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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Little Free Libraries: Crackdown??

A Little Free Library in Seattle, WA
So as if there's not enough yucky news in the world right now . . . I just learned that some neighborhoods are cracking down on Little Free Libraries, of all things.

Little Free Libraries --tiny houses for a select number of books in public places -- have been sprouting up in neighborhoods around the U.S. since 2009. Built on the give-one-take-one principle, these miniature, uncurated libraries provide a great way to recycle or acquire used books. They are great community builders, too. They help put books in the vicinity of children and combat illiteracy. As bookstores have shuttered and regular libraries reduced their hours, the Little Free Library movement has been gaining traction.

So apparently, politicians in various towns and cities (Los Angeles, I'm looking at you . . . ) are considering these to be "illegal detached structures." They are requiring permits or threatening to tear them down.

Seriously? 

Yep. Here's an article about it.

And another.

I'm glad to report that there is a neighborhood where Little Free Libraries are thriving and, so far, unthreatened by bureaucracy and city zoning laws! In Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle, WA, there are NUMEROUS Little Free Libraries. On my visit there last week, my family and I went for a walk and found six within a several-block radius. Here are some pictures I took. We all found books and magazines to read and donated some of our used ones. My seven-year-old took a special delight in running to the little structures and seeing if anything new had shown up.

If you find these in a neighborhood near you, I encourage you to donate. Or why not start one yourself? The Little Free Libraries website has some great suggestions about how you can start or register a library, as well as how you can support this movement in lots of interesting ways!

What's in the Little Free Library today?




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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How Book People Can Help Ferguson Youth

It's the day before Thanksgiving. As I sat down in my local library this morning to collect my thoughts and write an upbeat Thanksgiving-themed post, I found myself distracted by images from the news I'd seen last night and this morning. Images of protestors in Ferguson and in cities nationwide, including here in my own city of Boston, where 45 protestors were arrested last night. Instead of writing, I began scrolling through news feeds on my phone. As often happens during times of national crisis, natural disasters, or other all-consuming events we hear about in the news, I felt uninspired to write an upbeat blog post, and also utterly powerless. I am dismayed by this week's grand jury decision. But what can someone like me do to help? How and where can I direct my energy at a time like this?

Then I remembered I work with words, and people in the book world -- particularly in the kidlit community -- find creative modes of activism in times like these.

So I shifted my search terms and got different news, different images, and some fresh avenues of activism and hope. I'm now giving thanks today for librarians -- especially for the Ferguson Public Library -- and for kidlit activists, whether they are authors, librarians, booksellers, or readers. In the links I'm sharing below, I hope you'll see why. And if you too are feeling powerless and hopeless in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision, please remember:

1. Reading is a powerful act of empathy.
2. Libraries are sanctuaries.
3. Kids in Ferguson and elsewhere right now need stories of hope for the future.
4. Every voice matters.

A round-up of links, and things you can do:

Here is an inspiring article published on Salon.com yesterday about the Ferguson Public Library, which has stayed open even when other public places, including schools, have been cancelled during protests. An ad-hoc school was created there, and teachers volunteered to teach classes at the library. Teen events are being held. A book drive, run in conjunction with Powells Books, has generated an outpouring of donations, particularly books for young adults that focus on social activism, peace, community building, and healing from trauma.

The Ferguson Public Library is accepting donations through PayPal on its home page. I donated; it's a fast and easy way to support the library's ongoing efforts to stay open, when it is safe to do so, and provide a sanctuary for the community, particularly for young people.

Author Joelle Charbonneau started an initiative called Hope Through Stories, authors uniting in support of students in Ferguson, MO. If you're a children's book author, get in touch with Joelle about sending a signed copy of your book to the library. As Joelle puts it, "Let's show the students of Ferguson that there is hope in each and every story. They still have their story to write."

You can follow @FergusonLibrary on Twitter and learn more about what they're doing, and read an interview with director Scott Bonner.

You can buy a book online from Left Bank Books in Saint Louis, Missouri; their Angel Tree Book Drive hopes to get donations of 300 books, one for each student in Ferguson's neediest elementary school.  (Thanks YA author Fiona Paul for this news, and the link!)

You can follow #KidLit4Justice on Twitter.

Do you know of other thinks or other ways people in the book world can help out? Please share them!


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Book Bazaar in Sherborn, MA


I'm excited to visit The Writer's Loft in Sherborn, MA for the first time on Saturday, December 6, 1:00-4:00. I'll be participating in their holiday book fair with 20 other local children's book authors. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public. If you're in the area, come join us for book chats, signings, and holiday shopping, and learn about workshops and other programs going on at The Loft!


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Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Book Trail

Welcome to the first top of The Cemetery Trail!

HBT14-The-Cemetery.jpg
This is the first ever Halloween Book Trail, featuring your favorite YA & MG authors! This blog hop is based on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes presented by the Apocalypsies in 2012. In THIS trail, you’ll find all kinds of posts, and discover new authors and their work.

How do you play? Every post contains information that will lead to killer prizes! Books, swag, Skype sessions, locks of hair (jk, jk)! At the end of each blog you’ll find a link that will take you to the next stop in the trail. By the end, you’ll find a quiz. Now you’ll be happy you read all the posts! Submit your entry to the quiz for a chance to win a grand prize! Accuracy matters here, so take your time, or go back and refresh your memory! One quiz entry per trail. 

And thus ends the standard introduction to the trail that you will see at every way station on this trail. 

If you've stumbled across this post in error (or in horror) and have no idea who I am, here's a bit about me!

I write YA novels featuring globetrotting teens and international intrigue. I guess you could also call them travel mysteries. My first book, TOKYO HEIST (Viking/Penguin, 2012) is about a teen manga fan who goes to Japan to hunt down some missing van Goghs, and gets entangled with the Japanese yakuza in the process. 

My second novel is an investigative thriller called LATITUDE ZERO (published in July of this year, also by Viking/Penguin). It's about a girl named Tessa Taylor who causes a massive bike crash on a charity ride while "bandit riding" with her bike racer boyfriend. The crash leads to the death of a hot young pro-cyclist from Ecuador, whom she happens to know because he and her boyfriend once raced on the same team. Tessa struggles with grief and guilt  . . and then finds some clues that suggest the cyclist's death might have actually been a murder, caused by somebody else. Going undercover as a volunteer for a bicycle advocacy group, Tessa travels all the way to Ecuador to uncover the truth. With the help of her bike mechanic friend, Marisol Vargas, she races to solve the crime before she becomes the next victim. 

My third book, BLUE VOYAGE, takes place in Turkey, and will be out Fall 2015.

And now, for my Halloween-themed post to kick off the Cemetery Trail!

No pressure or anything. 

Argh. 

Okay. I confess. I may not be the best person to kick off this blog hop. See, Halloween and I aren't really the best of friends.

We have Issues. Big Issues.

As far back as I can remember, I was the queen of Lame Costumes. Costumes that somehow missed the mark, elicited confusion, or inadvertently caused bodily harm to others. 

When I tried to make my costumes out of stuff around the house, or cardboard, they ended up falling apart as soon as I got out the door. The year I was an owl, all my magnificent paper feathers fluttered off my Hefty bag skin, leaving a trail of construction paper and a kid dressed up as, well, a Hefty bag. Another year I was a gypsy, with a crystal ball that promptly shattered, and since it was cold that year and I wore a ski jacket, I just looked like a kid in a ski jacket.

When I tried to accessorize, I chose poorly. One year I was a hobo. I wore a tattered sports coat, baggy pants, shoes with split soles -- all good -- but I carried my trick or treat bag, a kerchief, tied on the end of a fishing pole. This pole then stabbed people in the face or eye every time I said "thank you" and turned to go. One elderly man lost his eyeglasses because of my hasty move with said pole.


"So what are you supposed to be, anyway?" people asked me at a sixth-grade party, puzzling over my white tunic and cape and white face makeup. I think I was Indecision that year, torn between ghost and vampire, fusing my two ideas last-minute and pulling off neither one of them.

Meanwhile, my younger sister was the Halloween Queen. She had the most creative ideas. Like a robot that actually had a circuit board that lit up, which she actually engineered herself at the tender age of six. Another year she was a eucalyptus tree, wearing her koala backpack. She emitted a vague eucalyptus odor, and I believe she had healing properties and could stop coughs from ten feet away. Another year she and a friend went as half-cheerleader, half-football player, each of them vertically divided from their face makeup all the way down to their footwear. She thought of the best disguises and pulled them off effortlessly.

As I got older, my costumes only got worse. I gave up Halloween for a bit in high school, after a disastrous experiment with red food coloring as hair dye (think blood dripping down face). Then I tried again in college, at a party. "So what are you supposed to be, anyway?" people asked me. "A Shadow of my Former Self," I replied, feeling abstract and witty as I fluttered my gauzey sleeves. I guess a bunch of people dressed up as Blank Stares that year, because that's mostly what I remember.

I have, however, come to realize where I am best at the art of disguise. Not on Halloween night, but in the pages of my books. I think I had the most fun in coming up with costume ideas in LATITUDE ZERO, where my heroine must go undercover and dress to avoid attention from spies and stalkers. Most of the time, she's successful, even when she has to plunder Ecuadorian crafts markets and her host family's closets to find clothes to alter her appearance. I've come to realize I really do love the art of the costume, but I'm best without the pressure of one night a year to pull out all the stops -- and I'm better at using words to dress up my characters. This realization has taken the pressure of Halloween off of me, after all these years.

Well, almost. Because now I have a child, who starts planning for Halloween in April, and who'd love for me to make him a home-made costume. But I know better. I will not inflict the same curse of the costume on my offspring. That's why I order his costumes from Target.


For the next stop on the Cemetery Trail, visit KATLYN DUNCAN, at http://katlynduncan.blogspot.com/2014/10/HBT14.html

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Boston Teen Author Festival 2014

Next stop: Boston Teen Author Festival! This will be my third year at BTAF, and it's been exciting to watch this amazing event grow every year. On September 27th, 25 YA authors will converge on the Cambridge Public Library for a day of panels and book talk. There are giveaways, signings, a zany Q&A session with all the authors, and this year -- for early arrivals -- there will be a free writing workshop! If you're a YA fan in the Boston area, and if you're a teen in the Boston area, we'd love to meet you! 

I

I'm thrilled to be part of this "Criminal Minds" panel -- check out my partners in crime!


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Friday, August 1, 2014

Where I'm Going, Where I've Been . . .

With apologies to Joyce Carol Oates for playing with the title of her classic short story (which has nothing to do with the actual content of this post), I thought I'd take a moment to catch up here, since I seem to be everywhere but on my own blog these days! I'm mostly busy ferrying my young son to various summer activities and amusements, but in between, I've managed to work on revising my third book, Blue Voyage, and to get out for some fun Latitude Zero events. I've also left a few signed copies of Latitude Zero (and Tokyo Heist) in my wake, so if you're interested, you can pop by any of these Boston-area stores or give them a call -- they'll happily ship signed copies.

Where I've Been . . .

So since I last posted, I've been to . . .
  • Buttonwood Books (Cohasset, MA). This was such a fun panel event with writing pals A.C. Gaughen (The Lady Thief), Leah Cypess (Death Sworn), and Wendy Wunder (The Museum of Intangible Things). We had a great crowd, at least half of which were teen girls! This made us SO HAPPY. It is hard to get kids out to bookstore events in the summer -- believe me, we know we're competing against the beach and any number of activities. (We might kind of want to be at the beach ourselves). But these girls came out on a gorgeous evening, asked really sharp questions, and were just an absolute pleasure to talk with. So were their moms. Thanks, Buttonwood, for a great event!! (And a few signed copies of all our books can still be found there!) 
    Buttonwood Books panel (L-R): Wendy Wunder, me hanging on A.C. Gaughen's every word, A.C. Gaughen, and Leah Cypess. (Thanks Kevin Gaughen & A.C. Gaughen for letting me swipe your instagram shot; please don't sue me!)
  • Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA). Guerrilla booksigning. They kindly let me sign their stock and didn't ask me for ID. So signed Latitude Zeros are there for the taking! (Well, buying, not taking. You know what I mean).
    Signed copies at Brookline Booksmith! Bonus sticker! So cool!
  • Barnes and Noble (Burlington, MA). Guerrilla booksigning. Quite a few signed copies there, in the "New Teen Fantasy and Adventure" section, front and center!
    Keeping good company at Barnes & Noble!
I've also been lurking about online, and can be found on these excellent blogs, both of which offer giveaways of a signed Latitude Zero -- in case you're strapped for cash, you can swing by and take your chances here!
  • I Am a Reader. I'm guest posting about research and novels that inspired Latitude Zero, and there's a giveaway on there for a signed copy.
  • Gina Damico's blog. My author pal Gina has a brief interview with me, in which I talk about Latitude Zero (shocker!), as well as coffee, the national bird of Ecuador, and SpongeBob. If you're sick of hearing me yak about Latitude Zero, at least do yourself a favor and swing by Gina's blog and read it, all the archives, in its entirety, yes I'm serious, because it's brilliant and funny (just like her novels) and I guarantee it will leave your head in a different place when you stop. (And that's a good thing).
Where I am going . . . 

Next week I'm off to NYC!!!! I'll be at the Jefferson Market Library on Wednesday August 6, 6:00 PM, in the Teen Author Reading Night. Here's the line-up:

Patty Blount - Some Boys
E. Lockhart - We Were Liars
Elisa Ludwig - Pretty Sly
Diana Renn -  Latitude Zero
Lindsay Ribar - The Fourth Wish
Amy Spalding - Ink is Thicker Than Water
Mary G. Thompson - Evil Fairies Love Hair

If you're near NYC, come out and join us!

(Um, is anyone actually in New York City in August? Anyone? Anyone? . . . .)

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Odyssey Bookshop Odyssey

This past weekend I had a fun road trip out to one of my favorite independent bookstores: The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA!

On the two-hour drive from Boston--I purposely took the longer, scenic route--I started to contemplate how despite my penchant for writing about far-flung travel, this trip to the Odyssey represented a kind of homecoming for me.

My alma mater, Hampshire College
In the 1990s I went to college at nearby Hampshire College, in Amherst. I lived in South Hadley one summer when I had a job that kept me in town between semesters. And the Pioneer Valley--home to the five-college consortium of Hampshire, Amherst, UMass, Smith, and Mount Holyoke--was where I spent much of my time learning to be a writer. I was an English Major, not a Creative Writing Major, but I wrote countless stories in college; while some kids hit the gym or the hiking trails for stress relief, I holed up in my dorm room and pounded out story after story. And I was a voracious reader in college, even outside of work for my classes. I haunted all the local bookstores and libraries, and spent hours discussing books with some of the smartest readers I've ever met -- friends I have to this day, with whom I bonded over books.

I hadn't been to the Pioneer Valley for about ten years, when I went there once for a bike ride and whizzed past my old life at high speeds. I really haven't spent any significant time there since I graduated college. So as the winding roads and lush rolling hills led me into Amherst this weekend, I felt a swell of mixed emotions. In college, I'd been filled with uncertainty. I'd had a tenuous financial aid package and a hefty part-time work schedule that made my existence there semester to semester quite precarious. I'd had a huge course workload; I doubled up on classes and graduated in 3.5 semesters to save money. I'd had fierce ambitions to write but crippling anxiety about how to realize those ambitions. I was too scared to take creative writing workshops and share my work with teachers and mentors who could have helped me along. I imagined I was taking the safe route, majoring in English and starting a path to grad school and to becoming an academic, but in fact I'd been embarking on a dead-end road for me: a path to unhappiness in grad school and highly uncertain job prospects in academia. I'm sure my fear and my impulse to play it safe set my writing goals back a decade, at least.

I arrived early for my event and spent some time walking around my old campus, remembering what it was like to be there at various stages of my college career. If I had to do it all again, I would have taken those creative writing workshops and availed myself of the abundance of talent in the five-college area. I would have been open about my writing ambition and made more connections. I would have turned my dreams into concrete goals much sooner. But I have more peace of mind than regret. I think the learning environment at Hampshire, and the culture of the five-college area, did help to form me as a writer. And I remembered, powerfully, how by the time I graduated, I had the goal to return some day to one of the area bookstores (now not in such abundance, sadly) as a published author.

So when I walked into the Odyssey Bookshop, I felt an incredible sense of satisfaction. It's wonderful when life gives us chances to loop back into time and reconnect with a goal. It really has been an Odyssey for me to get back into that store after all these years.

I had such a marvelous time talking about YA fiction with my fellow panelists, talented authors Terra Elan McVoy (IN DEEP) and Gillian Murray Kendall (THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS). Thank you, Odyssey--and the wonderful audience who came out on a warm July night--for making me feel at home!
Terra Elan McVoy, Me, & Gillian Murray Kendall


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