Thursday, April 30, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Graceling has hit the children's bestseller list in Italy. Somewhere in a Sicilian graveyard, the spirits of my great-great grandparents are dancing. I think there might be a few people dancing in South Jersey, as well :o)
The Nebula Awards were announced this weekend, and the winner of the Andre Norton Award (for which Graceling was a finalist) is Ysabeau S. Wilce's Flora's Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, etc., etc. Congrats to Wilce! I haven't read any Flora books yet, but they're at the top of my list. I know from talk among my friends that the SFWA made an excellent choice. :o) All the 2008 Nebula winners are here.
The Graveyard Book has been named the ABA's Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book of the year. It's also the book I read over the weekend. It made me happy; it's beautifully written and beautifully simple, and creepy and sad. Congrats to Neil Gaiman. Graceling was named an honor book in the same category, and all the 2008 Indies Choice Book Award winners can be found by poking around here.
So, I announce a lot of happy things here on my blog -- but there's something I've been wanting to express about publishing and thrills, buzz, news, reviews, new deals, hip-hip-hooray, and all that stuff. I've started a gazillion posts about it, actually, and then abandoned them, because I can't get the words right.
Then, the other day, I was re-reading Bird by Bird and discovered that Annie Lamott expresses, exactly and beautifully, the very thing I've been trying to put into words. Here's what she says:
One more thing about publication: when this book of mine came out, the one that did pretty well, the one that necessitated the buying of a new dress, I found myself stoned on all the attention, and then lost and derailed, needing a new fix every couple of days and otherwise going into withdrawal. My insides became completely uninhabitable, as if I'd wandered into a penny arcade with lots of bells ringing and lights flashing and lots of junk food, and I'd been there too long. I wanted peace, peace and quiet, but at the same time I didn't want to leave. I was like one of the bad boys in "Pinocchio" who flock to the island of pleasure and grow donkey ears. I knew my soul was sick and that I needed spiritual advice, and I knew also that this advice shouldn't be terribly sophisticated. So I went to see the pastor of my son's preschool.The pastor is about fifteen. We talked for a while. It turns out he just looks young. I said that I was all over the place, up and down, scattered, high, withdrawing, lost, and in the midst of it all trying to find some elusive sense of serenity. "The world can't give that serenity," he said. "The world can't give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.""I hate that," I said."I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can't take it away."
I love every word of that. I find it to be very true to my experience. And here's one more thing she writes that I find a comforting reminder:
All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings, which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team.... The men on [the] team are desperate to win an Olympic medal.... But the coach says, "If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it."
Here's more about Anne Lamott. Her Bird by Bird is one of very few books on writing that I adore.
Have a peaceful Monday. Try not to be tempted by the penny arcade. It's a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. :o)
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Thus spake National Book Award-winning Sherman Alexie.
Here are a couple of myths about YA lit: (1) YA is all like Harry Potter. (A myth popular among those who've read little YA other than Harry Potter. And don't get me wrong, I love Harry Potter! But he's SO not representative of all YA. No single series could be.) (2) YA is only read, loved, lauded and applauded by young adults.
BWA-HA-HAHAHAHAAAA! LIES! ALL LIES!!!!!
Are you a person who hasn't read much YA? If so, I am now going to recommend some beautiful and complex YA literature that will knock your socks off, even if you're so old that you grew up in the 1920s wearing spats, making your socks more difficult to access.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (realism)
- The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One and Volume Two, by M.T. Anderson (realism)
- Postcards from No Man's Land, by Aidan Chambers (realism)
- The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (realism)
- Sleeping Dogs, by Sonya Hartnett (realism)
- Slake's Limbo, by Felice Holman (realism)
- Toning the Sweep, by Angela Johnson (realism)
- The Tricksters, by Margaret Mahy (magical realism)
- A Step from Heaven, by An Na (realism)
- The His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman (fantasy)
- Kindergarten, by Peter Rushforth (realism / fairy tale retelling)
- The Attolia books, by Megan Whalen Turner (fantasy)
- Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld (contemporary fantasy? SF? If I tell you what it actually is, you'll get the wrong idea)
- True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff (realism / free verse)
- The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (realism, sort of)
I've included descriptors in parentheses just to give you a sense of genre, but click through to the links to get to the Amazon descriptions.
However! Before you buy the books from Amazon -- or even before you buy them from Powells -- I want to say one thing (with thanks to my pal, secret code name: Heroes Use Headsets, for reminding me of this). Did you know that a lot of independent bookstores do online ordering and shipping -- or, can take orders by phone and ship them to you -- or, can take orders by phone and then contact you when your books come in? And when you shop at local independents, your entire community benefits. :o) If you live in the U.S., the American Booksellers Association has a handy-dandy independent store finder right here to help you locate your local indie.
One final thing before I go: Graceling fell today in the Battle of the Books -- to The Lincolns, by Candace Fleming. Judge Nancy Werlin's wise decision is here; she's convinced me to read The Lincolns asap. Thanks, Battle, for throwing me in with so many great books! And good luck in the final two rounds. (You can keep track of next week's semi-finals on the Battle Blog.)
More YA recommendations are welcome in the comments -- and maybe I'll follow this up sometime soon with a middle grade list and a picture book list. Happy Thursday, everyone :o)
Monday, April 20, 2009
A new link to the left: My appearance schedule. I'll update as I get more info.
A reminder that there's going to be a conference in Vail, Colorado in October called Sirens, all about women in fantasy -- Tamora Pierce, Sherwood Smith, and I are the guests of honor. The website is here and the LiveJournal is here. It's going to be FUN, not to mention gorgeous scenery!
Also, go here to learn more about the Simmons College Summer Institute 2009 in Boston in July, called Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some of the names on the program (that's a pdf file, btw): Gareth Hinds, Lenore Look, Marilyn Nelson, Martha Brooks, Kevin Henkes, Avi, Blue Balliett, JonArno Lawson, Natalie Babbit, Ellen Levine, Jack Gantos, and M.T. Anderson. (and me)
Next, a couple of answers to recent questions: Yes, there will be a Graceling audiobook. It's by Full Cast Audio and comes out in June. And yes, Graceling is available as an ebook. Buy the Kindle Harcourt (USA) edition at Amazon, or the ebook of the Gollancz (UK) edition at Waterstones. There are probably other places to buy it, but people well-versed with ebooks will know those places better than I do. I wouldn't know an ebook if it... what do ebooks even do? Zip past invisibly at the speed of light? (Is that redundant? Would anything moving at the speed of light be invisible? [Ahem, other than light, that is?]) If you know where ebooks can be purchased, please feel free to elucidate (ha!) me in the comments.
Also, Graceling has managed to advance to Round 2 of the Battle of the Books, thanks to very kind Judge Tamora Pierce. On Thursday, Judge Nancy Werlin will decide between it and Candace Fleming's award-winning The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, a book which, frankly, looks fantastic, and which I need to go read, seeing as Lincoln is not only a fascinating figure but one of my favorite writers ever. (And self-taught!) Good luck to everyone whose book is brawling this week. :o)
Finally, I'm thrilled to announce that Graceling and Fire will be published in Portugal by Alfaguara Infantil & Juvenil, an imprint of Santillana.
I hope to have time for a less business-y post on Thursday. In case I've totally bored you to death, here's something fun: Go to this newspaper article, look at the spinning lady, come back, and tell me whether she's turning clockwise or counter-clockwise (or anti-clockwise, depending on where you learned to speak English). (Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Sandra McDonald, who hooked me into this optical illusion a long time ago!)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
(Or so sings Lou Reed in one of the best songs ever... except that it sounds so sad when he sings it. I don't mean it so sadly!)
Last week was a tough one. You know those times when you're contemplating everything you've done in the past year, and then suddenly you realize you did all that stuff in the past month?
Anyway, Wednesday night, I went to bed completely rattled, burned out, and beat. Thursday morning, I woke to a phone call from a lady at my credit card company, who was calling to verify suspicious activity on my account. She was right: I had NOT purchased a song online for 99 cents the day before. (Though I had three days prior, making it a particularly clever theft for the perpetrator to have perpetrated -- but, um, still a bit underwhelming? 99 cents? Is it really worth going to all the trouble of being nefarious to buy one song on iTunes?).
Why, I asked the lady, would anyone steal my credit card info and then spend 99 cents? I dropped my credit card in the rain on 53rd and 5th once while I was living in New York. The people who got their hands on that card went straight to Saks 5th Avenue, where nothing costs 99 cents.
Because, the nice credit card lady explained to me, thieves will do this sometimes to test out the card and/or establish themselves as legitimate purchasers with the card. If it works, it means they've pulled the wool over the credit card company's eyes. Then they start making the big purchases.
I decided to interpret the entire experience as a sign that I needed a day off or I was going to die.
Forthwith, I sat on the couch for hours, ate oatmeal, and watched Buffy. Then, I carried Pride and Prejudice to my local tea shop and read it while drinking a pot of tea and eating scones and little crustless triangle sandwiches. Then, I did some window shopping, bought a greeting card I liked, and bought a used book called The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. (It's a mystery by Alexander McCall Smith, the audiobook of whose No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was my chosen listening on airplanes in March. Great audiobook, btw -- wonderfully read by Lisette Lecat.). I walked in the sun. I visited the river. I came home and cooked tilapia with portobello mushrooms, sweet onions, and white wine. (Recipe here.) I drank a beer. (I'm sure you're supposed to drink white wine when eating tilapia cooked with white wine, but, well, I didn't feel like drinking white wine, so there.)
It was a perfect day; it was just the rest I needed. So, thank you, really stupid 99-cent thief, for being the straw that broke the camel's back and gave me a day off. (Or something.)
Do you work too hard? How do you refuel?
I leave you with my new card (which can be purchased as a magnet here).
Monday, April 13, 2009
My FAQ pages are up. Click on the "Frequently Asked Questions" link on the left, which will bring you to my FAQ Index... or, if you're not actually on my blog at the moment, just go here.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, there won't be anything new, but the questions are more organized now. And if you're new to my blog and have sent me questions, you'll find a lot of answers there.
In honor of the occasion, I'll answer one new question:
On your "My Books" page, you say that Katsa, Po, & Co. will appear in Bitterblue. What do you mean by "& Co.?"
*smile* Literally, it means, "and company," but I don't think that's what you're asking. What it really means is that I'm close-mouthed about works in progress -- I need to be, for my own writing process -- and I'm not willing to name the Graceling characters who appear in Bitterblue just yet, other than Katsa and Po. You're not the only person who's asked about the "& Co." thing, though, so I've changed the wording over there so it's less confusing. I also got rid of the line about how writing Bitterblue is killing me with loud death agonies, because I got an email from someone who was worried that this meant her favorite characters get killed. :o) All I meant was that I'm finding it hard to write.
Enjoy the FAQs, everyone!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Spanish cover ---> click to enlarge --->
Hi everyone! What's going on with you these days? Ready to hear my 4 for the win?
1. TWO OF THE WORLD'S BEST PUBLISNOODS
So, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you may recall my snood-ish battle cries, such as, OUT, DAMN SNOOD! and SNOOD, BE DAMNED!, invented by my Ladies of the Snood. Well, those ladies, Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy, former Associate Directors of Publicity at Harcourt Children's Books, have launched their own company, Blue Slip Media, specializing in publicity and marketing for children's books. Barb and Sarah are priceless. They're talented, experienced, great at what they do, so much fun, and they always made me feel completely taken care of. (They once gave me the best tip ever for conquering the fear of public speaking: Just picture everyone in their snoods! HA HA HA HEE hoo) ANYWAY. If you're in need of publicity work, hire them. (And don't worry, they won't come at you with snoodisms, that's just me ^_^.) The website of Blue Slip Media is here, a Publishers Weekly article about how well they work together is here, and a PW article announcing their new venture is here!
2. BATTLE OF THE BOOKS
As it turns out, it's an appropriate time for battle cries, because Graceling seems to be involved in some sort of smackdown over at School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. Basically, it's 16 books, pitted against each other like basketball teams during March Madness, the victor in each match being decided by a single judge, the judges being some of the biggest names in children's books. There'll be four rounds. Here are the rules of the estimable contest and here is the schedule. And here is me enjoying it while it lasts, because, hello, in Round One I'm up against Kathi Appelt's National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor Book The Underneath, with Tamora Pierce deciding. Yikes! Seriously, this is such a hoot -- check it out. The brawl begins on Monday.
3. I ♥ IOWA AND VERMONT
So, did you hear about how how Iowa's supreme court unanimously overturned the state's ban on gay marriage? And Vermont legalized gay marriage? People, it's happening. The tide is turning. I'm so happy I could pop.
Remember the video I posted on Interplanetary Be Who You Are Day -- the "Please Don't Divorce Us" video -- that made some of you cry? Well, watch this two-minute clip of Iowa State Senator Mike Gronstal explaining why he opposes any ban on gay marriage in Iowa. It might just also make you cry -- but out of happiness and pride.
(In case you can't watch the video, here's the transcript.)
Thanks to my pal Deborah Kaplan for the links. Her excellent LiveJournal on librarianship and academia, fandom, F&SF, YA lit (lately, some great stuff about F&SF, YA lit, and authors of color), and OTHER COOL STUFF is at gnomicutterance.
4. PHOTOS FROM BOLOGNA
All taken by my Paris agent, secret code name: Bossy McLaine.
On top: My bodyguards and I at the De Agostini stand at the fair; me on one of the less perilous tower stairways. Underneath: EVERYONE AT MY DINNER -- publishers, agents, scouts, and me!
Finally, I just want to say that my heart goes out to everyone touched by the earthquakes in central Italy. ♥
Monday, April 6, 2009
A box of French Gracelings appeared on my doorstep on Friday, so either it's out now in France or it will be soon. yAt!
Also, I'm thrilled to announce that I have a deal with Ediposs Publishing House to publish Graceling in both Czech and Slovak. Double yAt!
Next, I'd just like to say that I'm way behind in EVERYTHING, especially everything email- and blog-related. I had hopes of finalizing my FAQ pages this weekend and putting them up for you all, but I failed on that count. I hope to put the FAQs pages up soon (maybe next weekend?), and when I do, they should answer a lot of the questions I've gotten in comments and on email lately.
Finally, like the t-shirt I got in New York?
I got it (and a delicious cupcake) at the Magnolia Bakery. And I got my photography degree at The University of How-to-Take-Terrible-Self-Portraits-in-Which-Your-Head-Looks-Eerily-Large.
Pics from Bologna coming soon!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Hellooooooooooo beautiful people!
I'm still processing the last two weeks, so this post might be scattered.
I'll start in Bologna, where I had dinner in a restored medieval tower with my editors / publishers from Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Spain (both Castillan and Catalan), not to mention my wonderful agents and scouts from all over Europe. The dinner took place on the middle floors of the tower, but beforehand, we climbed up the steep (and I think it would be fair to say perilous) steps (and, closer to the top, ladders) to the roof, for a toast. The view of Bologna at night from the roof of the Torre Prendiparte was just... well, let's just say that I started to cry. I simply could not believe that I was on top of this beautiful tower looking out at this beautiful city with all of these beautiful people.
A knight accompanied me to my press conference and stood behind me the entire time. I've never felt so safe in my life. I almost wished someone would try to rob me just to see what would happen. I hope to post photos soon.
I did SO MANY INTERVIEWS! The Italian press is very impressive. (No pun intended.) My Italian editor Beniamino, who is a darling, translated like a champ all week long. By the 5th or 6th interview, I'm not even sure he needed me there anymore, because he knew all my answers. De Agostini, in general, made Bologna a wonderful experience for me, as did my Paris agent, Lora. Can I say thanks one more time? :o)
Later in the week, I got to meet my Brazilian editor, and then my U.K. editor showed up and we played! yAt!
Also, the German edition (out next fall) is going to have one of those ribbon bookmarks. This makes me happy.
Also, the Italian edition is out (I saw it in stores before I left), and so are the Spanish (Castillan), Catalan, and Dutch editions. The cover I'm using for this post is the Catalan cover. I used the small version just for space considerations, but if you click on it, I think you can see a bigger version.
I had the immense pleasure of spending some time with Melina Marchetta, who is as wonderful as her books.
After Bologna, I flew to New York, only missing one plane (I've mentioned before how I feel about Delta). Sigh... I ♥ New York. I met a gazillion wonderful people at Penguin; I got to hang out with my agent and my editor AND a very handsome young chappy, secret code name: Cutie, who didn't talk much, probably because of the pacifier in his mouth; I went to dinner and met more lovely people....
The Penguin Fire ARCs are beautiful. The cover is metallic and shiny!
I had a rough patch on Tuesday morning, when I was being driven from Manhattan to Greenwich, CT for the Penguin sales conference, where I was scheduled to give a speech. I think the long days of travel and of so much EXCITEMENT finally hit me and combined with my tendency toward car sickness and my terrible nerves about speechmaking. I was pretty green; I wouldn't be surprised if the driver began to worry about his upholstery. It was one of those times when you just keep counting down the minutes, and every minute that passes is one more minute in which you have successfully not thrown up, which feels like the world's greatest achievement.
Finally, the silliest thing comforted me and made my nerves and nausea go away. I noticed we were driving on I-95. It takes a certain level of jet-lagged exhaustion to make a person start to feel sentimental about an interstate highway, but the thing is, I-95 isn't just an interstate. It's a ribbon that connects not all, but many, of the important people in my life. My sisters, my parents, other family members, and a lot of friends are part of the I-95 ribbon, from Massachusetts down through New York and Philly, all the way to my Great-Aunt Marnie, who lives just beyond the end of I-95 in the Florida Keys. And all of those people love me, and I love them, and they all know what it's like to be tired, overwhelmed, and a little bit scared.
I cannot tell you what a comfort that was to me. And I just want all of my friends and family, even the ones not on the I-95 corridor :o), to know that I was holding on to you on Tuesday, and you gave me courage.
Anyway, it was just a speech -- you'd think, from the way I'm talking, that I was being driven to my own execution or something ^_^. The speech turned out to be a lot of fun to give! It was a very kind crowd. I ♥ book people.
So, this is a post about people. It's a thank you note and a love letter to all the friends I've always had, and all the new friends I've made.
On Tuesday night, my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, and my outlaw brother-in-law, secret code name: Joe, picked me up at the airport. All four of them. Cordelia happens to be pregnant -- with twins! They drove me home through a torrential rainstorm. On I-95, of course. :o)
When I got home, two new young trees had been planted in my front yard.
Life is good.