National Book Award judge, VIDA and lalalalala

Hey there. 

I haven't blogged because I have been writing a novel for you guys. Seriously. It won't be out for a year yet, but I am doing final revisions on my first YA book in quite a while. It is called (if you haven't read this blog in a while) WE WERE LIARS. 

More about that later. Internet-wise I am on Twitter a lot more than on this blog, and on Pinterest as well. So come join me there if you miss me.

News of today: I am chairing the National Book Awards committee on young people's literature, together with the awesome librarian Lisa von Drasek from the Kerlan Library, the excellent novelists Cecil Castelluci and Deb Caletti, and the legendary bookseller Peter Glassman from Books of Wonder. You can read our bios and learn the judges in the other categories here

I think this will be a grand adventure. I've talked to a number of people who have been judges, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Scott Westerfeld, and they said it was just an incredible experience to read so much and be forced to formulate an articulate what you think makes great literature.  

I've also joined the children's lit advisory committe for Vida, which is an organization for women in the literary arts. They do a great awareness-raising work like comparing the number of male and female writers interviewed by big-shot journals like The Paris Review. (It's approximately 15% women.) So go check them out. 

In other news, I went to Disneyland last week. I rode Splash Mountain and got crazy wet. I love that thing. It reminded me of the movie it was based on, which I haven't seen since my childhood. It's Disney's  Song of the South. No one watches it nowadays because it has some racist stereotypes that just ruin it, but a lot of it is the old folk tales of tricksters Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox -- and those are the guys you see in the ride, the animal characters up to no good. And that put me in mind of the wonderful Barry Moser-illustrated Jump! and Jump Over! by Van Dyke Parks. Here is a link to see those amazing pictures. You won't be sorry.

Tidbit: I wrote my college thesis on Barry Moser's illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 

That's all for now. Happy spring!



Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week starts Sept 30. This is the 2007 poster, which I really love, so I'm posting that instead of the current one. Thanks to Professor Nana for the links below.

This is the official Banned Books Week web site. It tells you everything!

This is the ALA's web site for Banned Books Week.

Here are the top ten challenged books from last year. I am proud to call Lauren Myracle my good friend and I have even written a book with her! So if you haven't read any of these banned books, and you like mine -- start with Lauren! I have read 8/10 of these. 

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group 
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence 
My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee Reasons: offensive language; racism

If you don't know much about this issue, Professor Nana suggests you take a few minutes to see what we are up against by visiting:
This is the site for Parents Against Bad Books in School. Warning: Is strong stuff in there!

Find a small way to do something for banned books week. Talk to your librarian about it, discuss censorship with a friend, buy a banned book at your local bookstore, bring it up in class!




Linkies. And Maureen Johnson's book party.

The Emily Jenkins newsletter is out. Click here to read it online. Click here to subscribe. (At bottom of page). It includes tour dates in October for Toys Come Home.

My good friend, bestselling author Lauren Myracle rocks on with her bad self for Banned Books Week at the LA Times. It is very funny and also very serious.

Check out this great list of books about bullying. The Boyfriend List is on it. (By the way, Invisible Inkling, under Jenkins, is about bullying too.)

And this excellent list of YA books for the theater lover -- which includes Dramarama. I want to read them all! (Well, I have read half of them already -- but I want to read the rest.) Jazz hands!

When I am not cleaning up cat barf and over-caffeinating and sweating through power yoga class that is really freaking hard -- I occasionally put on an outfit and go somewhere glam. Last week I went to Maureen Johnson's book launch party for The Name of the Star, which I am so psyched to read.  More about the event on the Figment blog

Anyway, I went with Sarah Mlynowski and David Levithan. It was author-packed, but also reader and librarian packed as well. We lost David pretty quickly to a hoard of nerdfighter Will Grayson Will Grayson fans, but Sarah and I tried to get snacks before they were permitted, and the nice Books of Wonder staff let us have wine. But NOT cupcakes. There were juiceboxes, too, natch. 

jarfuls-of-wisdom:  Maureen Johnson at “The Name of the Star” launch party.  Have I mentioned that I have a crush on her? Because she’s awesome.

Maureen looked beautiful (picture snagged from here) and was extremely funny. What's more she gave out YA Saves T-shirts (which you can buy here  at my web-designer's awesome site -- and 100% of MJ's proceeds, about $8 a shirt, go to Reading is Fundamental) and you got MJ fridge magnets with every book purchase. The best kind of swag.

At one point, Maureen called out to me and said, "E. Lockhart, how bad was your writing when you first started?"  -- apropos of her advice to writers, which is essentially "Dare to SUCK"  -- watch the video here.

Anyway, I was taken aback and just yelled "Really really bad" -- which is true. I agree with Maureen's advice about suckage, completely. 

Anyway, it was a really fun night. Now back to, you know, cat barf and writing. 



Feminist titles, illegal downloading, internet throwdown, MJ theme song

So it turns out that according to one torrent website, Real Live Boyfriends had been illegally downloaded over 6,500 times when it had been out only 4 weeks. People, if I was selling 1,625 copies a week, my publisher would be very happy. I would be very happy. The books would be selling well, and my publisher would be more likely to have me write more of them. 

If they don't sell, my publisher doesn't want more of them. Or any of them. The bookshops stop stocking them and they go out of print.

If you like my books enough to want to read the new one the month it comes out, please buy it. If you're short on money, get it from your library. The downloading is not only illegal, it is cheating the author, the publisher and the bookshop out of getting paid for something you want. Something that is cheaper than a movie! Something you can lend to your friends for free! Think about it: you and all your pals can read Real Live Boyfriends for less that $12. If you all went to a movie in 3D, it could rack up well over $50. 

Again, if you want a free book, there is a legal way to get it. Library. 

On another note: check out the unbelievable kerfuffle over Bitch Magazine's list of 100 YA books for the feminist reader.  The list is a useful list, still, for librarians and teachers -- and parents, too. It ranges from middle-grade to upper-YA, so there are books appropriate for 8 year olds on there, and books I am scared to read myself. 

But hey, that doesn't mean I think other people shouldn't. That's the whole point of the argument here. People don't need to be protected against literature. The flap copy tells them what the book is about. They can close books if they don't like them. Parents can say, "no, not till you're older."  

Anyway, my pal and the awesome author of Uglies and Midnighters and Peeps, Scott Westerfeld -- he wrote a very intelligent response to the whole Bitch Magazine comments throwdown. And here is Margo Lanagan's response to the removal of her Printz honor book, Tender Morsels, from the list.

Another interesting thing is to read Karen Healy's alternate list (which I am on six times!).

Now on the lighter side, youtube sensation Parry Gripp (of the nom nom nom hamster video etc.) wrote my friend the writer Maureen Johnson (Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Girl at Sea, Suite Scarlett etc.)  a theme song -- and here's the video.  It was the nicest thing that happened to me yesterday, watching this. 


Happy Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week! 

What can you do to protect intellectual freedom where YOU live? 

Talk to your school or public librarian. Ask him or her if challenges have ever occurred in your school or community. Get informed! 

Start a dialog with your friends about book banning.  Even if you don't all agree, it's better not to be silent! And it's good to push people to articulate the reasons they fear certain books, and to ask them to listen to another point of view.

Ask your English teacher if you can have a conversation in class about the topic. 

Also: READ. Here's a list of the top ten banned books for 2009 (and here's the link).  I am proud to say that I am friends with two of these authors! Carolyn Mackler and Lauren Myracle. I have read their books and recommended them to many.  I am also proud to say I've read 8 of the ten books on this list. 

How 'bout you go buy one this week? And read it!  All but The Color Purple, My Sister's Keeper and The Catcher in the Rye are written and published for young readers. And Tango Makes Three is a picture book. 

Out of 460 challenges as reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom 
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle 
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson 
Reasons: homosexuality 
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky 
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee 
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group 
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer 
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 
6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger 
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 
7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult 
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler 
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 
9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker 
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier 
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 

Good Reads

Recently read:

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, by John Green and David Levithan.  Yes, they're both my friends, and YES, this book is most seriously excellent. Alternating stories of two guys in Chicago named Will Grayson, and their relationships with the women in their lives, and with one huge force of a guy namae Tiny Cooper. It comes out in April and you should pounce on it.

AIRHEAD by Meg Cabot.  I am probably the last person on earth to read it, but it is very, very good fun, and there's a sequel called Being Nikki.  Smart geeky girl's brain gets transplanted into the body of a 17 year-old supermodel.  The perfect vacation read. 

LUV YA BUNCHES by Lauren Myracle. Yes, she is my friend too!    A good holiday giftie for your  3-5th grader pals, this is super fun and honest and touching, in LM's signature style. It's about four very different girls who all become friends.  And read all about how LM stood up to Scholastic when they asked her to change Milla's two mommies so as to get her book in all the bookfairs!  She is a hero of free speech, that Lauren.  

Oh, and on the adult front, I am also reading Conversations with Woody Allen, various cookbooks, How I Became a Famous Novelist (which Sarah Mlynowski promised me is the funniest book ever written), Broadway Anecdotes, Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney, and I keep starting Fingersmith but not reading it even though I know it will be awesome.  I seem to be slow to finish all of these books, but I am loving them anyway. 

Happy fall.



Banned Books Week goodness

Lee Wind's blog!  Has super-cool Banned Book Week Q&As on it!

Me, Jacqui Robbins, Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Brennan, Frank Portman.  Section one is here. Section two is here. 

And Book People in Austin Texas, most excellent bookshop, has interviews up on its blog about Banned Books Week, with a great roster of folks besides me: Maureen Johnson, Garret Freymann-Weyr and K.L. Going.


I went to Melissa de la Cruz's vampire book-launch party last night for The Van Alen Legacy, book four in her NY Times best-selling Blue Bloods series.  I did not really look like a vampire but I had on insane amounts of very dark lipstick and a Mad Men cocktail dress.

Mel was extremely glam and gracious and I'm so happy her vampires are taking over the world.  Also spotted: the glorious Jenny Han, covered in fake blood. (Ok, that is an exaggeration. But only a small one).  It was one of the few moments when my job actually seems fantastically glamorous. Today I'm back in sweats, working in Prime Meats and eating a slightly strange kale salad and black coffee.


Speaking of my ordinary writing life: TEA LOUNGE CLOSED.  That is where I sat at least half of my working hours, eating mediocre banana bread and drinking iced green tea on filthy retro couches. I was in there the other day, typing away, and the barista walked into the middle of the coffee shop and announced they were closing for good and "everybody out."

I didn't even really like it there, but I am bereft. I needed warning. I needed closure!  It was my OFFICE! And now it is gone. Gone is the crossing guard with her book of word searches. Gone the tiny lady with bows in her hair and a notebook full of handwritten stuff. Gone is the large gentleman who stares into space, neither eating nor drinking. Gone the aging but good-looking redhead who flirts loudly with the guy behind the counter.

Maybe some of them miss me, too.

Boy Book Challenge

Sometimes the author is the last to know. 

In April, it turns out, The Boy Book was challenged in a Texas school.  

I love how the article  quotes my story at length on what kind of bra you should wear if you have puny frontal equipment.  Hee hee hee.
But my very favorite bit is this beautifully tangled sentence: 
"Despite racy chapter titles and content, some say it is too adult for young eyes."

The awesome school district officials upheld the inclusion of the book in the library system, pointing out  that  "the district relies on reviews from quality national journals written by certified librarians."  Huzzah! 

I do acknowledge that not every kid is ready to read about the stuff in every book. And not every community is the same in terms of what the dominant morality is.  But the material about the boobs is at the very very beginning of The Boy Book, and the sub-title of the novel is "a study of habits and behaviors, plus techniques for taming them" -- so it is completely obvious to anyone picking up the book and giving it even the most casual glance that there's some content connected to sexuality in there.  If a reader is uncomfortable with content relating to the "taming" of boys by girls (which is a joke, by the way), that reader should choose another book. 

Also, I am sad for the kid whose mom made the fuss. Because that kid's mom has just said to her: "Don't come to me with questions about your developing body. Don't come to me with questions about drinking. Don't come to me with questions about boys and how to negotiate intimate situations. Because these things are SO UNSPEAKABLE that I will wage a serious battle, devoting significant time and energy,  to make sure no one in your whole school even reads about them.  This door is CLOSED between you and me."
How sad is that? To be thirteen and know that you can no way talk to your mom about any of those subjects. 

What if they'd read the book together and discussed it?  The mom could have disagreed with everything in the whole book, and the communication channels would still be open.

Anyway, Banned Book Week is coming up, so I wanted to share these thoughts with you.  


PS. I don't know whether the case went further -- whether a formal review was requested, or what the outcome was. 

Vote. Or help! Or win prizes.

Over at YA for Obama there are PRIZES every day for stuff you can easily do to help in the last two weeks before the election. Go see!

Adult friends of mine have been canvassing in Pennsylvania, doing volunteer lawyer stuff in Ohio, raising money online by emailing friends and sending them the links to donate, standing in for the Obama position in public debates (and winning), blogging and more. But young people can do a lot, too -- even if you can't vote yet -- so check out the site for ideas. 

Oh, and hang out with your fave young adult authors. This week saw Tamora Pierce on there, plus Megan McCafferty, Sara Zarr and more. Oh, and prizes. Don't forget those.