Monday, December 31, 2012

Teaching a Character Development Class! - 1/20/13

Hey, you budding writers!  I'm teaching a class on character development on Sunday, January 20, 2012 at the Writing Pad in Los Angeles.  Care to spend the day with me and your favorite protagonist?  You can find the details on YA Character Collage:  Crafting Your Story From the Inside Out.  Be sure to check out the other awesome offerings on finding an agent, screenwriting, YA, you name it. 

Hope to see you there!

New Year's Eve 2012

alcohols,beverages,celebrations,champagnes,popping,corks,parties,special occasions

I am notorious for asking people to reflect on New Year's Eve.  I want to know what they thought about the old year, what they experienced.  I want to hear it all distilled into a simple conversation.  And then I want to know about their aspirations for the new year.  What will be remembering 365 days hence.

Everyone hates it. 

To a person, there is a shifting, leg-crossing and un-crossing discomfort, as if I'm about to give them a pop quiz on successes and failures in their life.  I've been told, "I don't like thinking about that."  Or "I dunno," or "Why do you do this!"

The reason is simple.  I'm a writer.  I tell stories.  I'm a reader. I like to hear stories, too.  What is a year but a clearly marked chapter in a life?  That doesn't mean that every chapter has to be scintillating.  We've all read books that pull you along and then, suddenly you can't wait to stick a bookmark in it  (I'm thinking Prince Caspian chapter 2 or so, From Hell chapter 4).    You are done.  You don't have the attention/patience/love to give it anymore.  Until an hour or so later, when you do.  And you keep on reading.

So, if you think your year has been dull, or miserable, or not worth mentioning, think again.  So much has happened in this last chapter that you might have forgotten.  Think about it.  And then, as with all good writing, every chapter ends with a little (or a big) cliffhanger.  What.  Happens.  Next? 

That's 2013 calling.  What will you do to answer it?
Happy New Year, Everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook, A Plea

An unspeakable crime was committed today at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT resulting in the deaths of 20 innocent children and six of their teachers.  My deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims.

 Five years ago, another horrific act took the lives of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech. 

I come from a family of teachers.  Three of my four bridesmaids teach.  Violence in the classroom strikes a particularly deep chord for me.  Today, a different chord was struck:  My husband is a graduate of Virginia Tech.  Once upon a time, he was also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

In both Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, the crimes were committed by young men.  In a September 2012 survey of mass shootings by Mother Jones, of the 61 incidents since 1982, 11 took place in schools and almost all of them were committed by men under the age of 30.  Time and again today I heard "experts" say that most of these killings are planned well in advance, that the killers often share their plans with others.  But no one listens.  No one takes them seriously until it is too late.

As a young adult writer I was struck by this fact.  It's the eternal condition of the kid to be ignored, sidelined, not listened to.  It's one of the reasons that I, as a kid, turned to books and storytelling.  It was a way to hear and be heard.   Now, I was lucky.  I had parents who cared, who taught me, who showed me right from wrong.  But they could not always take the time.  And when they couldn't, there was always a book.  Reading gave me a way to learn about the world without having to suffer every pain directly.  In that way, books taught me empathy.

Listening to the news today, I tried to think what I would say to the children who survived today's attack.  What books are out there to help them deal with grief, with loss, with the inexplicable.  And then I wondered, what I could do to help? 

As a writer, I ask you, what can we do to help.  How do we reach the child before he grows up to become a killer?  How do we reach the children who might end up beneath their desks or in a closet hoping they live to see Christmas? 

It is evident to me that, somehow, we are failing our young men.  Somewhere along the way, they are getting lost, angry, sick and they act out in horrific ways. 

I am not a doctor.  I am not a counselor.  I am not even a parent with children of my own.  But I am a writer.  I write for teens to show them a path out of darkness. 

It doesn’t get darker than this.

So, students, teachers, fellow authors let's put our heads together and come up with a new path.  How can we help stop this from ever happening again?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!   I wanted to post a beautiful vintage Thanksgiving image up here to warm hearts and bring a smile to your face, but the server has taken a holiday and won't allow it.  So, let's take that server's lead and all enjoy a day off too much strife. 

Kids, help the cook today and learn those recipes-- they will stay with you forever.  And to the grown ups out there, remember what it took to get everyone at the table and be grateful they are all there.

Wishing all of you a safe and delicious holiday,


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the Storm

Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a tropical storm rather quickly, but that did not stop the devastation she caused.  Sadly, one of the lessons I learned from Katrina is the aftermath is often worse than the storm.

If you live in any of the affected areas and are lucky enough to have power, please consider registering with the Red Cross's Safe and Well website.  Phone lines tend to be overloaded during emergencies.  This site is a way your loved ones can search for you by name and address to find out if you are okay.

If you are not affected by the storm directly, please use it as a reminder to be prepared.  There are plenty of resources online to help you come up with a disaster plan. 

Lastly, if you want to help, consider giving blood or donations through reputable sources.  This article lists a number of organizations poised to respond to the disaster.

This is another one for the record books. 

Everyone, be safe and sound. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Day in History: The Space Shuttle Came to Town

So, Space Shuttle Endeavor came to town recently.  Friday afternoon, a friend and I headed down to Inglewood to see it for ourselves.  It was like a street fair, tons of families hanging out, taking pictures and making incredibly bad jokes about the shuttle and the giant donut in the picture.  (How would you caption the photo above?  I know you've got a pun in you somewhere...!)

That's Randy's Donuts, if you're wondering (you can just read it on the side there).  A throwback from the days when every other building in LA looked like what it was:  The hat-shaped Derby, the bowl shaped Chili Bowl, the list goes on.  It probably has something to do with this being Hollywood.  We like our altered reality here.

File:Brown Derby Restaurant , Los Angeles , Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield.jpg
The Brown Derby Restaurant, Los Angeles.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.
This is a town that loves mixing reality with fantasy, and rubbing elbows with the stars.  So it was interesting to see such a crowd gathered at four o'clock in the afternoon on a work day, and nary a celebrity in sight.  Scarred and weathered from years of rubbing elbows with the real stars, Endeavor passed by to share a little of her glory with the rest of clayfoots.

Even the Goodyear Blimp made an appearance in the sky overhead to pay her respects. (It's that little fish-shaped thing just to the left of the light stand and donut.  And yes, all vessels are ladies in my book, if you must know.)  Endeavor's new home will be the California Science Center.  For more pictures, check out this fantastic photo gallery from the Los Angeles Times.  Amazing.

Welcome home, you beauty.  You'll fit in just fine.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Kiss A Wolf - A Beauty and the Beast Book Review Extravaganza!

The crazily talented Miss Cecil Castellucci has done something wonderful-- as editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books Young Adult/Children's Literature section, she has launched a series of reviews and ruminations on classic fairy tales. 

 Beauty and the Beast PosterBeauty and the Beast Poster

Are you a fairy tale buff?  Do you long to read every version of Beauty and the Beast that's out there?  Are you getting ready to watch the remake of the awesome 80s tv series and just want to wet your whistle a little?  (Side note:  I think the Beast should be A BEAST! Not a dude with contacts and a bad attitude. Ron Perlman rocked that lion-face like an Egyptian god!)  Then click on over and see what the likes of Aimee Bender, Merrie Haskell, Heather Tomlinson and a few others have to say on the subject.  Check out my review of Mercedes Lackey's THE FIRE ROSE-- note the cool cover art by my beloved Darrell K. Sweet!  I confess I did choose to review this book because of it's cover.  I've read half a dozen books for Sweet's cover art alone.  It's an interesting way to pick a book, since you never know what you're going to get! 

No matter which side you come down on, which versions you love, or love to hate, let's all tip our hats to seeing beauty in the mostly beastly of places (or faces), and love conquering all.

Noo Yawk Comic Con!!!


For all you lucky devils out there in Manhattan standing in line to get into this year's NYCC, I have a treat for you!  My wonderful publisher, G. P. Putnam and Sons will be at the Penguin Books booth handing out advanced reader copies of ORLEANS for your reading pleasure!  Just head over to booth #921 and say "Hey Mister, throw me something!"  And when they stare at you blankly, just ask for the book.  Not everyone has been to Mardi Gras.

Have fun my fellow comic book geeks.  EXCELSIOR!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Because I am a nerd

And because it's the 46th anniversary of Star Trek!  Check out the Google doodle in honor of the auspicious occasion.  It's more than a drawing-- it's an adventure!  Move your mouse around the screen and click on the highlights.  If you stay on the bridge, you're not being adventurous.

Thank you, Google!  And thank you, Mr. Rodenberry.  Trek Rules!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

My brain is on fire!

I usually do not post links to items for purchase.  If anything, I'll show you dreamy locations, usually full of books.  This is because I am not necessarily endorsing anything.

And yet...

I saw this map on, and it set my brain on fire!

Courtesy of BlueWillowFox

It's a map of Never Never Land!  With directions!

Burned into a sheet of leather, it folds up to become a journal cover.  The impossibly clever artist behind BlueFoxWillow has just exploded my mind. 

As a little girl, I was obsessed with Peter Pan.  I owned a beautiful, midnight blue leather bound copy of the book and carried it around with me.  I was Tinkerbell for three Halloweens in a row (unheard of these days-- the minute Halloween passes, I'm onto the next costume idea)!  I named my dog, and a pony after characters from the books!  Obsessed!

And now, this map.  Thank you, BlueFoxWillow, for making the sort of magic I only dreamed of come to life.

I'm off to dig up my copy of Peter Pan.

Friday, August 3, 2012

At long last...

First came the storms.
Then came the Fever.
And the Wall.

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct . . . but in reality, a new, primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. 

Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

In stores March 7, 2013.  Are you ready?  I am!   Three years in the making.  I hope you will think it was worth the wait!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rest in Peace: Ray Bradbury

Couresy of Yahoo/AP 

Sad news this morning.  Wonderful, pioneering science fiction writer Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday at the age of 91.  Not too shabby, really.  Ninety-one years!  It's almost like being a time traveler, seeing the world change over the course of a century.

We've entered that time when the greats from my youth are passing.  Maurice Sendak, and now Mr. Bradbury.  It makes me want to take up the torch and write something astonishing in fiery letters fifty stories high.  High enough that they can be read from Mars, or Venus.

Everyone, go out and read yourself a copy of "All Summer in a Day."  That's Bradbury.  It stays with you.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for the insight, entertainment, and education.  You will be missed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Litfest Pasadena This Saturday!!!

Art by Peter Nye

Remember that new book festival I told you about back in March?  It was postponed due to rain.  But it's not raining any more!  Join me this Saturday, May 12, 2012 at Litfest Pasadena in Central Park on Raymond. 

I will be moderating a panel at 10:30 am entitled: YOUTH KNOWS NO BOUNDS: Breaking the Cliques and Clichés of Young Adult Literature with Cecil Castellucci, Ron Koertge, Blake Nelson, Lisa Yee, and Jessica Brody

We will signing books after the panel.  I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodnight, Mr. Sendak, Goodnight

From IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak passed away today.  He was 83 years old. 

How many of us grew up reading Sendak's work?  Were you haunted by the chefs in the night kitchen?  Did you dream of rolling your terrible yellow eyes?  Did you long for a suit made of batter?

I did.

Thank you, Mr. Sendak, for breathing life into our imaginations, and giving us twisted, magnificent, jungle-like dreams.

Thank you, and good night.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Newsflash - A cancellation and a new beginning

view detailsFirst off, the bad news:  LitFest Pasadena has been postponed due to rain!  It's an outdoor event in lovely Central Park, Pasadena, but the forecast calls for stormy weather.  The good news is, they've already rescheduled for May 12th-- a day the almanac has called rain-free for 10 years.  So, my apologies to all the book fans who were looking forward to celebrating the day.  I hope to see you all in a couple of months.

view detailsAnd now, for the new beginning:  I'm teaching a class!  Yes, I am getting back in front of the blackboard, or in this case, the sofa, for an intimate, small group YA novel writing class.  It's been a few years since my last official class for adults, but I know that group spawned some awesome novels.  Let's do it again!

The class is being offered through Writing Workshops Los Angeles starting April 25th.  We'll be meeting Wednesday evenings for eight weeks at a student's home in Glassell Park, where tea and story structure are the order of the day.  If you're interested, check it out and sign up fast-- there are only eight spots and it's filling up!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet the Author - LitFest Pasadena!

Do you know what's so special about this Saturday?  Three things:

1.  It's March 17th, St. Patrick's Day!
2.  It's also my birthday!
3.  And it's the first annual Pasadena LitFest!

Come help celebrate all three wonderful events this Saturday at Central Park in Pasadena, CA.  I'll be moderating the Youth Knows No Bounds: Breaking the Cliques and Clichés of Young Adult Literature panel at 10:30 am with fabulous local authors Cecil Castellucci, Lauren Kate, Ron Koertge, and Lisa Yee.  Come by, join the conversation, and be sure to wear green!  (I'm not above pinching people!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Storytelling in the Sunshine State

St. Luke's Lutheran School

How lucky am I?  I'm just back from a visit to St. Luke's Lutheran School in Oviedo, FL as part of their S.P.L.A.S.H. Literacy Festival.  (If you're wondering, S.P.L.A.S.H. stands for "St. Luke's Promotes Literacy At School and Home.)  The festival is the brain child of two teachers, John and Anita Glanzer, who have been spreading a love of books across the country as part of their life mission. 

I must say, Florida is fast becoming my favorite state for school visits.  Gorgeous weather and friendly people, not to mention some of the craziest, most imaginative kids!  The stories we told in our writing workshops started with Crazy Hat Day as an inspiration, and went well beyond.  From Ghost Hats to evil tacos, flying horses to guys who just really need to take a bath-- well, as you can see, we had a blast!  One class had even created a map of events in FLYGIRL, laying out the story like a navigational map for a pilot-- what an amazing idea!  (I'd show you a picture but my photography skills couldn't do it justice.)
Thanks to the S.P.L.A.S.H. organizers, the St. Luke's staff and Parent/Teacher League for bringing me out.  Thank you to all of the students who worked so hard on their stories and made me feel welcome.  An extra special thanks goes to Sherry for the lovely tea cups and to my host mom, Siobhan, for taking care of me every step of the way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This short film by amazing writer/illustrator William Joyce and his new production company Moonbot won the Oscar for Best Animated Short last night.  Today, it completely stole my heart.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

L'esprit d'escalier - a book lover's treat!

Bookcase Staircase from Apartment Therapy: Europe
L'esprit d'escalier means "staircase wit."  It references the clever things you wish you had said earlier, but only recall after the fact, say, on the staircase instead of during the conversation.  It's the witty comeback you only come up with two days later, lying awake in bed.

Or, it's could refer to this awesome staircase, designed by Levitate Architecture and Design Studio in London.  A bookcase that is also a staircase, complete with skylight above to light your ascent.  It reminds me of Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  I can see myself curled up here for hours, reading, browsing, and getting in everybody's way.  Like a cat.

Go ahead and feed your imagination.  See more pictures at Apartment Therapy: Europe's website.