Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shaking Up the Blog; an Article; a FAQ -- and Some Unputdownable Books!

So, after a lot of thought and some consultation with the wise, I've come to realize that I need to make a change on the blog. I'm so grateful to all of my readers for the enthusiasm you have for my books and my blog -- but the downside to all the wonderful discussion that happens here is that moderation of comments has becoming a consuming activity that cuts into my writing time. It's better for everyone if I spend most of my energy right now on Bitterblue -- so, NO, I'm not going to stop blogging -- but I am going to turn off comments. This is not necessarily a permanent change, it's just what I need right now to focus on my writing. I make this change with sadness!

This will be a shift for me, because I end so many of my posts with questions for you! I guess they'll tend to be hypothetical questions from now on. One nice thing about Blogger is that you can change settings on a post-by-post basis, so maybe now and then I'll have the time to open a post to comments. We'll see how it goes.

I hope you'll stick around!

Okay, enough of the blue stuff. A quick note:
The current Horn Book Magazine includes my article, "Hot Dog, Katsa!", which is an excerpt from the speech I gave at the 2009 Summer Institute at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College (my grad school alma mater). You can read it in the print magazine or online. It's about the joys and frustrations of the fantasy writing process. Check it out, and the rest of the (first full-color, ever) issue, too!

FAQ:

I always feel like a bad reader when I give up on books before the end. Do you ever abandon books you're reading?

Goodness, yes. Looking back over the past couple months, I can think of seven books I've abandoned. I won't name them; I don't trash books here; but I'll say that all of them came highly recommended; one of them was by an author I otherwise love; one was a highly acclaimed international bestseller. I. Just. Couldn't. Get. Into. Them. And trust me, I tried; I read at least half of most of them, even the acclaimed international bestseller, which was at least 500 pages long. But at a certain point, I always remember that I'm going to die someday. I don't have time to waste on a book I can't get myself to care about.

Also in the past couple months, I read from start to finish, unable to put down: Knowledge of Angels, by Jill Paton Walsh; Liar, by Justine Larbalestier; A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner; The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo; and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. TGwtDT, in fact, was so unputdownable that at one point, when I absolutely had to tear myself away to run a critical errand, I took the book with me, so that I could go to a coffee shop after the errand and read it there rather than having to wait the 10 minutes it would have taken me to walk home.

I also read Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, which deserves special mention, because it's one of the best books I've ever read.

About the books I abandon -- I think my abandoning them is more a reflection on me than on the books. No book is for everyone. When you read, there's something you're looking for, and it's not the book's fault if it's not there; it just means you need to keep looking. (It's not your fault, either, so don't feel guilty!) Anyway, I'm very hard on books, probably because I spend the whole day tearing apart my own writing, seeing all its gazillion flaws -- so it's really hard to turn off the uber-critical eye when I turn to other people's work.

I've tried to identify a common thread in the books I abandon. I think it's a combination of not being able to get into the prose style plus the characters not feeling real to me, not being believable -- which prevents me from caring about what happens to them.