Archive for January, 2008

The New(est) Book?

Posted in Powerless, The Hundred Year-Old Book Club, Writing on January 30, 2008 by Matt

I’ve got this thing about working on two projects at once.  Here I am busily typing away on the revisions for Powerless, and yet there is this other nagging little book tugging on my sleeve . . .

The little fella used to just be an idea-for-book.  Cute.  Fun to look at, but still just an idea.

Well, it looks like he’s just sprung up into full blown book-in-progress status.

Working title:  The Hundred Year-Old Book Club

More later.

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Boning up on Bone

Posted in Appearances, Writing, YA Books on January 26, 2008 by Matt

bone-7729941.jpg Jeff Smith’s Bone is one of those rare treats in fiction whose personal story of success is almost as good as the story between the pages. Smith’s smart, all-ages fantasy comic went from self-published indie darling to Scholastic’s marketing powerhouse. I don’t think that it would be an overstatement to say that Bone legitimized the graphic novel form for a lot of Young Adult publishing houses.

Which is why I’m thrilled to be moderating a discussion with Jeff at New York’s Symphony Space in a couple of weeks. Besides being a venue for live performances, Symphony Space is the home of NPR’s literary program Selected Shorts. Jeff will be appearing as part of their Thalia Kid’s Bookclub series to discuss his latest full-color Bone graphic novel – Ghost Circles. I’ll be onstage with him doing my best Charlie Rose.

If you’re going to be in the New York area on February 10th, check out program and ticket pricing info HERE:

Wish fulfillment and boys and girls . . .

Posted in Powerless, Writing, YA Books on January 21, 2008 by Matt

I’m deep into the first set of Powerless revisions and something’s been nagging me during my tea and biscuit breaks (actually they usually turn out to be Coca-cola and cookie breaks, but I’m trying to sound writerly).

Why do folks like to read?  What is it about one story that ignites the imagination over another?  What makes such a ripping good yarn that little Jimmy will put down the Sony and crack open the dog-eared pages of a 300 page-plus tome?

Well, beats me.

But I suspect that it has something to do with truth, with the ability to get swept up in a grand adventure while all the while feeling that you can understand the characters.  When a reader says, “yeah, I feel like that sometimes too.”  That’s when the story is working.

I believe this so strongly that I’m banking on it.  See Powerless is not about Wish-Fulfillment.  It’s not about imagining that you can cast spells, or have the power to slay dragons (not that there is anything wrong with either of those things.  They are perfectly acceptable professions.)

Powerless is a very fast-paced adventure story, to be sure, full of wondrous things.  I took my inspiration from the pacing of the comics I loved so much as a kid – complete with superheroes, cliff-hangers, mysteries, twists and turns.  But the hero of this story is not the Chosen One.  Or the Destined Something-or-Other. Or the most powerful blah, blah, blah in the wherever.

He’s powerless.  And I just hope that kids and adults will read it and say, “Yeah, I feel like that sometimes too.”

“Life is Good.” – The Dangers and Delights of Magical Thinking

Posted in Life, Writing on January 19, 2008 by Matt

It’s hard, I think, for writers to be happy. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s hard for us to admit that we are happy.

You see we live in this world only part time, experiencing life as a really great time-share between reality and fantasy. We are here for the big things, and many of the sweet little moments as well, but that dreamy look on our faces, that sideways stare that lasts too long, those are sure-fire signs that we are taking a little trip to someplace else. Be patient, we’ll be back soon.

And in that other place things work very differently than here. Villains get punished, lovers reunite, ducklings become swans and the other shoe always, always drops. Things work that way because that is what makes a good story, and stories are what we are all about.

The downside? Sometimes we writers come back from our other homes and we bring this Magical Thinking with us. We run the real danger of trying to apply those Magical Rules to our real lives, or worse, living in fear of them.

It’s something that I struggle with every day, and today when a friendly acquaintance asked me the innocent question of “How are you doing?” I nearly choked on my own answer.

“Well,” I heard myself say. “I’m not sleeping at all. I’m busier teaching than I’ve ever been, the baby is draining all my energy and I’ve got a book deadline in February that I’m only half-convinced I can make. But strangely enough,” and here’s where the real shocker hit, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Life is good.”

Boy it takes a lot of effort not to look up in the sky for that big shoe.

Politics, Schmolitics! Kate Schafer is the REAL Agent of Change!

Posted in Writing, YA Books on January 16, 2008 by Matt

Ok so I maybe shouldn’t be a slogan writer, but I do want to take a quick moment to mention that my superstar agent is leaving Janklow and Nesbit to open her own boutique agency – KT Literary. After 10 good years at Janklow, she’s moving out on her own and I’m going with her. I’m really excited to be on her client list along with some really talented folks.

Check it out here. Seriously folks, this lady’s got moxie.

This time of year stinks. Except for the free stuff.

Posted in Life on January 15, 2008 by Matt

There’s just something wondrous about a snowstorm. It’s a leftover from childhood, I guess – that tingle of excitement the night before, as the first few flakes start to fall.

So as I rocked my baby boy to sleep last night, and the forecasters were calling for eight or more inches of snowfall, I felt that vestigial thrill creep back into my shriveled thirty-something heart.

Well so much for the powers of prognostication. I woke up to a grey, rainy moring. Cold and wet and snow-less. “The Shadowlands” as C.S. Lewis dubbed this time of year. Bleh.

The upshot? Free movies. I went to the mailbox this morning to find 3:10 to Yuma, Away from Her, and No County for Old Men waiting for us thanks to the wife’s Screen Actor’s Guild membership. It’s the time of the SAG awards, and so we begin to be inundated with free screenings of awards contenders.

Now if only I could find the time to watch them . . .

What’s been going on . . .

Posted in babies, Clarion, Powerless, Writing on January 14, 2008 by Matt

Well, I had a baby boy.  His name is Willem Owen Cody and he is as fine a specimen of baby-perfection as I have ever seen.  Razor wit, Herculean strength and Jedi reflexes.  This kid’s got it all.  Now that he is out and about in the real world, I’m changing the focus of this rather focus-less and rarely if ever updated blog into something different and (hopefully) much more reliable.  Since my focus for the foreseeable future is going to be life-as-father-husband-writer that’s what I’ll be writing about.  All the early morning crankiness, the deadline-making nervousness and, of course, spit up. So I hope a few folks will tune in. On that note, I thought I’d better post a few professional updates: 

  • I received the first round of edits on Powerless and am hard at work to meet a February deadline, for a 2009 release.  It’s amazing the lead time that is required in the publishing world, but there it is.  A huge thanks to Joan Slattery and Allison Wortche at Knopf for their insightful comments and deft red pens.
  • The second book of the Knopf deal may not be a Powerless sequel after all.  I’ve got another project on the back burner that seems to desperately want front-burner status, so that may come first.  I’ll let you all know more here when I’m more settled.
  • I just turned in a story for a Clarion anthology that should come out sometime this summer.  The anthology is being edited by Jeff and Anne VanderMeer, both of whom I’d take a bullet for.  (A small bullet.  One preferably of the non-lethal and imaginary variety, but it’s the thought that counts).  Jeff writes some of the best adult surreal fantasy out there and Anne was recently made Fiction Editor of the legendary mag Weird Tales.  Check out Jeff’s musings here and subscribe to Weird Tales here
-Matt