Saturday, June 30, 2012

last of the month

I didn't post here yesterday, but Friday's Instagram topic was Soft.

So I took this picture of one of our horses. Horse lips. They are very soft.

Today's topic on Instagram was Friend. So I posted this picture of my friend Amy, author A.S. King, who is a terrific person, a top-notch ninja of kindness, and a freaking amazing writer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

on the shelf

I am going to come back to that topic of The Why Chromosome and how it relates to a bigger concept of language and our interpretations of reality very soon.

But now I am getting back into post-ALA work mode. Long conference days with lots of meetings, appearances, and obligations have an effect on work like iron shavings in a gearbox.

Yesterday, I was happy to accept audiobook offers on my three most-recent works: Stick, Passenger, and Winger.

This should be very interesting. Stick is about a kid who hears things differently, so the words are spaced out and sometimes crammed against one another. I never thought about making an audio version of the book and how that would translate.

Winger (May, 2013) has cartoons, charts, play scripts, notes on index cards, graphs, and other drawings right in the middle of the text. That should prove interesting in an audio translation as well.

I am very happy to see Passenger (October 2, 2012) coming to audio because the company producing the work is the same one that produced The Marbury Lens, which was named one of the Top Ten Audiobooks for 2011. So I am really hoping we get to use the same actor, Mark Boyett, who did such an amazing job handling a very difficult narration.

And although I didn't post on my blog yesterday, I did take a picture for Instagram. Yesterday's topic was Bathroom.


So, a couple months ago I was in a public men's room, and I saw that somebody had left a small cup of urine on top of one of the urinals.

Who the hell does shit like that?

Also, it's kind of creepy taking a picture inside a public urinal. I mean, what if somebody walked in, and, I'm, like, Oh, don't mind me, I'm just taking a picture of a small cup of piss someone left on top of this urinal...

Anyway, this is the picture:

Today's topic on Instagram was On The Shelf.

I have lots of shelves in my house, and lots of things on them. Here are a few things on my shelf:

This is a Chacmool (which was used by the Mayans for human sacrifices), Ganesha, a horse, Buddha, and a small elephant carved from a Tiger's Eye stone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

again - the why chromosome

So, Let me put this a little in context.

Last Friday, a group of us guy authors spoke at ALA about guys and writing and guys and reading.

It was fun.

Here's one thing that struck me: Jon Scieszka showed a graph that was about ten years old or so that illustrated the achievement gap in reading at various grade levels between boys and girls. I do not have the graph, but in my artist's memory, I can recreate the essence to look something like this:

Graphs are fine, and data can tell you pretty much whatever you set out to prove, but what I've always been interested in (and this is the essence of the clever titles of these posts) is WHY.

Why does this happen?

Modern research (since 2010) into neuro/physiological development of the brain in girls and boys shows that although girls' brains develop language processing abilities a little sooner than boys, by grade six there is no longer any difference.

What happens, then, is more message driven, sociological, and cultural.

So I asked if people in the audience remembered this:

The infamous talking Barbie doll.

The message we were giving girls, expressed in all forms and manners but highlighted by Mattel's postmodern icon was that girls were SUPPOSED to be good at certain things (like having freakish physical dimensions) and SUPPOSED to be terrible at others (like academics, sports, and so on).

Once we got rid of those prevailing assumptions, girls began to catch up in a broad range of fields in which they had been lagging behind.

Now, since the 1990s, for whatever reasons, we've been TELLING boys that they can't read and that they shouldn't enjoy reading or writing because they suck at it.

One academic study from 2011 suggests a commercial motive behind this more than 20-year-old campaign.

We tell boys this:

First off, as I pointed out on Friday, let me say this: Whereas Barbie made an awful lot of girls feel that there was something WRONG with them, every boy who EVER played with a Ken doll KNEW there was something dreadfully, miserably wrong with Ken.

Poor, poor Ken!

The bottom line is this: It's a buy-in. Every time people present studies showing a gender gap in reading achievement, the erroneous assumption is that the gap exists due to some innate flaw among boys as a homogeneous population, as opposed to a cultural campaign to convince boys that reading is not masculine, and something to be avoided.

This is the inescapable truth: that we can't make an assumption about literacy and language based on entire populations of gender because in the communities and cultures and schools where reading is fundamentally valued, ALL kids read.

Where reading is NOT valued, fewer kids read -- more of them girls than boys because boys have more accessible outlets for their diversions.


I'll continue this, as I always do, later.

Today's Instagram topic was Where I Shop.


I do most of it right here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

grasshopper jungle

Let me tell you: I was so wiped out when I came home last night.

The very last thing I had to do at ALA yesterday was to meet the people at Penguin and my editor there, Julie Strauss-Gabel.

First off, the Penguin people. That sounds funny, doesn't it?

Well, they were all incredibly receptive and enthusiastic about my book, Grasshopper Jungle. Apparently, Julie Strauss-Gabel does not share things around the house until the book is completely finished.

I really like that.

But, the people at Penguin told me they'd never heard Julie say the kinds of things she'd said about Grasshopper Jungle about any book before. Actually, her first words about the book were these:

"Holy shit."

And she also used the phrase, "ridiculously good."

So, naturally, all the Penguin people kind of surrounded me and, in chorus, said:

Tell us what this book is about.

I looked at Julie. I looked at Michael, my agent.

That is the hardest question in the world to answer.

There is a line in the book that says this:

All good books are about everything, abbreviated.

So, with that, Grasshopper Jungle is about genetically modified corn, paleolithic cave paintings, praying mantises the size of grizzly bears, medieval Catholic saints, the Great Depression, war, sex, pizza, cigarettes, American society, Polish immigration, sexual confusion, book banning, love, volcanoes, Iowa, serial murderers, inflatable whales, crystal meth, the Rolling Stones, gay bars, Daniel Boone, lemurs, Gunsmoke, bowling, prescription drugs, and three friends who are the only people in the universe who know it is the end of the world -- and it all started because of a stupid act of bullying in an alleyway called Grasshopper Jungle, behind a dilapidated strip mall in a little recession-emptied Midwestern town.

That's what it's about.

And it's funny. My agent, Michael Bourret, said he felt guilty laughing about the things the book makes you laugh about.

Don't feel guilty.


It's the end of the fucking world.

Grasshopper Jungle will be my seventh published book, and I have honestly never been so excited about getting a book out. Every book that gets published is a thrill, but this one that so flagrantly defies pigeonholing, is really something else altogether.

So I spent some time talking to Julie about the book and how we were going to work on it. Of course, I was a little nervous. I had met Julie several years ago, but it was purely a fanboy moment of starstruck awe on my part.

Now I get to work with her, and that is an amazing, amazing thing.

Today's Instagram topic was Something Cute.


I do not classify things in that way.

I usually avoid the following words: Cute, Adorable, and, especially the loathsome Squee!

But, I have to do my job. So I took the picture below. It is very cute.

Grasshopper Jungle will drop on your brains in October of 2013.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

on my mind

So yesterday my Bloggers' Party experience nearly turned into a Donner Party experience.

I got trapped in an elevator between floors.

It was like something from my wife's worst, most unimaginable nightmares. The elevator dropped a few feet, there was a THUNK!, and then the thing just sat there, dead.

But I was not alone.

Charles was with me.

I did not know Charles before our time together in the elevator, but I feel like we are soulmates now. Charles is claustrophobic.

It was not a good thing.

Charles, come back, I need you.

Today's Instagram topic was On My Mind. There are lots of things on my mid today: I get to go home, we are having an eighteenth birthday party for my son, and this afternoon I am going to be meeting with my agent, Michael Bourret, and my Dutton/Penguin publisher-editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, about my forthcoming book Grasshopper Jungle.

Which is about this:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

whose shoes is who

So, here I am at ALA, making a ridiculously late post on my blog.

Last night, I was very fortunate to participate in a panel discussion with the funniest, coolest guys who write these days: Daniels Kraus, Jon Scieszka, Michael Grant, and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket).

And I took pictures.

Here are the five of us, shown from an alternate perspective.

Can you guess whose shoes is who?

Okay. The winner gets a prize.

Today's Instagram topic was Motion. I took the photo below during our discussion, as Jon Scieszka drinks some water, Daniel Kraus folds his arms, and Michael Grant holds the microphone seductively during his speech.

Endless thrills of ALA!

It was a fun night, and I was sitting with Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), who is a very funny man.

Friday, June 22, 2012

the high and the lucky

Well, I am leaving right now for ALA.

I sure hope I find it!

Looks like there will be lots of people playing ALA BINGO, which pleases me. I am most looking forward to speaking at Booklist's Youth Forum this evening. I have actually prepared a speech, as opposed to just "winging it," which is what I usually do.

This is not to say that I will stick to my plan by any means.

It's been a long time since I've seen Jean Feiwel and Liz Szabla [chime!], both of whom I am supposed to be going to dinner with this evening, so I am very excited about that, too.

And, as I have promised [ugh!] I am going to take pictures this weekend, even though I feel really awkward when I take pictures. But I will do it. I promised Kelly I would.

Today's Instagram topic was From a High Angle. I stood up over my bathtub and took the picture below. This monster has been living in my bathtub for the past week. He is now officially big enough to comply with my request to pass the soap.

I am naming him Lucky.

This guarantees he will be dead by the time I return home.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

a real sleeper

Tomorrow begins the crazy weekend/weekstart.

I am happy that Michael Grant posted the following comment related to our speaking engagement at the Booklist Youth Forum tomorrow night:

I'm just going to give a boring speech. I'm leaving the Deep Thinking to you, Andrew. Plus Jake has been hijacked by the high school journalism prof into coding the school paper's website this month thus depriving me of his presentation skills which leaves me helpless.

They're not charging people for this, are they?

I am happy Michael will be giving a boring speech and leaving the "Deep Thinking" to me. But I will give you a teaser: My "speech" uses the word "balls."


That leaves two more: Jon Scieszka and Daniel Handler, one of whom I can almost guarantee will be juggling shit that's on fire.

So, Michael, that leaves two of us as colossal downers: You and Me.

Let's get drunk first!

Just kidding.


Daniel Kraus, who is moderating the event, is impeccably organized. He told me the exact room location and the exact speaking order of the evening.


I never pay attention to shit like that.

I don't even know where ALA is.

If I were in, like, seventh grade, they would probably give me pills to make me pay attention to shit like that.

In any event, ALA is a very long stretch of days. There can be lags in the dizzying excitement which must either be taken up by the consumption of alcohol, or maybe by playing thrilling games.

I have prepared a game for your ALA down-times. It is called "ALA Bingo."

It's easy and fun, fun, fun!

Here's how you do it: Simply print out the game card below and cross off the things you see as you wander through the convention.

No cheating!

When you get a BINGO -- either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, find me at ALA, bring me the card, and you will win a fabulous prize!

I only have one prize to give, so don't be a whiny bitch if some teen blogger from Indiana wins by Saturday morning.

Here is the game card:

Speaking of snoozers, today's Instagram topic was Where I Slept. Duh. You really want to see how I never make my bed?


Now, don't forget: Print out your ALA BINGO game card, and I'll see you on the playing field.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

playing favorites

My schedule for ALA has at last been finalized.

It is going to be a long and busy stretch of days.

I must prepare. And, with that, today's Instagram topic was Fave Photo I've Taken.

People who know me are aware that I don't honestly have a favorite anything. So I posted three photos I took (uncropped and unfiltered) that I happen to like quite a lot.

Here they are:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

imperfection rears its uglies

I remember this happening about four years ago: as it gets closer to election day, people begin using Facebook as though they actually have the capacity to influence political activity.

It's like the guy near my home who still has a Ron Paul sign in his yard.

Ron Paul what?

Ron Paul is the Lana Del Rey of 2012 politics.

I probably just pissed off a group of people who have never been simultaneously outraged in history: Ron Paul fans and Lana Del Rey fans.

My work here is done, and it's been pretty fucking easy.

So, from time to time, I am going to take shots of political pyramid schemes that try to build MOVEMENTS on the backs of angry, misinformed white people via Facebook and post them here.

To laugh at.

Is that mean?

Today's Instagram topic was Imperfect. So I posted the photo below, which I love almost as much as I love good Scotch whisky. You need to pay very close attention to the details of it:

And this second one, I find to be very Zen-like. I find it filled with all sorts of Zen goodiness because the person who posted it is a cop.

It says this:


The government pays for just about everything for law enforcement officers, who, in essence are the disciplinarian father figures who keep all us unruly children in line.

Am I missing something?

Oh. There's more. Lots and lots more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

what you don't know


This has been a crazy day.

It started off, as most days do, with some writing followed by a seven-mile run.

Out on my run, a nice lady from this south side of the lake saw me and said this:

Oh! I am almost through reading The Marbury Lens!!! [exclamation points added, but she was very enthusiastic]

And then, she concluded with this:

What were you ON when you wrote it?

Yeah. I get that a lot.

Today's Instagram topic was Something You Don't Know About Me.

Apparently, what you do not know is what I was ON when I was writing The Marbury Lens.

But I didn't want to take a picture of that.

So I took a picture of that thing you see up there. It is a sculpture of a tuna. It is about four feet in length, and it is hanging on a wall in my kitchen. And I made it. I used to make a lot of sculptures.

Want to know what I was ON when I made it?

To be honest, you don't know very much about me at all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

it's in the bag

Today's Instagram topic was In My Bag.


I am not much of a bag kind of guy.

In fact, I rarely unpack my bags between trips. This means that when I am on the road, I often discover cool shit that I totally forgot about. Also, I can always find a clean pair of socks if I absolutely need to.

The photo above is from my Chairman Mao bag. I still have all the books in it I carried for readings to my last school visit at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura.

But, in the little side pockets, I found some cool, never-been-unpacked shit, too:

Here are some headphones, still in the bag, from one of the times I flew on Air Canada. I have flown on Air Canada many times, all over the world.

It is a great airline.

Air Canada -- did you hear that?

Hook me up with some miles, babe.

But this is the coolest and perhaps most disturbing never-been-unpacked thing from my bag:

This is a toy figure Barry Lyga had made for his book, Goth Girl Rising.

I am almost certain it contains toxic paint.

It's been in my bag ever since I first met Barry, and he gave me this toy.

What a guy!!!!

I have no toys for my books.

If I did, nobody would want to play with me, anyway.

I've had this in my bag for, like, four years!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

out and about

This week, I'll be at ALA, which is one of the best book events of the year.

I'm looking forward to speaking on Friday evening on a panel of authors who all carry the XY chromosome. We'll be speaking about the tremendous burden of being writers who carry those particular chromosomes at Booklist's Youth Forum.

The event is moderated by Daniel Kraus, and the panelists are myself, Michael Grant, Jon Scieszka, and Daniel Handler.

I will be delivering death by PowerPoint.

There are two other events I have locked in for the near-future as well.

First, on July 11, I will be at the Santa Monica Public Library, conducting a workshop called Write On! A Teen Writers' Workshop from 2 - 4 p.m. This is a series of workshops for kids in grades 7 - 12 that brings authors in to work with small groups of kids who are interested in writing.

Should be terrific fun.

Then, on September 15, I'll be in Park City, Utah, presenting at the annual conference of the League of Utah Writers. Really looking forward to this one, too.

Today's topic on Instagram was Out and About. I took this photo the last time I was out and about in New York, standing in front of Simon and Schuster at Rock Center. What a cool place this is!

And, by the way, Simon and Schuster is publishing my forthcoming novel Winger. I have to say that everything they have done in the production of this very different book has been absolutely top-notch.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Today's Instagram topic was Yellow.

I don't really have many yellow things around my office. Except for Post-It notes, but I was traumatized by an over-the-top copy editor, so I didn't want to take a picture of them.

And I couldn't take a picture of MNPR radio station, either, since they're in Minnesota and I am in California.

So I took a picture of the hardcover jacket from my second novel, In the Path of Falling Objects, which happens to be very yellow.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

the chairman and me

Short post today.

Today's Instagram topic was Time.

I took a picture of my Chairman Mao wristwatch. I think the world doesn't have quite enough cruel oppressive dictator wristwatches.

A friend of mine brought me this from China, about 10 years ago. Mao's arm rocks back and forth as the second hand. It doesn't keep very accurate time, but then again, it's Chairman Mao, which means it's always right.

I also have a Chairman Mao backpack. You may have noticed it in the photograph I posted from my visit to Foothill Technology High School last week. It's not like I'm into Chairman Mao or anything. I just happened to have received both of these things as gifts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the spam files

Today, I got an email that said this:


Google translate tells me it means:

Experience and passion, the sales manager you optimistic about the who?

I have to admit, I am not very optimistic about The Who

Coincidentally, I mention The Who and Roger Daltrey in my upcoming book, Winger, (Spring 2013) in which the main character sings a few lines from their song "How Many Friends."

And I have seen The Who in concert, too.

Twice, as a matter of fact.

But, I have to say that I haven't been too optimistic about The Who since Quadrophenia, which was released in 1973.

In case you were wondering.

Today's Instagram topic was Art. I took lots of pictures. I have lots of stuff nearby that relates to art. It is, after all, what I do. I settled on the photo below.

This is in my office. It's a print for a concert poster from one of the best shows I've ever been to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

another up

So, yesterday I announced that I had signed on to contribute a story for a forthcoming anthology to be published by Chronicle Books in October 2013.

This means I will have two brand-new books published that same month: the Chronicle anthology, and Grasshopper Jungle, my novel, from Dutton/Penguin.

I'm excited about the anthology for a number of reasons. First, it is an anthology of stories about Jack the Ripper. Naturally, that's my kind of stuff. Also, the work is being edited by my longtime friend Kelly Milner Halls, whom I haven't worked with since we were teenagers.

That is the truth.

So far, I also know of two other authors who are confirmed contributors to the anthology: Tanya Lee Stone, and my friend Ellen Hopkins.

So this is all exceedingly cool.

A couple years ago, I took my family over to London, and we actually toured around Whitechapel and some of the locations involved in the Ripper murders. I will share some of the photos I took there from time to time.

Today's photo topic on Instagram is From a Low Angle. I happened to take this photograph of Christ Church Spitalfields (built in the early 1700s) in Whitechapel, London during my visit. The church is just across from the notorious Ten Bells Pub, which is a key location associated with the Ripper killings.

Monday, June 11, 2012

photo monday

Today, I have some photos to share with you.

These are photos of my visit with Kristen Faulconer's students at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura, California last week.

Kristen claims I was actually captured smiling in some of them.

This kid's named Brian. We talked a lot about one of his favorite authors, S.A. Bodeen. It's really great when kids read the same books I do.

Lisa Yee might be troubled by this. The Angel Potatoes enjoy creating Peeps sculptures and then nuking them in the microwave. My kind of kids. Spencer, Ava, Grant, and my surfer friend Ian.

Spencer and Grant presented me with an official, signed, honorary Angel Potato certificate. Best kids ever.

Signing kids' books in the underground library. This is a one-of-a-kind rogue library operation. And it's full of books, and full of kids who LOVE books.

And, finally, today's Instagram topic was "Door." So, here is a photo of a door in my office: