Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bookanistas: GOLDEN by Jessi Kirby

Plot without spoilers...Since her parents split up, seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has tried to be everything her mom wants her to be: A-student, college-bound good-girl. Then, the chance discovery of a decade-old journal written by Julianna Farnetti, who died tragically when she was the same age Parker is now, makes Parker think more closely about her own life. From cutting class to considering kissing Trevor Collins, Parker begins to wonder what lies down poet Robert Frost's proverbial "road not taken." But does she have the courage to change course?

Of literary interest...Early in the process of writing Golden, Jessi made a comment about the challenges of writing an epistolary novel. So, when I opened this book, I expected a journal format. What I discovered instead was an exploration of the way individuals write their lives--from Julianna's end-of-year journal, to Parker's eternally draft-form scholarship speech, to her father's life-changing experience of second-novel writer's block, to the iconography of paintings and even the swirls of a tattoo. I must also mention, as I have before with her other novels, Jessi's amazing talent for writing natural settings from rivers both glorious and dangerous, to trees, bountiful with leaves or barren as skeletons. 

Finally, just gotta say...Jessi incorporates lines by the poet Robert Frost not just into chapter titles, but into the guts of the novel itself: An exploration of writing about the road not taken, in art, in love, in life. A gorgeous story.

If you MUST HAVE MORE Bookanista book love across the interwebs...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to Business: Glaciers & Writing Anticipation

I've been largely away from keyboards for the last couple of weeks. Despite (unfounded) fears of seasickness, I took my first cruise. With family and friends from Georgetown, I went to Alaska and saw...

Once back on land, we had a dozen people sleeping in our house (including seven kids)--so much noisy fun! And my writing? What writing? A few pages here or there in my journal. A few observations scribbled on paper scraps and stashed in my purse. What I failed to achieve in pages, though, I gained in deep desire to get back to my writing intensified passion to complete my new novel and send it out the door...and a deep, deep appreciation for the NOW.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to Business: SWAG

Summer is drawing to a close and I am starting to prepare for a fall round of author events. Thus the
time has come to order swag to support the upcoming publication of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO. The book has some lovely interior art, featuring an abstract pattern of black-and-white flowers. And the cover colors, about which I felt uncertain when I saw the mock-ups, look beautiful on the arc. So I am getting excited to choose a few fun items to share with readers and educators.

Did you know that most authors (not people like Rick Yancey and Suzanne Collins) pay for the swag they distribute? This stuff does not come from the publisher. Back in the "glory days" of trade publishing (aka 1990s), publishers produced posters for picture books, and items like bookmarks and two-color biography booklets for authors producing titles at all levels of the children's markets. Now, you pour an author a glass of wine and in no time they'll be quoting you swag prices and bemoaning the whole scene.

That said, these mementos are fun to give away--kind of like business cards with a "kick." Bookmarks are relatively cheap and can hold a lot of information. Authors have produced items from jewelry to magnets, and from t-shirts to pens. Personally, I am a huge fan of custom sticky notes but the per-unit price sometimes feels a bit too high given their value as a promotional item.


As a reader, book blogger, maybe librarian: What is your favorite kind of swag? What do you do with bookmarks, etc., you receive from authors?

As a writer: What has been your relationship with swag? Has it been worth the investment?

ANY SUGGESTIONS for the type of swag I should have made for the new book?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Update: Things Burned While Writing

Lest you think having a second book in the pipeline has improved any of my neurotic writing behaviors, herewith evidence that I am unchanged. I call this photograph: YES, YOU CAN BURN CHOCOLATE IN THE MICROWAVE.

All you have to do is accidentally enter 3 minutes instead of 30 seconds and put a few chocolate chips into a small bowl. Voila! Inedible author surprise! 

If the above illustration makes you feel a bit less lonely in your writing universe, here are links to a few previous culinary failures in the service of literary art. I bring you FAILURE A and FAILURE B. Enjoy!



Monday, August 12, 2013


I recently came up against one of those books-in-the-pipeline deadlines that is sometimes overlooked: the ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

Acknowledgements are kind of the midlist author's OSCAR speech: The sole public opportunity to thank those who have gotten you to this point (and don't you dare forget to mention your spouse). Thus, for those of us who watch the Oscars, Tony's, etc., and score acceptance speeches (okay, I'm weird), this opportunity comes with a special set of perilous questions.
  • Do you thank your parents in every book?
  • Your mother-in-law?
  • What about the in-house folks who worked on your book whose names you've never been told?
In the case of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, I did so much research for this book, including interviewing a lot of families with developmentally disabled members. But, because the story simmered a long time before becoming a novel, I did not always ask specific permission to name them in acknowledgements. As I began writing the manuscript in earnest, I heard relevant stories from teenagers at writing workshops about entirely different topics. I encountered people in the publishing industry who were excited because they were familiar with the family dynamic I was describing. Folks waiting for tables at restaurant bars. People who work for developmental disability organizations BECAUSE they have personally experienced such challenges. I even interviewed mental health workers who had been involved in controversial situations with respect to treatment of developmentally disabled young adults. I wanted to present the MOST FACTUALLY ACCURATE FICTION that I could.

So, do I double back and beg permissions? Haven't I asked enough of some people already? Do I want to mention those who shared information but whose positions do not entirely coincide with my own? Do I include a bibliography of all the books I read to research this novel?

Seriously, where do you draw the line?

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's time for this year's WRITEONCON!

AUGUST 13 &14, 2013

Go check out the website:

Who'll be available to chat with you during LIVE EVENTS? 
Authors like Denise Jaden & Megan Miranda. Agents like Michelle Humphrey & Sarah Davies. Editors like Liesa Abrams & Allison Weiss

What can you LEARN?
Stuff like BUILDING VOICE (taught by Joy Preble) and HOW CHARACTER AND PLOT WORK TOTHER (taught by Liesle Shirtliff)

How will you be INSPIRED?
By the amazing WriteOnCon success stories...the amazing author vlogs...the community forums...and so much more.

Run by an amazing group of writer-people, this is a FREE, must-attend conference for aspiring authors of children's and young adult fiction. Don't miss your chance to learn, celebrate, and get motivated for a fall filled with fantastic writing success.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to Business: WHEN IS YA NOT YA?

Currently at the top of my tbr pile is...

Book description from Amazon:
It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes...
Here's how it's cyber-shelved and scored:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Here are a few other titles I've been wanting to explore.
Book Description from Amazon:
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant...
 Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

 Book Description from Amazon:
Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts...

#14 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Literary


Book Description from Amazon:

...a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling...

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Stephen Chbosky, Markus Zusak and a few others are sometimes able to cross the line into sorts that begins with the category "Literature & Fiction." Still, for the majority of YA authors, I wonder whether being sorted first as "Teens" and then, with sad frequency (even if it's not the key theme of the story) "Love & Romance," predisposes those in POWERFUL SORTING POSITIONS

(term of art a conscious nod to Ally Condie, whose brilliant MATCHED is classified as
 #49 in Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy   
#55 in Books > Teens > Love & Romance )

to consider the words between the pages in a less literary light.

HMMM???? Thoughts????

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bookanistas: ALL MEN OF GENIUS by Lev AC Rosen

Plot without spoilers...Since the author acknowledges two plays (Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT) as his inspirations, it's not spoiling anything to reveal that Violet Adams disguises herself as a young man so that she can gain admission to the illustrious London science academy, Illyria. Once there, Violet's attraction for the headmaster, and son of the school's founder, Ernest; her growing friendship with Ernest's ward, Cecily; and her involvement in intrigues of romantic, scientific and even criminal natures, drive this complex and delightful novel forward.

Of literary interest...One might think that the rigors of tying a plot to two iconic stage plays would constrain an author's use of imagery.  However, chapter after chapter, Rosen delivers unique, pithy and elegant turns of phrase. I found myself rereading passages with delight. Here is one favorite but honestly, I could open to almost any page:
Violet was stunned by the Crystal Palace. She has seen it in pictures, of course, but to have it looming over her, like a sky of diamond, and to be in it as it was filled with people, fountains, trees, flowers, exhibits, and a faint, indescribable perfume like rosewater, incense and ice. And to have her invention here among it all!  It was enough to make the mechanics of her body stop, and to pause the machinery of her soul.

Finally, just gotta say...ALL MEN OF GENIUS is a steampunk novel, set in an alternate London. I am not generally a steampunk reader but this book won me over with its fearless treatment of themes such as sexism, socio-economic discrimination, and the perils of using science to "make a better human."

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