Three Things: Clown Noses, Girls on Wires + Schedulizing

Home again, home again. With three things to report.

Thing The First:

The Virginia Highlands Festival was a complete delight; such a warm welcome from the creative writing day committee, and a series of truly fun events with fabulous writers and great, engaged audiences. Plus, I got to see the Greenman Press studio, and hang out with Karen and Charles Vess, and see the giant, gorgeous statue and fountain "Midsummer Play" that Charles designed and constructed across from the Barter Theater. It doesn't get better than that. I shared these photos elsewhere, but doing so here for kicks (and to begin the chronicle of the season of Girl on a Wire promoting).

These were my first readings from the circus book as a finished thing, and so it was a mega-relief that people seemed into it. I did the prologue for our first reading event, but for the joint workshop Charles and I did — me reading, while he drew projected on the screen behind me — I read from chapter eight, and Jules' first big outdoor stunt walk. The result:




(He says now after thinking more about it, he'd draw her face on, instead of heading into the relative safety of the bridge tower. But I all-but-gasped when I turned around and got a look at this, the tilt of the perspective makes me feel the nerves for her.)

And this sketch from before we started, which is totally getting framed and hung in the office:




Oh, and then there was the nice older lady who carries a stockpile of clown noses (she once toured Russia as part of a clown troupe — with Patch Adams, apparently, so ack). She gave me, Charles, and Rita Quillen ones after our reading the first afternoon, and then helped direct the camera for a selfie, which came out a little skewed.




And yesterday I got to talk at the local library to a room packed with young writers, who asked smart questions. It was an honor and a blast to be a part of all these events.

GoaWThing The Second:

Galleys — e- and print — of said circus book are limited, but if you need an early copy because you're a reviewer or a librarian, etc., then please to let me know, preferably in the next few days. I can make it happen. And for everyone else, it'll be here before you know it. Definitely before I do.

So. Soon. Where has this year gone? ACK.

Kirkus says: “The mystery is tense and nerve-wracking, and the acrobatics are gorgeously hair-raising.”

And the publisher made a teensy tweak to the shading on my name and "a novel," which gives me an excuse to post the cover again. *pets*

Thing The Third:

Here's my preliminary Dragon Con schedule (subject to change), with two panels and a reading. I hope to see a bunch of y'all there later this month.

Title: Urban Fantasy in YA
Description: We love a little magic, monsters, super powers—but rooted in the real world. What makes a compelling urban fantasy, and what are your faves?
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: A707 – Marriott
(Tentative Panelists: Delilah S. Dawson, Gwenda M Bond, Cinda Williams Chima, Bonnie Kunzel, Mari Mancusi)

Title: Reading: Gwenda M Bond
Time: Sat 1:00 pm Location: University – Hyatt

Title: Beyond Genre: Behind the Boom of Realistic YA Fiction
Description: The Fault is Our Stars is just the tip of the iceberg—realistic YA fiction is booming, and there’s a lot to love beyond genre.
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: A707 – Marriott
(Tentative Panelists: Stephanie Perkins, Gwenda M Bond, Debbie Viguié, Michelle Hodkin)

And that's the three things. Now back to work!

Three Things: Clown Noses, Girls on Wires + Schedulizing Read More »

Extra, Extra: Some John Green Interview Outtakes

As long-time readers of this blog know, I've been a fan of John Green's work since Looking for Alaska, which was one of the first novels I read that featured hyper-smart, sarcastic southern teenagers like the ones I grew up around. (And they even drank the same syrupy sweet Boone's Farm we sometimes snuck – don't tell my parents. Kidding! I think they caught us and there was an epic grounding.) Anyway, John and I have known each other online for years, share a whole bunch of friends in common, but had never actually gotten a chance to chat.

So of course I said yes when I was asked recently if I'd interview him for the LA Times, in honor of winning the Innovator's Award, which will be presented at the Festival of Books. We had a nice long talk (aside: it's strange to talk to someone for the first time whose voice is so familiar), but the newspaper space, it can only accomodate so much. One of the tough things about interviews is that sometimes you have to pick out little bits and pieces, and the rest disappears forever. And of course we went down some nerdy paths that don't really fit in a piece for a general audience, many of who may not be regular YA readers.

You should all go read the interview at the LA Times, in which John says smart things about teenagers and the future of publishing and activism and misconceptions about YA…

…and then come back and read these further smart thing rescues from the cutting room floor. Basically, I feel like I have a moral imperative to post these, because a) I have them transcribed already and b) John had a cold and still did not balk when I said things like, "Elaborate on business models!" Plus, as an amateur contemporary art geek, I am super-excited about "The Art Assignment" (PBS Digital series created and hosted by Sarah Urist Green) and wanted to talk lots about that.


On the vlogbrothers: When we started, we really liked YouTube and we liked the idea that online video could be a portal for communication and collaboration. In my wildest imagination it never occurred to me that we would still be making videos seven and a half years later, let alone that we would have such a broad audience. We never imagined the reach that YouTube would eventually have or the role that we would get to play on that platform.

I guess the first time it ever occurred to me that we could do this as a job was in 2008, about a year and a half after we started making videos, when YouTube introduced advertising. We made something like 225 videos before YouTube had ads. It still seems weird to me that it’s a job. I’m a very old-fashioned YouTube user and so I romanticize the non-monetized days.

On books and publishing: I think the book is an underappreciated technology, and I think that the novel is an underappreciated form of storytelling. One of the reason that books are proving somewhat more robust than CDs or DVDs did is that books are really good technology. They’re extremely functional, and they deliver 99 percent of the experience someone wants when they’re reading a book.

My big concern is not the overall health of book publishing or the overall health of reading. My big concern is that publishing is going to become so blockbuster driven that we’ll lose some of the depth that makes us special and unique in contemporary artistic discourse. Because right now Hollywood makes what – 150 or 200 movies a year, and we publish 10,000 books a year? That’s a huge advantage. We have much more diversity. There’s much more room in publishing for books that may have a smaller built-in audience, and that’s really important.

On experiments with narrative: When I was trying to think of why I might have won this award – which I’m very grateful for, but I don’t feel like my publishing life has been tremendously innovative – the only thing I’ve ever made that was truly innovative was Tom (This Is Not Tom). Which was read in total by perhaps 1200 people because you had to solve such complicated riddles in order to read the story. The story was really an afterthought. People enjoyed solving the riddles, but then they’d be like, ‘Oh, right, I’ve got to read this thing again.’

I’m interested in trying to find non-traditional ways to share text stories, or even multimedia stories that involve a lot of text. But I don’t think that it’s ultimately going to be me who makes a lot of progress on that front. It’s going to be some person who’s younger and more talented than I am and has a deeper understanding of the internet and the way that young people share and experience story today. And I’ve accepted that.

On being an introvert: People think, ‘Oh, you make YouTube videos, so that means you’re outgoing,’ but actually the problem is that you make YouTube videos alone in your basement, talking into a camera and then spending four or five hours alone in your basement doing this very meticulous, repetitive work of editing a video. And writing is kind of the same. It’s very isolated and introverted and I love that. It gives me tremendous pleasure. So as long as I’m making videos by myself or writing by myself, they feel like complementary activities to me. But when I have to go out and do other stuff and talk to people, that’s a whole different ball of wax.

On “The Art Assignment” (This is where I was all, business models and PBS, talk about that): Hank and I are not that interested in making stuff for the most possible people. We’re interested in making stuff that people will feel really passionate about or that people will feel like is important to them. So, PBS – even though everyone sees it as this ultimate legacy media company – in truth, for a long time now, they’ve been very innovative in this sense. Not many people watched Bob Ross teach them how to paint. That was never one of the most successful shows on television. Except that it was one of the most successful shows on television. Even though only 50,000 people were watching it, all of them were being transformed by it. They were forming a relationship with painting and art that they didn’t have before they watched the show. And that’s so much cooler than having 10 million people watch something that you made and not really care about it.

It’s astonishing to me that almost everyone in America can name a living writer or a living musician and very few people – including me before I met my wife – can name a living artist. And so I think what inspired us on “The Art Assignment” was thinking about that and also thinking about the old days of YouTube back in 2007 and 2008, when it was a very collaborative environment and where projects were shared together. Instead of videos being something that existed because you watched, videos were more project-oriented.


And that's a wrap!

Another aside, this time about Bob Ross: My grandfather, when he was dying of cancer, got really into watching Bob Ross, and even got a paint set.

And now you should all go watch the latest episode of "The Art Assignment":

Extra, Extra: Some John Green Interview Outtakes Read More »

Extra, Extra: Arawn And The Wild Hunt Visit The West End

A while back, I participated in the YA Scavenger Hunt, always fun, and wrote a little extra set in The Woken Gods universe, giving a glimpse of the Awakening in London. I’ve been meaning to put it up here since, because a few people told me they missed it and, well, it needs a place to live. (The cool art I found via google, and is available as a card and maybe a print from UK artist Deborah Holman; check her stuff out.)

And now without further ado, a little story for you…


Arawn and the Wild Hunt Visit the West End

There are better places to busk than the one Alice chooses every weekend. But the broad streets that converge on Piccadilly Circus have become like a second home to her, the noise a welcome contrast to the unbroken quiet in the flat while her parents are working, always working. The tourists here are often fresh off airplanes, only a day or two in London. The Americans in particular never seem to pick up the value of coins until they’re leaving.

Many times Alice checks the top hat she places in front of her to find handfuls of pounds — round, metallic, heavy — inches deep along the bottom. She sits it in front of her now, and removes her violin from its case.

She saves the small oceans of money from the hat, never breaking over for so much as an ice cream on the way back home. That money is adding up, and when she tells her parents she’s not giving up music to study accounting or law or whatever they’ve decided is best for her…she’ll need it. Alice takes up her usual spot on the steps around the base of the tall statue of Eros, a cupid with his bow trained on the crowd, and admires the scooped detail of the wings that would hold him aloft if he were real.

Alice likes to think Eros helps her out, that invisible arrows grab the chests of passersby and draw them in close, until they pay her tribute. She draws her own bow across the strings, makes a few small adjustments, and begins to play. It’s not something people will know, because she wrote it — she’d probably make more if it was Bach or Mozart. But this, too, is part of her rebellion.

The din of conversation and cars and city is part of the concert to her, and she notices immediately when it starts to fall away. The mournful melody that emerges from her instrument grows louder and louder, and she might be hallucinating, adjusts her fingers until she knows that’s not it. There are gasps and shouts, and then there is silence.

A silent crowd and if she couldn’t hear the sound of her own music, she’d believe she’s been struck suddenly deaf. No cars are moving. No one is moving, except her, coaxing vibrations from the strings.

And then a new sound joins her. She hears the unmistakable clack of hooves on pavement, and she goes silent, finally, like everyone else. The man is too large to be simply a man, and branching antlers sprout from a thick helmet he wears. He sits a pale gray horse, its coat shining like silver. His face is green, sickly and healthy at once, above heavy brown leather armor. He holds the thick body of a snake in one hand, twisting, with a small horned ram’s head at the top.

Around the horse’s feet come the hounds, slipping through the crowd, crying and yipping. They are lean, hungry, with white fur and red-tipped ears. A woman follows them, with long wild hair and torn clothes, and urges them on in a thick voice, using some language Alice doesn’t recognize.




The…man?…on the horse rides toward Alice, his black eyes on her. The other people around the statue scramble away, but she is frozen there, the weight of her violin in her hands the only thing that convinces her she is real. That this is real. That she is awake and this is happening.

The man stops a half-dozen feet away from her. She is surrounded. The yipping white hounds, and the hag with them, array themselves around her. Trapping her where she stands.

Like I’m their prey, Alice thinks.

The green-skinned man on the horse cranes his horned head skyward, gazing up at Eros. His horse takes two more heavy steps forward. It feels as if the pavement trembles beneath Alice’s feet.

She should go. She should run, like everyone else did. But one of the dogs must sense the direction of her thoughts — if that’s possible? if any of this is possible? — because it snarls and lopes closer.

She has to do something.

And so she lifts her bow and resumes playing. The dogs let out a chorus of unearthly howls, and, finally, after who knows how much time passes, the man turns his gray horse away, and the hounds follow him. She plays until the horse’s hooves and the eery dog calls and the encouragement of the hag can no longer be heard. She plays as the people around her become noisy again, as they discover the cars and buses are still not moving, as the bright lights go dark, as screams reach out from the distance.

Alice plays until the piece is finished, and only then does she stop, and put her instrument back into its case. Only then does she try to decide where to head from here.


Extra, Extra: Arawn And The Wild Hunt Visit The West End Read More »

Post-Weekend Update

Time flies, my friends, and there is not enough of it. A few little things…

Blackwood's ebook is now on sale for the low, low, a-steal-really price of $.99p or $1.99 at  Amazon and B&N. And if you buy from Amazon, you can add the audiobook for $3.49.

Handy links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Nook

On to The Woken Gods, which releases in a week! Ack! I'll be at Joseph-Beth the evening of Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. to sign, read, and babble. Come out if you can.

If you participated in the preorder contest, your relic is winging its way to you as of today. I think these turned out pretty swell and they were lots of fun to do. I'm hoping you'll get them before you get your copies of the book, and do let me know if they don't show up in the next couple weeks. Here's a little peek at a handful as I took them to the mailbox:


A handful of relics!


(It ended up working out better to type the descriptions on labels and afix, because otherwise the postcards got destroyed on their way through the typewriter machine. You will also learn how you obtained said relics.)

  • Blog tourishness continues! I neglected to point to an interview with Red Reader Reviews last week that covered all sorts of topics, like how I'd spend my last day on Earth, my favorite quote, what animal I'd be (spoiler: a dragon!), etc. Check it out.
  • New review from Ashley at the A P Book Club. Snippet: "I'm always looking for a book where ancient mythologies are blended with contemporary settings. Take the Percy Jackson series. I loved those books, and I was kind of really excited to see that this was a book for fans of them. But honestly, I think Bond does it so much better. So I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something along the lines of Percy Jackson, but maybe a little more complex and a lot darker." *beams*

And last, but definitely not least, I believe at least a little bit of book money should be spent on a frivolous splurge (whenever possible), and so I might have procured the most insanely great custom e-reader cover ever:


Coolest ever! My new e-reader cover.


Yay, Etsy. More anon, lovely people.

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Read Alouds

At the end of last year, I drove up to Louisville one afternoon to participate in an exceedingly excellent idea for a new radio show Erin Keane was putting together with some of her colleagues at public radio station WFPL, where she's arts doyenne/reporter. Erin and I have known each other since high school, when we met at the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, and have been friends and fans of each other's work all these many long years since.

Erin is one of those amazing writers who not only works like a madwoman on her own craft, but also builds literary community to support others. For example, she founded the long-running and wonderful InKY reading series in Louisville. In fact, if there's a fab literary project or magazine out there that's reached out to her or that's crossed her path, chances are she's lent them advice, a hand, or bought a subscription.

Erin on the other side of the studio.(my crappy instagram photo of Erin on the other side of the glass)

Her latest venture is her biggest and best yet, I think. It's a radio (and podcast) series called Unbound, featuring two writers per half-hour themed episode reading their own work. To quote: "The show will be produced for broadcast in the WFPL listening area, available online via podcast and offered for syndication to other public radio stations. The show will launch this summer."

And it will include a wide range of writing (witness the fact I'm in the first episode, reading from Blackwood — not only a YA novel, but a fantasy one, which a great many literary enterprises might not decide to include, but here's one right up front) from writers who may not be household names. And because it's public radio, they have the ability to use partner stations to record authors who aren't able to get to the Louisville studio, too.

And from my side. #nervous(my slightly less blurry instagram photo from my scary side of the booth, getting ready to read)

I don't know about you, but I love being read to and hearing authors read their own work. And I love anything that helps put the spotlight on newer literary voices, which can sometimes be difficult to hear about in our noisy culture. The beauty of all this is you–yes you!–can help. 

Unbound's Kickstarter began yesterday. They've secured sponsorship to cover much of the costs of producing, distributing and promoting the show, but need (modest) help with the rest. I urge you to check it out (bonus? you can hear me being dorky about all this at the 3ish minute mark on the video). Click through, read and hear all about it.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to support the project if you can and help spread the word. You can also follow the show on twitter at @radiounbound and, of course, listen when it starts broadcasting. Yay.

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Minute Detail

Renoir Blake Gopnik is doing a series of five articles for the Washington Post, focusing in on elements of paintings in the Phillips Collection:

A morning in a special exhibition is a fine thing, but it forces you to spread your affections among too many works. Better to spend that time on one room in a permanent collection. Or on one work. Or, best yet, on a tiny corner of one work.

He begins today by discussing glassware in Renoir's "Luncheon."

(I also quite liked his piece on the Guggenheim's Kandinsky exhibit, which was the only touristy thing we managed in New York. It was lovely.)

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