This is a brief public service announcement from Milford Command Central. The Broken Lands (which it’s a companion to The Boneshaker) has had its birthday rearranged. Rather than being released in May of 2012, it will now be arriving sometime in the fall of 2012.
What’s fun about this is that I suddenly have time to consider a really neat project I’ve been thinking about. More to come about that, but I will tell you that it’ll help to tide you over until next fall, and that it involves Natalie and a big, beautiful machine that lives in the real world where I work at McNally Jackson Books in Soho.
That is all.
Which it’s a post where I take books generally accepted to be of Great Literary Merit and swap them for books found in–GASP–other parts of the bookstore. This is partly inspired by a conversation I had with a customer at my beloved bookstore gig at McNally Jackson. It left me wanting to rant a little bit, which I got out of my system here and won’t subject you to, but the gist was, a man was looking for “literature” for his 13 year old son and was pretty sure anything I was going to suggest that didn’t look like a classic wasn’t worth his time. But guess what, folks? That’s just lame. Suit up, because just in time for beach-read season, I am going to take you on a safari into the sci-fi/fantasy and kids’ sections, and you are going to LIKE IT!
I just got back from Maryland, where I spent a whirlwind weekend doing Very Important Paperwork Things, running a 10 mile race I totally failed to train for (meaning I ran some and walked more), and visiting my baby nephew Oliver Patrick Lloyd, who obviously is going to grow up to be a statesman with a name like that. In honor of my future-statesman nephew, this edition of the Imaginary Curriculum will focus on United States History.
Now, I should tell you that I never got particularly excited about U.S. history in school. This will probably shock anyone who knows anything about what I write, which tends to focus on Americana, but I really was always more interested in European history. On the other hand, I sort of thought I understood the basics: colonization, independence, the Civil War, World War II (I never was really all that clear about WWI). Enough to pass the tests, anyway. I just never found them particularly exciting.
Which brings us to the books below. Now, I should also tell you that I have, in some cases, cited a connection to U.S. history strictly in order to carry the focus outward into the world. But I think that’s defensible. We should really try to look outward more often, I think. With that said, here we go.
A couple of days a week I work at my favorite bookstore, and last week I started one of my favorite projects: building the summer reads table for kids and teens. This got me thinking about all the research reading I’ve done over the last couple of years, the things I’ve learned since that weren’t part of my middle and high school education–discoveries of history, science, math, information theory, literature that I was lead to by people and projects I’ve met and worked on in my post-student years. Some of these subjects are things that I don’t think I would have looked up if not for those people and projects. My husband, for instance, frequently browbeats me into reading things he thinks I’ll like, oftentimes having to overcome heavy reluctance on my part before I’ll finally make space on my TBR pile. A prime example of this was when he finally got me to read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books. I had absolutely no interest in starting them, but Nathan is, shall we say, persistent. And lo and behold: I LOVE THOSE BOOKS. Love them, love them, love them.
Anyway, long story longer, I got to thinking about these latter-life surprises, especially in subjects like math, which I stopped being good at in 7th grade and feared for the rest of my school days but which I love to read about now. I started thinking about whether my experiences in math, chemistry, physics–even history and literature, which I always loved–would’ve been different if I’d been introduced to some of these books earlier. Would they have opened my mind to aspects of those subjects that would’ve given me different ways to access them, to understand them, to find a reason to care about them even if I wasn’t good at them? For that matter, might I have discovered that struggling with math didn’t mean I couldn’t be good at physics? What if I had discovered something of the poetry of math back before I started to think I wasn’t good at it?
So with that in mind, a couple days ago I started making a special summer reading list of books that have changed my mind or showed me something fascinating where I didn’t know there was fascination to be found. Then the list started growing, so I think this may turn into a couple of posts rather than just one. These are books I think would be fantastic reads for teens, and in my wildest dreams I imagine some of them would be so cool to use in the classroom. I could be wrong; I’m not a teacher–but its summertime and I am going to indulge my wild imaginings. And here they are.
I am collecting nephews like they’re going out of style. I started my collection in February with Oliver in Baltimore, and this month I added Phero in Kansas City. Nephews are awesome. I highly recommend them, if you can talk your siblings into having kids. And I’m sure nieces are awesome, too; I just don’t have any yet.
All this having-of-nephews this year made my husband and I really start thinking about creativity and dreams, and how important they are, especially in a world that’s changing as fast as ours is. We will have kids someday, too, and while we’re very concerned that they grow up with health care and education and libraries, we also want them to believe in their dreams. We want them to have what we had: the belief that no aspiration was out of our reach.
Nathan likes to sit me down for marathon viewings of TED talks, which is how I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson. This year for Mother’s Day, Nathan and I sent the talk below to Oliver and Phero’s parents, and to our parents. And if you haven’t seen Mr. Robinson speak, I hope you’ll take a minute (or, really, twenty) and watch it, too. It is, apart from being inspiring, HILARIOUS.
Oliver and Phero are lucky kids. They were born into families that prize and encourage creativity and the importance of following dreams, even if they are the kind of dreams that would send normal parents into panic attacks and nightmares of useless liberal arts degrees. I’m pretty sure my father, for instance, had plenty of those nightmares when I told him I wanted to go to school for theatre and literature, when I said I wanted to move to New York and be a playwright, probably even last year when I left my full-time job. I never heard a single word about any of those panic attacks, though. What I did hear from both my mother and father, and from a very early age, was that the most important thing about following your dreams was to be able to imagine yourself achieving them. You had to be able to imagine them in detail, though. You had to be able to imagine, for instance, the work that would go into them, the potential disappointments and derailments along the way, just as well as you could envision success. And you had to be willing to make that dream a part of your life, every day, no matter what.
Shortly after The Boneshaker came out, my dad sent this email to our family mailing list, and I’d like to share it with you.
I was reminded of something my father said once, and I believe it to be true. I think we all knew this when we were young, and some of us vaguely remember it.
If you want something in this life, if you want to be something, if you really want something to happen then you have to make that thought a part of your being.
If you want to be a pilot, you have to think about it all the time, daydream about it, pray about it, imagine yourself actually being a pilot. See yourself inspecting the plane before take-off, imagine yourself climbing the steps to the cockpit, imagine gaining speed as you of the rumble down the strip, feel the G-force as you accelerate into the air and look down as the people and houses get smaller and smaller. Read pilot things. Talk about pilot things. Wear a pilot hat (that’s the part I like best).
And most of all–have fun just daydreaming about being a pilot.
If you do all these things and more–you will become a pilot. I am convinced of the power of it.
The old ones of us must remember to help our children daydream.
Funny old world, isn’t it.
I cannot wait to see what dreams my collection of nephews (and nieces, if I get a few, and offspring, if I get a few) go in search of. The world is a big place, and it needs dreamers.
Happy Friday, everyone.
I’ve lived in Brooklyn for ten years now, and one of my favorite things about it is the Brooklyn Bridge. The story of how the Bridge came to be is truly epic, and the Bridge itself is a thing of utter beauty. I have crossed it by car, bicycle, and foot; in the sun, the rain and the snow; and I have stared at it from train windows. I never get tired of it. I love it desperately, just as I love my adopted hometown. I guess it was inevitable that I would wind up writing a book about it.
Or, I should say, it was inevitable that I’d cannibalize the first book I ever wrote, which happened to be about Brooklyn, and try and turn it into something great. And get this: it was a romance novel. Hilarious, right?
So basically I woke up this morning and realized it’s April. Holy cow. Here’s where I disappeared to and what’s going on at Milford Command Central.
What’s going on: this Saturday, 4/2, I’ll be appearing as part of the 5th Annual Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival in Philadelphia, at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore! The whole weekend’s lineup is wonderful, but my discussion and signing is Saturday at 3pm. I’ll be appearing with Beth Kephart, author of many, many books including the new Dangerous Neighbors.
Also, the audiobook of The Boneshaker is out in the world! At the moment, it’s unclear how you go about getting it except directly from Recorded Books (libraries and individuals can purchase the unabridged audiobook through their website) or through your library. But it’s out there. I ordered one just to make sure, and it showed right up at my front door. Also, the paperback edition of The Boneshaker comes out 5/23, and it’s available for preorder at all the usual suspects, or you can place an order with my beloved McNally Jackson Books and I’ll sign it for you before we send it out. If you can’t wait until May, McJ has copies of the hardcover.
So where have I been? Finishing the companion book to The Boneshaker, which comes out a year from now and goes by the monicker The Broken Lands.
This has been a very interesting writing process; the original idea for the book, which is a prequel, was a one-page synopsis that I thought I might turn into some kind of novella or something. Then my wonderful editor at Clarion got her hands on it and decided it ought to be longer. She was absolutely right. Still, this meant building up the vague idea for a story into a full-length draft in four months, including all the requisite research, which I had not even begun. And there was A LOT of research. I’m still doing it. Coney Island, the Civil War and Reconstruction, hoodoo, card games and card sharps, and (requiring the most reading), fireworks, alchemy, Taoism, and the Brooklyn Bridge. And other stuff, too. My husband did a lot of lecturing on certain elements of the Linux startup procedure, for instance. I’ll leave you to wonder how that factors in, since this book is set in 1877. I still have lots of work to do, but I’m really happy with how it’s going, especially since the wonderful Andrea Offermann will be returning as the illustrator.
I also got a really bad case of bronchitis THE WEEK BEFORE MY DEADLINE. Talk about crazy-making. I haven’t been so sick in a long, long time. I slept for six days. I lived on ice cream and toast and old X-files episodes, very few of which did I manage to watch straight through without snoozing. The week after my deadline, though, I attended Yonkers Montessori Academy’s Writers’ Day for the second year. I cannot tell you how wonderful these kids and their teachers are. After weeks of being frantic or sick or both, it was so nice to get to spend the day with these amazing 4th-6th graders. They were ready with wonderful, thoughtful questions and intelligent discussion, and they made me feel like a rock star.
So that’s my story. Now, back to revisions…
That post title is funny to me because I’m hungry and I’m having coffee instead of food. Whatever.
Today, with less than two weeks left of the Nebula nomination period, I am finally getting around to writing up some of the wonderful stuff I am hoping gets some Nebula love. Today I have for you ONE adult novel I pretty much totally adore PLUS TWO young adult delights (well, in at least one case “delight” is really not an appropriate choice of words, but it’s a truly wonderful book), PLUS ONE young adult novel that is officially next on my to-read, PLUS ONE thing I must do before the voting deadline (February 15th).
Last night another foot of snow fell on Brooklyn. When I was a kid in Maryland, on a night when it snowed my mom would bundle my sister and brothers up (and my dad, sometimes, too), and we’d walk from our house along Riva Road to the tiny convenience mart that we always called simply “the little store.” There, we’d provision up in the hopes that we’d be snowed in the next day. Even after I moved to New York, I always tried to make it out for a walk on a snowy evening. Last night I decided it was a perfect time to reinvigorate the tradition and take out the new tripod Nathan got me for Christmas. Never mind that it was midnight! Out into the wild!
These, by the way, are color pictures, even though they don’t particularly look like it. And the weird flares are from the wind blowing the snow around. I got kinda obsessed with being able to see the wind like that. And thanks to the four very nice guys out hiking the drifts who somehow didn’t think I was insane and were willing to wander around and let me take pictures of them.
For the last three weeks, my husband Nathan has been hopping around the country and the world doing IT Stuff, and I’ve been sitting at home trying to finish a book draft. Somewhere along the way my beloved red Dell started making some really creepy noises. Now, basically everything I have is backed up through the amazing thing that is Dropbox, so we weren’t precisely worried that I was going to lose data if the laptop died, but this is not the time for me to lose days of work because of a dead computer. So he handed me one of his and hopped on a plane. This is how I got stranded with Linux. And you know what? I might stick with it.
There may be some among you who have no idea what I’m talking about. (For those who do, please forgive me the gross oversimplifications that are about to follow.) Linux is an operating system, like Windows. If you have a PC, your computer shipped with Windows and you probably run programs like those included in Microsoft Office. I, for instance, use Word when I’m writing. I use Excel to organize my taxes. I use Photoshop and MS Paint to remove scratches from my negatives and resize photographs for use on this blog. All of those are programs that run on Windows. They are also all programs that have to be purchased (or–don’t do this at home, kids–pirated). If you’re a Mac user, you’re probably using Apple’s operating system, Mac OS X. Same idea.
Linux’s biggest difference (at least for a non-techie like me) is that it’s open-source, meaning anyone can take the code and use it, change it, improve upon it, and send it back out into the world, so it’s constantly evolving with the help of its users. And, by the way, if you use an Android-based phone, you’re already running Linux.
Nathan is a confirmed Linux guy. He’s been managing a few hundred Linux servers for a couple of years, and has been running a Linux-based operating system on his desktop, too. When he left me with this thing, he said, “Just try it. If you don’t like it, I’ll fix your laptop and you can go back to Windows.” Why, I wanted to know (and I was rawther frustrated at the time), would I want to change what I was using? This is what he told me:
Okay, so those are the plusses (again, I’m sure there are many, many more, but I’m restricting myself to a couple that pretty much anybody who works regularly on a laptop can appreciate). But Open Office Word Processor is not Word, Spreadsheet is not Excel, and GIMP is not Photoshop (according to Nathan, I’m really going to be annoyed with GIMP for a while. Evidently it’s a pain in the neck). So for anybody who’s curious, here are the negatives I’ve found so far.
And…so far that’s it. We set the defaults in the word processing and spreadsheet programs and GIMP to save my files as .docx and .xls and .jpg so I don’t have to worry about converting them. So I won’t, by accident, send my agent or editor a file they can’t read, or switch to my netbook (which runs Windows) and not be able to open my manuscript. And yes, things look different in Open Office, but working in its word processor rather than Word is no big transition. It’s like making an omelet in somebody else’s kitchen–the frying pan might be in a different place than it is in yours, but as long as all the tools are there and in logical places, you can cook breakfast without a headache.
So there you go. My writing life is an experiment right now. But I’m not hating it.