NaFiRoBIMSCOn FTW

Not that there are very many people who read this blog who don’t also watch the seriously made of awesome videos superbrothers Hank and John Green post weekly at their YouTube Channel, but Shannel reads this, so there’s at least one and thus I will explain a couple of things.

1. November has been arbitrarily designated National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, wherein writers, published and unpublished, attempt to finish a novel (or at least 50,000 words of one) in a month. I foolishly tried to write MB during NaNo last year, but I think I got about 3,000 words in before I got a full request for AUT from an agent (not Joanna) and decided I needed to concentrate on that one…or something, I don’t know what the excuse was, but in any case NaNo was abandoned and MB didn’t get written until this past summer.

2. John’s book Paper Towns just hit the New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Chapter Books and to thank all the Nerdfighters for making that happen, he took requests. One of the requests was more of a query, which was whether or not John was participating in NaNo, to which he responded that he was not, that he couldn’t write a book in a month, and that instead he was going to propose NaFiRoBIMSCOn–National Finish a Revision of Your Book I Mean Seriously Come On month.

3. I MEAN SERIOUSLY COME ON. Agreesies. People have been asking me if I’m doing NaNo, and I briefly considered it, what with the very supportive emails that have been coming to my inbox lately telling me that “I can do it!” and “I’m a winner!” and other niceties, but the truth is that I’m not at a stage with either GR or (gulp) SM to write either of them, because I’m not done with all of the pre-writing, etc., etc. BUT! I do have two novels to revise, or at least I will once my editor gets back to me with a revision letter on AUT, and really I do need to start revising MB. I have to do it somewhere other than my cramped bedroom, so maybe I’ll move all my crap into the kitchen on Halloween and take advantage of the peace and quiet that is all my friends going out without me* and sit down and actually do the damn thing. I wish I could do NaNo this year, though, for some reason, I have no idea why, so maybe I will make a non-serious attempt just to amuse myself when I’m blocked on revisions or something. I have two projects I’m thinking about working on, neither of which I’m sure I want to publish. I’ll let you know what I decide.

4. The good news about MB is that opinions are starting to trickle in from people who have read it or are reading it and the consensus is that it’s pretty hilarious. I actually got a text from my friend Katie last night, past midnight, just to tell me that she had finished a certain chapter and “was literally LOL-ing”. And, like, I can’t take a lick of credit for that since I have the funniest friends on the planet and truthfully I just write down all the funny things they say and then steal them, but I guess that’s what being a writer entails, and also at least I know that they’re funny and will be funny to others. Although, I’m not sure how much of the book is funny in its own right and how much of it is funny to the people I know who have read it because it’s full of Easter eggs and inside jokes. Whatever! I still think y’all will like it when it comes out in 2011.

*For the record, I’m not being left out, I’m doing a temporary Halloween exile because I hate Halloween. I don’t like dressing up, I don’t like crowds, and it turns out that I don’t even really like candy anymore (except for Reese’s peanut butter cups, which I will love forever and for always), which is sort of weird but I’m going with it.

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Paper Towns release party

So I’ve mentioned a few times in the past couple of weeks that I was planning on attending the New York release party for Paper Towns, John Green’s new novel. Annoyingly, the event was in TriBeCa. I don’t know why this annoys me, but I think it’s just because I never go down to TriBeCa of my own free will and thus know of no good cheap bars down there. This is not true of the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Midtown, the Lower East Side, the East Village, and the West Village. Consequently, in the future I would like all my favorite writers to be sure to have their New York events in any of these neighborhoods KTHNXBAI.

Just kidding! What was really annoying was my inability to be there early, due to not being able to leave work until after 6 PM, and also having a fifteen minute conversation with my cousin who is visiting with her mother about our plans for today, and also that my closest subway station isn’t an express stop and thus I could not catch the 2 or the 3, dumbly forgetting that the A also goes to TriBeCa, so I could’ve taken an express train. I also forgot my camera. I am dumb!

Anyway, good thing Cambria got there early and saved me a seat, even though security was like the Pentagon and kept being like, “Wup wup wup, WE’RE AT CAPACITY!” and stuff. I got in a few minutes before the event started, and let me just say that 1. there were so many Nerdfighters there my head almost exploded, and B. the event was extremely organized, way more so than you would expect with so many people. So bravo Barnes & Noble, TriBeCa!

I would just like to say that I dragged Cambria to the event even though she’d never read a John Green book before, and though she’d heard me mention his name she wasn’t really familiar with Brotherhood 2.0 or Nerdfighters or anything, and she was just amazed at how many teens showed up and how incredibly enthusiastic they were about the book and the Green brothers and how they knew all the words to “Accio, Deathly Hallows!” It was a very inspirational thing to see, and John and Hank Green are to be wildly commended for fostering this huge community of intellectual, creative young adults, positively reinforcing their awesome, quirky, probably somewhat-underappreciated-in-high-school personalities and their ambitions and their thoughts and their emotions and their projects and their interests, and pursuing a love of literature with them. It’s just so cool to see! Do they give out Nobel prizes for this sort of stuff? Because they totes should.

The signing line moved really quickly, and John was gracious and friendly. I ended up buying the yellow cover, or “happy Margo” as people are calling it, because even though blue is my favorite color, I am instinctively drawn to things that are bright and multicolored. Nevertheless, the blue seemed to be far more popular at the signing, and in the bookstore where I bought it; they had about 10 copies on the shelf and I had to look through them all to find the one yellow copy they had. I wonder how they predicted that.

Various and sundry

  • First things first: Thank you to everybody for their congratulations on the book deal! I’m very, very excited and I hope to have more info posted up here soon, like, um, a longer blurb perhaps? But I have to have a chat to my editor because there are some things we have to decide before I can do that. Still! It’s all very exciting (I need to find another word for “exciting” and “excited” before they lose all meaning, but my head is so foggy from all the excitement–there I go again–that I can hardly think straight. Who am I? What’s a blog?). Also, thanks to Heidi for extending me an invitation to join The Tenners–I will get on that post haste.
  • Second of all: Thanks so much to John Green, who is of course made of awesome, for posting a congrats message to me on his blog. I got an ARC of Paper Towns via work a few months back and inhaled it in, I think, two days? His best book, hands down, although of course Looking for Alaska will always have a special place in my heart. So please pre-order it/buy it when it comes out! Best dolla billz you ever spent, to be sure. I’m excited to attend his book release in October. One of the many great things about living in New York is that all authors eventually pass through. Pinkberry? Central Park? The Statue of Liberty? Pshaw. BOOK SIGNINGS.
  • Third of all: This may be of interest to almost no one, but I got an email today from my aunt from a gmail account she set up for my grandmother because my mom and her sisters banded together to buy Grandma a laptop. She was confirming email addresses and asking for pictures to put in Grandma’s contacts list so she’ll know who everyone is. I decided to give her two pictures to choose from: the one on the About page of this blog, and this:

This picture totally cracks me up. I think I’m almost four in it. When I was home in August I decided, quite suddenly, to scan a bunch of pictures my mom had in frames in our family room, which eventually spiraled into me going through all our old school and sports pictures. I found this on a proof card my mother had for some reason saved; it was, obviously, the picture they DIDN’T decide to have printed up for all our friends and family. But I think it’s much better than the picture they picked, because I have the funniest face! The photographer obviously caught me mid-laugh, and it looks like I’m winking at him. When I found it I just about DIED. I was lying prostrate on the floor shaking with laughter, and my mother fixed me with this dubious, my-daughter-has-finally-lost-her-mind look and said, “Anna, what is going ON?”

Anyway. Potential author photo? I think so.

Quick Links

Now, I’m not going to go play with you and dare to assume that, if you’re a fan or writer or both of YA fiction you’re not reading Ally Carter’s blog, because you totes are, right? Right. But, just in case you haven’t checked in with Ally for a while, I wanted to alert you to two posts she’s done on questions aspiring YA writers tend to ask, and those they don’t, and why the former are wrong and how we should be asking the latter. Very instructive, from a lady who really knows her stuff. Also, she has a really good perspective on what it means to be writing YA fiction v. writing adult fiction, which pretty much corresponds with what I’ve been recently thinking on the matter (that the perspective of the novel, typified by your narrator, determines this; if it’s a teen perspective, it’s YA, if it’s an adult perspective, it’s adult, although of course there are exceptions to every rule and I’m sure you could punch holes in that theory if you tried).

Also, if you’re a fan of YA writer John Green (and who isn’t?), he posted dates, times, and locations for his Paper Towns book tour on his blog, plus the dates and geographical locations for his and Hank’s Tour de Nerdfighting. Not to mention there’s an extended Question Tuesday filmed at a library that John just posted, and in the first part he talks about writing, which I always love (obvs).

Lastly, please do head over to Joelle Anthony’s blog and congratulate her on selling her YA novel, RESTORING HARMONY. It sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it.

Bad timing

You know when the worst time to get your ARC of John Green’s new YA novel, Paper Towns, is? When you’re doing revisions on your own novel, and you’re only halfway done. Lesson learned! Also, loving Twilight this time around.

Sex-y time

There are some debates happening on various blogs about sex in YA and whether or not we YA writers have a responsibility to the Truth (as we see it, of course) or to our readers and their parents. Well, of course we have a responsibility to our readers, but what does that responsibility consist of with regards to sex scenes in the books we write for them?

Well, it’s not an easy question. I was just going through John and Hank Green’s Brotherhood 2.0 vlogs the other day and I watched one entitled “I Am Not a Pornographer”, in which John Green explained why the sex scene in his Printz Award-winning Looking for Alaska was not porn.

Sayeth the John:

Pornography is designed to titillate. I don’t think there’s a single halfway normal person in the world who would find a single thing in my book in any way arousing. There is one very frank sex scene [I believe here he’s talking about (white text to prevent spoilage) when Miles gets a blow job]. It is awkward, unfun, disastrous, and wholly unerotic…the whole reason that scene in question exists in Looking for Alaska is because I wanted to draw a contrast between that scene, when there’s a lot of physical intimacy but it’s ultimately very emotionally empty, and the scene that immediately follows it, when there’s not a serious physical interaction but there’s this intense emotional connection. The argument here is that physical intimacy can never stand in for emotional closeness, and that when teenagers attempt to conflate these ideas, it inevitably fails…it doesn’t take a deeply critical understanding of literature to realize that Looking for Alaska is arguing against vapid physical interactions, not for them.

I personally think that’s a pretty made of awesome way to put that, but let’s be honest, not every sex scene in a YA novel is meant to explore that same idea. For a very personal instance, there is a sex scene in my novel. It is short and non-explicit, but it is not lacking in emotional intimacy in the same way that Green’s scene is. It is, in essence, a poor choice on the part of the protagonists because it is motivated on one side by a deep feeling of loss and tragic desire for oblivion, and on the other side a desire to make things better and the knowledge that he cannot, but it does not ruin them. There’s a fuzziness to the act, like it may or may not have contributed to the failure of their relationship, but I think that it comes from the same place inside Protag #3 (you don’t know how badly I want to use names) as the behavior that does cause the failure of their relationship, so, like, who knows?

I didn’t include the scene to make a statement about whether or not teenagers should have sex (although I think they shouldn’t), or whether or not they do have sex (of course they do). The sex that my protagonists have is not emotionally empty–actually, I think perhaps that it’s too full of emotion, and the act is an attempt to express and reconcile those emotions by using the body and the other as a conduit, which does not–and cannot–work because the emotions are to big for the act. Does that make any sense? They are using the act in an attempt to express those things that they cannot say to each other, because they’re too young and immature to recognize the depth and seriousness of their own emotions. But I think the lesson is pretty much the same–whether there’s too much emotion or too little involved in a teenage sex act, in at least these two cases, the physical act is a cheap stand-in for really understanding and sharing with someone.

I don’t read a whole ton of YA, but I suspect that there are sex acts in some YA novels (perhaps more than I think) that are meant to be titillating. I mean, hi, the entire Gossip Girl series? I think that probably however sex is presented in YA novels directly corresponds to how the author of the novel feels about teen sex.

I think this argument comes down, at the root, to what you’re trying to say. Even though I don’t think it’s necessary (or even good) that any given book have a specific “message” or “lesson” to “teach” to the reader, I think that most books written by contemplative authors do end up having a sort of thesis, which is pretty much the author’s world view or a world view the author aspires towards or fears. I think every book is a reflection of the heart and mind of the author when she or he wrote it, and readers respond to that as much as they respond to any other factor that determines how good or bad they think a book is (the writing, the characters, the plot, etc.). YA novels are the same, and YA authors are the same, and how an author writes about sex is part of that world view. There is no right or wrong but instead a desire–even a duty–to be authentic to the characters as you wrote them and to the world as you see it.

Egg hunt

For those of you out there who are big fans of John Green, author of such YA novels as the Printz-winning Looking for Alaska and his follow-up An Abundance of Katherines (which has the world’s most kick-ass cover, IMHO), you should check this out–Green and his brother, Hank, have created some sort of Wikipedia-esque site to promote/tease his new novel, Paper Towns? I say this interrogatively because I actually don’t know that for a fact. It’s sort of just what Green hints on his blog. So…should be fun? I’m going to tackle it and see what I can come up with–apparently, there’s an Easter Egg (geekology for an intentional hidden message or feature in an object such as a movie, book, CD, DVD, computer program, video game, or website) that I assume (? again) will reveal something about Paper Towns. So what are you waiting for? Go hunt!

ETA: I found it! Can you?