Tuesday, December 31, 2013

so... 100 things that kicked ass in 2013

1. I took my daughter with me to New York City for a week. It was the first time I ever brought a kid with me on book tour.
2. I had the best ever mini-tour in Chicago and Detroit, and made some true friends.
3. I bought my daughter the most amazing dog for her birthday.
4. Winger was published in May.
5. I held an actual ARC of Grasshopper Jungle.
6. I finished writing 100 Sideways Miles.
7. My son turned 19.
8. Winger was reviewed in the New York Times.
9. I sold an awful lot of foreign rights.
10. I ate kangaroo meat.
11. Went to dinner with Benjamin Alire Saenz.
12. Got lost in the rain.
13. Ran in a snowfall in Boston and California.
14. Had Syrian food with David Gale.
15. I attended a media luncheon for Grasshopper Jungle. MTV, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and USA Today were there. For me.
16. Best school visit ever: Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, New Jersey.
17. Got to do readings with Ellen Hopkins and John Corey Whaley.
18. Took my daughter shopping at Tiffany.
19. Hung out with Stephen Chbosky.
20. Played golf with A.S. King.
21. Heather Brewer's "Less Than Three" conference.
22. My anniversary weekend on the beach.
23. My house didn't burn down.
24. I ran every day.
25. Hung out with Anne in New York.
26. Had some bourbon with Dave Barrett.
27. Had some bourbon with Michael Bourret.
28. Had some bourbon with Lauren Abramo.
29. Got to hang out with Gayle Forman. No bourbon was involved.
30. Had some scotch with Michael Grant.
31. The cab ride from hell in Miami with Bennett Madison.
32. TLA in Fort Worth.
33. Got to hang out with Julie Strauss-Gabel in the Penguin offices.
34. Met some of the best fans ever, all over the country.
35. Got to hang out with Liz Szabla and Jean Feiwel in the Flatiron.
36. I ate actual grasshoppers.
37. I ate an actual bacon macaron.
38. Hung out with Carrie Ryan. She convinced me to try Scrivener, so I bought it. I haven't made it through the tutorial, unfortunately.
39. Partied at the Simon & Schuster offices.
40. Signed books at some great American indies: Books of Wonder in New York, and Anderson's in Chicago.
41. Had dinner with Justin Chanda.
42. Met Lucy Ruth Cummins, the artist responsible for the cover of Winger.
43. Penguin sent me a box of UNSTOPPABLE CORN T-shirts.
44. I ate rattlesnake meat.
45. NCTE/ALAN in Boston.
46. Miami Book Fair International.
47. Starred reviews for Winger in Booklist, Shelf Awareness, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.
48. Starred reviews for Grasshopper Jungle in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
49. Interviewed by Kirkus.
50. Winger named a JLG selection, nominated for Quickpicks, Rainbow List, and BFYA, and so many "Best of 2013" lists.
51. Helped kick off the first Ontario Teen Book Festival.
52. I drank a jalapeno margarita in Texas.
53. I read some really great books.
54. Hung out with Brooks Sherman and Adam Silvera in New York.
55. Got to see the fantastic cover design for 100 Sideways Miles (also by Lucy Ruth Cummins).
56. I'm not going to lie--riding in limos is the shit.
57. The author party in South Beach.
58. Hanging out with Janet Tashjian.
59. Listening to audition tapes for the audio version of Grasshopper Jungle.
60. Working with Andrew Karre and A.S. King on the anthology Losing It, which came out in October.
61. Holding the British version of Grasshopper Jungle.
62. Making the cover of Bookseller magazine.
63. Being in the Los Angeles Times list of summer reads for 2013.
64. Writing the book I'm writing right now.
65. Meeting Holly Goldberg Sloan.
66. All the miles I ran in cities I had never been to before.
67. All the times I got TSA pre-checked.
68. Coming home after all those long trips.
69. The pre-party at TLA.
70. Hanging out with Bill Konigsberg in Los Angeles and Boston.
71. Oh yeah... the cover of Winger made a LOT of best book covers of 2013 lists, often as the only YA title on the list.
72. I took a lot of saunas this year. I have a sauna in my house. Saunas and distance running are probably the best things writers can do.
73. Oh yeah... so, not only did Winger come out in 2013, it also went into its second and third printings in 2013.
74. Got to participate in Revolution Day at Foothill Technology High School. They gave me the first Angel Potato Award.
75. My daughter turned 16.
76. The nicest hotels I stayed at were in Chicago, Boston, and New York City.
77. I got bumped off a flight coming home, but the airline gave me an extra free flight voucher. Score.
78. Visited two amazing high schools in Chicago.
79. Skyped with some terrific kids in Wisconsin.
80. Anderson's YA Summit.
81. I beat every deadline I had.
82. I edited with two methods--electronic and on paper. Still haven't decided which I prefer.
83. Saw two of my friends go from "aspiring" to getting their first publishing deals (Hooray for Helene and Adam).
84. Matthew and Amy drove up from Atlanta to hang out in St. Louis.
85. I went to the MOMA.
86. Stood right at the front of the pit for a Titus Andronicus gig. Patrick sweat on me and my daughter.
87. Did the Texas Tea at TLA. So fun.
88. I signed thousands of books for my readers.
89. I gave more than 100 books away to schools and libraries.
90. Most pleasant surprise location: New Jersey.
91. Hanging out with my S&S people--especially Venessa and David.
92. Getting a first edition of The Chocolate War as a gift from one of my publishers in England.
93. Hearing from booksellers overseas about their enthusiasm for my books.
94. All the love and support from librarians.
95. All the love and support from independent booksellers.
96. When Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster stopped fighting, and people could find my books there again.
97. All the people who sent photos of themselves with my books. My two favorites were the one in Australia with kangaroos in the background (thanks David) and the one from the Portland Airport Powell's Books.
98. Going to dinner tonight (New Year's Eve) with my wife and daughter.
99. Hearing such nice things about my work from agents and editors I don't even work with... really, publishing has some of the nicest people in the world.
100. Looking forward to all the great things that are going to happen in the year that will start tomorrow... and tomorrow I can say this: Grasshopper Jungle is coming out next

Monday, December 30, 2013

my facebook confession for 2013

See that picture up there?

It's a fitting image to begin today's post, because the great people at Simon & Schuster just sent these books--right off the third printing of Winger--to congratulate me for having had such a good year.

Big thanks are due to Simon & Schuster, and especially all the readers who love this book so much.

Thank you.

Okay, so since it's the end of the year and all, I've been feeling like it's time to come clean about something that's been bugging me for a long time.

It's about Facebook--my Facebook, in particular.

I am a failure at it.

I'm a failure at it because I never post about being sick or having all this pent-up internal anguish. I never talk about what I'm eating, cooking, favorite recipes, or what my unidentified and unphotographed children and wives are succeeding or failing at.

I don't even take photos of my dashboard's outside-temperature display.

As a matter of fact, you don't even know what kinds of fucking cars I drive.

See what a failure I am?

I do not want to post updates about insomnia, which I don't ever get.


In fact, pretty much all I ever post about on Facebook is stuff about my books, or the writing business, which are undoubtedly the only two topics I actually want to post about in a wide-open, unregulated forum.

I'm just a really private person. My real-world friends know this about me, so they don't hook into Facebook to find out things about my wife or kids, or what I'm eating, because they know if I'm posting something along those lines, I'm probably making it up.

But in a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, I'm pretty open about pretty much any topic, although I will admit that there have been a significant number of times I've told people that I didn't want to answer certain questions or address particular topics that were uncomfortably personal.

People want to know so much sometimes. It kind of creeps me out.

So, please don't think I'm stuck-up, or that I'm trying to sell my books. I am NOT trying to sell books via Facebook or Twitter, because I just don't do that.

It's just that my books are the only thing I want to talk about online. Sometimes my dogs or horses; rarely my incredibly ugly cats. But that's about it. Never my cars, meals, or sleeping routines.

Oh, I also don't want to talk about drug testing welfare recipients. What a stupid thing to suggest on Facebook! But, if you really want to know, I think we ought to drug test anyone in the US making more than $200,000 per year (for prescription meds, too), and if their pee comes back dirty, we should charge them double taxes--with no write-offs--because they're obviously taking advantage of our economic security to support organized crime. That would get us out of debt by next April.

And I don't want to talk about how "your generation" grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class every day, but now nobody says it because they're too afraid to offend anyone.


But I don't want to say things like that on Facebook, because... you know how easily people will change their opinions when someone like me expresses MINE, and then America would transform overnight into a rainbow-flag-waving-same-sex-marriage-supporting-anti-war-liberal-freaking-hippie-free-love-commune.

And nobody wants that, right?

Last night, I cooked Lasagna for my wife and kids.

It was good.

Friday, December 27, 2013

tying up 2013

What's this? I know. A second blog entry in less than a week.

But in less than one week, it will be 2014. And once it is officially 2014, I will have a new novel coming out in a month (Grasshopper Jungle, February 11 from Dutton/Penguin), and another one coming out in the fall (100 Sideways Miles, September 2 from Simon & Schuster).

And as great as 2013 was for me, given all the love people have for Winger, this coming year promises to be just as terrific.

So, as I often do, here's a list of things to wrap up 2013:

1. The connection between these two books:

Not many people know this. My second novel, In the Path of Falling Objects, and my forthcoming seventh novel, Grasshopper Jungle, share a character. The same guy pops up in both stories--to a very small and quirky extent in the earlier novel, but in a very major role in Grasshopper Jungle. That character is a guy named Charles R. Hoofard, most frequently referred to as Hungry Jack.

2. I realize I haven't said much at all about this book:

Even my friends don't know anything about this book. I haven't let anyone read it yet, either. It's called 100 Sideways Miles, and it's coming in September. In April, Simon & Schuster will be revealing the cover, which was designed by Lucy Ruth Cummins, who also designed the back photograph, as well as the cover for Winger, which was one of the most celebrated book covers (of any genre) of 2013. Just knowing that is a hint that the cover for 100 Sideways Miles is stunning, breathtaking, and spectacular. Another knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark for Lucy Ruth.

3.  So allow me to say something:

Like all my books, I invent almost everything that takes place in 100 Sideways Miles, but a good portion of the book is set in this Southern California canyon, and tells the history of an incredibly terrible event that took place there about 85 years ago.

But the rest is totally made up.

Also, right when 100 Sideways Miles comes out, Simon & Schuster will be releasing the paperback of Winger, which also has a very cool cover--and no, the front photograph is not changed, they've just added some features inside the front cover.

4. Conquering the world:

This is the gigantic stand-up of Winger that Simon & Schuster sent me, which is occupying a good bit of space in my living room.

In 2013, this book, and my next book, Grasshopper Jungle, got so much enthusiastic attention that between the two of them my work is now being read all over the world, with publishing deals coming in from England, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

There are still about 195 countries to go before full world domination takes effect, however.

Yeah... I'm talking to you, Antarctica.

5. Shirts and stuff:

Penguin has made these T-shirts for Grasshopper Jungle. They've been sending them out to people like crazy, too.

They are very cool shirts.

The people who got them are lucky and happy. I'm lucky and happy that I got one for myself, too.

Also, the book will finally be in bookstores in just 46 days.

Yes... it always seems to take so long. Especially for this book, which I am very excited about.

6. The year in review:

What can I say? It's been an incredible year for me and my books, with so much critical acclaim being heaped on Winger and Grasshopper Jungle.

People often ask me why I seem so surprised by what's been happening with my books. I suppose there's always an inner voice that most artists have that is hypercritical and tells us we are not good enough, and maybe that's the fuel that drives our engines. I don't know. But I like feeling that surprise when it comes along.

Monday, December 23, 2013

the ten best albums of 2013 that were not made by vampire weekend, daft punk, or arcade fire

Just because everyone else is going to have those three somewhere on their lists.

Okay. Here's the thing: 2013 was largely a failed attempt at #ThrowbackThirteen.

What was all this 80s nonsense being churned out? I mean, some acts did it good (Daft Punk), some did it... um... interestingly (I have to say I like the sound James Murphy added to Arcade Fire's Reflektor), but most simply should not have done it at all.

And speaking of not doing it, I don't really do the Pop thing, but if I did I would give props to CHVRCHES, who did it well and handled themselves most nobly in the face of stupid and vile misogynistic internet attacks. Also to the local Los Angeles women Haim, your producer had hands of concrete and ears of pig iron. I heard Haim live and they were very good, but the album is entirely over-produced. Too bad.

But I don't do Pop, anyway.

So, here you go. And, as always, this list is not in any particular order outside of the first two listings, which are my picks for Best Albums of 2013. All the others tied for second.

1. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (King Krule) Okay. So this guy sings like Ian Dury, has a strong jazz/blues feel to his music, and lyrics that are structurally influenced by hip hop but with a deep poetic feel. The album is incredible. I once heard him lament the lack of anger and passion in modern music, and this offering doesn't fall short on either account. Take this, from Cementality:

See, the cement has never meant so much

My hot head cools to the stone cold touch

I look to settle my seat with dust

Brain, leave me be, can't you see that these eyes are shut?

2. Blowout (So So Glos) Purely American, uplifting, chaotic, and fun. The So So Glos are reminiscent of the Clash, both in terms of music and content. The album was a long time coming with a first early glimpse of what was to come when the So So Glos offered Son of An American in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Just such a very good album.

3. Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke (Parquet Courts) I have a sneaking suspicion that Parquet Courts smoke the marijuana. Maybe it's their song, Stoned and Starving:

I was reading ingredients / asking myself “should I eat this?” / I was so stoned and starving.

And I love that song as much as Parquet Courts apparently love feedback and noise, which I also love. Originally released as the LP Light Up Gold, PC released an EP late in 2013 (Tally All The Things That You Broke), and then put them both together on this big, grand, fun, rocking noisefest of an album. Get it. Which also reminds me... Parquet Courts are from Brooklyn, which has produced some of the leading-edge music in the past few years but has (in #ThrowbackThirteen) taken a turn toward the mediocre.

C'mon, Brooklyn. Your originals have done nothing but copy themselves over and over and now it's time for something fresh and alive, like Parquet Courts.

4. Floating Coffin (Thee Oh Sees) Cosmic, feel-good, trippy fuzzmusic. This is what makes Thee Oh Sees original and tasty. Great, ripping album here.

5. Wondrous Bughouse (Youth Lagoon) I was afraid Youth Lagoon's second LP would be a continuation rip-off of his amazing freshman offering The Year of Hibernation, but not so. Bravo. This is big, chunky, noisy, and grown-up some. Nice job.

6. Fade (Yo La Tengo) I will never get tired of Yo La Tengo, no matter how much they evolve. And Fade is a very evolved, slicker-than-usual, and toned down iteration of the Hoboken indie kids.

7. Monomania (Deerhunter) Deerhunter is one of the most original, innovative bands in America. This album is angry and powerful, much less-produced than the earlier, brilliant, Halcyon Digest, and much more in line with the way the band sounds live, which is something I always appreciate in recording artists.

And poor, troubled Bradford Cox with his haunting apocalyptic visions of the ending of all things, here, in Leather Jacket II laments his position in the music industry:

i was a goldmine
i was cult
i was too kind
i was too kind
i was a goldmine

8. WeAre the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Foxygen) These guys probably take something much stronger than Parquet Courts. But they are boundlessly fun, quirky, and cool--and you gotta love that, especially because they came from Westlake Village, California, where I spent an awful lot of my high school years.

9. Hummingbird (Local Natives) Musically, this may be one of the most brilliant and original offerings on this list. Haunting and deep, sad and uplifting... and so very listenable. I love this album.

10. Muchacho (Phosphorescent) Another Brooklyn offering with a simple sound and some of the best, most personal songwriting Matthew Houck has produced in his significant career. The album has a sad, wandering, sometimes lost feel to it, but it--along with Hummingbird--are perfect backgrounds to quiet evenings at home.


Monday, November 11, 2013

puzzled pieces

If you are a bookseller or book reviewer in the UK, you may have received these strange postcards with even stranger excerpts of prose printed on their reverse sides. The postcards make a puzzle, and that's it in the photo.

They were sent out by the people at Egmont UK, whose imprint, Electric Monkey, is publishing Grasshopper Jungle in February.

They sent these to me last week while I was away in New York and New Jersey.

Oh, by the way--yes, it has been more than one month since I posted a blog.


So here's some stuff:

1. New Jersey: I visited Montclair Kimberley Academy and spoke to the entire high school student body. It is easily the nicest high school I have ever seen in my life, and I've been in a heck of a lot of high schools. Their auditorium has a balcony. That's not what makes the school so nice, though. The kids wear ties. And they read like fiends.

Here I am talking to the kids about Winger:

And here I am standing in front of a greatly diminished stack of my books. I think just about everyone at the school bought a copy.

I felt awkward because I was the ONLY GUY not wearing a tie. So the MKA people gave me one of their school ties, which is, like the coolest gift ever.

So I have to again say a huge thank you to Montclair Kimberley Academy, Scholastic Book Fairs (especially the lovely Carol Levine), and Simon & Schuster (especially Venessa Carson and David Gale), and Shanta Newlin and Julie Strauss-Gabel from Penguin for making this trip so amazing.

2. While I was in New York City: Lots of stuff happened. Notably, more recognition for Winger.

The book made two very distinguished Best of 2013 lists last week. So, besides the stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness, Winger has found its way onto these:

  • ALA/YALSA Nomination for Quick Picks 2014
  • Junior Library Guild Selection, 2013

That's quite a CV for Ryan Dean West.

3. There was Lots More: But I'll tell you about it later.

In less than a month, I promise.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


In which I blog about book stuff and the month of October.

1. I know someone who has TWO books coming out in October

It's A.S. King, my friend Amy.

Okay. You know how sometimes when you hear an awful lot about someone and it seems that their name keeps coming up over and over and you think to yourself, I would like to devise some manner by which I can justify not liking this person, just because you hear about them so much and they are mysterious and simultaneously pervasive so you break down and actually purchase this book that everyone kept talking about and the book was called Please Ignore Vera Dietz and then you realize there is no defensible argument you can come up with for not liking this person because that book was so spectacularly good that you, in fact, begin idolizing this person at the same time you despise yourself for not succeeding in not liking her and then she pops out of nowhere and comments on your blog and you're, like, Holy Shit!!! A.S. King commented on my blog!!! and then you find yourself actually meeting her and becoming tremendous friends and she plunks down a book so unflinchingly powerful as Everybody Sees the Ants so you build a small shrine to her in your office and begin relentlessly stalking her every move?


Well, most of that.

Well, one of the books Amy has coming out in October is Reality Boy.

Listen: this is A.S. King at her best. Here's the deal: the thing I dig about Amy's books is how her characters are so vulnerable readers can't help but be sucked inside their existences. And then along comes Gerald the Crapper--Reality Boy--a guy who is so messed up that I actually got sweaty and felt my blood pressure elevating when I read what was going on in and around him.

I love this book, which certainly has no shortage of feels, and like we've come to expect from Amy, no shortage of magic, either.

I can't wait to see all the love for this one as people discover that HOLY SHIT!!! THERE IS A NEW A.S. KING BOOK OUT AND I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!!

2. This is Her Other Book, and The Writer's Time-Warp

It's called Losing It. I'm in it too.

Losing It is an anthology of short stories, from Carolrhoda Lab, that all involve the loss of virginity.

I know a lot of people don't count anthologies as being "one of your books." But, what the hell, it's on my bookshelf right alongside the other seven books I have written (one of which is an ARC, since Grasshopper Jungle doesn't come out until February 11).

This is weird: I am frequently asked how many books I have written. I am beginning to lose track.

I am beginning to lose track of everything.

The other day I tweeted about Reality Boy and another book I love so much it hurts, Noggin, by John Corey Whaley, and I said that Reality Boy was coming out in October of 2014 and Noggin in April of 2015.

I was off by a year in both cases.

You know how that can happen?

To an author, we are constantly living in the future. I just finished the final work on my book 100 Sideways Miles, which is coming out in September of 2014; and I am currently writing another book (secret title) which is slated to come out in spring of 2015.

It's hard for my brain to home in on what year it is.

I have come unstuck in time.

3. Next Week Someone Will Win This


I have never signed an ARC of Grasshopper Jungle. So whoever gets it will have the only one.

Have you entered?

4. I Won't Be Here When You Win

Because I'll be in Chicago, speaking at Anderson's YA Literature Conference on Saturday and the YA Fandom Frenzy on Sunday. Both events are at the Hotel Arista in Naperville.

You can get info about these events here.

From there, it's off to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I will be the LONE MALE (let me tell you why being an author is so cool) at Literati Books' YA Author Summit at the Downtown Ann Arbor Library on October 1.

You can get info about this event here.
5. An Amazing Library

I'll be speaking and signing books at the Los Angeles Public Library's Teen Book Festival on October 12.

This is an incredible library.

More information coming soon.

6. Less Than Three <3

After all this planning, it is finally here: Heather Brewer's Less Than Three Conference in St. Louis on October 19.

Can I say October is busy?

You can find out more details about Less Than Three here.

And guess who else will be there?

My friend Amy.

You know, the one who writes all those incredible books.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

clutter bug

A few weeks ago--I can't remember when this came up--I was talking about writing with someone for something. Maybe it was a blog or a conference panel.

I know it was something, though.

The subject of outlining came up, and it had to do with how I was able to write a narrative as complex and layered as Grasshopper Jungle.

My answer had to do with my desk and my office--the space I have dedicated to writing.

Because I do not outline when I write.

So far, just about everyone who's read Grasshopper Jungle has remarked that they find it hard to believe the novel was written straight through, without an outline. As a matter of fact, when I first met with my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, in Los Angeles two summers ago regarding the book, not only did I tell her that I do not outline, but that the novel was in essence a first draft (because I always turn things in as soon as I write them with no personal revisions or rewriting).

Don't try this at home.

Okay. So my answer about outlining was this: My desk is a visual representation of how I outline. It is a massive, mountainous, cluttered mess. But I know exactly where everything is. Exactly. If you want to see me turn into Satan's nightmare, just try moving something or tidying up in my office.

Not pretty.

So when I'm writing (straight through is how I roll), if I get to, say, page 200 and realize I need to change something that happened way back near the beginning, I know exactly where that thing I need to change is and I go back and make it work.

It's not a problem for me at all, but then again, neither is my desk.

I mention this because yesterday there was an interesting article in the New York Times about the psychology of clutter and creativity. It was a most gratifying read for me.

If you'd like to read it, or if you are in need of an intervention for your insane tidiness, I have linked it here.

Also, I spread the exciting news yesterday that Grasshopper Jungle will be published in the UK and Australia simultaneously with its US (and Brazilian) release. It was very exciting to see the news in England's The Bookseller magazine.

You can read the Bookseller announcement here.

And now for the big reveal.

My desk today: