"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Take that New York—Austin SCBWI Rocks!

In case you felt sorry for us writers here in Austin that we weren't attending the National SCBWI conference in New York, I'm thinking the tables were turned. Sure, the temperature dropped just a few degrees colder than we'd all hoped, but we bundled up and kicked off the weekend Friday afternoon.

I headed to the airport where I had the pleasure of meeting Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and her husband Neil, editor Stacy Cantor of Walker books, former FSG editor now full-time author Lisa Graff, and author Sara Lewis Holmes. The cold weather delayed some flights and brought others in early, but everyone managed to make it.

Author Kirby Larson and Me

After dropping Lisa and Sara off at the hotel, I waited at The Cheesecake Factory with Austin author Jessica Lee Anderson and author/illustrator Gene Brenek.

Dulce de Leche cheesecake = BLISS

Lisa and I headed to the home of Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith where they hosted an amazing pre-conference party complete with cheese made by Greg himself. If you've never seen their home, it's this beautiful historical masterpiece in downtown Austin.

Check out the spread. Yummy!

Hanging with my Texas Sweethearts: Me, Jessica, and Jo Whittemore

Saturday morning I picked Lisa, Stacy, and Sara up at 6:45 sharp where we headed to the conference.

At 6:45 am: Nathan, Stacy, Andrea, Kirby, Sara, Marla, and Lisa

I was doing critiques throughout the day, but did manage to hear bits and pieces of talks given by editor Stacy Cantor, author Lisa Graff, agent Nathan Bransford, editor Cheryl Klein of AAL/Scholastic, author Sara Lewis Holmes, agent Andrea Cascardi, agent Mark McVeigh, Kirby Larson, and Caldecott honor illustrator Marla Frazee.

Me getting ready to do critiques

Did I mention what an awesome lineup of faculty we had?

Author Shana Burg and agent Andrea Cascardi

Agent Mark McVeigh and Me

My conclusion while the conference was going on: I need to go to more conferences. I love them. They make be feel like such a writer.

Author Varian Johnson, Sara Lewis Holmes, and Illustrator/author Mark Mitchell

Authors Greg Leitich Smith and Jessica Lee Anderson

The conference ended with a panel I was on with eight other Austin authors/illustrators: Jessica Lee Anderson, Sibert Honor author Chris Barton, Illustrator Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover (me), Newbery Honor author Jacqueline Kelly, Caldecott Honor author Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. We each talked about our top habit for writing. (Mine was thinking outside the box.)

Author Chris Barton in his Day-Glo tie

Our New Austinite Author Bethany Hegedus

Authors Liz Garton Scanlon and Jennifer Ziegler

Saturday night we headed to the home of Meredith Davis who hosted a post-conference BBQ. I chatted with Nathan Bransford about his upcoming book and also his client Jenn Hubbard's new book THE SECRET YEAR, Cheryl Klein (and her boyfriend James who traveled down with her) about what sorts of changes Harry Potter needed for the American audience and what good books we'd read recently, and Stacy Cantor about book trailers and the success of PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles. Lisa Graff had a super early flight, so we bugged out around nine and I drove her back to the hotel and then promply crashed into bed.

Author Debbie Gonzales, editor Stacy Cantor, and author Chris Barton

Editor Chery Klein and her boyfriend James

It was a perfect weekend and a great reminder for how important going to these types of conferences really is. The Austin SCBWI team did an amazing job of putting this thing together. The amount of work required is huge, and they pulled it off without a single hitch. Huge Kudos to them!

Tim Crow handed off his RA hat to Debbie Gonzales and though we'll miss him, Debbie will be fantastic! She's already got the whole year filled with awesome presenters (including me at the March meeting), and she has big plans for the future!

Jessica, Me, and new Austin RA Debbie Gonzales

I loved hanging out with all my writer peeps. There is nothing quite like being in a room full of 200 authors and illustrators to fill one with warmth inside. I'd say I'm speechless, but that's rarely the case, so suffice it to say I'm riding a fantastic post-conference high.

Hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday!

I'm so looking forward to our Austin SCBWI conference this weekend. We've got a packed schedule filled with fun and lots of great faculty. I'll fill you in on the details next week. But if you're curious about who all is going to be there, you can check out the Texas Sweethearts Friday roundup.

Here are my five for the week:

1) I'm picking up author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG and author Sara Lewis Holmes at the airport. My son was nice enough to make me this awesome sign to hold to greet them.

Can you tell he knows the order of a rainbow?


2) In case you missed it, we featured David Macinnis Gill this week as our Featured Sweetheart. You can read all about David here.


3) Want to win these three awesome books?
  • An ARC of Joni Sensel’s TIMEKEEPER’S MOON
  • An ARC of Heather Brewer’s 11th GRADE BURNS
  • The brand new release INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher
All you have to do is head over to The Spectacle and leave a comment. How easy is that?


4) I love that fellow Texas Sweetheart Jessica Lee Anderson brought me this back from ALA Midwinter. Yes, it's the number one book I'm looking forward to reading this year (HUNGER GAMES 3 aside). Yay!


5) I'm thrilled to present our kick-butt Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car for this year. I'll be at the SCBWI conference and won't be able to see the race, but the wheels all balance, they have graphite, and the thing weighs as close to 5 oz as possible. I'll fill you in on the results next week!


Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 25, 2010

THE EMERALD TABLET - A Closer Look at Revisions

I'm rerunning this post from a month ago when I posted it over on The Spectacle.

****

First some basic stats on THE EMERALD TABLET:

Time to write first draft - 3 months
Length of first draft - 113K
Length of published novel - 66K
Time from first word written until publication - 4 years

First line of first draft - The night was bright, lit by a waxing gibbous moon.
(Okay, it pains me to put that down. And it came from a prologue, no less, long since deleted from the story.)

First line of published novel - When Benjamin Holt saw his mom disappear into a pinprick of light, he shouldn’t have been surprised; his life was already weird.

So I've talked a little bit about the revision process for THE EMERALD TABLET before, but I thought I'd go into a bit more detail.

After my manuscript was complete (I'd been through it a few times, I'd added all I thought needed added), it weighed in at a hefty 113K. Why hefty you might ask. There are books being published with that word count and more. But for the case of THE EMERALD TABLET, the words were unneeded. I'll summarize these unnecessary words in three line items:

  • Backstory

  • Incorrect Starting point

  • Far too many things "personal" to me


Backstory:
When I started the planning of the novel and the trilogy overall, everyone had a birthday and everyone had a family and there were friends of the family. And being a telegen in the real world, Benjamin had played many pranks in the past. And there was the prologue which dealt mainly with Benjamin's birth. And you know what? I needed to know all these things. But the reader didn't. And so I went through the manuscript many, many times, cutting everything I could possibly cut in regards to backstory. Benjamin's best friend's mother's occupation was just not pertinent. Neither was the girl next door who had a crush on Benjamin.

My advice: Cut all the backstory you possibly can. Ask yourself - does the reader really need to know this? If not, cut it.

Incorrect Starting Point:
Let's see, first there was the prologue (as mentioned above), but then the story started one sunny afternoon with Benjamin and Andy playing a prank as they so often did on sunny afternoons. And after the prank, we needed a chapter showing us a little more of Benjamin's talents. And then we needed to see the last day of school. And once Benjamin found out he was going to summer school, he needed to go shopping, because, you know, all boys are really excited about going shopping. And then he was off to summer school and the story got going. So yeah, in revisions, guess where the story ended up starting?

A couple fun comparisons:
Benjamin finds out he's going to summer school - first draft - page 54
Benjamin finds out he's going to summer school - final - page 2
Benjamin actually goes to summer school - first draft - page 74
Benjamin actually goes to summer school - final - page 13
Benjamin finds the Emerald Tablet - first draft - page 208
Benjamin finds the Emerald Tablet - final - page 54

My advice: Really think about the right starting point for your novel. Where does the action start? What drives the story forward. Find out and start there.

Far too many things "personal" to me:
I've heard it said that a first novel written is too close to the author. When we write, we want to put in all those things that are special to us. We want to write in the funny jokes we heard cracked in middle school. We want to portray our nemeses in all their rotten glory down to the dumb jean jackets they always wore.
We get our novel critiqued and someone says they love a certain line. And so we hold onto that line forever. And ever. We never want to cut it.
Here's the truth: Things that are funny in your memory will not necessarily be funny to others. They also may not fit in this particular story. But the good news is you have plenty of stories ahead of you. You will be able to use those jokes somewhere else. You will be able to set a scene at your favorite ice cream shop in a different novel. Benjamin Holt had no need to visit Scoops Ice Cream and play his favorite retro game Moonquest. Maybe you did, but give your character a break. Don't give him too much retro baggage that you loved.

My advice: If you are hesitant about cutting something, ask yourself the honesty question. Honestly, why are you holding onto a certain line? Does it add to the story or is it because it is a line that you love? Kill your darlings, right? Yes, kill them. Away. You seriously will never miss them.

(Just for fun, THE EMERALD TABLET in its beauteous first draft had bonsai trees, Aikido, crabapple flinging, and popcorn popping as gradable homework.)

pjhoover_casual1

PJ Hoover can laugh about her revisions now. And she thought her first draft was perfect :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Five on a Friday

Can you believe it's Friday already? Again. Where does the time go? Yikes, before I know it, it will be April and my birthday. It's a big one this year :)

Here are my five for the week:

1) Thank you to everyone who made me feel better about my WIP. I worked on the beginning (yet again) last night, and already feel like it's going to be stronger. And I just have to reiterate Sherrie Peterson's comment:

"Ever watch Finding Nemo? Sing Dorrie's song with my words:

Just keep writing, and rewriting...
Just keep writing, and rewriting..."

Love this. <3

2) Huge thank you to Vivian at HipWriterMama. I won her awesome plotting organizer described here and shown below. And given how much I love office supplies (like her), I'm psyched.



3) I finished UMBRELLA SUMMER by Lisa Graff last night. I loved this book! It was so darling and touching in so many ways. I loved it as a mom and I loved it as an author who writes for the target age range. Lisa is coming to our Austin SCBWI conference next week where I'm looking forward to meeting her!

4) On the kids front, we're working hard on our Derby Car for this year's Cub Scout Derby. Last year our starship Enterprise took first place for best detail. This year, my son wanted to do a shark. It's amazing what a little paint can do. Look for pictures next week.

5) Up for the week ahead: revisions for my WIP and critiques for the SCBWI Conference. I've got a stack of ten to work on, and I can't wait to dig in!


* For the Friday Roundup from the Texas Sweethearts, check out our blog complete with this picture of Jo Whittemore and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On love...

I've been working on a new WIP for, oh, something like eight months now. Yes, there have been other things being revised during that time and lots of critiquing, and ... well, I'm not sure what else. But suffice it to say, I've taken time away from the WIP. I've changed it around a bit. I've added motivations and changed POV and tense and all sorts of things.
But I don't yet love it.

I kind of have the feeling after I get through it this time and once I actually get a beta reader, the love will grow. Because as I sink into it I remember that I do like the story and the characters. But it's still not love. Not yet.

Is this okay? Has anyone every written something they don't absolutely adore? Can love grow?

Monday, January 18, 2010

I bet I can make you smile - Cootie Catcher :)

Okay, so at least one thing in this post should make you smile. If not, I suggest a large heart filled with chocolates. If the chocolates don't work, maybe try watching a Twilight spoof or something else similar on YouTube. And if that doesn't work, take a nap and try again tomorrow.

I'm guessing it's not going to be the post I did over at The Enchanted Inkpot about the interesting cross-breed of historical fiction and fantasy via time travel, but if you're interested in this type of book, head over and take a look.

And it's also probably not the fact that two years running now I've read the Newbery winner BEFORE the award was announced. Yay, me! :) It's like I can predict them or something. Or not.

Okay, maybe it's a picture of this gorgeous ceramic rose I got as a thank you gift from Baranoff Elementary School for my school visit last Thursday. Thank you, Baranoff!

I chose red specifically because I love it.

Still not smiling? Okay, so remember my son's solar system project? Each kid in the class had to comment on the other projects. One kids wrote the comment: "You must have a lot of balls." about my son's project. Ah, humor.

So really, here's what should make you smile, but you have to play along.
You know, we always talk about how we should think positively and all that, so I created for you guys a Writing Affirmations Cootie Catcher. Simply print it out, cut out the square, and fold according to the directions. And then no matter what color or number combination you choose, you'll be given a nice affirmation to think about. Go ahead and do it and see if it doesn't make you smile.
(I'm betting Rebecca Stead used this Cootie Catcher to secure her Newbery award and Grace Lin used it for her recent Today Show appearance.)

Not happy with the thoughts I chose?
Use it as a template and make up your own!


And have a great week!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Five on a Friday

Revisions have pushed everything else to the backburner this past week. Well, revisions and a 3rd grade art project (on Picasso), a solar system project, a Cub Scout derby car, and me polyurethaning the floor. It's good to be busy.

I hope everyone had a fantastic and productive week! Here are my five:

1) I had a blast at Baranoff Elementary today (Thursday) at a school visit. I talked about the Hero's Journey and how it can be used to help with plotting. Baranoff actually got a handfull of people to come out and talk. Here I am with K. A. Holt, author of MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL, and Topher Bradfield, BookPeople Kids' Outreach.

K. A., Me, and Topher

2) I give you our awesome Solar System Project. The sun came off so it's being gorilla glued as we speak (or as I type as the case may be).

check out that asteroid belt

3) Huge thank you to Lori Calabrese for reviewing both THE EMERALD TABLET and THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. Lori runs an amazing kidlit blog, and I am honored that she reviewed both books this week.
My favorite line from the review(s):
"You’ll fall in love with each of the characters in this book and you’ll also be surprised to find out who the villains are. I know I can’t wait for The Necropolis coming Fall 2010."
You can read the reviews in their entirety here and here.

4) Read and finished last week: TRICKS by Ellen Hopkins. This was my first Ellen Hopkins novel and I really enjoyed it.
Currently I'm reading OPERATION YES by Sara Lewis Holmes. Sara will be coming to our Austin SCBWI conference at the end of the month, and I'm looking forward to meeting her! (And loving the book so far, btw)

5) It's been character week over at The Spectacle all week, so if you're looking to work on your character development, head over and check it out!

* For the Friday Roundup from the Texas Sweethearts, check out our blog complete with this picture of our three teapots:


Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Critique Contest and the Becky Levine Winner!


Happy Monday!

We're giving away a manuscript critique over at the Texas Sweethearts blog, so if you're interested, head over and check it out!

***

And I'm thrilled to announce the winner of THE CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE by Becky Levine is...


Yay, Kelly! Email me your address and whether you'd prefer a print version or a PDF, and Becky will arrange it!

Thank you all so much for entering!

And have a great week!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Five (ways to stay warm while writing) on a Friday

Happy Friday! The weather is cold as a...well, I'm not really sure any of my similes are appropriate. Any clean suggestions? I realize it's only supposed to get into the teens, but in Austin, Texas, that is major. As in bundle up and hope you don't have to leave the house major.

So how to get writing done when your teeth are chattering? Here are five suggestions for this cold and windy Friday:

1) Hot tea
Have lunch with fellow Texas Sweethearts Jessica Lee Anderson and Jo Whittemore at The Steeping Room. Hot Tea with other writers will help any sort of commiseration needed. Guaranteed.

2) Computer only
When writing, don't try to write by hand. The extra heat generated from the computer will help keep your fingers warm while typing. Writing by hand with cold fingers is not happy-making in the least. And the older the computer, the better. The older ones put off way more heat. This is the perfect opportunity to pull out that old 8086 and see if it still boots up. MS-DOS Editor is all you need. The best part: no Internet distractions.


3) Pets
If you have a pet that sticks by you when writing, convince them to sit on your lap (it would take me all of half a second to convince my dog of this). Sure, the balancing act might be difficult, but the extra effort will also help keep you focused. For larger animals, you may want to relocate to the floor and let the animal lie next to you.

4) Location
Relocate your writing space to the highest level in your house not counting your attic (unless your attic for some reason has complete insulation and heating vents). Heat rises, you know. Or if this is not possible, relocate to a small area with a heating vent such as a half-bathroom. Sure, it might be a bit cramped and awkward in there, but the hot air will be concentrated giving delicious warmth.
(And don't forget to bring your pet and 8086 computer in there with you.)
If this is still not warm, you can relocate somewhere friendly like Rudy's BBQ. Sit as close to the smoker as possible but still within reach of a power outlet for your 8086.

5) Burn
If all else fails, burn* paper. You can start with any old printouts of your manuscript and move to random rejection letters you may have acquired over the years. If necessary, print out multiple copies of email rejections and burn those. Setting copies on 100 should do the trick. Plus the printer will be toasty warm while printing.
*Note: I don't suggest doing this in the confined bathroom with your pet. An outdoor grill may be the best bet. And please take a picture and send it along.
If you broke down and relocated to Rudy's, simply throw all rejection letters in the smoker and then order up some tasty brisket with sausage on the side. And don't forget to mention you are an author when you order. Marketing can be done anywhere, anytime, in any sort of weather.


* For the Friday Roundup from the Texas Sweethearts, check out our blog complete with this darling fan art:


Have a great weekend!

Humanoid Aliens and Cailin O'Conner

Hey! A couple posts for you guys to check out:

First, our featured sweetheart this week for The Texas Sweethearts is Cailin O'Conner, the gal who organized the latest Bridget Zinn auction. Head over and see how awesome she really is!

And second, have you ever wondered if/why aliens should be humanoid? Weigh in on the matter over at The Spectacle!

And have a great day!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Fabulous BECKY LEVINE - Interview & Giveaway!

So in case you haven't heard, awesome blogger pal Becky Levine has a way cool book coming out from Writer's Digest. It's official name is THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE: HOW TO MAKE REVISIONS, SELF-EDIT, AND GIVE AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK but I'm just going to call it the CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE for short.

In case you don't read Becky's blog, now is a great time to start.

And in case you want to win a copy of her awesome new book (scheduled for publication January 15th, 2010), simply leave a comment on this post. The winner will get to choose between a print copy or an electronic copy.

And now, I have the honor to interview Becky right here on my blog!

*****

PJH: So why critiquing? What sparked the initial idea of “I could write a book about critiquing?” It seems a perfect book filling a spot previously empty and will be a great addition to writer’s books on craft.

BDL: I “discovered” critiquing decades ago when I was at UC Irvine for college. My writing instructor, Oakley Hall, taught his workshops on a critique basis, and I was hooked. I loved that I could have someone other than my mother read my writing, and I loved finding out that critiquing was seeing potential in another person’s manuscript and working to help them turn that potential into the work they wanted it to be. Ever since I got serious again about writing, I have participated in one or more groups. The motivation and encouragement I’ve received, and the growth I’ve seen in my writing, is beyond description.

I was speaking at some conferences as a freelance editor, and I had a chance to pitch a book to an editor from Writer’s Digest. I’d originally planned to pitch a different idea, and I did—but it wasn’t something she was interested in. People had been talking about critique groups and, as usual, I’d had a lot to say about them. :) In about a split second, I decided to try that idea on her. She gave me the okay to send her a TOC, which I wrote the next day in my hotel room and at the airport before I got on my plane home. Everything I’d been thinking and shoving down other writers’ throats talking to other writers about for years just came pouring out. It became pretty obvious that this was a book I really wanted to write!

PJH: Tell us five things you collect.

BDL: I’m not really much of a collector, but...

1. I’ve just started this, but have decided to collect cloth toys/dolls from books, etc, that I love. So far I have a Wild Thing and a Jane Addams doll. (I know, she’s not fictional, but she’s one of the inspirations for my historical YA, so she more than qualifies!)

2. Favorite books from my childhood.

3. Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

4. Books.

5. More books.

PJH: What does your current critique group (or non-group) look like? Give us the scoop! Are you online only? In person? Do you bicker? Do you read aloud? We want to know all!

BDL: I have one main in-person group that I meet with regularly. We started out as a mystery-writing group, but many of us have changed direction, so we’re now a mix of mystery, literary, kids, nonfiction, you name it. The core is that we’ve been critiquing together long enough, are all strong critiquers, and have built an absolute trust between ourselves. No bickering, but definitely the occasional exchange of stubborn glances! We do not read aloud. We shoot for getting our submissions to each other a week ahead, so we have time to read carefully and closely and think about our critiques. At the meetings, we present our critiques out loud & brainstorm as needed. I also have various writing friends with whom I spend writing time, and I’ve started exchanging non-regular critiques with a few local and online children’s/YA writers.

PJH: What are three books you are looking forward to the release of in 2010 (not including mine)?

BDL:
1. Heidi R. Kling’s SEA
2. Jennifer R. Hubbard’s THE SECRET YEAR
3. Anything new in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series, and S.J. Rozan’s Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series!
4. Yours!
(PJH: *blush*)

PJH: If an apocalypse came, would you still find a way to write (even if this meant paper and pen)?

BDL: Yes. Luckily, my son is BIG into reading post-apocalypse fiction, and both he and my husband have engineering brains, plus they need to write/draw themselves. They’d have some new writing instruments and surfaces invented on the second day, and they’d be sending me off to barter for coffee and donuts.



PJH: OK, now the fast part. Keep your answers as short as possible!

PJH: Fantasy Island or Love Boat?

BDL: Can’t I just be cool and say M*A*S*H? Okay, if I must...Love Boat. I always worried just a little too much about some of those people on the island!

PJH: Guilty Pleasure?

BDL: Solitary road trips.
(PJH: OMG, me, too! Can we take a solitary road trip together?)

PJH: Favorite Scooby Doo character?

BDL: Definitely, Velma. I have none of her math/logic skills, but she and I are kindred spirits in without-glasses blindness.
(PJH: Hmmm...)

PJH: Computer or hand written?

BDL: Computer! I do make myself get away from it for thinking/brainstorming sessions, but I have to type up my scribbled ideas afterward if I want to be able to read them later.

PJH: First Draft: Revise as you go or just get it down?

BDL: Get it down. Print out chapters and apply revision ideas with sticky notes, as needed.

PJH: Favorite natural wonder?

BDL: Frozen dew on a bare tree branch in the morning.

PJH: Favorite myth?

BDL: I’m not sure it qualifies as a myth, but I’ve been intrigued by the idea of the golem lately. No, not the guy in LOTR! :)
(PJH: Though Gollum is cool, too)
PJH: Thank you so much, Becky! I loved having you here!

*****
And now for your chance to win either a paper or PDF copy of Becky's awesome new book, simply leave a comment before the end of day Sunday 1/10/2010!

Monday, January 04, 2010

TEXAS SWEETHEARTS 2009 Highlights


When you get a chance, head over to the TEXAS SWEETHEARTS blog and check out our highlights for 2009!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Book Picks of 2009

Happy New Year, everyone! 2010 is going to be a great year all around. I just know it!

So I set a goal at the start of 2009 to read 50 books. The good news is that I made it to 88 books for 2009! Very, very fun to be reading so much!
The bad (?) news is that I had a list of about 8 classics I'd planned to read. How many did I get through? 1/2. Yes, I made it half way through UNCLE TOM'S CABIN by Harriet Beecher Stowe (which I do plan to finish at some point).

I'm setting the number at 75 for 2010. Why not more than 88 you might ask? Because I feel like I read enough in 2009, and I don't want reading to ever become a point of stress. I love to read and don't want to feel like its a chore or a job at any point. So 75 it is for 2010. Who's with me?

Here's how I summarize the reading for the year:
  • MG: 38
  • YA: 45
  • Adult: 5
Here are my "best of" awards for the year in reading:

Best MG: CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau
I loved CITY OF EMBER! I read it start to finish in a single sitting. It was filled with action and adventure and suspense. I did read book 2, THE PEOPLE OF SPARKS, but it didn't come close to its predecessor for me, and so I didn't continue on with the series. But CITY OF EMBER totally rocked and I recommend it at the library all the time.


Best Series: GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins
This five book series is the perfect MG series to recommend to elementary and middle school fantasy readers. It's neat and clean, well-planned, and an overall solid series entirely.


Best YA: THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan
If I had to name one novel that fit my style the most for the year, this is it. It's like the novel I wished I'd written (though I have no intention of writing zombie novels any time in the near future). I can't wait for March when the sequel comes out!


Most Anticipated that lived up to it: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
I'm so looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy. CATCHING FIRE met and exceeded my expectations. I can't wait to find out what happens (but I love the anticipation, too).


Best Adult: THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
I loved this novel. I was so awed by the power of the end. I dream of writing like this and am so happy I read no spoilers ahead of time. Totally recommended.


Made the Biggest Impact: LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Aside from not being able to put this book down, after I finished reading it, I started buying extra canned goods each time I went shopping. The vivid images of the apocalypse and being hungry were very impactful (to say the least).


Best Graphic Novel: RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE by Shannon/Dean/Nathan Hale
Okay, I only read one graphic novel, so there really wasn't much competition here, but I loved everything about this book from the text to the pictures to the overall look and feel.


Best Page Turner: THE PATRON SAINT OF BUTTERFLIES by Cecilia Galante
This book hooked me from the first word. I stayed up late into the night reading it. A (very) close second to this was THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams. Hmmm... maybe something with kids in trouble at communes?


Best Audiobook listened to: PEEPS by Scott Westerfeld
It was a light audiobook year for me. I only made it through 10. That said, when I started listening to PEEPS, I didn't think I'd be keen on the narrator, but I ended up loving the narration to the point that I was disappointed at the different narrator in the sequel THE LAST DAYS (which I listened to next).


Book I'd recommend to all teens and parents: TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher
This wasn't my favorite read of the year, but I would recommend it to every teen and their parent I know as a great book to read and discuss together. Whether I agree with the thoughts of the main character, this really captures how teens think. So read it already!


So there it is: a year of reading summed up in one short blog post.

How about you? What were your favorite reads of the year, and how many books to you plan to aim for in 2010?

And Happy New Year!