Recipe for a Book Title– Part 1 of 2

My new book -due out in the Spring of 2016 has a title! Woot woot! And yes you’re going to have to read this whole thing to find out what it is -or work your scroll finger.

Titles and covers are two things that authors get asked a lot about and coincidentally often have very little control over. As a seasoned second time author I knew to expect some haggle and finagling over my title. I actually wasn’t strongly attached to my working title of Wireman which was simply my main character’s last name. I knew it wasn’t super catchy but I liked that it was also a play on the fact that my main character is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids that make him feel like a cyborg.

My new editor at Carolrhoda Lab, Alix Reid, made a good suggestion that I was willing to go with, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the search. I went back to the same process I used when trying to rename Go West into The Other Way Around. I did a thorough rereading of the manuscript (that’s such a funny word -it makes me think of quill pens and ruffled collar shirts) hunting for words and phrases that might have deeper meaning and also sound cool and somewhat catchy. It’s not easy.  And it’s really hard to stay out of cliche territory.

I made a long list of everything that sounded remotely good –which meant some of it was very bad. Then I narrowed that list down to about 20 options which I shared first with my agent, Lauren, and a few trusted friends. These vetting processes are important -such as the time I thought Veg-jerky would be a great name for a dehydrated tofu product until a good friend pointed out that it sounded a lot like Vag(ina)-jerky. I don’t know what that would be but I don’t think it would sell well.

The list I sent to my editor included fewer than 10 potential titles with the ones Lauren and I liked best highlighted. From that Alix was able to eliminate the more theatrical and too commonplace ideas and pick a winner……..

So without further ado the new book is called….

WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE

It’s weird and quirky without being too sci-fi (which would be fine except the book is not science fiction) and it includes the word freak –which is important to the story in a number of ways. I’m quite pleased by the collaborative nature of this whole process. I think publishing is at its best when the people who care about the book the most are able to listen to one another and build off each other’s ideas.

In honor of this new title I asked a few writer friends to tell tales about the titling of their books. Stay tuned that post is coming next week.

 

Love books and/or kids?

Cape Author Poster

Next Saturday I’ll be at the Cape Elizabeth author fest alongside many other awesome children’s and YA authors from Maine and New England. The event at the Cape Elizabeth high school goes from 10-2 and features readings from children’s authors, book signing and lots of random book-related swag. It’s a great event and a great way to support local authors. Hope to see you there!

Like an Unnatural Woman

I’ve been a food shopping human for long enough to know that the word “natural” means just about nothing on a food label. Everything is “natural” these days from Greek yogurt to gummy bears.  And I honestly don’t care that much about the perversion of the word to sell everything from cheese puffs to chicken nuggets. But there’s another place where the word does bother me and that’s when it’s used to describe childbirth.

I had my second child just about 4 months ago and following his birth I went to what I call “baby class” just as I did with his now almost 5 year old sister. This class is run by an incredible organization that facilitates new mom’s groups, breast-feeding groups, and childbirth classes.

As I sat in the first class and listened to each mom share a bit about her birth experience I realized for the first time what I would realize many times in subsequent classes; that my perspective as a second-time parent would change pretty much everything, including way I related to my classmates. I listened again and again as nearly every woman there (who didn’t require a c-section) stressed how great she felt about having a “natural” childbirth. And if she did have a c-section there was a lot of regret about having missed out on natural childbirth -I’ll drop the quotes at this point because I hope you get my point -the word means everything and nothing.

I had a natural childbirth when my first child was born. My daughter came into the world after 31 long hours of labor. I told myself all along that I was open to using whatever pain meds I felt were necessary. I’ve never been a martyr when it comes to pain. But through out the experience I just kept feeling like, well it’s not so bad now. I suppose I can take it a bit longer. And then I couldn’t. Then I was in the final hour sitting on the medieval torture device known as a birthing stool and explaining to my midwife (by screaming and growling) that there had to be another way to get this baby out. I think I actually told her she was going to have to “reach up there” and pull it out herself. I know I’m not the first, or last woman, to feel this way. That was my natural child birth experience.

And even though I nourished that same morsel of pride about the drugs/interventions I’d refused, childbirth, that time, was something I felt I only barely survived. I did not feel especially positive about the experience, nor empowered by it. It did not help matters that a week later I fell into the chemically imbalanced world of post partum depression –which I spent the next few months trying to claw my way out of. My brain and hormones went there completely naturally. And it would take the so-called unnatural world of anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants to help pull me out.

Before post partum depression I never would have described myself as someone who lived with anxiety. Now I can’t imagine how I didn’t see it. My whole life I’ve managed my anxiety and I’ve managed pretty well. Most people who meet me or know me would not describe me as an anxious person (that’s how good I am at managing and that’s how little people really understand about anxiety). I know I spent a lot of time managing and strategizing around anxiety. That was living my life naturally.

I feel very lucky to live my life differently now. I guess I think that this line we draw between ourselves and the natural world is pretty fuzzy. We are of nature and a lot of our so called man-made products make life a lot better and easier for ourselves and even occasionally our fellow creatures. Don’t get me wrong we do a lot to foul up the planet for ourselves and our co-inhabitants but I’m pretty sure a sweet and powerful epidural isn’t high on that list.

So back to baby number two. After the hell I went through post partum I still ended up wanting another one. And the one thing I knew about this experience is that I wanted it to be different than the first. I did a lot of things differently. I front-loaded some of the meds that helped me after my daughter was born. I arranged to have my placenta encapsulated to I could eat it after my son was born (talk about natural!!!) And I arranged for my parents to help out for an entire month after the birth.

But ultimately, the thing that really helped me have a completely different birth experience was that epidural.  The first five hours of my son’s birth were strikingly similar to my daughter’s -the contractions this time even faster and more intense. Once I had the epidural everything changed. I was able to laugh and joke and be myself. I was able to be present with what was going on in my body even though I wasn’t able to feel every ripple of every contraction. I asked my mom to join me in the room as he came into the world because I wasn’t worried about her worrying about me. And as I pushed -yes you still have to push and it’s trickier when you can’t feel as much of your body -him into the world, I sang. Yes, I sang a Johnny Cash tune. Because why the hell not? I felt good and powerful and present with my body. And those words are so much more important and meaningful to me -whether or not they are natural.

May I recommend?

One of my favorite questions to be asked and answered is;

“Do you have a good book for me?”

I like to think I can recommend a good book for any occasion. Dentist office? Train ride? Broken down chair lift? And of course I love it when my students ask me for a recommendation. Recently I took a good look at my collection of YA books lining my classroom shelves. It’s a pretty solid collection -skewed slightly to contemporary realistic fiction but a good mix of science fiction and fantasy too.

Before recommending a book to a kid I usually have a brief Q and A that goes something like this.

Me: So what do you like to read?

Kid: I don’t know.

Me: What was the last book you read and liked?

Kid: I don’t know.

Me: Can you name any book you liked?

Kid: Oh yeah, that one we had to read last year was pretty good.

Me: The Outsiders?

Kid: Yeah, that one.

Then I usually bring out some of my can’t miss favorites for teens and get them to read the back covers. Okay, okay, a few kids can name a book they read and liked, but they’re not usually the ones asking for help. Often I’ll ask a few questions about genre because kids (and adults) tend to have strong opinions about whether or not they like books with things that “can really happen” or “magic stuff”.

If you’re looking for a good YA read I highly recommend the winners of this year’s Printz and Morris Awards. These are kind of like the Newbery Award but for YA books.

Gabi A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero  This book features the incredible voice of its Latina protagonist.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson An incredibly beautiful story told from the alternating voices of twins Noah and Jude. It annoys and offends me that this book is recommended for fans of John Green -because (snooty face nose in the air) it’s SO much better!!!!

I cannot say enough good things about either -I highly doubt you would be disappointed no matter where or when you chose to read them.

Happy Half Birthday to Me!

Holiday little

It’s January 7th. I have not been blogging lately. In fact my last post is from October 2nd. In my defense I’ve been busy. I had a kid -yup as in birthed one; Lucius Avi Gray on October 20th. Everything after that gets a little fuzzy as life with constantly interrupted sleep can be. I don’t believe in resolutions per say but I do hope to do more blogging in this new year. There’s a lot of grumbling about the importance (or lack of) and relevance (or lack of) of blogs these days but I have to say I still enjoy the form. Sometime when all other writing is stymied or stuck, a blog post is a good way to get some words and thoughts out.

In the new year I hope to write more about reading and how it informs my writing and also a bit about parenthood and how it affects my writing -and pretty much everything else I do. Don’t roll your eyes; his is not going to turn into a mommy blog where I extol the virtues of teething necklaces, coconut oil or the latest baby-sleep inducing gadgetry. If I do, I promise it will be purely for laughs.

So that being said, I’m also publishing a post I wrote, but never pubbed, a while ago about my reading of the Goldfinch. Enjoy.

Great Expectations and/or/of The Goldfinch

Confession number 1: I came within 150 pages of finishing The Goldfinch and had to put it down.

Confession number 2: I’m purposely avoiding googling comparisons of Donna Tartt with Dickens because I’m sure there are much more astute ones out there.

Confession number 3: I do believe that better living is possible through enhanced biochemistry.

Back to number 1. I know I’m not the only one who got bogged down in The Goldfinch especially the long passages related to relentless drug and alcohol abuse. But that wasn’t why I ultimately had to set it aside. It’s very rare for me to read that much of a book and not finish. But the only time I really have to read is the evenings and I just couldn’t stomach the book before bed. It wasn’t so much the drug and alcohol abuse as the world of pain occupied by the main character and his inability to deal with that pain in any other way.  It just got so bleak. So hopeless.

Then I started thinking about Dickens -whom I’ve always loved. So many of his novels are epic in length and rather bleak in outlook. But there is always hope (and incidentally far less xanax). Even at the end of a Tale of Two Cities when Sidney Carton is about to sacrifice his life for the happiness of the woman he unrequitedly loves, he goes to his death believing it is a “far better thing” he is doing then what he had ever done. In Dickens there is always someone willing to share their last crust of bread even if it’s moldy. Not so with Tartt. What is shared in her novels is pain, the experience of it and the brief chemically induced escape from it. Again and again, in her other novels too, this stands in for friendship and even for love.

I bet Donna Tartt is a Dickens reader and admirer. How could she not be when so many of her characters share his characters’ pedigree. Theo -the orphan, Hobie is like a Miss Havisham and of course Pippa (a Dickensian name if ever there was one) is his Estella. Even Boris, arguably the most life-embracing, entertaining character of the novel has something of an artful dodger in him.  All the ways that Tartt plays with class in this novel are themes right out of the pages of any great Dickens novel.

So what? Is Tartt a great writer and a great story-teller? Undoubtedly. I suppose I wish she could take one more page from Dickens and find the hope in her stories. I made it through The Secret History and The Little Friend but ultimately The Goldfinch lost me or rather I lost hope in it.

Perfectly Good Reasons to be Open and Honest About Sex

PFGWB

My fellow lab rat Carrie Mesrobian has a new book out this week. Her awesome debut Sex & Violence came out last fall and this year’s Perfectly Good White Boy is a fabulous successor, though not a sequel.

Carrie’s writing about teen sexuality is frank, open, honest and in my book quite refreshing. Here’s the little spiel from goodreads:

Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.

“You never know where we’ll end up. There’s so much possibility in life, you know?” Hallie said.

He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she’s off to college, and he’s still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and “possibilities” isn’t exactly comforting. Sean’s pretty sure he’s seen his future and its “possibilities” and they all look disposable.

Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.

Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.

Like everything good he’s ever known.

The only hopeful possibilities in Sean’s life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he’d go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.

“We’re something else. Some other thing. I don’t know what you’d call it. Maybe there’s a word, though. Maybe I’ll think of it tomorrow, when it won’t matter,” Neecie said.

What I loved about this book was the way the character navigated the worlds of sex and relationships -the ways they used each other and even allowed themselves to be used. Mesrobian explores these ideas with a thoughtfulness and nuance usually reserved for “so-called” adult fiction. Perfectly Good White Boy is a book about adolescents as much as it is written with them in mind. I can hardly imagine a more eye-opening and thought-provoking book for teens.

About the sex stuff: Mesrobian’s style sets her apart from other YA authors who may glitz or glamour over the messy, awkward, bodily fluids parts of things. I wanted to ask her about that part of her writing in an interview I jokingly titled the Squishy Bits. Here’s what she had to say.

You have a very frank, honest style when writing about “the squishy bits”. How did this develop for you? Particular influences? Hippie parents? Lots of National Geographic? 

I grew with parents who didn’t talk about sex very much Neither were they very affectionate people. They did explain How Babies Were Made but it was all with a great deal of discomfort and seriousness that made me never want to discuss it ever again with them. It was sort of hard to believe that they had sex themselves, given the way they acted toward each other, actually. It almost made me think there was something fiendish about them, or about all grown-ups. Some secret identity they all had. Something depraved. Something completely at odds with their normal behavior.
Actually, my father never discussed sex with me. Ever. It was only my mother who did. I never ever saw my father naked growing up. It was all a mystery, male nudity and female desire and sex itself being this Thing that everyone giggled about but adults didn’t think was funny at all. My parents are progressive people about politics and what not, but they are personally extremely conservative in their own behavior and what topics they consider appropriate.
So I guess my honesty regarding sex is a reaction to that. To people withholding information. To people not wanting to talk about this thing that clearly EVERYONE wanted to talk about. My mother was quite insistent that my sister and I remain virgins until marriage. “Sex is for married people” was one of the first lies from my parents that I uncovered. And it was pretty much the beginning of the wall coming down in terms of Who Was Right. Because sex for only adults? That was so untrue! It was so GOOD. It was so FASCINATING. Once you uncover a lie that adults tell you during adolescence, it’s as if everything else is also worthy of questioning. At least that was the case for me.
In terms of influences, well, the same mother who spoke infrequently and uncomfortably about sex? She also took me to the library on a weekly basis. She loaded up on books and let me wander and do the same. She didn’t seem to care what I read, either. So I read a lot of romance and a lot of adult fiction that probably was way over my head, but she never said a thing. I don’t know if that was disinterest on her part or just hoping that these books would fill in the cracks or what. Either way, it gave me a special interest in how people describe sex or romance in general.
Wow, very interesting. As I mentioned before I grew up in a household on the total opposite end of the spectrum -everything discussed, nothing particularly taboo. I mean we went to nude beaches on summer vacation. You get the idea? But here we ended up in sort of a similar place in that regard. Curious, very curious.
Do you recall any particular books you read as a teenager that you were like “whoa” that! “That’s what I want to know more about?” Any books which were particularly sexually educating?
I read a lot of genre fiction as a teenager. Tons of Stephen King. I re-read his short story collections over and over. The thing I love about Stephen King is probably everything. His books also contain some sex but not in a breathy, goopy way. More in a way that says, “yes, we all fuck/want to fuck, here it is, relax.” Stephen King, to me as a teenager, was an adult I could trust to be honest with me.

I read Judith Krantz and John Jakes and Sidney Sheldon and Lawrence Sanders (the deadly sins novels!) and Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. Like, if they made some sleazy TV movie of it, I read it. My mother has a pretty steep true-crime bent so things like that flew through our house without much incident.
Those books featured sex but mostly in a scandalous, gritty way. I don’t remember being particularly caught by any of the details. It was more the whole experience – there’s sex in here! woo! – that made those books memorable.

I also did a lot of reading that was all about me being snobby and hoity-toity about how smart I was. So I blew through Thomas Hardy, for example, even though I doubt I absorbed a 10th of what was going on there. I cannot recall one single assigned book in my entire high school career that I enjoyed, however. I suffered through most of that crap. Even when we read A Separate Peace in class – which I’d already read – the class discussion of that book managed to kill everything I loved about it.
I did discover Anne Tyler in high school and I loved her books so much. I loved how nothing seems to “happen” in her books. Yet everything happens at the same time. Small still moments. The kind of thing that puts my husband to sleep, to be honest.
Another relevant thing is that I re-read The Catcher in the Rye like a billion times. That book NEVER gets old to me. I can remember passages of it, exact phrases, even now.
Oh my goodness, Stephen King -totally! It’s funny but when people ask me what YA I read as a teenager I always scratch my head a bit because there was just so much less that was considered YA then. So you just kind of graduated to highly digestible adult stuff like Stephen King. 

I’d love to know your opinion about age designations in YA? Personally I wear several hats in this regard as an author, 8th grade teacher and parent (even though my own kid is still in picture books). I struggle with it the most as an 8th grade teacher where a lot of kids are really ready to be reading heavier stuff and a lot are still really happy with more MG stuff. 
So there’s a general question in there but more specifically do you think your books should be read by middle schoolers? High schoolers and up? Whomever is game?
I’m guessing most middle school librarians aren’t going to buy Sex & Violence. Or Perfectly Good White Boy, for that matter, even though the title isn’t as blunt.

(Incidentally, I’ve done a grand total of ONE school visit. ONE. Thank you, South High of Minneapolis! So, it goes with blunt, in-your-face titles.)
That said, I think there is no need to pull books away from kids. Certainly, librarians specialize in pushing books toward readers they think might enjoy or need them. But I feel like a kid’s readiness for certain content is something that’s already inside him or her. If you don’t have an interest in sexual or romantic relationships, you’re probably going to be bored by Sex & Violence and put it down.
If you have an interest in that, however, you might keep reading. Reading is a very low-risk way of engaging with high-risk behaviors. A very safe way of exploring risk, if you will. So I don’t know why people get so insane about books being banned or being “inappropriate” or whatever. There is also the claim that “kids don’t read these days!” Well, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t act as if books are unfairly influencing young people while maintaining they don’t actually read them.
Also, having an interest isn’t the same as behaving a certain way, though. A lot of times kids like to read about kids or concepts that are just a little bit above them. Like, their minds are maturing, but their bodies aren’t. And that growth among middle schoolers is wildly uneven, as I’m sure you know.
There are also kids that live lives that are not P-13, and this is not through any choice of their own, either. So those kids need librarians and teachers who can offer up the kind of content that might mirror their own experiences. Again – it depends on the experiences of the reader.
My kid, who is 11, has asked me: “When will you let me read Sex & Violence, Mom?” And I tell her, “Read it right now, if you want.” But she has yet to pick it up. And this is a kid who I’ve been talking to about sex since she was 5 years old and asked me what a condom was.
So when it comes to your middle school students, probably the kids who want a little something more, might not be getting all they want in the school library, and a youth librarian in a public library might be the one to advise.
This is assuming a school HAS a library, anymore. That’s a trend going on in my own district – getting rid of librarians and paper books altogether. Another topic!
As a fellow writer of YA who writes from the opposite gender POV I know I’ve been asked versions of this question before but as it pertains specifically to writing about sex, do you find that more difficult than say writing about eating a sandwich? More difficult? Or challenging? Or interesting? 
I guess it’s not that different than imagining anything else, really. I mean, it’s not like I have to do pull-ups and drink Red Bull before hand. If you can imagine being a boy wizard or what dragons are like or life on other planets or whatever, chances are good that you can imagine being a boy having sex for the first time.

However, these are scenes that require male beta readers. No question. I don’t have a good handle on the specific equipment – like how long can you have an erection? How quick can a penis get hard? What does it feel like to put on and take off a condom? – so I did have to ask the husband some of those questions.
Mostly I thought about my side of things when it came to first sexual experiences: what I was looking at or not looking at, what I was worried about, what freaked me out or surprised me in a good way. It’s nice to be on the other side of that inexperience, too; it’s good to be an adult who has seen the panorama view of sex and can compare what I thought it was about to what I think it’s about now.
The act of first sex can be very symbolic for some kids. It’s not really about sex, per se; it’s more a referendum on their beauty or their competence. Their value, their capability, their “coolness” even – how do I handle this situation for which I have no previous experience? It might not have much to do with feeling good or understanding actual anatomy or even their emotional response.
One technical issue in writing about first sex from a young man’s POV involves how long your prose can expand the event in a way that’s antithetical to the actual real time event. It might be possible to be meditative and reflective and descriptive during some sexual activities, but I’m guessing there’s not a ton of brain space available for most young men when they are about to orgasm. So that’s a difference I had to attend to. When I was a girl, it wasn’t like I was that physically distracted by first sexual activities to the point where my brain stopped working. Unfortunately for me, I guess. But fortunate in other ways: I was able to take note of a whole of lot of details.
This is sort of a two-parter.

1. What parts of Perfectly Good White Boy do you think would have interested you most as a teen?
2. Who do you imagine as the “ideal” reader for this book? Who do you envision as your ideal reader?
1. The sex parts, definitely. Though I KNOW I would have been fascinated to be inside a guy’s mind at that age. To me, nothing was more opaque than a boy’s thoughts and feelings. I wasn’t actually sure ANYTHING was going on in their heads. To be fair, I tended to like silent boys who rarely spoke. But also, they just seemed so imperious. And cool. I had no idea that they were sitting there with their post-lunch boners in math class, twitching internally.

2. You know, if I had to pick, I’d pick a kid who doesn’t like to read, for one. And I’d pick a kid that isn’t that interested in college or academic life. I think we need more books for such kids. About such kids – kids who aren’t college-bound, kids who aren’t going to grow up to be writers or academics. Maybe that’s a crazy wish for a market – I want to write books about non-readers, for non-readers – but I think kids who are readers have plenty of opportunities to see themselves in books. Another way of looking at the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement could be this – we need books that aren’t just for the smarty-pants over-achievers. We need books for everyone, if we truly believe reading is an activity that all people can and should enjoy.
Okay, lastly, what books would you like to read/see in YA that aren’t out there yet or are under-represented? What topics do you think could be addressed more/better? It doesn’t have to be anything you would want to write yourself necessarily, but you know your hopes and dreams and all that good stuff.
I would like to see more characters that aren’t themselves readers. That would be an interesting challenge for in author voice.

I would like to see more girls enjoy sex that’s not about LOVE. Right now I’m working on a book with a girl, for the first time, and I’m hoping she’ll turn out to be a girl who gives a blow job and LIKES it, instead of being victimized or duped or manipulated by it.
I would like to see gay kids in stories that aren’t solely about them coming out or being bullied. I would like kids of color in stories that aren’t solely about racism or life in “urban” settings. And I want them to be the main characters, not best friends.
I love YA stories that include first jobs. I’d love to see more stories where the world of work as not just another quirky benign setting for the protagonist to pass through but as it is for many young people: a perilous, highly-fraught place where they meet and possibly bond with adults who they’re not related to, as well as learn about “adulthood” in a more hands-on way.
And, on a purely silly note, I’d like to see more Halloween activities, including trick-or-treating, depicted in YA. Halloween’s one of my favorite holidays and there are ALWAYS kids that are certainly teenagers who come to my door in half-assed costumes, asking for candy. I want to know their story!
Thanks Carrie for your candor and general fabulousness. You should all hustle out there and read Perfectly Good White Boy. You inner or outer teen will not be disappointed.
Order online
????Carrie Mesrobian is an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence, was called one of the best books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews andPublishers Weekly and was a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award for best debut young adult novel. A native Minnesotan, she lives with her husband, daughter, and dog.

 

2nd Book Deal!

So, I’ve mostly been in bed or on the couch for the last two days -floored by the general discomfort of being 8 months pregnant and a nasty sinus head cold.  It’s a really gross combo which needs no more detail here. In the mean time I’m thrilled to get all official with my Publisher’s Weekly report about selling my latest YA novel to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab. This is the same amazing crew I worked with on The Other Way Around and I couldn’t be more excited that this book, currently titled Wireman, has found the same home.

Here’s the official excerpt and link to the PW page:

Andrew Karre also bought a second YA novel by 2014 debut author Sashi Kaufman (The Other Way Around). Kaufman’s second book, currently called Wireman, focuses on the complicated and longstanding friendship between two teenage boys, one of whom is hearing-impaired. Publication is scheduled for 2016; Lauren MacLeod from the Strothman Agency brokered the deal for world English rights.

But if you are here and reading my news in person I’d love to tell you a little more about this story. Yes, it focuses on the friendship between two teenage boys in their senior year of high school. It’s about the complicated nature of friendship between two young men. It’s about loyalty to each other and to a shared past. It’s about self-worth in friendship and deconstructing the idea of normalcy.  Whew, it’s also about soccer, and girls, steak and cheese and the importance of the LOTR movies.

A huge hug and thanks has to go to my awesome agent Lauren MacLeod who gets credit for planting the seed in my head a few years ago when she said. “I’d love to see a novel about male friendship and I think you could really knock it out of the park!” I just do what Lauren says 🙂

Also my agency sibs, Jodi Meadows, Robert Lettrick, Valerie Cole, Helene Boudreau who all jumped on social media to congratulate me before I could even pull my head out of the tissue box to notice. I really appreciate the camaraderie.  Okay, this Oscar speech is getting a little heavy handed -you get the idea. Can’t wait to share more!

Boston Teen Author Fest!

Author panelBTAF2BTAF 1

I’m really excited for the Boston Teen Author Fest, which takes place at the Cambridge Public Library in just a couple short weeks on Saturday September 27th from 11-4! (These are photos from last year’s event)

If you’re a Boston person, I’d love to see you. Better yet, if you’re a Boston middle or high school teacher, you should tell your students to come. And of course any and all YA lovers are always welcome.

Besides yours truly, there’s the amazing opportunity to hear from authors like M.T. Andersen, Francisco Stork and A.C. Gaughen! Click here for a full list of who’s attending.

 

10 YA Books Which Won’t Let You Down

I’ve been a bit busy lately. Blah -dee, blah, nothing worth blogging about or I would be blogging. It’s been a good kind of busy the kind where you’re certain you’re learning something even if it will take months of processing to figure out what it is. In the mean time I feel very lucky to have the friends and family I have. I may have mentioned it before but it’s been incredible how many people have reached out to tell me, in one way or another, how much they enjoyed The Other Way Around. It’s really the best part.

So here’s a little gift back. This is not meant to be a comprehensive must read of YA fiction. It’s totally skewed to my tastes (mostly contemporary, a wee bit of light fantasy and sci-fi). These are ten YA books I think have real punch and literary merit and are amazing page-turning reads to boot. I hope you’ll enjoy. I did.

Short silly blurbs are my own. Links are to Amazon/Goodreads, but you should buy them at your local Indie if you can -or check them out at the library!

 

Scorpio RacesScorpio Races – (Maggie Stiefvater) mythical carnivorous horses, a race to save one’s life, a slow simmering love story.

WingerWinger – (Andrew Smith) Rugby, prep school, puberty, and love for the unreachable girl.

Everybody Sees the Ants – (A.S. King) heart-breaking bullying laced with magical realism. This book made me want to be a better grown up person. nuff said.
Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell) -Incredible misfit love story.
JellicoeOn The Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta)- A boarding school at war with itself, a parent’s myeterious death, a girl left to sort out the pieces.
Will Grayson Will Grayson – (John Green and David Levithan) One is gay, one is not. The intersection of their lives is incredible entertainment.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks  (E. Lockhart) More prep school pranking madness.
In DarknessIn Darkness – (Nick Lake) Set in both present day and colonial Haiti, a boy trapped in the earthquake rubble imagines he is Touissant Louverture.
Feed – (MT Anderson)Best first line of a book ever. “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” Frighteningly prescient science fiction.
Story of a Girl – (Sara Zarr) The fall out, with friends and family, from one girl’s first sexual experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes YA, YA and not just an adult book with a teenage protagonist or narrator. It’s fodder for a future post but I think it has something to do with layers and density (uh oh science teacher overlap here). I hesitate to use the word complexity because each of these books is beautifully complex and yet still definitively YA. More on that later. In the mean time, start reading! Or add your own “must read” in the comments.