Monday, June 29, 2009

Randutiae for Moving Day

"[Inspector Parker] awoke, after a long day of arduous and inconclusive labour, to the smell of burnt porridge. Through his bedroom window, hygienically open top and bottom, a raw fog was rolling slowly in, and the sight of a pair of winter pants, flung hastily over a chair the previous night, fretted him with a sense of the sordid absurdity of the human form. The telephone bell rang, and he crawled wretchedly out of bed and into the sitting-room, where Mrs. Munns, who did for him by the day, was laying the table, sneezing as she went."

-From Whose Body, a Lord Peter mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers

While wedged behind my washer and dryer the other day, disconnecting that spaceman arm thingy (you know that spaceman arm thingy that connects the dryer to the wall?) and the water tubes, I found myself contemplating the absurdity of the human form. I really did look very silly. The only way I could get back there was to invert myself and stick one leg into the air.

Do you have any favorite funny passages from books? Feel free to share. Laughter will help alleviate the misery of moving.

In other news, watch children's writer Tui Sutherland on Jeopardy tonight! Tui writes under her own name and under a couple of aliases, including Erin Hunter (she wrote Books One and Three of the Seekers series). She is also my friend, fellow Williams alum, and soon-to-be neighbor. (BTW, if you happened to watch Jeopardy on Friday... well, that smart cookie who won? That was Tui. Tonight is her second night on the show. My bad for not giving y'all a head's up last week. Things are a little crazy right now, what with the move and all.)

Have a peaceful week, everyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Which the Author Babbles and Then Offers a Dance as Penance

First, a couple links: a recent beautiful Astronomy Picture of the Day; and, if you happen to be a Battlestar Galactica fan, a recent segment from NPR's Weekend Edition all about the music of BSG. (Ahem. But please don't leave any Season 4 spoilers in the comments, because I'm only partway through the season. ^_^)

Second, I give notice: my blogging is apt to be spotty over the next few weeks as my move takes place. Monday the guy with the big truck comes to pick up the stuff. What happens next -- and when -- depends entirely on the schedule of the guy in the truck. We're rolling with it, people. Uncertainty is FUN! Sigh...

Third, a recent interesting FAQ:

You've mentioned that an adult edition of Graceling is available in the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands, and is scheduled to be published in France. Is there an adult version of Graceling available in North America?

The "adult" British edition of Graceling and the "young adult" American edition of Graceling are identical, word-for-word, except that in the British edition, of course, my American English has been Britishized. (I.e., "armor" is spelled "armour," double quotes become single quotes, and a few distinctively American words have been changed to the British equivalents.) And, the exact same Dutch translation is used for both the YA and adult editions in the Netherlands. I'm not sure what will happen in France, but I assume the two French editions will also match.

What makes Graceling YA in North America is that it happened to be purchased and published by a children's imprint (Harcourt Children's Books) in North America. What makes Graceling adult in the U.K. is that it happened to be purchased and published by an adult fantasy imprint (Gollancz) in the U.K.. The covers and design are different, and might reflect the different ages to which the books are supposedly marketed -- but, ironically, my Dutch publisher uses the American YA cover for their adult edition and the British adult cover for their YA edition, because the feeling in the Netherlands is that the dagger works best for older readers and the girl-with-sword works best for younger readers.

(left to right: American young adult cover; British adult cover; Dutch young adult cover; Dutch adult cover)

I guess you could say that my book is a crossover of sorts. My American agent focused on submitting the book to YA imprints, because books like Graceling tend to land YA publishers here at home. But my European agent got some bites from adult imprints -- so, there you have it! If the emails I receive are any indication, readers of all ages read both editions.

Of course, this whole thing brings up the messy question of the difference between YA and adult lit. This is one of my least favorite questions, because I don't entirely believe in the distinction -- or, more accurately, I don't believe in ranking adult lit above YA lit (or any other children's lit) when it comes to literary merit, which most people seem to do without even thinking about it. It's the same as the genre question. We all know that sci fi (or horror or romance or mysteries or whatever) and serious literary fiction are mutually exclusive categories, right? WRONG. Anyway. What I won't do here is try to define YA literature by its content (though I am happy to send you to a recent post on The Horn Book blog, where Roger Sutton got into it a little bit. Also, check out the comments in this post. The YA v. adult question is one you can find people haggling about all over the Internet, if you do a little searching).

What I hope I have done is explain that ultimately, in the publishing world, the (sometimes arbitrary) distinction depends on things like what imprints pick the book up; the way the book is designed, marketed, and publicized; and where in the library/bookstore the book can be found. But regardless of whether the edition is adult or young adult, the words in the book are the same. Make sense?

FYI, when I write, I am not assuming any particular audience age. I just write.

I think I just beat that question pretty much into the ground.

If you've made it this far, here's a reward: a great dance from last week's SYTYCD. Karla (contemporary jazz) and Jonathan (salsa) dancing contemporary, choreographed by Stacey Tookey. Check it out -- it's worth 2 minutes of your day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Farewell, My Faithful, Fickle-Fused Friend

So, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I'm somewhat attached to my car. And why wouldn't I be? Everyone knows that the perfect car is a car in which the brake lights never, ever turn off so you have to pull out a fuse every time you park, or else when you get back with your groceries or your library books, your battery will be dead. And then you have to stick the fuse back in and drive home with your brake lights on the entire time even when moving at full speed. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS THE SIGN OF A PERFECT CAR.

However... *sniff*....

However.... (*SNIFF*).... I am moving from Florida to Massachusetts, and I don't need a car in Massachusetts, plus I don't think my car would make it all the way to Massachusetts but don't tell my car I said that.

Today, I'm donating my car to NPR. NPR will cannibalize my car for parts, because that's what people do when someone donates something that doesn't work unless you know the complicated rules about which fuses need to be disattached when.

My car, my chariot, my honorable steed, has come to the end of its 175,825 mile journey.

And so today, to honor an old and faithful friend, I leave you with every single bumper sticker my car wore proudly.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (and other great titles)

So, in my neighborhood, there's a train track and a road that both curve in such a way that they cross each other twice. Here, I'll draw a picture of it to show you what I mean (that's the track on top, the road on the bottom):

Now, I ask you to consider, for a moment, the implications of this. Imagine: you're driving peacefully southeast along the road, la la la. As you approach the train tracks, lights start flashing and bells start ringing, the gate comes down, and you stop your car. A VERY SLOW AND VERY LONG train crosses the road from right to left. Fifteen minutes later, the caboose finally makes its appearance, the lights stop flashing, the bells stop ringing, the gate comes up, and you continue along on your merry way... and then, a few minutes later, what happens? You guessed it. Lights start flashing, bells start ringing, the gate comes down, and THE VERY SAME, VERY SLOW AND VERY LONG TRAIN crosses your road AGAIN. And this time, not only is it stupid, it's surreal, because the train is crossing your road from left to right, the opposite direction from before.

Who planned this?

I happen to love train crossings (and drawbridges and all such things), and I love this stupid, illogical train crossing most of all, because it's silly and nutty and makes me laugh. Kind of like the title of the Alexander McCall Smith mystery, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.

(Okay, that was not an award-winning segue, but give me a break, I'm preparing for a move in 1.5 weeks and my center is barely holding. Things fall apart and nothing is illuminated and one day I'll be dead and I am always, always late and packing is heartbreaking work of staggering discouragement and I think I may be being stalked by a moonshadow.)

So. This was meant to be a post about some of my favorite book (and play and movie) titles.

Some favorite titles of books/plays I've read (and/or plays/movies I've seen):
  • John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late. (A [fabulous] picturebook by John Burningham.)
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. (A book of short stories by Sherman Alexie, some of which evolved into the movie Smoke Signals, screenplay by Sherman Alexie and directed by Chris Eyre.)
  • Proof. (A play by David Auburn and, later, a movie directed by John Madden.)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. (A play by Tom Stoppard and, later, a movie directed by Tom Stoppard.)
  • Things Fall Apart. (A book by Chinua Achebe.)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being. (A book by Milan Kundera and, later, a movie directed by Philip Kaufman.)

And here are some of my favorites among books/movies I have not read or seen (yet):
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. (A book by Elyn R. Saks.)
  • Everything Is Illuminated. (A novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and, later, a movie directed by Liev Schreiber.)
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. (A book by Dave Eggers.)
  • I'm Being Stalked by a Moonshadow. (A book by Doug MacLeod.)
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. (A book by Anne Fadiman.)
  • The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead. (A book by David Shields.)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. (A book by Alexander McCall Smith.)
Hmm. Apparently I like long titles, especially titles that are entire sentences.

What do you think of my titles? What are some of your favorites?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Newsable News

The other day, the FedEx man brought me Die Beschenkte -- i.e., the German edition of Graceling. Guys, Carlsen makes gorgeous books. It's 500 thick, beautiful pages long; the design (interior and exterior) is simply lovely; and IT HAS A BURGUNDY RIBBON BOOKMARK. Even better, it arrived in a Die Beschenkte messenger bag!


Die Beschenkte will be released in the fall.

In other news:
  • I'm happy to report that the Hachette Group (my French publisher) is launching a new fantasy/SF imprint through their publisher Calmann Lévy, called Orbit France. (If your eyes glazed over trying to follow that, don't worry, it doesn't matter.) Orbit will be publishing an adult edition of Graceling as one of their first books. (The YA edition has already been released in France. The Orbit edition will be released in the fall.)
  • The Full Cast Audio audiobook of Graceling is completed and is about to be released. Here are a couple of cool YouTube links: one gives an inside look into how the audiobook was created, and the other is Tamora Pierce very sweetly talking about the audiobook.
  • The Penguin Audiobook of Fire is in production and will be read by Tony Award-nominated stage actress Xanthe Elbrick. Last week, I talked to the director on the phone and pronounced all the names for him. (Yes, this is done -- and it's one of the more fun jobs of being an author, IMO.) I hope to have a clip from the audiobook to post at some point!
That's all the news from here, folks. My days are spent doing things like writing, packing boxes, walking along the river, worrying about nebulous move details, and making (and eating) copious amounts of pizza. Oh, and contemplating crime. (But only because I'm speaking at the Simmons Summer Institute in July, and the institute topic is Crimes and Misdemeanors. ^_^)

Happy Ides of June, everyone.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reading, Watching, Listening

What I'm Reading (Books)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. (Scholastic, September.) No spoilers here; I'm not going to say a damn thing about what happens in the book. Instead, I'll merely say that books like this are the reason I fell in love with reading. I stayed up until 5:30am reading it; it was thrilling; it was heartrending; it was wickedly funny; it was important. I care about these characters with all my heart. And, Ms. Collins? I bet you're already getting pressure from readers for the third book. From me, you get no pressure. From me, you get this instead: Take a break to celebrate what you've accomplished. And take as much time as the next book needs. I know it'll be worth waiting for.

What I'm Reading (Blogs)

I mentioned recently that there are only a few blogs I follow. Well, Laura's recent post at Pinot and Prose sums up why her blog is one of them. Laura is a librarian and amateur chef in Queens who blogs about children's literature, food and food ethics, wine, local, sustainable agriculture, and other yummy things. Her posts calm me down and remind me of what's important. ♥

And here's a post from the blog of Sarah Prineas, author of the wonderful The Magic Thief and the just-released The Magic Thief: Lost, in which Sarah talks honestly about the ups and downs of "living the dream" of being a writer. Representative of why her blog is on my reader. ♥

What I'm Watching
Ballykissangel. Do you know this show, created by BBC Northern Ireland? An English priest is transferred to a small Irish town and quiet, funny, sad drama ensues. I'm partway through Season 3 and am enjoying it muchly, despite occasional fury. (After 8 years of Catholic primary school and, more particularly, 4 years of Jesuit high school... well, I'll say this: Ballykissangel is a world I recognize. Which makes it comforting sometimes, and at other times, exceedingly uncomfortable.)

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 5. Now, let me be clear, there are things not to like about SYTYCD. Nigel's homophobic comments (thanks, Amanda, for the link). Mia's woman-hating and general unguarded meanness. But, the dancing in many styles! And, the dancers of many specialties! Poppers forced to dance ballroom! Ballerinas forced to dance hip hop! Oh goodness me, it's so fun. And the host (Cat Deeley) is so much more sincere and lovable than other hosts (*ahem* Ryan Seacrest), and these kids are talented, and the choreographers are so great and.... well, it's just a ton of fun, this show. And if, like me, you don't know a lot about dance, it's a learning experience, too.

What I'm Listening To
I'm in the middle of a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fixation. What could be better than a musical in which Joseph (interpreter of dreams) has occasion to say to Pharaoh (who sounds suspiciously like Elvis), "All these things you saw in your pajamas / are a long-range forecast for your farmers"? Plus, this show is a good way to brush up on the twelve tribes of Israel. Ready? Reuben, Simeon, Naphtali, Dan, Asher, Issachar, Levi, Zebulun, Gad, Judah, Benjamin, Joseph!

I'm also listening to a lot of Imogen Heap (the link takes you to a favorite song); and Brahms' Requiem has sneaked its way back into my repertoire. I have to be careful not to listen to it while I'm writing, because then I become convinced that I'm writing beautiful, dramatic, emotional scenes, when really it's just that Brahms' Requiem playing in the background makes anything sound good. Seriously, try it. Click on the link and then go off to read your email. You'll find yourself weeping over a spam letter about how she will no longer need a microscope to see your specimen. Or something.

*coughs discreetly*

Also, I always have at least one audiobook in my iPod for when I'm on airplanes, preferably one that's easy to pick up and put down; right now it's Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father, narrated by the author himself. Yeeks, it is wonderful to have an articulate president who's also a fine writer.

Okay, just for fun, I'll end with a favorite clip from Season 4 of SYTYCD -- hip hop, starring Chelsie (a ballroom dancer) and Mark (a contemporary dancer), choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon.

What are you reading, watching, listening to these days?

Monday, June 8, 2009

FAQs about Online Book Buzz, Reviews, and Fanfic

Do you read online reviews / buzz about your own books?
Honestly? No. Since announcing my intentions to quit last August, I have not googled myself or my books, and I do not get google alerts. I do not read reviews on Amazon or other book sites. If someone emails me or comments on my blog with a link to anything concerning my books, I almost never follow the link. It's not that I don't appreciate that people are writing reviews and spreading buzz -- I'm hugely grateful, because online dialog brings readers to my books. And I think it's very nice of people to drop me a line and let me know. But I don't involve myself. I've learned it's better for my writing process, my sanity, and my happiness to avoid it. (Besides, I get a ton of feedback without looking for it -- my friends and publishers are on the ball and keep me informed of what people are saying -- so I generally have a sense of what's going on out there without seeking it out myself.)

I do usually (though not always) read reviews if my editor or publicity department sends them to me. Those ones tend to be the ones in major review journals, and are hard to ignore. And, okay, I'll admit that occasionally I stumble across a review in the blogosphere by accident, but it's only when one of the few sites on my own reader runs a review of one of my books. (I have to say, it always gives me a slight heart attack when I open my reader and see one of my book covers in a post that I didn't write!) These are the only exceptions.

What is your stance on fanfiction/slash, particularly of your worlds/characters?
*smile* I rarely read and never write fanfic, and I would certainly never want to read fanfic about my characters or worlds (talk about a link I wouldn't follow!). But I quite like the concept, I'm glad people in the world are writing fanfic, and I don't care what fanfiction writers do with my characters and worlds, as long as I don't have to read it. Actually, I'll go a step further -- I think I'd find it flattering and fun to hear that my characters had entered the world of fanfic.

Speaking of the blogs I read regularly, fyi, Rebecca Rabinowitz has some interesting posts recently on disability terminology, fatpol picture books, and, *ahem* topping and bottoming in YA lit. Check it out!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Center Will Hold, Dammit

It's possible that I have not entirely recovered from BEA.

Maybe it'll help if I share some of the goodness with you:
  • I got to spend a quiet minute with Suzanne Collins. I treasure that minute. She is definitely a kindred spirit.
  • I had a lovely time answering questions and signing books at Books of Wonder with Melissa Marr. I was running on empty by that point, but I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Melissa is a cool cookie. She gave me swag to throw at the lovely people in the audience, which was nice, because I hadn't brought anything of my own to throw at lovely people.
  • A person in the Penguin booth handed me a Fire ARC for a photo op, then forgot to ask for it back. Naturally, I slipped it into my bag and sneaked away with it. (Authors don't get a lot of their own ARCs, so I've developed a klepto habit. Which is apparently not working, because here in my stash I seem to have a grand total of... *counts* ... ONE? Wait, I could have sworn I had at least two. Has someone else developed a klepto habit? CORDELIA!?) Of course, this was before I unexpectedly ran into Sherman Alexie. I pretty much danced around, did cartwheels, threw streamers, crashed cymbals, and ended the Sherman Alexie Hour by pushing my ARC on him. (Poor man. He was very nice about the whole thing.) (Have you read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven? Have you seen Smoke Signals? Do.)
  • Shannon Hale gave a speech that made me cry. (And also laugh. She's hysterical. The entire encounter has inspired me to take The Goose Girl out of the library.)
  • I saw Billy Elliot on Broadway. ♥
And these are only maybe a third of the things that happened. I also gave a speech, accepted an award, had tea with lovely people, listened to Katherine Paterson speak, signed hundreds of ARCs, saw old friends and met new ones, hung out with my editor, went to a party, bid in a silent art auction, watched Miami Vice when I really should have been sleeping, and got lost at midnight on the way home from the airport because the construction guys made my I-95 exit disappear while I was gone. ALL IN THREE DAYS. Can you understand why it's taking me a while to recover?

Here's some housekeeping:
That is all the important news I have to report.

(Is my center showing any signs of holding yet?)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hibernating Hermits

BEA was stupendous. I now need to disappear for a few days to recover. Want to help me get re-centered by telling me something calm you did recently?

I'll post more about BEA once my center is holding again. Have a nice week, everyone!

UPDATE 4:34pm: The Graceling book giveaway at Hip Writer Mama has been extended to Wednesday, June 3rd. Follow the link!