Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some Upcoming Public Appearances

Thursday, May 31, 7 pm (O HAI, that's today)
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138 


Book Expo America
Javits Center, 655 W 34th Street at 11th Ave
New York, NY

Wednesday, June 6:

3:30 – 4:45pm         
Author Tea, Room 1E12/13, Javits Center

6:00 – 7:45pm        
BEA + New York Book Week Panel on Fantasy/SciFi
The New York Public Library main branch
5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd
Event will be located in the downstairs auditorium
Moderator: Lev Grossman
Panelists: Kristin Cashore, N.K. Jemisen, Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Novik
With improvisational music by Brian Slattery

Thursday, June 7:

10:30 – 11:30am    
Signing in the Autographing Area – Table 4

Monday, May 28, 2012

Talking about Frankie Landau-Banks

I am stupendously pleased today to direct you to Amy Stern's latest post at the YA Subscription, "The Disreputable Analysis of Frankie Landau-Banks."

Back in January, some friends and I spent two happy hours analyzing E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. We filmed it. Amy has now uploaded 15 clips from our conversation, and done an awesome job introducing each clip in her blog post. Amy, you rock.

Go watch, go listen. Join the conversation. All the participants in the conversation studied at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College; if you're wondering what kinds of conversations can happen there, this is a good example.

The participants are:

As a visual aid, here is my color-coded copy of Frankie. You know I got a LOT out of a book when it looks like this when I'm done:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Recs + A Final Post of Tour Pictures -- Again from Seattle

A couple books I recently loved:

Mystery of the Tempest: A Fisher Key Adventure, by Sam Cameron, which is kind of a brilliant, modern-day Hardy Boys-esque adventure in which the young detectives are identical twins, one straight, one gay. It's awesome to read adventurous hijinks in a familiar form (of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew ilk), but with diversity, on several axes. Book two, The Secret of Othello, comes out in November.

And: What I Didn't See, stories by Karen Joy Fowler, is spectacular. Some realism, some fantasy, some Shakespearean and fairy tale themes, some historical fiction, especially about the Booth family (of first theatrical, then assassination-of-Abraham-Lincoln fame). My favorite stories in the collection: "Booth's Ghost" and "Halfway People." I understand that the paperback is coming out this summer.

For those interested, the New York Times has changed its mind and decided my books are a series after all, so if you're looking for my books, they're now on the series bestseller list.

Now, I just have a few more tour pictures I wanted to share. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the gorgeous Seattle Public Library. (And also one shot of the Space Needle.)

 I never would have suspected it was a library.
 An inside view.

 The Teen Department.

 Looking up at the ceiling.

 Looking in from outside.
 And the Space Needle.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To the Indies with Love; Plus, a Rant about E-Books

I want to share some of the awesomeness of independent bookstores with y'all. These pictures are inadequate at expressing the full experience of my tour, because they only show two of the bookstores I visited -- but they'll give you an idea.

The first is Children's Book World in Haverford, Pennsylvania. This was just the best event ever. The booksellers at Children's Book World went all out. Also, I have family and friends in the Haverford area who were able to come. Thank you, Children's Book World, for throwing a FABULOUS party, and also for giving me the venue to perform in front of loved ones, including my parents.

 At Children's Book World...

... I got to sit on a throne and read to the lovely people!

 Check out the spread!

 Blue cupcakes. Blueberries. Key cookies.


The second is Wild Rumpus, in Minneapolis. I had a school event with Wild Rumpus, then had the opportunity to visit the store afterwards. If you're ever in Minneapolis, you need to check out this store.

 Wild Rumpus has a big door  for big
people (which I managed to cut off on
top, sorry -- it's the gray part) and an
inset (purple) little door for little people.

It also has a chicken. Two, actually.

 And (the world's most mellow) cat.

 And a fish tank in the bathroom.
 And other animals, too, that I didn't
 get good pictures of.

 It also happens to have an alternate
 world breaking through the ceiling.

 And a table devoted to books that have serious girls with flowing hair
 on their covers.

Guys? Only independent bookstores can be this awesome.


Now that rant I promised. Here goes. I know there are a lot of people who love to read books electronically, and I'm really happy it works for them, but I have to say, I think e-books have a long, long, LONG way to go. The problem is quite simple, but it's also enormous: Often, in order to have a complete and satisfying reading experience, a reader wants and needs to be looking at numerous pages of a book at once. Also, often, a reader needs to be able to flip from one part of a book to another instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY, the way many people can do with fingers on paper but still not on any of our electronics. And not just flip from one place to another -- flip through one section, sometimes even while having other sections open. I use all ten of my fingers when I read.

E-readers are still too clunky and slow for me, e-readers show me too little of a book at once, e-readers are a hugely limited reading experience compared to what my eyes, hands, and fingers can do with a book made of paper. While I was on tour, I was reading The Night Circus on my e-reader. I cannot tell you how frequently I thought to myself, while reading that book, that this technology isn't worthy of the art it's trying to support. My e-reader was an insult to the book. A book like that requires and deserves a support platform that allows you to be perusing many, many sections of the book at once, instantly and easily. My e-reader traps the book too much in space and time (which is particularly ironic with this particular book ^_^). BLECH! BLECH, I SAY!!! The night I got home from my tour, I was SO RELIEVED to switch over to the paper copy of the book. Which paper copy was a gift to me, from one of the independent bookstores on my tour (thank you, Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL!) ^_^.

That is all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Few Tour Questions

Before I get to the questions, I love Justine Larbalestier's recent blog post, written to her friends and extended family: "You don't have to read my books." Now seems like an appropriate time for me to link to it, since I have a new book that's just come out. Friends and family who might be feeling obligated? YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ MY BOOKS! Read Justine's post -- she explains lots of great reasons why.

Now, SPOILER WARNING: These questions/answers don't contain any significant Bitterblue spoilers, but the first two questions definitely contain significant Graceling spoilers.

1. In your acknowledgments for Bitterblue, you included an interesting mention having to do with Po, disability politics, "magical cures," and your own failings as a writer. Would you talk a little bit more about what that was all about?

Here is the section of my Bitterblue acknowledgments to which this question refers:
Thanks to Rebecca Rabinowitz and Deborah Kaplan, who, after reading a late draft of Bitterblue, counseled me on the matter of Po, disability politics, and whether there was any way to counter the consequences of my making Po’s Grace grow so big that it compensated for his blindness at the end of Graceling. (I was not thinking about disability politics back then. It didn’t occur to me, until it was too late, that I had disabled Po, then given him a magical cure for his disability—thus implying that he couldn’t be a whole person and also be disabled. I now understand that the magical cure trope is all too common in F/SF writing and is disrespectful to people with disabilities. My failings here are all my own.) 
One thing I've learned about being a writer is that you make mistakes, and then they're out there in print and it's too late to do anything about them -- except to try to do a better job in future books, and with future characters. Here's another example that no one asked me about on tour, but which I'll mention here anyway: I wish I'd thought more carefully about race when I first created these worlds, been more explicit, thoughtful, and careful about creating characters of color. I intend to do so in future, and expect to create the opportunity for it with the next book I write in my fantasy world.

Returning to the question I was actually asked: I also wish I'd been less ignorant about disability politics when I was writing Graceling. When I realized, late in the writing of Bitterblue, that I had disabled Po, then "magically cured" him in a way that suggested, as book after book after book does, that a character can't be both disabled and whole -- that his story can't continue happily until he's cured -- when I realized what I'd done, I tried to change a few things to make his blindness more real, and his cure less magical. For example, in Bitterblue, he can't read words on paper and needs assistive devices to write, and when he's ill, his Grace warps so that he no longer has a clear sense of his surroundings. But the fact remains that I'm stuck with the powers I gave him in Graceling, so the best I can do is work really hard to make him as real as I can whenever he appears, think hard about my future representations of him, and try to be more thoughtful about this issue with new characters.

Writers make mistakes. I've made mistakes. Moving forward, I'll try (1) to rectify them if and when I can, and I'll also try (2) not to duplicate them. No doubt, I'll continue to make mistakes. One thing I'll definitely be doing is getting advice from people who are better at these things than I am.

There are two more things I want to say before I move on to the next question. First, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the readers in my audiences who asked me to talk about this during the tour. You probably didn't know you were doing it at the time, but what you did was force me to get over my fear of publicly talking about it, and it's good for the world when these things are talked about publicly. Second, I want to say that I'm sorry for the mistakes I've made.

2. I've heard some readers expressing the opinion that Katsa is a lot more animated, more larger-than-life in Bitterblue than she was in Graceling. Why did you write her that way? Do you agree or disagree with the opinion? 

It's not my place to agree or disagree. People are entitled to their opinions and interpretations without the author butting in to tell them how they should be reading the book or what they should be thinking, and my readers know Katsa just as well as I do, if not better :).

Why did I write her the way I did? That's a question I can answer, though I'll do so briefly, because I think that sometimes the line between an author explaining her process and unfairly influencing interpretation is hazy.

It's largely a matter of perspective. In Graceling, I was presenting Katsa from inside herself. To a certain extent, Katsa doesn't think too much about how she comes across; she just does what she needs to do; she doesn't make internal comments about her own bluntness or shininess or temper or emotional outbursts or whatever. Self-awareness is not particularly one of her defining characteristics. Does she realize how it looks when she's so happy to see Po that she tackles him? Does she realize just how hard she's holding onto Bitterblue in the moment when they're leaving Po behind? Or how she must look when, in a fit of frustration, she suddenly runs into the forest, tears off her clothes, and jumps into a pond, screaming at the coldness of the water? :) I tend to think that no, she doesn't, nor does she particularly care. I, as the writer, have a few ways I can express it -- mostly through the reactions of other people. I can have Po tell her she always bursts into a room: "No one flings doors open the way you do." I can show Po gasping and gaping, and finally laughing, after watching the bizarre manner in which she decides to catch a goose. But most of it is left up to your imagination. When Katsa and Po argue, for example, or the time she strikes him in anger -- it's largely up to you how that looks.

In Bitterblue, OTOH, we're seeing Katsa from Bitterblue's perspective. Bitterblue is observant of behavior, and has a certain instinctive understanding of people and relationships that Katsa doesn't necessarily have. In addition, I think Bitterblue kind of idolizes Katsa; to Bitterblue, Katsa is a little bit larger than life, as is Po. I wrote Katsa the way I thought she would appear to an outside observer in general -- and Bitterblue in particular.

Did I succeed or fail? That's entirely up to you. Please, please keep having your own opinions and expressing them to each other!

3. Are you still taking flying trapeze lessons?

Sadly, no. Other things have been occupying my time! It's the right thing for me these days health-wise and time-wise, but also makes me sad on some levels, so here's a photo for old time's sake.  Hopefully I'll find some other way to incorporate ridiculous photos into the blog in future.

Nothing in the world feels quite like this.

4. How is your ankle?

Much, much better. Thank you for asking :-).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bridges and Crossings

How appropriate that on the last day of my book tour for Bitterblue, the drive to the airport should bring me over one of the world's most beautiful bridges, the Golden Gate. Bitterblue is out in the world. Fly, my little bird. I'm on my way home.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

To Celebrate

Where does the author go when she finds out that her book hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list?

The umbrella store, of course. (Bella Umbrella at the corner of 1st and Pine in downtown Seattle.)

How many umbrellas does the author purchase at the umbrella store?

Only the Shadow knows.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Best Ferry Ride EVAR

Today I took a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and back again. In the course of that ferry ride, first I got some super good personal news that I'd been hoping for; then I found out that Barack Obama had endorsed gay marriage; and then I learned that Bitterblue had hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Seattle? Thumbs up on the ferry rides.

(BTW, for those inclined, check out the New York Times Book Review this Sunday for Gretchen Rubin's incredibly kind review of Bitterblue.)

Dresses in a Seattle Shop Window

Some of these photographed better at night, and some were surprisingly interesting during the day when the window was reflecting the street. The store is Luly Yang.

More Hotel Shapes (This Time in Seattle)