New real estate Saturday, Jun 19 2010 

I’ve moved here – kathekoja.com – to consolidate my blog and my website: please do have a look!  A link to the Under the Poppy blog/site can be found there as well, or you can simply go here.

I also moved that brown divan under the window, and the ficus tree is now out on the porch.

Notes on The Cipher Thursday, Jun 3 2010 

The Cipher was my first novel, published in 1991 by Dell Abyss. The original title was The Funhole, but the publisher’s marketing department, or whoever it was, made us change it to The Cipher, a title I must confess I never quite understood, except for its suggestion of willed nullity. Or maybe they meant it to mean a total nonentity? Or a secret to be puzzled out? Maybe all three. Maybe it’s a good title. I still prefer The Funhole.


I loved the Marshall Arisman cover (still do) (still love Marshall Arisman); and Rick Lieder made me look badass and glam in the author photo, though the whole “oyster cowboy” thing sounds silly now, and I never wear leather anymore. (I do still have the jacket; maybe I ought to sell it, and donate the proceeds to PETA).

Someone recently told me what a great graphic novel The Cipher would make. Film, too (and more details on that soon…). “An almost painfully visual book,” he said. Someone else said it would make a fantastic game, a world to get lost in.  A 3D game …. Deliberately seedy, deliberately late 20th century, before any of the connective tech we take for granted now. A cheap video camera, a hole in the floor. Curious eyes.

Writing The Cipher was a thoroughly joyful experience; I had no idea what would happen, I only followed the story. Would people like it? Who would read it? Who would publish it? I asked none of those questions, I just wrote.  I did the same thing with Under the Poppy. Joy is a bellwether.

[For all those who have asked, signed copies of The Cipher are available from me, both original and reprint editions; email kathe AT kathekoja.com for details.]

See Emily play! Sunday, May 30 2010 

Oh, snap!

826Michigan is going to teach you a lesson Wednesday, May 26 2010 

But only if you sign up in time for the Fall Fiction Writers Conference, September 24-26, where I’m happy to say I’ll be part of “PUBLISHING IN GENERAL AND THE YA NOVEL IN PARTICULAR,” a Q & A session with Barbara Shoup, Lara Zielin, and Margo Rabb, where we’ll talk about, what else, publishing and YA.  For more details follow the link, or contact keithhood@mac.com for info.

The pungent mysteries of compost Friday, May 14 2010 

…or, what happens to old stories/novels/fragments? Mine go into drawers, or piles, or (if they’ve reached the almost-there phase, which may or may not mean the work itself is actually finished) files in the “Work” folder, to occasionally be examined later. And very occasionally mined.  But almost never do they climb back into the light to become more than interesting fodder, the detritus of experiments worked awry. Sometimes failing better really is the way to go.

One book, one school, Buddha Boy … Tuesday, May 4 2010 

… at Zephyrhills High School, near Tampa, Florida: look for me there Wednesday, May 5.  I’m looking forward to hearing all of the opinions and ideas, to answering questions and asking some, too, to rediscovering this story through the minds of new readers, all the students, teachers, staff. Every reader creates, recreates, a book anew.

Shared worlds with the beasts fantastic Friday, Apr 30 2010 

Shared Worlds asked some writers, including me, to invest some beasts for the students, and they did, and here they are. Chimerical, yeah, but if you close your eyes you can just about touch them; some of them you can even smell. And as the comments note, in August “the students of Shared Worlds 2010 [will] have illustrated entries with original artwork, and included their own thoughts on these beasts,” and that will be something to see with your eyes open.

Out loud, or Read to me, please Friday, Apr 23 2010 

Why is it that when we grow up, people stop reading aloud to each other? Is it that the pleasure of reading to yourself is assumed to be greater than that of being read to? Two different facets of the same jewel … Poetry, especially – if the reader is a good one – oh, poetry is so juicy when it’s read out loud. Or Green Eggs and Ham. Or Shakespeare: make mine Macbeth! The scene where he wigs out at the banquet! Read to someone today, or better yet, get someone to read to you.

What makes a character real? Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 

This is well-said

“How is it that fictional characters made of words typed on paper become real in a reader’s mind? How does that alchemy happen? I’m always surprised each time it happens for me – when I realize that I have fully accepted a character I’m reading, that I’ve made that little leap of faith that allows me not to question the artifice that is fiction but to surrender to the invention. I know that fiction is not ‘real’, that the characters I’m reading don’t exist. But they have become real for me, and so are as real as my dreams are, as real as my thoughts.”

— and without that alchemical leap, how can the novel go as deep as it needs to, how can the reader access everything that a story can be?

Now think of all the characters who are real to you, friends to you, really.  Does it make sense to think that that leap of spirit, between the “real” and the reader, is made half-way by the character and half-way by us, when we read?  Why some books come alive for you, and others leave you cold … after a certain level of communicative skill is reached (by writer and reader), whether it’s Heathcliff or Smilla or Josef K. or the Poky Little Puppy who speaks to you most intimately, depends as much on you as on any of them. Affinity is mysterious as breathing, and as natural.

Lynda Barry, YA goddess Thursday, Apr 8 2010 

Please, very smart and excellent media specialists, invite Lynda Barry, who knows everything there is to know about being young, fierce, wild, and clean of heart, to come and talk to your kids about writing and drawing pictures and why doing both can save you.  I recommend her work all the time to both young readers and those who want to write YA, because she knows

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