Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Look, Do You Want This, or Not?

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 11.05.12 PM
Dear jeschas,

When I was something that lived in the 80s, I used to listen to Everybody Wants to Rule the World and daydream about one day being grown up and famous. I’m only vaguely grown up now, but I’m only vaguely famous, too, so that’s all right.

One will never get famous surfing Pinterest or Tumblr.

This is how I get myself to my writing place: I take myself there and I do the work. Sometimes I picture it as a movie. Sometimes I narrate it to myself. Sometimes I play music. Sometimes I write it longhand; sometimes I do it standing on my desk; sometimes I recite it out loud to myself while driving in the car. Sometimes I scratch it into my hand whether or not I have a pen. I do whatever trick I think I have to take this abstract thing and turn it into a concrete thing.

 Here’s the thing about being a writer, or a musician, or an artist, or any sort of creative person. The ones who make it are the ones who make themselves do it. They’re the ones who practice even when it seems like they aren’t getting any better. They’re the ones who open up their work-in-progress when their friends are going out hey-are-you-coming-with-us — even if they know that thisnovel is not the one that will be good enough to get published, because they know that practice is the only way to get to the one that will be good enough to be published. They’re the ones who send out query letters and hear no and they send out more query letters and they hear no again and they send out query letters and they hear no again. They’re the ones that hear no as not yetand nothing is ever a failure, it’s only a complicating plot point in the arc of their life. They’re the ones who realize that there’s no point tricking your way into publication, because the point is to write something other people fall in love with; that’s what being a successful storyteller is. They’re the ones who are hungry for it. No, they’re the ones who are starving for it.

They’re a little unhinged.

Everyone else is everyone else.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On Being Quite a Character

question for stiefvater 
Dear bleep-blop-bedroom-pop,

When I was a small and angry child, I used to pass my time in a variety of creative pursuits: making masks out of paper plates, writing stories with names like Bone at the Pound*, making paper dolls of my family, digging up the entire side yard and terraforming it into a miniature mud-and-stick village for one inch tall inhabitants, and grooming my terriers into the ridiculous shapes that the American Kennel Club mandated for show-readiness.

*this sounds like it should be the kind of fanfiction one can easily find on Tumblr, but I swear it was actually about a dog actually at a facility for lost animals.

The creative activity I’d like to call your attention to is the making of paper dolls. There were many iterations of these over the years. The early ones were fanciful and looked nothing like my family, the middling ones looked precisely like my family, and the final ones merely used my family’s faces for models. By the time I got to the last set that I can remember — a rather elaborate extended family entirely appareled in clothing accurate to 1910-1920 — I had learned to use what I could from reality and invent the rest as it suited the greater good.

This is how I tend to think about the concept of putting yourself into a novel. My early novels were about characters who looked nothing like me, the middling ones were characters who accidentally looked too much like me, and the final ones occasionally had characters with a quite strong and intentional resemblance to myself in them.

The important word in all of this is intentional.

You can put as much or as little of yourself into a novel as you would like so long as you are aware of what you’re doing and are able to make yourself into an actual character, not merely a biased facsimile of yourself. This can be a harder task to accomplish than it sounds; we humans are not very good at being objective about ourselves. It’s far easier to steal someone else’s life or personality and realize which parts you can edit out because they aren’t useful to the narrative. It’s also far easier to realize why someone else might be the way they are. Oh, you say to yourself, it’s obvious that this other person has developed an aversion to authority because of the influence of this other person in their childhood! Far harder to search your own soul and realize why you are the way you are — to realize why you have your most basic guiding principles. The analysis, which you’ll need for creating any character, asks for a somewhat awe-inspiring level of self-awareness if you’re talking about stylizing yourself.

You also need to be able to chuck the parts of you and your life story that don’t serve the story. It doesn’t matter how important they were to your life. If they don’t fit the story, out they come. If you aren’t able to think of yourself as a character, to stylize, to shape yourself into narrative, and if you aren’t willing to edit and change that character until the youness may indeed be unrecognizable, don’t do it. Save it for your autobiography (mine will be called EVERYTHING MUST GO: THE MAGGIE STIEFVATER STORY).

The final thing I will say is to be certain you are making only one character into you, otherwise you’ll end up with an entire paperdoll family bearing your face and they’ll all look the same when you dress them up in their World War I uniforms for that riveting game of Let’s Play Everyone Gets Trench Foot.

Also, I suggest changing your name, unless it really is an autobiography. Otherwise everyone will say, “Bleep-blop-bedroom-pop, did you base bleep-blop-bedroom-pop on yourself?”



Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pip Bartlett April/ May Tour Dates

I'm delighted to be creeping closer to the release date for Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, the middle grade project I've written with Jackson Pearce.

pip bartlett interior shot

Early reviews have been lovely:

Publisher's Weekly says: "Fantasy fans will delight in Pip’s humorous adventures in a world whose mix of the magical and the modern feels like a gentler cousin to the ones featured in the authors’ respective YA books."

 Kirkus says: "Stiefvater outdoes herself in the illustrations with portraits of hopelessly cuddly Griffins, Grims and other generally fearsome monsters sporting big, winsome eyes. Stay tuned for more hilarious ructions. It's a distinct change of pace for two authors better known for intensely romantic teen fantasies, but they carry it off with aplomb."

Barnes & Noble says: "A superlative series starter from the winning pair of Maggie Stiefvaster and Jackson Pearce. Editor's recommendation."


Jackson & I will be touring for a little over a week when it comes out, hitting up some of my favorite bookstores. A few of them have times to-be-determined, but the dates are final:

4/28: University Book Store, Seattle, WA 7 p.m.
4/30: Powell’s Books, Beaverton, OR 7 p.m.
5/1: Barnes & Noble, Portland, OR 6 p.m.
5/2: A Children’s Place, Portland OR 1 or 2 p.m. (Time TBD)
5/4: Barnes & Noble, Layton, UT 6 p.m.
5/5: Provo Library at Academy Square, Provo, UT
7 p.m. 5/7: Wild Rumpus Books, Minneapolis, MN (Time TBD)
5/8: Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN 6:30 p.m.
5/12: Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, GA: (Time TBD)

Even though Jackson & I are better known for our YA projects, these events are going to be focused on delighting 9-12 year olds — there'll be drawing and animal talk and a dearth of swearing. I'm happy to sign my YA stuff in line, as long as you've also bought a book from the store to support the venue, but the content of our talk and the questions we take will be for the kids. Those of you hoping to see me for my YA stuff, I'll be headed out later in the year after THE RAVEN KING releases.

Those of you who can't make it to a tour event but would desperately like a signed copy for the urchin in your life, know that I've once again paired up with Fountain Bookstore. Every copy they sell will have this bookplate signed by Jackson and I:

 Pip Bartlett Bookplate 

And every copy ordered before the US release date of April 28th will also have a doodle from me inside it. The link for that is here

 (It'll be exciting to be back in Utah without a broken car)

Friday, January 16, 2015


Today, I got a few advanced review copies of Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, my joint project with my friend Jackson Pearce. And also: my first book illustration credit. Lover galloped into the room with the package and waved my drawings in front of me. It felt pretty marvelous to see it in person.

 pip bartlett interior

pip bartlett arc pip bartlett and maggie stiefvater  

 (it's for the 8-12 age group, officially) (it comes out April 28th)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Critique Partner Love Connection

It's time for some hook-ups. Namely, the 2015 Critique Partner Love Connection.

As many of you already know, I have two critique partners (Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff) whom I love dearly. For the last 6+ years, they've read everything I wrote before my editor ever got a look at it. Tessa and Brenna critique, suggest, support, and mock whenever I need critique, suggestions, support, or mockery. Our critique group is the result of a long search — I went through numerous writers' groups and one-on-one readers, and always felt that the edits were missing something. I wanted to be critiqued, and yet I never wanted to act upon the critiques I got. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to find critique partners who enjoyed the same sort of story-telling that I did; critique partners who weren't always suggesting that I turn my novel into the sort of novel that I didn't want to write. Also critique partners who communicated in the same way as me — we do everything via gchat, informally, without structure or rules.

So. I found Tessa and Brenna by posting a match-up exactly like this one, and every year since then, I've done a match-up for others to use. In the years in between, other resources for crit partners have appeared on the internet, and I keep thinking I'll stop getting requests to post one here. If anything, the requests have multiplied. Possibly it's because the most difficult part of the critique partner search remains the task of finding a human who enjoys the same sorts of story-telling as you — maybe the mere fact of having me in common maybe takes some of that odiousness away. Whatever the reason, I keep getting asked, so here it is.

Here are the rules, such as I ever have rules:

STEP ONE: Post a comment saying the age range (adult, YA, MG) of your project, a brief, one-sentence blurb about your book (or just the genre if you don’t want to share more than that), and whether or not you have an agent, etc.*. Also include the last book you read that you loved and also the book you feel epitomizes you as a reader. If you write in a language other than English, include that info with the language in all caps so it's easy to find while skimming the comments. Finish with a way to contact you.

*You don't have to include the agent/ publication information unless it's important to you to find a critique partner who is also agented/ published. I was agented/ published when I met Tessa/ Brenna; they were not. It depends on the sort of support you're looking for.

STEP TWO: If someone else in the comments sounds like a possible match, send them a message saying so and find out if it’s mutual. If it is, exchange the first 50 pages of your manuscripts, critique them, and return said critiques. If either of you doesn’t feel like the crit relationship is working at that point, you get to smile and say thanks and walk away without any questions asked. This is VERY IMPORTANT. This ability to shake hands and part ways without hard feelings is the reason why this process works. Sometimes it takes a few exchanges before you realize it's not a good match. Don't feel pressured into sticking with each other — remember that this is honest speed dating and a 'not for me!' is not a rejection based upon merit. 

NOTE: I myself am not looking for critters. Two partners is enough for me — I can’t keep up with anymore. I recommend definitely two or three partners for best results. That way when someone says “this sucks!” and someone else says “does not!” you can be the tie breaker. But if they both say “this sucks!” and you say “does not!” it means you’re wrong.

FURTHER NOTE: I don't read the comments, really. My imaginary assistant Halfred and I monitor them infrequently only for spam-deletion purposes.

I'll be mirroring this post on my website, Facebook, and Tumblr, so check the other comments there as well.

It delights me when writers come up through my signing line and let me know they met their critique partners through me. I can't imagine writing professionally without Tessa and Brenna, so it's nice to think I can pay that forward. Happy hunting.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stiefvater Does Colorado

The plan: tour for Blue Lily, Lily Blue for two and a half weeks, then fly to Colorado for a family vacation over Thanksgiving.

The tour: Kansas City (whoo!), Toronto (yay!), Miami (TAKE MY BODY MIAMI JUST TAKE IT)

The backstory: Every moment that I wasn’t speaking to readers on tour, I was texting Lover. (ME: “IF YOU REALLY LOVED ME YOU WOULD GET ME A DATSUN FOR MY BIRTHDAY” LOVER: “I’d get you a Datsun if I thought that was what you really wanted. But I don’t think you really want a Datsun. I think you’re just hungry.” ME: DATSUN DATSUN DATSUN”)

The trip: I flew from Miami to Denver to meet my family at the airport, where we would begin the 6.5 hour drive to our Durango rental house. “We have to make one stop before we leave the Denver area,” Lover said, as we departed the airport in two rental 4wds. “I’m sorry.”

I could not be upset. I had the keys to an enormous rental Tahoe, I’d just plugged my iPod into the sound system, and I had six hours to drive my mother, sister, and daughter completely insane with my music. There was nothing wrong with life.

In fact, just a few minutes out of the airport, my sister said, “Look! Look, what is that!”

I glanced to where she was pointing. The sun had just split through the heavy cloud cover to shine on an access road next to the highway:


Behold! A DATSUN. Surely this was a good omen for things to come, even if it was brown.

A half hour later, we’d arrived at Lover’s scheduled stop, a suburb of Denver. Lover directed us to park on the curb, then he had me get out of the car.

"Go ring that man’s doorbell," he told me.

I got out and rang the man’s doorbell. Which was how I found out that Lover had bought me a Datsun for my birthday.


I hope you’ve all learned an important lesson: if you text your spouse 57 times in as many minutes, you can persuade him to do anything, including pull the trigger on buying a car so you don’t have to.
We had to leave the Datsun behind — it is traveling safely on a truck to Virginia, nowhere near Colorado snow — before continuing to Durango. If you have not been to Durango, please be aware it is grotesquely beautiful. The entire state of Colorado should be illegal.

Anyway, we sat around in the beauty for a day, and then we drove to Moab, Utah, to drive rental Jeeps around the desert.

ME: Mom, you should come.
MOM: Oh, I don’t know. Will it be jolty?
ME: It’s just desert. It’s just Jeeps.
MOM: I don’t even like driving around the farm, because of bumps.
ME: It won’t be bad! Come on! We promise! IMG_6272

I’m not sure if you can see the Jeep in that photo. It’s right in the middle. It’s that thing pointed down.

Can you see the road in this picture?


It is the dark bits. It’s more obvious if you are following someone, like a Lover or a sister.


See this face?


It is a brother saying “Whoo!” and thinking “Sorry, Mom.”


Lover is pleased to have not rolled his Jeep and is also thinking “sorry, mom-in-law.” He took a video of me coming down some rock, but the glare of the sunlight off my grin makes it hard to see anything besides my world-destroying joy. Anyway, the point is that there’s not much better than being on top of the world and knowing you crawled up there while your mother hyperventilated in the back of one of the Jeeps.


Sorry, Mom, but it was sort of the best day of my life. Back in Colorado, we continued the theme of Things That Go by riding on the old Durango steam train.


That was all right, too, but it would’ve been better if I was driving. And finally we went to see Mesa Verde, which was staggering, but my photographs do no justice, so google it and then go see it yourself.


Will I be back to Colorado? Of course. I’ll be back next year to do more location research for my post Raven-Boys project (CODE NAME darknovel). I don’t know if there will be Jeeps or trains, but I would not be shocked in the slightest.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures

Well, this is weird and cool to finally do: ta da! this is the cover of Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, coming out 4/28/15. I co-wrote it with my friend Jackson Pearce, a process more fun than work has any right to be. But also: this is the first book I’ve ever illustrated. Way back when I was a starving artist, I dreamed of being a children’s book illustrator, and years and years ago, the first business cards I ever made said BLUE GRIFFIN ILLUSTRATION on the top. It seems revoltingly fitting that my first book illustration credit should be for a blue griffin.

Here’s the description: Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town.


And if you’d like to win two of my original pieces, all you have to do is share the cover and then post the link of where you shared in the rafflecopter.

Details for that here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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