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About Heidi Broadhead

Heidi Broadhead and Paul Hughes are in the second year of raising their first child, Silas, amidst piles of well-loved books. Silas is displaying early tendencies toward bookishness--pulling paperbacks out of the family's old-style library spinner, flipping through board books (usually upside-down), or pointing at Where the Wild Things Are and shouting "dot!." Heidi and Paul persist in their constant reading of novels, short stories, poetry, chapter books, graphic novels, plays, books about farming (Heidi), books about politics (Paul), online comics, blogs, blogs, and more blogs…(in fact, Heidi is set on demolishing the cliché that new parents don't have time to read. Don't blame it on the kid, man.)

Posts by Heidi

Kurt B. Reighley's New Americana

United-states-americana When I picked up United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties & Handmade Bitters, the recent field guide to the American Roots movement by a former contributing editor for No Depression and current KEXP DJ Kurt B. Reighley, of course I expected to learn about music. Who are the forefathers (and mothers) of American Roots music? What are some of the essential gateway albums? That sort of thing. I wasn't even that surprised to find tips on "how to play a washboard."

What I didn't expect to learn is that there is a DJ in New York who only plays shows on hand-crank Victrolas and wax cylinders, or that there are now barbershops that specialize in straight-razor shaves. In this broad survey of DIY, durable living, Reighley offers up tips from hundreds of interviews and a fair amount of personal research on such varied life skills as beard growing, water-bath canning, making a corncob pipe, and choosing a pre-Prohibition-era cocktail. I am now frantically in search of items like selvage denim, hard tack and salt pork, and Wellingtons. ("I love my Wellingtons," says Reighley. "I'm like Paddington Bear.)

The author spoke to me recently about his experience of Americana over coffee and doughnuts:

Reighley: The response to this book has been really really positive because people are excited about the whole idea of control. There's that theme running underneath all these things: take control of your life. If you learn to preserve your own food you have more control over what you consume and what your kids consume. If you know how clothes are made, you know whether or not you're getting a good deal. You know where it was made, under what conditions. If you pull the camera back a little bit, the fundamental principles outlined in the book are going to appeal to just about anybody.

Amazon: What drew you to this initially? I assume it was music.

Reighley: It was, and it wasn't. What drew me to it was I had put together a proposal for another book inspired by the freak folk movement, not even necessarily American Roots music, but there's some overlap--Devendra Banhart, Antony and the Johnsons, CocoRosie. I put together a book proposal based on that and it was more light-hearted but it did talk a lot about crafts and visual arts and it was inspired sort of loosely by this discussion Antony and I had had several years ago. He had this concept "in the time of flourishing beauty" which inspired a show at On the Boards with Antony and Coco and William Basinski and Devendra Banhart.

I started to see kind of a throughline between the resurgence in interest in crafts and learning to play an instrument and then I started connecting things a bit more. It wasn't that I lost interest in the music component, but I was so familiar with that component already and I was having so much fun learning about the other things, and they just kept snowballing. People kept giving me information and ideas, they were so excited: well, have you thought about blank and blank and blank.

Old masters_carter family I come from a music background and sometimes DJs and record collectors can be very "information to the bosom," like very selfish, they don't want to share. There's that whole tradition amongst DJs of taking the labels off records and obscuring records so people won't know what you're playing. So I kind of expected to encounter a little more of that but in fact people were really excited to share information and it was so invigorating because that was what I wanted to believe was driving this, that people were excited about learning and wanted to pass that learning along and wanted people to take advantage of the resources we have, older people, the physical library, take advantage of these things, preserve them, celebrate them before they go away.

Continue reading "Kurt B. Reighley's New Americana" »

The Necromancer: Who Else is Not Really Dead?

The-necromancer-cover The Necromancer, book four in Michael Scott's "Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel" series, is officially out this week. I want to say this is the best book yet, but of course, when you're into a series, you always think that the last one you read is the best.

I've been trying to figure out why I enjoy this series so much. Part of the fun, for sure, is imagining that Machiavelli is riding around in a Town Car, that Shakespeare is still writing plays, that Billy the Kid is still an outlaw. For kids (and grown-ups) who love history, this is a treat. What it really comes down to, I think, is that I'm a big learning nerd. I love books that want me to seek out other books. Even if I never have the time to read stacks of additional books about Scott's immortals and beasts, or to go back and piece together the set-up for what happened in this book, or what may happen in Book 5, I know I probably could.

When Scott talked to us last year about the series, he went into some detail about how he writes the books, which gives a clue to why they're so much fun: I’ve read that you visit and thoroughly research all of the real places in your books (in Ojai, San Francisco, Paris, London) where Flamel, Sophie, and Josh’s adventures take place. Do the scenes come to life for you while you’re in the place, or do you have an idea, like, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a battle scene at Notre Dame,” and then you travel there? Can you give us a hint of some of the places we might get to see in future books?

M.S.: It is a combination of both. I first create a very detailed outline of the series, and then individual outlines of each book. So I know in advance what I see to see and where I need to go. However, once I’m there, scenes and situations will suggest themselves. For example, the battle scene at Notre Dame was always there as were the Catacombs under Paris. However, although I knew Ojai was going to be part of the story, it was only when I stayed there that I realized that Libbey Park was perfect for the finale.

Similarly, I knew I wanted to use Alcatraz, but I had to visit the island five or six times to properly map out where all the action would take place. Often this information is not included in the text, but I need to see it clearly to be able to write about it. And of course I photograph everything so I have a enormous visual record of all the places I’ve been to.

Coming up next... well, book 4 brings up back to the west coast of America and San Francisco. And then we head south towards LA, (but if I tell you any more I’ll reveal a couple of big surprises!).

There are many surprises in Book 4 (Scott hints at just a few on the book's Amazon page), including a shift for Dr. John Dee, who finds out early on that he's on the outs with the Dark Elders he's served for so long. Changes also look to be on the horizon for Josh, who may yet emerge as more than the daffy, less powerful twin of Sophie.

I'm happy to have this series to come back to every year, although I am a little jealous of people who can read all four books back-to-back this summer. Here's an excerpt from my review:

Time is running out for the Flamels; it's now been six days since their foe Dr. John Dee (another immortal) ran off with the Codex, the book of Abraham the Mage that keeps them young, and they are aging fast. The twins, who have been traveling around the world learning Elemental Magics, are worried about getting into trouble for basically disappearing for days, so they check in with their guardian, Aunt Agnes. But Scott doesn't let them settle in for long. True to the break-neck pace of this series, they are quickly pulled back into the action when Sophie is kidnapped by a redheaded vampire who bears an eerie resemblance to one of their recent allies, Scathach, who disappeared with Joan of Arc in the last book. The Necromancer introduces readers to even more infamous immortals, while keeping up with favorites from past books. The characters accumulate, and so do the opportunities for hair-raising fights and insane reveals. As they hurtle toward a conflict that could bring about the end of the world, we can't wait to see where they'll go, what they'll learn, and who they'll meet next.

Edith Grossman on Why Translation Matters

Grossman Edith Grossman is one of the most recognized translators of contemporary Latin American fiction into English; if you've read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mayra Montero, Carlos Fuentes, Antonio Munoz Molina, or Mario Vargas Llosa over the past 10-15 years, you've probably seen her work.

I am personally indebted to Grossman for her 2003 translation of Don Quixote, which completely changed the way I read that book. I had always enjoyed the story, but Grossman's translation allowed me to enjoy her language, as well, which pulled it out of the sort of academic fog I'd read it through before. Carlos Fuentes said of the translation in his NYT review:

This Don Quixote can be read with the same ease as the latest Philip Roth and with much greater facility than any Hawthorne. Yet there is not a single moment in which, in forthright English, we are not reading a 17th-century novel. This is truly masterly: the contemporaneous and the original co-exist.
In Why Translation Matters, partially adapted and reworked from her lectures on translation (including the instructive and engaging "Translating Cervantes"), Grossman candidly shares her thoughts about the practice and realities of translating in a literary environment that is hostile or indifferent to translated works.

Grossman writes compellingly about the role translation has played in the history of literature and culture, and why we desperately need to have more translated books available in English. She also lets us in on the seemingly elusive process of translation:

...what we do is not an act of magic, like altering base metals into precious stones, but the result of a series of creative decisions and imaginative acts of criticism. In the process of translating, we endeavor to hear the first version of the work as profoundly and completely as possible, struggling to discover the linguistic charge, the structural rhythms, the subtle implications, the complexities of meaning and suggestion in vocabulary and phrasing, and the ambient, cultural inferences and conclusions these tonalities allow us to extrapolate. This is a kind of reading as deep as any encounter with a literary text can be.
Edith Grossman was kind enough to answer some of my questions in a recent email exchange: One of the things you advocate for in the book is for greater recognition of translators and the art of translation. I have a much more thorough understanding of the process of translation after reading it, and I feel like more readers may be drawn to works in translation if they knew more about the process. How do you think translators can connect more with readers, or do they need to?

Grossman: The best connection between translators and readers is the translated book, but that reality is in the hands of publishers.

Continue reading "Edith Grossman on Why Translation Matters" »

The YA Decade

No other genre (except maybe graphic novels) has grown and changed as much during the last decade as young adult fiction. Inspired by Harry Potter (and probably a little bit by Lemony Snicket and Artemis Fowl), a whole generation of voracious readers emerged, and a whole new group of writers came up with stories to keep them reading well into their teens.

Over the past few years, we've seen a lot of YA controversies: Is the drinking in this book appropriate for young adult readers? What's the deal with these adult readers of YA? Should Rebecca wear the red dress or the blue dress to the prom? Should she go with the dark faerie or the newly-made-vampire geek boy?

YA authors are very prolific. Some of them write two or even three books a year, so the idea that I could come up with the ten best books of the decade seemed ludicrous. Also, many of the best--and most of the successful--YA books come in series.

So, I decided instead to list eight authors, certainly some of my favorites, who have shaped the world and language of YA over the past ten years. They are provocative, prolific, and inspiring. Some of them are rich with awards, others with fans, others with cash. The trait they all share is that they are influential. We get many advance review copies of YA books at our house, and these are the authors that most of them are trying to emulate in one way or another.

Here they are in approximate chronological order (based on when they published their first YA books):

1. M.T. AndersonOctavian1
primary contributions: writing YA books that adults take seriously; influencing multiple YA subgenres: vampire, romantic comedy, dystopian, and historical.

YA novels:
Thirsty (1997, his vampire novel)
Burger Wuss (1999)
Feed (2002, L.A. Times Book Prize winner and finalist for National Book Award)
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party (2006, winner of the National Book Award)
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom of the Waves (2008, Michael L. Printz Honor from YALSA)

paved the way for: Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Stephenie Meyer, and basically everyone else who aspires to literary YA fiction

Continue reading "The YA Decade" »

Against Eternal Provincialism: An Interview with Aleksandar Hemon


Bosnian novelist and MacArthur “Genius-Award” winner Aleksandar Hemon took on a modest project this year: bringing Europe to America.

As the editor of the Best European Fiction 2010, his task was to give American readers a taste of what they are missing by not reading (mostly due to lack of available translations) the diverse, entertaining, and innovative literature coming out of Finland, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania... really, countries all over Europe.

Reading these 35 writers, from 30 countries, was invigorating--and intimidating (so many new people to read!). This expansive volume is more than a literary sampler from the field of contemporary writing on the other side of the Atlantic, it's a jumping off point to fictional possibility. A few favorites to give you a sense of the range: Jean-Philippe Toussaint's musings on Zidane's infamous head-butt; Elo Viiding's subtle trashing of Western women, poets who visit the narrator's Soviet intellectual family in the early '80s; and Cosmin Manolache's list of the "Three Hundred Cups," imagined toasts of two cosmonauts (things they might raise a cup to), starting with the cup of banality and ending with the cup of beginnings. It's essential reading for anyone who wants a broader sense of what's happening in fiction today.

Hemon-thumb-200x298 Hemon answered my questions about the project: In a recent interview with the Paper Cuts blog, you said: "I think American literature is crippled by the shortage of available translations." Do you mean that the body of literature available to us as readers is incomplete, or also that American literature as an art form is not developing as fully as it should because emerging writers are not reading widely enough?

Aleksandar Hemon: Both. Literatures, cultures, writers need to communicate among themselves, to reach for and explore what might seemingly be outside their experience. In your introduction to the anthology, you expressed an urgency for translation to keep up with the "rapid developments in European literature." What are some of these developments, and do you see them happening more rapidly in Europe than in America?

Hemon: Europe is a rapidly changing place, on every level. Immigration, post-communist transitions, the unification, steady presence of war and conflict, the inescapable challenges to the notion of national literature/culture--it all exerts pressure upon writers who must be aware of the transformational possibilities of the situation. In your mind, what needs to happen in order to get more of this writing translated, so it can be more readily available to American readers?

Hemon: You cannot wait for the mainstream publishing to snap out of their profit dreams, which have recently turned to nightmares. There has to be a kind of grassroots push, a movement, as it were, against the inherent isolationism of American capitalism as practiced in the publishing industry. There need to be grants and government support and a few publishers, mainstream and independent, who are not afraid to challenge American readership. We need to build a network of translators, publishers and readers. We hope that our annual anthology might provide an upsurge in interest for European fiction and then, as we publish it every year, become a habit to many readers. In your introduction, you also talk about Europe as "a fragmented place that always strives toward some form of integration." How do you see this playing out in the literature that's being written now?

Hemon: You can see the diversity that pieces in the anthology represent, and then the interconnections--obvious and less obvious--between various stories or between various modes of storytelling. Diversity generates need for conversation, conversation generates common interests, as well as differences. Literature, as a human project, is all about that. Do you get a sense of an emerging or existing "European" voice or aesthetic?

Hemon: No, other than the democratic multitude of voices. As a European-born writer who lives in America, do you feel a sense of responsibility to put American readers in touch with European writers?

Hemon: Yes. But there is also a personal need. My books have been published all over Europe. They read me there, and I want to read them back. I also spend a lot of time in Europe, often meeting writers, and I'm sick of apologizing for the embarrassing shortage of translations in America. This is such a diverse collection, in both style and subject matter. Did you have a sense of how diverse and vibrant contemporary European literature was prior to editing this volume? How much did a desire to showcase this diversity guide your selections?

Hemon: Yes. I was aware. Europe has never been a monolithic space, it contains a lot of people, a lot of languages and infinite supplies of history. I didn't need to do anything to showcase diversity. It is a condition of life and art in Europe, contained in every random sample. How much does country, language, or culture influence style? Did you find particular styles or influences to be more prevalent in some countries or regions vs. others?

Hemon: Every writer owes something to a particular tradition he/she grew up in. But no serious writer--other than the militantly nationalist ones--would reduce his/her domain of influence to a single tradition. Furthermore, historical breaks are so common and large in Europe that there are ruptures in every tradition which then connect the same generations across national borders. Younger Eastern European writers, for instance, have more in common with other writers of the same age in Europe, than with the previous, communist-era generations in their own countries. My biggest takeaway from this book, aside from many hours of enjoyable reading, is a huge list of authors whose work I now want to read. Did this happen to you, as well, or were you familiar with most of the writers before you worked on the anthology?

Hemon: I learned a lot editing this anthology. I knew a few writers by name, a couple I know personally, but most of the names in the book were new to me. What percentage of these stories or excerpts were translated specifically for this book? Did the anthology launch any further translation projects?

Hemon: Pretty much all of them. Moreover, for each published piece there were 3-4 translated ones, which are now circulating in various ways. The anthology in and of itself generates translations. For you, what was the most exciting outcome of this project?

Hemon: The project is already indelible. There is no way to go back from this point--the moment it was published the anthology became essential and necessary for American literary life. If the project, somehow, failed to live on, American literature and culture will be sentenced without parole to eternal provincialism.

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of Love and Obstacles (2009) and the National Book Award finalist The Lazarus Project (2008). He lives in Chicago.


YA Wednesday: Forks!

Jean No Vampires Beyond This Point
No, I'm not in Forks, WA. Debbie Reese posted photos of Twilight locales Forks and La Push on her blog, American Indians in Children's Literature. Reese has been talking this week about how Quileute legend in real life doesn't quite match up with New Moon (they do both have wolves!), including this article from Penninsula Daily News (the local paper).

Quick links...
A movie theater in the UK spoils all the fun, banning fans from kissing Robert Pattinson's cardboard cutout: "Please help reduce the spread of germs by refraining from giving Edward, or any other character for that matter, a kiss or hug."

Pattinsoncutout SLJ's Jonathan Hunt names his top YA fiction picks of 2009 on NPR:
Charles and Emma
Lips Touch: Three Times
The Lost Conspiracy
Marcelo in the Real World
When You Reach Me

Read Roger points out that one of the books is not fiction, and another is not YA.

Jen Robinson sneaks away from her guests for a while to read an advance copy of the moon-apocalypse sequel This World We Live In. (My kind of girl.)

bookshelves of doom reviews Cybils nominee (and one of my favorite YA books of 2009), This is What I Want to Tell You.

Looking for holiday YA recommendations? The Telegraph lists the books of the year for teens (in the UK, but some of them are out here). Chasing Ray has books for girls, more books for girls, and even more books for girls.

Think books for the holidays, and happy reading!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Watching and Reading

This week, John Green sort of reviews New Moon...

Quick links...
Bookshelves of doom reports that issue 2 of TBRT (TBR Tallboy), a lo-fi journal of short YA fiction, has shipped. To order or see submissions guidelines go here.

Two Sioux Falls, SD middle school libraries have restricted students' access to Stuck in the Middle. If kids want to get it from the library, they have to convince a teacher to use it in class. (School Library Journal)

School Library Journal posts its Best of 2009 list. Just a few YA (Grade 8+) honorees: Hate List, Fire, Liar, and Marcelo in the Real World.

Beautiful Creatures came out yesterday and there's already an announcement about a film. (KidsLit)

Melissa Marr has all kinds of video excitement on her blog these days. Last week: Wicked Lovely casting videos. This week: four book trailers for Radiant Shadows, the next book in the Wicked Lovely series (due in April 2010!).

Happy reading (and watching)!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Done with Vampires?

Tonight at the National Book Awards ceremony, GalleyCat "prowled the red carpet" asking the nominees: What do you think of the Twilight books?

Quick links...
Claudettecolvin Phillip Hoose wins the National Book Award in the young readers category for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

Shona, a blogger, starts the Rory Gilmore Books Project, in which she sets out to read 260 books mentioned, shown, or joked about on the Gilmore Girls. (via Book-a-rama.)

Variety calls New Moon, the movie, "as good as Twilight and arguably a shade better."

Img-mg---twilight-tattoos---erica-collins_162211589513.jpg_tn_gallery The Daily Beast compiles a photo gallery of the Best Twilight Tattoos. (via GalleyCat.)

Tired of vampires yet? You're not the only one. Stephenie Meyer tells "I'm a little burned out on vampires right now."

Happy reading!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Fictional Teens... Transgress!

Last Friday, Cory Doctorow published an essay in Locus in response to questions he's received from concerned parents about sex and drinking in his YA novel, Little Brother. Doctorow (also the parent of a young daughter) presents a balanced, thoughtful perspective in what he calls his "Teen transgression in YA literature FAQ."
Teenagers take risks, even stupid risks, at times. But the chance on any given night that sneaking a beer will destroy your life is damned slim. Art isn't exactly like life, and science fiction asks the reader to accept the impossible, but unless your book is about a universe in which disapproving parents have cooked the physics so that every act of disobedience leads swiftly to destruction, it won't be very credible. The pathos that parents would like to see here become bathos: mawkish and trivial, heavy-handed, and preachy.

Quick links...
In The New York Times Book Review "Field Guide to Fairies", Regina Marler looks at the allure of YA novels trafficking in the tortured loves of mortals and fairies:

It’s not just the dark lovers that allure and threaten. Passion itself feels alien at this age, the point at which choices--the dangerous lover who enchants versus the dependable boy next door--can have lasting consequences.
Featuring: Eyes Like Stars, Wings, Ash, Fairy Tale, and Fragile Eternity.

Yarn YARN (Young Adult Review Network), a new litmag for readers ages 14 and up, launches their site, announcing their impending kick-off in winter 2010. The magazine (which accepts submissions from young adults as well as "fogies over 18") will feature fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews, as well as a “What We’re Reading Now” series, with editors asking readers what YA books they're into. (via YA & Kids Books Central)

At Bookslut, Colleen Mondor rounds up books "on war around the world, both declared and not, that older teens in particular will find both compelling and engaging."

Out this week: Deadly Little Lies, book two in Laurie Faria Stolarz's Touch series.

Happy reading!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: New Moon and NaNoWriMo

Only 16 days left until the release of New Moon (the movie!). If you can't wait, you can act out scenes from the book, or make up your own, with the Bella Barbie

(found via abebooks)

and Jacob doll

which you can carry around in your Edward backpack, so he's always watching.

And if you've had just about enough of Twilight hype, you can find refuge in Nightlight, the Harvard Lampoon's spoofy version of book 1:Nightlight

Pale and klutzy, Belle arrives in Switchblade, Oregon looking for adventure, or at least an undead classmate. She soon discovers Edwart, a super-hot computer nerd with zero interest in girls. After witnessing a number of strange events–Edwart leaves his tater tots untouched at lunch! Edwart saves her from a flying snowball!–Belle has a dramatic revelation: Edwart is a vampire. But how can she convince Edwart to bite her and transform her into his eternal bride, especially when he seems to find girls so repulsive?

Complete with romance, danger, insufficient parental guardianship, creepy stalker-like behavior, and a vampire prom, Nightlight is the uproarious tale of a vampire-obsessed girl, looking for love in all the wrong places.

Quick links...
Mortal Instruments is going to be a film now, too (I told you it was cinematic!). All the cities--City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass--will be one big movie.

/Film reports that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) have cast the film version of Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story.

(Thanks, KidsLit for the news on both these films!)

School Library Journal honors Esther Hautzig, author of Endless Steppe, who died this week at 79.

At Bookslut Kati Nolfi calls Going Bovine a departure for Libba Bray, "a contemporary dark comedy with supernatural elements ... no ringlet-haired girls and Victorian bodices are on the cover of this book."

Justine Larbalestier is giving young would-be writers tips on how to get through this year's NaNoWriMo: "The world will not end if you don’t meet your daily word count. Nor will it end if you don’t have 50,000 words at the end of November." So is Maureen Johnson (Day 3: Points of view).

Meg Cabot plugs the new Glee Cast Album. She's also doing NaNoWriMo.

This week, the Amazon editors posted their Best of 2009 top 10 picks for teens, and the top 10 customer picks. What book do they have in common? (No surprise!) Catching Fire.

Happy reading!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Goth Girl and Other Treats

GothgirlThis week, I'm enjoying Goth Girl Rising, Barry Lyga's sequel to his hit debut, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. It's told from Kyra's (aka Goth Girl's) perspective, and there are dolls! (Actually, they're called minimates):

(From Lyga's minimate photo shoot; caption: "What are YOU looking at?")

Quick links...
Lyga talks about the cover of the book in Melissa Walker's "Cover Stories".

Iamclasspres Daily Show writer Josh Lieb pens a YA novel, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President. (Galley Cat calls it "...maybe the most brilliant illustration of the Oedipus complex in the entirety of Western literature.")

The Guardian reports on Neil Gaiman and Melvin Burgess's experiments with Twitter fiction.

McSweeney's posts installment #3 of "Oh My Gawd: A Column About a Teenager Navigating Religion."

The Louisville Courier-Journal runs yet another article about how adults are reading YA. (Via Justine Larbalestier)

Nominations for the 2009 Cybils, the annual awards picked by the bloggers, have been announced, with 175 or so books nominated in the Young Adult Fiction category. Sadly, YA Wednesday favorites The Dust of 100 Dogs and Punkzilla were not among them, but many other worthy books were. Keep an eye on the blogs for reviews of all the nominees.

Happy reading, and Happy Halloween!--Heidi

YA Wednesday: The Bella Twins and Walt Whitman

John Green, on Paper Towns winning the top spot on YALSA's Teens Top Ten List for 2009,
"You're telling me that, in a popularity contest, my book about Walt Whitman beat out Stephenie Meyer's book about hot vampires?"
From this video (and, originally from this video.)

The remaining 2009 Teens Top Ten:

2. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

3. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

4. City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare

5. Identical, Ellen Hopkins

6. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

7. Wake, Lisa McMann

8. Untamed, P.C. and Kristin Cast

9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart

10. Graceling, Kristin Cashore

Quick links...
School Library Journal remembers Norma Fox Mazer, author of The Missing Girl, After the Rain and Up in Seth's Room.

Bookninja ponders the real motivations behind the vampire craze, "a quiet but profound sexual revolution and a new acceptance of freakiness in mainstream American life."

In The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead takes readers inside an editorial pitch meeting at Alloy Entertainment, home of Gossip Girl, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The Vampire Diaries, which, incidentally, was first pitched way back in 1989 as "Anne Rice for teens."

TemptedHON Speaking of vampires, the next installment in P.C. and Kristin Cast's House of Night series, Tempted comes out next week. Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Mummy Love

This week, gamer staple Penny Arcade offered their prediction for the next wave of teen-monster love: Penny cut
Click to see the full comic.

Quick links...
Author Terry Pratchett and playwright Mark Ravenhill have collaborated on a stage adaptation of Nation, and the Guardian is running a YouTube contest for aspiring playwrights/filmmakers, age 10 to 17, to take a stab at adapting a part of the story themselves. Entry details here.

I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one who immediately thought of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It last week when I saw the footage of NASA shooting the moon. Pfeffer posted about it as well.

The New York Times reviewed Catching Fire.

Fuse #8 lets the rest of us live the NY librarian life vicariously through her funny publisher preview round-ups. On the YA front, she reports from the recent Penguin spring preview about the cover for Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials, which used to look like this:


"However, this apparently was determined to have adult appeal and not teen appeal."
So, now the cover looks like this (complete with Tina Fey blurb): Boysgirlstinafey

Galley Cat joins the bloggers questioning the Young Reader categorization of David Small's graphic novel Stitches in today's National Book Award finalist announcements.

Guten Tag! Presenting Lenore reports from the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is, as we've been seeing on other blogs, "not as big this year."

Teen Read Week starts on Sunday. See the YALSA website for details.

Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Beautiful Creatures (again)

Last week, I used "Beautiful Creatures" as a title, forgetting entirely that a book by the same name is coming out this December, and it looks great:

And here's another trailer. And another.

Read the blog.

Quick links...
Libba Bray, on a blog tour for Going Bovine, invites readers at YA and Kids Book Central to join her in her "Writing Chamber of Awesomeness™."

"Oh, I wouldn’t touch that. That was a random thought I had about a serial killer charm school. Just go around it. Terrific. ..."
Diablo Cody will write a screen adaptation of the Sweet Valley High series. (Variety)

Booktrust publishes their shortlist for the 2009 Booktrust Teenage prize. (bookshelves of doom)

Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Twisted, and Wintergirls are the target of the parental complaints. (School Library Journal)

Speaking of complaints, Ellen Hopkins (Tricks, Crank) writes about a library that cancelled her author visit after a parent asked for her books to be removed.


The Story Siren gives a quintuple 5-star review to Ballad, Maggie Stiefvater's sequel to her fabulous Lament. I can't wait to get started on this book.

Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Beautiful Creatures

I know. I know. Another Leviathan post. I've just finished chapter four, and can't wait to find out what happens when Prince Alek (of the clankers, who fight with fantastical machinery) meets Deryn, a girl pretending to be a boy fighting with the Darwinists, who evolve living creatures into their weaponry. This trailer lays it out:

(I'm confused by the narration style here, which is totally NOT the voice of the book. But the visuals do seem to draw from Keith Thompson's illustrations, which are lovely and feel very early 20th Century.)

Quick links...
WickedlovelyUniversal Pictures picks up the screen rights to Wicked Lovely. (Variety)

Melissa Marr gives us the skinny.

Publisher's Weekly reports on the new hot trend in teen romance: Bad-boy angels. Among the books mentioned: Going Bovine, The Unfinished Angel, Evil?.

The Los Angeles Times calls the CW's The Vampire Diaries, based on the YA series by L.J. Smith, "a good old-fashioned Gothic love story." (Via The Millions)

The Millions also posts a round-up of Twilight-hater videos, such as Twilight Meets Chainsaw and Burning Twilight Party!!!. I guess the girl who made this video won't be lining up for the New Moon premiere this fall.

The Story Siren, an excellent blog that I've linked to many times here on YAW, wins the BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) award for Best Young Adult Blog. Congratulations, Kristi!

Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Crashed, Crushed, and Tattooed

Out this week: Crashed, book 2 in Robin Wasserman's Skinned Trilogy, about a girl who dies in a car crash and is reborn as a machine. I haven't read the books, but I'm liking this trailer:

And for readers looking for some back-to-school teen romance & realism, these two new releases look intriguing:

Julie Anne Peters's Rage: A Love Story (which I've started reading… the voice drew me in), and Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff.

Quick links...
A.S. King posts the first The Dust of 100 Dogs-inspired tattoo:


(What?! You haven't read the book? Go read it now.)

ALAN lists September Picks.

Little Willow shares the first vlog from readergirlz writer-in-residence, Beth Kephart (Nothing but Ghosts).

YA and children's author Zeta Elliott (A Wish After Midnight) posts "something like an open letter to the publishing industry": The best way to get children of color to read? Publish more writers of color. (Via Read Roger, who admires the essay, but is skeptical of its conclusion.)

Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent asks: Should children's books be content-rated like movies and video games?

RiotEgmont is giving away the original Civil War-era newspapers that inspired Riot, Walter Dean Myers' upcoming YA book/screenplay about the 1863 New York riots. (School Library Journal)

Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Going Bovine, Going to a Wedding

Libba Bray's Going Bovine: not so much a trailer as a cow-on-the-town mini tour. If the book is as funny as this video, I'm in:

Quick links...
Gothiccastle Fans begged author Beth Fantaskey for a sequel to her 2008 book Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, so she's asking them to plan the book's wedding. First, they'll choose the location: gothic castle, candlelit cave, or the Carpathian mountains? Details on the author's blog.

Voting is open for YALSA's Teen's Top Ten for 2009. Pick your favorite three by September 18.

Stephenie Meyer gets sued.

John Green turns 32.

Candor Meg Cabot talks about being rejected at

PW's Children's Bookshelf reports on the buzz leading up to the September 1 release of Catching Fire.

Jen Robinson likes Candor, a book I've been curious about, and am now going to read. As soon as I finish Going Bovine.

Happy reading.--Heidi

Determined Indeterminacy: Q&A with Fence Editor Rebecca Wolff

V1n1In 1997, Rebecca Wolff got a few friends together at her apartment to talk about starting a magazine. Carolyn Crumpacker, Jonathan Lethem, Frances Richard, Matt Rohrer, and Wolff drafted a manifesto for an art/lit/criticism mag called Fence. In their words:
"Fence is a resting place for work that we recognize by its singularity, its reluctance to take a seat in any established camp, its insistence on the reader's close attention to what is not already understood, digested, judged."
Nine years later, Wolff asked each of the editors--they've changed a few times over the years--to pick their favorites of the poems, stories, or essays they edited, and to introduce their picks with an essay about Fence. The result, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years, Volumes 1 & 2, is more than just a chronicle of the early years of a literary magazine. Reading or re-reading the poems and stories is like watching the arc of recent contemporary literature. There are many familiar names here, and it's fun to revisit the pieces and realize that you probably read them 10 years ago in Fence before the authors were widely known and published. Even more fun are the editors' essays, which take you to the inner circle of Fence; reading them feels, just a little bit, like having been there.

I've been a long-time fan of the magazine, so I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to Wolff about it: What made you decide to do a Fence retrospective?

Rebecca Wolff: My largest goal with this anthology is to make a record of Fence for the ages. Fence happened right around the time that jaunty email became the given form of even literary communication--no more beautifully crafted letters from editors, at least not in the fast-paced world of start-up journals--and I have been particularly bad at archiving anything about Fence. A library had expressed interest at one point in buying "the Fence archive" and I literally had nothing to sell them. So it occurred to me that a wonderful way to remedy this would be to ask my many editors, over the almost-decade, to tell the Fence story in their words and so to create a record, with hindsight.

And I was proud of our accomplishments and wanted to trumpet them to the world! But there is a backstory: I conceived of the idea in what was really our ninth year--2006--and just then things were changing in the Fence environment. I was, actually, having quite a time figuring out how to keep things going, structurally and financially. It was uncertain that we would continue. So it felt almost elegiac, in a way, to ask these editors to recall their versions of how we got Fence going and what were their parts in the whole effort, which I liken to that of the famous adrenaline-crazed mom who lifts her car off her toddler.

But then a significant juncture happened: Our providential affiliation with the New York State Writers Institute (and consequent move from NYC to Albany) occurred in 2007, and it made sense in a happier way that this anthology talk about our independent years, so to speak (though happily Fence retains all manner of independence in its current arrangement). It’s quite a feat: two volumes, 953 pages total. How long did it take to pull it all together? What surprises did you encounter?

Wolff: It took years and years. Three, to be exact. I put out the call to my editors in April of 2006, and we limped along from there. The editors, some of them, were tardy, permissions were excruciating, and I really don't think that it all would have come together, in the end, if I hadn't been able to finally, in 2007, hire an associate editor (Colie Collen) to help manage all the details. The biggest surprise was how prone to folly I am: I neglected to give my editors any kind of limitation on how many pieces from the magazine they could select for their sections, and so that's how it ended up being 953 pages.

Fence1Fence2 It was fascinating to see the Fence manifesto--mostly because I had always thought that the driving aesthetic behind Fence was innovation. But it was really openness. Am I characterizing that correctly? What made you decide to include the manifesto?

Wolff: You are characterizing that so correctly, and what a relief. The funniest thing about Fence has been the kind of mirrored quality it has, for readers: they see in it what they want to see--which I guess is not so much like a mirror as like a dream, or perhaps a chimera. Someone once wrote Fence a letter about its being an organ for "post-New York School" writing. We hear about how we publish only writers from Iowa. Or only writers from New York. Or how we are groundbreakingly experimental. The fact is we have been painstakingly diverse, in many registers: accomplishment, derivation, gender, culture--literary and otherwise. There is no inherent value, right now, as far as I can tell, in innovation in writing, and I have always instead championed what I clunkily call idiosyncrasy, over alignment with particular models; indeterminacy over overdeterminedness. I feel I probably should have published the manifesto much sooner, perhaps in every issue of Fence.

Continue reading "Determined Indeterminacy: Q&A with Fence Editor Rebecca Wolff " »

YA Wednesday: Gowns and Monsters

A few days ago, I was sorting through my August books and came across The Monster Variations:

This was a happy find: Daniel Kraus has not only written a small-town literary thriller with cinematic action scenes, he's nearly written a pre-teen Heart of Darkness, with a Stand By Me sense of boyhood adventure and sadness.

Another happy find: Daniel Kraus's blog, Frances Ford Iowa, which showcases the many videos he made when he was in high school. Here's "Battle of the Arms" (A Danman Production):

Quick links...
EW gives us a first look at a bearded Salma in the movie version of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant.

Twilight (the movie) and Gossip Girl (the TV show) dominate the Teen Choice Awards.

Chasing Ray posts a Southeast Asia round-up, featuring Carpe Diem, When Heaven Fell, and several other blogger favorites.

Melissa Walker shows off her wedding dress, a 1930s nightgown that she had re-designed by Garo Sparo. Leave it to the author of the Violet series to find the perfect dress.

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Happy reading.--Heidi

YA Wednesday: Those Marvelous Flying Machines

Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, a high-flying, around-the-world adventure novel set in 1914, is due out in just a couple of months. It's one of the books I'm most looking forward to this fall (especially after learning about these German dirigibles).

Westerfeld talks about his early ideas for Leviathan in this Extras video:

As if we weren't excited enough already, Westerfeld is offering free downloads of Uglies.

YA Memoir that Breaks the Mold
Everythingsucks Salon interviewed Hannah Friedman this week about her new book Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool. The book sounds fantastic, and to make it sound more fantastic (i.e., not your usual YA) the reviewer takes a few jabs at the whole YA genre:

Not only is Friedman's writing striking for its blunt, unromantic realism; her prose also displays a self-aware wit that is all too rare in the genre. Also:
Her refusal to moralize or provide an easy resolution sets "Everything Sucks" apart from YA literature's preponderance of breezy, formulaic narratives.
I expected YA bloggers to be all over these sweeping generalizations, but haven't even seen a link.

Quick links...
Stephenie-meyer-biographyAs briefly reported in yesterday's Omni Daily News, Stephenie Meyer will join the likes of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Princess Di to star in her own Female Force comic. Female Force: Stephenie Meyer will debut in October. (Cynopsis: Kids!)

The Daily Beast reviews Lizzie Skurnick's Shelf Discovery, calling the essays "a mix of nostalgia, analysis, memoir, and feminist revision that can make even the guiltiest read feel like it held a vital role in our coming of age."

A non-YA book about a predominantly YA topic: The Book Bench interviews Miriam Forman-Brunell, author of Babysitter: An American History.

Simon Pulse is publishing The Secret to Teen Power, the teen version of the international best seller and its "laws of attraction." (via Book Ninja)

We're in the middle of The Book Smugglers' Young Adult Appreciation Month, which I just found out about this week. (Thanks, Presenting Lenore!) They have a bunch of great reviews and guest posts for your perusal.

Happy reading.--Heidi

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