Books

Win an ARC of WHILE YOU WERE GONE!

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819VTwVeSVL._SL1500_While You Were Gone doesn’t hit shelves until August 4, but you can enter to win an advanced copy today. Just go to my shiny updated website and sign up for my author newsletter* to be entered to win. The winner will be announced on June 4.

Also, Phoenix Comicon starts today! If you’re going, don’t forget to come say hello!

-Amy

*Don’t worry. I hate spam as much as you do. I’ll only send a newsletter when there’s news to share.

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Get your ARC of NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE at SDCC!

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NowThatYoureHere_AmyKNichols_smHey everyone! Sorry it’s been soooooooper quiet around here. There has been so much going on, and I have loads to tell you. But it’s going to have to wait, because I’m literally going out the door right now to travel to San Diego for Comic-con!

*kermit flail*

I wanted to tell you really quickly, though, some exciting news:

The Random House booth (#1515) will be passing out free advanced copies of NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE during SDCC!

*double kermit flail*

If you’re at comic-con, be sure to stop by and get your copy. And then, feel free to tweet me at @amyknichols and I will happily sign it for you.

More when I get back!

Should Children’s Books Have A Rating System?

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Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal article, Darkness Too Visible, sparked a discussion with a friend of mine. She’s a writer, too. Our discussion ended with us contemplating whether or not children’s books — or any book, really — would benefit from a rating system, such as the one used for movies, television, or video games.

My initial reaction to this idea was no, of course books don’t need a rating system.

Then, while at a store looking at Wii games for my children, I found myself choosing between games…based on the rating system…and it got me thinking.

As a mother and a writer of children’s stories, I find it difficult to take an unbiased stance on this topic. I love books. I read a lot of books. I read wide and deep and am not easily offended by “dark” subjects in books. I read books with my kids. I make informed choices of which books they would enjoy and which books would scare the snot out of them. (Here’s a post I wrote at The Parking Lot Confessional on this topic: What I learned from reading Harry Potter with my daughter.)

But this isn’t possible for all parents. Times are hard and some parents are maxed out. Others don’t recognize the importance of reading to and with their kids. Still others don’t realize there’s a wealth of resources online and at libraries to help them make informed decisions about the books their kids read.

Not being informed, I think, leads to situations like the one mentioned in the WSJ article: a mom walking into a store completely clueless which books would be a good fit for her daughter.

Kind of like me, with the Wii games.

I’m not convinced ratings are the way to go. Or that any changes need to be made, other than readers making informed choices. But the idea has me wondering what others out there think.

So I ask you:

  • Would a rating system be helpful for books?
  • What effect would a rating system have on books and publishing?
  • Are books different from other forms of media that do have a rating system?

NOTE: I am not advocating banning books. I am absolutely 100% against banning books. Let me state that again: I AM ABSOLUTELY 100% AGAINST BANNING BOOKS. You don’t want to read a book, don’t read it. Banning is never the answer.

I told you it was good.

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Today, A.S. King won a Printz Honor for her awesome book, Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

I told you it was good. So go read it already!

Congratulations, Amy! Well deserved.

Please Don’t Ignore ‘Vera Dietz’

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Wow. Have I got a book for you.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King

The description, courtesy of Amazon:

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

This book has it all: flesh-and-blood characters, compelling story and a mystery that King reveals like one of those old-fashioned bombs you see in cartoons. The spark slowly eats up the fuse as it winds around the gunpowder kegs and you just know around the next turn the whole thing’s gonna blow.

Reading Vera Dietz is like watching a slow and beautiful explosion.

It’s a story about friendship and family and what happens when people start being honest with themselves and each other. It is wacky and heartbreaking and full of truth.

But what I loved most about this book –as a writer –is that it breaks so many of the YA genre rules.

You know the rules, don’t you?

“Kids don’t want to read about adults.”

“Juggling too many points of view can be confusing.”

“No prologues.”

Yeah. Please Ignore Vera Dietz thumbs its nose at rules.

Chapters told from the point of view of a forty-something father? Check.

Chapters told from the point of view of an inanimate object? Check.

Flowcharts? Yep. Flowcharts.

And all of it works.

All of it.

Especially the flowcharts. We’re not talking business-meeting-yawn flowcharts here. We’re talking philosophical-life-changing flowcharts that develop character and advance the plot. Seriously. Who knew flowcharts could be so…wow.

At writers conferences, one question always gets asked: What are Agent X and Editor Z looking for? What’s hot right now? What’s selling?

Not once has an agent or editor said, “You know, I’d love to read something with flowcharts and a snarky pagoda.”

What Agent X and Editor Z say again and again is:

  • Don’t worry about trends
  • Write the book you want to read
  • Write the best book you can

Agents and editors are looking for fresh stories with voices that draw them in. Books they can’t stop reading.

And that’s what Please Ignore Vera Dietz is. A book you can’t stop reading.

For writers, it’s a book that can teach you a lot about writing. It taught me that you can write outside of the box, if you do it well.

A.S. King does it well.