Tag Archives: Events and Appearances

In Which I Sneak onto a Very Important Panel by Organizing It (Please Come)!

Yes, folks, I get to talk upper middle-grade with Rebecca Stead, Mariko Tamaki, and Nancy Paulsen! I’m kind of dying of joy, in part because, as an author, bookseller, reader and mom, I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of these women, and in part because this is a conversation I want to have as often, and as loudly, as possible.

Last year, I was really fortunate to be able to take part in a panel discussion at last year’s NESCBWI conference with Laurel Snyder and Aaron Starmer on the subject of upper middle-grade fiction. We called the panel “The Blurry Space of Thirteen.” It was a phenomenal discussion, and I’ve been on the lookout ever since for another chance to dive back in. After all, before Greenglass House, all of my books fell squarely into this awkward upper middle-grade range. My next book is upper MG. Nearly every book in my head is upper MG.

Now, if you have visited this site before basically ever, you know that I’m terrible at updating it. In the last year, I’ve blogged exactly twice, and one of those posts was this one: Just One Reason Why THIS ONE SUMMER’s Caldecott Honor Matters a Lot. 

You can read the whole (excessively long) thing if you have time, but basically my thesis is, books for the set of readers who fall in the icky transitional space between kid and teen are hard to serve in the kids’ book world for Reasons (see post for specifics). But it’s critically important that we serve these kids–they’re going through some of the worst years of their lives, if my memory is to be trusted at all (and I had it better than most kids). To serve them, we have to understand that their needs sometimes include books that touch on subjects that can make adults uncomfortable, and as book creators, we have to acknowledge that those stories often don’t seem to fit comfortably in either traditional MG or in YA.

That post scratched the we-have-to-talk-about-upper-MG itch for a while. Then this spring, I got my hands on an advance copy of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, which lives squarely in the aforementioned blurry space,  alternating between middle-school and high-school POVs in its discussions of Things That Adults Are Uncomfortable Thinking About Kids Dealing With.  Cristin Stickles, through some magic that only she possesses, convinced the wonderful Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books at Penguin Young Readers, to moderate our discussion, and NOW IT’S HAPPENING, GUYS! IT’S HAPPENING NEXT WEEK! I hope you’ll join us if you can. I truly believe this is an important conversation to have. All ages are welcome.

And now I leave you with the words of the wonderful Cristin Stickles, my partner-in-crime at McNally Jackson Books:

A great rule of thumb is to never trust someone who enjoyed middle school. It’s a miserable time for any halfway-decent human, that murky area between being a kid and a teenager, between Charlotte’s Web and The Outsiders, between elementary and high school.

The right books can be key to surviving this purgatory, but writing for the 11-14 year old set poses its a very unique set of hurdles. Join three authors who are up for the challenge in conversation about the not-so-wonder(ful) years and the books that can help kids get out (relatively) unscathed.

Join us, won’t you?

It’s Thursday! Come Hang out with Me (and Some Even Cooler Folks) at Books of Wonder

What are you doing tonight? Say, from 6-8 pm or so, before your fashionable Thursday night on the town or, for those of the younger persuasion, bedtime? May I suggest a couple hours of listening to seven (count ’em, seven!) awesome fantasy authors reading from their books of awesome fantasy at one of the most awesome independent bookstores in the city?

I thought you’d like that. Conveniently enough, the magnificent Books of Wonder will be hosting Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, Cinda Williams Chima, Dan Krokos, Gina D’Amico, Sarah Crossan, and myself for readings from (respectively) The Diviners, Beta, The Crimson Crown, False Memory, Scorch, Breathe, and The Broken Lands. And while I won’t be reading from The Kairos Mechanism tonight, you can pick up a copy of the paperback/ebook bundle if you swing by during the event (thank you, Books of Wonder!).

While I have your attention, do you know that Books of Wonder needs some help right now? If you’ve poked around on my website much, you probably know I feel really strongly about independent bookstores to begin with, and Books of Wonder is a special case. They’re running an Indiegogo campaign right now to raise the $100,000 they need to stay open. With 28 days to go they’re nearly 1/3 of the way there, which is great, but they still have a long way to go. Check out the store if you never have. If you’re in the NYC, why not check it out in person? Say, tonight? Then if you have cash to spare, help out here.

Hope to see you tonight!

Tonight at 6pm, I Get to Read with the Big Kids

And by “the big kids,” I mean some very fancy authors I’m kind of in awe of. Come hang out, if you can!

Clearly this is the place to be this evening. Come out and join us, won’t you?


It Was a Good Week.

First of all, and I’m really tempted to capitalize it, The Boneshaker is a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults! (Look at that. I even managed to restrict myself to only one exclamation point. It was tough, I’ll tell you.)

Here’s the rest of the list, which contains my wonderful crit-mate Heidi Ayarbe’s Compromised as well as some other books I well and truly loved in 2010.

Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe: Book Cover

Another cool thing that happened to me last week was  that I got to participate in a Children’s Literary Salon at the New York Public Library, along with Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm) and Michael Teitelbaum (The Scary States of America). Betsy Bird acted as ace moderator for the panel, entitled Blood, Bones and Gore: Horror and the Modern Children’s Book. It was a ton of fun! I had already read A Tale Dark and Grimm (and LOVED IT. LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT), and after hearing Michael Teitelbaum talk about The Scary States of America I went right out and picked it up. It will be my subway reading, starting tomorrow. I expect to love it just as much.

Scary States of America by Michael Teitelbaum: Book Cover A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz: Book Cover

Oh, also, work is going swimmingly on The Broken Lands. I am pretty sure I am going to change the date the story takes place from 1883, when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed to 1877, when it was very definitely still in pieces. Why? Oh, so many very good reasons I think I’d better not spoil the surprise by sharing. Suffice to say some awesome stuff happens when I stick the story in 1877, and I think I like that stuff a lot.

Current research reading:

  • Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (Steven Johnson)
  • Fools of Fortune, or Gambling and Gamblers, Comprehending A History of the Vice in Ancient and Modern Times, and in Both Hemispheres; an Exposition of its Alarming Prevalence and Destructive Effects; with an Unreserved and Exhaustive Disclosure of Such Frauds, Tricks and Devices as are Practiced by “Professional” Gamblers, “Confidence Men,” and “Bunko Steerers.” (by John Philip Quinn, who modestly, yet with sincerity, tenders to the world what he hopes may extenuate his twenty-five years of gaming and systematic deception of his fellow men.)

No, I did not make any of that up or embellish it. That’s literally what the front title page says.

  • The Great Bridge (David McCullough)
  • Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company (Roy Morris, Jr.)

That’s all for now. Happy (belated) New Year, everyone!

Brooklyn Book Festival Schedule is Up, and I Am On It!

I am so excited about this I can barely take it. The Brooklyn Book Festival is coming in just a little over a week, and this year I get to play with the big kids. I’ll be part of a panel called “Making It” in the Youth Stoop Series, joining the incredible Mitali Perkins and the awesome Francisco X. Stork to discuss stories of survival. Mark your calendars and come out and play–the Festival has events running Friday through Sunday (9/10-9/12), but the big day is Sunday, and my panel is at 4pm at the Youth Stoop. Hope to see you there!

The Brooklyn Book Festival Home Page
Youth Programming

Life Changers, Part One

A week ago I had the coolest thing ever happen. I was on the way home, ending what had already been a fairly amazing week (see my previous post). Nathan and I were sitting in traffic with my parents on our way home from New Hampshire amusing ourselves with a voice-changer toy we’d gotten my father (who was driving, and therefore cut off from using it due to the likelihood of him laughing so hard at one of his own jokes that he could drive us off the road). Nathan also spent rather a good amount of time cursing the fact that we seemed to be driving through every dead zone in New England (and he was technically working from the road). Still, somehow  this email miraculously got through despite the patchy internet:

Dear Miss Milford,

My name is Emma Humphrey and I am currently LOVING the Boneshaker. My mom and I run a book club for me and all of my friends every summer. For our fourth book club we are doing Newberys, and since we know that your book is a contender for this year our meeting tomorrow is on the Boneshaker. I know that you are currently in Milford New Hampshire and I just found out, I wish I were there to see you. I was wondering if there was any chance that you’d be in, or anywhere close to Massachusetts tomorrow day, night – whatever. My book club consists of ten girls who all love to read and would do anything to meet you. I know this is probably a huge thing to ask but I hope you’ll write me back.

Emma Humphrey

I wasn’t planning to be in Massachusetts the next day, but, as I may have mentioned, at the end of June I left my full-time job to try my hand at being a full-time writer. I do work a couple days a week at my favorite bookstore, but I didn’t have to work the day of Emma’s book club; and, as I’ve definitely mentioned, I love to drive. So I told Emma I’d come up, and the next day, a little after 5pm, I pulled up in her driveway and immediately a row of heads popped up in the window. One of them was–I am not exaggerating here–literally jumping up and down.

Before I was all the way out of the car, the front door opened and this swarm of sixth-grade girls came pouring out of the house. At the front of the swarm was Emma, who introduced herself, shook my hand, took my bags, and brought me inside. There I met her parents and her teacher, the latter of whom greeted me with, “Hi! You’re insane.” (Usually I manage to look sane for at least five minutes before people catch on. All I can say in my own defense is, I’d been driving for a while and didn’t have time to touch up my makeup before I got there. But this isn’t the point.)

They ushered me into the dining room, where they had decorated the table with plastic gears and a (toy) bee in a jar for a centerpiece. There was a boneshaker-themed dinner: popcorn in carnival-striped bags for appetizers, tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner, and unburned chocolate cake (devil’s food) along with gear-shaped cookies for dessert. Basically everything here is a reference to something in the book. While we ate, we talked. There were fifteen girls there and Emma’s little brother, Quinn, and all of them had questions and commentary. Their questions were so good, in fact, and their discussion so thoughtful and engaging, that I totally lost track of time. The plan had been for the book club to go from 5-7, but it was 10 before I finally left with cards signed by all the book club members and my hosts, a necklace with a gear on it (one of the moms had made one for all of us girls), the bee in the jar, and my life utterly changed.

I love to write. I would write even if nobody wanted to read what I wrote, but having a book in print means knowing that there are at least a few people out there who know how I spent the last five years of my life, and will have opinions on the result. I have been lucky enough to have had some very glowing reviews, and those made me feel really good, but let’s face it, this book was written for younger readers. In the past week I’ve had my first experiences meeting some of those readers in person, and after seven days I still don’t have words for what it felt like. All I can say is, thank you Emma, Maeve, Dulaney, Olivia G, Olivia W, Abby, Minnie, Emma M, Ginny, Ellie, Julia, Alex, Amazing Quinn, Mike, Laurie, and Paul for inviting me to your table and making me feel like I had something worth saying.

Oh, and these amazing readers have agreed to do a series of guest posts here at the Clockwork Foundry in September on their summer book club reading. Mark your calendars! I can’t wait to read what they have to say.

Bradbury, Bookmarks and Toadstools: A Delightfully Busy Week

After a lovely week sequestered in Bucks County with the always-entertaining Paisley Stocking Society, it’s time to leap into a busy week of Doing Writerly Stuff. Want to join me? Here’s where I’ll be:

Wednesday, July 21st

Ray Bradbury in Conversation with Sam Weller at McNally Jackson Books, 7pm

I’m not in any way involved with this one. I’m just attending, and I think you should too. Sam Weller has compiled ten years’ worth of his interviews with Mr. Bradbury into Listen to the Echoes: the Ray Bradbury Interviews. Sam Weller will be present in person to launch the book, and Ray Bradbury will be Skyping in to take questions. McNally’s event space is wonderful but very small, so if you plan to attend, you should probably show up a little early.

Reason #54 that I love Ray Bradbury is this piece of advice for writers: I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!

McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street, between Lafayette and Mulberry Streets, NYC 10012

Thursday, July 22nd

Book Mark Shoppe Kids’ Book Club, 6pm

I’ll be visiting Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s BookMark Shoppe, where they’re hosting a book club discussion of The Boneshaker for ages 10-15 .  I believe I have also convinced the amazing Andrea Offermann, the illustrator behind the beautiful images in The Boneshaker, to come ALL THE WAY FROM GERMANY TO ATTEND THIS BOOK CLUB. Seriously.  (She is coming all the way from Germany, and she is coming to the book club. So it’s mostly true.) I should mention that it could not be easier to get here, so I don’t want to hear any griping from parents in Manhattan and other non-Brooklyn boroughs. Take the Brooklyn-bound R train to 86th Street and 4th Ave. Walk one avenue west to 3rd and two streets north to 84th. If you want to speed things up by taking the N to 59th and walking across the platform to the R, you’ll cut your time down even further.  Don’t be lazy. Brooklyn is calling.

The Book Mark Shoppe
8415 3rd Ave, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, 11209

Sunday, July 25th

“Writing Fantasy for Children and Teens” Panel, Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, NH, 2pm-4pm

This should be a ton of fun. I’ll be part of a panel with six authors I just love, and we’ll be talking all aspects of, well, writing fantasy for children and teens. Come out and visit! With Ellen Booraem (The Unnameables), Chris Brodien-Jones (The Owl Keeper), Leah Cypess (Mistwood), Marissa Doyle (Betraying Season, Bewitching Season), Deva Fagan (Fortune’s Folly, The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle), Angie Frazier (Everlasting), and yours truly.

Toadstool Bookshop
Lorden Plaza, Milford, NH

So that’s my week of excitement. Hope to see you somewhere along the way! Oh, and here’s another Ray Bradbury quote to tide you over until Wednesday: All my life I’ve been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn one over and say, yeah, there’s a story.

Books of Wonder and Places of Sanctuary

I get to hang out at one of my favorite bookstores this Saturday in an author-like fashion!

First things first, because otherwise this update will get buried in the post below, but this Saturday, 6/12, I’ll be visiting Books of Wonder to take part in a panel on YA and MG fantasy along with Neal Shusterman and Scott Mebus. The event takes place from 12-2pm, and looks to be a lot of fun–we’ll be reading and taking questions, so now I’m debating: what part to read? For anyone who hasn’t already read the book, this will be a meaningless question, but if anyone out there has (and there are at least twenty-five of you that I know for sure have, so speak up), what are your thoughts? So far I’ve read the first part of the story of Old Tom, ending right before the contest with the devil actually begins. I was also thinking it might be fun to read either the phrenology demonstration from the Nostrum Fair, or, for something a little creepier, the scene from Jake Limberleg’s consultation wagon (although that last scene does include something of a small spoiler). Anybody want to voice an opinion?

And now, a visit to the Odd Trails.

(If you’d like to skip the paragraph of reminiscence that follows, please do so and scroll directly down to the slideshow below. I won’t hold it against you.)

Among my favorite things to do is drive and look for interesting places. When I was growing up near Annapolis, my family used to take a day now and then to get in the car and go driving in search of…well, whatever we happened to find. Sometimes we had a plan of sorts, but more often we’d just pick a direction and meander. We’d stop if we saw a big old antique mall or a flea market; we’d follow handwritten signs to find a boat for sale somewhere down an unpaved road that took us an hour south of where we’d left Route 50; we’d detour to take a ferry crossing because why not, it’s a ferry! and take off our shoes and walk along the beach until the boat showed up to take us across to pick up the drive on the other side. I still love driving around looking at stuff. The longer I live in New York City and find myself rushing to get everywhere and feeling like I must make the best possible use of every moment of the day, the more important it seems to me to stop doing that every now and then and just let the road take as long as it wants to get me where I’m going.

Last week after the book signing with the unspeakably awesome Leah Cypess at Pandemonium Books, I stayed overnight in Sturbridge, Mass. The next day I found a listing on Roadside America for the Good Time Stove Company, and trusty Google Maps indicated about an hour and a half drive from my hotel in Sturbridge. According to the company’s website the shop was open by appointment or chance, so I called and left a message and not five minutes later, Mr. Richardson called back to say I certainly could come by, and to suggest that I hurry over so that I could take a proper look before it rained.

It took me about two hours of totally beautiful driving, but I got there. When I did, I met Sara, the Stove Princess, who in turn took me to meet her father, Richard “Stove Black” Richardson, who literally stopped his day to take me on a tour of what turned out to be one of the most amazing places I ever hope to visit: next to the Stove Company is the Richardsons’ home, and behind that is the Three Sisters Sanctuary, which Mr. Richardson has been building with the help of local artists and artisans for over two decades.

I am not sure how to begin to tell you about this place, or about the family of which it is part. I spent easily two hours there, more than half of which Mr. Richardson spent with me, showing me around the Sanctuary and telling me the stories of how it came to be, what inspired this part or that, and of particularly memorable moments that occurred there. At one point, it did rain very briefly, and we stood side by side under the umbrella I’d bought for a dollar a ways down the road while he continued his tales. Once the shower passed, we sat on huge rocks that just happened to be perfectly shaped to serve as easy chairs and chatted beside a grassy ampitheatre.

The place is magical to begin with, but the fact that the artist would take so much time out of his day to share it with a perfect stranger who just happened to be passing by really brought it to life. And, as if by design, my cell phone simply would not work while I was there. There was nothing to disturb the harmony of the place, except my utter disgust that I had only a little point-and-shoot digital camera with me rather than an SLR. I would’ve sold my soul at that point for my second-hand Canon and some reversal film. Still, you get the idea.

Rather than trying to tell any of Mr. Richardson’s stories, I beg you to go yourself if you can, and ask him how the Sanctuary came to be. Call ahead so that you can be sure it’s open that day. I promise it will be well worth the trip.

This Wednesday at Pandemonium; BEA; and Some Very Important Questions

Updates! I gots ’em!

This Wednesday, I’ll be signing at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, Mass with Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

I just finished Mistwood yesterday, by the way, and it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll do a Subway Literature post on it after the signing, but in the meantime, let me just say I read it in what would’ve been one sitting if I hadn’t had to work this weekend. It follows Isabel, herself a creature of legend in the world of the book: she is the Shifter, a preternaturally powerful bodyguard/assassin/adviser to the King of Samorna. The Shifter sometimes leaves the court, but always returns when her King requires her protection. Isabel is called from the Mistwood, her home and place of strength, by Rokan, a king with reason to fear for his throne. There’s fast-moving intrigue and several really excellent twists, and Isabel is a stellar character. I’m going to stop myself from saying more until after the signing, but I definitely recommend it. So come by if you can, this Wednesday, 6/2, at 7pm.

Pandemonium Books & Games
4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Last week, Book Expo America came to NYC.

I wasn’t able to attend the first day (bummer and a half, because there were some panels I would have loved to have had the chance to attend), but on Tuesday night I stopped by the Steam Salon at Madame X in Soho to hear readings from Felix Gilman, George Mann, Catherynne M. Valente (recent winner of the Andre Norton award for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I loved desperately), and Cherie Priest. No, I did not wear the very cool veil I made in order to turn my dress into an appropriate costume–I took it with me but then I kind of wussed out (I’m not very good at costumes)–but I did get to meet Cherie, who was completely awesome, and who didn’t seem to think it was weird that after a couple scotches I felt it was really important to give her a giant thank-you hug (or maybe two) for being so cool about the title fiasco.

On Wednesday I made it to BEA for a video interview with a very nice woman from Amazon and the “Speed Dating” event with children’s librarians and booksellers, which was a bit of a blur but a lot of fun. Wednesday night Nathan and I stopped by Books of Wonder, where several tween and teen authors were reading. I will admit we went mainly to see Cory Doctorow. We’re both huge fans, but I particularly wanted to meet Cory to say thank you for his beautiful review of The Boneshaker on BoingBoing.net. We also picked up his new YA, For The Win, which I read in two days (although this required some ignoring of Nathan, which he has still not forgiven me for). Then on Thursday I had a chance to really wander around the main floor after lunch with Jeri Smith-Ready (whose awesome new paranormal YA Shade launched at the beginning of May) and Sarah Beth Durst (a finalist for the Andre Norton award for her gorgeous fairytale retelling, Ice). Jeri and Sarah had attended the entire conference, and considering I felt pretty brain-dead after my one event, I have no idea how they were capable of holding conversations by that point.

BEA is seriously overwhelming, and I don’t get the impression this is just my perception as a first-time attendee. Next year I will have a bit more of a plan in place. For one thing, that trade floor is absolutely made for a scavenger hunt. Filing that thought away.

Oh, another cool thing happened, during but unrelated to BEA. I got a message from a former co-worker that she’d spotted this in AM New York, a free daily newspaper, on Wednesday:

See it? There on the right hand side? Here it is, a little closer:

And now, as promised, Some Very Important Questions, in honor of the Pandemonium Event, from my oldest little brother, Buddy Chell.

Buddy Chell: If you were leveling a Blood Elf Mage for PvE play, would you spec him/her as a Frost Mage, Fire Mage, or Arcane Fire Mage?

Kate Milford: Good question, Buddy! While being a Frost Mage sounds wicked cool, I think I would feel obligated to spec him/her as an Arcane Fire Mage because the town in my book is called Arcane. On the other hand, being a Frost Mage would probably give me greater personal satisfaction, because Nathan hates the cold and I think I would feel very powerful if I could cast some awesome Frost Mage badassery at him to annoy him whenever I wanted.

(Nathan Milford, from across the room: Good luck. I would cast Ice Barrier at level eight and absorb only 3% of the damage, assuming Kate could really roll against my armor class and hit THAC0. She’d need a d30. *laughs maniacally*)

BC: What level Jewelcrafter are you? Can you transmute epic gems?

KM: I am a level two Jewelcrafter, master of crafting from antique shrimp forks and camera parts. No, I can’t transmute epic gems, but I can beat up any of those lame Jewelcrafters who make stuff out of yarn and elbow macaroni. Take that, kindergarteners.

BC: How many heroic dailies do you run?

KM: Okay, what the hell does that even mean?

(NM: I always live by my old dungeonmaster’s motto: We are armed to the teeth for your protection.

KM: How is that relevant?

NM: It’s relevant because it’s awesome.)

BC: Do you prefer to tank or be dps as a feral druid?

KM: Tank is a verb? Other than in the sense of, man, I tanked my history final? I prefer not to tank history finals. I prefer not to be involved in history finals. What’s my other option? Feral druid? I pick that one.

BC: How often do you hang out in Goldshire pwning n00bs?

KM: As often as possible. Nothing else gives me satisfaction like pwning n00bs, especially in Goldshire. It’s my favorite place to pwn them.

(NM: Psh. I pwn n0obs in Ravenloft. In the mists of Ravenloft. In the mists.)

BC: Whats your guild’s name?

KM: The Yankee Clock Peddlers. Because trust me, nothing is more intimidating or sinister than a Yankee Clock Peddler. Seriously. Look it up, n00b.

And there you have it! I will be available to answer further questions this Wednesday. In the meantime, I leave you with this, which I couldn’t help but be reminded of. Happy Memorial Day!