Sunday, January 31, 2010

Minnesota Book Award Finalists Announced

I have had the honor of judging in the MN Book Award for the last three years.  Over the years, I met great librarians and book sellers, got to read at least four books of exceptional quality, and then attended the Gala Reception in April, with the secret of the winning book battering around like a caged bird in my chest just waiting for the gate to open.  Sadly, I am not a judge this year, but at least I still have a list of books to read that are of exceptional quality.

...And the Nominees are:
The Longest Night (Holiday House), Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ted Lewin

~ Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

~ Song of Middle C (Candlewick Press), Alison McGhee, illustrated by Scott Menchin

~ Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School (Clarion Books), Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Steven Salerno

General Nonfiction
Drink This: Wine Made Simple (Ballantine Books/The Random House Publishing Group), Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

~ I Go to America: Swedish American Women and the Life of Mina Anderson (Minnesota Historical Society Press), Joy K. Lintelman

~ Journeywell: A Guide to Quality Aging (Beaver's Pond Press), Trish Herbert

~ Richard Parkes Bonington: The Complete Paintings (Yale University Press), Patrick Noon

Young People's Literature

Sky Always Hears tinyCrows & Cards (Houghton Mifflin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Joseph Helgerson

Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Catherine Thimmesh

The Magician's Elephant (Candlewick Press), Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

~ the sky always hears me and the hills don't mind (Flux/Llewellyn Publications), Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Genre Fiction

Frag Box (Poisoned Pen Press), Richard A. Thompson

~ Jelly's Gold (Minotaur Books/St. Martin's Press), David Housewright

~ Rough Country (Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group), John Sandford

~ The Silent Governess (Bethany House Publishers/Baker Publishing Group), Julie Klassen


cover image of Faith Run
Faith Run (The University of Arizona Press), Ray Gonzalez

I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman (University of Notre Dame Press), Jude Nutter

Skirmish (Graywolf Press), Dobby Gibson

unrest (Graywolf Press), Joanna Rawson

Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

~ The Bullhead Queen: A Year on Pioneer Lake (University of Minnesota Press), Sue Leaf

~ Going Blind: A Memoir (Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press), Mara Faulkner, OSB

~ Holiday Inn (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society Press), Kevin Kling

~ The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows (New World Library), Kent Nerbern

Novel and Short Story

coverThe Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama's Boy and Scholar (Hooded Friar Press), Scott Muskin

~ The Book of Night Women (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group), Marlon James

~ A Travel Guide for Restless Hearts (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society Press), N.M. Kelby

~ The Turtle Catcher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Nicole Helget


~ Honor Bright: A Century of Scouting in Northern Star Council (Northern Star Council, Boy Scouts of America), Dave Kenney

Jewel of Como: The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory (Afton Historical Society Press), Leigh Roethke and Bonnie Blodgett

Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century: The Growth of an American City (Minnesota Historical Society Press), Iric Nathanson

Opening Goliath: Danger and Discovery in Caving (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society Press), Cary J. Griffith

Minneapolis is tied for the most literate city in the US.  With all these readers, it's not surprising that we have wonderful writers coming out from this Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Getting nominated ain't easy. Congrats!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Split Giveaway on Goodreads

Wanna a copy before March 9th?

Enter.  Win.  Read.

Signed ARC and you'll get a smidgen of Class of 2k10 swag as well!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Titler's Remorse?

Recently, I discovered that Stefan Petrucha's YA novel Split is coming out from Walker books one week after my Split is being released.  Other than screaming out for a database of some kind with in the publishing industry (which would, understandably fall on ears that are listening more and more for the chink of change in the bank than an expense like this), I just have to laugh.

Making me chuckle even harder was the extent of my title hunt.  When Gravediggers was rejected as a title from my publisher (and rightly so as it sounds too paranormal for my book and sends the wrong message), I began a serious title hunt.  Of all the changes my editor suggested, the title was probably the most difficult.  And it made me a little crazy.

Over 200 titles came up and got knocked down.  I must have shown my editor around a dozen.  With the marketing department's help, we narrowed it down to two: "What We Leave" and "Split".  We chose Split because we thought that it was punchier and better represented difficult subject matter.  And because, when I polled all the writers who read created of writers I know Split came up as a better title 8-2.

What makes titling so hard?  Well, first, a title must accurately represent your book in terms of the subgenre and the market.  Do you think any teen would pick up a book if it was titled Lily and Busy Bunnies?  Me neither.

In addition, a title points the reader to something important about the book.  It functions like an arrow in the text, saying hey reader, look here!  When I titled Split, I searched the ms for the word and had to remove it from a spot where it was used casually.

And then, it should act kind of like a line of poetry.  They should have rhythm and meter, if you're going for the long titles, like The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.  Or impact when you're going for one-worders.  Like Patricia McCormick's Sold or Cut.

A title is your first impression.  Make it a good one.

So, do I have title remorse?  Not really.  I'm sure it will cause some confusion, but to paraphrase a Children's Literature Network representative, that just means that people will have to talk about both books a little more. Yep, there are worse things.

Friday, January 22, 2010

ALA Midwinter

It took me three days to write about ALA because the experience has left me uncharacteristically speechless.  I’ve mentioned before that the publication process has been surreal for me from the auction of Split through the copyedits through holding the ARCs in my hands.  And, so I expected the same kind of thing with ALA.  After all, things that don't happen in real life were happening:  Knopf flew me out to ALA to go to a party where they were featuring four of their debut novelists (yours truly, Anna JarzabMarianne Malone, and the fabulous Jame Richards) at a cocktail party for their It’s a First launch.  Right there, that’s enough to send me into surreal-city.  But it was even better than that.

I got to meet my fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola.  I was a bit concerned because I had pretty high expectations of my fairy godmother.  Over lunch, we discussed everything from her daughter’s recent wedding to my second book, BIDDEN.  I got all my questioned answered and a better sense of this industry. And, we had a good chuckle over my complete inability to conceal every emotion I experience.  Even in my emails, as it turns out.  Other than the absent wings and wand, she lived up to my image of her.

Then I took the elevators down toward the conference floor.  Apparently, I thought, surreal-city has an address.  But it seemed unusually real.  I wandered from booth the booth, taking photos for friends when I saw their books on their publisher’s shelves and then found a lot of books sitting on the floor.  I wondered, are these the ugly sister books?

When I walked over to Random House, I searched for my book on the shelf and couldn’t find it.  Instead, I discovered all these books with shiny, green stars sticking out of them, with names like Booklist, Kirkus, Library School Journal:  ah, those special books that have starred reviews. 

I finally found Split.  Sitting on the floor. And worse, there were hardly any of them, maybe three. So, ugly sister, eh?  But then, a librarian picked a copy off the floor and I suddenly got it:  Librarians were free to take copies of the books on the floor, not the ones of the shelves and so, the fact that mine were nearly gone was actually a good sign. (They had completely disappeared before I left)  The shelf copy, it turns out, had been lifted; I never thought I’d be happy to have something stolen before.  

Before I met my editor I knew a few things about her:  she’s a baker, she has a great sense of story and she is very kind and thoughtful.  But, like most new writers, I’ve been pretty intimidated by her.  But when I met her, things changed for three major reasons: 1) She’s far shorter than I thought, and that was in heels.  2) She is funny and has a fabulous laugh.  3), I got to meet her mother, who, since she’s a librarian was attending the event.  My editor went from presence to person.  Very cool person.  We ended up having the most reassuring conversation I’ve ever had about BIDDEN, the second book, which ended with my editor saying those words everyone likes to hear… “I trust you.”  Phew!

When we got to the party, I was ready to enter the land of the surreal, for sure.  I felt it going up the elevator while Jame Richards talked about the ghost stories about the Omni Parker Hotel.  But then, my editor handed me my book.  Not a manuscript, not an ARC, but my actual book.  Split, in the flesh, so to speak.  With thick pages and a shiny jacket and the heft of a real book.  I grabbed a copy and hung on to it for the rest of the night.  The experience should have been surreal, with people coming up to me asking me about Split, asking me to sign Split (and in a totally rookie move, signed the first copy of the wrong page) and my editor making a quick speech, complimenting Split.  But it wasn’t.  With the book in my hand, it was the most grounded, I have felt in the last eighteen months.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Finally!  A first draft of BIDDEN.  Wow, this took so much longer than I expected.  I started writing something like BIDDEN about a year ago.  I had more than 100 pages of it that I threw out.  Twice.  I'm so thrilled to have a SFD ("sh*tty first draft", term is courtesy of Anne Lamont in "Bird by Bird"), or in slightly prettier terms, the skeleton.  Time to start building the muscle and sinew.  But I'd better build fast!  My May deadline is coming up!

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fun with our Reading Series

Three fun things that happened last night.

Fun Thing No. 1:  A Name!  A Name!

My co-curator, Heather Bouwman, named our reading series!  (Drumroll, please... Pull the curtain... and...)

Yep!  The Second Story Reading Series.  Perfect (if a little blurry).

Here's why:  It has two meanings.  The Loft's performance hall is on the second story of the Open Book building (hence the staircase in the pix above), and of course, our reading series is designed to feature two writers: an emerging and an established author, so there is always a second story.

Fun Thing No. 2:  Our Chilling Reading

Last night, we featured chilling tales on a chilly night. Even though the temperature hovered around zero degrees and the snow/ice was thick on the roads, we had a large turn out for Patrick Jones and NY Times Bestselling Lisa McMann.  We even had to add seats.

  Patrick kicked us off. He was great, moving around the space, connecting with the audience, and hitting notes (when imitating teen girls) that I didn't think was in his register.

Then, Lisa treated us all to a selection of her upcoming book, Gone. Always fun to get a sneak peek.  And when we revealed that Lisa would give out her copy of Gone, at least half the audience (the half that hadn't signed up for the giveaway already) beat it to the lobby for the grand prize.

After a Q and A and our final giveaways, our audience got their books signed and munched on Monster cookies in honor of Patrick's book The Tear Collector ("You're a monster!" "Cody, there are no such thing as monsters") and Orange Dreamsicle Cake in honor of Lisa's book Wake ("Your dreams are not your own").

Fun Thing No. 3:  Seat at the Grown Ups Table

Split is coming out in less than two months. (59 days, but whose counting?)  And even though I have held an ARC in my hands, it still feels surreal.  But I got another grounding experience last night after the reading.  Lisa generously took Heather Bouwman, Erin Downing Kurtis Scaletta, Charlotte Sullivan (radio host on KFAI and will-be-published-someday author) and me out to a tasty dinner. It was something to have literally a seat at the table with four other published authors. We discussed things all things inscrutable to writers: contract prices, NY Times Bestseller lists v. Bookscan numbers, why publishers select certain authors for events.  It was a conversation that only authors would have and it was great to be speculating amongst them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kick off the Year with Patrick Jones and Lisa McMann

Not cold enough for you?  Come hear some chilling paranormal tales at the Loft!

For our next installment of the youth and teen reading series, we're proud to have Patrick Jones and New York Times bestselling novelist Lisa McMann.

When:  Saturday, January 9th at 7 PM
Where:  The Loft, The Open Book building at 1011 Washington Ave. S.

And, in case you need some bolstering after the reading, we'll have snacks before you head back out in the Minnesota winter.

More info about our readers and their books.

Check out Lisa's Trailer:

Lisa McMann is the New York Times bestselling author of Wake and Fade and her upcoming novel, Gone, is the third in her Wake trilogy.  She grew up in Michigan and now lives in the Phoenix area with her husband and two kids. You can friend her or tweet at her.

And equally tantalizing is Patrick's:

 Patrick Jones is the author of six novels for teens, most recently the supernatural tome The Tear Collector.  His 2007 novel Chasing Tail Lights was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. A former librarian for teenagers, Jones received lifetime achievement awards from the American Library Association and the Catholic Library in 2006.   While he lives in Minneapolis, he still considers Flint, Michigan his hometown.  

Hope you can make it!