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June 2009
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August 2009

New Ruby Site

Random House made Ruby Oliver a website! 

It has an audio clip from The Treasure Map of Boys, an "ask Ruby" advice column, and the full text of "Bake Sale" -- my only Ruby short story. (aka, the one about the breast cupcakes)

I'll get links up on my site in the next couple weeks (after I finish revising Roo4)  but for now, you're the first to know! 

Cover Controversies

The story about the controversy over Justine Larbalestier's new book, Liar. In PW. 

I'll add my two cents and say that when I started reading Liar (I've only just started it -- maybe 20 pages in), I was immediately struck by the disjunction between the character's appearance in the book and the appearance of the model on the cover. 

There is a lot of pressure from the big chain bookshops right now to put characters' faces on the cover of YA books. I have heard it over and over, and experienced it in the redesign of Disreputable History.

For Fly on the Wall, which also had a redesign recently, a number of covers were tried with a Chinese American girl on the cover. My publisher did not seem to have any fear of Gretchen's race putting off potential buyers (she is mixed race: caucasian/Jewish on one side, Chinese American on the other) -- but in the end, a face shot didn't convey the spirit of the book well, and they went another direction. The girl on the new cover could be Gretchen, but she's really more a fantasy imagination of Gretchen as a superhero, rather than Gretchen herself.  

I love this new cover for FLY, but I do think it's possible to imagine the girl is completely caucasian if that's your default imagination setting. And that's a pity, because Asian American kids looking to find themselves in fiction won't easily find themselves here. They'll have to pick up the book and read the flap copy and infer G's race and cultural background from her name: Gretchen Kaufman Yee.  

Same goes for Dramarama, which is about a friendship between a white girl and a black boy.  White girl is on the cover. Boy is absent. The cover is gorgeous, I think, and conveys the feeling of the book and the appearance of the narrator beautifully.  (By the way, I asked that they cover the model's nose, because Sadye's nose in the book is BIG -- like Streisand big -- and this model had the bittiest nose ever. If you can't see her nose, she could indeed by Sadye.)

Still -- African American teens looking for books in which they can find themselves will never pick up Dramarama  unless a smart librarian puts it in their hands, or unless they look past the cover long enough to read the book's description. And that makes me sad, because representation is so important to teenagers reading stories. Finding people like myself in fiction (as well as people UNLIKE myself), was very, very important to me as a young person.

Some of you know I write picture books under another name. It is in this realm of my writing life that I've come across the most disturbing ingrained and invisible censorship of faces other than white ones. I have requested or suggested artists who draw primarily African American  or Asian American characters for certain books of mine, because the stories were about multi-ethnic neighborhoods, or because the stories were universal and I think that readers proved with The Snowy Day in 1962 that if a story is good enough, and touches people's hearts, the whole world can embrace a child protagonist of any race.

And yet -- there are still not very many protagonists of color in American picture books, especially not in books where the kid is supposed to be "everykid."  The way Peter is in The Snowy Day. 

I loved these artists and wanted to see what they'd bring to these stories.And when I talked with editors about these artists who drew mainly people of color, I was told that those artists were probably "too urban" for my stories. Or thatusing  those artists would limit sales. And in other words, No. (One of these artists went on to win multiple awards from the ALA, by the way.)  

The editors could have just told me: that artist is too expensive. Or, that artist isn't to our taste. Or, that artist only works for another publishing house. But the editors actually felt comfy saying to me: too urban. Fewer sales in the middle of the country. As if that wasn't a deeply horrible thing to say, when if publishers are not going to be BRAVE, how are we going to have literature that changes people's lives and touches them deeply?

So I think the difficult time the picture book market is having is causing editors and publishing houses to shy away from a bravery and inclusiveness that existed forty years ago.  Yes, they publish books with characters of color, but usually in stories that are about famous people in history, or specifically about a foreign culture, or specifically about a particular  culture within America. I know this from serving three years on the Ezra Jack Keats Award committee, which looks at picture books by relatively new picture book creators, with an eye to books that celebrate and appreciate the multicultural nature of our world. I have read a large percentage of the picture books featuring protagonists of color that were published in the past three years. 

Publishers need to be braver. The Snowy Day is still selling. As Justine points out, Americans will buy albums with people of color on the cover, no problem. They will buy books, too. If we stop being so scared. 

All right. Enough soap box. 
I will emphasize that I love my publishers and this is a tough time to be a publisher and the pressure in these situations is enormous and more than I can probably comprehend. But I am grateful to Justine for speaking out about this issue, so I wanted to as well, in the small way that I can.



Writers Life

A while back you guys asked for more blogging about my daily life and writing process. I keep trying, but it's so boring (the one) and so hard to articulate (the other). But here's a little.

I am sitting in a beautiful coffee joint with a tin ceiling. I am the only customer. I have eaten an almond croissant and I want another, but I don't want to become comatose from pastry deliciousness. 
The Beatles' Abby Road is playing.
I am revising Roo4, AKA Real Live Boyfriends. 
That means I rearrange some bits, especially at the beginning to get the pacing better. I cut some bits Sarah Mlynowski told me were boring and try to think up entertaining stuff to replace them. Or not. I fine-tune dialog. I am switching one part of the plot to something different, so a couple scenes will be massively rewritten. 
I'm working on the last and first sentences of each section, trying to make them pop. 

I have only an hour left in my work day and I am distracted by the internet, but I am trying to IGNORE ITS SIREN CALL. 
I am also distracted by
my list of things to get done today
packing list for vacation on Sunday
wondering about this new thing in my neighborhood which is swimming pools made out of dumpsters
this tunic thing I saw at Lucky that I kind of want to go back and buy
the fact that I am buying an apartment 
paint color ideas for said apartment

So it's really an exercise in tuning out noise. The Beatles (Polythene Pam!). My own brain. The interwebs. The dramas behind the register at the coffee shop. Material desires. Looming paperwork. 
I have to turn it all off and go into Roo's head. 

I'm going to try now. Bye. 


The third book of Ruby Oliver's adventures, The Treasure Map of Boys, is out in four days. 

Publishers Weekly says this:
"Smart, funny, neurotic Ruby Oliver... is back, still struggling with confusing boys, former friends who now shun her and, of course, panic attacks....Fans will continue to root for the authentic if self-centered narrator as she relates both the hilarious and painful moments of her life... they will appreciate her honest insights about the good and bad in everyone—including “hyperverbal and reasonably good looking” people like her who “get confused about what and whom they want”—and about the possibility of loving them anyway."


Printz Honor

I completely failed to take ANY PHOTOS at the Printz awards. 

At the Newbery awards, I failed to meet Sherman Alexie, whose book I hugely love, even though he came up and chatted with the person with whom I was in conversation.

But otherwise, it was not a weekend of failure at all!  

I gave a speech. I wore an outfit. I got a prize and a beautiful red pin from the Printz commitee. I met Melina Marchetta, whom I have long admired, and the wonderful Margo Lanagan. MT Anderson was super dapper and mentioned me in his speech! 

His talk was an impassioned argument in favor of fearless intellectual content in books for teenagers. He pointed out how voracious teens are in wanting to know about the stuff they want to know about -- and how if we assume they are  afraid of challenging content, we will end up raising a nation of people ill-equipped to handle difficult ideas. Which would obviously suck.

Well. He said it better than that. But that was part of his point. Huzzah for complexity! 

Now I am home. Feeling very lucky.


ALA report

I am at ALA. (The American Library Association's annual convention in Chicago.)

It is the middle of the night. 

This evening was the Newbery/Caldecott Wilder banquet and I got to go!  It was amazing. I can't do the evening justice so I will instead write all the tweets I would tweet if I thought my twitter followers wouldn't get annoyed at me for over-tweeting. 

Alice & Olivia one-shoulder dress and gold shoes. Rhinestone earrings. Still, I don't look as good as Brian Selznick.

The House in the Night makes me happy about the future of the sleepytime book in an age of manic antic stories.

Huzzah Marla Frazee!  Your pictures make me happy to be in the world.

Yay for Jen Bryant!  She and I were on tour together a few years ago and know all each other's secrets. Melissa Sweet won honor for Jen's text A River of Words. 

Note to self: do not eat potato if you want to feel awake. Also, do not eat dessert or drink wine. WHy do you do this to yourself? Now you are sleepy. 

Jacqueline Woodson was the third person I met who was a working children's book writer - long before I was published. The first two were Sheila White Samton and Emily McCully. 

Neil Gaiman feral child raised by library. As he is talking, I realize I was one, too.  I mean, except for my lovely parents. 

Ashley Bryant gets us all to chant poetry, call and response style. This technique never fails to move me (Peter Yarrow did it at BEA). Yet I could never lead it.

Massive coughing fit near end of Bryant's talk. Escape to bathroom. Possibly an hysteric reaction to knowledge that will have to give Printz honor speech tomorrow night. 
There's more I could write, but I'll leave it at that. I survived author speed-dating in the morning and had a wonderful lunch with the smartypants members of this year's Printz committee, all of whom had great things to say about YA books. And I signed the first ever real hard copies of The Treasure Map of Boys! In stores July 25. 

All in all, a big, good, memorable day. Goodnight.

P.S. This is me on twitter.


A couple quick things.

1.  If you're at ALA come see me! I'm signing at Random House booth Sunday at 3 (incl Treasure Map of Boys, I think) and at the Hyperion booth Monday at 3.  I'll also be a the YA author coffee clatch thing, the Newbery banquet (squee!) and the Printz. 

2. Ruby Oliver ended up answering all kinds of serious questions about LOVE and LIFE over on Random Buzzers:
Forum is closed now, though, so that's it!  

3. I am in Chicago in a glorious hotel room and now I have to go get dressed to meet Lauren Myracle and go to  PARTY WITH LIBRARIANS.  This is my job, and it is cushy indeed sometimes, I tell you. 

E. Lockhart


We have a winner and her name is Amanda! Thanks all you guys for sending in your answers to the questions. Amanda, I'll put a package in the mail to you tomorrow if you send me your snail mail address!

1. What is the full name of the guy who does the single-boob-grope in the movie theater? 
Shep Cabot
2.  What does Jackson Clarke like to eat on french fries?
He'll eat ketchup, but what he really likes is mayo.
3. What are Nancy Drews?
Affirmations of personal strengths -- in other words, things Ruby is good at.
4. What is a thing you should NOT wear if you are going to be making out with someone?
Many answers to this one, including red lipstick, a dress, and a back-close bra.
5. What does Ruby suggest you say to a catcaller who says, "Baby, can I see you sometime?"
"How about never? Is never good for you?"

The Treasure Map of Boys goes on sale either July 25th OR the 28th. Different places say different things. 
At the same time, most bookstores will be stocking the NEW Fly on the Wall paperback, which looks infinitely cooler than the old one. 



Contest: Win an ARC of Treasure Map

A QUICKIE contest! 

Because I have to leave for ALA on Saturday, and if I don't get to the post office before then, I never will.

So: I am giving out a shiny copy of Roo3, aka The Treasure Map of Boys, being the continuing debacles of Ruby Oliver, the nefarious flirtations of Jackson, the mysterious behavior of Noel and the villainy of Ariel Olivieri. 

Along with the ARC you get a basset hound t-shirt  made by Theo Black, plus I have some audiobooks and other goodies taking up space on my shelf, so I will throw in a MYSTERY BONUS. 

Here's what you do: 
Answer the questions below -- all trivia from The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book.
Email me your response at elockhart @
Put CONTEST in the subject line so I know what I'm getting.
First person to get all correct wins 
Simple simple. 
Contest ends Wednesday night at midnight, NYC time.
I'll email winners and blog about it. 


1. What is the full name of the guy who does the single-boob-grope in the movie theater? 
2.  What does Jackson Clarke like to eat on french fries?
3. What are Nancy Drews?
4. What is a thing you should NOT wear if you are going to be making out with someone?
5. What does Ruby suggest you say to a catcaller who says, "Baby, can I see you sometime?"

That's it! 
Have fun.

E. Lockhart

Bigger cover and ALA



Here is the paperback cover again, this time bigger! 

And for ALA participants:
My signings are Sunday 3pm Random House (Treasure Map of Boys and other stuff)
Monday 3pm Hyperion (Disreputable History, Dramarama)  
Come by!