WINTERGIRLS thoughts & questions for you

I’m starting to get mail asking what WINTERGIRLS is about, where the idea came from, etc. I feel weird when asked to summarize my books. It takes me around 300 pages to tell a story and I feel like an idiot when boiling that down to a paragraph or two. But I have been asked to try, so here goes.


…about being haunted by an angry ghost
…about being lost
…about feeling frozen and not having an ice pick
…about being trapped between alive and dead
…about pain that leads to self-destruction
…about the possibility of happiness

All of those concepts are filtered through the story of Lia, an 18-year-old suffering from anorexia, and her family and friends. But if you know where to look, you’ll see shadows of Persephone and Sleeping Beauty, too. It’s the darkest book I’ve ever written.

I was shocked to see there are already 53 reviews for WINTERGIRLS on Goodreads. Do any of you use Goodreads? I haven’t so far because I am the fussiest reader I know.

John Green (yes, him, PAPER TOWNS, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, etc.) has an interesting post on evaluating teens reactions to books based on its Goodread’s rating. What do you think of his argument?

The other book release that is beginning to rumble in the blogosphere and elsewhere is the 10th anniversary edition of SPEAK. Yes, it has been 10 years. No, I don’t believe it, either. But I counted on all of my fingers and it is true.

Penguin Books has put up a blog, Speak Up About Speak,”dedicated to readers, writers and authors who want to discuss the impact Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has had on young adult literature.” Feel free to post your opinions, memories, or anything else over there.

10 years? Yeah, that’s what they tell me.

Does it make you feel old? No, it makes me think I stepped into a worm hole and got sucked through a decade of time without realizing it.

One last question and then I have to get to work. A new blog reader from India yesterday wrote in and asked how she could order one of my books. Does anyone have a suggestion? Are there any independent bookstores out there who ship overseas?


Briefly looking up from page to enlist your help & tour schedule

Loooong day yesterday, loooonger day ahead today so I can turn in some overdue work. I had to bow out of my writer’s group meeting today to get everything done and that has me very cranky and peevish.

Sidebar. Peevish. Has a good ring to it. Could almost be a faux-curse word, don’t you think?

Not much blogging time today, but I wanted to share a couple of quick things.

A teacher named Heather and her colleagues are looking for ideas and advice from other teachers about using TWISTED in the classroom. She has the discussion questions from my web site, but wondered if any of you have other ideas. Any suggestions?

Speaking of the website, Theo the Web God is finishing the last touches on a map for CHAINS and is putting together the WINTERGIRLS pages. In my spare time (peevishpeevishpeevish) I’ve been combing through the site to find the inconsistencies between the flash version and the lo-resolution version, and updating the content. I still need to work on the biography.

What else would you like to see on my website?

I do have a quick and dirty version of the rest of this year’s schedule, including the cities I’ll be hitting for the WINTERGIRLS book tour that starts in …… dear God, that starts in six weeks (peeveeveeveeish!!!!!).

NOTE – on weekdays, I am generally visiting schools and/or libraries during the day, then doing a public bookstore or library appearance at night. The school and library visits are coordinated by the independent bookstores indicated in this calendar. If you want more information, please contact the store, not me, because this is all the information I have so far.

As soon as I have the firm and complete schedule with times and addresses, I will post it here and to the website.

Friday March 20: Los Angeles CA, courtesy of Children’s Book World.

Saturday March 21: Los Angeles CA, courtesy of Vromans & Mrs. Nelsons

Sunday March 22: San Francisco CA, courtesy of Books Inc. & Kepler’s

Monday March 23: San Francisco CA, courtesy of Rakestraw & Copperfields

Tuesday March 24: Seattle WA, courtesy of Third Place Books & Secret Garden

Wednesday March 25: Phoenix AZ, courtesy of Phoenix Book Company & Changing Hands

Thursday March 26: Salt Lake City UT, courtesy of King’s English

Friday March 27: Houston TX, courtesy of Blue Willow

Saturday March 28: Austin TX, courtesy of Book People

Sunday March 29: Oxford MS, courtesy of Square Books

Monday March 30: St. Louis MO, courtesy of Booksource

Tuesday March 31: Atlanta GA, courtesy of Little Shop of Stories

Wednesday April 1: Atlanta GA, coutesy of the B&N in Alpharetta

NOTE: On both 3/31 and 4/1 I will be speaking at the Kennesaw State Literature Conference

Thursday April 2: Vero Beach FL/Miami FL, courtesy of Books & Books

Friday April 3: Raleigh NC, courtesy of Quail Ridge

Other Travel Dates

4/10 – 4/18 Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lima, Peru

4/24 – 4/26 Los Angeles Times Book Festival Los Angeles CA

5/3 – 5/6 International Reading Association Conference, Minneapolis, MN

5/15 River’s End Bookstore, Oswego, NY

7/10 – 7/14 American Library Association Annual Convention, Chicago IL

8/3 Summer Writing Institute at SUNY Oswego (Oswego, NY), through the Reading and Writing Project of Teachers College, Columbia University

9/13 Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn NY

11/6 – 11/8 American Association of School Librarians Conference, Charlotte NC

11/20 – 11/24 National Council of Teachers of English Conference & ALAN Workshop, Philadelphia PA

For the record, 2009 is officially packed full and there is no way I can consider any new engagements. If you have something you’d like me to consider for 2010, 2011, or 2012, you need to talk to the publishers’ contacts on this page (scroll down a bit).

Tomorrow: A few WINTERGIRLS tidbits and news of SPEAK’s 10th anniversary edition
Friday: I do the 25 Random things that I am, apparently, the very last person on the planet to do.

And something nice to soothe my peevishness.

This is the gas station we stopped at in Vermont.

State of the Writing World & Star #4

My thumb continues to heal. Many thanks to the Constant Reader who sent me info on the local guy who makes handmade drums and gives lessons. That will be my reward for finishing the book I’m writing now (FORGE, the follow-up to CHAINS). Until then, I am downloading all kinds of drumming music. Any suggestions?

Many of the conversations at the KW retreat revolved around all the layoffs (i.e. bloodbath) that happened at various publishers in the last few months. It is horrendous for the people who lost their jobs, and it makes writers trying to sell a project or break into the market understandably confused and disheartened.

My opinion?

This too, shall pass.

It all sucks horribly – especially for the people paying NYC rents and suddenly jobless – but it is not a permanent situation. Nothing ever is.

My advice is to use the economic meltdown as an opportunity to focus less on the publication process and more on the quality of your craft. This is the year you don’t have send out one hundred queries or waste time keeping up on trends or tracking down agents. This is the year to focus on taking your writing to the next level. Do that and it will be much easier to sell your book when the economy strengthens.

Anyone else have an opinion about this?

On a more positive note, I can finally share the news of WINTERGIRLS’ 4th star!!! Thank you, Kirkus! Here’s the review:

“Neither therapy nor threats nor her ex–best friend’s death can turn Lia away from her habits of cutting and self-starvation. In broken, symbolic and gut-wrenching prose, Lia narrates her hopeless story of the destructive behaviors that control her every action and thought. She lives for both the thrill and the crash of not eating, and any progress she may have made toward normal eating is erased when her former best friend Cassie dies alone in a hotel room. The trauma of Cassie’s death coupled with Lia’s strained relationship with her parents and stepmother makes her tighten her focus on not eating as she slides into a world of starvation-induced hallucinations. Uncontrollable self-accusations (“Stupid/ugly/stupid/bitch/stupid/fat”) and compulsive calorie counts punctuate her claustrophobic account, which she edits chillingly to control her world. Anderson perfectly captures the isolation and motivations of the anorexic without ever suggesting that depression and eating disorders are simply things to “get over.” Due to the author’s and the subject’s popularity, this should be a much-discussed book, which rises far above the standard problem novel.” Kirkus, Feb. 1, 2009.

I think there may be a few reviewer ARCS available through the WINTERGIRLS MySpace page. This is done by the publisher, so for those of you who have been sending me questions about the ARCs, I’m really, really, sorry, but I don’t have a clue. On the MySpace page, there is an email address in the blog announcement about the giveaway. Mail your questions there.

Kindling with the Muse

So, if my beloved Eagles can’t win, I throw my support down the PA Turnpike to the Steelers. Which means I sort of get to say “We won!” Awesome game, great-half-time (tho’ it sure looked to me like Bruce is going to be a little sore today, what with flinging himself into the stage and crashing into the camera. When he popped down on his knees in the first song, I though for sure he tore an ACL. Maybe he does yoga. Or maybe he’s in traction right now.)

We enjoyed the game in our basement, which BH has been renovating for the past year. It is becoming affectionately known as the “Man Cave”. I have lifetime privileges.

And, for the record, I did not break my thumb. More on that later.

But before we get to that, let’s back up to the Kindling Words Retreat this weekend. For those of you dropping into the Forest today for the first time (this blog is an LJ Spotlight this week – welcome, everyone!) Kindling Words is a writer’s retreat. It’s a bit different than most writer’s conferences in that the emphasis is on craft and inspiration, instead of getting published.

One of the nice things was that I did not have to give any presentations this year, so I was able to focus on my own writing and listening to the wisdom of others. The retreat started out with an evening of being creative outside the box, with the opportunity to create group poetry, group painting, and to sit in on a drumming circle and be taught by a gentleman from South Africa.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I forgot to write his name down, but he was AMAZING. That’s him with my friend Marnie Brooks, who is one of the organizers of the retreat. I was completely ready to run away and hide because the thought of having to play a drum in front of other people, was very scary. But everyone else walked in, so I screwed my courage to the sticking point, went in and picked up a djemba.

To say that I forgot my shyness and played with enthusiasm is to put it mildly. I didn’t know that I loved playing the drums because I had never played the drums before! (How many other fun things have I not yet tried that could be a blast?) Our teacher was extremely good and he led us (30 of us) in a drumming circle for about 20 minutes, then we had another brief session that night. I got in that place that I sometimes get to when I’m writing or running, when I am so deep in the experience that I lose sense of who and where I am. I am sure this looked scary to the people sitting next to me. I. Was. Gone. More on the consequences of that later.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were filled with presentations by author Nancy Werlin, artist Mary Jane Begin, and a keynote by Mr. Ashley Bryan, who is one of those people who carry themselves with such dignity, but at the same time exude such warmth, that I could not bring myself to call him Ashley all weekend. He is Mr. Bryan.

I attended a few of the presentations, but played hooky from a few more so I could concentrate on a plot knot and some extremely wrong character motivations in the book I’m working on right now. Despite the fact that my hands were sore from the drumming, I spent most of Friday and Saturday morning typing like a mad woman. More on the consequences of that later.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic But there was plenty of time for catching up with folks at meals. Where else can you breakfast with Mr. Ashley Bryan and Jane Yolen, and see over their shoulders, Gregory Maguire, and the brand-new Coretta Scott King honor book author, Hope Anita Smith?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Or lounge on a couch by the fire with Ellen Wittlinger and Sibby Falk? The number of authors there whose work I admire was staggering. You can see more pictures on Kate Messner’s LJ.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic There was an additional drumming circle, but I could not participate. In fact, by lunchtime on Saturday, I couldn’t move my thumb. (Notice swelling and bruising.) I was pretty sure that I had fractured (in a small way) a bone at the base of the thumb and had aggravated it wicked by all the frenzied typing. It didn’t seem to make much sense to go for x-rays until I was home, so I iced, iced, iced it, and put arnica on it, courtesy of Anne Sibley O’Brien.

By Sunday, the swelling started to go down and I could move it again. Crisis over. Many pages accomplished. My only regret was that the weekend had to end. Note to self: participate in drumming circles only when not on deadline!

At the traditional bonfire on Saturday night, I threw in my wishes for the next year. (It certainly worked for me in 2008!) The retreat is held in Vermont, so yes, the bonfire is built in the snow.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A bonfire in the snow is the perfect metaphor for our creative journeys; improbable, unexpected, delighful, circled by friends, kindled by the Muse.


Steelers by 10.

Last day of Kindling Words – I wish it were a week long.

More details and photos tomorrow. And the good news – I am now pretty sure that I did not break my thumb!