Thursday, April 29, 2010

“I have to find a poem for English class…”

image Blythe Woolston’s Loa has a poem for today. It just so happens that it’s by my favorite poet. Here's a bit from Woolston’s The Freak Observer:

I have to find a poem for English class. The whole class does. We have all been turned loose in the library on a scavenger hunt, an Easter egg hunt, and we are supposed to bring poems back. Song lyrics don’t count. There was much griping about that little point. I don’t know why Ms. (Heartless) Hart hates the librarian, but apparently she does. She shepherded us all through the halls and into the library. Then she disappeared.

Today there are people in the library who are never in the library. They just want to get this over with quickly. They swarm the help desk. I’d say “like maggots,” but they are noisy and calling out for poems about beer and suicide and vampires and baby deer. Maggots are pretty quiet, in my experience. I am quiet like a maggot. I don’t even ask for help. I pretend that I’m working on poetry, but instead, I’m writing about noisy maggots.

. . .

I haven’t spoken to my dad for a long time. We have nothing much to say. He tells me no stories. I ask him no questions. We don’t smile. Tonight, though, I said, “I need a poem. A poem about stars.”

He got up from the kitchen table and went to the shelves in the living room. He doesn’t search around. He goes right to the place on the shelf and pulls out a little book. He opens it and hands it to me:

Stars at Tallapoosa

The lines are straight and swift between the stars.

The night is not the cradle that they cry,

The criers, undulating the deep-oceaned phrase.

The lines are much too dark and much too sharp.


The mind herein attains simplicity,

There is no moon, no single, silvered leaf.

The body is no body to be seen

But is an eye that studies its black lid.


Let these be your delight, secretive hunter,

Wading the sea-lines, moist and ever mingling,

Mounting the earth-lines, long and lax, lethargic.

These lines are swift and fall without diverging.


The melon-flower nor dew nor web of either

Is like to these. But in yourself is like:

A sheaf of brilliant arrows flying straight,

Flying and falling straightaway for their pleasure,


Their pleasure that is all bright-edged and cold;

Or, if not arrows, then the nimblest motions,

Making recoveries of young nakedness

And the lost vehemence the midnights hold.

—Wallace Stevens, Harmonium, 1922

My dad doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t help me read. He doesn’t explain anything. He doesn’t have to, I guess.

I have never seen the ocean, so I’m not really sure about sea-lines, but I have seen the stars. And they aren’t really like dew or webs or what I guess a melon-flower might be. They are stars. I know that starlight travels in a straight line for longer than my whole life to reach my eye—but my eye being here is purely accidental. If I blink, that light is gone forever.

That has to be good enough.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

More sheep, more bad decisions

Monkey with a Tool Belt author Chris Monroe’s new picture book, Sneaky Sheep, is coming this fall to bookstores everywhere. Until then, you can follow Rocky and Blossom on the web.

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Click for latest Sneaky Sheep web comic. Have a great weekend and watch out for knitters.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Convergence and extension

It’s been my good fortune to work with dozens of amazing young-adult novelists, and a trend I find among them is that their artistic and intellectual pursuits often extend beyond writing fiction in surprising ways. The authors on the Lab launch list this fall are no exceptions, as you’ll see.

-1_J_croppedSteve Brezenoff launched his trailer for |-1| yesterday. I first heard about this over a month ago while he was still working on it, and I was extremely excited to say the least because now not only is Steve the kind of novelist I love, but he’s the kind of trailer-auteur I love. Maybe I’m weird, but this is what I like to see in a book trailer personally: an extension of the book and of the author’s vision and personality. Novels are largely solitary, do-it-yourself efforts. They are highly personal in a way film almost never is. However tyrannically controlling James Cameron is of every aspect of a movie, he’s got nothing on a novelist. I think creative promotional pieces for books do best when they reflect that personal aspect. My objection to filmlike book trailers is that they distance me from the author, whereas the DIY ones bring me closer. The incomparable Maggie Stiefvater is, I believe, the best case study in this. Steve’s trailer is absolutely in the same vein for me.

I asked Steve to tell me a little about making the piece. Here's what he said:

I am not a filmmaker. I guess that's pretty obvious. But am I an artist? Here's a little story: When I was twelve, there were two routes open to me. I'd submitted the required portfolio to join the accelerated arts program beginning in 8th [014.JPG]grade and was accepted. I'd also kept up the grades in science to enjoy accelerated science classes, leading up to AP courses my senior year.

My whole childhood, I loved nothing more than drawing. I'd sit for hours, usually creating superheroes with my good friend Jon or Adam. But the fact is, it was impractical. I knew I'd need a career, and, understandably, I chose scientist! You can't get more practical than that. With a career in mind, I signed up for advanced science in 8th grade, and never looked back at drawing seriously. However, I quit the science program after 10th grade and never took another science class. Why? Because I hated science. Or anyway I hated several science teachers, which amounted to the same thing. That same year, I started creative writing electives. You can guess where that track led me.

The point of that whole tale is that I love drawing, or used to, and much of that love came back when I sat down to draw the ten or fifteen frames this trailer required. I'm happy as hell to be a writer today, and to make a living at it by some miracle, but I still regret with all my heart that I chose -- at the end of 7th grade -- the road of science. Imagine how great the trailer would have been if I'd stuck with drawing! Of course, there would have been no book to make a trailer for. Now my head hurts.

Anyway, pragmatically, beyond the sketching, creating the trailer was a simple job of importing my drawings into Windows Movie Maker, dropping loads of goofy effects on them, and adding text and the cover of |-1| as necessary.

Oh, and the music? That's my metal band from around 2003. We don't need to get into that.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @sbrezenoff, and pepper him with questions about his novel and about his metal band.

-Andrew Karre

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Introducing The Sneaky Sheep


If you’ve followed Carolrhoda picture books over the last couple years, you know how excited we are about Chris Monroe and Chico Bonbon, her Monkey with a Tool Belt. This fall, we’re excited to introduce Chris’s latest creations, Rocky and Blossom, the sneakiest sheep in the history of picture books. Chris has deep roots in newspaper comics (Bob Dylan and Garrison Keillor have both appeared under her pen), so we thought there would be no better way to launch Sneaky Sheep than with a series of web comics leading up to the release of Sneaky Sheep this fall. Chris's sheep are sneaky and cute, but they're not the best decision makers, as you'll see...



Hopeful Bologna

[Note that there is no April Foolery here. If you want that, go to Greenwillow. I couldn’t top it so I won’t try.]

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The Bologna Book Fair is a hopeful, optimistic fair, and I’ll tell you why. First off, a rather shocking number of young illustrators roam the halls, eager to show anybody their portfolios. There’s even a wall near the entrance where artists pin samples. It is always crowded, but as near as I can tell it’s crowded with people adding stuff, not with people browsing. I’ve never quite understood this part of the fair (and maybe an older Bologna hand can enlighten me). Do illustrators get discovered this way at the fair? It seems like the longest of long shots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s not just the illustrators who are incurable optimists, though. It’s the publishers and agencies, and especially their rights salespeople. If you spend any time in Bologna, you’re going to spend time with people who sell subsidiary rights—for books, movies, toys, you name it. This is a fair for rights people, and they are the ones logging the long hours at the publishers’ stands, navigating language barriers and avalanches of “no thank yous” from foreign editors. And in my experience, rights people are some of the most optimistic people in publishing. They have to be able to believe  that a multilingual game of telephone between subagents, scouts, readers, and foreign editors can result in a book coming out two years later in Moldova or Myanmar. To me, that seems like believing in magic. I have heard rights people say stuff like “I could see this one in film—maybe not Spielberg, but definitely Sam Raimi” and “This would make a great movie—not blockbuster multiplex, but something for Sundance.” They are not being flippant and I would never mock their sincerity. On the contrary, being around rights people makes me excited about OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbooks again, because they can’t help but see possibilities normal people choose not to.

This is certainly true of Maria Kjoller, our rights director. She was kind enough to take some time out of the post fair madness to sum up her experience:

Well, I’ve just returned from what I believe is my 18th trip to the Bologna Book Fair (yes, I feel old).

I’ve noticed  an ebb and flow with YA fiction over the years; sometimes it was the genre everyone was looking for, other times this genre was too gritty and publishers were looking for happy middle grade fiction and fantasy.  One year everyone was asking for “pink books” (i.e. girly romantic comedies); another year it was all about the “misery memoir “ (abuse, drugs, alcohol, death…). 

A couple of Book Fair memories that really stand out for me are  my very first Fair. I was trying to sell Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT;  I talked  her up at every single meeting I had and I could not garner any foreign interest.  It was frustrating for me to know that Harper was publishing this beautifully-written and unique book and I couldn’t sell it (I guess we were just ahead of our time).    Then, a completely opposite experience for me when I was working for Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  I was selling David Klass’ YOU DON’T  KNOW ME, which some people compared to CATCHER IN THE RYE .   It was so exciting to have a title that foreign publishers were buzzing about; we had some terrific rights deals as a result. 

And maybe it’s because rights people are so hopeful that they’re also a ton of fun to hang out with. I’m forever in Maria’s debt for introducing me to all her colleagues. I knew no one at my first Bologna (before I worked here) and it was a rather dreary experience. Once you know the right rights people, though, Bologna is bellissimo.