Shaking out the mailbag

Today’s post empties my email bag… the handwritten stuff is almost finished, too. I’ll be spending most of Saturday at the Sectionals swim meet in Syracuse, and I’ll bring what’s not done with me to finish there. Be sure to read the first letter (below), because I want the opinions of you guys who visit this LJ regularly.

Today’s interesting article about language growth.

Max writes: Hey! I had what I thought was a really good idea. I was reading back on your journal entries, because I haven’t been online in a couple of days, and I first read your most recent entry about what advice you would give to teens, then I scrolled down to read about your AIM chat with your daughters, and the idea hit me! I think it would be awesome if you created a screen name specifically for the website, like writerlady, and put together chats for all of your fans and the people that you inspire to come and chat with you and ask those questions! I’m not sure how much you like this idea, but I think it would be awesome to actually get to chat to you like all of us are on a phone call!

Good to hear from you again, Max! I have mixed feelings about your suggestion. It is a terrific one, and it uses technology, which I like. But I am feeling very pressed for time these days, what with deadlines and road trips coming up. What if we set up a message board so readers could communicate with each other? Check out Neil Gaiman’s board and tell me what you think.

Jenn writes: I have a question about publishing. I am in the process of writing a poetry novel. I want to try to get it published when it is finished but I don’t know how/where to start that whole process. Can you give me some advice?

The best advice I have is to go to a library and ask the librarian to help you find books about the publishing process.

“Melinda-twin” writes: I loved the book speak. Im 15 and my life seems almost like Melindas. I got the site from the book in class! Ha! I thought it was weird… me and Melinda had the same freshman year thing! I had an art teacher I liked more than my others. My English teacher is a Hairwoman.. and my american history teacher….is a mr. neck! I dont really have spanish but i hear she only talks in spanish like melindas! I am suicidal sorta like Melinda.. But she only really tried once.. Im a repetitive suicidal girl. I havnt been raped but some of my old friends… (mostly goths) just dont like me. Me and my mom dont talk… when we do its about the weather. (ha!) I had a friend like Heather.. but she didnt snub me off for some other clan.. her name was Julie…. But i have a friend named heather! not from ohio though! it would be awkwardly funny wouldnt it?! Before I make this horribly long.. I just want to say that I love the book!

I am really glad you’re joining us here! And I hope, more than anything, that my books can help you see that high school does not equal life… and that things will get better. Be strong!

Naomi writes: First of all I would like to start off by saying that I thought Speak was an awesome book and I think you did a great job on it! I read your book for a book report that we recently had to do in English class. It was a multi-genre book review and for one of my genres I wrote a short story. I pretty much shortened your story for a quick read review. Recently I was looking for some scholarship ideas and I found a scholarship where you write a young adult short story to apply. I am very proud of my short story and was wondering if I could submit the story inspired by your story. My version has some different events and the people’s names aren’t the same but I figured I should ask your permission before I entered it. Please get back to me as soon as possible as there is a deadline to this opportunity. If you would like to read my story I would love that also and would be more than happy to e-mail it to you!

Go ahead and enter the story. It would make me very happy (and be ethical) to mention in the title that the story was inspired by my book. That way the judges won’t think you’re ripping it off. I wish I had time to read it, but I am drowning here. Let me know how the scholarship goes.

A desperate student question & a couple calm ones

Katie writes: I have a few more questions to ask you. If you could, please answer these as quickly as possible. Do you have any idea of how many copies of “Speak” were sold? Thank you so much!! If you could, please post the answer on your web site. I’ll be looking for it.

It shocks me to admit this, but SPEAK has sold more than one million copies in paperback, and about 80,000 copies in hardback in the last six years. In other SPEAK news, the movie is up for a Writers Guild of America award, which is a huge honor to Jessica, Annie and Fred, the powers behind the film.

Leah writes: I’m 15 years old and I’m in the ninth grade. I have a few questions for you. I am writing a book myself, and I’m wanting to publish it when I’m through. I know I have the talent and the skills to make it far. I love writing and I’m very creative with it. I want to know what I have to do to publish a book and if there are any sponsors I can send my book to. I don’t know a lot about publishing and how to make the book known or what is required so I need help from someone who knows what they are doing. Laurie Anderson is one of my favorite writers. I love her books more than anything. I have read a lot of them and I have a collection of them at home. A teacher told me it doesn’t matter what age you are so I’m assuming I can publish a book at this age? Anyway. Please if you could find some way to respond. Hopefully in the journal on the website.

I suggest you head to a library and start researching the business side of being published. Or, you can surf to Harold Underdown’s sitehere are the basics. It does not matter how old you are. If you write a book that is of a high enough quality (or has a great marketing hook) you will probably sell it. However, it could take a very, very long time. You have to be patient and determined.

Cynthia writes: We watched the DVD the other night! My husband joined us after it started and he liked it too! I especially liked how you wrote Speak as though you were a 14/15 yo girl. The nuances? were right on. The way girls…teens treat each other in school…all the non verbal stuff that’s hurtful.
Oh I …we were wondering why the all the writings on the walls weren’t included in the movie? We thought that they were important to the story.
In the book Melinda confides in her art teacher but in the movie it’s her mother. Why? Lastly, I wonder what became of Andy. If you could write a sequel what would Melinda’s sophomore year be like?

I did not have control over the script, although I think the screenplay writers made good choices. If they put the entire book on the screen, it would have lasted something like ten hours. If you read my book CATALYST, you’ll see a mention of Melinda in her sophomore year. In my mind, she’s going to be fine.

We took my mom out to see Chris’ swim meet last night and she was able to stay through the whole thing, which was awesome. The Mexico team won hands-down. The divers were excellent. I usually cringe or cover my eyes when the divers compete, but these boys knew what they were doing, plus it was clear that they were having fun. A good evening all around.

I have to take half a day to deal with correspondence that is piling up about this spring’s school visits. Although I love visiting schools, I am looking forward to my sabbatical from them. For every day actually spent in the school, there is usually at least another full day of correspondence and preparation, in addition to travel time. I know I will miss seeing students and talking to teachers, but my writer self is desperate for a steady string of uninterrupted weeks during which I can focus on books.

We have no kids this weekend, so I will spend it swimming in books about the Revolution. George Washington is my home boy.

Email beast tamed and shhhh! a secret

It took half the night, but I finally sent the email beast cowering into submission. Ha! Take that!

Web God Theo Black has updated my website to reflect the change in seasons again. As he emailed me about it, snow was falling outside my window, diamond dust snow that looked alive. It was very cool, serendipitous. We added a new page with just contact information. Let me know what you think about it.

I am very proud to announce that PROM has been named an Amazon Top Ten Best Book of 2005 for Teens. Check out the whole list if you are looking for something good to read.

I am also proud to announce that I have joined AS IF!, Authors Support Intellectual Freedom, a group for YA authors who are taking a stand against the censorship of YA novels. It was organized by author Jordan Sonnenblick. The group’s blog has an LJ syndication feed, asifnews.

Are you looking for a great curriculum guide for SPEAK? Look at what Dawn Hogue put together. If you are an English teacher, you will also want to look at their CyberEnglish page and be sure to read through her blog.

And a hint of a forthcoming announcement (consider this your reward for reading to the end of today’s post). We are going to have a contest at the end of the month. Shhhhhhhhhh! Yes, there will be prizes. Stay tuned.

Who is afraid of Friday the thirteenth?

No paraskevidekatriaphobic am I. Bring it on, I say!!

Friday morning mail call:

Max writes: Hey. I loved the book Speak, and the movie was a great adaptation of it. I was just wondering if you plan to sell the movie rights of your other books to any companies. I think Speak turned out great, and I would love to see Catalyst or Prom turn out on the big screen. Fever 1793 would also make a very good movie in my opinion. I just want to see all of your books turn into movies!!!

You and me both, Max. There have been a few tentative movie nibbles on CATALYST and PROM, but nothing that has panned out yet. No one has expressed an interest in FEVER 1793, which makes me sad, because I think it would be a great film in the hands of the right person. (And they could film it in Philly and me and my kids and all of their friends could be extras!)

What are the most beautiful words in the English language? According to a group of non-native speakers, these are. What do you think?