Monday, February 20, 2012

New digs for the blog!

Friends, this blog is going dark, because I have a new website! So excited for you to finally see it.

If you'd like to join me there, you're welcome to follow along. Find me here!

Me and social media like each other, but I'm just a little bit slow at it. Hopefully, with my new funky site, I'll be better able to keep my toe in the waters that are the YA interwebs.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2012 writing resolutions

Today is my birthday--yay for me! I love having a birthday so close to the end of the year, because I get double the new beginnings, and double the chance to make resolutions.

I've made a few for 2012, but several are too boring, strange, or gooshy to post on my blog. Since 2012 is the year of BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN, out in September (promo starting . . . now!), I thought I'd share the writing resolutions.

I tried on about sixteen, but I came up with two that seem possible.

Resolution #1: 329 days of NaNoBICMo

Many of you know that November is NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month. Not possible for me. However, this November I decided I'd have my own event--National Novel Butt In Chair Month--I'd write or do something writing-related every day. And I did. FANTASTIC. When I let my writing career be a part of my daily life, it became something vital, instead of something I have to wait to do until everything else is done. People have called it a hobby and a time-waster, but it's not. It's my career, and it matters. And 329 days is 90% of a year, so I can have a couple days off.

Resolution #2: 365 days of trusting myself
Way back in my wayback days, I learned not to trust myself. Long story. Even now, as a grown-up, it's a hard position to shake. Consequently, my internal writing dialogue often goes like this: why aren't you writing characters that sell? Why aren't you doing more social media? Why don't you have a career like hers? Or his? What's wrong with you? Why aren't you producing a novel a year? Why are you even writing? Dumb. Hurtful.

This year I resolve to trust myself to write the characters I love and the stories I love, and have a career I love that's mine, not someone else's. I will not worry about Twitter or Google+ or Goodreads, nor will I call my work pointless, even if every single other kidlit author in this state has a NYT bestseller. I also will not give up hyperbole, because I am good at it. : ) But seriously, have you checked out how much talent is in the Minnesota kidlit community? Amazing people here, and they could all accomplish it, all at the same time, even. And then I would cry. But I still resolve to trust myself.

Trusting = relaxing. Enjoying. Having fun. Those things can only be useful.

Please share your writing resolutions with me/us! I'd love to know them, so we can all support each other. Happy 2012, and peace and love to all. Yes, there are hippies in my family tree.

Beautiful cake photo swiped from here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Me and the Fail Whale

In an online group I belong to, several writers are sharing their awesome fan mail--such sweet, kind, funny e-mails! It's so fun to write for middle-schoolers/teens, because their comments to authors are hilarious and frank and perfect.

Confession: I haven't gotten fan mail from teens. Just grown-ups, though the notes were fantastic, and since we've all been teenagers, it sort of counts, right?


Then the Fail Whale came to mind. I've been thinking a lot about my books and my career, and feeling rather fail-ish as a whole. My books are about people our society would sometimes rather forget, which can be a problem if I want to make money, so I can teach less and write more. Should I try to write something more mainstream? I don't know. Should I write paranormal romance? Don't think I'm capable. Should I put my dream away?

The first illustration: it is me. I am dead on the shore.

Then I thought about what the actual Fail Whale is doing--he is FLYING. The Twitter birds (they're tweets?) are carrying him, because he is temporarily inconvenienced and he's too big. He is getting help from his friends! There will come a time when he is back in the ocean and swimming along. This is a *happy* picture instead of a failure.

Fail Whale says: shut up, quit thinking, and write. Let the good stuff carry you until you feel like you can swim again. Write the stories you want to tell. I'll find a way to do less teaching and more writing. I know, I'll become a swimsuit model! My middle-schooler will die of embarrassment, which is a bonus. Or I'll figure out something more realistic.

The notes from grown-ups are still fan letters, aren't they? People felt connected to my book, so they told me, and that's what I wanted when I wrote it. Maybe the fan letters from teens are still in the mail--maybe the Fail Whale birds are bringing them. I'll be hopeful.

(An aside: best comment ever about Twitter? When Stephen Colbert was asked if he'd used Twitter, his response was "I have Twatted." Love you, Stephen Colbert.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Outlaw Boots, pair #11: Crissa-Jean Chappell

What is it with outlaws and Chucks? They are friends to outlaws everywhere.

Welcome to a pre-Thanksgiving edition of Outlaw Boots! This month, I'm featuring Crissa-Jean Chappell, a fellow Fluxer, a fellow edgy YAer, and a lyrical, beautiful writer.

Her second book, NARC, will be out in the summer of 2012, and I am itching to read it. Here's the book summary:
Seventeen-year-old Aaron Foster was offered a choice--go to jail or turn undercover narc to hunt down the dealer trickling drugs into Palm Hammock high school. But Aaron has never been good at getting close to people. He is human wallpaper, a stoner wastecase obsessed with video games and "street magic." In the end, Aaron lies to everybody: his new friends, the tattooed punk, Skully Torres; and most of all, the wise, but troubled Morgan Baskin. He wants to believe it's for a good reason. As his attraction to Morgan grows, he finds it hard to tell if she's falling for the real Aaron... ...or the fake one.

Check out this fab cover art--I am partial to Flux covers, because they always do a spectacular job, and this one is no different.

Yes? YES. Triple yes. Crissa's first book is TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER, which I'm also anxious to read (ha ha, I made a pun, you'll see why when you check it out), and she's in the new anthology DEAR BULLY, with a poem that hurt my heart.

This is Crissa.

Want to know why Crissa's an outlaw?
Here's the video with the answers.
WATCH IT. Crissa makes cool videos--and she's got a bunch on her site, so watch those, too!

There's one question not on the video, and because she's in Florida, she's got an answer unlike any other Outlaw Boots post.

--favorite outlaw food?

In my backyard, you'll find unusual trees. The gumbo-limbo sheds its skin like a lizard. The orchids smell like rotten meat. The carambola fruit is shaped like a star. Its five points represent vices (opium-smoking, gambling, etc.) Long ago, Florida pioneers made wine out of it. That's why it's my favorite outlaw food.

Here's a picture of carambola fruit--makes me hungry.

Check her out, friends. You'll have no regrets. And Crissa, if you read this, I apologize for the layout. : \ It's all whacked out and out of balance, and I know you're an artist. : ( Blogger and I aren't friends this morning.

Friday, November 4, 2011

THE FIRST TIME--and a prize!

There's a new YA anthology in the world, and I'm in it! Check out all the company I'm in--it's a serious honor to be included. This anthology was born in the Debs 09 community on LiveJournal (we all debuted our first YA novels in 2009). They've been *so* much fun to hang out with--I've learned a ton, too.

What's the story about? A first time, of course. But it's also an epilogue to SKY--and it was harder to write than I thought. How do you write a stand-alone story with backstory that doesn't confuse a new reader? I hope it will satisfy those SKY readers who said "hey, that ending isn't fair! I want to know more!" Now you do.

The basics:

You never forget your first...

In THE FIRST TIME, 25 young adult authors contribute 25 stories all about firsts: first loves, first kisses, first zombie slayings, and more. Featuring New York Times bestselling authors Carrie Ryan and Jessica Verday, plus a host of others. From humor to horror, and everything in between, these stories will make you laugh, cry, cheer, (and maybe even scream) as you experience something brand new from the authors that you love.

Contributing authors include: Cyn Balog, Lauren Bjorkman, Leigh Brescia, Jennifer Brown, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Janet Gurtler, Teri Hall, Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Stacey Jay, Heidi R. Kling, C. Lee McKenzie, Saundra Mitchell, Jenny Moss, Jackson Pearce, Shani Petroff, Carrie Ryan, Sydney Salter, Kurtis Scaletta, Jon Skovron, Kristina Springer, Rhonda Stapleton, Charity Tahmaseb, Jessica Verday, J. A. Yang, and Lara Zielin

Get it from Amazon:

Get it from Barnes & Noble:

If you don't have a Kindle, you can still read this eBook on your phone, computer, iPad, e-reader, etc. Just grab the Amazon Kindle app here:

If you prefer the Barnes & Noble Nook app, get it here:

See what I'm saying? Look at all that linked goodness up there (whew, that took a while). It's an honor.

So what's the big prize? Read Morgan's story and be the first person to comment here about the landmark she's looking for. If you're first, you win a signed copy of SKY *and* a signed copy of BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN when it releases next year. Yes, I'll remember to send it to you--I promise!

I'm excited about this one. It was nice to return to Morgan, Rob, and Tessa--though the story didn't happen the way I assumed it would. And yes, for those of you who are curious about the real-life details in the story, I did do what Morgan does, just without the landmark.

Check it out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Outlaw Boots, pair #10: Steve Brezenoff


(Yes, hello and welcome to another pair of Outlaw Boots, but you guys! You need to know this person!)

This is Steve Brezenoff, fellow YA writer and good man all around. I like this picture, because you can see him. Usually he hides under a baseball cap. He wrote a book whose concept is so simple and so complex it blows me away.

That book is BROOKLYN, BURNING, and it's gotten rave reviews. The short synopsis is this: Sixteen-year-old Kid, who lives on the streets of Brooklyn, loves Felix, a guitarist and junkie who disappears, leaving Kid the prime suspect in an arson investigation, but a year later Scout arrives, giving Kid a second chance to be in a band and find true love.

That synopsis might be true, but the book is waaaaaay more incredible than that. And even though I'd rather let the book reveal it for you, the premise is too cool not to share: Kid and Scout don't have pronouns. Isn't that GREAT? You spend the entire book not knowing if Kid and Scout are hes or shes or zhes or hirs or another kind of human entirely. PHENOMENAL. And imagine trying to write it. Yeah. Not knowing a character's gender spins a narrative (especially a love story) in so many new directions I don't know where to begin. Basically, I'm jealous of the idea, and his lovely writing makes the idea even more profound--and profoundly beautiful.

All of this is to say Steve Brezenoff wears Outlaw Boots. Here's why:

--Who's your most outlaw character (in any book)--why?
I think every one of my characters has broken plenty of laws. But Kid’s the biggest outlaw, despite not being guilty of the central crime.

--Are you an outlaw too? How do you know?
In the general sense, I hope my fiction is iconoclastic enough to pull me along with it into some respectable level of outlawness.

--What kind of shoes does your outlaw wear (you or your character)?
Checkered Vans, just like Scout, and Scout’s an outlaw as much as Kid is.

--Pirate, ninja, nerd, other outlaw title for you/your character:

Ninja, because my book of the moment is AS King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, and it’s got outlaw kindness ninjas and they rule.

--Best thing about being an outlaw:
The hours.

--Favorite outlaw/badass food:
I bet a purely outlaw character would be vegan. Hail seitan.

--Favorite outlaw/badass role model/why:
Butch Cassidy. You thought I’d say Holden Caulfield, didn’t you?

You need to pick this book up, friends, but start your Steve Brezenoff reading extravaganza with THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF -1, Steve's first book. Now go!

Friday, October 14, 2011


As writers, we think about audience, especially if we're kidlit writers. To me, a YA audience seems complicated: does one F bomb make a book inappropriate for 12-year-olds? What about two? Is a trans guy appropriate for 13-year-olds? The answer, of course, depends on the audience members. One dad might be OK with his 12-year-old reading an F bomb. One mom might not be. A writer can't worry about that stuff, at least not right away. It is life-threatening to your story.

How this picture relates: I have wanted purple hair for a long time--a LONG time--and now I have some, and I love it. Kid likes it, husband is neutral. Friends? Nobody will care. The question is my work audience. My boss's boss will assume I'm a bad influence (he already does), my boss won't care, and my students will laugh or make fun of me. Any/all of that is fine. It's my hair and I like it (it's slightly Rainbow Brite, for those of you who remember her, but that's OK). Don't trust my abilities anymore because of my hair? Your loss.

If you grew up in a house like mine, audience awareness was key--you learned it before you learn to read, because the grown-ups were unpredictable and you had to be on guard. As a grown-up, that ability to read the room is very useful, but it's also dangerous when there's no threat. Being on guard all the time is harmful.

Same with writing. If I'm thinking audience all the time, my book becomes someone else's book, because I'm writing for their expectations. I don't want that. If I write the book I love, an F bomb in the wrong place won't jinx things. And if it does, that person isn't my audience. I'll find my peeps somewhere.

Same with purple hair.