M v. W IV Sunday, Oct 28 2007 

More M: Soul Asylum’s Let Your Dim Light Shine (I’d love to write that book) and – from the vaults – Sticky Fingers, from your (very) old friends the Rolling Stones.

Seriously, wouldn’t you rather read either one of those than, say, The Lighthouse Daughter or Shopping for Disaster or Point Blank (all of which I just made up, so if any of them are actually real books, that kind of proves my point, doesn’t it).

What’s an agent for? Friday, Oct 26 2007 

Talking recently with a new writer-friend, she was quite surprised to learn that I show my novels-in-progress (and everything-else-in-progress) to my agent for his reactions and advice: “Wow. That seems pretty — collaborative,” she said.

“I show Chris everything,” I said, Chris being the nonpareil Christopher Schelling. “And I listen to everything he says.”

So what’s an agent for, anyway? Some writers work solo, preferring to deal directly with their editors/publishers; some have a purely business-based relationship with their agents, i.e., here’s my book, please sell it; thanks. There’s not a thing wrong with either approach, if that’s what’s working for you. And every writer has or knows a nightmare story of the Agent from Deepest Dystopia. (Although for every one of those stories, agents could tell a dozen about the Writer Who Ought to Die, Now, Immediately.)

I’ve said in many interviews that if it wasn’t for Chris Schelling, I would never have written straydog, never imagined that I could write YA at all. His encouragement nudged me to begin the piece for Howl, too. And it’s not only that he has an eye for unexpected strengths — he’s also talked me out of other projects I thought might be absolutely totally peachy, but, well, kind of weren’t. At all. Ever.

And, as for reading those works-in-progress: A book’s process can sometimes be a tricky thing, and having another mind/eye/sensibility to help sort wheat from chaff is an amazing asset, not to mention a source of aesthetic pleasure (and comfort). Chris is not my first agent, but he’s definitely the first with whom I’ve had this kind of perfect chemistry. Which is why I dedicated Going Under to “Chris, my accompanist.”  And why, yes, I listen to everything he says.

How do you introduce the idea of “cat” to, like, 70 dogs? Friday, Oct 26 2007 

You write “A Catwoman in Dogland” for the awesome editors at the Bark, who like it enough to include it in Howl, their just-released follow-up to the bestselling Dog Is My Co-Pilot. The subtitle says it all: “A collection of the best contemporary dog wit.” And then, well, you just gotta purr a little.

And then you wish, not for the first time, that there was a magazine equivalent for cats. . . .

Fiery praise for Kissing the Bee Tuesday, Oct 23 2007 

Some very nice news: Kissing the Bee is a Top Choice! What a pleasure it is to learn that people are reading, enjoying, and recommending your book, when you’re just standing in line at Trader Joe’s or reading the leftover Sunday paper or whatever it is you’re — or, I guess, I’m doing in daily life. Part of that larger pleasure of knowing that the books have their own lives, quite apart from mine. Thank you, Flamingnet reviewers!

On the radio Friday, Oct 19 2007 

Here’s the MP3 of my appearance with Sarah Miller on WDET’s “Detroit Today” feature. Note our insouciance! and as you do, also note those slight pauses after host Craig Fahle’s questions: the collective whir of supersonic silence generated by our minds working at high speed, trying to simultaneously

A) take in the question and

B) frame a coherent (and sparkling) answer. . .Easier than juggling fire, say, but not easy.

Play interview

Hey, quit swearing in school! Wednesday, Oct 17 2007 

Actually, the event title is “Hey, You Can’t Say That In School (Or Can You?): Free Speech, Literature and the Classroom,” and it’s being held in conjunction with an Educators’ Appreciation Day at the Royal Oak, Mich. Barnes & Noble, upstairs in the café, where we can drink foamy lattes while we share stories of lit war skirmishes: what books are OK, what gets the fur flying, and why.

I’m hoping to see teachers from many different classroom situations – independent schools, homeschoolers, public school vets and newbies, everybody.

I’ll also be signing copies of Kissing the Bee — and Buddha Boy, my novel of tolerance that has not always been tolerated in middle school situations. Not to mention straydog (yes, straydog). And oh boy, Talk. . . .

[If you need more info, you can call B&N Royal Oak at 248.336.9464.]

Peanut addendum Tuesday, Oct 16 2007 

I meant to say, “Pushing a peanut with my nose through sharp gravel” etc. Years ago, a good friend and I used to call each other and ask, “How’s it going?” and the other would say, “Just pushin’ the peanut.” So now you know.

Now that — that was fun Monday, Oct 15 2007 

Our troika signing – Helen Frost, Sarah Miller, and I – was a true blast. I batted clean-up, and so was able to just sit back and enjoy.

First was Helen’s photo presentation (the cliffs of Barra, the wild waters of Mingulay, settings for her novel The Braid) and her explanation of the book’s intricate, braided structure; both Sarah and I were laughing in amazement; seriously. What Helen did in that book is a feat.

Then I got to hear from Sarah, reading a harrowing, compelling chapter from Miss Spitfire, and sharing the book’s genesis as well as some particularly inspirational source material. It was like being the audience, and I loved it. No wonder people come to readings – being read to is a pleasure most of us have to relinquish when we learn to read all by ourselves.

And then of course I read, and talked a bit about Kissing the Bee, and we signed lots of books, and signed each other’s books (except someone’s “borrowed” my copy of The Braid and hasn’t returned it yet, you know who you are…you’d better, because I’ve forgotten, OK?), and hung out talking, and dug through our goodie bags courtesy of the BookBeat (including some treats from Pinwheel Bakery, oh yeah).

Some days my job is sadly like pushing a peanut through sharp gravel up a steep and endless hill, but – not Sunday. Ladies, you rock. Thanks again, Colleen!

Friday night with the Pillowman Saturday, Oct 13 2007 

My love affair with the theatre continues: last night a friend and I saw a really terrific production ofMartin McDonagh’s The Pillowman; Joel Mitchell as Michal was particularly fine, and I thought the set design (by Brian Dambacher) was superb, very spare and disturbing. Two hours and change passed by in a blink. When it’s done well, you’re there, there, there, in the room, with the pain, laughing when you know you shouldn’t. Bravo.

Live in-studio Friday, Oct 12 2007 

Had a terrific time being interviewed yesterday on WDET, Detroit’s public radio station, with fellow author (and fellow adrenalin-junkie) Sarah Miller. We talked about our books, the library event upcoming on Sunday, Helen Frost’s prowess as a poet, why YA is a ginormous genre, and afterwards, at lunch, she taught me how to sign . . . well, never mind. Ask her yourself on Sunday.

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