Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dating Disasters

Robin Friedman has created a very cool website for her new book, THE GIRLFRIEND PROJECT. It includes a section called Dating Disasters, which features contributed anecdotes about the real-life dating misadventures of authors such as Tracy Barrett, Brent Hartinger, Cynthia Lord, Linda Joy Singleton, and lots of others...

... including ... drum roll please ... ME!!! Yep, I contributed my very own totally embarrassing and totally true dating disaster. For your amusement, I've reproduced my contribution here:


A Chipmunk, Horse Manure, and Some Raw Fish

The first time I brought my college boyfriend home to meet my family, he looked out my window to see my beloved cat about to eat a cute little (live) chipmunk.

Hoping to stop my cat from acting out a graphic nature special, I ran outside. My dog ran out with me. So my boyfriend's view out the window was now: a dog chasing me as I chased a cat chasing a (slightly maimed) chipmunk. Sort of a deranged nursery rhyme.

Very classy. But, oh, it gets better:

The cat caught the chipmunk. I caught the cat. And the dog bolted. She raced to the horse's stall, chowed down on a pile of manure as if the clumps were potato chips, then leapt into the pond, swam across it, and ran away.

This all occurred within the first 15 minutes of my boyfriend's visit. We drove to the neighbors' house to retrieve a wet dog with manure breath and returned home to bury a chipmunk.

Several months later, my boyfriend (the same one, surprisingly enough) brought me home to meet his family. No cats, dogs, or chipmunks involved on this visit. Just raw fish.

After a lovely sushi dinner with his parents, I began to feel queasy. As soon as we reached his parents' house, I made a dash to the bathroom and chugged some Pepto-Bismol.

And then I clogged the toilet. And then I was sick to my stomach. And then I flushed.

The second flush was NOT a good idea.

The bathroom flooded. Did I mention that just outside the bathroom was brand-new carpet? And that Pepto-Bismol is much, much more pink than that carpet was?

Yes, indeed, I am one classy girl.

But he married me anyway...

Which confirms the subtle wisdom of WAYNE'S WORLD: "If you blow chunks and [he] comes back, [he’s] yours. But if you spew and [he] bolts, then it was never meant to be."


So that's my dating disaster. Click here to check out the other authors' contributions. Some of these stories really made me laugh.

And now it's your turn. Do you have a dating disaster you'd like to share?

LJ Success!

It worked! LJ syndication is back in business.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

LJ Experiment #4

Still not verbose.


LJ Experiment #3

No verbosity here.


LJ Experiment #2

This post is not verbose either.


LJ Experiment #1

This post is not verbose.


I Broke LiveJournal

I'd like to apologize to all of my faithful LiveJournal friends who read the LJ syndication of this blog. Apparently, my last post (about Justine and Holly's unicorn vs zombie debate) was not syndicated by LJ. My husband spent the greater part of his day trying to figure out why, and he now believes that he has the answer:

I'm so verbose, I broke LiveJournal!!!

LJ balks if the RSS feed file is too big and Blogger includes the last 25 posts in the feed file, no matter how long they are. So it seems that my rambling posts finally pushed LJ over the edge!

His solution is for me to post a couple short entries to flush out the long ones, and thereby make my blog LJ-worthy again.

So, let the experiment begin...


Monday, February 26, 2007

Unicorns vs. Zombies

As an avid blog reader and semi-professional procrastinator, I have been following with great interest the unicorn versus zombie debate between Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. I admit that I have a pro-unicorn bias, but I thought perhaps before choosing sides, I should consult some experts on the subject. So for the first time ever on this blog, I have invited two guests for an interview. Please join me in welcoming Marvin and Fred.

Me: Welcome to Sarah's Journal! Marvin, please tell our readers about yourself.

Marvin: Hi, everyone. My name is Marvin, and I am a unicorn, as you can tell by my single horn and overwhelmingly radia
nt beauty.

Me: Thanks for com... Ugh, what is that smell?

Marvin: That would be the undead creature that
you invited, Fred the Zombie. I smell like sunshine and primroses.

Me: Does sunshine have a smell?

Marvin: Sniff me. Go on. Take a big whiff.

Me: Marvin, please move your tail elsewhere.
Marvin, please! Personal space! Now, Fred, please introduce yourself.

Fred: Mhnguuuuuuh...

Me: Fred, um, I hate to say this, but I think your eyeball might be... Yes, it's fallen out. There. On the floor.

Fred: Unnnnghaaaa...

Me: You're welcome. Marvin, let's start with your
preference for virgins...

Marvin: It's a myth.

Me: Really? It's a rather common...

Marvin: Did I come here and criticize your dating preferences? Noooo. So don't judge me. Besides, at least I don't eat my virgins, unlike some people we know.

Me: Fair enough. Fred, it's been said that
zombies eat people...

Fred: Yummmmmmmm...

Me: That was NOT an invitation.

Fred: Arrrrrrr... Mrrrrr?

Me: Fred, put down the cat. I'm not kidding. Cat. Down.

Marvin: Unicorns don't eat cats.

Me: But you do battle lions.

Marvin: One unicorn. One lion. And it wasn't me. He was my great-great-uncle once-removed.

Me: Wow, do you have any other famous relatives?

Marvin: My brother recently starred in the movie version of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, and my sister-in-law... [mumble, mumble]

Me: What was that, Marvin?

Marvin: My sister-in-law was the, um... Look, we're not proud of this, but she was the model for the My Little Pony unicorn. Hey, you aren't just asking this so you can search Google Images for embarrassing family photos, are you?

Me: Maybe we should change the topic. Marvin, what would you say are your best qualities?

Marvin: Healing power. Poison detection. Supreme beauty, representative of all that is wonderous in the human spirit.

Me: Fred?

Fred: Ghurrrr, murph, uggggghhhhhh...

Me: Well, there you have it, folks. Straight from the experts. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Come on, everybody's doing it. Unicorns or zombies? Which do you prefer?

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 6 of 6)

Episode 6, Sunday: My Reading

On the Sunday morning of Boskone, at precisely 11:30am, I did my first ever solo reading from INTO THE WILD. (I'd done a reading at World Fantasy Convention last November, but that was part of a group session. This was the first time that it was just me and the audience.) I woke up early to finalize my selections and indulge in some pre-reading panic. I picked scene one of chapter one, scene one of chapter nine, and all of chapter ten, and then I ponced a
round the room for an hour practicing.

Apologies to the people in the hotel room next to mine.

At 11am, I went to Bruce Coville's reading (which preceeded mine, in the same room). Yikes, talk about a hard act to follow! If you ever get a chance to listen to him read, do it. He's a consummate storyteller. Naturally, I was a nervous wreck by the time it was my turn, and my nerves weren't helped by the mass exodus that occurred when Bruce finished.

But then... something miraculous happened: peop
le came.

All the people that I'd talked to in the prior days: Eddie (the George R. R. Martin fan who took those pictures of my Superstar Panel), Tim, Josh, the three awesome Sheroes (Elena, Genevieve, and Rachel), a young writer who I'd met after the Audio Books panel (I think her name was Emily), Nomi and Michael Burstein, the woman I sat next to during Bruce's reading and forced a bookmark on... plus a bunch of people I'd never even seen before. They came! And I read to them from INTO THE WILD and they listened and they clapped, and it felt like flying.

Because I'm a big dork, I took a picture of my audience:

My Audience!

See! See! People came! And there are even a few on the sides that I accidentally chopped out of the photo. (Sorry about that.)

Afterwards, Bruce said that I'd read well (which means a lot to me, considering he owns an audio book company and hears people read all the time), and several people said they couldn't wait until June, which was very, very cool to hear.

Episode 6 1/2, Sunday: The Good-Bye

Now we're near the end of my Boskone trip report. If you have complaints about the length of this report, please complain to Erin. She's the one who asked for the detailed report. In my defense, I have yet to tell you what I ordered for my meals or what I wore each day (though I should mention that I carried my Class of 2k7 tote bag). Consider yourself lucky.

Anyway, after my reading, I sat in on Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville's literary beer and laughed myself silly -- they're like a comedy team. And then I had lunch with Josh Spaine and Arika Cohen (a Massachusetts drama teacher). Then one final convention event: a literary beer with Tobias Bucknell and John Scalzi. Before leaving for my train, I made one final loop, saying hello to Lou Anders and an artist named Marc and good-bye to several others.

And then I hopped in a cab, got on a train, and began writing part one of this trip report for you. Hope you've enjoyed it, and hope to see you all at my next convention, Lunacon!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 5 of 6)

Episode 5, Saturday afternoon: Sarah and the Superstars

At 1pm on Saturday of Boskone, I had my sup
erstar panel: "The Many Genres of Young Adult Fiction," originally scheduled to include Bruce Coville, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, Kate Laity, and me. To my disappointment, Tamora Pierce was unable to attend the convention due to health and deadline reasons (though she promises to be at Lunacon!). But as much as I wished she were there, how could I be sad sitting between Bruce Coville and Jane Yolen?

Look here, I'm between Jane and Bruce:

Jane Yolen, Me, Bruce Coville! Eeeeeeee!

And here, where not only am I between Jane and Bruce, but I am actually speaking and they are both looking at me:

Think un-poultry thoughts, think un-poultry thoughts...

I am rather amazed that I didn't keel over and start twitching. Bruce and Jane are both extremely intelligent, extremely funny, and extremely... well, not as prone to brain freezes as I am. (During the panel, we each named our favorite book from each subgenre of YA fantasy, and my brain froz
e a couple of times. In my defense, though, can you think of an example of "machine fantasy"? I haven't the foggiest idea what "machine fantasy" is.) Anyway, the panel was filmed for a local cable channel (me on TV! me on TV!), and overall, I think it went well.

Machine Fantasy?!?!?

When we introduced ourselves to the audience, Bruce said nice things about my book INTO THE WILD (which he blurbed). A more poised person would have nodded polite thanks or blushed in an attractive manner. I, of course, bounced up and down in my seat and said something akin to, "Yay!" or more embarrassingly and thus more likely, "Wheeee!" There is a reason why a very polite person said to me this weekend, "You know, you have a very youthful disposition." I think she meant that I have the emotional maturity of a four-year-old, but I am choosing to take it as a compliment.

At 2pm, after the Superstar Panel, I had my kaffeeklatsch. Kaffeeklatsches, as I've said, are the best feature of Boskone (not counting the luscious pink Ribbons of Bliss, of course). In a kaffeeklatsch or "literary beer" (same thing, just the latter is in the hotel bar), up to ten people can sign up to hang out with a particular author. On Saturday at 2pm, I was that particular author.

I had one person show up.

I was really expecting zero, so one was a major coup!

For some unfathomable reason, people just don't seem to attend these kaffeeklatsches, even when the author is a much bigger fish than me. But I had my one (the Harry-should-die guy from episode 4), so I'm counting the event as a win.

As an added bonus, I also got to have a lovely chat with authors Greg Feeley and Mark del Franco.

After my kaffeeklatsch, I had a late lunch with the super-sweet Tim Liebe, co-author of the White Tiger comics. I also said hi to Tyler Stewart from Pandemonium Books (buy a T-shirt!), and I bought an audio book from Bruce Coville's Full Cast Audio. At 5pm, I attended two panels: one on Urban Fantasy and one on Audio Books. And then I had my least professional (but one of my most exciting) moments of the con: I said hello to Christopher Stasheff.

Christopher Stasheff is the author of HER MAJESTY's WIZARD and THE WARLOCK IN SPITE OF HIMSELF (and their six million sequels). If you're looking for an out-and-out fun fantasy adventure, look no further. My brother and I devoured his books when we were growing up. I still have a little dragon statue that I named Stegoman after a character in his books. I had zero excuse to meet him, but I had no intention of missing the opportunity -- I'd never seen him attend a convention before. So summoning my courage, I called his name, walked across the room, shook his hand, and proceeded to gush like a fangirl at him about how cool his books are. And then I gave him an INTO THE WILD bookmark. I have no shame.

Episode 5 1/2, Saturday night: Rapid-Fire Name-Dropping Without Any Particular Anecdote

I don't have any particular anecdote to tell you about Saturday night, but I did spend time with a slew of really awesome people and I don't want them to feel unloved so I'm going to mention them here. I waited for dinner with Bruce Coville, Tim Liebe, Kathy, Cara, Dorie, Joe, Henry, and Jack. Dinner was minus Bruce, Kathy, and Henry (casualties of the long wait for a table -- no, we didn't eat them, they just had someplace to be). After dinner, I chatted with authors Esther Friesner, Sarah Smith, Greer Gilman, and a woman whose name tag was hidden but who drew a lovely sketch of a sheep painting. (Not a painting of a sheep; a sheep with an easel and ink palette.) And then I hung out with Josh Shaine (organizer of the Beyond IQ Conference) and some very awesome people that I hadn't met before: Elena, Rachel, and Gennie (three friends who'd met each other on Sheroes, the Tamora Pierce-created discussion board). All in all, a very fun night.

Coming next, episode 6, the grand finale, the anecdote you've all been waiting for... MY READING!!!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 4 of 6)

Episode 4, Saturday morning: Sarah speaks with unearned authority about HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (which, for those not familiar, is a book by some British chick which comes out a month after INTO THE WILD)

at Boskone was AWESOME.

I woke early because I was ridiculously excited, donned my name badge with the Ribbon of Happiness, and attended Jane Yolen's readi
ng, in which she read some fabulous fairy-tale poems and one-and-a-half short stories. I then fluttered around like a deranged butterfly until it was time for--


The topic: "Should Harry Die? Speculations on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: what will happen? What should happen?"

Book by some British Chick

Fellow panelists were Daniel Kimmel and Priscilla Olson. Dan moderated, and he was a fantastic moderator, asking good questions and calling on the audience for input. I particularly liked the boy who proposed th
at Volemort die due to lactose intolerance because that would be unexpected.

I think I did well. I'd re-read the sixth book on the train ride up (after the ferry fiasco) and had a few pet theories. In case you're curious, here's what I said:

Harry could die in book 7 for the following reasons:

[Warning: spoilers, plus completely unsubstantiated guesswork]

1) JK Rowling has very clearly stated that Harry has no future. Career-wise, he sort of wanted to be an Auror, but he failed to make the appropriate grades. Relationship-wise, he broke up with Ginny, and it looks like Ron and Hermione might end up together. So there's no clear something or someone that's waiting for him after he defeats Voldemort.

2) The prophecy in book 5 is phrased very oddly. Instead of saying like in Highlander "there can be only one" (
or whatever), it says "neither can live while the other survives." This wording leaves open the possibility that neither Harry nor Voldemort will survive.

3) The theme of self-sacrifice is very strong in the Harry Potter books. In Rowling's universe, the highest expression of love is self-sacrifice (as shown when Harry's mother sacrifices herself to try to protect Harry from Voldemort), and Dumbledore has repeatedly said that Harry's greatest strength is his ability to love. So it would be thematically consistent for Harry to sacrifice himself for his friends.

The main reason that I think Harry should NOT die in book 7 (even though he could for the above reasons) is that I think if he died, it would send the message that good and evil are equal. I hope that Rowling instead chooses to say that good is stronger than evil. She implies this in the prophecy saying that Harry has a power that Voldemort knows not, plus Dumbledore also talks about the power of love (both to Harry and to Tom Riddle/Voldemort himself). Harry doesn't believe he's stronger than Voldemort in any way, so Rowling could be planning to have him learn that love conquers all. Or something.

I'm also fond of the theory that Snape will sacrifice himself to save Harry, thus redeeming himself, and that Neville will kick Bellatrix's, um, tushy, thus making his grandma proud.

Neville and Snape (as Simpsons)

But others disagreed, including one guy who passed me in the hall afterwards and said under his breath, "Harry should die." So I invited him to my kaffeeklatsch! More on this later...

Coming next, episode 5, in which I successfully avoid clucking like a chicken...


Star-Studded TADN

I know, I know, you were expecting part 4 of my Boskone trip report. You were, I'm sure, waiting with bated breath. Fear not, dear friends, part 4 is just moments away. But first, I just have to tell you about last night.

Last night was this month's TADN (Teen Author Drinks Night -- see prior month's reports: January, December, November, and October), and it was totally star-studded. Check out the cool authors that I got to chat with: Holly Black, Coe Booth, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Cassandra Clare, Erin Downing, John Green, David Levithan, Bennett Madison, Lauren McLaughlin, Kate Morganroth, Natalie Standiford, Robin Wasserman, and Scott Westerfeld.

To clarify, I didn't actually talk to them in alphabetical order like that... You know, that would be a kinda interesting thing to try: only talking to people in alphabetical order. Okay, maybe "interesting" isn't the right word. Perhaps "obsessive-compulsive." Or "totally insane."

Anyway, this was the first time I'd met Scott Westerfeld, and I'm happy to report that he's super-nice and didn't run away when I started gushing about how awesome his novel PEEPS is. And this was about the fifth time I'd met John Green (people keep introducing us), but this time I actually got to talk to him for more than a couple seconds. He's also really nice.

The vodka pizza and rice pudding were extremely yummy, as always.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming...


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 3 of 6)

Episode 3, Friday night: Schmoozing with Buffalo

After conquering the sea and obtaining my coveted Ribbon of Self-Esteem, I finally felt free to do what I'd come to Boskone to do: talk to as many cool people as possible. Friday night began with Esther Friesner and her friends from the Society of Creative Anachronism and included a hello from Jane Yolen. In case you don't know, Jane Yolen is the grand poohba of children's literature and has written something like 290 books. (I'm not exaggerating.
) Esther Friesner is the author of the very cool book Temping Fate (and numerous other books). When I met her at a convention several years ago, she introduced herself to me as the Queen of Hamsters. At a later convention, she introduced herself to people as the Perpetual Virgin -- and then without batting an eye, introduced her son and daughter. Anyway, we chatted for a while, and then Esther invited me to accompany her to the Buffalito party on the fourth floor. She then began stabbing the air repeatedly with her fist and shouting, "Buffalito! Buffalito!"

This confused me a little, but I like Esther and I like buf
falos (who doesn't?) so off I went.


Buffalitos, as it turns out, are science fictional creatures created by Lawrence Schoen, the founder of the Klingon Language Institute (which published Hamlet in the original Klingon). Lawrence, a very nice man whom I'd heard of but never met before, founded the Buffalito World Outreach Program (BWOP) to promote a collection of his short stories. As part of his marketing plan, he translated one of his stories into a number of different languages -- interestingl
y, none of them Klingon.

Hamlet in the original Klingon

I met a bunch of lovely people at the BWOP party (including romance author Darlene Marshall) and a bunch more very cool people at the George R. R. Martin fan party. All in all, a typical night at Boskone: lots of laughter shared with wonderful people who don't take themselves too seriously.

Coming next, episode 4, in which I speculate about the fate of a certain Mr. Potter.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 2 of 6)

Episode 2, Friday evening: Sarah hunts for a ribbon, aided by Tribbles

If you've talked to me recently, read this blog, or been anywhere within a 300 mile radius of me in the past month, you'll know how excited I was to finally be a program participant at Boskone. Part of my excitement was because of my very cool schedule, but another (embarrassingly large) p
art of my excitement was because of the ribbon.

If you're on the program, you get a lovely large pink ribbon that dangles from your name badge. I have been attending Boskone for so long without a ribbon that the ribbon achieved a sort of mythic status in my mind, the maguffin at the end of my Quest to Become a Writer. It was the Ribbon of Honor, the Ribbon of Victory, an outward symbol that someone thinks I have Something to Say...

A more traditional maguffin

Anyway, when I arrived at Boskone, I proudly trotted over to Program Ops (the Keeper of the Ribbons) to obtain my Ribbon of Glory... and Program Ops was closed. No more ribbons for anyone until Saturday morning.

Well, this was just no good. I had attended Boskone since 1999 ribbon-less. Seven years sans ribbon. (Technically, six. I skipped one year for a trip to Austria so my husband could attend a physics conference in a castle... another story for another time.) Point is, I wanted that ribbon!

So I trotted back out to the registration desk and told them how much I wanted my ribbon. They nodded politely, the way you do when a crazy person starts telling you how important lemurs are to the well-being of your soul...

Important Lemurs

They (the convention staffers, not the important lemurs) pointed to the information desk across the hall. So I trotted over to the information desk and pleaded for my ribbon. No ribbons, but they did have tribbles...

The Guest of Honor at Boskone this year was David Gerrold, author of many, many things including Chess with a Dragon and the famous Trouble with Tribbles episode of Star Trek. In his honor, the convention organizers planned the Great Tribble Hunt. Imagine an Easter egg hunt but with thousands of small pompoms. While I was on my hunt for my Ribbon of Joy, the convention st
affers were hiding tribbles throughout the hotel lobby. As one of the staff hid the tribbles around the Program Ops area, she discovered a box of Program Participant ribbons.

Coincidence? I think not. I think the tribbles guided her to the ribbons.

Tribbles: trouble-makers or heroes? You decide.

So I got my beautiful Ribbon of Sweet Delight, which I promptly attached to my badge, along with my Class of 2k7 pin.

Ribbon of Triumph

As an added bonus, I also got a sticker with my Boskone schedule to stick on the back of my badge. I had actually forgotten about this bit of coolness. For years, I have watched program participants casually say, "Oh, I wonder where and when I have been asked to go to spread my wisdom next," and then nonchalantly flip their badge over to check their schedule. I, of course, had my schedule memorized for days, but I still couldn't help casually flipping over my badge to check my schedule at least three times an hour.

Now that I'm home, I am displaying that badge in a place of honor next to my SFWA member card, a picture of my AUTHOR stamp, and the Control key that fell off my computer months ago which I keep forgetting to reattach.

Join me next time for episode 3, in which I schmooze with buffalo.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Boskone Trip Report (part 1 of 6)

Just returned from Boskone, the Boston area annual fantasy and science fiction convention. I loooove this convention. In response to my last post, Miss Erin asked for a detailed trip report. So to avoid an endless blog entry, I'm going to divide my report into parts, beginning with my journey to Boston:

Episode 1, Friday afternoon: Sarah leaps to freedom over the sea

I live on Long Island. Best way for me to reach Boston is to
take the Port Jefferson ferry to Bridgeport, then an Amtrak train from Bridgeport to Boston. I had thirty minutes between when the ferry was supposed to dock in Bridgeport and when my train was supposed to depart. Not a problem. The ferry was ten minutes late. Still not a problem. The ferry was unable to dock because they'd loaded so many cars on that the boat was several feet lower than the dock.

This was a problem.

"We have to wait for the tide to rise," the ferryman said.

This was such a mind-boggling statement that we all repeated
it back to him slowly, as if we'd simply misheard, "We have to wait for the tide to rise?"

He shrugged helplessly, as if the tide was some sort of freak phenomenon that only occurs with the frequency of, say, Halley's Comet, but less predictable. Once this had sunk in, we all promptly whipped out our cell phones to spread the news about how tides had managed to surprise our crew...

I called Mission Control (a.k.a. my husband), who sprang into action...

My husband plots a new travel plan

... and went online and came up with about six different combinations of trains that I could take to reach Boston. I believe one of the plans may have involved the Hogwarts Express.

Alternate transport from Bridgeport to Boston

A half-hour later, the tide had risen enough to allow the walk-ons, myself included, to leap (okay, step) from ferry to dock, and I put one of those plans into action. I ran, with my suitcase weighed down with three bajillion bookmarks, across an icy parking lot and then jumped like a horrendously out-of-shape gazelle onto a train. (The conductor had to reopen the doors for me, that's how close it was.)

I was not quite this graceful...

From there, I took the Metro-North to New Haven where I caught up to my original Amtrak train (which sits scratching its caboose in New Haven for a half an hour -- no one knows why). As I wrestled my suitcase up onto the overhead rack (a feat the required head-butting it as I shoved), I let out a cheer of victory.

And that was the least exciting event of my trip.

Episode 2 will feature my arrival at Boskone, in which I hunt for a pink ribbon and encounter Tribbles...


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Boskone Schedule

This weekend, I'm heading north, through the snow, slush, and ice, up to Boston. I will be a program participant at Boskone, the annual Boston fantasy and science fiction convention, held this year at the Westin Waterfront hotel from February 16-18.


For those of you outside of my brain, here is why this is incredibly cool:

1. Boskone is my favorite convention ever. Fab
ulous authors and editors always attend; the schedule usually includes several panels on YA and children's literature (my passion); and there are kaffeeklatsches. Kaffeeklatsches are awesome. At a kaffeklatsch, you and up to 10 other people get to simply hang out and chat with an author or editor.

2. I have been attending Boskone since 1999. It is now 2007. This is the first year that I will be a program participant. You do the math. I have been waiting for this for a loooong time.

3. Just look at my schedule. Look, look, look!

Sarah's Boskone Schedule:

Sat. Feb 17, 11am - Panel - Sarah Beth Durst, Daniel Kimmel, Priscilla Olson - "Should Harry Die? Speculations on the final Harry Potter novel"

Sat. Feb 17, 1pm - Panel - Bruce Coville, Sarah Beth Durst, Kate Laity, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen - "The Many Genres of Young Adult Fiction"

Sat. Feb 17, 2pm - Kaffeeklatsch - Sarah B
eth Durst

Sun. Feb 18, 11:30am - Reading - Sarah Beth Durst

I love my schedule. First, how cool is the topic of my first panel? Very fun. Second, look at that list of panelists for my second panel! Bruce Coville, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen... *gasp*, *wheeze*, *gasp again*. Third, I have my very own kaffeeklatsch! Fourth, I'll be doing a reading from INTO THE WILD! (And if you look at the complete schedule, you'll see that my reading directly follows Bruce Coville's reading, in the same room! Eeeee!!!)

Here is my one itsy bitsy teeny weeny little worry: I don't w
ant to cluck like a chicken.

I've never been on a panel before, and I have this little (okay, not so little) fear that my brain will simply freeze as I sit up there between not just one but several of my all-time favorite writers ever. What if I forget how to speak? What if I remember how to speak and only say drive
l? What if I suddenly start clucking like a chicken?

Help me out here, guys. If you have thoughts on either of my panel topics -- Harry Potter #7 or subgenres in YA fiction -- please leave a comment so that I can steal your ideas and avoid looking like an idio
t. And even if you don't have suggestions, please just think un-chicken-like thoughts sometime on Saturday, and hopefully I'll absorb some of the good non-poultry vibe. :)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cybils Announced!

The 2006 Cybils (Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards) winners have been announced!

I was a judge in the Middle Grade Fiction category, and we had five fabulous books to read. The book we chose as our winner is a true gem. Unique premise, memorable characters, great storyline. We all fell in love with it from the very first sentence: "On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'" Of course I'm talking about A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR: A MELODRAMA by Laura Amy Schlitz. Congratulations to Ms. Schlitz!!! This is a truly wonderful book. The win is well-deserved.

Here's a list of the winners in all the categories:

Middle Grade Fiction:
A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press

Young Adult Fiction:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Fantasy and Science Fiction:
Ptolemy's Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3)
Jonathan Stroud
Hyperion: Miramax

Fiction Picture Books:
Scaredy Squirrel
by Melanie Watt
Kid’s Can Press

Graphic Novels - Ages 12 and Under:
Amelia Rules! Volume 3: Superheroes
by Jim Gownley
Renaissance Press

Graphic Novels - Ages 13 and Up:
American Born Chinese
Gene Yang
First Second

Non-Fiction, Middle Grade and Young Adult:
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
by Russell Freedman
Holiday House

Non-Fiction Picture Books:
An Egg Is Quiet
written by Dianna Aston; illustrated by Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
Houghton Mifflin

Congratulations to all the winners! And happy reading, everyone!


Save Pandemonium!

Just heard the news that one of the best independent bookstores in the country, Pandemonium Books, is in danger of closing. Pandemonium is a fantasy and science fiction bookstore located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There aren't many of them out there any more, and this one is absolutely fabulous.

The owner, Tyler Stewart, has issued a call for 1,000 people to pre-order a Pandemonium T-shirt as both a show of support and as a fundraiser so that Pandemonium can pay its taxes. If you're interested, click here to pre-order a shirt.

Save Pandemonium!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SCBWI Winter Conference (trip report)

Subtitled: The Blog Post In Which Sarah Name-Drops a Lot

On a normal weekend, I have a very active social life. I see my husband, my daughter, my cat (if she's feeling friendly), and... okay, that's it. No, wait, sometimes I see the mailman, but only on S
aturdays and only at a distance... Yeah, I don't get out much. So this past weekend was a rather big deal for me. I went into Manhattan for two parties (count 'em TWO!) on Friday night: the SCBWI VIP cocktail party and Kidlit Drinks Night (held in celebration of the Class of 2k7), followed by the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference on Saturday and Sunday. I got to meet, greet, and worship-from-a-distance a large number of very cool people, whose names I am going to drop shortly in rapid succession so that I look cool.

First, there was the train ride into Manhattan, in which I did not meet but was in close proximity to: Sleeping Guy Who Drools On His Suit, College Dude Who Thinks His Winter Hat Is Cool Because H
e Snipped Off the Pompom (But In Reality Everyone Knows His Hat Once Had a Pompom), Girl Who Wears Too Much Makeup, Elderly Woman Who Wears Much Too Much Makeup, and other famous dignitaries. Then I met with Chatty Taxi Driver (who gave me the play-by-play, complete with color commentary, as he weaved through traffic at high speeds) and Unnecessary Doorman (no offense meant, but it's an automatic revolving door). And that was all before I checked in to the New York Hilton.

Have you ever been to the New York Hilton? Classy. Way classier than I am. My room had these bedside tables that when I walked past them, a light lit up so that I wouldn't trip. Naturally, I was so busy looking at the cute little lights that I tripped over the suitcase stand, but no harm no foul. Anyway, I changed into my grown-up clothes (yes, Dad, I do own something other than jeans, thought admittedly not much) and was pleased to see that my hair had decided to obey gravity for the evening. (It's about 50-50 whether the curls point up or down.) And then I skipped off to schmooze.

VIP Cocktail Party

I have never in my life attended anything call
ed a "VIP Cocktail Party." So I felt all snazzy as I entered the event. My publisher, Ben Schrank, had gotten me on The List, which was super-cool of him, and I was so excited that I arrived about ten minutes early, which was probably not super-cool of me. (I'm not good at "fashionably late." You should see me with airports. I'm the gal who is there so early that she could have made the two earlier flights with an hour to spare.) The first people I chatted with were Ellen Datlow and Jane Yolen.

You heard me.

Significantly more impressive than Chatty T
axi Driver and Girl Who Wears Too Much Makeup, don't you think? Ellen Datlow is one of the premiere anthologists in the world, and Jane Yolen is... well, if you haven't heard of Jane Yolen then you need to stop reading this blog right now and get thee to a library or bookstore. She's often described as the modern-day Hans Christian Andersen, and that's not hyperbole. Anyway, I managed not to cluck like a chicken. (That's my mantra when I'm anywhere near Very Important People: "Don't cluck. Don't cluck. Don't cluck." To clarify, it's not that I'm in the habit of clucking like a chicken, just that it would be really embarrassing if I did.)

The cocktail party was also attended by more
editors than you could shake a stick at. Not that you should be shaking sticks at editors. I don't think they like it. Not that I've tried. Anyway, I talked to a whole bunch of super-nice editors from Simon & Schuster, Greenwillow, Dial, Putnam, etc., as well as my fantastic publisher, Ben Schrank. And I met the lovely Sara Crowe (my agent's colleague from the Harvey Klinger Agency), kidlit blogger J. L. Bell, and my first 2k7ers of the evening: Greg Fishbone and Rose Kent.

Kidlit Drinks Night

At Kidlit Drinks Night, organized by Betsy Bird and held at a nearby bar, I encountered the mother-load of 2k7ers. (For t
hose new to this blog, the Class of 2k7 is a group of 38 debut novelists (including me) who have banded together to be a sort of one-stop shop for librarians, booksellers, and teachers.) There were eight of us in attendance, the highest number of 2k7ers ever in one location: Rebecca Stead, Thatcher Heldring, Rose Kent, Carrie Jones, Greg Fishbone, Ruth McNally Barshaw, A.C.E. Bauer, and me. I'd only met them online before, and I think a part of me was expecting them to look like their LiveJournal icons. (In other words, I'd expected Ruth to be illustrated, Carrie to be in black-and-white, and Greg to be a penguin.) It was very, very cool to meet them all in person.

Class of 2k7 with Fuse #8 at Bar 9
From left to right: 75% of Greg, Me, Betsy Bird, Ruth, Alice, Carrie, Rebecca, and Thatcher

Also got to chat with: Barry Goldblatt (an agent with a jaw-droppingly awesome client list), Cheryl Klein (editor at Scholastic who knows what happens in the 7th Harry Potter and ain't telling), Bennett Madison (super-nice YA author who always cracks me up), and the entire population of Seattle, Washington. The Seattle branch of SCBWI had come out in force. I met them because the very cool Holly Cupala recognized me from my MySpace (yay for MySpace!) photo, in which my curls were mostly pointing down (except for the one stray curl that we photoshopped out -- yay for PhotoShop) and introduced herself. Then she introduced me to the rest of her home state.

SCBWI Conference

The SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and
Illustrators) conference was Saturday and Sunday. It included a variety of keynote speeches: On Saturday, Susan Cooper talked about "subconscious hauntings" that inform your writing. I think that's a lovely phrase: "subconscious hauntings." Robie Harris spoke about censorship, beginning with her first censorship experience: she had written a song for Captain Kangaroo that described furniture in each room of the house, and the TV station would not let her say the word "toilet." (The rest of her anecdotes were more recent and more chilling. Guess it says something about me that the "toilet" one is what I remember.) I wrote down two lines that I particularly liked from Ann Brashares's great speech: "Writing is not like fixing a toilet; it's a lot like falling in love. No one knows what they're doing." Also, "a teenager is not a person; a teenager is a stage of life." In all fairness, I probably should confess that I don't know what I'm doing in fixing a toilet either. Jane Yolen gave a poetic speech about loving the revision process (well timed for me since I'm in the middle of revisions on the current work-in-progress). On Sunday, Brian Selznick spoke about the process of creating his new book. And Katherine Paterson spoke about daring to write.

In addition to the speeches, there were smaller "breakout" sessions where you could listen to an expert talk about a particular subject. I attended the Fantasy session by Mallory Loehr and the Teen Fiction
session by Ben Schrank. The Teen Fiction session was particularly cool because Ben said nice things about my book, INTO THE WILD. :) He also gave away a copy of it (or, rather, the ARC) at the end, and the woman who got it came up to me and asked me to sign. Her name was Sue. She probably doesn't know that that was the very first time I've ever signed a copy of my book. :)

Also on Saturday, there was an extremely fascinating panel about marketplace trends given by one bookstore owner and three book buyers (from Borders, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble). At the art show
reception afterwards, I talked with the bookstore owner (more accurately, owners) Robert and Mary Brown. Very nice people. Their store (Books, Bytes, and Beyond) is one the premiere independent children's bookstores in the country.

In between listening to impressive people talk impressively, I got to talk more with some of the people that I'd met the prior night, plus I met others, including author Sara Holmes and the artistic power-couple Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo. (Laini's book, FAERIES OF DREAMDARK, is coming out from Penguin the same time as INTO THE WILD, which I think is ve
ry cool. Her husband Jim did the awesome cover illustration.)


After the final speech, a large group of us (including Laini's very cool editor Tim Travaglini, Laini, Jim, Greg, Jaime Temairik, Sara Easterly, plus Holly and the entire state of Washington) trooped over to the Donnell Library Children's Room to meet and greet with other famous folk in children's literature: Edward Bear (a.k.a. Winnie the Pooh), Tigger, Eeyore, Pigl
et, and Kanga. Yes, the Donnell owns the original stuffed animals. FYI, Piglet is very, very small. Six of us then went out for sushi near Times Square. Unfortunately, Winnie couldn't join us.

Coming up next weekend: Boskone!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fuse #8 Review!

At midnight, Cinderella's coach reverts to a pumpkin, her very confused footmen resume their original rodential forms and scurry home to their worried mouse-wives, and Betsy Bird (kidlit blogger extraordinaire, children's librarian at the Donnell Library in NYC, and member of this past year's Newbery Award committee) posts her Reviews of the Day.

Her latest review... INTO THE WILD!

I am sooooooo excited! She likes it!!! Yay! Here's my favorite part:

"I found myself chapter by chapter enmeshed in a tale of free will, the very definition of happiness, self-sacrifice, and out-and-out good storytelling... Durst has a style entirely of her own that bears watching. Consider this an intense debut." -- Betsy Bird, A Fuse #8 Production

Click here to read the full review!

Did you do it? Did you click? What, you didn't click? Why won't you click? This is so cool, and all you have to do is click. Go click! Do it! CLICK!

Aren't you glad you clicked?!? Cool, huh?!?

I think I need some rest. I'm gonna go lie down now...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Heart My 2k7 Tote Bag

Fun stuff in the mail today! I treated myself to some Class of 2k7 paraphernalia: a pin, a tote bag, and a T-shirt, and it all arrived today. I'm particularly enamored with the tote bag because the back of it lists the names of all the Class of 2k7 members (look, look, there's ME! Hee hee!).

In case you're wondering, the Class of 2k7 is a group of 38 debut children's and YA authors (myself included) who have joined together to be a sort of one-stop-shop for BLTs (which, I'm told, has nothing to do with bacon -- it stands for "booksellers, librarians, and teachers" -- Mmmm, bacon...). If you'd like some 2k7 swag of your own, here's the place to find it.

Anyway, I won't be wearing the T-shirt out of the house, since apparently "medium size" at CafePress means "just barely large enough to fit a Cabbage Patch doll," but I will be sporting the snazzy tote bag and pin at this weekend's SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Conference. So if you see me, come say hi! I'll be the one casually fanning myself with INTO THE WILD bookmarks.

Seriously, though, I am really excited for this weekend. This will be my first time at a SCBWI conference, and I'm hoping to meet lots and lots of cool people. Are any of you going to be there?

Also this weekend is Kidlit Drinks Night, orchestrated by the fabulous Betsy Bird of the Donnell Children's Library and the Fuse #8 blog, and held in celebration of the Class of 2k7. The place should be crawling with 2k7ers (moi included) and we'll be partying like it's 2007! So at the risk of sounding way too 1983... Be there or be square!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Obscure Fairy Tale: The Juniper Tree

Eeks -- it's been ages since I last told you guys about an obscure fairy tale. As those of you who have been reading along know (hi, Dad!), I've been retelling some of the random fairy tales that I ran across while doing research for INTO THE WILD. There are tons of bizarre stories out there that I think deserve their day in the sun. Since it's been so long since my last tale, I'm going to give you guys a real doozy: The Juniper Tree. This disturbing little ditty has the dubious distinction of being the one fairy tale that has actually given me nightmares. It does NOT appear in INTO THE WILD.

The Juniper Tree (from the Brothers Grimm)

A woman desperately wants a child. One day, as she pares an apple while standing beneath a juniper tree, she cuts her finger and blood falls on the snow. She says, "If I had but a child as red as blood and as white as snow!"

Talk about an odd request. Most people would wish for a healthy baby or perhaps a boy or a girl. No, she wants a red and white kid. And notice that she doesn't specify which body parts. (In Snow White, the woman is much more specific: she wants a child with black hair, white skin, and red lips.) This seems to me a recipe for disaster. I really thought the kid would turn out polka-dotted.

Nine months later, the woman gives birth to a boy and is so delighted that she dies. Her grieving husband buries her beneath the juniper tree.

"So delighted that she dies"?!? (Note: I'm quoting this phrase directly from Grimm.) There are lots of things that can go wrong in childbirth. Do pregnant women really need to start worrying about being too happy? They don't mention that in "What To Expect When You're Expecting."

Eventually, the man remarries, and his second wife hates the first wife's child. She thinks that he stands in the way of her beloved daughter inheriting the man's fortune. One day, she offers the boy an apple from a chest with a very heavy lid.

Who keeps apples in chests with heavy lids? What's wrong with a nice fruit bowl?

When the boy stoops over to pick out an apple, she slams the lid down on his neck. His head flies off and lands in the apples.

Eww! Did I really need that image in my head?

The woman is terrified that someone will think that she did it. So she finds a white handkerchief, sticks the boy's head back on his neck, and wraps the handkerchief around the wound. Then she props him up by the front door and sticks an apple in his hand. Later, her daughter Marlinchen comes and says, "Mother, my brother is by the door looking really white. I asked him for his apple, and he wouldn't answer me." The woman tells her to go ask him again, and if he doesn't answer, to box his ears. So the girl obeys, hits her brother on the ear, and his head falls off.

Years of psychotherapy for this girl. Frankly, I think what the mother did to her daughter is almost worse than what she did to her stepson.

The girl runs to her mother who says, "What have you done?" Her mother says they need to hide what she's done, so she chops up the body and turns him into black pudding.

Anyone seen "Fried Green Tomatoes"?

When the boy's father comes home, his wife says that the boy has gone to visit some relatives, and then she serves him the black pudding. The girl sobs throughout the meal, but the father gobbles up every bite with gusto.

How about "Soylent Green"?

After dinner, the girl buries her brother's bones in a silk handkerchief under the juniper tree and weeps tears of blood. Then the tree quivers and a beautiful bird flies out, and suddenly Marlinchen feels comforted.

Personally, I think she should be worried about those tears of blood. I'm not a doctor, but that can't be good.

The bird flies to a goldsmith's house and sings: "My mother she killed me, My father he ate me, My sister, little Marlinchen, Gathered together all my bones, Tied them in a silken handkerchief, Laid them beneath the juniper tree, Kywitt, kywitt, what a beautiful bird am I!"

Catchy little jingle.

The goldsmith cries, "What a beautiful song! Sing it again!"

Beautiful? Was he listening? Maybe the bird sang it in bird language, and the Grimms are translating for us.

The bird says he'll sing it again in exchange for a gold necklace. The goldsmith gives him the necklace, and he sings again.

There goes the translation theory. Maybe he's just not the sort of guy who listens to lyrics.

Next, the bird flies to a shoemaker's house and sings the same song. The shoemaker cries, "What a beautiful song! Sing it again!" The bird says he'll sing it again in exchange for a pair of red shoes. The shoemaker gives him the shoes, and he sings again. Lastly, he goes to a mill and sings the song. The millers give him a millstone in exchange for an encore. The bird puts the millstone around his neck like a collar and flies home.

Strong bird.

Perched in the juniper tree, the bird sings, "My mother she killed me, My father he ate me, My sister, little Marlinchen, Gathered together all my bones, Tied them in a silken handkerchief, Laid them beneath the juniper tree, Kywitt, kywitt, what a beautiful bird am I!"

The father runs outside to hear the bird, and the bird drops the gold necklace down on him. He is elated. The sister runs outside to hear the bird, and he drops the red shoes down on her. She is elated. The stepmother runs outside to hear the bird, and the bird drops the millstone down on her and kills her.

Can't really complain about the justice here, though the millstone seems an odd choice.

Then smoke and flames rise from the juniper tree, and suddenly, the boy stands there alive and well. The father, the girl, and the boy join hands, go inside, and have dinner.

Dinner? Dinner?!? After all that, they're feeling peckish? And isn't anyone going to do anything about the dead body on the lawn??

Guess not.

See, I told you this one was disturbing. If you'd like to read a less disturbing obscure fairy tale, check out Molly Whuppie, Tatterhood, Jack My Hedgehog, or The Wishing Table.