Monday, November 30, 2009

NCTE 2009 wrap-up

Re-posted (belatedly) from the Blue Rose Girls.


As I mentioned last week, I was in Philadelphia for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference. I took the train to Philadelphia and met Grace at the hotel, then we walked over to the conference center to meet Jarrett Krosockza and his wife Gina for a quick lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.

I had the mac and cheese, of course!
Good, but not the best.

Then Grace and I ran off for her session on "The Art of Story" with author Carmen Agra Deedy. We had a few technical difficulties at first, but then her talk went smoothly and I think the audience was impressed by her talk. I know I was!
Carmen was a fantastic speaker/storyteller as well--her final story about her mother in a mall parking lot brought me to tears.

Afterwards, we headed to the convention center for Grace's signing:
at the Little, Brown booth:

That evening we hosted a children's book dinner with special guests Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), Jerry Pinkney (The Lion and the Mouse), and Suzanne Selfors (Smells Like Dog, pubbing May 2010) at the restaurant Fork. Delicious food (not pictured), delicious company:
The next day I'm sorely lacking in pictures, but it started with booth duty for me in the morning, when Jerry Spinelli and Chris Lincoln had signings back-to-back. Then Jerry and I escaped for a nice lunch, and in the afternoon I walked the floor for a bit saying hi to authors such as Lisa Yee, G. Neri, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, E.B. Lewis, and more.

I helped out for our Jerry Pinkney signing in the afternoon, then escaped to the hotel for a quick nap.

That night Assistant Editor Connie Hsu and I took "our" authors to dinner at another amazing restaurant called Supper. Once again, I'm sad that I neglected to get any pictures of authors Matthew Quick (Sorta Like a Rock Star, pubbing in May 2010) and his wife Alicia Bessette, Grace, or Stephen Emond (Happyface, Connie's first acquisition, pubbing in March 2010), but I did manage two photos of the food. Here's the farmer's plate we ordered for the table:
And my duck and waffles. Yum.
The next afternoon I had coffee (and cheese--odd combination, I know) with the incredible Janet Wong, and then that evening was the cocktail party that kicks off the ALAN Workshops where Sarah Ockler and Sara Zarr vamped it up:
And then it was off to our YA fiction dinner where Matthew Quick joined the two Sara(h)s at Portofino. And yes, once again, we had amazing food (spinach ravioli! tiramisu!), conversation, and this time we had the added wonderment of readings from 20 Boy Summer (Ockler), Sorta Like a Rock Star (Quick), and Once Was Lost (Zarr).
And that, my friends, sums it all up. Thank you Philly, NCTE, ALAN, all our authors and illustrators, and of course our amazing school and library marketing team of Victoria Stapleton and Zoe Luderitz.

Till next year!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm ba-ack! Japan and Hong Kong trip

Re-posted (belatedly) from the Blue Rose Girls.

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog for the last few weeks--as some of you know, I was traveling internationally in Japan and Hong Kong. I had hoped to try to post from abroad, but the spotty internet access at hotels and the time difference made it difficult.

Right now, I'm in Philadelphia for the NCTE conference (National Council of Teachers of English). But that will be a post for another day. Today, I'd like to share my Asia trip in photos, focusing on everything children's book-related.

First up, Japan. I was there for the wedding of Little, Brown senior designer Saho Fujii--Saho is the designer of Wabi Sabi and Year of the Dog, to name just two of her amazing book designs. She is originally from Kyoto, and that was where the beautiful wedding was held:
In the two days after the wedding, Saho organized sightseeing in the area, including to Mt. Hiei, where the cat Wabi Sabi traveled:
We also checked out a bookstore, and found some of the books we publish, included Vampirates, which Senior Designer Alison Impey designed:

And of course we found Twilight, which they divide into parts so as to keep each individual book small, compact, and cute:
We also found Gossip Girl and Eggs:

Back in Tokyo, Alison Impey (of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and When the Moon Forgot design fame) and I visited Japanese children's book publisher Tokuma Shoten's offices, and had lunch with their editor-in-chief and senior editor, as well as SCBWI regional advisor for Japan, Holly Thompson.
And then the SCBWI Japan conference, which took place all day Saturday the 14th in Yokohama. I gave three talks solo:
And the Alison joined me to talk about how illustrators are chosen, as well as a Q&A:
Here are two group pictures with some of the attendees!
The next day I was off to Hong Kong for a whirlwind three days. On Monday, Regional Adviser Mio Debnam took me to lunch and then sightseeing to the Peak:
And then I gave my first of two evening talks:
And then a lovely dinner at the China Club with a great group of people!
The next day, I wandered around the city, and randomly came across an elaborate and beautiful Jimmy Liao exhibit in Hong Kong's Times Square!
(from Sound of Colors, with moons from When the Moon Forgot in the background...)

So beautiful.

I gave another talk Tuesday evening, and we went to another delicious dinner at the Quarterdeck Club:
As usual, I was all about the food on my trip. For fun, here's an animoto video of some of my food highlights:

(If you can't view the video, try this link.)

I need to give a special thank you to Kathleen Ahrens, the SCBWI International Regional Advisor who extended the initial invitation to me to come to Asia, and also to Holly Thompson and Mio Debnan who were such gracious hosts, tour guides, and organizers. I had a wonderful time meeting everyone, and, of course, eating. ;)

And a special congratulations to Saho and Bob! May they have a wonderful marriage full of love.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Beyond the Book: Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin

Cross-posted (belatedly) from the Blue Rose Girls.

Beyond the Book: Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin

What if a stranger hated you?

This raw, moving novel follows two teenagers—one a Mohawk-wearing, Punk-rocking seventeen-year-old Neo-Nazi; the other a gay thirteen-year-old cast out by his family, hustling on the streets and trying to survive. Told in alternating perspectives, this book tells the story of the boys’ lives before and after the violent hate crime that changes both their futures. This is a tragic but ultimately inspirational journey of two very polarized teens, their violent first meeting, and then their peaceful reunion years later. It is an unforgettable story of survival and forgiveness.

Acclaimed author Davida Wills Hurwin weaves a compelling and powerful story, inspired by the real lives of Timothy Zaal and Matthew Boger. Theirs is a journey from fear and hate to tolerance and hope. And it is proof that people can truly change.

This book has had an interesting genesis—it started when a film agent approached a literary agent asking her if she knew anyone who could write the story of two men, Matthew Zaal and Timothy Boger, in book form. The literary agent really saw this as powerful material for a young adult novel, and approached her client Davida Wills Hurwin about taking it on.

When I met with with the agent over two years ago, I was initially interested because of Davida’s involvement—her first novel, A Time for Dancing, had been published by Little, Brown and was the first YA book I read after starting work there. It was handed to me by another assistant (Amy!) who told me that although Little, Brown did not publish much young adult fiction, A Time for Dancing was a perfect example of the type of YA we did publish. I absolutely loved it—I thought her writing was beautiful, and that she perfectly captured the raw emotion of the story. And, of course, it made me cry. And then, when the agent went on to tell me the incredible story of these two men (whose story has been shared on NPR, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and more) I thought, this is exactly the kind of book I love to read. Edgy but authentic, and ultimately uplifting and inspirational. In fact, after the meeting my assistant Connie kept saying, "Are you excited? This is your kind of book!"

The book was in the process of being written when the agent pitched it, and so it wasn't until over six months later that I finally was able to read it. And it delivers. Davida has done a brilliant, sensitive job of bringing their story to life. She interviewed both men at length, going back to meet with Tim again and again after realizing that his story was more challenging to tell. It’s such a powerful story even as fiction, and the fact that it’s based on truth takes it to that next level. She also wrote a very thoughtful author's note at the end of the book explaining her process, and we also include a brief Q&A with Tim and Matthew. I've had the opportunity to meet Davida twice so far, and she is such a warm, loving soul. It has been such a pleasure working with her.

The book's official publication date was yesterday. Happy book birthday! As always, I love the design of this book, this time by the amazing Ben Mautner who told me that he couldn't stop thinking about the book after he read it. He put so much thought and care into the design. Here's the cover...

If you take off the jacket, a stark white case cover is revealed with just the word "Revelations" that shows through a die-cut in the front of the jacket:

And here is the full jacket:

On the back cover, we had some wonderful advanced praise--I was so pleased to discover how strongly others responded to the book:

"In the lively voices of the separate narrators, two antagonists survive a hate-crime collision. Their entwining paths point a new way forward. Hurry to read this book; time is still of the essence."
-Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Matchless

"In addition to being impossible to put down, Freaks and Revelations is that rare book with the power to change the world. Lots of books shine a light on the humanity of the oppressed victim. This book grants humanity to everyone. Freaks and Revelations should be required reading for all humans. We need what it provides, and we'll be better for it."
-Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Diary of a Witness, Pay it Forward, and Becoming Chloe

"Your heart will break as you follow these two scared, scarred boys toward the night both will regret forever. A compelling and essential book for teens."
-Ellen Wittlinger, author of Love & Lies, Parrotfish, and Printz Honor Book Hard Love

Freaks and Revelations proves that the power of forgiveness and understanding will always triumph over hate. A brutally realistic story, told with gut-wrenching authenticity.”
--Julie Anne Peters, author of Keeping You a Secret and National Book Award finalist Luna

In Freaks and Revelations, Davida Wills Hurwin exquisitely illuminates a dark, haunting story of pain and redemption so that it stays in the reader's heart long after the last page is turned.
--Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys and Bait

Freaks and Revelations is a must-read, and should find a conspicuous place on bookshelves in every high school in the US. The book offers amazing insight into the nature of hate, and the crimes it perpetrates. Davida Wills Hurwin should be very proud!”
--Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank, Impulse and National Book Award finalist Burned

Freaks and Revelations is a painfully-honest journey through the collision-course lives of two adolescents…one a homeless gay kid hustling the streets of West Hollywood the other an increasingly violent white supremacist desperate to find himself in LA’s punk rock scene. Through misfortune and serendipity both boys learn the meaning of pain and forgiveness.”
--J. Dallas Dishman, Ph.D., hate crimes researcher and author of “Anti-Gay Violence in the City of West Hollywood”

We also received the strongest response from our teen Hip Scouts that I've ever experienced. Here's just a taste of a few of the reviews:

"Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wilis Hurwin was a rare novel that showed the truth behind human nature. Hurwin captures people in their most vulnerable state, being faced with something completely different from your own views, and self discovery....Overall this novel is a beacon of hope and a step closer to coexistence and acceptance of any lifestyle. This doesn't rank as a 'must read.' It is ranked as an 'absolutely need to read!'"
-Jeff, 17

"Through Freaks and Revelations, Ms. Hurwin has opened not only my eyes but the eyes of everyone worldwide to hatred and misguidance that could and can be prevented. I am in awe. This story could not be told any better if not by the real people themselves. I couldn't put it down. I loved it; every single word of it. There is hope for a better world, where people understand and respect each other rather than the hate that engulfs us now."
-Michelle, 18

"Freaks and Revelations was one of the best books I have ever read. Profiling the two main characters years before the incident gives readers a chance to get to know the characters and gives them an insight as to why they act the way they do and how they got to that point. It also allows the readers to sympathize with the characters and go through their hardships with them. All of this makes the book more touching and a better read. Each hardship a character went through, I felt as well. It also raises awareness for those who have to suffer in this way. I think that this story is so important to have out there and it was done in a brilliant way which paints a picture impossible to ignore."
-Julia, 15

"Freaks and Revelations is the sort of book that strikes its readers as completely different, new and gripping. The two main characters, Jason and Doug, are from extremely diverse backgrounds, but it's easy to relate to them both in many ways. Their story is a story about the struggle to survive in a world where no one else understands the way you are, the struggle to grow up when you don't know if anyone even cares whether you do, the struggle every teenager faces in deciding if it's okay to be unique. The reality of this tale is powerfully intense, and its message is one that everyone should take to heart. Freaks and Revelations definitely gives its readers a deeper understanding of what it means to hate, to love, and to respect one another. It is truly a masterpiece."
-Melissa, 17

"Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin is a raw and poignant book about two young boys ostracized from their families and left to fend on their own. This novel is told through dual perspectives, and the readers are captivated by the raw emotion each of the characters experience. They cross paths in the most unusual way and in the end, everyone learns about how everyone should be treated with respect. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to gain a new awareness and want to read an amazing book."
-Tynisha, 16

And finally, a glowing review from School Library Journal:

"Freaks and Revelations is based on a true story so emotionally detailed that it could easily be a memoir....Hurwin gets inside her characters’ pain without sentiment; she present each home and its horrors soberly...The author’s prose is clear and incisive, and many chapters resonate like good short stories. Jason’s narrative stands with Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson’s Target and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak as a survivor’s story. Doug’s equally layered story—of coming full circle out of hate—sets it apart." --School Library Journal

I absolutely love this book. It's raw, and there are parts that are certainly tough to read, but above all it is honest, authentic, and as many of the quotes say, I think this should be required reading for all. It is a look into lives most likely very different from your own, it is a book about tolerance, acceptance, empathy, and change. I hope you'll all read it. It is a book that gives me hope.