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!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Holly's NYC Teen Author Carnival/BEA/2K10 Pictoral!

What a trip! I (Holly) came home totally brimming with the wonder of meeting so many book lovers and bloggers and other authors - and a few pics!

First, there was the Teen Author Carnival, organized the amazing trio of Mitali Dave, Devyn Burton, and Korianne Wey. It was incredibly well done. There were tons of authors I've been hoping to meet, and they were there! Jeri Smith-Ready, Amy Brecount White, Lauren Oliver (Story Secrets), Sarah Darer Littman, Linda Gerber, Michelle Zink, Jon Skovron, and more...plus many, many bloggers I've been dying to meet: Kristi of The Story Siren, Shelli Johannes-Wells of Market My Words, James of BookChic, Steph of Steph Su Reads, S.F. Robertson of Wastepaper Prose, Chelsea of The Page Flipper, Erica of The Book Cellar, Pam of Bookalicio.us, Laura of I'm Booking It, so many more...and...

Sharon Loves Cats! I will always be devoted to Sharon (and owe her litters and litters of adorable kitties) for being the first to read, review, and declare her love for TELL ME A SECRET:

I was on the Love & Heartbreak panel. To my right: Simone Elkeles, Kieran Scott, Susane Colasanti, and Alexandra Diaz's gorgeous hair:

To my left, Sarah Ockler, Kody Keplinger, Elizabeth Scott (Story Secrets) and Gayle Forman (hiding!), and Heidi Kling:

And amazing audience #3!

The asked such fantastic questions, and we laughed a lot about the various forms of relationships in YA. Thanks to all of you for coming!

Then we headed downstairs for signings, and I gave away a ton of my TELL ME A SECRET 2-chapter previews. (I still have a bunch to give away at my blog before the 6/22 release!)

But the coolest thing was that when I visited my editor earlier that day, she gave me the very first copy of the very first book (from which I did my very first reading in the TAC panel!). I was quite excited to be holding a real, live copy of my own book, which awesome blogger Reverie Book Reviews captured:

I finally got to meet fellow readergirlz diva/amazing author Elizabeth Scott in person:

Caught up with fellow readergirlz diva/YA queen Melissa Walker:

And met the incomparable Barry Lyga - as smart and funny and nice as you would expect him to be (plus he just blurbed my friend Conrad Wesselhoeft's incredible book, ADIOS, NIRVANA for 10/10):

And the very cool and nice YA author Stephanie Kuenert (kee-nert, I now know!), whose writing I love:

Bravo to Mitali, Devyn, and Korianne for putting together such an incredible event - topped off by getting to go out with a bunch of the authors from the other panels, including Courtney Scheinmel, who I know think is probably a soulmate. I was too shy to say hi to Ned Vizzini (I loved Kind of a Funny Story...hi, Ned!).

The next day (after a very exciting, top-secret meeting with...ack, I'm dying to tell you! Soon...), I headed over to BEA. I forgot to take pics there, but I did do a drive-by of the garment district. Oooh, fabric!

Then there was the wonder-ous event at Books of Wonder (my new favorite NYC haunt) with the Class of 2K10! Check them out!

Here was the blow-your-socks-off 2K10 Roster:

ALEXANDRA DIAZ - Of All the Stupid Things
KITTY KESWICK - Freaksville
JANET FOX - Faithful
BONNIE J DOERR - Island Sting
JAME RICHARDS - Three Rivers Rising
SHARI MAURER - Change of Heart
LEAH CYPESS - Mistwood
IRENE LATHAM - Leaving Gee's Bend
RHONDA HAYTER - The Witchie Worries of Abbie Adams
ERICA PERL - Vintage Veronica
DENISE JADEN - Losing Faith

I was really excited to see my old friend Swati Avasthi (see her SPLIT Story Secrets here):

And fellow Circle of Secrets gal Jennifer Hubbard and her sizzling debut (Story Secrets here):

And(!) my dear and FAITHFUL friend Janet Fox (Story Secrets here):

And I snapped an adorable shot of Mitali from the Teen Author Carnival, who has to be one of the most brilliant and book-loving gals around. I told her when it was time for letters of recommendation, there will probably be 30 authors lined up to give her one!

It was especially cool to meet Shari Maurer, Denise Jaden, and Irene Latham, who I ended up hanging out with quite a bit. And all of the women in this post should join GLOP (Gorgeous Ladies of Publishing) stat!

On Wednesday, I headed to HarperMedia Studio, where I was interviewed for a video by my editor! They matted me up and chatted sci-fi and books and were quite patient with my lack of media savvy. The final product will soon be available at my HarperTeen site.

I loved meeting all of you and celebrating successes and YA admiration. That was the best part!

~Holly Cupala

May: Round Up of Discussions

Just in case you missed any of the great discussions with Lisa, check out these links and drop your comment!

So, what would your nickname be?

Thank You, Lisa Yee!

Here's a big MERCI to the very fun and inspiring Lisa Yee for joining us at readergirlz this month!

We loved hearing stories from Lisa and learning more about the back story of Absolutely Maybe.

Some highlights:

Absolutely Maybe was supposed to be a middle grade book, but Maybe took over Lisa's brain and wound up telling her story instead!

Peepy loves the book!

Lisa thinks that "social media is the author's water cooler." YES!

We've so enjoyed having you here this month. Thank you, Lisa!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cover Stories: Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Heidi R. Kling's debut novel, Sea, comes out next month. It's the story of a girl named Sienna (Sea) who travels to Indonesia after the tsunami with her psychiatrist father's relief team. See more about the book in the trailer below.

For now, let's get to the story behind that cover. Here's Heidi:

"I'm one of the lucky ones and my editor did ask my input on the cover for SEA. I suggested an under water image or a young couple riding a motorcycle or motor, as they say in Indonesia. The under water image I came up with was that famous shot of a sea turtle taken from below... I thought that would look cool because so much of the theme in SEA is about being underwater both literally and metaphorically.

"My editor, Stacey, took my suggestions to heart and let the design team know. They liked the underwater concept but wanted something more romantic than the turtle..."

Read Heidi's full Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

PS-Here's a book trailer Kepler's Books so made for SEA:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cover Stories: What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando

Tara Altebrando's What Happens Here received rave reviews from many sources, including ellegirl.com and author Sara Zarr, who calls it, "A compulsively readable tale of complicated friendships, life-changing loss, and the search for authentic experience in a world full of artifice."

Bonus: the book has a cool Cover Story. So here's Tara!
"One of the four pictures on the cover of What Happens Here wasn't actually there on the original version. Can you guess which one?

"Well, I'll tell you.

"But first, a little back-story: After a few title changes, we all finally decided on What Happens Here and my publisher felt strongly that she wanted the art to get the Vegas setting implied by the title across more directly. I did my usual obsessive searching on Getty Images and found a few cool imagines of two teen girls in Vegas-y settings (since two lifelong friends are at the center of the story) and sent those in to my editor for inspiration.

"Then the first version of the cover arrived in my inbox featuring none of those photos (of course!) and I took one look at it and thought, 'Okay. Me likey. Sort of.'

"Usually the first time I see cover art, I cry, so this was progress.

"I thought the tone was right. Dramatic. Dark. I liked the big white space at top that would eventually allow Sara Zarr to blurb the heck out of the book. I liked the fact that the surveillance camera aspect of the plot had been used to interesting effect.

"But there was one image among the four that didn't sit right with me at all. See that blonde girl in the top right photo? The bottom left photo was another angle on her and she had what I could only think to call a 'come hither' look in her eyes. She looked about 25 to me. And way too sexy. Like working girl sexy. So I said so and asked that the image be changed.

"'To what?' my editor asked. We talked for a while about putting in the Eiffel Tower since the book also has a lot of scenes set in Europe and also in the casinos in Vegas inspired by Paris, Venice, etc. But everyone thought that would be too confusing. Finally, I suggested a roulette wheel since the narrator is more than a little obsessed with odds and the gambles we all take in life. And they went for it. And once the come hither shot went away I felt like the model no longer looked too old and sexy but just old and sexy enough. Because the book also rubs up against some issues surrounding teen girls dressing sexy/looking older/drinking while underage.

"Ultimately I think the bottom right image--the dark alley--is the one that makes the cover the most effective. I hope people look at that alley and want to know what happens there."

Thanks, Tara!

Did you guess the right photo? I was thinking it was probably the alley that was added. Wrong! Anyway, I'm into the film-strip look of this cover, and the colors definitely convey the darkness of loss. I like the way the pink title pops, too. What do you guys think?

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah and Samantha Marshall
Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters, illustrated by Pete Venters

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rgz Salon: Sisters Red by Jackson Pierce, Reviewed by Rene' Kirkpatrick

René Kirkpatrick has been a bookseller and book buyer, specializing in children's and teen literature, for many years. She has a degree in elementary education and reads widely across all genres. She is currently a buyer at Third Place Books.

We're honored to have her here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Here's René!

"Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce, is a great riff on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale featuring two sisters whose grandmother is eaten by a wolf (a werewolf, known as a fenris) before the woodsman can get to the cottage to save them. In the battle to save her sister, Rosie, Scarlett kills the wolf but loses an eye. Seven years later, the woodsman’s son returns to the sisters. There has been an uptick in wolf-sightings in the city, and many missing girls. The three of them set out to do some serious wolf-hunting but soon find that there is much more to the increasing numbers of wolves than luscious dragonfly girls (pretty girls in pretty clothes, more style than substance); they are looking for a 'potential', a new man to turn to werewolf-hood. Can the trio find a way to keep this from happening? Can they protect the girls in the city? Can they save themselves from their own history? Will true love drive the three friends apart? I absolutely devoured this book (ha ha) in hours. It’s a good addition to the fairytale variants for teens that are out there. Ages 13 and up. (Little Brown. Hardcover, $16.99. Due June 1, 2010.)"

May: Have You Ever Been in a Love Triangle?

Lisa says, "Ted, Hollywood and Maybe are in a love triangle. Do you know anyone who's been in this situation? Have you?"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May: Do you Judge People Too Quickly?

Lisa says, "Maybe hates Willow the first time they meet, but later discovers she's not a total loser. Do you ever judge people too quickly?"

Story Secrets: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu + Giveaway!

It's very exciting (and I do feel a bit secretive) to be talking with DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS author C.J. Omololu (known in the blogosphere as Cynjay, or Cythia). DLS was a Borders Original Voices selection and has been garnering lots of buzz. PLUS she's giving away one copy!

When Cyn and I realized, along with Jenn Hubbard, that we all had secrets to share in our 2010 debuts, we formed the Circle of Secrets...

So I'm very excited to get to chat with Cyn about her own novel secrets - welcome, Cyn!


In DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, a girl finds her mother dead in their hoarded home. As she’s spent her entire life trying to keep the hoarding a secret, she has to decide how far she’ll go to keep the secrets safe. The book takes place over less than 24 hours, and leads her to the only logical conclusion in the end. Despite how dark it sounds, I like to think of it as a hopeful story, of one girl who finally stands up and takes charge. And there’s a little romance, just because.

Holly: Hoarding is such a fascinating topic - what sparked the idea for DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS?

I was on an airplane, which is the only place I usually get to read “girl” magazines. I read an article about hoarding in Marie Claire and thought that it would make an interesting story. I’ve known some hoarders in my life, although I didn’t grow up like Lucy did, so it was fairly easy to picture the setting. I ended up doing some research with the woman that was featured in the story purely by accident. It wasn’t until later that I realized that my original inspiration came from her...

Read the rest to find out C.J.'s secrets and for a chance to win DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Blog: Cecil Castellucci

In July 2009, we featured The Plain Janes written by Cecil Castellucci - art by Jim Rugg - as our main pick at readergirlz. (Please check out the Art Saves project we did, which was inspired by The Plain Janes.) This month, the postergirlz selected Cecil Castellucci's novel Beige to be one of the books recommended alongside May's main pick, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee. I recently caught up with Cecil and asked her to share with us what's new with her. Without any further ado, here's Cecil!

Hello readergirlz!

It's nice to be back to say hello! I've been getting ready to launch my new YA novel, Rose Sees Red (Scholastic, August 2010), and my first picture book, Grandma's Gloves (Candlewick Press, August 2010).

I hope you have been having a lot of fun with the fantastic Lisa Yee! Her book Absolutely, Maybe is a perfect Los Angeles book. I loved Maybe and her journey, her hair, her friends, her spirit, and her tacos!

I was so excited to be a read-alike because Beige is also a book about Los Angeles. Lisa and I clearly both love our city and I think that in both of our books, the city is one of the characters as well. Clearly Hollywood has a certain magic to it. And both Maybe and Beige feel totally hopeless and this city gives them a tiny light to go on. That's the great thing about Los Angeles, or any place that makes and gets you dreaming. Hope.

I have had moments of hopelessness and despair and it is terrible. I have always felt that anything that can get you dreaming again is a lifeline. The thing about hope is that all you need is a little bit of it. Just to get you to the next moment, and the next, until suddenly, instead of floating on an ocean of despair, you are standing on an island. And the sun is out. And there is a coconut to eat. And you can breathe and recollect.

I think books are good entry ways to finding hope. So get reading! And remember, hope is always there to love you. It's right there, even when you think it's not. Swears-y.

~ Cecil Castellucci

May: Party It Up with Lisa Yee!

Planning your own book group get-together for Absolutely Maybe? Here are some party ideas from author Lisa Yee.

Invite: Hollywood Walk of Fame stars

Décor: So Cal beach stuff and/or Hollywood

Food: Tacos, chips and salsa, and hot dogs

Project: Dye your hair with Kool-Aid! (Get

permission from your parents!)

Movies: Rebel Without a Cause, Sunset Boulevard and Little Miss Sunshine

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cover Stories: Invisible Girl by Mary Hanlon Stone

I got an early copy of Mary Hanlon Stone's Invisible Girl, and by the time the final copy was ready, the cover had completely changed! Intriguing. I had to ask Mary what she thought.

First, something from the back cover of the book, which is beautifully written. Meet Stephanie, a girl from Boston who's abandoned by her mother and sent to live with a family in Beverly Hills:

Everyone's been asking me questions about my life in Boston. I'm unaccustomed to this much attention, but I've already learned from watching Eva talk about her math and science award that I should appear reluctant to discuss myself. So at first I protest that nothing I do is very interesting, and then I spit out a string of lies, one at a time, like a rainbow of glass beads. Once the lies are out, they grow arms and legs and silent, stoic faces that guard my secrets of unwashed hair, stale snacks from greasy boxes and cold walks home from school in shoes that have long been too tight. The lies surround me with their golden shields and ice-tipped spears, letting no one look in and see my motherless life.

So lovely! Now, here's Mary on the cover:
"I never even thought about the cover as I was writing. I was just living in Stephanie's world! By the time the decisions for the cover were made, I was deep into writing the first draft of the book that's coming out next Spring, The Comedown Life.

"The first time I saw the first cover I thought, Wow, they really captured how Stephanie tried to be invisible while at the same time being out in public. I really liked it, but I have to admit, when I saw the new cover, I liked it even more..."

Read the full Cover Story, and see the original cover, at melissacwalker.com. And for a chance to win this book plus four other great titles from Penguin Young Readers, visit I Heart Daily!

PS-Here's the trailer:

May: Underestimating Yourself

Lisa says, "Maybe constantly underestimates herself. What would you tell someone who can't see how wonderful they are?"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rgz Salon: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas, Reviewed by Rene' Kirkpatrick

René Kirkpatrick has been a bookseller and book buyer, specializing in children's and teen literature, for many years. She has a degree in elementary education and reads widely across all genres. She is currently a buyer at Third Place Books.

We're honored to have her here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Here's René, reviewing a fantastic book that comes out tomorrow!

"This Gorgeous Game, by Donna Freitas, is a very intense book about a girl who wins a writing contest. The prize is the adored local writer priest who becomes her writing mentor. He becomes obsessed with her and won’t leave her alone, texting her, following her, calling her phone and filling the memory with messages. At first, she is flattered and amazed that he would find her worthy of his attentions, but it doesn’t take very long before she becomes wary and scared. She tries to distance herself from him but he holds harder, insisting she read the book he wrote with her in mind. It seems he is using Thomas Merton as his role model. If you don’t know the reference, I didn’t, you will need to read the book to find out. It is a scary book that many people will identify with: how do you deal with the aloneness that comes when you are the victim? Is the whole thing your fault? How do you stop it? Should you? What if they get mad at you? Don’t “they”, those elders you should respect, know what’s best for you? It was really hard to put down but a good cautionary tale. Ages 12 and up."

PS-Read the Cover Story for This Gorgeous Game here.

May: What's Your Favorite Food?

Lisa says, "Maybe loves Mexican food. What's your fave?"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cover Stories: My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel

Courtney Sheinmel is back to share the Cover Story behind her first novel, My So-Called Family (read yesterday's Cover Story about Courtney's latest release, Positively).

My So-Called Family is the tale of a 13-year-old girl named Leah who finds out that she was conceived through artificial insemination. So her father is "Donor 730," and though she has a stepfather and younger brother and a loving mom, she wants to know more. So w
hen she finds out that Donor 730 has another daughter around her age, she intends to meet her half-sister!

That sounds like a great book and a tough cover to design. Here's Courtney with the story:

Final cover high res.jpg
"MY SO-CALLED FAMILY, went through a few different covers before the final version. About a year before the publication date, my editor emailed over a sketch from the cover artist depicting the concept for the cover - a girl, her mother, and the dotted outlines of her unknown father and siblings.I liked the concept and they scheduled a photo shoot. But then when my editor emailed me a few weeks later with the actual cover, it was not at all what I expected. I thought the colors were too jarring, the font seemed off, and I didn't like the ex
pression on the girl's face. They kept the concept, but changed the colors, font and picture, and I really liked the second version. It was the version that ended up on the galleys (left), and I showed them off to everyone I knew.

"Sometime later I found out that the design had changed for a third
MSF paperback for website.jpg
time: same concept, same girl, but the colors were different and the mom was taking off the front cover and moved to the back. The final version pops out more (above right), and I'm really happy with it.

"The paperback cover of MY SO-CALLED FAMILY is different than the hardcover - the colors and fonts have changed again (right). It came out September 15th, the same day as POSITIVELY!"

I like the way the cover ended up, and I think the colors on the paperback pop a little more than the blue-green of the hardcover (plus the title stands out more on the paperback). However, I think I like the hardcover better overall. What do you guys think?