Hudson Book Fest at its Best

The tenth annual Hudson Children’s Book Fest was held this past weekend and it was phenomenal. The turnout was amazing, the energy over all things books was effusive, and I had nonstop traffic at my table.

This was my fourth year attending, and certain regularities have emerged, which I love. I have the best “table neighbor” any author could ask for. Jennifer Donnelly was next to me selling her ever-amazing books, including the perennial favorite A Northern Light, and her just-released, collaborative work, Fatal Throne

My awesome “table neighbor” Jennifer Donnelly. Go buy her work.

The teens in attendance have now read my work and have talked it up to their friends, who come and have serious conversations about which one to start with. Some end up buying all four, and some buy for friends who couldn’t attend, because they want a signed copy. It’s surreal to have conversations with them about my work, about the previous year, about following me on social media, and talking other books (both those for the classroom and for themselves).

I adore the English teachers and librarians, who come out every year scouting for new material, to have conversations about the industry, and to see if I have anything new coming (I do, I swear, I just don’t know when). Their dedication to their students is astounding, and I particularly enjoy the phrase I picked up this year: “They are not reluctant readers; they are dormant readers.” I am happy to have my work bring them out of hibernation.

Just a portion of the crowd at Hudson.

Then one of the best moments of the event happened, and somehow I have no selfies as proof. My first cooperating teacher from when I was student-teaching during graduate school came to my table. I knew exactly who she was, in spite of not having seen her in eighteen years. Talking to her was the best kind of blast from the past, and we have plans in the works for next year. It will be fun to return to Lisha Kill Middle School where it all started. So, thanks again, Laura.

In spite of the regularities, one thing was very different this year–I sold out of copies. I literally had only a handful of Tap Out copies left by 2:00. And that wasn’t due to under-ordering by Spotty Dog. They do a fantastic job of looking at sales from previous years and making the call. The demand was simply high, and I cannot thank all of the teens and parents and teachers enough for spending their money on my work, when the talent and stories available in that gymnasium were off the hook.

So, thank you again, to all the organizers, especially Jen and Lisa, and to all the volunteers–both the teens and adults, and to all the other authors and illustrators in attendance. What an opportunity to be in the mix of children, teens, and adults, all so very engaged with storytelling. It seems like we’re figuring out the next chapter, together.

P.S. If you were at Hudson Book Festival and want more, head to Rochester on 5/19. The annual Teen Book Fest will be a rollicking good time, and yes, I will be in attendance. See you there!

Fun Times at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival

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Between spending ungodly hours prepping my house for sale, and without a book being released in the fall, I haven’t felt very authorly lately. However, the Hudson Children’s Book Festival this past Saturday helped alleviate that feeling.

I had only heard good things about the festival, I didn’t know anyone who had attended. But still, I applied over the winter and was accepted, and then didn’t think too much of it because I had so much time to prepare. And then spring arrived at it was time to drive an hour south and hang out with the Hudson community and the authors and illustrators they had brought in. So, the night before, I checked the site, and was wowed by the names in attendance. Go, Hudson!

When I arrived, the school campus was already buzzing with activity and I quickly grabbed my gear and found my table. And surprise, surprise, I was seated next to the amazing Jennifer Donnelly. You know, the author of A Northern Light and  Revolution and the The Waterfire Saga series, among others. Yeah, her. I immediately turned all fanboy and gushed about her work, which I’ve loved for a while. Then I got my table set up and the floodgates opened.

Prior to the event’s start, I had asked a volunteer what the crowd number would potentially be. She said, “In the thousands.”

And she was right. From 10-2 there was a steady flow of people coming through the doors. And they BOUGHT books. It was astounding to see. And all the orders for all of the authors were handled by a local Indie bookstore, The Spotty Dog. That alone is an amazing feat but combined with the organization of ordering for each of the over 75 authors, it’s truly remarkable.

The highlight of the day was talking to the teens and the parents as they came through and said, “I’m reading that right now. It’s awesome!” Or, “My friend loves Tap Out!” “I need Press Play, I didn’t pick it up at Teen Reader Con.”

Additionally, there was an excellent mix of girls and boys. Readership among teens, across gender lines, in Hudson, is certainly not an issue. And they all had preferences about the books they enjoy, the genres, and why. It was so amazing to hear a tween riff on the importance of Fantasy YA, while her older sister did the same about Contemporary Realistic. There are some amazing things happening both inside and outside the classrooms for these kids, and it is precisely these kinds of events that keep them coming back for more.

On a beautiful spring day thousands of people turned out to spend time with books and authors. After such a long and difficult winter, the Hudson Children’s Book Fest was a nice way to come out of hibernation. I intend to go back next year 🙂

The Itch of Summer

end of summer

 

I’m getting itchy. Not like the sand-in-your-bathing-suit-been-sweating-it-out-in-the-sun-and-can’t-wait-for-a-shower kind. No, I’m twitchy all over because it’s the end of August.

This month is always chuck full for me, from birthdays to vacations to school prep, and so I get very little writing done. In fact, this August, I haven’t written any fiction. I’ve fallen off social media. I don’t even have a good book I’m reading (although I do intend to pick up Meg Abbott’s Fever).

And all this lack of schedule, where every day is Saturday, is getting to me. I need my structure back. I need my schedule of writing and then teaching and then reading and repeat. Within a week I’ll be back to work, and some of the schedule will fall into place. But there’s still no writing until the following week. I put my all into teaching and so the first week is all panic and excitement, which eventually leads to exhaustion. But by that next week, I’ve got a groove going, and I can usually get back to my other work.

The writing is paramount, but I’m also at the verge of promotion for Press Play. I think I have all my signing dates lined up. The trailer should be ready any minute, and there are other pieces under construction that I can’t wait to deliver. But not yet. And so the itch deepens.

As does the story I feel is tumbling around my head. I have a desire to speak about this topic, and I already have notes for characters and plot, and every time I encounter something that reminds me of the story, I email myself a note. Of which I have too many already.

So, in essence, it’s time. Summer is dying in the empty streets of town, as people squeeze out another trip or daylong excursion. And I’m watching, mind racing, itching to put everything in place and start my cycle again.

Summer’s over, and I have another story to tell.

How revision looks this time around

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Just because you write one novel doesn’t mean you have a clue about how to write the next one. That’s where I am, having written what I thought was a decent, if not a particularly good novel, which truly stretched my abilities as a writer.

And then I received my agent’s take on said novel.

It wasn’t as awesome as I had thought.

Which is why I haven’t been blogging or on social media as much as I’d like. I’m obsessing over how to get this story to where I want it to be, and fortunately, where my agent believes it can go. Because it is a damn fine story, it’s just a hunk of hell right now.

And obsessing is how I solve most anything. I’ve been reading for pleasure, but mostly for analysis. Remember taking apart stories in school? It’s like that, but to the minute degree, all so I can try to do the same with my characters and my plot, but in my own unique way. Good times.

I also picked up and loved a book on writing that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass was as fulfilling as I had expected, and it suggested to me just the ways in which I needed to go in order to pull my manuscript upright and breathe life into it.

Which means a lot of time thinking about my story while doing other things; emailing myself notes for the next day of writing; re-reading and consulting the fifteen pages of notes I already have on a legal pad; rushing to a piece of paper, dripping from the shower because I’ve had an idea. Yup, I’m in the zone.

And in the first 100 pages I’ve written, possibly 10 of the original have been retained. If this continues, which it seems to be, I’ll have to essentially rewrite the entire 300 + page story. But it will be worth it. Because that’s the one thing I know that is true about revision, whether it’s this involved or not. Seeing your story with fresh eyes should change things. This time around, it’s a gutting.

But you watch, when I’m through, It will be magnificent, and I’ll have the shoddy first attempt and my agent’s appropriate murder of it to thank.

Until then, I’ll keep revising away.

Thanks, ALA Midwinter

Philly

I could go on and on about how awesome ALA Midwinter was, but I have to keep this brief because I’m in the middle of edits for my next novel. More on that later because I don’t think anything’s official yet 🙂

However, I do want to extend a huge thanks to all the librarians I got to meet at my signing on Saturday. It was so wonderful to see such enthusiasm over YA lit, and my work, specifically. I also need to thank Running Press, who made my attendance possible. They keep supporting me on so many levels that I can’t truly express how much I appreciate them.

Also, I wanted to post my trailer again for all the librarians to whom I mentioned its existence. It’s great material for a book talk, and I truly hope it inspires some readers. And if it does, have them tweet, email, or in any way let me know they enjoyed.

Thanks, again.

Trailer for Dare Me, created by Patrick Willems

Some Good News & My Last Event of The Year

LA Times

I begin each of my classes with Good News from my students. They talk about how happy they are about finally getting enough sleep, or seeing THE MOVIE that’s out, or just getting to hang with friends. Simple stuff that should not be overlooked. Because all those little things, sometimes they are the big things. I don’t offer good news, because it is about them and not me, but I can share some with you.

Now, I did make the rounds with this on Facebook and Twitter, so if it’s redundant, I apologize. But I think it’s worth repeating that both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune have included Dare Me in their holiday gift guides for books for Young Adults. It’s pretty fantastic that my work is on the radar of such institutions. Now I can only hope that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. start showing up to their bookstores looking for Dare Me. I do hope they remember my name or at least the cover image, or they may end up with Megan Abbott’s YA novel of the same name. A phenomenal story, but wholly different than mine.

Please feel free to share this gift idea with family and friends. Dare Me has appeal for both males and females. I’ve read reviews from teen readers and they love it all around. And also feel free to share the next bit as well.

B&N 2013

This Friday, December 6th, I will be taking part in a signing/fundraiser at Barnes and Noble in Colonie for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. I’m there from 4-7, but the fundraiser goes on all day. The school gets a percentage of total sales so long as patrons use the certificates at the register. There are piles of them at the checkout, but students will also be handing them out along with candy canes and other goodies. Additionally, we have gift baskets up for raffle, and last, but not least, it’s Polar Express night.

At 7:00, the staff hand out cookies and hot chocolate and read the classic Christmas tale to the children in the store. I can’t think of a better way to support the community, get in the Christmas spirit, and have a fun Friday out.

I hope to see you on there, and I promise to pass along any additional good news between now and then. Trust me, like all good gifts, I’ve got some on the way.

Back Porch Writer Interview

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Kori Miller of Back Porch Writer, which is  a site dedicated to podcasts about all things writing. We spent a half hour talking about Young Adult literature, my books, and writing in general. If you have a half hour in which you’d like to listen to my insight about what I write and why I write it, please do so. Kori conducts a great interview and if you’re an author looking for some exposure, contact her. I had a blast.

Enjoy!

Listen: here

About that book ur hatin’ on…

Do you remember when you were a teen and you went online and found reviews of books before reading them? And you then blogged about them after reading?

Wait? What?

Forget what I just said, because if you’re roughly my age (35) or older, there was no internet until high school. Hell, there was no Internet; it was THE WORLD WIDE WEB. And we weren’t searching for book reviews.

However, today reviews abound. From the high-brow New York Times to the low-brow, one star, 20-word review on Amazon (that’s the minimum required), and all the blogs in between. In spite of all of the awesomeness that is the internet, this portal to, well, everything, do you know which reviews teens read?

None.

All right, not none, but I wanted to be dramatic. If any, they’ll read Amazon. Maybe, they’ll read Goodreads reviews, if a friend or parent has an account. And writing reviews? Sure. Some. But in comparison to the adults, not even a drop in the bucket.

Thus begins the paradox.

Reviews for YA lit are largely written by and for an adult audience. Now, I previously wrote about how I have no problem with having an adult audience. And I don’t, and I want them to keep reading and reviewing. My concern is this: when adults review from an adult perspective.

Young adult lit is first and foremost literature for teenagers. Adults read it as well. Great. However, imagine if we turned the table, and today’s teens read adult books, and then reviewed them. Across the board, not just here and there. Can you imagine how that would sound?

This novel didn’t really speak to me, because I don’t like have a mortgage or kids and really have no clue about a midlife crisis. Why should I? BTW, where’s the action in this story?

See how convoluted that was? And that’s my issue. So many reviews of YA lit (mine included) are written by adults speaking to adults, who don’t take into consideration that they are not the primary audience. YA writers move their words across the page and structure their stories in a fashion that is in step with the action, behaviors and beliefs of teens. Writers of adult fiction do the same for adults. Therefore, it only makes sense that the writing will not and should not be the same. How this gets lost is beyond me.

Yet it happens all the time. And I get angry and sad and frustrated, but know I am ultimately powerless. We as adults co-opt everything about youth culture, so I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am disheartened. Because teens don’t often find material on their own; they rely on adults (librarians and bookstores) to offer up selections.

And when those libraries and bookstores do not carry stories that may be the most suitable stories for these teens ever, because enough adults weren’t pleased, I feel like writing blogs like this and begging anyone who is about to review YA lit to remember what it was like for you as a teen.

Not the absence of computers and cell phones, but the feelings. The raw emotions. The randomness and lack of logic. The muddled world in which you lived and did your best to make sense of.

That world, the one that existed inside your head, and within your heart. It still exists. It looks different. It sounds different. And possibly it doesn’t fit you as well as it once did. But it’s not your call to say that it must. Because it’s not yours, it’s theirs.

Embrace and celebrate that difference. Don’t rob today’s youth of it.

From the UncommonYA blog, “F. This.”

UncommonYA – Blog.

F. This.

11/08/2013

 

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by Eric DevineWriting should be more of a mirror to society than a portrait. I believe if we are writing well, then we are telling truths about what exists, not only how we want to see the world behave. These truths are often labeled dark or edgy or gritty, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with these adjectives. However, the problem arises when they become synonymous with controversial.The term controversial is a universal call for someone to get up in arms. And today, some people savor the whiff of controversy, so that they can use it as a platform to discuss their opinions, shoot others down in an online flame war, or even worse, twist the premise of the original controversy for personal gain.

And yet we wonder why authors tell stories about the darkness of humanity?

I am fortunate that I teach teenagers every day. Focusing on stories and structure and the power of words with adolescents reveals what every Young Adult author should know: they are real people with flaws.

Shocking, I know.

But considering how much adults talk about and write about and spend energy on keeping books with dark material away from teens, maybe it is. The premise of these well-intentioned adults is two-fold: 1. Teens don’t need to read about “this” (whatever inappropriate topic has been deemed such). 2. If they do, like those “gateway drugs”, they’ll learn things that will open doors down terrible paths.

And this is when I get irate.

Teens swear, make bad choices, get in fights, have sex, do drugs, and experience such inhumanity from one another, it makes my soul cringe. However, this has been the case since I was in high school, close to twenty years ago, and I doubt it’s a new development. The speed and intensity of ithas changed, via social media and technology. Yet, do you know where this, and the aforementioned issues are dealt with, where lessons are learned by characters, so that others may vicariously learn? You guessed it?

And if that source material, the handbooks for how-things-might-go-down, is shot through a rosy lens, what has been taught? That these events are fine. That doing these things is okay. That treating one another like dirt leaves you feeling awesome.

I understand the premise of the adults. I sincerely do. But they are wrong. I have never seen a child “break bad” because of a book he or she read. I have never heard a teen interviewed by an administrator for something heinous he or she has done and claim a book as the source of the idiocy.

It doesn’t happen.

Teens learn from one another, from the internet, from their parents, from their teachers––probably in this order. If a teen is reading books, hoping to find something to help navigate these rough waters, we should applaud them, give them a medal and then beg them to pass the stories on. Because many teens do not read. They spend extensive time watching Vines and YouTube videos and on Twitter and on Facebook. And they cut one another down from the safety of the keyboard, and unless no one or no story jars them from this, they grow into adults, who make decisions about content, hear the word controversial and fall into the loop society––not books––has created.

Want to see if I walk the walk? Check out either Tap Out or Dare Me.

Find fearless author Eric Devine online:


Website
Eric Devine Facebook
Eric Devine Author Page, Facebook 
Twitter
Buy Eric’s books:
Dare Me, Tap Out, This Side of NormalAmazon US, Amazon Canada: Dare MeTap OutThis Side of Normal; Barnes & Noble: Dare MeTap Out;  IndieBound

“A boy who knows only grinding despair finds hope within the walls of a gym. . . . This is bound to have huge appeal.” School Library Journal Teen
“Devine instantly captures your attention and holds it until the very end. . . . The storyline, the drama and the characters were all thoroughly put together.” Publishers Weekly

“Devine doesn’t pull any punches.” http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/10/09/whats-the-matter-mcfly-chicken/

Tap Out: a 2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers AND a 

2013 Top 10 Sports Book for Youth: Booklist