Hm…

Really, you’ve got to love a world where there are people crazy enough to pay $9,050 for a paperback, YA fantasy novel. I know the movie is going to be released this December (A good thing? A bad thing?) but poor Christopher Paolini’s head just must be spinning at the amount bid for a first edition copy of Eragon. $9,050.

I’ve read the first two Paolini books, and I don’t know… they were solid fantasy, but I’m just not as crazy about them as the surrounding hype seems to be. I was pleased that the author was young and coming from his own love of the genre to do it justice, but it’s all just blown up so wildly it makes me a little nervous for him.

Fame. Fortune. Children’s authorship.
Now, which one of these doesn’t seem to belong?!

UNbelievable.

Hey, remember awhile back when I blogged about Vamos A Cuba, the Cuban books that the Miami Dade school district tried to ban? Well, the news says they’re safe… except now the Miami Herald reports political activists are trying to ban ANOTHER Cuban book.
What IS it with Dade County? Is it still the Elian thing?

For more aggravation, consider the Wilsona School District down in L.A., which has made the questionable decision to remove twenty-three books from all district library shelves. “Books now cannot depict drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, including “negative sexuality,” implied or explicit nudity, cursing, violent crime or weapons, gambling, foul humor and “dark content.”‘ Seriously. And if they don’t completely remove the book, they’re going to Wite-Out the “inappropriate word.” (Kudos to Bookshelves of Doom for this.)

Imagine the library shelves! What’s left will be riddled with invisible words. Imagine a world without Artemis Fowl. He’s cheerfully negative, a criminal mastermind, is quite foully humorous and darkly content. Oh, whoops, I’m sure that’s not what they meant… Apparently, PBS Kids’ Clifford series has been wrong all along. The Big Red Dog is objectionable as well.

Imagine The Great Gilly Hopkins dotted with Wite-Out.
I imagine the kids reading it will just make up their own words.

You know, I grew up with parents severely opposed to fiction, so I sort of understand that people can mean well when they want you to just concentrate on things that are true and real. (I’m trying, anyway. Work with me, here.) But reality — which is what drinking, drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc. is — as depicted in children’s fiction is important. It’s important that young people see that some people live the same way they do, and deal with the same things. Equally crucial is the realization that other people live in other ways, and that if a reader chooses to live their life differently when they grow up, it’s possible. That’s truth. How can anyone honestly object to that?

Rarely do I read a book where potentially kid-unfriendly topics are discussed carelessly. If the Wilsona School District wanted to find some specific books that they felt discussed these topics in a controversial way, and put some kind of warning note on the inside cover like “If you don’t understand what you’re reading, talk to your teacher, or Mom or Dad,” that would be one thing — a big something, actually, because it’s hard for me to even see that as something I’d want done to my book, but I understand that some school librarians feel that they’ve got that responsibility because they’re part of a school. But, them trying to make a judgment call about the maturity and the needs of an entire district, and what they should be exposed to in the world… they’re making themselves far more important to the lives and the moral development of the children in their district than they really are.

AND, I must ask again: Has everyone on that board read every book they’re removing or vandalizing? Of course not.

sigh.

Ideas sleeting through the Universe

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC).

…or, they make a writer.

And you know you’re a writer when you wake up at two-thirty a.m. with the entire first chapter to a new novel in your head and you find yourself lying down on the floor of your office with a pad of graph paper, writing longhand by moonlight, and when someone tries to hand you a flashlight or ask what you’re doing, all you can manage is an urgent “Shh! Shh!” as you write as fast as you can, practically with eyes closed, trying desperately to capture the fragments before they go skittering off into the landscape.

One of my favorite fictional characters is Leonard of Quirm, a Terry Pratchett invention who is a Renaissance man based on the actual Leonardo di Vinci. He is a dabbler in many arts, he paints, he draws, he engineers in his sleep. Even his doodles have doodles on them, in the margins, with numbered parts for siege engines and other nonsense that he would never want invented, because they might hurt someone. But ideas are always sleeting through the universe into Leonard’s head, and he can’t stop inventing to save his life. He’s a nut, of course. He’s been put away in a nice safe house where he can’t hurt anyone. But he lives the life of the mind, so as long as there are birds to watch, he doesn’t notice.
Parallels, anyone?

In answer to the next question: sixteen pages. Medium print, actually sort of legible. (I wore my glasses. I used to try to capture the dreamspace by not wearing my glasses. Legible is definitely better than ‘authentic dreaming.’) And no, I couldn’t go back to sleep.

It’s a good thing someone else around here has a day job. And, mind you, I’m not complaining, but why does this always happen when I’m working on something else?! Oh well… maybe it’s my subconscious promising me that I won’t be in Edit Hell forever… eventually I’ll get out, and then there will be more stories to create and enjoy. Cheers! And keep writing, good people. May your sleep be filled with dreams.

Random Giddiness

Total timewaster: A Fuse #8 Production discovered this highly amusing and pointless book quiz. Which character are you most like? Just so you know…


I’m To Kill a Mockingbird!
by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you’ve also taken a significant amount of flack. But you’ve had the admirable guts to persevere. There’s a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you, but you’re pretty sure it’s worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Hm. This is actually kind of cool, in a no-that’s-only-me-in-my-dreams kind of way.

~~~

Last week’s big news was that “that Rowling woman” (as many writers call her, crossly) has announced that she’s going to kill off yet more characters. Now, normally we all strive to keep this a Harry-free zone, but I have to say this: That bites. No, nothing to do with ye olde elusive kernel of hope. More to do with my original complaint about the entire series — is not one adult in the whole of England competent? Muggle or no, the whole of Hogwarts Academy is surrounded by idiots. No wonder the children will never grow to adulthood, what’s the bloody point!? May as well die fighting “pure evil” (as per Rowling) than grow up to be vaguely menacing or well meaning but bumbling. The whole lot of them crosses my eyes. I read each episode faithfully, because I can rarely start a series without finishing it, but I wager there will never be another Harry novel as good as the first one… the cool-plot-twists-per-page gimmick is fighting mightily against solidly-character-driven-prose and winning, because the characters are just not as clearly defined anymore. As a reader, I feel really manipulated by the plot for some reason. Never mind — if announcing more deaths keeps Rowling readers riveted, it’s a great marketing ploy, and I wish her luck as she wrestles this huge beast to a conclusion… I just hope the books don’t keep getting longer!

More YA Brit-Lit news is that the eagerly awaited Pullman movies (well, eagerly awaited by some, you know how I am about movies vs. novels) will begin shooting on schedule. The Guardian reports that after technical difficulties and some casting about for cast members, they’ve found an unknown to play Lyra, and things are on a roll. Okay, if an adventure novel has to be made into a movie, His Dark Materials is actually a great choice.

In other movie news, Bookmoot reports that one of my fave old Sci-fi novels, Robert Heinlen’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, is also due to be made into a movie. Heinlen, if you’ll recall, is famous for that YA novel which led to the horrible movie Starship Troopers, a fine example of why a novel sometimes should just be… a novel.

And finally, some sad news: Awhile back I reported on some great new old fashioned sci-fi publishing going on. Jim Baen’s Universe was going back to the old tried and true way of publishing science fiction — by giving unknown writers a chance. The L.A. Times reported today that Baen died of a massive stroke this past Wednesday. I understand that the magazine will carry on, as will his goals of reviving science fiction and fantasy as a vibrant and boundary-pushing genre, and opening the Web to ebooks and freebies. A man of grand ideas and fierce loyalties to his readers and writers at Baen Books, Jim Baen’s point of view will surely be missed.

Remember That Mills YA Term 'Kernel of Hope?'

I always thought it was a little awful of me to get such a chuckle out of the term ‘kernel of hope’ or ‘sense of hope’ in the Children’s Lit classes at Mills during MFA days. Every time someone would say it, I would get this sort of queasy sense that the Little Mermaid was singing her little wordless song somewhere outside, and Tinkerbell was sparkling, bells were ringing, and angels were getting their wings. It was such a weird phrase that I was thrilled to death that Oz and Ends had not only heard of it, but had a chuckle over it as well.

A Fuse #8 Production quoted an hilarious line attributed to M.T. Anderson when he won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor for Excellence in Children’s Literature in 2003 that tells you just how much Anderson has in common with the hope group: “Yes, I do have hope. Not for the human race–we’re doomed–but for the Insect Overlords who will follow us”. Hah!

Maybe roaches won’t necessarily rule the world, but I do think sometimes that the insistence on hope makes for many falsely emoted novel endings in the YA/children’s lit circles. It’s not that hope isn’t important for this age group — it is. But it’s equally important for adults. The ‘kernel of hope’ often seems to be used as a phrase that signals a “happily ever after” kind of thing, which is, sadly, bogus. Just about any teen is well versed enough in the real world to know that ‘happily ever after’ rarely even happens in fairytales… after all, like adults, they’re alive, and most of us know better than to expect a full on ‘happily ever after’ at any time.

Of course, this is not to say that we don’t wish a happy ending for our readers. Perhaps what is more important to convey is that the story continues… through whatever crap, it has continued for us, it will continue for them. Some days, they will even be happy. Hope by any other name…

The July issue of SmartWriters is up, with some fun summer novel suggestions, and the June /July The Edge of the Forest has a great review on Jeanne DuPrau’s newest City of Ember novel – this is the prequel, though. Can’t wait to read it, and check out the other interviews and information, including the Susan Taylor Brown interview that talks about how she uses blogging to help connect with her readers and get her name out there.

p.s. ~ Oh my goodness! In my Edit Hell funk, I totally missed giving a shout-out to Cynsations for her upcoming new novel with its really gorgeous cover. Yay for Cynthia, and yay for more vampire tales! They’re becoming a summer reading addiction; always good to the last… um, drop. Ahem.

Remember That Mills YA Term ‘Kernel of Hope?’

I always thought it was a little awful of me to get such a chuckle out of the term ‘kernel of hope’ or ‘sense of hope’ in the Children’s Lit classes at Mills during MFA days. Every time someone would say it, I would get this sort of queasy sense that the Little Mermaid was singing her little wordless song somewhere outside, and Tinkerbell was sparkling, bells were ringing, and angels were getting their wings. It was such a weird phrase that I was thrilled to death that Oz and Ends had not only heard of it, but had a chuckle over it as well.

A Fuse #8 Production quoted an hilarious line attributed to M.T. Anderson when he won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor for Excellence in Children’s Literature in 2003 that tells you just how much Anderson has in common with the hope group: “Yes, I do have hope. Not for the human race–we’re doomed–but for the Insect Overlords who will follow us”. Hah!

Maybe roaches won’t necessarily rule the world, but I do think sometimes that the insistence on hope makes for many falsely emoted novel endings in the YA/children’s lit circles. It’s not that hope isn’t important for this age group — it is. But it’s equally important for adults. The ‘kernel of hope’ often seems to be used as a phrase that signals a “happily ever after” kind of thing, which is, sadly, bogus. Just about any teen is well versed enough in the real world to know that ‘happily ever after’ rarely even happens in fairytales… after all, like adults, they’re alive, and most of us know better than to expect a full on ‘happily ever after’ at any time.

Of course, this is not to say that we don’t wish a happy ending for our readers. Perhaps what is more important to convey is that the story continues… through whatever crap, it has continued for us, it will continue for them. Some days, they will even be happy. Hope by any other name…

The July issue of SmartWriters is up, with some fun summer novel suggestions, and the June /July The Edge of the Forest has a great review on Jeanne DuPrau’s newest City of Ember novel – this is the prequel, though. Can’t wait to read it, and check out the other interviews and information, including the Susan Taylor Brown interview that talks about how she uses blogging to help connect with her readers and get her name out there.

p.s. ~ Oh my goodness! In my Edit Hell funk, I totally missed giving a shout-out to Cynsations for her upcoming new novel with its really gorgeous cover. Yay for Cynthia, and yay for more vampire tales! They’re becoming a summer reading addiction; always good to the last… um, drop. Ahem.

Blogging from the smoke of Edit Hell

Happy Chinese Pyrotechnics Day!

Edit Hell continues, which is a bad thing, since not a lot of work is going to get done today, and the random fireworks let off by the neighbors isn’t helping. By Thursday I should have my final notes in order, and then I have a decision to make as to when/how/if I’m going to change anything more in my manuscript. I have to give props to a wordsmith and true friend who unknowingly caused me to be less hysterical and to allow S.A.M. to preserve the fiction that no one does anything wrong but the writer. It takes a bit of getting used to, but remember this from my little meltdown moment: until it’s published, your novel is not about you~!

After days in Edit Hell, one realizes that chocolate is actually its own food group. Amsterdam agrees. As reported in Arts section of the NY Times, this world’s largest cocoa port is developing a chocolate theme park. A la Wonka, there will be a glass elevator and chocolate fountain and produce small amounts of chocolate. !!!!!!! It’s due to open in a couple of years — people, start saving for the pilgrimage. (And Holland should start bracing for great Dutch Migration — between the hash and the chocolate, people will move there and never want to leave!!)

Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks that reuniting Nathaniel Hawthorne’s decayed mortal remains with those of his long dead wife is just weird? Or is Edit Hell leaching me of all romanticism?

I love poking around and finding bizarre book news, or what I consider bizarre — but here’s one for most everyone’s list: the American Bar Association has released its second novel in 127 years. It’s a YA novel. Obviously. I mean, isn’t the connection between the law and young adult literature obvious!? Maybe not… Publishers Weekly carried the report, describing the novel, Leapholes as, according to Tim Brandhorst, ABA’s executive editor of publishing, “Harry Potter meets John Grisham. It’s time travel with a legal twist.”

I guess if you publish enough legal briefs, novels seem like a reasonable next step, I suppose. But it’s not, people. It’s just not. Although fantasy was a good genre choice… Okay, okay. I reserve all judgment until I at least read the book…

Grrrl Power

Thanks to Seren for giving me a heads up about Salon’s Broadsheet kudos to New Moon Magazine for Girls. I’ve blogged about these fine people before, but I still think their mag is one of the coolest things going for girls who want to talk and think about a real future. And it’s free of ads! (Remember when Sassy was cool like that? Johnny Depp and no ads. Bliss.) Also, you’ve got to check out the work of the world’s deepest and most articulate 7-year-old, Alexa Kitchen. I wish I understood the world as well as she did when I was her age!

My other favorite site is still also Who I Am for girl-centric and positive journals and books and jewelry. If I can’t get into the wayback machine to be ten again (and who wants to!?), I can at least pass along these fun places to you.

Viva la girlz!

Bookends

So, the ALA Conference is going on now in New Orleans, and may I just say a gentle ‘God bless you and your air conditioners too’ to all the fine people who chose to go and support the once beautiful city, as it rebuilds. The South sure loves humidity, and those who love books have even braved that fierce heat and nasty wetness for a good cause. Good on you, librarians & Co., and don’t forget to pack the hives medication! It’s looks to be a memorable speaker lineup, featuring Laura Bush and Cokie Roberts (!), but I look forward more to the conference ending –because my editor is there, and took my manuscript with her. Depending on how cranky the heat makes her I may be back in Edit Hell once again…

A fun find for me is The Edge of the Forest, a children’s literature monthly put together by many fine people with YA and Children’s lit blogs. How cool is that? Something for every age group, including picture book reviews! Literature for children is getting a real presence on the Web… Friday I was following a woman whose license plate advertised her web presence as Kid Lit Suzy dot com. Strangely enough,my former Mills professor and a fairly well-known middle grade author also lives in this town, and I haven’t run across her yet…but I’ve seen “Suzy” twice. Strange world.

In preparing to try and write my(drumroll, please) Epic Fairytale, I ran across something called The Mythopoeic Society, which has announced their finalists for the Mythopoeic Awards. Started in 1967, the Mythopoeic Society is “a non-profit international literary and educational organization for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythic literature, especially the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.” (I haven’t read any of the work of Charles Williams! And now I’m hunting up some to see what it’s all about!) The Society puts out a couple of periodicals, including one specifically for book reviews (called Mythprint – you have got to love that!), a scholarly journal , and a yearly literary journal with short stories, etc. Incidentally, this East Bay group’s finalists for Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards include Holly Black, Diane Duane of the Young Wizards series, and Clare B. Dunkle, three of my favorite fantasy authors. Tough choice!

This year’s conference is in Oklahoma, but their 2007 Conference is already slated to be in Berkeley… I think I’ll see if I can be there!

~
The Chronicle had a nice kid’s section this past Sunday. My favorite book they reviewed is on the artist’s path — on the struggles and joys of embracing art. Robert Burleigh writes about Paul Cézanne, and the work it took for him to produce such beauty. It’s a middle grade novel/picture book, and it includes both historical detail and photographs; the art is also fabulous. Another great review that makes me want to pick up the book is of Cynthia Kadohata’s Weedflower a YA novel detailing the Japanese internment. As always, in these times, I think it’s crucial that teens are reading about our history in this country, if only so that they can protest when their government tries to repeat it… Since Kadohata made the characters so live in Kira-Kira, Weedflower may be well worth checking out as well. Great reading for another muggy summer week. Cheers!