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Okay. So I've been neglecting this blog again and I 'm going to tell myself that it's because I've been in my revisions cave. Funny how my revisions cave looks EXACTLY like my living room. And who put these cats here? Jeez.

But you know, it's hard to stay in the revisions cave. Sometimes really shiny things come up. Today I spent a good amount of time working on the playlist for the main character in MYSELF BEHIND MYSELF (formerly called HISTORY) so that I could revise when I was done. But what did I do when I was done? I IMed my friend James to tell him what I was doing and then when he said he wanted to see my awesome playlist (it is awesome) I told him I would put it up on last.fm. And when I finished putting that one up, I put all my project playlists up. And uploaded art. Fun!

Oh yes, it is super fun to procrastinate by making pretend cover art for your books. I shared some for previous projects in a past blog post, but here is my mock cover for 1999. Look! It's so colorful and cute! I used free stock art from sites like morguefile.com and deviantart.com

I also counted all the swear words in MYSELF BEHIND MYSELF. Why? Because I can. Scrivener -- a writing program that, incidentally, changed my life -- has a text statistics option that lets you count how many times you use certain words. MYSELF BEHIND MYSELF drops 28 F bombs in it's third draft. There are 31 variations of shit and 7 instances of taking Jesus' name in vain, including 3 where Christ is included. I am sad to say, right this second, there are no douches. I will work on that.

This option also allowed me to tell my mother, upon sending her the first draft for 1999, that this book has much more swearing than my previous manuscript and that I didn't want to hear about how offensive it is. She claims she can handle it. But you'll be happy to know it has 3 creative uses of douche/douchebag. My characters, apparently, have potty mouths. Unlike ANYONE I know...

I've been watching Olympic hockey games and telling myself that I can totally watch and revise at the same time but OH NO WE ARE SLAUGHTERING RUSSIA GO TEAM USA. Right. Women's hockey rules, and instead of actually getting any work done, I'm generating ideas for new books while screaming at the television. Also, this week my buddy Kyle explained curling to me in such a comprehensive manner that I mostly understand it and can now watch the sport with interest. Crap.

And of course there's one of the best excuses in the world: my cat is sitting on my manuscript. I know, this is right up there with "my dog ate my homework." But, you know, sometimes the truth is the truth. I mean, look. Turkleton is a very needy cat. He spends a lot of time vying for my attention on contention with this strange laptop machine that I'm always staring at and clicking on. When he can actually, physically PWN his rival, he's going to do it. (Telemachus, for those of you wondering, doesn't care if I'm writing, as long as I give him his own pen to chew on. Much easier to deal with.) Let's also take the time to note that, in his spare time, Turkleton also likes to sit on my phone, my keys, books I have open and am trying to read, and my arms while I'm trying to type.

Naturally there's also this classic distraction, the internet. Between micro-blogging on Twitter and this long and rambling post I'm writing right now, the web is a fun distraction that sucks up a lot of time. Of course, it is useful procrastination, right? Twitter is a great resource for meeting and chatting with other authors and industry professionals. And This insight into the glamorous life of being a yet-unpublished-YA-author is sure to, uh, help someone else along, right? And sometimes I even research things like chupacabras and 1990s pop culture items that have escaped my memory.

Hey, at least I haven't turned on my TV yet today. And it's not like YOU'RE writing right this second, are you? That's what I thought.
It's a gross, cold, rainy day here in Austin so I thought maybe I'd finally come through on some promised reviews for my blog readers. I've mostly been reading contemporary YA lately, while taking breaks to read ten or so pages each night from CRYPTOZOOLOGY A-Z by Loren Coleman (from Maine!) and Jerome Clarke. Yes, it's research for a book I want to write, but, let's be honest -- the book was on my Amaz*n wishlist for like two years before my novel idea gave me an excuse to buy it. Let me just tell you: it's fascinating.

The first book I want to tell you about is GIRL FROM MARS (Groundwood Books 2008) by Tamara Bach, translated from the German by Shelley Tanaka. This book has garnered multiple awards and much praise in its native Germany, but the only reason I even know about it is that in my past job as a bookseller I saw it in a catalog. Only 29 people on LibraryThing have it, and to me, that's a travesty. It's a beautiful story of first love, told in the quirky voice of Miriam, a self-described plain fifteen-year-old girl in a small town who dreams, like many of us, of getting out and living a fabulous big-city life. She wishes she were beautiful and popular and spends every morning commiserating in the girls' restroom with her two best friends, Ines and Suse. Then enters Laura, with her wild black hair and carefree attitude, who rolls her own cigarettes and goes to clubs. Miriam is instantly enchanted, and begins to feel something she's never felt before, especially for a girl. GIRL FROM MARS is beautifully written, and rife with genuine emotion. This is a book that should not be ignored, and I urge anyone who can to track down a copy. It will make your heart ache in all the right ways.

I also recently read LEFTOVERS (Orca Books, 2009) by Heather Waldorf, which is also with a small publisher. This one wasn't quite as intense as I'd expected -- one of its core themes is sexual abuse -- and I found the author's treatment of this theme a little too light. However, the story was compelling. Taking place on a small island in the St. Lawrence River (close to Ottowa, Ontario), this is the story of Sarah Greene, who, after stealing and crashing her mom's boyfriend's car, is sentenced to community service at Camp Dog Gone Fun, a charity that treats misfit dogs to a summer of leisure. What her the judge, her fellow campers, and even her mother and her boyfriend, Tanner, don't know is that the reason she freaked out was that having her picture taken freaks her out. So when Tanner got out his brand new digital camera and asked Sarah to smile, all she could think of was the "secret" nude photos her dad had been taking of her up until he choked on a piece of steak and died. At the camp, though, Sarah throws herself into the work, cooking meals for her fellow delinquents and fin ding companionship not only in her special project -- a wild, enormous pup named Judy -- but also in Sullivan, the director's stepson. If she lets herself, this could be the summer that allows Sarah to heal, and her unexpected friendships with everyone at Camp Dog Gone Fun -- four-legged and biped alike, might just get her through. While I would have liked to see more grit in the story, LEFTOVERS ultimately makes a painful story of sexual abuse more accessible for readers who might not otherwise pick it up. Dog lovers will appreciate the canine hijinx and stories of rehabilitation, and Sarah's wacky sense of humor and conversational narrative shine a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a lovely, fast read that will find a place in the hearts of many young readers.

I'll admit it -- I'm obsessed with the show Hoarders. I think part of me is always afraid that my pack-ratty-ness make me susceptible to that extreme. But shows like Hoarders don't always show the human side of this serious, clinical illness, and DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2010) by C.J. Omololu gave me a real look at what it's like to grow up in a hoarding home. Lucy is a typical teen in most ways -- she goes to school, she has a best friend, she likes music and coffee and has a crush on a boy. But what her friends don't know is that her house is full of stuff -- stuff that her mom has collected over years and years and refuses to throw away. Her older brother and sister have both grown up and gone away, leaving Lucy alone with her mom, who has let the house get so bad that there is no longer hot water, let alone the smells coming from the kitchen. When Lucy comes home one day to find that the unthinkable has happened, she begins a mad dash to try and clean up the mess that her mother has spent years building before anyone can see what her life is really like. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS brilliantly takes place in a period of about 24 hours, utilizing carefully-placed memories to fill in the blanks of Lucy's difficult life in a family that has ceased to function. While I felt the ending came to quickly (sequel, please!) I absolutely could not put this book down and I highly recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed YA books by Laurie Halse Anderson, Elizabeth Scott, or Judy Blume. (Yes, I just invoked The Judy.) Go find your local indie and pick up a copy ASAP.

Right now I'm reading THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner, which I'm finding a bit slow to start -- does anyone who read this already want to weigh in? I also would like to state, for the record, that I had a sexy dream about David Duchovny last night, but it was ruined by his MULLET. What?! Also, I've had "Thinking of You" by Hanson (yes, really) stuck in my head since I woke up morning. Mostly it just makes me want to call my sister and reminisce, but I think she's blocked out most of 1998 pretty well.
So on Saturday I attended my first ever SCBWI conference. IT WAS AWESOME! No one made fun of my pimples or roots and I even made new friends and learned things! It was so fun to catch up with a lot of my writer buds, whom I haven't seen in a while, not to mention meeting some of my friends who live in my computer for the first time!

Here are some exclamation points! For good measure!

The whole event, as usual, started with TRAVEL DRAMA. I am still a pedestrian, and getting to remote, busless places like Cedar Park is difficult for me. Fortunately, my amazing friend Jessica Lee Anderson offered up the idea of having a sleepover at her house (okay, it was more of a stay-up-all-night-because-we're-too-excited-to-sleep-over, but whatever) where I presented her with A DOG SNUGGIE. Jess is more than an amazing critique partner, but someone I'm lucky to call a BFF. She gave me great advice on what to expect at the conference and a jillion reasons I shouldn't be nervous. PS, if you haven't read her latest book, BORDER CROSSING, get the eff on that. It rocks. Jess recently gave an interview here, btw, which is a must-read.

We got there at the butt-crack of dawn, and it was COLD out! Not Texas cold, but normal people cold. Luckily, the Austin SCBWI croud is WARM and welcoming, so the second we arrived the chill melted away. The muffins helped. One of the first people I saw at breakfast was Shelli Cornelison who I know from YALITCHAT on twitter. She introduced me to Nikki Loftin and a group of lovely ladies at breakfast. Here is a picture of breakfast that I lovingly stole from Jo.

Former editor and current agent Mark McVeigh gave an opening presentation, in which he explained that the publishing industry is not in collapse, but in transition. He gave several arguments for accepting the digital revolution. "There will always be people who want hardcover books," he said, comparing these people to today's vinyl aficionados. He made the point that most people were no longer buying CDs, especially young people. Whenever people talk about ebooks and the digitizing of the publishing industry, my brain goes right to that scene from UGLIES, where Tally discovers the old library in the Smoke and all the paper books and magazines that are unrecognizable relics to her and her peers. I find it terrifying. But, McVeigh is right. "We are all running scared," he said. "Use that fear." He also suggested writing outside our comfort zones as a cure for writer's block: "Rub your muse the wrong way."

Over there is a picture Jo Whittemore took of Brandi November Lyons and, yes, that's me, looking, supposedly "sassy and cute." Okay, Jo. I think it's a little more "half-crazed, early-morning style." But, whatever you say! We were waiting for our critiques in the "holding cell."

I had my first critique of the day with the adorable Sara Lewis Holmes, author of OPERATION YES, which I am so very looking forward to reading. Sara's advice was practical in every way. She had HISTORY, which is my completed YA contemporary, and I have always felt there was something missing in the first few chapters. With Sara's suggestions (and some from Shana Burg, later in the day), I think I know how to make HISTORY a million times stronger than it is now.

Cheryl Klein, editor extraordinaire from Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), was one of my favorite presenters of the day. She gave a lot of wonderful information on picture book writing -- a genre I am just beginning to try. One wonderful bit of advice she gave was that picture books should be centered in a real childhood emotion, like like of power. Delightfully, she added, "You have to get rid of the parents, because parents are like the anti-power." She also introduced us to (Laurie Halse) Anderson's Law: Plot = Compulsion vs. Obstacles.

At this point in the day I had an amazingly helpful critique with local lady P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, author of THE EMERALD TABLET and THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. It was so nice to sit down with Tricia, as she's someone I often talk to about books and writing, but never really about my books and writing. Since I knew that Tricia loves mythology and sci fi, I sent her pages my unfinished paranormal project, HARKNESS BEACH. The first thing she told me was that she loved the story but the voice felt female. This was so important to hear -- my narrator is a teen guy and I need to make him sound more dudely. Tricia also recommended a few books that she thinks share similar themes and will help me figure out my voice and pacing. Yesterday I started writing some new scenes for HARKNESS BEACH, which I've had a hard time working on lately. This book has a whole new lease on life!

I had a great lunch with Kelly J. Holmes of YAnnabe, founder of the Unsung YA Heroes Project! Funny thing: we found each other twittering during a presentation and made plans to meet up at lunch. Oh, intarnets! I also met the fabulous Tessa Burns, who ended up giving me a ride back into town (thankyouthankyouthankyou) and Lynne Kelly Hoenig, another of my YALITCHAT buds. Guys. Seriously. I cannot express enough how awesome twitter is for connecting with other writers in your community, not to mention writers you wouldn't normally get to talk to. GET ON IT.

Another of my favorite presenters was author Kirby Larson, whose book HATTIE BIG SKY is a Newbery Honor title. She was funny and delightful and full of witty advice. My favorite? She told us we had to "write through the bad stuff." Meaning, life gets in the way of writing. Shit happens, but the only way to get to the other side is to slog through it. She also gave us some great quotes from other folks: "Inspiration is not a gift" from Madeleine L'Engle and "Frustration is a sign of seriousness" from Ralph Keyes.

Around this time I had two more critiques. Chris Barton, Austinite and Sibert Honor author of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS and the upcoming (can't wait for this!) SHARK VS. TRAIN, took a look at MOON YETI and knew exactly what it needed: a real plot. Ha! Like I said, picture books are new to me. He asked me some import questions about character motives. I have a lot of work to do on MOON YETI, but with Chris' help, it will get there.

Immediately after my critique with Chris, I got to sit down with the amazing Shana Burg, local author of A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS, who always has good writing advice (I loved her presentation at one of the previous SCBWI meetings, during which she shared some marvelous tips on character development). Shana had fabulous advice, and suggested some bold suggestions to the opening of HISTORY. She thinks it should be more spooky, and I totally agree. I'm going to be doing some reworking of this book in the near future before sending out too many more query letters.

Lisa Graff, former editor and author of Texas Bluebonnet List titles THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE and THE UMBRELLA SUMMER (the later of which has been on my TBR list since I first saw it in publisher's catalog) gave a very entertaining talk about how to be a writer and your own editor, and why you shouldn't wear your writer and editor hats at the same time. My favorite tidbit from her presentation? "An author knows what a genius he is, an editor knows you could do better." Basically, as an author, you have to believe that what you are writing as amazing and valuable and world-changing. You have to believe in it, or you'll never get anything done. But when you attack it as an editor, you also have to believe that you have the ability to improve it, and make it the best it can be. At some point Tim's photographer caught me furiously scribbling notes and looking out-of-my-mind. I like to call this "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Crazy Person."

At the end of the day we had a short panel with several of the featured local SCBWI authors. My favorite parts? Philip Yates, author of my favorite Christmas picture book, A PIRATE'S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, wrote a poem about getting an agent by name-dropping all the amazing Austin talent. He also confesses that he likes to print out his manuscripts and read them aloud to his cat. And Shana Burg professed that she approaches revisions "like a daredevil...open to any suggestion." She said you have to make painful changes, and, that is one thing I am going to take seriously in my upcoming revision process.

So I've got a lot to do this week. For now I'm focusing on HARKNESS BEACH, but I've always got my crop rotation process to fall back on. It may be time to start revising 1999 (my Y2Kpocalypse novel) in the near future. And of course I have amazing critiques to work with for MOON YETI and HISTORY. I started reading THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner last night, per P.J. Hoover's suggestion, and I'm super intrigued by it. My next post should have some book reviews. In the mean time, I hope you all have a great week, writing, reading, and otherwise!
So the SCBWI Austin conference is this weekend and I'm totally excited. All of my Austin writing friends will be there (except for poor Kari, for whom we will be tweeting) and then of course there's the special guests like out-of-town authors and agents and editors.

Oh, wait. VIPs are coming! I am TERRIFIED of VIPs! VIPs en masse could give me a heart attack! I'm all twitchy.

So instead of thinking of important things like how I might pitch my novel if asked or what questions I'll ask other authors I'm meeting for the first time or what I'm supposed to bring I'm worrying about the following:

I have two zits on my forehead and they are getting kind of huge and what if they don't go away before the conference?
(Because obviously someone with zits can't write a decent manuscript and should be shunned.)

I noticed yesterday that I'm getting major rootage and my dye job is fading.
(Because no agent in his right mind would sign a pseudoredhead. If ginger kids have no souls, what on earth is in store for a faker?)

What if someone asks me about my book and I completely forget the plot?
(Because, you know, even though I spent a year and a half of my life having conversations in my head with a made up character this is totally likely.)

What if I fall asleep in the middle of a presentation because the conference starts so early and I don't really like coffee and I can't figure out how to sugar up the coffee provided enough so that I can actually drink it and, BAM, catching z's.
(Because coffee is rocket science. Only rocket scientists can make it. That is why Starbucks is secretly run by NASA.)

In my sleepy stupor my Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome will flare up and I'll either make an inappropriate Freudian slip or say something ridiculous and make someone important hate me.
(Because it's not like I've ever made a good impression on someone. Of course not!)

The list goes on. Does anyone else get the jitters before an event like this? It's a great opportunity, and it will be hugely informative, but I know it's also going to be big-time fun. Clearly, I need to chill out. And that's why the world is blessed with pharmaceuticals.

In the future: I plan to blog about a few books I've read lately. Feel free to tell me what you've been reading down in them there comments. I love reading suggestions. Now I'm off to finish Girl from Mars by Tamara Bach (sososososo good) while listening to Catatonia. Goodnight.

Hey, Jerks! I'm back!

(Originally posted on 1/5/10 at http://ekristinanderson.blogspot.com)

I'M SO FREAKING SORRY, OKAY? I AM BLOGFAIL.

First and foremost, I must apologize to CARRIE (pictured left, with me, at a Books of Wonder party), who is the one person who reads my blog like it's a religion, and I may have caused her a crisis of faith. I AM SORRY.

But, seeing as it's about time for the obligatory New Year's post, I'm going to just gutspill here for a mo, if that's cool wit'chya'll.

I had a pretty ups-and-downs-y 2009. Went through the most devastating breakup of my life to date, lost a job that meant the world to me, and am currently working to re-establish my identity as a member of the bookworld, grown-up society, and an independent tough chick. Hey, I always tell myself I've been through worse and can come out on top, but looking for a job is not fun for anyone, especially when your talents are in the arts. Yuck. Of course I have amazing friends, family, and colleagues and I can't stop being thankful for all of them. My BFF Amelia and my awesome new boyfriend, Jorge, are ridiculously awesome. Also, my TX bff crew - Misha, Tim, Ali (pictured right with me and her bday pressie by Micol Ostow), Tony, Clay, Katy, Sarah, James & all y'all.

My grandparents are amazing people and there's really nothing more I can say about them. I love them and owe them more than even they know.

Thanks mucho to the support of (shout-out time) some of the fabbity fab crew of the Austin Kidlit scene. Folks like Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jenny Ziegler, Varian Johnson, K.A. Holt, P.J. Hoover, Liz Garton Scanlon, April Lurie, and countless others who tell me every time they see me how my time is coming and that patience is a virtue and that I am an appreciated and loved member of the community.

Also, the YALITCHAT community, both on twitter and Ning are AMAZING. Georgia McBride really got things rolling there, and it kicks serious butt. It's full or resources for both published and unpublished writers in all stages of their careers, and it's growing every day. VISIT, OKAY!?

Among my other new Twitter/Facebook friends are Lynne and Shelli and Jamie and Jennifer and OtherEmily and Janni (if you haven't read Janni's book Bones of Faerie, you're dead to me until you do) who are supportive and full of information and love. Great internets BFFs if there ever were any. And lets not forget my fellow Mainer Carrie Jones, who writes about pixies in Need and Captivate and you MUST READ THEM, okay? I think she's my secret twin.

And, oh wait, there's the amazing JESSICA LEE ANDERSON who is my one-person starving artist support group. We meet regularly to talk about our writing, obvs, but also about how frustrating it can be to BE a struggling artist (because even tho Jess is getting glowing reviews these days, she assures me that my feelings of despair and insecurity are natural and normal and a part of the process).

I know that the book I wrote this year is important and going somewhere. I'm the good kind of nuts. Nutty about my book, and about getting it into the hands of readers, nutty about changing the world one reader at a time. Goals for my first book? Taking stigmas on certain topics down a notch. Killing high school stereotypes while maintaining the fact that high school is a struggle for even the most "cool" and "together" person you know.

Let it be known that I am writing this blog from a wild state of mind known as SUDDEN INSPIRATION and EARLY IN THE DAY JOIE DE VIVRE.

I have some goals for this year. We all do, right? Call them resolutions if you want, but resolutions just make me feel like the 10-year-old my mom sat down with to make a list. A list with things like "stop picking my nose" and "clean my room every day." LAME.

My one New Year's Resolution is this: LEARN TO PLAY THE UKULELE. I must admit, I was inspired by the fabbity fab Kristin Clark Venuti, who wrote the best middle grade novel I've read in YEARS, Leaving the Bellweathers. When she came to Austin she played a song on her uke about her book. It was hysterical and awesome and I want to DO IT. Who knows...by this time next year I could have my first Ukulele singer/songwriter album out. Or, you know, at least know a few cords.

But I do have GOALS and EXPECTATIONS for this year. I will get an agent. I've gotten some positive and critical feedback from some well-respected agent-types which gives me the confidence to back up my claim that I WILL, yes WILL, get an agent this year. I also believe that I will sell my completed YA manuscript and possibly my picture book ms as well.

I also expect that I will finish my next YA this year. It's a book that I, unintentionally, perhaps, started writing when I was 16 for a competition in high school. I did not win, but the story stuck to me and I've tweaked it to the point that it is unrecognizable as the original story. Anyhoo, it is a story that is important to me and I think it's going to kick serious ass. It takes place in the town where I went to college, New London, Connecticut. I think New Londy is sort of an underdog, and I'm excited to set my book there. I just have to get my crime story brain going, as well as some supernatural elements working overtime. Oh yeah.

My other major GOAL is to submit a full poetry collection and find a publisher for it, or at least get feedback. I have a lot of work under my belt in the field of poetry, and it's freaking time. My work rocks, and it needs to be out there, and I'm not going to self-publish. Heck no.

Some New Years dreams? I think it might be kind of cool to get some of my photographs in a gallery. Unlikely, but it could happen. I'd like to write some short stories for children and submit them to magazines or anthologies - some of my local buds and I have an idea for an anthology to work on, but, who knows where that will go.

And, most importantly, I'd like to spend some time this year reconnecting with friends whom I love but have fallen out of touch with. I suck. I'm sorry. Let's catch up, okay? Email me. We'll chat.

Zombies vs. Vampires; PS There's Queries!

Hello, blogiverse!

I'm pleased to say I had a marvelous weekend. On Saturday I was honored to be a part of the first annual Austin Teen Book Festival! (insert cheers here) I was, of course, there on behalf of my employer, BookPeople, the official bookseller of the event. But several weeks ago I was also asked to moderate one of the panels, and duh, I was all over it.

Madeline, my BP cohort, and I got to Westlake High at what felt like the crack of dawn and it wasn't long before readers started pouring in and books were flying. I felt like such a dork, with this big smile across my face, but selling YA books is one of my favorite things, and seeing so many teens at a book event on a Saturday morning made me so happy.

Libba Bray's keynote speech was silly, funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and inspiring - you know, everything you'd expect from a "luminous supervixen." Attendance was impressive and the crowd gave her a standing ovation. I don't think you can really ask for more! I got to chat with Libba briefly later in the day, and she is just a fabulous woman.

Throughout the day festival-goers had the option of going to one of four panels in three different sessions. Since I was moderating the Vampires vs. Zombies panel, I got to hang out with the fabulous Heather Brewer, Carrie Jones, Daniel Waters, and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Now, I know I'm a little biased here, but I think our panel was pretty bitchin'. Which isn't to say there wasn't a fabulous array of authors at the fest (several of whom I'm lucky enough to consider friends and cohorts), BUT, I simply cannot imagine anyone having more fun than we did. Don't believe me? Read this post by Liviania at In Bed With Books.

Things I now know:

  • Pixies are dangerous and my homestate of Maine is particularly unsafe. Carrie lives in the Bangor area, where she claims everyone dresses in work boots or snow boots and flannels. These people could be PIXIES and they will SUCK YOUR SOUL. I'm just saying.
  • If there were such a thing as a zombie pixie vampire, it would look like Tom Cruise. Heather Brewer said so, and we all know Auntie Heather knows all.
  • If Cyn were trapped in a zombie apocalypse situation and could have three other authors from the Austin Teen Book Festival on her survival team, she would have April Lurie because of her skills learned as a nurse in New York City, Carrie Jones due to her travelling with Grover (a personal cheerleader and general awesome furry muppetness), and Libba Bray for her fighting spirit and superhuman courage (you've seen the cow suit video, right?).
  • In the same zombie apocalypes, Heather would take anyone with a two-by-four, Daniel would pick the meatier, slower people (and would sacrifice Carrie - this earned him boos), and Carrie would pick Grover. Carrie's pick techinically wasn't on the menu, BUT, would you say no to her? She's the cutest ever!
  • Daniel has a very real crush on Tinkerbell. Even though she's fairly tiny.
  • In case of a vampire apocalypse, Heather plans on finding the head honcho and getting herself turned before the food supply runs out.
  • Carrie would kiss a zombie. Especially a zombie from Daniel's books, since they are slightly less skin-fally-offy.

Pictures of the event are starting to turn up on the web - check ou these images found on Twitter, and Flickr:
@heatherbrewer Carrie Jones Daniel Waters Cynthia Leitich Smith on Twitpic

The post-festival dinner with authors and planners was also wonderful. I got to say hello to Justine Larbalestier, whom I met last fall when she came to BookPeople on her How To Ditch Your Fairy tour. I also met Matt de la Pena, who knows a thing or two about one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, and caught up with fellow Austin ladies Shana Burg, April Lurie, and Margo Rabb. I can also report that the queso at the Hula Hut is fantastic.

In other news, the query process has begun! My first novel is, well, finished. It was sort of anti-climactic. But now it's out in the world. I'm buckling in for the long haul. Cross your fingers for me!
So I had a rough week.  Drama etc.  All week I've been eating my new comfort food, Wendy's taco salad.  I love it.  I told Mark tonight that I hope I will get skinny from eating salad instead of a burger during sour times.  He laughed at me.

It all came to a head just a bit ago, driving home from a used bookstore.

Mark: I looked up the nutrition facts on the Southwest Taco Salad.
Me:  Yeah?  Healthy, right?
Mark: No.  Like a million calories.
Me: Well it has to be better than a burger.
Mark: Not really.  I mean, it doesn't count as salad if you dump chili on it.
Me: It so does!  It has lettuce! 
Mark: (laughs)
Me: Lettuce is negative calories.  It takes more calories to process lettuce than are in it. 
Mark: But you dump chili on it.
Me: And the lettuce absorbs it.  Neutralized.
Mark: I don't think it works that way, em.  Dumping chili on something makes it unhealthy.
Me: Lettuce!
Mark: What's more unhealthy?  A hot dog or a chili dog?  A chili dog, because you dump chili on it.
Me: (grumbling noises)
Mark: I don't think dumping is ever a good idea.
I am currently eating something called "little nookies."  They're from Torchy's Tacos, and they're basically deep-fried chocolate chip cookies.  They are unreal.  Holy crap.  I think this is a good reason for anyone to come to Austin.

I haven't posted a lot lately, probably because life has been busy.  But so many people manage to blog their hearts out at various locales whilst remaining way busier than me.  So is life. But check out the latest issues of Orbis Quarterly and Mimesis for poems of mine.  They both chose pieces that I feel really represent my body of work, so I'd love if these issues wound up on your shelves!

I've read some really good stuff lately, though.  Most recently The School For Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer which, while sort of sensationalist, was a really heart-wrenching read.  I loved the characters, the idea that these were girls that society couldn't handle anymore.  And I loved that, every time I thought the school really was trying to help them, something happened that made both me and Angela question their motives.  It was absolutely a bit on the trashy side, but I can't pinpoint why.  If it were made into a movie, it would be the sort of bad movie that I love and don't tell my friends about.  What a thrill-ride, though!  And the other night I read Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, which I'd been meaning to for a while but didn't prioritize til I saw it come in at the store.  It's told from the perspective of a 6th grader with autism, and I love that it really let us, the "neurotypical" readers get inside his head.  I love how it was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.  I stayed up quite late finishing the book even though I had to be up early the next day.  And then sold it to a boy the next day looking for something "real and good."  I'm also really looking forward to the release of Pip: The Story of Olive by Kim Kane.  It was such a sweet, fun, quirky read, with such a lovely character.  The Aussie language and themes were really great - I was glad to see there couldn't have been too much Americanizing of the slang & grammar, as even the punctuation had survived.  My favorite part of this book was that magic realism allowed for the reader to decide on his own whether Pip really came out of a funhouse mirror.  And I loved that the absent mother/looking for a real dad themes didn't darken the story - it was an ultimately positive, happy book.  I'm really curious as to how it will be received among American tweens.

I want to eat another little nookie but I think my stomach might explode.  Worth it?  Undecided.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Lauren Myracle's upcoming book, Peace, Love, & Baby Ducks (thanks, J) and am definitely looking forward to devouring it.  Lauren Myracle's books are so cute and girlie, but also always have something important to say.  Except Bliss, which is less girlie and way more creepy.  But awesome.  Anyway I was going to start reading it last night but wound up opening the other book I got yesterday, Possessions by Nancy Holder.  When the Rep was telling me about it I was really confused at first - she was talking about all of Holder's other books and I thought this was part of a series I hadn't read.  And then I thought maybe it was part of a series like S.A.S.S. or Once Upon A Time where they're all separate stories told by different authors but marketed together because of a similar theme.  But it's neither (though it looks like it might be the start of a new series) and I started reading it on the bus home last night (it was nice and dark out) and was immdeiately drawn in to this secluded, elite boarding school and the creepy happenings thereof.  V. nice.  I'm not too far in, and it might prove to be lame, but so far I'm impressed.

Obviously I'm thrilled to have met Laurie Halse Anderson last night.  She was at the store promoting her new book Wintergirls (a must read for teens, parents, and anyone looking for something powerful, visionary, and real) and the 10th anniversary of Speak, which I can't believe I only read recently (seriously, revolutionary).  I told Laurie I wish I'd read her books in high school.  And she confirmed my suspicion - that 10 years ago there wasn't young adult literature - not like today for sure.  I feel fortunate, though, to be able to be a part of this cultural movement as an adult.  Laurie was very kind, and had lots of encouraging things to say to me about "joining the tribe" of YA authors and getting my writing done.  We took some great pictures and I'm hoping that a certain chicken will be famous on the net very soon.  I am just infinitely impressed by this woman's integrity as a writer and a person, but also by her dedication to her readers, and the responsibility she has taken in being there for kids who are dealing with some of the same issues as her characters.  Bravo, Laurie, and congrats on your NYT spot! (May you beat Miley yet!)

Still unsure about eating another nookie.

My goal for this weekend is to finish Possessions and work on a few chapter books.  I have ARCs of a Horrid Henry book and Dying to Meet You that I'd love to get through, as well as the new Kate Thomson, Highway Robbery, which has left everyone pleasantly mystified so far.  Then maybe something fun like The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks or Jake Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare (PS - has anyone seen/read Castration Celebration yet?  I am itching to know anything about that and how the stodgy, censor-happy types are going to receive it).  On the adult side, I need to finish Shampoo Planet which I've been reading for weeks now  (I lovelovelove Coupland) and I need to read Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea for the Random House handselling contest (okay, this is sort of a kid book anyway, but I'm reading it as an adult title to sell it to adults and teens).  I also picked up Diana Peterfreund's (<3<3) first two Ivy League novels and I'm dying to sink my teeth in there.  So many books...so little daylight.

Ate the nookie.  Food coma.

I just finished reading Heartbeat by Sharon Creech.  You know how sometimes you read a book and you want to buy a bunch of copies and give them to your people?  Yeah.  Feel that way right now.  I live really close to a Half Price Books now, too (more on this later) and they usually have a bunch of Heartbeat in paper.  Man.  Mission.  Oh but it's so good, just the right amount of mood, a strong voice, compelling character, and this wonderful narrative about running and friendship.  I used to run, back in the day, and my sister still does.  My dad started running at 50 and just ran his first marathon in January.  He doesn't appreciate kids books or poetry, but I think my sister might.  Book for her.

I want to write books like Sharon Creech.  I love her verse novels.  There was a point where I thought writing a verse novel would cheapen my craft as a poet, but perhaps I should take it on as a challenge.  I think I might.

Since the last post I've read a ton of good stuff.  Lisa Yee's Absolutely Maybe which was just wonderful and sad and triumphant.  And funny.  And it made me crave tacos quite badly.  Even though I was feeling icky, I had to have tacos.  I reviewed it for the BookKids blog last week, as well as Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, which a fellow kidlit lover disliked but I really enjoyed.  There was a point at which I sort of went "oh, THIS is what made her hate it."  But, for me, the recovery from that point made the book stronger.  What a trip.

The trippiest book I've picked up lately was actually a grown up book (SHOCK!) - but it's being cross-marketed to teens (lesser shock).  Genesis is part Plato, part Huxley, part....Lowry?  It's a really difficult book to describe without giving too much away.  But, I'll give you this:  future, global warming, plague, robots.  One thing I loved most about this book was its format.  It's set up as a dialogue between the main character and the proctor of an oral exam.  I love this - it reminded me of all the classes I took on Plato in college.  Of course this made me feel both smart (because I GOT it) and amazed (because a human being actually wrote something this intensely good).

Last night I finished Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow, which was really good and immensely well-written.  St. Crow has a definite style to her writing, one that could easly be taken over the edge into annoying territory, but, as it stands, it's pefect.  She uses quirky language eloquently, and describes the little things that most authors don't think to mention but that give so much insight to her characters.  Awesome.  The rep that gave me this book told me that it was "so much fun."  Fun is not the word I would use to describe this book.  It's a great read, but pretty dark, and pretty intense.  Not exactly capital-L-Literary, no.  But it's for sure a horror novel.  Zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc.  Definitely recommended, but don't let anyone tell you it's "fun."

And about that Half Price Books I llive near.  It's walking distance.  On Friday I had Mark drive me there because I didn't realize just how close it was.  Ridiculously close.  I spent about $50 on various YA books and a bunch of V.C. Andrews paperbacks (yes, I'm joining the bloody movement.  I fully blame a coworker.) and a Vday present for the Markster.  Bless him, he secretly loves Judy Blume.  Anyway, I decided I would take some of my used books and movies there yesterday to sell since they were just taking up space.  I made $20....and then spent $22.  Good job me.  But I got a first (American) edition of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta.  Yay!  It gets worse, though.  Today was a doozy - woke up with an awful headache, then fell asleep at dinner time while trying to read Heartbeat.  Mark suggested I go for a walk while he was out with a friend.  "Sell some more of your stuff at Half Price," he said.  WORST IDEA EVER.  I made $12.50.  I spent $19.50.  -$7.  I did, however, find some good stuff.  First editions of Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie and Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block

As consolation I bought myself a Super Big Gulp at 7-11 on the way back.  -$1.40.  :D

I'm so allergic to this town.  Austin rocks, but I have spent the last few days in a haze, half huffed up on allergy meds and half blind from a sinus headache.  Thank you, cedar!

Been getting some serious reading done, though.  I finally finished Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston, which, admittedly, wasn't my favorite ever, but seriously grew on me toward the end.  I love her concept - Shakespearian faeries, Central Park is a gate between the worlds, and changelings.  I may have to read her sequels.  I also read Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka, whose name I will never be able to pronounce, I'm sure.  While this book never says the word "Mormon," it is about a secluded religious sect where plural wives, young marriage, and baby-makin' are important parts of getting to Heaven.  What I loved most about this book was that there were three perspectives: two sisters, one a believer and one a skeptic, and an outsider.  Even better, the narrative is seamless despite having three narrators.  I loved this book and brought it in to my boss to read - I saw her reading it today so I hope she'll order some for the store. 

I've been wanting to read Gothic Lolita by Dakota Lane since we got it in at the store, and finally got to it last week.  I was really impressed by it - it's artsy and poetic, the characters are well-voiced and the emotion is palpable.  While there are no capital letters in the book (this is something I loathe in writing, and something I myself did until a couple years ago when I finally realized it did the exact opposite of what I was trying to do, as well as coming off as completely juvenile), the story of these two girls comes through.  Miya in Japan and Chelsea in L.A. are a half a world apart, but met on their blogs.  They both have their own sadnesses, but have more in common than they ever knew.  The story is non-linear, but as things come together, it is absolutely lovely.

I'm trudging through Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston right now.  I only say trudging because it's geniusly written in metric verse - iambic tetrameter?  I'm not sure, I suck at scansion.  But it makes me read much much slower than I usually do.  It's amazing though and I can't recommend it enough - it's like a combo of Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and T.S. Eliot.  Genius!  In between sessions with Zorgamazoo, though, I'm reading Dead is a State of Mind by Marlene Perez.  I loved the first book, even though the writing tended toward gimmicky, but I knew that the second book could only be better...and I was right.  Perez's style is witty and fun and her characters are really cute.  I love reading about Nightshade and I'm completely engrossed in this mystery.

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at the bus stop
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E. Kristin Anderson (Emily)
The Hate-Mongering Tart

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