Thursday, August 30, 2007

Party! Party! Party!

Hi all. This is Brian, Flux publicist.

When Andrew gave me broad and sweeping powers to be able to post on the blog, little did I suspect I would ever use them. I was tempted. He was out of town recently and I gave serious thought to doing a series of articles about the inner workings of Flux and Andrew's brain. He was offline so there was no way he could stop me. Like Albus Dumbledore, the heady aroma of power washed over me and I visualized an army of rabid blog minions, beating a cybernetic path to our virtual door, all descending upon the blog for the latest dirt on what makes an acquisitions editor tick. But, also like Dumbledore, I knew I wasn't cut out for the burden of power and I gave up my diabolical plans. (And, really, incurring Andrew's wrath is not on my TO DO list for today.)

But I digress.

I'm actually here to tell you that Sara Hantz, the lovely and talented author of THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, is having a launch party for her debut novel over on her blog. Several other YA authors are there for her, offering free books as prizes for stopping by and commenting (winners to be chosen at random). So swing by, find out a bit more about Sara's new book, and say 'hi.' She's dying to get to know you!

Who are you?

I had an experience this week that may be of interest to students of adolescent and young adult experience (and might be a slight cautionary tale for would-be submitters). As part of some volunteer work I do, I'm involved in hiring a person for a certain job. Because of the nature of this position, applicants are typically young, early-career, college types or retirees. Much of the communication in this process has been via email and this is where the interesting observation occurred.

We were deciding who should contact a certain candidate and when it was decided that I would do it, I asked for the candidate's email address. Someone read it aloud to me and immediately there were snickers from my colleagues (all of whom are older than I am, some by several decades). The candidate's address was an address from a well-known email service (one s/he might reliably keep for years, even if s/he moves and changes ISPs), but the ID was a slightly funny nickname (something like "greengopher" might cause the same reaction) that bore no resemblance to the candidate's actual name. Someone at the table said something to the effect of "well, that tells you something about [the candidate] right there." Some nodded their agreement, and we soon moved on to other business.

This got me thinking about several things, though. What an interesting quandary for this person and for our culture in general. The candidate was young enough to have had this email address since high school, conceivably, when, perhaps, s/he was instructed by vigilant parents not to choose an ID that gave away his/her name (interesting to note that eBay has a similar policy for all of its users). This person's good-kid act was hurting him/her as s/he began to try to act like an adult. I was also interested in how different this was from my reaction to the address. I was relatively unfazed by the non-name ID (though I find it slightly irritating from a practical standpoint), but I was much more relieved to see that the address was at a reliable, major email provider and was likely an individual's account, as opposed to addresses I'd encountered earlier in the discussion, which were on the order of:

Addresses like these in any circumstance (but particularly here at work) give me hives because I always have the impression that my correspondence is with a large number of people with access to the account and that the person who gave me the address does not see email as a first-priority, check-it-every-day communications medium. It immediately feels like a hassle in the making, in other words.

Neither reaction is fair or right, but aren't they interesting?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Majors for 9th Graders

This article has been making the rounds of various blogs and a lot has been said about it. I don't have a lot to add to the good-idea-bad-idea debate, aside from echoing one of the authorities quoted in the article in saying that this seems like a singularly terrible idea.

However, as someone interested in contemporary teen fiction and the degree to which it captures teenage experience, I think this could potentially add a whole new layer to the classic first-year-of-high-school experiences. It also reinforces my belief that anxiety about career and college for kids of all socioeconomic strata has taken on a whole new level of complexity and urgency.

I also found this quote interesting and a little disturbing from, especially a teacher:

“It eliminates the phrase, ‘I’m never going to need that when I grow up,’” said Randy Sherry, a technology teacher, who sees majors as a way to emphasize real-life experiences. “I don’t want to just throw education at them. I want them to be here for something they like, and that’s what the majors can do.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fear the Pink Arm Band

The police in Thailand face a harsh punishment for failure to meet behavior standards. (I'm trying to think of a literary equivalent for those who commit crimes against decent prose.)

I really don't have anything else to say, except that I'm on vacation a lot in the next two weeks, so posting may be spotty.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Why didn't she just ask S.E. Hinton?

The public radio program On the Media had an interesting piece on MySpace and Facebook and how they break down along socioeconomic and class lines. It's basically an interview with blogger Danah Boyd, who posted a long "paper" called "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace ."

Though I am personally put off by the author's style--her insistence that this subject "is too important of an issue to sit on while I find the words" and by her maddening use of the word "meta" --I think this blog entry and the On the Media interview will be of interest to YA authors simply for the issues they raise. (The conclusions are another matter, but fortunately fiction isn't really a place for conclusions.) These are, after all, issues that have been important to YA from S.E. Hinton to Scott Westerfeld.

Perhaps her most striking argument is that there are, broadly, two groups of teens on social networks, one tending to prefer Facebook and the other gravitating toward MySpace. Her labels are "hegemonic teens" and "subaltern teens." If you're inclined to care about dictionary definitions of words, then I think you'll find this terminology somewhat provocative (although they do have a nice ring--the "hegies" and the "subs"), but even more interesting is what teens she puts in which group and broad characteristics she ascribes to them. For instance:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids [later, she'll call these kids her "hegemonic teens"] are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace [social networking site of choice for her "subaltern teens"] is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.

Wow. These are familiar labels, certainly, but the way she describes and groups them fit neither my memory of my experience nor my present observations (which are admittedly less intentional and substantial than the author's). These kids are not sharing a lunch table--not even a cafeteria--in my imagination. But beside that, this statement about the "subalterns" in particular feels very old fashioned: "These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school." No doubt, there are lots of kids who fit this description, but is it really such a pervasive characteristic as this would suggest?

As an editor, whenever I see this sort of narrative in teen fiction, my pen comes out. Almost as a rule, I'm inclined to feel like a character who takes for granted not going to college after high school (that is, doesn't even give it a second thought) as a suspicious and perhaps mythological working-class stereotype--or at least something in need of very careful characterization. Generally, I'm much more interested in taking for granted that any given teenager will think about college, but that there are at least two very broad ways of thinking, one where college is cultural right of passage and an experience you share to a certain extent with your parents, and the other is as a means to an ends--a stepping stone on a way to a career. To my way of thinking, this is the interesting and more broadly applicable demarcation.

In short, I think she's painting with the wrong colors and with a brush too broad to make a meaningful picture, but I think that she's trying at all is really interesting.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Lots of new books and some required reading

It's a milestone for Flux--actually several milestones. First, I've had to reorganize my shelves to accommodate all the books we've got out. That's a pain, but I'll live. Painless milestones include:

1. The arrival of SummerDanse, the final book in the DragonSpawn cycle of Terri Garrison. Our first complete series!

2. As one series closes, another begins. The Tree Shepherd's Daughter by Gillian Summers arrived today. It's the first book of The Faire Folk Trilogy.

3. Also landing on my desk today was the trade paperback edition of Christine Kole MacLean's award-winning How It's Done. This is Flux's first trade paperback reprint edition, and that's pretty darn exciting in and of itself.

4. I've also got The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, the smart, charming YA debut from New Zealand-based author Sara Hantz, marking our first release from the southern hemisphere.

5. The final book in Linda Joy Singleton's The Seer series, Fatal Charm, is hitting stores now. This book was published under Llewellyn (the series predates Flux), but I acquired it, and I am very excited to have seen this series grow and gain a devoted following. I'm also excited to announce that Flux will be publishing Linda's next series beginning next fall. Seer fans will not be disappointed.

6. Finally, I want to draw your attentions to an imminent release from Llewellyn that may be interesting reading for anyone inclined to write about goth characters. Goth Craft by Raven Digitalis is not only an exhaustive study of "The Magical Side of Dark Culture" but it's a great resource for firsthand and respectful information on all the finer points of the goth subculture (with photos). Raven is not far from his teenage years, so his account of all the different ways of expressing goth identity (trust me, you have no idea how many ways there are) is really interesting from a YA point of view. No more cookie-cutter Marilyn Manson fans!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis

I've gotten lots of emails this morning from concerned authors and friends (thanks much!) about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. As far as I know, no one at Llewellyn was involved. Of course, our concerns are with those immediately affected by this disaster.