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, January 31, 2011

Featured Series: MATH DOESN'T SUCK, by Danica McKellar

Happy Monday, readergirlz! Today, instead of a Featured Title, we've got a whole entire SERIES as our nonfiction pick for the month. And boy, do I wish these books had been around when I was in school.
It's no secret that historically, the perception was that math and science were "boy" subjects, while girls obviously gravitated to the social sciences and the arts. As a theory, it had, um, a few flaws. Sexist? Yep. Unfair? Sure. Self-fulfilling? Definitely. I can tell you from personal experience that after a few less-than-stellar experiences with math, I decided I was a hopeless case, and wrote it off. If only I'd had a role model to encourage me, and to push me to rethink my attitude toward math!

If only I'd had someone like Danica McKellar.
Here's what she has to say about her books, the MATH DOESN'T SUCK series, and her own experiences in school:

Let's get a few things straight: Acne sucks. Mean people suck. Finding out that your boyfriend kissed another girl? That would totally suck. Too much homework, broken promises, detention, divorce, insecurities: suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.
But math is actually a good thing. Here are a few reasons why: Math builds confidence, keeps you from getting ripped off, makes you better at adjusting cookie recipes, understanding sports scores, budgeting and planning parties and vacations, interpreting how good a sale really is, and spending your allowance. It makes you feel smart when you walk in a room, prepares you for better-paying jobs, and helps you to think more logically.
Most of all, working on math sharpens your brain, actually making you smarter in all areas. Intelligence is real, it's lasting, and no one can take it away from you. Ever.
And take it from me, nothing can take the place of the confidence that comes from developing your intelligence—not beauty, or fame, or anything else "superficial."

The MATH series is a perfect fit for this month's theme, as McKellar gives girls everywhere hope that with a little patience, we can conquer anything, even those school subjects that seem scary and overwhelming.
And it's no surprise that McKellar makes such a poised spokesperson; some of you may know her as the teen star of the tv show,"The Wonder Years." Check out this video, where she talks about her own experiences with math!
So, what do you think, readergirlz? If you've struggled with math like I have, does this series give you hope? Or, maybe you've always been a math whiz, but this book series has inspired you to tackle something else that always seemed complicated? What subjects are you hopeful about conquering this year in school?

Can't get enough of Danica McKellar? Check out her website and her Facebook page, and be sure to read up on her series, KISS MY MATH, and her latest release: Hot X: Algebra Exposed!

Thanks to the UW Information School!

Liz Gallagher and I (Holly) got to chat about readergirlz and YA this weekend with a roomful of librarians and future librarians at the UW Information School's iYouth Conference - a fantastic event! If they sound familiar, perhaps it's because you've seen this?

The brilliant spoof came out of the very same library school, and we even got to meet some of the stars and their friends! These are definitely some cheeky librarians and information specialists, and we were honored to be there.
Bonus: we got to hear keynoter Nancy Pearl tell her meaningful stories about the importance of children's and teen librarians and meet many educators dedicated to the future of learning.
Thank you so much for inviting us, UW Information School!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cover Stories: Head Games by Keri Mikulski

Keri Mikulski shared her Cover Story for Screwball here in 2009, and now she's back to talk about her new release, Head Games:

"As I began writing HEAD GAMES, I definitely pictured a cover that consisted of a combination of boys and basketball. But when it came to the actual moment, I was so engrossed in writing and revising the book, I didn’t even think about the cover.

"When I first saw the cover, I was in love! Natalie Sousa, the fabulous designer at Penguin, truly captured Taylor Thomas, the main character. And she did a great job implementing the different features of the first two Pretty Tough Books – PRETTY TOUGH and PLAYING WITH THE BOYS (below). The smirk, the clothes, the beach court, the basketball, the feel of the cover – perfect!"

Read the rest of Keri's Cover Story, and see the trailer, at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle
Violet in Bloom by Lauren Myracle

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Story Secrets: WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE by Caridad Ferrer + giveaway!

I've known of Barbara Caridad Ferrer (well-published author of teen and adult lit, known as Barb to her friends) in teenlit circles for a while now, so I was very excited when I found out she was moving Seattle - even better to meet her in person and find out she really is as saucy and generous and funny as you would expect her to be!

I'm very pleased to welcome her today to Story Secrets to spill some secrets about her latest YA novel, WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE. Plus she has promised a signed book to one US winner (see details below).

Welcome, Caridad!


WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE a contemporary reimagining of Bizet's CARMEN, where a career army officer falls in love with a sultry gypsy and gives up everything for her, only to be overthrown for the flamboyant bullfighter. My version is set against the world of drum and bugle corps, where my army officer becomes a disciplined musician, my gyspy is a talented dancer and my bullfighter is a cocky soccer player from Spain. (Read an excerpt here.)

Holly Cupala: music, dancing, bullfighting...STARS has everything! How did the idea strike you?

Caridad Ferrer:
One the original story has everything that makes for a great story-- drama, passion, intrigue, a love triangle, betrayals-- plus I'd always wanted to set a story against the world of competitive drum and bugle corps, since it was an activity I was extremely involved in, as an adolescent.

Holly: I've been hearing a lot about this book's unusual trip to the shelves. Will you tell us about it?

This book had a pretty twisting journey...

Read more of Caridad's secrets and enter to win WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE here!

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Because I Am Furniture: Writing in Verse

Our Featured Title this week is Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, and in her post, Thalia describes "the frustratingly beautiful ache" of the puzzle of putting words in verse, poetic vignettes, together to tell a story.

Have you ever tried to write in verse or gotten lost a book of poems? Why is the format appealing? What about it makes it such an attractive way to express emotions?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cover Stories: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

A Girl Named Mister, by Nikki Grimes, came out last fall. Kirkus Reviews says, "This novel in poetry looks clearly at both teen pregnancy and struggles with faith. Mister is exceptionally well characterized...The language is intimate and immediate."

Diva Lorie Ann wrote about it recently on this blog (Nikki is a member of the readergirlz Circle of Stars) and the cover is one that I've stared at a bit in the bookstore, so I had to ask Nikki about the back story. Here she is:

"OMG, I am so in love with the current cover, I'd completely forgotten what it took to arrive at it! I had no musings on a cover when I wrote the text. I never do. But when it comes to covers, I definitely know what I do or don't like when I see it.

"I remember the original cover proposed to me (right), and I shudder. It featured a young girl who was too mature, and worldly-wise for Mister, and a very stilted image of Mary, which did not align with the fresh-faced young teenager I had in mind. In fact, I wrote Mary as though she and Mister were the same age, while the Mary they had first chosen appeared considerably older. I expressed my concerns to my editor, and the designer went back to work on a new comp. Boy, am I glad!

Read the rest of Nikki's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

PS-Watch the trailer, starring the cover model:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Featured Title: BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE, by Thalia Chaltas

Hello, readergirlz, and welcome to another Monday Featured Title!
Some of you may know that I've recently taken a personal interest in writing in verse, so I'm extra-excited to be welcoming Thalia Chaltas to the blog today. Her verse novel, Because I Am Furniture, is lyrical, beautiful, and moving - a wonderful example of how strong, well-paced narrative can be woven from elegant poetry.
Anke’s father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she’s just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell “Mine!” to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn’t know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she’s imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home—including herself.

Her book is also a perfect pick for this month's theme, Hope. Don't believe me? Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:
“Incendiary, devastating, yet—in total—offering empowerment and hope, Chaltas’s poems leave an indelible mark.” (starred review)

If you're wonder what it's like to craft a novel from poetic vignettes, you're in luck! Thalia has offered us a glimpse into her writing process: 

Writing a novel in verse is such a different animal than prose. It starts out similarly. I like being still and listening to a character’s voice and what she has to say. Then I hate the process of dumping it on the page - that first draft is always physically painful for me. These two steps are the same for me in verse and prose. But writing a novel in verse means the editing step is enormous, and I absolutely love that process.

In my novels, each poem in free verse is the main character’s experience, a short written out video clip of the character’s perspective. The “clips” are put in chronological order to show the story. The problem is, I don’t necessarily write them in chronological order; I write them as they come to me via the character. There is an amazing amount of moving poems around to see what fits where, a frustratingly beautiful ache of a puzzle.

Because of this, I have a sticky tab technique where each character has a different color. For each poem, I apply characters’ sticky tabs to the page if they are in the poem. Then I turn the manuscript edge-on, to see whether the characters are well dispersed throughout the novel – are the pink Yaicha tabs clumped together somewhere? Is there too much space between Jed’s appearances so we forget where he is at times? Do I need to write another poem?  This visual technique is helpful when moving poems around to create a better story line.

Thanks for having me, and good writing to you all!

Fascinating! I love the idea of having a visual cue to the progression of a story arc. Here's a shot of Thalia's tab system in action: 
In addition to being incredibly organized, I just think those bright colors look so pretty! I'll have to try out this technique with my next project, which will also probably incorporate some verse. 
So readers, what do you think of Thalia's process? And if you're someone who likes to write across different formats and genres, what are some of the ways that you make the transition from one to another? 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cover Stories: The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor

The lovely Melissa Kantor's latest novel, The Darlings Are Forever, is out this month. She dropped by to talk about that oh-so-Central-Park cover:

"I'm not a very visual person, so it's rare for me to have a cover in mind for a book I'm writing. And I'm always amazed when my editor shows me a potential cover. It's like--wow, how'd you think of that? The only cover I ever came up with was the one for The Breakup Bible, below, and that's because it's kind of an inside joke.
The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor.jpg
The book is named for a really unhelpful advice book that the main character gets, and my book has the same cover as the (imaginary) advice book.

"So I really had no idea what they should do for the cover of The Darlings Are Forever, and I was just as surprised when I saw it as I ever am!

"Hyperion is very nice about asking for input--and I never have any good ideas. I always say something like, 'What about a charm bracelet?' even though I've never written a book with a charm bracelet as an iconic item. And I often suggest a backpack spilling out its contents. Actually, that's my website, now that I think of it--a bag with everything being dumped out of it. I think because it's my worst fear (spilling out all my stuff in public). Hmm, maybe I'm over analyzing here.

"I always hate the covers the first time I see them. Really. Each time, I'm like, UGH! Why did you do that? Then it grows on me..."

Read the rest of Melissa's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) libretto by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell
Wish by Joseph Monninger
Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

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 Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken:

"I loved [the main character] Sydelle. She was such a strong character and full of so much life. Her strong voice made the story more enjoyable as does her hope. I also loved North. He was so strong and sweet at times, other times he was a complete jerk and I was never sure of his motives. The relationship between them developed really quickly and seemed unrealistic at times, but if you were traveling with someone like they were, you might do that too.


If you're participating in the Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy New Blogger Puzzle Contest, here's line 3:

Q S A M G L M W M T O M Q V M F,

This contest is open to everyone. If this is the first you're hearing of it, go take a look.


[And now back to Sarah's post:]

"The plot of Brightly Woven was epic. It captured my imagination really quickly and I just loved it. The world was developed into something that I have never seen before and was so detailed. Unlike a lot of fantasy, I understood what was going on and never felt lost. Bracken's debut leaved me wanting more from her. Brightly Woven was exquisitely written and will easily captivate you. I highly suggest that you read this book, it was exciting and a page turner." --Sarah

See Sarah's full rating of this book on Sarah's Random Musings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Story Secrets: STORK by Wendy Delsol + giveaway!

Today I'm excited to have debut author Wendy Delsol on the blog to chat about her contemporary myth-come-to-life, STORK - plus she has generously included a giveaway (see below for details).

I met Wendy through the awesome new YA blog, YA Outside the Lines, and am very pleased to welcome her!


Borrowing from Norse mythology, STORK is the story of Katla (Kat) LeBlanc, a sixteen year old who—following her parents’ divorce—moves from L.A. to her mother’s small Minnesota hometown of Icelandic heritage. With the school year already off to a bad start, Kat’s world is further upended when she is mysteriously summoned to a meeting of the local Stork Society: women with the responsibility of matching the undecided of hovering souls with the right mother. Kat is their newest—and youngest ever—member. As if this discovery wasn’t burden enough, Kat soon meets Jack, an aloof classmate to whom she senses an inexplicable connection. Additionally, when Kat finds herself in more than one life-threatening situation, she suspects that someone or something wants her out of town.

Holly Cupala: I love to hear the stories behind the story –what is the story behind STORK?

Wendy Delsol:
A long time ago, while watching the TV show Unsolved Mysteries, there was a segment about a young boy who claimed to have a pre-birth memory of flying above the earth and choosing his mother. The story stuck with me. Years later, when spinning what-ifs for a YA paranormal, I paired that story with the symbolic image of childbirth: a bundle-bearing stork. The next step was to create an ancient society of human Storks who have the ability to guide undecided souls...

Read more of Wendy's secrets and enter to win STORK here!

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Beautiful Between: Finding Hope Through Sharing Secrets

Our Featured Title this week is The Beautiful Between by Alyssa Sheinmel, and in her novel, hope grows from the characters' ability to face family secrets.

Have you ever found hope by opening up about a secret, or letting someone you trust into your life in a personal way? How did it create more hope for you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Positively by Courtney Sheinmel

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 last week's featured title, Positively by Courtney Sheinmel:

"When I got sick the first thing that they tested me for was HIV, and I was so afraid that I got it somehow. I didn't have it, but my disease is caused by the immune system. Even though our diseases are very different, I could totally relate to [Positively's main character] Emmy. I know that if I have 100% lung function by the time I am 40 or if my liver doesn't stop from the pills, I am lucky, and Emmy is faced with that too in other ways. There are days that I want to just throw my pills out or not get shots anymore, but I know that decision is a choice between life and death. When I first got sick, I went to a camp for teens with Primary Immunodeficiency and it was similar to what Emmy experienced at Camp Positive. Some of the friends from that time are dead, but they are far from forgotten. The part about the balloons really got to me, because that it what we do every year on my sister's birthday.

"The plot is real, because you are constantly reminded how hard life can be for some people. This book is really original, because it leaves you with so much hope. Shienmel is a fantastic writer. I loved that this is based by her experience from with working The Elizabeth Glaser AIDS Foundation and is really accurate and realistic. I highly suggest that you read this book, it is a story of a girl with so much strength." --Sarah

See Sarah's full rating of this book on Sarah's Random Musings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Featured Title: THE BEAUTIFUL BETWEEN, by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Alyssa Sheinmel is the author of this week's Featured Title, The Beautiful Between, as well as the forthcoming The Lucky Kind, releasing this May. 

The eagle-eyed among you may recognize her last name - indeed, Alyssa is sister to Courtney Sheinmel, whose novel, Positively, was last week's featured title. Obviously, talent runs in the family - not to mention, the ability to craft an optimistic, hopeful message within a story that deals with serious themes.

Here's what School Library Journal has to say about The Beautiful Between

Connelly Sternin, 16, moves through her New York City high school on cruise control. She is an average student who doesn't get into trouble, doesn't sit with the cool kids, and has a quiet home life. She fantasizes that she is living in a fairy tale and sees herself as Rapunzel, confined in an Upper East Side tower amid college applications and SAT scores. She sees wealthy Jeremy Cole as the prince of their school: loved and respected by all. What she doesn't see coming is a friendship with him based on tragedy—his younger sister has leukemia—and secrets—Connelly is preoccupied with learning how her father died. Jeremy knows more about her life than she does, and together they find the fortitude to face the present and the past.

One of Alyssa's greatest skills is handling dark topics with a light touch - her protagonist balances introspection with humor, and Sheinmel's high school setting rings very true (even for those of us who've been out of high school for, um, some time now). I'm so glad that she's here today to talk with us about Hope!

I was honored to hear that The Beautiful Between had been selected as a Featured Title on readergirlz, but even more so when I learned that the theme for the month was Hope.  As I write this, it’s the holiday season, and hope seems to be on everyone’s mind.  Hope was certainly in my mind when I sat down to begin writing The Beautiful Between: hope that I would actually finish a book I had started writing; hope that the story would take shape, and take off; hope that it might be published; hope that it might find readers.  And, hope was in my mind as the story developed, because, despite the fact that The Beautiful Between deals with some fairly sad, if not downright depressing, themes – isolation, estrangement, death – I really believed that it was a hopeful story.  A story filled with the promise that although life may hand you painful things along the way, you can also find the grace to play – and win – with the cards you are dealt, good and bad.  So, I’m thrilled for The Beautiful Between to have been chosen by readergirlz, since hope is such a tremendous part of the story.

And I think that hope is a tremendous part of being a writer; at least, it certainly has been for me.  I think there’s hope in every sentence I write: hope that I will learn to say things better than I have before; hope that the story in my head will come across on the page, (or the screen, as the case may be).  And then there is the hope that writers place in their readers’ hands: hope that someone will read your book and understand what it is you wanted to say; hope that someone will read your book and like what it is you’ve said. 

And, for me, looking over what I’ve written, from the novels I’m working on now to the short stories I began writing when I was six-years-old, hope has been an over-arching theme in my writing.  I often place my characters in difficult circumstances, and I might beat them up a bit along the way.  But I think almost everything I’ve ever written has ended on a note of hope.  A note that perhaps, despite what my characters may have lost over the course of the story, they also gained something – a friend, a love, or maybe just an insight – that will make their lives infinitely better than they were when the story began.  Sometimes, I think the thing my characters gain the most by the end of a story is hope itself, and that allows me to leave them behind, to end the story, knowing that they might go on, better and more hopeful, than they were when I began.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I've received was "break your characters' hearts every day," so I completely agree with Alyssa - testing your characters with adversity allows them to grow stronger through the course of a story. And hopefully (pun intended), reading about characters finding hope in seemingly hopeless situations can help readers find their way to a more positive place in their own lives, as well. 

Thanks so much to Alyssa for joining us! Be sure to check out The Beautiful Between, and keep an eye out this spring for The Lucky Kind!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cover Stories: Deadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz

games cover.jpg
Laurie Faria Stolarz shared the story behind Deadly Little Secrets, the first book in her Touch series, and she's back to tell us about the cover of the third book, Deadly Little Games.

"Since it's the third book in the series, I had an idea of what they might do for the cover. The first two books show a female character (but not her face), in a dark outdoor setting (the woods). Since this book takes place in winter, I knew they'd incorporate snow in some way. I'm happy with the covers to these books. I like howbeautiful they look together and the fonts the artist chose. I also like that we don't see Camelia's face. It's more mysterious and it doesn't overly influence how the reader will picture the character..."

Read the rest of Laurie's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

PS-Watch the trailer (and enter the contest Laurie's hosting!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rgz Street Team: Sarah Reviews Falling in Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen

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 Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen:

"I love anything that has to do with England, so I was so excited to hear about this book. I mean, English boys are always full of win.

"The main character Cat was easy to relate to, except the whole not wanting to go to England craziness at the beginning, but I really enjoyed her sassy and witty narrative. Her love affair with chocolate was awesome and I have actually been buying the chocolate that she mentions in the book. I also liked that she met people from buying the chocolate at the newsstand and that they had things in common.

"Will was amazing. I mean he is British and he was a really sweet and caring character. The relationship between Will and Cat was well developed and kept me interested. The flashbacks provided by Katherine's diary were really through and historically accurate. I also liked the experience of reading it as Cat was. Katherine was intelligent and overall awesome and I also cheered for a boy for Katherine too.

"The plot captured my attention from the beginning and I just loved how cute it was. It was a really original story, because it brought two unique worlds together so simply. Jensen is a gifted writer and I am excited to see more from her in the future. I recommend this book to people that want a fun and cute read." --Sarah

See Sarah's full rating of this book on Sarah's Random Musings.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hope: Markéta Irglová's Speech at the Oscars

Markéta Irglová spoke of hope when she and Glen Hansard the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Falling Slowly, which I put on this month's playlist. Here's what she said:

"Hi everyone. I just want to thank you so much. This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just the proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much who helped us on the way. Thank you." - Markéta Irglová

Isn't that lovely?

Now, consider this: Her initial acceptance speech had been cut off by a music cue! Glen gave his speech, but when Markéta walked up to the mic, the orchestra started to play, cutting her off. Thanks to host Jon Stewart, Markéta was able to come back on stage and have her moment. That is when she gave the speech as quoted above.

Click here to watch the award announcement and subsequent speeches.

Story Secrets: THE LATTE REBELLION by Sarah Jamila Stevenson + giveaway!

Thanks to the cafés cropping up on every street corner these days, everyone I know seems to be two steps ahead of a caffeine headache - but Sarah Jamila Stevenson, debut author, has an answer: THE LATTE REBELLION. It just hit the shelves this week and promises to be a funny, thoughtful look at a mixed-race girl who must choose her convictions in an increasingly mixed-up world.

readergirlz co-founder Justina Chen (NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL) says, "Get ready to start your own rebellion after gulping down Sarah Stevenson's deftly written, multi-layered story about growing a voice, growing apart, and most of all, growing up girl."

I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at a kidlit blogger conference a few years ago and am so proud to see her book on the shelf!

Welcome, Sarah!


Asha Jamison, the narrator, and her best friends, Carey and Miranda, decide to make their senior year a little more interesting by creating a fictitious social movement for students of mixed ethnicity: the Latte Rebellion. The proceeds from the t-shirts they sell will go straight into a vacation fund for after they graduate. But their movement gains a life of its own, and various aspects of Asha's life spin out of control as a result—in some good ways as well as not-so-good ways.

Holly Cupala: Welcome to the blog, Sarah! I heard you've had some pretty fascinating stops on the road to publishing this book. Will you tell us about it?

Sarah Jamila Stevenson: It allowed to me to realize one of my geeky lifelong aspirations—to be on NPR! When I was working on the first draft of The Latte Rebellion, it was National Novel Writing Month. A local NPR program, Insight (Capital Public Radio), was doing a segment on NaNoWriMo and posted a call for volunteers to appear on the show along with NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. I was one of those selected, and I got to read a passage from my work-in-progress on the air. It's the third and final segment on this show.

Of course, my real dream is to be some kind of expert whose sound advice and/or witty commentary is regularly sought on NPR, but I suspect that'll probably stay a pipe dream...

Read more of Sarah's secrets and enter to win THE LATTE REBELLION here...

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Positively: Finding Hope Through Understanding

Our Featured Title this week is Positively by Courtney Sheinmel, and in her post, she talked about how her hopes for people living with HIV have grown and grown.

One powerful aspect of Courtney's book about 13-year-old Emmy, who's HIV-positive, is that it gives us a character who represents that experience. And isn't there always hope in finding a story that you can relate to?

So tell us, readergirlz, what people in your life, or books that you've read, have given you hope because you felt that they understood or spoke to what you were going through?

PS-Don't forget to read the Cover Story behind Courtney's gorgeous novel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Diva Delight: The Space Between Trees


I finally had an opportunity to read Katie Williams' The Space Between Trees on Chronicle Books' exceptional YA list. Engrossing, with such fresh metaphors, I was amazed with each page turn.

As the back of the book states, Evie finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A former childhood schoolmate is murdered in the nearby woods, and she witnesses the body's removal. Before she realizes it, she's caught up in her own lies to gain friendship in her isolated life. Pursuing the killer with her new friend, Evie opens herself to more and more danger, until truly damaging choices are finally made.

There's a hint of The Crucible to me, as teen girls are caught in their own stories with severe consequences. Evie herself concludes:

"The world is not set to rights. It is a small, sad, messy world, and I am a small, sad, messy girl. I didn't understand that having a story changes you. You have to have gone through something, after all, to have something to say. Now I have my story. But I can't bear to speak a word of it."

I have to say again that Katie's metaphors were startlingly original. Here is an example where Evie is thinking of how she used to tell her acquaintances false stories for reaction:

"-how I'd weigh a phrase or spit out a particular word like I couldn't hold it in my mouth any longer, how I'd say a sentence quietly to make them lean in, how I'd collect their wide eyes and sucks of breath like beads I could string on a bracelet."

Beautiful, right? You are going to love Evie's straightforward, raw observation of people's movements, expressions, and quirks. I highly recommend The Space Between Trees. Brava, Katie Williams!

The Space Between Trees
by Katie Williams
Chronicle Books, 2010

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Suggest Songs for Our February Playlist

Hey rgz!

We are building the playlist for February. Our theme is Loyalty. Give me your suggestions in the comments below, and I'll create the playlist.

Suggestions so far:
Stand By Me by Ben E. King
Don't Leave My Mind by Azure Ray
Just When You're Leaving by Joanna Pacitti
I Will by The Beatles

Monday, January 10, 2011

The ALA's Youth Media Award Winners!

The American Library Association announced its Youth Media Award Winners today. Our congrats to all the Winners and Honors!

Here's a short list to whet your appetite. For a full list (including all of the awards plus the Honors books, which are also amazing!) go here.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature
Moon over Manifest, written by Clare Vanderpool

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults
Ship Breaker, written by Paolo Bacigalupi

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults
One Crazy Summer, left, written by Rita Williams-Garcia

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience
The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is Five Flavors of Dumb, written by Antony John and published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Pura Belpre (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience
The Dreamer, written by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature
Award, given annually to English-language children's and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience
Almost Perfect, right, written by Brian Katcher

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens
The Freak Observer, written by Blythe Woolston

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, written by Ann Angel

Featured Title: POSITIVELY, by Courtney Sheinmel

I'm so excited to welcome Courtney Sheinmel to readergirlz today! I've seen her out and about at various NYC author functions but hadn't "met" her until her fantastic, moving, and oh-so-HOPEful book, Positively, was chosen as postergirlz pick this month. I loved it when I first read it, so I was glad to have the chance to tell her so in "person."

"Emmy is infected with the HIV virus, and her mother, infected before she married Emmy's father, dies of AIDS at the beginning of the book. Angry and alone, the 13-year-old moves in with her semi-estranged father and newly pregnant stepmother. At a loss for how to help Emmy recover from her grief and alienation, they send her to a summer camp for girls with HIV and AIDS. There she realizes that she is not alone, not the only person to take handfuls of pills on a daily basis, not the only girl who worries about the complications of dating with the virus. She returns home with a new perspective, welcoming her half sister into her life and admitting her newfound desire for a happier, more "positive" existence...  Emmy's situation is compelling and underrepresented in YA fiction." -- School Library Journal

Compelling is definitely the right word! Here's what Courtney has to say about hope:

Once when I was fifteen years old I was babysitting for three kids, two girls and a boy.  The boy had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and back then, in the early 1990s, that diagnosis was often a death sentence.  The conversation turned to what the kids wanted to be when they grew up.  The boy said he planned to be a baseball player.  I always had hopes his future, and at that moment I truly concentrated on it:  Please, PLEASE let him grow up.

Eighteen years have passed, and he’s a grown up now.  A few weeks ago I had lunch with another friend.  She’s a college freshman and she also happens to have HIV.  We were talking about what she wanted to do with her life.  I was throwing out suggestions and thinking, Oh, please, let her find her way.  Hours later I realized her being HIV-positive didn’t occur to me when we were talking about her future – not once, during the entire conversation.  There was just no doubt in my mind that she does have a future – a long and glorious one – ahead of her. 

And that’s the kind of thing that gives me hope, and makes me believe anything is possible.

Thank you so much, Courtney, for visiting with us, for shedding light on an issue that isn't often addressed in children's literature, and for your own irrepressibly positive outlook! 

What do you think, readergirlz: when you think of the future, what do you hope for - for yourself, and for others?