Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Best of All Possible and Impossible Worlds

If you didn't make it here for our YA author event on Oct. 9, I recommend you hop on over and check out the books (and the follow-up book club discussion this Thursday*). We had a wonderful and inspiring conversation, with a great group of authors, and enthusiastic readers to hear them read! Kate Scelsa and Lyn Miller-Lachmann both travelled from New York City to be here, while Randy Ribay and Ilene (I.W.) Gregorio are both local to the Philly area -- though Ilene, "practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night," was coming from a full day in surgery and was actually still on call.

The readings were well-delivered and powerful. None of the authors chose to read from the beginning of their book; instead, each read a scene of transformation from partway through.

In Surviving Santiago, Wisconsin teenager Tina reluctantly returns to her homeland of Chile to visit her father, in the tense political climate of 1989. Lyn offered us the scene where Tina has arrived in Chile and meets her papá for the first time in years, thinking about what he was like in her childhood and how he was changed when he came to the US after his political imprisonment...and wondering what he'll be like now.

In her scene from None of the Above, Ilene gave us the moment when Kristin, who has recently been blindsided by the news that she's intersex, finally decides to take her father's advice and look at information about support groups for people with her condition -- which takes her out of complete despair and offers a measure of hope.

Kate's book, Fans of the Impossible Life, is about three teens trying to move forward from difficult parts of their lives, and in the scene she read, they have put together a ritual, full of silliness and power, to get rid of their demons and invite into their lives what they most want.

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes is also about a group of teens dealing with issues in their own lives, but they don't talk to each other about them: at this point they know their D&D characters better than they know each other, and their experiences of the world are separate, and barely overlapping, even when they're in the same room. Randy gave us a scene in which Mari, who runs the D&D game for the group, takes her own recent set of news and writes the destruction of a world.

The discussion that followed the readings was friendly, open, and insightful.

"What was the nicest thing someone has said about your book?" asked an audience member.
Without exception the responses were about reflected experience -- from the teens who tell Randy that the amount of diversity in his writing is realistic, rather than overdone, to the 13-year-old who told Ilene that None of the Above gave her the courage to reach out to a support group, to the adult reader who told Lyn that, from his own experience, he both questioned and understood why Tina's father would want to return home after exile. Kate summed up this general feeling in her own answer: "When you write about something you haven't experienced and have people say you got it right!"

The authors talked about problems with both good reviews and bad reviews, and the frustration with people who use review space to trash books that they don't like and wouldn't normally read -- as though that sort of book shouldn't exist at all. We suggested that there needed to be a website for people to discuss books with the guideline to use only "I" language. Relatedly, we also talked at length about trigger warnings, and how the use of both the warnings and the label itself has changed. Originally conceived as a way to warn people of content that might trigger actual PTSD flashbacks in the readers, it has devolved in many settings into a way to warn readers that they might be uncomfortable with what they read, or might learn something they don't like. Which both discourages reading/learning and dilutes the importance of the trigger warning for those who need it. Kate pointed out that the overuse comes from both ends of the political spectrum.

Further topics included audio books -- Lyn talked about recording one on her own for a friend who's blind -- and the store's QUILTBAG YA shelf: how to present books that explore gender and sexuality in a way that highlights them and yet doesn't compartmentalize them. After the general discussion, the gathering moved into book signings and smaller, equally vibrant conversations...and Ilene got her first page (medical, not literary) of the evening. I got the sense that everyone went home inspired and energized, and it was fun to hear the authors getting excited about each other's writing. Thanks to everyone who came, and whether you were there or not, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books!

*Big Blue YA Book Discussion on any/all books by these authors: this Thursday, October 22, at 7:00pm. See our website or the Facebook event for more information!

Also: we were privileged to have Randy Ribay in the store a week before his book's official release date, and two weeks before his official release party!
Randy's release party: Friday, October 23
Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School
5501 Cedar Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19143

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

They do exist! Finger puppets of your favorite authors and celebrities!

Yes, it's true. You can now put on a puppet show starring Hannah Arendt, Malcom X, or Betsy Ross. Mix it up and let your imagination go wild.

Feeling revolutionary? Here's your very own Che Guevara.

Perhaps a romance between Malcom X and Frida Kahlo?

The story is yours to create with Big Blue Marble's selection of literary finger puppets. Also, every puppet is magnetic for convenient attachment to any magnetic surface. Go on, put Andy Warhol on your refrigerator.

And don't forget Ms. Arendt.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Jen's Five Books of Possibilities

So there's a bunch of books that have come out this year, all YA, whose plots I was constantly mixing up or forgetting, due to their titles full of quantifiers. Here's a quick list to help clear things up. Also, and this wasn't confusing at ALL to organize, three of the authors below will be reading their books at the store this Friday, October 9. Come check them out!

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay (Merit Press, $17.99)
In which four D&D-playing friends find themselves on a road trip, working through the parts of their lives they haven't told each other.

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton (Push, $17.99)
In which a small town kid deals with being in love with his straight best friend.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte, $18.99)
In which a teenager confined to her house as protection from profound allergies starts to fall for her new neighbor.

Always Never Sometimes by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, $17.99)
In which a pair of best friends, who have made a list of things they would NEVER do in high school, decide in their final year that they might as well try all of them instead.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray, $17.99)
In which a high school senior finds out she's intersex...and so does everyone else.

Bonus picks:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, $9.99)
In which a teen starts at a new school after five years on the road with her father, dealing with his traumatic memories of Iraq. (This is actually from last year, but the paperback just came out this summer.)

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (Balzer & Bray, $17.99)
In which three friends become closer as they struggle with romance, bullying, foster home and family problems, and mental health issues.

Jennifer Sheffield, October 2015

Thursday, October 01, 2015

YA Scavenger Hunt: Stephanie Keyes, hosted by Cordelia Jensen

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! 

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Huntpage to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM--but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a blue team, a pink team, a teal team and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number somewhere. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the purple team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize http://www.yash.rocks/p/enter-here.html. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by OCTOBER 5th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting Stephanie Keyes on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Stephanie Keyes is the author of the YA Fantasy series The Star Child, which currently includes The Star Child, After Faerie, The Fallen Stars, The Star Catcher, and The Last Protector, all from by Inkspell Publishing. She will also release the forthcoming novellas The Boy In The Trees (November 2015) and A Faerie Wedding: A Star Child Companion Novella #4.5 (February 2016).

The Star Catcher took first place in the 2014 Dante Rossetti Young Adult novel competition (Mythological Category).  Here's a bit about The Star Catcher:
Kellen and Cali will battle bewitched armies and unknown foes as they fight to stay together. Will Kellen embrace his immortal destiny? Or will his world, and the man he is fated to become, be destroyed by The Star Catcher?

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here! And enter for a chance to win THE FALLEN STARS, another book in THE STAR CHILD series in our #TeamPurple  Giveaway! 

Stephanie's website: http://www.stephaniekeyes.com/



And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me,
 Cordelia Jensen, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is . . . wait for it . . . not such a unique one  . . but a good one . . . 7! Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the purple team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!


To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Adi Alsaid

BONUS! Extra SKYSCRAPING GIveaway! Enter here for signed ARC giveaways of my book SKYSCRAPING: