Monday, March 29, 2010

You'll Put Your Eye Out

Tomorrow or Wednesday I'm going to do a proper post about Bologna and Italy and Squids, but as I'm hurriedly finishing up a story for a deadline today and also profoundly jetlagged and also had one eye for much of the day, just a quick post now to say that you should never, never touch your eye.

Because if you touch your eye or scratch or rub it, especially when you are in a foreign country, it might suddenly turn bright red, get really itchy, and then get really painful. And did I mention red? You might have to seek help from the Italian healthcare system at midnight and find that what you heard about most Italians knowing a little English is definitely not true. And you might find yourself filling a prescription for a drug that neither you nor the doctor really understands. You might be told that you have to keep your contact lens out of that eye, because it will make your eyeball into a petri dish. That will make walking and sight-seeing difficult, as your uncorrected vision is 20/900 or -9 diopter. And one eye will act as a telescope and the other as a blurry Monet painting.

Then you will find out that you have to wear glasses because you have to wait for the Eyeball Ulcer to heal. You will go find glasses, and in your attempt to look punk and cool, will look Scholarly, Respectable, Thoughtful, and ultimately Librarian. You are happy to be mistaken for possibly one or two of these but all of them is hard to bear. Still, these things happen.
My New Glasses Make Me Into a Librarian
My New Glasses Make Me Thoughtful
My New Glasses Make Me Scholarly
My New Glasses Make Me Into a Librarian, the sequel

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Bologna, Nobody Eats Condoms

So I am slaphappy and posting live from Bologna, Italy! After spending two days meeting publishers at the Book Fair, staying up until 11 eating good food with great people, I have discovered a few things:

1. Apparently, there is no word for "Linger" in many foreign languages. Such as Dutch. The Dutch never stand still, apparently, and therefore have no need of the word. This makes translating the title of "Linger" into Dutch complicated. Likewise, the Croats do not linger either. Stay tuned. 

2. In Italy, according to our fearless driver, red stop lights are "opinion, not fact."

3. Some words have multiple meanings. Scholastic, aware that I'm allergic to preservatives, kindly got someone to translate the phrase "I can only eat food without preservatives" into Italian. They warned me, however, as they taught me how to say it, that the Italian word for "preservatives" is the same as the word for "condom." So that I should be careful how I look when I say it.

Thanks. So everyone will know I can't eat food with condoms, which is pretty true of most people, I think.

However, that said, I haven't had to use the phrase, as Italy is pretty darn preservative free and I'm sort of enjoying this walking-into-a-restaurant-and-eating-anything-I-want-watching-my-waistline-expand thing.

So that is the news from the front. More to come. I am off to do things involving cocktails and Shaun Tan. Oh yes I am.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pre-Order Signed Copies of Linger

Oh! oh! I forgot.

Fountain Bookstore will have signed copies of Linger that they can ship anywhere in the US and Canada, and you can pre-order them here.

Rather Belayed Butt-Kicking On Being a Writer

I know I promised a butt-kicking back on Monday, and I was hoping to do a more involved one, but as I am being slowly devoured by Bologna preparations, this will have to suffice. I will warn you in advance that I will be slooooooooooooooowww at replying to comments (I have a bit of a backlog already, but I'm workin' at it, I swear).

So. That said. I wanted to talk about how creative people work, how they play, how they manage their time. It's something that's been weighing on my brain lately because I have been full time at this now for about a year, and my bestest writing friend Tessa Gratton just went full-time as well. Before that I was full-time as a portrait artist, so I sort of knew what I was getting into, time-management-wise. What I didn't realize would be challenging would be scheduling time to live.

I know what you guys are thinking. You're thinking I'm talking about time to watch TV, kick back and read a book, sleep, go to movies. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about time to live, to have experiences, to have something to write about. I don't mean that my next book is going to be autobiographical. But I do mean that as long as I sit in my office all day long, either writing or answering e-mails or composing blog posts, I am drawing from the same pool of life experiences that informed my last book.

And this is what I wanted to blog about. If you are a writer, it is just not good enough to be only a writer.

I think it's why some authors say that they intentionally hung onto their day jobs. It's not that writing is a lonely profession, exactly. It's just that, after awhile, if it's all you do, it's like those pictures of snakes eating their own tails. You will mine the same experiences and character interactions until finally, they are done. We're observers of the world, writers, and we can only make so many biscuits out of one batch of dough.

Would you look at the number of metaphors in that paragraph? 

Anyway, it's why I tend to leave the house when I get stale. Go somewhere, do something new, see someplace different. Something that will feed me. It's why I'm a writer, yes, but it's also crucially important to me to keep being a musician, a composer, an artist, a mother, a wife, a dog-walker, a fast driver, a nature-lover, a horseback rider, a -- fill in the blanks. Everything that I do other than writing, things that are me.

Because here is the other point of the post: being a writer is not really being anything at all. It's like saying that you're a talker. An observer. Yes, you may be able to do it very prettily, but really, my writing is my way of processing things. My storytelling is a way of forcing structure on top of something that is chaotic. It is not me, my desire to write. It's a byproduct. The words I churn out are the dirty oil that keeps the gears running. And if that engine is never run, the oil stays exactly the same. If the gears don't move, you don't need the oil at all.

So be a writer. I'm proud to know many. But be something else, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ew, my Short Fiction is Up

I got completely involved in about one thousand pre-Bologna projects today, so butt-kicking post to follow tomorrow. I'm only just now posting my slightly ew short story up at Merry Sisters of Fate. I'd be flattered if you checked it out. :)

(if you do check it out, leave comments over there. Pretty please)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In Which Facebook Eats My Soul

Okay, not really.

But I did find out today that Facebook caps off friends at 5,000, and I'm getting sorta close. As in, if readers keep adding me at the same rate they have been, I'll hit it by April. So I PANICKED and then CALMED DOWN and then HAD TEA and then found out that if I had a fan page, I could have unlimited friends (and also add more content.)

So even though I'd been avoiding having a fan page as it sounds really, really egotistical, I now have one. And I won't be deleting the old, personal FB profile, but it won't get new content. So. It has extras like mocked-up covers, never before pubbed facts about writing SHIVER, a discussion board with crit partner hook-up, etc. And it's WAY easier to add info to, so it's gonna be good in the long run.

Here is Ze Link.


http://www.facebook.com/pages/Maggie-Stiefvater-Really-its-me/412830324465?v=wall


In case you are wondering.

I am contemplating writing a butt-kicking post on Monday. It's been awhile since I've done one and I have two people in particular that I would like to butt kick. Hmmmmm.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Final Call for Charlottesville Event this Weekend

A final reminder that I'll be signing at the Charlottesville, VA Barnes & Noble this weekend from 1-3 p.m. On Saturday. I always get a bunch of emails after the fact saying "OH! I would've come if I'D ONLY KNOWN!" Well, here's my last reminder post.

Also, those of you who have sent e-mails, facebook friend requests, tweets, youtube comments, and commented on the blog and are waiting for a response, know that I have been doing writing lockdown today and yesterday and hope to play catch up in the next few days so I can feel unguilty about leaving the country (!) next week (!!) I have not forgotten you.

I leave you with one of my favorite Monty Python sketches about Thomas Hardy writing a novel. This is my life right now. Especially the doodle bit. And the crossing out every word he's written bit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Continuation of the Week's Theme of OMG . . .

So. . . I know I said on Monday I wasn't good at keeping secrets. And this is true, I'm still really impatient and want to give Christmas presents as soon as I get them. But, that said, I've had a lot of practice lately. I get great news, I freak out, and then I can tell nobody until it's official. (except maybe Lover, Tessa, and Brenna, because they are also good at keeping secrets on my behalf).

Anyway.

So I know this week's blogging has been sort of one OH HEY LOOK SURPRISE REVEALED! after another, but . . . uh, look at this: 


That would be Bologna (not my photo). As in, Italy. As in, way back in December, I got a phone call from Editor Mixtape. Like so:

Me: Yo.
Mixtape: Hey. What are you doing from March 23-26?
Me: I'm guessing the correct answer would be "nothing."
Mixtape: Correct. Want to go to Italy?
Me: #$%^ing Italy?
Mixtape: Yes, that one.

Turns out that that's when the Bologna Children's Book Fair is, when a ton of foreign rights folks all get together and talk in lots of languages to each other and sell books. And Scholastic wanted to know if I could come.

The answer to that question, in case you are ever faced with it, is "yes." Possibly with fewer swear words in front of it than I used.

So next week (holy cow, holy smokes, great fiery balls of smoking popcorn), right after the NYC Teen Author Festival, me and Lover are getting on a plane and going to Italy. ITALY. Where I'll be meeting several dozen of my 30 foreign publishers.

Thirty foreign publishers.

Sure, heck yeah, that sounds normal. I just happen to be living in this world where my book is being published in 30 countries and it's been on the NYT Bestsellers list for 30 weeks and I fly to Italy and the UK and people in the grocery store recognize my last name. Sure, that's normal.

Actually, what happens is that every day these things hit me like a bag of bricks and I can't believe it. That is what is normal in the Stiefvater household. My eyes bugging out daily.

So. Anyway. I guess I'm going to Italy. I actually never really thought this was even an option to want, back when I was writing SHIVER. Also, I never really thought I'd be the sort of girl able to not talk about something like this for almost three months. Guess all kinds of surprising things are going down.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly Anthology CoverSo I should also mention that I am going to be in an anthology -- the first one I've agreed to. The cover went live yesterday and it's pretty darn lovely, so I feel compelled to share. It's a companion to an anthology called The Eternal Kiss, which sported an equally lovely cover and was all vampire stories.

I do not do vampires.*


*I also don't write about people who do.

However, this anthology is not exclusively vampires -- it's paranormal snogging of all varieties, and that I can get behind.

Here are the authors:

Becca Fitzpatrick
Caitlin Kittredge
Karen Mahoney
Justine Musk
Daniel Marks
Diana Peterfreund
Sarah Rees Brennan
Michelle Rowen
Carrie Ryan
Maggie Stiefvater
Rachel Vincent
Daniel Waters
Michelle Zink

And my story will be angsty and will involve neither vampires nor werewolves. Just in case you're wondering.

And also, if you want to read short stories from me, I should remind readers once again that I post short stories once a month at www.merryfates.com and have been for some time -- in fact, for the first year of the blog's life, I was posting short stories once a week, along with my critique partners Tessa Gratton (BLOOD MAGIC) and Brenna Yovanoff (THE REPLACEMENT). So if you're feeling like short stories, there is plenty to chew on until this one comes out.

My, that is a fine cover. Okay. I'm done staring. Back to work.

Ten Rules for Query Letters

I completely forgot to post about queries yesterday, after I promised. I realize this makes me a Bad Person and you have my permission to throw Virtual Tomatoes at me now.

Okay, that's enough.

Here are my thoughts on query letters. Because it's early and I've only had one cup of tea, we're gonna go with numbers to organize things, because good holy pete, there is nothing like a numbered list to add order to a blog post. So.

1. People overthink queries. Okay, so they are the only thing that an agent or editor might ever see of your work. So they have to embody everything about your personality and your books personality in a single page. So you will get absolutely nowhere if your queries suck, no matter if you've written the Great American Novel. Still, people overthink them. And this is why. Because

2. Agents are people too. More importantly, they are not just any people, they are readers. So guess what -- the thing that makes you pick up a book is what makes an agent pick up a book. So therefore

3. Really, your query letter should read like the back of a book. Or the inside jacket flap or whatever. The bit that has the tantalizing description of the plot. A really effectively written jacket copy will tell you the tone of novel, the general premise, and probably a bit about the main players, and all in two paragraphs or less. What does this sound like - oh SNAP a query. But this is all good news for the aspiring query writer, because it means that there are lots of places to

4. Read good query letters. Where do you find these things, you ask? (cry, beg, plead) Which blogs? Which websites! which books! Well, now that you know that queries are really just awesome jacket copy, so the place to look is where there is good jacket copy. In case you do not know where to find novels, they are at these places called bookstores. Also, your shelves. Also, libraries. Also, Amazon. While you are there you will

5. Look at how succinctly successful book blurbs get across the main relevant points of the book. Each sentence does double duty, containing in its potent words setting and plot, or plot and character, or character and mood - just like in your novel. Oh, how hard your prose works for you! Even harder in this little blurb. A little game I like to play is called "sum up my novel in one sentence." The idea is to pack in mood, hook, and characters into one sentence. (SHIVER's was: "a bittersweet love story about a girl who has always loved the wolves behind her house and a boy who must become a wolf each winter.") If you can get it down to one sentence, a query is easy. Especially if you

6. Only include the relevant stuff. Relevant, I realize, is so subjective, but let's pretend we have two seconds in a grocery store line to a) sum up our book and b) sum up our qualifications to write said book. So side characters go bye-bye. Hook is king. Then voice. Then the finer details of the plot. If you're writing something more character-driven, voice is most important. Then hook. Get in, get out. Nobody gets hurt. And then, once you're done with the book (please remember to include word count, title, and genre), include

7. Only relevant stuff about you. Believe it or not, most everything about you is irrelevant. Oh psh, I know you're a speshul snowflake. So am I. But the point is, the reader is not going to care/ know about most everything about you, and so the agent/ editor doesn't care. If it's something the reader might know about, then it's useful. So if you are, for instance, Orlando Bloom writing your first YA, you can mention your acting career. If you are, as I was, a big art blogger, you can mention your blog statistics. If you have won some writing award that more than twenty people care about, you can include that. If you have short stories published in a pro market, go for it. There are lots of things that you don't include, however, because

8. No one cares if you're a rocket scientist, unless your book is about rocket science. If you save baby kittens in your spare time, jump burning buildings in a single bound, invented the concept of Mozart, made the first jar of mayo in the world -- it doesn't matter. Neither does the number of kids you have, where you live, what you do for a living, how long it took you to write this book, etc. Relevant. Err on the safe side. Because really

9. The only thing that matters is the book. If they don't care about your hook and voice, nothing about you will change their mind, even if you are the world's biggest pinball champion. Just: Sell. the. Book. Also

10. Follow the rules. Target the editors and agents that read your genre (www.agentquery.com will help with this). Keep it to one page. Don't use funky fonts, colors, animated smileys, pictures of kittens waving at the agent. Remember, it's about the book. The only reason why rules are in there are to keep from distracting the important part: your hook. Your voice. Everything else is just underwire in the literary bra of your query. Make it invisible and don't let it poke people. Okay?


Luke_vs_Vader_DS2

Monday, March 8, 2010

FOREVER (is how long it took to announce this deal)

2010 Author Photo, Batch 1Okay, it's weird that I can only announce this now, because the deal was actually made months and months and months ago last year, but now it's FINALLY official (and I always thought, for some reason, that I was bad at keeping secrets. Guess I am better than I thought).

This is the deal memo from today's PM:

Maggie Stiefvater's FOREVER, the final book in the bestselling SHIVER trilogy, plus three new stand-alone fantasy titles, to David Levithan at Scholastic, in a major deal, for publication summer 2011, by Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).


The longer one from PW:

David Levithan at Scholastic Press paid a sum the house described as “near seven figures” for world rights to four new books by 28-year-old Maggie Stiefvater. The deal, which Levithan struck with agent Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Agency, includes Forever, which will be the last book in the author's Shiver trilogy, as well as three forthcoming stand-alone YA fantasy novels. Stiefvater's current series, a paranormal love story that pulls a page from Romeo & Juliet with one twist being that the male object of affection is a werewolf* ** ***, kicked off with August 2009's Shiver; that title has gone on to spend 28 weeks on the Times bestseller list. Scholastic is publishing Linger, the second title in the series, in July, and planning Forever for summer 2011. Scholastic has also drawn strong foreign attention to Shiver, having sold it in 32 languages to date, and Warner Brothers has optioned the film rights.


AND I thought I was going to be able to tell you about what my next book after FOREVER actually was. Because I'm super excited about it and have been pretty much busting to talk about it since the deal was signed.

Only, turns out that's another secret too. I'm getting really good at these things.

Pretty much the only thing I can show you that you is my new unofficial author photos that I took over the weekend.

I know, I know. Does it make it any better that I'll be posting about query letters later today?



2010 Author Photo, Batch 1 square

*Another twist being that Sam's and Grace's families don't hate each other.

** Another, 'nuther twist being that neither protagonists commits suicide at the end.

*** Another, 'nother, other twist being that the only thing it has in common with Romeo and Juliet is that it involves teen kissing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

SHIVER eyeballs

I suppose it is possible that a photographic print more perfectly suited to Shiver has been taken, but I can't imagine how.

I just bought this, by photographer Ted Schiffman, at a art show. Look at those little plot points staring back at me.

ted_schiffman

Thursday, March 4, 2010

So, YA Literature Is Going Down the Toilet

I was recently involved in a sort of friendly(ish) debate in the comments of another blog and I decided in the interests of not hogging someone else's blog comment space, I would talk about my feelings over here.

The debate was sort of two-fold. Basically, the other commentor said that readers under 17 were being "literally robbed" because the quality of YA fiction was so poor. And then he lamented that great classics like The Secret Garden would be overlooked today because of the quantity of crap out there. He was free with his examples of good literature -- The Secret Garden, of course, as well as Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, and Anne of Green Gables. Not so free with his examples of crap: Artemis Fowl, Lord of the Flies, and Catcher in the Rye.

I was left with three feelings:

1) I thought, probably, that this commenter was at least thirty-five years old. And not a big reader of contemporary YA.

2) The commentor's views, while pretty darn wrong in my opinion, are probably not that uncommon among those with ages not ending in the suffix "-teen."

3) I needed to rant about the injustice of said views.

So here they are.

I have to admit that, as a YA author, I have heard on multiple occasions the argument that today's young adult literature is inferior to the classics. Oh, for the days of Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden and even Winnie the Pooh! I have two things to say to that.

1) Stop being nostalgic, it's ruining your camera lens.

2) Yes, those books are great. They are also classics, which means that they are the select few which have survived the test of time. Shockingly, there are countless other novels published at the same time as these classics that you have never heard of. Why? Because they were not timeless beauties. Are we really comparing every YA novel published today against the Audrey Hepburns of the children's book world? It's not a fair argument. Like with like. Every decade we create a classic, but it's sort of hard to tell which books will stand the test of time until, you know, they do.

3) Not every book has to be a classic. I read thousands of books as a teen. Some of them were classics. Some of them weren't. This may be shocking, but I enjoyed them all about the same. I mean, I had my favorites -- (they were not the classics) but I didn't really dislike some books the way I do as an adult reader with all my literary baggage. I jhad books I loved, and books that I just read. Great and fine. That was it. It irritates me when readers talk smack about commercial books that were never meant to be high literature. Some books can be just entertainment, very much rooted in the mores of the era, and the integrity of literature as we know it will not go down like the Titanic.

My other argument I hear as a YA author is that YA is inferior to adult literature. That's it's dumbed down or shoddily written or lacks meaning.  Perhaps not shockingly, I also have a response to this.

1) Are we talking mainstream fiction here versus YA? Or are we talking adult genre versus YA? Or are we talking adult National Book Award winners versus YA? Because the great thing about the YA section is that we have everything shelved in one place: genre, mainstream, award winners, everything under one roof. Sometimes inside one book, actually. So you can find Jellicoe Road next to the Gossip Girls books. Award winners (and future classics, to my mind) right next to the "vapid" YA. Shall we stroll into the adult section of the bookstore? Let's grab The Help, shall we, and compare it to a mass market romance, something involving dukes and doggy style. What, you gasp? That's unfair? They're not the same at all? 

Le gasp.

2) So therefore, all of these things are true: YA is vapid, trendy, excellent, profound, worse than adult fiction, better than adult fiction, short, long, magical, contemporary, etc. Because YA has no rules. We have the great and the mundane right next to each other. And like I said, not everything has to be great. Just like a bookstore full of award-winning adult titles wouldn't satisfy every reader, neither would a store full of thought-provoking and sometimes difficult YAs. I would challenge those who thought that YA was not up to par to find an equivalent YA to their normal adult reading material, instead of just grabbing any YA off the shelf.

3) YA literature shouldn't be dumbed down. Period. Teens are perfectly capable of grasping nuance and subtlety and context -- they are baby yous, after all, aren't they, and what were you reading when you were 12? -- and they deserve better than that. That's all I have to say on that.

 
And finally, I get a lot of reader mail from apologetic older readers who confess that they enjoyed SHIVER despite being "long out of their teens." They clearly feel guilty about this. To this, I say:

1) I never felt guilty, as a teen, reading about adults. I also never felt guilty reading Watership Down, despite not being a rabbit.

2) Adults never seem to have a problem with YA when it's on the big screen.

 







In conclusion, I don't believe that YA literature is slowly going down the toilet. There are other things to worry about, like world hunger and text speak.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Three Pet Peeves About Zombie Novels & Movies

1) They don't figure out what caused the zombies.

2) They don't figure out how to cure the zombies/ make them go away.

3) They don't figure out how to keep 99.5% of the characters from dying.


That is all.

/end random
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