Monday, May 27, 2013

TFOU Week = tofu week

The novel I wrote with Carolyn Mackler, The Future of Us, takes place over a specific series of days in 1996. So we consider the week leading up to Memorial Day Weekend as TFOU Week!

Last week, I posted online that one tradition of TFOU Week is to eat a tofu dish for each day. I apologized for such a tradition, but apparently there are people who can make a yummy tofu dish.

For example: Emily!

Emily is currently a sophomore at the same high school that I attended. On Twitter, in honor of TFOU Week, she posted five days of her tofu creations:

fried tofu with mushrooms

tofu con huevo en pan

tofu omelette

tofu bbq burrito

noodles with tofu...and a book!

For being so cool, Emily will be visited by the Facebook Fairy (the mythical creature behind the shenanigans in The Future of Us), who will present her with a signed copy of the book!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

El A and El Paso

This past week, I did a booksigning in Los Angeles, and a school visit in El Paso.

In L.A., I spoke at a Barnes & Noble where I've always wanted to do an event. Why? Because it's in the middle of a cool shopping district called The Grove, and because they make really cool banners to promote their events.

I was one of three YA authors at this event. One of the authors was my friend, and fellow Razorbillian, Jordanna Fraiberg. The other author was Jordanna's friend, and my new friend, Lauren Miller.

After discussing our books (which you should all run out and buy), and before the Q&A, we held three contests so audience members could win prizes. The first contest had them line us up by how old we were when we had our first kisses. One of us was young, one was a late bloomer, and one was just right (not that you should judge the first two). It took two tries before we had a winner in that contest. Then we had them guess which author went to Harvard, which went to Yale, and which dropped out of college. Someone won that on the first try (and I'm going to assume that was a lucky guess). Finally, we told them that, as children, all of us used to dress up in costumes and go out in public even when it wasn't Halloween. One of us went to school dressed as a bellydancer, one went shopping wearing an old lady wig, and one went to the mall dressed as Wonder Woman. That question really stumped the audience.

Other authors who came out to hear us, which made us very happy, were Jennifer Bosworth, Aaron Hartzler, Alexandra Monir, and Greg Pincus. And yes, you should definitely buy all of their books, too (or pre-order it if it's not out yet).

A few days later, I flew to Texas. Right before my visit, I found out that my great grandfather lived in El Paso in the late 1970s. I also found out where he liked to eat, which was a total greasy spoon diner. When the librarian who organized the event (Hey, Gloria!) picked me up at the airport and asked if I was hungry, I said, "Have you ever heard of Elmer's Family Restaurant?"

Yes, the place looks very similar to how it probably did in the '70s. But the food was good!

The next day, I gave four presentations in the library of Burges High School. Almost all of the students had read both of my books, which always makes an event more fun, and also makes the Q&A more engaging.

That evening, I had dinner with several students and faculty at a great restaurant called The Garden. With more chances to interact with the students, we had some wonderful literary discussions. And the artwork around us helped set the tone.

So what happened to the banner from Barnes & Noble? While I was all prepared to arm wrestle or do a spelling bee or have a watermelon seed spitting contest, Jordanna and Lauren basically said, "You can have it."

Isaiah and I are thinking Slip-n-Slide!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The F.A.M. at The Grove

Sunday, May 19, I'll be speaking in Los Angeles with two other YA authors: Jordanna Fraiberg and Lauren Miller. If you're anywhere near Barnes & Noble in The Grove (I'm talking anywhere within a 120-mile radius), you should definitely consider being there at 2pm. That's when The F.A.M. (Fraiberg-Asher-Miller) will give a little presentation, answer your questions, and then sign your books.

In preparation for the Q&A, we decided to ask a bunch of questions we've always wondered about each other. Some of the questions were book-related, but many were not. If you've got a book-related question for us, and especially if you've got a weird or silly question...

We'd love to see you in L.A.!

Q: When you were 16, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JORDANNA: A professional squash player. First, squash is an actual sport, and yes, there is a vibrant and active pro tour. I did realize my dream after I graduated college, but it lasted all of 6 months before I realized I needed to also exercise my brain. So I hung up my racket to work in journalism in NYC.

Q: How do you take your coffee?
JAY: At restaurants, I use one sugar packet and one of those thimble-looking creamers. It would probably taste better with more than one of each, but I figure the sugar and creamer people know the best way to mix a coffee. If it was supposed to have more of each, they would've made the packets bigger!

Q: What is your go-to karaoke song?
LAUREN:"Whatta Man" by Salt N Peppa. I should mention, however, that I should probably not be permitted to do karaoke in public. I seem not to have mastered the art of using a microphone. I end up sort of scream singing into it, making everyone in the audience grimace with pain.

Q: What non-YA book do you wish you'd written (for non-financial reasons)?
JORDANNA:The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Q: What time of day do you like to write? Any rituals you care to share?
JAY: I do my best brainstorming during the day, often while doing other activities, but I prefer to do the writing at night. I wrote most of my first book at a coffee shop, but most of my second at a small table in my living room that looked outside. I don’t have any rituals that I must do, but sometimes I like to help set a certain tone or atmosphere for myself just before sitting down to write. Sometimes that includes music (the My So-Called Life soundtrack for Thirteen Reasons Why; mid-90s pop-punk for The Future of Us). For the book I’m currently working on, along with specific music, I also have some scented candles set a very particular atmosphere.

Q: If you could meet any non-YA author, living or dead, who would you choose?
LAUREN: Leo Tolstoy. Not only did he write one of my all time favorite books (Anna Karenina), he was also a philosopher and a deep thinker. History remembers him as sort of a nut, but I think there's more to the story.

Q: High school boyfriend! did you have one? What was he like?
JORDANNA: Nope, I did not. While I had too many crushes to count, I was a bit of a late bloomer on the boyfriend front (which is probably why I've devoted my career to writing about it!).

Q: Did you have any nicknames in high school?
JAY: I wasn't cool enough or dorky enough to have a legitimate nickname. But in one class, we created fictional families for ouselves as adults. I named one of my kids Gabriel because I've always liked that name. But when I shared my fictional family with the class, someone realized that Gabriel would be called Gabe by a lot of people, and Gabe just sounds so wrong when attached to my last name. For a long time (meaning: to this day), people who were in that class will say "Hey, Gabe" when they see me. (Gabriel was instantly eliminated as a potential name for my potential children. My non-fictional wife and I named our son Isaiah.)

Q: If you had to pick a cartoon character as your personal mascot, who would it be?
LAUREN:Oooh, this is a good one. I think I'd probably pick Rainbow Brite. She's smiley and happy and she brings color to the world. Plus, she has a super awesome white horse with rainbow hair. Every girl needs one of those.

Q: If you had to spend a year living somewhere in the U.S. other than California, where would you live?
JORDANNA:I'd love to spend a year living in Maine. I've gone there practically every summer since I was a kid, and, as luck would have it, so has my husband (note: not how we met). I'd love to experience the other seasons there. There's something incredibly romantic to me about being there on a crisp, snowy winter day.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
JAY: I tend to overthink things, so while this should be a fun "Wouldn't it be cool if..." question, it also nearly makes my brain explode. Being invisible would have so many benefits, but I couldn't just walk around carefree. I'd have to be careful people didn't hear my footsteps or bump into me. If they knew there was an invisible person around, after the initial shock, they'd want to capture me. It would be hard to find me, of course, but they would. It'd be like a massive game of Marco Polo with everyone running around with extended arms, and they wouldn't stop until they found me. And then the military would hear about my power and want to use me for their purposes. So I'd choose the ability to fly. That would be the most exciting, as well as the most relaxing, superpower. Or would it? I'd have to fly only at night to limit my chance of exposure. If I had to fly during the day, I'd have to either fly so high that people on the ground wouldn't see me, or only in places where cows or coyotes would see. But what if I showed up on radar? Could I fly faster than a military jet? Anyway...whatever...I still choose flight!

Q: If your contract required your next book to be something other than YA, what age would you write for, and what genre?
LAUREN: I'd write a grown-up, old fashioned mystery, probably with an old lady detective heroine like Miss Marple. I am a mystery fiend. When I was a kid, I loved Sherlock Holmes (the Jeremy Brett version) and Murder She Wrote.

Q: Which is more fun for you, writing a first draft or revising a final draft (and why)?
JORDANNA: I used to prefer writing first drafts, and they're still a really fun process of discovery, but I find I really get my groove going in revisions. The hope is that by the final draft, I can really deepen the characters and their relationships because by that point I know them so well.

Q: If you had a spirit animal, what would it be?
JAY: A beluga whale. But not just any beluga whale. It has to be a baby beluga.

Q: Are you a night person or a morning person?
LAUREN:Hands down, a morning person. I like to get up before 5 a.m. to write, and it's my favorite time of day. I don't even need an alarm. My eyes just sort of pop open at about 4:50. Which is great for my writing, but not so good for my social life. By about 9pm, I'm done for the day. My husband calls me Lame Lauren. I tell him to get his butt up at 5am to see how cool I am then!

Q: If you had to get a tattoo, where would you put it and what would it be? If you're not sure of the design, what are some requirements it would have to meet?
JORDANNA: I would probably get it on the inside of my right wrist, so that I'd catch flashes of it as I write. To that point, I'd want it to be some kind of kundalini yogic symbol that reminded me to breathe, to take a moment. To be in the moment. Hey, maybe I'll go get one!

Q: Are there any foods you crave while writing? Does it depend where you are in the process?
JAY: I forget to eat when I’m in the middle of writing. As long as there’s coffee, I’m good. But while editing The Future of Us, I pulled some all-nighters at a donut shop that was open the hours when I needed to write. That was probably the yummiest (and most fattening) writing experience I ever had. It was awesome!

Q: Name a food item you could never live without.
LAUREN: Is coffee a food item?  It's the one thing I seriously can't imagine ever giving up, even if someone told me it was killing me.  Okay, maybe if it was killing me.  But only in that one instance.  If I'm restricted to actual food items, then I guess I'd say avocados.  I hated them until I got pregnant with my daughter, and now I add them to every meal.  I'm also a big fan of toast, especially when it's smeared with my latest obsession, sunflower seed butter.  It's weird the first time you eat it, but after the second time, you'll be hooked.  Man, I'm hungry right now.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Spring 2013 Children's Books

Browsing through the Spring 2013 Children’s Books issue of Publishers Weekly, these are the recently released (or soon-to-be released) middle-grade and teen novels that most grabbed my attention:

Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark. Max discovers that a killer unicorn is hunting him in this launch of a fantasy trilogy.

Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston. Alternating past and present vignettes tell the story of a teen with a bomb strapped to her chest.

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown. A budding magician who plays sidekick to her faux medium mother tries to hide her own powers.

Cameron and the Girls by Edward Averett. A boy suffering from schizophreniform disorder falls in love with a classmate and with a girl in his head.

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan centers on a troubled teen who takes his school hostage at gunpoint, and on the peer who stops him.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez. To make sense of her high school crush’s suicide, Frenchie retraces her steps of the last night she spent with him.

Freaks by Kieran Larwood. Misfits exhibited in a Victorian sideshow use their unique talents to solve crimes.

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan tells of a romance between an invisible boy and the one girl who can see him.

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman. A Jewish teen who is sick of hearing about the Holocaust must make a tough choice when her friends play Nazi war games.

Me & My Invisible Guy by Sarah Jeffrey. Shy Mallory’s imaginary boyfriend keeps the guys away—until everyone at school learns the truth.

Mojo by Tim Tharp. A teen who gets no respect at school hopes to improve his status by solving the case of a missing rich girl.

Nobody’s Secret by Michaela MacColl. Emily Dickinson stars in this debut novel of a series that imagines literary figures as crime solvers.

Paranormal Properties by Tracy Lane, illus. by Natalia Nesterova. Working on the set of his parents’ghost hunting TV show, a teen discovers he can see and talk to spirits.

The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors, illus. by Dan Santat. In this series launch, two friends bring a wounded animal to a vet for imaginary creatures.

Sidekicked by John David Anderson tells of a boy who belongs to a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks.

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub. After the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, a prince wonders how to bring their families together.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. An online correspondence begins when a teen movie star accidentally sends a girl an email.

Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten. Someone is editing Wikipedia articles about teens dying in gruesome ways—and they’re coming true.

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle tells of six kids who have a new movie made about them every five years.