What Would you Like to Forget?

First off, YAY! Congratulations to Angie on the exciting release of Memento Nora! The League is now more than halfway out in the world. Just me and Elana left to go and we're chomping at the bit!

Angie did a really great series leading up to this day. A whole bunch of great writers (and me) posted some memories they would never want to forget. It makes for some really interesting reading. If you haven't checked these out yet, you definitely should. Here are all the links!

Beth Revis, Across the Universe.
Bettina Restrepo, Illegal.
Julia Karr, XVI.
Me! The Eleventh Plague.
Kiki Hamilton, The Faerie Ring.
Gae Polisner, The Pull of Gravity.
Carrie Harris, Bad Taste in Boys.
Elana Johnson, Possession.

After I wrote my post I got to thinking about what memory, if given the opportunity, would I want to forget? Turns out that, for me, it was easy because this is actually my most wished for super power.

I wish that upon finishing a draft of a book I could immediately forget everything about it. Forget writing it. Forget the characters. Forger the story. Everything. Wipe it from my mind. This way when I sat down to read a first draft and it would be just like reading the work of someone else. Feeling so close to your work that you can't be objective? Missing huge plot holes because your knowledge of the story and characters is covering them over?  A thing of the past! I can't tell you how often I wish for this ability.

So how about you guys? Maybe you'd spare yourself morning after regrets by forgetting how much you love tequila or Oreo cookies? Or maybe there's one irritating memory that you just wish you could be done with? Heck, maybe you'd just like to live in a world where the latest Star Wars trilogy never happened. Whatever it is, let us know!

Interview with Angie Smibert, author of MEMENTO NORA

This week we're celebrating the launch of MEMENTO NORA! Today, Angie took time to answer some detailed questions about the book, the characters, and the world of MEMENTO NORA.

Where did you come up with the idea for MEMENTO NORA?

The idea came from current research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scientists are testing drugs to help lessen the strangle-hold traumatic memories have on the brain. So I just took it one step further. What if the pill erased bad memories--and what if you could get the pill as easily as you could a latte or frozen yogurt? The world, characters, and story grew out of those questions.

Do you think the world of MEMENTO NORA--not just the forgetting pills, but also the obsession with personal security, the links between government and corporations--is a possibility in our own future? What do you think exists now that might one day become the world of MEMENTO NORA?

My intention wasn't really to be predictive; rather I was reverse-engineering a world to fit my what-if question. But, that being said, Nora's world may not to be too far off from ours, given a few more decades and few more terrorist attacks (God forbid). As for what exists today, think about how we outsourced so much of the war in Iraq to security corporations like Halliburton and CACI.

In MEMENTO NORA, the story's told from three different points of view: Nora, Micah, and Winter. Can you tell us a little about each character? Why did you decide to alternate the points of view in this way?

Actually, I wrote the first draft of MN from Nora's point of view. By the end, though, I realized she didn't know all of the story, so I added in Micah's and Winter's POVs. Nora is still the main character. She's an everygirl is many ways. A happy consumer only concerned with wearing the right thing and hanging out with the right kids. Micah and Winter are two kids Nora wouldn't normally be friends with. Micah is a homeless skater and artist. Also an artist (and tinkerer), Winter lives with her grandfather because her parents are in Detention.

The sequel, THE FORGETTING CURVE, will be out next year. Can we expect to see Nora, Micah, and Winter again? What can you tell us about this upcoming title?

Though Nora and Micah are in this book, it's more Winter-centric. You'll also get to meet some new POV characters.

In MEMENTO NORA, Nora and her friends fight back against their society through a comic book. Why did you decide to base their rebellion in this form?

Since everything digital is so controlled in Nora's world, they needed a creative, low tech way of fighting back. And comics have a long history of being subversive. Artists / writers put out underground comics in the 60's and 70's, often just using a pen, paper, and mimeograph or ditto machine.

Micah, Nora, and Winter don't start as friends--their relationship develops over the course of the novel. One of the impeding factors to their friendship is the class system. Can you describe a little more about how the class system developed and what it's like in their world?

The class system isn't really any different than our own today. The divides between upper and lower may be greater--driven in part by security concerns, Upper classes can afford to cocoon themselves in gated communities, complete with their own schools, police, and shopping. Nora aspires to live in one of these compounds. Those folks with questionable security scores (like a credit score but for security worthiness) may find themselves falling down the socio-economic ladder, even ending up homeless. That's how Micah and his mom land in Black Dog Village.

One of my favorite characters was actually a minor one--Winter's grandfather. Where did you come up with this dynamic character?

Watching too much Ninja Warrior (aka, Sasuke). Yes, it's a real show.

Can you tell us a little bit more about how MEMENTO NORA came to be? 

Memento Nora actually started off as a short story of the same name that was published in Odyssey magazine. After I sold the short story, I started thinking about expanding it into a novel. After about a year and half (give or take) of writing, workshopping, and revising, I submitted the manuscript to three editors who'd been on a panel I attended at a SCBWI regional conference. (These are so worth it.) My current editor from Marshall Cavendish was one these panelists.


Review of MEMENTO NORA by the incredibly talented Angie Smibert.

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

From Memento Nora website:

“Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.”

I’m sure most of us have said or thought, “Wow, I’d really like to forget that.” But, would we really? Part of what makes us who we are in the present is what we’ve experienced in the past. Even painful memories have their place, helping us to work through difficult emotions and move past traumatic experiences.

In MEMENTO NORA, Angie Smibert explores what a world with no bad memories might be like. Pop a pill at the TFC (Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic) and voile, bad memory gone.

When Nora discovers what it is that sends her mother to the TFC on a regular basis, she decides she doesn’t want to forget things. Instead, she vows to remember.

I'd love to tell you the whole story! But... I'm not going to. You HAVE TO read the book! Seriously - it's a gripping read - careening you from start to startling finish.
MEMENTO NORA is face-paced, exciting, and, for me, it was un-put-down-able. The characters, their situations and friendship, ring true, the writing is fabulous (including the new slang), and the story races to an ending that had me immediately emailing Angie and asking, “Where’s the sequel? I’ve got to have one! Now!”

Please excuse the gushing, I can't help it! Dystopian fans will LOVE MEMENTO NORA! It’s a fantastic story and a real page-turner! It's a small book that packs a huge wallop!

Introducing MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert!

This week is the epic launch of MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert! I'm starting off the awesome, and throughout this week, there will be much more to come, with Angie herself wrapping it up for us on Friday, April 1. Which is no joke, because that's launch day!

From Angie's website:

Summary: Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened.

However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

Read the first chapter here!

Dude, doesn't that sound fantastic?

Well, it is. I've read it, and Nora will stay with you for a while. In fact, she's unforgettable. You can participate in an amazing giveaway and check out other awesomeness on Angie's blog.

Other Noteworthy Things:

Congrats, Angie! Here's to a successful launch week!

So, who's had a chance to read Memento Nora? Let us know in the comments (no spoilers, please!). Who is going to die by Friday because they can't read this, like RIGHT THIS SECOND?? We wanna know that too.

Find Out Who You Are

This whole publishing-a-book thing has been the wildest ride of my life. I used to spend hours reading industry blogs written by agents, editors, anyone who knew more than I did. I was inundated with advice on how to write, how not to write, what constitutes a good novel, what doesn't, that outlines are required for success, and on and on and on.

And on.

And I let these blogs paralyze me. I found myself thinking things like, I'll never be successful because I don't outline. Or I'll never be a published author because I don't even know what the three act structure is.

But I'd written books. I felt like I knew how to craft a story. But I didn't outline. I didn't frame my novels. I didn't do anything all the blogs said you have to do.

Then one day, I decided it didn't matter. So what if I didn't do all those things? So what? There are all different ways to write a novel. And so my best advice is this: Find out what kind of writer you are.

Embrace that. Be that kind of writer. Let everything else melt away.

Have you ever felt like this? What kind of writer are you? What have you found that works for you?

Memento Nora Challenge (Give to Enter)

Wow.  I can hardly believe I'm saying this: Memento Nora comes out next week! April 1st to be exact. (No April Fool's jokes just yet please!)

But rather than talk about the book (which we'll do next week), I'd like offer up a signed copy of Memento Nora and a little swag.  To win it, you'll need to do a little something good, though. Remember last Thursday, I mentioned a few fundraising efforts for Japan?  Well, both the Write Hope and Kidlit4Japan auctions kicked off on Monday.

So here's my challenge to you. Go bid on something in one of those auctions and/or go donate to the relief charity of your choosing. Then come back here and comment on this post. Just tell us you donated or bid. Honor system.  That'll enter you to win the prize pack. I'll announce the winner on April 1st.

Woo-Hoo! The Last League Book Cover!

Hi everyone!

Just wanted to share my excitement over on this side of the blogging world. Last week I was finally given the ahead to show go off my brand spanking new book cover and blurb. I put it up on my personal blog late last week but wanted to make sure all my friends here at the League blog saw it as well.

Here it is! (click image for extra mind blowing bigness)


Snazzy, huh? I couldn't be happier and that blurb is, well, still kind of a mindblower.

To celebrate I'm doing my first ever ARC giveaway over on my blog. Just leave a little comment and I'll enter you into the drawing. I'm picking the winner at the end of the day tomorrow, Thursday, the 24th.

Movie Apocalypse

Before I started writing I didn't know what dystopian meant and had never actually thought about post-apocalyptic scenarios. I'd watched movies, some of them my favorite movies of all time, and didn't even know that they were portraying a dystopian future.

It just never entered my mind.

I started noticing just how many dystopian and post-apocalyptic movies were out there after I'd finished my own book.

Today I want to present my top 10 post-apocalyptic/dystopian movies to you.

MINORITY REPORT: Loosely based on the short story by Philip K. Dick. In a future in which crimes are stopped before they happen because 3 Precogs (humans with precognitive abilities) predict murders. John, a PreCrime police officer, believes in the system until the Precogs predict he'll murder a man he doesn't even know.
precognition + self-fulfilling prophecy + lots of action = awesome

I AM LEGEND: Based on a novel by Richard Matheson. I don't recommend watching this one before you go to sleep.
Summary: Neville, a military virologist, is the last person in New York after a virus killed most of humanity. Darkseekers (zombie-like creatures) roam the streets at night in search for human flesh.
Zombies + deadly virus = awesomely creepy movie
I, ROBOT: Loosely based on Isaac Asimov's short story collection.
Robots try to take over the world but Spooner (Will Smith) tries to stop them with the help of the robot Sonny and Dr. Susan Calvin.
Robot apocalypse - for all those who are sometimes scared of facebook or their own iPhone!

MATRIX: I had to watch the movie at least five times before I really got it but then I loved it.
It shows a future in which reality how most humans experience it is nothing but a simulated reality created by sentient machines. Neo, a computer programmer, joins the rebellion to fight the machines.
Cyberpunk + machines taking over the world + freaky action-scenes = must-see

WATERWORLD: This is probably my absolute favorite. A post-apocalyptic world in which the polar ice caps have melted and water covers almost all land. But there's a little girl with a tattoo on her back that might lead to an island.
Pirates (Smokers) + treasure hunt + a likeable antihero = win

DEMOLITION MAN: After an earthquake destroyed Los Angeles and San Diego, they were rebuild as San Angeles, a planned city were violence is eliminated. People don't swear, don't eat unhealthy food and don't have sex. Yep, definitely dystopia. But things change when an evil crime lord and a former police officer are woken after having been crygenically frozen for a very long time.
evil war lord + Sandra Bullock + lots of swearing= my kind of movie

THE POSTMAN: Doesn't really sound post-apocalyptic, does it? Based on the novel by David Brin. Unknown apocalypse has destroyed most of the world. A nomadic survivor, later the postman, is forced into a neo-fascist army ruling the wasteland. He escapes and finds letters, written fifteen years ago, and delivers them, giving the other survivors new hope.
apocalyptic wasteland + evil army + enigmatic postman= For those who don't need lots of action.

PLANET OF THE APES: Based on Pierre Boulle's novel. Usually I prefer the newer version of movies, but with this one I'm really not sure which one I like better. My advice: watch them both. Apes are intelligent and rule over the human race.
space ship + apes ruling the world + possible time travel = yes, please

CHILDREN OF MEN: I haven't watched this one as often as the others, but I liked the dystopian world. It shows a future in which children haven't been born for 18 years because women are infertile. But then Theo, the protagonist, finds a girl who's pregnant and has to bring her to safety.
scary police state + extinction through infertility = recommended

THE TERMINATOR: I love action movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and I'm not afraid to admit it.
Summary: A future in which intelligent machines want to exterminate the human race. And there's a cyborg assassin, the Terminator, who's sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor because she's important for the resistance.
time travel + cyborg assassin + machines wanting to kill us yet again = If you haven't seen that one yet, do it now!

So what are your favorite dystopian/post-apoc movies? Have I missed out on a masterpiece so far?

I'm Susanne Winnacker, author of upcoming YA dystopian novel THE OTHER LIFE, in which a girl leaves a sealed bunker after years in hiding, only to find Los Angeles devastated and haunted by humans infected with a mutated rabies virus; struggling to save her family, she falls for a boy-hunter who is both their savior and greatest danger when his desire for vengeance threatens them all.
Today's the last time I'm filling in for Julia Karr while she's working on the sequel to XVI.
Find me on my blog, twitter or website.

Guest Post: What to Expect When You’re Aspiring, and Why You Need a Dragon

Today I am pleased to welcome Lauren DeStafano, author of the upcoming dystopia WITHER! She's got a guest post for the League here, and was gracious enough to do an interview with me over on my blog. Comment to both for a chance to win a copy of her book, which debuts tomorrow!

What to Expect When You’re Aspiring, 
& Why You Need a Dragon

Sadly, Barbara Poelle’s blog has been discontinued, leaving a gaping absence in what I read on the internet in my pajamas Tuesday mornings. But my favorite entries were the ones in which she used baby animals to demonstrate the publishing industry, mostly because they managed to be so accurate, yet you also wanted to hug them. I would love to keep that tradition alive right now, but if you ask me, the path of a writer looks something like this:

When you start out, you are here:

You aspire to be here:

Or, if you’re on the modest side, perhaps you’d be content to be here:

But before you can be either of those things, you should consider getting one of these:

Allow me to explain…

It makes no difference if you are a Harvard professor who perfects his literary opus in the twilight hours once the papers are graded and the kids tucked in, or if you are a teenager writing a rough draft in a spiral notebook labeled “Math” during study hall. At the start of the publishing journey, everybody is a fluffy kitten. And when you’re a fluffy kitten, all published authors, regardless of their advance, print run and popularity may seem like a Pegasus to you. This is because they’ve written a book and found a publisher who deemed it worthy of being on store shelves. That is the holy grail of the aspiring author’s journey. And, really, what more could a kitten ask for?

In my kitten phase, I had Pegasus daydreams with show pony hopes. I worked on my manuscripts on the office computer, or late at night when I was so drained from my workday I could barely remember what commas were. I was inundated with “how to write” “how to be published” “how to get an agent” “how to make editors fall in love with you” books and articles from friends and family hoping to give me a leg up. And there those things sat on the bottom shelf, unread. I perused them sometimes, but would quickly become intimidated. There was just so much advice, much of it conflicting, all of it written with adamant urgency. I decided I was better off just writing it my way and hoping for the best.

Eventually I got an agent. For a while I thought this alone would upgrade me to a Labrador Retriever or maybe a Gorilla, but despite my delusions, a kitten I remained. This realization came to me when, rather than agent rejections, I received editor rejections. Many were personal, but most were boilerplate. At times I sought advice from fellow aspiring authors, but, much like before, I found the responses conflicting and intimidating. And once again, I found myself writing and hoping for the best.

As an agented writer, I was still a kitten, but I was a kitten with a pet dragon who both knew the industry and came to know how I operated as a writer. This is a valuable combination that I hadn’t encountered in any of my prior advice-seeking adventures. There were several people who knew the industry, sure, but not one of them knew me—and that made all the difference. Thus, I give you my most valuable piece of advice: look for an agent who gets you. Because no matter where your journey to publication ends, nothing will ever be so important as where you start.

Conversations with my agent led to new drafts, and more confidence. I was still writing the way I’d always written, but I started to tackle those word documents with a fury. If something wasn’t working, I changed it. If my writing was hindered by an obstacle, I wrote, deleted, and rewrote until I was happy with what I saw. I had a whole 80’s montage thing going on.

And still, the rejections came. And still, I kept at it. (I have to emphasize my willingness to improve. If a kitten isn’t getting a dragon, or has a dragon but isn’t getting an editor, that kitten should look into what is and isn’t working in his or her writing, and go from there).

And then… success! Success came hurtling through the plate glass window of my life like an angry bull who’d had a few too many, knocking over the wingchairs and startling the pigeons. If you’re a kitten, the greatest day of your life is the day you get an agent-dragon. After that is the day you get a publishing contract. That’s when the crazy stuff begins.

What does it mean to work with an editor? Well, I can only speak for myself, but my experience has been just phenomenal. The word “editor” can evoke images of changes, red-pens, rewrites and a sledgehammer to the house of cards a writer has assembled with such precision. And, don’t get me wrong, red-penning is a part of it. But it was abundantly clear from the moment I started working with my editor that she signed on for this story because she already loved it for what it was. There were no attempts to shape it into something else. We had, and continue to have, detailed conversations about the world, the characters, and what makes the whole thing tick. Editing is a blast. Things jump out of the manuscript that never would have occurred to me before reading my editor’s notes.

After that, copyedits. I have heard a lot of authors gripe about the tediousness of copyedits, but I sorta find them comforting. The hard stuff is done. Now it’s all about commas and continuity. This is the literal red pen phase. And once it’s over, the manuscript is as done as you, the author, can make it.

Then… ARCs.

Then… finished copies! On bookstore shelves! And you’ve done it. And I have news for you, whether you see yourself as a show pony or a Pegasus, you’re a Pegasus. You’re a force to be reckoned with, lightning bolts crisscrossing behind you and little rainbow clouds swirling around under your feet. This is your thing. Own it. You earned it.

THANK YOU LAUREN for sharing with us your story! And remember--comment here and comment on Lauren's interview here for a chance to win a copy of WITHER for yourself!

Cornucopia of Dystopia

Hey there, fellow dystopian-lovers! Do you know about the Cornucopia of Dystopia event going on over at A Tapestry of Words and The Bookish Type? No?

Well. Dude, you need to know! From March 21 (that's Monday) to April 18, there will be a plethora (yes, I just used the word plethora) of dystopian deliciousness for some 2011 dystopian releases--including XVI by Leaguer Julia Karr, Memento Nora by Leaguer Angie Smibert, and Possession by Leaguer Elana Johnson! (Yeah, okay, that's me.)

So click on this button, and be sure to check out the complete line up of events!

The books being featured are Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, XVI by Julia Karr, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Dark Parties by Sara Grant, Memento Nora by Angie Smibert, Possession by Elana Johnson, and Bumped by Megan McCafferty.

The blogs participating are:

Midnight Bloom Reads
I Swim For Oceans
Down the Rabbit Hole
Musings of a YA Reader
Reading Teen
Supernatural Snark
Good Choice Reading
365 Days of Reading
Books Are A Girl's Best Friend
Brandiheather's Reviews
Loud Words and Sounds
Books, Sweets and Other Treats 
Literary Explorations
The Book Worms
Books in the Spotlight
The Bookish Type
A Tapestry of Words

Here's what the schedule's looking like at the moment:

                  21 – A Tapestry of Words Dark Parties Review & Interview, The Bookish Type Memento Nora Review & Interview
                  22 – I Swim For Oceans Awaken Review & Interview, The Book Worms XVI Review & Interview
                  23 – A Writer’s Review Bumped Review, Musings of a YA Reader Memento Nora Review & Interview
                  24 – Books in the Spotlight Delirium Review, Supernatural Snark Possession Review, Reading Teen Wither Review
                  25 – Down the Rabbit Hole Bumped Review & Interview, Supernatural Snark Possession Interview
                  26 – Musings of a YA Reader Awaken Interview, A Writer’s Review Dark Parties Review, Books in the Spotlight Dark Parties Review
                  27 – Midnight Bloom Reads Awaken Review, The Bookish Type Delirium Review, BSAOT XVI Interview
                  28 – I Swim For Oceans Bumped Review & Interview, Midnight Bloom Reads Awaken Interview
                  29 – Supernatural Snark Memento Nora Review & Interview, Reading Teen Possession review & Interview
                  30 – 365 Days of Reading Bumped Review & Interview, The Bookish Type XVI Interview & Review
                  31 – Loud Words and Sounds Awaken Review & Interview, Good Choice Reading Dark Parties Review & Guest Post

                  1 – Reading Teen Bumped Review & Interview, The Book Worms Memento Nora Review, Literary Explorations Wither Review
                  2 – Musings of a YA Reader Possession Review & Guest Post, Books are a Girl’s Best Friend Delirium Review, Books in the Spotlight Awaken Review
                  3 – Books in the Spotlight Awaken Interview, Down the Rabbit Hole XVI Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Memento Nora Review
                  4 – The Bookish Type Dark Parties Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Memento Nora Interview
                  5 – Books are a Girl’s Best Friend Awaken Guest Post, A Tapestry of Words Awaken Review, Literary Explorations Possession Review
                  6 – Loud Words and Sounds Bumped Review & Interview, Reading Teen Delirium Review, Musings of a YA Reader XVI Review
                  7 – Books in the Spotlight Dark Parties Interview, Supernatural Snark Awaken Review, A Tapestry of Words Possession Review
                  8 – The Book Worms Bumped Review, Midnight Bloom Reads Delirium Review, Supernatural Snark Awaken Interview, A Tapestry of Words Possession Interview
                  9 – The Book Worms Bumped Interview, Literary Explorations Memento Nora Review, 365 Days of Reading XVI Interview
                  10 – A Writer’s Review Awaken Interview, The Book Worms Possession Guest Post, The Bookish Type Possession Review
                  11 – Reading Teen XVI Review & Interview, The Bookish Type Possession Interview
                  12 – The Bookish Type Awaken Review & Interview, Books in the Spotlight Memento Nora Review, Literary Explorations Bumped Review
                  13 – Supernatural Snark Bumped Review, A Writer’s Review Possession Review, Books in the Spotlight Memento Nora Interview
                  14 – Reading Teen Awaken Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Dark Parties
                  15 – A Tapestry of Words Memento Nora Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Dark Parties Interview
                  16 – The Bookish Type Bumped Review, Books in the Spotlight Possession review, Supernatural Snark XVI Interview
                  17 – The Bookish Type Bumped Interview, Literary Explorations Delirium Review, Books in the Spotlight Bumped Review
                  18 – Delirium Scavenger Hunt Interview

I've read all of these except for DARK PARTIES. Guess I know what I'm reading next! What dystopian releases are you looking forward to this year? Next?

YA/MG Community Mobilizes to Help Japan

Wow. I’m sure we’ve all been thinking about Japan this week.  Many of you have no doubt already done something to help, such as donate to the Red Cross.  (btw, Amazon makes it really easy to donate to the Red Cross.using their payment system.)

(AP Photo/NHK TV)

The Huffington Post put together a great list of earthquake relief efforts in “How to Help Japan: Earthquake Relief Options.” They highlight many, many great organizations, from Save the Children to the International Animal Welfare Fund.

I thought I’d take today to highlight several relief efforts by the YA/MG community.

Author Maureen Johnson raised nearly $15,000 for Shelterbox in a few days. (She'd raised about the same amount for New Zealand not too long ago.) Shelterbox is an international relief charity that delivers emergency shelters and supplies to disaster areas.  Her fundraiser is over, but you can still donate to Shelterbox directly.  

A Shelterbox on the way to Japan.

An international group of kidlit writers with a connection to Japan have formed Write Hope.  They’re putting together an auction of books, critiques, and other prizes over the next few weeks.  (Psst, you might even be able to win a signed ARC of Memento Nora.)  The proceeds will go to Save the Children’s relief fund.

Write Hope's mascot, Nozomi.
Author (and Class of 2k7 founder) Greg Fishbone is also putting together an auction to benefit Japan: Children's Authors & Illustrators for Japan (aka, KidLit4Japan).   Authors and illustrators can donate items or services for the auction. Items will go up for bid one at a time with bidding open on each item for 14 days. Winning bidders will send their donations directly to UNICEF, which is providing basic needs services specifically to children in the affected area.  Greg has also set up an @kidlit4japan account and #kidlit4japan hashtag on Twitter to help get the word out.

Do you guys know of any other authors or writers’ organizations that are doing something for Japanese disaster relief?  If so, please share the details below.  My challenge to you is to go forth and help, if you haven't already (and even if you have).  Japan is going to need help for awhile to recover from a disaster of this magnitude.

Help! I'm in a Reading Rut!

I don't know what it is, but my Kindle is currently littered with half finished books or books I forced myself to finish mainly because I already had so many other half finished books.

Is it that I'm just making bad book choices? Is writing one book while editing another making me sour on reading during my off time?

Whatever it is, I could use some help. I need book picks! I'm open to any genre. I like things with a fresh point of view. I like witty. I like action. I like intensely felt character stuff. I like things that move at a pretty decent clip. Some pre-reading-rut books I've really loved include: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Super Sad True Love Story, Goth Girl Rising, Wintergirls, Horns, The City & The City....

Any thoughts, guys? Anything you're looking for the rest of us can help you find? 

Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague
Coming from Scholastic, September 1, 2011

Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch

Alien Apocalypse

When we think about the apocalypse, certain scenarios seem to be very popular like earthquakes, a meteor hitting Earth, the icecaps melting and flooding the world, a virus wiping out most of the population or zombies roaming the streets. But what about an alien apocalypse?

That's something I haven't seen often, especially in books.

I wonder why. Is it because it's less likely than, let's say, flesh-eating, rotting, maggot-covered zombies trying to gnaw at our bones?

And it if your answer is yes, then I'm asking why?

Maybe we're too ignorant, too focused on ourselves to accept that there might be intelligent life out there. Why should we be alone in the universe?

Mulder would agree. Scully, of course, would join the skeptics among you.

Scully? Mulder?

Hello!? Where have you been between 1993 until 2002?

Abducted by aliens maybe. That's what Special agent Fox Mulder would say.

Now that I've outed myself as a fan girl of The X-Files we might as well continue with our discussion about the upcoming alien apocalypse.

In X-Files the main plot involves a government conspiracy trying to hide the existence of extraterrestrials and their plan to wipe out human life on Earth. Some of those aliens live among us, posing as humans while they make evil plans. They abduct people and use them as lab rats. Some scientists even try to create the perfect alien-human hybrid.

Let's say there were aliens and the government knew about them. Would it be possible to keep that from the public? Wouldn't someone find out, post it on twitter or facebook and create a mass panic? Or maybe it wouldn't be difficult to hide extraterrestrials from us because we simply don't want to believe.

I doubt I would believe a tweet announcing the alien apocalypse, so maybe I'm one of those people who would make it very easy for the government to hide the existence of aliens.

But maybe it will be impossible to miss the alien apocalypse. Maybe it won't come gradually and in the form of alien imposters but in a wave of hungry, pitiless predators with acid for blood.

On this happy note I'll end my first guest post.

Oh, and don't forget:


(My favorite X-Files quote!)

So what do you think? Are you a believer like Mulder? Will aliens visit Earth some day? Will they maybe even wipe out human life? Or is it crazy talk?

In case you're wondering who I am and what I'm doing here:

I'm Susanne Winnacker, author of upcoming YA dystopian novel THE OTHER LIFE, in which a girl leaves a sealed bunker after years in hiding, only to find Los Angeles devastated and haunted by humans infected with a mutated rabies virus; struggling to save her family, she falls for a boy-hunter who is both their savior and greatest danger when his desire for vengeance threatens them all.
And I'm filling in for Julia Karr while she's working on the sequel to XVI.

Find me on my blog, twitter or website.

On Languages, Linguistics, the Future, and the Fantasy

I've been thinking a lot about language in fiction. And--I know--we've talked about this before on this blog. So, I'm sorry if I'm repeating what's already been said, and I hope you'll bear with me! But I can't quit thinking about language and it's use in fiction--in particular, in the two genres tend to make up at least some elements of the language--fantasy and science fiction.

Both of these genres use language differences to show (rather than tell) the differences in setting. For fantasy, it's a way of showing a different world, complete with different language. For the most part, I find this effective in the genre, particularly with names. When it becomes so complex that you can't reasonably pronounce the name (Hrthowhujar D'roofyn) or you need a glossary in order to understand the story, in my opinion, the author has gone too far into his own world to keep the story relatable to the reader.

Sci fi, though, has a different, but related, reason for using its own language--to show the evolution of time in a realistic way. The first thing in language to change from generation to generation is slang and cursing. You can see this now even within the living generations--many of my students had no problem whatsoever using the "hard" curse words, while my grandmother blushed at the idea of saying anything worse than "darn."

In my own work, I used the changes in slang as a clue--language takes a long time to change, and the level of change in speech was a clue about how much time had actually passed. I've gotten some criticism for it--I've read more than one review where people have felt that if I wanted to cuss, I should have just done it. I didn't use alternate curse words because I was afraid of damaging the young minds (after all, a side character from the present curses in Chapter 1)--I was trying to show that language had shifted.

And I tried to be logical about it--curse words and slang had roots in every day words--with the exception of "frex," which grew organically from the FRX, a detail that I left for closer readers to discover on their own.

Alternating languages in science fiction has a long-standing tradition. I'll wave my standard fan-girl flag and bring up what I think does language the best--Firefly. If you listen to the commentary on the DVDs, you'll discover that Joss Whedon felt that the two power-house nations of the world in the future would be America and China--so the language of Firefly is a combo of the two. You'll notice a Chinese influence in a lot of writing in the background and, of course, when the characters curse.

In dystopian works, you'll also often see made-up language as a background to the world. From Blade Runners to Panem, sexteens to Baddies, Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics to Plagues, a key element of any dystopia is showing what's changed through the way people speak.

Of course, some people hate the made-up words that authors try to show in sci fi or fantasy. There's really no way to please everyone, but whenever someone brings up language and whether or not you should show the change in it, I think of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Whatever you think of it, there's no denying the role language played in the story--traditional Shakespearean language surrounded by a modern-day setting. Would it have been better to update the language, along with the setting?

For my part, I'm happy as long as the author has put some sort of thought in the linguistics. Even if it's as simple as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the super-convenient Babblefish, as long as the author doesn't ignore the elephant in the room and actually addresses some sort of language shift, I'm happy.

How about you? Do you like authors to play with language or not? What work do you think deals with language very well?

Near Vs. Far

I don't think it's a secret that we read a lot of dystopian novels around here. Or maybe that's just me...

Anyway, I've been madly reading every dystopian tale I can get my hands on. I've noticed something about myself as a reader: I don't really want and/or need to know where I am in the future. In fact, I'd rather not know what the year is.

Here's why. If I feel like it's too close to the year we live in now, I find it very hard to suspend my disbelief. I like imagining the futuristic society as many, many years from now, in a time when I'll be long gone from this Earth. I don't feel like I need the date; I can make it up on my own. Very far into the future.

So that spurs today's question: Do you prefer near-future or far-future dystopian? Why?

DIY Dystopian: Add to the Story

I want to try something a little different this week:

a progressive YA dystopian story. 

I'll start it off, and you guys can add onto it sentence by sentence. (If you feel inclined to write more, have at it.) Keep it clean, though!

Here's the opening paragraph (which I just pulled out of thin air):

The plague didn't change everyone--at least not at first. Nick was only 14 when the virus was accidentally released from that laboratory in Utah. Now he felt like he was 100 years old.

Go for it! And have a little fun while you're at it.

I Won't Lie. I Still Want to be Tom Waits.

I was thinking about a writer's voice recently and how it gets formed. 

I think it all comes down to copying. I know, I know, copying other writers is the biggest of big no-nos but bear with me here.

For me, it all started with Tom Waits.

I was introduced to him one summer at UVA's Writers Camp (Yes, I went to writers camp as a kid. It was awesome.) and became immediately obsessed with his romanticism, the richness of his language and his be-bop rhythms. I spent a lot of time listening to his albums--especially Big Time, Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones--and then writing surreal poems about woeful ex-cons, bowery bums and midgets (all of which, as a suburban kid from Virginia, I knew oh so much about) and paying lots of attention to the rhythm of each line, trying to make my sentences sound somewhere near as cool in my head as his did.

Eventually I realized I was not and never would be Tom Waits (even now this realization stings a bit)  but eventually others came along. I spent years trying to write just like Stephen King and Tennessee Williams. Later it was Federico Lorca and Jose Rivera and Erik Ehn.

Sometimes we think that a writer's voice is this singular thing that springs fully formed from their pen when in reality that idea is probably bunk. Instead, I think that we all move from influence to influence and as we do some aspects of each stick--A focus on rhythm and meter. Types of characters or situations--and some don't. At the same time we're also developing our own little ticks and tendencies and these mix with the traces of our influences, now so slight and mixed up that they're barely noticeable, and form the sound and patterns in our writing. At least I know that's the case with me.

So what I'm saying, especially to younger writers is, yes, copy away. Read voraciously and let it effect you. Dive into your influences, experiment with them, try them on like new suits of clothes until you tire of them and go elsewhere. Eventually I think you make a soup of your tendencies and your influences.  Little bit of this. Little bit of that. It all mixes together until, over time, it becomes something completely new.

What about you? Who were your influences? Can you still see their influence on what you write about or how your writing sounds?

(Oh and if you're not  familiar with Tom Waits. This is a good look at what it was I was so obsessed with.)

Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague
Coming from Scholastic, September 1, 2011

Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch