Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Globetrottin' -- Jay

Some people pick up foreign languages like that. Other people don’t. I’m one of those other people. The only D I ever received in high school was in Spanish…and that was only because my best friend (born in Mexico) “helped” me write my final speech.

So today was a humbling (though very exciting!) day. My editor called to let me know that the foreign rights to Thirteen Reasons Why recently sold to France, Japan, Korea, and Italy. Which is really odd because French, Japanese, Korean, and Italian are four of my very favorite languages! Though I do have room for some more.

To think that people in those parts of the world are going to read my novel (written for the contemporary American teenager) and hopefully get something meaningful out of it is absolutely mind blowing. I know this happens to a lot of authors, but it makes me feel like some sort of a U.N. Ambassador with a really cool title. Something like the U.N. Ambassador of Dual-Narrator YA Suspense Novels. Or the U.N. Ambassador of 21st Century Novels Revolving Around Audiotapes in Shoeboxes.


And I absolutely can’t wait to see the covers!

Now, you wanna see something kinda cool? I found this newspaper clipping buried in my desk today. It’s from an article publicizing an elementary school PTA book fair. My elementary school PTA book fair! It’s from 1983 when I was eight years old. And that’s me, in my very first newspaper photo, sitting on the right. Yep…I’m in my favorite room in the whole school. The library!

- Jay

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cheers! -- Guest Blogger, Amy

Eve & Amy in Hawaii

Disclaimer: I am Evie's sister and, therefore, might be slightly biased.

After reading about Eve's (and Robin's…Hi Robin!) last few torturous months working on her book revisions, and not being able to talk to her on the phone (which has caused major withdrawal for me), I have been eagerly waiting to see the fruit of her labor.

So, after reading Eve's latest revision of Kidz In The Wood today, let me just say…

HOLY SH*#! (Can I say that on the blog?)

It is really, really wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I loved the early version, because it touches on issues and characters close to my heart and draws on some shared experiences between my beloved sister and me. But now it captures and moves me in on a deeper level, especially since I know how hard she has worked to make the book better, based on suggestions from Laura.

The changes were significant in terms of plot, structure and symbolism. I was with her in Hawaii when she started really mulling over how to incorporate some allegories she had been considering and I didn't know what to expect. I had a vague idea of what she wanted to accomplish, but never imagined that the story would now have me sitting on the edge of my seat (well, it was literally the stool at Eve's kitchen counter, which has a very small seat area) with the story arc and the universality of the situations her characters face. Of course, the aspects I loved about Kidz in the Wood since day one - the absolute nailing of the teenage boy's mind/voice and the dialogue - are still present, but now I feel those things blossom in a better overall story that I'm sure will one day delight readers all over the country as it has delighted me.

And, so I say, let's raise a glass to congratulate Evie on a (very hard) job (extremely) well-done. By the way, I'm actually here in California to raise that glass with Robin, Jay and Eve, which makes me even happier than I was when I finished reading Eve's book! Where's the tequila? Shots all around!

Cheers to Evie and Robin!

- Amy (Evie's sister)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Anticipation -- Robin

Wow! Got my brochure for the SCBWI summer conference in the mail this week. Did y’all? Is yours already marked up with huge circles, too? The list of speakers is amazing...

  • Walter Dean Myers!
  • John Green!
  • Susan Patron! (wonder if she’ll be decked in Newbery Jewels-wear…cuz we will!)
  • And the Class of 2K7…which happens to include…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Here it comes…

Our own Jay Asher!

Jay is going to be speaking with other members of the Class of 2K7 on Saturday afternoon during the 3:15 workshop. Please go watch him speak, because that’s right in the middle of Eve and my swimming/lounging time, so we’ll need the scoop. (Kidding…we’ll be there…in the back…wearing bathing suits…ready to run back to the pool!)

Actually, I have a feeling we’re not going to have much time for sunbathing because there are so many speakers I want to see. Cecil Castellucci, Mary Hershey, Mark McVeigh, Julie Strauss-Gabel, Arthur Levine, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tamora Pierce, Erin Vincent, Lisa Yee…oh, I could go on!

When will we ever have time for serious goofing off and waiting in line for our coffee and waiting in line for the bathroom (women understand the seriousness of this issue) and waiting in line for coffee again and walking 17 miles to the nearest eating establishment to spend $17 on some fries?

And of course, I’m excited about the silvery costume party. But I have a feeling we won’t win this year…not unless they create a Most Tactless & Tasteless category. Then, we’d be #1 for sure.

- Robin

P.S. If you’ve never been to the national conference, check out our summary of last year’s conference here...and here...and here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Talkin' About the Boy in NYC -- Jay

The first time I went to NYC was to attend SCBWI’s first annual winter conference (it was my first time spending a big chunk o’ money on this writing thing). The second time I went was to meet with several editors as my prize for winning SCBWI’s Sue Alexander Award (it was my first time spending a big chunk o’ someone else’s money on this writing thing). Both times, I went alone.

Now, I’m going as an official author…and my honey’s coming with me!

On Sunday, June 3rd, I’m gonna bask in the literary candy store of BookExpo America. Meanwhile, my wife wants to run up the stairs of the Empire State Building. Unfortunately, this isn’t allowed anymore (other than during their annual race to the top). So does anyone know of another NYC skyscraper which allows access to its stairs for people who crave that kind of pain? Cuz that would be my wife.

On Monday, we’re gonna be the ultimate tourists and hit museums, restaurants, and Broadway shows from sun-up till almost sun-up again.

On Tuesday, I’m gonna briefly sit in on the recording of the audio book for Thirteen Reasons Why...which I know will absolutely fuh-reak me out! Then, I’m gonna swing by the Donnell Central Children’s Room and say “Hey!” to everyone’s favorite bloggin’ librarian. Meanwhile, my wife is gonna take her djembe (a handheld African drum) and find a nice street corner to serenade the East Coasters with her music. But does anyone know if she can get arrested for that? Cuz our flight is non-refundable and she really needs to get back in time for work.

On Wednesday, I’m gonna sit in on some more audio recording, listening to the second narrator bring my story to life. Then I’m going out to lunch with my editor from Listening Library. And then my editor from Razorbill is gonna show me around the Penguin empire, introducing me to all the creative and wonderful people who have worked so hard on my book. Meanwhile, my wife (who, by then, should be totally worn out) is gonna relax in Central Park with her sketchbook….which, to me, sounds like a perfectly sane thing to do.

- Jay

NOTE FROM MY WIFE: If any of you wanna join her for some skyscraper steppin’ or Central Park sketchin’, shoot me an e-mail.

NOTE TO ROBIN & EVE: Seriously, I would love for the two of you to come. But I used to work for the airlines, and they can tell when two women are scrunched up in a piece of luggage.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Middle Grade? Aisle 5 -- Robin

I just got back from the grocery store where I purchased some of those things they call “fresh vegetables.”

I’ve been so busy the past few weeks revising my middle grade novel that I’ve been relying on my friends over at Stouffer’s to feed the family. The cashier checking me out tonight asked, “Is this Japanese eggplant or Chinese eggplant?” I’m like, “Doesn’t matter! It’s not frozen!”

So another interesting thing has happened over these last few weeks while I’ve been obsessively revising. My husband has become very interested in the book I’m writing. Which is really quite cute, but also kinda weird, but also kinda cool.

He said he wanted to get a better understanding of what makes a good middle grade novel, and he asked me to recommend a book that is the quintessential middle grade book—something that’s fun and totally kid-friendly. I looked through my bookshelf and I handed him a copy of Frindle. You can’t get much better than that. Funny, well-written, and a book any kid would love. My husband sat down and read it in one sitting.


He loved it! He wanted more! He’s now hooked on middle grade fiction! (Thus, the kinda weird, but kinda cool part.)

Which brings me to my problem: What do I give him next? I need to find middle grade books, from classic to modern, that have great hooks and are just plain fun for kids to read.

Any suggestions?

- Robin

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two-Thirds Vote --Eve

People always ask me how we can operate so smoothly here in Disco-Land, since the three of us share big personalities, strong opinions, and love of the limelight. So, I thought I'd explain a few things about the Disco Mermaids and our very Democratic policies.

First, we are unusually lucky that the three of us agree on most of the important things, like which movies to see (if Colin Ferrell's in it...we're there!), where to eat (love pizza, burgers, and anything milkshake-y), who will drive (me...don't know why, I just always do), and which movie stars we'd want to smooch (Jessica Alba, anyone??).

There are very few things we disagree on, and we pretty much avoid those topics. Like, I won't name names, but one Disco Mermaid doesn't like a particular female presidential candidate that Jay and I LOVE, so sometimes that causes friction. And two Disco Mermaids LOVE dogs, and one is afraid of them, so sometimes Jay gets mad at us for making fun of him.

But when we really need to make a critical decision about something, we always put it to a vote. Two-thirds wins. No appeals, no re-counts. Here's an example of a recent Disco Mermaid voting record:

Color shirt Jay should wear for first speaking engagement: 1-Brown, 2-Pastel color that enhances his skin tone

Does Eve's book need another revision? 2-Yes, 1-No way; it's perfect!

What should we wear for the SCBWI conference theme party? 2-Something comfortable, 1-Something skanky-trashy

What should Robin work on next? 3-Funny Middle Grade...It's unanimous!

Should Eve cut her hair and get bangs? 2-Yes! 1-What are bangs?

And, yes, having three of us does get a little tricky sometimes, because when you have an odd number of BFF's, somebody's always left out. Unfortunately, sometimes that somebody is the other day when we were playing at my house, and Jay and Robin voted that every day of the week that ends in "day" will from now on be "Make Fun Of Eve Day,"...Then, I wasn't so down with the whole democracy thing.

Love to the DM's! Tomorrow's officially been renamed "Mon" so no busting on the Evie...HA!


Friday, May 18, 2007

A Funny Li'l Tickle -- Jay

I spent the morning writing at home. I spent the afternoon writing in a coffee shop. Then I spent some time talking about writing in a hot tub with Robin, Eve, and Robin’s almost five-year-old son. Actually, I didn’t talk to Robin’s son about writing, but I did spend about an hour acting like his personal human surfboard.

When I returned home and got the mail, I also got a funny li’l tickle in my tummy! Even though my book hasn’t been released yet, every so often I get a reminder that my Years-In-The-Making dream has finally come true (or will come true in exactly five months from today!).

I’ve received a few letters recently from companies offering to help me schedule speaking engagements, or to help me set up a website, etc... But today I received a letter promising that if I “have the basic aptitude, we’ll teach you how to break into print with the kinds of stories and articles that editors want now.” So I’m thinking of taking their “FREE Qualifying Test” to see where I stand. Maybe they’ll be upfront and tell me that I’ve got no talent and there's no hope of developing my skills. Because wouldn’t that be great to know now?

But I'm pretty sure they’ll tell me I do have what it takes. And then they’ll tell me that if I want the secrets to breaking in, all I've gotta do is fork over the dough.

- Jay

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pucker Up, Girls -- Robin

They say it’s helpful to read your manuscript out loud, but I've decided I am not going to read my young adult novel out loud any more. I have a feeling my 4-year-old (almost 5!) has been listening in.

Last weekend we went to the birthday party of a little girl in his preschool class, and I spent the entire time telling him to stop kissing all the girls. Some of the kisses were even long kisses, the kind that end up on page 142 of a certain young adult novel.

During the pony rides I actually had to walk over to my boy, drag him away from the group by the arm, bend down to his level and say, “Um, let’s not the kiss the girls…right now.” I had to add the “right now”—I didn’t want to squelch his admiration of girls (because admiring girls is a very good thing, if not necessary). He just needs to learn the whens and whys of kissing (he seems to have figured out the hows). But I couldn’t help thinking: Whatever happened to just being fascinated with dinosaurs?

As I looked around at all the girls at the party, I started thinking that these are the ones he’ll go to elementary school with, and then eventually to high school, and then possibly to college. And one of these little munchkins might just end up being my daughter-in-law. Crap! We gotta find us a good one!

I turned to explain all of this to my little boy, but he was sitting up on the hill with his arm around another little girl. I thought about running up there and giving him the “not right now” lecture again, but honestly…I was just glad to see him moving on from dinosaurs.

So I think over the coming years, I may steer him away from young adult novels and just have him read this book over and over.

And if he ever gets confused and has questions, he should read this one.

- Robin

Monday, May 14, 2007

It Happens In Threes --Eve

"Kidz In The Wood" is my upper middle grade labor of love that I've obsessed over for a long long time. A few minutes ago I finished my final revisions that will be sent to editors. Tonight in my delirious, sleep-deprived haze, I reflect on the interesting timeline associated with the writing of this book:

May 2003: Begin writing "Kidz"
May 2006: Finish writing "Kidz"
August 2006: Finish revising "Kidz"
November 2006: Sign with a wonderful agent and "Kidz" is submitted
February 2007: "Kidz" turned down by five editors. Begin major revisions based on editors' comments
May 2007: Finish re-revising "Kidz"

Notice a pattern? Neither did I, until right NOW! It took exactly three years to write "Kidz", exactly three months to revise, exactly three more months to find an agent, exactly three more months to get revision suggestions, and exactly three more months to re-revise. (And exactly three minutes to write this post!) My horoscope says that May 18th is my luckiest day of the year, and something major will come to fruition that will change my life. Is it possible that my agent will get an offer on "Kidz" in exactly three days?? Maybe I'll get a three-book, three million dollar deal in a three-house auction. And then the three Disco Mermaids will celebrate by going to a triple-feature movie and eating tres leches cake and drinking three-rum Mai Tais! Okay, I may be going a little crazy, but give me a break...I'm running on empty here with only three total hours of sleep from the weekend!

(Three letters in my name! Ha-ha! Just noticed that.)

Friday, May 11, 2007

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-Hi -- Jay

I love letters. Whether it’s an e-mail forwarded from my editor or a Good morning! note written by my wife and placed beside a fresh pot of coffee before leaving for work, I love ’em. (And if you don’t understand the title of this post, or how it relates, I’m sorry…but I like it!)

Let’s start with my wife. On most days, I’m the first to wake up because my job starts earlier. On other days, we carpool so she can squeeze in a workout before work (which sounds like self-inflicted torture to me). But on Friday, I slept in because I didn’t have to work. At least, not in my day job (the one with the regular paychecks). In order to spend more time on my second novel, I’m taking some personal leave from the library. During the next four weeks, I’ll have four-day weekends. And to help inspire me for Day 1 of my new schedule, my wife left me one of the most beautiful notes I’ve ever read. I’m not going to tell you everything it said (because tears have a way of messing up my keyboard), but it included lines like “Just take a deep breath and let yourself do what you do best…write :-)” and “ yourself…” and “P.S. Here's coffee for you.” And even though I woke up later than I’d planned, the coffee was still warm!

Now, onto the e-mail. When the Thirteen Reasons Why galleys went out recently, they included a letter from my editor on the first page. She also included her e-mail address in case anyone wanted to share their thoughts. Well, someone did. And once again, I’m not going to repeat everything it said for the same reason as mentioned above (let's just say that when I showed it to our head children’s librarian, she started crying). Here are a couple snippets: “I found myself trying to read faster, to find out what was going on, while at the same time trying to read slower so that it would last longer” and “…it reminded me of why I love reading.”

So what does that kind of letter do to a debut novelist? For one thing, it makes it a heckuva lot more stressful to write Book 2!

- Jay

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All Mermaid and No Disco Makes Robin a Dull Girl -- Robin

I finished the rewrite of my middle grade novel. Woo-hoo! It’s off to my Super Awesome Agent and out of my hands. Which means my hands are free to do whatever they please! Woo-hoo!

The first thing I did with my free hands was hug my husband for doing the dishes and kind of doing the laundry for the past two weeks. (Thank goodness my son likes his dark blue shorts so much.)

Then I picked up the phone and called my fellow Mermaids to tell them I was finished…that I needed to celebrate…that it was time for the Disco Mermaids to hit the town!!

And how did they respond?

Jay: Can’t. Gotta write.

Eve: Um, yeah, see, you know I love you, but see, um, you know how, like, I’m rewriting my novel too, and um, you know I love you, right? For reals…seriously…I can’t. Gotta write. Love you! You complete me! Have fun all by yourself!

So there I was. Just a single solitary Mermaid out on the town celebrating her accomplishments with no one by her side. Where was the love? The support? The lack of responsibility?

But I didn’t care. It was time to party.

I happily sat down in the coffee shop of a local bookstore and sipped a lovely extra-hot latte while reading the latest Cosmo from cover to cover. (Did you know they have discovered six new ways to please your partner that will blow their mind!? Me neither.)

After I took lots of notes, I put my Cosmo away and engaged in some serious retail therapy. And $64 later, I was healed.

Now I’m off to do the rest of the laundry and hug my husband again for dragging in all those bags from the car. It ain’t like Eve and Jay will do it…

- Robin
(who really loves Eve and Jay and respects that they love writing more than a friendship that might’ve lasted a lifetime)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Agents in the O.C. -- Eve

Debby Garfinkle - Laura Rennert - Jay Asher

It was Agent-Palooza in the O.C. this weekend during the Orange County/Inland Empire SCBWI Agent’s Day. We didn’t run into Mischa Barton or Peter Gallagher, but I did get to schmooze with agents Kelly Sonnack (Sandra Dijkstra Agency), Nephele Tempest (The Knight Agency), and my very own agent, Laura Rennert. Oh, yeah, and I had the great fortune of hanging out and dining with authors Debby Garfinkle (of Storky fame) and…wait for it…wait for it…

JAY ASHER!!! (of Thirteen Reasons Why fame). That’s right, Jay broke on through to the other side (literally) of the giant conference room. He sat in the front facing us with hundreds of eyeballs locked on him, hanging on his every word. I have to say, I felt like a proud parent sitting in the crowd with my video camera, wearing my “I ‘heart’ JAY ASHER” button. After getting a little choked up while telling his success story, he had the crowd in stitches one moment and gasping in suspense the next. The highlight for me was hearing the crowd’s reactions while we read from Jay’s book. Jay read Clay’s part (the main character), and I read Hannah’s part (the deceased speaking from the dead), and I’m telling you…we should take this show on the road! But seriously, no matter how bad of an acting job I did, Jay’s prose is so intriguing; it could hook the most reluctant of readers.

Other Highlights:

Laura Rennert had so much to say, I filled my notebook with her words of wisdom, even though I’ve talked to her about all this before. Amazingly, in one short hour she defined buzzwords like High Concept, boiled down the essential elements of a good book, de-mystified Voice, simplified plot and structure, and just plain inspired us all to think big and write well. If you ever get a chance to see Laura speak, Go, Go, Go!! She’s not to be missed.

It was interesting to note how different agents operate and how varied their tastes are. Kelly Sonnack leans toward literary works, Nephele Tempest is mainly interested in commercial fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal YA books, and Laura Rennert is known for representing the commercial-literary book.

The speakers (and I) capped off the day by sipping cocktails around a fire pit, laughing and chattering about everything from YA sex scenes to multicultural books to the evils of censorship. Debby Garfinkle told hysterical stories of her road to success (you must see her speak as well), Marlene Perez told hysterical stories of van collisions and critiques gone awry. I don’t know if Jay and I added anything to the hysterics, but we did tell stories of how we like to ding-dong-ditch hotel guests at the SCBWI annual conference. We regress back to Junior High when we hang around Kid-Lit authors, and we believe our antics help us tap into our inner 14-year-olds…it’s for research, man! At least, that’s what we told our agent so she didn’t think we were just immature.

- Eve

Friday, May 04, 2007

Reali-tease -- Jay

In Thirteen Reasons Why, as Clay listens to Hannah's recorded voice describe the events that lead to the end of her life, he also visits places she red-starred on a Chamber of Commerce map. When some librarians, booksellers, and reviewers receive the Advance Reading Copy of my book, they will also receive that map. And when I first received my copies earlier this week, I almost started crying.

My imaginary world is slowly seeping its way into reality...and it's freaking me out! When you unfold the above map, there's a full-color aerial view drawing of the Historic Crestmont Business District. Do you think Louis Sachar ever walks outside to find his front yard filled with holes five feet deep by five feet wide, dug by his publisher? No. Do you think Carolyn Mackler keeps opening packages of big round things that her publisher keeps mailing her? No! But when you're a Penguin author, all sorts of weird things happen that make you think you're losing your mind.

Not that I mind, of course.

On the backside of each Crestmont map is a page containing ads for several places mentioned in my book. Places that I just totally made up! There's the high school, the diner, the coffee shop, the movie theater, the liquor store, and the local library:

You can click all you want on the above picture, but you'll have a better chance of checking out Razorbill's new website by clicking here.

- Jay

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What's in Your Van? -- Robin

Yesterday I was sitting at my computer pulling my hair out trying to finish the last paragraph of my rewrite on my middle grade novel. The problem was that I had to change the ending completely since I had altered the timeline. So the old ending just didn’t make sense. And endings are very important.

It needed to be just as punchy. Just as funny. And kinda brilliant. And thus…me sitting at my computer pulling my hair out.

Then I remembered something that my good friend Jay once told me: Don’t dance in public anymore.

He also told me another story that’s actually related to all of this. He said that he once read an article about the guy who wrote the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Apparently, while he was writing it, there was a scene that he couldn’t figure out how to resolve. Remember when they’re in the van and they get pulled over by the cop and then the cop lets them go because of something he finds in the back of the van? (I won’t say what he finds in the back of the van because it’s a little vulgar and this is a family operation here.)

Well, while he was writing it, he knew he needed the cop to let the family go, but he couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then a friend told him to write down everything that was in the van. Maybe the answer was already in there. So that’s what he did, and there…sitting in the back of the van…was his answer. Yes, vulgar, but oh so perfect!

I remembered this “What’s in your van?” story yesterday while rewriting my ending. I knew there had to be the perfect word, the perfect prop, and the perfect reason for it to end, you know…perfectly.

So I kept asking myself, “What’s in my van? What’s in my van?” (Only my story isn’t about a van, it’s about middle school, but it was still helpful.) And sure enough, when I kept digging around in the story a little more, the answer…and my ending…was already there.

So, what’s in your van?

- Robin

Okay, just for kicks, let’s see what’s in my van literally. Hang on, I’m going out to my mini-van right now to see what’s in it. Okay, I’m back inside (it was cold out there!). Here’s what’s in my van:

Chapstick, coffee mug, pens, hand lotion, CD holder, stacks of papers from work, overdue library books, a stuffed shark, jacket, shoes, backpack, sand toys, a plastic dinosaur, a bag of new clothes from Kohl’s that I’ll sneak into the house later, sunglasses, oops--more overdue library books, a dog leash, some hardened raisins, and a half empty water bottle that Evie left in there on Sunday (thanks for gunking my van up, Eve!!)

Maybe I’ll call my movie Little Miss Packrat!