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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Libba Bray, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Cover Reveal: And it’s for my own book!!!

Ladies and gentlemen . . . the moment I’ve been waiting for.

Wait! Wait!  Background information first!

So for years I worked as a children’s librarian and I’d get girl after girl after girl coming up to my desk asking for funny books.  I credit some of this to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  The boys and the girls loved that series and wanted more of the same.  Sometimes they wanted it in a notebook novel format, like Kinney’s book.  Sometimes they just wanted something hilarious, and they seriously didn’t care who wrote it.  So I’d grab books for them and then it slowly began to dawn on me.  Huh.  For all that I could find some pretty fantastic and hilarious books out there for kids, where were the funny story collections written by women?  Turns out, there weren’t any.

Until now.

I would like you to join me in applauding the following authors and author/illustrators . . . .

  • Cece Bell
  • Sophie Blackall
  • Libba Bray
  • Lisa Brown
  • Adrianne Chalepah
  • Alison DeCamp
  • Carmen Agra Deedy
  • Kelly DiPucchio
  • Lisa Graff
  • Shannon Hale
  • Charise Mericle Harper
  • Jenni Holm
  • Akilah Hughes
  • Amy Ignatow
  • Christine Mari Inzer
  • Lenore Look
  • Meghan McCarthy
  • Mitali Perkins
  • Leila Sales
  • Raina Telgemeier
  • Deborah Underwood
  • Ursula Vernon
  • Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Delaney Yeager
  • and Mackenzie Yeager

Each one of these women has contributed to my new book Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. EVER.

Behold!  The cover by the aforementioned Charise Mericle Harper:


And here’s the full jacket in its entirety:


A portion of the proceeds of this book go to Write Girl, a Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization that matches girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing.

When’s it out?  May 9th, 2017!  Feel free to pre-order it.


Oh! And while I’m thinking of it, there’s this other really fun thing that just started that I have to let you know about.  As I may have mentioned before, my husband’s first book The Secrets of Story just came out recently and I could be prouder.  He’s already put up a couple great videos alongside it (the latest is here and is about those little moments of humanity that make you like a character).  But fun upon fun upon fun, he’s created a podcast with YA author and 90-Second Newbery Film Festival creator James Kennedy and it may well be my favorite thing of all time.  I love it when James and Matt get together because they agree on NOTHING!  And now they’ve a podcast together where they can extol the beauty of that nothing together.  It’s huge fun for me, and it ends with a little feature where they mention a story idea they had that they decided wouldn’t work and give it away (as it were) to the masses for use.  So if you like the process of writing or you just like banter, I’ve your new favorite podcast.  The Secrets of Storytelling podcast is available through iTunes.  Subscribe today!


20 Comments on Cover Reveal: And it’s for my own book!!!, last added: 11/13/2016
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2. Guest Post: Alan Cumyn on Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

Find Alan on Facebook and @acumyn
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome, Alan Cumyn! What was your initial inspiration for Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend (Atheneum, 2016)?

There’s a short answer and a long one. The short: in January 2012, popular YA author Libba Bray gave a speech to over a hundred writers at Vermont College of Fine Arts in which she brought us through the ups and downs of her writing career.

Three times in the course of an hour she said, “Don’t go writing your hot pterodactyl boyfriend novel.” She meant that we shouldn’t slavishly follow the trends. But I was struck by the phrase.

When I approached her afterwards and said that I was getting an idea, she encouraged me to follow up, and a little later the whole first chapter, in which the pterodactyl, Pyke, arrives at Vista View High in a calamitous fashion – by landing unceremoniously on the cross-country running champion, Jocelyne Legault – more or less fell out on the page for me.

The longer answer takes me back more than ten years when I was riding a train from Toronto to Ottawa. I had been at some publishing event or other, and was full of the possibility of new stories.

The train rounded a bend and Lake Ontario came into sight. On a rock by the shore a great blue heron, which looked like an ancient creature, pierced me with his gaze. It was the oddest feeling – I felt locked in direct communication with an intelligence not only from another species, but from a vastly different time.

Seconds later the landscape changed, the heron was gone, but I pulled out my pad and scribbled furiously for several pages about a heron who is able to change into a man at will, and who wanders into the big city from time to time almost as a vacation from his usual existence.

After a time I stopped writing because I realized I didn’t know enough about herons to proceed. Over the years, I worked on several versions of this story, and got sidetracked with an interest in Kafka, whose "The Metamorphosis" (1915) famously envisioned a man who wakes up one morning transformed into a bug. I was drawn to the idea of introducing something startlingly unreal and fantastical, but continuing the rest of the story in as realistic a fashion as possible. I was also, like so many others, attracted by the dreamlike nature of Kafka’s writing.

The story morphed and became at least two entirely different novel-length manuscripts that sputtered for various reasons and never quite worked. And then: “Don’t go writing your hot pterodactyl boyfriend novel.” I was seized with yet another possibility to work with some of the same ideas and influences, and perhaps not take it so seriously this time.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

U.S. cover art
That first chapter poured out of me within a day or two of hearing Libba Bray speak in January 2012. I sent a full draft to my agent, Ellen Levine, in late December 2013, so it took me about two years to write much of the manuscript.

During most of that time I told nobody what I was working on. I like the freedom to go wherever I want on the page and to fail privately in ridiculous ways if need be.

After that strong opening chapter fell out, I slowly went over that material again and again for clues about how the story must proceed with these characters in the situation they find themselves in.

Before showing the draft to Ellen, of course, I got feedback from my wife Suzanne, and from friends and family, and made it as strong as I could.

Ellen contacted me enthusiastically in February 2014 and I worked on some more revisions for her. She sent it out to publishers in March and, although a lot of editors passed on it, we did get offers in April, with Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum winning out.

I was way up north in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada at the time as writer-in-residence at Berton House when the phone line to New York started to burn up. It was exciting and strange, to be so far away and yet to have such interest suddenly welling up about my unusual pterodactyl novel. (Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, it turns out, is the first novel of mine to be published simultaneously in Canada, the United States, the U.K. and elsewhere.)

U.K. cover art
I got a chance to meet Caitlyn in New York in July 2014, and U.K. editors in September. When I was in New York I also spent time at the Museum of Natural History which just happened to be showing a major exhibit on pterodactyls!

Some of the latest research changed the way I thought about the physicality of Pyke, and made it into the book. A lot of the revisions for Caitlyn involved strengthening middle parts of the story and ending it in a way that stayed true to the characters, and to the strangeness of the whole telling.

Again – I kept going back to the beginning for inspiration. The manuscript was pretty well finalized by April 2015, and I was reviewing galleys in October.

There wasn’t a major crisis or anything, no pitched battles, but Caitlyn and I did have strong discussions about all the characters and themes.

I take it for granted that my creations will feel real to me, but it’s lovely when an editor so fully immerses herself as well.

What were the challenges (literary, research, emotional, logistical) in bringing the story to life?

Nothing about this story was straightforward. On the opening page, Pyke appears as a speck in the sky, and by the end of that chapter he is the first inter-species transfer student in the history of Vista View High.

The initial challenge – how do the students accept him as anything but a monster come to eat the school? – I skirted in my first draft by summarizing the changes in a paragraph or two. It was only fairly late in revision that I realized I needed to show in scene those crucial minutes after Pyke has landed on Jocelyne and then carried her to the school nurse for attention.

Pyke is not the main character, of course – the story actually belongs to the student body chair, Shiels Krane, an A-type leader whose well-ordered plans for her graduation year have nothing to do with dealing with a pterodactyl who steals everyone’s heart, including her own.

In that way I was able to shift the question about believability – if Shiels buys into it, then it’s easier for the reader to believe, too. I did do a lot of background reading on pterodactyls, but in my mind I was treating Pyke as the ultimate bad-boy boyfriend, and that’s part of the fun of the story, watching characters adapt to a ridiculous situation that turns normal and then actually seems familiar.

We do it all the time in real life, just not with pterodactyls! So often writing fiction convincingly is a matter of taking care of the tiny details, making those seem lifelike, so that the huge lies one tells hardly stand out at all.

What made you commit to the writing life? What did you sacrifice for it?

I was very lucky to attend a graduate writing program when I was young, only 24, at the University of Windsor, where my mentor, Alistair MacLeod, happened to be a brilliant writer and terrific teacher. Without that early formation, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with it, given all the difficulties I had initially in publishing anything at all.

It took me seven years of strong effort after graduation to get a single short story accepted in a literary journal (for which I was paid $50). My first three novel manuscripts were rejected before the fourth was accepted, and even that one sat in the publisher’s office for over a year before I got a yes.

Along the way I decided I was not going to be the sort of writer who lives in a tiny room in the YMCA, turning his back on life so that he might have time to write. I have worked at a number of full-time jobs that, fortunately, also fed my sense of life and society, and so nurtured my writing as well.

But if I hadn’t married and had children, I doubt I would have written for younger audiences. I faced a really tough decision at around age 40 when the excellent government job I had (as a writer and researcher on international human rights for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada) seemed to be too much to handle on top of novel writing as well.

Some of my adult novels were suddenly doing well, and I had to make a choice. It was a big gulp – our children were young, Suzanne had just started a doctorate program, and there was no extra money in case things went badly. So with family support I sacrificed the security of a regular paycheck, but was fortunate enough to have waited until my art was strong enough to withstand the pressures of such a decision.

It was the right thing to do, and I haven’t really looked back, especially since part-time teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts allows me to use my skills, and helps keep the wolf from the door during the inevitable down times in a writing and publishing life.

What about the business of publishing do you wish you could change?

I would love it if editors were not so extraordinarily busy, if they could somehow always keep a sense of the leisure of reading while opening up a new manuscript.

Editors often have crushing workloads and it means “quiet” stories often don’t have a chance to get their attention, they’ve got too many submissions to wade through before going back to their email backlog etc.

I know, it’ll never happen, and the really good editors do find ways to let themselves fall into a story when they read, no matter what their to-do list looks like. But I do think a lot of fine writing is overlooked because of the craziness of today’s schedules.

Cynsational Notes

Alan is the faculty chair of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. See also Video Interview with Alan Cumyn from Indigo Teeen.

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3. Libba Bray Reveals Title & Release Date For The Diviners Sequel

Lair of DreamsAuthor Libba Bray has announced the title for her next book, Lair of Dreams. According to Bray’s blog post, this sequel to The Diviners has “been moved on the schedule so many times we have lost faith in the old gods of the book pub-scheduling universe.” Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has set the release date for August 25th.

When Bray isn’t using her voice for writing, she puts it to work by singing and standing up for her beliefs. She recently stood with three fellow authors (Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, and Shannon Hale) to protest against the act of assigning genders to books. Over the weekend, Bray gave a moving speech about this issue at the 2015 NYC Teen Author Festival.

Here’s an excerpt: “Does sexism exist in YA? Abso-fucking-lutely. Everyday we see ourselves reflected back to us in ways that are reductive and foreign. And it’s tough when we are continually dismissed and told that our experiences aren’t real. It makes us doubt our reality; to the point where we have to keep turning to each other and saying, ‘Wait, is this true? Are these my hands? Are these hands worthy?'”

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4. Children’s Books Authors Protest Against Assigning Genders to Books

I'm just saying. @gayleforman @libbabray @HousingWorksBks pic.twitter.com/Har5rG2w4i

— E. Lockhart (@elockhart) February 28, 2015

Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, and Libba Bray appeared together at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe last week. The trio of young adult authors were celebrating the release of Forman’s new book, I Was Here. When they first presented themselves to the audience, the three women were wearing fake mustaches.

Forman explained that they were protesting against the act of driving young boys away from titles that are considered to be “girl books.” The group strongly agrees with the sentiments that fellow novelist Shannon Hale expresses in a recent blog post. Hale felt compelled to discuss this because of her recent experience during a school visit where only female students were given permission to meet her. Below, we’ve collected several of the writers’ tweets with their opinions on this subject in a Storify post.

Here’s an excerpt from Hale’s blog post: “Let’s be clear: I do not talk about ‘girl’ stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do a ‘Your Menstrual Cycle and You!’ presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have ‘princess’ in the title, I’m stamped as ‘for girls only.’ However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.”

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5. Martin Amis & Gayle Forman Get Booked

symphonyHere are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Two famed authors, Martin Amis and Jeffrey Eugenides, will headline an evening of “Selected Shorts” readings. Hear them on Wednesday, February 25th at Symphony Space starting 7:30 p.m. (New York, NY)

Chef Angelo Sosa and radio personality Angie Martinez will sit for a discussion about their new cookbook. See them on Thursday, February 26th at Barnes & Noble (Tribeca) starting 6 p.m. (New York, NY)

Three young adult writers, Gayle Forman, E. Lockhart, and Libba Bray, will come together for a launch party. Join in on Friday, February 27th at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

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6. Young Adult Authors & The ‘How I Learned’ Storytelling Series Get Booked

92YHere are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Three young adult authors, Gayle Forman, Libba Bray, and E. Lockhart, will appear together at Barnes & Noble (Tribeca). Meet them on Tuesday, January 27th starting at 6 p.m. (New York, NY)

The next session of the “How I Learned” storytelling session will take place at Union Hall. Join in on Wednesday, January 28th at 7:30 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

Writer Marissa Meyer will celebrate the latest book from The Lunar Chronicles series, Fairest: Levana’s Story. Check it out on Thursday, January 29th at the 92Y starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

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7. ReedPOP & We Need Diverse Books Team Up For BookCon

BookCon EventReedPOP and We Need Diverse Books have established a partnership. The collaborators plan to organize two panels that will take place during BookCon 2015.

The first panel, scheduled for May 30th, will focus on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre with participation from Kameron Hurley, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, and Joe Monti. The second panel, scheduled for May 31st, will feature appearances from Jacqueline Woodson, Sherman Alexie, Libba Bray, David Levithan, and Meg Medina.

Here’s more from the press release: “We Need Diverse Books was part of last year’s inaugural BookCon playing host to a standing room only panel full of thought-provoking conversation and enthusiastic readers. The overwhelming response from fans and the rapid ascent of We Need Diverse Books, which grew from a social media awareness campaign into a global movement, set the stage for the partnership to expand at this year’s show.”

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8. YALLFest 2014 | Event Recap

The heart of Young Adult Fiction descended into picturesque Charleston, SC on November 7, 2014 as 60 Young Adult authors, including 37 New York Times bestsellers, joined together for the 4th Annual Charleston Young Adult Book Festival (“YALLFest”).

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9. Video Sunday: Met the ghost of David Wiesner at the Hotel Paradise . . .

Here we are in the glory of spring.  With all the beauty just ah-popping outdoors, what better time to sequester ourselves inside to watch mad videos about children’s literature related affairs?

So first and foremost, you may have seen me make mention of the fact that I had a podcasting-related Children’s Literary Salon last weekend.  My Lit Salons are monthly gatherings of children’s literature enthusiasts who come to the main branch of NYPL to watch me finagle different topics out of incredibly interesting people.  People often ask me to record these, but at this time there is no place online for such talks to live.  Happily, that problem was solved recently when Katie Davis (Brain Burps About Books) , John Sellers (PW KidsCast), and Matthew Winner (Let’s Get Busy) came over and Matthew recorded the whole dang thing.  This is, insofar as I know, the very FIRST time a moderated event has covered this particular topic (children’s literature podcasts).  With that in mind, enjoy!

PodcastingLitSalon Video Sunday: Met the ghost of David Wiesner at the Hotel Paradise  . . .

“John Newbery ate every single book he ever read”.  That was going to be my subtitle for today’s blog post.  I may still have to use it at some point because it’s one of the highlights of this James Kennedy / Libba Bray interaction at the recent 90-Second Newbery show here in NYC.  For years, I’ve been sitting on my laurels with my Randolph Caldecott music video.  Now I’ve been royally trumped and it’s all thanks to the song “What Would John Newbery Do?”  I can’t top this.

And now, with the approach of the Children’s Book Week Awards, time to break out the big guns.  And these, ladies and gents, are some SERIOUSLY big guns!

Turns out the CBC collected a whole CHUNK of these videos and they’re just out there!  Like this one starring two of my favorite author/illustrators, Amy Ignatow and Brian Biggs.  You must be SURE to stick around for the ghost of David Wiesner.  And it backs up my theory that every person in my generation has one rap song memorized.  Mine’s “Shoop”.

Nice use of “Rock Lobster” too.

We’re about three days away from El día del niño, otherwise known as the day of the child.  Unfamiliar with Dia?  Not anymore.  Here’s a quickie recap for those of you who are curious:

Día means “day” in Spanish. In 1996, author Pat Mora learned about the Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30th as El día del niño, the day of the child. Pat thought, “We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Yes! We need kids’ day too, but I want to connect all children with bookjoy, the pleasure of reading.”  Pat was enthusiastically assisted to start this community-based, family literacy initiative by REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day, also known as Día, is a daily commitment to link all children to books, languages and cultures, day by day, día por día. Many resources and an annual registry are available at the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Every year, across the country, libraries, schools, and community organizations, etc. plan culminating book fiestas creating April Children’s Day, Book Day celebrations that unite communities.
Join us!

Interested in participating? It’s not too late.  Best of all, here’s a video from previous years of what folks have done in their libraries.  Viva Dia!

We’ve sort of an embarrassment of riches this year in terms of trans boy picture books (see the 7-Imp recap of this very thing here).  Now one of those books, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, has a book trailer that hits on the tone about right.  Let’s put it up on the big board!

Thanks to Fred Horler for the link.

This next one is a fictional tie-in to a nonfiction subject.  Which is to say, a CCSS dream.  I’m not usually on board with rhyming picture books, but this one actually gets away with it!

And for the off-topic video of the day, we all love Neil deGrasse Tyson.  This is the video of him slowed down ever so slightly.  He loves it.  Shows it at his talks sometimes.

And for fun, you can watch the original here:

share save 171 16 Video Sunday: Met the ghost of David Wiesner at the Hotel Paradise  . . .

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10. Free Samples of the Nebula Award Nominees

The nominees for this year’s Nebula Awards have been revealed, and we’ve collected free samples of all the nominees below–the best science fiction books of 2012.

Many of these stories are available to read for free online. These are marked “COMPLETE” among the links.  Here’s more about the awards:

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Founded as the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1965 by Damon Knight, the organization began with a charter membership of 78 writers; it now has over 1,500 members, among them many of the leading writers of science fiction and fantasy.


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11. The Diviners

The Diviners is a deliciously creepy supernatural thriller set in 1920s New York. Bray does a masterful job creating memorable characters and setting the stage for the second book in the series. An impressive amount of research went into this novel, but Bray never overwhelms the reader with historical detail. Fifty pages in, I was [...]

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12. Reader's Corner - November Update

"I'd make a kick-ass beauty queen." November was a good reading month for graphic novels. I read Cardboard by Doug TenNapel, and a review is forthcoming, but let me tell you now, it is fantastic! I also read Tune: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim. Another review forthcoming, and again, it's fantastic. (But a head's up, it is for older teens and adults.) In audiobook news, I listened to

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13. Barry Lyga: ‘Write the book YOU want to read’

Have you ever written a scary story? In honor of the Halloween season, we are interviewing horror writers to learn about the craft of scaring readers. Recently, we spoke with author Barry Lyga.

Lyga (pictured) started off writing novels for an adult audience. When those particular manuscripts did not sell, he began penning stories for a teen audience. He established his publishing career with the release of his hit young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you land your first book deal?
A: I had written a couple of adult-ish novels that no one seemed to want to publish. It’s not they were bad — plenty of people liked them — they just weren’t sparking anyone’s interest. But a bunch of editors and agents who read them said, “Not yet — show me the next one.” The next one was completely different from those adult books — a YA novel about a bullied, comic book-obsessed dreamer. But I proudly showed it off to every agent and editor I could, and this time the reaction was pretty astounding. Within a few months of finishing the book, I met my agent at a writers’ conference. Within six months, she’d sold The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl. It was sort of a whirlwind.


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14. The Diviners

The Diviners Libba Bray

At a party gone boring, restless flappers unknowingly raise a once-buried evil. In Ohio, a careless Evie reveals something she shouldn't and is sent to live with her Uncle Will in New York City until the scandal dies down. In New York, Memphis runs numbers by day and writes poetry by night. He used to be a healer, but lost the ability when it mattered most of all. Theta is a glamourous Ziegfried girl just trying to forget. Mabel's parents are communist organizers but all she wants is to catch the eye of Jericho, Uncle Will's assistant at the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, aka the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.

It's 1926 and their stories collide as a gruesome serial murder strikes the city. Uncle Will is called in to aid the investigation as the murders are steeped in the occult. Evie knows her supernatural powers can help, but she'd rather drink and party to forget that she even has them. The investigation leads them to the Great Awakening, WWI, and beyond our world as commets and dreams are portents of things to come...

Sprawling and epic, this is paranormal/horror/historical fiction. It lacks the zany humor of Going Bovine or Beauty Queens but that's ok, because it would be really out of place here! The action and focus frequently shifts between characters and storylines, interspersed with set and mood pieces to paint a picture of the city, the country, and the time period. It's dark and atmospheric. I love how even though it's historical fiction, it's also haunted (literally and metaphorially) by history, especially Sprititualism and the Great Awakening movements, both of which appear in US history classes but can be hard to make sense of in a broad survey class setting. I loved the miltary mesting aspect. We tend to see army conspiracies and top secret projects taking place in WWII, but not WWI.*

Now the immediate storyline wraps up by the end of the book, but it's also very very very much the first in a series. Lots of smaller plots become larger questions that are no where near answered by the end. In the hands of a less skilled author, this entire project would be a hot mess, but Libba Bray makes it brilliant and spooky.

*This makes sens because WWII saw things like the Holocaust, Unit 731, Enigma, and the Manhattan Project. Also, the post-WWII era saw the space age and TV and was such a period of massive change that military secrets in the recent war made more sense, storytelling wise. It was tapping into a different psyche.)

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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15. Commercial Break: CAMPAIGN for LIBBA BRAY to WIN a GRAMMY

(A room full of 1,300 people sitting on slightly comfortable chairs. We zoom in on CONFERENCE ATTENDEE #1 who has just paid $8.50 for a sandwich wrap of unknown origin and only had a few minutes to eat it. Next to him, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE #2 didn't even GET a sandwich and she is noticing the ballroom chandeliers look like crystals from Superman's man cave. She wonderis if you could microwave these super crystals, if the crystals would then turn into complete Thanksgiving dinners or maybe just a milkshake and a turkey burger.)

Libba Bray is speaking next, do you think she's brought snacks for us?

No, and please stop nibbling my arm. Have you read BEAUTY QUEENS yet? I got the hardcover, and I also got the audio book. Did you know Libba reads the audio version and does, like, ten different voices?

Talking about the audio version of Libba Bray's BEAUTY QUEENS is the ONLY THING that can snap me out of this hunger madness. It has to be one of the best audio books I've heard in a long, long time. It's not only well-produced, it's a fantastic, thought-provoking and hilarious story, I want to give a copy to every teen girl I know.

Me, too! It should totally win a Grammy.

You have graham crackers?

No. I'm saying if the award for best spoken-word album could be won by popular vote, we should totally start an online campaign for #BeautyQueensAudiobookShouldWinAGrammy

Shhhhhh! Libba's starting! I think I see a package of Swedish Fish in her pocket!!!

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16. LIBBA BRAY: Writing It All Wrong: A Survival Manual

The delightfully funny and terribly wise Libba Bray (BEAUTY QUEENS, A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, Printz Award winner GOING BOVINE, and more) sets the scene...

You spend several hours writing, you hold off on the M&Ms, your poetic ovaries shutter with creative life. Then next day you open up that same manuscript...and the characters have all the depth of a Colorforms sticky. Your plot twist is pedestrian. You despair. You think there's just one way out of this: fake your own death.

I'm here to be bring you good news, (just like Jesus), Libba says: your novel probably does suck. It's OK--embrace the suck. Gettting it wrong is a necessary part of getting it right.

Libba talks about spending all day every day writing a novel that was ALL WRONG. She turned it in six months late and then got a 12 page, single spaced editorial letter calling out the wrong. She revised for months. And months. 12 or 13 hours a day. She gained 20 lbs. The novel had also put on weight--ballooning to 900 pages. And it still was not right, she says. But she soldiered on. And after more painful revision and bouts of self-doubth, she eventually got it right.

Here are some of Libba's suggestions on getting through getting it wrong:
  • Gather your tools for survival. Your book is in there, buried under the book you hate. Find the tricks that help you dig it out (play lists, writing groups, Pop-tarts...)
  • Ignore external voices. That thing you are writing it awesome--it's the only thing that matters. What's hot doesn't matter.
  • Lower your standards. Your writing will never be perfect. If you strive for perfection, you're setting yourself up for failure. Don't stive for perfect; strive for better.
  • Be open to changing format. Maybe you need to change your point of view. Or write in verse. Or change tense. Find what works for your story.

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17. SCBWI LA '11

First things first! The winner of the DAMNED ARC is Margo! I'll be emailing you with details...
Now, I've had several people ask me to give my thoughts about the conference. I know there is already so much out there about the phenomenal speakers and content. 40 years! Just look at that dessert above from the Golden Kite luncheon. It was truly an amazing time. The sheer number of icons had me absolutely dazzled and in awe. So I'm going to share a few of these people with you and what they mean to me.

  1. Judy Blume. How can I even begin to describe what it was like to be so close to THE Judy Blume? The woman was so gracious, so kind, so intelligent, and so very REAL. The first novel I think I ever read was Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. I remember that special feeling of being entirely wrapped up in Margaret's world. I loved it. I loved it so much that I never stopped reading and seeking new worlds with new characters. Hearing about Judy's process and journey was inspiring beyond belief. 
  2. Norton Juster. The first fantasy book I ever read was The Phantom Tollbooth. It was also the first book I ever read more than once. I had the opportunity to tell Norton Juster that, to which he looked me dead in the face and replied, "Fantasy? That's my life." How can I not love him? How can I not love a book that's remained AMAZING after 50 years, and that my own son loves just as much as I did? I think I might have to go read it again...
  3. Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak. She gave voice to difficult subject matter that may make some uncomfortable, but saves lives on a daily basis. At the conference, she taught me to embrace my creative need for self-expression, and to nurture the "seed" in my soul. 
  4. Donna Jo Napoli. Her speech was possibly my favorite. And that's really saying something as I gave more standing ovations than I have in my life. It was titled: How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader a Better Person. And she spoke to not just those who need to see others who've gone through similar things, but to the sheltered who benefit from exposure to truths beyond their own. 
  5. Libba Bray. I saved my favorite for last of course. My hero. Her speech was just as amazing as I hoped and so was she. Funny, intelligent, friendly, and talented. Libba - I would have voted you Prom Queen in high school. I'm just sayin'. She let us know that even the super stars go through rough times, and are plagued by self-doubt. 
Okay, have I gushed enough? You asked and now you have received, my friends. My own personal highlights of the conference this year. I could have kept going too! I mean Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen...

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18. Friday Book Recommendation--Summer Edition BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

Fun Summer Pick #2: As I said last week, I thought I'd give a run down of my favorite reads from this summer. What makes this week's pick a perfect beach read is that the majority of the book takes place on a beach--not the kind of beach I'd want to inhabit, but a beach nonetheless. I give you my second summer pick: BEAUTY QUEENS by the uber-talented Libba Bray.

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Kristi's take: This was my first book by Libba Bray, although her others are all on my TBR list. I'll admit that I picked this book up and put it down again several times before deciding to go with it. The premise seemed so over-the-top and wacky that I wasn't sure it was for me. I'm SO glad I gave this book a shot. The characters, plot, and setting are completely over the top, but that's sort of the point of satire. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book, and especially loved her footnotes and contestant profiles inserted in the chapters. Issues such as consumerism, commercialism, feminism, terrorism and some other "isms" I probably missed are addressed, but with a witty and hilarious vibe. If you like your sarcasm sharp and your humor intelligent, this book is for you. I loved it and will be moving her other books to the top of my list.

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19. Writers' Book Talk: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Today marks the first of our Writers' Book Talks, and the first book we're going to do is
Libba Bray's Going Bovine
. Here's what Goodreads has about it:

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

On a slightly unrelated note, the above paragraph, would make a great query letter, wouldn't it? It sets up the plot, the inciting incident, and the main characters, and it even gives you a good idea of the voice in which the story is told.

What the summary above doesn't set us up for is that the story tips its hat to Cervantes' Don Quixote de La Mancha, but twists that around to very overtly give us a microcosm of some issues facing kids today. In the Cervantes story, the antihero, Don Quixote, read too many novels and overdosed on chivalry, honor, glory, and knights errant much the way kids (and many adults) today overdose on video games or movies. Convinced the real world sucks because it doesn't live up to his expectations, Don Quixote sets off to win some glory of his own in honor of the fair peasant maiden Dulcinea. Accompanied and constantly berated by his skewed perception of the world and his trusty "squire" Pancho, Don Quixote creates nothing but disaster for everyone he tries to help at first. All the while that he battles through his adventures, we see Don Quixote's madness. Even he seems dimly aware of it in brief glimpses of sanity, until eventually, he comes to see the world more realistically at the end and, declaring himself sane, makes us wonder if he ever was crazy or only faking. Cervantes pulls off a masterpiece of slight-of-hand, leaving the reader constantly questioning.

Libba Bray achieves a similar bit of trickery. We're never quite sure whether her stoner antihero, Cameron, is lying in a hospital bed slowly having his brain eaten away by mad cow disease, or if he is in fact running around saving the world. The closer he comes to death, the more he becomes engaged in life, in his family, and in the love he starts to feel for Dulcie, the angel who guides him, watches him, and ultimately needs saving herself. But as with Don Quixote's Dulcinea, we're never completely sure if Dulcie or anything Cameron sees is real. There are glimpses of events in the hospital that break through into the quest action (hero's journey) throughout the book, but then there are several places, the phone calls to the parents, for example, where reality and quest intersect in ways that can't be explained. In the same way that Cervantes u

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20. Book Review Wednesday: Beauty Queens

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I am a note taker. The fact that I took absolutely no notes during Libba Bray’s recent speech at SCBWI’s 40th Anniversary Conference in LA has nothing to do with a lack of content and everything to do with the fact that I was laughing hysterically. When I started reading her most recent young adult release, Beauty Queens, I knew I could expect more laughs. How could you not when the author started with the premise, “A plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island.” What Ms. Bray has ended up with (in addition to marvelous humor and witty satire) is a smart and biting commentary on feminism, beauty, motherhood, and commercialization in our modern world.

Now before you groan and go get a cheese sandwich let me say that what is masterful about this book is how none of this is shoved down your throat. There are wonderful, imaginative, quirky characters here. Through tight and realistic dialogue and a fresh structure, Ms. Bray takes readers behind the stereotypes, behind the masks of her main characters allowing us to glimpse their heart and soul, their fears and vulnerabilities.

There is no “message” here, but there is theme. Theme comes after the book is written. Theme is the questions that the text forces each reader to ask but leaves each reader to answer. “Can girls (and boys) be themselves in our current culture?” “Has corporate greed corrupted the media?” “What is beauty?” “Has the beauty industry run amok?” “What are we doing to empower girls and boys in our current commercial culture?” “How do our parents shape us? Can we be us- apart from them?” “How does our sexual schizophrenia (American puritanical/commercialized) effect our sexuality and health?” “What is the responsibility of our elected officials in all of this?”

If you are teaching Lord of the Flies this year, I highly recommend that you included Beauty Queens, as a comp lit piece. The discussion opportunities would be endless. And while you’re at it, add in Golden Kite Winner Tanya Lee Stone’s The Good, The Bad and The Barbie. By the way, I was so engrossed in Beauty Queens that again I failed to take notes. However I did underline a favorite quote on page 177:

“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”

Ah, yes, Libba. An island-- or a room of one’s own.

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21. Diva Delight: Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

You know we love steampunk at readergirlz. We had a blast with Scott Westerfeld, right? Well, how about a collection of steampunk short stories by some more of our favorite, favorite YA authors? You'll recognize many from our rgz Circle of Stars, past guests and contributors. Grab your goggles, because this collection by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant delivers!

So, what will you find in Steampunk: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories? How about mystery, murders, and machines? Worlds of gears and steam in amazing new locations from the minds of 14 writers: M. T. Anderson, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Shawn Cheng, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Dylan Horrocks, Kathleen Jennings, Elizabeth Knox, Kelly Link, Garth Nix, Christopher Rowe, Delia Sherman, and Ysabeau S. Wilce.

How fun to find new authors I hadn't discovered before among old friends, all writing speculative fiction which often left me with chills. This quote from Cory's short story "Clockwork Fagin" really captures the collective atmosphere of Steampunk!:

"For machines may be balky and they may destroy us with their terrible appetite for oil, blood, and flesh, but they behave according to fixed rules and can be understood by anyone with the cunning to look upon them and winkle out their secrets. Children are ever so much more complicated."

Perfect, right? With three starred reviews already, look for this release October 11th!

Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
edited by Kelly Link and Gary J. Gavin
Candlewick Press, 2011

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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22. What I'm working on now, and book trailers!

I'm in the throes of editing hell...actually, I'll rephrase that--I'm in editing HEAVEN! Just a whole lot of it at once, is all. But the books are SO GOOD, and this is the meaty part of my job that I love the most. Speaking of, I've been meaning to update my "How I Edit" post from almost exactly five years ago, as technology has changed my process somewhat. Perhaps that will be for next week.

What I was working on this past weekend specifically was finishing up an editorial letter for the first book in Libba Bray's new four-book series, The Diviners. It's a YA historical paranormal with hints of horror (okay, more than just hints) set in New York City in the 1920s. Flappers, Ziegfeld's Follies, speakeasies, political protests, secret government experiments, cults, ghosts, supernatural powers, and oh yes, a serial killer. It's magnificent, and coming out next Fall.

This past weekend I've also been working on Chris Colfer's middle grade novel The Land of Stories, coming out next August. It's a fantastical adventure to a fairytale land, and it's a page-turner, with unexpected twists and turns, a lot of heart, and best of all it's funny. I was reading it on the subway and found myself chuckling out loud at the dialogue. I'm excited for the world to see that this kid can write as well as he can sing. And boy, do I love his voice (I can listen to his version of Blackbird all day).

So, while I keep editing, I wanted to share with you two trailers that were released recently. The first is for Peter Brown's hilarious new picture book You Will Be My Friend!, starring Lucille Beatrice Bear, who some of you might remember from his last book, Children Make Terrible Pets. You Will Be My Friend launched earlier this month, and on Saturday I attended his book launch party at Powerhouse Studio in DUMBO. And as Lucy would say, OH! MY! GOSH! This is the cutest trailer EVER!

This second trailer is for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone which officially pubs tomorrow! Happy early book birthday! There's been an incredible amount of excitement and buzz for this book, and the love, especially from bloggers, has been tremendous (and well-deserved, although I may be biased...).

Isn't that cool?

Okay, back to work!

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23. Beauty Queens Extravaganza and Contest!

Boy do I have a post foryou! See, my writing compadres, Julie Musil and Leslie Rose, and I have allfinished reading BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray. This book is too amazing to becontained in a single post, so the three of us have come together this week tobring you an uber-awesome BEAUTY QUEENS Blog Extravaganza complete with our ownbeauty contestant profiles and a contest too fun to believe. So make yourselvescomfortable for part one, right here, right now.

And with me to review thebook I have none other than a beauty contestant, Miss Writer’s Block!

Me: So what did you think of the book?

MWB: It was pretty. *Smiles*

Me: *Cringes away from blinding reflection off teeth* How did the story makeyou feel?

MWB: Confused and awed. Imean, I can’t even finish my book, let alone come up with yummy stories thatwork together so well and actually mean something. That’s why I went for theTitle. *fingers ribbon*

Me: Thank you, Miss Writer’sBlock.
My opinion? Oh come on. Youguys know Libba Bray is my favorite author. I may or may not have blackmailedher into taking this picture with me at the SCBWI conference. Either way, thisbook did NOT disappoint. I’d say lots of good stuff about the genius of it, butlet’s leave it at: If you want to be my friend you should read this book.
Now to my fun facts pagebased off the novel:

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24. Face Off, Round Two: Bray v. Anderson

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another round of Jacket Knack's Face Off. This month, we've pitted two well known, award winning authors with mixed portfolios against each other. Both Libbra Bray and M. T. Anderson write historical and contemporary fiction for young adults, and short stories too. And they've both won distinguished literary awards and honors for their works.

Let's inspect their YA covers (first edition, hardcover publication) and see what faces show up.

By Libba Bray:

Published December 9th 2003 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Published August 23rd 2005 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Published December 26th 2007 by Random House Children's Books

Published September 22nd 2009 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Published May 24th 2011 by Scholastic Press

Now Anderson's covers:

Published March 3rd 1997 by Candlewick

Published August 4th 1999 by Candlewick

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25. Whatcha Reading: Kindle at the Beach?

Just back from Kauai, readergirlz! I was a bit reluctant to take my Kindle to the beach. How about you?

Now that I'm back home, the top of my to-read stack is Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and a celebration release of M.T. Anderson's Feed. Can't wait to get to both! What's on your stack this last month of summer?

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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