Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude and the people you love! And pie. Lots of pie. (Do I always say that? I think I always say that. My love for pie is consistent, apparently)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Verse novels and a book recommendation

Last year, the kidlit world was taken by storm with two AMAZING verse novels. First there was BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, which won all kinds of awards. Then there was THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, winner of the Newbery medal. I checked both of these out from the library before they won the awards and got insanely popular, and for Christmas I'm asking for my own copies because I want to read them again and again. Maybe I can soak up a little bit of their brilliance, you know?

I was thrilled to see verse novels get some time in the sun, so to speak. In the past, verse novels have gotten a bad rap from the community from time to time. "Verse is just a gimmick," some say. "It's such a waste, breaking up sentences with crazy line spaces and creating all that white space," others complain.

Of course, these are mostly adults with their harsh opinions. Ask kids who've enjoyed THE CROSSOVER, or LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech, or MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose, or WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW by Sonya Sones and they will tell you how much they love these books and that the verse doesn't take anything away, and in fact, actually adds something wonderful.

Since I've written a number of verse novels, I know that writing novels in verse isn't easy. It's a bit like walking on a tightrope, trying to balance the story and the poetry to create something that is accessible while also poetic, to write a story with a good plot and interesting characters while not using a ton of words. It's tough! But when it's done well, it can be a pretty magical reading experience. And I'm so glad there have been books lately that prove to the world there is nothing wrong with writing this way.

So what if they're different? I mean really, so what? If people don't like them, they don't have to read them. But to out and out say awful things in generalities is just not very useful, and in fact can be hurtful to the authors who enjoy writing this way. Trust me, I know this too well.

Anyway, last week, I finished a verse novel I want to recommend to all of my readers (12 and up) who love verse novels. It's called ONE by Sarah Crossan. It's about a set of conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace, who you will fall in love with. This book made me laugh and made me cry - my favorite kind of book!

Not only is this book a really, really good read, it also made me long to write an entire novel in verse again. It actually made me excited at the thought. Because of the criticism they were getting a few years back, I went through a bit of a crisis with my writing. I didn't want to write entire books in verse anymore. I didn't want to be put under a microscope for someone to declare whether it was just a "gimmick" or not. Besides, I told myself, if I write in mostly prose, maybe I'll be more popular.

Ha. Hahahaha. I will never be one of the "popular" YA authors. So really, I need to do what I do best and not worry about anything else. And when it comes to YA, I think that's writing in verse. I'm fifty pages in on a new project and having so much fun.

So thank you Sarah Crossan, not only for writing this amazing book, but also for putting me back on the path I veered away from for a while. I don't know what awaits me up ahead, but I'm enjoying the journey and for me, that's the most important thing when it comes to writing.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 9, 2015

YALSA YA Lit Symposium 2015

It's no secret that I LOVE libraries. I use my fabulous public library weekly. And librarians have a special place in my heart, because they do what they do with such joy and passion - they love books, and they love bringing books and people together. It's a wonderful thing.

This year, the YALSA YA Lit Symposium was in my backyard here in Portland, Oregon so my publisher had me attend the book blitz Saturday evening, which was SO much fun. Librarians in attendance were given six tickets each and with those tickets, they were able to go around and get signed books for themselves and/or for their library. I was able to chat with a bunch of librarians and signed a WHOLE bunch of books, and it makes me happy to think of some of those books making their way back to find homes in libraries or even some teens' homes when they're given away as door prizes and other things.

Three especially fun things happened during the book blitz.

1) A librarian said, "Since The Bridge from Me to You is on Soaring Eagle list, I'm wondering if you'd sign this bookplate for my own personal copy back home?" I was like - the what list? Turns out Wyoming has a state reading list called The Soaring Eagle list and my book is one of fifteen books that are nominated for the award that will be announced in the spring of 2016. Landing on a state reading list is always a fun thing!


2) A librarian came up to me and said, "You're probably not going to believe this but I'm Mrs. Smith's daughter-in-law. You know, your old teacher, Patsy Smith?"

She then proceeded to tell me that she was reading All We Have is Now back at home when she saw this dedication:

for Mrs. Smith, my favorite high school teacher, who asked the question, if you only had 24 hours...

and wondered if it might be the Mrs. Smith she was related to. What are the chances, she wondered? Still, she asked, and of course Mrs. Smith didn't recognize my name, because it's my married name. But when she saw my picture she was like - yes, that was one of my students!

So I got to sign a book for that teacher who I adore so very much. Isn't that cool?

3) A librarian (do you see a pattern here?) told me All We Have is Now is one of the best YA novels she's read in the past TEN YEARS! Holy Moly. Do you know how nice it was to hear that? Very, very, very nice.

Thank you YALSA and librarians for a great evening, and for all you do for teens and YA literature!

A great thing you can do for a book that you think might be good for reluctant readers is to nominate it for the YALSA Quick Picks List. I've had two books on the list in years past - I Heart You, You Haunt Me and The Day Before. Anyone can nominate by filling out THIS FORM. Publishers love it when books make these lists.

Have a great week!