Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why we need books

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before and if I have, bear with me as I tell a brief tidbit again.  I went to a religious high school and one of our graduation talks was from a bishop.  He said something I'll never forget: he asked us to constantly question our faith.  If we questioned our faith and lost it, then it wasn't strong to begin with and if we questioned and retained our faith, then it was that much stronger.

I think this is something that's applicable to all areas of our life which is why I find it so puzzling how many people want to restrict information, especially through banned books.  Perhaps it's because I grew up in a fairly open household where our curiosity was supported but really I think it comes down to this: if the only way you can keep people believing what you want them to is to deny them access to other points of view, then not only do you not trust those people but you certainly don't trust the strength of your own message.

This is why I find the notion of banning books utterly absurd.  Sure I understand that books can have really mature content, that they can say things that you might personally disagree with or even find morally abhorrent.  But denying people the right to read those books doesn't fix anything, it just keeps people ignorant and unable to form their own opinions.  If you're afraid of the message in books, afraid of what someone might think or learn then read them together and discuss about the issues raised, don't ban them.

In my book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary is raised in a very strict society where all information is restricted -- there are no books (except for one).  Because of this, the ruling class is able to control absolutely every belief held by those in the village.  It's done out of fear: fear that if left to their own devices, if allowed to learn and come up with their own points of views, they might rebel.  They might wonder if there's life outside the fences.  They might question authority and might even begin to determine for themselves how they want to live their lives rather than having it dictated to them.

It's no surprise that so many dystopian novels have societies with restricted information and a lack of books.  Control the information and you control the people.  You stop them from thinking for themselves.

Because, really, that's all banning books does: it freezes society's ability to question authority.  It keeps us docile.  In control.  Ignorant.

And to me, that's the opposite of how we should live life.  We should question everything and we should encourage teens especially to question it all.  We should have faith in them -- in all of us -- that armed with as much information as possible, we're going to make good decisions.

Because if we don't believe that, we're all in way more trouble than I thought.

This is why this week and every other week of the year, we should speak out against banning books.  We should support all books and we should support the readers of those books and be there to listen and talk about challenging content rather than covering it up.  These are our future mothers, senators, presidents, coaches, teachers, authors, bankers, uncles: we should hope that they grow up with open minds and the ability to think for themselves so they can teach that next generation to do the same.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Covers!

I've been dying to make this announcement and some of y'all have already seen these out on the web, but I'm getting new covers for both The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves!  The new FHT cover will be on the trade paperback (out February 9, 2010) and might possibly on future hardcovers. The DTW cover will be on the hardcover (out March 9, 2010) and the eventual paperback release (prob in 2011).

I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have two new fantastic covers!  What do y'all think?

And here's the cover copy for The Dead-Tossed Waves:
Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She's content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse.

But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry's mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing.

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother's past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Time to make the donuts

So I'm in drafting mode: writing book three (still sans title).  This means I walk around with my head in the sky a lot doing strange things like baking cookies and downloading dance music.  I get crazy urges to move furniture around that JP has to talk me out of (trust me when I tell you there was a very long and detailed conversation about that yesterday when I asked him how upset he'd be if I went ahead and moved the couch in my office to prepare for the new couch we're probably getting in a few weeks).  It's been kind of dismal weather here, so I haven't been able to get out and wander around.

I've hit that point in the book I always hit where I panic and gnash my teeth.  I'm hopefully going to get through it soon.  I totally agree with whoever said that each book you write teaches you how to write THAT book, but I also find that the more I write, the more I find patterns and sometimes patterns can be comforting.  It's nice to know that for my other books I hit this point in the drafting and made it through.  It's nice to know that when all is said and done I have a wonderful agent and fantastic editor and smart beta readers to help me wrangle it into the story I want it to me.

Recently, my critique partner, Diana Peterfreund (of the killer unicorn Peterfreunds) wrote a blog post about her writing process that I thought was absolutely fantastic (go read it here).  She has to get the scene right the first time in order to move forward and I'm just the opposite -- I learn so much about the story during the drafting that I regularly have to go back and rewrite whole chunks of my book.  And now that I think about it, the parts that I tend to rewrite are the parts I'm drafting right now.

I think some people would think "this is the part I'll end up having to rewrite" and get stressed out.  For me it's a relief to know that what I do now doesn't set everything in stone.  I can still fix and change if I go down the wrong path.  You know I've used the analogy before that I think of writing as going down a long series of hallways closing off doors that represent all the possibilities in your book.

Now that I think of it more, I wonder if those rooms I'm closing have more than one entrance.  So maybe I close the door from THIS hallway, but who knows if I'll double back and find another way into that room later.

See, this is what I do when I'm at this stage of writing the book -- I read craft books, I think about my own style, and I write blogs trying to figure it all out :)  Speaking of craft books, anyone have any good ones to recommend?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NC Literary Festival

Wow!  Let me just say again, wow!  I had a total blast at the North Carolina Literary Festival this past weekend.  It was the first festival I'd ever been to (that I could remember) much less spoken at, so I was definitely nervous for the weeks leading up to it.  This spawned some panicked "what do I do!?!" emails to friends who were thankfully quite calming and helpful.  One even suggested I check out YouTube videos of other authors speaking at festivals and this was awesome advice.  So I watched a bunch of authors at the  National Book Festival in DC and it was so much fun (and I learned a lot!).  One of those authors was RL Stine and I payed particular attention to him because he was the one taking the stage right before me (!!).

Let me pause here and say that when I was a teen, I had two go-to authors.  These are the ones that every time I went to the store or library I went straight for their latest -- these are the authors who really helped foster my love of reading (and taught me to speed read because I refused to sleep until I got to the end of the book!).  One of those authors was RL Stine so the fact that I'd not only be in the same town, but also be taking the stage after him was flabbergasting.

So I arrive in Chapel Hill, check into the Carolina Inn (they hand you a fresh-baked choc chip cookie on check-in - huzzah!).  And who do I see (other than Anna Deavere Smith who I recognized as the national security advisor on the west wing) but RL Stine!  He comes walking in and I hyperventilate a bit.  But I'm cool and collected and go to the media room to print out my schedule cause I'd forgotten it.  But then walking back to my room he's standing alone at the elevator.

And yeah, I was totally THAT girl.  I said "I'm sorry, are you RL Stine?"  And he turned surprised and said, "Yes, how did you know?" and that's about when I turned into a puddle of fan-girl mess.  Seriously, I babbled about how I was taking the stage after him and I was a reader because of him and am a huge fan and he's like a rockstar to me, etc etc.  He asks the title of my book and I tell him and he says "Oh yeah!" and had heard of it.  OMG!   The elevator comes twice and he stays to chat and finally I let him go and I return to my room where I collapse on the bed in fangirl bliss.

Until the hotel brought around truffles and sparkling water -- seriously awesome hotel!  I head down to the author reception and have a brief moment of panic because I clearly know no one, but I meet some seriously awesome people like Jenna Black, Virginia Kantra, and John Claude Bemis and have a chat with Sarah Dessen (more fangirl swooning).  That night's keynote was given by Anna Deavere Smith and it was amazing and thought-provoking and just wow.

The next morning I hung out in the author hospitality room meeting people and chatting and stressing.  RL Stine was there again and gave me advice and then it was time for me to go on!  I sort of blank out when I talk so I have no idea how that went.  I was mostly happy that most of the 6-8 year olds cleared out to get RL Stine's autograph (I had no idea what I'd talk about to them!) and I had a chance to meet a few readers before my talk -- totally totally amazing.  And then it was over, I signed some books and met some great people and that's all she wrote!

All in all it was a totally exciting weekend!  And hopefully having done that will make me a little less nervous for the future :)  Apparently, according to The Gourmez, my talk was good!  Yay!

And I met RL Stine who is totally my hero.  Totally totally awesome!  Next time I'll take my camera :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blog tour: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater!

I've been remiss on my blog tours recently and will be remedying that situation over the next two weeks!  Today I bring you New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater talking about her recent release, Shiver!

What's been one of the most exciting moments in Shiver's journey to publication?

The cover. Hands down, it was one of the things I was most nervous about. As an artist I have very annoyingly firm ideas of what is Pretty and what is Not, and I was terrified that I would get something that didn’t match the book. And then my editor said, “Okay, take a look, it’s not done yet, and you can tell us if you don’t like it . . . “ and it was drop. dead. gorgeous. Just like the book -- subtle, genre undertones, and just so artsy. I loved it. I’d never seen anything like it but it didn’t look entirely out of place, either.

Is there anything you can't write without?

Music. I have to have music on, or my brain won’t settle. It has to match the book, too, or I just sit in my chair and jive. There’s definitely writing music -- music that makes me settle down and deal with my plot -- and there’s Maggie music -- music that makes me get on my desk and rock. Obviously I am careful to only play the first while on deadline.

When stuck on a story which do you choose: write make-out scene or explode something?

Can I not do both? Honestly my default setting is angst. When in doubt, reveal some troubling and hopefully crippling element of a character’s past. That ought to get the juices flowing. And lead to either making out or things exploding.

Can you share a favorite line you've written either in this book or a WIP?

I'm sort of a fan of this description of James sleeping, from BALLAD:

James slept like he did everything else; totally intense, like it was a competition and he couldn’t let down his guard for a minute. His scribbled hands were pulled up to his face, his wrists turned to face each other in a sort of weird, beautiful knot. His knuckles were white.

Finally: pro fast zombie or anti fast zombies?

I am pro angst zombies. I don’t care if they go fast or if they go slow, just so long as they feel bad about it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Upcoming event: NC Literary Festival

I'm super excited that this weekend I'll be attending and talking at the 2009 North Carolina Literary Festival!  I'd love for y'all to come out and say hi!

WHAT:  2009 North Carolina Literary Festival
WHEN:  September 10-13 -- I'll be talking on Saturday, September 12th at 3:50pm
WHERE:  UNC Chapel Hill campus -- my talk will be at the Children's Stage

I'll be talking about how I came up with the idea and world of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, reading a bit from that and also probably a little from The Dead-Tossed Waves and maaaybe even a small snippet from my work-in-progress (book 3) if there's time.  I'll also be answering questions and signing books afterward.

This is my first literary festival ever and so of course I'm a little nervous.  I'd love to have some friendly faces there!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

RAMPANT winners!!

Hey Y'all!!  Sorry for the delay in announcing the winners, I had to get copy edits finished and there were so many entries that it took multiple days to write all the entires down and draw a winner!  Without further ado, the winners are.....

Yay!  Email me at and let me know where to send the books and how you'd like Diana to personalize them!  And everyone else, thanks so much for entering and sharing your team preferences!  For those of you who are still on the fence, there's now a third option:

Yes, that's right, the ZOMBICORN!  I totally need to find out how to get this as a poster for my office wall.  Seriously?  Who DOESN'T want a zombicorn on their wall?

I'll be holding another contest giveaway soon and promise to be more prepared to handle that one :)  Thanks again to everyone for entering!!