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1. COVER STORIES: "Amity!"

Hi readergirlz!

I'm super thrilled to be celebrating the release of my 12th (!) original novel, Amity, a haunted house story told in two separate perspectives, ten years apart. Diva Melissa was gracious enough to offer up a Cover Story slot to me, so here we go! 

1.              Did you have an idea in mind for your cover as you were proposing/writing the book? If so, what did it look like?

I think we all always knew Amity was going to have an image of a haunted house on the cover. It’s iconic and classic for a reason, right? We may have tossed around the idea of focusing in on one aspect of a house – a window, a door – or even doing something more modern and all type, but I don’t think any of those concepts were seriously on the table.

2.              Did your publisher ask for your input on the cover design before the art dept started working? If so, what input did you give?

My editor at the time showed me an early mock-up with the image they were planning to use. But at the time, she did make it clear that everyone in-house was very enthusiastic about the image, which, as I know from my own days on the editorial side of the desk, is pretty crucial and not to be ignored.

3.              What did you think the first time you saw the original version of your cover?

I liked the general idea and I really liked that Egmont was truly capturing that straightforward, “HORROR novel,” genre vibe. My main concern was only that the house itself looked nothing like the building that’s described in the book, or the original “Amityville” house. Specifically the half-moon windows are mentioned a whole bunch in the book, and are familiar to anyone who knows anything about the original Amityville crime. But I can appreciate that a strong cover can often outweigh the value of a literal cover. We talked a bit about how the house in the mock-up looked small and not quite menacing enough, and my editor assured me it would be tweaked.

And it was! And it’s amazing and perfect!

As you can see, the final cover is the same original image. But with the color adjusted, a new font, and lots of creepy blood dripped, the terror factor is amped way, way up. I could seriously marry this new final cover, and I’ve been thrilled with readers’ reactions to it! The general consensus seems to be that it’s insanely scary. Which to me translates to: mission accomplished!

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2. Watch for It: Egg & Spoon

When a Gregory Maguire book releases, how can you not stop everything and read it? You must for Egg & Spoon. Think of a female, The Prince and the Pauper, intertwined with a fiercely endearing Baba Yaga, searching to save a Firebird and mother Russia, while controlling an ice dragon for the world's survival. By the author of Wicked. Enough said, right?

Here is an epic story for middle-grade, young adults, and adults, and it will be beloved. For the first time, I fell in love with a house with chicken legs.

Within the 475 pages, you'll find language as rich as Saint Petersburg. It is the only point which will give you pause as you relish Maguire's word choice and imagery. Truth beats at the heart of the fairy tale, dabbled with modern references due to Baba Yaga's timelessness. I leave you with Baba speaking to her resident cat.

Baba Yaga snorted. "I look like a woman of a certain age."
"You are," said Mewster.
"Oh, no," said the witch. "I am a woman of every age."

Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Macquire
Candlewick Press, 9/14

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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3. Watch for It: A Blind Spot for Boys

Just back from the ALA Annual Conference where I went on the hunt for co-founder Justina Chen's new ARC. They were completely gone from the Little Brown booth the same day they were displayed. So watch for this one. I happen to know it's quite the hot adventure full of truths that will leave you thinking and inspired!

Here's the description:

Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who's right in front of her?
Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it's time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.
Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don't just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana's interest. Right as she's about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously... Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.

A Blind Spot for Boys
by Justina Chen
Little Brown, August 12, 2014

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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4. Cover Stories: Coin Heist by Elisa Ludwig

Elisa Ludwig's Coin Heist is out this month, and we had to ask her about that cover! Here she is to share the story:

"I felt very very lucky to be part of the early cover design discussion. We shared some of our favorite covers for books out now, as well as some movie posters and went back and forth. My main input was that I wanted the cover to feel contemporary and fresh, to capture the fun and exciting pace of the story, and to appeal to boys and girls equally. No small feat!

"I got to see four rounds of comps, and it was fascinating to watch the ideas and inspirations evolve. I made some comments and suggestions along the way, but I also acknowledged that even though I have lots of opinions, I'm in the word business and not the image business, so I fully trusted the experts involved to come up with a great solution.

"I saw many 'original' images with different initial concepts. While they all shared a certain minimalist sensibility, some emphasized coins rather than human figures, others a 'plan notebook,' and still others had a tiled floor that represented the Mint at night. It's truly amazing how a seemingly simple design can communicate the plot, the mood, the characters and even the imagined reader of a book.

"When I first saw the final cover, I loved it right away. I'm a sucker for vintage graphics, and I thought the white font, bold green and stark silhouettes really evoked classic mystery/heist book covers while the background suggests the more tech-y, modern element of this particular plan. At the same time the details on the figures are emblematic of the characters in a way that won't limit the reader's imagination. My biggest takeaway: I'm in awe of designers! The silhouettes are an original illustration by Tahnee Gehm.

"I've already gotten a ton of positive feedback (from, it should be noted, both guys and girls). So yeah, I'd say it hit the mark."

Thanks, Elisa! Watch the trailer here!

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5. Watch for It: Jerk California, Mayday, and Aquifer

Hey rgz!

I recently toured with Jonathan Friesen and wanted to introduce you to his writing if you haven't found it yet. His body of work is impressive with Jerk California a recipient of the Schneider Award. I just started it!

Here he is talking about his mysterious, dystopian novel, Aquifer, released from Blink.

Mayday recently released, featuring a female protagonist. Isn't the cover totally evocative?

So there you go, rgz. Check out Jonathan's work. You won't be disappointed! Oh, and if you are going to ALA Annual, we'll be signing at the Blink Booth. We'd love to see you so stop by!

Jerk California
by Jonathan Friesen

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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6. Watch for It: Remnants, Season of Wonder

Just finished Remnants: Season of Wonder by Lisa Bergren and wanted to give rgz a heads up to watch for it. Talk about a fierce female protagonist. Andriana, a gifted Remnant, teamed with her Knight, Ronan, join the elite teen group of Ailith who are charged to heal the world. Set in the future, following the The Great War, the small band goes questing for their rightful leader.

Even as an empath, Andriana doesn't hold back from fighting her own battles. The conflicts are physical, intense, and realistic. The reader has to wonder if Bergren is a kick boxer herself.

Quick quotes that held great meaning to me:

"The road became more a series of unified elements, a path that led us forward rather than a barrage of threatening blocks."

"Every time I give in to concern about tomorrow, even my next hour, I rob this hour, this day of strength, peace."

One note: Andriana visits a society practicing gendercide. Bergren gives the fullest ramifications of the practice. What a complimentary work to my own Firstborn. Want to know more and reach out? Check out It's a Girl movie on Netflix, Instant View.

Can't wait for Remnants: Season of Fire, Jan. 15, 2015!

Remnants: Season of Wonder
by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Blink, 2014

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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7. Now & Forever Book Trailer!

Love this trailer? Enter to win a signed copy of the Now and Forever, out today!

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8. Cover Stories & Giveaway With Susane Colasanti!

Susane Colasanti's latest novel (out next week!) has a great Cover Story. Here's a peek at it:

"The hottest thing about the cover of Now and Forever might be that the models are a couple in real life.

"Or maybe it’s how the background image totally captures the excitement of a concert. And not just any concert. Now and Forever is about a girl whose boyfriend, Ethan Cross, is the world’s biggest rock star. So of course we had to do some kind of concert venue type design. I couldn’t wait to see which direction the art department would take.

"My contract says that I’m allowed cover consultation. When my editor sent me the first draft of the cover for feedback, something very obvious was missing in the audience..."

Read the full Cover Story at melissacwalker.com, and US residents can enter to win a signed copy of the book below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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9. rgz Newsflash: Salt Lake City and Tempe, rgz!

Hey rgz in Salt Lake City and Tempe, AZ!

I'm coming to town! I'd love to meet you and give you a rgz button. Do you have the time free?


Memphis is cancelled with the hope to make a stop in the future, and the authors I'm traveling with are: Jill Williamson, Jonathan Freisen, and Lisa T. Bergren.

Hope to see you! Read, reflect, and reach out!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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10. Rock the Drop Recap (third time's the charm)!

We just keep finding these amazing snippets from folks who rocked along with us on April 17th, and we have to share!

A "found" tweet - we love these!
maggz (@nogginquest)

@JenniferBrownYA @MCPLMO @readergirlz Thank you Jennifer Brown! We had a very excited Patron find your gift. It was a joy to see her joy.

This email about a group effort from a team of debut authors: 


My 2015 YA debut author group, The Freshman Fifteens, had a blast participating in your even yesterday. We have a blog post about where we left our books, country wide.

Thanks for creating this initiative!

Lori Goldstein

Here's a great video of a true readergirl dropping over 30 books in her hometown! Love it!

Thanks, everyone, for rocking out with us! We love all of the enthusiam and the updates!

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11. Rock the Drop: Recap #2

Thanks to the many authors who Rocked the Drop on Thursday! Crissa Chappell filmed this very cool drop video in Brooklyn!

And Conrad Wesselhoeft send in these pics after he dropped off a couple of books at a school and at a "Little Free Library." 

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12. Rock the Drop: Recap #1

We cannot express how grateful we are about the amount YA love that you showed today! Here are just a few screen grabs of tweeted photos. More recap to come! If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at readergirlz AT gmail and we'll post it here. THANK YOU FOR ROCKING THE DROP!

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13. Rock the Drop TODAY!


Support Teen Literature Day and Operation Teen Book Drop are underway! Sending our love to YALSA, YA authors, the publishing industry, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and rgz around the world. Special thanks to our 2014, sponsors, iheartdaily and Justine Magazine!

Here's the drill:
1. Find a YA book to donate.
2. Print the bookplate below and paste it in your book.
3. Leave the book in a public place to be found.
4. Snap a pic or post a message about how you Rocked the Drop on our facebook or twitter. #rockthedrop

Keep up the celebration by checking out these 7 philanthropies. It is rgz' 7 year anniversary after all!
The Operation Teen Book Drop party is on, so join in! Get out there and rock the world with YA lit!
~the readergirlz divas

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14. Operation Teen Book Drop, 2014, Philanthropies

As we get ready to Rock the Drop on Thursday, the 17th, here's a list of seven philanthropies you might look into. Get your book ready to drop with a bookplate and think how else you might contribute to Support Teen Literature Day!

Operation Teen Book Drop, 2014 – Seven Literary Philanthropies We Love

1. Girls Write Now
Founded in 1998, Girls Write Now is the first organization in the country with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. Girls Write Now provides guidance, support, and opportunities for at-risk and underserved girls from New York City’s public high schools to develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy school, career and life choices.

2. First Book
A recognized leader in social enterprise, First Book has pioneered groundbreaking channels to provide new books and educational resources at deeply reduced prices — and for free — to schools and programs serving children in need.

3. 826 National
826 National is a nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers. Its mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

4. The Lisa Libraries
The Lisa Libraries donates new children's books and small libraries to organizations that work with kids in poor and under-served areas. It was started by author Ann M. Martin and friends to honor and memorialize children's book editor Lisa Novak. Since its founding in 1990, the Lisa Libraries has contributed over 300,000 books to nonprofit organizations across the country.

5. Room to Read
Room to Read works in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond.

6. Reading is Fundamental
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. It prepares and motivates children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources to those children and families who need them most. RIF inspires children to be lifelong readers through the power of choice.

7. World Literacy Foundation
The World Literacy Foundation is an independent not-for-profit charitable body, founded in Australia in 2003 that acknowledges education as a basic human right, and believes that literacy unlocks the door to a life of learning.

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15. rgz Newsflash: Get Ready to Rock the Drop, April 17th, 2014

It's coming! Support Teen Literature Day is Thursday, April 17th, 2014! So we all need to get ready for Operation Teen Book Drop. Above is the banner celebrating the day and our fabulous sponsors: iheartdaily and Justine Magazine. Feel free to grab and share it!

Below is the bookplate for you to print and glue into the young adult book you choose to drop in a public gathering place to Rock the Drop on April 17th. Follow us on facebook and twitter and plan to post a pic. #rockthedrop

To continue the celebration of our 7 year anniversary, we thought to recommend 7 philanthropies you might support as well this season. Watch for a full write-up soon!
In the meantime, readergirlz, let's get ready to Rock the Drop!
LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz  

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16. 7 Things You Don't Know About Little Willow

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this month's blog series! I had a lot of fun gathering candid and heartfelt responses from authors. Lorie Ann asked me to post my own list, so here goes nothing:

7 Things You Don't Know About Me
1) I've been writing stories and songs since birth, practically.

2) I am capable of charming squirrels out of trees.
3) There is no television show I have loved more completely from start to finish than Leverage.
4) I love word play.
5) Synchronicity and causality are recurring themes in my life.
6) Chances are, I'm shorter than you.
7) I project. In more ways than one. 

So there you have it! I hope March has been lovely for all of you. Don't forget to mark your calendars for Operation Teen Book Drop 2014, which will be happening in just a few weeks on April 17th. Stay tuned to the readergirlz blog, Facebook, and Twitter to learn how you can participate and #rockthedrop!

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17. What's new with Holly Cupala

Hello, dear readergirlz, and Happy Anniversary! It's pretty exciting to see the fruition of all of the ideas and hard work of the co-founders--Justina Chen, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Lorie Ann Grover--and all of the helpers along the way! I'm honored to have been a part of it.

What's new with me? After readergirlz featured TELL ME A SECRET, my second YA novel, DON'T BREATHE A WORD, came out in January 2012 from HarperCollins. Since then, I've been working hard on a third YA (in the home stretch, hopefully!) with secrets...still so many secret stories to tell!

There have been big changes for me personally, too--family up by one, a crazy move to the country, wild forages for ideas and edibles, lots of DIY projects, and...three? four?...novels brewing.

I'm inspired by all of you, readergirlz! Keep up the wonderful work.


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18. Cover Stories: The Black Butterfly

Shirley Reva Vernick's latest novel, The Black Butterfly, is her third for young adults, following the award-winning The Blood Lie and Remember Dippy. She's here today to share her Cover Story!

"Designing the cover for The Black Butterfly spanned several months and numerous drafts, and I think the effort really paid off. This is my third novel with Cinco Puntos Press, and while I immediately liked the initial designs for the first two books, I wasn’t crazy about the early renditions of The Black Butterfly cover. I didn’t have a specific image in mind of what I wanted, but I knew it needed to evoke a sense of eeriness and otherworldliness.

"This novel is about ghosts, haunted mansions and strange dreams, after all. The original cover versions didn’t capture that, in my opinion. The early designs were all variations of the cover on the right.

"The designer was thinking that the hands resembled a butterfly. One of the thumbs is supposed to be see-through, like a ghost. But it just didn’t work for me. The typeface of the title is meant to look like a teen’s handwriting, since Penny, the main character, is something of a writer. But I felt the typeface didn’t match the mood of the story inside.

"Then the designer suddenly 'got' it. Out went the photos of hands, and in came an illustration of…something wonderful. Something dangerous, ambiguous and compelling. Part butterfly, part phantom, part human, part mystical. I love how the dripping streaks of color could be either tears or blood—or both.

"I consider this cover to be a true collaboration among the publisher, the designer and me. While I’m not the most visually oriented person (which is how I ended up with a green house when I thought I was picking out grey paint), I do appreciate being included and heard.

"In closing, I should mention that the designer gave birth a few days after coming up with the new prototype, and she jumped into the tweaking stage just three weeks after the delivery. Talk about girl power!"

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19. 7 Things You Don't Know About Kirby Larson

We kicked off 2008 reading HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson. 

In 2013, the sequel, HATTIE EVER AFTER, was released.

Now, in 2014, Kirby's sharing her list of...

7 Things You Don't Know About Me
1.     I have no willpower when it comes to red licorice (not Twizzlers) or Hot Tamales.
2.     By October, I will have visited 43 of the 50 states, plus the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.
3.     Even though my dad's commanding officer offered to pay my mom $25 to name me something else (he was pulling for Lenore), my real name is Kirby.
4.     My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Steve Craig, made such a huge impact on my life that he and I are still in contact and good friends after all these years.
5.     Gym classes were not co-ed when I was in middle school and I managed to fail boys' PE.
6.     As a mom, I’m probably an 8, but as a grandma, I’m a 10+.
7.     My best book is that one that I've yet to write.

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20. 7 Things You Don't Know About Janet Lee Carey

With love from author and rgz co-founder Janet Lee Carey:

Happy 7th Anniversary, readergirlz!

It was an amazing privilege launching readergirlz with the dream-genius Justina Chen, the inter-dimensionally talented Lorie Ann Grover, and the multi-magical Dia Calhoun back in 2007. The founding divas hit the road in the inaugural year visiting schools and conferences, and created a unique convergent social media home reader/author connection. More talent joined the dynamic readergirlz team after the writer's siren call drew me away 2008. 

7 Things You Don’t Know About Me
1. I lived in Sweden for a year when I was four and learned to ice-skate on the Baltic Sea.
2. Spiders terrify me. I used to make my brothers suck them up with the vacuum cleaner – this made me fear vacuuming. What if the spiders crawled back out to take revenge?
3. I’m often writing in my head even while I’m shopping. This leads to small disasters like discovering I started loading someone else’s cart when I’m halfway through the store.
4. One of my books, Wenny Has Wings, became a feature film in Japan in 2008.
5. I dream of being a mermaid.
6. I try to climb a tree on my birthday each year and remember all the important things in my life starting with my first memory.
7. My cat is a dragon in disguise.

Keep updated on my books and exploits at my website or on Facebook or Goodreads.

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21. What's New with Nikki Grimes

We featured Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes in our February 2008 issue. The book, which won the Coretta Scott King Award, shared the poetry and voices of eighteen different students.

Since her spotlight at readergirlz, Nikki has released a multitude of books, including:
A picture book biography: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
More novels-in-verse: A Girl Named Mister, Planet Middle School, Words With Wings
A quartet of chapter books: Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, Rich, Almost Zero, Halfway to Perfect
Forays into visual art: 6 exhibits, several sales, one 2nd Place Ribbon
A limited edition title: Journey: Poems for the Pulpit
...and she tells us there's more on the way! Congrats, Nikki!

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22. 7 Things You Don't Know About Ellen Emerson White

In November 2008, we selected Ellen Emerson White's novel Long May She Reign to represent that month's theme, Persistence.  If you love thoughtful stories you can really sink your teeth into and you have yet to read Ellen's series of books about Meg Powers, the daughter of the President of the United States, immediately proceed to your local library or bookstore and pick them up! Make sure to read them in order:

- The President's Daughter
- White House Autumn
- Long Live the Queen
- Long May She Reign 

While you're preparing to read (or re-read) those 4 books, here are 7 personal factoids that Ellen shared with us, to share with you: 

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White1)  I can play the saxophone.  Prefer tenor to alto.
2)  I used to work in a factory making computers and burglar alarms, and am surprisingly good with complicated tools and machinery
3)  Can't stand seafood in any form, to the point of not even really liking those goldfish crackers
4)  I waste much too much time mired in writers' block and deep uncertainty
5)  I secretly love almost all of Shelley Long's movies
6)  I think Dispatches and The Things They Carried are possibly the two best books to come out of the Vietnam War
7)  I meant to be a lawyer and work in the Manhattan DA's office, but I guess I forgot, somewhere along the way.

Bonus: readergirlz roundtable: Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White

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23. 7 Things You Don't Know About Sarah Miller

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller was our book pick for December 2007. Based on the real life of Annie Sullivan, Sarah Miller's debut novel received critical acclaim and lots of enthusiastic support from the readergirlz.

Now, a little over 7 years later, here are 7 fun facts Sarah shared with us about herself:
7 Things You Don't Know About Me

My favorite Yoga pose is dragon.

I can knit socks and crochet shawls.

I've visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's grave and slept in Lizzie Borden's bedroom.

True Grit (the one with Hailee Steinfeld) is my new favorite movie. Would you like me to recite the first ten minutes for you?

I shook hands with Rosa Parks.

I'm still afraid of the dark. (But I don't sleep with a nightlight anymore.)

The Kennedy assassination is quite possibly my next historical fascination.

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24. 7 Things You Don't Know About Micol Ostow


7 Things You Don't Know about readergirlz diva Micol Ostow
1. I've been an avid horror reader my whole life, but it took 30 books under my belt (including ghostwriting gigs) before I was ready to try a scary story of my own. That book, Amity, releases this August! (Pre-order your copy now!)

2. I have a French Bulldog named Bridget Jones -- after the book, not the movie! You'd be surprised how many people totally forget that the book came first! Grr.

3. I can sing along to all of the songs from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. By heart. No judgements, thanks.

4. I got my start in kidlit writing as an editor. The very first book I edited on my own was celebrity bio of Jim Carrey.

5. I recently sold a chapter book series called LOUISE TRAPEZE to Random House. The only thing more terrifying than writing horror will be trying to conquer the 5-7 year-old market!

6. The house I live in in Brooklyn is over 100 years old and thus the floors are all slanted. My daughter will grow up with no true concept of physics or gravity.

7. I ran the NYC marathon in 2003 (26.2 miles). These days, a typical run for me is 3 miles or so. And when I'm not running, I am the most sedentary creature around. Just one of the reasons I love reading so much!

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25. Diva Delights: Seattle HOST Stephanie Guerra on DARKROOM

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White (The University of Alabama Press, 2012) by Lila Quintero Weaver is one of the most moving and visually stunning graphic texts I’ve seen, on par with American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. In this memoir, Lila tells the story of her family’s immigration from Argentina to the tense, roiling South of the 1960’s. She traces her experience, beginning in girlhood, as a non-white, non-black witness of some of the painful battles of the Civil Rights movement; as a new American struggling with questions of American identity and belonging; and as a young woman perceiving deep racism for the first time.

This is an ambitious work, and it delivers on its potential. I was moved to tears multiple times as I read. Through Lila’s pencil drawings, I connected with the history of the United States and the struggle for racial equality in a new and visceral way. Undergirding the drama of the setting and period were the interweaving and conflicting mores of Argentinian and American cultural life. This memoir gave me the gift of “seeing” a vital piece of our history through another’s eyes, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Lila graciously agreed to an interview, so I’ll share her answers to some questions the book raised for me:

1. Can you tell us about the different kinds of work art and text do to tell a story in a graphic novel and your process in developing their interplay?  
I'm not the first to say it: The graphic-novel format is akin to cinema, with graphic memoir and other nonfictional treatments functioning somewhat like documentary film, wherein you get the benefit of voice-over, dialogue and visuals. Sometimes a silent scene can be quite powerful. It takes discipline to leave it untouched by words. But sometimes you need narration to segue from one scene to the next, or to explain a complex situation, enhanced through visuals. I love this interplay. Working with images increases the layers that one can offer, such as making visual puns or enriching a scene's background with details that invite the eye to linger. In Darkroom, my goals were to relate my family's immigration narrative as vividly as possible and along the way, to share some views on ethnic identity and racial conflict. It's such a boost to have illustration at my disposal for these goals. It broadens the palette. I can include a diagram or a visual analogy. I can employ ink renderings of family photos to bring faces and family history to life. 

Did you start with text and add art or the reverse? Or did you create both simultaneously?
My first draft was text-only. I needed to shake out ideas as quickly as possible and get a sense of what material belonged and didn't belong. The next two drafts included sketches and page layouts. As I got into the final version, new ideas sometimes emerged as visuals and I added whatever text they required. Back and forth like that it went through four years of work and the execution of 500+ illustrations. Whew.

2. Considering the powerful and emotional content in your book, did you experience any particular challenges or doubts during the creative process? 
 Yes! Unless you're a celebrity, you begin by wondering why the heck anyone would want to read your memoir. You're inundated with doubts about finding universal themes in your ordinary life, and once you find those themes, you're anguished about stripping away the veneer of privacy that you've always counted on for self-protection. But a memoir without emotional exposure is cold and uninviting. You have to make peace with that essential nature and do the courageous thing. Otherwise, what a lost opportunity to touch the reader!

3. Your book feels to me like one of those marvelous crossover works that is equally appealing to teens and adults. Do you have an "ideal reader" or even "ideal audience" for your book?
Thank you! Crossover is a great word for how the book has been received. During the process I tried not to write for a particular demographic sector. I simply concentrated on telling the story in my voice, including the visual aspects that make up my communication style. After the book came out, I was surprised and thrilled when librarians and high school educators latched on to it as a YA fit. It's also found its way into college classrooms, which is another fantastic outcome I didn't foresee. And some of my readers come from the older generation, I’m delighted to say. Most of them have never picked up a graphic novel, but they're drawn to personal accounts of Jim Crow and desegregation, a historical era they experienced directly or read about as it developed. A few of these older readers have hopped on board with graphic novels and that couldn’t make me happier. 

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