Category: Fill the Well

Favorite thing : A.S. King

I’ve been moving. Again. This is my fourth house in as many years, and hopefully the last for a good long while since I bought it. Touching all my things is gross. That whole Marie Conde thing about needing all your belongings to bring you joy?

If I followed that rule I would own nothing.

Things. Ugh.

Moving means no time. Boxes to unpack and phone calls to make and things to organize, but hours for lounging with a book? No. My inner voice gets loud and cranky when I don’t read. It complains. In two weeks I managed to read a single book: Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King.

I first discovered A.S. King while in grad school. I posted on FB that I wanted to make out with the book. I have continued to feel that way about every single book of hers I’ve read, and I’ve read all but her very first. As a writer, the thing I appreciate most about her is what I’ll call her not give a fuckness. In Vera Dietz I fell in love with her character Charlie who appears mostly as a ghost. Not just one ghost. A million ghosts. I remember being breathless because if you’ve lost someone with whom you had unfinished business, it does feel like there are a million ghosts following you around. You are that haunted.

For me, her ability to bend and extend reality while keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground is a skill that is both inspiring and hard to conceptualize. What I mean is as a writer she does what she wants. I picture her with a deadpan expression on her face while people try to explain to her why her books might not be accessible or marketable or whatever. I imagine her beaming calm expletives in their direction. I imagine my daughter and the look she had as she tore through Glory O’Brien and I am so glad Amy has persisted because now the information she imparts in her books is available to my child. It’s available to me. 

I am not particularly a fan of going off in someone’s trippy version of reality. I don’t like being dragged into masturbatory weirdness. Yet she manages to insist on things that are impossible, that are there for a reason, and make you consider all sorts of difficult questions and never feel like you’re in anything but the surest of hands. You can call what she does surreal. But I think of it more as simply doing what she wants when she wants to with the story. I think her books are more than surreal. They’re hyper-real. They are the physical manifestations of emotion. They are what’s actually going on.

In Still Life With Tornado, when her MC Sarah starts appearing to herself at various stages of life, as a writer I actually experience fear, like I’m dangling off a bridge. That kind of boldness? As a writer you know the insane amount of guts it takes to dare a leap like that. Then the stomach twist as I acknowledge each stage of life and the things I know about myself and about processing trauma. My throat goes dry. My eyes fill. And then she simply continues on in her blunt, matter-of-fact way in the rest of her story, her short, repetitive, staccato sentences cut and rip at any bullshit you’ve ever told yourself. She slices at it. It’s as intense as the beach burn Sarah gets on her Mexican vacation. No balm though. Not until the end.

I could open any book of hers to any page and know it’s her. I can open any book of hers and know I will come away from it a little more hurt, perhaps, but also with a little less bullshit on me, maybe one more toxic layer peeled off. I might need a bunch of aloe to recover, but I’ll take that heavy dose of sun any day.


I saw green!

There’s green in the flower bed by my front door.

I’m not a winter person. Winter hurts my eyes, I’m itchy, and I hate wearing more than three items of clothing at any given time. I blame my grandmother who was from Martinique. I’ve got island in me that is at war with these snow-capped mountains. Winter is always dark and dangerous and I have to take long baths to rid myself of the chill. This is ironic because my boyfriend is literally at his happiest and most productive while in the snow in a semi-refrigerated state. Not me. And this year my bummed outness is compounded on a global level.

I’ve been pretty vocal about how totally grossed out I am by the current state of affairs in government. I’m so sick of looking at old white men I want to vomit every time I see a new picture of Trump’s White House. I fight this, and the winter of my discontent with daily actions and a steady diet of TV shows, movies, music and books.

I’ve powered through The Leftovers (which is like the best show ever) and Santa Clarita Diet  (which actually made me laugh a lot and plus Tim Olyphant). I read The Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance), Born a Crime (Trevor Noah), Underwater (Marisa Reichardt), Vagina (Naomi Wolf), and Faithful (Alice Hoffman), which were all pretty damn amazing, and I blurbed for a hysterical first sex Forever sort of book called I Never which is a lot of fun and will be out soon. I watched Moonlight, La-La Land, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Lego Batman and 13th which were all extraordinary in their own ways. I also decided to spring for Apple music because when a person is as panicked and frozen as I have been, a person needs lots of choice (new favorites include Kflay, Cage the Elephant and Ladytron).

So I haven’t gotten to put my feet in the ocean in a while. It’s okay because art.

Speaking of, on my own front, I was included in a Barnes and Noble article, 7 Magical Realism Must-Reads You Want Right Now. I was asked to go to Little Rock, Arkansas for the Arkansas Literary Festival which I’m super excited for. I haven’t been to Little Rock since I was nineteen and driving around the country with my boyfriend. And a few of my brothers and sisters, my dad, and about fifteen of my VCFA graduating class are heading to Parnassus Books in Nashville on April 4 to be with me as I celebrate the launch of But Then I Came Back.

Not only that, but March is shaping up. I’ll be teaching again at Taos Academy which is one of the best things I did last semester, and I’ll be in Denver the last week of the month for some school visits.


I take all of these as signs that winter will be over soon and that it won’t feel like a fight every time I walk out the door. I take it as a sign that I, like the dirt, am thawing. I’m not too excited yet. My mountain town has a way of teasing.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

At this point I’ll take all the green I can get.


P.S. book goals for Feb 15-March 15:

Swing Time, Zadie Smith/ American Street, Ibi Zoboi/What Light, Jay Asher/History is all You Left Me, Adam Silvera/How to Make a Wish, Ashley Herring Blake (if the ARC EVER GETS HERE!)/Exit West, Mohsin Hamid


Have you asked me for a YA book recommendation?

Last night I had insomnia. I stayed up for about two hours trying to answer questions I’d been asked, after the fact. Like, for instance, what books to read. I’m not good with rapid-fire questions so I always blank. But I’m asked all the time by parents, by kids, by teachers. I’ve tried to compile some of my favorites here.

Also, I would like to add that if you are a truly passionate reader of YA, you might want to consider the Parnassus Next book club, which will send you a carefully and intelligently curated selection of the newest YA each month. I personally love it. It also makes a great gift. Subscriptions of all kinds are available and you’re supporting the mother of all indie bookstores, located in Nashville.

PLEASE NOTE: I’m not dealing in classics like Paul Zindel and Robert Cormier and Lois Duncan, and I will assume you know all about Harry Potter and the incredible wonders of Neil Gaiman and don’t need any information about Katniss Everdeen or Jenny Han or E. Lockhart or  John Green or Morgan Matson. I haven’t read everything by any stretch and sometimes I get the slow blink from colleagues for what I have somehow missed, but FOR GOD’S SAKE I AM NOT A MACHINE! I’m sure I’ll be scrambling to add things, but hopefully this is good for now. Also, this took me all day, so I’m not sorry for all the mistakes or how many times I said weird and kickass, and the non-uniform nature of the post.

MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold

images unknown-4

David Arnold can write. He can write and write and write. His characters freak me out they’re so three-dimensional, and my highlighter was busy the whole time I read this one. Also, I love southern books, and this is a perfect one, as Mim runs away from home and across state lines. The plot is as windy as her path to reach her destination. I cried. A lot. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has loved it. In fact, someone has stolen my copy (Anais).  He also has a new one called KIDS OF APPETITE that came out on Tuesday and that is currently sitting next to my bed, waiting.

I WILL SAVE YOU by Matt de la Pena

saveyou_bg unknown-5

Maybe I’m biased because I read this one first. I love everything from the title to the cover to every last word in between. This story of Kid, a boy trying to cope while living in a group home as he develops a fierce fascination with the beautiful Olivia, slays me. It has a wicked twist, a sick supporting cast of characters, and this simple cadence that I almost can’t deal with it makes me feel so much. I went into it blind, knowing nothing at all about Matt. Now he’s won the Newbery among many other awards and accolades, and has a great backlist of books, including MEXICAN WHITEBOY and WE WERE HERE. He’s gritty and honest and totally cool.



unknown-8 unknown-7


This edgy story from two-time national book award finalist Adele Griffin, about an “it” girl’s mysterious death, is just straight up fun. There’s some sex and drugs so maybe not for really little kids. Adele used models and created a whole world of images to support the story as this poor girl comes undone. Addison can’t survive. You know that from the first page, but on the last you get a totally unexpected chill. Adele has a new one coming out soon called BE TRUE TO ME. I’ve had the pleasure of reading it and it’s a blast.


TYRELL  by Coe Booth

unknown-9 unknown-10

First of all, if you ever get lucky enough to hear Coe read from this book, run don’t walk. She’s so funny. Anyway, this story of a boy who has to go into a shelter with his family while trying to maintain his life is a killer. SO. GOOD. A bunch of sex (mostly head), and a lot of swearing. Like, so much swearing, which is what makes it real, and is also what makes it maybe not perfect for younger kids. But so get it.


HECK SUPERHERO by Martine Leavitt

unknown-11 unknown-12

I am almost at a loss for words about how I feel about Martine Leavitt. She’s practically perfect in every way. She’s excruciatingly talented. She is absolutely my most coveted one and I happily worship at her feet. I love all her books (ALL OF THEM), but this one, about a boy trying to find his mother, is my favorite. She’s so close to Heck she’s breathing on his neck.

TRASH by Sharon Darrow

images-1 unknown-13

This book, written in verse, is about kids taken out of their home who become taggers. The poetry is genius and just writing this reminds me of how intense it was and how much I wanted to embrace it and crawl out of my skin as I read it. It’s a gem written by a gem. It was another one with a ton of quotables.


THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner

unknown-15 unknown-14

Another great southern read. And I know. I’ve been babbling about this one a lot so you probably don’t want to hear it anymore. But seriously. There’s a guy with a freaking staff, and a fashion blogger, and some snake charming, too. There’s discovering our own power, and discovering what we are powerless against, and there’s all the love, too. God, I loved it. Please read it.



unknown-17 unknown-16

My UK editor shoved this one in my hands when I complained I’d run out of books this summer. Creep out. It didn’t change my life or anything, but I do love books about sketchy giant families with freaky relationships that live in the backwoods of upstate New York, with possibly homicidal parents. It kind of made me think Manson family. I’m saying, if you want a book that’s hard to put down and gives you really odd dreams, give this one a try.



unknown-19 unknown-18

Adore. Love. Freakout love! This book, about the fallout of a forced outing, is downright rad. It’s an epistolary book (which I love) and is all about what we show on the outside vs the inside, and why, and it’s also about falling in love and how two people allow each other in. It’s gorgeous. I’m not doing it justice because I’m delirious from trying to get this done. I don’t know anyone who didn’t go crazy over this book.


TILT by Alan Cumyn.

unknown-21 unknown-20

Boy YA books seem scarce, and really good ones that deal with sexuality and love and identity and dads, seem even more scarce. This book has perhaps the most awkward sex scene in any book ever, and it stole my heart completely. Alan’s new book, HOT PTERODACTYL BOYFRIEND is making some noise right now, and I can’t wait to read it. I trust him completely, so I’m sure it’s going to be good.


DAMAGE by A.M. Jenkins.

unknown-23 unknown-22

A.M. Jenkins isn’t famous for this book. She won the Printz honor for another book called REPOSSESSED about a demon who possesses a teenage boy and discovers he’s the most decent guy around. That one is great too, but this one killed me. I cried and cried and cried. It’s about a suicidal star football player who appears perfectly fine but totally isn’t, written in second person. It’s a feat in terms of the writing itself, but more than that it’s the most honest portrayal of depression I’ve found in YA lit. I feel like it’s underrated. It shouldn’t be. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. Because it goes pretty deep into suicidal psychology I would both recommend it and suggest caution in terms of the reader’s age. Either way, it’s heavy, so know that.


FEED by M.T. Anderson

unknown-24 unknown-25

This book is becoming a modern classic. Written in 2001, it predates Facebook significantly, which makes it kind of prophetic given what life looks like now. It’s the sort of sci-fi I love, more 1984 than Star Trek, but singular and brilliant. This is one of those I think all kids and adults should read, because we’re humans and this is happening, but also because it’s beautiful. Also, it’s been banned a lot. Doesn’t that make you want to devour it?


ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kelly


Last year I was at NCTE and had the opportunity to see Jason Reynolds speak in person. He totally blew me away. Basically told a story that could easily have ended with a mic drop. Badass. Now he’s nominated for the National Book Award for a completely different book which I’m sure will be just as powerful, but this is the only one I’ve read. Told from dual perspectives, it’s about a kid who’s beaten for being a person of color, and the ensuing consequences. With everything going on right now in terms of racism and diversity and the police, it couldn’t be more relevant. This is a great one for kids. It’s got a compelling voice and story, and also I cried.


 INEXCUSABLE by Chris Lynch.


This was one of the first YA books I ever read (knowingly). It’s about date rape, told from the “good guy” rapist’s perspective. It’s also passionate and beautiful and sad as hell. Remarkable on a craft level and also just in terms of the way the story unfolds, it’s poetic and strange and so hard to read, harder to put down. Just read it. But don’t give it to a little kid. Also, Chris Lynch has a ton of other books, lots of award winners, including FREEWILL which I also loved.


 TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan


It doesn’t take a genius to know what this book is about. It’s right on the cover. I think it’s important because it’s narrated by the ghostly presence of gay men who contracted AIDS early on and are now watching how much has happened and bearing witness to the struggles and triumphs of the newer generation. That part of it left me aching. I cried. But it’s also irreverently joyful, and I loved that too. I am a huge fan of David Levithan’s and would read pretty much anything he has to offer (and have). It’s only that this one is especially relevant and should be a part of everyone’s reading list.



unknown-27 unknown-28

Why am I including her? Woman needs no help from me. You would have to be living under a rock in Siberia not to know who she is since she’s spent the last 100 years on the NYT bestseller list, but just in case, she’s totally fabulous, and I inhaled this one, about a girl with an immune disorder living in a bubble who falls in love with the boy next door. Her next book, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR has been nominated for The National Book Award. I have a special affection for her since I sat beside her at my first ever panel (disaster), and have had the pleasure since. She has a humble, soothing sort of presence that comes through in her heartfelt, love book. This will soon be a movie, so you should read it quick if you haven’t yet.

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby



Laura is another magical person who has a really kickass backlist, but she won the Printz and was a National book Award finalist for this one. A retelling of the Persephone myth, everything about this book is perfect, including Laura’s extremely steady storytelling hand. She’s a weaver, and a great one. I did a lot of talking to this book as I read it, as well as a lot of humiliating fist pumping. It’s excellent, feminist, achy, gorgeous.(I knew it was going to win.)


JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia

unknown-31 unknown-30

This short but very satisfying book told in three perspectives, is about violence and how we get there, how every minute and action invariably lead to this one explosive outcome. I HIGHLY recommend this for every child, because it illustrates so well what happens when we lose ourselves in rage, and how a perfectly innocent storm can lead us there. If you don’t trust me, trust the fact that Rita Williams-Garcia is an award machine.



unknown-33 unknown-32

You’ve probably heard of I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN which won the Printz two years ago. That book is so confoundingly spectacular I can’t even. But I chose this one, Jandy’s first, because it’s one you shouldn’t miss, either. Bailey is grieving the loss of her sister, trying to find her way, along with a gorgeous cast of amazing secondary characters. The language is expansive and free, the love is deeply romantic and magical, and I did not just cry. I wept.


WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

unknown-35 unknown-34

Laurie Halse Anderson is probably best known for her book SPEAK about rape. It’s one of my favorites because it’s so artistically done. I love a book that can present an issue without shoving it down your throat in some gross lesson-y way. This one is about a girl with an eating disorder whose best friend has died of the same disorder. I cannot overstate the singularity of the voice, how raw and visceral it is. I felt my guts in a twist the entire time I was reading, and didn’t exhale until it was over. It’s pretty brutal in dealing with the reality of anorexia, so I would say no tweens on this one.



unknown-37 unknown-36

If you have it in you to read another vampire book, this is a good choice. It’s slick and kind of sexy and very now in terms of technology and communication. Tana wakes up one morning and pretty much everyone she knows is massacred around her. Except her annoying boyfriend and another not annoying mysterious guy. They make there way to Coldtown where monsters are quarantined. It’s like Hotel California. Once you go in you can never leave. Adventure ensues. Holly Black is one of those writers you can pick up anywhere anytime and know you’re going to have some fun, but this one is surprisingly poignant as well.


THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

unknown-38 unknown-39

She’s another writer I will always pick up with complete faith that whatever it is, it’s going to be great. This one, though, for which she won the Printz, is especially so. About a cliffside community contending with and attempting to race monster horses that emerge from the sea. Her two main characters, Sean and Puck, are so memorably delicious I wish I were reading them again and again. I’m in the middle of her Raven Cycle now, about psychics and Arthurian legends. It’s rad. Also rad is her werewolf series, beginning with SHIVER. She’s one of those people I’m grateful has written so many books. Also, (sigh), she writes really good music, drives fast cars, makes art and wears combat boots. She’s my dream girl.


DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy

unknown-41 unknown-40

Julie Murphy is a major ass-kicker. From what I’ve seen of her, she’s funny, feisty, and totally herself. So is Dumplin’. This story, about a girl who defies stereotypes by joining a very Texan beauty pageant, has done really, really well. There’s something infectious and irreverent about the writing. Julie has a new book coming out soon and is also the author of  SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. Total fan.


ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

unknown-43 unknown-42

If you were alive in the 80s, you must read this book. If you felt alone in high school, you must read this book. If you like music, read it read it read it. It’s so good. THEY FALL IN LOVE ON THE BUS. Sobbing, hysterical, ugly crying, and one of the best endings I’ve ever encountered. This made a lifetime Rowell fan of me. I fucking LOVE her.


SUFFER LOVE by Ashley Herring Blake

unknown-45 unknown-44

Oh, the tangled webs, man. In this one, Sam and Hadley fall in love, except they can’t because their parents had an affair and the reason both their lives suck is because of that exact thing! Ashley is masterful with the dialogue and really good at making you say ouch out loud. It’s pret-ty sexy and also the affair stuff, but it’s also accessible and handles the subject with respect.  Maybe don’t buy it for your ten-year-old niece, especially if your brother is a player. Ashley has another book coming out soon, HOW TO MAKE A WISH, with bi characters, so yay! More of that, please! I’m a fan and will definitely read anything Ashley has to offer.


WEETZIE BAT by Francesca Lia Block

unknown-47 unknown-46

WHAT? YOU HAVEN’T READ WEETZIE BAT? Even after Lena Dunham yelled at her writer friend on Girls for being a wanna-be Weetzie? What the hell? Please do this right away. It’s super short, completely un-homophobic, totally punk rock, and, like, a modern California classic for sure. Also, I don’t know about tweens. I can’t totally remember, but I feel like there might have been a threesome (or maybe they just all live together). It’s totally perfect for grown-ups though.



unknown-49 unknown-48

Well, this was the first time I ever actually wanted to make out with a book (that I can remember). I fell in love with Charlie, Vera’s dead best friend, only to have A.S. King herself basically pat me on the head and tell me she felt sorry for me for having those feelings. “No, no,” she said, “we don’t love Charlie.” She looked at me like she could see my soul. It really freaked me out. But anyway, it’s magical realism, but somehow more real than most books I’ve read. There’s also a talking pagoda, which never hurt anyone. You’ll never forget Vera. You’ll never forget Charlie. I want to read it again and again. A.S. King doesn’t really have boundaries in her writing, so as a writer it’s a little like standing at the edge of a cliff and teetering slowly. Also, for my favorite bully book, check out EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS. 



unknown-51 unknown-50

I love a good ghost story, and Nova Ren Suma is sublime at it. Plus her writing in incredible. I’m going to say savage. I’m not only a fan of her fiction but of her blog. This story, about a ballerina and a girl in a correctional facility, will satisfy all your suspense and murder needs. She’s all around magnificent, and really good at keeping me at the edge of myself and supporting the part of me that likes to understand the human underbelly.



unknown-53 unknown-52

This lady is super into cosplay, so she’s fun to be friends with on Facebook. She’s also written this book, an epistolary story between two friends each dealing with almost superhuman limitations that cause intense isolation. They develop such a deep love for each other that they basically save each other. It’s kind of a mind-bending sci-fi twist type thing. I loved it. Read it in one sitting. There’s a sequel I haven’t read yet, and after that, I think she said there will be aliens!



images-2 unknown-54

Life on Coney Island is not what it once was. It’s been invaded by ocean people of all sorts, and Beck finds herself caught right in the center of it. Was that a good synopsis? I don’t think so. This is a big, epic, dystopian political statement, with awesome characters with really good names, and it’s so much fun. I’ve recommended it to a bunch of kids who all report back that they love it. The third one isn’t out yet, but will be soon. Perfect for younger readers who want adventure.


FAT & BONES by Larissa Theule

unknown-56 unknown-55


I think this might technically be middle grade, but it’s so twisted I’m putting it in here. It’s about a completely insane fairy who gets into all sorts of trouble on a farm. Calling it dark would be putting it mildly, which is weird, because its author is totally luminous. I ate it whole. Larissa writes mostly picture books, so you ought to look her up if you need some of those. After reading it, I happened to be at a writing retreat with Larissa, and couldn’t help but stare at her in fascination. I don’t know whether or not she appreciated this. I’m guessing not.



THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU LAUGH by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

unknown-58 unknown-57

If I laughed, it was that all the way down hysterical cover your eyes kind of laughter, because this book is hardcore. About a kid living with his grandparents, whose entire life and hopes ride on basketball and his best friend, Creature, who writes romances about dead Russian princesses. It’s one of those gritty, urban realistic novels that mirrors reality so acutely you can’t breathe. I got to blurb this book, so if you want to know what else I think about it, you can check it out.


JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

unknown-60 unknown-59

Well, she’s an Australian goddess. This book is a godsend. I would eat her leftovers in hopes of having something of hers seep into me. Again, I fell in love with Jonah, the main guy. But it’s about so many things: trust and magic and war and love and things you can’t really understand when you’re a kid and that are so painful and beautiful when you finally do put all the pieces together. This book broke my heart so hard I couldn’t read anything for a while after. I needed a period of mourning. Several cries.


FELL OF DARK  by Patrick Downes

images-3 unknown-61

This book, about two boys drawn into confrontation by miraculous forces, is surreal, dream-like, and kind of insane. I read it in one sitting. This one is absolutely not for someone looking for a regular narrative, but if you want something uncomfortable and spectacular and deeply skilled, it’s completely worth your time. DEFINITELY not for younger kids.



SKELLIG by David Almond

unknown-63 unknown-62

There’s an angel living in your garage. Either that, or possibly a vagrant who really likes Chinese food. Oh, how I love this book. Magical realism, but dark and beautiful. I don’t remember the plot as well as I remember the feeling as the kids whisper, “Skellig, Skellig, Skellig.” Everything I’ve read by David Almond has made me feel seen in a way I can’t explain. He’s so good.



STOLEN by Lucy Christopher

unknown-64 unknown

Told in second person, this is the story of a girl who is kidnapped from an airport in Thailand and taken to Australia, where her relationship to her kidnapper gets very complicated. Brilliantly well done, this is my daughter’s favorite book, even though she’s too young to have read it, but what can you do when she has access to my Kindle and she read it without asking? Also, Lucy Christopher is a fairy person.


Now that that’s done, here’s what’s on my TBR shelf (in addition to what I mentioned above). This means I own it, I can’t wait to read it, and I’m more than likely mortified that I haven’t because I can be pretty sure it’s all amazing. I’ve put an asterisk by the ones for which I especially suck. They’re all supposed to be excellent. 

LOST STARS by Lisa Selin Davis


THE READER by Traci Chee

*ALL WE LEFT BEHIND by Ingrid Sundberg 

*HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon


*UNDERWATER by Marisa Reichart




*GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow



*MY INVENTED LIFE by Lauren Bjorkman

ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers



1st five pages

Just checking in (pausing my insane editorial frenzy) briefly to let everyone know that I will be one of April’s mentors for the 1st five pages workshop. Basically, you submit five pages of a WIP and get some help sorting yourself out for submission.


Click to find out more details here. I’m completely excited to be doing this, and it’s but the first of many things I’m planning! It opens tomorrow at 2EST, and I hear it fills up within minutes.

Hope to see you on the other side!cover-and-author

February 6, 2016

~ This week I read Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill.  This pleasantly dated work was published in 1988, and is a series of short stories that examines women’s roles, self-perceptions, explorations, often as seen through a mal41cw+tmfduL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_e lens, playing with narrative, and totally chaotic. Lots of sexual content and human underbelly. It is aptly named.

~Quote, from the story “Connection.”: “Connection” was a vague word when applied to humans. What did it mean? She remembered a man she’d had a short affair with before she’d met Steve. He was a sweet, practical person who never read books, rarely went out, and didn’t seem to care strongly about anything except a few friends and a martial art he practiced with fanatic zeal. They had nothing in common. In most ways he bored her. Yet when she touched him she felt  a sensitivity in his body, a sense of receptivity she rarely encountered in men. When he held her against his chest, she felt secure and protected in a way that had nothing to do with his muscular body. She felt that they were nourishing each other in some important, invisible way. But they could barely hold a conversation. 

At times, she had thought this was the only connection you coulsimone_de_beauvoir_2-662x662d have with people– intense, inexplicable, and ultimately incomplete.


~ Work habits fascinate me, and the more I read about them the more inspired I am, so now I’m sharing them with you, one a week. I’m going to start with Simone de Beauvoir, because she was a bad ass lady. Simone worked from ten to one every day, then socialized with her partner, Jean-Paul Sartre, from one to five, then rushed back to work until nine pm. She took annual vacations that lasted one to two months, every year.

Obviously, not to be done with kids, but sounds kind of dreamy to have time to socialize AND be a dedicated artist. Eh, I wouldn’t trade it. I really like my kids.


~ Movie wise, I watched The Big Short. I, along with many people I know, have always felt like I was undereducated about the economic crash. The movie was smart, fun, witty and in the end I know what happened and exactly how insane it is that the banks were bailed out.

Iceland, people, ICELAND!


~And so I know where to find it, this article, 13 Writing Tips From Chuck Palahniuk, is a keeper. I especially like and fear number seven: “Let yourself be with Not Knowing. This bit of advice comes through a hundred famous people, through Tom Spanbauer to me and now, you. The longer you can allow a story to take shape, the better that final shape will be. chuck-palahniuk-essaysDon’t rush or force the ending of a story or book. All you have to know is the next scene, or the next few scenes. You don’t have to know every moment up to the end, in fact, if you do it’ll be boring as hell to execute.”


~ Recently, Ive been feeling like I’m not that into chocolate, but my agent, Emily, sent me some when I got my book deal and I remembered the company this week. The figs with ganache and whiskey are my favorites. So, I wound up sending out some thank yous and some happy birthdays and, in fact, ordered enough chocolate that John of this company, John and Kiras, sent me a note saying he wanted to read my book. So I feel like they’re actual people, it’s a small company,  and I’m telling you, the chocolate is effing deeeelicious. You can order on, or just stare at the picture like I do. hpvalentines_figsHappy filling of your wells! ~el


My UK book birthday!

The U.K. version of  This Raging Light came out this week. It’s of special significance to me for a couple of reasons. One, I lived in London when I was little

My beautiful family

and it’s one of my favorite places on the earth. The street art, the food, the fashion, and I even love the tube. Plus, I have lots of family there and I don’t see them enough. I have dreams of living there when I’m older.



But also, the team at Orchard is extraordinary. Beginning with the letter they wrote during the auction and continuing with a delicious dinner when I went to London, during which I discovered that my editor Sarah and the publisher Meagan could not be more spectacular people, and then most recently what I’ve experienced with their marketing team. It’s one of my favorite things about writing how lovely the people are who find themselves drawn to children’s literature.

My beautiful editorial team


Anyway, I’m so happy to be with them, can’t wait to get back to them, and am in utter admiration of everything they’re doing! So thank you, England! I’ll see you soon.

Fill the Well Friday 1-15-16

This was a surreal week for me. One, as a massive David Bowie fan, his death had me forehead to counter, trying to hold back tears, flashing through all the ways in which he’s affected my life. It doesn’t end. Each of his incarnations has inspired me. I always hoped I would meet him sometime.

Then, like two seconds after I got that awful news, my boss/agent/friend texted me that Matt  de la Pena had won the Newbery for his picture book (whaaaaa?) Last Stop on Market Street, and that Laura

th-3Ruby had won the Printz for Bone Gap. It’s a big long story why they are each and both so important to me, but tth-4hey are. I adore them both and every time I think about the fact that they won, I start to bubble over, with pride, with excitement, with anxiety. I’m beside myself.



~ I went to see Revenant Monday in the middle of the day at this great theater in Santa Fe ( that serves food and beer, and which I sometimes (rarely) visit because grown-up movies are out in the evening, what with the progeny.

I didn’t know much about it except that Leonardo DiCaprio was in it and that’s enough for me.

Oh holy bananas.

I cried my face off beginning about ten minutes into the movie, and then proceeded to re-cry every time I thought about the thing that made me cry in the first place. It’s so beautiful, so human, the cinematography is ridiculous, the acting perfect. Obviously it has now been nominated for 12 Oscars so duh, but yes. Go see this movie and hold on to your heart. images


~ Writing wise, this article brought to me by YA author Ingrid Sundberg (spectacular human and writer), entitled “Why the Young Adult Fiction Sexual Revolution is So Necessary” is a thoughtful, important read. Have a look  here.


~I marathon watched Making a Murderer on Netflix. No one on that show is likable. Everyone seems shady and sad. I don’t like things that smack of Schadenfreude, but it was so hard to make up my mind about what I thought that I couldn’t stop and so…ten episodes later.

Anyway, I had it going during dishes, laundry, as I was falling asleep. Weekend, done.



A couple of years ago, I listened to a Radiolab podcast, entitled “Reasonable Doubt” . It turned out to be the first act of this story, the one where the woman mistook Stephen Avery as her attacker. Definitely worth a listen. It gives a whole other perspective.

Anyone out there read The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier? Should be required readinth-2g if you’re going to watch this show. It’s about a boy who may or may not have murdered a little girl. The entire book takes place as he’s being interrogated. It goes to show how a person can be persuaded of something. Utterly brilliant.



~I finished my first blurb book, This is the Part Where You Laugh. You know, it made me realize that there’s realistic, and then there’s real realistic. Hot damn, this book is a gem. I can’t wait til it comes out. Summer, summer! Unknown


~I’ve also discovered Dazbog coffee (well, really Anna from Sol Food discovered it, FYI Taos people). It’s all Russian and hearty and smoky. It feels a little dangerous. If you see it anywhere, I encourage you to buy it. Like, for real.



And then, Alan Rickman. I can’t. I mean, I cannot. I love him. Moreover I fell in love with him years and years ago when he played Jamie the ghost in Truly Madly Deeply. You can watch a really goofy scene from the movie here. Sigh.


So from grief to elation and back again, there’s never a damn dull moment around here.

Now go forth and fill the well! xx

Fill the Well Friday 1-8-16

In the name of keeping myself and maybe a few others intrigued and entertained, every Friday I’ll post a few thi160104_r27495-320ngs that are keeping me fascinated.

So this week:

I read this article about Asiah Amini. I was feeling sorry for myself that day, and this article fixed me right up. She worked to prevent stoning and underage execution in Iran and is now a hero of mine. Plus look at her eyes!


I watched The Kingsman. It was totally fun. You should watch it too, although it has lots and lots of violence in it, so be ready for that. I tend to be a serious person (see above) and it’s good to be a little silly. And also, there’s Sam L. I love Sam L.


I read this middle grade book, The Thing About Jellyfish. I have always been fascinated of and terrified by jellyfish, so I particularly enjoyed all the scientific jellyfish facts that did nothing to lessen either my fear or my fascination.  It was shortlisted for the National Book Award last year. This  was my favorite quote: “If people were silent, they could hear the noise of their own lives better. If people were silent, it would make what they say, whenever they chose to say it, more important. If people were silent, they could read one another’s signals, the way underwater creatures flash Unknownlights at one another, or turn their skin different colors.”  Isn’t that great?







I’m really excited there’s going to be a Deadwood movie. So yippie kai yay (is that how you spell it?) or cheers or whatever. There’s going to be a Deadwood movie!



I also read this book, There is No Right Way to Meditate by Yumi Sakugawa. My ex-husband’s girlfriend gave it to my daughter for Christmas (yes she did, at the Christmas we all spent together because we’re super 21st century and everything), and I immediately ordered the other two she’s written, Your illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe and  I Think I Am in Friend-Love with You. This one made me cry, talking about the rock in my chest becoming a crystal and stuff. It took five minutes to read. I highly recommend it for everyone, whether you meditate or not.



And on the subject of writing, this one is excellent. Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories. This reminded me I want to read the book about the Inkwells, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship and writing posse.


I haven’t been outside in days. Not really. It’s been snowing and snowing out and I’m not one to be all, yay snow! I like it because it makes my kids happy because they like to ski and say things like “powpow” on good powder days, and snow makes it even cozier to stay inside and read. But my grandmother was from Martinique and I think she haunts me and makes me extra-cold. So I’ll leave you with this picture. It’s where I live in my head. Next book will not take place in winter.



Happy reading and may your well be full!th