And the TWISTED teacher winner is…..

Julia Borgisi of Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, NY!!!

::stands and applauds wildly::

Here are Julia’s correct answers:

What is the significance of the name of the game Tyler plays on his computer?

” Tophet, to summarize, means child sacrifice and/or hell. As Tyler is playing the game, he is living through his own personal hell as his “real” world crumbles around him. As he is conquering more levels (and advancing through hell) his personal life seems to get more and more convoluted. When he becomes stuck in the game, it seems to be at times where he is reevaluating his options in life (sacrificing himself through suicide being one very real choice). When he does “beat” the game at the end, he has also beaten the odds and survived his own twisted past; he is finally able to look beyond both the game and high school to see a real future.”
Which classic American play, often taught in high schools, helped inspire TWISTED?

“I think Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a perfect match- I could easily see a significant connection here. Tyler’s dad can be compared to Willy Loman- a man who is slowly losing it all career-wise and demands nothing but perfection from his children (especially his eldest son). Mr. Miller sees Tyler as a major disappointment, and Tyler’s imperfections fuel Bill’s anger and resentment towards his family. In both works we have deaths, whether literal or figurative. Willy commits suicide, while Tyler contemplates it and almost does the deed. We have the death of dreams- Willy’s dream for a successful career again and a successful son, Tyler’s dream of a relationship with Bethany and enjoying popularity. However, at the end of TWISTED we see new doors opening for Tyler and the Miller family; Tyler and his dad are both able to take charge of their lives, thus creating the possibility of a new life for the family as a whole.”

Pretty much everyone who wrote in got the first question correct. It was the second one that threw so many of you off. Most teachers thought I was referring to Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. In fact, several wrote in with very convincing arguments about the connection between The Crucible and Twisted.

(Hold on to your red pencils, friends, we are about to have an interesting lit-crit moment.)

You see, I have never read The Crucible, nor have I have seen it performed. So while the parallels may be there, they are coincidental. Or maybe not so much, if you want to take the approach that both Miller and I concern ourselves with the emotional wasteland that lies behind the curtain called The American Dream, and the devastation visited upon families that lose their centers of love and integrity. (I offer that free of charge to anyone who is looking for a good thesis topic.)

I have, however, always been a huge fan of Death of a Salesman. When I saw it performed in New York with Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman, it left me so devastated that I sobbed for blocks and blocks as we walked uptown from the theater. My earliest thoughts about Tyler, the main character in TWISTED, were that he could have been the grandson of a man like Willy Loman. Tyler has to pay the price for the crushed, misshapen dreams of both his father and grandfather; men who thought that by earning a lot of money, they would be successful, and whose children paid the price for their ambition, confusion, and rage.

I hadn’t planned to do this, but one of the entries had such an amazing analysis of the Tophet question, I am awarding it an Honorable Mention and will be sending something off in the mail. The winner of the Surprise! Prize is Cheryl Maxian, of Fabius-Pompey High School.

Here is Cheryl’s explanation of the significance of Tyler’s computer game: “The significance of the game of Tophet is two fold: The main character describes the game as the player makes himself as powerful a demon as possible to survive the 66 levels of torment. Obviously our character Tyler has survived and is surviving all kinds of torment. At the beginning of the novel he’s at level 42 which would represent him already getting through 2/3 of his life’s goal (he has almost completed his community service and has become buff and stronger because of it). As the book comes to an end, Tyler completes the game and must choose his destiny – either that of good or evil. He has come so far and survived so much that it is clear that he will choose a path of good.

On a second level, Tophet is an ancient place where Phoenicians sacrificed their children to appease the gods. I think this is metaphorical for the various parents in the novel who “sacrifice” their children’s well-being by either ignoring them or by spoiling them, as they only pay attention to their own needs.”

Clearly, Cheryl has found her calling!

Any thoughts about these answers or anything else related to this? I heard from a number of you who want a contest for the brave souls studying to be English teachers. What would be a useful/fun prize?

In other news, the kids in our area went back to school today. I am SO GLAD I was not one of them.

Attention Teachers!!! & Pondering in the Forest


I made it too hard. For this, I will not apologize. I consider it payback. But I am not heartless, and I really want TO GIVE AWAY A CLASSROOM SET (30 ARCS) OF TWISTED to the smart teacher who breaks my code.

So. Revised rules.
1. Read the book. (Sorry, no Cliff notes yet. No Spark notes, either.)
2. Answer these questions:
a. What is the significance of the name of the game Tyler plays on his computer?
b. Which classic American play, often taught in high schools, helped inspire TWISTED?

It’s the second one that is causing the problems. I gave the answer in the ALAN chat last month, but the transcript isn’t up yet. So here is your Big Hint: I always plant clues in the main character’s name. Get it? His name????

3. Email your answers to laurie AT writerlady DOT com. Put “TWISTED contest” in the Subject line.

4. The deadline has been extended because y’all are so busy. Deadline is now midnight, EST, Wednesday, Sept. 5th.

Second thing, next. The Child With Stitches in now the Healing Child With Stitches and is back at college. So I am home. And I’m beat. Whooped. Totally drained. This has been a busy year, hasn’t it? I’ve been trying to brainstorm the new book, but then my head starts smoking like it’s burning oil and I am overwhelmed by the need to take a nap.

My Muse is trying to send me a message. I need a break.

So from now until Labor Day, I’m chilling. I’ve spent the last two days pulling weeds. Tomorrow I’ll can peaches. There is wood to be stacked, sticks to be picked up, tomato sauce to simmer, mittens to knit. I have three doors that need to be sanded and coated along with a couple of window frames, and that chair in the front hall I’ve been promising to refinish for approximately ten months. While my hands are busy with all of this, my Muse will be at a spa somewhere, resting up for the writing marathon that this autumn promises to be.

I don’t think I’ll be posting much, but I promise to come back in two weeks, with pictures of my funness.

How are you going to spend your last days of summer?

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.

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.


Attention Teachers & Librarians – there is a special note to you at the bottom of today’s entry. Be sure to scroll down!

BH survived Day One with The Knee. He was an excellent patient. Didn’t complain one bit when I brought out the rope and tied him to the couch. Not really. The Knee let him sleep some last night and it’s looking like it will be a fast recovery.

I have one more doc appointment this morning. I so begrudge all the time I waste on body maintenance; docs, dentists, etc., etc. But I am an ungrateful wench for even thinking that because at least I have health insurance. I should probably go flog myself. Oh, wait – I get to drive through another lake effect storm on the way to and from the doc. That will take care of my hubris and pissy attitude.

But you didn’t tune in this morning to hear me whine. You tuned in to see the photos of TWISTED.

What is the book about? I can never summarize my books, because it takes me about 250 pages to tell it. But a guy in the target audience who read an advance copy nailed it when he said: “TWISTED is about a painfully average guy going through hell.”

::cues drum roll::

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting The front cover of my new baby!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Inside flap, which I adore.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Back cover with blurbs from Chris Crutcher and Chris Lynch, which make me blush.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Twisted photo of TWISTED

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Uncle Penguin made reading guides! (I love my publisher!)

So…. what do you think? (FYI, the book goes on sale in the middle of March.)

TEACHERS! LIBRARIANS! Uncle Penguin sent me lots of reading guides – do you want a couple? If so, give me your snail mail address in the comments section, or email it to admin AT writerlady DOT com, and I’ll mail them off. Next week. AFTER this blasted draft is done.