Monday, April 6, 2015

adjective, adjective!

1. This weekend, The Alex Crow was reviewed in USA Today. It's a very nice review, with lots of adjectives like weird, strange, odd, diverse; and humorous and touching.

2. Those are good adjectives. I've been at odds with adjectives for about a month now, but I'm giving them another chance. Also commas. Well, maybe not so much the commas.

3. See #5 if you want to know my take on verbs.

4. I am going to Denver this weekend, for the Colorado Teen Literature Conference. I am looking forward to it, and I am also fairly certain I will not succumb to altitude sickness, since I live at relatively high elevation. I have noticed that using "high elevation directions" when baking cakes requires way too much math.

5. I am heading to Santa Barbara next week, to do something that I never really thought I'd be asked to do--bake a cake at sea-level. Not really. What I am really doing is conducting a writing workshop for SCBWI. I feel conflicted about this in many ways, because I always tell my students this: Nobody can teach you how to write; you have to learn how to write. Learn is a verb--it requires you to take action. The teaching part can never happen without the active investment on the part of the learners, and writing, maybe more than anything else I can think of, is something that gets "learned" in ways that are entirely unique to each of us. So, I am going to show a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation. About cakes.

6. Tomorrow morning I am going to be doing an interview over Skype with a journalist who'll be talking to me from Pakistan.

7. The next day, I'll be visiting a group of students at Herndon High School, in Virginia.

8. I hope they all know how to use Skype. Nobody ever taught me, and I definitely have not learned.

Friday, April 3, 2015

in which i break the internet, as promised

Are you a writer?

Do you write?

Do you write "YA"?

Are your characters "teens"?

Do they "Pinterest" with each other in your "YA novel" about "teens"?

Do you ever use the expression "WIP"?

Do you have a blog?

Do you worry about relevant hashtags?

Have you ever "begged to differ"?

Are you afraid of your neighbors?

Do you think they have conversations about why you never come outside of your home?

Do you think they stop the garbage collector and ask him if he's ever seen you?

Are you concerned they might look through your garbage and criticize the quality of your diet?

Do you think one of your neighbors might collect a sample of your DNA from your garbage, just in case?

You know, just in case they "need it"?

They hate you, don't they?

Have you changed your WiFi password today?

Did you check to be sure you didn't leave the back door unlocked?

Did you just check it again, even though you knew you already checked it three times this morning?

Did you leave the stove on?

Did you?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Rabbit, Writer

It has actually been more than a year since I've blogged.

Don't worry, absolutely nothing has happened to me since 2013.

Usually, when my golf buddy Amy and I write to each other, we write in lists. I am going to write a list for you today:

1. I recently signed a two-book deal with my editor and publisher, Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton (and also with Egmont UK), so I am currently writing another book. I made a word cloud from the book, and the photo above is what was generated. Have fun trying to figure out what all that means.

2. Last night, I ate Chinese food. It was good.

3. I am getting a new puppy. When I post pictures of it, I'm certain it will break the internet.

4. Julia Bishop, Emily Lohman, Aunt Dahlia, Luz Benavidez, Annie Altman, and so on.

5. I made it to #5, Amy.

6. I am writing a graphic novel. Don't try to stop me.

7. When I was on tour this month, a fifteen-year-old boy who waited at the very end of my book-signing line told me something that made my life. He said this: he wanted me to know how much he loved Grasshopper Jungle. He told me that reading Grasshopper Jungle gave him the courage to come out to his friends and family. I grabbed that kid's hand and told him how awesome he was. I wish I could fold that kid up and carry him around in my pocket forever, and take him out to remind myself from time to time why I write books.

8. See #3. Prepare to be broken. Seriously. It's a puppy.

8.5. I'm super proud of my daughter. She got accepted to her number-one university of preference, and she also got a ton of scholarship money. She also had Chinese food last night.

9. I promise not to be gone from this blog until 2017, but, as Max says, "You never know."

10. Reminder to self to look at #7 from time to time, since folding up a kid and carrying him around in your pocket is probably cruel.

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.