Where the Colberty Things Are

Maurice Sendak and Stephen Colbert in the same room? It’s a grudge match of hilarity. I’m having issues with the embed codes, so check out part 1 and part 2 of the interview here.

Sneak preview: you get to hear Sendak sing. And swear (or at least the censor bleeps). It makes me love him that much more.

Are You There, God?

An interesting quote from this interview with Judy Blume:

“With Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I thought I was writing about organized religion, yet the book has become famous for dealing with puberty. Hardly anyone ever mentions religion or Margaret’s very personal relationship with God.”

I know that if you ask almost anyone what Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is about, they’d say a girl getting her period, but I actually really enjoy Margaret’s struggle with organized religion throughout. It feels very natural, and I like that Margaret is always reaching out for something greater in the universe, even if she can’t call herself Jewish or Christian exactly.

Make sure to check out the whole interview!

Links Galore

A little more literary fun for the rest of a rainy day:

  • I was too scared to read R.L. Stine’s books when I was young, but this interview with the Goosebumps author isn’t scary at all. My favorite part: ““People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it.”
  • Advice how to avoid making common mistakes at conferences.
  • The children’s publishing world is getting into rock & roll. Parents might enjoy these even more than the kids.
  • A look at horribly miscast literary roles. Alexis Bledel, you’re awesome, but you’re so not Winnie Foster.

Revision Feels Better

From Martha Brockenbrough’s interview with Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein:

How do you know when a revision is working? Is it hard for you, as an editor, to retain enough distance?

A revision is working when I don’t notice the issues anymore — or when I notice myself not noticing them, when I see a new clue laid in or plot development and think “Ah, nice work.” Generally, though, after a good revision, the manuscript just feels better, and makes me feel more, and more deeply.

I’m just starting revisions on my novel and keeping Klein’s comment in mind. I actually really enjoy the revision process–it can be hard work, but it’s so satisfying to discover new depth to characters or find a more exciting plot arch.

If you like Cheryl Klein’s interview, she will be leading a workshop on revision at the upcoming SCBWI conference in New York. So excited for the conference!

Getting Excited for The Fault in Our Stars

If you are online and like YA, you probably know* John Green, author and internet icon. His new book The Fault in Our Stars is coming out next week (hurray!). To promote the release**, EW has an exclusive book trailer. Unfortunately, exclusive means that I can’t post it here–maybe after the release?–but for now just click through to see the really lovely video, plus an interview with Green. I was already excited for the book and now I’m way psyched.

Also I need to download the song in the trailer.

From the interview:

I’m sure one of the things people are going to comment on most about this book is the humor. Was it difficult infusing humor into a story about teens with cancer, or did it come naturally?
It came pretty naturally. I don’t see them as separate in my life or the lives of my friends. Humor and sadness co-exist everywhere and always. It was really important to me that the book be funny, and that it be kind of celebratory of life and these people and their lives. The last thing I wanted to write was a dreary novel about illness. The world has those. I wanted it to be, you know, fun to read. That’s your first job as a writer: Write something that people want to read.

I love the combination of humor and sadness, which I think is something John captures well in his books. This is another reason I love contemporary YA–there’s a lot of that balance, and it’s all very grounded in everyday love, loss, and hope.

*If you don’t know John Green, just google “nerdfighter” and you’ll get a sense of the community of readers surrounding him.

**John is also going on a book tour for the release of The Fault in Our Stars. I’ll be at the Boston reading, and last night I had a dream that I was there. I had a great seat and there was a lot of excitement–cupcakes! balloons! songs!–but at the last minute I realized I’d left my bag on the train and had to frantically run to the train station. Now I’m paranoid about the real event.


Dear Ms. Cleary

From an interview with children’s book legend Beverly Cleary:

Your website says that you are still writing–is there anything ahead that we should be looking for? A third volume of your memoirs, perhaps?

No, I don’t plan to publish any more. After all, I’m 95. I hope children will be happy with the books I’ve written, and go on to be readers all of their lives.

I think that’s such a lovely sentiment, and I’m sure many fans of Cleary’s work have gone on to be lifelong readers. That’s one of the reasons I love children’s literature and YA. These books touch you at such a special time in your life and can propel you on the path to reading for decades to come.

The “Something”

From an interview with publishing powerhouse Jean Feiwel:

As you and your fellow editors look to acquire books, is there one element that grabs you each time, that one essential element?

I say this in my rejections letter, if I don’t emotionally connect with something I’m not going to respond to it. There’s something about the story that has to pull on my emotions in some way. It has to make me laugh. It has to be very dramatic. It has to surprise me. Something has to happen for me to respond to a story. Even it’s something I’ve heard a lot , even if it’s yet another vampire story, if there’s something in it that feels fresh or emerges in some surprising way I’ll will respond and go after it. There has to be something emotionally alive in it for me.

I think this is the hardest part of querying. You can have a fantastic pitch and a wonderful book, but if it doesn’t connect with that particular agent/editor it’s not going to work. And that’s good, in a way. You want your agent or editor to be passionate about your book. If they’re not, they won’t really want to put in the time and effort required to make it a wonderful, successful work of art that readers will love. And it’s so hard to tell what exactly will strike an agent/editor. As Feiwel says, it can be an old story (back again, vampires?) but something about it has to stand out. While you can revise a novel to tighten the plot or enhance the character development, it’s really hard to pinpoint what that “something” that will catch an editor’s attention.

Jean Feiwel will be part of the “Children’s Books, Today and Tomorrow: Four Expert Impressions” panel at the 2012 SCBWI conference in January. So excited to hear more of her thoughts on the industry, and for the conference in general! (For more conference news and previews, check out the SCBWI conference blog)

An Idea Calls

One of the books on my fall “to read” list is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. He’s probably best known for his Chaos Walking series, and it sounds like A Monster Calls will have the same combination of compelling characters and thrilling situations. The story is actually based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, another excellent YA author who sadly passed away in 2007.

Check out an interview with Ness over at Milk and Cookies: Comfort Reading. Here, he talks a little about the writing process for A Monster Calls and writing it based on Dowd’s original idea.

“I didn’t really have an outline for A Monster Calls and that’s kind of the thing that made it okay for me to write. I could take Siobhan’s idea and grow it naturally into its final shape (just like she would have done had she been able to finish it; though, inevitably, hers would have been a very different final shape and it’s truly a shame we’ll never see it). I think if you get to outline stage, the book is already written to a certain degree and may not be allowed to play and grow and change, like any story must do to live. So if I’d left behind just an idea, the ideal situation would be having a whole bunch of different people have a look at it, and see where their imaginations took them in all those different directions. That’d probably be the best result of all, and probably the most interesting to read.”

Even though, as Ness says, it’s a shame we’ll never get to see Dowd’s version of the story, I’m glad the idea didn’t disappear. It sounds like a compelling read!

Fostering a Love for Writing

Over at Education Week, there’s a great interview with Laurie Halse Anderson about teaching writing in school. One point Anderson makes:

“There are a number of corporations that have turned a tidy profit by convincing school districts to invest in their “writing system.” Three tricks, five steps, six traits, eight levels, ten tested-techniques; that wheel gets reinvented over and over again. I can understand why a teacher would look for this kind of guidance; writing well is a foundation stone of education and teaching writing – especially to students who are struggling – is hard.

But I think these programs make the matter more difficult than it has to be.

Imagine this; structuring a writing curriculum around three concepts. Number One: the writer learns how to understand what she wants to communicate. Number Two: she writes what she wants to communicate and tests it out on a reader. Number Three: the reader gives immediate, constructive, written feedback so the writer can see if she achieved her goals. If started as a young enough age, this could be turned into a game, so that the writer is rewarded when she has effectively communicated with text. Not just a good grade; something that has meaning.”

I think the idea of writing in schools being both “a game” and “something that has meaning” is essential, especially for younger students. Learning about grammar and spelling is important, but I think students want to take ownership of their writing. Letting them explore communication and creativity can give students a sense of pride in their writing and be more inclined to write and read more. I’m sure teaching reading and writing can be very difficult for a teacher–it’s a subject without a lot of clear answers, and there are a variety of obstacles students can face. But I would say the more personally invested students feel in their writing, the more they’d be willing to work and continue to work throughout their school experience.

Make sure to check out the whole interview. Some great thoughts from an excellent writer!