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Jacqueline West, Writer

Bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere and Dreamers Often Lie

Now entering the October Country

October 7, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

…one of my favorite places to be.  (And here’s something great to read while you’re there.)

With October in Minnesota comes the Twin Cities Book Festival: a big, free, day-long event at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 11.  All the info you possibly want is here.  The lineup of authors is incredible, and I’m honored to be included.  Here’s what’s going on at Middle Grade HQ:

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I’ll be telling lies (and some truths) with Margi Preus and S.A. Bodeen from 12:00 – 12:45, and you can find me at the signing tables afterward.  Then be sure to head over to the Teen Tent and/or the Children’s Pavilion, where you won’t be able to swing a book bag without hitting an amazing author. (This is not one of my lies.)

Reviews of STILL LIFE are still coming in — including a recent one in Newsday that concludes, “This exciting book will have you on the edge of your seat.”  Nice to hear, and a nice place to hear it from.

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One more day…

June 16, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

…before STILL LIFE is released.

Actually, it’s not even one day. It’s one evening, one night, and the sliver of morning before bookstores open their doors.

If you can’t wait that long, you can preorder it from your favorite bookseller (and IndieBound can help you find the closest shop: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder). Or, if you’re in my part of the world, you can come to Red Balloon in St. Paul at 6:30 on 6/17, Fox Den in River Falls, WI at 6:30 on 6/20, Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, MN at 2:00 on 6/21, or Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis at 7:00 on 6/21, to buy the book and get it signed by me. And I’ll be very happy to see you there.

Samuel Johnson said, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”  And I 100% agree.  Even though I was done writing STILL LIFE months ago, this week is when it’s going to finally feel finished.  After tomorrow, people will be reading it.  People I don’t even know.  They’ll be turning the words into living pictures in their minds, and everything will have finally come to a close: the ideas traveling through paper and time and distance and transforming back into ideas again.  It’s a truly awesome thing.

The Pioneer Press just ran this wonderful piece on the series from beginning to end.

And Tor.com is hosting a giveaway of THE SHADOWS — comment between now and June 20th to win!

Lots of pictures, new links, and some more coherent thoughts to come.  Til then: Thank you for reading.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

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Un-Still Life

May 25, 2014    Tags: , , , ,   

May is whooshing to its end, and I can’t believe everything that’s been crammed into it: An amazing visit to the school and library in Rye, New Hampshire (read more here: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140508-NEWS-405080391) that allowed day trips to Salem and Concord (including a stop at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, which was everything my eight-year-old self could have hoped for), the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland, three local school visits, interviews, Skype chats, and increasingly exciting preparations for the release of VOL. FIVE: STILL LIFE on June 17th.

In celebration of the approaching release, Literary Rambles is hosting a giveaway of one of the books in the series (winner’s choice!) and an interview with me: http://www.literaryrambles.com/2014/05/jacqueline-west-interview-and-book-of.html.

The Books of Elsewhere is also being featured at The Book Cellar as part of Middle Grade May: http://www.thebookcellarx.com/2014/05/middle-grade-may-books-elsewhere.html

Next week, I head back to the East Coast for a round of school visits in Fairfax County, Virginia, and then I zoom back home for a slew of release events — like this one:

Jacquline West Still Life Launch Invite(That’s right.  You’re officially invited to the Official Launch Party.  If you’re in the area, and you’re free, and you feel like it, please come.)

More info about all of those release events soon…
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View from our cottage window, Rye, NH

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Incredible headstones in The Burying Point, Salem, MA

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The Burying Point, Salem

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Louisa May Alcott’s grave, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord

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Cover Reveal (…sort of): THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, VOLUME FIVE: STILL LIFE

February 19, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

This has already appeared on Facebook and Tumblr (and it may or may not have turned up on Goodreads and Amazon), but here it is again: The lovely, eerie, swirlingly snowy cover of THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, VOLUME FIVE: STILL LIFE.  I knew how lucky I was to be paired with illustrator Poly Bernatene the very first time I saw his sketches, and with each volume of THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, I feel even luckier and even more certain that these books should not — or maybe even could not — have turned out any other way.  Thanks to Poly and the brilliant designers at Dial, these are books I would want to climb inside.

large_Still_LifeThe very last volume of the series will be turning up in bookstores, libraries, and mailboxes everywhere on June 17th.

Events are also falling into place.  The release party will be held at the glorious Red Balloon in St. Paul on the actual release date (that’s still Tuesday, June 17th, for anyone who’s lost track) at 6:30 p.m.

The following weekend, I’ll be at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, MN.  If you’re in the area at 2:00 on Saturday, June 21, I’d love to see you there.

More to come…

 

 

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The Big Fat Book Wrap-Up of the Year

December 30, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

2013 has skidded to an end so fast that I know I’ll be writing the wrong year on checks (yes, I still use checks) for weeks — or, if I’m honest, months — to come.

It’s been a year of massive revisions and small beginnings.  I started a new play (yeah, I’m surprised too), wrote the first several chapters of a new MG trilogy, revised THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, VOLUME FIVE: STILL LIFE, edited some short stories, dug back into an old MG stand-alone, and rewrote the lumbering YA project for the eighth time, longhand, and am just now typing it in its nearly (I think…) finished form.

I appear to have written just four poems this year, which makes it the least poetic year of my life since 6th grade.  I wrote zero new short stories, which saddens and surprises me, but I should be back in the short story saddle soon.  I saw one novel published — THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, VOLUME FOUR: THE STRANGERS — in July, and an anthology — STARRY-EYED: 16 STORIES THAT STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT — released in October, and I completed a novel — and series — with VOLUME FIVE: STILL LIFE.  I’m looking forward to some new adventures and some fresh starts in 2014. Lots more news on those fronts soon.

Between revisions, travel, and school visits, I plowed through about a third of the books that had been waiting in increasingly dusty piles all around my house.  Here’s 2013’s reading list.  As before, titles in bold are rereads, and asterisks denote books that Ryan and I read aloud together.

THE MARRIAGE OF STICKS – Jonathan Carroll
ARCADIA – Lauren Groff
*CINDER – Marissa Meyer
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET – Brian Selznick
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD – Charles Dickens
ROMMEL DRIVES ON DEEP INTO EGYPT – Richard Brautigan
STUPID FAST – Geoff Herbach
HOW TO BE A WOMAN – Caitlin Moran
AMERICAN ISIS: THE LIFE AND ART OF SYLVIA PLATH – Carl Rollyson
UNDERWORLD – Don DeLillo
TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN – Phillipa Pearce
A GATE AT THE STAIRS – Lorrie Moore
LAURA LAMONT’S LIFE IN PICTURES – Emma Straub
ODD GIRL OUT: THE HIDDEN CULTURE OF AGGRESSION IN GIRLS – Rachel Simmons
ALABASTER: WOLVES – Caitlin R. Kiernan
OUT OF THE EASY – Ruta Sepetys
TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE: IAN CURTIS AND JOY DIVISION – Deborah Curtis
HOCUS POCUS – Kurt Vonnegut
THE BLOODY CHAMBER AND OTHER TALES – Angela Carter
NEW ORLEANS STORIES: GREAT WRITERS ON THE CITY – Andrei Codrescu, ed.
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY – Jay Asher
PRODIGAL SUMMER – Barbara Kingsolver
THE FLORABAMA LADIES’ AUXILIARY AND SEWING CIRCLE – Lois Battle
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY – Winnifred Watson
A PROUD TASTE FOR SCARLET AND MINIVER – E.L. Konigsberg
STORYVILLE, NEW ORLEANS – Al Rose
NUTCRACKER OF NUREMBERG  – Donald E. Cooke
A GOOD HARD LOOK – Ann Napolitano
STIFF – Mary Roach
WHITE TEETH – Zadie Smith
THE PENDERWICKS – Jeanne Birdsall
A WRITER’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES – Sherrilyn Kenyon
*THE HOBBIT – J.R.R. Tolkien
AN EXALTATION OF LARKS – James Lipton
SHIPBREAKER – Paolo Bacigalupi
THE CLOISTER WALK – Kathleen Norris
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN – Simon Winchester
TRUMAN CAPOTE – George Plimpton
SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM – Joan Didion
*LET’S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS – David Sedaris
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND – Carlos Ruis Zafon
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY – Ruta Sepetys
MIDNIGHT MAGIC – Avi
DE PROFUNDIS AND OTHER WRITINGS – Oscar Wilde
FOUNDING MOTHERS: WOMEN OF AMERICA IN THE REVOLUTIONARY ERA – Linda Grant DePauw
STAG’S LEAP – Sharon Olds
SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT – Beth Hoffman
JOHNNY AND THE DEAD – Terry Pratchett
THE JEDERA ADVENTURE – Lloyd Alexander
BELLS IN WINTER – Czeslaw Milosz
THE RESURRECTIONIST – Jack O’Connell
ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE – William Goldman
*THE WITCHING HOUR – Anne Rice
THREATS – Amelia Gray
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD, AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF – Lawrence Wright
DAUGHTER OF HOUNDS – Caitlin R. Kiernan
ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING – Ray Bradbury
THE FANTASY WORLDS OF PETER S. BEAGLE (LILA THE WEREWOLF, THE LAST UNICORN, COME LADY DEATH, A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE) – Peter S. Beagle
*A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES – John Kennedy Toole
NO CONTEST: THE CASE AGAINST COMPETITION – Alfie Kohn
*BLINK – Malcolm Gladwell
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER  – Adam-Troy Castro
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE NIGHTMARE VAULT – Adam-Troy Castro
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE FOUR TERRORS – Adam-Troy Castro
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES – Ray Bradbury
*OUT OF THE EASY – Ruta Sepetys
*PRIME – Poppy Z. Brite
*THE DARK THIRTY: SOUTHERN TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL – Patricia C. McKissack
THE BOOKLOVERS GUIDE TO NEW ORLEANS – Susan Larson
ETIQUETTE (1960 edition, orig. 1922) – Emily Post
THE 13 TREASURES – Michelle Harrison
TALES FROM THE HOUSE OF BUNNICULA: INVASION OF THE MIND SWAPPERS FROM ASTEROID 6 – James Howe
THREE TIMES LUCKY – Sheila Turnage
STARRY-EYED: 16 STORIES THAT STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT – Ted Michael/Josh Pultz, ed.
THE BRONTES: CHARLOTTE BRONTE AND HER FAMILY – Rebecca Fraser
ELEANOR & PARK – Rainbow Rowell
SMASHED: STORY OF A DRUNKEN GIRLHOOD – Koren Zailckas
MARCH – Geraldine Brooks
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN – Ray Bradbury
WRONG THINGS – Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin R. Kiernan
*THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS: ADRIFT IN THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC – J. Maarten Troost

 

Not counting much-loved rereads (looking at you, Bradbury and Tolkien), the books that really stuck with me this year are the fascinating GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD, AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, by Lawrence Wright, the un-put-down-able ELEANOR & PARK, by Rainbow Rowell, Peter S. Beagle’s heartbreaking A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, Geraldine Brooks’s luminous MARCH, and Lauren Groff’s gorgeous ARCADIA, which is the sort of flawlessly constructed, richly layered, utterly and frighteningly believable book that pulls you into itself and sends you back out into the real world tinted and changed.

Wishing you a 2014 rich with stories, satisfying work, and good surprises.

snowy night in red wing

A snowy night in Red Wing.

 

 

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Judging a boy book or a girl book by its cover

December 3, 2013    Tags: , , ,   

So, the very last volume of The Books of Elsewhere is currently being illustrated, designed, and prepped for its July release.  (Here’s what it sounds like inside my head right now:  Eeeeeeeeee!!!!!)  Until now, my protagonist, Olive, has had the covers all to herself, but with Volume Five: Still Life (eeeeee!!!), my publisher is planning to feature Morton, one of the books’ boy characters, on the cover at last.

I’m excited about this.  Morton is a pivotal character, and he’s more than worthy of a little cover glory.

And, of course, his inclusion will help to signify to boy readers that this book is for them.

Prevailing wisdom says that boys won’t read a book with a girl protagonist, written by a woman/grown-up girl, with a girl on the cover.  Conversely, girls will read books that are obviously for boyslook at Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or anything by Rick Riordan—and therefore, prevailing wisdom continues, we need to market books to boys in order to keep them reading, because everyone is currently very afraid they’ll stop, and besides, books that are aimed at boys will draw in both genders at once.

Lots of people don’t buy this argument at all, but many others do.  (Visit here and here and here and here for some perspectives from either side.)  I’ve had adults—booksellers, writers, people who should know—tell me to my face that boys simply want to read about other boys, not about girls.  Some even think that there aren’t enough good MG/YA books being marketed to boy readers.  Some have told me that a boy who carries a book with a girl on the cover is in danger of being excluded, mocked, or worse.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone’s experience will match mine, but I happen to be a grown-up girl who writes a series of books about a girl who appears in all her obvious girl-ness on my books’ covers.  And here’s what I’ve found:

When a class or school uses my book as a read-aloud, I hear from as many boys as girls.  When I visit a school where my books have been promoted by teachers and librarians to all students, with no mention of whether it’s boys or girls who should like them, the boys are just as excited as the girls–sometimes more. I’ve heard from many, many parents who have given my books to their sons, or used them as bedtime stories, or read them aloud on road trips.  And I’ve been told more than once that it was my series that helped a reluctant young (male) reader to fall in love with books, which is about the nicest thing a writer can ever hear.  Not once have I had a boy reader suggest to me, in even the subtlest way, that he couldn’t really get into these stories because the protagonist is a girl.

So the problem clearly isn’t one of empathy.  Not only can boy readers grow to care about Olive, but they can put themselves right in her (girl-sized) shoes.  And that right there—that ability to see the world from the point of view of someone very different from you—can change the world.

The real problem is a much shallower one.  And it’s our problem, not our kids’ problem.  It’s that we, as a culture, decide certain things are  for either boys or girls, and we divide, market, and enforce this from infancy onward.  (Just look at what we do with things like color. For babiesWho don’t even know what colors are.)  We do it in subtle ways, and we do it in glaringly obvious ways.

When it comes to books, all it seems to take is someone—a teacher, librarian, family member, or bookseller—helping kids to see straight past that gendered cultural packaging into the heart of a story.  And the same story is there to be discovered by any reader, whatever his or her gender.

Unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to have that magic-door-opening person who doesn’t judge what we’re reading by its cover–or judge us for reading it.

…In those cases, a cover with a girl and a boy on it might help.

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Release date approaching…

October 1, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

Just one week until STARRY-EYED hits shelves!  Kirkus really liked it:

Sixteen stories of performing are each paired with anecdotes about life behind the scenes and in front of the footlights.
Even a teen with only a pang of stage or screen hunger will be fascinated by this book, with its various accomplished contributors, from the introduction by Clay Aiken to stars from television shows such as Modern Family and Glee. The stories run a rich and varied emotional gamut… Each story is followed by a first-person anecdote by a noted performer, which is itself followed by a brief biography. Teens needn’t be star-struck to enjoy this collection, as under the hubbub of the theater world are themes that deal with common teenage issues such as insecurity, jealousy, the fear of coming out and young love.
Definitely worthy of applause. (Anthology. 12 & up)

You can read the whole review here, at least for now.

The school visit season is kicking into high gear.  Events are lined up in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Missouri, with Tennessee and Illinois as additional possibilities. To find out where I’ll be, keep an eye on http://jacquelinewest.com/appearance-calendar.php,and I’ll do my best to keep it up to date, I swear.

It’s October, my very favorite month of the year. It’s time to reread some of my very favorite books and rewatch some of my very favorite movies and listen to the fallen leaves whisper along the curbs. And later, there will be miniature Milky Ways and Twixes.  (Twixices? Twixi? Is Twix already plural?)  The only way this month could be better is if it lasted twice as long. And if Twixes were calorie-free.

Right now, I’m rereading this particular favorite book…
something-wicked new
…although it’s this cover, which was on the copy that I checked out from my middle school library twenty years ago, that left its mark on my mind for good.
something wicked hardcover

Now back to the copy-edits of STILL LIFE. Nearly done…

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One of those posts where you’ve procrastinated for too long and now have twenty disparate things to mention

September 10, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

Yep, this is one of those.

I can’t believe September is already one-third over.  The end of the summer was a whirlwind: a visit from the in-laws, a final round of revisions on STILL LIFE, and my (not-so-little) brother’s beautiful lakeside wedding.

Dan and Katy Getaway CarCongratulations, you two.

Now I’m digging back in to the Shakespearean YA project, which has been put aside for so long that I can see it clearly again.  I’m eagerly destroying and rebuilding, rewriting and reacquainting, and spending a lot of time staring dazedly into the distance as new ideas fit themselves together.  It feels really, really good.

My fall schedule is rapidly filling with school visits and public appearances.  Among the recently added (public) events are:

Wild Rumpus Bookstore, Minneapolis – Saturday, October 26, at 1:00 p.m.  Reading, signing, chatting, and all sorts of special Halloween fun.

Addendum Books, St. Paul – Saturday, November 16, at 1:00 p.m.  This is a group middle-grade author event, featuring me, Anne Ursu, Kurtis Scaletta, and Lisa Bullard. (I’ll be insanely excited just to be in the same store with these writers, so please come and watch me make a fool of myself.)

And new information is constantly being added to the Louisiana Book Festival website.  The Festival is held in Baton Rouge on Saturday, November 2nd; once I know just when and where I’ll be speaking, I’ll share the info here.

Even with book releases, summer tends to be the quietest time of the year for me, events-wise.  I’m looking forward to a new round of school visits… And speaking of schools, this 4th grade class in Milford, CT read THE SHADOWS, created their own magical paintings, and wrote short stories to accompany them.  Learning that your work has inspired others to create things of their own — stories, paintings, playground games, new names and histories for their stuffed animals — is just about the coolest thing in the world.IMG_5605-1

Thanks, Ms. Nastasia, and everyone at Meadowside Elementary. 

Another cool Elsewhere-in-the-wild sighting, this one courtesy of my very own editor:

Water Street Bookstore Exeter NH On display at Water Street Bookstore, with THE SHADOWS sold out, in Exeter, NH.  If I ever/finally get to New England, I’ll have to make a stop there.

And (I was serious about the twenty disparate things) I am starting to use Tumblr at last.  I know a lot of my readers can’t/don’t use Facebook, so I’m hoping this platform will be a bit more accessible.  I don’t think it will take the place of this blog, in terms of actual information, but it may outdo it in number of dog pictures.  We will have to wait and see.  http://jacquelinewest.tumblr.com/

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THE STRANGERS Giveaway Results

August 7, 2013    Tags: , , ,   

Thanks so much for sharing the stories of your favorite — and brilliant — Halloween costumes!  Reading them made my day.

The randomly selected winners were Taynia and Kim.  Once they email me with their addresses (jacqueline@jacquelinewest.com), the books will be signed and sent.

If you’re hoping to get a signature in a book of your own, keep your eye on my events calendar.  New events are being added all the time.

I’m currently digging into another round of revisions for Volume Five: STILL LIFE.  Can’t believe the series is nearly done…but also really (really REALLY) looking forward to what comes next.  More on that in the near future, I promise.

 

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