Art Auction + Free Speech = Winning

BEA – the ginormous annual publishing conference – is just around the corner. I’ll be there Monday- Thursday, and plan on having a Very Good Time Indeed.

One of the coolest things at BEA is the Silent Auction. This takes place Wednesday night. The best illustrators in the business such as David Diaz, Mo Willems, Rosemary Wells, and Marla Frazee have donated their art for the auction.


Profits from the auction will support the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression’s efforts to fight censorship of children’s books through education, advocacy, and participation in legal cases around the country. So you walk away with the coolest art in the world AND you support a very good cause!

Buy your tickets right now!!

Yes, it’s true. I am the honorary chairperson of the auction this year. Why? Because there are a lot of crazypants people in this country who want to censor reading choices and ban books. Artists and writers are called to defend the freedom of expression that makes America so special. Booksellers have a role to play, too. The freedom to read is as vital as the freedom to think and to have your own opinion. I am so excited to see booksellers fighting hard to preserve those freedoms.

Buy your ticket and check out the artwork. What will you be bidding on?

Indiana mother wants to ban TWISTED

Wait, didn’t we do this already?

This time the setting is South Central Junior-Senior High School in Harrison County, IN where a parent is filing the paperwork to have TWISTED removed from the school.

TWISTED was assigned in this parent’s, Ms. Mathis, son’s English class. An alternative book, THE OUTSIDERS, was made available for students whose parents were not comfortable with TWISTED. Ms. Mathis chose THE OUTSIDERS for her son, then started on the path to have TWISTED removed from the school completely.

Here is a quote from Ms. Mathis in today’s The Corydon Democrat, the local paper in her community.

""(Twisted) has a lot of bad language in it and situations in it that I don’t think are appropriate," Mathis said Monday. "If the students are going to watch an R-rated movie, they have to get permission ahead of time from parents … And I think there’s a (double-standard) in saying kids can’t cuss at school, yet they are allowed to read a book with such bad words in it.""

It was very nice to be contacted by the local reporter and given a chance to add my voice to the discussion.

"Anderson said the strong language was required for the character’s situation.

"The scene in which Tyler, the main character, uses the ‘F-word’ is the scene in which he is actively contemplating suicide. I used it at that point — the critical point in the book — because it shows the level of the character’s desperation. People on the verge of killing themselves tend not to edit their vocabulary," Anderson said.

Anderson said it’s easier for parents to allow their children to only read the classics and avoid difficult situations, but to do so is "to condemn our children to ignorance.""

You really should read the entire article. (Note: I disagree with the article’s first paragraph. I still don’t have complete information about the current status of TWISTED in the Kentucky high school.)

I am off for a run now.

No worries, mate – Friday Five Plus One, turtle edition

I didn’t mean to alarm anyone by not posting for a week. Things have been a bit busy. Mostly with good stuff, but at such a fast pace I haven’t had blogging time.

First – A wee movie for your enjoyment. This turtle belongs to my daughter, OfficeMouse. When she got the turtle, it was smaller than a quarter.

The turtle thinks it is a cat. This is very confusing to the real cats.

Second – I have heard nothing from the Kentucky high school where TWISTED and other books still appear to be banned. I have no idea what is going on and hope that everyone down there is figuring out how to have constructive, professional conversations about the place of YA contemporary literature in the classroom.

Third – WINTERGIRLS is preparing to move to the world stage. I think the Australian edition will be the first one to go to press. Authors Melina Marchetta and Alyssa Brugman said very nice things about the book – thank you! As it stands now, WINTERGIRLS will be published in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Norway, Korea, Poland, Spain & Latin America, Italy, Germany, and Holland. And Great Britain, I think. This is all VERY exciting!!! As soon as I get cover images of these books, I’ll post them. It always fascinates me to see what images the non-US publishers choose to appeal to their markets. 

Fourth – last weekend I got to speak to the lovely booksellers at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Conference. You can read Part One of Jennifer Brown’s conference coverage in today’s Shelf Awareness.

Fifth – I have been struggling a bit with some health issues. I added up the stress factors of the past year and everything suddenly made sense. In addition to the two deaths in the family this summer, and caring for a niece for a while, I was on the road for business for more than 100 days of the last year. That is officially Too Much Travel and explains many things. So please, if you have been trying to get me to come at speak at your school or conference, please understand why I am going to have to say no. I am already scheduled for 50 days next year and we’re going to try and limit it to that number.

Plus One – I’ve been sneaking into the cottageand writing amidst the power tools, but BH assures me we are days away from being able to clear out the equipment and handing over the keys to me. Some of the interior projects, like the wall of bookcase have been put on hold until I hit the road again. Next week I might make a video that shows the entire project. For now, here are a couple of recent shots.

  The south wall with the magic window in place. It only requires a little bit of siding work (that is cedar siding) to be done. BH is planning on stoning that bit of wall from the bottom of the siding to the ground. I don’t know if he’ll have time to do that before the snow flies.

BH standing next to the woodstove where the fire is crackling away. The stove is covered in soapstone so it should radiate plenty of heat. The floorboards are 125+ years old. 

TWISTED still under threat in KY – you can help

The English teacher in KY who has been dealing with the challenges to several books, including TWISTED, has to jump through new hoops before the books will be allowed back in the classroom.

Three of the books: TWISTED, LESSONS OF A DEAD GIRL, and RAPTURE OF CANAAN have again been banned by the superintendent. According to the teacher, he does not feel they are appropriate for college level work, i.e. they do not belong as literature circle selections in an AP English course.

The teacher writes: "The superintendent wants to know that other schools are using these books in the classrooms, not in their libraries. If you all know of ANY schools where any of the listed books are being used, or if you have any evidence that they are "college level" and prepare students for college, PLEASE send it …."

Here is my plea.

If you use any of these three books in your classroom, please email us.

If you can provide your rationale for any of these three books, please email us.

If you are a college professor and you have knowledge of the teaching of these books, please email us.

If you are or were a student who was taught any of these three books please email us.

Send all your information and comments to my assistant, Queen Louise. Her email is queenlouise AT writerlady DOT com . We’ll forward everything to the district in questions.

Thanks so much for all your help with this, my friends.

Books and Teachers Under Attack

Last week I reported on efforts to ban SPEAK in CA, and TWISTED in KY and PA. Thankfully, all of the attempts to remove the books were defeated.

This week, things are worse.

Teachers at Montgomery High School in Mt. Sterling, KY have been banned from wearing Banned Books Week tee-shirts that feature a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird. 6pm update: after a meeting today that included an Educational Association representative (which I think means union) at the table, the tee-shirt ban was lifted.


The rationale for the ban was that wearing the shirts constituted political activity.

God, I wish I was making this up. But I am not. I will post a link to news coverage of this horrifying nightmare as soon as it is available.

Other book banning notes:

John Green blogged about parent demands in Leesburg, FL, that tighter restrictions be put on 40 books in the public library, included LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Be sure to watch the replay of John’s vlog, "I Am Not A Pornographer." Genius.

Lee Wind has an EXCELLENT roundtable discussion with Ellen Hopkins, E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Jacqui Robbins, Sarah Brannan, and Frank Portman about challenges to their books. Read Part 1 now!

What can we do to protect books and readers and teachers and librarians?

If you live in Central New York, you can go to the Onondaga County Public Library at 5:30-7:30pm tonight to listen to Sonya Sones talk about her experience with book banning.

Read this wonderful interview with Chris Crutcher. Heed his advice about how to deal with censorship: "Never be intimidated.  The loud voices for censorship actually represent a very small number of people.  Judge yourself by your enemies as much as you judge yourself by your friends."

YALSA has some great suggestions on its blog.

If you don’t have book banning attempts in your community, take the time to thank your local school superintendent and library board for their intelligent understanding of the Constitution. If you do have challenges to books in your community, speak out loudly.

And last, some wonderful news for a change: attendance records at the National Book Festival were shattered as more than 130,000 book lovers turned out to listen to authors in Washington, DC.