Saturday, May 30, 2009

My early high school years were a bit bleak -- mainly as a result of feelings of low self-worth and plummeting self-esteem, in part because I thought I was ugly. That's me in the picture to the left, third row from the top, second photo from the right. In reality, I looked almost exactly as I do now (teensy bit younger), except now I do not think I am ugly. Funny, isn't it? It's all about perspective.

But there were a number of reasons I thought I was unattractive back then: (1) I was not considered pretty at home because I was on the darker end of the spectrum (relatively speaking, of course. My mother is a light-skinned woman); and (2) I was one of a handful of people of color in my school and the beauty ideal for teen girls was (and remains), thin, white, usually blond, usually affluent, and "fashionable" or able to keep up with trends.

In much of the YA literature I've come across that deals with issues of body image and cultural beauty ideals, race is rarely considered as yet another ideal that young girls grapple with. Usually, racism and prejudice are seen as their own, separate struggle. Books by people of color often get slotted into the identity/race category, and the fact that race plays a large role in what it means to be beautiful for young women of color is lost. Those books become about race when really they are primarily about the universal search for self, and a positive, lovable, desirable reflection of that self.

The other day, I found this video on the internet. It's fantastic. It's created by teen girls and addresses the very issue of "race as beauty ideal." The experiment with the dolls toward the end left me reeling. Especially the bit with the question of "which one is bad/nice?"

Lemme know what you think:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spotlighting Sarah Cross's DULL BOY

Today, I get to spotlight the very lovely Sarah Cross's DULL BOY! Did you know that Sarah has saved the world, like, five times since fifth grade -- and you didn't even notice?

One of the awesome feats she has accomplished is the fabulous DULL BOY, about superhero Avery. Superpowers are awesome -- unless you actually have them, like Avery does. There's only so much he can pass off as "adrenaline" before people start to get suspicious. Probably it's best to lie low, so guys in white lab coats don't come to carry him away, to find out what makes his freakish body tick. Who wants to be vivisected? But flying under the radar becomes a whole lot harder when you can actually fly. It's dangerous to be different, so for now he'll pretend to be normal, unremarkable Avery -- a dull boy -- anything to keep his secret safe.

What he doesn't expect is the horrifying truth about where his powers came from, who else might have them, and the madness of one villain's plan to turn this superpowered dull boy into something even more powerful and amazing.

Here are Sarah's answers to the Thorough Three:

NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?

SC: 15.

NM: What is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?

SC: Don't burn your diary and then throw the charred remains into the pond. You might grow up to write YA novels one day, in which case those mortifying records will be useful.

NM: Complete the following sentences:

Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.

You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.

SC: Everyone should definitely, for sure watch a bad action movie once in a while. The Transporter 2 firehose fight scene? Worth every second of bad dialogue that precedes it. :D

You should NEVER, EVER challenge an angry polar bear to a wrestling match. But if you absolutely must, make sure to have a steel chair on hand, and most importantly ... fight dirty.

Sage wisdom, folks. Learn more about Sarah's secrets at, and to here to buy your very own copy of DULL BOY!

Spotlighting Leigh Brescia's ONE WISH

Today, I am spotlighting Leigh Brescia's ONE WISH. Leigh Brescia grew up in North Carolina, spending most of her days playing in the woods behind her home and imagining she was a princess. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Communication from Mount Olive College and her Master’s degree from Fort Hays State University. She currently teaches online English composition courses for three universities, and an online “Writing Novels for Young Adults” course for UC Irvine.

When she’s not grading papers or writing, she enjoys reading and watching movies. She sings when she’s in a good mood and has killed every plant she’s ever owned. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and her three-year-old.

ONE WISH is about Wrenn Scott, who desperately wants to be popular and snag a hot boyfriend. Her amazing voice (for once) overshadows her weight when she lands a lead role in the high school musical. Pushing to get thinner by opening night, Wrenn's waistline shrinks as she learns all the wrong ways to lose weight from a new "it-girl" friend in the show. By opening night, the old Wrenn has almost disappeared. After a crisis reveals her weight-loss tricks, Wrenn realizes there are much more important things than being thin, popular, or even dating a hunk.

Thanks, Leigh, for stopping by and answering the Thorough Three!

NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?

LB: When the book begins she’s fifteen, but she has a birthday not long after.

NM: What is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?

LB: Three words: Ceramic Straightening Iron.

NM: Complete the following sentences:

Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.

You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.

LB: Everyone should definitely, for sure “spend a week at camp and travel as much as possible.”

You should NEVER, EVER “tell a lie.” But if you absolutely must, make sure “that no one called your mom to tell her that they saw you where you said you wouldn’t be.”

Oh my gosh . . . did I just say that?

LOL! Been there. Thanks, Leigh!

To find out more about Leigh and her work, visit her website. To order your very own copy of ONE WISH, go here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spotlighting Danielle Joseph's SHRINKING VIOLET

I had a chance to read Danielle's novel in ARC form and it was so fun! I totally related to the main character's struggles with self acceptance and even more intense, her struggle to express herself.

In SHRINKING VIOLET, high school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she lives in dread of having to speak to anyone in the hallways or answer questions in class. But after school, in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks—doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up, Tere surprises herself by working up the nerve to ask her stepfather to give her a chance—and finds herself The SLAM’s newest intern on one of the station’s most popular shows. Behind the mike she’s Sweet T, her sexy, confident on-air persona. To everyone’s shock—especially her mother’s—Sweet T is a hit. Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music, making Tere wonder if it’s possible to be jealous of yourself. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest—and a prom date with “Sweet T” is the grand prize--Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare. . . .

Danielle Joseph was a college DJ for five years on the Gyroscope, a world music show. She also interned at several top Boston radio stations while earning her BFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Marketing Communications and Advertising from Emerson College. She has taught Creative Writing and English to Middle school students.

Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Danielle now lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and two young sons. These days you can find her cruising around with the tunes blaring and her internal DJ hard at work.

And not only that, she is incredibly warm and fun -- I know because I had the pleasure of having dinner with her while she was in NY :).

Here are Danielle's answers to the Thorough Three:

NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?

DJ: Tere is eighteen.

NM: What is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?

DJ: Never give up!

NM: Definitely! Now, complete the following sentences:

Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.

You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.

DJ: Everyone should definitely, for sure be themselves.

You should NEVER, EVER mess with a bully. But if you absolutely must, make sure to make it worth it.

Good words. Thanks so much for stopping by, Danielle!

To find out more about Danielle and her work, visit her site; and to buy a copy of SHRINKING VIOLET, click here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Just read a fascinating article by Elisabeth Sifton, Senior Vice President of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. She gives an overview of the publishing biz and why it might be in the state it is today.

It's a loooong read, but interesting, nonetheless. Here are a few quotes:

"But the chief marks were in the choices [a publisher] made among the materials submitted to his company; the editorial and advocacy work his staff did on behalf of the nascent books, building an audience for them, preparing the ground; the copy-editing, proofreading and legal checks; the typographical designs devised and manufacturing quality achieved; the efforts made to get attention paid to, and sales consummated of, books that might otherwise go unnoticed in the noisy, trivializing, inattentive world where readers live. For centuries, these activities were the publisher's principal raisons d'ĂȘtre..."

"The corporations that consolidated the publishing houses, like the Silicon Valley children of today, saw book copyrights as valuable "content" with plenty of cultural cachet that could be "synergistically" exploited--optimally by the other arms of their media empires. The publishers didn't mind this, since they had long depended on the sale not just of original editions but of subsidiary rights--mass-market paperback and book-club editions; foreign, film and TV rights; magazine or newspaper serialization. The new corporate arrangements seemed likely to augment these juicy opportunities. That the money men found publishing's profit margins absurdly narrow and insisted on at least a 15 percent return on their investment seemed harsh but practicable. That they had no confidence in books per se and knew nothing about writers or readers seemed a neutral factor, not the harshly negative one it actually is. As any sensible businessperson knows, you can't make money in a low-profit operation unless you stay close to your sources of supply and demand--writers and readers in this case. And it helps your profit margin to love or at least respect them."

"The stifling excess of lucrative junk is, naturally, galling for literary artists unknown or only slightly known to the mass market, whose talents are perhaps not suited to it; they want or need the filthy lucre too. Their ever more powerful agents have successfully decoupled the size of the royalty advances they receive from any estimate of the books' eventual earnings, and routinely assure them that if Knopf or Norton or Morrow fails to earn back the upfront money, it's because their masterpieces were badly published, not because the advances were implausibly high...Also, they won't acknowledge that literary quality may decline as advances increase; only rarely is a writer liberated into confidence-inspiring freedom by following advice from greedy publishers about Pleasing the Crowd. Willa Cather wasn't the only fine writer who refused advances for being, in her view, unethical, nor was D.H. Lawrence the only one who found them demeaning. The agents have much to answer for."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Many, many years ago, I was part of a vibrant community of South Asian artists -- all working toward the common goal of writing ourselves into existence, and creating opportunities that were less than forthcoming from mainstream institutions.

It was called Desh Pardesh and we held a yearly festival of South Asian arts, culture and politics. There were visual artists, novelists, journalists, dancers, filmmakers, sculptors, activists and community organizers from all over the globe who attended and came to lend their creative energy to the work we were doing.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the founding members of that organization, Punam Khosla, in an opening address:

This is not a traditional arts festival, so to speak. Political and social themes are integral to the various workshops and discussions and to the artistic programs that are in the Desh Pradesh calendar. We don't think that art can be without content. No matter what you do, say or create, you are always taking a position, making some kind of statement. The decision is whether to fall into the status quo or rise up against it. We hope that this Desh takes us one step further towards a movement of South Asians in the West working against the status quo for a more just and humane life for all of us.

In these times of economic fail, working against the status quo is particularly hard (not that it was ever easy). Everyone is looking for what will make money and veering toward what is known to sell big, and sell fast. This does not bode well for diverse voices and taking risks. But doing just that: nurturing diverse voices and taking risks, is the only way to create any kind of lasting and real change for equality.

And I applaud all those who are doing that in their daily work and lives. Brava, and press on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spotlighting Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX

Today, I get to spotlight a wonderful new addition to multicultural fiction, and with a kickass main character, to boot!

SILVER PHOENIX is the story of ai ling's journey. On the day of her first betrothal meeting--and rejection--ai ling discovers a power welling deep within her. She can reach into other people's spirits, hear their thoughts, see their dreams...and that's just the beginning.

ai ling has been marked by the immortals; her destiny lies in the emperor's palace, where a terrible evil has lived, stealing souls, for centuries. She must conquer this enemy and rescue her captive father, while mythical demons track her every step. And then she meets chen yong, a young man with a quest of his own, whose fate is intertwined with hers. Here is a heart-stopping, breathtaking tale for fans of action, fantasy, and romance--of anything with the making of legend.

Cindy Pon was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and her family immigrated to California in 1980, settling in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She began writing stories before she was officially declared English proficient. She received her bachelor's from the University of California, San Diego, and also earned a master's from New York University. The author is a student of Chinese brush painting, and her love for the art is reflected in her storytelling. Cindy Pon lives with her husband and two small children in San Diego, California.

Here are Cindy's answers to the Thorough Three:

NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?

CP: ai ling is seventeen.

NM: What is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?

CP: stay true to yourself and believe in yourself.

NM: Words to live by at any age, indeed! Now, please complete the following sentences:

Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.

You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.

CP: Everyone should definitely, for sure never skip a meal.

You should NEVER, EVER give up on a dream. But if you absolutely must, make sure to find another.

Agreed! Thank you so much, Cindy, for stopping by on Spotlighting!

To find out more about Cindy and her work, visit her site. To buy a copy of SILVER PHOENIX, click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Longstockings Interview

Okay. I just revealed, for the first time in public, one of my most embarrassing moments EVER in an interview on the Longstockings blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spotlighting C. Lee McKenzie's SLIDING ON THE EDGE

C. Lee McKenzie was one of my first EVER crit partners and helped me go through one of my first EVER novels! So, it's a special thrill to spotlight her debut novel, SLIDING ON THE EDGE. I remember this novel when it was still in the manuscript stage, so it's soooo exciting to see it in print.

A native Californian, C. Lee McKenzie has always been a writer, but to eat and make contributions to children's college funds, she’s also been a university lecturer and administrator. Writing for teen readers keeps Lee in touch with the young members of her family, and allows her to re-visit those wonderful years in life when everything is possible. When she isn’t writing, Lee’s hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Los Gatos, California.

I bet those mountains are beautiful!

In SLIDING ON THE EDGE, Shawna Stone is a heartbeat away from making the worst mistake anyone can. She’s close to taking her own life. Kay Stone is a grandmother Shawna has never known, and at sixty-four Kay feels there is little left in her life to look forward to. When they are thrown together they circle each other in a crucible of secrets and distrust until saving a doomed horse unites them and gives each a reason to live.

When I read this book in draft form, I was completely taken in by the relationship between Shawna and her grandmother. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Shawna and I worried about her more than any sane person should worry about a fictional character. She was sooo real to me!

Now here is Lee to answer the Thorough Three:

NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?

CLM: Shawna is 16 going on twenty-five. Kay is 65, but says she's 63.

NM: Ha! I guess that just goes to show that age really is nothing but a number! So, what is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?

CLM: I guess I'd say to forget about the past. There's nothing you can do about it. Let the future come to you in its own time. Accept and appreciate the moment, and don't give up when everything seems to be working against you.

Wow! That's a lot of advice. Maybe I should take one of my minor character's position and not give advice.

NM: That's great advice. I always struggle with both of those (forget the past and let the future come to you) at different times in life.

Okay, so now complete the following sentences:

Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.

You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.

CLM: Everyone should definitely, for sure be kind.

You should NEVER, EVER lose your sense of humor. But if you absolutely must, make sure to get it back.

*nods* Definitely agree with those.

To find out more about C. Lee McKenzie and her work, visit her site. To buy a copy of SLIDING ON THE EDGE, click here.

Thanks, Lee!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Here is a pic from my recent event in Rutherford, NJ!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rutherford Hospitality

Rutherford Public Library

The above pics are of the Rutherford Public Library's window display. They gave SHINE, COCONUT MOON prime real estate in their display window in anticipation of their annual Multicultural Festival. I am ever grateful for the support (and you should see their amazing space for Young Adults; I was SO impressed. Most libraries I've been to have a Children's section and an Adult section. Rutherford has a significant chunk of space devoted to YA literature...and they have a chess set, to boot!).

The Gainville Cafe, which hosted my event, is an awesome spot. It's beautifully done, spacious, and very kid-friendly. Hopefully one of my lovely Gainville hosts will send me a pic that I can put up later in the week *grin.* The staff was friendly, warm, and sooo attentive. Thank you, Gainville, for making me feel completely welcome and at home on my first trip to Rutherford!

I also got to spend time with the super-smart and super-cute Mitali Dave who recently started her own blog! If you get a chance, check her out here. We were able to do an impromptu interview in one of the conference rooms upstairs at the cafe (she came up with some awesome questions on the spot, folks -- now THAT is an interviewer extrordinaire. Watch out, Oprah ;]).

What a wonderful way to kick off my Mother's Day weekend :). And a happy Mother's Day to all the lovely moms out there. You don't get nearly the recognition and appreciation you deserve! *blowing you all kisses*

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This Saturday, Reading/Signing in Rutherford

This Saturday at 2 p.m., I will be in Rutherford, NJ at the Gainville Cafe -- 17 Ames Avenue, Rutherford, NJ. Their number is (201) 507-1800. They're also on Facebook, check out their page here.

Top five reasons I'm really excited about this event:
1. The people I've interacted with so far have been so incredibly warm and supportive
2. Gainville is such an awesome initiative to promote and create tolerance among races, ethnicities, languages, faiths, and differences in general
3. They run very cool summer camps for children of all ages
4. The town of Rutherford hosts a multicultural festival and my signing/reading is one of the events leading up this wonderful festival
5. They are Gainville Cafe. Hello? Can we say food and coffee? Those are two of the most magical words in the English language, I think.

So, if you're in or around the area, please swing by for a great afternoon of food, beverages, reading and discussion!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I've been researching for my WIP and needed to find wise teachings from different parts of the world. Here are some awesome African proverbs H sent me to help out...

"He who is being carried does not realize how far the town is."

"It is not what you are called, but what you answer to."

"Send a boy where he wants to go and you see his best pace."

"The lion does not turn around when a small dog barks."

I can apply every single one of these to just about every area of life (especially writing life!), can't you?