All very heady stuff and I'm very excited to share ALL WE HAVE LEFT with the world on August 9th!
July was a crazy-fun month! The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday, and we spent it on the boat fishing and watching the firework shows. We always spend a lot of time out on the boat this time of year, so I have loads of pictures of sunsets. I always tell myself I need to stop taking pictures of sunsets, but when you see these, do you blame me??
Murdock is getting bigger and has finally found his sea legs. We still haven't conquered the potty-training thing, which is frustrating, but we work on it every day. I swear, in some ways it's like having a toddler again.
In our boat wanderings, we often see some pretty cool things. If you look real close, you'll see something strange about this tree. I tried counting them, but gave up!
There's also been some good book news this month. Fist of all, ALL WE HAVE LEFT comes out ONE week from today. It's been a long road, but I'm so happy it's almost here. I received my author copies a few weeks ago. They are so pretty!
The book has gotten a lot of love. Two starred reviews, and it's showed up on both Kirkus Review's and Bookish.com's list of must-reads for the summer. It was featured in Bookpage's August print edition, and I just found out that it's an Amazon Best Book of the Month, as well as on Bustle's list of Best Books of August.
All very heady stuff and I'm very excited to share ALL WE HAVE LEFT with the world on August 9th!
It's been a spectacular June! I always love when my boys are off school; we've been taking some day trips and generally having a great time. On the book front, I found out that ALL WE HAVE LEFT received two starred reviews, one from Kirkus, and the other from School Library Journal. I also learned that ALL WE HAVE LEFT will be coming out in the Scholastic catalogue in September. So, yay me!
We welcomed this sweet baby into our home and hearts. Hattie has taken Murdock under his wing and has been a wonderful big brother.
Trish Doller and I participated in B-Fest at the Fort Myers Barnes and Noble earlier this month, and it was a lot of fun. We talked about our books--Trish's THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is not to be missed!-- did a treasure hunt, and wrote a story with the kids.
The boys and I went to the Everglades and did the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower. We saw lots of wildlife, including a few gators, and learned so much!
I participated in my very first virtual book launch for Nora Raleigh Baskin's excellent middle grade book, NINE, TEN. It was a wonderful experience--many people shared their stories of 9/11, and we talked about how fiction can help people heal after a tragic event.
I'll leave you with this sunset shot. We're planning on being out on the boat a lot this Fourth of July--I hope that all of you have a wonderful weekend!
As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, four YA and MG authors tackle this difficult, heart-breaking subject. As adults, it's hard to believe that there is an entire generation of children who were too young to remember the day that is etched in our collective consciousness. These four books complement one another, showing a many-faceted view of the day the world changed.
Twitter hashtag #readandremember has been created for teachers and librarians who are seeking books about 9/11, as well as other historic events.
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (8/06/16)
Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad since has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.
In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim . . . it's being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours, she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them . . .
Interweaving stories from past and present, All We Have Left brings one of the most important days in our recent history to life, showing that love and hope will always triumph.
Advance Praise for All We Have Left
“The author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia . . . and Jesse . . . as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day. Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Thoughtful, poignant . . . An important topic that deserves more dialogue than it receives. A moving portrait and important look at the lasting effects of one of our country's greatest tragedies.” – Booklist
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner (9/6/2016)
On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.
Advance Praise for The Memory of Things
"...a touching look at the power of selflessness, memory, and hope in the face of tragedy."-- Booklist
"Gae Polisner's beautiful and poetic The Memory of Things shows us the enduring resilience of human connections. Powerful, frightening, sad, and impossible to look away from, The Memory of Things is ultimately filled with love and hope. This is a truly remarkable, unforgettably moving book." -- Andrew Smith, Printz Honor-winning author of Grasshopper Jungle
Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin (6/28/16)
From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a touching look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center. But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business. These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever.
Advance Praise for Nine, Ten
“Readers will have different reactions to the work depending on their ages and how much prior knowledge they bring to it. . . children may gain a small sense of the magnitude of the changes that day wrought on our world. Tense, disturbing, and thought-provoking.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A powerful account of how the events changed lives. . . . There are no graphic displays of violence; Baskin focuses on how her characters emerge wiser, worldlier, and more sensitive to others’ pain after surviving a profound and tragic piece of history.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (7/12/2016)
From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks.
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can't help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren't alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.
Advance Praise for Towers Falling
"History made personal--and what a person! Deja's voice is real and memorable, her compelling story one of hope unmarred by sentimentality." --Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author.
"This is a welcome contribution to children's literature." --School Library Journal
Songs are a touchstone for my memories. A familiar song can easily take me back to a specific time and place, releasing a flood of thoughts and feelings and emotions. On hearing about the passing of Prince, I felt a sense of sadness that was not only for a great artist whose time had been cut short, but also for my teenage years that stand out in my mind so vivid and bright. Prince’s songs were a soundtrack to my youth, a song list of joy, discovery and heartbreak.
I remember standing in the gym at my first high school dance, dressed in a jeans jacket and hoopy earrings, and thinking hairspray don’t fail me now. “Purple Rain” came on, and the guy I liked, the one I had been watching from the safety of my group of friends, came towards us, and my heart was beating he’sgoingtoaskme, ohgod, he’sgoingtoaskme. And then I could taste the disappointment as he asked another girl to slow dance instead. Someone touched my elbow, and there stood the guy who had given me a rose for Valentine’s Day in the seventh grade, and when he asked me to dance I said yes, and as we swayed together on the floor under the slowly swirling lights I thought I’ll never forget this moment…
I remember driving my car, blasting “Little Red Corvette,” and while my car wasn’t a corvette or red, I played the song over and over again as we circled Heritage Square, trying to gather the courage to stop and talk to that guy, or maybe that one, and ending up going through the McDonald’s drive-through just so we didn’t look stupid, my friend squealing, he’s there, he's RIGHT there, and then realizing we didn’t have any money and having to order a cup of water much to the McDonald’s guy’s disgust…
I remember giving a party at my house, blasting “1999,” but 1999 felt like it was so far off, like a millennium away, and everyone was laughing because someone had let all my birds out of their cages, and opened the Christmas presents under the tree, and even though I was thinking how am I going to explain this one to my parents, I didn’t care because all that mattered was right here, right now….
I remember breaking up with a guy, and spending hours making mixed tapes, tears falling on the cassettes as I added “When Doves Cry” and REM, and Depeche Mode, and U2. I listened to “When Doves Cry” over and over again, that guitar solo and opening iconic beats reverberating through my entire body as I blasted the song as loud as it would go…
Prince is gone, and so are my teenage years. But the songs and memories remain, and even though I’m driving a SUV now, booster seats and baseball gear in the back, whenever I hear “Little Red Corvette,” it takes me back to when all that mattered was right here, right now, and 1999 seemed so far away.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
Every author has heard the question. We dread it, honestly, because no matter what we say, nobody is happy with our answer. I’m pretty sure some people wouldn’t be satisfied unless you told them that highly-advanced aliens beam the ideas from the Planet Bwaa, but shhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you. People want to think that there is something magical and inscrutable about the creative process; they seem to believe that authors have collectively taken an oath to keep the technique a secret from the uninitiated.
Why is there such a mystique about the idea process? Many authors will tell you that they stumble across story ideas like an Easter egg hunt designed for two-year-olds. They are lying right out there in the open for anyone to find, and we run around pushing the adorable McGillicuddy twins aside so we can fill our basket to overflowing. They are hiding in plain sight, in conversations we have with someone in the park, in a book, in a news article, in Facebook posts. They are the things that make us go “hmmm” and make us wonder, and want to know more.
And like any child gazing down in delight at their full Easter basket, we can’t help but wonder what’s inside. What if the Easter Bunny decided to distribute winning lottery tickets, or million dollar bills? (It’s the Easter Bunny. You think he can’t make million dollar bills?) What if the furry bunny got hit by Santa’s sleigh back in December and was too injured to put anything at all into the eggs? The “what ifs” are endless and delicious, and way more fun than knowing for sure.
As an author, we know that not all ideas are the same. Some of them will be empty, all flashy and bright on the outside, but ultimately just full of hot air. Some will be serviceable, but boring, like last year’s gum drops that still taste okay, but really, Easter Bunny? Who wants the same idea that everybody else has already had? Some will be as chewy as a piece of Spearmint gum, gobbling up time and energy, but ultimately rendered tasteless and dull.
But every once in a while, the prize is worth the hunt. Every once in a while you get rich, complex chocolate, with a beautiful caramel center that melts on your tongue and in your heart. It’s an idea that is rare and unique, and makes you want more, more, more!
In their quest for ideas, authors use the skills that every child will be using this Easter Sunday as they start out on their search for the elusive plastic eggs.
Authors are hunters. For some it is an innate skill, something they have retained since they were children and gazing at the world with wide-eyed hope and curiosity. For some, it is a hard-won skill, this seeing possibilities and potential in the most ordinary of things. But however they came by the skill, authors are hunters of ideas, and we see these gloriously colorful idea eggs every day of our lives.
Authors are curious. We peer into the dark places that other people are afraid to go. We clamber through windows and climb the highest tree, because who know what we will find?
Authors are imaginative. We revel in the “what ifs,” the “how comes” and the “did you ever wonder…?”
And ultimately, authors are full of faith. Faith that the right idea is out there, if only we keep looking. Faith in ourselves that when we hold that precious idea in our trembling, cupped hands, we will be able to do it justice.
So as you take your children on their Easter egg hunts this Sunday, remember that ideas are not from the Planet Bwaa, but are lying out there for anybody to find, if only they knew how to look.
I read a ton of books, some good, some okay, and some that I struggle to finish. But I love it when I come across a book that stays with me even after I finish the last page, a book that makes me think for days afterward, a book that I feel compelled to share with people. These are four young adult books that fit that bill.
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
Okay, so I pretty much adore anything that Rainbow Rowell chooses to write, so it’s no surprise that this book scored pretty high on the Wendy’s Adoration Scale. Carry On had a little bit of everything (even a big nod to Harry Potter which was cool and weird all at the same time), but basically I loved the characters, and when you love the characters the rest is just gravy. Really good, yummy gravy.
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
Not only was this chock-full of great characters, it’s got tons of excitement and action in a world that you can almost smell and feel. Seriously, the world-building in this book is incredible.
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.
He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.
One of the fun things of being an author as well as a reader is really paying attention to what, exactly, is drawing me into a book. I absolutely love Emmy's voice, and the repartee between Emmy and her friends? Ahhh...gorgeous.
Any book blown you away recently?
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more--Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
This is a crazy cool book. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was so impressed in HOW these two authors chose to tell this story. I wasn’t sure at first that I would be able to connect with the characters considering that the whole story is told through interviews and emails etc., but I was so totally drawn into this story. Plus, I’m a huge science fiction fan, so yeah, this book pretty much blew me away.
Any books blown you away recently?
I received my advanced reading copy of All We Have Left. Isn't it gorgeous? Can't wait for August when it will be out in the world!
A haunting and heart-wrenching story of two girls, two time periods, and the one event that changed their lives—and the world—forever.
Coming August 2016
The breast cancer genes, or BRCA genes, when acting the way they are supposed to do, suppress tumors in the breasts and ovaries. When they don’t act the way they are supposed to… well, that’s equivalent to a bunch of genes running around wringing their hands saying I duuno, what do I do? as malignant tumors grow. People with the BRCA gene mutations are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, as well as ovarian and other types of cancer.
But don’t run out just yet to get tested to see if you have one of these ominous gene mutations. There are some things you may not know.
1. The BRCA 1 and 2 mutations are pretty rare
Most cases of breast cancer are completely random—not due to BRCA genetic mutations at all. The overwhelming majority of people with breast cancer do not have BRCA mutations. Only 5-10 percent of cancers diagnosed in the US are linked to the BRCA gene mutations, so the general population is not at high risk.
2. Doctors don’t recommend genetic testing for everybody
As the BRCA gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population, doctors only recommend testing people with a family or personal history that would indicate elevated risk.
Factors that increase likelihood of carrying BRCA gene mutations
Breast cancer diagnosed before age 50 years
Cancer in both breasts in the same woman
Both breast and ovarian cancers in either the same woman or the same family
Multiple breast cancers
Two or more primary types of BRCA1- or BRCA2-related cancers in a single family member
Cases of male breast cancer
Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity
3. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are more common in certain racial/ethnic populations
People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher prevalence of harmful breast cancer gene mutations than people in the general U.S. population. Other ethnic and geographic populations, such as the Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic peoples, also have a higher prevalence of specific harmful BRCA1 andBRCA2 mutations.
4. Not everyone who tests positive for BRCA mutations has the exact same risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In the past, researchers believed that anyone with the BRCA1 mutation had an 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. However, this was based on studies of families with a lot of breast and ovarian cancer. More current studies done on women who have the BRCA gene mutation, but had fewer relatives who had had breast cancer, found that their risk was lower—more like a 37 to 60 percent chance.
5. Men can have the BRCA gene mutation
Both men and women can inherit and pass on a BRCA mutation. Men with a BRCA mutation have a lower chance of developing cancer than do women with a mutation, but their chances of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and a few other cancers are increased.
6. There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States
Deaths related to breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society, with women younger than 50 years of age showing the largest improvement. These improvements have been attributed to earlier diagnosis and better treatments. In other words, even if you test positive for one of the BRCA gene mutations, it is not a death sentence.
Jesse was too young to remember 9/11, but she knows her family has never been the same after her brother died in the Twin Towers fifteen years ago. Alia is just an ordinary girl the morning of September 11th, 2001 when she finds herself trapped in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on a day that the world will never forget.
ALL WE HAVE LEFT is the parallel story of Jesse and Alia, in a story of past and present, heartbreak and hope, as two girls find the courage to be the people they want to be, and learn that both hate and love reverberate into the future and beyond…
Due out August 2016
Learning to research effectively is vital when you are writing a novel. Almost every story could benefit from some level of research, but when you are writing about an unfamiliar subject, it becomes crucial. This Part Two of this post, so I’ll pick up at number 4.
4. Make it easy on yourself to find research information as you write. Everybody has their own system, but there’s nothing worse than discovering a vital piece of information, and then to not be able to find it when you need it. When I’m researching, I make a note (or copy and paste if I’m online) of ANYTHING that is relevant, and sometimes just things that pique my interest. I create folders to hold the information. For example, when I was researching Positively Beautiful, I had folders listed “breast cancer,” “BRCA stories” “flying” and “urban exploring.” If a folder became too big to navigate easily, I would create subset folders. Eventually, the “breast cancer” folder blossomed into several new folders titled “Interviews with breast cancer surgeons,” “Visit to hospital,” and “Chemotherapy treatment.” In addition, as I’m writing, I will footnote in the manuscript where to find the information. Sure, I have to get rid of the footnotes before sending it to my editor, but it’s worth it to be able to find the information easily.
5. Resist the urge to show off. You can’t data-dump every piece of information that you have learned. It will bog down your story with useless detail. Repeat to yourself: I will only show the tip of the iceberg. I wrote a scene in All We Have Left which was chock-full of hard worn climbing lingo and technical description. My editor wrote in the manuscript pages: “I’m skimming most of this, Wendy!” I got the point. Sometimes it’s hard to determine how much information to use. My rule of thumb is that if something interests or surprises me the first time I read it, then it may be worth using in the story. It’s often little details that stand out the most. For example, while researching All We Have Left, I learned about the slickness of the handrails inside the stairwells of the Twin Towers on 9/11, caused by the sweat of the thousands of people who had run their hands down those handrails as they fled for their lives. This detail is visceral, and tells a story without words.
6. Don’t get bogged down in details. Sure, it would be great if you could describe and name the 18th century cutlery your character is using, but is a week, or even a day’s worth of research worth the small detail? Save the bulk of your research time for the big subjects. The small stuff is just gravy, and will often come as a pleasant surprise as you are pursuing more important research.
7. Know when to stop. It is easy and very satisfying to research, but at some point it becomes an excuse not to write the book. I don’t believe in setting an arbitrary time limit. (At 12:01 on October 3rd, I WILL STOP RESEARCHING. No…), but you need to recognize when you’ve become comfortable with your subject matter. We can’t be absolute experts on every subject we write about (how would we find time to write?), but this is where having networked with knowledgeable people who are willing to read sections of your story for veracity comes in handy.
8. Have fun! This is my most important piece of advice. While you may not have to write what you know, write about what interests you. If you find yourself bored by your subject matter, chances are, your reader will find it boring to read.