Teaching YA Novel Workshop at Columbia University

columbiauHere’s an announcement for NY-area writers and university students! This summer I will be teaching a YA Novel Workshop in the School of the Arts at Columbia University…

The course is for YA writers working on a novel-in-progress, and is open to Columbia students as well as visiting students from other universities and adult professional students through the School of the Continuing Education. The class starts on July 6 and runs for six weeks—and there is still time to register!

Here is an abbreviated course description:

Young adult fiction is a popular and still-growing category in book publishing that encompasses all genres—fantasy, paranormal, romance, historical, science fiction, dystopian, coming-of-age realism, literary fiction, and more. YA books are written for a core audience of teenagers, but their reach often crosses over to adult readers. In this class, students will embark on writing their own YA novels. Each student’s work will be critiqued in weekly writing workshops, with the discussion focusing on guiding each writer to find the best way to tell his or her story. With an eye always on our own work, we will discuss craft issues including voice, POV, character, style, plotting, and more. There also will be weekly discussions of the work of current YA novelists including Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, David Levithan, Courtney Summers, Rita Williams-Garcia, and more. The emphasis, however, will be on writing and critiquing our own work. Students will write up to three chapters of an original YA novel along with a partial outline for their book in progress. The class will include a visit from published YA authors who will speak about craft, audience, and getting published.

For more information about taking a summer session course with Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and to register, visit this page.

SCBWI Metro NY Tuesday Professional Series

If you’re in New York City, I’d love to invite you to a talk I am doing for the NY Metro chapter of SCBWI on Finding Your Own Unique Voice on June 9. You do not need to be a member of SCBWI to attend.

Here are the details:

scbwi metro ny logoTuesday, June 9, 7:30–9:30pm

SCBWI Metro NY Tuesday Professional Series

Finding Your Own Unique Voice: Taking Risks and Being True to Yourself as a Writer, with Nova Ren Suma

How do you find your voice as a writer—a voice distinct to you and only you? In this crowded publishing market, we must find ways to stand out, and it’s not about chasing trends or trying to please everybody—so much of it is about being honest, brave, and distinctly yourself. In this talk, YA author and writing instructor Nova Ren Suma will share how she came to write her latest novel,The Walls Around Us, for herself first and the risks she took along the way. She will give craft advice on carving out a unique voice for your story and practical advice on building a career that is most true to you. Q&A to follow.

Location: Anthroposophical Society, NYC  | Tickets

For more information and to order tickets see here.

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]