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August 31, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: August's Best Books

Kate Hart
Photobucket I buy books for a variety of reasons. They include legitimate excitement over the premise, fangirl adoration of the author's past work, recommendations from trusted friends, and/or a desire to support an author who decreases world suck.

In a fit of not-so-genius, I used an Amazon gift card to buy a ton of books... about a week before ALA. In that order was Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss. To be perfectly, perfectly honest? I ordered it because Stephanie was in the last two categories: several authors I respect had recommended Anna (for example: Kirsten, Tahereh, Deb, John Green), and although I don't know Stephanie, I do know she's awesome, because she donated an awesome prize to the Help Write Now auction.

But I was hesitant. I just don't do romance or chick lit or women's fiction or whatever it is we're calling it these days.

stephanie perkins's books Or at least I thought I didn't.

Her book arrived right before I left for New Orleans. Meanwhile, the BFF had bought it for her niece, who looooooved it. So when I was at ALA, I made sure to get her a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door (with major help from Sarah Enni, who was at the front of the ARC line). When I came home, I had a monster "to read" stack (see above), but I wanted to read Anna pretty quickly, so that I could read Lola before I passed it on.

Two nights later-- one book per evening-- I was a Stephanie Perkins fan in all four categories

The obvious word for these books is "cute." But not in a derogatory, "isn't that cute" kind of way-- I mean in a "I'm pretty sure my heart just exploded from how realistically romantic and awkward this is." Stephanie does a great job of capturing the seriousness of first love without making it FIRST LOVE IS ALL THERE IS OMG I DIE WITHOUT YOU.

(See, this is why I don't write book reviews. It's all capital letters and acronyms up in here.)

Anyway, if you've been on the fence, this is me pushing you to the blue-haired author side. Go buy Anna. Pre-order Lola. Add Isla to your TBR list. Prepare to crave French food, wish you could live in Lola's house, and swoon.


What's the best book you read this month? Head over to YA Highway and leave a link to your post in the comments!

August 30, 2011

Lessons Learned

Kate Hart
cory jackson blog header

I'm guest posting over at Cory Jackson's blog today! Go check out what I've learned this year and why my post could use some tassels.

August 29, 2011

Shirts For The Bookish

Kate Hart
A few months ago, I gave away custom t-shirts to four people who helped me gather data for an infographic. I'm still working on the graphic, but I actually got the shirts finished and mailed within the same calendar year. I know. It's like I don't even know me anymore.

Pam asked for something Divergent-related.

Windy said she was a bookworm.

Jess is also a bookworm who likes hummingbirds.

And Erinn... likes to make Peeps battle in her microwave.

I feel like I haven't posted anything but Field Trips in a long time, so here, in random order, are the other things going on in my life.
  • Scrivener is saving my sanity.
  • My oldest started kindergarten and I only cried for one whole day. 
  • The fair starts tomorrow.
  • College football starts on Saturday. 
  • We're settling into a new routine.
  • The temperature actually cooled off enough to let us open the windows a few times recently.
  • Our attic fan is fixed. (This is very important to my happiness. I'm grateful for AC but it makes me feel trapped.)
  • My sister got me hooked on Pinterest.
  • Sarah Enni got me hooked on Spotify.
  • I've learned to use Leechblock (take that, shiny distracting new sites).
  • It's almost fall. Glory halleluah. 
  • I don't know how to spell "halleluah."

I'll be back later this week with my best book of the month and, hopefully, a new infographic. Happy almost-fall!

August 18, 2011

Uncovering YA Covers: Rose-Colored Glasses

Kate Hart
eta July 2016: When writing this post in 2011, I was woefully ignorant of discussions about gender, sex, trans issues, and ... lot of things, obviously. I have not deleted, because I think it's better to own up to mistakes rather than trying to cover them, but I wanted to note that I'm aware of this post's issues, and apologize for any harm or distress it may have caused readers and friends.

There's been a lot of conversation lately about boys and books. The "Boys Don't Read" blog launched a few weeks ago; a recent #yalitchat took a turn in that direction; and the HuffPo weighed in.

I fall on the side of Maureen Johnson's argument. In her words,
"Maybe this idea that there aren’t enough boy stories gives credit to absolutely no one, especially not the boys who will happily read stories by women, about women. Maybe the problem in getting boys to read has much less to do with 'boy stories' than a general shift in culture and technology."

So that said: These graphs appear to support Team Won't-Someone-Think-Of-The-Booooys?, and I'm very much Team Deal-With-The-Bigger-Societal-Implications. (You may have seen our farm team, Change-The-95%-Male-Literary-Canon.)  But I understand that covers can be the weight that tips the scale from "maybe" to "hell no," and they're a smaller issue to tackle than the gender binary. And when you get down to it, I think we're all Team Reading-Is-The-Shit-And-Everyone-Should-Do-More-Of-It.

So I pulled on my pie chart pants and did some counting.

To get these highly scientific results, I had people comb through the 400+ titles in last month's darkness chart, tallying up covers they found girly, boyish, or neutral. Then I averaged our results.*

August 12, 2011

Field Trip Friday, Twitter Version: August 12, 2011

Kate Hart
A companion to the round up at YA Highway, where this week the lovely
Steph Kuehn has taken my place while I attend a family wedding. :) Thanks Steph!

August 2, 2011

a short lesson in perspective

Kate Hart
My husband broke our coffee carafe.

It's not a big deal. We can buy a new one. It's kind of amazing this one survived so long-- ten years and a few months, to be exact, which I know because the coffee maker was a wedding present.

But we haven't made it to the store yet. And in the meantime, I got a real life lesson in point of view.

When the carafe is broken, my instinct is to make coffee a different way. Namely, our press pot. This makes sense to me.

Other people would make daily runs to Starbucks. Or the locally owned coffee shop that's a lot cooler. They'd drink tea. Or Red Bull. Or instant coffee (gag). Maybe they'd buy a whole new coffee maker, or give up coffee entirely.

You may have guessed that my husband did none of these things. He did this.

coffee pot

My reaction went like this:
1) "Oh my god, what is wrong with him?"
2) "That looks terrible."
3) "I can only imagine what [my mom/grandmother/mother-in-law/the other moms at my kids' school/the BFF/the male BFF/any number of other folks] would think."
4) "The coffee he made this morning tasted fine."
5) "He didn't even make a mess."
6) "Oh right. This is why I love him."

Because it really doesn't matter. He temporarily solved the problem in a manner I find odd. His thought process isn't the same as mine. But the end result was better than mine-- press pot coffee has grinds in the bottom-- and who cares what any number of people would think (especially considering they'd all think different things anyway?). That's why I love him. He makes me see things in a different way.

And that's kind of important. Especially as a writer.

How would your characters fix a coffee pot?

August 1, 2011

rearranging furniture: a thinly veiled metaphor.

Kate Hart
book chair
I can count on one hand the pieces of furniture we've bought for ourselves. One second-hand coffee table. One used "free if you move it yourself" piano. A kid-sized table and chairs. That's literally it.

We've lived together since age nineteen, broke college students with a TV stand made of MDF and flower pots. Our generous parents bought us nicer things over the years-- things we picked out, like a bed, a couch, a dining room table, a crib. Other things we've made ourselves. My husband built some bookshelves and a train table. I made some curtains. I framed some pictures.

credit bob travis
But the rest of our house is furnished in hand-me-downs. Nice ones, for the most part, and I'm not complaining. Free stuff is free stuff. The pieces are in decent shape. But sometimes it's a challenge to make them fit. They weren't made with my house in mind, and my spatial reasoning skills are less skills and more "futile attempts followed by cussing and measuring."

It's a fundamental flaw in my brain. I just can't visualize how old things will look in new places. I can't judge whether a dresser is short enough to go under a window, or if three paintings will look good together, until they've been moved into place. It always takes longer than I want. Far longer than I expect.

This rewrite feels the same way. I have these pieces and they're pretty solid. I can tweak them, I can reframe them, I can even strip them down for parts and make something new. But I'm not sure about the dimensions. Will this scene fit here? Can this part stand on its own or do I need to put supports under it? I just painted this wall and it was lovely! Why is it all scratched up now?!?

Sometimes I am tempted to burn it all down. Pull off the roof, knock down the walls, rip up the floors and cut skylights in all the ceilings.

But I don't. Because the foundation is good. The frame is there. The floor plan isn't that bad. I just don't know what to put on top of it. Orange shag, tile counters, wood paneling, sky lights... I don't know. Someday we'll have to put it on the market and god knows it's hard to sell in this economy. Will anyone buy a house in this country setting? What if I add a hot tub and the prospective owners think that's scandalous? What if I put in a bar and they're horrified by alcohol? What if I install a disco ball and they say those are out of style?

I don't know. At some point, I have to stop moving things around and accept that I've done the best I can with what I have. It's not perfect, but I like it, and future owners can do what they want with the rest.

Except for the disco ball. I'll probably take that with me.

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