Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Bit More Simmons Stuff

Some favorite moments from the Simmons Summer Institute:

"Some books need to be spanked." -- Vicky Smith, Children's Book Review Editor for Kirkus Reviews

"Cool and I have never met upon the high road of life." -- M.T. Anderson

It was like someone squirted lemon on my brain. -- My paraphrasing of Blue Balliett, describing a moment of literary inspiration.

When I stand next to Kevin Henkes, I feel ashamed. If you cut open his brain, niceness would come out. What would come out if you cut open my brain? Centerfolds? -- My paraphrasing of the very funny and accidentally sweet Jack Gantos. :o)

So, I just want to say that there was a moment in my speech on Friday when I tried to express how grateful I was to Cathie Mercier, Susan Bloom, and everyone else at Simmons College's Center for the Study of Children's Literature, for the education they gave me and the path they sent me shooting down. I bumbled a little bit, and then I began to cry; and looking out into the audience, I saw that I was not the only one crying; and suddenly, I realized how lucky I was. Because there I was at the front of a room full of MANY Simmons alums and students who understood exactly what I meant and why I was crying, and I had the honor of speaking for them all. I hope I said what they all would have wanted me to say.

I keep promising to blog more about the Simmons program, and really, I will, as soon as I have more time.

I'm just drowning in TASKS these days, so please forgive me if my blogging is all over the place. I have never been so busy in my life!

Speaking of thank yous, here are my acceptance remarks for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

A nice piece of news: there's going to be an adult paperback edition of Graceling in Germany, published by Piper. Not sure on timing.

Switching topics: SYTYCD fans, do you think there's some way we could arrange for both Brandon and Ade to be champion? Because, how to choose between them? Didya see that number with them and Evan? Are they not spectacular? (Also, thank you, Nigel, for pointing out the disproportionate number of dances this year in which women play the part of helpless victims and men play the part of asshats. Really, I'm okay with that stopping at any time.)

Finally, the second addition to A Gallery of My Favorite Objects... This is the sword used in my School Library Journal profile last October, and let me just say, it was not easy to pack! (I ended up sticking it under the couch cushions before the movers wrapped up my couch.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Recommendations from a Simmons Weekend

And now, a listy post!

In no particular order... YA fiction, except where specified...

Books that have been added to my TBR pile thanks to the Simmons Summer Institute this past weekend (in most cases, after hearing the author speak):
  • Lessons from a Dead Girl, by Jo Knowles, a sister alum of the Center for the Study of Children's Literature. I've been meaning to read this for ages, am halfway through, and am loving it.
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. A bit embarrassed never to have read this one.
  • A Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos (memoir).
  • Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett (middle grade art heist mystery), with illustrations by Brett Helquist.
  • Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork.
  • Beowulf, a graphic novel by Gareth Hinds, who also has a graphic novel version of The Odyssey coming out that I'm psyched about.
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, Schools, and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look, pictures by LeUyen Pham (middle grade).
  • Black Stars in a White Night Sky, by JonArno Lawson, pictures by Sherwin Tjia (poetry).
  • Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews and A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II, by Ellen Levine (both nonfiction).
  • Mistik Lake, by Martha Brooks.
  • Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes.
  • A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson (poetry).
These authors have plenty of other books that are also a good bet -- I'm just listing the titles that stood out the most for me.

Books from the Institute that I already knew and loved even before hearing their authors speak:
  • Feed, by M.T. Anderson.
  • Me, All Alone, at the End of the World, by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (one of my all-time favorite picture books).
  • The Octavian Nothing books, by M.T. Anderson. (Are you sensing a theme?)
  • Nothing but the Truth, by Avi.
Books not relating to the speakers, but that trustworthy Institute attendees recommended highly:
  • Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry.
  • Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone and Margaret A. Weitekamp (nonfiction).
  • Young Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle, by Ruth Ashby and Suzanne Duranceau (biography, I think?).
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca (nonfiction picture book).
Super books I've read lately that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Institute:
  • In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden (adult fiction).
  • When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (middle grade).
  • Finnikin of the Rock, a fantasy by Melina Marchetta, out already in Australia/UK, coming soon to Canada/USA.
Too listy, I know -- but wanted to get the many titles out there for people to take and run with.

In other news, Graceling is a finalist for the inaugural Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award (an ALAN/NCTE award) along with After Tupac and D Foster (Jacqueline Woodson); The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman); Me, The Missing, and the Dead (Jenny Valentine); and My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park (Steve Kluger). More info about this new award is here. Thank you to the generous Award Committee!

My favorite object of the day is the muffin I'm about to eat, and since I'm practically typing this post from a prostrate position on the floor, I won't be taking a picture of it. I am BEAT. The speech went well -- thanks to everyone for your encouragement. It was a fabulous conference... and one of these days I'm going to post more about my Simmons experience.

Feel free to leave your own book recs in the comments!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Gallery of My Favorite Objects (And Other Nonsense)

My Finnish translator, Maria Lyytinen, has one gray eye and one brown eye. She's a Graceling! Kiitos for translating my book, Maria -- I can't imagine anyone more appropriate! :o)

The Simmons Summer Institute is this weekend; I speak Friday, which I'm very grateful for, because it means I'll be able to enjoy Saturday and Sunday events, rather than rattling around like a nervous wreck. The schedule is here.

And now, I'd like to try something new. Since I just moved, I am, of course, unpacking... and this gives me a new appreciation for my belongings. So I had this idea: why not subject my innocent readers to A Gallery of My Favorite Objects? BWA-HA-HA-HAHAHAHA! As I unpack them, I'll take pictures of them and post them here. Now, a couple things about my gallery. One, the only camera I have is on my iMac, and I like it that way, so that means there are limits to what I can photograph. For example, I'm rather fond of my couch, but I'm not going to drag it into my office so that I can take a picture of it. So, really, this is going to be a gallery of my favorite mobile and light objects. Two, if I get too busy, this may end up being a gallery of one photo. :o)

Today's favorite object: the world ball! I bought the world ball (which is technically an inflatable globe) in Cambridge, Mass about 6 years ago, and it has lived in Boston, London, Austin, and the-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania -- and Jacksonville, Florida, where it had its best life, because my sister (secret codename: Cordelia) and I developed an excellent game (called World Ball) which involved trying to kick the world ball really hard past each other, something like soccer/football, but with no definable goal, and in an apartment full of breakable objects. Our aim was excellent. I think we only broke seven or eight things.

I give you: the world ball!

Incidentally, if you can see the ink all over my fingers, it will answer a recent FAQ, which is, am I left-handed or right-handed? I'm a leftie.

Want to tell me one of your favorite objects?

Oh, also, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly are giving Fire starred reviews. :o)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Super News for a Monday; Also, a Request on Behalf of Three Ladies

Graceling is the winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature!

Here is the official announcement of all the 2009 Mythopoeic Awards.

Here is more information about the Mythopoeic Society.

Here is what the award looks like. (Except that mine won't have Neil Gaiman's name on it. ^_^) Isn't it cool?

I'll post a link to my acceptance speech once the Society puts it up on their page. In the meantime... *sniff*... thank you SO MUCH to the Mythopoeic Society for this honor.

Before I go: if you have a thought to spare for three little ladies who mean the world to me -- one of whom has the world's worst backache, on account of being pregnant with the other two, whose combined weight is about 12 pounds and growing -- would you mind sending those thoughts and wishes on a karmic wind to northern Florida? I'm sure that my sister (secret code name: Cordelia) would appreciate it, and I know that I would! Hang in there, babies! Hang in there, Cordelia! Cordelia, you're a hero! ♥

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Still Not Quite Moved In

I'm taking a moment away from the boxy madness to point out the profile Publishers Weekly did of Fire this week. The online version is here. The focus of the piece is something that's close to my heart -- the wonderful way that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Graceling's publisher) and Penguin (Fire's publisher) are working together to promote both books.

The article explains why I've got two different publishers. I love both of my publishers, and I must say that I consider myself to be a very, very lucky author.

And now, I return to the boxy pandemonium.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I have furniture. I have the Internet. I have food in my fridge, sheets on my bed, and clothes -- well, I have clothes all over the place. I have the Rockies in the office, the Alps in the kitchen, the Andes in the bedroom, and the Himalayas in the living room (when it comes to piles of boxes and overflowing miscellaneous crap, I mean). I have my atlas for using as a reference whenever I need to list mountain ranges in order of increasing altitude.

I have a vision for my new home. It is going to be fabulous.

I have a sense of overwhelmedness at everything being so chaotic; at how much housework there is to do; at how hard it is to find things in these piles; at how my career responsibilities do not slow down just because I'm moving.

I have sadness because I'll miss the St. John's River at sunset, the pelicans and dolphins, the gorgeous winters, my friends, my outlaw brother-in-law (secret codename: Joe), and, most of all, my sister (secret codename: Cordelia). Have I mentioned that Cordelia's pregnant with twins?

I have joy. I am where I belong.

And most of all, I have my thesaurus, my 90-page book plan, a printout of my WIP, my whistling teakettle, my comfortable chair, and, most marvelously, small patches of peace and quiet -- so that I can finally, finally, FINALLY FINALLY get back to some productive work on Bitterblue.

What do you have?

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Extra Message for Monday, to Make Up for No More Posting This Week

Everybody, good news all around. And -- I need your help deciding what to toast with!

Graceling is the winner of the SIBA Book Award in the Young Adult category! (SIBA is the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.) Oh my goodness, the indies have been so kind to me -- I can't even express my gratitude. Thanks so much to SIBA. And everybody, buy indie!

In other good news, I am heading to MA tomorrow, and my stuff arrives soon after. I am so ready to be surrounded by boxes that are to be unpacked, rather than boxes that are to be packed.

Hopefully calmness to come -- eventually, anyway -- now that the move is nearing its end. In the meantime -- I am the happy owner of some new wine glasses that I love madly... but I'm more of a beer drinker, and am only recently getting into wine. Can anyone out there recommend some nice wines for beginners? Red wines, please, because my new glasses are big fat balloon goblets, and I think those are for red wine? :D?

Happy week, everyone... and thanks for hanging in there with me as I make this big move. My next post will probably be next Monday, from a brand new home. :o)

I'm Not in MA Yet, But at Least There Are Cats

I start every scene with a plan in mind, and occasionally the characters behave, and the plan in mind becomes the scene on paper. But more often, I discover something I didn't realize about one of the characters, or an interaction doesn't play out with the particular type of feeling I thought it would, and the scene starts to go off course, and I have to chase after it, and pages get written and then crossed out, and I can't figure out what needs to happen, and I begin to get Extremely Grumpy and mope around under a storm cloud.

Happily, I'm at my parents' house right now, which means that a cat named Lickety comes by rather often to commiserate. Well, really, she comes by because she wants to make herself the center of my world and be petted forever. I was lying on the couch the other day in artistic despair when Lickety jumped up and threw herself against my hand, which only ever means one thing.

Me: [not petting her] Lickety, how come this relationship is so one-sided? I rub your ears, but when do you ever rub mine?

Lickety: [goes down to the other end of the couch and sits on my foot, usually the cue for me to scratch her with my toes]

Me: I'm not going to pet you. I've got nothing left to give.

Lickety: [walks up the length of the couch and throws herself against my face]

Me: No! Not petting you! I'm the one who needs comfort! [sneezes and splutters]

Lickety: [lies on my stomach, one eye closed, the other trained on me (feline eyeball hypnosis)]

Me: [with great pathos] O, Lickety, why does writing have to be so hard?

Lickety: [stabs me with all her claws at once]

"Oh, you stupid cat," I say, laughing, and then I pet the stupid cat.

At least if my goal is to please the cat, success is easy.

How is your work going?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Linkage While Moving from Florida to Massachusetts. (Are we there yet? Are we there yet?)

We are not there yet.

But do you know the work of artist Maira Kalman? Her The Principles of Uncertainty is one of my favorite books ever. And she designs awesome umbrellas. AND occasionally her artwork shows up on the "Opinion" page of the New York Times online. Check out her latest -- and when you're done, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see more offerings!