Thursday, March 31, 2011

WINNERS announced for two signed copies of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORES by the indomitable MICHELE YOUNG-STONE!

So excited to announce these winners today! Kari graciously lent me her Thursday post to do so, so thanks, Kari!

A reminder, this is what our lovely winners will be getting:

Signed, sealed, and delivered by Ms. Michele!
(emphasis on the SIGNED!)

I'm really excited to share this book, one of my favorite reads of 2010, with two of the YA-5's readers. I hope y'all enjoy it and will blog about it when you've finished! And again, thanks to Michele Young-Stone and her publisher, Crown, for providing the loot!

Without further ado, here are the shiny, sparkly, lucky winners!

KATE and CHOLISOSE! Y'all, I'll be sending you an email. If the email associated with your blogger account (or the one you left me is inaccurate), please be sure to get in touch with me at e.kristin.anderson AT gmail DOT com. THANKS! And ENJOY!

I went to the Rio Grande Valley and all I brought you was this blog post

You guys! It's me, Kari! I know you probably thought I'd been abducted by aliens and enslaved on a ship with a bunch of other writers forced to write exceedingly high quality children's books for the kids of planet xl932, but that is UNTRUE.

I have been working on my very own books, trying to finish up a new one, work on some other new ones, and still maintain the facade that I am a present and attentive parent.


But ALSO, I have been gallivanting around Texas visiting with librarians and teachers and students. Earlier this week, I spent three amazing days in the Rio Grande Valley as part of the Texas Book Festival's Reading Rock Stars program.

Gwen Zepeda is on the left, holding her book I KICK THE BALL, and that's me with MIKE STELLAR.

The program brings authors to economically disadvantaged public schools in the state of Texas. And not just that, each child at a participating school receives a signed copy of the author's book. During this latest visit, over 4,000 books were handed out!

I joined forces with authors from New York and Seattle and cities all over Texas. Split up between us, we visited 6 elementary schools in the Valley. My schools were Clinton Elementary in Penitas, TX and Kika de la Garza Elementary in Mission, TX.

It was very exciting to visit a school named after Bill Clinton!

Bill Clinton was the first president I was old enough to vote for.

At Clinton, Gwen Zepeda spoke to the Pre-K through 2nd grade kids about her picture book, I KICK THE BALL and then I spoke to 3rd-5th graders about MIKE STELLAR.

Those kiddos could not have welcomed us more graciously if we were JK Rowling and Dr. Suess.

The kids at Kika de la Garza held up signs!

Amazing Mike Stellar artwork by 4th grade students at Clinton

Kika de la Garza, I had the pleasure of visiting the school with author Samantha Vamos. She spoke to the younger students about her picture book, THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED, and the older kids got a crash course on space adventures from me.

Samantha Vamos and I are posing with the Kika de la Garza Millionaire Readers - kids who have read a million words or more. Check out the beauty queen sashes they made for us. AWESOME.

During these school visits I had some of the most rewarding, exciting and emotional encounters with students I have ever experienced. When the kids learned they'd each get a book, the excitement in the room was electric with cheers and squeals. I haven't given so many hugs and posed for so many pictures since my own wedding, I think!

Presenting to a very attentive audience. Check out the posters on stage!

One very special moment of the trip occurred while I was passing out books. The students line up, and it's a bit of an assembly line, trying to hand out 300-400 books in a short amount of time. One little guy stopped, though, and handed me a note. He'd been paying close attention when I spoke about my own kids, and told them that my youngest son, Isaac, has a scar on his forehead just like Harry Potter.

"Hi my name is Isaac and I have four scares on my head"

He grinned at me as I read his note, and then I told him it looked like my Isaac wasn't the only Isaac with a Harry Potter head! Big smiles all around.

I am just so touched to have had this opportunity, and for that I thank Clay Smith of the Texas Book Festival and Blair Newberry, the outreach coordinator for TBF, who organizes the author visits for the Reading Rock Stars program. I also want to thank the amazing and gracious English department at UTPA. Not only are they partners with TBF in bringing authors to the Valley schools, they were wonderful hosts, who drove us around the towns and took care of anything little thing we could think of.

(Special shoutout here to Amy Cummins, of UTPA, who took me and Samantha fourwheeling in her Camry in order to avoid a road closure that would have made us late to our breakfast with the millionaire readers at Kika. She drove us over a yard and through a ditch to get around a wreck. A BEAST behind the wheel, that Amy Cummins.)

And, of course, I want to thank the students and faculty of WJ Clinton Elementary and Kika de la Garza Elementary. YOU GUYS ROCK.

Kids, books, new friends - and of course breakfast tacos. I don't think a children's book author could ask for anything better.

Monday, March 28, 2011


One thing that I love about books is their indefinability.  You know, we love to label things -- books being no exceptions.  This book is YA, this book is sci fi, this book is for adults -- you know the drill.  But every once in a while you come across a book that seems shareable amongst all readers.  Or, you know, at least crosses that boundary between the YA audience and the adult world.

One of my favorite such books is THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS by the inimitable Michele Young-Stone.  Today, we are giving away copies of Michele's book.  Because a) it is an awesome book that, while labelled as "adult fiction" is absolutely a book worth sharing with YA readers and b) because I love this book and Michele is awesome enough to send my readers copies and c) we are celebrating next week's paperback release of this, her debut novel.

I could talk about this book for days and months and years, so let me just tell you what a few of the fancy reviewers had to say:

"Yes, it's a book about lightning, but it's so much more.  It's about the interconnectedness of our stories, our seemingly lonely and individual sufferings.  It's about the strength of the human spirit.  It's about finding redemption where you least expect it.  This book, like lightning itself, will take your breath away."  Our State Magazine

Young-Stone has written an exceptionally rich and sure-handed debut, full of complex characters, brilliantly described. . . . Her style certainly has an electric immediacy."   The Boston Globe

Author Michele Young-Stone
with her hardcover debut!
So if you want to win your own brand-new, shiny, autographed(!) paperback of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS -- which you will have in your hands before it even hits store shelves -- all you have to do is leave a comment.  I promise, this won't be a book you'll soon forget.   I mean, Publisher's Weekly named it one of the best debuts of 2010.  (And yours truly does not disagree!  In fact, it was one of my favorite books PERIOD of 2010!)

To review: All you have to do to win is leave a comment (though retweeting and all that is appreciated).  Two winners will be selected by the random number generating faeries, and results will be posted on Thursday.  Good luck!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Replacement

I’ve been spending the past few weeks catching up on schoolwork and reading, so my blogging has been minimal (read:  non-existent).  My TBR pile was out of control, mostly with library books way past their due date (library fines are my way of giving back to the community).  So for the next few weeks I’m going to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading.
First up: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Set Up:
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
My Thoughts:
I liked this book, but it’s definitely one of those books I liked with reservation.  The story is cool, the build up around what’s going around with Gentry definitely gives a creepy vibe, and I’m a huge fan of stories that don’t necessarily rely on sparkles and flash to get the reader’s attention.  The writing was so solid that there were passages where I wished I'd written it.  I mean, this was seriously a book that pulled me along, and kept me reading even after I wanted to go to bed.  Mostly because I didn't want to turn out the lights :)
I really liked this book and the story, but I did have one eensy-weensy problem.  Mackie.
Ah, Mackie.
Poor Mackie is a conflicted character.  He lives in a world he doesn’t belong in, but has no clue how to fix his dilemma.  When Tate (by far my favorite character in the book) asks for his help to find her sister, he blows her off.  Repeatedly.  It’s understandable why he does it, he has his own secrets to protect, but it doesn’t really make him any more endearing.  I can handle a character who is just selfish or shallow, but Mackie isn’t.  He’s conflicted.  Unfortunately, through a lot of the story.   This inner conflict of his makes him seem wishy-washy and weak, instead of introspective.  I wanted to like him more, but he really ended up being one of my least favorite characters in the book.
Thank goodness for Tate.
For me, Tate carried the novel.  She’s determined and doesn’t take no for an answer.  She fights for her sister, and refuses to let anyone put her in a corner.  If it wasn’t for Tate, this book wouldn't have been a bust, but it wouldn't have kept me nearly as engaged as it did.  I liked Tate enough to put up with Mackie and his brooding.
In fact, this book sort of leaves things open for a sequel.  If that happens, I really hope we spend more time in Tate’s point of view.  She’s definitely a character I’d like to spend three hundred pages with.
So, if you like books that defy the traditional tropes out there, you’ll probably like this.  If you like strong, kickass girls, you’ll like this.
If brooding guys make you want to hit something, you should probably skip this.
Overall, though, I think this is a good read for a stormy night.

Monday, March 21, 2011

YA, Pop Culture, and You, the READER!

Hi everyone. I've had this blog post rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now and I think it's finally time to put it out there. There's no place like the YA-5 to question the norms and find out what the readers REALLY think of industry standards and yadda yadda yadda.

So here's the thing: pop culture in YA can be kind of a hot button. Some people think that referencing a popular actress or hit song immediately dates a book -- and I can't argue with that. If I set out tomorrow to write a book, whether it's YA contemporary or adult horror, I'm probably not going to talk about my protagonist's addiction to Ke$ha. No matter how catchy Ke$ha's music is. I mean, I have no idea which pop stars are going to be remembered just two years from now (which, even if my book sold the day I finished it, is probably about how long it would take for the novel to hit stores), let alone five or ten years.

Do you watch your fave
shows with your friends?
But here's the dilemma: a lot of teens -- a lot of people -- really think in terms of pop culture. We schedule our evenings around our favorite TV shows. (I have friends who go to Glee-watching parties, and in high school I had my BFF over once a week for Buffy night.) We stand in line for hours to be in the front row at a concert for our favorite band. We make play lists for ourselves and our friends on iTunes. We idolize actresses and models and pop stars and emulate their styles. Is there any way to write a book without talking about some of these things? Sure. Do I want to? Not really.

I aspire to write characters that feel like your friends, your family. I like it when I'm inside a character's head and I can see what she likes and how she relates to her world. If my character is an audiophile, you can bet she's going to relate to her world through her favorite bands. If my character is a musician, she'll probably talk about her influences. If my character loves fashion, she's definitely going to describe clothing in terms of style icons. For some, it might cut it to make up names. This doesn't always work for me.

So when is it too much pop culture? I think it comes down to context. If I can talk about a band from 1994 that you don't know about, and make you feel like you know why it's important, does that work for you? If my book takes place in 1980, is it more obnoxious to have my character reference made up movies and fashion icons, or to talk about real ones that you don't know much about?

Like all things, I think pop culture in literature is about balance. And like all writing, there's got to be a reason for anything an author puts into a book, whether it's violence or a sex scene or swear words or a sub plot or your character's iPod playlist. I mean, if I can go again to HIGH FIDELITY, that book simply wouldn't have been right without all the real pop culture infusion it showcased. Music is what makes that book work. As a reader, what makes a music-y, pop-culture-y book work for you?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Celebrate International Women's Week With Me!

Hi everyone! Sorry about the crazy inconsistency of my posts over here at the YA-5 lately. I promise, I'm going to work hard to make my Mondays awesome! BAM. There, I said it -- I PROMISE!

Okay, so, there's this thing this week. It's INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S WEEK. Yeah, feminism is a dirty word to some. I know some women who don't even like to call themselves feminists because they associate the word with man-haters and bra-burners. To me, feminism just means being able to be who I want and do what I want and achieve what I want regardless of my gender. I believe in equality. I believe in fierce, fabulous ladies making names for themselves in a world that would rather they stay silent. I believe in stay at home moms and career women. I believe in girls who want to be quarterbacks and cheer captains. I believe in fashion models and rock stars and engineers and math teachers. And, DUH, I believe in women writers.

Author Cayla Kluver
So this week over at my personal blog, I'm celebrating women in writing. From LOTS of different angles. Today, the fabulous Cayla Kluver (whose debut novel LEGACY will be coming out with HarlequinTEEN later this year) is talking about writing "That Woman" -- the Mina Harker, the Buffy Summers -- the woman that every man and even a lot of the ladies want to write off but, you know, they sort of kick butt anyway?

I love Cayla's post and I am looking forward to the lineup I have for the rest of the week: Tess Hardwick on the sometimes limiting labels of "chicklit" and "women's fiction," The YA-5's own K.A. Holt on writing male-voiced middle grade, Tiffany Reisz on writing naughty novels WITHOUT a penname, Gretchen McNeil on being bold, and Jeanette Larson on literary awards. I'm so so so excited for this week, and I hope you'll join me in celebrating the literary ladies who make our bookshelves so much more badass. And, you know, go give some chicks a hug today, okay? The world would totally suck without women!