Meeting Authors at Boston Book Fest

Last weekend was Boston Book Fest. Being a free festival, and me having a Saturday with nothing planned, I drove down to amble among booths with a friend and sit on on a couple of panels.

The best one I sat through was a middle grade panel, The Power of Friendship, featuring panelists Jo Knowles, Ali Benjamin, and Paul Griffin. All three of them talked about some great things: where ideas come from, keeping your child character in danger as long as possible, and the pain of childhood. And the kids in the audience asked some dang good questions at the end.

What hit home for me was when Ali Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) brought up the idea that got stuck in her head that there was an “other world” of writers that she could never be a part of. Now she’s written a book, and is even nominated for the National Book Award. She discovered that there is no other world.

Before leaving, I grabbed a copy of Ali Benjamin’s book to have her sign. When she asked me about my interest in children’s literature, I answered: it’s what I’m trying to write. She got very excited and interested then, even when I brought up the struggle of getting my work noticed, and of comparing my progress with others. “I didn’t get my first book published until I was 40,” she said, and Jo Knowles, sitting right next her, chimed in that it had taken her 10 years before anything happened with her work.


“Trust yourself,” Ali wrote in my copy of her book, right about a quick sketch of a jellyfish. And I will, whether that means genre hopping (I think it’s time to go back to that contemporary story of mine) or tossing out something old to work on something new. I’m going to keep doing what I think is right, and maybe someday it will be.

Things Books Made Me Want to Do

Books can inspire you to do a lot of things: learn a new topic, go somewhere, or eat something you’ve never heard of before. Or they can just make you wish that something existed so you could actually do it.

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, here are a few of the things books have made me want to do.

  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madleine L’Engle made me want to go to school for English. This is all because one person that the main character, Vicky, meets tells her that if she’s serious about her writing, she shouldn’t major in creative writing in college, but she should major in English so she can study stories. I may have been the only person I knew in middle school who knew what she was going to college for.


  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George made me want to live in the woods. If I could get my own peregrine falcon, even better.

  • Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss inspired me to fill my childhood journal with awesome doodles.


  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis gave my a lifelong desire to try Turkish Delight. (It didn’t work out so well.)


  • And, of course, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling made me hope, hope, hope that I would be a witch. Still waiting on that owl…

Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more lists! What have books made you want to do? There are still so many other foods books made me want to try…

Weekend Links: Bucky and Books

Here are some fun things I’ve seen around the Internet recently.

On the blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) author Meghan E. Bryant describes her long process of getting her picture book, Dump Truck Duck, published. That she kept at it for so long is inspiring in itself, but I find it really fantastic that she was able to get publishing deals for several books right afterward, because of the simple fact that she never stopped writing. I think about all the stories sitting in my drawer right now, waiting to be polished, and the ideas swimming in my cluttered brain waiting to be written while I  query other things, and I have hope that if I can get one book published, maybe something else will start.

Women Write About Comics published an article, The Feminization of Bucky Barnes, where they parse out why the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier character is so particularly popular among female fans. I’ve really liked that character for a while, mainly because of the angst (I’m a horrible person that likes to see my favorite characters tortured). But the writers on WWAC bring up other points, like how Bucky replaces the “girl” character, which rang true for me as far as why I feel so attached to that character. (Chicken or egg: which came first, my love of Bucky or my love of Sebastian Stan? Both evolved so closely together…)

Maggie Stiefvater drew a diagram of what her character Gansey from the Raven Boys series looks like when “His fingers lightly touched his temple and his cheekbone, and his eyes looked off at nothing”. I laughed for one full minute.


Girls Comics Today (I’m So Jealous…)

I think I’ve always been a comic reader. I read Archie comics sporadically, and each Sunday it was of vital importance that I read every single strip in the funny pages — yes, even Doonesbury. I bought Garfield collections and started filling up a shoe box with issues of Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna.

But one thing was obvious, as I started moving into more story-based things: there weren’t a lot of comics, or graphic novels, meant for girls. There were some things, like Betty and Veronica, but nothing that appealed to the other stories I loved, fantasy and adventure, or even stories that just focused so deeply on characters and their problems. No, those were in “boy” stories, in super hero comics that didn’t usually appeal to me.

20151208_101015.jpgMaybe that’s why I fell so hard into manga. The first volume of manga I ever bought was Cardcaptor Sakura, where a girl gains magical powers and fights monsters in outfits designed by her best friend. On the cover she’s decked out in pink and is surrounded by swirling ribbons. This was a story made for girls, and I was so hooked.

Fushigi Yuugi, Mars, Kodocha, Magic Knight Rayearth — manga was an embarrassment of riches when it came to girls comics, even with the limited choice available when I first started reading. And I read plenty of “boy” manga, too, Inu Yasha and Rurouni Kenshin, but even a lot of those stories seemed to have a sense of their large female audience, so saying it was a shonen (“boy”) comic really more of a category than a directive.

Flash forward to nowadays. Now there are loads of lady comic artists/writers who were reading funny pages and Archie around the same time as me, and they are making their own comics for girls. There’s Smile and Sisters by Reina Telgemeier, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Faith Erin Hicks and Friends with Boys, and Lumberjanes, oh my goodness Lumberjanes. A bunch of girls solving ciphers and fighting monster and preventing petulant gods from taking over the world and falling in love! Even some of those super hero comics that had never appealed to me would have been amazing when I was twelve, with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the new Ms. Marvel. And of course, there’s more shojo manga around than I would have ever been able to read.


I’m jealous of these girls today, finding comics made for them, sitting in easy reach in the front of book stores, waiting to be checked out from their school libraries. There are so many wonderful, special things being down with comics that I didn’t even know I craved when I was a kid. So many different stories for them to devour and grow up with and remember fondly as a part of their childhoods.


Readers! Did you read comics as a kid? What did you love and collect? Are you as jealous of kids comics today as I am?

Kid Lit: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

“Most fish talk,” the fish said, “if you are willing to listen. One, of course, must want to hear.”

On the aWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lindvice of a recently freed goldfish, Minli decides to leave her poor village and find the Old Man in the Moon so she can ask him how to change her family’s fortune. She meets friends along the way, including a dragon who can’t fly and a buffalo boy with a celestial friend, on her long venture to the Man in the Moon’s home, Never-ending Mountain.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Throughout the book, Minli and other characters are told folk tales (which Min Li discovers to be true as she travels) that reveal certain things about the characters, and reveal how everything in Min Li’s world is interconnected. But the regular narration reads like this, too, like a well-loved tale that’s been told again and again, that made me want to read parts of it out loud to myself.

The hardcover I read is printed on thick paper, with beautiful, saturated color illustrations, and with colored line drawings to mark each new chapter.

And Minli is a great heroine. Even though she often needs help, she is not helpless, and figures her own way out of a lot of scrapes, like getting past some vicious monkeys.

As a writer, this book made me think back on a novel I wrote a few years back, but which I could never make work. I realize now that not only did I not get the tone right, but I gave him such a vague, esoteric motivation, so even though I’d plotted out the story and knew where to place him next, none of it ever felt important. Minli’s motivation was simple — to change her family’s fortune — but it gave her decisions weight, and gave readers a sense of where she should ultimately end up. If I ever go back to that story, I’m keeping this book in mind.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a story I’d love to read again, maybe someday in the future when I have a kid who’s old enough, and still wants me to read out loud.

Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings I’ve Read

This post is a part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme on The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog for other lists!

Cinder, Scarlett, and Cress by Stephanie Meyer. I started reading Cinder and the other books in this series last year, and I was immediately super impressed that Meyer follows the basic story of the fairy tales, while making it her own thing entirely. In particular she blew my mind with Cress, her retelling of Rapunzel, when she seamlessly integrated some elements that I had forgotten occurred in the fairy tale.

Dearskin by Robin McKinley. I first read this book, a retelling of Donkeyskin, in high school from my school library. Honestly, I think that book was in there by mistake, since a big part of the story involves incest and rape, but I’m so glad it was there. It’s an excellent, emotional book, and I’ve read it a couple of times since.

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block. This is an anthology of fairy tale retellings.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It’s Snow White, but figuring out which character is the princess, and which one is the evil stepmother, is part of the fun in this one.

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. Obviously this has to be on here.

There’s five for me! There are probably others that I’m forgetting, or others that I forgot/didn’t know were fairy tales to begin with.

What fairy tale retellings do you love? Let me know, and go to Broke and Bookish to add your list!

Books on My Spring To-Be-Read List

This is part of Top Ten Tuesday (yes, I know it’s Wednesday) on The Broke and the Bookish. This week: what books do I want to read this spring?

Men at Arms by Terry PratchettMen at Arms by Terry Pratchett. I’m reading Guards! Guards! right now, and I have read this book before, but I want to go through all the Watch books in order in my quest to finally read all of Sir Terry’s books.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Not a Discworld book! (I think?) But I’ve been meaning to grab it for a while.

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman. I’m getting back into my middle grade story, so it’s time to read a bunch more middle grade books.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs. More middle grade lit! This is an older one, but it was a favorite of my husband’s when he was a kid.

The Sculptor, graphic novel by Scott McCloudThe Copernicus Legacy: The Serpant’s Curse by Tony Abbott. I…should have read this one already, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. I’ve got my library copy wasting away in my book basket.

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link. Short stories! Yes! This should be good.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. A new adult novel that sounds really fascinating (a girl gets abandoned in a store by her mother). So long as it doesn’t get depressing at the end.

Cress and Fairest by Marissa Meyer. I’m putting them both in the same spot because I just, just started Cress.

That’s me! I might actually get to these ones? We’ll see.

What about you? What do you plan on reading?

Middle Grade Novels: The Fourteenth Goldfish, The Greenglass House

I got back into reading children’s books again! As a should, since that’s what I’m trying to write. Here is a pair I recently read, and loved.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie has a hard time starting 6th grade. Her best friend, Brianna, has “found her passion” with the volleyball team and no longer seems to have time for her old buddy, and Ellie has trouble finding her own passion, something that she truly loves. Then her grandfather comes to live with her and her mother — except her grandfather is now 13 years old, having found a way to reverse age.

The science fiction element of the story is enough of a gimmick to snap up a reader’s attention, but Holm refrains from going whole-haul into the genre and allowing this to remain a story about Ellie, her maturity and growth as she understands that while there may be endings, there are also beginnings. Ellie is a fantastic heroine; her grandfather’s suddenly profound presence in her life ignites an unknown love of science (to her drama-teacher mother’s chagrin and begrudging acceptance) and she is actually the driving force behind the plot’s movement, figuring out how to retrieve her grandfather’s age-defying serum (a security guard mistook him for a trespasser) and deliberating on and bringing up the question: is this right? Should people live forever? I really appreciate the way Holm looks at science; right when I thought she was going to present a squeaky clean version of history, Ellie encounters the darker facts of science, like the effects of the atomic bomb and Marie Curie’s cancer brought on by her own research. It’s a balanced take on the pains and joys of moving on with your life, of dealing with loss, and even of science (Ellie clings to her new love of the subject even after learning of the darker side). And I have to admit, I have a tender spot for tales that involve the pain of growing apart from a very dear friend.

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

Milo’s adoptive parents own Greenglass House, an old house at the top of a hill in a smuggler’s town that they operate as an inn. Christmas break is usually a time free of guests, but then suddenly a whole handful of them show up at once. Each of these new comers seems to be seeking something within the house, which once belonged to infamous smuggler and town hero Doc Holyoak and holds more secrets and treasures than Milo or his parents imagined.

Milford’s writing is what drew me in initially, as she evokes clear, beautiful scenes of Milo relaxing in his house before all the trouble starts. Milo and the cook’s daughter (who he meets for the first time that day) Meddy decide to investigate the house and its surprise guests, in a unique way that Milford handles beautifully. Meddy convinces Milo to create an Odd Trails (think Dungeons & Dragons) character, and “play” as that character while he searches for clues. He creates the blackjack Negret, who is bolder, sneakier, and more observant than Milo, and he takes on the character fully as he plays, to the point where the third person narration refers to him as Negret, not Milo. Milo figures out some of the clues a tad too easily, with a few things left to chance (like overhearing a key conversation) but he also pieces things that he’s picked up from his increased observational skills as Negret, as well as the knowledge he holds as a lifetime resident of the house. I enjoyed the other characters as well, and would have gladly read a story about Clem and Georgie, but they never came out as clearly to me as Milo and Meddy, partly because there are so many of them, and they all have their own very involved story that doesn’t get told deeply enough. A pair of big twists at the end really did catch me by surprise; one in particular elevates the story and adds a nice bit of shock. Things get a bit too sappy at the end, and more is revealed to the wider population of the house than I feel was necessary, and there were some big things that are just left hanging, like the significance of the gate. Still despite the bumps and a bit of fizzle at the end this was a book I devoured with a few big bites.

Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From and Need to Read More

I’m taking this meme from The Broke and Bookish, who have a weekly Top Ten Tuesday list other bloggers can take part in. I’m going to cheat on mine, since I will not be listing a full ten authors, and for my own sake I’m counting a series as one book.

7235533Brandon Sanderson. I recently finished the last book in his Mistborn trilogy, The Hero of Ages, which simultaneously broke my heart and filled me with euphoric joy. He has a real sense of his plot and how to feed small bits of information that become massively important towards the end, and his characters were diverse and loveable and wonderful. I don’t think I’ll ever read his Wheel of Time books after he took over for Robert Jordan (I couldn’t get through the first one, and I don’t have a lot of desire to try again) but he has some other big chunky fantasy novels, plus some young adult, that I’m looking forward to cracking open.

Maggie Stiefvater. Another where I’ve read a series, not just one book. Not even the whole series: the first two of The Raven Boys (the third comes out next month). The plot is okay, but the characters are the real draw, and her writing style is really lovely, it drew me in so that I finished the books much faster than I thought I would have. I initially dismissed her Mercy Falls books, because I thought she was jumping on the supernatural bandwagon, but I’ll have to go back for those and The Scorpio Races.

Marcus Zusak. I read The Book Thief a little over a year ago, and I loved it. I’ll probably read it again soon. But I at least want to pick up I Am the Messenger, too.

Gayle Forman. I read If I Stay a few months ago, and it near broke my heart. I’d like to read the sequel, Where She Went. If I survive that, then I’ll try her other book pairing.

E.L. Konigsburg. I have only ever read The View from Saturday Morning. I know, but don’t worry, I’m very ashamed of never reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

This is what I could come up with, since generally when I really enjoy an author I seek out their other novels anyway.

What authors do you want to read more of?


Links: We Alll Read Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenI learned on Kathy Temean’s blog yesterday that out of the top 17 bestselling, top earning authors, 6 of them are YA or children’s authors. Obviously J.K. Rowling’s there, I’m sure she’s been there for ages, but there’s also Veronica Roth, Jeff Kinney, and, of course, John Green — who knew you could make so much money off bringing legions of teenagers (and adults, ahem) to tears? — among others. As Kathy points out, it’s inspiring to see people writing in my age group genre making that list. But, it’s also a little overwhelming. Oh, all I have to do is sell millions of copies and nab a movie deal? On it.

I also found on The Mary Sue that millennials read books. Also, they use the library! Yes, I could have told you that, with the weekly teenagers I see come up to me at the library desk with a book stack so high they could topple over. Still, I like hearing proof of these things. I don’t consider myself a millennial, exactly (am I? Am I just outside of it? I really don’t know what the cutoff is), but I find millennial bashing massively annoying, so I like proof to the contrary.

What do you think of the articles? Did you hear any interesting book news this week?