And one more place to play Saturday, Jan 31 2009 

Pretend it’s summer where you are.  Pretend you have a house like this one in the gentle green landscape of your backyard.  You might call it a Wendy House (after Peter Pan), you might call it a house of special purpose; what you would definitely do, I’d imagine, is enjoy it.  Sarah does.wendyhouse


Another kind of playground Tuesday, Jan 27 2009 

Play is vastly underrated as an adult activity – and by play I mean the place where your joy is, where you are most yourself, and least self-conscious.  On a bike path; at the library; in the dirt; at your desk.


Here is where I play, every day. Where’s your playground?

Playground Sunday, Jan 25 2009 

Had a lovely time last night hanging out with Cory Doctorow, who was in Detroit for a science fiction convention.  One of the things I appreciate most about Cory is his ability to very very quickly make connections between people and ideas and concepts.  It’s grown-up play and I love to do it …. I would have taken a nifty photo to put here but my camera, alas, was non-functional.  Imagine Cory for yourself.  Also, imagine the cute girls in full steampunk regalia on the sofa, because they were there, too.

Inaugurating change Wednesday, Jan 21 2009 

Little to add to the national joy, just another citizen who’s been waiting impatiently for the moment to come: President Obama, my, that feels good to say!

Now we work. Now the changes start.

When she jumped Monday, Jan 19 2009 

Here, at TeensReadToo, is a terrific short review of Headlong that makes the extremely terrific point, to wit: When we say we have changed “because” something else happened, what does that actually mean?

The reviewer notes that a reader “has to wonder if the changes Lily goes through happened because of Hazel or simply coincided with her arrival.”

So, when we jump, are we ever pushed (or invited, or prodded, or whatever) or are we just waiting for the momentum to come along?

In real life, so much of our behavior seems predicated on forces we can’t identify, or can see only with hindsight, sometimes the longer ago, the better.

A fly on the Book Bench wall Tuesday, Jan 13 2009 

Hearing what readers think of your novel is an eye-opening experience for any writer, because those readers can and do experience the work in ways that the writer – by definition – never can.  Sometimes this occurs in ways and avenues that the writer can’t share.  But thanks to blogs ….

The comments Headlong received from the New Yorker Book Bench readers’ roundtable have shown me the novel through a kaleidoscope lens, and I’ve been meaning to note my favorites (whether or not I agreed with them; some I did, some I didn’t).  Now, having had time to sift, my Book Bench selections, in no order: the fly’s-eye view.

Andrea Walker: I suppose I approach a title that I know has been labeled as Y.A. thinking that it’s going to be a more relaxing reading experience – maybe relaxing isn’t the right word, but more pleasurable, perhaps – because I don’t expect to encounter things that will frustrate the reading process, the way I might in the work of Pynchon, say.  This isn’t to say that Y.A. fiction can’t be highly cerebral or experimental, just that I presume the author wants to cultivate a relationship with the reader that is more welcoming and, yes, probably more emotional.

Jenna Krajeski: Interesting that people call “Catcher [in the Rye]” “young adult” when they mean to degrade it.

Macy Halford: Lily and Hazel’s relationship has the intensity of a love affair, if only on Lily’s side, but there’s such a nice ambiguity to it, and a subtlety – as if Hazel is just a mirror held up in front of Lily that shows her, through their differences, who she is.

Jenna Krajeski: Also, both Hazel and Lily are extremely cool.  I was not.  I hate them.

Ligaya Mishan: Does the book work as a social novel? One could read the ending counter to how I think Koja intended it, as an admonition to remain with one’s kind.

Andrea Walker: In some ways, I wonder whether the gender slant of different types of Y.A. fiction is what accounts for some of its limitedness.  A novel has to resonate for both women and men to transcend a narrow categorization.

Macy Halford: The book totally surpassed my expectations.  I tend to think of young adult fiction as sort of facile – a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals – but this had a complexity, an ambiguity, that surprised me, and I loved Koja’s sentence structure,  how she interweaved dialogue and exposition so fluidly.

Ligaya Mishan: The teenage boys I knew who read were glowering and hard-core about it: it was all “Howl,” all the time.

Jenna Krajeski: Personally, I’d rather date a vampire than a hockey player.

In the light of loss Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

Rereading the Bookslut Headlong review (less hopped up, this time, on caffeine) (“training wheels”? sheeze) – anyway, the books Colleen Mondor reviews there speak about loss and living in the aftermath of deep change, and I was especially pleased to see Headlong considered a part of that group.  In Headlong, death echoes through Hazel’s life, as well as her brother’s: for her it’s a kind of secondhand loss – can you truly grieve for people you can’t remember? – but she expresses her hunger for parents (a mother, most of all) in small, aching, tangential ways, as her brother Duncan reveals his own panic and resentment at being forced into a caretaker role too early and with too great a finality.

But all real change is final, isn’t it? In Kissing the Bee, Dana (herself altered by her father’s death) says, “Once you start changing, you’ve already changed,” and Lily’s own wordless reach for Hazel, and what Hazel represents, is an irrevocable action: wanting more makes the reach, the reach makes the action, the action makes change.  And the old mode of living is, in that moment, lost.  It may take awhile for the ripples to touch the outer edge of daily life, where Lily actually “lives,” but the change has come.

It’s such a great pleasure for me to experience through reviews how people read and interpret my books.  I hadn’t considered Headlong in this way before, and Colleen’s juxtaposition brought another facet of the story to light for me.  An insightful review is a real gift in more ways than one.

[See more of Colleen’s work here.]

Headlong into the New Year Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

OK, kind of a breezy segue but I couldn’t resist – and this Bookslut in Training review of Headlong is a very happy way to start the new year’s blogging.  Besides, you’re reading this post, you can title it (mentally, anyway) in any fashion you like . . . I was going to call it “Imagine the training wheels!”  Would that have been better?

Just back from a wonderful meet-for-coffee visit with a fantastic young writer/activist friend (hi, Lance!).  Lance was a reader of mine before we were friends, and now I’m a reader of his.  Sometimes life is very good.