A few weeks ago, Scholastic was kind enough to send me to Los Angeles to receive the PEN Center USA Award for Icefall. I have to say, I think this was one of the most intimidating events I’ve been to. It’s partly because I was there alone and didn’t know anyone. It’s partly because it was held in Beverly Hills, and I’d spent that afternoon walking past stores I didn’t think I could even afford to set foot in. The banquet and ceremony were held in a ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and there was a cocktail reception before the event, during which I was just sort of hanging out on my own at the edges, watching the people and simply enjoying being there.
At one point, while I was texting my editor, I looked up and saw someone standing right in front of me who seemed familiar. She had red hair, and it took about five seconds for me to think to myself, “That’s Molly Ringwald.” And before I could decide if it was a good idea to say anything to her, she looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back and blurted out, “Are you Molly Ringwald?”
“Yes,” she said.
I’m sure at this point she usually gets the Breakfast Club or 16 Candles appreciation, but I was more interested in the fact that I thought I’d heard she’d written a book. So I asked her about it. It’s a collection of short stories tied together by a theme of betrayal called When it Happens to You. We talked about that briefly, and then she asked about my work and we talked about Icefall.
The whole interaction lasted maybe two minutes, but it was kind of fun to have a Hollywood moment while I was there. I thought about asking to take a picture with her, but after feeling the mood of the room, I decided I didn’t want to be that guy.
That’s me giving my speech. Thanks to Drew Filus for snapping the picture.
When I went up to receive my award and give my acceptance speech, I talked about what an honor it was to receive the same award that had been given to Ursula K. Le Guin a few years ago. I haven’t ever blogged about Ms. Le Guin in detail, or what her work has meant to me. I think that’s something I need to remedy in the near future. I am a writer because I read her books.
It was a really wonderful evening. Thank you again to PEN Center USA for the honor, and to Scholastic (I’m looking at you Candace!) for their support in sending me. And congratulations to the other finalists!
We had our first snowfall of the year a couple of days ago, and woke up to this:
The back yard.
The front yard.
Pretty magical. I looked out the window and felt a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story on Christmas morning, with the harp music playing and everything. It has put me in mind of the holidays, that’s for sure.
And speaking of holidays, a good friend of mine, Kimball Fisher, has written a short story for the Christmas season. It’s titled Finding the Baby Jesus. I really enjoyed it and blurbed it. It’s available through Amazon.
Yesterday, I received copies of the German translation of Icefall. I think it’s a really interesting take, and I particularly like the tattoos on Solveig’s hand and face. I had never pictured her that way, but I think it’s pretty cool. It’s also fun to see how widely interpretations of the material can vary, when comparing this, the more realistic German cover:
to the more fantastical, almost ethereal Italian translation:
In some ways, this is actually a reflection of the different ways people read the book.
Just a reminder, I’ll be in Utah this week doing a couple of library events on the 17th, in Murray and Brigham City. If you’re in the area, come on by! Details to the right in the sidebar.
I’m honored and pleased to announce that Icefall has won the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature! I continue to be humbled and touched by the attention Icefall has received. As I’ve talked about many times, Solveig and her story are very close and personal to me, and I love that the book has resonated with others. Congratulations to the other finalists, including Trent Reedy for Words in the Dust, Allen Say for Drawing from Memory, and Gretchen Woelfle for All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts. One of the judges for this year’s award did a write up here. I look forward to going to the banquet to receive the award next month.
Last month, James Dashner’s Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time came out in bookstores, and I was fortunate enough to be there for the big launch in Salt Lake City on August 29th. James did a couple of school visits that day, and I went along with him. We went to Canyon Rim and Rowland Hall, and both schools were a blast (in spite of the fact that James told the kids I was a serial killer. I mean, look at this picture:
Now tell me, which of us looks more like a serial killer?) It was a special treat going to Rowland Hall, because the librarian there, fellow author Becky Hall, was once my 5th grade teacher at Uintah Elementary.
I love doing school visits. More so now, I think because the school year has started and I’m not working with the kids on a daily basis anymore. It’s been a bit odd for me. Even though I am so excited to be writing full-time, a part of me misses it.
After the school visits, Jennifer Nielsen joined us for the launch event at the Salt Lake City Public Library, hosted by the amazing folks at The King’s English. At the event, I told the audience that The King’s English is the heart of the writing community in Utah, and I meant it. During the event, James, Jen, and I did a reader’s theater, each taking one of the three main characters in the Infinity Ring, with special guest Brodi Ashton as the narrator.
And afterward, we signed books and posters. Those who came were able to get both signed by all three of us:
The event reminded me of a few of things. First, how fun it is to be involved in something like The Infinity Ring, with such talented writers and friends. Second, how amazing it is that three of the six Infinity Ring authors are from Utah. And third, how much I miss the people with whom I have formed such meaningful relationships while I lived in Utah.
Thanks again to the Salt Lake Library, The King’s English (especially Rachel!), and Chris and Charisse from Scholastic for putting together such a great event.
Really quick, I just wanted to let everyone know that one of the spots in my Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop has opened back up. So if you wanted to take my class, but didn’t get in, now is your chance. And let me also take a moment to once again recommend the conference. There are still some amazing instructors with spots in their classes. If you’re serious about a writing or illustrating career, this workshop is a tremendous opportunity. Register here.
And here’s a video of success stories from the conference.
As some of you may have heard, last week Icefall won the Edgar Award in the Juvenile Fiction category! I am honestly still a bit stunned. The nomination alone took me completely by surprise, to say nothing of actually winning. But I’m so thrilled and honored, and I’d like to say thank you to the Mystery Writers of America.
I flew to New York City last week for the big banquet, which is a very fancy black-tie event. I actually went out and bought a suit for it, since I didn’t own one. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The day before the banquet, I participated in a great panel with some of the other Edgar nominees, including Sheela Chari, Maureen Johnson, Todd Strasser, and Tom Angleberger. The topic of the panel was how we write for modern readers, and there were lots of witty and insightful things said by my fellow panelists. And Tom made us all laugh.
Prior to the banquet, we went to a reception for the nominees, and I have to say this part of the night was something I’d been anticipating for months, because Neil Gaiman was a nominee in the short fiction category. I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand, and say thank you. As I was writing Icefall, I struggled with how to incorporate all the Norse mythology in an organic way. I wanted it to feel integral to the story, an essential part of the whole. And so I studied American Gods, because nobody does myth better than Gaiman. And I’m grateful that I was able to tell him all of that in person.
After the reception, the banquet began. It opened with a personal, videotaped message from John Cusack (who is currently staring as the man himself, Edgar Allan Poe, in the new movie The Raven) which, as a fan of his, I thought was super cool. Then, for the next hour or so, I tried not to think about the award. I just did my best to stay calm, eat my dinner, socialize, and for the most part I succeeded. But as soon as the presenter for my category took the stage, a tidal wave of nerves and heart palpitations crashed over me. And when they called my name, I got up and gave my acceptance speech in a daze. I’m still not exactly sure what I said. I know I quoted Richard Peck (“We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.”) as a reference to the very bright light Gaiman had shined on me.
In fact, after the banquet I was able to give Neil a copy of Icefall, and that’s something I’ll remember for a long, long time.
Congratulations to all the other nominees. I’m glad I was able to spend time with them, and if you’re looking for good mysteries to read or suggest to kids, I highly recommend every one of their books. (And for a bit more on each of them, try this article from the Christian Science Monitor.)
I also have to take a moment to once again thank my agent, Stephen Fraser, and my editor, Lisa Sandell, as well as Candace Greene and Lauren Felsenstein and all the other wonderful folks at Scholastic who have been so supportive of my career.
And just for fun, some more photos of NYC:
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
The top of the GE Building at Rockefeller Center
A bag-piping busker outside Grand Central Station
The Hayden Planetarium, where my wonderful editor took me to see a show – amazing!
After the Edgars, I flew to Washington DC for the Malice Domestic conference, where Icefall was nominated for the Agatha Award. My fellow Edgar nominee Shawn Thomas Odyssey and his wife were on the same flight, a flight which had the amazingly good fortune of being on the runway right as the Space Shuttle Enterprise came cruising in on the back of a 747.
Taken by the nice guy next to me, who had the window seat.
The conference itself was a lot of fun. Such a nice group of people. Every person I talked to made me feel welcome, and though I didn’t win the award, I had a great time. Congratulations to the winner, Chris Grabenstein, and all the other nominees.
While in DC, I managed to catch a metro train to the Smithsonian for a couple of hours before my flight out, where they had a couple of new exhibits. The first was of the recently discovered “Titanoboa,” also known as the HOLY-CRAP-IS-THAT-A-SNAKE-boa. Seriously, this 50 foot, 25oo pound monster could strangle just about anything. One of the fact sheets on the creature posed the question, “What did Titanoboa eat?”
“Whatever it wanted.”
That's an alligator tail sticking out of its mouth.
The other exhibit I caught was a butterfly atrium, which was one of the most serene and beautiful things I’ve experienced in a long time. They say that watching fish lowers your blood pressure. Well, I think watching butterflies has the same effect.
And finally, a few more reviews of Icefall from around the web:
This post has been a long time coming, but I do still want to talk about some of the trips I took last fall. One of the things I’ve loved most about my writing career has been the opportunity to travel, to meet new people and have wonderful experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get to have. So without further ado…
I went for the trade-show of the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers Association, and was reminded of what amazing people booksellers are. Seriously, for anyone who likes books, it doesn’t get much better than spending time with people who are passionate about getting them into the hands of readers. As part of my events there, I also got to spend time with Allen Say, whose new Drawing from Memory is absolutely wonderful. Allen, by the way, has the smooth and resonant kind of voice that you can listen to all day. He can be saying anything, really. Kind of like when Oprah asked Anthony Hopkins to read the phone book. While in Portland, I also got to spend time with two friends, Danielle Jones and Kimball Fisher, and it was nice to catch up. Danielle took me to Burgerville, a locally sourced, sustainable, and environmentally conscious restaurant chain, and I think it was the first fast-food I’ve eaten without feeling guilty.
The Tweens Read Book Festival was fantastic. The people in charge did an amazing job organizing, and I think it was a great success for its first year. Plus, I got to hear Richard Peck speak, and that is something for which I will go well out of my way. I’ve heard him speak a couple of times before, and the man blows the roof off every time. I carry around several quotes of his in my head. I think my favorite is, “We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.” But coming in behind that is a new favorite: “Unless you find yourself early in the pages of a book, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.” Brilliant. Here’s a video with some pictures of the event.
I’d already been to Denver earlier in the year, but I went back for several school visits over the course of a few days. The whole trip was put together by Boulder Country Day School’s librarian Melinda Elzinga, and she made my first out-of-state school visits an absolute delight. Everything was well-planned and organized, there were no panic moments, and it all came off without a hitch. Well, except for the part where I tripped over my laptop’s power cord and ripped the power-port right out, leaving me without a laptop for my presentations (fortunately, that happened near the end of my trip). I went to several different schools, including Dawson, the Montessori School of Denver, Friends’ School (which wasn’t a Quaker school as I had assumed) and finally a book fair signing for Graland.
They did something really cool at Melinda’s school, where they teach Latin to the upper grades. They had taken several of the Latin phrases from The Clockwork Three and taped them up in the hallways for the students to translate.
Their Latin teacher had also picked up on the fact that I used Medieval Latin in the book instead of classical Latin. That was actually a conscious choice on my part, one of those little details we writers use and wonder if anyone will even notice. But someone did, and that was gratifying. Thanks again to my brother, Josh, a real-life Renaissance Man, for providing the translations.
The only sightseeing I had time for outside the school visits was a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder. That was a lot of fun, in a Willy Wonka kind of way. I mean, they have a Peppermint Room there, and when you walk into it you get hit with this wall of peppermint that you feel in your nose and makes your eyes water. If you’re ever in Boulder, I recommend the tour. I also stopped back by The Bookies and said hello. Love that store.
I went to NCTE for the first time in November. It has a similar vibe to ALA in that it’s an enormous group of people who are all passionate about books and literacy. I was there for five very busy days. The first couple of days I did school visits, and here I would just like to take a moment to say how much I love doing school visits. To begin with, since schools are where I work, I feel right at home in them. And something else my job has done is inoculate me against any fear of a group of kids, even a large group of kids. I actually enjoy the energy of a big assembly with two or three hundred students. I really don’t get nervous at all, and I thank my job as a school psychologist for that. The other great thing about school visits are all the wonderful things students do to make you feel welcome. Like banners and posters…
…and even violin performances!
I hope to keep doing lots more school visits in the future (if you’re interested, feel free to contact me with the link in the sidebar).
At NCTE I was on a panel talking about revision and peer critique. I gave a big shout-out to my own intrepid critique group, and how they help me every week. (Hm. I just realized that I haven’t talked much about them on the blog before. Have to remedy that.) Also on the panel were Kate Messner, Eric Luper, and Linda Urban, moderated by Denise Johnson.
I really appreciated what everyone on the panel had to say, since revision does not come naturally to me. As I said in my remarks, left to my own devices I am far more likely to go chasing after something new and shiny than I am to return to polish something a bit old and tarnished.
Another NCTE event I did was the Scholastic Literary Brunch with Sarah Weeks, Coe Booth, Jeff Hirsch, and Jen Nielsen.
I love this kind of thing because it allows you to hear an author’s words in their own voice, the way they heard them when they wrote them. It adds so much to the experience of their work when I hold their voice in my head as I read. Case in point, once you hear Coe Booth read from one of her novels, you won’t ever read it the same way again. Oh, and also, David Levithan does an absolutely hilarious impression of an attorney.
Readers' Theater with (L to R) David Levithan, Sarah Weeks, and Coe Booth
While in Chicago, I did a signing event at Anderson’s Bookstore with Trent Reedy, Kenneth Oppel, and Gordon Korman. We had a lot of fun, and afterward went out to a cajun restaurant where they seated us right next to the jazz band. It can be hard to carry on a conversation with a trumpet in your ear, but we gave it our best. I had the turtle soup, since I’d written about it in The Clockwork Three without having ever tasted it, and I figured I needed to at least once. I liked it, enough that I’ll order it again if I ever have the chance.
At the recommendation of my driver, I also stopped by with a few friends for some blues one night at Buddy Guy’s Legends. That was a blast.
One last thing before I move on from Chicago. I have to take a moment and talk about the hotel where we stayed, which was the fanciest hotel I’ve ever been in. To illustrate, when I first walked into the bathroom, I noticed a remote control on the counter by the sinks. I’d never seen a remote control in a bathroom, and I had to wonder what it controlled. So I just kind of held it up, hit the “on” button, and looked around. That’s when I noticed the TV come on in the mirror. Yes, a TV came on inside the mirror! I had that thing on the whole time I was getting ready in the morning because, well, if you have a TV in your mirror, how can you not use it?
Also, the room had an Eames Classic, AKA the chair I’d admired for years while watching Frasier.
I took a nap in it.
New York City
The trip to NYC was for Infinity Ring, which I already wrote about briefly after they announced the series. Aside from the stuff I talked about in that post, we got to see a demo of the 3D computer game (awesome!) that will be an integral part of the series, did some promotional photo and video shoots, and spent time with Scholastic’s sales reps. Also, one night David took us all to see Tiger Beat, the YA band fronted by Libba Bray, which was hilarious and a blast.
And I think that about catches me up. I don’t have too much going on for a little while. I’ll be in Boise in April, speaking at the SCBWI conference, and the week after that I think I’ll be back in NYC for the Edgar Awards Banquet. I’ll be sure to let you know how those trips go.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling recently to promote Icefall. The first trip was to the Baltimore Book Festival in Maryland. Having lived in Maryland for several years, it felt a bit like going home. I stayed near the Inner Harbor, a place I really liked as a kid, especially the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.
The view of the Inner Harbor from my hotel room.
Before my event at the book festival, I went to do some sightseeing. I was particularly interested in exploring the U.S. Sloop-of-War Constellation as research for the novel I’m currently writing. Below are some pictures I took of the ship.
The Captain's cabin.
The next picture is of the Captain’s toilet and bathtub (he even had a view). You really can’t see it, but the bathtub is about the size of a large sink. And this was the only toilet on the ship. The rest of the crew had to use a special place at the bow, or the head, of the ship. Which is where the expression, “hit the head” comes from.
Good aim was apparently a prerequisite for any captain.
Okay, enough bathroom trivia. How about some cannons…
The gun deck.
The Wardroom, or officers' quarters.
An officer's cabin.
While the Captain and his officers stayed in relative comfort, the crew did not. When occupied by sleeping crewmen, their section of the ship was said to become an oven. A really dark and smelly oven.
More comfortable than you might think. Like a hammock in your backyard, only without the sun, the breeze, or any sense of privacy.
The Sick Bay was eye-opening. It had several cases of surgical implements on display, which suggested all kinds of painful things just by their appearance, but were almost exclusively focused on dealing with battle trauma. And back then, the way you dealt with battle trauma was usually amputation. While amputation has become a last resort today, back then it was a first line of defense against infection and death. Amputation saved a lot of lives.
Up on the top deck, they gave us a cannon-firing demonstration, which was pretty cool.
It was loud.
So there I was on this faithfully restored ship, a noble vessel which had been used to combat slavery and had seen many battles, and then over the side I heard this swashbuckling, pirate-y music, and I looked down to see another little ship “sailing” by…
We had a real cannon. They had water guns. We had history, and they had Disneyland. I started chuckling, and so did several people beside me on the Constellation, so I know I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the juxtaposition.
Just to orient you, the windows sticking out from the side are where you'll find the earlier bathtub and toilet.
After I was done exploring the ship, I had enough time to visit the National Aquarium. One of the coolest things I saw there was an exhibit of jellyfish. I can’t think of a more relaxing activity than watching jellyfish undulating in the water. Seriously. I could have stood in front of the glass for hours, man.
The Aquarium also had a 4-D theater.
“There’s a 4th dimension?” I said to myself. I had never experienced a 4th dimension before, I so bought a ticket to a showing of “Planet Earth: Pole to Pole.” While the theater didn’t let me transcend my limited 3-dimensional awareness, it did blow icy wind and snow in my face during the arctic scenes, fill the air with bubbles for the underwater scenes, jab me in the back when a Great White Shark took out a seal, and shoot water mist in my face as though from an elephant’s trunk. Which is to say, it ended up being pretty fun.
Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, & Eden Unger Bowditch listening to me blather. Also, the goggles were because, you know, steampunk.
After the panel I had a lovely dinner with Emma (my publicist for the event), Emma (from the bookstore), Eden, and a really nice bookstore volunteer helping out with the event.
My next trip was to Denver, Colorado for the annual trade-show of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association. But before that I paid a school visit to the Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences. The students were awesome, especially a young man named Isaiah. He had a reading wager going at the time, and I hope he won the bet and earned his free copy of Icefall. After I finished my presentation, I noticed a display for perhaps the greatest science project I’ve ever seen:
My kind of science!
Let’s look a little closer at exactly how this worked…
Step 2.5) Do not laugh.
What were the results? Funny you should ask…
Clearly, blue Poprocks are the best.
My sponsors for the school visit were the lovely ladies of The Bookies bookstore. After the school visit, they fed me lunch and gave me a little unintended and entertaining tour of Denver before depositing me safely back at the hotel for my event. I participated in the “Author Tea,” along with several other writers, including Utah’s own Ann Cannon and Randall Wright. During the course of the tea, I got to move around to several tables and meet some passionate and wonderful booksellers. After that, the fabulous Roz set up a dinner with folks from The Bookies, The Tattered Cover, and the Boulder Book Store. Great food and great company.
Last Wednesday, The King’s English Bookshop hosted the launch event for Icefall, and it was awesome. Through a co-worker, I was able to get in touch with some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). I asked them if they might have some Vikings who would be willing to come to the launch and perhaps provide a martial demonstration.
As those who were there already know, Vikings did come (along with a few warriors from other cultures and time periods). And they did fight.
The pictures can’t fully convey how hard-core these guys are. The fights aren’t staged. They aren’t pulling blows. And that’s why they’re covered in armor, because they’re striking as hard as they can.
There were quite a few young readers in the audience, and they were on the edges of their seats the whole time, watching and cheering. A few of them wanted to join the SCA and be given a sword on the spot. But it wasn’t just the kids who enjoyed it – the adults seemed to be having fun with it, too.
I put a video together of some of the matches. I was looking for music to accompany the video, and since I listened to it often while writing Icefall, I thought it appropriate to use “Hall of the Mountain King” by the quintessentially Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
NOTE: If the video player doesn’t appear in your browser, click the link below (and wait for it to download, which might take a few minutes):
First, a big thank you to everyone who came out last night for the launch of Icefall. I thought it went really well, especially the armed combat. Yes, there were Vikings there, among other warriors, and they fought valiantly. I’ll do a post with pictures and maybe some video soon, but in the meantime I wanted to let you know about two more upcoming signing events.
On Friday, October 7th I’ll be signing books at the Layton Barnes & Noble (Layton Market Center, 1780 North Woodland Park Drive, Layton, UT). Event starts at 6 PM.
On Monday, October 10th I’ll be signing books at the West Jordan Barnes & Noble (Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan, UT). Event starts at 7 PM.
Just a reminder that next week I’ll be at The King’s English celebrating the launch of Icefall. All are welcome! I’ll be speaking a bit about the story, reading from it, and then signing books. And I’m trying to see if I can get some Vikings there. We shall see. For more details, click here.
Hope to see everyone there!
UPDATE: There will be Vikings there! Fighting! With swords! It should be a lot of fun.