July 31, 2007

Graphic Novels... more graphic than usual?

Our girl Gina from AmoXcalli was at ComicCon, which got me thinking about all things graphic. Okay, actually, when I read yesterday that um... an "adult" (obviously, I'm not a big enough grown-up for THAT one) film star has been hired to star in her own comic, I sort of ... felt it was a badly tagged on 'PS' to the whole ComicCon vibe. Admittedly, graphic novels have been sort of a "Hmm" subject for me because of the whole idea of comic books -- perfect bodies (someone's dream of perfect, routinely delving deeply into the territory of 'ridiculous') clad in spandex; no one flawed, fat or ugly except for bad guys or victims; objectification of women as victims or buxom-n-brainless - with a disturbing helplessness, etc, etc,. I was really glad that we covered graphic novels with the Cybils; they really can be a useful (for teaching), viable and very fun thing for teens, and I was privileged to enjoy some of the Cybil-nominated graphic novels when AF was finished with them -- but some of what I've seen in the mainstream from some pretty big-name graphic novel/comic book companies is really... really... sexist.

Interestingly, others are speaking up about this topic of women in graphic novels. Take a look at this fascinating article -- and follow the links, which will reveal even more thought-provoking, strange and amusing bizarreness than I even realized. I look forward to reading more in the series.
Sigh. Remember Winnie from The Wonder Years? Just another reason why she's still totally cooler than me.

Intelligent conversation continues over at Alkelda's. I think I like the Mars idea very, very, VERY much. And frankly? There's almost no such thing as taking a story "too seriously." I agree...

Via Shaken & Stirred, we present the PLAIN Janes Riot Grrrl Graphic Novel Tribute Quiz!

badge Which PLAIN Jane Are You?

Brain Jayne

You're the brain of your BFF operation, but don't feel cornered into being just a smarty pants - you've got way more to offer the world (and your crush!).

Take This Quiz More Quizzes

I hope there's more from Brain Jayne in the next issue - I actually really liked her and her quiet ideas!

Literally two seconds --

--but this is so funny I have to post it (even as the shippers are driving TOWARD the house, and Himself is still actually... um...working. (But isn't this what husbands are for? *Ahem*) -- yes, I have been snarky about The Dangerous Book for Boys. Oh, but unless you are a "naice young country gell" you might well be sarcastic about The Digested Read's take on The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls. Ohhh, the snark, the delicious, hooting-out-loud, probably waking the neighbors snark. Do NOT sip your tea whilst reading. ('Whilst.' Love that word.)

All right. To work, to work...

July 30, 2007

Caught and Questioned

I've been caught in the headlights by the Impossible Duo; expect to hear from the more artistic half of OUR duo next week. Meanwhile, it's back to the boxes -- for one more day! The shipper comes to crate up everything on Tuesday... after that, I will get serious about pulling together my SCBWI presentation materials (No worries, panel team mates!). Though the living room is a sea of boxes, the plugs still work - if I can't read, I can listen to books on CD.

Happy Monday!!

Summer Reading... Summer... not

Okay, bad puns aside, we ARE reading! Check out the stats on the GoodReads page, and you'll know. We'll be back mid-August with reports on all of our fabulous summer reads, more links to Wicked Cool Overlooked Books, and more for your bookish appetite.


July 29, 2007

See? Even non-YA people agree...

Taking a short breather from the land of tape and double walled cardboard:

Another writer friend, Valshamerlyn in Ireland has thought up a good plan to help spread the word about children's ...books. Not movies that pretend not even to be related to books.

I just want to look at screenwriters and say "SEE!? It's not just the YA crowd who's protesting here. The Clamor is Rising. Listen to us!!"
Ann M. Martin said she'd NEVER write another book of The Babysitter's Club after the series ended in 2000. NPR reports on what Ms. Martin is up to now -- and they include a neat excerpt from her newest work!
Alkelda's asking some good questions about culture vulturing. Do we have the right to make every story part of our own? Where does one draw the line?

All right, break's over. Back to the boxes.

Last Post from the Desk

Well, the desk.
It is going to be dismantled and flat-packed and put on a ship.
It is a computer desk, but it is cherry wood and black metal, and altogether too gorgeous to sell, and it has been mine for the last ten years, and I can't part with it. So, seeing as it looks like the freecycling and the donations and the sales have paid off -- and we have less stuff that we expected (!!! How often does that happen? I still don't quite believe it - and I fully expect that... stuff is somewhere quietly mating in a corner and will produce prolific and oddly shaped offspring quite shortly), the desk can come too. So I will be wrapping it and padding it and crossing my fingers against additional scratches, and then it will go. And I will be posting from... the lovely bamboo floor. (Ow.)

This bright and early Sunday morning, don't miss the return of Eisha and learn the phrase 'Special Forces Moving Co.' Do you not want the special forces to come for your next move? I imagine people parachuting from the sky, rappelling down the edges of our roof, landing in groups of four, immediately wrapping, crating, taping, and sanitizing things, wearing mirrored sunglasses, communicating with hand motions, sharp nods, and little bursts of static...

Okay. Too little sleep. Obviously.
And I've dallied long enough. The screwdriver calls.

July 27, 2007

Poetry Friday: A Moment

David Budhill is a hermit, a Zen poet, a playwright, YA author, essayist and lecturer; a musician, a scholar, and a dove in a world of hawks. The little poem of his, "What We Need" is from While We've Still Got Feet © Copper Canyon Press. Here's hoping that you take a moment to dance this weekend -- while you've still got yours.

What We Need

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen
terrorize the world
every day,

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace

a brief moment
of joy.
Check It Out! Poetry Friday is being hosted by MsMac. And don't miss the loveliness that is the summer poem series, where we all became the poem. Trés cool.

July 26, 2007

Thursday's Mythic Gem

Colleen of Chasing Ray - still reporting coolness from the boonies -- reviews one of my favorite books for this month's Journal of Mythic Arts. The Journal this month celebrates Mythic Arts for Young Adults, and is a serious don't miss. Featuring our own Bond girl as well as the writerly Colleen, this issue further includes such writing talent as Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Terri Windling,Catherynne M. Valente and more. People, this is fabulous stuff -- don't miss it.
A large part of having much younger siblings meant being dragged into the wondrous realm of Thomas the Tank Engine. At nineteen, I loathed him, but the Littles loved him to death, and today I am chagrined and amused to find that he's more than an over-sold brand name anthropomorphic train. The Guardian reports he's also great for kids with autism. Wow.
Sadly, bookstores may now be abandoning the idea of comfy seating. Which is a bummer, but honestly - once you've had to mop up spilled coffee and drool, I guess plush seating in quiet corners might not seem worth it. I imagine librarians would like to do the same... (Via Galleycat)
Eric Carle says he may have reached the end of the line with his colorful board books. After a long and wonderful career, he believes it's time to say goodbye. Even though I'm not a picture book person, I (and everyone else) recognize his work on sight. Definitely the end of an era.

Robert Heinlein would have been 100 years old today. What a much cooler world we imagine is possible because of him.

Happy working.

July 25, 2007

Questions... While I should be packing...

(Work avoidance and general messing about continues.)

So, hey kidlitosphere: I have a quick question: Where do you go to get your fix for YA short stories in whatever genre? What are some of the most widely read literary sources for young adults who don't have the time or ability to commit to an entire long novel, but who like to read shorter pieces? I know that Carus Publishing still produces CICADA, but there must be a plethora of places I don't know about. Where do young adults that you know go for other short stories?


Just a couple of quick gems I ran across and forgot to mention: one, the Something About Me book challenge beginning the first of August is a great opportunity not only to share a little something about yourself, but it's a chance to read and discuss yet more books you might have missed. The originator of the project's personal blog is titled Breaking the Fourth Wall, which sounds quite gutsy. Thanks to LW, who is playing along.

At the Blue Rose Girls a fantastic conversation days ago was on how authors felt on receiving editorial letters. I know I have often whimpered about receiving red-marked notes from my agent -- who is, I swear, pickier than my editor. And my writing group is pickier than that! But I have appreciated the feedback on my work so much... it's daunting and sometimes makes me need to lie down, but it's all a matter of clarification; if people don't "get" me, knowing it and being able to reflect those changes onto a manuscript will push it toward excellence. This is not to say that I don't need to shred tissues and weep into my laptop first, but usually... once I figure out that neither my agent nor my editor hate me and want to ruin my life, usually it's a good thing.

Heads up! It's a Book Launch! Bay Area YA aficionados will want to get out and celebrate at the book launch for Not Like You, Tuesday, July 31st @ 7pm at Cody's in Berkeley. Those of you who can't make it will want to know about the Not Like You book contest. Since the novel is about the ties that bind and gag in a mother-daughter relationship, author Debbie Davis is sponsoring a contest, based on mother-daughter stories. Poignant, funny, tragic or outrageous, bring 'em on!

Oh, and hey -- have you ever visited the contest page at TeensReadToo? It's a fun site where each month books are profiled and you can win a copy. Some fabulous choices there. Be sure to check back after August 1, too -- there's a whole lot of book-giving away going on!

July 24, 2007

Family Stories, Family Play, Readers. Randomness.

"Reading is Fundamental" parents are told from the time their kids are very, very small. But what happens if you are a parent who is a poor reader? The UK Guardian reports that one in every ten families struggles to read to their children.

When I was teaching full-time, I taught juvenile offenders and elementary students with learning differences. One of "my" boys is now nineteen, with a child who is a year old. I remember his reading skills. I remember how well he told stories (we called them LIES, *ahem*), but know that reading past the picture book stage might become a bit dicey. I also know that reading aloud will help HIS reading skills along with the developing language skills of his young son. Those of you who are in education and library sciences - what do you guys do about this? What programs and practices are in place at your local library?
Hah. Poor Stephanie Meyer. It's not enough to write vampire novels that have young people all around the globe lining up to cheer for your visits. Now people keep insisting on calling you the next JK Rowling. Um. Noooooo. Just read the first chapter of Eclipse and see. Meanwhile, the Horn Book review of HP's last tome is up, and likely a titch spoiler-rific. Read at your own risk, or if you don't have time to actually ...read the book.
Another interesting piece in the news today comes from The Boston Globe, where the idea of parents and children playing together is being criticized. "American-style parent-child play is a distinct feature of wealthy developed countries -- a recent byproduct of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy," says anthropologist David Lancy. Especially since my sister has recently had a child, I am intrigued by people's interactions with small children -- the sort of brain melting, high-pitched, 'and who wuvvs gwamma's boy, huh? huh? who wuvvs him?' type of reactions it seems to elicit (*ahem* Sorry, Mom).

It does seem to be, with some parents, that the times they play with their children are largely directed interactions, play with a purpose - either of creating Baby Einsteins or baby-some-other rapier witted future leader of the country. Yes, it's nutty and silly to peoples of most cultures to play with one's kids -- actually play is silly and nutty, but what are you going to do? HOWEVER, I disagree with Mr. Lancy's theory -- that just because people in other cultures have to work to keep things together, and it's a moment-by-moment-hand-to-mouth sort of life that there isn't some sort of parent-child play.

You cannot tell me that there are no transcendent moments of giggling over the way a water buffalo makes a sort of bubbly squishy noise when it submerges itself. You cannot tell me that a child startling because of a frog - and then recovering and laughing together with a parent -- doesn't happen between parents and children in developing nations. You cannot tell me that people in other worlds don't laugh or play because their laughter or play does not look like mine. I do agree that parents so overly involved with their children's play in some ways inhibit them -- my sibs, at least kind of needed to be left alone (says she with no children but loads of opinions), and then when they invited me into their play, it was their play -- the surreal, bizarre (truly - truly bizarre) interiors of their imagination. However, I think we need not define play quite so narrowly as to eliminate it from non-Westernized cultures... Anyway - a thought-provoking read if you have time.

And now, back to packing.

July 23, 2007

Go! There are even buskers!

Carnival of Children's Lit is in the houuuuse! Or, rather, outside the house. In the village green. Or something. Either way -- Alkelda has pulled together the most charming round-up EVER - go! See!

July 22, 2007

Life is Busy, Art is Short. Focus on the Art.

Ὁ βίος βραχύς, ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξὺς, ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερὴ, ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Life is short, [the] art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult. - Hippocrates

Last week was difficult -- trying hard to focus and shut out the world long enough to work. I have gotten good at ignoring the world around me {EDIT: that's an outright lie, incidentally, but we post what makes us look good. Maybe I can say I have gotten *better* because I resigned from a Committee... right before we found out we were leaving the country. Progress. Of a sort.}, but now that my time here among family and friends is dwindling, I've begun feeling guilty about shutting people out.

Many, many people never really have understood that writing requires time to stare out the window and doodle on sticky notes before lucidity sifts through the morning haze or inspiration suddenly strikes, and so they have started to push a bit, chiding, "well, you don't have to do that all day," and suggesting archly that I pop over and bring them the contents of my cupboard ("well, what are you guys planning to do with your garden goodies?") or meet them somewhere for coffee. As much as I love everyone {EDIT: HAH. Again. Isn't this girl nice? Is she getting on your nerves yet?}, I am beginning to think that I should commit this poem to memory, and begin reciting it under my breath at opportune moments.

"The Art of Disappearing" by Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. © The Eighth Mountain Press.

The Art of Disappearing

When they say Don't I know you?

say no.

When they invite you to the party

remember what parties are like

before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice

they once wrote a poem.

Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.

Then reply.

If they say We should get together

say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.

You're trying to remember something

too important to forget.

Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.

Tell them you have a new project.

It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store

nod briefly and become a cabbage.

When someone you haven't seen in ten years

appears at the door,

don't start singing him all your new songs.

You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.

Know you could tumble any second.

Then decide what to do with your time.

Hippocrates meant that the art of medicine is long -- and broad and deep and full of questions which he in his short life could not hope to touch. I think writers -- even, and perhaps especially young adult writers -- need to take ourselves and our art and our perspectives just as seriously. Unplug the phone. Set aside time from spouses or students or dependents, and give yourself time to dig into that which you dream - whatever it may be. It's not harsh to make time for you.

{EDIT: These are the bits I edited out last night; I a.) begged Himself to phone the couple back, twice, and say "forget it, we're on," - fortunately they had gone out, and he refused to call their cellphones, b.) woke early this morning prepared to mail them an apology card - no email, thanks, this is etiquette, and I'd blown it, c.) apologized all day yesterday for going upstairs and refusing to put on company clothes for the person who dropped in ("well, we're just in the area") to introduce their perhaps future spouse, c.) felt miserable and mean and petty and small for my soul's objections, that no one would like me or think I was nice, that the Beeyatch Patrol was going to come for me because I was deliberately flaunting the Nice Girl Law that says you MUST do what everyone wants or be thought that b-word, that I was digging my own grave and would be miserable and alone (despite the fact that I am an introvert with a public persona, and a writer, and alone time for me is usually... good)

But then. I found out that Robin has the same disease, except her Inner Child is a lot more mature than mine - it still listens to the Older Wiser Child. Mine needs a time out. Bless you, Robin, for articulating this, and doubly bless you, Jules, for breaking your own blogation/vacation to point our Robin's thoughts to me. It's a lifesaving kind of daisy chain, and today we both may keep our heads a little higher above the water and actually get something done.}

Ezine'Bread & Circus' has a few words on YA authors - mainly, that it's time to just leave them alone... hopefully to write.

Another week already. Be well.

July 21, 2007

Nope: Not in Bed With HP

It's a slow news day, but I've just discovered a couple of gems:

Stories for Children Magazine is a small, free children's story ezine, associated with KidMagWriters.com that just came on-scene in April of 2007. They feel that love of reading in adults is fostered by having access to good stories as kids.

SFC is having a contest for all ages - this means that kids can enter, too. Simply go to their site and look over the contest rules and information, and also at the illustration story-starter upon which all stories in the contest must be based. Then, ready, set, write. The story will need to be between 500 to 750 words.
New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez (aka A-Rod, for those not in the Yankee-lingo-know) has written his second children's book. Okay, so having it come out the same day as the last Potter book might not have been as auspicious a day as it could have been, but apparently... apparently he's gained quite a fanbase and not just for his sports prowess. Since I haven't read either of his two books, I will... just... hush. But, HMMM!
Occasionally, I flit past Smart B**ches Who Love Trashy Novels because it is tear-spillingly funny with its mockery, snideness and generally snappish rants. Mainly, I went by because I had to do a little happy dance that Cybils Nominee and YA author Caridad Ferrer won a major coup with the Romance Writers of America® (RWA®) for Adios to My Old Life, and I wondered what our Trashy Chicks thought of it. Happily, they were proud of Caridad's RITA™ for Best Contemporary Romance, but bewildered by how many people got all ugly about it. "YA is a category. It is not a recommended level of maturity for participation in online discussion," their site says. Indeed.

It says a lot about us, in the kidlitosphere, that more often than not, though we get random spam, we rarely get the nameless, ugly attacks under the guise of discussion in our comments. Some might condescend that we're all too nicey-nice, and we don't get f-bombed because we don't say anything of real substance in our reviews, and that this is all a space for gossipy author-worship, but I think it's something deeper than just milquetoast 'play nice'ness. Any thoughts?

July 20, 2007

Put On My Dancing Shoes

Yeah, baby!

With less than ten minutes to spare, the last run to the Post Office run was made this afternoon. The rest of the country might be dancing because of a hottie named Harry but I am longing for my dancing shoes because my manuscript has shot off across the continent toward New York. It's done, Done, DONE.

And now I can spend all my leisure time organizing garage sales and vacuuming the air out of my possessions. (Vacuum packing clothes: Way more fun than it should be.)

My GOODNESS I'm going to look back on this year one day and just spin! I've sold a novel (though technically that was last October), finished two novels (though again, technically, the first of that duet requires a major overhaul, since it won't sell), am speaking at a Conference (though technically, it's not really "speaking" speaking if you're only doing an hour long panel - it's more like facilitating a conversation); I am moving to the UK (and technically, again, that's not about me, but about Mac), and -- and -- I AM GOING TO BE INTERVIEWED BY JULES AND EISHA!!!

And quite honestly? That's the most exciting part (even if it's - technically - not about me).

The only thing about all of this whirlwind that makes me a tiny bit, slightly, marginally sad is... my... printer.

You know how great amateur cooks get all excited over their cooking, and eventually sidle up, break down and stop lusting over a shiny red Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but actually agonize over prices, and save their pennies and ...buy one? And they paint flames and stuff on the sides of them, and get all sentimental about them, and maybe even name them? (Or is that only Alton Brown?) Well... I'm a little bit like that with what I call my Gray Rhino. My printer is ...huge. It's a HP Color Laserjet 2820. It's a printer, scanner and copier. It can print out an entire 283 page manuscript in about seven minutes, and ask why there aren't a few hundred more pages. It is my dream printer, and so big a step up from what I was doing before that it's scary. I bought it used -- obviously, it's a huge, expensive office-sized machine -- and I love it, love it, love it. I can now act like I don't know what a Kinko's is, and ignore all the slacker clerks at Paper Tiger (which is admittedly an awesome name for a copy shop, despite their general slacker-y-ness). I can send the requisite TWO COPIES of final manuscript to my agent, I can print back-to-front like my editor likes things, I can print things in color, I can print things at 3:46 a.m., and it makes me VERY happy.

And I can't take it to Glasgow.

Which just sucks.

Himself firmly promises me that I am to have another one -- just like it -- that will not have to be shipped. He swears that HP is an international company, and it will be an easy thing to find another one, just as soon as we are settled. He tells me I can name it the same thing. He spins all sorts of pretty lies... er, prevarications, to make me feel better.

And I guess I'll get over it.
After all, he has to (!) leave behind his Kitchen Aid.

Still, I can't help but dance. It's one down, and three hundred forty seven million things to go.

The Unavoidable but Finite Absence of A. Fortis

Thanks to uncontrolled and constant bombardment by random crap happening in my schedule, in my other life as a work monkey with a glutton for punishment and an inability to say no, I've been rather pathetic at posting, writing, and even reading, though I just finished Uglies and will have to somehow fit a bookstore trip into today so I can get the sequel to read on the plane tomorrow.

Yup, a. fortis is going to be on conference hiatus (though I might pop in to say hi) for the duration of next week and possibly the week after. Fortunately, TadMack is more than capable of holding down the fort (what do I even post, anyway? goofy, half-assed-ly drawn cartoons? late-to-the-game news tidbits? unsolicited snark?). So I will see you when I get back, AFTER a long nap that could last several days. Cheers!

This is NOT about Mr. Potter.

This is about... the power of words. Characters. Universes.
And the power of imagination.

Does a story have to be steeped in magic to be magical?

As the coundown to Harry winds down, the UK's psychologists are getting ready for... grief counseling.

What do you think of that?

Herein may lie the major differences between UK and US cultures. People here are excited, but there is this sense that children are meant to be excited, and there is a high degree of sarcasm and annoyance from some sectors because excitement over a mere children's book - a book of time wasting fantasy, is seen as unseemly at best (and satanic at worse. And sue-worthy at very worst. Sigh.) Undoubtedly, there are those same attitudes in the UK, but along with their wholesale embracing of costuming and launch parties, they're calling in more therapists - the largest UK bookstore chain is funding an emergency counseling line. They know characters will die, and children will be saddened, and they feel that children are important enough to care.

I am moving to such a... different place.

July 19, 2007

Poetry Friday: Hope & Glory - the 51st (dream) state

Today, Poetry Friday is hosted at NYC Teacher's place, and the topics are wide, far ranging -- and original and beautiful and thought-provoking and heart inspiriting and flat out AWESOME today -- really, as they are every Friday. The 7 Imps, however, are the only ones with nude poetry.

Just thought you should know.

excerpt from the 51st (dream) state by Sekou Sundiata:

What if we were Life

Or Liberty

Or the Pursuit of something new?

Between the rocks below

and the stars above

What if we were composed by Love?

And what if we could show

that what we dream

is deeper than what we know?

Suppose if something does not live

in the world

that we long to see

then we make it ourselves

as we want it to be

What if we are Life

Or Liberty

and the Pursuit of something new?

And suppose the beautiful answer

asks the more beautiful question,

Why don't we get our hopes up too high?

What don't we get our hopes up to high?


Sekou Sundiata, the eloquent and much loved poet, performer, artist activist and educator, passed away this past Wednesday, and I am grateful to the lovely people who brought his work to my attention. This is from a musical and spoken word performance designed to bring audiences together to envision a more perfect Union, and was still being performed until this week.

So much of what we find, we discover when it is fading or almost lost.

What if we began to search sooner?

Here's to hopes set high.

Tellin' Tall Tales

This is a rare opportunity for those of you who are natural born storytellers. Tall Tales Audio Books is looking for ...storytellers. The real, old-fashoined, spinnin' a yarn kind of storytellers. You'll know what I mean if you go to the website and take a listen to a story.

This is what those seeking storytellers have to say: TallTales Audio publishes original told stories for children ages five and up. Our emphasis is on exciting, kid-centered tales of almost all genres—ones that will hold a whole family's attention during a long car trip. ...mysteries, old west adventures, and stories about not-too-scary ghosts, talking animals, princesses, kids with super powers, and more.

The format is CD-ROM (no print version), with each one-hour CD containing a series of three, approximately 20-minute long stories. This comes out to roughly 2,500-3,000 words per story. All three stories meant for a single CD involve the same characters.

The ideal TallTales stories have the following elements:
* strong characters that kids will relate to, with the action centered around children or animals
* a story line, setting, or relationship that kids can identify with and care about
* in addition to story narrative, at least several characters who have distinctive voices (this is audio, after all), and
* drama, humor, adventure, or suspense that truly holds the listener’s attention.
TallTales does not publish folk tales and traditional stories from cultures around the world. As much as we admire folk tales, this is not our publishing focus. In addition, TallTales does not publish stories with these elements:
* Death and misery. Although characters may have to overcome adversity such as a death or an illness in the family, we prefer to keep these themes in the background of upbeat adventures that entertain and build self esteem.
* Religion. There are plenty of religious publishers, but we are not one of them.
* Preachy tone. We are interested in wholesome characters and themes, but not stories whose primary goal is to attempt to instill “proper values” or “good behavior.”
* Violence. Our stories keep violence to a minimum and absolutely avoid torture or killing.
* Foul language. No. There are lots of other ways to express strong emotions.

If you wish to create a children’s audiobook for TallTales, please send us the following:
• brief (less than a page) description of three proposed (related) stories
• overview of the market (including age) you envision and why you believe kids will love your stories, and
• summary of your background and experience telling or writing stories for children.
Email this material to info_at_talltalesaudio_dot_com, noting in the subject line "TallTales Submission."

We will review your proposal and get back to you within approximately 30 days. If we’re interested, we will ask for additional material, such as writing samples. We may also ask for a brief audio sample of your proposed stories. We sometimes prefer to line up actors to voice our stories--but this is always a second choice to working with storytellers who have the skill to do it themselves. If we sign a contract for your stories, we will pay you an advance plus royalties depending on sales.

The website is bright and happy looking, and it's local to the Bay Area, so you know it's good people. So, storytellers (and Alkelda, we're looking at you), start your engines!

4 More Reasons Why... Jay Asher is very cool

I don't have know him well enough to list all thirteen ways in which YA author Jay Asher of the threesome blogging team of DiscoMermaids fame is cool, but YA lit aficionado Natalie on the
Children's Writers & Illustrator's Chat board does -- so check out her 13 reasons (and do a little dance that the October release date is COMING! Soon!), and listen to this:

There are four very excellent reasons the Mermaids as a team are rising stars in the YA lit blogosphere. They have done a very fine thing: they have interviewed... fifteen year olds. Four of them. To talk about who they are and what they are and what it is that they want to know and see in young adult literature.

Talking to the people for whom we write is sometimes really funny, really cool, really bewildering and always an experience. More writers for young adults need to find a way into the culture of the classroom, the library and into the world of young adults to keep in touch with why they are writing and the very real people and situations with whom they want to connect. I think this is SO COOL on myriad levels, Jay, and thanks for the heads up on this.


Tomorrow, the first of what is intended to be a continuing series 'airs' on the DiscoMermaids site, truck on over and check it out!

(Psst! If you look over here, you can also find someone Else - a few someone elseS - doing Very Cool Things. To save the world. And stuff. Check 'em out.)

Viva las Divas!

Book Divas, the Sinuate Media owned marketing website is announcing their upcoming author visits. Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says, authors of the YA novel The Upper Class will be on hand for a week long blog tour and people will be able to discuss and anticipate their novel, which is being released the first of September of this year. Current guest author is the great E.Lockhart, on hand until July 23rd. Other guest authors have included Cecil Castelucci, David Levithan, and John Green.

While you might mistake this as just another publishing-linked marketing blog full of hot-author-of-the-bestseller-list interviews and such, I was pleased to see that Book Divas is a bit more. Sure, HarperCollins has signed on for three additional Author Visits for 2007, and they pay, of course, but ten percent of the proceeds from all author visits go towards Book Divas' 'Writing Star' scholarship fund! The scholarship fund will assist in sending one high school senior with the intent in majoring in Writing or English to college in the fall of 2008. Which is why the site also has great links to things like grammar help, book discussions, reviews and writing tips. Future English Major Divas, unite!

Ooh, had you heard about David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, who, as an experiment, took a mishmash of Austen chapters and passed them off as a book of his own work? He was shocked to find that most of the publishers to whom he sent the work didn't recognize Austen's voice - or some almost word-for-word theft of the first lines from Pride & Prejudice. (Oh, NEVER has such a case been made for people to read the book. Ignore Colin Firth. He's not the best bit.) "It's interesting that there are these filters that stop work getting through," said another British Austen specialist. "Clearly clerks and office staff are rejecting these manuscripts offhand."

I'm guessing that the expectation is that people are going to read this and blush with shame -- and I would agree -- for the Pride & Prejudice lines, at least, editors employed in a publishing office should feel at least a moment's chagrin. But 19th century literature as a whole has a distinctive voice and feel of... dense antiquity. I'm sure many people sat and tried to dash through those first few paragraphs and said, "Wait. I'm not hooked by the first three pages. What is this tripe?" The rules have simply changed - whether for better or for worse is another question, and unless all publishing company mail room personnel and editorial assistants are now required to be English majors with a specialization in 19th c. lit, and/or British & American Literature as I was, and not, maybe, people just in need of work, or even marketing majors (which seems to largely be the trend), the shame-on-you finger-shaking here seems a bit... off. Thoughts?

Oh, hm. Apparently the New York Times has erred in treating the Deathly Hallows as just another book and have reviewed it before its release. Note: the SECOND link which includes the word 'reviewed' goes to that, if you don't want to read about the book until you read the book: Don't. Click. It. Though JK Rowling is apparently stormily displeased, most people can make the decision: to read or not to read. And look! The sky is still blue. (!)

As readers kick around the idea of what to do after the PotterPallooza, NPR has come up with a few suggestions. I'm sure there are others -- I have heard tantalizing things about The Spellbook of Listen Taylor and quite a few new things to which I am looking forward. What's on your 'Gotta have it' TBR stack?

When MotherReader does something, she does it WHOLEheartedly. We had a 'Tell an Author/Illustrator You Care' DAY, and she's managed to bring the love for a full week. That's totally one of my fave things about her. (She calls it an obsessive personality thing -- I say, "Nah!") Over at the site, she's had a lot of love over the past few days, and has ended with an author interview with Caroline Hickey, and a contest to get a copy of the fabulous sounding book, Cassie Was Here. Go on over and find out how to get in the running!

And now, back to work: two more chapters of the expansion/revision and then... weeks of packing. Incidentally, if any of you know what to do on a six hour layover in Chicago at Union Station between four and ten p.m., let me know some ideas!)

July 16, 2007

Young, Red-Haired, and Anne-ish: You Oughta Be in Pictures

Now, you know how I love my Anne.
You might even know that Anne of Green Gables was the first fictional book I read that wasn't a Peanuts comic when I was seven. You might know that I wrote at least six different endings to the book and didn't know until years later that it had... sequels of its own.
If you peruse this blog periodically, you know I generally HATE, LOATHE AND DETEST books made into movies.
All this is fact.


I have been told by reliable readers and film watchers that the last Anne of Green Gables movie put on by this movie company was actually pretty cool. It was faithful to the book. The actress was cute, but not too pretty, a bit eccentric. And dare we say... plucky. It was, all in all, pretty close to perfect.

In view of this, I am passing along something from the people at Sullivan Entertainment, who are making a new movie version of Anne's books. They're hunting for an Anne. For a prequel.
I don't generally approve of prequels of anything. (Did I need to know from Anakin Skywalker? Did I really?) I am not advocating this at all. But if you know someone cute and ten or twelve -well then, I've done my bit for their college money.

That is all.

Two Last Thoughts (From my last two brain cells)

Well, the good news is that I've only got two more chapters left in the Almighty Brain Consuming Expansion & Revision job. YAAAY! The bad news is that I have two brain cells left rubbing together. However, rubbing together, my brain cells have managed to produce a spark, so I shall point you to these bloggerly goodnesses with its feeble flickering flame:

Journalist Anastasia Goodstein, usually found on Ypulse, guest wrote a piece for The Huffington Post on young adults and their lack of news savvy. She cites Al Gore's CurrentTV as a potential means to reaching this hard-to-reach demographic, and joins Harvard's JKF School of Government in bemoaning the fact that fewer of the 13-20 demographic read the paper and are only interested in "soft news" like celebrity deaths and the imprisonment of certain famous-for-being-famous anorexics who shall not be named. I am always interested in the idea that young adults know less than ever before, when they have more access to information of all kinds -- if they want it. They... don't. At least not in the way it is aimed at them, flung at their heads, peppered at their ears, and heavily sugared up, dumbed down, and laced with entertainment and flashing lights (aka breathless, CNN moment-by-moment celebrity news: "She's got her hairdresser with her... yes, that's her stylist... and she's... walking through the front gates of the minimum security facility where she has languished this last week... yes, she's walking... and she's out! Skinny Blonde Hotel Heiress Type is free!") If young adults don't watch the news it's because the REAL entertainment stuff -- stuff actually intended to be entertainment -- is a lot more ...um, entertaining.

I dunno -- I read the comics for most of my life and drew cartoon bubbles on the Sears models in their bras until I was WELL into high school and should have been busily reading the Wall Street Journal, apparently. So, if a lot of young people don't read the paper seriously ... should the adults who do read the newspaper seriously worry? What about you and the newspaper? At what age do you figure people they supposed to start? It seems like this endless hand-wringing is another excuse for someone to start marketing yet another product/service/program to young adults... because, cynic that I am, I have a hard time with the idea that all of these people are worrying that young adults aren't getting enough information to make "informed life choices." I'm not sure I buy that at all.

Septimus Heap the book series will soon be -- Septimus Heap, the Warner Brothers film. Well, for all of you fans of the series, begin crossing your fingers now. With the debacle that the movie formerly known as The Dark Is Rising, but which I will now call The Stench Is Rising has become, actual fans -- that is, people who have read the books? Will need all the universe's assistance they can get to have a movie in anywise remotely resembling the book that they loved and read. WHY. CAN'T. MOVIE. DIRECTORS. COMPREHEND. BOOKS?!

All right, I can tell the lights from ye olde brain cells are starting to spit sparks and die out. I'm sure I'll have more cynical observations tomorrow. Until then...

July 15, 2007

Tell An Author You Care Day! - Monday!

Imagine meeting an author, and telling them how much you loved their book. They're surprised. You think they're just being gracious, but nope -- they haven't heard.

Much of the work people do anywhere doesn't get gold stars and smiley stickers. And writers -- well, we get impertinent questions from our reading group, and pithy notes from our agents. We get the Writer-Hating Bus, we get told by our parents about their friends children who just had their first child or are researching diseases at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta or just married a physicist who works at the Livermore labs, and we wonder if we'd really be better off just cleaning the house and getting A Real Job. While writing is awesome, it is also sometimes a tiring, solitary and bizarre profession in which you spend more time talking to imaginary friends than not. When we were in school we were always encouraged to write letters to authors -- so why not now, as (alleged) adults? July 16th is Tell An Author You Care Day, as awesomely instituted by Emily Beeson @ Whimsy Blog. It's a day of paying forward the pleasure someone's work has given you. It 's a day of small effort with the potential to make a major difference.

All that's required is to:

1. Write a letter or email to a favorite author. I think JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer recieve plenty of fan letters. Think of an author you love who may need a little boost.

2. Write a positive review on Amazon and, if you want to, link to it in your blog.

3. Buy a book by a favorite author and give it to someone who will enjoy it.

4. Profile an author in your blog. I'm not talking just another review. Tell us a little about the author and mention at least one of his/her books that you love.

Scotland is five hours ahead of us... maybe I'll drop Our Jane a note before I go to bed.

July 14, 2007

Because I Have *SO* Much Time To Waste

Find out your Harry Potter personality at LiquidGeneration!

AHHH! I'm a teacher. A TEACHER!!!

Actually, this is the teacher from the Potter movies whom I love the best; I adore her as a frosty, snippish character - with a warm heart but a penchant for detail. And, I've been called the b-word as well as frosty and snippish before. I recall one of my students telling me once that "All you have to do is look at me, and I feel stupid!"


Thanks to ol' Gilderoy Weasley over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy for the fun.

July 13, 2007

Poetry Friday: Missing

At times, poetry details the transitory nature of the world.


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

- W.S. Merwin

A stainless steel needle, leaving tiny perforations, linking us together with a whisper thin cord of loss. The imagery is more apt than I can express.

Absence shows up in Little Willow's choice, "The King of Griefs"; in Eisha's haiku farewell to Cambridge, and even in Kelly's mood music, as she takes off with The Raggle Taggle Gypsy. For more poetry perfect for a lucky summer day, drop by the Poetry Friday Round-Up at Chicken Spaghetti.

July 12, 2007

Toon Thursday: Unoriginal Content

Sadly, Toon Thursday will be going on hiatus next week and the week after. I actually really wanted to post a cartoon this week, but due to being swamped (see personal blog for details), instead I'm providing you with an external toon link. Penny Arcade is a fun comic that is usually themed around video games, but in light of the latest Harry Potter movie and book coming out (which I am excited about, despite any criticisms I may have of either book or movie), I thought I'd direct your attention to this comic of theirs that's somewhat appropriate to the HP craze. Warning: cartoon contains naughty words. Secondary Warning: cartoon is much higher quality than mine. Don't get spoiled.

While we're on the subject of comics, at some point I found out (and forgot to blog) that Wendy Pini, creator of the comic/graphic novel fantasy series Elfquest, is working on a comic series called The Masque of the Red Death, loosely based on the Poe tale and marketed to young women 17 and up. I'd always wanted to read Elfquest, and still haven't gotten around to it, but this new project sounds VERY cool.

So, I'm going to be at a conference the week after next, and then the day after I get back, I'm leaving for LA for the SCBWI conference, so there will be two weeks without Toon Thursday, unless for some reason I magically produce comics and input them while also being president of a nonprofit organization and being on a panel.

Another Day Another... Mental Crisis

Well, just found out my S.O. got into the Ph.D. program (soon to be spelled programme) of his choice... in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Of course, they were so excited by his off-hand application that they want him THIS FALL. In September. Which means we have just a very short amount of time to dismantle... oh, our whole lives for the last several years.

Just the other day, Robin was commenting on how she likes her deadlines nice and tight. Well, should Ms. Brande come move house for me, sell my car, pack up my things and finish my revision and chat with my agent, I'll be happy to stay in bed, with the covers drawn up, screaming.

Of course I'm happy to be going - I'm young(ish), change is good, adventure is better, blah blah blah. Of course I'm thrilled with oilskin macs and rubber boots and ankle-deep puddles (and if I'm not, I'd best become thrilled, quickly. It has been the wettest June on record this summer, and July looks to be heading for the record books as well) and there ARE cool things to do with tartan plaid. I'm just ...a tiny bit... urm, worried.

What if there aren't any books?

No, stop laughing at me. I know perfectly well that the UK is still on earth. I mean, what if it's all so academic I don't have a library for me? What will I do if She Who Will Get My Book doesn't have any good YA? What if nobody throws me a going away party or my computer breaks and can't be saved?

I know YA must be huge in Scotland, it's not like Our Jane of the Blessed Prose doesn't go there half of every single year! But I don't know from Scotland, nothing at all. And I shall stick out in my ignorance, not to mention my non-Scots-brownness, even wearing my S.O.'s rather dauntingly bright plaid.

But, it's going to be great, right?

July 11, 2007

Writerly Scatter-wittedness

I just need to accept that I'm not getting anything done today.

It rained a little this morning, and so at six-thirty I was wrestling gleefully with my garden, tying things on stakes, and enjoying the cool -- which I thought would dissipate. THREE HOURS LATER, I'm still pulling weeds and look up -- oops! -- at the time. It was still cool and dim and I just... lost track.

Running errands and "dropping by" my parents house to pick something up meant a nice long ramble with my grandmother, who is lovely but often vague and begins conversations mid-topic, and insists on confusing me with my sister who has the two week old infant. (She invariably asks, with alarm and accusation, "Where did you leave that boy?!" And I try to say as gently as possible, "With his mother?")

Extricating myself from THAT conversation and finally getting home meant a backlog of email, which I dallied through, and then finally, FINALLY opening my revision and beginning the grunt work of hacking away... Only to find my sister, whose best friend lives two doors down, had dropped in for a "chat." And so I hurried downstairs from my office and chatted with two eleven-year-olds for roughly an hour. Never mind that my protagonist is in a car on a boring cross-country trip with her sister and grandmother, and has just discovered the hotel they're staying in has a guest bathrobe and a mini bar. No, I clung to reality and talked with my guests about the new 6th grade teacher, Ms. Carmen, who bought them Slurpees last year and how she's moving to England to get married, and how much that sucked, because my sister and her friend thought she was nice, and wasn't it a long engagement, because didn't she show them that ring in something like third grade?

I love having eleven-year-old friends. They are awfully diverting. But they were NOT helping me toward my goal of a chapter a day on the last two weeks of my revision.

Finally, back to work... with a side trip. Via Bookshelves of Doom, I discovered the joyousness that is the Literary Gas guy, and through him I found... book... perfume. Leather... or clothbound, with a hint of mildew... Which reminded me that for a Super Special Project happening at the end of August, I have a 1952 FIRST EDITION of a book by an author whom I LOVED as a kid that has that wonderful musty smell of old-book-but-new-to-me. I thought, I could start that... just a chapter... if I write JUST a chapter... if I get that done, I'll run a bath, and read for two hours.

I thought I could manage that - one chapter = two hours of bath and book.

Unfortunately, Chasing Ray's post really got me thinking about war, and I had to take some time to jot down some musings in a notebook. Technically, this could be construed as working... but not quite. Read the piece for yourself: it will make you write things down, too. (Probably things with four letters.) Writing thoughtful essays: not working on my FICTION piece.

You know, at Read*Write*Believe, I learned about the Writer Hating Bus... and realized that it was probably idling downstairs in front of my house. THIS REVISION IS DOOMED.

For today, at least.
We'll see about tomorrow.

July 10, 2007


Whatever happened to the laziness of summertime? I am trying to finish major expansion/revisions before S.A.M. gets back from Italy (again!! In Italy without me AGAIN!!!) while prepping thoughts and notes for our blogger's panel at SCBWI the first weekend of next month, while also spending time with family, writing groups, and getting decent amounts of sleep and exercise. It's not really working to do all of the above at once, even though they seem to be reasonably simple things. It has something to do with sunshine and maybe chlorophyll, but I suddenly just don't have the bandwidth to wrap my brain around everything that's going on.

This is my wordy excuse for being slow on the uptake on any number of things, one of which is the latest Bookslut in Training, which is Bookslut's celebration of creative young adult types. Don't miss the cool 1000 Journals Project, and Colleen's foray into escapist fiction next month. By then, my to-be-read stack may have fallen over and killed me, but I look forward to it anyway... Also, be sure to drop in at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. They have an awesome review of Before I Die, which is also going to be added to my TBR, as soon as it comes out in the fall. It sounds really interesting, and I can't wait to read it with Crutcher's Deadline, also out this fall. Whoo hoo!

The 7 Imps interview Nancy from Journey Woman who is doing a very cool contest through July. Do check it out!

Via Not Your Mother's Book Club, the Spiderwick Chronicles movie trailer!! Okay, we can MAYBE get a little squealish about this movie - somehow it looks like it's a little harder to utterly ruin this series. Maybe. (Nickelodeon Movies, we're counting on you!) Release date is February 15 - definitely a better Valentine's gift than bad chocolate! (& YES. There IS a such thing! Trust me.) Especially creepy and atmospheric - the wind and leaves and the hoarse whisper, "Give ...me... the book..." Moving directly to the TOP of my To Be Read Before February list: finishing the Spiderwicks. I ADORE the work of Holly Black, and I will count this as a treat!!

I did mention that the Australian YA writing site, Inside A Dog is being hosted this month by the Peeps and Magic or Madness duo... and today, they're talking about revisions. Check this out from Scott Westerfeld:
"My definition for a first draft is the first thing I show to another human being-editor, friend, or wife. And under that definition, my first drafts are usually in pretty decent shape. Here’s why:

I write about a thousand new words a day. But I start each day by reviewing the previous three days’ work.

This has two effects. One, it means that I ease into my writing day, editing and rewriting those 3,000 old words before facing the deadly blank page. By the time I finish that I’ve got a head of steam up, I remember what’s going on in the story, and writing new words doesn’t seem impossible, like it did right after coffee.

It’s like getting a running start."
Revise. And revise again. And then revise three more times after that: it makes good stuff better. Please note that this man writes ZERO drafts, so his actual first drafts - they're a bit more ...evolved than what you might expect. He goes through FOUR before the first draft. I'm pretty sure that involves negative numbers and other things I slept through in Algebra.

Speaking of which? Back to MY revision... (sigh).

July 08, 2007

PW Rocks My Inbox on a Sunday Afternoon...

A few interesting news links from Publishers Weekly arrived today via the SCBWI e-newsletter. Firstly, an interesting article profiles 3 new YA authors with recent debut novels, including Elizabeth Zindel, the daughter of Paul Zindel--she is following in his footsteps with her first novel, Girl of the Moment, and is already working on a second.

Also, some news about the ever-expanding graphic novel market, which is good news for aspiring graphic novelists (I'm not sure I'd quite put myself in that category--maybe I'd call myself a potential aspiring graphic novelist, depending on the project in question!). Anyway, Lerner's Graphic Universe line of educational comics is expanding into the trade publishing market, publishing their educational titles as trade paperbacks and expanding into interesting-sounding areas such as "Twisted Journeys, 112-page, full-color comics works of fiction in historical settings that allow the reader to 'control the action' by picking among multiple outcomes for each story." Graphic Universe's Hercules and King Arthur were both Cybils graphic novel nominees.

Simon & Schuster is also adding graphic novels throughout its children's imprints, with a book called Chiggers from Cybils nominee Hope Larson as one of the debut titles in the program. I'll be very interested to see how the comics medium develops as it becomes more mainstream with publishers. I'm happy, but I also hope that something intangible isn't lost in the process...I guess that's sort of a remnant of the "art for art's sake" philosophy that I've retained from my fine art training, and though I don't really have an issue with the idea of "selling out," I do worry about commercialization. Hopefully it'll just be a positive thing, with an increase in attention and funding resulting in growth in the industry.

July 06, 2007

Poetry Friday: Fireflies

The Poetry Friday round-up (Whoo hoo! Look at me, participating two weeks in a row!!) is at The Farm School, and has one of my favorite Nash poems, The Firefly.

It's funny -- just last night an East Coast transplanted friend emailed from her summer school at Princeton to shriek that she had seen fireflies. (If you're from California, that's a big deal.) I imagine the first people to come to the U.S. must have also thought that fireflies were amazing, a good omen on strange shores. It's a firefly kind of week, with things flickering just on the edge of possibility, like heat mirages, shimmering, just out of sight...

"Are There Not Still Fireflies"

Are there not still fireflies
Are there not still four-leaf clovers
Is not our land still beautiful
Our fields not full of armed enemies
Our cities never bombed to oblivion
Never occupied by iron armies
speaking iron tongues
Are not our warriors still valiant
ready to defend us
Are not our senators still wearing fine togas
Are we not still a great people
Is this not still a free country
Are not our fields still ours
our gardens still full of flowers
our ships with full cargoes

Why then do some still fear
the barbarians are coming
coming coming
in their huddled masses
(What is that sound that fills the ear
drumming drumming?)

Is not Rome still Rome
Is not Los Angeles still Los Angeles
Are these really the last days of the Roman Empire

Is not beauty still beauty
And truth still truth
Are there not still poets
Are there not still lovers
Are there not still mothers
sisters and brothers
Is there not still a full moon
once a month

Are there not still fireflies
Are there not still stars at night
Can we not still see them
in bowl of night
signalling to us
our so-called manifest destinies?

- LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, delivered November 16, 2005 at the National Book Award on receiving the Literarian Award for outstanding service to the literary community.
Hear the streaming audio or watch the video here.

July 05, 2007

Toon Thursday: Vacation's Over, People

Yup. Gotta get back to revision. I really want to finish my revised draft. Unfortunately, life has been intervening lately with parental visits, preparatory house cleaning, and a new freelance job. But I'm determined to finish it, and SOON. I only have about five chapters to go (and then another re-read to tighten up a few more details). I keep finding myself thinking about new details to add, too, and wondering when to call it quits, what would be overkill, etc. Sigh.


So much for being catapulted, sizzling, into a new month.
Could people stop with the (allegedly illegal) neighborhood pyrotechnics at some point?
My niece has to go to summer school today. Let us all take a moment to play the tiny violin of sympathy for 7 a.m. Biology after cherry bombs were still whistling and thudding at 2 a.m. Ugh. I might actually drink caffeine today.

Yesterday was interesting in terms of holiday writing on "tradition;" a piece in our local paper about housekeeping, and the idea that it is no longer hip for younger women to be house-proud aligned strangely with another I read, via Bookshelves O' Doom, in the Guardian about 'Girl Wonders', and the subversive charm of the heroine, she who lived outside the circle of the 'normal' and did her own thing. The article points out the tendency of young women to pattern their lives after their fictional heroines. But if my choices were limited between Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew... well, that's not enough of a choice! It makes me wonder who today's YA girls will be, with the likes of Kaye from Tithe, Flora Segunda, Hermione, Tiffany Aching, Miranda from Life As We Knew It, D.J. Schwenk, Maud from A Drowned Maiden's Hair, Reason Cansino and myriad others from which to choose.

I love going to Book Moot to look at the Potter countdown, despite the fact that I basically lost... faith with the Potter thing around Book 4, and it was cemented in Book 5 -- nevertheless, I will probably see the movie, and read the next book. Eventually. (That 'eventually' means I'll spend months trying to dodge spoilers, but oh well. My TBR list is simply too staggeringly long to bump up a new book just because it just came out. I think. If I hear lots of oohing, I may reconsider...). Our paper had an interesting article on the upcoming movie and the actors involved -- and the fact that the three principal characters have buckets of money and have not yet done much with it. A computer? An ice cream truck? It's just such a change from many young American actors.

The Readergirlz are reading Goy Crazy this month. Though the topic is serious - interracial dating -- the novel itself is a perfect summer confection -- light and sweet and really fun.

Is it me, or is this latest lamentation about the Sopranos killing off novels just another annoying "[Insert New And Feared Technological Thing Here] will destroy books forever!" song? I'm quite sure that iPhones represent the decline and fall of civilization, yes, yes, they will create a world in which everyone will be on their multitasker phones at all times, and no one will read the next book that isn't Harry Potter. Whatever. It really aggravates me to hear the questions recirculate -- it first was a Big Concern that I noticed back in 2004 -- based on statistics provided by book people who merely observe. Their observations seem to be routinely skewed into the panic that there are too many books, too many book prizes, too many "stickers" on books, not enough readers, and altogether not enough else to worry about.

I guess as a writer I ought to be worried about this -- certainly when people find out I write (am not yet brazen enough to say "I am a..." when asked), they most often want to commiserate with me on the demise of the reader or the written word. What does one say to that? No, really. What do you say when people talk about how reading, books, literature, etc., are crossing to Gehenna with the ferryman? I need a few conversational... segues. Or else more social skill...

July 04, 2007

Fabulous Fourth

After a day of food and family and freedom, we've been lit up and flung into a new month with our fuses... um... lit.

(And therein ends my weak fireworks analogy.)

Hope your day was absolutely fabulous, whether it was seeking out crowds or avoiding them altogether. Other enjoyment on offer during the month of July: via Original Content, the intrepid team of Westerfeld & Larbalestier take over at Inside A Dog for this month -- beginning later this week! Enjoy the adorable animation from Book Moot and the boy with that awesome purple crayon. Also, A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy is in living, dulcet sound -- podcasting about the ALA Conference! If you weren't alraedy jealous that you weren't there, now she can rub it in even further!

Oh -- and if you're wondering what that explosion of glitter was all about... well, it's not exactly fireworks. I'm pretty sure it's just MotherReader dusting pixie poop off of her hands.

July 03, 2007

A Few Tuesday Tidbits

This one's for TadMack and her Most Egregious Misuses--I like to call it Most Egregious Use, because, although correct, it just doesn't sound right. Spied on a packet of chocolate McVitie's Digestive Biscuits: "Eat Healthily." Urrrgghhh.

Along with Kelly H., Little Willow, and Gina, we've been busily planning our panel discussion for the upcoming SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, and just to give you a teaser, it's going to be goooooood....Here are a few of the goodies you can look forward to:

  • Free stuff! Yay!

  • Edible yummies! Mmmm!

  • Incredibly useful handouts! Woo!

  • Cool multimedia presentation! Oooh!

  • Screenshots galore showing off our favorite blogs and blogosphere events! Whee!

  • And, last but not least, a fabulous prize or two!

Who can resist all that? Not me. Of course, I was going to be there anyway, so...if any of you bloggers out there are planning to be at the conference, let's meet up for drinks! I'm planning to be at the poolside thingy and I'd rather not hang around drinking my Corona by myself like the last time I went in 2005 (wearing a hideous Hawaiian-print dress, looking like an underage drinker, having a random brief inconsequential conversation with Bruce Hale), so let's put together a blogger contingent! And don't forget our panel--"Having Their Say: Blogging About Children's Literature" is on Friday morning.

July 02, 2007

WCOB - Wicked Cool Overlooked Books

Though this isn't a "review" per se, I wanted you to know our blog is participating in W.C.O.B., which is a shout out to books we readers have found that we haven't heard many other people talking about. We talk about these books the first Monday of every month.

This month I talk fantasy at our blog, and check out Chasing Ray, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Shaken & Stirred, Little Willow's Slayground for more booklists and bookish praise.

Cheers, and happy July!

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: The Magician's Apprentice(s)

It's time for another episode of Wicked Cool Overlooked Books, brought to you by the genius that is Colleen of Chasing Ray.

W.C.O.B. takes place the first Monday of the month, and normally I don't participate because... well, I'm not sure I know from "wicked cool," really, but "overlooked," I discover all the time, so I thought I'd give it a go this month.

It's super easy to overlook good fantasy, because the genre is notoriously... prolific. Tor is the unheralded king of flooding the market with what can only be described at times as the veriest pulp fiction -- and because of this largess, people occasionally assume that all fantasy novels are poorly scripted, badly written, over-dramatic and filled with stock characters: shining white mind-speaking horses, blue eyed ingénues, lusty heroes, evil warlocks and vague, dusty wizards. While there are legions of damsels-in-distress and riding to the rescue types of novels that are enjoyably escapist, not all of them present female characters as entirely lacking. For instance, Lawrence Watt Evans' Ithanalin's Restoration, one in a series of novels set in Ethshar, is the story of 17-year-old Kilisha, a wizard's apprentice who is bored out of her mind. The wizard Ithanalin is horribly slow to teach her anything of any use, and Kilisha wonders if she hasn't made a mistake in apprenticing herself to him with his grubby robes, his wife and kids and his safe, sleepy pace. Everything changes, however, when the wizard makes a minor mistake in an animation spell that has major repercussions. Ithanalin's body is frozen in stasis, and his spirit flees... into a few inanimate household objects, Kilisha discovers later. Suddenly she's in charge of fixing... everything. The wizard's wife, Yana, and their three children are counting on her.

Funny, frothy, and a little screwball, this is a simple story that encompasses one person's growth and fast-forward growing up in a charming style. Evans' treatment of his female characters is always positive - even as he shows their attitudes for what they are. His work is always fun for me to read.

(And, if you read the novel and account for all of the... furniture in it, the title begins to make a horrible kind of sense: Ethan Allen's restoration. And then you groan and realize what an awful and twisted mind the author has! Argh!)

My second W.C.O.B. is the second-to-last solo book that fantasy powerhouse Andre Norton published before she died. (The one second book in this duet was co-authored.) Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty's stories all seem to collide and combine into an intriguing blend in Scent of Magic.

Willadene is a talented orphan whose life at her Aunt Jacoba's Wanderers Inn is a misery. She is ill-treated as a scullery maid, her skill at aromatics is offended (as the kitchen -- and the Inn -- reek), and not only that, her Aunt has decided to marry her off against her will to someone foul. Willadene finds the way to escape through apprenticing herself to Halwice, the herbmistress of Kronengred, after Willadene's keen sense of smell saves the woman from a magical trap - but Halwice's sponsorship also puts Willadene into the path of political intrigue and another kind of danger.

Like Ithanalin's Restoration, this story slides comfortably into the known, with a Ducal Court, evil aunts, worldly spies, a dashing prince and an innocent princess, but it also has that touch of Norton's genius with enigma, including the character of Ssssaaa, who knows... everything somehow.

Every once in awhile it's a lot of fun to go back and rediscover some of the fantasy classics. If you've never heard of either of these two, I wish you joy of them, a tall glass of something cool, and a suitably soft hammock. Cheers!