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!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January: Discussion Roundup

Did you miss any of the chatter with E. this month? If so, feel free to jump in. We've had a great time discussing topics spurred on by The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks! Thanks, E.!

Welcome, E. Lockhart
Things to Know About E.
Reach Out: BoostUp.org
The LIVE Chat!
Party it Up!

Beautiful and taken seriously?
The Panopticon
Why do secret societies exist?
Thinking before you speak
Rage against expectations
Have you ever been a prankster?
The Unwritten Codes of School
Better to be alone than with someone who doesn't get you?

Dancing with Fear, Two Steps Away

Just ran across this from last November's So You Think You Can Dance. A woman dealing with her fear, danced by Kathryn and Legacy, choreographed by Stacey Tookey. So beautiful and accurate. Let's conquer ours, rgz! And enjoy Patti LaBelle. Brilliant!

My website

Guest Blog: Julie Halpern

Julie Halpern's fantastically funny novel Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was named one of our January recommended reads by the postergirlz. I asked Julie if she wanted to write a little something about this month's theme. In her own words, she had "a heck of a time coming up with a blog post about risk-taking," so I asked her another question: "What makes you smile?" Here's what she had to say:

I don’t consider myself much of a risk-taker, although I have done my share of risk-taking: moving to Australia after college with nothing to do, no one to visit; spending a summer on people’s couches in NYC while interning for Nickelodeon; and writing a partially fictitious novel based on my personal experience with depression in high school. However, I just don’t have enough risk-taking in my life that I could write an entire blog post about it. Or maybe it’s just that I’m such a non-risk-taker, that writing about it stresses me out.

So instead, I’ll write about something more pleasant: what makes me smile. I’ll get the obvious answers out of the way first. My daughter, Romy, is non-stop inspiration for smiles. She is sweet and funny and adorable and snuggly and by far the best thing I’ve ever created. Ever. The second smiley thing is, of course, my husband, Matt (otherwise known as children’s book illustrator and author, Matthew Cordell). He is an amazing father, friend, and husband, as well as an insanely talented illustrator and author. And he’s hilariously goofy. Add to that my beloved and large Siamese cat, Tobin, plus the rest of my family, and thus completes the obvious smiles list.

Thinking on the question of smiles reminded me of something I spoke about at the ALAN Conference this year: why do I write humorous books? And the answer to that is simple: I like to feel good. Writing, for me, is fun. I generally like the characters I’m writing (or love to hate the baddies), and I like the places and events that occur in my novels. It’s a pleasure to sit down day after day with these people and experience their stories as I go along (My writing process involves only a little advanced planning, but mostly the character invades my brain and I just write what they have to say). I cannot imagine being a writer who writes deep, dark stories about serious issues in a serious manner. Or a writer who writes murder mysteries or war stories or apocalyptic tales. As much as I love to read all of those types of books, I’m so happy that there are other people out there writing them. I don’t think I could sit with the sadness and death and horror of those characters day after day. It would really eat at me. These days, I rarely even choose to watch a movie that I know will be sad, just because I don’t want to make myself feel that way. Maybe I’m overcompensating for the bouts of depression that have plagued my life, but I don’t really see it as a bad thing. I know what makes me feel good, and I’m trying hard to keep that up. How could anyone argue against smiling?

- Julie Halpern

Thank You, E. Lockhart!

Here's a big DANKE to the ever-awesome E. Lockhart for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from E. and learning more about the smart and thoughtful Frankie Landau-Banks. We also learned that:

1. E. fought for her Dramarama ending! (And it's her favorite book of hers.)

2. She pictured Frankie's Alpha as "a little bit Philip Seymour Hoffman"!

3. She decided to be a writer in second grade.

We've so loved having you here this month. Thank you, E.!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Albatross by Josie Bloss
Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

This Month's Spotlighted Title
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Cover Stories: Hancock Park by Isabel Kaplan

Today's Cover Story is from Isabel Kaplan, whose debut novel came out in June of last year, the same month she finished her freshman year at Harvard!

Hancock c.JPG
Hancock Park is about Becky Miller, who lives in the best neighborhood, goes to school with the children of movie stars, and has her psychiatrist on speed dial. By day, she navigates the halls of one of LA's most elite schools, where the mean girls are everywhere. At night, she deals with sparring parents, a grandmother who is man-crazy, and a younger brother, Jack, who answers only to J-zizzy. As Becky's life seems to come crashing down around her, she struggles to put it back together and learn to grow up while trying to stay sane.

"I didn't have a cover in mind as I was writing the book, but I knew that I wanted it to be fun and to have an authentic Los Angeles feel. My fantastic editor at HarperTeen, Farrin Jacobs, sent me the art department's initial jumping off point--a scan of a blonde lying on a beach chair wearing big sunglasses--and asked me what I thought.

"I really liked the idea of having a girl on the cover; the art department hired a model and did a photo shoot. Seeing the cover of my first book for the first time was surreal and so exciting. I love the palm trees that are reflected on the model's sunglasses and the neon sign with the title and my name right below the model's face. Also, once in a while, someone will ask me if the girl on the cover is me, which is very flattering! Although, now that I'm not a blonde anymore, I have a feeling I'll get less of those comments.

"I'm really pleased with how the cover turned out; it's fun, eye-catching, and very LA. I hope my readers will feel the same way!"

I haven't read Isabel's novel yet, but the family dynamic sounds really kooky (which I love) and LA settings always make for great summer reads. Plus, her Teens Read Too review by Amber Gibson mentions that fans of mine will like her "Hollywood with heart" tale. Cool!

For me, this cover DEFINITELY screams LA. What do you guys think?

Friday, January 29, 2010

INKPOP! Make Your Mark

The official announcement: "HarperCollins Publishers broadens its digital offerings with the launch today of inkpop, the first interactive writing platform for teens backed by a major U.S. publisher. Inkpop, created by HarperTeen to attract young readers and writers, combines community publishing, user-generated content, and social networking to connect rising stars in teen literature with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals."

So basically you can:
  • Upload your own writing
  • Help spot talent among the people on the site
  • Influence who gets a look from the HarperCollins team -- and possibly a contract.
Writers and readers should have a lot of fun here.

Their cool blog has already featured me and I Heart Daily, too. Enjoy, readergirlz!

Seattle: Mark your Calendar!

Hello, rgz! It's been way too long since I've updated you on Seattle's happenin' teen book scene, and that's mostly because authors/bookstores/libraries take breaks during the winter holidays. Never fear: February is fixin' to be a big month (despite any preconceived notions we may all have about the size of February).

Here are three awesome Seattle teen book events that are coming up. Hope to see you there! And if you can't make it, check back here for re-caps (I may not be able to make the whole event on the 9th, but will try to at least catch the end of it!).

Monday, February 1, 6:30 pm
Rebecca Stead -- that's right, the very recent Newbery Medal winner for WHEN YOU REACH ME, and also the author of the amazing YA novel FIRST LIGHT -- will be at the University Village Barnes & Noble. Check here for a complete list of city stops on Rebecca's tour.

Saturday, February 6, 7:00 pm
Seattle author Mary Jane Beaufrand celebrates the release of THE RIVER at University Bookstore. MJ is also a contributor to the University Bookstore's 110/110 collection, which means if you buy THE RIVER, you'll also get a copy of 110/110 (even if you're not in Seattle and you buy it at their online store; enter code happy110). Ahem, and if you do pick up 110/110, look for other stories by readergirlz Divas and other friends of ours, too. Yay!

Tuesday, February 9, 7:00 pm
Do you enjoy the slightly lighter side of vampires? Come meet THE CHRONICLES OF VLADMIR TOD author Heather Brewer at Secret Garden Books in Ballard. Click here for a full list of Heather's tour appearances, and get ready for Vladmir's junior year!

See you soon!

Carolyn Mackler Reading: TANGLED (+ Cookies)

The awesome Carolyn Mackler had a reading at Bank Street Books for her new novel, TANGLED, and readergirlz Diva Melissa Walker was there! Here's Carolyn:

Also there: These cookies that mirror TANGLED's cover. YUM!

January: Is it Better to be Alone Than With Someone Who Doesn't Get You?

In the end, Frankie concludes, "It is better to be alone than to be with someone who can't see who you are." Do you agree with her?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January: postergirlz recommends

If you've finished Frankie, check out our postergirlz recommends this month. Most excellent! Have you already read any of these?

rgz Newsflash: J.D. Salinger

I just heard that J.D. Salinger has died. The author of Catcher in the Rye greatly influenced YA literature. He died of natural causes in his home at 91. Read the full story here.

J.D. Salinger
Associated Press
J.D. Salinger

Our thoughts are with his family and their loss.

My website

Story Secrets: CHASING BROOKLYN by Lisa Schroeder

I'm very pleased to welcome Lisa Schroeder to Story Secrets to talk about CHASING BROOKLYN, a gorgeous verse novel just released by Simon Pulse and a companion to her very popular I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

Lisa and I met a couple of years ago at the second annual Kidlit Blogger Conference, and she just made the northwest trek from P-land to Seattle for our December SCBWI WWA meeting to talk about writing YA along with Liz Gallagher. (And I got a signed copy! Yay!)

Welcome, Lisa!


CHASING BROOKLYN is about a girl who is still struggling with the death of her boyfriend, Lucca, from a year ago. Then, a friend of hers, Gabe, dies of a drug overdose and her world gets even darker. Gabe begins to haunt her, and she doesn’t know why. Lucca begins to haunt his brother, Nico, trying to get him to help Brooklyn. Told from two points of view, Nico and Brooklyn, we see them dealing with their pain and the ghosts in their own different ways, until they realize they might actually be able to help each other.

My first YA novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, has been fairly successful and I had many teens writing to me, asking me to write another book “just like that.” I approached my editor about doing a sequel, but he felt like we left Ava in a good place. He suggested we might have Ava appear in another book, however, and perhaps make it more of a companion novel. So I started thinking about what made sense, and I thought Ava might be there to comfort to someone else experiencing a difficult loss. And that’s how it started.

How did you come up with the idea to write from two points of view?
This might be terrible to say, but some of the details as to HOW I came up with the two narrators are a bit fuzzy at this point. I remember thinking that it needed to be different from I HEART YOU. It couldn’t really be another book about a girl being haunted by her dead boyfriend. And I think at some point, I decided adding in that second narrator would really help the book to be different. And wow, it was fun to write from a male POV for a change.

Read the rest!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rgz Shoutout: Barry Lyga!

Melissa caught up with Barry Lyga at Bank Street Books in NYC!

How gorgeous is that cover? Check out the Cover Story to hear about how they found the perfect girl to be main-character Kyra.

January Party It Up: A Disreputable Bash!

Planning your own book group/get-together for this book? Here are some party ideas from author E. Lockhart!

Invite: A top-secret invitation that asks you to dress in black and meet in a mysterious location after dark. In an envelope sealed with sealing wax.

Food: Garlic knots. Salad bar! Strawberry Mentos. But mainly salad bar. Frankie campaigns for a half-decent salad bar at her boarding school.

D├ęcor: Stuffed basset hounds. China basset hounds. Basset hound paraphernalia of all kinds.

Movies: The Muppet Movie shows up in the book. The Skulls is a pretty bad movie about a secret society on a college campus. Dead Poets Society.

Craft: Sealing wax and seals! A little history and playing around with them. Alternately, create a secret society - silly or serious. Give it a mission. Give it an amusing name and invent a bit of imaginary history. Create a logo for it. Imagine a prank it would execute.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Diva Delight: Anis Mojgani, "Shake the Dust"

Anis Mojgani, the two time National Poetry Slam Champion, recently performed "Shake the Dust." I totally had to share it with rgz. Enjoy!

My website

Rgz Street Team: Sarah reviews Fat Cat by Robin Brande

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Fat Cat by Robin Brande:

"Cat is sassy, smart, funny, and, well, fat. Then she gets an assignment for a science project. She gets a picture of hominids and decides to eat and live just like them. Going without junk food, cars, and electronics can be a bummer, but Cat starts to really live. Cat is starting to get healthy and boys are starting to notice. She has no experience with boys, and she is too busy hating Matt McKinney to really notice anything. Can she get over being Fat Cat and become just Cat?

"I love Cat. I could relate to her so much. I have had weight problems for my whole life. She also got over how she looked and realized that other things were important. Jordan and Amanda were cute together. They were sweet and wonderful friends. The plot was so strong. It was interesting and I read it in about a day. This book was really original and the book was not just about weight loss, but loving yourself. Brande is an amazing writer and I can not wait for more books from her. Fat Cat is the kind of book that is a must read. It has such a strong message that anyone can all relate to." --Sarah

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cover Stories: Captivate by Carrie Jones

Last year, Carrie Jones shared her awesome Cover for Need on my blog, and now she's back to talk about the New York Times bestselling sequel, Captivate (Bloomsbury)!

Take it away, Carrie!

"I had no cover ideas -- I am so horrible at that. My publisher didn’t ask for input -- and when I first saw the cover, I sort of passed out because it was so awesome.

"My editor asked if I wanted to make suggestions, but I didn’t want to. I really loved the cover. Except, I wanted to apply a little wax to the girl’s eyebrows. That’s just me though. I’m obsessive...

Read the rest of Carrie's Cover Story, find out about a big Bloomsbury contest and watch the trailer for the book on melissacwalker.com!

PS-A bit of advice from the awesome Carrie Jones, pointed out to me by Little Willow (this rocks): "... you have to follow your dreams. You have to fight for them, scratch out people's eyes for them, but you have to - YOU HAVE TO - go for them, even if it looks impossible. Believe me, I know about impossible and doing everything wrong. I know about crying because you think you suck. I know about feeling like everything you're doing is pointless. But it isn't. Not if you want it. Now go get it, because if I can get it you know - YOU KNOW - you can too." Amen.

Zazzle: Operation Teen Book Drop Merch

Did you know rgz is a nonprofit organization? Yep. But if you want to help support Operation Teen Book Drop, check out these items that will spread the news.

Thanks, everyone!

My website

rgz Newsflash: Melissa Walker in GL


Shout out for our own diva Melissa Walker for her recent interview in Girls' Life Magazine!

Interviewer Samantha Davis asks:

SD: So did you want to be an author when you grew up, too?

MW: Yes, I totally did! I wasn’t sure it was practical, but it was my goal. I wrote for school publications, then interned at a magazine while I was in college, and became an editor. All that prepared me to… return to my teenage diaries and write books! It’s a dream come true.

Head on over and read Melissa's advice on how to be an author. It's wonderful!

My website

Awards Season Round-Up!

Here is your click-through guide to the awesome winners.

Hooray! Confetti for all!

See the complete list of 2010 Notable Children's Books

See the complete list of 2010 Best Books for Young Adults

See the complete list of 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

See the complete list of 2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

See the complete list of 2010 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

See the complete list of 2010 ALA Rainbow Project Selections

January: Can Frankie Be Loved as an Equal?

Frankie wants Matthew to ". . . admire her cleverness, her ambition, her vision. That he would admit her as his equal, or even as his superior, and love her for what she was capable of." E. asks, "Do you think this is even possible in teen relationships? Is it possible in life?"

PS-E. also wants to know: "What do you think of Frankie's outfit on the paperback cover?"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin:

"Parker Prescott is a quiet, book-ish, and aloof girl. She is so quiet and aloof that she is called The Ice Princess by all of her classmates. But the real reason might be Marion Hennessey’s blog. Marion hates Parker, because of a story that involves siblings, stalking and a restraining order.

"Parker's family is also in trouble. Her dad lost his job and is still unemployed. Her mom works long hours to pay for everything. Her older sister Paige is having trouble with her marriage to the former high-school quarterback who visits their house to steal ketchup because he doesn't like grocery stores. Also, little brother Preston is an ADHD genius. The house is up for sale, too. It isn't like Parker's life could be any crazier.

"Wait, except her ex-boyfriend has some kind of hold on her and it gets them in a situation that involves handcuffs, office chairs, and a rather compromising position. Everything goes downhill from there. Parker Prescott’s world is changing and she no longer knows who she is. Does anyone?

"The characters in this book were really well developed. I could relate to Parker feeling unsure with who she is and what she wants. Paige and Preston were also well developed. Her ex-boyfriend was interesting. I also loved that the plot had more than one story going on. There were parts of the plot that revealed something about everyone in the book. This book was original and one of a kind. Griffin is an amazing writer and I can't wait for more from her. I recommend that you check this book, if you are looking for something that is a bit edgy." --Sarah

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Chains: Seeds of America by Laurie Halse Anderson
In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

Graphic Novel Alert
Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

This Month's Spotlighted Title
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Cover Stories: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams is about a girl who is coming of age--finding herself, falling in love--within a polygamist cult. I asked Carol to stop over and tell her Cover Story, because I think this cover is just gorgeous. Here she is:

"I was working so hard on the novel that I didn't really even think of cover art. As a writer, I knew I wouldn't have a lot of say. My publisher didn't ask for input. They were busy experimenting, I think. And listening to the news. The book sold two days before the Texas stuff came to light and I think they were listening to that news, watching that unwind, and pondering what to do with the cover.

"I was in New York, visiting everyone at St Martin's Press, when my editor and Michael brought what they thought might be the cover for me to see. I was sitting at a table and I remember they set the piece before me and I actually couldn't believe what I was seeing. I remember it had the beautiful picture (that may have been in more grays--I'm not sure). And there was the pink lettering. I fell in love right that minute. I was blown away. My agent, Steve Fraser, was in the room and he and I just kept saying, 'Oh the cover is beautiful. It's just beautiful.' Everyone was relieved that I loved it--including me. But how could I not?

"I know there was talk at SMP about what the model should be wearing, that she would be in a to-the-neck nightgown in real life. You know, something less revealing. But when I saw the cover, I thought, 'This is Kyra, free. This is Kyra on the inside.' I've never really had any say on my covers before. And maybe if I hated the cover SMP would have changed it. But I loved it so much (I know my editor Hope Dellon was worried I might not like it) that I very nearly cried sitting at that table. I'm still taken aback at the beauty of it. I don't really love many of the live-model covers we see now-a-days, but mine feels timeless. Three cheers for the creative geniuses at St Martin's Press! I lucked out, didn't I?"

Well, I think so. I'm so intrigued by this story, and I love the idea that the cover shows Kyra's freedom, the way her back is mostly bare, and her braid is loosening. What do you guys think?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bloomsbury Makes Good

Way to go, Bloomsbury! Here's a note from PW:

“Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.”

My website

So what happened at ALA, you ask?

Ok, other than the books (which I will get to in a moment)...

Besides stalking the HarperCollins booth for a glimpse of TELL ME A SECRET advance copies (!!!), I teamed up with Loriene Roy of If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, an organization devoted to the literacy of Native teens and children, to talk about readergirlz/GuysLitWire/YALSA and publisher's third annual Operation Teen Book Drop!

We chatted with several groups of librarians who were working tirelessly in both urban and rural settings, community libraries and school libraries, to bring books into the hands of many teens. These people are passionate and dedicated, and we're really excited to have a chance to work with them. Many thanks, especially to Susan Hanks and Liana Juliano for everything!

And as a side note, LIBRARIANS ARE AWESOME! I knew when I met a bunch of Seattle/King County area librarians in the airport - including Judy Nelson, Angela Nolet, Dave Sonnen, Cecilia McGowan, and lots of others - that the trip was going to be fab (and it was really cool that they wanted my TELL ME A SECRET bookmarks - the first to receive them besides my mom!). Then I sat by Nancy Pearl on the way home! (Nancy: the answer to the secret question is..."takeoff decision speed.")

Highlights included meeting YALSA folks and being deemed an honorary YALSA rock star (thanks to Beth Yoke!), hanging out with my peeps at the HarperCollins meeting school/library/account divas Laura and Camilla and editors Tara, Rosemary, Molly, and Sarah - who are all rock stars in my book , seeing copies of TELL ME A SECRET fly off the table (and even signing some - surreal!), catching some of the Best Books for Young Adults panel discussion, especially hearing my editor's work with Jenny Valentine honored for Broken Soup (yay, Catherine!), and being present for the 2010 Youth Media Awards!!!! (Hooray for all of the very deserving winners, especially Libba Bray, Tanita Davis, L.K. Maddigan, Grace Lin, Jerry Pinkney, Tanya Lee Stone, and others!)

At the Kidlit/YA Tweetup organized by Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan, I ran into Kate Messner, Dawn Metcalf, Edith Cohn, Mitali Dave, Marissa Doyle, Ann Haywood Leal, Jennifer Rummel, EgmontGal, HipWriterMama, and so many others! Here are a few pics (my camera takes terrible inside shots, so I include credits...):

Here's one I stole from Edith Cohn (taken by Mitali Perkins - my first book-signing!) with Anindita, Edith, me, and Mitali of Alley of Books in the background:

And with EgmontGal Elizabeth Law and Mitali of Alley of Books (photo from Elizabeth's tweet, taken by Ann Haywood Leal!):

Plus a couple from the album of Judith Jango-Cohen with Harper friends Tara Weikum and Sara Shumway:

And here's one the inimitable Mitali Perkins and Vivian Mahoney (HipWriterMama!) after meeting Vivian in person for the first time, after working together on readergirlz for years!

I stayed with friends Kasson and Kathryn in Boston, who not only fed me, housed me, and even turned up their heat for me, but they carted me to and from the T-station so that I wouldn't get lost in the big (well, bigger) city. Then there was new music from Kasson and knitting wonders from Kathryn. Thanks, K&K! Here's my favorite thing I spotted in their house:

Plus some envy-worthy art from Etsy:

Now...on to the book stack. Here, let's look at them one more time and drool:

The publishers at ALA were exceedingly generous to us YA book groupies, and I picked up copies of (in order of the stack, release month in parentheses):

The Heart is Not a Size, by Beth Kephart (4/10)
Stranded, by J.T. Dutton (6/10)
Borderline, by Allan Stratton (3/10)
Very LeFreak, by Rachel Cohn (1/10)
The Timekeeper's Moon, by Joni Sensel (3/10)
Captivate, by Carrie Jones (1/10 - see her Story Secrets!)
Life As We Knew It/The Dead & The Gone/This World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeffer (3rd book in 4/10)
Tangled, by Carolyn Mackler (1/10)
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (3/10)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan (4/10)
Illyria, by Elizabeth Hand (5/10)
Happyface, by Stephen Emond (3/10)

And a couple of copies of Tell Me a Secret for upcoming blog giveaways! What a weekend!