Thursday, December 18, 2008
In the comments section, the inimitable John Green points to the same argument I always use when someone tries to define YA as any book with a teen protagonist: Well, then, CATCHER IN THE RYE is YA. Funny, that's not where it's shelved. That would also make Brian Malloy's YEAR OF ICE a YA novel (again, not where it's shelved). Jonathan Safran Foer's EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE becomes a middle grade novel with its 9-year-old protagonist. THE LIFE OF PI was released as an adult novel, shelved in the literature section, until someone realized its crossover potential and a YA edition was later released. Would it have received the accolades it did if it had started as YA? (Sadly, probably not, owing to an excess of snobbery.)
How can people accept that adult literature can fall into literary and commercial categories (and Michael Chabon would argue that even that delineation is an atrocity) but refuse to accept that YA can offer the same depth and breadth of character? Is it simply because it's easier to dismiss that which one doesn't understand? (Well, duh, yes.) The problem, as I see it, is that little effort is made to even start to understand. That the entire YA oeuvre has, in many cases, been condemned on a small sampling. That would be like reading one poorly written science fiction novel and condemning the entire genre as a result.
I've given up being outraged when I see people whose alleged education would suggest they know better than to make blanket statements of condemnation based on their peripheral experience with YA novels. It's not worth my time or energy. It's sad, though, when the media feels the need to present only one view point on the subject. And it's always the one with the weakest arguments.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Writermania100 writes: Is there a standard font and format for manuscripts to be submitted to editors and agents?
I think there are a few standards. Double spaced? Absolutely. I don't think I'll find anyone who argues with me on that. Will I banish you to the Total Perspective Vortex for sending me something single spaced? No. (I will WISH I could banish you as I hit Ctrl-A and double space it myself and that will make me start reading your work with my mind in a haze of anger and resentment but I won't banish you.) One inch margins? Yeah, I think that's pretty standard across the board. Fonts? Oy. Some old school editors and agents ask for Courier. Personally, I hate Courier. Dunno why. Just hard on my eyes. I'm very much a Times New Roman guy. (And, yes, if you submit something in Courier, I'll do my Ctrl-A trick and magic it into being TNR.) I encourage people NOT to get creative with fonts. Don't submit your fantasy novel in Olde English font. (Please, for the love of Mike, don't submit ANYTHING in Olde English font.)
YAguy asks: Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to the stuff you read?
Of course I do. The person who tells you they don't is a liar-pants. Will I share them with you? Mmm. I dunno. As soon as I start saying, "I hate when writers do this..." it sends writers in a tizzy, either fumbling to "fix" something in their manuscript or they denounce me as a fool who wouldn't know their brilliant writing if it grew legs, crawled up my arm, and danced the Watusi. I'll say this much: I enjoy logic. I want things to make sense on some level. If your hockey playing, first person boy protagonist is spending WAY too much time cataloging every article of clothing that every character he encounters is wearing ("Todd was standing there in his navy blue, GAP, zip-up pullover, his dark tan Dockers, ankle cut white socks, and brown bowling shoes..."*), I need to know that there's a really good reason this guy is obsessed with fashion**. Otherwise, I'm going to assume you just took a writing class where the importance of concrete details was impressed upon you and you took it a liiiitle too much too heart. Again, will it make me reject you? Probably not. But you can bet any sweet bippy you may have lying around that it WILL come up in my editorial letter. And it will look a lot like this: "Is this really his voice? :-("
SuperAgent29 asks: Are you going to go and change everything that Andrew worked so hard to establish?
This actually is THE most FAQ I have. My somewhat wishy-washy answer thus far has been: I don't see the point in fixing that which isn't broken. That's not to say that I might not explore some new territory (I like to experiment) but I like what Flux is and I like what we're known for. My goal isn't to change and shake things up. My goal is to continue the standards we've tried to maintain since our inception. If that's a little vague and evasive, good. Means I can do whatever I want. :-)
Although I never opened myself up to questions, I find myself getting them. That's cool. Feel free to keep sending and maybe I'll do another of these soon. And not just out of spite.
*= I made this line up. This is not from an actual submission. But it closely approximates one of those moments where I go, "Ummm..." in certain manuscripts.
**=I'm not saying that hockey playing, first person boy protagonists CAN'T be obsessed with fashion. That might actually make for an interesting book. But the observations should be organic to the character. You should assume, for the purposes of this post, that said HPFPBP showed absolutely NO OTHER INTEREST in fashion throughout the book, except when another character would walk through the door and he would interrupt his discussion of Derek Boogaard to go into extended detail on what the character was wearing.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
From the review:
It's a testament to Smith’s skills that although her central character speaks
only through other people’s recollections, his identity emerges distinctly by
the end of the novel, giving the audience enough information to judge his
actions for themselves.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This beautiful and out-of-theordinary debut novel, with its authentic depiction
of Celtic Faerie lore and dangerous forbidden love in a contemporary American
setting, will appeal to readers of Nancy Werlin’s Impossible and
StephenieMeyer’s Twilight series.
Congrats, Maggie, on Star Deux!
Part adventure, part fantasy, and wholly riveting love story, LAMENT will
delight nearly all audiences with its skillful blend of magic and ordinary
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I sent out my first rejection letters. They were fairly low trauma* (meaning they went to people who’d submitted picture book or middle grade proposals, neither of which Flux publishes). I’m much more apprehensive about the ones I know I’ll eventually be sending to people writing what we DO publish. Even the most professional writers who know that rejection is part of the game don’t want to hear, “Sorry, not right for us.” Those writers, though, can quickly move on. For people just emerging on to the writing scene (Flux publishes many first time authors), rejection can be harder.
One of the things about rejection is that it can lead to self-doubt which, anyone who’s been writing for awhile will tell you, is a writer’s worst enemy. More than any bad review or scathing critic, self-doubt cripples, inhibits, and decimates. Of course, that’s if you let it. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Often, writers are more than willing to give themselves that consent.
There’s a wonderful musical that just closed on Broadway called [title of show]. (Yes, that’s the title of the show.) It’s a wonderful metafiction about two guys trying to write an original musical. Ultimately, the show stands as a tribute to the creative process and what creative people go through in their varied attempts to do their thang. My favorite song in the show is a number called, “Die, Vampire, Die!” It’s about dealing with doubt, that which is inflicted by others and that which comes from within. A vampire is defined as “any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression.” You can hear the song here.** (Warning: Contains adult content. Despite how unbelievably awesome this song is, I wouldn’t crank up the speakers and play this at work. Unless you wait tables part time at the International House of Curse Words. And even if you did, I doubt you’d have access to a computer so you--... I digress.)
“Die, Vampire, Die!” is my own personal creative anthem. It reminds me that someone who doesn’t like my stuff is just one person and I won’t let the vampires in my head make me think otherwise. The quality I admire most in the writers whose work crosses my desk is their fearlessness. They're not afraid to take risks. Sometimes the risks pay off, sometimes... not so much. BUT they took the risk. They got out the crucifixes and garlic garlands and managed to fend off what I can only imagine was USDA Grade A Prime Vampire Attacks. And that will always get my attention and respect.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
*=Bonus points if you sang along with the title of the post.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Lament:The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
Swimming with the Sharks by Debbie Reed Fischer
My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones
Monday, October 13, 2008
"YA readers searching for faerie stories will be happy to find this debut novel, an accomplished take on well-loved themes.... Stiefvater brings to her story several layers of romance, a knowledge of Irish music and a talent for
plot twists. She is also unafraid of taking plot developments to their logical outcomes, even when they mar the characters' happiness. Vibrant and potent, her
writing will hook genre fans. "
Thursday, October 9, 2008
One of the oldest, if not THE oldest, bits of sage advice around. Some people hear this and they nod, closing their eyes to indicate deep understanding. Others rebel and say, "If we only wrote what we knew, we wouldn't have books like LORD OF THE RINGS or books that deal with experiences no human has had."
This is a good example of what is ultimately a very good bit of advice that, without follow through (or in the hands of the wrong instructor) can go very, very wrong. It's advice that should come with a warning label: You must be this introspective to use this mantra. It's advice that some writers take to one extreme (limiting their repetoire to only writing stories with an autobiographical protagonist who does exceedingly boring things) or the other (the aforementioned "But we wouldn't have LOTR!"). Every day across the world, writing teachers unleash these four words once every six minutes** but it's the excellent writing teachers who lend it a bit of context and explain HOW to use the advice.
Here's the secret: it's not literal. "Write what you know" does not mean limit yourself to the mundane things you encounter on a day to day basis. It's a plea to funnel your experiences, your thoughts, and all the little lessons you've accumulated in life into the worlds and characters you create to lend them that ring of familiarity. Readers love to be swept away in imagination but there's always that bit that pleads, "Give me something I can relate to." No, no one I know has ever been to wizarding school. That's not what J. K. Rowling knew either (so she made it up...shocking, I know). BUT, as Harry grew older and struggled with his growing attraction to girls and the awkwardness of often being branded an outsider, well, Jo just didn't pull that out of a pointed hat. She wrote what she knew about and used it to give her characters depths and feelings. Write what you know isn't about plot, it's about character and soul and those bizarre little quirks that motivate us, for good or bad. It's about articulating your curiosity, your heartbreak, and that which gives you fever.
It's a fact: books infused with our own personal truths are better. (Prove me wrong. I dare ya.)The best plot in the world won't be sustained by cardboard characters spouting cliches. Depth comes from complexities, contradictions, and drive that can only be conveyed with self-examination and a willingness to bare the results. This holds true whether your story is a heart-wrenching, teen angst-ridden drama or a light, funny beach read. And if possible, I think this holds even more true for the fiction we label YA. As Barbara Shoup once told me: "Teens have amazing crap detectors." If you're not writing what you know in a YA book, you'll get called on it.
The best writing advice I ever got? It's not so much advice but it's a quote I keep near my computer that I look to whenever I get stuck.
To me, it says everything I hope to get across when I write and what I hope to see when I read the works of others. "Show me what astonishes/surprises/confuses you." If your characters are astonished, they have to deal with that. And THAT'S where the heart of your story comes from.
Look closely at what Dillard's saying. YOUR astonishment. It has nothing to do with wizarding schools and spaceships and yet everything to do with it. Because, in the end, writing what you don't know should always be informed by what you do know.
*=Do you read Nathan's blog? You should.
**=Totally made-up stat.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Although A.S. King's debut novel, THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, won't be released until February, it's already enjoying some fab pre-pub buzz (that's industry talk for "it's getting a nice amount of attention that one hopes will translate into interest in the book upon its release").
Then there was the shout out from Alison Morris on her PW blog, Shelf Talker, where she admired the cover (which was then admired by others).
Now, the inimitable Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom has chimed in with her thoughts. To quote Leila: "The Dust of 100 Dogs is entertaining, multi-layered, smart and definitely gripping...."
But my favorite part of Leila's review is where she questions whether or not this is YA. Anyone who pays attention to industry trades or even articles in the New York Times knows that this can be a dicey topic. Where does the Y in YA begin and end? The good news is that EVERYONE has an opinion on the matter, which leads to some great chatter on the matter. (My opinion? I adhere to Flux's credo--YA is a point of view, not a reading level.)
Again, to quote Leila: "The subject matter doesn't pertain to my YA or not YA question -- there's no topic here that I haven't found in other YA books -- it's the tone and the perspective(s). Then again, the genre is constantly evolving and expanding. Maybe in the future the line between YA and adult will get more and more blurred. I'd like that. "
I'd like that too.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
"Last night, I played poker with a deck of tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Next Monday, Brian Farrey will take over for me and begin acquiring books for Flux. Many of you know Brian as Flux's senior publicist, and in that role he has been instrumental in what we've done so far with Flux. Aside from his work at Flux, Brian is a dedicated connoisseur of YA literature, and he recently earned his MFA in creative writing with an emphasis on the genre.
Suffice it to say that I am thrilled with this choice. I think Flux is in very good hands for a successful future and I know I will follow with great interest what Brian and all of you do in the coming years.
Stay tuned for more details.
-AK (still in charge for 72 more hours)
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sales figures aren't something I dwell on a lot here, but I do think this little fact is fascinating and heartening. One of the major chains has sold over 1,500 copies of our edition of Marilyn Sachs The Fat Girl in the last eight months--and over 400 copies last week alone.
The Fat Girl was first published over twenty years ago and had been out of print for a while when I read a post of Roger Sutton's blog, where he mentioned Sachs' novel. We've now had it back in print for a little over 18 months, and while Stephanie Meyer needn't worry, I am very pleased to see several thousand copies of the book have reached readers and the book is enjoying healthy success in this second go-around.
I'm not saying this to highlight any remarkable perceptiveness on my part. It was a pretty simple deal. I liked the book, thought we could sell it, and there was space on our list. What I do think is interesting is that I have never heard a word from a reader about this book being dated (remember, it's over 20 years old) or irrelevant. All we did was update the cover and add a brief note from Marilyn. The readers did the rest.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
... he is plagued by the question that has repeatedly been asked about Norman Rockwell: was he a great artist or a mere illustrator?Similarly, Wise Brown was tormented by the sense that her work for children was not valuable and that she should strive to write for adults. (There' are long discussion of the book she worked on "with" Gertrude Stein and of her relationship with the poet and actress Michael Strange that are particularly fascinating on this point.)
“Mere illustrator,” he said, repeating the phrase with contempt. It’s not that Mr. Sendak, who has illustrated more than 100 books, including many he wrote, is angry that people question Rockwell’s talent; rather, he fears he has not risen above the “mere illustrator” label himself.
I don't think this sense of writing the wrong thing or of writing in a less valuable genre is unique to children's book authors at all, but it does seem to have a unique character. (Am I correct in observing that some authors of adult "genre fiction," especially sci-fi, have a protective chip-on-the-shoulder underappreciated attitude? I am not being critical--just an observation.)
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
As many of you have heard by now, I am leaving Flux and Llewellyn on September 26 to take the editorial directorship of Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group in Minneapolis, where I will be acquiring children's books of all sorts for all ages (including YA). I do this with a good deal of sadness because my time working at Flux (and keeping this blog) has been the most rewarding of my career, but this new challenge is very exciting and offers me unique opportunities. I simply cannot pass it up (and yes, I will continue to blog. After Sept. 26, go here for details.).
I have tried to send an email to all Flux authors, but inevitably somebody will get missed or Spam filtered, so please do give me a call if you have questions or concerns. I look forward to speaking with as many of you as possible.
Thanks so much to all of you who made this such a great three years. Please keep in touch.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
"DeKeyser accurately describes the thought process that Victoria goes through as she comes to the realization of what she's done. While at the heart of her choices is her anger over her parents' divorce, the author does not oversimplify the situation. Teens are sure to find this an interesting read."
Friday, August 29, 2008
AK: The young adult genre has gotten a lot of attention lately, and there's a lot of discussion about what makes a book "YA," as opposed to "adult." In your mind, what makes this book YA?
EWS: I didn’t give any thought to whether or not my book would be young adult. I’ve wanted to write young adult fiction since the time I was a young adult myself. I read YA literature in junior high and high school, studied YA literature in college, and specialized in YA literature in graduate school. I feel the same way a lot of YA authors feel: that in my heart, I will forever be seventeen years old.
My own feelings aside, however, I think The Way He Lived is a young adult book because of its tone. While many books for adults feature young adult characters, adult books generally have the tone of “look at what I’ve learned.” The tone in my book (and I think this is true of young adult books in general) is “learn with me.”
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
"....This is a thoughtful and often humorous read, and while there are almost too many different issues going on here (teen pregnancy, physical abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, gay bashing, life-threatening allergic reactions), Jones manages to make it all work. Her descriptions of life in a small town where everyone knows your business are spot-on, as are her depictions of high school. An occasional character is over-the-top, but Belle herself is a likable, believable character whose emotional crises will resonate with teens."Meanwhile, over at SLJTeen, they've reviewed Girl, Hero very favorably. You must read the whole thing because it's a good, thoughtful review from an actual teen reader, but this part is particularly interesting:
I was really nervous picking up this book because Carrie Jones’ previous novels, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend (Flux, 2007) and Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) (Flux, 2008) are my two favorite books in the world. I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this book and found a fresh, new voice jumping off of the page at me. There were still some familiar elements of Carrie Jones’ other books, like the bits about sexuality, Amnesty International, and Students for Social Justice, but it was enough of a new story that those elements didn’t bug me too much. One thing that was a bit disappointing was the fact that Lili has a cat named Muffin, and so does the character Belle Philbrick from Tips … It doesn’t seem creative at all. Even though Muffin is only mentioned one time in “Girl, Hero” that I can remember, names should always be changed when you write another book that isn’t part of a series.
I for one was glad to see Muffin reappear in another book, but apparently that was less okay than I thought. Authors, be aware.
Girl, Hero also got some nice coverage in a PW article about epistolary novels:
Another fictional letter writer is the protagonist of Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones, due in August from Flux. At school, Lily is searching for a way to fit in yet still be herself, while at home she must deal with a needy mother and a traumatized older sister. Struggling to find someone to believe in, Lily pens letters to her hero, the late John Wayne, a strategy that helps her find the hero inside herself.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Meanwhile, allow me a moment of self-promotion. I'm teaching a class this fall at the wonderful Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. It's called "Revising the Young Adult Novel." If you're in the area, you can come hear more about it next Tuesday, at the open house.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
"[Everything You Want] about each character searching out what they truly want in spite of—rather than because of—the new money in their lives. For Emma, a college freshman who's never dated (her closest experience hither-to resulted in her getting punched in the face), it's about groping her way into the future and, she hopes, finding love along the way—universal themes in spite of extraordinary circumstances. Also, did I mention that much of the dialogue is downright hilarious?"
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Robin Friedman's Nothing probably managed to do something no other book has done before. She got reviewed in the Huffington Post and Guys Lit Wire on the same day. The HuffPo article is by journalist and mental health advocate Tom Davis, who suffered from bulimia as a young man and is Robin's inspiration for the story. Davis writes:
"When I first told Robin about my history, I could see her connecting in a way that displayed a combination of humility, empathy and sympathy -- a rare trait for anybody in a society that's too busy to communicate in ways that are more complex than a one-sentence e-mail.
"Robin, in fact, is on a short list of people in my life who, I believe, can connect with people on an emotionally deep level. She has a sincerity -- as well as a raw and honest, but affecting laugh -- that can put the most unrefined person at ease."
I've had a chance to talk to Tom briefly and his commitment to this issue is impressive. It's not often that I get to interact with a book, its author, and her inspiration all at once, so this has been a particularly exciting book for me.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The blog Reading Keeps Me Sane recently reviewed an advance copy of Debbie Fischer's Swimming with the Sharks.
Overall the book is brilliant. The ending was scintillating. I loved the book in the end. It was just hard to finish reading it, but I'm really happy I did. Debbie Reed Fischer is an excellent writing. She's going to be a huge Young Adult Fiction writer in the future. I can't wait to read her first book, Braless in Wonderland which came out this past April.
Debbie is a member of the Class of 2K8 author's group. I contributed a little backstory on Debbie's path to publication for their blog. I think they're posting it this week.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
I'm composing this using a free piece of Microsoft software called Windows Live Writer. It's a standalone editor that can post to most major blog platforms (I use Blogger) and I'm pretty sure it's awesome (not as awesome Henry, built still pretty awesome). Here's just a few bells and whistles: It supports drag and drop pictures and allows you to resize them intelligently. You can customize the border width. And, when you grab an image that's a link, like from Amazon or your dear publisher's web site, it grabs the link, too (click the CWIM cover image). All of this with no coding. The editor detects your blog's layout, so the layout you see as you compose is what you get--you can even preview it in full context. It's got a tool for tables, video, maps, and people are writing plugins for it, so it's expanding all the time. Basically, it seems like Word, but for blogging. If you're running Windows and you blog, then I'm pretty sure this will save you time. Get it free.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I quipped in an email to a colleague that "the book industry screws artists in lots of ways, but I’m beginning to think the greatest crime it’s perpetrated is forcing writers to accept its convenient marketing categories as meaningful to the value of their work."
Actually, I think it takes two to perpetrate this particular travesty. Novelists have to take the categories seriously. I will acknowledge that it would require a naive view of human nature to expect authors to be completely uninterested in how their publishers and readers categorize their work, but I think it takes a similarly naive view of the history of the novel itself to get overly involved in the fine points of contemporary commercial characterization of their work. A novelist's contemporaries are often extraordinarily bad judges of what a novel is. From its birth, the novel--especially in English--was seen as a trivial, second class form. Most novel writing was popular, disposable entertainment. Even into the 20th century, the book business proved wildly inconsistent in its initial characterization of books, from their content to their permanence, sometimes to the author's financial advantage.
Many of my authors know that Nabokov is my go-to example for a lot of things, and this is no exception. The first American editors to read Lolita in manuscript were sure they and the author would go to jail if the book were published. Their attitudes only softened slightly after the book was released by a French publisher with a reputation for erotica (a certain court ruling also helped).
An article in the Boston Globe by Harvard Prof. Leland de la Durantaye from three years ago sums it up nicely:
'Lolita appeared in two pale green volumes from the Paris-based Olympia Press in September 1955. Few readers took notice of the foreign publication until December, when Graham Greene, writing in the London Sunday Times, included the book by the virtually unknown Nabokov in his list of the three best he had read that year. John Gordon, a conservative Scottish editor, examined the unexpected entry in Graham's list and shortly thereafter denounced it in the Sunday Express as "the filthiest book I have ever read," adding that it was "sheer unrestrained pornography." Sales soared, interest increased, and when, after much fearful hesitation on the part of publishers, the work was published in an American edition in 1958, it spent six months as No. 1 on the bestseller charts.'
So, which was more important to the book's success? It's legitimization by Greene or its vilification by Gordon. Or both? I tend to think the controversy--is it art, is it porn?--was the important factor. Nabokov, who outwardly scorned concerning himself with an audience any larger than his one ideal reader, seems to have been reasonably and pragmatically content to tolerate the mischaracterization and occasional abuse (see movie tie-in cover) of his book in the popular imagination, as long as a core of readers (eventually a very, very large core) understood its genius, and as long as he was comfortably compensated for that popular success (which he was, Lolita the book and movie that followed allowed him to quit teaching and live comfortably in Montreux, Switzerland for the rest of his life).
I can't guarantee anyone caught up in the is-it-YA,is-it-adult? controversies a comfortable existence in a Swiss hotel, but I'm having a hard time seeing how it's a bad thing.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
"To me this is so clearly a teenager being interrogated. I mean, how many times have you spoken to your own teenage kids this way..."It's not so clearly a "child," but a teenager. He's recognizing something universal. For me, one of the strongest indicators of YA in fiction is what Gjelten is picking up on: an unbearable tension created by a young person in an adult situation (in this case a situation that no adult would handle well, either). This is why I think of YA as a genre.
(Interesting to note that they got lots of letters about that comment. The ones they read vigorously disagreed.)
Alice Pope just announced at her blog that the 2009 CWIM (Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Marketplace)
is now available. Aside from it being a lovely shade of lavender, it contains articles by people like author Cynthia Leitich Smith and editor Allyn Johnston, and there are interviews with Sherman Alexie, Cecil Castelluci, and Scotwesterfled, among others. And I wrote an article, too, wherein I manage to discuss the medieval world view, John Cougar Mellencamp, Nirvana, Peter Cameron, and Lorrie Moore. I did mention this was a plug, right?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I'm so happy to see reviews like this for Wish You Were Here and for Marilyn Sachs' The Fat Girl, which we also rereleased a while ago. There is a great deal of interesting YA by active authors languishing out of print. I firmly believe that teen readers aren't bothered by "contemporary" stories set a decade or two in the past.
"I often write about how it is hard to review teen books as an adult - you just don't think like a teenager anymore so sometimes adult reviewers can get frustrated by how teenagers act. Barbara Shoup's Wish You Were Here is so pitch perfect though, that as the child of divorced parents whose mother remarried when I was a teen....well let me just say this woman knows of what she writes. She nails so much of the frustration of that situation; it is eerie. Flux has reissued the book (it came out in May) and I'm so happy with it - expect more in my August column."
I wracked my brains to think of ways to talk more about [Lament] in the upcoming weeks (okay, not really. Really I just drank some sweet tea and listened to some City Sleeps and decided I like to draw bears doing funny things), and I decided that what I want to do is feature a teaser from LAMENT every Tuesday from now until its release.
Yeah, that didn't help me much either, so maybe you should just go look.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Charlotte's Library has a great entry about Girl, Hero, in which she identifies a little-recognized benefit of Carrie's novels:
"That being said, here’s another reason why I am going to try to get my
boys to read the works of Carrie Jones. She writes the nicest high
school boys ever (in this book, it’s Paolo, who’s cool and sweet and
understanding), and I want my sons to be that nice too."
True, but why, if Carrie is capable of such great boys (and she is), is her one super-bad boy named Andrew?
Friday, July 11, 2008
"Parker's negative body image and need for control will be familiar to teen readers, but the callous dismissal of his few attempts to discuss his worries says worlds about social expectations for teen boys."
In a quirky but deliberate voice both serious and funny, Lily navigates her complicated life by writing to John Wayne. ... [R]eaders will respond to the self-aware but vulnerable Lily as she grows over time into her own unique hero."
And then Midwest Book Review has a review of our paperback of Barbara Shoup's Wish You Were Here.
"Chock-full of the fierce and the fey, Maggie Stiefvater's Lament is musical, magical, and practically radiating romance. A blood-fresh reinvention of old traditions, perfect for engaging sharp minds and poetic hearts."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The ALAN review has an awesome review of Carrie's novel. A highlight:
'Readers will find secret comfort in Liliana’s
so-absurd-it-must-be-true story, noticing specks of their own lives scattered here and there, specks they do not want anyone to know about, specks that make them who they are. Liliana’s story will empower
readers, reminding them of their ability to overcome anything, as long
as they first tip their hat and whisper “saddle up.”'
Couldn't agree more.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Pattern 84 is called Teenage Society. Here's the problem:
"Teenage is the time of passage between childhood and adulthood. In traditional societies, this passage is accompanied by rites which suit the psychological demands of the transition. But in modern society the 'high school' fails entirely to provide this passage."
And here's a taste of the solution:
"We believe that teenagers in a town, boys and girls from age 12 to 18, should be encouraged to form a miniature society, in which they are as differentiated, and as mutually responsible, as the adults in full scale society . . . . Therefore: Replace the 'high school' with an institution which is actually a model of adult society. . . ."
Here's the other teenage pattern, number 154 Teenager's Cottage:
"If a teenager's place in the home does not reflect his need for a measure of independence, he will be locked in conflict with his family."
There solution is what they call the "teenage cottage." The whole description of how they conceive the space is really interesting to me. They see space as a way to help a teenager redefine their connection to the family--still connected, but also independent. Here's the solution:
"To mark a child's coming of age, transform his place in the home into a kind of cottage that expresses in a physical way the beginnings of independence. Keep the cottage attached to the home, but make it a distinctly visible bulge, far away from the master bedroom, with a private entrance, perhaps its own roof."The authors are confident of the archetypal nature of all the problems they identify, but they rate their solutions on a zero-to-three scale to measure how elemental they believe their solutions are--whether they believe there are solutions to the problem that don't incorporate elements of their solution (scoring a zero) or they believe no solution is possible without incorporating theirs (a three). Both of these score a zero. Interesting.
Their first pattern-solution pair seems like Lord of the Flies to me, but I find the second really interesting. I'm sure you could find dozens of examples of this in practice in YA novels and teen TV. (Anybody else thinking of that Beach Boys song, "In My Room"?)
Friday, July 4, 2008
When we were picking a logo for Flux a few years ago, I said it had to be cool enough for me to get it tattoed somewhere, but I only got as far as the Sharpie prototype.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
'Writing for young people is really exciting. As one YA writer told me,
"Adolescence is a series of brave, irreversible decisions." One day,
you're someone who's never told a lie of consequence; the next day you
have, and you can never go back. One day, you're someone who's never
done anything noble for a friend, the next day you have, and you can
never go back. Is it any wonder that young people experience a
camaraderie as intense as combat-buddies? Is it any wonder that the
parts of our brain that govern risk-assessment don't fully develop
until adulthood? Who would take such brave chances, such existential
risks, if she or he had a fully functional risk-assessment system?'
The only tiny criticism I have isn't even really a criticism. I would just add that in no way is his thesis limited to sci-fi--Doctorow's subgenre (yes, subgenre) of choice. What he says applies broadly to any kind of YA writing.