Ready to Write?

Twenty-four hours to go until my annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD) Challenge!!

I feel like a boxer’s trainer, rubbing her shoulders, fanning her with a towel, about to push her to the center of the ring and say “Go get ’em, champ.”

Are any of you taking the plunge a day early? Can’t wait?

I do have one suggestion. It might not sound related to writing, but it is. Go for a long walk today. If you walk with a friend, use the time to talk about your hopes for your writing in the upcoming month. If you walk alone, focus your thoughts on the same thing.

Moving your body is a critical part of the writing process. I’ll talk more about that in the next month.

The other news around here all centers on the upcoming publication of FORGE. (Which happens in 80 days, for those of you counting down at home.) I’ll be getting my booktour details very soon. Should we work out a secret handshake or something for those of you participating in WFMAD who come out to my signings this fall?

Abby the Librarian was able to score an advanced reading copy of FORGE and has written a terrific review about it.

Do YOU want an advanced reading copy of FORGE? Denise Jaden is holding a contest to do exactly that over on her blog. You have until Tuesday to enter. (And seriously – this contest is the sweetest thing ever and I swear I had nothing to do with it, which makes it even sweeter.)

First review of FORGE is in!!!

I know many of you have been wondering about the contents of FORGE. Sadly, you’ll have to wait 101 days until the 10/19 publication date to really sink your teeth into it.

But Richie Partington of Richie’s Pick’s has posted the first review of it, for those who want an early taste.

07 July 2010 FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson, Atheneum, October 2010, 304p., ISBN: 978-1-4169-6144-5

“How many years can some people exist

before they’re allowed to be free?”

— Bob Dylan

“‘Stop there! the boy yelled.

“The redcoat glanced behind him, caught his foot on a half-buried root, and fell hard.  His musket flew from his hand, but he quickly crawled to it. “‘You are my prisoner, sir,’ the boy declared in a shaky voice.  ‘Lay down your musket.

‘”The redcoat had no intention of becoming a prisoner.  He pulled out a gunpowder cartridge, ripped it open with his teeth, and poured powder into his firing pan.  His hands were shaking so violently that most of the powder fell to the ground.”

The question that had come to me shortly after my beginning to read FORGE, and which continued to bug me was: How exactly does Laurie Halse Anderson write historical fiction so that it can be so easily read; so well enjoyed; and in such a manner that readers can connect so readily with characters who lived so long ago?

“Stop!’  The boy brought his musket up to fire.  ‘I swear I’ll shoot.’  He wiped his right hand on his breeches, then cocked the firelock and slipped his finger in the trigger guard.

“The redcoat fumbled in his shot bag for a lead musketball.

“The boy squeezed the trigger.  His flint hit the empty firing pan with a dull click. The musket didn’t fire.  He’d forgotten to prime his pan.

“The redcoat pulled out his ramrod.

“The boy grabbed the cork out of his powder horn.

“My palms were sweating, my eyes going back and forth trying to figger who would win the race to load and shoot.”

How does she do it?  It seems to come down to the employment of straightforward sentences of moderate length; details that provide a sense of the characters being young people just like the young people we know — for better or for worse — in our own lives; and a lot of great scenes, both tense ones and humorous ones.  Solid writing skills that synergize into page after page of exceptional and accessible story about the historic past.

That Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning historical fiction can be so easily read also permits readers to more readily comprehend how what happened a long time ago can still have such significance today.

Maybe these conclusions to which I’ve arrived are obvious things you already know, but that question had really been bugging me.  I have always been attracted to historical fiction, but the Revolutionary-era tales I read during my own young years always led me to feel that the characters encountered had a lot more in common with Early Man than they did with me.

In contrast, here in FORGE, every time Curzon violently (and endearingly) twists his own ear to remind himself to stop once again thinking about Isabel (our heroine from CHAINS who has saved his life at the end of the first book and with whom he loses contact), we realize that, deep down, this is just like us doing the boy-girl thing back in high school.

“I twisted my ear so often in the weeks that followed, it swelled like a puffball.  Did me no good; I still thought about Isabel.  Her face has poisoned my mind the way the cold had taken hold of my bones.”

FORGE is set amidst the 1777-8 winter encampment that Washington and his troops established at Valley Forge, northwest of Philadelphia.  As she did so effectively in CHAINS, Anderson again begins each chapter with intriguing quotations she has compiled while doing research for these books.  The writers of these quotes include unknown foot soldiers as well as a who’s who of interesting and important Revolutionary characters like Paine, Gates, Washington, Rush, Laurens, Morris, (Mrs.) Adams, and Lafayette.

“‘It would be useless for us to denounce the servitude to which the Parliament of Great Britain wishes to reduce us, while we continue to keep our fellow creatures in slavery just because their color is different from ours.’

Signer of the Declaration of Independence Dr. Benjamin Rush, who purchased William Grubber in 1776 and did not free him until 1794.

Of course, the underlying question FORGE prompts, as did CHAINS, is: Who was actually gaining freedom through this Declaration of Independence and subsequent war, and why was it not everyone?

“How many times can a man turn his head

pretending he just doesn’t see”

The failure of the Founders to provide the appropriate answers to these questions; their permitting the continued enslavement of humans somehow justified through a difference in skin color is, of course the number one cause of America’s failure to ever live up to its true potential.  The treachery that befalls Curzon here in FORGE is part of an ever-present thread that can be followed from the Revolutionary era right into our own lifetimes.  Those who held power amongst the revolutionaries, along with leaders and constituents who have come in the intervening generations since, all bear responsibility for the horrors with which I’ve spent my life living: the brutal memories I both witnessed in person as a little child, and viewed again and again on the nightly news.  These are the despicable and nightmarish things that have been said and done throughout our nation’s history to people of color and those of good conscience in retaliation for their standing up for what was and is fair and just.

“My head laid itself on the table and I was no longer master of my own body, of my head, of my heart and somewhere my father was angry and I did not know how to explain.  My eyes closed themselves.

I will kill Bellingham.

All that I will say about the last section of the book (in the spring when the privies filled by ten thousand soldiers start to melt, causing the birds to start flying around the encampment instead of over it) is that the story really cranks into overdrive and that I finished up FORGE with a huge smile on my face.

Are any of you still wondering whether there is some let-down in this middle book of the trilogy?

Ha!  With Laurie Halse Anderson in command?  Not on your life!”

What I love about Richie’s reviews is the way he weaves together quotes from the text, plot summary, and his own reaction. You can subscribe to his reviews by joinging the Richie’s Picks group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/richiespicks/


Be sure to take a look at his review about Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s new book, THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK: THE BIRTH OF AN AMERICAN TERRORIST GROUP.  You also might be interested in the Picture Books For Older Readers list put together by some of Richie’s Library Science students.

ALA pics & recovery

Do not lean to close to the screen whilst reading this; I have a Summer Death Cold and don’t want to infect you. I ran this post through the anti-virus thingie, but you know viruses; always mutating.

Wash your hands when you are finished reading. And increase your Vitamin C intake.

And now to my ALA recap. (I did shoot some video footage, but my brain is too fuzzy to piece it together now. Watch this space next week.)

My hotel was delightfully near the White House, so I ran past it nearly every morning. Did not see the First Dog or the First Garden, sadly.

Simon & Schuster held a wonderful dinner in honor of FORGE (comes out October 19 – mark your calendars!)

Another shot from the dinner. We ate at a suitably 18th-century room in the Hotel Tabard Inn. It was very exciting to be able to talk about FORGE finally!

  The highlight of the trip was signing the Advance Reading copies of FORGE (tho’ I was bummed that they did not contain the backmatter – you’ll find that in the finished book.) I also stole a few minutes to walk around the floor. Here is Tony DiTerlizzi about to ravish the BoundTo Stay Book 90th birthday cake. The cake was made by Charm City Cakes, of course!

Tony’s newest masterpiece, The Search for Wondla, comes out on September 21. Click through the link to see art from the book. I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS ONE!!

I did a fair amount of stalking on the exhibit floor. Here are Kacy Cook, Catherine Balkin, and Arnold Adoff.

Judith Viorst and Lane Smith.

Mo Willems!

John Green and David Levithan. (I heard raves about their book, WILL GRAYSON,WILL GRAYSON, from teen readers.)

I also caught up with one of my favorite book clubs in America…

The Eva Perry Mock Printz Club from North Carolina.

There seemed to be more teens than usual at ALA this year, and I think that is a Very Good Thing. Here I am hanging out with Charley from Vermont, whose parents write The Jaguar Stones books. (Photo courtesy of J & P Voelkel and Elizabeth Law of Egmont.)

One of the best parts of ALA is running into old friends and celebrating their new books. On the left, my FORGE editor, Caitlyn Dloughy talks to my pal, Mitali Perkins, about Mitali’s wonderful new book, Bamboo People.

Linda Sue Park!!!

And my buddies David Gill and Tanya Lee Stone, both with new books out.

Many, many, MANY thanks to all the readers and librarians who came our to hear all of us speak and to share in our passion for creating books for kids and teens.

Now go wash your hands!

Taking advantage of the longest days & WFMAD anyone?

Sorry to have been to absent from blogging, my friends. We’ve been taking advantage of the long days in the garden. A very generous friend showed up with a pick-up truck filled with herbs. The herb garden by the cottage that I was going to work on this fall is now on an accelerated schedule! We’ve been eating peas and watching the tomato plants. The basil is ready, too.

(Have you ever made mozzarella cheese? I think I need to try that.)

(Second random comment – my experiment with clover and buckwheat as a cover crop is still very experimental. Have any of you used it in between rows of veggies to crowd out weeds?)

I’ll post my ALA schedule later today. I’m really looking forward to the conference – both to see old friends and to start talking up FORGE, which comes out it 118 days. (Gulp.) Have I shown you the cover yet?

What do you think?

In other book news, WINTERGIRLS has been translated in Spanish and published in Spain.

Any thoughts on this cover? I’m told it should be available soon in Mexico. Here’s an early synopsis en español.

::shifts gears::

For as much fun as I know ALA is going to be, I must admit I am very impatient to get home and get back to writing. I hope to fill a lot of pages between now and mid-October, when the FORGE booktour gets underway. And since I’ll have the writing process on my mind, are there any of you who want me to the Write for Fifteen Minutes A Day Challenge? (Link takes you to the first day of last year’s challenge.)

The rules are simple. In fact, they aren’t even rules. They’re more like guidelines, the Pirate Code of Writing.

1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of August.
2. Just do it.

Seriously. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to sign up anywhere, or meet minimum word count goals or complete a whole freaking novel in 30 days.

Anyone up for it? Leave me a message in comments or on my Facebook page or on Twitter, please.

My to-do list for the next 12 hours has now exceeded two pages, so I must either start crossing things off or set fire to it. Or maybe shred for use in the chicken coop.

BEA (book expo) Vlog & FORGE signing

I spent Tuesday – Thursday of this week at BEA – the gigunda annual trade show for booksellers in New York City. It was crazy-intense and wonderful. I got to hear smart people talk, saw friends be honored, receive some nice recognition from independent booksellers for some of my work, sign LOTS of books, go to parties, hear the opening pages of Mockingjay (the 3rd Hunger Games book. No, they didn’t have any ARCs. It comes out on August 24th. Order your copy from an indie bookseller now.), and have great conversations with booksellers about how we authors can help them do what they do best; get books into the hands of readers.

And I brought my new camera so I could make a few videos for you!

Here is the first one. Mostly it shows the very patient booksellers who waited in line for hours for me to sign advanced copies of FORGE. Be sure to check the end of the clip to see the special guest appearance by His High Crankiness His High Bookishness, Former Children’s Literature Ambassador Jon Whathisname.


I’m taking the rest of the long weekend off from the Internet. Happy Memorial Day and see you Tuesday!