Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chop Wood, Carry Water

I know I promised you a blog post about mediocrity and marriage and millionaires, but I just ate too much spinach and I don't have it in me to approach that half-written post at the moment. Who ever thought a person could eat too much spinach?

Anyway, we had a weird week here at the woodland paradise of Kings. Monday a freak storm (I'm calling it a rogue cell because it sounds badass) dropped in on our little pocket of the woods and pulled out about 20 trees. Five of them landed across the driveway, two of them knocked down the whole electrical pole and ripped the wires right out of the the house, and another two came down in the back yard. The rest came down and sat on the wires throughout the woods. It was kinda crazy. Just a huge whiteout, massive wind gusts, and thunder, lightening and then POW! All the trees popped out at once. It was like a mini tornado without the path or something. Thus my new term: rogue cell. And then we were in the dark...except for the sparking wires all over the lawn.

The electric company usually services us last because we are so far out and we're just three customers on this line. The last two big storms here, we waited 8 and 6 days respectively. We're okay with that. I mean, we're kinda okay with it. What else can you do but be okay with it?

You go out with the chainsaws and cut up the trees blocking the driveway. You hook up the generator and eat dinner cooked on the grill. That's what you do.

But this time, I had wires down.
You know how when you call the electric company to report an outage and they say, "Do you need to report downed wires on or near your property?" This time, I had to say yes. Because I had wires all over the place. On my porch. On the kids' swingset. Everywhere.

I called back every few hours and kept getting really nice people on the line who would give me updates. Most were non-update updates. You know--still no dispatcher calling the line crews or tree crews. That kind of thing. Then this truck came down the driveway. The guy got out and said he was in the area and wanted to see what happened. Then, once he looked around, he said it was the worst damage he saw all day. This gave me hope.

But I still predicted they wouldn't have the power up again until Friday. It was a mess.
I completely underestimated the electric company.

On Tuesday afternoon, the tree crews came in and chopped up the two trees on the electrical pole. (later that night, they had to come back and chop the other trees in the back to get the line free there, too.) Then, that night, they brought in six trucks and damn if they didn't get that pole in by ten o'clock. The kids and Mr. King and I watched it all from the front porch. We drank beer. (Not the kids. Me and Mr. King.) It was one of the single most awesome things I've ever watched. Huge drill bit drilled the hole. Enormous trailer winched the pole vertical. Pole went in, dirt got compacted, cherry picker went up and started the installation of the transformer and the rest of the things that live on top of electrical poles.

Don't think I've gone nuts here. I've seen a lot of cool stuff. I've watched a circus set up and break down in the dark a lot of times. I've seen bovine C-sections. I've witnessed a huge factory explosion and been robbed at gunpoint. But this was just awesome. Not to mention really well-timed, considering our generator had broken the minute they got here. Seriously.

But here's why I'm writing this seemingly banal post about my dumb rogue cell while bloated on spinach.

I get asked this question a lot: What can I do to be a better writer?
I often answer:  Write more. Read more. 
If I have enough time, I add: And make sure you get out and do stuff. That's how you'll get new material, even if it's riding a bus to your favorite bakery and eating too many eclairs. 

It's true. You'll hear people talking about things. You'll see birds and trees and stuff. You might watch a garbage truck making its rounds, a businesswoman walking to lunch in a pair of sneakers, a man running his daily ten miles, a little kid flying a kite.

You will, I hope, gain respect for everyone you see because they're out there doing what they do because that's what they are doing. And if you're holed up writing all the time, you will forget that there are people out there doing what they do. Living.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Drew wrote me a letter. He told me to have fun. He told me that I was allowed to go swimming and do back dives and shit. The minute I read the letter, I went to the pool and did back dives.

Sometimes we have to do back dives.
Then we go back to the house and rather than hole up inside and wait for the power to come back, we hang out on the front porch and watch a line crew erect a new electric pole in our woods. We smile at them and offer them water or coffee.  And then at 2AM, while the kids are sound asleep in their beds, the power comes back on.

Another thunderstorm came through tonight. My 9-year-old got so scared, she started shaking. My kids have never been afraid of thunderstorms before, but this kid watched all those trees fall on Monday, and they fell inches from our house--inches from her head. And then she saw the pole come down, transformer and all, and the sparks fly.

What she experienced will stick with her. So when she started shaking during tonight's storm, I didn't know what to say at first. Then I said, "I know it's scary after what you saw on Monday, but isn't it awesome that those guys came and helped us out so quickly and we got to see them put in the new pole?" She eyed me and smiled. "Yeah, but it doesn't take away the fact that I stood there and thought those trees were going to fall on my head."

Nine-year-olds are smart.


The website for ASK THE PASSENGERS is live.

I'm going to be at the YALSA Symposium from Nov. 2-4 in St. Louis. More info on that as it comes. Something tells me I might be signing in the area while I'm there.

If you're anywhere near Ephrata, Pennsylvania, I'll be running a writing workshop for teens at the Ephrata Public Library on August 8th. Make sure you let them know you're coming. 

I got ten strikes in a row last week in Wii Bowling. Final score: 287.

CJ Bott and I had a cool article published in English Journal. 

Met-Ed has extremely pleasing hold music. I'm on hold a lot when I call places. I'm sure you're on hold a lot too. So you can appreciate the value of decent hold music. No matter when I called, whether to report stuff or check in or on Wednesday morning to thank them profusely for saving our asses, the music was solid. They played nostalgic radio classics from when I was a kid. Soothing.

So you know those other hold music situations? The static-crazed music that seems to dull when you make a noise on the other end of the phone? The constant in and out of volume, so every fifteen seconds, you think someone has come to talk to you, but then, the music comes back in again?

What's with that?

I've experienced it so often, I reckon there has to be some psychological reason behind why they choose that music. Surely they know it's like that. I doubt there is a shitty in and out static-y hold music package that's just a cheaper option. Why do you think they do this?

If you can answer this question, you win a prize.

One winner only. Best answer wins.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SummerTeen Event Interview

This is a short post. I'm running out of day fast, but do know that I've been working on a longer post about marriage, spam, and mediocrity. More on that another day.

Today, I want to share this short article that was in School Library Journal earlier this week. It's about the SLJ SummerTeen Rockin' Women of YA panel I'll be on in a few weeks. You can still register!

Check out this link.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blurbs! Blurbs! Blurbs!

Self portrait in an airplane dashboard.
It's a really humbling thing to get a letter from your editor entitled: Praise for [YOUR NEW BOOK].

That's not what they say of course. They use the real title of the book. In this case, the letter was called "Praise for ASK THE PASSENGERS." I didn't know who they were approaching and I like to keep it that way because not all readers are going to like a book, you know? And blurbs can be tricky things.

And so, a huge thank you to these amazing authors who wrote such beautiful endorsements for October's ASK THE PASSENGERS. I have listed these in no particular order. :) (And proper thank yous are on their way in the coming week.)

“So special and perfect and true and right. This book is made of stardust and guts; I'll hold it in my heart forever.”­­­Lauren Myracle, author of Shine

“A warm, thoughtful, and thought-provoking novel about the paradoxes of love, sexual identity, and the magic of connectedness.”Malinda Lo, author of Adaptation and Huntress

A beautiful, heartfelt, and honest story that sends love up from every page.John Corey Whaley, Printz Award author of Where Things Come Back

“I'm sending love to Astrid Jones, for being one of the most reachable, realistic characters that I have ever dared to adore. And I'm sending love to A.S. King, whose positively brilliant writing style never ceases to amaze me. Ask the Passengers made me smile, cringe, laugh, and believe in the absolute power of the human spirit. Amazing. Simply amazing.”Heather Brewer, New York Times bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

 In Ask the Passengers, A.S. King exquisitely creates a tender, multilayered portrayal of the takeoffs, nose-dives, and loop-the-loops of sexuality, friendship, family, and love.Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys and Boyfriends with Girlfriends

 In Astrid Jones, A.S. King has created a memorable, thoughtful, funny, questioning protagonist whose search for answers reminds us how important it is to ask the questions in the first place.Sara Ryan, author of Empress of the World

“A.S. King is one of the most engaging and innovative writers in the field. Ask the Passengers is a wonderful novel about tolerance and the limitations of definition; it should be required reading in all high schools.”—Matt de la Peña, author of Mexican Whiteboy and Ball Don’t Lie

This is one of those things where I'm way too toe-the-dirt-and-fidget-with-my-hands for this author life. Seriously.


I wrote and article about why I support my local independent bookstores.
And the very kind Writer Unboxed posted it yesterday.



If I post this after 5pm on a Friday then no one will bother to come and read it.
Oh well.

Have a smashing weekend. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I've been writing like crazy.
It's been good.
Every summer it's like this and I love it.
I write all day.
Depending on the project (half the summer I spend editing the next year's manuscript and the other half, I'm writing new words) I have a word count goal. When I meet the goal, I get to go to the pool and swim.

The last two days have been amazing. I wrote over 4,000 words a day and went swimming as a reward and the water is 86 degrees and laps are easy to do and it's just awesome.

I said to Mr. King last night, "Dude, look at me. I'm as happy as I've ever been. I love writing new words. I love my job. My life rocks." Right after that, I beat him in a ping pong match 2 games to nil. I was on fire.

Then, I woke up this morning to the next editorial letter which is like the 15 minute warning whistle at the pool. It indicates this:


It's not that I don't like editing. I love editing. I have been quoted about editing. In today's letter, my editor reminded me of this quote and I will share it with you.

Last time we talked edit letters, she wrote and said, "Thanks for being such a good sport about revision."

I replied and said, "I'm not a good sport. THIS IS THE SPORT."

You've heard it before. Writing is revision.
It is.
It is.
Writing is revision.

But sometimes, I love that feeling of new words. It's like easy laps. It's the joy of getting on the diving board and getting air enough from the spring to nail a perfect inward pike.

Today, I tweeted this.

I know I will feel like that in a week's time.
I'm not a dramatic person, but I tell the truth and the truth is: I will feel like that in a week's time. 

And so, I'm going back to the bliss until the whistle blows.

Go swim.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

All the Awesome Librarians

 I am still conference-brained. And so, we will rely on pictures to talk about the awesome that was ALA Annual 2012 in Anaheim.

We start with my arrival on Saturday night where I met my good friend and author of my favorite book in over a decade, Andrew Smith. (GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is coming to you next fall from Penguin--you will hear me screaming about it, Posse. Until then, please enjoy the killer sequel to THE MARBURY LENS, PASSENGER this fall and his brilliant WINGER in Spring 2013.)

I love this picture. My plane was an hour late and I had
to rush to get here, but dammit I got here.
And then there were doubles.
Once the bartender finally noticed us.
Photo courtesy of Drew Smith and Kristen Pelfrey's eye. 
We had a lovely dinner with our agent and then there were parties.
There are always parties.

Sunday was my floor day at ALA.

I had a signing at the Little, Brown booth and the place rocked for a solid hour. Thank you awesome librarians for waiting in that line and for taking time out of your day to come and see me. It means a lot more than I can tell you. (Okay. I'll try. All year, I lock myself in my office, writing books. Seeing many librarians in one place who seem to appreciate what I do during the other 364 days a year is pretty boss.)

Melanie Chang on Sunday.
Photo Cred: Andrew Smith
Reading on the Live! Stage.
Photo Cred: Andrew Smith.

Andrew Smith, me, and Kristen Pelfrey, the awesome teacher
of the phenomenal Angel Potatoes.
Photo Credit: Kristen and the eye of Deirdre Jones

Awesome signing pic from Fire and Ice Photo.
All rights reserved: Heather Zahn Gardner

Booth Bling: EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS and her stars.
And hey! Check it out. The Junior Library Guild came around and placed their lovely seal inside their picks and ASK THE PASSENGERS sported one. We had no idea. Thank you JLG! Thrilled to be on your list three years running. <3
And there's that, then. Woot.

Somewhere in here, I did a cool interview about how libraries have affected my life and or career.
When I told Mary that I was a library officer on my local board, she asked me to talk about that. 
So I did.

I went wandering around and saw a lot of my favorite librarians wandering around too.
I love having floor time at ALA. I learn something new every time. 

That's the smashing Paolo signing THE DROWNED CITIES. I love that book.
Next to him is my wicked-awesome editor, Andrea.
The great Victoria Stapleton is in this picture as well. You find her.

After doing some library missions for my library director, I came back to the Little, Brown booth and um, Sherman Alexie was there just hanging out. Dudes. Sherman Alexie. I call this my joyface.

The conversation we had after this picture was entirely inappropriate and wonderful.
The word 'vagina' was used many times. Also, other words that might get us
barred from speaking in some state legislatures.
Sunday night I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with a lot of cool LBYR people (I finally got to meet Daniel Handler and he is fantastic, as is his lovely wife.) The restaurant was in Disneyland where I snapped this picture.

Monday was an awesome day.
Breakfast with my editor. More floor wandering time. A walk around Anaheim. Then, an amazing dinner before the Printz ceremony, which I was looking forward to since Ellen Hopkins agreed to go as my date.

Here's the one photo I've got of the night. It was posted on Twitter by Corey Whaley, author of WHERE THINGS COME BACK, which was such a phenomenal book Lisa McMann called the Printz Award win when she handed it to me back in October 2011. I read it and agreed. And I am so happy we were right. Corey's speech was awesome. He is a lovely human and I am so glad I know him.

Corey Whaley ROCKS. That is all.
Photo Credit: Corey Whaley
Random Picture Time.

I always take a picture of hotel carpet.
This one wins.
FTW Hyatt Orange County, CA.
What happens to people's faces that they require this sort of soap?
I have never needed to restore my face.
And I bet you a million bucks this soap doesn't really restore anyone's face.
OH MY GOD. What is happening in that sink?
Look closely.
Is that lava? What is it? Why would anyone do that to their manos?

My favorite part of ALA?
If I had to think about it?
Is what I love about ALA every time. 
All the Awesome Librarians.

Hope to see you all next year. Now, back to the cave with me for two whole months. 
Books to write.
Laps to swim in celebration of book-writing.

Have an awesome summer.