Monday, May 31, 2010

Almost Forgot!

I realized today that I hadn't rambled about my trip up to the Virginia Hamilton Conference at my now-alma mater Kent (woot! degree!). It was awesome. Not only did I get to see my friends' house & dog (both of which were FAR cooler than photographs could have shown... seriously, they're remodeling that house posh), but I also got to meet one of my most-favorite authors ever: Laurie Halse Anderson! And I twittered the whole thing like a freakin' junkie. Oops. But here's the play-by-play.
  • From the first evening/ signing: YAAAY!!! Just met @halseanderson and only cried A LITTLE! I did manage to tell her that speak saved my life. :')
  • Accidentally sent this 2 myself not twitter: Pam Munoz Ryan's speech made me all weepy. Really touching! But i'm such a human hosepipe.
That evening, we had desserts (I'm pretty sure I ate at least three people's share of chocolate-dipped strawberries) and listened to Pam Munoz Ryan speak (who was just wonderful and heartfelt), followed by an hour of a Kent-based band... they were somewhat African-influenced, but really a fusion of many styles. Very danceable, but I certainly didn't want to be the only person over the age of two groovin' in there, so I just chair-wiggled a bit and clapped.

The next morning, my friend Lisa had made me cinnamon streusel muffins, so it's not like I could turn THOSE down! (and oh my goodness they were worth it) So I made it a bit late to Pam Munoz Ryan's author chat, but still sidled in to hear about her writing process and all those pieces I normally enjoy learning more about.

It's been long enough now that I can't remember everything that Laurie Halse Anderson talked about in hers, but it was, of course, very funny and extremely intelligent. Once again, it's always so much fun to hear an author speak when you really know their work... you can see how the voice in the two matches up.
  • From the author chat in the morning: @halseanderson was freaking hilarious today! And of course, insightful etc etc hehehe

Lunch was Lebanese food and uncomfortable conversation with a bunch of other loners at the conference. The side dishes were a.may.zing. And then we had Eleanor Roosevelt's pink angel food cake! Yum-o. (Yes, I love eating... can't you tell?)

I'm really disappointed with the third session I attended. It was "books that will make you blush (or not)" and it was a couple of older men book-talking new-ish releases in the least interesting way possible. I was not impressed. And the whole time, all I could think about was all the much better stuff I was probably missing. I did get a free book out of attending, but it wasn't one I was excited about. Bummer.

From the official keynote speech hoopla
  • @halseanderson is a FREAKING BADASS.
  • Schools w/o libraries are zombie schools! A school w/o libraries will produce the children of Voldemort! @halseanderson
  • DAMN @halseanderson is an amazing speaker. Seriously. Whoa.
  • BWahahaha! @halseanderson figured me out! 'are you the tweeting one?' XD
Again, I can't recall much that LHA talked about since I was lazy and didn't write about this right away. But again, it was easy to see why I love her books and why my students relate to her writing so well. And, as noted above, she figured out who I was, which worried me a little... does that make me creepy? I sure hope not. At least if I'm creepy, she took some pity on me, because she sent me a brief but very kind email the next week.
If you haven't read any of her work, her most famous is Speak, which is just awesome. I very recently read Twisted, which I also loved. I've *gasp* not read any of her historic fiction yet, but those are coming this summer.

I've still only read one of Munoz Ryan's "real" books, Esperanza Rising, but it was a lovely little near-fairy-tale store about her grandmother's emigration. Really, just very sweet. You'll read it in an afternoon... and if you're a little hosepipe like I am, you'll just sob, too. I do have a picture book by her that I just love, too, and this summer I'm picking up one she wrote about Pablo Neruda.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Panem Map

Since "dork-tastic" is only one of the many ways to describe ourselves around here, I thought I'd include something for those of you who are, like us, huge fans of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. This is a map of Panem that I made because I was bored; clicking on the points will give you information about what in the text made me decide this was a functional map.

View Districts in a larger map

Other things we know:
The trains average 250 mph.

Districts 7 & 10 are en route to the Capital for Katniss and Peeta when they first travel to the games. Johanna Mason is from District 7, so it's likely that this is a place that bricks are made or that there are quarries.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Before I Fall

I know that you all have seen it all over my Twitter, but don't forget that Before I Fall comes out next week! I have had the privilege of reading this one early, and it was gorgeous. I know I'm not alone in saying that this was an amazing book.

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite authors; Speak and Wintergirls both changed my life. Oliver's style is in some ways very similar to Anderson's. I think this book is every bit as good as Anderson's, and that is a massive compliment coming from me.

I Got a First Look at Barnes & Noble.  Get Your Copy Now

If you're not pre-ordering this now, you should read my (no-spoiler) review of the book. It still has me thinking three weeks after I read it, and I think I'm going to re-read it this week. Yes, already.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meeting Neil Himself

Mel and I went to see Neil Gaiman in Cleveland October 4th. If you have never picked up a Gaiman book, DO IT NOW. It doesn't matter which one. If he wrote it, it's good.

So, here's me with Neil Gaiman signing my Graveyard Book (that's the Newberry Winner for last year for those of you who haven't read Gaiman):

ICU, Laura. Looking all smug while Neil signs your book. You bitch.

He was pretty damned amazing in person. I was actually in line for the loo when he walked in the back door of the massive Cleveland library and seriously, as he walked by, the entire line of women swooned. He's not conventionally handsome, but he has Presence.

He's sort of exactly how you'd imagine him to be. Very, VERY smart and darkly witty, enthusiastic about macabre and mythology and very personally invested in his writing. Seems like the kind of guy who'd be up for anything but also needs to be a hermit a lot of days. Kind of a mix of Edgar Allan Poe and Indiana Jones. He read from a children's book he wrote about a boy called Odd, then took some questions, then read from the Graveyard Book. Then he stuck around and got everyone's book signed (over 1000 people. He joked about icing his hand with frozen peas.) When he signed my book and [info]mlwl 's, he drew a little tombstone with our name on it with a moon hanging overhead. This is why we love Neil Gaiman.

He says he's not very good at poetry, but from the way he talked about it, I don't believe him. I'm hoping he'll publish some soon. I'm also hoping he'll write some lyrics for Tori Amos soon. The two of them inspire each other and I totally ship that. (You know, in an alternate universe where Amanda Palmer didn't exist so he needed to date yet another fantastic girl musician.)

One thing that he said that I really took to heart... he was asked something along the lines of "How do you write what you do?" and he answered, "I put one word after another." To me that was extremely profound. I think a lot of times I need to quit worrying and just put one word after another and let the story fly. All too often I forget that in the first draft, an author is merely a vessel. The second draft she has to be an author but that first time through, you just have to let it go and get it on the page.

Well, while I wasn't looking I've started a collection of signed books. Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, John Green, Stephenie Meyer...ugh, if I could just get Jo Rowling's siggy...

Learning From the Masters

(Cross-posted from

LeakyCon was made of awesome.

For those of you who don't know, I work for a little Harry Potter website called The Leaky Cauldron. It's not really a 'little' site at all, actually. More like huge. And we're pretty much the definitive source for all things Harry. Specifically, I am an editor for Scribbulus, which is a site for essays and opinion pieces about the Harry Potter books. The website hosted its first ever convention a few weekends ago in Boston, and it was a raging success.

Not only was it great on a personal level because I got to see friends I hadn't seen in a while (or meet them face to face, finally, like my editor Nina), but I got to rub elbows with the likes of John and Hank Green, Lev Grossman, and Cheryl Klein.

Professionalism aside, there's nothing quite like hopping up and down on a dance floor with Hank Green and the entire Leaky staff, shouting "Don't Stop Believin'" at the top of our lungs, but I digress...

I went to a ton of lectures and presentations about writing. Lev Grossman's wit and intelligence basically left me a puddle of fangirl goo, and hearing about his process of writing The Magicians was wonderful. I think that a person's process can tell you a lot about their personality and how they think. By that measure, you could say that writing is exploration and thinking for me, and I felt Mr. Grossman was much the same. He likes pushing the envelope and challenging the world and the characters he creates, though, and I think my approach is a little opposite that. My characters begin challenged, and it's my job to help dig them out of the mess they've gotten themselves into (and perhaps in the process, they learn how to handle their world better).

I basically accosted Lev in the hotel lobby later that day. He signed a copy of his book, Codex, for me and we had a nice conversation about wizard rock before I felt myself go into fangirl mode and I made excuses and left before I embarrassed myself by squeeing all over him.

One of the most interesting and helpful keynotes I attended was a discussion between John Green and Cheryl Klein. (For the record, I am very envious of Cheryl Klein. Very.) They talked mainly about the process of editing and revision, and what it's like on both sides of the fence. It is very reassuring to hear an award-winning author say that his books started out nothing like they were published and that he still looks at his work and wishes he could change things. Sometimes I feel like I'll never be satisfied with True North, even though the changes Nina and I have made make it smooth like butter. I think we always just want to do better, as writers, we're always pushing ourselves. And I think that because artists create, that is what they do, we can't let things sit still. We want to keep creating, keep changing, keep it fresh.

Anyways... another thing they talked about was how essential it is for a writer to relinquish control to their editor, and to trust that editor deeply. I admit that I was worried about how I would handle the editing process, but I found that it was actually very easy for me. Not only did I trust Nina (she knew and loved my novel, plus she knew ME, which is very important. She knew what I was trying to say even when I didn't say it correctly.), but I honestly came to a point with my book where I knew that I was no longer the best thing for it. Another opinion was needed; a fresh eye was required. So I let Nina take the reins and it felt GOOD to watch my baby grow and fly.

Cheryl mentioned that there are a few authors who refuse to work with editors now, and so their work is basically published untouched. Stephenie Meyer is notoriously difficult, and I guess Anne Rice has now refused to let an editor touch her work.

Let me just pause to say that Anne Rice is by far the most influential author in my life. I started reading her stuff when I was only twelve, and her Vampire Chronicles and Cry to Heaven have shaped my writing in ways I probably couldn't even begin to explain. But here's my opinion: There are two people for whom a book is written. The writer and the reader. When I write, I'm exploring my beliefs and questioning the world around me. What comes out is a byproduct of that exploration. The second step is the reader, and the editor is essential in connecting the writer to the reader. I can lose myself in the process of writing. I can go off on tangents, lose a grasp of a character arc, leave a plot hole, etc. It's these mistakes that can lose a reader, and I think the editor is vital in making sure that doesn't happen. I think choosing not to edit shows a blatant disregard for that important second person in this process, I think you risk losing your message in your own pile of BS, and I think it's more than a touch egocentric.

There. I've said it.

Now that that's off my chest, I talked to Nina after this keynote and asked how I was to work with. Apparently, I wasn't too difficult. Ha. There were things I fought her on, things I believed in but had to be explained differently, things that she just didn't plain agree with, but she said overall I was more than willing to work through it. At one point, she suggested cutting a whole chapter. She was actually worried about telling me this for a few days and when she finally did I just shrugged and said, "Okay."

This is good. Editing needs to be a process of giving up the ego and letting your work achieve its full potential, which sometimes means it has to get there in spite of you. So, not to toot my own horn, but if I'm easy to work with now, I think it bodes well for me as a professional author.

Alright, I've rambled far too much and I didn't even get to the self-publishing stuff I wanted to talk about so... Soon I'll discuss self-publishing. What I think of the concept, if I would ever do it, and what it would mean if I did.

Oh, and being that it's summer, Kate and I are going to get A Writer's Notebook, our podcast, up and running. Be looking for that, too.

Until next time!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blog poll!

I'm going to write at least one blog post during NaNoWriMo and count it toward my total, and I'm going to poke Liz until she does the same. Hopefully, we'll even write on the same one, so you can hear a teeny bit about our favorite exploits.
Here are your choices...
  • The England & Scotland (2007) (1 of 4 or so parts: England 1, the Hogwarts Express, Scotland, and England 2), featuring various Leaky staffers & formers
  • Release of Breaking Dawn (2008), featuring the Scribbulus gals
  • Equus (2008), featuring the Scribbulus gals
  • More on LeakyCon (2009)
Tell us in the comments - what should we gab about?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Super-Late LeakyCon

Since we haven't really posted anything on here yet, I figured it was time to get crackin'. After all, we have nearly three years of book-driven vacations to celebrate! I'll start with the most recent...

We headed to Boston in late May for LeakyCon 2009. Granted, I'm probably a little bit biased, but I had a FREAKIN' BLAST. I was even quite sick and I still had fun. We danced to wrock every night except the night of the ball, which was still dancing, so it's a win for me. I heard a couple of really awesome authors speak, one of who's (Lev Grossman) book I just read... and it was wonderful, too. I went to the Nerdfighter gathering and listened to John and Hank crack jokes about each other and learned new songs there. I sat on Maureen Johnson's bed for about an hour with about 30 other people; some of that time was taken up by talking about feet in the Bible with Hank Green. (I couldn't make this up if I tried). I had lunches & dinners and parties and everything else with the amazing Leaky staff. I sang a really cool a capella arrangement of some HP music. I ate too much Au Bon Pain. I met an awesome drummer who is just squish-ably nice and has beautiful dreadlocks.

And did I mention that our decorators recreated the Great Hall in a castle in downtown Boston? Because that was effing fantastic.

The handful of us who went to check it out early nearly cried when we walked in, and we pretty much knew everyone else would have the same reaction. Amazing. Art of the Event totally blew us away with their attention to the details and just all 'round NICEness.

Being a part of the Leaky family has been so interesting for me. The people to whom I've been the closest don't always stick around, but there is nearly always someone else just as nice walking in. There are definitely crews that I wish were still a bigger part of my life, but the good thing is that whenever we get together, it just feels right.

The view of the Castle from the first Leaky suite... the one we were in before they decided we were too loud and moved us. =P