A Pause in Banned Books Week Coverage

Sit down. I have a story for you.

So we have a neurotic six-year-old German Shepherd. I generally refer to her as The Creature With Fangs. tho’ truth be told, she rarely uses them.






Isn’t she lovely?





We’ve known for a while now that she’s be a lot happier (and possibly less neurotic) if she had a buddy. (The chickens don’t count. She views them as snack food.)

We decided we needed a short-haired dog, maybe one of the breeds that provokes fewer allergic responses. Most importantly, the new dog would have to get along with The Creature With Fangs. But we are responsible adults here, very serious people. We knew that we should wait until after my book tour before we started looking for  the Companion Dog.

Seriously. We meant it. For real.

Driving back from Ft. Ticonderoga on Sunday, we stopped at a super-great grocery store in Saratoga Springs, Putnam Market. As I was getting back into the car, I noticed a brand new Kong ball laying next to the front tire. I looked around. There were no dogs in sight. The only people I could see looked like cat people.

I tossed the Kong ball in the car, figuring it would be a souvenir of our trip for The Creature With Fangs.

Tuesday morning, as I was getting ready for the arrival of my writer’s group, a dog showed up at our house. A funny-looking dog. Looked like he had been built from the spare parts of several different breeds. Made me think of a chimera or a hippogriff. He was scared and hungry so we fed him and gave him some water. He had a collar, but no ID. Looked to be about six months old.

When I crouched down to pet him, he leaned against my leg.

I fell in love.

“His name is Thor,” I told my husband. Why? Because that was the name that popped in my head.

“Don’t fall in love,” BH warned. (I did not tell him it was too late.)

BH made a lot of phone calls. Turns out that this dog’s owner had ‘sort of’ left him at a neighbor’s house and forgotten to pick him up. For a month. The owner was more than happy to have us take the dog off his hands; he wasn’t in a position to care for the dog properly, but really didn’t want to take the little guy to the pound. Props to him for that.

But before we could agree to take him, he had to pass a test. We introduced the ChimeraDog to our Creature With Fangs.

We held our breath.

Or rather, we inhaled, but didn’t have time to hold our breath because they both started wagging their tails and playing as if they’d been born in the same litter.

So we have a new resident in the Forest. After much speculation, we think he is cross between an Australian cattle dog and possibly a Rottweiler. I imagine the vet will be able to figure it out.





Treats? Did someone say "treats?"



The Creature With Fangs is a very happy Creature indeed.




Our family is a little bigger and life is even more topsy-turvy than usual around here. In the best possible way.

One more thing!

We found out what the dog’s original name was. Can you guess it?

Right. His original name was Thor. And he loves that stray Kong ball that I picked up in Saratoga.

::cues Twilight Show theme::

The Community That Speaks and Listens

I baked on Monday night. It was a shocking event. When my kids were little, I used to bake a lot, but as life got busy, it slipped off the priority list. But the writer’s group was coming to my house on Tuesday, and I wanted to do something nice.

Why did I make banana bread and apple brown betty (and potato salad, which does not fit in the baking example, but also takes a lot of time)? Because they are my friends. They are are my community. Because sharing food is a ritual bonding that ties one person closer to another.

I wish I could bake for all of you. Because you are my community of people who love reading and writing. Because you are defending the First Amendment and making America a better place. Banana bread for everyone! Thank you!!

As we are at the half-way point in Banned Books Week, I hope you’ll indulge me in a few more links.

Check out the Google map of Banned Books.

The New York Times Papercuts blog looked at the role that Twitter has played in responding to the Republic, MO man’s  attempt to ban Speak. AOL.com News ran an editorial about the banning. And Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic mentioned it briefly a few days ago.

Risha Mullins (who endured a horrific banning episode last year in Kentucky) has posted an interview with me about my book TWISTED.

The LA Times weighs in on Banned Books Week.

SpeakLoudly.org is fast becoming the go-to place for discussion about censorship issues. Take a peek!

Remember how I was running around like a crazy person last week? Here are a few pics from that trip.


This is Marion Lloyd of Marion Lloyd Books, a division of Scholastic UK. She is my new British publisher. What’s that she’s holding? The UK edition of Wintergirls. I believe it goes on sale in January, 2011.




Here is the only picture ever taken of me and my agent, Amy Berkower of Writer’s House. We call her Saint Amy at our house.

(note: I published my first 7 books without an agent, including Speak and Fever 1793!)



In other exciting news, we have a new dog in our life. He appeared most serendipitously and has succeeded in charming all of us, including The Creature With Fangs. More details and pictures tomorrow, I promise.

Lightning Round


The clock is ticking ever closer to the start of the FORGE book tour, and the available hours to get everything done by then are becoming perilously few.

So I am going to turn this blog into a lightning round.


Last week: the Scroggins book banning kerfuffle. Lots of interviews. Said “Scroggins” a lot. This made me think of Charles Dickens. That was nice. Quick trip to Denver to talk to independent bookstore folks there.

Weekend: Hung out with Revolutionary War geeks at Ft. Ticonderoga. Drank spruce beer.

This week: waiting for Magic 8 Ball to deliver verdict on possibility of writing time. Hoping I don’t get BH’s cold. Hoping that the chickens lay eggs soon. Writer’s group tomorrow. Possibility of hibernation after that.

Ideas for you:

1. Join the Speak Loudly Community! (Many, many thanks to David Gill and Paul Hankins for setting it up!)

2. Add a SpeakLoudly Twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook profile pic.

3. Contact bookavore if you need an incredibly good copy editor for academic papers or fiction writing.

4. If you live in Republic, MO, drop me a line and let me know how the Scroggins’ banning attempt is proceeding.



The Power Of Speaking Loudly

When I sat down on Sunday morning to write my blog post about the book banning  in Republic, MO, I had no idea what I started.

You – my readers – changed the world this week.

It started when Paul Hankins, an English teacher in Indiana, started a dedicated Twitter feed, #speakloudly, to spread the word about the banning.  The word spread quickly and it became one of the most Tweeted topics of the weekend.

EVERYONE spoke loudly. Thousands of people linked to my post and recommended it on Facebook and on their own blogs. One social media expert said that based on the Facebook recommendations alone, he estimated that 350,000 heard about the banning.

Then Jezebel.com resyndicated by blog. Huffington post wrote about it. Twice. So did Salon.com.

As if all of that weren’t astounding enough, many readers posted their own stories about being silenced, about being sexually assaulted, about speaking up, about being a Christian tired of seeing other Christians invoking the Bible as justification for censorship, and about how Speak changed their lives.

The Reclusive Bibliophile has compiled a list of some of these posts. Want to feel better about the state of the world? Read a couple of them. There is even one for Spanish speakers. And Swedish.

If I said “thank you” every minute for the next hundred years of my life, it would not be enough gratitude for this outpouring of support and for your loud defense of the freedom to read, to think, and to speak up. I will hold that gratitude in my heart forever. And probably burst into tears whenever I meet one of you. (Please bring Kleenex if you’re coming to hear me speak on my next tour.)

(For the record, as all of this has been happening, I’ve been traveling for meetings and a bookseller trade show. Thank goodness for wireless connections!!)

Here is the latest from Republic, MO.

The local newspaper ran an article in which Scroggins, the book banner, claimed he never called the challenged books “pornography.” This, despite the fact that he clearly did in both his editorial and his original complaint to the school board.

The newspaper also ran my editorial, in which I set the record straight about Speak, and Sarah Ockler’s editorial, in which she defended her book, Twenty Boy Summer, and said some very smart things about the freedom to read. AND the editors of the newspaper ran a wonderful editorial encouraging their readers to use this kerfuffle as a teachable moment for their community. I am sending twenty copies of each of the challenged books to the libraries down there.

I feel bad that I have not been able to spend more time advocating for Twenty Boy Summer and Sarah Ockler. Sorry, Sarah!!! So let me do that now. Read Sarah’s blog and send her lots of love and huzzahs for defending our rights. And for writing great books. Sarah is running a contest on her blog. The winners get a Filthy Books Prize Pack, which includes copies of all three challenged books.

Kurt Vonnegut is not in a position to actively blog about this. But this essay will give you a sense of what he might say if he were with us today.

So it goes….

This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

Remember last September, when the book banners crawled out of their pits of nastiness to try to remove YA literature from classrooms and libraries?

It is September again, my friends.

Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He was also a speaker at Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, a recent seminar whose purpose was to “To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students, and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative, and educational system, and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society.”

(Note: I love Jesus. My dad is a United Methodist minister. I point out Scroggins’ affiliation with this group so readers can understand his larger agenda.)

Wesley wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, in which he characterized SPEAK as filthy and immoral. Then he called it “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes.

The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.

Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN this month.

My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

All because some wingnut grabbed the opinion page of his newspaper, bellowed his lies, and no one challenged him.

I have already received incredible support on Facebook and in my inbox. Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, has started a Twitterfeed –  #SpeakLoudly  – where people can tweet their opinions. And my hero, Judy Blume, wrote to say she is bringing this nonsense to the attention of the National Council Against Censorship.

(I must confess – receiving a message from Judy Blume made me shriek a little. I am such a fangrrl of hers.)

I love the support from the blogosphere, but am concerned that the people in Scroggins’ community who might be swayed by his nonsense are not reading those blogs or following Twitter feeds on the topic. So I am writing to the school district superintendent and to the newspaper. But I know (because I’ve been here before) that my comments will likely be greeted with scepticism because I have a vested interest in the process.

I need your help.

Please share your experiences with SPEAK; your own response to the book, or the way you’ve seen it work in a school setting. Tahleen has already posted her thoughts on her blog. You can do the same. Please share links to your blog in Comments.

But then, please speak up to the people who can make a real difference in Republic, MO.

You can submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader.

You can write to the superintendent of the Republic School District, Dr. Vern Minor, or to the high school principal, Daren Harris.

You can comment directly to Scroggins’ opinion piece.

Here I am reading “Listen” the poem I wrote based on reader response to SPEAK.

Banned Books Week is only a few days away. Consider this your chance to get a head start on speaking up about a good book and defending the intellectual freedoms guaranteed us in our Constitution.