Archive for January, 2010

With all the big awards and Best of the Year and Best of the Decade lists that have come out in the last few weeks, I’m reminded of just how awesome and diverse the Young Adult genre is, and how lucky I am to be a part of it.  When I was a teenager, there were very few books I felt I could hold onto as mine, books that told my story from my point of view.  Now the field is so full, there’s something for everybody: from vampires to sci-fi, from romance to LBGTQ to historical fiction, from  the light fare of Gossip Girl and Lauren Conrad to the depth of Laurie Halse Anderson, from Meg Cabot to Ellen Hopkins to Rachel Cohn to Julie Anne Peters, from Frank Portman to Jason Myers to Sherman Alexie to David Levithan to Marcus Zuzak.  We’ve got subject matter covered.  We’ve got gritty and we’ve got escapist.  We’ve got sex and drugs and rock & roll, and we’ve got cheerleaders and straight-A’s and virginity clubs.  What more could you ask for?

Well, I’ve got something.  Yes, we should be proud of ourselves.  Yes, we’ve come a long way since The Babysitter’s Club.  But that’s no reason to take it easy, to become complacent in our art.  For me, the process of writing is, more than anything, a search for the truth.  Every time I sit down to tell a story, I challenge myself to open my eyes just a little bit more. I push myself to see something new, and then I get to tell you about it.  I’ve committed to telling the stories others are afraid to tell, the stories I very much needed to hear as a teen, the stories I was told not to talk about.  They are the stories that are “supposed” to be kept as secrets, that when hidden turn into the silence that isolates and tears people apart from the insides.  It is an honor and a gift to be able to tell these stories, to speak these truths and give them breath.

But what if we challenged ourselves even more?  What if we not only covered the expanses of subject matter; what if we went even further than that?  What if we focused not just on what we’re saying, but how we’re saying it?  We’ve gotten so good at linear narrative, why don’t we spice things up a bit?  Instead of telling our stories the old-fashioned way of beginning to end, why don’t we experiment a little more with non-linear time and structure and point-of-view?  Let’s tell stories in fragments and spirals, backwards and upside-down and inside-out.  Let’s try to be as diverse in form and perspective as we are in content.  We already have some trailblazers–Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones have found their voices in verse–why don’t we follow their lead and shake things up a bit?

Why? you may ask.  Well, quite frankly, because we can.  Because we’re writers and artists and we need to constantly inspire ourselves.  Because words are things to play with.  Because form is fluid.  Because our readers are smart and they want to be challenged and shown new ways of looking at the world.  Because we are their guides and we should give them their money’s worth.  Because the well of characters and stories is endless, and so should be their vehicles.    Because imagination is the greatest gift we have and the world expands the more we use it.

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I guess staying home sick is as good a time as any to write a blog post.  It’s miserable and rainy outside and Peanut’s going crazy because she’s desperate for a walk, but I’m pretty sure once she gets out there she’s going to change her mind.  She’s a prissy girl and doesn’t like getting her feet wet.  If I was feeling better, I wouldn’t actually mind being out there in the rain.  I’m from Seattle after all, and it really does rain there as much as people say it does, and I find it kind of comforting.  I’m going to be a rain snob and say it’s comical what people call a “storm” here.  It rains more than an inch and everybody’s on red alert, the city of Berkeley floods, and people stay home from work.  I wish I wasn’t sick so I could trudge through the rain and show everyone how a real woman does it–without an umbrella, holding a cup of coffee and a leash  and talking on the phone at the same time.

Did I really just write that long ass paragraph about the weather?  I must really be bored.

In other news, I have way too many books piled up on my bedside table waiting to be read.  A few of them have already been read, but I’ve been too lazy to move them back to the bookshelf.  Here’s a sample: Youth in Revolt, by C.D. Page (I’ve never read this but apparently it’s a classic.  And anything’s that’s been made into a movie starring Michael Cera definitely deserves my time); The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain: A 24-Hour Journal of What’s Happening to Your Brain as You Sleep, Dream, Wake Up, Eat, Work, Play, Fight, Love, Worry, Compete, Hope, Make Important Decisions, Age, and Change (I’m reading this for my work’s book club.  I usually don’t participate because they usually read business books, but I’m a sucker for anything that’ll help me understand that squishy gray mass of crazy in my head–and for subtitles that barely fit on the cover); and Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers (which I’ve been wanting to read ever since I heard about it months ago, plus Courtney is rad and we share the same rad agent and the same rad haircut, and as soon as I finish it, she’s agreed to do a rad interview for this silly little blog, so I almost want to skip what I’m currently reading–Cavedweller, by one of my all-time favorite writers Dorothy Allison–but I can’t quit now because it’s too freakin’ good.)

So now what should I do?  I’ve written two incredibly long paragraphs about weather and books, my dog needs a walk but is distracted for the time being by a chewing on a rawhide, I’m craving a cheeseburger and fries (which is definitely not allowed on my no-carb, no-dairy diet), I’m still in my pajamas and my hair’s sticking up all over the place, I have a million books I want to read (but I also have cable TV), my body aches, my throat is sore, my head hurts, I’m bored, and do I even need to mention that new novel that needs to be written?

Hmm…. I think I’ll take a nap. Good night everyone (well, good afternoon really).

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It’s going to be a busy month! Hope you can join me for one of these events.

An Evening of Edgy YA

with Amy Reed and Jason Myers

Tuesday, February 9, 7:30 p.m. @Pegasus Books in Berkeley

2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (2 blocks from the downtown Berkeley BART station)

I am honored to be joined by bestselling author Jason Myers, author of Exit Here and new release The Mission.  Please join us as we read from our newest works, answer a few of your questions, and sign a few books.

Saturday Night at CIIS

Saturday, February 13, 6:00-8:30 p.m. @ California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco

Namaste Hall, CIIS Main Building, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco

Celebrating the graduates of the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and the MFA in Writing and Consciousness. Performances by storyteller/actor Jovelyn Richards and musician MamaCoAtl. Readings by Judy Jordan, Kelly Lydick, and Amy Reed.

Amy Reed and Daphne Gottlieb

Thursday, February 25, 7:00 p.m. @ Modern Times Books in San Francisco

888 Valencia Street, San Francisco

I am honored to be joined by San Francisco-based Performance Poet Daphne Gottlieb, winner of the Firecracker and Audre Lorde Awards. She is the editor of Fucking Daphne: Mostly True Stories and Fictions and Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader, as well as the author of the poetry books Kissing Dead Girls, Final Girl, Why Things Burn and Pelt, as well as the graphic novel Jokes and the Unconscious with artist Diane DiMassa.

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2009 was a great year for reading.  But as always, I bought way more books than I was actually able to get through.  They’re still sitting on my shelves all shiny and unbent and beautiful.  I stare at them longingly, but first I must finish the amazing book I’m reading now, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture by my friend Kaya Oakes.  If you have ever attached the word “indie” or “alternative” or “punk” or “DIY” or “counterculture” to yourself or something you’ve loved, you MUST read this book to understand where it all came from.

Hopefully I’ll get to all my gorgeous books this year, but the truth is I’ll probably buy more to add to the unread piles, and the vicious cycle will continue.  Book buying (and hoarding) is like an addiction, but I don’t feel too bad about it.  As far as addictions go, it could be much worse, and someone needs to keep the publishing industry alive.

With no further ado, here’s my list of the best books I read in 2009.  They’re in no particular order, except for the top two which are tied for the number one spot.

What are the best books you read in 2009?

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