MISFIT nominated for a Carl Brandon Award

Great news! Misfit, my 2011 novel published by Amulet, has been nominated for the 2011 CBS Kindred Award (for an outstanding speculative fiction work dealing with race, ethnicity, and culture).

People! An award named in honor of Octavia Butler’s landmark novel, Kindred! So cool!

About the Carl Brandon Society: As speculative fiction increases in diversity, the Carl Brandon Society hopes to raise awareness of issues of race, ethnicity and culture within this genre we all love, fostering a needed dialogue. We want to promote inclusivity in across the range of genre – embracing fans and pros – and celebrate the accomplishments of people of color within the community. Our membership is open to all ethnicities. Visit us at http://carlbrandon.org

Hooray For Books in Alexandria, VA

Tomorrow at 3:30pm, I’ll be emerging briefly from my revision cave to visit Hooray For Books in Alexandria, VA for a panel with fellow YA authors Jaclyn Dolamore (Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone) and Jay Baker (The Edumacation of Jay Baker). There will be readings, discussing of important, deep, literary things and all the usual nonsense one expects from a YA author panel. Although I must warn everyone, due to the enforced hermitage of revision deadlines, I may be a little extra strange. Any requests for Tom Waits or Kermit the Frog impersonations will be accepted.

Virginia Festival of the Book

Tomorrow I’m heading down to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book to talk on panel called “Young Adult Fiction: Heroes, Demons, & Bad Roomates”. I’ll be joined by Jenny Hubbard (Paper Covers Rock), Matthew Cody (The Dead Gentleman), and Wendy Shang (The Great Wall of Lucy Wu). We’ll be reading and answering questions about YA, writing, and pretty much anything else people feel like asking. If you’re in the area, come check us out!

NYC Teen Author Festival 2012

For the third year in a row, I will be participating in the New York City Teen Author Book Festival! It’s a week of events all around the city featuring tons of authors. I’ve had so much fun on previous years. I can’t wait be in it again!

Below I’ve listed the full schedule, which includes the panel discussion I’ll be participating in on Wednesday, March 28th at the Main Branch public library called”Things Fall Apart: World Building and World Destroying in YA”. And of course the super crazy, all-author signing on Sunday, April 1st at Books of Wonder. But if you’re in town, you really should try to see as many things as possible. It’s going to be nonstop awesome.

You can also join it on Facebook at

http://www.facebook.com/NYCTeenAuthorFestival

The full schedule…

Monday, March 26:

Plotting Dangerously:  Doing What it Takes to Find the Story

Mulberry Street Branch of the NYPL, 10 Jersey Street b/w Mulberry and Lafayette, 6-8.

  • Coe Booth
  • Jen Calonita
  • Paul Griffin
  • Deborah Heiligman
  • Melissa Kantor
  • Morgan Matson
  • Kieran Scott
  • Melissa Walker

moderator: David Levithan

Tuesday, March 27:

The Mutual Admiration Society Reading

McNally Jackson Bookstore,  52 Prince Street, 7-8:30

  • Madeleine George
  • Ellen Hopkins
  • David Levithan
  • Jennifer Smith
  • John Corey Whaley

Wednesday. March 28:

Things Fall Apart: World Building and World Destroying in YA

42nd St NYPL, Bergen Forum, 6-8

  • Anna Carey
  • Sarah Beth Durst
  • Anne Heltzel
  • Jeff Hirsch
  • Andy Marino
  • Lauren McLaughlin
  • Lissa Price
  • Jon Skovron

moderator:  Chris Shoemaker

Thursday, March 29:

The NYC Big Read

Queens – Long Island City branch of the Queens Public Library (37-44 21 Street, Long Island City, NY 11101)

  • Tara Altebrando
  • Brent Crawford
  • Gina Damico
  • Jeff Hirsch
  • Andy Marino
  • Jon Skovron
  • Alecia Whitaker

Manhattan – (locations to come)

  • Jen Calonita
  • Anna Carey
  • Matthew Cody
  • Jocelyn Davies
  • Melissa De La Cruz
  • Hilary Graham
  • Christopher Grant
  • Leanna Renee Hieber
  • Anne Heltzel
  • Gwendolyn Heasley
  • PG Kain
  • Kody Keplinger
  • Lauren McLaughlin
  • Sarah Mlynowski
  • Eugene Myers
  • Micol Ostow
  • Stephanie Perkins
  • Jessica Rotherberg
  • Lena Roy
  • Erin Saldin
  • Leila Sales
  • Eliot Schrefer
  • Samantha Schutz
  • Mark Shulman
  • Arlaina Tibensky

Brooklyn — –Brooklyn Public Library — central branch, Grand Army Plaza

  • Kate Ellison
  • Gayle Forman
  • Melissa Kantor
  • Barry Lyga
  • Michael Northrop
  • Matthue Roth
  • Victoria Schwab
  • Melissa Walker

Bronx — Bronx Library Center – 310 East Kingsbridge Road, Bronx 

  • Elizabeth Eulberg 
  • Paul Griffin 
  • Alissa Grosso 
  • David Levithan
  • Sarah Darer Littman
  • Kieran Scott
  • John Corey Whaley

Friday March 30

Symposium

42nd Street NYPL, 2-6

2:00 – Introduction

2:10-3:00: Being Friends With Boys

  • Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Jenny Han
  • Terra Elan McVoy
  • Stephanie Perkins

moderator:  Sarah Mlynowski

3:00-3:50:  The Writer as Time Traveler:  Writing the Past While Sitting in the Present

  • Judy Blundell
  • Matthew Cody
  • Jennifer Donnelly
  • Leanna Renee Hieber
  • Suzanne Weyn

moderator:  David Levithan

3:50-4:40:  No Ordinary Love:  How to Create a Satisfying Love Story and a Satisfying Supernatural World at the Same Time

  • Andrea Cremer
  • Melissa de la Cruz
  • Jeri Smith-Ready
  • Victoria Schwab
  • Margaret Stohl

moderator:  Barry Lyga

4:40-5:30:  New Voices Spotlight

Emily Danforth
Kate Ellison
Lucas Klauss
Carley Moore
Aleica Whittaker

Barnes & Noble Reader’s Theater/Signing

Union Square B&N, 33 E 17th St, 7-8:30

  • Andrea Cremer
  • Emily Danforth
  • Lucas Klauss
  • Stephanie Perkins
  • Siobhan Vivian
  • John Corey Whaley

moderator:  David Levithan

Saturday March 31

Symposium

42nd Street NYPL, 1-5

1:00 – Introduction

1:10-2:00 – Rising to the Challenge: YA Characters Facing Down What Life Throws Them

  • Tara Altebrando
  • Matt Blackstone
  • Susane Colasanti
  • Kody Keplinger
  • Siobhan Vivian
  • K.M. Walton

moderator:  David Levithan

2:00-2:50 — Killer Instincts:  Death, Murder, and the YA Novel

  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Gina Damico
  • Kim Harrington
  • Barry Lyga

moderator:  Marie Rutkoski

2:50-4:00 — Moments of Truth: Characters at a Crossroads

  • Natasha Friend
  • Margie Gelbwasser
  • Jennifer Hubbard
  • Stewart Lewis
  • Sarah Darer Littman
  • Jess Rothenberg
  • Daisy Whitney

moderator:  E. Lockhart

4:00-5:00 – Looking Forward to Fall

  • David Levithan
  • Marie Rutkoski
  • Eliot Schrefer
  • and more authors reading from their upcoming books

Sunday April 1

Our No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing

Books of Wonder, 1-4

1-1:45:

  • Jennifer Barnes (Every Other Day, Egmont)
  • Matt Blackstone (A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie, FSG)
  • Caroline Bock   (LIE, St. Martin’s)
  • Jen Calonita  (Belles, Little Brown)
  • Anna Carey (Eve, Harper)
  • Susane Colasanti (So Much Closer, Penguin)
  • Andrea Cremer (Bloodrose, Penguin)
  • Gina Damico (Croak, HMH)
  • Emily Danforth  (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Harper)
  • Jocelyn Davies  (A Beautiful Dark, Harper)             
  • Sarah Beth Durst (Drink, Slay, Love, S&S)
  • Elizabeth Eulberg (Take a Bow, Scholastic)
  • Gayle Forman (Where She Went, Penguin)
  • Natasha Friend (For Keeps, Penguin)
  • Kim Harrington (Perception, Scholastic)
  • Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers, Little Brown)
  • Daisy Whitney (The Rivals, Little Brown)                     

1:45-2:30

  • Margie Gelbwasser (Pieces of Us, Flux)
  • Alissa Grosso (Popular, Flux)        
  • Jenny Han  (We’ll Always Have Summer, S&S)                
  • Leanna Renee Hieber (Darker Still, Sourcebooks)
  • Anne Heltzel  (Circle Nine, Candlewick)
  • Jeff Hirsch  (The Eleventh Plague, Scholastic)
  • Jennifer Hubbard (Try Not to Breathe, Penguin)
  • Melissa Jensen (The Fine Art of True or Dare, Penguin)
  • PG Kain (Famous for Thirty Seconds, S&S)                       
  • Melissa Kantor (The Darlings in Love, Hyperion)
  • Kody Keplinger (Shut Out, Little Brown)
  • Lucas Klauss (Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse, S&S)
  • David Levithan (Every You, Every Me, RH)
  • Stewart Lewis (You Have Seven Messages, RH)
  • Sarah Darer Littman (Want to Go Private?, Scholastic)
  • Elisa Ludwig (Pretty Crooked, S&S)

2:30-3:15

  • Carolyn Mackler (The Future of Us, Penguin)            
  • Andy Marino (Unison Spark, FSG)
  • Wendy Mass (13 Gifts, Scholastic)
  • Terra Elan McVoy (The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, S&S)  
  • Lauren McLaughlin  (Scored, RH)
  • Sarah Mlynowski (Ten Things We Did, RH)
  • Carley Moore (The Stalker Chronicles, FSG)
  • E. C. Myers  (Fair Coin, Pyr)
  • Michael Northrop (Plunked, Scholastic)
  • Micol Ostow (What Would My Cell Phone Do?, Penguin)        
  • Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door, Penguin)
  • Jessica Rotherberg (The Catastrophic History of You and Me, Penguin)
  • Marie Rutkoski (The Jewel of the Kalderash, FSG)
  • Erin Saldin (The Girls of No Return, Scholastic)
  • Leila Sales   (Past Perfect, S&S)
  • Kieran Scott (He’s So Not Worth It, S&S)

3:15-4:00

  • Melissa De La Cruz (Lost in Time, Hyperion)
  • Alyssa Sheinmel, (The Lucky Kind, RH)
  • Jennifer Smith (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Little Brown)
  • Jeri Smith-Ready (Shift, S&S)
  • Jon Skovron (Misfit, Abrams)
  • Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, Hyperion)
  • Mark Shulman (Are You Normal?, National Geographic)
  • Margaret Stohl  (Beautiful Chaos, Little Brown)
  • Arlaina Tibensky (And Then Things Fell Apart, S&S)                      
  • Siobhan Vivian  (The List, Scholastic)
  • Melissa Walker  (Small Town Sinners, Bloomsbury)
  • K.M. Walton (Cracked, S&S)
  • John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back, S&S)
  • Alecia Whitaker (The Queen of Kentucky, Little Brown)
  • Maryrose Wood (The Unseen Guest, Harper)
  • Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo (Sirenz, Flux)

A Demon of a Life in ‘Misfit’ | Kirkus Reviews

I blush…

Misfit isn’t a stand out because it simply inverts a familiar formula. It’s a stand out because it explores Big Ideas about religion and belief, good and evil, science and magic, family and friendship, trust and sacrifice. Those ideas are explored in depth, but without ever making the book more about the ideas than the characters, getting didactic, or slowing the action, pacing or plot.”

And this…

“Rather than reminding me of any of the paranormals I’ve read over the last few years—and there have been many—I was reminded of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, in terms of depth, scope and epic vision. If, you know, American Gods starred a teenaged girl.”

I’m totally okay with that comparison.

Read the full review on the Kirkus blog.

Rachel and Steve – Troubled Waters

Rachel and Steve – Troubled Waters

I asked my friends Rachel Hardin and Steve Fragale to record a rendition of the old folk song “Troubled Waters” for Misfit. At one point I had this whole grand idea of building a trailer/video around it for the launch. But my lack of time, experience and skill in creating video got in the way. So that’s disappointing.

But who needs a trailer? This track is awesome all by itself. Better than I could ever have hoped! Rach and Steve, will you two just start a band already?!

Rough Drafts to Final: Round Up

In my last post, I gave a short sample on my revision process from rough draft to final for Misfit. On her blog, Maggie Stiefvater has rounded up ten authors she invited to do this, including Kiersten White, Saundra Mitchell, Kim Derting, Dawn Metcalf, and Jenny Moss (and me!). If you’re a beginning writer, this is a great way to see just how different it can be to get from start to finish from one other to the next, and sometimes even from one project to the next.

A look at the Misfit Rough Draft

Maggie Stiefvater recently wrote a post on her blog where she compared a rough draft version of one of her novels to the published version, mostly, I think, to illustrate to new writers just what we mean when we talk about editing and revisions. The post was so popular that she asked some other authors, including me, to do the same. After all, every author has a somewhat different process, and she thought it could be even more helpful to new writers to have some other perspectives.

In her original post, Maggie said, “I do a lot of my plotting and brainstorming in my head before I ever sit down to the computer, so, unlike some of my writer friends, you don’t see my thought process evolving on the paper as much as you might suspect.”

Er, yes… I’m one of those other writer friends. I do very little plotting and brainstorming in my head. For me, writing a rough draft is more like improvisation. At least some of that is likely due to my background as a musician and actor. My first drafts are a hot mess and I like them that way. They change a lot from first to final draft.

Just how much? I took the first few pages of the original rough draft of Chapter 1 of Misfit, and I market it up and commented on it. If you’d like to compare it to the final, you can see those same pages in the free sample on Amazon, iTunes or Barnes & Noble

One thing to keep in mind, this draft was written about five years ago, while my first novel, Struts & Frets was still out on submission. So in addition to everything else, there is a huge time gap here, and time has a way of allowing a writer to see their work a bit more objectively. So when I came back to it for revisions, I was fairly savage with it, even for me.

  1. The first and most obvious thing is that the title changed from “halfBREED” to “Misfit”. This happened with my first book as well, which was changed from “Grope For Luna” to “Struts & Frets”. Sales and marketing people weigh in on this, and it’s up to the author and editor to come up with something that everybody likes. In both cases, I was very happy with the change, but I’ve heard of some authors who weren’t.
  2. The next most obvious thing is that the opening is totally different. In the finished book, the scene written here in which Jael is lying in bed listening to a thunder storm takes place about halfway through Chapter 3. While writing this scene was a great way to allow me the author to begin exploring Jael and the tone of her story, squelching around in a moody storm sequence was a fairly uninteresting way for the reader to begin a book. Not that the real opening is full of explosions and mayhem or anything, but as quiet as it is, there is a lot of info packed into it about Jael, about her friendship with Britt, and her relationship with her father.
  3. Two words into the first paragraph, and there’s another big difference. Jael’s plot line was originally written in past tense. Eventually I changed it to present tense, partly to differentiate it from the past tense plot line of her parents, and partly to give it a bit more of an immediate noir feel, something that Seattle (where the book is set) has always had for me. This is a choice some readers have complained about. Some people just flat out don’t like present tense for whatever reason. Possibly just because they aren’t used to it. Other people don’t like the sudden switch from one tense to the other between a few of the chapters. It creates a slight cognitive dissonance that is entirely intentional, and I don’t regret my choice in the slightest.
  4. Er, yeah. While the scene this paragraph describes remained, once it was moved to Chapter 3, the tone was radically different, so I basically just tossed this whole thing and rewrote from scratch.

  1. Four paragraphs of getting ready for school? Really? While once again it was helpful for me to write it, as I was still getting to know Jael, it’s not something that would interest a reader very much. Plus, between showering, etc, there was a lot of up and down the steps. The most important thing here is to draw attention to her unruly hair, so I just swapped out three whole paragraphs for a quick check in the hallway mirror on her way to the kitchen for breakfast.
  2. An obvious “Show, don’t tell” moment. No need to tell a reader how she responds to priests and authority in a Catholic school setting when I’m about to show her actually responding to priests and authority in a Catholic school setting.

  1. In this original draft, Jael knew nothing of her parentage or what she was for the first several chapters. Probably the most important contribution my editor made to this book was to ask me, “What if Jael knew what she was from the beginning of the book?” Asking that question changed my thinking on a fundamental level. It changed everything about the way Jael viewed the world and her place in it. Instead of a victim of circumstances she didn’t understand, Jael was a brave girl with a terrible secret. Such a more interesting choice, in my opinion. I read these paragraphs now and I am sickened by the tone of it. Jael 2.0 would have kicked this Jael’s ass.
  2. I didn’t decide on what the school should be named until a later draft. St. Mary’s is where I attended Elementary school and has always occupied a soft spot in my heard, so I just used it as the placeholder until I could think of something more thematically appropriate to the story. I eventually settled on Our Lady of Mercy.
  3. This was starting to feel like it was “a day like any other day” blah. So I put a terse, forbidding note from her father on the table. Not only did it hint of the conflict to come, but it set the tone for her relationship with her father.
  4. More whiny victim, Why are we poor? and Why must we move all the time? stuff that became unnecessary in later drafts. Heavily rewritten.

  1. The fact that it took this long to get to some actual dialogue is totally not cool. Although despite the drastic changes to this first chapter, some sections of dialogue like this one made it through almost completely intact. Dialogue comes more easily to me, most likely because of my background in theater, and usually doesn’t need to be rewritten as heavily as the rest.
  2. I felt that this line was a bit too blatant. Especially in the later draft when she knows she’s a demon. She wouldn’t be that candid with him. Cut.

  1. This original introduction of Rob was fairly short because at the time I didn’t realize what a large role he would play in her story. In later drafts, this dialogue expanded a lot, including a lot more details about Jael’s past, how much Rob knew, with hints that there was a lot she was hiding.
  2. Originally, Rob’s nickname for Jael was “Twinkie” instead of “Betty”. This was actually changed much later during copy edits. Apparently the usage of “Twinkie” that I was familiar with, referring to a girl skater, was region specific to where I lived. Also, there was a more well known usage for the term “Twinkie” or “Twink”, but it referred to a specific stereotype for a gay man. My editor and I agreed that association might confuse some people, so I suggested “Betty”, a term which I’d also heard as a teen. The copyeditor agreed that was much more of a common usage when referring to skater girls.
  3. Jael is pretty unfriendly with Rob in this original dialogue. I knew it was because she had a huge crush on him and didn’t know how to handle that. But it just came off as snotty. Once I expanded the dialogue later, I was able to soften it up and make it a lot more friendly.
  4. It felt odd to bring in Ms. Speilman suddenly like that when she was clearly the presence of authority in the room and someone that both Rob and Jael would be keenly aware of. So I expanded this description and moved it to the top of the section when Jael first enters the class room. Plus, she actually a lot more important to the story that she first appears.