Monday, June 30, 2014

Win 6 Signed Books! Newsletter Giveaway

Eep! I'm running late in publishing my newsletter, which usually comes out on the first of every month. So, to apologize for being late and to encourage new people to sign up, I'm holding a quick, 48-hour giveaway!

A little about the newsletter: It's not spam! It contains links to fun articles across the internet on science, art, and more, plus upcoming news, book news, etc. Things tend to get revealed first in the newsletter. Sign up here!

To enter: Just sign up for my newsletter--by July 2 at 11:50pm. One subscriber of the newsletter will get all six books, signed by the author, shipped straight to their door. Simple as that!


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Email Format

If you're under 18, please make sure that you have parental permission to sign up for the newsletter. If you can't sign up for the newsletter, contact me for an alternate entry.

*Keen-eyed observers will notice that this is the same prize pack I used for a recent giveaway. After trying to contact three different winners over nearly two months, I decided to just roll over the prize into a new giveaway, per my already established giveaway policy. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Upcoming Events! Summer Edition

I have four events all scheduled in the near-ish future, and I hope I can see you at at least one!

Who: Me, Megan Shepherd, Jessica Khoury, and Meagan Spooner
What: Panel and Book Signing
Where: Highland Books in Brevard, NC
When: JUNE 28 at 1pm
More info: Here

I am so stoked about this one--I love any excuse to go even further into the mountain of NC, and this bookstore seems absolutely charming and amazing. Also? My fellow panelists are charming and amazing, and I can't wait talk about books and writing with them!

Who: Me, Jessica Khoury, Meagan Spooner, and Alexa Duncan
What: "Spark a Reaction--the Spark Behind the Story" YA book talk panel for the Cleveland County Library System's summer reading program
Where: Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby, NC
When: JULY 24 at 2pm
More info: Here

I am so happy to return to the county library system where I used to work as a school teacher. We're going to be a part of the summer reading program to talk to kids about reading, writing, and so much more! The event is open to everyone, so please come by!

Who: Me, Ann Aguirre, Alexa Duncan, Meagan Spooner
What: Mortal Danger Book Launch & Tour Stop
Where: Malaprops in Asheville, NC
When: AUGUST 5 at 7pm
More info: About the tour; about this event

GUYS. GUYS. Have you seen Ann's latest book, Mortal Danger? IT LOOKS SO GOOD GUYS. I can't wait to read it--and luckily for me, her very first stop in her book tour is on her launch day, at Malaprops! 

You can read more about Mortal Danger here, but it's a book about revenge, devil's deals, beautiful people, a private academy, bullies, and trust. 

Who: Me, Jessica Brody, Jessica Khoury, Megan Shepherd
What: Girls Gone Sci Fi Tour Stop
Where: Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC
When: AUGUST 7 at 7pm
More info: Here

If you've never been to a Girls Gone Sci Fi stop, you absolutely must check it out. These girls have organized the perfect formula for fun events, with games, prizes, hilarious stories and q&a. This promises to be a lot of fun, and Greenville is a beautiful city with an idyllic downtown, so make sure you stop by!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Hate is Boring, and the Same, and Let's Stop Listening to It

A little while ago, someone published an article basically saying that YA was for kids and adults who read YA were idiots. You don't need to read the article; I don't need to link it. You've seen at least a half dozen more like them if you've been in the YA world at all.

They're all the same. They have different trappings, and whatever most popular book is on the market is the one that's discussed, but, the articles are all the same.

Ultimately, this is what every single one of those articles is saying:

I don't like the popular thing, therefore the people who do like the popular thing are wrong.

This particular article was anti-YA, and if you look in the history of the rise of YA, you'll see these articles have happened since the the first popular YA books, and with every single subsequent one.

Do you see the pattern?

Every time a YA book hits big, some pretentious ass-hat takes it upon himself (or herself) to say that people who like YA are weird and wrong.

They dress it up in different language, but the fact of the matter remains: all it takes is one big hit for the haters to come out. And every single argument incorporates the same basic logic:

I don't like the popular thing THEREFORE the popular thing is wrong THEREFORE anyone who likes the popular thing is wrong.

Ironic, isn't it, that the very people slamming adults for liking "books written for kids" have the most basic, childish logic behind their arguments.

Now, I've just given examples based on the YA genre, but this is true of every genre that hits popularity. The critics all have the same arguments, and they're weak:

They all sum up to the same thing: some people believe that genre fiction isn't literary and therefore isn't worth...well, anything. As this NY Times article sums it up, "For the longest time, there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good. "

And now, I suppose, that ambiguity is fading. Because more and more people are telling these ass-hats that they're full of it. More and more people are pointing out that telling someone that the thing they like isn't as good as the thing this other person likes is a really dick thing to say. 

In the end, the genre-hate is just another form of prejudice. Most of these critics are not fans of genre, and many even confess to not having read the book they're hating on.

There's another sort of hate and prejudice being applied here, too. Is it really a coincidence that the romance that's considered too literary to be romance is written by a white dude? That the fantasy that people have begun calling literature instead of fantasy is...written by a white dude? That the most recent article hating on YA does call out the most recently popular YA author--a white dude--and then quickly gives him the biggest insult the author of the article could think of, by comparing him to the popular work of a female author.

All those links I gave you above to the female YA authors who were criticized for being popular? Nearly every single one mentions the female author's appearance (including age or physical attractiveness) or makes a point to say that the romance is predominant in part because of the gender of the author. It should be noted that, with this freshest round of YA-hate directed at a male YA author, his appearance has not been mentioned in a negative way, and the romance is heralded rather than being decried.

Consider for a moment the most maligned genre in the business: romance. These books, more than any other genre, tend to be dismissed. And these books, more than any other genre, tend to be written by women.

There will always be cockalorums who think their opinion is more important, who think that because they don't like a thing no one should, who want to make you feel bad about liking something.

Call bullshit on them. All these articles are is nothing more than someone looking down their nose at you. Don't put up with that. Think for yourself. Know what you like, and don't let someone else's prejudices get in the way of that.

At this point, those sorts of articles are just clickbait. And the people who write those sorts of articles are just turd sandwiches.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Representation Matters, Part 2

I thought I had said what I needed to say about representation in fiction in my first post on the subject last year.

But I realized today that there's something else that needs to be said. Or, rather, that I need to say. Because when I was writing about representation before, I was writing about it from the point of view of the minority. We want to see ourselves within the text in some way, we want to know that we are not alone, even in a fictional world.

But as a white, straight person, there's another way that representation matters, and it has nothing to do with what I already am, and everything to do with what I could become.

First, an example. Schindler's List is a masterpiece of a movie, but one of the most striking images in the whole film has nothing to do with the big stars. It's the scene with the little girl in the red coat.

In this scene, Schindler, a well-off non-Jewish German, sees the liquidation of a Jewish ghetto by the Nazis. The movie is almost entirely in black and white, but this scene features a little girl in a red coat, hiding during the horrific chaos around her.

When I was a teacher, I often showed my students this movie in conjunction with Elie Wiesel's Night. And this was the scene we always talked about.

"Why is that one little girl in red?" a student would always say.

And the answer is surprisingly simple. In the scene, you see so much terror and cruelty. But our brain has an enormously difficult time processing something as huge as mass murder. We can understand it on a theoretical level, but we don't truly get it. We cannot comprehend what the loss is, we cannot process the magnitude of it all.

But we can sympathize with one little girl.

Representation matters because it puts a face to the world. It reminds us of the humanity of the "other," and it reminds us of our own humanity as well.

Growing up, I lived in a bubble of a community. All of my friends--in fact, everyone I personally knew, friend or not--were white, like me. They were all Christian. They were all (as far as I knew at the time) straight. Anything that was different was--not reviled so much as mocked. Stereotypes were extraordinarily common--not just for "the other," but for myself as well. People were defined by the boxes they existed in, and if they didn't fit into the box, they were "other," and strange and...

...and not quite human. Not in the eyes of my community.

If you had asked me, as a young teenager growing up in this limited community, if a black person or a gay person or someone "other" than me was human, I would, of course, had said yes. I knew on a conscious level that people were people, obviously.

But at the same time, I didn't understand. I didn't know anyone personally who was a different color, a different religion, or a different gender/sexuality type from me. And because I didn't know anyone different, I didn't really think of them as people. They were the faceless masses, the ones I knew were real but couldn't comprehend. It was far from me, removed, and easy for me to not care.

But it was in literature where I started to change.

I cannot remember the first time I became aware that the world was not a mirror of my self, but I think it may have started with the brilliant poet, the late Maya Angelou. While I knew the facts of the civil rights movement and racism, I understood--at least a little--the emotion behind it through reading her works. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God was another key book for me, and The Color Purple, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and the works of Langston Hughes, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and so many more. Books I never would have picked up on my own, books my teachers assigned or cajoled me into reading.

Books that changed the way I looked at people.

Books that helped me to see the humanity in people I did not know and was not like.

Books that reminded me how easy it was to forget my own humanity.

When I entered college, I had become a little more aware of how limited my upbringing was, how little I truly understood. Socrates said that, "I only know that I know nothing," and he meant that if you want to be truly wise, you have to first understand that impossibility of understanding everything. As a slightly older teenager moving to a large city two-hundred miles from my home and everything--and everyone--I had known, I was only really smart enough to know that I didn't really know a lot. I had gained enough perspective to realize the flaws in my prejudices, and to attempt to change myself, but I was still floundering.

Travel helped. Living in a city with more diversity helped. Getting to know people as people helped. Defining people not by how they were different from me, but how they were similar to me as well as different, helped.

But, as before, one of the biggest agents of change for me was in fiction.

In fiction, you can get to know characters on a different level as you know people. You see them as they are, you're privy to their thoughts, to their feelings. You understand more, and you can't fall back on your assumptions, because the truth of the matter is there before you in black and white.

It is often within the pages of a book, or the images on a screen, or the characters in a play--it is often, in short, through art that we see our own humanity, and how it has failed us. That we see the humanity of others, and how it has only been the fault in our own eyes and hearts that prevented us from seeing it before.

Understanding characters helps us to understand people. Discovering the individuals--like the little girl in the red coat--helps us to see the humanity beyond the people like us.

Representation matters not just because we have an inherit need to know we are not alone, that others look and feel and think like us--but because we also have an inherit need, too often denied, to know that we are not alone, that others look and feel and think not like us.

I'm still changing. I'm still identifying my flaws--still discovering them. I only really know that I know nothing....and that representation matters.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Support Literacy and Writing Through These Amazing Programs

There are some amazing things happening online right now, and if you support literacy, you should absolutely check them out.

For those of you who don't know, Kickstarter is a place where people can pitch a project they want to do, and people can pledge money to support the project. If they get enough money to make their goal happen, then they keep the money pledged. If they don't--they don't. It's an all or nothing deal, and there are some amazing Kickstarters going on right now that I want to make sure you all know about!

First up is the North Texas Teen Book Festival. This program is run by people I've worked with in the past (Irving Public Library is one of the best library systems I've had the honor of working with), and they're trying to start a book festival in their area. These are amazing kids who dearly love reading, and I want them to succeed so much.

If you're in the Texas area, they have some amazing perks for people who contribute and can attend the festival--and even if you're not in the area, a $5 donation will help this program get one step closer to giving a large group of wonderful teens a fantastic experience. They're at about 20% of their goal now and they have a month to raise the rest of the funds, but remember: this is all or nothing. If they don't reach their goal at the end of the month, they get nothing and the Teen Book Festival may die.

I'm sure by now that most of you have heard about one of the most famous and successful Kickstarters in support of literacy--the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. While they already have their initial goal (of a million dollars!), Reading Rainbow is shooting for a higher goal now to bring their program--and a love of reading--to even more children.

I remember Reading Rainbow fondly from when I was a child. The thing that always stood out to me was the children's book reviews of books. It wasn't an adult talking down to me to tell me to read a book; it was a kid my age excited about a book, and that made me excited, too. Reading Rainbow really is one of those programs that I truly believe helps children love to read, and if you agree, consider supporting the program and helping them help a new generation of kids.

It's not all about money, though. There's a new program launched on Tumblr called We Need Diverse Books, and they've just launched a summer reading program that compares diverse titles to popular books to encourage more people to try something new. You can read more about the program here, but definitely consider following their tumblr as well as you don't miss out on a single new title!

And finally, one for fun--it's not about literacy, but it IS about writing, and I can't help myself. If you follow my Twitter, you'll know that for the last few days I've been tweeting about an amazing keyboard. It is basically my dream keyboard--it looks and feels and sounds like an old typewriter, but it works with computers. Here, see for yourself:

The only problem? This keyboard doesn't exist yet. It's a part of a Kickstarter campaign to manufacture the keyboards, and it's only at 20% of its goal. So tell your writer friends! The board is pricey, but it looks like it'll be amazing, and I really hope they get made! You can read more about the project here. And to watch it in action--including some of that sweet, sweet clacky-keys reminiscent of typewriters, click here.