25 October 2009

YA Lit:: First Annual Austin Teen Book Festival

Yesterday's amazing Austin Teen Book Festival was truly unique. It was the first time I didn't have to pay an exorbitant conference fee to get a hold of multiple YA authors at once. Yup, that's right. It was all deliciously free (well, I did spend over a hundred dollars in books from Book People, who were warm and awesome). More importantly, it gave attendees of all ages a chance to meet both popular authors and up-and-comers.

So this thing was held at Westlake High School, which is more beautiful and high-tech than many colleges. The festival consisted of book-buying, a keynote speech, 3 panels of your choice, and time to get your stuff autographed. There were also bands playing and some middle school volunteers dressed as zombies doing the Thriller. This was pretty much a full day of YA awesomeness shared with good friend Veronica Goldbach.

The speech::
Okay, I've seen Libba Bray speak before, but she truly was in top form. There were laughs and there were almost tears. She has a very peculiar brand of humor that could rub some the wrong way, but the audience seemed to eat it all up. She had us when she forced her Gnome-tourage (dude dressed as a gnome a la Going Bovine cover) to call her a luminous supervixen. When she spoke of the car accident that almost took her life, you could almost hear contained gasps from the audience. She also gave some of the most memorable lines of the day. I'm totally paraphrasing this: "Some people ask me when I'm going to do a 'real' book, one for adults. And I just say, 'You know, I don't know if I can dumb it down enough for adults.' " HA! I got chills. People hollered. Good times.

Panel 1::
Fantasy with Libba Bray, Justine Larbalestier, Lisa McMann, and Rick Yancey
My one complaint about this panel is that it was poorly moderated. I find that the ones with more structure do a lot better. It really was not the fault of the authors. You could tell they were doing their best. They did grace us with a few thought-provoking statements, though.
  • Upon being asked how to best keep writing YA voices through adulthood, Justine Larbalestier said, "Don't grow up." Apparently many YA authors are pretty juvenile!
  • Rick Yancey talked about an experience early on with his writing. He apologized to his reader-to-be about the content, since he wasn't so confident in it. The response from his reader? "Never apologize for something you should be proud of."
  • There was talk about the process of books being turned into movies. I was pretty surprised when Lisa McMann said that only about 5% of books that are optioned actually end up as films. Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series was optioned for 3 years but it fell through due to the expense of filming a period piece. Justine also said not to get too down if your book-turned-movie ends up sucking. It's out of your hands and she considers it a 90-minute ad for the book anyway.
Panel 2::
Real YA Voices with Matt de la Pena, Deb Caletti, and Terra Elan McVoy
This panel was probably my favorite because it felt very intimate. The moderator asked some good questions, and the audience seemed to be perfectly enthralled. Also, much of the conversation was about writing and how to be a good writer. Wonderful stuff here.
  • Deb Caletti affirmed that if being a writer is what you are meant to be, it will happen. Do not be afraid to become what you are.
  • Terra Elan McVoy said she loves teens because they're both living through the most amazing and the suckiest time ever. Tip: Don't just read what you like. If you just read vampire novels, you're just going to learn to write about vampire novels. So read stuff you don't like and analyze why you don't like it. Be an active reader and pay attention. Take it apart to see what works and what doesn't.
  • Matt de la Pena impresses with his good advice and youthfulness (he kinda looks like a high school student). Reading poetry is good for novelists because it can teach you about the sparseness of writing. Don't write books about yourself in the most flattering light. Take the worst version of yourself and run with it. When writing characters, it's not your job to diagnose them. List the symptoms and let the reader take care of the rest. Read a lot but also read the world. Learn from it.
Panel 3::
Local Authors with Jennifer Ziegler, Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, and April Lurie
This panel was conducted in the most labyrinthine part of the school, it seemed. It was not the best layout but it was a wonderfully touching panel nevertheless, and moderated particularly well by a librarian. I knew very little about these authors, and I wanted to take away something new at the end of the festival.
  • April Lurie is the only author from this panel I was familiar with, and I absolutely love what I've read of The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine. She spoke of being so painfully shy that her classmates thought she was snobby. Her first book, Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds, was a re-write of her experience obsessing with a boy. Oh, how hearts fluttered while she described her feelings! And hey, that was as good an ad for writing as any. If you're crushing hard and to no avail, write your own version.
  • Speaking of high school crushes, Shana Burg won some serious cred from the audience when she recounted her memory of giving a passionate love letter to her crush. He was inevitably in love with her gorgeous best friend. I really admired her courage to tell it, because it was so embarrassing and real. She really connected with the numerous teens present. Her book A Thousand Never Evers about the Civil Rights movement sounds good, too.
  • As the only male on the panel, Varian Johnson really was the masculine point of view amidst all this romantic talk. And he used it to call boys stupid. Ha! He really wanted the mainly female audience to get the courage to just talk to the boys they want to be with. They are just as confused as girls are. His book, Life as a Rhombus, was one that he really did not want to write. It's about a high school student who tutors a pregnant classmate. I appreciate him implying that sometimes your best writing is what's most difficult to put on the page.
  • Jennifer Ziegler spoke very fondly of being on the 2009 Lone Star Reading List. She said she used that list as a teacher and now she gets to be on it! She "birthed" her novel, How Not to be Popular, and discussed popularity hierarchies in high school. She felt like she wasn't very popular in real-life, but she comes across people who think she was. The message here could very well be that no matter how you feel about your place in the system, others are looking up at you.
There were 4 panels but only time to do 3, so I skipped out on Zombies vs. Vampires with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Daniel Waters, Carrie Jones, and Heather Brewer. It seemed to have plenty of fans, though, so I'm sure they didn't miss me. After the panels were over, it was time to get books autographed. I had over a dozen books and only one hour, and some lines (like the ones for Libba Bray and Heather Brewer) were quite long. With some stealth maneuvering, and the kindness of Veronica and others, I was able to get all of them taken care of. Woot!

And now I end with the surreal moments of the day:
  • I was wearing a Vladimir Tod shirt I got for free at Hudson News in Chicago. People kept calling me the Heather Brewer fan and asking me where I'd bought it. I mean, I read the first book and liked it, but I'd think there are plenty more HB fans in the audience than I was. I felt totally typecast.
  • Carrie Jones was a sweetheart! She seemed honestly thrilled that I loved Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend. I absolutely loved her dedication to me, too. Most authors of a certain popularity level are polite and nice, but detached. I understand that they have to be. Carrie seemed to transcend that and was wonderfully warm with me, even giving me a way to get in touch with her.
  • I asked a question I shouldn't have asked during one of the panels, but I did it because it scared me to death. I only regret it when I forget that I'd never spoken out loud when I get that nervous.
Yeah, this is probably enough to give you a feel for how the festival went. What I loved to hear was that this is the first festival, so hopefully there are plenty more to come!

YA Lit:: 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge Part Quatre

The premise to this book challenge is simple. Just read 12 young adult novels. I've interpreted this 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge as a means to entice me to read more YA novels, the old school way. No audio books, no downloads, nothing. Just my eyes on the page. Aw yeah.

This challenge hasn't been revisited since June, so I have a few books to add, fortunately. This brings my tally to 12 books, meaning I finished the challenge on October 8th. YAY! As usual, the new titles are in italics.

Reasons why each novel below was chosen for this challenge:
  • It was recommended.
  • I'd been meaning to read it for awhile.
  • I had an autographed copy.
  • It was a book written by a friend.
In any case, I'm really pleased to see variety of plots, but especially characters. Some of different ethnicities and sexual orientations. Some with supernatural powers and some without. Some that are horny, some that are funny, and others that have been forced into scathingly horrific situations. Some are just sweet. Many are memorable.

I'm trying to figure out if I want to do these challenges again next year. (I also did a 999 Reading Challenge and an A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the challenge tag below for more info.) I like showing off the books I've read but this much structure can be hard put up with. Eh. I'll think about it.
  1. The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas


  2. Sucks To Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire by Kimberly Pauley


  3. Luna by Julie Anne Peters


  4. Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach


  5. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins


  6. Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

  7. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles


  8. Teach Me by R.A. Nelson


  9. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan


  10. The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer


  11. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins


  12. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

20 October 2009

YA Lit:: A-Z Reading Challenge Part Trois

I know signs point to me having forgotten about this challenge, where you read a book for each letter of the alphabet. I just didn't have a whole lot to report since May. The new additions are: F, G, H, N, Q, and Y.

Letters to go: K, U, X, and Z.
Why, oh why, did I read Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston in December of last year? And has it really been that hard to find a book whose title starts with the letter K?

Anyway, here it is! As usual, new entries are in italics.

A.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
, M.T. Anderson

B.

Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis, Chuck Dixon

C.
Chester
, Melanie Watt

D.
Dad Runs Away with the Circus, Etgar Keret

E.
Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki

F.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan

G.
Granny's Dragon, Lisa McCourt

H.
Have I Got a Book for You, Melanie Watt

I.
Inubaka (vols. 6 & 7), Yukiya Sakuragi

J.
Janes in Love, Cecil Castellucci

K.
--

L.
Love Roma (vol. 3), Minoru Toyoda

M.
El mejor mariachi del mundo, J.D. Smith

N.
No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & MOst #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever, Aviva Yael

O.
Ouran High School Host Club (vol. 1), Bisco Hatori

P.
Plain Janes, Cecil Castellucci

Q.
Quien esta detras de esa casa?, Graciela Repun

R.
The Rules of Survival, Nancy Werlin

S.
Something Rotten, Alan M. Gratz

T.
Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

U.
--

V.
A Visitor for Bear
, Bonny Becker

W.
Watchmen, Alan Moore

X.
--

Y.
Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azuma

Z.
--

19 October 2009

YA Lit:: 999 Reading Challenge Part Huit

Earlier this year, I took on this 999 Reading Challenge. It basically means that I'm looking to read 9 books in 9 categories in 2009. Some of the categories have changed throughout the year. Just because.

I wish I'd been more specific about some categories, and I wish I'd created more categories for graphic novels. Ha ha. Still, this isn't so great or bad, considering it's the end of the year.

As usual, new entries are in italics.
  • 9 teen books with multicultural characters
    ~The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
    ~Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach
    ~The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
    ~Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
    ~Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  • 9 teen award-winners (Category finished! 10.08.09)
    ~Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Life Sucks by Jessica Abel
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Luna by Julie Anne Peters
    [National Book Award Finalist, 2004]
    ~Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle
    [Sid Fleischman Humor Award, 2006]

    ~Sucks to be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe) by Kimberly Pauley
    [YALSA's 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers]
    ~One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
    [
    2005 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association]
    ~Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
    [2006 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age]
    ~The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    [New York Times Notable Children's Book for 2008]
  • 9 graphic novels (Category finished! 05.01.09)
    ~The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Skim by Mariko Tamaki
    ~Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
    ~Watchmen by Alan Moore
    ~Awkward and Definition by Ariel Schrag
    ~Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
    ~American Widow by Alissa Torres
    ~Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • 9 blogs & podcasts
    ~YALSA blog
    ~The YA YA YAs

    ~Stuff You Should Know podcast
    ~Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

    ~Book Lust with Nancy Pearl podcast

    ~Sound of Young America podcast
  • 9 webcomics
    ~Unshelved
    ~Cyanide and Happiness
    ~Achewood
  • 9 Overdrive audiobooks
    ~Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    ~Something Rotten by Alan M. Gratz
    ~The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
    ~True Story by Bill Maher
    ~A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
    ~Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
  • 9 picture books (Category finished! 04.08.09)
    ~Dad Runs Away with the Circus by Etgar Keret
    ~Chester by Melanie Watt
    ~Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
    ~A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
    ~Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
    ~The Cat's Tale by Doris Orgel
    ~When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper
    ~Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
    ~Wink! The Ninja who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillips

  • 9 non-fiction books
    ~Obama: The Historic Journey by The New York Times
    ~The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein
    ~Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle by Matthew Honan
    ~Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly by Jane Espenson
    ~The Big Skinny: How I Changed my Fattitude by Carol Lay
    ~The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman
    ~The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie Sandell
  • 9 titles I never thought I'd read
    ~The Coffee Trader by David Liss
    ~The Arrival by Shaun Tan

03 August 2009

YA Lit:: Twitter chats on Tuesdays

Sometimes people love young adult literature so much that they want to gobble it up like No Face in the Hayao Miyazaki film 千と千尋の神隠し (or, as it's known here, Spirited Away). Nom nom nom.

Are you a writer or "writer-to-be" of teen fiction? Then invigorate yourself with the #kidlitchat conversation on Twitter. According to the very follow-able Inkygirl (@inkyelbows), every Tuesday you can join in on a conversation on literature that ranges from board books all the way up to YA lit. It is a moderated chat with actual topics of conversation and everything. All you have to do is show up-- even if it's in your 10-year-old jammies that have been washed so much they're practically see-through.

If you are curious after the conversations are over, you're in luck because you can easily get a transcript of the whole thing, thanks to Monsieur @gregpincus.

I have not yet taken part in this but it doesn't seem like it's too late to start!

#kidlitchat:
Every Tuesday starting July 21st

  • PST: 6 pm
  • MST: 7 pm
  • CST: 8 pm
  • EST: 9 pm
Thanks to nausicaa.net for this wonderful pic of Chihiro and No Face.

26 July 2009

YA Lit:: Barry Lyga's Goth Girl Rising

The comics!
The obsessions!
The insanity!

If you enjoyed Barry Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and you have a thing for getting your creative freak on, then you should seriously consider entering this awesome contest that may just get you a signed copy of its sequel Goth Girl Rising.

From what I understand, the sequel will really bring to light exactly why Goth Girl is as effed up as she is.

So bust out your... well, whatever you need to make a book trailer. Or if you're just interested in seeing the trailers that have already been done, feel free to click on the link to "this awesome contest."

25 July 2009

Jumpin' Friday:: Marfa, Fort Davis, and Balmorhea, TX

Welcome to Jumpin' Friday. For those of you not in the know, here is a pretty loose description of what I call a jumpy:

A librarian (me) + a road trip + a library + a camera = a jumpy, or a picture in mid-jump

This road trip was for a destination wedding, and the following pictures show the trip back to San Antonio from Marfa, Texas. Alas, this was on a Sunday so all the libraries we came across were closed.

a) Marfa Public Library
Marfa, TX (06.07.09)

I know, you don't see a library sign here. I swear to you that this is the town library. I know that the locals (there are a little over 2,000 of them) know that this is the library, but I still think there should be more than just a book return in front of the building denoting it as such.

b) Jeff Davis County Library
Fort Davis, TX (06.07.09)

A friend of mine from college was from Ft. Davis and I never, ever thought I'd someday find myself there. Not for lack of wanting to go-- it is absolutely gorgeous-- but it's just so far from home.
I was not disappointed, and there was something lovely about the library there. Maybe it's the fact that it helped produce one of the funniest and most intelligent men I ever met at school. I couldn't help but be thrilled to see this ode to mind travel. YEAH!

And then... there was this...

I'm all about the Boys and Girls Club, and I am all about diversity, even when it's forced. Still, I have to say that the expression on the girl on the far left left me a tad traumatized.

I told my husband, "I think she's going to EAT ME" and... um... uh... yeah. That bat isn't too inviting, either.

I'm totally going to hell for making fun of this.

c) Balmorhea Public Library
Balmorhea, TX (06.07.09)

I have a soft spot for this library even though I've never been inside and I don't have any connection to it. It wasn't in our GPS. I simply happened to see it on the main road, and I had my husband pull a drastic (yet completely responsible) James Bond maneuver. This is one of those cases where a clear library sign led the way.

And because Michael is so amazing every time he captures me in mid-air, I wanted to post this pic I took of him outside the Balmorhea Public Library.

Thank you, my luv!

24 July 2009

Random:: A YA author takes on the Americone Dream

Diana Rodriguez Wallach, a young adult author from Pennsylvania with Spanish words in all her titles, takes on the feat of a lifetime: getting Stephen Colbert on her side.



So not only does she love My So-Called Life but her attempts to get on The Colbert Report are pretty clever... This is one author I must read soon!

20 July 2009

Author Monday:: Interview with cartoonist Hope Larson

This entry marks the 5th installment of my Author Mondays, where I shall endeavor to post something “author-esque” each Monday. Whether it's an interview or a one-shot question, here is a chance for various authors to have their say.

I started reading Hope Larson's award-winning graphic novels when I was only suspecting I'd be a teen librarian. I remember picking up Gray Horses from the adult comics section of the Central Library in San Antonio. I was so completely mesmerized by Noemie's expressive features and familiarity that I wrote my first book review on it.

I couldn't find her debut Salamander Dream in San Antonio so I went through Interlibrary Loan. By the end of it, Larson had accomplished something unprecedented. I'd never reacted so emotionally to someone's entire oeuvre (she only had these two titles out at the time). Even now, reading her books this morning, I can’t help but feel she has a gorgeous way of storytelling that is unique to her.

Hope Larson was a total sweetheart by letting me interview her briefly over a year ago. The only reason why I hadn't posted it earlier was because I was waiting to interview more authors so I could post them up in a consecutive series, like I’m doing now. On an evening in June last year, I interviewed both Hope and her husband Bryan Lee O’Malley—that interview is coming next week—and I’m happy to say they were my firsts. In retrospect, I should have asked her more about Chiggers, which hadn't come out yet, and her contribution to Comic Book Tattoo. Still, this was one of the coolest things I’ve done and I’m thankful to both cartoonists for their generosity and patience.

And now, please sit back as this blog proudly presents that interview a year ago:

~

VG: Did you have a Eureka moment or did you just gradually make the decision to create graphic novels?

HL: I think I was kind of bullied into making them [*chuckle*] by the comics community. When I started drawing comics for the first time, it didn't click with me. It didn't seem like something that I was going to be any good at or something that I would want to have for a career. I moved to Toronto and started living with Mal [husband Bryan Lee O'Malley] and got more in touch with the comics community, I guess. There's a really good comics store, The Beguiling in Toronto, and I started reading a lot more different types of comics and I just felt like I could fit in. And then I just drew a book. And I can't really imagine doing much else at this point.

VG: Cool. Did your style start off from the very beginning? You have a very... very... [my husband slips me the answer] distinctive, yeah, distinctive style.

HL: Well, it's really evolving. It's changed a lot since the first book. Salamander Dream and Gray Horses-- I was really inspired by the artist Seth and by Charles Burns. They both have really slick inking. And I kind of wound up doing primarily vector work in the W Illustrator. So that was the style I was comfortable with-- like, really clean flowing lines.

VG: In my mind, both Salamander Dream and Gray Horses deal with innocence and isolation. Are these aspects that you're familiar with in your life?

HL: Yeah, definitely, especially isolation. They're both primarily nostalgia books. I was living in Canada and, you know, I missed the US, I missed the South. By the time I got around to writing Gray Horses, I missed Chicago too, a little bit, even though it wasn't the city for me. I missed things about it. As far as innocence... I don't really know. I guess I don't have anything to say about that.

VG: For me, the first one, that's what really touched me about it. Going back to childhood, seeing all the things one abandons as one grows older... It just... It touched me very much.

HL: Thanks. I think now [with Chiggers] I'm dealing more with the down and dirty version of childhood. I'm moving more in that direction.

VG: Right, right. Of all the stories you've done, this is for your youngest audience then, right?

HL: Yeah.

VG: I guess you didn't really choose that.

HL: Yeah. I just wrote the story. My agent and publisher figured out who it was going to be for.

VG: In Gray Horses, your main character is French. Was there a reason for this, as opposed to Italian or Russian?

HL: I have a lot of fondness for France 'cause I lived there for a year when I was a kid. And I sort of remember how it felt. When I moved to France, I didn't speak any French. My parents just kind of took me and chucked me in the local village school and I had to pick it up on the go. So I wanted to translate that to a slightly older character.

VG: Two more questions. Do you have a purpose for your stories other than storytelling?

HL: I don't know. That's a hard question. I don't know what else I would do with my life if I wasn't doing this. All my thoughts run into storytelling, you know? That's what inspires me. It's what interests me. It's really the only thing, so...

VG: That's awesome. It's something I don't know that I could do, so it's very admirable. Um, okay, I lied. Two more questions. [Laughter, on both sides, not just me!] Do you have advice for up and coming [cartoonists]?

HL: Draw a lot. Write a lot. Put your work on the web-- it's really important. Try and make friends in the comics community. People are really friendly and they love to help up and comers. And be patient 'cause it takes time.

VG: And the cookies question. If you could bake homemade cookies for up to three fictional characters, who would you choose and what kind of cookies would you make?

HL: I guess I should think who first, and then figure out a cookie. Okay, I'm gonna say Meg from A Wrinkle in Time. She's one of my favorites. And... for the cookies? Hmmm. Maybe just oatmeal cookies, 'cause it gets cold up in Maine or wherever it is she lives. [Laughter]

VG: That works. Thank you very much.

HL: No problem.

~

As I understand it, Hope’s new book Mercury is coming out next year and she’s hard at work on something new. Also, checkci out her lovable work on Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd as edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelluci. If you want to follow Hope on Twitter, her handle is @hopelarson. If you are lucky enough to be at the San Diego Comic-Con, then you might see her around, too. And you will be a very, very lucky person, ha ha.

17 July 2009

Jumpin' Friday:: Alpine, Texas

Welcome to Jumpin' Friday, formerly known as my Road Map entries, which consisted of my beloved jumpies across the country. For those of you not in the know, here is a pretty loose description of what I call a jumpy:

A librarian + a road trip + a library + a camera = a jumpy, or a picture in mid-jump

I've been to hundreds of libraries in various countries. Going there is easy, thanks to my adorable and dedicated husband, who has pulled many (responsible) James Bond maneuvers whenever I squeal at the sight of a library sign on the road. It's the chronicling that's hard.

And now, here's a brief look at a solitary library-- the one in Alpine, Texas.

~~Alpine Public Library
Alpine, TX (06.06.09)

There was clearly something powerful in the desert air. These are the best jumpies I've taken in a long time. My God! I'm gorgeous!


I found the mural on the library wall very special. It's called "Libraries - Windows to the World," which was designed and painted by Carol Fairlie and the Sul Ross State University Fall 2003 student mural class. I find artistic partnerships with the library to be win-win situations. It's enough to inspire anyone.

And yet, I invite you to take a closer look at this detail from the mural:


Am I misled here by interpreting these purple squigglies, upon initial gut reaction, as flamboyant sperm? I'm not sure what is forbidden here-- making babies in the library, or procreating in general, or having the creativity to have these lines represent something entirely ethereal. After all, those squigglies are dead set on hitting that castle. Could it be that the Castle of Despair is going to get a good dose of bright colors, like the tour bus in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?

Naturally, I kid because I love. It really does make me wonder, though, what the locals-- teens, in particular-- think of this artistic flare. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, when the library was already closed, and we had no one to really ask.

Still, Alpine was very welcoming and at least the library was very clearly marked as such. Yay clear and present libraries!

04 July 2009

Jumpin' Friday:: Uvalde, Del Rio, and Marathon in Texas

Welcome to Jumpin' Friday, formerly known as my Road Map entries, which consisted of my beloved jumpies across the country. For those of you not in the know, here is a pretty loose description of what I call a jumpy:

A librarian + a road trip + a library + a camera = a jumpy, or a picture in mid-jump

I've been to hundreds of libraries in various countries. Going there is easy, thanks to my adorable and dedicated husband, who has pulled many (responsible) James Bond maneuvers whenever I squeal at the sight of a library sign on the road. It's the chronicling that's hard.

This particular trip was made recently so we could attend a wedding in Marfa, TX. Of course, we took the long way around to get some new pictures of libraries. And here they are!

a) El Progreso Public Library
Uvalde, TX (06.05.09)

We did not get a chance to go inside this library, since we were on the road and in need to reach other library destinations in the daylight. (Taking library pix at night with our Canon camera is not recommended as it makes for grainy mementos.) What I do remember of this library is that we arrived just as it was closing, and that the ants on the ground were the plumpest and most venomous-looking I've ever seen. I was scurred!


b) Valverde County Library
Del Rio, TX (06.05.09)

I'm not very flexible, particularly in tight jeans, so even though this pose on top of the sign looks easy, I guarantee you it was not. It was Husband-san's idea, and I agree that it makes for a cute pic.

Check this out! I frikkin' love libraries that advertise their services for both children and teens. Yay!

Del Rio was a good host town for us. We spent the night at a Motel 6 in front of a tiny mall where I tried to find a decent shirt.

c) Marathon Public Library
Marathon, TX (06.06.09)

Yeah, try getting a good picture out of a construction site, ha ha. Marathon is a very quiet and very hot town. The library was tiny and closed on the Saturday that we showed up. We still got some pretty good pictures.


More from this trip to Marfa coming later.

Thanks for viewing these!

29 June 2009

YA Lit:: 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge Part Trois

The premise to this book challenge is simple. Just read 12 young adult novels. I've interpreted this 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge as a means to entice me to read more YA novels, the old school way. No audio books, no downloads, nothing. Just my eyes on the page. Aw yeah.

Luckily, I have two new titles to report. As usual, the new titles are in italics.
  1. The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas


  2. Sucks To Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire by Kimberly Pauley


  3. Luna by Julie Anne Peters


  4. Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach

    5. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

    6. Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

    So it's the end of June (halfway through the year) and I've read six novels (halfway through the 12-book challenge). Now I just need to read at least one YA novel a month before the year is over. It can be done, right?

    No audio books, no downloadables, just my eyes on the page. Ah...

YA Lit:: 999 Reading Challenge Part Sept

Earlier this year, I took on this 999 Reading Challenge. It basically means that I'm looking to read 9 books in 9 categories in 2009. Some of the categories have changed throughout the year. Just because. I feel like I'm on a pretty steady track. I'm still reading graphic novels and picture books even though technically those categories are finished.

As usual, new entries are in italics.
  • 9 teen books with multicultural characters
    ~The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
    ~Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach
    ~The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
    ~Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
  • 9 teen award-winners
    ~Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Life Sucks by Jessica Abel
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Luna by Julie Anne Peters
    [National Book Award Finalist, 2004]
    ~Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle
    [Sid Fleischman Humor Award, 2006]

  • 9 graphic novels (Category finished! 05.01.09)
    ~The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Skim by Mariko Tamaki
    ~Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
    ~Watchmen by Alan Moore
    ~Awkward and Definition by Ariel Schrag
    ~Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
    ~American Widow by Alissa Torres
    ~Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • 9 blogs & podcasts
    ~YALSA blog
    ~The YA YA YAs

    ~Stuff You Should Know podcast
    ~Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

    ~Book Lust with Nancy Pearl podcast

    ~Sound of Young America podcast
  • 9 webcomics
    ~Unshelved
    ~Cyanide and Happiness
    ~Achewood
  • 9 Overdrive audiobooks
    ~Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    ~Something Rotten by Alan M. Gratz
    ~The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
    ~True Story by Bill Maher
    ~A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
    ~Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
  • 9 picture books (Category finished! 04.08.09)
    ~Dad Runs Away with the Circus by Etgar Keret
    ~Chester by Melanie Watt
    ~Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
    ~A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
    ~Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
    ~The Cat's Tale by Doris Orgel
    ~When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper
    ~Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
    ~Wink! The Ninja who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillips

  • 9 non-fiction books
    ~Obama: The Historic Journey by The New York Times
    ~The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein
  • 9 titles I never thought I'd read
    ~The Coffee Trader by David Liss
I still feel like I need to change that last category. Maybe I need a Spanish language category, or a category for the books I read out loud with my husband. Hmmm...

15 June 2009

Author Monday:: Stephen Chbosky's homemade cookies

This entry marks the 4th installment of my Author Mondays, where I shall endeavor to post something author-esque each Monday. Whether it's an interview or a one-shot question, here is a chance for various authors to have their say.

Today's Author Monday centers around the amazing Stephen Chbosky. I met him at the American Library Association annual conference in Anaheim last year. I admit, I hadn't read The Perks of Being a Wallflower yet, but I told him I had lived in Pittsburgh, and he got so excited that he volunteered to give me a hug. This remains the only time an artist I don't know has volunteered to hug me. And I *love* hugs. He was just so affable. I took a picture with him, but he made me promise I wouldn't post it online, so I haven't.

That summer, living alone for the first time in a long time and enjoying my status as a new librarian, I'd come home to a hot apartment and curl into a fetal position to read the book. What followed was pure goo. Chbosky wrote of infinity in the tunnel systems of the 'burgh, and I remembered driving through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel to get to Oakland, and I broke. It was one of those beautiful moments when you're both overjoyed and nostalgic and sad, so you don't even know why you're crying, but you are anyway.

So in Anaheim I asked him my cookie question:
If you could bake homemade cookies for up to three fictional characters, what would they be and for who?

His answer is one of the most original I've heard:
  • chocolate chip for Willy Wonka
    (from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • snicker doodles for Romeo and Juliet
    (you should totally know that's by Shakespeare)
  • peanut butter for Jay Gatsby
    (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby)
  • poison cookies for Hamlet
    (another quintessential Shakespeare drama)
If I were to meet him again, I'd try to capture my absolute love for this book, though I don't know if I would do it any differently than anyone else he's come across. I mean, he published this ten years ago. He's had a lot of time to hear from ecstatic readers.

Then again, I don't think I really need to meet him again. It'd be nice, of course, but it's not a necessity. I have my golden experience reading the book, my secret picture, and a short but absolutely perfect dedication in the book he autographed for me for free.

12 June 2009

Jumpin' Friday: Castroville, Hondo, and Sabinal in Texas

Happy summer, y'all!

Welcome to Jumpin' Friday, formerly known as my Road Map entries, which consisted of my beloved jumpies across the country. For those of you not in the know, here is a pretty loose description of what I call a jumpy:

A librarian + a road trip + a library + a camera = a jumpy, or a picture in mid-jump

I've been to hundreds of libraries in various countries. Going there is easy, thanks to my adorable and dedicated husband, who has pulled many responsible James Bond maneuvers whenever I squeal at the sight of a library sign on the road. It's the chronicling that's hard.

Here's my stab at describing my recent travails across hot Texas terrain.

a) Castroville Public Library
Castroville, TX (06.05.09)

I have a total soft spot for Castroville, the Little Alsace of Texas, because our French class took a field trip there back in middle school. At the time, it felt like we had driven way out of town, but it's really quite close to San Antonio. Ha!


b) Hondo Public Library
Hondo, TX (06.05.09)

Wow. For a Texas town of roughly 8481 residents, I was really impressed with their young adult collection. It was larger than most libraries of its size that I've seen, *and* there was a good representation of sexual diversity storytelling. As in, the books weren't just about straight Anglo teens. I was just so obscenely proud! In the picture below you can see me holding Ellen Wittlinger's Hard Love and Sara Ryan's Empress of the World.

c) Sabinal Public Library
Sabinal, TX (06.05.09)

It's hard to see this from the picture below, but the library has lovely hardwood floors that I wanted to slip and slide on. The librarians there were very kind and polite. I was also really tickled by their VHS collection. I found an 80's Babysitter's Club videotape that made me long for my old video player!

More to come soon!

08 June 2009

Author Monday:: Interview with YA author Veronica Goldbach (Part Three)

This entry marks the 3rd installment of my Author Mondays, where I shall endeavor to post something author-esque each Monday. Whether it's an interview or a one-shot question, here is a chance for various authors to have their say.

On Friday, May 22nd, Veronica Goldbach and I shared some happy drinks and melded our high school history with our new friendship as author/librarian.

This is part three of our 30-minute interview. Check out part one and part two here.

Et voila, part trois!

~

TBiblio: I got three questions from the “audience.” One came from my co-worker at the library, Sylvia. She was wondering what your social label was in high school. What were you in high school? The jock? The geek?

VG: That’s pretty easy. I was the geek. I was a band geek. [*laughter*] Pretty much a band geek/multilingual nerd. You were one too.

TBiblio: I was. Oh my god, yes I was. Did you feel like the high school that you went to, which is the high school that I went to, really thrived on those kinds of social labels they way they do in movies?

VG: Actually, I think movies, of course, dramatize it. They make it more extreme. Band geeks, we sort of had an inferiority complex. We’d see the cheerleaders and the jocks, and yeah, they’re in their own separate world, but it wasn’t like anyone was stuffing us into lockers. Tuba cases. We’d get our own people. No, I didn’t think it was… Did you?

TBiblio: No.

VG: I didn’t think it was that… There were the popular kids and then… I don’t…

TBiblio: To me, there was no… In those books, where they say “the hottest guy in school,” “the hottest girl in school,” there was none [at our high school].

VG: Yeah, there really wasn’t.

TBiblio: It just depended on your taste. There were cute girls and cute boys.

VG: Something for everybody. [*laughter*]

TBiblio: Exactly.

VG: But it wasn’t, “Oh, the band. We don’t talk to the band.” Everybody mixed.

TBiblio: Exactly. This question comes from a teen who is actually a very good artist. Her name is Marci with an “i.” If you were an inanimate object--

VG: Oh dear.

TBiblio: --what would you be?

VG: Gosh. Thanks Marci! [*laughter*] What would I be? I can’t think of anything really clever at the moment. If you asked me what animal, that would be easier.

TBiblio: Okay, well, what animal would you be?

VG: I’d be a dog [*laughter*]. One of my dogs. Lay around, get up, run around if you want to, have someone bring you food, [*laughter*] run around some more, eat the couch, eat some shoes. It’d be great. I guess for an inanimate object, maybe I’d be a pillow. Right now I’m feeling very tired. I’d be there to comfort people when they need it.

TBiblio: That’s good. Thank you, Veronica. That’s a really hard question.

VG: It is, Marci. [*laughter*]

TBiblio: Thank you, Marci! Jean Canosa Albano from Springfield, Massachusetts was wondering about the dichotomy of being a team player in a band but also the solitary process of writing a book. Have you found it hard to balance the band-y nature of your life versus the write-a-book nature of your life?

VG: Yes. Basically when I was writing the book, and kinda now too, I don’t really have a life. I spend my nights writing. I work as a teacher all day and then I come home and write. It doesn’t leave a lot for being very social. My team-playerness—I didn’t tell anyone I was writing the book, except the people I was living with because you kind of have to. I told my mom and my brothers. My brothers didn’t really care. [*laughter*] I just told them and nobody else. Because it was kind of, almost embarrassing ‘cause everyone’s going to write a book. So it went against sort of my grain ‘cause I’m not a big secret keeper. I’m shy but I’m not a quiet person. When I’m around people, I’m really shy and quiet, but once you get to know me, it’s TA-TA-TA-TA-TA. [*laughter*] And I tell you everything. I’m not big into keeping secrets. I just don’t think before I talk. I just say whatever. So that was really out of character for me, not to tell anyone I was writing a book. But that’s how tender it was for me. I’m not a writer-type person. I didn’t see myself as a writer and I thought people would get me down. Maybe that’s some good advice for future writers. Maybe you don’t want to tell everyone you’re writing a book. People will just brush you off or discourage you or crush your dreams. [*laughter*] No, my mom didn’t, but other people might.

TBiblio: Do you feel more validated now that you’ve been published? That’s hard to do, especially before you’re 30. Some people find that very… very… nice.

VG: Yes. The day I got the email saying I was going to get the contract, I was just on cloud nine. I said [to myself], “I’m never going to be unhappy again. If I ever feel bad, I’ll just remember that I’m gonna get published and it’ll be all good.” That worked for a couple of months. [*laughter*] Yeah. It’s nice. It makes a big difference to other people. Now that I say, “Oh yes, I’m getting published,” and people are like, “Oh!” Whereas if I just say, “I’m writing a book…” Whatever. I found that I have a lot more friends now that the book has come out. [*laughter*] They’re coming out of the woodwork. And it’s not even a big book, it’s just a little book. A lot of people haven’t heard of it. People are calling me and emailing me and I’m just like, “Oh, where were you when I was writing the book?”

TBiblio: Future projects? Are you working on something right now?

VG: I’m working on a lot of somethings. I have a book with my agent that is sort of my scary book, my ghost story. I don’t know how much I can say. I’m working on sort of a ghost story. It’s a trilogy, also set in San Antonio but not set in a public school. This was when I was really down about not getting Deep in the Heart of High School published. It wasn’t called that then. It had been rejected by everybody, so I said, “You know what? I’m going to write a different book. Maybe I was wrong to set it in an inner city school.” So this is set at a private school but not at a rich private school. [It’s a] falling-apart private school. And it’s set in middle school so it’s a little bit [for a] younger [audience] and a little bit more romantic. We’ll see. My agent has it right now and nothing’s really happening with it. But it got me an agent. Actually, I think getting published got me an agent. I got published without an agent, which is really are. He’s working with that. I wrote another story for younger kids that I sent to him and I didn’t hear back from him about it so I don’t think he liked that one. I’m working on one set in LA about a girl who moved from San Antonio to Los Angeles. Then I’m working on another one with my sister, a sort of post-apocalyptic one. So I’m working on a bunch of stuff at once.

TBiblio: Cool.

VG: And that’s kind of weird for me ‘cause I need to just focus on one thing and then do one thing. So basically, if I had to really explain it, the ghost story is kind of sort of done. I’m waiting for revision notes on it. The kid story is kind of forgotten, ‘cause I think it’s dead. My kids at school liked it, I read it to them. The LA story is in its first draft. It’s sitting. The post-apocalyptic one, I’m in the process of writing it right now. So when that one’s finished, I’ll go back to the LA one. I’ll work on some rewrites and maybe send it to my agent and see.

TBiblio: What was the original title for Deep in the Heart of High School?

VG: The original title was Fitting in the Glass Slipper. When I was writing it, I wanted to combine my favorite things. I really like teen romantic comedies—I just, I love them—and I like fairy tales. So I thought I’d combine them, set it in San Antonio, have the girls’ lives take on fairy tale aspects. It was this whole cool thing with this old book from the library. It was great. But my publisher thought maybe not so great. So we took all the fairy tales out. But if you read Deep in the Heart of High School carefully, you can still see a little bit of Cinderella in Olivia’s story, a little bit of Little Red Riding Hood in Vanna’s, a little bit of Rumpelstiltskin in Fatima’s story. You have to look really, really carefully. A lot of the stuff got taken out, but there’s still little hints of it in there.

TBiblio: So this is the question that I ask all the authors that I come across who will speak to me. I call it my cookie question. If you could bake homemade cookies for up to three fictional characters, who would they be for and what would you make for them?

VG: Hmm. Well. Baking cookies. First, I would bake something really sugary and fattening and not good for you for Emmy from Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat [by Lynne Jonell and Jonathan Bean]. Poor Emmy, Miss Barmy and those awful health food things she would give her. For Ron, my favorite Harry Potter character, ‘cause he’s so cool… What would I bake him? I’d bake him cupcakes with frosting.

TBiblio: Yeah, I see that. Definitely.

VG: That’s a cool question. I’m a baker. Not a cook but a baker. I don’t know, I’ll just have to leave it at those two for now.

TBiblio: Good! Those are good answers. There are no bad answers to this question. That’s what I love about this question. Everyone has something different and so clever to bring to the table. Last question—any book signings coming up?

VG: Why, yes there is! (*laughter*) I’m having one at the San Antonio Public Library, the Central Branch in the teen section on August 22. I’m having a Writer’s Workshop at 12 and then a party, which I’m looking forward to, at two. So that should be pretty cool.

TBiblio: Well, we wish you the absolute best of luck, Veronica Goldbach. You’ve been so wonderful and accommodating and charming and I’m really, really, really happy that we’ve kind of struck up the friendship again.

VG: Yeah. You’ve been so nice to me, too. VG connection!

TBiblio: VG connection! That’s right! [*laughter*] Oh we have stories. But those will go for another time. Alright, well thank you for listening! Take care! Bye!

~

If you want to check on my amazing transcribing job, or if you want to hear two girls giggling, feel free to listen to the actual audio file of the entire chat.

So what is the VG connection, you ask? Veronica and I have the same initials, we were born three days apart so we have the same astrological sign, we sat next to each other during graduation, and people mistook us for sisters for a long time. We called it the VG connection for some time, although as I've said before, Veronica is now stunning and I'm cute.

Anyway, thanks for "tuning in." I'd say more but my cat is currently demanding love.

Gracias again to Veronica for her generosity and time!

01 June 2009

Author Monday:: Interview with YA author Veronica Goldbach (Part Two)

This entry marks the 2nd installment of my Author Mondays, where I shall endeavor to post something author-esque each Monday. Whether it's an interview or a one-shot question, here is a chance for various authors to have their say.

On Friday, May 22nd, Veronica Goldbach and I shared some happy drinks and melded our high school history with our new friendship as author/librarian.

This is part two of our 30-minute interview. Check out part one here.

Et voila, part deux!

~

TBiblio: As for your new author life, at the recent party we had here, one of the attendees made it sound like everyone wanted to talk to you so you were holding court at this party—

VG: [*laughter*] Oh dear.

TBiblio: -- because there was so much to do. Do you feel like life has gotten glamorous now that you’re an author?

VG: Actually, it’s interesting that you mention the party, I just felt totally the opposite. I felt like I was being so anti-social in the corner and shy because I didn’t know any of these people. And it’s like, do I go up and say, “Hey, I wrote a book, you want to talk about it?” It was just… And so some really nice people came up to me but I felt kinda bad, like I wasn’t doing my part. But as for it being glamorous? No. It’s not what I would think. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of trying to just sell yourself and it feels so… wrong. “I wrote a book! You should buy it!” [*laughter*] The signings have been fun. A little bit of attention is nice, but it’s really just a lot of work. Even publicizing the book, it’s just finding people and emailing and emailing and trying to get… It’s not as glamorous as I thought. And it’s come so late. I mean, this book, I’ve been working on it for six years. The last rewrite was New Year’s Eve last year and then all of a sudden, all the hard work is way behind me and then “Oh!” A little bit of recognition comes.

TBiblio: Some people say that everybody has a good novel in them somewhere. They just don’t have the whereabouts, the capacity, or the discipline to bring it forth. What do you think is the magic key to getting your story out there or getting published?

VG: Well, getting your story… Discipline. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Just making yourself write it. I know lots of people—great ideas! Way better than any of my ideas. And they just don’t actually get the physical… Finish the novel and rewrite it and rewrite it. And getting your story out there? Just, sending out those query letters. Now they’re e-queries. It’s so weird. When I started out, it was actual query letters. Just a few years ago. And now, I was trying to get an agent for the next novel and it’s all e-queries now. You just gotta send them out, send them out, send them out. Discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline. Just don’t quit.

TBiblio: This might be a little bit of a strange question. I read this interview with Jessica Biel, the actress, and she was talking about how being beautiful is a problem and that she envies—

VG: Oh dear.

TBiblio: -- the careers of Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. Are there any authors who—either, their careers, you envy them or that, if you were to meet them, you would just kind of go speechless? If you were just to meet these random authors?

VG: Meet random authors? Well, definitely, Stephenie Meyer. I mean, she’s like, oh my goodness! Twilight was her first novel, right? And it’s just this phenomenal hit. I would love to just meet her. I don’t think I’d ever be able to speak to her. I met Meg Cabot at a signing once, and of course, I didn’t say anything. And I wanted to say, “I read your blog all the time! You’re why I got published! All your good advice!” Blah blah blah. I didn’t say anything. [*laughter*] I was totally tongue-tied. So, yeah. Pretty much anybody, I think I’d be totally tongue-tied. Those are my dream meets, I guess.

TBiblio: About your dedication? [*laughter*] To your book? You dedicated it to your mom, which is really sweet, and you called her the Dream Crusher. [At your book signing] your brother called her the Crushinator. [*laughter*] This is supposed to be a compliment, right?

VG: Yeah. Okay, it’s a long story for this dedication. And now, thinking back, maybe I shouldn’t have done it ‘cause it’s really an inside thing and I’ve gotten so much flack about it. It made my mom cry, so that was good. Cry in the good way.

TBiBlio: Good, good.

VG: The Dream Crusher, there’s two sort of stories that go with it. The first thing is that, in my family, well, you do know a little bit about my family. We tease but we love. We have a sort of biting sense of humor. We are kinda mean to each other. My mom is very practical. This is the way she explains Dream Crusher. She wants to see the practicality in dreams. My brothers and my sister had these huge, you know, great dreams for their lives. Always growing up, my sister was going to be either this famous flamenco dancer or this famous director. Those were her big dreams, and my mom was always, “Okay, but you’ve got to get your degree. Get your degree in teaching.” My other brother, he’s an amazing guitar player, but he was going to be in a band and he was going to hit it big. And my other brother, he went between being a tennis star, a golf star—a golf pro, I guess. They all had these big dreams. And my dream? I didn’t have any dreams because I wasn’t really good at anything. I danced, I was in band. But I didn’t have these great aspirations like they did. So she was always encouraging me, but I just wanted to be a teacher. That was my plan. So one day, the last time we were all really together, I forget what the occasion was. We were going out to dinner and my sister was between moving places, and my brothers actually came out with us, and we were having this discussion. They told my mom that if she had a super power, it would be crushing dreams. And they started calling her the Dream Crusher. ‘Cause, you know, she was just saying, “Yes, yes, yes, it’s great you want to be a tennis player but you should go to college and get your degree in teaching.” And so the Dream Crusher kind of evokes that whole time, the last time we were all together, and just how she’s always supported me. She’s the person who told me to write a book. It’s just kind of weird, they call her the Dream Crusher. And yeah, she was the Dream Crusher for them, but for me she was the Dream Builder Upper.

TBiblio: Ah, that's good!

VG: It was just sort me being ironic with her. A lot of people think it’s an angry dedication. But I said it was all her idea, and it really was! She’s the one who told me, “You should write, you should write, you read so much, you should write.“ I didn’t take her seriously for a long, long time. It’s a complicated--.

TBiblio: It's a complicated... but it's a good... Yeah, I figured there was a beautiful story behind it. [*laughter*]

VG: It’s the last time we were together and it’s sort of my thing, you know. “You’re not really the Dream Crusher that everybody thinks you are.” Everyone thinks my mom is really this hard, practical, strict mom, ‘cause she comes off that way. But she’s not. She’s a softie. [*laughter*] She is.

TBiblio: Advice to any teens out there—or anybody, really—who wants to get their work out there? Besides discipline.

VG: Besides just writing, even when you don’t want to, because it’s not always fun? You just gotta do those query letters. What really helped me is I got The [Complete] Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. I know it sounds lame, but they tell you how to write the query letter. And on Meg Cabot’s blog, she recommended the Jeff Herman’s Guide to [Book Publishers,] Editors and [Literary] Agents. And I got it, and you can just check it out from the library.

TBiblio: YEAH!

VG: And it has a list of agents and editors and what they’re looking for, so you don’t waste your time querying agents that are only doing adult romances if you’re doing YA or only doing Christian romances, you know. So it tells you who to send [query letters to], and what they’re looking for. Write a really good query letter. Really spend a lot of time on that. Because if you don’t, you won’t get your foot in the door. Write a really good query letter, send a bunch out, and be ready for those rejection letters. Don’t let them get you down.

~

The last third of this interview will be available the next Author Monday. (Click here for it!) If you want to check on my amazing transcribing job, or if you want to hear two girls giggling, feel free to listen to the actual audio file of the entire chat.

Happy June, everyone! And happy first day of the Teen Summer Program at the San Antonio Public Library!