in alternating segments of the story. On the other hand, pride takes a role as well—as exemplified in the parallel story of the Monkey King who thinks he is a god.

This is a touching, deep story; more than a little cynical, but with a redemptive and hopeful ending. The excellent artwork is funny, cute at the right times, and has a simple clarity that is reminiscent of Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan. Although the parody of racist self-hatred, Chin-Kee, could potentially bypass (or even offend) readers who don't see the sarcasm, this is a deceptively funny story of cultural conflict—internal and external—that's much more complicated than it seems on the surface.