Hitting the Virtual Road

I just learned that my just-launched teen novel, All Good Children, has had a couple of very new reviews, including this one from Booklist (November 15, 2011 – which hasn’t happened yet but I didn’t make it up, honest):

“Austen writes with cinematic definition, driving the action with taut dialogue and unremitting menace. By alternating recognizable adolescent struggles with dystopian horrors, she makes the threat of totalitarian mind control all the more visceral….Action packed, terrifying, and believable, this entertaining novel will provoke important discussions about subservience, resistance, and individual freedom.”

This review follows Quill & Quire’s awesome accolades (“smart, polished novel” “imaginative and affecting” “emotionally engaging” etc., an entire columnful of compliments) and The Montreal Review of Books’ wonderful write-up that ends with the phrase, “Great literature is never limited by its genre.” (All Good Children being the “great literature” – score!)

Clearly this blog is no longer big enough for my ego. I’ll have to gloat on other blogs for a while. To this end, I’m taking my fall releases (the much-acclaimed All Good Children and my middle-grade comedy, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6) on a virtual tour.

Several bloggers have been kind and curious enough to interview me or ask me to guest blog over the coming weeks. Some of these bloggers are Library Thing Early Reviewers who received an ARC of one of my books. Two are fellow Canadians whose virtual paths have crossed with mine in our strangely-small big country. All of them are complete strangers who share a love of books and are willing to help spread the word on mine. I’ll do my best to answer their questions instead of just referring them to my reviews while I paint my toes.

Here’s where I plan to visit over the next several weeks:

November 10th: Cubicle Blindness (I’ll answer Krista’s thought-provoking questions about All Good Children.)

November 14th: Bookworm Lisa (I’ll guest blog about why I write for middle-graders, teens, and young children.)

November 17th: The O.W.L. (I’ll visit with Jill and answer questions of a 7th grade nature.)

November 21st: Tina’s Book Reviews (I’ll guest blog about getting lost inside a character’s head.)

November 24th: Just Deb (I’ll answer everything Deb throws my way and do a book giveaway, too.)

November 28th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers (I’ll answer a couple of questions to accompany a review of All Good Children.)

December 1st: 10 Stories Up (Lindsey will interview me about both my new books in a most insightful manner.)

December 5th: YA Books Central (I’ll join the ranks of YA authors with interviews on this hub site.)

December 8th: I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read (I’ll guest blog on some strange beliefs about writing for young adults.)

And that’s enough already. Virtual travel is exhausting. I’ll be so glad to get home, back to my Friday Fables and What’s New Wednesdays. (Both of which I hope to keep up while I’m away guest blogging, but what are the chances of that? It’s November, after all. I have the novel-in-one-month thing and the picture-book-idea-a-day thing, plus the polishing of my latest ms that’s past due, plus the research on my Roman Britain book-to-be. Oh, what the heck, I could squeeze in a fable here and there. But not today. Must wait till Friday. Alliteration is all.)

Book Launch Afterward (III)

In the audience at my own launch

Thanks to all the friends, neighbours, writers and readers who came out to the launch of my new releases on Sunday. It’s always touching to see so much community support, and it’s great to celebrate the birth of my new books, All Good Children and 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6.

It was, as always, a fun party that had lots of support. My local library provided the launch space in its beautiful varriere. (Thanks to Kayleigh Felice and the City of Gatineau.) My local independent bookstore admirably staffed the book table. (Thanks to Margaret Little and her crew of young assistants, and to Michabou Bilingual Bookstore.)
Students of Lord Aylmer Elementary School drew gorgeous Halloween pictures to decorate the walls at the launch. (Both books have Halloween scenes, so it was highly appropriate artwork.)
I supplemented the art with tongue-in-cheek displays on survival tips and dystopian fiction (and awesome review excerpts).
Anni at the launch

Of course, I read from my books. But then I quickly sat down and let my friend Anni del Sol take the stage with a couple of handpicked tunes to set the right mood for the books. Lovely.

Kids took over the craft table and made friendship bracelets and graffiti art. (Then they took over the refreshment table and ate fruit and baked goods.)

The party just kind of ran itself,  and I got to chat with an awful lot of people that I don’t see often enough. (I should have parties more often. Without having to write a book first.)
I heard the most wonderful comments at the launch, like how my book launches help “stitch a community together” and how I’ve inspired others to write their own books.
Now, that’s a party to remember. Thanks, everyone.

Book Launch – the Missing Fable

Book Launch Invitation

Writers, readers, book-buyers, teens and tweens in Canada’s national capital region on Sunday, October 30th, head over to Aylmer (Gatineau, Quebec) to celebrate the release of my two fall titles: 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, a middle-grade comedy from Lorimer, and All Good Children, a teen thriller from Orca.

The launch will be held at the Lucy Faris Library (115 rue Principale) from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. We’ll have a reading, live music, lots of snacks, crafts for the young and a graffiti wall for the rebellious. There may even be zombies.

You can read more about the books and launch on my website.

I could not find an Aesop fable about book launching, but I learned enough from my first launch (see my Afterword on the Walking Backward launch from way back in 2009) to make my second launch a stress-free party (see my Afterword II on the My Cat Isis launch from Spring 2011), and I figure the lost fable goes like this:

The Writer and his Book Launch

One day, Theognis of Megara met Simonedes of Ceos for coffee. “Coming to the launch of my new poetry collection?” Theognis asked.

“Will there be snacks?” Simonedes replied. “Drinks? Something to entertain my children?” “No,” Theognis said. “Just poems.”

“Will there be a small discount on the poems? A bookmark? A button? Perhaps an exclusive trailer to view?” “No,” Theognis replied. “Just the regular poems. But I’ll sign your copy.”

“Is anyone else going?” Simonedes asked. “Maybe a local singer? Fun friends? Other poets I can hobnob with?” “No,” Theognis said. “Honestly, it’s just me and the poems.”

“Hmm,” Simonedes replied. “I think I might be busy that day.”

And the moral is: It’s not all about you (even when it mostly is).

As a complete aside, my all-time favourite poem was written by an ancient Greek, Archilochus of Paros, who is described by the scholar Richmond Lattimore in the beautiful little book, Greek Lyrics (University of Chigaco Press, 1960), as an “amateur poet, driven by love and compulsion to record his hates, loves, friendships, and amusements. He also wrote beast-fables, apparently of the sort later assembled under the name of Aesop.” No wonder I like the guy.

And the poem? It is not known whether it’s a fragment or a complete poem, but it reads to me like a complete short poem (and saying so helps ensure that I am following UCP’s fair use guidelines in quoting the work as part of a comment upon it.) Here it is:

“By spear is kneaded the bread I eat, by spear my Ismaric

wine is won, which I drink, leaning upon my spear.”

(Archilochus of Paros, translated by Richmond Lattimore in Greek Lyrics, Second Edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 1960.)

That’s it. Seriously. That’s my favourite poem. Rilke’s Panther, Eliot’s Preludes, and (especially) Dylan Thomas’s Poem on his Birthday all come a close second, but they are much harder to remember. I bet Archilochus did a great launch.

Friday’s Fable: The Muse and the Writer

You may know the old fable, Hercules and the Carter:

A man was carelessly driving his cart along a road when the wheels sank so deeply into the mud that his oxen came to a stop.

The carter slumped in his seat and called upon Hercules for help, crying louder and sinking deeper every moment.

At last Hercules appeared in a fury at being summoned for such a small emergency. 

“Help me!” the carter cried. “I am stuck.”

“I will help you with these words,” Hercules said. “Get down from your cart, prod your oxen, and put your own shoulder to the wheel and push!” And away Hercules flew, leaving the carter in the mud.

And the moral is: Heaven helps those who help themselves.

That is a good old tale, but if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable The Muse and the Writer:

A writer switched on her computer, checked her emails, scrolled through her Facebook home page, read a few blogs, and finally opened a Word document and watched the cursor flash in the top left corner of a blank screen. 

The writer got up and put on a fresh pot of coffee. “I sure hope my muse visits today,” she thought.

The writer sat down, got up again, and called a friend. “My writing isn’t going well. Want to meet for coffee later?”

The writer sat down, got up again, and went for a long walk to the bookstore. “I’m writing a novel set in Roman Britain,” she told the clerk. “Well, I’m about to write one. I’m waiting for my muse.”

The writer went home and read two chapters of Roman Britain. She wrote a long blog post on writer’s block. She posted her Facebook status as “searching desperately for my muse.”  Dozens of FB friends commented and commiserated, and this kept her busy for a good hour.

Mid-afternoon, she met her friend at the coffee shop. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately,” the writer said. “I have all these ideas but they’re just not coming out on the page. My muse has left me. I need help.”

The friend was a little ticked off because the writer had been talking like this for weeks now, and the friend had a major funding proposal due in two days and she really wanted to talk about that instead of this stupid writer’s block business ad nauseum, because, honestly, it’s not like the friend woke up each morning with a burning desire to head to the office and make fundraising phonecalls, but you didn’t hear her whining about how she just couldn’t seem to talk to clients because the marketing fairy hadn’t been visiting lately, and if they were going to talk about things they weren’t doing regularly, there were more exciting things than writing that sprang to mind. Sheesh, these writers and their “Get out of work free” muse cards.

“Have you tried typing?” the friend asked. “Or picking up a pen? Have you tried switching off the internet and just sitting at your computer for maybe half an hour and putting something on the page?” And off she went, back to work, leaving the writer with her writer’s block.

Note to self: decrease coffee consumption; increase word count.

And the moral is: Muses visit writers, so you’d better be writing when one passes by or she will continue on her way.

Let’s not forget those sage words of the poet William Stafford: “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” 

Roman Britain here I come.

What’s New Wednesday…

My MG comedy, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6

No, it’s not Wednesday, but since I’m two weeks late in posting this, what’s another day for the sake of alliteration?

Usually I skip What’s New Wednesdays because not much is new. This time I had lots to post but couldn’t, due to a computer explosion. (Literally. A gel coolant exploded within the guts of my computer, oozing over the circuit boards. Take heed and back up your work.)

My YA thriller, All Good Children

I will resume my Friday Fables tomorrow. And I might add a Monday Must-Read to promote the great children’s books I’ve been reading. For now, here’s what’s new with me:

My two new novels have been released!

All Good Children is already getting great reviews all over the place. (I’m saving those for next Wednesday.)

Daimon reading 26 Tips

 And my son assures me that 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 is an awesome read. I had barely slit open my box of author copies before he was into it. He says it is the best book he has read all month. Aw, shucks.

I’ll be launching the books at my hometown library on October 30th (invitation to be posted on an upcoming Wednesday) and taking them on a blog tour in November (samesies – I won’t have to skip a What’s New Wednesday for ages!).

In the meantime, to kick off the SCBWI Canada East conference, I’ll be at Collected Works independent bookstore in Ottawa on October 14th, reading, chatting and signing books with other mostly-local authors and illustrators including Rachna Gilmore, Caroline Pignat, Ben Hodson, Alma Fullerton, Lizann Flatt, Marsha Skrypuch, Deborah Jackson, Kate Jaimet, and R.J. Anderson. If you’re in the area, come by and meet us.

That’s it for news today.

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