When I decided to take today as a ME day, I thought it was a good idea. Like the above photo, I thought a mani/pedi followed by hair color and cut would be the perfect antidote to the 14 hours I spent yesterday getting 4 presentations in the can (well, at least the power point piece). Best laid plans and all that intervened. Instead of the spa type day I envisioned, the day threw several monkeywrenches at me (and the monkeys on those wrenches were flinging things, too, not just wrenches). I felt more like this:
Despite the bumps along the way, I love the color on my nails and the color in my hair. The professionals whose job it is to make that happen came through despite some challenges. Why, oh why am I talking about nail polish and hair ink? Well, because the bottom line is that professionals do a job I could not. If I had attempted to paint nails or color hair, the disaster would have been more than the speed bumps I experienced today. As a matter of fact, the woman that does my hair color labored over me for 2 hours until SHE was as pleased as I was.
So, why won't others leave it to professionals? Why does the NCTQ get a pass on the credentials of their investigators (and actually I think the word INSTIGATORS is more accurate)? Why do professional organizations still support the IDEA of CCSS instead of asking why we are mired in this mess? Why just call for a moratorium on testing (and the IRA finally came along today to add their voices to the call for a period of "wait and see") when we need clarion calls to reject a curriculum that has serious flaws? Have we sunk so low as a profession that we no longer are permitted to offer opinions?
As you can see, I did have some time to ponder the imponderable today. I even fit in bout 70 pages of a book I had been waiting to read for a week. Now, I am focusing on heading to Maine and the Boothbay Institute at the end of the week. That is a different kind of ME day (get it?).
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood:puzzled
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
Melissa Iwai and Anne Rockwell interview each other about their new release, Truck Stop, written by Anne and illustrated by Melissa (Viking, 2013). From the promotional copy:
Early each morning, before the sun is even up, the truck stop opens for breakfast, and the trucks start pulling in. Eighteen wheeler, milk tank, moving van, and flatbed!
Their drivers order eggs and bacon, pancakes with syrup, and a blueberry muffin.
For the boy who helps his parents at the counter, there is nothing better than seeing all the trucks roll in.
Melissa: Anne, it was very exciting to read your manuscript for Truck Stop (Viking, 2013) when it was first presented to me. My family and I have long been a big fan of your books, and I was so thrilled to be chosen to illustrate one of your stories! You’ve been so prolific and written so many wonderful stories throughout the years.
You’ve written books for early readers, such as Boats (Puffin, 1993), At the Supermarket (Henry Holt, 2010), First Day of School (HarperCollins, 2011). Also stories relating to history, mythology, and science. . . .
I wonder—what keeps you curious about the world and inspires you to write?
|Photo of Anne by Oliver Rockwell, copyright 2013.|
I can’t think of any child who divides the world into “fiction” vs “nonfiction” but adults do, which is sad, because children bring a joy and beauty to everything they learn, and no matter what we think, young children enjoy learning.
Sullivan Wong Rockwell reading his first book not yet knowing that his NaiNai (Mandarin Chinese for "paternal grandmother") wrote and illustrated it many years ago for another little boy who grew up to be Sullivan’s BaBa. Photo by Oliver Rockwell, copyright 2013.
Melissa: Where do you get your voice?
Anne: I’m afraid I don’t get it. It owns me; it gets me, and I’m lucky when it comes my way. I’ve learned ways to summon it.
I find that it seeks me out when I’m in a foreign country. Fortunately I love to travel, and the voice seems to find me more readily when speaking, and sort of functioning in a foreign language.
A few years ago I was alone for an extended sketching visit to the south of France. Café au lait and fresh baked bread goes well with the song of pinball machines, I find, and ancient Roman ruins.
My sketchbook seems to want to turn into a journal—no, I mean a picture book. A picture book comes, and the language is that of my childhood. I wish I could summon that voice, but it has a mind of its own.
Melissa: Do you remember what the seed was for the story of Truck Stop?
Anne: Not specifically but it goes back to the same place, that I love to travel. I’m fascinated by the places we claim as our own when we’re on the road. My son and his family, including my littlest grandson, live in China, so I’ve been there twice for extended stays. Even in a village unchanged from the Ming Dynasty (14th through 17th century) at the base of the Great Wall, travelers may reach out in friendship. I guess I’m just fascinated by food culture around the world.
The Hungry Artist, and your picture book Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010). I guess that assured you having the right emotional take on Truck Stop.
Melissa: Thanks, Anne. I do love that in the story, each trucker has his/her own particular truck as well as a particular breakfast dish. It was so fun to create the diner scenes and their breakfasts. I wanted to communicate the camaraderie and sense of community between the characters. They have a connection with the narrator and his family, and breakfast brings them together.
Anne, did you have any people in mind when you created the characters for Truck Stop?
Anne: No, they chose me. I’m sure, however, that they were lurking in my memory.
Melissa: By the way, where do you write?
Anne: On my laptop in my living room, before the sun is up, just like the truckers whose days begin at dawn.
Melissa: These days, at least to me, it seems harder and harder to sell picture book manuscripts. What advice you have for aspiring picture book authors?
Anne: None, really. There’s a lot of chatter regarding budget cuts and picture books are expensive to produce, whether e-books, and warehouses full of unsold celebrity books. It’s discouraging, but I guess all you can ask for is patience, and don’t let discouragement stop you from working on things you love. Change is often painful, and our market is certainly changing!
Melissa, your work manages to be so powerfully designed, bright colored, and your people manage to be both eternal and also newborn. I’d love to know more about how you work.
Melissa: I knew I wanted to use collage for the illustrations of Truck Stop. I like painting, but I feel that collage forces me to keep the shapes simpler and that’s what I wanted. So the artwork is a sort of combination of both. Parts of it are painted (the skies and a lot of the paper used in the collages). But I glued everything together to make a whole, much like a collage.
Then I scanned the finished collage into the computer and made adjustments, added things, and cleaned up the images in Photoshop.
If you look closely, you can see the same textures which I colored in Photoshop and placed in Priscilla and Maisie’s hair:
I also wanted to incorporate white space into my artwork to give it some lightness. The structure of having each truck driver introduced along with their breakfast item lent itself well to that approach.
Anne: Your artwork is so fresh, yet I know there’s a lot of technical know-how there. I was fascinated by your saying the wheels on all the little endsheet trucks were added by your computer. Could you expand on that?
Melissa: Sure. I made all the vehicles individually by gluing pieces of paper together. Except the wheels:
It’s difficult to cut 20 or so wheels the same size neatly. I would paint a swatch of black by hand, scan that in, and then put it into a shape of a wheel that I made in the computer. That way, the wheels are uniform, but the texture is varied. I think it is cleaner and less distracting this way. The final endpaper with text and wheels:
Anne: My own take is completely different as you can see from my workplace on the most recent book I illustrated, At the Supermarket (Henry Holt, 2010). It’s a redo from a title I’d written and my husband illustrated, in three colors! My granddaughter, Julianna Brion, helped me with the coloring in this new edition. She’s amazing!
Not a computer in sight, as you can see! I do all my writing on the computer however, and find word processing a wonderful tool. You can revise and revise some more (as I do) without filling wastebaskets.
Melissa: Yes, you’ve illustrated many of your books. How do you decide which ones you will illustrate and which ones will be illustrated by someone else?
My own style is right for young children, but I feel that something else is needed for books whose story is for older children.
It’s difficult for such picture books to reach their audience, since too many teachers and parents don’t want to see their child absorbed in a book that’s easy to read, which is sad.
For instance, I love the pictures R. Gregory Christie did for Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth (Knopf, 2000).
I find it’s very important when I’m writing a picture book that I’m not illustrating, that I know each passage is visual. So I set up a word document, and number the pages. I don’t make a dummy from there, but I need to know it’s possible.
A picture book is more like a poem, a work in a tight format. That determines its structure. Some illustrators get this, while others don’t. It’s a scary process!
That’s why I was so thrilled when I saw what you’d done in Truck Stop and hope we can do more! I hope you’ll take it in the spirit meant when I say the pictures look like what I would have done.
Melissa: Of course! I’m so happy you feel that way. When I illustrate other people’s stories, I always wonder what they think with of end result. Usually I don’t meet them—if at all – until all the work is handed in and the book is printed.
I would love to work with you again, and this time, it would be a process of collaboration from the beginning!
Anne Rockwell began writing and illustrating children's books in the 1950s and is well known and loved by generations of children. Her work has won many awards and accolades. She lives in Connecticut.
Melissa Iwai has illustrated over twenty picture books, and has both written and illustrated Soup Day. A California native, Melissa now lives in Brooklyn, not far from the Brooklyn Bridge, with her husband and son.
- MrD bringing me a big, luscious purple flower that he'd carefully selected for me from the garden.
- Reading Merrie Haskell's Handbook for Dragon Slayers, which was just fabulous! I finished it last night and let out a happy sigh. Full review to follow, either later today or tomorrow.
- Passing 46,000 words on my WIP, Family Magic. (Less than 14K to go!)
- Selling a new short story! Yay! My funny, semi-Cinderella-esque story "The Wrong Foot" is going to be published in Daily Science Fiction! I had so much fun writing this story, and it's one of the few I've written that I'd classify as YA (along with "The Unladylike Education of Agatha Tremain" and "Undead Philosophy 101"). I can't wait to share it with you guys! (And also, to be completely honest, my second thought after reading the acceptance email was: And now we can pay for the baby's new stroller! So: it's a happy artistic moment AND a happy family one, too!)
- Opening up my calendar and writing on a new date: Baby!!!! (Only with a LOT more exclamation points!)
See, I found out yesterday, at an appointment with my obstetrician, that we actually have less time to wait for the baby than we'd thought - for unavoidable medical reasons, this is actually going to be a scheduled birth, a couple weeks earlier than expected. (But it's nothing to worry about - it's just a preventative measure, to avoid anything going wrong like it did at the end of my first pregnancy.)
On the one hand - eep! Less than four weeks left to get everything ready, finish my new book, finish my last pre-baby freelance project, do my taxes, figure out the admin details of self-employment-maternity-leave, etc., etc., etc!
But on the other hand: I get to meet my new baby 2 weeks early! That is pretty incredible.
So...I'm writing like a madwoman right now...but I'm also ordering nursing tops, sorting through baby clothes, and getting ready for life to change again.
I can't wait.
I’m going in story order for these posts, and do you know why? Anne Hoppe, the wonderful editor at HarperTeen who took on this project, and I spent months figuring out the story order. It was a very complicated game of chess, and the rules kept changing. We knew our winner’s story would go in the middle– but we didn’t yet know what it would be about.
And we didn’t want to repeat elements, or title-types, or themes… I checked my outbox just now and we wrote 67 e-mails JUST about the story order. That’s why the ARCs had no page numbers in the table of contents. And why I was so relieved that the final book did. I had a little recurring nightmare that I got the finished copies and every story was the same story, instead of all the ones that belonged there. Jeez louise, subconscious, really?
So without further ado, the rest of my delicious authors!
THE SUNFLOWER MURDERS by Kate Espey (New Author Winner!)
I’ve talked about the contest before, and finding Kate’s story, and how humbling it was to find this high school student from Texas who writes better than I do. (Very humbling, for the Cliffs Notes set out there.) So I want to talk a little bit about Kate herself. She’s been nothing but enthusiastic and curious and dedicated throughout all of this. But the moment I knew she was exactly the right author to be in this antho was during revisions. I sent back bloody notes on her story, and waited anxiously to see how she would handle them. I was ready to do a lot of hand holding and tear-wiping if I had to, but I never did. She revised that story like a boss– and she pushed back where she should have. Even though she’s a teen, and she just won this contest, and it’s her first publication, she was still willing to fight for something she thought belonged in her story. She was right– and she’s a hell of a writer, too. What an amazing find, all thanks to HarperTeen and Figment Fiction!
ALMOST NORMAL by Carrie Ryan (THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, MUTINY IN TIME)
I’ve written love letters to Carrie here before. She was my imprint buddy when our very first novels were coming out, and I feel so lucky to count her among my friends. I’ve also been lucky enough to see most of her books as manuscripts, just as she’s seen mine. We’ve given each other so many notes over the years that we have shorthand at this point. Doing copyedits for an anthology can be tricky business– so many different voices! So many different people’s intentions to consider, all while trying to make the book look and feel consistent. Fortunately, when it came to Carrie’s copyedits, I looked them over, I made the changes and I sent it back. Then I sent Carrie an e-mail that said, “Just did your copyedits. It was all commas.” Her reply? “You know how I feel about commas.” This is why it’s fun to work with friends.
THERE’S NOWHERE ELSE by Jon Skovron (MISFIT, MAN MADE BOY)
Jon once sent me a t-shirt that said WISE AND PUSHY. So that should tell you a lot about our relationship right there. Asking Jon to be a part of this anthology was a no brainer. I loved his debut novel, went nuts for his second novel, and now, I’m eagerly awaiting his third. I’d never seen his manuscripts before, so I was excited to find out what it looks like when Jon gets words down on the page but hasn’t been edited yet. It turns out that he’s stupidly talented. Instead of feeling wise, I felt kinda dumb– my first drafts are a MESS. I sent back my notes, and frustratingly, he executed them right away and perfectly. This meant I had very little opportunity to be pushy. Now my rep with him is totally ruined, but it’s worth it for such a great story.
NAUGHTY OR NICE by Myra McEntire (HOURGLASS, INFINITYGLASS)
So, the theme for the anthology was “something happens at night or in the dark.” I expected Halloween stories, and ghost stories, and dream stories and alter-ego stories. What I didn’t expect was a Christmas-themed romp with a mythological demon set loose in the Alps. And that, my friends, is why I asked Myra McEntire to be part of this anthology. I remembered reading her HOURGLASS and being blown away by her imagination and her unexpected details (a character seeing things that aren’t there puts a glass down on a piano… that’s not there, it was just so genius!) Finding out what she would do with the dark was definitely unexpected, and such a fun and unique trip into it. The greatest thing about the dark is that you have no idea what might be lurking in it, and Myra brought that excitement into the antho with style.
SHADOWED by Christine Johnson (CLAIRE DE LUNE, THE GATHERING DARK)
Christine doesn’t write historical fiction (in fact, she writes contemporary paranormal and science fiction, for the most part.) So she thoroughly surprised herself when she started pounding out this story for DEFY THE DARK, set in the Middle Ages, full of unfamiliar details and setting quirks. She did an amazing job stepping into the genre, and she researched like whoa. Now, I do write historical fiction and I happen to love this time period. So when I wrote notes for her, some of them were about settings and possibilities. One of them was about a metaphor she’d used, [a spoiler] crumpling like a fan. She looooooved that line. She loved it so much. I was disappointed to tell her that she couldn’t use it because folding fans weren’t invented until the 16th century. Later, I was reading another book on the period and discovered that I had let an error slip by. I called Christine to apologize. I told her, “I gave you a note that was wrong, and I’m sorry,” and she interrupted to say, “Don’t you dare tell me I could have had that fan!” We writers give up hard on lines we love, what can I say?
NOW BID TIME RETURN by Saundra Mitchell (Yours truly)
I have no idea how a story by this hack got in here. Actually, it’s funny. I’d never intended to write for the antho. I assumed I was only editing. Then my editor asked my agent why I wasn’t listed with the contributors. I told him, well, because I’m editing. Then my agent was like, um, duh, of course you have to write a story for your own antho. Who knew? Obviously not me! (And no, I didn’t get to edit myself. Anne Hoppe wrote fantastic notes for me. So there you have it– there’s no way around a revision letter in this business!)
THE MOTH AND THE SPIDER by Sarah Ockler (TWENTY BOY SUMMER, THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS)
I really, really wanted contemporary and genre fiction to hang out together in this anthology. This meant I had to ask Sarah Ockler to be a part. She has this gift for writing right along the razor line, both agonizing and wonderful. Which is a little bit funny to me, because she’s one of the goofiest people I know. Because of Sarah Ockler, I call Josh Berk “Kittenface.” She mocks me with sponge candy, and with a stove that I can’t have. (She left it in a basement, just to thwart me.) She has a naan face, and she’s not afraid to use it. She fascinates me, because she reminds me that we can’t ever know all of a person. I don’t know how she fits her darkly sensitive stories in the same head that creates a kittenface, but I love it, and I love her for it.
WHERE THE LIGHT IS by Jackson Pearce (SISTERS RED, COLD SPELL)
Jackson and I have a relationship based on yelling, candy, and random e-mails in the middle of the night. It’s like those Jingos commercials, except it’s usually stuff like, OMFG THIS COVER I AM DYING! Or NOOOOOOOOO DNW DNW DNW! Of course I was going to ask her to be part of this antho all along. But I was a shameless opportunist, because I knew she’d already written a story that fit the theme. I knew it because I’d given her a beta read on it, and I loooooooooooooved it. It was smart and clever and had just the right amount of spite behind it to delight me. The anthology it was supposed to be in got cancelled, so I swooped in like a vulture. My query to her was LET ME HAVE THAT STORY YOU WROTE FOR MY ANTHOLOGY. I promised to adore it and pet it and love it all over. And I do, I totally do. Who says shameless opportunism doesn’t get you anywhere?
THIS WAS OPHELIA by Tessa Gratton (BLOOD MAGIC, THE LOST SUN)
Readers talk about bulletproof kinks: elements that guarantee you’ll read the book that contains them, no matter what. When you get more than one bulletproof kink in a single piece, my best friend and I call that jumping up and down on the big red buttons. This story by Tessa jumped up and down on every single big red button I have. Then it invented a couple more that I didn’t even know I had. I read it three times before I was ready to sit down and try to write revision notes. I still look at this story with stars in my eyes. I love every single piece in this anthology, I really do. THIS WAS OPHELIA haunts me. The next time I see Tessa, I’m going to end up kneeling to her and murmuring in awe, “My liege.” Then she will laugh at me, which is the only possible, reasonable response.
That concludes A Lot about Defy the Dark: Part Two. I just want to thank all of these authors again. I had a goofy little dream about editing an anthology, and each and every one of these folks made it come true. They made me laugh and cringe, they surprised me and delighted me. They’re all so damned talented, and I’m humbled by the beautiful anthology they created with their ideas and words.
Thank you guys. You’re the best.
Also, a happy book birthday to Lisa Brackmann, author of Hour of the Rat, which is out today. It's a follow-up to the suspenseful Rock Paper Tiger.
Lisa is one of the people I mentioned in the acknowledgments of Try Not to Breathe for not sending my emo writer emails (you know the ones, the "writing is kicking my butt waah waah and why don't I just go study banking or something") to the spam filter, but instead responding with encouragement. As gracious writer friends do.
But the real reason to check out her book is this line from the synopsis: "... as soon as she starts asking questions about the missing Jason, Ellie realizes that she’s stumbled into a dangerous conspiracy that may or may not involve a sinister biotech company, eco-terrorists, an art-obsessed Chinese billionaire and lots of cats—one that will take her on a wild chase through some of China’s most beautiful—and most surreal—places."
Missing people. Suspense. Conspiracy. China. And CATS.
"A large majority of programs (71 percent) are not providing elementary teacher candidates with practical, research-based training in reading instruction methods that could reduce the current rate of reading failure (30 percent) to less than 10 percent of the student population."
Some background here would be good. The analysis conducted by NCTQ basically was comprised of collecting syllabi and searching them for key words. So, when I turn to their assessment of my university, I see criticisms that we are not addressing CCSS. DUH, no kidding. We did not adopt CCSS. However, it goes further with low scores on how we address early reading (and make no mistake what they are looking for here: phonics, drill and kill, etc.) and low scores on lesson planning (our students will be dumbfounded to see this).
Add in here the fact that alternative certification programs received a pass this time around. I can hear Ferdinand pawing the ground from here.
Here is the bottom line: universities, with their intellectual freedom, have been free to be critical of the idiocy in education "reform." In the preface to the report is a phrase that calls teacher education preparation programs an "industry of mediocrity." It decries the fact that there are more teacher with less experience in the classroom than ever before (which really is an indication that they are either clueless or being deliberately "naïve" as to why this might be the case).
The National Education Policy Center has this to say: http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/central-h
NCTE's CEE prepared a statement on the NCTQ in 2011 (http://www.ncte.org/cee/positions/nctq
As for me, the bottom line is this: if "reformers" cannot place a total stranglehold on those of us working with schools, they will dismantle us brick by ivy-covered brick. I fear for the future of education unless we all stick our heads out that window and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Screaming is therapeutic in the face of this concerted effort to eradicate quality education except for the privileged few.
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood:puzzled
Kristen Kittscher is the first-time author of The Wig in the Window (HarperChildren's, 2013). From the promotional copy:
Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game of spying on their neighbors. But on one of their late-night pretend stake-outs, the girls stumble across a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (a.k.a. Dr. Awkward).
At least they think they do…the truth is that Dr. Agford was just making her famous (and messy) pickled beets!
But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something–and they’re determined to find out what it is.
Soon the girls are cracking codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents.
As their investigation heats up, the girls start to crack under the pressure. Even if Sophie and Grace uncover the truth about Agford in time, will their friendship survive?
Who has been your most influential writing/art teacher or mentor and why?
My first mentors were Sean Murphy, who writes literary fiction for adults (The Hope Valley Hubcap King and The Time of New Weather) and his wife, Tania Casselle, a travel writer who also writes fiction. They run a yearly online class called “Write to the Finish.”
I’d first met Sean in a writing conference in Taos in 2005 I had attended to inform my teaching. I had a notion I wanted to write a novel but had no idea what said novel would be about. I’ll never forget him saying, “Well, you better decide by tomorrow.”
And that’s how Sean was; he had taught for years with Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones). His approach was simple: if you want to write, you’re meant to. Prioritize, set goals, and believe in yourself. His and Tania’s mentoring broke a seemingly insurmountable task into easy chunks.
My other mentor – whose voice echoes in my head as I write the sequel to The Wig in the Window – is Kara LaReau. Kara was an editor at Scholastic and Candlewick for over a decade and was best known for plucking Kate DiCamilo’s Because of Winn-Dixie out of the slush pile.
Kara briefly ran an editing consultancy, and I was lucky enough to work with her during the year she was in business. She taught me everything, essentially: how to keep scenes moving, how to stay loyal to characters, how to create a rhythm for scenes.
Of course, I’m still learning all of that – but she gave me a start! I came in with a very strange manuscript that wasn’t at all ready, and she taught me how to give the story an arc. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have worked with her. Working with her also gave me great practice revising and incorporating notes before I went through the process with my editor at Harper.
As a comedic writer, how do you decide what's funny? What advice do you have for those interested in either writing comedies or books with a substantial amount of humor in them?
|Follow Kristen on Twitter @KKittscher|
People laugh at things that feel true — but that they might not say aloud. They also laugh at the unexpected, so it’s all about finding the right moment to make an ironic twist. That’s where the timing comes in.
My approach is to drop down into my main character’s head and observe the world from her point of view — to see all the absurdities through her eyes. Then I exaggerate those observations.
Whether that would work for others or not, I’m not sure!
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.
Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.
As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.
Excerpt "Of Beast and Beauty"
(c. Stacey Jay 2013)
There’s a woman in the garden.
steps with her arms held out and her head bobbing like one of the giant
things bursting out all over. When we first crawled from the caverns, I
stumbled in the face of it. I fell, and my hands felt alien against the soft,
wet grass. The smells devastate me. I don’t have Desert People or Smooth Skin names them, can’t
tell where one smell ends and another begins. The land under the glass dome
overwhelms with its life.
They cry until they have no strength left, and their silence is worse than
their moans. The tribal medicine men have become death dealers. Better to eat poison
root and have the pain over in an instant than to die slowly.
time, but only a little. We must have the roses. According to our chief’s
visions, they are the key to the magic that keeps the land under the domes
flourishing and abundant.
ago. “Die for them. Kill for them if there is no other way.” Our chief is a
peaceful woman. But these are not times for peace.
come. They’re everywhere. They were here a few minutes ago. I hid in the
orchard, but they’ll come again, and I might not be so lucky next time. The
moons are so bright, it’s practically daylight under the dome. I have to act.
If Gare were here instead of on the other side of the city, he would have already slit the
girl’s throat and wrested a plant from the soil, and would be halfway back to
river. It will take generations more to find another way in if we fail,
generations we may not live to birth. This path will serve us only once. When
the Smooth Skins realize what we’ve done, they’ll shore up their underground
defenses, build another impenetrable wall. They already suspect an attack will
come. Their guards shot arrows at our scouts as they circled the city. This is
our only chance.
I flex my hands. My claws grow loose inside the grooves above my
Launch Signing and Signed Pre-Order Announcement:
And in other OF BEAST AND BEAUTY news, I've scheduled my launch signing. I'm going to be at Hicklebee's in San Jose on August 8th at 7:00. You can learn more (and pre-order your copy of OF BEAST AND BEAUTY) over at their website: http://www.hicklebees.com/event/stacey-j
Hicklebee's ships nationwide, so you don't have to be present at the signing to order a signed copy.
I'm not quite prepared to share all the nitty-gritty on the goodies those who pre-order the book will receive, but let me assure you they will be AMAZEBALLS, the best goodies I've ever given away and limited edition and ONLY available to those who pre-order the book through Hicklebees. I will not be giving these goodies away to anyone else for at least six months (and maybe never if I run out before then). So I would encourage you to pre-order, even if you are going to be at the signing, to make sure that you reserve your sweet swag.
And now, off to write, my pretties. Have a lovely day,
If I were to theoretically pitch a YA anthology to my publisher under the title and concept of 12 HOURS OF NIGHT (being that you can write anything you want to, as long as it somehow reflects the sensibility of night/dark) would you be theoretically interested in writing a story for it? I’m whacking around, thinking about a proposal and just trying to gauge interest. Something between 4k – 10k on the word count, and since I’m pitching it to a mainstream publisher, you would get paid, I just dunno how much yet. I’m just thinking, every antho needs a good dose of amazeballs, and you’d certainly be the one to ask to provide that!! (THIS E-MAIL AND SUCCEEDING E-MAILS IN NO WAY CONSTITUTE A LEGALLY BINDING COMMITMENT TO PRODUCE A STORY ON YOUR PART.)
I sent a version of this letter to both genre and contemporary authors, and I was thrilled to get fifteen yesses. They came from Courtney Summers, Aprilynne Pike, Dia Reeves, Malinda Lo, Rachel Hawkins, Valerie Kemp, Sarah Rees Brennan, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Jon Skovron, Myra McEntire, Christine Johnson, Sarah Ockler, Jackson Pearce and Tessa Gratton.
The title of the project changed (to DEFY THE DARK, natch) but my concept for it never did. Whatever you want to write about, as long as it happens at night or in the dark. Because, see, I love these authors. I asked them to be a part because I wanted to see what they would do. (It was not because I wanted them to dance like my very own puppet monkeys, no matter what anybody says. Okay, maybe a little.)
Then, HarperTeen, Figment Fiction and I held a contest to find a new author– so I have the opportunity to introduce Kate Espey as well. This is her first publication, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to introduce her. To celebrate the release of the book, I’d like to say a wee thing about each author or each story over the next couple of days.
And I want to say thank you, because I sent that goofy e-mail more than two years ago to these people, and every single one of them stuck with it. With the exception of Kate, whom we were lucky enough to find later, every author who agreed to be in my proposal is in my anthology. Thank you guys; you’re amazing!
SLEEPSTALK by Courtney Summers (SOME GIRLS ARE, THIS IS NOT A TEST)
I had to write to Courtney via the contact box on her website, because I didn’t know her. More accurately, I knew her– she didn’t know me. I was a raving, frothing fangirl, actually. I have repeatedly embarrassed myself on Twitter, raving about her books. I buy them digitally at midnight so I can read them IMMEDIATELY, then I buy them again in hardcover, so I can keep them forever, then I buy them again in paperback so I can evangelize. Her books are gritty, smart and real. They make me bleed, and I love her for it. Approaching Courtney was nerve-wracking, and I almost didn’t do it. It felt like those teens who ask celebrities to the prom, for real. I was giddy for days when she said yes.
NATURE by Aprilynne Pike ((WINGS, EARTHBOUND)
I’m lucky enough to call Aprilynne Pike one of my friends. She doesn’t usually write short stories, but she said yes for me. It was an experiment for both of us, this anthology. But, she was a sure thing, and for that, I was grateful. One of the first conversations I had with my editor at HarperTeen for the antho, we were going over my “possible contributors list.” She got to Aprilynne’s name. She said, “Now, don’t feel bad if Aprilynne Pike drops out.” After all, she was a #1 New York Times Bestseller– a real “get”. I told my editor that I was sure Aprilynne wouldn’t, but she didn’t believe me. She was trying to spare me some naive heartache, which was really sweet. Except right at that moment, my second line rang. It was Aprilynne, calling to chat. She’s totally a real “get”, and hilarious on the phone. I’m just saying.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON by Dia Reeves (BLEEDING VIOLET, A SLICE OF CHERRY)
When BLEEDING VIOLET came out, Dia hired me to do her postcards and bookmarks. I loved the book for its hallucinogenic, horrifying qualities, but I didn’t know her all that well. In fact, I was a little anxious about using the e-mail I had for other business purposes to ask her about the anthology. I really, really, really wanted her to say yes because I wanted to make sure there was a classic, all-out horror story among the collection. Like, the kind that makes you worry about your own shadow, and run to jump in bed, just in case something is under it. I knew Dia could do it, so I was thrilled when she agreed to be a part of DEFY THE DARK. When I read her story for the first time 1) I had nightmares and 2) I couldn’t stop smiling. It was exactly what I feared and desired.
GHOST TOWN by Malinda Lo (ASH, ADAPTATION)
You know how when you’re a freshman, there’s always one upperclass student who is, like, everything you want to be? They’re smart and together and mature, and crazy talented, and they’re not worried about popularity games, because they’re just confident and you have no idea how to be that way but you want to So. Very. Badly? Yeah, that’s totally Malinda Lo to me. I was actually reading her work on After Ellen before she published her amazing ASH in 2009, and I was lucky enough to get to know her in our debut authors group. I still think she has it way more together than I’ll ever manage. I mean, just look at her website! And Diversity in YA. And her awesome books, and…
EYES IN THE DARK by Rachel Hawkins (HEX HALL, SCHOOL SPIRITS)
The letter above is the one I sent to Rachel to query her about participating in the antho. I’d met her at Decatur Book Festival, but I didn’t know her very well. Mostly through her books, which made me laugh like a goon. We were scheduled to be on a panel together at Houston Teen Book Con (we threw amazeballs into the audience. I’m not even kidding.) and over THE best creme brulee ever, we talked about what she would be writing if I could manage to sell this anthology. Y’all, it was the most enthusiastic recounting of a story that wasn’t yet written I’d ever seen. She gave me shivers. We slapped the table; we’re lucky we didn’t get thrown out. But it sounded SO, well, amazeballs. And apparently, she’d been wanting a reason to write this story for a while. I’m thrilled that DEFY THE DARK gave her a reason!
STILLWATER by Valerie Kemp
I met Valerie at a writing retreat several years back, and I immediately glommed onto her. She was a screenwriter too! Making the transition to fiction! Just like me! I was like, solidarity time, guys! It’s not an easy transition to make. Screenwriters are taught to keep everything SUPER tight. No descriptions. No thoughts, no feelings– our dialogue is pretty spiffy, but everything else takes a lot of work when we decide to write a novel. So when she read the first page of her latest fiction project at the retreat, I was like, dang, she’s doing better than I am. Her voice was rich and real and I wanted that. My query to her was a lot more hesitant because I didn’t want to get her hopes up. I didn’t know if this anthology would sell and I didn’t want to disappoint her if it didn’t work out. Luckily, it worked out. :) STILLWATER is Valerie’s first fiction publication, and man, it’s a good one. (When I read it, and I can see the screenwriter still in there and it makes me smile.)
I GAVE YOU MY LOVE BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON by Sarah Rees Brennan (THE DEMON’S LEXICON, UNSPOKEN)
Another one of my friends, Sarah was probably going to say yes to my query. Probably, so I wasn’t afraid to send it to her. But when she said yes, I was afraid that this finely-tuned mistress of the writing dark would give me a story that was 20,000 words long. Each author got a max of 8000 words. Sarah looked at me with wounded doe eyes. She writes 8000 words just to describe the latest episode of Teen Wolf. She flings 8000 words out the window just to see them fly. But she promised she’d write a SHORT story this time. And you know what? She totally did it. This story is under 10,000 words and it’s hilarious and heartbreaking and sweet. I do think I might have traumatized her though. She twitches now when I mention word count. I think she fingers a cross in her pocket– she won’t hesitate to use it to ward me off next time, I’m sure.
NIGHT SWIMMING by Beth Revis (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, SHADES OF EARTH)
I want to brag on this story. Beth is a delightful human being with the bestest hair in the world (and sometimes she lets me touch it.) That isn’t relevant to anything, however. What’s relevant is that Beth knew she wanted to write a story based in her own universe, but she still wanted to challenge herself. So with NIGHT SWIMMING, please take note: this story could be from the point of view of two different characters, one male or one female. There aren’t any pronouns, there’s nothing to give away which character it might be, and she pulls it off flawlessly. I was so excited to send this on to HarperTeen to get their reaction. The response was a lot like a triumphant slow-clap at the end of a movie: challenge accepted, and Beth crushed it like whoa.
And that concludes A Lot about Defy the Dark: Part One. Tune in tomorrow as I continue to tell secrets, lay out love, and generally gush over my favorite authors in the entire universe.
One of my favorite things about Teachers Write is that it gives me the opportunity to introduce some of my favorite people (teachers & librarians!) to some of my other favorite people (children’s and YA authors!).
When you join Teachers Write, you’re signing up to be part of a writing community, and all summer long on this blog, you’ll have the chance to talk with people like me (I’m Kate, by the way, in case you were stumbling around and found yourself here. I write books for kids and host this online summer camp), Gae Polisner of Friday Feedback fame, and Monday Morning Warm-Up guru Jo Knowles, as well as a whole bunch of kind, smart, funny guest authors. We’re all volunteers, so please check out our websites and support our books by asking for them at your local bookstores and libraries, reading them, and sharing the ones you like. Here’s our author list for Summer 2013!
Some of these folks will be sharing mini-lessons on Mondays, others will be offering quite-write prompts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and some will be answering your questions for Q and A Wednesdays. While these are the “official” guest authors, I have to admit that I also have some surprises planned for various Fridays, and many other authors drop by to chat and answer questions even if they haven’t committed to visit on a particular day.
If you’re a teacher or librarian and you’d like to join us, you can sign up here! We’ll be starting with our first Mini-Lesson Monday on June 24th!.