I’ve explored pretty much every place there is to explore in this small town. I’ve walked through the old steel factory. I’ve sauntered through the darkened alleys behind the market. I’ve hiked up and down every trail in the Tourne. There was just one place I’d never been. It was literally the wrong side of the tracks, but ironically it was the right side. It was green and full of flowers, full of life, full of hope. In other words, it was everything my life wasn’t.
I decided today would be the day I go there. There was only one way to access this little slice of paradise and unfortunately, that way was a dilapidated bridge shakier than a toddler hopped up on caffeine. But I had to do it. I had to cross the bridge. I climbed the stairs of the rotting pavilion and took the first unsteady step onto the bridge. It swayed beneath my feet like a leaf in a storm.
It was awful. It was like my heart was beating out of my chest. I looked down. I wished I hadn’t. It was a long drop to the murky river below. The jagged rocks were sticking up like knives. I was scared. But I wasn’t truly terrified until I saw the graffiti scrawled on the side of the bridge. It was just one letter:
As you can see, it all leads to a BEAR ATTACK! We brainstormed the beginning of the story as well. It went something like this:
"I hate bears. Okay, I don't really hate them, they just freak me out a little. Okay, a lot. I don't like Grizzly Bears, I don't like Polar Bears, I don't even like the Chicago Bears. I won't eat a gummy bear and I'd rather snuggle up with a live shark than take a nap with a teddy bear..."
Then of course there is later a BEAR ATTACK! It was a fun way to show how character can lead to plot which can lead to setting (it takes place in the Poconos). We also decided that Abington Friends School would be a cool setting for a story itself because it's been there since 1697 (!) and there are all sorts of interesting old buildings and secret rooms and so on. What a great place! Have me back any time, ABS!
"Telling the story of the year leading up to his arrest, Ritchie grabs readers by the throat before (politely) inviting them along for the (max-speed) ride. A battle of the bands looms. Dad split about five minutes before Mom's girlfriend moved in. There's the matter of trying to score with the dangerously hot Ravenna Woods while avoiding the dangerously huge Spence Proffer--not to mention just trying to forget what his sister, Beth, said the week before she died."
I loved it so much that I decorated my phone with the book cover. I loved it so much that I wrote to Sean and asked him some questions. The interview is below, with a bonus picture of the author as a young rocker and an even more bonuser super metal video by the band Carcass.
Um, warning, re: PG-13 language in this interview.
JB: The first question that comes to mind is: Where did the practice of changing band names to include the word "Fred" come from? It cracks me up: Fred Zeppelin, Grateful Fred, and so on. Is it meant to be a kind of thumb in the eye at rock pretension? Has it occurred to you that the band Right Said Fred is impervious to this jab?
SB: I honestly can't remember if a friend of mine and I used to actually do that as a joke, or if I only wish we did. At some point in high school I just started inverting names in my head about bands I thought were faintly ridiculous. I mean, I loved Led Zeppelin back then (still mostly do), but their whole Black Magic/Middle Earth/Brainless Sexual Allusion routine definitely seemed to need a few jabs in the ribs, even while I was rocking out to "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" in the back of a chopped '68 Chevelle.
You are incorrect about the Teflon properties of Right Said Fred. For a while I had it in the book as Fred Said Fred but cut it when I decided there was less than a 2% chance that anyone younger than 39 would get the joke.
JB: What would El Hella* think of the fact that I was once in a band called "black midget?"
SB: He would probably sneer, shoulder you into a locker, and ask if your pussy band featured you on keyboards or flute.
(*El Hella is the main character's best friend and rock & roll bad-ass.)
JB: What is the author's experience playing in bands? Any old band photos/videos/mp3s you can dig up and share?
SB: The author played in a variety of hapless and generally incompetent bands over the years. Except for Perv Idols, which terrorized San Francisco in the early nineties, released one extremely limited-edition cassette demo, and was really just me and my friend Henry in his attic with a Fostex four track and a bunch of semi-functional instruments. Pic below is the cover of our album, which never existed.
JB: Is Wise Young Fool, to your knowledge, the only YA novel to reference the band Carcass? I used to be obsessed with "Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious," as it was a pretty amusing combination of metal and a thesaurus.
SB: If it's not, I immediately want to buy and read the other one that does. Carcass! I bought that album in a record store in Manhattan because the dude behind the counter had it cranked at top volume and I instantly fell in love with its complete indifference to the social compact. Namely, taste, morals, ethics, melody, and/or an interest in selling a single copy. If I was in therapy right now, the therapist would lean over and point out that that probably means I am inclined to embrace those who hate (or are at least utterly indifferent to) me. And it's true. Probably not my best trait. As far as favorite tracks, I have long been fond of "Manifestation of Verrucose Urethra" and "Oxidized Razor Masticator."
Look at that cool cover! Look at how I'm in a book with Clay Aiken! You're wicked impressed. Does Kirkus like it? Funny you should ask:
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. --
And this one I have already mentioned, but I forget if I mentioned that it's out in the world. Well it is! Go buy or order or borrow! Don't steal it. I mean, we are telling you to break rules, but you'll get arrested for that one. Plus all proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the Children’s Defense Fund.
Here's a picture of the first page. Well, after a little prologue. The prologue is good (if I say so myself) but the first sentence really cracks me up (yes, I crack myself up) so I'm positing it here.
And here's the back! I really like the description that my editor came up with. (Full text below if you can't read the pic)
When Lenny & The Mikes return to school for the glory that is seventh grade, Mike's hard work pays off. He wins the coveted position of starting catcher on the Schwenkfelder Mustangs, opposite the new star pitcher, Hunter Ashwell. (Is Lenny jealous? Maybe.) But things take a strange turn when Hunter's perfect pitching streak abruptly goes downhill. Lenny suspects foul play -- specifically, someone stealing Mike's catcher signals.
Meanwhile, Lenny has come across another mystery one he isn't sure he wants the answer to: the Mustangs' former starting catcher, Davis Gannett, who was kicked off the team for theft and replace with Mike, is swearing he was framed. Davis is a mean, towering eight grader with a shaved head -- and he's no friend of Lenny's. But is it possible that someone did frame him? Someone who really wanted that starting-catcher position? As the signs point to his best friend, Lenny can only hope it isn't so. And it doesn't help that Other Mike has started hanging around with Davis in his spare time.
The boys' loyalties are about to be tested every which way, and unraveling this web just may save their friendship...
More about the book here.
Release date isn't until March of next year, but I'm excited!
Ready to sign, looking authorly
Exhibit A that Farley's is cool.
I roped this tiny puppy into helping promote my signing, but mainly he just blocked the sign. Stupid dog! Just kidding, Pacer, I love you.
Some guy asked me to watch his baby.
I signed a book and then Jamie took a picture of it and tweeted it and then I re-tweeted it before she even left the store. Now I'm blogging about it. Ah, the 21st century.
I had fancy New Hope frozen yogurt: raspberry pomegranate with blueberry poppins. I am not sure if I'm spelling poppins correctly, or even what they are, other than that they are like weird little fruit bubbles that are awesome.
Then after the signing we walked around New Hope and saw some weird art in its many galleries. This is like some sort of hammer-limbed baby. I love art.
Then we ate at Marsha Brown's, a restaurant that used to be a church. There is still religious art on the walls. Is that Daniel getting stepped on by a lion? Anyway I thought it was awesome.
T H E E N D.
Today I visited the Northampton (PA) Public Library and hung out with their teen summer reading group. What an awesome group of kids! They were really creative and so much fun. I taught a bit about writing a detective story and then we wrote chapter one. Enjoy!
It was still dark out. Bacon was awake. He was the only one. Everyone else snored peacefully in their beds. I wished I could do the same. But The Daily Harmony wasn’t going to deliver itself. I had to get out on my bike, put Bacon on his leash, strap him in the basket, and get on the road.
I stepped outside of the blessedly air conditioned house into the brutal heat of the Pennsylvania summer. We’d had a heat wave for almost two months. More than a heat wave. More like a heat tsunami. The air outside felt like pea soup.
“Why do people say pea soup, Bacon? No one eats pea soup anymore.”
Bacon didn’t respond. He just meowed, licked himself, and went back to sleep.
I was probably the only newspaper delivery girl with a cat named Bacon as a sidekick, but I liked the company. It was a boring job. Each morning was the same. I picked up the bundle of papers and loaded up my bag. It strained my shoulders; I kept expecting to get stronger and for the bag to get lighter. But my arms were still as scrawny as when I started this job. I wasn’t getting buff, I sure wasn’t getting rich, and my arms still hurt. Every morning I thought the same thing: Money is money.
“Maybe something interesting will happen today,” I said to Bacon. Of course I was right. Looking back on it, I wish I had never said that. It was like a curse. Something happened on the paper route that day, and “interesting” wasn’t even close to describing it. There was only one word to describe what was about to happen.
And that word, was murder.
Second: the cover. Check it out!
Thirdly, a brief description: "Lenny, Mike, and Other Mike are back in school for the glory that is seventh grade, and this year, Mike is determined to make catcher on the middle-school team. When Mike's hard work pays off and he wins the coveted position Lenny is a little jealous, but he'll settle for being the team's unofficial announcer.
The team has a brilliant new pitcher, Hunter Ashwell, and though he's a bit of a jerk, he and Mike have a great pitcher/catcher dynamic that could make the team champions. But things take a strange turn when Hunter's perfect pitching streak goes downhill, and Lenny suspects foul play—specifically, someone stealing Mike's catcher signals. But who could be responsible, and why?"
Fourthly: the library subject headings, which are always fun (for me anyway) to read for a new book of mine. From the Library of Congress:
- Baseball --Fiction.
- Best friends --Fiction.
- Friendship --Fiction.
- Sports --Corrupt practices --Fiction.
- Mystery and detective stories.
Fifthly: The release date! It's March 11, 2014. Mark your calendars. MARK THEM.
So I wanted a "safe" choice for a graphic novel to use in a teen book club I'm going to host. It includes a lot of young teens and I don't really know the parents nor am I in the mood for controversy... Hence my desire for a safe choice sans "adult content." But I really don't want something boring and am not an expert in the field of graphic novels. So I took to Twitter and asked for "Graphic Novels Teens Will Love and Their Possibly Prudish Parents Will Not Be Offended By?" Here are some of the results. I can't vouch for them as I have not read any (except for Smile, which was great) but I bet they're all good choices. My twitter friends are very bookish and smart and very kind to share their wisdom. So here goes:
Graphic Novels Teens Will Love and Their Possibly Prudish Parents Will Not Be Offended By:
Bone by Jeff Smith
Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley
Brian Vaughan's Runaways series
I Kill Giants Joe Kelly
Chiggers by Hope Larson
KENK: A Graphic Portrait
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
(Any book) by Doug Tennapel
Smile by Raina Telgemeie
Feel free to add suggestions or disagree with the above in the comments. Thanks!
After a period of not really doing all that many speaking engagements, I'll be speaking and reading and generally Berking it up at pretty many places in the upcoming months. Here are some of them:
October 18, 6:30pm – 7:30pm - Educator Event - Barnes & Noble, Easton PA (Southmont Center 4445 Southmont Way Easton, PA)
October 25, "Teen Library Day" - Kutztown University, Kutztown PA (registration required, click here for information)
November 3, The 215 Festival - Philadelphia's Literary Arts Festival (more info TBA)
November 6, Arcadia University (Guest Lecture)
November 8, 6:30pm, "Librarians After Hours" - Green Pond Country Club, Bethlehem PA
November 18, 6pm, Am Haskalah speaker series, Congregation Brith Sholom, Bethlehem PA
And then that's it for a little while I think. I'll be teaching a course on Young Adult literature at Moravian College starting in January and then probably doing lots more appearances once my new book comes out in March 2013. See you around!