Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CAMO GIRL, Interview with Author, Kekla Magoon

CAMO GIRL, Kekla’s tween novel, just out with Aladdin, is the story of sixth grade outcast Ella. Ella finds herself caught between her old best friend Zach, who is increasingly lost in a fantasy world, and a beckoning popular crowd. Her dilemma: she can only fit in if she leaves “Z” behind.

This story is notable for what you chose to leave out as much as what you included. Can you speak to that?
Yes, I left out Z’s official psychiatric diagnosis, and the name of Ella’s skin condition, which created camouflage-like lighter and darker patches on her face. Her POV was such a close one, that I didn’t think it was realistic for her to know Z’s diagnosis. And it wasn’t crucial to the story that I focus on the nature of Ella’s skin disorder. I preferred to concentrate on the ways that kids deal with trauma. Thus, the title CAMO refers to her skin’s light patches; but also to the ways that Ella hides from her budding social life, and how Zach uses his fantasy world to avoid working through his family trauma. Even Bailey, the new boy, who helps Ella take a chance on getting to know the popular kids, has a secret he’s hiding from. *no spoiler here!*

What theme in CAMO GIRL would you most like kids to come away with?
The feeling of self-acceptance, coming to terms with both your strengths and weaknesses. Also, I’d like kids to consider what it means to be a friend: it may mean keeping a friend’s secret, only to reveal it in time. Ella thought that keeping Z’s secret was helping him, but she learned that it ultimately hurt him by preventing him from getting treatment. Also, by remaining “loyal” to him, she stilted her own social growth. Kekla has vivid memories of the tension of trying to straddle two groups, who did not necessarily like each other. That’s why she jokes that this novel could be called How to Choose a Lunch Table.

Regarding humor, I love the feisty grandma. How did you think up her awesome name?
Funny you should ask. I was on a road trip and brainstorming with my friend about what I should name her. I sprinkled Splenda in my coffee, and read the label out loud. My friend said, “Sounds like an old lady’s name, but you’d never name the granny that.”
“Oh, yeah?” I replied. “Watch me!”

Are you more of a realistic fiction author or what?
I’m writing for the child that I was, who wanted to know more about how to negotiate the real world. In that sense, I’m a writer of realistic fiction. I realize, though, that fantasy also describes the real world, in allegorical terms. So who knows? I may try my hand at another genre if it’s the best vehicle for my theme.

What’s up next for you? And how can your readers stay updated?
I have two books coming out in 2012. The first is a YA with Holt, called 37 THINGS I LOVE. The second is FIRE IN THE STREETS, a middle-grade companion book to THE ROCK AND THE RIVER, (ALA Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award) published by Aladdin. Please stop by my website to say hello and get updates at:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get your writing on

5 Authors. 5 genres. 5 awesome writing exercises.

Check it out, and discover Sympathy for the Devil, The Guiness Book of You, 1k1hr and other exercises and bits of writing advice:

Write on,


Monday, January 10, 2011

Are words to blame?

After the horrific killings in Arizona this weekend, and the near-fatal wounding of Congresswoman Giffords, the media is a-twitter about how incendiary language may have created a climate that led that troubled young man to buy a 9mm Glock and use it so disastrously. While I think it's hard to draw a direct causal relationship here, I do agree that the language of violence that has infiltrated American politics is, to say the least, very inappropriate. Sarah Palin's battle cry, "Don't retreat, reload," is the clearest example, and of course much has been made of her gunsight map that names Giffords as a target. Did she want people to go out and shoot political opponents? Quite doubtful. Was she careless and even irresponsible with her language? Most certainly.

Now Representative Robert Brady (D-PA) wants to make the use of language or symbols that could be seen as inciting violence against lawmakers a federal crime. I wonder, though, is this going too far in the opposite direction? How do you prove that language is inciting violence? Where do you draw the line? While I agree with him that the tone of our national conversation has gotten way out of hand, this sounds like the kind of law that could be abused by a paranoid or oppressive government. I don't think our government is oppressive now, but who can say what American will look like in 20 years? Could we become a nation with our most outspoken protesters locked up for their choice of words?

What do you think? What, if anything, should be done to curb the hate speech so carelessly bandied about by our "rogue" politicians? Should it be up to elected officials, or should the voters take the reigns on this one?


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Adventure Mantra 2011

Soon it will be 2011, an entire decade from the maelstrom of 9/11. The creator of facebook has been crowned man of the year. Email is rendered uncool, as it's all about texting, apps and iPads. The economy is creaking uphill, and the book industry is in a chaotic swirl. As Vampire lit is trending out, Aronofsky's luminous film, Black Swan cements the trending in of magic realism, and the subsequent blending of horror and magical realism. Conan's back, and his holiday set has been designed by a freaky New Agey guy living in the California desert and sporting a beard and a shalwar kameez.
Life in the good ole US of A. Weirdness, color and adventure.

Which brings me to thinking about dreams and wishes for 2011. I'm not really interested in New Year's resolutions, as they tend to be dropped after a couple of weeks. I'm thinking more along the lines of an overarching dream.

Adventure! Go places that fire up your imagination and inspire your writing. For me, that's traveling to places less familiar to Americans. For me, it was India, Russia, and now China. In 2011 it may be Istanbul. Take a notebook and fill it with sketches, ramblings, observations.

Pamper yourself between stints of hard work. Go for that massage, that spa visit, a day hike, a leisurely bike ride with friends.

Make a new writer friend. Have lunch, dinner, or a cuppa joe. Establish a pen-pal back and forth. Exchange ideas!

Subscribe to a foreign online paper. The Shanghai Daily? The Guardian? Expand your tight circle of where you get your info.

Make a gratitude list of all of your accomplishments of 2010. Don't fall into the trap of thinking about what you didn't accomplish. For a warning on this, check out Kelly Hashway's great post on Finding Balance:

Above all, don't take yourself so darn seriously! Have fun with what you do.

Seek adventure, take calculated risks, and more adventure! That's my mantra of 2011.
What's yours?

I'll think of you all fondly when I'm standing on the Great Wall of China, and freezing my ___ off as the Mongolian wind roars over the mountains. Cheerio!

Monday, December 20, 2010

book giveaway!

Today was our very first snow here in Boston. I find writing in the winter particularly satisfying, because I don't have that feeling that I should be doing something else. Are you kidding me? It's freezing out there! Why not stay home in my cozy socks and sip tea? As long as I get some work done, of course.

And work is exactly what I have ahead of me. If the draft in my bag at the moment is any indication, there are global revisions on the horizon. This is enough to give me a writerly crisis, but as it is a holiday-ish time of year, I'm trying not to stress about it. Too much. Where will the doubt and worry get me? Nowhere. Just wound up like a peppermint twist by the time I actually sit down and work on my new draft.

As a distraction from my current writing woes, I've got a book giveaway to share with you! To enter, follow my blog at it's new home: I'm giving away Lauren Strasnick's new novel, Her and Me and You; The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle; and, of course, signed copies of The King's Rose and The Blood Confession. I plan to send the books out next week, after the holiday rush. Please check it out.
I'll be sure to blog again soon about my revising (rewriting) adventures. Until then: deep breaths. Cozy socks. Lots of tea.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Demise of the mega-bookstore?

Barnes and Noble and Borders are both reporting troubling numbers. B&N seems to be holding on just barely, but Borders is closing yet more stores. I was talking to another writer friend of mine, and we had some interesting thoughts about why this might be happening, beyond the looming bugaboo of e-books.

I've always thought it strange that, even though young adult books are the fastest growing and most lucrative genre going right now, Barnes and Noble stores dedicate comparatively little space to this genre. Fiction for adults takes up easily more than three times the room, even though YA novels sell like hot cakes, and not just to the target audience. Lots of adults read YA too. Seems as though B&N isn't quite keeping up with the trends in the marketplace. What's more, they stock a very limited selection of YA novels, dedicating huge amounts of shelf space to best selling writers and very little to the well-reviewed midlisters. So a voracious reader might easily exhaust the selection at the local B&N and instead resort to ordering books online, or going to the library, where there is a wider selection of quality writing.

My friend also had a very interesting thought. She feels that the larger stores neglect regional needs. There are plenty of writers, like her and me, who are very well known in their own geographic region because we tend to do events near our homes to cut on travel costs. Word gets around about local novelists, and people go to their local bookstores looking for their books. But try to find one of our books at the local B&N or Borders and you can't. So all the benefit of the publicity we do regionally is lost on the megastores, and the slack is taken up by independent bookstores (and more power to them) as well as online sales. 

Ask any ten readers about the threat of e-books to the printed tome, and the majority will tell you they are too attached to the sensory experience of holding a book. The smell of printer's ink, the feel of the rough paper under our fingertips --they're part of the pleasure of reading. Perhaps these megastores should stop looking at the scary boogie man outside their doors, staring through their windows with digital eyes, and instead focus inwardly on improving how they go about peddling that ancient technological innovation: The good old book.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thrilling Holiday Gifts for your Author Friends

The holidays are fast approaching and you need to find those perfect gifts, including ones for your writer friends! Susan Kaye Quinn’s fun post on her Ink Spells blog about holiday presents for writers got me inspired to research and think up more great gifts.

You could buy your special author friend a party dress made entirely out of paper—specifically, out of phone books, designed by the awesome Jolis Paon. What a cool way to recycle! How about a gift certificate to a day spa for a massage, focusing on your writer buddy’s troubled neck. Or what about a tropical cruise? Neal Schusterman, the YA thriller author swears by cruises, and says that’s where he writes his best novels! Does your friend like jewelry? What about custom jewelry for writers? Tickets to hear your friend’s favorite author speak will, no doubt, be appreciated. A chocolate keyboard? Or simply some random keys? If your beta reader has a philanthropic streak, you could donate money to his or her favorite scholarship fund., for instance, funds Freedom to Write and prison writing programs. Or you could donate to an scholarship fund, such as the work in progress grant for a needy author. A gift certificate to your friend’s fave indie bookstore is always a sure bet. Does your friend like to entertain as well as write? Then how about a great authors coaster set? Cups that say “Be careful or you'll end up in my novel” are always conversations starters. Finally, for the fanciful cook or writer of historical fiction, you could always gift a digital Medieval cookbook, with recipes from 1390, some from Richard II’s own kitchen!

What is your dream present? Any other great ideas to add to the list? Feel free to list as many as you want! And don’t get too distracted by putting up the tree and making sprinkle cookies to keep on writing!