Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hello, it's James Kennedy. I'm the author of the YA fantasy The Order of Odd-Fish. This is my first post round these parts, but by no means my last.

So far on YA-Tribe we've seen some great posts and discussions about the future of publishing, the challenges of publicity, and technical aspects of writing. But the casual reader of this blog might think, "What do these writers do when they're not on the job?"

For me, the answer is simple. I spend my time entering contests that I have only a thousand-to-one shot of winning. It brings me back to "my roots," i.e., sending out dozens of query letters and getting rejected by almost one hundred agents (until one finally bit). That is to say: I feel most at home with the long shot.

So, what's the contest?

Chicago's amazing Museum of Science and Industry is holding a contest to find someone to live in their museum—for someone to eat, sleep, and breathe nothing but science and industry for thirty days. Seriously! From their website:

We're looking for someone to take on a once-in-a-lifetime assignment: spend a Month at the Museum, to live and breathe science 24/7 for 30 days. From October 20 to November 18, 2010, this person's mission will be to experience all the fun and education that fits in this historic 14-acre building, living here and reporting your experience to the outside world. There will be plenty of time to explore the Museum and its exhibits after hours, with access to rarely seen nooks and crannies of this 77-year-old institution.

Here's the digs you'd be sleeping in:

Further requirements: "sleeping in confined or 'untraditional' spaces" (ooh, do we get to sleep on the U-505 submarine? the lunar lander?) To apply, you have to fill out a detailed questionnaire, write a 500-word essay about why you want to do this . . .

And most fun of all, make a one-minute video explaining why you should be chosen. My video is at the top of the post.

Semifinalists will be notified by August 25 -- that is, tomorrow. If I haven't heard from the Museum people by then, I'll let you know. If I have heard from the Museum people (and I haven't been sworn to secrecy) of course I'll let you know that too.

If I get this, it will be the most spectacular excuse for procrastinating writing my next novel EVER.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The future of publishing.

This excellent article in New York Magazine provides a fascinating and scary window into the future of publishing. Is the good old fashioned book here to stay? I say yes it is. But e-books are going to take a big bite out of the market, perhaps replacing the paperback as the prime source of inexpensive reading entertainment. This article describes how the founder of Barnes and Noble, and the man who seems poised to take over that company, are battling for control over how the future of publishing takes shape.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship: 2011 Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas

The story, in brief:

Noted YA author Ellen Hopkins is invited to attend the 2011 Teen Lit Conference in Humble, Texas, and graciously accepts. A middle school librarian gets a bee in her bonnet about Ellen's presence, deems it "inappropriate," and some parents get involved. They take the matter to the school superintendent, Guy Sconzo, and Ellen Hopkins is rudely, crudely uninvited. Once again proof that a few people can ruin a great thing for everyone.

I've had the pleasure of hearing Ellen Hopkins speak on numerous occasions, and she RAILS against drug abuse. WIth passion she speaks of the tragedy drugs have brought to her own family, so generously sharing her heartbreak in the hope that she can keep other kids from going down that self destructive path. Her books about the devastation that methamphetamine use brings to a human life are probably the greatest drug deterrent I can think of. But goodness gracious, let's prevent kids from reading them!

Because kids are so much better off NOT knowing about the negative influence of drugs! It's best if kids get their information on the street, from their peers, about the effects of meth, crack, pot and the like! In fact, let's get rid of all books for kids that deal with sex and drugs! Let's pretend these things don't exist and let kids find out about them on their own through trial and error while reading wholesome novels about puppies. Good plan folks.

To show support for Ellen Hopkins and to protest censorship the following authors have pulled out of the festival: Pete Hautman, Melissa De La Cruz, Matt De La Pena, and Tera Lynn Childs, and probably more will follow. I applaud Ms. Hopkins for bringing this issue forward instead of going quietly into the night. She's standing up for herself, for literature, and for kids, and we should all stand with her.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Under the Dome.

Every so often I like to sink my teeth into a good Stephen King, and I'm so glad that I picked up Under the Dome in an airport bookstore. Under the Dome is classic King: Weird otherworldly events conspire to bring out the best, and the worst in people.

The premise: a mysterious, indestructible dome engulfs a small town in Maine, trapping the residents inside with their sins. But really, the premise is never what makes King compelling so much as his characters and their choices. The hero of Under the Dome is an ex army officer so sickened by his combat service that he wants to be a drifter with no ties and no obligations. The villain is a sociopathic used car salesman who spouts scripture while committing unspeakable crimes, all in the interest of self preservation. He's willing to sacrifice an entire town full of people to protect himself from his richly deserved comeuppance, and our hero becomes increasingly determined to stop him. Along the way, a rich cast of supporting characters provide entertainment, pathos, and sometimes inspiration.

King's prose is smart, whip-quick, and lucid. He paints a picture with such sure brushstrokes that you can read an entire book of his without realizing that he is one of popular literature's great prose stylists. That's because like any good writer, he gets you to focus on the picture he's painting, the story he's telling, and not on how he's telling it. Still, I frequently find myself rereading his sentences, asking myself, "How did he do that?!" And being impressed. The guy uses words very well.

If you've got the time for a long, involving read, pick up Under the Dome. I'm surprised to find myself saying that I think it supplants The Stand as King's finest novel. Under the Dome will make you think about good and evil, how they often live side by side in the same skull, and how sometimes all it takes is the right combination of outside events to turn a peaceful town into a seething hotbed of panicked violence. 

One caveat: If you find yourself asking whether a cute little town could turn this bad this quickly, I suggest you turn on the nightly news. It happens all the time.