Friday, March 30, 2012

I Agree That You Don't Know

Joel Stein thinks that adults shouldn't be reading books published for young adults and children.

"I’m sure all those books are well written," he writes. "So is 'Horton Hatches the Egg.' But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing." Then he goes on to explain that he doesn't actually know what any kids' books are like, because he doesn't read them, because he's a grown up. "I have no idea what The Hunger Games is like.... I don’t know because it’s a book for kids."

The condescension isn't particularly shocking -- it's commonplace. (Even the "I'm sure all those books are well written" part is condescending. Why should they all be well-written? Find me one genre of books in the publishing industry where every single book is well-written. Children's literature has the same range of quality as every other genre.) What's more surprising is that the New York Times considered this printworthy.

Hey New York Times, I don't watch HBO, because it's not for people with basic cable. Would you mind setting aside about 300 words somewhere for me to opine about their spring lineup and who should be watching it?

I can never get particularly worked up about people who critique art they've never experienced.  I can't get myself worked up about this article. Why? Because he's wrong. And he's the one who loses out. I'm happily here with a lot of good books he'll never read.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Comes (Early) to the City











Monday, March 26, 2012

Interviews, ARC Giveaways, Reviews, Perspective

In lieu of a post today, I'll link you to Cindy Pon's interview with me about Bitterblue, over at The Enchanted Inkpot. Cindy is running a Bitterblue ARC giveaway, so head over there if you're interested! Many thanks to Cindy, who asks really good questions :).

My 30-second Hunger Games movie review: I had to leave the theater around minute 90 because the camerawork was making me sick. If you're prone to motion sickness, consider taking your meds or whatever, and DO NOT sit close. The frustrating thing was that at the moment I left, they'd just entered the arena, and FINALLY there was some point to all the shaky cam, zooming, fast panning, quick cutting, deliberate unfocusedness, etc. Finally it was effective. But my body couldn't deal with it anymore at that point. Very disappointing. The one judgment I was able to form before succumbing to the horror of "Is the whole movie going to be shot like this? Oh NO," was that District 12 didn't seem all that hungry.

By the way, I don't just dislike that type of camerawork and editing because it makes me sick (it actually never has before, this was the first time I've ever had to leave a movie for that reason). I dislike it because I don't think it achieves what the filmmaker thinks it achieves. Edgar Allan Poe, writing about the mistake of confusing luminousness of form with luminousness of content, once said, "The error is one exactly analogous with that which leads the immature poet to think himself sublime wherever he is obscure, because obscurity is a source of the sublime -- thus confounding obscurity of expression with the expression of obscurity." What does that mean if we extend it to books and movies? Well, for example: If I'm trying to express that one of my characters is confused, it doesn't follow that I should do so by miring my readers in confusion. My job is to make it clear to the reader that my character is confused, not to confuse my reader! And if a filmmaker is trying to express that one of his characters has a sort of urgent, serpentine, destabilizing tunnel vision (whatever that means), it doesn't follow that he needs to provide the viewer with some sort of urgent, serpentine, destabilizing tunnel vision. What he needs to do is provide the viewer with the sense that the character has the urgent, serpentine, destabilizing tunnel vision. Certainly a more difficult task. But if he accomplishes that, then we as the viewers will be right there with the character, because humans have empathy and imagination.  You don't need to create our emotions for us, thank you very much! You just need to use your craft to call on them.

Enough ranting.

I'm happy to report that in contrast, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras' concert at Symphony Hall on Sunday (Brahms Requiem and other things) was beautiful. BYSO, you were the stars of my weekend.

And now here's astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson sharing what he believes to be the most astounding fact about the universe. (Thanks B!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Musings on Three Books I Love

I recently reread the Hunger Games books, in anticipation of the first movie. I don't have time to write the post I'd like to write, but I'm going to give myself an hour or so to work through some of my broadest thoughts here on the blog. My reread was different from my initial readings. Nothing and no one in the books can feel the same when you know what's coming, know their fates. To be frank, my reread was devastating.

When it comes down to it, these books are about war, evil, totalitarianism, trauma and its aftermath, madness, desperation, loss. They're about how the most seemingly incorruptible good can be shattered into awfulness given the right (wrong) circumstances. They're about being broken so often that you can never fully heal, and about the enormous resilience and courage it takes to keep clinging to hope.

A disclaimer that should be obvious: there will be plenty of Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay spoilers in this post. To those readers unfamiliar with the books, I apologize for the lack of plot summary. To everyone, I apologize if this seems rushed!

***

"I really can't think about kissing when I've got a rebellion to incite."

That's Katniss's thought on page 126 of Catching Fire :).  I'd forgotten how much time Katniss spends comparing/contrasting Peeta and Gale as love interests. Yet for all the Team Peeta/Team Gale enthusiasm on the interwebs, this just doesn't seem like an interesting question to me. "Which boy?" is not what these books are about. I love that when Katniss says things like the quote above, she actually means it. It's not a Mary Sue act on her part, "Oh, SIGH, I wish all these boys weren't so in love with me, I wish I could focus more on the THINGS THAT MATTER, why must I be so DESIRED? POOR ME!" Katniss actually cannot be bothered. Sure, she's working through some of the confusions; she's aware of what Peeta and Gale both want; she's even aware that if the circumstances were different, she might be thinking about it more, might even come to some sort of conclusion, even find herself wanting something or someone. But the circumstances aren't different, and Katniss's big life questions are so much more interesting than that. She's asking herself questions like, do I want any boy at all? Could I ever? Is it ever safe to love another person, or to have children? How can a person ever feel anything for real, when at every moment, she's being compelled to pretend her feelings? How can I get all the people I love out of this trap? Forget about being in love -- how can I keep all of us alive?

The answer, of course, is that she can't.

***

I want to talk about Cinna for a moment. Cinna uses art as a tool for rebellion. His art is everything to him; what he says with his art is so important to him that he's willing to risk his life (and Katniss's), for a dress, for what he brilliantly causes the dress to mean.

Have you noticed there's no overriding religion in this world, no religious figures? There's more to be said about that; I wish I had more time. People in these books die for other people, they die for ideas, they die for goodness, all rooted in the realities of the lives they're living on earth, rather than in some higher scheme. But there is a higher truth; there doesn't need to be God for there to be a higher truth; and I feel like Cinna is one of the people who touches it, with his art. I have a weakness for the rebellious artist.

It's why I gradually came to love -- deeply -- Peeta. Peeta was bland and boring to me -- until I saw his brutal paintings of the arena, and understood how much he could say with his plodding gentleness.

***

I've been trying to get a handle on Peeta as a character, and mostly failing. I feel compelled to, because rereading what happened to him in Mockingjay was so overwhelming to me that I wandered around weepily for a day or two. There's so little comfort in these books, so little comfort for the reader or for Katniss. I found Peeta to be just about the only source of comfort in Catching Fire. Then, in Mockingjay, Collins takes that comfort and smashes it into bits, first by showing us Peeta being tortured, showing us his blood and telling us about his screams, then by turning Peeta into a monster. I couldn't deal with it this time around. It was as if Charlotte the spider suddenly started writing "BAD WORTHLESS PIG" into her web, told Wilbur he was destined for the bacon factory, then crawled down from her corner and started biting him and stuffing sticky threads into his airways. Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly like that :), but what I'm trying to get across is that Peeta's strength, his goodness, is the one thing I can be sure of in this terrible world -- and brilliantly, heartlessly, Suzanne Collins takes that away from us. I'm glad she does that (while acknowledging that some of my friends aren't ^_^), because these books work wonderfully as brutal metaphors for real evil that exists in the real world. How long would it take any of us to pull up a headline about war taking away the goodness of people, making them monsters unrecognizable to those who love them? What happens to Peeta is horrible, but familiar. So I accept it.  But it's so hard to read.

I talked to a lot of friends about Peeta this week. Specifically, I asked, "What are Peeta's character flaws?" The list I came up with is kind of hilarious. Here are Peeta's flaws: (1) He's incapable of walking through the woods in perfect silence. This makes him an annoying hunting partner. (2) He doesn't have enough character flaws.

Normally, it raises warning bells for me when a character is too unflawed. A perfect character is not a believable character. Except that now I need to say something about the power of a beautifully written sentence, because I, for one, believe in Peeta -- because Suzanne Collins writes beautifully, and her words make me believe. Her words make me frightened for Peeta, too, because Katniss is frightened for Peeta, and I can't bear Katniss to feel any more pain. Besides, Peeta's almost-too-good-ness, in a series that contains people like Haymitch, Octavia & Venia & Flavius, Katniss's mother, President Coin, Plutarch Heavensbee, Johanna, Thresh, Beetee, Gale, Katniss herself -- all flawed people -- serves a really important purpose. I think the books need a Peeta, first because Katniss (and the reader) needs some steadiness/comfort; second, because in a book that's trying to say something about evil, Peeta's infallible goodness is a large part of the reason the hijacking of his mind is so unbearable to read about. For the greatest emotional impact, destroy the most indestructable goodness.

All the children who die in the books are dying in this vein too. There's no question that children in these books symbolize innocence, goodness, and purity: the children around President Snow's mansion, Prim, Rue, all the tributes across time. Even Finnick is an odd boy/man mix, the child who was soiled by the hungers of adults, but somehow remained pure in his soul.

By the way, I make no assumptions about Suzanne Collins's intentions. I don't know why she chose to make Peeta the way he is, or why she chose to break him. And I'm not going to try to figure it out, either, because frankly, I've watched too many people make incorrect assumptions about my own writing intentions for me ever to imagine it as a productive endeavor. Everything I'm saying here is my own (incomplete) interpretation of the text, and no more than my opinion.

***

Speaking of flawed characters, maybe I'll go ahead and say something about Gale :).

Gale: a passionate, smart, loyal, handsome, stealthy, fiery guy who has worked his fingers to the bone, suffered a great deal, and defied the law in order to provide for his mother and three little siblings and ensure their safety (to whatever extent one can in this world). He's angry, quick to violence, crabby, sometimes bratty, arrogant, and really quite frightening as a war strategist. He's interesting -- he lets his flaws all hang out. I'm pretty sure he's the person in the books who annoys me most frequently. Grr, he says some annoying things to Katniss. My personal favorite is the way, every time Katniss kisses him, he tells her why her approach is wrong. An example from page 130 in Mockingjay:
He pulls away first and gives me a wry smile. "I knew you'd kiss me."
"How?" I say. Because I didn't know myself.
"Because I'm in pain," he says. "That's the only way I get your attention." He picks up the box. "Don't worry, Katniss. It'll pass."
Um, Gale? You're not really helping your cause here. I'd love to see how Katniss would react to those words on a day when she wasn't so distracted by being traumatized, injured, out of her mind with worry for her loved ones, and also the involuntary public face of a rebellion against a totalitarian state. Oh wait, her days are always like that.

Poor Gale. He's right to think that the day he lost Katniss was the day Peeta's name was called as tribute and he didn't volunteer. But he couldn't have volunteered. His family, and Katniss's, desperately needed him at home. He did the right thing, then and so many other times.  I hope he finds happiness in District 2. And is never called upon to be a war strategist again. 

***

I like that there's never a moment where Katniss actually makes a decision between Peeta and Gale. I like that she lets circumstances decide. Katniss does that sometimes, she lets circumstances (and expectations) sweep her along -- certainly not always, but sometimes, especially when she sees there's no point in fighting. It's true to her character. And this seems like an appropriate matter for her to be that way about, because the way I see it, both Peeta and Gale could have been right for her, depending entirely on circumstance. I believe it would also have been right had she ended up with neither of them. Though I'm happy for her that it worked out how it did, because she benefits from comfort, friendship, and hope, in one form or another. They all take fine form in Peeta.

***

I wonder if the Hollywood treatment of Mockingjay will let us linger just a little bit more on Peeta's healing than the book does. I would be okay with that.

***

There are other things to be said. I'd love to say something about Katniss's supposed purity, how often she feels physical hunger but how rarely she has room for sexual hunger. I'd love to talk about her personality, her fierce instinct toward self-defense (even at Peeta's expense sometimes), her lack of kindness toward Peeta when he's suffering so much in Mockingjay. I'd love to talk about the humor of the books -- how much easier it is, for example, to absorb a new horrible turn in the plot if Haymitch and Katniss are being sarcastic at each other, or how, in the moments when Katniss is truly flipping out, screaming and banging her fists on the window as she watches a friend die, a Capitol servant will inevitably come along and blandly offer her a beverage.  About themes of debt, owing other people for things you can never pay them back for. About the epilogue, which I know bothers some readers, but doesn't bother me -- I think it fits. About the moments when the books themselves -- or maybe it's just the lovesick boys -- try to turn Katniss into a Mary Sue, and, in my opinion at least, fail. (Definition of a Mary Sue.) About how brilliant I find some of the emotional traps Collins ties Katniss up in.

But this has taken way more than an hour, and my time is up.

Thanks to Suzanne Collins for creating this extraordinary tale. These characters are real to me, and they touch me deeply.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Working Conditions, Part Two

Sometime in January, This American Life broadcast a show called "Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory," about what Mike Daisey, creator of the theatrical piece "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," claimed to have seen while visiting a factory in China that made iPhones and iPads. It was a hugely popular show, and Daisey's work has led to a closer examination of Apple's practices -- which is a good thing. Then, this past weekend, This American Life put together a fascinating show called "Retraction," in which they retracted the previous show -- because it turns out that Mike Daisey lied to This American Life about a lot of the things he said he saw.

In the original show, Mike Daisey talked about meeting underage workers who were 12, 13, 14; a man whose hands shook from the toxins Apple compelled him to work with in the factory; factory guards armed with guns; etc. It turns out that many of the things Daisey talked about seeing first-hand, he never actually saw -- and "Retraction" turned out to be one of the most fascinating shows I've ever heard TAL do. It brought up questions about the differences between truth and fiction, theater and journalism, and how best to get people to listen when you have important things to say. The TAL producers took Mike Daisey's original story apart piece by piece, explaining to us how they managed, or didn't manage, to verify or refute each thing Mike Daisey claimed. Host Ira Glass cross-examined Daisey himself, calmly asking him question after question, with sympathy but without mercy. Remind me never to piss off Ira Glass.  Several times, Ira said flatly to Daisey, "I don't believe you."

Ira, I don't believe him either.

Here's the thing: as evidenced by the last part of "Retraction," in which Ira does try to get to the bottom of what actually is going on in the factories that make Apple products, the truth is bad enough. We have decided in the United States that harmful, dangerous working conditions aren't acceptable in our factories -- and then, to protect ourselves, we've exported those conditions elsewhere. (Not that I'm suggesting American factories are a dream to work in, mind you.) All of us who shop are complicit. I stream This American Life on my iPod; I'm dictating this blog post to my iPhone. Later, I'll ramp-up either my iMac or my MacBook to make it pretty before pushing "publish." I'm not happy when I hear the truth about how these products that I depend on every hour are made. I'm not happy about people being compelled to work overtime, or avoidable explosions in factories. I want to know the truth before I make my purchasing decisions, and I want the truth to become commonly known, so that Apple can be held accountable. If the story I'm being told is partly fictionalized in order to increase its dramatic impact, as seems to have been Mike Daisey's approach -- fine, but TELL ME. Don't present lies as truth in order to manipulate me into a particular emotional reaction that you think contains a deeper truth than the actual truth could. The actual truth contains plenty of emotional impact. Presenting lies as truth, you're not showing your listeners respect, and much worse, you're not showing respect to the people whose difficulties you're misrepresenting either.

Thanks to TAL for such a great show. Readers, follow any of the links above to listen to the latest show or to read transcripts.

Working Conditions

Flowers in my office.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This One Got Political

I wish every American who thinks we should tighten our immigration laws would watch this TED talk, in which technologist Tan Le tells her own immigration story.




Next, I don't know how many of you are familiar with what's going on right now between the Roman Catholic Church in parts of Missouri and SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. It's kind of confusing, actually. Here's an intro to the situation, ganked from an article in the New York Times: "Turning the tables on an advocacy group that has long supported victims of pedophile priests, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church and priests accused of sexual abuse in two Missouri cases have gone to court to compel the group to disclose more than two decades of e-mails that could include correspondence with victims, lawyers, whistle-blowers, witnesses, the police, prosecutors and journalists." SNAP, so far, has refused to comply, out of a commitment to the privacy of its members, who come to SNAP assuming their painful stories will be handled with respect. SNAP operates on a shoestring budget, and is currently under massive financial strain because of these legal attacks. It's possible that if they lose this current fight, they'll face fines, or their director, David Clohessy, will go to jail.

The more I read about this issue, the more confusing and upsetting it gets. It's so hard to see into people's brains and understand their motivations, and I try to give both sides of a fight a listen, no matter how angry I am. But one particular thing I don't understand, and haven't understood from the beginning (OF TIME), is why the Church as a whole never steps back and asks itself, Okay, putting aside the specifics of accusations for the moment -- why do so many people always seem so angry with us, hurt, and betrayed? Could it conceivably be because we have angered, hurt, and betrayed them?

It's that simple.

I believe that even in a monarchical hierarchy like the Church, change is possible -- it only requires the people at the top admitting that change is warranted. I believe that righteousness and defensiveness are unattractive and hypocritical in any organization that teaches its members to be humble, examine their flawed natures, and admit their mistakes. And I believe that little people's opinions matter; that when people claim to be hurting, you stop and ask them what's wrong, you listen, and you consider whether you yourself might be responsible. My Catholic parents taught me these values.

Also from the NYT article: "Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because 'SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.'"

I think that's a tacky thing for a representative of the Catholic Church to say about a victim advocates group that is working to bring comfort, healing, and justice to victims of sexual abuse by priests.

If you would like to donate money to SNAP, you can do so here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bring Him Home

Les Miserables opened in Boston on Tuesday night, and I was there. Holy cow. I knew I'd like it a lot, because, well, it's Les Mis; but I hadn't done my homework beforehand, and was therefore completely unprepared for this stellar, stunning cast. This production didn't start on Broadway; the tour is its only USA presence. Therefore, we had the likes of J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean (he was AMAZING). Andrew Varela, Chasten Harmon, Jeremy Hays, Betsy Morgan, Julie Benko, Max Quinlan, Richard Vida, Shawna Hamic, the ensemble singing their hearts out, the beautiful design, the beautiful orchestra -- the performance was better than some of the best I've seen on Broadway. Here are photos of the national tour.

Thank you, you wonderful, dear people, for coming to my backyard.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Do What Makes You Happy

First, it's come to my attention that Amazon has the prologue and first chapter of Bitterblue online, for anyone who wants a sneak peek.

MORE IMPORTANTLY: As you may or may not know, in conjunction with the soon-to-be-released Hunger Games movie, THERE IS NAIL POLISH. I've always been led to believe that the ultimate goal for an author is the movie deal. Now I understand that the movie deal is merely a MEANS TO A MUCH HIGHER END: NAIL POLISH. And listen, I think my books would make for some great nail polish. There are so many bright and sparkly colors! While I was trying to convince a friend of this the other day, she mentioned that Bitterblue couldn't really pull off nail polish. I must agree. (Um, if you are BONKERS about spoilers, don't read the next sentence, but really it's a joke, not a spoiler, and would be understood by anyone who'd read the first few chapters:) Helda would do Bitterblue's nails and send her off to bed, then in the morning, Bitterblue's manicure would be full of telltale gargoyle grit or somesuch. Then, later in the day, I suddenly realized: Gargoyle Grit! What a great name and concept for a nail polish! it could be matte, chunky, and various values of gray, maybe with the occasional sparkle! Are all you designers listening out there? GO!

Anyway. It would be fair to say that I love nail polish, and I also love the beautifully-written, sad, intelligent and captivating Hunger Games books. THEREFORE I'm now the owner of seven of the Hunger Games colors. *ahem* Here are my nails. This is a base coat of Smoke and Ashes (that's the darker polish you can see peeking through), with alternating topcoats of Riveting (the more red/orange one) and Harvest Moon (the more gold one) on each nail:

Like the HG nail polish, the Suite AndalucĂ­a
piano solo by Ernesto Lecuona is beautiful.
Like the HG nail polish, The Returning by Christine
Hinwood is beautiful. You should read it. (Listen, I'm
trying to make these photos interesting for people
(BARBARIANS) who are bored by nail polish.)

By the way – my manicures are often slightly weird – I try wearing a single color but am never satisfied – so someone asked me once if I feel a little strange going out into the world with my nails painted all different colors. My feeling is that the person asking that question is forgetting that we're all going to die someday. Do you really want to spend your life worrying about what other people think of your nail polish choice?

Do what makes you happy.

Happy sigh...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This Week in Women

Sometimes I wonder if Rush Limbaugh is a secret liberal whose strategy is to make the far right look JUST THAT BAD.

If only. But listening to all the conversation and outrage that's followed his most recent vile contribution to the national dialogue, I can't help but feel like he's accidentally done feminism a favor. There's a lot of stuff worth reading out there, but I'll only mention a few: Here's a Slate article by Emily Bazelon about the whole thing, plus some of the positive changes that are happening these days in rape legislation. Here's a Salon article by Maureen Andrade that injects some reality and common sense into the issue of human relationships and pregnancy prevention. Both Slate and Salon have other related articles I've enjoyed reading -- poke around. Here, Tamora Pierce calls for an end to "women slut-bashing other women. Using the words that have ripped women apart for centuries." And finally, if it's all too upsetting and painful and you need a good laugh to help you wipe off the muck, watch what Jon Stewart has to say about Limbaugh.  Really, do.

Speaking of awesome women (because that is ultimately what I'm speaking of), Elizabeth Warren is trailing Scott Brown in campaign donations in the Massachusetts Senate race. Here's Warren's website, if you care to make a donation.

And finally, did you know that it was a woman in her early 20s who uncovered the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State story? Sara Ganim worked on the story for two years, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, asking people questions, and in fact, published her first story about it (in Harrisburg's The Patriot News) seven months before most of us ever heard about it. For seven months, her reporting was squashed and ignored. Then Sandusky was finally arrested and charged, and the national media jumped on it. In December, Sara Ganim became the youngest recipient ever of the Sidney Award for socially conscious journalism. Congratulations!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Randutiae for a Monday, Plus, a Bitterblue-related photo

First, I recommend the show "Ocean Giants" on PBS's Nature. It's about HOW AMAZING WHALES ARE. (It's also about how adorable whale videographers are, but I think that's accidental.) Did you know that bowhead whales, which are only found in the Arctic, are believed to be capable of living 200 years? They are extremely wary of humans (unlike some other kinds of whales, like right whales). The narrator of the show speculated that this could be because some of them are so old that they remember the great era of whaling! In 2007, a living bowhead whale off the coast of Alaska was found to have a harpoon embedded in its neck blubber that was manufactured in the 1890s. Just think about that.

Next, Saturday was so dark that it didn't seem like the sun was up at all, it was raining, and I woke up really needing to listen to Gustavo Santaolalla's "De Usuahia a la Quiaca" (the link plays the song automatically). It's part of the soundtrack of The Motorcycle Diaries, which is about Argentinian-born Che Guevara, so I can only assume that the title ("From Usuahia to Quiaca") is referring to Argentina's furthest south and north points. Google maps is stumped about how to get from one to the other. Why? Surely not that little bit of water? In these driving directions from Honolulu to Mexico City, step 13 tells me to kayak across the Pacific Ocean. So WHAT'S THE PROBLEM HERE? I wonder if Google has to have some sort of legal permission from a territory in order to be silly about it. Or something.

Anyway. A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was getting a new bookcase made to my specifications at The Door Store. I'm thrilled with the results, so thought I'd share them:


My Bitterblue manuscripts don't actually live on this bookcase, but I piled them on, just to show you.


The left pile is versions one, two, and three. The right pile is versions four and five, plus the copyedit and the typeset first pass on top (both double-sided, which is why they seem so skinny). That's seven versions before we reached the very final one, and by the way, my first serious revision was massive, less of a revision and more of a rewrite. Version 1 was almost 800 manuscript pages long (216,000 words); later versions were about 550 pages long. I could never have gotten to any of the later versions without having written the earlier versions. Every step in the process was necessary.

I wanted to show these so that the next time anyone is tempted to tell a writer to "write faster," they stop themselves, consider how much work goes into a book, and instead, congratulate the writer for managing to do so much in so little time. :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coming Up with a Subject Line Requires Brain Juice

I try to avoid turning my blog into a publicity machine, but this has been the kind of week that leaves a gal uninspired, in addition to which, I have two nice pieces of news. So brace yourselves.

The first comes with a thank you -- to Kirkus Reviews, for their review of Bitterblue, which is beautiful (the review, I mean!) not just in content, but in form. At the moment, the full review is only available online to subscribers.  I'm sorry about that, because it's a really lovely review. The most spoiler-conscious among you should probably avoid it (YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED), though all things considered, it manages to be nice and vague about plot. Here's a (spoiler-free) excerpt for those of you who aren't subscribers, but would like a taste: "Gorgeous, textured prose is filled with images of strange beauty and restrained horror. It propels an intricate narrative dense with subplots and rich in characters familiar and new."

The second news is a mention of Graceling in the March 5 issue of People Magazine (the one with Elizabeth Smart on the cover), in a section about what you should read now that you're done with The Hunger Games. Although if you only check out one thing in People this week, make it Martha Stewart's dog on page 18. I cannot believe that's a real dog.

That's my news.

In news not mine, I really liked this Salon article: "The Mainstream Myth About Eating Disorders," by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano. "A new awareness campaign once again directly ties eating disorders to body image. The reality is much more complex." Yes. Good piece.

Finally, for some much-needed perspective, time-lapse footage of Earth, taken from the International Space Station (thanks B!). Look at our beautiful world: