Want to get authors into your schools? SCBWI-IL has a lot of great advice.
Illinois is a talented state. Among the books displayed, I spied Sarah Aronson's BELIEVE and BEYOND LUCKY, Carol Brendler's RADIO GIRL, M. Molly Backes's THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA, and so many more!
Join me and four more amazing debut authors tomorrow on this live online author interview show with Jessica Porter of Crossroads Reviews.
The Google Hangout goes live at 4pm EST/3pm CT tomorrow, November 8th!
I'm so happy to be taking part in the 2014 YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt, part of the YA Contemporary Challenge hosted by Katie's Book Blog and Montana from Book Belles!
I had the good fortune to be assigned to interview Jennifer Brown, author of Torn Away.
An Interview with Jennifer Brown
I grew up in Alabama, where tornado season requires a trip down to the basement at least a couple of times a year. Do you have strong memories of tornado season from childhood?
I’ve lived in Kansas City my whole life, so not only do I have memories of having to trek down to the basement for shelter a few times a year, I’m still doing it! It’s just a part of living in the Midwest. And, in fact, it’s so much a part of living here, that I think, like Jersey, I have become desensitized to it. When I see footage of tornado destruction, it’s always a jarring reminder that, “Oh, yeah…that could actually happen here.”
Did you make any strange or unexpected discoveries while researching Torn Away?
Actually, my biggest discovery came with how the book was inspired. I visited Joplin, MO, just weeks after a tornado devastated their town. I was shocked at the resilience of the people of Joplin. Even though so many in their town had lost pretty much everything, they were strong, and dedicated to rebuild. I wanted to create a character with that same resilience. I wanted to know if it was possible to rebuild absolutely everything, even the things you’ve lost in your heart.
Authors so often use weather to reflect characters' emotions or to create tone. In this case, weather was so integral to your story--did that affect your thinking about weather as a symbol?
You know, I never really thought about it before, but you’re right—weather can be a powerful symbol in story. I’m not a big “scenery” writer, so I’m not sure if it will ever be a huge symbol in my stories, but, having written Torn Away, I will definitely be more aware of opportunities to make it so.
I hear that you started out as a humor writer, but Torn Away treats such serious events. Did you still find a place for humor in Jersey's story?
It’s hard to weave any sort of humor into a book that deals with tragedy, but sometimes I think it’s necessary in order to portray reality and also to give readers a break from all the sads. So, yes, I did create some lighter moments between Jersey and her friend and neighbor, Kolby. They had a great connection, and great chemistry, that lent itself to levity easily.
Each book is different. Though you've authored several books, did Torn Away teach you something new from a craft perspective?
I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning the craft. It’s just impossible to know it all! Torn Away was a pacing challenge for me from the beginning. I just couldn’t really tell where the bulk of the story was supposed to happen. In my first draft, I had a beginning that rushed, an end that rushed, and a middle that kind of plodded. I had to work hard to fix it so readers wanted to go with Jersey throughout the whole journey and not get stalled out in the beginning or feel cheated at the end.
Leave a comment on the blog post – What was the last book that you couldn’t tear yourself away from? U.S. entries only. One winner will receive an autographed hardcover of Torn Away.
More about Torn Away
Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.
When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?
In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.
Buy it here!
More About Jennifer Brown
Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.
Jennifer's debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association's Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association's Taysha's high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association's Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer's second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha's high school reading list pick as well.
Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.
THE GAME OF BOYS AND MONSTERS is available wherever spooky ebooks are sold for only $0.99.
It’s a 48pg. standalone short about the darker side of the fantasy of the dangerous boyfriend. Harper calls it “an eerie and utterly compelling short story about best friends Leslie and Evy, whose friendship changes when the enigmatic Marsh brothers move to town.”
I’m full of love for this story, and I hope you’ll love it too!
And if you want to try playing Evy's game for yourself, you can do that at the Dark Faerie Fall Carnival here!
On the Friday after Don't Touch released, my wildly supportive Chicago friends gathered at The Book Cellar!
My friend Sky, who works there, gave the kindest introduction, we screened the trailer for the first time, and I gave a reading and answered questions.
My buddy Lucas (pictured below with duck face) happened to be visiting from LA, and some surprise VCFA friends made it in from the burbs!
We stayed until closing at 10pm! I'm so grateful for all the positive energy and love of that night!
You may be thinking, hey, Rachel, wasn't your hair red in Birmingham only three days ago?
Right you are. I'd had it red for a show, but my friends Jen & Kassi (who also happens to be a hair stylist) surprised me with a new do at the salon and, yes, more champagne.
My family and friends made this a really special night. Two of my high school French teachers, an English teacher, and the school librarian came out, some of whom I hadn't seen in a decade or more!
One of my former teachers gave her students extra credit for attending, and several of my high school friends had kids in tow. Afterwards, my family and three of my besties from high school and their families went out for dinner and a champagne toast!
So much love all around! Next up, the Chicago launch . . .
It's here, and it's beautiful!
Special thanks to director Matt Miller and the entire team at Capgun Collective and Whitehouse Post! To our brilliant composer, Christian Moder, and vocalist, Katie Todd. And to our amazing actors, Mia Hulen as Caddie, Brando Crawford as Peter, Clare O'Connor as April, Paige Collins, Ryan Goldsher, Daniel Kyri, Hannah Toriumi, & Aidan Traynor.
I'm on vacation with the fam--Mom, Dad, and sis--which means we're all sharing a pret-ty small space at the beach. But one of the escapes is this amazing swing bed on the porch. My sister took this picture through a window (so, really, there's no escape, but this time I didn't mind).
As you can see, I was reading E. Lockhart's We Were Liars--quickly, because it's soooo compelling. It's kind of the perfect book to read on a family vacation, even when your digs aren't quite as resplendent as the Sinclairs'. For me, this book wasn't about "the twist"--I loved it but didn't read it as a twist. Without worrying about that, it's still mysterious and driven and full of consequence, and yes, it made me cry, but the dogs helped me through.
Check out this Periodic Table of Epic Reads! I've read a lot of these, but I've already seen Crossroad Reviews treating it as a reading challenge. EPIC indeed!
I've always wanted to be an element.
This originally appeared on my Tumblr.
I received Julie Berry's ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME as an ARC at ALA, and it blew me away. Julie's heroine is so strong and constant. The prose is lyrical but always essential, and the story's redemptive and inspiring, not to mention a great mystery.
AHHH!!! Libba Bray's BEAUTY QUEENS is high concept, feminist, satirical, diversely inclusive, action-packed, playfully referential, brashly hopeful while not being afraid to get dirty . . . Libba Bray has my heart, with this line and with this whole book: “Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one's watching them so they can be who they really are."
Trent Reedy's WORDS IN THE DUST came out in 2011, and Trent's a friend so I should have read it right away, but I'm terrible about putting off books about "heavy" subjects or books that I fear will make me cry. I shouldn't have worried because while the book does deal in heavy subjects and while it did make me cry, it also had some relieving lightness and humor as well as a main character I looked forward to spending time with. I read it quickly and then missed it.
Jacyln Moriarty's THE MURDER OF BINDIE MACKENZIE. I might have been a Bindie MacKenzie as a kid, a little too booksmart and imaginative for my own good but not so socially smart. I love the quirkiness of Moriarty's characters, the fanciful bending of expectations, and the structure of a school project that's compelling as a personality quiz.
Justine Larbelestier's LIAR. I can't talk too much about it without being spoilery, but this book defies genre classification and plays along the edges of other boundaries as well. It's a mystery as much as it is anything else, and I devoured it.
Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. I listened to the audiobook during one long drive, and it not only kept me awake, it made me camp out in numerous parking lots to hear more when I really needed to get out of the car. The structure's perfect, the unraveling of the backstory is masterful, and the subject's of life-and-death importance.
More Libba Bray. THE DIVINERS. This woman, I swear. Flappers, a museum of the occult, a horror-show crime drama, an epic cast of characters, and the slow but inevitable awakening of superheroes . . . It's like she set out to put all my favorite things in one book. Libba Bray is winning the contest of writing great books about things Rachel loves.
I got to hear Amy Rose Capetta read from ENTANGLED in her last residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I got to hear a lot about it while we were two of three members of a short-lived writing group in Chicago (short-lived b/c AR had to move). But I didn't get to read ENTANGLED until it came out, and it made me so happy. I'm a fan of a crew of misfits on a mission, and Amy Rose's characters are so unique and engaging. Her prose is gorgeous as well and the story compelling, but I knew that when I first heard her read.
In THE WOKEN GODS, Gwenda Bond gives credit for inspiration to Lewis Hyde's TRICKSTER MAKES THIS WORLD, a book I cited in my critical thesis for school. I love tricksters almost as much as I love strong yet real heroines on exciting quests with the fate of the world in the balance. Both are in full force in this book, and it regularly kept me up way past my bedtime while i was reading.
When I heard about the sale of Cori McCarthy's THE COLOR OF RAIN, I was surprised (and weirdly charmed? is that the right word) by the concept of a YA about a prostitute in space. The book was much darker and more lyrical than I expected. It didn't shy away from physical violence or from the messiness of its tough narrator's emotions and attachments. I applaud it for badassery on many levels, and for being a driving read that made me unable to surface for breath till it was over.
And one to grow on? I had an early chance to read my bud Varian Johnson's 2014 THE GREAT GREENE HEIST. It was still in revision, so I'll have to come back to it next summer, but it was already so full of well-crafted capers and humor. I can't wait for the rest of the world to get to read this one.
News, events, fun stuff, serious stuff, and online doings. I kept a personal blog for years at The Storybook Girl, and I'll slowly be migrating some of those posts to this blog.