Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wigs, Ponchos, & Dystopia at the New York Public Library

Last night I went to one of the Teen Author Festival events going on this week in NYC. This particular reading and discussion was on world building and destroying, and it was held at the main branch of the NY Public Library.

Chris Shoemaker hosted the event in a Capitolesque blue wig (right on), and eight authors read from their works. On the roster were: Anna Carey, Sarah Beth Durst, Anne Heltzel, Jeff Hirsch, Andy Marino, Lauren McLaughlin, Lissa Price, and Jon Skovron.

 I've been to a few Teen Author readings, but this one was the most hilarious. In between books, we played dystopian themed Wheel of Misfortune and Family Feud. And somewhere out there is an embarrassing clip of me winning a poncho to survive a future dystopian world by guessing the most survey answers on how to survive a zombie bite.

If you are in the New York area this weekend, I definitely recommend checking out the rest of the Teen Author Festival! The schedule is packed with great discussions and great authors and book signings. I'm going to be in Toronto, so I'll miss it. But if you go, let me know how it was!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Box Office on Fire

Tonight, after waiting ever so patiently, I'm going to see The Hunger Games.

!!!!!!

I'm trying to keep my expectations in line, but it's proving to be a teensy bit difficult.

There are so many reasons I'm rooting for this movie's success. First, there are the books. For obvious reasons, I devoured the series within a week. This tumblr post pretty much nails how that happens. Fans can only hope that the movie will live up to the story's greatness.

Then, there's Jennifer Lawrence. After watching Winter's Bone, I could completely picture her as Katniss. It wasn't her stature or her facade - it was the gritty, raw emotion she brought to her character. Her acting abilities are no joke. Whenever I see the clip where she's volunteering as tribute, I get crazy chills.


But the reason I'm most excited about The Hunger Games kicking butt has to do with Hollywood itself. Hollywood, where the Bechdel Test is constantly being failed. Where wrinkles and cellulite are only acceptable when spackled on by a makeup crew. Where women are shoehorned into minor roles, and are usually defined by the men around them.

Here, we have a film with a female lead who isn't being showcased for her zany dating life. Guys are showing up to the film. To watch a movie starring a woman. Is it really the end of the world? Mayans, is this the apocalypse you spoke of?

Yesterday I read that the film franchise is on its way to becoming a blockbuster hit. It pulled in over $150 million smackers in the US alone over opening weekend. Maybe the money will speak for itself. I don't expect this film to spark a sudden feminist revolution (or to even be perfectly executed for that matter). But I do hope it will prove that women can play diverse roles and rake in the cash.

What did you think of the film? Did it exceed your expectations? Were you disappointed? Did you want to stuff Peeta into an Easy Bake Bread Oven?

And for getting this far down the page, I reward you with a dorktastic photo of me playing tribute at an archery class in Queens (it was SO fun, and way harder than it looks).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Incorrigibles

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
Title: The Mysterious Howling
Author: Maryrose Wood (link)
Genre: Period
Pub Date: February 2010


Synopsis: Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children. Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners in time for the holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

First Line: It was not Miss Penelope Lumley's first journey on a train, but it was her first one alone.

You haven't run into a character quite like Penelope Lumley. Despite her youth, Penelope's training at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females gives her the confidence to take on anything. Even the task of caring for kids who were literally raised by wolves. Kids will love the silly humor that runs amok when faced with proper Victorian etiquette, and how Penelope manages to bring out the human side of her charges.

Setting the Stage: I once saw Maryrose Wood speak at a reading, and she talked about how her background in theater influenced her writing. After reading this book, I could definitely recognize the connection. The movement, dialogue and setting almost work like stage direction. These elements enhance the humor and tension in the book, making scenes come to life in a vivid way.

Why You'll Love Penelope: When life gives her lemons, Penelope Lumley manages to juggle, bowl, hide, bounce, and finally squeeze them into fresh lemonade. This practical nanny doesn't have Mary Poppins' magic. Instead, she has wit, a cool head, and an armory full of cheesy sayings from her school's founder, Agatha Swanburne, that stoke her bravery.

You can always find more MMGM love here: 
  • Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog
  • Jennifer Rumberger's blog
  • Joanne Fritz's blog
  • Danika Dinsmore's blog
  • Shannon O'Donnell's blog 
  • Natalie Aguirre's blog
  • Brooke Favero's blog
  • Barbara Watson's blog
  • Anita Laydon Miller's blog
  • Michael G-G's blog
  • Pam Torres's blog
  • Akoss-Nye Louwon's blog
  • Gabrielle Prendergast's blog
  • Kelly Polark's blog 
  • Isaiah J Campbell's blog
  • Kim Aippersbach's blog 
  • Laurisa White Reyes' blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Row80 Update: The End of Another Awesome Round

For the last 79 days, I've been working on a set of writing goals via Round of Words in 80 Days. This time around, I didn't do as much updating via my blog, but I was still mindful of my goals and what I hoped to achieve during that period.

Tomorrow is the last day of this round. My major goals were to:
  1. Finish revising my middle grade manuscript
  2. Begin pitching
  3. Write 15k words of a new manuscript
 And despite going off track a few times, I didn't do too shabby! Here's where I'm really at:
  1. Finish manuscript: My three-year-old manuscript is finally in the hands of beta readers. And honestly, I'm so tired of reading it, I really welcome the break I get while I wait for their feedback.
  2. Begin pitching: Revisions took longer than I hoped (per usual), so the query process will likely start in April.
  3. New WIP: This is where I'm most excited. Because my first book took so long to write, I thought I'd be flailing with this new one. Instead, I'm 20k into my newest work-in-progress. Which is about halfway done. Hooray!
 So that's where I'm at! One thing I really like about ROW80 is the scheduling - which keeps me on track. I know it's not for everyone, but it's definitely taught me to plan, set goals, then tweak my goals along the way.

How did this round work out for everyone?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Indexed: Oh the Places You Will Go...

Fun post on Indexed today titled - Why we read on the plane:



I wonder if there's a way to track miles via pages read :)

Don't know Indexed? Bookmark it, and you'll never crave a Venn diagram again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Middle Grade on NPR: Backseat Book Club


I recently discovered a neat series on All Things Considered called Backseat Book Club. Each month they feature a middle grade story and ask kids in advance to submit questions about the book. Later, they air an interview with the author and lace in soundbites of the kids asking their questions in the most adorably serious, book-wormy way. Check them out when you have a chance! Aside from being cute, the interviews are terrific, and often reveal interesting bits about the books and the people who wrote them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Liesl & Po

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Title: Liesl and Po 
Author: Lauren Oliver (link)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Pub Date: September 2011


Synopsis: Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.  Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.


First Line:  On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost.

If you can't resist a book that starts with someone locked away in a dusty attic, then look no further. It has all the markings of a cozy, classic read best enjoyed with a mug of cocoa.

Life and Death in Middle Grade: One of the great things about Liesl & Po is its gentle introduction to some very adult themes - death, loss, and the afterlife. Kids will not fear the story's ghosts, or even the places they inhabit after death. Though some of the storylines involving death are very real, the imaginative, magical world they are developed in eventually reveals a lighter, more hopeful spin on the circle of life.

Why You'll Love Po: There is a band of fun, unique characters that follows this journey, but Po quickly became my favorite. It is a ghost. It has a ghost pet that is something between a cat and a dog. And its  observations of what happens on earth versus The Other Side are simple yet profound. Sometimes Po is as vague and mysterious as its shadowy shape, and other times it will reveal itself in wonderful ways.

You can always find more MMGM love here: 

  • Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog
  • Jennifer Rumberger's blog
  • Joanne Fritz's blog
  • Danika Dinsmore's blog
  • Shannon O'Donnell's blog 
  • Natalie Aguirre's blog
  • Brooke Favero's blog
  • Barbara Watson's blog
  • Anita Laydon Miller's blog
  • Michael G-G's blog
  • Pam Torres's blog
  • Akoss-Nye Louwon's blog
  • Gabrielle Prendergast's blog
  • Kelly Polark's blog 
  • Isaiah J Campbell's blog

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Progress Report: #amwriting

Happy Sunday everyone! I haven't checked in on my goals in a forever kind of way. But that doesn't mean I've been slacking. Just the opposite.

As of tomorrow, I will be handing my manuscript over to beta readers (eee!). And even more exciting, I'm 10k words into a new story. This has been super gratifying since I've been writing/revising my first WIP for three years now. Three years! That makes it older than both my nieces combined.

With my new work schedule, I've also picked up two freelance gigs. So let's just say my laptop is getting a hefty workout.

How about you all? Any milestones? Are you tackling your goals like a rugby player, or fizzling down toward the end of the challenge?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'A Wrinkle in Time' Turns 50 and Follows Me Around

Is it a cosmic coincidence that I featured Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me as my Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick yesterday? I'll have to ask Mrs. Whatsit.

A Wrinkle in Time has been popping up everywhere lately, and it wasn't until I listened to this All Things Considered segment that I realized why. The kidlit classic is turning 50 this year!

In honor of the first book to successfully introduce quantum physics to children's literature, here are some of the imaginative covers that have graced the front of Madeleine L'Engle's words over the years.



Did you know that L'Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time in just three months? Make sure you check out that NPR segment - it details the book's rocky path to publication, interview's the author's granddaughter as well as Stead, and reveals other neat facts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: When You Reach Me

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Title: When You Reach Me 
Author: Rebecca Stead (link)
Genre: Mystery / Historical Fiction
Pub Date: July 2009


Synopsis: By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet.

First Line: So Mom got the postcard today.

Stead's Newbery Medal-winning book spins up a yarn of mystery with a touch of science fiction. The story begins with tension as Miranda narrates her action to an unknown character - someone who has been writing her letters that seemingly predict the future. And in this future, the stakes are high. She soon realizes that she may be tasked with saving someone's life. As Miranda begins to unravel the puzzle, all the loose ends in her normal urban world pull together perfectly.

A Wrinkle in Time: The story takes place in the late '70s, when Dick Clark's The $20,000 Pyramid was all the rage (and $20k was worth a lot more than it is now). Kids might not recognize that it's set decades ago because the cues that date the book are subtle. This is mostly because the themes are universal, and the characters have problems, desires, and thoughts that stand the test of time. Setting plays a large part in the plot, as does L'Engle's The Wrinkle in Time, Miranda's favorite book.

Why You'll Love Miranda: Miranda is a latchkey kid with a mature, steady nature. Through most of the story, she's dealing with pretty normal middle grade issues. Her best friend won't talk to her. She's in a bit of a crush-y love triangle with her new pals. And her mom can be kind of flaky. But when she is tested in more adult ways by things like racism, or sticking up for someone being bullied, Miranda makes her readers proud.


You can always find more MMGM love here:
  • Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog
  • Jennifer Rumberger's blog
  • Joanne Fritz's blog
  • Danika Dinsmore's blog
  • Shannon O'Donnell's blog 
  • Natalie Aguirre's blog
  • Brooke Favero's blog
  • Barbara Watson's blog
  • Anita Laydon Miller's blog
  • Michael G-G's blog
  • Pam Torres's blog
  • Akoss-Nye Louwon's blog
  • Gabrielle Prendergast's blog
  • Kelly Polark's blog 
  • Isaiah J Campbell's blog 

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Favorite Publishing Industry News Round Ups

By Lienhard Schulz via Wikimedia Commons
If you're like me, your Google Reader greets you on a daily basis with some-teen articles demanding attention. What better way to start your morning than with a hefty helping of feeling behind?

Many days I glance at headlines, but don't get to all the articles I'd like to read. This is where my favorite Friday round ups help out. Here are three fantastic resources to catch you up on your week:
  • Sooz's YA and MG Publishing Industry Lowdown: Want to know what book deals went down this week in children's literature? Author Susan Dennard has a terrific round up of who signed what every Friday. Read it with bated breath every week to see if another author magically wrote and sold the same book you're currently scribbling down.
  • Publishing Pulse: QueryTracker's weekly list of writing tips from around the Web, agent posts, writer success stories, and publishing news is perfect for us busy bees.
  • This Week in Books: Author Nathan Bransford also does a great job of collecting the best articles, tips, and newsie items in publishing. As a CNET employee, he has a neat perspective on the tech side of book publishing, too.
Where do you get your publishing industry news? Have any favorite weekly catch ups?