Monday, January 18, 2010


Forget the Golden Globes and People's Choice, YALSA* named their 2010 Literary Award winners.

And the William C. Morris Award, for the best teen book written by a debut author, goes to...

drumroll, please

...Portland's own L.K. Madigan, for Flash Burnout!

Here's the book description:

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who's a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him.

When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa's long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake's participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad's birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).

In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

I read Flash Burnout when it was released a few months ago, and it's one of my favorite books of 2009. Lisa (aka L.K.) just nails the teen boy voice. (How am I an expert, you might ask? Answer: I grew up with three of the creatures.) It's funny, wry, poignant, and pitch-perfect.

For a hilarious taste of Lisa's wit (and Blake's), check out this interview.

Congratulations, Lisa--you done Portland Kidlit proud!

*Young Adult Library Services Association, which is the teen literature branch of the American Library Association. The 800-lb gorilla of kidlit, in other words.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

With A Little Help

Last fall, I had the good fortune to attend the 2008 Kidlit Bloggers Conference. That’s where I found out that Portland is practically teeming with very, very cool people who write young adult literature. (Seriously—teeming. Watch where you step.) And now, this fabulous community is stepping out to support one of its own.

Bridget Zinn is a YA librarian and author who recently landed an agent to represent her debut novel. Days later, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. On her blog, she writes: “...I am a super super healthy non-smoking, non-drinking, carcinogen avoiding young vegetarian who wears sunscreen every day. I looked at the list of risk factors for colon cancer and it turn out that I don’t even have one. Not one risk factor. So that was a surprise.”

I think “a surprise” might count as the understatement of the year.

Bridget is currently undergoing chemotherapy. To help raise funds (another “surprise”: health insurance doesn’t cover everything), indefatigble YA librarian Jone MacCulloch has launched an online auction that will run the entire month of May. YA authors, illustrators, family and friends are donating items ranging from original artwork to signed copies of books to signed copies of books that aren't even out yet to getaway vacations. Take a look—I bet you’ll find something that catches your eye!

AND, if you live in the Portland area, be sure to pencil in “Bridget Zinn Live Auction” for Friday, May 29th. There’ll be tons more items up for grabs, including—thanks to my fabulous coworker and certified canine massage therapist Tammy Moody—two gift certificates for canine massage! Got a dog friend who could use some pampering? Then be sure to show up at the Lucky Lab brewpub, bid early and often! (Oh, and there'll be signed copies of Ten Cents a Dance and Tallulah Falls, too.)

To Bridget and her new husband (did I mention she got married the same month she got her agent and her diagnosis? If you want to know how that came about, read here), we wish you much strength, health, joy, and big-time cancer-ass kicking. Many kudos to Jone for organizing the auctions, Lisa Nowak for creating the auction blog site, and all in the kidlit community who are pulling together. You all are amazing.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Cybils Winnahs!

The 2008-9 Cybils (Children's and Young adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) have been announced, and the winner of the Young Adult Fiction award is...

(drumroll, please)...

(waaait for it)...

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

If you're not familiar with The Disreptuable History (which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and a Printz Honor book) I can tell you it's a fabulous read. This is what the Cybils judges said:

It's a setting we know. It's a theme we're familiar with. But with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart takes common features of teen fiction and turns them into a smart, fun, multi-layered, action-filled, coming-of-age story with a unique treatment and fresh voice. Frankie's feminist-fueled and P.G. Wodehouse-inspired antics at boarding school are hilarious, but also tinged with the sometimes-harsh truths of growing up. A book complex and clever enough that wildly diverse readers will each take, and love, something different out of the narrative.

Congratulations, E. Lockart, and to all the finalists! I'm thrilled and deeply honored that Ten Cents a Dance was chosen to be in this stellar group. Many, many thanks to the Cybils panelists, who put in crazy long hours whittling almost 140 nominations down to the final seven, and to the Cybils judges, who had the unenviable task of picking only one title from the list. These are people with day jobs, families, and lives, who volunteer their time because of their dedication to children's and young adult literature. Kudos to all of you!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Girl Week at Reviewer X!

Reviewer X (aka Steph, YA book reviewer, blogger, and all-around awesome gal) is hosting a Girl Week extravaganza over at her blog all this week. She's featuring book reviews, guest blogs, book giveaways, author interviews, and more. The best part? She invited me to be part of the celebration! Here's my guest blog on how historical YA heroines in corsets can beat the pants off their contemporary counterparts any day of the week. And here's Reviewer X's very, very kind review of Ten Cents a Dance. While you're there, check out Stephanie Kuenhert's ruminations on the perjorative slut, an interview with the fabulous Lurlene McDaniel, Jody Gehrman's contention that Shakespeare was a feminist, and way, way more.

Thanks and many kudos to Reviewer X for putting this amazing lineup together--and for inviting me to jump in with so many great YA authors. They're a strong, thoughtful, gracious bunch (a lot like their heroines), and I'm honored to share the stage with them.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Cybils

So you know all those kidlit blogger types I’ve been telling you about? Seems that a couple of years ago, they organized an award for children’s literature. Called the Cybils (Childrens’ and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards), the competition is designed to incorporate the populism of the internet with a celebration of literary merit. The public is invited to nominate their favorite children’s or YA books, but to keep the award from being a mere popularity contest (like the late Quills), panels of children’s and YA lit bloggers then read the nominated books and choose the ones they feel are the best. I checked out the 2007 list and found books I’d never heard of—but which look amazing. (My next trip to the bookstore, I have my list, and Boy Toy by Barry Lyga is at the top.)
The Cybils is only in its third year, so if you or someone you know is a fan of kidlit, spread the word. And if you read a children’s or YA book this year that you adored, skip on over to the nominations and let them know. Nominations close October 15th!*

(In case you’re wondering, Ten Cents a Dance has already been nominated—thanks for asking, and whoo hoo!)

*Here’s the Official Fine Print, but in short (read the following very fast, in the tone of one of those prescription medication commercial guys): To be eligible, the book must have been published between Jan 1, 2008 and Oct 15, 2008, must be in English (or bilingual), and only one nomination per genre per person. Books may be nominated in these genres: Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels. The Cybils will not cause drowsiness, headache, intestinal distress, hair on your palms, dropsy, or myopia.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kidlit 08, Part II: In Which Our Heroine Imparts an Epiphany

In no particular order, here are some things I absorbed at the Kidlit Bloggers Conference last week. This is far from a comprehensive rundown of All I Witnessed, as I didn't want to go all book-report-y on you…but it’s a pretty good sampling of what the conference was about.

From Mark of Just One More Book on podcasting:
Most people have 3 concerns that keep them from podcasting: content, context, and delivery.

Podcasting is simple and doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment. In fact, Mark and his wife, Andrea, record their podcasts at a local coffee shop.

From Gregory K. of GottaBook on self promotion:
Set yourself up for the happy accident. Meaning, small things can lead to big results—you just don’t know when or how.

When titling your blog posts, use strong words that people might be searching for. For example, Gregory posted a poem about soccer and titled it “Goal: A Soccer Poem.” This post gets 8000 hits a year from people searching for soccer poetry. (Which leads to a whole different set of questions…but I digress).

Above all, add value for others. Offer something without expecting anything in return.

From Pam of MotherReader on kicking your blog up a notch:
Blogging is about being part of a community. In order to foster conversation, bloggers should be reading and actively commenting on other blogs in their community. (In other words, don’t ignore everyone else, then complain about how nobody comments on your blog.)

That said, MotherReader noted that overall, comments are way, way down. Theories abound, but she speculates it’s due to the mushrooming number of blogs out there.

Focus on: “I have something of interest to offer,” not “I’m interesting—look at me!”

Discover your niche. Who are you, and what can you bring to the conversation?

Of all the topics at the conference, this is the one that resonated most for me. I’ve blogged before about the purpose of an author blog, how I got started, why I keep going. But I felt that the blog lacked focus. I’d heard the advice “find your niche," a dozen times, but it hadn’t really clicked. This time—maybe because I was spending the entire day with people who think about this a lot—it did. Who am I…besides veterinarian or writer? Underneath those things— the rock-bottom reason I ended up in both those careers—I love to learn. When I come across something that interests me, I get all fascinated and geeky and start talking really loud and waving my hands, because it doesn’t ever occur to me that everyone else won’t be just as thrilled as I am that dinosaurs turned out to have four-chambered hearts, which is HUGE evidence that they are the ancestors of birds, not reptiles (because reptiles have only three chambers in their hearts. AHA! God, that’s cool.)

I love to share what I learn, too, which is how I ended up teaching part-time at a community college for ten years. And the best thing is, I can think of at least a dozen different ways to take that sharing into the blog, which is good because, while I am easily fascinated, I am also easily bored. (My posts will not all be about dinosaur hearts, I assure you).

We'll see what happens. Don’t be shy about letting me know what you think.

What better way to close out this post than a kidlit fashion video, from Betsy of A Fuse #8 Production? (No, I’m not in it. Maybe, by next year, I’ll have learned something about fashion. Doubtful...but stranger things have happened.)

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Kidlit 08!

I can't even remember now how I found out about the 2008 Kidlit Bloggers Conference; but as soon as I did, I asked for that day off work so that I could attend. Because:
1) I've been thinking a lot over the past several months about how I can improve this blog--especially how to make it less random and more focused, and thus less like my actual brain tumbling out onto the internet, complete with dust bunnies and odd knick-knacks, like that tiny china box my best friend in 7th grade gave me for my birthday that's too small to put anything in and yet which I can't bring myself to throw Focus! *ahem* Carrying on:
2) It sounded like a great opportunity to meet children's lit bloggers in the actual world, instead of just reading and lurking in their online haunts, which is what I normally do; and:
3) It just so happened to take place in my hometown of Portland, OR.
So, bright and early Saturday morning, I joined several dozen folks in a hotel meeting room and settled in for what turned out to be a fabulous day of blogtalk and kidlit. I've attended a lot of conferences (both veterinary medicine and writing), and this was the one of the very few I've been to in which every presentation was both informative and entertaining. Not to mention, these folks are smart, funny, opinionated, and passionate about both children's literature and the art of spreading kidlit love in the online world, and consequently they're a kick and a half to spend time with.
Who are these passionate people? The Kidlit site has a list of attendees (with links to their conference blog posts, complete with photos!), but in general they're a delightful mix of children's literature book reviewers, librarians, book illustrators, and authors (both published and pre-published). Most wear more than one hat, some work in day jobs far removed from children's books, and for almost everyone, blogging about kidlit is a labor of love that pays back only in intangibles.
I'll post some specifics about what I learned a little later...but for now, major kudos to Laini Taylor and Jone Rush MacCulloch, the conference organizers, and to all the presenters. Next year's conference will be in Washington D.C...I'm already scheming ways to get there!

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