Thursday, August 26, 2010

Size Matters Not

by Hilde Garcia

Well does it? Is a book by any other page count read just as sweet? In my previous post, I mentioned how my books were my friends. They were the right size and weight to be taken everywhere while remaining indiscreet. Looking at some of today’s leading YA novels; it’s a whole other ball game. Now, I need a backpack and a chiropractor to tote my best friends around!

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase super size.
My collection, which neatly fits into a small box has over 70 titles. They range in pages from 117 to 187, with the majority clocking in at 153 pages.

Compared to current titles, these great friends of my youth seem scrawny by comparison. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, (soon to be released), clocks in at 472 pages, Simon Bloom by Michael Reisman is 298 pages and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is a whopping 376. Shall I mention Harry and the 6 books that follow, the first having the smallest page count at 309.

So does size matter? In 1976, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor won the Newberry with 276 pages and The Loud Silence of Francine Green won the same award with only 217 pages. A book’s measurements doesn’t make a story better, the characters need to be captivating whether they speak for 100 or 400 pages. I found Looking for Alaska by John Greene at 223 pages and Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why at 288 pages to be brilliant examples of YA voices. Does a reader care what the final end page count is?

If you consider a classic like The Secret Garden, when it was re-formatted for modern readers, the book came out to a hefty at 288 pages. Good stories can be long or short.

What I find interesting is the diversity of covers, shapes, layouts, sizes and paper quality in the current market. The Lemony Snicket Series chose an old fashioned, academic parchment paper. Other books rely on basic paper choices, nice to the touch, but thinner, thus giving the book a light feel, reminiscent of the friends of my youth. The covers are slick, the images and artwork impressive as new technology enhances the appeal of YA fiction.

The stories still cover the same range of topics, like fitting in, peer pressure, self awareness, but the backdrops are more exotic, rich and diverse. Stories are set overseas or in different time periods. These amazing adventures for the main character are woven into the everyday struggles of being a teenager like getting asked to dance.

In an age where kids have choices like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Tivo, YouTube sports, movies, and sleeping, it’s amazing that picking up a non-electronic story, a plain old book, is still a favorite thing to do.

And no, to them, size matters not. It’s what’s inside that counts.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Not to Get an Agent/Miami, Part Deux

Lisa Yee, author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Stanford Wong and other great books, commented in her LiveJournal blog about agent approach behavior.

Go forth yea loyal readers, read Lisa Yee's books and read her blog.

Thanks Lisa.

Pen & Ink Staff

Friday, August 20, 2010

How NOT to Approach an Agent

by Lupe Fernandez

At the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference, Ginger Clark, literary agent for Curtis Brown LTD, spoke at a breakout session entitled "How to Approach Agents Without Scaring Them Off." This blogger enjoyed the session. I am grateful for Ms. Clark's time. Here are some tips:
  • Don't follow an agent into the bathroom.
  • Don't follow an agent into the pool.
  • Don't follow an agent to the gym, especially if the agent is working out with another agent, and pitch your project.
  • If an agent is at a bar and engaged in conversation with another person, do not approach the agent and pitch your project.
Ms. Clark also recounted other horror stories:
After a long conference, an editor returned to her hotel room, entered her bedroom and found on her pillow - a query letter. Can you say creepy?

An agent entered a bathroom stall and commenced her business. To her horror, someone slid a manuscript under the stall door.

A surgeon visited a patient being prepped for an operation. Upon learning the the patient was a literary agent, the surgeon asked if he could pitch his book to her. The agent replied, "you're the one with the scalpel, you can do whatever you want."
After recounting these episodes, Ms. Clark addressed the assembled group and said, "I'm sure none of you would do that."

Not me, says I.

Well...almost. In the interests of disclosure, this blogger did follow a certain publisher into the Mens' Room at the conference. However, I knew the publisher from a previous function and, as he is a busy fellow, I retreated post-haste from the urological premises upon seeing the publisher approach a designated respository area.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Inspired Me To Read

by Hilde Garcia

I learned to read in the fall of 1971. Bert and Ernie taught me how to spell SHOE. But hey, I thought the word was ZAPATO. Well, that’s the day I figured out I was bilingual. But that was also the day I discovered words and their power.

By the summer of 1972, I was a reader. The end of Kindergarten culminated in my first Scholastic Book Club order. My purchase? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a paperback filled with the classic comic strips. I read them over and over again. I identified with Charlie Brown. I loved Lucy. She was everything I wanted to be, confident, sassy and bold. Peppermint Patty was practical. Snoopy was lovable and smart. I loved them all. I wish I still had that book, but I am sure my mom donated it long before I went to college.

My love for books grew over the years. I ordered every week from Scholastic using my lunch money (who needed lunch when you had a book), to buy the next book by Helen Cavanaugh (A Place for Me, The Easiest Way), Maud Johnson (A Kiss for Tomorrow, Warm in the Winter, Cold in the Summer, Sixteen Can be Sweet), or Norma Fox Mazer. (Baby Face, Taking Terri Mueller). If the cover looked appealing, I bought it. If the description was enticing, I bought it. If I didn’t have money, which was often, I got it at the library.

I loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Caroline B. Cooney, Lois Lowry.

They were my friends. They understood me.

I read these books to stay alive, to stay healthy. I lived through the pain of the main characters, knowing they shared my pain and together we could get through any tough times. There was a period in my adolescence when I contemplated suicide, sex, alcohol and smoking cigarettes. I was in pain and scared.

I was a rebel. But only in my mind.

The heroines in each of the books I read helped me live. They not only helped me live, they kept me alive. They spoke to my heart and showed me the way to survive. I always thought, “If I die now, I’ll never know what happened to Katie, or Clara, Deeny, or Jane.” So, I didn’t. I tied a knot at the end of my rope and read some more.

And I dreamed. I thought of the castles I one would day visit. I thought of the cool adventures that surely one day would wait for me. I thought of college and travels, of romance and friendship. I forgot about my lonely world and just like in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I waited for the passage to another world. And every time I opened up a book, I found that passage way.

Many of these titles I saved and stored in a box in my closet. Here they wait patiently for my five-year-old daughter to grow up, so she can read them. Will she love them as much? Will she need them in the same way? Her existence thus far is happier than mine ever was.

Maybe she will read them and say, “Mother, pah-lease.” Or maybe, she’ll think my books rock. It’s hard to guess what will inspire her in years to come, but I do know she has discovered the word shoe as well as amphibian, omnivore, hypothesis, basically, magenta and cowabunga. She has discovered the power of words and I can only hope that a good book will be a good friend, like they were for me.

Which book was your friend? What inspired you to read? Which book kept you alive?

Friday, August 6, 2010

La Notte dei Desideri

by Kris Kahrs

Lawrence before Valerianus
La Notte dei Desideri, The Night of Wishes will be coming round again on August 10th, (notice how Desideri looks like “Desires”). It is more commonly referred to in Italy as La Notte di San Lorenzo, the Night of Saint Lawrence. Saint Lawrence was burned alive on a gridiron after refusing Valerian’s order to reveal the location of the Vatican’s wealth. Surely, his last (ahem) searing quip, “I am roasted enough on this side; turn me over and eat” must be the forerunner to the current rib-tickler, “stick a fork in me, I’m done” and would make him the obvious choice for Patron Saint of Grillmasters everywhere, but, alas, this is not so, that honor went to George Foreman.

The proceedings on this night, are as supposed: with a friend or friends, grab a blanket, bottle of Barolo and comestibles, search the sky for stelle cadenti (falling stars) and say:

mia bella Stella,
desidero che…”

my beautiful star,
I wish that…”

I hold no claims to precognizance when I say that I know what the wishes of the unpublished will be.

“Please let my manuscript get picked up at the next Writer’s Conference.”

“I hope that kids l-o-v-e my Middle Grade story.”

“I need a killer plot twist for my Young Adult novel.”

“If I can just write the next vampire-zombie teen romance….”

“If I can just stay afloat till I sell my manuscript….”

“If I can stay awake tonight, I can turn out 20 more pages…..”




This year, I will wish for enough shooting stars, one for every unpublished writer that looks up.