The Night You Read with One of Your Favorite Authors

I wanted to tell you about last week, Wednesday night. It was probably the best experience at a book event that I’ve ever had.

I was excited to be invited to read at the wonderful Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel and held, once a month, at the awesomely red-tinged KGB Bar in the East Village. It was such an honor to be asked to read in the series, and all the more so because the author I’d be paired with that night is one of my absolute favorites… an author whose books I love, who actually (this really happened) blurbed my own novel and has taught me so much about this industry, this complex and crazy life of being an author, and inspires me as a writer: Libba Bray.

Libba, as sweet as she is, decided to read new work in solidarity, since I’d told her I would be reading an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. Plus, she was kind and accommodating when I begged to go first. (All the better to get it over with, and sit back and relax after, and enjoy her reading!)

Here we are in the nerve-wracking moments before I took the podium to read my pages:

(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

Here we are trying to be frightening (I am not so convincing):

with libba scary

(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

Here I am reading, though doesn’t it look like I’m singing an aria here?

(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

Here I am reading in the red-tinged light—this gives you a sense of the mood of the place, which I loved:

(Photo by Matthew Kressel)

(Photo by Matthew Kressel)

And here’s the wonderful moment in which I can breathe again and relax and listen to Libba read from The Diviners #2: Lair of Dreams—and she was phenomenal. Truly phenomenal. I absolutely cannot wait to read this book when it comes out. If you haven’t read book #1 yet, you must remedy that right now.

libba reading

I should explain why this felt like probably the best book event I’ve ever done: I love readings. I love to do them, and I love to hear them. Reading with Libba was thrilling, comforting, and exciting. KGB was the perfect space. And, most of all, I’d chosen to be brave this night—I’d chosen to read new work never before uttered aloud in front of other humans. I took a risk. And I’m so glad I did.

After I read the last words on my page, I remember how everyone broke out into a wave of applause, embarrassing but also delighting me. The response after my reading was incredible. The comments I got, the emails, the wonderful things people said. Thank you. E at my side, telling me I did good. And most of all: my own sense of accomplishment. I’d done a scary thing—and I even enjoyed it.

After, one of the kind people from my literary agency who came to see the reading said to me: Didn’t I say I get nervous? I mean, I blogged all about my nerves over public events and my deep shyness, didn’t I? That’s all true. But also true is that I’ve worked hard to be able to stand up in front of a room full of people—friends and professional contacts and fellow authors I so desperately want to be like and strangers among them—and be able to read words I wrote. It’s taken years to be comfortable in my own skin doing this (or at least comfortable enough to hide the nerves so they don’t show!). And I’m really so proud of how far I’ve come.

Readings are easier for me because the words are all down there on the page. I don’t have to improvise; I already did all the work of writing it. And when I say the words out loud, it sounds just like the book sounds in my own head.

I followed my own advice in that post I wrote, and I also didn’t. I did get a new shirt (though kind of hilarious that the shirt is a lot like other shirts I have already…) and I dressed for comfort; I did practice beforehand, at home in my apartment to the walls; I did eat a few hours before so I wouldn’t be light-headed; I even sent out that cringe-worthy email to friends and acquaintances telling them about the reading and hoped against hope that a few of them would show up so it wouldn’t be an embarrassment that no one came to see me. (Some friends did come; they actually did! Thank you, friends!)

But the advice I didn’t follow was this: I didn’t give myself options in what to read. I had a feeling that if I walked up to that podium with two choices: the scary new work that’s never been read before and the published work I’ve read and talked about numerous times, that I’d, well, I’d chicken out. I’d show myself to be a coward. I would have panicked in the moment, and I wouldn’t have read those new words.

So I left 17 & Gone and Imaginary Girls at home and I walked up to that podium with only one possible thing to do and say.

An added bonus: Thanks to this night, thanks to the response and the fact that I was actually courageous enough to do it, I feel a new sense of excitement about this novel. As I said at the reading, The Walls Around Us is due to come out in 2015. I’m still writing it. Everything can change between then and now, including every word I read that night, and even the book’s title.

But the electricity I felt while reading from it for the first time will never go away.

Thank you to everyone who came to see me. Thank you to Ellen and Matt for inviting me to read. Thank you to KGB Bar and WORD Bookstore for selling books. And thank you to Libba Bray.

The Fantastic Fiction at KGB series recently held a Kickstarter and now has enough funding to run for the next five years! It’s held the third Wednesday of every month at the KGB Bar in the East Village, and next month, on September 18, the featured readers are Christopher Barzak and Catherynne M. Valente.

As for me, it’s now time to relax and focus solely on writing, because I have no more public appearances until February 2014. I’ll be on a panel (with fellow authors Stephanie Kuehnert, Micol Ostow, Laurel Snyder, and Sara Zarr!) at the AWP Conference in Seattle, so maybe I’ll see you there and then.

Extra Little Announcement:

Do you want to take a YA novel writing class with me? I am leading a workshop and retreat in February 2014 at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Northern California. Applications are now open—and the deadline is October 18. APPLY! 

If you have questions about the workshop, feel free to email me directly.

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading August 21

Next week—Wednesday, August 21—I’ll be at the KGB Bar in New York City reading with one of my favorite authors. Who might that favorite author be? She wrote this book of terrifying brilliance:

The Diviners

And, so you know, Libba Bray is terrifyingly brilliant in person too. Oh yeah. I’ll be there reading from something I wrote, also.

So if you’re in New York, come to our reading!

There will be books for sale courtesy of WORD Bookstore if you’re so inclined, and we’ll surely sign them.

Here are the details:

Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series held on the third Wednesday of every month at the famous KGB Bar in Manhattan. The reading series features luminaries and up-and-comers in speculative fiction. Admission is always free.

FANTASTIC FICTION at KGB reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present:

Libba Bray is the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible BeautyRebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine, the Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, Beauty Queens, and the recent 1920’s supernatural fantasy, The Diviners, as well as several short stories and plays. When Libba is not inventing excuses for missing various deadlines, she sings in the all-YA author rock band, Tiger Beat, and has considered selling Poetry Tampons(TM) on Etsy.

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the young adult novels Imaginary Girlsand 17 & Gone. Her next novel, a ghost story called The Walls Around Us, is forthcoming from Algonquin Young Readers. Her short stories have appeared inGulf Coast, Orchid, Small Spiral Notebook, New York Stories, and other literary journals.

Wednesday, August 21st, 7pm at

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Beyond the Buzz: New York City Reading Recommendations from Laura Lutz


Welcome to the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Since today happens to be Valentine’s Day, and I love New York City like wow, I thought this would be the perfect day to feature this particular guest post. Read on to see which titles librarian and children’s literature professor Laura Lutz from Pinot and Prose wants to share with us about the city she loves… 

Guest post by Laura Lutz

There are a number of subjects about which I’m passionate: children’s and YA books (naturally), food, wine, travel, and New York. When I examined my short list of books to talk about here, I found that, unintentionally, many of the books featured New York as a setting. So I’m going with that as the theme that ties my guest blog post together.

It got me thinking: what it is about New York that catches the imagination of so many? I once read—I believe Adam Gopnik said it—that there’s something about New York that kids and teens tap into: they get it. As a native Californian, I never thought in a million years I would ever live here but, serendipitously, I ended up moving here when I turned 30…and I’ve never looked back. Sure, there’s the hustle and bustle, the cabs, the trains, the excitement and action. But there’s also these lovely quiet places: the riverfront, the little alleys, the hidden cemeteries, the variety of parks. There’s the promise of endless possibility, of magic, of fear, of adventure. Like any large city, New York is an ideal (just like Paris, or London) and an icon.

So let’s talk about some of my favorite NYC-based stories:

Better Nate Than EverFresh on the scene—it went on sale in February—is Better Nate Than Ever (S&S, 2013) by Tim Federle. Eighth grader Nate dreams about nothing else but escaping Jankburg, Pennsylvania, and getting to NYC for the auditions of the upcoming Broadway play, E.T.: The Musical. He gets to New York, of course, where his eyes are opened to a whole new world: everything moves so fast! Everyone has an iPhone! Everyone stays up all night! Everyone has a shrink! And two men can really openly kiss in NYC?! I so hope the world will fall in love with Nate as much as I have!

Night TouristNext up is The Night Tourist (Hyperion, 2007) by Katherine Marsh. I’m not sure why this series didn’t take off as much as Percy Jackson, but it’s a shame because it’s every bit as good, if not better. Ninth grader Jack meets a mysterious girl, Euri, in Grand Central Terminal…and, with her, discovers an underworld below New York. Jack thinks this could be his chance to see his deceased mother again but, as he learns more about Euri and the underworld, he realizes that he may be there for another purpose. This is so suspenseful, so well thought-out, so action-packed. Marsh followed it up (just as well) with The Twilight Prisoner (Hyperion, 2009).

(US edition)

(US edition)

(UK edition)

(UK edition)

It’s questionable whether this is considered an overlooked book because, I daresay, most school and library folks are familiar with it. But Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City (Bloomsbury, 2006) by Kirsten Miller is a particular favorite. Bad-ass teen girls who’ve been booted from Girl Scouts for being too edgy and smart? Yeah, that’s my kind of story. The third book in the series was published in January 2013. (Note on the cover: I think the British version is so much cooler than the American—what do you think?)

Suite ScarlettAnother personal favorite of mine is Suite Scarlett (Scholastic, 2008) about a smart, spunky girl, Scarlett, whose family owns the Hopewell, an art deco hotel in Manhattan. No one does realistic fiction quite like Maureen Johnson; her teenager voice is dead-on and she’s wickedly funny. The publisher’s own description does this book justice: “Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery and romantic missteps. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.” Oh, New York, New York. The sequel is Scarlett Fever (Scholastic, 2010).

Nick and NorahBefore I sign off, there are two more books I can’t resist mentioning. The first isn’t in danger of being buzz-free: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Random House, 2006) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. It’s the ultimate Teens Run Wild for One Night in Manhattan and the World Is Their Oyster tale. It’s witty, provocative, and touching—if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?!

UndertownThe second book is upcoming and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet: Undertown (Amulet, March 2013) by Melvin Jules Bukiet. Two middle schoolers end up on a boat, falling through a hole in a construction site in Manhattan. Of course, they explore the underworld of New York in a rollicking adventure. Looking forward to reading this one (and isn’t that cover fantastic?).

Thanks, everyone, for letting me share my fave NYC books for kids and teens! Feel free to share your favorites in the comments—there were too many for me to mention them all!

Have you read and loved these books? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 

Laura Lutz author photoLaura Lutz is a librarian, children’s literature professor, and consultant. She’s also a home cook, wine enthusiast, mix-CD-maker, and living room dancer. She blogs about food at Pinot and Prose, tweets at foodandbooks, and spends way too much time on Pinterest and Instagram.



Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
  • Book blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden recommends UltravioletA Certain Slant of Light, and The Reapers Are the Angels
  • Book blogger Nicole from WORD for Teens recommends The Lost Years of Merlin

2013 NYC Teen Author Festival

NYC Teen Author FestivalFor I guess a few years now one of my author fantasies has been to be a part of the NYC Teen Author Festival organized by David Levithan that happens here in the city every spring. But either I didn’t have a book out in time, or I was away, and I kept looking longingly at the week, wishing I could join all the amazing other authors in one of the events. Next year, maybe, I told myself. Next year…

Well, I am so psyched to say, I’ll be a part of the NYC Teen Author Festival THIS YEAR. And—in a cool coincidence of good timing—the 2013 festival is running March 18–24, which just so happens to be my launch week for 17 & Gone!

First, go “like” this page for the NYC Teen Author Festival on Facebook—you’ll be able to see the whole schedule posted there, and it’s pretty incredible. And do you want to know the amazing bookstore events I’ll be a part of? Well, read on…

Here’s where you’ll find me during the festival:

Friday March 22: Barnes & Noble Reader’s Theater/Signing (Union Square B&N, 33 E 17th St, 7-8:30)

Eireann Corrigan
Elizabeth Eulberg
Jeff Hirsch
David Levithan
Rainbow Rowell
Nova Ren Suma

Saturday March 23: Mutual Admiration Society reading at McNally Jackson (McNally Jackson, Prince Street, 7-8:30): 

Sharon Cameron
A.S. King
Michael Northrop
Diana Peterfreund
Victoria Schwab
Nova Ren Suma

hosted by David Levithan

Sunday March 24: Our No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder (Books of Wonder, 1-4):

Jessica Brody (Unremembered, Macmillan)
Marisa Calin (Between You and Me, Bloomsbury)
Jen Calonita (The Grass is Always Greener, LB)
Sharon Cameron (The Dark Unwinding, Scholastic)
Caela Carter (Me, Him, Them, and It, Bloomsbury)
Crissa Chappell (Narc, Flux)
Susane Colasanti (Keep Holding On, Penguin)
Zoraida Cordova (The Vicious Deep, Sourcebooks)
Gina Damico (Scorch, HMH)
Jocelyn Davies (A Fractured Light, HC)
Sarah Beth Durst (Vessel, S&S)
Gayle Forman (Just One Day, Penguin)
Elizabeth Scott (Miracle, S&S)

T. M. Goeglein (Cold Fury, Penguin)
Hilary Weisman Graham (Reunited, S&S)
Alissa Grosso (Ferocity Summer, Flux)
Aaron Hartzler (Rapture Practice, LB)
Deborah Heiligman (Intentions, RH)
Leanna Renee Hieber (The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart, Sourcebooks)
Jeff Hirsch (Magisterium, Scholastic)
J. J. Howard (That Time I Joined the Circus, Scholastic)
Alaya Johnson (The Summer Prince, Scholastic)
Beth Kephart (Small Damages, Penguin)
Kody Keplinger (A Midsummer’s Nightmare, LB)

A.S. King (Ask the Passengers, LB)
Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14, Macmillan)
David Levithan (Every Day, RH)
Barry Lyga (Yesterday Again, Scholastic)
Brian Meehl (Suck it Up and Die, RH)
Alexandra Monir (Timekeeper, RH)
Michael Northrop (Rotten, Scholastic)
Diana Peterfreund (For Darkness Shows the Stars, HC)
Lindsay Ribar (The Art of Wishing, Penguin)
Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, St. Martin’s)
Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface, S&S)
Tiffany Schmidt (Send Me a Sign, Bloomsbury)

Victoria Schwab (The Archived, Hyperion)
Jeri Smith-Ready (Shine, S&S)
Amy Spalding (The Reece Malcolm List, Entangled)
Stephanie Strohm (Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, HMH)
Nova Ren Suma (17 & Gone, Penguin)
Greg Takoudes (When We Wuz Famous, Macmillan)
Mary Thompson (Wuftoom, HMH)
Jess Verdi (My Life After Now, Sourcebooks)
K.M. Walton (Empty, S&S)
Suzanne Weyn (Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, Scholastic)
Kathryn Williams (Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, Macmillan)

…So that’s three chances to come get a copy of 17 & Gone the week it comes out, hear me read, and get the book signed.

Check out the NYC Teen Author Festival page for the full schedule running all week—and featuring more than 90 authors!

(I accosted the UPS man for this yesterday! It's an advance hardcover of the book... And it's beautiful. The "missing poster" text is laminated and catches the light... this picture doesn't capture how great this looks!)

(I accosted the UPS man for this yesterday! It’s an advance hardcover of the book… And it’s beautiful. The “missing poster” text is laminated and catches the light… this picture doesn’t capture how great this looks!)

And just a note: I won’t be having a launch event for 17 & Gone, so if you’re in New York City and want to hear me read and get a signed book, you should come to one of the Teen Author Festival events! That’s your only chance… unless you accost me in the street like I did to the poor UPS man yesterday.

The Dark Zone

(Sketch by Jake Levine. Click the image for more about it.)

Just two nights ago I was reading by flashlight in our cold apartment, a boiled bottle of water under the wool blanket with me, caught in lower Manhattan with promises that our power would be back on “soon.” I’d felt hope in the morning when we heard on the battery-operated radio that most of Manhattan would have its power back by “end of day.” We took that literally and said to each other—“day!”—meaning we’d have power back before dark. We heard on the radio that the East Village got its power back. We heard that SoHo got its power back. We heard that Chelsea got its power back. Those are the neighborhoods above and below and to the east of us. We were surrounded by lights, but ours were still dark. It was ten at night. It was eleven. I began losing hope and thinking it wouldn’t be coming for us. I shivered under the covers and E boiled more water to keep me warm. We heard shouts in our dark building’s pitch-dark corridor and thought at first it was ConEd come to check that our building wouldn’t catch fire so they could turn the lights on—something we’d heard on the radio about why there were delays. It was only cops yelling, for some unknown reason, at someone in an apartment on the floor above. No one was arrested. Then quiet. And darkness, still. I went to bed before midnight, in defeat, the power not yet on.

Our living room, for 5 nights.

The power came back at 4:25 a.m. Saturday. I know because I woke up immediately, as soon as the overhead light came on and leaped out of bed in utter relief.

Washington Square West, morning after the hurricane.

We had no power in lower Manhattan for five nights. That’s all. That’s it. It’s a small thing to complain about, knowing what everyone else was dealing with… and still are.

Because on Saturday I emerged. And started reading and watching the news. I put pictures to the things we’d heard only on the radio, things we hadn’t before seen. And it was so much worse than I realized.

While we had no power, we also had no cell phone service in our apartment. For the first couple of days, we had to go outside and walk some blocks uptown holding out our cell phones for a roaming signal so we could text family and check on them upstate and in Philadelphia and let them know we were okay. (My mom also had no power for days.) But on that last night of the blackout, we discovered that if we restarted our phones, we had service for about 30 seconds before it stopped. In those seconds we’d send tweets or texts or download emails. Sometimes I’d catch glimpses of Twitter and realize how everyone else’s lives were going on just as before, mostly outside the Northeast, like this wasn’t even happening. It was a weird feeling. Then when I emerged and saw what was happening to others in other parts of the city and Long Island and New Jersey and Westchester and elsewhere, I felt bad for even being so upset and frustrated during the days we had no power.

Because we were lucky. So lucky. We had a gas stove we could light with a match and cold running water—a surprise, since the last time we lost power, the water to the building stopped. Every time I turned on the tap and freezing-cold water came out, I expected it to drip to a stop like last time and when it didn’t I was so grateful. We could flush the toilet. We could drink. We could take sponge baths. And we could warm ourselves by boiling water. We had Korean hot stone bowls full of boiled water on the floor by our feet. E washed my hair for me in the tub by pouring hot water over my head while I ran the cold.

When we ventured out in the streets, most stores were closed. On the first couple days, even bodegas were closed (unheard of!). But there were a few local restaurants that were open and cooking for the neighborhood by candlelight and I am so appreciative for the delicious warm meals. Thank you SH Dumpling & Noodle Bar and Ben’s Pizzeria for coming out here the day after the storm and staying and opening every single day until we had power back. La Lanterna was open and even had a cell-phone charging station set up for free outside for anyone who needed it.

A fallen tree near Houston Street

We got power back Saturday. Like I said, we were lucky.

One little hiccup is that my trip to the artists’ colony got delayed. I was supposed to arrive with all the other artists last week. I could have walked uptown out of the dark zone and made it to a bus, apparently. (We didn’t know much of anything in terms of travel or resources with our phones not working.) But even if someone had handed me a map, I wouldn’t leave E alone in this. There was absolutely no way I would leave him in the dark, in the cold, by himself, and gallivant off to a writing retreat he wasn’t allowed to accompany me on.

I feel weird leaving New York City now, at a time like this, even if I do have my lights back on. I should stay. But my residency couldn’t be rescheduled to next year (I did ask), and if I didn’t go, I’d lose it. So I’ll be on an abbreviated retreat a few hours north even if my mind is on other things. I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ve been scrambling trying to deal with everything I couldn’t get to when we had no power. I shouldn’t even be writing this blog post. But I wanted to tell you how strange I feel.

Thinking of all of you. Hoping everyone without power gets it back soon.

[Occupy Sandy Relief]

What Scares YA Authors?

…Starting tomorrow, I’ll be asking that very question of some YA authors, and we’ll see what they say.

Come back tomorrow for guest blogs, interviews, and book giveaways. Here’s who you’ll find here:

Adele Griffin
, author of All You Never Wanted and Tighter

Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens and Passenger

Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement and The Space Between

Daniel Marks, author of Velveteen

Fiona Paul, author of Venom

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten and Possess

Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares

Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow and the Cold Awakening trilogy

Sarah Rees Brennan, author of Unspoken and The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy

Tessa Gratton, author of Blood Magic and The Blood Keeper

Our resident essayist Timothy Braun, who’s written here on the art of being dumb and making out with girls in parking lots

…Plus a special guest sharing some frightening fears with us on Halloween!

So what scares you? Last night I went to see Sleep No More for the first time, and it was wild and wonderful and delightful. I expected to be scared, but I wasn’t. (I think because a friend helped me know what to expect… And it wasn’t pitch-dark, so I could see where I was going. I am kind of afraid of absolute darkness.) Highly recommended if you haven’t gone yet.

(This kind of scares me. Here I am in the Sleep No More mask after the show, in Washington Square Park. Yes, everyone has to wear one of these masks during the show.)

To be safe, I’m being careful not to watch any horror movies before I head up to the Millay Colony, though, because I have a very active imagination.

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.

One of Those This-Is-My-Life?? Moments

This morning I went to my usual cafe, stepped in, saw the blank bagel board, then stomped off in a rage* because there were no bagels left. I took a long detour to another cafe on the Bowery all so I could calmly sit and freewrite with a toasted sesame bagel and a skim mocha**. I’ve started this new thing where, instead of blogging because this is so public, I write secret things in a secret file to myself at the start of every morning. These secret things are about my secret new novel. I haven’t even shown pages to my agent yet (though he knows they’re coming!), that’s how secret it is. But it was while writing these secrets that I had some of those grateful nostalgic thoughts I get sometimes when I realize where I am.

Cue the requisite soundtrack:

You see, it was always my dream to live here. In fact, I wanted to live here before I wanted to be a writer. And now I’m here. And writing. And it’s kind of happening all at once and I forget sometimes, when I’m focused on silly worries or other negative things I shouldn’t bother thinking about, I forget. Then I have a morning like today’s bagel-delicious morning and an afternoon in which I (1) get to meet and have lunch with my awesome new publicist, (2) go to my publisher’s office to sign my name dozens of times on books I’ve written that are actually about to be published, (3) check wonderfully thorough proofreader’s comments on the pages of my book that is actually going to be published, and (4) visit with my wise—and endlessly amusing—editor who is actually publishing a book I wrote.

Forgive me for this post. Feeling cheerful today.

I signed all these in no time:

(I signed every single one of these ARCs at Penguin today!)

Yes, this means if you’re one of the people who gets an ARC for review from Penguin—or, I’ve heard, by winning a future contest on Goodreads!—it will be signed. And some of them will be stuffed with surprise bookmarks.

There are a small number of ARCs floating around now, but all those ARCs I just signed won’t be going out until the end of November… December. Not tomorrow, but soon!

All in all, was a pretty great day. :)


* I really love bagels.

** I started drinking mochas again, but dont worry, I’ll give them up once more when I go away on my writing retreat November 2.

KidLitCon Recap: In Which I Wear My New Lucky Blue Shoes, Reveal My Secrets About Blog Series, and Get Sappy About Why I Do This

So my presentation with Kelly Jensen of STACKED at the Kidlitosphere Conference was this weekend and—spoiler—I think it went well!

For those of you who don’t know, the Kidlitosphere Conference, aka KidLitCon, is a yearly conference for bloggers in young adult and children’s lit, and this year it was held in New York City, at the main branch of the New York Public Library, and hosted by Elizabeth Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and Monica Edinger of Educating Alice. The Saturday conference I attended, organized by Betsy Bird, went so well, and was full of great panels and talks, and I have to say, it was a real honor to be a part of this. Especially presenting at Kelly’s side.

On Friday, the bloggers made pre-conference visits to different publishing houses for previews of their upcoming lists. I wasn’t there for that, but I did hear a rumor that my editor mentioned my own upcoming book at the Penguin preview, so yay!

My own presentation was at the Saturday conference, and though Kelly and I were on at noon, we had to be at the loading-dock entrance to the NYPL at 8am. (Note: This is even earlier than I get up for writing dates with one of my early-rising writing friends. So I was bleary, hadn’t eaten, and am shocked that I made it there on time… early, no less.) We were shown the room we’d be presenting in and were given the chance to test out our Prezi presentation, and all was well. Then we had time to kill, and nerves to keep at bay, until the conference officially started at 10am.

At this point—in the creepy upstairs seating section of a local deli/bodega—I changed out of my sneakers and into my new blue shoes. My bad ankle was bothering me, which was why the sneakers, but I needed to do it. For luck.

Here I am pulling up my pant legs for Kelly so she could photograph my lucky shoes. My pants did not look that ridiculous in their natural state.

(Photo thanks to Kelly Jensen)

Shoes? Miz Mooz. My favorite shoe place since I can’t justify/afford Fluevogs. Socks? Who knows. But it took me ages to find two that matched.

So, after nibbling on one-quarter of a toasted bagel and a banana, we left the bodega and went back to the NYPL in time for the doors to officially open. I took a deep breath. I made a name tag. I cheated on my assigned schedule and attended the presentation in the room before mine: “Community-Building On and Off the Blog: Secrets, Tips, and Cautionary Tales” from bloggers and authors at From the Mixed-Up Files, and got some great advice from the wonderful, engaging presenters… and probably would have heard more if I didn’t nervously keep going in and out of the room, reading over my presentation notes because we were on next.

Here we are in the minutes before the presentation began. I have no excuses for my face beyond to tell you I was ready to begin and I knew my nerves would go away once it did.

(Me and Kelly, five minutes before the presentation started. Photo thanks to Liz Burns.)

…And my nerves did go away as soon as I started talking.

Our presentation was “Getting Series-ous: How Blog Series Can Engage, Inspire, and Grow Your Audience”—in which Kelly and I talked about our own experiences planning and running blog series. I talked about how the What Scares You? blog series, which launched last October and was my first experience organizing a series of themed guest posts, got me inspired to keep doing this. And not only will there be a reprise of What Scares You? coming up in time for Halloween (look out for some great new guest blogs and interviews with YA authors who write dark, twisted, creepy books!), it was this experience with that first series that made me want to do the ones that followed: What Inspires You?, the YA Debut Interview Series, and of course the Turning Points series, kicked off in the very beginning by this incredible post by Gayle Forman that I find myself needing to read again and again.

On STACKED, Kelly has hosted series such as Author Twitterviews (featuring Emily Hainsworth this month), October Horror Month, Contemporary YA Week, and—my favorite of blog series all over the internet—So You Want to Read YA?—to which I contributed a post. I think we were the perfect two people—coming at it from the librarian/blogger perspective and the author perspective—to talk about how to go about doing a blog series of your own.

The presentation touched on how to come up with an idea for a series—something that gets people talking and writing and starts up an ongoing conversation (much like I think the Turning Points series does), as well as what’s of interest to the YA and kidlit community now, and that’s always shifting, so there are always new ideas coming.

We also discussed how to organize a series and arrange the order and promotion of the posts, and how to approach contributors including big-name authors. I talked about how, yes, I do cold-email big-name authors. Sometimes they say yes and I am thrilled. Sometimes they ignore me completely. And sometimes they write back about how busy they are, and I absolutely respect that and thank them for their time. It doesn’t hurt to ask, is my philosophy on that, and when authors say no or ignore my emails I don’t take it personally. I know how it feels to be overwhelmed, believe me.

But at the same time, I think it’s so very important to not just include names people would recognize. One of the big reasons I do these blog series is because I want to help support other authors. I want to share books and writers I love with the world, and I want to give other writers a venue for reaching a different, or bigger, audience.

Yes, our presentation slipped into the touchy-feely aspect of why we do these blog series: to connect to others, to be a part of the YA and kidlit community. That’s why I started this, and why I continue, even though, admittedly, organizing these series can be such a lot of work for me and I know I have a new book to write. The thing is, I don’t want to review books—that’s a conflict of interest for me, I believe, as someone so connected to other authors in a personal manner and as an author myself—and I don’t want to talk about myself all the time. Self-promotion is painful. (For example, I did a little of it this week and felt physically ill afterward. Not exaggerating. I still have a headache.) I’m a shy person and I don’t like people looking at me. But I love love love pointing the spotlight on other talented, deserving writers. I love showcasing other voices and stories and promoting someone else’s writing instead of my own.

So that’s why—as an author, as a reader, as a member of the YA community, and as a person—I like holding these blog series and hope to continue.

I sound sappy, don’t I?

That’s a little of what we talked about at the presentation. We actually had so much material, we had to cut out a few things and stop so there was time for questions. And what good, thought-provoking questions!

There were some great questions from the audience—thank you to everyone who came; you were so wonderfully engaged and willing to participate and I appreciated it so much!—including one asking if we edited the posts we include in our series before putting them up. I admitted one thing: I don’t ever edit for content. But I do, depending on how much time I have and how intense my own book deadlines, copyedit for typos and secretly fix the obvious ones to make the guest authors here look as good and mistake-free as possible. And I have been known to add serial commas to any posts on this blog. I guess guest-posters should be warned: I feel very strongly about serial commas.

The room we were presenting in—this is an interesting tidbit—was in the area formerly taken up by a reservoir before the city of New York went searching for other places to get their drinking water… and built reservoirs upstate, like the Ashokan, which is what the reservoir in Imaginary Girls was inspired by, and was my own local reservoir when I was a teenager.

Why am I telling you this? Because, since the room was set between the old stone walls of the former reservoir, it blocked all cell-phone service. At first this helped ease my nerves, because I realized people wouldn’t be able to tweet pictures of me making silly faces up on stage. But I guess some people were able to get online via the wifi, because here are a few tweets that came through during our presentation.

Here’s a hint of a new blog series I have launching this fall… More details on this soon…

Thank you to everyone who tweeted!

I also brought a stack of these to the presentation to give away at the end:

(All these signed ARCs were there to give away!)

I was thrilled at how quickly they were snapped up—and how there were none left over for me to carry home on the subway—and I hope people like the book! (Talk about nerves and getting a headache over them, yikes.)

After the presentation, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference, which included a fascinating discussion of “Critical Reviewing and ‘Niceness'”—and as an author who tries not to read her own reviews because I am hyper-sensitive and too easily destroyed by the faintest pinprick, I am far too biased to comment on this. There was also a presentation on “The Changing Relationship Between Reader and Writer,” with authors I admire: Gayle Forman, Alyssa Sheinmel, Michael Northrop, and Adele Griffin (all of whom have, or will soon!, be writing a guest blog for one of my series, interestingly enough).

And then of course there was the keynote by Maureen Johnson, who surprised us all by inviting a sensible friend up on stage with her. That sensible friend was Robin Wasserman, who I spent some time with at the Launch Pad Workshop this summer, and I’ve personally benefited from her wise, blunt, and knowledgeable advice on being an author and doing this whole publishing thing, so yes, she was a good choice. Also, the two of them together were hilarious.

I ended the day happy, drained, and feeling good about how the presentation went. And I’d definitely recommend KidLitCon as a great small and more personal conference to attend for bloggers—and authors who want to be a part of it. Rumors are it may be in Austin next year.

Want more detailed recaps of KidLitCon 2012?

• Here’s Kelly Jensen’s recap of the whole conference, including our presentation together

• Here’s a publisher’s perspective from Lee & Low Books

• Here’s Betsy Bird’s recap, in which she’s modest about what a fantastic conference she put together and celebrates that no one was eaten by a bear (true! as far as I know)

And if you want a peek at our Prezi presentation—take a look right here! 

My Upcoming Presentation at KidLitCon

If you’ll be at the Kidlitosphere Conference at the New York Public Library this weekend, look for me there! You’ll find me giving a presentation on blog series with the amazing Kelly Jensen from STACKED on Saturday at 12 noon—we have a great talk prepared for you and can’t wait!

And if you’re a blogger/reviewer/librarian/reader who has any interest in my upcoming 2013 novel, 17 & Gone, you should stick around and come up to me at the very end of that presentation. I’ll have ten *signed* 17 & Gone ARCs to give away to those who want one, which means you’ll get a hold of an ARC way early.

The ARC mailing to bloggers will likely be going out end of November! So this way, you’ll have an ARC two months earlier than most…

…And if I have any ARCs left over, I’ll give the rest away on this blog. I’ll let you know.

Hope to see some of you at KidLitCon! Just heard registration is full, wow!

KidLitCon and Periwinkle Blue

What’s Periwinkle Blue

Here we are in the last days of August. The sky above my rickety fire escape is periwinkle blue and completely cloudless, and the wail of sirens is fading away down in the street until there’s that strange kind of silence you find sometimes in Manhattan, punctuated by the buzz of air-conditioners as if we’re all holding a collective breath, waiting for something. Then someone outside starts pounding a hard object against another hard object and we’re back again to the noise. I have a new piece of machinery—a new laptop—and it’s lightning-fast and silver-colored and I named it for a moon of Jupiter, for my fascination with space and my love for Alice Munro. People who haven’t seen me for a while have asked what’s new with me, and though weeks have passed, I’ve got nothing. Nothing new. I stopped writing—I know I should have used a notebook while the laptop was on the fritz, but I didn’t—and now I’m finding my way back in. I have a whole bag of emotions about this and what’s next for me as an author, but I won’t dump out the bag here and now to show you, because I’m still shoving my head in every once in a while to figure it out.

Now About KidLitCon

I do have an exciting thing to tell you. If you’re a book blogger and are headed to KidLitCon in New York City this year—September 28 and 29! (and the Saturday conference is entirely FREE)—you’ll see me there. I’m thrilled to say that in my blogger capacity I’ll be doing a presentation with Kelly Jensen of STACKED Books on “Getting Series-ous: How Blog Series Can Engage, Inspire, and Grow Your Audience,” and wow, what a presentation partner I have! I was honored when Kelly asked if I wanted to propose a presentation on blog series with her, because I admire her so much and I’m such an avid reader of STACKED. Here, go see what Kelly says about our upcoming presentation!

Will you be at KidLitCon this year? You can still register… and did you hear me say it’s FREE?