March 29, 2008

Link Sprinkling

Via the Guardian blog, comes news of news that Random House has jumped onto the bandwagon, and will "read and consider highly rated Top Ten Chart stories on YouWriteOn from April to September in 2008." The site began in 2006 with the idea of helping new writers develop their talents; the site’s affiliated literary agents include Curtis Brown and The Christopher Little Literary Agency agent of J.K Rowling, of course.

While this development is met with quite a lot of writerly hysteria from some quarters, the more cynical among us wonder if this is just for show. We've read just this week at Galleycat about real writers being rejected by fake editors. It's hard to suddenly believe in a kinder, gentler publishing world... but maybe...

This weeks SF Chronicle has some great YA kid reviews, including two books I'm dying to read: How I Saved My Father's Life (And Ruined Everything Else) and Lesley M. M. Blume's Tennyson, as well as a slew of nonfiction, which is good to see. (There really seems to be more nonfiction ...visible this year already. Hurray for that!) My favorite things are the book blurbs, though. Yay for kids responding to literature!

"We didn't buy any Anne dolls or cookbooks, nor did we visit the "Green Gables" facsimile farmhouse, which - judging from online accounts of it - is as complete as Sherlock Holmes's digs on Baker Street, containing everything from the slate Anne broke over Gilbert Blythe's head to her wardrobe of puffed-sleeve dresses to the brooch she was accused, wrongly, of losing. There's even a pretend Matthew who gives you drives around the property, though he's not described as running to hide out in the barn at the approach of lady visitors, as the real Matthew would have done."
Another awesome Canadian author, Margaret Atwood gives Anne-with-an-e a send up in the Guardian. The 'Annery' as she calls the hoopla for the 100th year anniversary, is indeed well in hand. I've lost my ancient copy of my Anne somewhere (my copy was from the 50's and is probably in my parent's house, camouflaged among all the others from that era) but I'm quite tempted to see if I can't find another thrift story copy somewhere and reread it. (Hmm. Another Big Read idea. Sorry, Leila. Maybe I could join you on one you're DOING instead of continually suggesting them? I'm getting there!)

Don't miss our buddy Cynthia's awesome link round-up and giveaways, including talk about two sequels I've been looking forward to -- the second Hallowmere novel and the newest Melissa Marr, Ink Exchange. And YIKES, there's a third Hallowmere coming. I'm already falling behind!!!!

And finally, in the CUTE OVERLOAD category from Mangesh at mental_bloss, an article about an elephant who... went to film school. BBC1 will be broadcasting the amazing, stupendous and awesome footage pretty soon. (I love mental_floss's blog, can you tell? Where else do you find out that it was Grace Slick singing to you all those times on Sesame Street!?)

March 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: The History Between Us

I first read this poem at Thanksgiving, the title blurring with traditional Thanksgiving themes about blessing the 'ties that bind.' Those binding ties have sometimes served to bind in ways not so sanguine, and I though the poem tied in nicely with some thoughts I'd had about leaving home and familiarity. Later, I reread the poem just after a rather disastrous meal with a couple who turned on each other after dinner, a squabble that turned to bickering and bitter recriminations. There are, I reflected, things that bind us; certain things that are knotted between us and cause us to stumble as surely as a coil of rope on the floor, encountered in murky darkness.

I read this poem a third time this morning, and decided that it was high time you read it, too.

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down-
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest-

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

-- a poem by Jane Hirshfield from Of Gravity and Angels © 1988, Wesleyan University Press.

Listen to a bonus poem by Jane Hirschfield, and find the rest of the Poetry People at Gina's today. Visit Cuentesitos, little stories, and leave a link to your own. If you've got the leisure to read a few more stories today, don't miss the shyly grinning Markus Zusak, being interviewed at The Guardian on "Why I Write", and more news about Spielberg's Tintin. I should definitely, um, read the books or at least look at the cartoons before the movie comes out...

March 27, 2008

Toon Thursday: Stages of Rejection #3

I've also got a handful of links today, because I've been cruising around everyone's blogs, trying to get caught up! This past week I got a kick out of the 7-Imps' interview with illustrator Kadir Nelson, who TadMack and I got to see at the SCBWI summer conference last year. Gorgeous man, gorgeous artwork--don't miss the Q&A with E&J.

Speaking of interviews, Cynsations is really on a roll with the 2008 SCBWI Bologna interviews. Don't miss another great interview with Cybil SF/Fantasy finalist Kathleen Duey, author of Skin Hunger.

Courtesy of PW's ShelfTalker comes another creative way to deal with rejection. The column's hilarious, but don't miss the photo... On a totally different note is Children's Book Week, coming up in May--the Children's Book Council announced in a press release that they are launching the Children's Choice Book Awards. Twenty-five finalists were announced in five categories, and kids can vote for their favorites at the website. The whole thing seems like a great potential classroom activity to me. Plus I was happy to see a few Cybils finalists in there...

Another potential classroom resource is, a new contribution to the world of online children's books where you can read books online and connect with other children's book readers and writers. It's also possible for members to publish their own online children's book on the site. It's a nicely designed, friendly site for picture book enthusiasts.

It's Complicated... And Stuff.

If you heard about photojournalist Robin Bowman's new photography book, It's Complicated: The American Teenager on All Things Considered, then you'll really enjoy the photo gallery from the book from NPR online.

I have to admit that as a writer I love looking at photographs of people. There are so many stories behind the eyes that stare out at you challengingly or with visible happiness or melancholy. It was a treat to hear last summer that Tamora Pierce uses acres of National Geographics and fashion magazines for the same purpose -- just the pictures of the people. The human face can be fascinating, and can provide a needed bump to the imagination when a writer gets stuck.

Recently, The Library of Congress set up a Flickr site for their old photos, and they provide a fascinating glimpse of the past. This photo of a glam 40's chick, putting rivets on a bomber makes me smile. Her lipstick matches her nail polish, her eyebrows are plucked to within an inch of their lives, and she's wearing a huge ring, but that doesn't mean our girl isn't working.

See? You could write a fifty word flash fiction piece about her right now.

Randomly: Wow! MIT has free online college courses!? Who knew? (Well, apparently mental_floss, and a hat tip to them for the great link.)

March 26, 2008

A One Shot World Tour: "O, CANADA!"

I absolutely adore Canada.
My favorite college professor -- who introduced me to the works of my favorite Canadian adult author, Margaret Atwood -- is Canadian. My first time sitting in a neck-deep spa-tub was in Canada (and trust me -- that was enough to gain the country my undying love). And my very first piece of fanfiction at age 9 was set on the magical grounds of Prince Edward Island. Despite the whole Red Green thing (!), Canada gets some serious love from me.

Like many books published outside of the U.S., books published by Canadian authors aren't always readily available in American bookstores, which is a serious shame. This is why, until this last Cybils Season, I'd never even heard of Canadian author K.V. Johansen whose novel, Nightwalker, is not, in fact, her debut work. No, it's one of nine novels she's written!

NINE novels!? Where have I been?!

K.V. Johansen holds a Master's Degrees in Medieval Studies and in English, which gives her work great details and historical depth. Her nonfiction book on children's fantasy literature, Quests and Kingdoms: A Grown-up's Guide to Children's Fantasy Literature, is one that I would dearly like to own. It is a chronological overview of fantasy which received rave reviews from diverse audiences, including history teachers, the Mythopoeic Society, and librarians. It's a great teaching tool or reference, and the style makes it appropriate for young adults, too.

K.V. Johansen's Nightwalker was added to VOYA's Year's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror list for 2007, and you can find out more about her writing in these interview clips and on her very informative website. The videos of her reading portions of her work only whets your appetite to read more!!! Some great stuff here!

(Psst! Treason in Eswy, the second book in the Warlocks of Talverdin series, hit Canadian bookshelves March 1st. Has anyone else read it yet?? I'm looking for it in the UK -- no such luck yet...)

And now, a BONUS Canadian for Writers:

However thin the stream of books flowing between writers and readers in our two countries, there has been one steady stream of writing wisdom coming from Canada in the form of Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Debbie kept me company those years after college when I was pretty sure I had a Great Novel Within Me, but kept getting in the way of my own prose. Inkspot was an amazing discovery, a writing resource that made sense. I avidly read the marketplace pieces, which kept me going between my Writer's Market subscriptions. It was deeply ironic that my first major sale coincided with Xlibris buying out Inkspot -- running Debbie into the ground, and then closing the site down. I must admit that I shed a few tears of rage, as this was a bummer of major proportions. There were other writing sites, pulled together by great people, but it just wasn't the same.

Of course, it isn't like Debbie herself vanished or anything. This multi-talented Canadian was interviewed last year at Women on Writing. You can also find her blogging and drawing her quirky, amusing work at Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers, which is where I also go to find Will Write for Chocolate. A favorite spot also is Debbie's list of writers who were rejected repeatedly before they hit the big time. Read it, peeps. It'll give you courage.

The One Shot World Tour concept rose fully formed from the fertile mind of our organizer, Colleen. The O, Canada! round-up at Chasing Ray includes the really adorable Daisy Dawson the CUTE ALERT monsters drawn by illustrator Kean Soo, and more. There's still plenty of Canadians where these came from! (Um... Canada?) Enjoy the literary goodness from Our Neighbors to the North all day today!

(Props to Little Willow for the flag logo!)

Fantastical Fiction from Two Northern Neighbors

Welcome to one of our two installments for One Shot World Tour: Canada. TadMack and I were both pretty excited about Canada Day, since we’ve been reading some pretty killer Canadian authors lately, and since we’ve both had some memorable trips up to the higher latitudes.

In honor of One Shot World Tour: Canada, I thought I’d tip my hat to one familiar writer and one relatively unfamiliar one from our neighbors to the north. Firstly, the familiar: I’ve been a fan of Ottawa-based author Charles De Lint’s writing since I was in high school, even though the books I read weren’t strictly YA. At the time I devoured as much urban fantasy I could find, though it wasn’t as plentiful back in the early '90s; and Charles De Lint was a natural match, with his fictional city of Newford and its motley population of artists, intellectuals, vagabonds, as well as assorted mythical and mystical creatures inhabiting parks, streets, abandoned buildings...

Newford is a place where imagination comes alive in a fantastical blend of Western European and Native American mythologies. I’m not sure which book was my first introduction to De Lint—it was either Moonheart, The Little Country, or Jack the Giant-Killer—but I was captivated by the vividness of Newford as a setting and the spunky, brave, sensitive, creative heroines that usually narrate De Lint’s novels and short stories.

The past few years, he’s begun writing books specifically for a YA audience—The Blue Girl, Little (Grrl) Lost, and the newly-released Dingo. Though so far my preference remains with the books he wrote for an adult audience, I’m glad that he’s reaching out to younger readers, and I also think that his YA books might be good for reluctant readers as well—eventually drawing them into his delicious and dark world of urban fantasy. To read more about this multitalented man and find a full booklist, visit his website.

This is sort of embarrassing, but back in 2004, I actually made a writing-related pilgrimage to one of the favorite hangouts of Charles De Lint and his wife--an Ottawa pub that happened to be quite close to where I was staying to attend a conference. I figured, since I was in the neighborhood, I’d just stop by, have a pint, and soak up the good writerly vibes. Unfortunately, he was out of town at the time, but I still checked it out, stayed for a spell, and wrote notes for my own novel. It really just made me wish I had a nearby pub I could sit in to write and peoplewatch...

Another Canadian author who primarily writes fantasy and supernatural fiction is Margaret Buffie, originally an artist, who began writing in the mid-1980s. Though she’s known for writing many ghost stories as well as an unusual and creative fantasy trilogy, the first book I encountered of hers was Out of Focus, a novel of realistic fiction and dramatic family tension that I reviewed for The Edge of the Forest. It seems to reprise some of the tense family situations that characterize her first novel, The Haunting of Frances Rain (published in Canada as Who Is Frances Rain?), which was also a ghost story.

Her fantasy trilogy, The Watcher’s Quest (The Watcher, The Seeker, and The Finder) are quite different—fast-paced, original fantasy in which Buffie creates an entire set of worlds interlaced with threads of Celtic myth. The trilogy tells the story of Emma Sweeney, who, at sixteen, has long known that she’s not quite like anyone in her family. She’s also felt a near-compulsion to watch out for her sickly sister and somewhat flighty parents. Now, as her artist father builds a sort of modern henge out in the fields of their bee farm, she senses a gathering danger and doesn’t know why. When odd new neighbors the Maxims move to a nearby farm, she takes a summer job caring for the elderly father and realizes they aren’t who they seem—or what they seem. I’m always interested in novels about parallel worlds, and I haven’t read anything quite like this trilogy, populated with a fascinating cast of characters ranging from selkies and mer-people to leaf-creatures and walking, creaking mechanical men. A very creative and very visual tale. To find out more, visit Margaret Buffie’s website.

For more Canadian writing fabulosity, check out the full list of participants at Chasing Ray.

March 25, 2008

The Literature of Longing

This morning I was reminded of how our best writing takes place from a sense of longing. The Writer's Almanac today made note of the fact that it's Kate DiCamillo's birthday. "She spent most of her childhood in Florida, but after college she moved to Minnesota to work for a book wholesaler... That first winter in Minnesota was one of the coldest on record, and DiCamillo missed her hometown in Florida horribly. She also desperately wanted a dog, but couldn't have one because her apartment building didn't allow dogs. So she began writing a story about a stray dog that helps a 10-year-old girl adjust to life in a new town..." and we know the rest of the story from there.

On the tail end of this very cold, wet, miserable winter, I can only imagine the author's horror. Snow is pretty -- when you don't ever have to go outside, or are only visiting it temporarily. I imagine that after growing up in Florida, it must have seemed impossible, yet Kate DiCamillo found room in her mind to create a place where she wanted to be, and people she wanted to be with. And she found herself a dog.

Is your writing real?
Is it so heartfelt that it's part of your inner world translated to paper? It seems that stories like these are the best things to read, and the most worthwhile to write.

A story I wrote features an older character who changed and grew with the novel until she was a major player along with the teens in the story. I really enjoyed rounding out the character and including her, because I enjoyed rewriting, in a small way, my actual history. I created a relationship like the one I very much wished for with my own grandmother, and that character has attracted favorable comment from many people.

It may seem a little... weird and needy to rewrite the world to your specifications, making yourself the heroine of all encounters. More importantly, it can be completely boring -- keeping in mind the writer's adage that Just Because It Happened To You Doesn't Make It Interesting. There's a difference between writing out your own personal history and personalizing a story by writing a real emotion. It's a worthwhile bit of digging, to find something real.

Shrinking Violets has a few things to say on introverts vs. extroverts from the book The Introvert Advantage. Most notable to me is the assertion that extroverts "adapt more quickly to time-zone changes than introverts." Also, extravert's test performances were improved by receiving praise. This is some really fascinating stuff -- I imagine it's very valuable for parents, too, not to mention writers who have to figure out how to manage the public side of the field. Thanks, Violets!

NPR's Morning Edition discovers comic books. Comic book audiences are ...different, Joss Whedon discovers. "You can evoke ire that you've never dreamed of in TV." Yeah... Ire. Controversy. Whatever you want to call it...

Aerin @ In Search of Giants is hosting an April Fool's Writing Contest! It's easy -- because all you have to do is finish a story. Do you love yourself some Mad Libs? Or those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books? Go to the site, read the story starter which has been presented by Writer At Work, and -- finish it.

Prizes are subjective, of course, but there will be a $20 SuperCertificate to the author of Writer At Work's favorite ending, one Readers' Choice $20 SuperCertificate and one $10 random lottery prize SuperCertificate by random lottery.

March 24, 2008



Now that I've got the date right, just wanted to wish you merry -- again!
May you eat CAKE!

March 22, 2008

Whizzing By...

I don't usually do weekend posts, but Cynsations had such a great series of links I had to point them out.

First, Cynthia introduces us to David Gill's Thunder Chikin, and a revision story. Since that's where the Wonderland duo is right now -- smack 'dab in the midst of revisions -- this was Must Read Bloggage. Writer Gill is amusing -- mentioning at one point that he thought the line-edits from his editors were light because there wasn't much work to do. And then he finds out he's ...wrong. The less said sometimes, the more work. D'oh! But he keeps at it, and FIFTEEN PASSES LATER, ladies and gents, he's done. FIFTEEN. (Keep that number in mind, you nameless media twerps who think writing children's lit is easy.) The last line of his revision post is the best --

"... the writer starts the neglected laundry, speaks to the attention-starved children, cleans the grungy bathroom, and goes in search of a bowl of praline pecan ice cream and a really big spoon."

That was a great chuckle for today, and you can't help but love the title of his work in progress: Soul Enchilada. Definitely one to watch!

And whoa, am I late to discovering the group of Vermont MFA authors writing at Through the Tollbooth or what? Cynthia links to a really great discussion on sexuality in YA lit (including an interview with Tanya Lee Stone and a link to her 2006 VOYA article, The Power of Sex in YA Literature). Tollbooth has recently concluded a discussion on YA violence as well. I'm glad that it wasn't just sex that was explored, since with young adults the complaint is usually that authors are rewriting Sex in the City with adolescents. I've had conversations with a number of my fellow blogger/writers on those topics, and my favorite response has been from the stalwart few who prefer to not have an opinion, but to allow the actions of the characters to serve the plot. Admittedly, I find it difficult to be that courageous. What, I find myself worrying, would my mother think? A rule of thumb for me is to write something I would have been allowed to read when I was a kid -- and I know that varies for everyone!

Anyway, some great, intelligent conversations have gone on in the blogosphere, so if you're a little sick from eating the heads off of numerous chocolate bunnies, these great thoughts will provide a needed antidote.


March 21, 2008

Write a Sequel, Dang It!

You know, when you read the notes to a novel and they tell you that this fantastic book you just read was really just sort of a lark, a one-off, a side project that didn't quite make it elsewhere...that's enough to frustrate any reader. Evidently that's the story with Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, and let me just say this--Neil? Mike? Do me a favor and get going on that sequel, please. Pretty please?

Interworld is the story of Joey Harker. To be precise, it's the story of many Joey Harkers. One day, Joey gets lost on a school field trip and finds himself...somewhere else. It looks like his town. Kind of. Until he gets chased by crazy hoversurfers who try to shoot him, and then saved by some mystery dude named Jay, and then discovers, upon returning home, that he DOESN'T EXIST AT ALL in this world.

A fun, fast-paced, and suspenseful take on the idea of parallel worlds and analogous selves, Gaiman and Reaves have created a compelling tale. It is possible to tell from the execution of the piece that it didn't necessarily get the attention it deserved--I think there's huge potential for the premise and characters that wasn't quite fully developed. Having said that, I really enjoyed it. If you're a Gaiman fan, and you like the type of sci-fi that sort of delves into fantasy at the same time, you'll probably like it. It was exciting, imaginative, and I'd be more than willing to read more about the adventures of Joey Harker and his various analogue selves--the wolf-girl, the cyborg, the girl with wings, the levitating guru. And don't forget the interdimensional bubble-creature who communicates in...colors. Much, much fun.

Poetry Friday: The Fragile Act of Creation

Point of Departure

tongue-tied, she sculpts little numbers, bits of alphabet

feels the language out in air gone thick and malleable

as clay or mud, as the breathiness of meringue

what she wants is control though she doesn't like to admit this

(not ladylike) what she wants is to name everything

petiole: stalk attaching leaf to stem

verso: left-hand page of manuscript

she invents names sometimes--or similes anyway

explaining and explaining, drafting new rules of order

like a morning of miserable phone calls, which is different from

the clean pain of a paper cut on the tongue

punctilio: a fine point of etiquette (ladylike)

she wants control--like the carpenter, not the architect

she wants the house to fit the cosmos buzzing inside her left hemisphere

she wants the baseboard to fit exactly the angle between floor and wall

no unexplained spaces, 90 degrees--there's a close miracle in that

the click click of wood fitting against wood, yes, like that

a pleasurable green--color of newborn aphids

she wants everything named and simple, everything simple

everything named with shapes that open up, willing to be understood

(she feels ridiculous wanting this, tongue-tied and green)

fortitude: the moment between this breath and, yes, the next one

"Petiole"...I really should have one of TadMack's fabulous flower photos to accompany this poem, shouldn't I?? "Point of Departure" comes from Gillian Wegener's collection The Opposite of Clairvoyance from Sixteen Rivers Press. She's local--lives in my town--and much of her poetry is about nature, birds, seasons, interactions with others--the small things of life that are also the most important. Her poems are so visual, too, but this one in particular I keep coming back to again and again, thinking about the myriad of reasons why I write, why I draw...

Anyway, I've really been wanting to contribute something for Poetry Friday, and I've been so intimidated because not only am I not a poet but I'm in no way nearly as poetry-literate as many of the participants. Still, Wegener's poetry speaks to me so strongly that I wanted to share one. (And I might share another at some point!!) More fantastic poems can be found at Wild Rose Reader.

Poetry Friday: Dubious Spring

Christina Rossetti began writing poetry at the age of seven, and though most of her well-known poetry is complex and strange (for instance her best known Goblin Market), or of a deeply sentimental 19th century religious bent, there are the rare simple poems, and these speak to me most.

This selection was chosen specially in honor of the fact that we have, indeed, had word that the Spring of the year is ...springing. Despite the snow and rain and wild weather forecast for the Eastern part of the U.S. and the UK; despite the snowstorm that closed freeways in Arizona, despite the weather chaos that continues to rampage, it's Spring.

Close your eyes and believe...

The First Spring Day

I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
    Sing, robin, sing;
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.

I wonder if the springtide of this year
Will bring another Spring both lost and dear;
If heart and spirit will find out their Spring,
Or if the world alone will bud and sing:
    Sing, hope, to me;
Sweet notes, my hope, soft notes for memory.

The sap will surely quicken soon or late,
The tardiest bird will twitter to a mate;
So Spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom,
Or in this world, or in the world to come:
    Sing, voice of Spring,
Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing.

I'm all for blossoming and rejoicing! If you celebrate, Happy Purim and Happy Easter - hope you have a wonderfully renewing weekend. Wild Rose Reader is hosting today's Poetry Friday.

March 20, 2008

Toon Thursday: Stages of Rejection #2

We're well underway on our "Seven Stages of Rejection" now. The irony, of course, is that I've already gotten over the rejection that spawned this seven-week burst of creativity, and I've already sent out new queries and gotten on with my life. On the other hand, I don't have to agonize over cartoon ideas for the next few weeks. Hmm...perhaps that rejection had quite a significant silver lining. (Click here for Stage One, in case you missed last week.)

Speaking of cartoons about rejection, I came across an excellent cartoon (originally from The Onion) on reasons for rejection at the blog of kt literary. The blog is called Ask Daphne! and it's got a lot of useful info from an agent's perspective.

I'll be back tomorrow--with my first-ever contribution to Poetry Friday! Now I've announced it to the public at large, so I can't wuss out!

Hola, Neighbors...

Got up, got dressed, and zipped up my blue cardigan sweater. Why? 'Cause
Mr. McFeely said to... I'm wearing my favorite sweater in honor of what would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. I'm also wearing it because it's cold and it's raining, and Mr. Rogers pretty much advocated the wisdom of coming in out of the rain, yes?

Still, it's the first day of Spring. The Earth is tilted, the north and south poles are equally distant from the sun, so we will have almost exactly the same amount of daytime as nighttime. Soon. Never mind what the weather is doing, the end is nigh.

Match It for Pratchett is going strong. Fans of the author's work from around the world are matching funds to make his million dollar (or, £500K) gift to Alzheimer's research doubled. This is a good cause indeed.

People either love or loathe The Famous Five, and if you're in the UK I think you have to love them. It's probably in the contract. Now they're being updated -- actually, they're being given the Disney Animation Treatment. No more ginger beer, lashings of it or otherwise. Instead it's iPods, laptops and a multicultural cast. However, some people think well enough should be left well alone.

Speaking of series -- The Dangerous Book for Boys is ...soon to become a television show. Channel Five is sending celebrities and their sons on... "adventures" and it's meant to be "riveting TV." Hm.

The forecast this weekend calls for snow on Sunday, and as I write this, winds are gusting between 24 and 45 mph...

Maybe I should just wish you a Happy Spring and leave it at that.

March 19, 2008

Learning To Breathe Under Water

*"When you sit in silence long enough, you learn that silence has a motion. It glides over you without shape or form, but with weight, exactly like water."

Magdalena even has a name which is lyrically beautiful. Her world is unusual, quirky, magical -- all because of her mother. Magdalena was content to sit quietly and simply absorb all that the world had to offer, but now that her mother has died, she's cast adrift, in more ways than one. Her dull Aunt Hannah comes and fixes mushy, tasteless dinners for she and her father. He goes to work, she goes to school, and all the magic has left the world.

Windows attract Magda -- why should she use a door? The spaces in silence call to her, and at times it's like she loses her voice. Flame is mesmerizing, and so beautiful.

Magdalena knows she's sliding toward the edge. The family of imaginary fish that she sees everywhere, the fact that the faces around her morph into animals, and she herself occasionally turns into a giraffe -- these things let her know that she is, in fact, a little out of her mind. And then there are the fires... But there's too much in her mind to stay there. Her father is trying to Move On, meeting with the horribly plastic and optimistically cheerful Dorothy, and her son Andrew. All Dad can remember of her mother is that she was depressed; Dorothy says Magda's mom and dad were outright unhappy before the 'accident.' Of course, cheerful and optimism are Dorothy's middle name. Not truth.

Never truth.

There wasn't any accident, was there? Not for anyone.

Why is everyone -- including Magda -- lying?

A dark, quiet descent into one girl's private watery grave, The Shape of Water takes a collage of losses and everyday aggravation and turns them into a surprising poignant hope that eventually, even the darkest water clears, and those who drown in the sea of grief can also remember how to swim and find their way back to solid land.

*This quote was taken from an uncorrected proof which is subject to change before final publication. Available April 2008.

More Elusive Than A Scarlet Ibis

The Ever-After Bird, by Ann Rinaldi

Thirteen year old Cecelia McGill will never be an abolitionist. It consumed her father’s attention, made him unmindful of her and cruel, and it eventually killed him. Cece resolves that she will never become so fixated on people she doesn’t even know, and neglect the ones right next to her.

After her father’s funeral, her Uncle Alex, also an abolitionist, greets Cece with tenderness and honesty. So unlike her own father, Uncle Alex seems to genuinely want to bring her to live with he and his wife, to help heal some of the scars left by her cold, unfriendly father. But first, he has a little trip he’d like to take Cece on. He, together with his assistant, Earline, is going to the deep South. He’s a budding ornithologist, and he’s looking for the Ever-After bird, what the slaves call the exceedingly rare scarlet ibis, a bird Cece’s uncle would dearly like to catch, kill, and paint.

Earline is a freed slave and a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, who, on trips to the South, pretends to be Alex's slave, working as his assistant and giving him access to the slaves on the plantations. As they journey, Cece is troubled to discover that she is both repelled by and afraid of Earline. For all that her father was an abolitionist, she has never spoken to a person of African descent. Worse, it is all too easy to pretend that Earline is her slave. Bossing her around and slapping her seem to be almost second nature. Piling more troubles on Cecelia’s young shoulders is the realization that her Uncle Alex is secretly spreading the word about the Underground Railroad and distributing money to help many of the slaves on the plantations they meet escape!

While much of the novel is straightforward, the reader cannot help but interpret Earline’s sly pettiness as an infatuation with Cecilia’s Uncle Alex, and then as an emotional dysfunction which Uncle Alex repeatedly explains away, making it clear that Earline is ‘damaged’ and not to be blamed for her bouts of temper and meanness. Earline is repeatedly depicted as someone ignorant, and more ruled by emotion than by intellect. She slaps the young and recently bereaved CeCe on some pretext, insinuates that she has more personal information about Cecelia’s immediate family than she does herself, lies about Uncle Alex, and openly schemes to remain central in his affections, despite the fact that she is both older and allegedly more educated and exposed to the way the world works than young Ceceila. The drama of the first-person narrative, in which CeCe sees up close the horrors of slavery are tensely riveting; the extemporaneous “female jealousy” problem, as Uncle Alex calls it, seems largely unnecessary and distasteful, pointing, as it does, to the idea of the infantile Southern woman, living her life only to scheme and catfight over a man.

One also wonders also if the author is inadvertently giving credence to the belief many Southerners held that persons of African descent were mentally inferior by birth, and would never, despite education, approach the level of intellect that a person of European descent could hope to achieve, as their ‘treacherous’ and hypersexualized ‘animal’ natures would ever catch them out. Earline, knowing the peril that they, as abolitionists, face in the South, nevertheless meets, falls in love, and in a secret slave ceremony marries a White carriage driver they encounter halfway through the journey. When in the novel’s dramatic climax, he is killed, she weeps and carries on and has to be drugged, dragged shrieking to a couch in stereotypical Southern belle fashion.

Though this dramatic novel will hold the interest of many young adults with its tumultuous view of slavery, its historical accuracy is dubious at best, and while the novel’s rapid conclusion neatly ties up all dangling strings, as a whole this novel leaves a lot to be desired.

This review was first published in the February '08 Edge of the Forest Children's Literature Monthly.

The Voices of the River

Rio Grande Stories, By Carolyn Meyer

Rio Grande Middle isn’t just a typical Albuquerque middle school. It’s a magnet school for kids from all over the city to come and enjoy special projects like the Heritage Project, which studies various cultures and peoples as part of the curriculum. Some of the kids at RGM weren’t too sure about coming all the way across town to a special school, but the Heritage Project has been really interesting, and slowly the students are bonding.

One of the ‘different’ things the Heritage Project kids are doing is writing a book. It’s to help the school raise money for some finishing touches on the remodel. It’s supposed to be a book about the various cultures represented at the school, a chapter written by each student. It’s an idea that everybody can get behind – almost.

Some kids, like Tony Martinez, love the idea – he’s got a great story to tell about his famous ancestor, the story his father’s been telling him since he was little, the story his mother hates to hear… He thought it was a great story, but none of the Catholic kids believe him. After all, how can he be descended from a priest!? Priests don’t have kids!

Kids like April Ellis are horrified at how excited her parents get over the Heritage Project. So far, none of her classmates know she and her hippie parents live in a bus, but unfortunately, that doesn’t last. Her Dad shows up at school to volunteer for the Heritage Project! April is furious. What does her dad, Tom, know about heritage? Or adobe!? Actually, you’d be surprised…

Even though Tomás Jaramillo was born Española and have moved to Albuquerque, he knows how many people think his hometown’s a bad joke, and that the Hispanic people there are poor and short and stupid. So, should he risk being called a cholo and ask his cousin, Johnny to bring his low-rider to school for his part of the Project?

Told in alternating voices – one chapter from a student, one chapter about that student, Carolyn Meyer’s Rio Grande Stories is a tasty mélange of the sights, flavors and sounds of the Latin and Indian cultures of the Rio Grande. Through the student’s stories, the people and history of the region come to life, drawn together with the bright threads of the past and present. Perfect for middle grade students trying to find pride in themselves and their particular culture, this book delightfully reminds us how, across the cultures, we all are much the same.

This review was first published in the February '08 Edge of the Forest Children's Literature Monthly.

Square Pegs -- MIA?

Okay, apologies if you actually remember a TV show by that name -- and its undeniably annoying theme song. I only vaguely remember the show existing -- and that I liked saying the words 'square' and 'pegs' together fast. Yes, I was annoying.

Anyway -- via Ypulse's Alli, I came across a conversation bouncing through the blogosphere. Dairi Burger queried, "Where are all the poor, ugly, awkward girls in YA lit?

That question kind of produced a "huh?!" from me, because I think... sheesh, just about every young adult has the ugly-awkwards in spades. But I take DB's point -- there are an awful lot of YA novels about models, über-rich girls and spoiled boarding school cliques. I won't bother naming titles of the ones with obnoxious, vapid characters -- we all know those. But it's important to note that a.) not all rich characters are obnoxious, and b.) just because the characters are rich, doesn't mean they aren't awkward (Girl Overboard, anyone?).

Maybe the best question is, what are some recent young adult novels which portray the 'square peg' girl -- nerdy or geeky, independent spirited and not popular but who cares?

For starters, Love, Stargirl tops the list -- she's probably still as geeky as she was in the original novel. Any other titles come to mind?

"When you put out a book with "adult" content under a YA label, you're not a hero of artistic liberty, you're a liar and a cheat. You want to keep getting the same income by pretending your writing belongs in a category that you have left behind."

Orson Scott Card's response to last week's question @ SF Signal about whether or not YA SF/F has become too explicit. (Hmm. Do SF/F writers of YA get paid more?)

March 18, 2008

Just Checking In...

I've been incredibly busy with a sudden graphic design project and some calligraphy for a friend's wedding, but I really wanted to check in. There are two reasons for this. One is a great quote that's rather apropos of the YA vs. Adult Literature Shenanigans that everybody is sick to death of. Without further ado, here are Madeleine L'Engle's words on the subject (with thanks to KT Literary--who are soon to receive a query from me--for the quote):

You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.

Right on, sister. The other thing I wanted to tell you is to GO SEE PERSEPOLIS. The movie adaptation is fantastic and covers both the original graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi and its sequel. For more info, check out this excellent documentary clip (courtesy of TadMack).

Words Around the Web

Some really thoughtful posts out there today -- first a bit of news: Author Terry Pratchett gives his first interview about his Alzheimer's diagnosis, his writing, life, etc., and puts the heart back into tons of Discworld fans. "There's humor in the darkest places," he says, and his writing has always made that true. Whatever else happens, he's not going out quietly.

Via Jezebel's Fine Lines, an excellent KUOW, Seattle podcast interview with 71-year old Lois Lowery, talking about her life as a YA author, and the importance of YA fiction and her newest novel, which is a black comedy. Remember the Anastasia books? Completely different from The Giver, and also completely different than A Summer to Die, but it's all Lowry, and this great lady - who incidentally doesn't read YA literature, hmmm! - has been publishing now for thirty-one years. Did you know she took the photographs for a lot of the novels, including Number the Stars? A fascinating interview that's about an hour long -- a treat for me to turn on and potter around the house, listening.

Oh, my, my. The Dr. Who geek-out cup overfloweth. People: behold, the Sonic Screwdriver. It's exactly like the one on the show. Exactly.

What About Minx? Chasing Ray wants to know why it's overlooked and underselling. Some excellent points discussed, check it out.

Ooh, Miss Erin's Novel Challenge is on! (And did she not make a cute little icon for it?) The point is to achieve a specific writing goal by the end of June 2008. This is appealing on myriad levels -- as both of us at Wonderland are in the middle of revising novels and beginning to think in terms of creating new plots. We'll be thinking about what goal we could aim for -- hope you're thinking too! Check in with Miss Erin and let her know if you'd like to participate!

Hat tip to Miss Cellania @ the mental_floss blog, for today's time-wasting obsession... well, it's only time wasting if you don't learn anything, right? The FABULOUS Questionaut, which was invented by the BBC -- an adorable interactive game during which you progress if and only if you can answer the questions correctly. Also try out Samorost -- when you're done revising your chapter for today, of course...

March 17, 2008

No, it's nothing to do with the Irish


When your publisher hands you lemons -- and refuses to publish the second novel of your trilogy due to 'poor sales' -- self-publish your award-winning work. And embarrass them all.

It's time to cast your vote for the 2008 Name of the Year. March Madness Time Wasters galore.

March 14, 2008

Mr. GottaBook, This One's For You

Happy Pi Day, Matheletes!

Because I did not wish to regale you with my bad high school romance-of-mathematics poetry once again (and the crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief!) I thought I at least owed you a peek at the new mental_floss 'Fib' shirt -- and this is really for Gregory K, @ Gotta Book, because he's the original fib guy. (Very original, I might add. Have you read his Oddaptations!?) SO, that's my two cents for math today - it's not a pi joke, but enjoy!

Sam had some good points this week about publishing being ...kind of a game. Justine Larbalestier seems to concur, talking about the luck factor on her blog. Hat tip to Shrinking Violet Productions.

Don't Forget to Write: Co-blogger a.fortis mentioned this week why she writes "part of the reason I write for a teen audience is that I think--I hope--that reading my work might someday help someone through a tough time, or distract someone from their own troubles." Disco Mermaid Jay really brings that home this week, reprinting a couple of notes he's gotten in response to his book. Now, that's what we're here for. Writing. It matters. We've all got our Insecure Selves to deal with, but well done you, Jay Asher, for gently shutting I.J. down.

Bay Area Peeps, Save the Date! It's the 14th Celebration of Children's Literature at UC Berkeley on Saturday, April 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

As part of Cal Day, which is the campus-wide open house, UC Berkeley's Tolman Hall is putting on a free community celebration, celebrating children's book. The book fair literati includes Gennifer Choldenko, Marissa Moss, Thacher Hurd, Elisa Kleven, LeUyen Pham, and quite a few more, plus musicians and bookmaking art activities, and storytelling, and more. Do check it out -- it sounds like a lot of fun.

Even though I didn't go to public school, I'm enjoying *my (or, rather, Jen Robinson's) recent discovery of Public School Insights, which carries an interview with our insane Ambassador, Jon Scieszka. The title? Turning Boys Into Readers. Hmmm! T-June 1st and counting, and GuysLit Wire will be going live. We have some seriously great girls and GUYS who read blogging about the best teen guy reading they can find.

Man, there's tons of great book stuff getting revved up for warmer, clearer days... Stay tuned!

Poetry Friday: Transitory


I can't remember how old I was,
but I used to stand in front
of the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine
what it would be like to be dead.
I thought I'd have some sense of it
if I looked far enough into my own eyes,
as if my gaze, meeting itself, would make
an absence, and exclude me.

It was an experiment, like the time
Michael Smith and I set a fire in his basement
to prove something about chemistry.
It was an idea: who I would
or wouldn't be at the end of everything,
what kind of permanence I could imagine.

In seventh grade, Michael and I
were just horsing around
when I pushed him up against that window
and we both fell through--
astonished, then afraid. Years later

his father's heart attack
could have hit at any time,
but the day it did they'd quarreled,
and before Michael walked out
to keep his fury alive, or feel sorry for himself,
he turned and yelled, I wish you were dead!

We weren't in touch. They'd moved away.
And I've forgotten who told me
the story, how ironic it was meant
to sound, or how terrible.

We could have burned down the house.
We could have been killed going through
that window. But each of us
deserves, in a reasonable life,
at least a dozen times when death
doesn't take us. At the last minute

the driver of the car coming toward us
fights off sleep and stays in his lane.
He makes it home, we make it home.
Most days are like this. You yell
at your father and later you say
you didn't mean it. And he says, I know.

You look into your own eyes in a mirror
and that's all you can see.
Until you notice the window
behind you, sunlight on the leaves
of the oak, and then the sky,
and then the clouds passing through it.

-- by Lawrence Raab, from Visible Signs © 2003, Penguin Books.

"A good poem, I think, is one that you want, almost immediately, to reread," according to the poet. I can't tell you how many times I read this one... thinking of it from different angles, trying to reach for the elusive secondary and tertiary meanings. All poetry can be misinterpreted, says Lawrence Raab. Agree? Disagree? Don't miss this brief conversation with the poet at The Independent Review Site. And don't miss more poetry you'll want to revisit, hosted by Jama Rattigan @ Alphabet Soup, who encourages you to drop by with a Bob Dylan lyric. Since I don't know any of his songs that weren't covers of someone else's, I'm going to have to think about that for awhile!

March 13, 2008

Toon Thursday: In Which I Honor and Share My Feelings

Today's toon kicks off the first in a series of seven. Yes, in honor of my most recent rejection letter, I'm exercising another coping mechanism that I forgot to put in my post on the subject. In fact, I frequently cope with life's little annoyances by drawing cartoons about them, and I've done this since at least college. I remember one notable instance from my freshman year when everyone in my dorm hallway was driving me nuts, so I created a large "Wanted" poster with tiny caricatures of everyone and snarky comments, and posted that on the bulletin board. (To quote Matt Groening, "It is unwise to annoy a cartoonist.") So, for the next six weeks you'll continue reading about my personal Seven Stages of Rejection.

On a more encouraging note, you can also find more of my scribblings at this week's Art By Committee selection over at Gurney Journey. And don't forget to check out Little Willow's little list of Cooking Up a Storm books--including my trusty co-blogger! Last but not least, Cynsations has put up another great interview with a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Cybils nominee--check out the Q&A with Cassandra Clare. She shares some great writing advice from her own experience, like the following: "I thought everything had to be perfect before I could show it to anyone, which means I never got any feedback on anything, and without feedback I couldn't work on improving. It was a vicious cycle." If you enjoyed City of Bones, go take a look at the interview.

March 12, 2008

Those Racy YA'ers -- Still Going

Awhile back, I had a teensy little rant about a SF/F crossover author who had read her first Holly Black novel and seemed ready to paint the rest of the genre by the one book she had read. I still maintain that essentially asking "is it all this bad" after reading one novel isn't the best way to find out... But I digress.

The smart people at SF Signal's Mind Meld have followed up on the author's post by asking the question again: is YA SF/F too explicit?

You can bet I was reading along interestedly. Some good points were made by some great authors, and I was glad to see input from Kaza Kingsley, the author of the Erec Rex series (and a really nice lady -- she was great about the Cybils) and then I read on down to... Gwenda Bond! The Bond Girl brings up the significant point that whenever someone starts bleating about 'explicit' in children's literature? It's about sex. It's amazing how having Puritan forebearers really colors things, and it's not even just people of a religious background who get squeamish on this point. Fascinating. A deeply interesting discussion. Go thither and put in your two cents.

Sorry, Leila, but I'm going to have to go for this without you: SFX is offering a chance for UK residents to win their own LIFE-SIZED Dalek. (Man, is this flat big enough for that much destructive potential??) Via SF Signal.

(Pssst! Canadian-born Author Preview: C.K.'s novel is available for pre-order!!! Woot!)
Coming Soon to a Blogosphere Near You:
Canadians, referred to in schoolbooks as "Our Neighbors to the North," have been publishing fabulous literature for young adults since... well, since that Anne-with-an-'e' girl became famous in 1908. The likes of Tim Wynne-Jones, Wendy Orr, Martha Brooks and Kenneth Oppel are just a drop in the bucket of the tide and flood that is the YA and children's writing tradition in Canada.

Two weeks from today, we'll host another One Shot World Tour stop in O, Canada (The True North, Strong and Free!). (And yes. We had a Canadian youth pastor when I was a kid, so I ACTUALLY HAD TO SING O, CANADA. At least twice a year. LOUDLY. Or he'd make us do it again. Thank you, Ron Hyrchuk.) Stay tuned for the fabulousness on March 26, to be rounded up at Chasing Ray.

March 11, 2008

Susan @ Chicken Spaghetti reminds us that Corduroy turns forty this year, and via the Guardian blog, we learn that Toad and Frog are 100! Admittedly, I never cared for the indolent Edwardian gentleman toad, and reading the sad back story on Kenneth Grahame makes me think Toad and Frog are even weirder, but whatever floats your boat down the Thames...

Something interesting this way comes: Via Shrinking Violets, a website that is a quiet way to get the word out. enables authors to register and list where they'll be in various states to talk about their books. An interesting idea.

Fair use? March 24th is the date when the Lexicon vs. JK Rowling battle goes to court. I still find it highly ironic that Scholastic, JK herself, the film company and other writers used the Lexicon as a resource, but good golly, don't let them publish what was free on the Web into a book form -- it will steal the woman's ability to write a book herself and benefit charity with the proceeds.


On a happy note, via Ananka's Diary, the CUTEST pygmy hippos -- ever.

March 10, 2008

Coping Mechanisms

Today, my thoughts kept returning to the very apt posts by Sara and Liz about the "Why not me?" thought pattern--the "When is it my turn? Is it now? OK, how about now?" thoughts that can circulate in an unpublished (or published) writer's head. In the face of another novel rejection from an agent today, I found those "why-not-mes" sneaking their way back into my brain, gumming up the works, preventing both logical evaluation of the situation and any further creative work for the day.

I wonder how others cope with the "why-not-mes." I have a few different ways. Sometimes a nap helps, or a good long visit to the gym, if I have time for either of those. Whatever I do, I try to take a little bit of a break from whatever is prompting the self-doubt, and do something else I enjoy. Today, I tried to remind myself about this week's Art By Committee (here's last week's) over at Gurney Journey, a blog I'm really starting to enjoy reading. I sent in a much better drawing (in my opinion) this time, so I'm hoping to look less lame next to all those professional pencil-monkeys.

Blogging, obviously, is something else I can use to get my mind off things. I'm hoping to get to a few book reviews tonight or tomorrow for Readers' Rants. That helps, as does checking out other people's great posts and exploring sites that are new to me. I found out about a new bi-weekly children's book newsletter this week, as well as (via TadMack) a really hilarious site called Boys Rule! Boys Read!. Do NOT miss their ongoing March Madness book tournament and other fun book-related activities. Sara posted a great art-related nonfiction review today for Nonfiction Monday (check out the roundup for more titles).

And, sadly, sometimes there's nothing like a shocking news story to bring you out of your own wallowing. The idea of a string of teen suicides makes me shudder, but it also reminds me that part of the reason I write for a teen audience is that I think--I hope--that reading my work might someday help someone through a tough time, or distract someone from their own troubles. I escaped into books a lot during my childhood and teen years, and I honestly believe that a book can be a friend, a comfort, an anchor. And maybe, just maybe, if I get back to work and plug away, I'll get that chance...

March 08, 2008


Rereading the Alanna books reveals a simple, oft-repeated lesson: Girls, it turns out, can do everything boys do -- in fact, they can do it better. (And, like, how much better is this for young girls to hear than the endless litany of designer brand names infesting some current YA, which, okay, I also enjoy reading but I'm glad I read this and not that as a 9 year old?)

It could only be Fine Lines, the Friday feature which takes a semi-serious, sometimes-critical, look at beloved children's and YA books from the past. This week it was Tamora Pierce's FIRST book, published in 1983.

That was a little before my tine in terms of reading YA literature, and though the book wasn't exactly elementary school fare, I think I might have enjoyed it. Grrrl Power all the way.

March 07, 2008

Aussie Awesomeness

I've just got a couple of quick-as-quick reviews here today--I'm so behind on my reviews that I'm zipping through two in one post, both books by Aussie authors.

I was so sucked in by John Marsden's Tomorrow Series that I just about jumped up and down in the YA section of my library when I saw volume 1 of the Ellie Chronicles, While I Live. And, though I didn't find this first volume of the new series quite as action-packed as the first set of books--lots of it was devoted to establishing Ellie as an adult-ish figure forced to deal with home life and mortgages and money and a small boy mostly on her own, while still attending high school--it was still pretty gripping and I was excited to be put back into the world of the Tomorrow books. You'll definitely get some freedom-fighting action and high emotional tension. I already can't wait for the next book.

The other Oz selection I picked up last month was by one of my favorite funny YA authors, Jaclyn Moriarty: The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. I'd heard mixed reviews of this one, so I was very curious to see for myself what that was all about. As it turns out, I can understand why readers who were really taken with her other work might be a bit...put out by this one. It's not particularly funny--at least, not overtly so; it's more...zany. It's not in the epistolary format that Moriarty does so well. my honest opinion, I'm not actually sure it's a YA novel. I think it might be an adult book or even a crossover title. Having said that, I really liked it, and I think I probably would have liked it as a teenager, too. The characters--adult and young adult alike--were sympathetic, fascinating, and quirky, and the complex, interweaving plot had the sort of zany meandering quality that her last book (The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie) had. I do recommend it, but DO NOT EXPECT THIS TO BE THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS.

Poetry Friday: Faithfully Renewed

New Every Morning

Every morning is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
      And, spite of old sorrows
      And older sinning,
      Troubles forecasted
      And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

  -Susan Coolidge

Author of the popular semi-autobiographical 'What Katy Did' children's series which debuted in 1872 Susan Coolidge was also the editor of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and a poet in her own right. Part of her popular 19th century fiction for girls was a book of short stories -- you can read a sample of the subtle instruction for how a girl ought to behave therein.

Other delightful poetic and literary discoveries can be found at The Simple and the Ordinary which is, of course, neither.

Been busy thinking of other things this week, but did y'all see Liz's post To Cheer or to Covet? "Better to lay bare than to bury," she says. If you've been stalked by envy in the face of another's success, go. Read.

An update from Blooming Tree Press. Seriously: they exist. They're finally going to finish printing their backlog; a.fortis' short story will be further immortalized. Soon!

A review of a YA Islamic SF/F novel -- quel intriguing!

It's been a BOGUS week in publishing, but Slate's got the right idea: howl with laughter, not with outrage.

March 06, 2008

Toon Thursday: We Won't Grow Up

This cartoon is my sort-of response to the discussion about Read Roger's comments that started here and continued here. (Since the whole thing makes me want to just...splutter, I have conveyed my feelings visually instead.) For the record, I don't just read YA books. In fact, I've been known to get excited reading the AP Stylebook. Seriously.

I did one other piece of online "artwork" (such as it is) this week, after blog bud Sara pointed me to a post called Art By Committee over on the blog of James Gurney, artist of the Dinotopia books. With reckless abandon I decided to participate, and you'll find my sketch here with a bunch of other much more professional interpretations of the theme. On the other hand, mine was somebody's favorite, which makes me grin with glee. And, the person whose favorite I was, is an animator at Pixar--not too shabby! If I can find the time, I'm going to try to participate again, hopefully with something a little less sloppy...

March 05, 2008

...and furthermore...furthermore...and on top of that...

This WAS supposed to just be a response to Melissa and Bottle-of-Shine in the comments section of this blog, but, well, it got long. So I'm just gonna say it:

Shenanigans. Though my OED says the etymology of the word is unknown, according to Wikipedia, that bastion of factoids, 'shenanigan' possibly originates from the Irish sionnachuighim, meaning "I play the fox." Can you see that? Mr. Horn Book, setting himself as a cat among pigeons, as a fox among ...hens? Because he can? I can see it. I do believe sometimes the man simply says things to wind people up.

Even so, I felt pretty ...stung by his statements earlier today. Because I simply can't seem to find the time to read adult books, and so, I really... don't. (Of course, this begs the definition of 'adult book' and who defines 'adult' but that's a whole 'nother post. Suffice it to say that I waited my whole childhood to read what books I wanted...)

I've always felt that as a YA writer, I was making a choice, to sort of ...immerse myself in the culture, to write the best YA books I could by reading them and participating in the culture of childhood and adolescence. This doesn't mean I reject adulthood - major purchases, permanent relationships, occasional housecleaning, yep, sort of adultish. I read plenty of adultish books to get my various degrees (and gave away an armload of "how to write" books when I realized they can't help you if you can't...) but if I read YA/children's books for my recreational reading, who is to say what "recreates" me?

Comments like,
"but to say that children's literature will give a grownup all he or she needs from books suggests there is no reason to grow up in the first place."
"My problem is ... with the belief that children's literature encompasses in itself the range of human experience, that it has and can give expression to pretty much anything worth expressing. Or worth reading about"
suggest to me a fundamental -- and unsubtle -- contempt not only for the literature of children and young adults, but for... childhood. As in, Oh, it's just puppy love, you can't possibly feel anything as deeply as I do.

It seems the fundamental assumption here is that the "A" in YA has something that is of greater value than the "Y."

And I'm not thinkin' I buy that.

Books-Into-Movies, Part Deux

I was watching the Sci-Fi channel earlier today and saw the above preview for the movie based on Paranoid Park, a Blake Nelson novel that was a 2006 Cybils nominee. The movie is directed by Gus Van Sant and released by IFC Films. I have to far, I'm intrigued.

What was I doing watching the Sci-Fi channel in the middle of the day, you ask? You'll have to go to my personal blog for that story--I won't taint Finding Wonderland with a discussion of Ghost Hunters. (My personal blog is not so sacred.)

Found out via my local library blog (rather ominously called The Dominion, for some reason) that Stephenie Meyer's fourth book will be released in August, and that the actor who's playing Edward in the movie was Cedric Diggory in the HP4 movie. I did not even recognize him, but then again, it was just Cedric Diggory...poor sap. Anyway, tonight I'll be taking further advantage of the services of the library and crashing (well, not really; I was invited) a Friends of the Library meeting at which there's going to be a poetry reading. I love her book title--"The Opposite of Clairvoyance."

Grrrrrrrrrrl Powerrrrrr!

Oh, MAN, do I wanna go.

NO, silly, not to the film. To camp.
I would be *dangerous* if I could play the bass. Wickedcooldangerous.
Really? Where was all of this when I was, like, young enough for it? Seriously?
Someday, I am getting a drum set.

I'm just sayin.'

We now return you to your regularly scheduled YA literary content.

So, Read Roger has some interesting things to say about grownups and their reading habits...
I'm reminded of the ruckus in SLJ some years back when a library school professor wrote that l.s. students like to take children's literature classes because the reading is so easy, "like eating popcorn." You can imagine the heated response, but I think she had a point. While noting the exceptions of James Patterson on the one hand and William Mayne on the other, children's books tend to be easier and thus potentially "fun" for adults in a way they tend not to be for children, an incongruence librarians need to remember, not dissolve. Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up.
(emphasis mine)

Please, read the whole thing. I'm still thinking of what I think. Meanwhile, Kelly has posted an interesting question on the whole Innocence War thing that I'm not sure what I think about yet, either. Hm...

March 04, 2008

The Magic of Writing, and Other Stuff

Although today was the kind of day fraught with flat tires, frustrated husbands, misplaced cell phones (later found underneath the cat) and other time drains, yesterday's writerly ruminating got me thinking about why people go to signings and try to meet with authors, and then that got me thinking about the whole mystique of authors. I'm not talking about that "artist's mystique" that many of us cultivate to a greater or lesser degree in order to head off more and stupider questions about where we get our ideas. I'm thinking about something more fundamental, something that takes me back to my childhood and what reading meant to me when I was young.

The thing is, when I was young, books were quite literally another world. They were magic. The author who could take me out of myself, put me into the head of another character or the lives of imaginary people who somehow seemed entirely real--that writer had worked magic. They'd made me believe. In a way, as a child, I believed all things were possible, all things existed in a way, somewhere--imagination, to me, was nearly as tangible as reality. And so there were books I read over and over because they profoundly affected my life, my way of thinking; they'd become part of my personal canon. And so, for instance, when I went to get a book signed by Madeleine L'Engle, I felt like I was meeting someone larger than life, someone who'd worked magic. It was almost as though I needed to see her to believe she was real, to believe she was human.

I hope that, one day, I have the opportunity and the ability to work that kind of magic on others.

Thanks to a blogging acquaintance, I can now exclaim, "Coraline?? In 3-D next year? WHAAAA?" And, as long as we're on the topic of books-into-movies, on Video Sunday last week Fuse #8 ruminated on the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie, which has the names of Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze attached to it, of all people.

I've been thinking lately about how much I loved the Cybils SF/F judging panel's final decisions on winning titles, and then I was super pleased to see a few of those same titles were nominated for the 2007 Andre Norton Award (thanks to Wands & Worlds for the heads-up).

Lastly, don't miss the latest issue of Readergirlz, featuring Sarah Dessen's latest book, which I can't wait to read, and a killer playlist picked by the author (it's got the Clash and the Talking Heads in it--what's not to like?).

Writerly Ruminating: Will You Sign? Will You Not?

What's the good word? It's National Grammar Day! Now, off you go, diagram a sentence for fun...

After reading about Sara's most excellent news, I happened across the Guardian blog's Sarah Weinman's piece on the devolution of her love affair with book signings. After working at a bookstore, trying to control the line speed and limit the number of people only seeking signatures for resale value, it all fell apart for her, and now, she actually turns down offers of signatures from authors on the basis that it doesn't mean anything to her -- and pretends a connection between an author and reader that does not exist, and yes, she told an author his signature meant nothing to her, to his face. Ooh.
This morning I got a note from my publicist asking me if I'll be home to do a book event at a bookstore "in my neck of the woods" (an independent that I hadn't heard of until I did a quick Google) in August, and I hemmed and hawed and said of course I'd be available. (Saying "Yes" is part of the trick, right Sara?) But now that I've said yes, I'm (getting hives?) wondering... what it means to have a signed book. I bump this question to the well-traveled Robin Brande and to others of you who schmooze and meet/greet on a regular basis. Especially when you're first starting out, what's the point of signing books? What does it mean? Does it really confer value? Booksellers, book event people, what do you think? Would a writer's time be better spent doing something else when meeting the public? I'd like to hear from the book-signing junkies, too. What does this mean to you?

Meanwhile, the the AP seems shocked that children's book art is... big news. Um. Could've asked Jules and Eisha that one. Have you seen that they're now interviewing up and coming picture book people now? How cool is that?

This is a Freebie I found via the mental_floss blog: Story Online -- children's books read by actors and the occasional ex vice president. Also check out ten of the top chemistry videos of all time. Watch things blow up, melt down, and transmute into amazing colors while you have your coffee.