Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thunder over Kandahar

Sharon E. McKay will be launching her new book, Thunder over Kandahar  in September with Annick Books.  Check out the trailer below.

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Locus Award Winners

The 2010 Locus Awards winners were announced at the annual Science Fiction Awards Weekend, held June 25-27, 2010 in Seattle, WA. 

Best SF Novel:
Best Fantasy Novel:
Best First Novel:

Best Young Adult Book:
  • Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
Best Novella:
Best Novelette:
Best Short Story:
Best Anthology:
Best Collection:
Best Non-Fiction Book/Art Book:
Best Artist:
  • Michael Whelan
Best Editor:
  • Ellen Datlow
Best Magazine:
Best Book Publisher:

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Yeah.  I love Ally Carter and she has a new book out, Heist Society.

This time, Carter's main character is sixteen year old Kat, who whose family are professional thieves.  But Kat wants out of the thieving business and manages to con her way into an elite boarding school.  When her dad becomes the prime suspect in an art heist from a scary mobster,  Kat has a choice to make.  She can either find the real thieves and steal back the paintings, or turn her back on dear old dad.  Needless to say, the heist is on.

Carter's books have been called escapist fluff, but they are sooo entertaining.  She's got that hip young voice thing going on and it totally sucks me in.  Besides, we are talking perfect summer reading here, and my calendar reads the end of June even though it is cloudy and raining outside.  Damn rain...

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Lit Report by Sarah Harvey

I've been meaning to post about The Lit Report for a while now.  I read it last summer but recently reread it and was even more impressed the second time around.

Julia, the seventeen year old narrator, is practical, funny and smart.  She and her best friend Ruth can hardly wait to graduate and leave their Christian high school behind, go to college and get a cool apartment in the city.  Meanwhile, Ruth is determined to lose her virginity before the end of the school year, but ends up getting pregnant. Unable to get help from her fundamentalist parents, or her brother Jonah who has been sent away to try to keep him on the straight and narrow, Ruth turns to her friend for help.  Julia comes up with a plan that has some serious loopholes, but with the very real possibility of Ruth being disowned and homeless, what choice do they have.

There's a lot to like about The Lit Report. Each chapter begins with a quote of one of the narrator's favorite books, a device which the author adeptly uses to foreshadow coming events.  Harvey is also particularly skilled at capturing realistic teen voices.  She doesn't shy away from expletives or from hot issues like teens having sex.  And best of all, she has created winning characters whose relationships are rich and multilayered.  Take Ruth for example.  She's loud, mouthy, self-centred, and ends up taking to mothering like a duck to water. She's nobody's victim.  Julia, on the other hand, is smart but naive and totally caught off guard when Ruth decides to keep her baby.  Their friendship goes through some bumps, but remains strong; something I liked very much.  Come to think of it, I liked pretty much everything about this book, and I suspect that you will too.

he Lit Report isn't an issue novel.

High School Students' Poetry Slam Camp

UBC Okanagan is offering a poetry slam camp for high school students.  It will take place July 23-25 and is sponsored by the Creative Studies Department of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and by CanWest's Raise-a-Reader Program. Check it out.

The Poetry Slam Camp is a great opportunity for high school students to harness their creativity by learning the craft of poetry.  Students between 15 and 18 years of age are eligible.  The Camp will be two fun-filled days of writing, performance, and learning.  Cost: $50, including accommodation, meals, and classes.  Info:  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Query Letter from author of The Duff to agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

I did promise a review of The Lit Report by Sarah Harvey and it is coming...gardening has seriously cut into my blogging time.  But, in the meantime, I came across this very interesting post by on YA Highway, a super blog that features several YA writers.  The post, featured the query letter sent to agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation from Kody Keplinger about her now published novel, The Duff which I featured not long ago.  The post also includes the agent's response as to why she wanted to read the manuscript.  It isn't very long, and it's well worth the read.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

coming soon

Watch for a review of The Lit Report by Sarah Harvey coming soon.  But for now it's back to editing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The "YA" Query according to Mer-Bear

If you have an interest in writing YA, hop on over to my agent, Suzie Townsend's blog Confessions of a Wandering Heart where a former intern from FinePrint Literary Management will fill you in on all things YA. Thanks Suzie for hosting, and thanks to Meredith Barnes (AKA Mer-Bear) for the insight. It's a great post.

Monday, June 14, 2010


An exciting new online kid's and ya book conference has just been announced by a couple of young enthusiastic writers.  They have scored some awesome presenters including my wonderful agent Suzie Townsend.  Registration for this August Conference isn't until July, but more news will be coming soon check the WriteOnCon site frequently.

WriteOnCon is an exciting online writer’s conference for children’s writers everywhere!
A team of seven: Jamie HarringtonElana JohnsonCasey McCormickShannon MessengerLisa and Laura Roecker, and Jen Stayrook started this project with a single goal: paying it forward. They'd all heard so many writers who wished they could attend a conference, but simply didn’t have the time or money. So they decided to bring a conference to them—a free online conference that anyone could attend in the convenience of their own homes. And so, WriteOnCon was born. (Rated MC-18: for main characters 18 and under.)  I love this part!!!

The response from industry professionals has been overwhelming (check out our awesome list of presenters) and more presenters names will be added as people confirm. In the meantime, they suggest you mark your calendar for August 10-12, and tell your friends so they can be here too. They're working hard to make this the best conference they can, and it’s going to be—EPIC!
Follow the link to their site and see what they have in store. And check back regularly for updates. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Joelle Anthony and Restoring Harmony

For anyone who will be in Victoria, BC this coming Saturday (June 12), drop by Tall Tales Books for for a young adult reading and presentation beginning at 3pm by Joelle Anthony, debut author of Restoring Harmony. Teen fidler Sarah Tradewell and the author's husband, Victor Anthony will be providing musical accompaniment. I've heard nothing but good things about this dystopian novel set on the west coast and I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Michael L. Printz Award

Now that I've finally gotten around to posting the Newbery and the Caldecott Award winners for 2010 on my other blog, I figured I'd better get the YA Award winner posted here.

2010 Michael L. Printz Award is Going Bovine by Libba Bray.  It's the story of sixteen-year-old Cameron who is a total slacker.  He sets of on a road trip with a punk angel, a dwarf sidekick, and garden gnome, and a mad scientist to save the world. It sounds hilarious, and has gotten fabulous reviews, so here's another one for the ever growing pile!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

ref=sr_1_1.jpgFor those of you who are Stephenie Meyer fans, you'll be happy to know that you can read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner for free online but only for a short time, and no downloads will be possible.  Check it out.

Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess

I have been a fan of Melvin Burgess since the year I read The Earth Giant back in 1995.  The following year he came out with Junk, which made him one of Britian's most important voices for young adult readers and propelled him onto the world stage. He followed up with Tiger Tiger, and blew me away with that one too.  I don't know how he does it, but Burgess just seems to have his finger on the heartbeat of edginess in the UK.  The thing is, his books are often dark, but they are always page turners.  I gather he's done it again with his newest book, Nicholas Dane.  The story focuses on a kid who ends up in the foster system through no fault of his own and endures horrific abuse.  It's apparently based on a group of kids who ended up suing the British government once they got old enough to get out of the system, so like many of  Burgess' books, there is a grain of truth at the heart of this story.  This ones sounds pretty dark though, but I know that in Melvin Burgess hands, this will be a story that will be as compelling as it is difficult to read.  

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I like to start the day drinking tea and browsing the headlines, The New York Times, The Globe & Mail, Salon Mag., CBC news, and last but not least, my local paper. Then I dive into Google Reader for updates on the blogs I follow (about 25 or so).  There isn't a day that goes by when something sparks my interest from one or more of these sources.  Sometimes what I read outrages me, like the fact that the oil is still pouring into the Gulf Coast.  Sometimes what I read it makes me cry, or laugh, or rant and rave to my long suffering BF (actually he's probably more of a news junkie than I am  so the two of us sit side by side with our respective laptops zinging along the information highway).   I know that sometimes this little ritual of mine can be a time waster; a way of being connected to the world of words without actually doing any of the hard slogging myself. Still, I figure the benefits are worth the hour so two I spend each day.   Take this morning for example.  I came across an article about an 18 year  girl who is now two weeks into a one month self-imposed experiment she calls "The Seventeen Magazine Project" where she takes all of the advice in Seventeen Magazine literally.  And I mean ALL of the advice!  I just wish I'd have thought of this for a YA book.  What a great read...all that ridiculous advice in action...Just imagine!    

And then there was the thought provoking blog post from Kiwi writer Leila Austin at YA Highway.    

"Whoever we are, wherever we’re from...home isn’t just a place you go back to. Home is in who we are. You can write yourself away from home, but one way or another, it finds its way in. Because that’s what home is. It finds you wherever you go."  

Posts like this one just give me chills.  How could you not get inspired! And that is, I suppose, the get inspired to keep putting words on the page. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Looking for a great query letter & agent response? Look no further.

Ok, some of you (those who are strictly readers) may not find this interesting, but anyone looking to write for the YA market or anyone interested in query letters in general may want to hop on over to The YA Highway Blog.  There's a great sample of a query letter by Kirsten Hubbard that landed her an agent.  As well, her agent Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates follows up with her response of why this query worked so well for her.  And, I must say, the query sure made me want to read Kristen's manuscript.  Like Mandarin will be out with Delacorte in the spring of 2011.  Congratulations Kristen.  I really look forward to reading it.

I heart you, You haunt me by Lisa Schroeder

I think I mentioned that my agent recently sent me a couple of books.  I've been meaning to write about the a free verse novel that I particularly enjoyed called I heart you, You haunt me by Lisa Schroeder.  This brilliant but sad story simply has not gotten the attention it deserves.  Told in verse through the eyes of 15 year Ava, the story begins with her mourning her boyfriend Jackson.  Ava's heart is heavy with grief and guilt and it turns out that Jackson's death is the result of a daring game that escalated between them during their otherwise perfect love.  When Ava has a hard time letting go of Jackson, he shows in the form of the shape of ghostly hauntings which Ava initially welcomes.

But dating a ghost has it's problems. Before long Ava finds that her sanity and privacy are too high a price to pay for love.  She begins avoiding Jackson and that means avoiding sleep.  She doesn't know where to turn for help since even her best friend thinks Ava's crazy when she confides in her.  In the end, Ava has to let go of guilt and embrace life to free herself and to free Jackson.

I heart you, You haunt me is poignant quiet story.  But the chord it really touched in me is the one so many editors and agents are dying to bring to the printed page; a unique voice.  The author's ability to capture 15 old Ava's voice with truth and simplicity is what really makes this quiet story shine.  The poems are rich and insightful and yet as subtle as the scent of sandalwood shaving cream that alerts Ava to Jackson's ghostly presence. They echo passion and grief and confusion and fear as readily as they do love.  It's one of those 'one sitting' books that you won't want to put down until you turn the last satisfying page.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Slate Launches Interactive YA Serial

2256049.jpgIf you're into vampires and such, authors Laura Moser and Lauren Meching have just launched a YA serial on  Serials aren't new, but this is an interactive story with online features where the characters tweet as well as post on Facebook and You Tube.   I'm not so much into vampires myself, but it's worth checking out, My Darkylng.  Expect 11 three chapter segments posted on Fridays. The site went live today.

Librarians Do Gaga

I just came across this great Librarian video. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In defense of librarians

Below is a letter that my friend and fellow author, Helaine Becker sent to the National Post re:  a derogatory comment about librarians.  It's such a great letter, that I want everyone to read it.   Yeah Helaine!  And if you think this letter is great, you can check out her books too.  You'll find a link to her website at the bottom of the page.  PS. Helaine is really really funny:)

Dear Mr. Gunter,

I was enjoying your analysis of Easy Rider in this morning's National Post
("Getting over Easy Rider, "June 2,2010) when I was caught short by this
sentence: "The teens who were prompted by its anti-establishment message to
pledge themselves to change the world are today school librarians and public
broadcasting technicians living in suburban bungalows, looking around the
next bend at pensionability and wondering whether to open a B&B in Niagara."

Yikes! There's a sweeping stereotype there! 

I know you were trying to humorously make a point about becoming the essence
of establishment self-focus. But clearly, you have not met many school
librarians, nor do you fully appreciate what they do every day. (I can't
speak for the broadcasting technicians.)

I am not a school librarian, but in my career as a writer of children's
literature, I have had the great privilege of meeting and spending time with
hundreds of school librarians across North America - from Nunavut to New
Brunswick, from the Jane-Finch Corridor in the GTA to the rural communities
of Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon; in Texas, California, New York and Lima
(Peru). Virtually every single one of the people I met are still honoring
that pledge to change the world.

Don't be fooled by the prim reading-glasses-on-chains cartoon image.
Teacher-librarians are true revolutionaries, trying to change and improve
society by empowering the most vulnerable members of society: children. 

Their working conditions: abysmal. 

Their weapon: literacy. 

Their opposition: entrenched bureaucracy that gives lip service to literacy
and equity, but shows its true colors by gutting schools of books and
trained staff. 

Meet, for example, Nina W., a school-librarian in the great State of
California who currently has responsibility for three inner city schools,
virtually no support from administration (when I visited with her two weeks
ago, nearly 600 teachers had just been let go and were engaged in costly and
divisive legal hearings instead of teaching in the classroom). Yet despite
being stretched nearly to the breaking point, Nina still managed to
administer a Reading is Fundamental book program for Kindergarten and grade
1 students, organize author visits to inspire hundreds of children, and
facilitate delivery of books to needy schools that were collected on an
independent book drive.

Or meet Fabienne T., who works in a remote Northern community. Her student
body contains a high number of kids who come to school hungry, tired and
unprepared to learn because of upheaval at home and in their community. For
these children, literacy is truly a foreign concept - their own culture did
not even have a written language 40 years ago! Many elders there are
actually suspicious of reading as a form of learning, since their own
educational system involved a more active approach, being out on the land.
Yet Fabienne cheerfully strides from school to school, bringing books and
enthusiasm and a desire to help improve the opportunities available to her
charges. Those opportunities will only open to them when they possess the
skills needed to "make it" in the contemporary world, so with her copies of
"Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Twilight" in hand, Fabienne is truly
managing to change their worlds.

Or why not let me introduce you to Jenny E., who teaches in a tough primary
school in one of Toronto's most challenging neighborhoods. To see what she
has done with these old-too-soon kids is nothing short of miraculous, and
she's been doing it for more than 20 years, day in and day out (I'm sure the
number is higher than that, but I don't want to embarrass her!). 

The crisis facing school libraries today is an issue that has not yet
surfaced in the Canadian consciousness. Yet let me assure you, it is very
real, pervasive, and will have long-term consequences. Only a tiny
percentage of Canadian school libraries meet the minimal standards (Set by
the Canadian Library Association ) required to achieve learning objectives
in all curricular areas, not just literacy. 

A fully functional school library is the heart of a school, providing
necessary sustenance and support for teachers and students. It is at the
vanguard of "best practices," incorporating information literacy into school
culture, and it the avenue through which students learn how to do research,
analyze sources and interpret media messaging. 

School librarians are professionally committed to freedom of thought and
speech, and to the notion that teaching kids how to learn is the root of all
education. If that's not progressive, I don't know what is.

I know, I know, you didn't really mean to disparage school librarians -
yours was a throwaway comment designed for a laugh. But it perpetuated a
lie, and was a disservice to some of the most revolutionary members of our
society. But! Here's the good news! You can easily correct that disservice!

Let me suggest that, next Fall, you accompany me to some representative
school libraries in the GTA. Let me show you how we are letting down
Canadian students by underfunding our school libraries. Let me show you how
the mouth-noises that insist "we support literacy" are a lie when in fact
the school libraries in our country are short of books and staff.

On a personal note, it was in a school library that I first fell in love
with books. That early exposure and support has enabled me to live a full
and productive life as a literate citizen. 

When I speak to kids during my school presentations, I often ask them, "Why
are you learning how to read?" The typical response is, "so I can get a job
one day." "So I can get good grades." Or simply a shrug of shoulders - we
are made to read and write because the grownups want us to. 

I tell the kids that all of those answers are all acceptable ones, but are
not the best reasons. Do you really want to learn to read just so you can
grow up to become an obedient worker bee, or to boast a meaningless A on
meaningless report card? No.

No, The real reason you should want to learn how to Read well, Write well
and Speak well is because these are the tools that give you power - both the
power over your own life, and the power to persuade others to make
improvements to our world.

School librarians are bringing power to the people, every day. Please give
them their due. 


Helaine Becker

Follow me on twitter!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poster Boy by Dede Crane

I'm a fan of Dede Crane. I liked her first novel Sympathy, and I liked her first YA novel, The 25 Pains of Kennedy Baines even more. I've had her second YA novel Poster Boy on my 'to read pile' for a quite a while now. But somehow it got shuffled to the bottom.

Life couldn't be sweeter for 16 year old Gray Fallon. He has a girlfriend who lets him fondle her beautiful breasts, a best friend to get high with, and parents who let him move into the basement and paint his room black (one wall at least). On weekends he has friends over to play video games, play ping pong and hang out in the hot tub. He has a part time job at the movie theatre where he could score free tickets, and he's found someone who can help him pass trig. Then...a single phone call from the doctor's office about his little sister's unexplained leg pains and the C-word changes everything.

Pretty soon his parents are fighting, his girlfriend dumps him, and Gray discovers that carcinogens are everywhere; from household cleaners to the nail polish his little sister, Maggie adores. Gray sets out to rid the house of all possible toxins and convinces his mother to adopt a macrobiotic diet. None of that seems to impede Maggie's decline, so Gray sets out to make a personal difference by choosing to leave home and adopt a 'back to the land' approach to living. Unfortunately his 'tell it like it is' approach has unforeseen consequences.

I must admit that it took me a few chapters to get into Poster Boy. But in Crane's capable hands, Gray, his crew, his parents, and his little sister, come alive on the page. Maggie is as brave as she is nerdy and Gray is a flawed hero that any of us can relate to. The unintended consequences of his choices are as painful to us as they are to he and his family. But the final chapters of this novel is where Crane's writing really shines. The author doesn't shy away from Maggie's death, but instead celebrates it in a way that feels like she's releasing Maggie's soul from the pages of the book. I found myself moved to tears, and I suspect that you will too.