Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whose Fault Are You?

Whose fault are you?

Tiffany Trent talked about this the other day on her blog in response to an open letter by Neil Gaiman to Michael Moorcock about author influences.

I am primarily the fault of Tamora Pierce, specifically her Alanna quartet. I discovered those books right around the time that I decided I wanted to become a writer. Not sure which came first, making that decision or reading those books, but I do remember thinking: if Alanna can become a knight, then I can become a writer. Both were impossible dreams, and mine involved a whole lot fewer sit-ups.

Always a fan of fewer sit-ups.

I'm also the fault of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. Read that book so many times that I think I could close my eyes and visualize it scene by scene. And I think Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane is imprinted on my soul. (Oh, Ed! You are the most awesomest shark ever!)

Anyway, these books (and others like them) illustrate the primary reason why I think fantasy is important: it's a literature of empowerment.

The other weekend at Boskone, I was on a panel about "Why Adults Love YA," and this was one of the things that we all agreed on: YA fantasy/SF tends to embrace idealism and optimism. It's okay to feel joy. It's okay to hope. Love will conquer all. The little guy can conquer the massive evil. Etc.

Growing up, I whole-heartedly embraced this message, and I think it shows both in the stories I love to read and the ones I choose to tell. I'm a glass-half-full kind of girl, optimistic to the point of idiocy. If I were a gazelle loose in the wild, I'd totally be the one saying, "Oh, look at that cute little lion! Such a fluffy mane! Bet he needs a snuggle! Here, kitty, kitty... AHHHHH!!!" *chomp*

How about you? Which books and authors are to blame for you?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Are you watching the Olympics?

I've developed a real fondness for curling. My husband read me the rules the other night, and I've stayed up until 1am several nights in a row shouting, "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" at the TV.

Considering my aversion to cleaning the house, this isn't a cry commonly heard around here.

I also rather like the biathlon because it's such a random pairing of skills. Kind of like, "Look! I'm good at crocheting and cartwheels! Let's link them together and score it!"

And I love ski cross because it's just crazy: four people flying down the mountain, barely in control, and oh, yes, let's give them poles because clearly, what they were lacking in the snowboarding version of this is weapons.

But what I love most of all is the ice skating.

I think Olympic-level ice skating is one of the primary things that separates humans from other animals. You might find a polar bear sledding down a slope or a penguin practicing a dive, but where in nature do you find a creature strapping a blade of metal to the bottom of his or her paws and then competing to see who twizzles better?

It is such a tremendously unnatural thing to do that I think it is absolutely awesome. Seriously, it's taking something that people aren't designed to be able to do and transforming those unlikely skills into moments of breathtaking beauty.

Really, I find all of the Olympics to be inspiring. Night after night, my TV is filled with images of people who have worked hard to achieve an impossible dream. I love that. I love the reminder that if you work hard and if you believe in yourself (and if you don't break your ankle in a horrific fashion) that you can do what you love on the world stage and create moments of beauty and excitement and joy.

So to everyone out there with an impossible dream... sweep! Sweep! SWEEP!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

ICE is an Andre Norton Award Finalist!!!


Snoopy Dance of Joy!!!!!!!!

*pant, pant*

*composes self to look more professional... pats down hair, straightens shirt, pinches cheeks, sits up straight, puts away noise-makers and maracas*

I haz news. :)

I am very pleased (and very, very excited) to report that ICE is a finalist for SFWA's 2009 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy!

It will appear on the final ballot with the following books:

LEVIATHAN, Scott Westerfeld
EYES LIKE STARS, Lisa Mantchev
ICE, Sarah Beth Durst (me!)
ASH, Malinda Lo
WHEN YOU REACH ME, Rebecca Stead
ZOE'S TALE, John Scalzi

Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America will vote throughout the month of March to select a winner, which will be announced as part of the Nebula Awards Banquet, held this year at the Cocoa Beach Hilton in Cape Canaveral, FL, on May 15th. (Click here for information about the event.)

I will be there. I will sooo be there. With bells on. Or at least a pretty dress.

Coolest part about being shortlisted was how I found out...

On Wednesday, my phone rang. (This was remarkable because no one ever calls me except my family and some dude who refuses to believe that the previous owner of our house doesn't live here any more.) I answered, "Hello?"

"Is this Sarah Beth Durst?" a woman's voice said.

Telemarketers don't know my middle name. Only people who are contacting me because of my writing use my middle name. Everyone else calls me just Sarah. (Or, if you're the dude who keeps calling, "Cho-Chang.") So I knew immediately this was writing-related, and I wittily said, "Yes, it is." And then I worried that I should have said, "This is she," and then I decided that that sounds a bit too formal so what I said was fine... By this point, of course, she'd moved on in the conversation.

She said, "This is Madeleine E. Robins, calling on behalf of the Nebula committee, to inform you that ICE has been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Do you accept the nomination?"

To which I should have said, "Yes, I would be delighted to accept the nomination."

But what I really said was more like, "What?! Really? Yes, yes, YES! Whoo-hoo!"

Smooth, Sarah. Very smooth.

At that point, the words "Andre Norton Award Finalist" started flashing inside my head like some garish Las Vegas hotel sign... which caused me to promptly forget my caller's name.

(This is rather inexcusable because it's not like I didn't know the name -- she wrote THE STONE WAR, which I'd read and enjoyed and was sitting on my bookshelf about two feet away from the phone.)

As a result, when I then called my husband a few minutes later, the best I could do was, "I got the CALL! Andre Norton! Yippee!"

"Who called?" he asked.

Long pause.

"I have no idea," I said.

"Are you sure they didn't call for Cho-Chang?"

We then spent the next ten minutes searching the SFWA website with me going, "Maybe Darlene? Arlene? Robinson? Rob-Something?" My clever husband figured it out, thus confirming that I hadn't hallucinated the entire thing. Always a relief.

After that, I began my Snoopy Dance of Joy, and I have been dancing ever since.

Congratulations to all my fellow Norton finalists, as well as to all the finalists for the Nebula Awards! Hope to see you in Florida!

For those who are interested, here's the official press release from SFWA:

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet the evening of May 15 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center in Fla. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.

Short story

"Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela," Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
"I Remember the Future," Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov08)
"Non-Zero Probabilities," N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
"Spar," Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
"Going Deep," James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jun09)
"Bridesicle," Will McIntosh (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jan09)

"The Gambler," Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct08)
"Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage," Michael Bishop (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jul08)
"I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said," Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec09)
"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," Eugie Foster (Apex Online, Nov09)
"Divining Light," Ted Kosmatka (Asimov's Science Fiction, Aug08)
"A Memory of Wind," Rachel Swirsky (, Nov09)

The Women of Nell Gwynne's, Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
"Arkfall," Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
"Act One," Nancy Kress (Asimov's Science Fiction, Mar09)
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
"Sublimation Angels," Jason Sanford (Jason Sanford, Nov09)
The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean Press, Dec09)

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

Bradbury Award
Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount, May09)
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug09)
Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec 09)
Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, Jun09)
Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May09)
Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus Feb09)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
Ash, by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown & Company, Sep09)
Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

For more information, visit or

About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers' organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1,500 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ottoson and Boskone

Ottoson Middle School Visit

Ottoson Middle School, you guys rock!

Thank you to all the students, teachers, and librarians who listened to me babble. You all asked so many great questions. I had a fantastic time! (Extra thumbs up to the boy who suggested the attack-potato story.)

You guys now have the distinction of being the largest audience I've ever addressed. (Each grade was 300+ students.) A decade ago, if you'd told me that I'd be talking to that many people at once about writing, I'd have looked at you as if you'd transformed into a pink talking pony with a sparkly tail. But I loved it. (And if you'd told me a decade ago that I would love it, I'd have looked at you as if you'd transformed into the Supreme Ruler of the Pink Sparkle-Ponies.)

Rocky Point Middle School Visit

The day before my Ottoson visit, I'd been scheduled to visit another school, Rocky Point Middle School, but we were snowed out!!! Fortunately, my visit has been rescheduled for March 12th. I'm crossing my fingers that it won't blizzard again. Looking forward to meeting all of you Rocky Point students soon!

Boskone 2010

This past weekend, I was a program participant at one of my favorite conventions: Boskone. If you're in the Boston area and you like fantasy and science fiction, you really should come to this. It's every year around Valentine's Day, and it's filled with people who love books (like yours truly). It's also well-organized. Plus the hotel has soaps shaped like leaves, which makes me happy. I like cute soaps.

Highlights included meals, of course. I had a fun dinner on Friday night with Lev Grossman and Ethan Gilsdorf. On Saturday night, I had a lovely time at dinner with Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, and Andrew Sigel. (The rest of the meals consisted of loaves of bread provided for free by the con. I inhaled those. Man might not be able to live by bread alone, but with bread and books, this girl can get pretty darn close. Throw in some chocolate and I'm all set.)

I also had some fantastic programming items, including a panel on "Why Adults Love YA" with Bruce Coville, Michael Daley, Margaret Ronald, and Navah Wolfe (in which we waxed poetic and effusive on why YA fantasy/SF rocks the kazbah) and my kaffeeklatsch (in which many awesome people woke up alarmingly early on Sunday morning to chat with me -- thank you!).

And the hallmark of any good con: lots of great conversations with great people throughout the weekend. Especially enjoyed talking with Liz, Sarah, and Emily after my first reading. And I had a ball chatting with fellow admirers of Thundarr the Barbarian!

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Nebula Deadline and Boskone Schedule

Nebula and Andre Norton Award Nomination Deadline

Attention SFWA Members: The deadline for nominating books for the 2009 Nebula Awards, including the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, is rapidly approaching -- February 15, 2010. Under the new rules, any active or associate member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) may nominate books. And for the Norton, any YA fantasy/SF books published between July 2008 and December 2009 are eligible.

If you're a SFWA member, click here and enter your name and password to start nominating!

There are lots of wonderful YA books in the running for the Norton this year -- including one that is particularly dear to my heart :) -- so if you're a SFWA member and you love YA, please head over to the nomination site before it's too late.

Boskone Schedule

In other news, I'm very excited to be headed up to Boskone next weekend! Boskone is a wonderful fantasy/SF convention held every February in Boston. This year it takes place from February 12-14 at the Westin Waterfront hotel. I've been attending for many, many years and have been serving on panels and such ever since I got published. Really love this con. I think it's my favorite one. Very well organized, great panels, great people, and lots of fun. And I recently got my schedule! Check it out:

Friday 6pm Schools for Magicians
Bruce Coville
Sarah Beth Durst
Ethan Gilsdorf
Lev Grossman (M)
Jane Yolen
A Hogwarts degree isn't the only path from mundanity to magicianhood. Let's consider how writers have portrayed schools, including Roke, Unseen University, Brakebills, and more. Why a school setting (well, besides innate familiarity for both reader and writer, plus a built-in rationale for info-dumps? How do these fantastical academies compare to SF's schools for space cadets. As we look beyond (and before) Harry Potter, we'll examine the continue fascination with such sorcerous scholastic settings.

Saturday 10am Reading (0.5 hrs)
Sarah Beth Durst

Sunday 9am Kaffeeklatsch

Sunday 10am Autographing

Sunday 11am Reading for Kids (0.5 hrs)
Sarah Beth Durst

Sunday 1pm Why Adults Love YA
Bruce Coville
Michael J. Daley (M)
Sarah Beth Durst
Margaret Ronald
Navah Wolfe
Are grown-ups just trying to recapture their misspent youth, or is there something either more compelling about this kind of fiction? If so, what?

So in preparation for my Boskone panels, I pose the above questions to you. Any thoughts about wizard schools or adults reading YA? Please do share. My goal, as always, is to avoid sounding like an idiot. And tapping into the collective wisdom of all of you is a great way to do that!

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Kindling Words 2010

Last weekend, I attended my very first writer's retreat: Kindling Words East. It's held in northern Vermont and is specifically for YA and children's book writers, illustrators, and editors.

Here's reason #1 that I loved it:

Yellow walls. View of snow. Candle in the window. It's the perfect writer's nook. Midday, a sunbeam traveled across the desk. I started writing when the beam hit the left edge of my manuscript and stopped when it crossed over the right edge.

Here's reason #2 that I loved it:

The people. (I didn't take any photos of people so please imagine a picture filled with so much awesomeness that it sparkles.)

I walked in late on Thursday (at the end of dinner), saw everyone chatting away, flashed back to that middle-school cafeteria moment when you see full tables and don't know where to sit, and promptly fled under the guise of "oh, I just have to check in." But I gathered up my courage and went back in there... By the end of the weekend, I'd met almost everyone there. Everyone was immensely nice and friendly. Plus every single person there loved books. I had so many great conversations and talked to so many awesome people that I want to go back every year.

For those of you wondering... yes, I did eat s'mores at the bonfire! (The marshmallows were a wee bit frozen due to the fact that it was 3 degrees outside, but it still brought back lovely memories of Girl Scout sit-upons and of my dad dressing up in a gorilla costume to scare all of us at the campground as we told ghost stories... Still not exactly sure what gorillas have to do with ghosts, but whatever.) We also sang Kumbaya because, you know, it had to be done. For a song that repeats so much, I know shockingly few of the lyrics. Also, we made wishes for the year by writing them on scraps of paper that we threw into the fire. And one of the other writers nearly burnt her shoe...

Thank you to everyone who was there. You guys made the weekend so special. Hope to see you again next year, if not sooner!