Monday, October 31, 2011


I've seen it.
In fact, I can see it from here.
It's page five, which is the first page of the story.
I have it encased in a hard plastic cover.
Yes, I know Andrew Smith carried it around in his back pocket.
Yes, I know it's not a holy relic like the bones of Boris and Gleb. But when I think of Marbury and now PASSENGER I think of Boris and Gleb.
Bear with me here.

According to Nestor the Chronicler, Boris and Gleb were the beloved sons of Vladimir the Great. He put them in charge of some towns.Meanwhile, their older brother, Sviatopolk the Accursed, took the throne when Vladimir died.He wanted his brothers assassinated. He was jealous. Boris was like, "I will not raise my hand against my brother." He died at the hand of Sviatopolk the Accursed, which really sucked. Gleb got killed by his friend, the cook. Stabbed and hidden under a bush. This also sucked.
There are those who assert that Varangian warriors were also involved. And this really, truly sucked.
If you have gone to Marbury, this may or may not make sense.
I have not and will not make a copy of the PASSENGER page. It would be wrong. It would be like selling fake Boris and Gleb relics with a neon "Relics" sign.
So the winner gets the only copy.
And THE MARBURY LENS, signed by Andrew Smith.
Don't ever tell me that hagiography and art history won't move the world forward. In some way.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Sense of Purpose and Hope and Boys Reading

Today is an event that I have been looking forward to for a long time, years probably, but I didn't know that it had a name.
My names for the problem this event addresses are really not printable.
Call me Cassandra. You know, the woman who was cursed to tell the truth but no one could see it?
Okay, so I'm not as important as Cassandra, but here is what I have been saying:
Boys read. Boys need books they will read. We stereotype boys a lot. We are failing our boys.
One time The Powers That Be sent me an article about how boys are falling behind in literacy. There were lots of statistics. There were no solutions. The Power scrawled, "Hope this answers your questions!" at the top of the article. With a smily face.
I think this particular Power meant well.
It did not answer my questions.
Meaning well is not enough.
Today I am going to "The Why Chromosome: Why Boys Do Love Reading". This event is sponsored by Bridge to Books, and is hosted by Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop.
Men who write books will present.
I will return with renewed hope and purpose.

Contests continue!

The giveaway for THE MARBURY LENS, signed by Andrew Smith, and page five of PASSENGER, signed and with editorial comments, continues. See here for guidelines.

The The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is also going on right now. Each blogger is offering a book-related prize. Go for them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Marilyn Manson Said, and Why It Matters to Writers.

Sometimes there are moments in movies that live out loud to me, and keep playing.
They echo and haunt like the echoes in good books.
In "Bowling for Columbine," here's the conversation that haunts me.
Michael Moore: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?
Marilyn Manson: I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."

Hearing something true from someone who is easy to label and stereotype should not be a surprise, but it was. I owe Marilyn Manson an apology and a thank you.
Think about that.
It is easy to label and stereotype kids.
It is not easy to listen with eyes and ears and heart.
Listening and taking in what kids say and do means that writing for them will have truth.
Seeing and listening.
Two of the hardest --and most important--things I'll ever do.

The giveaway for THE MARBURY LENS, signed by Andrew Smith, and page five of PASSENGER, signed and with editorial comments, continues. See here for guidelines.

The The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is also going on right now. Each blogger is offering a book-related prize. Go for them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THE MARBURY LENS. A Glimpse of PASSENGER. The Epic Giveaway Continues.

The MARBURY LENS is a brilliant, disturbing, echo-inducing book. I can't help it; I always see the title in capitals in my head.
Watch the trailer.

I think maybe you will see the title all in capitals now, too.
Waiting for PASSENGER (yes, that will always be in caps for me as well) is a trial.
Happily for one of us, Andrew Smith is giving me page five of PASSENGER to give away.
This page has edits from Liz Szabla(chimes) and is signed by Himself.
Here is what Andrew says about his piles of manuscripts. I think many people would call them "archives."
I think Andrew would laugh at the thought of him having "archives."
What Andrew writes is important. I posted about that here. I believe in making boys visible. I believe in good books and passing the nimbus.
I believe in books that kick ass and take you places you may not want to go, and then when you get there you realize that's where you needed to be. Books that convey moments of grace when grace is unlikely. And, really, if you think about it, few things are less likely and more necessary.For all of us.

If you would like to enter the contest,see the details here.

The The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is also going on right now. Each blogger is offering a book-related prize. Go for them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Marbury Lens. A Glimpse at Passenger. An Epic Giveaway.

It's been a great month.
I have met many new people. I have learned a lot about blogging. And I have given away nine copies of really good books that I believe make the world a better place.
And there's one more week in October.
Perfect for a MARBURY LENS giveaway.
This particular copy of THE MARBURY LENS will be signed by Andrew Smith.
And Andrew is also giving me a page from PASSENGER, which is the sequel to THE MARBURY LENS. This page is signed by Andrew and has editorial comments on it from editor Liz Szabla (chimes ring whenever her name is mentioned).
I must have super-charged my karma battery to merit these items for a giveaway.
Thanks, Andrew.
A comment and a follow enter you to win.Tweet this or any post and you get an extra entry!
Entries close at midnight, October 31st, EST. Winner will be chosen by
And, by happy coincidence, the The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is also going on right now. Each blogger is offering a book-related prize. I think the more the merrier.

And We Have Winners for Amplified!

Thank you, thank you, for all of your comments and follows, people. selected the following people to receive a copy of Amplified:

Emma B.
Old Kitty
Dani Ngyun

Would you all be so kind to contact me with your preferred shipping information?

I will be contacting A Whale of a Tale bookstore for your copies.

And thank you to Tara Kelly for her support and for writing good books. Tara, we salute you, and want you to keep on writing and rockin' out.

Stay tuned. OctoberPalooza continues.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grab Bag.

Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Tara Kelly's Amplified--you get an entry for each action--comment, follow, tweet. Three winners will have copies mailed to them from indie bookstore A Whale of a Tale. Please be sure to enter by 5:00 PM EST.

Congratulations to Andrew Smith for winning the SCIBA award for The Marbury Lens. This book is brilliant, unclassifiable, and has some of the best writing I have ever seen. I love this book.

I hope you all have a good week--the week before Halloween is one of the best of the year. Lots of Creature-Feature type movies on. I suggest we soak some up.

Thank you for your support and comments, one and all.

More about creatures, the Revolution, and good books coming up this week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making Boys Visible. Revolution.

     I know two boys who grew up invisible.
     Their invisibility sprang from the fact that their hardwiring was a little different, or something.  Neither can spell. I also think that being invisible worked for them after awhile. Because when the System did see them, the System saw them as Boneheads.
      One of them had an English class where he filled out worksheets on how to answer a phone. I heard that a teacher phoned his parents because she was concerned that he read H.P. Lovecraft books. He didn't do well on worksheets.
     The other one was Trouble and  voted Most Likely to Overthrow the Government by his senior class. People could see Trouble, but not much else, like the fact that he spoke three languages fluently before he graduated from high school.
     I know they had some great teachers who made a difference, but I cannot say that their interests were served by the System.
    One of them now is a successful writer.
    The other speaks seven languages fluently, and can spell perfectly in all of them except English.
    Both of them are remarkable human beings.
    It breaks my heart that they were invisible for a long time to people who, for the most part, had the best possible intentions. I think Martin Luther King made an important point about the dangers of sincere ignorance.
    It is a source of profound grief that I have worked to change the System for so long and have had so little effect on The Big Picture. The System can make lots of  noise about Leaving No Child Behind et cetera et cetera but I know what I see. There's so much noise that it drowns out the voices we could hear if we just listened better.
   Hear me: Our boys need us to see them for exactly who they are, and write books that speak to and for them, and reflect back to them that their boy-ness is a good and powerful thing. We need them to grow to be good human beings who are good men.
  We need them to see hope, and a future.
  We expect no less for our girls. We want them to grow into good human beings who are good women. We have done a better job with the girls in the last thirty years, and we have farther to go. I celebrate the advances we have made for women, but we are by no means at the Promised Land.
     The System is not keyed to getting anyone to the Promised Land. And it should be.
   I fear that we have allowed boys to fall into soft-focus, and that we have let stereotypes govern the experiences the System provides for them.
   I work on/against the System one day at a time, one kid at a time.
   It's time for a Revolution.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not a News Flash. And OctoberPalooza Continues: Amplified by Tara Kelly

     I'm attending an event on October 30th. It's called The Why Chromosome: Why Boys Do Love Books. I am excited about this event because a number of amazing authors will be there and they will be talking about this issue. It is also important because Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop is hosting, and they are an independent bookstore.
     Not a news flash: boys do read. Andrew Smith talks about this, and I look forward to hearing more from him and authors G.Neri, Greg Van Eekhout, Allen Zadoff, Jonathan Auxier, and John Stevens at this event.
     I know boys read because they check out books from my classroom library. One of my boys asked today if he could check out more than one, and I handed him a pile. I did an informal, non-scientific survey of my informal, non-scientific check-out system(pieces of scratch paper) and right now I have more boys reading books than girls.
     Today one of my boys gave me a special boxed copy of The Hunger Games, because he said that he thought I would like it.  I didn't well up or get weepy in front of him, because he would have been horrified and I only cry when I read Andrew Smith or Sara Zarr books, anyway.
     Not a news flash: Boys are sensitive. And kind. 
     Not a news flash: Boys are human beings.
     A long time ago I was assigned to teach a class called Developmental Reading. It was all boys and one girl.  There were no good books. There were things posing as books, but  I felt stupid when I looked at them in the storage room. I felt stupid because the book basically  said If You Are Reading This You Must Be Stupid. Or a Boy.
    I left them in the storage room.
    We read a lot of different things. I probably learned more than my students did. I learned that if you want kids to read you don't put them in a class called Developmental Reading. I learned that kids can go through ten years of school with undiagnosed problems. I learned that if I asked a direct question I got an honest answer.
   We had a lot of conversations I still remember.
   Not a news flash: Boys read good books. They may not want to read the same books as girls. They are not girls. They are boys.
   Newsflash! If we stop condescending to boys about reading we would all be better off.

   **Comment/follow to win a copy of Tara Kelly's newest: Amplified!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Late-Blooming Social Media Epiphany. OctoberPalooza Continues with Tara Kelly's Amplified!

     I had a Social Media Epiphany (SME) this weekend.
     Let me first say that most of you probably had this SME several years ago. Remember how I said in my post about men that I was a late bloomer? I wasn't kidding.
     I have visited two hundred and thirty-five blogs since the Blog Hop started on Friday. Initially I felt a little bug-eyed, and I read a little, then followed, then hopped.
     And then my head exploded, so I stopped. And thought.
     And it hit me.
     These are all connections.
     And I was floored.
     Each of the people who signed up for the hop looks for connection. Not like a handshake from a politician, but a greeting, a stopping-and-seeing connection.
     Otherwise, what's the point? Numbers? I don't treat students like numbers. I don't want to be a number. I want to see all these people.
     So then I really slowed down.
     The thing is, Alex and Matthew get this. Matthew commented on every single blog.
Matthew and Alex are Social Media Heroes.
     I am going to visit and re-visit. I want you to know that when I am visiting your blog, I see you.
     You may all mock me for this later, since I am, clearly, the Last One to Get It.
      And you can mock me and be entered to win a copy of Tara Kelly's Amplified, which is a good deal.

Monday, October 17, 2011

OctoberPalooza Continues: Amplified by Tara Kelly

     I read Tara Kelly's debut novel, Harmonic Feedback, and there was so much in that book to love.
     What I loved the most was the main character, Drea. Drea calls them as she sees them, and she made me laugh and she made me cringe. Hey, she's a human being. She's entitled. What I really loved was how Drea is this real person who happens to have Asperger's syndrome. This is one aspect of her, and this is not what the book is focused on--it's just part of who she is.
     I was thrilled to read a book that had a character with Asperger's syndrome, but the Asperger's was just an organic part of the story. 
     I thought that this was masterfully done.
     The writing--beautiful. The story--moving. 
     If there had been an After School Special in the Eighties about Asperger's, it would have had AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL stamped all over it. Much as I appreciate the effort to Get Issues Out There, mawkish and maudlin and sentimental often ruled the day.
    Asperger's, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is quite common. I have had many students throughout the years, and the important thing to me is not their label. It's who they are.
    So I read this book and I thought, this author knows what's important. And, boy, can she write.
   And then I saw that she had a new book coming out. In October! On the 23rd! In time for OctoberPalooza! 
    It is a joy and a privilege to get copies of this book out to you. Three copies will be sent out when the contest closes at 5:00 PM EST on Sunday, October 24. This time I am ordering from another fabulous independent bookstore, A Whale of a Tale in Irvine, California.
     Same rules: A comment on any post enters you in the contest; a comment and a follow count as two entries; and a comment, a blog follow, and a follow on Twitter count as three entries.
     I am excited about this author and her new book. Let the comments fly!

How to Save a Life Recipients!

     I would like to thank all of my new friends for their follows and comments. Please stay tuned--another giveaway starts tomorrow!
     And the copies of How to Save a Life go to...
     Mary Campbell
     Carolyn A.
     April X
     Would you all please email me at
     I need your preferred shipping information so that I can contact Eighth Day Books tomorrow to order your copies! 
     Special thanks to the amazing Sara Zarr for her support of this giveaway, and for writing this book(and all of her others) in the first place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blog Hopping!The Ultimate Really Necessary Reading List, Part 2! And How to Save a Life!

     I think about reading lists a lot, and about what is required, and who decided, and why.
     Sometimes it's more like brooding.
     I taught English for a long time, so I witnessed many changes. I stopped teaching English about six or seven years ago and started teaching about technology. I did this for many reasons. One of them was because teaching the way I was born to became increasingly difficult.
     Teaching is in my DNA. I always knew I would teach, and I always knew I would write.
     I remember when I started teaching I could actually use my own judgment. I loathe textbooks. I used a college anthology without boxes of worksheets and crap. I used classroom sets of good books. I spent three days one year on the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I draped myself in black and put a cardboard bird around my neck and we turned out the lights and all kinds of magic happened. It was fun and creepy and the kids got it. Which is the point. And periodically one or more would randomly shriek "Shrive me! Shrive me!" in the hallway and I would laugh and laugh. Good times.
     You can't spend three days on much of anything anymore.
      I had to start writing standards on the board so the kids would know what they were learning.
     That was stupid.
     Telling a kid she's going over Reading Standard 2.1.3 isn't going to light any kind of zeal for learning.
     I started to feel like education was something I was doing to kids instead of with kids. And that made me sad. And really, really pissed off.
     And you know all those inspirational quotes, the ones that teachers live by and believe in because we must? Because without hope the job is impossible?
     This one: "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."
     We've got the kids cursing the candles and the darkness, and it's our own stupid fault.
     And this one: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
     Most juniors in high school look like they dine on human flesh by June. SAT's and ACT's and Advanced Placement and state mandated tests. I warn my 9th graders to be kind to the juniors, and buy them cookies, and refrain from making sudden movements around them. Kind of like Zombie Apocalypse survival advice, right?
     Books are one answer. Good books.
     I'm working on the Revolution.

**Leave a comment or follow for a chance to win a copy of Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life.
**The Blog Hop continues. Here are three blogs to check out, if you so desire:
From the Bookshelf of T.B.  Reviews Middle Grade and YA books. I've started heading over to T.B.'s to check out what to read. And T.B.? You'd never guess her age.Yeah, she's that good. Keep getting down with your bad self, Tessa.
Clear Writing with Mr. Clarity Okay, so the title made me laugh, which got me to the blog. Crisp? Clear? Mr. Clarity is writes speeches and marketing stuff. He would probably scold me for  saying "stuff." But he's so cool I wouldn't mind.
Kid-free Living Humor  This blog is remarkably easy on the eyes and well-organized. I like humor. I am kid-free once I turn my students loose for the day. Oh, and the content about writing is really good.
Thank you to Matthew MacNish and Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the Blog Hop. In case you don't know what that is, the explanation is here.   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

At the Hop and Lifesaving

Even though it's not quite midnight here in California, I want to start hopping. I've been looking forward to this. The three sites I chose for the hop are:
From the Bookshelf of T.B.  Reviews Middle Grade and YA books. I've started heading over to T.B.'s to check out what to read. And T.B.? You'd never guess her age.Yeah, she's that good. Keep getting down with your bad self, Tessa.
Clear Writing with Mr. Clarity Okay, so the title made me laugh, which got me to the blog. Crisp? Clear? Mr. Clarity is writes speeches and marketing stuff. He would probably scold me for  saying "stuff." But he's so cool I wouldn't mind.
Kid-free Living Humor  This blog is remarkably easy on the eyes and well-organized. I like humor. I am kid-free once I turn my students loose for the day. Oh, and the content about writing is really good.
Thank you to Matthew MacNish and Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the Blog Hop. In case you don't know what that is, the explanation is here.
And if you follow or leave a comment, you are automatically entered to win a copy of Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life, one of Amazon's Best Picks for the month of October.
You won't know how much you needed to read this book until you're done with it.
You will be seized with the desire to go get pancakes with appalling amounts of syrup, and be really glad when you go do it, too.

How to Save a Life Giveaway. And a Blog Hop.

     Today I thought a lot about how good books can change lives. I discussed in a previous post that meeting Sara Zarr saved changed my life, and that changing a life can mean saving it.
     Today I heard a story about a former student from many years ago and how a book saved her life.
     The book was Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think it took courage to write this book. I think about this young woman and how much courage it took for her to speak. I am so glad she did. I am so glad this book helped her. Thanks, Laurie.
     I think a lot of writers do a lot of good that they never hear about. I would like to help them hear about good things, so that's one of the reasons I am planning a Revolution/Big Project soon.
     So for today's comments, if you are so moved, tell us about a book that changed saved your life. Better yet, let the author know.
     Any comment on any post, and/or a follow, enters you in to win a free copy of How to Save a Life. 
     You never know what's going to happen.
**Are you a blogger? Matthew MacNish and Alexander J. Cavanaugh are hosting a blog hop. Check out the linky list in the gadget to the right--you will need to scroll down. Sign up if interested!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Sara Zarr Changed (saved) My Life. Revisited. And How to Save a Life Giveaway.

     This is a re-post. Because this is why I'm giving away  How to Save a Life.

 This is a true story.
     I don't think Sara knows it, though.
     So I'm working on a novel, and my crit partner said that I needed to read this book, Once Was Lost, by Sara Zarr. At the time I didn't know anything about Sara Zarr. But my crit partner is really smart and gifted, so I usually take her advice. So I bought the book.
And I read it in one sitting, in one night, and a school night to boot.
     And I thought about it, and kept thinking about it, because it isn't just what Sara writes its something about her How. How she writes. And I couldn't put words to the How, but I knew I liked it a lot.
     And when I read this book I was in Hard Times. You know. We've all been there.
     And then I signed up for a Children's Writing Conference. I admit, I wasn't really sure if I belonged there. I was nervous and full of self-doubt and glad I was Doing Something With My Writing.
     Being new to the conference scene, I didn't check out the faculty. I just showed up. And I get my schedule of crit groups. And I also get a fifteen minute session with a faculty member to go over my query.
     And my eyes just about fell out of my head. Because my query time is with Sara Zarr.
     I don't know anyone at the conference. My heart is pounding. I run outside and call my husband, and I say, "I'm going to meet Sara Zarr." And my husband, who is an architect who reads architect-y stuff, says, "Who?" And so I tell him--remember when I stayed up and read that book? And he kind of does. But he does get that I am thrilled and excited. And nervous.
     So I do my crit groups, which were great, and I stay up really late revising, and periodically the thought "I'm going to meet Sara Zarr" pops into my head and I just know I blanked out and stared at stuff for a minute or two each time.
     So as my time nears I have a folder with my query letter, and I'm pacing, and my stomach is all kerfuffled.
     And then it's time and I Meet Sara Zarr.
     I almost cried.
     And we talked about my book and her books and she was this real, amazing human being and when I left the meeting my head was spinning.
     I called my dad. "I met Sara Zarr."
     I called my mom. "I met Sara Zarr."
     At this point, if you are still reading, you might be thinking I'm a little crazy.
     I don't think I'm crazy. I think I'm grateful.
     Because Meeting Sara Zarr meant a lot to me. Here is this writer whose books are like Vermeer paintings. Quiet, intense, full of light and jewel tones and real life.   And I don't cry a lot, but Story of a Girl had me crying because of the story and the joy of reading the story.
     And I periodically look at my husband and say, "I met Sara Zarr." Full of wonder, still.
     So yeah, Meeting Sara Zarr changed my life because when I get bogged down I remember her and Vermeer and my spirit feels renewed.
     And Sara's new book, How to Save a Life, is coming out October 18. And somehow that title seems apropos to me, because sometimes changing a life means saving it.
     Thanks, Sara.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Batshit Genius. How To Save a Life Giveaway. And The Music of the Spheres.

     I am really excited about Stick's debut tomorrow, but you probably already know that.
     Here is a link that Andrew Smith posted today of an amazing review of Stick. This review states unequivocally that Andrew is a "batshit genius".
     There are so many reasons to love this phrase. Imagine if someone said this about your writing. I think I would add that phrase to my business cards, to my email signature, to the credits of any movies adapted from my work.
     But don't worry.
     The world is safe.
     There is only one batshit genius. And his book comes out tomorrow.
     Also, on a related note but different plane of reality, Sara Zarr's new book is called How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr is a profoundly talented human being. She is also a really nice person. She would probably find it embarrassing that I said this, but since she is somewhere Away From the Grid right now I have no qualms about expressing my admiration.
     I don't have a lot of qualms about expressing my admiration. When something or someone  is a source of joy I need to speak.
     It's like when you are listening to whatever music you listen to, and you hear That One Perfect Note. TOPN is the one that glides through your sternum right to your quivering inner core and wraps it for a moment and you hear the music of the spheres.
     The music of the spheres is, like all things human and divine, light and dark.
     It's like this scene from the movie Philadelphia, when Andrew, played by Tom Hanks, talks about his love of opera. Please watch this if you have a moment.
     If you don't have a moment, here is a really imperfect transciption. It's from the opera La Mamma Morta. Maria Callas sings:
        The place that cradled me is burning.
        I am alone.
        And Something answers her.
        Live still.
        I am life.
        I am oblivion.
        I am the god who comes down to earth from the heavens and makes of the earth a heaven.
        I am love.
        With all of the daily assaults and insults and injuries, when the place that cradles us is burning,we must find the music of the spheres and shout it out, we must defy it and go through the darkness and sometimes embrace it.
        What a very good thing it is to have books that show us we don't have to do this alone. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

OctoberPalooza Continues: How To Save a Life

     Thank you to all who have joined me in OctoberPalooza.
     This Celebration of Great Books Extravaganze Experience now continues.
     Mission Statement: To give away copies of amazing books
                                   To support independent bookstores
                                   To gain site traffic
        Rules: Follow the blog for one entry
        Get two entries for each comment you leave (This way if you are already following you can still add to your odds.) Comments may be left on any post, past or present.
     This week, in addition to celebrating Stick's release day October 11, I am turning to an appreciation of Sara Zarr. How to Save a Life officially comes out October 23.
     Every book Sara Zarr  writes gets awards and stuff.
     How to Save a Life is an Amazon pick for Best Book of the Month for October.
    Each of her books is an American Library Association Recommended Books for Young Adults.
     Story of a Girl was a National Book Award Finalist.
    "Bitch" magazine has Sara's book Sweethearts on one of its "Best" lists. This is not only a remarkable example of irony, but also shows how her work reaches across lines and genres and labels.
     You all know how I feel about labels.
    Three copies of How to Save a Life will be sent to lucky winners from Sara's independent bookstore of choice, Eighth Day Books.
    Entries will close at 5:00 PM EST next Sunday, October 16, because the book is unofficially out and available and I want you to have your hands on this book.
    And now feel free to follow or comment.

People Who Got Free Copies of STICK

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all who participated in the first giveaway of OctoberPalooza.
The recipients were chosen by a highly scientific random process.
Callie Kingston
Charles the Reader
Laurie Lamb

Would you be so kind as to contact me in the next twenty-four hours? I need shipping info to give to Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Bookstore.
Email me:

OctoberPalooza continues tomorrow.
Stay tuned.

OctoberPalooza and STICK and The Ultimate Really Necessary Reading List, Part 1

     If you would like a chance to win a free copy of Stick, by Andrew Smith, please follow, leave a comment, or both. You have until 8:00 EST today to do so. 
     Stick's official release day is Tuesday, October 11.
     On Tuesday, October 11 I am going to read  parts of Stick out loud to my students. This is all part of my plan for the Revolution. Which is coming. But I can't say any more about that right now.
     If you know any teachers, high school students, middle school students, or parents of kids of any age, this is a book you need to get for them. Stick is a book that will help make the world a better place.
     If I could, I would add this book to the Ultimate Really Necessary Reading List, which right now only exists in my head. Stick has a place with To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451. 

    I intend to do what I can to see that it gets a place there. 


Friday, October 7, 2011

Better to Beg Forgiveness. Or Not. And How Robison Wells Made My Head Explode.

     First: STICK officially debuts on Tuesday. You want to read this book. Trust me. Comment on any post and you may win a copy. I'm having Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Bookshop send out three copies to lucky followers or commenters.
     So yesterday I pause in my unrelenting quest to broaden educational horizons. We watch a tribute about Steve Jobs. And I show the kids my copy of Variant, by Robison Wells, which just arrived that morning. And I read the bookflap and we negotiate who gets to read it first  and then we wrangle about whose turn it is to check out other books (Ashes, Ghost Medicine, Crank, Gone, and Hunger, among others.)And we watch more book trailers, because book trailers are part of my Big Secret Project. Kids have started asking, "So...are you going to give us a list of all these books?" Because I have just thrown trailers on the screen and waited for just this question.
     So one of the kids says, "I don't get Twitter." Many students express similar sentiments. I talk about how I tweet about books, right? So I go right over to my computer and put in my override code, which tells the Powers That Be that I am exiting approved sites to go to Places That  They Can't Control.* Like Twitter. Because  if a kid doesn't get something we take action.
     So I figure we'll do a Twitter Field Trip. 
    And what happened was one of the best days in the history of education.
    I transcribe what follows:
   Kristen Tweets: With gleeful disregard for protocols, I am doing a demo on Twitter for my Angel Potatoes of Glory of Third Period. 
   I continue: We have watched book trailers for books by @jamesdashner @thefayz and we have discussed, with joy, yet again, the rat king.**
  So #rotters,@ilsablick's Ashes @robisonwells Variant are going to fly off shelves today because of my Angel Potatoes of Glory.
   And I am, literally, holding Variant in my hand when...
              a response comes up on the screen
              and the kids see it
              for a second there is stunned silence
    It is a Retweet from Robison Wells: No idea what this means.
   My eyes are bugging out and I say, "How should we explain Angel Potatoes?"
   And I swear the kids are standing up and kneeling on chairs and shouting definitions of "Angel Potatoes" like Mr. Wells can hear them. They are asking each other, "Is that the real guy? The book guy?" like Mr. Wells can hear them. And my head exploded. Because what kind of timing is that? 
    And here's what I tweeted:  Angel Potatoes are my students. They are a shine and glory. Each one. One just said, "Yeah. We are your heart and your life."
    And the class just erupted with cheers      and exclamations about Mr. Wells and how cool he is and what was the name of his book again?
     Mr. Robison Wells, you may never know the enormous impact you made on these kids.
     I hope that your launch party was merry.
* I may hear from the Powers That Be. Oh well.
**The rat king has become an object of discussion, fascination, and speculation. It's from Daniel Kraus's Rotters.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why YA Should Be GB, or The Caliban/Ariel Question

     For more than a year now I have immersed myself solely in reading YA books. And I took a few detours to read Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin and Stephen King. And I have been thinking about the distinction between "YA" and "adult" books.
     I'm in education. I don't like labels. Education loves them. The state labels a kid with a tag like "Far Below Basic" if a kid didn't do well in a particular standardized test subject. Or "Below Basic." Or "Proficient." Or "Advanced." I hear the labels "gifted",  "at-risk", "college prep" now as buzzing sounds.
     I've been teaching a long time, and I understand that categories have their uses. But danger lurks. If I know a kid struggles in an area, I can help her. Identifying areas of need is a concept I get, and I would argue that "identifying" and making kids visible is not the same as branding them with a label.
    When I was a young adult I read everything. I am profoundly grateful that Lois Duncan writes, and Zilpha Keatly Snyder writes, and Sid Fleischman--I am grieved that he died before I could thank him. I also read Stephen King and Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkein. I read Barbara Cartland novels and laughed at her use of ellipses at supremely intimate moments. And I am so grateful to Judy Blume for clarifying what happened during Barbara's elliptical moments.
     I read a lot of books where the target audience was adults.
     But if we called them Adult Books--well, that conjures up another industry. We don't call books written for an adult audience AB.
     I have to say that I find this arrogant and condescending. Do I have this right? When adults write books for adults we say "books" or "fiction." We identify books by genre. I get it.
     And these books by adults for adult audiences get read by adolescents in school as great literature. My experience is that, much as the kids complain, they understand, even like, these books. 1984. Brave New World. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I get it.
    What I don't get is this: The  "YA" books I'm reading now are good books because they tell good stories and are crafted by true wordsmiths who write about the human journey. The human journey includes adolescence. Adults had to be adolescents first.
      Unless they are pod people, which is how many of them act.
     A publisher has to have great confidence to publish a YA book. My thinking is that the writing and storytelling in  many YA books is significantly better than the writing in  "adult" books. And I think that the label "YA" is limiting.
      Because the world would be a better place and parents would be better parents and teachers would be better teachers if we recognized our adolescence as part of the human journey. Adults have banished, excised, exiled their teen years, or elevated those years to "the best years." It's a Caliban/Ariel issue when it should be a human being issue.
     Many adults see teens as "Other." This label means it's okay to  trivialize, denigrate, and ignore. Control. Teens are young adults. Not "dumb adults" or "less than adults."
     So why are books for young adults treated as "dumb books" or "less than books"?
     My local Barnes and Noble recently moved the "Books for Teens" to  the middle of the "Adult Books" section. You don't have to be a publishing or marketing genius to figure this one out. A lot of adults are reading books written for teens.
     I know what this tells me. They want to read good books. New label: GB.
     I confess to being part of the whole label problem. My Twitter handle is currently "KristenYAwriter" because my name is long. It was "Apocalypse Junki" but I changed it--that's another story.
     I'm not part of the publishing industry. I don't have an agent or a published book. I'm not a power player.
     But I have this blog.
     I'm not going to be KristenGBwriter because I am not published. I might merit the label GB writer if my books  ever sit on the same shelves as Sarah Zarr, Michael Grant, Libba Bray, Andrew Smith, Neil Gaiman and other luminaries.
     So I am now KristenWriter because I know a good book when I read one.
     No matter what section it inhabits in the library, bookstore, bestseller list, or Publisher's Weekly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Men: An Appreciation. And OctoberPalooza.

     There are a lot of hot men out there, and, to my shame, it took me a long time to figure that out. I've always been a late bloomer. 
     True, when I was younger I read Richard Peck and Robert Cormier. I loved Stephen King, and will never forget how I read Carrie during a sleepover while Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy played in the background. I stayed up all night with Carrie. I read  and re-read James Clavell's tomes.
     Fast-forward to now.
     I have reveled in untrammeled joy in books by men. Men I didn't know existed until I committed myself to reading  YA exclusively for a year. I have since come to the conclusion that YA as a category needs a name change, but that is a topic for my next post.
     Patrick Ness, The Chaos Walking Trilogy is amazing, heart-rending, true, necessary.
     Matt de la Pena, We Were Here should be required reading for all middle school students. It's real, heartbreaking,  breathtaking, and gritty.
     Michael Grant, you know how to set up a wild ride that starts on page one and doesn't end. Plot maestro. I am not bitter that I can't find the next book after Plague. Really. Not bitter. Because BZRK will be out soon.
     Neil Gaiman, Coraline scared me to bits. The Graveyard Book sings Siren songs to me. I am so glad I can't find a label for you except Neil Gaiman.
     Joseph Lunievicz, Open Wounds opened wounds with the deft precision of one who dances with, and commands, weapons and words. I can only be in a sort of zen-like awe, and loan your book out to my students. Thanks for Lefty.
     Daniel Kraus, with Rotters you took me to places I never thought I wanted to go. But when I arrived, I found I really had to be there.With wide eyes and a slightly bilious stomach I learned of coffin liquor and The Rat King and a saw how a storm should be written and I thought, Shakespeare would have loved this.  I did.
     G. Neri, Yummy is a book I'm just keeping in my room and having kids read. They cluster around it, shoving a little. It gets passed around during class, and I pretend not to notice. Because some of them haven't seen a graphic novel before, and I want them to get hungry on the idea.
     Jay Asher. Thirteen Reasons Why. I am grateful.
     Matthew MacNish, friend, blogger, supporter to all who write and strive for excellence and success, you work for the greater good in more ways than I think you know. You have seriously charged your karma battery, and I believe the universe sees.
      Andrew Smith. Wild rides, grit,  sorrow, moments of grace. Your stories disturb, haunt, and yet hope persists. Ghost Medicine, In the Path of Falling Objects, The Marbury Lens, Stick. And lots of great recs.
     Men, your work is hot. It is vital, necessary, inspiring, humbling. It took me a while. The late bloomer is trying to make up for lost time. 
 Post-script from a mortified Kristen:
James Dashner, I am thrilled that The Death Cure will be out next week on October 11. I have it pre-ordered.
Sherman Alexie and Brian Selznick, you are both authors on my To Be Read list.
I know there are hosts of you who I have not yet read. I'll get there. Late bloomer, remember?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

OctoberPalooza Begins: Stick by Andrew Smith

     It's easy to participate in OctoberPalooza, and it's free.
     Mission Statement: To give away copies of amazing books 
                                  To support independent bookstores
                                  To gain site traffic
     Rules: Leave a comment on any of the blogposts for one entry
               Follow the blog for one entry
               Follow and comment for three entries-comments can be on/about any previous posts as well as this post and posts this week.
               Obviously, the more entries you have, the more chances you have of winning.
               All entries between now and next Sunday, October 9th, 8:00 PM EST will be eligible for a drawing, in which randomly selected entries will win a copy of Andrew Smith's latest book, Stick, which gets released October 11.
              Winners will be announced here on Monday, October 10, and will have twenty-four hours to get back to me with contact info.
               I will take the info and send your book from Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Bookshop, an independent bookstore in California. Mrs. Nelson's ships only to United States and Canada, just so you know.

To view the book trailer for Stick click here.

OctoberPalooza continues next week--New Contest--for Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life
And we'll finish up the month with Tara Kelly's Amplified!