Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Very Late Winner Announcement

I wrote this three days ago. I am conference-brained. Forgive.

We have a winner!

My apologies for the uber-short post but I‘m at ALA and I’m kinda short on time.
Let it be known that this was a tough contest to judge. MacNish, I loved your haiku a lot and I loved yours, too, Valerie. But in the end there was a clear winner. Mr. Stephenson, thank you for the great piece about your puppy.

My parents claim I repeatedly threw my puppy in the toilet when I was a toddler. The puppy was stuffed, mind you, so don’t think I was a serial-killer-in-the-making. I was two. I have no recollection of sneaking away from my parents, stuffed puppy clutched in my chubby hand, ambling toward the bathroom. All I have as evidence is the tattered toy itself with its frayed brown fur and half-torn tongue. Larger than my adult fist, it was unflushable. I wonder what was.

I’ve written to you about choosing one of the prizes listed and once I get back from Anaheim, I will post whatever you choose to you!

Thank you to ALL entrants. You know, contests that require effort and might end up being a bit of craic (that’s Irish for fun) get fewer and fewer entries these days, so if you entered, you’re pretty much a star player in my eyes. I hope you’ll come around next time, when the prize will be an ARC of ASK THE PASSENGERS. 

Up next, the ALA post. Great pictures.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Series of Disjointed Rambling Posts: #4 What Do People Put in Toilets?

I know that question is making all of your inner 7-year-olds giggle. But seriously.

I've started to notice a lot more of these lately.

^What the hell is he putting in there? A boarding pass? In the toilet? It looks bigger than that. A 4x8 index card? Unless it's real-to-size and then he's got a gigantic hand and is trying to stuff a poster into the poor little toilet. What's with that?

^Hand towels? Who would put hand towels in the toilet? How wouldn't they know that "hand towels...will clog the toilet?" Why would anyone try that? I am so confused.

^What's that? A bagged lunch? I see the diaper, but what's in the bag? And that thing that looks like an enormous inflatable Band-Aid. What's that? Half-popped microwave popcorn? A giant inflatable Band-Aid? Oh! It's a sanitary napkin from 1975, right? Don't forget your safety pins, ladies.
And bottles and cups? Really? People put them in the toilet? Holy crap.

Even if we were raised by wolves, we would know not to flush fucking bottles down the toilet.

Slugs. I could have been raised by slugs and I would know not to try and flush a bottle down the toilet.

If these signs are anything to go by, we're in big trouble.

Zombies are mere centimeters away.

What about the other 17 things you wanted to tell us about?

Um. I'm groggy. And I want to get a contest going.
So, here's a link to a blog about a Skype chat I did with a book club where my next book was named "Project Lice & Porn."
The book's about all sorts of stuff. But I like this nickname. Because it's very me, isn't it?

And the snow globe/TSA update, as seen in the Houston airport. YOUR SAFETY IS OUR PRIORITY. Especially when it comes to children's toys.

I can't remember the other 15 right now.
I had a dream last night that I was late for everything at ALA. And I got lost in the hotel. And I ran out of clothes. I'm kinda preoccupied now. So we'll just jump right to the contest.

Want to win something cool?

Go to my Secret Hideout for contest instructions.
You have until Wednesday, June 20th to enter.

Go to it!

Win Groovy Things Here.

There are a few ways you could have arrived at this blog post.

1. You clicked on the link to enter the Secret Hideout contest to win one of three GROOVY THINGS. If so, go ahead and leave me a comment. 

2. You are a regular visitor to the blog and if so, I really appreciate that. If you want to win one of three GROOVY THINGS then you should go to the Secret Facebook Hideout to get instructions on how to enter to win. You will need these instructions. You can't wing this contest. 

3. You stumbled here by complete accident. If so, see #2. Why not, right? There are groovy things to be won.

Deadline is Wednesday June 20 at 11:59 PM. 
Winner will be announced as soon as I can considering I'll be gone from Saturday to Thursday.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Series of Disjointed and Rambling Posts: #3 A Letter from an Angel Potato to His Administration AKA The letter that brought salty liquid to the lower portion of my eyeballs

More random secret trip imagery.
This has nothing to do with any of the random stuff I mentioned in my first post.
Just pulling this one out of the author-away-from-desk-for-two-weeks hat. You can't say I didn't warn you. I even used the word disjointed.


There's this Angel Potato. If you don't know what an Angel Potato is, then you should check out Kristen Pelfrey's blog or this blog from Andrew Smith. This particular Angel Potato, Spencer, wrote to me in April for the first time after he read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS. I replied and we ended up discussing station wagons, satellites and the B-52s. Since then he has given my book to a lot of fellow students to read, been involved in Ms. Pelfrey's REVOLUTION and has written me many more letters that made my day, including one with a book trailer he made for ANTS which rocks.

Spencer is now a General in the book Revolution. This may or may not involve wearing a cape. (Capes are so boss.) This week, while I was basking in secret sunsets, he wrote:

I have written a letter to my school district to incorperate Everybody Sees the Ants in an anti bullying arwareness thing and I have attached the letter I hope you are ok with this and like it.

Spencer, I don't just like it. I'm not just okay with it. I freaking love it. You are an example of my favorite axiom at work: IF YOU WANT SOMETHING TO CHANGE, THEN CHANGE IT. Thanks for giving me permission to share this letter on my blog. I hear this message from MANY students across the country. While schools try to deal with bullying, they often leave out literature that speaks to students. Thank you for saying this so eloquently in your letter. I am a firm believer that fiction can change lives and attitudes, and in the end, educations...if we allow it to.

Dear Anti-bullying Committee,

             My name is Spencer Crosland; I am a sixteen year old sophomore at Foothill Technology High School. I am a good student; I get good grades, am in the Bioscience program, respectful of my teachers, and very social. Foothill is the perfect place for my high school career, it is friendly and really prepares me and my fellow students for life. Now there is one problem with this school but it is not as severe as other schools. This problem is bullying and I am sure you are aware of that.

            You all have done a great job with teaching most students not to bully each other and to respect not just their teachers but their classmates. My fellow students and I hear of experiences and the outcomes of bullying every year and of course that good old line “Be nice and don’t bully”. For the most part students don’t bully each other unless they get in one gigantic argument; however there are still the cases in which we are still bullied. I say we because when I first started high school I was victim of bullying.

            I was constantly made fun of and looked at like people wanted me dead or to have never existed. After a while I began to think this about myself as well and when that happened things only got worse. When someone finally gives up trying to be happy everyone around them starts to get annoyed with them and even a person’s best friend can turn on them; this makes us feel like there is nothing left and we have to hide it for everyone.

            After a few months of depression and hating myself I actually had hope. I was given a book called Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King. This book is about a teenage boy who had just entered high school, just like me, he has been bullied all his life. In the summer before his sophomore year this bully beats him to the point where he hallucinates ants because of the amount of blood he lost; the boy goes to Arizona and meets a girl who helps him understand he is worth something and in the end he gets his confidence back and stands up to his bully. 

          You may think because I am young that my opinion in curriculum for bullying may be pointless but it’s is worth more than any adult or teacher that has never been bullied; my opinion is that this book should be used to teach that bullying has a worse outcome than most people let on and it will help those who are already being bullied know what to do and how to fix everything. I believe every high school student should read this book. It will change their perspective on life and it will be much more effective than saying “Be nice and don’t bully”.  This will stop the repetitive monotone that only goes in one ear and out the other. By the time students are in high school most barely listen to pass class and much less listen about bullying; in fact some kids think they are “cool” for bullying. This book will bring a good, more effective change to a student’s understanding of bullying and it will be more effective in preventing bullying.

            You have done a good job so far with teaching students to prevent bullying but it is time for a change. I am only one of many students that agree with this statement. I hope you take this letter under advisement and decide to incorporate this book into the Anti-bullying curriculum. Thank you for taking to time to read this letter.


Spencer Crosland
Foothill Technology High School Student

So, let's say you're in the same boat as Spencer. Your school is paying out big money for an anti-bullying program that isn't really working all that well. Let's say you've been reading books that are changing your life. Let's say you could find a teacher or librarian in your school who is willing to help you start your own fiction REVOLUTION.

Here is an idea of how to do it.
(And do get in touch with me if you're looking for a speaker. My HOW TO BE A SUPERHERO presentation could be just what you're looking for.)

Tomorrow's post will probably be about what people put in toilets.
Or maybe some other stuff.
So much to say. So much to say.

Oh. And tomorrow is a CONTEST to win GROOVY one-of-a-kind things. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Series of Disjointed Rambling Posts: #2 The Award News!

If you saw my last post, you know what my secret trip looked like at sunset. Here's what it may have looked like during the day:

File under PA LIBRARIANS totally ROCK:

Last week, I got word that EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS has been named a 2012 Carolyn W. Field Award Honor Book by the Youth Services Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association. This is completely awesome and I can't thank the PA Library Association enough. Thank you!
More information about the award can be found here.

The 2012 Carolyn Field Award winner is Around the World, written and illustrated by Matt Phelan, Candlewick Press. Matt rocks, this book rocks, and I am so happy I can be in Gettysburg to watch him accept it!

Another 2012 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book: Born and Bred in the Great Depression, written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, Schwartz & Wade Books.

I can't wait to go to Gettysburg in October for the 2012 conference.
Thank you again, PA librarians!

So About the Death Thing

We get caught up in analyzing stuff because we're human. And we box and label stuff because we're human. And I'm not saying it's not okay to have opinions. BUT. Sometimes we forget that art imitates life and sometimes we forget how lucky we might be.

Look. The internet is one big advertisement. As users of the internet, we are all creating content. In the search for content to share, we often write opinions. In the world of YA lit, there are several articles per year that claim that YA lit is: _______________. (a. too lowbrow for adults. b. the way to connect with your kids. c. full of horrible language and content that no teen should see. d. too dark! Oh noes! e. all of the above.) There are also helpful-to-new-writers pieces about the content of YA lit. Lists of overused plot devices. How-to and how-to-not articles. Flippant 140 character Twitter tweets about how if this reader reads one more book where a kid's on drugs or a parent dies, he/she will puke.

Look. If you're a writer, I hope you're not paying attention to any of this. Anything can work if done well. And in life, these things happen...I don't care HOW sick some tweetling is of reading it. Their 140 characters shouldn't sway your idea in any way.

Why am I even talking about this?
The prospective 2014 book has a dead parent. Not a "typical" dead parent...whatever the hell that means.
In the time I've been writing it, I read several of these off-the-cuff tweets about how children's books have too many dead parents.
Those comments aren't rare or anything. But still, I almost double-thought myself.
But then I remembered what it was like being a teenager and being told that my mother was going to die. (Here's that story.)
And then, last week, someone very close to me died and left a wonderful family, including children, behind.
And I thought, about those flippant tweets: What would those two kids think of some adult saying that dead parents are "overdone" or "trite" or "a convenient plot twist"? That the hell they're going through is being ground through that internet click machine?
It made me think: we are all advertising.
It made me think: we are all out here saying what we need to say to make ourselves heard...even if it completely overlooks the point of why writers put dead parents in books.
Drumroll here.
There is no one reason people die in books.

There is nothing convenient about my character's mother dying in the prospective 2014 book.
And let me tell you: if you are one of the lucky people who got through life so far without a parent dying, then I hope you know that many people aren't as lucky.

My first week as a camp counselor, I had four campers in my cabin. Two of them were ten-year-old cousins. One had just lost her father, and the other, her uncle. As in: he was buried the day before camp started. Those kids came to camp anyway. And we had a relatively good time, though at night, they might cry and need hugs.

Yesterday, I played monkey in the middle with two kids who recently lost their dad. It made them smile a little. It might have brought a tiny speck of near-normalcy into their life. It made me feel like I could do something. Anything. To help them.

How do I end this ramble?
This 2014 book, it's about death. It's about how death is all around us and that we are part of it. It's about how death scares us and ruins our plans. (It's also about lice and a bat and people at the mall.)

Recently, someone referred to ASK THE PASSENGERS as a (cringe) "lesbian-themed book." In all fairness, I believe this was someone paraphrasing another person. I do not think the person who came up with that term understood the book or the questioning idea behind it because if they did, they would have not called it a "lesbian-themed book." Hell, anyone who knows me or my work knows I just write books. I don't write "YA books" or "children's books" or whatever easy-to-slap-on label you want to stick on me or my work. I just write books. I'm happy my work landed on shelves where young adults can access it and teachers can use it in classes. But I don't aim. I just write.

We just box things.
It's what we do.
Humans = box lovers. Labelers. Organizers of categories.
We like things to be neat and tidy.
And lesbian-themed.
We like control.
Therefore, we're not all that keen on death.

And so, we like to be able to say concrete clickity-click things like: here's what to avoid putting in your YA book: dead parents!

I bet you a million bucks any kid with a dead parent wishes it was as easy as that.

Have you ever seen a river from an airplane? Have you ever seen how it twists and turns and nearly crosses over itself in an illogical journey across the landscape? What happened to humans? When did we lose touch with the fact that we are as natural, illogical and unboxable as that?

Here's a link to Disjointed Rambling Post #1.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Series of Disjointed Rambling Posts: #1 ALA 2012 Schedule

I have, like, twenty three things to talk to you about. And I can't keep track of which things I want to get into first, and if I made one post that included all 23 things, it would be way too long.
Also, really boring.
So instead, I'm going to write things down as they come to me.
This might include some stuff about what people flush down toilets and also an update on snow globes and the TSA. Also, a link to a blog that calls my next prospective book "Project Lice & Porn" and a reminder to anyone who widely judges any book with a dying or dead parent that sometimes these things happen. And it really sucks when it does.
It will be a fun few days.

So we'll start here.
Hi. I'm back from my secret trip. It looked like this:

Well, not all the time. It only looked like that at sunset. Other times, it looked other ways. I will share as I go. For now, all you get is sunset.


Here's where I'll be & when:

SUNDAY June 24th 2012 from 1-2 PM at the Little, Brown Young Readers booth.

SUNDAY June 24th 2012 from 2-3 PM at the Live Reading Stage
A 15-20 minute reading followed by a Q&A and a signing.

If you miss me on Sunday, I'll be around to check out the Printz Award ceremony and cheer on the awesome John Corey Whaley for his amazing book WHERE THINGS COME BACK.

Next post: An award announcement and maybe some more rambling about the dying parent thing.