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by Nikki Tranter

14 Jul 2007

New day, new kid author receives book deal. What is in the cordial? Ever since The Guardian remarked on 11-year-old Nancy Yi Fan’s book deal with HarperCollins, I’ve been noticing more and more new authors with ones at the start of their ages.

This should be disconcerting, but, weirdly, I find it a tiny bit exciting. Super-kids are popping up all over the place—that means kids are reading, right? That means hope is not lost for a Generation Z Catcher in the Rye. It’s on the cards, I can feel it. And so, today we take a brief look at the teenage writers making literary waves across the world.

Yi Fan shone on Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids segment on Friday’s Today Show. Her Swordbird is Roker’s new club selection, and Yi Fan explained on the show how the book is a fantastical response to global terrorism enacted by warring birds. Yi Fan explains Swordbird‘s inspiration on Today‘s website:

“In school, I was learning about the American Revolution and terrorist attacks. One night, I had a dream about cardinals and blue jays fighting, and of a huge white magical bird. When I woke up, I started writing a story about them to express the importance of peace and freedom.”

Yi Fan wound up with a publishing deal after simply emailing the Swordbird manuscript to HarperCollins chief exec, Jane Friedman. Yi fan was born in China in 1993, and has lived in the US for five years. One of her favourite books is Night by Elie Wiesel. SwordQuest, a prequel to Swordbird, will be out soon.

Thursfield is the granddad of this bunch at 18. His Life’s Cruel Lesson is available on, and is inspired by Tolkien and Philip Putman. The book is about a brother and sister who must decide how to move on after uncovering potentially dangerous family secrets. Thursfield told the UK Gazette that he opted to self-publish because he “wanted to have something I’d created made into a book.” I’m betting Thursfield gets picked up by a major publisher soon. The teen author trend is simply too hot right now, and Thursfield has an added grabber—he’s actually related to his idol, Mr. Tolkien.

Sixteen-year-old May Zhee is the author of teen-chick-lit novels Vanitee Bee and Sweetheart From Hell. Zhee is wild-spirited, and may prove the dark horse as far as staying power goes. Check out her precocious and hilarious blog at Here’s a sample:

“I have a phobia of balls, rubber bands and guitar strings (on top of tampons and staining myself, of course). All for the same reason: They might hurt my precious face and I would have to pay thousands for plastic surgery. Not to mention my parents will bury me alive after that because I stole their money for surgery.”

This is a girl who revels in her girl-ness. Her books are self-published as well, but the big shots can’t be far away—this one is a phenomenon waiting to happen. A Hannah Montana for the smart, edgy set.

Clark is a kind of 17-year-old Dr. Phil, directing kids to brighter futures. Clark has five books on the market including You’ve Got What it Takes and You Can Change Your World. She is a spokesperson for various children’s charities, and is a devoted church-goer. She has two new books on the way this year—12 Going on 29: Surviving Your Daughter’s Tween Years (from Praeger), co-written with her mum, and Snap 2 It! A Real Girls’ Guide to Keeping a Positive Outlook (SourceBooks). There’s something a bit Kids Inc. meets Go Ask Alice about super-clean Sondra’s advice shilling, but there’s undeniable positivity here that has potential to work wonders. 

King is the teenager behind Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall, a Reagent Press book about a reformed thief and wizard seer who must protect the Earth from warlocks and other pesky beasts. I can find very little in the way of bio information on King, but he is said to have completed Arianna Kelt at age 12. A sequel is due shortly.

by Jason B. Jones

11 Jul 2007

I’m just finishing a review of Jack Dann’s The Man Who Melted, out in a reissue from Pyr. Writing the review has had me thinking about genre fiction I’d like to see come back into print.

If I could bring a title back into print, it would be two by Sterling E. Lanier Hiero’s Journey (1974) and The Unforsaken Hiero (1985).  (Ok, that’s technically two titles, but the books are short, and it’s the same series . . . .)  These post-apocalyptic works, set in a North America ravaged by nuclear weapons, portray a warrior-priest’s struggle to incorporate science, religion, and new mental powers in the fight to maintain civilization.  Lanier handles the psychology of this character, and his telepathic bonds with animals of varying levels of sentience, masterfully. 

Growing up, I read borrowed copies of these books dozens of times, and when I found some battered copies at a laundromat-cum-used-books store in Atlanta almost 10 years ago, I was giddy for weeks.

Lanier died on June 28th.  Beyond his own fiction, his sculptures of the Tolkien characters ensure his legacy for fans of science fiction and fantasy.  I was sorry to learn of his death.  (I’m also weirdly irritated that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry—the true measure of reputation these days . . . . Cryptomundo has an interesting take on his life, though.)

Update: HTML glitches fixed.

by Sarah T. Williams [Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)]

10 Jul 2007

Michael Dahl, a children’s book author and editorial director of Stone Arch Books in Mankato, Minn., oft has been heard to say that “the No. 1 rule for writing good children’s books is to get rid of the parents.”

No need to take “Umbridge,” moms and dads; it’s just food for thought during the burbling buildup to the July 21 00:01 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful series.

Part of the secret to Rowling’s success, said Dahl and other children’s book experts, is that she understood the enormous appeal of creating an orphan (or otherwise unparented child) and throwing him to the wolves. It’s a formula that has worked well for others.

by Nikki Tranter

9 Jul 2007

NPR News this week interviewed Scott Rice from San Jose University about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest “honoring the very best of the worst in fiction”. The contest invites writers, published and not, to submit the very worst opening line to a non-existent work of fiction. Winner of last year’s contest, Jim Guigli of California, ripped on Raymond Chandler to come up with this classic:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Honestly, I’d read that book. But, you get the idea. Contest mascot Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is the man behind Snoopy’s favorite opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night”, and Rice reveals in the NPR interview that he also invented the phrases “the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword”. So, while the poor guy is often regarded as a terrible writer, he pulled out a few gems in his lifetime.

Among the fun to be had at the contest website is a competition called Dickens or Bulwer?—you’re provided with a published paragraph and must identify its author as either the revered Dickens or the reviled Bulwer. (It’s actually not that easy.) You can also check out some actual real-life bad opening lines worthy of the Bulwer prize, such as:

Anthony Rowley didn’t look like a self-confessed sadistic rapist.
—Sarah Lovett, Acquired Motives

By the end of the alley the fine hairs in my nostrils were starting to twitch.
—Lindsey Davis, Shadows in Bronze

An ineffable tranquility hovered over the villa, was broken only occasionally by the intermittent sounds of the staff going about their duties: the whirr of the vacuum, the faint birdlike chirpings of the maids as they dusted adjacent rooms, the echo of the butler´s brisk tones issuing orders, the click of a door closing, the patter of distant busy feet. Gradually these individual noises were beginning to merge, flowed together to create a vague and muffled hum that hardly intruded at all on her gentle peregrinations through the labyrinth of her mind.
—Barbara Taylor Bradford, Voice of the Heart

Results of this year’s contest are released 30 July.

by Nikki Tranter

7 Jul 2007

I’d just finished at the Amazon checkout counter when I stopped to marvel at the A9-Clickriver search and sell tools the website employs. It’s A9’s job to make sure my Amazon Books homepage fits my specific tastes, or at least what it believes my specific tastes to be based on my previous searches and purchases.

This past Thursday, I opened Amazon Books to be greeted with two stunning and provocative covers—the first was Lesley Arfin’s Dear Diary, the second Chris Nieratko’s Skinema. The women on these covers appear raw and vulnerable, and something about their specific shapes and positions clicked in me a desire to get closer to them.

Dear Diary by Lesley ArfinVice BooksJune 2007, 231 pages, $20.00

Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin
Vice Books
June 2007, 231 pages, $20.00

I’m since not so sure Nieratko’s book is going to prove my thing, but Arfin’s has me intrigued. Nieratko’s appears, based on the Amazon blurb, like a Please Don’t Kill the Freshman for the adult market by a guy who thinks his debauchery makes him cool and edgy and enviable. There might be an element of that in Arfin’s book, but hers appears to go the extra, exploratory mile. Arfin opines and sasses, but she also digs beneath her surface persona to find out if the woman she became after high school is a product of her high school days, or simply what she believes her high school days to have been. Her digging consists of interviews with former best friends, boyfriends, and high school enemies. Can you even imagine? What becomes of the Arfin of today if those same school friends who gave the woman hell turn out to have been just as fucked up and confused and hurt back in the day as she? That’s the question I’m looking forward to answering.

Score two for A9; one for me.

Skinema by Chris NieratkoPowerHouse BooksMay 2007, 288 pages, $15.00

Skinema by Chris Nieratko
PowerHouse Books
May 2007, 288 pages, $15.00

I clicked around Amazon a bit that day and concluded that book-buyers are watched far more closely than any other Amazon visitor. When I head to Amazon Music, for instance, I’m greeted with Wilco CDs, Paul McCartney albums, and the big, white, smiling face of somebody called Miley Cyrus. This doesn’t match at all my recent fox-hunt on the site for a best of Cinderella. Fantastic Four greets me over at the DVD section, but I hated that movie, and my last DVD purchase was the new Chocolate War special edition.

Back over at books, they’re trying to sell me the new Harry Potter, which I don’t want, but they also want me to buy Soon I Will Be Invincible which I already have, and a book called My Dreams Out in the Street by Kim Addonizio that contains yet another provocative, striking cover.

My Dreams Out in the Street by Kim AddonizioSimon and SchusterJuly 2007, 272 pages, $23.00

My Dreams Out in the Street by Kim Addonizio
Simon and Schuster
July 2007, 272 pages, $23.00

The Addonizio recommendation alone had me adding new books to my shopping cart. Just check out the art on her other books, In the Box Called Pleasure, What is This Thing Called Love, and Little Beauties—how could I resist? I wondered as my credit card approved if I’d just discovered another Amy Bloom, based solely on cover photos and titles. And I thought about how Amazon was the first place I read about The Virgin Suicides, and where I first heard Chris Smither sing. And how indispensable the “So You’d Like to..” lists over there have been, introducing me to countless authors and bands. I wondered if Amazon doesn’t recommend me DVDs and music the same way it does books because it knows my books mean more to me. I think about that, and I kinda fall in love with A9, even though I know it’s all so Big-Brother-y and wrong.

Amazon can’t see me, it doesn’t speak to me, and it doesn’t want to hear my recommendations, but, like an actual big brother, it knows me better than I know myself. It’s ready and willing to instruct me on new authors, poets, and essayists it thinks I’d love. It flashes artwork at me it knows will catch my eye, and it does, and it works, and shameful as it is to let this no-name, mechanical entity rule over me so, I’m actually better for it. And you probably are, too.

//Mixed media

Stone Dead: Murder and Myth in 'Medousa'

// Short Ends and Leader

"A wry tale which takes in Greek mythology, punk rock and influences of American suspense-drama, this is an effective and curious thriller about myth and obsession.

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