Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Magical Mystery

I've mentioned before that I'm not at all clear about what magical realism is. Does it always refer to Latin American books I can't understand? Is it just bringing fantasy elements into a realistic story? Can it involve aliens?

So imagine my surprise when I was at my booksigning on Saturday and my marvelous contact at the bookstore said of Happy Kid!, "I particularly liked the way you worked magical realism into the book."

To which I said, "I wondered if I was doing that."

To which he said, "You certainly were."

Well, this initiated a big discussion on the child_lit listserv when I asked if anyone could suggest examples of magical realism in children's literature because, in addition to said titles, people started talking about how magical realism is defined. Is it this? Is it that? Can it be applied to children's literature at all?

I have not moved forward very far in my understanding of the concept. I do have a list of children's books that may or may not be examples of magical realism, though. I'm going to try to collect some of them for The 48 Hour Book Challenge.

Not only will I be into this intense self-challenge, I will be studying something.

I think I might be going biking that weekend, too.

Here Are The Rules

MotherReader has posted the rules for The 48 Hour Book Challenge in case anyone has been sitting on the fence about whether or not to take part.

I love these kinds of things. It's not the competition. I'm not competitive. It's the intensity of the experience. It's the thrill of pushing myself.

I hope I don't forget about this.

A Tremendous Load Off My Mind

I guess Joyce Carol Oates was trying to tell the graduates at Mount Holyoke who didn't win any awards that all was not lost.

'"Very few writers of distinction in fact were outstanding as undergraduates," she said, noting William Faulkner received a D in freshman English; Cormac McCarthy was asked to leave the University of Tennessee because of his poor grades;'

I wish she'd been the speaker at my college graduation. Oh, wait. I didn't go to my college graduation.

By the way, Joyce Carol Oates has written children's books so I'm not just filling space here.

Well, yes, I am.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Pretty Good Sequel

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld is a sequel that is actually better than its predecessor, Uglies. My complaint with Uglies was that it was just a little too much like the dystopian novels I'd run across in the past--an individual struggling against the uniformity of a futuristic, planned society, yada, yada, ying-ying.

Pretties turns that idea on its head because the main character is part of the planned society. And Westerfeld raises some questions about whether or not this repressive world isn't better than the one it replaced--ours.

By the way, in the May issue of Locus Westerfeld discusses the very problem I had with Uglies. He says, "Uglies is full of these tropes of science fiction that have been melded together to make one continuous narrative, so for adults it's a lot of genre history compacted--hopefully without being derivative."

So Westerfeld was using all the dystopian stuff intentionally. While it didn't work particularly well for me, other readers clearly feel differently.

(By the way, if you're like me and need to look up "tropes," it means "...a familiar and repeated symbol, meme, theme, motif, style, character or thing that permeates a particular type of literature. They are usually tied heavily to genre.")

Today I scored a copy of Specials, the last book in the Uglies trilogy, at the library. I was the first person to take it out. Oh, how I love beating out fifteen-year-old kids.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Who Takes It? Whose Reviews Reign Supreme?

I just signed up for MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. Sometime between the morning of Friday, June 16th and the afternoon of Monday, June 19th, I'll pick a 48 hour period and read and blog about as many children's books as I can.

My family will have to cater to my every whim while I'm competing. I'm not going to be making any meals. I will just exercise, read, and blog. And drink lots of fluids.

I must go train now.

Bang a gong, we are on!

"Travel" Books

I was in the car for eight or nine hours this weekend, so that means audio books!

I listened to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulhane by Kate DiCamillo on the way up to Vermont. I chose that audio book because I felt I ought to read Tulhane, but wasn't looking forward to it. I thought The Tale of Desereaux was well written, but I didn't like the voice and didn't find the book at all memorable. So I thought multi-tasking with an audio book while driving was a good way to knock off what I felt was an obligation.

Well, I actually enjoyed this book about a china rabbit that is very full of himself and only begins to love others when he has suffered a great deal. (Gee, when I put it that way, it sounds kind of sadistic.) I thought it was a little heavy-handed with the message in a couple of places but I was able to overlook it. DiCamillo is very good at characterization and she can create characters very quickly. I particularly liked the father of the dying girl and the guy who repairs dolls at the end of the book.

I did wonder, though, why this china rabbit didn't just shatter.

Judith Ivey did the reading for this audio book and who knows how responsible she was for my response?

I also tried listening to The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck. Though I have liked Peck in the past, I felt The Teacher's Funeral didn't have enough funeral and had too much traditional ah-shucks-but-I-hated-school-when-I-was-a-kid. I had to give up.

"Book Tour" Over

Well, I'm back from my school and bookstore appearance in Vermont. I visited the elementary school in my hometown--student population around 25. The next day I spoke and did a reading at Briggs Carriage Bookstore for ten people. They usually have ten to fifteen people at their author appearances so that wasn't bad. However, six of those people were my relatives and another three were my history teacher, his wife, and daughter. The tenth was my contact at the store.

I arranged these events in the hopes of getting coverage for the new book in one of the two local papers. No such luck. I only made the "Calendar" sections, though I made the "Calendar" sections of a number of papers and am supposed to have been part of Vermont Public Radio announcements, too. (I've never been at a bookstore that does as much to promote their writers as Briggs Carriage does.)

Now, I could get really bummed about this because we're talking the area where I grew up. However, my contact at the store told me they got a call from an organization in Vermont that was interested in me and he is interested in doing a multi-author event for YA writers next year and asked if I'd be interested. So you never know what can come from these things.

Plus I had a really good lunch with my relatives.

And, this is pretty much the end of my book promotion for Happy Kid! All I have left is a bookstore appearance here in Connecticut on the Foruth of July weekend. Tjat will just involve hanging out for a couple of hours with a bookstore owner I've already met and enjoy. I am so incredibly relieved to have this over with. No more frustration over wasted effort. Nothing left to prep for. I can spend my time writing now.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

And I'm Off

Tomorrow morning I am off first thing to Vermont, where I will be speaking in the afternoon at the elementary school in the town where I grew up. On Saturday I will be reading and signing Happy Kid! at Briggs Carriage Bookstore in Brandon.

This is the big event in my marketing campaign. After that, there's one appearance at an independent bookstore in Connecticut, and then I'm done. That's all she wrote.

I picked up three audio books for the trip, so that should be good, anyway.

Why Do I Feel As If I'm Back In High School?

The National Endowment for the Arts, which released a study in 2004 that showed people aren't reading, is trying to do something about that situation. The Big Read is a NEA program created to try to encourage communities to read.

This is marvelous, of course, but I tend to agree with Sara Nelson of Publisher's Weekly who, in an article called The Big Yawn, called the books chosen for the initiative "predictable."

I'm guessing a lot of high school summer reading lists will include many of those same titles. (Their Eyes Were Watching God, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, My Antonia, A Farewell to Arms, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Joy Luck Club ) There's nothing wrong with that. But, as Nelson asks, "Where are the "fun" or even slightly subversive reads, the literate thrillers that might really make readers out of slackers?"

Ah, where indeed?

Thanks to for the Publisher's Weekly link.

I Can Stop Joining Listservs Whenever I Want. Really.

I think I reported earlier that I joined the New England Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators listserv. So far, it's been good. Really nuts and bolts writer stuff, much different from the more literary listservs I belong to.

Today someone at the NESCBWI listserv (my fourth listserv) suggested that writers interested in doing school appearances join teacher listservs. So I did. I joined one here in this state.

Do the math, children. That was listserv number five.

And I'm considering joining a sixth one.

It's sort of like gambling. Any listserv could be the listserv that what? I'm not even sure.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Bookstore Stories

Yesterday I was in my local Barnes & Noble where I saw four copies of Happy Kid! stacked on a display table, no less, with lots of other more well-known books by more well-known authors. I went up to a sales person, told her who I was, and offered to sign the books. She took me up on the offer and even let slip that she thought there were more copies of the book out back.

Yeah, like that's ever happened to me before.

It still freaks me out that all I have to do is go up to these people, claim to be Gail Gauthier, and they let me sign books. Shouldn't they ask for some ID?

Anyway, this helped to compensate for the e-mail I received last night. It was from the guy who is the contact person for the bookstore in Vermont where I will be reading and signing books on Saturday. He sounded really depressed. He doesn't seem very hopeful about the success of the event.

This bookstore, by the way, is in my hometown. Yeah, there's been a big turnover in the population in Vermont these last few decades, and I'm not exactly a household name among the people I grew up with. Still, you'd think someone would show up just out of curiousity. As one of my sisters has said, you'd think someone would remember our name for bad reasons, if not good ones.

I e-mailed him back and told him that I knew my aunt and cousin were both coming and that the three of us were going out to eat later. So at the very least, I'm going to get lunch.

On the way home, I'm stopping at a Barnes & Noble that's just off the highway in Connecticut to see if they have Happy Kid!. If they do, I'll offer to sign their copies. That will make me feel better.

Assuming they have it, of course. Otherwise, the whole day will stink.

Now that has happened to me before. It won't kill me.

"...they’re reading a child’s book."

A number of years ago while I was a member of a real-world book group, one of the other members objected to us reading To Kill A Mockingbird because she said it was YA. I got all huffy. The book, I believed, was an adult book with a child main character, which is a totally different thing. I argued that it was only perceived as YA because it's taught in high schools so often. (Though, personally, I don't know anyone who has studied it, including myself.)

Well, in a New Yorker article on Mockingbird A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields, To Kill A Mockingbird's author is quoted as having said, "It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book."


This, of course, gets back once again to how books are classified and by whom. I've talked about it here before. I won't bore you with it.

Wait. Yes, I will. Let's think about this for just a moment--If To Kill A Mockingbird were to be written and accepted for publication today, would it be published as an adult book? Or would it be YA? I'm assuming the rape would bump it up out of the children's category.

By the way, Thomas Mallon, who wrote the New Yorker article, has some less than complimentary things to say about To Kill A Mockingbird, itself. If I had all the time in the world, I might reread the book (again) with his criticism in mind. But I don't, so I'll just have to wonder.

June 2 update: The quote attributed above to Harper Lee is incorrect. Flannery O'Connor said of To Kill A Mockingbird, "It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book." See my June 2nd post.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Need Therapy. And Fast.

Yesterday I took the Which Classic Female Literary Character Are You? quiz and found out that I am Beth March. A good soul and dead.

Today I took the What Is Your Daemon? (as in The Golden Compass) quiz and found out that I'm a mouse.

Does anyone else see a pathetic pattern?

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Couldn't Go To BEA, But I Did Go To A Carnival

Here in the Bonny Glen has the Carnival of Children's Literature up. These carnivals are always a good opportunity to try out some new kidlit blogs.

I definitely want to read The Saturdays, reviewed by Jen Robinson. A Fuse # 8 Production says it's a lot like The Penderwicks.

I'm Doomed

When I took the Which Classic Female Literary Character Are You? quiz, I got Beth March as a result. I don't think I'm giving anything away to say that Beth dies, right?

Is anyone else surprised I have the character traits of someone so...good?

Thanks to Patricia at BookLust for the link. She got to be Elizabeth Bennett when she took the test. Not only does Elizabeth live, she gets the guy.

I Knew I Was Going To Like This Comic

Yesterday the subject of Unshelved's Book Club was Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.

Personally, I'm very fond of the rats in the Underland.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


bookshelves of doom has a post about an Illinois school board member who wants to remove seven books from her school district's curriculum--including Freakonomics.

Freakonomics? How do these people come up with these things?

Of course, like the school board member in question, I haven't read the book.

Rick Riordan's BEA Experience

Rick Riordan was not ironing clothes yesterday. He was traveling home from Book Expo America.

You know, I don't even care about banquets. Or a booksigning for that matter. I want to wander around. I imagine BEA as being like going to the fair except that instead of booths full of farm equipment and sand candles, there are booths full of books. In the afternoon, there's a clear, sunny sky overhead. When it gets dark, the midway lights up. And there's carny music.

It just sounds so wonderful.

Today while I was painting my dining room, I heard a report on the BEA on the radio. Cruel, cruel, cruel.

Thanks to Book Moot for rubbing it in with that Rick Riordan link.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Retro Book With A Contemporary Feel

Well, I've read, and liked, another award winner. I hope I'm okay.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall won the National Book Award in 2005. It's another book I didn't seek out but stumbled upon.

Like Criss Cross, The Penderwicks seems to harken back to an earlier time. A time when families spent their vacations relaxing in a rental home instead of driving from place to place. A time when kids spent their summers running around outdoors. A time when siblings felt connected to one another.

Unlike Criss Cross, however, The Penderwicks is set in the present. There's no need to "get" pop-culture references from another decade in order to enjoy the story.

The four motherless Penderwick girls are all strong characters and, perhaps, just a little too good to be true. But in spite of this goodness, they still face problems--first love for the twelve-year-old, dashed literary hopes for a younger sister, incredible shyness for the four-year-old who, as the preschooler, is different from the other girls. And everyone is worried for their new friend, a wealthy boy whose mother just doesn't get him. (Yeah, the rich are always the heavies.)

Over the course of the last year I've sometimes read of people who just didn't understand what the big deal was about this book. Why was it so well-liked?

Well, the book is well-written. The characters are very clearly defined and the plot is definitely all about kids. Otherwise, I think perhaps this book was latched onto by reviewers and judges because so much of what is published these days (for everyone, not just kids) is genre fiction. I like genre fiction, but it does tend to follow predictable patterns. This book, simply by being a throw-back to Little Women and, perhaps, other pre-nineteen-fifties stories, is different. And it's not heavy with pretentious meaning the way so many award-winning children's books are.

Will kids like a story about sisters who worry about the family's honor and don't even mention a TV? I think so, because the story is so rooted in childhood and in playing. The Penderwicks is sophisticated, good quality writing that should be perfect for kids who, like the Penderwick girls, themselves, have not yet passed into the fires of adolescence. And it could be a comfort book for older kids who'd like to get away from the complications of their own lives for a few hours.

My BEA Experience

Well, it's Book Expo America time again. And once again I'm not there. However, this afternoon while I was ironing clothes I caught a bit of it on Book TV. I was up early today. If only I'd known Book TV was devoting most of the day to BEA, I could have seen Amy Sedaris at 8 a.m.

I've decided that if I go to BEA the next time it's in New York, I'm going to skip the keynote address and head right for the booths.

Friday, May 19, 2006

And The Winners Are...

As I may have mentioned earlier, my computer guy created a little program to randomly generate numbers. We just used it to determine the six winners of the Happy Kid! Giveaway, which we ran to celebrate its publication day.

I'm happy to say that one winner is the school in Massachusetts where I appeared last month. The librarian at the school in Vermont where I'll be appearing next Friday also won. Someone I met at Whispering Pines won a copy, as did the youngest child of one of computer guy's co-workers. The last two will be going to people I know nothing about, though I'm feeling very warmly toward them right now.

One of my friends e-mail me today to say she didn't enter the drawing because she bought the book last night at a bookstore. I'm so accustomed to not finding my hard cover books at bookstores that it never occurred to me to go to a store to look for it. Perhaps I should have gone shopping yesterday instead of cleaning one of my bathrooms.

Giving Up My Self-involvement

Perhaps you've noticed that I actually enjoy reading children's and YA books. I know it is often difficult to believe because I'm so fussy, but, really, I like them. Unfortunately, I like them in my own cranky, probably adult, way. So, as I may have mentioned before, I have to struggle to control the adult Gail and try to look at some of the books I read as if I were a child. Or at least I have to try to remember what I was like as a child.

A case in point is The Charm Bracelet, the first in the Fairy Realm series by Emily Rodda. Quite frankly, except for the cat fight toward the end, I really didn't enjoy this book. In fact, I had so little interest in it that I wasn't planning to blog about it.

I think I don't like fairies.

But, then, just as I was finishing reading it this morning, I remembered that when I was in second grade I was seriously in love with Peter Pan. Not Tinkerbell, the fairy in that story. She was a girly pain-in-the-neck. (And perhaps the reason I don't care for fairies now.) No, I was totally taken with Peter. I believed he lived in the woods behind our house.

Maybe The Charm Bracelet would have been right up second-grade Gail's alley. The book is all about a young girl who finds a gate into a fairy realm at the back of her grandmother's yard and learns that she's descended from a fairy princess.

Being descended from a fairy princess would make me a fairy princess, too, as far as I'm concerned, while loving Peter Pan would just make me a truant boy's girlfriend. Does anyone else think this is a no-brainer?

So while the adult Gail wasn't grabbed by this story, I can keep an open mind on this one. A young girl, particularly one who is already into fairies and princesses, may find this series to be just the thing for rainy days like the ones we've been having here in New England lately.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Another Dulcie Fan

I gave Defining Dulcie one of its only lukewarm reviews. So I think it's only fair to point out to everyone that bookshelves of doom loves it.

Publication Day

This is publication day for Happy Kid!. The first thing I did today was clean the bathroom. Because there is a taekwondo storyline, I gave some copies of the book to people I train with when I went to class today. After I got home I scoured the kitchen sinks, did a lot of dishes, and roasted a chicken for dinner.

I also wrote a letter to my editor and mailed it to her with the second draft of the next book. She e-mailed me to say that an illustrator has been selected for that project.

I mention all this to point out that by the time publication day comes, it's pretty much over. It's time to move on to other things.

You're Not Too Late To Get A Book...

...unless it's May 19th when you read this.

The response so far has been okay, but I'm not overwhelmed, guys. You still have time to be included in the drawing. Just send your e-mail before midnight tonight--May 18th.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tomorrow's The Day

My house is filled with people looking for Internet access, so I'll only have time for one short post. And if I only have time for one, it's got to be about tomorrow's Happy Kid! Giveaway.

Tomorrow is your big chance to win a free book. My books arrived from the publisher today, so I actually have the book you might win.

We won't be doing the drawing until the 19th, so you can e-mail me right up until midnight tomorrow night. I'll be waiting to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Only Two More Days

Only two more days until the book giveaway...and the next issue of The Edge of the Forest. I think Angelina Jolie's baby is due that day, too.

Catching Up With Authors

Back in January, I wrote about Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, an American author whose book, Broken Beaks was published by an Australian publisher and distributed in this country by a Canadian distributer. Books that follow a traditional path to publication in this country have a hard time getting reviewed simply because of the large number of books seeking attention and the relatively small number of reviewers to give them attention. An out-of-the-loop book such as Broken Beaks is facing a very up-hill battle.

Well, Broken Beaks, which was published back in December, was recently chosen by the Washington Posts's KidsPost as The Book of the Week. Keep in mind folks, that books have a shelf-life, much like movies. You know how Mission Impossible III had less than 48 hours to bring in enough business to be declared a hit or a flop? It's not quite that bad with books. Still, you only have a couple of months to get much in the way of reviews. Then everyone is on to something else. Broken Beaks has done well to get this kind of attention six months after publication, particularly since it doesn't have an American publisher to promote it.

And then back in February I told you about Leda Schubert's Here Comes Darrell Well, Leda has a new book out, Ballet of the Elephants. In addition to being reviewed in the usual places, she just got a review in The New York Times Book Review.

Leda does have an American publisher, but she lives in Vermont, which is a long way from New York, right?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Three Days To Go

Three days until the book giveaway. The people at my editor's office say I should have the books by the 18th or very soon thereafter.

Author Blogs

Today I went to Westerblog (Scott Westerfeld's blog) again, to get the info on that issue of Locus that I wanted (and now have). I couldn't help but notice that he has a post on whether or not Uglies is a girl book. Evidently he's been getting some e-mails and comments that have raised questions about how people perceive the book.

I won't presume to try to answer that question. Nor will I raise the question of whether or not it is bad to be a girl book. I do want to say, though, that I am still trying to get over my "wealthy-girls-gone-bad" book experience, and those things are definitely, definitely girl books. (I cannot tell you how many girls got their periods in the last one I read. I'm not even a guy, and I thought that got old really fast.) If Uglies is a girl book, it is so much better than the "wealthy-girl-etc.-etc."

There wasn't any product placement in Uglies, either. The book takes place in a future without Prada and Coach. Hey, maybe it's a Utopian novel after all.

Speaking of girlie things, I was directed to Meg's Diary by someone at child_lit. The first time I went to Meg Cabot's diary a few months back I found it bizarrely girlie, considering it was the work of a grown woman. Relentlessly pink.

However, Meg has a very good post called True Story that relates to the Viswanathan blow-up. Even with all the talk of princesses, it is good, dealing with the fact that you can't draw a good princess--or, presumably, write a good book--by taking short cuts.

The dePaola Code

Friday night a friend reminded me that I registered for the SCBWI message boards. I went to check the place out for the first time in many, many months and found this timely spoof. Or is it?

Tomie has a secret. A secret, we believe, he wants to tell. It is known that Tomie once explored becoming a Benedictine monk at the Weston Priory in Vermont…but walked away. Why? What did he discover within those monastery walls? Well, we're not entirely sure, but it must have been huge!

Just what I need. Another blog to follow.

I also just registered for the SCBWI listserv. Really, I don't plan to ever write again. I'm just going to spend the rest of my life reading this stuff.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Now I've Got To Buy This Thing. And Read It.

Scott Westerfeld says in the May 3rd post for his blog that this month's Locus is all about YA fantasy and science fiction. He has the cover up, too.

I am only vaguely aware of this magazine, but this seems like a good excuse to become vaguely familiar with it.

Four Days

Four Days until the book giveaway. I'll be contacting my publisher tomorrow to see about getting my books here in time to mail out to winners by next week.

A Book For Young Gail

Last night I finished reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I didn't care for it as much as I did Peeps, but I'll still be trying to pick up the next book in the series on Tuesday. I know my library has it.

My problem with Uglies gets back to the problem I'm always talking about when it comes to kid/YA lit: I'm a grown-up. Uglies is about a dystopian future society. I'm an adult who has read a lot of dystopian books and has seen a lot of dystopian movies. They tend to be similar as far as I'm concerned. Mankind foolishly brings about its own downfall and the society we know has been replaced by one that has resolved all our problems. Though it always does so in some unpleasant, creepy way. There's always some deep, dark secret. ("Soylent Green is people!")

Uglies is no different. Our "Rusty" society falls because of too much dependence on oil. We also have wrecked the environment, messing with invasive species and clearcutting the land. On top of everything else, we've made a lot of problems for ourselves with our obsession with physical appearance. Attractive people are far more successful than unattractive people.

The new order fixes that with an operation for all sixteen-year-olds that makes everyone pretty--and an awful lot alike. Before the operation you're an ugly. After the operation you're a pretty.

I have to admit that if were a teenager who hadn't already had way too much exposure to dystopian stories, I'd probably like Uglies. It's a dystopia for people my age, after all. And if I were much younger, I'd probably find the environmental stand, which I personally agree with, thought provoking instead of heavy-handed.

Even being the age I am, the book had some end of chapter surprises for me, especially toward the end. As I said, even though I'm a grown-up, I'm going to be reading Pretties, Uglies' sequel. And sooner, I hope, rather than later.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Only five days until the book giveaway. Unfortunately, my copies of Happy Kid! have not yet arrived from the publisher.

Something To Look Forward To On Sundays

Somehow I missed Confessions of a Bibliovore's review of Peeps by Scott Westerfeld back in March. In it she links to a "review" of Peeps at Unshelved a web-based comic set in a library. According to the Bibliovore (Maureen), Unshelved does a "Book Club" feature on Sundays.

I have to go to church tomorrow, which I wasn't exactly looking forward to. But now I can't wait to get up!

Just What Is Criss Cross?

A few days ago, I wrote about whether Criss Cross is a book adults such as myself like or a book kids like, too. Someone at child_lit tipped me off to The 'Criss Cross' Conundrum in School Library Journal. Karen Cruze, the author, isn't concerned about the adult/child issue but whether the book should be considered a high-end children's book or a low-end (meaning age) YA book.

Some people think such questions are nit-picking. But Cruze shows why they aren't. Books have to be shelved somewhere in libraries, and their classification determines where they will be shelved. And where books are shelved determines who is going to see them. Classification helps get books out to the people who are most likely to want to read them.

If Criss Cross is shelved with the children's books, but children find it too old for them, they won't read it. If it's shelved with the YA books and the YAs find it too young, they won't read it. Or, if it's a book that both groups would be interested in, a library might want to own two copies. If a library can't afford two copies...

Well, you can see why we're not picking nits here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

One Week To Go

Only one week left until the Happy Kid! Giveaway. I'll do daily reminders from now on. After the nineteenth or twentieth, you'll never have to hear about it again.

Another Risky Behavior Associated With The Young

I liked Kurt Anderson's book, Turn of the Century, so when I saw that he had something to say about Kaavya Viswanathan (I don't think I need create a link to help readers recall who she is), I read it even though this subject is getting very, very old for me.

Essentially, he's making the argument that in a culture where a lot of plagiarism goes on, anyway, Viswanathan may have drawn "certain conclusions about the way the real world works." Among them, presumably, that what she was doing was business as usual.

Anderson also made this interesting point:

"Youth may not be an excuse here, but it is an explanation. Omnivorous ambition and risk-taking pathology burn hot and blindingly in late adolescence and early adulthood. Most of the best-known recent plagiarists and fabulists were 25 or younger when they committed their thefts or fabrications."

Perhaps another reason why the young should cool their jets a bit before trying to publish. Rarely, if ever, am I accused of being omnivorously ambitious and a risk-taker. And I think it's safe to say that absolutely nothing burns hot and blindingly within me.

Thanks to for the link.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not Much Of A Day

I found the Kirkus Review for Happy Kid! today. Other than that, all I did was come up with two ideas. And one of them was really an idea I had yesterday and only remembered today.

I'm hoping they were two very excellent ideas that will lead to something big. Otherwise, I definitely wasted the day.

I Have No Solution

A couple of days ago I did a really long post on Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins. Later, in comments, a few of us got into a discussion on kids' books adults like and whether or not children actually like them, too.

This is a long-running concern for me. To me, there will always be a wall between kids and true, authentic kid literature and that wall is the adults who write, publish, review, and sell it. We can only guess at what we're doing.

An alternative way to go about this, of course, would be to have younger and younger people write books. That's supposed to be happening. Some new books are supposed to be coming out that were written by people in their late teens (boy, do I wish I could find where I read about that), and I'm not talking Christopher Paolini.

Unfortunately, I don't think the very young should be publishing. Fortunately, someone named John Scalzi has already taken the time to express some excellent arguments that support my position. Pay particular attention to No. 5 on his list of Ten Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing. Everyone tells aspiring writers to read a lot. Rarely do I hear anyone tell them what they should think about their reading, too. With No. 6 Scalzi makes excellent practical and philosophical points. But the whole list is really good.

This still leaves us with our original problem, of course--how to write for kids. Rest assured, I will continue to dwell on and whine about this.

Thanks to the child_lit listserv for the link to John Scalzi.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This Explains A Lot

A Boston Globe article entitled 'Opal' aided by marketing firm that targets teens includes the following:

"More than books for reading, Alloy titles are content packages, with potential for advertising and cross-marketing. The Alloy website says, ''Advertisers have the opportunity to get their products or services cast in these best-selling books. The value of these mentions far exceeds the hundreds of thousands of readers, creating a viral product buzz." It is not known publicly whether Manolo Blahnik, Habitual jeans, or La Perla bras paid for their mentions in ''Opal Mehta.""

I couldn't find that particular quote at the Alloy website, but I did find this on the page entitle BrandedEntertainment: "Alloy Entertainment's Branded Entertainment Division partners with clients to facilitate brand integration or product placement within popular youth media - books, internet, online gaming, film and TV. Brand integration inside our popular media formats speaks to consumers directly and as multi-tasking, on-demand and TIVO render the 30 second spot less powerful, is a means for delivering the brand to them."

Forget about Opal Mehta. She's toast. Think, instead, about The Gossip Girl, The A-List, and The Clique, all best-selling series loaded with product names used as adjectives.

And then recall that Alloy doesn't do the publishing of these books itself. No, it sells them to "brand name" publishers with departments dedicated to publishing children's books.

I'm thinking Feed. I'm thinking dystopian vision of the future. I'm thinking it's happening now.

Thanks to for the link.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Really Good Meal For A Starving Reader

As a general rule, I don't seek out Newbery Medal winners. Somehow I've gotten the impression that they tend to be improving. Or sappy. Or improving and sappy.

So I wasn't looking for Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins. I didn't even know what it was about when I stumbled upon it at the library.

Which meant that I got to have an incredibly wonderful experience, because Criss Cross is an incredibly wonderful book.

I guess I'd have to say that Criss Cross is about yearning. It's about a group of kids (I've read in reviews that they're fourteen, but I missed the exact age when I was reading the book) whose lives criss cross over a summer in the 1960s. They're getting ready to be grown-up and move on with life.

Reviewers say the story is told in "vignettes." I would call them moments. Some of these moments don't seem terribly connected to some of the other moments, but when you are reading about each moment, you are there. You are in the moment.

This was the first book I read after I finished my wealthy-girl-gone-bad reading mission. As I started reading Criss Cross, I felt as if I were hungry and eating a really good meal at a nice restaurant. And by "nice," I mean a restaurant you really like, not necessarily a restaurant that has been labeled "nice" by someone else. I kept thinking, "This is so good," "This is fantastic," the way you would--or I would--if I were eating a really good meal.

There's stuff in here about learning to drive, listening to the radio, reading, guitar lessons, trying to connect with members of the opposite sex, a summer job, a summer fair, those awful booklets put out by companies that make sanitary napkins...There are moments about all these things.

I cannot exaggerate how much I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, a favorite of my college years. But even as I was reading it, I wondered if kids would get it. How many of them would know who Julie Christie is? They would never be able to enjoy the subtle Jonathan Livingston Seagull reference.

Sure enough, if you read the reader reviews at Amazon, there are a lot of complaints--and not just from kids--because the reviewers think nothing happens. And before Criss Cross won the Newbery, there were only 20,000 copies in print. Hey, I wouldn't complain about that figure, but when you compare that to the numbers that a lot of lesser books manage to pull in, it does give one pause.

All I can say is, nothing does happen most summers. And yet everybody is different by fall.

The chair of the Newbery Committee described Criss Cross as an "...innovative, and risk-taking book in which nothing happens and everything happens." I think that's definitely the case. I think the Newbery Committee was innovative and risk-taking for giving this book its medal. I definitely will be paying a little more attention to their awards in the future.

My Life Is So Stinking Glamorous I Don't Know How I Can Stand It

Marketing Update:Today was my interview with the one local paper that has shown any interest in my new book. I prepared for it rigorously. I spent a big chunk of yesterday cleaning. Today I blew dry my hair instead of letting it dry on its own. I used styling glue/paste/whatever the stuff is to keep it in place. I wore my Bill Blass blue jeans and my Geoffrey Beene shirt. I did my face, but carefully--only foundation, mascara, and pale pink lipstick because I was meeting this person in my home and I didn't want to look over eager to impress the reporter.

Okay. So, we finish the interview, and she pulls out the publicity photo I'd sent her with the press packet and she says, "Shall I just use this picture? I see you're not prepared to be photographed."


I came this close to saying to her, "This is as good as it gets," but I was rather stunned so I just indicated I was happy with the picture I'd sent her. Of course, now I wonder if there was something wrong with it because otherwise why would she have asked if I wanted her to use it?

Have I said yet that I'm never getting this involved with marketing again?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Have Gone Over To The YA Side

A friend and I were doing a tour of a couple of tiny independent bookstores and felt we should buy books at each one. You know, to commemorate the experience. The way other friends shopping might buy jewelry or shoes.

I picked up Mystery Ride by Robert Boswell who in some circles (middle-aged ones) would be considered quite a hotty. The book was published back in 1993, so, yeah, I got it off a sale table because while I wanted to commemorate the experience, I didn't want to pay full price to do so.

Anyway, Mystery Ride is a very well-written book. It's about a network of people connected by family relations and friendship. My problem with this book was not with the book at all. It was with me.

Bizarrely enough, I wasn't terribly interested in the adult characters who seemed to get into big discussions about how to live. I don't know, maybe I just don't care about that. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking, Wow, am I ever shallow.

I was interested in the teen characters. There was this one girl, Dulcie, who was a raving maniac. Whenever the story shifted to her, all of a sudden I perked up. And then there was a good girl, Roxanne, who was born again and got pregnant on purpose by her fundamentalist boyfriend so their parents would let them get married. How interesting is that? I thought it was interesting, anyway.

After I got over being upset by my own shallowness, I began to wonder if maybe I've read so much YA that I've started feeling more sympathy and attachment to those kinds of characters.

I guess that's okay. So long as I don't start wearing low blue jeans and skimpytops, anyway.

By the way, Mystery Ride was the basis for television movie a few years back, 12 Mile Road. I didn't see it, but the description at the CBS website sounds as if the movie focused on the daughter.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How Do I Know A Good Picture Book When I See One?

Today A Fuse #8 Production referred to her Triumverate of Mediocrity, which included The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. I've never read Rainbow Fish, but when I was working in an elementary school last week, I sat in on story time for one of the kindergarten classes. The book they heard was Pfister's Hopper Hunts for Spring.

Personally, I prefer picture books that are a little edgy and twisted, like A Day With Wilbur Robinson. Hopper Hunts for Spring definitely does not fall into the edgy and twisted category. A rabbit named Hopper is told that spring is coming. He takes that to mean that "someone" (or some creature) is on his way there, and he takes off to meet Spring. He then meets various hibernating creatures that come out in the spring. But who are not Spring. The whole little story is built around the poor bunny's misunderstanding, but spring has arrived when it's finished.

Not a whole lot there. In fact, if you look at the Amazon listing, you'll see that School Library Journal gave it a pretty blistering review.

But the kids I was sitting with were really into it. One little girl tried to get ahead of the story and tell what she thought was going to happen. And the book could support a nature lesson about spring for really young kids.

As I sat there on the little risers with those little kids, I wondered if there was really anything wrong with that little story. Yeah, maybe it was on the sappy side for my taste. But the book wasn't for me.

I just have a really hard time with the whole picture book thing. Which is probably why I've been so unsuccessful at writing one.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Almost Forgot The Book Giveaway--Again

I almost forgot to remind everyone that my book giveaway is two weeks from today. I believe May 18th is also Angelina Jolie's due date. Perhaps that will help us all remember.

"The Reckless Art of Book Blurbing"

I didn't even know what a book blurb was or that authors worried about collecting them for their new books until some writers at Readerville mentioned it. Since then I've been paying attention. I have noticed that blurbs rarely have any connection with the contents of the book they're describing. More often than not, I read the book and wonder what the heck was wrong with the blurber. I've now taken to putting books with blurbs back on library and bookstore shelves--I don't read the blurbs or the books, either.

So I, of course, was very interested to read "This Book Will Change Your Life" at The author finishes the article with this question: "But isn’t the point of a blurb to kindle interest in the book — and not the blurber?"

Personally, I wonder if the point of blurbs is to provide free advertising for blurbers. Their names are slapped on the cover of someone else's book, and it doesn't cost them a dime. The down side of this, of course, is that if they've blurbed a stinker, readers like me will remember for a long, long time.

Thanks to for the link.

Never, Never Will I Wear A Costume

I will admit that I worry about what to wear to various book events. But I don't worry about what costume to wear to a party launching one of my books, because it ain't never going to happen. If I ever have a book launch party, which seems unlikely, I will worry about what to wear. But I already know that it won't be a costume.

I have to admit, though, that as a result of reading about this party and seeing this author's picture, I did try to find information on her, and I may remember the name of her book.

I'm still not wearing any costume.

Thanks to ACHOCKABLOG for the picture.

A Jane Yolen Update

I haven't mentioned Jane Yolen in quite some time because she was enduring a family crisis this past winter, and it was totally inappropriate for me to be talking about my obsession with her work ethic while that was going on. However, I don't see anything wrong with pointing out that even while not working at peak capacity, she still has seven books coming out this spring. My life has been an embarrassingly easy piece of cake, and how many books do I have coming out this spring?


I haven't written seven books in the last ten years!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Marketing: Take What You Can Get And Be Happy

While I'm waiting to hear whether or not Kaavya Viswanathan will be accused of plagiarizing me, thus ensuring national press for my new book, I have marketing news of a more realistic nature to report.

First, I received a telephone call yesterday from a reporter from a local paper asking to interview me next week. I had sent a press package to the paper's publisher, hoping to be covered by one of its papers that goes out to a larger part of the state. But, hey, publication day is only a little over two weeks away and the local people are the only folks interested. So, hurray!

Though these people put a horrible, horrible picture of me on their cover when my last book came out. I'm guessing it cost me sales. I'll have to be very careful how I pose.

Then I received the new issue of The Horn Book yesterday. They reviewed Happy Kid!!! I knew it wasn't going to be a starred review because Roger Sutton announces the starred reviews ahead of time in his blog. But it was reviewed, without a single negative word (in my opinion, anyway), and the cover was included with the review. I don't think I've ever had that happen before. I was very pleased.

Finally, I just spoke to my Aunt Tessy on the phone. She is seriously interested in promoting my Vermont bookstore appearance. I mean it. The woman was absolutely grilling me about what I'd sent to the newspapers.

It's a good thing I linked to that bookstore site. I didn't know I was reading and discussing. I also am not a '67 high school graduate. Much, much, later. I am going to contact them immediately.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Another Missed Opportunity For Gail

Kaavya Viswanathan is now being accused of plagiarizing Sophie Kinsella, as well as Meg Cabot and Salman Rushdie in addition to Megan McCafferty.

What? Salman Rushdie?

That's right. You read what I wrote. Megan McCafferty, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Salman Rushdie.

We're no longer dealing with reality here. We're trapped in an episode of Saturday Night Live.

I stuck my neck out and remained sympathetic even when I woke up this morning to news of the Sophie Kinsella allegations. But now I am just plain stunned. And this is why:

Wouldn't you think a girl smart enough to get into Harvard would know enough not to plagiarize well-known authors? Wouldn't a smart Harvard girl avoid books that tens of thousands of people have read? Wouldn't you think she would look to a book that didn't break any sales records? A book written by someone like...

I have a YA novel I would have been happy to have plagiarized. Very few people have read it. Her chances of being caught were virtually nil. And if she did get caught, I could have used the publicity a whole lot more than Sophie Kinsella or Meg Cabot, let alone Salman Rushdie.

Why, oh, why, didn't she plagiarize me?

Wait! Maybe she did!

I can still hope, anyway.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Shorter and Definitely Sweeter

I've got to stop the long rants and whinefests for a while, so I'm just going to do some quickie stuff today. (All together now, "Thank you, God!)

Could This Have Been Planned Somehow?

Big A little a reviewed Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku yesterday. I can't say that I'm really crazy about haiku. I can't say I even understand them. I believe they involve some math, which always throws me. However, I'm reading Criss Cross right now, which includes a section written in haiku. Or I think it does. It looks like haiku. At any rate, it's very clever, and isn't it one of those great cosmic coincidences that Big A little a would do a haiku review so soon after I had a haiku experience?

As Close As I've Ever Been

I have never been to one of those professional book conferences where publishers give out catalogs and review copies and authors discuss the business of writing. So I really enjoyed Anne Boles Levy's post at Book Buds about her experience at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. The people at Readerville have been talking about this Festival, too. But the Readervillians tend to be interested in people like Joan Didion and Frank McCourt who aren't noted for their work in the field of children's literature.

Be sure to check out Anne's earlier post about her actual encounters with authors. One went something like this: "I come running up to him screaming "You're Marc Kompaneyets!" since he might've forgotten that. It's never a bad thing to remind someone of their own name, I always say."

Ten Questions May Be Too Much For Me

Since I've done such a lousy job of publicizing my own book, I was interested in Buzz, Balls & Hype's post on Picking a Publicist. But the ten questions you're supposed to ask yourself when interviewing a PR consultant are probably more than I can manage.

And, yes, I do recognize that either the first or last reason for hiring a publicist probably applies to me.