Thursday, June 30, 2011

boy oh boy

So, last night I lurked around and watched a chat session on Twitter (#YALitChat) that was based on the question: Why do men write YA?

Yeah. I wanted to see what people would say about that.

Maybe they'd have psychologists and stuff.

Maybe it would be like a Dateline NBC sting where I'd show up with a manuscript in my hand and some actor-playing-an-innocent-teen would slip out to get some reading glasses and instruct me to sit down and pour myself some sweet tea.

But nobody answered the question.

That's why I'm here.

To answer the question.

And have some tea (unsweetened).

Okay, coffee. Black.

First of all, maybe it's just me. Maybe if I had lots of hair on the back of my neck (ewww) it would be standing up, or if I were a rooster, the corresponding hackles would now be elevated. But I think there's an underlying implication in the phrasing of the question.

Why do men write YA?

Maybe the questioner didn't intend it to sound so... um... biased? As though men are violating some kind of evolutionary imperative... you know, the kinds that were addressed in the 50s and 60s on the other side of the gender divide when "experts" presumed to ask why women sought careers or avoided pregnancy?

So, here's the answer to your question:

Real men write.

We always have, going all the way back to the cave walls in Lascaux and Altamira.

The "YA" part is nothing more than cupboard space assigned by cupboard-space-assigners who think up taxonomic catchphrases which lower their organizational anxiety levels.

We write.

Human beings write. And we like to write about the human experience and people, or burials, sex, and animals we hunt and shit like that.

I know.

I'm too highstrung.

Maybe that's why I write.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

bridge to books

Update on room cleaning: Um.

As I've posted previously, the Bridge to Books people hosted a terrific event called YA in Bloom at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena on Saturday.

A note about Vroman's: It's a pretty amazing store. I've always wanted to sign books there, and this was the first time I got to do it.

I think on the Authors' Indie Bookstore Bucket List, Vroman's is right there with those other iconic bookstores (you know which ones I'm talking about) that I hope to one day check off my list. But, at least I got Vroman's done.

And it was, honestly, probably the most fun I've had at an in-store signing.

It was so fun that I decided to steal some pictures from the Bridge to Books folk and share them here on my blog (these photos are copyright Bridge to Books 2011... except the weird one).

Every author... well, probably every author... has been in a situation where they've gone to a signing event and there were, like, only two copies of his book there. Well, Vroman's had all my books there. It's really cool to go to an event where people are getting multiple titles signed. Trust me. It is... and it's especially gratifying to meet people who are fans of The Marbury Lens, so they pick up Ghost Medicine or In The Path Of Falling Objects, too.

So, I got to sign a lot of books. And I got to meet some very nice, enthusiastic readers, too.

And it was really fun to hang with the authors, too. At the signing table are: Jessica Brody, Katie Alender, me, Cindy Pon, Lisa Yee, and Nancy Holder. There were other authors present, too -- some of whom have debut novels coming out in the months ahead.

The swag bags they gave us had some kickass stuff in them, too. Among the goodies in the bag was a tattoo for Gretchen McNeil's debut, Possess, which comes out August 23. Who doesn't love a good demonic possession now and then? Anyway, Gretchen told me that if I put the tattoo on my right wrist (see below), it would protect against demons. I'm okay with that, but I was really hoping it would help clean my room.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

a return to the why chromosome

So, I know I kind of lapsed into the excitement of finally being allowed to spill my guts about two of the new books I have coming out, but I had intended to continue a couple of the thoughts I started to express on Sunday's post (a lonely YA reflection), which drew a number of intelligent responses.

Specifically, I was pointing out [okay, I'll admit it... I was whining] the under-representation of guys as writers, readers, bloggers, teachers, mentors, etc. when it came to advocating literacy, and, in the broadest sense, for the future of our kids.

One response to the blog pointed out that something changes in boys between young reader age and teen years, and another said that boy readers (if they're still reading) tend to skip past the teen section and go straight to the adult fiction in bookstores.

There are a lot of factors behind this: First, the teen section of the bookstore is... well... pretty girly. Listening in on the BFYA teens commenting at ALA, I got the sense that covers -- the first visual representation of what's available inside a book -- are tremendous factors in attracting or repelling potential readers (oh... there are lots of real academic studies that elevate this theory to "law" status).

Go look at the visuals in a typical YA section at a B&N -- or pull up their "Teen" page on the web.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive.

There's a good likelihood that I'm unique in my wrongness, but if I were a teen reader looking at the heavy overemphasis of feminine imagery (and thankfully "YA" sections didn't exist when I was a "YA"), I would think somebody was trying to tell me something.

Like, no boys allowed.

YA equals girl, swirling mists, and something dark and shadowy -- could be a tree, a castle, or something wearing a cloak (who the hell wears cloaks?).

And anyway, since about 2000, we really don't want our boys to be creative, intuitive, and different, anyway... so why would we encourage boys to read and write?

We want them to be the same.

We need them to be standardized, so they can bubble in math and science tests that have only five possible correct choices (because the universe is like that, isn't it?) with a higher degree of bubbling-in fantasticness than boys in China or South Korea, or wherever boys bubble better than ours do.

In 2003, writing in Education Journal, David Taylor examined a pair of studies on boys and writing – what kinds of impediments interfered with boys becoming engaged as writers, and what were some possible routes around these roadblocks.

An overwhelming volume of evidence shows that, by the time they get into high school, boys’ achievement in writing falls behind that of girls. Much of it has to do with the representation of the culture of literacy, and its obvious gender bias, particularly during formative years when gender-role identities are becoming entrenched in the personalities of boys.

Look, I'm not blaming anyone for this specifically, and if you disagree with the gender-bias association in reading and writing during the teen years, then I wouldn't mind taking up that discussion.

It is a vitally important issue to address, too, since success in any area of academic curriculum depends on good writing and a developed degree of literacy.

Amy Corso, writing in The International Journal of Learning, identified a significant source of pressure on boys around the ages of 11 - 14 (backed up by Taylor's findings). She wrote that since boys at the secondary level face a tremendous amount of pressure to be socialized in manly ways, they naturally strain to separate themselves from people or pursuits they perceive as being feminine (like reading and writing). She writes, "Ultimately, these forces inhibit the student’s ability to participate in the creative process."

You know how tough and pressurized those years are if you're a guy, or if you've raised a boy through those years -- so if the prevailing culture is that "Teen Reading is Girl Reading," as evidenced through media, marketing, advertising, visuals on book covers, and even by the dads, brothers, writers, bloggers, teachers, coaches, librarians, book lovers -- MEN -- who (fucking don't) show up at literacy events for teens... well, we're not only going to lose boys as readers and writers, we're actually harming them.

Oh... and don't tell me "but boys don't read," because that simply is not true. Boys are, however, passively pushed away from reading "Teen" or "YA" books, and for some boys, that subliminal message can shut the door forever on the development of lifelong literacy and reading.

Unfortunately, as we're doing to the individual child, we're also "standardizing" educational culture, and it's not a pretty transformation. Class sizes are increased with less attention paid to high-achieving, creative, intuitive (because we don't want that) kids. And libraries -- the only actual place within a school environment where kids have unimpeded freedom to explore new ideas -- are being shut down.

Because libraries, like arts programs and non-formulaic or rubric-based creative writing, aren't going to help us out-bubble the kids in China and South Korea.

Monday, June 27, 2011

two more offspring


It's Monday, right?

I am not making much progress on the "and clean your room" assignment, and the family will be back from vacation in, like, three days.

That means I can do it on Wednesday.

So, this morning my UK friend tweeted me that she'd seen today's Publishers Weekly, and offered congratulations... and I was, like, oh... now I can finally say something about this stuff.

Here it is.

I have written (yes -- they are completely finished) two books that will be coming out from Simon & Schuster.

And that's not everything that I have going on right now, but I want to say a few little things about these books and this announcement.

First, I am very excited and nervous about working with David Gale at S&S. I'll admit it: I am afraid. Oh well, I'll get over it. I gave him some good stuff to play with.

Now, about the two books:

I guess a handful of people have read the first one. It's called Winger, and it's about a really smart kid named Ryan Dean (he's 14 and in eleventh grade -- something I kind of know a little about) who has a really tough time figuring things out (which is something else chillingly close to my heart).  And he plays rugby, too (Union -- the greatest game ever devised by human beings). There's a lot going on in Ryan Dean's world -- he's convinced the woman living downstairs is a monstrous witch, out to destroy his life (and she may be); he's desperately in love with a brilliant and independent-minded girl, but believes their age difference (she's actually 16 -- oooh!) makes her see him as some kind of "adorable" pet (and she probably does); and the guy Ryan Dean shares a dorm room with wants to kill him (definitely... he really wants to kill the kid). Oh... and he draws. So there are comics, diagrams, graphs, charts, an occasional haiku, transcribed telephone conversations, invisible iPods, and lots of other stuff that pop out of Ryan Dean's head and onto the pages of Winger -- which actually is funny, but it's sad and dark, too, because it takes a look at how desperately people sometimes want to fit in, when the rest of the world can only focus on the minute little elements that make outcasts of all of us.

Yeah... PW should have said that. But, they'd have to give up space for the description of the second book... which is called Once There Were Birds.

As far as I know, there is only one person in the universe who has read this book. So, basically, nobody knows much about it at all.

And there's kind of an interesting story behind it, too: I started writing Once There Were Birds as a short story for inclusion in that ill-fated anthology that I backed away from. I liked the story so much that I didn't want to cut it short, and I definitely didn't want to give it up to an anthology. So I turned it into a genre-bending kind of novel.

If I did a Hollywood one-line pitch on it (which I suck at), I'd probably say the novel is a Western, set in Arizona and California, 200 years in the future.

Here's a more precise description of Once There Were Birds:

Barrett Woods, a boxer from a prison school for boys called Oconee, makes a “break,” and jumps a picking train sent on scavenging missions. He’s followed by a determined and talkative younger boy named Eliot Plum, who is stubbornly determined to stick with Barrett, despite the dangers they encounter. But Eliot is hiding a secret from the boxer – he’s actually the son of a bounty hunter who’s been sent to collect on Barrett’s escape.

Eliot is trying to prove something – to himself and to his demanding father. The boys’ journey west is simultaneously dangerous and filled with wonders the two have never seen. But Eliot must contend with his increasing dilemma: As he gets farther away from his father, Eliot’s betrayal of Barrett is eclipsed by a tremendous bond of friendship. 

So, Once There Were Birds includes action, adventure, a coming-to-grips kind of story about love and friendship, betrayal and forgiveness, and there's a little post-apocalyptic sci-fi, a little (ugh) dystopia, a good bit of cowboy slang good-old-fashioned Western, and no small amount of steampunk thrown in, too.

Oh, and I forgot to mention there's a love story between the boxer and the daughter of a conniving, self-serving man who tries to trick the boys out of the things they value most.

I really wouldn't know what sub-genre to put this one in. It's just a good, exciting ride.

So there.

That's part of what's coming up from me.

You can read the deal announcement in Publishers Weekly here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

a lonely YA reflection


Yesterday's YA in Bloom event sponsored by Bridge to Books was huge.

Trust me. Bridge to Books knows what's up. If you are an author, teacher, librarian, blogger, reader, or anyone in Southern California who's interested in improving literacy and getting more books into the hands of more kids -- and delivered by people who know and care about what they're doing -- this is a group to keep your eyes on.

I think everyone was a little overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out at Vroman's.

Now, let me talk about isolation.

You know, I have been left all alone at el rancho de drew and have to mope around doing all these dumb chores: feeding horses and dogs, picking cherries, watering stuff that isn't supposed to "die" (why can't we GMO lawns, plants, and livestock with zombie DNA so they never die?).

And don't even get me started about how I'm supposed to "clean my room."

Anyway... it's a rather isolated life up here where I live, which is good for writing -- even though I swear, I swear! I am not going to start on anything new.

So... yesterday. It was a blast. I got to sit with some of the coolest, funniest people you could ever sit by.

Okay, picture this. No... really... picture. This.

Me. Cindy Pon. Lisa Yee. Katie Alender. Gretchen McNeil. Nancy Holder. Jessica Brody.

Did I mention I was sitting there? And there was lunch involved. And really really nice cake.

Are you still picturing?

Let me help.

Well, I'll admit I stole this from Lisa Yee (I think it's rather obvious who took the photo). She stood up on her chair during lunch (a gymnast, that woman!) and pointed the camera out from where we sat. It looked like this:

And that's only part of the crowd.

Notice something?

You would if you were The Great Big Giant Me.

You would notice that there were, like 300 women present, and three or four guys. One of them is off camera below Peepy's ears. That would be me.

There's nothing wrong with this picture.

There's something very wrong with what isn't in the picture.


Time to step up.

As writers, readers, teachers, mentors, and dads.

I've written plenty of posts (and included data from academic studies, no less) about the declining literacy rate among boys, and how a BIG part of the problem is the perception we "sell" to boy readers: that reading and writing are fundamentally feminine pursuits.

Just look at the picture.

So, I've got a few things to say about this (when don't I?), and a lot of it is going to come back around to a kind of mass-buy-in, self-fulfilling prophesy that MAKES boys into non-readers.

And that's an issue we can all do something about.

Speaking of issues, think about "issues" in YA. I heard some of them mentioned by booktalkers yesterday. Um.

Books that deal with issues -- at any age level -- are important because they help readers make connections between their lives and experiences and the rest of the world. Sometimes, those books are the only floatation devices available for kids who feel totally adrift.

The thing is, there are issue books for boys. Just not too many people talk about them, fewer know about them, and big brick-and-mortar booksellers won't allocate shelf space to them because... look at the picture.

Boys don't care about reading.

This is what we've been making real in America in the last 30 years.

And that's a pretty serious issue for everyone.

Oh... I'm just getting warmed up. There will be more on this subject.

And, Cindy Pon: you better believe I've been following your Diversity in YA movement, and I have to give you a LOT of credit for consistently having male authors and books dealing with guys presented on your tour (thought I wasn't lurking/stalking, didn't you?).

Because, at its most obvious and elemental level, diversity begins with gender.

Come on, guys.

Let's say we're 50% of the population.

Look at the picture.  I'm not asking for half -- I wouldn't really want to lose my table mates, but maybe just a few more footsoldiers to prove that guys write and read and love books?

Time to represent for the benefit of our sons.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

a bloom, and the culture of standardization

Happy Bookstore Day.

That's not all.

I needed to add something to what I said yesterday about "grownups" who read, and Young Adult literature, since I'm going to be talking today with a bunch of smart people about books and stuff. And eating cake.

Young Adult literature not only represents an opportunity to catch glimpses of things that lie between the stark fringes of the extremes, but, as an art form (and I'm going to go rinse out my mouth for using that term because I really don't like how condescending and pretentious it sounds) it serves as an expression of a set of cultural values which have not yet been diluted and constrained by bubble-in number-two-pencil tests.

And that's another underlying sentiment that echoes loudly enough beneath the text of all these recent pieces assailing the current state of literature: The specter of Standardization.

The most vocal champions of the all-or-nothing, I-know-what's-good-for-everyone, black-or-white movement are also those who believe that standardizing our youth will allow us to rise up and conquer all our enemies lurking in the shadows, because once kids all think exactly the same and can bubble in standardized math tests with the exact same levels of proficiency, we will arrive at Happy Future Land.

So, naturally, their faith in the religion of standardization is going to bleed over into the arts as well.

Kids, put down your number-2 pencils.

Break them.

Go outside.


So... Today is Bookstore Day, and I'm going to be at Vroman's in Pasadena with some amazing authors and book people.

I will bring goods.

And nothing that requires bubble-in contemplation.

Here's all the info on YA in Bloom.

Hope to see you in Pasadena.

Friday, June 24, 2011

only bad grownups read YA

I'm going to confess to something.

And it's not what you think.

My confession is that I wrote this blog post ahead of time.

Yeah, I blog just about every single day... and every day I just make that shit up in the morning.

Even the comics, which I usually "draw" in my head while I'm not sleeping at night, which is why they're disturbing.

Anyway, I wrote this ahead of time because I went to a concert last night, to see one of the best American bands out there. So if this post is not about New Jersey post-punk rockers Titus Andronicus, then you'll know I wrote it in advance. Which is something more than a paradox.

I just wanted to say that since November of 2009, I have written four novels.

Some people call them YA.

I don't really care what you call them, unless your definition of YA makes them something that they're not.

Which is also something crueler than a paradox.

The first of those novels is Stick, which will be published on October 11, 2011. (I've already told about how I wrote that novel for NaNo in 2009). The other three I can't talk about yet.

Two of the three have already been sold to a major publisher (I believe I'll be able to talk about their titles, publisher, and everything else about them in the coming week), and the third is on submission.

I work hard.

All told, it's a bit over 360,000 words, and a bit over a year and a half.

And that's finished stuff, not drafts.

One of these days I'm going to see how these real writers pitch ideas and dig themselves holes to fill in ahead of time.

So I was thinking about why "grownups" read YA.

I think it's because YA is tougher, more challenging, to read than a lot of adult lit.

Good YA gets to do lots of stuff that adults (and adult lit) don't get to do, and for this, it has quite an appeal.

Like the milestone "young adult" marks in our lifetimes -- the better literary embodiment of that developmental phase is all about challenging rules, resisting convention, and experimenting with consequences -- all things "grownups" avoid, or, at best, have learned to disdain in exchange for the assumption of their role as designated driver for the SUV of Society.

But there's something else going on here, too.

And I believe it's rather noisily expressed by the shouters who've been pumping out the latest baseless, emotional, and ill-supported salvos of critical assaults on fiction for and about Young Adults.

It's easy to crank up the heat of contention when you base a 1000-word essay (if you'd call it that) on a universe of extremes: It's either/or, light/dark, pure/profane, good parenting/book banning -- because, quite obviously, if you're for one, you're against the other.


It's almost easier to buy-in and be functional if they can convince you (as the band writes) that "the enemy is everywhere."

Are you with us or against us, kid?

Maybe some of us are still stuck in that why-does-it-have-to-be-one-way-or-the-wrong-way mindset that accompanied that rebellious, self-exploratory Young Adult stage of maturation.

And there's something great to be said for that perspective, too.

You have to be open to middle roads and unafraid of detours, and tolerant of the great spectrum of hues that really exist between the fringes of black and white.

People who read YA -- and it doesn't matter how old they are -- get that.


I'll confess again.

I actually did write this piece this morning (running on 2 hours sleep).

My wife and kids have just left for a week's vacation, leaving me to mind the ranch in solitary isolation.

The enemy is everywhere.

Party at Drew's house.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

saving the indies

Saturday is Bookstore Day.

Please go out to your local independent bookstore, show them some love, and buy some books.

I promise you there are things in your local bookstore that can make any human being you know happy.

If you're stuck -- like... let's say, hypothetically that you're 46 years old and have a 13-year-old kid whom you know absolutely nothing about -- this is the best reason to shop at an indie store.

Chances are very good that the people who work there have read just about every book in the place and can perhaps tell you more about your 13-year-old's world than you ever considered.

[I hope you know who I'm talking about]

When my daughter was 12, just a couple years ago, I took her to Vroman's in Pasadena to meet Lisa Yee, and get Lisa to sign her YA novel Absolutely Maybe. I think that day was probably one of the most important experiences in my daughter's life up to that point. Because she really loved the book Absolutely Maybe, and she became a huge (well, she's actually thin -- a dancer's body) Lisa Yee fan, which meant Dad had to buy out the shelves of other titles.

Oh, and we got to wear pink wigs, too, but I am NOT posting that picture here.

Here's me and my daughter at the LA Times Festival of Books a few weeks back:

Anyway, back to Vroman's, and saving your (indie) bookstores...

On Saturday (which is Bookstore Day), I'll be sitting in with Lisa and LOTS of other amazing authors at Bridge to Books' YA in Bloom event, which will be at Vroman's (in Pasadena) from 1 - 4 p.m.

I've got lots of great stuff to give away, like autographed copies of The Marbury Lens, fresh back from its cage match with the Wall Street Journal.

I even have some nice posters, and I'm going to... gulp... give away... my last, only, personal Advance Copy of my forthcoming novel, Stick.

Eh... why do I need my own books, anyway? How full of yourself can you be? [He asks, wiping a sluggish tear and checking himself out in the mirror]

Who doesn't have a mirror right next to their computer monitor?

So, anyway, the YA in Bloom event is described as "a casual lunch meeting for readers, writers, bloggers, and educators interested in young adult literature."

I understand the weather in Pasadena on Saturday will be immeasurably more pleasant than the weather in New Orleans, too.

Hope to see you there.

Here's the info on YA in Bloom, and directions to Vroman's.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

translating MPR to drewspeak

I'm a little confused.

What else is new?

Yesterday, I received an email from the producer of the Midmorning radio program that I took part in on Monday.  He said he thought yesterday's comic (radio daze) was funny [I thought it was disturbing and kind of made me feel sick].

He also expressed concern that I may have thought the questioning was unfair or that I was mistreated.

Well... I don't know anything about being mistreated, but I do think the questions posed by the show's host were... well... like I implied on the cartoon yesterday... kind of weird.

As a matter of fact, right off the bat, I was kind of "weirded out" by the first things said to me, and I know that this is maybe more to do with me than anyone else. It's because I'm a pretty straightforward, cut-to-the-chase kind of person. So to say that the questions were rather circuitous (and I'll admit I have an attention-scattering-processing problem) and contained an awful lot of ideas, to me, is a gentled estimation.

Here's the other thing I'll admit to: When I hear things -- when people talk to me -- I see their words as type in my head. I know that's crazy, but I really do see words on a screen. This is probably the biggest reason why I wrote my next novel, Stick, the way I did. But that's beside the point.

Let me show you the words I saw from the first two questions:

So Andrew, I want to start with you because as I've said, Meghan specifically mentioned your newest novel... She said she... she feels that it exemplifies this kind of criminal violence and the dark themes that show up in Young Adult fiction and I have to say I know one of the scenes she was thinking of is one that I read this weekend in which a teenager has been kidnapped, it looks like he's gonna be raped by another man... it's a pretty explicit scene... you said you were surprised that she would single out your novel for criticism like that, but I have to say having read... uh... some of the novel it does seem like there is some violence and darkness there. To that you say what?

My head wanted to explode.

I didn't know what "that" I was supposed to say "what" to.

Criminal violence? Dark themes? How the host read one scene from a book I'd provided the previous Tuesday (this was Monday)? My surprise at being singled out? My novel "seeming" to have some violence and darkness?

See the opening line.


But the thing that stuck out was the being surprised about being singled out. I don't think I ever expressed surprise at any time. Like I said, I was kind of flattered. I never felt persecuted, either. I never said anything bad or contentious about Meghan Cox Gurdon at all. So I was...


Like I told the producer in our pre-broadcast chat (which was a really cool talk, by the way): No book is for "everyone." That would be absurd. There are always going to be people who object to, or find fault with anything that anyone ever writes. That's part of the beauty of being a human being.

But when I said as much to the host, well... that wasn't good enough.

And here was how question number two flowed across the teletype screen in my brain:

Yeah but I don't know that that's a sufficient argument to say that well somebody's gonna find critique enough about anything that anyone writes I mean specifically to this point that she's making that I'm asking you about after having read some of these themes in your novel I mean this is this young boy kidnapped he's threatened with knives he's threatened with male rape and... and there is a lot of explicit violence in that scene and and through this novel and I'd like you to say to to tell me why you don't think that either the criticism is apt or why this is the kind of fiction that teens want to read and if it's appropriate that they read it.

(About this time, I think I extended my index finger and pantomimed a gun to my temple)

I didn't know what I was supposed to say. Again. 

Why isn't it a sufficient response?

It's what I believe.

And the "some themes" the host goes on to describe... well... again, um... (obviously didn't read the book because there's stuff in that description that isn't... um... in the... book. Just sayin'. Don't be mad).


And then to go on and finish with this ... I'd like you to say to to tell me why you don't think that either the criticism is apt or why this is the kind of fiction that teens want to read and if it's appropriate that they read it.

Well... I was (sorry) confused.

I wanted to please.

But I didn't want to say what she told me she wanted me to say.

I wanted to go "off the board" and choose an option that wasn't available in Minnesota.

I know.

I'm a bad person for not saying what I was supposed to say.

But it was all so confusing.


I give up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

radio daze

Click image to enlarge.

I might be gone for a while.

Monday, June 20, 2011

on MPR this morning

So, I am heading down to the NPR studios in Los Angeles this morning.

That is, if the GPS unit in my car, which is sensitive to the degree of despondence I've felt lately, doesn't continue luring me to drive off a cliff.

With that, I will re-post the pertinent information regarding this morning's show:

This morning, I will be speaking with the host of Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning talk show program. Chances are, you are fully aware by now of the controversial editorial posted in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon, in which she attacked contemporary Young Adult literature, and me and my novel, The Marbury Lens, in particular.

The program will air live this morning between 10 - 11 a.m. in Minnesota (8 - 9 a.m. Pacific Time).

The hyperlink to Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning Show is listed below.

Listeners outside the state of Minnesota will be able to hear the program streamed live on the link.

You will find a comment box on the link, so listeners can make comments in real time.

Listeners can also Tweet the host, Kerri Miller (her Twitter link is listed below), and may also chime in on Facebook (linked below, as well).

This is a phone-in show, so listeners are also able to call in to speak with Kerri and me.

The program will run clips of Megan Cox Gurdon's interview on MPR, and the other guest will be Karen MacPherson, YA librarian at Takoma Park Library in Maryland, and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

I think people are going to hear some unexpected and surprising things.

More to come...

  • Kerri Miller on Twitter -- @kerrimpr

Sunday, June 19, 2011

on MPR tomorrow morning

Just a reminder about tomorrow's Minnesota Public Radio talk show program. Chances are, you are fully aware by now of the controversial editorial posted in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon, in which she attacked contemporary Young Adult literature, and me and my novel, The Marbury Lens, in particular.

The program will air live, Monday, June 20, between 10 - 11 a.m. in Minnesota (8 - 9 a.m. Pacific Time).

The hyperlink to Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning Show is listed below.

The current link will play Friday's show, but it will be the correct link for Monday, June 20.

Listeners outside the state of Minnesota will be able to hear the program streamed live on the link.

There will also be a comment box on the link, so listeners can make comments in real time.

Listeners can also Tweet the host, Kerri Miller (her Twitter link is listed below), and may also chime in on Facebook (linked below, as well).

Of course, this is a phone-in show, so listeners are also able to call in to speak with Kerri and me.

The program will run clips of Megan Cox Gurdon's interview on MPR, and the other guest will be Karen MacPherson, YA librarian at Takoma Park Library in Maryland, and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

I'm fairly confident that people will be surprised by some of the things they hear tomorrow.

  • Kerri Miller on Twitter -- @kerrimpr

let the fiddle serenade you, find a shady place to lay

This is what I saw yesterday when I took off on a 12-mile run in the morning.

I'd been arguing with myself about bringing along a cell phone, just because I wanted to take pictures. But I don't like having anything with me when I run.

Nobody ever comes this way.

So it would be a very inconvenient place to die. Well, it would probably be less convenient to break your leg or get snakebit.

Anyway, starting out... I live on the opposite side of a smallish lake from this point. This is about 2 miles in:

Here's a shot from mile 3 that shows the entire little community:

At mile 4, it starts to get pretty steep:

This is almost, but not quite, at the top of the highest neighboring peak:

View from the top, looking south:

View from the top, looking north into the vast stretches of nothingness in California. I think the elevation here would be something over 4000 feet.

It has been a strange year with the weather. Although we do get a good bit of snow in winter, it still hasn't hit the normal summer temperatures that usually peak in the 90s. As a result, the normal bloom of spring wildflowers (which should be long dead by now) has been really confused.

By the way... those last two things, whatever they are, smell really good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

rattlesnakes and signs

Two days to go.

I hope you all find the opportunity to listen.

Last night, distracted as usual, I was lying awake, thinking about what I am going to say. Because I think I'm going to say something that may be shocking to some people.

I'm not going to cuss, though.

Well, unless they ask me to.

Then I'd feel obligated.

One of the benefits of my recent bout of distraction and agitation is that I've been running more. I run every day, anyway, but lately I've been popping off on 12-milers and stuff. I've been intending to bring my cell phone with me (which probably wouldn't be a bad idea anyway, considering how easily I could die and never be found up here) so I might take some pictures of the things I see on my runs.

It's pretty amazing stuff.

Yesterday, there was an enormous black rattlesnake just sitting there, throbbing, looking at me from the middle of the trail (The path at that point was pretty narrow -- maybe about 2 feet wide -- so there was no way we were both going to "share the road," since the snake was, I'm guessing, about 3-feet long or so).

Anyway, what do you do when you run right in to a big rattlesnake? I complimented him on his good looks (because he was really cool-looking) and then said, "I'm just going to go past you." And I let him have the trail and I took a relatively narrow detour along the edge of the trail and then kept on my way.

So, anyway, last night I was thinking about this thing -- about how much I am cursed by the Ugly God of YA -- because it was one of those rattlesnake/monsters/saving yourself kinds of days.

In my first novel, Ghost Medicine, the narrator pretty much believes that everything he sees and experiences is some kind of sign that connects him to much bigger things. You should read that book. It's actually pretty good.

So, about that rattlesnake yesterday (and, by the way, I am not making this up): I thought about turning around, which I certainly could have done; and I even thought about killing him, too, which, let's just say wouldn't have been the first time I've killed a rattlesnake. But I just stepped around the thing.

Um... and he could have bitten me if he wanted to.

My naked ankle was definitely in range.

But he didn't.

Friday, June 17, 2011

what the wild dog sees when it wakes boys up

The post is a bit later than usual today because I had to wait for the relevant information to come in about Monday's live-streamed radio show from Minnesota Public Radio.

Trust me, I was not sleeping in.

I am happy -- and kind of anxious -- to be part of MPR's continuing coverage of the Wall Street Journal column by Meghan Cox Gurdon that criticized and assailed Young Adult literature in general -- and me and my recent novel, The Marbury Lens, in particular.

So... here are all the details about Monday's (June 20) program:

The program will air live between 10 - 11 a.m. in Minnesota [Come on... you can figure it out -- 8 - 9 in California, and 11 - 12 in New York].

The hyperlink to Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning Show is listed below.

The current link will play today's (Friday, June 17) show, but it will be the correct link for Monday, June 20.

Listeners outside the state of Minnesota will be able to hear the program streamed live on the link.

There will also be a comment box on the link, so people listening in can make comments during real time.

Listeners can also Tweet the host, Kerri Miller (her Twitter link is listed below), and may also chime in on Facebook (linked below, as well).

Of course, this is a phone-in show, so listeners are also able to call in to speak with Kerri and me.

The program will run clips of Megan Cox Gurdon's interview on MPR, and the other guest will be Karen MacPherson, YA librarian at Takoma Park Library in Maryland, and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.


Am I ready to do this? Like I said, I think I'm going to have to say some things I have never admitted to about my book in the past.

  • Kerri Miller on Twitter -- @kerrimpr

Thursday, June 16, 2011

radio radio

So... when I find out the information on the Minnesota Public Radio gig, I'll post them online.

I neglected to mention that this is a call-in show, where the station will allow (and screen) callers who raise relevant points and ask valid questions. All very interesting to me, because I'll be sitting in a studio in Los Angeles, participating in a show from Minnesota, that takes callers from... anywhere.

You should call in.


Last night, when I was lying in my usual place where I stare up at the swirling nothingness between me and the ceiling, I decided this might possibly be the right time for me to say two or three very... um... rattling truths about The Marbury Lens that I have NEVER said publicly.

Just because people like Meghan Cox Gurdon and The Los Angeles (you don't really expect me to READ that, do you -- I'm late for my whitening session and pilates) Review of [SKIMMED] Books might benefit, in some way, from hearing it.


Eh... who am I kidding?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

let the loudest argument

Yesterday was the first hot day of the year up here where I live.

Yesterday, coincidentally, I also heard a scientific detractor of anthropogenically induced climate change refer to it as "climate evolution."

"Evolution" is a nice word. It makes me think of giant tortoises. Who can possibly be upset when they think of giant tortoises?

So, anyway, on "hot" days we sleep -- or don't sleep in my case -- with our windows open.

Yeah... I'm still really bothered about stuff, so I'm not really sleeping. The Ugly God of YA is doing a real number on me.

The Ugly God of YA gets loudest, I've come to realize, every day between the hours of about 3 and 5 p.m. which is usually around the time when I swear my daily pledge to quit.

I really think I'm going to quit.

I have thousands of pages of novels here -- can you imagine that? Thousands of pages? Thousands... -- that nobody has ever seen. Sometimes, like Stark McClellan, the narrator of Stick, I have fantasies of burning down my house.

Where was I? Oh... last night, the window was open and I was lying there. It was about 2 a.m. And I was listening to the outside.

You know what you hear where I live during the middle of the night?

Absolutely nothing.

Well, there are crickets. Frogs. And frequently I can hear owls or coyotes, the horses stamping around in their enclosure down below. But that's it. No cars drive by. Ever. No sirens. No machines.

It's why I moved up here 14 years ago when my daughter was born.

So yesterday, while the climate was evolving, I had a nice long conversation with a guy named Chris Dall, who runs a radio program for Minnesota Public Radio.

Last week, they interviewed Meghan Cox Gurdon about her opinion piece bashing me and my book, The Marbury Lens, in The Wall Street Journal, and MPR wanted to see if I'd be willing to do an interview/talk show with them about it this Monday.

So I told them yes, but I also said that I didn't think I was going to say what most people would expect to hear. I mean, I do have a bit of a score to settle -- but it's between me and The Ugly God of YA , not between me and Meghan Cox Gurdon.

So Chris and I talked for a good long time. He wanted to get a sense of where the show would go, and, probably, if I have an annoying voice (which I think sounds garbled and mumbley).

I mean, it's like I said before, in this day of instant status updates and twitter feeds and so on, it's usually the loudest baby bird that ends up being fed and having their self-esteem all self-esteemyized, even if they elevate their outrageously confident arguments on the fragile scaffolds of their own anecdotal and narrow experiences.

As long as you're loudest, you triumph.

And the climate continues to evolve.

Yesterday, feeling particularly self-destructive and climate-evolvey, I went on a 12-mile run.

I'm leaving on another one now.

I'll post links and stuff for the MPR show when I find out more details.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

disturbing comics: postpartum

(click image to enlarge)

Monday, June 13, 2011

more qs than as

Why do I feel like I'm stuck in the Sargasso Sea whenever I finish something?

By the way, I just want to point out to the more concrete thinkers out there that I was being bitter and facetious when I said I would be watching every Saw movie ever made instead of going to ALA.

Although I won't be going to ALA (which makes me bitter), people who know me will offer testimony to the fact that I rarely watch movies.

Whenever I talk about how infrequently I watch movies, it seems, people who watch a LOT of movies tend to get... well... a little tense. Like I'm bashing their religion or something. I "start" watching movies from time to time... but it's a rare movie that can keep me watching until the ending credits.

So, let me apologize for my shortcomings as a member of the audience of cinema. I suck at it.

I also never watch television.



Want to hear a multi-state gasp?

I know, this is going to make an awful lot of people think I'm an awful person...

I don't even know who -- or what -- Doctor Who is.

Don't tell me.

I'm saving that up for the next ALA I don't get to go to.



In the last month, I've (ugh... here goes GREAT BIG GIANT ME again)... well... not ME... it's really because of the monsters that come out of (me)... but, my book, The Marbury Lens was the cover of Booklist... then there was that "thing" that came up in that "Journal" about me... oh, and let's not forget the Institute of Skimmed Books review... and, more recently, a very nice, swanky-photo feature interview with GREAT BIG GIANT ME in VOYA magazine, written by Matthew Weaver.

By the way, in the same issue, there is a photograph of Chris Crutcher's great big giant mustache.

I wonder why, in writing that last line, I suddenly remembered I had a most unsettling dream last night where alligators and lions were trying to eat me... they were all below me and I was standing on top of a picnic table.

I know I'm afraid of mustaches... and so I guess my brain just went to its "scary" place.

I never read articles about me. I always tell writers that.

I skim them.

Hey... I just realized that qualifies me for something.

But I don't know what.

Actually, I did read Matthew Weaver's piece about GREAT BIG GIANT ME. I really liked it.

Thank you, Matthew.

Also, the photograph in the article was taken by a very talented photographer (and writer), whose name I'm not going to mention because I don't know if she wants to be associated with someone who never watches movies (I understand she knows how to use Netflix -- whatever that is).

Anyway, I like the photograph.

She told me -- these are her words -- she was trying to go for the "non-douchebaggy" author photo look.

Just in case you ever wondered what that was, exactly.

So... regarding this whole disappointing ALA thing (but my books WILL be there)... no, I am not going.

Coincidentally, the entire rest of my family will be taking off on a vacation for a week during that time, bringing my son up to Berkeley for his freshman orientation, or whatever.

I will be home.


Pouting and not watching movies.

Playing the role of the ancient mariner.

You can read an electronic version of VOYA (Flash required) here. My interview is on pages 136 - 137.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ain't got nothin' but a gun

So, last week I listed some of the questions I was asked by students of the Creative Writing class I visited at Newbury Park High School.

I'm going to continue posting answers to them, but they sent me one they wanted to know about in an email.

Here's what they asked: The kids wanted to know that if they have a first novel, what path would I advise? They wanted to know if I thought it was best to get an agent and go the traditional route, or to possibly consider "Indie" publishing.

The reason they asked was that, as is often the case, we did talk about the business aspect of writing -- my agent, editor, and publishing houses. And we also talked about how things are changing at the moment, and what these changes may mean for writers who haven't yet started out.

So, I did write them back a lengthy response, qualifying it as I usually do with the caveat that my opinion doesn't matter and my experience is limited only to what has happened to me, so anyone else they ask the same questions to will likely give them an entirely different response.

Which, I think, is a fair way to deal with kids -- or anyone -- who are excited about trying their hands at writing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011



It is now exactly four months until Stick comes out: October 11, 2011. So, every month on the eleventh, I post some things about the book... a kind of countdown that started last month, on May 11, when I wrote about five random facts about the novel.

I continue with with four random facts today, three on July 11, and so on...

So, in honor of the negative-four-months birthday for Stick, here are four things about the book:

1. ALA -- There will be Advance Copies (ARCs) of Stick given out at the ALA Annual coming up later this month in New Orleans. I, however, will not be there. I will be home watching a complete box set of every Saw movie ever made (squee!). As soon as I find out, I will post booth info so you can go there and get your ARC and taunt whoever is there for not coming over to my house and watching Saw with me. If you don't go to ALA, you're invited over to my pad.

2. Where in the ghetto does Stick belong? MG, YA, or Adult? Light meat or Dark meat?

I don't know.

The ghetto masters have some pretty rigid rubrics for deciding where to cloister their books, which makes me pretty loathsome to a lot of people. The main character in Stick is in 8th grade. He has a very 8th-grade voice. In fact, developmentally, he's a little "behind" his peers in the way he processes and looks at things.

On the surface, that kind of makes this book MG (Middle Grade, if you were wondering).

On the other hand, the story arc involves how his very close relationship with his eleventh-grade brother propels the boys through a wonderful and horrifying, transformational journey. So, there's some language, sexual content, and a few of the other elements of rebellion and maturation that boys normally and routinely deal with in their teens.

Which kind of puts the book in the YA ghetto [And Drew is being strangely drawn recently to run another series of posts about how much he hates YA].

But I want grownups -- especially the ones who are so out of touch with their kids that they couldn't find a book in a bookstore for them, which, to me, is like not finding "food" in a grocery store, which equals you don't really care if your kid starves -- to read the book.

Light or Dark? Well, I'm pretty sure the handful of people who've read the book so far will generally agree: There are times in Stick when you will laugh (at least, I still do... but, then again, I'm kind of a wuss), and there are definitely times that you will probably want to cry (eh... yeah... like I said... I am a crybaby).

3. The missing chapter -- Okay. I'm going to be a little vague here. Like all my books, Stick contains some really personal experiences. So it was a little hard for me to just let go of the story and let the book end. I wanted to explain more about how things worked out for Stark (the protagonist), so I wrote an additional chapter at the end where he's a college student and he tells about things from an adult perspective.

I struggled for a long time over adding that chapter. Initially, I thought if I did, then the book would have to be considered more in the Adult-ghetto designation.

In the end, though, I decided that it was better to leave it alone and NOT hit the readers over the head with all these concrete details -- like I said yesterday, let them figure things out and fill in the spaces on their own.

And, no, I won't ever show anyone that missing chapter. If you read the book, you will know what it would say, anyway.

4. The cover blurb -- Okay. On the cover of the book is a blurb from the acclaimed author, Sara Zarr. It says [Drew is embarrasssed] "Andrew Smith is one of the most courageous and compelling authors I've read. Stick moved me deeply."

Well, quite obviously, that is an incredibly flattering statement. Sara is also really helpful and probably one of the most level-headed, concerned people I know. So I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for that compliment.

I am also grateful because Sara has a book coming out this fall, too... and thankfully it's not coming out on the same day as Stick. Sara's novel, How to Save a Life is coming out the following week, October 18. I've seen the cover... it's beautiful.

So, that means you have one week to read Stick before Sara's book comes out. For some reason, most people who pick up Stick read it straight through, in one sitting (and it's not particularly "short," coming in at 75,000 words).

And, in case you have not yet seen it, here is the book trailer:

Friday, June 10, 2011

more from the YA ghetto

So, ironically enough, the next question from the kids I was going to post an answer to was the one where I was asked When you're writing, do you ever stop yourself from saying something because you're afraid of offending people?

I know.

Pretty funny in retrospect, isn't it?

But I was being sincere on yesterday's post, which I'm certain offended some people, that I do wait... write things out... and frequently delete them without ever letting people see them.

Especially if I -- in a calmer and more patient mood -- re-read them and find their effect to be less message-oriented and more... um... shocking.

So, and this is absolutely true, when I have a scene that I'm writing that gets a little pushy -- scenes of violence or, especially, sex scenes -- I usually draft them out in incredibly detailed and graphic form and then, during rewrites, go back and cut out lines and words to strip them down.

So, yeah, you probably know by now that all my books have sex and violence in them. And, it's kind of funny, too, because not one time in my career have I ever been asked to tone down language, violence, or sex.

Not once...

Believe it or not, I "toned it down" before I submitted my final drafts.

And I'll be totally honest here -- when I sent in my original submissions of The Marbury Lens and Stick, and even In the Path of Falling Objects I was MORTIFIED that I accidentally sent in the *wrong* versions that had completely unexpurgated... um... stuff in them.

So, yes, in my completely obsessive manner, I did check, double-check, and again... endlessly to be certain I wasn't sending in the "director's cut" [ooooh... Drew gets in touch with his L.A. self] of those novels.

If you've (actually) read those books, you can probably fill in the blanks of some of the scenes I'm talking about.

And that's what books should do anyway, right?

Make the reader use his mind and work a little bit.

But, in response to the second part of the question, regarding offending people:

There are all kinds of ways that people experience the feeling of being offended. Some of them, you just can't control -- because we are social beings, which means that as a crowded and interactive "hive," we're going to bump into one another and ruffle our neighbor's sensibilities from time to time.

So I don't stop myself, but I do WAIT and try to be reasonably sure that what I'm saying is really what I intend to say.

The YA case in the bookstore is so ghettoized.

There really should be barbed wire and moats around it and stuff -- not to keep people out, but to keep all these weird and totally unrelated books INSIDE.

It's when some of them escape out into the real world that certain people get offended and shocked and outraged.

I think it's because they expect the YA ghetto to also be a homotopia -- which is a word that may either offend people, or start a new "trend" in YA fiction next year.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

*raises his hand


It's been a bad week.

But now that everyone has taken their turn, maybe the guy who was first in the crosshairs can say a few things.

Um... you might not be happy.

Just sayin'.

First off, I want to say what's always been mesmerizing and ironic to me about blogging is how the whole idea of a blog is to make everything, in as many contexts as possible, about the GREAT BIG GIANT ME.

Which is why I use that term on my blog.

I don't make fun of anyone in particular -- I make fun of myself. And whenever I cuss, it's always -- only -- at me (um... except for today). It's the whole concept of Jack, our storyteller from The Marbury Lens: He sees the universe as aiming all its arrows directly at him... and, every so often when he comes face-to-face with this never-ending catch, he repeats those three words that drip with self-hatred.

Fuck you, Jack.

So... Fuck you, Drew.

Can we talk?

I need to get a couple things off my chest, but I've been waiting for all the noisy people to give me a turn.

Sorry if that hurts your feelings. I've been a little angry and depressed, and, as of writing this (Thursday afternoon), I haven't gotten any sleep in, like, five days.

Well, nights, really.

I know... I'm a total wuss.

1. To the Wall Street Journal: I have no beef with you. To be totally honest, I understand what Meghan Cox Gurdon was trying to say. I understand, but I don't agree with her.

My take (oops... GREAT BIG GIANT ME rears its GREAT BIG GIANT ugly head) on her article was that it stands as a much more scathing indictment against the disconnect between her generation (I'm taking it as the generation of that addled woman who could not find a book in a bookstore) and today's teens, than even a moderately effective case implying wrongdoing committed by writers or the writing community.

Believe me... my ego is like a sieve.

Almost everything anyone could ever say about me hurts my feelings. And, yeah... Meghan Cox Gurdon hurt my feelings. Oh... and she's kind of wrong, too -- which is something else I'd really like to talk about -- The Marbury Lens has a happy ending.

Please, let's talk.

I'm serious.

I would LOVE to have a civilized and academic discussion with Meghan Cox Gurdon. I really wish her boss would arrange that. I understand he's long on cash.

I'd really like to have a debate with her.

And apologize, too.

Too many people who felt so outraged by her comments published some really offensive statements about her and the Wall Street Journal.

She didn't deserve the name-calling and abuse.

In fact, there was so much of it going on that I didn't even really have a chance to say anything about the real issues involved here, because lots of stuff got sidetracked by all these GREAT BIG GIANT MEs out there who were so outraged and pompous and full of themselves -- especially the ones who raised questions like, Gee, why didn't she pick on GREAT BIG GIANT ME, after all, doesn't she know how "Edgy" and "Controversial" I am... oh... and by the way, I can prove it because I wrote (fill in the title of the book you feel was wrongly overlooked here).

Yeah... full of themselves.

I told you you weren't going to like what target #1 had to say.

But hang in there.

It gets worse.

2. What is this idea that we're superheroes?

I can't save anyone.

Don't put that shit on me.

I can't even save myself. I've been trying to -- it's why I write -- but I can't get this shit out of me and feel healed.

If somewhere along the line, something I write makes a connection, fills in something for somebody, that's a beautiful thing. But who honestly thinks ahead of starting a draft on something that they're setting out to "Save" someone?

I'm a colossal failure at that.

I don't even care about YA at all.

I just write books.

And I haven't saved myself yet.

Yeah... So fuck you, Drew.


Now I'm going to get ugly, but there's no way around this one...

3. To the Los Angeles Review of Books

I was asked right away by LARB to write an essay in response on account of me being -- I think their words included "bloodied" by the Wall Street Journal. I thought about it for a while. They asked again. Then I said yes.

But, like so many GREAT BIG GIANT MEs out there, they had to write their opinion piece and get involved in the great Wall Street Journal pissing match too. After all, it was trending.



Everyone is so outraged by this lady's arguably weak editorial.

But I was alerted to the LARB piece by friends bearing emails:

Dude... Drew... did you see the LARB response to the WSJ? Dude... with friends like that, who needs enemies?

So, I looked at the article.

Here's a quote:

"I’ll freely admit that Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens (which Gurdon talks about in her article) scared me and I could only skim it. I told Andrew, who is an acquaintance, to his face that I couldn’t get through his book. I also told my friend Kevin Greutert, who directed Saw VI, that I could never see his movie."



(So L.A. to drop a director's name in... never mind...) 

[Drew really wishes he knew a director so he could use his name here. Fuck, Drew... you are such a fucking loser. And a crybaby, too.]

This is a book review pub?


Where to start?

How about here: LARB, go fuck yourselves.

If I ever wanted to hear bullshit about me or my book from someone who claims to be a reviewer and admittedly had never read it... who then goes on to compare it to a "Saw" movie, which the "reviewer" also has never seen, I'd slam heroin and reactivate my Goodreads account.

Are you kidding me?

At least Meghan Cox Gurdon read my book before writing something about it.

The LARB piece went on to "highly recommend" The Marbury Lens.


Because it was cool to throw your name into the pissing match with the Wall Street Journal?

Shame on you.

Keep in mind that the GREAT BIG GIANT ME -- the guy who was first in the shooting gallery -- outside of a couple obtuse cartoons, hasn't said ANYTHING about Meghan Cox Gurdon or the Wall Street Journal until now.

There was too much noise.

I needed to think about things (and admittedly pout -- sorry, I'm an enormous PUSS) for a long time.

I'm still very depressed, but at least it's quiet enough that I can raise my hand and ask to say a couple things.

And that's really the problem, isn't it?

The noise.

It's unfortunate that in this day of instant like/dislike, Twitter, whatever the blast of the moment is, people don't wait and cool off... take a few minutes -- or better yet, days -- and think about things before racing to post something that makes them look... well.. like Anthony Weiner's dick.


That is all.

Can we get on to something else now?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

hollow candy children

Don't forget to wipe your face.

You'll be hungry again in no time.

Self-absorption is a cunning diet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

an open letter to lauren myracle, jackie morse kessler, and cheryl rainfield

We need to plan.

Look, if we're going to be all evil and shit, we need a couple things, so let me shoot some ideas out there.

Can one of you guys get a minion to jot this down on the whiteboard, please?




I figure we're gonna need outfits. Klingons have 'em, don't they? Except -- and I know this is gonna sound crazy, but bear with me -- can I just say... ewww! way too brooding, klunky, and dark. Even the original, retro Klingon outfit... Burlap??? Are you fucking kidding me???

What do you think about jumpsuits?

Tapered, of course.

I don't want to look like Chubby and the Chubettes.

After all, we are evil.

Not fat.


Jumpsuits and -- duh! -- we'll need secret headquarters.

I could live with underground, but we'll have to do something about the humidity.

And nobody will know about our headquarters because it will be located in some upscale, urbane community and will only be marked by our...

secret logo.

We need someone on this logo thing, pronto.

It needs to be simple, yet bold. I'm thinking maybe black, thick lines (which would look really delicious on our jumpsuits) that, when you see it, it will shout out, like, I don't know, all the things we stand for, like mutilation, f-bombs, and penises and shit.

You know, all the shit in our credo.

Which we do have, right?

Because we're evil.

Who's turn was it to bring the snacks?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

question of character

So, yesterday I posted some of the questions the kids at Newbury Park High School asked me.

I didn't think I'd actually be expected to answer them.

But I'll try -- and I'll try to put the answers here that closely match the ones I gave the kids (with fewer ums and uhs).

I realize I say "Um" and "Uh" a lot when I talk.

It kind of bothers me.

Anyway, the first question was about how to make characters seem deeper, more genuine. The boy who asked said something about how he struggled with making the characters in his writing multidimensional and believable.


Well, first off, I think the boy asking the question was stating a conditional reality of youth and developing oneself as a writer. Since characters are going to ultimately reflect the depth of experience of the writer behind them -- and given that kids don't often have a wide range of experience interacting with a lot of different kinds of people (a condition made worse in light of the technological isolation most middle class families and their kids impose on themselves) -- character development is bound to be a difficult and bumpy process.

Not always, though.

I really like my characters.

Even the bad ones.

Even the horrible ones.

I try to make the "bad guys" do something, or have a fleeting display of some submerged personal quality, that I find admirable or attractive. At the very least, I try to create situations where I feel sorry for the bad guys. I definitely feel sorry for what happens to Freddie in Conner's truck in The Marbury Lens, and I have similar "moments" with my bad guys in my other novels, too.

At the same time, I always try to make my "good guys" do bad things, or even make choices that piss me off and would sometimes threaten my attachment to them.

The boy went on to ask if I entirely made up my characters, or if they were based on people that I know, or on me.

And, in all cases, I said, my characters are ALL parts of people that I've actually known -- shallow, complex, good, bad, selfish, and selfless -- and every one of them has something to do with me, too.

I know there are plenty of writers out there who just entirely make things up when it comes to character development, but... um... I'm not one of them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

don't try this at home, kids

So, yesterday I got to sit in on a roundtable discussion in a high school Creative Writing class.

Those kids ask some really hard questions.

And I don't think that writers are necessarily being evasive or disingenuous when we say "I don't know" to some of them.

Because I really don't know how some things happen in writing. If you're doing it right, sometimes things just write themselves. So, I don't know.

The schedule at Newbury Park High is a block, so the classes run about an hour-and-a-half, I guess, which gave us a lot of time for discussion. I got to read, too, and the kids and teacher pretty much insisted I read at least one passage with f-bombs in it (I think I heard a kid gasp, though).

It was a great day, as always.

Here are a few of the questions I particularly liked (paraphrased), even if I had a hard time answering them.

1. How do you make your characters seem so genuine?

2. When you're writing something, do you ever stop yourself from saying something because you're afraid of offending people?

3. I'm interested in going into journalism in college, but I'm afraid that it's a dying profession. What do you think I should do?

4. When you write parts of a story and they're really depressing or filled with anger, how do you keep those negative feelings from affecting your personal life?

So... yeah... like I said, they ask some tough questions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

school visit (and contest) day

Today, I am heading out to Ventura County to visit with the young writers at Newbury Park High School, which is one of the coolest schools around.

It's also the school which has hosted more author visits from me than any other school.

I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully there will be plenty to write about tomorrow -- and not any inspiration for the next installment of disturbing comics.

One important announcement, though -- the nice people at Macmillan and School Library Journal are hosting a giveaway of 10 Advance Copies of Stick, which, as you know, are nearly impossible to get.

You have until June 6...

To enter the contest, all you need to do is follow the instructions on this linked page.

UPDATE: Apparently, the hyperlink for the email address connects to Tim Jones at Macmillan.

Not good.

Tim used to be the publicity person at Macmillan, but quit his job last year to become an English teacher in New York. What a hero, and a terrific, brilliant guy.

So... don't send Tim an email. He won't get mad -- he's definitely not like that -- but you won't win an ARC, either.

Just copy the address given and email THAT address. Hopefully, that will work.

If anything, Tim deserves an ARC for being a teacher.

See? I told you getting one of these ARCs was next-to impossible.

Good morning, Tim Jones.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

disturbing comics: the funeral

(click image to enlarge)