Monday, January 28, 2013

The ALA Report

So, you can pop on over to Galleycat to read about all the prize winners but, for what it's worth, here's one author's roundup of the amazing weekend that was ALA Midwinter 2013...

Why this picture of me in a very tacky 1970s tutu here? Well, I am loathing blogger right now because it no longer lets me upload pix from my computer but only via Picasa, which I don't really know how to work, and this is one of the few pictures that somehow meandered into accessibility. Also, I know that tacky, unimportant and a little exposed is how many authors who AREN'T being wined and dined by their publishers, whose ARCs are in piles all over the exhibit hall, who DON'T have a book coming out this very spring feel at ALA. But I am here to tell you that they shouldn't.  I was delighted to be given a conference badge by my publisher, THRILLED to have met Penguin's amazing PacNW rep for cofffee, and fascinating by the presentation given by the dynamic Liz Van Doren of Boyds Mills Press (they have this incredible picture book about Thomas Jefferson's library coming out next year that I will preorder the second it's available).

If you realize how much you can learn, collect a dainty number of arcs that you plan to read and blog about, do a little fangirling, and celebrate the amazing opportunity you have to make any contribution to this great and beautiful world of literature of which you are a part, then you should not feel tacky and ten-year-old-ish, but stand proud and listen well. Learn and be inspired.  Wear a coat, because Seattle is damp and cold in January!

Other favorite moments...
  • Hosting the exquisite wordsmith and all-around sweetie pie Katherine Longshore at my place. (Thanks for enduring my noisy boys and smelly dog!)
  • Getting yelled at by Libba Bray's husband, Barry Goldblatt, for my failure to recognize the distinction between paranormal and urban fantasy literature. Okay, fangirled a little here.
  • Catching up with former colleagues from Random House, Simon & Schuster and other houses, having them press books they loved into my hands, and being reminded how many people in this business truly love it.
  •  Lunch with friend and sf/fantasy literature editor genius, Susan Chang. (Cannot wait for Tor Teen's release of P.J. Hoover's SOLSTICE.)
  •  Catching up with Sara from Novel Novice, Candace from Candace's Book Blog, and other terrific bloggers.
  •  Super-fun dinner with J. Anderson Coates, Helen Landalf, Karen Kincy, Deb Lund, Dawn Simon, Karen Finneyfrock, Chelsea Campbell, Katy Longshore and...oh I know I'm missing some people.
  •  One more time because she is an absolute east-coast-talking, hilarious tower of awesome, I'll once again mention coffee with Colleen :)
  •  Finally, returning home inspired to write, excited to be part of this whole thing in some small way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Some writers say they can't read while they're in the midst of a manuscript. I go back and forth on this. I try to avoid books that feel too closely related to my work, but ending the day curled up with a book instead of staring at a TV screen can help to keep me in the right frame of mind for writing.

So, though deep in the throes of my w-i-p, I have nonetheless done a surprising amount of reading these past few weeks.  Sadly, I haven't had time to review them all but I thought I'd share a short list of titles I've recently enjoyed (some are reviewed here on the site):

SOLSTICE by P. J. Hoover
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
TARNISH by Katherine Longshore
THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

When I hit "send" and my MS becomes (for awhile) my editor's problem, I'm looking forward to reading TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME, as well as CROSSED by Allie Condie and PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver--I think these two would make an interesting pairing.

What should I add to my tantalizing soon-to-read list?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Craft Chat: Three Revision Passes

I am working my way through revisions before sending my current manuscript to my editor. Once I've laid the story onto the pages, I go back through the manuscript multiple times. Here are three of my revision techniques.

1. The Outline
When I write a verse novel, I number the poems. It helps me keep the ideas, pacing in order. My first revision pass consists of writing an outline of the novel with a one-line plot/theme description of each poem. This helps me look at story flow and spot gaps where characters or ideas are missing for too long.

2. Would She Say It?
For this one, I play a bunch of music that gets me into the head of my MC and then reread the MS again, beginning-to-end) asking myself if each line (dialogue or internal monologue) attributed to my MC feels true to her character.

3. The Mark Twain Pass
You know the old saw "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one"? I go back through the ms to eliminate RESTATEMENTS, ADVERBS, UNNECCESARY ANALOGIES, AND OVERWORKED IMAGES.

These are just three of the many passes I give the ms before turning in. I envy people who can sort of work forward without rereading their whole blasted book so many times. Alas, I do catch a lot of typos.

How many times to you read a MS before you consider it ready to share? Any suggestions to help compulsive re-readers like myself? ADVICE ALWAYS WELCOME :)

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bookanistas: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

Plot without spoilers...Is this possible? Britain. WWII. Two young girls--one a pilot, one a society girl--find themselves behind enemy lines in Germain-occupied France.

Of literary interest...The book deals with dualities in both structural and thematic ways. Two nations, two young women, two narrators, two identities (not gonna give you more on this, just trust me). Yet, like the story itself, the dualities shift and slide, narrators name themselves then reveal other identities; good and evil, right and wrong, hope and despair, are continually questioned and redefined. A breathtakingly well-written book--a breathless read.

Finally, just gotta say...This is an astonishing, well-crafted and finely-researched novel.  It is a spy story, laden with twists, so it's difficult to say too much without giving something away, which would be very unfair to the many readers this book should have. Sometimes I read a highly-hyped book and kind of finish with, "huh, well, a good read but maybe not the great read I was expecting." CODE NAME VERITY lives up to its praise and exceeds expectations. Definitely destined for "Best Lists."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back-to-Business Monday: ALA Winter 2013 is in Seattle!

Wherever you are on your publishing journey, the American Library Association is an important resource for you. And, if you happen to run across an opportunity to visit an ALA conference sometime, YOU MUST GRAB IT. I am thrilled that ALA Midwinter is back in Seattle this January and even though I don't have a book coming out this year, I'll be meeting up with some writer friends to prowl the exhibit hall (a one-day exhibit pass is pretty reasonable), fan-girl some favorite writers, say hi to some amazing publishing professionals, and generally celebrate the awesome that is ALA.

If you're going, leave a comment here and let me know when we're doing coffee ;)

Whether or not you live close enough to Seattle to make this winter YOUR ALA, click this link to learn more about the conference, upcoming venues, and why you should listen to librarians!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bookanistas: TARNISH by Katherine Longshore

DISCLAIMER: Katherine Longshore and I share an amazing editor at Viking. Since both our debut novels pubbed, I've had the opportunity to hang out with Katy in person. She is incredibly sweet and beyond smart. Naturally, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an arc of her next book. But I was again nervous about my response to the novel. My worries were for naught.  I read GILT in one sitting and did the same with TARNISH. Without further ado, herewith some thoughts on another gorgeous book.

Plot without spoilers...Anne Boleyn cannot hold her tongue, cannot follow the courtly crowd and be content with the best marriage match her father can make to benefit the family, cannot be simply a female pawn in a man's chess game. Instead, in search of real power and recognition, she finds herself in a complicated love quadrangle. Anne is deeply drawn to two men: one who offers to make her the star of the Tudor court; and the other who is England's king and her older sister's lover.

Of literary interest...I was first surprised to see that this novel does not pick up where GILT left Kitty but is actually set further back in time. TARNISH begins just before the start of the romance between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Henry is is still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  That said, fans of GILT will be thrilled to return to Tudor England. And the language--the poetry and wordplay of courtly romance and power politics--honestly makes you want to read aloud, letting rich phrases shimmer on your lips like the jewels described in the novel. TARNISH, the title, is a metaphor that works on so many levels--from Anne's evolving perception of courtly life to her courtiers' perceptions of Anne herself.

Finally, just gotta say...My reading preferences tend toward the contemporary but Katy has this magical way of making girls from history come alive for present-day readers while getting them totally hooked on worlds of the past. TARNISH makes the workings of the Tudor court feel not unlike the dynamics of an elite boarding school. The characters, despite their gowns and hoods, are beauties and plain girls, the empowered and the victimized, the hopeful and the hopeless...richly drawn, real people. I would be unsurprised if readers found themselve longing to read a thick, nonfiction history of England after spending 400 pages with Longshore's Anne Boleyn--if only to prepare for the next breathless journey to the past Katherine Longshore will surely take us.

Monday, January 7, 2013

GENRES: And again, we ask...

WHAT MAKES A BOOK YA (versus adult)?

After returning home from an awesome ski vacation, I picked up the Wall Street Journal's December 15/16 weekend edition and discovered that among the ten "Best Fiction of 2012" picks were Shani Boianjiu's THE PEOPLE OF FOREVER ARE NOT AFRAID ("a simple coming-of-age story" WSJ); Carol Rifka Brunt's TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME (protagonist is 14 years old); and Lawrence Norfalk's JOHN SATURNALL'S FEAST (begins when John is age 11).

Just for fun, I popped over to SLJ to find an epic list of "Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2012" which also includes Brunt's WOLVES.  Kirkus Reviews' 25 BEST OF 2012 (general category, not kids/YA) includes Karen Thompson Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES (protagonist: grade 6) and, again, TELL THE WOLVES... PW's 10 Best of 2012 list includes Louise Erdrich's THE ROUND HOUSE, featuring 13-year-old Joe, and its top fiction roster features Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES.

As if this weren't confusing enough, I refer you now to Liz Burns' excellent, SLJ-linked blog A CHAIR, A FIREPLACE & A TEA COZY in which she ponders the question "What is New Adult?" for a view of the question from the flipside. Yes, another fab phrase to join Steampunk, Paranormal Dystopian, Crossover and the erstwhile Young Adult in your filing wordbook.

I'm all for categories. My first-grader proudly announces each time he moves up a letter to a more challenging reading level. I like to know my fiction from my nonfiction (although, er, memoir, autobiography, as-told-to/by, the Petraeus book...?).  Many an email from a librarian asking whether to shelve AUDITION under "W" for Ward of "K" for Kehoe (btw, it's "K"!) makes me know I'm not alone in my desire for order and understanding in the book-o-sphere.

As an author, though, the question I want to pose today is: DOES THE RIGHT CATEGORY MAKE A BOOK MORE SUCCESSFUL?

Here are a few other ways to put it...
  • Would a high YA novel do better "crossing over" from Adult back to Teen or vice versa?
  • If a book is mostly mystery and only a little paranormal, from which shelf will it be most often lifted for actual purchase?
  • Does an author/editor/publisher really choose a book's category or does the category choose it?
  • As an author, should I advocate in any way for my book's genre?
Whadya think?

PS: I think I'd really better read that WOLVES book!