Thursday, December 13, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

This year, I ...

1) Reproduced

The End!

Okay, while that was more than enough excitement for the year, it would also make this my shortest blog post ever, which means I may as well have Tweeted it instead (and probably will).

So here are some more stats.

This year, I...

1) Reproduced

2) Sold my second Young Adult novel, High and Dry, to Amulet Books

3) Read 46 books (27 Young Adult or Middle Grade; 2 Non-Fiction;13 Adult; 4 Graphic Novels). Next year I hope to read more Non-Fiction as that's usually a bigger category for me.

4) Interviewed four Young Adult and MG novelists (Sarvenaz Tash, Trish Doller, Diana Renn, and Katie McGarry and Natalie Bahm) about their fantastic debuts for the Lucky 13s blog and my own blog (YOU ARE HERE)

5) Hosted a guest post and giveaway for Samuel Park and his wonderful novel, This Burns My Heart

6) Wrote an essay about Malinda Lo's Ash for the LA Review of Books

7) Wrote three guest posts (A "Day in the Life" post for Sophia Chang's series; "How Do You Choose a Narrator?" for Lisa Gail Green's blog; and A Tribute to Hollis Resnik for Amy Spalding's Musical Theatre Monday Series)

8) Revealed Maria T. Middleton's beautiful cover for my Young Adult novel, Bruised (in stores 3/5/13!)

9) Joined SCBWI

10) Made some new friends who graciously shared advise and writerly comfort (waves to Cat Winters, Elisabeth Dahl, Shelley Coriell, Anita Grace Howard, and Ann Stampler)

11) Cried approx. 17,000 times from exhaustion, joy, grief, and as a general hobby

12) Other Things I Don't Remember Right Now

Did you blog a year in review for 2012? Link me in the comments below. I'd love to read about it.

And if we don't talk till 2013, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Interview with THE SECRET UNDERGROUND's Natalie Bahm

Need to find a great kids' book for the holidays? Look no further than Natalie Bahm's middle-grade contemporary adventure, THE SECRET UNDERGROUND:

Twelve-year-old Ally is the only witness to a bank robbery in her small town. Unable to block out the memory of the robbers, a notorious gang known as the Gauze Men, Ally joins her little brother and a bunch of neighborhood boys digging a hole in her backyard. Only the hole isn't just a hole - it's a massive set of tunnels snaking beneath the neighborhood and heading for an abandoned steel mill. Ally is old enough to know the danger, but she reasons spending time with sixth-grade heartthrob Paul is more fun than sitting at home with her worries. And dangerous it is - none of the kids' parents realize the tunnels exist, but the Gauze Men might.

Not only is the story a heart-pounding read, but all proceeds of the book go to help a sick baby. 

LASTLY! If you're an aspiring writer with a finished OR unfinished manuscript, you must check out Natalie's blog, where our mutual agent, Sara Megibow, is offering a 50-page critique in honor of Natalie's debut. It runs through December 12, so hurry over there for details. 

And then hurry back and read my interview with Natalie, who is one of the most genuinely kind and talented people I know.  I hope you enjoy our chat (picture us with mugs of cocoa, next to a fire). (It wouldn't be accurate, but that's the feel I wish to evoke.)

What sparked the idea for THE SECRET UNDERGROUND? 

My dad used to tell us stories about when he was a kid.  He lived in a tiny town in Idaho and he and his friends got into all sorts of mischief, including digging tunnels and caves in a vacant lot down the street. I was kind of fascinated with digging when I was a kid too, only my parents wouldn't let us dig tunnels (for good reason!), so when I grew up I wrote about them instead. :)

The Gauze Men bank robbers are so vivid and creepy -- how did you come up with them?

I think they were probably partially based on the bad guys in GOONIES.  In the first drafts of the book there was only one Gauze Man.  The other two came in later.

Was the town you grew up in anything like the town in the story? I found the abandoned mill to be particularly poignant.

Not much--unfortunately I grew in a pretty big town totally devoid of steel mills.  But I lived in the foothills and the kids in my neighborhood were always building secret forts up in the hills behind our houses.  I think the mill idea came from Geneva Steel, a gigantic steel mill that used to sit right on I-5. We'd drive past it on trips to Utah and I was always blown away by its size. It was demolished a few years ago and there was a feature about it in the newspaper with tons of cool pictures.  I remember thinking it would have been the perfect place to hide out.

What were your favorite books when you were Ally's age?

When I was a little younger I was obsessed with everything by Roald Dahl.   I read Number The Stars in fourth or fifth grade and it started a bit of a war book binge. I think by the time I was Ally's age I was kind of a reluctant reader.

Are there any special songs, films, or books that you turned to for inspiration or creative renewal when writing UNDERGROUND?

GOONIES for sure.  I think I was reading mostly YA while I wrote it, so that might have contributed to the little romance. 

The ending is extremely tense -- without giving anything away, did you find your heart racing as you wrote? Did you ever worry the children were in too much jeopardy?

It is tense!  I think I definitely had some heart-racing moments while I was writing it.  The funny thing is it didn't start out that way.  The first ending I wrote was actually kind of light and funny.  I think I rewrote the ending about a hundred times by the time the book came out. The current ending might be too scary for some kids!  My ten-year-old niece told me she had to sleep in her parents room after finishing it! Luckily my daughter and my eight-year-old nephew thought it was awesome.

Ally sometimes finds it easier to relate to the boys than the girls. Did the same hold true for you? Were you ever a tomboy growing up?

My best friend in kindergarten was a boy. We never fought.  We just had adventures and played nice.  He moved away in first grade and after he left all my friends were (very drama crazy) girls. I think I always kind of missed him and the simplicity of our friendship.

Did you draw a map of the town or the tunnels to keep everything straight in your head (or even just for fun?)

I think I did early on.  It was a make-believe town so it was hard to remember where everything was in relation to everything else.

You held a successful auction for baby Jayden. How did the idea to sell your book for charity come about? 

I actually decided to do the book before we had the auction.  I'd been talking to Jayden's grandma and hearing about all the horrible things his family was going through--struggling to make ends meet at the same time as their sweet baby was fighting for his life. It hadn't been very long since I'd had a sick baby in the hospital, so I could kind of relate. I just couldn't imagine dealing with financial stress at  a time like that. I felt like I really needed to do something to help.  I called Sara and asked if we could use THE SECRET UNDERGROUND as a fundraiser and she thought it was a great idea.  But, even though we put it together really fast, it took 5 months to get the book out.  While we were working on it, I decided to do the fundraiser so we could get the family some money sooner. The auction was a great success and helped them through some of the toughest months they'd had.

Can you give us an update on Jayden's health at the moment? 

I'm so happy to have good news to report. He's doing really well now!  He's had a couple of very scary hospital visits in the last six months--one where his family was almost certain they'd lose him.  But Jayden is so tough!  He miraculously recovered and even gained a little weight and now he's home and healthier than he's ever been.  He's still tiny.  At two, he weighs less than twenty pounds. Plus, his immune system is weak so any illness sends him straight to the ICU. He's nowhere close to out of the woods yet, but he's doing well for now.  His family is so, so grateful for all the love they've been shown from people all over the world. It means so much to them to hear how people they don't even know are buying books to support Jayden.

Happy Holidays, Natalie, and thanks so much for (metaphorically) sitting down with me.