Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Introducing ... Big Kid!

Ah, my little girl grows less little by the moment. So astonishing to watch; never has there been a more fascinating show (to us). Her new, excited proclamations of "Oh! I yike dat!" are the best best best. She yikes yots of things :-) 

This New York trip was the first time I've left her, and I was full of anxiety, but she and Jim did beautifully. New sleep routines were established, and ... I might cry ... weaning has been accomplished. *sob sob* It's a new phase. My baby isn't a baby anymore. Two nights of the past three she has slept all night, with only a brief wake-up to ask for milk (the cow kind). Don't get me wrong, she slept well pre-weaning, but I had the easy remedy going, the almighty boob. The transition has been easier than I expected.

*knocks wood*

And now, to work with me, to the Big Scene that I have been courting for a couple of days. It's the idea that, when I was daydreaming up this book, went BAM! in my head and I knew I had a story. Now to bring it to life. Off I go ...

Happy day! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bridget Zinn

While in New York, I received the tragic news that Bridget Zinn had died. A fellow Portland YA writer, Bridget was thirty-two years old and had bravely endured two years of treatment for cancer -- really, with such grace and humor and beauty that I just thought everything would be okay. You want to believe, your mind pushes away other possibilities. 

I still can't believe she's gone. 

We hadn't known each other for very long when Bridget was diagnosed. She had just gotten an agent at the time, and I recall that when a group email came to my inbox I opened it with the full expectation it would be news her first novel had sold. Instead it was news that she was in the hospital. Tumors. Had spread to surrounding organs. Such a jumble of awful things I couldn't believe what I was reading. I was still skimming for the good news as my mind belatedly processed the unthinkable. 

Right before Bridget went in for surgery, she and her longtime love, Barrett Dowell, were married in the hospital room. It was the first of several weddings -- they were taking their opportunity to bring friends and family together in celebration as often as they could, and they have continued in this spirit ever since. They have been together since high school, and were one of those inseparable couples. You could scarcely imagine seeing one without the other, and both so fun and sweet and generous.

I remember an early conversation I had with Bridget about an experience she'd had at an SCBWI conference, when a group of older women were complaining bitterly about the publishing world, and they kind of attacked Bridget, who was also unpublished at the time, suggesting that because she was young she was somehow charmed. Well, youth is no guarantee of anything, clearly, but what resounds with me about that story is how Bridget abhorred complaining, and true to herself, she never did complain. While the treatments she's gone through for two years must have been terrible at times, you would never have known it to hang out with her. She was so upbeat, so full of laughter. When one treatment required she not laugh for something like 24 hours, she was dismayed, and didn't think she'd be able to pull it off.

And through it all, she has been cared for as everyone would hope to be cared for, by a loving family and most especially Barrett, who helped her make life as normal as possible. They bought their dream house last year, and so she got the chance to nest in her own home. I was there yesterday, and Bridget's absence is an acute thing, but Barrett and his family and Bridget's family were so welcoming, and it really felt like Bridget could come out of the next room at any minute.

Not that it matters, but she was beautiful, with gorgeous red hair, big eyes, an amazing smile. She loved books, was a librarian, and though she had sold her first novel, she did not get to see it published. I will certainly relay any news about its publication when I know. 

Statistically, prognosis was not hopeful for the kind and stage of cancer that Bridget had, but she always always conveyed utter belief in her own odds. She was purely lovely and funny and totally engaging at get-togethers. Her story about the bummer that was wig-shopping had us all in outraged laughter on her behalf. 

Speaking of wigs, she wore an electric blue one -- her "party wig" -- to Clementine's first birthday party. 

Knowing Bridget for the past two years has given me a mindfulness that I hesitate to put into words. Knowing someone young who is seriously sick plants a constant feeling of instability in the back of your mind. There is no safety or logic in life and health, only luck and the lack of luck -- a terrible terrible roulette. We have a small group of YA writers in Portland who get together every month, and this year we have lost two of our small number, Bridget Zinn at 32 and LK Madigan at 47. 

Life is so fragile; it's so easy to feel hunted and afraid, to feel this desperate vulnerability like you're trying to fly under cancer's radar, lest it notice you. But there's nothing you can do but enjoy each day and try not to let worry take over. If illness comes, it comes. One can only hope to be as brave as Bridget was, and as beaming and full of life.

Wishing the blessing of health and mindfulness to you and your loved ones. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ho Hum. Just Another Day at the Javitz. NOT!

Ho hum. Just another day at the Javitz Center. Tra la la.

Yup.  BEA. *walking along*

Hello. What's this?



This is seriously the crazy-crazy. I feel like I should be asking, "Really? Are you sure?"

But I don't ask. I just stand in awe. Of my ridiculous good fortune.

Below, I stand in awe alongside the two ladies who have done the most (after me, perhaps) to bring this book about. On the left, my agent Jane Putch. On my right, my editor Alvina Ling. I should clarify that neither of them technically *belong* to me. I graciously share them with other talented and lucky authors and illustrators.

Walking in and seeing this banner will forever be A Moment for me. Unforgettable.

In the booth, the strategy was to have Miss Piggy standing on the counter hand-selling Daughter. Snerk snerk. Okay okay, I did that. Also, can I swipe the poster?

The day yesterday was packed with awesome, beginning with the Children's Book Breakfast, of which I have no photos of the amazing lineup of speakers: Katherine Paterson, Julianne Moore, Brian Selznick, Sarah Dessen, and Kevin Henkes. I want to say that Julianne Moore a) looks just as impossibly young in reality as she does on the screen, and b) is, awesomely, a complete and total goofball. And now I want to be friends with her.

Also, I met Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) who is a Little Brown author! About whom I learned this factoid: he carries two handkerchiefs at all times, one for himself, and one for "the ladies." Ha ha! 

Here at the breakfast are my publicist Lisa Sabater on the right, and on the left Melanie Chang, Director of Publicity. Two of my awesome Little Brown peoples.

The morning was busy with events. Alvina and I did "speed-dating" at which authors goes table to table in three-minute intervals meeting booksellers, bloggers, librarians, and other book people to talk about their book. Essentially doing 19 quick pitches in a row. Whew! What a crash course in pitching the book! Alvina teamed up with me and I think we got pretty good at quickly describing a very difficult to describe book!

After that, Alvina presented the book at the YA Editors Buzz Panel, which is a terrific BEA event -- and was so packed, I hope next year they will move it to a bigger room! Each year, five upcoming titles are selected to be buzzed about by their editors. Two years ago Lips Touch got chosen, which was why I got to go to New York that time; Daughter was chosen too. It's really an honor. And it's great as an author to get to sit in the audience and hear your editor talk you up :-) Alvina did an amazing job of making the book tantalizing!

I had to slip away partway through to do an interview on the Midtown Stage with Middle Grade librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan, of the awesome blog Reading Rants. She had great questions. So fun!

And from there, it was all strolling and fun and meeting people and seeing old friends!

Here on the left is Tahereh Mafi, author of the forthcoming Shatter Me, with her editor Tara Weikum of Harper Teen. I'm very excited to read Shatter Me, which has been getting a lot of buzz!

Also, I am totally going to steal her purse!!! Have you ever seen a better bag?

And here, on my right, the amazing Ellen Hopkins, multi-NYT-bestseller, who does her own thing so exquisitely well: spare, gorgeous verse novels for teens on very difficult subjects like drug addiction, sexual abuse, prostitution. Her keynote addresses are guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, and she is a ray of sunshine in many a convention.

And on the far right, Sarah Beth Durst, who I think of as my parallel publishing sister, because from the beginning we have had books coming out the same month (at the time it was from the same publisher, but no longer), and who is always so so lovely to spend time with.

Sarah's forthcoming book is so made out of awesome: Drink Slay Love! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! As Sarah describes it: it's about a vampire who inexplicably grows a conscience after being stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn. Oh yeah. Because, as she points out, unicorns are natural vampire slayers. 

Below, Daniel Handler signing his new book Why We Broke Up for me! It's illustrated by Maira Kalman, who I lurve, and I am so excited to read it. If you go to the link above you can be part of the "Why We Broke Up" project and submit your breakup story!

And really, that was the day. 

* * *

Followed by the evening, and the Little Brown party. Which was SO COOL!

Hello adorable Faye Bi in your adorable tea party hat.

The party was a circus ...

... in this loft with panoramic views ...

There was popcorn and hot dogs:

 Whoopie pies and very very tiny hamburgers:

There was Peter Brown ring toss:

And fun-house mirror versions of YA covers. Recognize the one in the middle?

The game chips were also printed with Daughter of Smoke and Bone and were the coolest thing ever and were pocketed by me as part of a growing DSB artifact collection:

But the coolest coolest coolest thing was in the corner, where a horned henna artist was doing Daughter-themed tattoos in Brimstone's shop.

Teeth and feathers, horns and wishbones, old rusty bird cages, skulls. These things are just the coolest props. I wanted to swipe things, but I did not. I will continue to amass objets for my own Brimstone shop.


Of course I partook of the henna:

There were a number of designs to choose from:

I chose eyes:

I see you.

Here with Alvina are Arnaud Noury, the president of Hachette Livre, Little Brown's parent company (which is French, as is Arnaud), and the lovely Megan Tingley, the publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers:

Here, Andrew Smith, Deputy Publisher; Victoria Stapleton, School & Library Marketing; author/illustrator Peter Brown, and Tina McIntyre, Marketing:

Faye Bi, Publicity; Lisa Sabater, Publicity, Cindy Eagan, Editorial Director of the Poppy imprint; Alvina, me, and Tina:

Peter and Alvina are old friends. Clearly. 

You'll know why I had to include this. Missing my bebby:

Aaaaaaand, sunset over the Hudson River. And there's an end to it. :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Welcome. Have Some Candy.

It's nearing midnight in my hotel after my first day in Yew Nork, and I have many thoughts aswirl in my head. Like: Wow my boob hurts. And: what was up with that giant yellow teddy bear? And of course: I really should have bought more Swedish candy.

*insert angelic chorus here. (Who knew heaven was a Swedish candy store in Greenwich Village?).*

(As for the boob, nevermind. None of your business. What? *I* mentioned it first? I most certainly did not. I never would. That would be crass.)

Blabbity blabbity. Of course, Yew Nork is great and and full of candy and giant teddy bears and all, but the real thing aswirl in my head is: 


So much so much. Today I went into the Little Brown offices and met my people face to face for the first time! (I had met one, the incomparable Victoria Stapleton, over Voodoo Donuts in Portland.) As I've said before, I [heart] publishing offices. They're full of books and the people who love them enough to make it their life's work to bring them to the world. 

Here is one such person in her natural habitat. Alvina Ling, Executive Editor at LBYR and editor of Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

Oh! Hey! What's that in my hand? Could it be ... the NEW COVER FOR Daughter of Smoke and Bone??? It could. It is. There is an entirely new cover. I will show it more clearly very soon, but you can get an idea here. It's very striking! It is the brainchild of the man whose back you see below, Dave Caplan:

And I'm getting my picture taken -- my first ever actual photo shoot -- which made me hyper aware of every muscle in my face, all of which suddenly needed to be controlled by individual effort. What are my eyebrows up to right now? Oh god, lips, quit it. Act natural! Nostrils, please stop that! Tilt head. Wait, don't squint. Hey, how did my shoulders get way up here? Oh god, who is controlling my body? I forget how. Did I ever know? It was all just working together as a long-running lucky accident, a system which is sure to break down at the first sign of a professional photographer, like the awesome Ali, above, and half below.

This one cracks me up. We climbed into an alcove in pursuit of light. God I hope a decent shot comes out of all that facial anarchy.

Being as how I was all giddy, I did my forget-to-take-pictures thing, so I don't have many pics of other Little Brown peeps, but I hope to remedy that in the next couple of days. They just all made me feel so welcome and so special, and isn't it so great to just be with a bunch of kindred spirits and feel like you would happily hang out with these people all the time? Like they are in your cosmic pool of intended friends (yes that exists, shush), and you just hadn't met them yet? It is also great beyond words to have my book in such extremely capable and enthusiastic hands. 

Thank you.

And here is my wonderful wonderful agent, Jane Putch, my champion and partner and manager and friend, with whom I spent a delightful evening that *might* have involved cheese. And wine. There was no fried food though. Okay yes there was, but it's okay. My crazed boob absorbed it all. 

(Would you stop talking about boobs already? Sheesh.)

More soon. XO!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Off to the Apple

It's already here! Book Expo America, that is. Book Expo is the major trade show for the book industry. I've been once before, the year Lips Touch came out, and it was so fun, and this is going to be even better! It's the marketing launch for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and all kinds of fun things are happening because MY PUBLISHER (Little, Brown) IS TOTALLY AWESOME :-) :-) :-)

If you're going to be at BEA, here are the public events where I and the book will be:

  • Young Adults Editors Buzz Forum, Tuesday May 24 2-3:15 pm, Room 1E15. This is an editors' show but the book will be presented and I will be in the audience smiling! (some ARCs will be on hand)
  • Interview on Midtown Insight Stage (booth #3274), Tuesday May 24, 3-3:25 pm.
  • In-booth signing at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers booth (#3630), Wednesday May 25 at 10:30 am. (Line up here to get signed ARCs!)
Come say hi!

I'll be back here later in the week with photos and stories. I hope you have a lovely week! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vietri Sul Mare

Another belated Italy post -- I just never got around to finishing!! -- these pictures are from Christmas week on the Amalfi Coast. Vietri Sul Mare is a ceramics town, and we had to take a little day trip there, of course. It was me and Jim and Clementine and my mom; the rest of my family occupied themselves elsewise that day.

Jim and I have a set of Vietri dishes that we inherited from my grandmother, and we took the opportunity of being there to fill it out some. My having dropped a whole stack of plates last year had something to do with it, but not everything! We're just slowly trying to add to what we have to make a full set, enough place settings and pieces for big holiday meals, etc. 

Like all the Amalfi Coast town, Vietri is pretty. All the towns are embellished with ceramic tile art, but none so much as here.

All over the coast, even the church domes are tiled.

It was a misty day, the hills wore cloaks.

We had our first real pizza. And this is the region of Naples, so this is pizza.

As for shopping, the streets are lined with ceramics stores, but we were after this one style, so we hit the Solimene factory, this monstrosity:

I should have taken more pictures inside. I got all greedy and side-tracked and forgot all about my camera. But oh my word the teetering piles of ceramics!!! 

We didn't get a ton, shipping is just too expensive. (But Italian pottery is so stupid-expensive in the States that it's still cheaper to buy there and ship, especially since we were able to pick through the "seconds" and find some discounted stuff.)


Love the wine glasses! Can't wait to display them!

Clementine obligingly napped through the entire shop. Thank you, darling!
And darling carrier of darling Clementine too :-)

On our way out, the sun had set. Christmas lights were sparkling on.

And here, one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip. Just love it.

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