readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!
Tanya Lee Stone's latest book, The Good, the Bad and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us, has earned three stars from the publishing world and raves like this one from Lauren Myracle: "Holy belly buttons! This is no mere Barbie book. This is a how-to manual about being a girl: a strong, sparky, awesome girl, with Barbie in hand *or* Barbie in the nearest Dumpster!" Love that. Plus, it has a sly, iconic cover. I had to ask Tanya how it came about. Here she is:
"I didn't have a picture of the front cover in my head from the beginning, but once I started playing around with all of the dolls in Peter Harrigan's collection (which we used for the photo shoot), I started thinking about the BACK cover. I pictured a border of heads peering from the edge into the middle of the cover (kind of creepy). I fell in love with the Elphaba doll from Wicked, and thought the Twilight dolls were kind of cool (and again, kind of creepy). In the end, we used a great shot the photographer took of a bunch of the international dolls, in a pinwheel formation. I love it.
"My publisher did ask for my input. We talked about what image should go on the cover. Should it be a universal favorite (there really isn't one) or not?"
In this thrilling four-book series, a young man named Jack has to face the shapeshifters who killed his best friend. The monsters have the ability to change at any time, which, to me, makes them more frightening and deadly than werewolves who may only change when there's a full moon. In addition to their physical strength, they are also incredibly cunning, and they are usually human in appearance. Instead of being mindless killing machines, they are incredibly layered characters who have all of the wonderful and horrible strengths and weaknesses we do when it comes to those we love or things we stand for or against, making them dynamic adversaries for the good guys.
Golden also takes a cool angle on the classic love triangle: the main character, Jack, falls for Molly, who was his best friend's girlfriend. You know, his best friend, Artie, who was killed by the Prowlers. Artie's now a ghost, but he doesn't want Jack to tell anyone that he can see him. Plus Jack's got this awesome older sister, Courtney, and then there's Bill, who...well, you have to read the books to find out!
This series should be read in order. Prowlers Laws of Nature Predator and Prey Wild Things
Pssst... If you're planning to watch The Walking Dead on AMC tonight, check out this St. Martin's interview with authors whose short stories appear in the zombie anthology The New Dead and see what they think about the new TV show!
Have a happy Halloween, readergirlz. Please be safe!
Little Willow: Welcome to the roundtable discussion of Lips Touch by Laini Taylor, which was our featured book for October. Many thanks to all of the roundtable participants. Today, I'm joined by readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover and Melissa Walker as well as Enna Isilee from the blog Squeaky Books.
Lorie Ann Grover: Oh, it's a delight to host Laini and discuss Lips Touch! Almost as fun as her funky Laini's Ladies. Have you seen them? Mine hangs in my kitchen! But okay, let's get to her collection of stories!
Little Willow: Lips Touch is a collection of three stories: Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses, and Hatchling. What was your favorite scene or character from Goblin Fruit?
Melissa Walker: I loved the description of Kizzy when she was introduced, and the reasons why the goblins wanted her and knew she was easy prey. I was instantly mesmerized.
Lorie Ann Grover: I loved her grandmother, trying to warn her! Listen, Kizzy!
Little Willow: I wanted to warn Kizzy as well. I thought this story was a great way to kick off this collection, and I liked the fact that each story took place in a different time and location. Goblin Fruit took place in current times. If this story had been set in Victorian times instead, how would it have been different? What might have stayed the same?
This Week's Picks If You Live Like Me by Lori Weber
For Your Younger Sibs Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other man-made Catastrophes by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham Girls' Life Guide To Being The Most Amazing You
First, a shout out for the beautiful cover of Michaela MacColl's novel, Prisoners in the Palace. Gorgeous, right? I'm so impressed with the list Chronicle is creating for YA. Brava, to this independent publisher for keeping it small and powerful.
It's my pleasure to recommend Prisoners in the Palace, A Novel of Intrigue and Romance About How Princess Victoria Became Queen with the Help of a Maid, a Newspaperman, and Scoundrel. The title encapsulates the plot. Historical fiction lovers will certainly embrace this work about Princess Victoria's 17th year, while other YA lovers will be won over to the genre quickly. Stringing together true events with a fictional protagonist, the work is compelling and fresh for today's readers.
A recently orphaned Liza finds herself as lady's maid to the princess. While finding her own path, voice, and power, Liza assists the future queen in her own journey as well.
Visiting Michaela's blog I found she had said this at a recent school visit:
"I can’t have Victoria take a jaunt to Paris because I know she didn’t do that. But I can create new characters to move in and around documented facts. I told the kids that I do this not only so they will be interested in reading the book, but so I will be interested in writing the book."
Interesting! Here's to our historical fiction authors bringing to life the past! *a royal curtsy*
It seems like I've been talking about this book all summer, but ADIOS, NIRVANA by my friend and fellow Seattleite Conrad Wesselhoeft is now here!
I didn't even know Conrad until recently, but I'd heard such good things about his writing from our mutual friend Molly Blaisdell, who said we should be friends. We read each other's books, and so we are! We even just did a panel together at Third Place Books in Seattle.
ADIOS, NIRVANA is powerful, poetic, funny, and...savory. As in, you want to savor the flavor of it as you read, and taste each and every nuance. And one of you will get to win a copy (details below).
ADIOS, NIRVANA is about a teenaged poet-musician who survives the first anniversary of his twin brother’s death with the help of a dying blind man, the best group of “Thicks” a guy could ask for, a demanding school principal who wants him to play the “pussiest song in the world” at graduation, and one very special guitar.
Holly Cupala: Tell us about the origins of ADIOS!
Conrad Wesselhoeft: I stumbled upon this quote in a newspaper column: “In darkness, it slowly came to me that what happens to a man isn’t nearly as important as how he meets it.” The author of the quote was Victor Riesel, a labor journalist who was blinded when a mobster flung sulphuric acid in his face.” I jotted Riesel’s words in my journal, then added, spur of the moment: “Story about a young man who becomes a stenographer/writer of a blind man’s life, and in so doing exorcises his own demons.”
In 2007, my agent, Erin Murphy, asked to see some of my ideas for future projects. I sent her a long list. The idea for Adios was buried near the bottom, barely an afterthought, yet it was this idea that spoke loudest...
Linda Gerber has another pull-you-in title, Trance, out this month. You may remember her cinematic, action-filled Death By... series (remember the covers with the pop-art cut-out covers? LOVE!). She's back to share her new, hypnotizing Cover Story for Trance:
"The cover gods at Puffin have been very good to me. Theresa Evangelista was the designer of the Death by Bikini Mysteries covers, and I knew she was the one working on this cover as well, so trusted it would be fabulous.
"When I first saw the cover, I was happy with it. I really liked Ashlyn's eyes and the trance-esque circles radiating from the title.
"In the end, there was just a subtle change, but it made a huge difference...."
This month's theme of Love naturally led us to 12 Reasons Why I Love Her by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich. This graphic novel was named a recommended read in the October 2010 issue, and I recommend it to people whether or not they are comic fans, because the story transcends the format and will snag the hearts of romantics as well as graphic novel enthusiasts. Jamie was kind enough to tell me about the origins of the book:
It all seems so simple now, I can barely believe it. It was a Saturday night, I think in 2003, and I was bored and trying to think of a side project to write during breaks from my second novel, The Everlasting. I am a big fan of good romantic movies, particularly Hollywood classics with Cary Grant or the Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy pairings, and I started to think about the modern equivalent. If it were possible to write a movie like The Apartment or Two for the Road now, how would I do it? I don’t know if I was conscious of the Two for the Road connection at that very moment, but Stanley Donen’s 1966 masterpiece would end up being a real inspiration for what I was about to cook up. In it, Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney play a married couple who are heading for the rocks, and by criss-crossing several narrative timelines at once, Donen lets us compare and contrast and see how they got from very young love to very old love by drawing ingenious parallels between the jumbled stages of their life together.
I began with my two main characters, Gwen and Evan. I don’t generally talk about this much, but the germ for them both was the casting for this imaginary film. At that time, I couldn’t think of a better pair for a movie than Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. I envisioned the opening scene, a tricky intro that at first glance would look like the first time these two had met. Borrowing the title 12 Reasons Why I Love Her from a song by the British band My Life Story, I quickly began to map out twelve more chapters, setting a gameplan for how I would lay this story out. Chronological order would be jettisoned. I’d start with the first date, but I’d end with the real first meeting. There would be big events, but we would maybe see the fall-out from those events before we actually get there. And there would be abstract sections. I’d have one where Gwen would tell jokes, and maybe one about things she liked, and there would have to be a childhood flashback. Given the title, it would all be Evan’s point of view, and each chapter had to have some rationalization for how he knew what he knew if he wasn’t actually a part of it. The idea was that by timing the flow of information, I could simulate the scattered and disjointed experience of a real relationship, chronicle the good and the bad, and chart the uneven ground that an honest love must traverse to stay alive. The outline came quickly, like tuning in a radio signal and twisting the knobs until I had identified all the frequencies.
The movie idea went away pretty fast, as did the casting. The characters, as they are wont to do, took on a life of their own, and I only had a couple of toes in before I knew I wanted this to be a comic book instead. I fired up my scriptwriting program and banged out the prologue. That first draft is exactly what you see in the first pages of the book. It never changed. Only my first novel, Cut My Hair, arrived as so clear a vision, where I knew right from the start what I wanted to happen. With that book, I wrote the first chapter, and then I wrote the last page, and proceeded from there to fill in the rest. 12 Reasons Why I Love Her was pretty much the same.
12 Reasons, then, was always a book that seem buoyed by fate. Everything happened for a reason, everything came together as it was supposed to. Naturally, the biggest event was finding Joëlle Jones and her agreeing to draw it. Our first meeting was in a coffee shop, and the conversation thankfully resembled more of Gwen and Evan’s second first date rather than their first first date. We became fast friends and remain pals and collaborators now some five years later. Her art took the material in all the right places, expanding on what I had envisioned, and making it all look so elegantly simple.
12 Reasons Why I Love Her is one of those fortunate books that keeps finding new readers, that has a life of its own. Different people find different things in its pages, they react in different ways. I commonly ask new fans what they think happens next. Do Gwen and Evan stay together, or is it over? I know my answer, and I know what feeling I wanted the reader to walk away with, but it’s out of my hands now...and in all of yours.
I'm so happy to see you. I've been away from book events for too long, so I was very glad for the chance to celebrate rgz co-founder Janet Lee Carey's latest book, Dragons of Noor! The party happened last night at Parkplace Books. It was a night full of celebration, yummy food, and giving to Plant a Billion Trees.
Children fly when worlds are shaken.
Now the children are Wind-taken.
Seek them there,
seek them here,
before the children disappear.
- Janet Lee Carey
How cute and foresty does Janet look? This is her with the amazing Chinese dragon her sister made years ago . . . Janet is looking surprised because she's just realized how many years ago. In dragon years, it's not really all that many. Janet explained that, to her, dragons are "conscious nature". I love that, don't you?
The party was full of characters. Literally. Favorites from the book came to life!
The party was also full of friends, readers and rgz Divas! Here's YA author Mary Jane Beaufrand with our own Holly Cupala and YA author Heather Davis. Holly did amazing face painting, and MJ and Heather are decked out with Noorish accessories.
What a blast. I'm constantly amazed by the talent of our rgz founders!
Writer Jessica Stites talks about today's kick-ass book heroines in the latest issue of Ms. magazine, and we got a peek at the story. In categories like Action, Gay/Lesbian, Satire, Civil Rights, Popularity and Angst, Stites highlights heroines who make us stand up and cheer. The piece covers many issues, but it all comes down to one key focus, which we at readergirlz love:
"...a certain kind of hero(ine): young, brave, rebellious and independ- ent. She disguises herself as a boy to be trained as a knight (Alanna in Alanna: The First Adventure); she drives a flying car across the U.S. to stop an alien invasion (Gratuity in The True Meaning of Smekday); she defends her father before an angry lynch mob (Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird). And although she may face flak for her nonconformity, ultimately it serves her well."
To see the full story (and the awesome array of books selected), pick up the latest issue of Ms. Magazine, on stands Tuesday. Or subscribe here.
PS-In case you're wondering, Bella didn't make the cut.
Andrea Seigel had some visual ups and downs with her novel The Kid Table, but she ended up with what I think is a really clean, funny, standout cover.
Here's how she got there:
"I read your blog all the time, so I know a lot of authors say they're not visually oriented, butI always have covers in my head. In Kid Table one of the main characters tries to burn the table with a lighter, so probably the first image I pictured was of a magnified formal place card with the book's title in fancy lettering, but the place card destroyed with charred edges, chewed gum stuck to it, etc.
"Bloomsbury told me they were scheduling a photo shoot, so they asked what I thought Ingrid, the narrator, looked like and how she dressed. I started to get nervous at that point because I'd never pictured a cover with an actual person on it, but something more conceptual instead. I told my editor that Ingrid wasn't traditionally cute--in the book she says that she'll get called handsome a lot when she gets older--and I gave them actress Emily VanCamp and model Lauren Bush as examples. These were the pictures I sent. You know, strong nose:
As for Ingrid's clothes, I said she dresses like one of the Robert Palmer video girls (right). In the first event of the book, her hair is slicked back with gel, and she's described as going for simple, sleek mini-dresses.
"When I saw the cover mockup, I had a major meltdown. The emailed image came into my box minutes before I was leaving to drive out to the desert to teach a class, and I just thought, 'Nononononononono'....
Read the rest of Andrea's Cover Story, and see the original mockups, at melissacwalker.com.
I'm really sorry I missed Phoebe Kitanidis (WHISPER), who was kind enough to come to my Tell Me a Secret party last July even though she didn't know me from Adam. Plus I would have come home with five books! Next time, Phoebe.
As we get ready to change to our new format, I wanted to reflect on how we came to be, remember what we've done together, and just pause to appreciate our journey. I made this for all of you. Thank you for being a part of rgz. Thanks for the lemonade. :~)
I'm very excited to get to chat with rgz co-founder and award-winning fantasy author Dia Calhoun today about her YA fantasy novel, AVIELLE OF RHIA!
Dia has the soul of fantasy as well as amazing storytelling skills (plus she always has gorgeous covers, don't you think?). Not to mention AVIELLE is engrossing, moving, and suspenseful fantasy at its best.
Dia is here to tell us about the stories behind her fantasies, writing as a way of working through grief, and her next project.
Avielle of Rhia is about a princess who overcomes grief and fear after a deadly attack kills her family, and comes into her power as queen by learning to face her fears and love her people.
Dia Calhoun, on the story behind the story: AVIELLE OF RHIA was directly inspired by the 9/11 and its aftermath. At first the story was too directly tied to 9/11. I had people waving the flags of Rhia and shopping after the attack to stimulate the economy. I had twin towers. All of that had to go, the story took awhile to find its own form and truth...