Stella and Ruby are polar opposites. Stella is a straight-A soccer player. Ruby smokes, swears and swaggers into all kinds of trouble. But there are things that draw them together. Things that make them the best of friends. Until Ruby starts spiraling out of control and Stella has to figure out where her loyalty truly lies.
Stephanie is a writing teacher and her strong sense of craft shines through this unfliching and powerful novel.
First, don't forget you can still enter to win a SIGNED COPY OF AUDITION over at Goodreads. Seriously, though, lest you think we authors are all work and no play, I share with you an "updated" cover for AUDITION with the handy addition of a gift from a truly talented and insanely hilarious writer friend.
I have become obsessed with Mr. Bendy McBacon and have photographed him in a number of er, literary poses. More on my Tumblr.
If you want to see how funny I can be in person, you could ENTER TO WIN AN AUTHOR VISIT with me! If you're not a teacher or librarian or anything, you could just TELL your nearest teacher or librarian about this instead--I will totally give you credit.
WHAT DO YOU DO when this whole writing business makes you NEED A LAUGH?
It's finally Friday and there's so much bookish fun this weekend (and I don't mean the whole Hunger Games insanity though, yeah, I'm SO going to see it!).
First, Elana Johnson is gearing up for the release of her next Possession novel with a Great PreOrder Adventure--definitely click on over and check it out. You can win exclusive character art and all kinds of the awesome the could come only from the amazing mind of Elana!
And I'm spilling my Friday Five over at my agent buddy Katherine Longshore's blog--plus there's a linky over there to win a signed copy of AUDITION, too!
And I happened to notice a great post on one's personal literature canon written by Becca Puglisi over at The Bookshelf Muse. Definitely worth a few moments' "musings" (ooh--aren't I punny this am--it's the coffee).
Heading off to the gym for the second time this week. Seriously, I hate the gym. Why do I do this to myself? Oh yeah, so my arse doesn't grow ten feet wide from all the hours I spend just sitting at this computer writing stuff. That.
Hope the "odds are ever in your favor" this weekend. If you catch the movie, lemme know what you think :)
I am so excited to point you to the BIG REVEAL post for the DEAR TEEN ME anthology!
I am thrilled to be part of this amazing project in the company of fellow Bookanista Gretchen McNeil, Viking buddy Katherine Longshore, Stages on Pages cohort Tara Kelly, and so many other writers I truly admire, including Ellen Hopkins, Sara Zarr, Leila Sales, Mitali Perkins, Kekla Magoon...I could go on and on because there are 70 of us spillin' about our teen years between the covers of this book.
For those of you following my Amazon "like" experiment of yesterday, we didn't make it. The hc of Audition went from 17 to 31 likes, so there were a few takers but, alas, still far from 50. And the ranking did not improve.
As I began writing this update, I noticed my blogger queue held drafts of half a dozen posts about various aspects of author-driven book marketing. I'll publish some of these in time but for today I will point out one thing: I and many author colleagues (often with day jobs and families) log hours in the virtual "trenches" blogging, tweeting, and creating contests and various other promotions. Are they systematic? No, we work anecdotally from techniques we've seen others employ and what we've learned in our attempts to educate ourselves about social media. And we experiment. On our own books, our own careers.
Is the time well-spent? One conclusion I can draw from all my anecdotal experimentation is that people are often too busy, too inundated with media, and too occupied with their own personal internet interations and objectives to do much clicking for, say, a book. So, is it worth the time and effort required to create author-driven marketing campaigns that require people to click-link-paste-etc. What do you think? Have you had luck (or lack of luck) in this arena?
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A LABORATORY RAT WRITER?
HOW MUCH TIME WILL YOU SPEND CLICKING TO WIN A PRIZE OR SUPPORT A BOOK?
THE EXPERIMENT: I'm told the algorithm for Amazon rankings involves "likes" and review stars as well as sales. Today, AUDITION* is in the dungeon at #589,751. Could a big uptick in "likes" could improve this? Let's try a test. If at least 33 people LIKE the book by noon (PST) tomorrow (Wed), bringing likes up to 50, I will post a screenshot of my Amazon Author Central data for you all to see here at the blog tomorrow. Curious about what authors see? Two quick clicks and this author's secrets could be yours!
*Note that there is huge hourly fluxuation in Amazon rankings. HC has been as high as 30,900 (in October) and has so far peaked at 107,538 for March (on the 15th). Today just really sucks. Also, if you've ever meant to star-rank or review AUDITION (middling reviews totally don't offend me!), maybe today's the day ;)
Social Networking: Do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog? How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do you promote your blog? Yes! I use social networking to let people know about giveaways and selective posts I'm doing on my blog. I prefer Twitter to Facebook which is getting way to complicated with the whole timeline thing and all. That said, I try to use both.
I am an enthusiastic retweeter in support of books and authors I enjoy so I think that, as a book fan, I'm more active on Twitter @swkehoe. I do maintain a book page on Facebook, as well as my author tour page and my regular-person-page but I should probably work harder to optimize these beyond posting tour dates and contests.
While I think I'm a reasonably engaged social media participant (in addition to Twitter and Facebook, I use Tumblr and Goodreads--check out my giveaway), I don't believe my activities significantly impact my book sales, nor can I get masses of folks to turn out for my live events. That said, I don't regret the time I spend online. The greatest outcome social networking has provided me as an author and book fan is to find a great, like-minded community. And I think that's pretty wonderful.
Ahhhh, that word, "geek." What does it really mean anymore? In the PacNW, geeks are cool--geeks like Bill Gates become millionaires billionaires, geeks rule the world. And yet...I'm thinking these future-rulers-of-the-universe (and, er, some notably awesome authors) still had a few pretty craptastic high school experiences. Witness this collection. Complete with cartoon finishes for each story.
I was immediately hooked by Black and Castellucci's opening yarn, "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way." I mean a title that nods to the iconic geek film series, Star Wars, and the beloved musical theater geek staple, West Side Story? What's not to love? WANNA WIN...?
One of my favorite stops along the AUDITION blog tour was at Good Books & Good Wine, where I looked at ways my contemporary YA, Audition, is like The Hunger Games and what Sara has in common with Katniss. In celebration of Suzanne Collins' incredible novel coming to the screen this month, let me know what you think. AND, if you agree with my thoughts on writing and world-building, click and ENTER TO WIN AN AUTHOR VISIT & WRITING WORKSHOP WITH ME. I'm not available to travel to Panem, but I can make it FOR FREE to any school or library in the contintental USA!
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard writers and reviewers say that there has to be A REAL REASON to write a novel in poems. I’ve SAID things like that myself. I’ve nodded in agreement while conference presenters claimed that, before embarking on writing a verse novel, they have to feel that THE POETIC FORM IS ABSOLUTLELY NECESSARY. Yeah, all that.
As a writer, reader and ridiculous fan of poetry (I’ve had an intellectual crush on Henry Taylor since, like, college), I would never slam or trivialize the form. HOWEVER…
It kind of bugs me that writers of traditional prose style books don’t say, "gee, before I decided NOT to write this novel in verse I had to think hard about why this story really NEEDED to be written in prose."
I live in a world of Twitter (haiku?), of texts from my teens, of vlogs and cartoons, of compact little Facebook status reports. I live in a world of cool fonts and snarky signage. I live in a world of rap music and catchy advertising slogans. I live in a world of exceptional books like THE BOOK THIEF, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and WINTERGIRLS, filled with lists and numb3rs and strikethroughsand consonance and pictures and
and white space and yet nobody asksWHY AREN'T THESE BOOKS WRITTEN IN "TRADITIONAL" PROSE?
I am a writer of poems and stories and plays (and text messages right back to those teenagers of mine). And I feel like my head is exploding with ideas of language while lots of other heads are exploding all around me and
I DON’T WANT TO BE PUT IN A BOX THAT SAYS, “poet” or “novelist” or “YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE.”
So, I’m making up a new term for what I write.
PLEASE do not confuse it with the the "split-line prose," a phrase spat in accusation by some literary sorts who see some kind of bright line between paragraphs and poems that I guess I just don't see. Fractured prose is a kind of writing for people living in a world that embraces all kinds of culture, identity, forms of expression, imagery, music, and maybe
IT IS ALL POETRY.
I’M DONE MAKING ARGUMENTS FOR OR AGAINST using the language however I need to tell a story.
I was having a slow writing morning. Honestly, I should have gone to the grocery store (we're totally out of milk) since that would have been significantly more productive. Instead, I scraped the remains of last night's pasta out of a tupperware and sat down to watch Smash.
For you Downton Abby, anti-gleeks who may not know it, Smash is the story of a producer, composer, librettist and a crew of performers workshopping a musical en route to Broadway along a road paved with creative frustrations, desperate dreams, achingingly beautiful songs and singers, and some pretty fantastic romance. And I don't just mean Debra Messing kissing the guy who plays Joe DiMaggio. I mean ROMANCE AS...
the thrill you get when you build a work of art
the way, despite the television medium, the performers' and creators' real passion for Broadway somehow shimmers through the small screen
that connection, that drive to understand one's creative self and the character you are writing, dancing, singing, portraying
the pure, painful, elegant beauty of a star-high dream
SMASH takes the classic show-within-a-show structure to great heights. The fame of iconic Marilyn Monroe is the topic of the musical at the story's core, which reflects back not only on the lives of the two actresses wanting to portray her but also the very act of creation itself. And, for somebody in the rough-and-tumble writing biz, I see another FANTASTIC meta-layer: Smash is the heart-and-brain-child of Steven Spielberg and a gifted theatrical team including playwright Theresa Rebeck. NBC has made a real investment in making SMASH a smash--a gamble the media is watching. The show itself exists as a testament to the struggle it represents. So, that's uncanny. Just like the way no one can really control what will be a hit (or a bestseller) and what will sink into oblivion. We just keep reaching up, hoping for that smash.
Last fall, I my debut novel danced into the world. Right now, my next book awaits my editor's eyes. And, as I await her comments, I'm struggling between writing the next book my heart wants to write, and writing something I think will sell better than verse novels about performers.
Maybe that's why I was having such a tough workday. Maybe that's why I turned on my "On Demand" and watched this week's spectacularly produced episode of SMASH. Maybe that's why my glued-to-the-set eyes were brimming as the episode drew to a close.
Plot without spoilers...Nobody knows that Jesse and Emily meet--and kiss--in secret. And nobody knows the joy, the pain, and the confusion the relationship is causing both girls. Set in a quaint town threatened by the opening of a WalMart-style superstore, THE DIFFERENCE explores that grey area of identity between knowing who you are and deciding the people around whom you are going to be your true self.
Of literary interest...That Madeleine George is an award-winning playwright shines brightly through the novel's fantastic structure--a combination of first- and third- person narratives focusing on Jesse, Emily and occasionally a third girl, Esther. For me, this mixture of tense and point-of-view superbly supports the novel's exploration of two girls with very different attitudes toward their own sexuality. I also love the two "manifestos" that frame the story--just read 'em!
Finally, just gotta say...George's novel takes on a number of big topics, from coming out to capitalism to cancer, yet the world she builds is also filled with levity and a sense of optimism. The story's clever plot, involving Corporate America and the high school formal, keeps you turning the pages toward the oh-could-the-confrontation-I'm-imagining-really-be-about-to-happen ending. Plus her descriptions of kisses are not to be missed. To coin a phrase, I'd call this novel an "empowerment romance" -- it'd be a great read alongside Cristina Garcia's DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS.
Since I have four sons, I've spent a lot of time reading aloud and think fondly of some favorite early books: THE OX CART MAN by Donald Hall, THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss, BIG BOB'S TRAILER TRUCK by Joe Mathieu, KATY AND THE BIG SNOW by Virginia Lee Burton, OLD TURTLE by Jon Muth, FROG & TOAD by Arnold Lobel. As the kids got a bit older, I had the great pleasure of sharing my favorite longer books, reading multiple chapters every night. We read through Laura Ingalls Wilder's FARMER BOY, Noel Streatfeild's THEATER SHOES and the first few Harry Potters.
Now, at the end of the day, I have the enormous pleasure of watching my eleven-year-old read one of his favorites, Roald Dahl's MATILDA, to my five-year-old. They've got quite a ritual involving 5-yo procuring a blanket and stuffed animal, 11-yo turning on the light, opening to the bookmarked page, discussing where they left off, and then reading until I finally tell the little guy he's got to quit to go to sleep. The whole thing is, well, magical. So, I guess I'm just saying that my household is living proof in the power of reading to connect people, to build community, and to grow readers.
Check out LITWORLD's blog and their great cause of world literacy. Then read aloud to someone today!
This past weekend, I found myself discussing “writer’s block” with a group of book people. Personally, I do not struggle with “the block" because writing is my job. So...
I accept that there are fallow periods where I don’t write anything epic, or even respectably mediocre. Bad writing is part of the process, part of my job, so long as I don't send it to my agent or editor.
My husband is not allowed to wake up and say, “Gee, I don’t feel that lawyer vibe right now. I’ve got Lawyer’s Block. I’m just gonna put my head back on the pillow, not go to the office, eat chocolate for lunch and maybe cry a little.” (BTW, thanks, hubs, for working so hard every day and still stopping at Safeway for milk on your way home and then singing our littlest one to sleep). Job = no block allowed.
Let's be clear. While I'm good with sitting down every day and working on stories, I still have my share of anxiety. My self-editing inner critic is called MARKETING ME. That’s where the drinking comes in. NO, it’s not what you think. Thanks, though, for letting yourself go straight to THAT place :)
In my first novel, AUDITION, the main character has sex with a not-so-good guy, and a friend with an eating disorder. It’s not exactly a BOOK THAT EVERY PARENT GROUP WILL LOVE. While working on my next manuscript, I can’t deny that I wished my character hadn’t led me to, well, wine bottles. MARKETING ME begged, “Couldn’t we just skip the controversial stuff and write a nice little story that didn’t require a massive debate as to whether it should be 12-, 13- or 14- and up?”
Despite the pit in my stomach, I managed to give MARKETING ME a good, bitchy glare. When I wrote AUDITION, I know that I followed my character with my heart—I didn’t shy away from where I felt Sara needed to go. I’ve tried to be equally honest in the new book. Do I wish that my work was a little more Y and a little less A? Do I wish I wrote happy mainstream stuff with thoughtful, rule-abiding teens who engage only in occasional quick kisses that don’t get anybody pissed? Yeah, I wish those were the stories I wanted to tell. BUT…
Last week I read a book that chickened out. The author checked the boxes in terms of educational content and social issues but never let the characters escape their lasso of “THIS IS A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL” to see where they’d truly to go. I found the book implausible and, well, dull because the kid characters acted like FORMULAS not ACTUAL people. (NO, I won’t tell you the title. I don’t name books that really miss the mark and I’m not starting now. I will say that I’m betting the book does okay—not great, mind you, but probably better than mine.)
I just can't do that.
I don't want to do that.
Even if I have to do ongoing battle with MARKETING ME.
Even if it changes the shape of my writing career.
Do you struggle with an inner critic like MARKETING ME? Tell me your story.
PS I am also not averse to recommendations for good cabernets ;)
PPS I wish I could draw a little cartoon of Marketing Me. Actually, I just wish I could draw.
Happy March 1st everybody! I'm in a celebratory mood. Plus, I'm in a travelin' mood, so...
I am giving away A FREE LIVE AUTHOR VISIT to a school or library ANYWHERE in the continental USA.
All you have to do to enter is review AUDITION on B&N.com or Amazon.com then click on the button below to enter your review link and get the details. The "review" need only be 20 words long--easy, peasy!