Thursday, January 31, 2013

Huge blog, Part One: Catching up

So I never got to the best of 2012 post and tomorrow is February, so we'll just say that 2012 rocked so much that we didn't have to recap all that awesome. While there are several reasons 2012 rocked as hard as it did, this picture illustrates one of the larger ones.

I couldn't make it to ALA midwinter in Seattle, but Astrid could
and she wore all those pretty jewels. Thank you Alvina for the picture
and to LBYR for all the support you gave this book.

Since we're on the subject of ALA Midwinter, a shout out to all the great committees who had the difficult responsibility of choosing books for lists and awards. A tough job well done. Since I don't watch sports (full disclosure: I watch World Cup soccer) or TV, this is the one time of year I can cheer and yell and say things like "F%$# YEAH!" when books like BOMB by Steve Sheinkin get named time after time.

You need to read that book right now.

I am in love with that book.

Anyway, my ALA midwinter news was lovely. Ask the Passengers was named a Top Ten pick of The Rainbow List and I found out today that it also landed on the Best Fiction for Young Adults list, which is fantastic. Thank you thank you, awesome librarians.

And while we're talking about Ask the Passengers I should also thank the fine people in Washington D.C. for naming it a Capitol Choices book for 2013. Thank you! I love that list more than a lot of things. Even hot chocolate with marshmallows. I love it more than that.

REALITY BOY NEWS

There's not really any news about Reality Boy except I've seen the cover and it's awesome and you can't see it yet.

And page proofs are done. So goodbye Reality Boy until we meet again at ARC time.


Coming in Part Two: A cover is reveled, an interview is linked (bonus picture of badass young self) and some stuff I forgot tonight that I still can't remember that I hope I will remember by the time I write Part Two. (And 2013 spring tour dates.)

PS: Friends and family, you will be waiting quite a while for 2013 New Year cards. If you don't get one, don't think we left you out. Know we left everyone out. It's not you, it's us.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A kid excited about her new library book



This is my kid excited about her new library book on the walk home from school.
This is why literacy dollars count.
This is why library dollars count.
This is why education dollars count.
This is why time reading *with* our kids counts.
All kids.
Of all ages.




More soon.
Working for two more days.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It Grows in Caves

A quick picture post to let you know I am alive. I am alive. I have been in my cave. 
Here are pictures of cave life.

Working on the last revisions of Max Black using the patented TOC method.

1. Print TOC.
2. Use highlighters to highlight certain threads.
3. Try to wrap mathematical Vulcan brain around the fact that
not all of the highlighted parts are evenly spaced.
4. Stop looking at TOC and revise for content because not all books
have to fit into some cosmic mathematical idea that I invented.

It should be noted that this is a TOC before I actually start working on it.
The end result is usually very very messy.

So, once I finished Max Black and handed it to my trusted 1st reader,
I moved on to the Reality Boy page proofs for two days.
Today, they go to the UPS office.
And here's today's work.
Back to Max Black. This time reading the printed MS and keeping
the TOC handy to write notes.
This is the final read before I send it away.
Then, it's NAP TIME.
Disappearing for the next week or two, but don't forget, if you live anywhere near St. Paul, you still have a week to enter your response to Everybody Sees the Ants to win a VIP pass onto Lady Gaga's Born Brave bus. Click here for more details.

And if you live ANYWHERE, you can tweet a review of  Everybody Sees the Ants on Twitter with the tag #readbrave and be entered to win all of my books.

Related MAX BLACK Screenshot bonus:


What can I say?
What can I say?
WRINKLES ARE TOTALLY COOL.
Also:
THE WORLD IS SO FULL OF SHIT.

More on that in 2014.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A poem for Hanna and Mareike

I promised a poem for Hanna and Mareike. This is one of my favorites, though every time I open it I revise it more. I think I wrote it around...I have no idea. Maybe 1998-ish? When I say "one of my favorites" know that I don't think my poetry is very good. Like--not at all good. But this one floats atop the vat of dung that is my poetry, and I will share only because Hanna and Mareike wrote and asked me so kindly. I love when people are kind.


Itch 

I claw at myself, an inherent act.
Learned lesson of
not good enough, of uniform
failure. A lifelong rash.

They leap at me, with forks
and spoons to eat me.
Brains like black caviar
devoured by blind egg hunters.

A mere hors d’oeuvre
before the feast of my eyes.
Dig them from their deep
blue sockets, to reach the itch.


Random Linkage!

Did you see my Lady Gaga news from yesterday? I'm kinda gobsmacked by it, really.

And how cool to be included here on OUT's best book list for 2012? (David Levithan, you are a rock god.)


Random Screenshot Bonus.


Um. Look. Seriously.
I'm pretty sure there's a Jamiroquai song about this.



I don't think I'll be making good on any other blog promises for the next two weeks. I am so close to finishing Max Black and it's...um...kinda due soon.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gaga/King/Books/Creativity!

Um. Yeah. Lady Gaga rocks.

Here's a link to how King and Gaga can be used in the same sentence. Or blog post title. Or whatever.

There are chances here to win stuff. Cool stuff.

Here's the deal. Lady Gaga and her Born Brave Bus is coming to St. Paul, MN on February 6th. I am coming to St. Paul on February 27th & 28th for the One Book, One City event, READ BRAVE. Residents and students in St. Paul will be reading Everybody Sees the Ants and I'll be in town for a series of awesome events to talk about the book, its themes, and its messages about family, bullying, war and a host of other things.

YOU CAN WIN A VIP PASS ONTO THE BUS!

From the Pioneer Press article:


Lady Gaga is giving Twin Cities teens the chance to board her "Born Brave Bus" the afternoon of Feb. 6, when she will be in town to headline the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. 
The pop star is teaming with the St. Paul Public Library for the event, "where young people will connect with one another, enjoy fun activities and learn about exceptional resources in their communities." 
Those interested are asked to read A.S. King's book "Everybody Sees the Ants," which covers topics of bullying, war and family. Then, they must create some sort of response to those themes, through a short video, song, poem or other artwork. Responses must be able to be submitted digitally and will be accepted Saturday, Jan. 19, through Feb. 1. Prizes include a VIP pass onto the bus and the opportunity for the winning entries to be shown on the bus and online.
For more details on the contest, go to sppl.org/teens/brave.

YOU CAN WIN A COPY OF ALL MY BOOKS. 


Read

What if we all read the same book at the same time? A book that discusses important topics like bullying, war, and family? Let’s do it! Pick up Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King at your nearest library.


Respond

From now until Feb. 28, submit your quick review of Everybody Sees the Ants onTwitter with the hashtag #ReadBrave for a chance to win all of A.S. King's books!
Lady Gaga’s Born Brave Bus will be in town on February 6. Read and respond to Everybody Sees the Ants to get on board! Click here to learn more.



Public vent schedule for St. Paul Read Brave Event:


Meet A.S. King:
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m.–12 noon
Avalon 
School, 700 Glendale St, 651-649-5495
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6–7:30 p.m.
Merriam Park Library
Writing Workshop for 9-12 Graders
Thursday, February 28, 4–6 p.m.
Rice
 Street Teen Zone, 1022 Marion St, 651-558-2223 (near Rice Street Library)
Before her in-person visit, A.S. King will also be doing a Skype visit with readers:
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Hamline Midway Library

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thank you, today's inspiration & Monica!

Thank you all for the amazing support and response to The Writer's Middle Finger Part Seven. I am so grateful to have readers who take the time to thank me for posts like that, and to fellow writers who spread the word. I just got back from a school visit where a student asked me if this business is hard. My answer: Sometimes it's hard, but mostly, if you keep your eye on what you're really supposed to be doing, it's the most rewarding work in the world. Writing, reading and reviewing are all such important part of the world, but sometimes we forget that because it's just fiction. Students today reminded me that they often learn more from fiction than they do from textbooks. I figured I should pass that on for today's inspiration.

I have a lot of stuff to catch up on here.

  • A best of 2012 post...which, if I don't have it done before the end of January, will seem pointless.
  • A post answering some great questions I just got from a class at Conrad Weiser High School.
  • A poem for Hanna & Mareike, who wrote and kindly asked me for one. 
  • A post about what's to come in 2013: short answer...a lot.

But for now, because I have nearly two full days to disappear and work on MAX BLACK, I will leave you with this.

MONICA NEVER SHUTS UP, my short story collection for adults, is finally available in all formats. Kobo, iBooks, Nook and Kindle links are below. Stay tuned for a link to the paperback, which will be available soon in case you like paper books as much as I do.


Available now on an eReader near you. KoboKindle ~ Nook ~ iBooks

A dozen stories for adults featuring a mouthful of lottery tickets, a giant cow, two yachts, a six-pack of Fresca, and Monica, who never shuts up.

When Liz and Reg find their dream house, they don’t expect to find Lois and her magical Fresca. Same as Deirdre doesn’t expect to find what she finds in the trash bin. Debra can’t help but send pieces of herself to her ex-husband same as Jim can’t help thinking about the pieces of men that are taken without permission.

Award-winning author A.S. King shares her short fiction including the Best New American Voices-nominated title track, “Monica Never Shuts Up” and keeps us thinking, exploring, and laughing all at the same time.



Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Writer's Middle Finger Part Seven: The critical and the humanist brain & breaking bullshit rules.



This one's about those other rules you need to ignore. The rules out there that tell us what we should be writing about. Oh writer. Please don't listen to these rules.

It starts like this.

Author sits at desk. Brain tells author to write a story...maybe about a kid. Once the writing starts, it turns out the kid has a specific hurdle to clear. Maybe his parent left and never came back. Maybe his parent is dead. Maybe he's doing drugs. Maybe his girlfriend fell in love with his best friend. Maybe he's gay. Or maybe his friend died. Or maybe he has cancer. Or he eats to make himself feel better. Or maybe the kid is a football captain and he falls in love with a cheerleader.

Are you rolling your eyes at any of those?

Which brain are you using? Your humanist brain or your critical one? Oh I know these aren't mutually exclusive. But sometimes one can overtake the other.

The critical brain is there, as writers and reviewers or critiquers, to define certain story elements or plot lines and then look for flaws or well-executed characterizations or any number of story elements. The critical brain is allegedly objective but rarely is. How could it be? Never has a book existed that isn't both panned and raved. But the critical brain is important when we write and read and especially when we review or critique. It has criteria. It has rules...which vary from person to person. It can sometimes be very cynical about life events because they are shown through fiction which it is reviewing. 

The humanist brain, on the other hand, is the brain that translates characters in a novel into real people and is concerned about the characters' welfare. The humanist brain feels the emotions of the characters and relates. It is why we often love a book. It is also why we may hate a book. The humanist brain is allowed to be subjective. It doesn't care. It knows it's spewing opinion. The humanist brain has emotional rules. I know people who cannot read anything about child abuse. Or dog abuse, for example. Those people usually say "I'm sorry, but it's just not my taste."

Here's the truth: Sometimes football captains fall in love with cheerleaders. That doesn't make the book or the idea bad. It's all in what you do with it.

I went to art school. I took classes on critique. It is true that there are elements by which any work of art must be judged when critiquing. And the best critiques stick to those rules. For example: "The image is well framed and uses the rule of thirds expertly." If one mightn't like the actual subject matter, one may add the very fair humanist-brained opinion, "However, I'm not a fan of photographs of infants cradled in cabbage leaves, so I can't say I love the actual image." It doesn't help anyone to be too humanist: This baby grew and is a natural part of our world! Isn't it beautiful? Same as it isn't very helpful to be over-critical: How many freaking baby-in-cabbage leaf pictures can there BE? I am so sick of images like this!

Fact: Anything--ANYTHING--can work if it's done well.
Fact: But you will never please everyone.

No subject matter is a guarantee of...anything.

Sometimes there are lists of what you shouldn't be writing about. Sometimes there are lists of what will  give you a better shot at getting published. Trends. Coming trends. Comments like Why haven't I seen any books about a woman who is a circus clown and cocktail waitress while juggling a meth habit? True. The writer of this statement may want to see a book like this. However, if it's not something you naturally want to write about, then you writing it is probably not going to work out all that well.

Readers are finicky. So your job is to write about something you care about. And even if you do that, some people will criticize it. And that's fine.

I tend to read with my humanist brain. I want to like the book I'm reading. I want to find the human connection that is inbuilt. I want my time spent to be time well spent--enjoying, feeling and wondering Why did the author tell this story in this way? It's a naive tack, I'm sure, to some reading this. I'm okay with that. But know this: I have very little time to read. I am able to find pleasure in most books I pick up.

And I'm just not the kind of person who would read the flap copy, slot the entire book into a tidy labeled box, roll my eyes and say "Oh God. Not another dead mother book." Or "Ugh! Another gay book!" Or "Here we go again! A teen dealing with the death of a friend. Sheesh!"
"If you go into a book thinking you know what it's about, then that's all you'll usually get from it." --Me, earlier this year
(Same goes for writing a book...but you probably already know that.)

The humanist brain is more curious, regardless of whether a subject matter is something it's seen before.  It's allowed to be either interested or disinterested in the story, and if the subject matter is just not their thing, they put the book down. No eye-rolling. No imperious knowledge of what's supposed to be in books.

That's what bullshit rules are. Bullshit rules are what other people believe should be in our books.
You have no idea how many times I've heard that my character should have thought or done or been. You have no idea how many times I've had people assume what I was thinking when I wrote a book. I can tell you this: these guesses are incorrect. Whether stated in a positive or negative fashion, the jury is in: You have no idea what goes on in my brain.

I can't imagine many authors ever woke up in the morning and declared, "Darn it! Today I'm going to write a cancer book/gay book/drug book/dead parent book/ dead friend book/love triangle book/cheerleader and football captain fall in love book!" I'm pretty sure that most of the time these things just happen. And not from lack of ideas or creative power, either. Sorry. Anyone who thinks this is underestimating writers. And to me, that's disrespectful. And hell yes, if you say this, I will call you on it and tell you that you are living by a set of literary bullshit rules.

Why I'm thinking about this today.

I wrote something on my blog back in June. I'm going to link to it here so you know where this post is coming from. You should really go read it, but in case you don't, it was about the flippant comments I see periodically that might say something like, "If I read one more [dead parent] book this year I'll jump off a cliff!" It was about how I know some kids who lost their father this year and how those flippant comments are...too flippant. This internet. It gives us so much power. Oh how I wish we could be more human when we use it.

Last weekend, another teenager I know lost his father. We just buried him yesterday. We are heartbroken. I physically feel a hole in the world because of his loss. I feel a hole in my world because I know the pain this is causing his family. But my hole isn't nearly as big as theirs. My friend's wife, his son, his parents, his siblings, his friends. This hole--it is real. It is nothing to be scoffed. Nothing to be tsked. Nothing to be cynical about.

Only an overly-critical brain could be cynical about that hole.

In real life when we lose people, it is rare we act with our critical brain. We are human-thinking through and through. But when someone dies in a book, and we are reviewing a book, we have to run this death through a set of criteria. Was it believable enough? (Whatever that is.) Did the characters react the way they should have? (Whatever that is.) In believable ways? (Whatever that is.) Did the after-effects of the death seem realistic and cause the right amount of tension? (Whatever that is.)

As the writer of that book, you wrote it because you cared deeply about the subject matter and were thinking with your humanist brain, so yes, it's hard when that work is dissected by someone who just didn't get what you were trying to say. But please remember, that's their problem, not yours.

Those flippant commenters can claim Dead parent as gimmick. Dead parent as plot device to give teen main character more experience and savvy. Or my favorite: Dead parent as a very convenient trick to get rid of parents in books.

Convenient my ass. A dead parent is not fucking convenient. Ask anyone who has one. And as for teens having them? Happens all the time. All. The. Time.

Bullshit rules, man. They make us scared to write about what comes naturally as we sit at our desks. They make us wonder if maybe, just maybe, this time we can hit a home run and please everyone.

But then I look for my magic finger. You know the one. (Hint: it's the one who knows I will never please everyone.)

Writers: life is short. You're here to write what you want to write. I told you in my first post not to listen to rules. Dirk and Sally. No confusing tenses. No big words. And whatever other rules out there promising you easier publication if only you'd write what they want to see. 

Today, I want to remind you that those deeper reasons we write--those are more important than bullshit rules that somebody's brain made up in order to tell us how trite it is to write about what has come naturally for us to write about.

Write it.
Fucking write it.
There will always be critics who will roll their eyes at the pain your characters experience. They are not thinking about what it would really be like to, in this case, lose a parent as a child. Their job is to find flaws in your reasoning. In your characters. In your ideas. And ultimately, in your own brain.

And they don't mean a damn thing.

Write the books. Be defiantly creative. When you shy away from writing a story about abuse, don't think of the people who will roll their eyes. Think about the 1 in 4 kids who have been abused. When you shy away from writing a story about rape, don't think about those who will say teenagers shouldn't be reading about rape. Think about the 1 in 4 who have already experienced it. When you dare to write about death, do not think of the "Disney trope" someone's going to wheel out in their wagon full of critique words. Think about those kids you know who have a hole in their life so big, they can't breathe some days.

And do it for them.



It took me a week to write this blog. I see-sawed on posting it. Then I thought about my friend Scott and what he would have done. And he would have posted it. So this one's for you, Scott. Hope they're playing punk rock wherever you landed on this journey.

(There are other Writer's Middle Finger Posts. Six of them. Type "Writer's Middle Finger" into the search box up there on the left. It's like a treasure hunt, right?)