Saturday, August 28, 2010

Winner: Read Remember Recommend

Congratulations to MAGGIE! Who just won the copy of READ REMEMBER RECOMMEND FOR TEENS.

Check out her blog: the juniper breeze is blowing in where she has a great interview with Kirsten Hubbard!

Maggie, I sent you an email.  Reply with your address so I can send you the journal for readers!

Too Funny

Friday, August 27, 2010

Violence in Children's Literature

Nathan Bransford recently posted the beginnings of a dialogue about Mockingjay and violence in children’s literature in response to Sheryl Cotleur’s article questioning the violence which appeared in Shelf Awareness.


These are my thoughts.


Yes, Mockingjay is violent - even moreso than its predecessors, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. It’s cringeworthy at times.


Yes it's a kid's book (Young Adult, 12 and up).


But I wouldn't want it any other way.


There are two issues here: the violence and the reading age.


For one thing, the violence isn’t gratuitous. Mockingjay takes place in the center of a revolution. In a society more violent than our own (let's hope).


I'm sure anyone who saw Saving Private Ryan remembers the horrific and graphic violence portrayed when the soldiers storm Omaha beach at Normandy. I can still visualize the moment when one soldier is standing and looking for something. He seems almost dazed and aimless - until you realize he's looking for his arm.  


As much as Suzanne Collins’ dystopian society in The Hunger Games trilogy is obviously fiction - and not real, there are obvious parallels we can draw here.  War is real.  And it is violent.  And horrific.  When you read about it, you’re supposed to cringe.
In Mockingjay (or any of the books in the trilogy), Suzanne Collins isn’t glorifying war or violence. In fact she weaves the emotional and psychological effects of the violence seamlessly into the lives of every character.


* SPOILER ALERT *
(Highlight the text to read the next paragraph).
You can make the argument that not a single character left alive at the end of Mockingjay has a “happy ending.” Katniss and Peeta are both so psychologically scarred and damaged, that even together, their relationship is a matter of survival - of needing someone there to help keep the nightmares at bay or to answer “real or not real.”  Haymitch has lapsed from sobriety back into alcoholism and a life where he is utterly alone.  Even Gale who’s off with his fancy job in District 2, must live with the fact that he doesn’t know whether he is responsible for Prim’s death.  
END OF SPOILER


There is absolutely nothing romanticized about the violence in Mockingjay, and quite frankly without the graphic descriptions and the way they can - and should - make you cringe, it runs the risk of dulling the emotional impact and the severity of what’s happening, that no matter the outcome, there are no winners in war.


The second issue is of course that unlike Saving Private Ryan, Suzanne Collins’ series is not written for an adult audience (though any adult who hasn’t read the books, should).  It’s written for teens - or “young adults.”





And here we run into the same underlying issues that have been censoring writers like Ellen Hopkins for the past several years.  (And she’s in good company: when I was teaching, each year I fought arguments from parents who wanted to censor Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, JD Salinger, Harper Lee, and Arthur Miller for one reason or another).

The truth of it is, we as adults need to wake up.  The youth of today is living in a different world than we were even just 15, 10, or even 5 years ago.  

Movie franchises like Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc are all laden with violence on screen, and kids younger than the majority of those reading Mockingjay are watching them - actually visually seeing the violence played out on screen.  

We’ve all heard the arguments about video games and the possibly desensitizing violence there.  And the swearing and violent undertones in rap music or whatever else.

But the youth of today is growing up with knowledge - about everything - literally at their fingertips.  All they have to do is log onto a computer and the internet can access them anything.  (And don’t delude yourself when it comes to those firewalls.  Smart kids find ways around them and tell everyone else. When I was teaching, the only people the firewalls kept from accessing facebook were the teachers.)

Kids today are just different, and they’re not going to read about Scout and Jem Finch and be moved the same way some of us adults were.  There’s a reason that most of the high school kids don’t actually read.  (Reading cliff notes or asking the one kid in class who does their reading doesn’t count, obviously. I will wage money, that even in my Honors classes, less than 10% of my students actually read all of the required reading in its entirety.)  Even The Catcher in the Rye has a disconnect to the majority of the youth of today.  They think Holden’s whiny, and they don’t get what the Big Deal is.

They want to read about sex, drugs, and violence because that’s the world they live in right now.  Those are the topics that will move them and open up dialogue and allow them to think.  And I for one would rather give them Crank or Beautiful and allow them to realize they’re not alone or experience the contents behind the safety of the written word than send them into the world unprepared.

As for the violence specifically in Mockingjay.  The same reasoning applies.  There’s something to be said for having kids read about Panem’s dystopian society for more than just entertainment - but because hopefully some version of that won’t be our future.  

I have a former student in the front lines of Afghanistan. He’s eighteen years old and two years ago when he was a junior in my classroom, he and his best friend taught me how to play Pokemon during lunch because the two of them played and talked Pokemon all the time.  

That’s reality. (Just read War by Sebastian Junger.  It’s enough to make you feel ancient at twenty-nine.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Last week (before Mockingjay), I read Kiersten White's debut novel Paranormalcy, which is a fun read and a new fun and unique voice in the paranormal YA genre.

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.


But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.


So much for normal.

For me, Evie was a fun character, especially for the younger YA readers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#Mockingjay

It's true.  I officially finished Mockingjay, the third and final installment in Suzanne Collins' trilogy The Hunger Games, at 4:56 am.  I will give absolutely nothing away.  I will just say that there are moments in a person's life when they are confronted with something more important than sleep.  This is one of them.

But more important is how this day began...

Armed with a folding chair, an umbrella, my ARC of Catching Fire, and her droid, we sent Mer Bear to Books of Wonder at 3 pm.


She was first in line.

Meanwhile, after finishing up as much work as possible, Juju met me at FinePrint, and I left the office earlier than I have since...ever?


We ventured outside and took to the streets of Manhattan.  Everyone new it was #Mockingjay Day.  Streets were barricaded.  Even the cops were out.


We stopped for sushi and brought some to the Mer Bear so she didn't starve.


And then we chatted it up with people in line.




We tried to keep dry when it rained.




And the whole time, Mer Bear kept reading Catching Fire...

Except for that one time...


When she tried to sneak into Books of Wonder.

Well, and that other time too.


And the whole time, the line kept growing.  More people kept coming...

Even that crazy Joanna girl.


And Kody Keplinger was there...


Well, okay, not really.  But she was there in spirit.

Even The Janet Reid showed up...

But she didn't let me take her picture.

And then after all the waiting in the bitter cold, sleet, and snow (read: drizzle),

they let us inside.



Mer Bear was first in the I am new this phenomenon that is The Hunger Games and I did not pre-order my book line.


I did pre-order my book.  Which mean, I was


Juju and Mer Bear were right behind me.


During the party, we ran into people in costume.

Best was the girl who dressed as Katniss Everdeen IN THE DRESS!

Yes.

The Wedding Dress.



We got our faces painted.



We had our tarot cards read.

We watched magic tricks and jugglers.

And we ran into that Joanna girl again.


We tried to win prizes.

Hunger Games keychains and mugs.

And SIGNED FIRST EDITION COPIES OF CATCHING FIRE.

My roommate won a keychain, the rest of us...

Did not.

While we waited, Mer Bear finished Catching Fire.



(And yes, she started it that day).

And then it was time for the main event.

We heard from THE EDITOR (also a fabulous author himself)


We heard from SUZANNE COLLINS!


And then, we got our books.


And got them stamped by Suzanne Collins.

(And yes, I reveled in the fact I was first...it was hard not to.  Even though the position should have belonged to Mer Bear.)



This concludes my photo essay.

Now, I must sleep.

And the bloodbath begins...


Reading now...

Monday, August 23, 2010

in case you missed it...

On Friday, Lisa Desrochers revealed the first of three trailers for Personal Demons.


And YA Addict is having a Cover Contest!  So cool - I am continually awed by people who are artistic.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Read, Remember, Recommend (for teens)

I've always been the kind of person who loved anything organizational (lists! I love lists!).  And I've always loved journals.  And of course, I have a reading problem.

So it fits that I'm loving Read, Remember, Recommend by Rachelle Rogers Knight which combines those three loves in a reading journal for book lovers. (I'm not kidding.)

And since we've got so many great YA books coming out this fall (PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers out 9/14!), here's your chance to win a copy of your very own reading journal for book lovers, the YA style Read, Remember, Recommend for teens.

Perfect for teens who love to read and those who need a companion for school assignments or summer reading programs, Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens offers more than 2400 award-winning and notable reading suggestions in many genres, cross-referenced to help parents and teens chose the right books for them. This unique journal sold out its first print run, attracting readers with recommended lists for fiction, manga, historical fiction, romance, westerns, crime novels, and poetry, as well as nonfiction sections focusing on biography/ autobiography. College-bound readers will find a section to help guide their reading selections. The journal also provides room to record books read, jot down thoughts and ideas, and keep track of recommendations, books to read next, and works by favorite authors.

My favorite thing about the journal is how organized it is and the first section which has the Awards and Notables List so if I ever do wear down my TBR Pile, I'll be able to find good recommendations.  (And of course, this is a great resource for adding to that TBR pile...)


GIVEAWAY


For your chance to win a copy of Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens, leave a comment with your email address (so I can get in touch with you if you win) and what book you always recommend to people and why.  Enter by noon on Saturday 8/28!

I always recommend Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card because I devoured that series when my sister discovered it in middle school, and I plan on naming my first child after him.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writing Conferences

Writing Conferences can be really awesome.  Not just for the interaction with industry professionals and other writers (though the networking can be fabulous!).  But one thing conferences can do is help you re-charge.  I always leaves conferences feeling inspired to work harder and read more.

And right now, you can be part of conference without going anywhere.  If you haven't already, check out WriteOnCon.  Transcripts from the panels and live chats from the past few days are posted on the blog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.


This past Friday, I read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  And after just reading the first 50 pages on my subway ride into the office, I came in, sat down at my desk and felt...

Devastated.


I was already so immersed into the book and into Lennie, that I had to concentrate to remove myself from the book and actually concentrate on work.


Then I finished the book immediately after work.  There was no way I was going to be able to do anything until I'd gotten to the end (and watch out, this is sobfest).  And I loved it.  This is definitely a debut YA that I'll be recommending to everyone.


And I couldn't decide which cover I liked better, which meant that I had to include them both.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Top Ten Things I Love About Agenting

10. The Presents: Where else would I get so many wonderful baked goods, wine, scotch, cupcakes, fruit baskets, and flour?



9. Lunch/Coffee/Dessert Dates: Lunches with editors and writers are the ideal way for me to work through all the restaurants in Manhattan. (hello, flat iron building and all the great restaurants near you!) Who could pass up Jacques Torres, Sweet Revenge, Magnolia, or Max Brenner?



8. Conferences: Sure, I come home tired, overworked, and with a full inbox and an overflowing desk, but when else would I have gotten to the beach on the gulf coast or learned there is such a thing as bear spray? And of course there's the actual writers, some of whom have become great friends.



7. Networking: People laugh at me when I say this or they just straight up don’t believe me.  But once upon a time... I was shy.  As many of us bookworms are, I was an introvert.  No lie, I made it through most of high school without speaking.  To the point that when I actually go into a discussion in Spanish class junior year, my teacher commented on the fact that he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard my voice before.  That kind of shyness just isn’t possible when you’re an agent - and while I worked hard to get past it when I was teaching, agenting might just have cured me.



6. The Work: I'm never bored. There's always something to do.  As an insomniac, I used to spend my nights watching reruns of Law & Order SVU or B movies on the Sci Fi channel (and yes, that’s right, Sci Fi).  Now I can be more productive.



5. The Swag: As a book glutton who spent over $2000 on books last year*, any books I can get my hands on free *and early* are amazingly awesome. Because then I can buy more! I've even been known to turn swagging into a military operation.
*This is according to the receipts I could find when doing my 2009 taxes.



4. The Community: Writers, agents, editors, booksellers, and everyone else involved in publishing! I love that no matter the side of the industry we all want the same thing - to fall in love with books and share them with the world.  And never in my life before, have I been surrounded by so many people who have read the same books I’ve enjoyed, and can talk books endlessly with me and gush about loving them.  It’s divine.



3. My Colleagues at FinePrint: I took a huge risk, leaving teaching, driving across the country, and taking an unpaid internship.  It’s occurred to me more than once to be endlessly grateful about where I ended up.  Working with colleagues who are fun, caring, and knowledgeable, including The Janet Reid. (If you hadn’t heard, I aspire to be Janet or at least to have a telephone persona like hers. In addition she buys me things like sushi or Starbucks and movie tickets and a taser.)



2. Editing & My Clients: I love to edit. I love to dissect character motivations and plot lines and world building. I love falling in love with characters and their voices and working with the amazing writers who share their world and introduce me to their characters and make me laugh and even cry as I go through those characters’ experiences right along side of them.



Which brings me to:



1. The Written Word: There is just nothing like staying awake until 4 am to finish a manuscript or a book, then laying awake until the alarm goes off thinking about those characters, then gushing about it and quoting lines from it the next day at work - or to anyone who will listen - then months or even years later, thinking of it again, rereading it again, or just talking about it again and knowing. [This book] Changed. My. Life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So. Funny.

Happy Release Day!

The day has finally arrived.  Today you can officially go buy your copy of Numb by Sean Ferrell!

Early one morning‚ after a sandstorm had ripped through north Texas‚ I wandered into Mr. Tilly's circus. I wore a black suit and blood ran down my face. When some of the carnies came up to me, I said, "I'm numb." This became my name.

A man with no memory who feels no pain, Numb travels to New York City after a short stint with the circus, following the one and only clue he holds to his hidden history: a brittle, bloodstained business card. But once there, word of his condition rapidly spreads—sparked by the attention he attracts by letting people nail his hands to wooden bars for money—and he quickly finds himself hounded on all sides by those who would use his unique ability in their own pursuits of fame and fortune. It is a strange world indeed that Numb numbly stumbles through, surrounded by crowds of suck-ups and opportunists, as he confronts life's most basic and difficult question: Who am I?

To celebrate the release day, The Sean Ferrell brought cupcakes to the office.  Technically they were for The Janet Reid.  I even put them on her desk.


But they just looked so tasty.


And the interns were just so hungry...


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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?