Friday, September 30, 2011

bent double, like old beggars under sacks

When I was a kid, nobody knew what to do with me in school, so they put me ahead.

When I was young, I thought it was cool, but once I got into High School, I realized that my age difference presented some permanent degree of social awkwardness in forming relationships with kids who were in my same classes and grades.

That's a big reason why I wrote Winger, which is about a 14-year-old kid who's in eleventh grade.


I kind of know what that's like.

I think Ryan Dean West, the narrator/cartoonist who tells the story of Winger, really captures a lot of the not-fitting-in essence of what those high school years were like for me. It's kind of funny now. It was kind of sickening then.

The funny thing is, when I was growing up, I frequently read or watched news stories about other kids who accelerated in school (they were always presented in such a Wow! Look at how SMART this kid is!!! kind of way) with a sickened horror, like I was driving past the scene of a wreck where I had just crashed into myself. And I swore I would never -- NEVER -- want to let that happen to my kid.


So. They kind of didn't know what to do with my kid in school, either. He got into UC Berkeley at 16.

It's okay. He's way smarter, bigger, cooler, and well-adjusted than I was when I was a kid.

I swear.

Winger will be coming out in Spring, 2013, from Simon and Schuster.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

the boy in the glass

I am not going to pout.

I am not going to pout.

I got my first revision package for Passenger yesterday.

Passenger is the sequel to The Marbury Lens. It is coming out next fall, in 2012. Actually, when you think about it, this means we have to go through all the editing stuff pretty fast. I have not even spoken with my editor about Advance Copies and stuff. Usually, a fall release's Advance Copies come out in spring -- around April or so.

Personally, I don't even want to give out Advance Copies of the book. I do not want anyone to know anything about what happens to Jack and Conner and Griffin and Ben. So, you will probably have to ask Feiwel and Friends directly if you actually hope to get an ARC. You will not get one from me.

Ha ha.

Since we have to work quickly, I am not allowed to pout about the revision.

So here: I am now taking the manuscript out of the envelope.

I am holding it in my hands.

There is no letter this time, only notes on the pages.

I kind of like that. Liz (chimes) has very soothing penmanship, and she writes in pencil, which is also soothing.

Now I am putting the manuscript back in the envelope.

I am not pouting.

This is going to be... um... interesting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the finale of seem

Sunday, October 2, I will be at the Orange County Children's Book Festival.

I will be on the Young Adult Stage, participating in their "Keeping it Real" panel at noon.

I will do my best to keep it real.

I am going to be reading from Stick, and there will be questions and answers following that.

I will do my best to answer questions.

Stick is coming out on Tuesday, October 11.

After the panel, I will be signing in the Mysterious Galaxy booth for about 30 minutes.

I will do my best to be mysterious.

Or galactic.

Then I will be rushing out of there to catch a plane to a mysterious and undisclosed location.

Since Stick is coming out, and I always freak out before my books are released because deep down, I really do not want anyone to read the stuff I write, I will be posting entries over the next few days telling some stuff about the books I have coming out in the future, and why I dread having people read them.

That should be fun.

I hope to see you in Orange County on Sunday.

Here is a link to the festival's program guide.

(Finding my name in it is like playing "Where's Waldo." Finding the names of other authors who have since ducked out of participating in the Orange County Children's Book Festival is not so difficult at all.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the sunshine bores the daylights out of me

About a month ago, while I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport, waiting to catch my flight back home, I received an email from David Gale, my editor at Simon and Schuster.

The email was his editorial letter, in which he asked questions and sought clarifying details about my first book with Simon and Schuster, Winger, which is scheduled for release in Spring 2013. That's kind of what editorial letters do (at least in my experience).

A couple things: First, despite what you may think, spring of 2013 is not that far off in publishing time.

The other thing is this: I have never, never taken one month to finish a revision. My deadline for the work on Winger was October 1, which I beat by a week, since I finished the revision over the weekend.

I have written before about the process I go through when I get revision letters. It's very much like the Five Stages of Grief, the first of which is the whole "denial" thing.

The first stage in revision for me is pouting.

When I get revision letters, I usually mope and pout, and walk around in a daze asking myself things like why the fuck am I doing this? and shit like that. Not that I have ever gotten a particularly difficult revision assignment, and I have to admit the one from David at S&S was really simple and straightforward. We had spoken before, and I knew what he wanted -- in fact, I knew what any editor was going to ask me about the book.

But when I got David's letter (and the package with the manuscript came to my home a few days later), I was coming back from dropping my young son off at college. So the mopey, pouty period was a bit prolonged before I could get over it and actually put myself into the task.

To really get my head into Winger, though, I had to put aside the book I am wrapping up at the moment. I never talk about WIPs, but this one is literally in the last short chapter. The thing is, the voice, idiomatic expressions, and tone of the two works is so different I could not function.

It was nice to get back inside Winger. It's a fun book. You'll see. It is sad, though, too, and a heck of a good love story.

So I took yesterday off to ease my head back into the LAST CHAPTER of what I've been finishing for what seems like forever, and bracing myself for what will inevitably be a period of mopey pouting.

The revision package for Passenger, the sequel to The Marbury Lens, from Feiwel and Friends, is due to arrive on my doorstep any moment now.

Let the pouting begin.

One other thing: two weeks, exactly, from today, Stick will be released.

Do I need to say how freaked out I get right before a book comes out?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

stupid people should never read books (banned books week)


Well, in honor of this being Banned Books Week, this time I admit: Today, I did choose a chapter title from a book I wrote that has something to do with the blog.

I suppose the picture does, too, since it is an outside shot of a place where some pretty creepy stuff happens to Jack in The Marbury Lens, which is a book that has faced a few... um... challenges.

You might be happy to know that the good old Prince of Wales is also back for a ride in Passenger, too.

I have a few thoughts on Banned Books Week from the perspective of an author whose works have been the subject of challenges and from someone who has worked with kids on a daily basis for (ugh) several decades now.

First, challenges to books in schools and other public areas are partially a consequence of the drive to standardize our nation's youth -- to make them all think and solve problems in exactly the same, bubble-in, number-two pencil way.

Standardization is the putty with which those who hope to shape our nation's future wish to plug up all the damned leaks that allow free thought and creativity into the minds of our school kids.

Like banning books, it will prove to be a failed endeavor.

I was talking to a group of kids about reading just yesterday. I asked them to tell me what books they've been reading, who wrote them, and what they liked about them.

This was all in preparation for my BIG PROJECT which I am going to be doing for Teen Read Week, which is coming up on October 16. Maybe I will be able to share my BIG PROJECT when I speak at Mrs. Nelson's on October 30 with a panel of AMAZING guy writers (more on this to come).

Or maybe at NCTE/ALAN.

Or maybe I'll only share it with the kids.

Anyway, I noticed a couple amazing things.

One boy held up a book he'd been reading. It was a Christopher Moore book. He borrowed the book from his friend, another boy, who was reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's book Good Omens. He asked me, if he liked Christopher Moore, did I know of any books I thought he would also like?

I told him some.

One day, he'll be able to answer questions like that for his kids.

I am not making this shit up.

Kids - BOYS - do read for fun, as much as there is an overt movement to dissuade them from doing so, and a false belief that they are not good at it and do not enjoy it.

Stop telling them shit like that.

That is the worst kind of book banning there is - preventative banning with false subliminal messages.

You know what else? Teens today (Boys and Girls) read TONS more books for their own enjoyment than they did 20 years ago. I know this for a fact. I have seen it firsthand. And as they go out into the world and become literate, book-loving adults, I can only be confident that 20 years in the future there will be even more teen readers out there.

Unless the people who do not want kids to read win.

And they are on the same side as the people who do not want the kids to think outside their little bubbles.

Friday, September 23, 2011

lucky, in polish boy names

I guess it was last week that the topic of gay in YA became a bit volatile on a few notable blogs.

Don't worry, I am not chiming in.

I honestly don't know enough about the entire publishing industry, from agenting, to editing, and all the stuff that gets done to words between my desk and the shelves of a bookstore, to say whether or not there is significant evidence of unfair discrimination against works which include gay characters.

So I can't say.

A few months back, I did extricate myself from any association with that publishing group behind the controversial YA anthology where one author was instructed to make a gay character straight. But I also know this: There are gay characters in a lot of the stuff that I write.

In fact, there are heroic gay characters in Stick, and, after that, in Passenger (2012, Feiwel and Friends) and Winger, too (2013, Simon and Schuster). Nobody has ever questioned the inclusion of gay characters in anything I have ever written.

Why are there gay characters in the books I write? Um. Because there are gay characters in my classrooms, in my community, in the Army, and in the grocery store. It's no big deal.

Maybe if "gayness" is the only dimension to a character's depth, that would make it a bad character choice, poorly crafted, in the same way that "straightness" as the only attribute of a character would make that character shallow, uninteresting, and the story would probably be those two things as well.

So I kind of don't get it. It's a total non-issue for me.

That said, I have also had this conversation with a couple friends of mine in the writing business this week -- and the idea is this:

I hear a lot of beginning, aspiring writers complain about the lack of feedback when their work gets passed over by editors or agents. Editors and agents sometimes get targeted for being insensitive when their rejection responses lack specifics.

But editors and agents who do offer specifics can frequently make things worse for themselves. There is no good reason for an editor or an agent to ever give specific reasons for passing on a submission unless they intend to reconsider, or unless they like being sucked into black holes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

something always happens while someone else dances


I have a couple things to say today.

First, I got an email last night from a dear friend regarding yesterday's blog post -- citing a connection between the title of the post and the photograph on the post.


My post titles, as I have said in the past, are 90% of the time completely unrelated to the content of the posts. When they are, it is obvious.

But, saying that, I also firmly believe that the reader's response to anything is what the actual intent of that thing in question truly is. So, my apologies for that inadvertent connection.

The photograph was a doorway at a 19th-century workhouse in East London, and I just happened to like the geometric shape of the letters on it. I took the photograph. I also took today's rather voyeuristic look at a cow head. Nothing more than that. But... eh...

As a matter of fact, most of the random titles I've been sticking on my posts (like today's) simply happen to be titles from the chapters of a book I just finished writing. I think they're cool titles. That's all they are. They relate to the chapters, but definitely not to anything else.


Second, Teen Read Week is coming up, October 16 - 22. I always do something cool for TRW. Last year, I gathered artwork from teens relating to the books they were reading and showed those images around the country at speaking engagements I had. This year, I am going to do something even cooler than that, if it is at all possible.

You will see.

And, speaking of teens who read, yesterday I got the NICEST comment from a teacher on Facebook about a student of hers who was turned from a non-reader to an "X-treme Reader" because of his favorite book, The Marbury Lens.

I sent the kid and his teacher signed books today.

This is more important to me than just about anything.

As a matter of fact, I wrote the kid a letter inside the book I sent him, in which I talked about how much better off the world is because of teachers and librarians who connect kids like him (and me, when I was in High School) to the rest of the world.

As much as I love them, iPads and computers will never be able to do shit like that.

I could write a whole thank you list to the teachers and librarians I know across the country who do this for kids, and all the kids who have been born into literate lives because of them, but that list would be monstrously long and I'd be afraid of missing some names.

And that is the biggest ass-kicking that close-minded, anti-intellectual, condescending cookie-cutter ideologues like Meghan Cox Gurdon, that other author who parroted her crap on Huffington Post, and the failed prosecutorial broadcaster who interviewed me on MNPR could possibly get:

Here is the proof about real teens whose lives are changed because they connect to one initial book.

I am still waiting for the proof about one teen who harms himself or commits an act of cannibalism on someone because of a book he read.

Just one.

The rules are these: I will shut up when you give it, and YOU have to shut up until you can.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

rules are rules, but the brain room is not particularly brainy

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It is somewhat occluded by the next bit of work heading my way like a train with spikes and flamethrowers jutting from its cowcatcher.

The flames make a pleasant, toasted marshmallow kind of smell.

People frequently ask me: Drew, when do you sleep?

1993, the year before my son was born.

That is when I sleep.

But I feel good about myself. Well. Comparatively speaking, of course. I felt shitty about myself yesterday.

I feel good because I am finishing the revisions for my novel, Winger, which is coming out from Simon and Schuster in early 2014. I have been a bit sluggish since I moved my son out to Berkeley. I should have been finished by now, because this is probably among the easiest, most fun revisions I have ever had to do. And it is a funny book, too, which is kind of weird.

It is almost finished.

Hooray. I plan on sending it off this week.

It makes me feel like 1993 again.

There is a light. That will cook me and impale me.

I have also been finishing another entirely different novel. Entirely different, as in a manifesto of of the consumptive effects of not having slept in any year that is not called "1993."

Soon I will climb back inside the cave with Passenger.

Imagine what that's like for a writer -- going from a book like Winger, which is quite funny, directly into work on a book like Passenger

It does kind of make the people with whom I interact on a daily basis take notice that "something's wrong with that guy."

I smell marshmallows.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Now it can officially be said.

In the fall of 2012, two really cool things are going to happen.

First, the paperback of The Marbury Lens will be coming out. I am dying to see what amazing stuff they do with the cover.

Second, in fall, 2012, the sequel to The Marbury Lens will be coming out, brought to you by the team at Feiwel and Friends, and once again edited by (chimes) Liz Szabla.

The novel is called Passenger.

Let me answer your questions. Here are some Passenger FAQs:

1. Who did you dedicate Passenger to?

No, it is not dedicated to Meghan Cox Gurdon. As a matter of fact, I left the dedication page blank. I'm going to fix that, though.

2. What's it about?

It's about 500 pages at the moment -- quite a bit longer than The Marbury Lens. I will probably tighten it up a bit. But you can never wind a place like Marbury too tightly. Things will break. Well... things actually do break.

I will tell you this: Don't expect the same old Marbury. Don't expect the same old Glenbrook. And definitely don't expect the same old Jack and Conner, or Ben and Griffin, either.

Why would I ever do something predictable?

Pretty much everyone is back on stage in Passenger -- some, more than others. We even see quite a bit more of Henry, and even Uncle Teddy, the Preterist minister. There are some new characters, too. Odds. You'll find out who the Odds are. Oh... and one more thing. You know that train the boys find in the middle of the desert? You get to see what really happened to the... um... passengers on it.

That's enough about that for now.

3. Can I read it?


Yes you can.

In fall of 2012.

There is only ONE person in the world whom I've allowed to read Passenger (besides the team at Feiwel and Friends), and you don't know who he is, and he would never tell about it.

So there.

You can cheer yourself up in three weeks by buying and reading Stick, which you will probably read more than once. It really is a happy book, but you have to consider the source of that opinion, too.

Then, after you read Stick, you can re-read The Marbury Lens. There are probably some little details here and there in it that might give you alternate chills and "ah-ha" moments when you read Passenger. 

In any event, I am certain you will enjoy the ride.

You will never be able to predict the end.

Monday, September 19, 2011

wanda mae's pink bowling ball

Three weeks from tomorrow, Stick will be out. I'm really looking forward to it. There have been so many overwhelmingly positive comments about the book from teachers and librarians all across the country (and I know a few people overseas who have read it, too).

On October 2, I will be down in Orange County at the Orange County Children's Book Festival. I will be reading and answering questions, and doing a book signing, too.

The Book Festival is located on the campus of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

I will be on the YA Stage at noon with Heidi Kling, Jessi Kirby, Lindsey Leavitt, and Kirsten Hubbard (you know the rules -- I am the only guy, so they owe me drinks) talking about "Keeping it Real" in YA.

I haven't decided if I'm going to read from The Marbury Lens or Stick (which wont be out) yet.

Afterward, I'll be signing at Mysterious Galaxy's booth. Then I have to get right out to the airport and head up to San Francisco.

I hope to see lots of YA readers in Orange County.

You can read more about the OC Children's Book Festival here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

concerning the bison, and free will

I began to consider the fact that maybe history is actually the great destroyer of free will. 

Whenever my day starts with me making a list of things I need to do, I know I've already buried myself.

I hate making lists.

Once anything gets written down, free will dies.

But I have been so busy with tasks that I haven't even bothered to notice things that need noticing. Like, for example, congratulating all my friends whose books were nominated for American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012.

And I realize, too, that as much as I avoid talking about what I am writing as opposed to what I have written, when I am writing, things stack up and I get buried. I have had a flat tire on one of my cars for about two weeks. I should probably change it today.

That is not on my list.

I hate changing tires, too.

A few weeks back, I did an interview with a friend in the Netherlands, Mina Witteman, for this really cool website that posts stories and reviews of books and authors who have musical influences in their lives and works.

The website is called Booktunes, and it is very cool. 

I think the only book I have ever written that does not mention music is The Marbury Lens. Die-hard fans of Andrew Smith will know the answer to the trivia question about the song and artist mentioned in Ghost Medicine, and Stick, which will also be featured on Booktunes, has a very important but short playlist of three great songs.

Booktunes featured a review of my second novel, In the Path of Falling Objects. It really is a very cool site, and I am honored they chose to write about my work and post an interview, too.

The links follow:

This is the link for Booktunes Issue 22

Here is Booktunes' review of In the Path of Falling Objects

Here is Booktunes' interview with me

Saturday, September 17, 2011

another out of context status update that sounds like a porn quote sent from an iPhone

So, yesterday, when I came home there was a package from UPS on the steps to my front door.

The morning before, there was a bloody head there. The bloody head belonged to something furry. It was left by one of the cats, most likely.

There is still a bloodstain on the cement there. The bloodstain looks exactly like a profile portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln.

I do not know where the head has gone.

Maybe the UPS guy took it.

Anyway, inside the package was the first-ever, hot-off-the-press hardbound copy of Stick, which is coming out in exactly 23 days, on October 11.

Here is a picture of me holding the book as soon as I took it out of the package.

Yes, I was wearing a necktie yesterday. This is in my living room, by the way. It was very sunny here in California.

As a matter of fact, but also difficult to see,on my tie I have a gold star tack. The gold star was sent to me by my publisher, Jean Feiwel, when Stick received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Also, inside the package, was a very nice personal note from my editor, Liz Szabla.

Every time I mention Liz Szabla's name, there is a musical chime up above the clouds somewhere. Everyone in the entire writing industry knows this, and can hear that sound like a dog whistle. That's how good Liz Szabla is.

I do not have an acknowledgments page in this novel. But the work from the team speaks for itself.

First, there is Rich Deas' cover and title page design. So incredible. The title page is too cool for words: a couple matchstick kids on the beach.

You know who else was super-important? Kathleen Breitenfeld, who did the design for the text. You'll see why when you read the book, and if you read the Booklist review. It wasn't just the words, but how the words look and float around on the pages that was so important to this story. It must have been difficult for Kathleen to fight against the "you must be making a mistake" messages that computer programs want to give you when you screw around with words like I did (or take a baseball bat to them, as the Booklist review says).

Then, also, there was Anne Heausler, my copy editor, who checked every little detail that could possibly be checked, and also allowed me to get away with making up words like sawtoothed because, to me, it looks and sounds much better than saw-toothed.

Who ever says saw-toothed?

Not me.

As for the rest of the team of friends behind Stick: Big thanks and appreciation to managing editor Dave Barrett (a man who rarely uses the shift key, but sent an all-caps statement of shock to me regarding the ending of the next Marbury book); Ksenia Winnicki, who, I think, does everything in the world and never runs out of cheerfulness and energy; Elizabeth Fithian, Holly West, Nicole Liebowitz Moulaison, Anna Roberto, Lizzy Mason, and Emily Waters -- Thank you all very much.


So, also yesterday, I got a message from a writer friend of mine, author Mina Javaherbin, and she congratulated me on the award nomination from ALA. Now this, I had no idea about. Neither did Liz Szabla (you would have heard the chime just now if you were in the publishing industry).

Apparently, Stick has been nominated for a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults Award from ALA/YALSA. Once again, it's such an honor to be on that list with so many famous names, and so many friends of mine, too.

Congratulations to all the BFYA nominees.

You can see the list of current 2012 BFYA nominated books here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

what would happen if...

Let's just say: What would happen if, like, you were in a place that was really messed up...

And then you went back home, but things were different there... kind of rearranged?

So you went back to the messed-up place, just to see if you could get things to go back to normal.

We could call that messed-up place Marbury, if you want.

But then the messed-up place was, like, turned upside-down.

So you go back home, and home has become a freakish carnival.

And the only thing you know is this:

This is real.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011


Just one month to go.

Actually, just 28 days until Stick comes out... October 11, 2011.

And every month on the eleventh, I have been posting pictures and random facts behind the book as a sort of a countdown to the release.

This month, I have a few things to say.

First off, a few favorites:

In the review of Stick on the blog called DogEar, the reviewer actually quoted one of my own favorite passages from the book:

Her dress was blue, and had orange and red parrots and bright green bamboo on it.

I wondered if parrots really lived in bamboo forests, or if maybe, the artist in charge of Mom’s dress just figured parrots plus bamboo equals fun.

... And in the Booklist review of  Stick, here is one of my favorite lines a reviewer has ever written about my work:

Sentences are nontraditionally arranged—some pages look as if Smith took a baseball bat to them...

... I love that.

Now, here's a last "eleventh" thought about my book... something that's been simmering in my head for a while. You'll have to bear with me, because my explanation may be a little convoluted:

Since the ARCs of Stick came out, I have received dozens of emails from teachers and librarians across the country who somehow managed to capture one of the elusive Advance Copies.

There are many recurring themes in the messages I've been getting, all quite gratifying and very flattering. But there's one thing that I've heard from teachers and librarians a number of times about this book, and it has made me want to say something to them (and everyone else, for that matter).

So many adult readers of Stick have said to me things like how much they wished they could have kids like Stark and Bosten in their classes, or maybe how much they wished they could take these characters home.

The thing is, I think kids like Stark and Bosten (and Emily and all the others, too) are in your classrooms and homes already. They're the kids we sometimes fail to notice.

Every kid has issues - thinks he's ugly, dumb, or not good enough; and every kid also lives in situations that he believes are completely normal - the way the world just is.

And every kid gets toxic, harmful, and, at times, amazing and wonderful words and messages stuck inside his head, too, just like Stark does - only Stark McClellan got a chance to swing a baseball bat at some pages in a book so we could take a look at them, too.

So, when you do read the book (and you will), if nothing else, my hope is that everyone sees the everyperson-ness in all these kids, and realizes they really are all around us.

I'll have more to say about Stick before the next 28 days pass.

And, once again, here is the book trailer video that was made entirely by kids:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the lonely reader

A few days ago, I posted a bit about the panel I'd be speaking on at the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) conference in Chicago. Coincidental with that, I will be speaking with a group of authors before the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), also in Chicago.

That panel will take place on Sunday, November 20, at 8:30 a.m.

The authors on the panel are Julie Halpern, Tara Kelly, Donna Freitas, and me. New Writers' Union rules do mandate that if you are the only guy on a panel of females, everyone has to buy you drinks.

8:30 in the morning is Happy Hour for writers, anyway.

That is also in the Union Rules.

The topic of our discussion is this:

No Vampires, No Witches, No Dystopias: Young Adult Literature Goes Backs to its Roots in the Here and Now

That is a very long title.

I like the idea, though.

If you read my blog, you probably know what I feel about the whole concept and word: Dystopia.

Reality is Dystopia. Reality is more dystopian than anything I could conjure up after slipping through some cracked old lenses.

Stark McClellan's reality (he's the narrator of my forthcoming novel, Stick, which will be out by the Chicago events) is absolute hell, even if he perceives it as beautiful and wondrous.

Anyway, Chicago will be fun.

Ladies, I prefer Scotch. Neat.

Speaking of neat, I will be whisking my way in to Chicago directly from Miami, where I'll be appearing at the Miami Book Fair International (more on this to come).

Anyway, I just found out that on Friday, November 18, the organizers of the event bring students in to the fair on field trips to meet authors and discuss books. And, they are buying copies of Stick for the kids they bring in.

That is awesome stuff.

I think every kid from Middle School on up needs to read Stick. Just because you never really know very much about the quiet kids you sit next to in class.

But I'll talk more about that book here on Monday, September 12, when we will be just a short few weeks away from its publication.

Peace and love.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

rising to the challenge

So, in November, which is a month during which I will be doing quite a bit of traveling, I will be in Chicago for a couple events associated with NCTE and ALAN.

Among those events, I will be speaking on a panel of authors on Monday, November 21 at 2:00 p.m.

The topic of the discussion is Titles that Challenge and are Challenged.

This is, of course, always a timely and evocative subject, and I think I may have a different perspective on it than most authors and educators. But I'll hold off on giving my opening remarks until I get there.

I hope to make a short video, too, and I will post it on the blog.

It was kind of neat to see the emails going around yesterday from the group of authors involved in the panel. I can anticipate that it will be one of the best discussions ever at ALAN. Here are the authors who will be speaking with me:

David Macinnis Gill (moderator), Lauren Myracle, Cheryl Rainfield, and Paul Yee

It's particularly interesting that 3 of the 4 of us (myself, Lauren, and Cheryl) were also targeted by the Wall Street Journal.

Should be good.

One other thing I want to mention is that Stick is coming out next month, on October 11. Um... there are lots of people saying some really great stuff about the book all over the internet. Kind of surprising so many have apparently read it. I personally only got my hands on about five ARCs of it, and they're all gone.

In the last several months, I have been posting little stories about Stick, and the writing of it, on the eleventh of each month. So the last installment of that series is coming up. BUT... I don't want to post a blog entry on September 11 (Sunday) for a lot of good reasons. So you may still expect that last entry (which will be called one), but it will be posted on Monday, September 12.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

revisionist history

200 million years is a very long time to spend waiting to end up on my desk.

This was made and drawn entirely on my iPad.

(click to enlarge image)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

calvin coolidge's canoe

The book I wrote is about history.

I have a good blog post about history, which includes hand-drawn comics. I think I will put it on tomorrow. I would have put it on today, but I woke up in a grumpy mood, and my post about history requires a more cheerful perspective.

Here is a true story:

This morning, I drove my daughter to school.

A car passed us. It was going rather fast.

There were two bumper stickers on the car. Both of the bumper stickers had all-uppercase single-word messages on them.

The bumper sticker on the left said this:


It has been my experience that people in Hawaii tend to drive rather slowly. There is no reason not to.

The bumper sticker on the right said this:


I guess the driver was late for an appointment or something.

Monday, September 5, 2011

how not to work on labor day

Okay, back to the essential conference topics and shit like that.

It is Labor Day, and I am working.

Being a writer is not very easy at all.

Being a writer is not easy for me because when I am writing something, everything else in my life gets ignored or put aside. Like today, for example. The payoff is not terrific, either.

I have never cared about money. I know that is a ridiculous thing to say. Agents do not understand that kind of crazytalk. I only care about writing good shit.

I made a list of all the people who will be pissed off at me over this last book I've written. Well, not all the people, but a lot of them.

Here is part of my list:

People from Iowa, people from Minnesota, people from Delaware, people from Indiana, people who profit from war, people who smoke methamphetamine, scientists, chemistry teachers, Lutherans, Catholics, people who have trained circus dog acts, relatives of Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge, Chou En-lai, people who particularly like birds that talk, book banners, the entire Hollywood motion picture industry, the country of China, the country of Italy, the country of Canada, American pharmaceutical companies, Spiro Agnew, Rupert Murdoch, and Meghan Cox Gurdon.

That is just a partial list, off the top of my head.

If I end up getting whacked, it's probably going to be by some asshole with a trained circus dog act.

That said, I stumbled upon a most beautifully written review of Stick this morning. The review is written by a Young Person's Librarian in Pennsylvania, so... enough said. Librarians who write reviews are right up there with booksellers as far as people whose reviews matter.

The review is on a really nice blog called DogEar.

Anyway, the review is really well-done. It's like an honor to have a book reviewed in such a well-worded piece. Thank you, librarian at DogEar.

You can read the DogEar review of Stick here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

garlic, dr. pepper, and crystal meth

I wrote a book in which all the chapters are titled.

The title from this post is a title from one of the later chapters in this book. So are Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone Never Wore Coonskin Caps and Denny Drayton Has a Gun, Motherfucker.

I wanted to name this blog post  Denny Drayton Has a Gun, Motherfucker, but people sometimes get tense over certain words in the titles of shit.

In the book, but not so much the blog, the titles do contribute meaning to the text. You will have to trust me on that.

I used chapter titles in my second novel, In the Path of Falling Objects, too. In Stick, the chapters are all titled after people that Stark McClellan runs into on his journey.

I recently answered questions for a blog interview by an author named Mina Witteman. Mina lives and writes in Amsterdam, which is in the Netherlands. I have been there many times, and it really is a fantastic place to visit.

Mina is also the RA for SCBWI Netherlands. They are hosting an SCBWI conference in Amsterdam in early November.

I want to go there.

Anyway, Mina asked a lot of really great questions about my books and how I do what I do. In particular, she was interested in the way that music plays a role in my writing. I think she plans on posting the interview sometime before Stick is released, which is just in a matter of days now.

I will definitely post a link when Mina runs the interview. For now, here is a sample -- one question and answer from Mina's upcoming Book Tunes blog:

Stick, your newest novel that is scheduled to appear in October 2011 – a BT review of Stick will be published in October – has only three songs, yet they really have a lot to do with the story. Could you tell us more about that connection?

Well, for one thing, although I do not state this anywhere in the book, the story takes place in 1975. So I wanted to pick songs from that year (or, in the case of Buffalo Springfield's Mr. Soul, one that people would still be listening to in 1975). So I thought It Came Out of the Sky was a funny choice considering the prank the boys play, which makes people think there is a UFO over Seattle. I also like the sound and the feel of David Essex's Rock On, because I could see this song as being a kind of liberating message for Stark and Bosten, the two brothers at the heart of the story.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

last legs

This is a true story.

All of my stories are true, anyway.

So, this morning, I noticed that I'd been mentioned by a book blogger on Twitter, on his regular IMM post. IMM is book-blogger talk for In My Mailbox, which are posts that tell the titles of the books the blogger has received that week.

So I wanted to see what book of mine was mentioned, and I saw that Feiwel and Friends, my publisher, had sent him an e-book copy of Stick.


Interestingly, when he listed Stick, it was a hyperlink. So, I clicked on the link because I was pretty sure the blogger, a really prolific book reviewer named Alex Bennett, hadn't read or reviewed Stick yet.

It turned out the link took me to the Goodreads page for Stick. 

Most people know how I feel about Goodreads. I do not ever read stuff on Goodreads. It is bad for authors to do shit like that.

Goodreads can suck out an author's soul.

Goodreads to an author is like a mirror to a meth smoker. Once you start looking, you'll never be able to pull yourself out.

But there I was, face to face with Goodreads' page for my Stick. I could not help but see that the book had a very nice rating, and quite a number of reviews, too.

But I was not looking.

I refused to look.

Except at the very first review. It was a really nice review, and it was written by a bookseller named Rachael, who works at Powell's Books in Portland.

First off, most people know how I feel about indie stores and the people who work in them. Indie stores are the only real places to buy books, and indie booksellers truly read and love books. And Powell's is like the Holy Land to authors who love indie booksellers.

So, to get a nice review from a bookseller who A) knows her shit, and B) works at Powell's is... well... pretty freaking amazing.

So it turns out Powell's has my books listed in their YA books for boys section.

That is the shit.

You can read Rachael's Goodreads review of Stick here.

Alex Bennett's IMM post is here.

And, Rachael, do not worry. I will send you a signed copy of Stick as soon as it comes out.

Friday, September 2, 2011

labor days

It is September.

Next month, Stick will be out.

I have been away from here because I have been working very many hours every day. And I have also been trying to adjust to the weird changes at home. We use a lot less electricity, nobody is playing electric guitar at 2 a.m., we eat a lot less food, and there is always plenty of hot water for showers.

Next month, when Stick comes out, I will be doing a few events. I need to update my schedule on my "sightings" page.

On October 2, I will be at the Orange County Festival of Books. I will be posting information and links for that event, as well as listing who all will be there with me.

On October 11, Stick hits the stores. People who pre-ordered it will also be getting the novel delivered to their doorsteps that day.

October 22, I will be in Long Beach attending the SCIBA Awards dinner (let's all quietly root for The Marbury Lens, which is a finalist). Or loudly.

On October 30, I will be speaking at Mrs. Nelson's Bookstore in LaVerne with a panel of male authors about The Why Chromosome -- it's about why boys really do read and how there's a myth that is being perpetuated about "losing" boys as readers.

Big myth.

I am trying to get back into the swing of things, despite all this extra quiet and electricity and shit like that.