Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Details, Details -- Eve

A recent poll of married American women revealed that 35% would agree to a one“date” with Matthew All-My-Shirts-Are-In-The-Wash McConaughey if their husbands could never find out. When I asked my husband what he thought of that, he replied, “Well, it’s an important study. It proves that 65% of American women lie.” HA!

I’m a stickler for statistics. Like this one: Only 1 in 4 Americans read a whole book in the last year. What?? How about this one: 1 in 10 kids have been drunk by the age of twelve. You’re kidding me, right? And my favorite: Over 25% of women who reach the age of 100 have never been married. But...100% of men who reach age 100 are married or widowed. Fascinating! I don’t know what any of this means, but I’m very entertained by statistical minutia. What fun I am at cocktail parties…Woo! Go Evie...It's your birthday...(doing the Cabbage Patch as we speak).

Having a science background, I realized that I should probably use some of that ridiculously expensive education and weave some science into my novels. My YA work-in-progress is filled with scientific facts and stats. Not boring ones, but important ones, like, you are 28 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than a great white shark. And, silver-colored cars get into far more collisions than any other cars. Good thing I just painted mine hot pink! Because my main character weighs the risks and benefits of everything she does, she obsesses over facts like these to get through the day.

Like my character, I am obsessive by nature, so I spend most of my days researching like a mad woman. For my first novel, I researched Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the history of superheroes, black bears, geology of faults, volcanoes and earthquakes, origins of Los Angeles' Bloods and Crips, PTSD, Buddhism, Crazy Horse, and the struggle of the Lakota Sioux. Random, but it all fit together in the end.

For this second book, I’m researching things as varied as neurodegenerative diseases, the science of memory, surfing, history and geography of Big Sur, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation, astrology, classic literature, assisted suicide, death sentences, and Alice In Wonderland symbolism. Tomorrow I’m headed out on a research trip to literally walk in the footsteps of my main character. Since the book begins with her undergoing testing for a rare and devastating disease, I am driving up to the UCSF Medical Center to begin the lengthy testing process and experience exactly what she would. Even though this is fiction, I want the feelings and details to be completely raw and authentic. Then in a few weeks, I’ll road trip up Highway 1, just as my character will when she sets out to unlock the mysteries of her past.

Unfortunately, this is a pretty serious book. Otherwise, I’d toss Matthew McConaughey into the story as a love interest and head to Malibu next week for some in-depth research!

- Eve

Monday, January 28, 2008

Always Cross Your Fingers -- Jay

Razorbill has started working on the paperback version of Thirteen Reasons Why (which won't be out for a long time, so ya might as well go buy the hardcover!). When I first heard about this, I asked if they wanted any new author blurbs for the book cover. I had one particular author in mind, and they told me that if I could get that blurb, I’d be their favorite author.

Okay, those weren’t their exact words…but I’m really good at reading into things.

I first met Ellen Hopkins at the 2007 SCBWI national conference (a couple months before my book came out). I introduced myself while getting her to sign my copy of Crank, and she said she’d already heard really good things about my book. Seriously, that made me almost collapse. Then, soon after my book came out, I somehow found myself sitting on a panel with her during a bookstore gig. Hearing her talk to the audience about her philosophy on writing, I became a huge fan of hers. I mean, I was already a fan of her books, but I gained a deep respect for her as an author. Her take on dealing with difficult subjects and presenting the story honestly made me feel like I had a kindred spirit in the world of authors. And I thought she might like my book if she ever read it.

When Robin and I crashed the Big Sur writing conference, where Ms. Hopkins was on the faculty, I had the chance to listen in on her discussing my book with other faculty members. She hadn’t finished the book yet, but had definite opinions on what she’d read so far, and it was extremely positive.

But then…I didn't hear from her. And authors are constantly letting each other know when we like a book.

Being an overly sensitive guy, I assumed that meant she hated the rest of the book and was afraid to tell me so. Eventually, I crossed my fingers and e-mailed her, asking if she’d be willing to give me a blurb for the paperback. But I closed my e-mail with something like: Of course, if you hated my book, there’s no need to respond.

And she returned my e-mail with this:

Every once in awhile you come across a book that you can't get out of your mind, one you have to rush back to if you must put it down for some reason. Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books, and is at the very top of my personal "Must-Read" list.

Ellen Hopkins, author of NY Times bestsellers, Crank, Burned, Impulse and Glass
At that, I uncrossed my fingers!

- Jay

Friday, January 25, 2008

Viva La Vegan! -- Robin

I’m celebrating my two-month anniversary. And I’m celebrating by going all out with an extra large helping of…spinach salad.

And maybe some raspberry sorbet.

It was two months ago that I decided to become a vegan. No meat. No dairy. (But truth be told, once a week I do broil some salmon. Shhhh!) Becoming a vegan is huge for me. Ask Jay and Eve, I used to be addicted to cheese sticks and all things made by those nice people at In-N-Out Burger.

But I was handed a book by my uncle last November, The China Study, and all of that changed. Sure, one reason I decided to become vegan had to do with healthy living. But it was also because of political reasons. The manner in which nutritional information gets shared (or not shared) by our government is appalling to me. If I choose to eat a cheeseburger, I want it to be my fully-informed decision…after knowing all the consequences of that choice. So now I choose to only eat things that are not furry. (Except for kiwi, which are just so cute!)

This post is in no way an attempt to alter your eating habits. I’m just trying to change Jay and Eve’s eating habits. Come on, guys! Join my weirdness, would ya!?

What’s really weird is that I recently looked through the opening chapters of my middle grade novel, which I started writing about six months ago. In one scene, my main character is eating dinner with her mother. They’re eating spaghetti and meatballs. Meatballs! (I almost hurled just typing that word.) So I had to change their meal to plain ol’ meatless pasta. Is that weird? Does anyone else change their character’s habits to reflect their own? I realize I should separate myself from my story, but in this case, it’s meatless pasta and it’s going to stay meatless pasta.

Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal had an article in Friday’s paper about NFL star Tony Gonzalez becoming vegan…because he also read The China Study. If he can do it, I can do it! My next goal is to eat a bunch of fruits and vegetables and try out for tight-end of the Kansas City Chiefs. Wish me luck!

But this vegan thing isn’t going to be easy. The other day when I went to Subway to order a sandwich, the conversation went like this:

“I’d like a six-inch veggie on wheat.”
“What kind of cheese would you like?”
“No cheese.”
“What kind of cheese?”
“No cheese.”
“What kind?”
“None. I don’t want any cheese. None at all.”
- long pause -
“No cheese?”

I’ve never yelled no at someone in my entire life. Not only have I become a vegan…but I’ve become a b*#&*!

- Robin

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Technology Schmechmology -- Eve

I absentmindedly opened a strange email today and downloaded a virus that threatened to scramble all my manuscripts, delete five years of digital pictures that I never learned how to print, and somehow jack all my credit card numbers, “secure” passwords, and other important numbers or letters I’ve typed into my computer. The wicked bug was probably about to assault me with a fever, hacking cough, and flesh-eating sores as well. Jeez! Who in the world spends his free time making these bugs, anyway? Get a hobby, dude.

Although I was supposed to spend the day brainstorming and writing with Jay, I ended up quarantined in my living room, bathing my computer in expensive anti-viral medicines and performing exorcisms and Obi Shaman rituals to cast the virus out. It was an incredibly frustrating day punctuated by F-word filled rants (to myself) and vows to write my next novel on my old Smith-Corona manual typewriter.

I absolutely hate technology. I’d rather chat with friends in a coffee shop than text them silly messages. And I’d rather read a real book made of paper than glue my eyes to the computer screen or listen to the audio version (except for Jay’s book, of course!). I don’t even enjoy talking on the cell phone. And how am I supposed to push those teeny-tiny buttons with my pudgy fingers? Of course, I realize that without technology you wouldn’t be reading this ranting blog post, and I wouldn’t have the pleasure of reading Jay and Robin’s morning emails that always crack me up and remind me why I write in the first place.

Technology is a big paradox. For every positive it provides, there is always an evil. Medical technology, for instance, is advancing so quickly that it’s producing a lot of unforeseen consequences and unintended harm. And sometimes treatments end up causing worse problems than the disease itself. It’s pretty fitting that my YA work-in-progress has evolved from a simple love story into an examination of the benefits and pitfalls of technological advances. And because my main character is a victim of technology gone wrong, she chooses to live a tech-free existence. Of course, since I’m really hating technology today, but can’t seem to live without it, I’ll be living life vicariously through her. As much as I complain about the tech-y world, I’d still have a hard time living without Guitar Hero and American Idol in High-Def on the plasma big screen.

- Eve

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mullet Onslaught -- Jay

One question I get asked a lot during Q&A sessions with teens is, "What were you like in high school?" I have a hard time with that question because I still haven't decided on whether or not I enjoyed high school. For some reason, that's made it hard to figure out what I was like. So I end up talking about what interested me in high school. And other than was music.

Yep. I wanted to be a rock star.

And I recently let it slip that there's a photo in my sophomore yearbook of the very first band I played in. Then someone dared me to put that photo up on my blog. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I never pass up a good dare.

So here ya go...

This is Mental Onslaught, featuring Mike on bass, Javier on drums, me on guitar, and my mullet on vocals (hey, it was 1991). Before we formed this band, none of us knew how to play a single instrument. So we basically played rock-paper-scissors to divide up the instrumental duties and then we each immediately signed up for lessons. But we still needed a singer. Unfortunately, everyone was too embarrassed to sing in front of each I was nominated to that position simply because my dad used to sing in a bunch of bands.

C'mon...I'm sure a lot of famous bands started this way!

The deadline for the yearbook was fast approaching, so we snapped this photo and turned it in. (What you can't see are the handcuffs attached to each of our belt loops!) Unfortunately, Mental Onslaught soon disbanded...without ever learning to play an entire song together. But we each bounced from band to band throughout the rest of high school. In fact, after graduating, Mike and Javier joined a punk bad which toured and recorded a couple C.D.s.

But I'm the one getting paid to revisit and explore my teen years again and again. And maybe, eventually, that'll help me figure out whether or not I enjoyed being a teen.

Rock on!

- Jay

P.S. For those about to and my mullet salute you!!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mermaid Mania -- Robin

Yes, I have Mermaid Mania. It’s getting a little out of control, really. I’ll tell you what happened. It’s a sweet story about three very good friends. It’s also a story about me being a dork.

A few days ago, I needed help. My agent and I decided it would be best if I switched gears for a while and revisited the young adult novel I’d been working on. We decided on a deadline to revise the novel, after which I would happily get back to my middle grade book. It sounded like a reasonable idea.

But my YA has been sitting in a drawer (I think that sounds more interesting than “in an electronic file on my laptop”) and I haven’t looked at it in almost a year. When I did, I realized…I needed help.

Enter the Mermaids. We held an emergency meeting at our favorite coffee shop and problem-solved my novel for almost three hours. We added storylines, took out storylines, changed family dynamics, and strengthened the characters’ motivations. We also drank a lot of coffee and made a lot of crude attempts at humor. I’ll never look at the paintings in that coffee shop the same way again.

Later that night, we all e-mailed each other to say thank you and to summarize what we’d learned (in a Doogie Howser sort of way). My husband rolled his eyes and told me to go to bed. But when I put on my pajamas, I didn’t realize that I had put on my Disco Mermaid t-shirt (the one with the Don Tate designed logo…I love that shirt!).

I started to change into another shirt, but my husband told me not to take it off…that he’s come to accept that this is who I am. A dork.

(Hey! He married me! Now who’s the dork? Eh?)

- Robin

Bonus Post:
I saw the best bumper sticker today. It said…

Wag More
Bark Less

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Next Week's Probably Gonna Suck -- Jay

This week, I was handed a whole bunch o' good news. For starters, my editor informed me that Thirteen Reasons Why was heading into its second printing. And that’s awesome because it had a very nice first printing of 40,000 copies! Basically, that means there are already enough books in print to give one copy to every person in Lima, Ohio…or Jefferson City, Missouri…or Fairbanks, Alaska. But now, citizens in neighboring towns will have a chance to read my book, as well.

Note: I chose those three cities because, as of today, I haven’t personally heard from any readers there. So Lima, Jefferson, and Fairbanks...I’m putting you on notice!

Next, I learned that Thirteen Reasons Why was placed onto three very cool lists by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):

  • Best Books for Young Adults
  • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults

It's impossible to fully describe how thrilled I am to have my book added to those lists. But the most exciting part for me is knowing that librarians think I wrote something a reluctant reader will find interesting.

Okay. Bring on next week. I’m ready!

- Jay

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Awake for Awards -- Robin

Is anyone else exhausted? Awards season really messes with my sleep. And this year was a “perfect storm” for losing sleep. Not only did they announce the Caldecott, the Newbery, and the Printz awards…but the night before was the Golden Globes. (The lame Golden Globes. No beautiful dresses and no Hottie McHotties to look at. Waaahhhhh!)

I was also exhausted from converting the time change to figure out what time I’d have to wake up to listen to the live broadcast of the ALA announcements. Let’s see, they’re announcing at 7:45 a.m. eastern time, so if I add three hours…no, subtract three hours…then add fifteen minutes in order to brew a pot of coffee…no, subtract fifteen minutes! Doh!

So I slept in.

Mainly, I was so tired from screaming at my television all night when anything other than Weeds or 30 Rock won a Golden Globe. I love Tina Fey (at least she won best actress!) and I love Mary-Louise Parker (she was amazing in Angels in America…and, of course, Fried Green Tomatoes).

So hopefully no children’s book awards will be announced in February when the Oscars roll around. But please, Hollywood, I’m begging…don’t cancel the Oscars. We need some Hottie McHotties to look at this time!!

- Robin

Monday, January 14, 2008


American Library Association
Awards Announcement

By the time they announced the winners,
how many had you read?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Contemporary Novels...From the Past

Publication date: 2003

Publication date: 1491

(wife of Christopher Columbus)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gone Clubbin' -- Jay

Today I want to tell you about the most amazing and personally inspiring thing to happen since the release of Thirteen Reasons Why. And it all started in Alabama!

Last month, Holtville Middle School held the very first (as far as I know) book club discussion using my book...

A little over a month before the discussion, their school librarian contacted me and we began brainstorming ways to make the meeting as special as possible for the students. On my end, I sent the students bookmarks and autographed bookplates. They submitted questions about the book or my writing process to Mrs. Stewart, and then I recorded my answers on an audiocassette (if you don't understand why, read the book!), which they listened to as part of their meeting...

On Mrs. Stewart's end, not only did she supply good food, but she invited Dr. Adams from the Alabama State Department of Safety and Prevention to lead a discussion on the warning signs of suicide.

I was extremely touched to have Mrs. Stewart using my book to positively affect her community. (You can read the HMS blog to get their take on how it went.) But from there, the idea started spreading. Now schools in many states across the country are putting together their own Thirteen Reasons Why book clubs, following Holtville Middle School's format. I'll be sending every school freebies and an audiocassette answering their questions, and they'll provide a professional in the field to discuss the issues raised in the book.

Of course, there will also be a lot of silliness which takes place. For example, look at what happens when there's only one copy of the book left...

- Jay

Sunday, January 06, 2008

You Want a Piece of Me? -- Eve

I don’t know how other artists feel, but for me every story I write or picture I paint is a piece of me. Like a chunk of my flesh is slapped onto a canvas or piece of paper and hung on the wall for all the world to see. And judge.

Though I’m pretty silly most of the time, I take my art and writing very seriously. On the surface my paintings are fairly lighthearted, but each one reflects a mood or experience that I couldn’t quite shake. I can look at each one (of the hundred or so that lurk in my closets) and recall where I was, how I was feeling, and what life decisions, memories, and dilemmas my brain was processing when it was created. It’s a part of me. Like a limb or organ. During my first art show, a few years back, someone wrote in my guestbook, “I don’t like all the colors at once. It’s just way too much.” I went through the stages of grief: anger, defensiveness, insecurity, sadness, acceptance (that I’m a total no-good hack who should never wield a paintbrush again).

I know we’ve used the baby metaphor to death, but it’s so appropriate for us book writers. Prior to conception, there’s a lot of planning and confronting doubts and fears. When we’re deep into the pregnancy period of creating our books, we live, eat, and breathe our stories. After birth, when the books are delivered to our editors, the real nurturing ensues. But, even after our offspring leave the nest and settle into bookshelves around the world, we worry about them constantly. And it pains us to the core when they are misunderstood or people speak ill of them.

So, I cannot even imagine how difficult it will be to read reviews of my novel once it is published. Even a tepid review will probably feel like my kid’s first grade teacher is telling me that my beautiful, brilliant child is not as good or smart as my delusions led me to believe. It’s such a bizarre thing that we artists place our hearts and souls on display, and hope people don’t tear them apart. Maybe facing the criticism gets easier with time. Like, we reach a point where we swim in confidence and shun those who don’t understand us.

Or maybe we just learn to focus on the positive. Like, tonight, I flipped through that old guestbook from my art show and noticed that on the last page somebody wrote, “You have really nice legs!” And I felt much better about myself.

Take that, man who hates lots of colors! How you like me now?

- Eve

Friday, January 04, 2008

Color Me Purple -- Robin

"One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight."

I have read this first line of Harold and the Purple Crayon to my son regularly for years. But that was as far in the book as I could get because he always responded, “Nuh-uh,” then closed the book and grabbed his dinosaur encyclopedia instead.

Finally, just the other night, he carefully slid it out of the vertical stacks of books on his shelf and said, “Let’s read this one, Mommy.”

We sat on his bed and read it together, each enjoying it immensely, but each getting something totally different out of the book. My son liked the fact that it was a magic crayon. And he liked guessing what Harold was going to draw on the next page.

I enjoyed figuring out how Harold was going to get out of this ridiculous mess he’d got himself into! It had been years since I’d read the book and I’d forgotten how Harold got home. (But hey—if you need the name of any predatory dinosaur, I’m your girl!)

I figured that since Harold had drawn himself a boat when he found himself in deep water, he’d just draw himself a car and a nice detailed map in order to get himself back to his cozy bedroom. But that’s not what happened.

The story ended up being about perspective. That if you look at a problem in a different way, you might just figure it out. Harold created an entire city with many windows, but he realized that none of them were his. Then, he remembered how he used to see the moon through the window of his room. Which meant all he needed to do was draw a box around the moon…and he’d be back inside looking out.

When we got to that page in the book, I tried to explain to my son that Harold was now inside his bedroom looking out. His eyes got huge and I was afraid his brain was going to explode. I thought he’d never want to read the book again. But that’s not what happened.

The next morning, at 6:30 a.m., my boy tip-toed into my bedroom, placed the book next to me and whispered, “I want to draw a city…just like Harold.”

So he did...

- Robin

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Watcha Want -- Jay

Tell me watcha want, watcha really really want.

Okay, I know I’m dating myself by ripping off that song lyric, but it’s what today’s post is about. Plus, it’s a catchy song. Don’t deny it!

From what I understand, people start applying in January to speak at the national SCBWI conference. And that’s something I really really wanna do. Two years ago, Lisa Yee invited the Disco Mermaids to be guest speakers in her workshop on blogging. Last year, I spoke on a panel with other members of the (now graduated) Class of 2k7. But this year, I wanna take that final step and lead my own workshop.

So I wanna know, for those of you who’ve attended lots of writing conferences, what were some of your favorite workshops? Or what are some workshops you don’t see enough of?

And for those of you who rarely go to conferences, what types of workshops would make a conference worthwhile?

Any ideas would be helpful. Just throw ’em out there. Because I really really really wanna ziz-a-zig ah!

(Sorry. Had to do it…)

- Jay


(Drumroll please...)

Kirkus Reviews - Editor's Choice
Borders - Original Voices Finalist
Barnes & Noble - Top 10 Best Books for Teens
Book Sense - Winter Pick
Association of Booksellers for Children - Best Books
Foreign Rights Sold: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Finding Discoland #6

“Seek and ye shall find…something TOTALLY different than what you were looking for.”

Such is the case for those who typed the following words into search engines and discovered us. The Disco Mermaids!

- robin jay white -
(but eve very tan)

- dressed penguins -
(are not as annoying as chihuahuas in handbags)

- runny noses gas leak -
(we guess that's better than runny gas noses leak)

- lisa yee underpants -
(lisa, we'd really like to know why someone was searching for this)

- leprechaun yourself -
(no, you leprechaun yourself)

- is a blue jay stronger than a robin -
(no, but a happy jay is unstoppable)