Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! Tomorrow I’ll be taking part in B-Fest, Barnes & Noble’s national teen book festival, in Charlottesville, VA, aka one of my favorite places ever. If you’re in the Central Virginia area, swing by and say hi. In the meantime, let’s get the weekend started with a look at what I’ve been reading and writing in fifteen words or fewer:

Reading: Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir
Christa has such a way of writing about teens in pain struggling to find peace.

Writing: “Well I didn’t throw a plate in anyone’s face so [my day is going] fabulously.”
It’s the little victories.

Upcoming Events: Buttonwood Books and the Boston Teen Author Festival!

A couple of new and excellent events to add to the calendar!

On Wednesday, August 13 at 7pm, I’ll be at Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA with fellow 2014 debut YA author (and all around delightful person) Skylar Dorset. We’ll be BrOEEmsCAAAGCN2talking about writing, being debut authors, how awesome YA is, and more.

And then on September 27, I’ll be part of the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library. Other authors on this year’s schedule include local favorites like A.C. Gaughen, Sashi Kaufman, Diana Renn, and Erin Dionne; and I might just fangirl myself into a frenzy over fellow Candlewick author M.T. Anderson.

Check out the Appearances and Interviews page for more info, and mark your calendars now!


Books, Cake, and a Dress with Planes on It: The Chance You Won’t Return Launch Party

Being a writer can seem like a very solitary job. You spend a lot of time alone with your computer, thinking about imaginary people, and occasionally tweeting about things those imaginary people are doing. But sometimes you get a reminder that being a writer involves so many people, that it’s about connecting and sharing. Sometimes that reminder comes with cake. On Tuesday, I had the launch party for The Chance You Won’t Return at Porter Square Books, and it went so well. Check out some of the photos:

An awesome night like this doesn’t just happen. Some very special thanks to:

  • Porter Square Books for letting us use their fantastic space, for being so gracious and professional, and for being a kick-ass bookstore.
  • My incredible critique group who made t-shirts, got a delicious cake, did all of the pre-party prep, managed the crowd, and made me feel super supported. I’m so lucky to be part of this group.
  • The Candlewick Press team, aka, the best people in the publishing business. It was so cool to see some familiar and enthusiastic Candlewick faces in the crowd!
  • My friends and family who came out on a chilly Tuesday night to listen to me read, ask me great questions about writing, give me big hugs, and let me sign their books. I am overwhelmed by love.
  • The fine people of Modcloth who sold a dress with tiny airplanes on it. May all my future launch parties feature book-themed dresses.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out. I couldn’t have asked for a better launch party!

Books, Giveaways, and Cake: Launch Party for The Chance You Won’t Return

The Chance You Won’t Return is now available at your favorite bookstore, but the launch party is still to come! Come to Porter Square Books on Tuesday, April 29th at 7pm for:

  • book signings…
  • read aloud time…
  • questions and answers about writing, life, Amelia Earhart, never-have-I-ever…
  • hearing me talk about how awesome YA is…
  • cake!
  • giveaways!
Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967 (photographer) Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967 (photographer)
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

But not just any giveaways! Come to the launch party in a TCYWR cover-inspired red hoodie and get a prize. Come to the launch dressed as Amelia Earhart and get a super special prize. Or just come to the launch party and get the chance to win your very own signed copy of The Chance You Won’t Return!

And even if you don’t win anything, there is still delicious cake–so really, everyone is a winner.

The details:

The Chance You Won’t Return launch party
April 29th, 7pm at Porter Square Books
RSVP to the Facebook event page

Hope to see you there!

The Chance You Won’t Return Launch Party!

The Chance You Won’t Return‘s release date is less than a month away, which obviously means my mind is turning to thoughts of celebration. Because you need tasty treat and a new outfit for your book birthday, right?

If you’re in the Boston area and want to join me for an evening of reading, happy dances, and tasty treats, come to The Chance You Won’t Return launch party at Porter Square Books!

The details:

The Chance You Won’t Return Launch Party
April 29, 2014
Porter Square Books
25 White Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

Come for the Q&A, stay for the happy dancing and book signing! There’s an event page for it over at my Facebook page, in case you want to be all official and RSVP.

I’d really appreciate seeing friendly faces, so please come out on April 29!

Author Events and Public Speaking

Confession: I hate public speaking.

The few readings I’ve done have been preceded by me telling my husband that fiction writers shouldn’t be expected to talk in front of other people, and that public speaking is a bizarre form of hazing. Nothing bad has happened–usually things go well–but they still make me nervous.

For the next one, I’m definitely going to reread Cynthia Leitich Smith’s post about how to handle public speaking events and potential problems like hecklers, not having enough time, and small turnout. Lots of really helpful advice and great anecdotes. I especially like her suggestion for how to politely respond to awkward or obnoxious questions.

Also, something very important to keep in mind about all kinds of author events:

“Say thank you, no matter what. The vast majority of children’s-YA book event planners are volunteers and among the most formidable champions of your field.”

Public speaking can be overwhelming, but it’s really helpful to keep in mind that the people planning and attending the events love these books. They’re not out to get you or make you feel awkward. They want to listen to you speak because you make something they love. And then you get to talk to them, too, and engage with them about their own reading and writing experiences. How cool is that?

Reading Out Loud

The Non-Glamorous Life of Writers Secret #124: Readings are awkward.

In movies, readings are packed and everyone in the audience buys a book for the author to sign afterward. The author speaks brilliantly and you only hear the last couple sentences of the excerpt. No one checks their cell phone or eyes other books on the shelves. No one accidentally wanders into the reading, looking for the Biography section, and immediately darts away. In the Q&A, no one asks stupid questions.

If only.

I think fiction writers have it hardest when it comes to readings. At least poetry has motion and, most likely, they get to read several different poems. Fiction is generally intended to be read, not heard. Plus, fiction writers usually have to choose an excerpt and explain the rest to the audience. When I’m in the audience, my mind tends to wander, even when listening to awesome authors. Suddenly I’ll realize my mind was wondering and think Wait, which character is this? Was he in the car the whole time? I’ll never catch up! It’s a lot of pressure if you’re the writer, and a lot of risk if you’re in the audience.

Apparently I’m not alone in this. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, readings are being updated, reduced, energized. Authors aren’t required to take up a whole hour or even read from their work.

“”We started making the readings briefer to set us apart from other stores,” said Amanda Lyndon, who runs the discussions at the Tenement Museum Shop. “Everyone seemed to prefer it.””

I think it’s a smart move to cut actual reading time or play with the format. One of the best “readings” I’ve been to was by Shannon Hale. I’m pretty sure she read an excerpt from one of her books, but for the most part she talked about being an author. She balanced well between talking to the kids in the audience (who were enthralled) and the adults (also enthralled, and probably hopeful writers). One of my favorite moments was when she talked about her experiences with literary rejection. It was both shocking and heartening to learn that someone as awesome and talented as Shannon dealt with her fair share of disappointment in the writing world.

Mostly, I think the reading should be about connecting an author with his/her fans. The actual reading is secondary. I’m excited to see how publishers/authors/booksellers will shake things up.

Not Just Browsing

For me, book shopping is split into two categories: online shopping at sites like Amazon is for convenience, stores are for the experience. Obviously Amazon can sell almost any book the way a real store can’t, which is helpful if you need a particular book immediately (oh, is book club this Sunday?). But most times, going to a bookstore is about browsing. Maybe I go in with a particular book in mind, but I’ll also take a spin around the shelves and see if anything else jumps out at me. I like seeing what’s “staff recommended” and what’s on sale. It’s more about enjoying books than just purchasing them.

The Daily Beast defends the independent bookseller and lists the best independent bookstores in America. “Great independent bookstores are draws and destinations in their own right. They help define their town to the outside world.”

I haven’t been to any of the bookstores on John Avlon’s list (not even the Strand, sadly), but they’re going on my “to visit” list. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite local stops:

  • Brookline Booksmith is my local book seller and a favorite in the Brookline area. It has a great inventory, with lots of sales and staff suggestions, and a basement full of used books, too. Their staff is helpful and there always seems to be a good crowd browsing. They also host fantastic readings, featuring everyone from first-time authors to famous poets to the local MFA students. It’s hard to stop in without buying anything.
  • One of my favorite bookstore experiences happened at Porter Square Books last year. I picked up a copy of the Horn Book Magazine, grabbed a cup of coffee, and settled into one of their cafe chairs. A few chairs away from me was another twentysomething woman, working on her laptop. After a moment, she looked over at my magazine and asked if I was part of the local graduate program in children’s literature. (I wasn’t, she was; we both love children’s lit.) To me, this was a great example of the Porter Square Books client–someone who loves books and enjoys talking about them.
  • When I first moved to Boston, the first bookstore I can across was Trident Booksellers. Between it’s awesome selection and it’s amazing cafe, it’s one of my favorite places to take out-of-town friends for brunch. What’s better than browsing the stacks after a stack of challah french toast?
  • Wellesley Books is a bit of a trip for me compared to the other stores on this list, but considering their author events the drive is worth it. In the last couple of years, I’ve attended readings by Shannon Hale and Suzanne Collins (I tried to contain my inner fangirl at both), and both were absolutely fantastic. From my experience, Wellesley Books is particularly strong in the children’s department and brings in a variety of YA/children’s authors.
Even though e-readers are becoming more prevalent and Amazon’s not going anywhere anytime soon, I think the experience of an independent bookstore still stands out for people who consider themselves readers. What are your favorite bookstores?