Thursday, December 21, 2006


Got two absolutely fabulous holiday presents this week. Two more blurbs for INTO THE WILD, from two amazing authors: Bruce Coville and Patricia Wrede! Let the Snoopy Dance of Joy commence. And it all came through just in the nick of time. The book is scheduled to go off to the production department after Christmas, so my editor had set this week as the deadline for being able to add additional blurbs to the book jacket. I'm sooooo glad these got in under the wire.

First one I received this week was from Patricia Wrede, author of THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES:

"INTO THE WILD's fairy-tale characters are fascinating, and Julie is everything one could want in a heroine -- she's intelligent, practical, determined and brave; at once more ordinary and more extraordinary than she herself thinks she is. I'll be keeping an eye out for more work from Sarah Beth Durst." -- Patricia Wrede

I adore how she describes Julie. It's exactly how I hoped people would react to her. Plus it means a lot coming from Patricia Wrede -- she created one of my all-time favorite heroines: Cimorene, the plucky princess from DEALING WITH DRAGONS (and its sequels). I think I've read that book about a dozen times.

She's also the author of a bunch of other books that I adore: SNOW WHITE AND ROSE RED (a lovely retelling of the fairy tale, worlds better than the original tale), THE RAVEN RING (a traditional fantasy with a powerfully real heroine), and SORCERY AND CECELIA OR THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT: BEING THE CORRESPONDENCE OF TWO YOUNG LADIES OF QUALITY REGARDING VARIOUS MAGICAL SCANDALS IN LONDON AND THE COUNTRY and its sequels with Caroline Stevermer (yes, they're just as hysterical as the title suggests -- think Jane Austen meets magic). Anyway, if you haven't discovered Patricia Wrede, I highly recommend her work. And not just because she likes mine. :)

I really hope I get to meet her someday so I can thank her profusely. It was so awesome of her to do this for me.

Second blurb I received this week was from Bruce Coville, author of IN THE LAND OF THE UNICORNS and ALIENS ATE MY HOMEWORK:

"Sarah Beth Durst’s INTO THE WILD is fabulous in the oldest, truest, and best sense of the word, harking back to fables, wonder, and magic unleashed. It’s bold, sassy, and utterly engaging. I can’t wait to see what she does next!" -- Bruce Coville

Isn't that pretty? I love it. I've been walking around all day saying, "It's bold and sassy! Bold and sassy!" People at the post office did look at me a little oddly, but I was undeterred. "Bold and sassy!"

Bruce Coville has written so many fabulous books that I don't know where to begin... Here are just a couple that have special meaning for me: JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER (which I first read in a college course called "Re-enchanting the World," about how fantasy novels play an important role in restoring a sense of wonder to our modern world), THE A.I. GANG (which my brother and I used to borrow back and forth from each other to re-read... brother dearest, I think it's my turn now!), THE UNICORN CHRONICLES (the quintessential girl-meets-unicorn series), and last but not least... THE MONSTERS OF MORLEY MANOR.

This last one, THE MONSTERS OF MORLEY MANOR, has extra-special meaning to me... When I was trying to get published, I promised myself that when I finally did get published, I would walk into the closest bookstore and buy whatever book I wanted. Hardcover. Gold-enameled. Whatever. I'd simply buy it without any guilt about overloading my already-sagging bookshelves. So when I got the Call last spring, off I went to Borders... and this is the book I bought. Yeah, I'd already read it a couple of times, but I love it and didn't own it. It pretty much defines the phrase "imaginative romp." (Not rump. Romp.) Seriously, you have to love a book that has this as its opening:

"If Sarah hadn't put the monkey in the bathtub, we might never have had to help the monsters get big. But she did, so we did, which, given the way things worked out, was probably just as well for everyone on the planet -- especially the dead people."

Arguably, the best opening in all of English literature.

So it simply makes me giddy to know that he actually read, liked, and blurbed my book. So good.

Hope you all are having a lovely December. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The SFWA Squirrel

Today my SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) membership materials arrived! I am now officially a card-carrying member. Yay!

My membership materials arrived in a very beat-up manila envelope stamped with "MEDIA RATE." You may ask, "What's media rate?" (I did.)

After careful calculation and exhaustive
research, my husband and I discovered the answer. We arrived at our conclusion as follows:

It takes about 6 hours to drive from Maryland to New York. At 60 mph, that's a distance of 360 miles. This package took 30 days to arrive. So it traveled 12 miles per day -- an average of 0.5 miles per hour. Of course, you can't expect a package to be traveling 24 hours a day. So let's say it was only in transit for 8 hours a day. A leisurely walk is maybe one mile every twenty minutes (about 3 miles per hour). If SFWA gave the package to some guy walking at a leisurely pace for 8 hours a day... it would have
arrived in 15 days, twice as fast as actual transit time.

Clearly, the package wasn't delivered by a leisurely walker. Who then could have delivered it? We turned to the Internet for answers:

Cheetah = 70 mph
Giraffe = 32 mph
Squirrel = 12 mph
Spider = 1.17 mph
Three toed sloth = 0.15 mph

Clearly, a cheetah and giraffe are much too fast, and a three toed sloth is much too slow (despite being the obvious joke). A spider could do it if he hustled and ran a bit longer than an 8 hour day... But that seems like spider abuse, especially since these figures are top speeds. And besides, how could a spider possibly carry a manila envelope?

"So it has to be the squirrel," I said.

"That's 4 times as fast as our leisurely walker," my husband said.

"Yes, but have you ever seen a squirrel with a map?" I said. "Factor in getting-lost time and distracted-by-nuts-and-berries time..." As final proof, I found a photograph of the actual squirrel courier:

QED: Media Rate = By Squirrel.

Media Rate. If it absolutely has to be there in a month or two.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Excerpt / TADN / SFWA Photo

Say hello to Julie!!!

I just posted chapter one of INTO THE WILD on my website. Hope you like it!

Also new on my website: I've updated my reviews page. In addition to the blurb from Tamora Pierce, it now includes some other opinions about the book.

Monday was this month's TADN (Teen Author Drinks Night). I know I've said this before, but one of the best things about being a writer is getting to meet other writers. This month's TADN had the largest turn-out of any that I've been to so far, and I got a chance to talk with a lot of awesome authors: Delia Sherman, Melina Marchetta, Sarah Mylnowski, Liz Braswell, Leslie Margolis, Nico Medina, Blake Nelson, Coe Booth, Bennett Madison, Robyn Schneider... And yes, for those of you who were wondering, there was vodka pizza, carried into the bar heroically by David Levithan. Very cool evening.

In other news, there is now photographic evidence that I was at the SFWA Mill 'n Swill last month. While looking through Ellen Datlow's pictures from the event, I found myself in the background of one of her photos -- way, way in the background, between Mary Turzillo and George Landis. If you squint your eyes, you might even see me. I'm the one smiling at the ceiling. Not sure why I was smiling at the ceiling. Perhaps the ceiling had just finished telling an amusing anecdote about the antics of the floor, the coat rack, and a potted plant... Or maybe I was just smiling at everything that night. Either way, there I am, goofy smile and all!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I thought I had totally saturated on catalogs. We get one every other day from Mrs. Fields Cookies and two a day from J Jill (okay, not literally, but they send a lot). I've seen catalogs that advertise pet strollers, giant plush microbes (your own huggable Salmonella), and a teddy bear that you can plug your iPod into (everyone needs at least two).

But until this week, I'd never seen a catalog with my book in it before!!! Check it out:

The Penguin Young Readers Group Summer 2007 Book Catalog

INTO THE WILD is on page 101. Yay!

It even gives a brand-new description of the book:

Twelve-year-old Julie has grown up hearing about the dangerous world of fairy tales, "the Wild," from which her mother, Rapunzel, escaped.

Now the Wild wants its characters back. Julie comes home from school to find her mother gone and a deep, dark forest swallowing her hometown. Julie must fight wicked witches, avoid glass slippers and fairy godmothers, fly griffins, and outwit ogres in order to rescue her mom and save her Massachusetts town from becoming a fairy-tale kingdom.

Sarah Beth Durst weaves a postmodern fairy tale that's fresh, funny, and sweetly poignant.

Hee-hee! Snoopy-Dance-of-Joy!

I have to admit: there's a part of me that thinks that someone snuck into Penguin's offices and pasted this page into their catalog when they weren't looking... I wonder at what point all of this will actually feel real?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Fab Five at Books of Wonder

You guys are going to think that all I do these days is traipse into Manhattan for author-ish things, but... Last night I traipsed into Manhattan again to attend a joint reading/signing at Books of Wonder by five (count them: five!) fabulous YA authors: Coe Booth, John Green, Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, and E. Lockhart.

Due to the precision timing of the Long Island Railroad, I arrived late. Luckily, the festivities hadn't started yet, but the audience was already seated on the floor staring adoringly up at the Fab Five. Across the crowded room, I spotted the fabulous Holly Black and her also-fabulous husband Theo. I waved; Holly waved back. This made me happy. Fun and fabulous people to sit with! And there was even an empty spot of carpet next to Holly. Unfortunately, it was all the way across the room -- I'd have to either cross directly in front of the about-to-start authors (which would have been rude) or take a mighty leap over the audience to reach her (which would
have been... difficult). So I chose to trample over the audience, crushing small puppies and children on the way, and plopped myself down next to Holly. We were later joined by the fabulous Cassandra Clare, who gracefully leapt over the heads of the previously-crushed puppies and children to reach her own spot of carpet.

The Fab Five read from their newest books. E. read a hilarious passage from THE BOY BOOK. David read a lovely love scene from WIDE AWAKE. Maureen read a vivid and fabulous bit of DEVLISH. John read a very witty and clever 19 sentences from AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES. And lastly, Coe read an every-word-perfect scene from TYRELL. Afterwards, they alternated reading clips from their books in what David called a "re-mash." (See blog entries by Coe and John for more about the re-mash.) They finished with a Q&A. (Above photo stolen from John Green who stole it from Phil Bildner.)

Maureen has a somewhat different account of all this in her blog... Trust me, you want to check this out. You won't be sorry.

After the entertainment portion of the evening was over, we moved on to the chatting. Got a chance to talk with Maureen, which was great since we've only chatted online before. Very nice to meet her in person. I'd met Coe and David before at Teen Author Drinks Night (see prior blog entry) so it was cool to see them there and to cheer them on. Also got a chance to talk with Peter Glassman (the owner of Books of Wonder) again, which was really great. He's fabulous. After the event ended, eleven of us headed out to dinner. It took a while to get a table for eleven, but that just meant more time for chatting with fabulous people so no complaints here. Got to talk to Holly, Theo, Cassie, and two of their friends (Steve and Ruby) quite a bit at dinner, which was fantastic. And the guacamole was fabulous!

(For those of you who are counting, that's nine fabulous-es in one post! It was just that fabulous a night!)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Recent Reads: Gilman, Pierce, Sutherland

Non-Existent Person Asks: I think I have been very patient. Ever since your blog entry about Books of Wonder, I have been waiting with bated breath for you to report back on the three books you bought there. Bated breath, I tell you! But day after day, nothing! What gives?

Sarah Replies: Aw, is someone grumpy? Did you not get any chocolate today?

Non-Existent Person: You hid the rest of the Halloween candy.

Sarah: It's on top of the fridge behind the rolls of paper towels.

[Non-Existent Person wanders off to fridge.]

Hey, don't you want to hear about those books?

Okay, well, I'm going to talk about them anyway. A couple weeks ago, I went into the Big City to attend a book signing at Books of Wonder by three magnificent authors: Laura Anne Gilman, Tamora Pierce, and Tui Sutherland. It was the first time I'd ever been to Books of Wonder, and it took enormous self-restraint not to purchase everything in the store. Including the cupcakes. (The store shares space with the Cupcake Cafe.) Anyway, I did allow myself to buy a book by each of the three authors.

First, I read THE CAMELOT SPELL by Laura Anne Gilman. I devoured this one on the train ride home from NYC. Very fun. King Arthur's knights are on the verge of embarking on their quest for the Holy Grail when all the adults in Camelot fall asleep (as in magic-spell sleep, not partied-too-hard-the-night-before sleep). Three kids have to save them. Best part about this book (other than the concept itself) is that the kids seem very real as they bicker and banter their way across England. Gilman also captures the class differences between the kids. They don't feel like modern kids in medieval outfits; they fit their world. This gives the novel a depth beyond its main adventure.

Second, I read SO THIS IS HOW IT ENDS by Tui T. Sutherland on the plane ride to World Fantasy Convention. This is a very appropriate book to read when you're up in a plane looking down on the world in miniature... It's about the end of the world. Five teens suddenly find themselves among the last humans alive. Virtually everyone else has vanished, everything has aged, and freaky crystal monsters are hunting the kids. The kids need to (a) find each other, and (b) find out what the heck happened. Sutherland tells the story in alternating narratives and succeeds in the impressive feat of making all the different storylines equally interesting. Usually, when I read a book with multiple points-of-view, I skip ahead to the stories that I like best, but with this book I liked all the stories -- though I admit to having a special fondness for the bit with the talking bird.

Third, I read TERRIER by Tamora Pierce. It's a big, fat hardcover so no planes or trains were involved in reading this book. Just me, a comfy couch, and a cat on my lap. :) Anyway, this book is about Beka Cooper, a girl who wants to be one of the Provost's Dogs (essentially, beat cops in a medieval city). She is apprenticed to two "dogs" who work one of the roughest sections of the city, and she takes on solving two violent crimes. If you've read my prior blog entries (here and here), you know that Tamora Pierce is my favorite author. I love all her books, and TERRIER is no exception. She creates wonderful heroines (Alanna the brave girl-knight, Kel the cool-headed commander, Aly the brilliant spy, and now Beka the tenacious crime-solving guard). Beka is a fabulous character, distinct from Pierce's other protagonists but just as heroic. I cheered for her the whole time. And I adored her magnificent feline sidekick. (Wish my cat were that smart.) If you've never read anything by Pierce before, this is an excellent book to start with. You don't have to have read any of her other novels before this one (since it's set two hundred years prior to the others in this world). Also if you don't usually read fantasy but want to try it out, this is an excellent book to start with. It is more about solving crimes and the awesome protagonist than it is about magic, so it makes a good introduction to the genre.

One added bonus to all three novels: all three are book one of their respective series (GRAIL QUEST, AVATARS, and BEKA COOPER). So you don't have to say good-bye to the characters when you close the book!

Happy reading!

[Non-Existent Person returns with chocolate.]

Non-Existent Person: So, what did I miss?