Thursday, September 30, 2010

STYLIZED Celebrates THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE and Its Authors Strunk & White

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of William Strunk & E.B. White's iconic book THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. If you have a soft spot for ELEMENTS or a curiosity about its inception and its authors, author Mark Garvey offers an fascinating look at Strunk, White, and their book in STYLIZED: A SLIGHTLY OBSESSIVE HISTORY OF STRUNK &WHITE'S THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE.
Mark, who's been writing and working in publishing for two decades, has a collection of various editions of ELEMENTS, and when he found out the golden anniversary of its publication was coming up, he began researching the authors, doing interviews, and reading letters, which became STYLIZED. (Many previously unpublished letters by Strunk, White and others appear in the book.)

I recently attended a signing for STYLIZED at Joseph-Beth Booksellers and learned a few facts about Strunk & White that were really cool to this English major and long-time editor.

William Strunk was from Cincinnati and was born in 1869. His house is still standing. (There is no plaque. It's now broken into apartments.) He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1890. He taught at Cornell, and originally wrote and self-published THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE (43 pages, 25 cents/copy) for his comp and lit courses. Strunk died in 1946.

E.W. White was born in 1899. He took Strunk's class at Cornell and the two struck up a life-long friendship. (They corresponded until up until the year of Strunk's death.) In 1957, more than a decade after Strunk passed away, White was working at the NEW YORKER and wrote about Strunk's ELEMENTS for the magazine. White was then contacted by Jack Case, an editor at Macmillan, asking White to do a revision on Strunk's original text.

White agreed and he revised, tinkered, added, and altered for a year. White's NEW YORKER piece was used as an intro and a chapter called "An Approach to Style" was added in which White referred to the book as "small, consice, opinionated, and incomplete." He sent off his finished manuscript to Jack Case without making a copy. The book was published in 1959. White died in 1985.

Mark Garvey thinks THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE has been so popular for so long for several reasons:
  • The book worked as advertised.
  • There's an appealing complexity in the voice, textured by its coauthors (who have a Spock/Kirk-like dynamic).
  • The book embodies a world view, a credo, one which really appeals to Mark--that it's possible to create a little order in the world by writing about it.

I've got an old dog-eared copy of ELEMENTS from my late 80s college days, of course, but I'm partial to the 2005 edition with illustrations by Maira Kalman. It lives on my nightstand. ELEMENTS OF STYLE makes for good bedtime reading. Really. (If you've got seven minutes, check out this NPR story about the illustrated edition. It made me smile. For seven minutes.)

Also check out STYLIZED. It's a fascinating look at the creators of an indispensable and classic guide for writers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Tweet Roundup: #BannedBooks Edition

It's humpday which means it's time for me to share some of my favorite tweets of the last week from the many writers, illustrators, editors, agents, and publishers who are out there sharing information and joining in the conversation on Twitter.

Click on the Twitter handles (@name) to find each tweeter's page should you wish to follow them or read more of what they're saying. Follow the included links to read the articles or blog posts these tweeters recommend.

Remember--whether you're signed up with Twitter or not, you can read tweets and click links to find helpful blog posts, useful articles, and timely news bits (like the ones below).

This week's roundup is dedicated to Banned Books Week. If you didn't know if was BBW, you'd find out once you visited Twitter which is all a-chirp with blog discussions, lists of banned books, ways to celebrates, and overall indignation as the Twitterverse exercises its freedom to read via its freedom to tweet. Now where is my copy of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?

@NortonCriticals: #BannedBooks Week is happening from September 25 to October 2. Check out a list of events from @ALAlibrary at

@AAKnopf: #bannedbooksweek What you can do:

@JadenElyse: It's really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes -J.D Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

@Cal_Humanities: "[I]t was...considered rude to call attention to things that were unsettling or different about individuals."-Lowry, The Giver.

@danavshelley): "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." To Kill a Mockingbird

@BookStoreDude: I don't know about you, but everytime I see a list of banned books, it makes me want to read them more.

@blanghinrichs): If you've read Harriet the Spy, you'll know she is bit of a subversive herself. Be subversive and read

@JustWriteNow: On #bannedbooks, why we love forbidden fruit, and how censorship doesn't pay:...

@maureenjohnson: Trying to ban the dictionary is [struggling to find words] is.... insane.

@gnke: Hmm, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate challenged in CA? And the entry in question is not "hypocrisy". Blown away.

@KirkusReviews: The most challenged books of 2009? Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT and Lauren Myracle's TTYL, among others.

@PenguinPbks: Huffpost - #BannedBooks 10 Books people most want banned

@KorrieM :Top 100 Banned Classics

@laurenchaikin: Dumb people are dumb.

@randomhouse: 15 Iconic Movies Based On #bannedbooks


@QuotablesHQ: We're hosting a Banned Books Week Blogathon over at the Quotables blog, find out more >>

@juliaakarr: We're talking #bannedbooks all week at The League of Extraordinary Writers.

@DGLM: New blog post! Banned Books Week

@GoodBooksInc: Happy #bannedbooks week everyone. Here's a little essay by Prongs on the subject. Hope you like it

@RasoirJ: At last, Banned Books Week is here. Roundup of current controversies:

@broncofashion: NEW on the #blog, a little rumination (and a few suggestions) on #bannedbooks:

@harperteen: Check out Chris Crutcher over on the Greenwillow blog and celebrate #BannedBooks

@RasoirJ: Heroic #Librarians: Judith Krug - founder of Banned Books Week:

@Margo_L_Dill: I'm talking about Banned Books Week 2010, And Tango Makes Three, Crank, The Chocolate War. Join me, please!

@erinfaye: Curious about who, exactly, bans books? Here's your answer:


@erinfaye: The Wizard of Oz was banned for referring to witches as "good." Yes, really.

@KS_Books: More #BannedBooks week fun: Crazy reasons books have been banned.

@boldtype: The most absurd logic behind famously #bannedbooks:

@abookmama: South Africa banned the book "Black Beauty." Find out the ridiculous reason why at

@gregpincus: Why Are Parents Banning Books- from the BBC on challenges in the US and less so in the UK:

@V_Motter: The funny thing about #bannedbooks is that most of the ones that I have read, I haven't liked.

@politelibrarian: Celebrate Band Book Week @ your library!

@GoodBooksInc: Anyone out there have a tattoo inspired by a #bannedbooks or a contriverseal literary work? Looking for tattootues submissions!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour Hit the Nati (and I Was There)

Last Friday night I caught one of the last stops on the rather brilliant Smart Chicks Kick It Tour, when YA authors Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Jeri Smith-Ready, Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia, and Alyson Noel visited Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati (my totally fav bookstore).

Here's a little about the tour from a recent PW piece:

It’s quite the big deal: 18 authors, 12 days, 11 cities. Kicking off on September 13 in Austin, Tex., and wrapping up on September 25 in Brampton, Ontario, the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour is entirely organized and funded by the participating paranormal romance writers. The grassroots tour was masterminded by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series) with the help of Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series), both of whom will appear at every event, as will a third headliner, Alyson Noël (the Immortals series). Aside from this trio, the author lineup will change at each venue, with six to nine Chicks in attendance.

At their stop in the Nati, the store was packed fans, some of whom had been waiting for hours for the author-chicks to arrive. There was even a group of my publishing friends who stopped in for the event as part of a bachelorette party evening. (Who needs a cop-stripper and margaritas when you've got seven YA authors with sharpies and prizes?)

These chicks really are smart when it comes to putting on an event. They were funny, entertaining, and fast-paced, and there was a lot of audience interaction and picture snapping.

The event started with quick introductions (featuring some hot news about movie deals and such) then a 15-minute Q&A before trivia, games, and book signing. Here are some of the things the mostly female, mostly teen audience was curious about (with a few of their answers thrown in):

Q: Which characters in all your books would get along/hang out together?
Q: What character is most like yourself?
Q: What made you all want to start writing.
[Melissa: Nuns made me write down my nightmare so I wouldn't get possesed by Satan.] Q: What was your most challenging book to write?
[Jeri: The second book in any series. Or the last book I wrote.]
Q: What's your favorite book you've written How do you deal with writer's block.
[Melissa: I get in my big bathtub with a snorkel. Really.]
Q: Whose got tatoos? (only one of them did)
[Kami: My mother.]
Q: What's your worst Halloween costume?
Q: What was your first kiss like?
Q: Tell us a first impression of another author on the tour.
Q: What's your favorite Shakespeare play?

The questions were followed by a game of "Marry, Shag, Cliff." Audience members reveal which character in any of their books would they marry, which would they shag, and which would they throw off a cliff? (They told the audience. "If you're under 16, by shag we mean kiss.") Let me tell you--these readers really knew these these characters. It was tremendous to see their enthusiasm--and the stacks of books they'd purchased for autographing.

Here are some photos from the successful event (which was one of many):

The excited audience.

Margaret Shohl throws prizes.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stolh autograph

The signing line after just under an hour. 
(The authors are against the back wall.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. Click titles to get to the full articles.

Among this week's news: Laurie Halse Anderson's post that sparked #speakloudly, Elizabeth Bluemle's update of starred books, Scholastic's Q1, speculation on the next YA books adapted to movies, thoughts on THE HUNGER GAMES as the new TWILIGHT, the weird-headed Berenstain Bears coming to your iPad, a bus driver who loves his Kindle a little too much, Rachelle Gardner on why agents don't tell you more about why you're rejected, Katy Perry's duet with Elmo that you won't see on Sesame Street (below for your viewing--it's quite cute), and more.

This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography  (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Remember last September, when the book banners crawled out of their pits of nastiness to try to remove YA literature from classrooms and libraries? It is September again, my friends. Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He was also a speaker at Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, a recent seminar whose purpose was to "To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students, and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative, and educational system, and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society."

What young adult novel should Hollywood adapt next? (PopWatch)
Talk about a hot read: Yesterday, Variety reported that Mandalay Pictures had snagged the much-coveted rights to Sophie Jordan’s young adult novel Firelight, a book that has been picking up sizzle ever since its release…on Sept. 7. Yes, as in Sept. 7, 2010, just two weeks ago.

Scholastic Shrugs Off Lackluster First Quarter (PW)
First quarter sales for the period ended August 31 fell 7.8% at Scholastic, to $290.9 million, and the net loss increased to $35.2 million from $23.0 million in the comparable quarter in fiscal 2010. Despite the results, the company said it remained on track to meet its earlier forecast of total sales for fiscal 2011 of between $1.9 and $2.0 billion and earnings per share from continuing operations in the $1.95 to $2.20 range.

Smashwords Publishes 20,000th eBook (GalleyCat)
Self-publishing website Smashwords published its 20,000th eBook this week. This is up from 6,000 at the end of 2009 and only 140 at the end of 2008. The publisher predicts that it will have published 25,000 titles by the end of the year.

The Stars So Far – Updated Sept. 22, 2010 (Shelf Talker)
It’s time for another update of the starred reviews from Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, the Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates).

Why 'The Hunger Games' Isn't the new 'Twilight' (Shelf Life)
It’s Twilight all over again. How many times have I heard that in the two years since The Hunger Games came out? Too many too count. And I have to say, it continues to baffle me: These novels could not be more different. Stephenie Meyer’s is more of a traditional romance (populated, I grant you, by some pretty untraditional characters); while Suzanne Collins’ is a tale of war and survival.

RIM Readies Its Answer to iPad (WSJ)
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. could unveil its new tablet computer—as well as the operating system that will power it—as early as next week at a developers' conference in San Francisco, said people familiar with RIM's plans.

Why, Oh Why, Did I Get Rejected? (Rants & Ramblings)
Yesterday's blog post asking writers what annoys them yielded lots of helpful comments, and a smattering of familiar complaints. Julie Geistfeld wrote that she wants a "reason" with her rejection letters. But, she says - she's not asking for much - just "one word, maybe two" of explanation at the end of a form rejection. A "simple category," she says. That's not asking too much, is it? Julie expanded her plea to agents in this blog post.

Farley Stepping Down as Head of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group  (PW)
In a memo to his staff this afternoon, Dan Farley, president and publisher of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, announced he will step down from those posts sometime in the next few months. Farley, who lives in San Diego and spends roughly two weeks per month in New York, cited his desire to base himself fulltime on the West Coast as the reason for his decision. After talking with Macmillan CEO John Sargent, Farley said, “We’ve determined that my new plans would not mesh with the business needs of the Group.” He said he will stay on at Macmillan at least through the end of the year

The Berenstain Bears come to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (PWxyz)
Today, Oceanhouse Media announced a partnership with the Christian publisher Zondervan, bringing three Berenstain Bears books to iOS devices as interactive e-books. Oceanhouse has already had great success with its Dr. Seuss e-book apps for iOS, and these new Berenstain Bears apps follow the same format. The first three titles released through the agreement are The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers, The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School and The Berenstain Bears And The Golden Rule. All three are available in the app store now for $2.99.

David Baldacci Joins Several Authors to Write the 2nd Wave of '39 Clues' Series (GalleyCat)
The highly successful 39 Clues series will have a second wave of books and the final title in that installment will be written by novelist David Baldacci. Vice-President and Editorial Director at Scholastic Press David Levithan cited the decision to publish the second wave: "The kids wanted it." Baldacci feels excited to take part in this project.

The fierce fight over the present tense (Salon)
It wouldn't be a Man Booker Prize shortlist without a controversy in the British press, but this year's furor -- launched by one-time Booker judge Philip Hensher -- may strike some readers as a bit wonkish. Hensher (author of the splendid novel, "The Northern Clemency") complained in the Telegraph newspaper that three of the six nominees for Britain's most celebrated literary prize are written in the present tense, a choice he regards as merely, and annoyingly, "fashionable."

New Yahoo! Mail to let you update Facebook and Twitter from your inbox (TNW)
Yahoo! has announced that it will be rolling out a new Yahoo! Mail Beta to its 281 million users worldwide over the next few weeks. On the Yahoo! Mail blog, the company promises a “faster, cleaner, and safer” experience.

Bus Driver Reads Kindle While Driving (GalleyCat)
Debating whether or not to get a Kindle? They can be kind of addicting, as you can see from the above video. This bus driver is so into his, that he can't even put it down when he is behind the wheel.
Katy Perry's Boobs Banned from 'Sesame Street'
Katy Perry was supposed to guest star on Sesame Street, but her boobs were too exposed. TMZ reports that 'Sesame Street' has decided not to run a clip featuring her and Elmo performing 'Hot N' Cold' in a low-cut top.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

SCBWI Awards $12,500 in Work-in-Progress Grants

SCBWI received more than 500 entries for this year’s Work-in-Progress Grants (which are underwritten by The judges, who found the batch of entries to be the strongest they'd seen, included SCBWI Board Members Pat Cummings, Jim Giblin, QL Pearce and Linda Sue Park; editor Louise May; and authors Robin Benway, Kathleen Duey, Bruce Hale, Pat Mora, and Susan Rubin. First Readers were Virginia Frances Schwartz, Vicki Berger Erwin, Kim L. Siegelson, and Nancy Antle. SCBWI's Kim Turrisi coordinated.

Winners in five categories received $2000 grants; runners-up received $500. Here are the 2010 WIP Grant recipients:

  • Winner: Kerry McGee for STAND, BOY
  • Runner Up: Kathleen Fox for THE DOG

  • Runner Up: Laurie Wallmark for ADA BYRON LOVELACE: NOT A PROPER LADY



  • Runner Up: Kara Bietz for UNDISCLOSED (Contemporary)
Congratulations to all the winners!

Applications for 2011 WIP Grants are available on All SCBWI members, with the exception of past winners, may apply.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Tweet Roundup

It's humpday which means it's time for me to share some of my favorite tweets of the last week from the many writers, illustrators, editors, agents, and publishers who are out there sharing information and joining in the conversation on Twitter.

Click on the Twitter handles (@name) to find each tweeter's page should you wish to follow them or read more of what they're saying. Follow the included links to read the articles or blog posts these tweeters recommend.

Remember--whether you're signed up with Twitter or not, you can read tweets and click links to find helpful blog posts, useful articles, and timely news bits (like the ones below).

Much of the tweet excitement this week surrounded an article in the Missouri News-Leader called "Filthy books demeaning to Republic education," in which the writer Wesley Scroggins referred to Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK as "soft pornography." The twitterverse and blogsphere spoke up! A sampling is below. For more click on the #speakloudly hashtag. I find the outpouring quite inspiring. (And feel free to name a villain in your next story "Wesley Scroggins." Because it really just works.)

@planetalvina: On the BRG blog: Speak Loudly: Over the weekend, the Twitterverse exploded with the news that an associate profess...

@molly_oneill: Heading home from a conf today, b/w airports, reading #speakloudly tweets, awed by power of community & @halseanderson's book. Words matter.

@bkshelvesofdoom: A good thing that has come out of the #SpeakLoudly fracas: the stories shared remind those of us, still quiet, that we are not alone.

@BlytheWoolston: Sexual abusers silence their victims. The best way to stop it is to #SpeakLoudly

@chavelaque: Terrific post from a Christian writer on SPEAK RT @MyraMcEntire #SpeakLoudly I did. Hardest post I've written.

@Janet_Reid: Truth is often ugly and dirty but it is not pornography.

@gregpincus: Social media and a platform can help an author in many ways, as the @halseanderson and #speakloudly situation shows - c

@halseanderson: Am so blown away by the support for SPEAK. Hate to say it makes me speechless, but it almost does. Thank you for speaking up! #speakloudly 

@PWKidsBookshelf: Can Censoring a Children’s Book Remove Its Prejudices?
@neilhimself: Banned Books Weeks starts on Sept 25th. Read a banned or challenged book?

@mitaliperkins: How To Find A Literary Agent @NathanBransford
@Kid_Lit: What to do when you want to send a revision but weren't asked for one: #kidlit #writing #fb
@ingridsundberg: Recap of #LA10SCBWI Agent Panel: (Features agents Ginger Clark, Josh Adams, Ken Wright, and Lisa Grubka).
@CA_Marshall: Nifty sounding mermaid YA that also fell apart. Make the whole book shine, not just the first five pages. #queries

@ColleenLindsay: In case you missed this earlier: Completely updated & revised word counts for fiction, all kinds of fiction:
@editorgurl: Lots of inspiration in this short piece about David Wiesner & his editor Dinah Stevenson. (via @shelfawareness)

@CynLeitichSmith: Writing on a Unicycle: Making Time for What You Love in a Life out of Balance by Deborah Brodie:

@Illo_Island: 150 Useful Resources for Illustrators (from EFII archives) -

@aliciapadron: My post over at the PBJ's today- Favorite Illustrators


@mitaliperkins: When site stats show a search for the title of your book along with "how dose (sic) it end," face facts: you've been assigned as homework.

@Scholastic: What children’s titles are being read by children across America? Check out September's Top Reads from #BookClubs:

@PWKidsBookshelf: The Daily Beast has a list of 10 Smart YA Books, for those who've finished The Hunger Games and are looking for more

@PWKidsBookshelf: See Psychology Today's list of celebrated adult authors who also wrote for kids: Part 1 + Part 2

@RachelleGardner: Digital enhancements in PRINT books??? via @JanetKGrant

@PublishersWkly: In PW’s recent Salary Survey, one statistic stuck out: 85% of employees with under 3 years experience are women
@johnmcusick: I think it's time for a burning. @GalleyCat Oxford American Dictionary adds BFF, bromance, hockey mom & LMAO entries; what do you think?
@PublishersWkly: What's with all the dead parents in YA books? An editor in PW Soapbox calls this a "cop-out."

@halseanderson: Whoever is in charge of the iPad bookstore needs to hire someone who understands what kids & teens want to read.
@EgmontGal: So happy to be back in NYC. The jackhammers sound like a robin's call to me.
@LiteraryUpstart: Look, just don't even bother trying to use the semicolon. Stick to periods and commas, dude.

@thecreativepenn: How to get massive exposure for your book with blog book tours via @TonyEldridge 

@jamieharrington: Shopping today. Me: That bag's cute but I don't think it will hold my laptop. Saleslady: You could upgrade to a smaller one. o.O

@AdviceToWriters: Site shows in real time which books people are buying all over the world. (via @DailyLit) 

@sztownsend81: Just answered a phone call where someone asked if they needed to send a SASE with their email query.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SCBWI Success Story: Debut YA Author Steve Brezenoff, |-1|

Steve Brezenoff wouldn't advise other writers to use his tactics when approaching an editor (more on that below), but his methods worked and he got the interest of Andrew Karre at a Minnesota SCBWI event. Steve's first book  |-1| [The Absolute Value of -1] was released this month from Carolrhoda Lab, the new YA imprint of the Lerner Publishing Group.

Read on for the whole story of how Steve connected with Andrew and hear more about his book, his promotional efforts, his online presence and what draws him to YA.

You can chat with Steve during a Twitterview tomorrow at 1 PM central time using the hashtag #absolutevalue. He'll be answering questions and giving away copies of |-1|.

An SCBWI event played a part in you getting your book deal for |-1|. Tell us about meeting Andrew Karre. And how long had you been writing and pursuing publication?

Ah, time for my embarrassing story. I do so hate to spread this around, lest SCBWI members get the wrong impression of how to go about meeting editors, getting published, or writing a novel. But here 'goes.

I had written a middle-grade novel several years prior to joining SCBWI, and had shopped it out to an agent or two, very half-heartedly. It wasn’t very good. But as for the YA that eventually became |-1|, I'd shown it to a couple of editor friends at S&S (where I worked for five years) in an unfinished state. Though I'd been writing short stories (and the beginnings of several never-finished novels) since high school, that was the extent of my efforts to publish before I attended the MN SCBWI conference in fall of 2008.

When I arrived at the conference, I looked through the seminar options and spotted Andrew's. I knew of his work at Flux, and knew he was a hot brain of YA, so I attended his talk. It was brilliant, naturally--he compared good YA voice to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and, well, everything else to "Jack and Diane"--and afterward I approached him, introduced myself, and handed him my . . . um . . . resume.

Flashback to the day before the conference. I don't remember which of us gets the credit/blame for this idea, but at some point my wife and I decided I should have a resume of sorts. I had some strong publishing experience already--work-for-hire stuff, that is--and we agreed it gave me some kind of upper hand. I also had a few in-progress manuscripts I wanted to pitch. (Yes, in-progress. I know.) Anyway, I created this resume: on one side was my experience as a writer, and on the other were blurbs pitching my WIPs. I printed off 10 or 15 copies to bring to the conference.

So, back to Andrew. I handed him this . . . thing. To his credit, he accepted it without making a face like it was a bag of poo, which I would have totally forgiven in hindsight. And not only that, he contacted me on Monday morning to ask for "whatever I had." Which you'll have guessed, if you have been reading closely, was essentially nothing. I told Andrew I'd send him my YA manuscript in a few days, then set about finishing it.

(I really hope no one is reading this and thinking it's a good plan.)

So, I banged out the last few thousand words and sent it to Andrew. I guess I did a decent job, because he liked what he saw, but he said--and I agreed--that it really wasn’t a novel. It was hardly a novella. So it was back to the drawing board with the question: how do I make this into a novel?

With help from my wife, as usual, I solved the problem, and six months later, Andrew bought it.

Would you tell my readers what your book is about and explain the title?

|-1| is about three high school sophomores, Lily, Noah, and Simon. Each gets their own part to narrate, and each tells the story a little differently, highlighting certain pockets in time, leaving others out entirely, changing events to suit their perspectives. As tenth grade plods on, the friends drift apart in fits and starts, thanks to difficulties each is having, but not sharing with the others.

The title (my wife's idea, and perfect) reflects Lily’s obsession with math, of course, but also represents the central question: What is the value of absence? Each narrator loses someone, and that loss colors the character in a powerful way. I don’t think the question is necessarily answered, per se, but it is examined.

Your debut book is on Carolrhoda Lab's debut list. Do you feel any pressure for your book to do well to get the momentum going for the imprint?

Um, yes! I definitely have had a lot of fear that the debut list would flop so bad that I’ll never sell another book, and that Andrew will be out of a job, and that Lerner will close its doors and leave a big abandoned building in Minneapolis' warehouse district. But that's of course ridiculous. Also, with Blythe's and Ilsa's amazing titles on the list too, it can’t fail, really. [Other titles on the debut list are Blythe Woolston's THE FREAK OBSERVER and Ilsa J. Bick's DRAW THE DARK.]

Your book has been out for about two weeks. What have you been and will you be doing to promote it?

I’ve done a whole bunch of blog interviews, and I have an official blog tour about to happen, too. In the real world, I’m doing a reading at Magers & Quinn her in the Twin Cities. It’s the biggest independent bookstore out here, I think, and is the go-to stop for big-time authors to do in-store appearances. They haven’t hosted much YA (maybe ever? I don’t know), so it’s especially exciting for me that I’ll be reading there. It will also be my first reading ever, so I’m awfully nervous.

I also made a trailer, which I like and some other people have liked too.

How long have you been blogging? What kind of posts will visitors find on Exile in Goyville?

I started my first blog in around 2003. It wasn’t very interesting. I remember one post I wrote about Manhattan Specials (an espresso soda you really can’t find anywhere outside of Brooklyn and Manhattan) and the spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy’s. Those were the days, right, bloggers? It eventually became a place to keep track of the mileage I was putting on my bike here in the Twin Cities before I abandoned it completely. (Don’t look for it, by the way. It’s all locked up.)

Ever since moving out here from NY in 2006, though, I’d been saying I’d launch a blog called Exile in Goyville, considering myself the only Jew for 1200 miles. (Obviously not actually the case.) Anyway, I made the thing but never posted anything until the weekend of that MN SCBWI conference in 2008, inspired to enter the YA blogosphere by (probably) something Andrew said. I intended to focus on the fish-out-of-water aspect of being a NY Jew in Minnesota. However, if you go there now you’ll find far more about writing, YA lit., the journey from MS to publication, and the day-to-day naval gazing I really excel at.

Your character Lily offers three reasons she became "a cigarette-smoking bad girl." Give me three reasons you write YA fiction.

1. I CAN'T HELP IT. I really can't, either. No era of a single human life is as interesting and worthy of examination--to me--than adolescence. I've written middle-grade (both work-for-hire and abandoned manuscripts), but it doesn't come as naturally, and it doesn't feel nearly as satisfying. I know--I'm totally just saying '"I write YA because I write YA" with that response. I'll try to do better with number.

2. IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT. Not to be self-aggrandizing or anything, but writing YA certainly feels important. Sure, writing for youth of any age is crazy important, because everyone knows we want kids to read, so we'll have adults who read and think creatively and critically. But I feel like as a teen, a lot of us begin to think of reading as a chore. We encounter Shakespeare and Hawthorne and Hesse and Hemingway and suddenly books are thick, foreign, and a struggle to comprehend. "When the hell did this happen?" we say. Well, good YA lit is suited to teen readers, and is bound to hold their interest in a way that our canon cannot.

3. IT'S FUN! Sure, if I wanted to I could sit down and write something for adults, but writing YA characters allows me to drop all kinds of snark and first kisses and first rock concerts and first cars et cetera, et cetera. This is fun stuff! And I can be--in my role as author and sometimes narrator, that is--as adolescent as I want without fear of being called immature. Much.

Tell us about book number two, TWO SUMMERS AROUND THE FIRE. (And will the number three be in the title of your third book?) 

Am I allowed to say this is my favorite thing I've ever written? It's short and the most experimental writing I've done, and I'm immensely proud of it. Andrew recently called it a young adult A MOVEABLE FEAST for Brooklyn, which is perfectly okay with me. TWO SUMMERS is a mystery, sort of, centered on three homeless teens in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in 2005. It's also a love story. It's also about gentrification and waterfront property. Obviously I'm still working out the kinks of my elevator spiel.

I had not even thought of that numbers thing. Now I'm going to have to try figure out a way to get 'three' into my next title. Ack!

What's your advice to the unpublished YA writers out there?

Stay true to the voice and the characters. For some writers, this will come naturally; for others, it'll take some work. The best advice I can give is to tap into the adolescent in yourself, or you're bound to come across like an adult trying to sound teen-friendly and slangy and junk, and that's not only a chore to read, but sort of creepy. For me, it's something akin to Method acting, I think (and also for Swati Avasthi, who--at a reading this year--compared her work on narrator Jace in SPLIT to Method as well). You need to occupy that character and become them, especially if you're writing realistic fiction, probably in first person or a close third. Beyond that, don't rush (you won't catch up to trends and they're not important anyway), get a workshop or a critiquing buddy, and--of course--BIC (butt in chair). From a more pragmatic point of view, um, ignore my publication story, because that method will never work for anyone again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. Click titles to get to the full articles.

Among this week's news: dictionary additions (unfriend and defriend among them), mind-altering vampire lit, industry job moves, a new imprint at Candlewick, the President's picture book, Roald Dahl Day, new-and-improved Twitter, Facebooking from your car, the release of Blio (which is pretty cool--I saw a preview at Digital Book World), an article against bashing multi-taking millenials, and more.

My BFF just told me “TTYL” is in the dictionary. LMAO. (OUPblog)
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… New words, senses, and phrases have been added to the
New Oxford American Dictionary! Now, I’m not going to list every addition, but here’s a sampling I think you’ll all find interesting.

Good girls and vampires: 'Twilight' altering teen minds? (
It's a potentially sucky situation. The vampire craze in teen literature – exemplified by the "Twilight" book series – could be affecting the dynamic workings of the teenage brain in ways scientists don't yet understand. "We don't know exactly how literature affects the brain, but we know that it does," said Maria Nikolajeva, a Cambridge University professor of literature. "Some new findings have identified spots in the brain that respond to literature and art."

Slattery to Become Agent with Pippin (PW)
Joan Slattery will join Pippin Properties as literary agent and contracts manager, as of November 1. She has spent nearly 20 years at Random House, most recently as senior executive editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. Among the authors Slattery has worked with are Jerry Spinelli, Philip Pullman, Cynthia Voigt, Adele Griffin, and Jane Smiley.

Lewis Joins Disney-Hyperion (PW)
Starting September 20, Kevin Lewis will join Disney-Hyperion Books as executive editor, where he will acquire and edit picture books, as well as middle-grade and young adult novels. He will report to Stephanie Owens Lurie, editorial director at Disney-Hyperion. Until May 2009 Lewis was editorial director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; he was hired there in 1997 by Lurie, when she was S&S associate publisher.

Barack Obama to Release Children's Book (GalleyCat)
Weeks after the general election, President Barack Obama will publish his first children's book: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. With Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, Obama already has two books under his belt. The 40-page children's book will be released on November 16th. Random House's Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers will initially print 500,000 copies.

Candlewick Partners with Toon Books (PW)
On October 1, Candlewick Press will launch a Toon Books imprint, a partnership with the already existing Toon Books, a press founded by New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly in spring 2008 with the mission of getting kids to read using comics. The inaugural Toon Books list at Candlewick features 11 hardcovers, all of them Toon backlist titles, including 2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes; two Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Books: Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith and Stinky by Eleanor Davis; and eight other titles.

In Honor Of Roald Dahl Day, A Lesson On Author Immortality (Ypulse)
We're a little late on this one, but it was too good to pass up: Apparently, Roald Dahl Day takes place every year on the scribe's birthday, Sept. 13. And while we in the States might not celebrate the day as heartily as they do in the UK--just check that 'What's On' section of the official website or visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre for a sense of the fervor the late author still generates on his native side of the pond--it’s safe to say he’s among the most beloved children's authors of the last century.

Twitter Site Revamped and Simplified (NY Times)
Twitter unveiled a new Web site on Tuesday that it hopes will be user friendly, Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft report in The New York Times. The redesigned site, which will be available to all users in the next few weeks, makes it simpler to see information about the authors of Twitter posts, conversations among Twitter users, and the photos and videos that posts link to.

Why Bashing Millennials Is Wrong (FastCompany)
Lazy. Entitled. Fickle. Freighted with their own inscrutable agendas. These are the kinds of things people say about cats--and millennials. For today's managers, the generation born after 1980 is a favorite punching bag.

Just What We Really Need: More Distracted Drivers--OnStar Facebook App Announced (MobileContentToday)
Note to PR types: If you write a scary looking email subject line like this, I may force myself to read it: Update Facebook While Driving" Yes, OnStar is introducing what may potentionally be a new source of distracted driving. Here's the rest of the press release:

Brooklyn Book Festival Panelists Agree The Book Is Evolving, Not Dying (eBookNewser)
While the Brooklyn Book Festival was much more about print than about eBooks, in a session called “The Transformation of the Book” poets and artists discussed the evolution of the book. Poet/critic John Yau spoke about using a wiki to edit a recent book. “The idea of the book is more fluid, as it becomes a part of a mass media communication,” he said. “The book is more of a communicative gesture these days.”

Blio e-Reading Software Set For Release September 28 (PW)
It looks like the release of Blio, the much anticipated e-book reading software developed by technologist Ray Kurzweil, is getting close. In partnership with Baker & Tayor, Kurzweil’s firm KNFB Reading Technology says the free e-book reading software will be available for download beginning September 28 for Windows-based devices, with iOS (Apple devices) and Android to follow at a later date. Also on Sept. 28, the partnership will launch a Blio-branded e-book store offering a million for-pay and free titles, including the latest bestsellers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MeeGenius! Kicks off the Launch of Their Authoring Platform with a Contest

MeeGenius!, the children's book app for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and the Web, is celebrating the kick off of its authoring platform with a contest.

MeeGenius!, a bookstore and reading platform that offers enhanced picture books (including word highlighting, audio playback and auto-play), is looking for great children's book submissions and will award one grand prize winner an ebook publishing contract along with a top-of-the-line iPad (64GB + 3G). Four runners-up also win a contract along with an iPod Touch. Authors Laura Dave, Jane Green, and Allison Winn Scotch will serve as judges, along with MeeGenius founders Wandy Yeap Hoh and David Park.

Material submitted for the contest must be suitable for a 3- to 8-year-old audience and must include illustrations. The deadline is October 31st and winners will be awarded in January. After publication, author/illustrator will receive 30% of net revenues from the book's sale. MeeGenius! may also choose non-winners for publication (with the same revenue deal). Click here for complete contest rules.         
"We have two main customers--Parents & Kids and Authors & Illustrators," says David Park. "With the April launch of our website, iPhone and iPad apps, we built something for Parents & Kids, now with the launch of the authoring platform we've built something for our other customer base--Authors & Illustrators. We thought what better way to celebrate the launch of the authoring platform than to have a book contest to find some new and wonderful children's books."

To find out more about MeeGenius! and their contest, check them out online:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Tweet Roundup

It's humpday which means it's time for me to share some of my favorite tweets of the last week from the many writers, illustrators, editors, agents, and publishers who are out there sharing information and joining in the conversation on Twitter.

Click on the Twitter handles (@name) to find each tweeter's page should you wish to follow them or read more of what they're saying. Follow the included links to read the articles or blog posts these tweeters recommend.

Remember--whether you're signed up with Twitter or not, you can read tweets and click links to find helpful blog posts, useful articles, and timely news bits (like the ones below).

Among this week's picks and links: news on the new Twitter, lots on pitching and querying agents, a little craft, a picture book from Pennsylvania Avenue, zombies, story love, story hate, and more.

@mashable: Here Comes the New - [updated with more images of the new interface] #newtwitter

@PublishersWkly: NYT explains the new Twitter: threaded conversations at last, so long to the "more" button

@editorgurl: Ever try walking a mile in your character’s shoes? @lauratofflercor, @elanaroth & I did.

@melissa_marr: As a former lit teacher I luv this Yay! for textual deconstruction :)

@ingridsundberg: Gail Carson Levine shares 7 Ways to Create Compelling Characters: 
@chersti: revising: 10 quick tips to polish your gem:

@sljournal: President Barack Obama to publish 40-page children's book: RT @Mediabistro @eBookNewser

@PWKidsBookshelf: Now that Pres. Obama's joined the ranks, see the Daily Beast's gallery of other celebrity children's books

@CynLeitichSmith: Kevin Lewis to join Hyperion as an executive editor, focusing on picture books, MG and YA novels: (via @PublishersWkly)

@Janet_Reid: The QueryShark is gnawing:

@inkyelbows: A day in the life of a literary agent. @BookEndsJessica posts:

@elizabethscraig: An agent on author headshots:

@Kid_Lit: Aspiring writers: does your day job matter to an agent?
@4kidlit: See which opening lines caught agent @Natalie_Fischer's eyes

@JenSwanBooks: RT @Kid_Lit Cold querying vs. having a referral. Should you do one or both? 

@jafhedlund: To prepare for @SCBWIRockyMtn, I did lots of research on pitching. Here's what I found: 
@dotificus: My first blog post re: the Ohio #scbwi conference. Agent Mark McVeigh's keynote.

@JonathanMaberry: Authors @carrieryan and Alden Bell offer insight into the popularity of YA Zombie novels:

@NathanBransford: Do you think social media helps sell books?

@HOWbrand: Too Much Media: Our ability to produce media has outstripped our ability to consume it. The average photograph now...

@jakrose: If you were allowed to go back in time and rename "social media" — What would you call it? [Facebook Poll]


@thecreativepenn: Marketing tips for authors via @TonyEldridge


@editrixanica: I love loading up my ereader with submissions at the end of each day. Maybe one of these will be my next true love!

@editrixanica: When I fall so hard in love w/ a ms that I want to spend my nights & wknds w/ it, want to talk about it constantly, then it's the one for me

@editrixanica: ...but also, I look for that feeling of, "oooh, and I know exactly how to make this even better." Figuring out that puzzle is the fun part.


@boniashburn: Wish I hadn't read the comments on NYTimes Children's Books You Might Hate post Kind of shaking my faith in humanity
@ncacensorship: Sherman Alexie novel officially banned from Missouri school http://bit.l/ciCbxg #bannedbooks

@ALA_Booklist: Points of Reference: Web Site of the Week: is a free library which is online. It in...

@sarazarr: Oh brother. Write in the tense the story needs-->pullman speaks out against present tense novels:

Friday, September 10, 2010

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. Click titles to get to the full articles.

Among this week's baker's dozen: PW reports on new imprints for Penguin and Candlewick, ebooks in college classrooms (and how that's going), ALA and BEA together under one roof (maybe), generous J.K., generous illustrators, YouTube tips and Trailie awards, Kindles in Best Buy, SLJ reports on sextortion, Roald Dahl's dark days, and Justin Beiber--King of Twitter.

Penguin Adds Poptropica Imprint (PW)
No man may be an island, as John Donne so eloquently wrote, but in the virtual world of Poptropica kids between the ages of 6 and 14 can visit lots of islands and hang out with literary friends. They can stop at Big Nate Island (based on Lincoln Peirce’s cartoon strip, now a bestselling book series) or navigate to Mythology and soon to Wimpy Kid. And with the launch of a Poptropica imprint from Penguin next fall, they’ll also be able to read island-related books.

Candlewick Partners with Toon Books (PW)
On October 1, Candlewick Press will launch a Toon Books imprint, a partnership with the already existing Toon Books, a press founded by New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly in spring 2008 with the mission of getting kids to read using comics.

Reed in Talks with ALA About Running Trade Shows  (PW)
Reed Exhibitions, parent company of BookExpo America, is in discussion with the American Library Association about taking over the organization’s two main meetings--the June annual convention and the January midwinter meeting. The process is far enough along that Reed has talked to a number of the major trade houses about the prospect and about the idea of combining BEA with the ALA annual meeting. The two shows typically run about a month apart; next year ALA is set for June 23-28 in New Orleans while BEA is scheduled for May 24-26 in New York City. Although the New York houses appear cool to the idea, there is not sufficient opposition to stop the process from moving forward. If a deal is reached, Reed is believed to favor locating BEA and the ALA annual meeting in 2012 in Chicago, creating in effect two shows under one roof. It wasn't clear if the shows would move around the country. The midwinter meeting, which will be held in San Diego in January, would continue. No sale of the ALA shows is contemplated.

J.K. Rowling Donates £10 Million for Multiple Sclerosis Research (GalleyCat)
Novelist J.K. Rowling (pictured) has given £10 million to the University of Edinburgh to build a multiple sclerosis (MS) research facility. The new building will be named the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, honoring the memory of Rowling's mother, who died at 45-years-old from MS.

How To Use YouTube Annotations To Maximize Your Subscribers, Views & Overall YouTube Success (Social Times)
View Comments YouTube Annotations are one of the most invaluable tools offered by the video site and, interestingly enough, are also one of the most overlooked by online video content creators. If you aren’t using Annotations in your YouTube videos you are missing out on some great opportunities for maximizing your subscribers, your views, and the overall success of your YouTube videos and channel. Read on to learn how to use YouTube Annotations to maximize your YouTube success.

13 Children's Book Illustrators Auction Original Art To Support Dave Eggers 826 Reading Program (Photos) (HuffPo)
"Eyewitness Reports" is a charity auction of 37 pieces of original art by some of the best children's book artists today. The auction proceeds will benefit 826LA, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit writing and tutoring center fronted by a fully-functioning convenience store for time travelers.

E-books fail the classroom test (Financial Times)
Business schools pride themselves on being ahead of the curve when it comes to management theory and innovation. But their record is considerably less impressive when it comes to the implementation of cutting-edge technology such as e-book readers, Apple’s iPad and social networking, where students continue to outpace their tutors.

Notre Dame Students Respond to the iClassroom (Techland)
It's two weeks into Notre Dame's foray into their iPad-piloted class, and students and professors claim that the new interface is easier and better to use. The project management class led by Professor Corey Angst is part of the university's eReader study and Notre Dame's first paperless class. All materials for the 40 students are available on the iPad.

Best Buy to Sell Kindle In Stores, Enhance E-Reader Displays (PW) 
Best Buy announced yesterday that it would begin selling Amazon's Kindle in stores.  This means that Kindle shoppers have several places to go and handle a Kindle before buying, including Target and Staples in addition to Best Buy.  The retailer doesn’t cite an exact date for when the Kindle will be for sale in stores, saying only it will arrive “later in the season.”

Sextortion Threatens Teens, Adults (SLJ)
Teens who send digital nude images of themselves generate concern among educators and parents alike. But criminals who threaten to expose those very images to a wider audience are an even stronger reason adults need to be well-educated on Internet safety--and pass that information on to their kids as cases of sextortion, or sexual extortion, are reportedly rising across the country.

Roald Dahl's darkest hour (Telegraph)
The year 1960 began calmly enough for Roald Dahl, but it would prove to be tumultuous in many ways. Kiss Kiss, his fourth collection of short stories, was published in the United States in March and stormed into The New York Times bestseller lists. As Dahl boarded the boat back from New York to England in early April with his wife, the actress Patricia Neal, he was pleasantly surprised to find that many of his fellow passengers were reading his book. Nor had this escaped the notice of two other passengers in the publishing business who were also making the crossing on the Queen Mary – the London literary agent Laurence Pollinger and the publisher Charles Pick.

SLJ's Trailie Awards Asks Readers to Vote for Their Favorite Book Trailer (SLJ)
Got a favorite book trailer that promotes reading? School Library Journal wants to know. Starting September 27, we're asking readers to vote for their favorite trailer as part of our first annual Trailie Awards, which seeks to recognize the important role that video plays in bringing readers and books together--and the wonderful people who create these digital ads for books.

3% of all Twitter traffic Justin Bieber-relatedTwitter has Bieber fever. A designer named Dustin Curtis chatted with an employee at the social media networking site and Twittered Monday: "At any moment, Justin Bieber uses 3% of our infrastructure. Racks of servers are dedicated to him."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fun with Skype: TeachingAuthors Giveaway, School Visits & Blog Interviews

The TeachingAuthors are currently offering a contest via their blog to encourage teachers, writers and librarians to try a six-word memoir writing workout and then comment about the experience. The winning commenter/teacher gets the choice of a 30-minute Skype author visit from one of the TeachingAuthors or a prize package of 6 of their books, autographed. (The TeachingAuthors include April Halprin Wayland, Carmela Martino, Esther Hershenhorn, Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, JoAnn Early Macken, and Mary Ann Rodman.)

I love the fact that these authors are encouraging teachers to engage students in writing, giving a group of students the chance to engage with an author, and, in turn helping the authors build their audience among teachers, librarians and students. Win, win, and win. (If you know teachers or librarians who would be interested, be sure to send them to the blog.)

I also dig the idea of the virtual school visit via Skype. This is nothing new idea, of course--there are authors who've been doing it successfully for some time now. (TeachingAuthors offer a couple of cool links in their contest post--one with tips on conducting virtual visits, and another that links to a Skype Author Network.)  But I still think it's pretty cool that authors can visit any classroom that's techy enough to host them, anywhere, at any time. It's less travel for authors, less expense for schools, and more opportunities for students and authors to connect. Again win, win, and win. (And something to explore for you authors and illustrator who haven't done so. Check out the Skype site for more info. You may already have all the equipment you need.)

I also like what Angela Fox is doing on her blog The Amused Critic. She's got a series of Skype interview with authors and editors (including Elizabeth Law, Lisa Yee, Paula Yoo, and Adam Rex. Angela seems to have a bias toward interview subjects who also have 3-letter last names. Hmmm.) Here's an interview with E-Law swiped from The Amused Critic. Check out the blog for more and enjoy the wonders of Skype.