Monday, January 28, 2013

The 2nd Annual Jody-intz Awards

Back by popular demand! Okay, not really, but I need a blog topic, and since this is the day that the ALA announces the Printz Award for the best young adult book of the year, I realized it was time to release my own list of besties.

And now without further ado, the Jody-intz-es: 

1. Book That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (and also fight off tears). Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up. Handler's the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events, so he's an expert in quirky humor, but this turn at YA proves that he's got heart too. This brilliant novel is one long kiss off letter--main character Min's rant against big time %&$* jerk Ed. Oh, I soooo wish a book like this existed when I was a teen.

2. Best Love Story. A 3-way tie between The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (because I LOVE Oliver and LOVE the serendipitous moments that continually pull him into Hadley's life over a 24-hour period); Just One Day by Gayle Forman (even though the romance takes a back seat to the main character's journey of self-discovery); and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (yeah, this book does not need anymore accolades--it's placed firmly in bestseller land as shown by its appearance on shelves at Walmart and Kroger--but I will praise it anyway: Great book on multiple levels by an awesome writer I bow down to.

3. Coolest Hook. Every Day by David Levithan. I could've stuck this one in the best love story category too. Thought-provoking and heartbreaking and probably contains the most noble sacrifice in the history of love stories as main character "A" fights to woo Rhiannon despite his curse of never remaining in one body for more than one day. Bonus points for being a fave of both of my kids, a rare feat for a picky teen girl and her hardly-ever-reads-fiction older brother.

4.  Book That Had Me Hearing Slasher Music in My Head Whilst Reading. Shift by Em Bailey. Riveting psychological horror/thriller about Olive, who may or may not be crazy, who's enemies with Miranda, who may or may not be evil, who may or may not be sucking the life out of Kate. Cue the freaky music...

4. Series I Wanted to Keep Reading (and Did). I read a lot of books and too many are first books in a series. Unless I am totally hooked, I rarely follow up on the sequel (there are so many other books to try....) but I did with Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns and the sequel (just finished this one a week ago) The Crown of Embers. I'm not typically a fantasy fan, but Carson's reluctant and very human princess Elisa is worth following through multiple novels. Major bonus points for unpredictable and complex plot. Eagerly awaiting book three!

5. Book that Transcends a Difficult Topic. Colleen Clayton's debut What Happens Next. The topic is date rape, which might turn some readers off, but Clayton never over-dramatizes or crosses the line into lurid. Her main character Sid's journey is heartbreaking and beautiful and somehow funny and romantic too. My only beef with the book is the kinda "meh" title. Something else might've worked better to capture the essence of this novel. Or maybe not. The whole time I was reading I had no idea what was going to happen next.

6. Books That Stuck with Me and Make Me Proud to Call Myself a Young Adult Writer. In addition to the ones listed above, a shout out to Adele Griffin for the horrifying and twisty/turny drama All You Never Wanted; E.M. Kokie's brilliant debut Personal Effects about a boy's search to understand his revered older brother's death (and life); Michelle Cooper's Brief History of Montmary because I rarely like historical fiction but totally fell into her quirky pre-WWII world; and last but not least, Meg Rosoff's There is No Dog, which made me laugh and think and question my belief in God.

UPDATE:  The official Printz Award was just announced: In Darkness by Nick Lake, a book I sadly have not read but will add to my TBR list asap!

And just for the heck of it, here's the entire list of books I read this year, in case anyone's wondering: (Reviews highlighted)

1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, adult fiction
2. I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, adult fiction
3. The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, YA fiction
4. A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper, YA historical fiction
5. The Fitzosbornes in Exile (sequel) by Michelle Cooper
6. The Vanishing Game by Katie Kae Myers, YA fiction
7. Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, YA historical/Steampunk
8. The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin, YA fiction
9. The Fault in our Stars by John Green, YA fiction
10. Dead to You by Lisa McMann, YA fiction
11. Catch and Release by Blythe Woolston, YA fiction
12. Maze Runner by James Dashner, YA science fiction
13. Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris, YA science fiction
14. Bewitching by Alex Flinn, YA paranormal
15. Partials by Dan Wells, YA science fiction
16. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, YA fiction
17. Slide by Jill Hathaway, YA paranormal
18. Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis, YA paranormal
19. There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff, YA fiction
20. Croak by Gina DaMico, YA paranormal
21. Where Men Find Glory by Jon Krakauer, adult non-fiction
22. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, YA fiction
23. The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, adult fiction
24. Shift by Em Bailey, YA paranormal
25. In the Woods by Tana French, adult mystery
26. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, adult "non" fiction/inspirational
27. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, YA dystopian
28. V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, adult fiction
29. The Selection by Kiera Cass, YA romance/dystopian
30. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, adult nonfiction/inspirational
31. Crazy by Amy Read, YA fiction
32. Grim by Anna Waggener, YA paranormal
33. Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley, YA fiction/fantasy
34. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, adult fiction
35. So Close to You by Rachel Carter, YA paranormal
36. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, adult fiction/dystopian
37. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, YA dystopian
38. Guitar Notes by Mary Amato, YA fiction
39. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline, adult mystery
40. Chime by Franny Billingsley, YA historical/paranormal
41. Sailing to Freedom by Martha Bennett Stiles, middle grade historical
42. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, YA historical
43. Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin, YA dystopian
44. Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott, adult non-fiction
45. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler, adult fiction
46. Breaking Night by Liz Murray, adult memoir
47. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, YA fantasy
48. Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, YA fiction
49. Thrill in the 'Ville by Patsi Trollinger, middle grade fiction
50. Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, YA dystopian
51. Every Day by David Levithan, YA fiction
52. Graceling by Kristin Cashore, YA fantasy (second time reading this and loved it all over again)
53. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, YA fantasy
54. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, YA fiction
55. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, YA fiction
56. Buried by Robin MacCready, YA fiction
57. What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton, YA fiction
58. Broken Harbor by Tana French, adult mystery
59. WIP by a friend, YA contemporary
60. Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin, YA fiction
61. Sacred by Elana K. Arnold, YA paranormal
62. A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler, YA fiction
63. Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix, YA fiction
64. All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin, YA fiction
65. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, adult historical fiction
66. Shadows by Ilsa Bick, YA dystopian
67. Wild by Cheryl Strayed, adult memoir
68. Tighter by Adele Griffin, YA fiction
69. Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini, YA parnormal
70. The Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff, adult memoir
71. A Woman Called by Sara Gaston Barton, adult non-fiction
72. Just One Day by Gayle Forman, YA fiction

Friday, January 18, 2013

Surreal Moments (and Creeping Doubts)

The other day I got a box in the mail.

It wasn't a surprise. I knew it was coming. Still, to see it there on my front porch got my heart stuttering. It was my book. Specifically, it was 30 Advance Review Copies of my forthcoming book Thin Space. The next day I would mail most of the books out to librarians and booksellers, teachers and blog reviewers, but for a few hours I had a grand old time taking pictures of the box and its contents and sticking the photos on Instagram whilst singing the words to "Look at this Instagram," the favorite fun song around our house these days. (Please click here for a laugh.)

I also enjoyed fanning the book at my face so I could suck in the scent of its bookish perfume, lining it up on my bookshelf just to see how it looked up there, and carrying it in my purse out to a celebratory dinner and placing it on the table as a centerpiece so my husband, teen daughter, her friend, and the confused waiter could gaze upon it and bask in its glory.

Then it was back to work. I'm in the middle of a revision of a revision of a revision of another book, something I "finished" before Christmas, and this week was the week I planned to read that manuscript and figure out what to do with it next.

I could hardly concentrate.

I keep thinking about my book, my book, winging its way out into the world via the postal service, heading towards people I know and people I don't know who will read it and like it. Or not like it. Some of them will say nice things, and I will wonder if they are just being kind. Some won't tell me anything and I will imagine that they hate the book and are just being kind.

I see the book on Amazon and I freak out. OMG! It's on Amazon! Or I notice it on Goodreads, and I freak further out. It's on Goodreads! People are adding it to their to-be-read lists. Holy freaking cow. I'm amazed. I'm proud. But in the next moment I'm crashing. The book I'm working on now is a mess. I don't even know because I can hardly read it. What if it's too terrible to rework? What if I can't fix it?

But, hey, I wrote a book! It's going to be published! Of course I can fix it. The dream is coming true and all of the pieces are falling into place. Next stop: best seller list and awards and film rights.

Don't kid yourself. That book was a fluke. Who says you can do it again? Reality is that it sinks like a stone and disappears into oblivion. Two months after the release there'll be a forgotten stack on the remainder table: For sale. $2.99.

Yeah. So that's just a snippet of my loony rollercoastery thoughts. The funny thing is that it's only January and the book won't officially be out until September. I've got to nip this ridiculous, potentially paralyzing anxiety in the bud.

Anyway, why do I even have any anxiety? The me of last year would smack the Me Now upside the head. Be happy, you goofball, I imagine Last Year's Me saying. Fall down on your knees and praise the publishing gods. It wouldn't hurt to take a chill pill too, and enjoy the ride.

I worked toward this dream for a very long time, so why not prance around the house sniffing my book for like, two minutes?

(My favorite pic: It's me taking a picture of The Box with my iPad while my biggest fan looks on adoringly)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interview with Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

I'm so excited to sit down today with Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, fellow Simon Pulse debut author and new writing friend.

Fun Fact: Jen was the first person to interview me, which I must say, was one of the highlights of my writing year. Fun fact #2: Jen has TWO books coming out this year. How My Summer Went Up in Flames with Simon Pulse (release date: May 7) and Famous Last Words with Henry Holt (release: July 2). I am in awe of this two book/two publisher deal and bow down to Jen's writing and promotional juggling skills.

I haven't read either book yet, but I am totally intrigued. Look at this cover:

And here's the enticing blurb:

Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious....

But Jen confessed that she wrote Famous Last Words first. The cover hasn't been officially released yet, but I took a peek and it is gorgeous.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo has death on the brain. Her summer internship at the local newspaper has her writing obituaries instead of soaking up the sun at the beach. Between Shelby, Sam’s boy-crazy best friend; her boss Harry, a true-blue newspaper man; and AJ, her fellow “intern scum” (aka the cute drummer for a band called Love Gas), Sam has her hands full. But once she figures out what—or who—is the best part of her summer, will she mess it all up?
As Sam learns her way around both the news room and the real world, she starts to make some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most important—herself.

Jody: Jen, I love that these books are standalones, (Soooo many books these days are part of a series, and readers have to wait for the next installment.) and they are very different on the surface. Where do you get your ideas?

Jen: My ideas come from a variety of sources—things that have happened to me or people I know, things I’ve read or heard about, things I wish would happen to me, songs, TV, the news. Sometimes I feel writing is like quilting. You bring together bits and pieces and stitch them into one story. (I should mention that I’ve never made quilt, but it’s how I imagine the process would go.)

I usually get an idea for a concept or hook first and then take it from there. For my first novel, I knew I wanted to do a story about a teen obit writer and call it Dead Lines. Ultimately, the title was changed to Famous Last Words, but that’s where it started. For that book I drew on my experiences writing obituaries as well as the two years I spent as a reporter for a local newspaper. For my second novel the phrase “girl on the receiving end of a restraining order” popped into my head. I started to think about who that girl would be and why. That’s where How My Summer Went Up in Flames began. Once I come up with the concept, I have to find the right voice for my main character. That’s key for me. The conversations between my characters drive my scenes.

Jody: I like your quilt idea. For the record, I haven't made a quilt either but my mom and my mother-in-law both quilt and I know how much work goes into it--all the fabric you have to cut and then piece together, and that's before you even get to the actual quilting part. So many layers and so much time. It's a good metaphor for the writing-a-book-process.

You said that you come up with the concept first. What's next? Do you make an outline or do you just plunge in and start writing?

Jen: I would like to be an outline person, but I can’t seem to work that way with the first draft. After I get the first draft down and get feedback from my critique partners and agent, then I usually wind up going back and doing some sort of outline. With both novels I made outlines after I got notes back from my editors. There’s a book I love by Martha Alderson called Blockbuster Plots. In it she teaches this technique for tracking scenes. I love it. It’s been a huge help for me with revisions.

Jody: Hmm. We seem to share a similar process. I've never heard of the Martha Alderson book. I will have to check that out. I've been using Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life for help with my revisions and I attended an awesome lecture at a Highlights conference about revising in layers. Very helpful. Something I didn't know when I was just starting out was that logic and outlining are going to come into it at one point or another. And the journey to publication takes a looooong time. (At least it did for me!)

How many books did you write before you got your first book deal? How many rejections did you get along the way?

Jen: Let’s see. I wrote one middle grade and several picture books before writing the young adult novel (Famous Last Words) that landed me my agent and my first book deal. As it turns out, this book will be my second one published. My debut novel, How My Summer Went Up in Flames, was the second one sold but will be published first. As far as rejections go, I was well into the double-digits when my agent, Kerry Sparks, rescued me from the slush pile and signed me.

Jody: Double digits sound pretty good from where I'm standing!

Now, back to the nitty gritty: What kind of work schedule do you have every day?

Jen: When I’m working on new material, mornings are my favorite and most productive time of day to write. But if I’m on a deadline and revising a manuscript, I work whenever and wherever I can—early mornings, late nights, at the Dunkin Donuts next door to my daughter’s dancing school. I’ve recently discovered the benefits of jotting down notes on my iPhone.

Jody: This is why I love doing these interviews! I always come away with a new idea. Your iPhone method is much better than my "jotting stuff down on stray receipts crumpled up in my purse" method. Must remember that and must pick your brain about another of my issues: how to balance writing time with other obligations.

Jen: Well, it’s not always pretty. If only my family didn’t need clean clothes and home-cooked meals! Honestly, my husband and daughter are incredibly supportive. They ignore the dust bunnies, don’t mind take-out, and help me fold baskets and baskets of clean clothes on weekends. The dog still demands her daily walks, but it gives me time to clear my head and think about what I’m writing.

Jody: Thank goodness for the dog, right? (Otherwise, I wonder if I'd ever leave the house.) Okay, last question because I know you're amazingly busy:

How do you promote your books/use social media?

Jen: I have a website and I’m on Twitter. The latter has been an awesome way to connect with other writers as well as YA book bloggers. More recently, I signed up as an author on Goodreads and I may do a Facebook page sometime this year.

Jody: Jen, thanks so much for chatting. I can't wait for your books to come out and to follow you during your (double) debut year!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Attack the Stack 2013 Reading Challenge

Hi. My name is Jody and I have a book collecting problem.

I buy books at bookstores. I check books out of libraries. I buy used books from library book sales. Somehow I even attract free books--I win them in contests that I don't remember entering, and I get advanced copies of books that haven't been released yet from the most awesome bookstore in Columbus, Cover to Cover. Also, people like to give me books as presents. Thanks!

But I am having trouble reading all of these books. I pile them in teetering stacks on my bedside table, on the window sill in the bathroom, on the desk in my office. These teetering stacks taunt me daily, and yet, I cannot stop myself from buying/from borrowing/from accepting more.

Something must be done. And since I am all about goals and resolutions and rules, I have come up with an idea that just might solve my problem: what I shall call my Attack the Stack 2013 Reading Challenge. (If YOU, dear reader, suffer from the same problem, feel free to join me in this quest...)


1. Gather all of the to-be-read books from around the house and pile them into one fun giant stack.
2. Read the books (Resolution: read 4 books per month from the stack. Which allows a little wiggle room for new releases, cool stuff that comes along, etc.)
3. PUT A "MEH" BOOK DOWN. (A big issue for me as a former English teacher/English major/guilt-prone Catholic school girl.) I am thinking I will give a book a chance up to a third of the way through before quitting on it.

See pic below. Note that I had to make two piles and even that was a little precarious.

I actually enjoyed doing this part of my challenge--finally getting a good look at all of the books I've been collecting and meaning to read for the past few years. It's an interesting mix, maybe kinda weird too. YA stuff, of course, but also some adult fiction and classics.

The list TBR in no particular order

1. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
2. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
3. Trouble by Kate Christensen
4. The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
5. Soul of a Dog by Jon Katz
6. Any Place I Hang My Hat by Susan Isaacs
7. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
9. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
10. The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
11. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
12. The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
13. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
14. Promised by Caragh O'Brien
15. Crewel by Jennifer Albin
16. The Corrections by Jonathan Frazen
17. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
18. Return to Me by Justina Chen
19 Altered by Jennifer Rush
20. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
21. Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
22. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
23. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
24. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
25. Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti
26. Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
27. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
28. Many Stones by Carolyn Coman
29. High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver
30. Loserville by Peter Johnson
31. What I Was by Meg Rosoff
32. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
33. A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
34. Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
35. Waiting for Aphrodite by Sue Hubbell
36. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
37. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
38. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
39. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
40. The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
41. Atonement by Ian McEwan
42. Liesl & Po by Lauren Olver
43. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
44. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
45. Divergent by Veronica Roth
46. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audry Niffenegger
47. Where I Want to Be by Adele Griffin
48. Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
49. Diviners by Libba Bray

Tune in throughout the year as I blog about my progress...