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Monday, April 30, 2012

YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes: Season Two

Welcome to the Tokyo Heist stop (the Land Sharks leg) on the YAmazing Race!

You're on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes, a blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. There are prize packs galore, featuring ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), gift certificates, swag, and more! This contest is run by the Apocalypsies, a group of young adult, middle grade and picture book authors with debut books coming out in 2012. If you haven’t yet been to the Apocalypsies website and you want to run the race, please click here to start from the beginning and read the complete contest rules.

The race runs from 12:00 noon EST May 2 -- noon EST May 8. Please don't start until we give the official word on May 2.

This is season two of the race. If you ran in January, don't worry; we have fresh quiz questions to test your memory, and fresh debut authors participating.

Now on to the race! Here's a snapshot of Tokyo Heist. You'll need this information for the quiz ahead.

Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means getting out of her hometown of Seattle and taking a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late.

Got all that? Great! Store it away for the quiz!

Oh wait -- quiz! Hey, this is the LAST stop of the Land Sharks leg , so if you're ready to take the quiz, you can click here now!

If you'd like to linger here and catch your breath, you can enter my bonus contest. I'm giving away one signed hardcover copy of Tokyo Heist, which I'll mail out on release day, June 14. This contest is open internationally.

Click on this Rafflecopter thingie below (where it says "read more" if you don't see a white box) to enter. Good luck!

Read more »

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pulitzer Puzzlement

I'm feeling a little down about the whole Pulitzer Prize thing. If you haven't followed this story in the news, what happened is this: on Monday the Pulitzer Prize Board announced that there were three finalists for the fiction prize . . . and no winner.

This confounds me. While I've mostly been immersed in reading Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction in the past couple of years, I still keep tabs on what is coming out in adult contemporary fiction, and I try to read what I can. There are so many exciting voices out there, so many important American novels. It's just incredible to me that out of 314 books surveyed and three finalists -- David Foster Wallace, Karen Russell, and Denis Johnson -- no winner was awarded.

I always look forward to the annual Pulitzer Prize announcement. A few years ago, shortly after my son was born, I made it a personal goal to read every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written in the past twenty years. It was ambitious, especially given the length of some of the novels. I chewed through eight of them before my son gave up his lengthy naps and I lost my luxurious reading time. But I will never forget that magical time when my son napped and nursed and I let myself be transported through books and ideas. Reading Pulitzer Prize winners one after another at that time in my life was the perfect antidote to the often mind-numbing work of caring for an infant.

Outside of that time period, I've always enjoyed the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels and am grateful that the award brought these books and authors to my attention. These tend to be books that I buy to keep; they occupy prime real estate on my shelves. 

One of my favorite novelists, Ann Patchett, said it best in her Opinion piece for the New York Times the other day:

"Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps. . . . The Pulitzer Prize is our best chance as writers and readers and booksellers to celebrate fiction. This was the year we all lost."

You can read Ann Patchett's article, "And the Winner Isn't . . . " in full here.

You can read the list of past Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists in fiction here

What do you think of this issue? Do you think literary awards are important today? Why or why not? Have you ever discovered a new author or fallen in love with a book -- in any genre -- because it won an award? 

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rock the Drop 2012!

Today I'm celebrating Teen Lit Day by participating in Rock the Drop! Rock the Drop was started by Readergirlz, a literacy and social media project for teens. It's now also supported by the fantastic teen community writing site, Figment.

For Rock the Drop, participants leave YA books around their community -- libraries, cafes, bus stops, schools -- wherever we think teens might stumble across them. Then we post a picture of our book drop to the Readergirlz Facebook page and tweet about the drop with the #rockthedrop hashtag.
If you'd like to rock the drop, visit the Figment or Readergirlz sites for more information, or feel free to use this handy dandy bookplate to print out and insert in your own books. And if you're a teen looking for books, happy hunting! They're out there!

I'm skulking around and dropping off five books around my community today. Inside each one is this bookplate, as well as one of my bookmarks and a note. Each donated book comes wrapped in exclusively manufactured, high-quality TOKYO HEIST crime scene tape. If you found one of my book drops, I'd love to hear from you!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Boston GLOW Ignites Change

One of the best things about this writing journey so far has been emerging from my writing cave and connecting with other people through a shared love of the written word. So I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of words to connect people, and I've been thinking about the importance of voice.

Last night I had the privilege of meeting ten amazing young women with very strong voices. I was a judge for the GLOW Boston 2012 Ignite Change Essay Contest, along with fellow YA authors Hilary Weisman Graham, Lauren Morrill, Gina Rosati, and Gina Damico. All ten finalists were honored at an Awards Banquet at Maggiano's Restaurant. The prizes the girls' received included scholarship money, books, and -- for every girl -- a brand new netbook. Each finalist was also paired with a writing mentor to personally help her in the process of realizing the power of her own voice. You can read more about all of the finalists here.

Boston GLOW stands for Girls' Leadership, Organized Women. The mission of this small but mighty nonprofit organization is to foster opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active, engaged world citizens. The IGNITE Change Contest, which began in 2010, encourages teen girls to find their voice and make a call for change through writing. This year's essay contest asked them to describe a problem in their community and come up with an actionable plan for solving it.

As a judge, I was impressed by the creativity of the ideas and the passion behind them. The girls wrote about a diverse range of topics, such as emotional bullying, domestic violence, and self-esteem issues. They discussed girls' mentoring groups in schools, programs that might offer mothers a chance to recharge and regain their sense of self, and the need for more books in libraries featuring girls and women of color. Solutions were articulately, persuasively presented. I came away from the essays feeling hopeful, knowing that girls were wrestling not just with these problems but with potential solutions. That hopeful feeling was compounded last night as I sat among the young authors, in a room buzzing with energetic conversations. As I watched each girl step up and be honored, and as I met their proud families and friends, I felt that the future was in that room. Change truly begins with ideas and words, words ventured on paper and then shared with a wider audience.

YA author A.C. Gaughen is one of the key organizers of GLOW, and I'm so grateful to have been invited to read these essays and to meet so many inspiring and powerful women!

How do words connect you to other people? How do you think reading and writing can ignite change?

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