Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best of the Month

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway: What’s the best book you read this month?

This is an interesting question because I didn’t read any books that I loved this month. There were good books, interesting books, important books, but none that made me say ‘wow’. So I’m going to answer with the most intriguing book I read this month:

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m honestly not quite sure how I feel about this novel. It’s so different than the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which I adored. This novel is older, darker. It takes the mythology of deadly water horses and turns it upside down; in a small island community brave (or foolish) men capture these horses each November to race them. This year, for various reasons, Kate ‘Puck’ Connelley joins the men and begins a relationship with the race’s past champion, Sean. Their relationship isn’t the sigh-and-swoon type of Sam and Grace. I never actually felt really connected to them. I cared more about Sean’s water horse. But the language in this novel, especially the sparse dialog, proves once again that Maggie Stiefvater is a talented writer.

If you don’t have a galley, The Scorpio Races publishes October 18th. I’m eager to hear everyone else’s thoughts! And tune in the week for my monthly Reading Roundup for mini reviews of all the books I’ve read this month!

Monday, August 29, 2011


The end of August marks an important kind of transition for many: going back to school. This year is the second where I’m not returning to Hamilton College—those years fly by!

Over the summer I was able to chat with a few Hamilton students interested in pursuing a career in publishing who are returning for their senior year on The Hill. Like me, they’re Creative Writing majors. And what they had to tell me about their upcoming senior projects warmed my heart:

In the Creative Writing program at Hamilton there is a heavy emphasis on literary short stories. It’s not the type of writing I do and I struggled with it. Then came my senior project, where I was able to pick my genre. Without any hesitation I chose to write a young adult novel. It was my project and the professor or classmates couldn’t complain. Luckily, they didn’t. They actually embraced the project almost as much as I did and provided fantastic feedback. I read the first couple of chapters during a reading the last week of school and since graduation I have been unceasingly rewriting and revising The Rose of Coracus.

The girls I met with this summer were sophomores during my senior year and, interested in what the senior project entailed, attended the senior reading. Like me, they’re more interested in young adult than literary adult and were thrilled to see me breaking the mold because it gave them hope that they could also write what they wanted instead of what is preferred by a prestigious liberal arts college. Apparently, according to these rising seniors, I set the trend. I was a rebel and didn’t even know it!

It’s always nice when you find out your actions positively affected someone. I’m thrilled that those girls (and maybe even others!) will write what they want to learn about and grow in because they saw me do it first. That may be a quieter legacy than a track record or published journal article, but it’s my handprint on Hamilton and I couldn’t be happier.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Question(s) for You

I’m back—it was a nice, relaxing (almost) two weeks of vacation. But now I’m back up and running! Thinking about the future of this blog (it’s nearing it’s first birthday!) I’d like to know what you like about it, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see more of. So, take the survey if you’d be so kind and I hope you’ll continue reading as this blog continues to change and grow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Going West

I’m heading on vacation for the next week and a half—and since this is my only big trip of the year, I’m going to put blog posts on hold. That isn’t, of course, to say I won’t be doing book-related things. I’ll definitely be reading and I’m looking forward to my first visit to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. You can make any vacation into a bookish one. :-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So Much Time...So Little To Do

Today’s RTW Question from YA Highway: What time do you prefer to do your writing? Early Worm? Night Owl ? Any five seconds you can grab?

Last summer pre-job I had a fantastic writing schedule that worked marvelously for me. Every morning I would sleep in a bit (waking up around 8:30-9:30), check all the job boards while eating breakfast, and then write for a good couple hours before doing household chores, my volunteer work at the library, or getting together with friends. I’m my most productive in the morning and I was able to bang out a solid revision in a few months. It was great.
Now, (although I’m most certainly not complaining about having my job!) it’s harder to find time to write. I obviously can’t write during weekday mornings. And I don’t want to wake up early to start writing every weekend when those are the only days I can sleep in and be a bit lazy. I’ve tried setting a weeknight writing schedule but, inevitably, networking happy hours and plans with friends and (oops!) naptime/bedtime gets in the way. So, right now, I write whenever I can get a chunk of time—last weekend I was actually really productive (but I’m going on vacation next week so that kind of cancels it out!).
Since I expect to be working and writing for years to come, I’m going to have to learn how to balance both…someday (hopefully soon!) I’ll figure it out!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reading Roundup

Starcrossed  by Josephine Angelini
This teen novel is a fun modern retelling of Greek mythology—and I don’t even really like Greek mythology! The most interesting things about this story, though, is that I’m positive I’ve read it before…probably when it was on submission and I was interning at Bloomsbury Children’s Books way back in the summer of 2008! The tone, the Nantucket setting, and the main character who doesn’t fit in were very reminiscent of the original…and then there were very specific details that were both in Starcrossed and manuscript. The longer I’m in publishing I’m sure the more this will happen, but wow! I look forward to reading the sequel, Dreamless (next summer), where I’ve been told the romance gets very steamy.

Liesl and Po  (ARC) by Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver’s first foray into middle grade does not disappoint. It’s a modern-day fairytale with the best elements: sweet girl locked up in an attic, her friend a ghost, an evil stepmother, a dead father, and lots of magic. The supporting characters are just as rich as the main ones, and I hope we find out more about Mo the guard in a future tale. Available in October. A highly recommended read (indeed, my favorite for July).

Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb (twice)
A new program at HC for junior editors like myself involves reading an early draft manuscript of a novel and then the final book—and then talk with the editor about the how and why of the changes. What a great idea, right? Mo Wren, Lost and Found is this month’s selection. It’s a really enjoyable coming-of-age story with fantastic characters. I haven’t read the first book, What Happened On Fox Street, but it’s definitely going on my to-be-read list now.

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions (ARC) edited by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
This is a fantastic collection of paranormal stories from some of the hottest writers out there—and the stories cover such a range of topics and emotions. From the Wicked Lovely world in “Merely Mortal” by Melissa Marr to the futuristic “Leaving” by Ally Condie and from the humorous “At the Late Night, Double Feature, Picture Show” by Jessica Verday to the sad (and beautiful) “Gargouille” by Mary E. Pearson there is something for everyone. I have particular links to “Scenic Route” by Carrie Ryan because I read it for my bosses during part of the interview process. I guess they liked what I had to say about it in my reader’s report! The anthology is available in hardcover and paperback September 20th.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake essays by Sloane Crosley
The majority of books I read this months were egalleys or ebooks or manuscripts, all of which I read on my laptop at home. I needed something to read on the subway, so I picked up this collection of essays that my friend had lent me months ago. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t believe it took me so long. The author is no more than seven years older than me, so her childhood and early adult experiences—playing Oregon Trail, moving to NYC, having a unique name—rang true with me. She even worked in publishing (although, my experience is much better than hers!). Although this isn’t my typical read, the essays were both insightful and hilarious. Recommended for anyone of my generation.

Clean (ARC) by Amy Reed
I had been told a while ago to read Beautiful by Amy Reed and I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. But when I got this novel by the same author as a free egalley I couldn’t resist. It’s a powerful story about six teens in rehab told in multiple formats: traditional narratives, script-like group therapy sessions, questionnaire responses, letters. The strength of this novel is how Reed manages to express both the individual and the collective experience. I’m totally rooting for these characters to stay sober now that they got out of rehab in the last chapter!

The Revenant  by Sonia Gensler
Willie, a seventeen-year-old in 1896 year, refuses to go back home when her mother sends for her. So determined to avoid a lifetime of farm work and step-sibling babysitting, Willie steals a classmate’s identity and becomes a teacher at the Cherokee Female Seminary. But she’s not the only one there with secrets—a suspicious death of a classmate a year earlier is still haunting the place. Although I am familiar with the Trail of Tears, this historical fiction novel brought to light the conflicts within the Cherokee nation itself (light skinned verses dark; rich and progressive verses poor and traditional) and highlighted the bustling town of Tahlequah. (Historical Book Challenge #5)

Full Manuscripts: 5

Friday, August 5, 2011

Childhood Books

Fact: The books you read as a child affect who you become as an adult.

While I could take the poignant route in writing about that sentence (and I have before), instead I’ll direct you to the irreverent article that explains what your favorite books as a child say about you now. According to the article, family is important to me…up to a certain point (Little Women), I secretly like that everyone goes to me to solve their problems (Harry Potter), I wear colorful clothing (The Giver), and I always need a house with the possibility of a magical wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia). Not entirely accurate, but still amusing. What do the books you loved say about you?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Five Senses

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway: The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.
This is a great reminder for writers to actually use all five senses in their writing—in my manuscript I use each sense to some extent: sight (the bustling marketplace, dancing), smells (spices, fish fresh from the ocean), sound (merchants yelling, tambourines jingling), taste (hearty ale, sugary marzipan), feel (the difference between chaffing wool and smooth silk). But whether I include enough of those details and incorporate them well enough isn’t so obvious—I’ll keep the five senses in mind during revision!
Books that use the five senses extra well:
You by Charles Benoit: if you don’t have a visceral reaction from the vivid descriptions of the accident, something is wrong with you!
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Descriptions using so many different senses really bring Paris alive.
Love and Leftovers (ARC) by Sarah Tregay: Some really unique food imagery and taste in this adorable novel in prose.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Don’t those Hogwarts dinners make you salivate?
Chime by Frannie Billingsley: The delicate imagery used to describe the Welsh setting of this novel is beautiful.

I’m having trouble thinking of other examples—both in my own writing and YA books that use the senses well—so please share your thoughts!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Year? Or Less?

I read this interesting article last week. To summarize, it highlights YA series that are being published quicker than conventional wisdom. Some publishing houses are producing each book less than a year apart, which is what traditionally has been the spacing for books in teen series. Aside from the logistical concerns (these books have to be written and revised and edited and designed and printed and so on and so on), I think it’s a great idea to publish books closer together. There are some series that although I liked the first book my enthusiasm for it isn’t going to keep me going for a whole year (sorry Nightshade series and Chemical Garden Trilogy). I have only so much time to read the books I want to read—so if I can read each book in a series one, two, three the momentum is there and I get the gratification of finishing a series, even if it’s only an okay one. But if I have to wait a whole year…I might just never pick up book two. Thoughts? Are there any series (besides Harry Potter, of course!) that you found worth the wait even if it was longer than a year between two books?