Launch week for Flying the Dragon!

Just a quick note to say that it’s now officially LAUNCH WEEK (woohoo!) for my friend and agency-mate Natalie Dias Lorenzi‘s lovely middle-grade book, Flying the Dragon, over at the EMU’s Debuts blog. Today I have coauthored a post with another writer named Tara, in which we interview editor Emily Mitchell and agent Erin Murphy and give away a signed copy of the book. Come check it out! (And come back every day this week–we’ll have new posts up daily to celebrate this book’s release.)

If you’d like to know more about the book before you leave this page, here’s my review from Goodreads:

Flying the DragonFlying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time the characters in this book had a meal, I got hungry for Japanese food–to the point where I actually ran down to the Asian grocery store for ingredients and made myself some yakisoba. =)

More seriously, this was a lovely, sweet read about the challenges of trying to live between two cultures. The two main characters, Japanese Hiroshi and his American cousin Skye, were so easy to connect to; you could really feel their frustration as they tried to learn each others’ languages and as Hiroshi struggled to adapt to life in America. The author did a terrific job of making the most mundane American actions–like eating spaghetti with a fork, or calling a teacher by her last name–feel foreign to Hiroshi. And when Hiroshi shows up at school wearing a face mask because he has a cold, Skye’s mortification for her cousin is almost palpable.

Clearly, I loved many little moments in this book and look forward to its release so that others can enjoy it, too!

View all my reviews

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Start spreadin’ the news…

I’m in New York!

It’s about 100 degrees and humid out, which makes it feel like I’m literally in the jungle…which I guess I sort of am. Can’t wait to venture into the city tonight and experience all of the crowdedeness, rudeness, and black-hued fashion that’s been missing from my life for these past six months!

Anyway, in case you’re curious, here are a few of the items on my jam-packed agenda over the following week:

-Hear E.C. Myers read from Fair Coin at KGB Bar (tonight!)

-Meet my lovely editor Shauna at the Penguin offices

-Check out Matt Freeman’s latest play, Confess Your Bubble, at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg

-Take a virtual tour of China with outings to Yunnanese, Dongbei, and Cantonese restaurants

-Attend the wedding of two good friends (who started dating when we all worked together on the 2007 production of my play, PB&J–aw!)

-Take my sister to Coney Island (she’s never been!)

And then I take off for Boston, where even more fun awaits.

What are your plans for the next couple of weeks?

Finding Themo

I’ve recently become a little anxious about theme.

First there was this thread on a writer’s forum I belong to in which people were discussing where in a novel you’re supposed to introduce the theme. I sort of skimmed through the posts and then slunk away without participating, because, to be honest, it wasn’t something I had really thought about before.

In fact, I wasn’t even completely sure I understood what a theme was. Luckily, there’s a Mary Kole post for that! Simply defined, a theme is a Big Idea or Big Question that your book strives to explore…and according to Mary, every book should have one.

So all of that was kind of gnawing at my brain already…and then this week my friend Lisa wrote a terrific post on her blog called “Personal Mission Statements in Life and Writing,” which got me thinking about the whole issue even more. And, frankly, feeling a little concerned. I certainly hadn’t tried to insert a theme into Gladys Gatsby; did that mean that the book didn’t have one? And could my struggles with certain elements of my new WIP have to do with the fact that I didn’t have a theme for it, either?

Catch this theme if you can.

Thankfully, my writers’ group had a meeting scheduled this week, so I asked my two critique partners for their wisdom on theme. Did they have a Big Idea to explore in mind from page 1 of the first draft, or was it something that emerged on its own later, as the story got underway? Perhaps not surprisingly, I got two totally different answers: one of my CPs feels that she needs to know her theme to get her excited about writing a book in the first place, while for the other, the theme just emerges naturally as she drafts her stories.

But then, that CP told us about an exercise she had heard about once at a conference: If you’re not sure what the theme is in your own writing, take a look at your favorite movies. What do they have in common? What kinds of stories do they tell? Chances are, they share a theme that’s important to you, and that’s probably showing up in your own work.

Almost got a theme!

So that night, I examined my DVD shelf…and what do you know, I started to see a pattern!  School of Rock. Catch Me if You Can. Almost Famous. All stories of characters who take on a huge, seemingly unachievable goal—one that the powers-that-be in their worlds would surely put the kibosh on if only they knew about the protagonist’s secret plans—and, against all odds, manage to achieve it. (With plenty of funny hijinks ensuing along the way, of course.)

Shabam. That’s pretty much EXACTLY how things go down for Gladys. Standing up against the naysaying powers that be to take a shot at greatness…turns out my book does have a theme after all!

Jack Black will school you…IN THEME.

That’s definitely NOT the theme of my current project, though. But I have a whole other set of favorite movies—that tend to have international settings and usually some sort of forbidden love element, like The English Patient and The Sound of Music—that may shed some light on what theme I’m exploring in my WIP. I’m not quite sure what that is yet, but I think that it has something to do with loyalty, national identity, and self-sacrifice? Maybe by the time I finish a first draft, it’ll be clearer to me. 😀

So my question to you, fellow writers: Do you think consciously about theme from the first moments of brainstorming a new story, or is it something that reveals itself to you much later on in the process? Also, if you decide to try the “Favorite Film Analysis for Theme Identification” (um, FFATI?) method, feel free to share what you discover in the comments section!

Congratulations to our winner…

Jessica L.!

A copy of Never Back Down by Ernest Hebert will soon be yours. 😀

Many thanks to all those who stopped by to read the interview and share their thoughts, especially on the topic of The Great Gatsby (which I must say also happens to be one of my least favorite books). Glad to see that I’ve got some good company in that camp.

And thanks again to Ernie, of course!

Hooray for Ann!

Just a quick post to say CONGRATULATIONS to my good friend, fellow Dartmouth alum (yeah, class of ’01!), and awesome critique partner Ann Bedichek, who is now officially my agency-sibling, too! Hurrah!!

I knew from the moment I read Ann’s fabulous middle-grade novel, Scientastic SuperGirls, that she would not be unagented for long. It’s always nice to be proved right, especially when the agent snapping your friend up is the wonderful Tricia Lawrence at your very own beloved Erin Murphy Literary Agency. 😀

So pop on over to Ann’s blog to read her success story and congratulate her yourself! And here’s to seeing the SuperGirls on a shelf soon!