Laurie in the New York Times

Laurie is profiled alongside several other wonderful YA authors in this thoughtful New York Times piece by Julia Jacobs, “Using Young Adult Novels to Make Sense of #MeToo.”

Ms. Anderson, the novel’s author, said books can offer teenagers the language to understand an unfamiliar issue. In her conversations with thousands of teenage readers, she said, it was clear that many had previously lacked the language to understand what happened to Melinda, her main character — or even what happened in their own lives.

“So many kids have come to me and said, ‘I didn’t realize what he did to me,’” she said.

Read the full piece here!

SHOUT!

We are delighted to announce Laurie’s next book, courtesy of Viking Children’s Books!

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, will publish Shout, a powerful and thought-provoking memoir by New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson. Having first written about sexual assault in her groundbreaking, award-winning novel Speak, Anderson now shares her personal history as a rape survivor and the steps of her journey to healing in a collection of free verse that is as vulnerable as it is rallying.

The preorder link is already live, and you can find that right here. You can read more about the book, including an excerpt, at the Washington Post.

Can We Talk About Connecting Authors to Students?

(Note – this is a long and important post. But there is a chance to win books for your classroom at the end, so keep reading.)

Oh. My. Goodness.

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A couple of days ago I tweeted a photo of a letter I’d received.

In follow-up tweets I explained that it breaks my heart not to have the time to answer letters like this. I love engaging with readers, I love that they reach out to authors. But I’m on deadline, and won’t have time to write back until this student is halfway through 9th grade.

Plus, I’ve already provided many of the answers to these questions on my website; writing advice and interviews and general questions.

I always make time for correspondence (written letters, email, and private messages on social media) from readers who are victims of sexual violence, bullying, eating disorders, depression, etc. In addition to that, this year I have to write two books, spend months on the road giving presentations, hold Skype visits, do other author-business things, as well as hang out occasionally with my family. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all.

This makes me feel HORRIBLE.

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It was a hard thing to admit publicly, but I write a lot about hard things. My alternative would have been to keep ignoring the problem, which I’m sure frustrates the letter-writers who are waiting on a response, especially when their grade hinges on it.

I tweeted this because I wanted to interact with teachers to see if we could figure out a more practical solution. I did not expect my timeline to blow up.

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Most of the comments were kind and supportive. A number of my fellow authors retweeted the original post, and added their own frustration with this situation. One received 150 letters this week. Another had to remove all of her contact info from her website to stop the flood of mail that she has no way of answering. Every author has had the experience of getting letters which explain that hearing back from the author is a requirement for the student to get a good grade. Finding the time to answer student letters is a huge problem for many kidlit writers.

Some commenters were not supportive. I don’t think they like me very much.

“It makes you look like you’ve stopped feeling really lucky to have what you have and enjoy the acceptance and bridge you’ve forged between girls and their secrets. Seriously.”

“Young writers often have these questions and want a personal reply not info from a website.Take the time to give it instead of complaining. Nurture young writers!”

A few people responded defensively, angry that I had “blamed teachers.” Which was not my intention at all.

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The thing is, we all care about kids; kidlit authors and illustrators, educators, families – we dedicate most of our lives to creating and/or providing books to children and teens because we value literacy and care deeply about young people.

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The model of students writing to authors is several generations old now. It started long before social media, author websites, book festivals, or Skyping. It began when authors stayed home to write books, and publishers took care of marketing and publicity. The world of publishing has changed drastically since then. There are few authors who have the time or resources to answer every single letter that comes in.

What hasn’t changed is the need for students to connect with authors.

So, my friends. Can we talk about this?

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A number of educators provided solutions in my Twitter feed. Some have their students write notes to authors in which the students say what they felt about the book, but without questions, or the expectation of a response. Others tweet class projects – if the authors see the tweet and Like it, that’s a bonus. Still others take advantage of the resources on author websites and other places (for example if your students are researching Jacqueline Woodson, be sure to check out  Poetry Foundation  and CBC Books ).

A couple of years ago I made pre-printed postcards that thanked the student for writing, but explained I didn’t have time to answer questions… but honestly, it felt kind of cheesy to do that.

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Given that authors do not have time-turners (except possibly J.K. Rowling), how can we best engage with students? What kind of classroom model makes sense, given the changes in publishing and technology of the last decade?

I’d love to know what you think about this. Please leave suggestions and comments below. And thank you for listening!

PS – for those of you who read all the way through this, here’s your reward. I will give a book to the first 10 classes who post a comment to this blog with at least 10 good questions that I haven’t yet answered on my website. Teachers, if you respond to this, please include a mailing address.

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Laurie Teams Up With DC Ink!

Laurie is delighted to announce that she’ll be working on a graphic novel about Wonder Woman for DC Ink!

DC has recruited a lineup of notable YA and middle grade authors to write the books, among them: Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak), Melissa de la Cruz (Au Pairs), Gene Luen Yang (Boxers and Saints), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Minh Lê (Let Me Finish), Ridley Pearson (The Kingdom Keepers), and Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat, the creative duo that produced the DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels.

The book will be called Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, and will publish in 2019. Check out the full details of DC’s announcement in Publishers Weekly.

Starting Over, Again

Well, hello there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

For all intents and purposes, I stopped blogging in the fall of 2013, after I posted the book tour details for The Impossible Knife of Memory. I didn’t talk about it too much, but that was when my father took a turn for the worse. He had enjoyed ridiculously robust health, but suddenly he suffered some strokes and started having terrifying delusions. In March of 2014, he fell and hit his head, and died two days later.

To say that I was devastated doesn’t begin to describe my state of mind.

My father was my hero; a WWII veteran who became a minister, marched for Civil Rights and faced down the Klan, wrote poetry, raged at injustice, and tried to make the world a better place. He was also plagued by PTSD, depression, and alcoholism.

When I was a kid, I adored him. As a teen I was afraid of him, angry, and terrified he was going to kill himself. After I left for college we entered the Cold War phase of our relationship.

One of the most delightful aspects of my adult life was moving my parents back North from Florida so we could take care of them.  I went to the gym and then breakfast with him a couple days a week, talked with him constantly, and basked in the good fortune that we had so much time together.

When he died, I needed to withdraw a bit. Blogging did not happen and updating my website was not a priority.

We tried to get on with the business of living. Our children started to have children. We hosted my oldest daughter’s wedding at our house. I finally finished Ashes, and went on adventures to China, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I tried to write and threw out a lot of horrible pages.

But I finally learned how to walk with my father in my heart.

So I’m back. My website has been rebuilt from scratch thanks to my wonderful assistant, Jenn, and Deena Warner.  I have a lot of fun travel coming up, am working on several new books, and have Many Big Thoughts that require blogging again.

Do you have specific topics you’d like to see me blog about? Writing advice? American history? How to live out of a carry-on during book tour? Put your ideas in the Comments, or reach out to me on social media and I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks for your patience, my friends!