The delightful, wondrous, and amazing Carrie Frye starts today as the new managing editor at the Awl. Let there be much rejoicing.
Congrats, dearie. You're going to rock this.
The delightful, wondrous, and amazing Carrie Frye starts today as the new managing editor at the Awl. Let there be much rejoicing.
Congrats, dearie. You're going to rock this.
I remember hearing him read from this in a small, dark room in Glasgow** at a WorldCon years ago now and being dazzled all over again by the way he plays with language and the expected in his stories. Getting the whole of this one was well worth the wait. Happy Valentine's.
*Karen Joy Fowler has some guest entries up at the Small Beer blog, including one from today. Snippet: "A singing tree: Just west of the dog beach, along the clifftop is a Monterey pine. There are many Monterey pines along the cliff and one tries not to have favorites, but this is a very appealing tree. Today it was making a tremendous racket as I approached and I had to get quite close to understand that a congress of blackbirds was hidden among the needles, each of them shouting as loudly as possible. There were so many that if they’d all flapped their wings at once, the tree would have taken flight." Go read the rest of this too. And then read all her other entries; you will not be sorry.
**At least, I'm almost certain this is that story. I'm sure he'll let me know if I'm wrong.
I think most of you know I've been working for months now on guest editing a special YA issue of Subterranean online magazine (for the *fabulous* Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press). Today I'm thrilled to finally be able to give everyone a peek at the contents and the cover (with art by Sara Turner of Cricket Press).
“Queen of Atlantis” by Sarah Rees Brennan
“Mirror, Mirror” by Tobias S. Buckell
“Younger Women” by Karen Joy Fowler
“Their Changing Bodies” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
“The Ghost Party” by Richard Larson
“Valley of the Girls” by Kelly Link
“The Fox” by Malinda Lo
“Seek-No-Further” by Tiffany Trent
“Demons, Your Body, and You” by Genevieve Valentine
If you think that looks awesome, wait until you read the stories. There's a little bit of everything: high fantasy, science fiction, historical, urban and contemporary fantasy. There's dark and witty and gorgeous.
Coming this summer to a web browser near you!
I'm sure you've seen the insanity that is Bitch Magazine deciding to remove three titles--Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, and Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red--from their "100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader" list based on a tiny (comments we can see) to nebulous (supposed emails) number of complaints, after apparently rushing to willfully misread (if you believe they even had time to read them) the books over the weekend, on the basis that they now assert the titles handle rape in problematic ways. If you haven't caught the uproar, Smart Bitches has an excellent round-up with relevant excerpts* from a thread that's now so lengthy it can be hard to swim into unprepared. (But is well worth reading.)
To claim Tender Morsels would give anyone the impression it endorses "rape as vengeance": INSANITY. I still can't quite believe this happened/is happening, and am incredibly disappointed in a magazine I used to subscribed to, still read on occasion, and was probably going to resubscribe to based on the original list (which wasn't perfect, no, but lists never are--still, overall, it was diverse and smart). I'm especially upset at how they seem to be ignoring further comments on the topic, including many incredibly well-considered and personal ones, and the wishes of authors who no longer want to be on their list. They owe their entire community a real response, not one buried in stray comments to this post. Dear Bitch Media: Stop trying to hide this debacle you created and are continuing to exacerbate with your inept response.
But, one thing's clear, the YA community rocks. (Even in the outrage, the hashtag #bitchplease** cracked me right up. My people are funny people.)
Perhaps my favorite response is this snippet of Maureen Johnson's:
Ladies, feminist media should be held to the highest standard. This kind of waffling and caving on comments is no good. Lots of people would have LOVED to use this list for educational purposes, but it's such a mess now that no one wants near it.
I request that either you get a grip or remove me from this list. If Margo is removed, I'd like to be removed with her. And please remember that young feminists are looking up to you. When they see you so easily intimidated, so easily swayed, so eager to make concessions . . . it sets exactly the wrong example.
I also really loved the comment that included a line that should be on a T-shirt: Strong Books Make Strong Girls.
(Unrelated aside: I've been meaning to post more frequently here--hangovers still going over at the tumblr--but I can't figure out what I want to post about and am busy doing the usual freelance and falling in love with a new project and wishing for spring, etcetera, etcetera. If there's anything you'd like me to blog about, let me know and I'll see if I can manage it. And I reserve the right to suddenly come up with Ideas and pop back up too. And there are some really fun things in the works for Sandstorm promo next month. YAY.)
*Do not miss the media advisory labels at the end of the post.
EDITED TO ADD: Finally, a response that I really do respect and am glad to see from Bitch Media. It seems the most transparent of everything from them so far. AND they're starting an online YA book club, a good suggestion that someone had left in the comments. And readers are choosing the first titles via a poll, which includes all three removed books--I voted for Tender Morsels.
I'm reading Charles Wilkins' The Circus at the Edge of the Earth*, which came out in 1998 and is the author's chronicle of the time he spent with the Great Wallenda Circus on a remote Canadian route. Anyway, this morning, I reached this paragraph about elephant trainer/handler Bobby Gibbs. I think you'll see why I felt I needed to share it here:
The ten-minute run to Zellers covered the first of many miles I would travel with him over the next month, and as we wheeled along May Street and Memorial Avenue, he revealed, among other things, that he read a book a day, that he sent twenty letters a week (I have received as many as four from him in a single delivery), and that, as a personal mission, he had journeyed every inch of the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition sent west to the Pacific from St. Louis by Thomas Jefferson in 1804. He had once, he reported consumed fifty White Castle hamburgers in a glutton contest in St. Paul, Minnesota. His musical cravings, he allowed, ran to gospel quartets and bandstand tuba, a taste he acquired from the writer and tuba player Daniel Pinkwater, who, for a number of months during the mid-1970s, worked as Bob's ring assistant and groom.
Needless to say if Daniel Pinkwater** wasn't already a personal hero (he is), this would have made him one.
*I might be playing with that circus idea I referenced in passing. Yes, I might.
**It has to be him, right? There can only be one Daniel Pinkwater, writer and tuba player. Or am I wrong?
If you read only one D&D* novel this year, make it the one with awesome gladiators, warrior women, a city in the air, and--best of all--Nightfeather’s Circus of Wonders.
I heart this book. (And not just because my sweetie wrote it.) Out March 1!
More to come, obviously. Plannings are afoot.
*No knowledge of the game necessary, promise. If you like good high fantasy, you'll like this. And if you do have game knowledge, even better.
The list of my top ten* SFF books from 2010 is now live at Locus Online. An exceptional crop of novels chosen from many exceptional novels--this was fun to put together, but also devil hard. It was a good year, and there's still plenty of things I need to get to.
But y'all go read these anyway, if you haven't, okay? They are fabulous.
*Technically I mention thirteen books (or fourteen, depending how you feel about the Willis), three of which aren't exactly SFF. But so close.
Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon have put together a fabulous new effort called Diversity in YA. The website (pretty!) launches today and a four-city (and possibly more) tour is in the works featuring many, many fabulous authors.
The project's focus is:
Diversity in YA seeks to bring attention to MG and YA books featuring people of color and LGBT characters. We envision DIYA as a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. Every week on our website we'll be featuring books that include diversity, from realistic, contemporary novels to absorbing historicals and adventurous fantasy.
Head over and check it out.
This looks to be a very good year for the awards* (though I do wish One Crazy Summer had picked up the Newbery in addition to the Coretta Scott King, and know nothing about the winner except that, boy, that cover already LOOKS so Newbery).
Anyway, massive congratulations to the Printz honorees (especially A.S. King, whose stuff I adore) and to winner Paolo Bacigalupi! (He's getting way too fancy, isn't he?)
A couple of related links: my review of Ship Breaker for Subterranean Online and the interview I did with Paolo here just after the book's release. A snippet:
Now, maybe we should leave it to other people to pick apart the question of why boys are all playing Grand Theft Auto and Halo3 and Left 4 Dead, and not reading and not going on to college, but my personal sense when I look at the sorts of good, literarily respectable books that we try to convince kids to read with, is that these look sort of boring in comparison to what's happening on other media.
Congratulations to award winners, honors, and committee members who did all the hard work! Now back to playing catch-up after last week's Great and Terrible Plague.
*A more complete list with additional info in the ALA press release.
What do these things have in common? They have made my sickbed languishing this week far, far less obnoxious*.
I'm feeling better today, finally, though off to the doctor anyway to make sure I don't now have a sinus infection as I'm still Not Well and my left eye's a bit swollen. But a list:
1. Anna and the French Kiss by (the delightful) Stephanie Perkins. How much do I love this book? So much I stayed up half the night to finish it even though I was on major league nighttime cold medicine. I'm sure you've heard many wonderful things about it already, and I've been looking forward to it for an age; it really did live up to my every expectation. An absolutely wonderful and rare contemporary YA romance, an impeccably executed story both frothy and substantial, and well worth your time. Anna, her friends and family (especially her dad--Nicholas Sparks, your ears are burning) all feel absolutely real to me; every character has their own compelling narrative, which makes for crackling scenes and the kind of rich world so essential for boarding school stories (in this case SOAP, the School of America in Paris). This book also has two things I wish I saw more often: a love story based on a real friendship (swoon) and friendships between girls that are believably complicated and important to all parties involved. Plus, they go see It Happened One Night.
2. So the only thing I could find a true marathon of on Tuesday was Millionaire Matchmaker, a show I was unfamiliar with previously. I was ambivalently switching back and forth between Portia de Rossi on Oprah (did you know she made up her name after she and a h.s. track competitor shared the same one?) and this show until Judith Regan turned up as a matchmakee. I couldn't. look. away. A lot of these guys though, clearly serial killers, and even some of the women, wow. And I just love these cattlecalls they hold to "cast" the soulmates and then there's this one episode where they are surprised to find a golddigger in the ranks and, really? You're introducing people to millionaires and they have to stand in front of you in an open call and be humiliated by charmingly frank assessments and they're not supposed to be golddiggers? "Oh, I'm not a golddigger, I just think that I would have a lot in common with a millionaire." Um, sure. Also, apparently all redheads must dye their hair if they want to find love. This show is CRAZYTOWN.
3. Blessed by (the wonderful) Cynthia Leitich Smith. I've been looking forward to this one for MORE than an age, since long-time readers will remember how much I ADORE its predecessors Tantalize and Eternal. Blessed rounds out the trilogy (are there more? I shall find out), and is a direct follow-up to Tantalize, bringing back teen restauranteur and (not-really-a-spoiler) newly turned vampire Quincie Morris. Characters from Eternal soon show up on the scene, including guardian angel Zachary, and Quincie's going to need them because not only is her maker Brad going Dracula in her dreams, everyone who had the chilled baby squirrels he prepared at her vampire-themed restaurant has been infected and will soon go vamp too... unless she can stop it. And did I mention her best friend Kieren (more best friend romance, yay!) who she's recently hooked up with is now disappeared to a secret wolf pack locale? Yes, yes, you must read this one. Even if you are totally sick of werewolves and vampires and angels. (Did I mention there's a werepossum?) This series is set apart by its rich, quirky universe, the way Cyn plays with gender dynamics, and how truly funny and poignant it is. Not to mention it's in direct conversation with Bram Stoker's Dracula. I. Loved. It.
4. Circus. My long-time fascination with all things circus-related will surprise no one. Anyway, Barb and Richard were here for the New Year's weekend as usual, and by Sunday sick girl was really not wanting to do much of anything but laze on the couch and watch television. Luckily, I had all six hours of the Circus documentary series about a year in the life of the Big Apple Circus, which aired on PBS earlier this year, stored on the DVR. Every time I'd turn them on in C's presence, he wasn't interested (despite the fact that his book is a fabulous circus book), but Barb turned out to be the perfect viewing companion. We got completely sucked into the personalities and dramas (I still want to know what happened to horse groom Heidi, and hope she makes her way back to the circus). It was highly enjoyable, and now I'm toying with a circus book in my backbrain. Also, I so wish there were trapeze classes around here somewhere.
Next up some Dia Reeves and, hopefully, being WELL.
*Does not deal well with forced breaks. And, in all fairness, the millionaires part was kind of noxious.
I'm working on a 2010 wrap-up piece with my take on "the best" SFF reads in YA and otherwise that'll appear elsewhere later this month, but I wanted to do a different sort of list here. I read my usual assortment of lots of types of books this year, except I also added a lot more romance in the mix. I've been reading a smattering of urban fantasy the past few years (Ilona Andrews, Marjorie Liu, Rachel Caine, Devon Monk, Patricia Briggs, et. more), and many feature prominent romantic elements. But after writing a couple of PW pieces on romance, I really wanted to feel better versed in the core genre.
I started by finally reading Jennifer Crusie, and, boy, did that quickly become an obsession. I tracked down her entire backlist and read everything she'd written in about a month. Then I started shopping for readalikes and branching out a bit.
The thing about starting to read in any genre you aren't overly familiar with is that it can be very hard to figure out what to read. I was incredibly lucky in that regard, mainly because of go-to sources of awesome recommendations, in particular: Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, The Book Smugglers, and Rose Fox on twitter and (sometimes) at Genreville. (And through fellow readers elsewhere; you know who you are.) I found it INSANELY handy to use the rating/grade reviews on several of these sites, browsing the highest ones for titles that appealed. I figured it would be worth posting a list of some of the best romances I read this year, because there might be readers of this blog who'd like to mix in more ro-to-the-mance, but don't know where to start.
An idiosyncratic sampling of some highlights (by no means comprehensive) behind the cut:
You've probably already seen this, but it's just too good to only stick over at the tumblr-tron:
Should be shown at the beginning of writing classes everywhere.
The Florida Writers Foundation is having a fundraising auction, with the online action kicking off this weekend. I donated a 50-page manuscript critique, which you can read more about here, and see what else is up for the taking. (I'll probably be a cheap date for your novel.)
The auction bidding opens Saturday and closes Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker (Little, Brown & Co.)
Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird
(Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)
Laura McNeal, Dark Water (Alfred A. Knopf)
Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown
(Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer
(Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Paolo's and Rita's are two of my very favorite books of the year and I'm so glad to see them both up for this. And I've heard nothing but wonderful things about Mockingbird, and look forward to tracking down Lockdown and Dark Water. (Also note: Way to go Amistad imprint.)
Michael Cunningham has a fabulous essay at the NYT about the ways in which all acts of writing and reading are translations:
Here’s a secret. Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they’d intended to write. It’s one of the heartbreaks of writing fiction. You have, for months or years, been walking around with the idea of a novel in your mind, and in your mind it’s transcendent, it’s brilliantly comic and howlingly tragic, it contains everything you know, and everything you can imagine, about human life on the planet earth. It is vast and mysterious and awe-inspiring. It is a cathedral made of fire.
And another snippet (Helen is a waitress, and devoted leisure reader):
I began to think of myself as trying to write a book that would matter to Helen. And, I have to tell you, it changed my writing. I’d seen, rather suddenly, that writing is not only an exercise in self-expression, it is also, more important, a gift we as writers are trying to give to readers. Writing a book for Helen, or for someone like Helen, is a manageable goal.
It also helped me to realize that the reader represents the final step in a book’s life of translation.
Well worth the time. (I'm at the stage of my current draft where I feel like I'm trapped inside the cathedral of fire, but there are worse places to be.)
Edited to add: See also the wonderful Tiffany's related post.
The fabulous Jo Knowles has started a meme in honor of Banned Books Week and #speakloudly, which goes a little something like this:
1. Go find your favorite banned book.
2. Take a picture of yourself with said book.
3. Give that book some love by explaining why you think it is an important book.
4. Post it to your blog.
5. Spread the word!
I have too many favorites to have a favorite, and I'm not situated to take a picture at the moment... so we'll sort of skip 1 and 2. However, one of my favorite challenged books when I was in high school was also one of the first true YA books I ever fell in love with: Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat (and the rest of the series--Witch Baby and Missing Angel Juan are my faves).
Block's books were wildly inventive and delicious, especially for a girl living in extremely small town Kentucky. I found out about them from my beloved Sassy magazine, and our wonderful, brave school librarian--who frequently asked me for suggestions on things to order--got the whole set. They stayed checked out. These were books girls told each other about, that so many people in that small town high school fell in love with. And why?
Because they didn't hold back. Because Block's world was a free one, where gay people weren't stigmatized, where families could be odd but still work, where there was room to screw up and make mistakes without ruining all life forever. You can't fool teenagers, and we knew these books were honest. Plus? They were stylistic fireworks. Block's voice was a whole new thing; she was telling flamboyantly fabulist stories about the emotionally real.
The idea of someone banning these effervescent parables of acceptance and individuality? Is ludicrous. There's not a hateful, negative thing in them, though there are characters dealing with hateful, tough, negative life stuff. And I'm truly grateful we had access to these books, not a little because my amazing mother--our principal--was against blocking and removing books and never allowed it to happen during her tenure. There's a reason they were always checked out: We needed them.
And it makes me angry beyond reason to think about teens anywhere being denied access to these, or any other books, because an adult has decided it's better to steal them off the shelves. I think these would-be banners know that the enclosed worlds they're trying to construct really are that fragile--fragile enough to be destroyed by one honest book. Keep reading what scares them.
p.s. I kind of love this tumblr.
I see from fellow panelist Charlotte's Library that the Science Fiction and Fantasy panels have been announced, and I'm on one. But this year I'm mixing it up--usually I do the YA side, but I've been meaning to read more middle grade SFF and now I shall. And being on the first round panel means I'll get to read LOTS. Nominations start October 1, so mull your favorites and put them in contention then.
(Though I will miss the YA panel people I've served with before, including divinely awesome SFF category organizer Sheila Ruth.)
Full panels stolen from Charlotte, listed behind the cut tag:
So I'm reading Mockingjay now, and I'm figuring I'll want to say spoilery things verrry soon so feel free to do the same in the comments section below if you want. Which is where I'll put mine. Having trouble finding such discussions and this seems easiest. After all, the talktalktalk after is part of what makes communal reading experiences fun.
(Lovers, haters, skeptics and fools alike are welcome, as long as rules of polite conduct are observed.)
This is one of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes, because it feels so true:
"If you're going to write, don't pretend to write down. It's going to be the best you can do, and it's the fact that it's the best you can do that kills you."
But I'd never read the long interview in the Paris Review it's from (that's a PDF*) and the whole exchange is:
*Well worth reading in its entirety. Full of gems like this: "The people who lived and wrote well in the twenties were comfortable and easy living. They were able to find stories and novels, and good ones, in conflicts that came out of two million dollars a year, not a garret. As for me, I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money. I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it."
Do you think Hollywood destroys the artist’s talent?
No, no, no. I think nobody on earth writes down. Garbage though they turn out, Hollywood writers aren’t writing down. That is their best. If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you. I want so much to write well, though I know I don’t, and that I didn’t make it. But during and at the end of my life, I will adore those who have.
I'm thrilled to host a stop on Andrew Auseon's blog tour in support of his new novel, Freak Magnet (Amazon | Indiebound), which I posted about yesterday. His debut novel, Funny Little Monkey, was one of the first non-fantasy YA novels I read during what was still the early days, really, of the YA boom, and one of the first places I ever saw mention of a little placed called Vermont College and its YA and Children's program. He's a writer who deserves more attention, and I hope this novel finds the wide, adoring readership it deserves. Without further ado, our conversation...
GB: I always start with a process question, so tell me about the writing of this novel. Did it differ from the way you've written your previous novels? Did you chant strange sayings and walk around your desk three times, etc.?
AA: There was a lot of levitation, days of it, actually. And I went through like six pointy wizard hats. (They are notoriously expensive here in the States, but across the border in Canada they’re covered by universal health insurance.) No, unfortunately, magic was not involved in the writing of this book, just the usual hours of crying, sleep deprivation, and fight club.
Freak Magnet came about unexpectedly. Early in 2006, I was feeling pretty burnt out from several high concept writing projects that had taken a toll on me creatively, and I started to wonder how to reclaim my inspiration. The strange thing was that instead of thinking big, I thought small, as in a single scene.
After months of writing outlines and having long discussions about fantasy worlds and plotlines, I was returning to what really mattered: character; or in this case: a boy with a big mouth in a café. The first scene I wrote in Freak Magnet was the opening chapter, in which the two main characters have a chance meeting on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I think it’s a great first scene because it sets forth the tone of the whole story to come, not to mention the initial dynamic between its characters Charlie and Gloria. For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of that whole first scene is that it’s based on a true story, sort of.
In college, I had this wonderful friend named Russ, easily one of the sweetest and funniest people I’ve ever known. (I’ve spent years trying to find him, to no avail.) One night, Russ and I attended a play at the university theater as part of an assignment for literature class. The lead actress was absolutely radiant, someone you couldn’t help but notice. A few days after that performance, Russ and I were in one our favorite college dives, and this girl walked in with her friends. She looked completely different, out of her Irish period garb and makeup, but still she was unmistakable. Well, Russ, in a fit of mad inspiration, turned to me and said, “I’m going to tell that girl that she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
And he did, and I’ll never forget it. He sauntered right up to that pizza counter and politely introduced himself, and then gave her his message.
Now, in a perfect world, a person could say that and not be treated with scorn; but this isn’t a perfect world, and this girl was completely unprepared for Russ’s compliment. The whole encounter was a classic “looks good on paper” that exploded into flames upon execution. Russ never made such a mistake again.
But why wouldn’t someone want to hear a compliment like that? One of the reasons I wrote Freak Magnet was to give my old friend—and all the other good guys out there like him—the treatment he so deserved. It’s hard to put yourself out there, but sometimes the truth needs to be spoken aloud, even if it means getting kneed in the groin. (That, to clarify, did not happen. Thank goodness.)
GB: One of the things that most impresses me about this book is how absolutely distinct each first-person voice is—Charlie and Gloria will never be confused with each other. And it's such an effective way to make the reader fall in love with each of them, and also to slyly comment on how rarely we truly know what the other person in a relationship is thinking. How quickly did those voices come together for you? Did the novel start with the characters or did the idea of doing a love story come first?
AA: Wow. Thanks. I’m so glad you liked them. Charlie and Gloria were a joy to write, even when they weren’t cooperating with me, or when they were quarreling with each other.
The love story and the characters occurred simultaneously. I always intended Freak Magnet to be a story about two characters from very different backgrounds coming together, so the endgame was never in doubt. I also knew that in order to create the kind of friction I wanted, and even the moments of awkward silence, I needed two characters that would never normally associate with each other in the course of daily life—two near opposites. Half the fun of writing, and reading, a relationship like this is watching them fumble around trying to figure the other person out. That’s the story in a nutshell: clumsy groping.
Before I ever starting calling them Charlie or Gloria, I had developed pretty good sense of who my lead characters would be—their basic worldviews and insecurities. However, the specifics of their particular dysfunctions took years to evolve.
For example, I always knew that Charlie would be that guy at the coffee shop everyone wants to avoid. There’s just something about him: his interruptions, his nervous energy, and his complete lack of self-awareness. That kind of openness really makes people uncomfortable, and I knew that kind of tense atmosphere was one I wanted to explore with Charlie. I love his character, because he’s someone that only a handful of people appreciate. And that “what you see is what you get” attitude cuts both ways. So often he’s sticking himself into other people’s business, but at the same time he’s walking around extremely vulnerable.
In contrast, Gloria was always going to be the epitome of the person who finds Charlie odd, even repellent, because she doesn’t like people who wear their hearts on their sleeves. She is unable to do it, so she resents those who can. She also hates being the center of attention, preferring instead to lurk in the shadows. That gives her some small modicum of control. Charlie is out of control, and so he is constantly crashing into Gloria and rearranging her carefully laid plains. She hates that, but needs it.
One of the first tasks that my editor and I did when starting the Freak Magnet revisions was to continue tightening the two voices to make them more distinctive. I’m glad to hear that this was a valuable effort, since the success of the entire novel rests wholly on the believability of the two main characters. Plus, it was very exciting to write in two voices, each at a different extreme on the spectrum.
As a poet, Gloria uses staccato rhythms, simple syntax, and at times even musical speech patterns. She doesn’t waste her page real estate. I like that. She says what she thinks, but often with a bit of style, or some commentary. One of the tools I use occasionally in her narration is the parenthetical. These are asides, when she chooses to add a more in-depth observation or a subjective opinion to what she’s reporting. Those were pretty amusing, because I can just imagine her giving you the facts, but then adding one last detail because she just has to. When writing Gloria, I imagined how she would write her poems and let that guide my prose.
Where Gloria used a more controlled, lyrical voice, Charlie reveled in his rambling. I wanted his way of speaking to be extremely indicative of a mind that doesn’t know when to slow down or stop. His brain is always racing, always wondering where to next direct his speeding train of thought. Writing his voice was a joyride, but, as one could probably guess, it certainly provided its fair share of challenges. We pulled back a lot of with Charlie, because his musings often lead the reader away from the focal point of the scene, and that proved distracting. I had to train Charlie, to keep him in check; but wow, was it ever fun to let his mouth off the leash. He says everything he wants to say, unfiltered. Living through him was pretty vicarious thrill.
GB: So, this is a love story, but it's a highly unconventional one. Is this in any way a response to love story tropes or does it reflect something you feel is missing in most relationship stories (and especially in YA)? Also, what's the most outrageous thing you ever did in the act of pitching woo?
AA: I would love to say that Freak Magnet is my response to YA love story tropes, but I don’t read enough YA fiction these days to feel like I have a firm grasp of what’s the norm. I wish I were so clever. My only goal in writing the book was to tell a love story that felt like it could have happened to me, or someone I knew, complete with all the idiotic gaffes, weird coincidences, and incredible moments of connection that real life has to offer. In my experience, love is a very messy business, and sometimes I feel that we idealize it so much that we skew expectations, make it out to be something that’s out of our control and thus requires nothing of us. That’s wrong. Love should be the most demanding.
I grew up during a period when romantic comedies were a pretty big draw at the box office, and those kinds of magical romances left their mark. Freak Magnet definitely possesses elements of that formula—the reliable best friends, the serendipitous encounters, etc.—but like in my previous novels, I wanted the darker parts of the story to have bite. There’s a lot of sadness to overcome in this book, a lot of rocks to sail past on your way to the beaches. I think a good example of the kind of story I wanted to tell would be the Cameron Crowe movie Say Anything. The two teens in that story are really well rounded characters with a believable collection of strengths and weaknesses, and their path to happiness leads them through obstacles, some of which you don’t see coming. The genius of that story is that the two kids are forced to grow up in order to overcome those challenges, and their newfound love is perhaps the single most important catalyst of that change. They literally could not have done it alone.
As for me, I wouldn’t say there’s one particular moment that stands out as my Gettysburg of woo. However, there was a time in my life—specifically when I was pursuing the girl who is now my wife—when I went a little crazy, did things I wouldn’t dream of doing now, either because I’m not an idiot anymore, or because that kind of mad inspiration really does strike only once, maybe twice in a lifetime. If I told you some of those things, you’d probably think I was a freak too, which I guess is the point.
GB: You're also a video game designer. How does that inform your writing or vice versa? Are the processes at all similar? Why do video games get a bad rap from so many adults?
AA: It’s a very different kind of work than writing novels. Probably the most obvious difference is that I’m part of a team, and most of the time, my words need to blend seamlessly with the words of others in my department. Everything we do is a global effort. We are creating a huge world, and all of the pieces have to fit together organically and fade into the background. Essentially, writing for games is all about enabling the player, providing a narrative within which he or she can create new, more unique personal stories—water cooler moments for nerds. With my novels, I’m able to do exactly what I want and make a mess of things. Not so with games. There are too many other people involved. Oh yeah, and gobs of money.
I’m not sure I really understand why video games get a bad rap. I think some of it has to do with the fact that many adults don’t understand what video games are, exactly, which is the same thing that happened for a long time with comics. There’s still a misconception that the bright and shiny world of the Nintendo and the Playstation is the domain of children, and not to be taken seriously. Platforms like the Wii perpetuate this myth. (All those years of flying turtle shells and glowing stars may have done every other video game a disservice.) Like any form of entertainment—books, movies, music, you name it—there is an incredible variety of video games.
Games have ratings, like just about every other form of entertainment we consume. If a child’s guardians don’t take an active role in educating themselves about what their children spend their time doing make poor decisions, then they forfeit their right to blame game developers for the results. True: Grand Theft Auto is a violent video game. Also true: no one under 18 should ever play it. Would you give your kids a Sopranos DVD and hope for a rosy outcome? I sure hope not. I am allowed to play Grand Theft Auto because I am a mature adult who is able to appreciate its rich, sprawling narrative, and because I’m a sociopath.
GB: Finally, recommend some things by other people—what have you been reading/listening to/watching/playing that you think people would be well-advised to check out.
AA: I am woefully out of touch with what’s cool. Maybe that makes me a freak, like Charlie. I exist almost completely inside a bubble, often yanking in my wife and two daughters to join me when I have something interesting to say, like, “Where are my keys?” or “What did you do with your diaper?” And like everybody else out there, I’m insanely busy. I don’t think I even remember what it’s like to have interests. But let me give it a shot.
After years of procrastination, my wife and I have finally gotten around to watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which has been a lot of fun. It’s a show that carries so much baggage in the form of hype, that I have trouble coming at it objectively. Luckily, it’s really clever and weird and funny.
I listen to a lot of music, but it’s mostly while I’m writing, so I tend to avoid lyrics as hey can cause brain-lock. I usually gravitate toward atmospheric music, post-rock artists like Sigur Rós, Hammock, and the Album Leaf, or electronic musicians like Ulrich Schnauss. If there was one album, or collection of music I’ve spent a lot of time listening to recently, it’s probably the original soundtrack to the TV show “LOST,” by Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino. The guy’s a genius, and the melodies are too simply gorgeous for words.
When I’m not working, I try to play games, and I usually prefer board and card games to the electronic variety. The card games “Dominion,” “Bang,” and “Race for the Galaxy” are all excellent. One of the more fun board games I’ve played in recent weeks has been “The Adventurers,” which is inspired by old adventure heroes like Indiana Jones and Allan Quartermain. You explore an ancient temple, trying to survive long enough to escape with a bag full of treasures… and your life. It’s a great game for kids too, because there are all sorts of little contraptions and components—a wall that closes in on you, a giant rolling stone, and a pit of lava. Get your white-knuckle thrills!
As a parent of young children, I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like to, at least not novels. However, there are advantages to having toddlers and kindergarteners, namely kid lit! My favorite author is Cynthia Rylant. Her work is just amazing, and if you have daughters, the “Cobble Street Cousins” series is a must, as is “Mr. Putter and Tabby.” For the older set, I would recommend the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley (I cringe when calling them graphic novels, because they are nothing like classics such as Watchmen or From Hell). They’re not high art, and O’Malley really needs to learn to draw another face, but he perfectly captures the strange vagrant lifestyle of your early twenties. Plus, he does some really interesting things with integrating video game culture with traditional narrative. It’s unique, and pretty ridiculous. I haven’t been neglecting novels altogether. I devoured George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” fantasy series, completely riveted from start to finish. I’m not normally into fantasy, but Martin’s books are a juicy combination of courtly intrigue, bawdy sex, violent combat, and peculiar characters. They’re making a long-running HBO series, so you know it has to be pretty damn good.
Okay, I think it’s been established that I talk way too much. So I will make my exit. Thanks so much to Gwenda for hosting me on Shaken & Stirred today, and I hope everyone has a chance to check out Freak Magnet. Later!
You can find out where the next stop on Andy's blog tour is at his own blog—and, like I already said, pick up this book.
Of course, I know the answer. It's because Freak Magnet is a book that might be lumped into the nebulous category of "small"--it's primarily character-focused, it's bereft of creatures of the night unless you count beginning astronomers, it's idiosyncratic, it's funny but also not afraid to be taken seriously... No, wait, I'm back to not understanding anymore. Because no one would call John Green's books "small"--at least not anymore--and I'm pretty well convinced that anyone who likes John Green's books will also respond to this one. Or fans of Sara Zarr (who contributes a lovely blurb) or Natalie Standiford, Barry Lyga or Cecil Castellucci, for that matter. I could keep going.
Freak Magnet follows Charlie Wyatt, aka the Freak, and Gloria Aboud, aka the Freak Magnet, during summer break. The book begins when Superman-obsessed stargazer Charlie first spots Gloria and decides he must tell her she's the most beautiful girl he's ever seen; a writer, she promptly records this encounter in her notebook, aka the Freak Folio. Sounds like a frothy set-up, doesn't it? But Auseon's too good a writer to be content with that, and what follows is a story that will truly keep you on the edge of your preferred reading furniture, turning pages, caring about each of these characters too much to stop.
This is the sort of contemporary realist fiction that I unabashedly love. Geeky, cool, honest, and absorbing. Focused on creating intimate character portraits and memorable casts (Gloria's sister is into cosplay every day--even for their mother's foundation benefits) without the handwringing of tea towels beside a window overlooking the English moors (or the professor someone just committed adultery with's backyard), but filled with no less emotional depth for that. Auseon's teens and adults feel as individual and as nuanced as any real people I've ever met and over the course of Gloria and Charlie's unconventional love story, I fell in love with both of them. I'm not overstating when I say this novel reminded me of all the things I love about YA realism done right (and there's plenty of appeal here for SFF readers, too). On a craft level, the book is quite an achievement--I haven't seen dual first person point of view done any better than this, with each voice absolutely distinct, or read many other novels able to balance true humor with true weight half so well.
I'd recommend this book to just about anyone. Freaks and freak magnets take note.
(Also, take note I'll have an interview with Andy Auseon as part of his whirlwind blog tour tomorrow.)
A short movie for M.T. Anderson's* The Suburb Beyond the Stars. Complete hilarity ensues:
*That is one spiffy website.
Here is what I love most about White Cat: It's filled with surprises.
This is, of course, the newest novel by Holly Black (Amazon | Indiebound). Long time readers know how much I heart her books, and a new one is always, always a treat. And it's the first in a series, even better. I actually read it some time ago, and have been meaning to write about it ever since. It's a book that crawls around in your brain for weeks afterward--or it did mine anyway.
I'm sure you know the premise already, but just in case. White Cat features an alternate version of our world, close in many ways, but different in a major one: Magic is real, but only a small percentage of the population known as curse workers can do it. Cassel is from a family of curse workers, but isn't one. Curse work is akin to the mafia in our world, and it's accomplished through touch, which means bare hands are forbidden by society. This first in the series begins with Cassel waking up on a roof at the boarding school where he's been playing at normal, only running a light bookie racket. The implication is that he's being worked, and he finds himself obsessing over the memory of a murder, one he himself committed. The journey that follows is witty, sly, and complicated. True darkness waits in the shadows of this world, and the reader is riveted by the twin hope that Cassel will manage to both master that darkness and escape it.
I don't want to toss out spoilers, because as I've said, the surprises this book holds are one of its great pleasures. In fact, the reason I said the surprises are what I love most about it is because it gives up twists and revelations with ease. Too often writers hoard twists and reveals, as if they're afraid to spend them and must draw them out as long as possible. Here is a writer who isn't afraid to spend a twist, because she can pull off an even bigger one later in the book. A writer who isn't afraid to give you (and the character) a revelation early on rather than saving it for the end, because the character is rich enough to possess a deep well of secrets. Even the way in which the titular fairy tale is recalled and reworked is a surprise all its own.
White Cat should win the YA Edgar next year; it's a crime novel with a mystery at its heart. And I'm also hopeful that it will help reopen the way for a broader variety of contemporary YA fantasy than we've been seeing in the field recently. (I'm in for a good paranormal romance just like the next person, but there's room for so much more.)
Writers who take real chances in their work are far too rare. I bet we can all easily think of a dozen writers who seem--from the outside at least--to have identified their comfort zone and decided not to leave it. How fabulous, then, to see someone who is hugely successful still pushing the limits of their craft, willing to take on a major departure from what came before. Willing to keep surprising us. Old fans will love this, and I predict the series will draw even more new ones. IF THERE IS ANY JUSTICE IN THE WORLD.
And now, an aside: The thing about Holly is, she's just as excellent and amazing a person as a writer. And she's effortlessly smart about storytelling and writing. When she and Sarah breezed through Lexington on tour, we were talking after their event about revisions because Christopher was just getting started on his first-ever substantial revision for his first-ever novel (just turned in last week!). We came around to the subject of character and how protagonists often need a lot of work in second drafts and revisions, that they can feel like ciphers. Not quite fully formed. And Holly said something I'm sure I've heard a variation on before, but at that specific moment clicked into place, opened up something for me like a key. I'm going to now paraphrase it in an undoubtedly far less elegant way than actually said. Holly said that often happens because you're so close to the protagonist when you're first telling the story, and the protag is looking around describing what they see, discovering the world, and so they aren't present on the page yet.
This, for me, is SO TRUE. And it's so strange to realize a character isn't on the page yet sometimes, when you've been really close to them and understand them inside and out and they feel fully developed. But that's not on the page yet. What's on the page is what they see, what happens to them. So I'm now trying to pay more attention to that while drafting, but especially in early revisions. Anyway, I pass on this aside in case it is similarly revelatory to any of you.
So, White Cat. It's being published for adults in the UK, I believe, and so clearly has metric tons of cross-over potential for the adult audience. If you like dark fantasy or twisty con stories or reinvented fairy tales or, well, awesome, then give this one a try. You'll probably be surprised.
I leave you with a random lovely snippet from early in the book, when Cassel goes back to the house he grew up in:
Someone could cut through the mess in our house and look at it like one might look at rings on a tree or layers of sediment. They'd find the black-and-white hairs of a dog we had when I was six, the acid-washed jeans my mother once wore, the seven blood-soaked pillowcases from the time I skinned my knee. All our family secrets rest in endless piles.
Sometimes the house just seemed filthy, but sometimes it seemed magical. Mom could reach into some nook or bag or closet and pull out anything she needed. She pulled out a diamond necklace to wear to a New Year's party along with citrine rings with gems as big as thumbnails. She pulled out the entire run of Narnia books when I was feverish and tired of all the books scattered beside my bed. And she pulled out a set of hand-carved black and white chess pieces when I finished reading Lewis.
Her first post at the Cozy Reader is quite amazing, and offers part one of what she's been doing since the collection published:
Ursula was born on February 23, 2009, at twenty-four weeks, after a complicated pregnancy. I had checked out What To Expect When You’re Expecting from our library early on, but I hadn’t even gotten to the section on labor when I went into labor. We had barely begun to think about names. I liked Fern, because of Charlotte’s Web. My husband and I both liked Gulliver, if it turned out I was having a boy. (The ultrasounds were cloudy. Ask again later.) We both liked Ursula, because it meant little bear, and because we both loved the books of Ursula K. Le Guin.
You'll want to read the rest, and I defy you to skip part two.
Updated: I'm going to add links for each day as I see them.
Day Two: Part two: "I didn't write any stories during this period. Maybe this is because the kinds of stories that I write don't have the kind of happy, conclusive ending that I longed for, so badly, for so many months, in my own life. Maybe I didn't write because it was always going to be hard to write while you are a new parent."
Day Three: Part One: "Me, I've always been concerned about the fact that I can't drive stick shift. Come the zombie apocalypse, or the werewolf attack, I'll be the one sitting in the driver’s seat of the getaway car, crying hysterically while I flood the clutch." Part Two: Lists of favorite romances, paranormal romances, and movies and TV that mix fantasy and romance.
Day Four: Advice for writers on reading: "Read awful books. No, seriously. Read them out loud, with friends, if you can. Identify the ways in which you can learn from them. My favorite awful book? Micah by Laurel K. Hamilton (I am not going to say that her other books are awful, by the way. But this one is astonishingly -- and usefully – and wonderfully -- horrible. I highly recommend it.)"
Day Five: A short interview: "I still read Joyce Ballou Gregorian's Tredana trilogy every few years, mostly because she died much too young, and so there are only those three books. They mean a ton to me."
Day Six: On generating story ideas: "Kate Wilhelm is a writer of mystery novels, classic science fiction novels like Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang, a short-story writer, and an anthologist. Along with her husband Damon Knight, she co-founded the Clarion Workshop. Although she was no longer an instructor when I went to Clarion in 1995, one of the most useful pieces of writing advice I've ever come across was something Wilhelm said. To roughly paraphrase, she suggests that every writer indirectly collaborates with her subconscious -- she calls this collaborator your Silent Partner -- who supplies you with ideas that you then turn into stories."
Day Eight: On discovering Diana Wynne Jones: "At this age, even though I can't quite keep the names of authors straight in my head, I am beginning to develop a theory that writers with three names (or at least two initials) are good bets when it comes to fantasy. (Probably why I will eventually pick up Joyce Ballou Gregorian's books, as well as P. C. Hodgell's, in a few years, and then Karen Joy Fowler's collection Artificial Things. Eventually I am also partial to interesting and distinctive names, like Piers Anthony, or Tanith Lee, maybe because they are easier to remember. By the time I'm fifteen or sixteen, I'm fully invested in the cult of the author: if a bio reveals that an author has a horse, or cats, or lives in a castle -- better yet, all three -- I'll give their book a try.)"
Day Nine (the last day): On making zines: "What I would really love to see are some YA zines -- there are a lot of good blogs where you can go and find people talking about YA fiction, but there still aren't a lot of venues that publish YA short fiction, or for that matter, young adult writers who are beginning to write fiction."
(So, I only listed the stops here that had posts to them, which means maybe one giveaway site where I couldn't find the post might be missing. Gavin's list contains all the blogs that participated.)
Laura Miller takes an insightful tour of the dystopian YA boom of recent years (and still going strong) for the New Yorker:
The youth-centered versions of dystopia part company with their adult predecessors in some important respects. For one thing, the grownup ones are grimmer. In an essay for the 2003 collection "Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults," the British academic Kay Sambell argues that "the narrative closure of the protagonist’s final defeat and failure is absolutely crucial to the admonitory impulse of the classic adult dystopia." The adult dystopia extrapolates from aspects of the present to show readers how terrible things will become if our deplorable behavior continues unchecked. The more utterly the protagonist is crushed, the more urgent and forceful the message. Because authors of children’s fiction are "reluctant to depict the extinction of hope within their stories," Sambell writes, they equivocate when it comes to delivering a moral. Yes, our errors and delusions may lead to catastrophe, but if—as usually happens in dystopian novels for children—a new, better way of life can be assembled from the ruins would the apocalypse really be such a bad thing?
Read the whole piece.
Oh, you BEA people, have fun this week navigating the somewhat soul-deadening rows of booths at Javits and hitting the much more fun parties. (Two words important to BEA survival: Chair massage.) Anyway, I wrote a number of little pieces for the BEA Show Daily, so you can keep an eye out for those too. Unable to squeeze in BEA and Wiscon, we chose Wiscon (yay!), because Javits vs. the Concourse Hotel? No competition.
So, here's my Wiscon schedule of Official Programming Items:
Otherwise, I'll be findable in the usual haunts--the Small Beer table, the Governor's Club, following Ted Chiang to panels, etc. etc. See you there?
(OH, and if anyone has suggestions for smart stuff to say at the panels, especially the YA one, please to post in the comments or email.)
As a reader, there are few better moments than the first time you discover the work of a writer you immediately love and know you'll follow for years to come. Reading the first story in the short story collection Black Juice, "Singing My Sister Down," was that moment for me with Margo Lanagan (and I know for a bunch of others). I've yet to be disappointed, and don't expect to. Margo tells brave, wise, outrageously beautiful stories filled with terrible, wonderful things. Her novel Tender Morsels (Amazon | Indiebound) is one of those books I know I will return to over the years, finding something new every time. All by way of saying I'm happy to host the final stop on Margo's blog tour for its paperback edition. Now, as usual, I asked for process porn--I know you all love it so--but instead what Margo has written is an essay about having various editions of one's books and, also, about process. (It's a difficult topic to escape*.) So, welcome, Margo!
NOTE: First three U.S. commenters will be sent a copy from the publisher!
Gwenda, I know you usually ask people to talk about their writing process, especially for the book in question, but honestly, I’ve written and talked so much process-porn about Tender Morsels, there is really nothing new to say - and I want you to have new stuff!
So, let’s talk about the weirdness that is new editions. It was pretty weird for me to have two editions of Tender Morsels come out (US hardback and Australian adult) in October 2008, and then two more hardback editions published in the UK (by David Fickling as YA and as adult by Jonathan Cape) in July last year. I don’t publish a whole bunch, and I’m used to maybe a new cover every couple of years, so to have four different covers for the same book felt a bit excessive (in a wonderful way, of course!). And to watch the different reactions to the book when it was marketed as YA and as adult was interesting, especially the very strong reaction both for and against it as a YA book in the UK.
Now, with the fuss over challenging-YA-book-wins-World-Fantasy-Award well and truly died down, it’s time for the Knopf paperback edition to come out, and for the novel to be published in Australia as YA (by Allen & Unwin) - both of these with gorgeous new covers, of course. And soon the UK paperbacks will be out, too. So the thing proliferates, wrapping itself in cover after cover like a vaudeville actor undergoing costume changes.
This is mild stuff; this is very small beer. I don’t know how really-properly-famous-bestsellery-authors keep track of all their different editions - they must have assistants to remind them exactly which and with whom and for whom and when etc. Especially prolific authors, who would by this time have published something else and be just about finished the book after that, plus have backlist reissues happening all the time - how do they even remember what it was like to put that story, two books ago, together? I mean, I can remember the writing of Tender Morsels, pretty much month by month, throughout 2007, but that was because it was my first novel for 10 years, and a struggle. For a novel that flows easily, that just falls out of you (as this next one of mine - due end March - seems to be doing, yay!), what’s to grip onto?
Because the process itself is kind of mysterious; if the writing is going well, it kind of feels as if the story is happening because you’ve stepped to one side and are letting it happen, rather than that you’re bodily pushing it along. There are not many points where you step in and make conscious decisions. I don’t, anyway. I kind of play around at the start (with both stories and novels - oh look, here I am talking process! how’d that happen?), then when I feel confident enough of the mood, general direction and some of the characters, I do step in and make a kind of a plan, keeping it fairly squishy so it’s not predictable enough to take all the surprises out of the writing. And then, for a short story I fix my eye on the end point and let the rest happen; for a novel I kind of wallow, and try to keep the process playful and not-a-chore and not close off too many possibilities. I’m not a highly technical, front-brain kind of writer, I’m more grunty and instinctive; all the clever, connecting-type stuff happens at a subconscious level and surprises me as much as it does my readers, how it all seems to work together at the end!
So, looking back and talking about process (especially from such a distance) feels to me somehow wrong-headed, because although, yes, there’s a lot of head involved, the main direction of the process is not happening anywhere that can be seen. Happily fumbling around in the dark for the next bit of dialogue is not really a spectator sport, and neither is screwing up your face because you got a scene wrong, and going for a brisk walk and watching the alternative path through that scene unroll before you. Nobody who doesn’t already do that habitually is going to understand what you mean when you try to describe it; and anyone who does is quite happily doing their own fumbling and striding about, and probably doesn’t need your reassurance.
Yes, so, new editions? Pretty, but a little puzzling for the author who once was inside that story, engineering its many possible resolutions, and is now firmly outside the single version that survived, and up to her ears in something else, a setting with a whole different climate and shape, a group of entirely characters with a new set of tortures to undergo.
New editions of Tender Morsels? I love them all, and I still stand by the story inside all those covers - I think it’s knobbly and meaty and interesting, and I still love all the magic bits. I hope the new paperback and YA editions find their way even farther out into the world, and that more and more people get to chew on them.
Visit Margo's previous stops:
(*I think every writer feels a bit suspect talking about process--we're storytellers, after all--which is one of the things that makes it so fascinating for other writers to read. And, really, it all circles back around in one way or another, since without the making, there's nothing.)
So yesterday I was home having a sick day and I got an email from my editor at PW to make a call to someone about some sort of award and, lo, when I called it turned out that it was the Executive Director of RWA letting me know that they are giving me this year's Veritas Media Award for the "Romancing the Recession" feature. Past recipients include Ron Charles and Mary Bly. There was major squealing.
Needless to say, I'm hugely honored.
(And Jennifer Crusie will also be at the awards ceremony, which will make it very hard not to fangirl.)
Unrelatedly: Saturday I'll be running a guest post from the DIVINE Margo Lanagan on her writing process as part of the blog tour for the paperback release of her devastatingly brilliant novel Tender Morsels.
Another unrelatedly: Just finished Karen Healey's debut YA novel, Guardian of the Dead, and am telling you TO PICK IT UP NOW DO NOT PASS GO.
I'm delighted to welcome Varian Johnson today as part of the blog tour for his WONDERFUL new novel, Saving Maddie, and share an essay on his writing process. For those of you who don't know, Varian is sometimes known as the hardest working man in show business, er, or at least one of the hardest working writers I've ever met. (See his recent post over at Justine's for reference.) His last novel My Life as a Rhombus garnered a whole heap of acclaim and I suspect this new one will surpass even that. Saving Maddie is a complicated, exquisitely-executed story about what happens when the girl you had a crush on when you were a kid comes back to town talking about not being into organized religion anymore and scandalizing all the adults around--and you're the preacher's son (oh, and she's also a preacher's kid). Here's Varian on the tough magic employed to create it.
(AND: The first three commenters on this post will win a free ARC!)
The writing process for Saving Maddie
There was only one thing I knew when I started working on this book—that it would be from a male’s POV. I had just spent the past three years working on My Life as a Rhombus, published by Flux in 2008. The novel, written from a seventeen-year-old girl’s point of view, touched on topics such as sex, pregnancy and abortion, and was emotionally exhausting. In order to keep somewhat sane, I swore I’d never write another girl first-person POV novel, and set off to write my version of a “boy book.”Process-wise, I usually approach a manuscript thematically: I think about the big questions I am interested in exploring; I think about what I want to discover about the world and myself. Specifically, I found myself thinking a lot about the idea of “saving” someone, both from a religious and an emotional well-being point of view. Really, what does it mean to save someone? Who are we to determine who is or isn’t in need of being saved? And how to do you save someone that has no interest in being “rescued?”
By the way, I'd suggest there are far worse ways to spend your weekend than cuddled up with Connie Willis's spectacular new novel Blackout. Man, oh, man, did I adore this book. Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger, and I can't wait for All Clear to come out this fall, but the entire thing is so perfect that I don't see how you can possibly wait to go ahead and read this one now. Available at fine booksellers from Spectra as of earlier this week, or score one of the limited editions from the ever-fabulous Subterranean Press.
It has nail-biting tension, just the right touch of humor, excellent and memorable characters, pitch-perfect writing and just about everything else you could want in a novel. One of the things I love best about it is that it feels like a World War II story I haven't seen a million times already, like Willis is showing us the war from the fringes of the actual battlefields, or rather Britain as a battlefield everyday people inhabited--exploring what it was like for shopgirls and actors who weren't performing for long stretches (Sir Godfrey is my favorite! Well, except for Alf and Binnie!), British intelligence agents doing semi-goofy things, and for women driving ambulances or military leaders from place to place. There are more women featuring in principle roles in this novel, actually, than in any other novel set during the great wars that I can remember. Plus, this is time travel! And like Tansy, I simply can't wait to see where the second installment takes us.
There are so many things I loved about it that I'd rather just discuss it after others have read it. So drop in after you do and leave a comment, why don't you?
p.s. You'll note I've eschewed Amazon links, even though there are still some elsewhere on my site. I don't know what to do about that, because I'm a code klutz and typepad automatically directs to them. I will assure you any money I get from Amazon affilitiates is spent on cat food and Lush products, and never on books, though. And that as soon as there's an alternative I can manage, I will be. In the meantime, why not drop by your local bookshop and pick it up?
This time for Kage Baker, who won't get nearly the amount of ink of other writers who've passed away recently, and whose work I love more dearly than any of theirs. I first read her in 2004, it turns up through a little googling, and immediately became a devotee. It does not feel just that there won't be anything more, after her next book publishes in March. I can only hope her books continue to find the new readers they deserve, and she lives on in that way.
Her work will always be the best kind of alive for me. I expect I'll go back and reread the Company books sometime soon. I just ordered The Hotel Under the Sand, her only novel for children, from last summer, which I managed to not read yet somehow.
I feel this frustratingly inexpressible sadness--for those who knew her, because she must have been amazing and I'm sure she will leave a large hole in their lives, and for all the books and stories we will not get now that she might have written, and for the fact she was not more feted while she was here.
Discover her work, if you haven't.
Everyone has seen the links to smart commentary on the Amazon vs. Macmillan skirmish from Scalzi and Toby Buckell, et. al. I'm sure, but I wanted to put a pointer to Caleb Crain's "Clash of the Titans" post, which is exceedingly worth your time:
Newspapers have no one to blame but themselves for having taught the public that they have a right to read newspapers online for free. Publishers, on the other hand, have woken up to the unpleasant discovery that the value of their work is being cheapened in the public mind by a third party: Amazon.
Seriously, if you're interested in this stuff, go read the whole post. (via Laura Miller on twitter.)
Updated: Also read Scott's post on the matters at hand.
Yesterday I did something I haven't in ages--I took a guilt-free day off, in which to do nothing productive. (Or, at least, nothing intentionally productive.)
I slept in late late late, watched this week's Supernatural, then spent most of the day reading David Grann's The Lost City of Z. With time off for an omelet and a biscuit and a scandalous nap. (Duddiness is the new exciting!)
Anyway, I've been having fits and starts with every novel I picked up this week, so I thought I'd do a spate of nonfiction. And Z turns out to be very nearly the perfect book for me--there are echoes of two of my favorite nonfiction books contained within it, Redmond O'Hanlon's In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon (really, all his books are among my favorite travel narratives) and Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (this book's writer becomes similarly obsessed with the target of his investigations, criminal Gilbert Bland). And then you lay on top of that the truly fascinating material of lost explorers and the Royal Geographic Society--I am an extremely happy reader.
Anyone have any similarly excellent nonfiction suggestions? I was thinking I might track down The Sisters of Sinai next, but would be willing to depart the Victorian era too...
Some long promised recommendations from the recent reading stacks, in the hope of getting back in the habit of regular posts like this. I'm too tired to manage full raving reviews for these, so capsules it is.
I knew I'd love this book when I saw two writers whose opinions I greatly respect express their love for it: Nicola Griffith (definitely go read her review, I'll wait) and Melissa Moorer (Oct. 15 entry--"Although it has elements that will remind you of other fairy tales, it departs from it/them in a way that is wonderfully satisfying"). An interpretation of Cinderella, Lo skillfully evokes the entire fairy tale milieu while reworking and reinventing it at will. Her language masterfully conjures everything I want in the voice of a fairy tale without ever feeling stale, and Ash's relationship with Kaisa the huntress is gripping and beautiful. Cinderella is at heart a story about grief and loss, love and redemption. So is this one.
As the newly-minted Morris Award winner for debut YA (which Ash was also in contention for), this book hardly needs my love. But I can't help myself, because I just flat-out adored it. We do a lot of talking in the kid lit world about authentic boy voices, and books that teen boys will respond to. I can't remember encountering a more convincing teen boy than Blake--a budding photographer whose romantic entanglements get complicated when he begins helping a classmate with a meth addict mother. Girls and adult readers will find much to love here too. This book bursts with heart and humor; it made me howl and it made me cry. Getting both from the same book is a rare gift. My beloved Sassy magazine used to have an appendage it would bestow from time to time on books, movies, etc.--Teenagers As They Really Are. This book is Teenagers As They Really Are.
Check out the starred reviews on this thoroughly buzzed-about and buzz-worthy debut, due out in February. I read this on our New York oddyssey and a month later am still thinking about it and wishing the second installment of The Inheritance Trilogy was here NOW. Jemisin conjures a richly imagined world and then populates it with fascinating characters--like the pragmatic and engaging protagonist Yeine, a lost heir born to a disgraced mother who is forced to return to the city of Sky and compete for the throne, a competition that will almost certainly cause her death. Yeine had me in chapter one, with the following aside: "(This is not a digression.)" But with invented gods, a political tapestry to kill for, and thrilling language, what's not to love? Check out the first couple of chapters and see for yourself. This fantasy will appeal to anyone who loves the genre and is also frequently bored by it. (Note: This book is being pubbed for adults, though smart, well-read teens will also dig it, I predict.)
The Cybils* finalists have been released for all categories, and you should check them out. Quoting the amazing Anne Levy, who organizes all this:
From our database:
- Total eligible books across all categories: 939
- Books read by at least 1 panelist: 931 which is 99.1% of the books
- Books read by at least 2 panelists: 894 which is 95.2% of the books
- Unread books: 8 which is 0.9% of the books
I just can't tell you how impressive an effort this is, by truly dedicated people. It was an honor to serve on the YA science fiction and fantasy first round jury, and also incredibly difficult. I may be biased, but I think we had the category with the stiffest competition (and probably the most nominees), which is fitting given that we're in a golden age for YA fantasy (and it is still mostly fantasy). I love our finalist selections, and I loved lots of other books that were nominated too, some of which I'll probably post about soon. Suffice to say, 2009 was a really good year for young adult fantasy.
Anyway, you can read our descriptions of the YA shortlist titles here, but they are: Candor by Pam Bachorz, The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, and Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis.
I suggest you read all of them.
*If you don't know, the Cybils are the annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards.
UPDATED TO ADD: There is a really essential discussion going on about diversity--particularly the lack of books featuring African Americans that aren't historicals about slavery--in children's publishing, as a result of the Cybils' finalists being released. Cleary, this isn't just at issue in the world of children's and YA lit, or even just in lit with a capital L. It certainly was something we discussed among our panel, and we were all disheartened at the lack of SFF titles featuring people of color and GBLT teens. There just weren't many, among the great number of books nominated. And it sounds as if this lack of titles to consider was largely the case across all the categories, and that is the real shame. Clearly, we need more. Lots more.
And that's also independent of awards--offerings in the marketplace are needed. Great commercial fiction featuring PoC in varied roles is lacking, too. (Yes, yes, there is obviously overlap--especially in kid lit--between commercial and literary, but still, the point remains. As with everything, the sales numbers to convince publishers are more likely to come from the commercial-trending side of things.)
I also truly hope that some of the bloggers involved in this conversation who haven't participated in the Cybils will do so next year, or the year after that. This isn't a problem that's going away overnight. But maybe, if we all keep talking and participating and pushing, then publishers will get the message and start rejecting the received wisdom, really a self-fulfilling prophecy, that books featuring characters of color can't/don't sell.
Just for the record, Tiger Moon made the shortlist because it's a FANTASTIC book--there was not a whiff of tokenism involved. It was a great favorite among the jurors.
The truly amazing Melissa Moorer, whose work makes me so happy I could WEEP, has a new story in the latest issue of Hot Metal Bridge, "Falling Bodies to Light." And I snippet to convince you to go read the whole thing (which you SHOULD DO):
We are going to be rich.
And I would probably believe it if I hadn’t heard the same words so many times before. If he hadn’t taken us every time to the malls and stores to pick out what we would buy when: cars and bikes and trips around the world. If he hadn’t kept us out of school working on equipment and equations and debugging endless lines of code that didn’t lead to the next big thing or even anywhere at all. We don’t even have our own house anymore. My brother and I have to share a bedroom in our grandparents’ house because there is room for only one genius in my family — my father — and he takes up all the extra space for his work.
“It’ll make petroleum obsolete. Imagine!” His eyes are wide as he dances around the kitchen table and I feel myself getting excited all over again. It’s embarrassing so I try not to look at my brother, Josh. He’ll just make fun of me. “No more pollution!” My father raises his strong arms dirty with grease to the ceiling and I get giddy with hope, leaping into the circle of his arms.
“And we’ll get rich selling the blue in the sky,” he sings and swings me around the kitchen like I am five again.
Hope to see some of you in New York at the reading and out and about in the days before and after--I have done no calendar-setting though, so drop me a line if you're so inclined. Andy and Christopher are both amazing readers, so this should be fun. Content below stolen from the KGB Fantastic Fiction site!
FANTASTIC FICTION at KGB reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present:
|Andy Duncan, whose new novelette “The Night Cache” will appear from PS Publishing just in time for Christmas, as befits a ghost story, while his revisionist Appalachian folktale “The Dragaman’s Bride” concludes the new Jack Dann-Gardner Dozois anthology The Dragon Book. Duncan is the winner of two World Fantasy Awards and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science-fiction story of the year.|
|Christopher Rowe’s short fiction has been shortlisted for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. A Forgotten Realms novel for Wizards of the Coast is scheduled for Spring 2011, and he is hard at work on a fantasy about maps and megafauna, Sarah Across America.|
Wednesday December 16th, 7pm at
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
I haz them. More specifically, I have things to say about the recent book challenge/banning controversies here in the lovely bluegrass state--well, I have even more, actually, but some pretty lengthy things I have to say about how the idea of classic literature and the canon plays an insidious role in all this are over at The Nervous Breakdown 3.0, where I'm just starting to post again. A snippet:
It's no coincidence that if you examine the arguments involved in either of these cases, you'll come across things like: graphic novels are all for children; Alan Moore is just a pornographer (and a Wizard! or something); books for teenagers can't be literature; teenagers shouldn't be reading about sex/the consequences of sex/gay people/abuse/foul language (my personal favorite). As if teenagers are some sort of delicate morons. In fact, teenagers are at just the right age to begin grappling with extremely polemic works and with much more nuanced ones. They can take it. Trust me on this. (If you mention The Twilight Saga, you lose. An eye.)
(Isn't TNB shiny with its relaunch, btw?)
p.s. Sick. Boo.
Introducing: Small Beer Press Horizons! Has Gavin got a deal for you!
5. In our super-premium “Booksellers” package—Usually $5 million, Today Only $2 million—we come to your town, open a bookshop, and stock your book. We will throw a launch party and have you do a reading and for a small additional fee we will throw in a couple of bottles of that sparkly Portuguese wine and some cubed cheese (which seem like such a good idea in the grocery store and look so sad on display) in the somewhat forlorn hope that people will come.
And oh so much more. I laughed so hard, I almost threw up. And it was FREE.
Alan DeNiro is a bit of a renaissance man, if there were lots of guys in the renaissance who wrote tremendously provocative poetry, short stories, and now-- with Total Oblivion, More or Less (Amazon|Indiebound)--novels. He's also an all-around great guy. I've known Alan and admired his work for years, and was delighted to invite him to drop by during the Winter Blog Blast Tour to talk about his debut novel, which just received a STARRED review from Booklist, and which I absolutely ADORED and can't recommend highly enough. Total Oblivion, More or Less follows 16-year-old Minnesota girl Macy across a post-apocalyptic American landscape overrun by Barbarian hordes, and I guarantee it'll be one of the most memorable novels you encounter this year. If you don't believe me, it comes with recommendations from Dan Chaon, Hannah Tinti, and Karen Joy Fowler.
GB: I'm sure you can guess that the first question I'm going to ask is the process porn question. So, tell me about writing this novel--how was it different/the same as projects you've done previously? How is writing fiction different from writing poetry for you? Did you ever want to stab yourself in the eye, etc.? Were you thinking of certain books that you were in conversation with all along--Huckleberry Finn being the obvious, but are there others? Macy is a very convincing teenage voice; was it hard to nail that or did you just find that you had an inner teenage girl locked up inside?
AD: The process was both the same and very different from other things that I've written. For one, while writing this I was still learning as I went with novel-writing to begin with. Once the river established itself as one of the central anchors of the book, I figured it would help my sense of narrative to have the book begin at the headwaters and literally flow all the way down to the Delta. It gave me a structure that I could always rely on.
I wrote most of this novel in longhand, but a little less than halfway through I put it away for awhile. I had gotten stuck--looking ahead, I had no idea how the hell to structure the second half of the novel yet. I didn't work on it, really, for a year and a half. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and with that--and its aftermath--I saw the novel in a different light. Rather, I knew I had to push the half-manuscript into our present circumstances, rather than a piece of speculation. Of course these horrific displacements with refugees take place all over the world, but the way Katrina's human disaster impinged on the American experience, and into the common thread of the nation's discourse...it kicked my ass and pushed me to finish the novel. The novel became much more political then; I worked in back and front story of Big Oil's exploits (so to speak) during the crisis. It became more pointed for me and it became far less of a stretch to write about Mississippian apocalypse, and also to people's oblivion to the political conditions that allowed such a disaster to take place in the first place.
In regards to poetry versus fiction... It took me a long time to realize it, but it was much, much easier to transition from poetry writing to short story writing than from short story writing to novel writing. Even though both forms of the latter are in prose, there was a much deeper rebuilding process with pacing and voice for me to write novels. At the same time my fiction has been influencing my poetry of late as well, as I've been trying my hand at longer, somewhat more narratively based poems (though I'd hardly consider them highly plotted epics!).
With books that influenced the writing of Total Oblivion, a few come to mind that are maybe a bit more oblique and might not be readily apparent in the novel (though, maybe so?). One of the big ones was Herodotus' Histories. The multivariant and ambiguous nature of history, and how it flows through Herodotus' telling, was a continual wellspring for the novel. Plus The Histories is dotted with these bizarre significant details that are full of mystery and speculation. Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler was also a huge influence--naturally, of course, as being such an outstanding novel that you can just keep peeling back the layers to. You're not quite sure what's going on throughout. There's an Alice Munro novel I read in college, Lives of Girls and Women...extraordinary characterization of Dell (the protagonist) in that book. Finally, one of Paul Auster's less-known novels, In the Country of Last Things, published right after The New York Trilogy. It's a very dour yet evocative novel set in this allegorical city that's experiencing a horrific collapse--that book had a giant effect on me; I think it's one of Auster's best.
In regards to Macy's voice, I had a decent amount of--well, I guess you could call it practice, from writing short stories like "The Caliber" and "If I Leap" that had female teenage protagonists (albeit 3rd person, usually). But for me I think it's a little bit of both reading other books with strong voices of the opposite gender (i.e., Munro) and kind of rolling with the voice of the character on its own terms. Certainly there is some of "me" in the teenaged angst and isolation--which I was no stranger to! In the end, it's really her book--her voice called the shots and I went where she led me.
GB: This is your first published novel (though you also had an awesome short story collection with Small Beer, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead). Was there anything that surprised you during the publishing process, from submitting to agents to now, on the cusp of the book coming out?
AD: It was a long road with lots of ups and downs, which I'm sure many other people have had. It's hard for me to tell whether my experiences were "typical" or not. What surprised me most was how, when it did finally come together near the end and I got an agent and then sold the book, it really was fast. Or somewhat fast--again, it's hard to tell. But it was a rollercoaster before that (perhaps The Beast, one of my favorite coasters at Kings Island in Ohio, a fantastically long and wild ride?). Also, reviews have been somewhat surprising. I was, and am, fully prepared for some people not liking the book; which totally doesn't bother me, as long as the book is engaged with on its own terms. However, some of the reviews have emphasized the fast pace and gripping read aspects of the book. Well, that's gratifying at least! I am not usually known as "Mr. Plot." Usually in my stories, Plot is having a good, serene old time sitting on his living room floor, putting together a jigsaw puzzle or something, and all the sudden his friends Weird Shit and Unexplainable Things come bursting through the door and want to have a dance party RIGHT ON THE JIGSAW PUZZLE! Anyways, to move away from my metaphor spinning out of control, it is satisfying to know that the rounds and rounds of edits polishing and honing the narrative paid off with at least some readers.
GB: Macy brings two (arguably!) books along on the journey down the river, The Lord of the Rings and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Two questions, really: How hard was it to decide which books it'd be right for her to bring? And what books would you bring?
AD: This was an interesting back and forth for me...in an earlier draft of the novel, she brought the Gormenghast Trilogy, but I think in a later draft it was decided in copyedits that perhaps putting in the doorstopper of the Peake masterpiece was a little bit too clever for its own good. I think I had her take a different poetry or poetry-type book as well. And it was super-hard! It's an impossible decision for a reader like Macy, so I think she was looking for something that could more universally speak to her condition on the river. Something canonical. She would be very careful and not bring an "eh" book. For me, hmm, this is really a variation of the "desert island" question with an extra kick. Assuming I was fleeing for my life, I would probably bring: Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil, because she was writing it from her own wartime perspective and it's bizarrely comforting in an uncomfortable way; Herodotus' Histories, because that would seriously keep me busy for a while; and The New Penguin Book of English Verse--speaking of doorstoppers! But it's a great anthology.
GB: This is a post-apocalyptic world that scratches every post-apocalyptic itch I've developed from reading widely in that subgenre, but it also feels completely specific and very new. It's perhaps the first surreal post-apocalyptic meltdown story I've read where I also really felt the weight and the dread and the oddness of having everything become incomprehensibly strange. and disintegrate. Barbarians! How did you approach the worldbuilding?
AD: I approached the worldbuilding from a very "don't try this at home, kids!" perspective. Though it would be cool to see or hear of others who wrote in this way; I'm sure I'm not alone. But essentially I really didn't do any traditional worldbuilding at all. I didn't have a set world--especially from the beginning--or a set causality. I had some basics about the invasion, and later in the book--when it took place in Nueva Roma and "settled down" a bit--I did a little more thinking through the architecture of the city. And with the bridging sections that aren't in Macy's voice, there are some snippets of worldbuilding. But for the most part I deliberately avoided any type of deliberate compendium of the world. I wanted to funnel the novel completely through Macy's perspective and her immediate experiences, so I myself didn't want to know what X really was, or what weird detail Y really meant. And for the most part, the characters kept moving down the river and the significant details weren't really dwelled upon. I did keep a notebook of notes, but they were very disconnected from any type of interconnected setting. They were more like "chickens with lettuce for wings" and "giraffes used as calvary." Images I wanted to throw in. I didn't necessarily know where I wanted to put them in the novel, but I put a little star next to the ones I did use. Of course, there WERE points in the book where I used the bridging chapters to provide commentary on some of the things that Macy experienced (such as the house/museum in Fortune City).
So, yeah, that was my worldbuilding. I've never been to a lot of the places set in the novel, especially further down the river, but I winged it the best I could, mutated the landscape when I had to, and kept writing. I think it helped create the sense of "haze" in the novel, the sense of out-of-control-ness that Macy experienced. It helped as a mimetic experience for getting into her voice. And incidentally, I wouldn't recommend doing this for every project. There are novels and stories where it does make sense to nail the minutiae down. But I think it would be a shame if EVERY novel had to have a mental, and highly detailed, atlas that went along with it.
GB: And, finally, the easy question--what have you been reading/watching/listening to that you love lately? Give us some recommendations.
AD: This is actually hard! Let's see, I just finished Vampire City written by Paul Feval and translated by Brian Stableford. Written in 1867, it's absolutely crazy--and actually kind of funny too; felt more like Lewis Carroll than Bram Stoker at some points. I'm reading a book called Hotel Crystal by Olivier Rolin--metafictional vignettes about hotel rooms around the world. Okay, it's much more interesting than I'm making it sound. I've also been making my way slowly through Orlando Furioso by Ariosto. A verse translation--a prose translation of a poem seems to me like a photograph of a sculpture. Anyway, it's a wild ride. A very very long, wild ride.
In viewing, I've been going through Lost; up to about Season 3.
I've also been playing some really enjoyable games--in the interactive fiction world, I'm in the middle of this REALLY long work called Blue Lacuna by Aaron Reed. It's a little twee and "soft focused" but incredibly well done, and very moving. I'd also highly recommend, on the completely other end of the spectrum, Dead Space: Extraction on the Wii. If you can handle space zombie violence and the pressure cooker of what is essentially a high-end shooting gallery game, it does some interesting things with POV, narrative control, and pacing. Finally, back to interactive fiction, I'm dying to play next this game called The King of Shreds and Patches by Jimmy Maher--Elizabethan Cthulu with a wicked cool graphical interface. Can't wait. Okay, that's a preemptive recommendation--hope that's okay?
For music, I've been listening to two back to back Can albums: Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. Superb writing music. I've also gone back and listened to a lot of my favorite albums from the decade for a top 20 list I compiled.
Visit today's other WBBT stops:
(And be here tomorrow bright and early for an interview with the one, the only: Alan DeNiro!)
My latest feature for Publishers Weekly, "Romancing the Recession," explores the health and diversity the romance category continues to enjoy during what are tough times for much of the rest of publishing.
Junot Diaz has an excellent short essay in Oprah Magazine about the trials and tribulations of writing The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for ten years:
That's my tale in a nutshell. Not the tale of how I came to write my novel but rather of how I became a writer. Because, in truth, I didn't become a writer the first time I put pen to paper or when I finished my first book (easy) or my second one (hard). You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Wasn't until that night when I was faced with all those lousy pages that I realized, really realized, what it was exactly that I am.
The NBA nominations are out and the Young People's Literature category is rocking it:
Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)
LAINI! WOOT! RITA! WOOT!
I actually haven't gotten to Lips Touch: Three Times (Amazon | Indiebound), but I know I will love it because Laini Taylor is an amazing person and a seriously amazing writer--her Blackbringer and Silksinger quickly became two of my favorite middle grade fantasies EVER.
And Rita William-Garcia is yet another awesome Vermont College faculty member to nab a much-deserved NBA nomination; Jumped (Amazon| Indiebound) is absolutely brilliant and it makes me wriggle with joy to see it get this kind of attention.
Oh, and, yeah, the rest of the categories are interesting too.
*Seeing from Twitter that David Small's Stitches may not actually be a children's/YA title. WEIRD. Updated: Aha! Ron Hogan investigates and finds out that Norton considers it a cross-over title and entered it for contention in this category.