Monday, September 29, 2008

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

This Monday post comes to you a bit later than usual, courtesy of US Airways, who stranded me in Charlotte last night. Blergh.

I spent the weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance conference in Mobile, Alabama. I sat on a panel, went to dinner with some lovely booksellers and Houghton Harcourt friends, had a signing, and collected about 6.02 x 1023 free books. Yes, that's right, I now have a mole more books than I had before.

I learned that downtown Mobile is right on the Mobile River and the Mobile Bay, which feed into the Gulf of Mexico. From my hotel room I had the most wonderful view of the dockyards and many big, big boats. I LOVE dockyards and big, big boats.

I learned that southern independent booksellers are awesome and that some of the nicest people ever work for my publisher. Which I already knew. But now I know it even more.

I learned that the band The Who has ruined any possibility of my ever pronouncing Mobile correctly (because of that song about how they're "going mobile," which always pops into my head whenever I try to pronounce the city name...).

I learned that these type of events are exhausting, but worth it -- though, I don't think I have it in me to do them very often. I'm worn out! :o)

And I learned, in a moment of heartbreak, that I overlooked someone the other day when I claimed not to have celebrity loves. Dear, dear Paul Newman. Raindrops are falling in my heart.

What about you? Learn anything this weekend?

(If you're curious about my raindrop references, this might help.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sylvestor, Thomas, Pema, and Aunt Marzipan

Meet my old pal, Sylvestor, who is a cat-about-town in Seattle (and has excellent taste in fiction).

Here's something theologian and therapist Thomas Moore says in one of my very favorite books, Care of the Soul:

"The Greeks told the story of the minotaur, the bull-headed flesh-eating man who lived in the center of the labyrinth. He was a threatening beast, and yet his name was Asterion -- Star. I often think of this paradox as I sit with someone with tears in her eyes, searching for some way to deal with a death, a divorce, or a depression. It is a beast, this thing that stirs in the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger at the beast, we do not overlook the star."

Here's something Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says (from her audiobook How to Meditate, paraphrased by me):

Approach your own frustrations in meditation -- such as your inability to focus or relax or stop your spinning mind -- with (1) patience, (2) gentleness, and (3) a sense of humor. Don't beat yourself up! Failing is part of the process. Be kind to yourself!

And, finally, here's something my Aunt Marzipan, who is a musician, emailed me once:

"We have both chosen professions that demand a great deal of isolation, introspection and solitary preparation. I also think that writing carries with it a perpetual dissatisfaction with one's product, just as music does. It's part of what keeps you going -- that the end product is always at least twenty paces ahead of you. It is also exhausting.... I can't imagine being in a 'normal' profession; music is so challenging and so incontestably beautiful."

Hello on what I am proclaiming to be Random Wisdom Thursday. Be patient and gentle with yourself today, no matter what you're doing. Have a sense of humor. Appreciate the exhausting things you do, and the beautiful things, big and small. And if you happen to be struggling with a monster -- try not to forget about the star.

Monday, September 22, 2008

(1) News, (2) Snoods, and (3) A Baby Card Rant

1. I have a Finnish deal -- thank you, WSOY -- which means that sometime soon, as promised, I'll be posting about why I love Finland. Also, School Library Journal gave Graceling a starred review. Also, the amazon blog Omnivoracious posted this interview with me the other day. Also, I've added a link to the left called "Praise for Graceling," which will take you to review clips. Also, Fire revisions are going okay. So, no complaints from here. :o)

2. My publicists, Barb and Sarah, have been coming up with some stupendous variations on the battle cry, "SNOOD, BE DAMNED!" Here are some of my favorites: "OUT, DAMN SNOOD!" And, "WHAT THE SNOOD?!!" (As in, What the snood is that smell?)

3. Why are baby cards so awful?

Seriously, why is it so hard to find a baby card that is not either (1) extremely gendered; (2) extremely gooey (along the "ickle beebly baby" lines with pom poms and bows); or (3) implying that all life problems have now ended and all that's in store is JOY JOY JOY?!

I found this really nice one the other day that had this Victor C. Anderson print of a child in pajamas sitting on the moon, and I thought, finally, here's a good one. Then I opened it and found this inside:

"Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last." - Charles Dickens

At first I was like, huh, okay, that's nice... but then I was like, wait, we're ranking babies? You can't be ranking babies! And I can't give this to anyone, because it basically says that all the thousands of babies that have been born since their baby was born are better than their baby!

Anyway, who could be a more ickly beebly person to quote on the topic of babies than Charles Dickens? Don't get me wrong, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my absolute favorite books, but the fact remains that many of the most useless children and women in literature were written by Charles Dickens. He was into that "women and children are (boring) paragons of innocence and virtue" thing. There's this wonderful moment in Garret Freymann-Weyr's My Heartbeat when Link and James, having read A Tale of Two Cities, announce that "she wasn't worth dying for." HA! HA!

Anyway. I digress. I'm not suggesting that we need a cynical line of baby cards by, like, Edward Gorey or anything -- "N is for Neville who died of ennui" -- "E is for Ernest who choked on a peach" -- I mean, of course not! I love babies! Babies DO mean love and joy! But maybe something that respects the baby as a brand new, very small, very welcome human being, rather than a pile of goo in blue or pink? Am I being unreasonable? I mean, what the snood!?

I found a baby card once with no picture, just this Kurt Vonnegut quote in white on a black background: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth."

That's how I always feel when I see a baby. I wish I'd bought their entire stock.

(The quote is from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, btw, and here's how the whole thing goes: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”)

Isn't that a great sentiment?

Sigh... anyway. I love unique stationary, and I have a wonderful collection. But I'm sorely lacking in this category. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who Are Your Character Crushes?

So, the other day in the grocery store, the two people in front of me were listing their celebrity crushes. Ewan McGregor; Kate Winslet; Colin Farrell; Colin Firth; John Stamos; Emily Mortimer; people I'd never heard of and therefore can't remember; the list went on and on. So I gave it some thought, and came to a conclusion about myself. Now, some of my friends are going to blow their drinks out of their noses when they read this, but nonetheless, here's the conclusion: I don't have celebrity crushes. (Just hold on, friends, because there's a second part to this, with which I will regain your trust:) I have character crushes. HUGE difference.


Take Jared Leto, for example. I don't really know much about Jared Leto, I'm pretty much indifferent to him, and in fact, I'd rather eat a moldy grape than watch Requiem for a Dream ever again.

But Jordan Catalano? I know and love Jordan Catalano -- I went to high school with Jordan Catalano -- maybe you do/did, too. Admittedly, he's kind of inarticulate and he doesn't have a very broad worldview. And he can't read. But it's not his fault, and he's working on it, and he has a really big heart. Besides, don't you just love the way he leans?


Next up in this scientific analysis: Matt Damon. I like his hometown. I'm all for a good peace sign now and then. I like that he lives in Florida now, so that together he, I, Cordelia, Joe, our various friends, and a whole lot of newly registered voters can turn this state blue in November. Oh, and I LOVED the Will and Grace episode called "A Chorus Lie" in which he plays Owen, a straight guy pretending to be a gay guy because he wants to win a spot on the gay chorus. Owen knows it's wrong to lie, but he can't help himself: he loves to sing. Oh, and I liked Linus in the Ocean's movies, and I liked Good Will Hunting, and the Talented Mr. Ripley. Matt Damon does some good work. BUT, I don't have a crush on Matt Damon (or Owen, or Linus, or Will, or Mr. R., for that matter). My love is reserved for Jason Bourne.

Granted, Jason Bourne would make an even worse boyfriend than Jordan Catalano, what with the psychosis and everyone trying to kill him all the time, but I'm not exactly going for reality here, so who cares.

Really, the problem with being Jason Bourne's girlfriend is the equality issue. Who wants a boyfriend who's better than you at everything -- everything -- except maybe sanity, social adjustment, and the ability to reminisce fondly over old memories? You'd be so pathetic and irrelevant -- nothing more than his female appendage, existing only to round out his character. It'd be a little like being Batman's girlfriend. He'd always be rescuing you and you'd always have to be his therapist and you'd always be the pawn the bad guys used to get at him and you'd probably die. You'd be such the girlfriend, in the true movie sense of the world. *shudder* No thanks.


Which is why it's time to move on to Karl Urban -- who, come to think of it, once played one of those bad guys who was trying to kill Jason Bourne. In fact, this isn't why I bring him up, but didn't Karl Urban play the very guy who killed Jason Bourne's long-suffering girlfriend? It sure is a small world.

But my point is, no doubt Karl Urban is a lovely person with interesting stories, and I've always wanted to visit New Zealand (which is where he's from), and he has a beautiful speaking voice, but beyond that, I don't know anything about Mr. U, and I'm indifferent. It's Eomer who is my husband.

And believe you me, in this little match-up, I would never be just the wife. I could be the Queen of Rohan, no problem, and let me tell you, a few things would change around that place. Eomer wouldn't know what hit him. "War is the province of men," my ass. Got anything else clever to say, Eomer?


Oh, scowling at me, are you? Wait 'til you see my scowl. I'll scowl that pointy helmet right off your head. I'll scowl you off that horse. Sure, you're all big and strong and stoic and good at throwing lances at monster-like creatures, but I bet if I kicked you really hard in the shins, you'd whimper.




************
It having just occurred to me that I have been yelling at a fictional character in public on my blog and referring to him as my husband, I am going to change the subject abruptly now, pretend that I am normal, and scamper off.
************

So, are you all registered to vote? Have those of you who are not old enough to vote convinced any old people to register to vote? Isn't voting the coolest?

*runs away*

Monday, September 15, 2008

SNOOD, BE DAMNED!

(This is my new battle cry, invented by my publicist, Sarah. Do you find, as we do, that it is immensely satisfying when bellowed?)

Trying to lay low these days, not work too much, not get too crazy. I spent last week proofreading Graceling for the UK edition and doing a couple of interview things. This week I'm settling down with my Fire revisions -- which, I'm pleased to say, are not nearly as terrifying as I'd feared they would be. SNOOD, BE DAMNED.

Great news: I have a Brazilian deal for Graceling and Fire. Thank you to my new publisher, Editora Rocco!

I have been listening to the album Classic Yo-Yo, which I probably don't have to tell you is all Yo-Yo, all the time. Well, mostly Yo-Yo. He performs "Simple Gifts" with singer Alison Krauss, whose voice is impossibly sweet, delicate, and clear -- three adjectives chosen haphazardly because really there are no words. Want to come up with your own adjectives? Well, luckily, this fine fellow on youtube has created a montage of photos to accompany the piece, so you can listen to it here.

Here are two facts about Yo-Yo Ma:
1. He has beautiful and photogenic hands.
2. He was my college graduation speaker and, in the rain, lugged his cello onto the stage, played Mark O'Connor's "Appalachia Waltz" and the 1st movement of J.S. Bach's 1st cello suite, and made me the happiest gal alive. (How many people can say they'll never forget the speech at their college graduation?)

To round out this Post from the Department of Randutiae, here's my favorite recently spotted bumper sticker: "Jesus would use his turn signals."

What is your favorite bumper sticker?

What is your battle cry?

And whose voice do you love?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Can Stand Under My Umbrella (ella-ella)

I have a secret love of rain gear.

Here is the truth about my sparkly purple iridescent umbrella: it is translucent blue on the outside and translucent pink on the inside, which is why it appears to be iridescent purple.

After my recent garbage bag boots experience I obtained some fabulous knee-high green galoshes. Purple umbrella + green galoshes = beauty.

So, here's the question: what color raincoat should I get?

Here's the other question: what color is your rain gear?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Surrender! Before I hurt myself!



I can do it! I can lift it! Just give me a minute and I will crush you!



I am fierce! I will squash you with giggles!


1. At long last, here are the images I promised from the School Library Journal photo shoot, all photos by the wonderful Jensen Hande. Some of you may notice that I am not wearing the snood. If this upsets you, which would be perfectly understandable, blame my sister, secret code name Cordelia. She said the snood didn't match the sword. (In color? In shape? In atmosphere?) Also, she kept calling it a snoot.

2. My uber-cool friend Rebecca Rabinowitz guest posted at Shapely Prose the other day with recommendations for fat-positive children's books. Part One is about picture books and Part Two is about middle-grade and young adult books. Definitely worth checking out.

3. I saw FOUR baby blue herons on the pilings the other evening. When they flew away they were all flappy and floppy. It was stupendous.

4. Cordelia may have snood anger issues, but nonetheless, she sure is a loyal sister. Here's an email she sent me: "I was so offended and depressed by Palin's speech that I decided to take a break yesterday and stop in the Barnes and Noble on Atlantic. I checked out the young adult section -- your book was there! I did you a favor by putting one of the copies on the table at the very front of the store."

Heh heh.

5. Finally, I don't have it in me to comment on Palin's speech. But I do have it in my to embed Jay Smooth's comments.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

In Which Graceling Steps Into the World; Also, a Cry for Help

Well, folks, reports have been coming in from friends with sharp eyes: Graceling has been spotted in bookstores in Union Square (NYC); Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA); Decatur, GA; Atlantic Beach, FL; Jacksonville, FL; and St. Cloud, MN. And it's in stock at amazon.com and bn.com, though not yet at powells.com. I guess it's official -- Graceling exists. Please support independent bookstores! And if you have any interest in buying a signed copy, please contact my local bookstore, the Bookmark, by calling (904) 241-9026 or emailing bkmark at bellsouth dot net. Then they'll call me and say, Kristin, get your ass out here and sign this, and I'll be tickled pink, because the Bookmark is only a block from the sea, and I always like a good excuse to go to the sea.

In other news, sometime in the next week I need to record an interview for an audio podcast, and one of the questions is about what I'm reading. I want to answer the question honestly, but I find myself in a pickle. I hope someone can help me. Anyone know how these peeps pronounce their names?:
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and author of many things, including Peace Is Every Step. My sister, secret code name Apocalyptica, pronounces it Thick Snot, but I'm thinking that might be wrong.
  • Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels. The French way? The English way? Some third way I haven't thought of?
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow and Creativity. Really. That's his name.
If no one can help me then I'm either going to have to lie about what I'm reading, boldly mispronounce things, or quick-get-through-these-books in the next few days and move on to books by people named Cat and Pot. (I don't actually mind lying. It's just that I'm reading good books, and I want to talk about them. And I'd rather not sound like an idiot in the process.)

Finally, the other day at sunset, I saw a baby blue heron. It was walking along the river all floppy, lifting its knees practically above its head -- as if its feet were too big. And it was so small, and so very blue. Wonderful! Welcome, baby heron, to the world!

And Graceling, welcome to you, too. It's been a long gestation.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Who's Up for a Labor Day Rant?

I've read a few articles lately and been involved in a few conversations that have gotten me thinking about the topic of audience age. And then, the other day, a wonderful conversation about writing, readership, the "intended audience," etc. erupted on the blog of Sarah Prineas, the author of The Magic Thief. The conversation is here, and here are some of my favorite quotes:

"As Gorky once said, 'Writing for children is the same as writing for adults, only better.'"

"My all-time favorite writing quote is this one by Madeleine L'Engle: 'You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.'"

Like Prineas, I don't have a rant in me about people who think it's easier to write for kids. I also don't have a rant about people who think that writers "for adults" are somehow objectively better or more serious than writers "for children." I know too deeply that that is wrong to be able to get worked up about it (okay, I get worked up about it sometimes, but only when I'm cranky and haven't eaten breakfast yet). People love to stick books in categories -- often books they've never even read -- and then rank the categories based on vast and inaccurate assumptions. Back when I used to google my book in search of reviews, I found a reviewer of the North American, Harcourt Graceling (which is being published as YA) who, after the requisite "the only other YA I've read is Harry Potter," basically said, "I think this book should have been published for adults, not teens." Later, I found a reviewer of the British, Gollancz Graceling (which is being published as adult) who basically said, "I think this book should be published for teens, not adults." Whatever. Knock yourselves out, people. Categories are necessary for publishers, libraries, and bookstores to function smoothly, but beyond that, they are crap. I don't write my books for an audience of a particular age. I write them for me, and by extension, for readers who are like me. And by me, I mean the timeless me. I have been 13 and I have been 31, and both the teen me and the thirties me like books published across all genres and for all age levels, and I know I am not the only person on earth who is like that. Any book can be for anyone and every reading experience is new and unique.

Ahem. As you can see, I don't have a rant in me about this particular topic.

However, there is something I do have a rant in me about, and it's closely related to this particular topic -- and it's related to both those reviews of Graceling I mention above. Because I know from the context what both of them meant. The first one meant, "Teens shouldn't read books like Graceling because we need to protect teens from mature topics like sexuality and nontraditional relationships." The second one meant, "This book isn't quite deep or complicated or dark enough -- this book isn't mature enough -- to be marketed for adults."

Listen, person, if you think my book isn't deep or complicated or dark and would be a better book if it were, that's fine. Maybe you're right. But blame me. It's the way it is because of my failings -- because of me, the writer -- not because of my appropriate audience. STOP CONDESCENDING TO YOUNG PEOPLE.

This is where my rant is: the condescension to young people that is the basis of all of those belittling attitudes toward children's writers. Writing for children is inferior to writing for adults because children are less smart, less sophisticated, less discriminating than adults. Putting aside how magnificent so much literature marketed as "children's literature" is -- do people really not remember what it was like to be young? And do people really think grown-ups are smarter? (Ever read the news?) Do people not realize that the readers with the best bullshit censors are the young readers? And the attitude of "material inappropriate for young people" just makes me want to jump screaming out of my skin. Um? YOUNG PEOPLE LIVE IN THIS WORLD. Not only do they see the terrible things that happen, but they are involved in the terrible things that happen. Not only do they see the "mature" things that happen, but they are involved in the mature things that happen. What is it that you imagine you're protecting them from? Might it not help them to cope with the complications of life to read it expressed somehow in art? And okay, so it's usually true that older people have more bills to pay. But I just don't buy into that "adults have greater responsibility" thing. Maybe when I was fifteen I didn't know about car insurance or retirement planning and I wasn't paying my own way. But hell, I had very real responsibility -- as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, as a student, as a person in the world. So does every other young person. Don't belittle that responsibility just because it doesn't come attached to great earning potential. No, I didn't have as much experience as I do now, nor had I developed certain kinds of empathy. Sure, in many ways I was immature, I was self-centered (as I'm sure my parents could attest!). But life was coming at me just like it comes at an adult, it was coming at me just as fast and hard. It was deep and complicated and dark. And I was as smart as I am now. And not only was I capable of reading things that were dark and deep and complicated; I needed darkness and depth and complication in what I was reading. I needed it to grow and mature. We all do, whatever our ages. STOP CONDESCENDING TO YOUNG PEOPLE. The only certain difference between any particular young person and any particular old person is a number.

That is all.