Tuesday, July 19, 2016

RWA 2016

For several days recently, I attended my third RWA conference. That anagram stands for Romance Writers of America. And yes, I was one of only a handful of dudes there. Thankfully, as one of my friends unironically said, "You seem to fit right in."

Truly, this is such a warm, welcoming, and supportive group of professionals. Unless you try really hard, it's nearly impossible to feel like an outsider. More than anything, the group is so inspiring. It's impossible to find authors who collectively work harder (as well as put up with the most crap) than romance authors. Check out the trailer for this new documentary, which they screened the first night of the conference:


As a bonus, this year's conference was held at a beautiful San Diego hotel.


While conferences are great to get re-inspired, reunited with friends, and learn, it's also a great place to promote a new or upcoming release. For me, that meant bringing What Light hot cocoa packets to the Goody Room. I could have given away over 300 of these things if I'd brought them, but we were allowed very specific dimensions, so I had to return over and over to replenish my box.


One of the first people I ran into at the conference was Crystal Perkins, who wore a dress that basically begged me to ask for a selfie.


I had dinner with an author I haven't had a chance to hang out with before, Jenny Han. Chatting one-on-one with someone I've never really spoken with can be difficult for a shy, introverted, small-talk-fumbling guy like me. But I completely enjoyed--and learned from--our freewheeling discussion of writing, promotion, race, gender issues, politics and religion. Yes, we absolutely went there in our very first conversation. And we left as friends!


Plus, the food was delicious. Delicious! This wooden bowl is holding BBQ carrots. I know, they look all...whaaaaaa???...but they tasted like...mmmmmm!!!


Other wonderful authors whose books I've read that I dined with but was too dumb to document with a pic: Jennifer Snow, Heather Davis, and Sally Kilpatrick.

I also got to meet a YA author whose debut novel I've been wanting to read since I first heard its premise. And now I have a signed copy of Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods!


An exciting aspect of this conference was running into authors who had read my books and had teenagers back home who had also read my books. So they sent pics to their daughters to make them jealous!



I can't wait to hear what their daughters (and these authors!) think of my new book, which I made sure they received.

Another thing I love about this conference is the thought put into presentation. The main ballroom always looks so glamorous, which adds to the feeling of respect for the art and business being discussed.


The highlight of the conference is always the awards ceremony. Awards are given to many subgenres within the romance category, with the RITA going to published books and the Golden Heart going to unpublished manuscripts. Both awards are given equal prestige, and the editors of the winning books are also invited to speak after the authors accepts their award.

One winner of a RITA is also a friend. Pintip Dunn's YA novel, Forget Tomorrow, won in the Best First Book category. 


I would love to win a RITA one day. Love! Just sayin'. Just throwing it out there...

There were a lot of sequins and high heels at the ceremony, and even a dude in a kilt, but I was mighty proud of the tie I had made just for this event. I even had it signed by the RITA winner above!


Here's the larger group of YA authors I had the opportunity to hang out with at the conference.

Meg Kassel, T.L. Sumner, L.A. Freeland, Pintip Dunn,
Darcy Woods, Kimberly MacCarron, Sheri Renae Preston-Adkins,
Marni Bates, Mary Sullivan, Vanessa Barneveld, Marnee Blake,
Amy DeLuca (a.k.a. Amy Patrick), Jessica Ruddick, Nicole Hohmann

Hopefully I'll see you all next year in Orlando!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Puerto Rico!

Yes, I was in Puerto Rico recently. But it was for work, okay? I can't help it if I get to my hotel room and the window looks out on a view like this...


It's still work!

And I can't help it if that window slides open and I can lean out to get a view like this...


Still work!

Sadly, I am not a beach dude. Beaches are so...sandy. And if you get in the water, when you get out, that sand sticks to you. And the sun is so...hot.

My wife and my son, they love the beach. So when I sent them the pics from above, they both said they would be very upset if I came home without getting in that beautiful water. But as I told them, which is the same as I told you, this was a work visit. I wasn't there to play!

Plus, I didn't bring my swim shorts.

First order of business, I was interviewed by a local newspaper. And they brought a photographer with them. But I can not help it that this was the backdrop...


Primarily, I was in Puerto Rico to give a talk and do a signing at The Bookmark Boutique. The most nerve-wracking part of any bookstore visit is the lead-up. Will anyone show? If only a few people show--as can happen--I still enjoy myself, but more than a few is always nice. When I approached the store, that place was packed! People were standing outside!!!


Yes, it was a small store (hence, the Boutique part of the name), but still!

I began by reading a couple of pages as Clay's character from Thirteen Reasons Why, and was soon joined by a girl from the audience who read the part of Hannah.


Then I spoke a bit about the writing for that book, and The Future of Us, and told them about the October release of What Light. During the Q&A part of my visit, I gave out packets of What Light hot cocoa mix.


They were an amazing audience! I had a great time, and would love to come back.


Before I hopped on the plane to fly home, I gave in and bought a pair of swim shorts. I think I was the palest thing on the beach without feathers, but the water was so warm, my only regret is that I didn't dive in earlier.

I'm sure I looked something like this...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Orlando

Last week, I flew to Orlando for a couple of publishing events. It would be my first time to exclusively promote my upcoming novel, What Light, which I was very excited about. Coincidentally, some very special people happened to be visiting Orlando at the same time. My cousin Cindy's daughter was competing in a volleyball tournament. They live in California, several hours south of where I live, so we met up on the other side of the country. Another cousin, Michelle, lives in Florida a few hours from Orlando, so even more of the family was able to get together. 


A couple years ago, I posted about a YA writing retreat I attended. I wasn't able to attend their retreat last year, but this year they held it in Orlando. Though I couldn't hang out with them as much as last time, I did meet up with the authors for dinner. Kristin Harmel brought make-up bags for everyone, featuring our latest book release. But I've been using mine to carry Sharpies for autographing.


Visiting Orlando so soon after they were hit by horribly violent acts, there was a somberness that--rightfully--crept into conversations. Those attacks weighed on me heavily leading up to my visit, so I went to the makeshift memorials at these sites. Among the flowers, photos, crosses, and candles where Christina Grimmie last sang, a fan taped a handwritten note to a window about the inspiration in Christina's voice, as well as the life she lived.


I drove a couple librarians to the site of the Pulse tragedy. People were crying and praying, in groups and alone. The air was so hot and humid, and the terror of what happened in that small building behind the fence was crushing.



Conversations about these events continued throughout the week, but the publishing world also pushed forward.


At the ABC Children's Institute, part of the American Booksellers Association, Penguin held a dinner for several independent booksellers from around the country. To celebrate the upcoming releases of The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz and What Light, the menu was styled as if we were dining at Jay & Adam's Evergreen Tavern.


Most of my Orlando events were later in the week at the American Library Association conference. One event was a pizza party attended by many authors and a whole lot of teens. Each author sat at a table-o-teens for several minutes to discuss their latest books, and then moved to the next table-o-teens where the pitch was repeated. During that time, the teens dines and the authors attempted. This is what I'd been able to eat after a few rounds.


My first official signing of What Light was thrilling! I'd been brainstorming and working on this book for over a decade...and now people get to read it! The signing line, which wrapped beyond where I could see it, gave me goosebumps.


Later, when Greg Neri tried to steal my man-purse (I mean, Sharpie container), my wrist held strong!


There were several restrooms marked for men and women around the convention, but this was the first event where I've seen a couple opened as gender-neutral. I was curious as to how people would react. Truly, it was kind of beautiful to see people notice the sign, shrug (if they offered a reaction at all), and head on in to take care of their natural business. After the nearby Pulse tragedy, it felt like an especially huge deal. After having lunch with my author friend Amber Hart and gonna-be author friend Tori Kelley, we wanted to get a pic at the entrance to this ALA awesomeness.


It's always flattering when people fanboy and fangirl while getting an autograph. Myself, I did plenty of fanboying at ALA. I mean...it's Anne M. Martin! Not only is she the author behind The Baby-Sitters Club series, but she's bringing one of my favorite series back-to-life. While I read about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle growing up, today's kids will get to read those same books, but also new ones about her niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle.


I finally got to meet a friend of some of my author friends, Amy Lukaviks, who writes creepy and scary books. That--be prepared!--is a bucket-list genre for me, too.


I also got to meet a man whose commentaries I always enjoy, Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book. If you don't read Roger, you should!


PIP (People In Publishing) always laugh at me for assuming other PIP won't know who I am. But, whatever! It makes it that much more exciting for me when people do know who I am. Simply asking for a selfie for this blog post, I had a couple of those exciting moments when I met Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)...


...and Kwame Alexander.


Actually, I already knew Kwame knew who I was, but only because of a freak-out fanboy moment I had earlier on Twitter.


Dude. I mean, just...dude!

I took part in another table-hopping pitch fest, but this time with librarians and many more authors. Check out all these story-scribblers!



For my final event before heading to the airport, I had a book signing at a table next to Grace Lin, which allowed me to get another great book signed for my son.


The advance reading copies I came home with, though the authors weren't in Orlando to sign them, were How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, The Best Man by Richard Peck, and One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards.


Books I had signed and personalized to me were Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Poppy Mayberry, the Monday by Jennie Brown, The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles, Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics, The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey, and The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat.


Books I had signed for my son were Whoosh! by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate, Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin, Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell, and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton written and illustrated by Don Tate.

Monday, June 13, 2016

WHAT LIGHT: Dear Readers

When my publisher was putting together the advance copies of What Light, I asked if I could write a letter to introduce the book to the booksellers, librarians, and anyone else getting an early look. They also added a photo that I took at one of the farms I visited while researching the story.

Here's what it looks like in the advance copies:


And here's what it says:

"...make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with light."

Dear Readers,

     Since the debut of my first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, the themes of hope and forgiveness have been at the center of my interactions with teens. Many have told me they finally felt understood within the pages of that book, even if it could never reflect all parts of their lives. Others, while they could appreciate the book, didn't see it as a reflection of their experiences. A novel about their lives, sadly, would not get hailed as "a brave, honest look at the teen years." So, after a recent book tour that had me speaking to such a variety of students in all fifty states, I felt drawn to explore hope and forgiveness again, but in a new way.
     The story of What Light has been glowing in my mind for a long time. I read a newspaper profile about a family with a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year, they hauled the trees south and sold them on a lot where I live in California. The part of their story that stood out most concerned their children. When not selling trees, they attended a nearby public school or hung out with friends. When the holiday was over, the whole family went back home. Two sets of friends? A defined timeline? There had to be a story there! But it would take about a dozen years before I found it.
     I continuously brainstormed and took notes even after I began work on Thirteen Reasons Why. That book describes the suicide of someone who lost hope in the future and was unable to forgive the past, though hope and forgiveness are found by someone left behind. If I were to address those themes a second time, I wanted to bookend them in an uplifting story about love.
     I looked closer at my notes for What Light and saw that potential. It would let me revisit many similar issues, but through different lenses. Love rather than hurt. Overcoming rather than succumbing. Forgiveness--especially the forgiveness of self--rather than guilt.
     I wrote this book for the teens I've met who've had too many dark days but hold on to hope that things can get better. And I wrote it for the teens I've met who have mostly good days but who still encounter sadness and difficult decisions.
     It is a story I've wanted to share for a long time: What Light.

With gratitude,
Jay Asher

"...behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light."
--William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


You can find out more about What Light, or pre-order it, by clicking here.


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Author Events: June 2016

Where you can find me in the next few weeks:

June 10
Barnes & Noble
(open to everyone)
98 Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington, Massachusetts
7pm

June 12
Barnes & Noble
with Mary Weber and K. Makansi
(open to everyone)
894 Marsh Street
San Luis Obispo, California
1pm

June 16
(open to all teens)
North Central University
Minneapolis, Minnesota
evening keynote (open to everyone): 7pm

June 22
(for booksellers)
Orlando, Florida

June 25-26
(for librarians)
Orlando, Florida


Plus, a video I love about six
awesome upcoming books!
(Mine, What Light, is the last one discussed.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Estonia

Several months ago, I was asked to take part in a literary festival in Estonia. I quickly checked my calendar and said, "Yes!" And then I quickly went online to figure out (literally) where in the world I was going. I mean, I knew a little about Estonia, but in case you didn't know, there are so many countries in this world! And this gave me a great opportunity to dig in and learn some more about this part of the globe before heading over.

The time difference is ten hours ahead of where I live in California, and so much further north. When I got to my hotel, it was already 5:30pm, which meant there were only several more hours of daylight.


Above, the city of Tallinn looks very modern, which it is. After all, Skype was invented in Estonia! Sadly, for a country with a history much older than the U.S., most of its historical buildings have been destroyed over the centuries by the many countries who have occupied this area. But what has survived is beautiful.


The following pic was taken on my second day, after driving to the city of Tartu for my first event. The people who helped organize much of my trip include Triin Toomesaar (executive director at KiVa), Annika Aas (librarian), and Tiiu Vitsut (from the U.S. Embassy).


I was one of three speakers at the opening ceremony of the 13th Tartu International Literary Festival Prima Vista. (13th. I know!) But before the speakers began, they had a very weird...but also cool (but very weird)...artsy thing going on with a man in a bathrobe who sang and flipped through an atlas while another man played the piano and a synthesizer. And all of this happened while a green flame burned on top of a cart, of course. It was very Northern European and very cool...but weird.


I was asked to follow that up with a few minutes talking about whatever I wanted, though it should fit this year's festival theme: Mystification. I was followed by Eugen Ruge, a writer from Germany. He was followed by Viktor Yerofeyev, a writer from Russia. And then the festival was underway!

We exited the room so that it could be made a little less atmospheric, and then I spoke to an audience about Thirteen Reasons Why. While I spoke, a handful of attendees wore headphones so a translator sitting in a nearby booth could translate my words into Estonian.



I didn't know it, but the Estonian publisher of that novel was in attendance! So this is the guy originally responsible for me being invited over.


These two women brought up their Estonian copies of my book to sign, which were my first autographs in that edition.



And this reader brought her Russian edition to be signed, which was also a first. And this particular Russian  cover I actually had never seen.



Then I was given a tour of the city. Apparently there are several of these rectangular yellow art structures around town, which you can swivel to frame things like they're on a National Geographic cover, such as this leaning building.



That night was the Mayor's Reception in the Town Hall, where I received a signed thank you letter from the mayor himself. But no one else was taking selfies with the dude, and my shyness got the best of me. But now I'm kicking myself for not getting a pic with him!

The next day, we drove to the University of Tartu Narva college. The first thing that caught my attention were the bathroom signs. They weren't signs at all! They were lights beamed onto the floor from the ceiling. Why? I don't know! And that's awesome!!!


As I told the students in Narva, if I had known while writing this book that it would one day bring me to speak at a college in Estonia, introduced by U.S. Ambassador, James D. Melville, I probably would have puked. But that happened! (The speaking, not the puking.)


Narva is so close to Russia, about half of the students here listened through headphones as my words were translated into Russian.


This reader had me sign the first version of this Russian edition.


The history of Estonia is fascinating. Seriously, look into it! They've only had a few decades of independence in their long history, most recently gaining it back in 1991. Because of Narva's proximity to Russia, and the majority of its citizens speaking Russian as their first language, most things are printed in both Estonian and Russian, such as these posters for my visit.


How close is Russia? In the following pic, I'm standing in Estonia, and the castle across the river is Russian. That's pretty close!


For my last event, I went back to Tallinn. At the Apollo bookstore, I spoke on a panel about bullying. As I've found while travelling throughout the United States, and my previous foreign visits to Germany and Canada (yes, Canada counts as a foreign visit!), this is an issue that's been around forever, but people around the world are just recently deciding it's not something we should tolerate anymore as "a part of growing up." And I believe this is an internationally beautiful and unifying thing!


I also got to meet, for the first time, a translator of one of my books! Liisa Raudsepp did such an amazing job on the translation, she was even nominated for a major award.



Thank you to everyone I met in this beautiful country. You, and your history, have truly inspired me.

Sing on, Estonia!