Shaking Up YA Writers & Readers Around the Bay


Litquake Rocks!!!
Thanks to the ever fab Tara Weaver, our humble Finding Wonderland writers are getting a primo chance to be involved with Litquake, San Francisco’s fun and flighty literary festival. For the first time since their beginning in 2002, YA writers will be really represented, and a will be featured as a stop on the infamous toddle down Valencia Street, Lit Crawl.

Five fabulous YA writers will be reading selections from some of their latest works October 15th from 5-6:15 pm at Valencia Street Books in San Francisco, as part of the much anticipated Lit Crawl. They are: Mills College professor and mystery writer Kathryn Reiss, reading from SWEET MISS HONEYWELL’S REVENGE, the talented Gennifer Choldenko, reading her newly released AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, the irrepressible Joyce Maynard, reading from THE CLOUD CHAMBER, Katherine Sturtevant reading from the complex and thoughtful novel AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR, and thought-provoking historical novelist Michael Cadnum, reading from STARFALL. (These books have not yet been reviewed on our sister site! Read them? Let’s hear about them!)

Hosted by our own A.Fortis, this event promises to be exciting and inspirational to all of us fledgling and would-be writers. Why not catch more of the Litquake ’05 events if you can? Check out their website now!

Random Booknotes

This month’s Book Page had a great feature on Jane Smiley’s new book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. This book sounds a lot like what we might have read in Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s class at Mills, since she’s all about making lazy readers into better writers by requiring them to really dig into some tough novels they might normally just set aside. Smiley’s book talks a bit about what makes good novels and what makes escapist novels. She overviews 100 novels that more or less span the history of literature — from the obscure to the popular, a sort of Best Novels canon. What did she discover? Serious novels, says Smiley, don’t allow you to escape. Instead they ask you to reconsider what you were thinking about in a new way. Sounds like a book to look into to me.


Wow, what a rush it must be to be Christopher Paolini. Paolini, just 19, wrote Eragon, the first book he’d ever written, as a first novel in a trilogy when he was just 15. Yeah, this, after having read all the books in his local library and graduating from high school that same year… He finished and self published at 17. Of course, it helps if your parents have a publishing company, but what a rush when you skip college to write a book that not only sells, but sells 1.5 million copies in North America alone, and remains on the bestseller list for eighty-five weeks. An even bigger rush might include the film rights being optioned, and Ed Speeler, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich shooting it in Budapest! It’s due to be released in 2006.

But surely – the greatest buzz of all? In its third week on the NY Times bestseller list, Eldest the second volume in the Inheritor trilogy, has passed the latest Potter epic to take its place at number one. Granted, Harry has been on top for nine weeks, but this is quite a feat for someone under 20, who hasn’t yet made it to college, and has only written two books in his life thus far. Go Chris Go! We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, obviously!


Carolyn Keene, the imaginary writer who won’t die: Strangely located on the Style page of the Chronicle is a review of a new book on Carolyn Keene, the composite pseudonym of several writers behind the celebrated Nancy Drew series. Melanie Rehak, whose first book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, became completely intrigued with the pre-feminist history of this literary character when she heard the NPR obituary of Mildred Wirt Benson on the radio one day. She wanted to know who the ‘real’ Nancy Drew really was. Fans of the plucky blonde sleuth will thrill with all the attention being paid to the reborn 40’s teenager. From a new Manga-styled cover art to more modern character sketches, Nancy Drew seems fated, at 75, to be here to stay…

We have more writers wandering through the SF Bay Area than we know what to do with. Here are a few highlights of who’s in town this weekend:

Though this isn’t really a YA book, the protagonist of Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide is thirteen, and growing up in a wonderful autumnal coming-of-age book. There’s a great luncheon planned in Pleasanton with the author at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday (9/22) It’s $10/lunch; $28 lunch and book. Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton. (925) 846-8826.

Wouldn’t it be the coolest to have a dad who worked on Alcatraz Island in 1935? Okay, maybe not. But if the warden’s daughter was cool… how much fun could you get up to? Okay. Fun is another name for t-r-o-u-b-l-e. But that’s the schtick in this well spoken of YA novel of historical fiction called
Al Capone Does My Shirts. Author, Gennifer Choldenko is having a meet-n-greet next Saturday at 2 p.m. Crissy Field Center, Bldg. 603, Mason and Halleck streets, the Presidio, S.F. (415) 561-7752. Also don’t forget that Pratchett’s in town this week, too!

Autumn arrives this week. Celebrate with a new book!

Odds 'n' Ends

I’m going on a little vacation at the end of the month, and I’m not taking my computer. I’m going to try and write some snatches of atmosphere — descriptions of countryside, cityscapes, and more. I’m going to try some old-school writing techniques and take lots of notes to hopefully find some great scenes to stick in books someday.

I feel like I’m going back to grad school and sitting down in coffee shops, writing down conversations I overhear…

REMINDER: The Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant, established by SCBWI and the family of Kimberly Colen, honors the memory of this children’s writer by helping authors and illustrators publish their first book. Two grants will be awarded in 2005, each for $2500, along with transportation, lodging and tuition to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. One grant will be for a picture book and/or an early reader book, but the other will be for a chapter book for middle grade, and or a YA book. Applicants must write a 1-page letter (250 words maximum) about the book they propose to write, and include their an excerpt from the book, and their contact information. The letters must be put in a #10, business-sized envelope, postmarked no earlier than October 1, and no later than November 15 mailed to:

SCBWI Kimberly Colen Grant Letter
Box 20322 Park West Finance Station
New York, NY, 10025-1512

The 24th Annual Delacorte Press Contest is open again for submissions October 1 through December 31! First time writers may submit book entries between 100 to 224 pages in length, suitable for readers aged 12-18, and Delacorte is specifically asking for stories with contemporary settings.

Writers, start your engines!

Odds ‘n’ Ends

I’m going on a little vacation at the end of the month, and I’m not taking my computer. I’m going to try and write some snatches of atmosphere — descriptions of countryside, cityscapes, and more. I’m going to try some old-school writing techniques and take lots of notes to hopefully find some great scenes to stick in books someday.

I feel like I’m going back to grad school and sitting down in coffee shops, writing down conversations I overhear…

REMINDER: The Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant, established by SCBWI and the family of Kimberly Colen, honors the memory of this children’s writer by helping authors and illustrators publish their first book. Two grants will be awarded in 2005, each for $2500, along with transportation, lodging and tuition to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. One grant will be for a picture book and/or an early reader book, but the other will be for a chapter book for middle grade, and or a YA book. Applicants must write a 1-page letter (250 words maximum) about the book they propose to write, and include their an excerpt from the book, and their contact information. The letters must be put in a #10, business-sized envelope, postmarked no earlier than October 1, and no later than November 15 mailed to:

SCBWI Kimberly Colen Grant Letter
Box 20322 Park West Finance Station
New York, NY, 10025-1512

The 24th Annual Delacorte Press Contest is open again for submissions October 1 through December 31! First time writers may submit book entries between 100 to 224 pages in length, suitable for readers aged 12-18, and Delacorte is specifically asking for stories with contemporary settings.

Writers, start your engines!

Terry Pratchett

I’m not one of those people who likes, say, jokes… I’d rather just smirk sardonically at life than go to a comedy club. Surprisingly, I do like funny books, if they’re just funny incidentally, and I do like weird British humor. I find writer Terry Pratchett one of the better writers of surrealist comedy of any kind, and he writes… well… It’s kind of fantasy…only in the sense that the world is actually a disc set on the back of four massive elephants… who are, in turn, are riding atop a giant turtle. (Kind of like ours, right?) The disc is a board game for the various panoply of gods who bet on the stakes of hapless wizards and random citizens.

As for the worlds in that universe, well, they’ve got vampires and trolls. Death makes occasional appearances… with his granddaughter. And his horse. And his lovely black and white house and garden. And his four buddies, apocalyptic horsemen, who’ve stayed in touch all these years. There are kingdoms, and witches, and the odd Handsome Prince with his beloved werewolf girlfriend. There’s an interspecies police force that employs a golem. And dwarves. Mostly, Pratchett’s Discworld books are like a fairy tale gone quite thoroughly mad. And I await each new one with glee.’

They’re impossibly relevant to present day, this-world politics and history. They’re satire. They’re just darned funny. Check them out!

I’m off to get Pratchett’s newest book! He’ll be in the Bay Area soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:30 PM
CODY’S BOOKS
Speaking/Signing autographs
2454 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704

Thursday, September 22, 2005 7:00 PM
THE BOOKSMITH
Speaking/Signing autographs
1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Enjoy!

Wading through my brain

More hurricane stuff:

There’s not much space to avoid reality when it keeps leaking into my brain via all kinds of media outlets. I’m doing my best to single-handedly support the Red Cross ($10,124,762.25 raised as of today and counting!) by shopping where there are donations made tips and change, and sending the cash I can afford to hopefully buy underwear and clean water for those in need. Today I found out where to send packages of necessities to various locations in the Gulf States (and I can give you the 411 if you really want to know), and I’m having fun collecting basic needful things – and stickers! I mean, isn’t this a bad enough disaster without glittery underpants and stickers! — for kids. No books yet, since displaced people have to schlepp their stuff… and they have enough to shoulder at present.

So much political debate is going on — are they ‘refugees?’ or are they survivors? I vote for ‘survivors.’ People in the Gulf states, where they are annually wind-battered, flooded and flattened, have got to be some of the toughest people around. May their spirits be as resilient… I hope that people like Mills alum and former classmate Mahmud Rahman and the Neo-Griot New Orleans Project who will be going around in New Orleans, collecting stories not only of the disaster, but of the lives of the survivors, remembers to record the stories of the children… The stories that kids can tell should be told. Every other kid in America needs to hear what it was like living in New Orleans before this last month. Every child needs to think about how they will act and feel and be during a disaster. The best children’s and YA books give kids a chance to fill another kid’s shoes, if just for awhile.

New Orleans resident and Project leader, Kalama ya Salaam adds,
“Too often when major historic events take place, those who are live at the margins of the mainstream are ignored. We know what the presidents and generals did, we know what the business leaders and major cultural figures thought, but do we know anything about the poor, the disenfranchised, the people of the Dome, the overpass, as well as those who left the city on Sunday and as of Tuesday night had no city to return to?

During the Great Depression the WPA collected the stories of people who had experienced slavery. Today we will collect the stories of people who survived a defining moment in American and World History.”

The project objective is:

1. to put the words and images of the people on the internet via a New Orleans
Project website.

2. to teach the respondents how to access the internet, so that they can
continue sharing their views after the neo-griots leave.

3. to archive the resulting information so that it can be researched and
accessed worldwide.

There are stories yet to be heard, and yet to be written. Like a campfire shining clear in a dark and unfamiliar wood, I hope the smaller stories will shine out and be seen…as hope, as memory, and as the means to rebuild a world.

After Hurricane Katrina: Is It Too Soon To Think Of Books?

Okay, people are needing shelter. I know that.
People are needing basic necessities like food and untainted water and medical care and protection from gun-toting thugs and gun-toting vigilantes.


I wish I could rock the South to sleep and tell them this hurricane/levee breakage/rising water/flooded homes/floating corpses/lost loved ones thing is a bad, bad, dream that will dissipate with the mists of morning.


Wishful thinking aside, I am trying to find something to do here, since I can’t go and rescue my relatives (blessedly missed by most of the rising water, as they don’t live IN New Orleans; the flood waters didn’t rise quite as high in the parishes further away. They’re just low on food, have no power and limited phones, and are low on pharmacologicals, but are alive… Thank God, Shiva, Buddha, or whomever – insert your Deity here.) and weeping every time I watch the news is somewhat, um, counter productive…

MoveOn.org, being the remarkably righteous people they are, have come up with a civic arm that ignores such absurdities as blue/red state, and have come down to the real issues, like housing — which is a wonderful thing for the people who live within 100 miles of the worst of the grief. I can’t help out with that, but here’s my best thought so far: I realize the schools and the libraries are going to be rotted stinking pulps of paper waste, in an already low literacy area (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana – AND all three have rural poverty rates that are amazingly high, no coincidence)… Maybe we can do something like what Pamela Ribbon did for the Oakland School Library system, and come up with some kind of groundswell thing to collect books to support the libraries and schools, in a positive “you’re going to reopen someday” kind of mindset. Maybe the LitCrawl thing (which may have our name on it?) can somehow be involved in raising funds or collecting books…? Trying to think… but there’s still a lot of static.

We were planning to go to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. Still trying to recalibrate the brain.

Other thoughts, anyone?

Odds 'n' Ends

As well as being astringent pundits of popular culture, my girlz at Mean & Catty are also on the look-out for the odd fifteen seconds of fame in the YA business… – and yes, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak as immortalized on the Estrogen Channel, aka Lifetime is a definitely an odd sort of fame. If Anderson is lucky, it’ll be painless enough that the endless reruns won’t leave her suicidal… If she’s very lucky indeed, it’ll be a really wonderful portrayal of her work. Of course, for those of us still reeling from the Rings movies (or am I the only nerd still bemoaning plot additions and distortions?) maybe not so hopeful, eh?

Today’s been a busy day at the post office… A. Fortis has inspired, so I have launched forth book proposals and an entire manuscript to some lucky people to peruse. 51 Days and A La Carte are winging their way toward Mei Mei’s state. Crossed fingers that all editors are in a receptive mood during the fall reading period!!

Meanwhile, D’s lay-off took effect today, so for awhile I’m going to have lots of company around the office. Does that mean more writing gets done, or less? Does anyone else share work space? How do you do it?

If we save all of our pennies now, can we go here in February?

sigh

Back to work. For some reason, my failure with Glimmer Train prods me to try my luck with short stories…Again.

Optimism!

Odds ‘n’ Ends

As well as being astringent pundits of popular culture, my girlz at Mean & Catty are also on the look-out for the odd fifteen seconds of fame in the YA business… – and yes, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak as immortalized on the Estrogen Channel, aka Lifetime is a definitely an odd sort of fame. If Anderson is lucky, it’ll be painless enough that the endless reruns won’t leave her suicidal… If she’s very lucky indeed, it’ll be a really wonderful portrayal of her work. Of course, for those of us still reeling from the Rings movies (or am I the only nerd still bemoaning plot additions and distortions?) maybe not so hopeful, eh?

Today’s been a busy day at the post office… A. Fortis has inspired, so I have launched forth book proposals and an entire manuscript to some lucky people to peruse. 51 Days and A La Carte are winging their way toward Mei Mei’s state. Crossed fingers that all editors are in a receptive mood during the fall reading period!!

Meanwhile, D’s lay-off took effect today, so for awhile I’m going to have lots of company around the office. Does that mean more writing gets done, or less? Does anyone else share work space? How do you do it?

If we save all of our pennies now, can we go here in February?

sigh

Back to work. For some reason, my failure with Glimmer Train prods me to try my luck with short stories…Again.

Optimism!

The Rainbow Party's End Leads to a Slag Heap

Some thought-provoking stuff shared by a.fortis with our writing circle:


I got this item in an SCBWI newsletter some time ago and just rediscovered it–still timely, apparently, since there were a few references to Rainbow Party at the recent conference. -a.fortis
***
5. NY TIMES covers Rainbow Party

The NEW YORK TIMES today [July 1] has a story about Paul Ruditis’s RAINBOW PARTY, a new YA novel from the Simon Pulse imprint that revolves around the idea of an oral sex party:

Reporter Tamar Lewin starts with parents, as well as “bloggers and conservative columnists,” being shocked by this book. Which is, of course, part of its appeal. The article then goes on to reveal:

a) No oral sex party ever actually takes place in the novel, despite many pages of talk about it. That may be one of its realistic aspects because…

b) None of the sex-ed and adolescent-psych experts interviewed for the article said they know teens who have actually participated in oral sex parties as described in the book. For example, Dr. Deborah Tolman, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State, says, “girls, particularly early adolescents, are still getting labeled as sluts and suffering painful consequences. The double standard is remarkably intact. So what could be girls’ motivations for participating in such parties? And I can’t quite imagine, even for a moment, teenage boys comparing their lipstick rings.” There’s a lot of talk, but the rumors of “rainbow parties” seem to be distorting what most adolescents’ true sexual activity.

c) This book was actually commissioned by Simon Pulse Editorial Director Bethany Buck after hearing the phrase “rainbow party” on an OPRAH episode. She took the idea to Ruditis, author of other YA novels and such pop fare as THE BRADY BUNCH GUIDE TO LIFE. Together they developed a spectrum of characters to cover a range of situations, attitudes, and/or recognizable types. So we’re not talking about a book arising from an author’s personal or parental experience, but one step in a spiral of media attention: OPRAH begets RAINBOW PARTY, which begets newspaper columns, which begets this message…

(Thanks to John Bell, RA Central New England, MA. Email: [email protected])


I was…confused by this. Okay, no, not all YA fiction is going to come from an entirely personal place — it’s not called ‘fiction’ for nothing. But this seemed a very wag-the-dog type of marketing ploy, and dishonest manipulation. This piece prompted a mini-rant from fellow-writer Jennifer S:

Oh Oprah, how will you next enlighten us with the dastardly ways of the world according to the latest suburban myth?

I have a bunch of preconceived notions about this book, having read the Ann Brashares NY Times Op-Ed piece as well as several reviews, but I suppose I should read the actual book before I pass judgment. It sounds like yet another overly moralistic, don’t-do-it, look-what-could-happen-to-you-a-la-Go-Ask-Alice, a-very-important-after-school-special piece that puts down girls and their budding sexuality, lumping them either into the virgin camp or the slut camp, implying there is no other alternative. In fact, I’ve been surprised with some of the recently published teen lit books I’ve read this summer that still offer up these two camps as the only perceptions of female sexuality. Perhaps the one exception is “Looking for Alaska,” (c. 2005, Dutton) which is–ironically (or not, when I really think about it)–written by a man.

Are we still really doomed to be either a virgin or a slut? How about neither? Haven’t we progressed beyond Madonna/Whore in the 21st Century?

Okay, okay, I’ll crawl back down from my podium and read the book before I say more.

Has anyone else read it yet?


I haven’t– and whomever gets to it first, please review on our sister site! Meanwhile, I’m not sure the blame rests solely with Oprah for the furor over a *perceived trend in teen sexuality. First and foremost, she’s a talk show hostess, not a psychologist, not a teacher, not anyone who gets anywhere near children unless it’s for a photo op. How is she really going to know anything? A talk show hostess’ main job is to… talk. And give others something to talk about. Does being a multi-millionaire automatically beget talking about things that make sense? Obviously no. To me this is another example of the public’s gullibility, and of an omnipresent media ever ready to swoop in and manipulate and capitalize on people’s ever multiplying fears. Need we be surprised that this time the media outlet is the book publishing industry?

Until people insist on thinking for themselves, especially in the formation of issues close to their hearts (and if they’re parents, that means their kids), this is what we end up with — hysteria over imaginary sexual trends in order to manufacture A Solemn Warning about sex – for no real reason at all.

I have to admit that I’m disappointed that it’s an STD Story – I read Melvin Burgess’ Doing It and saw how a frank discussion of sexuality could happen without all the panic. However, as this book was debuted in the U.S., I’m not sure (until I read it) if it could have been broached any other way and gotten published. Are people more conservative in truth in this country than they like to say? I’d certainly like to revisit this once I read the book…

*And you notice no one ever names the ‘guests’ on the Oprah show who came up with this? Ostensibly the show’s Michelle Burford found her “facts” from interviewing parents and their teens. Which parents? Which teens? I think THAT bears more research.