Thursday, May 29, 2008

OR NOT and the pledge in the news

Here's a great piece about Brian Mandabach, author of Or Not.

So how does a 46-year-old man write the first-person account of a 14-year-old girl?
"I pulled the old Our Bodies, Ourselves off the bookshelf a couple of times," he recalls laughing, "but mostly, I just had to get into character."
Right . . .

In related new, doesn't it seem like school districts would learn that there's nothing more American than refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school? It has to be the most common form of early civil disobedience. And yet school boards always fall into the trap of suspending kids and then looking like morons by trying to make patently unconstitutional rules. The republic will survive a few kids sitting down for the pledge. Here's the latest nonsense from a MN district.

We only had the pledge up through junior high, when I stopped saying it (no one noticed or cared). So, how did you protest the pledge?

Where the readers are (maybe?):

I can't quite get my head around how this works or if it works, but it's an interesting take on social networking that seems to have teen appeal. is combination of fashion, shopping, and social networking recently launched by a Yahoo! alum. Basically, a browser plug-in allows you to snag web images (particularly of clothes, apparently) and combine them into sets, like this:

Why do I know about this? Because Laurie Stolarz discovered that a user had made a set for Blue is for Nightmares. And there are Stephenie Meyer sets. It does not appear that anyone has made a set for Feed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prom pictures

If my senior picture didn't slake your freakish thirst for the 90s, then head over to Carrie Jones' blog, where prom pictures abound.

And speaking of the 90s, complete episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 are available on the CBS web site. My wife and I watched fifteen minutes of episode 010 (which I'd seen, of course, because I watched the show, but she hadn't because she was that kind of kid), and it was shockingly terrible and familiar at the same time. I may continue to watch, though, because I'm sure there's an episode where Dylan is reading Byron ("Mad, bad, and dangerous to know") in his Porsche, and that's just too hilarious. (Thanks Bookshelves of Doom.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Band Geek Love

We're hearing some great things from the blogosphere about Josie Bloss's Band Geek Love--like this post from the Ya, Ya, Yas and this one from Book Divas.

"I really enjoyed all of the characters and was pleased Josie Bloss took the time to focus on the very endearing secondary characters and concluded their respective storylines in a satisfactory way as well. Overall, I give BAND GEEK LOVE a resounding two thumbs up and will look forward to what Josie Bloss writes next!"


There's an interesting piece in the New York Times auto section about a father who made a deal with his teenage son to buy him a replica kit of Shelby 427 Cobra (read: rare, super-expensive 60s sports car) if he maintained an honor roll position in high school through graduation. (The father introduces his son as "underachieving.")

I never knew of an example quite as extreme as this (this car is many tens of thousands of dollars), but I do remember miniature versions of this scenario in high school. In this case, I like particularly how it appears that the incentive was offered rather thoughtlessly by Dad and not spoken of before graduation, but once the son had his diploma, he expected the bargain to be honored. There's interesting tension there; I wish I could hear this from the son's POV.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Independent Publisher Awards

The IPPYs were very good to Flux this year!

Congratulations are in order for Carrie Jones whose debut Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend took home gold for best young adult novel (in a tie with The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel by Drew Hayden Taylor). Simone Elkeles is also a gold medalist in the multicultural children's fiction category for her third novel, How to Ruin My Teenage Life.

Congratulations Simone and Carrie!

This is the second time a Flux author has taken the best YA IPPY. Christine MacLean did it with How It's Done in 2006.

Mr. V. on the Summber Blog Blast

Brian just reminded me of this:

"All this week, the major YA lit bloggers have been hosting the 'Summer Blog Blast Tour,' offering a slew of interviews with some pretty big names in YA. Our own Varian Johnson gave a great interview that was posted today on Finding Wonderland. Check it out."

Yes, do.

Senior pictures

There's a teenage rite of passage I've yet to encounter in a teen novel: senior pictures. Have I missed it? Has the rite disappeared?

Senior pictures were a huge and expensive deal where I grew up (Battle Creek, MI). You essentially had a multi-hour session with a portrait photographer and perhaps various props from your life (in my case, there were many shots with my French horn). I actually ended up having my session redone after my mom saw the proofs and suggested, very politely, that perhaps the large Amish beard I was sporting at the time wasn't the best look for posterity. I wonder what happened to those proofs? (The second session wasn't a whole lot better, sadly, as you can see.)

Anyway, senior pictures ended up in the yearbooks (much larger than the pictures of the underclassmen), but we also handed them out with personalized inscriptions on the back (or not, if a snub was in order). There was even a rather ugly socioeconomic class aspect to it all, wherein there were cool photogs and not-so-cool photogs, correlating roughly with their fees. And it was definitely not socially acceptable to get the pictures at Glamour Shots or a mall portrait studio.

All of this was largely pre-Internet and pre-digital photography, and I have no idea how this works now in the age of Facebook and pervasive digital cameras, but I'd be really curious to see it in a novel.

Bonus: Check out this NPR piece on China, featuring fascinating details about the phenomenon of "Barbie photos" for middle-class Chinese teens. Really. Interesting.


Gawker calls blogger Emily Gould one half of blogging's equivalent of George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia, and if that's the case, then Martha's taking the war to the New York Times, with a piece in this Sunday's Times Magazine, wherein she gives a great deal of insight into her life online.

The details of who Emily Gould is and the Gawker backstory are readily available and well covered in the piece, and none of it is explicitly fodder for a blog about teen fiction. After all, Gawker and its ilk are creations of 20 and 30 somethings who straddle (barely) a pre-Internet era. You can only talk about "overshare" if there was once an established level of appropriate sharing and you can kind of remember it. In Emily's words:

Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life. As soon as I could write notes, I passed them incorrigibly. In high school, I encouraged my friends to circulate a notebook in which we shared our candid thoughts about teachers, and when we got caught, I was the one who wanted to argue about the First Amendment rather than gracefully accept punishment. I walked down the hall of my high school passing out copies of a comic-book zine I drew, featuring a mock superhero called SuperEmily, who battled thinly veiled versions of my grade’s reigning mean girls. In college, I sent out an all-student e-mail message revealing that an ex-boyfriend shaved his chest hair. The big difference between these youthful indiscretions and my more recent ones is that you can Google my more recent ones.

It's that last sentence that I think has interesting implications for writing teenager characters and scenarios. What does it mean when your youthful indiscretions are Googleable? When you no longer have the luxury of the circumscribed playground of high school, where your record is essentially expunged at the end--at least as far as the public is concerned?

Inevitably, in high school you will seek a platform and want to be heard. When you get that platform, you will, in all likeluhood, say something you won't want to be reminded of in a decade. Ten years ago, the scope, audience, and longevity of that platform for all but the most outrageous acts was narrow, small, and short. You could be someone at sixteen and not hear about it when you were twenty six. I didn't quite rise to Emily's level in high school, but I certainly wrote some things in school publications that I'm glad not to find on Google (I recall evoking Nazi fascism in a critique of a relatively mild dress code). I'm the only one who remembers them. For lot of teenagers, there is no similar experience. Very little is truly temporary or private. What's it like not to have the experience or expecation of privacy and impermanence?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Authors in the news

Barbara Shoup is featured in an Indianapolis paper, including an interesting dialogue between her and her author daughter.

Robin Friedman is the covergirl for a New Jersey Magazine.

And Laurie Stolarz gets notice for a classroom visit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Email issue

Apparently, emails sent to my account (and any other account, for that matter, including publicists) have been bouncing back for a while, now. You may get a message that says "does not like recipient," which I'm trying not to take personally. The equivalent addresses are definitely working (same username Or you can leave a comment on this post if you've been trying to reach me and gotten a bounce-back message.

(This isn't me. My cube is a little bit bigger and I'm quite a bit smaller. Sentiments are the same.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Carrie Jones! Multitasker!

Carrie Jone's first two novel got some nice recognition this week. First, VOYA had a good review of Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape): "The book raises many hot topic issues, from teen sex and pregnancy to gay rights, but it keeps them personal and real, without any preaching or judgments. Ultimately, this is a story about Belle defining who she is and who she wants to be. It’s a journey every teen must take, and this novel should be equally universal in its appeal.”

And her Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend is a semifinalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award for YA. (Flux author Christine MacLean took this award a couple years ago for How It's Done.)

And, according to her blog, Carrie fulfilled her mommy-pledge not to take her daughter to school looking like Amy Winehouse, something we can all be thankful for.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another good review for EVERYTHING YOU WANT

This time in VOYA. Among other nice things:

"This entertaining coming-of-age journey is also a thought-provoking look at what money can and cannot do."
And for those of you who speak VOYA-code:

4Q 4P S

More Ayn Rand (sorry Brian)

I blogged last week about the inherent YA appeal of Ayn Rand (and I think Literaticat got close to the reason in her comment). This piece from NPR's On the Media (a show everyone should listen to weekly) puts it into further perspective. It's worth the hearing the whole 13-minute bit, but the YA stuff is toward the end.

Transcript here.

Why do I think this is interesting? Because I think it's worthwhile to examine books that appeal to teens that are manifestly not YA in any sense we use the term now. I am not a secret Rand fanboy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Things that are awesome

I saw the Penguin reissues of the Ian Fleming Bond novels on Book Design Review. Once again, Penguin knocks the packaging out of the park--shameless and stylish at once. If only they sold all of these in a boxed set with a bottle of vodka . . .

Only a tenuous YA connection in that if I ran a YA section in a library, I would totally shelve these. Reluctant readers? Oh yeah. James Patterson may have his "Pageturners" for "ages 10 to 110," but how can he beat these for pure mindcandy style?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Carrie Jones is busy

This is no surprise, of course. And of course she's also busy with interesting things. And since I'm busy and lazy, I'm simply cutting and pasting straight from her blog:

"Also, this week I'm posting at a craft blog of nine alum from Vermont College's MFA program. It's about dialogue and the first two posts are about class. I'll be talking to superstar agent Edward Necarsulmer, Editor Andrew Karre, authors Micol Ostow, Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Urban.If you go over there and comment you will be entered into TWO contests:1. The first is mine and you will win two of my books and a secret surprise. The books are TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND, and the newly released LOVE (AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE).2. The second is exclusive to the Thru the Tollbooth blog and you win a signed copy of one of Micol's great books."
Go forth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You can't have AYN RAND without YAs?

So, this morning there was a piece on NPR about Ayn Rand studies in college. The piece itself was interesting, but what really stayed with me as I was riding in was the nagging question of why is Ayn Rand so persuasive for teenagers and undergrads? (I get why she's popular with CEOs, no problem.)

For much of high school, I self-identified as an objectivist and might have called her my favorite author. I remember breathlessly reading the infamous John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged on a bus ride for a museum filed trip (really, who reads when you've got three unstructured hours on a bus with your friends?). I remember fervently arguing objectivist viewpoints in social studies classes.

Anyway, I don't think I was particularly weird in role as an Ayn Rand fanboy. I wasn't alone. The Ayn Rand Institute is pretty aggressive about promoting the books in schools (posters, contest, schwag for teachers, etc.). An English teacher actually gave me a copy of Anthem and said I should do the contest. When I got to college, there was an objectivist club and I wasn't the only freshman interested. (My own obsession didn't survive first term, however, and it has so far never returned.)

So, what's the appeal? Why does her way of presenting capitalism and self-interest pack such a wallop for so many young adults? Or am I imagining this?

(For what it's worth, I'm not suggesting that adolescent objectivism is necessarily a bad thing. So long as it's a temporary thing.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

A starred review for EVERYTHING YOU WANT

Barbara Shoup's new YA, Everything You Want, has earned a star in the latest issue of KLIATT.

The whole review is lovely, but here's a taste:

"Just thinking about how money would change everything is an intriguing place for a story to begin, especially in the hands of a skilled writer."

And, of course, we appreciate that little *, which "highlights exceptional books."