Showing posts from 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things (In No Particular Order)

Over-the-knee socks.
This comment from Cordelia after she saw the stuffed chicken Mom was roasting for Christmas: "Yeah, I hope that when I die, someone sticks an onion up my ass."
Three-year-old cousins-once-removed who want to sit in your lap.Soft, silky cats who let you rub their ginger-brown tummies.This sign, spotted at a coffee shop in New Jersey: "Fat snowmen last longer."My luggage tags, which say "I'm going around in circles" and "I'm a mess on the inside."The fact that my fellow writers and email buddies Donna Freitas and Marie Rutkoski are Publisher's Weekly's "Fall Flying Starts" along with me. Naps on airplanes.Time with family AND quiet time alone after time with family.Something I have been too shy to say before: Graceling is a Fantasy/SF bestseller in Australia. :o)

Nothing Gold Can Stay

So, my car just returned from the shop. "It's a '97 Ford Escort with 175,000 miles on it," my mechanic kept saying. "It needs a new transmission. Your clutch is slipping. You need new rear brakes. You have a leak in the [insert car part I can't remember]. Is this a northern car? Because it's all rusted out underneath. And did I mention that it's a '97 Ford Escort with 175,000 miles on it?"
Yes. Yes, you did. So? SO?? WHAT'S YOUR POINT??!?! WHERE'S THE LOVE? I LOVE MY CAR!!!!!
Here's the prognosis: Either I accept that my car is dying and allow it to die a natural death; or, I spend $3500 over the next year or so to rehabilitate the car. I am, of course, choosing the first option, because I am not insane. But I do so with a heavy heart.
As Robert Frost once (sort of) wrote:
Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to lea…

Teachers Make a Difference

I've received some questions recently about Simmons College's Center for the Study of Children's Literature in Boston, which is where I got my M.A. degree.
In a case of excellent timing, just last week on her blog, Cynsations, Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed one of my favorite teachers ever, Cathie Mercier. Cathie is one of the professors who made my experience at Simmons so extraordinary. And the interview is all about the different children's literature programs Simmons offers -- which means that now I don't have to write about it myself! I can just send you all to Cathie's interview! BWA-HA-HA! Laziness for the win!
Seriously, though, if you have any specific questions for me about the Simmons experience, please feel free to leave me a question today in the comments, and I will respond. A number of my readers are Simmons graduates, actually, so they should feel free to chime in as well!
Finally, here's a three-minute video in honor of teachers. Yes…

Get Your Race Face On

I have a deal with Kinneret Zmora in Israel to publish Graceling in Hebrew. yAt!
Also, my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, is reading Part One of Draft One of Bitterblue and asserts that it is a book, not a pile of crap. Whew.
Speaking of Cordelia, here is a tidbit about her: Cordelia has physical strength, endurance, and the ability to run long distances rather fast. Currently, Cordelia is training for a 15K in March. The training involves a number of things, including Cordelia dragging unathletic little me to early-morning races. Many race events, in case you don't know, have long and short options. For example, a 10K (6.2 mi) and a 5K (3.1 mi) will take place simultaneously, and when you register to compete in the event, you choose one race or the other. Anyway, so, lately Cordelia and I have been getting up at the butt crack of dawn and going to these events. She runs the longer portion and I walk the shorter portion. Our most recent race was on this past Saturday m…

And for Thursday, Three (Random) Super Things

Thing number one: The ALA is introducing a new award this year, the William C. Morris Award, which honors a book for young adults written by a first-time author. Graceling is a finalist! Go here to see all the lovely books. Thank you, Morris committee! I'm so happy and grateful.
Thing number two: My friend Rebecca guest-posted at The Rotund the other day. It's a super post about the intersection between fatness, HAES, and disability, and you can read it here. For those unfamiliar with the term HAES, it means Health at Every Size, and is a movement -- a peace movement, as Linda Bacon says -- that has to do with honoring your body, listening to its wants and needs, dropping the focus on dieting and weight loss, and accepting that everyone has a unique healthy size. If HAES interests you, btw, in addition to visiting Linda Bacon's site you might want to check out her book, which I hear is wonderful. And for even more about HAES, check out Body Positive's HAES site.…

For Monday, a Quote

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable."

- Madeleine L'Engle
In other news, since everyone was so kind a couple of weeks ago when I was tearing my hair out over the writing of Bitterblue, I should let you know that I've worked my way into an easier stretch. If I'm going to share the bad parts with you, might as well share the good parts, too, right? Also, my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, has Part I in hand and will be giving me feedback sometime soon. Traditionally, it is Cordelia's job to read what I'm writing and make a pronouncement about whether it is (1) a pile of crap, or (2) a book. The wonderful thing about Cordelia as my first reader is that she is extremely honest and critical, but she's also respectful, gentle, and supportive. Every writer needs a Cordelia!
Do you have a favorite quote to share…

FAQs, the Universe, and Beyond

The gorgeous image on the right is a composite Hubble/IRTF image of storms on Jupiter. I got it here and you can read more about it here. Lest you be impressed with the ease with which I fling around high-tech telescope-y terms (like telescope-y), be assured that I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I like the pretty pictures.
A piece of news: Graceling is one of School Library Journal's Best Books of 2008. yAt!
And now, a few more FAQs.
Spoiler Status: The following FAQs are spoiler-free.
1. When you start a book, what is it like? Is the book just sitting in your head, mostly formed? Where does it come from? What a great question. For me, when I start a book, I've got parts of it formed in my head -- pivotal, dramatic tension between characters that hasn't necessarily formed itself into clear scenes with dialog and action yet, but that will form itself as I continue to mull it over. I guess what I have at the beginning is the feeling of my characters, and the…

Bringing in December with a Few More FAQs

Spoiler status: The following Frequently Asked Questions are generally spoiler-free. I do give away something about the way Gracelings look in question 3, so if you're positively psycho about spoilers, skip #3.

1. Can I chat/IM with you online?*smile* That is a very sweet question. Truth is, I don't chat online with anyone, not even my best friends. I seem to have an allergy to the entire concept. I don't do Facebook or MySpace or any of those things, either. I like to keep my life simple.
2. You keep talking about how hard it is to write Book 3 / Bitterblue. Can you tell us why it's so hard? *smile again* I guess I didn't realize what I was getting into. Which is just part of the human condition, right? You make a seemingly innocent decision; you don't realize what you're getting into; but now you're into it, and there's no turning back. You've just got to figure out the best way through. Didn't somebody once say, "The best way …

It's the Holiday Season. Whoop-De-F***ing-Do.

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA. On Thanksgiving I like to reminisce about the Thanksgiving some 10 years ago when my vegetarian sister, secret code name: Cordelia, came to Thanksgiving dinner dressed up as a turkey. (In protest.) (As I recall, her gobbler kept getting in the way of her dinner.)

I do not love Thanksgiving. Really, I don't love the holiday season in general (in case my title didn't get that across). Something about it always makes me sad. What about you? Do you celebrate any holidays? Do you like this time of year?
Let's see. It's not all doom and gloom around here... Grup 62 has picked up the Catalan rights for Graceling. Also, Graceling is newly in bookstores in Australia and New Zealand and -- yay --I've started to get mail from readers who live in the Land Down Under. I spent one of the best years of my life in Australia (studying at Sydney Uni). Australia rocks my socks (which at the moment are purple-blue-pink-yellow-orange striped…

A Letter to My Readers on the Topic: How the Writing Is Going Lately

Dear Faithful Readers,
How are you?
I am fine.

Did you know that I write my books longhand?

Did you know that sometimes when people say they are fine, what they mean is that they feel like they're being beaten with a baseball bat?

Fondly yours, Grumpy McGrumpypants

"Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?"

(...said Westley to Inigo Montoya at a critical moment in The Princess Bride...)
Today's post is all about you. I would love to know who's out there on the other side of this screen, and that's why today, I'm extending a special invitation to any and all of my readers to comment -- especially if you've never commented before! Who are you? No pressure, of course, but really, I'd love to know. You don't need to tell me your real name, or whether you've read my book, or any of that garbage, unless you care to. Just tell me whatever you want -- maybe who you are, where you are, and, if you feel like it, an extra tidbit about you. Perhaps you, too, have a favorite favorite you'd like to share. Perhaps you have a question about cupcakes to pose to the world, or a suggestion for dinner. Hm. I'm hungry.
I'll go first. I'm Kristin. I'm a writer. I live in North Florida. I love brass quintets. And Johnny Depp notwithstanding, my fa…

"I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming, saying something about a queen"

Three quick pieces of news: (1) I have a Chinese language publisher for Graceling and Fire in Taiwan, Gaea Books. yAt! (2) Graceling is #2 on the Winter 2009 Indie Next Kid's List. Please support independent bookstores! (3) Graceling is one of Booklist's 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, along with my friend Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief. Double and triple yAt!

My title is the opening line of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush," which, if you're curious, you can listen to here.

The other day I woke up raring to go, full of writing ambition. Then I made the mistake of turning on Neil Young's Decade while I was eating my breakfast.
An hour and a half later, I was still lying on my bed, holding my dirty spoon, listening to Decade. I'd forgotten that Neil Young requires -- demands -- patient attention. And I'd forgotten how squeaky and strange he is and how much I love him.
It's okay, though, because I expect that once I did pull mysel…

"Well, we're not getting a girl," said Marilla: A Poll

The other night, feeling overwhelmed by life, I crawled into bed early with Anne of Green Gables and a beer. And let me tell you, what I had there was a winning combination.
I own the best edition of Anne ever. It's the 1997 Oxford University Press Annotated Anne of Green Gables and every page has sidebars crammed with definitions (What is a gimlet?); explanations of Anne's references (Who had the first alabaster brow?); photos (What would Matthew's horse and buggy have looked like?); etc., etc. Best of all, none of it is obtrusive. If you don't feel like learning extra stuff and you just want to read the book (which was the case the other night when I curled up with the beer), you can do that. Or, you can take as much time as you want, reading every single annotation. It is a divinely beautiful reading experience.
In fact, it is so divinely beautiful that it has inspired an Anne-related poll. Please vote!
(Btw, if you're reading this post somewhere other than …

The NYT Book Review is kind to Graceling. I ♥ Finland. A shout-out to a baby. More things. Plus, the longest post title ever!

News: The New York Times book review of Graceling is here (major spoiler alert!). Thank you, NYTBR, for a lovely piece. I am overwhelmed.
More news: Graceling has managed to finagle a place among Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year and's Best Books of 2008. Again, thanks!
So. My sisters (secret code names: Cordelia and Apocalyptica) and I occasionally play a game called Sufficient Number of Questions. SNoQ is something like 20 Questions, in which Person A thinks of a physical entity and Person B guesses what the entity is by asking no more than 20 yes/no questions. Here's the difference: With SNoQ, there are no limits to what the entity can be. It can be an abstract concept, a nonentity. It can be a made-up invention. It can be an existing thing that you might not in ordinary circumstances consider to be an existing thing.
Here are some actual examples I have been challenged to guess: [1] The spaces between the medicine in an I.V. drip. [2] What if Cordel…


I cannot seem to wipe the smile off my face.
It has been such a stressful few months. It has been a stressful eight years. And the stress is bound to continue, of course, no matter how wonderful our president-elect is. This is the world.
But for today, at least, in honor of a magnificent victory, I give you a post restricted to low-key, no-stress, comforting things.
This post is The Bird Report.

A wonderful thing has just happened here in north Florida: The pelicans who winter on the St. John's River have returned. I saw three pelicans yesterday! Florida is a paradise for bird lovers and pelicans are the birds I love most; no matter what posture Sir Pelican chooses to adopt, he looks like a marvelous genetic mistake -- so wonderfully pointy and lumpy and unbalanced. Welcome back, Sir Pelican!
The winter cormorants and gulls are also back, and the herons are still hanging around; there's one old grizzly HUGE blue heron who hangs out on the pilings at night, croaking stories …


I am determined not to yammer about the election in today's post.
But I am also extremely nervous about... um... the thing I'm not going to yammer about.
Therefore, the order of the day is: DISTRACTION.
First, my recent interview with the Shelf Elf. The Elf Herself asks some great questions. If you could live inside the world of any book, which one would you choose? Please distract me by telling me in a comment!
Next, a must-see. If you only watch one of the videos in this post, make it this one. Posted in honor of all teachers (especially, you, Mom). (And ganked from Melissa Marr, who had it first!)

And now, ladies and gents: I give you Beethoven.

Finally, an awesome, um, prairie dog moment. (You can tell things are getting desperate around here...)

Yep. So, doesn't that prairie dog make you feel like going out and voting for BARACK OBAMA? Especially if you live in, oh, say, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohi…

"A trip the library has made a new girl of me...

... for suddenly I can see the magic of BOOKS."
(from the musical She Loves Me)
My childhood library in northeast Pennsylvania has a copy of my book, thanks to my mother. So do/will a couple of other libraries important to us, thanks to Mom and Aunt Rose. This makes me oh-so-fuzzy-and-happy.

Then, last week, a friend in Massachusetts reported that she'd checked her own library catalog on a whim to see if they had Graceling yet. They did. Next, an email came from another friend with this subject line: F CAS. She had just cataloged my book. Heeee!
It took a little time for the light to shine through the mud, but eventually I had a stroke of not-being-as-stupid-as-I-usually-am and realized that if it was showing up at other libraries, my own library might have it. I checked -- several copies, and most of them were out. yAt! But even better, the copy at my local branch was NOT out!
This is the point in the story where I hightailed it outside and ran down the street like I was…

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Nuclear Submarines, and My Chair in the Window

If you drive stick, then you know that a long, steep incline to a bridge, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a clutch you really should have replaced 500 miles ago, is not the best place for your shifter to decide it will no longer shift into any gear. However, if this ever happens to you, KEEP YOUR HEAD. Remember that if you turn the car off, you can shift it into gear. And drive all the way to your book signing in, like, first or second gear. :)
Actually, my shifter started working again after about 100 yards. I'm used to this problem. It's one of my car's particular charms.
Others in my neighborhood were faring better with their vehicles this weekend. The Blue Angels, in particular, were in town. There's a naval air station here, so we get the occasional helicopter or fighter plane zooming across the sky, but the Blue Angels, of course, are something else altogether: They are artists. With the most expensive art supplies ever. (Ha! And people say our gover…

Race, Poems, and Knitted Cuppycakes

How happy am I that Mitali Perkins has blogged about the question of whether authors should describe a character's race? And that Roger Sutton and The Longstockings are joining in? This is an issue I think about a lot, generally coming to no useful conclusions, so it's nice to see what other people think. Check it out -- join in -- ponder.

I've been taking a few days off, more or less. Recovering from Fire revisions and preparing myself to dive back into Book 3 -- waiting for it to call to me. Writing is partly about discipline, sure, but it's also about waiting, not forcing anything. Being patient; letting it come at its own pace.
I said this, or something like it, to my father once. Later that day, he came back to me and handed me this poem.
The Steps By Paul Valéry Translated by Donald Petersen
Your steps, children of my still hours, Solemnly and slowly placed Towards the bed of my wakefulness, Proceed now, cool and chaste.
Person most pure, saintly shade, How calm you…

Some Frequently Asked Questions (And a Local Book Signing)

First, a thank you to every single person who's emailed me. I read every email and I love every email. I wish I could respond to every email!
This post will be my first attempt to answer a few of the questions I've received.

FAQ disclaimer: I enjoy receiving questions about subtext, so I'm not saying don't send me questions about subtext. But just know this: I won't answer them. :o) The book serves as its own explanation; you come up with your own interpretations. Make sense?
Spoiler status: The following FAQs are, by most standards, spoiler-free for people who have not yet read Graceling. However, if you are psychotic about spoilers (like me) and haven't read Graceling, only read questions 1, 2, and 6.

1. I've always thought of fantasies as world-building books where the authors create the characters after building the world. But that doesn't feel like the case in Graceling, because the characters seem so real. Which came first: the characters or …

Revising: Two Steps Up, One Step Back

There's a certain aspect to revising that I love. It takes place on the micro-level, not the macro-level; it's more about words and sentences, less about chapters or books. It happens when there's something tiny I want to express, some little thing I want to insert into the bigger picture: For example, let's say that while revising, I decide that I need to plant a small hint to the reader that Mr. Glockenspiel is actually none other than Ms. Bratwurst in disguise. But the problem is, there's no obvious graceful place or method for planting such a hint. So I struggle and agonize and finick and rearrange and contrive, and finally find a way to plant my hint that maybe works. I plant the damn thing. I move on to to the next problem, perhaps the need to insert some backstory about the time Mr. Lederhosen crashed his airplane into the white cliffs of Dover. I get completely wound up in the question of whether Mr. Lederhosen was intoxicated at the time, or had perh…

I'm Still on My Rocker -- Are You?

I want to write a post about why I love Finland; I want to write a post about the other day, when I was trying on boots at the store, and my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, told me I looked like a prostitute; I want to write a post answering some of the really super questions I've been getting from Graceling readers in my email. And I will write all of those posts, eventually. But for now, I'm in a time crunch with Fire revisions and other life stuff, and the only post I seem to have time to write is one about the posts I wish I were writing instead.
Some good news: I have a Danish publisher for Graceling, Tellerup. Yay, Denmark! Who wants to bet that "Po" means something vulgar in Danish?
I still see little blue herons almost every day. Sometimes they're hanging out with little white herons. Yesterday, they were hanging out with a BIG blue heron. The herons are keeping me from going off my rocker.

So, what's on your mind these days? And what keeps y…

My Obligatory Election Post

(With apologies up front to my readers who are not American or are too young to vote. I must write this post -- but I promise, I'll only do it once.)
So. I am not, nor have I ever been, politically eloquent. If I relied on my own powers of persuasion to explain to you why I think it's imperative that you vote for Barack Obama this November, my argument would be something along the lines of, "Please, please, PLEASE vote for Obama so that we can work toward expanding civil liberties rather than re