Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Coffee Tastes Even Better Now!

As of today, I've distributed 31 Thirteen Reasons Why book club packets to various parts of the country. Each packet includes bookmarks, autographed bookplates, a map, a discussion guide, and an audiocassette recording of me answering whatever questions were submitted by the book club members.

And sometimes they send me packets in return!

Yesterday's goodies came from a group in Daly City, California. It included a drawing of my book cover, letters from each reader...

...and a beautiful new mug!

This mug will be helpful as I work on my next book because I sometimes get discouraged with my writing about the time I'm done with my first cup of coffee. But Brittney left an amazingly kind note in the mug...which will only be revealed when I drink the last drop.

With that kind of encouragement, I'm sure I can write for at least an extra hour per day!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lunch at Faulkner's

This past week, I was hangin' out in Mississippi at the Oxford Conference for the Book. Oxford is an amazing town. It looks like the set of a Hollywood movie, with the town square built around a beautiful courthouse. But it's not a set. It's real! The square contains so many great restaurants it was hard to figure out where to eat each night (I kept returning to Ajax for the fried pickles). And get this, in one town square, they have three bookstores: Square Books, Square Books Jr., and Off Square Books.

The night I arrived, I had my first taste of those Mississippi fried pickles...and because my dinner guests were all talkative, I had a chance to steal way more than my fair share! (Check out a photo from dinner by visiting Katie and Sarah Frances at Plot This.)

On Friday, I spoke on a panel where we discussed the importance of reading and brainstormed ways to inspire non-readers to pick up books. Also on the panel was Trenton Lee Stewart, author of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.

But the highlight for any visiting author (such as Trenton and myself) is a trip to...

We were given a fascinating V.I.P. tour of Mr. Faulkner's home by the museum curator. Still written across the walls of one room is the outline to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Fable.

And then we ate lunch on Billy's porch! (No, Trenton is not munching on a sunflower.)

After lunch, Trenton and I signed books at Square Books Jr. We even started a tradition of autographing their stuffed dinosaur. I put my name under the dinosaur's tongue.

On Saturday, I gave a presentation about Thirteen Reasons Why. Sitting up front was a book club from a school 30 minutes away. They took a school bus...on a Saturday...just to hear me speak. Do you have any idea how honored I felt? If I haven't said it enough on this blog, let me say it again: I love my readers!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Word of Mouth

I've done several radio interviews now and it's always fun to see where each host steers the conversation. A recent interview I did on New Hampshire Public Radio was great because the host genuinely seemed interested in how teens have been reacting to the book. You can listen to that interview by clicking here.

(And yes, I am embarrassed about my "mental burp" eleven minutes into the interview. It's Twitter, you dork!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The UK Edition!

Again, a totally different design for the cover. The lettering and the way the girl is seated make it seem like it could be a nice high school story. (Ahh, first impressions...) But then you read the text up in the corner and notice the expression on her face.

It's like a high school portrait...but something ain't right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Worldwide Pants

This week I spoke to people in more countries than I ever have in my life. On Monday and Tuesday, I had phone interviews with newspapers in Korea and Germany. Both reporters spoke very good English…I mean, very well English…I mean, much better English than me. Thirteen Reasons Why came out in both countries not too long ago, becoming even more timely due to some of their recent national news.

In Korea, two of their most famous celebrities recently committed suicide, and rumors being spread online seemed to play a big role. Their media has now been spending a lot of time discussing rumors and that topic framed many of the reporter’s questions for me. Their version of my book includes an Author’s Note specifically dealing with rumors.

In Germany, they had a horrible school shooting last week with many similarities to what happened at Columbine ten years ago. Their communities are now having similar discussions on blame, personal responsibility, the influence of pop culture, and recognizing early signs to prevent future tragedies, all of which framed a sizable portion of this reporter’s questions.

Based on how the reporters reacted to and connected with certain elements in my book, and comparing that with American readers, it confirmed that people all over the world have the same basic desires and concerns...and there’s something comforting about that.

So that explains some of the Worldwide part of the title, but what about the Pants?

I also spoke to my UK editor who had questions regarding their translation. I know, questions about translating English into…English? You betcha! See, over there, pants means underwear. So in their version, we’re using the word jeans. They also want to change “so I practiced” to “so I practised” (with an s) because practice is a noun while practise is a verb.

Well, colour me confused!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The German Edition!

Dead Girls Don't Lie
(title translation)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pinch Protector

In elementary school, I loved St. Patrick’s Day. Leprechauns were about the coolest creatures around. And every time they added another marshmallow shape to their cereal, they got even cooler! Yet one thing which disappointed me every March 17th was going to go to bed without finding a four-leaf clover that day.

But a few years ago, my wife and I were hiking in the rain and stumbled upon a huge patch of clovers. We walked along the edge to keep from trampling them, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to one day find a…hey!…I found a four-leaf clover!” JoanMarie, the eternal optimist, said, “Okay, now I want to find one.” I rolled my eyes because you can’t just say you want to find a four-leaf clover and expect to…

“Found one.”

Now those clovers are displayed in my writing room, even though they lost their green a long time ago. (And no, we don’t mind that the fourth leaf on each clover is kind of stubby. It still counts!)

But Saint Patrick’s Day is all about the green…though some people take it too far. I’m not talking about the people who wear nothing but green or paint their faces green or use dye to turn their peanut butter green. I’m talking about people who designate themselves the Color Guards. “That’s not green, that’s lime.” Pinch! “Dark green doesn’t count.” Pinch! “Light green doesn’t count.” Pinch!

Seriously, there’s something wrong with those people.

The way I see it, you can’t spell greenish without green. It’s all about intent! If a girl puts on her greenish sweater rather than her red one, she’s safe. If a guy puts on his greenish shoes rather than his brown ones, he’s off limits.

So to help save your skin from the Color Guards today, I whipped up a green-scale to print, laminate, and take with you. If someone extends an index finger and thumb at you, smirks, then makes a pinching motion, hold the marker up to your clothing and tell them to pinch someone else.

You’re welcome.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Not Another Edgy Teen Movie

This isn't exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the book...but I can't stop laughing!

Did you notice the Snuggie? The shadow finger puppets?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Inspire Me

Would you like to know what makes me happy and hopeful? When I hear about adults using books that deal with sensitive subjects to inspire teens.

I just love that!

We all know there are censors creeping amongst us who want to keep teens from reading or discussing such books, but this is not a post about those adults. This is a post about inspirational adults! This is a post about adults who think it's better to encourage teens to talk about these issues than pretend they don't exist and let them deal with the issues on their own.

Sometimes the inspirational adults don't set out to inspire anything more than a love for reading. They simply organize a book club at their school and let teens discuss all sorts of books. Adults who do that are classified as great. But when they seize an opportunity to turn the serious issues being discussed into something positive outside of the book club, they are then classified as inspirational.

So I would like to highlight the book club moderator at Totino-Grace High School. Their club recently discussed Thirteen Reasons Why, and it sounds like the students had an amazing discussion. This week I received a Thank You card with individual messages from all the members plus a photo taken at their meeting. In an accompanying letter, Ms. O'Neil wrote:

Our book club has asked the students to come up with some ideas about how to help others with issues such as Hannah's. We are hopeful that we can create a place that students can go if they need to vent or share feelings.

Anyone else feeling inspired?

(By the way, I'm always inspired by my teen readers, such as the students in this book club. But sometimes adults need a little encouraging.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whip out the Silly Putty


Go grab today’s edition of The New York Times! Go! Now!!! Do it before they issue a recall after realizing how much ink they gave Thirteen Reasons Why.

All weekend long, I had the mega-jitters. I knew a reporter from The NYT was putting together a story on 13RW. I knew she was interviewing booksellers, teens, and the bigwigs at Penguin. But what were they saying? What were they all saying? Wait! Now she wants to talk to me?

The fun part was the photo-shoot. I asked the photographer, Marissa Roth, if we could take the photos at Eisenhower Park in Arcadia. That’s the park from my childhood which inspired the park in 13RW, cryptically referred to in the book as...well...Eisenhower Park.

Here’s what the afternoon looked like from my perspective:

Then it was time for the phone-interview. I did it while sitting in my car, getting embarrassed whenever a car alarm went off or when a couple began arguing right outside my passenger door. What were they arguing about? Cheese! I have no idea why they were upset over cheese, but I specifically heard him shout “Mozzarella!” and her fire back with “Cheddar!”


The interview lasted an hour and I tried to enjoy every minute because how often do you get interviewed by The NYT? The thing I’m most pleased with is that the reporter, Motoko Rich, went and sought an opinion from the only group I had in mind while writing the book...teenagers. While it’s great to speak with adults in the biz, you can’t write a good article about Thirteen Reasons Why if you don’t interview teens.

Plus, as you’ll see, teens give the best quotes!

P.S. You can also read the article here. But you should really buy the paper because there’s a whole lotta newsworthy stuff in there!

P.P.S. In the gap between the photos and the interview, I attended a book launch party to celebrate my buddy
Lisa Yee’s first novel for teens, Absolutely Maybe. I’ve got two words for you: Lisa. Rocks! Oh, and two more words: Lisa. Funny!

P.P.P.S. Today I opened two very nice Thank You letters from a couple of schools who recently used 13RW for their book club discussions. Because of their inspiring words, I plan to start blogging more about the benefits of reading/discussing books which deal with sensitive issues...and why it makes me more than a little mad and sad when people try to limit access to those books. So stay tuned!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Gaiman, Hiaasen, and . . . Me???

I about choked on my Oreo cookie when I saw the latest New York Times best sellers list. Even though Thirteen Reasons Why has been out for seventeen months, it just reached its highest ranking ever!

To everyone still talking about and recommending my book: Thank you.

To the teens who continue to send such heartfelt letters after finishing the book: Thank you.

And to the booksellers and librarians making sure teens know about and have access to books dealing with sensitive but important issues: Thank you so much.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Who Wants Some Money!!!

Don’t worry, just because you read past the above title does not mean you’re money-hungry.

On second thought...that’s exactly what it means. But in these economic times I won’t fault you for that. I just want to remind you writers out there that the deadline for SCBWI’s Work-in-Progress Grants is coming up fast. Packets need to be in their hands by March 15th if you want them to pass judgment on you and your writing.

Up for grabs are four grants worth $1,500 each and four runner-up grants worth $500 each. While I’m sure the money would be nice for anyone, the recognition is worth much more than any dollar amount. I received one of those grants in 2003 for Thirteen Reasons Why (back then it was called Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Anna Baker). And while the money was definitely appreciated, it was not the best part. One of the judges that year was an editor at a major publishing house. During the length of time it took me to finish the manuscript, that editor periodically reminded me to send it to her when I was done. When my agent began submitting the manuscript, I made sure that editor received a copy. While the book ended up going to the wonderful crew at Razorbill instead, that original editor did prompt a very fun and exciting auction!

So you never know where the grant will lead. But as LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow would say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Just ask previous winners Jeanne Birdsall, Holly Cupala, Gail Giles, Jo Knowles, Cynthia Lord, Linda Urban, Deborah Wiles, and Paula Yoo.

And don’t worry if your manuscript isn’t finished yet. These grants are specifically designed for manuscripts ‘in progress’. In fact, you’re only allowed to submit the first 2,500 words. When I submitted my manuscript, I had only written a couple words beyond that.

(Hmm... Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.)

Good luck, everyone! When this time rolls around next year, hopefully I can add a link to your blog in the above list.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Shake the Rattle

I haven’t been sleeping well. Our bed has a metal headboard with a design full of loops and swoosh-like thingies. At one place, where metal connects with metal, it’s been rattling a bit. Whenever I turned over in my sleep (a common occurrence, apparently), the headboard would rattle and wake me up.

For many months, I woke up several times a night.

But then I’d go right back to sleep. And then I’d wake up again. Then back to sleep. Up. Sleep. Up. Sleep. I tightened screws and did everything I could think of, but nothing worked. (Of course, the rattling never bothered my wife so she slept fine.)

Last night, the rattling was insane right from the beginning and I couldn’t fall asleep. It didn’t help that I was already upset over a run-in with an adult trying to keep teens away from my book. So I reached up, grabbed one of the loops, grit my teeth, and shook the heck out of the thing.

And the rattling stopped. No more rattle! Woo-hoo!!!

When I woke up this morning, it was my first time opening my eyes since shaking the headboard. But the best part of all were the dreams. It had been a long time since I could recall any of my dreams. And I love dreaming! Especially the dreams you get on a good night’s sleep.

A mob of librarians carried me through the library on their shoulders. They were showing me all the places they decided to shelve Thirteen Reasons Why. Teen fiction. Adult fiction. Poetry. Self-help. Travel(?). History(?!?!). They finally set me down in front of the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. In my favorite column, “The Pop of King” by Stephen King, Uncle Stevie spent the entire page rejoicing in his latest literary discovery.

Guess whose book he was talking about!

I love dreaming so much...