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When I say I’ve always loved to read . . .

23 Jan

I really do mean always.

Me (age a few months) & my dad

Around age 3ish, I think.

About age 4 or 5, maybe.

Reading with Dad & Nik

Age 11 on Dad's truck

So it might be no surprise that this discovery on Friday quickly became one of my favorite things on the internet: “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl.”

The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. . . . You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied.

Books Read in 2010

9 Jan

1. Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose
2. Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
3. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
4. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
5. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley
7. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
8. Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley
9. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley
10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
11. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
12. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
13. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley
14. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
15. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
16. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
17. Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
18. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
19. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
20. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
21. Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill
22. Divergent by Veronica Roth
23. Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia
24. Winter Dreams, Christmas Love by Mary Francis Shura

I don’t keep track of how many manuscripts I read for work, or how many times I read each draft of ones that I’m editing, but it’s pretty safe to say that I read Entwined, A Touch Mortal, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Mistwood, Nightspell, and The Seventh Level several times each!

I received 383 manuscript submissions, 177 of which were agented. Most of the rest were from writers who attended conferences I spoke at.

Who knew I’d still be thinking about high school English?

13 Dec

In high school, I was in honors English. (Big surprise, right?) As part of the track, during my junior year, Essay Writing was a required elective. Junior year honors English was widely feared. I mean, junior year is already stressful, since everyone is always telling you that it’s the year your grades matter to colleges. And one of the toughest teachers taught the honors English class. Plus that whole Essay Writing thing. We had to read Classic Works of Literature, and then write five page papers on them.

Sure, now, that seems like a breeze, after having written a 50-page thesis in college and writing editorial letters that are sometimes more than five pages. But back then, it was an intimidating thought.

But want to know a secret? I loved every single minute of those classes. Both remain two of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken, for the level I was at then. The best kind of challenging–the kind that made me realize I could think and talk about the books I read. Largely because I had two pretty amazing teachers.

I had a lot of great English and literature teachers all through grade school, high school, and college. All of them are part of the reason I discovered that being an editor of children’s books is what I love and helped me to get where I am now, actually doing it. Mrs. Deeter in eighth grade drilled correct grammar into us, and it’s still helping me every day. Mrs. Higgins in the seventh grade made sure we were all read at least one book of literary merit per marking period and wrote a report on it. (I read a lot more than that. But somehow eluded Up a Road Slowly, which every other girl in the class ended up reading at some point. Someday I’m going to sit down with that one.) In college, Judy Gill taught me how to talk to other people about their writing, and also made sure I wrote with confidence in my own opinions–no wishy-washy writing got past her. Carol Ann Johnston and Wendy Moffat taught me how to make a firm argument, and how to poke holes in one that was flabby.

But Mrs. Gridley (who taught me English both freshman and sophomore year, as well as Essay Writing) was the very first teacher who made me realize that this reading and writing stuff was something that I’m good at. The very first book we read in Essay Writing was The Great Gatsby. We spent a few weeks reading and talking about it, and then it was time to write our first essay. Mine was about the symbolism of the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. A few days after we handed them in, I was walking down the hall between classes with one of my friends, and I heard Mrs. Gridley say from right behind us, “Who knew Martha Mihalick had such a strong voice!” She’d read my essay, either the night before or earlier that day. (It’s probably key to know that I was very shy and quiet in high school.) And she thought it was good.

That moment has stuck with me ever since. I’d never had anyone tell me outright that my opinions about what I read were well-thought-out and that they mattered. In college, while I was writing a paper, I would hear her in my head, and sometimes I even still do.

And Miss Sarosi taught the dreaded honors English that year (and taught me for AP English the next year). What made that class (well, both that and AP) so hard was that junior year was the year we had to start thinking about literature for ourselves. Miss Sarosi didn’t spoon feed us what the symbolism, allusions, themes, etc, were. We had to use our brains and come up with them on our own. And I always felt that whatever it was we came up with, those interpretations were valid…as long as we could back them up. (You see why having Essay Writing in tandem with this class worked so well.) That class made me feel like I was an adult when it came to reading and writing. Miss Sarosi pushed me to be the best reader I could be.

I guess what all of this is to say, simply, is that a good teacher is invaluable, and can shape who you become. Having teachers who believed in me is something that I’m thankful for every day.

It’s Banned Books Week

28 Sep

Lots of posts are up around the internet this week, which is our designated time to celebrate the freedom to read whatever we want and to think for ourselves, and to talk about all the things we discover in books, and what thoughts they inspire.

For instance, you could go over to the Greenwillow blog for a short video from Chris Crutcher, who knows a thing or two about having books challenged in schools and libraries. You could follow the #speakloudly conversation on twitter or visit, where teachers, librarians, bloggers, and authors (including Greenwillow’s own David Macinnis Gill) are speaking out against censorhip. You can go to to see a map of all the reported challenges in the US between 2007 and 2010.

And you can visit the amazing Leah Clifford’s blog for the reminder that everyone is allowed to Speak Loudly, even those we don’t necessarily agree with, and the also fantastic Veronica Roth’s blog for another thoughtful perspective.

What do I think about during Banned Books Week? I think about how lucky I am to have grown up in a house where reading was encouraged. No, more than encouraged. Both of my parents are readers, though we have pretty different tastes. So there was always room for reading in my home. Curled up on the couch, in my room, at the kitchen table, in the yard, in the car, at my grandparents’, on vacations, even while we waited to be seated when we went out to dinner. Every week, I got $5 after piano lessons in the mall music store and went directly to the Walden books to spend it.

And despite having two overprotective parents (Seriously. I’ve never had a broken bone–no, not even a finger or toe–or stitches, or anything.), I was always, always allowed to read whatever I wanted. Because my parents knew that books open up the world. And they knew that they were raising good kids who would ask them questions when they needed to. They knew that discussion was better than taking something away.

I have learned so much, throughout my life, from books that are frequently challenged. From A Wrinkle in Time, I learned that science is incredible and that family never lets you down; from Bridge to Terabithia, I saw how important imagination and friendship is, and one way to cope when a loved one is lost; from Of Mice and Men that you really do have to be careful if you don’t know your own strength and you’re holding something cuddly; from A Light in the Attic that I loved poetry; and so much more.

That’s what I want to celebrate during Banned Books Week: that every child, teenager, parent, librarian, and teacher can choose to read the books that speak to them, and that they want to speak about.

And that authors will have the freedom to keep writing the books that we all need.

Quotable Sunday

10 May

“I loved stories indiscriminately, because each revealed the world in a way I had never considered before. . . . After each I would emerge a changed person.”
–Michelle Slatalla

I like a good quiz every once and a while

7 Jan
What Kind of Reader Are You?

Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Books Read in 2008

1 Jan

I keep a list of all the books I read–for pleasure, not for work–each year.

1. King Dork • Frank Portman
2. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies • Laura Amy Schlitz
3. Long May She Reign • Ellen Emerson White
4. The Plain Janes • Cecil Castelucci & Jim Rugg
5. The Secret Language • Ursula Nordstrom
6. The New Policeman • Kate Thompson
7. The Time Traveler’s Wife • Audrey Niffenegger
8. The White Darkness • Gerald McCaughrean
9. The Dollhouse Murders • Betty Ren Wright
10. My Louisiana Sky • Kimberly Willis Holt
11. The Red Queen’s Daughter • Jacqueline Kolosov
12. Spook • Mary Roach
13. The House of the Scorpion • Nancy Farmer
14. Wait Till Helen Comes • Mary Downing Hahn
15. Before I Die • Jenny Downham
16. River Secrets • Shannon Hale
17. Waiting for Normal • Leslie Connor
18. Little Brother • Cory Doctorow
19. The Underneath • Kathi Appelt
20. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
21. Sun & Spoon • Kevin Henkes
22. Eclipse • Stephenie Meyer
23. Breaking Dawn • Stephenie Meyer
24. Just Listen • Sarah Dessen
25. The Thief • Megan Whalen Turner
26. Queen of Attolia • Megan Whalen Turner
27. King of Attolia • Megan Whalen Turner
28. The Lucky Ones • Stephanie Greene
29. The President’s Daughter • Ellen Emerson White
30. The Year We Disappeared • Cylin Busby & John Busby
31. City of Bones • Cassandra Clare
32. Harriet the Spy • Louise Fitzghugh
33. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks • E. Lockhart
34. Forest of Hands and Teeth • Carrie Ryan
35. Graceling • Kristin Cashore
36. Alanna • Tamora Pierce
37. In the Hand of the Goddess • Tamora Pierce
38. Winter Dreams, Christmas Love • Mary Francis Shura
39. The Monsters of Templeton • Lauren Groff

Sharing Books

14 Nov

One of my favorite quotes, the one that embodies so eloquently and deeply not only what books mean to me, but what they mean to my relationships with other people, is from a poem by W. B. Yeats: “I bring you with reverent hands / the books of my numberless dreams.”* (From “A Poet to His Beloved”) I can’t imagine any vow or promise carrying more significance than the sentiment that line expresses.

Books are so easily shared, yet are so tremendously personal. The person I am, the way I think, the way I approach life, have all been shaped by the books that I have read. I’ve never been able to name “the book that changed my life” because every book has changed my life. The ones that I love are more than just objects on a shelf (or mp3s on my ipod). They hold parts of me inside of them. In their pages, they hold the places, the thoughts, the people, the smells, sounds, emotions that surrounded me as I read. Often rereading can take me back to the time and place of that previous read, can remind me more sharply of particular moments or feelings than anything else can.

And so, sharing books, even sharing thoughts about books, can be a very intimate act, when it comes right down to it. I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been collecting quotes since I was in high school. In blank books, I write down lines and passages from books or articles or that I just stumble across somewhere. I sometimes think that giving someone those quote books to read would reveal more about me than giving them the journals that I’ve kept in the last 15 years. In them are the ideas that I identified with, agreed with, found funny, found moving, disagreed with but found thought-provoking–and how I’ve grown in my thoughts about everything over the years (even if I am still mostly reading books for the YA audience). I love sharing books with people, I love the sense that I am saying, essentially, “Here is something that got inside my head, and I hope it gets inside yours, too, and let’s talk about it once you read it.”

Everything we read affects our minds somehow, and being able to share something that affects your mind is pretty remarkable. Being able to have a conversation with another person about how that book affected you, what it made you think, is exciting. Maybe the person I share with won’t pick up on the exact same themes or passages that I did, but regardless, we’ll still both have that book, that story, inside of us. This feeling about books may be part of why I have an enormous to-read list. Because every time a friend tells me about a book they’ve loved or found interesting, I want to read it, too, to understand something that’s now a part of that person I care about.

My library doesn’t contains just stories and worlds and beautiful writing. It contains memories, emotions, thoughts. . . . The books that I keep, the ones I’ve connected to and identified with and found valuable enough to cart with me from apartment to apartment, to make sure I have the space for . . . well, I’m attached to them. Lots of times I’ve actually scribbled notes in them and marked the passages I later transcribed in my quote books. They’re little parts of my mind. My numberless dreams.

* Thanks, Angie, who introduced me to this quote. (In fact, is this quote part of the reason we became friends? Apart from our mutual literary crush on George Cooper? (And other mutual literary crushes.))

Poetry Friday

7 Nov

The Reader by Richard Wilbur

She is going back, these days, to the great stories
That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light
Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,
And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.
Onward they came again, the orphans reaching
For a first handhold in a stony world,
The young provincials who at last look down
On the city’s maze, and will descend into it,
The serious girls, once more, who would live nobly,
The sly one who aspires to marry so,
The young man bent on glory, and that other
Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does
What will become of them in a bloddy field
Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times
She sees their first and final selves at once,
As a god might to whom all time is now.
OR, having lived so much herself, perhaps
She meets them this time with a wiser eye,
Noting that Julien’s calculating head
Is from the first severed from his heart.
But the true wonder of it is that she,
For all that she may know of consequences,
Still turns enchanted to the next bright page
Like some Natasha in the ballroom door–
Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,
The blind delight of being, ready still
To enter life on life and see them through.

Big Read

20 Jul

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list.

The instructions:
Look at the list and:
Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you intend to read.
Underline the books you LOVE.–I couldn’t do this so mine are starred.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen*
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling*
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte*
8. 1984 – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (Oh, come ON! I’ve read 11 and seen 11.)
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger*
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald*
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen*
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis*
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (well, I skimmed a lot, but I did go the whole way to the end)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving (this book made me angry)
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce*
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt*

81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92.The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare (but I’ve seen it!)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

38 . . . that’s not too shabby!


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