So…… what’s up with the warning in TWISTED?

When you pick up TWISTED (which I sincerely hope you will do this summer) and flip through the opening pages, you will find something unusual right after the dedication page. It reads “NOTE: THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN” Then the adventures of Tyler Miller begin.

Many people have been speculating on The Note. Some theorized that the publisher forced it down my throat. John Green called it a “marketing ploy” in his otherwise very nice New York Times review of the book. Several other reviewers concluded that the note was spot-on; that TWISTED is not a book for kids, but it is a great book for teens.

I had no idea this was going to be such a big deal. It’s time for me to set the record straight.

First, some background.

I write books for teenagers, yes. I also write historical fiction that is aimed at grades 5-8 (but read by all sorts of folks), I wrote a series for tweens about kids volunteering in a vet’s clinic, and I write picture books for little kids. I have lost track of the number of times I have met parents whose children (nine and ten-year-olds) have enjoyed one of my books for younger readers, so they pick up SPEAK or another YA title of mine and ask me to sign it for their child. I always ask the parent to read the book first. They appreciate the heads-up.

And then there are people like the lady who insisted on buying SPEAK for her second-grade daughter because the girl was gifted and reading on a 10th-grade level.

::headdesk headdesk::

For years I have been talking to people in publishing, librarians, teachers, booksellers, and other authors trying to figure out a way to alert book buyers and borrowers about books that are better suited for older readers. The age ranges put on books aren’t very helpful – who decides what is right for 13? For 11? For 16? Ask 100 people and you’ll get 103 answers. This can be a very confusing muddle. (Plot summaries don’t help much either. They present a couple of facts, nothing more.)

I think SPEAK is a book for everyone in 7th grade and older (the main character is 14). TWISTED is aimed at the older end of the age bracket (the main character is 18) – it will have the most meaning for kids in 9th grade and older, though I have already heard from 8th graders who really liked it, and who got a lot out of the main character’s struggles.

Hence, The Note. I figure that anyone who is picking up TWISTED for a person that they still consider a “child” (regardless of age) will probably want to wait a while before handing it over, or should read it themselves, first. Anyone buying the book for a “teen” or “post-child person” won’t have a problem with it. My editor Sharyn, aka came up with the brilliant idea of making The Note look like an RIAA stamp.

I would love to hear what all of you think of this. Let the conversation begin. (John and I will be talking about this over coffee at ALA. Give us lots of opinions so we can ponder deeply!)

In other news, many thanks to the SCBWI members who came out to Saturday’s Mid-Hudson conference and treated me so kindly.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Here is part of the crowd gathered for my keynote speech.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Daffodils bloom in the most unlikely and delightful places. This is who attended the Rutgers Conference in October and received one of the daffodil bulbs I handed out there. The bulb went in her “conference bookbag” and then her life got busy. As she prepared for the Mid-Hudson conference, she found it buried deep in the bag. It had very recently sprouted and is still fresh and ready to go. Just like a lot of writers I met.

Blog alert: if you love YA Literature, you’ll want to check out Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog. (You probably already know about it since I am usually the last kid on the block to hear about anything new and interesting. But just in case…)

OK, OK, one last thing, just because it is summer and funky things happen.

Hot and fast Friday fiveish

1. Bandages are off! I woke up yesterday at 5:15 and had removed the blasted bandages by 5:20. The doc made 15 small incisions on The Leg and they’re all healing nicely. I see him in a week and if there is any justice in the world I’ll run after that.

2. The revision is going very well. I figured out yesterday that I need to completely disassemble the last quarter of the book, move stuff around, throw some stuff out and make some new stuff up, and reassemble. But I am not freaking because I am pretty sure I know what to do. That will be next week’s job.

3. John Green and I have a coffee date for ALA!!! (He was very nice and wrote to me.) Remind me to post next week about the introductory message “This is not a book for children” that is in TWISTED.

4. I will get to meet Sherman Alexie at ALA too. ::fangeekfangeekfangeek::

5. I am off in a few hours for to speak at the SCBWI Mid-Hudson Conference. A friend has graciously offered to drive so I can rest The Leg and knit.

5a. I will be quite happy if I can live out the rest of my life without ever hearing the name “Paris Hilton” spoken again.

Recommending books

I am deep in (what I hope are) the last revisions for next year’s historical. I have also started a new experimental writing schedule. I’ll report on its success or failure next month.

Here are a few things for you to ponder:

Sherman Alexie (I am a huge fan and have been for years) mentions my book Catalyst on page 178 in his YA novel that will be published in September, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I loved this book…. and I hardly ever say that, so take it for what it is worth. And I would love it just as much if he hadn’t mentioned Catalyst. Maybe a little bit more, because now I feel kind of awkward about the whole thing.

To be fair, he mentions ten books in a list of favorite books given by Junior, the story’s narrator: The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, Fat Kid Rules the World, Tangerine, Feed, Catalyst(!), Invisible Man, Fools Crow, and Jar of Fools. I just put the last two titles on my wish list. If you are looking for something to read this summer, this is a great list to work from, IMHO.

(Thank you, Ed Spicer for the heads-up about this.) Does anyone out there know Sherman Alexie? I would love to know why he chose these books. Plus, I’d like to say thanks for the shout-out.

Thanks, too, to John Green (whom I still haven’t met!) for the nice review of Twisted in the New York Times. (You need to be registered for the link to work.) I do take issue with his characterization of the note in the book that says “This is a not a book for children” as a marketing ploy. It isn’t. If we ever get to meet, I’ll buy him a cup of coffee and we can talk about it.

There are two new books out that all teachers of middle grade and high school English should have on their shelves:

Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em: Young Adult Books That Speak to This Generation by Jim Blasingame of Arizona State University. Here is what the publisher says: Young adult literature expert Jim Blasingame helps teachers understand the power and purpose of young adult literature. He also presents instructional strategies proven to facilitate students’ interactions with texts—and promote higher order thinking skills. Includes annotated lists—organized by theme, topic, genre, reading level, and more—of the best young adult books as well as fascinating interviews with 30 of today’s most popular YA authors.”

Dear Author: Letters of Hope; Top Young Adult Authors Respond to Kids’ Toughest Issues by Joan Kaywell of the University of South Florida. Here is what School Library Journal says, in part: “If there was ever a book that every young adult librarian and every reading teacher should read, this is it. And the students with whom they work will be clamoring to get their hands on it as well. Dear Author is an astounding compilation of letters from teen readers to writers, and their replies. The letters speak of heartache, abuse, bullying, ostracism, and other issues that these young people have faced. They have written to the authors because they have identified with one or more of their characters. Lois Duncan and John Ritter reply with heartfelt responses, identifying with their readers and encouraging them to be strong. Following the letters are short biographies and bibliographies for each of the authors included. Why is this book so essential? First, it clearly shows what a tremendous impact YA literature has on teens. Second, it is immensely helpful in highlighting titles that just may help students/patrons deal with situations that are looming large in their lives.”

The Leg is healing nicely. I am walking without hobbling, pretty much, and staring at my running shoes with undisguised lust. Four more days until the bandages come off, ten until I see the doctor and beg him to let me run again.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic My right leg, looking a wee bit bulky under too many layers of bandages that make it incredibly hard to take a shower.

My Friday Five

First, I owe a shout-out to Lydia, whose older sister, Elena, works at Writer’s House in New York. ::waves from couch:: She said really sweet things about you, Lydia!

Now – my Five Friday Things:

1. My surgery is over and my leg is in the air and healing nicely. (Thanks for all the warm wishes.) BH tells me that when I was coming out of the anesthesia I tried to negotiate with the doctor and get him to agree that I could go running in four days instead of two weeks. I do not remember this. Both the doc and BH were amused.

2. Two weeks without running is a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long time.

3. Pain pills make you stupid, but are useful when you need to sleep.

4. Two weeks = fourteen days = seven missed running days = 35 missed miles. Humpf.

5. I am not in New York for BEA because of The Leg. So here are my photos from last week’s New York City trip.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is Kevin Lewis, my Simon & Schuster editor, with me. We’re holding Thank You, Sarah, and Fever 1793, our past projects, and drafts of Independent Dames and Chains, my books that Kevin is publishing in 2008.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Derry Wilkens, the Publicity Goddess at Viking/Penguin who put together the Twisted book tour.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Sharyn November, my Viking Editor and sister of the spirit.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic In between meetings I snuck down to Books of Wonder, one of the best children’s bookstores in the country.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And here are some of the nice booksellers who work there: Angela Williams, Lee Burnley, and Cyrus Krapf-Altomare.

Does anyone have any BEA stories?