Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something to Look Forward To...

Last weekend I attended the 7th Annual Anderson's Bookstore YA Literature Conference. Yep. An independent bookstore sponsoring a conference devoted to young adult literature. In other words...heaven.

One of the break-out sessions discussed recent releases and upcoming titles for fall. I was mesmerized. There are some mega-cool books on the shelves right now, and more coming out soon. Here were some of my faves (I'm paraphrasing the descriptions from my notes):

1. ACCOMPLICE by Eireann Corrigan--Two friends, Chloe and Finn, want to make themselves stand out to college admissions boards. Instead of taking an extra SAT prep course or delivering food to the homeless, these two concoct a plan: Chloe will "disappear" into the woods and come stumbling out 11 days later. Finn will lead the search party and make a name for herself as the brave, persistent best friend. Their subsequent fame will make them attractive to choice universities. Easy peasy, right? Well...not so much...

2. VIRGIN TERRITORY by James Lecesne--After his mother dies, Dylan finds himself moving from NYC to Jupiter, Florida. When his life seems to be sinking into a quicksand of depression, Dylan runs into the Virgin Club, a group of kids whose families travel around the country in search of Virgin Mary sightings. They help him see the world a little differently. Uh-huh. You read that right. Virgin Mary sightings. You guys know I love quirky and this one looks pretty darn unique.

3. SOMEBODY EVERYBODY LISTENS TO by Suzanne Supplee--Retta graduates from high school with few prospects. All she wants to do is be a country singer, so she heads off to Nashville in search of a future. Reality is not kind to dreamers, yet Rett manages to do all right...until family circumstances mean she might have to leave and give up everything.

Also of note: LOW RED MOON by Ivy Devlin, FAT VAMPIRE: A NEVER COMING OF AGE STORY by Adam Rex, and ANNEXED, the story of Anne Frank told from Peter's point of view (!) by Sharon Dogar.

* And, for those of you who want some conference gossip: Yes, David Levithan and John Green are as cute and funny as you think they are. Kody Keplinger is adorable in real life, as is Veronica Roth, another of my agent sisters. From certain angles, Claudia Gray resembles Catherine Deneuve. Charles Benoit could earn side cash as a stand up comic and Simone Elkeles seems like the kind of gal you want at your bachelorette party--super fun and quick witted.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Freaky Friday

Friday's list of randomness:

1. I have a new nephew!! Whoo-hoo! Liam Sebastian. I'm probably a bit biased but I think he's super cute!

2. Maureen Johnson wrote a very interesting post on "boy books" and "girl books" and all that nonsense. It's fantastic. Read it here.

3. This weekend I'm attending the 7th Annual Anderson's Bookstore YA Literary Conference. Kody Keplinger will be there, along with John Green, David Levithan, and a whole bunch of other cool folks. Check back next week for my full report.

4. I'm an allergic sort, which means every spring and fall I suffer from sneezing, wheezing, and yes, eczema, those small patches of dry, itchy skin. I sway towards natural remedies, and eating raw honey has done wonders for the respiratory stuff, but has been unimpressive as a skin salve. I've switched over to Wild Oregano Oil for skin issues and Oh, man! It works so well. The only problem is I now smell like a pizza.

5. Speak Loudly--I've written about censorship before, but I have not yet written a post specifically about Wesley Scroggins' call to ban SPEAK and TWENTY BOY SUMMER. I've read some pretty phenomenal posts (C.J Redwine and Veronica Roth come to mind, as well as essays written by Laurie Halse Anderson and Sarah Ockler, the respective authors of the two books mentioned in Scroggins' complaint.) and I feel if I'm going to add to the conversation I want to add something of value. I'm not quite sure what that is yet.

Well, enjoy this first weekend of fall! Drink cider! Eat something with pumpkin in it! Get ready to plant your garlic!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Internet Tag

OK, this thing is going around. The blogger is supposed to answer these eight questions, then tag a few other bloggers, and so on, and so on...Well, I tag everyone who reads this--ha!

1. If you could have a superpower, what would you have? Why?

Invisibility. I am seriously the most curious (read: nosy) person in the world. Being invisible would expand my spying capabilities.

2. Who is your style icon?

Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Or Ali McGraw.

3. What is your favorite quote?

"A great thought begins by seeing something differently, with a shift of the mind's eye."

Albert Freaking Einstein. I know, I know. But I'm really not that pretentious; I just really like it. I also have a poster of this hanging in my bathroom.

4. What is the best compliment you've ever received?

Someone once told me I was the most observant person she'd ever met.

5. What playlist/cd is on your iPod/cd player right now?

My "cool chick" playlist. Emiliana Torrini, Madeline Peyroux, Joni Mitchell, Ingrid Michaelson, Feist, and Stevie Nicks.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

Morning person. Totally.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Dogs. Cats always look at you like, If I were human, I'd kick your ass for the fun of it.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?

The Beatles. It always goes back to the Beatles, no?

Let me know if you participated so I can read yours!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hard Times

(OK, epic fail on the unplugging thing. I still twittered. I might have facebooked once or twice, and I read a few fabulous blog posts. But I did get over the hump with my latest project, and I feel a lot better about the revision as a whole. So much better that I could actually write something else. Here it is...)

Tara Kelly, author of the fantastic novel HARMONIC FEEDBACK, recently tweeted this: "What I need to see more of in YA: non-white MCs, poor kids, kids who have to work, girls who have curves, girls who don't, gay MCs."

Amen, sister. On all fronts. This blog post, though, will concentrate on the first three.

Our country is in a state of economic transition. Ok, that was probably a bit mild. Our economy is in the shitter and will be for quite some time. I realize that isn't exactly earth-shattering news. We all know people who have lost jobs. Maybe you've lost yours. At the very least the thought of being "let go" is probably swimming laps in your brain, surfacing steadily, rhythmically.

The official unemployment rate is currently 9.6 percent. That figure doesn't include the underemployed, the people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, the folks who can't take it anymore and have just given up. So the unofficial rate, according to a variety of sources, hovers around 16 percent.

Yes, that's awful. But do you know what the unemployment rate is for young adults (the age group 16-21)? 26.3 percent, according to the Department of Labor. Based on purely anecdotal evidence, I'd say it's much higher for minority teens. Just to give a little perspective, at the height of the Great Depression one out of every four men was out of work. 25 percent.

Teens are not adults. I get that. They aren't chiefly responsible for paying the rent or mortgage, the grocery bill, the utilities. The thing is, though, as more and more adults are losing their jobs, teens are increasingly responsible for helping to keep their families afloat. Some teens have always lived their lives like this. For some, economic instability is a new kind of pain. Add it to the everyday strain of adolescence and you get some stressed out kids.

And that added stress dramatically ups the risk of those kids dropping out of school, suffering abuse, drinking and drugging, making unwise sexual choices, etc. This is their reality.

But back to Tara's tweet. Should we be writing about this? Or better yet, do teens want to read about it?

During the Great Depression, people flocked to the movies for escapist fare--screwball comedies, musicals, stories about cute kids. In contrast, the top selling novels of the era reflected the desperation of the times more accurately: THE GOOD EARTH, THE YEARLING, and Steinbeck's story of the Oklahoma Joads fleeing the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in The GRAPES OF WRATH. (Incidentally, all of these books still show up regularly in high school teachers' lesson plans.)

I think tastes in literature and film in the Great Recession will prove similar to the past. A movie like Grown-Ups takes in 160 million, while Stieg Larsson's stark DRAGON TATTOO series tops the bestseller lists. My explanation for the disconnect is this: sitting in a movie theater is a group experience in entertainment--you laugh/cry/boo with others. A book, even if one reads it on a cold, hard Kindle, is much more intimate. You might be reading in bed. Or at the breakfast table. It feels safer to open a few more emotional doors.

There are a lot of stories grounded in realism out there, waiting to be read. And there is an audience for them, a nation of teens looking for acknowledgment, looking to connect to their reality through literature. Let's make sure they have the opportunity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I'm doing it! Talk to you guys after I turn in my latest revision...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Old School

I have seven weeks left of my eight week sabbatical. Seven weeks in which I'm going to revise one novel and finish another. Uh-huh.

The truth is I LOVE setting unrealistic deadlines. Makes me work harder. And I have been working...just not as hard as I'd like.

To blame? Twitter. Facebook. Obsessive blog reading.

So I'm going old school. For at least a couple of days a week, I'm unplugging for three or four hours. My computer will be a word processing machine, just like in the old days. I might even bring my laptop to our wifi-less library and set up camp.

Think it'll work?