Sunday, November 30, 2008

Impossible among Best Books 2008

School Library Journal says that Impossible is among the best books of 2008, and I'm inclined to believe them. The list is here; you can scroll to the bottom to see the entry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Want some audio?

As a nice companion piece to the text interview in the previous post, you can go here and scroll down to listen to a podcast interview that Nancy recently did with the King County Library in Bellevue, Washington.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Teen reads, and Nancy writes

Nancy was recently interviewed by It's good stuff. For the record, I'd have blogged it even if I didn't get a shout-out.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The curse of happiness

Amidst the glowing praise for Impossible has been a smattering of dissenting opinions. Of course, as an unabashed admirer of Nancy, I don't much enjoy reading any of that, but I recognize that there are going to be differing tastes and perspectives, and so it's all fair enough, at least in principle.

But what annoys me is a consistent premise of the critics: that it's too convenient and unrealistic that Lucy should have the love and support that she gets from Zach. Oh, yeah? People can't be kind to each other? Love is impossible? Happy endings, too? Nobody is allowed to have things bounce their way for a change?

Hey, life is a bitch. Often. Repeatedly. In many cases, horribly. Just not always. I'm sure that a lot of Nancy's readers feel the pain of her characters, and are relieved in some way by the notion that it's not just them that must endure whatever it is that they're enduring. And by all means, they have every right to prefer books in which nobody catches a break, in which comfort is only relative, in which the protagonist has to work within a dark world for each and every little positive thing that comes their way.

But good fortune happens. That's why they call it that. And do the math, people: twenty one generations of Scarborough women are enslaved by a demonic character, followed by one (count 'em) barely wriggling out of being the twenty-second. Over 95% living through hell. Doesn't seem like an overly sunny view of the world to me.

This protagonist was lucky, no question about it, but only after starting out really, really unlucky. If you're one of those readers that identifies with Lucy, you're right to suppose that a Zach next door is unlikely. Please just understand that he's not impossible. As I read it, that was kinda the point...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nancy in San Antonio II: ALAN

After wrapping up at NCTE, Nancy slides on over to the Marriott Rivercenter, also in San Antonio, for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) Annual Convention.

She'll be speaking in the panel program on "Fear and Loathing in Young Adult Books" at 3:55 pm on Monday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nancy in San Antonio I: NCTE

Nancy will be at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio this Friday and Saturday.

She'll participate in a panel presentation on Friday at 12:30 with fellow authors Matt de la Peña and Benjamin Alire Saenz on “The Realities of Facing Tough Choices" (specifically for teens).

Then she'll sign books not once, not twice, but thrice, so if you're at the conference, your chances of getting a signed copy are pretty good:
  • 2-3 pm Friday at the Penguin Young Readers booth
  • 10-11 am Saturday at the Anderson Bookshop booth
  • 2-3 pm Saturday at the Perma-Bound booth


We've returned from a very pleasant honeymoon in St. Thomas, and Nancy is rested and ready to get back to work. She's off to San Antonio next -- details to follow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nancy news: nuptials

Back to what this blog does best: keeping readers informed about what Nancy is up to. What she's up to this weekend is marrying up your humble correspondent.

One might argue that it's a shrewd career move for her, good amanuenses bloggers being hard to find and all, but really it has more to do with love and caring and stuff. And we're both on board with the whole living-happily-ever-after concept.

I'm going to omit a fair amount of detail regarding what happens next, but I'll be back shortly with any book-related news...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On exclusion

Nancy and I were enjoying dinner with Walter Mayes last week, and he was telling us about YALSA's William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award. (Walter sits on the committee.) Apparently, a book that involves a collaboration between a writer and illustrator is only eligible for the award if it is the debut work of both parties -- if either the writer or the illustrator has been published, the book is ineligible.

My initial impulse was to cry foul, because I was looking at it from the perspective of the artists, and not the book itself. I thought that it was unfair to exclude e.g. a new author who had the good sense to work with an experienced illustrator, and that some promising new writers would be overlooked that way. But the award is really for the book, and it's easy to see that a book that has a seasoned pro working on it has a leg up on one that doesn't. So I can grumble that YALSA ought to make it more about the artist(s) and less about the book, but they have a case. And those promising writers will continue to be promising, and with good collaborations will be just fine, so I needn't worry, huh?

Then there was yesterday. A different (and much more pernicious) sort of exclusion was taking place. Voters in three states - California, Arizona, and Florida - decided that they needed to make a special effort to prevent gays from having the same civil rights as straights.

I could happily veer off to a diatribe about these half-assed state referenda, and how we have a representative democracy for a reason, but I'll leave that alone for now. Instead I'll try to step into the mindset of the selfish, dim-witted homophobes who voted to ban gay marriage in their states. (If you voted for one of these bans, feel free to selectively remove as many as two of those characterizations.)

Look, I get that some people wish there weren't gay marriage. I wish there weren't New York Yankees, but I'll vigorously defend their right to exist. (Well, maybe not vigorously.) Some people find the thought of gay sex distasteful, but if we carefully analyze straight sex, it's something less than dignified itself. Hormones make us do weird things, OK? Deal with it. Or just ignore it and don't worry about it. When you get up in the morning, the intimate goings-on in the house down the street the previous night will have zero effect on your life. Same for the legal status of the couple.

And there is no reason that said couple should be denied the same protections that any married couple has. If you're concerned about the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman, don't be. All you need to do is look at all of the curious customs that have existed around the institution of marriage --would you care to have Dad watching you consummate yours? -- or look at the huge number of ill-considered, abusive straight relationships that nobody has any problem sanctifying with marriage. We're exalting those why?

What this is really about is that the ridiculous referendum system allows people to react on the spur of the moment, and effectively say: "I wish other people were just like me. I vote for comfortable sameness over uncomfortable otherness."

I'm about to enter into marriage with Nancy. I don't see what should make our partnership any different from a gay couple's, except for the plumbing. If two men or two women love each other the way Nancy and I do, they damn well should be together, and have the same sorts of rights that we will.

Monday, November 3, 2008

To read or not to read

You know the answer, but the report of the same name from the NEA suggests that not everybody else does, as discussed by NEA chair Dana Gioia.

A sigh-inducing statement: "There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans. Most alarming, both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates."

So readers, keep reading, and writers, keep writing. Someone's gotta do it.