Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another YA On Its Way from Holly Schindler!!

     I'm a huge fan of Holly Schindler (see my interview with her), and I'm so excited to help her promote her forthcoming new YA novel, "Feral."  Check it out: 

I don't know anything about "Feral," but I know that it's written by Holly, which means that it has sharp, credible dialogue, startling observations of the physical world, and complex, three-dimensional characters who act as mixed-up, brilliant, stupid, cruel, and kind as real people do.  You can track Holly down on her blog,, and find out more about her, her two previous YAs, and her middle-grade novel.  Do it!!  You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

There's Nothing Like Old Friends

     On Sunday I saw two friends I hardly ever see, Ann and Jocie.  We all went to law school together, 1976-79, and the three of us scheduled one of our rare mini-reunions.  Yeah, we're frighteningly old, but it was really good to see each other and catch up.  There's me in the middle.

I only have short friends, in order to convince myself that 5'2" is a normal height.  I need to do this in order to counteract the cruel gibes of my children.  Perhaps the lowest blow (as it were) was struck a few years ago when Nathan and I were puzzling and he told me, "the answer to 28 down is 'Mommy.'"  So I checked 28 down, and the clue was, "dwarf with glasses."  Oh, sure, have a laugh at my expense, why don't you?
     But I digress.  What I meant to say was exactly what I said in the title to this post.  One of life's true pleasures is having friends who have known you for most of your life, who know everything about you, both good and bad, and like you anyway.  Salud!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


     My life has slowed down to a comfortable speed, for now at least.  My job's been manageable, my nonjob tasks are getting done, this morning I even dusted off my bread machine and baked a loaf , and - don't tell anyone, because I'm afraid of jinxing it - after more than two months, I've finally gotten back to working on my current book, instead of channeling all my energy into trying to market the last one.  When I say marketing, I include writing this blog, interviewing other authors, researching agents, crafting a query letter ... the whole business side of this business.  The whole noncreative aspect of trying to get my foot in the door.
     But I've been lonely for my boy.  I've missed the 17th-century Cistercian monastery in Ireland where he finds himself at the end of his first journey.  And I've missed his self-appointed guardian, Brother Nose.  Of course, being deaf and illiterate, my boy doesn't know his guardian's real name; in his head, he names the people he encounters based on their characteristics.  And even on a man as big in all respects as Brother Nose, it's not hard to single out the one feature that captures attention.
     I'm back to watching them, them and all the others in the story, trying to learn who they are and how they'll react when I throw events their way.  As the only one who knows of their existence, I'm responsible for all of them - the monks, the villagers, the wise woman, the English soldiers.  I'm ready now to go back and resume my responsibility.  Wish me well.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


My 16-year-old daughter went to the senior prom last night with her boyfriend, who's the senior.  We took a few pictures in our back yard before they left.

     I was sixteen once, 40 years ago, in New York.  I felt like I was trapped in a life I didn't want, with no way out.   I was attending a girls' Orthodox Jewish parochial school where I made myself as close to invisible as I could possibly get.  My father suffered from major depression, for which he was periodically hospitalized, and my mother, who never received an official diagnosis, had a narcissistic, histrionic personality and was subject to manic episodes.  My lifelong ally had been my brother, my only sibling: a year older than me, a boy, and a genius, he seemed to hold the key.  I was convinced that I would never get married; I was too strange, too different from everyone else I knew.  And I could not conceive of a form of escape other than marriage.  The world was a terrifying place.  I would never have the power to leave home on my own.  My only hope, I decided early on, was to attach myself to my brother's coattails so I could fly away when he did. 
     But, when I was sixteen, I learned that he didn't share this plan with me.  Our parents never let him skip grades in school, so he was the same age as his classmates when he was a senior in high school.  But, unlike his classmates, he announced to my parents one day that he had spent his spare time during his high-school years teaching himself college- and masters-level mathematics, had been accepted for the following year into a PhD program at Harvard, and was going.  Period.  I wasn't aware of things like this at the time, but the acceptance must have come with the offer of a free ride.  My parents had no money, and, as my brother made clear to them, the decision was out of their hands, so there must have been no financial control for them to exercise.  What I was aware of was that I had been suddenly and completely abandoned.
     In my junior year of high school, in the depths of my despair, I learned that the City College of New York was instituting an early-admissions program for students finishing their junior year.  I applied.  I was interviewed by a kind young woman with long dark hair who didn't look that much older than me.  She asked me what interests I had.  I told her, none.  She asked me what I spent my time doing.  I told her, nothing.  She persisted, and, God bless her, she wormed out of me the fact that I was a reader.  We talked about some of the books I'd been reading.  Somehow, despite my best efforts to sabotage myself, she saw something in me.  And I was accepted into the program.  And that was my very first glimmer of hope that I might someday have a future of my own devising.
     There's sixteen, and there's sixteen.  And Amy's sixteen fills my heart with joy. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Here's the Evidence of My Crime

Here's Me Using the Word Blog in a Sentence: A Week in My Cave

The Art of Pissing off People You Don't Even Know

     So you say you want to learn how to alienate total strangers whom you actually admire?  Really, when you think about it, who wouldn't?  Well, you've come to the right place.  Come sit at the feet of the master.
     Remember how, on April 20th, I published a post describing my admiration for YA novelist A.S. King and her novels, "Please Ignore Vera Dietz" and "Everybody Sees the Ants?"  Sure you do.  In fact, I've been really looking forward to reading her next release, "Ask the Passengers," due out in October, and wondering whether I could summon the courage to ask her for an interview afterward.  All good so far, right?  And, of course, I've been following her blog because I like the off-kilter way she thinks and the values she novelistically espouses.  I mean, you can tell when an author is anti-bullying, or anti-crushing-weight-of-conformity, or anti-stupid-prejudices, right?  She's clearly all of those things, and more.  And here is where the plot thickens.
     Yesterday morning I read her latest blog post, "A Week In My Cave," in which she asserted that she "doesn't give a shit about politics," and it started to eat at me.  And it kept eating at me all day.  Now, here's where the instructional part comes in: what did I choose to do in response?  Why, I chose to post a condescending, self-righteous comment on her blog (my very FIRST comment on someone else's blog, no less), advising her that it would behoove her to give a shit about politics, because whom we citizens choose to elect to public office actually affects our lives and those of others we care about.   To which she responded with a politeness I did not deserve, explaining that I had taken her offhand remark out of context and that she does, indeed, read newspapers, vote, write often to her congresspersons, and act in many other socially conscious ways which I might have known something about if I had cared to do my homework before blasting her on her blog.  And then I apologized.  And here's what we would have said in New York when I was growing up about the value of my apology: "that and a token will get you on the subway."
     So there you have it.  I've publicly called out an author whom I respect, and I was wrong.  And here's a little quiz: what would you now say are the odds that she would agree to my interviewing her after "Passengers" comes out?  Zero?  Far too generous.  The odds, my friends, are now deep into the negative numbers, and likely to remain there throughout eternity.
     End of tutorial.  Additional pointers are available upon request.  You know who should be banished to a cave and not allowed out to interact with other humans until she can learn some rules about courteous discourse?  Here's a hint: it's not A.S. King.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hallmark Doth Make Mothers of Us All

Okay.  It's becoming clear.  If I don't do new blog posts,  I don't get any hits, right?  Fine, if that's the way you want to play it, but at least listen to my excuse:  I've been busy.  No - "busy" is where I would have been if I'd gotten off any of the first three exits on this highway I'm driving.  "Busy" has come and gone, I've zipped past "Overscheduled," and I'm starting to see signs for Exit 20.   "Major Freakout: Two Miles Ahead."  Thinking has been crossed off my agenda for at least the past week, and blogging without thinking  is unthinkable.  No - not unthinkable - it's just not really blogging. There's another word for it, if I could only remember what it was.  AHA!!  "Tweeting!"
     Anyway.  In addition to not writing - and I have not been - I've also been not blogging, except for interview posts and anecdotes about my kids.  But that's all going to change now, because my son just gave me the world's most thoughtful Mother's Day present: a book entitled "Blogging for Dummies."  Touching inscription: "Mom: Because you're both (1) starting a blog and (2) a dummy, I thought this book would be perfect for you!" How well he knows that when he leaves in three months, I'll have to fall back on my own technological expertise, which might best be described as paleolithic.  I hope the book's first chapter is entitled "How to Blog While Curled Up in Fetal Position."
     Okay, so here are my new Mother's Day resolutions:   Make time to think.  Make time to blog.  Make time to read the book. And, above all: make time to appreciate my two amazing kids, while we're all still residing in the same zip code.  Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Boy + Bot + Ame Dyckman!

It's the Ame Dyckman interview!!  Ame's debut picture book, Boy + Bot, was just published by Knopf, and it's about ... Well, it's about a boy and a bot, in't it?  Her next book, Tea Party Rules, won't be far behind.  Ame is known far and wide for her Minnie Mouse voice, her frequently-changing hair colors, and her big heart.  Here's what she had to say:

1. Does your own family contain any of the following units:
a. A short, bald Inventor?
b. A tall, red robot?
c. A one-eyed blue light bulb set on spider legs?
d. A boy?

(laughing) Not exactly, Susan. We have:
a. A tall, fuzzy chemist.
b. A small, red robot vacuum.
c. A nightlight.
d. A (terrific) girl.

2. Does the Bot Inventor dye his shirt every day to exactly match his one-
eyed pet light bulb?  Alternatively, does he dye the light bulb to match his
shirt?  Why or why not?

The Inventor has a closet full of those blue lab coats. Watt (the little light
bulb bot) chose the color.

3. On the Boy + Bot cover flap, you say that when you became a grown-
up, you remembered that you wanted to write books when you grew
up.  During the time before you remembered, what were you doing to keep

I had a variety of fun jobs, including window display designer, costumed
character, and brownie taste-tester. But writing for children is my favorite
job of all.

4. You ask your online followers to Bot-spot and notify you.  What is the
most unusual place your book has been spotted so far?

I received a #SpotBot picture of BOY + BOT in chair #108 of what appears
to be a very nice theater. Where is the theater? What was the show? It’s
a mystery!

5. Boy + Bot got an awesome review in The New York Times. Has Boy
read it?  Has Bot?  If so, what did they think of it?

We all read it together, and everyone loved it! Bot put it in his scrapbook.

6. It's rare to see such a complete and unconditional acceptance between
a human, a robot, and their respective families.  Is there, by any chance, a
larger lesson to be learned here?

That’s a great question, Susan! I asked Boy and Bot what they thought
about all of this. Here’s what they said:
BOY: “Bot’s my friend!”
BOT: “Boy-is-my-friend!”
Then they ran off to build a fort before I could ask them anything else. (I
was going to ask the Inventor, Watt, and Boy’s parents, but they were
playing canasta. I didn’t want to interrupt the fun.)

7. Why don't Boy and Bot invite Watt to play with
them?  I sense that he would like to.

They ask, but Watt enjoys helping the Inventor. Occasionally, though, Watt
will join Boy and Bot when they play hand shadow theater.

8. When is your next book, TEA PARTY RULES, coming out?  Do you
know yet who the illustrator will be?  Can you give us some hints about
what the book will be about?

TEA PARTY RULES, the humorous story of a bossy little girl and a
bear cub who really wants cookies, is scheduled for release in 2013.
It’s illustrated by brilliant newcomer Keith Campbell, whose first book,
LESTER’S DREADFUL SWEATERS, comes out this Fall.

     Ame tweets at @amedyckman.  Congratulations to her, Boy, Bot, and the whole rest of the crew!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Upcoming Interview Post!!

As soon as she emails me a photo of herself, I'm going to post my interview with Ame Dyckman!!  Ame's debut picture book, Boy + Bot, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, was just published by Knopf in April, and has already garnered some deservedly stellar reviews.  Yeah, yeah, I love YA, and don't read many picture books, but for Ame, whom I know through the New Jersey SCBWI, I'm happy to make an exception.  Check back very soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


After taking a year off after college to work and save money, my son is going to leave home again in September, to attend law school at George Washington U.  And since September is just an eye-blink away, I'm already waxing nostalgic, so I thought I'd post about his and my favorite (and, if you insist on full disclosure, only) mother/son activity.
     You probably think that "puzzling" is an adjective. Wrong. It's a verb, as in, "wanna puzzle?", and its definition is: to do the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle (although usually not on Sunday) in tandem. This may sound simple, but there are  rules attached. For example:
   - Puzzling must be performed at the kitchen table. I must sit on the left and Nathan on the right, with the magazine section open on the table between us, because we are both right-handed, I am the only one with legible handwriting and, as a consequence, the only permissible writer.
   - Puzzling must always begin with the following ritual. Me to Nathan: "Are you ready?"  Nathan to me: "I was born ready."  A high-five is exchanged.  Then we get down to business.
   - If we find the major clues - the ones that usually entail terrible puns or other forms of wordplay - to fall below our lofty standards, we will loudly revile the puzzle-maker along gender lines: Nathan takes the lead if it was a woman, I do if it was a man, and if it happens to have been a mixed-doubles team, we're in hog heaven.
   - We never, ever cheat.  We never, ever quit.  We are Righteous Puzzlers, and don't you forget it.
   - The truly essential component of our version of puzzling is trash-talk.  We are quite the competent puzzling team (I've trained him well), and so our joy does not lie in the actual completion of the puzzle.  Rather, it lies in our hurling of kindergarten-level insults at each other.  "Fartbutt," for example, crops up more than you might think. When Nathan supplies an answer and I don't fill it in on the grid quickly enough, I am routinely threatened with various creative forms of bodily injury.  Likewise, when Nathan leans his elbow on the puzzle or fails to specify the spelling of an answer that has a homonym (do I have to read every clue, for God's sake??), I express my abiding loathing for him and my almost irresistible desire to stab him with the pen, usually somewhere in the facial region.  The trash talk is absolutely mandatory; without it, puzzling, as we know it, would cease to exist.

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "geeks."  You're thinking, "pathetic losers."  You're toying with the idea of reporting us to social service agencies.  You would rather be dead than have further contact with this blog.  But you know what?  You'll be back.  You're horrified and fascinated in equal measure, and you'll find yourself uncontrollably drawn back to my blog again and again.....  doomed, doomed, doomed.   Au revoir, for now.   mwoohahahahahaha.......