Thursday, October 29, 2009

UK Pub Date and Book Revue

In ICE, Cassie journeys over the sea ice, across the tundra, and through the boreal forest. And today she has crossed the Atlantic Ocean! Today, ICE is coming out in the UK!

I have very fond memories of the UK. After college, I lived for a year in Cambridge, England. My boyfriend (now husband) had a fellowship there, and I trailed along because, hey, England! Castles! Stonehenge! King Arthur!
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made.

That year in England, my husband and I got engaged. Also that year in England, I really became a writer.

I'd known I wanted to be a writer pretty much since I was a cute little blastula. But despite my making a New Year's Resolution to do so every year, when my plane landed in Merry Ol' England, I had yet to complete a full manuscript.

That changed here:

My Desk in Cambridge, England
(where I finished my first manuscript)

The reason for the change was the UK Department of Immigration and Visa Services. You see, I had planned to find a job and work while I was there. I had a six-month recent-graduate work permit, but I was certain it could be extended. Imagine my shock when I arrived at the Heathrow Airport and was told that not only could I not work after six months, but I might not be able to stay at all! After six months, I'd have to petition for a visitor's permit and swear not to work or I'd be tossed into the channel and eaten by sp
ecially-imported sharks. Or something like that.

I found a job at the Marshall Library for Economics (part of Camb
ridge University), and I spent a happy six months alphabetizing books and learning to like tea with milk. I also wrote in my spare time.

But then came the day: my six months were up. We woke ridiculously early, took the train south of London, filled out paperwork, waited, and worried... and then got the visitor's permit with no problem and learned that if we'd just decided to spend a romantic weekend in Paris and I'd come back in as a visitor, it would have had the same result. Except then I would have g
otten a romantic weekend in Paris instead of a day at the international equivalent of the DMV. Whatever.

Point is: I took it as a sign. The government was telling me I was legally obligated to do nothing but write. And so I did. I wrote every day from morning to night, pausing for trips to Italy and Spain and such where I did things like get lost in hedge mazes.

Me, Lost in Hedges

By the end of our stay, I'd completed my very first novel-length manuscript. I'd also gotten this nice shiny engagement ring:

My hand and Westminster Abbey

We took the ring on a tour of London and snapped photos of my hand in front of all the major tourist spots. Sarah's hand and Big Ben. Sarah's hand and Westminster Abbey. Sarah's hand and the Tower of London... I was also pooped on by a bird outside the Tower of London, but I still somehow remember that day as one of the most romantic days of my life. Perhaps if the poop had landed on my head instead of my shoe, I'd feel differently about that... But I digress.

Finishing that manuscript taught me that I could do this. I could write books. I could be a writer. And I will always be grateful to England for that.

So, thank you, my friends across the Atlantic! I hope you enjoy ICE!

And for any aspiring writers out there... you don't really need to go to another country to become a writer. What you do need to do is what I did while I was in another country: write. Write as if you're legally obligated to do so, and don't stop.

Upcoming Book Event

For those of you not across the Atlantic... if you're in Long Island on Monday night, I hope you will join me at Book Revue for a book signing and book launch party.

Cake -- decorated with ICE's gorgeous (and delicious) cover art -- will be served!!!

Here are the details:

Book Revue
Monday, November 2nd at 7pm
313 New York Avenue, Huntington NY

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Author Video, Books of Wonder, and Publishers Weekly

My Author Video is up on the Simon & Schuster website!!!

(If the video doesn't appear here, you can view it -- as well as an interview with me -- on my Simon & Schuster author page.)

Note that I'm wearing a polar bear necklace and polar
bear earrings. One of the little-known side effects of writing a book about a polar bear is that your husband starts buying you all sorts of polar bear-themed presents. Next book will be set in a diamond mine. (FYI, I'm kidding. I'm totally expecting a pet tiger with my next book...)

I also wore my polar bear jewelry (and polar bear socks) to my book event yesterday at Books of Wonder. I love book events at Books of Wonder! This one was with John Connolly, Marissa Doyle, John Hulme, Daniel Kirk, Diana Peterfreund, Dan Poblocki, and Michael Wexler. My ever-awesome husband took photos:

Bookshelf of Wonder!!!

We prepare to dazzle the audience with wit and wisdom...

Signing books!

Afterwards I went out with Diana Peterfreund (fabulous author of Rampant) and Sarah Cross (fabulous author of Dull Boy) for hot chocolate that had an ice-cube-sized chunk of homemade marshmallow floating in it. Ended up eating the marshmallow with a fork. Yum.

Me, Diana, and Sarah

In addition to having a wonderful day yesterday, today I received some lovely news: Publishers Weekly (big important trade magazine) liked ICE!!! Here's what they said:

"Durst skillfully integrates a contemporary girl into an updated version of the tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, balancing the magical with the modern... [Cassie's] quest for self-worth, independence, maturity and love, is twisty, absorbing and satisfying."

The full review is posted here. Yay!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Thanks, Events, and the Most Awesome Photos Ever

Thank you, everyone, for all the emails, messages, comments, and calls! Cassie, Bear, and I had a wonderful launch week!

On Tuesday, I participated in Teen Author Reading
Night at the New York Public Library. I read from the beginning of ICE, shared a few embarrassing anecdotes, and showed off my replica polar bear claw (because every reading should have a show-and-tell portion).

I think I may bring the claw to all my book events. My
next event is this Sunday. And it's an awesome one! At Books of Wonder!!! BoW is a wonderful bookstore in NYC, and they always do a fantastic job with events. I'll be appearing with a great line-up of fellow YA authors. I can't wait! Here's the info if you'd like to see me and my claw:

Books of Wonder
Sunday, October 18th from 1-3pm
Fantastic Fiction Reading/Signing with Troy Cle, John Connolly, Marissa Doyle, Sarah Beth Durst (that's me!), John Hulme, Daniel Kirk, Diana Peterfreund, Dan Poblocki, and Michael Wexler
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY

If you can't come see me in person and are wasting away in despair from Lack of Sarah (a seldom-discussed-but-very-real malady), you can "listen" to me babble online. Here are a few brand-new interviews with yours truly:

Fantastic Book Review
Enchanted Inkpot
Jeri Smith-Ready's Blogtoberfest
A Fort Made of Books


Lastly, I have to share with you some of the MOST AWESOME PHOTOS I HAVE EVER SEEN. Please excuse the all-caps. These photos
are totally all-caps-worthy.

They were taken by Enna Isilee of Squeaky Books, and I hope she doesn't mind if I re-post them here:

How cool are these?!?

Um, no pun intended.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shards of ICE

This is it! Today is the day that my new book ICE makes its way out into the world. That this day has arrived is monumental to me. And I am filled with a sort of placid joy that is beyond my ability to describe.

ICE isn't my first book. It won't be my last book. But it is a book that is very dear to my heart. And it will always be special to me.

This story has been inside me for a long time. It was born of a fairy tale and then grew into a love story and an adventure. It is the sum of many pieces, influences, experiences... many shards of ICE.

First Shard: The Fairy Tale

It started with once upon a time... a fairy tale called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I found the tale in the Curious George & Friends bookstore in Harvard Square on my way home from my day job. I was working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a company called Target Analysis Group (now Blackbaud) that helps nonprofits. On my way home from work every day, I always did a circuit of the bookstores: Harvard Book Store, Pandemonium Books, Harvard Coop, and Curious George. It was the best walk home imaginable.

On this day, I discovered a picture book filled with gorgeous illustrations by P. J. Lynch. I fell in love with his paintings of a majestic polar bear and a fearless heroine. But there was one moment in particular that caught my imagination and stuck:

"Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got upon his back with her bundle and off they went. When they had gone part of the way, the White Bear said, 'Are you afraid?'

"No! She wasn't."

And so that is where it began: the image of a girl on a polar bear denying all fear.

Second Shard: The Arctic

It grew into a quest across the frozen North. I wanted my fearless girl to be a modern-day Arctic research scientist li
ving at her father's research station in northernmost Alaska. And so I immersed myself in studying that icy world.

I buried myself in stacks of research books: polar bear books, explorer memoirs, field guides... I poured over A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic by E. C. Pielou. I tracked the GPS readings of David Hempleman-Adams's journey in his memoir Walking on Thin Ice. I studied the SAS Survival Guide, How to Stay Alive in the Woods, How to Survive on Land and Sea, The Survival Handbook... and dozens of books with luscious photographs of polar bears and arctic foxes and caribou and beluga whales.

I am not a good traveler in real life. I like to be home, and I am not very brave. But while I was researching ICE, I was able to dream that I was in this world of ice deserts and rippling auroras and sights so incredible that they are real-life magic.

I bought a map of the Arctic at the Globe Corner Bookstore and spread it across the floor. From there, I plotted Cassie's path over the ice, across the tundra, and through the boreal forest... and I journeyed with her.

When I exhausted all the books I could find locally, I spent two days in Canada sequestered inside a Chapters/Indigo pouring over all of their Arctic books -- and then hauling my favorites back with me across the border.

When I ran through those books, I peppered my college friend Jim with rock-climbing questions and my friends Kate, Kira, Jay, and Emily and my mother with random medical questions. With my husband, I watched every Arctic documentary I could find over and over until I dreamed about ice mirages and whiteouts.

I even bought an Inupiaq-English dictionary, North Slope Barrow dialect. I remember walking into Schoenhof's Foreign Books, asking for it, and having them magically produce it from the back room. I took that to be a sign: this book was meant to be.

Third Shard: The Bears

Once, in the middle of drafts, my husband and I took a trip to San Diego. We spent a day at the zoo, and I remember standing in front o
f the polar bear exhibit, watching the bears walk and swim and dive and live.

I stood there for two hours.

When a baby polar bear was born at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, they set up a webcam. I wrote one entire draft with the webcam open on my computer. As I wrote about my Bear, I watched the real bears. My little ursine muses.

My husband bought me a stuffed animal polar bear that I perched on my desk while I worked on this book. I'd hug it for inspiration.

Fourth Shard: People

Every day during the writing of ICE, I emailed back and forth with a writer-friend of mine, Amy, who was working on her own novel at the same time. We cheered each other on. I treasured those emails. Another friend of mine, Rick, encouraged me too, and on my birthday my friend Dave sent me a gorgeous book of polar bear photographs. They (and many of my other friends) understood how much this mattered to me.

I met author Thomas Sullivan (Sully) while I was writing this book, and we'd email back and forth about writing technique. And I remember talking with Keith R. A. DeCandido about polar bears while he worked on his own book featuring polar bears.

And then there were two of my writing heroes: Tamora Pierce and Bruce Coville. I'd met them at Boskone (a Boston area science fiction and fantasy convention) after years of loving their books. They both read early versions of ICE, and they believed in me and in this story.

I can't begin to describe how much it meant to have writers who helped shaped my childhood read my words.

Later, my agent and my editor added wonderful touches that brought the final draft to life. And then the amazing team at Simon & Schuster made it into a real book, complete with beautiful artwork on the cover by Cliff Nielsen -- art that so perfectly reflects my characters that he might as well have scooped the image directly from my mind.

Fifth Shard: Love

Writing this book was a labor of love. I love polar bears. I love fairy tales. And I love fearless girls who cannot be stopped. But most of all, I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. Beyond the ice and the bears and the everything, ICE is about true love, the kind of love where you face the world as a team... the kind where you'd go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other.

I may have written the words, but this book is about both of us. Not in the details. Not in the plot or the personalities or the setting. But in the book's heart -- in the belief that true love isn't something that appears in a single, shiny moment on a ballroom floor. True love is a journey, not a moment. It's something that grows and something that causes you to grow.

I pour the best of myself into every story I write. But into this one, I also poured the best of us.


And now it's a book. In the world. Wow.

To those of you who do me the honor of reading it, I hope this story brings you as much joy as it has brought me.

To those of you who were with me on the journey... thank you.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

First ICE Event

2 days until ICE!!!

This Wednesday, I'll be doing my first book event for ICE, a reading as part of this month's Teen Author Reading Night at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library. Joining me, and reading from their new books, will be Libba Bray, Melissa Kantor, Shani Petroff, Jeff Rivera, and Natalie Standiford. I can't wait! And I hope Libba wears her cow suit. Here are the details:

Wednesday, October 7th from 6-7:30pm
Teen Author Reading Night
New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch
425 6th Ave (at 10th St), New York, NY

In other news, The Book Butterfly has posted a new interview with me. Check it out here, where you can also enter a contest to win a copy of ICE.

As for right now, I am busy preparing for pub date: warming up my Snoopy Dance of Joy moves, looking through the basement for my "Ice, Ice, Baby" cassette..... Don't judge me.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Obscure Fairy Tale: The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body

4 days until ICE!!!

So, so, so excited.

I thought I'd pass the time by telling you all about another obscure fairy tale that I love. It's a Norse tale collected by Asbjornsen and Moe, the folklorists who recorded "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (the tale that inspired ICE).

The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body (from Asbjornsen and Moe)

Catchy title. I would have gone with "The Heartless Giant." Reminds me of the original title for "War and Peace": "War and the Time That Was Less Full of Death and Destruction."

Once upon a time... six princes leave home to find brides, but they forget to bring home a bride for the seventh brother.

"My brothers went a-wooing and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

On their way home, the brothers and their brides encounter a giant who turns them all to stone.

Bummer. So much for that road trip.

The seventh brother (named Boots) borrows a horse from his father and goes to search for them.

His brothers are Hat, Scarf, Socks, Cravat, Mittens, and Fred.

He meets a hungry raven and gives the bird all his bread.

This is a very common fairy-tale trope: the animal helper. You help an animal in need, and then later you encounter a problem that only that specific animal is able to solve. Animal helpers typically occur in threes. So this is number one.

He meets a stranded salmon and tosses the fish into the water.

Number two.

Lastly, he meets a starving wolf and feeds him his horse.

Number... feeds him his HORSE?!

He puts his saddle on the wolf and rides him to the giant's castle.

Okay, that's kinda awesome.

At the castle, the wolf tells him to obey the princess.

He talks. Sweet. I want a friendly, talking wolf large enough to ride. *adds to wish list under "pet gryphon" and "magic wand"*

Inside, the princess tells Boots that the giant can't be killed because he has removed his heart and hidden it.

Call Harry! He made a Horcrux!

She instructs Boots to hide under the bed. The giant comes home and says, "Eww, it stinks of human in here."

"Fee-fie-foe-fum" has such a better ring to it. Just sayin'.

The princess says, "A bird dropped a human bone down the chimney. You know how hard it is to get the smell of human out."

I am suddenly picturing a Glade air freshener commercial...

At night, the princess and giant cuddle, and she asks him where he hid his heart. "Under the door-sill, my pudding pie," he replies.

Not to get hung up on logistics, but how giant is our giant? Are we talking Shaq or King Kong? Is she hugging his thumb? Having trouble picturing this.

Next day, Boots and the princess dig under the door but find nothing.

How exactly are they going to hide a dug up door threshold?

So the princess decorates the door with flowers. When the giant comes home, he asks about the flowers. She says she wanted to honor his heart because she loves him so much.

Brilliant! I love smart princesses.

He thinks that's sweet but his heart isn't there. It's in the cupboard.

Peanut butter, pasta, cereal, oversized living organ most likely still beating in an alarming Poe-like fashion... Explain to me how you miss noticing a beating heart in the cabinet when you fetch your morning cereal.

Next day, they search the cupboard. No heart. Again, the princess decorates the search site with flowers. Again, the giant says, "You're my sweet sugarbear, but my heart isn't there. It's actually in an egg in a duck in a well in a church on an island in a lake."

Directions like that make me happy. I love the concept of hiding something inside an egg.

Next day, Boots rides the wolf to the lake and swims to the island, but the church is locked, and the key is on the steeple, too high to reach.

At first I wanted to make some snide comment about this, but really, it's logical. He's a giant. A steeple is a perfectly cromulent key-hook.

Boots calls the raven to fetch the key. Inside, Boots lifts the duck out of the well, but the duck is so frightened that she lays the egg, and it sinks to the bottom of the well.

I once had a guinea pig who would pee every time you picked him up. Sort of the same thing. Really made you not want to cuddle the guinea pig.

He calls the salmon to fetch it and then returns to the castle.

See, told you the animal helpers would be useful.

Facing the giant, Boots squeezes the egg. The giant screams in agony. Boots says, "Release my brothers and their brides, and I will spare you."

How do you squeeze an egg without breaking it? Did Mythbusters ever do an episode on improbable fairy-tale events? Read somewhere that if a goose really laid a golden egg, it would shoot out of the goose at high velocity...

The giant transforms the princes and brides back to human. The wolf says, "Squeeze it anyway." Boots does, the egg breaks, and the giant explodes.

Whoa. Exploding giant. Morally problematic, but still kinda awesome.

Boots marries the princess, and everyone returns home to live happily ever after.

For more obscure fairy tales (with commentary), check out the Obscure Fairy Tales page of my website, where I've gathered links to all my prior fairy tale posts.

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