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
    ~Cyanide and Happiness
  • 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!