Headlong on BoingBoing Thursday, Oct 30 2008 

I don’t know whether to blush with pride or do the happy dance, or both.  Cory Doctorow not only reviews Headlong on BoingBoing, he also says that I shared with him “the manifold rewards of writing for younger audiences, describing an experience so intense and rewarding that I ended up writing a young adult novel myself: Little Brother.”  Which makes me happy all over again.

And what he says illustrates one of the greatest perks of writing: that we can have, through our work, many conversations, connections, inspirations, all at once.  What a gift.  Thank you, Cory, several times.

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Lily or Hazel? Monday, Oct 27 2008 

A friend of mine who’s read Headlong was asking whether or not I considered myself a Lily or a Hazel.  So I started explaining that, while none of my characters are actually “me”,  I share feelings, insights, beliefs with each of them in some way, as we do with all people; we are all people, right? And I have to accept them as people to be able to write about them at all.  Otherwise they might as well be stock characters, paper dolls, and —

“That’s not what I mean,” she said, with the, um, charming impatience she’s known for.  “What I mean is, are you more like Lily, or more like Hazel?”

So much for deconstructing my text, however feebly.  “I am Hazel,” I said.

“OK then,” she said.  “That’s what I meant.”

So – are you Lily, or are you Hazel?  Readers?

Henry’s Book Club chat tonight Tuesday, Oct 21 2008 

Please join me at 7-8 PM (EST) tonight – October 21 – chatting about animials, books, straydog, and whatever four-legged subjects might appeal: Henry’s Book Club, ASPCA, bow-wow, let’s go!

In the dark with SLJ Sunday, Oct 19 2008 

Very pleased (thanks, Marissa!) to be pointed to this article in School Library Journal, and pleased as well to see The Blue Mirror cited in it.  Phillip Charles Crawford makes some excellent points, but these two are particularly significant:

“The Gothic writer delights in exploring aspects of the human condition that polite society would like to pretend don’t exist.”

and

“[Q]uality gothic horror asks important philosophical questions about human nature.  It can be an invaluable aesthetic tool for helping teens develop their own moral compasses.”

He’s absolutely right on both counts, and it’s invigorating to see him say so in this forum. I hope this article institutes an informed and passionate discussion between those who read, and write, goth lit, and those who find it either too lowbrow and/or morally inappropriate for teens.

My own experience is this: When straydog was just being published, some YA people told me regretfully that sometimes, work done in this field was perceived as less “important” or even looked down upon in more rarefied literary circles.  And I would smile to myself, because my own novels for adults were contemporary horror novels, and there is no more sniffed-at category in mainstream publishing (except romance, but that’s a different post).  So any condescension on the part of poorly-informed readers just kind of bounced off my well-developed calluses (as disgusting a phrase as that is; sorry). But it was, and remains, true, for lit snobs of all stripes: stuff for kids is less important because it’s for kids, and you know how bad their taste is; and stuff that goes bump in the night is no good/non-literary by definition because it’s, you know, icky.  So there.

To which I say, sure, absolutely: if that’s your view, stay inside where it’s safe, away from the world of wild things, and high-explosive emotions, and questions of hard morality that sometimes have no answers: sometimes bad things happen to good people, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.  I think I’ll go out walking in the dark….And when you want to go all the way out to the edge, there are few companions more suitable than teenagers, who are already feeling their way through a different kind of darkness, and hoping for firm ground on the other side.

I’m getting in line now Monday, Oct 13 2008 

. . . no, not to go there – I’m, um, kinda way too old for high school – but to speak there: I would love to be a visiting writer at this school, so necessary, so welcome, so please, call me whenever you like, Chicago Public Schools.  And I’ll bet you’d get that same enthusiastic response from a lot of other YA authors.  Which is why I’m getting in line right now.

ASPCA and you and stray dogs (and me) Thursday, Oct 9 2008 

On October 21, from  7:00 – 8:00 PM EST, I’ll be happily participating in a live author chat as part of Henry’s Book Club, courtesy of the ASPCA.   Every month, a book’s chosen and discussed, always a book that’s been a recipient of the Henry Bergh Award – which includes my novel straydog, I’m proud to say.  I hope a lot of animal lovers, teens and non-, will be part of this.  Animal people are always passionate people, and that makes for the best conversations.  Bow wow!

Fun at GLBA Wednesday, Oct 8 2008 

And here’s the proof: Sarah Miller and Laurie Halse Anderson and me, and those aren’t just camera-smiles, either.

One of my very favorite things about going to conferences like these is meeting like-minded, book-lovin’, really smart and really funny people, writers, booksellers, readers all.  And those little bowls of Halloween candy at every table don’t hurt one bit, either.  I ate so much chocolate I felt like I was high.

Headlong Thursday, Oct 2 2008 

A girl aswim in her own thoughts, adrift on her wants, on the cusp of decisions she makes, this time, by and for herself alone. . .that’s Headlong.  Hope to see you tonight at the Oak Park library, 7 PM.

Animal Welfare 101 Wednesday, Oct 1 2008 

In collaboration with the ASPCA, Cathy Berger Kaye has a new service learning workbook, A Kid’s Guide to Protecting & Caring for Animals. I’m very pleased and proud that Cathy’s chosen to use an excerpt from straydog, paired with several useful and thoughtful Q&A sets, to help get kids thinking about ways in which they can help the animals they see every day, in the daily world around them, and in the larger world we all share.

The workbook gets a whole lot done in just 44 pages, and would make an excellent tool not only in the classroom, but for youth groups, after-school programs, neighborhood groups, animal advocacy groups aimed at kids, etc. – it’s just a great resource. Kids are often the best advocates that animals can have: they’re passionate and eager to help, but just feeling the feelings (“Why is that dog chained up!?”) without acting on them can be painful to kids, and helps no one. Put that rocket fuel to work. Service learning empowers kids: yes, there is something you can do!