Friday, May 30, 2008

Through the Wardrobe: A Chat with Zu Vincent

A couple weeks ago, I was interviewed on Diana Peterfreund's blog about my essay in the Teen Libris anthology, Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, and now it's my turn to be the interviewer! Hee-hee!

I am very pleased to welcome Zu Vincent, one of my fellow contributors to Through the Wardrobe and author of The Lucky Place. Welcome, Zu! Thanks for coming! (Okay, fine, she's not literally here. Burst my bubble, why don't you. But she did agree to answer my questions about her fabulous essay, co-written with Kiara Koenig...)

Tell us about your essay in Through the Wardrobe. What drew you to the topic?

"Minding the Gap: Are You a Susan or a Lucy?" explores how Susan and Lucy develop very different takes on life in the Chronicles of Narnia. Susan is the practical one, but she also cares about outward appearances and acting very grown up. Lucy sees through the surface, down into the core truths of life, and even to the magic. So the essay asks, which one are you? How do you really see yourself mov
ing through life. Do you face who you are deep down, do you stand up for the hard choices against all odds, or do you tend to let your outward appearance, what others think of you, rule who you are. That's what the essay is about. And writing it seemed important because Lucy is really the central figure in the Chronicles, yet "the boys" tend to get more attention, more swag, more titles. Lucy needs some press!

Are you a Susan or a Lucy?

Don't we all have to be a little bit of both inside? Sometimes we need a Susan exterior but we should fight to keep Lucy in our hearts. The real world is sometimes easier to deal with as a Susan, after all. She meets people's expectations and knows how to handle social situations. But away from the job or the social scene, our souls need to get lost in the woods and listen to the secrets whispered in the trees. There's a lot to be said for believing the stones will speak again.

Would you prefer tea with Tumnus or lunch with the Beavers?

Tea with Tumnus, because he dances and sings, tells stories and is a bit of a gossip. He's that friend with whom you can dish for hours.

Have you ever eaten Turkish Delight? How far would you go for your favorite dessert?

Never had Turkish Delight, but what a powerful symbol. Think of all the tales in which kids are tempted by sweets. And back in the garden Eve's downfall was the sweet apple (or the pomegranate, depending). And chocolate! -- the role it played in the Mayan religion, as both doorway to visions and aphrodisiac. Who wouldn't travel the world for chocolate? In fact, there's this hot chocolate/ espresso in a cafe tucked away down an alley in the town center of Cork, Ireland....

Do you think Susan will ever be a friend of Narnia again?

Maybe, when she has children and tells them stories about Narnia.

What's your earliest Narnia memory?

It involves a crackling fire, a brick hearth, a comfy old couch and a snowy pine forest out the window. Being read to in this safe space while sinking into that other cold winter and the delight of animals speaking.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Father Christmas gives the Pevensies various magical presents. If you'd been there, what gift would he have given you and what would you have done with it?

The gift
of story, which is magical, and can always be re-gifted.

How have the Narnia books influenced your writing?

The Narnia books are a great influence because they tell a plain good story, with lovable characters and a landscape that becomes a character itself. And good story sweeps you up and makes you never want to leave its embrace. Look what C.S. Lewis got away with. He knew how to take Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar and help the medicine go down. We're still digging into his tales and uncovering their themes through Susan, Lucy and the other Pevensies. It's pure sorcery.


Zu Vincent's young adult novel The Lucky Place is just out from Front Street Press. School Library Journal calls The Lucky Place "A stunning fiction debut by an author to watch." Author Jacqueline Woodson describes it as "A quietly powerful and important story. Zu's vignettes weave a novel that, from moment to moment, takes your breath -- then gently hands it back to you again. Lovely."

Kiara Koenig (co-author of the "Minding the Gap" essay) is a poet and adjunct English faculty. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds an MFA in Creative Writing as well as an MA in Literature.

You can visit Zu online at

Thanks for the interview, Zu!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bendy Goodness

Ever wish you had a copy of Into the Wild that was lighter, less hardcovery, more bendy??? Well, you're in luck, because today, Into the Wild comes out in paperback!!! Imagine all the fun you could have rolling it up into a little telescope and staring up at the stars, or whacking your friends over the head with it, or reading it! And as a special bendy bonus, the paperback includes a sneak peek at the first chapter of the sequel, Out of the Wild. Plus, did I mention it's half the price of the hardcover?

Mmmmm... Bendy...

So if you or someone you know has been waiting for a cheaper, lighter, more flexible version of Into the Wild, it is my great pleasure to inform you that your long wait is now over. :)

In other words: Hee hee! I've got a paperback! Squeeeeeeeee!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wiscon 2008 Trip Report

Before I left for Wiscon (a fantasy and science fiction convention in Madison, Wisconsin), I said to my husband, "I've never been to Wisconsin. All I know is that they have a lot of cheese."

"And cows," he said. "They also have cows." Our knowledge of other states is quite deep and extensive, as you can tell. Jeopardy, here w
e come.

Now that I've been to Wisconsin, I can tell you

Wisconsin has a lot of cheese.

Every restaurant I went to served cheese platters, macaroni and cheese, and/or beer-battered cheese curds. Convention attendees carried bags of "squeaky cheese" (cheese so fresh that it squeaks on your teeth). Gift shops sold cheese-shaped inflatable hats.

I can't vouch for whether or not Wisconsin has cows too. I'm sure they were around, but they weren't hanging out in downtown M
adison. Instead, downtown Madison was filled with writers and readers, which was great because writers and readers are far better conversationalists than cows.

Wiscon was all about great conversations. I talked to lot
s of fabulous and fascinating people, such as Sarah Prineas, Tobias Buckell, Jennifer Pelland, Alex Bledsoe, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Ysabeau Wilce, Cecil Castellucci, and many others.

Here are a few highlights from the weekend:

- Spending time with Tamora Pierce and Cara Coville, two of my favorite people. I just adore them, and I was lucky enough to see lots of them this weekend.

Tamora Pierce and Cara Coville

- Hanging out with the YA Posse (Tiffany Trent, Elizabeth Bunce, Heather Tomlinson, and Debbie Jacobs) at and between variou
s meals.

Elizabeth Bunce, Heather Tomlinson, Tamora Pierce, Tiffany Trent, Cara Coville, and Me

- Speaking on three panels and doing a reading. The pan
el topics were all great, and so were all my fellow panelists and readers.

Tiffany Trent, Cecil Castellucci, Me, Heather Tomlinson, and Elizabeth Bunce

- Signing books with Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. (This was a stroke of luck. I'd met the super-nice Caroline on Saturday, but I'd missed a chance to meet Pat Wrede on Sunday and I'd been sad about that. She'd blurbed Into the Wild, and I wanted to thank her. Plus I adore every one of her books. So I was very happy when I spotted them before the mass autographing and thrilled when they invited me to sit with them.)

Me, Caroline Stevermer, and Patricia C. Wrede

- Rooming with Tiffany Trent, who is super-awesome. (You want proof? She not only remembered that it was my birthday last Friday, but she bought me a chocolate cake and a custom-made bracelet decorated with pictures of fairy-tale scenes and Into the Wild cover art. How sweet is that?)

Really, the only thing missing from Wiscon was a reenactment of Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch. So for your viewing pleasure...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wisconsin, Demigods, and Parties in the YA Mansion

Manhattan Parties and the YA Mansion

When I started this whole writing thing, no one told me about the cool parties. My image of being a writer involved a quiet room with lots of books, a computer, paper and pens, and a secret stash of chocolate-covered raisins. Or perhaps a rat-infested garret with me chewing on a notebook while I scrawl bad poetry on the walls. I didn't expect the YA Mansion. You see, as Maureen Johnson recently explained, despite all the "facts" to the contrary, it turns out that all YA writers live together in a big mansion in NYC. This was supposed to be a big secret, but now that Maureen has spilled the beans, I guess it'
s okay for me to talk about it. Word of the YA Mansion is spreading fast. It's already inspired a new YA review site called

Since I'm not exactly a big name, my room in the YA Mansion is a bit like the aforementioned garret, except that it's at the top of a doorless tower (which means I have to climb down my hair every time I want to get out -- a tricky feat for someone as uncoordinated as I am). Also, my garret doesn't have rats. Instead, it's infested with marmots. Luckily, I like marmots. I also really like the other residents of the YA Mansion, though Scott Westerfeld won't let the marmots play on the hoverboards. It's a littl
e known fact that marmots love hoverboards.

Give me my hoverboard!

But I was about to tell you about the parties...

On Monday night, I attended Kidlit Drinks Night, an every-few-months-or-so event hosted by the fabulous Betsy Bird of Fuse 8 fame and the fabulous Cheryl Klein from Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic. I learned that librarians compete in contests that are like synchronized swimming. But without water. And with shelving carts. I am filled with jealousy that I haven't seen such a thing. I also learned that I am WAY behind in my reading. Librarians have read everything by everyone. I do not exaggerate. You know that book
of children's poems written by the last guy to live in my marmot-infested garret? Me neither, but these awesome people have read it and critiqued it.

On Tuesday night, I joined several YA Mansion residents for the book release party for Suite Scarlett by the fabulous Maureen Johnson (which, by the way, is an excellent book -- I read it on the train ride home and loved every single character). The soiree was attended by lots and lots of super-awesome people, and I had SUCH a great time. Maureen (in addition to being made of awesome) throws a great party. I had lovely conversations with amazing people like Diana Peterfreund and David Levithan and Libba Bray, just to name-drop a few.

Libba Bray and Me-Very-Excited-To-Be-Sitting-Next-To-Libba-Bray

Libba also lives in the YA Mansion (in a much nicer room) and has been known to juggle hard-boiled eggs on occasion. Okay, I totally made that up. She actually juggles scrambled eggs, which is way more impressive.

Demigods and Monsters Contest Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered the Demigods and Monsters contest! You guys are awesome and so are your deities! (For those of you just tuning in... I have an essay in the just-released Teen Libris anthology Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and I'm giving away a couple copies. The challenge was to invent a new Greek god or goddess.) Here is the full pantheon of all the entries:

Agoraphobionicus - god of telephone booths, RV shower stalls and one-room apartments

Apathea - the goddess of indecision

Bubbalemus - the god of all things redneck

Cafarticus - the god of finding relief through flatulation

Curlenia - goddess of hair rollers and ice games played with brooms

Dewidiphia - the goddess of placing dewdrops on flowers

Euphoricups - the goddess of laughing so hard you get the hiccups

Gaggliospoona - goddess of the Valley of Epithets and Keeper of the Holy Navel Ring

Gandalphion - god of talking trees, giant spiders and teeny tiny people with hairy feet

Googleus - god of Google

Hazardius - god of Left Turn Lanes and Those Who Run With Scissors

Neuresia - the goddess of worrying she’ll forget everything

Pediosthene - goddess of comfortable shoes

Sushiana and Quichandra - twin goddesses of trendy foods

Uppchuckionus - first cousin to the twin goddesses and god of bicarbonate of soda

Verbosa - the god of talking too much

Wikipedthea - goddess of Wiki

And the winner is... Apathea, the goddess of indecision, created by Meagan! (Meagan, please email me your address, and I'll send you your copy of Demigods and Monsters.)

And the winner of the random drawing is... Enna Isilee! (You win a copy of Demigods and Monsters too!)

Wiscon 2008

On Friday morning (and by "morning", I mean so ridiculously early that breakfast will actually be dinner the night before), I'm hopping on a plane to Madison, Wisconsin, for Wiscon, the World's Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention.

I've never been to Wiscon before, but I kept hearing such good things about it that I started to feel left out. And when I feel left out, I tend to sigh a lot, eat chocolate, and watch marathons of American Idol Rewind... Okay, those last two are fun, but the sighing was irritating my cat so I decided to go this year (even though it means spending half my birthday at the airport). Here's my schedule:

Reading - Fri May 23, 4pm - Elizabeth Bunce, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Beth Durst, Heather Tomlinson, Tiffany Trent - "Glass Slippers Come off! 5 New YA Writers"

Panel - Sat May 24, 1-2:15pm - Sarah Beth Durst, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Sharyn November, Tamora Pierce - "The Curious Boundaries of YA Fantasy"

Panel - Sat May 24, 2:30-3:45pm - Alma Alexander, Elizabeth Bunce, Sarah Beth Durst, Heather Tomlinson, Tiffany Trent - "Fairy Tales for a New Generation of Girls"

Panel - Sun May 25, 2:30-3:45pm - Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Beth Durst, Sigrid Ellis, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Heather Tomlinson - "Transformation, Ready or Not"

Mass Autographing - Mon May 26, 11am-12:45pm

Hope to see you there!

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Terry Brooks and the Llama

Two memorable things happened to me this Saturday.

Memorable Thing #1: Terry Brooks emailed me!!!

Let me explain why this is cool...

In 1983 or thereabouts, after I'd reread the Chronicles of Prydain for the bajillionth time, my mom introduced me to the fantasy and science fiction shelves in the adult section of the Northboro P
ublic Library. One of the very first books I read from those shelves was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I loved it. Magic! Adventure! Ordinary people triumphing against impossible odds! This was a formative book for me. The Sword of Shannara and others like it hooked me on the fantasy genre for life.

In 1997, I had a chance to meet Terry Brooks. He was doing a signing at the MIT Coop Bookstore, which was just down the street from me at the time. I remember circling the shelves multiple times before I'd gathered up enough courage to approach him. Once I did, he was phenomenally kind. He talked to me for about forty-five minutes about writing and the writing business. This conversation happened at a critical time for me. I had just begun to seriously pursue publication, and meeting a Real Live Author of his caliber and hearing both practical advice and words of encouragement... It had a huge impact on me. For the first time, my impossible dream felt possible.

Just last month, at NY Comic Con, I had the chance to meet him again and to say thank you for his kindness all those years ago. He inspired me exactly when I needed to be inspired. As a thank-you, I gave him a copy of Into the Wild. I didn't expect him to read it. I just wanted him to know that he made a difference in my life.

Saturday morning, I checked my email and saw an email from Terry Brooks with the subject line "Into the Wild". I think I shrieked. In the email, he said he'd read my book and wanted me to know how much he'd enjoyed it... Okay, I have to share with you one of the sentences:

"It was charming from beginning to end, a wry and cleverly conceived story about fairytales and their place in the lives of the characters who lived them."

How cool is that?!?!?!? He read it! He liked it! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! I printed out the email and ran to read it out loud to my husband, who was mid-shower at the time. And then I called my mom, the person most directly responsible for my love of books in the first place, and read it to her. She said now she's going to reread his books... At which point it came out that I'd kind of absconded with all the family copies... Oops.

Memorable Thing #2: A llama sneezed on me.

Let me explain why this is not cool...

A llama sneeze is not the delicate "choo!" of a cat. A llama sneeze is not even the boisterous "AHHH-CHOO!" of a portly man. No, a llama sneeze is a thunderclap accompanied by a splat.

You see, a llama sneeze is projectile. It involves little bits of chewed-up carrot plus a gooey yellow-ish substance not unlike the slime from Ghostbusters. While you're distracted by the unexpected thunderclap of the sneeze itself, this charming concoction is flying at you at high speeds.

I was standing five feet away. I would've been safe from a cat's sneeze. I would've been safe from a portly man's sneeze. But I was not safe from a llama's sneeze. In fact, I was spattered from head to toe. Orange bits clung to my hair. Spittle dripped down my jeans. Around me, othe
r zoo visitors were laughing.

From a safe distance away, my husband said, "You lead a very odd life, you know."

As I wiped the llama goo from my face, I said, "Terry Brooks emailed me."

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Demigods and Monsters Contest

Have you read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan? It's about a kid who discovers he's the son of a Greek god, and it's brilliant. Seriously, how can you not love books with chapter titles like "I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher", "We Meet the Dragon of Eternal Bad Breath", and "We Hail the Taxi of Eternal Torment"?

I wrote an essay about the series for the newest Teen Libris anthology from BenBella Books called Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series. It's edited by Rick Riordan himself, and it includes essays by Kathy Appelt, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Paul Collins, Cameron Dokey, Sarah Beth Durst (hey, that's me!), Jenny Han, Carolyn MacCullough, Sophie Masson, Elizabeth M. Rees, Ellen Steiber, and Elizabeth Wein.

It will be available at Borders stores starting this month, but BenBella Books was kind enough to send me a couple extra copies, so... IT'S CONTEST TIME!!!

The Challenge

Invent a Greek god.

All I need is the name and a one-line description of a brand-new Greek deity. The funnier, the better. For example:

Chocollus, god of chocolate and revelry-with-chocolate


Cheeriodon, god of breakfast cereals and British greetings.

The Prize

As in prior contests, two winners will be selected, one for skill and one for luck. The "skill" winner will be the person whose deity is my favorite. The "luck" winner will be chosen at random from all the entries, so the more you enter, the better your chances!

Each of the two winners will receive a free copy of Demigods and Monsters.

The Rules

Leave a comment with the name and description of your deity. (Or if you can't think of a deity but still want to be entered in the "luck" drawing, just leave a comment.) You can enter as many times as you'd like. Deadline is next Monday, May 19th, and the winners will be announced soon after.

Good luck, and have fun!

Teen Libris Interview

On a related note, I just found out that the awesome folks at BenBella have posted an interview with me on the Teen Libris website, in which I ramble on about Percy Jackson, Narnia, my books, and the Tooth Fairy! If you're interested, you can read the interview here.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

OOTW Reviewed by Charles de Lint in F&SF Magazine

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that last year around this time, I got kinda ridiculously excited when I found out that Charles de Lint had written a nice review of Into the Wild in his column in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Well, that was a long time ago when I was but a naive, easily-excitable, newbie writer, far from the grounded, professional novelist that I am today. So recently, when I found out that Charles de Lint has written another nice review, this time for Out of the Wild, to appear in the very same "Books to Look For" column in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I reacted in a much calmer, more collected, and professional manner:




Uh, sorry about that. Just kinda slipped out. But c'mon, Charles de Lint is one of my all-time favorite authors. He wrote Dreams Underfoot, The Blue Girl, Widdershins, Moonheart, Memories and Dreams... and a few dozen other genre-defining novels. And this is the very first print review for Out of the Wild. And it's good! And, and, oh, at the risk of being reduced to a catch-phrase... Snoopy Dance of Joy!!!

Here's a quote:

"Durst's second novel is as inventive as the first book, upping the stakes, but not to preposterous heights. Instead, Out of the Wild is yet one more example of how, these days, books for younger readers often offer a fresher take on fantasy than do the books ostensibly written for adults. And this is also one of those rare occasions when the sequel is as good as the first book, if not better. Though, in my estimation, they make two halves of one story, and a wonderfully entertaining story it is." -- Charles de Lint, F&SF Magazine


The June 2008 issue of F&SF magazine should start appearing on magazine racks any day now, and there's already an online version of the column posted on the F&SF website. So you can click here to read the full review.

Did you click? Why not? Go click! GO! CLICK!!!

Oh well, so much for calm, collected, and professional...

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