Tag Archive for Kirkus

The Fuse Is Lit

Hey, cool. I was mentioned this morning at one of my favorite blogs, A Fuse #8 Production.

And, well, yes. Complimenting Elizabeth Bird on her blog is like going to traffic court, ticket in hand, and praising the judge’s new hair style.

It’s hard not to seem self-serving.

In today’s rapidly changing world, we’ve seen a tidal shift in information delivery systems. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, Book Trailers, etc. For those newish readers (and that’s funny, you don’t look newish), I direct you to this brilliant three-minute short by Dennis Cass. At the same time, I recently received this offer from Kirkus Reviews: “A one-year subscription and complete access to Kirkusreviews.com for only $199!”

Yipes, no can do. Sure, I realize I’m not an institution and not their target audience. But even institutions have budgets. And I effortlessly surf the kidlitosphere to read thoughtful reviews, interviews, business news, artists’ thoughts, and classroom experiences as I click, click, click. For free. The world is changing, and the future of publishing — of books themselves — is in jeopardy. The old ways are increasingly out-of-sync with today’s world. We’ve seen it in music. We’re seeing it in the automobile industry. We’ll experience it with books.

So that’s the subtext for Fuse #8, and the influential, increasingly important Elizabeth Bird. Is she becoming one of the most powerful voices in the business? Oprah-esque? This little blogger who could? So, again, here I am in the position of asking the traffic court judge if she has been, by any chance, working out lately. I realize it might appear indecorous. But I regularly read Elizabeth’s site. I am informed by it, inspired by it. Besides her obvious devotion to children’s books, Elizabeth has really mastered the blog format, striking a balance between the pithy and the complete, between “fast” and “slow” blogging, between sharing links and offering Deep Thinks.

I always think of visiting a blog as a decision to hang out with that person. And I’m saying, Elizabeth Bird can hang.

A quick thanks to Shannon Penney at Scholastic who first steered me to Fuse #8.

Now Judge, about this ticket . . .

ADDENDUM: Back to the business of publishing, we all know about Black Wednesday. Yesterday I came across a related item on Gawker.com, sent to me by a writer friend who also publishes with Macmillan. The piece included the text of a recent memo from John Sargent at Macmillan to all employees. Here’s the first paragraph in what represents, relatively speaking, Good News (read: he didn’t fire anybody):

“Since I spoke to you a month ago about the economic crisis and its impact on our company, I can’t say much has changed. We are now clearly in a recession and there is still no clarity on how long or deep it will be. What is clear is that retail book sales are down, advertising revenues are down, and even countercyclical businesses like education are struggling in many cases. We are not immune to these forces, and our business continues to be soft. So the time has come to take action for next year.”

Kirkus Reviews Spider

Here’s what Kirkus Reviews had to say about Along Came Spider:

Spider Stevens and Trey Cooper have lived next door to each other their entire lives and have been best friends throughout their years at Spiro Agnew Elementary School. Trey has a type of autism that seems to accentuate the worst traits of ADHD and OCD. He has poor self-control, peculiar habits and awkward social skills. In fifth grade, Trey’s obvious eccentricities, once acceptable and even endearing, are now a liability, and Trey’s peers now regard him as weird and an outcast. This puts Spider in the difficult position of having to choose whether to remain loyal to his oldest friend or to abandon him to join the ranks of the popular kids. Preller adeptly portrays the psychological and social dynamics of this age group, and Trey is realistic and sympathetic as a misfit, if not as memorable as Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza or Jerry Spinelli’s David Zinkoff. The pressures Spider feels from his peers to belong and conform will resonate with middle-grade readers

I don’t know, reviews are so weird. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this review, though naturally is doesn’t inspire me to do the Dance of Joy. The Spinelli/Zinkoff reference is from the book, Loser, btw, which several people told me to read when I first discussed Spider with them. The problem is, though I hugely respect Spinelli — first book, age 41! — I find it’s distinctly unhelpful to read another author’s take on a similar topic. It’s paralyzing. There are many times when I use books as sources of inspiration, but when I’m deep into writing, I stay far away from any material that might be close to what I’m doing.

One other thing about that word, autism. Trey Cooper is never diagnosed in the book. I never said that he is autistic, intentionally. I did that for several reasons, primarily because I don’t think that kids relate to each other that way. If somebody makes another child angry or annoyed, a typical eleven-year-old isn’t going to think, “Oh, his mother is an alcoholic,” or, “That’s cool, he’s got OCD.” The response is more direct and immediate. The second reason is that I’m not qualified to put a medical label on Trey, though I gave him many traits common with the vast array of characteristics that fall under Spectrum Disorders. Lastly, one aspect of the book is getting away from labels (jock, geek, brainiac, weirdo, whatever), and of trying to see the individual underneath, i.e., walking a mile in someone else’s sneakers.