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This week I’m excited about The Houston Writers Guild Annual Agents & Editors Conference 50 Shades Beyond Gray: Color Your Writing, Infuse Your Future. It’s going to be this Saturday in Sugar Land at the Marriott Town Center, and Nikki Loftin, the fabulous and energetic author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy and Nightingale’s Nest, will be giving the keynote speech. There may still be time to register!
I did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than carrot juice on a cupcake or a wasp on my pillow or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.
In LIKE CARROT JUICE ON A CUPCAKE,the third installment from author Julie Sternberg and illustrator Matthew Cordell (the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger) Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!
Brandon Mull will discuss and sign his newest novel for kids, SKY RAIDERS. Cole Randolph is just trying to have fun with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level.
After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them—and ends up in The Outskirts, five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It’s an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds. And once you come to the Outskirts, it’s very hard to leave.
Admission: In order to go through the signing line and meet Brandon Mull for book personalization, please purchase SKY RAIDERS from Blue Willow Bookshop.
John Boyne will discuss and sign his newest novel for children, STAY WHERE YOU ARE THEN LEAVE . The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight–but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret mission. Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by—a hospital treating soldiers with shell shock. Alfie isn’t sure what shell shock is, but he is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place. . . .
Admission: In order to go through the signing line and meet John Boyne for book personalization, please purchase STAY WHERE YOU ARE THEN LEAVE from Blue Willow Bookshop.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Missouri City Branch Librarywill present a Poetry Slam Competition in the Meeting Room of the library. Local high school and college-age students are invited to compete in the event by reading original works they have created themselves. Prizes will be awarded. The Poetry Slam is free and open to the public. For more information, call the branch library at 281-238-2100.
Today author S. Bergstrom talks to us about human trafficking–an inhumane practice that happens all too often–as well as his new book The Cruelty. Human trafficking is very close to what I went through myself as a child and teen through the cult, so it really affects me. No human should be treated this way. I’m very glad S. Bergstrom is speaking out, and helping people become more aware through his book. I’m glad to be part of his tour. I hope you are moved by his post, as I was.
Jasmine of Berlin
by S. Bergstrom, author of The Cruelty.
The girl wears her hair in schoolgirl braids tied with pink ribbon. An attempt, I suppose, to look even younger than her seventeen or eighteen years. Despite it being a brutally cold Berlin night in February 2012, she wears a very short skirt and I can see bruises the color of eggplant on her bare legs.
After scanning the bar for a few seconds, the girl takes a seat next to me. The bartender gives her a look and doesn’t bother asking if she wants anything to drink. She is, evidently, known here. Jasmine is how she introduces herself, and that’s what I call her for the remainder of the ten second conversation that follows. If possible, her German is more basic than mine, and filled with enough Russian vowels and rolled r’s that I have to assume she’s from one of the former Soviet Republics.
“Why you here alone?” she asks.
“Waiting on a friend,” I answer. “Why are you here alone, Jasmine?”
She looks at me in a way that means I’m impossibly stupid or impossibly cruel for making her say it out loud. “Sex for money,” she says. “Do you want? Very cheap.”
I tell her no and reiterate that I’m waiting for a friend. She gets up without another word and approaches two middle-aged business men drinking at the other end of the bar. No more than a minute passes before she leaves with one of them, the man’s arm around her waist.
This is not a remarkable story. I’m not even sure I mentioned to the friend who came in a few minutes later. To men especially, it’s all pretty familiar. Travel enough by yourself and approaches such as these happen too often to count. It happens not just in Europe, of course, but in North America, too. Miami. New York. Toronto. Topeka. But it’s precisely because it’s unremarkable and universal that it’s so tragic.
Jasmine—or Anna, or Olga, or Sveta, or whatever her real name is—did not end up in Berlin by accident. If you travel extensively in this part of the world, you know it’s not too far a logical leap to guess at the story that came before her arrival in Germany’s capital. Jasmine was, very likely—in fact, almost certainly—the victim of human trafficking.
Trafficking in human beings for both sex and labor happens everywhere, but it’s most obvious in places like Berlin where the impoverished East borders the relatively more prosperous West. Class distinctions there are sharp and it’s a mecca for immigrants, mainly from Turkey, but from former Soviet satellite states, too. It’s these latter countries—particularly the poorest of the poor, such as Moldova—that are the epicenters of human trafficking in Europe.
In such countries there is little industry or infrastructure. But what these places do have in abundance is young people on whom human traffickers prey by promising them lucrative, easy work abroad. It often begins with the offer of a waitressing gig in Dubai, or modeling job in Paris. Such connections are often made through brokers who advance sums of money to the young woman’s family. Sometimes it’s even a relative—an uncle or cousin abroad who’s made arrangements with his acquaintances there.
What happens next varies in specifics, but typically ends the same way. Upon arriving in a new country, the victim’s passport is confiscated and the true nature of the work she’ll be doing is finally disclosed. Leaving is impossible without her passport, and threats to quit are countered by threats to either her life, or the lives of her family back home. There is also the issue of spurious “debt,” which the victim has accrued both through the advance often paid to her family, and the purported costs of transport, lodging, and other “fees” such as bribes to officials for work visas which almost never materialize. This debt, along with the interest it accrues, is typically so inflated that there is no realistic way for the women to repay it.
Those brave enough to escape this life often find themselves victimized again by the legal system in their host country. While tremendous gains have been made in much of Europe in recognizing these women as victims rather than criminals, this is not the case in many Middle Eastern or Asian countries. Branded as criminals both for the work they performed and their lack of documentation, the victims of human trafficking often face prison sentences and further abuse at the hands of the police.
The idea of slavery is, today, almost universally repellent. But then, so is war. So is starvation. Yet these things go on anyway. Some time ago, when I approached a magazine to write an article about sex trafficking, the editor’s face contorted in visible disgust. “No one wants to read about that,” she said. I explained to her that according to the United Nations, there were more human beings enslaved in the 21st Century than there were at the height of the Atlantic slave trade. She only shrugged. “My readers can’t do anything about it,” she said.
Mostly, that editor is right. Human trafficking, whether for sex or labor, is a decentralized problem. There is no single nation from which the women come, and no single nation that is their destination. Thankfully, through the attention of the UN and many NGOs, reforms are taking place worldwide that enact tougher penalties for the traffickers themselves while providing support for the victims. We can only encourage the spread and strict enforcement of these laws, all the while raising awareness whenever possible and with whatever media is at hand. Is that enough? Will such reforms work? I don’t know. Neither does anyone.
I thought about Jasmine as I wrote my novel The Cruelty, where the woman I knew for all of ten seconds became Marina, guide and benefactor to my protagonist. It was a hopeful gesture, but ultimately a meaningless one. In the book, Marina survives. She defeats the man responsible for her bondage, triumphing over him. But in real life I’m not sure Jasmine fared so well.
S. Bergstrom is a writer and traveler fascinated by the darker, unloved corners of world’s great cities. His books and articles on architecture and urbanism have been widely published in both the United States and Europe. The Cruelty is his first novel. He can be reached at sbergstrom.com or on Twitter @BergstromScott
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. government refuses to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the dark underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—Gwendolyn plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.
I’m honored to be speaking to Professor Cheryl Cowdy’s class this Thursday on writing LGBTQ characters in YA fiction. It’s really important to me to have a queer character in every book I write, whether it be the main character, like Kendra in SCARS, or a secondary character, like Caitlyn’s best friend Rachel in HUNTED, or Sarah’s friend Charlene in STAINED who comes out, or the walk-on characters in the older lesbian couple who help save Sarah after she first escapes. I think having queer characters who are queer where that’s not the issue in the book, where it’s not a coming out story, is really important; it helps normalize queer characters, helps reduce homophobia and increase acceptance, helps LGBT people feel less alone. We all need positive reflections of ourselves in books and movies; to not have that is to feel invisible. So, just as it’s important to me to have queer characters in every book, I try to also put people of color in every book (whether it’s a love interest or a walk-on character), and I put survivors of trauma or oppression in every book (it’s such a part of who I am). I’m sure over time I will continue to expand this.
I think LGBT people deserve to have stories where queer characters are the hero of that story–whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, suspense and thriller, or a quiet story–heroes that they can identify with and even look up to. And I think that having that will help everyone, not just the LGBT community. Because LGBT people are a part of this world, and we all need to live in harmony, accepting and appreciating each other. And i believe that books are a powerful part of change, acceptance, and greater compassion.
I will be talking about this, and other issues with LGBT characters in YA fiction, as well as answering questions from the class on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it.
Yesterday brought exciting news: New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist, Betsy Bird has tagged Austin author Nikki Loftin‘s new MG magical realism novel NIGHTINGALE’S NEST as a 2015 Newbery contender! Says Bird, “Honestly, it’s like nothing else I’ve seen in quite a while.”
In other news, have you seen Lynne Kelly’s new site for CHAINED? It’s full of fun information like deleted scenes of Hastin telling folktales to his little sister Chanda, a book trailer, and a curriculum guide full of great classroom ideas.
My D4EO Literary agent-mate Alison Kemper is having a blog tour for her debut YA DONNA OF THE DEAD from Entangled Teen. In this campy humor-meets-action vein of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, a teen girl has to face the obliteration of the human race from a virus that makes people act zombie-like, with only the help of a rag-tag group of high school classmates, including her long-time crush. (Coming soon: DWIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD!)
I’m late posting this (though I did do a ridiculous victory dance on Twitter when it was first announced. But I’m happy to say that Will in Scarlet is in very good company. Just in time for the holidays, too . . . .
CMH: THE MIDDLE GRADE STORYBALL Pseudonymous Bosch, Adam Gidwitz, Lisi Harrison, Alexander London, Lisa McMann, Barnabas Miller, Lauren Oliver, Carrie Ryan, Natalie Standiford, JE Thompson, Sean Williams (All Middle Grade Authors will be on stage!) Moderator: Matthew Cody
BALLROOM: WRITING FOR KIDS Matthew Cody, Adam Gidwitz, Lisa McMann, Carrie Ryan,, C. Alexander London Moderator: Pseudonymous Bosch
I’m currently in lovely Saratoga Springs visiting the equally lovely Northshire Bookstore, but I wanted to take a moment from the road and share this very nice review from The Bulletin. They say so many nice things I’m going all blushy.
«Cody, MatthewWill in Scarlet.Knopf, 2013[272p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-375-86895-5$16.99
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-96895-2$19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-89980-5$10.99
Reviewed from galleys R*Gr. 5-7
With his father off crusading for King Richard, thirteen-year-old Will Shackley must leave childhood mischief behind him as he takes on the responsibility of governing the Shackley estate. He makes a fine start, slaughtering two wolves during a hunt with his father’s men, but when Prince John’s thugs later attack Will’s home in an attempt to force fealty, the boy flees the battle to survive. Finding refuge among a merry band of thieves (including a drunken archer named Rob) in Sherwood Forest, Will sets out to plan his revenge but is soon confronted with the possibility that injustice is not simply the fault of one bad man. The punches packed in this historical action tale are both physical and emotional, as Will discovers that the sheltered world he grew up in is a privilege for very few and a distant dream for most. Cody’s pacing is a clever construction of frenzied but focused fight sequences balanced with quiet, subtle moments of self-reflection on Will’s part. Rich characterization does justice to each of the main players here, especially the villains: their motivations are made clear and understandable so that readers, like Will, come to realize the world is a complicated place with room for good and evil and much in between. Early scenes of wolf hunting and thrilling ambushes will likely draw even the most reluctant reader in, while the careful prose and likable hero will see them through to the satisfying conclusion. KQG
I’ll be traveling the country this fall talking about Will inScarlet to any vagabonds and scallywags that will listen! Below is the schedule of where you can find me and when. Be sure to check back for updates as we get closer to the actual dates!
Friday, October 4th
Voracious Reader (Larchmont, NY)
Sunday, October 13th
New York Comic-Con
Tuesday, October 15th
Lemuria Books (Jackson, MS)
Thursday, October 17th
The Country Bookshop (Southern Pines, NC)
Friday, October 18th
McIntyre’s Books (Chapel Hill, NC)
Saturday, October 19th
Barnes & Noble (Cary, NC)
Sunday, October 20th
Barnes & Noble (Skokie, IL)
Monday, October 21st
Anderson’s Bookshop (Downer’s Grove, IL)
Tuesday, October 22nd
The Book Stall (Winnetka, IL)
Saturday, October 26th
Books of Wonder (New York City, NY)
Friday, November 1st
The Center for Fiction (New York – not open to the public)
Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
I was always into books and a real sucker for the Dr. Suess stuff, can probably still recite Green Eggs and Ham by heart, but the first book that made me want to be a writer was Les Miserables, which I would probably have named as my favorite book, except for the Princess Bride by William Goldman, who is primarily known as a screenwriter, but has written some incredible novels.
I am currently re-reading several William Goldman novels, including Marathon Man and the Color of Light. You can learn a lot as a writer from reading his books. .
More importantly, I am back to reading hardcovers and paperbacks after spending too long with e-books. While I’m a techno nut, the truth is there is nothing better than holding a real book, being able to thumb back and forth through the pages and knowing exactly where you are at any given point.
What is your secret talent?
I play keyboards. I am, in fact, really bad musician and have been fired from some pretty talentless bands when I was younger. Thankfully I record nothing so no one has to know. Until now.
Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.
Mean Girls. I could watch this movie constantly and still laugh at every line.
Also, fart noises and Gilbert Gottfried, not necessarily in that order.
My current obsessions are…
Headphones, I have like 20 pairs. I need loud music when I’m working.
Also, Uncharted 3D, in fact almost every videogame, movie and documentary in 3D.
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Know where you are going before you start. Make an outline and stick to it and then keep on going without looking back until you hit THE END. And then, take whatever you’ve done and put it on the highest shelf in your room for 6 weeks without looking at it.
And then make a new outline and start over with the brightest red pen you can find.
And don’t, under any circumstances, get stuck playing Uncharted 3D or watching anything else in 3D. In fact, disconnect your television and your internet and throw away your iPads, playstations and smartphones.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Forgets that they are reading;
misses a train stop because they need to finish a chapter;
recognizes the characters so much that they find it difficult to believe that its fiction;
Buys another book the second they finish this one;
Or is inspired to write one themselves.
Tell us more about how CRASH AND BURN was born.
I was challenged by my son, who has ADD to write something that he would be willing to read. Spending time with him and his friends, playing videogames and watching movies, I wanted to come up with a form of entertainment that they would consider to be as fast paced and captivating, something that would make them think differently, more deeply about themselves and their world. Using him and his friends as models, I went back in time and thoroughly researched the everyday occurrences in the world they lived in, the language they used, the legal and illegal drugs they were experimenting with and the social interactions between them and the adults in their world. When I realized how difficult the struggle was for most kids, I knew that I had something that I wanted to write about.
Thanks Michael! CRASH AND BURN (which has received 2 starred reviews– from Booklist and BCCB!) is on sale in stores now.
We have an absolutely HUGE treat for you today: words from Sir Terry Pratchett himself in advance of his newest book, DODGER, publishing tomorrow.
Sir Terry Pratchett on DODGER:
“Dodger was initially undertaken as a tribute to Henry Mayhew, who, in London, in the early years of the Victorian reign, catalogued meticulously the lives, jobs, foods, hygiene, sleeping arrangements, etc., of the poor of the city. He did this simply by walking the streets, getting into conversations with people, and then later recording them in his notebook.
He spoke to everybody, even down to the little flower girls who sold posies for a meagre living and slept in doorways and didn’t even know which country they were living in. His friend Charles Dickens is often said to have made the middle classes of London aware of the appalling circumstances of the under classes of the richest and most influential city at that time. But, in truth, while Dickens did sterling work, Mayhew—and the people he worked with—did it the hard way: by piling up the dreadful statistics until they could not be ignored. In so doing, they compiled a startling and wonderful body of knowledge about what was happening beyond the city lights.
This record is available as the book London Labour and the London Poor. And it is a heavyweight document, as Mr. Mayhew speaks of the sick, the neglected elderly, and, not least, the ladies of negotiable affection (a polite way of putting it—the phrasing, incidentally, originated in the United States).
I read London Labour and the London Poor in my teens shortly after reading The Lord of the Rings. And I thought that one day it might be great to do a real fantasy in the world of Mayhew, picking out a street urchin of the time, winding him up, and dropping him in the middle of a thunder storm to begin his own personal odyssey. He would meet Mayhew, Dickens, and number of other prominent Victorians, while at the same time telling it like it was in those days. That is how Dodger was born, and he did most of the work for me—coming alive on the page and quickly running off with the story itself.
Thank you for reading about him.”
And for more on DODGER, watch Terry speak to his “chums” here:
Our NYC-area librarian pals were kind enough to join us last week for an early morning of ferocious book talking, coffee consuming, and oohing and aahing over our upcoming Winter (and early Summer) 2013 titles. It was an oddly hot and humid day to chat about Winter (10 weeks until Christmas…it’s really coming!), but we managed to get into the spirit and of course, had an absolutely lovely time.
Lo and behold, a new Preview blog post feature! These are books that, when mentioned, garnered an across-the-room-audible “awwwww!” from the audience:
AMELIA BEDELIA– 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of our favorite mixed-up but wholeheartedly well-meaning friend Amelia! We’re reissuing the original picture book in a bit larger trim size with truly fantastic additional back matter.
TIPTOE JOE, by Ginger Fogelsong Gibson, illustrations by Laura Rankin — I won’t spoil the payoff of this adorable picture book, but let me just say, you’ll lay your hand over your heart when you get to the end.
RAMONA– We’re repackaging the entire beloved Ramona series in 2013, and let me tell you, the art is adorable. The consensus in the room (and from Beverly Cleary herself, of course) was that this is true Ramona- goofy, a bit scruffy, and every bit lovable.
All I Really Need to Know About Writing
by Jocelyn Shipley
I’d like to thank Cheryl very much for inviting me to do a guest post about writing. What an honour! I met Cheryl some years ago through CANSCAIP and always admire and am inspired by her dedication to books and reading, her constant efforts to stand up to book banners, and her support of other writers. Plus she has the best smile!
It’s been twenty years since I took my first writing class, and ten since I published my first book. After all that time and five more books, you’d think I should know almost everything there is to know about writing. But I don’t. I have to tell you that most days, I still feel like a beginner. All I really know is how much I don’t know.
I used to be confident that if I worked hard enough, I’d figure everything out and be set for life. Didn’t happen. Writing didn’t get any easier. In fact it got harder, because my expectations got higher. I put so much pressure on myself to grow as a writer and achieve more. I’m no longer satisfied with simply completing a manuscript – I want it to be better, much better, than my last one.
But my attempts to improve my craft often fall short. On bad days, when my words won’t flow, my characters won’t come alive, my plots bore me and I’m out of ideas, the urge to shred every printout, delete every file, throw the laptop out the window and bang my head against my desk for the rest of my life is strong. Hey, it even sounds like fun. More fun than writing, anyway.
What keeps me going?
On good days, and there are also plenty of those, writing is a way to explore the world, to figure out why we’re here and what it all means. Not that I expect to find clear answers. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. But writing is my attempt at making sense of things.
Somehow life is easier to understand through a story. There’s something so satisfying about creating a bit of order out of the randomness of daily experience. It uplifts and renews me to take raw emotions and conflict and try to put them into words, the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, the paragraphs into chapters, and finally the chapters into a book that I hope will resonate with others.
Writing makes me feel whole and grounded and engaged with life and I’d probably go mad if I ever stopped. So I guess you could say that along with everything I don’t know about writing, there is one thing I do know for sure. It’s simply this: Even though writing sometimes makes me crazy, it always keeps me sane. And I think maybe that’s all I’m ever going to figure out. But it’s probably all I really need to know.
Thank you, Jocelyn! I so identify with writing helping you feel whole and grounded–I need to write, and it can help heal us, I believe. And I also really identify with the need to keep making a manuscript better–that it’s not enough to just complete a manuscript. Of course we want polished writing that is going to reach people (and get published). I think a lot of writers can relate to that.
About Jocelyn Shipley
Jocelyn Shipley’s YA novel, How to Tend a Grave, won the 2012 Gold Medal Moonbeam Award for YA Fiction – Mature Issues. She is co-editor of Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, and her other books for teens include Seraphina’s Circle, Cross My Heart, and Getting A Life. Her work has been translated into many languages for Stabenfeldt’s tween book club GIRL:IT, and her award-winning stories have appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines. She lives in Toronto and on Vancouver Island, Canada.
A CONFUSION OF PRINCES, Garth Nix’s first teen novel since ABHORSEN, came out earlier this year– did you read it? We did, and we were completely enthralled: it’s a sci-fi, action/adventure tale set in a totally fascinating world where thousands of mostly-immortal superhuman Princes compete to rise above the rest while operating within a dangerous, traitorous Empire. And you know, fighting epic battles in space. But above all, it’s a coming-of-age story that you’ll find complex and moving. And it received three starred reviews (SLJ, Horn Book, and Kirkus), to boot!
Today we are lucky enough to hear from the man himself, as Garth graciously agreed to be subjected to our shockingly rigorous line of questioning…
What time is your alarm clock set for?
As it is shared with my wife Anna, who is an early riser, the alarm usually goes off about 6:00am. But if I am honest, my actual rising time is around 8:00am and sometimes later, if I stayed up working and didn’t go to bed till 1:00 or 2:00, as is not unusual.
Favorite book from childhood?
I have many, many favourite books from childhood. How could I select just one? Today I will choose KNIGHT’S FEE by Rosemary Sutcliff, tomorrow I might choose THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper, the day after that TARAN WANDERER by Lloyd Alexander, or perhaps CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein, or DOWN WITH SKOOL by Ronald Searle, or LEAVE IT TO PSMITH by P. G. Wodehouse or THE GOLDEN GOBLET by Eloise Jarvis McGraw or UNCLE by J. P. Martin . . . there are too many wonderful books to choose from!
If you weren’t an author/illustrator, what job would you like to have?
I have had many different jobs, mostly in publishing. My favourite was being a literary agent, helping other authors get their work published, and that is probably what I would go back to being if I wasn’t being a full-time author.
How many stamps are in your passport?
I think I am on my fifth passport since I was 19. The current one has about twenty stamps in it. Sadly, some countries don’t stamp passports anymore, it is all stored electronically, so I don’t have as many in the current passport as I would once have collected. The best passport I had was in my late 20s, which had lots of weird and wonderful visas and entry/exit stamps from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading the fascinating non-fiction book THE TIME TRAVELLER’S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by Ian Mortimer.
Finish this sentence: “I always smile when…”
…I come home from a trip away and see my family.
Funniest (or most interesting) question from a fan?
I get lots of interesting questions, but one that really stumped me was someone at a book event who asked me: “Why 996 steps?” I had no idea what she was asking. She repeated the question. Eventually it turned into a very specific question about the number of steps down from the well in the Abhorsen’s House, in my book ABHORSEN and why that particular number. The answer being that I had no idea, it just seemed the right depth.
Our beautiful park suffered severely from last year’s drought. Money raised through ticket sales for this event and 30% of artists’ sales will be donated to The Memorial Park Conservancy for park reforestation.
Come enjoy the wine, dessert and snacks at the cocktail reception featuring the founder of Paws on Patios, Patrick Walsh, Jim Porter– chairman of The Memorial Park Conservancy, Brian Kalinec– singer/songwriter, Suzanne Marsh– silhouette artist, and the amazingly tall Walking Tree Of Life performer as well as many wonderful artists who will be selling tree-themed art. Visit www.theartfullumbrella.com/art_benefit for the details and to purchase tickets. Art which is not purchased at the event will be for sale online from December 12th-18th at www.theartfullumbrella.com/art_gallery/. Photo credit: Steve Lathem
For those of you in the West Houston/Katy/Fulshear areas, I wanted to pass on news of the 3rd annual “Stuff the Sleigh of Katy”, an all-volunteer holiday toy drive benefiting pediatric cancer patients treated at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) – West Campus, and their siblings. Santa Claus will present the children with toys collected in his Santa’s Sleigh at a family holiday party. The community toy drive is accepting donations to purchase holiday gifts through Wednesday, December 12. Those interested in sponsoring a child’s gift may stop by the Firethorne Community Center to select a ‘sleigh’ gift card with a wish list item on it from a young cancer patient or their brother or sister. Photo credit: Ginny Lund
We have several fun events happening this weekend! Remember that the information here is from the sponsoring bookstore or organization’s website and changes do happen. Please check their websites for the latest, most up-to-date information on these events.
Join Rachel Harris as she discusses and signs her new book MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
Armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat is thrust into the Renaissance on the eve of her sixteenth birthday where she soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But romance takes an unpleasant turn when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around. Can Cat find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?
Illustrator Nancy Binford presents her new book, THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE. The story of a not-to-handsome tree that has watched all the other trees on the lot get taken home. Will The Last Christmas Tree get a home?
While you’re out doing your holiday shopping, don’t forget to stop by the Houston area fine independent bookstores which frequently sponsor author and illustrator events:
I’m excited that my new YA fantasy Parallel Visions is now out in the world! To celebrate, I’m having a contest. Help me get the word out about Parallel Visions, and you’ll be entered to win bookstore giftcards and an ebook reader. It’s $2.99 ebook, and $7.99 print. It’s up on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords (where you can get it in every ebook format, including for Nook), and will be up on B&N in a few weeks.
Parallel Visions deals with being different, domestic violence, attempted suicide, rape, and asthma, all in a fantasy setting. Like all my books, it’s also written with suspense and hope, and some of my own trauma and abuse experience.
Evelyn Fazio, the same editor who edited my books Scars and Hunted, edited Parallel Visions. I care a lot about Parallel Visions, just like I do all my books. I hope you’ll help me get the word out.
Check out the book trailer!
Help me get the word out about Parallel Visions, and you can win:
1 of 2 bookstore giftcards for $10 (at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any other online bookstore)
1 of 2 bookstore giftcards for $5 (at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any other online bookstore)
I’ve been waiting for this day for a while–the official cover reveal of STAINED (which comes out this November from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)! All across the web today, you’ll see many book bloggers, librarians, reviewers, and some readers who have generously taken part in this reveal.
So, here it is–the cover of STAINED!
I really, really love this cover. I think it immediately tells the reader exactly what the book is about, just like SCARS does. You know just from looking at the cover that the girl has been abducted. And if you read the tagline–Sometimes you have to be your own hero
–you also know that Sarah has to be the one to rescue herself, and from that you know that she’s a strong-girl character. You don’t see all of Sarah’s face on the cover because she usually hides her port wine stain beneath her hair (she has body image issues, like many of us do). I love that my editor, Karen Grove, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt asked for what I wanted, and listened! That’s such a good feeling.
So what’s STAINED about? Here’s the official book description, which I love:
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope, if you read STAINED, you will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.
And here’s the book trailer for STAINED; I hope you’ll watch it!
So, what do you think? Do you like the cover? Does STAINED sound interesting to you?
comes out Nov 19, 2013. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, you can pre-order a copy:
The Montgomery County Book Festival is now partnering with Lone Star College – Montgomery. This year the festival is being expanded from a teens only format to include authors of children’s and tween books, young adult authors who cross over to the adult market and authors who write specifically for adults. However, as this blog focuses on children’s and young adult’s literature, I’ve only listed the names of authors who write for these age groups. For a complete list, visit the Montgomery County Book Festival website.
Chinese New Year Storytime! Join author Mary Wade in celebrating the Chinese New Year with the reading of NO YEAR OF THE CAT.
The Emperor has a problem. He wants his people to remember the year in which his son was born. But there is no way to keep track of the years. So the Emperor devises a race in which animals will cross a river. The first twelve animals to reach the opposite side will have a year named after them. Thus, the people will be able to remember the years and the events that occurred. And so the race is set. Rat, knowing he is no match for the rushing water, schemes with Cat on how to cross the river. Together the two convince Ox to carry them across. But halfway across the river, Rat shows his true colors. Will Cat make it to the other side? Which animals will have a year named after them? Accompanied by exquisite watercolor artwork, this charming story explains the origins of the Chinese calendar.
February 5, Tuesday, 6:00 PM Barnes & Noble, College Station Janet Fox and Joy Preble, YA Authors
Join Janet Fox and Joy Preble for an exclusive young adult Q&A session of their latest books and what it takes to be a YA author. We will be celebrating the release of Janet’s newest book, SIRENS, and Joy will talk about her upcoming book, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE.
Houston playwright Kathleen Tolan’s regional premiere of MEMORY HOUSE, directed by Claire Hart-Palumbo.
As Katia struggles to finish her college essay by tonight’s midnight deadline her mother Maggie tries to motivate and encourage her while baking a pie. Mother and daughter wrestle with lingering issues from Katia’s adoption from Russia, her parents’ divorce and her fear of leaving home as they pick their way through the very human, very honest, and sometimes very funny struggle of how to connect with each other and face the future.
Post show discussions: Following the Sunday matinee on February 3, the audience is invited to join the artists involved with the production as well as a diverse panel of adoptive families, who will reflect on the play and share their own experiences.
Ally Carter, New York Times best-selling author of the five books in the Gallagher Girls series, will discuss and sign her young adult novel PERFECT SCOUNDRELS.
Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it’s that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting—or stealing—whatever they want.
No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale’s family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother’s billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there’s no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won’t let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother’s will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company’s fortune. So instead of being the heir—this time, Hale might be the mark.
The news is now far and wide, but we want to officially say– yahoo! This past weekend in Seattle at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, six of our titles were honored by awards committees and we are beyond bowled over with excitement and pride. Congratulations to all– to the authors, editors, fans, and champions of these books. Every Midwinter we are so grateful to be reminded that the community we book-people live and work within is vibrant, supportive, and very, very much alive and kicking. We are all in it together.
Congratulations to all authors and illustrators honored with 2013 awards, and the biggest and humblest of thank you’s to the awards committees for their hard work, dedication, and the countless hours they spent this past year reading and discussing books. Now we wish we could fast-forward to June and our official ALA celebrations!
The Day of Love is almost upon us! There are so many wonderful classics for this holiday (a personal favorite has always been, and always will be I LIKE YOU, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg) and I think the best way to celebrate is with books and chocolate*! These are a few brand new picks for your Valentine’s Day reading:
AN AWESOME BOOK OF LOVE!, by Dallas Clayton There are so many different kinds of love – the way you love your husband or wife, the way you love your child, the way you love your parents – and Dallas Clayton knows just how to describe them all.
FANCY NANCY, NANCY CLANCY: SECRET ADMIRER, by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
The second in the Fancy Nancy chapter book series. Love is in the air, and Nancy Clancy is sure to make the most of it!
NOBODY BUT US, by Kristin Halbrook
BONNIE & CLYDE meets BLUE VALENTINE in this addictive, heart-wrenching story about two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.
In Chris Crutcher’s upcoming novel, PERIOD 8, a group of students comes together every day during Period 8 to talk about (in the author’s own words) “the important things: hopes, dreams, fears, and the comedy and tragedy of their lives.” Teacher Bruce Logsdon, who runs Period 8, has only one rule—you have to tell the truth. No question is off-limits, no topic is forbidden, as long as the discussion remains honest.
If you’ve read his books or seen him speak, you know that frank treatment of tough subjects is a Chris Crutcher hallmark. Perhaps you are thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder how much of this Bruce Logsdon character is autobiographical.” We can’t exactly answer that for you, but we can offer you this exciting invitation . . .
In the spirit of Period 8, Chris Crutcher is taking real-life questions from teens, and he will answer them in a video to be posted on our teen community website Epic Reads.
Do your teens have burning questions they’d like to ask him? (Who doesn’t, right?) Encourage them to submit their questions on Epic Reads, and check back at the end of March for some video answers from this very wise man.
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, a special type of clairvoyant, whenever Addie is faced with a choice she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes. So when her parents ambush her with the news that they are getting a divorce and she has to pick who she wants to live with, the answer should be easy.
However, as Addie searches her two possible futures, one where she leaves with her father to live off of the paranormal compound and the other where she stays with her mother and the gifted in the life she’s always known, she realizes how hard the choice really is. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through…and who she can’t live without.
This one was love at first sight (or should we say love at first read) for us: it’s bright, fun, well-plotted, and clearly the beginning of a very promising career for Kasie! Let’s hear why Kasie’s editor, Sarah Landis, loved it immediately too…
When the agent pitched Kasie’s novel to me, it immediately reminded me of one of my favorite rainy-day movies, “Sliding Doors”, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I’ve been let down more times than I can count by a great idea that doesn’t come through in execution. But in this case, not only did it live up to my expectations, it exceeded them! Addie is such a winning protagonist. She has attitude, spunk, intelligence, and a sense of humor (girl heroines rarely have a sense of humor!). The whole idea that one decision can potentially alter the course of your life has always intrigued me. I think we’ve all made a decision and then wondered… What If? In PIVOT POINT, when Addie is faced with a decision, she has the ability to look down both of those roads and decide which one has the better outcome. But…as we find out, knowing both paths doesn’t necessarily make choosing any easier. In fact, sometimes it makes it even harder.
PIVOT POINT had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how it was going to end. As editors, we see the same recycled plots over and over, and I feel like I’m rarely genuinely surprised. And I totally was! When I first read it, the ending was so good but so, so frustrating. Without giving anything away for anyone who hasn’t read it, I begged and pleaded with Kasie to change the ending (that is how strongly I felt about these characters fates). The way she revised the ending is so completely perfect now. That brings me to what a dream it is to work with an author who you know is going to be around for a long time.
Thanks Sarah! And don’t forget to check back tomorrow to hear from Kasie herself.
Yesterday we took you behind the editorial curtain of debut teen novel PIVOT POINT. Today I bring you the inside scoop on the adorable, hilarious Kasie West herself…
What is your secret talent?
Secret talent? If I tell, it won’t be a secret anymore. But since I’ve never passed up on an opportunity to brag (that might not be a true statement), I will tell you that I am super good at proving I’m not a robot. I rock word verification on blogs and websites. Seriously, I have like a 99% success rate at figuring out those impossible to read words. Is this a talent?? I think yes.
Fill in the blank: always makes me laugh.
My husband (He is so funny. The main reason I married him, by the way).
My current obsessions are…
twitter, garden salsa Sun Chips, naps (I’m only obsessed with naps right now because I haven’t been able to take them and I need a nap so bad).
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Read read read and keep writing. Make sure you are constantly feeding your mind with new books and plots by reading whenever you can. And when you are done writing a book and it’s ready to query, start immediately on your next one. Don’t spend a lot of time editing a book over and over (note: I’m not telling you not to edit. Definitely edit.). But keep moving forward.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Laughs, loves, and appreciates the friendships in their lives.
Tell us more about how Pivot Point was born.
Like with other books I’d written before Pivot Point (books that were not published) I find inspiration in life: things I see, movies I watch, experiences I have. My husband and I often discuss plots or ideas that would make a good book. Pivot Point was inspired by the movie Sliding Doors. I love that movie. I love the idea of one pivotal choice that can change everything; The idea of exploring alternate realities and seeing how small decisions can change outcomes. We may not have mental abilities like the people in this book, but I truly feel like choice is power. We have the power to choose to work hard and follow our dreams or to give up. We are in charge of our fate, our destiny, and that is power.
Thanks Kasie! PIVOT POINT is on sale in bookstores now– and once you read it, you’ll be happy to know this happy news: there will be a book 2, out next year!
Next in our Winter 2013 New Voices series is teen debut novel CRASH AND BURN, by Michael Hassan, a book that quite literally stopped us all in our tracks the first time we heard Michael’s editor, Jordan Brown, formally present it. Today I’ll let Jordan’s powerful words speak for themselves…
Of all the qualities of a manuscript that get me interested in working with an author, one of the most exciting is when I feel like I’m reading the work of someone who looks for untold stories in places where we don’t expect to find them. Of course, the most prominent plot elements of Michael Hassan’s debut novel Crash and Burn—the story of a profoundly troubled senior who takes his school hostage at gunpoint, and the profoundly untroubled student who stops him—are, sadly, not unusual or unobvious ones. But what is unique and unexpected about Mike’s story is the perspective from which he chooses to tell it.
Steven “Crash” Crashinsky is unlike any of the teen male characters one finds in contemporary teen literature. He is not the brooding, complicated, brilliant outcast; he’s not the bad boy with a heart of gold; he’s not the irredeemable jerk; he’s not the heartthrob who can distill his interior struggles in a moment but is still paralyzed by indecision. He is all of these things, and none of them. He is the kind of male character who is remarkable only for being so typical: a teen whose self-image has been defined by his learning disabilities, whose behavior has been shaped by society’s indulgent “boys will be boys” attitude, who has realized that life’s a lot easier when you just don’t care. He’s the kind of teen we all know, and yet the kind we don’t often find populating teen books—perhaps because he’s the kind we don’t often find reading teen books.
But he is not unreachable, as Mike’s knockout of a first novel shows us. This is a book—one of the first I’ve seen—that speaks directly to these young men, telling a story they need to hear. The element of the book that was paramount to both Mike and me in the editing process was keeping Crash’s voice and experiences as authentic as possible. And thus we have a story that doesn’t pull any punches, that reads more like a chronicle than a novel, that speaks to these readers in a language they can understand.
Crash and Burn is not a book for everyone. The truths it draws out and elucidates don’t provide many answers for the desperate struggles today’s teens experience. But I’m a big believer in the idea that the process always starts with asking the right questions. And Mike asks these big questions while writing a story that is hilarious and frightening and touching in turn; one about friendship and tragedy, first love and first hate; one that shows us that the untold stories can sometimes be the most important.
Thanks Jordan! And don’t forget to visit us again tomorrow for an interview with the author, Michael Hassan.