Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Call for Funny YA

In January I will be teaching Directed Reading at the Whidbey Island MFA. Last year I taught crossovers YA<-->Adult, but my students got very depressed. So, I decided to teach funny YAs next.

John Green's writing is always excellent, and The Fault in Our Stars has some funny scenes. Still, both main characters have cancer and their situation made me cry.

I've read Flip by Martyn Bedford and Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber.  I have ten others in my list. However, if you have written a funny YA, please, let me know. 


Summer reading

I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked this summer (perhaps this fall?) but these were my favorites over the past few months:
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is a middle grade novel about a boy with severe physical deformities who is beginning his first year at public school. Told through multiple perspectives, it follows his year and shows how his life and the lives of those he encounters are changed.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, is about a boy whose mother is chronically ill. A monster comes to help the boy, but not in the manner he expects. This is a powerful book that looks truthfully at all the emotions that arise when faced with a loved one's death.

Stupid Fast is a YA novel by Minnesotan Geoff Herbach. With a distinct first-person voice, the book narrates the summer of teenager Felton Reinstein where his mother has a nervous breakdown, he experiences first love, and he suddenly finds himself jock material. I believe this was also one of John's recommendations earlier this year.



I have vivid memories of books I never laid eyes on—books I never held in my hands. Instead a parent or teacher read aloud while I curled in a lap or rested my head on a classroom desk, the reader's voice transporting me into another world.

This summer my reading all related to curriculum development, but in moments snatched here and there, I listened to stories on the radio. My favorite programs are "This American Life" and "Radio Lab." On "Fresh Air" I fell in love with an author whose responses to Terry Gross's questions were filled with humor, insight, and humility. I was struck by his honesty, his willingness to reveal himself. Listening to his voice, I longed to be his friend.

I did not attend the 2012 Summer SCBWI Conference in LA, but I recall reading a quote from Arthur Levine's speech. Arthur spoke about a book from childhood he kept returning to because it is “infused with authentic feeling and creates an intimacy between author and reader that is timeless.” Arthur delivered his speech on August 9th and was quoted in social media within moments. I listened to that Fresh Air interview on August 10th. It hit me that a kind of intimacy was exactly what I was feeling with this author. Unfortunately, Terry Gross's interview was a rebroadcast of an earlier interview. The author, David Rakoff, had died from cancer the night before, the same day Arthur delivered his speech. Though I had only just discovered Rakoff, I felt as if I knew him and now I experienced a real sense of loss.

Rakoff's most recent collection of comic essays, Half Empty won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor. It's on the top of my reading list. Until you get your hands on the actual book, treat yourself and listen to the Fresh Air interview and then some of his many, many stories on This American Life.


Summer Reading

This round is about books we read over the summer. I tend to read in spurts. After I finished the draft of my fourth novel and sent it to my editor, I then read voraciously for the next two weeks. One book after another. Ah, it was fantastic;) A few of the books that really sucked me in:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

The next book:

 The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

I loved where this book took me. I didn't want it to end.

This next one was a galley I picked up when I went to my editor's office in New York. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is
the sequel to "Cinder", a futuristic re-telling of Cinderella. Scarlet continues the story, only adds that of Little Red Riding Hood, in a way...I really enjoyed it and can't wait for the third installment...

And currently I am reading a book which so many people have told me that I must read. So, if you need me in the next couple of days, I'll be reading this: