Friday, December 9, 2016

Exciting News

There are a lot of reasons that people don't let other people know they're writing.

It's "the look", mainly.

Every writer knows that look. It's the same look that people give children when they say they want to be an astronaut when they grow up. The look that says they want to chuck you under the chin and say, "Reach for the stars, champ!" while they're thinking, "You're going to be a mid-level executive in a factory that makes hinges and other door parts if you're lucky."

So, what you do in the meantime, if you're really lucky, is talk to other writers. Other writers know "the look". Other writers don't believe you're bound for a hinge factory. Other writers, if you're really, REALLY lucky, will encourage you every step of the way and on the day when you're finally able to announce that all of your hard work's come to fruition, will celebrate your victory like it's their own. (Can you tell that I found that group of writers?)

Three years ago, I started working at The Curious Iguana, an independent bookstore with a global and social justice focus. During my first month, I bought this button, because I had faith. I had faith that I could eventually write something worth publishing.

So, today, that happened. I'm going to have a real live book out there. Two real live books, actually. The first, Heartseeker, will be published in Spring 2018.

 The deal is with Putnum, which, it's worth mentioning, was Edgar Allen Poe's publisher. Not that I'm comparing myself to Poe, but it gives a little bit of historical perspective as to how long G.P. Putnum and Sons was around before it was acquired by Penguin Random House. I'm thrilled. Beyond thrilled. And totally terrified.

But I also have faith, that as I begin the revision process (my first editorial notes also came through yesterday) that I'll be up to the challenge of turning a promising lump of coal into a diamond.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Curious Iguana Chalkboards

One of the most fun things about my job is that I get an outlet for my artsy side. Every Tuesday, I do new sandwich boards for the shop. These are some of my recent favorites!










Monday, May 16, 2016

Spring Reads

It's been a while since I've stopped to think about all the great stuff I've managed to get through during the spring, so here's a quick round up.


Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
I've never been a huge Bronte fan, but have liked pastiches of both her and Austen a great deal more. I was drawn in by the large quote on the back declaring, "Reader, I murdered him." Where Jane Eyre suffers quietly under her indignities, Jane Steele has no such intention. While Ms. Eyre is handwringing, Ms. Steele gets stabby. While it retains a measure of Bronte's darkness, Jane Steele's determination and backbone make it more of a rollicking Victorian adventure with secrets, action, romance and the voice of a heroine who hopes the deeds of her past won't impede the happiness of her future.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Having two kids, a job and writing to do doesn't often afford me the gluttonous luxury of inhaling a book in one day. But on a sick day in April, I got to do just that with this incredible YA sci-fi. Told though e-mails, chat windows, journal entries, ship to ship communications, classified documents and some excellent first person narration from a sentient computer, we follow the survivors of a raid on a mining planet by a rival corporation as they try to escape their pursuers. Pulling together all the best parts of great sci-fi/horror, Kaufman and Kristoff tell an outstanding story that has left me dying for the next installment, Gemina, which comes out in October.

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Some reviewers have declared it a heady mix of Peaky Blinders and The Night Circus, which is a pretty good description. The 1920's of Kelly's novel has seen sorcery, rather than alcohol, driven underground by Prohibition, leading to dens where practitioners perform for the clientele before offering a hit of 'shine'- a concoction of distilled magic that offers a wondrous and addictive high. We meet Joan Kendrick and Alex Danfrey, both driven into this criminal underworld for different reasons; Joan, to aid her struggling family, Alex, as an informant with a troubling past. Together, they have to navigate the seedy world of gangsters whose only interest in magic is how much money they can make off of it. A cracking good read!

The Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

I've been anxious for this one to finally see the light of the bookshelves, because I was so utterly charmed by the ARC. Blue's life has been turned upside down more than once- by her mother's death from cancer and her sister's disappearance. So, when she's given a chance to find her lost sister by The Woman in Red at the crossroads, Blue takes it, no matter the conditions. The story is a beautiful journey woven though music, love and heartbreak, examining our need for meaning, the people we choose to call family and what we're willing to risk in exchange for a much longed for prize. For a kid raised on folk music, this was such a delight for me.

Delilah Dirk by Tony Cliff

My girls are huge fans of graphics and I've really grown to love them too. The Delilah Dirk series was such a brilliant find- a no-nonsense, take no prisoners, sword wielding, ass-kicking Indiana Jones type heroine and her traveling companion, the loyal tea making Selim from Constantinople, make the world their playground in this fantastic series of adventures. I'm very pleased to own a Delilah "travel" poster advertising 'London-The Pinnacle of the Civilized World'. Of course, Ms. Dirk is kicking one of his majesty's soldiers out a window.

Bitch Planet by DeConnick, DeLandro, Soma and Wilson

I have a particular place in the house where I keep MY graphic novels so that they do not get mixed up with my 9 year old's graphics. This is an amazing, angry indictment of a not-too-distant-future where the dominant patriarchal society rids itself of 'non-compliant' women by shipping them off to a desolate penal colony colloquially known as "Bitch Planet". It follows some of the unfortunate inmates as they navigate the horrifying world of corrupt guards and mental torture as well as shedding some light on what brought them to the penal colony in the first place. The stories are well fleshed out and moving--so looking forward to the next volume being released in September of this year.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fading Colors

As I waded through my morning Twitter feed (which consists of animal pictures, swearing and book news in equal measures) I came across a tweet from literary agent Jen Laughran that got me thinking a bit about cover art. Recently, Laughran found herself in an airport bookshop on a quest to find a Young Adult work by an author of color which also featured a person of color on the cover. Unfortunately, this proved to be a vain search.

I thought to myself that it must be the bookshop's location- an airport shop is going to have a limited selection compared to an indie. So, when I arrived at work today at The Curious Iguana, I thought I'd go on my own hunt. Surely, I thought, with our shop's focus on social and global issues, we could do better.

But after about 10 minutes of searching through the shelves, I realized that while we had a good deal of works by authors of color, the cover art didn't reflect the content.

These were the only four covers I could locate where the characters of color in the stories were depicted in the front artwork. Laughran herself pointed out that YA covers tend toward the abstract as well as graphic fonts, but I found it hard to believe that these were really the only four. (It's worth mentioning that the talented Robin Talley is not an author of color, but a member of the LGBTQ community. Her novel focuses on two teens on opposite sides of the civil rights struggle in 1956 Virginia.)

On wandering into our mid-grade section, the cover-art situation seems to be a little rosier. Titles in mid-grade tend to have much more literal art, so that the reader can easily identify things of interest. Books with characters of color have those characters displayed prominently. Just in middle grade fiction (excluding early reader, graphics and series) I found 45 titles with characters of color on covers.

Obviously, publishers of mid-grade lit want kids to be able to readily identify with the story inside. It's easier for a child to look at a picture and say, "That looks like me," and want to read it. I found myself wondering if teens might not benefit from the same concept.

Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager of color is harder. In an environment where you may already feel isolated, wouldn't it be lovely to be able to walk into a bookstore and see your face staring back at you from the shelf?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stepping Up for Diversity

There's been so much important discussion in the children's book world over the last few years about diversity and about the proportional representation of people of color, but it's obvious that there is still some tone deafness out there.

After Scholastic's disastrous decision to publish George Washington's Birthday Cake (which depicted slavery as a cheerful condition) There were a fair number of activists in the community who wanted to organize an all out boycott of the publisher, which is the largest distributer of children's books in the world. But after seeing how this action could impact negatively against the communities they were trying to serve, the #StepUpScholastic campaign was born, the brainchild of several different networks including Teaching for Change, the Ferguson Response Network and American Indians in Children's Literature.

Tweets from @LeslieMac, one of the campaign's organizers should be read from the bottom up.

While Scholastic's partnership with The We Need Diverse Books campaign is a good beginning, the books being offered to every school aged child in the US and overseas need to reflect the lives of their readers. 

Want to keep up with the campaign? Follow @LeslieMac on Twitter or the #StandUpScholastic hashtag.