BEA round-up

Three days breathing Javitz Center air have left me feeling a little delirious. But before I self-medicate by planting flowers and working out at the gym, let me share a few BEA pics with you.

(pic from Mitali Perkins Twitter feed)
Mitali Perkins, Jennifer Donnelly and I did a good job representing YA books at the Indie Choice Book Awards luncheon.

(pic from Mitali Perkins Twitter feed)
After I won the award for Most Engaging Author (THANK YOU, INDIE BOOKSELLERS!), my daughter Stef worked hard at keeping me humble.

Stef and I were lucky enough to go running with Christopher McDougall, author of BORN TO RUN.

I was very happy to catch up with Sarah Dessen who has been busy criss-crossing the country to support her new book, WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE.

AND I enjoyed a spectacular sushi lunch with my editor, Joy.

I was going to include lots of photos and breathless commentary about the fast-paced bidding and high-pitched drama at the ABFFE art auction. But I was so busy talking and bidding (mostly talking – EVERYONE I know in publishing was there, including Sarah Odedina from Bloomsbury, the British publisher of CHAINS and FORGE), that I didn’t take even one single pic. GAH! You can read a little bit about the auction in Josie Leavitt’s blog. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the night such a success.

(This blog entry has taken nearly three hours to compose, because WordPress is being a jerk, and because my tired brain really wants to be outside.)


Mockingjays and chickens love booksellers

I seem to be on a video roll this week. Can’t figure out what’s come over me! But before we go to the tape, I have to share one photo.

     At the Scholastic MOCKINGJAY party. Suzanne Collins gave us a surprise reading of the opening pages and all I have to say is this: order your copy NOW! On-sale date in August 24th!

So here’s a mash-up of last week’s BEA conference and my chicken coop. (The chickens were bored by all the details of the terrific awards luncheon, but you might enjoy it.) For some reason the annotations on the video aren’t working right in LJ, so if you want to read them, go straight to my Youtube channel.

Award Lists & Revision Tip #3

Santa’s elves arrived in the Forest early this year!

They brought the news that WINTERGIRLS has been named a Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Book of the Year, Kirkus’ Best YA Books of 2009, Booklist’s Editor’s Choice of 2009, the 2010 Texas Tayshas High School Reading List and nominated to YALSA’s 2010 Quick Pick List! It has also been nominated to the 2011 Grand Canyon Reader Award by the very nice people in Arizona, who were kind enough to nominate…

CHAINS as well, on the Tween List for the Grand Canyon Reader Award.

Each one of those lovely lists feels like another filled stocking in front of the fire!


Many people struggle to find a way to look at the larger picture of their novel. They can line edit a page or take a chapter to their writer’s group, but managing the unwieldy novel is hard.

Here is what I do.

1. Get the largest piece of paper you can find. I go to an art supply store and buy an enormous artist’s pad for this task.

2. You need to carve out three hours of concentration time. Turn off the internet and phone. Loan your dog and children and partner to nice people who will return them fed and watered after the the three hours. Chain off the driveway so delivery trucks and friendly people who don’t understand what you mean when you say "I’m working" can’t drop in.

3. On one of your massive sheets of paper, list every chapter in your book. Describe the action in the chapter in one sentence.

4. Now prepare a separate action list. (This one will take up a couple of sheets of paper. (Did I mention that you ‘ll need to clear off the kitchen table for this? And maybe the floor?) This list will break down each chapter into the scenes. Keep it brief! F. Ex.: "MC (main character) drops homework in fish tank. Fish die. MC hides them in flower vase. Mother sees them and flips out."

5. (This is the fun part) With a colored pen or pencil, go through the detailed chapter list and make notes about the emotional arc of your MC and the important secondary characters. Also, make sure that changes in mood are properly motivated, and that conflicts are set up. You might use different colors to represent different plot elements.

6. The threads of your novel are laid out in front of you. Step back and study it. Do your characters have reasonable emotional responses to the actions in the chapters? Do the building levels of conflict appear in the right order? (I often move scenes around at this stage.) Which scenes and/or chapters can you completely remove from the story without affecting anything else? What characters can you eliminate? Do you have any characters that can be combined because they serve the same purpose in the story. (I do this a lot.)

7. By the end of this process, your papers will be covered with notes, stickies and lots of colored arrows.

8. Sit down with the giant map of your novel and apply the changes to your manuscript. I like to do this on a hard copy first, then type in the changes.

9. Don’t forget to unchain the driveway and let your loved ones back in.

Dang, this is a long blog entry. Still with me? Questions?

Do you think they should get rid of BBYA?

I know I’ve been under a rock for the past six week, but I had no idea there were discussions about eliminating the Best Books For Young Adults List. Argh!

Liz B. explains what’s going on and gives her excellent opinion.

A quick bit of noodling came up with the responses of Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan.

They said what I am thinking, only in a more articulate way. Plus, I’m an author with a vested interest in the process. They are Super Librarians and have both served on the committee.

What do you think?

Doing the Happy Dance in my Longjohns


I have a wee bit of news to share.

CHAINS is the winner of the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here is the formal language: “Laurie Halse Anderson has won the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Chains (S&S, October 2008), narrated by teenaged Isabel Finch during the Revolutionary War. Although Isabel and her enslaved five-year-old sister were to be freed upon the death of their mistress, the woman’s heir sells the siblings to a new owner in New York City–that is the first of the betrayals that lie ahead, but also the beginning of Isabel’s fight for freedom. The award, established by O’Dell (best known as the author of The Island of the Blue Dolphins), is given annually to a meritorious work of historical fiction and includes a $5,000 prize.Chains was also a National Book Award Finalist, just like Anderson’s debut novel, Speak(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999).”

I found out Friday night and have been walking around with my hands clenched over my mouth ever since because I wasn’t supposed to tell anybody. I formally apologize to my writer’s group for not even telling them. I offer to make cake for our next meeting as my penance. Or bread. I’m better at bread than cake. (Paging Marie Antoinette…)

This is an unbelievable honor – one that I never imagined my work would receive. It feels delicious and bubbly and affirming and huzzah! huzzah! The hardest part is I want to tell Isabel and it takes so long for letters to reach the 18th century!

OK, I’m pretty much not capable of forming any other complete sentences.

Except for THANK YOU!!!!