January 2008


More links from around the internet, including some great contests.

Here’s a contest about a book I haven’t read yet, Poseur. You could win a copy of the book, or a trip to  New Jersey to work on some cool magazines!

For the artistically inclined, here you can win deluxe art materials and other prizes for exercising your creativity.

This sounds really cool: The Pulse Blogfest, coming in March, will have tons of YA authors from Simon & Schuster answering reader questions.

Here’s a great post from GottaBook about how little people notice the screenwriters–a huge part of movie making!

I missed participating this week, but bloggers should take note of a new event in the blogosphere, Nonfiction Monday.

Wizards Wireless has some great advice for beginning bloggers! Even the more established bloggers among you will probably find something useful–I did! I get emails from people asking about how to get started on blogging & book reviewing all the time, so there’s definitely an audience for this post!

I’ve got an exciting treat for you all today: Melissa Marr, author of the fabulous books Wicked Lovely and the forthcoming Ink Exchange (review coming soon)! Melissa was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, and she’s got some great answers. For those of you that haven’t read Wicked Lovely, do so–you still have time before the release of Ink Exchange (which is a companion book, not a sequel, but your reading experience will be richer if you read Wicked Lovely). Also, just so you know, I’ve got some more great author interviews for you all in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Anyway, thanks so much, Melissa, for doing this!

Can you tell me a little about your third novel and when it will be released (if you know yet)?

Right now, I’m calling it “Enthralled,” but I don’t know if that title will make it past the gatekeepers. We’ll see. While Ink Exchange is a companion novel to Wicked Lovely, the third text is more of a sequel to WL. It features Ash & Seth & Sorcha (head of the High Court) as narrative pov characters. Keenan, Donia, Niall, Irial & others are all in it. I’m not what else I can say just now because I do try not to get all spoiler-y. It’s a lot like WL, imo: more romance, less darkness. I believe the hardcover will be out Summer 09 in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, & New Zealand.

Could you share a bit about how you write–do you outline your books (or at least know where you’re going with them), where do you write, how many drafts do you usually do, etc.?

I’ll try. I typically write in my office. I sometimes write longhand when I’m on travels or outside somewhere. I always have music when I’m writing at the desk or on planes, but never do when I’m outside.

I don’t know how many drafts I do. I revise as I go, but then revise afterwards too. And, of course, with two primary editors to give me revision letters, I do a few editioral-directed revisions. Hmm. I revise as much as I possible. I enjoy revision a great deal.

The visual in my head for my process is like marking a map for a roadtrip. I have a few general landmarks/plot events highlighted. The stuff between them comes as I write. I write the events as I know them, and then I re-order & fill in the stuff from the middle out, or the end back, or the beginning forward depending on my mood that day. I’m not linear. . . which means I also write bits of other novels as I write this one. My agent calls it “organic”–which is probably nicer than calling it “disorderly & random.” The benefit of the way I work is that I have several projects in process regularly, which amuses me. The downside is that some of them aren’t going to be due to anyone for years, so I really should be working on the ones due now.

Was there any particular inspiration you can cite for Wicked Lovely and/or Ink Exchange, and, if so, what?

I don’t know that there’s a single inspiration for anything I write. In retrospect, we can often assign significance to an event/moment/cause. At the time though, do we think of it that way? I don’t. I can say now that WL started as a short story (which started with a name/word “Aislinn” which means “dream or vision). The story was rejected in both younger & adult markets. It lingered, so 8 months after I had set it aside, I started turning it into a novel.

Ink . . . That one’s harder to articulate. I know a number of people who’ve been addicts. One of the few people I’ve ever been in love with was an addict. And then there’s the tattoo element . . . I’m a devoted tattoo fan. And then there’s the logic thing–at the end of WL, it seems only logical to deal with the Dark Court. Stuff mixes, & suddenly there’s a novel.

How has being a published author different from what you had anticipated (if it is different)?

It’s so completely different that I’m often overwhelmed. I wrote the first book hoping for a quiet little deal to offset my teaching salary. Before that I’d written only one novel, some short stories, & poetry. I had no expectations of the things that’ve happened. I’m not sure I would’ve done it if I did know what it would be like. I’ve had two tours in 10 months, three book festivals, assorted industry events, book signings, and all sorts of things I had no clue of how to handle. My agent and the folks at Harper US & UK (& at several of my foreign houses) have guided me through the confusion, but I still feel rather babe-in-the-woods sometimes. I’m happy, but it’s been a steep learning curve with not enough sleep.

Do you plan to or would you like to write novels in other genres besides YA urban fantasy? If so, what?

I’m under contract for a manga series (set in the same world), an adult UF anthology, and a new YA contract (for books 4, 5, & 6). The contract for those next 3 books is very open-ended. I could do 3 more novels in this world, or another world, or not-fantasy . . . I like that. Somewhere along the way I’m hoping to write not-fantasy too. It’s really about whichever story feels right at the time though. I write what my muse allows, no more, no less.

Why do you write for young adults? What do you think is different about writing for teens than for other audiences?

I don’t know that I set out to be a “YA author.” For over a decade, I taught university –first as a grad student and then as my FT job. I did guest lectures in high school. I have a teen daughter–with whom I read piles of books. It makes a certain amount of sense that when I started to write it would be influenced by the people I spent the most time with–my students & my kids.

How is it different? I guess I don’t think it is. I try to tell a good story with real characters. The big difference is that the teens I know will tell me if I suck, so I’m trying to make sure I don’t disrespect them by trying to sound all Let Me Teach You My Truths. I know my own values filter in–I am an egalitarian, think volition is critical, think body art is fun, et etc–but I don’t want to write anything that’s didactic or tedious. I try to be responsible– in WL I mention the importance of STD testing & precautions–but I’d do that in adult books too. My goal is just to tell a good story in a real way. Some of those stories are YA; some aren’t.

What are some of your favorite YA books or authors?

Off the top of my head I’d say Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak is brilliant), Clare Dunkle, Annette Curtis Klause, A.M. Jenkins, Holly Black’s YA books, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan’s Nick & Norah (one of the best YA books I’ve read), . . . of course, I’m sure I’m forgetting far more than I’m remembering.

Oooh, and recently I fell madly in love with a two unreleased YA books– Graceling by Kristin Cashore (out in Oct) and The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (out in August). One of the fun perks of this job is getting to read books early. Even though I read these pre-release, I’ll be buying them on release.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a published author?

I’d love to sound all authorly, but my fav part is the same as with any job–it’s fun. I’m horribly lacking in discipline in that I only do jobs that are fun. Of course, I believe most anything can be fun for a while–I’ve been a bartender, cocktail waitress, secretarial assistant, archeology dig general worker, lit teacher, daycare worker . . . It’s all fun for a while. The least appealing part? I’ll let you know when I get to it :)

You talk sometimes about your tattoos on your blog, and tattoos play a big part in your upcoming novel Ink Exchange. How many tattoos do you have, and which ones have the most meaning to you?

Technically I only have 3, but two are largish. I don’t know that any are “more” meaningful; it’s like picking the “best” book or the fav character or most loved child. They are all valued for different reasons. My muse is tattooed on my spine, dancing on an earthen mound with bones & flowers poking thru the soil. An ivy vine with lilies entwined throughout it wraps my torso & is going to start growing down my right arm sooner or later. Both of the those are in progress still. Ms Muse still needs a background, & my vines aren’t quite done growing. The third one is at the top of my spine. It’s a faith symbol. All of my art is carefully planned, and none of it is out where it’s casually visible (unless I’m at the beach or have my hair up in a knot).

Is there any question you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to share?

No other questions, but I always like the chance to just say thanks to the people who have shared their reading hours with my characters. It’s surreal sometimes to realize that the world & people in my head are out there in people’s hands. Thank you for that.

Thanks for doing this!

It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

I’m joining another challenge! This one is The Short Story Reading Challenge, hosted at Kate’s Book Blog. I’m going to read at least six short story collections over the course of 2008. I’m not entirely sure what they will be yet, though. I’ll be including grl2grl by Julie Anne Peters, but that’s all I know so far!

First Kiss (Then Tell) is an anthology filled with the true first-kiss stories from a number of fantastic YA authors, including Deb Caletti, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, Alyson Noel, and Scott Westerfeld. The stories are told in different forms–stories, plays, comics, poems (Scott Westerfeld writes a haiku! I love haiku)–and are very different stories, from the funny to sweet and awkward to disgusting. Overall, this book is a lot of fun!

The story that stood out to me the most was Paul Ruditis’s, Improvisation. It’s a “dramatic reenactment” that made me laugh out loud, it’s just so short and sweet and funny and perfect. I also really enjoyed a couple of the cartoons, which surprised me, because I don’t read graphic novels or anything. Maybe I should; A Brief History of First Kisses written by David Levithan with words by Nick Eliopulos was one of my favorites, as was Amy Kim Ganter’s The Third First Kiss. Another one that I really liked was the story of Shannon and Dean Hale’s first kiss with each other (a story that they both tell differently).

I didn’t love every story in this collection; some were just, “eh,” and some were good but not really my thing (I have a weak stomach, so some of them made me rather nauseous!). It’s a well-executed project, though; great concept, great title, great lineup of authors! And there are quite a few awesome stories here. It’s certainly worth reading!

Sara Zarr is the author of the much-loved and rather brilliant Story of a Girl. Sweethearts is her second novel, and, in my opinion, the better of the two (which, seriously, is so impressive; her first book is amazing!).

In elementary school, Jennifer Harris was an outcast. She was chubby and usually alone, until she met Cameron. Cameron had his own struggles, and the two of them became friends. They were each other’s best friends, only friends, really, with a bond that was far deeper and stronger than those of most kids that age, who may be friends bonding over tuna fish and jump rope one day, and bitter enemies the next. Cameron was all Jennifer had, but then, one day, he disappeared.

Then she hears some awful news: Cameron’s dead.

Or is he? Years later, Jennifer has moved, gotten a new stepfather, and new identity. She’s now Jenna Vaughn, a pretty, thin, popular high school senior. And then, her world turns upside-down: Cameron may not be as gone as she thought. She gets a note from her supposedly-dead best friend.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but, seriously, wow. This is an amazing book. The characters absolutely shine. They are so fully-developed, and incredibly real. Their relationships, too; Sara Zarr has a wonderful grasp of human relationships. Her writing is really incredible. She draws the reader into the story so completely. Sweethearts totally blew me away, with Sara Zarr’s amazing ability to capture the characters, the voice, the feelings–everything–absolutely perfectly. Readers will be racing to discover the truth about Cameron and Jenna, their pasts and presents. The narrative encompasses stories from their past and from their present, sacrificing neither. The ending wasn’t what I would have preferred, but it fit the story. The only thing I would have liked to be different about this book is a bit selfish–I wish it was longer! The characters are amazing and relatble, and I love the story, and I just would have loved to read more about Jenna and Cameron. This book comes out February 1st, according to Amazon, and I highly suggest that you rush to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy as soon as possible.

I’m joining yet another challenge! This one is the Printz Award Challenge, hosted at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. Joining this challenge means I agree to read at least six Printz award winners or honor books between January and December 2008. I’ve listed some possibilities, but, again, I reserve the right to change the list at any time!

  1. The Astonishing Life Of Octavian Nothing, Traitor To The Nation, vol. One: The Pox Party by MT Anderson
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  3. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
  4. Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
  5. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnely
  6. The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  7. Keesha’s House by Helen Frost
  8. Fat Kid Rules The World by KL Going
  9. A Step From Heaven by An Na

I’ve never participated in Poetry Friday before. Today, though, I am doing so–because of English class! We read a poem today in my English class that I really liked, enough to share it with you all here. That’s pretty remarkable, considering how I usually hate my English class, what we read for it, and the whole idea of required reading. Without further ado, here it is, America by Tony Hoagland:

Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud

Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison

Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes

Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,

He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them

Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds Of the thick satin quilt of America

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain, or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade…

Read the full poem here 

You can find the Poetry Friday roundup at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds, and More.

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