Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Few Cybils Reads - Part II

The public nomination period for the Cybils closed last week. I have 32 print books and 4 e-books checked out from the library currently scattered at various parts throughout my house (well, I guess the e-books aren’t really scattered), in addition to the books I already own (easily another dozen or so). You’d think that a kitchen table would be for eating things, but right now it’s pretty much just serving as a surface upon which to sort books – this stack I’ve read, this stack I haven’t, and so on.
Here are a few more brief reviews from the stack I’ve read.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule
This book lives up to its title. It is very strange, almost too strange, for most of its existence, and then it hits you with some sweetness near the end that makes for a very satisfying resolution. Sing da Navelli is the daughter of a famous soprano, a woman who made a name for herself in opera – not only because of her voice, but also because she died in the middle of an aria. When Sing starts at Dunhammond Academy, a boarding school for musicians, she feels the weight of her father’s expectations as well as the public’s. As luck (good or ill) would have it, the school is performing Angelique this year, the opera that Sing’s mother died singing.

Parts of the story are told from Sing’s point of view as she tries to gain the lead role in the opera, make friends, date the cute boy, deal with rude teachers, and so on. Other parts are told from the point of view of the Maestro of the school in his youth, his young apprentice, and a strange being called the Felix who inhabits the woods outside the school. The Felix – which kills almost everyone it meets, but grants wishes to a select few – is itself a part of the opera, used as inspiration by the opera’s composer long ago. Its life is tied inextricably to the history of the school. At times the school story and the mythical story exist uneasily side by side. It takes a patient reader to push through all the parts and learn how they join together, but the payoff is lovely and rewarding, very fairy tale-esque with a sweet romance and interesting magic. The writing is lovely, too, giving the book a dreamlike quality. This would be a good pick for readers fascinated with the opera, the lives of classical musicians, and the magic that music can create.

Amity by Micol Ostow
Ostow has written a seriously creepy horror novel that most readers could probably finish in a single sitting. It tells two parallel stories both set in a house called Amity, but separated in time by ten years. Connor’s story is the past story; Gwen’s is the present. Each story begins with the teens’ families moving into Amity and noticing that something is a bit off with the house. In Connor’s case, he develops an affinity for Amity; the house gives him a sort of power. He feeds off of it and vice versa. In Gwen’s case, the house frightens her; it starts to do strange things to her brother, and she becomes more and more disturbed as she learns more about what happened ten years ago with Connor’s family.

Each teen tells their own story, and both teens at first seem fairly normal, but it quickly becomes apparent that Connor brought his own disease with him to Amity, a disease that Amity recognizes and exploits. Gwen suffers from a disease, too, but of a different kind. Eventually, Connor’s and Gwen’s stories combine. The switches in perspective are frequent, chapters are short, and there’s a lot of white space. These stylistic choices create an urgency to the story, which is perfectly paced (if perhaps just a touch too short). I know next to nothing about the actual Amityville events, so I can’t tell you how much of the book pulls from them and how much springs completely from Ostow’s imagination. What I can tell you is that Ostow excels at creating a haunting mood, one that isn’t driven by gore or things that jump out at you. It’s a slow burn, and by the end, most readers should be deliciously scared. Keep the lights on.

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart
The voice is what makes this book stand out from other is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-ghost stories. Ellie is fourteen, depressed, and on her way to a new town with her parents to make a fresh start. On the way there, her family’s car is involved in a crash which kills one of her parents and her cat. Ellie herself is seriously injured, but she pulls through. In her new home, she meets Madeline, a beautiful, perfect girl who quickly becomes her best friend. But then Madeline is gone, and Ellie finds herself adrift without her, struggling once again to put together the broken pieces of her life – and mostly failing.

Ellie’s story is difficult to read sometimes – she’s in such pain, and her voice is so achingly fourteen. It would take a hard heart not to be transported back to one’s own adolescence while reading this. Though I didn’t experience the same exact problems as Ellie, Stewart’s writing made me acutely aware of just how everything felt at that time in my life. Fourteen year olds experience things differently than adults. Sometimes it hurts to remember that. This is a first person story, told through Ellie’s journals (though it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly like an epistolary novel) and we are close, so very close, to Ellie as narrator. It’s possible she’s unreliable. What’s more likely, at least to me, is that Ellie just doesn’t know what’s going on. She can’t trust her own experiences, so we as readers can’t either. This is a short, intense read that should resonate with a lot of teens, many of whom will see themselves in Ellie.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

7 Steps to Protect Your Privacy As A Blogger (Or As A Person On The Internet, Period)

If you've been on the internet in the last few days, certainly you've read the story about Kathleen Hale stalking down a blogger. I'm not interested in reading a single thing more about it in terms of how some authors would never do that, that bloggers have a right to write what they want, and so forth. Those are all too touchy-feely. 

What I'm interested in is why bloggers aren't speaking up louder -- and I think Liz Burns hits the nail on the head about the fact this story has caused many of us who are bloggers to get worried about what speaking up and out might do. While we might be able to write Hale off as unstable and a rarity, the number of people who supported her piece, regardless of how fabricated it is or is not (she did not offer privacy to the blogger, despite offering it to her friends), is cause for alarm. Go read Liz's post about why she's afraid of blogging after this

So we can either sit with our fear, give up blogging all together, or we can act in ways that offer us more privacy than we have right now. I thought it would be worthwhile to list a few steps I've taken and a few I plan on taking to ensure the most privacy and safety for myself as a woman on the internet with an opinion that I can in hopes it might help other people do the same. We've seen that this is necessary time and time again. 

1. Get a post office box

I have given my home mailing address for everything. It never occurred to me to get a PO box for anything blog-related. Today I went down to the local post office and opened one for myself, and I plan on transitioning as much book-related mail as possible there, rather than keep it at home. It will certainly be the address I use when sending out mail, too.

The cost was $29 for 6 months, plus a $6 key deposit fee. To open a box, you need to be 18 (or with a parent/guardian) and you need both a photo ID and a non-photo proof of address. I used my vehicle registration, but you can use your mortgage or your rental agreement. 

The pros of this are the anonymity provided. The cons of this are the need to go to the post office, which can be a challenge, and it doesn't change the fact that UPS or FedEx won't ship there. 

2. Use a blogging email

I'm too loose on using my personal email for blogging-related stuff. I'm okay with it sometimes, but I need to be better about public sharing of my email and use the generic email for it. 

I don't share other people's email addresses when I'm asked for them, so why am I loose with my own? Personal email is that; business email is another beast. 

For those who get overwhelmed by the idea of multiple inboxes, you can set up a forwarding service or filters to make it easier. Or, like with a PO box, you can create a new routine to check your business email every day at x-time or three times a week or whatever works for you. 

3. Have a review AND a privacy policy on your blog

Did you know we've always had a privacy policy on Stacked? Go to our review policy (which is woefully out of date), and it's there at the bottom. We don't share any information at all. 

Having a review policy is good for setting out what you're doing and how you do it. No one is shocked we write critical reviews. No one should be shocked that we don't respond to all email queries (it's laid out we don't, and we don't). This protects you and what you're trying to do.

In regards to our privacy policy, we delete all contest information when they're done. All Google Docs go into a private spreadsheet, which is then deleted when the winner has responded. We don't collect mailing info via the sheets; we take email, then contact winners that way. It's two-step protection. 

Also, sites like Amazon or B&N can save contest winner mailing addresses as shipping addresses. Delete them. When doing a giveaway from a publisher or other source, I always tell that to the winner, so they know their info is being passed on. This helps them know I'm sharing AND it can be a chance for them to decide which address they're being reached at. 

If you don't have these policies, get them. You can take our privacy policy verbatim, if it makes it easier. 

But don't just take it. FOLLOW it, too.

4. Clean dead social media accounts

I deleted profiles at all of the social media services I don't use. It's one thing less for people to "find" me through. 

Know what your rights are on social media before you sign up for new services. When Ello hit the internet, I didn't run to join. They had no way to block users. Guess what? That's not safe. I'm not going to join a site until I know my ability to be private or block abusive users is guaranteed.

5. Block and report abuse

In conjunction with cleaning dead social media, where you ARE active, make sure you know how to report abuse and utilize your blocking services. They're not always perfect -- on Twitter, even if you block someone, if they sign out of their account, they can still see your profile, if it's public -- but they're a layer of privacy.

Yes, I have a list of people blocked on Twitter. I can handle criticism; when it turns abusive or scary, I'm out. 

The beauty of social media is being able to tweak it to fit your needs. Don't let the nasty be what you see, if you can best avoid it. I know it's not always possible, but it shouldn't be a tool you're afraid to use because it might hurt someone else's feelings.

6. Assess your sharing

I have personal boundaries on every social media account I'm on. In other words, I use different tools for different reasons and have different audiences in mind. My Facebook, for example, is only for people I actually know. Strangers or people from the internet I've not met in real life or spent significant time talking with are people I don't friend. I know sometimes it can feel rude to do that, but those same people have all access to me on Twitter or Tumblr or here or via email or any other entry point. Facebook is personal and for me and me alone.

I talked at KidLit Con about how my sharing on Twitter has changed in the last year. It has. I am much more conscious of personal sharing. I don't tend to talk about trips I'm taking or about places I'm going or where I'm at. I don't talk about personal stuff much at all -- perhaps a bad day or a good day, but I'm conscious of not even tweeting my cats' names. It's almost too much information, when I'm already using my full, real name. 

Another habit I changed? Goodreads. I won't get rid of it, but I use it far less frequently and I post far shorter reviews. I don't bother with starred ratings anymore because I just got tired of defending things like a 3-starred review for a book I liked (3 means I liked it!). When you get tired of doing something, change what you're doing. 

You get to decide how you interact online. Set up boundaries and feel free to stick with them or change them as you want to. If you want to use your real name on one site and not another, go for it. If you want to share details of your employer, feel free. But also know those choices come with consequences -- I know more than one person who had their employment information easily findable and have had people from the internet contact their bosses about something. I've had situations where someone has been looking for someone with the same name as me, has found my place of employment, and tried running a collection agency through that work place's HR to get my address. HR warned me they weren't looking for me, but told me to be safe and run credit reports anyway (yes, this has happened multiple times). 

You don't owe anything to anyone on the internet

You don't have to use a real picture. You don't have to use a real name. You can be inconsistent with your handles. You are the only one who has to have a handle on it, and you can choose those levels of privacy for yourself. 

7. Change your passwords

Right now, change all your passwords. 

Yes, it's a pain in the ass, but it's a step of protection for you. 

I would highly recommend investing in a password management tool like 1Password and creating a vault. That makes changing your passwords easier and you can't forget them since they're saved. 

All of the advice out there suggesting that bloggers or those who are outspoken on the internet need to "grow a thicker skin" is well-meaning, but it's not the be-all, end-all. You can have thin skin (I do!) and still be opinionated. You know how to properly manage it in healthy outlets. 

The problem in situations like this isn't about "thick skinned"ness. It's about another person taking advantage of your privacy and security. No one should feel unsafe writing their thoughts, ideas, dreams, or opinions and sharing them. 

I write critical reviews, but I don't deserve to feel unsafe for them. No one does.

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Put a Moon on It: The Moon on YA Book Covers

Every year, we try to write about horror or scary books throughout October. While there are more posts planned, I thought I'd take the Halloween/October spirit of things into a little bit of a different direction. 

Let's talk about the moon. More specifically, let's talk about the moon as it appears on YA book covers. It's interesting that the moon is a trend-y sort of image in cover design. I didn't think it was until I started to look through YA books published by year. We're in a moon upswing, after a handful of years where we didn't see it on covers as much as we currently -- and soon will -- see it. When we did see it as a cover trend a few years back, it was a pretty solid indicator of a werewolf story. Now? Not so much. 

All of the books on this list feature a moon on the cover, even though not all of these books fall into the horror/scary/thriller categories. I think this could make for a fun display because the visual of it is great. I've noted places where the book is part of a series. 

Descriptions come from Goodreads, unless otherwise noted. If you can think of other YA books with moons on the cover, feel free to let me know in the comments. I stuck to covers where it was obvious the image was a moon, rather than something that could be the moon. 

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt: Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone, but has no idea of what she wants for herself.

Earth & Sky by Megan Crewe (October 28, first in a series): Seventeen-year-old Skylar has been haunted for as long as she can remember by fleeting yet powerful sensations that something is horribly wrong. But despite the panic attacks tormenting her, nothing ever happens, and Sky’s beginning to think she’s crazy. Then she meets a mysterious, otherworldly boy named Win and discovers the shocking truth her premonitions have tapped into: our world no longer belongs to us. For thousands of years, Earth has been at the mercy of alien scientists who care nothing for its inhabitants and are using us as the unwitting subjects of their time-manipulating experiments. Win belongs to a rebel faction seeking to put a stop to it, and he needs Skylar’s help--but with each shift in the past, the very fabric of reality is unraveling, and soon there may be no Earth left to save. (Description via Goodreads). 

The Dead & The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (series, with ALL covers featuring a big old moon on them): After a meteor hits the moon and sets off a series of horrific climate changes, seventeen-year-old Alex Morales must take care of his sisters alone in the chaos of New York City.

My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp (March 2015): Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out. Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart? (Description via Goodreads).

Starbreak by Phoebe North (second in series): After five hundred years, the Earth ship seventeen-year-old Terra and her companions were born and raised on arrives at Zehava, a dangerous, populated world where Terra must take the lead in establishing a new colony.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (first in series): In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a New Escientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy a pod of Anthropophagi.

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn: Marni, a young flower seller who has been living in exile, must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and a life with the father she has never known--a wild dragon.

Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti (November 18): Lindsey Allen, seventeen, aspires to be an astronomer but her eccentric mother decides they must move to Los Angeles to become psychics to the stars, and soon Lindsey must either betray her mother or her new mentor.

Dove Arising by Karen Bao (February 24, 2015): On a lunar colony, fifteen-year-old Phaet Theta does the unthinkable and joins the Militia when her mother is imprisoned by the Moon's oppressive government. 

Defy The Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell: Seventeen original stories that take place in the absence of light.

Girl On A Wire by Gwenda Bond: A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American! Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies. Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque. As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall. (Description via Goodreads)

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion-- and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

Fateful by Claudia Gray: When seventeen-year-old Tess Davies, a ladies' maid, meets handsome Alec Marlow aboard the RMS Titanic, she quickly becomes entangled in the dark secrets of his past, but her growing love puts her in mortal peril even before fate steps in.

Nocturne by Christine Johnson (second in series): After the tragic events of the summer, Claire wants to worry about nothing but finding the perfect dress for the Autumn Ball, but her worst nightmares come true when someone learns that she is a werewolf, placing everyone she knows at risk.

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer (second in series): Alpha wolf Calla Tor forges an alliance with her masters' enemies and tries to rescue her pack from imprisonment in Vail.


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell (August 4, 2015): Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike. (Description via Goodreads). 

Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce (second in series): In a quest to prove her friend, Lord Durrel Decath, innocent of the murder of his wife, pickpocket Digger stumbles into a conspiracy with far-reaching consequences for the civil war raging in Lllyvraneth, while also finding herself falling in love.

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby: At age seven, Anna watched her mother walk into the surf and drown, but nine years later, when she moves with her father to the beach where her parents fell in love, she joins the cross-country team, makes new friends, and faces her guilt.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (March 24, 2015): Naila's vacation to visit relatives in Pakistan turns into a nightmare when she discovers her parents want to force her to marry a man she's never met. 

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Week in Reading: Volume VII

I haven't updated in a couple of weeks, and I've gotten a pile of books. This isn't even all of them -- I haven't included the library books, which I try to return as soon as I finish, nor the titles I picked up on my ereader. Or the signed copy of Complicit I bought at Kid Lit Con.

What I've purchased or received lately:

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (purchased) -- I'm reviewing it this week. This book is one of my 2014 favorites, if not easily one of my favorite YA titles in a long, long, LONG time.

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller (June 2) -- I've read pieces of this and can't wait to dive into the whole thing.

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre (April 7)

Audacity by Melanie Crowder (January 8) -- a verse novel about the historical Uprising of 20,000 in New York City. I am so, so sold.

Infandous by Elana K. Arnold (March 1) -- I just got a big recommendation for this one.

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (January 13)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood -- I've never read this and I want to. I'm heading up to a big book festival in Toronto next month (more about that soon) and I feel ashamed never having read Atwood.

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver (April 28) -- I heard Leaver's writing is kind of like Lois Duncan's, so I'm super intrigued.

Stranger by Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith (November 14)

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (February 3)

The Secret Place by Tana French

Boy Heaven by Laura Kasische -- I bought an ebook of this one on recommendation and can't wait to read it.

The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard -- I read this novella on a flight last week and it's a fun, creepy little horror story about madness and ghosts.

Read This Week

I've read so much this month. I've been trying to knock out a pile of horror novels I bought last month, and I'm down to two being left.

This week, I read Fade by Robert Cormier, Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir, and I'm going to finish A. S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future this weekend. I've got Lena Dunham's book here, from the library (the nice thing about being in a small town is sometimes these books are just sitting on shelf for you and you don't have to wait for them) but it hasn't grabbed me yet.

Around the Web

Here's a pile of links and worthwhile reading from around the web the last few weeks:

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Friday, October 17, 2014

This Week at Book Riot

Only one post this week over at Book Riot, as I'm in the middle of drafting a few others post-Kid Lit Con now:

  • Get ready to get scared with these three great YA horror books for 3 On A YA Theme. I talked about two books that have been reviewed here, as well as Emily Carroll's new graphic novel Through The Woods, which was one of my favorite reads in a while. It's one that seems like it fell a bit under the radar this year, but it's so, so good, especially for readers who like seeing fairy tales and horror tropes reworked...with amazing art to accompany it. 

This week, Becky at RA for All spotlighted Stacked in her RA for All Horror: 31 Days of Horror series. Check it and the rest of her blog out. If you're not already reading it, you should be, especially if you're a fan of adult books and horror. 

Since it's on my mind this week, if you're in Wisconsin and you're going to be at WLA, you should consider attending my session with Carrie Mesrobian on November 5, from 4:30-5:15 pm. Here's the description:

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kid Lit Con 2014, Sacramento: The Recap

Last week, I headed out to Sacramento to attend the 8th annual Kid Lit Con. It was my fifth time going, which is hard for me to wrap my head around. I got out to Sacramento mid-day on Thursday after what felt like a never-ending flight (it was a completely fine flight, just long) and spent two full days attending sessions, catching up with long-time blogging friends, and meeting new people. 

Pictured above are the view from my hotel room (on the left), which looked out over a park and Sacramento's City Hall. On the far left of the picture is the Sacramento Public Library, which is where the event was held. The photo on the right is from the lobby of the hotel, which had a vintage library feel to it. It ran both sides of the lobby and onto the second floor. 

This was the first year that Kid Lit Con had a theme, which was diversity. Most of the sessions focused on some aspect of diversity, from how to be conscious of portrayals of diversity in what you're reading to why an author would want to have as diverse a cast of characters in her novel as possible. 

Friday, the first full day of sessions, the first program I attended was about finding and reviewing the best in diverse kid lit. The speakers were good, and they shared a couple of blogs I hadn't been aware of before. For the most part, it was a session about why blogging about diversity and diverse books is important. 

Immediately following that session was my own presentation on using social media effectively. Here's the Prezi for those who couldn't attend or who did attend and wanted a copy of it. A couple of questions that aren't addressed on the Prezi itself: to turn on Twitter Analytics, go to analytics.twitter.com, and you can see them there. I mentioned you'd have to go to ads.twitter.com to see them, which is true, but it looks like they're not in the Analytics dashboard itself. The thing people were most interested in during the session was my plug for Diptic, an image collage app/program you can get for $1. I highly recommend spending that single dollar, since it'll let you create collages, as well as put text overlays onto those collages. The image I pulled with the Facebook section on the Prezi was one I made with Diptic. I also spent a bit of time talking about how to use Tumblr to re-promote backlist posts you've made, in order to take what you already have and make it new again. I think the rest of the Prezi is self-explanatory, but if anyone reading this wants more information or has questions, let me know and I'm happy to answer. Photo on the left is courtesy of Melissa Fox

I had a great lunch with a pile of long-time blogging friends, and then attended a session with Hannah Gomez, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Edith Campbell called "Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story." I loved how energetic a speaker Jewell was, and it was maybe this session from which I took the most away. Hannah talked about how, when she went through the roster of Kid Lit Con attendee blogs, she noticed three types of bloggers: bloggers who talk about a wide variety of topics and books are just part of their blog; bloggers who are "greeters" of sorts and who post short reviews and participate in memes on a really regular basis and who tend to keep things short; and finally, bloggers who are more analytical and tend to write longer posts, with less frequent reviews. I thought about this breakdown all weekend and think it really impacted how I took in some of the other sessions. Not in a bad way, though.

When that session wrapped up, there was an author meet-and-greet. I don't know how many authors were there, but it was a nice number. I spent part of the event talking with Stephanie Kuehn, and I convinced her to join everyone for dinner afterward. 

Everyone at Kid Lit Con went out to dinner that night, then because of some inconsistent dessert service, I went out with Leila Roy, Hannah Gomez, and Faythe Arrendondo for dessert and drinks at the hotel restaurant. 

Saturday began early, as I met with Hannah and Faythe to talk about our presentation later that afternoon. We had a solid breakfast, and we talked a bit about what we hoped to accomplish, and then we spent a good amount of time talking about how excited we were to meet and present with our fourth panelist, Summer Khaleq

The first session on Saturday was the keynote with Mitali Perkins. She was a great speaker, and she offered up a 10-point checklist for seeing and thinking about diversity, race, and culture in kid lit. I thought that was one of the best take aways from the event. 

Pam Margolis was the second speaker of the day, and she talked about how to reach readers in a very digital environment, beyond your blog. I loved Pam's style and enthusiasm in presenting, but a lot of what she'd suggested is stuff I probably wouldn't do, though I appreciate when other people do them. During her session, I kept thinking about Hannah's blogger breakdown, and Pam really hit it hard for the first two types of bloggers, especially those who are eager to take pictures, to be bookstagramers, who want to hop on YouTube, and who are excited about using tools like Vine. While I enjoy bloggers who do that -- and I do! -- I'm not the type and I don't think I would ever be. Part is discomfort, part of not having patience with technology, but the biggest part is that for me, blogging is about writing. It's an outlet TO write, so playing with YouTube or Instagram for blogging/book related purposes doesn't suit my needs. And what's great is...it's okay. This session made me further appreciate those bloggers who do do those things, since there is time, effort, and bravery in putting yourself out there like that. 

Shannon Hale was the second keynote of the day, and she Skyped in. She talked about why she writes diverse characters, and at one point, she got so choked up about seeing the type of girl she'd hoped she'd depicted in her book, that I almost got a little choked up myself. 

I skipped out on lunch Saturday since I'd been hit by jet lag bad and wanted to be fresh for the second half of the day. The session I'd been looking forward to the most was next, which was the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel, featuring S. E. Sinkhorn, Mike Jung, Karen Sandler, and Martha White. They talked about how the campaign came together, the projects they'd worked on so far, and what was in the works. We got a sneak peek at the now-live diverse YA reading flowchart, which you can see, print, and share here. The session was great, and I was really excited to meet both Mike and Stephanie after their panel. I've been reading and following them both for a while now, and it's always nice when you get to put a face in person to a name. 

Photo by Guinevere Thomas

The very final session of Kid Lit Con was the panel I was a part of, along with Faythe, Summer, and Hannah. Faythe and Hannah are both librarians, and Summer, second from the left, is a 16-year-old YA reader who is so thoughtful and articulate. It was an honor to be on a panel with all three of these ladies. We called ourselves the downer panel, since our session was far less about making people feel good and more about putting to action the things we'd talked about all day. We talked in depth about how diversity is more than race or culture -- it includes body image, socioeconomic status, and more. We talked about how you have to call things out when they're being done poorly and how you should point to examples where things are being done well. Since it's hard to summarize what a panel discussion talked about in depth, it's probably more useful to offer up the downloadable brochure than Hannah created for our panel about how to read and blog diversely. Looking for diverse blogs to add to your reading diet? You're going to find them there. 

When our session wrapped up, it was on to a banquet dinner at the hotel. It was a nice time for decompressing and catching up with friends, old and new. I didn't stay the entire four hours, since I had a very early flight to catch.

While I wish there had been more talk of actual blogging at Kid Lit Con this year, I appreciated how diverse the diversity discussion ran throughout the two days. More, as Hannah noted, it was nice to be at a small conference where diversity was well-represented among attendees, too. It was amazing to look out at a crowd while presenting and see people of all different colors, shapes, and backgrounds. That doesn't happen as much as it should at bigger conventions like ALA or BEA. It was nice to meet new people, as well as reconnect with old ones. Spending three nights with Leila was a blast as always, and it was really nice to be on the same page with our jet lag and exhaustion by the end of the weekend. 

Next year, Kid Lit Con hits Baltimore, and I'm already looking forward to it. A huge thank you to the coordinators of this year's program -- it was well-run and really enjoyable. 

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Plagues & Epidemics

I've noticed a lot of plagues and epidemics in YA fiction lately. It used to be that a plague was a good way to explain a decimated world in a YA post-apocalyptic story, but more frequently now I'm seeing stories that tackle the plague during its rise and dominance rather than its lingering after-effects. This includes some historical fiction about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which can evoke the same sort of mood as post-apocalyptic tales set in a fictional future. To many who lived through it, the 1918 flu may have felt like the end of the world.

Below are a few titles published within the last few years that feature plagues or epidemics prominently. I tried to focus on stories where the plague is the plot rather than simply exposition. Are there any that I've missed?

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Sixteen-year-old old Kaelyn challenges her fears, finds a second chance at love, and fights to keep her family and friends safe as a deadly new virus devastates her island community. | Sequels: The Lives We Lost, The Worlds We Make

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
In this twist on Edgar Allen Poe's gothic short story, a wealthy teenaged girl who can afford a special mask to protect her from the plague that decimated humanity in the mid-1800s, falls in love, becomes caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow an oppressive government, and faces the threat of a new plague. | Sequel: Dance of the Red Death

Conversion by Katherine Howe
When girls start experiencing strange tics and other mysterious symptoms at Colleen's high school, her small town of Danvers, Massachusetts, falls victim to rumors that lead to full-blown panic, and only Colleen connects their fate to the ill-fated Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago. | Kimberly's review

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
A chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC's elite leads to Emily Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night. Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus--something about her parents' top secret scientific work--something she shouldn't know.

A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

In the not-too-distant future when a global pandemic kills most of humanity, a teenaged girl and her younger brother struggle to survive. | Kimberly's review

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
When the Spanish influenza epidemic reaches Portland, Oregon, in 1918, seventeen-year-old Cleo leaves behind the comfort of her boarding school to work for the Red Cross.

Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
Lil is left home alone when a deadly pandemic hits her small town in New Jersey. Will Lil survive the flu and brave her darkest fears?

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
In San Diego in 1918, as deadly influenza and World War I take their toll, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort and, despite her scientific leanings, must consider if ghosts are real when her first love, killed in battle, returns. | Kimberly's review

The Program by Suzanne Young
When suicide becomes a worldwide epidemic, the only known cure is The Program, a treatment in which painful memories are erased, a fate worse than death to seventeen-year-old Sloane who knows that The Program will steal memories of her dead brother and boyfriend. | Sequel: The Treatment | Dual review

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